Weekend Open Thread...

Have fun. Play nice. Keep it real.

This is mostly just a re-post from down under

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 spin zone 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 impatient low-tipping "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". (Also known as "the invisible hand 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 a "health provider" for you insurance industry inhabitants), 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 of spotting a "bug" in the system, go see "The Island" --a new movie that just came out. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0399201/)

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". The "Invisible Hand" will bring me all that I need. These "freak oil" folks, they're all just crazy.

I am a rock. I am an Island.

step back | Homepage | 07.30.05 - 10:30 am | #

I posted a thank you note to you in the comments of http://theoildrum.blogspot.com/2005/07/we-can-also-draw-on-historical.html

Your comments in the same blog run are extremely insightful:

Retro writes: It is very important to understand how the human mind works, both individually and as a society. It is not a truth machine.

That is so true.

We are not who we think we are.

Our society is not what we think it is.

To some extent, we all live inside "The Island".

We are all very comforted by the illusions we carry in our heads about the way stuff works. (Me too. I don't want to know everything. Some things are just too unpleasant to know about.)

But Peak Oil is something we need to alert the mass public about.

In a way that does not make us sound like freak oil fruit cakes.

Doing so is hard hard work.

Bushie has armies of thought tanking experts working for him night and day to pull off his mixed messages.

We need to organize a home grown version of that here so we can get our messages heard.

Otherwise, the herd simply doesn't hear.

Hey, is that your car alarm or mine going off outside?


Forget peak oil

That Scarlett Johanssonn is HOT !!!!!!

Yesterday I said that some of the comments on this site might not represent the best approach for convincing others that peak oil is a serious subject and that if we really want to change minds, we need to focus on more facts and less rants. I got a lot of heat for it.

Clearly there has not been universal acceptance of my point. However, I am even more convinced. If anyone other than regulars has gotten this far, I would be suprised.

it might be too much to expect that a blog where people yak about peak oil possibilities is also going to be the best primer for the newly interested.

it is sort of luck-of-the-draw whether the top post of a day is general, background, or essoteric detail.

maybe the hosts should put a "floating" top story with overview of the topic and the range of opinion? or maybe each post should have a header sentence pointing to such an overview? that's what they do at the top of each HybridBlog post:


i certainly, as a frequent visitor, would NOT demand that any overview match my personal expectations. i actually think the wikipedia "peak oil" entry is pretty good. ymmv.

(man, i love using the old "ymmv" in context of peak oil ;-)

Ive read about enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide pumped into the wells. Does this just increase the amount that can be recovered or can it be used to increase the rate of recovery too?

At www.crank.net under 'what's new' is a NZ site, www.oilcrash.com, which is listed under their Apocalypse section as 'Cranky.' I wonder how this or Savinar's site would rate.

to repeat a comment i made last week, in regard to carbon dioxide,

We posted on CO2 and EOR back here
theoildrum.blogspot.com/2005/05/there-is-some- good-news.html

theoildrum.blogspot.com/2005/05/cleaning-up-after- elephants-or-more-on.html

theoildrum.blogspot.com/2005/04/monday-night- conversation-part-two.html

The Chinese experiment that was referred to could be valuable, since they were using flue gases with much less clean-up and were getting a good return. I need to chase that up, one of these days.


The *vote* of the group does not make your position a right one or a wrong one.

Remember, Galelio was not exactly popular when he proposed that just maybe the Earth might revolve around the Sun.

Remember, most of the people in the USA, if polled today, would think peak oil freaks are geeks and need some serious psychiatric assistance.

So do not look for "group support" to validate your position.
If you are convinced that your position is a good one, keep championing it. You are the champion for your ideas.

Mere silence on this web site means nothing.
Not everyone is logged on 24/7. There is an outside world.

As much as you are convinced that a serious scientific discourse will shift the popular mindset towards understanding the significance of resource depletion, I am equally convinced that the playful populace does not respond to intellectual eliteism (sp?). Quite the opposite. They respond to low level triggers on their base emotions: fear, anger, family and nation. Intellect comes a lot slower and later on. If they do not hear the first siren call, forget about getting the rest of the message through. That's the position I am championing. In this quantum reality world, we are probably both right. Some people will respond to your approach, some to mine. Who cares. As long as they respond, that's what counts.

OK Galelio,

I think we have found a truce. You can talk about Scarlett Johanssonn, movies whatever you want. I am going to move on (to other topics, not other sites).

The site owners (HO, pgoose and ianqui) do a wonderful job here. I appreciate their desire to avoid censorship. I certainly do not want or claim any authority over content. I would encourage them to moderate a little more actively, but won't argue if it is their choice not to.

I do wonder if profgoose still takes so much umbrage at my suggestion that many of the comments aren't exactly directed at convincing others. Again, this site is great, but you can't have your cake and eat it to. There are choices to make. Do you want to be a playpen for bizarre rants or a forum to convince the public.

I think I have made my point. I don't want to be a pest or ruin discussions. I will not post on this topic again.

If you want more people to read visit your site it oh so simple.

Free sex, Nude pictures, xxx, ETC I have probably just x100 the number of hits.

I dont know if some 15 year old will take much notice of peak oil when they are looking for something else but.

Apart from that?

I dont have problem convincing people there is a problem with oil production. I am 30 and retired from trading the stuff. But what they say is there is no problem technology will find an answer.

The problem with our system is 50% of the population is below average intelligence and the average is realy quite stupid. but they still get to vote.

The only thing to do is party like theres no tomorrow:)

I am a new reader at this site; I enjoy it's 'easy conversation' style. There's a lot of intelligence, tolerance and humor here.

If one ever wanted to direct someone to a good, solid overview of Peak Oil and its implications, I'd recommend Matt Savinar's home page at lifeaftertheoilcrash.net (Sorry, I don't know how to make this a live link). His opening sentence is a doozer, but the bulk of the writing is clear and the data is solid.

When I think about the collapse of other amazing cultures, including Athens (deforestation for warships), Rome (over-extension and deforestation), and the Mayans (deforestation and drought), and imagine the lives of the individual people, I sense that very few of them --if any-- saw what was comin down the pike. So I wonder, why we should expect our culture's 'citizens' (including many in the upper echelons of society) to be any different.

Welcome, Cameron. I see that you are of the "die off" school of thought and you've probably read Jared Diamond's "Collapse". This reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke

More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly

And, as Donal has noted, the NZ site crank.net has put oilcrash.com in the apocalypse section. At least they are not listed in the religion section.... 8)

Energy Bulletin today has an article, "Where is the Hirsch Report". If you've not read the report, do so.


I suggest that perhaps the blogosphere can help bring this to light. If you have a blog, write a short article linking back to Energy Bulletin or me or any of the links to the Hirsch Report.


A few dozen articles can elevate Peak Oil among those that care to read, and they talk, and those they talk to talk, etc.


You seem to be asking (if I read you correctly):

(1) Why should it be any different this time around than it was in all other civilizations that collapsed?

(2) Isn't collapse inevitable and therefore we should sit back and watch the show rather than ringing the alarm?

(3) Where is a good place for someone new to the Peak Oil debate to read up on the basics given that commentators on the Oil Drum seem to be way up on the learning curve.

As to Question #3, many of the sites belong to the peak oil web ring. On the right side of sites like http://peaknik.blogspot.com/ you can find a blog roll of many of the main players Peak Oil 101

As to Question #2, that sort of relates to the Cassandra syndrome. (check out http://cassandrasyndrome.blogspot.com/ ) Some in a society SEE things but the rest do not want to hear them or believe them. Maybe you are right. Maybe collapse is inevitable and no matter what we do, some unseen factor causes rapid collapse of our whole way of life. I sure hope that is not true. I sure hope somebody can figure out how to ring the alarm bell loud enough and often enough that a larger pool of people wake up and help to take action. It takes many oars stroking in the same direction to get the great ship of state steering in a new direction.

As to Question #1, what is different this time is that we have the internet. We have a way to communicate with large numbers of people. But of course it is a pull technology rather than a push one. You have to make them come to you. You cannot shove it down their throats. You have to make them want to sit a spell and start to understand what this all means.

One site that I think makes a great contribution (even if he is an extreme nationalist for his country) is: http://www.peakoilandhumanity.com/

You'll need patience. It's worth taking in the whole thing.

Good luck

P.S. Robert Beriault of Fate of Humanity is constantly improving his masterpiece. Chapter 5 on Easter Island is especially powerful IMHO

I haven't generally been in the die-off contingent of peak oil students (I guess I'm in the "It all depends on the depletion rate" contingent). Today, though, I'm reading "The Rapid Growth of Human Populations 1750-2000" by William Stanton which is pretty sobering. He has a graph of world population from AD 300-AD 2000. It's a complete hockey stick - pretty flat, growing very slowly until 1750 and then starting to take off until it becomes basically a vertical wall in the 20th centry. It's definitely a breathtaking picture and makes a very compelling argument for what coal/oil and the technological developments they have enabled, did to human population.

A similar graph, but visually a bit less compelling because they change the x-axis scale in two places, and underestimate 2000 population, is at


Stanton has population lower in the 1600s and 1700s than other estimates I've seen, and higher in ancient times, so maybe he's resolved the inevitable uncertainties in the numbers in a somewhat alarmist way.

Another take on the same graph is at:


A completely misleading graph is at


The x-axis is unlabeled, but if you follow the link to the data source,


you see what they must have done is plotted it on a highly non-linear scale.

I took the Biraben, McEvedy/Jones, and UN sequences from the census.gov tables, averaged the first two before 1900 and took the UN sequence after 1900. If we take 1700 as the beginning of the fossil fuel era (first working Newcomen engine in 1712, 100 in use all over Europe by the end of 1729), then the annual growth prior to 1700 was pretty much always below 0.2%. In the coal era (1700-1900) it was generally around 0.5%. In the oil era, it's fluctuated around 1% or so, but is now up to 1.5%. So there really is some evidence of a fossil fuel hockey-stick in the population figures (and not the slightest sign of a global demographic transition that I can see).


I finally watched 'Off the Grid', from Morgan Spurlock's "30 Days" on FX. Much of it was interesting, but seeing Spurlock literally swallow hydrogen exhaust without any critical analysis was depressing.
Telling people about Peak Oil is tough sledding. My wife told my dittohead Mom about the idea of oil shortage, but Mom dismissed the problem saying, "There's always something else." My brother said, "I have a God-given right to drive 70 miles per hour." My brother-in-law's brother just bought his wife an Escalade. At least my boss lets me park my bike at work.

Here's a suggestion for getting an educational message out, and maybe we could even make a few bucks.

One of our engineers could design a little clear plastic barrel, say about 5 inches in height, which gets filled with something that looks like oil (maybe it could even be oil). We call this little barrel 'The Last Barrel'. Similar to the Pet Rock craze, we wrap the barrel in a little box. Then we add some literature, with nice pictures, describing how we've squandered our billion year gift from nature, what the future holds if we continue on this path, and how we can extricate humanity from this dilemma. We make it attractive to every child.

Then we market this item in every Stuckey's in America and any chain such as McDick's that has demonstrated an environmental conscience.

I think it's important that young people, with open minds, be the recipients of the marketing program. Once they understand the issues, and buy into them, the message can be escalated up the humanity chain.

Is this plausible?

In reference to the post of making a small oil barrel toy, I'm not sure that the idea can be fully comprehended by the average population. The average consumers mental pictures of oil probably involves supertankers, tanker trucks, and gushing oil wells. That and the fact that Peak oil means we still have half of the total my completely un-convince the average person that peak is where the problem starts.

However, the idea to introduce the concepts of PO/conservation within the masses is very good.

Selecting children or teenagers as the target audience has the advantage that they can grasp concepts faster and can continue by asking questions to their parents, after all it is their future that is at risk. But what we need is a method to introduce the topic in an way to easily grasp the main concepts and allow the individual clear path to explore deeper as interest builds. Not unlike the way we have all come to this point in our own research.

I propose the following (actual realization could be completely different). Computer games are highly prevalent, and the average consumer probably has a PC. I think it would be a fair assumption that most PCs are used for game playing as well as other functions. Maxtor has long been a leader in simulation games starting with SimAnt, then SimCity and onwards to The Sims and the various versions on the Sims theme. Maxtor has progressed dramatically in the direction of graphic presentation, however I believe that their simulation algorithms are more suitable for this project.

SimPeak (name needs to be better). A lightly graphic simulation application which allows the user to run global simulations and watch outcome from varying various worldwide economic and resource scenarios. The program would be distributed for free! And would provide links to additional information as scenarios were played out. (perhaps as references to simulation sources or for further reading)

Variations on the idea could also include networked play where the application would allow players to assume a role in the game (perhaps as an oil futures trader, or terrorist !). Or it could be a wed based game.

Climate change effects from various simulation scenarios also could be included.

My primarily hope would be that the game would be very popular, run on most systems (not requiring the latest and fastest hardware), allow group participation and give opportunity to go deeper into the background. Perhaps a fad game. An important aspect of this idea is that the graphics are not the primary focus of the application, the entertainment reward for watching the various outcomes as a realistic simulation end result should be the focus. The last time I saw a Sims game it was possible to change clothing colors for virtual people etc. That level of detail would not be possible, however the interface to change condition parameters should be a highly configurable feature.

Oli trader:
50% of the popultion are below the median in intelligence, which, with the assumtion that intelligence can be so easily quantified, might be significantly above the mean. Along this track, I recommend you read "The Wisdom of Crowds."

Why not try and convince Bono of U2 that PO is here (ish). He has a lot of emotion invested in trying to help Africa out of poverty so convince him that this may be a lot more problematic as PO passes. Then U2 can release a single perhaps titled "Oh f*ck I got it wrong..it's Peak Oil stupid!" and the world will sit up and take notice. Nelson Mandela will give Peak Oilers his blessing as he lies on his deathbed. Bruce Springsteen will release an album about the glories of the rural life and Pres. Bush will say sorry, I did do something wrong after all and make way for Hillary Clinton who will have a show on MSNBC called Hill's Gardening Hour where she has Bill, Al Gore and John Kerry doing all the digging and planting etc. A statue of William Jennings Bryan will be erected and placed alongside Abe and all will be well. Now doesn't that sound like fun?

Worth repeating by unplanner.blog.

Dime-store Psychology of our Energy Problem

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.

I discovered PO about 5 months ago and I'm glad I found this web site. I am a truck driver in the the relocation business. I have to hire people at every place I visit to help me load of unload furniture.. Since I've discovered Po, I make it a point to ask my help a couple of questions to see their responses.. I ask them it they know that oil is a finite resource and that there is only about a 20 to 40 year supply left?? I ask them what they believe the future holds for them in a society without oil?? The number one response is "they'll think of something or we can use alternative fuels".. I even had one person state "they have cars that run on water now", aka hydrogen..

Inasmuch as its my little part to educate those I work with, I can see that society is not ready for PO or its ramifications.. No way..

Correction to my earlier post, the simulation company name is Maxis. But any software development company or individual who make complex simulation software could make the application I outlined. The development company should be willing to produce this software and allow free distribution as they/all of us have a lot to lose if the warning call is not heard in time. Unfortunately, I suppose this would require the companies CEO's being PO aware and in the same thinking as the participants of this forum.

Such a simulation application could also be used to evaluate the effects of alternative energy and conservation. Granted this is a massive task to make, but would it not work to show the effects of fossil fuel depletion in a simple way ?

Dave, Thanks for the welcome. I'm not actually a die-off (extinction) believer, but a die-back (big reduction) guy; and the reason is illustrated really well by Stuart's presentation of the hockeystick population curve's correlation with the discovery and use of fossil fuels.

The connection occurs BIG TIME in agriculture, where oil and natural gas have made it possible to farm intensely, to store and move food large distances, and to grow immensely more amounts of food (although per capita world grain production is now beginning to fall). Whenever there's extra food, as there has been particularly during the past 100 years, there's extra population growth, and the more the more. To my way of thinking, it follows that when the energy base for all that food production declines, a decline in the population will follow, the steeper the steeper.

It would be interesting to know how many of Reno's furniture loaders/unloaders access and make use of the web. We are immersed in it; but the majority of humanity may still not even know that it exists, much less be regular participants! I wonder what the usage figure is in the USA. I'd guess it could still be less than half the population.

Reno and unplanner, I think you nailed the psychology of the situation. And it doesn't help that when we watch the shuttle news, for example, all we hear are people saying that next we're going back to the moon and then a manned expedition on to Mars! There is NO HINT of awareness that programs like that are never going to access enough energy to carry them out.

Or how about Congress's multibillion dollar program for new highways and roads? Does anyone ever hint in congressional debates that it might be misdirected money, except in the short run for the road builders, and for someone's congressional re-election chances next year?

Or the report I read recently that China's oil usage will double in the next 15 - 20 years. Duh! The unspoken phrase is, "At curent rates of expansion". But at this point, extrapolation like this is unjustified.

I think this complete and constant flooding of the news with stories that assume, as unplanner said, that the future will be more of the past swamps the psyches of the population. Even if the newscasters and congressmen do know about peak oil, somehow they're not connecting the dots to these other stories and spending programs.

I wonder if a more effective educational strategy would be to exercise a laser focus on inundating newspaper editorial pages, tv and radio newscasters, and congresspeople with Peak Oil info, instead of trying to hit the whole population.

step back writes:

"One of the internal models that most people carry around with them is that "The System Will Provide". (Also known as "the invisible hand will provide".)"

(reno makes pretty much the same point)

This is natural and understandable.  The system provides hypermarkets full of clothes and hardware and garden supplies and books and medicines and all kinds of food.  The system provides CD players and boom boxes and MP3 players the size of a pack of gum.  The system provides iPods and Palm Pilots and cell phones with color cameras which capture full-motion video.  The system provides vehicles from Mazda Miatas to Ford Excursions.

Say what you will, one thing is undeniable:  the system is really, really, REALLY good at giving people things they'll trade money for (not always exactly what they want at the price they prefer to pay, but it gives them something).  The people in the system use whatever knowledge and technology is at hand (developing more in the process) to help make things that will part consumers from money.

As an example of advances, look backwards a ways.  It wasn't that long ago that the iPod was not merely uneconomical to produce, it would have been impossible to fit the storage capacity and energy supply and computing power in a package that small.  We had portable CD players then, but go back a bit further and the same problem rears its ugly head; instead, we had portable cassette players.  Back further, no cassettes but hand-held portable transistor radios.

I've said time and time again that people don't really care about gasoline, they care about getting around.  Gasoline is not a goal, it's a means.  If you offer them a vehicle that runs on soggy green tea leaves or anything else that they'll have no (or substantially less) trouble getting their hands on, they'll buy it and never look back.

Technologies to kick petroleum off the top of the heap are about where the Sony Discman was in 1982:  just waiting for that little extra edge.  By a quick accounting, we've got:

1.  Plug-in hybrids.  Replacing petroleum for most local travel is easy and relatively cheap, and will get cheaper.
2.  Zinc-air fuel cells.  They're roughly competitive with diesel today, and will only get more attractive as petroleum prices rise.
3.  Lithium-ion batteries are getting rapidly cheaper; the charge/discharge rates and cycle lifetimes just exploded with advances in cathode structure.

These may have cost or convenience disadvantages compared to current vehicles, but the cost relationship will eventually reverse and people will trade one kind of inconvenience and expense for something different and cheaper after they get used to the idea.  Did a horse ever leave you stranded at the side of the road?  Not unless it was lamed.  Did you have to go far to find food for it?  Almost never, unlike gasoline.  But a horse had to be cared for every day whether you rode it or not, and required a lot of cleanup.

In the not-so-far future, the tradeoffs will disfavor gasoline and it will happen all over again.

One of the problems is that manufacturers aren't convinced that any of the above solutions will let them trade product for money; product sitting in lots means bankruptcy and shareholder lawsuits, and nobody wants that.  The thing we need to do is convince manufacturers that we'll pay them handsomely for transport that gets us away from petroleum.

I've thought a lot about this whole issue of activism, educating the mainstream, etc. over the last couple of years. My take on it:

There are two groups, the PO Insiders, and the Outsiders. Anyone who has read even a single book by Simmons, Heinberg, Roberts, etc. (and not completely dismissed it), or regularly reads one or more PO web sites (ditto) is an Insider. Everyone else, from the simply ignorant to the willfully and aggressively ignorant, are Outsiders.

The ratio of Outsiders to Insiders in the US is still very high. I can't even estimate it. 1,000:1? 10,000:1?

Web sites like this one (and other things like meetup groups) are a mixed bag. They're great resources for Insiders, but they can very quickly lead to visitors thinking, perhaps subliminally, that they're "doing something" about PO, when they're not.

These web sites do nothing to reach Outsiders. They don't know we or the PO issue exist, and they won't hear about us/it unless prodded from the outside, by the mainstream media or a personal friend who's an Insider.

By a very, very wide margin the best thing Insiders can be doing right now is to educate Outsiders. The more people know about PO, and the better they understand the big picture, the better off everyone will be. More education means more people minimizing their oil consumption now, before we encounter high oil prices (above $150/barrel, say). This also leads to lower levels of pollution and less reliance for the West on the Middle East and Caspian Sea areas for oil.

If we're serious about doing something to minimize the human impact of PO, then we should get off our collective asses and figure out a way to convert Outsiders into Insiders. I've tried via my web site, The Cost of Energy, but so far I believe I've only managed to attract Insiders, even though I'm trying very hard to appeal to energy and economic non-experts. (This is based on the e-mail I receive; obviously I have no idea who else is reading the site.)

We should stop deluding ourselves that our web sites are doing anything but giving Insiders a place to congregate and wallow in their PO awareness.

It's time we figure out a way to do the hard, and sometimes uncomfortable, thing, and reach out to the people who don't want to hear about PO. This means being much more creative (like the "last drum of oil" idea above, which I think is terrific) and refusing to let ourselves be dismissive of the Outsiders. If you want to step up to the task, there's no time like the present. If you don't, that's your right, but please don't sit on the sidelines and snipe at the rest of us.

(And by the way--if anyone wants to do the "last drum of oil" thing, I volunteer my writing services. I've been a professional tech. writer for a long time (Google my name), and I would be willing to help put together a long pamphlet/booklet that would be packaged with each mini-drum of oil.)

Anyone who wants to contact me about this can do so through the contact page on my web site.

Something profound I just read on a non-oil site:

"Democracy includes the right to be ignorant."

(Well, truthfully it was not phrased exactly that way. It was a site about quackery in medicine and why so many people are wanting to deny the truth of their medical condition and to try "alternative" approaches --ones that have no basis in fact or science.)

The older I get, and the more I learn --the dumber I feel.

There are so many things to become learned in. It is impossible to know everything about anything (let alone even a tiny bit of "everything").

Outsiders are not "stupid".
They are people like you and me, simply living their lives.
For whatever reason, they have not heard about PO or have chosen to ignore it.

You cannot fault them for not fully appreciating the situation.
In this modern life we are bombarded by tons of advertising and other information.

In a Democracy, there is a "right" to not know about everything.
In a Democracy there is a right to get on a soap box and speak your mind.
Most people ignore the nut on the soap box.

The nut has to become learned in the ways of the advertising business.
That is whom he or she is competing with.

The manufacturers don't care what you and I are willing to buy.
We are nerd engineers. We are not part of the main stream herd.

Manufacturers are only interested in what Joe Sixpack and Jane Pamperpack are willing to buy (at Wal-Mart prices).

Joe and Jane are not "stupid".

They are simply doing what they have been "educated" to do. They are working "the system" to the best of their ability.

WE nerd engineers have to learn how to work the system.

(as I said, I don't have answers, I'm just exploring, just like you --it's just that my explorations are going down nontraditional, nonengineering paths)

Reno relocater,

You have so much to teach us.
You have incredibly valuable knowledge in your head.
You are out there making real world "observations" of the behaviors of many people as they move about. You are taking actual polls of Joe Sixpacks and Sally Soccermom. You are looking at their trains of thought. It is not dime-store psychiatry. People are telling you what they truly believe. What motivation do they have to lie to their moving guy?

What is it that will make PO a "voting issue" as the Clintons call it?

Re: Freyr's simulation posts.

I like the idea of a simulation game like this. In my version, there are two extreme scenarios: one where we just wont let go of doing things the fossil fuel way, and so the result is massive famine and devolution into an orwellian global tyranny with a military struggle between national superpowers for dwindling resources. The other side of things is the bright green future of probably post-industrial tribalism, decentralized and heterogenous energy systems, self governance, inter-reliance and minimal, if any form of formal governance. The fun part of this game is figuring out how to maximize success and minimize failure, throughout the whole of the world.

Lou--here's one way. Start a personal blog. Talk about anything but oil. Find your relevant community--IT professionals, academics, waiters, surfers, whatever--and discuss anything other than peak oil.

Then, from time to time, write something PO related. People will have begun to trust you for other reasons, and so they'll take you seriously. This seems to have worked for me (and for PG, I think). Several of my "other blog" readers have told me that they're sufficiently upset by the situation.

Of course, this is rather labor intensive, but it's a pleasant way to end up reaching a fair number of people.

Step back, thanks for this kind words.. I had a good chuckle.. I don't know what I could possibly teach anyone at this website. I come here to learn myself and spread the knowledge and not try to sound like a nutjob. Yes. I am making real world observations and believe me, the looks I get on their faces as they decifer the information I just gave them about PO is "priceless".

The downside to all this is that Joe Sixpack and Sally Soccermom actually believe that technology will save the day, if want a poll. And its my conclusion they believe this because that's how our minds were conditioned while growing up. the Jiminy Cricket syndrome.. Superman and Underdog will save the day..

And inasmuch as I believe in the dieoff phase of PO, I still cannot get over the hump to try and prepare.. How can I? So I'll just keep on trucking and spreading the word, perhaps someday the sheeple will get it.. I do believe though that when that day comes around, it too late.. "Hasta la vista, baby".

I've been a reader of "The Oil Drum" for some time, and find the comments here a paragon of civil discourse. I'd like to offer a suggestion as to how to get the message out. I was chatting with my son the other day and asked him what he thought of "The Day After Tomorrow" film. His reply was: "Not very good science; but it probably had the effect of raising general public awareness of the seriousness of climate change". So, why not a feature film (with good science!) on peak oil, using a human-induced shortage (e.g. bombing pipelines of a major supplier of oil to the US) to serve as a short-term proxy for a longer (mid?) term problem. Making it a captivating thriller (i.e. got to get the bad guys before they do more damage) will hold the attention of the audience while providing a platform for raising consciousness about the peak oil problem.

step back sez:

"The manufacturers don't care what you and I are willing to buy."

They don't?  I bet Corvettes appeal to an even smaller market segment, and ours is growing as more people clue in.

Toyota found a substantial market segment with the Prius, which they appear not to have expected (the car was designed for Japanese city driving).  I'll bet that the Escape is selling relatively poorly because the environmentalist segment is anti-guzzler and thus anti-SUV in general; the lackluster economy of the Escape would defeat most people's purpose in buying a hybrid.  Ford should have built a hybrid car first.

Wayne ponders:

"So, why not a feature film (with good science!) on peak oil, using a human-induced shortage (e.g. bombing pipelines of a major supplier of oil to the US) to serve as a short-term proxy for a longer (mid?) term problem."

If you think you can keep the good science through the Hollywood writing and production process, more power to you.  I think you'll have more luck selling immunity from rising oil prices, less pollution and less noise.


Your feedback is useful and troubling

Here we are in "The 21st Century" (to be thought of with Walter Cronkite's voice in mind) and there is no George Jetson whizzing around with robot campanion Rosie. We cannot even keep a cave-cludge Space Shuttle fleet going in "this day and age". Aren't Joe and Jane SoccerSickPack starting to notice that? Don't they see that there is no magical "technology". We are not winning the "war on cancer" with rapid advances. We are not winning the "war on drugs" with rapid advances. We can barely get anything right. As a species, we are very full of ourselves with little to show for it. Half of our population lives in abject poverty. "The System" is not providing. It is already falling into "Collapse" --and yet we deny it.


You guys are brilliant. I love reading your insights, battles etc. Stupid question here, what are the ramifications of converting cole, in terms of price, and carbon emmision, and eroi. thanks.

From today's Denver Post. Another approach to explaining peak oil. Shades of Jim Kunstler. This isn't bad and I hope you like it.

The Future on Your Street -- Living with fewer resources

By David Wann

Editor's note: David Wann is an advocate of sustainable lifestyles. In this imaginary scenario, set in the not-too-distant future, he explores the true cost of what we consume and suggests neighborhood-level lifestyle changes to cope with rising cost and scarcity of resources.

The microwave beeps as Eric and Margo Petrovak set the table for dinner. They're listening to a feature story on Colorado Public Radio about the rising costs of energy, water, and food, a topic that's much in the news these days. The year 2009 has been a wake-up call for the 50- something couple, whose three-bedroom, Front Range home is becoming less affordable every month. They've started talking about moving to a smaller, more efficient house - closer to their jobs, stores, parks and theaters - with good solar orientation and insulation.

"It's true that roughly half of the world's oil reserves are still in the ground," an expert explains on the radio, "but the fact is that we need more oil than we can get, since world oil production has reached its peak and will soon begin to decline. Global demand now exceeds supply; it's that simple. As prices rise for food, fuel, medicine and consumer products, we are finally seeing how dependent we are on fossil fuels in agriculture, transportation, food processing and the chemical industry ... . That's why oil at $110 a barrel is having such severe impacts on our daily lives."

"Why didn't we see this coming?" Margo comments as they sit down. "Why didn't we design more efficient vehicles and appliances back in the '70s? And new sources of energy and new ways to make chemicals from plants and waste?"

They both want to feel secure and upbeat about the future, but instead they feel overwhelmed by the lifestyle changes that face them. Just in the past few months, the cost of gasoline has gone up by a third, and since 2005, the cost of natural gas has more than doubled as Canadian supplies became less dependable. Steadily expanding demand for large homes, hot tubs, computers, large-screen TVs and a fleet of must-have appliances has been matched by a persistent thirst for gasoline.

While there are now many models of hybrids and flexible fuel vehicles on the market, America's 230 million vehicles are still mostly gas guzzlers, and it takes 10 or 15 years to replace that many vehicles. In 2009, Americans drive 25 trillion miles a year (the equivalent of a billion times around the Earth), and some households are paying well above $100 a week just for gas. Eric's and Margo's household, which accounts for 22,000 of those miles, is one of them.

The typical front lawn is not quite as green as it used to be, as the price of water continues to rise, and Eric's and Margo's big back yard is becoming an expensive luxury. Last year, they spent more than $700 to water, fertilize, and mow it.

They're also feeling the pinch of higher food prices. "I didn't realize there were so many hidden costs in things like packaging and processed food," says Eric. With all the recent media exposure, he's learned that nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas; that conventional pesticides are made from oil; and that producing a single hamburger patty uses enough energy to drive 20 miles. The water expended to produce that burger could supply half a year's worth of hot showers.

Eric is beginning to understand how much energy is contained in standard products like aluminum, plastic, cement, computers, drinking water and cars. For example, it takes the energy equivalent of more than 50 barrels of oil to manufacture a car (about a fourth of the energy it will use throughout its life).

Even energy itself "costs" more energy the deeper and more remotely we drill and mine. The oil industry once produced about 100 barrels of oil for every barrel of oil spent getting it, while in today's economy each barrel returns only 10. Many people are reassured because of the abundance of coal, biomass, tar sands and hydrogen, overlooking the fact that it takes a lot of energy to convert these materials into transportation fuel.

Water costs energy, too, to pump out of the ground, treat and pump to customers. Eric is surprised to find out that more than one-third of the treated water in the U.S. is used in cooling towers at power plants that generate electricity. So flipping on a light switch uses water. Wastewater treatment costs energy, too, for example, to pump, chemically treat, and digest and remove sludge. No wonder both water and wastewater bills have been going up.

The Colorado couple is learning that a scarcity of resources means more than rising prices. When there isn't enough energy to go around, choices need to be made about who will get the energy - commuters, farmers, food processors, residents of trophy homes, surgeons, snow plowers or vacationers. Who gets it is whoever pays the highest price. They're also realizing how energy- hungry their own habits are. For example, many of their friends live across the city, and it costs two or three gallons of gas to go see them. Too often, they jump in the car to do a single errand, and a large percentage of their household budget is spent for the latest media gadgets and luxury vacations - both very energy-intensive. Margo wonders how much energy they use just to overcome the privacy - OK, isolation - of their lifestyle.

The phone rings and it's their neighbor, Annette, inviting the Petrovaks to a neighborhood meeting. She's read an article about a Fort Collins neighborhood where residents work together to reduce their consumption of energy, water and consumer products such as lawn mowers, fertilizer and tools. She wants to see if this approach might work in their neighborhood.

"I think there are a lot of things we could do here," says Margo. "For example, why not create a community garden and compost pile? It would build bonds between neighbors, enable us to eat better food, and reduce the amount of grass that needs to be watered and fertilized. In fact," says Margo, looking inquisitively at Eric, "We might be willing to lend a piece of our back yard for a garden."

Marion, the Petrovak's neighbor, has her own idea for getting neighbors together: a community picnic.

When Marion comes to Margo's door, they talk about carpooling, planting trees to reduce air conditioning, and forming a cooperative team to make each house as efficient as possible. "I think we first have to create a sense of community, then we can do the energy stuff," Marion says. The idea of creating a stronger neighborhood becomes a hot topic among the dog walkers, exercisers and others out on the streets and sidewalks.

At the party, Marion and Margo consider the possibility of combining space in their backyards to build a community garden. Similar conversations take place between many neighbors. In the months that follow, a discussion group, book club, a few carpools and a food co-op are formed.

These first few neighborhood-building efforts result in a new way of thinking. Residents begin to think outside the boxes of their houses to envision a more productive and useful neighborhood. They begin to think in terms of "we" rather than just "me."

With a handful of successes behind them, they organize another neighborhood meeting to talk about visions for the neighborhood.

An engineer, Roy, excitedly envisions cottage industries to create jobs that are a two-minute walk away and reduce commuting. He even imagines a neighborhood energy system on a utility easement - such as a micro-turbine to supply electricity to some of the houses in the neighborhood.

With a rising level of trust in the group, the possibility of a jointly held bank account comes up. "The community land trust we'd form could purchase the next house that's up for sale, to create a community center with shared office equipment, a library, and a guest room," says Jerry, another neighbor.

Gradually, the neighborhood gets a well-deserved reputation for being a great place to live. Crime is almost non- existent, property values go up and turnover goes down.

As energy and water prices continue to climb, the Petrovaks and their neighbors are glad they've taken action to transform their neighborhood from a collection of houses on "life-support systems" to a neighborhood that makes the most of each electron of electricity, drop of gasoline, cubic foot of natural gas, and molecule of water.

David Wann is co-author of "Superbia! 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods," and co-author of "Affluenza."

May I introduce a sort-of new topic? That is, to try to strike a balance between public concern and private preparation. And behind this lies the other question - which is more urgent - Peak Oil or Global Warming? (Adam Porter reported months ago, on english.aljazeera.net, that Matt Simmons considered PO a more serious problem than GW. That's where I first heard of PO.)

I think GW can ruin us all, wholesale. I think PO may result in chaos, and in the deaths of many people on other continents (e.g. poorer countries), or maybe not -- Cuba recovered from its sudden loss of oil (see http://www.harpers.org/TheCubaDiet.html courtesy of energybulletin).

Obviously GW is a public-concern issue - there's little I can do in my personal life to make a substantial difference, but trying to help get better politicians elected / get others informed is something I can and should do. But PO will or will not happen, and as a recent retiree I need to worry about retirement assets, defaults on things like pensions and maybe even on FDIC, inflation, and so on - things that can drastically affect me and therefore are personally urgent.

Plus, I sort of welcome PO - there's no better way to slow down GW than a good solid world wide non-ending depression. (Or will it result in the mass of humanity frantically cutting and burning wood and digging and burning coal until it's all gone?)

Retro - "I sort of welcome PO - there's no better way to slow down GW than a good solid world wide non-ending depression."

Boy, did you hit the forbidden nail on the head. This is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. It will, in my view, result in "the mass of humanity frantically....".

Nonetheless, climate change is not the subject of The Oil Drum. I recommend going over to Real Climate. This is an often technical science blog on climate change moderated by some of the best scientists in the world. If you don't want to bite off that much, look at the blogroll on that site; there you will find a number of good weblogs by science writers who frequently cover climate change issues.

re: "But PO will or will not happen, and as a recent retiree I need to worry about" -- worry about it now, Retro, it's almost here, 2010 at the outside.

On gaming:

a peak oil movie--dang I can't find it. anybody got a link?

Liz, I believe that was a suggestion about a peak oil movie. I actually suggested this once to Jim Kunstler but he did not respond on that point....

But its a good idea. Some really dramatic fiction showing the Smiths vs the Jones out there in the suburbs fighting in a gas station line over the last remaining drops of fuel available this week or siphoning each other's gas tanks in the dark of the night. There have been some recent movies/cable specials but apparently they were all very Hollywood and kind of sucked (I didn't see them). I always recommend The End of Suburbia of course but its a "boring" documentary.

Right idea though, if we're going to "educate" (i.e. terrorize) the public into taking some action. 8)

Right, the Oil Storm. That's what I was referring to. Thanks, step back.

FWIW, I thought Oil Storm was really really good, as I've noted on TOD before.

Also, don't forget The Deal, which we also reviewed here. Not as good, but also highlights the importance of a secure oil delivery system.

I guess I'll withhold judgement until I actually see these movies. But I'm a bit cynical about the movies these days ... since there hasn't been a movie geared above the mentality of a 13-year-old showing where I live (Boulder, Colorado) in the last 3 months.

What I'd like to see is something like this:

Director: John Sayles
Writer: Paddy Chayefsky
Producers: Danny DeVito and Rob Reiner
Technical Input: Matthew Simmons, Richard Heinberg

Just a thought.

Which is more important: PO or GW or COC or CEP ?


PO= Peak Oil
GW= Global Warming
COC= "Collapse" of Civilization
CEP= Chicken and Egg Problem

Personally, I think we are living in a time of Convergence of many global scale problems. In all cases, "the system" is not providing through the brilliance of the "invisible hand" or the foresight of the government green spinners.

Throughout our growing up years we have been taught to blindly believe in the magic of the invisible hand --how "it" will provide for alll our needs. Of course, if youinstead lived in a Communist society, you were taught that the Central Government was all wise and would provide (I think each according to his needs, taking from each according to his capabilities). The Communist approach collapsed first. Reagan took credit even though he had nothing to do with it. This is no different than Gore taking credit for the Internet, as if he had invented it, which he didn't.

That's just the way politicians are. All around the globe. They take credit for good stuff that happens, pretending they were the "cause" of it. They wash their hands of bad stuff, pretending that the "evil enemy" is the cause of the bad stuff. It is pure bull droppings on all accounts. In a democratic society you merely have to fool 51% of the people and only on one day, election day.

So if you ask which is more important GW or PO or COC, I personally would say that the "faulty system" iis the most important because the "system" is the root to all other evils.

Don't get me wrong. Capatilism and the invisible hand are way better than socialism and the corrupt favor-for-favor hand. We have to honestly admit though, there are places where The Wealth of Tunnel Visions that is wrought by Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is nothing but a complex of collapsing caverns.

Take for example the oceans. We are running out of fish. Capitalism says take as much as you can grab for number one. Philosophists yawn. Ah yes, the old "tragedy of the commons". We know all about it dear people. Don't fret your little minds over it. "They" will come up with an answer.

Well guess what? "They" have not.

Same thing with Peak Oil.

The swarmy re-assurers in our society say, Ah yes Hubbert's Curve, we know its slopes well. Don't worry about it. "They" will come up with an answer.

Finally with collapse of civilization. The anti-chicken-littlers say: the commies had it coming. They had it coming to them cause they were godless evil-doers. It won't happen to us. "We" are better than them. "We" are smarter than "them". Our scientists are smarter than "theirs". Our politicians are smarter than "theirs". Our generals are smarter than "theirs". Our Yankee ingenuity is better than "their" non Yankee ingenuity. God is on our side. We will prevail.

Oh yeh?
Wake up people. "They" are lying.
The US got wupped in Vietnam. Korea was not exactly a victory. We're getting wupped in Iraq. Running over Greneda was just about our only opportunity to beat chests and pretend we are the 500 pound gorilla on this planet.

We, the 500 pound Gorilla are about to get stepped on by Godzilla.

Who is Godzilla?
Call her Mother Nature. Call her what you want.
She says oil is finite.
You don't argue with Godzilla.
She says climates tip over.
You don't argue with Godzilla.
She says overfished oceans don't reproduce.
She says eroded farms don't replenish their top soil.
She does not care what the "stock markets" say.
She does not care what price crude futures are trading at today as opposed to last year.
She does not even notice the 500 pound gorilla as it gets squished underfoot.

What about SimEarth? From the same folks that made SimCity (Maxis).

I remember there being a way of showing the energy source once civilization started to florish and the whole idea of fossil fuel depletion was front and center once they reach the Industrial phase of evolution. Anyone else remember this.

I found an old review at http://www.classicgaming.com/amigareviews/simearth.htm
(how do you do links here?!?)

These were the civilization energy choices
Image:Simearth civ.jpg

Energy Investment

BioEnergy: Energy obtained by burning wood and performing physical labor.
Sun/Wind: Energy obtained through the use of windmills, solar panels, and wind farms.
Hydro/Geo: Energy obtained from hydroelectric dams, water wheels, and geothermic heat.
Fuel: Energy from burning fossil fuels.
Nuclear: Atomic energy.

I remember you could see how this changes over time as technology advances and you could see how fossil fuels would rapidly decline if overused before you advanced to post industrial economy.

Maybe this is why peak oil makes so much sense to me now 15 years after it came out.

I have a relative inside Hollywood.

Hollywood is number one about making mullah.

Number one traget audience= "them who are free to spend their parents' money" 14-25 year olds

So Hollywood movies are mostly infantile action and sex

Nonetheless there are literature types who try to pepper intelligent deep symbolism inside the movies.

The latest movie, "The Island", is not the most brilliant. There is however the theme of a hero type discovering "a bug in the system" ha ha
He realizes the bug means something is wrong with the system
He starts to ask questions

"They" who delude the public wear black ha ha
They don't like the hero asking questions
It's time to send him to the Island ha ha

The good innocent people all wear white ha ha

A more interesting movie is The Matrix which resonates for various reasons with how young people view our world. If you bypass the action and sex scenes you will see that Smith represnts something. Trinity represents something. Etc. etc.

So they are trying from within Hollywood. Their hands are bound to a great extent by the need to make mullah

Liz and gmack,

Good links, and thank you for the reminder of R. Buckminster Fuller, who foresaw many of the issues we discuss here long before they where in the spotlight.

Noted at the Washington Post and at Energy Bulletin.net..

Matthew Simmons will be "on-line" THIS thursday August 4th. Got questions to submit?


remember, "mad max" was a peak oil movie (as i think someone else mentioned a short time ago). that certainly appealed to the 14-25 year olds.

maybe an indecation of "peak oil" market penetration would be a fresh take on the "mad max" scenario.

or heck ... a remake!

On Mad Max --that is so far off into the future that surely it cannot apply to us. Besides, they are all "Mad", mad I tell ya, in that movie. How could it possibly have anything to do with us?

Water World (Kevin Costner) was a Global Warming movie that folks did not "get it" on with. Actually, I thought it drove home the point quite well about how dependent we are on having farmable "dry land". Once again it was presented as being in the far off future. Did not gain a large following.

The Matrix is something that young people of today connect with. It deals with the idea that our internal models of what the world is, are illusions. We are all part of an Adam (mr.) Smith machine that tries to keep humans asleep (take the blue pill) so that they can serve as energy consumption nodes and thereby keep "the machine" going. Neo is, of course, the "new one" who will save humans from the madness of the machine. Open to many interpretations.

The Island (a new release and supposedly related to an earlier movie :http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078062/) also deals with a "them" who are controlling the good "us" and deluding us into believing in a world that is not what we think it is. It takes a lot of energy to keep "The Island" going. One of the minor plot lines is that the hero attacks the energy pipeline. Also there are a number of times that workers on the pipeline comment on how they do not know how it all interconnects. They just do their job and the system takes care of everything. It's always worked. No reason to question it. Ha Ha.