Sunday, July 26, 2009

"20 Ways to Waste Your Money," By Erin Burt, Kiplinger. com, July 23, 2009

"Whether a newbie or seasoned budgeter, nearly everyone has spending holes -- leaks in your budget that drain money with you hardly noticing.

These small drips can add up to big bucks. Once you find the holes and plug them, you'll keep more money in your pocket. That spare cash could be the ticket to finally being able to save, invest, or break your cycle of living paycheck to paycheck.

Here are 20 common ways people waste money. See if any of these sound familiar, and then look for ways to plug your own leaks."


Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Root Cellaring 101," By A Reader of, July 23, 2009

I have read with interest your Campfire posts pertaining to discussions of acquiring practical skills and techniques particularly focused on food production, preservation and storage. Perhaps this would be an appropriate forum to gain feedback from some of your readers on a few ideas I have for the construction of a root cellar. Below is a picture of the spot I have chosen in which to build this. The soil is heavy clay, slope faces northeast and ‘elevation gain’ is approximately 6 feet. My dog marks the spot where I intend on building a root cellar.

Site for root cellar - vertical drop of 6-7 feet. (German Shepherd shown for scale)

Photoshop 'cube' intended place for root cellar, placed back in hillside - roughly 6x8x8

After looking at many designs online, and having one bid ($6000) for a cinderblock constructed cellar, I am thinking an easier and possibly cheaper alternative might be to use 8 ft bunker silo sections. See link attached. These precast sections of concrete come in various sizes but I’m considering 6’(H) x 8’(L) for an 8x8 root cellar. Other options I’m considering are poured concrete (pricey no doubt), another old farmer told me ‘in the old days’ they would dig out a cave and line the wall with a thin layer of cement. Additional ideas are greatly appreciated; especially those that cost less and/or are simple enough that I can assist in the construction.

Something like the above would be grand, but likely undoable without premium labor. I'm willing to spend in the $4,000-$6,000 range for a quality permanent cellar and will add my own labor/time to the effort (and possibly my internet addicted boyfriend)

I am also curious to know how many of these skills related to basic needs (e.g. food storage) are still around or if two+ generations of oil/electricity have erased them culturally -even the Amish workers near me didn't know what to make of my cellar request.)

Thanks in advance,


"Some Unemployed are Giving Up," By Liz Wolgemuth, U.S. News & World Report, July 22, 2009

"In some U.S. states, nearly half of the job seekers who have stopped looking for work have done so because they simply don't believe they'll find anything. Indeed, the number of discouraged workers nationwide has more than doubled in the past year. This trend won't be reflected in the widely publicized unemployment rate, as discouraged workers aren't included among the unemployed. Still, in states as diverse as Mississippi, South Dakota, and New York, the span of this often invisible slice of workers signals a population losing its hope."


Monday, July 20, 2009

Cliff's Tips on Prescription Medicines, Diagnoses, and Treatment

Prescription medicines are usually expensive in the developed countries. In addition, getting the prescription normally requires an appointment with the doctor.

I have found that with the information available on the Internet and mail ordering medications from United Pharmacies -- -- I can usually save money and time. United Pharmacies does not require a prescription and their medications are of excellent quality. I have always found United Pharmacies to be honest and efficient. And if I need to go to the doctor, I come prepared with symptoms, diagnoses, and prospective medications and treatments.

The most authoritative source for diagnoses and treatments is National Institutes of Health. The site Wrong Diagnosis is excellent, and there are many others such as Mayo Clinic. For depression, anxiety, panics, nervousness, see Crazy Meds and National Institute of Mental Health. See also the sources on the side bar right of this blog.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Peak Oil: Myth or Reality -- A List of Countries Past Peak," By Praveen Ghanta,, July 18, 2009

Only 14 of the 54 oil producing nations in the world are still increasing their oil production. The era of cheap oil is definitively over, as shown below. Posted on with discussion HERE.

Is peak oil real? The BP Statistical Review of World Energy provides the data needed to answer this question. Using the 2009 edition, I have compiled a list of all oil producing countries and regions in the world, along with the production status of each, ordered by year of peak production. BP groups minor producers into categories like "Other Africa", and "Other Middle East", and that notation is used here. All production numbers are quoted in barrels/day.

Country Peak Prod. 2008 Prod. % Off Peak Peak Year
United States 11297 7337 -35% 1970
Venezuela 3754 2566 -32% 1970
Libya 3357 1846 -45% 1970
Other Middle East 79 33 -58% 1970
Kuwait 3339 2784 -17% 1972
Iran 6060 4325 -29% 1974
Indonesia 1685 1004 -41% 1977
Romania 313 99 -68% 1977
Trinidad & Tobago 230 149 -35% 1978
Iraq 3489 2423 -31% 1979
Brunei 261 175 -33% 1979
Tunisia 118 89 -25% 1980
Peru 196 120 -39% 1982
Cameroon 181 84 -54% 1985
Other Europe & Eurasia 762 427 -44% 1986
Russian Federation 11484 9886 -14% 1987*
Egypt 941 722 -23% 1993
Other Asia Pacific 276 237 -14% 1993
India 774 766 -1% 1995*
Syria 596 398 -33% 1995
Gabon 365 235 -36% 1996
Argentina 890 682 -23% 1998
Colombia 838 618 -26% 1999
United Kingdom 2909 1544 -47% 1999
Rep. of Congo (Brazzaville) 266 249 -6% 1999*
Uzbekistan 191 111 -42% 1999
Australia 809 556 -31% 2000
Norway 3418 2455 -28% 2001
Oman 961 728 -24% 2001
Yemen 457 305 -33% 2002
Other S. & Cent. America 153 138 -10% 2003*
Mexico 3824 3157 -17% 2004
Malaysia 793 754 -5% 2004*
Vietnam 427 317 -26% 2004
Denmark 390 287 -26% 2004
Other Africa 75 54 -28% 2004*
Nigeria 2580 2170 -16% 2005*
Chad 173 127 -27% 2005*
Italy 127 108 -15% 2005*
Ecuador 545 514 -6% 2006*
Saudi Arabia 11114 10846 -2% 2005 / Growing
Canada 3320 3238 -2% 2007 / Growing
Algeria 2016 1993 -1% 2007 / Growing
Equatorial Guinea 368 361 -2% 2007 / Growing
China 3795 3795 - Growing
United Arab Emirates 2980 2980 - Growing
Brazil 1899 1899 - Growing
Angola 1875 1875 - Growing
Kazakhstan 1554 1554 - Growing
Qatar 1378 1378 - Growing
Azerbaijan 914 914 - Growing
Sudan 480 480 - Growing
Thailand 325 325 - Growing
Turkmenistan 205 205 - Growing
Peaked / Flat Countries Total - 49597 - 60.6% of world oil production
Growing Countries Total - 32223 - 39.4% of world oil production
Only 14 out of 54 oil producing countries and regions in the world continue to increase production, while 30 are definitely past their production peak, and the remaining 10 appear to have flat or declining production [1]. Put another way, peak oil is real in 61% of the oil producing world when weighted by production. Since 2008 capped a record run for oil prices, most countries and oil companies were trying all-out to increase production. While a handful of producers (think Iraq) might be limited by above-ground factors, the majority of producers simply couldn't do any better in 2008 [2].

The evidence of the demise of the cheap oil era has become insurmountable. In the face of the highest oil prices on record, the great majority of the world's oil producers were incapable of taking advantage and producing more oil. Many nations including the US saw their oil production peak decades ago - there simply is no turning the clock back. This list shows that we are relying on a small number of countries to keep providing cheap oil. We need to move faster to alternatives and greater energy efficiency, before the last fourteen peak as well.

* More information on these countries:

  • Russian Federation - Russia's oil production collapsed by the early 90's as the Soviet Union collapsed, but despite a decade of growth, Russia's own oil execs don't think the old peak can be surpassed.
  • India's production appeared to plateau in 1995, and has stayed within a steady range since. The EIA forecasts Indian oil production to remain flat or decline slightly in the near future.
  • Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) hit a production plateau in 1998, though current production is still very close to 1999 peak levels.
  • Other Central & South America - The remaining countries of the Americas hit a production peak in 2003, though it's still too soon to know if this will be final peak.
  • Malaysia has been on a production plateau since 1995, and the EIA projects flat or falling production.
  • Other Africa - Oil production in much of Africa is potentially impacted by above-ground constraints, so it's definitely possible that production will rise here. It will rise from a low base of only 50,000 bpd however, and may not have much impact on total world production.
  • Nigeria is impacted by domestic insurgencies in its oil-producing regions, and may be able to lift production if the political situation improves.
  • Chad's oil production history is too short to definitively identify a peak in production, but the drop-off since 2005 has been dramatic.
  • Italy has been on a production plateau for over 10 years, and it's unlikely that a mature economy is significantly under-exploiting its resource potential.
  • Ecuador's production grew rapidly until 2004, but has leveled off and declined somewhat since then.

[1] To be considered past-peak, a producer's current (2008) production has to be at least 10% less than its best year, and the best year must have occurred prior to 2005. Some countries' production has been artificially constrained by political and other non-geological considerations. But in some of these cases, it will be difficult to pass an old peak because decades of depletion have occurred since that peak. Iraq peaked in 1979, making it all the more difficult to pass that now.

[2] While OPEC maintains formal production quotas, it is widely believed that only Saudi Arabia had true spare capacity in 2008, while all other OPEC nations were producing at capacity. The truth is unclear, since OPEC nations do not provide detailed reserve statistics for their oil fields.

Total has created its own short list of oil producers past peak, and Wikipedia has a list here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

" Twenty Dollars Per Gallon: How the rising price of oil will change our lives.," By Christopher Steiner,, July 16, 2009

"We sit in a period that's popularly (and appropriately) known as "peak oil," meaning that global production of crude is at a zenith that will never again be realized."

"Middle-class life runs on oil. So we should pay rapt attention to things that could cause the price of oil to increase. As the price increases, our lives will indelibly change--and there are plenty of reasons to think that the price of oil will, in the long term, steadily increase."


"Nine Reasons the Economy is Not Getting Better," By Mortimer B. Zuckerman, US New & World Report, July 15, 2009

"We are now looking at unemployment numbers that undermine any confidence that we might be nearing the bottom of the recession. The appropriate metaphor is not the green shoots of new growth. A better image is to look at the true total of jobless people as a prudent navigator looks at an iceberg.

What we see on the surface is disconcerting enough. The estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of job losses for June is 467,000. That increases by 7.2 million the number of unemployed since the start of the recession. The cumulative job losses over the past six months have been greater than for any other half-year period since World War II, including demobilization. What's more, the job losses are now equal to the net job gains over the previous nine years, making this the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all employment growth from the previous business cycle.

Next year, state budgets will have depleted their initial rescue dollars. Absent another rescue plan, they will have no choice but to slash spending or raise taxes, or both. The complete state and local government sector, which makes up about 15 percent of the economy, is beginning the worst contraction in postwar history in the face of a deficit gap of $166 billion for fiscal year 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and a cumulative gap of $350 billion in fiscal year 2011.

That's bad enough. But here are nine reasons we are in even more trouble than the 9.5 percent unemployment rate indicates."


Blog Comment: Peak Oil is the reason for continued economic malaise. Eventually state and local governments will lack the resources to maintain the highways -- which support maintenance for the power grid. Federal assistance to states will decline as federal revenues decline. Some 70% of federal revenues come from income taxes. Read more HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Hundreds of Thousands of Workers Will Lose Unemployment Benefits Soon," By Marie Coco, Washington Post Writer's Group, July 10, 2009

"When a virulent disease is ravaging you like a cancer, you don't want a cacophony of voices promoting different or contradictory cures. Yet that is what we're starting to hear about the economic crisis, not only from a politically divided -- and pretty scared -- capital, but from within the Obama administration itself. In just the past few days, Vice President Joe Biden has said the young administration misread the depth of the recession -- an honest account, since most private economists did as well. Laura Tyson, an outside economic adviser to the White House, said it's wise to start preparing another stimulus package."


"The State of Homelessness in the U.S.," By M.J. Stephey, TimeCNN, July 13, 2009

"There are few economic indicators as grim as homelessness, as the Department of Department of Housing and Urban Development demonstrates in its 4th annual report on the topic, which found that some 1.6 million Americans stayed at homeless shelters from October 2007 to September 2008. The Department also noticed some troubling trends: more families seeking shelter — particularly in rural and suburban areas — and more people going to shelters from stable living arrangements (instead of jails, institutional settings or the military)."


Monday, July 13, 2009

"Three Plans for Fuel Emergencies in the UK," By Rick Munroe, Energy Bulletin, July 13, 2009


Three plans for fuel emergencies have recently been released by UK public sector agencies. This review compares the three plans, highlights certain points from each, and provides internet links to the documents.

DECC's Business Continuity Management for Fuel Shortages (Nov. 08)

Although DECC is now the lead ministry during fuel emergencies, their document is the shortest (10 pages) of the three plans and overlooks some fundamental information which is contained in the other two.

DECC warns that local fuel supplies "could be exhausted within 48 hours of an [extreme] incident and it could take up to 10 days before stock levels are fully restored" (p.2).

DECC's Maximum Purchasing Scheme would limit purchase for non-essential users (ie. the general public) to a maximum of 15 litres (roughly 3 gallons) per purchase.

This appears to be an impractical strategy for two reasons:

  1. History: In USA during the 1979 crisis they limited purchases to a $5 maximum, a similar volume. As Daniel Yergin states, "The results were exactly the opposite of what was intended, for it meant that motorists had to come back to gas stations that much more frequently" (The Prize, p. 692).
  2. Common sense: Citizens who are worried about their fuel supply will continually be tempted to top up their tanks. Topping-up creates line-ups which waste time & fuel and increase tensions at the pumps. As Yergin further points out, “One estimate suggested that America’s motorists in the spring and summer of 1979 may have wasted 150,000 barrels of oil waiting in line to fill their tanks!” (The Prize, p. 692).

Other analysts have recommended a fixed limit, say 30 litres (no more and no less) as a way of preventing topping-up.

In Annex A, this document refers to the Designated Filling Stations (DFS) which “would provide priority access to road transport fuels for defined customers requiring them for a priority use” (p. 7). Curiously, there is no mention of the fact that over 650 of these DFS sites have already been identified (a fact which is mentioned in the two NHS documents which follow).

Having a number of pre-identified sites which will be restricted to defined priority users is prudent planning.

Here is the link:

Business Continuity Management for Fuel Shortages

NHS Guidance on Planning for Disruption to Road Fuel Supply (Oct. 08)

At 30 pages, this is the longest of the three documents.

It contains several interesting observations:

  • In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, health facilities had power and their lights acted as a beacon (literally) for displaced citizens, and this created some security issues for those facilities.
  • The "Myth of a Central Fuel List" (p. 14) indicates how seriously businesses view their fuel supply and gives a hint of the efforts that people will go to in order to gain preferential access/Essential User status.
  • This document has several warnings not to underestimate the complexities of a fuel shortage.
  • The recommendation to "attempt to have all workers try public transport options" (p. 14) of course makes sense, but as US fuel emergency analyst Kathy Leotta (2007) points out, "Transit systems have only limited capabilities for quickly increasing services... due to a small supply of extra vehicles and drivers" (Leotta, p. 4).
    Switching to public transit will be easier said than done.
  • Other than its request to ensure that "all unforecasted costs... are captured for audit" (p. 17) there is little acknowledgment of the budgetary concerns which could quickly arise. It seems highly unlikely that any free-market economy could have an extended fuel supply problem without also having an extended price spike.
  • This document provides a preview of the time and energy which must be devoted to the bureaucratic tasks of identifying, approving, informing, prioritizing, documenting and reviewing. How personnel can reasonably cope with the additional bureaucratic burden (on top of the other practical difficulties caused by a fuel emergency) should be of great concern.

Here is the link:

NHS Guidance on Planning for Disruption to Road Fuel Supply

Heart of Birmingham NHS Fuel Shortage Plan (reviewed June 27/09)

This 21-page plan offers a more detailed look at the complexities of managing the Temporary Logo Scheme (p. 4-5), issues around communicating info to the public (p. 6), concerns about supply chain failures, etc.

Returning to the topic of budgetary problems arising during a fuel emergency, it is puzzling to see no warnings in any of these three documents that pricing during a fuel emergency could prove problematic to their budgets and/or to the service delivery capability of their agencies.

In the Birmingham document, the topic of Financial Implications (Sect. 12.0) is raised, but this section contains only one unfathomable sentence: "There are no significant financial implications anticipated in the implementation of this plan" (p. 13).

Similarly, Sect. 10.0 on Training states: "There are no specific training requirements associated with this plan" (p. 13).

Both NHS documents contain some specific and sensible recommendations for personnel, for delivery of services, accountability re fuel use, etc. One would think that this would surely require detailed consultation with staff (and subsequent training) in order to implement these recommendations.

Here is the link:

Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust Fuel Shortage Plan

Some final comments

To their credit, UK planners have highlighted two central facts:

  1. a fuel emergency can be extremely difficult to administer, and
  2. fuel supply and other emergencies must be addressed primarily at the local level, hence the need for local plans, pre-authorization & empowerment, etc.

In North America, meanwhile, there seems to be no comparable activity to raise the profile of fuel emergencies nor to lay preparatory ground-work at the local level.

However, even the UK planners may be placing insufficient emphasis on the ability of a sustained price spike (potentially coupled by a surge in demand for service) to seriously constrain budgets and the provision of essential services.

These three documents offer a preview of a way of life which most citizens have thankfully never experienced: a society where fuel has suddenly become very expensive, where physical supplies of fuel and food may be restricted, where public services are curtailed, and where the overall economy and the public tax base hang in the balance.

The complexities of managing such an unprecedented situation are enormous.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Economic Fragility Underestimated - Collapse May Be Imminent ," By Arbitrary Vote, Seeking Alpha, July 2, 2009

"The mainstream media and government are communicating that the economy is on a positive track toward recovery while downplaying the likelihood of another economic catastrophe similar or worse than that experienced in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. In actuality, there is a significant chance that the U.S. will experience a severe economic collapse, beyond what has already been experienced, either this year or within the next few years. If there is a perceived, sustainable economic rebound before this happens, do not be fooled - the underlying economic problems still exist and will likely eventually surface in economic collapse.

This following analysis further explores this warning by describing:

  1. The 4 key reasons an economic collapse is likely imminent
  2. Why these 4 reasons make the economy vulnerable
  3. Warning signs and triggers to monitor to foresee a collapse before it happens
  4. What can result from an economic collapse
  5. Ideas for preparation"

"We're not out of the woods – G8 leaders fear double dip slump," By Larry Elliott and Patrick Wintour,, July 8, 2009

"The leaders of the west's most powerful countries expressed fears tonight of a double-dip recession and stressed the continued need for emergency measures to boost growth until recovery from the worst post-war global recession was assured."


Thursday, July 9, 2009

"California in not such a golden state," By Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times (London), July 9, 2009

"The scale of California's debt crisis - the state is having to issue IOUs as it grapples with a $26bn deficit - has raised some uncomfortable questions for the US.

Is California too big to fail? If so, might the federal government be forced to nationalise it? There are those who believe California should be allowed to fail as a warning to the others. Many ordinary voters are unhappy at bailing out wealthy Californians who enjoyed a luxury lifestyle of sun and sand while their state was sinking."


BLOG COMMENT: For someone who has taught state politics for 30 years, this article is surealistic. Can I really be reading this in a mainstream publication? Am I dreaming? No, tis not a dream, rather it is Peak Oil reality. We are beginning to wake up from a dream, the Age of Oil.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Wealthy World at its "Oil Break Point," By Peter Tertzakian, The Calgary Herald, July 6, 2009

"Another quarter gone by. That makes three since the foundations blew out from underneath Lehman Brothers and six quarters since the start of the U.S. recession at the end of 2007. It seems like the negativity is lasting an eternity, and in terms of economic cycles it is. Since the Great Depression, which lasted 14 quarters, the longest recession has been five quarters long, 1981 to 1982. So, at six quarters and counting, the new tag line for our current malaise, 'The Great Recession,' seems appropriate."


Saturday, July 4, 2009

"States set to ring in Independence Day sans budget," By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Associated Press, July 3, 2009

"Several states are facing the prospect of government shutdowns and program cuts as they enter the first weekend of the fiscal year and July Fourth holiday without a budget in place.

'This downturn, even more so than previous downturns, really is affecting every state right now,' said Brian Sigritz, a staff associate with the National Association of State Budget Officers.

'Numerous things look worse than some past recessions,' said Bert Waisanen, a fiscal analyst with the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. 'The housing market is worse. Industrial production is worse. Wages are nearly worse.'

'The sputtering economy has created an across-the-board drop in tax collections. Taxes ranging from sales to personal income to property are all down,' Sigritz said."


Blog Comment: Highway maintenance is the Achilles's heel for modern society. Without expensive and energy intensive maintenance, the highways will fail from bridge collapes, washouts from a lack of culvert maintenance, and land slides. The power grid depends on the highways for replacements of huge transformers and pylons. Each winter, ice storms damage the power grid, and thousands of power company crews on trucks repair the damage. State governments maintain the highways. The Peak Oil economic depression is just beginning to cut into state revenues. As unemployment increases, states will have less revenues from sales and income taxes. As oil supplies dwindle, the price of diesel and highway maintenance will increase. Eventually states will not have enough resources to subsidize home heating and highway maintenance. Without the highways and power grid, virtually nothing will come in from "the outside." The federal government will try come to the rescue, but 70% of federal revenues come from individual income taxes.