The cost of energy

Economists in recent years have attempted to assuage us regarding the increasing cost of energy, specifically petrol. I remember Ross Gittins writing in the Sydney Morning Herald a few years ago that, despite the rising cost of petrol, energy costs were now much smaller a percentage of GDP than they were during the energy crisis-ridden years of the 1970s.

Of course Gittins was correct. So too were the writers of oil-related articles in The Economist. Economic growth since the early 1980s has exceeded the growth of energy costs, which means that energy has become cheaper.

Unfortunately, the information given to us by these writers probably allowed us to feel a bit more secure. After all, if Economic growth continues to outpace energy costs, who cares how much oil and electricity costs?

Well, the results are in. According to this article from Angry Bear, US energy costs as a percentage of nominal consumer spending have reached 6.6%. Although this is lower than the average cost of energy during the 1970s, it is higher than the 6.2% low of the 1970s. The all time low was 4.2%, experienced during the late 1990s - the period when SUV and Hummer sales took off.

Furthermore, the graph used at Angry Bear does not include data from the last three months, which would have seen both an increase in oil prices and a drop in consumer spending.

Gittins and The Economist were right when they pointed out that energy costs had diminished since the 1970s, but they were unable to predict that energy costs in the last few years would outpace GDP growth.

In short - energy costs are now rivalling the 1970s in terms of their impact upon consumers. The economic shock has begun, but has a long time to go.


Space 1999 - The Lambda Factor

"Okay. We do have the machine that goes 'ping'. But where's the patient?"

A disembodied head begins to eat a B&W TV.

Before starring in a hit series of computer games, Mario worked on Moonbase Alpha.

"Which one is the Turkish Delight?"

21st Century VCR maintenance.

It's about to blow up. We know this because it's gone red.

"It also says here that Nick Tate will star in an episode of Star Trek - The Next Generation."

A gigantic paisley fan attacks Moonbase Alpha.

Deborah Fallender perfects the "Diabolically evil" look.

A desperate extra gets his 1.5 seconds of fame.

A hideous, ugly extra manages to sneak onto the set without anyone noticing.

And here's a picture of a caterpillar.

Tony desperately tries to free the caterpillar from the futuristic plastic box of death.

Commander Koenig, however, is unable to rescue the metal ball from the perspex box of death.

Moonbase Alpha's high fibre diet begins its inevitable after-effects.

"What the hell did I have for Lunch? Sausages in a Metamucil sauce?"

Tony, however, had refused the high fibre diet and suffered the consequences.

Frank uses the power of his mind to raise his right hand.


The State of Conservatism in America

From the Department of it couldn't be said better:
It must be really scary to be a conservative. To be one, you must live in constant fear of terrorists nuking the United States, of gay people on the verge of convincing you that you really enjoy sodomy, of Spanish becoming the official language of the United States next week, of every African-American voting seven or eight times in the next election, of radical Islam suddenly becoming the latest hip thing among kids across the country, of perpetual lesbian orgies in girls bathrooms in high schools across America, of liberals forcing everyone to become a vegan, of Christians being rounded up into concentration camps, and of Democrats outlawing private property if they were to ever take power again.
Harsh? Not when you read this recent gem from conservative Hugh Hewitt:
By the way, I -- I'm still trying to find two tickets to the Ohio State-USC game. And none of the USC people will give up their tickets to me. I'd pay fair price. They -- they know Ohio State's gonna slaughter the Trojans. They know that they're gonna slaughter the Trojans, and therefore they do not want me there at the bloodbath, since it's probably the last football game we'll ever get to see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama. I -- I would like to see Ohio State slaughter USC. This is what I'm living for right now. I'm keeping -- all the bad news, I just focus on the Ohio State upcoming slaughter of USC.
And what about this one from conservative Fox News commentator Brit Hume:
Barack Obama is a practicing Christian, married in a Christian church, whose children were also baptized in that church. His campaign has emphasized his faith in part to dispel what the campaign calls an online smear campaign which contends among other things that Obama was raised a Muslim. There is even a statement on his official campaign website reading, quote, "Obama has never been a Muslim, and is a committed Christian."

But Obama's half brother is not so sure. Malik Obama tells The Jerusalem Post that "if elected his brother will be a good president for the Jewish people, despite his Muslim background."

The article was also accompanied by an image of Malik Obama holding a photo of him and Barack Obama both in Muslim dress, reportedly taken when the two first met back in 1985.
Or maybe even this recent quote from radio personality Rush Limbaugh:
But let me see if I can get your question right. You want to know why the Republicans are willing to say, "Screw you," to 30 percent or more of their voters and yet Democrats will bend over, grab the ankles, and say, "Have your way with me," for 10 percent and 2 percent of the population? (ie blacks and homosexuals)
The tragedy of modern American conservatism is that it does actually have many positive things to offer, but is controlled by scaremongering Republican partisans who can't even get their facts straight.


North Pole to melt in the next few months

From the department of inconvenient events:
It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice free North Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during the summer months and satellite data coming in over recent weeks shows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when there was an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.

"The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the North Pole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I'd say it's even-odds whether the North Pole melts out," said Dr Serreze.
This is one of those times that I wish there was such a thing as global warming alarmism.

Just to clarify the facts - every summer the Polar ice cap goes through a melting process because the sun shines there 24 hours per day and because any liquid water there retains heat. In winter any liquid water freezes over and the whole pole goes through a cooling process. This whole cycle - of warming and freezing - creates sections of "temporary" ice at the pole.

The North pole does have permanent ice - ice that has not melted in a very long time. Normally, even during the summer, this permanent ice remains frozen.

Last year, however, large swathes of permanent ice melted. The northern summer of 2007 saw a melting of about one-third of the permanent ice. The 2007 melting also means that the North pole is half its 1979-2000 median size. This diagram should frighten the pants off anybody:

(see Arctic Shrinkage at Wikipedia for more details)

I'm not an alarmist - however I would say that if the polar ice cap did disappear completely during the 2008 summer then the dangers are immense. Since the ice floats on the top of the water on the North pole, its melting will not increase sea levels at all. However, Greenland's glaciers and Ice Sheets will begin to melt faster after being exposed to longer periods of liquid sea water. Already the sea is rising 2-3mm per year due to glacial melting from Greenland - a liquid North Pole would increase the rate at which this occurs.

And if Greenland melts, you might as well add 7 metres (23 feet) to the world's sea level.

UPDATE: Real climate weighs in on the issue, and doesn't deny that it is a problem.


How to argue effectively

This should be required reading for anyone who comments anywhere on the internet. If you don't you're an ass hat.

Leonid Brezhnev - former Soviet leader in all his glory

One sits the whole day at the desk and appetite is standing next to me. "Away with you," I say. But Comrade Appetite does not budge from the spot.


Space 1999 - The Bringers of Wonder

Sandra watch re-runs of John Cleese to relieve the boredom.

"Dear God, please heal me of my eyebrow warts and cheek fluff"

The commander undergoes a 21st century lobotomy.

"I've received a communication from the future! Our show is going to be cancelled!"

This man is evil. He is actually a space alien using telepathy to control our minds and make us think he looks like a human. We know this because of his evil moustache.

"You gotta purty behind, mister"

While the women engage in low-level psychological warfare, Tony keeps an eye on.... things.

Tony's Spaghetti Marinara recipe is a monumental failure.

"At this present moment in time I am exceptionally distressed to the point where mere words cannot adequately convey the depth of emotions that I am experiencing." (Reminds me of Arnie in Total Recall)

Dr Russell, whose brain is tilted 45 degrees forward, has a brilliant idea .

"The humans are beginning to see through our fake moustaches, beards, boobs and personality!"

In order to rescue a man trapped in a room, Moonbase Alpha recruits the talents of experienced cavers.

Frank pays the price for eating 25 cans of baked beans near an open flame.

Moonbase Alpha's muzak choice for the day cheers all Kyuss fans.

Count Rugen encourages Prince Humperdink to murder Buttercup.

Don't argue with a woman wielding a 10cm perspex rod. (or even a katana)

Maya reluctantly agrees to join in.

Meanwhile, Tony's Spaghetti Marinara begins to take over Moonbase Alpha.

Maya can't get the Spaghetti Marinara out of her mind... literally.

"The computer's calculations are correct! Blake's Seven is killing us in the ratings!"

Commander Koenig has another bad acid trip.

"Sorry. I don't understand what a 'safety word' is."

"I'm sure you've discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain. At present I'm writing the definitive work on the subject. So I want you to be totally honest with me on how The Machine makes you feel."

Sandra finally understands the problem of being attracted to emotionally distant men.

Suddenly Alan Carter returns to earth and begins a relationship with Courtney Love.

Suddenly a man in black attacks the dune buggy on earth.

Meanwhile, back on the moon, Commander Koenig (he with web cam on top of helmet) follows the moon buggy's two-stroke smoke.

Meanwhile, back on earth, Courtney Love continues to ride on the coattails of a dead man.

And here's a picture of a guy cutting his hedge.

And here's a picture of the same guy holding a canister of atomic fuel.

Greco-Roman wrestling in the future requires space suits, not oil.

The cast laugh at the producer's ideas for the next story.