The Cassandra of Toledo: A Requiem For Mitigation

This is a guest post by Mike Bendzela.

"Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?" (Ecclesiastes)

I have a lasting impression of Geology Professor Craig Bond Hatfield, University of Toledo, circa 1980: a no-nonsense man in white shirt and skinny tie, flattop buzz cut, and tortoise-shell glasses. At the outset of each class, he would draw a map of North America's coastline as it currently looks in freehand on the blackboard, and then lecture us on the past coastlines and sedimentary basins of the continent. To have several hundred million years collapsed into a few weeks of Hatfield’s course in Historical Geology is about as close as I’ve come to a mystical experience.

"One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever."

In late 2003, while reading an on-line article about something called "peak oil," I saw a bottom-of-the-page citation that permanently influenced how I view the subject:

Oil Back on the Global Agenda. Craig Bond Hatfield in Nature, Vol. 387, page 121; May 8,1997.

I decided that if Professor Hatfield was involved in the subject, it was clearly something that must be taken seriously. Another early article, "How Long Can Oil Supply Grow?" first published in 1997 by the M. King Hubbert Center, lays out all the peak oil arguments in a clear and succinct way – several years before forums like this one began giving voice to such concerns. His was among the earliest voices warning of oil shortages to come in the twenty-first century. Some articles of his go back to the early 1980s.

After a couple of years of dawdling, I decided to look up the professor again after not seeing him for over twenty-five years. You see, I never completed my geology major: that career-goal foundered on the shoals of math and chemistry. Now I'm an adjunct professor of English in Maine, and I use my writing course to inform students about the importance of such basic scientific concepts such as evolution and energy.

My visit to Mr. Hatfield's house was not done with this essay in mind. We spent most of the time catching up. He was curious about my life in Maine, and I was delighted to hear that his children had interests in common with me: His son is a paramedic in Ann Arbor (I'm a volunteer EMT); his daughter, a History professor in Austin, enjoys playing old time tunes on the fiddle, my favorite hobby, too.

Turning to peak oil: I was curious to know – as he hadn't written about the subject in years – if he had written anything lately that showed he was still of the opinion that oil was going to peak soon and that this was a bad thing. Little did I suspect the simple message he would give me:

"Michael, it's too late."

Recently I submitted a list of questions for Professor Hatfield to answer to get a better look at his current thinking on the subject.


Please summarize how you first got involved in publishing warnings about the energy crisis.

During the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, I taught annually a graduate course in petroleum geology to geology majors who were just about to complete their master's degrees and enter the petroleum industry in exploration for crude oil or natural gas. Throughout this time, I had to keep up with the current literature in petroleum geology, and by the late 1970s, it had become apparent to me that the petroleum industry, in the U.S. and globally, was becoming progressively less successful at finding oil. That is, in spite of steadily improving technology for exploration and drilling, and in spite of increasing rates of exploration for oil, global discovery rates were declining from a peak reached in the early 1960s. In other words, we were drilling more and finding less. This, coupled with the drop in U.S. oil production rate after 1970, is what made me start writing about future oil supply problems. The timing seemed opportune, because the temporary oil shortages of 1973 and 1979 had made the public aware of our dependence on oil. So in 1979, I started collecting rejection slips from editors of popular magazines and newspapers, and occasionally an article got accepted for publication.

You have called M. King Hubbert "the premier living authority on fossil fuels" (this was several years before he died in 1989). Had you ever met Hubbert?

I met M. King Hubbert twice. The first time was in March, 1956, in San Antonio, Texas, at a meeting of petroleum geologists and petroleum engineers. I was a 21-year-old undergraduate student at the time, and one of my geology professors had been kind enough to let me come along with him to the meeting. I heard Dr. Hubbert give the talk in which he first publicly predicted that U.S. oil production rate would reach its maximum between 1966 and 1971 and permanently decline thereafter. This was the talk on which his 1956 paper Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels was based. Being a typical undergraduate student, I didn't know my ankle from my elbow, so I did not have enough critical information to be able to evaluate his talk. But his conclusion about future U.S. oil production was clear enough. My professor introduced me to him after the talk, and I got to shake his hand. I was thoroughly impressed by all this, because Hubbert was already well known in geologic circles for his contributions to geophysical techniques useful in subsurface exploration. My second meeting with Dr. Hubbert came thirteen years later, in April 1969, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in Dallas, Texas. We met on an elevator in the convention hotel, and I told him that I had heard his 1956 talk and asked him if he still thought that U.S. oil production was about to stop growing and start declining. He said it would start to decline within the year. We talked for maybe an hour sitting in the hotel lobby – mostly about fishing. He was an avid fisherman (fresh water lakes – not deep sea).

You mentioned that you stopped publishing after your retirement in 1999 because "it's too late." Was there a specific moment or incident that prompted you to say "enough"?

Because development of large-volume, economical substitutes for oil is likely to require many years if not decades, and because I think that global oil production rate is likely to start declining around the year 2010, it seemed to me that, by 1999, when I retired, we probably no longer had enough time to develop substitutes for petroleum adequate to compensate for the coming decline in oil production rate. Also, on a more personal note, retirement meant that I no longer had to teach courses or direct master's theses, which in turn meant that it was no longer necessary to keep up with all the diverse and voluminous literature on petroleum geology and other energy matters. I eagerly anticipated this release but also realized that abandoning the current literature on energy would soon render me incompetent to write about oil supply problems. Besides, by 1999 I was in my mid-sixties and had been writing about long-term fuel supply problems for twenty years without discernible beneficial effect. This was discouraging; I was tired, and my wife and I were looking forward to permanent vacation, travel, play, and no alarm clocks.

Your 1994 article for the Journal of Geological Education, "A Permanent Solution to the Fuel-Supply Problem," states, "World oil production is likely to begin its permanent decline by...about 2020." Yet you mentioned to me that you were "pressured" by a representative of the USGS to use that date instead of your own estimate (mentioned in the Washington Post in 1997) of a "permanent decline before 2010." Have your ideas about the date changed?

I still think that global oil production rate is likely to reach its maximum and begin to permanently decline around the year 2010. Such a forecast, of course, is necessarily imprecise and is influenced by several unpredictable variables both geological and political. I would not be surprised to see world oil production rate start to decrease any time between now and 2013. I will if it does not start to diminish until after 2015.

You said that you haven't read the oil journals since you retired; yet you mentioned having read your friend Kenneth Deffeyes' recent book "Beyond Oil." Do you have any thoughts about his prediction (now a post-diction) that world oil production peaked at the end of 2005?

I think that Kenneth Deffeyes' prediction of Thanksgiving Day, 2005, as the time of maximum world oil production rate was a playful reflection of his sense of humor and was meant to draw attention to the fact that no one can know precisely when oil production rate will peak or precisely when it will begins its long-term decline. He probably thought that an obviously facetious forecast, far more precise than available data can permit, might at least draw some attention to the problem and its urgency. More power to him! Anything that might interest the public in this problem is worthwhile.

You stated pointedly in the Chicago Tribune, "Today's population and living standards cannot be maintained without continuation of the profligate fuel consumption that fostered them." That was back in 1983, when world population was a mere 4.6 billion (it is now circa 6.5 billion). Do you still believe, as you say at the end of that article, "we will experience...truly catastrophic effects" when fuel supply begins declining?

To gain an appreciation of the economic effect of decline in oil production rate, it may help to remember the oil shortages of the 1970s. Those shortages were largely political in origin, very temporary, and minor as well. Demand exceeded supply by a very few percent. Yet, we had rampant global inflation. We briefly had double-digit inflation even here in the United States. The world experienced economic hardship and strain on the global monetary system. Economic growth was severely impacted. If we can envision that situation on a permanent rather than temporary basis, with world oil production rate declining every year indefinitely into the future, then we can begin to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. Today, because of more efficient fuel use, we get more economic product per unit of oil consumed than we did in the 1970s. But this does not mean that economic growth and oil consumption have been decoupled. They are still strongly coupled. What I envision is, after a few years of decline in oil production rate, a situation reminiscent of the depression of the 1930s, except that this depression will be permanent and worsening rather than temporary and improving – until we develop a large volume, inexpensive substitute for petroleum.

You gave a talk titled "Limits to energy" in 1998 at the Gordon Research Conference on "Assessing Resource Limits." What sort of persons attended this conference, and what was the response?

I gave my the most prestigious audience I have even been honored to address. They included researchers in physics, chemistry, geology, biology, various fields of engineering, environmental studies, geography, and economics. Included were faculty from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, Penn State, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Stanford, and various universities in Europe, Australia, and Japan. Others worked in research and development at AT&T, Bechtel Corporation, Alcoa, General Electric, Worldwatch Institute, Monsanto, the EPA, the USGS, Motorola, General Motors, World Resources Institute, Bell Labs, and the National Science Foundation. Because of the nature of the audience, I prepared more fully thank for any other talk I've ever given, made super-clear, colorful power-point slides to accompany my statements, and even rehearsed my answers to every question that I could imagine might come in response to my talk. I was loaded for bear, and I gave what I am certain was the best talk of my career. Questions after the talk continued for about twenty minutes, and, luckily, I had anticipated every one of them. The response was the most positive I have ever received for a talk. I felt profoundly grateful for this good fortune with such an elite audience.

You've probably heard of Matthew Simmons' book "Twilight In the Desert," an expose of "the Saudi miracle." In the wake of declines in Burgan (Kuwait) and Cantarell (Mexico), everyone on The Oil Drum seems to be waiting with bated breath for confirmation that the super giant Ghawar field is also in decline. Do you think this to be as imminent and catastrophic as Simmons makes it out to be?

I did read Matthew Simmons' book. I lack expertise on the Ghawar oil field, but I have heard statements from other petroleum geologists who do have experience with the Ghawar field and whose views are not very different from those expressed in Twilight In the Desert. It will be interesting to see how long secondary recovery efforts can maintain Saudi oil production at or above its present level.

One of my favorite quotations for my writing students to ponder comes from your piece in the Hubbert Center Newsletter of 1997:

Our nation's current attitude toward this dilemma is serene apathy. We have no long-term energy plan. We don't even seem to recognize the existence of a long-term problem. Rather, we simply vacillate from panic to complacency in response to short-term shortages and surpluses.

Recent events have certainly borne that out. I find it ironic that complacency now reigns at $61 a barrel. Have you done anything to prepare for a possible Mother of All Panics?

A financial advisor whom my wife and I use did his master's thesis in geology under my direction a few decades ago. After working in petroleum exploration for several years, he left the oil industry and, with some additional training in other areas, joined A. G. Edwards as a financial consultant. He's been there for many years now. He has helped me choose energy stocks for our portfolio as a hedge against the coming oil supply problem, but he admits that owning the right energy stocks probably will not be adequate protection for the economic difficulty that declining oil production will bring. I have asked him what we should do, and he answered, "I don't know."

My thanks to Professor Hatfield for taking the time to provide such articulate answers.

"And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven... and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit....

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Articles by Craig Bond Hatfield

"How Long Can Oil Supply Grow?" Hubbert Center Newsletter, October 1997.

"The Oil We Won't Have." Washington Post. October 22, 1997.

Oil back on the global agenda. Nature, Vol. 387, page 121; May 8,1997.

"A Permanent Solution to the Fuel-Supply Problem." Journal of Geological Education, v. 42. p.432. 1994.

"Energy law won't solve oil problems." Toledo Blade. November 29, 1992.

"The Stage Is Set For Fuel Problems." Toledo Blade. December 7, 1986.

"The illusion of plentiful energy." Chicago Tribune. December 16, 1983.

"A Malthusian view of energy use." Chicago Tribune. April 25, 1983.

"Natural Gas Exploration." Letter-to-the-Editor, Science. January 7, 1983.

Ah. I've been waiting for this one. Great stuff.

Might be easier to follow with slightly different formatting, though. Italics for the questions, maybe? Or if they were just labeled Q. and A. It's kind of hard to follow what Mike is saying, and what Prof. Hatfield is saying.

Was working on that when you commented, L. :)

Hit thee digg and reddit and your favorite linkfarms!

This was one of the superb posts that makes it all worthwhile to keep TOD on my daily read list (despite the occasional flame wars). A historic post and a frightening one. Good job.

Alright everybody, so what are you doing? I have a location picked out that I think may have a shot of maintaining human dignity as the shit hits the fan. I'm visiting in 6 weeks for about 10 days.

Anybody else doing likewise? When somebody like Hatfield says "It's too late" does that not register somthing in your head? There ain't going to be no mitigation program unless you consider a nuclear war that wipes out hundreds of millions a "mitigation program."

You all do realize most of us are going to die if we stay put where we are? NA carrying capacity is 100 million and the positive feedback loops are going to keep a lot if not the majority of the second half of the global energy supply in the ground. (See Jeff Vail's post on Nigeria for an example of what I"m talking about.) so the fall from 300 million plus to 100 million is going to be swift, much swifter than I care to think about too much and that's before we even get to nuclear war. I hope to be the hell off the NA continent before the fall starts.

Yeah, yeah I know there are some hippie permaculturists who whill chime in and say "but we can feed 200 million with permaculture!" Yeah, if we do everything just right, sure. But we're not. We're doing everything completely wrong so if we fall to 100 million I consider that an optimistic scenario. Proably more like 50 million as we don't even have the skill set or psychology to produce enough food and get it distributed in order to feed 100 million.

Are you mixing amphetamines with your marijuana? Paranoid and speedy at the same time.


There's plenty of time to transition to a sustainable food production system. In the meantime, the importance of agriculture to the US economy will ensure it's continued access to the small percentage of overall oil/gas consumption that it uses to actually produce and distribute food. Of course the amount needed to produce and distribute real food, as opposed to say, Cheeze Whiz, is even smaller.

The good professor cited above appears to miss at least one important point. And that is that the important part of the peak oil event, declining eroi, has been underway for sometime, has already driven up the price of liquid fuel as the marginal production cost per barrel has increased, and that fuel saving adjustments are already being made in the economy.

Even as the US economy slows, as evidenced in declining freight transportation, the number of containers transported by rail is increasing. This process will continue and eventually the fuel savings from this change alone will keep the current food production model humming.

Mind you, slowly and inexorably the permaculture system will come to dominate food production. it will be a market driven, and, sooner or later, public policy supported, process. What you and others of the same frame of mind seem intent on not understanding is that the increase in food production over the past century was wealth driven and is not dependent on fossil fuels. The adoption of fossil energy inputs was a market, and public policy, driven process. With the fossil fuel resource declining, the market, and public policy, will change tacks. The relevant social question has to do with the distribution of wealth. But make no mistake, people will hitchhike and move in with others, before they forego food.

Elsewhere, the number of vacant houses in tax arrears will increase. Painful, yes. But not without opportunity for scavengers, urban farmers and so on. The density per household will increase. As will the density per passenger vehicle, as more cars sit idle in driveways or in used car lots.

In general, people are no where near as stupid, or as selfish, as you appear to think.

people are no where near as stupid, or as selfish, as you appear to think

Do the words "Blackwater", "Halliburton" and "the Bush administration" ring a bell for you? Apparently not.

If your statement were based an a realistic appraisal of the facts - instead of wishful thinking - we would not be in the situation we are in now. Nor would Bush have been elected (twice), nor would the the U.S. have invaded Iraq or launched a global, perpetual war for oil .. . I could go on but hopefully you get the point.

It should not be forgotten that the situation the US (and not only the US) is in now has been made possible by rising, pre-peak oil production/consumption. Post-peak, the legitimacy of the current regime faces erosion. Some can scamper away in fear of the results of this loss of legitimacy. The brave will stand and fight for a better way of doing things.

I do agree that the people post-peak will have their mush and gruel and occasional greens. To suggest this will be a pleasure is naive.

What you may consider permaculture is more dependent on fossil fuel imputs then 'conventionial' aggriculture for inter- and intrafarm transport of compost, manure, rock phosphate, calcium, etc. This stuff is now carted around the world for the convenience and pleasure of the organic consumer.

Actual localized bioregional agriculture does not in fact exist in the United States and though it might use less fuel, it is much more dependent on physical labor, recycled human wastes, and especially solar and water access that is not available in dense cities and suburbs.

You believe that folks will simply 'change tacks' That is virutally impossible in places like Phoenix Arizona, Denver Colorado, or Long Island New York where rich bottomlands do not exist. People would need to migrate to the farmlands to create a permaculture paradise. Would the farmer like this? Probably not. Land redistribution is usually resisted by landowners and has usually led to riot, revolution, fascist takeover.


Continually watching life get poorer for ones self, and more emotionally for ones children, is hard to take. One the other hand, I could live on a tenth the wealth I now have. Yeah, very little health care, no long trips, lots of vegetables and little meat - oh well - what a sacrifice. Perhaps our greatest pleasures will once again be time and conversation with the ones we love. It is genetically programmed to be that way, even if the distractions and ego trips of modern society seem to suggest otherwise. Unless we decide to kill each other, a not unlikely outcome to resource depletion, I have no doubt we can live on much less energy than Americans currently do.

What you may consider permaculture is more dependent on fossil fuel imputs then 'conventionial' aggriculture...

(You can always tell when someone knows what they're saying about "Permaculture" when they capitalize it -- it's a registered trade mark, and thus, a proper noun. Trade-marking was done, not to make money, but to rule out people saying things like "what you may consider" in regard to Permaculture. If you have an opinion about Permaculture and have not earned at least a Permaculture Design Certificate, please refer to "organic farming" or anything else instead.)

Have you actually read Mollison or Holmgren? I didn't think so!

Permaculture is not at all dependent on fossil fuel, although the wise investment of non-renewable resources is not ruled out.

Before you start to argue, let me note that I am a Permaculture Instructor, and have studied under David Holmgren.

:::: Jan Steinman, Communication Steward, EcoReality ::::

You don't appear to know how to cook. Onions, garlic, basil, wine vinegar, vegetable oil, chicken stock, a few ounces of meat, canned tomatoes, rutabaga, parsnip, lentils, a bit of cabbage, water, salt, and pepper made a great soup for my grandma in the 19th century, my folks in the twentieth, me now, and will be easily assembled five centuries from now, by my descendants, assuming they don't move to another part of the world where substitutes would be made.

One third of meals in the US today are fast-food take out, mostly tasteless reformulated industrial corn, sandwiched between nutrient deficient processed flour. One in five meals is eaten in the car, usually on the go.

Peak oil. Bring it on.

7% of caloric intake is from pop. Corn sweetner is our largest single source of calories.

Hi Chimp-formerly-known-as-AMPOD,

Thanks for your post. Have you seen the article up now on contributing to energy policy?

Some Qs:

1) Any hint on the location of your spot? (Which continent is it on?) I'm just curious, actually.

(I'm not planning to go much of anywhere, though have some ideas and limited opportunity...if others were interested. I just X'd out details, but I welcome emails (in general, anyway)). Well, anyway, most likely staying put. But thanks for bringing this up. It's very tough to think about (depending on one's circumstances, it seems to me.)

More local food effort, is what I take home from what you're saying.

I'm curious as to what you think might work and why?

2) Did you ever happen to look at the end of the article by Catherine Austin Fitts - (the one you suggested I read)- where she makes proposals at the end for how to "take back" one's local economy?

3) Did you notice that Prof. Hatfield seems to think people learning about "peak" is a good thing? (I wonder why that would be the case?)

4) Is anyone going with you? Or, are others already there? Honestly, I'm very curious about this. It seems to me that a lot depends on the ties one may (or may not) already have with other people. (Also, don't you live near Richard Heinberg? Isn't he planning to stay put?)

5) Re: North American food supply. Can you go into a little more detail on this? Do you expect immigration to be a factor? Lack of policies that are humane? Nothing at all to do? Or is it that the things that can be done you believe will not be done?

1) Any hint on the location of your spot? (Which continent is it on?) I'm just curious, actually.

I may disclose after my visit. Let's just say it has the following attributes:

population density under 50/mile
lots of sun and water
good soil
very isolated
not a nuclear target, and out of the fallout patterns. see:

YEs, the nukes are going to come out. The only reason they didn't on the way up is because we were on the way up! The downslope is a whole another story.

Stuart, for instance, is fond of saying "for every hitler there is a roosevelt." This sort of statement about an oil war fought during the heydey of the upslope shows that even somebody as smart, analytical, etc as Stuart has perceptual and intellectual (political?) filters that prevent him from truly understanding the implications of a sharply and permanently declining per-capita energy supply.

More local food effort, is what I take home from what you're saying.

Yes, but remeber "the law of attraction". If you're area has enough food but is not physically isolated, it will simply attract people from other areas thereby destroying whatever the advantages are.

2) Did you ever happen to look at the end of the article by Catherine Austin Fitts - (the one you suggested I read)- where she makes proposals at the end for how to "take back" one's local economy?

Catherine's stuff is GREAT. But it is way too late to "take back" anything, imho.

Furthermoe, even Catherine is not factoring in the coming nuclear war, at least as far as I know. She believes that the good guys win in the end. This is where our opinions differ. Where she forsees the good guys winning, I see a world plunged into permanent darkness with only small pockets of human dignity and reciprocal altruism existing. My goal is to make it to one of those pockets and try to make the best of a bad situation.

Geography will be the primary determinant of where the pockets develop, if and when they do develop.

3) Did you notice that Prof. Hatfield seems to think people learning about "peak" is a good thing? (I wonder why that would be the case?)

Who is learning?

Walk up to 1,000 people and ask them:

1. Do you know about Peak Oil?


2. What are you doing to prepare, mitigate, etc?

Come on, lets' get real. People aren't learning about it. There are about 5,000-10,000 of us who check the blogs. That's it.

There is no peak oil "movement" and there never will be a movement to address peak oil or any other limits to growth beyond a handfull of activists getting non-funded resolutions passed in cities that are prime nuclear targets. (portland and sf)

Follow the money:

1. how much are we spending on oil, oil wars, and mindless consumption?

2. how much are we spending on anything remotely construed as "solutions"

When you do the math, you see the trajectory we're on.

Compare the budget of CERA to the budget of TOD. See a pattern?

4) Is anyone going with you? Or, are others already there? Honestly, I'm very curious about this. It seems to me that a lot depends on the ties one may (or may not) already have with other people.

Things are in the planning stages, the big X factor being finances.

Most of NA will be turned into a nuclear wasteland. Getting off the NA continent is priority #1.

Even if only I make it off well at least one of us will have half a shot of surviving. There is not point in all of us staying here in NA and all dying equally horrible deaths.

(Also, don't you live near Richard Heinberg? Isn't he planning to stay put?)

Richard is almost 60. My guess is he doesn't care if he dies in the ensuing chaos. Heck, if gets another 10 years he will have lived to be 70, a ripe old age by historical or global standards. (I have no doubt he realizes and appreciates this.)

Last time I talked to him (right as ODP came out) he said he felt there was maybe a 1/100 chance it would work and that the most likely scenario is total global war.

Whether he is more or less optimistic/pessimistic today I do not know.

I think he has quietly accepted whatever his personal fate might be. He has said that if he were 30 years younger he would be in an intentional community reskilling himself.

5) Re: North American food supply. Can you go into a little more detail on this? Do you expect immigration to be a factor?

When Mexico's oil production crashes, the country will be flooded with refugees.

When the rolling blackouts are instituted the criminal elements (MS-13, for instance) and plain old normal people who have become desperate (that is everybody else) will get more and more aggressive with each subsequent blackout. This is the sort of positive feedback loop that will keep much of the second half of the world's energy supply in the ground.

Lack of policies that are humane? Nothing at all to do? Or is it that the things that can be done you believe will not be done?

Dude come on. Look at the trajectory we are on. Perpetual war for diminsihing resources. ARe you paying attention to the news these days? Billions for things like renewable energy but trillions for perpetual war. I have trouble seeing how we won't be in a full blown nuclear war by the time we are half way down the per-capita energy production curve:

Hey Matt, If you are visiting my neighborhood, drop by. We are on the passenger train route and I will buy you a delicious locally grown meal.


Talking of New Zealand, I've often thought Golden Bay (north-west corner of the South Island) would be the place to be if TSHTF.

The population density is a lot lower on the South Island and Golden Bay is very difficult to get to (by land anyway). Its a nice place too, geographically and culturally. It reminds me of north-eastern NSW, but a lot colder.

Kindly desist from bringing Golden Bay to folks attention. Its a back of the woods sort of place that is best ignored. As is the next bay along, Tasman..........

Terrible places to even contemplate moving to, kindly do not mention them again.

I heard the place is loaded with homosexual pirates and cannibalistic tribespeople.

Hi Formerly AMPOD,

Thanks for your response. I looked at the link to fallout patterns, and they seem to be only NA, and that based not on incoming nukes, but on earthquake-related nuke power plant locations. Did I miss something?

Also, I didn't see info for world radiation fallout patterns. Does that exist?

What's the elevation above sea level of the location you're checking out? (Does GCC figure into your calculations, if so, how?)

"Good soil" and "very isolated" sound rather...hmnnn...contradictory, so I'm curious.

(Any more hints on the continent?) (If it's a big continent, no one will know.)

That was an interesting link to the communities site; some sweet(interesting) posts.

What is "MS-13"? (Yes, I'm under-educated.)

I looked at the link to fallout patterns, and they seem to be only NA, and that based not on incoming nukes, but on earthquake-related nuke power plant locations. Did I miss something?

Click on the individual states. Look at California, Richard and I are just north of what will be total glass:

What is "MS-13"?

MS-13 is an absolutely horrifying Latin American gang, more like a terror group or death squad that is invading the U.S.


The Mexican Mafia, another groups all together, recently put out an open hit on black people in Los Angeles. Not black gang members but black people in general. This is truly horrific.

How bad is this sort of thing going to get when the economy is in the tank, rolling blackouts are the norm

The area I am visiting is way above sea level and one of the few spots that might actually benefit from GCC.

aren't you ignoring the effects of climate change on any given location. that paradise in the woods may become a desert or covered by a glacier after serious gw and/or nuke distruction.
the dinosaurs that survived the end of cretaceous extinction were the smaller more mobile ones, to wit: birds

There is no peak oil "movement" and there never will be a movement to address peak oil or any other limits to growth beyond a handfull of activists getting non-funded resolutions passed in cities that are prime nuclear targets. (portland and sf)

Portland a prime target? Hardly. Seattle is, as the only deepwater port in the NW, and the location of a USN CVBG, SSBNs, the home base of all the EW squadrons, and naval radio facilities. So is San Fran, which houses additional naval facilities and is a major port. Portland, however, is not a major port (the area is a major grain export port, but the facilities are dispersed). The only real points of strategic value are the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River (which carries 20% of all truck traffic in the US) and the Columbia River Gorge (which has the only sea-level passage of the Cascade range, and 2 major rail lines. That's 2 points to nuke, neither of which is located at city center. Prevailing winds make it unlikely that the city proper will see much fallout from the couple of nukes sent that way. Portland has no manufacturing capability to speak of (compared to Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburg, Chicago, Gary, etc), and only a couple of minor military facilities. It's a secondary target at best. And if you nuke the Gorge, the resulting sediment makes the entire lower Columbia River useless to shipping for at least a year. (Mt. St. Helens made the river useless for months)

Seattle and San Diego are the prime targets on the west coast, with San Franciso, Portland and Los Angeles the secondaries. Hitting SF and LA would do more damage - there are millions more people there. Portland has barely more than 1.5 million in its metro area.

Portland's may be the best spot in the western states to be, at least until the fallout cloud from China gets here.

Living in North Portland I hardly think that a nuke over the I5 Columbia bridge is something to be casual about... prevailing winds or not.

The place to be in a nuclear war is far from a major city.

There are plenty of good strategic reasons to blow up Portland. How about all the grain terminals exporting wheat to Asia? How about 'cause you hate artists and young creatives? Who really needs a good reason anyway once your launching nuclear weapons and do you really think Russian guidance systems are so great that they can land on the I5 bridge and not over downtown? Come on now.

In the meantime Portland is the best West Coast major city to live in. Come the nuclear war, I doubt there is such a good thing as a good city to be living in.

correction: Come the nuclear war, I doubt there is such a thing as a good city to be living in.

From memory, Intel has a huge facility in Portland.

Microprocessors are the guts of an industrial civilisation, and especially the national security complex.

Also Portland is a big population centre, and a relatively dense one as American cities go. These you destroy on general principle, in an all out nuclear war.

oh yeah, that's another good reason to whack PDX town, plus the Bonneville dam is a nice sweet way to destroy post-apocalyptic energy generating capacity.... plus the riverine transport network can be contaminated too badly to use.

did you take into account the damage we have done to the environment here in na?
i doubt the current carrying capacity is 100 million.
60~70million seems more likely. though i personally think 50 million is were we will end up.
carrying capacity is not the average number a area can support. it's the absolute max in a good year.


Like I said, if we do everything correctly, NA can support 100 million. As we are doing everything WRONG, the capacity will be a lot lower. 50 million maybe, who knows.

Hello to The Chimp Who Can Drive,

I think all youngsters should be making detailed plans. Afterall, they are our future--Always will be.

Very Simplified: It is between [you, AngryChimp, Nate, Tate423, et al] versus [Tiger Woods, Justin Timberlake, Jeff Gordon, et al] postPeak-- figure out how to stay alive until plowing golf courses and racetracks is the dominant social value; stay alive until we transition to optimizing our decline, then become a biosolar warlord.

I think the critical inflection point will be when and if you and your future local Earthmarines can flip the Blackwater Mercs to your side: if you can convince them that defending biosolar living now offers greater benefits than continuing the marauding for the old and fading Detritus Paradigm. In short: survival success will depend on the stoppage of your habitat from further shrinking, then the rapid growth of inclusive, expanding biosolar territory; when Tiger's bodyguards would rather protect you.

Essentially, you need to first make sure you have sufficient reserve biosolar capacity that they can clearly see that life will be easier for them if they now switch sides. Then, using your best lawyerly, Machiavellian tactics plus food, beer, women, songs, and other inducements: convince them to join you and your Earthmarines to now expand sustainability.

All easier said than done, of course, with many cycles of rinse, lather, and repeat. But eventually a green forest, pasture, and garden will be preferred to a barren golf course.

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


The place I am considering is so isolated, there will be no Blackwater contractors showing up.

middle siberia will be over run by Mongols. second, setting up shop in the northern clines takes time and money (energy).
it's a real shame, people here can't read the writing on the wall, got habius corpus, hell my neighbors make a combined 200k/year working as prison guards, smart folks in the 70's were saying we've got about 30, 40 years of this life style left and yet here we are.that said. I'm stay'n put. this is the time to build communities. my own at-least.
better bail before I pissoff roger conner.
if you need any help email me

I'm not moving to another continent. For one thing, all my children, stepchildren, step-grandchildren, nieces and nephews are in North America. I might be of some help to them.

For another, the fall may not be that swift.

For another, I think the fall will be swifter away from America and China. I suspect there will be hardship in these two powers, but I think elsewhere will be worse, especially for newcomers (refugees).

For another, I like having oceans between me and all those Chinese.


There was an Iraqi family interviewed on the radio the other day. Every night they make the decision to either all sleep in one room or to sleep in separte rooms.

Their logic is as follows:

1. if we all sleep in the same room and a bomb hits the home we will all die together.

2. if we all sleep in different rooms and a bomb hits the home some of us might survive.

They go back and forth which option is preferrable. (it was very sad) You seem to have opted for option 1. I'm opting for option 2.

Neither option is "better" than the other.

As far as Chinese pirates showing up, just build yourself a "Savinar pirate tower". Yes, there was such a thing in Spain in the 1700s. From high up on the perch of the tower the occupants would repel pirates attempting to invade their land:

the "fall" may be swifter elsewhere. then again it may not. amerika has further to fall.

Rome had further to fall but the bulk of the world collapsed when Rome fell. And the parts that did not were xenophobic, physically isolated (at least in those days), living close to subsistence level already, and under heavy authoritarian rule anyway.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Big thoughts.

1) Why be so afraid of death?

2) If we are headed for population reduction my genetic survival is primarily a function of my children's choices (they are around 10, I'm in my 40s.) Assuming civillization holds together for the next 10 years, it is their choices that will matter for their survival and reproductive "success" and be the ultimate measure of my "reproductive fitness."

3) What set of choices would maximize their reproductive opportunities? This is a much more complicated choice than assuring my own personal survival, about which I have a certain level of detachment and lack of interest anyway, except as it relates to the first question of their opportunities for reproductive success, and for a happy life in every other realm.

4) Moving to rural environments could be an reproductive fitness disaster, and a happiness disaster, for me and mine relative to the next 2 decades, if already impoverished areas are hit extra hard by global depression, stunting my children's lives and even their physical development. Sure permaculture agriculture is the future.... but it could take its sweet time getting here, and in the meantime they could be living like Chinese intellectuals sent to the countryside and starving during the cultural revolution... or Cambodian intellectuals sent to the countryside under Pol Pot... and I'd be the one responsible for this.

5) Since I have no specific insight, only some vague theories and worries, about how social and economic change will play out, the only thing I can think to do to maximize by own children's survival and reproductive success and happiness is... pretty much exactly what I'm doing... educating them, exposing them to a diverse set of life experiences, and so on. I'm helping them become good generalists because... well what the future is is "unknown" more than anything.

6) I do suspect, to the extent that I have not achieved complete indifference to my own or my spouse's fate, that maintaining a good enough relationship with my children as they grow as is possible, might be a better old age insurance policy than my 401K plan or social security income, which may or may not provide any value.

7) Whatever will be will be.... spend too much time as an individual worrying about defending yourself from the marauding hordes of tomorrow, or of your imagination, and find yourself asking "where did my life go?"

8) Hug your children... they are your only hope of transcendence.

9) Yes, you could argue that far from being transcendent, children are pretty much a reflection of you... but I mean that they are your only personal hope of geneticly/biologically transcending your mortal body, which will die at the hands of the maurading hordes, or at the hands of poverty and disease, or just die in some routine way, when peak oil social collapse takes a little longer than we thought it would. No matter, death comes to us all, and it's the living that matters, not the dying.

10) If you really wanted to design a peakoil pedagogy... what would it look like? Steel working for swords? Permaculture? Knot tying? Bow and arrow manufacture and target practice? Cob construction techniques? When you start thinking about the world of the future in terms of your own children, who are the actual people who matter for the future of the world, instead of our own petty self obsessed selves, what conclusions do you draw? I conclude that the only thing that is guaranteed is uncertainty, and that the only thing that is guaranteed to be needed to cope with as many possible realities as might emerge is adaptability... and the ability to form communities.

11) Somehow, post peak society seems like a different problem when you are not thinking about your survival but that of your children. (Or is it?)

12) Yes I know that many people value their spiritual or cultural or personal legacy through non-genetic relationships with adopted children or otherwise. All of the relevant issues except genetic connection apply there also.

13) Because there is less we can do to ensure our children's suvival in a potentially chaotic world than there is that we can do to ensure our own.... community solutions become inherently more important. I can imagine saving myself by moving to New Zealand or purchasing some Willamette Valley farmland to defend with a shotgun (not really... but sort of... I can understand someone making that choice, even if I wouldn't) but that seems pretty silly when I think of my children. Making that survivalist choice for them seems ridiculous. Their only hope is in a community. Hell, a Willamette Valey farm won't survive without a community of farmers either.

or. vii
nice post. That sums it up nicely for me

yes nice post orergon7

but no. 7 is not you primary gene speaking. After a year & a half of prep I have done most of the preparing I feel reasonable for now & tying up loose ends.

However as chimp says location will be up there witrh community; for your kids.

i do understand staying put for family- as i am; but only because i can't convince us to mass exodus. so i am preraring with them in mind, and my location is at least semi-rural, and not at a primary nuclear target.. maybe there will be a point where events are bad enough my family will reach another conclusion; before it is too late.

I do think the story of the virginian who moved hies family to a small hamlet up north as the civil war was immanent. he chose gettysburg.

that was before nuclear weapons though.

Thanks Mr. Hatfield & Mike! Amazing how the info was there all along.

The Willimette Valley, once on my short list of relocation options, will fall prey to the "law of attraction." In this case it will attract desperate people from California in much the same way any reasonably decent area in Southern Ca. is already attracting desperate people from Mexico.

This is the problem with pretty much every "spot" in North America. As the whole continent is way over carrying capacity, people will just migrate to whatever pockets of energy are left, thereby destroying them.

You need a spot that is both below pre-oil carrying capacity AND isolated enough that desperate people will not be able to get there once oil powered transportation is largely unavailable. Basically you need to look for a place where living a stone-age level of existence will be able to occur with dignity.

Most of the people on the PO boards are thinking in terms of things like "what areas have good public transit?" this tells me they are only thinking short-term as in the period where gas is $4.00 or $5.00 a gallon here in the states or $10.00 to $12.00 in Europe. That's nice, that period of BAU redux might last for a few years at best.

Once the positive feedback loops kick in most of the second half of the energy supply will never get pulled out of the ground. Basically it goes like this: falling energy production -> economic fall -> social chaos, terrorism, political shenanigans -> further fall in energy production. Jeff's post on Nigeria is a good example of these positive feedback loops in action. Thus the public transit systems in places like Portland and SF will grind to a halt in much the same way they have in Zimbabwe.

There are, so far as I know, only a handfull of places like this in the world where the population is below pre-oil carrying capacity and isolated. I think these may be the pockets of human dignity and reciprocal altruism occur. Everywhere else? Well just go watch Children of Men as that is a pretty good approximation of what I think most of the world will fall into.

Keep in mind, my research is all "book and history based." It could be that desperate marauders from California won't invade Oregon. But I wouldn't bet on that.

New Zealand has a lot going for it but I think it may fall prey to Asian pirates.

The Willimette Valley, once on my short list of relocation options, will fall prey to the "law of attraction." In this case it will attract desperate people from California in much the same way any reasonably decent area in Southern Ca. is already attracting desperate people from Mexico.

That assumes no one tries to stop it. It depends on how fast the fall happens. If it's quick enough, then those marauding Californians are going to be coming up on foot or draft animal, and not by car. A bunch of determined defenders in Grants Pass or Eugene could keep a lot of people out of the Willamette Valley. The east side of the valley practically defends itself 3/4 of the year due to altitude and temperature, and the north can be secured by blowing 2 bridges.

That said, the valley is very attractive, both for its agricultural productivity and the fact that half the region's electricity comes from renewables (at least until the dams silt up). For Portland itself, there's also the factor that even if the power grid goes completely down, 80% of the city will still have potable water. (Portland's source is 3,200' higher than most of the city and is thus gravity-fed)

Hi Chimp,

re: "...only a handfull of places like this in the world where the population is below pre-oil carrying capacity and isolated."

And speak English? I'm *really* curious.

Why be so afraid of death?

I'm only afraid of death without dignity. The place I currently have my eye on, I have figured that if all is truely lost - that if there is simply nothing we can do and we are fooling ourselves to think otherwise - well it won't be a bad place to die.

Most of us on these baords will live out our final days in North American cities where we will go to sleep each night to the sound of gunshots and screams but no police sirens echoing through our neighborhoods. That is death even if you are still alive and in some ways worse than death. That is what I'd like to avoid.

Well I put it to you that the ultimate indignity in death is to die alone. If we are to die in some apocalyptic scenario than we'd do best to build a community wherever we may be, and live and die with that community, those friends, and that family.

Is there any indignity or misery greater than uprooting yourself from a place, to flee to a place of putative greater safety, (New Zealand, Willamette Valley, or wherever your stone age haven of choice may be) only to die far from home and alone?

Or, if you choose to take your community with you to your refuge... well by the time you get all that organized, you might as well have organized a community in the place where you really do live.

I come back to the reality (for me) that it's not the dying, it's how we live, and the living is what makes the dying miserable and unhappy or bearable and part of the flow.

Granted most of us don't live in a community and place that we feel deeply connected to... but running to a refuge isn't likely to improve that situation is it? Wouldn't most people be better off building community in situ, right outside their own front doors?

Granted, I left Los Angeles because I felt it was already a post apocalyptic environment 5 years ago. Oregon seems like home now, I'm beginning to have a community here, and working on building a stronger one.

Individual survival, for a few extra years, seems like a really low level goal, and much less important than living and dying in a people connected and place connected human society, where, even if death comes a little earlier, it comes surrounded by meaning.

Dude you ran from Los Angeles to a "refuge" in oregon. What I'm planning on doing is not all that different. I'm just starting from an hour outside San Francisco. Trying to organize community once CA is overrun with refugees from Mexico and the potable water has dried up? Good fucking luck.

Yes, but as you point out it's not much of refuge from the California hordes when they come ... and it is whatever community I'm able to scrape together, not whatever location I'm able to get to, that will determine, if not my fate, then the meaning of my fate, and how I experience my fate.

Good luck to you too!

If you honestly believe North America can't feed 200 million people (who will have to actually start doing wearying physical labor outside, admittedly), and if you think that 'excess' 100 million people won't start scrabbling in the dirt before they starve, with oil and gas production at the level of 1968, then maybe you need to start seriously checking many of your assumptions for validity.

As other people seem to have made a number the points I intended to, brevity is a virtue.

Are any links to Craig Hatfield's articles available? I found "How Long Can the Oil Supply Grow?" on this link.

I liked this comment regarding the potential for coal liquification to solve our problems from the link I provided.

As is true in the cases of oil shale and tar sands, quantitative consideration of the total probable contribution of coal liquefaction to our fluid fuel supply tends to temper enthusiasm.

If we assume that a ton of coal will yield 5.5 barrels of liquid fuel (11), and that the United States could mine coal for liquefaction at a rate sufficient to replace 2.6 billion barrels of oil per year (which is only 10% of global oil consumption for 1996), then we would liquefy annually an amount of coal approximately half as great as the total amount mined annually in the United States during the 1990s. This would require a roughly 50% increase in rate of United States coal mining. If we ignore the environmental concerns associated with such great expansion of coal mining and consider only the liquefaction facilities required, the cost would be many tens of billions of dollars. Such facilities would have to liquefy several dozens of times more coal annually than do the current South African coal liquefaction plants.

Production of electricity and its use for transportation and production could be the most important key element in changing from one era of change and growth to another.

Thanks for sharing these insights. Professor Hatfield sounds like a great teacher.

I think we should all pay homage to the great teachers and professors who have touched our lives and changed them forever. We so often forget how much teachers contribute to making us what we are.

One piece of poetry from my high school history teacher:
"In this life, maintain one goal.
Keep your eye on the donut
and not on the hole."

What a delightfully real person. Thanks for sharing this.

As paradoxical as this might sound, I found the quotes "It's too late," and "I don't know" the most honest and decent signs of hope yet!

At least that is how I'm attempting to approach the future. I can hope too that as more and more people adopt this understanding the better the odds of preparing for and mitigating the fall to come.

As David Ehrenfeld, in his tour-de-force The Arrogance of Humanism, remarked, "Humanity survived for countless centuries without twentieth-century technology and may be able to do so again."

We'll find out sooner than later.

I think I would like to have that financial advisor of Professor Craig Bond Hatfield for mine own..."I don't know" Now that sounds strangely like honesty speaking.

Humans are hard-wired for optimism and complacency. Professor Hatfield's decades of publishing on the subject make it pretty clear that people don't want to listen to bad news, particularly if it's going to require extra work. Americans in particular talk haphazardly about "living life to the fullest" as if that represented some kind of moral imperative demanding unrestrained consumption.

For decades, small minorities of scientists have been promoting the need to live life at a level below "full" with the warning that the longer we put off the pain of adjusting economic life downward the more painful it will be when we no longer have a choice.

Peak oil mitigation is only a subset of the bigger problems of limits, making it even less likely that any solution will be found other than a chaotic plunge into austerity.

Hi kenny,

Interesting comment.

re: "Humans are hard-wired for optimism and complacency."

My experience (more than reading) leads me to believe humans come "wired" for attachment (, if anything. Also, there are different forms of humans, and they go through different stages of growth, (not all of which are accessible to everyone) and so generalizing can be tricky (and sometimes misleading, actually.)

Perhaps the optimism needs "only" to be channeled. And complacency - is this the same as laziness? Which can be energy-efficient, it seems, depending on the initial conditions...

Have to agree in jist with kenny, although primarily for the reasons Aniya puts forward. Have you seen the temperature profile of the summit of the Greenland ice sheet from 10 to 30 thousand years before present. Massive shifts in temperature (~20 degrees F) every 500-1000 years, which translate into wild changes in climate for Europeans. Imagine having yor culture destroyed every 20 generations. Humans are hard wired for optimism, as they had to be, but they are also hardwired for realism when it is absolutely necessary. We need a kick in the butt. Necessity can change human attitudes and behavior - I still hope for the best.

A great interview, thanks. The level of honesty is beautiful, even if the conclusions are difficult. But one thing I wanted to comment on: He seems very focussed on the notion that we must develop a large volume, inexpensive substitute for petroleum.

Does he think this is actually possible, or would have been possible if we'd taken the problem seriously 20 years ago? Our available energy sources are current solar income, fossil solar income, and nuclear power. That's it. Where does he expect this continuation of the energy bounty would come from?

Also, does he not believe that other approaches might yield effective results, such that mass replacement of liquid fuels becomes unecessary? It's not like the oil is going to just stop coming, and electrification and efficiency can do alot to stretch the remaining supplies. Granted, we have to take the problem seriously before we will take these steps, but that is also presupposed by the idea that we would develop a substitute liquid fuel. So why focus only on that approach to the problem?

Yes, great interview. I think the debate is soon going to move away from peak oil, as its reality becomes manifest, to whether or not there is or can be any way of substituting something else for it. Belief in the power of technology to come to the rescue is the modern religion. But science has been as much about discovering limits as it has about discovering possibilities.

Most peakers believe we will have to fall back to one extent or another. But how far? To me, that's the most interesting question.

by golly Dave,

Your question can raise an answer with many hands:

I think the debate is soon going to move away from peak oil, as its reality becomes manifest, to whether or not there is or can be any way of substituting something else for it.

With peak Shakespeare we get "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!..." (I just hope we don't get post peak W.S.)

More seriously I don't think most people realize what they are capable of doing without oil. A very efficient machine is man, as I'm sure you know. I am often astounded to see someone wait for days to pay someone else to use a backhoe to dig a hole they could accomplish in an hour or two with their own two hands and a shovel. Also would leave less of a mess. If there weren't so many McMansions I would think that after P.O. there would be a revival in barn raising bees.

It is amazing how much credible information has been out there for years. And, when polititians finally recognize it, we are going to hear "no one ever told us." Scientific American is pretty credible - see "The End of Cheap Oil" March 1998. Also, National Geographic, June 2004, (with an original title - not!) "The End of Cheap Oil." Or, see the New York Times, October 21, 2005 "Doubts Raised on Saudi Vow for More Oil," by Jeff Gerth. The latter very interesting, because the implication in it is that the government knows much more about this, but, perhaps for national security reasons, is keeping the public in the dark.

There was an interesting comment on the Housing Bubble Blog to the effect that the mortgage meltdown was one of the most foreseeable events in a hundred years, but still the markets were caught by surprise.

So too, we have had ample warnings about Peak Oil, for those willing to pay attention--amid the cornucopian propaganda.

Dr. Hatfield's comments about the Seventies were interesting. I've put it this way, for the future, imagine if the Seventies never ended.

Dr. Hatfield:

To gain an appreciation of the economic effect of decline in oil production rate, it may help to remember the oil shortages of the 1970s. Those shortages were largely political in origin, very temporary, and minor as well. Demand exceeded supply by a very few percent. Yet, we had rampant global inflation. We briefly had double-digit inflation even here in the United States. The world experienced economic hardship and strain on the global monetary system. Economic growth was severely impacted. If we can envision that situation on a permanent rather than temporary basis, with world oil production rate declining every year indefinitely into the future, then we can begin to appreciate the magnitude of the problem.

Bubbles, especially, operate on the 'always another sucker' principle. From this perspective, in light of ample evidence of abiotic reproduction of suckers, it is understandable that markets were caught be surprise.

Of course, not every participant in the various casinos was caught by surprise. Even some I know cashed their chips over the past year.

Some have an intuitive sense of the tectonic forces at work and have thus far successfully interpreted the implications of this underlying process.

No one wants to face that, Westexas. They all want to believe that a few percent per year is manageable... forever. But they are caught here in a catch-22 - population is headed for 9 billion before then and even if we 300 million US citizens solve our own problems, do we seriously think we can avoid the interrelated issues that are going to arise in the rest of the world?

Peak oil is just one of the overall set of problems caused by overpopulation. None of these problems by themselves has been brought under control globally. How much worse will the entire set of them be together?

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

The full quote is: "What I envision is, after a few years of decline in oil production rate, a situation reminiscent of the depression of the 1930s, except that this depression will be permanent and worsening rather than temporary and improving – until we develop a large volume, inexpensive substitute for petroleum."

Perhaps, much like his suggestion about Ken Deffeyes' Thanksgiving Day 2005 prediction, Prof. Hatfield's sense of humor is in play here and what he's really pointing out is that the large volume, inexpensive substitute needing development is this.


To expand a bit on what several above have raised, referring to this passage from the otherwise excellent piece:

"What I envision is, after a few years of decline in oil production rate, a situation reminiscent of the depression of the 1930s, except that this depression will be permanent and worsening rather than temporary and improving – until we develop a large volume, inexpensive substitute for petroleum."

The Great Depression was a failing of the financial system amidst a world of plenty - plenty of labor and resources. The coming PO Depression will take place amidst a world of scarcity - oh, there'll be plenty of labor, it's the resource scarcity that's going to make it way different and essentially endless. And that "large volume, inexpensive substitute" doesn't exist. Ultimately, we shall need to live on current solar income and a bit of geothermal.

I also feel the need to respond to this, from Magnus Redlin:

"changing from one era of change and growth to another." not going to happen. Growth is the core of the problem. The most important speech one can read or listen to regarding this is Albert Bartlett's on exponential growth:

And the most important book for understanding this from a life sustaining perspective is William Catton's "Overshoot", which underscores Hatfield's theme that this info has been out there for some time, in this case since the very early 80's.

Folks, we cannot grow our way out of this problem, not with energy, not with technology, and certainly not with empire, as we are currently attempting. We shall be downsizing. The only question is do we take the lead or does nature? Hatfield's, "It's too late", to me says, nature.

Eras of growth and shrinkage has been common thru history.

Extrapolating for instance car size or living area per capita into infinity is of course insane. Such growth can not continue for ever, its physically impossible.

Current human knowledge is enough for us to do manny things with electricity and a fraction of todays industry is enough to significantly enlarge the electricity production.

No longer having any cheap oil will make manny things impossibly expensive for a large part of the present population. It will not make everything impossible. Some countries, regions, companies and individuals will be unable to change fast enough, it might even be physically impossible for them to do so. They will fare badly and perhaps die but why would that be the end of our civilization?

A large part of the population will still be able to flick a switch and build new ones. They will have to learn to enjoy other things in their lives then long range car commuting, etc. But I am sure they can find fullfilling lives.

Empires will fall, currencys will become worth the paper they are written on and people will labour on and create something new. Its happend a number om times in Europe but newer before witch such a rich store of knowledge and infrastructure.

Also never before with nearly 7 billion people, most of whom would not be here were it not for the one time gift (curse?) of fossil fuel that allowed the building of a system which consumes 40-50% of the biotic productivity of the planet, converting much of it into human mass. This is why it shall be the end of our civilization, for this civilization is predicated on infinite growth.

Then maybe several billions will starve. The number can allways be influenced by trying to do something smart about these problems. Those who do will have better chances for survival and prosperity, those who dont change will have worse chances. Survival of technological civilization only require that a fraction of todays humanity keeps their societies running. I find this comforting, I may die but it is nice if a large part of this impressive culture survives, trying to further such a goal adds more meaning to my life.

I applaud you on your realism, Magnus, but do expect to be called a "doomer" for expressing such views. Your hope is my hope - although this civilization as it stands can not survive , I can still hope that the better parts of what we have learned can survive to lay the groundwork for a truly sustainable culture.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Have you been reading my letters to my son greyzone? I think your hope to save the better part of what we have learned is, to use an old hippie phrase, 'right on, man'.

Maybe though we could also look on oil as a gift that has enabled us to produce this knowledge and that all that has gone on, the cars and useless things we have made were a necessary part of producing, (at the likelihood of sounding florid) a beautiful flower and all we have to do is save the seed.

Now this is where the gold plated stainless steel C.D's come in.....

Hi Black B.,

Thanks for expressing this.

Re: "Maybe though we could also look on oil as a gift that has enabled us to produce this knowledge and that all that has gone on, the cars and useless things we have made were a necessary part of producing, (at the likelihood of sounding florid) a beautiful flower and all we have to do is save the seed."

It reminds me of a similar thought I had, when I was attempting to come up with an optimistic "storyline" for our (collective) predicament.

It goes like this: We had just enough energy boost and time to come up with some breakthroughs...not in technology (yes, I know the double-edge sword), rather in how to live as humans we would like to be...

Some candidates for what we have discovered that may help us:

1) Understanding about what humans need to "be human"

2) Ways to treat each other and resolve conflicts - ways that actually work:,,,, etc.

3) Should I add here... - ?

Hi Aniya,

Thanks for the kind words, but about your first link, I think I hit all the 4 categories they mention in that article and while I think there is some very insightful things there, the trouble is when we categorize we also imprison. There is a somewhat related theory that I have heard of recently. It goes along the line similar to how the pain threshold levels vary person to person. As I understand it the flight/fight levels are set at different levels at birth. How true this is I don't know, it seems a bit simplistic and categorical as well, but even if it is less than true, and we use that as a measure, it takes a lot of guilt out of the mix (you know parent's fault, kid's fault, societies fault). With this 'theory' I can even to a degree understand how GWB can send kids to their death or dismemberment and still get up on his hind feet, grin and spout rubbish. BTW we have a similar guy running our country now too. We need more Carters and Trudeaus. I had better stop now I'm ramping up to rant mode.

Hi Black B,

If you're (or anyone) is still reading.

Yes, I agree on the categorization problem. I just put that "Wiki" link up to give a hint about what attachment theory is. I've seen much better articles in places like Mothering Magazine. There's also a really beautiful summary in the Encyclopedia of Psychology.

20 years of city building and electrified transportation building instead of suburban expansion would have had an enourmous impact on the US needs for liquid fuels.

20 years of nuclear powerplant building instead of natural gas powerplant building would have left wehicle fuel for a generation in the ground and made your contribution to global warming limitation a piece of cake. And using natural gas for heating houses is a larger waste of high grade resources then fueling a SUW with gasolene. The last ten years would have been enough to replace a very large portion of the natural gas heating with nuclear electricity and ground source heat pumps.

Btw, a crash program of saving and investing instead of short term consuming after 9/11 would have started to deliver serious results about now. Why did you not issue war bonds for investments to make you less dependant on the region where the al-queida financers lives? It would have made sense to do that in parallell with sqashing the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Hah, that's funny. I'm sure those were all rhetorical questions.

20 years of nuclear powerplant building instead of natural gas powerplant building would have left wehicle fuel for a generation in the ground and made your contribution to global warming limitation a piece of cake.

Just think, Three Mile Island is likely going to be the cause for the downfall of the United States (and possibly the world). We would have continued on building nukes if it hadn't been for TMI.

The accident that killed nobody may be responsible for the death of billions.

Thanks for the post. The word about peak oil has been out a long time, for anyone willing to listen. There was even a song by Tower Of Power (one of the best R&B bands ever):

There's Only So Much Oil In The Ground (1974 - Urban Renewal)

I nominate this tune for consideration as TOD's official theme song.

Hello TODers,

My REDDIT post:

Excellent article. Pehaps a mention of the need for Peakoil Outreach and 150 million wheelbarrows & bicycles would be timely here. Of course, it nevers hurts to mention Jay Hanson's Thermo/Gene Collision [PDF warning] as our highly probable decline path unless widespread mitigation begins:

Consider Sri Lanka and/or Zimbabwe as present day examples, then extrapolate into the North American continent. Control over a mere water sluicegate jumpstarted widespread battle in Sri Lanka, and decimation of farming outputs is the leading cause of strife in Zimbabwe. These countries use very little FFs in comparison to the US. Will a SUV soccer mom do any better?

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

Mr. Hanson's claim that our fossil fuel use is 400 times greater than the amount of energy captured by photosynthesis is so absurd that it makes his other claims very suspect. The area of the Earth is over 500,000 sq km. Assume that 20% of that area is photosynthetically productive giving us 100,000 sq km. Average solar insolation is about 250 watts sq meter for say 8 hours per day resulting in 2 kwh per day. At one tenth of a percent conversion efficiency gives us 2 watts per sq meter converted to potential fuel. That is 2 megawatts per sq km per day. Times 100,000 sq km of productive surface area we get 200 terawatt hours per day for an average power rate of 8,333 gigawatts. That's 1200 watts/capita worldwide. That is around one half of per capita energy use rate worldwide.

Hello Thomas Deplume,

Thxs for responding. I don't have the expertise or time to get into a debate over thermodynamics and conversion rates, but I think that Jay is saying our Genetic Legacy prevents us from taking full pre-emptive advantage of PO + GW mitigation; we will unwisely seek the countless forces of blowback. Consider the downthread posting by another TODer of how we have failed at eliminating starvation, violence, and war when energy was cheap. My hope, as expressed in my prior postings, is that we can somehow harness sufficient 'inclusive fitness', knowledge, and social altruism to Optimize our squeeze through the Bottleneck. Time will tell.

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

Mr. Deplume, the world has 149,000,000 sq kilometers of land out of 510,000,000 sq kilometers of total area. You are off by a factor of one thousand. Far more than half of the land is desert, mountains, snow, ice and marginal land that produces little vegetation. Most land receives far less than 8 hours per day of sunshine. Sunshine near the equator is far more intense than sunshine as you move toward the poles. Photosynthesis is also seasonal outside the tropics.

I am not going to do the math as to how much land is covered by plants and what the conversion rate is because if I did I would just be pulling figures out my ass, and I try not to do that. I haven’t studied solar energy conversion to photosynthesis rates and have no idea what those rates are. And I also have no idea how many hours of sunshine the average meter of land receives nor how much energy that square meter of sunshine contains. But if I did and I quoted them on this list, I would give URLs where they could be checked.

But before you can knock Mr. Hanson’s figures you need to be a little more precise and give references as to where your figures came from.

Ron Patterson

Why are you only counting land? Lots of photosynthesis takes place in water.

Hi Thomas,

Just the kind of stats I've been looking for. Do you have (or could you possibly take the time to supply) any reference/links?

And could you possibly go into a little more detail? For example, "Assume that 20% of that area is photosynthetically productive giving us 100,000 sq km." Are you saying this is the area in use by native flora and fauna, together with agriculture? Or...?

So, are you thinking here of agricultural "capture" for human consumption? Possible PV? Or...?

I was mostly making assumptions based on what I know about geography and energy. According to the Choren company in Germany my guesswork under estimated the net energy production of vegetation 10-fold. The claim that we could extract from biomass sources about 50 billion tons of oil equivalent per year while the world only uses 9.7 billion tons of oil equivalent per year at this time. While doomers like Jay Hanson make guesswork about human behavior and quote Nazis as experts we see that he is way off the charts in his incomprehension of solar energy and biology. As one paranoid schizophrenic to another, Jay there are now very good meds you should try.

Hi Thomas,

If you have them, could you possibly supply links to references?

In basic Greek mythology, there are variations relating to this myth, Cassandra received a valuable, and ultimately cursed gift from Gods; the ability to see into the future. However, there was a flipside to this amazing gift, the paradox that no one would actually believe her predictions, which may or may not have eventually driven her insane.

There is some doubt as to why the population of the city of Troy did not believe her once her track record began to show that she did, indeed, have supernatural powers. Surely, as they were beseiged by the Greeks, Cassandra's abilities would have been invaluable to them? Did the Trojans choose to disbelieve her because her prophecies were too terrible, frightening and undermined their whole way of life; or had the Gods hexed the Trojans as well? If so, why bother to give Cassandra such power in the first place? The simple answer is that Zeus wanted to cruely punish Cassandra for refusing his sexual advances after giving her such a wonderous gift. However, all is not as simple in Greek mythology as it appears to be on the surface.

I believe the ancient Greeks had an insigt into the nature of man, that we sadly lack. I think our great myth, which I'll stick my neck out and call the myth of Capitalism, actually explains and describes the world less acurately than ancient Greek myths do in a number of key areas. This is perhaps moving rapidly into the realm of the esoteric, so I'll reign myself in before we get into the realm of hubris, the fates and chaos. We can perhaps get into that on another occasion.

Just as I wondered about the "relevance" of Greek myths, I suddenly remembered that NATO is currently lauching an offensive in Afghanistan called operation "Achilles." The ironic misuse and misunderstanding of this particular story would have amused the Greeks no end, as it goes to the very core of their world view. That there is another world, or alternative reality, hidden behind and often intertwined with the "real" world we think we see and understand. Whilst Achilles was a great hero and godlikel, he was at the same time a mere man. Achilles, the unsurpassed warrior, also had one area of weakness, his heel which left him surprisingly vunerable to attack, defeat, disaster and death.

Perhaps the famous Hirsch report is our version of the Cassandra myth?

LOL - They really are calling an operation "Achilles" - I thought you must be joking until I kept reading.

You are a prime candidate to enjoy reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.

I've got that book, but it's been a long time since I read it. Probably due for a re-read....

I have the book also but have never read it. A friend gave it to me and insisted that I must read it. He said it would blow me away. He must have given away a dozen copies of the book. I thumbed through the book and said to myself, "I am not going to read this s*it!" And I never did.

Perhaps I should have, but I have so many other books to read that I just don't have time to read stuff that seems weird to me.

Ron Patterson

Thank you for this sobering interview Mike. I also started out as a geology major. I give thanks to Professor Peter Ypma at Columbia College for opening my eyes to geologic limits for economically strategic resoures.

The message has been around for a long time but no one would listen.

Khaos, I really have to get around to your place sometime!

We live about 7 miles apart.

I'm glad to see Professor Hatfield get his due -- late as it is.

In his letter to me, he said he was "honored and flattered" that I wanted to do an article on him. Can you imagine!

I was honored and flattered, by the thoughtful, well-considered answers to my questions.

The modesty of his resignation hit me quite hard during the fall months, as I contemplated writing this. I almost didn't do it.

What I hoped to accomplish with this article (besides give Hatfield some exposure):

*to not let us off the hook. Hatfield is in that small group of geologists who knew Hubbert -- Deffeyes, Campbell, et al. -- who went to great lengths to inform us about the trouble ahead. As someone above said, there's no excuse.

*to highlight Hatfield's speech at Gordon Research. Review that list of dignitaries again! They knew!

*to highlight that recognizing "it's too late" can be done with dignity.

We don't know what's in store, but who can hope that we will keep living life the same way? We can choose to face it like adults, "with much wisdom."

Would it be possible to send him an email? It might be nice for people on the oil drum to send him our thoughts of appreciation and respect.

I hope that this doesn't sound to fatalistic or negative, but I believe many of the "solutions" to the challange of Peak Oil we come up with on this site are, basically and unfortunately, "utopian."

I do believe and I don't see evidence that the "system" which has led us headlong into the impasse we are rapidly approaching, is "self-regulatory." I don't think we can reasonably expect it to "cure itself" or "reform itself."

Now I really don't want to sound like a "doomer" or appear overly negative or pessimistic, but, on the other hand I can't help feeling that Peak Oil is going to be an absolute organizational nightmare to deal with, and that's putting it mildly in the extreme! It's not only a truly monumental organizational problem we're facing; there's also the politics of the whole hive of problems/questions we face. In truth I do not believe the current economic/political model we currently subscribe to is realistically designed to deal with something as big as Peak Oil. I would contend that world hunger is a relatively far easier problem to deal with than Peak Oil, yet have we solved it, even though for the last fifty years we've been uniquely equiped to do so? Isn't world hunger a "piece of cake" compared to Peak Oil? Given our failure to illiminate it given the most favourable circumstances, what possible reason do we have for supposing that we can deal with Peak Oil?

Granted, for us, hunger is "only a moral question" it really doesn't affect us directly. Peak Oil will eventually hit us hard too, so perhaps one can argue we'll be somehow galvanized into taking real action and finding solutions to our problems, but do we really believe that? I'm sceptical about this.

Personally I think we have only about a fifty/fifty chance of dealing with the challange of Peak Oil and getting through to the other side without massive and fundamental socio/econmic dislocation and strife. Historically far smaller problems have scuppered us before, and coupled with global warming, Peak Oil is a far larger problem for our civilization. How on earth we will manage to reduce our energy consumption substantially, which is now the only realistic "solution" given timescale constaints, is beyond me, given our current political system. If we keep pressing consumption up and up and up, exponentially we really are "doomed." But surely this massive and unbridled consumption is the very essence and foundation upon which modern global capitalism is based? So are we really talking about "reforming" Capitalism from the inside, or its replacement with something else? And how "utopian" is that or "realistic" is that?

Global capitalism is very efficient in turning resources into what a lot of people want. How do we get people to want long term post-peak-oil investments instead of short term crap products?

Global capitalism programs what consumers want. Any "efficiency" in that program cycle is incidental.
Capitalism also programs how you and I think about the problems of capitalism. Hopefully with something less than total efficiency.

Thanks oldhippie,

Nice way to put it.

Can we make use of that little sliver of inefficiency in a life-serving (if not efficient) way?

A company that makes short term crap can sell a greater volume and to more customers, while using cheaper materials and needing less r&d. A company that makes high-quality, durable products can sell only to the limited group that can afford those, and only until everyone is supplied, while it needs to produce with less automation and higher quality material. Therefore crap will outcompete quality.

Thank you, Professor Craig Bond Hatfield, and to Mike,

I'm glad to see this interview. I'm wondering if the powerpoint of his favorite talk is still available? Perhaps post?

In terms of the "too late" conclusion, especially as coupled with his personal decision to forego further action, I was interested to see, when referring to Deffeyes:

"...might at least draw some attention to the problem and its urgency. More power to him! Anything that might interest the public in this problem is worthwhile."

(Just thought I'd put the two together.)

I am rather certain that Professor Hatfield understands that he cannot rule out a stroke of luck in favor of homo sapiens, thus the encouragement to those that continue to fight the good fight. But I also think he must realize that that the practical odds of such a solution actually saving us from ourselves is miniscule and declining by the day.

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

I have long wondered to what degree Professor Hatfield's views are shared by others in his profession. Academic geologists specialize in questions like oil resources and depletion levels. If it were common knowledge within the field that the world was about to hit an irreversible decline in oil production, I would expect professional oil geological societies to be making attempts to raise consciousness about this issue.

Look at the work climatologists have done on global warming. It has been highly effective at gaining public attention and motivating responses. Professional climatological societies have issued many statements supporting the importance of the issue and calling for action.

Yet to my knowledge, no professional geological association has taken a similar stance with regard to Peak Oil. There is no evidence that a consensus exists among academic and professional geologists that oil production will soon inevitably peak. In fact, from their silence on the issue it would appear that professional geologists in general do not see the situation at all as Professor Hatfield does.

The lack of interest in Peak Oil among those whom we would expect to have the greatest degree of relevant expertise is IMO the strongest evidence against the urgency of the problem.

What happens when you "assume", Halfin?

My father-in-law retired as a VP for CONOCO over 20 years ago and it was a common point of discussion for us within the family even then that oil was a finite resource. The assumption though was that the following 20 years would yield real breakthroughs in energy. Those breakthroughs have never arrived. My wife's niece is now employed with Shell as a geologist. She came by here last summer and we talked about this issue. Being just out of grad school she wasn't comfortable talking about reserves but she was pretty worried about overall flow rates and feared that we might not be able to raise them significantly any longer.

I think the awareness is there amongst geologists but the assumption of the geologists is that other technologies will rise to save the day. Few people really understand the scope of oil's presence within our lives, even geologists. A few years ago, I was talking to an astronaut (which here in the Clear Lake, Texas area is not as uncommon as you might think) and he was not so convinced of the oil issue until I challenged him to look around his own study and tell me what items there were not either made from oil or with oil. He paused and the depth of our dependence really sank in. It's not because he was not capable but simply because he was never challenged to think in those terms. (The gentleman is, by the way, a geologist by training.)

To consider peak oil means thinking about things that are not normally considered. To consider the impact of peak oil means stepping even further outside the box. Our own government admitted repeatedly that no one ever though a terrorist would use a hijacked airliner as a missile before 9/11, yet someone somewhere thought about that. The failure of our government to consider it didn't make it less real. All that our failure did was ensure that we were stunned by what really occurred.

In my opinion, you are making an unjustified assumption then leaping to an unjustified conclusion in order to express your usual misgivings about the issue of peak oil. So, rather than wondering, without one whit of data and then leaping to completely unjustified conclusions, why don't you do some research and see if this sort of question has ever been asked of large numbers of geologists before? After all, you have already admitted that the question interests you. If you are unwilling to do that research, why should someone else?

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

I don't think it should be necessary for the question to be put to groups of geologists. If they share Hatfield's awareness of the situation, that would be enough. The question is, are Hatfield's views typical of academic geologists? What do you think, yes or no?

Once again, sophistry, as Halfin attempts to mutate a previous question into something else in order to achieve some debating game points. You, sir, are the one who said you were interested in what these people thought. You, sir, are the one who ought to actually check your assumption before leaping to conclusions.

Let's review another situation for your edification. Prior to WWII, Winston Churchill was loudly sounding the alarm for years about Germany. He was vilified and relegated to fringe status... until it all came true, at which point the British people wanted him to save them from their own folly. The rejection of his view by the vast majority of politicians of that day did not mean he was wrong, did it? In fact, the rejection of Galileo's thesis by the vast majority of scholars of his day did not mean he was wrong either, did it?

In addition to assuming that geologists generally do not share Professor Hatfield's position (an assumption for which you have demonstrated not one bit of factual evidence), you are also "appealing to authority" (the authority of the majority) by suggesting that if the majority do not agree with a viewpoint about something then obviously they must be right instead of the minority viewpoint. This argument is so weak that one wonders how you even came to make it, especially given your lack of facts.

So let's summarize for the reader following Halfin's "game" thus far:
1. Halfin makes an unsubstantiated assertion based upon his own assumptions with zero factual data to support that assumption.
2. Halfin jumps to a conclusion based upon his assumption, a conclusion which happens to coincide with Halfin's previously noted disposition for debunking peak oil.
3. When challenged to present data, Halfin claims that one should not have to produce data and instead asks for more opinion.

Tell me, Halfin, how can you determine if the majority of geologists share Professor Hatfield's views unless you ask (or find someone who has asked)?

I am so thankful that real scientists do not function in the manner that you do, sir. Would you be an economist by training perhaps?

Ghawar Is Dying
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function. - Dr. Albert Bartlett

Here is a list of professional geophysical societies:

One of the most prominent is the AAPG. Their outgoing President gave a speech last year in which he mentioned Peak Oil:

He began on a note of skepticism:

"As shown by Jack Edwards, so-called “Peak oil” is not imminent, but may occur toward the middle or end of the next generation. Even so, “Peak oil” is not the key question.

"The larger issue is the shrinking of world productive capacity compared with growing world oil demand."

Later however he emphasized the need to communicate to the public that challenges exist:

"Our oil use continues to grow, and it will be increasingly expensive. It is now time for the professional societies, especially in the United States, to publicly emphasize the immediate need for increasing energy efficiency and conservation, especially with regard to motor fuels. Americans accomplished such efficiencies once before, 25 years ago, and we can do it again – but we must get started now!"

I would suggest that this is a fair summary of the state of beliefs among professional geologists. Challenges are large and growing, but the crisis is not yet upon us. We have time to react, but we must communicate that steps have to be taken.

These are the experts, people who have devoted their entire professional lives to studying the issues. Yes, you can find a few mavericks like Hatfield, or the many names we love to mention around here. But the majority viewpoint within the field does not see a crisis.

Now, people always argue that the majority is sometimes wrong. Yes, but the minority is at least equally likely to be wrong, too. How to tell which side is right?

With bizarre and breathtaking arrogance, most commentators here put themselves above the professionals who spend their entire lives studying this field. They think that a few hours reading biased web pages and a limited number of like-minded experts gives them the authority to reject the consensus view of an entire field of professionals!

I am continually amazed at the hubris shown by amateurs who think they know more about these topics than professionals. I hate to imagine their shoddy living conditions if they plumbed and wired their houses with the same scorn for professional achievement and confidence in how well an internet-educated amateur can do!

You reject the consensus opinion of the greatest experts our society can produce at your peril. I will continue to favor the opinion of expert professionals over internet educated amateurs. I realize that this subjects me to scorn around here, but frankly that just further illustrates the deficiences in the approach to truth adopted by many readers of this site.

Whether or not Hatfield's views are typical of academic geologists is, IMO, irrelevant. Hubbert's views were certainly not typical of oil industry geologists. Elsewhere in geology, plate tectonics was not a view largely accepted in geology until a small number of 'maverick' geologists came up with the definitive data. More recently, oil industry geologists predicted the North Sea would not peak until 2010 at the earliest, they were wrong. I'm sure many other examples of erroneous 'mainstream' scientific views could be found.

Mainstream scientific thought in a given area should obviously not be ignored, but neither should it be taken as gospel, and it absolutely should not be taken as a surrogate predictor of the future trends in the same area.

Grey Zone,

Now that is what I call an "intellectual bitchslap du jour." My hat off to you sir! (or madame as the case may be) I can only hope to be so good someday.

Judging by his horribly inadequate response, Halfin doesn't even know what hit him.

I love it. =)

Sorry to post this so late, Leanan, but I live on the west coast and have other things to do.
While I find the articles that you select intriguing and sometimes informative, I find that so much of the commentary is silly. An example is the posting by Thomeas Deplume, stating that the earth has 500,000 sq. km of surface area, which as Darwinian points out in a subsequent post is 1000 times too small. How am I supposed to react to this kind of juvenile gibberish?
Plus this thread is filled with ridiculous doomerist nonsense, based upon one geologist's opinion. As Halfin asks, why are there not more members of the world's group of geological scholars not speaking. even shreiking, of the imminent demise of oil?

Sorry, but the gibberish has gooten to me!

Halfin does indeed raise an interesting point, one which I have had at the back of my mind for a while. During my time as an academic scientist I was a member of a number of learned societies, some with memberships in excess of 10,000. Typically such groups at their annual conferences would have a broad range of committees and sub-groups established to look at current and up coming areas of interest. In a similar way the climatologists established specialised groups to look at the question of global warming years ago before the issue really became mainstream. Surely groups of academic geologists (I imagine there is an American and European Society for Geology, as there was one in my field, Microbiology) must have formed working parties to look at the question of PO? And if so surely we should be able to get some access to their musings?

. . . . must have formed working parties to look at the question of PO?

Yeah, there was one in 2001. It was called "Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force."

And if so surely we should be able to get some access to their musings?

The only documents that were released, after a lawsuit mind you, were maps of Iraq's oil fields assigned to respective oil companies.

Hi andyh, formerly AMPOD, Halfin and others,

I'm pressed for time, but take a look at the letters section of the journal "American Scientist" for July/Aug 2006.(p. 291). There's a letter regarding an exchange on exactly this topic. (Excerpt below) It's really worth looking into. I'll try to get to it at some point. But check it out if you possibly can.

My recall is that there must have been some very "suspect" (ethically) reasoning and "insider politics" going on, which this letter (see below) references. I meant to check this out...I'd encourage you to...

I happened to see a letter from James Evans, Bowling Green State U., Bowling Green Ohio. I copied a couple of sentence from his letter in my notebook:

"Should geologists push (and push hard, I would argue) their data and evidence to force the policy debate or should we wait for political consensus to emerge? And what if that is when the last drop of oil is gone? Wouldn't that be personally irresponsible? How is that 'good science'?"

I feel like putting this all in caps.

The Oil Drum is a great source of info, but I get so tired of the unquestioned and undefended doomer assumptions in the comments, like this thread. Much of this seems to be based on very limited experience outside the US.

Having spent some time in countries like Nepal, where per capita energy consumption is 65 Kwh/yr versus the US at 12,250 Kwh/yr (Nationmaster) and doom has still not struck, the assumption that the US is headed for doom when oil peaks is difficult to swallow. There is soooo much fat to cushion the downside in rich countries. The assumption that the US cannot feed its' current population after oil peaks is also absurd. Our largest current crop is lawn, maybe hungry people will grow something other than bluegrass. Nepal has a much higher population density than the US (5X) and a much smaller percentage of arable land and it still feeds itself. In truly poor countries, every scrap of arable land is used, whether highway medians/verges or backyards or roofs.
Certainly the transition to a lower energy lifestyle will be harsh and the longer we wait to prepare the harsher the transition, but assuming nuclear war and massive dieoff is completely irrational.

There is soooo much fat to cushion the downside in rich countries. The assumption that the US cannot feed its' current population after oil peaks is also absurd. Our largest current crop is lawn, maybe hungry people will grow something other than bluegrass.

I agree with this. We - in the USA - have been so fat for so long (figuratively and in some cases literally) that we don't know it, and we find it impossible to imagine a 'thinner' life.

Along with this has come, I think, a certain sense of entitlement to what we have, and this is what will make a very constrained energy environment difficult and painful to take.

Great post Mike, I really enjoyed it.

For me, it is as simple as this (and I have posted this before)

My father emigrated from Hungary in 1956, to the United States, for obvious reasons.

He has told me that "you will be surprised what you will do when you are cold and hungry". Look into his eyes when he tells the stories, then you will be a believer.

Whatever happens in the future, and (if) you are in the "cold and hungry" scenario, then all bets are off. You will do radical things to survive. Others will do radical and unspeakable things to survive.

The people that think that society will be rational in these times are simple naive. The will to survive in times of [extreme] crisis is unrelenting. Only the strong will live another day.

Consider what would happen if KSA exportable oil output went to zero from a terrorist event while a hurricane was running through the GOM. Will the store shelves be stocked? This is entirely possible. Does pontificating this make me a doomer?

Think about a constant and relentless fall of fuel supplies around 5 percent per year after year. What would be the economic effects? Could our economy still function? Seriously? What will bridge the gap? What would the unemployment numbers look like as nearly all non-essential employment evaporated?

IMHO, the unknowns without answers simply dictate chaos.

A couple of minor points:

It should be noted that Hatfield did specialized study in petroleum geology for a class he began teaching, and kept up on that field's professional literature for many years - someone who specializes study in a field for years and is up on all the facts probably has an opinion much more worthy of noting than a geologist who isn't particularly conversant in that narrow field...or even a group of the same.

The spokesman for the geology association who said that "peak oil is years away" goes on to say the 'larger issue' is a real problem - that of declining production versus world demand - which is basically what "peak oil" means to us in practical terms. If world production remains flat for a few more years, or lessens, for whatever reason, we will probably experience some of the practical effects of peak oil without necessarily being at the 'halfway mark'.

The behavior of the oil companies is a good place to look for clues about oil - and since the major companies have been cannibalizing each other, and merging, and are letting much of their equipment rot away, and are not building many new refineries or doing much exploring- this kind of behavior is classic for a business that knows it is contracting and dying out...and is extremely odd behavior for a market which has many years left (according to peak naysayers) of easy/plentiful oil. Add our 2001 top secret energy conference attended by oil industry bigwigs, and our interesting new policy of 'protecting energy resources as a matter of national security', and it rather looks like big oil business and government are quietly preparing for a fairly urgent scenario that won't be admitted to until the last possible moment, if at all. Their 'initial emergency plan' is probably already being implemented under the flag-waving guise of quashing terrorism, fighting tyranny, and spreading democracy...all very convenient when every target has something to do with resources we don't own but want to secure for ourselves.

I think that other events like hurricanes/weather,
civil unrest, terrorism, geopolitical conflict, etc., will drive us into a peak scenario before actual peak becomes obvious in a rearview. One can believe that it is coming soon, or not, as one chooses - but preparing for possibilities, be they peak oil or the collapse of the dollar, market failure prompted by the housing bust, etc., cannot be anything but positive for most, in the long run.

When peak oil will actually happen is a question that time will answer - and I prefer to be on the 'prepared' side when that answer comes.