Cars That Run on Air and Water? Audi Rolls Out E-Diesel
States' Rights

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2015 Predictions
Peak Oil
It's the new year, and that means one things to all the futurists and wanna-be futurists out there: Time for predictions!

Kunstler's annual predictions post is as dramatic as ever. The guy seems to be playing doomer Martingale: If your pessimistic predictions turn out to be overly so, make your predictions next year twice as pessimistic, you're bound to be right eventually!

John Michael Greer's predictions are also justifiably gloomy, but I think his predictions are better calibrated (and better explained).

Do any of you have other links of note to share on that topic? Predictions of your own?

As for me, here are my incredibly vague predictions:

Scarcity means that oil prices will rise eventually, but I think the likely scenario is sustained low prices next year. Any sort of big economic disruption is going to cause a big decrease in demand, even as it hits supply. So you might not see high prices again until the next "recovery". The next big crash could be in 2015, but maybe not. (On the other hand, Kunstler is right that some events in the middle east could cause a supply crunch so fast that price would ramp up rapidly.)

While immigration will continue to be a contentious political issue, there won't be "open ethnic warfare" in "France, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden", nor will the level of violent racial conflict in the US return to the levels of the 1960s or 1970s (it seems the Kunstler is really hankering for a race war). No huge constitutional crisis, either. Dysfunction and gridlock will continue to be the political order of the day. (Wouldn't be surprised if things get gradually more interesting as we move into 2016, though.)

I'm not making any predictions about the European monetary union. Not making predictions about the Russia/Ukraine situation, except that it probably won't lead to the outbreak of a world war next year.

Subprime Oil
Peak Oil
This article has been in my queue for a while, but it's worth a comment:

In 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast that the US would outpace Saudi Arabia in oil production thanks to the shale boom by 2020, becoming a net exporter by 2030. The forecast was seen by many as decisive evidence of the renewal of the oil age, while informed detractors were at best ignored, at worst ridiculed.


But the IEA's latest assessment has proved the detractors right all along. The agency's World Energy Investment Outlook released this week says that US tight oil production - which draws largely from the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas - will peak around 2020 before declining.


The IEA report says:

"... output from North America plateaus [from around 2020] and then falls back from the mid-2020s onwards."

Mid-2020s actually sounds like a nice long reprieve to me. But things are unlikely to go that smoothly if companies were counting on a more optimistic supply curve. Shale oil companies have been raking in revenue, but maybe not so much in the way of profit. From Bloomberg:

Floyd Wilson raps his fingertips against the polished conference table. He’s just been asked, for a second time, how he reacted when his Halcon Resources Corp. (HK) wrote off $1.2 billion last year after disappointing results in two key prospects.


Halcon spent $3.40 for every dollar it earned from operations in the 12 months through June 30. That's more than all but six of the 60 U.S.-listed companies in the Bloomberg Intelligence North America Independent E&P Valuation Peers index. The company lost $1.4 billion in those 12 months. Halcon's debt was almost $3.2 billion as of Sept. 5, or $23 for every barrel of proved reserves, more than any of its competitors.

Maybe this means the shale boom will get its own financial crisis to precede round two of the bumpy plateau. I wonder how that will compare to 2008. On the plus side, at least it's all junk bonds. It's not a crisis of supposedly-safe investment-grade debt, so there won't be the web of insurance and derivatives that made the subprime mortgage crash such a cascading failure. On the other hand, a lot of projections of America's financial future are pinned to assumptions about shale gas.

Оригинал взят у juice_earth в ПЕРЕРАБОТКА БУРОВЫХ И НЕФТЕШЛАМОВ
Наиболее экологически, экономически и даже этически оправданными способами очистки природных объектов от нефтесодержащих и других видов загрязнений являются биотехнологические способы, воспроизводящие природные процессы самоочистки почв от всякого рода загрязнений. Все известные способы биотехнологической очистки сводятся к тому, что из некоего природного комплекса микроорганизмов, участвующих в процессах очистки от загрязнений, выделяются штаммы, якобы особо эффективные в процессах очистки. Отметим, что выделенные штаммы всегда обладают более низкой способностью разложения нефтепродуктов, чем комплексное сообщество, а главное – это неспособность искусственно выделенных узконаправленных штаммов решать комплекс проблем.

Из всех существующих на Земле сообществ почвенных организмов наиболее высокой метаболической активностью и самой высокой способностью к самоочистке обладает сообщество почвенных организмов черноземов. Предельно допустимые концентрации практически для всех токсичных веществ самые высокие у черноземов.

В 2012г. на производственной базе компании «Зарубежнефть» были проведены успешные испытания по переработке буровых и нефтешламов с использованием концентрированного почвенного раствора «Сок Земли». После совместной переработки смеси буровых шламов, нефтешламов и бытовых отходов культурой черноземообразующих организмов и концентрированным почвенным раствором, адаптированными к переработке нефтепродуктов, получились почвогрунты, пригодные для выращивания растений.

Выращенные на этих почвогрунтах растения и сами почвогрунты были сданы в сертифицированную лабораторию («Лабораторию экотоксикологического анализа почв» при факультете Почвоведения МГУ им.М.В.Ломоносова) для определения класса опасности. Был определён V класс опасности, то есть почвогрунт является безопасным для объектов окружающей среды.


Post-Peak Parenting
In the past few years, I've read a few books that discuss modern American middle-class parenting:

Leanore Skenazy's Free Range Kids suggests that middle-class American parents are going crazy with worry in a media environment that exaggerates the risks posed to children by crime or accident. (The sole risk that gets understated is the danger of automobile accidents to children as passengers.) She suggests that parents calm down, try to get their perception of risk in line with reality instead of cable TV, and remember the benefits of children being able to do things on their own.

Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids notes that middle-class American parents favor methods of parenting that take a lot of time, money, and labor, but that the same parents overestimate the effects of their parenting methods. In addition, people focus on the short-term, so they over-focus on the drawbacks of having young children and under-focus on the benefits of having adult children and grandchildren. Thus, they might be making the wrong trade-offs when deciding between expensive, difficult parenting methods and few or no kids versus cheaper, lazier parenting methods while having more kids.

Jennifer Senior's All Joy and No Fun describes some rather dramatic changes that have occurred in the last two to three generations in the attitudes that middle-class Americans have towards parenting, and the effect of that on the experience of parenthood. This book is more a work of sociology than an argumentative essay, so it doesn't really give much in the way of advice.

All of these books suggest that something has gotten really weird about American middle-class parenting in the last 70 years or so. (It's not just America, either.) That time-frame isn't a coincidence. Parents raising their children a commute away from everything, families increasingly living places where children can't get anywhere by themselves because you need to drive to get anywhere, towns being organized in ways that make them more convenient for cars at the expense of the comfort and safety of pedestrians, and (early on) lots of opportunities for upward mobility (followed now by pervasive threats of downward mobility), all of these are factors that pushed the concerted cultivation model of parenting. And all of those factors were shaped by the oil boom and subsequent peak.

So here's what I'm wondering: Is there any good writing on the impact of peak oil on parenting specifically?

The books I mention describe a dysfunctional situation, and give some advice for mitigating that situation. But they miss something about the underlying causes, and they don't do much to anticipate any sort of future change. Is there any good writing that describes the experience of raising children during an economic contraction? Or speculates about the effect of peak oil on families? So far what I've got in terms of advice is something like, "Read The Upside of Down (or maybe The Up Side of Down) and try not to stress out too much."

(Stuff about places outside of America and socioeconomic groups outside of the middle-class would be interesting as well. I recognize that this is a bias in my reading, but it's where I live.)

The Slaves We All Happily Keep—With Addendum
The Captain's Prop
I'll take a break from a currently tumultuous family life and digress into a thought that has niggled at my brain for about three decades now. Back in college, a friend and I were mulling over beers about a simple question: Why is invention—specifically the rate of invention—accelerating?

Some historians say it is not, that looking at inventions from the distance history provides is like trying to judge the speed of an observed train at a distance without knowing the distance; from farther away, be they historically or in proximity, things appear slower. But this answer is, to me at least, just waving off the preponderance of evidence for an invention acceleration as simply not worth considering.

Back in college, I suggested it was education. More and more are getting more and more education. Could that be it? Perhaps, but this answer simply pushes the question down the road; why are more and more getting educated at greater rates? In other words, what changed in our education system from previous years?

Very recently, I think I've stumbled upon the answer, and I'm not sure I like the implications. More are educated today, more invention happens today, and more of us do less strenuous work today for the same reason that prisoners today do less backbreaking work in prison.Collapse )

Iran Invades Iraq in "Sectarian Violence" Turned Civil War
Gas Prices
And suddenly, Fox News is taking Iran at their word:

Iran is coming to the aid of its historic nemesis, sending elite fighters to Iraq in the wake of a Sunni insurgency that has claimed two key northern cities and now threatens Baghdad, Fox News has learned.

Some 150 fighters from the Revolutionary Guards elite Quds force have already been dispatched by Tehran, and the division's powerful commander, Qassem Suleimani, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday and pledged to send two notorious Iranian brigades to aid in the defense of Baghdad. That could amount to as many as 10,000 soldiers sent to fight the Sunni group known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Maliki is believed to be considering the offer, especially in light of reported decisions by the U.S. to reject his request for American airstrikes against the Al Qaeda-affiliated militants who have recently overrun Mosul and Tikrit and appear to be preparing for a march on the capital. [...]

Not everyone is reporting the same news about those airstrikes, though, see this from The Washington Post:

Iraqi media and a source close to Maliki's office in Baghdad said that Obama had already agreed to "imminent" U.S. airstrikes, to be launched from a base in Turkey. The senior official described those reports as "premature" but said a decision could come "today, tomorrow, in the coming days."

Oil prices are up a bit this week, but not much, currently under $107/bl. However, prospects for future oil development in Iraq are looking even worse than they were previously, which was not so great to begin with.

Catching Up on Peak Oil
Gas Prices
I knew it had been a while since someone posted to this community, but nothing since January 2013. Anyone still listening?

Major Peak Oil stories from 2013 and 2014 so far:

July 6, 2013 - The town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec was destroyed when a train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed and exploded.

September 22, 2013 - Peak Oil blog The Oil Drum closed its doors.

October 18, 2013 - Saudi Arabia refused a seat on the UN Security Council.

February 2014 to present - Crisis in the Ukraine. Civil unrest, ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea. Issues at stake include control over natural gas pipelines and some significant debts for natural gas owed by Ukraine to Russia.

April 13, 2014 - Suicide of Michael Ruppert, author of (among other things) Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil and Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World.

What big stories am I missing?

Vehicle-miles traveled in the US dipped significantly in 2008 and has been in a bumpy plateau at the lower level since.

Oil prices have mostly stayed in the $90-$110/barrel range. The stock market has risen about 30% since early 2013, but the economic recovery continues to be underwhelming in many areas.

Peak production of light sweet crude oil was likely in 2005. Peak of global oil production was possibly in 2008, or may be yet to come, but supply has been looking rather plateau-like since 2005, even in the face of relatively high prices.

One of the interesting bits of Peak Oil is the end of unlimited rebuilds in disaster areas. When we were a rich nation, we'd rebuild every house on the Atlantic Coast or down in Florida after a hurricane swept through and ruined the place. Insurance money just kept paying out. We could afford it. The govt paid off the insurance companies and the houses got rebuilt, only to be destroyed sometime in the next 3-5 years, once more. This was wasteful, but we were a rich nation then. That is no longer true.

Cities that used to matter get left to rot into ruins. Peak Oil destroyed the housing industry by making commuting too expensive for enough people that the markets collapsed and the Derivatives Bubble burst after all those jobs building overpriced houses stopped. People couldn't use their 2nd mortgage as an ATM anymore, couldn't buy the latest fashionable and inefficient SUV with high markup from Detroit. That ended most autoworker jobs, something we all observed. This collapse had to bail out the COMPANYS but not the employees. They up and left Detroit, which is down half its population or more, and huge regions of it no longer have utilities, including street lights. Crime and murders are really common. Its kind of post apocalyptic, apparently. The pictures out of Detroit show the plants consuming abandoned houses. Trees and vines tearing them apart, exposing them to nature. These places are going to fall down.

Think about Hurricane Katrina and how long it took the Govt to respond. Many cry racism. I do too. The president at the time paid little official attention, but his greatest detractors, like the President of France, ignored race riots for 10 days in Paris and Marseille. Ahem. Lots of guilt to go around. When the hurricanes were over and the flood waters receded, entire neighborhoods of houses are contaminated with raw sewage and rotting wallboard, mold, and completely unlivable. Shoddy contractors took their time fulfilling very specific contracts and milking them for money. Meanwhile, people took their checks and didn't move back. The 9th ward is largely empty. Its a ruin.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed coastal New Jersey. Much of it is still without power or heat, despite it being winter. Many people have already left for good having nothing left to lose. Bulldozers have taken down neighborhoods and condemned houses. Many more are begging the city to condemn their own so they can take a check and leave the ruins behind, move somewhere not destroyed. Somewhere will basic utilities that still work. It doesn't help that there's months of waiting for power transformers because they stopped making them in the First World about 10 years ago. The wait from the company in China? 18-24 months. I suspect that transformers are probably being salvaged from places like Detroit and shipped to New Jersey to fix those problems, but I might be optimistic there. After all, that would make sense. And turning New Jersey from slums into Rich People Mansions requires the blocks to be ruins first for best and cheapest price, maximum profits in the deal.

Someday there will be the Big One in California. In LA or SF. Most of those cities will fall down, and what doesn't fall will have its water pipes broken, worth trillions of dollars to repair. Literally. And years will be required to do it. The Loma Prieta quake in SF in 1989 took 10 years to see the broken water pipes replaced. All of them in that entire region, even 100 miles away, were damaged and cracked by the ground waves. I doubt many but Civil Engineers even knew about it. I did because I was there and paying attention. I SAW the ground waves in that quake. And YES, the streets leaked water in cracks for years afterwards. When that happens, thanks to the end of cheap everything, it is unlikely that repairs will be fast enough to prevent the locals from packing their surviving stuff and leaving. Its also likely that rich people will contract their repairs privately, first, and the poor won't be able to afford those repairs. They'll almost certainly have their water and sewer off for health reasons, since commonly they're put in the same trench next to each other, under the street. So when they crack, the fluids mix and what comes out of the tap... Well, you get the picture. Now imagine the health department and building inspectors do in PRK what they did in Detroit and start shutting down neighborhoods and ordering "mandatory boiling", when we have no way to do that since our natural gas pipes will be ruptured and off too. Ergo, everyone but the rich leave. The neighborhoods get left behind as Ruins, once again.

This is the economic impact of Peak Oil, something somewhat unanticipated. It is an unintended consequence of expensive oil. We're now too poor to keep rebuilding for people who live in stupid places. We expect them to move out and leave the ruins behind as a warning to others. Lots of places are built where they shouldn't be. The levees in the lowlands of the California San Joaquin and Sacramento River delta have farms and houses behind them, despite the design being inherently flawed and failing. Back when California had money, before the Housing Bubble burst, there were plans to fix this, do repairs to delay catastrophe. Those repairs remain unfunded so they aren't happening. Instead the people behind them are warned to get out when there's flood warnings. To stay with friends or family, to evacuate. A repeat of the 9th ward flooding is likely one of these spring thaws, when too much water comes pouring down the mountain and overwhelms the flood control. Those levees are just waiting to erode a little more, to fail and flood hundreds or thousands of homes along the American River, the Sacramento River, any river with levees, basically. Most of the delta is at or slightly below sea level. Flooding from the fresh water snow melt is highly probable. And I'm not even including the fact the levees can be shaken apart by earthquakes. Oh, I just did. Will the Nation pay for water pipes in SF and levees in Sacramento and Stockton? Hell no. Not enough votes to justify it, and California ALWAYS votes Democrat so the govt never does anything to win them. Just take take take. Yep. Someday, Stockton will be submerged ruins, most of the delta orchards will be water bird sanctuary and lakes, and Sacramento will be a series of highland ridges surrounded by lakes where neighborhoods of poor people used to be. It might be 10-20 years from now, but its sort of inevitable unless they actually fill in behind the levees so those places can't flood. And they're not going to do that. It isn't economical.

I wonder if survivors will get Malaria from all the mosquitoes breeding in all that standing water? Or West Nile. Or Meningitis. Or Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. When will govt stop bothering to do mosquito abatement because its too expensive post oil, focus on treatment and vaccination instead? At what point is epidemic an acceptable cost? Sometime after the ruins settle a little deeper into the ground? These are also costs of peak oil. We learned a long time back that Peak Oil is a massive economic problem, not just one of simple transportation. There's all these side effects. What economic impacts are you seeing from Peak Oil?

Watch Out For The Crazies

Today XKCD had a lovely little cartoon about a forum for perpetual motion machines, still going after 8 years. They're a wonderfully insane subject that crazy people inevitably drift into. Not being interested in them is often a sign of sanity, if you ever wondered about your own mental health. Those places also attract con men and I think that's the origin of the Receding Horizon Problem, those sorts of machines.

The Receding Horizons Problem (RHP) entry is constantly deleted from Wikipedia, probably for political reasons because I can't think of any other which are sane or rational. RHP is taught in Intro to Engineering (ENG 10/101). Engineers are usually sane, but not always. I've met several that were STUPID, but most are smart and sane. Perpetual Motion Machines violate thermodynamics, and nothing can. They're called Laws of Thermodynamics because they can't be broken. They're universally right, always, without error or exception. Crackpots insist that their cheats and errors that ALMOST work before it stops would work if they just had more money to build a bigger one. Sometimes this is a con man planning to take the money and run to Brazil. Sometimes this is a nut with terrible personal history that's driven him insane. There are steam punk mechanical engineers that build perpetual motion machines as a joke, part of their cosplay, complete with hawkers making absurd claims just like in the real world. They know and strongly imply its all hokum, just to make their point about how little some things change. I respect their parody skits and how much fun they have mocking morons.

I have encountered people who insist that Cold Fusion works. It doesn't. Its a battery, at best. If it were actually fusion, the neutrons and gamma rays would kill you. The absence of radiation from a fusion reaction is the most obvious way to tell. The people I've talked to INSISTED it was all a conspiracy to prevent clean energy. I asked if they were running their house on this amazing machine they claimed to have running on their desktop.
"Well, no."
"Why not? Isn't it almost free energy generation that you say will free the world from oil dependency?" I ask.
"Yes! Its a conspiracy," he agrees.
"So why not run your house on it?" I ask.
"Well, umm, gotta go!" he says. Uh huh. So liar or crazy person. I even stopped being friends with the people who were friends and supporters of this nut. They kept insisting he was a brilliant scientist and engineer, but neither he nor any of them had their homes running on his Cold Fusion device. A gizmo that would end their home heating bills and save them thousands a year for three easy payments of $19.95 (plus shipping and handling!). Not much of a friend, was he? Cult leaders do that. Con people, make them brainwashed into supporting them, especially when they're provably wrong. 

In the real world, applied sciences make money if what they're applied to has value. A free home power generator that is cheap to build, requires no maintenance but distilled water once a month, costs nothing to operate, and makes free power? Very valuable. A billion-dollar idea worth mass producing. Of course, that would require it to work. Peak oil and the loss of cheap energy has no easy answers. Cold Fusion is just a solid state perpetual motion machine, with the same BS claims used on spinning flywheels running generators going into a "magic box" which is always sealed and proprietary and contains a car battery that's charged up to keep the hoax going longer. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Many of us have been involved with Peak Oil study since before the Oil Price spike in 2007-8. Some of us even have a background in geology, economics, or engineering. We know the facts. Many of us made predictions about WHEN the spike would hit and how high the price of oil would go, but most of us also underestimated the consequences to the world economy on demand, and demand destruction turned out to be considerably worse than anticipated. I thought we'd end up paying big bucks for a gallon of gasoline. It really hasn't been like that, not really. The doubling of price was enough to kill the housing boom, burst that bubble. That killed the derivatives scam, which destroyed the stock and bonds markets, which hurt the dollar currency and turned us into an inflationary machine with ever-expanding money supply. Both presidents were responsible for this mess. Clinton too.

We might even blame Reagan, who embraced Deficit Spending and convinced our population that a Rising Tide Would Lift All Boats. Actually, the rising tide bought BMWs and said "screw it!" to the rest of the boats stuck in the mud. That lack of investment in small businesses is what lead to this cruel world of multinational corporations that only care about their stock price and profitability because that's how their executives get paid. They don't care about the imbalance or how it insured their kids would never make as much money. Like the entitled Spanish aristocracy presiding over a broken Spain after the disastrous invasion of Britain, their precious Armada sunk by storms in the Channel, we got handed a broken economy which is provably destructive to workers, families, and the future in general.

And the population voted for Socialism in the last election. That was crazy. Many of you applaud that, thinking that Socialism is best for everyone, whether they want it or not. I think you're fools if you do. I think the population needs jobs, universal employment. Mostly in manufacturing because anyone can do that, regardless of education. Instead, most of the unemployed are either underemployed and angry about it or in education hoping there will be a job by the time they come out with huge student loan debt, which is the next financial crisis coming and might be the one to break us. Going to school for a degree, gambling there will be a good paying job afterwards is merely delaying the inevitable, and might lead to suicide. Doing that is crazy. We're not supposed to admit that socialist countries have really high suicide rates (Greece!) because you just can't get ahead no matter how hard you try, but that doesn't matter if you're not paying any attention. Socialism is giving up on democracy. Its giving up on trying.

If America were socialist we'd be no better than Mexico. Our water and sewer would fall apart, we'd see people sick and dying from cholera again. The lights would go out because its nobody's job to keep them on, and why bother, right? You'd end up shivering in the cold. No amount of education will fix that indifference. Socialism is all about ignoring progress and responsibility and managing the die-off. Eventually, even you will be unnecessary. Then its your turn to kneel in the ditch in front of the firing squad. That's the big danger of cult-mentality trust. The crazies running the world today are megalomaniacs who deny reality. This is why we don't have fuel rationing, why our currency is inflating daily, why our food costs more and more, why our healthcare is nationalizing and lowering in quality, why there's no enough flu shots and they're no longer free, why there's $3.30/gal gasoline and the roads are falling apart because those fuel taxes are being spent on social programs instead of the road repairs they're supposed to, and why, most importantly, all the jobs are in China and India. We screwed ourselves. Its our fault. We voted for greed and laziness and easy money. Not to protect our kids from the future we can't prevent. We voted for crazy.

At this point our only good fortune is the terrible world economy has prevented a fuel price spike from going higher. Sure, we'll all be unemployed soon, but that's okay right? After all, the farmers will feed us for free because we voted for them to, thanks to Socialism! Oh wait. What if the farmers stop working? What if they export the food like Bennetton did in Argentina a decade ago? People starved, despite their insistence on voting for Socialism. It didn't save them at all. Will that happen here? Only time will tell. I won't make timing predictions because I've never been good at that. Stuff happens that delays things, or unanticipated things make it all a bit worse but in a way you didn't expect. Prediction is bad like that. The Oil IS running out. What we've got left is expensive and lower quality. It costs more. Its not available for everyone. Demand destruction has become the defining factor of the end of cheap oil. And isn't that just Crazy?


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