A further comment on "That's Oil, folks . . ."

Prof G has just made reference to the new article in Nature, concerning the possibility of Peak Oil, and hiding under the title “That’s oil, folks . . .” It begins with a comment on the Boston Meeting on Peak Oil and Gas last October, but largely is a review, by their Chief of Correspondents of some of the issues, with the major proponents of the opposing sides being Matt Simmons and Peter Jackson Of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

While, I suspect that there is little real benefit is re-rehearsing all the arguments that we could put forward, since they have been brought up in a number of responses to the publications of CERA over the past few months, particularly those by Dave and Euan, though they merely exemplify a number, yet I feel a response is called for since, inter alia, the President of Aramco just said:

Over the last several years, no less than thirty books have been devoted to the “peak oil” theory, the imminent exhaustion of oil, and the world’s inability to grow future petroleum supplies. The peak oil proponents routinely used the rise in oil prices over the last several years as evidence for their arguments about scarcity, but with the recent pullback in prices and the moderating call on oil from Saudi Aramco and other major producers, many now acknowledge there is actually an oversupply of petroleum in the market. In fact, what seems to be in short supply these days are vocal peak oil theorists!

Well, the rising production of the growingly-expensive alternate fuel, ethanol, would suggest, at least to some, that this is more than a theory, and the growing inability of some of the poorer nations to provide adequate power to their people would underline that suggestion. The demand destruction that lowers demand and thereby stretches supply is already occurring.

One of the problems, of course, with this story is the short memory that folk have, so that when President Jum’ah says that prices are dropping back he, and the other proponents neglect to mention that they are still considerably above the $38 a barrel that those, that I will again call cornucopians, have suggested would be the current price were there no problem. But the other is that for a reporter, short of spending a lot of time doing a personal investigation, must rely on experts and, just as with a jury relying on expert witnesses, assume that they are being truthful commentators in their turn. And it is appropriate for them to note where folk such as Colin Campbell have been wrong in their forecasts in the past.

Thus it is easy to suggest, by talking about reserves, and the potential of oil shale, and tar sand and other unconventional resources, that the world is not really going to have a problem for decades. We can look to volumes of hydrocarbon in the trillions of barrels, if you count all these potential sources, and also assume that oil fields only grow from the original estimates of reserves established when the fields are first developed.

Sadly, however, there are several problems here that are quietly glossed over. In the former case we don’t have the technology that we need to economically get a lot of the resource into a useful form where we need it. In the latter increasing reserves from a field is not always the case, and, as we have seen following Katrina, there are oilfields where the remaining oil is already inadequate to justify re-developing the field, after the initial production platforms were destroyed. And the development of existing fields is, in itself, not guaranteed. Bear in mind that while the article comments on the addition to the reserves of fields such as Thunder Horse, with it’s 300 million barrels of oil, the field was discovered in 1999 and the platform set to start production at 250,000 bd in 2005, was hit by Hurricane Dennis and had to be salvaged , the current plan anticipates that it will not now be on line until mid 2008, at the earliest. As the need for oil carries the industry further off-shore and literally into deeper waters, often only the potential production hits the headlines. Chris Nelder had a very good editorial about the reality of the potential problems, particularly with the development of the Chevron discovery at Jack #2. His final conclusion was that the field was unlikely to come into production at levels even close to 300,000 bd, and that even then, the decision to develop the field won’t likely be made until 2008. This for a field that was touted, at the time, as holding 15 billion barrels of oil, and being a savior for the country.

Further, as the debate over this situation continues, one should bear in mind that the levels of current production are still governed by demand. A small portion of current production goes into storage, but most passes through the refineries and into use by the general public. As long as there is more than adequate supply to meet the need at the price being demanded, then the levels of supply will appear adequate. Further demand fluctuates over the course of a year, and, in this the relatively quiet season, it is difficult to more clearly read the tea leaves. However, if, as we anticipate, that cushion of available production over demand is getting smaller, and may soon (for the demand level at reasonable price) disappear, so that price will effectively control demand, and that price may be high. At that point, which is coming a lot sooner than the general public understand, it becomes too late to find an immediate alternate solution to the problem.

Thus there is the very real danger that equivocation leads to a public complacency, and hides the likely problem of not being able to meet, on a daily basis, the demand of the world for liquid fuels over the next fifteen to twenty years. Within that time period the likelihood of significant input from alternate approaches (which Nature addressed on December 7th, but for which they now want $30 an article – and I am not going to trog over to our library to search it out) is slim – as has been made clear in various government reports that we have reviewed over the last year.

In the end the report does not really draw a conclusion but ends with the following

To predict peak oil in advance,“you need some kind of nice price signal,” he says, “and we don’t see any of those signs yet.”

One place to look for such signals might conceivably be in the prices for which oil is bought and sold on the futures market. And at the moment, the New York mercantile exchange is settling on prices around US$67 a barrel. It’s a price high enough to make alternative fuels interesting, but in real terms not remarkably high compared with long-term averages. If oil production does start to collapse, peak-oil supporters who want to stock their bunkers with luxury goods have the opportunity to make a killing, by buying tomorrow’s oil comparatively cheap and selling it, when the time comes, much more dearly. If, that is, the time does actually come.

The good news is that folks are beginning to consider the issue within a broader community than before. The bad news is that, with the limited time and knowledge that reporters have they are increasingly unwilling to use their judgment in deciding who might be right. They rely on those who, like Peter Jackson, can blithely state “there’s a lot of new capacity coming on the market,” without concurrently admitting that “there’s a lot of old oil depletion permanently leaving the market,” and that paying $10 billion to produce an additional 100,000 bd is not an indication that there is a lot of oil just waiting to come onto the market.

All we can do, in the short term, is keep documenting the changes, and pointing out what they really mean. In time it will have a greater impact, but if anyone is looking for great praise in the end, they might want to look up what happened to Cassandra.

I don't really relish the Cassandra role.

When we people have full bellies and own plenty of toys and entertainments it is difficult to accept any information that tells us we've been doing things that will ultimately ruin us and our habitat.

We've acted as though we are on a permanent Easy Street only to discover that the street is not ours. It belongs to the Devil, who charges a rather high toll.

Had we explored our habitat more carefully, kept our population low, kept our ecological footprint per capita lower, then we might not be in this predicament.

The MSM will need several decades to pretend to report about this while actually providing more disinfotainment.

"If only..."

"And so it goes..."

Begging the question ....

When we people have full bellies ... it is difficult to [get them to] accept any information that tells us we've been doing things that will ultimately ruin us

...that sort of begs the question as to whether they "can" accept the information, do the they have the capability to accept; as opposed to are they "willing" to accept?

Our TOD world can be divided along a spectrum that contains at least 3 kinds of people:

1. There are those who believe in the Town Bell hypothesis. It goes something like this:

1. IF only I/we ring the Town Bell loud enough and long enough, then the rest of the Town will awaken, see the oncoming danger (of Peak Oil) and the entire Town will do something to avoid or mitigate the associated calamity.

2. Not far behind are those who believe in the Halls-of-Power Dome Bell hypothesis. It goes something like this:

2. IF only I/we ring the Dome Bell in the Halls-of-Power (i.e. Wash. D.C.) loud enough and long enough, then the Powers-to-Be (TPTB) inside the Dome will awaken, see the oncoming danger (of Peak Oil) and the entire Dome will do something to avoid or mitigate the associated calamity.

3. And at the other extreme are those who believe in the Save-Yourself hypothesis. It goes something like this:

3. Forget about trying to ring the Dome Bell or the Town Bell. It's too late. Save yourself! Build a Noah's Ark (a life raft) and warn thine family, warn thine closest friends and get them to hop into the Noah's Ark (i.e. the Permaculture Commune).

Well, before we continue to debate among ourselves as to which of these philosophies is the correct one, should we not first investigate whether the "warnees" (those who are to be warned) have the physical capability to receive the warning?

It's not a question of whether they are willing (free will) to accept the message given that their bellies are full. It's a question of whether they CAN (no free will) accept the message in the first place, do they have the physical capability to receive and understand within the time it takes to pass the information/warning forward to them?

Let's try an experiment.

Here is a message for you:


It's gibberish.
Very quickly you will conclude that the sender is a "nut job" and you will ignore any further messaging from the nut job.

Here is another message for you:

production Hubbert oil

There is no coherent English sentence here. However, if you are a regular TOD reader, these noises will "resonate" with you. There will be certain anchor points within your brain to which these noises can attach. And then you can start decoding the noises and start trying to make some sense of it. For example, the messenger might be trying to tell me something about oil production and about Hubbert's curve.

Of course if you have never heard about Hubbert's curve, then the noise: "Hubbert" is just a nonsense sound.

Similarly, if you have not learned science, thermodynamics, etc. then the noise about "energy crisis" is just nonsense sound.

So again,

I ask you a question (iaxua?):

Can they accept the information?

Step:There are a few like myself that are almost in the "save yourself" category yet notice that the link between oil supply/consumption and economic growth is extremely tenuous. The global oil supply plateau is now 2.5 years old and during that period global GDP has not plateaued, it has actually grown rather sharply.The link between global oil supply and GDP growth appears to rest upon the importance of the global auto industry and related expenditures.IMO, the old saying "what is good for General Motors is good for America" is still resonating through the subconscious of many posters (with slight variations). The economic model based on selling more cars every year globally is going to come to an end (and all the expenditures related to that).Is that the only basis for economic growth and wealth creation? Maybe. Maybe not.

What I would contend is more tenuous is the link between GDP and the "real" economy. I not refering to some bootleg off-the-books exchanges, but rather just the part of the "measured" economy where something of real value is created. All lot of what transpires now, in terms of money flow, provides little net benefit yet shows up as evidence of economic vitality. If we suddenly stopped making anything new, we could continue selling each other our accumulated stuff on Ebay and keep the GDP robust for awhile.

What constitutes value in a real economic context? Something (whether it be extracted energy, raw materials, a product, a service, or information) which enhances society's ability to produce or do more of the same. Otherwise, it's like an expensive fireworks display; entertaining for awhile, but then the lights go out and all that's left is the acrid smoke and diminished ability to hear.

I agree that there's more to life than "value" as defined above, and we will need to embrace that more in a future economy since the usual fix of "more stuff" always costs energy.

A few years ago I tried to get information on how many dollars changed hands in the NYSE, Nasdaq, and the Merc. I couldn't find the data on the internet or at the public library. The question arose after a talk with a stock broker who said the entire federal budget could be paid for by only a 2% tax on the stock market. After a little extrapilation I concluded that at least 90% of all economic activity in the US was not included in the GDP. Government taxes the dimes which change hands on Main Street and turns a blind eye on the dollars that change hands on Wall Street. Somehow the paycheck of the stockbroker is counted as production but what he sells isn't consider a good or a service. The King never taxes himself.

At the core of the correct answer to the problem rests the simple historical observation that "what kills GM is good for Toyota, Honda, insert any other car company name except "Ford" here". Since Toyota, Honda etc. all produce in America, the overall impact of the demise of a few players with crappy management will be small. More cars will be sold globally, despite PO. More cars will be sold which will use less energy on average and then overall. Energy to power these cars will be generated from renewables. There are no physical energy limits here that we could reach with our current technology. The only thing that has reached an inflexion point is the hydrocarbon mining industry.

The trick is that those three classes of action area all ongoing now, at once. We have consumer articles on oil depletion - and resulting consumer action. We have government reports on oil depletion - and resulting government action. There are even articles about retreat to the bunker, and web pages that will help you order your equipment.

It is a typical, messy, human response.

And as is typical in human societies, some will Step Up to say that all approaches (but their own) are flawed.

That in itself is a distraction, because the icon of a perfect human response has never been achieved. Put another way, if you reject the mess, you reject reality, to retreat into fantasy futures.

It is a typical, messy, human response.

That's the crux of the entire problem, isn't it, odograph? What happens if people in critical positions make messy decisions, like going to war for oil rather than conserving and switching to alternatives? That's precisely the problem that makes the assumption that all will be well so tenuous. We can't know if all will turn out well or badly. And given historical records of human behavior, the signs are not encouraging. I remind you once again of the Japanese response to being denied oil and rubber in the 1930s and the subsequent global cost.

In the past, because of a surplus of expendable energy, we've been able to try multiple paths at once to get out of box canyons in which we've found ourselves. There is good reason to question whether we continue to have that luxury if we are at a point where surplus energy supplies are going to become more and more constrained.

In the past, because of a surplus of expendable energy, we've been able to try multiple paths at once to get out of box canyons in which we've found ourselves. There is good reason to question whether we continue to have that luxury if we are at a point where surplus energy supplies are going to become more and more constrained.

When I look at the news feeds, search google news for "alternative energy" etc., it looks very much to me like we are at the stage where we dump out all our crayons, look them over, line them up, and figure out what we have.

Schrödinger's Crayons ;-)

In the past, because of a surplus of expendable energy, we've been able to try multiple paths at once to get out of box canyons in which we've found ourselves. There is good reason to question whether we continue to have that luxury if we are at a point where surplus energy supplies are going to become more and more constrained.

Good point. Everyone wants lots of "silver BBs." We often forget it takes some silver to make each one.

Your comment about silver BBs prompts me to repost this comment here. I was in a discussion on another board about electrical generation, and the relative merits of large base load approaches like nuclear with systems consisting of a lot of various small generating technologies. Basically cannon shells vs. silver BBs.

One thing I wonder when I read about complex distributed proposals like yours is what impact they will have on the resilience of our global socio-economic system. It strikes me that a highly complex, highly interconnected solution can only reduce the system's resilience. What I don't have a feel for is whether the distributed nature of the solution would restore the resilience to some degree, offsetting the complexity-driven loss. I know it would if the system were less interconnected, and the failure of one generating node couldn't impact its neigbours, but with all elements tied to the grid I start to worry. It's something to keep in mind - decreasing the interconnections by making the electrical system a set of isolated generating islands might make the whole system more robust, but it would also increases the difficulty of load management due to the smaller scale of each island. I don't have the knowledge yet to analyze the tradeoff.

It's certain that increasing the complexity of the generating system by incorporating a large number of different small-scale technologies will lower the overall EROEI and make both the electrical system and the socio-economic system that depends on it less resilient. That's probably just one of the costs of doing business at this stage, though.

One factor I don't believe is getting enough consideration in these deliberations is system resilience. Taking that into account can change the acceptability of some solutions - if they decrease resilience significantly for marginal benefit, we may be better off not doing them. I now feel this way about tying in lots and lots of wind farms to the grid.

Agreed. I think that's part of what Greer was getting at with the sliderule thing.

System resilience is a tricky concept.

One thing I've seen over and over again is that there is a huge tradeoff between efficiency and resilience. For example, organizations (corporations, universities, other nonprofits, governments) often have big inefficiencies built in. Those are not necessarily a bad thing. In organization theory there is a concept called "organizational slack" which refers to inefficiency--which can be reduced during hard times.

I also see in the material world a tradeoff between "efficiency" and durability or resilience. Fast sailboats tend to come apart. You can fly a DC-2 with a half a ton of ice on its wings (unlike fast modern aircraft). Durable organizations and boats and airplanes can function fairly well even when there are a whole bunch of things wrong with them.

Rather than focus on "complexity" as Tainter does, I think we should be more wary of efficiency. The best and longest lasting organizations (think U.S. government or any university you care to name) have large amounts of inefficiency built in. The fat and durable sailboats I like will be passed by sleek fast catamarans . . . which then go on to capsize or come apart in strong winds. Give me a boat that can ride out a storm and keep floating even if the rigging breaks and the boat is swamped or knocked down. You can keep your hyperefficient racing machines--which break and sink and are dismasted with great regularity.

Thanks. I'd been thinking about the role of efficiency since I encountered the concept of adaptive loops a few weeks ago. The three-dimensional diagram of the adaptive loop that I first saw in Thomas Homer-Dixon's book "The Upside of Down" came from the work of Dr. Buzz Holling. It has as its axes Productivity, Connectedness and Resilience. It made intuitive sense to me that efficiency should be included, except I don't know how you could show nice printed pictures of a loop in four-dimensional space.

Here is how I've been thinking of the inverse relationship of efficiency and resilience.

Resilience implies that the system has the ability to redirect resources from elsewhere within the system to contain and heal the impact of a shock. Crucially, this reallocation must not affect the system's performance in such a way that the reallocation itself acts as a secondary system shock. If the resources are reallocated from a portion of the system that can't function without them, the act of reallocation may become the first event in a breakdown cascade.

One definition of an inefficient system is that system operations have more resources available to them than are actually needed to accomplish the tasks. In this case, redirection of resources away from a task will have less of an impact since it is more probable that the task's efficiency can be improved to accommodate the loss.

In a very efficient system, all resources are fully utilized. Any redirection of resources is done in a zero-sum context - the task from which the resources are taken can no longer function (or at least can't function as fully). As a result, very efficient systems are much more prone to cascades, as resources are sequentially redirected to try and cope with the breakdown caused by the previous reallocation.

It now seems to me that it would be helpful to consider adaptive loops with axes of Efficiency, Interconnectedness and Resilience. Of course the brains at the Resilience Alliance have probably already thought this through. It makes me less sanguine, though, when I consider just how efficient our socio-economic system is, and how little slack we have left to play with.

Here's one additional thought. I just realized that every time a system reallocates resources to deal with a problem, it loses further efficiency. That happens both because the resources being reallocated may not be optimal for their new use, and some additional losses will occur due to something analogous to friction or thermodynamic effects. Not all of the resources you take away from the donor task make it to the target, and those that do may not be quite what's needed. Both effects result in the need to take away more resources from donor tasks than are needed for the repairs.

In a very efficient (ergo low resilience) system this spells mucho trouble, as it increases the effective damage of each cascading shock.

I think Wal-Mart is finding that out.

That is a pretty broad statement to rest on such a thin reed.

EVERY time? really? Often when resources are allocated to deal with a problem (Hmmm, anti smoking adds and public smoking bans to combat smoking) the system gains efficiency. Often the problem is the inefficiency itself (how much farmland are we using so that people can die earlier and at great expense?), so allocating resources to deal with it does the exact opposite of what you are saying.

Same thing with complexity BTW. People talk a good game about systems having some inherent complexity limit, or some such. Pure bunk. As a general rule, complex systems tend to work better than simple ones, otherwise why would the complexity have been added at all? It's nice when a system can be both simple and good, but in my experience, it's a rarity. You can see this in science (General relativity bumps off Newtonian physics), computer science (quicksort bumps off bubble sort), mathematics (Complex analysis easily tackles problems that 100 pages of algebra would never solve), etc...

Such broad and sweeping statements (including my own, of course) help nobody.

It seems to me that in this discussion with D.S., you've adopted the notion of efficiency as employed by economics in its mechanistic analogue (mainstream). Resilience necessarily is inseparable from time, while efficiency, in the sense you are employing it, is with-out time, or time-less. If efficiency was a measure of the effect of work on the rate at which entropy rises, and a lower rate a sign of greater efficiency, then it would stand side by side with resilience and not in opposition to it.

I haven't read the work of the Resilience Alliance, though I have completed 'The Upside of Down'. I suspect the problem of definition in relation to time is one reason the word efficiency is not used in the adaptive loop.

I think I see what you're saying, though my first thought was that "connectedness" is also time-less. I also don't see that resilience must necessarily have a temporal component - is "ability to recover" not as good a definition of resilience as "ability to recover within a given time period"? I'll give the hamster a poke and see if he can spin my mental gears a bit faster on this.

If you think of an airplane or a boat as a system that encounters rough weather through time, I think it becomes clear that the time dimension actually amplifies the tradeoff between efficiency and resilience.

(I prefer the term "robust," to "resilient" but let us not quibble over words.)

There are parallels between efficient systems and Tainter's complex systems. I am defining efficiency as getting more useful work per unit of energy input. To use an example, a more efficient car engine is one which gets better gas mileage. For equal weight and power, more efficient engines are more complex. A hybrid is both more energy efficient in operation and more complex in design than a non-hybrid gasoline engine. The consequences in going up the efficiency and complexity curves are the same. They both follow the law of diminishing returns. They both require more specilization, information processing and control.
They have more things which can go wrong.

Note also that significant redundancy in the modern world comes from parallel systems set in competition. That is one reason why "complexity" in the US did not mean the same thing as "complexity" in Soviet central planning. Organization matters.


I don't know your background, but you have said, here, one of the most insightful things I have read in a long time.

(maybe because I agree with it ;-)

The vast emphasis in business is on 'efficiency' and 'lean thinking'. There are merits to this *but*

my original discipline was military history. One of the iron laws of military activity is what you don't expect to go wrong, probably will. In no small part because you have an active, thinking opponent who constantly strives to identify your weaknesses, and exploit them.

(Iraq in 2003, Vietnam in 1965-69, Korea in 195-51, and the Market Garden landings at Arnhem in WWII (1944) are 4 easy examples of this truism. In each case, the US Army (or its British allies) was caught with its pants down by an opponent who responded quickly, and skilfully exploited the deficiencies of the American 'way of war')

Accordingly, military organisations exist with huge amounts of 'waste' and 'redundancy' that are only really tested under stress.

One of the problems with 'optimising' our peacetime military, and cutting the fat, is that the spare capacity that a unit has when the S-H-The-Fan is lost. The British military is the exemplar of this 'managerialist' tendency, over the last 30 years or so.

There is a reason why we have regiments that are 350 years old (although fast disappearing). Because the 'inefficiencies' of the regimental mess, the regimental staff, etc, give that organisation the capacity to be destroyed, and rebuilt, again and again.

By the same token, we have universities which are 1000 years old, which have made relatively little concessions to the 'modern' world. New College Oxford, the 'newer' college, was founded in 1341. Yet Oxford and Cambridge have had as many Nobel Prize winners as the top American universities.

Our National Health Service has a similar problem. We are making it more efficient, but that means we are having trouble dealing with 'superbugs' (because you need brute labour force to clean wards, and contractors don't do a good job relative to employed staff who believe in the mission of universal healthcare). And if we ever have another epidemic like the 1919 flu, we just don't have the coping mechanisms any more.

I see analogies to what happened to many businesses after 9-11: their entire production systems were predicated on 'just in time', yet the planes couldn't fly, and the containers were stopped at the border.

Similarly companies go through rounds of 'business process reegineering' and 'downsizing' and you see the long term deterioration in their market share and position and customer service.

Electricity is very special, and distinct from essentially all other major industrial goods because of the underlying physics.


* The electrical grid can transmit at nearly the speed of light.
* It is very costly to "store" inventory of electrical energy.

This makes the grid both physically possible, and essential. Natural gas is a little bit like this but to a lessser degree.

As such I think it is essential that the grid be maintained and made robust. When peak oil really hits, the grid is literally the only the between civilization and barbarism. I do not think that is an exaggeration.

It strikes me that a highly complex, highly interconnected solution can only reduce the system's resilience.

I disagree, in a way specific to electricity.

The problem with highly devolved power production and lack of large scale transmission is the much greater skilled labor needed to do it well. Power engineering is necessary and not for dummies---doing it wrong is very dangerous. With a grid and utility the number of people who Need to Know is proportional to the *logarithm* of the product produced, roughly. The problem is maintenance.

Does every building superintendent have the knowledge to run an efficient power generator with low cost and low emissions? Except for bone-head-simple PV solar, the answer's no. There's no way I would want all those hands tinkering on things.

I want people who spend their lives doing it for a living working on the power production and distribution.

The reality is that for most people a highly devolved (off-grid) power system is much less reliable, and requires much more maintenance and knowledge.

The current system is how it is for a good reason I believe.

With peak oil really starting to bite there will be a howl for A Fix Now!

I see two possibilities: (1) massive coal to liquids, and damn the environment, or (2) subsidized plug-in hybrids for everybody.

With the second, there's the potential that non-greenhouse sources might satisfy.

If we turn primary energy production back to coal, no matter what form, we're screwed.

We need to Keep The Grid Going no matter what.

The arguments for devolution seem more emotional---a return to the always mythical "simpler" "more local" times---than logical.

The problem with highly devolved power production and lack of large scale transmission is the much greater skilled labor needed to do it well. Power engineering is necessary and not for dummies---doing it wrong is very dangerous. ... The problem is maintenance.

Does every building superintendent have the knowledge to run an efficient power generator with low cost and low emissions? Except for bone-head-simple PV solar, the answer's no. There's no way I would want all those hands tinkering on things.

I want people who spend their lives doing it for a living working on the power production and distribution.

This kind of argument reminds me of how the priests of the mainframe computer room used to defend their turf:

The problem with highly devolved computation power production and lack of large scale centralized data transmission is the much greater skilled labor needed to do it well. Computer Power engineering is necessary and not for dummies---doing it wrong is very dangerous. ... The problem is maintenance.

Does every building superintendent have the knowledge to run an efficient computer power generator with low cost and low error rate? emissions? Except for bone-head-simple hobbyist micro-computers, PV solar, the answer's no. There's no way I would want all those hands tinkering on things.

I want people who spend their lives doing it for a living working on computer data power production and distribution. :-)


One factor I don't believe is getting enough consideration in these deliberations is system resilience. Taking that into account can change the acceptability of some solutions - if they decrease resilience significantly for marginal benefit, we may be better off not doing them. I now feel this way about tying in lots and lots of wind farms to the grid.

in the case of wind farms, I think they could add to system resilience.

Because they diversify the fuel portfolio of the system. So losing your natural gas supply due to Russian politics or terrorist attack doesn't cut off *all* your fuel supply.

"What happens if people in critical positions make messy decisions, like going to war for oil rather than conserving and switching to alternatives?"

Can you prove that this has happened or is likely to happen? Or is it just one of those pet explanations people prefer because they don't like to go through the analysis of reality? It is always easier to say "thegovernmentdidit" than to actually reflect on geological reality and the consequences of ones own energy use.

"In the past, because of a surplus of expendable energy"

Again, this sentence completely ignores that we have just entered the solar age which gives us access to an energy stream from the sun that is orders of magnitude larger than anything we have tapped into, so far. We have more than just "a surplus" of energy. We got plenty. We are simply not using it.

Can you prove that this has happened or is likely to happen? Or is it just one of those pet explanations people prefer because they don't like to go through the analysis of reality? It is always easier to say "thegovernmentdidit" than to actually reflect on geological reality and the consequences of ones own energy use.

Japan's response to loss of oil and rubber resources precipitated their attack on the US opening up US involvement in WWII. Of course humans behave like this. Surely you know this wee bit of history?

Next question?

Sorry, I should have clarified my statement: "Did any nation go to war lately for oil?", particularly refering to the US involvement in Iraq. Of course the robber barrons are plundering a country in this case... but it is the US they are taking for a ride, not Iraq.

I am aware of the historic facts, although even there I would say that Fascism and an invincibility complex of national leaders were far more to blame for what happened in WWII than anything else. Hitler was not looking for oil and natural resources per se. His (or maybe Goebbels') phrase "Lebensraum fuer das Deutsche Volk" had a much, much deeper philosophical meaning. The ideology was based on the idea that the world belongs to the strongest and that just like the Hordes from the East had overrun the West and destroyed the Roman Empire (despite that not being completely historic, but then, why do we expect a madman to be a precise historian?), the now stronger Arians had the right to go to the East and destroy and plunder whatever they wanted. He couldn't care less about the oil fields and mines in any of the countries they invaded. His generals and economic planners, of course, did. But then, they, all by themselves, would have never started a war in the first place. I think something similar is probably true for the Japanese, too, who thought of themself as the prime race of the East.

Hitler, by the way, is said to have relied in his "strategic planning" on the writings of the popular author Karl May, who wrote a bunch of nonsensical travel and Wild-West novels in which the Native Americans and the settlers refer to each other in the third person and the white hero marries the sister of the Indian Chief! His generals had at times to convince Hitler that the Wehrmacht could not simply march across mountain ranges which in his imagination were not there because he refused to look at the maps and instead cited Karl May's books about easy passage through Romania and parts of Russia... Needless to mention, Karl May had never been to the places he described, had written some of the books while in prison for stealing a gold watch and in general made up everything he ever wrote and Hitler was deranged enough to believe all of it.

But maybe this is not so far off from the idea that our generalissimus maximus has put approx. as much thought into the Iraq adventure as Der Fuehrer.


Paulus and Rommel were both headed for the near-eastern oil fields. Hitler possibly could have won the European war had Paulus bypassed Stalingrad and made a dash for Baku. Rommel failed only because the Brits had cracked the Italian codes and hence were able to sink most of the ships supplying Rommel. World War Two was won by the narrowest of margins.

And had the Japanese at Pearl Harbor burned the oil tanks rather than take out obsolescent battleships, they could have easily invaded and occupied Hawaii--which probably would have lead to a total Japanese victory in the Pacific in 1942 and 1943, because without Hawaii the U.S. Pacific fleet would have been severely constrained by fuel limitations.

The unconditional surrenders could very easily have been signed on the battleships Tirpitz and Yamato rather than the battleship Missouri.

Hitler could never have defeated Soviet Russia. Too many square miles, too much winter, too many Russians. Things really weren't that much different in 1941 from 1812. No possiblilty of surrender on Tirpitz.

Hitler did not need to defeat his former ally, Stalin: All he had to do was to get to Baku and seize the oilfields. He could have given Russia Finland and half of Poland; there was no military or political reason for Hitler to repeat the mistakes of Napoleon and Charles XII.

Even with the delay in Yugoslavia, the German forces came very close to Moscow with its vital rail center. Stalin could not have abandoned Moscow and fought on at the end of 1941; he would have had to make peace, because Soviet industry had not yet been moved far enough east. Because the Germans pissed away their forces in front of Lenningrad and above all at Stalingrad, the Soviet Union (with enormous help from Britain with the Ultra intelligence) was able to defeat the German army.

If you go back to 1940 and 1941, the smart money was on Hitler to win. Except for Churchill, few thought that Britain could hang on while the U.S. pretty much twiddled its thumbs, except for the strategic occupation of Iceland.

Much in war depends on chance--or to be more precise, war is chaotic. The U.S. was strongly isolationist, and had not the Japanese attacked at the end of 1941, it is not at all clear that Britain could have won the Battle of the Atlantic--which was a very near thing, with the Allies losing pretty much through most of 1942.

Once again, it comes down to oil. Had the U-boats prevailed, they could have cut Britain off from oil, and with its planes and ships and tanks immobilized, it is a tossup whether the Brits would have sued for peace before or after an invasion. My guess is that they would have fought a German invasion to the bitter end--but would have lost. Only American gasoline allowed the British to win the Battle of Britain--aided by the top-secret addition of tetraethyl lead to boost octane to allow the Hurricanes and Spits to defeat the German air force.


Thanks for that very interesting discussion on the logistics of WWII.

One does not have to wonder very hard on how far the USA could project its military might if its armed forces were cut off from a steady supply of oil and distillates.

The reason Hitler broke off from Moscow and headed for Stalingrad was precisely because he wanted to reach the Caucasian oil fields. He was obsessed with economic and infrastructural -- call it neo marxist -- reasons for going after specific objectives.

Actually British intelligence was virtually unused by the USSR.

On this point you are entirely incorrect. The British invented "Lucy" a fake spy network supposedly based in Lucerne that passed Ultra intelligence to the Soviets. The great victory at Kursk was based on Soviet detailed tactical knowledge of German plans--knowledge passed along via the Ultra/Lucy network.

Only in the past dozen years has the full veil of secrecy been lifted from this Ultra/Lucy connection. Above all, the British had to guard from the Germans the fact that their Enigma codes and machines were not secure; hence the folderol of inventing a fake spy network. To his dying day, Hitler believed there was a traitor withing the German High Command. There was no traitor--just the arrogance of the Nazis who never imagined that a bunch of Brits could build the world's first computer (the "Bronze Goddess") and crack their most secret communications.

Intelligence and counterintelligence were of course shrouded by layers of secrets, and because of the Official Secrets Act in Britain, for fifty years nobody was allowed to say anything. Indeed, after World War Two the Bronze Goddess was destroyed--as being too dangerous to be allowed to exist, because of the power that it gave the code breakers.

Without the Ultra/Lucy intelligence, it is highly questionable whether the Soviets could have beaten the Germans, not only at Kursk but at all the later battles on the Eastern front. By the end of the War, the Soviets were depending entirely on the Lucy intelligence in their strategic and tactical planning to defeat the Germans. Stalin believed to his dying day that there was a traitor high in the German command structure; he was as ignorant of Ultra as was Hitler.

This is absolute nonsense. There were numerous Soviet-run networks in Germany which provided far more intelligence than any British source. If Stalin had been willing to listen he would have been as well informed in 1941 as 1943.
Incidentally, it is a great superstition of intellectuals that intelligence is always the crucial factor in determining the outcome of military operations.

I'm not sure in the long run the US could have been defeated by Japan. The disparity in industrial power was too great, and the US had access to the necessary resources to fight that war (eg domestic oil production).

However the war would have taken much longer, and undoubtedly would have involved the greater use of atomic weapons (assuming the Manhattan Project still went through).

The US would have had to retake Hawai by force, or conversely a much longer, more drawn out war to defeat Japan via Australia and India.

I agree the War in Europe was a very near run thing, our success basically based on ULTRA (cracking the Enigma cipher machine codes). And of course the equivalent feat in the Pacific (MAGIC) played a huge role in defeating the Japanese.

The critical turning points seem to me to have been:

- we didn't surrender in 1940 (although many of our leaders thought we should), because of Churchill, and because subsequently the German air attack on our airfields was rerouted into an attack on London (in revenge for our bombing Berlin to little effect), allowing the RAF to regroup and recover

- Hitler didn't take Moscow and Leningrad in December 1941 (which would have had a tremendous psychological effect and might have made it impossible for Stalin to hold power)

(the Stalingrad offensive strikes me as a sideshow, German forces did reach the oilfields, but Stalin had destroyed them. There was no way the Germans could have restored meaningful production)

- the German failure to break through and take the Suez Canal (which would have allowed them to advance all the way to Iran)

- the German loss of the Atlantic 'Convoy War' in 1941-42 (again, because we broke their codes). Britain was very close to starving in that period, and industrial production to collapsing.

- the Japanese failure to destroy the oil reserves at Pearl Harbour

Murray Bookchin said wrote in Remaking Society:

To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing. Attempts to 'green' capitalism, to make it 'ecological', are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth.

I just fell on this quote today, even worse, Murray Bookchin, among others, is talking about pollution and the risk we are taking by increasing our CO2 level since the end of the sixties (in the introduction of Post-scarcity anarchism), I don't feel that the warnings had a major impact.
I'm starting to believe that only option 3 is realistic :-(

Bookchin is in my book absolutely right, except he should not have been quite so harsh on the wishful thinkers. No one generation is going to preside over the transformation of the economy and society from capitalist to whatever comes next. So spending our lives experimenting with growth (expansion of material consumption) limiting ways of living, is the most valuable thing we can do for our progeny. I would include in this area of beneficient experimentation the efforts of some intellectuals to critique the existing arrangements and to conceive of alternatives.

Doomed? That's essentializing BS.

Some things are indeed very hard, but the reality is that in developed world the environmental impact in many areas---e.g. clean air and water which were the original targets of the environmental movement---was very profound.

And capitalism didn't collapse either.

If people insist that "growth" be limited as the goal rather than environmental criteria, then you will indeed have problems.

If people insist that "growth" be limited as the goal rather than environmental criteria, then you will indeed have problems.

This is a nit pick obsession of mine.

Lately I'm seeing growth in use of the term "growth".

Growth of what?

Growth of GDP?

That can be a complete charade.

By way of example, suppose you and I agree to sell "stuff" to each other. I will sell you electronically-generated number sequences at 50 cents a piece and you will sell me electronically-generated letter sequences at 50 cents a piece.

Assume we agree to trade just 2 units each on week one and to DOUBLE our sales count every week therafter. By the end of the year our businesses will have "grown" to 2^52 units per week with a net value of 2^51 Dollars per week! We will be rich I tell you. Rich beyond all dreams. Don't you see how wonderful "growth" can be?

P.S. The tax man will be very happy about the "growth" of our mutually benficial businesses and probably "investors" will want to buy into the enterprises once they see our "books" showing sales growth that DOUBLES every week.

At some point, I think I will want to "retire" and sell off all my stock to some sucker ... err, I mean prudent investor; and I suggest my friend that you do the same. :-)

Let's meet for drinks on the beach after and discuss the merits of "growth".

Generally it seems to come down to all the little 'growths' we have running around in our homes who will grow into big growths and double once again the number of people playing the growth game. Without limiting population, talk of limiting growth is useless.

With ageing apparent in their demographics, some nations will have to get their heads around the concept that zero growth and in fact recessions are not necessarily "bad". As we have learned in the west from two or three episodes of downsizing, it it the bottomline that matters not the top one.

If a multinational corp can support a greater number of employees via higher profits gained thru efficiencies and increased productivity; so also can a nation. There must be goal of lower sales (nominal GDP) and higher profits (surplus).

We were weaned on Real GDP growth because we had burgeoning populations. As the work force declines, Recession must not be equated with four letter words if a nation's surplus is maintained or grows.

I'm starting to believe that only option 3 is realistic :-(


Interesting observations.

Actually I was not proposing a Chinese menu with only columns A, B and C as options.

I was setting out a "spectrum" of possibilities, with the warn-everybody option at one extreme and the warn-only-your-family/friends at the other end.

On the issue of "capitalism", there is nothing inherently evil (or inherently good) about the concept of "capitalism". And besides, hardly anyone practices pure, free market "capitalism". Do you think Halliburton is going to say Rah, rag, let's have open competition and bidding for the war booty from Iraq? The "no bid" contracts to Halliburton were handed out by the supposed kings of "free trade". It's all a charade, a ruse. Don't you get it yet?

It is not a "free market". It is a "rigged market". Always has been. The games are fixed. Unless you are an insider, your chance of winning is near zilch. Back-dated stock options anyone? Anyone? What? No takers? Come on Steve Jobs, you love free trade & fierce competition. Don't you want some more back-dated stock options?

OK then. Let's move on to the next rigged game. How about energy futures? Let's see if we can make those gyrate like yo yo's.

I like the classification of ways to respond to peak oil, based on which sort of social subgroup are most suitable actors: 1) the public at large, 2) the government, 3) small groups such as families.

Another axis along which one can classify responses is by what sort of future technology one might aim toward, e.g. Greer's slide rule versus pocket calculator. At the gross level, one could just look at anticipated per capita energy usage. Maybe somewhat orthogonal will be some classification like 1) a return to technology from past centuries, 2) continuing with approximately the technology we have now, 3) a shift to some new technology not currently reduced to practice.

Perhaps a useful third axis would be just a sense of timescale. Some folks might see peak oil as a crisis which will last a decade or two, after which we return to the usual program. Myself, I figure the whole show ought to unravel over something like two centuries. This couples back to the "who responds" question - if the problem unfolds over centuries, it is surely not something that any individual effectively can respond to.

Folks here bring such varied perspectives to the topic, I think maps like these are helpful just to get a better sense of the probably audience for any comments.

What about?

4. It is far too late. The die-off is inevitable. Sit back and watch the train crash as there is nothing else you can do except enjoy the minor pleasure of being right.

There seem to be quite a few people whose strategy is not only "Don't tell anyone," but "Try to keep others from finding out." The theory being that if everyone knows about peak oil, the price of peak-related stuff (farmland, solar panels, wind turbines, etc.) will skyrocket.

"It belongs to the Devil, who charges a rather high toll"

The Devil is an Energy Expert

</i> (grin)

This post is to close the offending open italics tag left by khaos3.

Sorry and thanks for correcting, First attempt at using the html tags not a success.

Good job, Ed!

doesn't fix the issue for me :(

Kaos3. THe new system let's you edit your post. How about editing it and put in the closing i tag?

I see an "edit" on the menu for my last comment but not for the offending one. If you know the way plese tell.

You can't edit a post once someone has replied to it.

Unless you've got staff privileges. I'll see if I can do it.

The problem was that you used the same tag at beginning and end. With HTML, the end tag has a slash before it.


You had


(With pointy brackets rather than square ones, of course.)

I once spent 6 hours debugging a Fortran program because of an analagous error. This experience brought back bad memories. Gives me great respect for programmers.

Thanks for your help

Yeek, Fortran. Don't remind me.

Most message board software automatically closes tags if the user forgets, so the whole page isn't screwed up. I imagine there must be something SuperG can do. Unfortunately, he's on vacation now, so we'll just have to be very, very careful with the HTML until he gets back.

Family and work obligations have kept me busy for a couple of days -- but what a thread of comments to return to!

Khaos3 -- thanks for the article. "Right on target, so direct." (Bob Dylan, I think...)

When did we humans ever start thinking about extracting resources and dumping waste without regard for the future? Has it always been so?

Did we cross a line somewhere along the way? Or did we gradually build ourselves into a kind of modern Tower of Babel and now find that we cannot complete the tower, we cannot understand one another, and we are likely to be buried in the rubble of resource war carried on amidst Mother Earth's fevered climate?

Are we proud to think that we can manage the planet any better than goats could manage their own habitat?

Remember the lillies of the field. They do not work or worry, yet they are clothed beautifully. They live and blossom and die.

Jesus said they are clothed by their Heavenly Father. What about the plants we call weeds? They also get what they need in the same way.

We are not goats. (???) We are (most of us) definitely not beautiful flowers. (I speak for myself, here.) ;)

We humans seem to be bi-polar: we want all the pleasure we can experience our short lives and yet we dream of immortality. Short of that, we sometimes dream that we can provide a better life for the next generation or two, or three, or more.

What a species we are! We dream of endless pleasure and we dream of avoiding the pain of deprivation or violence. Meanwhile we poison and devour our habitat and we create huge armies and weapons which are a form of terrorism simply by virtue of their existence.

Where will it all end? Where will I end? What lies beyond death's door? Will some few mating couples someday romp in the tropic-like jungles of northernmost Canada without memory of this so-called civilization we have built? I would love to know. Sometimes.

What people always seem to forget is that Cassandra was right!

What people also do not do is analyze WHY the people of Troy did not listen to Cassandra even though she had sounded the warning bell.

Why did their eyes glaze over upon hearing the Peak ThunderHorse warning?

I have an equal fascination with Global Warming.

We've seldom had so clear a message from scientists, and science, about the risks of continuing with our current CO2 emissions policies and practices.

And the global weather shifts are a clear sign of this.

And indeed the solutions to the GW problem are present, and not excessively costly (anywhere from minus 1 to 10% of GDP in 2050, with the central forecast being 1% of GDP at that time).

But to even state that GW, caused by man made CO2 emission, is a serious problem is to be howled down (outside of the realm of serious scientists).

The prevalent responses are:

- it isn't happening (followed by a cite of x scientist, who is usually rebuttable with about 15 minutes of internet searching)

- it isn't caused by rising CO2 (ditto)

- humans isn't causing the rise in CO2 (ditto)

- it will be a very long time before we have to worry about it (despite what all our science and current observation is telling us)

- there's nothing we can do about it

- it would be too expensive to do something about it

- it would be a violation of our fundamental individual property rights to do something about it (we have a God given right to pollute and harm others?)

- it's all a plot by leftist European scientists who hate America because of our Freedom

- Al Gore is a Nazi, just like Joseph Goebbels (sorry, I had to throw that one in, it's not common). A milder version is that Al Gore invented Global Warming, to get re-elected

- we can do nothing about it if China and India don't act

"In the latter increasing reserves from a field is not always the case, ... "

This whole idea of historical reserve growth may in fact be a substantial fraud. The statistical sharpies here at TOD may want to sanity check this recent post of mine:
This could turn out to be a halfway decent debunking of a cornucopian argument that CERA and Michael Lynch have long held.


Thanks for posting some detailed reaction to this article, HO. You might feel like the skipping needle on a piece of old vinyl doing it, but it helps me to remember which end is up. I knew the article would be missing details, or focusing on this, but not that.. but I'm not in this industry, and can stand to hear these things more than a few times before I can even try to speak and think clearly about them myself. The one section that irked me was in the lead-in, as she talked about the Peak Oilers who had Nifty little businesses cashing in on their predictions.. it felt like a typical cheap shot, making these people (all by extension) seem greedy at least, and hypocritical at worst.. while there was no particular mention given (that I noticed) about the $1000 pricetag on a CERA publication, and no attention given to their 'revised predictions'.. just kind of Greazy, I thought, though much of the article seemed more fair in its approach.

This was sent to me by my Sister and Brother-in-law, who works in Climate Science at UW-Madison, as I had been talking with family about the Oil situation over Christmas.

I thought I'd share the Email I sent to them and the rest of the family, advocating for all of us to take some steps towards personal energy independence.

Regards, Bob Fiske


Thanks for the article! I sort of 'deep-scanned' it. Pretty much every point they raise is the daily grist at www.theoildrum.com , and the discussion often centers around the acknowledged semantical question of_ 'When?' _far more than 'IF?' .. As the final para or two point out, people are unsure of what 'signals' to look for to know that it is NOW, or TOMORROW, YESTERDAY or NEXT WEEK.. but of course it is all too likely that such an indicator would be in any case, far too late to be the turning point where we start to prepare in earnest. Those like CERA, who calmly put the date decades out (and who have adjusted/ their/ predictions as much as any of the PeakOilers have..and make a tidy profit doing so..) seem to be part of the 'Don't worry about a thing, the Markets and Technology will provide. Please return to your shopping.' -part of the economic PR machine. They produce expensive reports for big energy clients and gov't clients, and should be viewed in that light.. not as some 'Pure Research' institution.

My hope is that we will choose to use the 'calm before the storm', and the still abundant and largely affordable energy that still accompanies it to power the transformation as much as we possibly can. Some of it will entail what seem to be 'expensive' investments'.. but even todays prices might look like a firesale from the vantagepoint of 'after' (after the energy crisis is acknowledged, noticed) For example, I hear people say that they will look into Solar Electric when it becomes more affordable. This year saw a panel produce up to 40% of the sunlight energy that struck it.. and maybe this will hit the market and the economies of scale will make it enticingly cheap.. but I doubt it. Solar Electric has been on a 30-40%/yr rise for several years now, and despite a bottleneck in the availability for electrical grade Polysilicon, continues to grow. I think there is a strong chance that demand will keep the costs of Solar high, and any 'Bump' ( Climate Event, Oil Downslope, Grid Failure, Political Incident) could cause a combination of Supply and Demand that would send Solar Electric prices flying. This is why I bought my first couple of panels, charge controllers and batteries last year, pretty much on the Deffeyes predicted dates around Thanksgiving, '05. They work for at least 2 to 3 decades, and might even be an 'investment property' since the resale will be strong with such a durable and desirable product.

I have hardly said it clearly to all of you, and will do so now. *Any steps you can take to *_*divest your **homes and transportation needs from total dependence on outside energy*_ *will be*:
A) Smart Precautions
B) Wise Investments and
C) Responsible adjustments to the way we live our lives.

I think it will be a benefit to our families, communities and all our people (as broadly as you want to scale that), and will strengthen the buffers that we now lack to get through Surprises, Emergencies, Shortages, Recessions, Depressions, Famines, Droughts, and the occasional Hiccup.

- Solar Water Heating is as smart or smarter an investment than Solar Electric, depending (somewhat) upon your location ..
- Efficiency Measures trump all 'self-generation' products in terms of payback and costs-avoided/averted. Make a "Baby Steps" List and do one a month..
- With the Energy Embodied in our FOOD SUPPLY, anything to have your food sources Local and Secure will be similarly important.
(Every Calorie you consume represents some 8-10 calories burned in fuels to produce, process and transport it to you)

Sorry if this sounds dire.. the reality might not be, and then again it might.. but there are real benefits and not much downside to making some preparations.

Love you all!

If these price drops can hold I'm actually excited since this will test the resolve of KSA to defend 60 a barrel. I suspect you will find they won't make the drastic cuts needed to accomplish this goal.

I did not expect to get a chance to see KSA get forced into either making real cuts in production or giving up.

The can.

1.) Make significant production cuts of millions of barrels a day.
2.) Give up and we can see what rate the produce at. This would be a comfortable rate for them.
3.) Maybe make a small cut that won't really effect supply but it does indicate they are cutting production for other reasons.
4.) Produce at maximum to make as much money as they can as prices fall.

Anything but a drastic cut to really defend 60 should give us useful information on their production capacity. To me the most alarming is if they make small cuts that don't make sense for the stated goal of defending 60 a barrel.

I wish we could get good numbers on demand worldwide someone is not using oil.

If these price drops can hold I'm actually excited since this will test the resolve of KSA to defend 60 a barrel.

There is a second issue bound up here.

To a certain degree the current price run-up has been due to under investment. The conventional belief was that KSA had sufficient reserve production capacity that they could control the price, drive it down, and undermine the economics of all alternates and substitutes (solar, ethanol, wind, deep-water. etc). The price run up took place as it appeared that KSA lacked the assumed surge capacity that conventional wisdom assigned to them.

Under current market conditions it appears that KSA does have a reserve production capacity. In brief, they now appear to be in the same position they were in circa 1984. They have the potential to open the manifolds and drive prices lower.

Why would they do this?

1) They "shock" the market and call into question the economics of all alternate energy substitutes. This is a game plan similar to that of 1984. It pretty much destroyed the oil industry in North America.

2) They reassert control of OPEC and cause those states not adhering to production quotas to question their position and conform to OPEC quota assignements.

3) They create problems for Iran. I am not clear on the impact on Iran but it is clear that KSA has concerns with the current Shia lead government of Iraq and has threatened to act to drive down prices as a means to bring Iran to heel.

Contemplate the impact on non-conventional oil and all the substitutes if oil continued to trend down towards $38. KSA could even claim that their actions were taken as a measure of "friendship" toward USA but the true impacts would be highly negative and would increase KSA control of the market.

did rembrandt ever publish part 3 of his 3 part article on reserve growth ? i may have missed it.

Insomnia. It's 5 in the morning and, at 3:30, I read the Nature article -- my reasoning was surely this will put me to sleep! It almost worked, but not quite.

In the past, I have depended on Nature and Science for my science reading on climate, human evolution, paleontology and other interests. So, these journals are authoritative for me, as they should be. But now there's this That's Oil, Folks....

I can't decide if I want to rehash the arguments we have made over and over again. You do a nice job here, HO. I guess I'll just make a few comments.

  • In the article and often on this website, there is a profound misunderstanding about reserves versus incremental production flows. The thing about reserves is -- you must always ask yourself: How do these putative reserves get turned into actual oil we can use?

    Once you ask this question, most other things you need to know about will follow. The geology, the economics, etc. For example, Is there a rig available? How much is this gonna cost? How much energy do I need to get this stuff out of the ground? Can I drill this deep? Do I have the technology? How cold does it get in the winter? Do I have to deal with ice? What kind of reservoir is this? Carbonate? Sandstone? Is it a shale? If so, can I fracture it? How heavy is this oil? How are we gonna get it to flow? Is it dirty? How much sulfur does it contain? -- You know, these kinds of things.

  • About the "Hubbert Method" -- it's a production curve, folks. Does a peak in production also require that we be at the 50% mark of recoverable reserves? No. Again, the answer is No. Don't think about a "bell-shaped" curve. Imagine all the forms it can take! Just bear in mind that there is a point in time where the curve reaches an apex (or plateau) and only goes down from there. Simple, really.

  • Regarding
    As the need for oil carries the industry further off-shore and literally into deeper waters, often only the potential production hits the headlines. Chris Nelder had a very good editorial about the reality of the potential problems, particularly with the development of the Chevron discovery at Jack #2. His final conclusion was that the field was unlikely to come into production at levels even close to 300,000 bd, and that even then, the decision to develop the field won’t likely be made until 2008. This for a field that was touted, at the time, as holding 15 billion barrels of oil, and being a savior for the country
    This is the crux of problem concerning human denial about limited energy resources. Only the "potential production" hits the headlines, which is why I was anxious to get a story out as soon as possible after the Jack #2 announcement. About this, we can only counter with our best arguments and try to get them into the media and before policy makers. I really have little idea what else to do.

Anyway, it is disappointing to see the prestigious journal Nature publish "even handed" rubbish like this. I watched such reporting about climate change for years.

HO & Dave. I feel your pain. But like the GW camp that kept putting out the photo of Atlantic waters lapping at the bottom stories of the WTC, u have your own loose cannons.

TOD, Yahoo's EnergyResources & a cornucopia of Peakster websites will never be able to sell their message when visitors to them see literally hundreds of posts a week declaring that the Peak was "last year". The "last year" blowhards have been with us since 1997. Yup, ten years. And the more MSM does its due diligence, the more they see that Peak Oil is basically part of:
a) the die-off camp
b) here comes the Depression camp
c) or buy gold 'cuz the world's fiat currencies are about to collapse camp

Like an ideological based political party that waters its policies down down to seek Election, TOD and the students of Peak Oil have allowed themselves to be hijacked by ... well, the wacko's.

And in the end, your well meaning msg is lost in the NOISE. Sorry.

Laherrere and Campbell have made mistakes. But their errors can be rationalized by inherent faults in their conservative methodology which lends itself to upward revisions.

OTOH, allowing hundreds of posters to come to your site and SCREAM that "the end is nigh" ... is just not helpful.

If u (TOD) sincerely want to be taken seriously, u have to adopt moderation that allows rational and logical discussion. Like RealClimate (and many others in other disciplines).

I hear your pleas for sanity and your frustration at the end of the day after well intentioned TOD articles by Dave, HO, Stuart, etc. It's not enuf.

U have to get rid of the cancers at your site ... u have to raise the bar. Or u'r just another site for those guyz in the mountains with a pickup, a chainsaw, lotsa rifles, a wind mill, using human shit for garden fertilizer and waiting for the anti christ.

If u (TOD) sincerely want to be taken seriously, u have to adopt moderation that allows rational and logical discussion. Like RealClimate (and many others in other disciplines).

C'mmon Freddy are you suffering from double personality? Are you the same Freddy calling names here?

You think that's bad, take a look at his comments here

Fraudy is probably tired of eating his dogs food, and hoping someone with a bucket of money and a box of stupid will pay to see his socalled research.

Interesting that he uses RealClimate as a standard-bearer to compare against. Debunking oil cornucopians is many times easier to debunk than the GW deniers. The discussion may be rational and logical there, but GW certainly is not conducive to a simple and inuitive understanding. On the other hand, ripping apart people like Attanasi & Root and the large contingent of oil industry apologists is like child's play. It may look harsh to some but so does handing outing F's to first year college physics students.

Interesting that he uses RealClimate as a standard-bearer to compare against. Debunking oil cornucopians is many times easier to debunk than the GW deniers.

Scientifically, that is correct, as GW is really very tricky.

Where I live (Switzerland), GW is accepted as a fact of life. I don’t know a single adult person who isn’t aware of it, though people view it in their own way, from looking ‘forward’ to it because they hate the cold, with others convinced we will all fry from the heat. That is a bit unfair, because many people are very knowledgeable. PO, by contrast, is under the radar for most, or is seen as trivial or treated in a cornucopic fashion. Understanding why this is so is easy.

1) CH’s particular geography has melting glaciers, a snow line that rises, and pockets of particular climates that have changed radically. Swiss banks will no longer lend for winter-sport development under 1,500 m. altitude - how’s uncle Heinz or Ferdinand going to deal with that? Ie. the pocket book is hit directly, huge infrastructure has to be re-organised, people move, we need to plan, and fast. And that is without mentioning cracks in mountains, mud rivers, flooding, falling rocks that destroy hamlets, roads, people.

2) The summer of 03 was a scorcher and killed off huge amounts of vegetation (not to mention people). It was like out of a muted sci-fi movie. Today, much plant life has not recovered.

3) After 03, vegetable prices went up sharply and they never came down. But forsythias bloom all winter - this winter.

Palpable, noticeable changes that have to be adapted to and have economic consequences.

Energy? Oil? Everyone has what they need, even if they have to pay a little more.

Also, climate or weather is *experienced* as a cosmic force, outside of human activity. (On the ground as people have to react; it can be analysed or explained differently, but that doesn’t change the reality...) Energy is wound into the fabric of life in ways that are not so easily comprehensible or perceptible.

Thanks for the thoughts. I have a significant recent investment in Ch, so this is very informative to me. We may cross (hiking) paths someday :)


Summer 2006 issue, page 16.

'Climate Sceptics in Europe? Mostly missing in action'

'Here in Europe, the issue is much less politicized. In the US there is this tendency to divide [re global warming] on political lines and that isn't the case in Europe. Margaret Thatcher, who was the leader of the Conservative Party, spoke up very strongly about climate change. It was simply regarded as a scientific matter'

see also:


Try living in the mountains without a pickup and chainsaw ... you need a rifle for the wild pigs, unless you hire a hunter, and if you're really in the wilds you haven't been able to pay for a power grid connection up your valley anyway.

What do you use your shit for? Or do you just let it be someone else's problem?

I say we ban people who use "u" for "you," "enuf" for "enough," and "guyz" for "guys."

I say we ban people who use "u" for "you," "enuf" for "enough," and "guyz" for "guys.

I agree.

Nuff said!

Ron Patterson

oh, c'mon Leanan, y u Hatin' on Freddy yo? he is 2b spected 4 hiz knows yo? hatin on da playa insted of hatin on da game! shizzle!

Oh stewardess, I speak jive!

Slip me some swim

im so l33t! i pwn u!

What do you say about banning trolls who DON'T type this way?

They really misdirect and obfuscate the discourse around here (TOD).

Froody Hooter,
Like deliverence these back woods are ay? Bet your little wood house was made from trees killed by a chainsaw(vrs handsaw or ax). Don't see you bashing the little motorized 4 wheel wagons we call cars. Guess some who buy "lumber" at the "store" don't have both feet on the pedals either.

But freddy
you told me it doesn't matter to you whether 05 is or isn't bigger than 06, you are convinced that po is not until after 2010 earliest... Well, I think eia data will show 05 is bigger than 06, if only a little. So, lets call it a statistical tie, and agree that peak is so far 05/06. Meanwhile, bumpy plateau cannot be argued with, certainly not at the moment, so it is you that is (still) waiting for more production, not po'ers waiting for less.

IMO there are not enough rigs in the world to arrest the 07 declines from old fields in russia, sa, us, norway, gb, mexico and probably venezuela, with china close behind, and these declines will be enough to swamp the coming increases in former ussr/s. atlantic basin. So, lets agree to disagree, and compare notes end 07, eh? Have a good year...

Are you a betting man? How about a steak dinner for two, say $100; I say 07, the year chris expects substantial new produciton, will not exceed the 05/6 c+c avg. To be settled on or before 3/30/08; revisions following this date will not be counted.

J, last October i was the first at TOD to warn that global inventories were approaching 2-mbd. And that el nino would be moderating the usa winter. And that contract prices would settle in the low 50's by yearend.

For months i have been reminded Peaksters that KSA sustainable rate was only 8-mbd. And i advised when it was raised to 8.6-mbd. And how it was folly to confuse decline with reversion to mean by swing producers.

If we go back to Oct 2005, concensus at TOD was that peak was upon us and a Recession was on its way in 2006. I stated clearly that y'all were very wrong and why. Both global GDP & USA GDP proved me right. A monthly production record of 86.13-mbd was set in July 2006 and Q3 set a quarterly production record that is 1-mbd higher than 2005.

I can't take your money, J, 'cuz my data collection, analysis & record swamps everybody elses' and it wouldn't be fair. And i am passed some info in confidence.

As i pointed out in another thread yesterday, we had a three year plateau at 77-mbd that lasted 36 months and ended in 2002. It was the 7th annual setback in production since 1975. Without this context, one cannot understand the cycles in production, inventory and capacity building.

We are presently watching a cycle of retrenchment. With planned Spring OPEC quota revisions, this soft period may last several quarters and would not be prudent to bet against it. Nobody knows the extent by which demand destruction has dug in.

But with global real GDP above 4%, we know it won't be as long as last time. Colin Campbell stuck to his guns on a Regular Conv oil peak of 64-mbd in Y2k until March of 2004. His stubborness almost cost him his integrity. Many at TOD are at that same crossroad. Nobody knows the extent by which demand destruction has dug in. Many want to believe this is "the big one".

But they are wrong. I don't follow C+C cuz it's a joke. A redefinition of oil to suit an agenda and means nothing to the public. And i prefer IEA stats to EIA.

I don't follow C+C cuz it's a joke. A redefinition of oil to suit an agenda and means nothing to the public.

Amen, but you won't convince many around here of this.

I can't take your money, J, 'cuz my data collection, analysis & record swamps everybody elses' and it wouldn't be fair. And i am passed some info in confidence.


As I told wt, no month will be remembered as a peak, just as no q will be. What is important is the peak year; the interesting points are a) that a great 3q was not able to bring 06 above 05, and b) that 4q dropped back quickly, indicating that 3q production level is not likely to continue.

Your mention of a plateau a few years ago is like apples and oranges... then, the US, japan, and parts of europe were in recession. The current plateau is happening with good gdp growth and record prices. Everybody, not least sa, is producing balls out. Not one barrel was left behind last year on account of low prices or demand destruction. In spite of this, all of your contributors, in cluding colin, over predicted 06 production, and by a lot... what, indeed, was their consensus for 06 production in early 05? This is a serious question, and one which you could answer if you are willing to... but, I don't really expect an answer as it would undermine your position.

Meanwhile, stuart and his plateau was right on, and wt was not far behind. Something seems to have gone awry with your consensus, given that nominal 06 prices were at a record high. What might have happened?

THe peak oil now (pon) crowd thinks major producers are declining at a much higher rate than your lot expected. north sea, sa, mexico, us gulf, china? (certainly daqing, but anyway a bit murky there), etc. us historical decline data does not work for the rest of the world because of the high tech, eg horizontal, is allowing fields to be produced at a higher rate at the end of their life, naturally leading to very rapid decline rates. Old on shore fields are being produced exactly as off shore fields are, and will therefore have similar decline rates. This certainly appllies to nearly all sa fields, not least ghawar, and probably iran/q8 as well (the latter may anyway have to reduce production on account of parliament wishing to limit produciton to 2% of actual reserves.)

A reason mentioned by a few is equipment. Your fav IEA says there will be no problem "as long as the necessary investments are made." IEA no doubt meant financial. But, what if what is necessary exceeds the world's available rigs? SA is increasing rigs as fast as they can, which is already slashing us gom ng production. And, while sa produciton is no doubt higher now that they have 60 rigs that what it would be if they has stayed with 18, production is nevertheless declining fairly rapidly.

Colin, thrice bit mostly on account of deep offshore in s. atlantic basin, is naturally a little shy. IMO he is looking for ngl production to come on line faster than is likely.

How long wiil we manage to cling to the plateau? How long will new fields (none in sa) manage to make up for accelerating decline and equipment delays? We'll just have to wait and see. Your conviction that production will soon revert to an upward climb should explain why 06/05 was flat. You have been turning Economics 101 on its head; economists normally claim that high prices lead to higher supply in a free market, not that high prices lead to lower or stagnant supply.

BTW, how interesting that it is all happening at once. US ng peaks in 01, canadian ng in 02, world oil in 05/6, the us now inporting coal as GB and western europe desperately looks to import oil and gas... We live in interesting times. Lets hope for more warm winters, which is the real demand destruction these days, not price. Consider that high ng last year boosted fuel oil demand, missing this year...

What if I called BS on this "human denial" stuff?

Automotive executives worldwide strongly agree that high oil prices have permanently changed consumers’ purchasing habits globally, driving them toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids, according to an annual global survey of industry leaders by KPMG LLP, the US audit, tax and advisory firm.


'splain to me Dave, why it is conventional at TOD to talk about "denial" while more work-a-day sites log the continuing change in human behavior?

"P.O. is now" skeptics say we must wait 3 or 4 years of dwindling oil production to call the peak. I agree. Optimist like you would be wise in waiting a little bit more before certifying a change for good just because SUV sales are down. BTW, at least in my country (Spain), SUVs sales are up 12%.

Also (but I don't think is the issue here), I don't see how a growing but more efficient car fleet is going to affect overall oil consumption, the rebound effect (more efficiency per unit but much more units operating) seems to prevent that desirable effect.

I think the key is to honestly look at the responses being made around the world. Period.

This "denial" stuff is sloppy, and self-deceiving. My local power company just launched their largest ever wind-power initiative ... how is that stuff doing in Spain?

Wind power is doing great in Spain, in fact we are the nº2 in world installed capacity. Is a small but growing part of our energy mix:

Year / Capacity added / aprox TWh / Total electric consumption (and growth over year)
2001 / 933MW / 2,5 TWh / 237 TWh
2002 / 1.493MW / +3,9 TWh / 246 TWh ( +9)
2003 / 1.377MW / +3,6 TWh / 264 TWh (+18)
2004 / 2.065MW / +5,4 TWh / 280 TWh (+16)
2005 / 1.764MW / +4,6 TWh / 292 TWh (+12)
2006 / 2.000MW / +5,2 TWh
TOTAL 11.340MW (2006)

Theorical max TWh in Spain: 30 TWh

Load factor 30%


Is your wind theoretical for Spain then around 10% of electric? What do you (Spain) have or plan to use as main sources?

It is my understanding that Denmark and Norway have a reciprocal relation, where high wind in Denmark is used for additional pumped storage in Norway. Anything like that on Spain's horizon?

Although wind power has been growing at such rates, our base load is going to be combined gas cycle, coal and nuclear (nuclear is somewhat arrested now, we just closed an old one and the electrical companies that own the nuclear plants are ordering gas and coal, not new nuclear). We have indeed some hydro capacity to pump water for later use, but also we're suffering from draught, so last year we had to burn more fossil fuels to compensate for that. We are connected with France, buying from them less than 5% a year of our electricity (plans are to add more connections, but this meets some resistance).

Our electric system is very centralized, some regions produce a lot of power that has to be transmited, with the consequent losses. I think a combination of small power stations and cogeneration AND a more decentralized approach could be as important as growing our share of renewables, though.

Your assumptions are sloppy and deceiving. You leap from anecdotal evidence to conclusions. How is your process different from that of many whom you condemn? Answer: It isn't.

Pot meet kettle.

Which conclusion was that?

Wow, you're in bad mood, odo. Did somebody call you a "Cornucopian" again?  

Seriously, let's take a close look at your quote. "Driving them toward more fuel-efficient vehicles" -- where the denial comes in, as regards peak oil and climate change, is that they won't (and can't, IMHO) get rid the vehicles themselves. All they are doing is getting better mileage. Hurray! Whoop-di-doo!

That's where the denial comes in.

The March of Progress

Are you actually saying that PO response requires us to eliminate all "vehicles" in the short order, and that anything less is "denial?"

Or are you saying that any response below your personal "bar" is denial? I think that might force you to define the "bar," in order for that to be a rational standard.

(I did actually get a bad night's sleep - too many chocolate covered espresso beans)

Bad night's sleep -- I guess so.

It's not my "personal" bar. This fossil fuel way of living, the way our culture is based entirely around the automobile, has no longer term future. The sooner we get used to the idea, the better off we will be. I'm just reporting the bad news. Go ahead, shoot the messenger. I'm used to it. Obviously, we won't be able to change everything at once. Switching to more efficient vehicles is not a behavioural change. It is a more consumerism -- a different shopping choice.

However, the "denial" lies in the psychological assumptions -- which most humans naturally make -- that everything is just as it should be, that the way things are now is the way it always was and ever shall be, that if we just do more and more of what we are already doing, everything will turn out OK. Most importantly, it is necessary to maintain the attitude at all times that everything is OK. That there's no problem.

I've got people like CERA telling me there's no problem. I've got people like Amory Lovins telling me there's no problem. I've got Juma'h of Saudi Arabia telling me there's not problem. I've got ExxonMobil telling me there's no problem. I've got George Bush telling me there's no problem.

Well, I'm here to tell 'em all something new -- there are big problems.

-- best

The philosophy is interesting but let's try the question again, because of the practical implications. Do you actually think it's so bad that vehicles will simply disappear in some time frame we can understand (beyond a century or two my crystal ball becomes opaque), rather than shifting over to another power source over a period of time?

If vehicles did disappear, how would you expect we would schlep stuff around? Drag it with animals as in the past? But we've got lots more people than in the past. Where would we find land to grow feed for those animals?

In that past, life expectancy was less than 40 years. Nowadays we have lots of people over 40 in almost all countries, even poor ones. And somewhere between 30 and 45, the ability to do hard labor usually diminishes, often severely. So in this vehicle-free future, do we just kill off half the population?

Paul: I recall a stat that 7% of Manhattan residents own cars (might be a lowball estimate)however, they are not dragging stuff with animals. Sometimes I think people forget how recent the "three SUVs in the driveway for the average schmuck" phenomenom actually is.

However, those Manhattan folks live in a highly specialized situation in which, among other things, others do most of the shlepping for them. Even so, they still use vehicles, though they don't own them. The streets are crammed full of taxis as well as private cars and trucks, and the subways are crammed with hugely expensive trains that cost more to buy, per seat, than cars do.

Not that it matters, because the specialized Manhattan situation is inapplicable to the country as a whole - which is what the energy discussion is really about - unless you assume you're going to cram most of the population into Manhattans. That simply will never happen peaceably. And even if it did, you'd still need lots of vehicles to shlep stuff to them, 'cuz anything as big and dense as a Manhattan needs a huge hinterland to support it.

I don't think there will be a vehicle-free future anytime soon. In fact, I'm absolutely certain that the only way that could occur would be if Nature coerces the situation -- I expect this to happen eventually but I don't know the timeframe.

This all relates to overshoot. Like any other animal, in the absence of predators or other natural constraints on population, we Homo Sapiens have overrun our environment -- which, due to our big brains/cleverness -- is the entire planet. It's a classic case. Take away the wolves, and the elk breed like crazy. After they deplete their natural habitat, they go into a population nosedive.

My view of people in cars is that you will have to pry the steering wheel out from under their cold, dead fingers.

Speaking of prying steering wheels from cold dead fingers:
I had a 92 year old great-uncle who had his drivers license taken away by the State of California. He died 6 hours later. He always said he might as well die if he ever lost his driving privileges. He did, and he did.
Now I have an 87 year old father who's had two accidents in the past 200 miles of driving. Even though he's down to 20 miles a week of driving he will have his own car, cabs are shameful. First accident he was ticketed and had to go to court. Ticketing officer didn't show, driver of the post office truck he broadsided didn't show, Dad walked without having to do so much as state his name. Stating his name on cue is something that could cause him a lot of confusion.
His own car had $8000 of body damage. Insurance paid. And the insurance company just renewed him. At the same low rate he was paying before.
Second accident was just a parking lot thing. Dent in his own freshly painted car and a broken lens on the other car. He gave the other driver $100 cash, end of story.
State of Illinois just gave him a new license even though he could never pass a "how many fingers am I holding up?" test anymore. He can't see. Also thinks it's the Depression again and Roosevelt is President.
Most in the immediate vicinity think it's an inconceivable lack of filial piety to even think he should stop driving. It could kill him. Yes, it could. And he could die in a stupid accident. And he could kill anyone who got in his way in a stupid accident.
So two questions:
1) What do I do?
2) Why is driving holy? Why is it so addictive?

The easiest way may be to call your father's doctor. The doctor can call Motor Vehicles and get his license revoked.


Been there. Doc don't play. Lecture about duties to one's parents.

Try a different doctor. You might do a little research ahead of time and find one who is willing to do it.

Thank you Leanan

But will that stop him from driving?

Maybe you should just take his car away? Tell him its in the shop getting fixed. Then buy him a segway.

Then buy him a segway.

Buy an 87 year old man a Segway? He'd break every bone in his body learning to use it. An NEV might be more acceptable a substitution.

1. Take away your Dad's keys.
2. Remove a few parts from the car's engine--distributer cap, spark plugs, oil drain plug, etc.
3. Give him envelopes marked "Cab Fare" with twenty dollar bills enclosed.
4. Remove license plates from car and hide or junk them.
5. Pour five pounds of sugar into the gas tank.
6. Slash the tires.

Do whatever you have to do.

Talk is cheap.

But denial is much easier, especially when you realize it is going to be you who has to shlepp the old man all over town from now on.

Been there. Luckily no one died in the last car accident. Just property damage. It could have been a Santa Monica shopping center scene. Lucky it wasn't.

My children are under strict orders to take away my keys when the time comes. I trust them.

Thank you everyone. Family discussion goes in circles and outside input much appreciated.
There have long been many sets of keys as a consequence of memory loss. Taking one keyring (or five) slows him down a bit.
Car is in a 'secure' garage so sabotage is out. He can't even maneuver that garage anymore so the attendant brings it to him.
The old family GP would have stopped this long ago but when they moved to old folks condos they got vampires for doctors who just want the Medicare fee, period. The old GP has retired and gone back to India.
Medical authority is about the only authority that would be accepted. While they have doctors who give the desired answer, that's the word of God.
California branch of family is absolute that Driving=life; no driving=death. I find that deeply psychotic, but there it is.
I would have no additional care burden if driving stopped, many ways they could get around.
It's going to be difficult.
Thank you again.

My 86 year old Mother (since deceased) was in a similar situation (as was I). She rear-ended someone -- really creamed them hard. I suspect she hit the gas instead of the brakes. Would have been killed except for the air-bag. She was already starting to lose her marbles by that time, so I lifted her license and told her that the cops had taken it (I wish they had!). She bought it and fortunately wasn't able enough to check it out. We were lucky that it happened that way and nobody was seriously injured. Tough situation though. You have my sympathy.

This all relates to overshoot. Like any other animal, in the absence of predators or other natural constraints on population, we Homo Sapiens have overrun our environment -- which, due to our big brains/cleverness -- is the entire planet. It's a classic case. Take away the wolves, and the elk breed like crazy. After they deplete their natural habitat, they go into a population nosedive.

By this definition, I think Stuart Staniford is in denial.

How do you define "vehicles" Dave?

Note to Alan, Public Radio had a strange piece this evening on MagLev vehicles, but for freight of all things, from Port of Long Beach.

BTW, another excellent article to read as we apply our mental toolkit to these problems:


What if I called BS on this "human denial" stuff?

Automotive executives worldwide strongly agree that high oil prices have permanently changed consumers’ purchasing habits globally, driving them toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids, according to an annual global survey of industry leaders by KPMG LLP, the US audit, tax and advisory firm.

Rather than let KPMG speak for auto execs, how about letting auto execs fruits of their own 'genius' speak for themselves?

Nitro's powerful stance and chiseled lines combine with a deep clamshell hood, and bold, assertive wheel flares to let others know it's time to get out of the way"

Dodge doesn't sell this in the US. They could, but their execs seems to be sitting on their asses waiting for oil to drop to $30 a barrel. 49.9 mpg.
GM's Opel Corsa. As low as 53.5 mpg. Not sold in the US.
Ford Ka. As low as 54.9mpg with 1.4TD. Not sold in the US.

The auto industry in the US is losing billions by [not] selling their fat, lumbering gas hogs. The auto execs, in spite of KPMG's flattering platitudes, can't pull their heads out of their collective asses.

LOL, what's sick is that the first photo is so quintessentially American that one can easily imagine a commercial where the Nitro climbs over and smashes the 3 "wimpy" cars monster truck style. Queue manly voice over: "The Dodge Testosterone - just get the fuck out of the way!"

That truck is missing a dead steer slung over the hood.

Don't the set of photos show it is not as simple as the Dodge Nitro alone?

It seems pretty obviously unbalanced cherry-picking to say that the Dodge is proof of "denial" when not using the Smart as proof of the opposite.

Get it? It is a mess, not all Smart, not all Dodge, not all "denial."

No Smart in the US, no Opel Corsa in the US, no Ford Ka in the US. Meanwhile, US automakers are losing billions. It's easy to see why.

I think before it was "humans" were supposed to be in denial ;-).

Seriously, if I got a chance to name and implement one new law it would be that cars street legal in Germany in 2007+ were automatically street legal in the US. Make if "normally aspirated cars with displacement of 2L or less" if you want to get fancy.

The world emphatically is *not* geared up for a peak in oil production, if that is what is coming. In that sense, there is still 'denial' (or disbelief) about the future track of oil production.

Higher prices have meant fuel economy has become important again, but demand is still something like 25m b/d more than it was at the time of the 1980 oil crisis. Prices are themselves still below previous peaks (1980 in particular), on a much larger GDP (so people have more money to spend on gasoline).

We are almost certainly not geared up for a fall in gas production, either, if that is what is coming (Simmons says gas fields fall in production far faster than oil fields).

When is peak oil, and what is the rate of production decline on the downslope?

With Stuart's slow squeeze I think we have a chance. People who cry wolf often do so based on worst-case declines, sometimes gleaned as one-liners out of context, and sometimes made from whole cloth.

I realize that was a bit strong, but I want to call attention to the fact that the bald statement "The world emphatically is *not* geared up for a peak in oil production, if that is what is coming." implies knowledge of both date-of-peak, and rate-of-decline.

Or there is wiggle room in "geared up" ... I'd think we would "gear" in a curve, ideally leading the production curve and its decline, but it is not necessary that we lead that curve by many decades.

If even a source like Nature labels PO as being a "theory" there is very little hope for any changes.

Different people come onto the stage with different sets of knowledge and belief systems attached to their hinies.

Consider what this optimistic Discover editor says over at The Edge:

• I am optimistic that technology will soon show practical ways to eradicate the twin problems of carbon emissions and fossil-fuel scarcity. ... Here's a firm prediction: If the world's leading economies set tough emissions standards for CO2, or establish a serious carbon tax, industry will find astonishingly inexpensive ways to comply within a few years.

• Farther ahead, new energy sources will begin to make serious contributions to the world economy long before fossil fuels run out. My bet is still on fusion energy ... More likely it will take the shape of a compact, laser- or radio-driven linear accelerator using exotic nuclear reactions that spit out protons, not neutrons; send the protons flying through a copper coil and you have direct electricity conversion, with no boiler, no steam, no turbine, no dynamo.

So here you have someone who fervently believes:
1. The Market will save us, and
2. Technology will save us.

Maybe he can't help it. He has been programmed his entire life into believing in these precepts. His brain is incapable of receiving and attaching to a conflicting story line.

Please don't laugh at him. He is no different than you or I. We are all programmed, just with different code sets.

What I love is that 'ole Can Do spirit!

We will always have progress my friend.

I would call it progress when people realised that wellbeing ≠ wealth

Yes, I read through some of those Edge answers, for the question "what are you optimistic about...?" While there are certainly some realistic responses, it is revealing that they even chose such a question for 2007. Imagine the wall of disheartening overflow and doomsday facts they might have gotten if they had asked what people were pessimistic about (have they done that in previous years?)!

Read through a bunch of 2007 responses, and you may find yourself thinking "these are the brightest minds we have, and many of them are completely delusional." Besides the technotopians, one deluded intellectual was blathering on about The End Of War! Talk about bitter irony! With a backdrop of energy descent and population explosion, this supposedly smart person thinks we are on a path towards peace and hand holding? I wish, but really, open your fricken' eyes, ye of great intellectual prowess!

I also found it very telling that the only optimistic thing Jared Diamond could come up with was a vague reference to the US election result! I guess he should be applauded for not deluding himself at least :)

True. I always state it as a fact in US, UK, Australia etc and then follow on to say that as successive countries are knocked over like dominoes it now will not be long befor it is true world wide.

One has to dumb down the discussion sometimes into terms people can understand. Also one must be quick, PO has a way of sounding boring. People really just want to gossip. Real discussion is minimal.

I've more or less given up on spreading the word. Occasionally I just mention that the world for my children is going to be a totally different place then it is now to raise peoples' curiosity. As step back has pointed out so well above, most people in their own little western worlds have a preprogrammed mindset that is unable to, for example, change their mind on something, even if the facts would sure do it for me.

And it is true, you know. Most people really beleive that alternatives will be sufficient to maintain or improve our current standard of living. Most people obviously don't know the facts. My brother believes that it is all a matter of economics and money puts extra oil in the ground. My mother tells me to just live on as people has been predicting doom for a very long time and "they'll come up with something". In general the fact that oil is finite is accepted but not that the problem goes way beyond the gas in the car, especially foodsecurity is concern of mine

Hi PaulusP

Your experience mirrors mine exactly, at least my wife is on board (but even she won't turn off the lights!).

We even got a boat-load of resident trolls on TOD reponding the same way, (albeit disingenuously).

Sometimes is all I can do to refrain from saying "Take me now Lord".

Hear hear, to both of you.

*If even a source like Nature labels PO as being a "theory" there is very little hope for any changes.* Paulus.

NATURE is very mainstream and conservative. That in itself is acceptable, many scientific journals are very prudent and hesitate to publish stuff which might be controversial while methodologically impeccable. Science has its own culture, and to have a wide readership, hold a badge of authority and respectability, one needs to be understandable (i.e. no radical new ideas) and comprehensible, widely acceptable.

NATURE however goes further as it - at least in my field, psychology - tends to publish articles that reinforce mainstream ideology and stereotype and neglect real advances in the field. It panders to current ideas and does not weed out junk. It publishes articles by people who are ‘known’ - and to be ‘known’ means to have people say about the work, ‘this is cool’, or ‘this is important’, that is, it is of interest right now as the zeitgeist prescribes, and, yes, as commercial interests and Gvmts wish.

For example, it has published poor junk science (I can’t quote names) showing that babies have an ‘innate sense’ of number, ie. basic cognitive capacities are present ‘in the genes’. Such articles reinforce the idea of genetic determinism (carefully not slipping into racism), social Darwinism, individual capacities and differences (to the detriment of education), and support ‘gene’ research and medical/psychological type (read amongst others drug) therapy (or none!) for those who are not up to par. It is the fashion, it is related to right wing world views and politics, etc.

So I am not surprised.

For example, it has published poor junk science (I can’t quote names) showing that babies have an ‘innate sense’ of number, ie. basic cognitive capacities are present ‘in the genes’. Such articles reinforce the idea of genetic determinism (carefully not slipping into racism), social Darwinism, individual capacities and differences (to the detriment of education), and support ‘gene’ research and medical/psychological type (read amongst others drug) therapy (or none!) for those who are not up to par. It is the fashion, it is related to right wing world views and politics, etc.

What a crock of donkey-doo! Cognitive capacities are present “in the genes”! Good God man, nothing on earth could be more obvious than that. Why cannot we teach a chimp to do algebra? Because those cognitive capacities are just not there in the genes of the chimp. But even among Homo sapiens, some people are better at math, or other things, than other people. Mozart was just naturally good at music, it was in his genes. Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, and Plank were just naturally good at math and abstract thinking. It was in their genes. To deny that there are innate individual differences in cognitive abilities is just plain down in the dirt stupid. And I, Ron Patterson, am a card carrying bleeding heart liberal and hate right wing world views of politics. In fact there is only one thing I hate worse than extreme right wing politics and religion, and that is political correctness.

Ron Patterson

For more than 50 years sane voices have called for an end to the debate. Nature versus nurture has been declared everything from dead and finished to futile and wrong—a false dichotomy. Everybody with an ounce of common sense knows that human beings are a product of a transaction between the two.
Matt Ridley: Nature via Nurture.

From Webster's Second:
cognition 1.Knowledge, or certain knowledge, as from personal view or experience; cognizance. 2.The faculty of knowing; the act of acquiring an idea. 3.That which is known.
cognitive, Knowing; apprehending...

What does a gene know, Ron? What personal view or experience does a gene have?
Read Noisette again. Learn to read.

You claim not to be a genetic determinist. You claim to be left liberal. Hard to tell from what you write.

cog·ni·tive Pronunciation[kog-ni-tiv] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. of or pertaining to cognition.
2. of or pertaining to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes.

Cognitive capacity means the ability to reason, the mental process. Yes, cognitive process means the ability to reason, to think, to use the mental process. Largely genetic but can be enhanced with training and education.

Oldhippie, noun, Pronunciation [ole hippie]
1. one who is a blooming idiot.

During most of the twentieth century “determinism” was a term of abuse, and genetic determinism was the worst kind of term. Genes were portrayed as implacable dragons of fate, whose plots against the damsel of free will were foiled only by the noble knight on nurture.
Matt Ridley: Nature via Nurture

Ron Patterson

To move the previous question:
What does a gene know?
What perception, memory, or judgment does a gene have?
How is this genetic?

You could make some trivial point I suppose about how genetics dictate that the memories of a tree frog will be quite different from the memories of a human. So what? Noisette is very correct that just how these things are framed is inevitably and extremely political. Nature magazine does have a clear political slant. It is not just about science. Any of the life sciences are going to be involved in political discourse, how could it be otherwise?

Probably all lost on one who makes his points with a blunderbus.

If Webster's 2nd ever goes online someone let me know.
From this quick comparison I still like paper.

Listen oldhippie, here is the basic statement of Noisette which I questioned:

babies have an ‘innate sense’ of number, ie. basic cognitive capacities are present ‘in the genes’. Such articles reinforce the idea of genetic determinism.

Understand dumbass? Cognitive CAPACITY

3. power of receiving impressions, knowledge, etc.; mental ability: the capacity to learn calculus.

Understand old hippie? Cognitive capacity is the ability to learn, to think, to learn algebra or the theory of relativity, or whatever.

ABILITY, ABILITY, ABILITY. Niles Bohr had the ability to learn quantum mechanics, hell he was the one who dreamed it up. Most folks do not have such ability. Niles Bohr was a very gifted individual, he had the genes of a genius.

Some people have it and some people do not have it.

Cognitive capacity means cognitive ability! The capacity, or ability to think and reason. Everyone has a that some ability but some have more capacity or ability than others. With some it is due to their environment but it is usually a combination of both genes and environment, nature and nurture.

I will waste no more time with a person who does not understand what the term cognitive capacity means. So go ahead and post some more of your very stupid shit oldhippie, you may have the last word, I am going to bed.

Ron Patterson

Sure I'll take the last word.

Whenever you post one millimeter away from technical oil topics everything you say is political. Your view of Darwinism and genetics has little to do with science.

I find your politics offensive. Before you start slinging the offensive personal attacks.

All I really wanted was to let Noisette know that someone heard him. You'll never hear, never accept new input. Your brain locked shut.

Darwin had a "theory" of evolution.
Einstein had theories of relativity.
The bacterial theory of disease revolutionized our understanding of illness.

Facts, by themselves, are meaningless. Theory is what we use to organize facts and give them meaning.

Thus I see nothing whatsoever wrong with "peak-oil theory."

let's define our terms. in essence, if you're a positivist or even on the really empirical end of post-pos, a theory can be defined as the interrelationship of multiple measureable concepts in a multiply and conjuncturally causal set of relationships, right?

In other words, it's a whole bunch of bivariate hypotheses playing off of each other, causal arrows flying everywhere. Ultimately, though, to have a theory, you have to have a dependent variable. What in essence are you trying to explain as the final output of all of these interrelationships?

So, in that regard, as complex as this is, yes it's a theory, a theory of energy output--there's your ultimate DV, right? Reserves are prior and causal to that, with intervening variables such as other liquids, alternative tech, etc., in the middle. We could draw a model or a causal map of all of the variables that are in play, in fact, that might be a very good idea...

I like that: A concept map of Peak Oil.

Another concept map for abrupt climate change. A hypermap that links the two "theories."

Good thing I saved all those old envelopes and pencil stubs . . . .

wikistyle? or what, where?

how meta? is there a way to subdivide the middle-range theory underneath the meta graphically?

I mean we could start with:

Reserves->refining capacity->usable energy

Imports->refining capacity->usable energy

Alternative Energy Flows->usable energy

though the DV of "usable energy supply" completely disregards the demand side, but let's not bite off more than we can chew, eh? let's just map the supply side first.

I'm an old hand at concept maps; indeed, my econ text is unique in using concept maps for chapter summaries.

I began with two huge concepts at the top of the page--"Peak Oil" and "Abrupt climate change."

Twenty minutes later I'd filled up the backs of three old envelopes and had scared myself enough to be looking for the Pepto Bismol.

Something jumped right out: Rising prices are going to have horrendously bad effects . . . such as raising interest rates and hence increasing the discount rate in present value calculations which will tend to restrict investment in substitutes for oil.

GDP is going to go down, disposable incomes will fall, social and economic inequality are likely to increase greatly

Mass unemployment plus mass wealth loss => social discontent and disorder

Rising cost of oil will almost certainly lead to huge increases in the consumption of coal . . . which in turn will probably lead to far more CO2 in the atmosphere which leads to worsening climate change which leads to crop failures which lead to famines and spreading undernutrition in the poor countries of the world . . .

I kept looking for something good to come out of this mess, but could find not one thing, except possibly for the eventual return of street cars and more rail travel.

I'll do a few more drafts and try to get a simple version to post.

Nevertheless, I'm still not a doomer.

I look forward to your post.

One point: the rising price of oil thusfar has led to rising coal production. But coal production is not without friction, which will grow over time, no matter the political situation. Moreover, I'm not at all convinced that declining quality and quantity of the oil and natural gas resource won't marginalize a lot of coal production as this decline depresses economic activity.

Another point: I don't know why you conclude that rising [oil] prices will lead to higher interest rates. And even then, are you certain that peak oil means higher oil prices? If declining oil is not matched with new ways of expanding the useful work of the remaining energy available to the economy, from where do you derive the demand that would drive the price of oil?

Energy is a big part of what we spend our incomes on. If the energy price increases greatly, then there must also be a substantial rise in the general price level (unless for some reason other prices abruptly fall--not likely).

Now suppose the rate of inflation goes up from say 2.5% per year to 5% per year. Other things staying the same, that would cause nominal interest rates to rise by exactly 2.5% (assuming that the expectation was for inflation to continue at 5%).

Investment decisions are based on both nominal and real (adjusted for inflation) rates. Investments also have a risk premium attached to them--a premium which rises whenever there is uncertainty or disruption in markets. Thus the discount rate (for present value calculations) will go up for at least two reasons--increased expectations of inflation plus an increased uncertainty premium.

(I am using "uncertainty" in the strict economic sense developed by Frank Knight to distinguish it from "risk.")

For a real-world example of what happens when the price of oil goes up, look at the period from late 1973 through 1980 in the U.S.--soaring inflation, soaring interest rates, greatly increased rates of unemployment, negative or slow growth in GDP. We coined the term "stagflation" to describe this situation, and my guestimate is that the next "stagflation" will make that of the seventies look mild by comparison. In other words, we could have a "ten, ten, negative two" economy: 10% inflation, 10% unemployment, decline in GDP by two percent per year. Or it could get much worse than that--no way to know how bad it will be because of all the numbers we cannot get.

Don, email me at the eds box. Let's coordinate this into a guest post. I imagine it would be quite good and provocative.

Will do. Probably tomorrow morning.

I have no idea how to draw diagonal arrows online, but perhaps I can use rows of dots instead.

There will be a minimal number of concepts and each term will be defined at moderate length and with clarity. At the lowest level of abstraction (toward the bottom of the map) I'll use real-world examples.

Of course there is no "one right" concept map, and after mine is posted we can look forward to other versions.

It is generally accepted that each $10/barrel change in oil prices causes a 0.75% change to the CPI over two years (both ways).

Your commentary is well reasoned. But this is not 1975. There are not years of increasing quantity and quality of oil and gas ahead of us. History does not repeat itself; instead conditions irrevocably change. And this time the change is monumental.

So, firstly I don't think you can assume that the price of oil can be sustained at a higher price, even if it should rise temporarily; and secondly I don't think you can assume that, if the price of oil does rise for a sustained period, we will experience "soaring inflation, soaring interest rates, greatly increased rates of unemployment, negative or slow growth in GDP."

We are on new ground. The energy transition in which we are involuntarily engaged is taking us from higher to lower energy quality and from more to less free energy. How will be able to pay more for oil in this context?

Do they consider PO theory the same as they consider gravity, quantum mechanics, evolution, and relativity as theories? Is peak oil theory an untested hypothesis or is it a useful model of reality? If Nature considers peak oil theory as a useful model of reality then there is big hope for changes.

PaulusP, you're forgetting that in science a 'theory' is the 'proven fact'; a supposition is a hypothesis.

That is exactly the point I was trying to make.

Freddy, can u remember the year of the greatest extent of the Roman Empire ? ;)

Folks, following the peak we will not see a collapse! What we will see is exactly what we are seeing right now, a very long plateau. As some nations start to peak, (Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.), others still have not yet peaked, (Angola, Brazil, Russia, etc.). This will drag the plateau out for three to four years. We have been on that plateau for almost two years now so we have about two more years to go before more nations peak and start to decline.

But until they do, no cornucopian will admit that we are at peak, or post peak. And even when the decline begins, it will only be in the nature of one percent per year or so for the first two or three years. So even then, most cornucopians will give excuses for the decline and insist that the peak is not in sight. Only when we start to decline by two percent or greater will the world, including those die-hard cornucopians, finally believe we are post peak. That will be aroung 2011, 2011 or perhaps even 2012.

But I am absolutely convinced that we are at peak right now! But trying to convince a conrucopian of that fact is like trying to convince a religious fundamentalist that religion is all a crock of donky-doo. It simply cannot be done so why even bother.

Ron Patterson

Agreed. Most people saw the price of gas come down, so the problem has gone away? Yeah right! The clowns are even buying SUV's again.

The clowns are even buying SUV's again.

You might want to check those stats:


"Only when we start to decline by two percent or greater will the world, including those die-hard cornucopians, finally believe we are post peak. That will be aroung 2011, 2011 or perhaps even 2012."

Don't count on it. They'll blame it on above ground factors or something. Remember, there are still people who believe that the US can drill their way to energy independence, 35 years after the US peaked.

Future headlines (please read with humor and if you can't laugh, then try reading them again):

KSA Announces Further Cuts to 3mbpd in light of continued weak demand.

US economic data indicates unemployment held steady below 34.5% for the 5th straight month. President Chelsea Clinton assures nation that these are sure signs of economic turn-around.

Global oil production drops below 58mbpd. CERA's Peter Jackson assures UN that spare production capacity remains at 62mbp and could be ramped up to the full 120mbpd "in short order".

Gasoline drops below $15 per gallon for the first time in 9 years. US government openly discusses selling off state owned General Motors to private investors now that signs indicate SUV sales might resume.

US troop deaths in Iraq pass the 44,000 mark. Iraqi oil production drops below 250,000 bpd.

For the 23rd straight year running, Dave Cohen chastises Jeffrey Brown for claiming we are post-peak, insisting that we still lack hard data to prove that global production cuts thus far are not voluntary.

Donald Trump meets with skepticism as he tries to remarket parts of recently flooded Manhattan as the Venice of the West.

It is all too tempting to see a runup in prices and attribute it to "peak oil". People who have been around long enough know that the oil markets are complicated enough that all kinds of other things (hurricanes, wars, etc) can cause price changes, and thus the danger is that if you point to price rises as signals for peak oil, then a price fall can be seen by the public as somehow disproving the theory.

OK. So I've read the whole Nature article.

I think it's awful.

No different than what a local newspaper might report. In essence: "The 'experts' disagree. So go shopping."

Also: I'm extremely TICKED OFF that Nature has not even acknowledged that they have known about this issue for at least ten years.

As I commented in the previous thread, Professor Craig Bond Hatfield of the University of Toledo published a prescient article in Nature vol 387. If Hatfield is reading, I hope he forgives me for dragging him back into the limelight that he repudiated back in 1999 when he retired. His current opinion is that it's pointless to warn people about peak because it is TOO LATE.

Here is Hatfield's article in its entirety. You tell me what kind of light it sheds on Nature's current piece, which seems to pretend that this is some kind of new controversy:

Nature May 1997

Oil back on the global agenda

A permanent decline in global oil production rate is virtually certain to begin within 20 years. Serious planning is needed to deal with the economic consequences.

Craig Bond Hatfield

In 1985, global oil consumption was 59.7 million barrels per day (1); by 1995 it was more than 69 million barrels per day (2). This 16 percent rise in demand was supplied almost entirely by an increase in oil production by members of ... (OPEC)--mostly in the Middle East--from 16.1 to 25 million barrels per day (1, 3). Growth in production in the North Sea, Latin America and Asia has barely exceeded precipitous declines in US and Russian oil production.

Geological data indicate that, during the next ten years, oil production outside OPEC countries will remain incapable of significant, sustained growth and is likely to begin a permanent decline during the first decade of the twenty-first century. This seems inevitable because new discoveries of reserves are not keeping pace with production. Globally, new discovery has averaged less than 9 billion barrels per year since 1985 (ref 4), while consumption has averaged more than 23 billion barrels per year (1). The rate of discovery peaked in the 1960s and has since declined (5), despite record high rates of exploration in the early 1980s.

Low reserves
Most of the reported 'growth' in oil reserves during the past decade has been from revised estimates: in 1988 and 1989, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia reported upward revisions totalling 277 billion barrels (1). This acounts for nearly all the growth in global reserves of oil from 1987 (700 billion barrels) to 1990 (1,000 billion barrels). Because it is improbable that these OPEC countries had valid reasons for such gargantuan and simultaneous revisions, it has been suggested (6) that the increases are political rather than real, perhaps intended to discourage exploration for oil elsewhere in the world or to help establish OPEC production quotas.

If it is the case that the world's oil reserves are indeed as great as 1,000 billion barrels, a continuation of the current consumption rate of 26 billion barrels per year would deplete global reserves by the year 2036. The average estimate of about 550 billion barrels of producible oil yet to be discovered (7) would add another 21 years in the unlikely event that there is no growth in consumption rate.

But such calculations are unrealistic, because global oil production rate will pass its maximum and begin to decline long before resources are exhausted. For example, oil production in the United States reached its peak in 1970 and has declined since, as was clearly predicted in 1956 (ref. 8) This forecast was the first to apply to oil production a mathematical model that yields growth in production rate until about half of the producible resource has been consumed, after which the production rate declines until the resource is exhausted. It is possible that new oil-recovery technology, as used in the North Sea, could extend growth in production rate beyond the point at which half of the producible resource has been consumed, but in this event the subsequent decline in rate would be accelerated.

How long can growth continue?
For how long can the global oil-production rate continue to grow? Even if the reported reserves were accurate, the addition of the average estimate of about 550 billion barrels of producible oil yet to be discovered would yield about 1,550 billion barrels of oil remaining to be produced. Taken together with the approximately 800 billion barrels already consumed, this gives 2,350 billion barrels of 'ultimate' production, which is greater than several recent estimates of ultimate oil production (6, 7). The mid-point, at which half of the ultimate oil production will have been consumed, would be the year 2011, if production rate remains at its present level.

But if, as is likely, some of the reported reserves do not exist, or if, as discovery rates of recent years suggest, we have less than 550 billion barrels of producible oil yet to be discovered, or if consumption continues to grow, cumulative production will reach half of the ultimate production in the first few years of the twenty-first century. In this case, global oil-production rate will peak and begin its decline during the first or second decade of the twenty-first century.

If global demand for oil grows from 1995 to 2005 by 16 per cent, as it did from 1985 to 1995, demand for OPEC oil by the year 2005 will be 36 million barrels of oil per day. OPEC currently produced 25 million barrels of oil a day and has an estimated production capacity of about 29 million barrels a day, excluding Iraqi production. (Iraq's maximum production rate over a year is 3 million barrels a day.) So OPEC must increase its production capacity significantly if it is to meet even conservative projections of demand by 2005. What will maximum potential production capacity be between 2010 and 2015, when OPEC will be near (just approaching or just beyond) the mid-point of its ultimate production?

The world will probably reach its maximum oil production rate in the next 15 years. Growth in global oil-consumption rate during 1996 was considerably greater than its average annual growth for the past ten years. Such increases are mainly driven by growing demand in countries where economic growth is accelerating: since 1985, energy use has grown approximately 30 per cent in Latin America, 40 per cent in Africa, and 50 per cent in Asia (1).

Energy consumption in developing countries could surpass that in economically developed countries within 20 years. There will be growing competition for a dwindling oil supply, which raises the question of how long standards of living can rise in the developing world and low long they can be maintained in the developed world.

Despite the intensive, intergovernmental debates on the environmental effects of evergy policies, geological constraints on the amount of inexpensive fluid fuel that can be produced will soon override governments' decisions about future rates of fossil-fuel burning. The past century of unprecedented economic growth has been based largely on increasing availability of cheap but rapidly dwindling petroleum resources. It is unfashionable in energy policy and economic theory to recognize a time limit on growth in oil consumption rate. But the arithmetic on which my argument is based must be acknowledged. The coming era of permanent decline in oil-production rate and the economic and social implications of this phenomenon demand serious planning by the world's governments.

Craig Bond Hatfield is in the Department of Geology, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio 43606 USA.

1. Basic Petroleum Date Book: Petroleum Industry Statistics Vol. XVII, No. 1 (American Petroleum Institute, Washington DC, 1997).
2. World Oil216, 17 (December 1995).
3. Knapp, D. H. Oil Gas J. 93, 35-43 (25 December 1995).
4. Laherrere, J. World Oil 215, 33 (January 1994).
5. Ivanhoe, L. F. World Oil 216, 77-88 (October 1995).
6. Campbell, C. J. The Golden Century of Oil 1950-2050 (Kluwer, Dordecht, 1991).
7. Masters, C. D., Root, D. H. & Attenasi, E. D. Science 253, 146-152 (1991).
8. Hubbert, M. K. in Drilling and Production Practice, 7-25 (American Petroleum Institute, Washington DC, 1956).

So why hasn't Nature acknowledged this thorough and early picture of the current crisis?

Why are they pretending like they've just found out about it?

As I mentioned in an earlier thread, Hatfield has retired from the game because he believes it is "too late" to do anything about a global shortfall of oil.

When pressed for an opinion about possible responses, all he'll venture is that "perhaps gasoline used for recreation can be requisitioned for growing food," and "perhaps we can institute an immediate world wide voluntary population reduction program."

It occurs to me that neither of these is likely.

Hatfield's article, in a few words, sums up what has been argued ad infinitum, ad nauseum on this site, and he did it ten years ago. So why the continued babble?

People here sound more like status-seekers than people preparing for a crash. Writers are more worried about "credibility" in the MSM, rebutting "doomer" arguments, plotting "alternatives." This is bunk.

It's here. If you're not preparing, you'd better start.

So why is everything suddenly in italics?

Someone up the page left a stray open italics tag and did not supply a closing italics tag. Note that I just provided a close italics tag here and stopped the italics. The Drupal software apparently does not auto-close such tags allowing the effect to extend through the entire article downstream. I could, for example, leave an open underline and bold tag here and everything thereafter would be underlined and bold but I won't. ;)

Someone should edit the offending tag and perhaps SuperG can implement a check in Drupal's posting code to ensure that all opened HTML tags inside a message are subsequently closed or else the message is rejected.

As far as people being status seekes, not just here but throughout the sphere, that is why I normally post as "AlphaMaleProphetOfDoom." I realized early on that 90% of the debates we have are really dick waving social domiance contests dressed up as debates. So I chose the name as sort of a nod an a wink to this dynamic. That doesn't keep me from participating in them as I like a good dick waving social dominance contest as much as the next guy!

As far as my new handle apparently I registered this one but never used it. I don't know the email I registered AMPOD under and the new password was sent to my usuall address but with this handle.

I'll try to go back to posting under AMPOD so not to confuse people.

Don't worry, AlphaChimpDoomDriver. Both handles scream dick-waving debate with equal ferocity, so as to indicate a singular individual. (:

OK, tell us how to handle it. Let me lay out the scenario. Somebody (eg. CERA) is misleading everybody about peak oil. They have called it a "myth". What should we do at The Oil Drum?

  1. defer to their greater authority and write nothing
  2. politely tell them in an obsequious way that they have made a few errors in their analysis
  3. try to argue the other side as persuasively as possible and call attention to their misleading or erroneous statements
  4. question their motives and manhood
  5. go join a commune and meditate all the time

Let me know know what we should do. I presume you know something the rest of us don't and, perhaps, have achieved an egoless state of enlightenment from your disapproving remarks.

What do you expect to accomplish by challenging this specific myth, Dave? Self-gratification? Fame? Saving the world?

You assume right off the bat that the myth must be challenged. Why this myth and not some other? What makes challenging this myth the right thing to do in your mind? Answer that question and suddenly whether you do this via a blog or some other mechanism might become more obvious. I'm not saying the blog is the wrong way. What I am asking you (and others) to do is think about why you are doing this and whether posting on a blog is the best way to accomplish your goals.

Yeah, I like your reply. I ask myself why I do this all the time. The blog is one approach, but not the best one.

What do any of us hope to accomplish? Ecclesiastes said it best

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

1:3 What does man gain from all his labor in which he labors under the sun?

1:4 One generation goes, and another generation comes; but the earth remains forever.

1:5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hurries to its place where it rises.

1:6 The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north. It turns around continually as it goes, and the wind returns again to its courses.

1:7 All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.

1:8 All things are full of weariness beyond uttering. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

1:9 That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

1:10 Is there a thing of which it may be said, “Behold, this is new?” It has been long ago, in the ages which were before us.

1:11 There is no memory of the former; neither shall there be any memory of the latter that are to come, among those that shall come after.

Ecclesiastes, the ultimate doomer.

He was merely resigned to his fate, which we all share. Therefore, make every day count and do not do what you hate.

Reminds me of complaining about personal building maintainance to which a friendly gentleman replied "Everything you build goes into a state of falling apart after it is finished, to think otherwise is foolish and not realistic" "everthing needs maintainance"

Hi Dave Cohen.

Reminds me of a wise quip by Dmitry Orlov:

"Not all problems have solutions".

As usual, Dmitry hits the nail on the head.

Well it seems to me that what we do is just tell each other what a shame it is that large organizations are incapable of mobilizing in the face of a real big impending disaster, & alternate between suggestions for preparing on an individual basis vs. just giving up. Not much else is realistic because large organizations are like big living beings unto themselves - they function only to perpetuate themselves.

Many of us went thru a similar process on first learning about PO.

Ok, like any other nat'l resource (iron, copper, gold, etc), i should have known it would eventually run out. So, how much is left out there? Likely one comes across USGS and the figure of 3003-Gb.

That's nice but wtf is a GB? And how many do we use a year.

BP helps out and warns that 3003Gb is OIIP and we actually only have 1200-Gb left. We leave BP with some comfort 'cuz their nice R/P graph shows that with usage of 30-Gb/yr, we have 40 years left at today's consumption rate. 2047. And its been at 40 years since the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. We use a little. We find a little. Nice combo. Works for me...

Anyone who quits here leaves thinking "hey great, it's not on my watch!"

With a little more due diligence, we learn that there is no wall of finality. Our prob's do not commence on the 41st year. The Hubbert Curve is thrust at us and we see how peaks and tails come into play. A tad more DD and we learn from Jean Laherrere or Colin Campbell that the fuzzy 2047 is all of a sudden accelerated: 2010 to 2019. Hmmm.

Now, if u are a in utilities, a stakeholder, in gov't or a decision maker from any related discipline that is affected, u get a bit nervous. Need to do more homework.

Alas, one stumbles on EIA and IEA.

USA-centrics see that the AEO Reference Scenario just came out in before Christmas and says we're Peak-free 'til 2030 (117-mbd). The High Price Scenario has the Peak Rate down about 10% but it's still 2030. Ok, my jobs done. Hunky dorey. i'm oudda here.

The ROW's (rest of world) go to IEA and see that after Halloween a study was released showing nice graphs and Peak in (take a guess) ... yup, 2030. With an Alternative Scenario that is alotta mumbo jumbo but still Peaking in 2030. And he's happy as a pig-in-shit and "oudda here".

Then there's the nerds. They found both sites. EIA is 117.3mbd at Peak. IEA is 116.3-mbd (i'm not making this up) at Peak. Gawd these guyz are good. 23 fricken years away and the experts are only 1-mbd apart. And the nerds are oudda here.

Who's left?

That is Dave's problem today. A voice in the wilderness...

On the sidelines we have the TOD etc wacko's that say the Peak was last year. And Cera says basically ok from 2035 to 2070. Both are white noise.

There are 13 Outlooks floating around that will help ... or not.

MSM was titilated for 15 minutes. But after being burned by GW, they've moved on ... i mean back ... to tabloid style coverage of celebrities. It sells.

That is the background. No surprise or enlightenment to anyone here.

But what of the task ahead? And who is the audience? Does Dave need more cheerleaders? And their wacko friends?

As mentioned in a post last week, i feel that the altho the task is overwhelming, its success lies in bringing the back the Heat. Bring the Peak Date inside the comfort zone of the professionals that we want to convince.

From compiling the URR & Depletion studies at TrendLines, i am confident that we are not close to Peak. 13 students of the literature cannot all be wrong. Everyone in both camps that has crunched the numbers has come back with virtually the same short and medium term confirmations. To defy those odds is foolhardy and jeopardizes credibility. U will be dismissed by all but those who already believe "the end is nigh". Each decade has had their share of nutcases.

IMHO, it is the fuzzy Peak Rates & Peak Dates from 2012 to 2026 that must be challenged. Discrediting those brings the date and responsibility to present encumbents. Their watch. Bureaucratic Life is about "covering your ass". Paying $350 to $1000 to stick a CERA or IEA Report in "the file" is the real world. Consequences be damned.

My frustration via TrendLines lies mainly in the demand-driven nature of the 2025 to 2050 timeline markers. Real GDP factors. Not available oil.

Peak Oil is not the issue. Though new to some here at TOD, the decision makers that must grapple with this had their awareness piqued several times in past years.

Yesterday we saw the Nature article from 1997. And the Scientific American article in 1998. And i presented two graphs that were shown by Colin Campbell to a House of Commons committee in 1989. Most here don't know it, but the Hubbert Curve Graph was published in the IEA WEOutlook. It was accompanied by 28 pages of graphs and tables and introduced IEA's first addressing of URR. 1800-Gb. You see, in the 70's & 80's, future oil was not a concern. The early fossil fuel Outlooks showed almost zilch growth in the long term. Future energy needs were going to be met by Hydro-electric and Nuclear Plants. As we approached the Millenium, there was a realization that Oil was back in play due to aversion to Nuclear and success of the treehuggers. IEA published this discreet feature wrt Peak Oil in 1998. Yup, 1998. They talked about Campbell and Laherrere and other players of the time.

EIA did the same mea culpa. Y2K. It's still on their website. Peak in 2016 or 2037 (depending on your theory of decline rate). They like the latter with its eye bulging aggresive 10% exhaustion. But still, it has been addressed. 3003-Gb. And then it's gone.

The work of Laherrere and Campbell forced oilco's and agencies to show that a move back to oil and gas will have its caveats. It took many years, but one by one they eventually stopped showing the endless upslopes with no peak...

Due to growing scrutiny the Outlooks and Scenarios were forced to address URR, Peak Rate, Peak Date, Decline Rates & Exhaustion.

Thus the concept of Peak Oil is not the problem. And "Nature" calling it a "theory" is just plain silly. Oil and all nat'l resources are finite. And 7-Billion souls go thru a pile of stuff each year. Not just oil. Our problem is flagging the Date. A reasonable Date. And bringing it away the "it is my successor's problem" domain.

It's not sexy. There is less urgency. There is less gratification. But it is likely the only approach that will create a piece of paper that is not wanted in "the file".

Just some ramblings from the Yukon where it was -21C avg thru november, there's two feet of snow on the ground and we're having the coldest Winter since 1944...

As usual, incomprehensible claptrap from Heddy Frutter. "If you've got to use language like that about a thing, it's 90-proof bull and I ain't buying any." (Big Daddy)

Nice post. I was attracted to it by the post above mine. ;-)

Thus the concept of Peak Oil is not the problem. And "Nature" calling it a "theory" is just plain silly.

Might they be calling "Peak Oil" a theory because it is bound these days to more than Hubbert, and reserves analysis, but also to theories of catastrophe?

I note the line from the nature article:

If the subsequent rapid drop in production crashed the world economy, though — in the way that peak-oil supporters fear — those benefits might be hard to appreciate.

Yeah, if "peak oil" is about a "rapid drop in production [crashing] the world economy" ... that's a theory all right.

Yes, that would be a theory worthy of debate. With usa nat'l gas and calif elec we saw this decade how just a few percent of sudden lack of suppy could be exposive on prices. The infamous spikes. And due to a combination of fear of war in iran, fear of shortages and a red hot global economy, we had the forcings that had the ability to spike crude. And it can happen again.

The debate would examine how long and how high these spikes can go. I am confident that plus $70 sustained pricing can't happen. But we can have spikes that hit $100 for two reasons. Short term effects and nobody buys on the spot market. It is a playground. Watching contract prices is more intuitive.

Anyway, i agree that if Nature meant economic collapse, it is a theory and a worthy one to pursue...

Kunstler "called" economic collapse last year, and made a sadly typical defense one year later. That is, "I wasn't wrong, the world was":

Let's get this out of the way up front: the worst call I made last year was for the Dow to crumble down to 4000 when, in fact, it melted up to a new all-time record high of about 12,500. The reason we saw this, in my opinion, was that inertia combined with sheer luck to keep the finance sector decoupled from reality long enough for the Wall Street insiders to guarantee their 2006 Christmas bonuses -- perhaps the last they will ever see.

I think we've been over what we can, given the uncertainties in such future predictions. And I think we've seen them more often come out of bias ("the market is a ponzi scheme" or "capitalism deserves its coming death" or "stick it to the man") rather than rational analysis.

... but go ahead, take a shot.

That is so depressing. Hatfield was right on the mark and virtually everything he said would happen has happened. And nothing has been done. This has been known about for 10 years! I stumbled over PO a year ago quite by accident and have tried to spread the word but very few people bother to stop and listen. My friends and family are polite and listen for a while, but for months now I have held my counsel. Everything that needs to be said has been said and no one cares. Even if they do care, it is all too big and beyond anything any one individual can do or are willing to do. One of my friwnds, even after we had spoken about PO, went out and bought a Lexus V8 petrol SUV. The stupid thing does 12 miles to the gallon. And I think my friend is an idiot.

I agree with both Hatfield and b3NDZ3La, it is both too late to do anything about it and pointless engaging in this endless debate, repeating what we all know to be true over and over again to ourselves like a mantra within a demented religious sect.

Now I mostly follow events, understanding what is happening, not sure on precise timing, read some of the babble and live for the present. That is maybe all that is left.

Wow. This article with the current one make a great juxtaposition. Worthy of an article of its own, perhaps.

LEanan, I've thought of calling Hatfield and reinterviewing him for an article. WOuld it be worth it, you think?

Definitely! It would be great. Drop Prof. Goose an e-mail.

Further, as the debate over this situation continues, one should bear in mind that the levels of current production are still governed by demand.

Everybody note - HO said it so it must be true.

Just mention the first line from a BP job advert that my wife stuck under my nose this morning:

How do you create more energy for the world

I just sense the interview will not go that well.

At the Oil Depletion conference, Mike Smith of The Energy Files foreacst a mini glut to 2010 - an inevitable conseqence of high price affecting supply and demand. It makes our job more difficult.

I guess I'm in a posting mood.

Re: I just sense the interview will not go that well

It's too late for you, Euan. You'll burn in Hell like the rest of us.

burn baby burn.

Thanks for all the support:)

( bp = burn people? )

Yikes! If I have reached that level of omniscience then we're all in much more trouble than I had thought.


Have I missed a recent TOD analysis of demand destruction in the developing world from high oil price? (Certainly possible, been busy.) I assume that this could be inferred rather crudely from a break in the slope of imports vs time for vulnerable countries, annually averaged of course to account for seasonality.

Absent this quantification, we have only hearsay from Leanan's excellent posted stories, which are hard to assemble into a coherent picture.

I have wanted to post on this but there's a lot of work involved, taking all these 3rd world events and putting them together into a coherent story. The main trouble is that it is really hard to get a handle on the trend -- it's all hit & miss stuff happening in many places all over the world. Also, good news reporting from these poor countries is mostly absent. They are neglected in our media. Poor & forgotten. Sigh.

I see Leanan's posted reports and wonder how to tell this story.

Stuart posted an interesting comment about the fall in Indian oil consumption 2005 maintaining this was due to substitution (nuclear or coal?) - and this makes it very difficult to untangle energy demand destruction from energy substitution effects.

Ditto. How does this happen?

PTF, i did mention last week that the preliminary stats are indicating that the 2006 price spike caused usa demand to backoff 1% while non-oecd nations are up 4%.

These are very early figures, but they do not support the common notion at TOD that the thirld world took the hit. We saw that same notion dispelled in the early 80's. The most drastic cuts were in the usa, land of the 55mph hwy signs.

Re : do not support the common notion at TOD that the third world took the hit

Excuse my language, Freddy, but how would we fucking know? Who knows anything about them, including whoever your source is -- which, of course, you paraphrase without citation.

The poor are screwed and have always been screwed. I only have about 6000 years of history to back this up. Go piss up a rope.

Dave, via the IMF & G8, developing countries have had $36-billion of debt forgiven and more is on the way. Again your pompousness deflates your credibility 'cuz u know not of what u speak. Albeit ASPO is spinning its wheels on its Depletion Protocol (formerly Rimini), it does not mean that the subject is not being addressed. It just seems to be off "your" radar...

Your flippant rhetoric will not bode u well in your quest to make friends and influence ...

Sheesh... you are a researcher. Why not look into it a little further?

The poor are screwed and have always been screwed

Maybe. But life is complex. Marginal consumption of a few extra barrels of oil may make little difference to us. But a little bit may go a long way with many of them productivity-wise.

So I'm not convinced that current high oil prices necessarily bring development to a screeching halt in the 3rd world.

Reason: development is not solely a function of fossil fuel use but also involves social organization (education, establishing institutions, business processes etc).

To the extent they are already highly leveraged on cheap oil, they get hurt. But if people who currently use little oil are building out new lean infrastructure when oil prices are high, the result could be more energy efficient growth (no burbs!).

Another question is: what is the marginal productivity of that barrel of oil for them? for us? We currently protect our farmers (with subsidies) from cheap 3rd world produce. A barrel of oil going to an Iowa farm may produce less grain than that barrel going to rural India.

In a bidding war for a barrel of oil between the American and Indian farmer (without gov intervention), I'm not sure the American always wins.

To the extent that free market conditions hold, the question turns on productivity per barrel and adaptability to higher prices. Are we really sure they are not adaptable?

Gas consumption in Japan has declined by about 1.1% in 2006, for the first time in 32 years. The reasons quoted are high gas prices and a move towards more fuel efficient cars.

Car sales have also declined, with about 2%. Biggest decline is in the car segment from 660cc - 2000cc, and a significant increase in the segment below 660 cc. Reasons quoted are again gas price (about 4.50 US$/gallon) but also an aging population. This decline is the 5th year in a row. Car sales with 'normal' engines (larger than 660 cc) are the lowest in 30 years (!)

Background info: In Japan, the segment of cars with an engine displacement of 660 cc is quite large, about 40% of the total market (total market is about 5.7m cars) These cars (minicars as they are called) have a significant lower road tax ticket and are actually no less comfortable as 'regular' cars. Can't do 100 mph with them, but for the rest there is very little difference.

Another nice piece of information: The decline in car sales over the last 5 years coincides with the longest expansion of the Japanese economy in the history of the country.

For people interested in Japan, there are a few Japanese newspapers in English: the asahi.com, the Japan Times and the Daily Yomiuri