mellowtigger: (the more you know)
I haven't been able to understand why U.S. gasoline prices are so low. I predicted in 2009 that gas prices would top $4/gallon during 2010, but it didn't happen until 2013, and it held that price only a few weeks during a local shortage.  Last week, I saw it back down as low as $2.99/gallon.  It doesn't make any sense at all.  The price of a barrel of oil is the same everywhere in the world, so how is USA gasoline so cheap?  Do we have faeries who refine our oil into gasoline with their magic?

I decided to check the numbers.  I can easily explain the cheapness now, but the explanation is repugnant.

Bloomberg offers a nice data visualization tool that lets you explore recent prices across different countries.  It shows US prices at $3.66/gallon and UK prices at $7.75/gallon.  I have a discrepancy of $4.09/gallon to explain.  I assume that part of the explanation is that they tax it much higher than we do.  Supposedly, US taxes account for about 17% of the final cost, while the UK is closer to 63%.  When I remove those taxes, I find that US gas price is about $3.15/gallon, and UK gas price is about $4.75/ gallon.  I still have a discrepancy of $1.60 to explain.

According to U.S. government figures, the USA consumed 6.87 billion barrels of oil in 2010.  For simplicity, let's assume it was all used for gasoline, so again using their figures, those barrels would produce 3.11 billion gallons of gasoline.  At current (untaxed) prices, those gallons would sell for $9.80 billion.  At the same time, the oil industry receives about $7 billion per year in subsidies, nearly as much money as consumers pay for the gasoline directly.  Divide that subsidy by those gallons, and you get $2.25/gallon in subsidies paid to oil companies.

Subsidies account for more than the discrepancy that I needed to explain.  I assume that the extra money disappears to the inefficiencies of running a plutocracy.  I am unamused.  I am very bothered by the idea that Americans pay higher federal taxes so that we can maintain the illusion that gasoline prices are cheap.  It's the usual steal-from-the-poor scheme that I've come to expect from American government.  How fast would consumer behavior change if gas prices reflected their true cost?  Pretty fast, I'd think.  I know some people were changing their driving habits earlier this year, when gas prices were skyrocketing locally for only a few weeks.

Now it's even more important to me that I reduce my fuel consumption, knowing that all of us are paying higher federal taxes so that some of us can continue to guzzle petroleum.  The business concept of shipping human bodies back and forth daily is just ludicrous.  I need to find a job where I can either telecommute, ride mass transit, bicycle, or (dare I dream?) walk to work.
mellowtigger: (coprolite)
Fear is a powerful motivator, but we must harness it to make it useful. I carry a healthy dose of worries, but I do try to keep them reasonable. When I make predictions based on my fears, I tag them in my blog so that I can revisit them later to measure their predictive value. So far, I have a very poor record of performance. So I reduce my indulgence of those fears.  Fears must be identified before they can be impartially evaluated.

I watched the speech on Friday by NRA spokeperson Wayne La'Pierre.  He obviously went full-on paranoia by advocating a perpetual spiral of arms escalation with crazy people.  In contrast, let me show you how I've balanced worry with practicality in my own life.  I do worry about profound economic problems.  I do worry that our business culture of just-in-time resource delivery means that we have no local stockpiles of vital goods.  We have no resiliency during emergency.  So I prepare for potential problems in a modest way.
  1. Water.  I would keep bottled water in my bedroom closet, except that winters in Minnesota last a long time.  If a local disaster interrupted utilities, it's likely to occur during cold weather.  The cold house would cause water to rupture the container and ruin the wooden floors.  So I don't keep water.  I do, however, keep a water filter so I can clean water from the nearby Mississippi River in warm weather or melted snow in cold weather.
  2. Food.  Yes, I do keep a bucket of dried food packets.  Just add water.
  3. Toilet paper.  I learned during the local Occupation last year that sanitation is much more urgent a priority than we commonly think.
  4. Radiation.  I live within 80 km (50 mi) of two nuclear power plants.  After the Fukushima disaster, I finally ordered some potassium iodide tablets as temporary protection until I can evacuate somewhere safer.
  5. Medicine.  I keep bandages and antibiotic cream available.  I also keep a secondary supply of these items available at work, since an animal shelter is a bacterial playground.
  6. Fitness.  I try to retain my ability to exert myself.  I bicycle and I garden.  Both are good exercise.
That's it.  That's all I do to prepare.  I make the bare minimum changes necessary to survive temporarily during brief emergencies.  I don't stockpile weapons.  I don't even own a gun.  I don't rotate supplies in any "bug-out bag".  I don't own land outside the cities (although I wish I did just for my own personal reasons unrelated to paranoia).  I don't train for triathlons.  I don't build my own underground fortress.  I don't buy gas masks and hazard suits.  Other people do those things.  I think they've watched too much Hollywood fare, and they've succumbed to the mythology of the lone wolf survivor.

Long-term disruption to the local business ecology is a systemic problem, not a personal problem.  Preparation for such possibility requires cooperative planning, not rugged individualism.  I favor local resilience schemes such as localvore food production, renewable energy that doesn't need to be continuously shipped from far away, xeriscaping to conserve water, and energy-conserving building construction.  I worry for our collective preparedness because we don't do these things together.

All of these preparations can be done individually, yes, but they aren't truly effective until a whole community embraces the practices.  I view "personal preparedness" as a sign that someone has already seceded from their community, abandoning the public in favor of their private interest.  I prefer to continue arguing for sustainability and resilience in the collective infrastructure.

Dangers are real.  We should predict and prepare.  It is unreasonable, however, for individuals to try replicating an entire life support system just for themselves.  It is a conspicuous consumption of resources.  I hope to avoid such self-indulgence of my paranoias.  "We're all in this together," as the saying goes.  I try to keep my paranoia constructive rather than disruptive to my personal life.
mellowtigger: (changed priorities)
I've signed up for a 3-day training as a street medic. It is similar to wilderness first aid training with Red Cross, but includes special topics like injuries caused by our own government representatives. Who could've guessed that peaceful Americans would need to learn about weapon injuries from "less lethal" weapons fired at us by our own police forces?  Interesting times have arrived.

"less lethal" weapon injuriesThe street medic class includes familiar topics like "head/neck injuries, illnesses/allergic reactions, heat and cold concerns, chemical burns", so it will also serve as a useful all-around training for emergencies.

Most of the media has wrongly assumed the the Occupation has declined to irrelevance like the Tea Party before it. Some people have noticed otherwise. I still intend to get involved again, although I'm not sure yet how I will contribute to the peaceful protests.

I'm still waiting for my energy level to pick up, since that barrier is the major restriction to my involvements. I'm disappointed that B12 and multivitamin pills haven't yet made any difference since eliminating the decade-long intestinal infection. The muscle cramps and twitches haven't ended either, so it might still be a very slowly progressing multiple sclerosis.

release the houndsRegardless, I'm still determined to do something to help out, since the plutocracy will not change on its own.  Even if the Occupation movement is 100% peaceful (which I support), I expect the establishment will grow increasingly violent in response when intimidation and legal wrangling fail to deter protests.

All that frustration will pile on top of worries about both high-priced gasoline (its contribution to the price of everything else) and a high-profile election year.  I expect changes to begin this year.  I intend to be at least slightly better than "totally unprepared" for them.  I will soon know some simple first aid.  I already have my useful bicycle.  I already have some large rutabaga roots sitting in the garden dirt.  I'm confident that I can endure any short-term problems.

mellowtigger: (economy)
Okay, one more depressing post, and then I'll try to get back to talking about happy bunnies and dancing unicorns.

I've read elsewhere that Soviets observed the illegal cannibalization of infrastructure as they reached the breaking point of their failed economy. During the last two years, I have kept my eyes open for signs of such activity here in America. I find plenty of it, but it's still not quite enough to reach popular attention yet. All it'll take is one big power outage in a major city for everyone to finally notice.

Here in Minnesota, thieves are stealing manhole covers and sewer grates from the streets, copper from vacant buildings, and copper wiring from park lamp posts. Around the country, similar things are happening. Thieves are taking copper wiring from parks, copper plumbing from business properties, copper wiring from live transformers, copper tubing from air conditioners, and they've even caused a power outage in a small Ohio town by taking down an electrical substation.

It's becoming a big problem. The New York Times did an article back in February. They mention that there's even a national coalition that's formed to help bring awareness and promote legislation to slow this black market activity. USA Today did their own article in April on the theft of catalytic converters.

The economic spiral continues downward. At the national level, Republicans and Obama together are still bent on reducing government employment. I said two years ago and still maintain that we need huge national government projects that put massive numbers of people to work.

In the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration provided paid jobs for millions of unemployed men and women (as well as youth in a separate division, the National Youth Administration).
Incredibly, during the current Great Depression, government employment has been shrinking (aside from temporary census hiring last year).

It annoys me that the national government continues to do things that I think are unhelpful and/or idiotic.  It seems so obvious to me what needs to happen.  Exactly the opposite of Republican strategy, I think that big wages need to end so that big employment can happen.  Tax the living daylights out of the rich and use that money (yes, redistribute the wealth!) to pay for huge public projects that give spending money back to the population and renews their job skills so they remain employable after the projects eventually end.  Much better than simply extending unemployment benefits, I think.
mellowtigger: (religious hypocrisy)
I'm more than a little disappointed. I didn't succeed in finding a Rapture party to attend on Saturday when one of the One True God(s)[tm] instantly kills the faithful and brings them to heaven for their eternal reward. The way I see it, the occasion warrants a party regardless of what happens. The believers are allowing for only one possible outcome. I see 4 possibilities, and 3 of them are definitely party material:
  1. They're right, and I get raptured up to heaven too. (Party time, although I suppose the party gets relocated.)
  2. They're right, and I get to live on a planet for 6 months without any self-righteous Christian thugs on it. (Party time.)
  3. They're wrong, and they realize they've been stupid. (Party time. Maybe the world will be slightly less annoying from their contrition.)
  4. They're wrong, and they don't realize it; instead, they take out their frustrations on everyone nearby that they blame for the failure to enter heaven on schedule. (And bashing gays into bloody pulps becomes the new Sunday sport.)
Family Radio predictionTheir website is down at the moment. It's probably slashdotted from too many hits as gawkers like me wait (with buttered popcorn and bated breath) to see their response to the non-event.  I snagged an image many days ago, expecting website problems come the uneventful Rapture day.

Notice the middle link "Gay Pride: Sign of the End".  It's really pathetic that the most hateful religious groups always pick on "the gheys".  Their own conduct never meets the same scrutiny that they prefer dumping on those evil fags and dykes.  I wonder if one of those holy books mentions something about this behavior amongst the faithful?

Huffington post has a decent article pointing out the many unfulfilled judgement days predicted by Americans in years past, including the current favorite calendar picks.  I think the next judgement day is 2012 December 21, isn't it?  An excuse for another party, I guess.

I do have some tiny amount sympathy for them, since I have my own opinions about crash-and-burn scenarios in our future.  But at least the plans I make for preparations are practical, whether the dire predictions come true or not.  These people, though.... they're really not practical.  It makes me sad that their political vote counts as much as my own in determining the direction of our political future.
mellowtigger: (economy)
Do I have to consider myself a pessimist if the realistic view really is that terrible?

I "threw away" my vote on Tuesday, and I was happy to do it.  I learned that Ken Pentel (formerly of the Green party) was advocating not only for an economy based on material accounting (rather than baseball trading card mania) but he even wanted to print a Minnesota state currency!  That's the kind of crazy that I'm talking about!  Woohoo!  So I voted for him as Minnesota state governor, and I did it gladly.  He was discussing the extreme action necessary to weather the coming storm.  Sadly, I was one of a paltry 6,180 Minnesotans who voted for the Ecology Democracy party.  Even the Grassroots party (which advocates legalizing marijuana) received more votes than my candidate.  *disappointed sigh*

1) Meanwhile, on the national stage, corporations earned more profit as productivity increased 1.3% during the last quarter even while labor costs decreased 0.1%.  Yes, that's right, the economic recovery continues even as people's hardship increases.  Bureaucrats will profit while workers lose pay.  Yay, Team America!

2) On top of that news, the government will be dumping another heap of money into the economy, furiously trying to stave off collapse of the stupid exponential function that is our banking system.  By increasing our money supply by 10% over the course of 8 months, they have effectively (not this straightforward) reduced (similar to taxation) all existing dollar values by 10% in less than a year.  They tell people it will help, of course, but as I keep warning everyone... an exponential function doesn't work that way.  This news means that next time we'll need the 10% increase in less than 8 months (perhaps 7), and afterwards in even less time than that (perhaps 6 months).  That's how exponential functions work.  By definition, the pace must keep increasing or else there's catastrophic collapse.  It isn't Republicans or Democrats who make this determination; it's mathematics.

recent US inflation3) So of course people (Chinese) who hold lots of US dollars are quite upset by #2 above.  While local politician Michele Bachmann (font of stupidity) falsely claims that Obama's trip to Asia will cost taxpayers $200 million, one can easily imagine that it's intended to calm our angry owners who rightfully insist that "It would be appropriate for someone to step forward and give us an explanation, otherwise international confidence in the recovery and growth of the global economy might be hurt."  Distrusting American financial stability, some Asian countries are already planning ways to limit their vulnerability when the dollar nosedives.  I hope Obama can convince them to avoid worsening our troubles.  Even at $200 million, that would be a very cost effective delay to the upcoming disaster.

4) And finally on top of all that bad news, I see this chart of cost increases for basic items in America.  I haven't tried to confirm/disconfirm the data.  I'm too wiped out and discouraged after all of the other news.  I know that the grocery store "feels" more expensive this year even than last year.  I don't know whether to hope this chart is accurate or a complete fallacy.  Economic recovery is proceeding nicely, right?

Printing local currencies doesn't seem so crazy now, does it?  I was absolutely right to "waste" my vote on Ken Pentel.  Republocrats are lost.  He was the only local politician who seemed to understand the horrible danger of the exponential function.  We need an economy based on real items in the real world, and we need it fast.  The Ecology Democracy network sounds better every day.

Am I the only one who remembers Mickey Mouse warning us about the awful dangers of perpetual growth?

So who wants to pool money to buy land for creating a survival farm?  I have food crop seeds that work in Minnesota.  :)
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
The last oil crunch is not decades away and not years away; it is months away, according to the U.S. government and military.  Here is the information that I think will help you prepare for the change that is fast approaching.

See the chart and read the lists... )

In summary:

Soon, energy costs will increase sharply.  Do everything you can now to prepare for this change.  It will affect everything.  It doesn't have to end anything, though.  You can easily survive the change with extra planning.  Start practicing now.  Purchase what you need now.  Don't wait until everyone else is scrambling to adapt, because that market demand will increase product prices too.
mellowtigger: (kill)
So many more interesting things are happening in the world, but this teabagger nonsense is what I finally settle to pondering today.

The irony is rich. I think these people are the same ones who spent their lives believing that minorities should be kept in their (lower) place. Now that they themselves are the minority, they don't understand what has gone wrong in their lives. Why has their democratic authority disappeared? They don't realize (even as they saw it happening) that minorities gain what they want by cooperatively soliciting help and intelligently describing their plight so as to warrant compassionate response from the majority. They've experienced no compassion themselves for the suffering of other minorities, so it doesn't occur to them that they could receive such generosity too. Instead, they're reaching for their weapons while claiming that they're the ones trying to save the democracy that they care so much about.

I said before in my own words that I do not trust these people: "I'm arguing that the threshold of violent behavior has already shifted and will continue to shift." It's no longer about political disagreement.  It's about people who failed to make their intellectual point, who failed to make their democratic point, who now want to rely on bully threats to win their way.

These people seem comfortable with abandoning the current government in favor of something else.  I wish they were smart enough to correctly name the "something else" that they want.  Unfortunately, they're not that smart.  They keep insisting that they want to save democracy... which is the very process that they're unhappy with because they aren't getting what they want.  Is it too late to explain to them that minorities get what they want by asking for the help of other empowered groups?  Blacks in America convinced whites to fight on their behalf; women in America convinced men to vote on their behalf; gays in America are convincing straights to argue on their behalf.  Democracy is powerful and transformative.

Republicans still think the teabaggers are on their side.  They're trying to nullify the recent health care legislation.  One (Reagan era) former administrator says "similar attempts at "so-called nullification" led to the Civil War."  Republicans are almost cute in their childlike ignorance; they still think they can control the teabaggers even while goading them onwards.  At least one of them knows better, though: "The thing that sustains a strong Fox network is the thing that undermines a strong Republican party."

Ah well.  I'll leave you with their images and their words.  As Rachel Maddow warns today (after bricks shatter glass at some Democratic party headquarters), let's see what happens here in America on April 19th.

Cut because it is heavy on photographs... )

oil again

Nov. 11th, 2009 10:31 am
mellowtigger: (Default)
Two whistleblowers from the International Energy Agency are claiming that IEA figures about world oil production are basically just exaggerations (lies) intended to placate American interests.

"[The agency] has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying."

Here is a chart of the disputed figures that are now claimed to be too optimistic.

IEA 2009 oil figures

So we have peak oil (which I'm still guessing has already happened a few years ago) and the falling value of the US Dollar both working to increase the price of oil by large amounts. I expect the price of gasoline (currently about $2.50) at the American pump to zoom up again in 2010.  I think it will exceed $4/gallon by the end of 2010 just 13 months from now.  I think that gasoline should approach $6/gallon in that timeframe, but that price would require a robust American economy to support it.  That won't happen.  If oil producers succeed in moving away from the American dollar as the valuation of oil barrels, however, then US$ price per oil barrel can careen off into whatever obscene territory it wants to.

There are some very interesting new technologies emerging that are meant to produce liquid fuel from waste agriculture material using algea or bacteria.  Both kinds of technologies are even being researched here in Minnesota.  They won't, however, reach commercial application before the end of 2010, so we must still rely on traditional crude oil for our energy.  Forget these deep undersea oil fields.  It'll take even longer (and cost even more) to get them into production.  My prediction stands: we'll exceed $4/gallon again in 2010.

I'm adding the "predictions" tag to this post so I'm sure to come back later to judge the effectiveness of my own crystal ball.  :)
mellowtigger: (Default)
Dismiss me for continuing to be paranoid if you want.

Hill, by all witness accounts, politely asked West to be careful, officials said. ... West threw her to the ground and hit her in the head with his fists and feet, police said. During the exchange, witnesses said West could be heard screaming racial slurs at the victim.

Meanwhile, one of my relatives on Facebook has asked people to friend Glenn Beck on the site. Yeah, that "news" figure who says (without retraction or correction) that millions of people were at the recent D.C. March because the university of "I don't remember which university" counted that many people from the video footage.

I distrust these people who obviously feel that they no longer hold any (or sufficient) political power.  I disbelieve that they will employ peaceful and lawful means of reasserting their (self-perceived) political power.

This journey is leading nowhere that I want to go.


mellowtigger: (Default)

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