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31 July, 2009

Too Many Mouths, Not Enough Food

This article cites a new report released June 25 by Deutsche Bank that states the caloric needs of the planet are expected to skyrocket by 50% in the next 4 decades alone, placing much greater importance on planning and investment in global agriculture.

"'We are at a crossroads in terms of our investments in agriculture and what we will need to do to feed the world population by 2050,' said David Zaks, a co-author of the report and a researcher at the Nelson Institute’s Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

By 2050, world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people, up from 6.5 billion today. Already, according to the report, a gap is emerging between agricultural production and demand, and the disconnect is expected to be amplified by climate change, increasing demand for biofuels, and a growing scarcity of water.

'There will come a point in time when we will have difficulties feeding world population,' said Zaks, a graduate student whose research focuses on the patterns, trends and processes of global agriculture.

Although unchecked population growth will put severe strains on global agriculture, demand can be met by a combination of expanding agriculture to now marginal or unused land, substituting new types of crops, and technology, the report’s authors conclude."

Needless to say, I disagree with their rosy assessment. What the report’s authors fail to take into account is that we cannot currently feed the population we have as famine still ravages parts of the world right now. Expanding to growing food on "now marginal or unused land" may produce more food for a brief time, but you cannot simply grow and grow and grow on the same land forever or you will ruin it. Land must periodically be left to stand fallow for one or more seasons in order to maintain its vitality; that is why farmers often rotate fields into and out of use on yearly cycles. So, it is not a matter of just planting up all of the unused ground to solve the problem.

That also doesn't even touch on the fact that certain critical, non-renewable components in the production of man-made fertilizers are beginning to show signs that they are evidently experiencing the peak of their supply/demand curve. This is vitally important because it will most likely be impossible to maintain even our current population without man-made fertilizers, much less an additional 2.5 billion people.

And, another issue they fail to address revolves around a resource that is seemingly ubiquitous: water is already becoming an issue with our current population numbers. I can scarcely fathom the effects of adding another 50% population growth to the availability and quality of fresh water, but I'm confident it won't be good.


Energy From Urine

Yep, you read it correctly. The article states: "Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University.

Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. 'One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses,' said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. 'Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel.'"

As many of you are already aware, the idea of using hydrogen as fuel has been fairly widely covered. Many found it to be an exciting prospect initially because it is one of the most widely-available elements in the universe, but it is also very volatile, causing it to be dangerous to store/transport.

One option under which it would theoretically be less dangerous would be just to store water (two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single atom of oxygen). Then, when the hydrogen is needed, it could be separated from the oxygen and used as a fuel. The problem is that electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen has been found to be an energy sink, meaning the process of performing the electrolysis uses more electricity than can be gleaned from the resulting hydrogen.

The process proposed in the article linked above, however, revolves around using urine instead. Interestingly, each molecule of urea, a major component of urine, contains four atoms of hydrogen bonded to two atoms of nitrogen. This differing chemical composition, they argue, means that they need only use 0.037 Volts of electricity to release the hydrogen as a gas as opposed to the 1.23 Volts needed to do the same with normal water.


I am still, however, a skeptic in that I believe we have run out of the time needed to implement the complete 'ground-up' overhaul of our national infrastructure that such a fundamental changeover would require. Even if this turns out to be a great energy source, we need to have made this breakthrough a decade ago.

Still, it is very interesting.


The Ever-Weakening Dollar and What It Means For The Economy

Believe it or not, the dollar is actually up from where it was a year ago. Of course, that is not necessarily a great accomplishment when you consider that it was, at that juncture, being valued at or certainly near its lowest point in recent memory. Nonetheless, since that time things have seemed to be getting better, little by little.

That is until March when the Federal Reserve announced it would be dumping up to $300 billion into long-term government treasure bonds. The measure was an attempt to lower consumer debt interest rates and, while it may have stimulated the economy somewhat, such an action also serves to weaken the currency itself as investors inevitably flee to holdings that will provide them with better returns. As a result of the Fed's actions, the U.S. Dollar Index has fallen by about an additional 10% in the past four months or so.

Such rapid devaluation has an immediate impact on the economy. Businesses that are now forced to conduct their trade in a weakened currency are now required to pay more money for the same products and services for which they used to pay less. And, such added costs are virtually always passed on to the average end consumer. That, in a nutshell, is inflation.

If the dollar continues its downward spiral, you should first expect retailers that rely on cheap goods made in China to have an increasingly difficult time continuing to offer their wares at the low prices to which we are accustomed. The manufacturers will profit less and less as a result of being paid in a devalued currency, and will eventually decide to make up for the shortfall by raising the prices of the goods they make. It then follows suit that, as Wal-Mart pays more in overhead to the manufacturers, you will be charged more for the items you buy from them. It will also serve to drive up the price of gasoline, as crude oil becomes a safer investment than dollars themselves (i.e. greater and greater amounts of $$$ buying crude oil drives up the price per barrel and with it prices at the pump).

In the long run, if we don't quickly rein-in and figure out how to slow and then reverse the devaluation of the dollar, we will inevitably end up experiencing the horrors of hyperinflation.


Bernanke: This may be worse than Great Depression

For one of the first times in the organization's nearly century-long existence, the sitting Fed chairman Ben Bernanke sat this past weekend to answer questions on the record from the citizens of the United States.

"'A lot of things happened, a lot came together, [and] created probably the worst financial crisis, certainly since the Great Depression and possibly even including the Great Depression,' Bernanke said at the start of a town-hall meeting in Kansas City.

Asked when 'this [recession] is going to end,' Bernanke said growth would return in the second half of 2009, likely at a 1% pace. The unemployment rate won't peak until next year, he said.

The Fed has put the 'pedal to the metal' to try to get the economy growing at a faster pace.

Maybe because his earlier answers were on the scary side, Bernanke then tried to be a cheerleader, saying that the U.S. economy 'couldn't be held down' and would eventually return to a strong growth pace."


More Evidence of the Dangerously Weakened Dollar

In concert with the theme of the article above, see these tidbits about the dollar's weakened position in the world:

* China has pointed questions about America's soaring budget deficit
* China takes baby step to reduce dependence on dollar
* Dollar Dying; Gold Gleaming


The Mogambo Guru: The hole in our universe

The full article is located here.

A quote:
"... such crushing federal debt, especially now that it is being monetized by the filthy Federal Reserve creating the money and credit to buy the gobs of government debt, is Very, Very Important (VVI)... "If the socialist/commie-think federal government only borrowed and spent $3 trillion in those six years [2001-2007], who borrowed and spent the other $18 trillion?"

My thinking was that this question would generate some thoughtful discussion about the Austrian school of economics, which agrees that massive increases in the money supply is a Bad, Bad Thing (BBT), or maybe bring up a reference to Milton Friedman, who correctly said that "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon" upon which she which would contemplate and come to the correct conclusion, which is that we need to buy as much gold and silver as we can, to protect ourselves against the guaranteed damage to the buying power of the dollar from all of this monetary and fiscal malfeasance and malversation..."


30 July, 2009

Ebola in pigs 'new health threat'

With the possibly vengeful return of A(H1N1) Swine flu (which never really left) breathing down all our necks these next few months, all we need is another looming health catastrophe. But now, we learn that a member of the Ebola family of viruses has been found in pigs and we are justifiable concerned.

This news apparently first appeared in the journal Science, and could signal the earliest indication of an emerging health threat. "... Reston Ebola virus, known as REBOV... is known to cause disease only in non-human primates, although it has been detected in humans as well.

It gets its name from a laboratory in Reston, Virginia, which found it in monkeys sent from the Philippines in 1989.

Study co-author and top Philippines animal health official Magdalena Cruz said the virus could become far more of a threat to humans if it got the chance to mutate in pigs, which often provide an intermediate stage for mutation to a form that causes disease in people."

Further research revealed that it has been in the pig population for quite some time, as long as with the monkeys. They think perhaps bats are responsible for bridging the gap between those two species as "[b]ats have played a role in Ebola transmission in the past."


Fertile Crescent 'will disappear this century'

It seems likely now that the Mesopotamian 'cradle of civilization' will soon return to desert. Partially to blame is a long drought that is being attributed to Global Warming/Climate Change, but it seems the real difference-making factor in all of this is the building of dams upriver in both Turkey and Iran.

"Last week, Iraqi ministers called for urgent talks with upstream neighbours Turkey and Syria, after the combination of a second year of drought and dams in those countries cut flow on the Euphrates as it enters Iraq to below 250 cubic metres a second. That is less than a quarter the flow needed to maintain Iraqi agriculture.

Tensions have been growing since May, when the Iraqi parliament refused to approve a new much-needed trade deal with Turkey unless it contained binding clauses on river flows. But Turkey appears in no mood to compromise. In July, it announced the final go-ahead for yet another dam, the Ilisu on the Tigris.

Meanwhile, according to Hassan Partow at the UN Environment Programme, Iraq's hydrological misery is compounded by Iran, which is also building new dams on tributaries of the Tigris. "Some of these rivers have run completely dry," he told New Scientist. And Iraq itself is set to worsen the problem with its own dam building, he says. This year construction is set to begin on another Tigris tributary at Bekhme Gorge in Iraq's northern province of Kurdistan. At 230 metres it will be one of the world's tallest dams."


North Korea Warns of 'Unimaginably Deadly Blows' to United States, South Korea

As reported here, North Korea's Defense Minister Kim Yong Chun vowed over this past weekend to deal "unimaginably deadly blows" to the United States and South Korea if they should choose to pursue military action against the isolationist, communist nation amid the tense and continuing standoff over the North's ever-present nuclear ambitions.

As I have written previously, I personally consider North Korea to be more of a serious threat than perhaps some others do. Even cursory research into their military capabilities reveals some surprising truths. While their nuclear capabilities are decidedly in much too early of a stage of development to pose a serious threat to us, their conventional military is another matter. In fact, North Korea is known to have the vast majority of their rather large military massed on the border they share with South Korea, and they keep their literally thousands of long-range artillery and surface-to-surface missile batteries both loaded and pre-sighted on targets in the South. What this means is that, in the very opening moments of any conflict, North Korean forces can drop millions of tons of both conventional explosive ordnance as well as chemical weapons over a vast area, leveling much of the capital city of Seoul and decimating millions of South Koreans as well as the 250,000+ U.S. servicemen/women stationed there. And, that's without a single nuke.


The Mogambo Guru: Fiscal Drops in the Bucket Deficit

Read the full-length commentary here.

A quote:
"... it is not just money being created, but the effect it has on prices, which go up, which people can’t pay because they are already spending all the money they have, and they get angry, like the 1-out-of-5 Americans that smoke cigarettes and how Florida, along with lots of other taxing entities, increased the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack or more!

While this may make some people quit smoking (to their benefit), for the most part it means that the average pack-a-day smoker is going to curtail other spending to the tune of another $7 per week, worsening the recession/depression: If there are 160 million adults, and a fifth of adults smoke, then that’s another $224 million a week in lost private spending, $11.6 billion a year, which will not be spent by private citizens buying what they want and creating a real economy out of real supply and real demand, but will, instead, be spent by government buying what IT wants."


"The Case Against the Fed" by Murray N. Rothbard

Full text available online. Or, if you prefer, you can buy a hard copy by clicking here.


29 July, 2009

Greenpeace Study Finds Oil Companies May Be Doomed

Here is a link to an interesting article about a recent study done by Greenpeace, but I have to say I'm a little skeptical of their premise.

It all boils down to the idea that oil consumption will continue to drop, forcing the price per barrel down even further, as the wounded economy gives way to a fundamental change in thinking. They argue that it will be a peak demand scenario as opposed to the peak production vision forecast by proponents of Peak Oil Theory (myself included). They see oil becoming a less and less sought-after and therefore valuable commodity in a world ruled by electric cars and solar panels.

I find it thought-provoking, but I hold that they (and all other environmental groups) are wildly misled in their optimism that any significant portion of the 1st World populations will ever willingly downsize their lifestyles to the point where alternative energy sources like solar and wind can viably replace the burning of fossil fuels. If such changes are to take place, it will require the enacting of draconian governmental actions, infringing upon individual rights to force people to take fewer and colder showers, face fines for not increasing their home insulation, lower the thermostats in their own homes, etc.

It's sad, but I see it coming soon.


Hole Left In Jupiter From Recent Comet Impact Roughly The Size of Earth

Some are calling the black mark near Jupiter's south pole a crater, while others say it is the dust cloud left after the impact explosion. What most of them agree upon, however, is that it might have been caused by "a 1 km-diameter comet traveling at 135,000 mph (60 km per second)." (source)

It should go without saying that we are very lucky. This object came effectively out of nowhere, hitting unexpectedly; had it come our way instead, I can't imagine any level of preparedness, short of a deeply-buried bunker and several years supply of food, being enough to save any of us. It would, in fact, be a monumental effort just to try to make sure some few survived to ensure continuity of our very species. But, we were lucky, and we have the gas giant to thank.

Apparently, poor Jupiter is like our big brother on the playground taking hits for us and it's nothing new. "That’s Jupiter doing its cosmic job, astronomers like to say. Better it than us. Part of what makes the Earth such a nice place to live, the story goes, is that Jupiter’s overbearing gravity acts as a gravitational shield deflecting incoming space junk, mainly comets, away from the inner solar system where it could do for us what an asteroid apparently did for the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Indeed, astronomers look for similar configurations — a giant outer planet with room for smaller planets in closer to the home stars — in other planetary systems as an indication of their hospitableness to life." (source)


Project Lucifer & The Coming 2nd Sun

Okay, so I thought I had heard it all, but I guess I was wrong. Apparently, the newest in the long list of nefarious plans thought up by the evil 'them' that consistently serves as the villain in these types of conspiracy theories has been discovered by the crack team of internet investigators.

The plan: to cause a chain reaction within the gases that comprise Saturn that results in the planet achieving nuclear fission, imploding and thereby creating a new star in our solar system. Apparently, it was due to occur in 2008, but then NASA chose to extend the mission of the Cassini spacecraft an extra 2 years until 2010. Supposedly, it is the Cassini spacecraft that will impact on Saturn with its plutonium payload to create the massive explosion that they believe will trigger fission. This is nearly identical to what is seen occurring with Jupiter in the film 2010, nevermind that physics tells us it isn't really possible. Somehow, the Silver Surfer even gets involved at one point. It's fabulous.

I include this ridiculousness here on the blog as entertainment only. And, entertaining it is! Plus, there's a nice tie-in to the article above with respect to the stuff about the black spot on Jupiter. Check it out:




The Mogambo Guru: Negative folly

Read the full article here.

A quote:
"... Dr Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), ... famously said, "You cannot multiply wealth
by dividing it", which stems from his observation that, "You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving" since "The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from someone else."

Well, that got me thinking that with the "dumbing down" of scholastics in general and economics in particular to the point where laughable academic economists are suggesting "negative interest rates" as a monetary policy. Considering that ridiculous development in theoretical economics, maybe it is also now considered possible to multiply wealth by dividing it, if only you try hard enough and the Federal Reserve creates the money! Hahaha! And I sincerely wish these folks well, since it implies that it IS possible to eat as much as you want and never gain an ounce of weight!

Until them, eat right, exercise moderately, and buy gold, silver and oil, because while the first two are relatively useless except to insure that you'll be skinny when you die, the last three will ensure that you will be fat and happy when you die after they go zooming up in price because the dollar's buying power is being debased by a dirtbag Leftist social-welfare country wildly over-spending by issuing debt and creating those mountains of fiat currency to pay for it! Hahaha!"


28 July, 2009

Many Predict US Financial Collapse in September

A disconcerting number of respectable analysts and economic commentators are all seemingly pointing toward September 30 or thereabouts as a time when something big (and, by their trepidation, nothing good) may occur.

Below are some examples, gleaned from this source. The source itself seems a little on the tinfoil hat side for my liking, but the parts I've quoted have been independently checked-out.

"Bob Chapman [Internationalforecaster.com] revealed that the US State Dept has advised embassies worldwide to stock up on a year's worth of the local currency in anticipation of collapse of the US dollar. Look for a temporary banking shutdown timed for around September 2009. As under Roosevelt, some banks won't reopen. 96% of bank reserves are currently held with the Federal Reserve who tells the banks not to loan the money, but rather to save it for further banking acquisition and consolidation. Chapman foresees a bank holiday lasting 4-5 days. Chapman thinks this first bank holiday presages a much more significant bank holiday months to years later which will involve simultaneous devaluations of multiple currencies as well as other significant changes in the banking system.

Harry Shultz [as quoted in marketwatch.com] says "Some U.S. embassies worldwide are being advised to purchase massive amounts of local currencies; enough to last them a year. Some embassies are being sent enormous amounts of U.S. cash to purchase currencies from those governments, quietly. But not pound sterling. Inside the State Dept., there is a sense of sadness and foreboding that 'something' is about to happen ... within 180 days, but could be 120-150 days."

Benjamin Fulford [http://benjaminfulford.typepad.com/benjaminfulford/] states that for almost a century the US Treasury Dept has been issuing specialized debt instruments to countries with which the US has had a trade surplus. These complex debt instruments are tailored by complex treaties. Unfortunately, the recent US Treasury funding needs exceed the willingness of these creditor nations to extend additional credit. Fulford writes, "The problem is that after nearly a century of issuing these debt instruments, the chickens are coming home to roost. President Obama tried at the recent G8 plus 5 meeting in Italy to borrow more money than George Bush junior did in 8 years. He was told a resounding no. The result should be total economic chaos in the U.S. by September 30th . "

Jim Willie [goldenjackass.com] writes of an Asian led initiative ending dollar hegemony beginning this weekend. Willie suspects that the Fed/Treasury is covertly loaning foreign central banks the money with which the central banks are now using to buy US debt. Increasingly, US debt is being bought by foreign central banks taking up the slack of investors abandoning US Treasury debt. Willie confirms Chapman's comments and says he solicited and received "multiple confirmations." He adds, "CHAOS WILL PREVAIL WITHIN SEVERAL MONTHS, PERHAPS A YEAR AT MOST{his emphasis}."

Jim Sinclair [jsmineset.com] has recently visited China meeting with its leaders. He states that China is increasingly more willing to take on the United States in its apparent maneuvers to inflate its way out of its debt crisis. In early July Sinclair started a 120 day countdown till breakdown of the US dollar ends market manipulation and all those sour economic chickens come home to roost."

I'm not a licensed economic advisor, but if I were I would be telling my clients to get their investment portfolios as far away from dollar holdings as humanly possible and into tangibles, such as gold and other precious metals and oil. Whenever possible, take actual physical possession of your gold and silver holdings. Convert your other more liquid personal savings into tangibles, such as quality tools and gardening implements, heirloom seeds, canned foods (many weeks worth), guns and ammunition, a quality backup generator, warm winter gear (wool preferably), a woodburning stove, at least two (2) quality water filters, and other survival supplies.

It's going to be a rough Winter.


James Howard Kunstler: Evil Syndicated

Read the full text of Kunstler's weekly blog entry by clicking here.

A quote:
"In the meantime, the US economy gives the illusion of recovery - but to what? Back to a "consumer" credit card shopping orgy? Another house-buying fiesta? I don't think so. Households are drowning in debt. They're using their credit cards, if they still can, to buy staple foods. Those are the lucky ones who still have lines of credit left. Soon, many of these families won't even amount to households because they won't have a house. There is absolutely no way we are going back to that particular bubble economy. The only bubble left is the government debt bubble, now leading to such extravagant excess that it can only end up wrecking the government, and perhaps American society with it. In the meantime, how much remaining wealth is Goldman Sachs and its cohorts vacuuming off the floor?

Also meanwhile, oil is heading back to the $70 range (with the dollar shedding basis points). That's the oil price range where the economy begins to get wrecked all over again - that is, whatever remains of the economy. That's the price range where airlines go back to the intensive care unit and citizens have to max out their credit cards to buy gasoline. We're moving toward a very hard landing and very soon."

James Howard Kunstler is an author and among the leading voices in the charge to be prepared to change how we live as Peak Oil approaches. He is the author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century as well as the fiction novel World Made by Hand: A Novel.

For my part, I try to strike a balance between agreeing with his thoughts on Peak Oil, while thinking him a little naive for his 'sunshine and lollypops' pro-urban vision of the future and his self-professed unpreparedness.


The Mogambo Guru: Fiction upon fiction

Read the full article by clicking here.

A quote:
"The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 433,000 over the month to 4.4 million", which doesn't even mention how shadowstats.com calculates unemployment at over 20% the old-fashioned way like everybody did for the last zillion years or so before the loathsome former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and the equally odious Michael Boskin came up with new "ways" of measuring unemployment ("He's too stupid to get a job, so he doesn't count as unemployed!"), just as they did with "hedonic indexing" so as to disguise inflation ("You got fancy hubcaps on that car, so even though you paid a lot more than you did last year, the car is actually cheaper!").

The reason for this is so that Greenspan and his absurd Federal Reserve could raise their fat, worthless butts out of their chairs, point at the new low unemployment figure and low inflation figures, and then use the mostly discredited Phillips Curve (the theoretical tradeoff between inflation and unemployment) to say, "Unemployment and inflation are low! We can now create more and more money and credit without anything happening to us, even though all the previous tons and tons of new money and credit that we already created have produced roaring bubbles in stocks, bonds, houses, derivatives and size of governments!"


27 July, 2009

World Prepares to Dump the Dollar

Holding with the recent trend, it now seem more and more likely that the dollar will eventually lose its place as the world's reserve currency. What's worse, though, is that it's going to completely catch most people off guard when it happens, despite the fact that this site and a multitude of others all over the internet have been trying to warn them for a long, long time. This article does a great job of pinpointing the widespread false sense of security that most Americans have with regard to the stability of the fiat currency and its continued viability as a storehouse of wealth in the changing environment of the world economy.

"The irony is that America is completely blind to the catastrophe heading its way. As the economic crisis unfolded at the end of last year, investors made a mad rush out of global stock markets and into other assets. The biggest beneficiary of the panic was the one market large enough and liquid enough to handle the trillions of dollars being moved: the U.S. dollar market. This caused the dollar to surge in value.

America grossly misdiagnosed the demand for dollars as a vote of confidence in the U.S. economic system. In fact, it was primarily a case of investors looking for a place they could quickly and easily get their money in—and out.

Now that the initial panic has subsided, the dollar’s international purchasing power has resumed its former downward trajectory. Since the post-crisis high in March, the dollar has fallen by a portfolio-shredding 10 percent.

America’s foreign creditors are again questioning the wisdom of holding so many U.S. dollars. And they’re looking for a way out."


Hyperinflation Nation




The Coming Great Government Debt Default

Perhaps I was confused by the whole 'cookies in a cookie jar' analogy, but the premise of this article seems rather dubious to me. I have no disagreement with the author's assertion that the taxpayers of the future will no doubt prefer to continue the behavior of the current generation by choosing to put off paying the enormous debt as long as they can.

Where the author and I differ is on the idea that some future generation will eventually default on the debt when the time comes that their IOUs are no longer accepted. For reasons explained better in the post above than I ever could, I don't see the government ever defaulting on any debt, not even unfunded entitlements such as Social Security. The reason being that they'll just print the money, economic sanity be damned, and we will languish in a state of hyperinflation as a result.


26 July, 2009

H1N1 Influenza A - Mexican Swine Flu: 26 July Brief Update

As numerous sources have reported, it appears the spread of the virus has finally begun to slow down. Funny that that's being counted as a victory, when all it really means is instead of disappearing at the beginning of the warmer months as seasonal flu does, A(H1N1) has held on so long that it will still be with us when flu season hits again and it has the opportunity to explode even worse.

Should be a fun Fall/Winter.

Laboratory confirmed cases now stand at 161,933, a 20% increase over the ending count of 135,040 one week ago. Here's a breakdown of the up-to-date statistics:

26 July - 161,933 cases - 1,108 fatalities
19 July - 135,040 cases - 860 fatalities
12 July - 114,249 cases - 611-617 fatalities
5 July - ? - ?
28 June - 70,873 cases - 344 fatalities
21 June - 51,360 cases - 253 fatalities
14 June - 35,538 cases - 180 fatalities
7 June - 24,973 cases - 149 fatalities
31 May - 17,822 cases - 119 fatalities
24 May - 12,495 cases - 92 fatalities

There are now 1,108 confirmed deaths from the virus. That is roughly a 29% increase over the deaths being reported last week. (source)


Middle East Atomic Conflict Would Kill Tens Of Millions

The article examines the effects of a hypothetical (for now) and possible future nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel.

Israel, due to its small geographic footprint and relatively high population, would suffer catastrophically if even a single nuclear weapon of a size in the neighborhood of as small as 100-kilotons were to explode over Tel Aviv. Many would die in the initial blast but an even greater number would be killed or sickened by radioactive fallout in the aftermath, including the Palestinians residing in the West Bank and many other Arabs in western Jordan.

Iran, on the other hand, would also be devastated, because Israel has much larger warheads as well as a large number of them. Upon detecting a launch against them, Israel would retaliate, most likely decimating every major Iranian city and all of their major military bases. And, they could accomplish this and still have additional warheads in reserve to defend themselves against any other aggressor.

So, obviously, the best option is to keep Iran from getting 'the bomb' in the first place, to which end the article says the Israels are apparently actively planning.


British Economic Collapse Rivals Great Depression

According to the article located here, the collapse in Britain's economy now officially rivals the worst days of the Great Depression.

Hopes of recovery signs or so-called "green shoots" were dashed when the numbers for 12 months ending mid-2009 were examined to reveal instead a 5.6% drop in economic output.

"According to calculations by Martin Weale of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research the profile of the current recession is now almost identical to the decline in Britain's output between 1929 and 1931. The 5.6pc contraction over the past year almost matches the 5.8pc fall in the year preceding the second quarter of 1931, during which Credit Anstalt in Austria collapsed, triggering a second wave of economic seizure across Europe.

The recession is far deeper and more severe than those of the early 1980s and 1990s, Mr Weale added."


The Mogambo Guru: Biden, oh Biden!

Follow this link to read the full-length article.

A quote:
"... an editorial in The Wall Street Journal summed it up by saying, "the most remarkable quality of this healthcare exercise is its reckless disregard for economic and fiscal reality. With the economy still far from a healthy recovery, and the federal fisc already nearly $2 trillion in deficit, Democrats want to ram through one of the greatest raids on private income and business in American history. The world is looking on, agog, and wondering why the United State seems intent on jumping off this cliff"... The reason that the Democrats are doing this moronic, suicidal stupidity is partly because the Democratic Party is the political party of the tragically stupid and the studiously ignorant, and thus they are the people who actually require a big, powerful government telling them what to do and providing for their every need, and mostly because Democrats are the current majority, ruling party in Congress and the White House, and so they have to be the ones trying to achieve the impossible task of preventing the inevitable collapse of the currency and the country, which is the utter ruination caused by rampant fiscal and monetary imbecilities under the auspices of the Congress and the loathsome Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, respectively, even though the Entire Freaking Economic History Of The World (EFEHOTW) is the same, sorry, sad, stupid story of how long-dead countries and long-dead peoples acted so stupidly with money (although none of them actually ignored their own constitution's requirement that money be of silver and gold, which would have easily prevented all of this economic horror.

So, it's like us stupid Americans are getting what we deserved for not objecting to the evil socialist/commie machinations of another worthless leftist commie-think Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who presided over the downturn of the Roaring Twenties (caused by the Federal Reserve creating too much money and credit under too little supervision) with this same kind of fiscal stimulus crap that, which only prolonged the downturn into a Great Depression, and which was also a calamity caused by the Federal Reserve at every step of the way, proving that not only do Earthlings not learn the lessons from the past, they don't even seem to remember the lessons at all!"


25 July, 2009

Re: "ABC "Over a Barrel" Oil Special To Air Tonight"

Having just finished watching ABC's "Over a Barrel" Oil Special a little while ago, I have to say it wasn't anywhere nearly as bad as I had predicted it would be. Of course, they never mentioned Peak Oil, but really who expected that they would? Mostly, they concentrated on things like explaining how the pricing per barrel is arrived at, etc.

As expected, there was the ubiquitous prattling on about the discovery of 45 billion barrels 32,000 feet below the Gulf of Mexico via technology that didn't exist just a few years ago. But, of course, they failed to connect the dots and delve into just how much lower the EROEI is on such oil when compared to light, sweet crude oil. T. Boone Pickens did sort of save it for me, though, when he correctly pointed out that we'd be lucky to ever see more than about 2 million additional barrels per day produced domestically even if we "Drill, baby, drill!" our little hearts out, and that it would barely put a dent in the 13 million (his numbers; I haven't checked them) barrels per day we currently import. His quote was something to the effect of "We act like we have oil, because we used to have oil," and this is a guy who knows what's there and what isn't. It isn't.

I wonder why Charlie didn't think to ask the Big Oil rep. the obvious question: If this 45 billion barrel find is going to be what helps to finally get us off the foreign oil teat, how come you guys only have one piddly, lonely little platform out there all by itself 160 miles from shore pumping a meager 65,000 barrels per day (only 1.3% of U.S. domestic production)? I can scarcely imagine the 'deer in the headlights' look he would've gotten in return.

The truth, of course, is that EROEI on that oil is so low that the companies aren't willing to go in the red for the billions it would cost to build 100 more platforms out there and then have to wait a decade to make their money back and break even. It's the same reason the old platforms don't get upgraded equipment most of the time; the majority of them are 30 year old clunkers and you can tell it when you look at them. The oil company's aren't going to dip into their profits to replace equipment they know they won't even be using in a few years.

I imagine they will play the fool when it becomes obvious there is no more 'easy oil' to be had, at which time they will request and receive emergency assistance from the government to outfit their facilities with the equipment required to get at the deeper stuff. The one poor little lonely rig out there 160 miles into the Gulf spitting out 65,000 barrels per day and any others like it will be the prototypes, but the American taxpayers will pony up the bill to revamp the industry as part of the response to a 'National Energy Emergency'.


Re: "Derivatives Doom"... It's Actually Worse Than We Thought

So, apparently the previously-held and thoroughly terrifying estimate that the ticking time-bomb we know as the derivatives market represents $592 trillion (or about 10 times the global gross domestic product) just wasn't terrifying enough for some folks, and required some recalculation.

We can now estimate it to be more like $1.4 quadrillion. Yep, you read it right. And, just what does a quadrillion+ dollars look like? Answer: "... more than one million piles of money, with a billion dollars in each pile." (source)



Brazil, Canada Pull Money Out Of U.S. Treasuries

This is a bad, bad sign for the future of the dollar and the American economy as a whole.


24 July, 2009

The UK Quickly Becoming A Police State

It appears our friends 'across the pond' are edging ever closer and closer to making sure that life truly does imitate art, as it seems the central plots of "Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)" by George Orwell, "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, and "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore (or perhaps you prefer the film) are about to come true.

As you can see from reading the articles linked below, the people of Britain are allowing their overbearing, far-reaching government to get way out of control, and they are losing more and more of their freedoms with each passing day.

And, believe me when I tell you that our leaders are watching this nonsense with baited-breath to see just how far it can go before being challenged. Britain, one of our biggest allies and culturally similar to us in many ways, will be the blueprint for the further erosion of our rights here in the U.S. as well.

Have fun reading, comrade...

* Thought police muscle up in Britain
* Police given powers to enter homes and tear down anti-Olympics posters during 2012 Games
* Britain’s CCTV Network (Traffic Cameras) to Track, Log All Car Journeys
* Britain: Children Tracked by GPS, Encouraged to Report Anti Social Activity to Police
* Russian journalist blasts 'Big Brother Britain' and compares it to life in the old Soviet Union


The Oil Drum: Is Peak Oil Real? A List of Countries Past Peak

In order to make the list, the country's 2008 oil production had to be at a minimum 10% decline when compared to its previous best year, and that year of highest production must have occurred sometime before 2005.

In short, only fourteen out of the fifty-four separate oil producing regions in the world continue to increase their levels of production. Of the remaining forty, thirty of those are without a doubt past their production peak, and production in the remaining ten has virtually leveled-off even and is beginning to show signs of declining.

View the complete list here.


The Mogambo Guru: Awash in nonsense

Click here to read the full article.

A quote:
"... when all those trillions of dollars that have been created are exchanged for toxic assets, and all the future trillions of dollars to be printed by the Federal Reserve to finance the government's massive deficit-spending, start burning a hole in somebody's pocket, probably thanks to Congress coming up with some new "Get 'em buying!" tax scheme that will, inevitably, backfire and make everything worse and worse until it all collapses into what we hotshot professional economists call a Big Worthless Pile Of Financial Crap (BWPOFC).

And the reason that I am so sure of things turning into a BWPOFC is that, as Milton Friedman so famously said, "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon", which seemingly guarantees inflation in consumer prices as a result of all of this new money flooding into the world's economy, which is a monetary phenomenon in itself, in that it has only been tried by desperate countries in a last-ditch, kamikaze blaze of what they hoped would be glory, but was instead, always and everywhere, turned out to be just stupidly suicidal..."


23 July, 2009

The 'Significant' New Oil Discovery That Wasn't

You good folks are gonna get sick of talking about Peak Oil, but I swear if I have to beat it into your heads then so be it. What can I say? If I had to pick any one possible threat to our society's future that influences my preparedness philosophy beyond your average 'let's be ready in case of a blizzard or flood' kind of emergency readiness, it is Peak Oil (with disease pandemic as a close 2nd).

But, some folks don't see it unfolding as the same sort of catastrophe that I do, mostly because they haven't done the research I have. Still, you end up with news stories like this one, touting the newest in a long line of 'significant' oil and gas discoveries.

Of course, if you ignore the rhetoric and strip it down to the math involved, they've discovered somewhere between 150-250 million barrels of oil equivalent. Wonderful, except it suddenly loses some of its standing as 'significant' when you realize that WE USE AN ESTIMATED 21 MILLION BARRELS PER DAY IN THE U.S. ALONE.

So, congratz! Have your party! Even if we go with the higher estimate of what might be there, it means you've managed to postpone the disaster for slightly less than two weeks here in the U.S. If you share with the rest of the world, that timetable drops to the equivalent of a long weekend.

I'm sorry, but that doesn't meet the requirements for me to call it 'significant'. Not by a long shot.

The problem that keeps more people from worrying about Peak Oil is that they are unaware of usage statistics, etc. and, therefore, 250 million barrels sounds like a lot of oil. We have these news articles popping up all the time about new discoveries, but without the proper context within which to examine the numbers involved, people are led into a false sense of security about the future. They have no idea that these fields are either tiny (like the one in the article linked above) or are quite often comprised of oil shale as opposed to normal crude oil.

The truth is that new discoveries of any real size or utility have been down for more than four decades. And, it now appears we may be past the peak already and are beginning to begin the descent phase (I believe we've been in the plateau phase for the last few years as world oil production has remained steady).

The current lull in demand caused by the ragged state of the economy may push things back a bit, but there are signs that point toward some of the earth's major fields beginning to slow down as they are depleted. The Cantarell Oil Field in Mexico is a prime example, having declined at a staggering rate. In order to keep apace with usage and the rate of decline in existing fields, we would need to discover a new Saudi Arabia every few years just to break even and slow down the accelerating descent.


Bank 'walkaways' from foreclosed homes are a growing, troubling trend

So, first the over-extended loanee can't afford to pay the mortgage and must abandon their home, and now the banks holding the loans are beginning to abandon them as well? Is it just me, or does it all seem to be unraveling quicker and quicker these days?


22 July, 2009

ABC "Over a Barrel" Oil Special To Air Tonight

Unfortunately, from reading the advance materials from ABC, it appears the special hosted by Charlie Gibson will squander any chance it might have had to delve into the complexities of the coming catastrophe that is Peak Oil and will instead be a primetime propaganda piece for the fatcats in the energy industry.

I freely admit that I am pre-judging before having seen the piece and, therefore, I will still watch and hope that I am proven wrong. However, I would sincerely bet that I am right.

"It's like going to school," Gibson said of working on the special. "It really is like that. I didn't know anything about the oil business. I start this and I find it fascinating."

"I hope I live long enough to see what we do as an alternative. There are so many people betting so much on different alternatives," he said. "I think in 20 years we'll know which way we're going."

Again, I hope I'm wrong. It sounds to me like Charlie Gibson had the best of intentions. But, he went into the whole thing basically as a clean slate (as he himself admitted to knowing nothing in the quote) and was then thoroughly indoctrinated in the Big Oil industry standard viewpoint that there's no reason to worry because new discoveries (of which there have been VERY few in a LONG, LONG TIME) and new technologies (still waiting on these too) will magically arrive via the friggin' Stork just when we need them and not a moment before. It appears to be destined to be just another puff piece, citing hopes and wishes as though they were facts and pushing the propaganda of all the money Big Oil is investing in researching alternative energy sources for the future.

I doubt they will bother to mention that anyone who has done any serious research on the subject knows that the alternative energy sources they are researching and we are always hearing so much about don't ever have a prayer of giving us as much energy as we have gotten from oil over the past century. None of them. Ever.

Oh, don't get me wrong, you can live solely off the electricity generated by solar panels on your roof. Of course, to do so, you'll either have to come up with thousands of dollars in advance to invest in your system or dump such power hogs as your electric furnace and/or baseboard heating, your electric fridge and your electric hot water heater in favor of propane and/or natural gas appliances, both of which will also be either hard to come by or prohibitively expensive in a Peak Oil scenario. And that doesn't even take into account the extra burden placed on the power grid in a world full of electric cars all being plugged-in to charge at the same time every evening when folks get home.

The truth they are afraid to tell you is that your lifestyle is inevitably going to have to change. What we all have to look forward to in a future dependent on solar and wind energy is a much simpler life with fewer amenities. I'm not saying you'll have to live without a refrigerator necessarily, although that is a possibility, but definitely expect cuts in other areas.

Assuming we can make it through the transition without the thin veneer of polite society utterly collapsing around our ears as the entitlement society throws its one final spoiled baby hissy-fit, a post-Peak Oil world will undoubtedly involve a lot of riding mass transit, bicycling and huge gardens replacing those retarded blank green patches people used to call lawns. Conversely, if you live in the boonies like me, you'll keep your car (fully electric by then, of course) but you'll basically only drive it once every 4-6 weeks when you head into town past the views that are now almost fully obstructed by the hundreds of wind farms all along the way to pick up whatever essentials you can't grow or procure on your own, such as salt, lye, sugar and coffee (of course, the coffee will be the most expensive thing you buy, having been shipped from where it is grown overseas at great expense because of the prohibitively high price of oil, but you'll still buy it).

Honestly, it doesn't sound so bad to me. But, as I said before, first we have to make it through the transition, which is no way guaranteed in my opinion. I'll save the rest for tomorrow when we've seen tonight's Special and we can talk more about it.


AFTER-HOURS EDIT: As per an ABC press release, The ABC News special “Over a Barrel: The Truth about Oil,” originally scheduled to air on Wednesday at 10:00 PM ET/PT will now air as a special edition of “20/20” on Friday July 24th at 10:00PM. They apparently got pushed back due to the special primetime presentation of OBAMA TV.

Today's Unusual Solar Eclipse Apparently Considered A Bad Omen By Many

For the record, I am highly skeptical of astrology as a means of predicting or explaining essentially anything at all really. I think it's a lot of hokum, honestly. Just a bunch of smarmy snake oil salesmen spouting a weird, new age rhetoric of mostly made-up words.

Apparently, some folks take it mighty, mighty seriously though as, according to this article, half of India is awaiting today's solar eclipse in a state of dread (actually, as I'm writing this, it's probably already morning there, but you get the idea).

As I said, I don't buy into the whole superstitious garbage of it, but one need not try very hard to wonder why the Indian astrologers who are calling for doom today are leaning toward the pessimistic in their predictions. It is, after all, a pessimistic and gloomy world we are living in these days.

Still, I think I would be more worried about people's tendency to act out under the stress of expecting the sky to fall than I would of the sky actually falling in this case.


21 July, 2009

This Just In: Peak Oil Crisis Cancelled! Back To Business As Usual, Thanks To New Oil Discoveries... OR NOT... Sorry To Shatter Your Fantasies

It never fails that every so often the news will surface (usually from a decidedly right wing source) that some previously unknown oil deposit has recently been discovered somewhere within U.S. territory that contains enough oil to power us for a gozillion years, and we can now go about our business without Arab boots against our throats and without making any changes whatsoever to our happy motoring, SUV loving, resource wasting lifestyles. In fact, I've written about it previously as recently as just a few weeks ago.

Now, before you freak about me taking a little dig at the right wing, understand that I am far from a latte-sipping lefty. I am a fiscal as well as social conservative in my bones, but that doesn't mean I have to be one of the "Drill, baby, drill!" crowd; I would love it if I could be one of those people, but I have a problem that makes it impossible for me. My problem is a little thing called logic and a belief in scientific facts. You don't have to be a full-blown geologist to be able to grasp a little bit about geology, and, with minimal research, data exists that would make most of the "Drill, baby, drill!" people's heads spin if they bothered to check into it for themselves. Sadly, most don't because the issue has become so politicized that any notion of devoting even a moment to learning something that could actually have a chance at changing their minds (and, thus, upsetting the status quo and endangering their position in the tribe) is avoided at all costs. And, yes, I said tribe. I won't go into that in great detail here as it is too complicated to explain with brevity, but all political thought is modern tribalism, us against them. Right versus Left is a sociological culture war, nothing more.

Getting back on track, there was yet another news item recently that fit the description I provided in the first paragraph. First, there was the article touting the "US Government’s Secret Colorado Oil Discovery," which asserts that there's more than 2 trillion barrels of oil hidden in an untapped reserve 1000 feet under the Rocky Mountains and that it represents more oil "than all the other proven reserves on earth." WOW! That sounds great! Except for one problem: they're talking about oil shale and it isn't in any way a new discovery. We have known it was there for a long, long time.

The problem with harvesting and utilizing oil shale, in a nutshell, is that it "requires more processing to use than crude oil, which increases its cost as a crude-oil substitute both financially and in terms of its environmental impact." (from the wikipedia page) But, while the environmental issues involved are huge, the real truth is that, even if you just say environment-be-damned "Drill, baby, drill!", it won't even be worth it in the end. It is an energy sink or at the very least it is close to being one, meaning the lengthy processes required to actually get the oil shale and turn it into a viable crude oil substitute requires as much or nearly as much energy as you get out of it.

The thought processes that allow folks to believe in these fairy tales evolve from a fundamental misunderstanding of Peak Oil theory and the concept of EROEI or Energy Returned on Energy Invested. Peak Oil has nothing to do with running out of oil. There will still be oil in the earth even after mankind is long extinct and forgotten. Peak Oil "is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline." And, with that decline, comes both soaring prices as well as the inescapable fact that as the oil becomes harder to extract the process will require more and more energy, thus decreasing the EROEI or Energy Returned on Energy Invested. The normal every day "Black Gold, Texas Tea" that we all envision when we hear the word oil has to be mighty scarce and expensive before the EROEI of oil shale even approaches a point where it becomes worthwhile to exploit on a large scale. And, by that time, the price will be so exorbitant as to dictate that most petroleum-based products strictly become the toys of world governments and perhaps the uber wealthy.

You and I will have long been relegated to horse and buggy before then.


James Howard Kunstler: Is Obama Gorbachev?

Read his full weekly blog entry here.

A quote:
"... when a society's operations become broadly fraudulent and unreal, authority and legitimacy wither... As president, Barack Obama is faced with the essential fraudulence and unreality of the US economy... Since September of 2008, when Hank Paulson began shoveling bail-outs to the very banks who screwed the world on fraudulent and unreal securities, and left American society comprehensively bankrupt, the consensus has only deepened on the perception of an historic swindle. And so far, President Obama has positioned himself as chief enabler to further swindling. One need look no further than the rulings this past spring of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) as authorized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC, an official government agency, created 1934), which have allowed the biggest banks to pretend that the fraudulent paper in their vaults does not have to be recorded as a loss on their books.

The US economy is now dying a slow and painful death because it had become based on activities that had nothing to do with producing real wealth. Instead, it became dependent on rackets, that is, behavior geared to getting something for nothing... a system set up to strip-mine profits from the wish commonly labeled "the American Dream" -- itself largely a product of televised advertising and propaganda. The end product of all that was the doomed economy of suburban sprawl, an infrastructure for daily life with no future in a world defined by fossil fuel scarcity. The unraveling of debt at every level now is directly related to the mis-investments made in that way of life."

James Howard Kunstler is an author and among the leading voices in the charge to be prepared to change how we live as Peak Oil approaches. He is the author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century as well as the fiction novel World Made by Hand: A Novel.


Reminder: The Colony, a New Urban Survivalism Show Debuting Tonight On The Discovery Channel

You'll recall, I posted a few weeks ago that this new show would be debuting this month. The first episode is scheduled to air tonight, Tuesday, July 21 at 10 PM on The Discovery Channel.

Follow the link above for more information.


20 July, 2009

Derivatives Doom

You know things are scary when any member of President Obama's spending spree clique is urging caution with respect to economics. And, that's exactly what happened last week as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pushed Congress to try to put a leash on the derivatives market. But, he isn't the only one who is worried. Templeton Asset Management Ltd.’s Mark Mobius is saying a "new financial crisis will develop from the failure to effectively regulate derivatives and the extra global liquidity from stimulus spending." (source)

It isn't hard to see why he (and apparently Geithner as well) is apprehensive. The derivatives market dwarfs the totals of the credit default swaps, bad mortgages, etc. that are being blamed for wrecking the world economy over the past year or so. According to the article linked above, the "Bank for International Settlements estimates outstanding derivatives total $592 trillion, about 10 times global gross domestic product."

Now, that would be a crash!!!