Excuse me while I bash my head against the wall (for seemingly no reason) some more...

This graphic captures the percent of posts in blogtopia that mention a particular topic. I plotted "peak oil" v. "global warming" v. "climate change" in this graph over the past six months. "Peak oil" is the bottom blue line, meaning that on average, one one-hundredth of 1% of all blog posts mentioned "peak oil"...and "peak oil" was mentioned about 15 times less than "global warming" at its peak, but only about four times more at baselines. (If you want to do your own or another comparison, go to blogpulse).

peak oil v. global warming blogpulse

The massive imbalance between peak oil and the other two topics rather shocked me...but it does remind/indicate to me how little PO gets talked about in relative terms. (I also do not mean to imply that these two subject matters are adversaries, if only for the "oxygen" of effort of discussion in the blogosphere, in fact, I perceive the two problem sets as quite complimentary.)

One thing you can do with the blogpulse tool is to click on the graph (when it's on the blogpulse page, not in this copy) and find out what are the drivers of these discussions. The two latest spikes for the global warming/climate change discussions were the result of discussions of G8/Kyoto and a bit on the US energy bill...but even after those discussions, the graphs returned to their baseline for all terms.

Even more disconcerting is this graph:PO
This is just "peak oil" on its own. While it seems like PO's been getting more and more coverage, the coverage in blogistan has actually been trending sideways, and most recently DOWNWARD. That doesn't gibe with our readership numbers (which continue to go up) or the feeling of growing popular awareness that I am getting.

WTF?!?!? Am I not getting something here? Am I missing something? Why is coverage of peak oil trending sideways/downward? Shouldn't the energy bill have spiked a discussion of peak oil more than it did global warming? What would provide that kind of catalyst for a discussion of peak oil? $4/gal? A tanker sinking? A refinery explosion? Are we in the PO community not doing enough? What?!?!

Something tells me, unless we start going door to door...well, let's just say it ain't going to happen on its own...maybe it really is about local activism and spreading the word...? Maybe there just has to be catalyst (we've mentioned $100/bbl so many times...)...but even then, won't it just return to the baseline?

Damned if I know.

edited to add, here's odo's plot of "gas prices" v. "global warming" as noted in comments...GPvGW

Technorati Tags: ,

Climate change has been publicly discussed since 1988 when Jim Hansen of NASA GISS was brought in to the Senate by Tim Worth( D, CO) to testify that the phenomenon was real. And yet except for the two discussion spikes, only about 0.025% of the polled blogs mention it, with a slightly higher percentage (about 0.045%) for the more popular term "global warming". The phrase "peak oil" is only now coming into some use after the dramatic price increases of the last year.

The two topics are obviously related as we've discussed but there isn't much good information on the web linking them -- I have looked. Interestingly, what information there is comes from the PO side, not the climate change side.

What do I conclude?

1) I think that generally speaking the large majority (over 95%) of people have never heard of peak oil.

2) Of those who have heard of it -- judging by comments on other blogs -- I'd say about half of them think we've all got a screw loose somwhere, that we're some doomsday energy cult predicting the end of the world. Most of these people do not understand what "peak oil" means. A common confusion is that we are saying that the world is running out of oil soon. Since that's obviously not the case, they think we're crazy for the wrong reasons.

3) It will take real shortages (people waiting in line for gas) and much higher prices (100/bbl) for the term to come into more common usage. However, I don't think it will ever be a very common term; we're about 25 years past Hubbert's US domestic peak and only 0.01 of all blogs mention it in a time of relatively high prices.

I see that "on economic and stock message boards, a wingnut is a person who believes that there is going to be an imminent economic catastrophe".

So, PG, speaking as one wingnut to another, I'd say that's a fair analysis. 8)

Please don't hurt yourself!

It's not worth it. And don't take it too personally that people aren't "getting it." Most people cannot be hectored into changing their behaviors. Some small minority might (and have) voluntarily change their behaviors for the benefit of everyone. But those few won't be enough. The other option is mandatory limits. Good luck with that one!

And what is the outcome of several hundred of us reducing our consumption of petroleum? Lower prices (and bigger vehicles) for others! Unless everyone on the planet agrees to reduce consumption, others will swoop in and consume the artificially low-priced goodies. IMHO, the ONLY method that will reduce consumption of a commodity like petroleum, which has an exceptionally inelastic demand, is higher and higher (and higher) prices.

And what about mandatory limits? Those will enable the human population to continue to increase, placing more demands on global resources.

Thus, while I like to limit my own exposure to high petroleum prices by riding a bicycle and turning up the thermostat on the AC (my own little hedges), I don't hold it against others who choose not to. If they don't consume it, someone else will; it's human nature to look out for yourself first, your family second, your tribe third, and to Hell with everyone else...

That's how I sleep at night.

Peak oil. America needs it now more than ever. Okay, let me crouch down behind my bunker before the flaming starts!

Minor correction -- I meant to say we are 35 years past Hubbert's peak, not 25.

Also, count Atlantic Magazine editor James Fallows as a wingnut also. But when he wrote his "Countdown to a Meltdown" article, he included but underplayed the energy crisis and did not use the term "peak oil". He's about defcon 4.

Perhaps even more intriguing than the blogs is the fact that the "oil problem" in general is being picked up by the MSM (The Economist, National Geographic, etc) and yet, none of them seem to be using the term "peak oil".

Could it be a matter of framing? Maybe "peak oil" is threatening terminology, perhaps especially to people who have heard about it. Maybe, as a Dave points out, this is because people take it to mean that we're running out of oil. We've had discussions on this blog plenty of time about how to approach people, and how not to. But maybe the moral of the story is that while "peak oil" is convenient terminology, it's not helping us get the message out there.

(I wrote my comment before I saw Dave's 1:48pm contribution. Interesting that we note similar points.)

well, I was trying to think of other frames and even tried a couple. (good points, all of you, ten points for Gryffindor.) But "oil problem" is even less frequent than "peak oil."

This problem may just be too complex to fit in one frame (other than the threatening "peak oil" frame) too...but I would have thought it was just as complex as "global warming." Perhaps GW/CC have just been around longer?

Well, I for one always think twice before bringing it up in conversations. It's kinda tough to tell someone that we could be in for wrenching change within a few years (if not 4Q '05) thanks to this obscure concept.

There are a lot of smart, well-informed people in academia and the DC think tanks who have never heard of PO or, if they have heard of it, have no sense of how imminent and significant it could be.

Until prominent people and organizations start to talk about PO, the dialogue on this subject will likely continue to take place in obscure corners of the web and academia. Perhaps we will one day see UN / IEA / GAO / IPCC reports on peak oil. Until then, absent a price-spike induced media blitz, this will likely remain an obscure topic discussed by a small segment of academia and quasi-academic geeks like me.

Re: Ianqui's "peak oil is convenient terminology, it's not helping us get the message out there."

I thiink you're probably right about this. It's more or less a shorthand terminology used by the cognoscenti. (Linked to the dictionary for your convenience!)

Others here could suggest new terms. How about "Oil Depletion"?

Other David,

No need to crouch.
You are right. This thing you call "human nature" has multiple facets to it, one being the "me first" part, and another being the "my family & tribe" part (aka kin folk). There is at least one more part which we can call the "my abstractionist philosophy" part. The 3 parts do not always get along. The "me" part usually has veto power over the other 2 parts --it depends on how the parts have been culturally cultivated.

These 3 brain/mind parts are not fictionalized out of thin air.

If you disect the human brain, you find a biological basis for all 3 parts: the primitive or reptilian brain stem & area, the limbic area and the neocortex. Of course that is a very simplistic view. But they are all there and they all contribute to how humans behave, how they "think".

Take the sound bite, "global warming". It is a bit luke warm, but the primitive brain layer does understand that when things get too warm all around, they can be uncomfortable for the all important "me". So this concept does draw some attention from the "me" brain.

Now what kind of mixed messages does the phrase "peak oil" signal to the primitive "me" brain?

Well "peaks" are usually good, desirable things. You scale a mountain and get to its peak. You reach peak performance in your capabilities. All good things.

What does "oil" convey to the primitive brain?
Well, Jed Clampett became a millionaire when the crude came up a bubbling from the ground. Jed escaped purgatory and moved to Hollywood, paradise, where he and his kin folk lived the great life. So peak oil must be something really positive.

OK then. The "me" part of the brain groks it. Oil is good. Peak oil is really good. End of story. Why are these nuts complaining that it's a bad thing? Their analysis is clearly inferior to the smart decision made by the all brilliant "me" part of the brain.

Besides, peak oil does not even resonate.
"Love Life" resonates.
"terrrrorrr" resonates.
Egor hears those.
Peak oil sounds like a squeaking pig that needs to be lubricated. Egor is not impressed.

Can someone tell me why Roscoe Bartlett's attention to the issue isn't making one stinking bit of difference (and why NO ONE attends his speeches)? Is he just considered a wingnut by other congresspeople?

And for that matter, when is willyoujoinus.com going to make a difference? According to Technorati, the site only has 18 links to it! (That can't be...There must be a counting error in Technorati.)

Peak Oil is starting to get on the mainstream "information horizon," as I think Dave put it awhile ago. Matthew Simmons is going to do an on-line chat at the Washington Post next Thursday. You can send in your questions ahead of time.

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2005/07/26/DI200...

I: because no one goes to special orders. It goes out of a MoC's mouth and into the Congressional Record, which no one reads. There's about 10 of those kinds of speeches a day and even more "one minute" speeches that no one ever hears...and the only thing Roscoe will get out of it is a place in history when he's right. ten to one, he's tried to talk to other MoC's, but why would they have any incentive to listen?

willyoujoinus.com, if anything, is attempting to suck the oxygen out of the room because it allows Chevron to control the discussion. The more people spending time there, the less they are spending time getting the facts that aren't framed by them long-term. they might be thinking about oil depletion, but they're thinking about it in the "wow, Chevron sure is cool to do this in this innocuous manner, look at all the pretty pictures and graphics even though the words on here should scare me to death" frame...not the "holy fuck, we're screwed theme."

We all posted at about the same time.

Mixed messages.

Those always confuse my Egor.

PO sounds like BO. Not good. Smells bad.

No one person can come up with the correct phonic confabulation that "frames" the issue properly. Wealthy political parties use think tanks and focus groups. They carefully test the simplest of phrases for resonance on different levels and in different demographics (i.e., men, women, young folk, old folk --yes women are from a limbic Venus and men are from a reptilian Mars. "Love Life" works for both because it is vague as to which/whose life is being loved and what kind of love is being used)

Petro Plunge.

Let Egor ruminate on that alliteration for a while. You may have better suggestions.

PG--Yeah, I know re: the special orders. I watched one. There was no one in the room. I just wanted to scream into the void.

And boy, you sure are pissy about Chevron today ;)

Diane--thanks for the heads up. That's cool.

yeah, I left a question over on the Simmons WaPo thing. Basically "why isn't the media covering this more? etc." Of course, I already know the answer.

Yeah, the Chevron thing even made me feel good for about an hour. Then I thought about it. Perfect PR trap, really.

Why they don't listen to Roscoe.

Roscoe is getting up in the middle of the heavy weight lifting section of the gymn and talking techno-nerd talk. These guys all failed physics. The last thing they want to hear is some nerd they laughed at in high school lecturing them on boring science. Thermodynamics blah blah blah. Shut up Roscoe. Go back to the science lab. You are not cool like us.

But what if Roscoe started talking about how the military might of our honorable army, our boys in blue, would be threatened by reduced access to petroleum and power. We would not be able to project our precision guided bunker busters into the heart of the terrorrrrist's lair without the much needed oil. Now you got a bunch of reptilian generals perking their ears up. Is he threatening my power base? Bring it on big boy. Now I'm listening.

Most of the current interest is, I suspect, more related to whether supply can meet demand through the rest of this year. In a fair amount of the discussion of the risk that it will not, there is an assumption that things are going to get better, provided we can "tough it out" through the shorter-term. It is how folk have got through crises in the past.

Which really goes back to Prof G's comments about denial. There is a great wish to pretend that if we just keep plodding ahead things will get better, and somehow . . . someone . . . (paging Harry Potter !)

Until there's a demonstrable crisis - one that hits people where they live (in their car and at their job) - we can expect the discussion to remain out of the spot light.

Side note: As part of my work I do market analysis and follow the energy sector extremely closely; this week I listened to a few energy companies conference calls - and while I have not added up the numbers yet it sure seems like production growth is lagging.

Wow. Apropos of this discussion, right now one of the google ads showing is for Marshall Brain's AltEng site that Dave brought up yesterday. The ad says:

Peak oil is a charade
Will civilization collapse when we run out of oil?
No. Read the truth.

This is what we're up against, I guess. And it's a much nicer message.

(And then after that is "Saudi Arabia Guys & Girls". It's Friday, friends, which means anything is fair game!)

The markets always provide.

Gold, oil, pork bellies, they are all the same. They are just commodities.
The markets always provide.

This is my religion. Do not attack my religion. ;-)

How many times is the continuance of my religion, my way of life, re-affirmed in the following piece? (hint: search for "continue"):

It shall be as it was before. The markets always provide.


NOBODY CARES! I've been in the energy biz since I was 18 and I'm now 54. I've seen energy crisis come and go. It's all deep infrastructure, an invisible birthright. Nobody WANTS to think about it.

But let the lights go out or the corner gas station close or your gransmother freeze to death and watch the hysterical finger pointing begin and the cockimainie nutjobs come out of the woodwork and the Senators line up to pontificate to "their" public.

The answer is to be prepared with rigorous analysis and a practical plan BEFORE the brown organic material hits the atmospheric recirculation device.

Unfortunately, the public mindshare on energy is dominated by enviro airheads - the American public recognizes that and just lets them chatter away. It's like your grandmother telling you to eat your peas. You'll eat as few as possible and still won't like them.

That's human nature. The right approach is found in Prof. Hamilton's econbrowser.com blog - let's think how we can make some bucks! Unleash those animal spirits!

Too many of the PO fans are leftists and doomsdayers hoping to make some huge crusade out of it so that their collectivism will be vindicated and enhanced. Plus, there's those anti-American types. They are mixing the message, making it a bitter pill.

Besides, has anyone figured out how to work SEX into the story?

What a minute, I've got it! Imagine the headline....

"Horizontal Drilling Enhances Saudi Polygamy"

What red-blooded man wouldn't want to know more!

That's the way. Now you're thinking with your real head !!!

Real men have real solutions. Here are the top ten (hat tip to liz):

More MSM, albeit of the liberal variety (and no use of the term "peak oil"), according to our Republican Senate. Go listen to what former Sen. Bob Graham had to say about the Energy Bill on Morning Edition today. He's pushing conservation as a way to achieve independence from foreign oil. (Hat tip: Treehugger)

Global Warming is a much more established brand as a problem. Everyone has heard of it. Peak Oil is not, mostly because everyone has been buying the story about effectively infinite Saudi Oil meaning the problem was a long way outside the planning horizon.

What does amaze me is the difference between the way Enron was treated and the way Saudia Arabia is treated. Once analysts got the feeling that something was really not right with Enron's numbers, the press and investment community went into a feeding frenzy until the question was settled.

The questions about Saudi Arabia's numbers have got to be pretty major to anyone who pays attention at this point, and yet we don't see reporters flying off to do stories about it and the business press digging into it etc. The President has a chat with the Saudis, bought the line that it was really our fault for not being able to refine their heavy Vanadium-rich left-over oil, and that was that. Hello? If you have 260billion barrels of oil left, way more than you've produced so far, couldn't you just tap a little more of the good stuff?

I guess it's just unthinkable to people that the world might run short of oil in any way that mattered, so they can't begin to take any interest in the problem.

Again, though, as I mentioned a week or so ago - when shifting a paradigm, do not attack the old paradigm on its points of strength - people who are completely convinced of the old one. Instead, find people who are receptive but unaware and educate them.

Probably it is most appropriate and useful at this point that the discussion involves a lot of technocrats and academics of various stripes. The situation needs to be much more precisely characterized and the options much more heavily explored than has happened so far - that is the job of technocrats and academics. I've been doing a literature search over the last few days. The highest cited paper on the subject is Campbell and Laharrere's piece in SciAm which has 123 citations in scholar.google.com, then comes an American Journal of Physics piece by Deffeyes with 60 citations - and it tails off very rapidly after that. Papers on embodied energy calculations are down in the tens of citations. Archaeology papers on past civilization collapse are in the same realm as peak oil papers. Renewable energy papers are in the tens of citations.

Those are tiny numbers - in my field of computer intrusion detection - a pretty small field - the important papers have hundreds of citations. In computer networking (foundation for a major new industry in the last 20 years), important papers have a 1000+ citations.

Global warming is starting to be well studied too - many papers with hundreds of citations.

In other words, the basic science of what happens/should happen in a depleting oil world is in its infancy relative to other fields. There's an enormous amount of work to do to understand the problem - so recruiting engineers, scientists, academics into the space is a key thing now. That will happen - good people are drawn to important and interesting problems.

Then as the situation grows clearer and presumably more urgent, the rest of the body politic will follow.


i see that "gas prices" are currently above "global warming" but that isn't usually the case.

the plot of "gas prices" versus "peak oil" is more interesting. gas price discussion rises, while peak oil discussion falls.

fwiw, i think people have "processed" gas price news without (no surprise here?) associating the increase wiht "peak oil.

i guess the interesting thing will be what happens next with those prices, and how the change (or lack thereof) is proccessed by all us monkeys.

I always chuckle when peak oilers say "what can we do to convince people?". Just read the comments on any given day and you will see that the main form of communication directed at anyone who doesn't already agree is the insult. It doesn't take a genius to know that derision is a poor platform for persuasion.

I think you need to face facts. You are really not trying very hard to convince people. This site is great, but it is mostly the choir trying to out do each other.

The reality is the the amount of public discussion on oil depletion has boomed. Simmons book was cited by a recent comment at number 132 on Amazon. Look at the blog "Land of Black Gold" and you will see dozens of mentions of oil deplation in a huge range of media.

Maybe the problem you are worried about isn't why the public isn't beginning to understand oil supply limitations. It is why they aren't buying your religion.

that is an interesting plot, odo. I have put the pic in the body of the post (at the end).

but I think you're right, "gas prices" does not equal "peak oil" either in frame or in operationalization...

Amen brother.
In order to sell 'em the religion
We first gotta create one

Let he who is without oil throw the first tar ball.

He who denies peak oil will walk ... all the days of his life.

Tho I walk into the Valley of Depletion, I have the wind turbines at my back ...
I shall fear no terrorist for MobilExxon is my shepherd.

Well, I guess I should toss in my two cents.

I think it's a matter of conditioning. Climate change gets a lot of attention because it's so closely tied to something we've been talking about for many decades--pollution. (In the mainstream, "climate change" IS "human-caused climate change.") In that sense it's a slight twist on a very familiar and not too controversial topic.

Peak oil is very different, for two reasons. First, nothing like this impending, permanent, world-wide scarcity of a critical resource has happened before, so no one has first-hand experience with it.

Second, we've had oil shocks in the past, which were not caused by peak oil, obviously, and were always transient events. So, many people who hear about this weird PO thing just dismiss it as a crackpot theory that's trying to explain something "everyone already understands".

When I talk to people about this stuff, the first two things I make sure to tell them are: "Oil and gas are still well short of their all-time record prices, and neither one is likely to be cheap again in our lifetime." That usually gets their attention, as it focuses them on the big picture and the long-term nature of the problem. That's when they start asking questions, and I go into Super Energy Geek Mode.

(Please don't bother telling me that at current prices oil and gas are cheap; yes, they are, but the people I talk to like this think they're expensive, so that's how I approach the topic.)

J-man...your "they aren't buying your religion" comment is an, er, interesting take.

Last I checked, religion is asking folks to accept a series of beliefs based on faith. If I, or my colleagues, have made any claims or asked anyone to change their beliefs on faith anywhere on this blog, I would love to have those posts brought to the fore.

We make claims based on empirical evidence and extant literature/theory from many disciplines, that's what we do here. That's the way it's done in the academic world. Pretty simple, really...isn't it?

Also, this is the way I teach my students, no matter the subject matter...this is the way people engage in academic discourse. I have to defend every idea I have and every argument I make from detractors on a daily basis.

If you want to argue with me in the arena of ideas and evidence, I am all for it. But to call these ideas a "religion" is a distortion at best.


"It’s a matter of instinct, it’s a matter of conditioning,
It’s a matter of fact.
You can call me pavlov’s dog.
Ring a bell and I’ll salivate. how’d you like that?
Dr. Landy tell me you’re not just a pedagogue..."

(sorry, my best stepback impression...)

i think "gas prices" are the door, if you want to engage the public, as Lou illustrates.

frankly i think the inertia is such that we might as well just sit at sites like The Oil Drum and yak about it ... until a little more direct evidence piles up.

the sad parallel with global warming is that "more direct evidence" is what it took there, too.

BTW - looks like there's a new Peak Oil book in the works: "Future of Global Oil Production: Facts, Figures, Trends And Projections, by Region (Paperback)" by Roger D. Blanchard, the guy who wrote some detailed sceptical analysis of EIA estimates of future North Sea production at


and other non-Opec regions here


Should be interesting to see what he has to say (I just pre-ordered my copy from Amazon - you guys that run the blog might want to add it to your links).


Profgoose - I regret using a word at the end of my post that allowed you to get distracted from the more important point. Note my comment did not reference the site but rather the comments to it. To claim that the comments are substantively aimed at convincing people is certainly not based on empirical evidence.

You didn’t address these points. Do you disagree?
“Â…the main form of communication directed at anyone who doesn't already agree is the insult. It doesn't take a genius to know that derision is a poor platform for persuasion.”

The peak oil community does ask people to accept a lot of big assumptions that seem to be based on belief rather than facts. I would argue that Matt Simmons' points are based on facts and analysis. But much of what peak oil proponents expect people to accept is not. The "die off" contingent of peak oil has a right to belief whatever they want. They may in the end be right. But to claim that their prognostications of the future are based on cold sober analysis of the facts is risible. I do think a large portion of peak oil advocates are closer to being a cult than a fact finding mission.

You are clearly a bit touchy about this. I apologize for ruffling your feathers. However, to avoid addressing the issue because one word gets you fired up is not in character with your normal openness to other points of view. If your intention really is to convince people, why don’t you listen to a heart-felt appraisal of why some aren’t listening?

jokerman, i think you take this site to be more "die off" than it really is.

fwiw, here's my answer from an adjacent thread:


everybody is looking, one way or another, for answers to the "gas price" problem ... no need to pretend it is just "peak oil."

Touchy is the wrong word indeed, nor are the feathers ruffled...I was just talking about TOD and religion from an epistemological/pedagogical point of view (which always gets me riled). However, if folks have ideas that are counter to mine, I'm MORE than happy to listen and discuss...as I/we've shown over time.

(I will, however, admit that I did not distinguish "comments" (as in from the contributors of this site) from the comments you were speaking of in the actual comment boxes.)

To address the point that you were actually making now that I understand it...

Claims in the comments are not always backed up by evidence. Yes, there's some emotion, but from my view, I see it as emotion from the many sides of the debate.

To indict the entire peak oil community, however, for being emotionally attached to or religious about an argument is, I think, overstating it a bit. There's no doubt that some peakniks are religious...as are some anti-peakniks. It's the folks that are willing to hear the entire conversation for whom this blog is geared. Is it going to be perfect? No. Is emotion going to overcome evidence at times? Absolutely? Is that going to be the norm, at least here? I sure hope not.

Yo, Jokerman:

I try not to insult people unless you think this text is some kind of personal attack.

But really, my peak oil views are based on the cold sober analysis of past, current and future energy trends pointed out by people like PG, HO, Ianqui, Mike Watkins, Lou, EP, odograph et. al. (Sorry if I left people out, here). Almost daily, there is new data to look at and consider. Reserves, production numbers, demand numbers, new extraction methods, new energy sources, economic analyses.... All this can be found here at the Oil Drum. Just today, PG posted some data from Oil & Gas Journal on supply data this year versus last.

So, we don't have defend ourselves here although we do have a bit of the circling the wagons mentality. Do your homework and arrive at your own conclusions. If you don't agree that peak oil is a problem, then OK with me -- but I believe you would be wrong. I've done a lot of the reading the I think the world has a serious situation on its hands.

Profgoose and Dave - Thanks for some good feedback. I probably lacked a bit of perspective (and tact) in my post and should have started with a half page of disclaimers (1. I believe in peak oil, 2. This is the best peak oil site on the web, 3. There are a lot of great, fact-based comments on the site, 4. I agree with Dave that the world has a serious situation on its hands, etc).

Dave mentioned a number of commenters above that certainly do contribute a large number of excellent fact-based points that further the dialogue and would help convince readers. They may be a majority. No, I don't think that the piece Dave links to is insulting at all. I do think that referring to people who disagree with you as Egor or sheeple could be interpreted as insulting.

However my main point is that there seem to be two themes in the comments:
1) Oil supply is running out and we need to adjust to it or suffer
2) People are all stupid brainwashed androids who are selfishly bringing imminent ruin on themselves, and probably deserve it.

I am not saying that the second is wrong or that people shouldn't believe it. I am saying that it is a poor strategy for convincing others.

In that regard, I think the comments section is frequently a sequence of bull’s eyes and foot shooting. Dave lists a bunch of people who do contribute great points. They fall nto point 1. above. I think that the more people who read these the more will believe in peak oil. But step back and look at some of the others with an analytical eye and tell me if you don’t think they do the opposite.

The only thing that will change this dynamic are physical shortages. Next summer...


Good attempt at an impersonation but it goes off topic.

The assumption is that we are trying to "persuade" a particualr audience, namely the general populace that PO is a sufficiently large problem that it deserves the urgent attention of law makers. We are not asking the general populace to solve the PO problem or to fully understand it. They cannot if they do not first acquire sufficient schooling to speak at a technically profficient level.

Remember, we send our 17-22 year old kids to institutions of higher learning --colleges-- for 4 whole years or more to become learned in just the basics of these disciplines. You cannot rationally expect a member of the general public to understand these concepts from just a quick 1 minute elevator pitch. That is ludicrous. Besides, they won't give you 60 seconds. Try more like 2-30 seconds.

It is a whole other matter when you are conversing with skilled engineers or like practitioners and directing the conversation to specific *numbers*, i.e. how much should we spend to find solutions, what technologies should we pursue, etc. and the audience is willing to sit there for prolonged periods of time to listen to the details.

So if you have only 30 seconds or less to reach the general public what do you do? You do what Chevron does with their infotisements. You start programming the public bit by bit. You tell them there is a big crisis looming in the petroleum industry. That's it. You tell them everyone agrees, even Chevron. That's it. You give the crisis a catchy name (not BO). You get the public used to the idea that "catchy name" is to be decoded to mean big crisis. Later you use "catchy name" to encode an even longer message.

Example: We face a Pervasive Petroleum Problem. It is not going away on its own. Everyone agrees. It will severly affect you and your children. Everyone agrees. Call your Congressperson. Tell them they need to start doing something. Your children depend on you to speak up for them.


No the masses are not stupid. And no they do not deserve the government they are getting. And no they do not "deserve" to suffer because they do not know about PO. All this stuff about you are getting what you deserve is evildoer propaganda. The evildoers try to convince the victims that they "had it coming" that it was the victim's fault. Bull Shit.

Realize that there are many power groups on our planet who are thinking to themselves, "You know what, it wouldn't be so bad for me if America collapses." Pretend for a moment that you belong to one of these groups. Pretend that you are very clever. What would you do?

Pretend that you had a lot of money to spend to buy up congressmen. What would you do?

stepback - Whoa. Full sentences. Paragraghs. Very impressive. You make some good points. I think it is very hard to convince someone on a complex issue such as peak oil in 60 seconds. But it is easy to turn them off in half that time.

I think the answer is more and better efforts to gradually advance a fact based perspective on the subject. i have always thought a good topic for a discussion on this site would be: What made you believe in peak oil?

Stepback previously said Simmons, which i think is a good an example as any. Other saw TV documentaries, etc.

I haven't heard anyone say that thought the whole thing made sense because someone told them that powers that want to destroy American are buying up Congressmen. I do think my original point is fair and important. A lot of the content in peak oil discussions is more likely to result in glazed eyes than lights going off. I for one would like to change that.


I was recently at a conference and a guy made a joke, something like "well, if the world is ending, you can bet there'll be a bunch a people who are going to try to make a buck off it".

I'm sympathetic to your last remarks. I agree that some posters here are counterproductive toward spreading the word and educating the people. I will not be naming names in this case.... and probably shouldn't have in my last post. I apologize again to the many valued contributors who I did not mention. That was just a "off the top of my head" thing while I was typing.

This is a public forum that is not edited and that's fine with me.

That last message was me. Haloscan on my machine again. Won't save my settings sometimes and I don't notice!

Truly, I love posting these f***ing clarifications.

I was referring to this post by Jokerman. Apparently, I can' type fast enough.

Again, alienating people is not a good idea.....

So we need a catchy phrase that people will take "seriously".

One that they can easily remember (if it is repeated often enough). One that will whip them into a state of concern.

One that will tell them we face a Worldwide Imminent Petroleum Plunge (WIPP).

Something like that. It does not have to be that. A group effort at coming up with a phrase that resonates in lots of peoples minds is way better than one person throwing out suggestions.

Any other ideas? Petroleum "Gap"? Come on. Some of you have good heads for this.

Profgoose - So how about the idea of an open thread on the subject "What was it that convinced you that peak oil is real?"?

I think it would be extrememly useful to have a list of sources that have a proven track record of changing minds. Then, when we all meet people who are dubious, we have a set of links to back us up.

The oil drum forum contributors certainly provide some of the best discussions relating to the eminent global petroleum resource depletion issue. As mentioned above, us (as on this site) who understand the issue, do not need to continue to convince ourselves of the future reality.

The next step must be to find ways in our sphere of influence to make changes. Do your co-workers walk away when you bring up discussion topics related to PO?

So, what is the next direction to move forward? The fact that Roscoe is starting to bring the issue into the spotlight gives some hope. However, the US Energy bill that could have shifted the entire focus of the nation, just didn't happen this round.

With so many intellectual contributories to this forum, surely there are some who know influential members of society that will understand the issue.

Is it really possible that the masses need to get to that point, the point where it is too late, before the true shift towards change starts. If so, then I fear for my children's future.

Hey we live in a constiuency-powered democracy> Law makers worry most about how to get #1 re-elected. They will not respond unless it becomes a "voting issue". That's the term that Bill Clinton used when talking with Turner on CSPAN. I heard Hillary use the same catch phrase, "voting issue". The Democrats are learning that some issues, even though they are vital, just do not sway voters. We need to make PO a "voting issue". Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but after hammering the point enough times, more and more peoplw will "get it".

Professor: for me, as you saw on my site, it was Matt Simmons talking technical. But that's me. I come from an engineering background (EE --you'd never know it would you?) It was very easy for me to understand about advancing to horizontal drilling and water purging. I'm not sure average Joe Sixpack is going to care about that techno stuff. I don't think figuring out how "we" got convinced is going to help. We are *not* the target audience.

ah, we're gonna have an open thread tomorrow anyway...you guys come on in and have this debate there. (I personally love the organic nature of the truly "open" (i.e., unguided) thread...)

PG -- perhaps I'll get in early on that open thread by noting that 8 of the 14 largest oil producers in the world are negative "with current production and change since this time last year" with only Saudi Arabia saving our ass (for now....)

Ah, Matt Simmons. Happy times.

But stepback, we were the target audience once. My suggestion is that the same information that converted us can convert others.

Actually, I think a certain percent of the population is predisposed to believe one way or the other. But it seems profgoose and I look at facts, analyze the situation and make a decision - even change our minds sometimes.

If you don't agree with this, who do you think the target audience is? What do you think it will take to change minds?

The key points in my mind are that "oil prices" and therefore "gas prices" and "home heating costs" will go increase rapidly as a result of "decreasing oil supply" that is "geologically driven" and not political in nature.

As a result, we will experience a new wave of stagflation but this time there will not be a "political solution" to increasing supply.

When prices start to really cause economic damage, then we will have a consensus for action. Let's be prepared with our case when that moment comes to hopefully head off a "military solution" to the impending oil crisis.

If we can lay the seeds now about Hubbert and the US reaching it's peak 35 years ago as the cause of higher oil prices, then we can bring them down the path we are now at ourselves.

By what % would demand have to drop, for there to be no increase in the price, at the rate that production is expected to decline?

(if bird flu causes 5% mortality in the gas-guzzling world, and, say, triple that in China, how much time does that buy us (or rather, those of you who are left))?

Some people think I have answers.
I don't.
I'm exploring just as you are.
I'm throwing out ideas just as you are.
I'm willing to accept that I could be 99% wrong just as long as you accept there might be a 1% chance I'm on to something.

The recent discussions have instigated compassionate conversation. Some sort of nerve has been struck. Some of you are starting to see something. A vision is emerging.

Professor you are right.

Before Matt Simmons appeared to this ex-engineer, I thought PO people were *Freak* Oil people.

I had looked at the globalized Hubbert curve many times before and thought to myself, Gee, we are only half way along that curve. We have lot's of time. Technology will save us. Someone is going to come up with something long before the deleted excrement hits the flip flopping fan blades.

However, as an "ex" engineer who has crossed over to another discipline, I personally know that most people do not see the world the way engineers see the world. The Matt Simmons tech-talk approach will not work on them.

We all live on the same planet, yet each of us wanders about in a different world.

If you are a cop, you wander the streets looking for perps. If you are an infectious disease control specailist, you wander the Earth looking for hosts. If you are a hostess at a restaurant, all the world is a bunch of ungrateful "tables". We each see the world through different internal models.

One of the internal models that most people carry around with them is that "The System Will Provide"

I don't know how a freaking car engine works. I turn the key. It goes.
I don't know how the human body is put together. I go to a person in a white coat (a doctor --or provider for you insurance freaks), they give me a pill. I'm all better. Period.

Based on this everyday-verified model, I can safely assume that the smart talking savants in government are doing their part to make sure that "The System Will Provide". It always has as far as I know. I have not detected any "bugs" in the system. (Aside: for a fun example, go see "The Island" --a new movie that just came out.)

So when these Freak Oil people come out --at the office or at parties-- and start yapping to me about some doom and gloom story, I know 101% for sure that they were at the fruit cake table just before they came over to harass me. "The System Will Provide". They are crazy.

I believe the unplanning.blog best answer the question here about why people may not get it about Peak oil. He stated:
One of the things that make peak oil/peak energy so difficult to comprehend is the inability of most people to visualize a radically different existence. This is perfectly understandable. Most people visualize their future quite similar to their current existence. The average vision of the future is perhaps a little more expensive and hectic than today with ever larger construction projects. Inevitably most people will expect ever more sophisticated technology. The key point however, is that whatever interpretation of the future one may have is based on past trends and personal experiences.

Peak energy turns this understanding on its head. For if any given individual takes the time to understand the ideas of depletion and limits to growth and grasp their implications, they will arrive at an unsettling realization: everything they believed would occur was just an illusion or a false promise. This is a very powerful feeling. For many people it is simply too much to handle and thus you see the various coping mechanisms. Only after someone has taken this sucker punch to the psyche and accepted it, can true preparations begin.


Seriously: peak oil isn't actually that easy to explain, is it? You've got to cascade a number of elegant but non-trivial theories: (1) there is a well-tested model by a chap called Hubbert which tells you how much oil is left in a reservoir based on production history (2) this tells us that half of the oil in the world is gone (3) a related theory says production follows a bell curve (4) symmetry says we're at peak oil (5) this is a problem because demand is rising.

How d'ya put that in a soundbite without coming over all apocalyptic?

I think it is really quite simple. In general people discuss recent or past events rather than speculate about the future. Even with climate change, people talk about current events with respect to GCC, there is little speculation what the climate of the world will be like in 2100 or what the impact will be : these are events too far in the future and are too uncertain to discuss meaningfully.

So far oil price has not exceeded all time high. When it does, then there will be more chatter, likewise by the time oil supply drops 25% from peak there will be talk in the mainstream about peak oil.

PO may be real, but it just hasn't happened yet.

Anna, I'll take a stab, but HO or someone else may have a better answer...

The problem with guessing supply numbers is that many fields out there in the world are mature, in fact a good majority at least. Once a field is mature, it's harder to get the oil out, and therefore the field declines faster. I've seen individual field decline numbers from Ghawar and the North Sea tossed around here anywhere from 3% to 14%...

However, the peak may be a plateau for a little while. No one really knows for sure. But demand will continue to grow as long as populations grow and efficiency does not improve. That's means prices up.