It's Reader Participation Day Here at TOD...

We have some of the best commenters, but we also get some pretty cool emails. So first, I post J's comments and now I post a simple but ingenious letter from Kurt B. (you can use this to explain peak oil to just about anyone...imho...and as Ianqui pointed out the comments, HO is going to LOVE this one...).

To the Oil Drum:

I have only been reading about the issue of Peak Oil for the last two months, but the concept seems entirely plausible and disconcerting. I have become a true believer, and want to spread the news. I have met with some skepticism from co-workers and friends over the fact that even if we have "only" used up half the world's oil, we should still be able to easily go on and extract the last half. From what I've read, this just isn't so.

I have thought about how to demonstrate the declining production paradigm, and came up with this simple demonstration. Take an average alcoholic. Take a 20 ounce tumbler, and stuff a new clean sponge in the bottom. Pour a fresh pint of dark beer in the tumbler and top it off with a little more, so the alky knows at least there is a full 16 ounces in the tumbler.

So there is known quantity (proven reserves) of dark beer (oil) in the tumbler (world), plus a little more (undiscovered reserves). Have him drink to his hearts content. The first few sips of the fresh sweet beer (light crude) goes down easy, and soon he is drinking away (increased consumption). After about half the beer is consumed, he suddenly realizes the beer has stopped flowing freely out of the cup (mature fields). He knows by the weight and looking in the cup (geological surveys), that there should still be about half a beer left in the cup (Hubbert's Peak). He tilts the cup further up, but the slower trickle just isn't as satisfying (demand not being met).

So you offer him a spoon (advanced extraction techniques), to squeeze the remaining beer out of the sponge (rock formations), but it will cost him a dollar (increased costs). He gladly accepts, and soon more beer is swishing into his mouth. However, it has a spongy taste, and he likes it much less (sour crude), but drinks it anyway since he wants the alcohol (inelastic demand). Soon this is not enough, and he digs the sponge out, and squeezes the last drops out (tar sands and the like). He wants more and will take any alcohol (alternate sources of energy).

You say sorry, but the liquor store closed 15 minutes ago, and won't reopen till the morning (lack of development of alternates till it was too late).

For what it's worth,
Kurt B.

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Great analogy, Kurt! Worthy of Heading Out, I'd say.

and I like it too!

Hmmm. Maybe since the Peak Oil Diet was such a huge success, we can come up with a peak oil drinking game...

Oil Monopoly?
(ok, so PUNish me...)

I like the analogy - apologies to HO, but its easier to grab ahold of mentally than the sandwich shop.

This just in from Google News: Chinese firm considering bid for Unocal: State oil company could make cash offer to beat out Chevron

For those who don't believe the Chinese are maneuvering to ensure energy supplies for themselves for as long as possible, this headline should help persuade.

Good analogy, I think Colin Campbell originated it (there is a picture of him on the ASPO website with a pint in hand)

I used something very similar to this to teach peak oil to 5th graders this last year (minus the alcohol)

I'm a science teacher, and figure they will share in the problem and need to know this could be their future.

I used the same idea of a cup full of water with a sponge taking up half. I had them engage in a game with 2 people on either side of a simple balance (we have ones with built in buckets, for liquids). The point of the game is to keep the balance tilted to your side by using an eyedropper to suck out the water and fill the bucket quickly. Kids love games and this is easy to get them engaged in. They furiously suck out water from their cups trying to tip the balance their way. The first half of water is easy to extract, but then it gets harder and harder as they suck more air. It is stressed that whoever's side is heavier at the end doesn't matter, what matters is keeping it tilted toward you during play.

The game is a way to simulate economic market competition demand. If you want to win the game, conservation doesn't really help you in the short term context.

I have them do this without a single mention of oil, its just a game. I have them ask which is easier, first half or second half. Then we connect it to oil extraction and talk about how different things in our class and lives use oil.

When looking at a graph of depletion and the "peak" one 5th grader said, quite unprompted "Does this mean we will have another great depression?", I have the liberty of being in a progressive school and was able to be honest with him and tell him it was possible.

So, as with anything, the future of how we adapt to this in 10 and 20 years will be up to the children of today. While it is not appropriate to paint worst case scenarios of riots and chaos to children in school, it is certainly worth educating them of the basic facts.


Ptone, I just want to say that I think it is *great* that you are teaching Peak Oil to children.

I prefer "flip the cup", but can't figure out how to make it into a peak oil analogy...

Great way to explain it though!

I like my analogy with the yogurt scrapers. Around lunchtime, I frequently hear the tell-tale "scritch,scritch,scritch" from people scraping at the bottom of their yogurt containers for the last little bit of goodness. Next tme you hear that sound, think peak oil.

I like this metaphor, its a good physical analogy of the geology but it leaves a few economic and other possibilities for the end state. Apparently there is an alternative source, that in the scenario arrives too late (the barkeeper opening the next morning). Is there any amount the alcoholic could pay the bar owner to stay open all night (accelerated development of alternatives)? Can the alcoholic afford it (feasibility)? What if all the alcoholics chip in to meet the price (global cooperation). What if the alcoholic has a gun :-O

I have repeated this experiment, and yes sponge-flavored Guiness tastes ...

Just kidding. Man the discussions are rolling these last few days. Interesting stuff, but hard to keep up.

ooh...WHT and Dino, both good. I think Dino's on to something though...

and then there's the idea of multiple patrons (China, India, etc.)...what then??