Links 1/6/09

Dear readers, sorry for thin posts, but truth be told, the news pickings looked thin to me tonight!

China’s netizens pressure Beijing Al Jazeera (hat tip Michael T)

Two killer whale types found in UK waters BBC. The article suggests they may be on the way to becoming two species. When I was in Alaska (summer 2008) a marine biologist said there were two types of orcas, transients (which eat whales) and residents (which do not travel much and do not eat whales, even though they can). They also do not interbreed. So I said, “Well, are they not two species, then?” and was treated as an idiot for asking the question.

Obesity is now just as much of a drag on health as smoking Scientific American (hat tip Michael T)

Television Begins a Push Into the 3rd Dimension New York Times. What about those of us who don’t see in 3-D?

Bankers are as valuable as film stars or athletes, insists Goldman Sachs director Andrew Clark Guardian. Make me barf. I briefly worked for Goldman when the firm was more selective (as in it limited itself to higher percentiles of applicants from various fancy-dancy schools) and no one would have believed or tried to sell tripe like this. Having access to more concentrated capital flows is NOT the same as talent.

Now, that chart looks familiar… Tim Iacono

Silicon Valley ‘Bloodbath’ Leaves Buildings Empty Bloomberg

Peak Oil Believers Wonder Why Every Government Ignores Them, Conclude It’s Due To A Giant Cover Up Clusterstock. The tone is unduly gleeful, but there is a serious point: if peak oil is here, or not too far off, pray tell why are not the most obvious beneficiaries, namely the integrated oil producers and OPEC, not screaming it from the housetops? Higher oil prices would boost their bottom lines, and also greatly lower the cost of investing in more extreme extractive technologies and other projects (which many of them are already investing in…)

Capital City Kevin Drum, Mother Jones (hat tip reader Kendall)

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Barbara):


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  1. a

    A few other goodies over the past 24 hours.

    ECB Executive Board member Stark says that EU will not bail out Greece.

    Iceland’s President vetoes bill to repay UK and Dutch depositers and sends it to a referendum, where it will probably be defeated.

  2. CrocodileChuck

    er,: Antidote du Jour

    Mr. Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) is a Northern hemisphere species, not normally found amongst Mr. Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri).

    great pic, though!

    1. ozajh

      It would have been a lot worse if (s)he had photoshopped in a “smiling” head of a Leopard Seal.

      Suggested Caption: Checkin’ out the local smorgasbord

  3. Vespasian

    I’m not sure how to nominate links & topics directly to Yves, so I’ll put it into these comments.

    Today’s NYT: “If Fed Missed This Bubble, Will It See a New One?” by David Leonhardt, makes some points well-known to Fed critics and manages to sound more critical of the Fed than most MSM pieces, which is a positive.

    I’m irked, however, by its summary of Rep Dr Paul’s “Audit the Fed” bill as one that would “give Congress the power to review interest rate decisions” and subsequent poo-poohing of this idea. This is not an accurate statement as to what the Audit the Fed would allow, and it is extremely aggravating the NYT repeats this propaganda while ignoring what the bill WOULD do, which is examine all the assorted Fed balance sheet transactions. Of course, comments aren’t allowed for that article on to point this out to the author or other readers.

    Any thoughts?

  4. Jojo

    Love the Penguin/Seal photo! I wish you would include a link for the original in case I want to copy the photo and use it somewhere else.

    Some links:

    Americans’ job satisfaction falls to record low
    By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
    January 4, 2010


    California wines get alcohol boost
    By Lisa M. Krieger
    Updated: 01/04/2010

    Like so much else that’s Californian, our state’s wines are growing big, expressive and controversial.

    Table wines used to hover around the 12 percent alcohol mark; now, it’s rare to find them below 13 percent. And sales of so-called “hot” wines — those reaching at least 14 percent alcohol — have tripled in the past decade.


    State of the Earth 2010

  5. charles

    “if peak oil is here, or not too far off, pray tell why are not the most obvious beneficiaries, namely the integrated oil producers and OPEC, not screaming it from the housetops? Higher oil prices would boost their bottom lines, and also greatly lower the cost of investing in more extreme extractive technologies and other projects”

    The answer is DEMAND DESTRUCTION, high fossil fuel prices not only allow using extreme extractive technologies but also make alternative technologies, like nuclear + batteries/fuel cells, profitable. The key observation is that there is a lot of momentum in the energy system : once a technology has been adopted widely (for instance, use of petrol in individual transportation, or use of gas in electricity generation), it is difficult to switch because of the legacy investments that have a long amortization time. The only way this momentum can be offset is when a long term expectation of high and rising prices for the “old” technology (fossil fuel in the present case) takes hold. In such case, it is rational to jettison still not amortized fossil-fuel related investments and build cheaper alternative energy assets. Once this has happened, the demand for fossil fuel is gone, and, more importantly, doesn’t come back even if their price go down again (inertia again…).

    By now, I hope you understand that the last thing integrated oil producers and OPEC want is to fuel the expectation of “oil going up forever”, and this is why they are not screaming that from the rooftops. They are like the drug dealers that want to sell their stuff at the most expensive price, but not so expensive and hard to find that their clients become convinced to go through the unpleasant process of rehab.

    1. paper mac

      It’s probably worth noting that there have been a number of compelling analyses published showing that oil prices much above ~$85 USD/barrel are recessionary. That puts the ceiling for demand destruction fairly low.

  6. attempter

    Re Peak Oil, it’s obviously here. We’ve been on the bumpy plateau since 2005. The question doubters need to answer, which they’ve been woefully unable to answer, is where the new megagiant fields are supposed to exist? Central Asia, no. Arctic, no. Deep ocean, no. There’s oil in those extremely low EROEI places, but nowhere near the amounts the gaping maw needs. Iraq’s real amount is unknown, but even by the most sanguine projections it also has nowhere near what will be needed. And there are obvious extractability issues there as well.

    If there were significant new resources, why, even with prices surging, did it requite herculean investment efforts to increase production by just a few mpd from 2005-summer 2008?

    And now we have the credit crunch which has caused the mothballing of two dozen major new oil projects which were slated to come online over the next 5 years and which were absolutely necessary to make up for depletion of existing fields.

    The corporatist IEA itself said the world would need to discover “four new Saudi Arabias” by 2030 for production just to keep running in place, let alone two more to meet projected new demand if consumption kept rising at historical levels.

    So that’s six new KSAs, when even the one we already have is dubious.

    As for the Arabians themselves claiming the Peak, what exactly does that regime have to offer anyone anywhere, including its own people, other than the promise of endless oil revenues? They have a vested interest in claiming oil is forever, any “other” business ventures they dream of getting into like petrochemicals are still completely dependent upon oil, and they’ve probably hypnotized themselves by now in the same way most Wall Streeters no doubt hypnotized themselves about the infinite housing bubble.

    I’m really surprised anyone around here would need to ask about how that mindset works.

    As for why they don’t just cap the resource and wait until decades from now, when they’ll be able to sell it for vastly more, c’mon. When did the oil market (or any other market) function in such a rational way?

    Besides, if they tried to do that they’d almost certainly be invaded.

    No, we’ve been on the supply plateau since 05, and now whether or not and when we see the classical Peak effect (which is when demand tries to exceed supply) is a function of whether or not the zombie “recovery” actually can temporarily goose ecoonmic activity enough that oil consumption resumes its upward march. In that case it’ll run into declining production sometime within five years, as the delayed effect of those cancelled projects comes to pass.

    And all this leaves out the effect any further price increases would have on the nascent phony recovery. Prices are already hovering at the recovery destruction threshhold of $80-85.

    (Which is another reason producers wouldn’t want to call the Peak. A place like Saudi Arabia always looks for the price sweet spot which maximizes both its revenue and Western economic health and therefore consumption.

    The last thing the Saudis would want to do is derail these green shoots vibes by saying or doing anything that would send oil prices too high.)

  7. dearieme

    The “Peak Oil” hypothesis is the only plausible it’s-all-running-out story in my lifetime. So all those dolts and crooks who have cried wolf about minerals for the past 40 years have presumably innoculated the public against taking such cries seriously. Similarly, the Global Warming hoodlums have probably ensured that the public will ignore any well-based climate worries, should some ever come along.

  8. Michael

    “Bankers are as valuable as film stars or athletes, insists Goldman Sachs director”

    Sure, why not – they’re all over-paid!

    Plenty of people work hard at their jobs, but only a select few are vastly over-compensated for their efforts in the ways professional athletes, ‘celebrities’ and big bankers are.

  9. DoctoRx

    Re interbreeding of killer whales and speciation, it sounds as if there are now two populations that “choose” not to breed w each other (but how is anyone to know if it happens now and then?). Thinking back to the dim past when I was being trained as an evolutionary biologist, I believe that if the whales have the capability of interbreeding and thereby producing fertile offspring, they have not become separate species.

    In human societies, there have of course been examples where different populations separated by religion or ethnicity have not mixed their gene pools, but remained Homo sapiens.

    1. paper mac

      Hi DoctoRx,
      This was the point I was going to make and is correct- two groups of a given species which are capable of producing fertile offspring but do not (for whatever reason) are not generally considered seperate species. It is unfortunate that Yves was treated as an idiot for asking the question, however, as it’s a pretty good one and it’s not like it’s an easy thing to pinpoint a speciation event.

  10. Michael

    “What about those of us who don’t see in 3-D?”


    I guess if you’re one-eyed or blind in one eye you wont notice the difference, and can save on an overpriced ‘next thing’ in tv’s!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Google “amblyopia”. The non-surgical cure is patching the stronger eye to make the weaker one work. This is done at a young age. The result is that the patient uses each eye independently, hence no depth perception.

  11. R.Mutt

    if peak oil is here, or not too far off, pray tell why are not the most obvious beneficiaries, namely the integrated oil producers and OPEC, not screaming it from the housetops?

    “Warning: our product is going to be very expensive in the future, so you better start thinking about alternatives”?

  12. Dan Duncan

    The coldest winter I ever spent is no longer that summer I spent in San Fransisco;

    It’s the winter I spent at the height of Global Warming.

  13. simpleflyer

    If the Saudis are worried about alternative energy supplanting oil, then presumably they are investing heavily in alternative energy, as a hedge. The Saudi regime may want to give the illusion to their people of endless oil revenues, but even they want to stay in power longer than 5 years.

    Look, I don’t necessarily dispute Peak Oil theory, but I do dispute that we can pinpoint even to within 5 years when it will arrive, simply on the basis of comparatively recent (i.e. last 10 years) price volatility, or even of ‘no new oil discoveries.’ We haven’t discovered any new land in some time, either, but this does not mean (surprise) that real estate prices will go up forever, there being no alternative to land.

    1. wunsacon

      My tin foil hat theory is that the Saudi royals will one day securitize Aramco (“IPO”), move the proceeds out of Arabia (e.g., to Swiss or US accounts), and — if they’re ever overthrown — escape to still-green pastures.

  14. Independent Accountant

    On Vampire Squid’s (VS) employee compensation:
    When I was at Chicago in the early 1970s, McKinsey and VS were the two most prestigious employers of Chicago graduates. Each filled its interview schedule easily. In those days top investment bankers (IB) made about three times what senior partners of the then Big Eight CPA firms earned. Now its about 15 times. What changed in the last 35 years to permit this?
    1. The big IB firms are now incorporated and can shunt off most of their risks on the public.
    2. The big IB firms control the Fed and our yield curve to their advantage.

    Having met some, I do not believe today’s typical VS managing director is the intellectual giant he thinks he is.

  15. Amit Chokshi

    Re GS -> they still hire from fancy-dancy schools, that’s how the world works. Parents pay a fortune to get their kids into Country Day (kindergarten for god’s sake) in this area and put them in the right pipeline so at worst they go to Cornell and end up at JPM instead of a “real” (well when there was a difference) IB like MS or GS or end up at BCG instead of McKinsey…

    The selectivity is based on money, hardly intelligence. Give any average kid a Kaplan prep course and he/she can get a great SAT. Plus, having gone to a mediocre undergrad since i didn’t get into an ivy league and then working in banking I can say I was surprised that on a floor of about 40 banekrs, only 3 went to publich hs (I as an associate along with 2 MDs). The three of us went to avg undegrads and then good MBA programs while the others were HBS/HBS or HBS/Wharton, Stanford/Chicago, etc. Hardly due to intelligence. I crushed my SATs, had hs friends that went to prep schools and had worse SATs but walked into Yale, Dartmouth, etc. You need to know and have the $ to buy the education pathway.

    But also, ever notice that these firms demand a gpa of like 3.5+? That’s fine but I’ve never met a kid that went to a top program that didn’t haev a 3.5+ because of the massive curve. Education is one of the biggest aspects of our plutocracy.

    1. Jim in SC

      Education is a big part of the plutocracy. I’m convinced that the private prep schools have some of the strongest old boy systems. The military colleges also have them, of course, in particular VMI and the Citadel. I’m not sure old boy systems exist in most colleges and grad schools anymore, at least to the extent that they used to. Getting hired because you went to the same school as the guy interviewing you is not going to happen these days, however, because the world is so much more diverse, thank God.

      You get a better shot at getting into the right consulting firm or I-bank out of college if they recruit at your school. I used to walk through Harvard yard on my way to work and marvel at the posters of the remarkable companies that recruited there. On the other hand, just because a company comes to your school and does a little dog and pony show doesn’t mean they are actually serious about recruiting anybody. They might be visiting twenty schools and recruit nobody.

      On a slightly different education related topic, I’m wondering what the effect the continued vocationalization of college will have on the ‘prestige’ schools. Will they ultimately give up the pretense of producing educated men and women? Can you be an English major at any big name school without studying Shakespeare, as rumor has it? Is it possible to spend $200,000 on a college education without actually learning anything?

      1. Amit Chokshi


        I think the vocational schools will further expand the difference between rich/poor. Vocational schools are expensive and give you no real skills. I was short some of these guys in early 2009, it’s amazing that some of the for-profit schools, while regionally accredited, do not have accreditation for specific industries meaning the degrees are worthless in some cases.

        But aside from that, I realize that going to HBS doesn’t mean you get a job cause the person interviewing you went there, I’m talking about the cumulative impact of “education” or more like pay to play which starts at a younger level.

        Some kid that goes to a fancy kindergarten (which happens here all the time) is in the pipeline, then will go to a feeder prep school, and then as I said, at worst go to Wake Forest or Michigan…and the “good” ones go to the top schools and like you said, the best cos recruit there. Top companies don’t go to state schools even though there are smart kids there. If they do they take maybe 1 out of the 100+ spots they might hire in the country for that position.

        But at the top schools, the person interviewing you likely came from the prep school and private elementary school background so automatically feels more comfortable with you. Those younger recruiters are brainwashed where they can’t understand someone went to state school, it’s a foreign aspect to not have gone to private hs at the very least (remember i said on a floor of 40+ bankers, only 3 had public hs backgrounds, 2 of which were MDs so it’s much moer acute at my level).

  16. wunsacon

    All those doubting why the “oil establishment” might scoff publicly at Peak Oil believers should review how the finance establishment addressed concerns about the sustainability of their business models the past 8 years.

    ~~Don’t rock the boat, baby. (Don’t rock the boat.)~~
    ~~Don’t rock the boat, baby. (Don’t rock the boat.)~~

  17. wunsacon

    One last comment on PO:

    >> if peak oil is here, or not too far off, pray tell why are not the most obvious beneficiaries, namely the integrated oil producers and OPEC, not screaming it from the housetops? Higher oil prices would boost their bottom lines,

    Prices are *already* higher from the lack of easy-to-get-to oil. So, let’s say you’re a producer and admit “Peak Oil is here and now”. What did you “accomplish”?

    You risk inviting government policy to conserve oil and to migrate off of it. Government intervention might include taxes on it to help pay for the migration. And citizens will be even angrier at what looks like a cartel earning windfall profits from controlling a suddenly-all-too-finite resource. People will want to tax the windfall profits.

  18. mikkel

    I second the speculations about the lack of peak oil talk, but will also throw in a lack of imagination (and frustration about the development of alternatives) as a reason too. The peak oil stuff is very similar to the financial crisis runup with the powers that be insisting that there was no problem in general and that they weren’t worth talking about because there was no other choice.

    However, the estimates of oil production in 2030 have been quietly revised down 30% over the last few years and players on the ground in both government agencies and the energy sector have been sounding the alarm for a decade. My dad knew an engineer responsible for planning how to utilize finds and that engineer said that he thought peak oil would hit around 2010-2015. This was in 1998. However he said not to worry because there was an incalculable amount of hydrogen in the ocean in the form of hydrates and that by then we’d have a hydrogen economy.


    Also the link failed to mention that IEA sources claim manipulation and that it is impossible to replace the decrease due to depletion in time.

    Also, the Oil Drum’s hypothesis is not permanently high oil prices. That is very important and what most people ignore. They have a very elegant hypothesis that it will simply act as a cap on economic growth by rising to $200+ in times of expansion, leading to deflationary collapses where it falls to $20-$30. And repeat. That would not benefit the producers at all.

  19. g.

    I remember reading about how the oil industry wasn’t planning new refineries because they knew the oil wouldn’t be there long enough to justify the investment. Hey, Matty Simmons spoke personally with President Bush.

    1. wunsacon

      FYI, although oilco’s didn’t build *new* refineries, they invested significantly in expanding the refining *capacity* of existing plants.

      (Or so I read some time ago. Unfortunately, I have no stats handy to say “by how much” they expanded capacity.)

      “Upgrades” make better economic sense than “building new”. I suspect that we have all the refining capacity we need in the US. The real problem is raw material.

      (When I hear arguments about lack of new refineries, it’s usually accompanied with an anti-eco argument right on its heels.)

  20. toxymoron

    “What about those of us who don’t see in 3-D?”

    I don’t see in 3D – if that is looking at stereo-pictures, or red/green glasses. But I tried polarization (vertical in left ey – horizontal in right eye, or vice-versa), and that made for great 3D stuff.

  21. Ed

    I’m a semi-regular reader of the Oil Drum, and I’m also puzzled by the MSM reaction to the peak oil theory, especially when contrasted to the climate change controversy.

    For better or worse, climate change has become a much debated issue, with global conferences, and its been incorproated into partisan politics to the extent that you have to believe in the theory if you are a blue state type, and you have to deny it if it is a red state type. Its become the new school busing. Its probably fortunate that this hasn’t happened with peak oil because it would guarantee that nothing whatever would be done to adjust to it.

    The reaction to the peak oil theory has been to ignore it. Except that some government bureaucracies have quietly published data that seems to confirm it. And oil companies have indicated that peak oil will happen, just a bit later than the alarmist think. Oil production and money for oil exploration seems to have been flat since 2005 despite the rise in price. Its sort of like a weather report predicting a three day cold snap, the temperature does drop quite a bit on the second day, but everyone still walks around in shorts.

    But US oil production historically peaked in 1973. You see almost no mention of this in any discussion about the direction of US economic and foreign policy after 1973, though it obviously must have had a big impact. Since the peak oil theory is not “teh oil will run out!” but posits a gradual change, we could see worldwide peak oil having all sorts of effects, which are dealt with, but not attributed to worldwide oil production having peaked.

    This could just be a case of the elites no longer being able to absorb and act on complex information. Peak oil is probably ignored because its a bit complicated, its fairly well documented (too hard to take a denialist position), and there is no obvious short term gain to anyone if lots of people believe it or ignore it. Its hard even to see what policies should change if it were true. At the bottom its just a prediction that the world will become poorer.

  22. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I was a seal before and I can tell you that seal was not grinning. He was crying probably because the camera-man, sorry, camera-person stepped on his tail.

  23. bob goodwin

    Obesity has a strong correlation with Mortality above BMI of 35, with twice the correlation in males. There is some belief (because I am working in this field I know the players) that a large part of this may be due to sleep apnea, which is disprortionately a male disease.

    So if you have a BMI over 30, and you snore. Go get checked. Quickly.

  24. craazyman

    I just don’t get the Peak Oil stuff. It sounds to me like another mind cult created by the sublimation of guilt energy unleashed by the estrangement from Mater Natura caused by technological evolution. Sort of an Oedipal energy suppressed and thwarted and directed inward, where it rots and boils over through the imagination.

    Remember that Economic Growth = Labor + Capital + Nature + IMagination. Imagination is the creator of the formal structures through which consciousness guides reality, which is to say, the formal structures through which thought guides energy, and energy is infinite and formless unless channeled by imagination. There’s no doubt in my mind that the imagination of the internal combustion engine also containes many potential variations — like the wave form of the electron contains many possible locations and momentums — and can locate specific engines that are similar but distinct. The same goes for the chemical compositions of gasoline. No doubt in my mind that the technologys for gasoline will also change. There will be energy but not the kind we have now, necessarily.

    I suspect the earth will ignore oil long before it runs out. I actually recall a quote from a Saudi oil minister that I thought was quite good “The stone age did not end for lack of stone, and the oil age won’t end for lack of oil.”

    He states things far more simply and directly that I do. ha haha hahaha haahahahaha.

    But then, he’s a rich dude, no doubt, with many camels. I don’t have even one camel, or horse, or a dog even.

    1. wunsacon

      >> I suspect the earth will ignore oil long before it runs out.
      >> I just don’t get the Peak Oil stuff.

      Peak Oilers *agree* with your first statement and your statements about the “stone age”. And, since one of your premises seems to be that Peak Oilers *don’t* understand those ideas, they will also agree with your second statement.

      >> It sounds to me like another mind cult created by the sublimation of guilt energy unleashed by the estrangement from Mater Natura caused by technological evolution. Sort of an Oedipal energy suppressed and thwarted and directed inward, where it rots and boils over through the imagination.

      This says more about you than any “mind cult”.

      1. attempter

        Yeah, it’s funny that he accuses Peak Oil of being a “mind cult”, but meanwhile the only way he can answer the question, “Where’s all the energy going to come from?” is to write a prose poem on the wave function.

        There is indeed a mind cult, and it’s called cornucopianism, with obsessive, heavy incantations of “technology-will-save-us”. Ommmmmmmmmmm.

      2. craazyman

        Youze guys ;) you make me grin

        Consider that energy and oil aren’t necessarily identical. Mobility can be achieved in ways other than burning what we now call gasoline. Future cars can be powered by electric motors run from the Grid, fueled by renewable wind and solar and geothermal — or nuke plants emitting no GHG. Also combustion engines can be designed for much, much higher fuel efficiency. All this can significantly reduce the marginal demand for oil, while enabling mobility to continue without restraint. Biofuel additives can also extend the energy of a gallon of oil. Future communities can and will be built around more public transportation and more efficient transportation. Human creativity (i.e. Imagination) will channel economic development in more fuel efficient ways. It’s not that oil is inexhaustible — and I don’t know all that much about the a-biotic theories of oil, which sound a bit crackpot to me — but I’m not a trained geologist.

        When I use the phrase “mind cult” I’m not making an disparaging reference or ad-hominem attack on the Peak Oilers. I’m just opining that it’s a form of group think that assumes “if we keep doing what we’re doing . . . “. Yes, I agree with that. But I don’t think we will keep doing what we’re doing, any more than we still go from town to town in stage coaches pulled by horses and use mimeograph machines to reproduce office memorandums.

        I think the ability of economies to transform themselves to meet emerging human needs is easy to underestimate.

        Oil will be very important and price spikes will no doubt occurr, but I don’t think society will run off a cliff due to the exhaustion of oil reserves.

  25. Simmon Kuntler

    Writing books and holding seminars on peak oil is quite profitable. Peak oil appeals to the survivalist. Believing in peak oil says loudly “I know more than you know.” It’s great to see the doom before anyone else on your block.

    So what if it’s all a scam? Global warming’s a scam too, and the US president and congressional majority are behind it. So even if peak oil is a scam for dummies, there are still investment opportunities there.

    1. wunsacon

      Denying peak oil is great for selling cars that run on gas.

      And for continuing to sell oil, heating fuel, jets instead of trains. There’s much, much more profit in the short term in maintaining the status quo. For established players.

      So, if you try to infer the truth by looking at “motivations” (other than the facts that the various parties allege), then you should side with the Peak Oilers.

  26. Poopypants

    It is very concerning that so many people doubt the possibility of Peak Oil in the very near future. If the readers of a site like this cannot process the available information on PO, then there is really no hope for the ignorant masses.

    Simply put, the government and MSM will not acknowledge PO because there is no solution. No combination of alternatives or ‘imagination’ can solve this problem. In fact, current economic theories don’t seem to address how a capitalist economy can continue to grow indefinitely while it’s primay energy source is in decline (except for the wishful thinking idea that a ‘need’ is enough to produce a ‘solution’).

    If you haven’t realized it yet, Oil is you’re god, it rules your world and provides nearly everything you own, or have ever used, in one way or another.

    Here’s a question: If there is a viable, economic replacement for oil, why hasn’t anyone ‘invented’ or ‘created’ it yet? If a company came up with a true alternative for oil, with the same energy producing qualities as oil, they would be the wealthest company of all time.

    Unfortunately the laws of thermodynamics make it pretty clear that this incredible gift of oil will not be replaced with anything near as efficient. As a result, all users of oil or oil based products will at some point realize the true value of oil (and we will all laugh uncomfortably in our wheelchairs when our grandkids show us videos of auto racing and bumper to bumper traffic and ask what the hell we were thinking).

    1. DownSouth

      But man has survived with his fictitious world: does that not prove it true? Not at all, in Nietzsche’s opinion. Man, indeed, has been an incorrigible pragmatist, like other animals, ever maintaining the truth of those beliefs which seemed to help him live. Because of the age-long selective process, surviving modes of interpretation probably do stand in some favorable relation to real conditions—just favorable enough for survival. “We are ‘knowing’ to the extent that we can satisfy our needs.” That truth is always best for life, however, is a moral prejudice. Falsification has been shown to be essential; truth is often ruinous, and sheer illusion helpful, as experience testifies. And of course there is no certainty about even the pragmatic value of our beliefs; there is merely the fact that we have survived so far. Beliefs not immediately harmful may yet be fatal in the long run.
      –George A. Morgan, What Nietzsche Means

        1. aet

          Why not read Nietzsche for yourself, rather than rely on some other person’s interpretation & exegesis, for your understanding of his works?

          Nietzsche over your head?

          1. aet

            The price of oil will plummet once the mid-east gets peaceful. “Peak oil” is a “substitute theory” spread as propaganda to mask the real reason oil is pricey at the moment: war in the middle east, right on top of the oil fields of Iraq.

            When GWB became President, oil was at 10$ a barrel: and had the sanctions come off Iraq at that point….well, as the US decided instead to start a major war in the area with the 2nd largest supplier (Iraq has done, like zero, exploration for “new oil”!) of the cheapest oil (Iraq’s lift price less “security costs” is what, less than 1$ a barrel, is it not?), we shall never know.

            But the last time I checked, Exxon was the most profitable and largest corp. on the planet.

  27. micron26

    Yves, you were right (as much as anyone can be) about whether the two orca populations are separate species. There is no consensus (and probably never will be) among biologists about when the precise moment of speciation occurs, or even if can be nailed down so precisely.

    I’d argue the prevailing view at the moment is that if two populations have evolved ‘pre-mating’ barriers (i.e. behavioral), as is the case here, they are effectively different species. Over evolutionary time, they will lose the ability to interbreed because of genetic drift. In practical terms, this means their genomes will accumulate–essentially by chance, although selection may play a role–a number of large-scale structural variants sufficient to prevent the formation of a viable hybrid. But in general, they will have ceased interbreeding long before that point–which allows the drift to occur.

    The process of speciation is clearly a continuum. To give a concrete example: in genetics labs, we occasionally make interstrain hybrids in mice. These are strains they are completely capable of interbreeding in the mechanical sense, but won’t because of behavioral differences. Somewhat amusingly, the crosses only work in one direction. Females from the more aggressive species ‘scare’ the males from the less aggressive species, so it’s virtually impossible to get them to produce litters. But the converse works just fine.

  28. Robert Dudek

    We haven’t discovered any new land in some time, either, but this does not mean (surprise) that real estate prices will go up forever, there being no alternative to land.

    Effective land has increased because we have learned to build vertically. Vertical space is, in practical terms, limitless.

    1. attempter

      Actually, vertical “land” is also limited by Peak Oil.

      You can only build what the energy return on investment (EROEI) enables.

      So to see what buildings are possible (and which existing buildings will still be usable) as the oil age rolls back, just look backwards at what was possible before.

      (Of course, the economic crisis will mean that the unwinding is much faster than the buildup.)

  29. whey

    Sorry, just had to mention that today’s pic cracked me up. You got a literal LOL from me as I was scrolling down the post and finally hit the bottom right of the picture. Thank you!

  30. sap

    “if peak oil is here, or not too far off, pray tell why are not the most obvious beneficiaries, namely the integrated oil producers and OPEC, not screaming it from the housetops?”

    Because we are the USA and we have nukes. We will take every last drop of oil from your lands and there is nothing you can do about it. We invade your neighbors and control the seas. If you want to keep your sovereignty, you must play the game.

    (The conclusion to this story ends in tragedy of unimaginable consequence, not yet imagined)

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