Preventing economic shock wave: Securing the port of Houston from a terrorist attack

oil tanker on fire











[ An attack on (LNG) ships, oil tankers, or the Houston port facilities Houston would cause an oil shock, since a third of oil refining takes place there, and it’s also the second largest petrochemical center in the world.  An oil shock could lead to a financial shock since corrupt banking and Wall Street firms have prevented meaningful reforms. Plus we’re at the end of growth. How can a financial system designed for endless growth to pay back debt continue?  When peak oil is generally acknowledged, credit will dry up since no one will be able to grow in order to pay the debt back. Plus there’s over $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities.  All of this and more makes the global financial system very shaky.  Perhaps we’re only a terrorist attack, oil shock, hurricane, or earthquake away from another financial crash.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

House 112-41. August 24, 2011. Preventing economic shock wave: Securing the port of Houston from a terrorist attack. House of Representatives. 62 pages.


Mr. MCCAUL. Osama bin Laden’s ‘‘war of a thousand cuts’’ on the U.S. economy has always been a key facet of his strategy. His personal files found in his lair at Abbottabad, Pakistan, revealed a brazen idea to blow up oil tankers. By doing so, he hoped to damage not only the United States, but the world’s economy. The picture of an oil tanker ablaze, like this one off the coast of Yemen, would indeed add fuel to our financial crisis. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have a history of attacking ships. In January 2000, there was an attack on the USS Sullivan. In October of 2000, a small boat with explosives blew a hole in the side of the USS Cole, killing 17 of our sailors. In October 2002, a French oil tanker was set ablaze, killing and injuring several crew members in the Straits of Hormuz. In 2005, there was an attack (1) against the USS Ashland. In July of 2010, there was a terrorist attack on a Japanese oil tanker.

The Government Accountability Office in its report on terrorist attacks targeting energy tankers states the supply chain faces three types of threats: Suicide attacks with explosive-laden boats similar to the one used against the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden; standoff attacks with weapons launched from a distance, such as rocket- propelled grenades and; third, an armed assault used by pirates off the coast of Africa.

Not only would a successful attack result in the loss of life and have a detrimental effect on the economy, it would also be a psychological blow and would have environmental consequences.

The Port of Houston is the energy capital of the United States, and it is a target-rich environment. The port stretches from Galveston Bay, past Texas City, across the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway, past Bayport and the San Jacinto Monument, and deep into the City of Houston. The port includes a ship channel, a 52-mile highway for shipping. It has a wide range of businesses and is not just one of the physically largest ports in America, but also a leader in the movement of cargo.

Most importantly, roughly 25% of the oil imports for America flow through the Port of Houston. Each day, 25 to 30 oil and chemical tankers move along the Houston Ship Channel, and 31% of America’s crude oil refining capacity takes place right here in this harbor. If catastrophe struck the port, there is little spare capacity to import and refine crude oil elsewhere in the country. In short, an attack on the Houston port would be crippling.

A 2007 study by the Houston Port Authority estimated that the port directly leads to $285 billion in National economic activity, 1.5 million jobs, and $16.2 million in Nation-wide tax revenues. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that if the Houston Ship Channel were closed, it would have a direct negative impact on the economy of approximately $406 million per day.

Americans are now paying nearly $4 for a gallon of gas. Even an attack causing little damage could raise prices at the pump by a dollar or more. The Port of Houston is integral to America’s economy. We must ensure there are no gaps in our security at this port and ensure that terrorists do not wound our economy or harm our citizens by successfully carrying out an attack in Houston.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Texas State and county officials, and industry stakeholders associated with the Port of Houston, have done a great deal to protect this port and its shipping from a terrorist attack. The U.S. Coast Guard, who is present here today, and local police, as the Sheriff is here today, have access to a real-time satellite tracking system that pinpoints the exact size and location of every ship in and around Houston. The Coast Guard has heavily armed vessels patrolling the channel along with the Harris County Sheriff boats. Equally important, Texas established the Houston Ship Channel Security District, a unique industry-Government partnership, to assist protecting the facilities surrounding the ship channel.

The GAO has made several recommendations to mitigate terrorist attacks at ports. It recommends that all participants should plan for meeting the growing security workload as liquefied natural gas shipments increase; that ports should plan for dealing with the economic consequences of an attack; that terrorism and oil spill response plans at the National and local level should be integrated; and that performance metrics should be developed for an emergency response.

I do want to point out another issue, and that is that once the Panama Canal project is complete in 2004 to deepen the Canal, they will be able to accommodate vessels with drafts up to 50 feet. Unfortunately, the Houston Ship Channel cannot accommodate such large ships because it only is dredged to 45 feet. Larger ships will not be able to enter the Houston Ship Channel. Additionally, it is notable that if a ship were sunk in the middle of the Channel, it would effectively cut off commercial traffic in the port until the ship could be refloated and moved. The cost of a shutdown would damage this economy extremely.

Mr. KEATING.  We are going to examine the Port of Houston which links the city of Houston with over 1,053 ports in 203 countries and is, therefore, an excellent location to determine exactly what the best practices are in maritime security. The Port of Houston is one of the largest ports in the world, and it is home to the world’s largest concentration of petroleum facilities and $15 billion in petrochemical complex, which is ranked second in the entire world. Although much attention is given to aviation security since 9/11, and rightly so, we cannot ignore the very real potential of threats that exist in the maritime sector and the steps that must be taken to protect our ports and waterways from the threat of terrorist activity.

My district is also near the Port of Boston, which is the oldest running port in the Western hemisphere. So I am no stranger to the maritime environment, and I look forward to examining the similarities and differences between security measures here in Houston and those in the Port of Boston which supplies 90 percent of the Massachusetts heating and fossil fuels.

Both the Port of Houston and Boston house tankers carrying liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and oil. If a terrorist attack occurred at a port like that and resulted in the explosion of any of these volatile materials, the result would truly be catastrophic. Unfortunately, terrorists overseas have demonstrated that they have the ability to carry out these type of attacks, and the fact that they haven’t occurred here in our country should mean nothing to us. We should be vigilant and ready.

The Chairman mentioned the very real possibility in terms of the suicide boat attacks of the tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen that killed one person, injured 17, and spilled 90,000 barrels of oil. In 2010, the Coast Guard approved shipments of liquefied natural gas from Yemen to our home area within 50 feet of residential neighborhoods, despite concerns that the cargo was coming from a country that has been identified as a terrorist safe haven and has previously experienced terrorist attack of their own.

The economic impact of the Limburg attack included a short- term collapse in international shipping in the Gulf of Aden and, ultimately, cost Yemen $3.8 million a month. If that type of attack ever occurred here and caused a massive oil spill, even larger than the one that occurred in Yemen, we may, once again, experience the type of economic damage that occurred in the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon and its oil spill.

According to Dun and Bradstreet, Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill negatively impacted 7.3 million active businesses in 5 Gulf States, 85% of which were small businesses with less than 10 employees. So this just isn’t a big corporation or big business concern, economically it affects even our small businesspeople. It also affected 34 million jobs, $5.2 trillion in sales, and the price of oil went up.

Mr. GREEN. I represent most of the Port of Houston. I also share the Port of Houston with Congressman Ted Poe and Pete Olson to the east, but where you are standing or sitting today is in our district. As you know, it is the No. 1 foreign tonnage port in the country. It is the lifeblood of the economy in southeast Texas, but I think in the whole country, because of what we produce in refined products and other products in our community. We have five refineries and more chemical plants than I can count. I think if you compare our port security to every other port that I know of in the country, we have done so much more because, again, of the volatility of the products we produce.

Mr. Stephen L. Caldwell, Director of Maritime and Coast Guard Issues, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, Government Accountability Office.  The infrastructure utilized through these transportation resources includes the Colonial Pipeline system, which is the largest petroleum product pipeline system in the Nation and is vital to the demands of energy throughout the Southern part of our Nation and the East Coast. The Nation’s economy and security are heavily dependent on oil, natural gas, and other energy commodities. Bolstering port security in Houston and throughout the country is of paramount concern. The Port of Houston is a 25-mile-long complex of public and private facilities located just a few hours’ sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico.

More than 17 million people live within 300 miles of the city, and approximately 60 million live within 700 miles. The danger is very real that we may be escorting a weapon of mass destruction to its target. For every mile along the Houston Ship Channel that dangerous cargo passes, an additional 2,000 people are at risk. Clearly, once the cargo reaches the city, the risk is at its greatest.

Highlights of GAO–11–883T, Why GAO Did This Study.  The Nation’s economy and security are heavily dependent on oil, natural gas, and other energy commodities. Al-Qaeda and other groups with malevolent intent have targeted energy tankers and offshore energy infrastructure because of their importance to the Nation’s economy and National security.

The U.S. Coast Guard—a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—is the lead Federal agency for maritime security, including the security of energy tankers and offshore energy infrastructure. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also has responsibilities for preventing and responding to terrorist incidents. This testimony discusses the extent to which: (1) The Coast Guard and the FBI have taken actions to address GAO’s prior recommendations to prevent and respond to a terrorist incident involving energy tankers, and (2) the Coast Guard has taken actions to assess the security risks to offshore energy infrastructure and related challenges. The Coast Guard and the FBI have not yet taken action on a fourth recommendation to develop an operational plan to integrate the National spill and terrorism response plans. The Coast Guard has taken actions to assess the security risks to offshore energy infrastructure, which includes Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) facilities (facilities that are involved in producing oil or natural gas) and deep water ports (facilities used to transfer oil and natural gas from tankers to shore), but improvements are needed.

The Nation’s economy and security are heavily dependent on oil, natural gas, and other energy commodities. Nearly half of the Nation’s oil is transported from overseas by tankers. For example, about 49 percent of the Nation’s crude oil supply— one of the main sources of gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, and many other petroleum products—was transported by tanker into the United States in 2009. The remaining oil and natural gas used in the United States comes from Canada by pipeline or is produced from domestic sources in areas such as offshore facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. With regard to these domestic sources, the area of Federal jurisdiction— called the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)—contains an estimated 85 million barrels of oil, more than all onshore resources and those in shallower State waters combined.13 In addition, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), a deepwater port, is responsible for transporting about 10 percent of imported oil into the United States.

As the lead Federal agency for maritime security, the Coast Guard seeks to mitigate many kinds of security challenges in the maritime environment. Doing so is a key part of its overall security mission and a starting point for identifying security gaps and taking actions to address them. Carrying out these responsibilities is a difficult and challenging task because energy tankers often depart from foreign ports and are registered in countries other than the United States, which means the United States has limited authority to oversee the security of such vessels until they enter U.S. waters.

Offshore energy infrastructure also presents its own set of security challenges because some of this infrastructure is located many miles from shore.

Energy tankers face risks from various types of attack. We identified three primary types of attack methods against energy tankers in our 2007 report, including suicide attacks, armed assaults by terrorists or armed bands, and launching a ‘‘standoff’’ missile attack using a rocket or some other weapon fired from a distance. In recent years, we have issued reports that discussed risks energy tankers face from terrorist attacks and attacks from other criminals, such as pirates. Terrorists have attempted—and in some cases carried out—attacks on energy tankers since September 11, 2001. To date, these attacks have included attempts to damage tankers or their related infrastructure at overseas ports. For example, in 2002, terrorists conducted a suicide boat attack against the French supertanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen, and in 2010, an incident involving another supertanker, the M/V M. Star, in the Strait of Hormuz is suspected to have been a terrorist attack

Our work on energy tankers identified three main places in which tankers may be at risk of an attack: (1) At foreign ports; (2) in transit, especially at narrow channels, or chokepoints; and (3) at U.S. ports. For example, foreign ports, where commodities are loaded onto tankers, may vary in their levels of security, and the Coast Guard is limited in the degree to which it can bring about improvements abroad when security is substandard, in part because its activities are limited by conditions set by host nations. In addition, while tankers are in transit, they face risks because they travel on direct routes that are known in advance and, for part of their journey, they may have to travel through waters that do not allow them to maneuver away from possible attacks. According to the Energy Information Administration, chokepoints along a route make tankers susceptible to attacks.

Further, tankers remain at risk upon arrival in the United States because of the inherent risks to port facilities. For example, port facilities are generally accessible by land and sea and are sprawling installations often close to population centers. Our work on energy tankers identified three main places in which tankers may be at risk of an attack: (1) At foreign ports; (2) in transit, especially at narrow channels, or chokepoints; and (3) at U.S. ports. For example, foreign ports, where commodities are loaded onto tankers, may vary in their levels of security, and the Coast Guard is limited in the degree to which it can bring about improvements abroad when security is substandard, in part because its activities are limited by conditions set by host nations. In addition, while tankers are in transit, they face risks because they travel on direct routes that are known in advance and, for part of their journey, they may have to travel through waters that do not allow them to maneuver away from possible attacks. According to the Energy Information Administration, chokepoints along a route make tankers susceptible to attacks. Further, tankers remain at risk upon arrival in the United States because of the inherent risks to port facilities. For example, port facilities are generally accessible by land and sea and are sprawling installations often close to population centers.

We will continue our broader work looking at the security of offshore energy infrastructure, including Coast Guard security inspections and other challenges.  This figure is based on the most recently available data for a full year from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  The OCS is a designation for all submerged lands of which the subsoil and seabed are outside the territorial jurisdiction of a U.S. State, but within U.S. jurisdiction and control.

table 1 number of tankers attached by pirate 2006-2010







As shown in the table, pirate attacks against tankers have tripled in the last 5 years, and the incidence of piracy against tankers continues to rise. From January through June 2011, 100 tankers were attacked, an increase of 37% compared to tankers attacked from January through June 2010. Figure 1 shows one of the recent suspected pirate attacks. In addition, tankers are fetching increasing ransom demands from Somali pirates. Media reports indicate a steady increase in ransoms for tankers, from $3 million in January 2009 for the Saudi tanker Sirius Star, to $9.5 million in November 2010 for the South Korean tanker Samho Dream, to $12 million in June 2011 for the Kuwaiti tanker MV Zirku.

The U.S. Maritime Administration and the Coast Guard have issued guidance for commercial vessels to stay 200 miles away from the Somali coast. However, pirates have adapted and increased their capability to attack and hijack vessels to more than 1,000 miles from Somalia using mother ships, from which they launch smaller boats to conduct the attacks.

International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau operates a Piracy Reporting Center that collects data on pirate attacks worldwide. For more information on U.S. Government efforts to combat piracy, see GAO–10–856, which discusses the Coast Guard’s and other agencies’ progress in implementing efforts to prevent piracy attacks.

Risks to Offshore Energy Infrastructure.  Offshore energy infrastructure also faces risks from various types of attacks. For example, in 2004, a terrorist attacked an offshore oil terminal in Iraq using speedboats packed with explosives, killing two U.S. Navy sailors and a U.S. Coast Guardsman. Potential attack methods against offshore energy infrastructure identified by the Coast Guard or owners and operators include crashing an aircraft into it; using a submarine vessel, diver, or other means of attacking it underwater; ramming it with a vessel; and sabotage by an employee.

In addition to our work on energy tankers, we have recently completed work involving Coast Guard efforts to assess security risks and ensure the security of offshore energy infrastructure. Specifically, our work focused on two main types of offshore energy infrastructure that the Coast Guard oversees for security. The first type are facilities that operate on the OCS and are generally described as facilities temporarily or permanently attached to the subsoil or seabed of the OCS that engage in exploration, development, or production of oil, natural gas, or mineral resources.17 As of September 2010, there were about 3,900 such facilities

Based on Coast Guard records, we found that Coast Guard field units in several energy- related ports had been unable to accomplish many of the port security responsibilities called for in Coast Guard guidance. According to the data we obtained and our discussions with field unit officials, we determined that resource shortfalls were the primary reasons for not meeting these responsibilities. Furthermore, the Coast Guard had not yet developed a plan for addressing new liquefied natural gas (LNG) security resource demands.

According to Coast Guard officials, mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs), such as the Deepwater Horizon, do not generally pose a risk of a terrorist attack since there is little chance of an oil spill when these units are drilling and have not struck oil. However, the officials noted that there is a brief period of time when a drilling unit strikes a well, but the well has yet to be sealed prior to connecting it to a production facility. The Deepwater Horizon was in this stage when it resulted in such a large oil spill. During that period of time, MODUs could be at risk of a terrorist attack that could have significant consequences despite a facility not meeting the production or personnel thresholds. For example, such risks could involve the reliability of blowout preventer valves—specialized valves that prevent a well from spewing oil in the case of a blowout.

The 2009 National Infrastructure Protection Plan, 2010 DHS Quadrennial Review, and a National Research Council evaluation of DHS risk assessment efforts have determined that gaining a better understanding of network risks would help to understand multiplying consequences of a terrorist attack or simultaneous attacks on key facilities. Understanding ‘‘network’’ risks involves gaining a greater understanding of how a network is vulnerable to a diverse range of threats. Examining how such vulnerabilities create strategic opportunities for intelligent adversaries with malevolent intent is central to this understanding. For example, knowing what damage a malicious adversary could achieve by exploiting weaknesses in an oil-distribution network offers opportunities for improving the resiliency of the network within a given budget.

The findings of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill incident illustrate how examining networks or systems from a safety or engineering perspective can bring greater knowledge of how single facilities intersect with broader systems. The report noted that ‘‘complex systems almost always fail in complex ways’’ and cautioned that attempting to identify a single cause for the Deepwater Horizon incident would provide a dangerously incomplete picture of what happened. As a result, the report examined the Deepwater Horizon incident with an expansive view toward the role that industry and Government sectors played in assessing vulnerabilities and the impact the incident had on economic, social, and environmental systems

CAPTAIN JAMES H. WHITEHEAD III, SECTOR COMMANDER, SECTOR HOUSTON-GALVESTON, U.S. COAST GUARD. We also rely heavily on our port partners to be the ‘‘eyes on the water.’’ With an average of 350 daily tow movements in the Houston Ship Channel and more than 100 waterfront facilities with a vigilant security presence, marine industry stakeholders are well-positioned to recognize when things are out of the ordinary and serve as a valuable resource by diligently reporting breaches of security and suspicious activity.

Houston handles over 50 percent of all containerized cargo arriving at Gulf of Mexico ports. Additionally, more than 50 percent of the gasoline used in the United States is refined in this area. With more than 100 petrochemical waterfront facilities, Houston is the second-largest such complex in the world. Major corporations such as Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Saudi ARAMCO, Stolt Nielson, Odfjell USA Inc., Sea River and Kirby Marine have National or international headquarters in Houston.

The Port of Houston accommodates a large number of tankers carrying crude oil, refined products and chemical cargoes. With approximately 9,600 deep draft ship arrivals each year, the Coast Guard maintains a very extensive Port State Control program in the Houston-Galveston area. The Port State Control program ensures the safe carriage of hazardous materials in bulk. Because over 90 percent of cargo bound for the United States is carried by foreign-flagged ships, this National program prevents operation of substandard foreign ships in U.S. waters.

SHERIFF ADRIAN GARCIA, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS.  We have learned about Osama bin Laden, how he had some of the same information showing how important the ship channel is and the Port of Houston is. No doubt would-be terrorists in the United States and foreign countries know this, too. Next time they scheme to kill Americans and disrupt the energy supply of Planet Earth, they may think about targeting the very ground that we are on today.

We keep our electronic eyes trained on the ship channel 24/7 with camera sensors, radar, and other technology. Data from these high technology devices is fed into a monitoring center that we operate on the other side of town 24/7. We help the Coast Guard escort high-value asset vessels. We join the Coast Guard and CBP in boarding ships and scanning ship hulls, and although several operations are highly sensitive, I can tell you that our patrols on land and water have responded to calls for service such as suspicious persons in vehicles, security zone breaches by personal water craft, sunken boats, downed power lines, industrial accidents, security card violations at plant gates, and others.

We are also in touch with pipeline companies, railroads, and emergency planners.

In a very different kind of pioneering outreach, I have established what we call the Incidence Response Forum. We use it to engage the widespread Middle Eastern and South Asian communities in the Houston area. This is a two-way communication pathway for law enforcement to share information with key civic and religious leaders. The spirit in which we started this program several months ago was expressed very well in a Homeland Security memo issued by the Federal Government within the last 3 weeks. It is titled, ‘‘Empowering Local Partners To Prevent Violent Extremism In The U.S.’’ Here is a brief excerpt that refers to the attempts by terrorist groups to recruit American residents:

‘‘Countering radicalization to violence is frequently best achieved by engaging and empowering individuals and groups at the local level to build resilience against violent extremism. Law enforcement plays an essential role in keeping us safe, but so too does engagement and partnership with communities.’’

But our Incident Response Forum has other uses. By sharing information with these constituents, we help protect them against misguided attacks that may stem from terrorist acts anywhere in the world. These leaders can also report hate crimes, help calm tensions that may arise in ethnic communities and provide feedback about the effectiveness of law enforcement by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. We are conducting crisis response exercises with this group.

JAMES T. EDMONDS, CHAIRMAN, PORT OF HOUSTON AUTHORITYThe country’s largest refinery, with a refining capacity of 567,000 barrels a day, is located on the channel. From Houston, refined energy products are delivered over the infrastructure that transports them to every market east of the Rocky Mountains through the networks of roads, rails, and pipelines originating in Houston. This includes the 5,519-mile Colonial Pipeline system, which is the largest petroleum product pipeline system in the Nation and is a vital energy artery for the South and East Coast.

CAPTAIN WILLIAM J. DIEHL (U.S. COAST GUARD, RET.), PRESIDENT, GREATER HOUSTON PORT BUREAU, INC.  The district’s infrastructure improvements include wireless and fiber optic wire communication systems with integrated analytical and intelligence video software, surveillance and detection cameras, night vision, motion detection technology, and additional technology components such as radar, sonar, and sensor packages. We have already added 112 cameras, 69 handheld radiation detectors, two marine side-scan sonar units, four patrol boats, seven patrol trucks, five radar sites, and an underwater remotely- operated vehicle to our regional security picture.

The only way we are going to get there is through our ports. To keep our ports vibrant we need trade agreements, reliable intermodal transportation (i.e., roads, rail, & barge infrastructure) and dredging. Of these three, dredging is the most pressing. We are choking our global competitiveness by not maintaining our ship channels. Currently 8 of our 10 largest ports are not at their authorized width or depths. We can talk today about securing our ports, but if we cannot get ships in or out, then that conversation will not mean much. Needless to say, at the Port Bureau, we are dedicated advocates for

Mr. CALDWELL. This is basically an illustration of the energy supply for the Nation, and when you look at this map, it really brings out the fact that the majority of the energy for the Nation comes right out of here. I know the ExxonMobil refinery refines about 31 percent of the Nation’s energy. If that was taken out by a small vessel like this one, you can imagine the long-term consequences, economic. It could cripple this Nation from an energy standpoint and an economic standpoint. Can both of you speak to that issue in terms of how important this port really is?

Mr. EDMONDS. Something in the neighborhood of 49% of the refined products used in this country every day come from the Houston Ship Channel industries and an eighth of the gasoline consumed every day. So it would be devastating to the economy of the country. The tragedy is you don’t even have to blow up an Exxon. You can just shut off access to the waterway and you shut down all that refining capability. There is something leaving this port 24 hours a day through a pipeline or railcar or truck. So there is all kinds of arteries of movement, and you damage any one of those and that has a devastating economic impact.

Captain DIEHL.  One-third of our economy is associated with global trade, and that trade comes and goes through our ports. Ninety- five to  99 percent of it by tonnage probably comes in and out of our ports by ships. So it is not only the Port of Houston, but it is all our major ports are key to our economy. You shut it down; we are going to start heading towards a recession. What makes us unique as Houston is these refineries. You can shut down a container port and move up the coast to the next container port to deliver those boxes. You can’t package up the refinery and move it. You can’t take those pipelines and pull them out of the ground and shift them over to New Orleans. That is what is unique.

Captain WHITEHEAD. In fact, 2 days from now we have a Yemeni  LNG tanker. We have one coming into the Port Arthur area. Although we don’t have any LNG tankers come into this area, the Houston Ship Channel, but we do have them come into both Freeport, Lake Charles, and Port Arthur. With those, we do take additional measures. We utilize our MSSTs. Our maritime security safety teams assist us in securing the—as well as we work with our port partners when they come in as well to secure the port, make sure that we board the vessel before it even comes in, do security sweep, escort the vessel in. So we take additional security measures with LNG tankers that come into port.

Mr. EDMONDS. Because of our geography and because of weather patterns, we are hurricane prone. So for many, many years we have had a very sophisticated hurricane plan. After 9/11, that was our baseline to begin to build off of to try to apply security issues to that plan because they are very much interrelated. I will say to you that in the most recent situation with Ike, the hurricane plan worked very well. There is a schedule that, as a storm begins to come, we begin to get ships out of the channel, begin to batten down everything until basically everything is secured, including container of wharf grains. Everything is secured and everything is gone or tied down, and it worked very well for us in Ike.

Additional reading

  • GAO, Maritime Security: Federal Efforts Needed to Address Challenges in Preventing and Responding to Terrorist Attacks on Energy Commodity Tankers, GAO–08–141 (Washington, DC: Dec. 10, 2007).
  • GAO, Maritime Security: Actions Needed to Assess and Update Plan and Enhance Collaboration Among Partners Involved in Countering Piracy off the Horn of Africa, GAO– 10–856 (Washington, DC: Sept. 24, 2010);
  • GAO, Maritime Security: Updating U.S. Counterpiracy Action Plan Gains Urgency as Piracy Escalates off the Horn of Africa, GAO–11–449T (Washington, DC: Mar. 15, 2011).
  • GAO, Maritime Security: DHS Progress and Challenges in Key Areas of Port Security, GAO– 10–940T (Washington, DC: July 21, 2010).
  • GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD–00–21.3.1 (Washington, DC: November 1999).




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Wells Fargo created bogus bank accounts and credit cards without customer knowledge, billed them millions

[ I know this is “old news” from 2016, but the drawback of newspapers is that stories aren’t repeated.  What an insane level of corruption we’ve reached! Just look at the financial book list I haven’t yet posted at the bottom. Yet not one banker or wall street firm member went to jail after the mortgage bubble and other illegal actions after the financial crash in 2008.  Get your money out of the big banks before the Republicans shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and there’s no one to protect you.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts:  KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity]

Hongo, H. September 8, 2016. Wells Fargo Is in Trouble for Charging Customers Millions for Bogus Accounts.

On Thursday, federal regulators announced that they were slapping Wells Fargo with a $100 million penalty after discovering employees created hundreds of thousands of bank accounts and credit cards in customers’ names without their knowledge, costing account holders an estimated $2.5 million in fees.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 5,300 Wells Fargo employees have been fired for using “improper sales practices,” which included transferring customers’ funds into newly created, unauthorized accounts to meet incentivized sales goals. In other cases, employees secretly applied for credit cards, signed up for online banking and activated debit cards in customers’ names.

In a 2013 L.A. Times story credited with first uncovering the scheme, former Wells Fargo employees claimed that managers coached workers on how to artificially raise sales numbers to meet the “relentless pressure” of sales quotas:

“They’d just tell the customers: ‘You’re getting a credit card,’” [former banker Erick] Estrada said. He admitted to opening unneeded accounts, though never without a customer’s knowledge, he said.

When customers complained about the unwanted credit cards, the branch manager would blame a computer glitch or say the card had been requested by someone with a similar name, Estrada said.

One former branch manager who worked in the Pacific Northwest described her dismay at discovering that employees had talked a homeless woman into opening six checking and savings accounts with fees totaling $39 a month.

“It’s all manipulation. We are taught exactly how to sell multiple accounts,” the former manager said. “It sounds good, but in reality it doesn’t benefit most customers.”

“This widespread practice gave the employees credit for opening the new accounts, allowing them to earn additional compensation and to meet the bank’s sales goals,” said the CFPB in a press release. “Consumers, in turn, were sometimes harmed because the bank charged them for insufficient funds or overdraft fees because the money was not in their original accounts.”

An analysis commissioned by Wells Fargo found that some 1,534,280 deposit accounts and 565,443 credit card applications may have been created without customers’ knowledge since 2011.

In addition to the $100 million fine—the largest handed out by the CFPB since it was created after the 2008 financial crisis—Wells Fargo has agreed to conduct a comprehensive, independent review of sales practices and pay refunds to all affected customers, who will not be required to take action. At least one former financial regulator, however, questioned whether the penalty was large enough for a bank worth over $250 billion.

“It sounds like a big number, but for a bank the size of Wells Fargo, it isn’t really,” David Vladeck, the former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, told CNN.

In a statement on Thursday, Wells Fargo said it has set aside $5 million for refunds to customers, 100,000 of whom have already been repaid.

“Wells Fargo is committed to putting our customers’ interests first 100% of the time, and we regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request,” said the bank.

Financial corruption booklist (in progress)


Financial cycles and the History of Stock Exchanges

  • The Coffee Trader. David Liss.
  • Reminiscences of a Stock Operator: With New Commentary and Insights on the Life and Times of Jesse Livermore. Edwin Lefèvre.
  • Mobs, Messiahs, & Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance & Politics. William Bonner.
  • Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation. Edward Chancellor

Fraud and Corruption on Wall Street

  • Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street. Michael Lewis
  • Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire. Matt Taibbi
  • The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, & Prosperity—& What We Can Do about It. Les Leopold
  • Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison. Jordan Belfort
  • Fiasco: The Inside Story of a Wall Street Trader. Frank Partnoy
  • Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets. Frank Partnoy
  • Den of Thieves. James B. Stewart
  • Young money. Inside the hidden world of Wall Street’s post-crash recruits. Kevin Roose
  • When Genius Failed: The Rise & Fall of Long-Term Capital Management. Roger Lowenstein
  • The Predators’ Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders. Connie Bruck
  • A Fool and His Money: The Odyssey of an Average Investor . John Rothchild
  • Serpent on the Rock: Crime, Betrayal and the Terrible Secrets of Prudential Bache. Kurt Eichenwald

High Frequency Trading

  • Dark Pools: The Rise of the Machine Traders and the Rigging of the U.S. Stock Market. Scott Patterson.
  • Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. Michael Lewis


  • The New Empire of Debt: The Rise & Fall of an Epic Financial Bubble. William Bonner
  • O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. John Lanchester

Accounting firm corruption

Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed and the Fall of Arthur Andersen. Barbara Ley Toffler

Insurance Deceit and Fraud

  • Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don’t Pay Claim and What You Can Do About It. Jay M. Feinman


The Banksters: Savings and Loan Crisis

  • Big Money Crime: Fraud & Politics in the Savings & Loan Crisis. Kitty Calavita

Real Estate Bubble

  • Reckless Endangerment
  • Housing Bubble Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon by Gretchen Morgenson


  • All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power by Nomi Prins
  • The unauthorized biography. Felix Martin.
  • Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • Catching the Wolf of Wall Street: More Incredible True Stories of Fortunes, Schemes, Parties, and Prison by Jordan Belfort
  • Betrayal: The Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff by Andrew Kirtzman
  • Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend by Mitchell Zuckoff
  • Stolen Without A Gun: Confessions from inside history’s biggest accounting fraud – the collapse of MCI Worldcom by Walter Pavlo
  • Unaccountable: How the Accounting Profession Forfeited a Public Trust by Mike Brewster
  • Blood on the Street: The Sensational Inside Story of How Wall Street Analysts Duped a Generation of Investors by Charles Gasparino
  • Wall Street Versus America: A Muckraking Look at the Thieves, Fakers, and Charlatans Who Are Ripping You Off by Gary Weiss
  • Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and unknowns in the dazzling world of derivatives by Satyajit Das
  • Republic of Debtors: Bankruptcy in the Age of American Independence by Bruce H. Mann
  • Extreme Money: Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk by Satyajit Das
  • Reform of the financial system requires changing our political system Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig
  • Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America by Charles H. Ferguson
Posted in Banking | Leave a comment

We Must Preserve The Earth’s Dwindling Resources For My 5 Children

Brenda Milford. June 28, 2006. We Must Preserve The Earth’s Dwindling Resources For My 5 Children. The Onion. Vol 44 Issue 27

“As we move into the 21st century, it is our responsibility to think of the future of the earth—not for ourselves, but for those who will inherit what my husband and I leave behind when we’re gone. If we do not join together and do what’s best for this, our only planet, there may not be an environment left in which my five children, and their 25 children’s 125 children, can grow up and raise large upper-middle-class families of their own.

Nothing less than the preservation of my descendents’ lifestyle itself is at stake.

Imagine a world devoid of pristine wilderness for my progeny to explore on the weekends in the sport-utility-vehicles of the future, leaving my youngest son, Dylan, with nowhere to blow off steam on off-road adventures. Imagine a world in which my beautiful middle son, Connor, is denied his twice-daily half-hour hot showers because of water shortages. Picture what it would be like for my oldest boy Asher, preparing to start his first semester at Stanford, to have to go without basic amenities such as cable television, satellite radio, central air, or massage chairs, all because of the shortsighted squandering by his parents’ generation of our non-renewable energy sources today.

Though it seems like a far-off nightmare, this terrible vision is all too possible. Would you want to live in a world where my five children had to endure such horrible deprivations? I know I wouldn’t.

If we don’t take action now, my daughters Kimmy and Jenna may not be able to blow-dry their hair for 45 minutes to an hour each morning, nor may my future sons-in-law cut their grass atop enormous, diesel-powered riding mowers. In fact, they may not even have lawns—at least not the lush, verdant kind that requires constant watering and pesticide treatment. It’s conceivable that one day my five children’s spacious yards may be entirely composed of synthetic Astroturf, or—God forbid—those tacky wood chips my sister in Arizona uses.

In a cruel irony, those wood chippings will get more expensive as the world’s timber supply continues to shrink.

Encroaching urban sprawl has already begun to spoil the view from the porch of our beautiful new summer home on Lake Wakenaka. Sadly, the view from the bay windows of our first summer home, the one we built at our Woodland Acres property six years earlier, has already been ruined by such unchecked development. Must my children grow up in a world where only one of their parents’ summer homes is surrounded by the beauty of nature? It’s unthinkable, I know, but we must face facts.

This is to say nothing of the deleterious impact the destruction of our global ecosystems will have on the wildlife my family enjoys hunting. Biodiversity is crucial to another 100 years of deer-, quail-, duck-, bear-, moose-, bobcat-, and bison-shooting summer recreation for my descendants.

We must take steps immediately to devise safe, alternative energy sources that my future offspring can safely consume. If we don’t develop new fuels now, there will be none left for those who issue from my loins to burn and continue to burn for all time. I don’t want my 625-odd great-grandchildren to have to wait 20 or 30 precious seconds for their toilets to flush. I don’t want their 3,125 children to live in a hellish society where they cannot own their own snowmobiles. And I shudder to think that my 15,625 great-great-great-grandchildren may not be able to have TVs in every room that they can leave on all day and all night. Is it our right to deny my progeny of their gargantuan RVs and motorboats, as well? Of course not.

We cannot, in good conscience, lay such a burden on tomorrow’s generations of Melfords. My children are the future. And at the end of the day, isn’t it family—my family—that truly matters?”

Posted in Population | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (excerpts)

Preface. Here are some excerpts to give you a taste of how delightful and well written this book is, hope it inspires young women to go into science.  And something good to read when the grid goes down…

Warning: these are kindle notes meant to give you a sampling of her writing and how hard it is for a woman to succeed in science, plus interesting info about plants, trees, and other topics.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

Hope Jahren. 2017. Lab Girl. Vintage.

PEOPLE LOVE THE OCEAN. People are always asking me why I don’t study the ocean, because, after all, I live in Hawaii. I tell them that it’s because the ocean is a lonely, empty place. There is six hundred times more life on land than there is in the ocean, and this fact mostly comes down to plants. The average ocean plant is one cell that lives for about twenty days. The average land plant is a two-ton tree that lives for more than one hundred years. The mass ratio of plants to animals in the ocean is close to four, while the ratio on land is closer to a thousand. Plant numbers are staggering: there are eighty billion trees just within the protected forests of the western United States. The ratio of trees to people in America is well over two hundred.


People don’t know how to make a leaf, but they know how to destroy one. In the last ten years, we’ve cut down more than fifty billion trees. One-third of the Earth’s land used to be covered in forest. Every ten years, we cut down about 1% of this total forest, never to be regrown. That’s a land area about the size of France. One France after another, for decades, has been wiped from the globe. That’s more than one trillion leaves that are ripped from their source of nourishment every single day. And it seems like nobody cares. But we should care.


The vast emotional distances between the individual members of a Scandinavian family are forged early and reinforced daily. Can you imagine growing up in a culture where you can never ask anyone anything about themselves? Where “How are you?” is considered a personal question that one is not obligated to answer? Where you are trained to always wait for others to first mention what is troubling them, even as you are trained to never mention what is troubling you? It must be a survival skill left over from the old Viking days, when long silences were required to prevent unnecessary homicides during the long, dark winters when quarters were close and supplies were dwindling.


When you go into a forest you probably tend to look up at the plants that have grown so much taller than you ever could. You probably don’t look down, where just beneath your single footprint sit hundreds of seeds, each one alive and waiting. They hope against hope for an opportunity that will probably never come.

When you are in the forest, for every tree that you see, there are at least a hundred more trees waiting in the soil, alive and fervently wishing to be.

The first real leaf is built using only a vague genetic pattern with nearly endless room for improvisation. Close your eyes and think of the points on a holly leaf, the star of a maple leaf, a heart-shaped ivy leaf, a triangular fern frond, the fingery leaves of a palm. Consider that there can easily be a hundred thousand lobed leaves on a single oak tree and that no two of them are exactly the same; in fact, some are easily twice as big as others. Every oak leaf on Earth is a unique embellishment of a single rough and incomplete blueprint.

Light equals life for a plant. As a tree grows, its lower branches become obsolete, too shaded by the newer ones above to be of any further use. A willow tree loads these used branches with reserves, fattens and strengthens them and then dehydrates their base such that they snap off cleanly and fall into the river. Carried away on the water, one out of millions of these sticks will wash up onto a bank and replant itself, and before long that very same tree is now growing elsewhere. What was once a twig will be forced to function as a trunk, stranded under conditions it had never considered. Every willow tree features more than ten thousand such snap-off points; it sheds 10 percent of its branches in this way every single year. Over the decades one—maybe two—of these will successfully take root downriver and grow into a genetically identical doppelgänger.

THE LIFE OF A DECIDUOUS TREE is ruled by its annual budget. Every year, during the short months from March to July, it must grow an entire new canopy of leaves. If it fails to meet its quota this year, some competitor will grow into a corner of its previous space and thus initiate the long, slow process by which the tree will eventually lose its foothold and die. If a tree expects to be alive ten years hence, it has no alternative but to succeed this year, and every year after.

Let’s consider a modest, unremarkable tree—the one living on your street, perhaps. A decorative maple tree, about the height of a streetlight—not a majestic maple reaching its full height in the forest—a demure neighborhood tree that’s only one-quarter the height of its regal counterpart. When the sun is directly overhead, the little maple in our example casts a shadow about the size of a parking space. However, if we pluck off all the leaves and lay them flat, side by side, they would cover three parking spaces. By suspending each leaf separately, the tree has stacked its surface area into a sort of ladder for light to fall down. Looking up, you notice that the leaves at the top of any tree are smaller, on average, than the leaves at the bottom. This allows sunlight to be caught near the base whenever the wind blows and parts the upper branches. Look again and you’ll notice that leaves low in the canopy are of a darker green; they contain more of the pigment that helps each leaf absorb sunshine, allowing them to harvest the weaker rays that penetrate shade. When building foliage, a tree must budget for each leaf individually and allocate for each position relative to the other leaves. A good business plan will allow our tree to triumph as the largest and longest-living being on your street. But it ain’t easy, and it ain’t cheap.

The leaves on our little maple, all taken together, weigh thirty-five pounds. Every ounce therein must be pulled from the air or mined from the soil—and quickly—over the course of a few short months. From the atmosphere, a plant gains carbon dioxide, which it will make into sugar and pith. Thirty-five pounds of maple leaves may not taste sweet to you and me, but they actually contain enough sucrose to make three pecan pies.

The pithy skeleton within the leaves contains enough cellulose to make almost 300 sheets of paper.

In order to accumulate all of the soil nutrients that 35 pounds of leaves require, our tree must first absorb and then evaporate at least eight thousand gallons of water from the soil. That’s enough to fill a tanker truck. That’s enough to keep 25 people alive for a year.


The NSF is a U.S. government agency, and the money that it provides for scientific research comes from tax dollars. In 2013, the budget of the NSF was $7.3 billion. For comparison, the federal budget allocation for the Department of Agriculture—the people responsible for supervising food imports and exports—was about three times that amount. Each year, the U.S. government spends twice as much on its space program as it does on all of its other scientists put together: NASA’s 2013 budget was more than $17 billion. And these discrepancies are nothing compared with the disparity between research and military spending. The Department of Homeland Security, created in response to the events of September 11, 2001, commands an annual budget that is fully five times larger than that of the entire NSF, while the Department of Defense’s mere “discretionary” budget comes to more than sixty times that sum.


One side effect of curiosity-driven research is the inspiring of young people. Researchers generally love their calling to excess, and delight in nothing better than teaching others to love it also; as with all creatures driven by love, we can’t help but breed. You may have heard that America doesn’t have enough scientists and is in danger of “falling behind” (whatever that means) because of it. Tell this to an academic scientist and watch her laugh. For the last thirty years, the amount of the U.S. annual budget that goes to non-defense-related research has been frozen. From a purely budgetary perspective, we don’t have too few scientists, we’ve got far too many, and we keep graduating more each year. America may say that it values science, but it sure as hell doesn’t want to pay for it. Within environmental science in particular, we see the crippling effects that come from having been resource-hobbled for decades: degrading farmland, species extinction, progressive deforestation…The list goes on and on.

$7.3 billion sounds like a lot of money. Remember that this figure must support all curiosity-driven science—not just biology, but also geology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, psychology, sociology, and the more esoteric forms of engineering and computer science as well. Because my work is about learning why plants have been so successful for so long, my research falls within the NSF’s paleobiology program. In 2013, the amount of funding that paleobiology gave out for research was $6 million. This is the entire annual budget for all of the paleontology research that happens in America, and the dinosaur-diggers predictably secure the lion’s share.



A vine that we know by the name “kudzu” arrived in Philadelphia as a gift from Japan to honor the 1876 centennial. Since that time kudzu has expanded to cover a total land area the size of Connecticut. Thick ribbons of kudzu embroider thousands of miles of highways in the American South. Kudzu thrives within the roadside ditches where we throw our beer cans and cigarette butts.


When I was separated from the lab, attending some seminar or conference, it was the series of twisted e-mails from Bill that held me fast to what I loved about my job, even while trapped with pasty middle-aged men who regarded me as they would a mangy stray that had slipped in through an open basement window. There’s a place somewhere where I am part of the in-group, I would remind myself as I stood alone with my buffet dish in some Marriott ballroom, apparently radiating cooties and so excluded from the back-slapping stories of building mass spectrometers during the good old days.


Each time I returned to Georgia Tech from traveling, I tried to throw myself into working even harder. I began to set aside one night a week as an all-nighter (Wednesdays) in order to complete the paperwork that went unattended while I served on committees tasked with documenting the potential obsolescence of chalkboards on campus. I learned that female professors and departmental secretaries are the natural enemies of the academic world, as I was privileged to overhear discussions of my sexual orientation and probable childhood traumas from ten to ten-thirty each morning through the paper-thin walls of the break room located adjacent to my office. By these means I learned that although I was in desperate need of a girdle, I was better off than one of the other female professors, who would never lose all that baby weight by working all of the time.

As hard as I worked, I just couldn’t get ahead. Showers became a biweekly ritual. My breakfast and lunch were reduced to a couple of cans of Ensure from the cases that I kept under my desk, and in desperation, I once threw one of Reba’s Milk-Bones in my purse so that I could gum it during a seminar, trying to keep peoples’ attention off of what I knew would be my growling stomach. The acne that I had never wrestled with as a teenager decided to make up for lost time with a magnificent debut, and I passed the workday biting my nails with ferocity. My brief forays into romance had convinced me that I would be relegated to love’s bargain bin; none of the single guys that I met could understand why I worked all of the time, and nobody wanted to listen to me talk about plants for hours, anyway. Everything about my life looked pretty well messed up compared with how adulthood had always been advertised to me.


Karen left us for the summer in order to accept a coveted internship at the Miami zoo, only to find that most of what zookeepers actually do amounts to pretty routine hygiene maintenance, and that the only thing worse than an animal that doesn’t appreciate this is one who does. Placed upon the lowest rung of the ladder, she was sent to work in the primate enclosure. Karen’s job was to apply anti-inflammatory cream to monkey genitalia, which were in need of daily soothing due to their constant and indiscriminate use. Once the monkeys had recognized her as their new vehicle of relief, they began mobbing her when she entered the room. Bill and I could hardly absorb this story when she told it to us, it was just too wonderful, but it got even better. It turns out that it is a hard-hearted monkey indeed that remains unmoved during a good slathering of bacitracin, and most monkeys proved considerably more responsive to her reluctant manipulations.

The zoo had fitted Karen with a protective plastic shell meant to discourage her charges from clutching on to her and wildly humping her frame, but it wasn’t 100 percent effective. On the upside, her many animal behavior classes had provided her with the intuition necessary to condition these monkeys to the concept of a glory hole; the downside was that seeing them lined up and “standing at attention” through a chain-link fence first thing in the morning was enough to make her rethink a career in veterinary medicine altogether. She returned to our lab after the internship having decided that maybe botany wasn’t so boring after all.


A CACTUS DOESN’T LIVE in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yet. Any plant that you find growing in the desert will grow a lot better if you take it out of the desert. The desert is like a lot of lousy neighborhoods: nobody living there can afford to move. Too little water, too much light, temperature too high: the desert has all of these inconveniences ratcheted up to their extremes. Biologists don’t much study the desert, since plants represent three things to human society: food, medicine, and wood. You’ll never get any of those things from the desert. Thus a desert botanist is a rare scientist indeed and eventually becomes inured to the misery of her subjects. Personally, I don’t have the stomach to deal with such suffering day in and day out.

In the desert, life-threatening stresses aren’t a crisis; they are a normal feature of the life cycle. Extreme stress is part of the very landscape, not something a plant can avoid or ameliorate. Survival depends on the cactus’s ability to tolerate deathly grim dry spells over and over again. If you meet a barrel cactus that’s tall enough to touch your knee, it is likely to be more than twenty-five years old. Cactuses grow slowly in the desert—during the years when they do grow, that is.

A barrel cactus has folds like an accordion, and deep within these folds are the pores that let air in and water evaporate out. When it becomes very dry, a cactus sheds its roots to prevent the parched soil from sucking all the water back out of it. A cactus can live for four days with no roots and still continue to grow. If there is still no rain, the cactus begins to contract, sometimes for months, or until all the folds have closed together. Its spines form a dense and dangerous fur protecting what is now a hard, rootless ball of plant. In this posture, the cactus can sit without growing and await rain for years, while continuously punished by the sun. When it finally rains, the cactus will either return to full functioning within twenty-four hours or show itself to be dead.


When we met Ed in front of the building that housed his laboratory, it was mid-morning on a Tuesday. He took us inside and introduced us all around, proudly telling people that he’d known me since I was a new student, that I was now a professor doing great things.

He told about how he had gone on a soils trip with me and I had slept in my car because I didn’t want to lose valuable daylight hours setting up a tent. He told them that I was the hardest-working student he’d ever seen and that he knew I was special from the first time that he met me.

After he finished, I looked up at Ed and said, “Thank you.” Then I cringed as, one by one, the people to whom I was being introduced sized me up and down, each of them wearing a look with which I was very familiar. It was the look that says, “Her? That can’t be right; there’s a mistake here somewhere.” Public and private organizations all over the world have studied the mechanics of sexism within science and have concluded that they are complex and multifactorial. In my own small experience, sexism has been something very simple: the cumulative weight of constantly being told that you can’t possibly be what you are.


Remaining stationary and naked outside in the below-freezing weather for three months is a death sentence for almost every living thing on Earth, except for the many species of trees that have been doing it for a hundred million years or more. Spruce, pine, birch, and the other species that blanket Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia endure up to six months of frozen weather each year.

In order to prepare for their long winter journey, trees undergo a process known as “hardening.” First the permeability of the cell walls increases drastically, allowing pure water to flow out while concentrating the sugars, proteins, and acids left behind. These chemicals act as a potent antifreeze, such that the cell can now dip well below freezing and the fluid inside of it will still persist in a syrupy liquid form. The spaces between the cells are now filled with an ultra-pure distillate of cell water, so pure that there are no stray atoms upon which an ice crystal could nucleate and grow. Ice is a three-dimensional crystal of molecules, and freezing requires a nucleation spot—some chemical aberration upon which the pattern may start to build. Pure water devoid of any such site may be “super-cooled” to forty degrees below zero and still remain an ice-free liquid. It is in this “hardened” state, with some cells packed full of chemicals and others sectioned off for purity, that a tree embarks on its winter journey, standing unmoved through the frost, sleet, and blizzards of the season. These trees do not grow during winter.

The vast majority of northern trees prepare well for their wintertime journey, and death due to frost damage is extremely rare. A chilly autumn brings on the same hardening as a balmy one, because the trees do not take their cue from the changing temperature. It is the gradual shortening of the days, sensed as a steady decrease in light during each twenty-four-hour cycle, that triggers hardening.

AGRONOMISTS AND FORESTERS have charted the growth of hundreds of plant species, starting in 1879 when a German scientist noticed that the increasing weight of a corn plant, when graphed against the days of its development, resulted in a line with a curious lazy-S shape. These scientists had weighed their potted plants daily, and for the entire first month they saw very little growth. Then, during the second month, the plants’ weights shot up sharply; they doubled in size each week until they reached their maxima at three months of age. The scientists were then surprised to see the weights drop off again, and by the time they began to flower and produce seed, the plants weighed only about 80 percent of what they had been at their largest.

There are botany textbooks that contain pages and pages of growth curves, but it is always the lazy-S-shaped ones that confuse my students the most. Why would a plant decrease in mass just when it is nearing its plateau of maximum productivity? I remind them that this shrinking has proved to be a signal of reproduction. As the green plants reach maturity, some of their nutrients are pulled back and repurposed toward flowers and seeds. Production of the new generation comes at a significant cost to the parent, and you can see it in a cornfield, even from a great distance.

For our experiments, we exploit the most fundamental difference between plants and animals—namely, that most plant tissues are redundant and flexible: a root can become a stem if need be, and vice versa. The fragmentation of a single embryo can lead to several copies of that plant, each with an identical blueprint of genes. New propagation techniques allow us to answer questions like “Does a tree remember extreme malnutrition experienced during childhood?” by starving one seedling for years while lavishing nutrients upon its identical twin. Such experiments are the only way to find definitive answers; they are deeply repugnant and obviously unethical with human subjects. Plants, in contrast, are fair game.


Our world is falling apart quietly. Human civilization has reduced the plant, a four-hundred-million-year-old life form, into three things: food, medicine, and wood. In our relentless and ever-intensifying obsession with obtaining a higher volume, potency, and variety of these three things, we have devastated plant ecology to an extent that millions of years of natural disaster could not. Roads have grown like a manic fungus, and the endless miles of ditches that bracket these roads serve as hasty graves for perhaps millions of plant species extinguished in the name of progress. Planet Earth is nearly a Dr. Seuss book made real: every year since 1990 we have created more than eight billion new stumps. If we continue to fell healthy trees at this rate, less than six hundred years from now, every tree on the planet will have been reduced to a stump. My job is about making sure there will be some evidence that someone cared about the great tragedy that unfolded during our age.


Posted in (Auto)biography | Tagged , | 4 Comments

U.S. House 2013 “Exports and the Changing global energy landscape”

[ My excerpts from the house hearing below is another “let’s export Natural Gas to our allies now that we’re energy independent”.  The driving force is not making even better friends with Europe and keeping bully Russia away (though that’s what’s said). The real reason is higher profits for private oil and gas companies.  Too bad the U.S. never nationalized oil and gas like most nations, because this is a resource we all own.  The government may have conserved and stretched it out longer than the market, which wants its profits this quarter.  And for this giant orgy of excess the market is congratulated over and over again in congressional hearings, because the orgy can continue forever since according the The Market, there can never be a shortage of anything.  The cleverness of the market aided with additional money will simply come up with more of whatever or a replacement. Which sounds a whole like a biblical myth of loaves and fishes raining out of the sky. Yes, capitalism is the most successful way ever devised of plundering the planet for a very tiny fraction of the human population as fast as possible, but do we really want to leave nothing but smoking ruins for future generations ASAP?

Highlights of the testimony:

Former Army Captain Mike Breen says that until we develop alternatives to oil for transportation, the U.S. “has no choice but to do whatever it takes in order to obtain a sufficient supply of oil”.  That means there will be war in the Middle East as long as oil exists.  Breen argues that although the U.S. could save $90 billion a year by abandoning our role of keeping the oil flowing, it would open the door to our adversaries to play that role –a much worse option.  He concludes: No matter how much domestic production picks up, the negative consequences of our single-source oil dependence are likely to persist. Our single-source dependence on oil threatens our national security. Even dramatic increases in domestic oil production will not free us from the global dynamics of this market, or relieve us of our global responsibilities.

Score card (# of times said):

  • Energy Independence. Mike Halleck (3), Fred Upton, MI (3), J. Bennet Johnston (2), Amy Jaffe (1), Eliot L. Enger, NY (1)
  • Energy Abundance: Ed Whitfield, KY (4), Bill Johnson, Bill Johnson (1)
  • Energy Dependence. Mike Breen (3)

How long with energy independence last?

  • Mike Halleck. We have been told 200 to 250 years, some say as many as 500 years.
  • J Bennett Johnston. DOE says we have 100 years of Natural Gas
  • Joe Barton, TX: We think another 500 years (Barnett shale)
  • Michael R. Turner. The U.S. EIA says we have a nearly 100-year supply of natural gas
  • Scott Lincicome. U.S. EIA predicts oil and natural gas production to stay at relatively high levels for decades. The IEA says the U.S. could be a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and “almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035”, and the world’s largest oil producer by 2020 leading to North America’s emergence as a net oil exporter by 2035.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

House 113-38. May 7, 2013. Exports and the changing global energy landscape. U.S. House of Representatives. 141 pages.


Mike Breen, Executive Director Truman National Security Project & Center for National Policy.  

As a former Army Captain and an Iraq & Afghanistan combat veteran, I am also proud to be one of the leaders of Operation Free. It is a non-partisan, nationwide coalition of more than five thousand veterans who believe that our dependence on oil poses a clear national security threat to the United States. To be clear, oil is immensely important to our economy and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Its value goes far beyond its utility as a liquid fuel. Petroleum is a key input in advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, and a host of other applications. Unfortunately, however, our near-total dependence on oil as a fuel has eclipsed petroleum’s other contributions, threatening our prosperity and security.

Our dependence on oil as a single source of transportation fuel poses a clear national security threat.

As things now stand, our modern military cannot operate without access to vast quantities of it. Our economy is equally dependent, with more than 93% of our transportation sector reliant on oil.

Oil is a vital strategic commodity, a substance without which our national security and prosperity cannot be sustained. Until and unless we develop alternatives, the United States has no choice but to do whatever it takes in order to obtain a sufficient supply of oil.

Recent technological advancements, such as horizontal drilling and advanced hydraulic fracturing, are promising. They offer the chance to increase domestic production, allowing us to reach supplies of oil that were, until recently, too expensive or impossible to obtain. These advances have led some to claim that the United States is suddenly capable of producing enough oil domestically to meet our needs. They believe that this will solve our oil-related economic and national security problems.

Yet, even if U.S. oil imports dropped dramatically, geostrategic problems would persist. And though we do not always share the same oil sources as our international partners, our security is put at risk by their volatility. For instance, in December 2011, Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway that ships one-fifth of the world’s supply of oil. This resulted in global oil prices jumping 2%, exceeding $100 dollars a barrel. Words alone were able to drive up the cost of oil in markets from the Gulf to Asia.

Meanwhile, global demand for oil is rising at a breathtaking pace, with no sign of slowing down in the foreseeable future. While American demand has been very high but relatively static for some time, demand in China, India and the developing world is skyrocketing. According to the Energy Information Administration, America’s oil consumption is expected to grow by 11% over the next two decades. Meanwhile, in that same timespan, China’s oil consumption is expected to grow by 80%, and India’s by 96% (5). And by the end of the decade, China alone is expected to sell more than 30 million cars per year (6). To put that in perspective, last year about 76 million cars were sold worldwide. It is unrealistic at best to imagine that increasing production can somehow keep up with such dramatically rising demand.

Further, because the price of oil is set on a global market, it is subject to events outside of our control or influence. All of us agree that the United States should not be subjected to the whim of hostile or unstable regimes with nationalized oil assets. The U.S. currently patrols and secures the world’s most critical shipping routes. Some contend that, by producing more at home, we could relinquish many of those responsibilities. Indeed, a recent RAND study estimated that if the military were to stop defending oil supplies and sea routes from the Persian Gulf to the US , it would save between 12 to 15% of the entire defense budget–more than $90 billion dollars annually.

But imagine if we did disengage from this duty. A number of our adversaries would recognize this as an opportunity, and our allies would be faced with serious challenges. Look at the Asia-Pacific market where 85% of the oil shipped through the Strait of Hormuz today — which supplies one-fifth of all oil traded worldwide — goes toward Asia , not the United States. The oil then transits the Indian Ocean and enters the North Pacific through the Strait of Malacca, a razor-thin chokepoint constantly under threat of piracy, terrorist activity and hijacking. According to the EIA, if the Strait of Malacca was blocked, nearly half of the world’s shipping fleet would be required to reroute. Hostile actors have taken notice. According to documents seized during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda was planning to highjack and destroy oil tankers in the Straits. The documents called for Al Qaeda operatives to practice running tankers aground in shipping chokepoints, severely disrupting global commerce.

But more than the security of oil flows is at stake. The Strait, together with the surrounding South China Sea, is at the center of a complex dispute between China and a number of smaller Asian nations.

Appropriately, the U.S. has taken a strong interest in this dispute, working to prevent China from bullying its smaller neighbors and putting freedom of navigation at risk. Indeed, in 2011, China and Vietnam came dangerously close to open conflict in the South China Sea. If the U.S. pulls out of the Pacific and Indian Ocean, who will step in to fill the void? China would likely be more than willing. Few others would be capable. India could develop into a true naval power given time, but has so far shown great reluctance to step forward as a provider of regional security. Our partners in Asia, including Japan and South Korea, would risk inflaming tensions with China if they chose to step forward to secure vital sea lanes themselves. In short, an American pull-back would tempt our rivals into even greater military activity while placing our allies at risk.

No matter how much domestic production picks up, the negative consequences of our single-source oil dependence are likely to persist. Today, the Syrian resistance movement is being gunned down with bullets supplied by Putin’s oil-rich Russia. American Soldiers and Marines are confronting terrorists in Afghanistan armed with Iranian weapons, purchased with oil money. Our forward operating bases are put in danger every time a fuel convoy is attacked. In every case just mentioned, American national security is significantly threatened.

Our single-source dependence on oil threatens our national security. Even dramatic increases in domestic oil production will not free us from the global dynamics of this market, or relieve us of our global responsibilities. 

[ In response to a question about global warmings effect on national security]: We have done quite a bit of [research], as has, much more importantly, the Pentagon and the intelligence services. The consensus is that this poses a serious national security threat. The Natural Security Advisor Tom Donilon just gave a speech to that effect a couple of weeks back, saying that national security is threatened by climate. Recently the commander of our forces in the Pacific was asked what his top national security concern was, which I think is an interesting question, given that he is responsible for China, North Korea and a whole host of other issues in the Pacific, and his answer was climate. If you look at the accelerants of instability and the threats that come from this, with regard to terrorism, but also with regard to mass population migrations, terrorist recruiting, all kinds of issues, it is pretty clear that we are going to be dealing with this. And, as General Zinni likes to say, we can pay down now, and the cost will be in treasure, or we can pay down later, and the cost will be treasure and blood.

ED WHITFIELD, KENTUCKY. Today’s hearing is on U.S. energy abundance, exports and changing global energy landscape. America’s growing energy production is a game changer, and today’s hearing explores the geopolitical benefits of the U.S. becoming a world leader in energy production and exports. As we have discussed in previous hearings, America’s energy abundance is creating employment opportunities and growth at a time when little else in the economy is going as well, and that alone is enough reason to support domestic energy production. But while this energy abundance is a source of jobs at home, it can also be a force for good and competition around the world, and it is this potential that we hope to address today.

Until a few years ago most of us assumed that the U.S. was well past its peak in terms of domestic energy production and that we would become increasingly dependent on imports, particularly oil imports from OPEC nations.  Many feared the same thing was happening with natural gas, and some even worried about an emerging OPEC-like natural gas cartel dominated by Russia and Iran.

This committee held many hearings discussing the grave geopolitical consequences of global energy markets dominated by nations that do not necessarily share our values and who are not shy about using energy exports to exert leverage over other countries. But now the tables are turning, thanks to American innovations in hydraulic fracking and directional drilling that is expanding the supply of domestic oil and natural gas. Instead of being beholden to energy exporting nations, we are fast becoming one ourselves.

Perhaps nowhere is the reversal more stark than with natural gas. Debates about natural gas used to center around whether to permit facilities to import supplies of liquid natural gas from abroad to help make up for dwindling domestic production. But now these would be import terminals are being reproposed as export terminals. The reason for this reversal is that domestic natural gas production is now rising so fast that there is more than enough to meet domestic demand affordably and export the surplus to nations that need it, such as Japan and Great Britain.

I might add that the benefits of energy exports also apply to coal.

Not only should we be focused of course on natural gas and oil and coal, but we need also to focus on pipelines, port facilities, and other infrastructure investments necessary to make full use of our energy abundance.

None of this can happen if we shut the door on domestic energy production. For this reason, we need to address the fact that the Obama administration continues to keep most federal lands off-limits to energy leasing and that regulatory efforts may be underway to crack down on hydraulic fracturing.

The Obama administration’s four-year delay in making a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project is a warning sign that the infrastructure approval process is badly broken and needs to be fixed.

The benefits of being an energy-exporting nation could also be derailed if we place unnecessary restrictions on these exports. Some argue that exports of natural gas will create domestic shortages and serious price spikes in the U.S. But, with resource assessments continuing to be revised upward and studies from the Department of Energy and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council touting the net economic benefits that are strongly positive, these fears are becoming more and more unfounded.

BILL  JOHNSON, MISSOURI. You talk about energy abundance and job creation through domestic energy production, nowhere in the Nation is that happening any more prevalently than in eastern and southeastern Ohio. We sit on top of the Marcellus and the Utica shale, and so many, many opportunities are coming our way.

Mike Halleck, President of Columbiana County board of commissioners, Ohio.  Why not pursue exportation to countries that we have open trade with. It would seem to me that not only would this stabilize prices, but give the United States a different standing in the world and make a statement of energy independence. A recent report by Secretary Chu and the energy department seemed to suggest something along this same line of thinking. Several members of Congress seem to share this same school of thought in a recent letter to Secretary Chu. It was refreshing to see the non-partisan signatures on this letter. After all, energy independence is not and should not be a partisan issue.

If the estimates, and I am sure a lot of the reports have been maybe overly optimistic, but even if they are just optimistic, they are overwhelming in terms of the supply that we would have. In fact, Senator Johnston and I were talking earlier, in my humble opinion it would seem to me that if—we were talking about flaring—if we get to the point where natural gas is too cheap, then, for lack of a better term, they would turn off the spigot. I think it not only would stabilize prices, but certainly give us a sense of energy independence.

FRED UPTON, MICHIGAN. Today’s hearing continues the subcommittee’s look into what is becoming a welcome theme: how American energy abundance is rewriting the playbooks for all levels of energy policy. This new strategy is a reality, resulting from advancements in innovation and technology, has game-changing potential for America’s energy future with more jobs, lower prices, and, yes, less volatility, as we will hear today, has far-reaching implications abroad as well. As we learned at our February hearing, U.S. energy resources are vastly abundant and growing, with technology continuing to evolve and new areas of the country becoming centers for exploration and production.

It is not just Texas, Alaska, and Louisiana anymore, but places like Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, even California who are in the process of developing or considering developing new oil and gas resources from domestic shale. This diverse geographic abundance is helping to ease the volatility of the recent past, where prices were becoming increasingly vulnerable to hurricanes and geopolitical turmoil, to create a new North American gas market that is becoming the envy of the world.

America’s natural gas movement is creating competitive opportunities domestically for manufacturing and technology, as well as international opportunities to help our allies reduce their reliance on geopolitically unstable regions of the world. And I believe that our abundance means that we can have both new jobs from a renaissance in the energy and manufacturing sectors, along with new diplomatic strength from using these resources to reinforce our ties to important allies and trading partners. Our changing energy landscape will in fact produce both economic growth and real gains.  We are in the midst of a budding success story about American prosperity, jobs, and national power. We are continuing to produce valuable energy resources safely and responsibly around the country.

JOE BARTON, TEXAS.  I don’t think it is a secret that I am a supporter of free markets and a robust American energy policy. Currently our oil and gas sector is creating about 9 million jobs a year and sending in taxes more than $30 billion to the Federal Treasury every year. We have the blessing of the Lord on our side in the United States that the latest estimates, although it is difficult to estimate, we think over 2,000 trillion feet of natural gas resides beneath our lands in the United States, 2,000 trillion feet. Because of past laws, we give the Department of Energy the right to make a decision on exports and natural gas, if it is not to a country where we already have a free trade agreement. There are currently 19 of those applications pending, one has been approved. It would be my hope that several more are approved in the near future. If you believe in free markets this is a win-win. You only make an agreement if it benefits the seller and it benefits the buyer. In this case the seller is the American economy and the jobs that are created in America. And the winner overseas is the increased economic prosperity because they get natural gas from the United States that is orders of magnitude less expensive than it is from any other supplier.

BOBBY L. RUSH, ILLINOIS.  With the technological advances in the area of energy production and the prevalence of shale oil and gas due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, today’s hearing is both timely and very necessary. Not long ago experts predicted that the U.S. would be forced to rely on increased natural gas imports in order to meet our energy demands. However, today we are seeing a boom in domestic production of oil and natural gas due to fracking and horizontal drilling. And now we must consider whether the U.S. should become a net exporter of natural gas, and, if so, over what period of time.

Between 1990 and 2012, natural gas production in the U.S. increased by 34%, and the EIA projects that under existing policies natural gas production will rise by an additional 39% by the year 2040. In fact, in a National Journal article dated April 30th, 2013, entitled ‘‘The U.S. Has Much, Much More Gas and Oil Than We Thought,’’ it was noted that the U.S. has double the amount of oil and 3 times the amount of natural gas than previously thought stored deep under the States of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. This was according to new data that was released by the Obama administration. The article went on to note that in just the Bakken and Three Forks plays alone the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that there are 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 6.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas waiting to be tapped. While the EIA predicts that under existing policies U.S. Total natural gas consumption will increase from 24.4 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 29.5 trillion cubic feet in 2040, the agency also notes that as domestic production outpaces consumption the U.S. could become a net exporter of natural gas by the year 2020. In fact, President Obama reiterated this fact personally this past weekend during the development forum in Costa Rica where he indicated that he may be close to making a decision on whether or not the U.S. should become a net exporter of natural gas.


I don’t really believe in energy scarcity. I think new supplies are pulled up all the time. They are based on technology like fracking. It wasn’t very many years ago that we had almost not heard of shale gas. George Mitchell, an old friend of mine went in with some DOE money and created that new technology, which has revolutionized America. Bakken oil and the Bakken shale has revolutionized my colleague’s home State. So I think there is not the scarcity that some talk about. I think we can be energy independent in this country, and I think it is a goal we should pursue.

I disagree with the EPA on some things, agree with them on others. Certainly we need the highest environmental standards, which I think we can, consistent with energy independence. One of the things that neither EPA nor any other agency can do is allocate resources, and that really is the heart of my point today, that government regulatory bodies just can’t allocate resources.

The Department of Energy says we have 100 years of natural gas. They say that by 2020 supply will go up by 40%, while demand will go up only 20%. The amount of natural gas seems to be growing every week. Just last week The Washington Post reported that Williston Basin has 3 times as much natural gas as they thought. They also said, by the way, that China has 50% more natural gas than the United States has. DOE commissioned a study from Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a definitive study, which indicates that we can safely export natural gas without any untoward effect on the price—no price spikes, no difficulty in terms of supply.  That  is argued against by some of the chemical companies, principally Dow Chemical, who says, if you have unfettered exports, then that is going to lead to supply disruptions, price spikes, and other difficulties. So the issue I would like to speak about today is the question of how to allocate this huge beneficence of natural gas in the United States. Is it by regulation or is it by the free market?  In my judgment, and my experience has been that the market is the best way to do that allocation.

It takes 5 to 7 years and $10 billion to $20 billion to have an [LNG] export terminal, with the trains and the ships and the gas facilities on the other end.

We had the Fuel Use Act of 1978 where they prevented natural gas from being burned under boilers, and that turned out to be a disaster, the Congress didn’t know how to allocate the highest and best use of natural gas. And just in case you think that since I left the Senate that the regulators are doing any better job, just look at electric cars. The President says we are going to have a million electric cars in a couple of years. We have got less than 100,000 now.  And how about ethanol? We are supposed to have 36 billion gallons of ethanol, over half of that cellulosic ethanol. Right now, according to their estimates, we should be having 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol. You know how many we have got? Less than a million gallons, less than 1/500, and the prospects are not any better.

BYRON DORGAN, Bipartisan Policy Center, former senator of North Dakota.

We add 200,000 people to the planet every single day. We added Dallas, Texas, net to the planet every week. We are headed towards 9 billion people. They are going to want to have refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioners. They are going to want to drive cars as well that are going to need to stop at a fuel station once or twice a week—or let’s hope once every 2 weeks. My point is the growing demand as a result of increased population will continue.

JAMES BRADBURY, Senior Associate, Climate and Energy Program, World Resources Institute.

LNG exports will lead to an increase in domestic production of shale gas, which will have important environmental implications, including an increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. One major emission source is leaks from natural gas infrastructure.  Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas, with a warming effect that is at least 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. These fugitive emissions represent lost product and reduced revenue for companies and governments, with negative consequences for air quality, local environment, and the climate. In 2011 methane leaks from domestic natural gas infrastructure resulted in more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the direct and indirect emissions from U.S. iron and steel, cement and aluminum manufacturing combined. These upstream emissions, along with emissions associated with the liquefaction, transport, and regasification of LNG, significantly reduce the relevant advantage that exported natural gas would have over coal or oil from a climate perspective. The bottom line is that the projected expansion of domestic oil and gas production increases the risk of higher greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. EPA estimated that the scale of leaked methane from global natural gas and oil systems is projected to be 10 times greater than IEA’s estimated CO2 reductions resulting from a future with more abundant natural gas.

Mr. BARTON. Mr. Halleck, as s person who is living in the real world in Ohio, what is the long-term expectation to the local economy in your area because of the Marcellus drilling activity? Is it positive, negative, short term, or is the expectation that it is going to create a stable employment base for decades to come?

Mr. HALLECK. We have been told that it is certainly 20 to 25 years. There have been some who has told us it is as much as 50 [years], but I think conservatively 20 to 25 years.

Mr. BARTON. We have the Barnett shale down in my part of Texas, and we think another 50 years. And it is not nearly as big a reserve base as the Marcellus is.

Ms. JAFFE.  As you know, we have more than a dozen LNG import facilities that were built that are going to be empty for the foreseeable future, maybe for 20 to 30 years. And obviously if the industry could forecast correctly how many facilities we need for export or import, we wouldn’t have all these bankrupt facilities now that are sitting empty for importation.

I think the point that we really warrant to focus on is that the United States has this ability, which we have never had before, sort of like the opposite of Russia being able to cut people off, right? We might have the ability to supply our allies or to supply other countries. As we become more energy independent, and I really believe the combination of our improving efficiency of automobiles, combined with deep water and combined with the shale play. And when we get to that point, we are going to have a lot of opportunities. We are going to have the opportunity to step up to the plate and be the swing producer to the global market like the United States was in the 1960s. So we will have the opportunity if we have an ally that is having an energy problem, we will have the opportunity to offer energy aid through sales of exports. And indeed we might be able to use our Strategic Petroleum Reserve more flexibly if we have an ally that has a supply disruption. So if you think about it, during Hurricane Rita and Katrina, how we got past our terrible shortages in Houston and other cities was we were able to borrow gasoline from the emergency stockpile of Europe. And we, the United States, could wind up being in a position to be able to be a key supplier. We will be able to use our energy relationships to strengthen our national power. And when we have a better trade balance it will make us stronger in the global economy, we will be able to stand up to China in a different way because we are going to be an energy exporter when they are an energy importer. They are going to have the energy dependence that we have been talking about for 30 years and we are going to be a major energy supply source.

ELIOT L. ENGEL, NEW YORK.   Several years ago I founded the Oil and National Security Caucus, and one of the reasons I have an open mind about all of this is that I think that we cannot really be free with our policies as long as we rely on foreign oil. And so anything that can ramp up production of domestic resources for energy is something that I think we should look at, albeit there are some safety concerns, there are some environmental concerns. But I think it is something that we need to look at. So I have been focused on North American energy independence, and the increase in natural gas supplies obviously are a boon to this possibility.

Ms. JAFFE. I think the one thing you need to bear in mind, because of course markets change, and I know there is a concern, first people are telling us we don’t have enough resource and then suddenly we have this hugely abundant supply. I think the point is that nothing is irreversible. So we can allow LNG exports, they can bring a benefit to our trade balance and our international stature. And if some later date 30 years from now or 20 years from now we find that that policy no longer fits we might have different circumstances, we can revisit it. I don’t see that it is necessarily going to be a threat to our energy security.  There is a lot of opinion about how much resource we have. I do believe that the resource is so extensive that we probably could export a substantial amount from several terminals and have it actually not affect prices all that much except maybe occasionally seasonally.



Michael R. Turner.  Helping our allies diversify their energy resources is important to strengthening our strategic partnerships and bolstering security, That is why I authored H.R. 580, the Expedited LNG for American Allies Act, which seeks to help bolster our alliances, reduce the trade deficit and boost job growth right here at home. Specifically, the bill streamlines the regulatory process to export natural gas to NATO countries, Japan and possibly others.

Over the last several years, exploration and development of U.S. natural gas, particularly shale gas has increased significantly. The United States is one the largest producers of natural gas in the world, and according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), has nearly a 100-year supply. In fact, last week, the Department of the Interior announced that there is three times the amount of shale gas in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana than previously estimated.

Submitted to the record: Scott Lincicome, “License to Dril: the Case for modernizing America’s Crude oil and natural gas export licensing systems (Herbert A. Stiefel center for trade policy studies, Free Trade Bulletin #50, February 21, 2013

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, domestic production of crude oil and natural gas has skyrocketed in recent years and is projected to stay at relatively high levels for decades, even assuming existing state and federal restrictions on production and transport.   According to a November 2012 report by the International Energy Agency, the United States could become a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and will be “almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035” (IEA a).  That same report estimates that the United States will become the world’s largest oil producer by around 2020, causing North America to emerge as a net oil exporter by 2035 (IEA b)

IEA a. November 12, 2012. North America Leads Shift in Global Energy Balance, IEA says in latest world energy outlook. Press release

IEA b. November 12. “World Energy Outlook 2012 Executive Summary”. International Energy Agency.

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Promoting abstinence and fidelity does nothing to reduce teen pregnancies or HIV

Preface. One of the goals of Christian evangelists and fundamentalists is to get enough Supreme Court justices who will stop sex education and ban contraceptives. Bad timing, free birth control and abortion are desperately needed to get the human population down to a carrying capacity of a civilization without fossil fuels, roughly a billion or so people world-wide and 100 million or less in the United States.  That would greatly minimize the death toll and suffering on the other side of the net energy cliff.

Not only that, but spending money on programs to promote abstinence has now been shown to be totally ineffective and a waste of money.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Richter, R. May 2, 2016. Promoting abstinence, fidelity for HIV prevention is ineffective. Stanford University.

Since 2004, the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, has supported local initiatives that encourage men and women to limit their number of sexual partners and delay their first sexual experience and, in the process, help to reduce the number of teen pregnancies. However, in a study of nearly 500,000 individuals in 22 countries, the researchers could not find any evidence that these initiatives had an impact on changing individual behavior.

“Overall we were not able to detect any population-level benefit from this program,” said Nathan Lo, a Stanford MD/PhD student and lead author of the study. “We did not detect any effect of PEPFAR funding on the number of sexual partners or upon the age of sexual intercourse. And we did not detect any effect on the proportion of teen pregnancy.

“We believe funding should be considered for programs that have a stronger evidence basis,” he added.

PEPFAR was launched in 2004 by President George W. Bush with a 5-year, $15 billion investment in global AIDS treatment and prevention in 15 countries. However, the program’s initial requirement that one-third of the prevention funds be dedicated to abstinence and “be faithful” programs has been highly controversial. Critics questioned whether this approach could work and argued that focusing only on these methods would deprive people of information on other potentially lifesaving options.

Abstinence, faithfulness funding continues

In 2008, the one-third requirement was eliminated, but U.S. funds continued to flow to abstinence and “be faithful” programs, albeit at lower levels. In 2008, $260 million was committed to these programs, but by 2013 by that figure had fallen to $45 million.

“Spending money and having no effect is a pretty costly thing because the money could be used elsewhere to save lives.

Although PEPFAR continues to fund abstinence and faithfulness programs as part of its broader behavior-based prevention efforts, there is no routine evaluation of the success of these programs. “We hope our work will emphasize the difficulty in changing sexual behavior and the need to measure the impact of these programs if they are going to continue to be funded,” Lo said.

Teenage pregnancy rates among a total of 27,000 women in both PEPFAR-funded and nonfunded countries and found no difference in rates between the two.

Bendavid noted that, in any setting, it is difficult to change sexual behavior. For instance, a 2012 federal Centers for Disease Control analysis of U.S.-based abstinence programs found they had little impact in altering high-risk sexual practices in this country.

“Changing sexual behavior is not an easy thing,” Bendavid said. “These are very personal decisions. When individuals make decisions about sex, they are not typically thinking about the billboard they may have seen or the guy who came by the village and said they should wait until marriage. Behavioral change is much more complicated than that.

The one factor that the researchers found to be clearly related to sexual behavior, particularly in women, was education level. Women with at least a primary school education had much lower rates of high-risk sexual behavior than those with no formal education, they found.

“One would expect that women who are educated have more agency and the means to know what behaviors are high-risk,” Bendavid said. “We found a pretty strong association.

See the full press release here.



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The mega rich are escaping to New Zealand

[ Ummm, it’s obvious that China and other overpopulated Asian nations will invade New Zealand (and Australia) eventually.  And also in hard times, non-natives are among the first to go…

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Emma O’Brien. November 5 2016. The Mega rich have found an unlikely new refuge. Bloomberg.

When Hong Kong-based financier Michael Nock wanted a place to escape in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, he looked beyond the traditional havens of the rich to a land at the edge of the world, where cows outnumber people two-to-one.

Nock, the founder of hedge fund firm Doric Capital bought a retreat 9300 km away in New Zealand’s picturesque Queenstown. In the seven years since, terror threats in Europe and political uncertainty from Britain to the US have helped make the South Pacific nation – a day by air away from New York or London – a popular bolthole for the mega wealthy.

Isolation has long been considered New Zealand’s Achilles heel. That remoteness is turning into an advantage, however, with hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson to Russian steel titan Alexander Abramov and Hollywood director James Cameron establishing multi-million-dollar hideaways in the New Zealand countryside.

“The thing that was always working against New Zealand – the tyranny of distance – is the very thing that becomes its strength as the world becomes more uncertain,” Nock, 60, said by phone from Los Angeles during a recent business trip.

Nock’s estate is named “Giverny” after artist Claude Monet’s iconic home and garden in northern France, and the “funny old farmhouse” is surrounded by ponds and mature plants, he said. Nock is converting a barn into an art studio on the property, which overlooks Queenstown’s Shotover River – a fast-flowing, turquoise stretch of water that tourists speed down on jet boats and whitewater rafts.

Twice the size of England, but with less than a tenth of its people, New Zealand ranks high on international surveys of desirable places to live, placing among the top 10 for democracy, lack of corruption, peace and satisfaction. With its $NZ250 billion economy dominated by farming and tourism, the nation last week overtook Singapore as the best country in the world to do business and was rated second to the Southeast Asian nation as the top place to live for expatriates in a survey by HSBC Holdings in September.

House prices in New Zealand increased 12.7 per cent in the year through October, and the average price in largest city Auckland has almost doubled since 2007 to more than $1 million.

Chinese retirees

Jack Ma, founder of e-retailing behemoth Alibaba Group Holding and China’s richest man, told Prime Minister John Key in April that he’d like to buy a home in his country, according to the New Zealand Herald. At least 20 of Ma’s 40-something colleagues have retired there, the newspaper said.

Key, a former currency trader, once described New Zealand as “England without the attitude.” It’s changed leaders just twice in almost 17 years and the last hint of terrorism came a generation ago, when French spies bombed a Greenpeace campaigning ship docked in Auckland harbor in 1985.

It’s that kind of stability that’s attracting a wave of Brexit-inspired migration to the island nation that gained prominence as the otherworldly backdrop to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.

New Zealand received 998 registrations from UK nationals interested in moving to the country the day after the referendum on European Union membership, versus 109 the day before the vote, according to data from the immigration department. That grew to 10,647 registrations in the 49 days after June 23, more than double the same period a year earlier.

Escaping hell

“If the world is going to go to hell in a hand basket, they’re in the best place they could possibly be,” said David Cooper, director of client services at Malcolm Pacific Immigration in Auckland, the country’s biggest migration agency. “People want to get the hell out of where they are and they feel that New Zealand is safe.”

Cooper has seen an uptick in inquiries from US citizens over the past few months, he said, with the increasingly raucous presidential fight between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as the recent spate of mass shootings, cited as reasons to flee.

Kim Dotcom

“The world is heading into a major crisis,” said internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom in October. “I saw it coming and that’s why we moved to New Zealand. Far away & not on any nuclear target list.” The German-born founder of was granted residency in 2010, but is now fighting attempts to extradite him to the US.

Successful Kiwis who have worked in investment banking and other lucrative professions in New York and London are also returning home to raise their families, said Ollie Wall, a realtor with Auckland-based Graham Wall Real Estate. The firm helped broker New Zealand’s most expensive house sale in 2013, when a seven-bedroom mansion on the city’s Paritai Drive was sold to a China-born businessman for $39 million.

“The world has got smaller,” Wall said in an email. “You can run multinational corporations from paradise now. So why wouldn’t you?”

Fidelity National Financial Chairman Bill Foley owns a luxury homestead in the Wairarapa region north of Wellington, and Robertson, chair of Tiger Management LLC in New York, owns two of the nation’s most prestigious golf courses and a luxury lodge overlooking Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu. He says New Zealand is “the most beautiful place on Earth”.

Billionaire Facebook backer Peter Thiel described New Zealand as a “utopia” in 2011 and is reported to have bought residential property in Auckland and Queenstown. Thiel and a spokesman for the PayPal co-founder didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.

New Zealand has actively courted the wealthy. For an investment of $NZ10 million in local assets or funds over a three-year-period, migrants can qualify for residency provided they spent 44 days in New Zealand in each of the two latest years. These investors don’t have to speak English or live for a set amount of time in the country after the qualification period. They also don’t have to become tax residents.

Since the program started six years ago, 121 people have gained so-called Investor Plus visas, and more than 800 have secured a residency pass that requires a $1.5 million investment over four years, government data show.

“It provides a bolthole, a place for ‘just in case’,” said Willy Sussman, a partner at Auckland law firm Bell Gully, which has worked with wealthy migrants from all over the world.

The desire for a haven nestled among snow-capped alps close to an international airport helped house prices in Queenstown increase at more than twice the pace of Auckland in the year through October, reaching an average of $974,564.

Mark Harris, managing director of the town’s Sotheby’s Realty office, said he has sold properties for more than $20 million, including ones with private landing strips.

“We hedge fund people all love optionality,” said Nock, the part-time Queenstown resident from Hong Kong. “Will I live in New Zealand permanently? I’m not sure, but I want the optionality of being able to do that.”



Posted in Where are the rich going | 7 Comments

Bill Bonner escapes to Argentina

[ The Dailyreckoning warned about the crash before 2000, and the coming housing bubble very early on (it is absurd that the media often says the housing bubble was unpredictable), the rank corruption of wall street and banks, detested Greenspan, and was fun to read as well, as you can see below.  But I stopped reading the dailyreckoning because Bonner and Wiggin didn’t seem aware of Peak Oil and Peak everything else, Limits to Growth, and the rest of the big picture view (biodiversity loss, topsoil erosion, aquifer depletion, nuclear waste, etc.).  They relentlessly advised buying gold and silver for protection.  That might be good for whatever descendants of yours survive collapse 20 years down the road, but in the short run during collapse, using gold and silver will make you the target of gangsters, mafias, and paramilitaries.  In past financial crashes it wasn’t long before a new currency arose, and for the short time there’s barter, cigarettes, bullets, alcohol, and other such items become “money”.

Nonetheless, Bonner is smart enough to know he needs to get out of dodge!

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Bill Bonner. April 24, 2015. The True Reason We’re on a Remote Ranch in Argentina. Bill Bonner’s Diary.

What are we doing down here in rural Argentina? Are we on the run? On the lam? Ducking, dodging, dreading the problems of the modern world?

Debt Disaster Coming!

In the 1970s, after President Nixon changed the world’s monetary system, your editor was deeply involved in a quixotic, but remarkable, effort to stop the US government from wrecking the country.

After Nixon cut the last link between the dollar and gold – the saving grace of every monetary system since Hammurabi – your editor saw the handwriting on the wall. It said: Debt Disaster Coming!

As director of the National Taxpayers Union, he worked on two major initiatives to stop this disaster from occurring.

One was an amendment to the US Constitution. The “Balanced Budget Amendment” would have blocked the feds from running deficits except in times of war or national emergency. Thirty-two states approved the amendment – two short of those needed to implement it.

The other effort was a lawsuit.  On behalf of America’s children, we sued the US government in Bonner v. Baker. The “Baker” was James Baker, who at that time was the US secretary of the Treasury.

National debt was a tax on future generations, we argued. Laying on this sort of intergenerational obligation amounted to taxation without representation and should be banned.

The court threw out our suit.

How the GOP Went to the Dark Side

It was while we were thus engaged in protecting the republic that Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election.  We went to his inauguration and celebrated; it appeared that the battle had been won, neither in the courts nor in the states, but in the national election.  Somehow, and against all odds, Reagan was a fiscal conservative. He would restore order to America’s finances.

Or so we believed…

But at that moment, the Republican Party went over to the Dark Side.

Under the influence of Dick “Deficits Don’t Matter” Cheney… and Reagan’s first secretary of the Treasury, Don Regan… the Gipper started to run up some of the biggest deficits in US history.

Reagan’s budget director from 1981 to 1985, David Stockman, documented it all from the inside in his excellent book The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.

That is when we decided that trying to save “the system” was a lost cause. We decided, instead, to try to save ourselves.  We left the National Taxpayers Union and began building a group of independent researchers, analysts and advisers who could help folks survive and prosper in what we thought would be a difficult and dangerous world. (This group became Agora Inc., the publisher of this and many other newsletters.)

An Unchanged Message

As it turned out, the world wasn’t so dangerous at all. Instead, it appeared benign.

A stock market boom took the Dow up to 18 times its 1982 level. And the Fed’s “Great Moderation” made it appear that the good times were here to stay.

Nevertheless, we persevered…

Our message has been unchanged for 30 years: You can’t build a healthy economy on debt. And when things go wrong, you can’t fix it with more debt.  That is what we’ve been saying for three decades. And for three decades, we have looked like a fool.

But to a growing readership, the analysis made sense and the advice made money.  In America, our list of readers and subscribers grew. And in the 1990s, we took our message overseas – to Britain first… then to France. For 20 years, we lived overseas, where we were starting and nurturing satellite businesses.

Now, we have offices in 10 countries. We publish in Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French and German. And our readership continues to grow.

Currently, we have 2.4 million subscribers – more than the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and Bloomberg put together.  But apart from our readers, few people have heard of us. Your editor has never been a candidate for mayor of New York. Nor for anything else.  And if by some fluke he were elected to public office, he’d claim voter fraud.

He doesn’t live in Manhattan or Malibu. His name never appears in the paper. He goes to no power lunches. He attends no board meetings. And he hobnobs with no one you’ve ever heard of.

Instead, here he is… a nobody… on the high plains of South America, with a group of gauchos, a laptop computer, an unreliable Internet connection and nothing between him and God but a $12 sombrero.

What gives? Betting Against the Consensus

Our experience inside the Beltway left us with a profound distrust of the media, the politicians and their cronies in the “private” sector.

The system is corrupt and self-serving. It turns jackasses into celebrities and makes claptrap sound respectable.

But when you are in the middle of it, you can’t help it: You start to believe what everyone else believes – mostly guff and bugaboos provided by a dumb, lackey media.

After you’ve read the 50th article about how the Fed saved America from Armageddon, for example, you may even begin to believe it!

In most of life, going along with the popular malarkey is merely pathetic; in financial life, it is fatal.

Let us explain…

If you think central banks can hold interest rates down indefinitely… or that the burden of debt doesn’t really matter… or that present stock market valuations are reasonable and sustainable, you’re probably going to lose a lot of money.  Not necessarily sooner, but definitely later.

Market prices reflect delusions too – but never forever. Eventually, markets take a cold, hard look… and adjust to reality.

Our business model is simple: Every day we take a cold, hard look and try to stay ahead of the markets. Our motto: Sometimes right. Sometimes wrong. Always in doubt.

The simplest expression of our financial and business strategy is something investors call “contrarianism.

It is the recognition that you can never make more money than everyone else by believing and investing in what everybody else already knows.

When everyone comes to believe in something, it is bound to become fully priced… if not overpriced. You make real money in the markets only by investing against the consensus.

There is never any way to know what is true and what is not. But sometimes, if you can keep your wits about you, you can identify what can’t be true.

That is why you don’t make money by investing in truth. You make money by investing against what most people think is true… but isn’t.

As billionaire speculator George Soros put it, “Find the trend whose premise is false, and bet against it.

That is why it is good spending a few months here at the ranch. There is much less “noise” from the media. We have no TV. No radio. No newspapers. No telephone.

Up in the high sierra, we seek no favors. We ask for no recognition. We have no truck with popular fantasies or convenient prejudices.

Maybe we are wrong. Maybe the cronies, the central planners, the zombies and the manipulators are right after all.  Maybe you can build a healthy economy on debt. And maybe you can build and secure your wealth by doing exactly what everybody else is doing.  Then again, after 30 years of being wrong, maybe we will be right after all. Stranger things have happened.

In any case, we like being here. The air is thinner here. But it is also clearer.



In your editor’s mind, a big spread in Argentina (google earth nearest place is pucara, actual ranch near colome & 9,000 feet up) was designed not to expose him to humiliation, but to protect him from it. Way out in the foothills of the Andes, he reasoned, how much trouble could he get into?

Besides, imagine the many sad consequences that could arise from holding on to stocks or bonds: in a few weeks, your investments might be cut in half – or worse. Is the dollar not doomed? Are America’s businesses not losing ground to foreign competitors? What will happen to U.S. bonds when Asian lenders figure out that they will never be repaid? What would be the point of holding them? What pleasure could you ever get out of them?

When it comes to raw, mountain desert land – without electricity or central heating – what could possibly happen that would make the place less valuable?

And so, out here, we have gotten ourselves into the cattle business, and we give you the economics of it, lest you be forced to learn it for yourself:

The cattle are all grass fed. Hay is stacked up for the wintertime, but the hay comes from the bottomland on the ranch, too. Almost nothing is purchased, except some supplements and obligatory vaccinations, which only cost a few dollars per head.

On the other hand, you need some gauchos to mend the fences and go find the cattle, give them the required medicines, cut their ears, burn their hides with a brand, round them up and load them on trucks to be sold. From what we could get out of Francisco, a herd of 1,000 cows spread out over thousands of acres of bad land takes a crew of at least three. Each gaucho costs the farm about 1,200 pesos a month or about $400. So, setting aside taxes and other miscellaneous costs, you’ve got to spend about 60,000 pesos a year in labor (not counting the farm manager).

From a herd of 1,000 cows, you get about 500 calves a year, which you can sell for about 150 pesos each, which brings you revenue of about 75,000 pesos. But then you have to pay the farm manager and buy him a pick-up truck. So, as near as we can tell you’ll lose money forever…unless the Chinese starting eating Argentine beef for breakfast, which is what every cattleman all over the planet is counting on more than he counts on the eternal life of the soul or Social Security.

But according to Francisco, if we do it right – that is, if we invest more money in larger reservoirs to catch the summer rains and in more and better cows – we’ll be able to breakeven. At least we won’t lose money, which is all we ask from any investment.

Thus have we come to Salta Province, and thus were we taking a tour of the property we had bought – on horseback…the only way to see it. And thus, also did we end up bedding down for the night under the skies.

At high elevation, even the skies seem more open. The stars seem brighter and there seem to be many more of them. It was a delight for us just to lie in our sleeping bags and stare up at them as they came out. First, they were just a few fuzzy flickers. Then, there were hundreds of them, more distinct. Finally, there were so many that they all ran together like a kind of bright, shining dust. There was the Milky Way, of course. Below it to the south was another batch of stardust we had never seen before, and then another we did not recognize…and another.

We could barely close our eyes. Partly because of the celestial lighting, partly because we were uncomfortable in our new sleeping bag, and partly because of the day’s events, which like a rich meal, needed to be digested before we could settle into sleep.

The next morning, Francisco and Jorge had saddled up the horses even before daylight, each one of them sporting a montura padded with a sheepskin. You are comfortable in them for the first couple of hours. After that, however, you begin to squirm in the saddle, to twist and turn and try new ways of riding. You even stand up in the stirrups to avoid the bounce, which is how your author ended up spending two days in bed, unable to walk or move, with no telephone or radio, at least an hour’s drive from the nearest doctor.

Do you see, dear reader, how one decision leads to another, each of which, individually, is perfectly reasonable, but all of which, taken together, lead ineluctably to an unexpected and disagreeable result?

Jorge, on the other hand, is a man who seems settled equally in his thoughts and his saddle. He barely moves in either. When we speak to him, in Spanish of course, he looks as though he is working hard to figure out what it is we are saying, but is respectfully reluctant to believe we might be saying anything as idiotic as it sounds.

Translating our own phrases, we realize what our conversation must have sounded like:

“Buen dia,” says Jorge.

“I wait that you had a good day both,” we reply.

“Are you ready to ride out, señor?”

“We are ready to share. Let’s go with God.”

“Are you feeling okay today, patron?’

“True. I smell perfectly.”

Jorge knits his eyebrows slightly. His smile fades a bit. He must have been wondering what it would be like to work for such a madman. But, he keeps his thoughts to himself and urges his black horse down the hill and out onto the open range. The rest of us follow behind: Elizabeth sitting up straight like a real horsewoman; Edward on his mule, wearing a white hat and a tan poncho made by the same people who made one for Pope John Paul II; the rest of the family and Francisco bringing up the rear.

Spreading his pancho out so that it covers almost his whole body, Edward seems completely happy. The mornings can be chilly, even in the summertime, but warmed by the heat rising from the mule on which he trots along next to Francisco, Edward seems in his element. In London, it sometimes seems we are living with an animal that has never been fully tamed. His instincts are out of place; his energy has no way to express itself that isn’t annoying. But out here, he can run around, jump on a horse, ride for hours, and shout at the top of his lungs. In his own way, he is as much at home on the range as Francisco.

Francisco, of course, is a real gaucho, with a certificate to prove it. He even attended a gaucho school, and is currently the president of the local gaucho union.

“Gauchos have a union?” Henry turns the statement into a question by raising the pitch of the last word.

“Si. But it is not a union like other unions. We do not go on strike or ask for higher wages. We just teach people the gaucho skills. That’s why we have a school for gauchos…so the skills are not lost. We also try to preserve the history and culture of the gauchos. You know, in each part of Argentina, the gauchos are different. Here in the northwest, we are not like the gauchos of the pampas – not at all. We wear different clothes, and we do things differently, too. Down there, they barely have to ride a half an hour to find their cattle. Here, we go out for days. And here, it can be much colder. I once rode around this entire valley for 15 days, riding 14 hours a day.”

We were all duly and properly amazed. We had been riding only for a couple hours, but were already ready to stop for lunch.


It was already starting to get dark when we made it back to our camp. We had been riding for most of the day and were ready for a little rest. Not only that, Jorge and Francisco had promised to prepare a nice meal and we were beginning to know what that meant. They’d cook pieces of beef over a campfire and serve them with Maria’s bread, and wine from nearby Colome.

We were barely off our horses before the small fire was started, next to an irrigation canal. The mountains behind us were already purple and mauve, but Elizabeth decided to explore a little on foot, along the riverbank, in the last of the daylight. We followed along like an old hound.

The camp had been pitched in a green oasis, where the farmers grew alfalfa and brought the cattle down from the high range when the grass gave out.

“These are reserved pastures,” Jorge told us, which explained the tree branches and dried-out thorn bushes piled up in a long thread to fence out the cattle.

Once inside the fence, we discovered an abandoned orchard, where the grass had been closely cropped as if by sheep. Most of the trees looked like plums, but there was no fruit on them so we couldn’t be sure. There were also a few walnuts.

“I love walnuts,” Elizabeth declared. She tried one and pronounced it much better than the walnuts in Europe. We bent down to help her collect more until our pockets were bulging. Then, we set off again, continuing along the riverbank until we ran across the ruins of a stone house.

Only two walls were still standing, but we could make out the piles of stone where the rest of it had collapsed. It stood between the orchard and a large field of alfalfa, looking out over the river and the mountains on the other side. We saw that the horses we had been riding had been hobbled and turned loose in the pasture where they were greedily tearing up the green grass after a day of hard work.

“What a beautiful spot,” we thought. At the edge of the river, the gauchos had piled up hay into the shape and size of a Mongolian’s yurt and had surrounded it with more branches and thorns as an extra protection against intruding cattle. The only noise we could hear was made by the rushing water – it sounded a bit like a broken pipe.

We looked around. North, south, east and west – there was no view that was not extraordinarily pretty. And yet, the only people who lived here were a couple of aging locals, Felipe and Carmella, both in their ’70s and both notably cheerful.

“Are you the new patron?” Felipe had asked us earlier in the day, smiling broadly and taking off his hat to reveal a thick head of dark hair, grey only at the edges. When we assented, Felipe not only took our hand, but he put his arm around us.

“Welcome, patron,” he said.

Felipe’s wife is a very thin and spry woman, with a smile missing two front teeth, but she smiles almost perpetually, in a way that reminds us, vaguely, of Lauren Bacall. She must have been cute 30 or 40 years ago, we thought. Now she has a friendly, helpful demeanor. Henry had forgotten his hat when he left the ranch house. Noticing this, Carmella had asked if he would like to borrow one, then turned and sprinted back to the farmhouse to return with a black hat, similar to the one worn by the Cisco Kid, for him.

Seven hours later, here we were, looking up from the riverbank, across the field of alfalfa, and the only human habitation we could see was hers. It is the only one in that little oasis, and we saw only a small piece of it through the trees – an eroded adobe wall topped with a mud roof.

The sun is so hot and the weather so dry in this part of the world that you can build a roof out of wet clay. You just lay some beams or even cactus boards across the walls. Then, you cover the roof with bamboo or other smallish sticks, put some straw or pampas grass on top, and finally, cover the whole thing with mud.

The sun will bake the mud into a hard tile. You just have to face it up with new mud every year or so. Not a whole lot of money needs to be involved in the process, we imagine.

“Really, all this emphasis on showing off by spending money, ” Maria began. “I mean, what we see in London…people who drive down the street in those big Hummers. In central London! Can you imagine anything so ridiculous? They just do it to show how rich they are. But what’s the point? It seems to me that these people live better, in many ways, than we do.”

Any wonder, dear reader, that we are becoming more and more suspicious of the green stuff? Everywhere we look we see it attached to frauds, mountebanks, swindles, and humbugs. We might as well be in a joint session of Congress.

Dollars themselves are no less of a scam, pretending to be more valuable than they actually are. But that doesn’t stop people from wanting them. They schlep and tote, sweat and strain – eight, 10, 12 hours a day – just to get more of them. And then what happens? The dollars go back whence they came. They are spent, lost, squandered – one way or another. Sooner or later, every dollar that ever existed must go back into the ether. What is there to show for them? Gadgets, health care, education – how much of it is really worthwhile? Our guess: not much.

Felipe and Marcella are penniless. They live in a house with no running water, no electricity, and no telephone. It cost them nothing to build. They have no utility bills. They have no automobile. They have no way to buy things.

Yet, as near as we can tell, they are both happy and healthy, and enjoying life in one of the most attractive places on Earth.

By comparison, your editor is a rich man. He works for his money – if you can call writing The Daily Reckoning work – but what does he get for it? Only more choices: He can go where he wants and do what he pleases. If he wants a new pair of shoes, he can buy them.

But what does he choose to do with his money? He takes an expensive vacation in South America. Why does he do that? Because, it makes him happy. What does he do on his vacation? He goes to places were people have no money. If he likes these places so much, why doesn’t he just stay there? Because, he could not make any money there. And if he could not earn money, he would be unable to afford to take a vacation. Think how unhappy he would be if he couldn’t take a vacation!

Besides, his status depends on money. No, your editor is not fool enough to want to give up his privileged life of 12-hour workdays. His cup runneth over with frequent flyer miles. He gets invited to the Jockey Club in Buenos Aires. And, Felipe calls him ‘patron.’

But Felipe and Marcella live in a kind of paradise. They have fruit from their trees, meat and milk from their animals, and vegetables from their garden. They have sun 335 days a year. They have no trouble with neighbors.

Felipe and Marcella have no taxes to pay, no parking places to look for, no club memberships, no fancy cars, no McMansions, no mortgages and no credit cards.

Statistically, Felipe and Marcella are about as rich as the average American couple. They have no assets, it is true, but they have no debts either. They entered the world with nothing. They will take nothing out with them, nor leave behind them any bills for their children and grandchildren to reckon with.

“Patron,” said Felipe as we were mounting our horses for the ride back to the house, “we hope you will come back soon.”

We’d like to, but we can only come when we can take a vacation. So, we probably won’t be back until next year, we explained.

Felipe looked puzzled. Maybe it was our bad Spanish. Or, maybe it was the idea of ‘vacation.’ You could not tell it from looking at them, but Felipe and Marcella must be among the unhappiest people in the world; they never get a vacation. It might be that they don’t even know what a vacation is.

Some of Bonner’s other posts about Argentina:

An Update from Our Ranch in Argentina


Posted in Where are the rich going | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Richard Heinberg: Paul Krugman’s Errors and Omissions

[ This article by Richard Heinberg at Postcarbon refutes a column by Paul Krugmen called “Errors and Emissions Could Fighting Global Warming Be Cheap and Free?” here.  Most of my friends and family think I’m nuts because articles like this in the New York Times, one of the last newspapers that makes an attempt to be objective and isn’t owned by right-wing billionaires, says that renewable power is possible.  Richard Heinberg explains why Krugman is wrong below.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

In a New York Times op-ed published September 18 titled “Errors and Emissions,” economist-columnist Paul Krugman took a swipe at my organization, Post Carbon Institute, lumping us together with the Koch brothers as purveyors of “climate despair.” No, the Koch brothers are not in despair about the climate; apparently our shared error is that we say fighting climate change and growing the economy are incompatible. And, according to Krugman, a new report from the New Climate Economy Project (NCEP) and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that the falling cost of renewable energy means this is happily not the case.

But in our view Krugman himself is guilty of five critical errors, and three equally serious omissions. First the errors:

1. He mistakes post-growth realism for anti-growth activism. While Krugman linked to my book The End of Growth, it seems he may not have actually read it. If he had he would understand that we are not advocating the deliberate termination of growth that could otherwise be easily sustained; rather, we see clear evidence that growth is ending of its own accord because our economy is hitting biophysical limits at a speed and scale that are outpacing humanity’s ability to adapt. The most critical limit to economic growth is the availability of affordable fossil fuels, those extraordinary resources around which we’ve organized the entire global economy (and its hundreds of trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure) over the last century. Economists do generally recognize this limit, but summarily dismiss it as a problem seamlessly fixable by the market.

2. He misrepresents his sources. According to our reading, the IMF working paper suggests that the majority of emissions cuts (above 10.8 percent reduction) will be at a net economic cost, even considering co-benefits. The NCEP report—commissioned by former heads of state, the CEOs of major banks and the head of the International Energy Agency—itself admitted that “On their own, these measures would not be sufficient to achieve the full range of emissions reductions likely to be needed by 2030 to prevent dangerous climate change.” In fact, the report’s authors made clear “The question the project has sought to explore is not ‘how can greenhouse gas emissions be reduced?’…but ‘how can economic decision-makers achieve their principal goals while also reducing their impact on the climate?’”

3. He assumes that wind and solar can substitute for all uses of fossil fuels. Oil fuels transportation, which is at the core of the trade-dependent global economy. It is far and away the world’s largest single source of energy—and there just aren’t any alternatives ready to replace oil in all the ways we use it, at the scale required, and in the time available. Electric cars are making inroads, but we’re not about to see battery-powered airliners, bulldozers, container ships, tractors, or long-haul trucks. Compressed natural gas is no help from a climate perspective, and methane is another depleting fossil fuel. America’s experiment with biofuels has been an expensive failure.  How do we get more growth with less trade?

4. He claims it is easy to slash carbon emissions. The rapid build-out of renewables constitutes an enormous infrastructure project that will itself consume significant amounts of fossil-fuel energy. New solar panels won’t immediately pay for themselves in energy terms; indeed, research at Stanford University recently showed that all solar PV technology installed until about 2010 was a net energy sink. It will fully “pay back the electrical energy required for its early growth by about 2020,” but if we hasten the transition, energy break-even gets delayed: it is only once solar build-out rates level off that the system as a whole will start to turn a significant energy profit. That leads to the deep irony that we’ll be powering the energy transition largely with fossil fuels. The faster we push the transition, the more fossil fuels we’ll use for that purpose, and this could lead to the extraction of more tar sands, fracked tight oil and shale gas, deepwater oil, and Arctic oil (we’ve already used up the cheap, conventional oil; what’s left will be expensive and dirty—and expensive oil is itself a drag on economic growth).

5. He assumes that a meaningful price on carbon would only impact direct energy prices. The entire economy is energy-dependent. One example: as minerals deplete, we have to use more energy (per unit of output) in mining and refining ever-lower grades of ores. When energy prices rise, that impacts all we do. Does Krugman believe that the global economy can continue to grow despite higher prices across the board?

Now Paul Krugman’s omissions:

1. He omits mentioning what rate of greenhouse gas emissions reduction he thinks is necessary. Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, who has taken the important step of producing a carbon budget that puts society on a safe trajectory to the internationally agreed-upon limit of 2 degrees Celsius warming, calculates that industrialized nations need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 10 percent per year starting now.  In Anderson’s opinion, this is “incompatible with economic growth.” The only hope of maintaining economic growth while cutting emissions at such a pace is to rapidly decouple GDP from CO2; PriceWaterhouseCoopers says  the decoupling would have to proceed at 6 percent per year, which is entirely unprecedented. Is that rate achievable, in view of errors 3, 4, and 5 above?

2. He omits mention of constraints to fossil fuel supplies. Oil has become far more expensive in the past decade; production costs are rising at over 10 percent per year. The major petroleum companies are investing much more in exploration today, but their production rates are declining. For oil, the low-hanging fruit is gone. Does Krugman believe there is still excess production capacity for oil to use in building out renewable infrastructure, while still meeting the needs of the rest of the economy? If not, how will society maintain economic growth during the energy transition? If so, what part of the economy would need to contract in order to shift oil consumption to the renewables build-out, so as not to lead to increased overall use of climate-altering fossil fuels during the transition?

3. He omits mention of energy returned on energy invested, or EROEI. It takes energy to get energy, but historically fossil fuels delivered an immense profit on the meager investments of energy required to drill or mine for them. The EROEI figures for renewables are generally lower than current ones for fossil fuels. And energy returns for fossil fuels are declining as companies are forced to dig deeper and deploy more sophisticated (read: expensive) technology to get at lower-grade resources. The overall EROEI of society is falling, and the transition to renewables will not halt that process (though it will lead to an eventual leveling-off). If you think long and hard about what declining EROEI actually means for our civilization, it’s difficult to imagine an outcome that could be characterized as economic growth—at least, growth as we’ve known it for the past century.

To be clear, we at Post Carbon Institute advocate massively deploying renewable energy and putting a price on carbon. If humanity has any hope for the future, there is simply no other option. But we just don’t see how this can be achieved without: 1) raising the cost of energy and 2) leading to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions during the renewables build-out, unless other parts of the economy are allowed to contract. When it comes to energy, there is no free lunch.

Ultimately, climate change is not the only reason perpetual economic growth is incompatible with a finite planet. The world faces a suite of ecological problems related to water, soil, and biodiversity, all stemming from past growth, and all seemingly requiring reduction in human consumption levels for their solution.

We believe that humanity can enjoy an improved quality of life and build a more sustainable future even as we reduce overall resource throughput. There is ample waste to be cut in the excessively consumption-oriented western way of life, and there’s still plenty of opportunity for less-wealthy countries to develop their economic and social systems in ways that are truly equitable and sustainable (and not fossil fuel-reliant). But that means changing priorities. Like fossil fuels, the growth fetish is something we must leave behind if we are going to have any chance of living sustainably on this planet.


Posted in EROEI Energy Returned on Energy Invested, Richard Heinberg, Solar, Wind | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What can California do about sea level rise?

Projected sea level rise from one meter (dark red) to six meters (light orange) in California’s Bay Area. (Weiss and Overpeck 2011)

Preface. Nearly all, if not all, possible solutions to rising sea levels along all the coasts in the world are listed below, along with their challenges. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Rockefeller foundation will award $4.6 million dollars to the ten best ideas for how the Bay Area could adapt to sea level rise in May. I am eager to see their solutions given the challenges below, and whether they come up with alternatives.

I left out nuclear power plants, because California won’t have any by 2025.  But sea level rise and tsunamis are a huge threat to coastal nuclear power plants, as we know from Fukushima.  It’s a miracle the nuclear spent fuel pools didn’t catch on fire and require millions of people to evacuate Tokyo.  According to (Stone 2016) in a Science magazine article “Spent fuel fire on U.S. soil could dwarf impact of Fukushima”, 18 million people might need to be evacuated in such a fire at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania (obviously not from a tsunami, but an EMP attack or other disaster). There are 9 U.S. nuclear power plants within two miles of the coast.  Long before sea level rise permanently floods a region, storm surges will push the water higher to new records.

Knowing that fossil fuels are finite, one of the most important things we could do for the grandchildren is to store nuclear waste now, while we have the energy to do it.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Impact of rising sea levels in the San Francisco Bay Area (BCDC 2018)

Clearly the homes, hotels, and other visible infrastructure along the bay will be hammered, or should I say dunked.  But there are other components of infrastructure that will be affected that may not be as obvious:

  • Energy facilities: The U.S. has 101 oil and gas, natural gas, and electric generation plants that would be affected by a 1 foot rise in sea level, and 206 at 10 feet, 41 of them in California (Strauss 2012). And 15 substations, a critical component of the electric system with expensive and dangerous equipment such as transformers, capacitors, voltage regulators, etc.
  • There are 350 contaminated land sites in the Bay Area that will be affected by a 16 inch rise, and 460 with a 55” sea level rise.  Contaminants include industrial solvents (such as acetone, benzene, and chlorinated solvents and their byproducts), acids, paint strippers, degreasers, caustic cleaners, pesticides, chromium and cyanide wastes, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other chlorinated hydrocarbons, radium associated with dial painting and stripping, medical debris, unexploded ordnance, metals (e.g., lead, chromium, nickel), gasoline, diesel, and petroleum byproducts, and waste oils.
  • There are also many hazardous material sites with wastes that are toxic, ignitable, corrosive, or reactive, including pesticides, cleaning solvents, pharmaceutical waste, and so on.
  • As sea levels rise, storm water infrastructure will back up and cause inland flooding, salt water could corrode and damage infrastructure designed to handle only freshwater. If pump stations are flooded, their sensitive electrical and computerized components would stop functioning.  The soils around the bay liquefy in a seismic event, causing underground pipes to move, bend, or break, and excess storm water and rainfall events could make these soils even wetter and vulnerable to liquefaction.
  • In addition wastewater treatment systems, roads, railroads, airports, and telecommunication infrastructure will be harmed.
  • Yet to be studied are the impacts on transmission lines, pipelines, or telecommunications infrastructure

What can California do about rising sea levels?

Levees and Seawalls. Protecting California from a 1.4 meter rise in sea level would require 1,100 miles of levees and seawalls, and would cost roughly $14 billion (table 1) to build and $1.4 billion a year to operate and maintain it.  No one is going to spend $14 billion on this, because there’s no guarantee the levees and seawalls would work, and the sea is going to keep rising for millennia, constantly overtopping whatever is put in place. An unusually large storm event can also cause it to rupture like the levees in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, even if it has been well maintained.

Paradoxically, it increases vulnerability. Hard shoreline protection is not as effective as natural shorelines at dissipating the energy from waves and tides. As a result, armored shorelines tend to be more vulnerable to erosion, and to increase erosion of nearby beaches. Structural flood protection can also increase human vulnerability by giving people a false sense of security and encouraging development in areas that are vulnerable to flooding.

A huge dike under the Golden Gate bridge won’t work for many reasons – it would cost four times as much as the Three Gorges Dam, and California gets huge floods (i.e. Arkstorm).  If the dike were up to protect from rising sea levels, we’d be flooded from inland water with upstream flooding in the freshwater tributaries of the Bay.

Elevated development is a short-term strategy. Unless it’s on stilts directly over water, characteristics of shorelines are altered and will need protection just like low-lying development. Its advantage is merely that it is not threatened by sea level rise for a longer time.  We don’t know if higher land or structures will support high-density, transit-oriented new development. Much of our region’s high-density neighborhoods and transit are near the Bay’s shoreline. If low-density development is allowed along the shoreline, it could increase global warming emissions, and may not warrant expensive protection measures in the future.

Floating development: structures that float on the surface of the water or that float during floods or tides.  Floating development works only in protected areas, not in areas subject to wind and wave action from storms, such as the ocean coastline. This type of development has not yet been demonstrated in high-density cities.  From an engineering perspective, many structures can be built to float, though they cannot be retrofitted to do so.

Barriers are ecologically damaging and would harm the Bay’s salinity, sedimentation, wetlands, wildlife and endangered species, and increase sedimentation, making parts of the Bay shallower, while increasing coastal erosion.

Floodable development: structures designed to handle flooding or retain storm water.  Floodable development could be hazardous. Storm water, particularly at the seaward end of a watershed, is usually polluted with heavy metals and organic chemicals, in addition to sediment and bacteria.

Large quantities of storm water sitting on the surface, or in underground storage facilities, could pose a public health hazard during a flood or leave contamination behind. This could be a particular problem in areas with combined sewer systems, such as San Francisco, where wastewater and street runoff go to the same treatment system. Also, wastewater treatment systems that commonly treat the hazards of combined sewer effluent before releasing it into the Bay do not work well with salt water mixed in. If floodable development strategies are designed to hold and release brackish water, new treatment methods will be needed for the released water to meet water quality standards.

Finally, emergency communication tools and extensive public outreach and management would be required to prevent people from misusing or getting trapped in flooding zones. Floodable development is untested. We don’t know if buildings and infrastructure can be designed or retrofitted to accommodate occasional flooding in a cost-effective way. It is not clear exactly how much volume new floodable development tools will hold. Some of the more heavily engineered solutions, such as a water-holding parking garage, may not turn out to be more beneficial than armoring or investments in upsizing an existing wastewater system.

Living shorelines. Wetlands are natural and absorb floods, slow erosion, and provide habitat.  Living shorelines require space and time to work. Wetlands are generally “thicker” than linear armoring strategies such as levees, so they need more land. They also require management, monitoring and time to become established.  Living shorelines are naturally adaptive to sea level rise, as long as two conditions are present. The first condition is that it must have space to migrate landward. The second condition is that they must be sufficiently supplied with sediment to be able to “keep up” with sea level rise. Due to the many dams and modified hydrology of the Delta and its major rivers, this is a concern for restoration success in San Francisco Bay.  Wetlands will never be restored to their historic extent along the Bay, in part because of the cost of moving development inland from urbanized areas at the water’s edge.   Important challenges for our region will be determining how much flooding new tidal marshes could attenuate, restoring them in appropriate places, and conducting restoration at a faster rate than we would without the looming threat of rising seas.

Managed Retreat. Abandon threatened areas near the shoreline. This strategy is a political quagmire. It involves tremendous legal and equity issues, because not all property owners are willing sellers. And in many places, shoreline communities are already disadvantaged and lack the adaptive capacity to relocate. In addition, retreat may require costs beyond relocation or property costs if site cleanup — such as to remove toxics — is needed following demolition

Consequences for the ports and airports

The main problem for shipping is not the port.  It’s the roads and railroad tracks surrounding the port that are vulnerable, many of them less than 10 feet above sea level, and there’s nowhere to move them.  Raising them would make them vulnerable to erosion and liquefied soils from floods or earthquakes.

An even bigger deal would be any harm done to the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach, which handles 45%–50% of the containers shipped into the United States. Of these containers, 77% leave California—half by train and half by truck (Christensen 2008).

The Port of Los Angeles estimates that $2.85 billion in container terminals will need to be replaced.  If the port is shut down for any reason, the cost is roughly $1 billion per day as economic impacts ripple through the economy as shipments are delayed or re-routed according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2008-2017 Strategic Plan.  Replacing the roads, rails, and grade separations nearby would cost $1 billion. If the port’s electrical infrastructure were damaged, equipment such as cranes would be non-operational and cause delays and disruptions in cargo loading and offloading. These would cost $350 million to replace.  The port also has an 8.5 mile breakwater that prevents waves from entering the harbor with two openings to allow ships to enter the port. An impaired breakwater would render shipping terminals unusable and interrupt flows of cargo.  The breakwater has a $500 million replacement value and is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Airports. Meanwhile, all of the airports in the SF Bay area are vulnerable to sea level rise, especially San Francisco and Oakland.  In 2007, the Oakland International airport transported 15 million passengers and 647,000 metric tons of freight.  San Francisco International Airport is the nation’s 13th busiest airport, transporting 36 million people in 2007 and handling 560,000 metric tons of freight $25 billion in exports and $32 billion in imports, more than double the $23.7 billion handled by vessels at the Port of Oakland.


County                        Miles of levees & Seawalls     Cost 2000 dollars

Alameda                      110                              $   950,000,000

Del Norte                    39                                $   330,000,000

Contra Costa               63                                $   520,000,000

Humboldt                    42                                $   460,000,000

Los Angeles                94                                $2,600,000,000

Marin                           130                              $   930,000,000

Mendocino                  1                                  $      34,000,000

Monterey                     53                                $   650,000,000

Napa                            64                                $   490,000,000

Orange                                    77                                $1,900,000,000

San Diego                   47                                $1,300,000,000

San Luis Obispo          13                                $   210,000,000

San Mateo                   73                                $   580,000,000

Santa Barbara              13                                $   180,000,000

Santa Clara                  51                                $   160,000,000

Santa Cruz                  15                                $   280,000,000

Solano                         73                                $   720,000,000

Sonoma                       47                                $   240,000,000

Ventura                       29                                $   790,000,000

Table 1. $14,000,000,000 cost to build 1,100 miles of defenses needed to guard against flooding from a 1.4 m sea-level rise, by county.


BCDC. 2018. Adapting to Rising tides. Findings by Sector. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development commission.

Copeland, B, et al. November 24, 2012 What Could Disappear. Maps of 24 USA cities flooded as sea level rises.  New York Times.

Grifman, P., et al. 2013. Sea level Rise Vulnerability Study for the City of Los Angeles. University of Southern California.

Heberger, M. et al.  May 2009. The Impacts of Sea-Level rise on the California Coast. Pacific Institute.

Conti, K., et al. Nov 20, 2007. “Analysis of a Tidal Barrage at the Golden Gate,” BCDC

Preliminary Study of the Effect of Sea Level Rise on the Resources of the Hayward Shoreline. March 2010.  Philip Williams & Associates, Ltd.

Sorensen, R. M., et al. Erosion, Inundation, and Salinity Intrusion Chapter 6 Control of Erosion, Inundation, and Salinity Intrusion Caused by Sea Level Rise.

Strauss, B., Ziemlinski, R., 2012. Sea Level Rise Threats to Energy Infrastructure. Climate Central, Washington, DC.


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