Megan Quinn of Community Solution: What Can We Learn from Cuba's Response to a Lack of Resources?

For your perusal this evening, (because I have the flu from hell so I need something low maintenance yet interesting), I give you a video of someone I think a lot of.

Megan Quinn of The Community Solution discusses her visit to Cuba, and the movie "The Power of Community". This young woman sees Peak Oil as an opportunity to create the communities we want, but notes that we must reduce our consumption despite environmentalists' assurances that biofuels will save us.
[UPDATE by Super G] YouTube video moved below the fold to speed up load times on the front page.

Thanks Prof. Goose. It's an interesting interview.

For others, I was curious as to who produced it. You can find more info here:

Note that the only reason why Cuba made changes to their lifestyles was because they had no other option... they were forced to..

Yes, they were forced to. But this makes it seem like there is only one option. However, one can also refuse to recognize necessity and go down in flames. This, of course, is only an abstract possibility, not one that could ever happen. Right?


Hmmm... looking south for models of change;
According to the C.I.A. Factbook Cuba consumes about 6.5 barrels of Oil per person per year. Very low compared to say my country, Canada, which consumes more than 25 barrels/person/yr.

On the other hand the British Virgin Islands is close to Cuba in its oil consumption, at 7.6 bbls/per./yr. (I choose this example because they are both Carribian island nations)

The normalized purchasing power of the average Cuban is $3,900 per year

For the average Virgin Islander it's $38,500 per year.

For the average Canadian $35,200

My guess is that The Powers That Be would rather see their children grow up to be merchant bankers rather than organic farmers, but that's just a guess...

However, one can also refuse to recognize necessity and go down in flames. This, of course, is only an abstract possibility, not one that could ever happen. Right?

North Korea. Same event as Cuba (soviet-style industrial agriculture suddenly deprived of oil subsidy when USSR collapsed). They "chose" to starve instead of change.

And to the comments below about how "communism" is the problem, note that there are various flavors of "communism", and apparently the Cuban flavor worked out a lot better than the North Korean flavor.

I'm not a fan of North Korea, but I'm not sure they're that much worse than Cuba. I think luck had a lot to do with the different outcomes.

Cuba is tropical. They can grow food all year round. Not so in North Korea. Worse, they suffered a series of natural disasters, including a tsunami that ruined a chunk of their best farmland.

This is what concerns me the most about the post-carbon age. You can do all the right things, and still be wiped out by a flood, drought, plague of locusts, or other natural disaster. These days, that is generally a financial tragedy but not an existential one. Cheap oil allows us to grow surpluses and store and transport them to areas where they are needed. It's insurance of a sort. I think we will be losing this cushion in the post-carbon age, especially if we go the biofuels route.

Cuba still imported its staples, like rice and beans. They got some aid from the rest of the world. But we're the bread basket of the world. If we ever find ourselves where Cuba was, who will help us?

Did Cuba still import food post the Soviet collapse?

North Korea really is a far more effed up place than Cuba.

You could argue NK was in a favoured position. Industrialised, and with large domestic coal reserves.

However the nature of that government and its policies is so odious, that this did not stop them from starving over a million people to death, running a giant Gulag, etc.

Partly the problem is the level of militarisation. Cuba has its local militias, but NK is one giant armed camp, and producing more arms, and digging more tunnels all the time.

Cuba is hostile to the US, but NK digs tunnels under the DMZ and sends suicide squads to attack its neighbours.

Cuba is a police state, but the political prisoners number in the thousands at most. In NK, they may number a million or more.

An advantage Cuba has is the remittances by Cubans in the US and other countries, which has sustained domestic consumption and benefited the government. Again NK's policies make that impossible.

When Bush said 'Axis of Evil' it really was propaganda *but* not inappropriate in the case of NK.

Did Cuba still import food post the Soviet collapse?

Yes, they did. They imported their staples, rice and beans. And they did receive some international aid (though not from us - at least, not directly).

Yep, Cuba is a peak oil miracle... except that...
Oil - consumption: 204,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 704 million cu m (2004)
Population: 11,382,820 (July 2006 est.)
.0179 barrels per capita / per day

Which puts them on a per capita oil consumption basis about where Mexico is!
Population: 107,449,525 (July 2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 1.97 million bbl/day (2004 est.)
.0183 barrels per capita / per day

and the Dominican Republic, a fellow Caribbean neighbor, is much more efficient!
Population: 9,183,984 (July 2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 127,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
.0138 barrels per capita / per day

The real model for sustainability is Cambodia which has one of, if not the highest GDP to oil consumption ratios in the world.
Population: 13,881,427
Oil - Consumption: 3,750 bbl/day (2004 est.)
.000270 barrels per capita per day
GDP - per capita (PPP): $2,600 (2006 est.) (Not bad!)
Life Expectancy: 56 (Tad on the low side here)

Bolivia has a decent life expectancy (63.21) but is a bit less efficient:
Population: 8,989,046 (July 2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 47,000 bbl/day (2004 est.)
.00522 barrels per capita per day
GDP - per capita (PPP): $3,000 (2006 est.)

Looking at communism as a model for REAL peak oil survival, it appears that North Korea, oddly enough has higher oil consumption than Cambodia and it's population is growing at 0.84% while Cambodia's is growing at 1.78%!
Population: 23,113,019 (July 2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 25,000 bbl/day (2004)
.00108 barrels per capita per day.
Life Expectancy is 71 but I kind of doubt that the dear leader has included all the famine deaths lately.

I'm all for organic farming and sustainable agriculture but unfortunately a little math proves that the idea that Cuba will show us the way to survive after peak oil is probably just feel good communist propaganda.

Cuba is an interesting country which is attempting to follow a different and alternative econmic model, to the one we all know and love. But, whilst I believe it's got substantial relevance for developing countries, I'm sceptical about what Cuba's recent experience has for us in the rich West. Cuba is an exceptional case. It's a country with a limited private sector, some would say a rigid, centralised command economy; and clearly its social and political system is rather "diciplined" to say the least! It's also a country which has vertually been under seige for decades, one shouldn't underestimate the power of the "seige mentality" in enabling tough measures to be pushed through and implimented, and at the same time keeping public support. Furtheremore, and more controversially, we just don't have leaders with the power, status, charisma, or abilities of Fidel Castro to steer the ship of state through troubled waters. I think a more relevant model for dealing with hard times in our neck of the woods, is probably something closer to the way the United States dealt with the Great Depression. Clearly one can argue about effacacy, and how positive or negative the depression model really was/is, in vastly changed historical circumstances, but it's just a suggestion. It also illustrates, in my opinion, just how big a hill we've got to climb.

"Cuba is ... a country with with a limited private sector, some would say a rigid, centralised command economy"

What struck me as interesting was that the communist Cuban government, according to the interview, did not try to micromanage the local efforts of each community.

The Great Depression may not act as a model for the current US because of the "vastly changed historical circumstances" as you note. BUT, I do think the mentality of the citizens will move back across the spectrum towards our grandparent's Thrift, savings, and family-centered values vs borrow, spend and narcissistic hedonism rampant today.

Yeah, I think you're right on both counts. We humans are incredibly versatile, flexible, and hardy creatures when we have to be. So,we will change, we will adapt, to our altered circumstances, whatever they may turn out to be going forward. We will survive. At least some of us anyway. Whether "society" as we know it will be able to make the necessary adjustments is a far larger and more difficult question. I have my doubts about that. It will be interesting to see how Cuba's oil exploration goes. It would be ironic if they suddenly found huge quantities of oil.

Personally, in many ways, I'm going to miss some aspects of "narcissistic hedeonism rampant today". It's kind of charming, entertaining, and fascinating. It's frothy, glitzy, sparkels 'n' twinkles, it's glossy and grand, and is intoxicating in the extreme; at least for the rich, young, and beautiful.

I've tasted decadence and extreme luxury, and whilst it was great fun, at least for a while, I did get bored rather quickly with how shallow it all was. Not having to worry about money kind of took the edge out of life. The beautiful, glowing, golden youths I was surrounded by, weren't exactly the smartest people I'd ever met. Underneath the surface they appeared almost sad. Perhaps they changed? I know some of them died with silver spoons in their mouths.

I suppose what I really wanted out of life was knowledge, that what I really craved, not luxury. They sure had impressive libraries though. My parents never, bought, or even read a book, in the lives. In contrast to my youth, I now have a cellar full of really good literature, and usful textbooks and manuals, and lots and lots of quality tools. I have a sensible truck, not a sports car. I can, given the right materials, literally build house from the ground up if I have to. Perhaps I've become a one man Cuba.

Interestingly enough if we measure a country's oil efficiency by how much GDP per capita we get for each barrel of oil consumed per capita, The U.S is FAR more efficient than Cuba.
GDP - per capita (PPP): $2,600 (2006 est.)
Per capita Oil Consumption Per Year: 6.633 Barrels
$ of GDP - per capita produced by 1 barrel of oil per capita per year: $392.15
GDP - per capita (PPP): $43,500 (2006 est.)
Oil - consumption: 20.73 million bbl/day (2004 est.)
Population: 298,444,215 (July 2006 est.)
Oil Consumption per Capita Per Year: 25.39 Barrels
$ of GDP - per capita produced by 1 barrel of oil per capita per year: $1713.27

Abe: Yep. India is 2.6 X as oil efficient as the USA, while China is 2.46 X as efficient.

Yeah, but this fails to take into account the fact that the US doesn't really produce much any more. Everything's imported. If we took the fuel that's used to make and ship in all of the imports and compared it to Cuba, which is still under a trade embargo, US oil consumption to GDP efficiency would probably be really low.

But we shouldn't be using GDP in our measurements at all. GDP is a measure of turnover, not output. Also it only measures monetary transactions.

So if you grow all your own food and eat well, for instance, this adds nothing to GDP. On the other hand, if you buy all your food, this adds to GDP, even though you might not be able to buy enough to eat well. If the food you are buying is non-organic, produced with agrochemicals, tractors and other machinery, and is transported around the world and packaged, then this adds even more to GDP.

I too am interested to compare energy use with living standards. Is it possible to maintain a decent quality of life with low per capita energy consumption? Which nations are leading by that measure? And how about per capita CO2 emissions vs. quality of life? This blog post addresses those questions. Instead of GDP as a measure of living standards, I used the Human Development Index, which is a combination of life expectancy, literacy, education, and GDP-based standards of living.

Is really possible to make global comparisons like that?

Obviously, a country that doesn't have a winter, like the Philippines, will use less energy than one that does - like the U.S.

Also, energy consumption stats are pretty meaningless in this age of globalization. Energy used outside the country isn't counted, even though we are the ultimate consumers. DVDs, computers, aluminum cans, fertilizer, cars, etc. It takes a lot of energy to mine, refine, and transport the raw materials, manufacture and distribute the goods, etc. But the energy consumption is charged to the country that makes the stuff, not the country that uses it.

This was a great way to reduce energy use in developed countries when there was cheap energy elsewhere. But if the problem is global supply, obviously, offshoring isn't going to be much help.

And shortage or no, it doesn't help on the GW front. If anything, manufacturing moves to areas with fewer environmental regulations.

Those are all good points. The warmer nations will have lower space heating needs. On the other hand, there are quite a few cold-weather nations that rate in the top percentiles for energy efficiency with high living standards. Denmark, Ireland, UK, Switzerland and Germany are some examples. Similarly, there are a number of cold-weather nations that do well in terms of low per capita CO2 emissions with relatively high living standards. Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Lithuania, and Latvia are some examples.

You're probably also right that the less industrialized nations and the post-industrial nations will rate better on the low-CO2-with-high-quality-of-life measurement. (But remember how much energy is used and CO2 emitted by the building sector and by private vehicles -- significantly more than the industrial/shipping sector.)

At any rate, all proposed greenhouse gas reduction schemes are applied on a nation-by-nation basis. As far as I know, no nation has figured out a carbon tax or capping scheme that accounts for lifecycle energy costs across national borders. It would be a good idea, though, should it become politically possible. The advantages and disadvantages of a global carbon tax should be debated.

Overall energy usage is a poor metric to apply to Cuba's post-peak agricultural transition. We're talking about a totally time-warped economy here, running on outsized 50s-vintage American automobiles and antiquated power plants. Organic, localized farming would reduce only the energy usage formerly devoted to agriculture. The best metric is the one supplied by the filmmakers: Cubans were severely calorie-deprived in the years immediately following the collapse of the Soviet economy, and now, apparently, they're not.

This analysis misses the REAL savior of the Cuban Revolution; tourism including a large and thriving sex tourism industry.

Prostitution has more to do with the current economic viability of Cuba than organic farming. Fat & Horny Germans may supply more calories than the agricultural reforms I am afraid.

I prefer the Swiss example over the Cuban one. A viable Western industrial democracy with a decent quality of life survived a 6 year 100% oil embargo. The Swiss per capita oil consumption in 1945 was 1/400th of current US consumption.

Best Hopes,


still a bad example. the war only lasted a short while, then they went right back to their old ways. it's quite easy to make a country take that kind of sacrifice because they /knew/ the war would not last forever. also the swiss were not neutral they did deals with both the axis and the allies. i am sure that large influx of nazi gold had more to do with keeping the country afloat then some other factor that you do /not/ talk about yet hold the country up as a example.

Hello Prof. Goose,

Sorry you are ill--take care--but thxs for the great link!

Megan, as a representative for her generation, is a great beacon of hope for positive change. Give her more Peakoil Outreach time with 50 million other young North American women: peaceful detritus powerdown and biosolar powerup is an easily done deal. The guys will quickly fall in line--We need all the Earthmothers we can get!

Glad to see she and her organization believes that most of us will benefit by moving to a 50-75% agrarian labor force--maybe there is still hope for my 150 million wheelbarrows.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I agree with you and Megan on the move to a more agrarian labor force with wheelbarrows.

And hopefully this is accompanied by a change in values and prioities - with a growing respect for farmers and declining respect for occupations like 'whore-celebrity' entertainers and the various parasitic paper-asset shufflers.

Unemployment stats during The Transition may become volatile as various careers become unsustainable for all but a few.

As human labor displaces fossil fuel-driven machines in the factories and on farms, John Lennon's "Power to the People" may take on a new meaning.

Palm oil based biofuels is the answer according to It's usually the feedstock that is expensive and palm oil is one of the cheapest oils around. And despite CSPI's crazy statements, most oil palm plantations are part of RSPO, for sustainable palm oil and not responsible for orang utan habitat loss or deforestation. Check it out if you are interested to learn more.

Definitely worth checking out -- especially if you want to learn more about how public relations companies are taking a lot of money to help industry get their propaganda out online. Note that no matter how deep you delve into the "Truth" website, there is no information at all as to who funds, or writes this propaganda tool -- or who supports it through "hey, check it out" postings on blogs and bulletin boards throughout the net.

When will industry learn that this sort of attack on their critics will only deepen our suspicion of them?

Boy do they lay it on thick: They are supposedly "an international network of social conscience and cooperation among peoples in industry, government, academia and the ordinary global consuming public, strengthening the forces devoted to respect, justice and equality for a more just and sustainable world and for global peace..." Gimme a break!

So, yes, in terms of Palm Oil Truth -- do tell us the truth...about who you are, who funds you, and why you are hiding behind an anonymous but expensive website? (And why the only website that treats you as a source is the Malaysian Palm Oil Council?)


When I came online a few hours ago, above the post/article about Ms Quinn was a newer post/article by Luís de Sousa, referring to Refuting Contrarian Arguments, the third in his trilogy to date, this one on price/supply arguments as made by economists. I read and studied it (good piece with charts) and then wrote a reply, (there were already three replies as I recall) because the piece touched upon some issues that have been giving me trouble. But when I came back from getting some sources for my post, the article was gone! Completely gone! Was it pulled for some reason, or did he pull it for further editing?

Oh well, not to be deterred, following is the issue that I have been dwelling on for some time, and although a bit long, I think that some here will find it out of the ordinary by the standards of TOD and very, very thought provoking if I do say so myself (I just did!) :-) Free of charge, for your amusement and enrichment (beside, how often do you get to respond to a story on TOD that at least for now, does not yet exist!:


Luís de Sousa, I am so glad you wrote this piece, and constructed such a wonderful post at just this time.

Because, as I have mentioned recently, I am man in a bit of an intellectual crisis.

Long story short (rare for me) the history: I grew up in the 1960’s-70’s. I was in the gasoline business as a teen in the first crisis, and owned a retail gasoline outlet and service shop as a young man in the 1978 crisis. For me, and many of my age and inclination, we have seen “peak”. The collapse of world oil production with the rise in price was astounding, the “big valley” of production of the late 1970’s to early ‘80’s still a magnificent thing to gaze on in charts:

Surely, no combination of events could cause every nation on Earth to drop in production at the same time, by such fantastic amounts? And consumption dropped at the same time...there was only one explanation: The oil age was over. It was done. Alternatives and massive reduction in consumption were coming soon, they had to. We were on to the next phase of modern civilization.

But, in 1982, something went awry. The price began to drop, the supply began to rise, and fast! It became the biggest slaughter in the energy industry. How could it be? Where had the oil been that suddenly appeared out of everywhere? What had went wrong? We know, the North Sea, massive Saudi Arabian output, consumption declines (at least for a while) but why had no one seen this coming? To this day, it is one of the great examples of the madness of crowds, and the power of panic. But, in my heart, I felt, I KNEW in fact that we, the ones who had predicted the end of the oil age were right. We were right in principle, just wrong in timing. The collapse would come, and it would be catastrophic . We just got the timing wrong. Oil could not be replaced. Now, I am suffering an intellectual crisis. Because now, I am becoming more and more convinced that I was wrong in principle as well as in timing.

Let me talk about why.

My crisis began when I began studying energy, as opposed to just oil. You see, like so many here, I had long believed that oil could not be substituted for. It may even show in some of my earliest posts here. I was convinced that, as Matthew Simmons and others say, oil is not just another commodity. It is simply too special, in it’s density, it’s portability, it’s convenience. But more, much more, it has a special chemistry, that is simply not found anywhere else. It is the most special of hydrocarbons.

I have began to gravely doubt that argument, an argument I would have made with great intensity not so long ago.

Because, when we say we need oil, what we really mean is we need energy. Oil just happens to be considered the most usable, affordable, portable and convenient, and it has the infrastructure built up around it. But, what we really need is energy. And what we really need is heat energy, i.e., something that will burn. The history of changing from one thing that will burn to another is not new, as humans moved from wood, to peat and manure, to coal, to oil, to natural gas. The changes are still going on, with new concoctions such as propane and now hydrogen have been introduced.

Of course, we now know that it is the hydrogen that was needed all along, the carbon simply stabilized it where it could be easily stored and used. But if you think this is going to be an argument for the “hydrogen economy” you would be wrong. That argument can wait for another day, and I assure it will return, soon, with a vengeance. For now, we are going to talk about hydrocarbons, which no one doubts oil is, as is natural gas, propane, wood, coal, peat, tar sand and shale oil and manure and methane.

But these hydrocarbons must be rare, and not able to be substituted for in any possible way correct? That is the “specialness” almost the “holiness” of oil. But what if oil is not holy?
What if it is not as big, nor as good as we have been told? Thus we begin the great sacrilege, in an age that worships oil and oil as the one true godlike fuel.

The second and very major blow to my “faith” that oil could not be substituted for was one of scale. This hit full force right here on The Oil Drum (TOD):
Illustration of proposed “replacements”

It is hard for me to convey upon others the absolute sense of wonder and astonishment I felt on studying this illustration and these numbers: The world consumed one cubic mile of oil per year. One cubic mile. I was astonished, and for the first few days, was as dazed as when I had first confronted the prospect of “Peak” back in 1978 (although we did not have the PR savvy in those days to coin such a phrase). I was somewhat cubic mile. Could it really be such a small volume? I searched for ways to disprove it. Surely, humankind consumed a far greater volume than this! All the rigs, the miles of pipeline, the offshore manmade monsters, the holding tanks around the world, the fuel tanks of the vehicles, the retailers, the strategic reserves, the massive supertankers, all for ONE CUBIC MILE PER YEAR WORLDWIDE? IT COULD NOT BE TRUE.

BUT, it seems that it is true. The monstrosity of an industry that is needed to find, to extract and to move only one cubic mile of oil per year is truly astounding. It is dizzying really, the steel, the manpower, the pumps, the high technology, the water injection, the MONEY, for ONE CUBIC MILE PER YEAR. Compare it to anything else about the Earth: The wind blowing on it, the sun shining on it, the land surface, never mind the seas, the weight and volume of living matter, constantly in action, in production, moving, always moving, compared to humankind's paltry one cubic mile that they find as addictive as air itself! It was the beginning of a change for me, one that I am just now beginning.

It so happened at that time that I was in intense study of a path that Robert Rapier had laid out for me in a post he did on TOD referring to his R-squared blog, on the subject of bio-butanol.

Because if we believe that oil is “holy”, “special” and cannot be substituted, surely this must be even more true of gasoline. It took humankind decades of technology, of science, of engineering to produce quality gasoline, a tribute to the technical acumen of thousands of brilliant technicians. We had done what nature could not do.

Or had we? There is in nature a tiny bacterium called Clostridium acetobutylicum. It is often referred to as the Weizmann organism, after Chaim Weizmann, the microbiologist who isolated it. This bacterium can be used in the fermentation of any sugar/starch containing biomass into butanol:

Look if you will at the molecular structure of butanol. It is a hydrocarbon of great elegance, an alcohol, that due to its 4 carbon structure can act as a one for one replacement for gasoline. It is astounding. An almost natural gasoline.

It was during this study that I realized, despite the slander that the bogus ethanol trade has brought down on all biofuels, that nature is making hydrocarbons daily, by the billions of tons. Life, and the production of active microbes were going on before humans began the “chemical” trade, and have never eased up. As long as there are conditions on Earth for any kind of life, it can be presumed they never will. I learned that ethanol is not the only kind of alcohol there is (and in fact is the least elegant of alcohols), and that alcohol is not the only natural hydrocarbon there is. The world swims in the production of natural alcohols, methanes, algaes, and lichen.

I will leave you to ask yourself: Is it remotely possible to extract from the constant production of billions of tons of natural hydrocarbons, to convert the force of a planet of winds, to capture enough of the volume of the sun, to capture enough of the force of moving water, to equal ONE CUBIC MILE OF OIL? One cubic mile. Would it not be the gravest insult to even our generation’s primitive engineering to believe that it could not be done? And remember, in of this one cubic mile is contained all the waste of the SUV’s, the massive 400 and 500 horsepower engines, the high speed boats, the mis-designed aircraft, cars that do not even bother to capture their own gravity on deceleration, and the consumption of a consumer culture that has NEVER KNOWN efficient and elegant engineering. The waste is easily two thirds of that one cubic mile of oil.

My “faith” in the irreplaceable/non-substitutability of “oil” has been shaken. My “faith” that the volume of oil the world consumes is so great in comparison to the scale of the Earth that it cannot be replaced by the nature of the Earth well harnessed has been shaken. My “faith” that the oil gathering and consuming enterprise, with it’s monstrous consumption of resources to gather and burn ONE CUBIC MILE per year is was not a folly of primitive engineering and habit is shaken. Could we have WASTED SO MUCH FOR SO LITTLE? And what does that say about the vaunted “superiority” of oil? Were we just fools that fell into “oil worship”?

At a personal level, you must understand the blow to self identity this can be: I have sought fuel efficient cars, live frugally, drive a Diesel. The “belief” that we were a world in oil crisis, if not now, soon, has been a part of me since my post high school days. It helped decide my investing, my thinking, my lifestyle.

Have I built my life, my thinking, around a “one cubic mile” folly, falling into worship of a black goo that was neither superior nor all that important, except that the overlords of industry and technology by chance choose it over a dozen or more other better, cleaner easier alternatives, and provided it the “incubator” of infrastructure?

I am doing some very heavy thinking and studying right now. Thank you for your time and attention, and thanks to TOD for putting me on many of the tracks that are opening up a new world for me. I close with my recently adopted tag line:
We are only one cubic mile from freedom.

Roger Conner Jr.

Hmm, 1 CMO seems an awful lot to me. That's one mile on each side. That must be an awful lot of BTUs. Indeed, the link you gave to comparisons of alternatives shows the sheer quantity of 1 cubic mile of oil:

104 coal fired power stations, running for 50 years
4 Three Gorges Dams, running for 50 years
32,850 wind turbines, running (presumably at maximum capacity) for 50 years
91,250,000 PV panels, running for 50 years
52 nuclear power plants, running for 50 years

I'm not sure why the IEE Spectrum chose to put it like that but, if we consume 1 CMO per year, that is the equivalent output, per year, of:

5,200 coal fired power stations,
200 Three Gorges Dams,
1,642,500 wind turbines,
4,562,500,000 PV panels,
or 2,600 nuclear power plants

I'm not sure why you think that is so small.

And remember that that quantity has been growing. If oil can continue to be produced at the optimistic forecast rates, it will be 2 CMO in 35-40 years.

The alternatives have been discussed at TOD, and other PO sites, many times. Unless you can figure out a new angle, you just aren't going to get that scale of energy, in increasing quantities, from those alternatives, even combined. That makes 1 CMO pretty large, to me.

You are good to caution us against irrational exuberance. But I believe Roger's personal awakening is quite correct in many ways. Of all the regular commentors on this board, he seems to be one of the most 'rationally optimistic' and forward thinking; really inspiring to me. I'm 27, thinking (still) about grad school and what I'm gonna dive into for real when my teaching gig in Japan is up, and I really appreciate his perspective.

Now, on to business at hand. Okay: 1,642,500 wind turbines, rated in the example at 1.65 MW. However, keep in mind that about 2/3 of that one cubic mile is wasted though mindless innefficiency and excesses, so we really only need, say, a third of that, or the equivalent of 547,500 1.65MW wind turbines. Now keep further in mind that 2 MW is currently about the largest rated wind turbine, but that there are much larger models being developed using carbon fibre and such in the 3 to 5 MW range (see WindTurbine-MaterialsandManufacturing_FactSheet.pdf and ) That would mean that we could actually substitute for our efficiency diet of 1/3 CMO with 226,239 4MW wind turbines. Still a large number, but doable? Hell yeah. And since that's only wind power alone we're talking about, we've also got algae-derived biocrude for diesel, agriculture and materials feedstocks, biobutanol, landfill methane capturing, solar, and all the rest of the alternatives.

It'll take a WWII size effort to turn our juggernaut around if we wish to avoid climate meltdown (if it's not too late yet), but let's not for a minute defeat ourselves before we start by thinking small. REGLA NUMERO UNO: ¡SI SE PUEDE!

Zoe di Magnifico,

Likewise, you are correct to remind of the caution against irrational exuberance. I make no pretense it will be "easy" but just that the possibilities seem far less daunting than some would make them out to be.
But, if there is no action, no change to a newer way, then, they are correct that the possibilities for loss and suffering are large. Note by the way that
only 5 types of options are listed as energy replacement options (coal plants, nuclear plants, hydro dams, solar and wind), of which 3 are already accepted technology (coal plants, nuclear plants, hydro dams). and NONE of the listed 5 options produce liquid fuel directly! Of course, the range of options is far greater than those five, and using those in conjunction with the others (butanol, algae, methanes, advanced hydrogen) means the possibility of huge leaps forward on the liquid fuel front are not only possible, but are pretty much decided by price, not technology. And recall we don't have to replace the whole cubic mile. Someone said that at current growth of oil consumption we would be up to 2 cubic miles per year in 35 to 40 years. Again, that is ASTOUNDING TO ME. With all the waste and bad engineering, could it be as small as a projected 2 cubic miles almost a half century out? Of the whole Earth, only two cubic miles? It completely alters perspective.

Roger Conner
Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom.

Maybe you don't quite appreciate (and apologies, if you do) that this 1 CMO (2 CMO in 40 years) is consumed every year. It's not a one-off 1 CMO. In the next decade, we'll consume more than 10 CMO. Is it starting to look like a bigger problem now? By the way, "the whole earth" was not involved in the production of oil; it was restricted to only a few places, under the right conditions. The vast bulk of the earth is not involved in any activity of ours nor is it a source for any of the resources we extract.

To my mind, wasted oil is irrelevant, in the grand scheme of things. Firstly, wasted energy is jobs. Stop wasting and jobs are lost. Secondly, getting down to a lower base consumption (which will take time, as waste is progressively reduced, it can't be done overnight), simply puts off the fateful day. I'm sure I've seen calculations of this that the delay would not be as huge as one might imagine. However, we'd still be utterly dependent on oil (and other fossil fuels) and will still need to find a sustainable alternative.

Not that eliminating waste is bad, per se. This is all part of powering down.

I believe Roger's personal awakening is quite correct in many ways. Of all the regular commentors on this board, he seems to be one of the most 'rationally optimistic' and forward thinking

What, I don't count for anything?  ;-)

It'll take a WWII size effort to turn our juggernaut around if we wish to avoid climate meltdown (if it's not too late yet), but let's not for a minute defeat ourselves before we start by thinking small.

FYI:  I was part of the discussions leading up to the EA2020 proposals, but I refused to sign on to the final product.  It was thinking too small.

"5,200 coal fired power stations,
200 Three Gorges Dams,
1,642,500 wind turbines,
4,562,500,000 PV panels,
or 2,600 nuclear power plants'

There isn't 1 location for another "Three Gorges Dam" much less 200.
PV panel number is obviously preposterous.

We could do it with coal and nuclear; obviously the first would be climate rape.

We're at 435 plants right now. Could we do 2600 more? Yeah, with all the money that currently goes into oil?

Not sure what happened to Luis' story. I'm not sure it was even meant to be public yet. In any case, it disappeared, and no one seems to know what happened.

Whatever happened was a technical glitch, though, not an editorial decision by anyone on TOD staff.

yeah, it was a gremlin. We'd never short circuit Luis (or any of our staff), their stuff is too good.

One Iraq War @ $2,000,000,000,000 would purchase 2,000,000 wind turbines @ $1,000,000 each.
A decision was made which of the two purchases we wanted.


I priced the windmills very approximately with maybe 90 seconds of googling. Accurate enough for back of envelope. Thats 2 million wimdmills, more than your example requires. The math is correct and the Iraq war price is from the recent Joe Stiglitz study. I think that war has cost much more.
It's social problem. Throw it out to an audience of engineers and of course you get back enginnering solutions. There's money and materials (are there 2 mill sites? probably maybe) and every reason to get on with the job. As a society we just don't want to. Tell me why w/o rhetoric or special pleading and we can get somewhere.

The engineers will tell you that there's more to the problem than just the wind turbines; you're going to need a considerable investment in transmission lines also, plus DSM systems and/or real-time electricity auctions to a degree that the world has never seen.  And the system as a whole has to stay up when parts of it go down.

This may be difficult, but it doesn't look impossible.  And the time to get started is yesterday.

Lessons from the Cuban leaders:

1. Close down the newspapers
2. Throw the dissenters in prison
3. Make your rivals 'disappear'
4. Steal all property
5. Declare yourselves 'Leaders for Life'

Lessons from the Cuban people:
1. Find something that floats and get your ass to the US.

...and the greater the gap between what's in your piggy-bank and what's in the average third-worlder's piggy-bank, the more they're gonna want to make that trip. Scary isn't it?

...and, yes, that was a snide comment on my part. I guess my problem with your post had something to do with it's smug air of superiority. As IF the repression and deprivation that Cubans have experienced over the last 50 years has nothing to with with good old your's truly, Uncle $am.

I'm going to get flamed for this but so be it. I don't give rat's fanny. For the better part of America's history, it has meddled in the affairs of its poorer Western neighbors. 184 years after self-righteously informing the rest of the world that the Western Hemisphere was "our backyard" (to borrow a phrase from that perfectly Brylcreemed Hollywood jackass Ronald Reagan), EVERY COUNTRY in the Western Hemisphere, save for Canada, continues to struggle with oppressive military establishments, with let-them-eat-cake oligarchies, with murderous drug lords, with debt-burdened economies and environmental degradation (much of it, having occurred at the hands of foreign concerns that came in, took what they wanted and left). Every country. Now why is that?

Now one might conclude -- as you seem to have done -- that this sad state of affairs all owes to the inability of the poor brown-skinned wretches throughout Latin America and the Carribean, to get their acts together. And maybe there is some truth to that. After all, if these countries had taken the bull by the horns and killed off or confined the native population as effectively as the Europeans north of the Rio Grande did, they wouldn't likely have to deal with a lot of the ethnic problems that they are dealing with today (This, of course, doesn't apply to the Carribean so much as Europeans DID effectively wipe out the aboriginals there, but then they went and replaced them with more "problem people" -- imported African slaves. But I digress).

Of course, there is another possibility too. One that I'll just toss out. Maybe it's bunk. You can tell me I'm full of sh_t. Maybe I am. But here's what I'm thinking: Instead, maybe the problem is that any time any country in the Western Hemisphere tried to do something different -- something that didn't look like it was fashioned on "our" model -- they ran up against big business interests from outside -- coal, metals, oil and gas, bananas, whatever -- and those interests said "Uh-Uh, No way." So, each time they try to stand up, the boot heel comes down. BAM!!! END OF STORY!!! You play by OUR rules or you don't play at all.

But the story doesn't end there, see. We can sit up here in Squanderville, drink our $150 Cabs, drive around town showing off in our Beemers and trading our futures contracts. And we can get rich and talk euphemistically and in superior tones about "demand destruction" and "austerity programs" and all that BS. It doesn't matter, because sooner or later, all of those people that we've kept under our "protection" for the last 184 years -- all of those people are going to get desperate. And when they do, they're going to come here -- just like they did during the Mariel boat-lift, just like they are doing now across the border with Mexico. And if you think we have an immigration problem now, you ain't seen nothing yet.

So, to get back to how this relates to Cuba: I can imagine that Cuba might be a vey different place today had not the hard-liners had their way and almost immediately begun a campaign to get kill Castro and "take back" the island. What if, instead, we had taken a neutral attitude and said "No, we're not here to fix Cuba's problems -- that's for you to do." If we had done that, who knows? Castro might have been a flash in the pan. The truth is, we'll never know. We can only speculate. And feel morally superior for being descended from such fine, enlightened, forward-thinking European stock.

One final thought: Cuba may be a wretched place in many ways, but it has a future. It's people are relatively healthy (life expectancy is 77 years) and they can still feed themselves. Which is more than one can say of Haiti -- a nation that, I will remind you, has never "suffered under the yoke" of Communism.

Thank you, Tarzan, for saying what needs to be said.

Alas, among the US readers it will mostly fall on deaf ears, thanks to 50 years of anti-Cuba propaganda.

One of the most amazing things happening in the world today is the step-wise election all over Latin America of leaders that reject the "Washington Concensus". Not sure why that "boot heel" has been missing in action recently. Perhaps because it is mired in the mud of Iraq, or perhaps in general the USA has weakened, having worked itself into an orgy of debt. In any case, there is finally some hope for the rest of the hemisphere.

Oh yeah--this is exactly the sort of message that will persuade mainstream Americans to start heeding those of us who are concerned about a coming oil shortage.

Yes, P.O.Tarzan, Comrade Fidel is an excellent planner and engineer, a great humanitarian and a great friend of the common man.

Since that must be true, I guess all those people who actually, you know, lived in that wonderful workers' paradise for, oh, all their lives, and then built rafts or took to rowboats to flee from it--with many drowning in the attempt--were just...what, stupid? No, wait, I got it: Somehow George W. Bush managed to go back in time and indoctrinate every last one of 'em with did Comrade VT put it? "irrational fear of Castro." Yeah, that must be it.

There seems to be a lot of Cuba bashing, I don't think particularly helpful, as exemplified in Mr. Keithster 100's posting. In rebuttal:

Lessons from the U.S. leaders:

1. Monopolize the press and marginalize dissent (pretty pure Noam)
2. U.S. has highest incarceration rate.(see below)*
3. Make opposing governments and many of their civilians disappear.
4. Make sure all the wealth goes up to the elite and that any trickle down is just enough to avoid the cries of Liberty Fraternity and EQUALITY.
5. If Totalitarianism is not feasible then erect an oligarchy that panders to the wishes and desires of a (corporate) elite (sort of Vidal).

Lessons from the U.S leaders.

1. If we ignore P.O. it will P. off (keep your passports handy Cuba is only a Canada away)

* Prison Incarceration Rates in the Land of the Free

According to a US Justice Department report released on August 17, 2003:

1 in 37 adults living in the United States is in prison or has served time there (that's more than 5.6 million Americans!!!)...the highest incarceration level in the world.

The prison population has quadrupled since 1980.

By 2010, the number is expected to jump to 7.7 million, or 3.4 percent of all adults, American citizens or residents.

Source: Gail Russell Chaddock, "U.S. Has World's Highest Incarceration Rates," Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 2003.

I live in a little town
Where people sharpen tongues on boredom
And test the edges on souls.

I live in a little town
Where the homegrown beauty is the homegrown beast
And losers love their girls-with-staples.

I live in a little town
Where coming home means growing small
And the sound of music is rattling bars.

-- Paul Gilmore

Cuba must be one of the countries least adapted to the realities of peak oil, in the entire world.

Their power generation is almost solely based on burning oil.

It's one of the places where oil crisis means the grid comes crashing down.

But western commie useful idiots don't look at boring stuff like grids and power plants...

The USA must be one of the countries least adapted to the realities of peak oil, in the entire world.

Their food production is almost solely based on burning oil.

It's one of the places where oil crisis means starvation.

But western capitalist idiots don't look at boring stuff like agriculture...

With the tiny exception that when oil prices go up, American farmers are probably among the last people on the planet to be priced out.

The whole worry over food reliance on oil is silly, as either market forces or government edicts will make sure that industrialized farming is the last thing in the world (bar military and police) that goes without diesel fuel.

And fertilizer? Make it from electricity of any kind if natural gas is not available.

Electricity is probably the last thing you want to use to make nitrates (though it does serve as a worst-case example; if you can make a concept pay using ammonia from electrolytic hydrogen, it can't be priced out).  Crop wastes are a far better starting point, and Eprida is trying to commercialize it.

Is it just me, or is Megan HOT.... :)

Not just you, Yes she is.

.. making assorted animal noises from one of the back rows ..

I think I am in Love. Do you know how hard it has been to find a woman who is already into CONSUMING LESS?