Of Technology and the Future

I was planning on writing a little more on technology, or rather the lack of development thereof, but thought I would begin by commenting on the Tar Sands issue a little more. I noted that in Robert’s post on the API call where he began the discussion with the note about the rivers around Fort McMurray turning brown due to the tar sands residue. Well one of the wonders of today’s technology is that you can check.

I had posted about this before, but this time thought to use modern technology. If you go to Google Earth and type in “Fort McMurray” it will give you an overview of the town in Alberta, and the mines can be found just to the North of it. Please note that the river running through the town, from the mines, is blue. Now I don’t think that Google spends their time painting in rivers – so I guess it really is (Well it is really clear, but you get my point). As I noted at the time the brown color occurs as the water from the sand/bitumen separator carries the sand to the tailings pond. Because the clean sand is brown when wet the water looks brown, until the sand settles out in the pond. You can see that the sand then dries to a whiter color, and the contained water in the main body of the pond is also blue. (It was also blue when I saw it on my visit). Once the hole dug to remove the oil sand has been filled in, then the cover will be replaced and it will return to normal, except that the rivers and streams won’t have a tarry bottom any longer.

As I saw, when going out to dinner last Saturday night, we are now entering High School Prom Season as this year’s graduates prepare to move on to jobs and college. It is this generation that will see the unfolding energy crisis in all its facets. While in college they will likely see Peak Oil; while working Peak Natural Gas, and, before they retire, Peak Coal. Which means that between those about to retire and these kids lies the brain power that is going to have to solve the reality of finding alternate sources of fuel at World-scale volumes.

Oh, and before I get into the discussion of the technology we need, let me also note that you can waste far too much time wandering around KSA with Google Earth looking at the wells around Shaybah, and what an active site appears to be, and then going over to Ain Dar and looking at the sand covering the roads and parking lots. (Purely anecdotal - I know.)

There are two issues that, I believe, API does not really address in their response that technology will come to the rescue of a world that is going to be running out of fossil fuel. The first part is the personnel and knowledge base issue. In Episode 3 of Connections 1, James Burke noted that a generation after Henry V won the battle of Agincourt with Welsh longbows there was a drastic shortage of archers, because they had all found other things to do. (The same thing was to happen a few hundred years later in Scotland when the recruiters for the British Army went up to fill the Highland Regiments and found the population largely diminished). And the same thing has happened in fossil energy.

It is an increasing concern to industry, now having to pay $80,000 for starting salaries to fresh graduates, with starting bonuses. It is a concern to the Universities, since their faculty are continuing to retire and are difficult to replace with qualified folk. And it came about because, for the past 20-odd years there was no demand for such engineers. A large number of those who graduated in the 70’s and early 80’s were laid-off and found careers elsewhere, and those that remained are now nearing the end of their time, with a large gap in the middle. It takes time after graduation to really learn the ropes of an industry, and more particularly to learn those things that need to be done differently to improve performance, and to have the clout to make that happen. The comment about Robert Service’s poem The Man who Knew is more real than many may admit. And most of those who will graduate will be needed to meet the increasingly technical complexities of winning higher production rates from current but increasingly lean resources, rather than looking at the over-riding alternative approach that can give more than incremental change.

So where is technology needed? There are, of course, many avenues that can be followed, but it seems that, in the main, the problem can be divided into three parts. Given that liquid fossil fuels for transportation are likely to be the first to feel the pinch, and with an infrastructure in place, the initial effort should, most profitably, be directed at increasing production from existing reserves. By this I mean such things as developing fluids that will displace more of the oil from a reservoir than the current amount. One way to do this that has been discussed is the use of liquid carbon dioxide as a means of enhancing oil recovery. There are, however a variety of ways that can be used. And, were there motivation, there might well be additional ways that await development. However it should also be remembered that not all oil recovery methods work in the different rock conditions found in different reservoirs. These are techniques that can have very large rewards, but where the need is more immediate. As an illustration, consider that with mining of the oil sands all the oil is recovered, but when conventional or enhanced recovery techniques are used to extract it from wells only perhaps half of it is recovered. Perhaps this might lead to techniques where the oil-bearing rock is mined underground, stripped of value, and returned. This is, after all, how many metals are mined from large underground deposits. The likely economics of this are, however, driven by a preliminary need to do this remotely, since one of the higher energy costs in mining comes from providing for the safety and health of miners (things like providing clean air to breathe).

In the intermediate term we will still, to a large extend be burdened with existing technology as far as the need for liquid fuel is concerned, and this is where alternate sources of fuel are now getting all the attention. However there are, apart from the technical issues, also problems in relying on fuels that can be grown if they are vulnerable to the droughts and storms that are part of a normal farmer's life. From this point of view, if no other, the renewable fuels that are developed to act as the bridge into the future will have to be diverse. Thus there will need to be some form of conversion of resources such as coal to provide the backup to the vulnerability of plant production. Bear in mind that the initial need is for a fuel that will power today's fleet, and in this regard there may be some significant benefit from a more intense study of algae. However sustained large-scale algae growing may have some considerable challenges that may not become evident until it is first tried (which I don't think it has been yet).

And these two together should give us enough breathing time to start developing the transportation system of the future and the power sources that they will require, in the volumes needed. It is, in this context, important to remember that, as a history prof once commented, it was the automobile and the highway system that really opened up the country and provided opportunity for the majority of the inhabitants. This occurred after the arrival of the railway and thus, while increased use of rail is a logical progression, it will not, in itself, be adequate and thus some form of personal vehicle will still be required. Thus some form of energy storage, whether liquid, battery or other will need to be developed, but bear in mind that there is a “cart and the horse” situation here and until such systems are defined and developed that there will be decades over which the change will have to take place. My own thought is that electric cars are likely to be a significant player - solar-powered cars have raced across various parts of the world at speeds above the legal limit (shhhh!), designed by undergraduate students, and the potential evolution of this into vehicles for use more mundane mortals is liely one of time (if the program continues to get support). For larger vehicles perhaps hydrogen may provide the fuel, particularly if more effective ways of producing it (say from the weak beer produced by cellulosic ethanol) prove to be effective.

Will it get done in the time before this years High School Graduates retire? For their sake I hope so, but there needs to be a sense of urgency and understanding of the size of the problem that sadly remains lacking. Further with the decline in interest in science and engineering shown by these self-same students, it may be that there won't be the critical mass of investigation needed for the breakthroughs that must come.

If there were the careers available for scientists and engineers, the interest in those professions among students would also be there. They're not, so there isn't. And with outsourcing, probably never will be again in the U.S. except in limited areas for limited times like petroleum engineering. But I suppose that China may sell us the breakthroughs when they make them.

Many things have been outsourced, maybe too many... but, most innovation is in the US. Simply check the number of Nobels. The current hot thing is solar; silicon valley and other locales are throwing a lot of money at this, I expect low cost solar (<$1/w) to appear here in a couple of years. There is still no place on earth more receptive to startups with new ideas than the US. A fundamental flaw in our education system is that it does not do a good job educating the majority; a fundamental plus is that it instills original thinking to a minority that are really interested in obtaining an education, and this minority (including some foreigners who come here for education) is generating most of the planet's original thinking.

TOyota is now no. 1, not least because of indiana transplants replacing michigan factories. Does it matter much that ownership is japanese? Japan does do a great job perfecting ideas with high quality manufacturing. A benefit of free trade is world wide partnerships.

High starting salaries for pet geologists will generate new grads in a few years, if there is a shortage of profs, some of the retiring petroleum geologists will teach a bit, say one semester a year... and, these recycled geologists will have a lot of practical knowledge to pass on.

All of the above brought to you by the hidden hand, which works best here...

Permanent jobs are the greatest threat to full employment.

Most innovation is still in the U.S.? Doesn't show. Most advanced cell phone service? Not in the U.S. Most advanced broadband? Not in the U.S. Most advanced refineries? Not in the U.S.

And if your idea is that optimum economic efficiency requires 5-10 year careers, then you will have to accept the side effects; eg, no one will want to make the sacrifices to get the degrees and no one will have any experience.

Jk: Realistically, it depends where one is on the economic spectrum. The current structure of the US economy is the most advantageous it has ever been for probably 25% of the country's population. It is the worst is has been in 50 years for the remaining 75%. The other issue is that this ratio is creeping upward steadily- if the investor class manages to control the economic agenda, within 10 years this split will be more like 85-15, IMO.

The "hidden hand"?

Based on outdated Enlightenment Deism, discredited by two world wras, among other things.

Hi J,

Thanks for your perspective.

I have a couple of qs.

1) When you talk about "free trade", do you mean multinationals that can locate and re-locate anywhere, as they see fit?

This seems a little different than "trade".

And what about multinationals with offshore banking addresses? Is this the same as "trade"?

2) When you talk about the "world wide partnerships", how do you see these being feasible post-peak? (Or do you?)

3) Sincere question: Why did the US invade Iraq? And where is this leading?

4) What's your thinking about the question asked below, re: increasing divide between "classes" of beneficiaries of the US educational system - and the world "trade" system?

In the specialized Departments the demand is there now, and the enrollments are starting to reflect this, but you are right in that until the need is made more evident, and the rewards similarly so, then the overall situation will not change.

One bright spot is that a lot more of the fuel generation will migrate back closer to the point of end-use. On the smallest scale the farmer co-operative development of corn ethanol plants increases, if only by small numbers, the jobs in the rural communities where they are placed, and slows the drift to the big city.

As an additional side note on the Tar Sands, Yes you can see the tailings ponds, I've been there and saw first hand, as well as google earthing it! Those white sandy beaches in Google Earth are clay beaches. Here is the problem, You cannot filter or remove clay from water, you can remove a percentage, however on a high volume daily basis, the "fines" add up. In the words of an oil industry executive "If you find a way of removeing 100% of the clay,.. you are god & patent it!"

I happen to operatate a much smaller clay separating unit from Cetco which is a subsidary Company for Amcol Int. We are slowly plugging up the sewer lines, even though we dual filter it, that is the liquid solid separating filter is 30um, then the water travels through a 20um sock/bag filter unit. Tertiary recovery program on a small scale = big bottleneck in production flow.

Additionally, there is a Phd thesis by Fredrik Robelius on peak oil, not sure if anyone saw this?


Did you ever try the electrical current method for sedimentation enhancement? Some 30-odd years ago when I had a tailings pond type of problem this was one of the solutions that seemed possible. We ended up doing something else so I never really chased it down very far, but it has always stuck in my mind as a possible answer.

Yes yes we did look at this. I forgot about this, you looked too eh! I remember some of the problems (just) variable resistivity in the mineral attachments on the clay particles causes reflective characteristics, so total turbidity (ntu) results were not good on thier testing. Secondly, did you guys have Ph problems? we did at the begining of the test trial period. But additional powder solved it, but I don't remember the powder. The Eng'rs determined evaporation was cheapest. yet the settling can take 70yrs or more, so they hoped for warm summers.

Our biggest problem is filtration of the majority of the clay fines, every 8hrs bags need changing.

Until everyone understand and addresses continued growth in a finite environment --- which is a huge paradigm shift for all of us. Efficiency will not matter; technology will not matter; urgency will not matter; and there will be no technology to fix this future. This is the fundamental essential truth that no one likes to talk about – including your article.

Spot on, iclimbrock. Unfortunately, HO appears (from this post) to be unable to envisage a world that isn't largely the same as it is now, so some alternative to oil and natural gas must naturally be found. We need to deal with the reality that this is a finite world. And we need to deal with it very soon. Posts like this do a disservice because they include an implicit assumption of a solution (allowing business as usual); we just have to figure it out. It ain't so.

Could not of said it better myself---
Until we come up with a new relationship to the means of production, this expansion of growth in a finite environment will continue.
To come right to the point: Capitalism goes, or we go. We are a incredibly imaginative species, we can come up with a solution (possibly). The problem is we have evolved survival skills that no longer apply to the world we currently inhabit.

I don’t believe capitalism is necessarily the problem --- the pursuit of individual interest often produces a collective good for society and decentralized control and the freedom of choice is extremely motivating and efficient. But we must re-learn that it's to our individual best interest, society’s best interest, and that of our children’s best interest, to no over populate, over produce, or pollute our environment. There have many social moments in history where groups of people have earned their rights -- the abolishment of slavery, women’s right to vote, etc. Now we need a new social movement – the rights of the young and future generations (and many poor people all around the world) – to live in a clean, productive, and sustainable world and to have the same opportunities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I can imagine a society that has a higher standard of living than the average person in the world has today and that is sustainable; but it has a lot smaller population and somehow we have to get from here to there in the next 100 years.

But this just isn't a problem in the next several centuries. World energy production is less than 1/1000th the solar flux.

Sadly, I don't really believe in a "technological solution" to the problem of Peak Oil. I really wish I did, but I don't. I'm actually biased in favour a tech-fix. I want this to happen and be true; but, but, but.

From where we stand now, given timescale contraints, we should be planning to actually reduce our consumption of oil and gas "substantially" in the coming decades. However, we are going to do the opposite, basically use far more, and save a bit. It's rather like our other great problem, global warming and forced climate change. Without drastic cuts in our consumption of fossile fuels, all we can hope for is to reduce the level of increase in our carbon emissions, not reverse it.

Our fundamental problem, bigger than the two above named, is our model of social organisation, which is literally killing us and the planet. We won't deal, we actually can not deal with these challanges without confronting the elephant in the room, social organisation. I don't actually have an answer to this "problem", but I do think that relying on the "market" and this "invisible hand" thing to save us, is both a recipe for disaster and delusional.

If you haven't, I suggest that you go back up to the story and click on the link to the poem "The Man Who Knew." Answers you better than I can.

Yeah, I've read the poem. I sort of identify with the Dreamer rather than the man who knew. Is that the right answer?

I too think we need to dream and hope and work for solutions. I think we need Utopias as well, something to we can strive for. Today, for example, we could, if we wanted to, eliminate hunger and desease on world wide basis, and most of us wouldn't even notice the cost. We have the resources, the know-how and the money. It's a problem that do-able, for perhaps the first time in history. All we'd need to do is transfer around two trillion dollars we collectively waste on military expenditure a year to eradicating poverty. Taking the historic lead, the United States could choose to transform itself from a war-economy, into a peace-economy. It's prefectcly feasable and it's not exactly cutting-edge thinking is it? Only problem is, I don't see us doing it, inside the confines of our current socio-economic paradigm. And if we can't do something as relatively "easy" as this, then I'm sceptical about us dealing with far larger and fundamental problems like Peak Oil and Global Warming.

Does this make me a Doomer? I hope not. Intellectually, in my head, I don't see us changing our ways. Emotionally, in my heart, I feel we have to, we must, we don't have a choice, and I'm doing everything I can to bring on the "revolution."

I'm struck by the fairly common (but false) belief both on this forum and others, that we (humanity ) are at the peak of evolution, and therefore should strive to retain the status quo in terms of the Western worlds level of comfortable civilization, and also spread that level to all other people on the planet. Having spent some time studying a variety of disciplines,including cultural anthropology and what's commonly termed "Chaos Theory" (not the movie version, the real deal ) in the last 62 years, it's my considered opinion that a complex system that stops evolving will inevitably die. Lots of historical, and experimental, evidence for this if anyone cares to do the research.

Briefly, and in very simplistic terms, progress in terms of adaptation to a changing environment(evolution)requires stress. That stress is nearly always violent and unforgiving, but results in a species and/or cultural norm that is suited to the new physical and cultural environment.

I think what bothers most people is that they (we) cannot envision what that new species will be, even tho we are partially responsible for it's evolution. We are currently Homo Sapiens. What we will become is unknown, but we can be certain it will be something different than what we are now.

Does a tadpole know it will become a frog?

Even if we were at the peak of evolution, it would probably be irrelevant, since there is no way we are going to survive in the numbers we have under any scenario. The main thing that need to evolve, and pronto, is our brains, which are totally unsuited for long term survival on this planet.

Nicely said.

Transformation through stress, pain, and devouring. In nature, everything gets eaten by another. Life evolves. There's something extraordinarily beautiful in this, which is why I'm a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist.

Thank you. In the same vein, I've often wondered why it is that people tend to view themselves as somehow apart from "nature". I suppose it's because "people are shmart"? (re: the Geico commercials ) :)

I would not say that we have stopped evolving its simply that we have reached a dead end route with the western/oil economy.

It ends when oil ends. I think you have to split the concept of evolution and refinement from the extinction of a species.
I general outside of generic calamities a species goes extinct when it becomes so refined that a destruction or changes in the condition of of the niche it is filling result in the collapse of the species while less specialized species continue. Obviously continued evolution that refines a species also lead inexorably to its own extinction. We have reached this point in a sense if peak oil had happened in the 1920's when we where less dependent on it the effects would have been far less dire. As we have continued to specialize and refine (pun intended) the oil economy we only ensured that the effects of peak oil will be that much more difficult to handle.
I think this is a better model since I don't think its correct to say evolution has stopped in the western/oil economy. SUV's and McMansions today are larger and more luxurious than any time in history :(

I generally agree. Would you agree that your comments regarding species refinement would also apply to cultural evolution/extinction ( an example might be the Mayan culture or any number of "dead" cultures )as opposed to biological?

I think so. The evidence would be we rarely see a earlier culture that dies. This may be simply because of lack of evidence but I'm talking about 100's and even thousands of years of stability before cultures seem to take a route that leads to a dead end. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that they refine a farming practice or trade method that maximizes resources and this becomes highly refined and enables a complex culture similar to today. And its suffers exactly the same complexity feedback breakdown mechanisms. Within reason esp over longer time periods cultures seem to follow the laws of evolution. Eventually dead ending in a complex society that fails when conditions alter on of the basic foundations of the society. These same problems would not have cause the society to fail at lower complexity levels. Extinction at least of culture is in my opinion tightly linked to cascading failures caused by feedback loops that become undamped and the complexity of the culture causes it to freeze or worse take actions that make the problem worse. Biological extinction seems to behave the same way. I'm fairly outspoken but on this issue a massive amount of knowledge backs my position that we will suffer massive systematic failure post peak oil and their is nothing we can do about it outside doing a controlled collapse.

China and India seem unique in that they never seemed to lose most of their technology despite multiple collapses. My best guess is that these are fairly large regions and fragmentation allowed something like ELP to be practiced through each collapse.

Close scrutiny of cultures that fared best through collapses might help use understand how to do WT ELP protocol.

With what I'm saying about China and India they must have practiced some sort of controlled collapse to achieve ELP I think with what I know about both regions and the incredible amount of diversity in language and culture that exists the trick is when the empires collapsed all the provinces simultaneously broke away into small kingdoms.

Both countries maintain this rich diversity today and I think it was critical to success in the past when the empires collapsed. Clans in Iraq are a similar protection system. In areas that where more homogeneous collapses where much deeper and longer. If I'm right this diversity in culture acts the same as biodiversity to prevent mass extinctions. And of course as usual just about anything that would make peak oil less painful has been lost and much of it in the last 20 years.

Hopefully someone who disagrees will be willing to present a well balanced and thought out rebuttal not the technology will save us drivel I've seen. Very few even present a reasonable way to even introduce this saving technology.
Technology post resource peak actually tends to hasten the collapse by diverting energy from replacement solutions into attempts to maintain the status quo. So in my opinion I suspect that cultures that took the tech route in attempt to maintain business as usual probably crashed even harder since they would have had to take resources from viable new approaches that laid the ground work for the birth of a new culture.

Outside of that I'm convinced massive collapse is now not only possible but must happen because of the basic math/dynamics of the system. Protected ELP incubators however do seem to allow post collapse revival to happen quickly although they do not avert he collapse itself. For ELP I think monasteries of the dark ages make a excellent model for preserving knowledge and eventually reapplying it to the new situation when cultures start growing again. I think you have to look at a Monastic like system if ELP is going to work. I suspect many where far looser than is portrayed today and doubt all the super strict rules they had where essential for success but you certainly need a strong covenant between several hundred people with a very clear and obvious set of rules to make monastic approaches viable.
I cannot see many Americans making this transition. The more modern Israeli Kibbutz is probably closer to what we would at least tolerate and they are successful.


It effectively impossible to prevent and I know of no example where either biological or cultural extinction was averted when a complex system went into feedback implosion.

Not one.

I would love to be proved wrong.

I have absolutely no desire to right if someone knows of a realistic way out of this vortex time to speak up.

You put a lot of thought into this. My brain says you're probably correct, my gut hopes you aren't. Ever read "Cannibals and Kings" by Marvin Harris? If not, it's worth a read. A little dated, and I don't totally agree with all of his conclusions, but he does offer some insight.

Cool book thanks !

memmel wrote:

"Protected ELP incubators however do seem to allow post collapse revival to happen quickly although they do not avert the collapse itself."

Along with your same vein thoughts above, I suggest the closest ELP culture we have in this country to be had as a guidepost is the Amish.

The only "way out of this vortex" that I imagine requires an acceptance of the harsh realities we've dug ourselves into while relinquishing the illusion of control and techno-fixes we keep trying to exert over them. In short: a paradigm shift of our cultural myths. However, this is not particularly "realistic" given our stubborn and egocentric adherence to unrealistic myths (and commercialization) of power and reliance upon applying mops & buckets instead of simply reviewing how best to shut off the taps to our problems.

As Rene Dubos foresaw in Reason Awake: "Developing countertechnologies to correct the new kinds of damage constantly being created by technological innovations is a policy of despair. If we follow this course we shall increasingly behave like hunted creatures, fleeing from one protective device to another, each more costly, more complex, and more undependable than the one before... while sacrificing the values that make life worth living."

Rings a bell, doesn't it.

Still, in the US the Amish culture best exemplifies one sane way out. To whit: "Only a people serving an apprenticeship to nature can be trusted with machines. Only such people will so contrive and control those machines that their products are an enhancement of biological needs, not a denial of them." (Herbert Read, "The Grass Roots of Art")

But quite obviously we are not going to voluntarily relinquish the myth of control and take lessons from the Amish.

I'm not anti technology I think technology can be very useful more so post peak oil. Technology != Energy.

Technology is neither good nor bad nuclear reactions don't have feeling for example. In general the way we have used technology in general is pretty bad but you have to separate the way we have applied technology from the mere existence of technology. For example a light weight powered tiller could easily tremendously increase the productivity of a farm for the energy used. My parent actually sent me to live with the Amish when I was a kid.

They would send me anywhere they could find in the summer.
My dad caught me with a five pound coffee can of fertilizer diesel fuel and black powder earlier that summer so the Amish who don't use chemicals looked like a safe bet :)

In any case back on track they would use horses and mules to pull standard 3 point hitch farm implements some groups would use small motors to power the farm equipment but use horses to pull. This is actually a very sensible mix of technology and common sense. I'm sure given the chance we could create some fantastic technologies that are clean and environmentally friendly and allow us to not fall back to the old problems of masses of farm labor with little real output. Overall the technical solutions presented are generally interesting in building a new society. But that means nothing about saving our current one.

And even though they did not use fertilizer I worked on manufacturing black powder since the old horse manure/hay from the stalls contained lots of urea. I just could not figure out where to get the dang sulfur. Sulfur from natural sources seems to be a pain. The Amish are lucky people :)

My Amish point was not anti-technology, but rather about how they manage to make wise judgments about what, when, and how to use it so that it doesn't get out of control. In this sense it is very much about scale of use, and for what end. Does it enhance their life and needs without causing greater disruption to their settled lives and long term sustainability. All of which involves a level of humility, responsibility, and respect for nature or creation that is totally lacking in our culture and use of technology.

We have too much 'know how' power and too little 'know why.' Our mythical control over life on earth is a deeply ingrained cultural one that all our vast array and feats of technological prowess only aggravates.

With respect to PO or GW, most all the technological solutions proposed are not true solutions to our underlying dilemma of how to live a sustainable life. They are manifest quasi-solutions tied to trying to maintain the unsustainable, which only paints us into a tighter dead end.

When it comes to technology I am all in favor of those which are of:

  • the right scale
  • design simplicity
  • make efficient use of resources (preferably local ones)
  • offer a close fit between means and ends
  • durable
  • redundant and resilient

Further more, they are, in John Todd's words, "elegant solutions predicated on the uniqueness of place", and, I would add, the people and other creatures living in such places. In this way technology is an enhancement of:

  • human competence instead of addiction and dependence
  • sound regional economies
  • social resilience
  • and long term ecological sustainability

To the extant that the Amish decently manage to get these qualities right in their use of technology is why I think they have some insight of wisdom to offer.

To the extant that our culture, our educational system, and scientists of all stripes brought up in the same tend to see no sense of obligation, limitations, or responsibility to the qualifications above that I am resolutely against.

Although I have no direct experience with the Amish of Pennsylvania, my area of rural western NY has a fairly large population of a similar community of Mennonite/Amish. I'd suggest pause before romanticizing the connnection of such people to the earth.

From what I've seen, the phrase 'long term ecological sustainability' appears to have little room in their practice. I've visited many small sawmills and generally see a willingness to take down every tree that can be sawn and milled into another dollar. Apart from this they remain quite dependent on the wider economy within which they live.

Interesting comment.

Low tech does not mean sustainable your correct.
In some ways if you move to depend on too much human labor you may actually require more resources than a high tech approach.

You could point to their use of modern medicine also as a strong dependency to the external economy.

Its not black and white by any means.

For sure within the various amish/mennonite communities there is a latitude of practices, some not as good as others. They are after all human.

I certainly didn't mean to "romanticize" them, which is why I said: "To the extent that the Amish decently manage to get these qualities (of my list above) right in their use of technology is why I think they have some insight of wisdom to offer."

Some do more so than others. Does this make them perfect? Absolutely not, as human perfection is not attainable. None the less, the better Amish communities make do with less over-industrialized technology (and all the imbalances that involves), and this self-imposition from within effectively results in much less hard to reverse or irreversible harm than our high-tech limitless non-negotiable way of life ever does.

I have little doubt that in the initial post peak crisis a lot of Amish or Mennonite communities will not suffer any where as badly a shock to their livelihoods as you or I will. It's worth considering why. How ever this PO crisis plays itself out, any practical guidepost is better than none, and I do suggest the Amish have a better one than any of us have going.

I'm sure we can all think of a few other existent cultures that may well initially survive PO better than ours, but I mention the Amish type as it is most closely akin to our western heritage and exists right under our noses.

Nice list. Hopefully you or someone can post a nice article on sustainable technology. And refrain from tying it to a prediction that it will save us. I think but the basic dogma if you will is important. And the approach should be from the viewpoint of if we had a chance to do it all over again and no oil but a reasonably complete technology base and esp information base.

Electric cars for example don't in my opinion make a lot of sense trains are far better. Solar powered blimps or zeppelins should also be revisited. Sail technology is already getting a revival but I think that the types of ships i.e sizes designs may be different for sail. A cargo catamaran or trimaran may be more viable for sail (solar hydrogen) powered ships.

We have very efficient airplane designs that are slower than today's aircraft do the need to remain slow? Flying wings make better sense for things like hydrogen or vegetable oil based jet engines since its much easier to keep the fuel lines warm.

I think we may be discounting air travel esp if slowing down just a bit will give big gains in efficiency.

Maybe the oil drum would be willing to start a solutions to peak oil targets discussion area that can focus on post peak issues. The core concept would be WT ELP but we can explore exactly what that means. My on thoughts on the political implications comes to startling conclusions.

One thing I'd like to see is a classic posts/article support. We need this for the current site also way to much valuable information is now buried in the Oil Drum.

Thanks. As to any article on sustainable technology I think is putting the cart before the horse. First we have to decide and agree upon what it is we absolutely need to sustain! Trying to even imagine what we hope/want to keep and what we'll be able to is IMO slipping faster and faster from our grasp.

As for predictions, I only predict that the vast technological cart we have hog tied ourselves to and attempt to control - with ever dimishing results - will not save us. In fact, I predict the longer our deaf, dumb and blind reliance upon it continues to fly in the face of earthly reality will only lead us to greater destruction, well before any mythical salvation arrives this way. There is just way too much negative feedback already in place thanks to our missapplied technology that can not be avoided by the increased application of more of the same.

Anyway, whatever solutions and technologies do survive the fall will arise from within the wreakage of particular places and the people therein. I try to remain hopeful there will be enough such viable places to understand and then not forget to place the horse well in mind before the damn carts they'll build.

People have been waiting for collapse since people started agriculture. Its less likely now than ever.

Hi m,

I second your suggestions here. I'm curious about the political implications you are thinking about, and I'd like to hear further.

A while back you did say you thought the "world" (population? don't know how you said it) could be saved - it's a matter of ...? (What *did* you say?)

To me, there are some obvious things to stop doing, and others to begin immediately. (And there's a lot of talent here.)

I would not say that we have stopped evolving

Individuals don't evolve, nor do species. Only the offspring of some members of a species being slightly different from their siblings or forbears effects evolution.

We will never evolve into anything else. This is it. However, given humankind's apparent ability to suppress all selection pressures, it may well be that no future species will arise from human offspring. Although a drastic crash may well kick-start the process again.

Considering we are now effectively the masters of our genome and regardless of what the near term future brings genetic modification is not energy intensive. Its beyond ironic that science has created real intelligent design. So from a technology standpoint we are on the cusp of a whole new era in evolution beyond our comprehension.

I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Are you suggesting that we can evolve ourselves, via some kind of genetic manipulation? I'd say we are a long way from being master of our genome. We may have sequenced it but we probably have a clue about the effect of each "gene" for only a tiny fraction of that genome.

However, this is a bit off track. I was merely pointing out that we are not evolving in the Darwinian sense. Whether some of our species find a place in a future evolutionary branch, or not, is also an open question.


Yes we now have the the ability to do directed evolution or manipulate the genome in a controlled way. We lack the knowledge to do it precisely but the technology is in place now.

I'm suggesting that we don't know enough about evolution to decide if this is common or not. It would be a looong time before we would know if evolution naturally leads to a species intelligent enough to modify its own genome for further evolution. Or better the ability its not clear that intelligence is the only way this could happen. I happen to think that if a species can use "thought" to effect its genome that a pretty powerful evolutionary trait. We already know that complex behavior is somehow encoded in the genome a spiders web for example not learned so the bridge between neural patterns and genome exists now.

Somewhat off topic but don't dismiss technology I don't dismiss it in the least I think that as long as reasonably stable regions exist we will continue to advance technically at a fast pace so thinking about where we are going is not that far off topic. The only issue is I don't see technological advancement somehow saving our current culture and allowing a easy transition from oil into a similarly wasteful lifestyle. This is just not going to happen. Wind is about the only solution that been developed to the point that its feasible and it still has a number of problems. And finally its better suited for a electric train solution and this half is not being worked on.

Well, without "knowledge to do it precisely", then we don't have the ability to do "directed evolution".

I don't think we'll ever be able to say that evolution naturally leads to species able to modify its own genome. As evolution has no target, as such (I'm not suggesting you're saying it does), and leads only to species well adapted to their environments, I don't envisage an environment where the ability to modify one's own species' genome could be advantageous, especially as it is a learned ability, not an instinctive ability.

As far as technology, itself, is concerned, although a big fan of technology, I think we tend to delude ourselves about what is and what isn't technological progress. There is no intrinsic scale of goodness for technology and so no way to tell if we are "advancing" or not. Whether one views the direction of technology as forward or backward is a subjective assessment, even though many may come to the same subjective view about some technologies. Consequently, I think it's impossible to say objectively whether, given enough stability or time or resources, technology will "advance".

Well, without "knowledge to do it precisely", then we don't have the ability to do "directed evolution".

We do have this knowledge for many organisms just not humans yet or more precisely it would not be socially acceptable to start mucking extensively with the human genome with our current knowledge base not that we technically cannot do it.

As to the rest of your comment in general I agree its not obvious and I think that thats because we use the wrong metrics. I've also been in third world countries and find that despite the problems the people tend to be generally happier than the more technically advanced nations some of this is of course related to the age profiles but a simpler life seems to have some big advantages.

Hopefully after oil peaks and our crazy system winds down we will finally start taking a serious look at where we want to go next why and especially how. The current goal of a SUV and McMansion for the world seems to have become a lot less desirable thank God.

I for example think that really going into Space but prudently is a worthy goal we should continue to pursue.
Getting the world religions to accept population control etc etc.

I won't dispute the technical point of biological evolution, since you are quite obviously correct on that score. However, I think you will concede that individuals and species - as well as societies - do evolve in terms of their world view and behavior. Sometimes quite dramatically and that a failure to evolve (adapt ) behavior often leads to the extinction of the individual or culture. That is really the point I was trying to make.

I agree. A failure to adapt to a changing environment leaves one, by definition, poorly suited to that environment. That is usually bad.


I'm skeptical of at least some parts of the technology proposed in this particular post.

First, the hydrogen car? VERY skeptical after reading Joseph Romm.

Second, "mining" oil wells like the tar sands pits? That would only work on relatively shallow, land-based wells. Nobody's mining 20,000-foot-deep wells, let alone offshore ones, today, tomorrow or the day after.

I said electric cars and hydrogen buses - the latter because they can cope with the storage issue better. In regard to the mining issue I was relating to the transition from surface mining of the sand to the deeper layers that are currently being produced by SAGD, and similar sorts of depths. I have seen the oil sand around Bakersfield being hydraulic mined from the underground and then the cleaned sand pumped back, as an example. This type of approach could be expanded. And it might work - depending on the rock type - down to some depth, though I would hesitate to try it in a really deep well yet. (But with the right rock it might be viable down several thousand feet).

The point is, however, that sceptic or not, someone had better come up with some better ideas than these or we face a whole host of grim options which usually show up along with four horsemen.

I'm not sure whose model of social organization you're referring to. Care to elaborate, since there are several currently popular ones?

It was a bit silly talkin' 'bout a revolution.

All I've really done is write some stuff that was designed to get the readers to think for themselves, and the rest was sort of up to them.

I'm not really sure what I'm talking about regarding a new form of social organization. It might not be new at all. Really, I don't know the answer. If I did, or had loads of really profound and great ideas, I'd be a politician instead of a guy who writes.

I don't advocate Fascism or totalitarianism as an answer to Peak Oil. I suppose, I believe we should try a radical overhaul and rejuvination of democracy. Trying to replace the consumer society for the democratic society. A kind of trade-off, one gets real power over ones life, but pays for it by having less stuff, junk, crap. I'm actually rather a fan of the principles of liberty and anarchy. Devolving power to as many people as possible and decentralizing the functions of the state. This will of course bring one into direct conflict with the massive concentrations of economic and political power we see all around us today.

In an American context, I think the Founding Fathers would turn in their collective graves in absolute horror to see what's become of their beautiful republic. On the other hand I'm not really sure how "democratic" these guys really were. I think they sort of saw "democracy" as being something for guys pretty much like themselves, rather than something for the "masses", which seems to be why they built the Republic the way they did. On the one hand they hated Kings and on the other they were afraid of power of the majority. One could perhaps argue that real, true, funcitoning democracy is just not possible in huge countries with vast populations and empire, war and democracy don't really mix.

It would be helpful if there were a good historical model of a society that rapidly reorganized itself in a successful and positive manner.

One can think of plenty of models to dread and avoid: USSR, Nazi Germany, China Great Leap Fwd/Cultural Revolution, Cambodia, etc. Authoritarian systems give the initial appearance of responding effectively to major crises. However, by being too rigid and not open to critique and debate, they inevitably drift into uninformed and incorrect decisions. Also, as they tend to secure the support of a majority of the population by demonizing and persecuting a disliked minority, as that minority dissapears new enemies must be identified, and the majority gradually wises up and becomes disillusioned.

It is more difficult to think of good examples. Britain during WWII is one thought. They did implement a more or less effective rationing scheme to deal with severe resource shortages, and did assure that everyone was dealt with equitably. The Israeli kibbutzim are also worth studying. FDR's New Deal and mobilization during WWII are probably the most relevant US models worth studying.

Unfortunately, I see little evidence that the US political system is capable of producing the quality of leadership that is necessary to implement an effective response to the crisis. This does not bode well for the future. Absent a competent governing regime, it is likely that in the US things will not only be bad, but worse than they would really have to be. Many good ideas will not be tried and implemented to mitigate the worst of the impact of the crisis, because the necessary government leadership will be lacking. "Too little, too late" is what we seem destined to hear over and over again.

I am a fan of James Burke and his concept that technological innovation drives history as much as if not more than politics.
While we may not have that many new engineers and hard scientists there is the question of how many of these does a society really need? The real need will be for the technicians and craftsmen who will do the dirty work of actually building and maintaining what the college grads invent. At the mass production level the factory workers do not need to be that well educated. The power of on the job training was clearly demonstrated during WWII as millions of high school dropouts learned to manufacture very complex devices in very large numbers. On the battle field farm boys who learned how to keep the John Deere running found keeping Jeeps running a quick learn. Not that many people with the ability to formulate and solve differential equations are needed to trouble shoot a faulty inverter. The guy who climbs into the nacelle of a broken wind turbine doesn't need to know squat about aerodynamics. But he certainly needs to know the difference between a torque wrench and an Allen wrench.

Grin! If I knew the questions that we will have to answer then I would be more than half-way to solving them. But I agree with you that we need to distinguish between the Mr Watsons, who build the equipment, and the Professor Graham Bells who conceive and design the new technology. The lab techs and craftsmen usually have a tremendous amount to do with the success and development of new equipment. This is certainly true in my case, and the advances that we have made owe a considerable debt to those who actually buiilt what would work, rather than what I conceived might. (And earlier in my career a lot of them had their early training on farm tractors).

But there is a critical mass of both people and of knowledge that have to come together to make something happen. It is the dearth of initiative to make this happen, other than in small sectors of the potential solution, that is frustrating.

One thing to note about using Google Maps to explore - Google does not have satellites or airplanes flying around sending real-time photos. They contract with a mapping agency that does have the satellites. However, these satellites cannot be everywhere at once. In general, the maps that are shown on Google (or any of the other vendors providing HR satellite imagery) can be up to 2-3 years old. And, (again) in general, the less important a piece of the world is to the average customer, the less likely it is to be updated. It may well be that the rivers have started to turn brown, while the two-year old Google image doesn't show it.

I'm British, if you go to London on 'Google Earth' the river Thames looks blue - I have never seen it blue in real life - it's always dark brown!


Also, much of the Google Earth imagery is a psuedo-color product from satellites using Landsat-like 'color' bands meaning that "Red" is really infrared and therefore highly absorbed (dark) by nice clear water but reflective (brighter) with silt filled water. Meanwhile "Blue" and "Green" tend to bounce off water anyways but even more so with silty water. So, the brighter blue water has more of a sediment load, dark water is relatively clear.
As you zoom into some areas you'll find sections that are done with imagery that is closer to true color and the river will indeed be a muddy brown.

You might want to googlemap New Orleans or Fallujah. They have decided to roll-back what they show. How well does the "map" represent reality?

cfm in Gray, ME

I just looked at the Athabasca River with Google Earth, and it switches between blue and brown in several places along its length. These color (and resolution) shifts correspond with the lines along which Google has joined imagery from different sources. The colors are an interpretation anyhow -- the satellites do not have Polaroid cameras dropping actual photographs back to earth's surface.

Also, as noted by cfm above, Google responds to political and popular pressure. They miraculously rebuilt New Orleans. Later, after the action was prominently featured (decried?) in Internet news articles, they reverted to the flood images.

Some technology that can help.
Superconducting motors can save about 1% of the US and the worlds electricity from industrial motor usage. Another 2-4% from system efficiency improvements. Motors will be ready in 2011. Only about 3500 facilities in the US being upgraded would provide the bulk of the savings.

Hydrogen and biomass (H2CAR plan) combined could be more effective than either alone (and are better when combined with plug in hybrids and electric cars. Could be part of a viable policy.




A Cod Tale

Why technology won't work.

To understand why technology will fail us simply read about the worlds fishing stocks and consider earth is a water planet with a bit of land. Replace fish with oil and farming with renewable sources.


The most important point is that despite the best technology
catches are now falling because of depletion of fishing stocks nothing will reverse this. A best we could drop back
to some sustainable level but this means dropping well below the current levels to get the fishing stock to rebuild then working back up to a sustainable rate. So in short its impossible to ever catch as much fish as we do today regardless of technology and this is a potentially renewable resource.

For oil/renewable this means energy usage has to drop far below what we use today before we can rebuild a renewable sustainable energy base. So renewable energy simply won't save the day no matter what you do just as farmed raised fish will not make up for lost wild production.
Its a red herring :)

Next consider what will happen over the next few years in fishing.
The huge commercial fleets are expensive to build and maintain the moment that catches drop to the point that it is no longer lucrative to build these fleets no new fleets will be built.

The moment the catch is too low for a profit many of the current fleets will not go out to sea so the fish catch will crash even though we still have quite a bit of fish that could be caught left. The commercial ships have raped the oceans to the point that its not only not profitable to catch fish with large commercial fleets the fish are to scattered to catch with smaller local craft. This is why I'm claiming that little of the oil left much after peak will pumped.
We are going major crashes in both the amount of fish we
catch and the amount of oil we pump as large expensive technical solutions become unprofitable at any price.
The reason the price of fish or oil will have little influence is that the resource simply is not there to support large fleets or investment chasing a plummeting return. The investment will drop to match available supply.
More money cannot create more oil or fish. In economics this
condition happens when debtors can simply no longer take on more debt despite the ready availability of credit.
Its critical to understand that the system crashes at this point and their is nothing you can do about it.

So a crash in oil production must happen shortly after peak oil and nothing can be done to stop it just like it will happen about the same time and for practically the same reason for our fish catches.

The only way out is to engage in a major conservation effort as you build out renewable this means for oil we would need too immediately drop our usage by at least 50%-75% and bring up renewable support as fast as possible.

Fishing faces the same problem if we wanted to get to a sustainable level we need to basically halt commercial fishing and reintroduce sustainable methods as the fish stocks rebound. Fish farming could stave off some of the problems but its not a solution.

In the case of oil usage we need to both conserve and allow a significant amount of the oil production to be redirected into supporting creation of renewable energy sources this results in the total amount of available energy to be at its lowest level until the renewable are built out.

Fishing has the same drop to allow stocks to rebuild.

So in my opinion the only viable solution is not really that viable it comes down to a choice of crashing and rebuilding voluntarily in a controlled manner or by force.

Wrong about fish and wrong about technology

Wild fishing can be replaced with massive aquaculture

Between 1980 and 1997, the Chinese Bureau of Fisheries reports, aquaculture harvests grew at an annual rate of 16.7 percent, jumping from 1.9 million to nearly 23 million tons - two-thirds of the world's total production, according to the United Nations. By 2020, bureau deputy director-general Wang Yianliang has predicted, fish will be the staple protein of the planet's most populous nation

more stats on wild versus farmed fish

test tube meat is also making meat factories a reality

which is good because of the ecological footprint of cheeseburgers


How am I wrong are you not reading your own links.

After decades of growth, the reported global wild fish catch peaked in 2000 at 96 million tons and fell to 90 million tons in 2003, the last year for which worldwide data are available.* The catch per person dropped from an average of 17 kilograms in the late 1980s to 14 kilograms in 2003—the lowest figure since 1965.

As to fish farming care to break out the costs for fish farming. Where is the fish food coming from for example ?
Energy usage on the fish farm ?
How sustainable is the current growth ?
As more grain is diverted to use for fuels how can you expect cheap fish feed to continue to be available.

Already fish farming is not able to stem the loss from wild production. Next the numbers are some what suspect
For example.
30% of the fish feed for farmed salmon is fish meal.
Thus tonnage counted as wild production in the from of sardines or other small fish destined for animal and fish feed is in effect double counting.

This further explains the situation.


This is just the fish equivalent of declining EROI.

The models of fish/oil match up extremely well.
And I stand by my assertions.

The amount of Wild fish + farmed fish is increasing. that is where I am saying you are wrong. Not that you were wrong about wild fish peaking but wrong that fish farming was not making up for the decline. Overall fish amount is increasing that was in the chart on one of the previous links. If you are saying there is an overall decrease then please show me your data.

Yes, wild fishing has a problem but the overall amount of fish available for eating by people is continuing to go up.

You may not like the technical solution, but there are technical solutions. Not necessarily solutions to what you think the problem is but solutions to meeting growing demand. I will bet that the 70 billion aquaculture business will keep growing and that the overall amount of fish protein for human consumption by weight will go up. I also know that fish farming has had and will continue to have a lot of problems.

Just as a lot of the wildlife areas on land got replaced by farms and ranches.

Protests notwithstanding, the industry is expected to get a lot bigger. Demand for seafood is rising and will double by 2040, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization. Nearly half the world's wild fisheries are exhausted from overfishing, thus much of the supply will likely come from farmed seafood.

"Aquaculture is here to stay," said Rebecca Goldburg, a biologist who co-authored a report on the industry for the Pew Oceans Commission. "The challenge is to ensure that this young industry grows in a sustainable manner and does not cause serious ecological damage."

Fish meal can also be farmed. Ultimately some form of biotech solution.

The endpoint as indicated could be stem cell based meat factories for beef, pork and fish.

The technological solutions for fish and for energy are that these things will be provided and more of them so that growth will continue. I think those who predict that the world will be forced to cut back and live at a more modest level are the ones I believe will be proven wrong.


Hmm its been decreasing since 2003. Are you not reading the links the crashing of the worlds fish stocks is well known.

Its even in the links your posting. As far as amount of fish protein available for human consumption thats gone down in the first link I posted feel free to show a link that indicates its going up. Good luck.

The UN seems to agree with my assessment of the situation
so I'm more inclined to believe them.


This chart shows it increasing by excluding china which does not make sense.


On the same page a dated report from 2002 says its decreasing.

Peak fish protein for human consumption seems to have happened unless you can find evidence that this is not true.

Are we talking the same thing.
Your links and my links show that TOTAL fish production is going UP.

Your charts in the FAO shows China's production farther down which is going up and it shows total fish production including china going up into 2004.

Since 1997, wild fish harvests have fallen 13 percent. Yet total fish production continues to grow—to 132.5 million tons in 2003—bolstered by a surging aquaculture industry

So wild down but total fish UP.

In 2004, capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 106 million tonnes of food fish, providing the highest apparent per capita supply on record. Of this total, aquaculture accounted for 43 percent.

Preliminary estimates for 2005 suggest that total world fishery production reached almost 142 million tonnes. This would represent an increase of over 1 million tonnes compared with 2004, as well as a new record level of production


I think the heart of the problem is the double counting of bait fish captured for aqua culture vs total protein.


Since 1997, wild fish harvests have fallen 13 percent. Yet total fish production continues to grow—to 132.5 million tons in 2003—bolstered by a surging aquaculture industry. (p. 26)

This link does not split out fish/animal feed vs table ready protein. Also note you have to work out the discount in conversion from feed to final protein.

In 2004, capture fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 106 million tonnes of food fish, providing the highest apparent per capita supply on record. Of this total, aquaculture accounted for 43 percent.

Where did this come from ? I cannot find it in the link.
And since anchovies/sardines for example are used both for food and animal/fish feed I'd have to see a real break out of the numbers simply classifying the species is edible implies double counting.

the last link had the quote.


Yet this industry's [fish farming] contribution to the human diet is actually greater than the numbers imply. Whereas one-third of the conventional fish catch is used to make fishmeal and fish oil (FAO 1997:4,5; FAO 2000a:6) for animal feeds, virtually all farmed fish are used as human food.
I think that the numbers for total fish production that I am looking at are removing the non-human consumption fish.


the links to the source documents


page with info on the breakdown between human use and feed uses

Forecast of fish industry


That explains it stock where still growing in 2002.
Its quite dated its correct in that production was still growing in 2002.

One of my links went to 2004 where it showed a peak in total supply caused by declines in the wild fish catch not made up by aquaculture. I have not found numbers for anything later than 2004. It seems that the reports are biannual so I'd expect a new one any day now.

Here which seems to be a better quote same site you linked.


Preliminary estimates for 2005 suggest that total world fishery production reached almost 142 million tonnes. This would represent an increase of over 1 million tonnes compared with 2004, as well as a new record level of production. There was a decrease in the contribution of capture fisheries to human consumption, but this was offset by an increase in the aquaculture contribution.

I'm sorry but a 0.7% change is simply noise. This is at best basically flat production between 2004-2005. So at best we are basically on a undulating plateau or slightly pre-peak.

Also if you figure 30% of the feed for the fish was ground fish stock you get. 42 million tonnes used for fish feed.
So a large amount of our current catch must be bait fish used for feeding the our aquaculture fish.

Also plot the progression.

132 2003
140 2004
142 2005

You should notice that the production looks like its peaking. And since aquaculture seems to have become a slow growth industry with a number of mounting problems I think we are close at or past peak now.

And to bring it back to oil since everything is intertwined and aquaculture is also heavily dependent on grain for feed rising grain and oil prices alone will probably ensure peak production without including other factors.

This same link predicts the crash of fish in 2045. But the powers that be also predict peak oil in 2030.

The issues we face in our local fishing industry reflect a global problem. A recent report on global marine biodiversity concluded that if current trends continue, we run a huge risk that fisheries will collapse worldwide by 2048.

So even the powers that be agree that a crash is coming.
Because I think oil production has peaked and only aquaculture could increase production. So I also feel its
safe to call peak fish now. I cannot see us increasing aquaculture significantly if oil has peaked. Generally peak food is about the same time for the same reasons.

Aquaculture continues to grow more rapidly than all other animal food-producing sectors, with a global average annual growth rate of 8.8 percent per year since 1970.

Without some factors forcing aquaculture to slowdown I do not see a peak. It is off setting the wild catch drop and if there is zero wild catch there will be a lot of farmed fish. The comparison would be wild buffalo versus domesticated cattle.

More numbers coming we will see soon as noted, so not much need to speculate.

China has made it policy to depend upon fish farming. I expect them to rotate out of polluted fish farmed inland areas out to deep ocean pens. Some may be upset about how they do it, but my money is on them forcing fish farming to grow to meet the demand. The study was projected demand for 180 million tons in about thirty years. Even if that is 80% farmed or 100% farmed. I bet it will happen.


Fish aquaculture is problematic; there's no way that the amount of fish from healthy oceans will be replaced by aquaculture.

For one thing, historically a lot of what is fed to aquacultured fish is wild-caught fish meal. In other words, various less-valuable species are ground up and fed to 'more valuable' species, despite the huge waste involved.

Aquaculture of shrimp is environmentally devastating.

Culturing something like tilapia or mullet which will directly eat algae at least gets around some of these problems, but you still run up against limits.

Fish farming usually requires the use of a lot of antibiotics to keep the fish healthy in such conditions due to pollution, disease, stress, and fish feces issues. This creates resistant strains of diseases, bacteria and other pests. Such fish technology is not so smart after all.

A quick Google search of "Fish farming antibiotics" reveals a ton of recently published results, none of them reassuring at all.

"It was your skill and your science
That led you astray.
And you thought to yourself,
I am, and there is none but me."
Isaiah 47:10

Can't wait to see what nano-tech disasters are unleased by such arrogance.

I really don't know that much about aquaculture. BUT, I do know that they used to use Asian Carp to help clean their tanks. During the 1993 Mississippi floods those carp got out. They have now taken over most of the northern Mississippi and all of the Illinois rivers (as well as others). They are about 15 miles from getting into the great lakes. To stop them, the Army Corp has errected an electrifed barrier which they hope will turn them back. realistically, it is only a matter of time before they gt into the Lake. Then it is good buy to all the remaining fisheries in the great lakes.


Needless to say I am not that impressed with aquaculture.

"No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist. He has too much to do." (Bill Levitt - 1948)

Asian Carp,

I have spoken of this in the past and was rather rudely dismissed as many proclaimed: "Oooohhh we can eat them and do eat them" ...of course they never understood the main point and BTW there are different types of carp.

The point being that they are extremely invasive and destroy other species as they invade.

In my area many long time fisherman have given up. The Mississippi is overrun. The lakes and rivers are being overrun. Sport fishing or for food has faded out around here. It will be spreading farther and farther and already is. No one seems able to stop it.

This species is so bad that if you start a trolling motor or outboard they will go into a sort of frenzy and actually jump into your boat. In some cases injuring people. They have a slime coating that is rather disgusting even to those inured to such making it extremely distasteful to clean.

These basically are the trash fish of other countries. Where people eat garbage and filth and call it cusine. Watch Iron Chefs for a real stomach turning episode of entertainment.

For all pratical purposes those who live along the areas here so invaded have totally given up on fishing , be it commercial , for personal consumption or sport.

Its a tragedy of rather large proportions yet many are so ignorant as to not understand it. They can handwave constantly about Peak Oil but fail to see just how bad Nature is crashing in so many other ways.

Right now our forests in the upper south Mississippi region are being decimated before our very eyes.

The loggers being chased out of the Northwest have chosen other areas and are intent on raping the land in total.

I have been noticing vast areas of total destruction. Trees splintered, incredible destructiveness, highly erodable hills sides completely turned into mudholes and washouts where their machines ensure that massive erosion will be the result.

They could care less. Actually many here IMO could care less. They are more concerned with endlessly debating the finer points of Amurikah and obesity coupled with the automobile. After the tenth thousand time of reading the same wornout mantras over and over and over one becomes jaded to it all.

If they would just look around at the continuing destruction of nature they might get a REAL CLUE instead of endless handwringing about CULTURE and BUSHCO.

Fish, bees, woodlands,rivers,water,food and the list goes on and on but just like some endless comic opera the invective on 'if we would just put up some panels and ride a bike'...seems to be the only real concern.


Airdale...my once weekly post..

Hi airdale,

I like getting your firsthand reports.

I replied to the last post of yours I saw, back http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2448#comment-180222. And since you once said (to a new member) something along the lines of "...many of your best posts will never be acknowledged...", I wanted to let you know I heard you.

We had to look at the "Clay in the wash water problem", many years ago Ca 30. Nothing proposed worked, later on another project I was working with colloids, I had the idea to try the same technique with a sample of wash water which was still hanging around, on addition of a little sulfuric acid the clay suspension dropped out of solution, leaving a nice clear water layer. The engineer in charge of the project was not interested, as there was no revenue, in the idea.

Thanks, I had never heard, or thought of that.



I don't understand your use of Service's poem.

The Man Who Knew is clearly the voice of conventional wisdom which, in our own age, are the technocrats like yourself.

And the Dreamer that he quells is by no means a practical inventive scientific type but instead an artist i.e. a painter, singer and philosopher.

The people come to value him because of his effect on their spirits.

Yet, the vast hungry techno-hive-machine that we are forced to live in and serve is arguably the greatest Destroyer of Spirit that ever existed.

I think that you are too narrowly interpreting the poem. Those of us (and there are many who write and comment here) who spend time creatively trying to come up with answers to the problems that we now face don't have to be artists or singers to be part of the poem. Call us, if you will, the Dreamers, those who imagine ways to solve some of the problems that we face.

Now most of the ideas will not work (I have been the Man who Knew to many of my students) but it is only with that Dreaming that answers will appear that will work. But too often even viable answers are suppressed by those who "Know" even if is only because the answer falls outside their current way of doing things.

Dreamers can be scientific types, they can be engineers, they might even work in oil companies, coal companies, natural gas regassification plants or in companies that create more productive corn. And people can have their spirits raised by their success. I will tell you that I and my students and staff have found it mentally rewarding to do things that no-one has done before, that solve problems using tools that "those that Know" have said would not work. And I have seen and felt the discouragement from dealing with Those that Know. So, I suspect, have almost all the rest of us Dreamers. We need to find ways of encouraging creative thought, because there are no clearly obvious universal answers.

The great thing about art, including poetry and some kinds of engineering, is that it's "meaning" is partly dependent on the reader or viewer. I do a little hobby artistic woodworking, and have found that to be true of those that have seen or handled some of my pieces also.

So, I agree that dreamers can be anyone, and that the reverse is also true. At the same time, really great art will convey an underlying truth to all who behold it, even tho they may not recognize it, at first, as the same truth another sees. Truth is often uncomfortable.

Nicely said

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created."
Albert Einstein

My son graduated last year from Caltech, one of the top science/engineering schools in the country, and the president of the institute gave a graduation address which highlighted energy challenges. They have an influential physics prof there, David Goodstein, whose book Out of Gas was one of the first on Peak Oil. The speaker talked about how finding ways to satisfy energy needs would be one of the major challenges facing Caltech graduates over the course of their careers. Not a message that is being heard too much elsewhere, I think, but it's interesting that it is becoming a key focus there at Caltech.

Other academic institutions are paying attention too. In the latest Spectrum 2 of 11 articles were energy related. I never get anything from MIT anymore without at least one article being energy related. I'm not a big believer that all problems have technical solutions, so I tend to be a bit skeptical. That said, it does seem that the invention factories are spooling up on energy.

An airplane that's also a car. Damn.

cfm in Gray, ME

According to the US Dept of Energy the transportion sector of the economy uses 75% of all petroleum/liquid fuels. So, to cope with reduced oil available to our economy the biggest effort should be made in increasing transportation efficiency. Yes, most intercity and commuter travel is now by private automobile, so it must be used more efficiently. This will not come by solar powered cars(really just glorified bicycles with solar array umbrellas) or hybrid cars or by switching to alternative fuels. These all give a percentage increase in fuel economy and a marginal decrease in fuel or energy used.

In twenty five years the world export market will likely have only half the oil available, the transport sector must use MUCH LESS than half the oil now used. Other sectors of the economy such as the petrochemical industry, the military, and some agricultural users cannot reduce their oil usage by half. So it will fall to the individual to reduce transportation oil usage by three quarters or more. This will require a three fold increase in the equivilent fuel economy of cars and that is not technically possible unless we all ride something like motorized bicycles or we all move three quarters closer to work/shopping/entertainment/etc.

The best solution is to start building electrified rail routes within urban/suburban areas and between major city pairs. Passenger trains running at 135 mph get 350 to 400 seat miles per gallon according to some old data from ABB traction on the X2000 train used in Sweden. The new fuel efficient 787 jet plane will get about 75 seat miles per gallon, while a Toyota Hybrid Prius gets 220 seat miles per gallon (best fuel economy of any car sold in US).

So the obvious recourse for adjusting to reduced oil for transporation use is to build more passenger rail routes or upgrade exisitng freight rail routes with electrification, which use almost no oil. Even comparing energy only (meaning oil to coal or nuclear) passenger trains win by a margin of two to one with the best auto and six to one with the best performing jet. With freight trains the efficiency advantage is about eight to one over trucks and about 25 to one over planes.

Hi mb,

Thanks and do you have any suggestions what the "average citizen" can do to make Amtrak work?

Advancednano What are you smoking? There is no way technology is gong to save this failed human experiment. Technology is what has caused this sad state of affairs. Man trying to be the supreme cause in the world has failed and always will fail.

You are correct and wrong at the same time.

Man can reason. Therefore He will. If there is an easy resource to exploit, He will do it.

Firstly it was Trees, then Coal, then Oil.

Humans are on a treadmill to try and extract more energy from less human effort. This directly increases the quality of life for humans who are able to benefit from this increased energy usage.

You who post on the internet, consider that to send mail in the 1800's, it might have taken up to a month to get a response from me. Now you recieve it in less than 24 hours, much less if I pay attention to what is posted here.

Technology is never the problem. You are blaming a tool. A tool has no thinking ability or free will.

People need to utilize the technology and wisdom which has been accumulated to enable humans to live in the future.

My belief is that this 'race' as I put it in my mind is of Humanity, aware of exinction, who struggle against extinction and hardship. Trying to get off this rock we live on, and onto another rock so we have some sort of chance against cosmic calamity.

Humanity survived the loss of many other things. The US or North America may not survive, but people will somewhere, and humanity will continue. Expansion is given to us by our genes, to multiply is to ensure a strong chance of someone surviving anything.

Don't be such a downer.

Care to point to some actual data or information to support your opinion ?

Whatever our current problems, technology has not caused them. It has been people making the wrong choices. Wrong choices like not building nuclear plants in the USA for the last 30 years. Wrong choices like not aggressively developing space and its resources using project Orion nuclear rockets instead of the Apollo camping trips.

So time was wasted and some problems are worse than they need to be. Plus millions die each year from air pollution who would not have died if we had done better on the problems.

What specific sad state of affairs are you referring to ? I do not see an overall sad state of affairs. I see some problems (like the air pollution problem) but I also see the means to overcome them and an overall situation that is not perfect but overall progressing and muddling through.



Guns don't kill people :(

I hate to use that example since its used incorrectly by the NRA. But the statement is true. Technology is agnostic what technology we decide to create how we deploy it its impact on people and the environment etc etc is a different issue. But the basics of creating new technologies is neither good nor bad. Its how we use technology and more important the tech that we choose to invest in that decides what and how technology impacts our lives and the environment. We have always been pushing technical bounds its part of being human but prudent and thoughtful use of technology is rare at least in western society.

I've never been impressed with the anti-technology crowd they have little to offer. Focusing on renewable low impact
living is a different issue and requires a high level of technology innovation if you don't want to starve in a mud hut.

Hi m,

I enjoy your thinking and also would like to see your "best case mitigation" scenario, perhaps for the US.

re: "...But the statement is true."

You know, I'd say "true" is a little too strong and certain an evaluation to apply to "...technologies are agnostic..."

Technologies can bias the choices humans make, once the technologies are in place. Examples, transportation and the choice to go from point A to point B.

Technologies can amplify the outcome of a choice.

Technologies affect the brain, including the developing brain of a child.

Technologies become part of the environment humans live in, which then affects the field in which "selection" operates.

The aspects of this idea of the role of the human wrt his/her technologies that you dislike when the NRA uses them apply also to many other arenas.

We might say "People kill people via guns. People kill more people with guns than they would otherwise. People kill people using guns when a little more space between the impulse and the action might save lives." Or something along these lines.

There are some studies on tool use and the brain I'll try to find.

How societies live with technology is part of larger collective choices.

We can make better choices using more data from different situations from around the world and historically. More different things have been tried.

In regards to energy, the more nuclear power option has been tried in France, Japan, South Korea, Belgium etc...

The highly subsidized solar and wind route has been tried in Germany.
This has resulted in some solar and wind success but also in more importing of nuclear power from France and the building of coal plants in Germany.

Not just China but other countries have been on a coal binge.

in the next five years, it [the USA] is slated to add 37.7 gigawatts of capacity, enough to produce 247.8 million tons of CO2 per year, according to Platts. That would vault the US to second place –just ahead of India – in adding new capacity.

Even nations that have pledged to reduce global warming under the Kyoto treat are slated to accelerate their buildup of coal-fired plants. For example, eight EU nations – Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic – plan to add nearly 13 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity by 2012. That's up from about 2.5 gigawatts over the past five years.



Which means that between those about to retire and these kids lies the brain power that is going to have to solve the reality of finding alternate sources of fuel at World-scale volumes

There is one thing us oldtimers can do: Cultivate the largerst oildwell there is: Conservation.

My parents taught me after the oil shocks of the 70's that you have to be carefull with energy and that has always stayed in my mind. We should do the same with our kids and lead by example.

They learned to grow salmon in netted ocean cages and fed them grain pellets.

They learned to grow shrimp in ponds and then freeze them and ship them across the ocean blue.

The US gets about 10 percent of its electricity from renewable hydroelectric.

The US gets about 20 percent of its electricity from cheap nuclear fuels.

The US gets about 20 percent of its electricity from natural gas.

The US gets about 50 percent of its electricity from coal fired boilers.

The US got 1/10 of 1 percent of its electricity from the wind. (not a 2007 year figure)

Al Gore spoke about conservation then lived in a 10,000 square foot mansion consuming more electricity than 10 smaller homes. Him a spokesman for conservation?

Ain Dar, Cantarrel, Daqing these are mature fields, like old mines where the miners thought they could follow the ore vein to the center of the earth, they deplete out sooner than wished.

If you looked at really old paintings of European cities before they had cars, there were some joyful scenes recorded. The French Impressionistic school seemed to have its heyday just before the camera came in vogue. Now there are digital cameras used to record happy scenes. Truth will find a way.

Here are stats on US electric power energy sources for 2006:
The above numbers are close except hydro is only 7% not ten percent. Also renewables amount to only 1%. Interesting that the Energy Information Administration predicts that 90% of all new installed power generation will be supplied with nat. gas.

Wind and solar are very rapidly ramping up from low points. We can assume that this trend will continue since we are hardly short of iron ore, coal, aluminum ore, limestone, and clay.
Figure that in twenty years we will have about as much as we need (solar peaking during the summer) and can handle gracefully without degrading the grid reliability (intermittant wind integrated with hydro). These technologies are known, work, and are being installed. These are what we will use to replace natural gas for electricity.
Now, what are we going to use to replace oil for cars? I'm really concerned about finding enough metals for batteries, and those batteries need to be fed electricity from somewhere.

RE: Transport

The answer is going to have to be: biodiesel powered ship for intercontinental passenger and freight (air will be relegated to a hugely expensive niche); electrified semi-high-speed passenger rail for intercity travel (and rail for freight); electrified mass transit rail for cities with sufficient population density to support it, or electric trams or street cars for smaller or lower density areas; biodiesel powered shuttle busses to connect neighborhoods with mass transit systems (and biodiesel powered police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, utility vehicles, etc.); neighborhood electic vehicles (either privately owned or a network of hourly rentals or taxicabs) for personal local transport where really needed, plus walking, bicycles or adult tricycles (some with rechargeable electric assist motors), pedicabs, etc.

We can't grow enough biodiesel to fuel all of the existing motor vehicles, but it probably is feasible to grow enough to fuel essential service and work vehicles plus an extensive network of local shuttle busses plus shipping. Hopefully the oil from algae scheme can be engineered and scaled up to provide sufficient capacity without requiring too much diversion of prime agricultural cropland.

The urban and interurban rail lines & mass transit are going to have to be electrified, and there are going to have to be some huge PV arrays deployed out in the countryside to power them. Big price differentials can push most of the passenger and freight traffic on to daylight hours, people are simply going to have to adjust their schedules and lifestyles accordingly.

The rental NEVs can be set up around a network of recharging stations, each equipped with a large PV array (the vehicles can be parked underneath the PVs when not in use). In the larger cities there will be plenty of parking lots and garages that can be retrofitted for this.

If individual households want to continue to possess their own vehicle, it is going to have to be their own NEV, and they are going to need PV panels on their roofs to recharge them. Remember that if they need an NEV to commute to work, many employers will find that they must set up PV recharging stations for their employers, plus the NEV rental stations downtown will also offer metered recharging. Thus, households may not need PV capacity to provide 100% of the needed electricity for their NEV. They will have to balance their need for PV power for their NEVs against their need for PV power for the rest of their household energy needs; rooftop solar capacity may also have to be allocated to solar water heating and/or solar space heating. Houses with N-S oriented roofs will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to E-W oriented roofs (allowing PV panels) - look for a major price differential to develop between these. It will thus probably not be feasible for most households to get all of their electricity from their own PV arrays, so there will definitely still be a grid powered by hydro, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, etc., with nat gas, coal & nuclear bridging the transition. Electricity will need to be priced at high enough of a premium during the day to provide a strong incentive for everyone with the capability of installing PV panels to use them (and also good pricing for surplus electricity fed into the grid must be on offer); pricing for off-peak-solar time periods (say 4PM - 8AM) will have to be even higher to provide maximum incentives for conservation. For systems with a substantial wind component, some sort of low wind day public alert system will have to be put into place, with subtantial price differentials kicking in to discourage all but essential use when the wind generators are idled.

All-in-all, it will be a very different place than what we are accustomed to. But it is one that could make a good life possible.

Your scenario paints a picture of city life, but what about the people who live in rural areas? The ones who will grow all the bio-fuel, maintain the solar and wind array's etc.? Somehow I can't envision a "reverse commute", or the rural areas sacrificing their land and lifestyle for the sake of a lot of city folks.

Hi Heading Out,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

re: "Given that liquid fossil fuels for transportation are likely to be the first to feel the pinch, and with an infrastructure in place, the initial effort should, most profitably, be directed at increasing production from existing reserves."

1) Or, another alternative, perhaps in line with Robert's (if I read him correctly) desire to allow oil companies to receive subsidies...

Subsidize the oil companies to leave the oil in the ground. To do, in other words, the exact *opposite* of what you suggest here and decrease production.

This might have the same effect as Robert's first choice of a FF tax.

2) "...with an infrastructure in place..."

This is the unfortunate part, it seems. The infrastructure, which was helped along by tax - (yes?) - is definitely here.

A huge infrastructure.

The primary ingredient for which the infrastructure was designed is going to disappear.

Well before this ingredient vanishes, it will, for all intents and purpose, be experienced as already having vanished from the point of view of many of its former consumers.

This brings me to my question...

Is any technological advance ethical or practical wrt dealing with our problem, without linked and specific policies of conservation?

Without linked and specific policies addressing the needs of humans for food and water? (As a start.)

Or, (as I posed the other day)...we may have lots of money and lots of time, or almost none of either.

What do we most need?

linked and specific policies of conservation

I think this idea is extremely important. Hopefully it will be a good way down the road, but when ANWR gets developed, for example, it should somehow be tied to equivalent or greater conservation. This could be done by rationing, so as new production is brought online, total fossil fuel production is reduced.

I have suggested elsewhere that all federal lease proceeds and royalties from ANWR go towards building more Urban Rail (and perhaps helping electrify our freight rail systems).

Good politics (brings some new members to the coalition).

However, I am against leasing in ANWR (ten year lag till production) till it has been at least 3 months since I saw my last Hummer, Expedition, Escalade or other "supersized" SUV.

Best Hopes,


When was the last time you saw a Chevy Vega ?

Hi welaka,

I very much appreciate your validation of the idea of linking conservation with any efforts to introduce new technologies.
I'm not sure I communicated this well to HO, I'll try again in a minute.

I'd appreciate it, too, if you have time - to help me develop examples other than ANWR.

History is full of examples where man (in the generic sense) has considered short-term benefit to be paramount over longer term considerations (from the Dodo on). Ethics can be a difficult issue to address. Banning women and children from virtually forced labor in the mines of Europe led to some families starving. Forcing the Scottish clansfolk from their ancestral homes so that sheep could safely graze may have been disruptive, but some would argue led to longer term benefits for most of those affected, though not all.

Should I develop technologies that help provide power that will be needed in the future - or should I say "let them freeze in the dark." I gather from comments above that there is some feeling I should do the latter. I am, however, unrepentant in choosing instead the former. Will I get respect for it - as Barbara Freese noted - probably not. We are, after all, to many, the Servants of Mordor, even though the technologies work to enhance man's existance rather than the reverse. And since I don't see many folks in rabbit fur, running across the prairie with sticks chasing more rabbits, maybe I am not alone in that opinion.

I think there's a mistake being made. That mistake being to assume that the US (or any country for that matter ) is of one mind when it comes to technology and who benefits from it. There are at least 2 major and distinct world views in the US. One being that metropolitan areas (cities)have the greatest value and should therefore be sustained, the other being that rural (farms, etc. ) areas have the greatest value and should be sustained. I really don't see any compromise happening between the 2 views. Maybe there can't be. Rural life can be relatively easy to sustain without cities, fossil fuels, high tech, etc. Cities, on the other hand cannot exist without food, and other basic commodities provided by the rural areas.

Some of the ideas being floated here and elsewhere (100sqft homes for example ) are guaranteed to provoke violence between city and country communities if anyone is foolish and naive enough to try to force this kind of crap on anyone. Hell, my bathroom is bigger than that.

And for those who think shotguns are no match for tanks, better take a look at the demographics of the US military. Most of them are small town, country boys and girls.

You are way off base and your analysis is wrong in several respects.

I do NOT know where you are "coming from", but you are creating a straw man that does not exist.

Those "small town" and rural folk (sometimes known as exurbs) that commute 20 to 50 miles to their job will have to change. And in many rural areas, those people are in a majority.

Economic forces, not military force, will force significant changes.

And your "either/or" is nonsense. EVERYONE will have to change.

In another thread, "Swede" confirmed that he uses an electric assist bicycle to go to town about every 10 days (20 km/12 miles) except when the weather is very bad (he lives close to the Artic Circle in Sweden). He has a trailer he uses when he needs to haul supplies. And he can heat his 645 sq ft home with 8 cubic meters of wood/winter.

Economic forces may cause remote American farmers to do something similar. Those closer in to smaller towns may one day have electric rail commuter service (as I outlined is being built today near Mulhouse France as a model).

Best Hopes,


Should I develop technologies that help provide power that will be needed in the future - or should I say "let them freeze in the dark." I gather from comments above that there is some feeling I should do the latter.

But you're assuming that what people say they "need" is actually what they do need, rather than what they would like. A third option is to reassess need and see if there are better living arrangements that don't need your new technologies and that don't result in people freezing in the dark.

Hi Heading Out,

Thanks for your response, as it shows me I didn't get my point across.

re: "History is full of examples where man (in the generic sense) has considered short-term benefit to be paramount over longer term considerations (from the Dodo on)."

I am not operating within the framework you suggest here.

I'm offering a different way to look at the issue.

If you pursue short-term benefit without taking connected aspects of the problem into account, at least in principle, for example, *linked and specific ways/mandates of conservation*... you *may* increase energy consumption for a short while - may I suggest - for a *very* short while? - followed by a much more painful crash.

The specifics of this can be found if one looks at "hard numbers" of US energy consumption, for example - or at the present condition of the electric grid, as another.

I am advocating addressing *both* the near-term and the long-term simultaneously.

Further, I'm suggesting that perhaps to do anything other than address both simultaneously will lead to extremely dire consequences. And is, in my view, essentially unethical, given what we know. And we know what Stuart, FF, Robert, Jeffrey, Deffeyes, Bakhtiari and many others are telling us.

I'm disturbed by your bringing up "freezing in the dark" as an alternative to your views.

I do not and have never advocated "freezing in the dark."

Nor do I promote rabbit fur clothing and prairie sticks as future substitutes for clothing and meeting needs for food.

I'm trying to understand your point of view. I'm working hard to attempt to convey mine. I'm open to suggestions of how to increase our understanding of each others views.

To address another point: when you talk about "ethics", it again strikes me I haven't communicated well. When I mention ethics, I'm referring to the fact that people like yourself (if this isn't getting too personal!) - people attempting to invent, propose, and/or think about new energy technologies - and "energy and our future" - are in a unique position with respect to the rest of humanity.

You/(and I'm referring more specifically to those blessed with an education in science) understand "peak oil" and the prospect of finite energy resources in general. And understand them in a way that provides a unique, some might say, "realistic" perspective of what the implications mean.

Thus, to my way of thinking, this knowledge poses a great challenge to one's integrity. The greater one's scientific and technological understanding, the greater the challenge.

Why? Because "you" (generic "you") - know. And you know something very few people are in a position to know.

The mitigation of - the attempt to lessen - suffering requires careful thought and action. For example, to realize that conservation is the most humane way to deal with the finiteness of resources.

(Or, perhaps you disagree with the importance of conservation, in which case, let's talk about that.)

Thus, to know about the "big picture" without attempting to alert and educate others (including the tax-paying public from whom the funds are drawn) to the *underlying reasons* (emphasis) for the desire to pursue technological advances in energy extraction and "production" is somewhat misleading (IMHO). Not deliberately so. In fact, the lack of deliberateness is why I'm attempting to talk about this.

This is what I mean when I use the word "ethics".