Here’s the future of the suburbs – watch and enjoy!

The video below is a 14 minute tour into the future….


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Will this be the fate of our urban forest?

Probably.   We should have a tree planting AND harvesting plan at the city wide level.   Think we will?  Not with the hope of an 8-sided TV screen in Rupp!



Greeks ‘fell trees for warmth’ amid economic chill

ATHENS (AFP) – Rising oil prices and chilly economic times are prompting increasing numbers of Greeks to chop down trees for winter warmth, a group of forest engineers warned Tuesday.

Nikos Bokaris, a spokesman for the Panhellenic Union of Forest Engineers, said the debt-wracked nation’s forest ecosystems were not yet under threat, but urged the government to act quickly to prevent broader damage.

“You have to remember what happened in Albania,” Bokaris said, describing how that country’s population felled trees en masse after the collapse of communism. “Even the trees lining the roads were chopped down.”

Greek foresters filed 1,500 criminal complaints last year, twice as many as in 2010. About 70 percent of Greece’s forests are public, with most of the rest belonging to various religious institutions.

Bokaris attributed the rise to a sharp drop in national funding for forest management, coupled with a near-doubling of oil prices in 2011.

He said forest funds had been slashed from 20 million euros ($26 million) in recent years to 10 million euros from now on.

The cuts are part of Greece’s austerity measures agreed with international creditors in a bid to win vital debt bailouts.

The Greek arm of environmental group WWF has also expressed concerns. Its forests expert Konstantinos Liarikos said both individual and organised group activity were impacting the forests.

“Wood poaching,” as some in Greece call it, is not a new phenomenon in a country where even modern homes in Athens still have fireplaces. Domestically provided firewood is often not enough, with the shortfall made up by Balkan lumber.


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Here’s the chart that shows why our gasoline prices aren’t going down anytime soon

China is very thirsty for oil. In January, they imported the most crude oil in their history.  Their economy is slowing, so it appears that they are using this imported oil to build the world’s largest stockpile. Do they know something about this year and oil prices that we don’t? (hint – the price is likely to sky rocket…)

We’re on the edge of another recession, so how can prices be so high?  We import 2/3s of all the oil we use, and we are buy that oil on the world market.  The world market is much more expensive than our domestic market. As China buys more than it needs, the price rises.  We pay the cost at the pump.

Meanwhile, the US media is blowing the “energy independence” trumpet loudly. Why we have all the oil we need right here! And we use less every year! (thanks to the end of  economic growth).  Yet, cognitive dissonance will set in as gas tops $4 a gallon.    Obama will do everything he can to avoid a spike.  We’re in for an interesting year.


From Zero Hedge

Say what you will about the tenets of Chinese economic slowdown assumptions and what not (despite inflation obviously continuing to be a rather pesky issue), at least its steadfast determination to have the world’s largest crude oil stockpile is an ethos. At 23.4k metric tons of imports in January, China just imported the most crude in its history, despite the traditionally slow period around the Chinese new year. The trendline is unmissable – at this rate China will become the world’s largest importer of Crude in a few short years, surpassing the US easily with its 28K metric tons of imports in a couple of years. Oh, and anyone who thinks that China will volunteer to lose Iran as a primary source of crude imports as its oil is “liberated” by Western powers as the country is obviously en route to having the world’s largest crude stockpile (as to why this may be the case, read here), we have a bridge to Isfahan to sell you.

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Random Thoughts: February 8 2012

1.   The Republican assault on science is really a confirmation that we have hit the limits to growth prophesied 40 years ago by the authors of “Limits to Growth.”  Why else would they abandon all interest in truth for the sake of continued greed, pollution, and destruction? It must be that they know it has to end or else….So rather than take the “else” they just dismiss science. It is denial at its most tangible.  Republicans have developed a willful ignorance and, where necessary, a flat out willingness to lie about scientific truth.  The world is getting hotter.  We are causing it.  We have reached peak oil.  Prices go nowhere but up from here. Even in a depression.  In the words of Richard Heinberg, “the party is over.”  And Republicans want to keep you from learning about that fact.

To wit.  The Wall Street Journal – the defacto newspaper of the Republicans – recently published an op-ed entitled No Need to Panic About Global Warming.  The article was signed by 16 “scientists”, who turned out to be fossil fuel-sponsored shills who didn’t disclose the fact in the article.  Here’s the thesis:  “there’s ‘no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy’. From the article: ‘The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2. The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere’s life cycle.'”

Yep, they said that. So don’t worry.  We can pollute all we want in an effort to keep the greed machine cranking out money for the rich.

Now, this piece has been thoroughly debunked as an “amateurish collection of falsehoods and half truths”.  The issue is of course that these people are just making shit up in an effort to deny reality.  That says more to me about the real physical limits we are facing than anything else.

See #3 below for more fun from the WSJ.

2.  There are some funny numbers over at the Lexington Venture Club.  We get a breathless tout from Commerce Lexington about the “groovy success” of the start-up community!  But the numbers don’t really add up.

For example, in 2011, the club claims to have given out nearly $70 million dollars to local companies. For that, we have an employment of 605 full time workers, and 175 part time.  Now, it is not clear if they mean that these are new jobs or if they are simply the number of people employed at the firms.  If these are new jobs, then for every new full time hob created, the club spent $90,065 and for every part time job they spent $87,822.

If these are not new, but rather existing jobs, then we need to see how much spending nearly $70million will increase employment year over year.  In 2010, the Club reported 537 full time jobs in these firms and 211 part time.  That’s an increase of 68 full time jobs and a loss of 36 part time jobs.   So, if you spend $70million you get that?

Lets look at this over time.  In 2005, the Venture Club reports that 176 full time jobs and 109 part time jobs existed in companies that received venture funding.  In the intervening six years the club has invested a total of $343,209,452 and has added a total of 429 new full time jobs and 66 part time jobs.  I’m not real good at math, but something seems really out of whack.

This whole shtick that small business and entrepreneurs are going to “innovate” their way to job creation appears to be a myth.  The reality says that huge investments are not translating into a large number of jobs.  They may be great investments for investors and the workers, but they are not transforming our city.

Where does this investment come from?  Of the $69,858,852 invested, 25% comes from government sources.  So THIS is the kind of government spending the righteous can get behind?  Not much of a return if I say so myself.

Then you’ve got the whole “this is good for the city” angle – it adds tax revenues to the coffers through the payroll tax!  These jobs are touted as having an average wage of over $65,000.  Well, at the city’s current payroll tax rate of 2.25%, then the 605 full time jobs at the firms paid $889,812 in taxes to the city last year.  Sounds like a lot, but in a budget of approximately $274,000,000, it amounts to 0.32% of the budget.  A pittance.

Then we get nonsense such as UK Prez Caputo saying that entrepreneurs are “the future of our city and our country.”  Yeah, at the rate of 279 jobs (1/2 part time) and $70 million in investment per year,  how long will it take and how much will it cost to put the 19,318 unemployed people in Lexington back to work?

So, $343,000,000 has been invested – $85 million of that government money – creating a handful of jobs and adding nothing to the city.  Why would anyone but successful investors celebrate this number?

3.        Does anything exceed a Republican’s capacity for seeing themselves as victims? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal “What Pepsi can learn from McDonalds” describes how Pepsi has lost its way trying to offer more healthy alternatives.  Look the McDonald’s, the author says, where they pretend to offer healthier alternatives, but really they are selling the same old shit and making huge profits from it. Here’s the crux:  “Here’s what McDonald’s has come to understand that Pepsi hasn’t. McDonald’s spends $2 billion a year on advertising and brand-building. To build a brand is to create a hostage, and a full-time activist industry has evolved to expropriate a small sliver of this value to promote its own causes.”  So the promotion of the crap McDonalds does only enables the leeches who want people to eat better. McDonalds could be a hostage to them.   Ah but McDonalds doesn’t really care, because they ignore the critics and only changes what they do when consumers demand it.  “McDonald’s has learned not to panic about this. In May, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and two other groups ran full-page ads demanding the company retire its mascot clown, Ronald McDonald. The ads generated probably millions of dollars in free publicity for the activist groups in various media. Ronald is going nowhere.” 

And this:  People don’t get fat because of Pepsi and McDonalds, but rather “Let’s also admit that neither McDonalds nor Pepsi is responsible for our inbuilt Pleistocene craving for fat or the disappearance of exercise from American lifestyles, if these are in fact the reason for the rise in obesity. The science itself remains muddy: A problem with insulin regulation increasingly seems a more precise explanation of the obesity trend.” 

Seriously.  Read that again.  And then read point number one of this essay.

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Who said it?

“This is a president who believes that the American pie has now grown as large as it will ever get. It’s not going to get any bigger, so what he’s telling people across America is, ‘If you aren’t satisfied with your piece of the pie, and you think the man next to you has a bigger piece,’ he says, ‘I’ve got solution for you: I’ll take part of his piece – I’ll keep most of it – and I’ll give a little bit to you, and you should be happy because that’s what America is going to be under four more years of Barack Obama’.

Now we can’t have that because what Mitt Romney believes is that the size of the American pie is infinite, that the only thing – the only thing – that limits the size of the American pie is our work ethic, our integrity, our ingenuity, and that means America’s pie is limitless.”

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What kind of jobs in 2020?

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics Wednesday released its predictions for what jobs will see the biggest growth – and the biggest declines – between 2010 and 2020.

Overall, government analysts expect employment to grow show growth of 14.3 percent from 2010 to 2020, meaning 20.5 million new jobs will be added.”

WOW!  That means that we’ll be adding over 2 million jobs per year!

Wait a minute……we have added only 3.1 million new jobs since 2010.  That leaves us with needing to create 17,400,000 over the next 8 years.  That’s only 2,175,000 new jobs a year over the next 8 years.  Surely we can pull that off right?

And what kind of jobs will they be?

Here you go:

the largest job growth by 2020:

  • Registered Nurses
  • Retail Salespersons
  • Home Health Aides
  • Personal Care Aides
  • Office Clerks, General
  • Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food
  • Customer Service Representatives
  • Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
  • Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand
  • Postsecondary Teachers
  • Nursing Aides, Orderlies, and Attendants
  • Childcare Workers
  • Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
  • Cashiers
  • Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education

Hell yeah!  Mostly just the kind of low wage work that corporate Amerika wants us to have.  Poor people are docile people, at least here.

What this list really tells me is that despite our vaunted pitch that education will set you free, very few of these jobs require much more than the basic minimum.  Yet how many college-educated young people will fill these jobs – most of which don’t really need a college education?  Don’t you notice the basic mismatch between what we are saying – go to college! – and what kinds of jobs will be waiting for you when you get done?

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Growth forever! But what if…..?

Below is a snippet of an interesting post by Gail Tverberg.  The basic premise is simple:  our political and financial overlords are making assumptions about “growth” going forward which will allow them to both pay back past debt and take on more debt.
But what if…..?
What if growth isn’t in our future because we have hit resource based limits?  What if  the economy doesn’t – can’t – continue to expand forever?  That’s the point of the first graphic.
The point of the second graphic is even more ominous.  Her point is that oil production is likely to rapidly decline in the very near future.  The reason is not as many would suspect at first:  there is plenty of oil in the ground, but it is more expensive than ever to get to.  High prices destroy demand which means that prices will fall, thus eliminating the incentive to spend enormous amounts trying to get the stuff out of the ground.  It is a fascinating paradox.  And one that bodes ill for us, as we are simply not prepared.
read her whole post “More reasons why we are reaching the limits to growth” here

Figure 2. Two views of future growth

The problem is that when limited oil supply is rationed by high oil prices, economic growth slows down, and eventually decreases (Figure 2). When this happens, it becomes much less advantageous to borrow from the future, because the future is no longer better than today. If an economic contraction occurs for very long, the whole debt system can be expected to undergo a major “unwind”.

Logic says the result would be fairly cataclysmic. We recently started seeing the beginning of this unwind with the financial crisis of 2008-2009. We are seeing more of the potential unwind with the problems in Greece and the rest of Europe, and with the US government reaching limits on borrowed debt. Exactly how this will play out is uncertain, but debt defaults in Europe could spread to banks worldwide, in one scenario.

With much less credit available, demand for extracted energy products would fall, because with less debt, people can afford to purchase fewer products that use energy, such as new cars. Prices of oil and oil substitutes will fall, making oil extraction unprofitable in locations where extraction costs are high. The result is not likely to be a slow decline, of the type attributed to M. King Hubbert. Instead, a much more precipitous decline can be expected (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Historical crude, condensate, and NGL production based on BP and EIA data, plus a Guesstimate of Future Oil Supply.

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