Archive

  • Consumption and the Facts about our Oil Laden Food Chain

    (This post is by Ianqui from The Oil Drum ). That oil is consumed by public and private transportation and industry is a no brainer. However, another, perhaps more important reason petroleum is so vital to our economy, beyond transportation, is that it takes a lot of fossil fuel just to produce the food that we eat every day. When I stop to think about this, I get this image of gasoline being poured on my food. Pictured that way, the idea that we use a lot of oil on food is easy to dismiss, but the truth is that there are myriad ways that oil makes it into the food chain. And this is something we must be aware of, since once there are oil shortages, it's not just going to be lines at the pump--there might also be lines at the grocery stores.
  • Understanding the Current State of Energy Supply and Demand

    Scott Lemieux asked a very good question in the comments a couple of posts ago: "Roughly what percentage of energy consumption is taken up by the internal combustion engine, and what by energy production? The higher the latter, the more difficult the long-term problems (of peak oil) would seem to me, although perhaps it doesn't really matter much." The first part of my answer comes from an interview with T. Boone Pickens who started Mesa Petroleum Company in 1956 with a $2,500 investment and built it into the largest independent oil and gas company in America and now runs one of the largest energy hedge funds. T. Boone does a nice job of explaining why he thinks we are at the tipping point. (In fact, today he had a couple of quotes about oil testing $70/bbl soon and a couple of other related topics . He's been right so far.) "Let me tell you some facts the way I see it. Global oil (production) is 84 million barrels (a day). I don't believe you can get it any more than 84 million...
  • Parting At The Crossroads

    My apologies for stepping in Matt Holt's territory, but I was preparing this quick post before Ezra's intervention (which makes it even more relevant), so I'd thought I'd go ahead anyway. I wanted to strongly recommend Antonia Maioni's superb book Parting at the Crossroads , which is a comparative study of the emergence of different health care policies in the United States and Canada. To put it in Brad Plumer's terms, Maioni (like Brad) emphasizes the importance of structural factors, with some additional explanations based on Canadian federalism and party politics. The Canadian case is particularly illuminating because it allows us to control for factors that are not controlled for in comparisons to Europe. Maioni's study makes it clear that three of the factors adduced by Plumer have been overrated in their importance. The strength of organized labor cannot explain the difference because at the time Canada developed its single-payer system organized labor was significantly weaker...
  • Pointer From Idyllwild

    Ezra here. This post of Brad Plumer's on different explanations for America's strangely absent universal health system is fantastic, you should all read it. Moreover, I'd love to see [guest blogger] Matt Holt's response. Alrighty-then. Back to vacation.
  • Accountability Schmaccountability

    Shakes here... As an appropriate follow-up to Durbin’s apology for calling out the heinous nature of abuses going on at Gitmo, the White House has rejected the proposed creation of an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees held at Gitmo and elsewhere. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Pentagon has launched 10 major investigations into allegations of abuse, and that system was working well. “People are being held to account," he said. "And we think that's the way to go about this." Oh yeah—like who? Lynndie England? Swell.
  • Health care costs -- what's behind this inexorable rise

    This is Matthew Holt , back with more on why health care costs so dang much. Health Affairs (the essential peer reviewed health policy journal) has an article from the very well respected Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) which announces that the decrease in the increase of health spending has stalled (here's the slightly more digestible press release ). No kidding, the press release starts off with this line. See if you can get the gobbledygook here: " The reprieve from faster-growing health care costs stalled in 2004 as costs per privately insured American grew 8.2 percent" The good news is that nominal GDP growth (real growth plus inflation) was 5.2% in 2004, so health care costs (the 8.2%) were less than double that. So in the bizzaro world of American health care, it's still something of a success when health care is expanding only are only a little under double the rate of the rest of the economy or less than three times the inflation rate. That's why health care...
  • A Picture of Depletion

    (This post is by my colleague Heading Out over at The Oil Drum . HO does a great job with this post demonstrating to the layperson the problems we face with petroleum recovery in this era of peak oil. The lesson here is that this problem is occurring with many of the older large wells, and there are not nearly enough new large wells being brought online that can match the capacity of the older large wells.) Dogru, Hamoud & Barlow JPT 0204 Originally uploaded by Heading Out . For most people there was some one thing that brought the reality of Peak Oil home to them. For me it was this picture, from a paper by Dogru, Hamoud and Barlow in JPT in February 2004. The reference, to the paper "Multiphase Pump Recovers More Oil in a Mature Carbonate Reservoir" can be found here . It shows a vertical slice taken through the Abqaiq oilfield in Saudi Arabia, using an instrument that measures the relative fluid densities at different levels in the field.
  • The Evolutionary Advantages of Nearsightedness

    What is the evolutionary purpose for myopia? I forget where I heard the question raised recently, but it may well have been on the Al Franken show during a discussion of intelligent design. Economics is my day job, and I think that it offers insight into this biological riddle. So please indulge me while I put on my Jared Diamond hat. Myopia just doesn’t seem like a very intelligent design feature for a bipedal hunter that kills by throwing projectiles. It is not a modern adaptation to looking at nearby objects more often as has been rumored. Apparently , there have been studies comparing the degree of myopia in identical and fraternal twins finding that identical twins have a better chance of having similar degrees of myopia. However, there are absolutely no advantages to being unable to see far away objects in and of itself. Or are there?
  • In Sum, PO in a Nutshell

    If you didn't catch it, read my intro post below . There's also some links in there to primers, etc. This post, however, will be an attempt to sum up a pretty complex topic. Hubbert's Peak is reached when demand for oil exceeds production and supply. Let's be clear, peak oil is not about running out of oil. However, there is a finite amount of oil in the earth . At some point, we will have taken half of it. That is Hubbert's Peak. So, peak oil is about the end of cheap oil. Cheap oil has bred a lifestyle of convenience and excess, especially in America that is going to be difficult to maintain once the supply begins to shrink and will perhaps worsen the already growing class divide that exists in the United States. The less oil there is available, the more expensive and treasured it will be. Competition, if not war, over resources is likely. Combine this idea with increasing demand from modernizing countries like China and India, and you have the recipe for disaster. I am reminded of...
  • Do Kick the Elephant

    I’m The Jew. Thanks Ezra. Yada yada yada. Neil is absolutely correct when he says Remember that when Republicans try to define the Democrats, they won't ever bring up the centrist's moderate, conciliatory remark distancing himself from the radical. They'll bring up the radical's remark that fearful centrists pushed beyond the pale and didn't bother to explain. They'll use that remark to tar the entire Democratic party. But he’s entirely wrong when he says Sometimes a caveat of some kind will be necessary -- "I didn't agree with the Nazi analogy, it obfuscates more than it clarifies."

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