Nigeria: Energy Infrastructure Firestorm

When a fire becomes sufficiently intense, its heat creates a rising column of air so strong that surrounding air is drawn into the void, creating a draft that sustains and intensifies the fire. It becomes a self-sustaining, self-intensifying organism: a firestorm. The violence in Nigeria’s delta region has become a firestorm, and the consequences of this transformation will fundamentally impact that nation’s ability to export oil. Recent events in the delta region have transitioned the violence there from a negative-feedback loop where there was a disincentive to militants to shut in too high a portion of Nigeria’s oil exports to a positive-feedback loop where militants will compete to completely destroy Nigeria’s capacity to export oil.

Figure 1: Nigerian Militants in a Speedboat

MEND & the Ijaw Insurgency: A Negative-Feedback Loop

A little background: Nigeria is a construct of post-colonial cartography. It is one of history’s foremost examples of the fiction of the Nation-State, a forced amalgamation of over 250 distinct ethnic groups and numerous religions (see illustration) to effect efficient British control of the region. In the post-colonial era, three dominant ethnic groups, the Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, and Yoruba, continue to joust for control of Nigeria’s huge oil revenues—and for control of Nigeria itself, though this is truly and ancillary concern to the oil. One thing has remained constant: the ethnic Ijaw, who inconveniently live where all the oil is, have been almost entirely excluded from sharing in the oil riches in their own backyard. As a result, the Ijaw resorted to violence to advance their political aims of representation in Nigeria’s government and a real share in the oil revenues.

Figure 2: Overview of Nigerian Ethnic Groups

Figure 3: Overview of Nigerian Oil Infrastructure

MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, was the military branch of the Ijaw struggle. It was relatively easy for the government of Nigeria to reign in the violence in the Niger delta for two reasons: MEND had clearly defined political motivations, and a long-term interest in the viability of Nigeria as an oil exporting state. Further, as a coherent tribal society, the traditional system of tribal relations and leadership exerted effective control over the actions of MEND. Because the motivations of the Ijaw power structure were clearly defined (setting up transparent game rules), the Nigerian government and foreign oil companies operating in the Delta had two effective tools to reign in violence when it threatened their profits: offer talks on political issues, or buy peace with aid and development projects. The situation was violent yet stable—the slow diplomatic dance between parties with predictable motivations acted as a negative feedback loop preventing the violence from escalating out of control.

Free-Market Insurgency: A Positive-Feedback Loop

Over the past year this relatively stable system has rapidly broken down, and the result is the likelihood of a runaway escalation in violence. MEND fractioned amidst infighting among Ijaw tribal alliances. Various factions, with various political agendas, neutralized the ability to push for peace through negotiations—there was no single party, nor accession to a single set of demands, that could defuse the motivation to violence. In addition, the ransom money that foreign oil companies now routinely paid for the return of western employees spawned a market for guerrilla entrepreneurs—actors who were less motivated by traditional Ijaw political goals than by a return on investment. The lure of easy money has led to a proliferation of militant groups (now perhaps best characterized as criminal gangs) and a dramatic increase in attacks. This infusion of easy money to youthful militants broke down the traditional tribal structure of respect for leadership by elders—much as the infusion of easy drug money makes urban street gangs in the US less accountable to traditional cultural and familial restraints.

Figure 4: Grim Economic Reality Pushes Ijaw Youth to Crime

Finally, because of the shift from a political motivation to a profit motivation, militants are no longer invested in preserving the long-term viability of Nigeria as an oil exporter. As a result, the targeting strategy has shifted from the temporary sabotage of infrastructure for political ends to threats of permanent destruction of key infrastructure nodes—targets that can force higher protection payments and therefore higher returns on investment. All three of these factors are contributing to the rapid tipping of the violence in Nigeria’s delta from a stable, negative-feedback system to an escalating, positive-feedback system.

Figure 5: Heavily Armed Youth Gangs in Speedboats Rally in Permissive Terrain


The escalating violence in Nigeria has two important ramifications:

First, the tip from stable violence to perpetual escalation of violence represents a sea change in the level of disruption to Nigeria’s oil exports. The controlled Ijaw violence under a unified MEND had a strong disincentive to either shut-in excessive portions of Nigeria’s oil exports or to inflict long-term damage on that export capability. The new entrepreneurial violence is comprised of multiple actors, each competing to extort money from a limited target list of oil installations, foreign workers, and foreign oil companies. Because the actors are now militant youths seeking short-term financial gain, rather than careful elders seeking long-term political concessions, there is a strong market incentive to fill the available market space—in other words, to escalate kidnappings and infrastructure attacks until all Nigerian production is shut in. Admittedly, these militants will face diminishing marginal returns as the level of Nigeria production approaches 100%. But for the disaffected youths of the Niger delta, living amidst broken tribal structures, ballooning populations, and the environmental devastation of the local oil industry, a very small marginal return on investment in violence is still the best economic prospect available.

Figure 6: A Hostage Surrounded by Ijaw Militants

Second, this transition from ideologically motivated violence to financially motivated violence portends problems for energy infrastructure throughout the world. As peak oil exacerbates already tight global energy markets, record energy prices will allow energy firms everywhere to accept the kind of ransoms and payoffs that are fuelling the escalation of violence in Nigeria’s delta region. There is good reason to believe that today’s sectarian or ideologically driven violence in Iraq and elsewhere may transition to financially motivated attacks on energy infrastructure. This transition will be accompanied by the same critical change observed in Nigeria: there will no longer be the motivation to keep the majority of production on-line, or to prevent long-term damage to production capacity. Instead, as long as marginal returns on investments in energy infrastructure attacks remain positive, there will be a strong incentive to escalate these attacks no matter how completely a region’s export capacity is destroyed. If one accepts the proposition that peak oil will lead to global economic hardships, then this incentive will be further increased. The ability to pay “protection” for oil infrastructure is a direct function of the profitability of producing oil, and as such the peaking of world oil production—to the extent that it increases prices faster than production costs—will perpetually increase the incentive to attack energy infrastructure targets.

Figure 7: Hyperspectral Satellite Image of Oil Installation in Nigeria—Note dense jungle in close proximity to facility perimeter, a result of economics-driven design.

Finally, it is worth considering that energy infrastructure was designed to optimize economic performance, not security and defensibility. Economic considerations force an infrastructure design methodology consisting of largely centralized structures with multiple single points of failure, and networks vulnerable to cascading failures. As a result, even in oil producing states with functional security services, there is a high vulnerability to financially motivated infrastructure attacks. While a Nigerian scenario may seem unthinkable in the United States, consider our nation’s success in interdicting the drug trade. The market for energy is significantly larger than the market for drugs—and so is the incentive to militants to conduct financially motivated attacks on energy infrastructure. If this analysis is correct, the increasing incentives to attack energy infrastructure will become yet another factor accelerating the rate of decline of global energy production.

Jeff Vail is an intelligence analyst working in energy infrastructure protection. He is a former US Air Force Intelligence Officer, and planned portions of the GOPLATS operation during the 2003 invasion of Iraq that prevented sabotage of Iraq's key southern oil infrastructure. He is also the author of the book "A Theory of Power" which can be purchased or downloaded for free at his website:

Forget ye not reddit, digg, and the many other linkfarms that would like to see this post. Thanks!


I think this is going to get DUGG bigtime. In terms of human psychology, it is much more attractive than STuart's KSA posts as those were highly technical and had lots of graphs which require people to actually "rtfa" and engage their higher intellectual capabilites.

This, on the other hand, (while very well written) has some freakin' scary ass pictures which will defintely pull people in. They really do say 1,000 words in this case. You see the pic of the heavily armed kids and think "scary dudes" then the pic of the poverty and think "yeah but I guess I'd be doing the same if I lived in a place like that." Unlike poor kids here in the States (particularly California) it's not like they have the hope of going to a junior college and working their way up from there.


Are you implying we're pretty unlikely to react to this predicament like cooperative bonobos?

I'd certainly say so. On a more grand scale, mineral wealth has traditionally been concentrated in the hands of a few, but now advances in the kind of technology and organization available to insurgents is pushing hard for a more even distribution of that wealth.

An even distribution of Nigeria's oil wealth could have a huge impact on the daily lives of the average person, but no one would get rich--and it is the incentive riches, not the desire to ensure potable water and a full belly for all, that drives economic activity. Nigeria only produces 0.017 barrels of oil per person (130 million population) per day. At current prices, that's almost a dollar a day, which is huge in the developing world, but fundamentally at odds with the non-negotiable requirements of the existing elite.

In US terms, I've put it this way--everything is great for US energy producers until the angry soccer moms start rioting at the gates of the mansions of the energy producers.

I somehow don't find it very comforting that we are already seeing widespread scavenging for copper wire--in this "great" economy in the US.

I think that the copper-wire phenomenon is particularly scary for people in the US who may be tempted to think "this can't happen here." One of the organizations that I work with is the BPA (Bonneville Power Administration, responsible for large parts of the electrical grid in the Pacific Northwest). They are now experiencing significant numbers of "attacks" on their transmission lines--not with the intent of denying electrical power, but with the intent of cutting and then driving away with several hundred yards of operational power line at a time. This, at least in my estimation, is a serious step up from the simple theft of scrap copper laying in a yard somewhere--it demonstrates an elevated willingness to commit a serious crime for a moderate economic gain. And this is happening in the US, not just Nigeria. I don't know how bad the economic situation needs to get in the US to really catalyze this kind of action, but as you mention, if the soccer moms can't afford gas for their Suburbans, that will probably suffice...

This is an example of the "positive feedback loops" I mentioned on the other thread.


I'm curious if you don't mind mentioning it: where do you live? What do you think that area's propsects are? And, if the prospects are poor, are you planning to relocate?

I think an individual's geographic location will be responsible for 80% plus of how this plays out for them.

I live in the Denver area. I think the prospects are mixed--we have huge issues with suburban sprawl, but at the same time we are the hub of significant regional natural gas coal-bed methane, and coal reserves, so that will help sustain the economy. Denver is also a leader in electric light rail, with a major ballot measure recently passed to build a huge expansion onto an already fair system. I live within walking distance of a light rail station--stress-free commuting, and perhaps more importantly, this may help sustain my house value.

I do plan to relocate, eventually, but will probably do it in the form of building a highly-sustainable vacation home in the near future and gradually transitioning...

I do plan to relocate, eventually, but will probably do it in the form of building a highly-sustainable vacation home in the near future and gradually transitioning...

The question we (or at least many of us) are asking. Where to live?

One idea I think that might make some sense is the 40 acre survival plan. Buy 40 acres of farmland, perhaps with a joint venture group, 10 or so other people, close to a town. In the short term, you could at least lease it out to an organic farmer.

Longer term, you might think about moving there. If nothing else, you could move a very small prefab energy efficient home on to the site.

At least it would keep some farmland out of the hands of real estate developers. . .

One idea that some of you might pursue is to get an option to buy some farmland, and then get nine people to pay 100% of the cost of the property (you would get carried for 10% of the cost of the deal, in exchange for organizing it).

You could try to be more aggressive and do a deal where you get carried for 25% of the cost, perhaps with three people paying one-third each. You would of course need some detailed agreements, with buy/sell provisions, etc.

Edit: For confused people (like me), I think that all references to "Jeff" refer to the author of the article.

"Where to live" seems to involve at least the following: water supply, energy supply (as necessary given climate), food supply, local community. One of my favorite topics to write about is the theory of sustainable communities because I know that the feedback I receive will be highly personally appicable. Here are two posts that I've written that will guide much of my own transition to a more sustainable life:

Envisioning a Hamlet Economy

Creating Resiliency & Stability in Horticulture

Good chance that I will throw conventional wisdom out the window and choose a piece of the Sonoran desert as my location... There are obvious problems, but I think also some great advantages.


I have your hamlet economy post saved in my favorites file, fwiw.

I would add to your criteria:

1. away from nuclear targets

2. away from fall out patern

3. low population density

4. isolated

Some people will likely argue #4, but reference the "law of attraction." If your place is well-prepped in any significant way it will simply attract people and the capacity of the area will be overtaxed and fall into as much chaos as whatever area the people fled from. Thus, it has to be isolated for there to a chance that it will remain a pocket of reciprocal altruism.

Trying to find a place that has all of these features is not easy, particularly if you have to maintain a foot in the petroleum economy.

I couldn't agree more with the criteria here. Stay away from anything related to the military, stay away from cities with populations over 100,000 and get as far west as possible to take advantage of prevailing winds.

My personal recommendation is Oregon.

As you can see from the map, there are large amounts of targets to the north and a few scattered along its southern border, leaving a large chunk of green grass in the middle. Also, further down the page is a map of fallout patterns. Oregon is the only state projected to have zero exposure to fallout. While I'm sure there will be fallout no matter where you are in the States at the time of a nuclear attack, it sure would be better to place all of your chips on Oregon rather than anywhere else.

Be smart guys. Head west.

Hello Tylerhavlin,

If you read my earlier speculative postings on Earthmarines: you can expect 50 million or more Southwesterners and Mexicans headed along the Oregon Trail shortly. I suggest you and most of Cascadia look into legal Secession, the building of large, contiguous biosolar habitats, and protective local militias [Earthmarines]. Otherwise, expect to be overrun with refugees like South Africa is currently experiencing from Zimbabwe and other countries.

Is Grants Pass, Oregon the best location to replay the American version of the strategic battle of Thermoplyae?,_Oregon

I have never been to Oregon, so you may have a better idea of where to make your final stand postPeak. I hope you have a better outcome than the Greek Spartan 300.

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

Oregon is a great place for Ducks and Beavers - and frogs, lot's and lots of water. Best place to be...hmmm. I'm not so sure, could be that after it gets posted here and elsewhere a billion times you might be living in the better spot.
Find where Bush is going to hide (like Paraguay) Maybe he needs a drinking buddy.-)

I grew up in remote mountains a little northwest of Grants Pass, a favorite for survivalists. It's horrible. I really can't tell you how dismal the chances are here for the one even consider moving here....please....

I floated the idea of secession to my undergrad class here in Corvallis, OR last week and was met with loud cheers. 2010 will be the year ladies and gentlemen. Mark your calendars and load your wagons.

Hello Seth,

Thxs for responding. Good for Cascadia and/or the Jeffersonian State! The sooner you get your community and or state started towards Secession--the better your chances for long-run sustainability. The more Peakoil Outreach permeates your area, the greater the chance for widespread preparation. Maybe far NORCAL, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska can sufficiently prepare to pre-emptively hold off the invasion of the Southern hordes-- you won't have to replay a desperate battle of Thermoplyae.

For Easterners:

In the years I have been googling orgs such as those above: it is remarkable to see the exponential growth. I fully expect the Patriot Act to eventually declare State's Right to Constitutional Secession as illegal if the topdogs true desire is to force globalization and Detritus MPP to the energetic extreme with NA SuperNafta. IMO, it would be better to let various geographies decentralize along the lines of watershed flows. Recall that the Hirsch Report calls for fifteen favored Detritus States-- maybe the other States will be given free rein to become the Biosolar States. My speculative WAG.

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

"I fully expect the Patriot Act to eventually declare State's Right to Constitutional Secession as illegal "

Ummm, sorry Bob, secession has been illegal here since 1865.

Hello Wehappyfew,

Thxs for responding. I am not a Constitutional Scholar, but I believe Secession is still legal. The question is if the Union will let a State go its separate way, or by force of arms cause reunification, ala Pres. Lincoln.

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

Good chance that I will throw conventional wisdom out the window and choose a piece of the Sonoran desert as my location... There are obvious problems, but I think also some great advantages.

Jeff V. You might want to contact me with regards to that aspect of your thinking. I live about 80 miles east of the Sonoran Desert, on 40 acres at 4700ft elevation, that my kid doesn't want, and by the time TSHTF I'll be so old I won't want it either.

My take on relocation: stay put and try to put down roots. Or move back to some place where you already have roots. I think in the times to come community will have ever greater value. To think only of optimizing conditions as opposed to building community is, I think, a mistake.

Community will be VERY important.

But if your city is nuked, right in the path of fallout, or likely to be overrun by economic/climate refugees community will mean jack squat.

See New Orleans, Baghdad, Detroit circa 2007 for cities that have fallen prey to "the long emergency" or Hiroshima circa 1947. Geography is the #1 determinant of how this will play out for you.

After geography, then community.

Hi Westexas,

In the course of reading yours and Robert's thoughtful 'A Debate on the Substance and Timing of the Peak of Oil Production and Consumption' noticed in one of his current posts he mentioned that he was 'preparing for P.O.' and now here you have mentioned preparations for P.O. I think this is a subject many are interested in.

Do you think it might be time for some lead article to reflect that issue, unless it's been done to death already?

There is a wide spectrum here, not just basic survival items but the financial transition strategies involved. Especially in the event of an 'economic crash' style transition. You know financial info like "How to Turn Paper Money into Toilet Rolls"

I would like to know what everyone else plans and am more than willing to reciprocate.


You have no chance of surviving should you stay in Denver, in my honest and semi-informed opinion.


Denver = first strike nuclear attack target along with Seattle and San Diego due to the extremely high military value of these places

I presume, given your background, you are familiar with why. FEMA map of nuclear targets from about 10 years ago:

If you have information/analysis as to why I'm wrong or off the beaten path I would very much like to hear it, if possible.

5. Publish the location of your shelter on the web.


My guess is less than 500 people globally (and more like less than 50) will actually relocate in response to anything they read on any of the PO boards.

People will use these boards primarily either to dickwave or rationalize decisions they have already made.

Having said that I'm not going to proclaim to the world my location once I decide upon it.

Oh, that comment wasn't about you. It was about the 'ki4u' guy, whose dickwaving website is even more eyegougingly ugly than yours.

SO, there ya go. A compliment.

... I've been drinking in between the last post and this ...

Eyegouginly ugly? Come on now. I think I've got the "mad max chic" thing down pretty well.

Also, I didn't think your comment was about me. Just commenting that I think the need "to keep your retreat location secret on the boards" thing is a bit (but not totally overblown).

The much greater risk would be announcing it in the local paper. Then you'll end up like they did in that episdoe of the Twilight Zone where the whole neighobhood tries to get in the guy's shelter.

Hey, we just watched that TZ a few nights ago. My husband kept screaming to change the channel. He didn't want to watch it because we both envision the future looking like that. Can't handle too much reality...

I am perfectly happy to live in Sweden.

My problem is how to turn technological know how and environmental and peak oil insights into a job. Making politics out of them is doable but that is not a part of our society filled with milk and honey. On the other hand that is probably one of the reasons I plan to stay put.

The next realy big project in my municipiality Linköping after the hockey arena will be a new train station built for three times todays train travel. It will also have berthing for about a dozen busses, lots of taxis, car parking, probably about 2000 indoor parking spaces for bicycles and preparations to in the future handle trolley buses, tram lines and track taxi if that SciFi technology starts to work. It is being planned for an optimistic travel prognosis for 2030 with some room for future growth beyond that. It will be built to last for +100 years as the old train station has been in use for more then 100 years. It will be combined with some kind of mall and office space. Its very intresting to attract private capital to add to the investment and to make the station a very attractive part of the town center.

Out closest large neighbour Norrköping who also is an about 130000 pop municipiality is planning for the same kind of investment. There will probably be an architect competition for both of the train stations with a request to make them into a symbol of our cooperation. Hopefully this will be intresting enough to attract international architect firms.

The major driving force for this investment is a planned new
high speed railway line to Stockholm that then will be extended to Gothemburg, Swedens second largest city. This old railway tracks will be used for cargo and local passanger trafic. The complete system will essentially be quadrouple track and the prognosis is that it will be full of traffic in about 2030.

The only other new local investment I have heard about in recent months is a proposed plastic to diesle pilot plant. About 6% of the local wehicle fuel use is biogas and the ethanol plant in Norrköping is being enlarged and has recently gotten a biogas plant to turn distillers grain into biogas.

On a national level there seems to be a reorientation of heavy infrastructure investments to maintainance of roads and railways. This pleases me a lot but we realy ought to do both while we can afford it. Sweden has been one of the driving forces behind the EU decision to limit CO2 emissions by 20% to 2020 and we have pledged 30% if that can be made into a world wide agreement. The focus is on greenhouse gases and not peak oil buit that is ok for me when it gives substantial investments that are useful for the long term.

Denver is also a leader in electric light rail

I would have counted this as a major "plus" in my own anaylsis a few years ago. It still is in the early days of the unraveling, say when gas is avalable but at $4.50 a gallon. However, once the overlapping positive feedback loops start in motion I don't think it will be but a few years (maybe 10-15 absolutely tops) until the fuel and other commodities necessary to keep complex system like light rail are no longer available.

I don't claim to understand exactly how Peak Oil will unfold, but I agree that there seems to be a good chance that at some point light rail won't cut it anymore. However, I do think that it is likely to be a big plus in the initial transition period--which is good enough for my purposes. Likewise, I agree that Denver is the last place one wants to be during a nuclear strike (at least a strike from a major state actor like China or Russia), but I don't think that's very likely in the next few years...

to keep complex system like light rail are no longer available.

Assuming present population density not much will make it, or so it seems. But if excess capacity exists beyond converting photons to food and photons to electricity for water pumping, lighting, refrigeration, and communication then electrified rail as a way to move people and material will still exist. Electrified rail was about in early part of the 20th century. Having machine tools that can make good, repeatable, high tolerance parts was done back when paper tape was the transport medium of the day and an 8 bit processor was high end.

In a series of 'nuke strikes' lots of stuff will stop working, light rail functionality will be the least of *MY* worries.

Isn't the problem here in the west(BPA) partially or mostly related to Meth users? They seem violetly irrational and have commited some pretty horrible crimes here locally. I didn't know if that enters into your analysis.
I read articles in our "ruralite" magazine about people getting electrocuted in substations. I would hope stealing high voltage wire isn't done except by druggies.

All this happy survival talk is sure making me glad of having reached my doddering old age. Checking out is looking better and better. Not that I'd have any choice in such an environment anyway. Good luck to all you younguns.

That's scarily morbid and funny at the same time.

Thanks for the best wishes!

Oh, no, I'm nearly dead serious. Reaching true geezerhood is my proudest achievement.

You're more than welcome!

Hi Jeff,


re: " They are now experiencing significant numbers of "attacks"..."

By whom, in particular? (Does anyone know?) Have any of the "attackers" been apprehended?

Copper theft is also occuring in Sweden. Cable drums at worksites, grounding lines and easy to get at copper roofs disappear. The efforts to limit it are aimed at the scrap dealers who get more of the same regulations used for gold and silver traders. This has happened before and seems to correlate with copper price, criminals goes for the easy targets.

Could you please relive the curiosity of a British reader to the frequent references to "soccer moms". Does this refer to the game known to the rest of the world as football and played in the dust by kids in every slum from Tijuana to Cape Town. Has it morphed in the US from the game of the people to some kind of elite activity?

I initially read rpg in that second thread as role-playing-game. It confused me for a second.

Every time I see pictures of cars that big I can't quite believe it. Some part of me still expects to be told one day that they were all made up as part of a "RangeRovers are economical" marketing ploy.

Several people, most notably Chris Skrebowski, have identified the upcoming Nigerian elections as a potential risk to global oil supplies. No information to add at this time other than here is the website for the Independent National Electoral Commission in Nigeria:

The parliamentary and presidential elections take place on the 14th and 21st April 2007 respectively.

Nigeria, a member of OPEC, is producing around 2.2mbpd at the moment (down from 2.3-2.5 in 2004 and 2005).

IEA Data (pdf)

Trying to End centering

I am continually reminded of one movie scene (based on a real life event) and one quote:

(1) The scene in the movie "Titanic" where the ship's architect walks about the ship in wonderment that the ship would soon be at the bottom of the Atlantic and in wonderment at how unaware the passengers were that many of them would soon be dead;

(2) "The worst continued to get worse," Which I believe was John Kenneth Galbraith's description for the Great Depression.

A quick check on Wikipedia says that the Ijaw/Ijo/Izon number about 9 million in a country of 133 to 140 million. While it is certainly a wee bit easier to disable oil production than to start it, there is a strong incentive for the rest of the country to keep the oil flowing, and sufficient population to do so. The price in human lives would be very heavy, of course, but unfortunately human lives are considered cheap in developing countries.

They may only number 9 million - but they live in the oil patch. Possession being nine tenths of the law I'd suggest that their physical location is more important that raw numbers.

Also, somewhere I saw a post that said all you need to disrupt a refinery is 5 pounds of plastic and a camel. Since the Nigerian rebels can apparently walk right up to the fence under the cover of dense jungle, a few of those RPG's fired through the fence should do the trick. If you try to overwhelm them they will just destroy it.


Thanks. Truely sobering.

This puts much of the kidnappings in Nigeria into perspective now.

The photos show highly armed gangs. Where are the weapons coming from?

What is the possibility of the gangs to fight over territory? (ie start shooting at each other?)

What do you see any possibility of these gangs being used by terrorist groups as a form of outsourced labor?


Weapons of all types are readily available in West Africa. If you've seen the movie "Lords of War," that was in West Africa, and was quite accurate (in fact, based on a true story). PMCs (Private Military Corporations, like Executive Outcomes of South Africa) have facilitated everyone fighting everyone else to control the wide variety of rich resource deposits in the region, and the result has been a huge surplus in arms. I've written an article on PMCs if anyone's interested:

Th e Private Law of War

As for the gangs fighting each other, I haven't heard of that occuring yet--I think that will begin in earnest when there are more actors than there are targets and oil production to shut-in, and we have a long ways to escalate before that is the case. As for these gangs being used as a form of outsourced terrorism, that's already happening in India, as the Asia Time recently reported. No indication that it has spread to Nigeria yet, but the barriers to this spread seem to me to be quite low.

Thanks Jeff

Hello Jeff,

Thxs so much for this keypost! Obviously, if a person extends this thinking to postPeak North America: then it strongly indicates that we need to redraw our national and state boundary lines along naturally occuring basin watersheds to re-organize our infrastructure and minimize violence. Otherwise, these false boundaries and unsustainable infrastructure spiderweb constructs will add to positive blowback forces accelerating detritus decline and impeding biosolar powerup.

For example: consider the Colorado River Basin-- extends through many western states with a delta in Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. GW future projections strongly indicate greatly reduced precipitation and snowpack. If the US gets greedy, it is easy to see them cutting off the remaining miniscule flow south to the Mexican delta and eventual sea-level flow. We should expect a radicalized Mexican MEMD [Movement for the Emancipation of the Mexican Delta] to militarily arise in response to this water shutoff.

It is close to a tipping point already as the armies of lawyers and legislators jockeying for advantage are increasingly confronted with diminishing returns. The Mexican delta farmers and fisherman do not want the US to repair the leaking canals that serve Southern California because it gives them beneficial water flows. IMO, it is not far-fetched to see future attacks that would totally disable flows to SoCal. The LA basin should be moving full steam ahead in building solar-powered desalinization plants or investigating my Death Valley into Biosolar Valley proposal as an offset to the canals single point of failure.

Redesigning the Southwest along purely gravity flows of water, and stopping acquifer withdrawals too, would show the massive degree of Overshoot that currently exists. Nevada and Az are highly dependent upon FF-pipeline flows from Cal [Vegas 100% & Phx,Tucson 60%]. At crunch time, I expect Cal to cutoff these flows, or Cal detrito-terrorists will do this for them.

Expect Nevada and Az water-terrorists to join with the Mexican MEMD by further retaliation, maybe attacking the Owens Valley pipeline[Northern Cal to Southern Cal] to extort the restoration of California FF-flows. Other measures might include destruction of the power-towers that send juice from the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant and Colorado River Dams to Southern Cal. Expect Cal to respond by putting an extortionate tax on eastward RR container flows and trucking, or else blowing the bridges over the Colorado River and other checkpoints. California will thus stop wasting energy as a national trans-shipment point for the rest of the nation giving them much more energy for local survival.

Finally, it will only take a few attacks of these kinds to make the vast majority in the Southwest realize reality, then the massive migration to Cascadia and other places begins. But I have discussed those ramifications in earlier posts.

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

Edit: for spelling errors.

I think that you're exactly on target with the extention of this trend to water infrastructure--especially in the Southwest. While I spread my time and efforts fairly wide (and shallow), my paycheck officially reads "Bureau of Reclamation"--the agency that operates all the Colorado River dams, and the All-American Canal that you mentioned on the border with Mexico. I think that there is huge potential for violence in this infrastructure sector--by international groups (from Islamists, Iranians, Chinese, to disaffected Mexicans), environmentalists (anyone read Derrick Jensen's book "Endgame" openly advocating destroying all dams?), and far-right militia types (Arizona has no shortage) who are mad at the government. In parts of the Southwest, vulernability to water disruption is a significantly larger problem than vulnerability to energy disruption. I think your point about the need to reorganize around watersheds underscores a larger point: the vulnerabilty to intentional disruption is a major additional argument in favor of decentralization of energy and water infrastructure. Not just electricity, but also water can be decentralized as far as to the household level, even in places like Tucson, where 11" of annual rain on a 2000sf roof is sufficient given enough conservation and storage. Golf courses may have to go, but...

Hello JeffVail,

Thxs for your reply. Unfortunately, My Asphalt Wonderland's leaders are profit oriented versus seeking true long-run sustainability:,1249,660201472,00.html
Six years of drought have dropped the Colorado River reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell to their lowest level in nearly 100 years of recorded history, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

A plan that would help the federal agency coordinate water delivery during such extreme shortages at the two reservoirs is now ready for public review. The draft environmental-impact statement poses four possible action alternatives, plus a no-action choice. Bureau staff, five federal agencies, water-rights stakeholders, environmental organizations and other interested parties assisted in drafting the plan.

It just blows my mind that our Governor has not already declared a moratorium on building and population inflow to help mitigate future problems: nobody can move in unless someone else moves out! Our State Drought Emergency Preparedness Plan won't even begin to consider this step [page 12 of PDF below] until we reach the the dire, extreme level--is that nuts or what!

Consider if a major San Andreas earthquake hit SOCAL: the cascading blowbacks would instantly force the 'Terminator' to the extreme measures in my original post as he desperately tried to restart the SOCAL economy. Katrina's sad effects upon Nawlins would be seen as a piece of cake compared to what a huge earthquake could due to California, then the cascading effects spreading outward across the rest of the US.

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

I just can't believe that there isn't a moratorium on using municipal water (either fossil aquifers or Salt River Project) for landscape & garden, and a requirement that all new construction have rainwater catchment systems. Simple steps can do so much, but this just seems so obvious?

Hello JeffVail,

It all boils back to the infinite growth and profit-concentration motive: Tiger Woods, and the other PGA professionals, are not interested in plowing an urban golf course into a vegetable garden to help others; they prefer to further increase their wealth at the expense of others. Notice that the homeless are not invited to build squatter's shacks around the 18th green to add to the golfing challenge.

Same with my city leaders: tourism bucks combined with the selling of McMansions along golf courses, huge evaporative non-natural man-made lakes, and other water features is more elite-remunerative than adopting the wise mindset of the Sci-fi "Dune" inhabitants.

Car washes for the 'chrome penis' is a huge industry here; god forbid that an extremely thin microlayer of dust reduces the sheen on the automotive bling of their babe-magnet. I know many people that get their vehicles washed and waxed weekly-- this lovingly applied rubdown is strictly ego-driven auto-masturbation-- not to reduce road grime, mud, and bug buildup [Phx is devoid of this], but a citywide display of auto eroticism. Because Arizona doesn't use road salt and the sun is always shining: aftermarket sales of hugely expensive, but very shiny and eye-catching custom machined wheels is booming, it is hard to find a late model SUV, Pickup, or Hummer that does not have this 'must-have' accessory.

I think the Phx area can adapt to high gas prices and no A/C relatively peacefully postPeak; pedaling twenty miles won't be a problem for most people [We can learn to sweat and stink]-- IMO, it the looming food and water shortages that will send them over the edge.

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

I live on catchment and it works well. The main problems that I foresee are potential drought and filtering the water if everything goes to hell (no pumps/filters/no heat for purification). But I'd rather have some dirty water than no water.


If she implemented anything which remotely curtailed growth, the esteemed Governor of AZ (who graduated from my HS a couple of years before I) would be tossed from office faster than Ev Meachem was back in the '80s. Is she going for re-election?


Hello JoulesBurn,

Thxs for responding. I don't know if she wants to run again--maybe a run for the Senate is her plan. I just hope our AZ leaders wise up quickly to what lies ahead by jumpstarting mitigation, otherwise I imagine this local themepark will be transformed into our future Apocalypto [I certainly hope not!]:

Remember the French Revolution? Imagine freshly severed heads rolling down the waterslides as the crowd goes wild.

Edit: Hopefully, the Az elite never say, "Let them eat cacti!"

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


I'm curious that you should mention "environmentalists" among the groups of potential violent actors. Coming from a security professional, I'm wondering if it means that you actually have any experience or information about the existence of "eco-terrorist" groups, or whether you're just trying to cover all the bases?

It's a difficult area--discussing environmentalists as threats--because I largely agree with their motivations, just not with their methods (I think moving towards a self-sufficient, de-centralized economy is a better solution). If you look at the archives of Green Anarchy magazine, they have written detailed articles about the need to target and attack the domestic power and water grids. In addition, prominent primitivists Derrick Jensen and John Zerzan both advocate, to some degree, this kind of infrastructure insurgency. I think that the violence coming from extreme environmentalists has the potential to really escalate in the next few years as it becomes ever more clear that our industrial society is causing irreprable harm to our planet's ability to support life--which will be exacerbated by things like Peak Oil, economic difficulties, more erratic weather, etc.

But in general, the notion that environmental extremists will move from their present targeting of symbolic targets to a more intelligent targeting of key infrastructure is not widely accepted in the intelligence community--it's more my notion that the same kinds of innovations that are proving their effectiveness overseas will begin to be adopted by domestic groups.


As described in the Patriot Acts I & II
is a variable, NOT a literal object (in programing parlance.)

Man has nearly always have had war with a Literal enemy.
It was the Greeks, Romans, Celts, Germans, Japanese,

Now it is a "Terrorist" .

Look up the definition in the Patriot Act and you will see that it's meaning('Value' in programeze) CHANGES with it's Content at the moment.

Right now it's meaning is Islamoterrorist.

Tomorrow it may be 'Ecoterrorist'.
Or people with guns or whatever is needed. Your group may in the future be used for a time.

Remember what the guy from the peacecorp(davebygolly) said how it works..

Or maybe I'm wrong.

Read John Brunner "The Sheep look up" if you can get hold of a copy at your local library or used book store (or Amazon).

I am just struck what a bright guy he was.

He called the "eco-terrorists" the "Trainites" as their "founding father" is called Austin Train.

May be we need a "Austin Train" in the real world. May be we need a "Handbook for 3000 AD". May be this website is it.

Carpe Diem,

J. Dähn

Things aren't nearly that bad. SoCal could get by on water from NorCal, Owens Valley, recycling, and desal if it had to. Of course, Arizona and Nevada don't have those options, so they would be much more vulnerable to an extension of the current drought.

Hello Drwater,

Are you saying that California is willing to give up its 4.4 million acre/feet/year to the other States and Mexico? I think a large percentage of SoCal farmers and water-rights lawyers will be looking for you shortly, but us Arizonans will gladly award you posthumous honors-- hell, we will even give you sainthood! =)

I Respectfully disagree. CA gets 59% of the total Lower Basin allotment even though the natural boundaries of the Colorado River watershed doesn't extend very far into California political boundaries. Basically, CA contributes nothing in rainfall/snow, but gets the lion's share of the water--analogous to the US taking all the MidEast's oil for free. This following link clearly illustrates why I think the whole Compact needs extensive renegotiation, or else terrible conflicts will erupt over water:

Lots of lawyers have earned a good living trying to repeal gravity [water flows uphill towards money], but eventually Nature will gravitationally reassert that water will flow downhill within the basin in which it first lands. It only makes sense to 'go with the flow'--it will prove to be the most energy-efficient and environmentally sound in the long run.

If CA's allotment was allowed to naturally flow into the Sea of Cortez: I think the dollar value of the restoration of this fishery back to world class status would far exceed the dollar value of the present CA food crops. My two cents.

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

Hello Bob,

I was not saying that California would willingly give up its allotment - far from it. I was only saying that urbanized Southern California has enough other water options that it could get by if it had to without the situation necessarily deteriorating to the degree you postulated. Of the 4.4 million acre-feet supplied through the Met. Water District, only 0.7 million acre-feet is from the Colorado River. You can see this in their Urban Water Management Plan:

The Southern California desert farmers are entirely dependent on the Colorado River and are therefore in the same boat as Arizona and Nevada.

I enjoyed your post and agree that parallels to the Nigerian oil situation could happen in the water arena someday - they certainly did in the past. I just don't see a high possibility for the scenarios you described. I think it more likely to be "sharing the pain" between Southern California desert farmers and the other compact states.

I agree that the amount of urbanization of the deserts seems to be getting out of hand compared to the reliable resource base. This whole system of perpetual growth doesn't make sense in a finite world.

Things aren't nearly that bad. SoCal could get by on water from NorCal, Owens Valley, recycling, and desal if it had to. Of course, Arizona and Nevada don't have those options, so they would be much more vulnerable to an extension of the current drought.

Jeff: This is a great post and a chilling one. I know that there are terrorism researchers who count terrorism incidents around the world to measure trends etc. Do you know if anyone is counting violent incidents in Nigeria to get an idea of how far the trend has gone?


I'm curious if the situation as documented by Jeff changes your opinion that we may get through this sans catastrophic and bloody global warfare?

As far as the info you seek: I take you saw the report that says there has been a 700% increase in terrorism since the war in Iraq started?

There are people counting both number and type of incidents in Nigeria, but I don't have a good, open-source report to refer you to. The State Dept's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" used to be an excellent source for this kind of information, but it was discontinued in 2003 since it didn't show the desired decrease in terrorism since the "war on terror" started...

I have a major problem with bandying about the word terrorism. What counts as terrorism? I was in the Peace Corps in Nigeria long, long ago. The government was totally corrupt back then and all the governments since then have been corrupt -- corrupted by the US and the oil companies. Dissidents have been murdered. Meantime, the oil has brought no benefit to the majority.

I don't mind using the word terrorist as long as we are clear about who's doing what to whom for what reason. The war on terror is fundamentally a war on those who access impede to oil (and gas) by the US and its allies.

This doesn't mean that the distinction being made here by Jeff isn't important -- it is. There is a clear corollary to my way of thinking: would it not be far better to have popular governments who use the oil and derived revenue for the national interest in custody of the oil, even though they would drive a far harder bargain? But these governments our gov't accuses of terrorism or authoritarianism and seek to undermine and overthrow.

And why do we find the idea that our supply of oil will be impeded so frightening? We all here know that we are on the downslope. For whatever reason the oil is left in the ground a little longer, it seems to me that would ultimately be a benefit. The gov't here is pressuring all to keep up maximum production, thereby assuring a steeper cliff down the road.

I agree completely with your concerns about the use of the word "terrorism," but unfortunately it seems to be the word that we're stuck with. Internally--meaning when not in front of a microphone speaking to reporters--the military and intelligence community use a variety of much more accurate terms: Anti-Coalition Militants, Anti-Capitalist Insurgents, etc. The problem with this is that it requires constant explanation, and distracts from whatever the central argument is. That doesn't really excuse the inaccuracy, but c'est la vie.

As for the fear of impeded oil supply, I think that--after a period of significant pain--the end result has the possibility of being more positive than negative. I think that the more significant implication is for the theory that we'll somehow be able to bring alternative, sustainable energy supplies on-line in time to mitigate the effects of peak oil production. While I don't think that we'll be able to make up the shortfall in time (or, possibly not ever), I think that the notion that energy infrastructure attacks will accellerate the base rate of declining production poses a serious challenge to those who think that the shortfall can be compensated for in time...

"...I think that the notion that energy infrastructure attacks will accellerate the base rate of declining production poses a serious challenge to those who think that the shortfall can be compensated for in time..."

Yes, agreed, but also there is a vested interest in the business of "protecting" against these attacks. That interest does not take a really long term view of things. For them, the worse the better -- short of total collapse soon.

Since reading an article in the New Yorker (wikipedia account) a while back, I've had this half-baked idea for an article or something, contrasting centralized/authoritarian control with distributed/local controls. I just wanted to thank you for putting your ideas on the web, buttressed with facts and examples.

Due to a lack of writing skills and/or motivation, I've never gotten around to writing about the subject.

[edited 3/11 14:11z]
It occurred to me that the scale and scope of management for a given 'thing', should be proportionate to the 'thing'. The New Yorker article recounted examples of mismanagement on both the local and global sides of the water war:

  • Local: one village would compete with the next to drill deeper into the aquifer and further deplete it;
  • Global: a multinational corporation takes 'ownership' and puts a meter on the wells, demanding money the locals don't have.

Management at the level of the watershed could have avoided some of the deficiencies of either of the above plans, although of course it won't create new water where there was too little before.


It sounds like the point of your article is that if an extortion racket, such as the Nigerian terrorism situation, passes a certain profitability threshold due to the extortion payments being far less than the operating profits of the victims it becomes a self-feeding cycle. This is how every protection racket works though. I think this theory also assumes that guerrilla forces can act with impunity. Besides, if the extortionists are just in it for the money, they are going to be more timid and divided than Islamic extremists. I think the situation reflects the pathetic state of the Nigerian counter-insurgency operations more than it represents any sort of novel emergent economic phenomenon.

I agree that there are similarities to the forces working within any protection racket. The key difference here, however, is how this protection will react with the onset of peak-oil. If, as I think is likely, peak oil will result (at least in the first decade or so of peaking) in the price of oil running away from the production cost (talking about established fields, which are relevant for the purpose of this analysis, not new exploration), then there will be a powerful, outside force acting to escalate the level of extortion.

But I disagree with your assessment that this is really a failure of counter-insurgency, not a new development. Insurgency, when blended with free-market forces (as is happening in Nigeria), and combined with the kind of highly-distributed structure that makes its innovation-cycle and information-processing burden much improved over its hierarhal opponent, is becoming an entirely new animal. We are seeing what I think is a weaker example of these phenomena in Iraq and Afghanistan (those insurgents are more hierarchal, the terrain is less permissive, and there is a less-developed free-market structure at work), and yet the US, led by perhaps the worlds foremost thinker on counter-insurgency (Gen. Petraeus), is failing. Significantly, Gen. Petraeus has stated that the Iraqi insurgency cannot be defeated militarily--that a political component to the solution is needed. That is exactly the solution that is not available in Nigeria, where profit-motive has much more completely replaced political-motive among the Ijaw militants.

Thanks for this very good post.

Finally, because of the shift from a political motivation to a profit motivation, militants are no longer invested in preserving the long-term viability of Nigeria as an oil exporter.

Comments: Similar in Iraq - the occupier, the puppet Gvmt., the ‘militants’, ‘insurgents’, or grass roots ppl on the ground are all struggling to control resources. Their arms, respectively, are: the power to write the law (US occupier - eg. the first versions were written in English only, I read), the power to vote it in and use its implementation for personal gain (puppet parliament, regional potentates, the politically influential) and the power on the ground, which is mixed, from smuggling oil to controlling transport routes (levy) to bombing to shutting down production entirely... using ways to by pass or destroy the official system. How these forces interact is at present more or less unknown in the West (?) and serves to point to lack of control.

Old style colonialism was concerned with Gvmt. and control of people on the territory, either thru economic enslavement (an Anglo tick) or through complete ideological and social structure domination (eg. Spain.) Even in such contrasted examples, the number one aim was always to have, on the ground, an orderly scene, where roles and negotations that could be played out, and where, say, gold mining or coffee growing would not be destroyed with matches (that old tool!) or machetes, or indigenous revolt.

This article brings back flashes of memories from Nigeria's extremely violent past.

I expect that if the Nigerian government finds it necessary to keep the oil flowing, they will. There is good reason why the Ijaw elders were very cautious about pushing their insurgency too far.

Simply put, if it is a problem to have the Ijaw population near oil installations, the Nigerian army could arrange to have them somewhere else. There is precedent for the Nigerian government brutally suppressing a revolt with massive loss to a civilian population, in the Nigerian government's blockade and war on the Biafran population. This civil war caused massive civilian casualties and led to a major famine in the Biafra region of Nigeria.

Of course you could try to argue that Nigeria is far too civilized to repeat this episode, but I expect that someone will get control of the Niger delta and will ensure that the oil flows. The only question in my mind is whether the Ijaw will survive.

To say the least this is not a pretty picture. Perhaps a bit of conservation might be in order to ease the supply crunch.

I would have to say that I consider this post to be exceedingly important. I hints at why I have been dissatisfied by the too sanguine analysis by Stuart Standiford. Standiford's analyses of why we may have seen the Twilight in the Desert of course is as good as it gets. Others have like RR and Dave Cohen have criticized him along the familiar lines. Which views are correct, I haven't a clue.

But when Stuart dismisses the the doomers of TOD with hardly a sniff, I have become uneasy. His notion that SA's decline is only 1% of world supply is of course accurate. His conclusion that this is within the range of what the world economy can adapt to is also possible. But the problem is that adaptation to declining oil production assumes that the nexus of relations which keep the global economy functioning will continue to cohere. Rationality will prevail.

Jeff Vail's post opens the door to world of the nonlinear. The world in which the fluttering of a butterfly's wings will contribute the hurricane on the other side of the planet. I guess that is why the TOD's doomers have shown up in such numbers. (Count me somewhere in this crowd even though a am hoping for Stuart's more sanguine world.)

I guess that the soft landing vs. hard landing scenarios depend on concerted mitigation a la the Hirsch report. I do not see that as possible. And even the soft landing will feel pretty hard. No, I do not see the invisible hand of the economy solving this one.

In the meantime, Bob Shaw's world (which makes me gasp) becomes closer all the time. Jeff, you are on the right track. I hope to read more of your stuff here.

And TOD, I hope we can learn to think about the nonlinear, irrational responses to PO without resorting to foaming. Jeff opens the door to that way of analysis. Let's go there.

Hello Yosemite Sam,

Thxs for the mention, but I am merely speculating; extrapolating from trends. I make no guaranteed claims on what the future will really be. If a huge solar breakthrough occurs in PV or some other tech: instead of a human migration northward, it might instead be the reverse, and Arizona would be flooded with people wanting to live in A/C comfort, drive electric vehicles, have plenty of water & food from desalinized seawater pumped up from Mexico, and so on. We could be the KSA of exportable solar power with our 300 days of intense sunshine, and our having very few tornadoes and earthquakes would tend to not threaten its resiliency or uptime. Who knows? Until, and IF this breakthrough ever occurs-- the precautionary principle says: in the meantime, migrate to someplace in a lesser degree of Overshoot.

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

I believe that one's view of the future is shaped mainly by their current surroundings. If you are surrounded by wealth and privilege, you likely see a soft landing. If you are surrounded by lower middle class and lower, you will see a hard landing. It helps to remember that a very small percentage of our population falls into the wealthy percentiles.

Where I am, 10% or more are on public assistance. I see plenty of people struggling just to get by. I also see a younger generation that is a real dichotomy. Part of them are aware, active, and brilliant. But a larger part is rude, lazy, and ignorant. They are so wound up with their cell phones, ipods, cigarettes, etc., that they don't give a damn if they walk into old people and literally knock them over. They could care less about anything beyond the realm of their cell phone.

The magic that is supposed to happen via technology, the magic that will solve the energy problems, will require lots of public involvement and assistance. I don't see the rude, lazy youngsters changing their attitudes, and I see that the struggling masses haven't got the will or capacity to cooperate. Yes, that's great if they come out with some new vehicle that everyone should have. But having been there myself, there are many who just won't be able to participate no matter what -- and they are not a small portion of society -- they are a majority. Even most middle-class folks are in enough debt already that they couldn't afford to put solar panels on their roofs, let alone make all the other changes that might be required. And I personally suffer no delusions that the wealthy will willingly buy those solar panels or vehicles for the poor.

It's not so much the nature of the problem but the scope of the problem that makes it insurmountable in my mind. A community can come together to solve some of its problems, but on a mass scale there will be horrible social costs. I would like to see one of the optimistic folks put together a plan for the whole Los Angeles area on how you would get all of those diverse communities cooperating to solve the problem regardless of their incomes or attitudes. It isn't going to happen.

Because of what I see around me, I expect a very hard landing.


Great Post. I have two children in their 20's and I am not hopeful. Many talented kids many with degrees and have no future work prospects. They are in large disillusioned with it all.

If middle class hits 3-4 lost paychecks in a row, is hurting. If anything happens to their 401's their toast.

I would like to know the number of people who are working who are making less than they were 5 years ago.

It in large will be a long painful process of letting go of things that no longer make sense. Gas powered leaf blowers. A thousand electrical things that are always on. NASCAR. Each will be a change in the way we define ourselves.

Remember those signs in the 50's and 60's "We've Got Air Conditioning" always with a frosty look. No/Reduced Airconditioning is I think the secret killer for the south.
From 2010ish on it will no longer be a divine right for every person. The majority of people who grew up since the 80's never new anything else.

Not Good Times. As You said, it will be like herding cats to change the diverse population when we need to all turn in unison like a school of fish. Everyone turn left NOW.


Thanks JC.

I know a lot of people who are scraping to get by. On the surface, they look to be middle class or better: Nice car, nice house, etc. But they are up to their eyeballs in debt, both working, and anything unplanned for is a crisis. Car need repairs? Need some special uncovered medication? Got an uncovered illness? Roof falling apart? Basement leaking? Every one of them is a crisis and either results in more debt or it just doesn't happen.

Now suppose you tell these folks that they really need a new car because they won't be able to afford/get gasoline. For most of them, getting a new car would mean they need to sell the old car. But guess what, with what we are facing that old car is going to be useless junk that no one wants. That means they need to trash a good, but useless vehicle and fork over all the dough for a new one. OUCH. Combine that with solar or whatever for the way.

And then ask them to accept major changes to their lifestyle when hyperinflation is eating them alive. And yes, I see hyperinflation as the only solution to the problems the government has created -- albeit a temporary one before the crash.

In many areas, like Los Angeles, you have an incredible melting pot from all over Asia, Mexico, and even Central and South America. The majority of them are NOT well off. Many of them don't even speak English. They share different cultures. How in the world do you pull off the left turn?

I think peak oil, whether it is geologic or geopolitical, will be the end of the middle class on down. And even some upper middle class folks might not feel so rich as it progresses. I'm set up pretty well, but I'm surrounded by many people who aren't. One of my biggest fears is the lazy gangster class deciding to take the fruits (quite literally) of all of my labors towards ELP. I don't mind sharing our produce, but when the SHTF, those who want produce need to help work the farm or perform other labor in exchange.

As we work our butts off every day, most of our neighbors sit on their duffs drinking beer and watching ESPN. We're getting old and we can't possibly do all of the labor to feed the neighborhood--at least not for long. Sixty is only 2 years away and the old bodies truly aren't what they used to be. That's part of the reason we've been in such a hurry: We want to get everything in place while we are still capable of it. Digging holes 5 years down the road would likely kill us rather than just make us wish we were dead.

BTW, I feel bad for your kids. I can't imagine what it must be like to be young, with your life ahead of you so to speak, and to face all of the energy issues, geopolitical issues, climate issues, economic issues, etc---all of a magnitude that I think is way beyond what we've ever experienced in the collective lives of the majority of those now living. Probably the only ones with a true sense of what the future holds are those that lived through the great depression.

I came of age in the late 60's, and faced a job market of stagflation, few opportunities, energy crises, etc. But I think the 70's era of stagflation is going to look pretty good in hindsight.

Even I, little Ms. ELP, don't want to depart with my beloved old 240Z that I bought new in 1971. It's been a part of my life for 36 years. I used to joke that when I couldn't fix it anymore or it rusted to the point of being unsafe, I would turn it into a planter. That may happen now for other reasons. I just keep telling myself that it would look great sprouting orchids!!! Humans are EMOTIONAL and not always rational.

Yes, technology can solve the problems. But technology isn't going to solve the logistics of getting it all in place and dealing with human nature. I estimate that technology will solve it --- but for 20% of the world's population MAX.

Thanks. I have a 2 year old Grandaughter too.
I'm a couple years behind you, graduated in 71.
Had a 74 Porsche 914 2.0 I felt the same about.

So with my grandaughter and wife and two daughters, I can't just sit on the porch and watch it happen. We are making our plans.

Fare thee well

I wish you all well. Keep posting and let me know how it turns out.

Park your 240Z where it has full sun exposure and use it as a solar dehydrator! The two of you need never part.

I never thought of that. We get lots of sun, but also lots of rain. But a clear plastic greenhouse around it would work great and they are abundant here. Another plus is that even if it was no longer running, it could be pushed (as long as the tires hold air) to a better place in the sun (if need be).

Hmmmm, thanks for the idea!!!

The death of my 240Z will be a toughie for me....kind of like knowing your leg is going to get gangrenous and you'll have to cut it off at some point. You keep delaying and delaying....

It was all fun while it lasted. BTW, regarding air conditioning, it was always a major luxury when I was growing up. I was 50 years old before I ever had a house with A/C. And my first and only car with A/C, my 86 300ZX, was purchased when I was 37. I remember being in awe of this luxury well into my adult years. We lived in Paso Robles when I was about 5, and it gets really hot in the summer. My granny used to hang wet towels in the windows to cool the house -- the swamp cooler effect....

As I look back, my granny gets more respect than anyone. With only a 6th grade education, she was incredibly self-sufficient and inventive. If the world had fallen away around her she would have been the one to survive. She grew much of her own food, she kept chickens for eggs and meat, she canned, she made all of her clothes, she did hard labor every day. She was always very poor but never felt that way, in fact, she felt blessed. She grew up in the deep south as one of NINE children. So it is possible to live with very little and be extremely happy.

Fortunately, as a young girl I was fascinated by the things she did and always wanted to "hELP." I learned so much from that old gal. Maybe that's why I see ELP as a good thing -- no matter what happens--since I was exposed to so many positive aspects of it as a child.

There aren't a lot of good reasons for optimism. But If you have the money, get the DVD put out by Community Solutions, The Power of Community. It is the story of how Cuba dealt with a severe oil shortage when the Soviet Union collapsed. It is very inspiring.

I've heard that is very good -- I should spring for it. Gary and I have been working with a group of people who are very interested in our district's future. During the first meeting, each person brought up their #1 concern. I was the only one of 25 people to mention peak oil, and only one other person even knew what that meant (besides Gary).

So we are working with the planning commission to try and address issues for the area, and I've been pushing on transit and medical care and hammering the energy/geopolitical issues. A plan is slowly coming together, but it is a 2050 plan. I keep saying, "THAT IS TOO LATE. You need to shave at least FORTY YEARS off of the timetable." Part of the reason I'm pessimistic is that the planning commission says they will have trouble meeting 2050 for some of the most critical items -- let alone meeting them in 2010. Most folks just don't get that we don't have a choice. It's do or die.

Many TODer's worry about our credibility if we are wrong about the date of peak oil. I'm here to tell you that the folks that are even aware of it are a very small percentage of the population, and no one but me had any idea who CERA is....

The movie is hopeful in that it shows that emergency measures can be taken on a mass scale. I understand the film is very accurate. I was wondering if they cherry picked the good stuff. But I saw a scholarly book put out studying what Cuba did, well, there it was...Permaculture, amongst other things.

While opinions here differ, I agree with you that time is limited. I don't think we have tens of years to mitigate the effects of PO, I think we have (several) tens of months.

Tempus fugit.

It is good. High level of "ass-kickery"

But the notion think what happened in Cuba is applicable to the majority of North America? That is "ass-hattery." See Baghdad, New Orleans, inner-city Detroit, or any of the meth ravaged backwater towns. Then think what these place will look like with fuel only available at $10 a gallon and that's what NA is facing.

I hope to be the hell out of here before too long.

Chimp: Good point. I've been to Cuba and it certainly appears to be one of the safest places on the planet in terms of violent crime. They claim it is safe for tourists to hitchhike there (didn't test it). There have been some articles lately re some USA towns near LA that are basically run by Mexican gangs. Should be interesting.

Hi Chimp,

Maybe they will look like New Delhi but without New Delhi's population problem?

Pop USA 281 million

Pop India 1004 million

Land mass USA 9,629,091 Km²

Land mass India (including disputed territories) 3,166,414 Km²

You have less than a third of the population with three times the land doesn't that feel better? Especially if you dig curry, eh? Up here in Canada we have even more land mass, even less population and dig curry but most of that land mass is only fit to grow icicles.

I believe that one's view of the future is shaped mainly by their current surroundings. If you are surrounded by wealth and privilege, you likely see a soft landing.

Ding! Ones view of the world is always by past experience.

The people who are advocating that 'the markets will provide' or the even more comical 'lets burn all the excess wood and make charcoal for batteries' seem to fit that mold of 'had it easy'. Hell, I've had it easy compared to many others I live around. It is 'uncomfortable' to tune your radar to the poor, but once you do listen to what they are saying - exactly HOW will 'the rich' stop 'the poor' from overrunning what they have and taking it?


Thxs for the mention, but I am merely speculating; extrapolating from trends. I make no guaranteed claims on what the future will really be.

Exactly. And what Jeff's post works on is to open up a new kind of way of thinking for TOD. We (meaning Stuart, work on crunching numbers to sort out the real from the unreal--and trying not to speak whereof what we know not. A very noble endeavor.

But once one begins to extrapolate the significance of peaking oil, the numbers become of much less use. And even the ability to extrapolate becomes more difficult because some below-the-radar factor becomes primary. That leads us to books like The Long Emergency which has a bit too much certainty for me. (I like the book and recommend it as thought experiment--but not as possessing predictive powers.)

But what I like about Jeff Vail's post is that he shows us hints at a methodology to work at bringing more causal factors to light. You seem to have the same bent.

Hello Yosemite Sam,

I am not positive on this fact, but it is rumored that Simmons' sequel to "Twilight in the Desert" is supposed to be about the diminishing returns of the FF-industry: inflation overruns, rusting rigs, retiring workers, miles & miles of pipelines needing replacing, fewer places to drill, geo-political problems, declining ERoEI, refinery accidents,... on and on. If cheap oil and minerals is truly over-- then the below-the-radar infrastructure problems, and other non-linear effects start to assert blowback primacy.

Like 'Twilight', in Simmon's next book: I expect hundreds of references, charts & graphs, more photos, calculations and other data carefully detailed to really drive his postPeak message home. I hope he hires SS and Khebab as his key data-freaks too, although I think any of the TopTODers could do a bang-up job for Simmons. =)

I think his next book will be a blockbuster bestseller because it will be much less speculative than 'Twilight' [from the lack of KSA oilfield transparency]; it will have a lot for carefully reasoned calculation and trend extrapolation derived from hardcore facts. I can hardly wait.

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

Firstly, it's a very minor point, but I only have one "d" in my last name.

Secondly, I'm not blithely sanguine about the risk conflict poses as a response to our various global problems. I agree that it's the most serious risk. Peak oil is probably technically soluble, but the rush to ethanol suggests that society is certainly not starting with the best solutions.

What I object to is the folks who have decided for sure that the situation is hopeless. I just don't think that's a well justified view, and IME tends to represent someone's fixed misanthropy rather than being based on thinking open-mindedly about the developing situation. Rushing off to a rural region and stocking up on weaponry is at least as irrational a response to peak oil as subsidizing the process of turning food crops into vehicle fuel. Humanity doesn't have a completely fixed pattern of response to events. While we do lots of dumb things, we also do some smart ones (eventually). For every Hitler, there is a Roosevelt. Etc. It's too soon to know how it will all play out.

Ooops--Sorry! How can I have seen your name so many times and still swear that there are two d's in your name.

I do not think I said "blithly" sanquine. I guess my meaning would be more like a "comparatively" sanguine position vis a vis many on TOD. But then you added this:

I agree that it's the most serious risk.

That sentence certainly does change how I have understand your work here. Thanks for the correction.

FWIW,my gloominess does not come from an inherent hopelessness in the PO problem. But having read the Hirsh report and combining his version of "mitigation" with some of my own views, and that running through my "inner spreadsheet", I see us sailing straight into PO and not being aware of it for years. We are not likely to have begun mitigation until well after the peak.

What I object to is the folks who have decided for sure that the situation is hopeless.

I agree. On the one hand, Matt Simmons' statement that Jim Kuntsler could turn out to be an optimist is on one end of the spectrum. And on the other, competent enlightened leadership with education of the populace and a few lucky breaks could bring us to a new life. But I do not see it as continuing on with the consumer, globalized world that we have today. Many of us will have to be growing our own food and living a much smaller life.

But challenged to make my best guess based on the entrenched denial that we will encounter? Well, as my Swedish gramma used to say....Ufda!

BTW, thanks for your work here. Best wishes.

competent enlightened leadership with education of the populace and a few lucky breaks could bring us to a new life.

If you can help sell a vision like "Sustainability" as something the public wants, either grassroots or top-down, you might help bring it about.

I figure the problem is two-fold:

  1. The promise has to be attractive (otherwise nobody will want it).
  2. It has to work, and be provably realistic (otherwise the nay-sayers can't be debunked).

If we can find something that satisfies both requirements we have a good prospect.  It might be along the lines of "Sustainability", it might be quite a bit different.  But whatever it is, it's going to be something we can do with relative ease and show fairly soon.

decline is only 1% of world supply is of course accurate. His conclusion that this is within the range of what the world economy can adapt to is also possible.

From a US prospective:
Go look at comments by "the poor" - '(I/we) will do what (I/we ) gotta do to get by'. As food prices (or even gas prices) increase outside the ability of the poor to cover, how much of the 'do what they gotta do' will happen and how will their 'doings' effect you?

The group of people who say 'The technology exists to make the transition but if such transition fails it will be the fault of politics' don't seem to offer up a way for the poor to be kept in enough bread and circuses to prevent mass rioting/revolt. How much of the social programs of the last 1960's were to show 'the communists' wrong, to put a lid on a boiling pot of revolt, or just "the right thing to do" - in the same way abolishment of slavery was seen as 'the right thing to do'

Whereas north America has been drilled pretty much comprehensively, with only the remote Arctic area to act as a 'reserve', it seems to me that Africa has mostly been a coastal operation. Angola, Congo and the coastal states have their oil operations but what of the interior? The Sahara Mediterranean possibilities are known and exploited, but why should we assume that the interior is less 'oily' than the coast?

Economically, especially in a region with a politically difficult interior, it is easier to exploit the readily accessible coast as a first choice, as the idea was to export the oil rather than sell it in a domestic market. How much oil remains inland is a mystery. Even Nigeria seems to only have been coastally developed and it is doubtful that the geological formations were cognizant of where the coastline would be. I expect that we have only tapped the fringes of Africa, whereas the other continents are for the most part at least explored if not drilled.

In this regard CERA may have a point. Nobody was factoring in the North Sea or the Orinoco in 1970. Until we know what Mali, Chad, Uganda and so forth DON'T have, we are making a huge assumption. I haven't a clue how much oil is in Africa, so it would be nice to hear from someone who does. How much is further up the Niger?

This is interesting speculation, Jeff. However, I would have hoped for more documentation of your main thesis, especially as it pertains to Nigeria. I count only 1 link in your post, and no other references, and the one link does not deal with Nigeria at all.

My own work on this subject, the only story devoted to the subject on TOD as far as I know, was Nigeria is a Mess and Getting Worse, published in February, 2006.

Some people like to hear really bad news, while others like to spread it. Now, MEND has been threatening to "shut down" Nigerian production in the Delta for some time now. This has not yet occurred, but it may. Or, perhaps the "fix" is in, and nothing severe will happen. Who knows? I would also assume that there have always been rogue elements among the rebels working in the Delta and offshore there.

I'm a bit disappointed that there are not more journalistic details in this post which would allow further investigation and verification.

I'm no longer willing to take anybody's word for a story anymore, having been lied to by some of the best. Not that I am implying that you are lying, I just want some more detail before I start believing something.


I agree with you 100%. In fact, my greatest hesitation in writing this was that I don't have data that I can share to back up the key parts of my argument. I asked myself--if someone else said to me "I have the data, but I can't share it with you," would I believe it? Almost certainly not. I'm treading in relatively murky ground as it is, so I decided that rather than push the envelope too far I'd instead try to make my argument as "fuzzy" as possible. I realize that this is the antithesis of the normal analysis at TOD. However, I think that the basic framework of my argument is valuable in the absence of sourceable and specific data on attacks:

- There is an ethnicity & oil driven problem in Nigeria
- There was a centralized MEND strucure that produced a certain dynamic (phase 1)
- If the second (positive-feedback) environment that I describe comes into existence, it will precipitate an entirely different dynamic (phase 2)
- That second dynamic portends significant ramifications

All of those points are either well established or logically follow from well established points. The missing link is, as you point out, the data establishing that the situation has transitioned from phase 1 to phase 2. Even in the absence of that data, the framework that the argument lays out is valuable (I hope) in that it provides a context to better understand reporting on incidents in Nigeria, and to be able to more quickly arrive at the conclusions I have arrived at when the sufficient data is publicly available.

I don't couch the article with a warning that it is unsupported by data because there IS ample data to support my conclusions. All that said, I fully understand your reluctance to accept this at my word--I wish there was a better resolution available...

And you can't document the data because why? The data is not part of the public record because of security issues or something like that?

I will hold people posting at TOD to a high standard of journalistic excellence in all cases, even if it makes me apostate, an outsider, shunned, a pariah, tossed out, outcast, scapegoated... , which, it already has.

So what?

Howdy Dave,

I was referring to Jeff, not you. He was explaining why he did not put in references but left things fuzzy. I was asking why he left it fuzzy. Just a question.

In regards to you being an apostate,etc...whatever. I always read your posts and appreciate your curmudgeonlyness. Having said that, I don't know what your age is, but if you are in your '50's or younger, then you might have PCS (Premature Curmudgeon Syndrome). I have finally hit 60, so I am just a regular curmudgeon now--no claim to anything as wonderful as PCS. Sigh.

Seriously, high standards are good!! Very good!

repeat, for some unknown reason, since the website is using Drupal X.X and moving onward and upward!

Or, as Jim Kunstler ends his e-mails —

It's All Good!