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March 26, 2012


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The average American has enough calories stored "on their bodies" to go 26 to 52 weeks without food. That's good planning, right??

Side note: Two new replies to "morecleanair" on U.S. oil consumption, etc., in the previous thread.

I'll be using my online time today for some research on the peak-oil thing so my apologies for deferring comment on the current thread.

What is the most ethical position someone can take in an irrational and delusional society? I'd argue it's living against the dominant paradigm of consumerism and escapism. It's turning off the TV set. It's driving only when necessary. It's talking back to conventional wisdom. It's living as locally as possible. And it's living as if the lives of others matter as much as yours.

The movie I would want people to discuss was last year's Melancholia, an end-of-the-world allegory that is so utterly depressing that when the end does finally arrive, it feels like a blessing. Sitting through it was a grueling experience because we're already halfway down its road, one we construct with denial, lying, and propaganda. If and when we decide to turn back, it will be too late.

You think things are going to get better? That people will decide to live consciously instead of obliviously? Your dream is part of the delusion. We have several millions years of evolution commanding us to live in ways that will ultimately destroy us. You don't oppose human neurology so easily.

As Eddie Vedder wrote,

We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all you won't be free.

Society, you're a crazy breed
Hope you're not lonely without me...



I was thinking of Melancholia, a very grown-up film that makes one think about it a long time after the credits roll.

Our situation is self-created and could be fixed or ameliorated. We just won't do it. I think of -- forgive the broken record -- the GOP war against transit, especially rail. We could be restoring our intercity passenger train network and retrofitting suburbia, both of which would make a huge difference (an electric car is not a power source). We just won't.

Emil: on our hunger for oil, my numbers weren't totally current it appears. For 2011, I get our consumption at 22% of the global total. (I didn't rely on BP's #s)
Given that we produce less than 6% of the world's usage, your thoughtful rationale indicates that indicates that our economy's production somehow justifies our consumption. Hmmmm!

Yes, it could be ameliorated, if there were the social and political will to do so. Something as simple as vanpooling - I've tried to encourage friends to vanpool,but there is much resistance to planning and sharing a ride with someone else! We are Very used to our comforts.

The guys that live in caves and drink goat milk have been around thousands of years and will be here thousands of years after the megatropolis's are gone.
Phoenix will burn and New York will drown.

The oil and related industries will successfully block any governmental action to lessen society's dependence on hydrocarbons until other industries eventually conclude that the addiction is substantially undermining their profit making activities. At that point, through battle or negotiation, the oligarchs will begin to implement the various alternatives available to weaken the hydrocarbon addiction.

A government for the corporations by the corporations is the unvarnished essence of US governance.

When blaming "speculators" and backing politicians that promise $2.50-a-gallon gasoline doesn't change the harsh calculus of too many people chasing too few resources.
Ah! Thank you. How frustrating it is that people are so quick to become finance sophisticates and embrace the speculation argument (ignoring that the "valleys" in that up-and-down price game are at incrementally higher elevations at each iteration). Anything to deny that their God is turning off the spigot for that sweet, sweet crude.
The guys that live in caves and drink goat milk have been around thousands of years and will be here thousands of years after the megatropolis's are gone.
And I'll bet that they're much better company to boot, cal.

I will watch Star Wars tonite
still a message after 35 years


There was a time when something could have been done to ease the shock of the end of hydrocarbons, but it may well be past. The Earth has adjusted before and people survived, but there weren't as many people back in the 12th century bc and 9th century ad. Civilations collapsed thru drought, famine, and war. The movie "The Road" I fear is our future.

The Road may also refer to:

The Road (2001 film), a Kazakhstani film
The Road (2009 film), an adaptation of the McCarthy novel
The Road (2011 film), a Filipino film
La strada (film), a 1954 film by Federico Fellini
The Road (album), a 2011 album by Mike + The Mechanics
"The Road", a song by Tenacious D, from their 2001 album Tenacious D
"The Road" (Frank Turner song), released in 2009
The Road (Jack London), a 1907 memoir by American author Jack London
The Road, a 1931 novel by British writer Warwick Deeping

Just followed a link on Front Page to article on global warming reaching a tipping point.After reading some of the comments,I can see why Scientific American is probably an oxymoron.

"Peak oil" is a fascinating and important topic of debate, and Mr. Talton should be lauded for raising it in a manner that is edgy enough to raise difficult questions that some might ignore or wish away, while remaining temperate enough to avoid the worst hyperbole of some of its adherents. Is he ahead of the curve? Perhaps.

Still, he isn't immune to remarks that are, arguably, facile. For example, he pooh-pooh's the idea that speculators may be responsible for a substantial increase in both oil prices and price volatility.

Analysts such as Murray and King point to a plateau in conventional crude oil production since 2005 and argue that the volatility and price bid-ups seen since have been the result of insufficient excess capacity and, consequently, panic by industrial users whenever comparatively small interruptions or threats to oil supply occur.


There are two questions here: a plateau in conventional oil production; and price volatility. Connecting the two is an inference. Are there other factors that might be at play? What else has changed since 2005?

"Pre-2006: Wall Street hedge exemption treated speculators as if they were industrial users; 2006: speculators now counted separately, nonindustrial trades soar". See the graph:


"Persons within the United States seeking to trade key US energy commodities – US crude oil, gasoline, and heating oil futures – are able to avoid all US market oversight or reporting requirements by routing their trades through the ICE Futures exchange in London instead of the NYMEX in New York. . . A glance at the price for Brent and WTI futures prices since January 2006 indicates the remarkable correlation between skyrocketing oil prices and the unregulated trade in ICE oil futures in US markets. Keep in mind that ICE Futures in London is owned and controlled by a USA company based in Atlanta Georgia."


"More and more fingers are pointing at one of the least-known but most powerful foreign exchanges - the InterContinental Exchange, or ICE. By the end of 2007, the all-electronic exchange accounted for nearly a 50 percent market share of all global oil futures contracts, a total of 138.5 million contracts - up 49 percent from 2006. Today it boasts more than 2,100 individual traders representing virtually all of the major players in oil - banks, hedge funds, energy companies, investment giants. And according to a securities filing, two of those giants, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, were founding partners of ICE."


A June 2006 Senate investigation found that, of oil futures traded in markets at $60 a barrel, $25 of that was due to pure speculation. Michael Greenburger, a former top staffer at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, told Congress that estimates of speculator caused inflation range from 25 to 50 percent. (See links above.) Even Goldman Sachs said in April, 2011 that "net speculative positions are four times as high as in June 2008" and admitted that speculators LIKE ITSELF had driven the price of oil at least $20 above what demand and supply dictate.


As for the plauteau in conventional crude oil production since 2005, that seems real enough. I don't want to dismiss this with hand-waving explanations. But note several additional facts. First, the world entered a deep recession in 2007 from which the global economy (including demand for oil) has not yet recovered. Second, if you include unconventional oil production such as shale oil, oil sands, and NGLs (the liquid content of natural gas where this is recovered separately), as well as conventional crude, production has grown since 2006, reaching a peak first in 2008, then slightly exceeding that peak in 2010.

Furthermore, as oil becomes more expensive (whether due in large part, at this early stage, to speculation, or not), other resources are used to replace it whenever possible. For example, production in natural gas has increased from about 2,800 billion cubic metres in 2005, to about 3,200 billion in 2010. Scarcely a plateau.

Also, there ARE, in fact, untapped conventional oil resources. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that arctic regions contain about 90 billion barrels worth of conventional crude oil, and far more massive amounts of natural gas, for "total oil equivalent resources" of 412 billion barrels.


For a less technical discussion with political ramifications included, see:


Nor is this purely theoretical. Norway's Statoil recently reported a second, recent massive oil reserve discovery:


The question of peak oil is important enough to separate out current questions of price volatility (which speculation may contribute inordinately to), from questions about future changes in energy production, demand, price, and price volatility, for which more fundamental factors may play a greater role.

On the other side of the arctic oil resources question, there was this comment from one of the articles above:

"90 billion barrels = 2 years 8 months worth of oil for the world, and since all of it cannot be recovered, it will be much less. This is only educated guessing and since it is in the Arctic, it will take longer and be more expensive to recover. If it ever is."

Good point, though my reckoning is 3.3 years at 75 million barrels a day. But note that Saudi Arabia has only 260 billion barrels of proven reserves, or about 9 years worth of oil. Obviously, the flaw in the argument is that neither the arctic nor Saudi Arabia will supply the entire world's oil demand.

And Typepad didn't eat Emil's posts!

eclecticdog, The Road was harrowing and dark but the there was also an underlying faith in the durability of love. After the father dies, the son is rescued. The nameless calamity seems to lift at that point, which suggests his death was both necessary and redemptive.

Cormac McCarhty's idea of manhood is resolutely practical - you do what you have to do in order to survive. Much of the novel (the movie is a faithful adaption) is simply about knowing what to do. Its unrelenting grimness is the vessel of a metaphor about human struggle. Manhood is ultimately about not giving up.

Cal, if you haven't read the novel, it's a very fast read. The details are better conveyed in words than film. The character psychology is not particularly important since the protagonists live in crisis as opposed to dread. The novel is an existential fable, not unlike something Camus might have imagined. But it's haunting to us because the specter of a complete breakdown in civilization is easily assumed now. This is not a political tract, however. It's primarily about the interdependence of love and death.

Emil, there is this former oil market regulator, a voice on the systemic dysfunctionality of the oil markets :

He contends that passive investments as hedge against inflation by the risk-averse has enabled a 'managed' overinflation of oil prices, thereby causing inflation (zing). He predicts a nosedive by the end of 2Q at the latest.


Hard to verify his claims until it all comes crashing down. One thing is certain: we're passing from Latte macchiato to the rubber-like gunk at the bottom.

More on "appetites": the growing epidemic of diabetic obesity is hitting the healthcare industry hard, not to mention the human costs in quality of life. Michelle Obama's focus on childhood nutrition/fitness is timely, as we're growing a crop of obese kids.

In a related discussion, we now learn that 5% of the population accounts for 50% of the medical costs. No doubt diabetic obesity figures in here.

So to paraphrase George W . . we're addicted to bad dietary habits and U Know Who will pay the price in one way or another.

cal, this one:

The Road (2009 film), an adaptation of the McCarthy novel

Bottom line:

With the latest report that there are 10's of billions of habitable planets just in the Milky Way, all of us who are unhappy with circumstances here on earth need to "get out of Dodge".

If you're looking for a new start, a new planet where you can do things the right way, you might consider the following:

Rebel Estates, on a planet near you.
We are now taking deposits. $10,000 down, $240,000 on arrival.

This is not one of those crazy Arizona land schemes. This is the real deal.

You will depart from the newly built spaceport in New Mexico.

Flights will be leaving in 6 months.

Make your checks out to Civilization and Survival Habitat. For short, make the checks out to C.A.S.H.

Send your checks to P.O. Box 1134, Mesa, AZ 85201

This is your last chance. President Bachmann will most likely stop the flights in January 2013.

Another possible contributory factor to a plateau in conventional crude oil production:

"OPEC, which supplies about 40 percent of the world’s oil, set its quotas in late 2008, when it announced the biggest-ever reduction in output as global demand collapsed and prices plummeted."


I've been looking for a decent chart showing OPEC quotas vs. production output for the 2000s. The following shows a marked decline in both production targets and output, following 2006, which was restored two years later, then cut again (not shown, but referred to in the Bloomberg quote as "the biggest-ever reduction in output"), WAY down to 24.8 million barrels a day late in 2008, where it sat until December 2011 when it was raised to 30 million barrels a day.

So, the chart explains why conventional crude production didn't grow as much as it would have during the period from 2006 until the oil crash of 2008; and the HUGE quota decrease of late 2008 which was only lifted at the end of last year, shows (along with stagnant global demand due to recession and post-recessionary doldrums) why the plateau continued.

It may be a little early to assume that even conventional crude oil production has reached a plateau due to fundamental factors.

Sorry, forgot the chart link:


Two things should also be noted from the chart: first, that OPEC quotas are routinely exceeded; second, that despite this, production follows quotas fairly closely: the two correlate quite well (at least recently), so that when quotas are reduced, production declines also, even though it still exceeds the quota.

Regarding morecleanair's comment re diabetic obesity as a possible driver of health care costs, see this recent Washington Post item:


There are many possible explanations for why Americans pay so much more. It could be that we’re sicker. Or that we go to the doctor more frequently. But health researchers have largely discarded these theories. As Gerard Anderson, Uwe Reinhardt, Peter Hussey and Varduhi Petrosyan put it in the title of their influential 2003 study on international health-care costs, "it’s the prices, stupid."

As it’s difficult to get good data on prices, that paper blamed prices largely by eliminating the other possible culprits. They authors considered, for instance, the idea that Americans were simply using more health-care services, but on close inspection, found that Americans don’t see the doctor more often or stay longer in the hospital than residents of other countries. Quite the opposite, actually. We spend less time in the hospital than Germans and see the doctor less often than the Canadians.

"The United States spends more on health care than any of the other OECD countries spend, without providing more services than the other countries do," they concluded. "This suggests that the difference in spending is mostly attributable to higher prices of goods and services."

On Friday, the International Federation of Health Plans — a global insurance trade association that includes more than 100 insurers in 25 countries — released more direct evidence. It surveyed its members on the prices paid for 23 medical services and products in different countries, asking after everything from a routine doctor’s visit to a dose of Lipitor to coronary bypass surgery. And in 22 of 23 cases, Americans are paying higher prices than residents of other developed countries. Usually, we’re paying quite a bit more. The exception is cataract surgery, which appears to be costlier in Switzerland, though cheaper everywhere else.


I just paid my hospital bill for a total hip transplant; because I was not under sedation for most of the experience (OR & recovery room excepted), I have a clear recollection of what services I received. On the final hospital bill, paid by Medicare, my secondary insurer and finally, me, there are several items that total over $2,000 and which I never received. To contest these items would be akin to a dog chasing his tail - I did that once; never again.
My point here is that there is an enormous amount of waste going into medical costs - but, we all knew that already. This recent experience drives home the point, and reinforces how helpless, as individual citizens, we are in the face of massive political corruption. In this instance, of the medical sort.

Terry, massive political corruption? Would you care to explain that? We have the world's most expensive health care for a reason, and that reason is why you oppose socialized medicine for people under 65. It's called crony capitalism. Health-care providers can simply charge as much as the market will bear. Health insurance companies in turn just raise our rates. And as long as that market remains effectively unregulated, the sky's the limit in terms of cost. It's why there's no long-term budget fix without wrestling this beast to the ground. Medicare is not the problem. The oligopoly known as the health-care industrial complex is.

I know we went around on this issue before. You believe in a mythical free market to provide our health care. But there ought to be at least one place on Earth that does it the way Republicans think is ideal. The funny thing is, there's not a single one. I think the reality principle here should apply to our efforts to pay for and distribute health care. If you can't cite a single example where it's done well, then it probably is just utopian twaddle coming from the same people who shook you down on your operation. Until then, there are many examples of regulated (and yes, socialized) systems that perform better than ours at around half the cost. And everyone is covered, not just lucky people like you.

So the crazy JetBlue pilot 1) From the South; 2) Increasingly "religious" Christian; 3) Lives in the suburbs.


But somehow downtowns and cities are scary?

Appetites gone wild: Forbes reports on diabetic obesity.
"A University of Chicago study estimates that Americans with diabetes will increase from 24 million people to about 44 million people by 2034, with direct health care costs increasing from $116 billion a year to $336 billion a year. This is a tremendous cost to our economy and a painful reality for millions of Americans."

And WHO will pay those soaring healthcare costs if the Supremes torpedo Obamacare's key provisions?

Keeping in mind the "end times" movies mentioned above and just for future reference, is it safe to eat a person with diabetes?

Extra cooking time?

Azrebel, your last name Donner?

No, cal just a fan of Diners, Drive-ins and dead people.

Kind of a moot point anyway. In the event of a zombie doomsday invasion, I'll be one of the first to go with my top speed of 2 mph.

My last sight on earth will be you and soleri riding off on your bikes as I become Mexican tartar.

( : - (

as long as you don't eat infected or necrotized tissue (the diabetic foot for example) you should be fine. Maybe here the veal (type I) is better than the more ripened variety (type II). The usual rules for butchering and cooking apply.

Medical billing errors occur quite commonly and not only (or even primarily) in association with Medicare or other public health programs. "Medical Billing Advocates of America, a national association that checks bills for consumers, says 8 out of 10 hospital bills its members scrutinize contain errors."

As for deliberate fraud, "the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group of health insurers and state and federal law-enforcement officials, estimates that at least 3 percent of all health-care spending—or $68 billion—is lost to fraud."

This, however, probably understates the percentage of billing overcharges that are deliberate (i.e., fraud). One reason is that only overcharges which are detected and prosecuted as fraud can be classified as such. Only a TINY percentage of billed individuals possess both the knowledge and motivation to effectively check abstruse medical bills line by line; a much smaller number still make a criminal complaint as a result; and a still tinier percentage of those cases are part of a clear PATTERN of billing overcharges that is sufficient to demonstrate criminal intent.


A couple of years ago USA Today contained a great column about the costs of childbirth (no Medicare involved, Terry). The columnist, who was born in 1949, was sent a copy of the hospital bill for his birth by his mother. The total was $94 for a WEEK's stay, including all costs. The bill was itemized as follows:

(1) Semi-private maternity room, $9.50 per day
(2) Delivery-room charge, $7.50
(3) Nursery charge, $2.50 per day
(4) "medicine", $2.50

He noted that the minimum wage in 1949 was 40 cents per hour.

He also noted that "Today, according to the University of Virginia, you pay about $6,000 for a maternity visit to the hospital, [but] you don't get to stay a week..."

I wanted to compare this to today's medical costs and services, so I calculated that the prorated cost for a two-day stay in 1949, $31.50, would take just two weeks gross pay at minimum wage, assuming a 40 hour work week: and that was at a time when the working poor weren't as burdened by regressive sales and payroll taxes as they are today.

The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and that $6,000 (which may not even include a two day stay) would take more than 5 MONTHS of gross wages to pay the bill.


AWinter, thanks ever so much for the two links you provided re oil price speculation and manipulation.

I haven't had time yet to digest them (or a third, see below) but Chris Cook was former Compliance and Market Supervision Director of the International Petroleum Exchange, one of the world's largest futures and options exchanges, which was bought by the Intercontinental Exchange in 1991 which subsequently became ICE Futures. Definitely a knowledgeable heavyweight!



The prospect of ACA being declared unconstitutional has Movement Conservatives giddy with nihilism. They're convinced that most Americans don't want to pay for their neighbor's bypass surgery. But politically is this smart? Not very.

Emil, one thing to note about fraud is that it's the private sector doing it. That is, the very entity the Terrys of this world want to see in charge of our overall system. Government isn't perfect but it's the only watchdog we have. If someone thinks crony capitalists will police themselves, that person is naive.

Healthcare billing no longer makes sense. Everything is done with a wink and a nod, is negotiable, and has no relation to reality. For example, my wife recently had a neck surgery -- we paid $6000 up front and our insurance paid $9000 (out-of-network you know). The bill came yesterday and it was $34K! The surgery center isn't going to come after us for that as it's all wink, wink, nudge, nudge, forget about it. Same for her pain institute visits last year -- out-of-network, but no payments from us, just sign over the checks your insurer sends you! Medical costs and billings have become a shell game. I shudder to think what is going on with Medicare and Medicaid.

I'm thinking RomneyObamaCare is going down and its back to square one after the fingerpointing and screaming of the next election. A read from Dimitri Orlov:


Our appetites do get the better of us. It reminds me of Andrew Bacevich and his writings about our 'appetites'.

Also, the crux of the health care problem was revealed back in the day when ACA was being growled about (are we trapped in Groundhog day?)

...First, these countries all mandate the individual to be insured for a basic package of health care benefits.

Many Americans oppose such a mandate as an infringement of their personal rights, all the while believing that they have a perfect right to highly expensive, critically needed health care, even when they cannot pay for it. This immature, asocial mentality is rare in the rest of the world.


I don't know about the sustainability of our state, but ASU's College of Sustainability just got sustained by almost $30,000,000 from the Walmart CEO.

We're all saved??

Jon, Is Powers of Arrest going to be released while I am still alive??

Powers of Arrest comes out in May. Launch is at the Poisoned Pen 7-8:30 p.m. May 17th. Will probably have more Phoenix and Tucson signings. Seattle Mystery Bookshop noon May 22.

Arizona + ASU + Walmart = 'sustainability'


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