Monday, September 07, 2009

petrocalypse now?

SeekingAlpha | Peak Oil and the IEA (What they don’t want you to know…) “We are facing a serious threat”

Dr. Fatih Birol, Chief-Economist of the International Energy Agency (the agency which advices OECD countries on oil, including the US) and “one of the most powerful men on earth” according to the British newspaper, The Guardian[1] has lately attracted extensive media attention.

Indeed, in a recent interview to the British newspaper, The Independent[2], Dr. Birol was reported of saying that the world was heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery.

The article added, “In an interview with The Independent, Dr Birol said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated”.

In fact, in 2008 the IEA conducted for the first time[3] a detailed field-by-field analysis of global oil production and its findings are bleak. Asked by a journalist on what the previous analysis relied on, the Chief-Economist of the IEA admitted, “it was mainly an assumption”[4]. In the 2008 World Energy Outlook (the key document on oil used by OECD countries), they have analysed about 800 fields, which account for ¾ of global reserves and more than 2/3 of global oil production[5]. They come to the conclusion that decline rates are far higher than previously thought, between 6.7 and 8.6% a year[6]. As result, they now estimate that to maintain the current levels of oil production (about 85 MBD) by 2030 the world would need to develop and produce 45 MBD; as said by Dr. Fatih Birol, approximately four new Saudi-Arabias[7].

Simultaneously, they have analysed all the projects that are financially sanctioned in all the countries in the world (about 230) up to 2015. As it takes five to ten years to produce oil from a new field, they have a clear image of the coming situation. When they add all the projects together (if all of them see the light of the day –unlikely with the current credit crunch[8]-) they will bring about 25 millions barrels per day[9]. However, because of the important decline rates, the world will still be short of “at least” 12.5 MBD before 2015[10]. Asked by a journalist if this means Peak Oil, Dr. Birol answered, “We are facing a serious threat”[11].

Nevertheless, things are never clear when it comes to the IEA and Peak Oil, especially with Dr. Birol.

natural gas hits a political roadblock

NYTimes | The natural gas industry has enjoyed something of a winning streak in recent years. It found gigantic new reserves, low prices are encouraging utilities to substitute gas for coal, and cities are switching to buses fueled by natural gas.
Skip to next paragraph
F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg News

Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy blamed “Congressional apathy” for coal’s price advantages.

But its luck has run out in Washington, where the industry is having trouble making its case to Congress as it writes an energy bill to tackle global warming.

For all its pronouncements that gas could be used to replace aging, inefficient coal-fired power plants — and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the process — lawmakers from coal-producing states appear committed to keeping coal as the nation’s primary producer of power.

Those influential lawmakers, from both parties, say that new technologies under development to capture and bury emissions of coal are a better bet than gas for long-term solutions to climate change.

The difference of opinion is about more than what is best for the environment, of course. Industry profits are riding on the outcome of the discussion — a rich mix of politics, environment, science and business.

A climate-change bill that passed the House in June, intended to cap greenhouse gas emissions, delivered benefits to renewable fuels like wind and solar and strengthened building codes to conserve energy.

But the cost of emitting carbon dioxide emissions under the terms of the bill remained at levels that would continue to provide a price advantage for coal in many regions of the country.

The Senate is planning to begin writing its own bill later this month.

there but for the grace of god....,

NYTimes | They were left out of the latest unemployment rate, as they are every month: millions of hidden casualties of the Great Recession who are not counted in the rate because they have stopped looking for work.

But that does not mean these discouraged Americans do not want to be employed. As interviews with several of them demonstrate, many desperately long for a job, but their inability to find one has made them perhaps the ultimate embodiment of pessimism as this recession wears on.

Some have halted their job searches out of sheer frustration. Others have decided it makes more sense to become stay-at-home fathers or mothers, or to go back to school, until the job market improves. Still others have chosen to retire for now and have begun collecting Social Security or disability benefits, for which claims have surged.

Rick Alexander, a master carpenter in Florida who has given up searching after months of effort, said the disappointment eventually became unbearable.

“When you were in high school and kept asking the head cheerleader out for a date and she kept saying no, at some point you stopped asking her,” he said. “It becomes a ‘why bother?’ scenario.”

The official jobless rate, which garners the bulk of attention from politicians and the public, was reported on Friday to have risen to 9.7 percent in August. But to be included in that measure, which is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from a monthly nationwide survey, a worker must have actively looked for a job at some point in the preceding four weeks.

For an increasing number of people in this country who would prefer to be working, that is not the case.

vampires biting at bubbles...,

NYTimes | After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.

Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated.

The idea is still in the planning stages. But already “our phones have been ringing off the hook with inquiries,” says Kathleen Tillwitz, a senior vice president at DBRS, which gives risk ratings to investments and is reviewing nine proposals for life-insurance securitizations from private investors and financial firms, including Credit Suisse.

“We’re hoping to get a herd stampeding after the first offering,” said one investment banker not authorized to speak to the news media.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

medieval accusations

Countercurrents | The hyperventilating by Israel’s leaders [1] over a story published in a Swedish newspaper last month [2] suggesting that the Israeli army assisted in organ theft from Palestinians has distracted attention from the disturbing allegations made by Palestinian families that were the basis of the article’s central claim.

The families’ fears that relatives, killed by the Israeli army, had body parts removed during unauthorised autopsies performed in Israel have been overshadowed by accusations of a “blood libel” directed against the reporter, Donald Bostrom, and the Aftonbladet newspaper, as well as the Swedish government and people.

I have no idea whether the story is true. Like most journalists working in Israel and Palestine, I have heard such rumours before. Until Bostrom wrote his piece, no Western journalist, as far as I know, had investigated them. After so many years, the assumption by journalists was that there was little hope of finding evidence -- apart from literally by digging up the corpses. Doubtless, the inevitable charge of anti-semitism such reports attract acted as a powerful deterrent too.

What is striking about this episode is that the families making the claims were not given a hearing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the first intifada, when most of the reports occurred, and are still being denied the right to voice their concerns today.

Israel’s sensitivity to the allegation of organ theft -- or “harvesting”, as many observers coyly refer to the practice -- appears to trump the genuine concerns of the families about possible abuse of their loved ones.

Bostrom has been much criticised for the flimsy evidence he produced in support of his inflammatory story. Certainly there is much to criticise in his and the newspaper’s presentation of the report.

Most significantly, Bostrom and Aftonbladet exposed themselves to the charge of anti-semitism -- at least from Israeli officials keen to make mischief -- through a major error of judgment.

They muddied the waters by trying to make a tenuous connection between the Palestinian families’ allegations about organ theft during unauthorised autopsies and the entirely separate revelations this month that a group of US Jews had been arrested for money-laundering and trading in body parts. [3]

In making that connection, Bostrom and Aftonbladet suggested that the problem of organ theft is a current one when they have produced only examples of such concern from the early 1990s. They also implied, whether intentionally or not, that abuses allegedly committed by the Israeli army could somehow be extrapolated more generally to Jews.

The Swedish reporter should instead have concentrated on the valid question raised by the families about why the Israeli army, by its own admission, took away the bodies of dozens of Palestinians killed by its soldiers, allowed autopsies to be performed on them without the families’ permission and then returned the bodies for burial in ceremonies held under tight security.

organ failure

Slate | With the right ingredients of salaciousness and scandal, the news appeared to be straight out of a Hollywood screenplay: corrupt politicians, money laundering, people being arrested by the busload, raids on synagogues, an Apple Jacks cereal box stuffed with $97,000 in cash, and rabbis trafficking organs. Allegedly, one paid $10,000 to an impoverished Israeli for his or her kidney and tried to sell it for upward of $150,000 in the United States. The criminal complaint quotes the rabbi as saying he was in the organ business for a decade. (And in a you-can't-make-this-stuff-up twist, it wasn't even the day's only story on Israelis trafficking human body parts.)

The rabbis' organ trafficking was only one of their many indiscretions. In addition to being against the law, it raises a complex bioethical issue for Jews, one laced in a culture of moral imperatives. Is illegally buying an organ really wrong if it's saving someone's life? Is paying for altruism, by definition, counterintuitive? Jews have been battling this quandary for a long time, especially when you consider how little they themselves actually help the cause of transplantation.

"Jews don't like to donate organs," says Rabbi Michael J. Broyde, one of the founding members of the Beth Din of America, the equivalent of the Supreme Court of the Jewish justice system. "They don't donate at the rate of other social groups." This imbalance—of taking more from organ banks than they are putting in—has put Jews around the world at odds with transplant technology. Israel has suffered for years with an organ shortage, forcing its residents to engage in "transplant tourism" in places across Europe and, most notably, in China. According to statistics from Israel's transplant authority and the United Network of Organ Sharing, the number of people who hold an organ donation card in Israel is at a paltry 8 percent. Most Western countries hover closer to 35 percent.

In an attempt to repair the disparity, Israel passed a law last year that made it easier to become an organ donor. But it took a while. Earlier versions of the bill failed because people feared it would lead to "rabbinical supervision" of the time of death: They thought doctors and rabbis might conspire to hasten a patient's death if they knew they could harvest organs. An Israeli organization called Adi, formed by a family who lost their son while he was waiting for a kidney transplant, has worked tirelessly to try to promote awareness among the Israeli populace of the moral imperatives of being an organ donor. But for a religion that prides itself on being a "light unto the nations," it's an oddly uphill battle. Some in the ultra-Orthodox community oppose the Adi initiative so fiercely that they have actually created "life cards" that state explicitly that the cardholder does not want to donate organs under any circumstances.

There are a whole host of reasons why Israelis—and Jews in general—don't wish to part with their anatomy even after they die. For some, it's simply taboo, yet another guilt-laden stigma in an already guilt-laden religion. Others believe it is a biblical commandment to be buried whole without any missing organs.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

thymos and psyche

Thymos | Greek thought evolved an intriguing division of mental life into two souls, the Thymos (pron: "theemos") and the Psyche.
  • The Thymos pertains to the active soul, what we today refer to thought, consciousness, awareness, etc.
  • It was associated with breath, heart and liver. Breath was identified with soul, as in most ancient systems of philosophy (the Hindu "atman" comes from the word for "breathing") and with language (breath is what you need to utter sounds). Liver was reputed to be the origin of emotions (there must have been painful liver diseases at the time :-). The heart was considered the seat of desires and intentions.
  • The Psyche is the immanent soul, independent from the body, a precursor of the eternal soul of Christianity that survives the body in the other world.
It appears that this was a very ancient belief, predating civilizations, as the same distinction can be found in most ancient cultures: in Egypt there were the ba and ka, in China the p'o and hun, in Judaism the nephesh and the ruach, in Buddhism the kama-manas and the buddhi-manas, in Zoroastrianism the daena and the urvan. Countless esoteric beliefs, all derived from ancient theosophies, distinguish between an active entity (alaya-vijnana, karana-sarira) and a passive entity (manas, suksma-sarira). Interestingly, the concept was abolished by Christianity but resurfaced in Islam (the ruh and the nafs).

In ancient Greece the Thymos became the active, rational and mortal part of the person (the part that has control over the body), while the Psyche became the quiescent and immortal part of the person.

The Thymos became a core concept of Socrates' philosophy. In Socrates' theology the doctrine of Thymos is a meditation on the history of philosophy from Homer to Socrates himself, by which Socrates hails the passage from unconscious philosophizing to rational self-consciousness. Interestingly, Socrates warned against the dangers of self-awareness. He warned that consciousness would cost us greatly, both in terms of desire to live and in terms of our harmony with nature. In Plato's late dialogues this contradiction has a happy ending, as Socrates finds in conscious thought the meaning of life itself.

Platonic philosophy elevated the Thymos above the Psyche. The Psyche is viewed as a sort of lower mind that can connect with either a higher mind (nous), that a Christian may perhaps interpret as God, or with the Thymos, that a Christian cannot interpret because it has no correspondent. Thymos is the cause of anger and passion. In a sense, it is opposite of meditation.

economics from the religious right

TheocracyWatch | From Let There Be Markets: The Evangelical Roots of Economics:

[Writing about the early eighteen hundreds] For [evangelicals] it was unthinkable that capitalism led to class conflict, for that would mean that God had created a world at war with itself. The evangelicals believed in a providential God, one who built a logical and orderly universe, and they saw the new industrial economy as a fulfillment of God's plan. The free market, they believed, was a perfectly designed instrument to reward good Christian behavior and to punish and humiliate the unrepentant.

At the center of this early evangelical doctrine was the idea of original sin: we were all born stained by corruption and fleshly desire, and the true purpose of earthly life was to redeem this. The trials of economic life-the sweat of hard labor, the fear of poverty, the self-denial involved in saving-were earthly tests of sinfulness and virtue. While evangelicals believed salvation was ultimately possible only through conversion and faith, they saw the pain of earthly life as means of atonement for original sin.

Moreover, they regarded poverty as part of a divine program. Evangelicals interpreted the mental anguish of poverty and debt, and the physical agony of hunger or cold, as natural spurs to prick the conscience of sinners. They believed that the suffering of the poor would provoke remorse, reflection, and ultimately the conversion that would change their fate. In other words, poor people were poor for a reason, and helping them out of poverty would endanger their mortal souls. It was the evangelicals who began to see the business mogul as an heroic figure, his wealth a triumph of righteous will. more

The God-given Right of Property Owners
"The purpose of government is to protect the life, liberty and property of all individuals, by punishing evildoers and encouraging the righteous." (America's Providential History p.20) On p. 128-129 the book discusses the "Biblical" principles of the Constitution proposed by Samuel Adams, "Father of the American Revolution." The third prinicple is the "right to property," which is one of the "rights of Colonists as Christians."

"Scripture defines God as the source of private property...Ecclesiastes 5:19 states, 'For every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them'...Also in I Chronicles 29:12, 'Both riches and honor come from Thee." (pps 187-188)

The Texas GOP Platform also espouses the absolute right of property owners which puts them in league with the Constitution in Exile movement described in a New York Times article, April 17, 2005.

calvin, the free market, and poverty..,

TalktoAction | Max Weber noted the synergy between fundamentalist Calvinism and Free Market ideologies in his famous book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.~1. In the United States this created a particular frame in which the idea of personal initiative and rugged individualism was linked to a blame-the-victim narrative. Anyone who fell through the cracks of a Free Market economy had no one to blame but themselves. This frame shifts attention away from structural, institutional, and systemic causes of poverty and toward individual failure.

The idea behind “Faith-Based Initiatives” is to remove the government’s communal responsibility to design an equitable economic system. This is justified by the underlying ideological claims of fundamentalist Calvinism and Free Market ideologies.

Friday, September 04, 2009

genomic study yields plausible cause of colony collapse disorder

Infection Research | Researchers report that they have found a surprising but reliable marker of colony collapse disorder (CCD), a baffling malady that in 2007-2008 killed off more than a third of commercial honey bees in the U.S. Their study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to identify a single, objective molecular marker of the disorder, and to propose a data-driven hypothesis to explain the mysterious disappearance of American honey bees.

The new study made use of the genome and a genome-based tool, the microarray, to look for differences in gene expression in the guts of healthy honey bees and in those from hives afflicted by CCD. Such microarray analyses normally identify only active genes. But Reed Johnson, a University of Illinois doctoral student in entomology and first author on the study, noticed that the microarrays were turning up large quantities of fragmented ribosomal RNA (rRNA) in the bees affected by CCD.

Ribosomes are the factories in which proteins are made, but Johnson observed that this rRNA contained adenosine-rich sequences not seen in normal ribosomes. Such "polyadenylation" is believed to be a sign of ribosome degradation. "The one consistent indicator of CCD across samples collected at multiple times and in multiple places was the overabundance of ribosomal fragments," entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum said.

vanishing bees

RegMorrison | The wholesale disappearance of bees, sometimes called the Vanishing Bee Syndrome or Colony Collapse Disorder, has resulted in the loss of a quarter of all managed honey-bee colonies in the US since 1990. And a growing number of European and Asian nations, have reported similar declines.

Despite intensive research, the collapse of US bee populations remains largely unexplained. Two species of mite have been implicated in some of this carnage, but about a quarter of the current decline seems unrelated to any specific cause.

A variety of agencies have been suggested, but the multiplicity of potential villains suggests that it may, in fact, be due to a degradation of the bees’ immune system.

Such a massive extinction of bees in the US, home of Genetically Modified crops, should be cause for extreme alarm here in Australia, given the current deterioration in agricultural environments, the acceleration of global warming, and the imminent acceptance of GM crops.

Widespread ignorance of genetics and the evolutionary process is a common impediment to grasping the nature and size of this problem. For example, there is a general belief that there are specific ‘genes for’ this or that structure or behaviour—even some academics have been seduced by this comforting myth. In fact of course, genes code for protein. Nothing more. Structure and behaviour are emergent by-products that inevitably arise from the administration of that protein. Reg Morrison's website.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

britain facing blackouts for the first time since the 70's

Telegraph | Britain is facing the prospect of widespread power cuts for the first time since the 1970s, government projections show. Demand for power from homes and businesses will exceed supply from the national grid within eight years, according to official figures.

The shortage of supplies will hit the equivalent of many as 16 million families for at least one hour during the year, it is forecast. Not since the early 1970s when the three-day week was introduced to preserve coal has Britain faced the prospect of reationing energy use.

The gap between Britain’s energy needs and demand throws fresh doubt on the Government’s assertion that renewable energy can make up for dwindling nuclear and coal capabilities.

Over the next 10 years, one third of Britain’s power-generating capacity needs to be replaced with cleaner fuels. But last night the Conservatives said that Labour had refused to face up to the problem.

The admission that Britain will face power-cuts is contained in a document that accompanied the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, which was launched in July.

measuring economic growth by lights

Vox | Given the low quality of GDP measures for countries and the almost total absence of GDP measures for sub-national units such as cities, we propose a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. The best use of lights data is to examine growth in GDP rather than GDP levels, so that cross-country differences in how lights spatially and culturally reflect consumption are differenced out.

We start by examining cross-country GDP growth rates, focusing on the period 1992-2003, and develop a statistical framework for optimally combining the growth in lights measure for each country with estimates of GDP growth from the World Development Indicators. We first establish that changes in lights are well related to particular positive or negative economic growth episodes for particular regions and times and, more generally, that growth in lights is a good predictor of growth in GDP measures. As an illustration (Elvidge et al, 2005), Figure 1 contrasts the big increase in lights from 1992 to 2002 in the Eastern European countries of Poland, Hungary, and Romania with the distinct dimming of lights to the east in the former Soviet Republics of Moldova and the Ukraine, which endured a harsh transition process.

Next, we develop a framework to optimally combine measured GDP growth with growth in lights to obtain a best estimate of true GDP growth. The objective is to minimise the variance of true GDP growth from its best estimate. The weights placed on the World Bank GDP growth measure and the lights growth measure depend in part on the ratio of signal to total variance in the World Bank measure.

Applying our method to the countries given a data quality grade D in the Penn World Tables, we get estimates of true GDP growth that are starkly different from conventional measures.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

zero population and zero oil growth

EnergyBulletin | In 2007-2008 using FAO and IFPRI data, the number of people facing acute food shortage or starvation increased by about 9% to attain more than 950 million. The same year, the last year of what is called 'vigorous' global economic growth before the present crisis, the world economy grew by about 4% using IMF data. Summarizing: 4% global economy growth produced 9% more starving people.

To be sure, this reality can be swept aside as a problem of income distribution, piranha capitalism, bad technology, inappropriate crops, or whatever, necessitating yet more economic growth to resolve. More economic growth, the prayer wheel continues, is facilitated or even directly generated by population growth. The same type of logic reversals and acts of faith, we can note, have always been a basis for religious philiosophy, for example the agonizing question of the ranks and types of angels, why some are not good and their messenger role for connecting us to God, or not.

Eating Oil: For How Much Longer?
The simple fact that "belle epoque" economic growth in 2007-2008 was far outstripped by the increase in numbers of starving people underlines an uncomfortable reality for population boomers. Economic growth does not at all guarantee that people eat, let alone eat more. Also, we can note, the most basic cause in history for population declines is neither disease nor war - but food shortage.

The vast majority of starving persons in today's world are poor and exist outside the mainly white OECD countries. The OECD countries are still able to generate food surpluses, and food linked problems include mass obesity and transgenic animal-human crossover viruses brewed by Belsen agriculture, pesticides, and agrochemicals. How the OECD countries are presently still able to attain or create food surpluses is very simple to explain: they burn a lot more oil than poor countries. Whatever the calls for Green Energy, in the OECD countries of the real world present, OECD national food production in the real world present is totally oil dependent.

In some countries of the OECD, specially Japan, this has attained extreme highs, Japan using an average of more than 12 barrels direct oil consumption per hectare (about 80 GJ) for rice production each year. If the new Democratic Party government obtains its way, and succeeds in inciting Japanese families to reproduce French-style or US-style and achieve French or US population growth (about 0.6 million a year for France and 2.8 million a year for the USA) Japan's agricultural oil burn will inexorably rise, barring green tech miracles.

defense contracting in afghanistan at record high

FAS | There are more Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan today than there are uniformed U.S. military personnel, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. Not only that, the ratio of contractors to troops in Afghanistan is higher than in any prior military engagement in U.S. history.

“As of March 2009, there were 68,197 DOD contractors in Afghanistan, compared to 52,300 uniformed personnel. Contractors made up 57% of DOD’s workforce in Afghanistan. This apparently represented the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by DOD in any conflict in the history of the United States,” the CRS report (pdf) said. A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.

At a time when the deployment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan may be increased (or reduced), the CRS report casts a detailed and fairly nuanced spotlight on the role of defense contractors there. The report notes, for example, that more than 75% of the DoD contractor personnel in Afghanistan are local nationals. Only about 15% are U.S. citizens.

Contractors provide essential logistical, translation and other services, while offering increased flexibility. But they also pose management challenges in monitoring performance and preventing fraud. In the worst cases, “abuses and crimes committed by armed private security contractors and interrogators against local nationals may have undermined U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the CRS report noted. See “Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis,” August 13, 2009.

ethiopia, population, famine, and fate...,

Tehran Times | A quarter-century after a million Ethiopians died in the great hunger of 1984-85, the country is heading into another famine. The spring rains failed entirely, and the summer rains were three weeks late. But why is famine is stalking Ethiopia again?

The Ethiopian government is authoritarian, but it isn’t incompetent. It gives fertilizer to farmers and teaches best practices. By the late 90s the country was self-sufficient in food in good years, and the government had created a strategic food reserve for the bad years.

So why are we back here again? Infant deaths are already over two per 10,000 per day in Somali, the worst-hit region of Ethiopia. (Four per day counts as full-scale famine.) Country-wide, 20 percent of the population already depends on the dwindling flow of foreign food aid, and it will get worse for many months yet. What have the Ethiopians done wrong?

The real answer (which everybody carefully avoids) is that they have had too many babies. Ethiopia’s population at the time of the last famine was 40 million. Twenty-five years later, it is 80 million. You can do everything else right – give your farmers new tools and skills, fight erosion, create food reserves – and if you don’t control the population, you are just spitting into the wind.

It is so obvious that this should be the start of every conversation about the country. Even if the coming famine in Ethiopia kills a million people, the population will keep growing. So the next famine, ten or fifteen years from now, will hit a country of a hundred million people, trying to make a living from farming on land where only 40 million faced starvation in the 1980s. It is going to get much uglier in Ethiopia.

Yet it’s practically taboo to say that. The whole question of population, instead of being central to the debate about development, about food, about climate change, has been put on ice. The reason, I think, is that the rich countries are secretly embarrassed, and the poor countries are deeply resentful.

the denizens of peak oil denial

ASPO | World oil production grew eight-fold between 1945 and 2000. The peak oil story is about our inability to sustain that trend. Today’s modest “excess” of oil supply — the result of shrinking demand due to the global recession plus Saudi investments — may last another year or two. But in the background resource nationalism, credit constraints, reduced drilling, armed conflict, and regional geological limits are kicking in hard. By 2012, global production will be downshifting into reverse, with a larger world population forced to divvy up a shrinking supply.

Debunking peak oil is like railing against gravity or aging. Consider the table below, based on worldwide production data in BP’s Annual Statistical Review. It summarizes production trends for the world’s 30 largest oil-producing nations, which account for 94% of the world’s daily output.

The track record here is ugly. A decade ago, only four of the world’s top 30 oil producers were in decline; now the number is 11 and growing. The UK had been steadily increasing production during the 1990s, as had Norway. Mexican production surged in the late 1990s. Now all three are in decline and the UK is an importer, despite the use of best-in-class technology throughout the North Sea. Indonesia, a former oil exporter, became a net oil importer within the last two years.

Brazil’s oil future looks promising, but Russia’s oil story likely includes a plateau or worse. The Chinese admit they are near peak production, hence their push to buy capacity abroad. What’s your bet that peace will break out in Iraq and Nigeria to allow production to grow? Or that Chavez and Putin will turn over a new leaf, and that Iran will make nice?

The math is straightforward and compelling. Sure, technology has helped grow deepwater supply, but that has only been enough to keep oil production flat, or “at peak/plateau,” since 2005.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

why is the national guard recruiting for 'internment' cops?

WND | An ad campaign featured on a U.S. Army website seeking those who would be interested in being an "Internment/Resettlement" specialist is raising alarms across the country, generating concerns that there is some truth in those theories about domestic detention camps, a roundup of dissidents and a crackdown on "threatening" conservatives.

Are you an enemy of the state? Get the bumper sticker that lets everyone know you have no apologies for being right!

The ads, at the website as well as others including, cite the need for:

"Internment/Resettlement (I/R) Specialists in the Army are primarily responsible for day-to-day operations in a military confinement/correctional facility or detention/internment facility. I/R Specialists provide rehabilitative, health, welfare, and security to U.S. military prisoners within a confinement or correctional facility; conduct inspections; prepare written reports; and coordinate activities of prisoners/internees and staff personnel.
Internment specialist
United States Army National Guard
Job Title : Internment specialist
Job Reference : usang
Location : United States
Posted on : Wed May 07, 2008
Job category: Law Enforcement, National Guard, Enlisted
Job Description
The National Guard internment/resettlement specialist is an essential member of the law enforcement team. This specialist is primarily responsible for the operations in a military confinement/correction facility or detention/internment facility. Duties include:
- Assisting with the supervision and management of confinement and detention
- Providing security in a facility
- Counseling individual prisoners for rehabilitation
- Preparing reports on prisoners or programs

National Guard training usually is scheduled to accommodate a member’s civilian life, whether it is for the job or school. Each member first attends Initial Entry Training. After basic training, a solider then reports for Advanced Individual Training, which may vary in length depending on your specialty. Training continues for one drill weekend each month and one annual training period, which is usually two weeks in the summer.

Helpful skills
An ideal candidate for the National Guard internment/resettlement specialist should:
- Be interested in law enforcement
- Remain calm in stressful situations
The campaign follows by only weeks a report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warning about "right-wing extremists" who could pose a danger to the country – including those who support third-party political candidates, oppose abortion and would prefer to have the U.S. immigration laws already on the books enforced.

there won't be any separate peace

Breton | Last week the Oil Drum featured an article about the very wealthy making preparations for whatever catastrophe the post-peak future has in stock. Many commentators have pointed out that mercenaries understand very quickly there is more money to be done by cutting their rich but helpless employers' throat than by defending them. The very fact than some people – including a few billionaires, apparently – believe a doomsday gated community is a viable response to peak energy tells a more about the preconceptions and fantasies which stand in the way of a successful adaptation to the changes peak oil heralds.

Mercenaries' dubious loyalty is, of course, the first obstacle to the building of reasonably enduring billionaires' lifeboats. Basing one's security on hired sword is one of history's most popular losing bet, even if on the short run it is not necessarily a stupid one. All rulers in history have faced the same conundrum : if you can't enforce your decisions, your power is basically worth nothing, on the other hand, if you give your enforcer too much power, he may well replace you. That's why rulers who didn't trust their own people, relied recruited their soldiers and advisors abroad or among despised minorities : because they won't have the connections to stage a coup.

Of course, on the long run it rarely works. Sooner or later, mercenaries entrench themselves within society, become a part of it and put themselves in position of kingmakers... at the very least.

washington capitulates: peak oil is real

Safehaven | Each year, generally in May, the Energy Information Administration publishes a less-than-eagerly-anticipated tome called the International Energy Outlook, 250+ pages of mind-numbing text, charts, graphs, and tables.

No one reads it. The mainstream media ignore it.

It's the product of the best prognosticators in the Department of Energy. Okay, that may be what puts most people off. But if you're patient enough to dig into it, it will cough up some fascinating nuggets of information.

The present edition is no exception. The report refrains from spelling out the conclusion that seems most obvious from its data. However, confirming a trend begun just last year, the 2009 edition clearly reveals that the government has been forced to admit that Peak Oil is coming. Moreover, it's expected to arrive much faster than was believed as recently as two years ago.

By '08, they had put the info into table form, and look what happened:

Same table, '09:

Projected production, as you can see, is suddenly shriveling up. From 107.5 million b/d of oil projected for 2030 in 2007, to 102.9 million b/d in 2008, to this year's meager expectation for 93.1 million. That's a drop of 13.4% in only two years, and posits production growth of only 11.6 million b/d (14.2%) from 2006 levels.

If that isn't an admission that the era of Peak Oil is upon us, what is?