We can also draw on historical experience regarding denial...

Parts one and two of this series can be found here (1) and here (2).

We can also draw on historical experience to anticipate which denial defenses we will adopt when, as will surely happen, we are confronted by our grandchildren demanding to know why we did so little when we knew so much.

We can expect to see denial of knowledge ('I didn't know'), denial of our agency ('I didn't do it'), denial of personal power ('I couldn't do anything', 'no one else did anything'), and blaming of others ('it was the people with the big cars, the Americans, the corporations'). Since Americans are already increasingly reviled around the world, our consumption and resources would seem to be the first target of more sensible regimes to remove or downgrade, would it not?

For activists everywhere, it would appear crucial that an understanding of denial informs campaign strategy. As Cohen says, 'the distinctions [between different forms of denial] may be irrelevant to the hapless victim, but they do make a difference to educational or political attempts to overcome bystander passivity.'

Most importantly, one conclusion from all of this is that denial cannot simply be countered with information. Indeed, there is plentiful historical evidence that increased information may even intensify the denial. The significance of this cannot be over emphasized.

How many times have I thought about how the peak oil community consists of living relics of Enlightenment faith in the power of knowledge: 'If only people knew, they would act.'

To this end we dedicate most of their resources to the production of reports or the placement of articles and opinions in the media. As a strategy, so far, it is not working. Opinion polls do not reveal a high level of awareness of "peak oil" itself, but people do know there's a problem with foreign dependence. There are virtually no signs of any change in behavior. Indeed there are plentiful signs of reactive denial in the demands for cheaper fuel and alternate forms of energy.

A second conclusion is that the lack of visible public response is part of the self-justifying loop that creates the passive bystander effect. 'Surely,' people reason, 'if it really is that serious, someone would be doing something.' I see little evidence that anyone in wider society is paying any attention, though that may be changing. Are we going to be like the global warming movement, where we have vastly greater information with scarcely any more public action? The bystander loop has only tightened.

People will never spontaneously take action themselves unless they receive social support and the validation of others. Governments in turn will continue to procrastinate until sufficient numbers of people demand a response. To avert further problems will require a degree of social consensus and collective determination normally only seen in war time, and that will require mobilization across all classes and sectors of society.

For all these reasons, the creation of a large and vocal peak oil movement must be an immediate and overarching campaign objective. People will not accept the reality of the problem unless they see that others are engaging in activities that reflect its seriousness. This means they need to be confronted by emotionally charged activities: debate, protest, and meaningful, visible alternatives.

Simply asking people to change their lightbulbs, plant a tree, or send in a donation, however desirable in themselves, will not build a social movement. These activities alone, although valuable, will persuade few to a different form of action that will be viewed, after a while, as irrational...everyone else is doing it, why can't I?

Anyone concerned about this issue faces a unique historical opportunity to break the cycle of denial, and join the handful of people who have already decided to stop being passive bystanders. The last century was marked by self-deception and mass denial.

There is no need for the 21st Century to follow suit.

(NB: this post is adapted and paraphrased (and in some places downright appropriated) from an article by George Marshall in the Ecologist. It originally contained a very interesting take integrating Cohen and a topic similar in many ways to peak oil: global warming (the original post can be found here)).

I adapted and modified Marshall's excellent review of Cohen's book to the peak oil scenario. I have read Cohen's book a couple of times and this review is quite on point in many places, hence my approach. Any differences between the author's original post and mine are purely my doing.)

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The flaw in this ointment is that the argument is still ameliorist: the question it addresses is "how can we act so that everything works out for the best for the vast majority of everyone alive today". There is a noble tradition of this kind of thought; Henry George comes to mind. There is another tradition. What kind of moral monster would propagate a slogan like, for instance, "BILLIONS WILL DIE! WE WILL WIN."? Yet it can be taken to the bank that somewhere someone clever is thinking exactly that. Possibly, though not certainly, this all has something to do with palingenetic ultranationalism.

One does not lie in one's own shadow,


The Professor observes: "Since Americans are already increasingly reviled around the world, our consumption and resources would seem to be the first target of more sensible regimes to remove or downgrade, would it not?"

I would like to suggest a crazy idea.
Americans are not "reviled".
We are being "emulated".
Also, there is no sensibility for "the commons" in our emulated system.

It is all about each of us being out for himself.

(Sorry, no "herselfs" allowed in this testosterone club. Herselfs are biologically crippled by having strong maternal instincts. They give birth to children and "care" for them and their future. Such thinking patterns are alien to a cult that worships the self and self interest above all others.)

Do onto to others before they do onto you.

So as the head of a growing materialistic enterprise, would it not make "sense" to knock out the logistics center of "the competitor"? Just knock out a couple of their towers. This reduces competiton and increases the chances that your tribe will be able to better draw from dwindling and essential resources.

It's nothing personal.
It's just business.
In the jungle, there are no laws against monopolisitc take over of the globe.

Just a crazy thought --from a whacko that's off there investigating some strange cul de sac (definition: a dead end street).

"...a large and vocal peak oil movement..."

PO seems like a natural issue for mainstream environmentalists to latch onto. If nothing else, they could just add it to the list of reasons why we should be weaning ourselves off oil. Preparing now might also help at least mitigate the drive towards coal down the road. Instead, we have a few articles in scattered environmental publications, but no push by the big boys.

I can only assume that PO is so unthinkable among so-called conservatives that they would prefer to speculate on the date of the rapture instead.

sr: Wohah dude, "palingenetic" ? Had to look that one up: #2. Biology. The repetition by a single organism of various stages in the evolution of its species during embryonic development. ??? Is that what you meant? Like ontogeny recapitulates etymolgy? That sort of stuff? How does that mix into "nationalism"? What are the developmental stages of nationalism and whose nationalism are you referring to?

Speaking of denial, I just ran across the immensely entertaining AltEng blog of Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works. In this case, we find that blind faith in technology will make Peak oil a non-event because:

As oil becomes more expensive, other technologies will compete with oil on price and naturally replace oil in our economy. In this blog I track the alternative energy sources that will be replacing oil over the next two decades.

The lastest missive is on methane hydrates. Unfortunately, the peak lies within a few years in the future while mining methane hydrates lies decades out from now, if ever. Just like oil shales or solar satellites or nuclear fusion.

Some of what Brain writes is OK with me (e.g. wind power, ocean wave energy) but a lot of it is Pie In The Sky. Living in a wishful thinking fantasy is another way to avoid reality.

I am now waiting to be skewered by EP....

My background is in communication and I think we need to consider the issues of rhetoric, persuasion, social movements, psychology etc. if we are going to broaden our audience and relate to them in ways that make a difference. I suppose this means that I need to start drawing on my background, huh.

I think its very important that we have well-researched and thought out discussions amongst ourselves but what about the 60 million people who have bought the "Left Behind" books and are expecting the rapture to lift them out of the world's problems?

I don't know how to begin to address this. *sigh*

Thank you Goose for pointing out what appears obvious to those of us who enjoy engaging in the thought process. Those who would say oil is a non-issue should wtfu. see... 7revs.org When world class university lecturers are stating American involvement in oil development is being pursued at the expense of other cleaner technologies its not just bs, see....http://www.earthinstitute.columbia.edu/events/foreignpolicy/video.html

To the dame on the cul de sac....Westerners are reviled, especially in those nations where transnational corporations have plundered for profit.....we're not emulated....but our materialism is....

Because might makes right doesn't mean it's ethical....apparently a whole lot of you don't know the difference...this bs about the law of the jungle is a lame excuse to stay stupid.....enjoy the heatwave baby ....see ya at the beach.

What everyone is missing at the oil drum is that the denial and crisis are both being fueled by human desire. You are never going to sell people on an idea that says they have to give up everything society provides. You might as well try to sell suicide. What are your solutions for the 9 billion people who will be alive in 30-40 years? The die-off maniacs make me sick. As far as I'm concerned, the peak-oil 'facts' don't matter if nobody listens, and unrelenting pessimism is the surest way to get the public to continue with the status quo.

Engineer-poet is the only one around this site who actually attempts at solutions. People will adopt a lower energy stance when it makes economic sense for them to do so. In this vein, $100 plus oil could be the best thing to happen, both for the planet, and for alt-energy. Remember that Europe has been dealing with energy prices double to triple the US for decades, and their economies have done well.

The entire peak-oil movement is missing the point that this is largely a political problem created by centralized governments and large corporations. Power being what it is, it will only be solved when it is in the interests of these same folks. There will be no community solution--this is just a euphemism for anarchy. Sure, we can grow gardens and ride bikes. But the real change will come because it is in the interest of the energy companies to find OUR next big source of our energy and THEIR profits. Wake up and smell the future.

What everyone is missing at the oil drum is that the denial and crisis are both being fueled by human desire.

The entire peak-oil movement is missing the point that this is largely a political problem created by centralized governments and large corporations.

I don't think we're missing this at all, Anonymous. How many times have we discussed the motives of Chevron, tossing back and forth whether their attempt to be at the head of the pack is either revolutionary or totally disingenuous? And how many times have people voiced the sentiment that the governments are going to have to act (enforce rationing, perhaps?) before people are really going to stand up and listen? (Certainly some may disagree with this, but you can't say it hasn't been discussed here before.)

Yet, what you say in your comment is totally apropos of Prof Goose's post, because it's certainly a form of denial (specifically the "denial of personal power" type). I actually tend to agree with you, but I prefer not to be totally passive about my lifestyle even though I don't think my personal actions will amount to much. I want to be able to take the high road when it's most important, even if everyone is just going to continue their wasteful lifestyles now (again, "denial of personal power").

I value Engineer-Poet's contributions here very much, so no disrespect intended, but his observations about the power of economics aren't solutions, per se. Something has to force the powers that be to realize that it DOES make sense for them to become less energy intensive. Prof Goose advocates a large, vocal peak oil movement as the way to go. Will it work? I dunno, but it certainly can't HURT the cause.

I'm responding to this challenge issued by Anonymous. Here's a few points.

1) General unwillingness by the populace, the corporations and the politicians to acknowledge the Peak Oil problem is where we're at now. This is fed by the USGS (peak in 2035) or Daniel Yergin (peak in 2020). Somebody has to counter this nonsense and that's part of what happens at the Oil Drum. There is some evidence (the ExxonMobil report, the Chevron marketing blitz) that those guys in the corporate boardrooms know what's up. Unfortunately, their sole charter is to make money and so far, they have been a little short on energy solutions.

2) Most (if not all) of us on this site believe in alternative energy and other creative solutions to the PO crisis. I like what EP writes about new energy sources. But the problem is not getting solved by those with the power to solve it. Have you seen the new Energy Bill? And fantasies about methane hydrates or oil shales (as I wrote above) are not going to save us.

3) "$100 plus oil could be the best thing to happen" for the reasons you cite 15 or 20 years in the future but there's going to be a lot of suffering in the meantime. The sooner we start trying to solve the problem the better off a large number of people will be. See point 1) above.

"Wake up and smell the future"? I believe we are awake and we do see the future. "Power being what it is" .... Yes, that's a problem.

Anonymous -

The last time Americans and the world adopted a "lower energy stance" was during the Great Depression. At that time, the majority of the world was agrarian, not industrialized. Things are much different now, and the speed at which economic and other crises develop is much more rapid due to the change in communication speed and the associated pace of life. E-P brings us some great ideas, but none of them are available now, and most have extensive development times. Hell, we even got off on space elevators the other day, and microwave energy transmission from space!

But if you want to understand what makes many of us so pragmatic, then take this challenge:

Show me an energy source that exhibits equivalent energy density and portability to that of petroleum that is usable today, and could be implemented within 10 years worldwide, that is not itself subject to resource depletion.

Nobody has this or anything resembling it. The infrastructure and economies of the entire world depend on these two unique characteristics of petroleum. Our economies and infrastructure designs are predicated on energy density similar to petroleum and complete energy portability.

It is a pickle, and you are right - doing nothing until external realities force you to are government and big business strong suits. Unfortunately, the problem has so many facets and repercussions that it will not be handled by "the market", which will be in the dumper in a big way with $100/BBL oil anyway. That is a probable - it will be history repeating itself.

I could go on, but please accept my challenge. Because if you have the answer, we will ALL back you up, thank you, and breathe a humongous sigh of relief...

J said: "Show me an energy source that exhibits equivalent energy density and portability to that of petroleum that is usable today, and could be implemented within 10 years worldwide, that is not itself subject to resource depletion".

That's right. The problem is that many potential solutons are net energy losers and the challenge of implementing solutions gets worse as fossil fuel prices rise.

Want to see what our politicians are busy doing deep inside these "Energy Bills"?


I don't care for Waxman myself, but this time I agree with him.

Dave writes:

"[a lot of what] Brain writes is ... Pie In The Sky. "

Next pitcher's on me, Dave.  Skewers on the grill should be done in a minute, grab chicken or veggie as you like.

Anonymous notices my strong contrarian streak, and writes:

"Power being what it is, it will only be solved when it is in the interests of these same folks."

Power can only go so far without getting pushback.  Toyota has opened what is Pandora's Box from the POV of the oil interests, and the GO-HEV mods for the Prius (and soon the Escape/Mariner, I expect) will start a consumer-driven revolution that those in power will have great trouble stopping.

I'm serious about this.  The Escape hybrid has a relatively lousy 33 MPG highway rating, but it can tow 1000 pounds.  500 pounds of cheap lead-acid batteries in a little trailer might get you to work and back.  When gasoline goes over $3.00/gallon, people would look at you driving on electricity and lots and lots of them would want to do the same.

Consumer demand leads to Ford and Toyota making these things options.  Sales success forces GM, DC, Honda and Nissan to offer the option too.  Once GO-HEV becomes a sales driver, the power-game to stall it is over.

Liz Logan,

Thank you for dropping in on this discussion and giving credence to the idea that "we" in the PO-aware community need to figure out a way to transfer meaningful messages to "them" in the unware community.

My proposal is to start sending signals on the limbic level.

What the hell does that mean? Good question.

And no my mental marbles did spill out on the way to the asylum. I've been doing a bit of research on this. Bear with me for a moment.

Take yourself back to the 2004 Presidential election in the United States.

Look at the winning side. --and forget about whether you are a Red Stater or a Blue Stater-- . Don't let those primary colors distract you.

They sent "mixed messages" to the general public.

The opponent was an unstable person, a "flip flopper". Our side on the other hand "loves life". We are for "family" values. Who are you going to vote for? The side that does not understand about "those who hate our freedoms"? We merely report. YOU decide.

These are all coded words that trigger certain kinds of responses in certain kinds of people. In truth you need expensive focus groups to determine what coded words will trigger what kind of mind frames on any given day. It's constantly changing.

The winning side in 2004 did not rely on deep thinking, neo-cortical messaging.
They relied on short, simple blasts of brain candy that slip by the gate keeper in the recipient's brain.

In the aftermath of the vote, the "liberal" intellectuals (more code words) were stunned. How did that happen? What happened? Oh my gosh we're in a spin zone. Everything is so out of balance.

In our discussion here we have been talking about DENIAL.

One of the things we all (ALL of us) deny is that we can be manipulated.

No way !! I'm too smart.

But the evidence around us is overwhelming, and still we deny this basic truth.

Turn on the TV and pay close attention to how advertisers do it.
(Yeh, I know, you never watch the boob tube. You are way too intelligent. Did you see that show on C-SPAN the other night? Oh really?)

They who control the TV feed you brain candy and you do not even notice it.

I wish I kept more careful notes, but all this stuff goes whizzing by so fast and who's got time to record everything on paper?

A couple of days ago I was watching the flashing orange numbers scrolling by distractingly on that squawking chicken stock market show --Squawk Box. The E-TRADER commercial flashes on. BE BRILLIANT they say. BE POWERful. Then they show all these objects Bowing down to the E-trading dude, including his female office or home mate, but then they bury what they just showed with a joke. No. She was picking up her earring. Ha Ha. She was not bowing down to you oh mighty powerful and brilliant trader. So forget what you just saw with your own two eyes. It did not happen. Ha Ha. But do become an all powerful "E-TRADER".

Does this kind of stuff work?
Your "intelligent" conscious mind DENIES it. No way I'm way too intelligent.

Well, if all this stuff really really does not work, why the heck are ALL the major corporations using these techniques to program your purchase behavior? They are spending millions on this stuff. Obviously they are bozzos and "we" are the smart ones because we can ignore what our own two eyes just saw and our brain recorded.

we have solutions, and we don't.

that is, we have workable solutions engineers could endorse (and perhaps even live with themsleves, undertanding the available trade-offs), but we don't have solutions that will be accepted by the bulk of the world's consumers when they've (still) got cheap oil.

i mean it's easy ... double the efficiency of every appliance in your home, and double the fleet mileage of our automobile fleet. suddenly we've got twice the time to solve what comes next.

if we don't find something as good as oil in that doubled time, fall back to electric cars. even at the level of the Saturn EV1, they are way better than walking (or even taking the biodiesel bus).

the engineering is easy. at that level, it's done in fact.

the problem is that the world isn't populated with engineers, they won't settle down to the minor engineering trade-off discussions i might have with E-P. no, they just want to keep on pretending in their high consumption lifestyle ... still believeing ethanol, biodiesel, or they hydrogen highway is going to save them.

btw, saw at another site that US fleet mileage is down to 20.8 mpg (2004).

there are half a dozen car models on the market that would double that.

for the most part, people don't buy them.

odograph put together another piece of the puzzle: "double the efficiency of every appliance in your home, and double the fleet mileage of our automobile fleet"

That's not being done. The new "energy bill" again, I'm sorry to say. I won't preach to the choir.

What is often forgotten is that we are not (in the US) living in a "free market [energy] economy". We are living in a subsidized (through tax breaks) energy economy as J and others have pointed out. People point to China and say CNOOC is 70% state-owned. Yes it is. But how many nearly dry holes would be "developed" by US-owned oil & gas companies in Alaska and the lower 48 without the tax breaks? Would the enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects be worthwhile solely on their financial merits--again without the tax breaks and the overriding of environmental laws?

But the worst part is that these domestic subsidized efforts will barely cover increased demand growth in the US. Therefore, I must conclude that these financial "incentives" are just a dead giveaway to energy companies that are already making money hand-over-fist due to the tight market that precedes the eventual peak oil event itself.


You are homing in on the problem. Good observations.

"The market" provides whatever candy the populace wants.
They want large, powerful candy machines because power "feels" good. Being the biggest, baddest SUV on the road "feels" good. Pretending that you drive up to the mountains on "rugged" dirt road to be at one with nature every weekend feels good. (Even though you rarely ever do it.)

"The market" does not seek to maximize sustainability.
It seeks to maximize reported profit on a quarter by quarter basis.
So if the populace wants candy. It gives them candy.

Our task is to figure out how to make the populace "feel good" by demanding high mileage vehicles and low emission vehicles. It is not a mechanical engineering problem. It is a mass mentality problem. When your only tool is a slide rule, every problem looks like an engineering one (just kidding of course, about the slide rule --obviously you've heard of the digital revolution). :-)

that's my point. engineers argue amongst themselves (endlessly) but it is *with* numbers, not by ignoring them.

the bulk of the population is ignoring the numbers, i'm not missing that at all.

some of that might be overshoot in the micro scale (they bought this SUV without really figuring what each fillup would cost, or how often), but in the main ... if i may offer a theory of recent trends ... they look at their house prices, think of themselves as millionares (ignoring their $600K mortgage), and don't worry.

"gas is nothing, look what my house cost!"

... and my point is that by using engineer-speak you are not "reaching" the bulk population. They do not like *numbers*. They do not like fuzzy math.

They like to "feel" things.

You've got to reach out and touch them in the places where they "feel".

No dirty man, not there. I meant inside their heads, at the limbic level. ;-)

I need to have a cynical moment--please forgive me. It seems obvious to me that people must be ignoring the numbers, or else Americans wouldn't have such incredible amounts of personal debt.

that was one of the things i was thinking too, ianqui. how much of the increased gas price goes onto personal debt? (i've heard reports as i scan "gas price" news that plastic is used more than it used to be.)

... and stepback, yes i really did know that when i started. i'm not trying to "reach" in this forum. i'm just venting my spleen.

if you want to "culture hack" your way out of this ... you better think of something that will play on MTV ... not here.

The bulk of the populace has no concept of what the numbers mean.  Not just for oil, for anything.  They can figure out how much money they'll have left after the mortgage and groceries are paid for, and that's about all they care about.

Innumeracy is not exclusive to people who don't care about oil prices; I had a correspondence with an ethanol advocate who was as bad as any denialist.

Numbers? you mean for the general population?

I thought it was axiomatic here at the Oil Drum (or should be) that the proverbial shit must hit the proverbial fan.... ($100+/bd).

I meant, of course, $100/a barrel oil, not $100/bd--this makes no sense. But as Orson Wells once said, we will never drink any wine before its time....

I've got to say, so many people are so naive about the impending peak oil crisis, as if somebody (???) is going to figure something (???) out before 2010, if not this year or next, to alleviate the upcoming energy shortages.

Psychologically, it reminds me of children (Americans) looking for some adult (Dick Cheney?) to take care of it and make it all alright....

With respect to personal budgets, how many of you believe that almost all Americans do not have their heads completely up their ass? Just an informal poll.

A solid majority.  Certainly anyone who has swallowed the hydrogen hype or the ethanol hype qualifies.

Most people seem to want easy answers to parrot, without having or wanting to understand the details.  This makes for great sheep, but poor citizens.

The people in real "denial" here are Peak Oilers who claim to believe that oil will be worth many times its current value in a few years, but won't act on those beliefs by buying oil contracts today and getting rich off its price appreciation. The stark contrast between actions and words suggests that the words are mere posturing, an effort to engage in a rewarding social activity and to reinforce a false self-image as a member of a foresightful and perceptive elite. Nothing could be a more clear case of denial.

Prof Goose:

Thanks for translating this powerful piece.

Count me with the crowd that believes society is not going to do a whole lot about the barn door until after the horse has bolted. We better hope that horse doesn't run too fast. I believe the time now is best used in understanding the problem and conceptual development of the solutions (I'm not ready to run for the lifeboats myself).

A deep mystery is the lack of warning from the environmental community, and indeed ongoing lack of real interest from a lot of environmentalists I know. It somehow doesn't fit their psyche in the way that disappearing forests or shifting climate does.

EP: I have now successfully silenced a number of biomass energy advocates with the point that the 1700s was the last time we relied on biomass energy for pretty much everything. Population was around 1 billion with regular famines. Transportation was horses. What has changed about plants and soil that biomass will now feed 10x as many people and allow us to live in luxury and tool around in cars instead of riding horses? Even humanities students can usually get this argument pretty well.

(Not to say there's no hope of the biotech people making more efficient plants - I hope they are working on it with a sense of urgency).

FWIW, for those needing to know that others take the problem seriously, I went to P/T consultant status at my employer as of July 15th so I can focus most of my effort on research into energy issues. What started out as a retirement/kid college planning exercise got sidetracked when I decided just to confirm I shouldn't worry too much about Limits to Growth style scenarios and discovered the Hirsch report. I know how hard it can be to say anything really alarming on the govt $$, so the fact that such a compelling document came out of SAIC on DOE money really got my attention.


Halfin -

Dude, you are so out to lunch. You have absolutely no way of knowing what anybody is doing with their personal finances on this blog. You got no idea what stocks we are in or anything else. There are people here who can buy oil wells and people here who are in academia and have trouble buying a car - we run the entire gamut.

I know you have said positive things before - why the baiting and name calling?

If you want to pick a fight, drive to Houston. I bet old J would accomodate you....


U have a good take on all this. Just one thing to add:

When your only tool is a computer, every problem looks just like numbers in a table. :-D

What I'm trying to say is, technology manipulates just by its existence.


J said:

"Show me an energy source that exhibits equivalent energy density and portability to that of petroleum that is usable today, and could be implemented within 10 years worldwide, that is not itself subject to resource depletion."

These words very succinctly get to the core of the argument for why peak oil needs to be taken very seriously. Even if there are viable substitutes for oil for not just our energy needs but also for all the other vital products created with oil, they probably won't be available in time to stave off sizeable national economic shocks and disruptions to global markets.

Perhaps some of the peak oil folk sound, to your average person, like wingnuts with talk about dieoffs and the end of civilization as we know it. They may very well be just that. But things don't have to get anywhere as bad as the most dire predictions to be plenty bad enough.

As Craig said, J nailed it with his succinct challenge, "Show me an energy source. . ." None exist.

It is odd that environmentalists, by and large, are pretty quiet about 'peak oil' since this topic/reality is completely tied in to climate change issues, environmental degredation, and the ongoing pressure against places like ANWAR. . . . to say nothing of the implications for human population numbers!

But then, many of energy commenters seem to be looking for, and assuming that, we have to find a solution that will keeep all 7 billion alive, and will keep our current consumption levels intact.
You'd think that --if nothing else-- environmentalists would go after this attitude.

Look at the bright side:  at current prices, schemes like thermal depolymerization are looking very attractive for e.g. recycling mixed plastics into petrochemical feedstock.

Observing the "populace" and how they think:

Interesting to see how "they" percieve the situation. Most think it is a big joke.

Daily Kos are also bubbling up on crude:

i thought the graphs in this Green Car Congress article were also disturbing, especially the third one, about vehicle weight. (i'd have less problem with the "acceleration" part, if it were of 2000 lb cars.)


the bright side is the rapid change in vehicle weight seen in the late 70's. we'll have that again ... sooner or later.

I'm still trying to figure out why cars aren't built with fiberglass, aluminum and plastic. Steel is hugely energy intensive and expensive, and it is harder to repair, heavier, and rusts.... I mean, if you look at the average trailer on an 18-wheeler, you only see steel used where it has to be used. Lots of the semis out there are fiberglass cabs and aluminum components. How come US automakers can do this with trucks and not consider it for passenger vehicles?

I guess that US automakers will ALWAYS be followers, because American corporations cannot see more than a single fiscal year into the future. If I were running GM, even now with their crappy financials, it would be a no-brainer to figure out what to change the company towards AND how to set up the marketing....

spooky, it's easy. we've got all these huge cars and suvs on the road ... and we make a "safety" rating by crashing those big cars into any new ones.

look at the recent furor over "unsafe" small cars ... it's all about what happens when you crash an SUV into them.

Show me a mode of transportation that is as flexible as the horse, that is able to fuel itself, able to protect itself and even guide itself down familiar lanes to find its way home if the driver is inattentive. Show me an automobile that can do all that, and I'll believe that automobiles are going to take over from the horse as a means of transportation.

The point is, the future is never believable until you see it with your own eyes. Thinking that you know what is going to happen is error; being certain that you know what is going to happen is arrogance.

The whole premise of Goose's blog entry, that the world is in denial and that PO believers alone know the truth, reeks of arrogance. That's the reason for the tone of my posting above. It is offensive and counterproductive to try to put yourself above everyone else, to believe that you alone are rational and reasonable and everyone else is defective in their reasoning, that they need to be psychoanalyzed to find out what is wrong with them and why they can't accept the truth that is so clear to you.

In my opinion the situation is far from clear, there is tremendous uncertainty, and no one really knows what will happen with regard to PO. The mere fact that there is so much disagreement about it ought to be prima facae evidence for that. If you would approach other people's beliefs with respect rather than contempt you would moderate your own certainty and gain the humility to accept that you might be wrong, that it might be you who are "in denial".

Well, gas prices should take care of that stupidity in the next couple of years. I know my neighbor is now paying nearly $100 to fill up his Chevrolet Suburban 4X4, and he has to do it 5-6 times each month for his commute.

His car note is only $475, so he has just picked up a little more than an additional car note in expenses. Another ratchet click upwards in price and this will hit drivers of large 2X4 vehicles, and hopefully that will hurt.

It's just a shame we have to buy German or Japanese vehicles to get decent gas mileage and a consistently reliable car.

Halfin -

I think you are reading waay too much into these comments if you believe we are all arrogant and think ourselves some kind of "keepers of ultimate PO knowledge". Nobody has ever used the word "psychoanalyzed" on this blog until you did in your above post. There are lots of differing viewpoints and backgrounds here, which is what makes this blog an eye-opener for lots of people. Things get discussed here in technical detail you don't find on other blogs or on news sites.

I can promise you world oil production will peak, and it will necessitate changes in many aspects of our daily lives. When the major oil companies admit that there will actually "be" a peak in production for the world, it is news in and of itself. When US soldiers are dying in a war whose only logical, credible and verfiable premise is energy security, it seems kind of real to a lot of us.

If you think it will be business as usual, then what the hell are you wasting your time here for, blogging with all us "PO cranks"?

It seems to me that you pop on here occasionally just to stir up some shit with outlandish statements, grandiose assumptions and one hell of a big chip on your virtual shoulder.

Take TWO blue pills....

You are right on the mark when you argue that people who put themselves "above" others or hold themselves out as being "superior" or "smarter" than others are in fact people who have an issue. Considering oneself "better" than the next person, for whatever reason, is a form of denial. We are all going to end up in the same place. Not just "that way", but also I mean that the people who are training themselves to skin rabbits and live "permaculture" are in some form of denial too. It ain't going to work because the ravenous hoards are going to decend on your hide-aways like zombies from Dawn of the Dead and eat everything up anyway. There is no hiding. There is no special, secret cave of seclusion and safety to move into for the more "knowledgible" or "deserving" among us. We are ALL going down together.

You yourself may breath and and sweat Peak Oil, but you would be shocked, shocked I tell you, as to how many folks out there beleive it is all one big joke, another hoax, another Y2K, another chicken little, another bunch of doom & gloom fruit cakes. All the excuses we have joked about on this site are real. You can even hear it on the floor of the US Senate this morning as they finish off the vote on the Energy Bill. Way too many of these extremely smart legislators (and they are smart --but also ignorant in this area) actually believe that converting corn into ethanol is going to help us get to the moon again. By golly, if we did it before, it surely will work this time too. Don't you hear what these esteemed Senators are saying, or are you in denial?

So it's not about doing some liberal arts "psychoanalysis" on our leaders. It's about getting through to them in a productive way. They really really do not get it. Even today as they vote on the Energy Bill and they have been "lectured to" by all the professors, they don't get it. Something is wrong.

Spooky:  You mean fiberglass like the Corvette, and plastic like the Saturn?

To see why cars are mostly steel and aluminum, you have to understand how they are produced.  Mass production of cars requires parts to be formed at great speed; to make 100,000 fenders a year requires 50 an hour at 1 shift.  You can run a stamping press on a 1-minute cycle and crank out fenders of steel or aluminum, but no way are you going to be able to lay up, impregnate and cure an FRP (fiber-reinforced plastic) piece at even 1/10 that speed.  To make plastic parts at the necessary rate you need something like injection molding, and that costs you a lot in stiffness and strength.

That's okay, though.  We can do fine with steel and aluminum.

"We are ALL going down together."

Possibly untrue for carefully selected values of "we".


You're right.
There will be an escape helicopter waiting at Ranch Crawford when the zombies attack.
A select few will be whisked away to Mount Cheyanne.

I'm affraid I did not receive the WillYouJoinUs invitation card.
Do you have any extras you can send me?



Gwyn Morgan, CEO of EnCana, the largest producer of Natural Gas in north america, made a comment in yesterday's quarterly results conference call:

(paraphrased) "its going to be increasingly difficult to meet N.A. demand with conventional natural gas, which is in decline"

Timely article on MSN today:
< a href="After Oil: Alternative energy slow to take hold
Weaning the world from petroleum will take decades">http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7549530/

haflin - i've always felt that the "religious" are easy to spot. they are out there at the two extremes of opinion: "die off" and "no problem"

in the middle we've got ... everybody. the current Energy Bill is evidence that the whole nation thinks there is a problem, and is attempting solutions. actually we could say the whole world thinks there is a problem, as we scan every other for their proposed solutions.

i think the useful blogs look hard(er) at the nature of the problem, and the likelyhood of solution(s).

... so i don't know whether you intend it, but it looks like a little bit like a strawman when you imply you have to go to "peak oil" sites to find people who are concerned with oil depletion. tune into cspan.

or try this search:


There's a recent post in energybulletin.net, referenced in http://www.energybulletin.net/7458.html , of a paper on global warming by Tim Dyson of the London School of Economics. One of its main points is about "denial", perhaps more precisely the inability of the human species to take early action on a looming problem. The last sentence of the Abstract is "In all likelihood, events are now set to run their course" meaning we might as well simply await the consequences.
It is very important to understand how the human mind works, both individually and as a society. It is not a truth machine. It does not present an image of "reality" to us, and we do not make "rational" decisions nor do we accept information at "face value". My own (very imperfect) understanding of us humans is that most people, especially those who are deeply invested in something like McMansion + huge mortgage + SUV + suburb are bound to deny, since they are in deep water. People who have rural timber and farm land with lots of water plus a paid-for urban home with a garden in the back and in walking distance of dozens of cultural riches, are happy to embrace PO (perhaps foolishly, definitely callously), perhaps as a way for the world to address the global warming problem.
I believe that Washington DC knows about PO and is trying to soften the blow to large corporations, in order to protect the stock market, in order to keep the economy from going to depression prematurely. Meanwhile they hope signals are reaching that part of society which is willing to pay attention to what is going on; and that the latter will position themselves to suffer less as the space-time coordinates of the fan and the sh*t converge. We see the oil companies seeking a future in alternative energy, we see Chevron and BP and others warning the public, and so on. I cannot see what more the politicians in Washington can do. Announce the end of the world as we know it? It's been done, live on C-SPAN, four (+/-) times. So if people want to deny, or suck their thumbs rather than face of reality, there's little that we can do for them.
Having said all that, I've written a somewhat bitter letter to my local big-city paper telling them how the Christian Science Monitor, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Guardian, the Toronto Globe and Mail, are doing their part in telling their readers about PO, so where the HELL is the ___ ____? And why are they blowing off their responsibility to inform their public? That's my effort to get the word spread to those who somehow haven't yet been clued in.

PS Back to the human tendency to deny: What was Washington's failure to deal with 9/11 in advance, given "systems blinking red" and Clinton's warning to GWB that Al Qaeda would be their biggest problem - if it wasn't denial? Put yourself in their shoes. You get these totally fantastic stories, with a red-faced bureaucrat screaming at you to shut down the airlines all over the country and start a nationwide witch hunt. Hell, it's easy to dismiss the bureaucrat as a crank, no? It would take a huge amount of courage to believe the evidence - because if you were wrong, your presidency would be a laughing stock from then on.

Retro writes:

"I believe that Washington DC knows about PO and is trying to soften the blow to large corporations, in order to protect the stock market, in order to keep the economy from going to depression prematurely."

Washington isn't doing a very good job.  Perhaps the only thing in the energy bill which actually addresses this is the repeal of PUHCA; if I understand correctly, this was one of the roadblocks preventing distributed generation and widespread non-utility cogeneration (because non-utility generators had legal restrictions on sale to customers).

I've not had a chance to look at the energy bill.  Does it have anything along the lines of Primary Energy's program?

Washington could have sent much better signals:  refusing to terminate PNGV, pushing GO-HEV's instead of placing all bets on hydrogen.

"Meanwhile they hope signals are reaching that part of society which is willing to pay attention to what is going on; and that the latter will position themselves to suffer less as the space-time coordinates of the fan and the sh*t converge."

Washington would reach a lot more people if they pushed near-term options instead of million-dollar hydrogen cars.  They could have pushed GO-HEV's under the guise of reducing pollution, allowing an oil-alternative infrastructure to be built without ever having to admit that the point was to be able to run without oil.  Instead, they pushed big trucks for now and hydrogen for the far future - nothing for tomorrow.

My opinion of this is on record:  it's damn close to treason.


Thank you so much for posting the de-centralized electricity link.
I had lost my copy of it and was looking for another. The article talks about "stuff" that engineers understand. I^2R decodes as pure algebra gibberish to the lay public. It only decodes into something meaningful in the minds of those who have been programmed to understand it.

By the same token "peak oil" resonantes like "freak oil" in the minds of those who have not been "educated". (Some may call it brain washed --I'd be all too happy to be "deprogrammed" from peak oil if someone can show me where a viable fluid energy *souce* is going to come from once we've finished vacuuming up the ocean floors and clawing through the arctic wastelands. We need "fluid" energy sources to power our air force and to transport stuff to the family's supermarket. No one puts coal in an airplane --well almost no one, Doc Brown does in Back to the Future III, but that is science *fiction*. Doc Brown also travels through time.)

"Spooky" implied above that I was the one who had introduced the concept of psychoanalysis into the discussion. This is not true; the second in the three blog entries that we are discussing, http://theoildrum.blogspot.com/2005/07/no-it-really-isnt-just-river-in-e..., included the following paragraph on psychoanalysis:

"Psychoanalytic theory contains valuable pointers to the ways that people may try to resolve these internal conflicts; angrily denying the problem outright (psychotic denial), seeking scapegoats (acting out), indulging in deliberately wasteful behavior (reaction formation), projecting their anxiety onto some unrelated but containable problem (displacement), or trying to shut out all information (suppression). As the impacts of oil's peak intensifies we can therefore anticipate that people will willingly collude in creating collective mechanisms of denial along these lines."

Thus it is the blog author and not I who introduced psychoanalysis. He has the gall to put himself in a position to diagnose the mental disorders causing the (to him) mysterious failure to believe in PO among the general population, including "psychotic denial". This is a perfect example of the kind of arrogance I decried in my comments above.

E-P -- Thanks for the comment. I now beg to differ with myself. Earlier I said Washington could not do much more than it is now doing, for fear of upsetting the economy too soon for informed people to adequately prepare themselves.

On second thought, I would guess that GWB & Co. could have done LOTS more if they really cared to. They might have even used some “third party” to get the word out, and then disagreed with the third party. But the American citizen seems to be viewed as a consumer at best, useless dragging baggage at worst, so maybe they simply don’t care.

On third thought, if Dick Cheney had preached conservation instead of laughing it off, would he have been able to convince the public that Iraq was NOT about oil? I think not. So the subject of shortage or conservation is not even mentionable.

On fourth thought, what is the Democratic party doing about this? So far, I can see nothing. This suggests it’s unmentionable by either party.

In the Winter [2004-] 2005 issue of the Wilson Quarterly, the cover article

The Real World War IV
by Andrew J. Bacevich
"The great struggle of the post-Cold War era actually began long before the Cold War ended. The United States put itself on a war footing a quarter-century ago, when it resolved to defend at all costs the limitless expansion of its oil-fueled way of life."

suggests that President Carter’s ignominious defeat after trying to preach conservation and the concept of “limits” to the American public has convinced politicians that they must always, simply, fulfill the consumer'’ wishes.

I'm curious what others make of this assessment...

I'm not sure that we should assume policy when simple inertia explains it just as well.  Carter's policies never really "took", and the fickle public went right back to its old habits when oil prices sank from their post-Iranian revolution highs.

E-P: I was there, and I agree with your assessment about the public's response to the crisis. It would have taken continued political leadership to effect change. Bacevich's point was that this was not going to be. What he said was that Carter's speech was called pessimistic was by opposition politicians and the American public was relieved. Reagan spoke of "morning in America" - we didn't need to suffer limits - and roundly defeated Carter after one term. So politicians since then won't touch the subject. This was Bacevich's point.

I read chapter seven (blood for oil) of Bacevich's book (new militarism).

I think he is (sadly) on to something. My quibble might be that Bush's Iraq war is a step well beyond the Carter Doctrine, rather than a continuation of it ... but the idea that Americans (like the Japanese in the 30's and 40's?) have gone on the road for resources is a prevalent one.

Many of us here could probably spin happy-future stories that are less energy-intensive ... but that is simply the road not taken at this point.

Fortunately, we have what's known as a "civil society".  Government is concentrating its attention on the wrong thing?  People can get together and put their spotlight on what they think is the right thing, and maybe they'll elect the next government.

We really don't need to be less energy-intensive, what we need is to be less fossil-intensive.  The world is literally awash in energy, and when someone starts making the 5% efficient, $15/m^2 plastic PV panels it's going to send a message that's going to be heard no matter how much some people don't want to.