Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Repost - "Our Least Resilient Neighborhoods"

I've got another interview coming up this weekend, God willing. In preparation for that interview, I thought it would be good to mention Our Least Resilient Neighborhoods”, a post I wrote several months ago. That post talks about the challenges facing neighborhoods in the United States in this time of economic collapse, challenges made worse in many cases by institutional policies of economic persecution directed against minority communities. It is a good preparation for this next interview which will explore of some of these policies further, as well as general financial issues confronting urban neighborhoods. It's a bit late in the day to be talking about some of these issues – I don't know how much can be done at this stage of the game. Nevertheless, it can't hurt to talk about these things.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Asymptote of Truth

I won't have very much time on the weekends for deep, analytical posts for a while. The summer school session has just started and I am teaching a sophomore level engineering class two days a week as an adjunct. This is on top of my day job. (I'm glad I arranged to work part-time!)

But a couple of things have been on my mind lately. First, the continued oil spill (or leak, or gusher, or whatever you want to call it) at the Macondo field in the Gulf of Mexico. People who are paying attention should know that originally BP claimed that the spill was “very minor,” and that it was only grudgingly that they revised their daily leakage numbers upward to 5000 barrels per day. This figure they (and the U.S. Coast Guard) steadfastly maintained to be the truth, even though available evidence suggested that the spill was far worse. Recently, the evidence has become so overwhelming that the “official” leakage figures have steadily crept toward agreement with estimates made by independent observers. This source states a figure of 60,000 barrels per day. Even that figure pales in comparison with BP's own worst-case estimate of 100,000 barrels per day. The truth is coming out, but grudgingly.

The story of this oil spill and of the “official” story of this oil spill is but a subset of the story of our present societal predicament and of the “official” story of that predicament. This is especially true regarding Peak Oil. The official story started with denial. But as the evidence of our true situation has grown worse and more overwhelming, the official stories have begun to line up with the accounts of independent observers. After years of denial, even the U.S. Energy Information Administration now admitting that Peak Oil is real, and that it is here.

What makes people in power lie through their teeth? The answer to that question, while rather simple, would take a lot of time to write, and I have to be out of the house early tomorrow. But I am thinking of one possible outcome to our societal predicament, an outcome I first heard suggested in a podcast I heard of someone interviewing Dmitri Orlov. I think what may happen in a lot of cases is that people in power will lie to us just as long as the lie holds some hope of being profitable to them. As the available evidence mounts to disprove their lies, they will change their story to bring it closer to the truth – yet they will never quite reach truthfulness. Once the available evidence becomes overwhelming, Orlov suggests that some of these people will simply walk off their jobs and disappear, because there's no further reward to be had by staying. I wonder.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Fight In The Outhouse

I've said many things over the many posts of my blog. Some of them have been things that I knew right at the outset to be inflammatory. I didn't think a post on recycling human waste for agriculture would raise a stink, but I guess I was wrong. Some of the responses to my last post have been surprising.

There's one blogger whom I suspect of thinking that I've turned into some sort of techno-optimist who believes that technology can solve all our problems. To him I would say "no worries" – I haven't turned into a collapse “heretic.” Rather, I hold the premise that our current method of farming is unsustainable, and that one big reason for this is our way of disposing of human waste. Therefore we have to begin “closing the loop” by finding ways of recycling human waste so that it can be returned to the soil. My interview last week was an attempt to see how many people in the local government of the city in which I live realize this, and how deeply they realize this. I personally think that Portland could go much farther in recycling human waste, and that all cities in the U.S. will have to do things differently fairly soon. But when I interview people, I generally don't try to beat them up – it's considered to be in poor taste. (I might make an exception for certain rich people and media figures – so Rupert Murdoch or Glenn Beck might want to avoid having me interview them.)

What's been more interesting are the comments a couple of people sent me, warning me that sewage sludge and biosolids are the same thing, and that sewage sludge is a dangerous pollutant that should never be applied to agricultural land. One of these commenters writes that “biosolids” is a term coined by the sewage “industry” in order to market a toxic product which has endangered many people. Another commenter states that “according to the Federal Clean Water Act, biosolids/sewage sludge is a pollutant.” Reading through these comments, however, gives me an impression of people who are impassioned in their opposition to use of biosolids, yet who have not carefully read my post or the references I cited at the end, nor listened to the podcast to which I linked.

Now I just want to say that I try to keep an open mind about many things. But I try not to post allegations about things or people unless I have very good corroborating sources to back the allegations. To do otherwise in this case would not be fair to the people I interviewed. I am happy to post further comments on the subject of recycling human waste. But let's lay down a few conditions first.

If anyone wants to comment on my post, “Sewage Recycling - A Loop Almost Closed”, please read it first – the whole thing. Then read the supporting references and listen to the podcast. If after that you still believe that biosolids are unsafe for agriculture, please provide information which refutes each point made in the post and in the accompanying references. If you don't have time for all of that, at least read some of the EPA references I cited, along with Greg Charr's PowerPoint presentation, and provide documented information that refutes at least two of the statements contained in those references.

Lastly, if you believe that biosolids should not be used for agriculture, please present your own solution to the problem of soil depletion caused by modern industrial agriculture and modern sewage removal systems. That, after all, is the whole point of this discussion. Flushing humanure down toilets and into our oceans is depleting our soils, and this will lead sooner or later to agricultural collapse. What do you think we should do about it?

If you will answer these questions, that will let me know that you have read all of what I said in my post. And if you will especially answer the last question, that will let me know where you're coming from. If you will do this for me, I will post your comments – even if I don't agree with them. If you don't do these things, I will not post your comments.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sewage Recycling - A Loop Almost Closed

I am pleased to present another interview this week. The subject of the interview (and of today's post) is humanure recycling for agriculture. But first, a bit of backstory.

Many writers on the subject of Peak Oil and collapse have discussed the challenges facing large-scale agriculture in a post-Peak world. A particular focus of their writing has been the steady depletion of soil nutrients and minerals resulting from our First World arrangements for growing, distributing and eating food, and disposing of the resulting waste. The whole system is unsustainable in the long run, since food that turns into human waste is now flushed down toilets and eventually into our oceans, taking vital soil minerals such as phosphorus with it. This requires the mining of inorganic phosphorus and combining it with other man-made components into artificial fertilizer in order to replenish depleted soils. But we are running out of the resources to continue this form of soil replenishment. Already there's talk of “Peak Phosphorus,” to name just one depleting resources.

Those who write about post-Peak agriculture have therefore said a lot about the need for individuals and communities not only to start growing their own food, but also to start recycling their own humanure. Many of these writers cite The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins (an excellent book by the way; I have a copy on my bookshelf). Jenkins outlines many steps that go into safe humanure composting for agricultural use, as well as outlining the dangers and environmental hazards that occur because of the improper disposal of human waste. However, his is an individual approach, and his composting methods are designed to be applied by individuals and households. This poses no problems as long as individuals and households are educated in proper methods and don't deviate from those methods. But people will be people, and in this fallen world, that means that some people are bound to mess a thing up, even if that thing is simple. I've met a few humanure composters, and at least one of them is doing it flat-out wrong. This can lead to ground water pollution and the danger of disease if carried far enough.

The other issue I have with the individual approach is that it assumes that any existing societal unit larger than the individual or small household is likely to be clueless about Peak Oil, peak pesources, adapting to a post-Peak world, or living with the reality of “the well run dry.” “Therefore it's up to us to start from scratch in preparing and adapting,” many writers would say. There's a lot of evidence for that opinion, especially when one looks at the Federal government and at many State governments. Lately, however, I've come to think that it's not entirely true that the members and leaders of larger societal units are utterly clueless about the issues of post-Peak adaptation. Sometimes within existing local structures it's possible to find people who are aware of resource depletion and who are already creating alternative means for people to get their needs met in a post-Peak world. I wanted to see if there were people within the Portland city government who understood the issues regarding humanure, sewage treatment infrastructure and budget constraints, and the problem of recycling nutrients back into agriculture.

So it was that I recently found myself at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant for an interview with Greg Charr, the Biosolids, Residuals and Reuse Program Manager. Before our actual interview, I met Mike, one of the senior plant operators, who took me on a tour of the plant. We spent a lot of time underground, beneath massive concrete roofs that comprised the undersides of huge tanks holding thousands upon thousands of gallons of water. I shot some video, which may or may not get posted one of these days. Mike explained how most municipal wastewater treatment plants worldwide have three stages of treatment: primary, secondary and tertiary. He then explained how the Columbia plant differed from some other plants in that its processes have been optimized to produce biosolids as a final product.

The interesting thing about these biosolids is that they are not the same as sewage sludge. Rather, they have been treated to such an extent that they are certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as safe for use in large-scale agriculture. Mike also pointed out the composter at the Columbia plant, and mentioned that it had been in use for many years before being shut down due to budgetary reasons. And Mike explained the working of the digesters at the Columbia plant and the challenges of maintaining digester chemistry and biology. The digesters at the Columbia plant produce enough methane gas to generate 1.7 megawatts of power at the plant (the plant uses a bit over 4 megawatts), and they also sell gas to local industries.

Greg Charr explained the EPA restrictions and certifications required for labeling the output of a sewage plant as a “biosolid” suitable for use in agriculture. The EPA has three categories of biosolids: Class B, Class A and Exceptional Quality (EQ). Greg discussed Class B and Class A biosolids, and talked about how biosolids quality has increased over the last 20 years. At present, the biosolids produced by the City of Portland are not significantly contaminated by heavy metals. As far as residual pharmaceutical chemicals, Greg mentioned studies done by several universities that showed no significant danger from residual pharmaceutical chemicals in biosolids, due to the degradation of these chemicals by sunlight as well as absorption by soil particles.

The City's wastewater treatment plants only produce Class B biosolids at present. This is a problem, as the EPA allowable uses for Class B solids are limited. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) also has restrictions on the use of Class B solids. Therefore these are not a practical fertilizer for home gardeners and small-scale urban farmers. Greg further explained the budget constraints that resulted in shutting down the composter at the Columbia plant. Composted humanure qualifies as a Class A biosolid, suitable for direct use in gardening and urban farming. But the City was not able to produce compost in a way that covered operating costs of their composter. The Class B biosolids produced by the Portland treatment plants must be trucked to eastern Oregon for use in dryland farming. Eastern Oregon's semiarid climate helps the biosolids to break down without contributing to pollution of stormwater runoff into rivers.

At the end of the interview, I asked several further questions related to composting. It turns out that there are several companies in the U.S. who are already doing sewage composting on a large scale. (One of those companies, Synagro, has been in the news lately due to a corruption scandal involving the City of Detroit's sewage treatment.) I have a hunch (although I haven't researched it) that it may be hard for large companies to make a large profit from sewage composting, and that this is something that might be better suited to smaller outfits using low-tech methods. At present, it is possible to buy commercially produced sewage compost in the U.S., although it's likely to be a bit expensive.

I mentioned the City's combination of both high tech (Big Pipe) and low tech (eco-roofs) approach to managing stormwater, and asked whether the City was looking into low-tech methods of dealing with human waste, such as teaching people home-scale composting. Greg stated that this is not currently being considered by the City – but I hope my question will provoke some thought! The organized deployment of low-tech approaches will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as cities and counties continue to face shrinking budgets and as it becomes harder to maintain wastewater infrastructure during a time of economic decline.

A podcast of the interview can be found at the Internet Archive at this address: Sewage Recycling – A Loop Almost Closed. Also attached is a PowerPoint presentation which Greg provided, covering the main points of his talk, as well as links to some supplementary reading material, as listed below:

My visit to the Columbia plant was profitable, and I appreciated the opportunity to talk with knowledgeable people about these issues.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No Wings, But A Prayer

I guess I have an odd, quirky sense of humor. It comes out on occasion during dark and stressful times (like visits to the dentist), or sometimes while writing posts for this blog. Yet we have terrible things to talk about. These days are dark and stressful times for anyone who's paying attention and who cares about the direction our world and our nation are taking. There's a lot of bad news out there.

I am at a crossroads regarding my emotional response to it all (as well as my objective response). Many of the posts I have written deal with adapting to a post-Peak world, an industrial society that is in decline due to the depletion of its resource base. It's easy to be cheered by thinking about various adaptation strategies, to think that while the next several years or decades may be a bit rough, we might come out better off in the end.

Then something like the Deepwater Horizon spill occurs, and we ordinary common folk get to see how incompetent and feckless our leaders in government are in dealing with things like this, and how they seem so unwilling to inconvenience the holders of concentrated wealth and power who make messes like this. The rich seem bent on making as many messes as they can get away with in their pursuit of ever more wealth. There seems to be very little the rest of us can do to stop them. And when I look around, I see too many of my working-class fellows who are sympathetic to the rich. After all, they themselves hope to be rich some day.

Things fall apart. Sometimes it happens all by itself, as systems self-simplify to a more stable configuration. If you're a part of such a system, you can have a hope that the final configuration will leave you in a good place, or at least a decent, survivable place. But what if you're a part of a system whose masters are working as hard as they can to ruin it? A fellow blogger recently wrote a very angry post regarding the things now being ruined in our world – things like the livelihoods, health and ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. I have to say that I agree with her anger. What's especially galling is that there are unrepentant Republican politicians pushing for even more oil drilling off the coasts of the United States. In general, it seems that every Republican (or Fox News or Tea-bagger) position can be summed up in demanding the so-called “right” of the rich to maximize their short-term gains by destroying their fellow human beings.

But the Democrats are no better. 2008 was their chance to prove otherwise, and instead of doing so, they gave us Obama. He's a nice guy, genial, relatively young and well-spoken. He is also a Pavlovian symbol designed to fool people concerned about environmental, economic and social justice into believing that they've gotten a real change. The real mission of the Democrats seems to be to pretend to be concerned about the suffering of ordinary people and of the Earth because of the depredations of the rich, while doing absolutely nothing to stop these depredations. So as livelihoods, communities, waters and coastlines are destroyed by the ongoing Gulf oil spill, Obama will jet off to Gulf Coast communities so that TV cameras can capture images of the President stooping down on an oil-stained beach with a look of deep concern on his face. That's about as good as it gets. Here's another wager: I'll bet you that Obama does absolutely nothing about the stupid Arizona “immigration” law. Obama and the Democrats seem to find it more convenient to their cause to climb into the ring and pretend to be knocked out.

In this nation, narcissistic, greedy sociopathy has come out of the closet. This event was not announced as such, but the period from the start of George W. Bush's presidency until now has been one big coming-out party. While sociopaths can be found at every social stratum, I'd wager that they are most heavily concentrated among the very wealthy. Because they now control most of the mainstream media in this country, they have created a mass culture that almost perfectly reflects their values, and they seek to marinate all the rest of us in that culture until we all taste like them. “Greed is good!” “Helping poor people is socialism!” “Me first – regardless of the consequences to anyone else!” “I have a right to be racist!”

Against this backdrop, it gets a bit harder to write about strategies of adaptation to collapse. This week I lost my sense of humor. I hope it comes back. I'm trying to hang on to my optimism, but it's slippery and my hands are sweaty. We may all be as hapless as the passengers and crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961, which crash-landed in the ocean in 1996 after hijackers forced the plane to fly until it ran out of fuel. Nevertheless, some of those people lived to find out that the flight attendants were telling the truth when they said that seat cushions could be used as flotation devices. Maybe some of us will be so lucky. Therefore I will keep interviewing people who have something to say about our situation and how we can adapt to it. And I will continue to work on my own steps of adaptation as well.

Speaking of which, I wrote several weeks ago that I got another job. I have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, I actually have to do a fair amount of driving on this job, and I don't like it. The Deepwater Horizon accident makes driving feel like such a violation of everything I stand for. But I sometimes wonder about the whole idea of trying to hang on to a “job” in these times. For the most part, hunting for or hanging on to a “job” means clinging desperately to the official economy – even as that economy continues to disintegrate. For those who have “jobs”, times may be good right now – if the jobs pay reasonably well, it is possible to enjoy the present season of relatively low prices for many things and to forget about the root causes of those relatively low prices and the prospect that those root causes might vanish very soon. There are a lot of people who are hurting, to be sure, but there are still a lot of people who have “jobs” and who are driving large, shiny, new SUV's to and from large, shiny, new suburban homes – people who have been lured into huge debts by temporarily favorable conditions. To such people it is inconceivable that they might soon need to start extricating themselves from the official economy.

For me, it is not inconceivable. I can clearly see the writing on the wall, and I've already taken several steps in that direction. But fear keeps me from going further – fear of the unknown, fear that I might look like an idiot before my acquaintances and neighbors, the fear that comes from not exactly knowing what the next steps are or the shape of the thing that will replace the present official economy. “Promise or a dare? I would jump if I knew you'd catch me,” as one songwriter said. Or, as Captain Mancuso said in the Hunt for Red October, “The hard part of playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A (Short!) Summer Break

This is a quick note to let you all know that I'm buried in things to do just now. First, there's the summer class I will be teaching as part of a renewable energy curriculum. (My part is not cutting-edge; it's just a sophomore level engineering class.) Then there's the chicken coop I'm trying to finish (I started last year, believe it or not), and the summer vegetables I'm trying to get started at long last, and the winter vegetables and perennial vegetable seeds I have to order and ...

But I do have two valuable interviews coming up, one of which will be posted next week, God willing. The interviews are part of my continuing effort to engage my community in a conversation about post-Peak living and adapting to a time of collapse. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Post-Peak Education - A Grassroots Teaching Model

I am pleased to present another interview for this week's post. This past Friday, I had another opportunity to visit Holly Scholles, founder of Birthingway College of Midwifery in Portland, Oregon. We continued our discussion of what post-Peak health care might look like, and then we moved on to this week's main subject – a discussion of post-Peak education. Holly is uniquely qualified to discuss post-Peak education, due to her experiences in founding a college, and as a homeschooling parent.

We discussed both K-12 and post-secondary education and how traditional educational avenues, both public and private, are being imperiled by the shrinkage of revenues due to our ongoing economic collapse. A surprising fact surfaced, namely that Oregon public higher education tuition fees are now nearly equal to fees charged by some of the private colleges in Oregon. (For more on rising tuition fees, see FinAid | Saving for College | Tuition Inflation and College Tuition: Inflation or Hyperinflation?, for instance.) Why are college and university fees rising at such a rapid rate? Where is all that money going?

We didn't answer those questions in this interview, but we did discuss an alternative model: education that is relationship-based, small-scale, with reasonable fees charged by people who understand the concept of “enough.” Holly described an education system comprised of only four elements: motivated learners, able teachers (or coaches or facilitators), a good library and an environment conducive to learning. She stated that all these elements can be provided inexpensively.

She also described the organic process by which Birthingway started and by which it grew, and described how that process might happen for people in working-class neighborhoods who want to create local neighborhood classes and other learning opportunities for themselves and their children. We discussed a hypothetical example of a neighborhood whose members decide to start an urban farming class, and the process by which that class would grow – from gathering a library to attracting learners and other facilitators. From there we talked about the need for a revival of teaching of practical skills of the sort that have been lost due to reliance on technology and globalism.

We discussed many other things related to education, but these are the highlights. A recording of the interview can be downloaded from the Internet Archive at “Post-peak Education – A Grassroots Teaching Model.” As time permits, I hope to be able to post a transcript as well. (And I still owe you all a transcript of my last interview with Holly.) From the interview, it will be very obvious that a system that actually educates people is very different from what we have now, by and large, in the United States - a system whose purpose is mainly to institutionalize instead of educating.

I've got another interview coming up in the next few weeks. I can't say what it's about yet, but I think many of you will be very interested. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To The Left Of...The Oil Drum

On Memorial Day I posted a rather provocative question to the Oil Drum website regarding the efforts of British Petroleum to stop the Deepwater Horizon oil leak. I got a lot of provocative answers. In fact, I felt a bit like a private detective character in a crime noir film who walks into the midst of a street brawl unawares. I took a few lumps. But here's giving a few lumps back again (as private detective characters usually do).

My question was as follows:

I have been following the Deepwater Horizon story from a bit of a distance. I am not an oil man or oil industry expert by any means. But seeing the multiple failed efforts to plug the leak, along with the continued low-balling of estimates of the magnitude of the leak on the part of BP and the U.S. Federal government, I can't help but be a bit skeptical about a few things. To me it seems that BP's efforts are constrained by its desire to protect its profits from damage at all costs. I think they're just dinking around. I wonder - not that I think this would ever happen in our country at present - but what if money was no object; how quickly could this leak be stopped?

By "stopped" I mean stopped - without any regard for whether BP could use this well afterward. How could it be that "money was no object" in stopping the leak? One of two ways - either assume that BP has unlimited resources, or assume that a government (such as the U.S. government) had the guts and the strong moral sense to seize BP's assets and liquidate the company entirely in order to pay for the quickest and most effective means of stopping the leak. In other words, someone with a backbone and means of enforcement would have to make BP an "offer they couldn't refuse." What sort of engineering solutions would be available then? And how quickly could they be implemented?

It's an academic question to be sure, since it's not going to happen. But considering such a question would at least provide us with a "delta" between what could happen if those in charge really wanted to stop this mess versus what's happening now.

You can read both my question and some of the answers here. Now here's the thing. Most of those who answered my comment attacked my lack of expertise and the obvious “silliness” of my question and assumptions. I'll have to give them a bit of credit; as I said, I am not an oil man or oil industry expert. These same people were very sympathetic to BP, stating that BP was doing the best job it could under the circumstances, a “first class effort” undertaken by the “best minds on the task.” One poster commented that “...we should all wish them luck, and after all, they really are working for the collective 'us'.” Another wrote that “the idea that BP is withholding some efforts on the basis of costs is pure nonsense. Your analysis is just not credible...” Yet another said that “right from the start BP volunteered to pay for everything although they could have hidden behind a $75 million cap for the clean-up...”

Farther down the comment thread are posts unconnected to my question, written by posters who gush (pardon the pun) about the “breathtaking skill of the engineers and technicians” now working to stop the leak. One poster writes that “we are seeing stuff akin to what NASA does.” He also writes, “We are witnessing the destruction of wealth and assets and reputation and we may never be certain if anyone really screwed up...KUDOS to the people in the petroleum industry. You all rock!” There's more obsequious frothing at the mouth in praise of the petroleum industry, but I'll let you all read it for yourself if you're interested.

Once again, I admit that I'm certainly no oil production expert. But I also have experience in witnessing the mismanagement of problems in engineered systems, along with the inevitable lying and cover-ups that occur afterward. In fairness to the many fine experts at the Oil Drum, I promise to read up on the tech talks that have been written about the efforts to stop this leak. I am sure they are all fascinating. However, I think the following points are still worthy of mention:

  • BP's low-balling of the magnitude of the leak, from the very first days after the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon until now;

  • The attempts to cover up the extent of the environmental damage and of the spread of the oil, as I documented in my last posts on this subject;

  • The use of a toxic dispersant chemical (Corexit) by BP in an attempt to break up some of the oil slicks, instead of more expensive, yet more effective and environmentally-benign chemicals used by other companies;

  • And lastly, the lies that were published in the mainstream media (such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp outlets) about the “progress” being made by BP in bringing the spill under control (such as the ship that was supposedly sucking 5,000 barrels of oil per day from the leak).

These things all make me question (and frankly gag over) the party line that BP is a wonderful company that just happened to be the victim of an accident that's nobody's fault and that nobody caused, and now BP is exerting superhuman efforts to try to clean up the resulting mess. It is still a valid question to ask whether the most effective engineering solutions are being employed here.

I'm also wondering a bit about the Oil Drum. When I first started visiting that site, I was drawn into participating in some of the online discussions, driven by a fascination with the Peak Oil story and wondering how it would all play out. I made the “mistake” of announcing that I was a Christian once when I ran across an online discussion that was critical of Christians, in which most of the posters assumed that we were all like Sarah Palin or Pat Robertson. Because of my admission, I was treated to another round of “private-detective-gets-jumped.” Nowadays it's ironic that I, the moralist, the believer in an absolute standard of right and wrong, should suddenly find myself to the left of ... the Oil Drum! For not only am I lately finding a curious reluctance to discuss anthropogenic climate change over there, but I am also finding posters who are horrified at the thought that the Federal Government might ever force BP to make full restitution for the mess they have caused.

But true restitution is a sign of true repentance (Luke 19:8). Not only does BP not seem repentant, but the entire oil industry seems reprobate – what with Shell Oil winning leases for offshore drilling near Alaska and Canada issuing permits for drilling off its coasts – all in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon leak. Morality won't stop these people from continuing to make a mess. Our only hope for oceans that retain even some semblance of life is for another sweeping credit crunch that destroys the ability of oil companies to finance deepwater projects.

As to credit crunches, a curious thing has been happening. In 2008, as oil prices spiked to nearly $150 a barrel, credit markets crashed. Some argue to this day over whether or not the two phenomena were related. As a result of the crash, oil prices fell to nearly $30 a barrel. Now they are back over $70 a barrel. But we recently saw another credit crunch, this time involving not just banks, but the countries of the Eurozone. Oil had been trending above $83 a barrel just before that crisis. Now the price of oil has fallen to the low $70's (and is starting to rise again). But notice that this credit crunch did not deflate prices to nearly the same extent as the 2008 credit crisis.

To me this is a validation of Oil Drum analyst Tony Erickson's earlier prediction that there would be a significant decline in global oil production throughout 2010 – for oil prices are remaining stubbornly high even as deflationary events continue to happen throughout the world. (Tony Erickson is one of the good guys in my opinion, by the way.) But that's just my guess. As I am not an expert on oil, I don't pretend to be an expert on money matters either. ;)