ASPO 6: Have we reached the tipping point?

This is a guest post by Julian Jackson. Julian is a London based writer on technology and photography. He is currently forming an urban relocalisation group which has received funding and support for various projects to enhance the local environment. Here's a link to Julian's personal website.

A Report on the ASPO 6 Conference “Time to React” held in Cork, Ireland

It seems to me that we have reached several important tipping points this year in relation to Peak Oil, Climate Change and their impact on public consciousness. Peak oil is a geological tipping point, but I am more interested in psychological tipping points: when Peak Oil enters the general consciousness and stops being a dubious fringe pursuit. I think we may have reached that point, unfortunately at the same time as we are rolling over the peak “plateau”.

Panel session at ASPO6, Cork

Tipping Point 1

“The battle is over – the Peakists have won.” James Schlesinger, former US Energy Secretary and ex-CIA director

When people from the “inner circle” of the global elite give overt credence to Peak Oil Theory, then we can say the battle of credibility is won. Schlesinger wouldn’t be committed to a peak date, and he did seem to be in the “Technology Will Save Us” camp, but his pronouncement was welcome.

Tipping Point 2

“A large hole that has to be filled” Mike Rodgers, PFC Energy

Mike looked at the statistics of oil exploration and production. He said that exploration was less successful than before. Over the last 10 years we have only found one barrel for every three we use. Oil fields pass over peak and go into decline when they are between 50 and 60% depleted averaging out at 54%. There is a large hole in potential future production “OPEC will reach the critical level of 60% depletion in the later part of the next decade”. PFC’s estimate is that Saudi Arabia is 41% depleted now.

The picture is looking fairly grim.

Tipping Point 3

Insiders agree USGS estimates “wildly overstated”

Ray Leonard of Kuwait Energy Co gave us a fascinating insight into a secret no-press, invitation-only conference of oil technologists he attended in November 2006. After many caveats about what he could and couldn’t reveal, he said that behind closed doors many of the oil experts present challenged the rosy USGS projections as “wildly overstated”.

He looked at West Siberia, his area of expertise, where discovery has peaked. Reserve growth would be more important than new discovery. Average recovery had increased from 37 to 43% with improved techniques.

He estimated that West Siberia would provide 80 gigabarrels, with another 6 gigabarrels coming from reserve growth.

Leonard thought that at best unconventional oil which provides 2 million barrels per day today would only double to 4mbpd because of slow extraction rates and environmental consequences.

Leonard was one of several contributors who thought there would be a plateau at 90-100m bpd “in a very high price environment” , but it is difficult to reconcile that with the current flat output of around 83 m bpd and the erosion of megaprojects gains coming onstream by depletion; the largest new field, Kashagan, for example, been delayed two years because of problems. Skrebowski’s April 2006 estimates are a net gain of less than 2mbpd till 2009 declining thereafter.

Tipping Point 4

Not enough Uranium

Using official nuclear industry statistics, CERN nuclear physicist Michael Dittmar showed that there was insufficient uranium to grow nuclear power at more than a modest 0.3% per year, and worse still – the flooding of the Canadian Cigar Lake mine would cause shortages in the next few years, possibly leading to existing plants being shut down because they have no fuel. There will be no nuclear renaissance without sufficient Uranium. Dittmar also dismissed fast breeders: no peer-reviewed evidence that they would work in a valid commercial way; and fusion: not enough tritium can be produced to run them.

Tipping Point 5

Can rationality overcome evolutionary conditioning?

Nate Hagens of the Oil Drum gave what was generally felt to be the most stimulating speech of the conference. He analysed our denial of problems, our short-term behavioural emphasis on the present and our reluctance to plan for the future, in terms of cognitive neuroscience.

Our evolution over millions of years biases us towards the short-term gains of food and procreation over long-term planning. Nate showed a hilarious slide of an Irish Elk male, which, in search of reproductive success had grown such huge display horns that they consumed so much energy to build it became extinct.

It wasn’t difficult to get the implication.

Nate also talked about our impulsive behaviour caused by short term urges towards pleasure such as smoking and drinking, which become addictions. We crave stimulus, but it quickly becomes routine so we need a bigger “high”. In a previous existence he was a high-flying broker, acquainted with the very rich, and told of one $100m client who “just needed another $100m to be satisfied”, but when he got there, he found his peer group had $500m so he had to keep competing to stay in the game: we can never have enough – our neurochemical “dopamine” is “a wanting drug”.

This was not a very comforting picture of our response to future energy shortages – in this paradigm we will ignore them for as long as possible, then panic. Later Michael Meacher MP added his opinion on this: “I think we are sleep-walking to doom”, and Lord Ron Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell UK said: “Challenges are so great that urgent interim measures are needed to stop the boat sinking.”

Tipping Point 6

Climate Change is a Coal Problem

Jeremy Leggett of Solar Century alleviated some concern about the possible rise in temperature, because the IPCC models rely on IEA figures which put the amount of natural gas and oil around much higher than most peakers. By changing this to reflect lower reserves, Leggett showed there is not enough to push us through the 2° threshold that most climate scientists believe will lead to catastrophe.

Unfortunately there is enough coal: if we burn that too, we are in very serious trouble. China is building two coal-fired power stations per week. The USA, Russia, India and Australia also have substantial reserves of coal and this does not bode well for the atmosphere. Ron Oxburgh said that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology increases the capital cost of a coal-fired power station by 30% and reduces efficiency by around 10%. He added: “If we don’t create technology to cheaply capture carbon we are in very deep trouble.” His overall view was that to mitigate these problems there was no “silver bullet” and that all technologies, including renewables, conservation, nuclear and CCS would need to be deployed as soon as possible.

Can politicians recognise these tipping points and move to reduce the impact of these complex and intractable problems?

Michael Meacher, MP, made a stirring and passionate speech about our multiple problems, singling out air travel as being particularly damaging and wasteful. Responding to a question from the floor about political will, said that current politicians have a poverty of vision, and are keeping their heads down.

The success of the Transition Towns movement (Rob Hopkins described it as the fastest-growing political movement he’d ever experienced) shows that there is movement at the grassroots but it is not being mirrored by sufficient intensity at national government level. Several speakers and conference attendees I talked to were not impressed by the Irish government’s apparent inability to recognise the precarious position of Ireland’s electricity generation system, so it is not just the UK government which has blinkers on.

The range of initiatives I heard of from speakers, commercial companies and local groups at the conference was impressive. Meanwhile, the continuous burning of fossil fuels by the heedless mass of vehicles circling the beautiful Cork city centre by day and night continued relentlessly – when will the Padraigs or Roisins in these mostly single-occupant, highly-inefficient ICE vehicles reach their consciousness tipping point? Or will they, as Nate Hagens suggested, discount the future till it is too late, then panic?

Many readers will be familiar with Nate's writings here on The Oil Drum (read his articles here), but it's worth reiterating Julian's point. Perhaps it was because neuroscience was a new subject for an ASPO conference or that he just told us what we already knew to be true but hadn't had articulated but in discussions after his speech it was clear he had made a real impact with the ASPO delegates.

I had some time to speak with Schlesinger after the conference and as Julian says he’s not too concerned about the date. He recognises the problem but more seriously he recognises how we aren’t addressing it. It makes no difference if peak oil 5, 10 or 15 years away if we do nothing to address it. He said it’s going to “hit us between the eyes like a two by four”.

I heartily applaud Jeremy Leggett for comparing "our" understanding of fossil fuel reserves with that of the IPCC and showing the IPCC numbers most likely in error on the high side. This critical conclusion - that there likely isn't enough oil and gas as cause calamity - is very important for understanding and formulating a response to energy depletion and climate change. Leggett's conclusion that it is all about coal is exactly right and where the climate change debate needs to focus in my opinion. This is the same conclusion reached by NASA's Dr James Hansen earlier this year in his paper Implications of "Peak Oil" for Atmospheric CO2 and Climate.

Thanks Chris (and Julian)
Im traveling again so this will likely be my only reply here.

The Irish Elk was used as an example because runaway sexual selection over hundreds of thousands of years ill prepared them for the resource change that occurred in the Younger Dryas cooling period 10-15,000 years ago. Since forage density declined, they couldn't obtain the nutrients they had become accustomed to during the warmer climate which were required to support such a large antler mass, so their bodies had to leach phosphorous and calcium from their bones - all to keep the horns big - thats the leading theory on why they died off. Humans too have been selected at being good at acquiring resources, and via sexual selection, moving up the mating ladder with conspicuous consumption being the current 'antlers'. And now we too, are going to be facing a time of 'environmental' change.

Fortunately we have something the elk did not. A huge forebrain of intellect, and culture, which can move faster than genes. But as the writer points out, via hedonic adaptation (and often addiction) we quickly habituate to new stimuli and need newer stimuli to feel the same 'rush', etc. This results in bigger and bigger antlers. We also are figuring out that we are not happier with 'more' (larger antlers), but ARE happier with more social interactions, community etc. Thus we cannot change our evolutionary wiring to want 'more' - we can only change how we define or perceive 'more'. So the 64,000 barrel question is how can we discard our 4 meter antlers (conspicuous consumption) that are requiring all our nutrients (oil, water, ecosystems etc)? Any answers will likely originate from individually and tribally selfish reasons (making changes because it improves ones own life or ones 'group', which is usually quite small in number). Knowing this is a huge advantage

After a few years of various gradients of fear/apprehension of upcoming dislocations, I now view Peak Oil almost as a gift - as it will force us to take a hard look at the social traps that are spinning and getting larger but not really getting too far (see Genuine Progress Indicator).

I do plan to write on this when I get back from mushroom hunting. (I'll be wearing camo so as not to scare them..;)

Amanita pantherina should be out about now and they don't scare easy, quite the reverse one might say. Also could cure one of wanting more too ... at least till ones universe quietens down.

I'm planning on checking to see if the Chantarelles are out now, I live a quite life these days myself, not even a hair of the psilocybe anymore:)

Yes we could have made Genuine Progress too bad we preferred to make Potage. BTW you are sitting inside one big social trap right now, good for you going mushroom hunting ... 'The Great Out of Doors' ... now that's what we were built for.

Good hunting.

Mushrooms are great. You can easily get a few days worth of food with a quick trip to the nearest forest. (At least in Finland where there are plenty of forests). And they taste delicious. There are also a lot more edible mushrooms out there than people tend to think. And no, I'm not talking about Amanita Muscaria. ;)


Did you see camo'd Matt 'DEFCON1' Savinar in "A Crude Awakening" -nice one Matt. I especially like the nice touch of emergency ration stores in the background. Can you put some camo grease on next time and have a subline reading "shot from a secret location"... hehe.

and Nate, I really liked the 'Dumbo found worrying over global warming gets eaten by tigers' sketch too, keep 'em coming...


speaking of Matt, aka 'Chimp who can drive'

If you are reading this, your LATOC site appears to be permanently down:

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Due to high volume of traffic, this site is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.''

I am beginning to miss my daily dose of doom...

Its been like this all week...

Thanks Chris for the extra bits. Can you dwell a bit mo on the following bits:

I heartily applaud Jeremy Leggett for comparing "our" understanding of fossil fuel reserves with that of the IPCC and showing the IPCC numbers most likely in error on the high side.

Which numbers? The oil, gas or coal reserve numbers they are using?

Just to make sure: the real data from the field on warming & ice melting on poles is happening faster than their worst case scenario (latest IPCC high scenario 2007).

Leggett's conclusion that it is all about coal is exactly right and where the climate change debate needs to focus in my opinion. This is the same conclusion reached by NASA's Dr James Hansen earlier this year in his pape

Very good point! A lot of people have been trying to hammer this point home elsewhere.

However, to make sure I understand where you stand.

This (burning the rest of the oil) is "no problem" IF and ONLY IF:

- we do not increase emissions significantly from ANY other resources (yes, coal is the most abundant, but there are other potential emissions sources too)

- we do not see the rapid depletion of oil as a problem by itself (cf. Oil Depletion Protocol)

That is, using the rest of the oil (rapidly) might be a problem for us, regardless of climate change AND considering our voracious energy appetite, we are going to be using lots of other emitting primary sources other than "all of oil" too.

Here's what I wrote in another thread on this topic:

"I once looked at the numbers with a friend and to my surprise, Jeremy Legget did something similar (with slightly different numbers) in his speech on the conference.

Our result:
Gross Climate Limit: 4.90 GtCeq/y (IPCC for 2000-2100)
- Land use change: 1.60 GtCeq/y (IPCC for 2000-2100)
- Livestock GHG: 1.25 GtCeq/y (FAO, for 2004)
= Net Climate Limit for Energy: 2.05 GtCeq/y max.

I.e. Net Climate Limit for Energy for 2000-2100: 205 GtCeq

(GtCeq means gigatons of carbon equivalent. There are other units around, like CO2eq, so if you want to compare, be careful!)

If you compare this "climate limit" of 2.05 GtCeq with the various reserve estimates, you find that even with the most conservative fossil fuel reserve estimates, we can just afford to burn all the oil and gas that's there but only if we do not burn a single gram of coal at the same time.

So, as many speaker said during the conference: Peak Oil will not save us from Global Warming, especially not if CTL and tar sands will be used as large-scale substitutes.



Reference to the FAO report:

Point six is the issue that resonates with me. How does peak oil and climate change intersect. Well, the fact is that oil and gas reserves have been wildly over-estimated. Because of that, there simply isn't enough of the stuff to lead to the catastrophic problems that are predicted in the models, and all of it is going to get used regardless of any concessions that might be gained regarding CAFE standards etc. Those fights, I suggest are counterproductive. Because of the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, that carbon is going to be released. It is essentially a fait accompli. All we are arguing about is who gets to burn it and the relatively short time frame in which it is burned. Conservation makes sense in terms of mitigating the impact of scarcity, but not as a matter of dealing with climate change. The entire issue of avoiding the worst of what climate change has in store for our decendents is in how we deal with coal. And I would suggest that since any environmental struggle is something of a David and Goliath struggle against intrenched heavily funded economic interests, fighting on all fronts is doomed to failure. Focusing on one, coal, evens the odds to some extent. The battle cry should be "No new coal fired power plants without carbon sequestration" If we could pull that off, we have a chance.

Someone drew my attention to a Stanford panel in November last year in which former Secretary of State George P. Shultz was reported to have said something about Peak Oil. Finally was able to track down what he said. He didn't explicitly refer to Peak Oil, but he did say:

"But I don't want to have you leave that oil question sitting on the table. And I want to say, looking at all the different things that go wrong because of oil, how many times do we have to be hit on the head with a two-by-four before we make a determined effort to use less oil."

(Link not handy, but it was called the Anxious Times Roundtable.)

Also was listening to the recent interview with Roger Morris on Electric Politics last night. Seemed like in some ways he wasn't yet fully attuned to the seriousness of Peak Oil, yet I think he also used the two-by-four metaphor.

Two barrels of oil are used for each one found. $100 oil anyone?

"September 21, 2007

ROME -- For the peak-oil crowd, that merry band of doomsters who believe global oil production is about to go into irreversible decline and plunge us into a new Stone Age, the timing couldn't have been better. As the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas was holding its conference in Cork, Ireland, earlier this week, oil prices conveniently set record prices.


The predictions for oil at $100-plus a barrel are now no more far-fetched than oil at $50.

"that merry band of doomsters"

Which is no different than "that doomsterish band of merrymakers" !

Are they wearing camouflage tights?

We're butch!

Speak for yourself

Actually the finding rate is more gloomy than the annual reports would let us believe. The replacement rate is always given as barrels of oil equivalent, or B.O.E., figured at 6 MCF(thousand cubic feet) equals 1 barrel of oil.

Natural gas isn't oil. A car can be altered to burn NG, but there are few road vehicles using N.G., and it can its expensive to alter NG into other hydrocarbon products.

Natural gas isn't equivalent on a price basis either. NG is going to average around $6.00/mcf as a sales price because of the huge LNG imports into the US from stranded gas overseas and the decline in the US manufacturing base. There's also a big increase in offshore production-the Independence Hub is adding about 25% to US domestic production and started this year. At $6/MCF natural gas would have to recieve $12.19/MCF to equal oil in revenue to the producers and revenue owners at $83.00/bbl.

So when Exxon/Mobil says they replaced twice its reserves on a BOE basis, the figures aren't accurate, especially considering that the gas tends to be in areas where the gas is unproduceable without large investment in LNG compression and the world market is already oversupplied. I just inherited some stock in XOM, Chevron and Devon. I think I'm going to sell it and invest in some oil production because of this differential and oil prices rising. If the stock analists ever figure this out it will make for a large, permanent shift down in the price of the big boy's stock because of the huge write-offs that they will have to take. Of course the SEC is a lot more responsible to investment banks and large cap companies that to investors like me with our little chump change, so it will be awhile before they are forced to acknowledge the truth. It depends on how long bi oil can keep revenues up with prior discoveries and refinery and marketing profits. The time bomb is ticking away, we just don't know the explosion date. Bob Ebersole

What are the present ideas on when we might see world peak NG according to Oil Drum sources ?


XOM books just enough qatar gas every year to show a plus in boe reserves. IMO the majors simply can't replace their reserves any more... except very expensively in Alberta. IMO the best places to invest are small us e&p's, plus one intermediate.
I like GPOR best - fabulous potential in their second LA field, Hackberry, where they are using 3d seismic to identify pools left behind in an old field, plus they have a good play in Alberta. Then OXY and ARD.

With regard to uranium, production will almost certainly exceed supply by 2015.

At the world biggest discovered deposit, Olympic Dam reserves have been upgraded to 2.2 million tonnes from the 750 thousand tones in the 2006 IAEA report. BHP-B still haven't defined the resource, 2.2 million tonnes is their latest minimum estimate.

Ironically Olympic Dam in Australia has the opposite problem to Cigar Lake in Canada..not enough water. The mine expansion requires augmenting local groundwater supplies from a coastal desal plant 300km away, plus several hundred megawatts of electrical power to run the mine, township and multiple processing streams.

A logical person might think the desal and electrical generation could be done by a nuclear plant, coincidentally helping out regional water shortages and reducing indirect fossil fuel inputs. The proposed pit 4km X 3.5km X 1km deep will otherwise require staggering amounts of diesel to excavate. While the region faces a crippling drought and high fuel prices local politicians sip lattes and mull over how awful it is. No wonder the incoming BHP CEO wanted to close down the processing plant and just send shiploads of crushed rock to China.

High uranium prices will be partly due to political dithering..I guess it does help conserve the resource though.

Thanks for all the information about the Cork conference.

There seems to be one glaring omission though. What about the politics of peak oil? How can one ignore the politics of it all?

I don't believe in a technical fix for Peak Oil. Also there's no realistic alternative to oil. So what do we do? Well, much like climate change, there is a 'solution', only it's painful. We have to drastically cut our consumption of energy. One of my chums who is involved in both fields, oil and climate studies, reckons we should aim for a 75% reduction over the next twenty-five years! That's if we're serious about mitigating the worst effects of runaway global warming. This of course implies a dramatic change in the way we live.

Fundamentally I view Peak Oil as massive political problem, which makes real solutions very difficult, because we're talking about Power. Who has power in our society and how do they use this power? I'm talking about raw power here; economic, political and military power.

Already one can see that the Power Elite have an 'answer' to Peak Oil - invade and grab as much as you can, while you still have the ability to do so. Access to oil can only be garanteed by actually controling it on the ground, preferably by putting an army on top of it!

Such a policy by the powerful to physically sieze control of the major sources of oil, is, of course, a very high risk strategy.

The problem the rest of us have is, how do we reverse this dangerous strategy without wrestling control of the State from the elite who are in power now? Surely nobody really believes our interests are in any meaningful way the same as those of the powerful elite that runs things for their own narrow self-interest? This has never been true and it's even further from the truth today as society rapidly polarizes and gap between the rich and the rest of us widens explosively.

So, if we're serious about change and developing an alternaive and sustainable economic and social model, we cannot ignore the tough political struggle that lies ahead.

Politics missing. Quite so. I don’t know what Nate Hagens said exactly, so this may not apply to his talk. Images of Man - his essential characteristics, his relations with others, the world, God, his duties, and so on, change throughout history. Of course the images - what the ideal, or epistemic human is or is not - are the product of science, like medecine, society (hunter gatherers vs. the population of NY), and culture, including religion and myths.

The current mostly anglo-saxon view is fundamentalist or essentialist, it mixes up aspects of Evolution, principally chat about genes - a very deterministic stance - to one of its bastard offshoots, popular Social Darwinism, which accentuates competition and seems tied to certain economic mantras, with, somewhat tangentially, elements from cognitive psychology, or neuroscience, which is about how human brains function is certain very delimited areas (eg. visual perception, speech, etc.)

On the biological side, gene-environment interactions, adaption, assimilation, etc. are absent from the (popular) image; from the general philosophical end, it all drifts pretty close to Ayn Rand’s work - man as an individual striver - and psychologically, social interaction and the functioning of groups is left off. Overall, it is not an appealing image, partly because it is so rigid, fundamentalist, and a-historical (which implies no future), evacuates a moral dimension, etc.

The whole cultural-cum-social side is swept away, and therefore politics - a sort of conscious, worked-out, higher level or social organisation - goes down the toilet too. It is as if these aspects can no longer be examined, or discussed, or at least not in a broader scope (one may be for or against Bush, for or against a gas tax..). The ‘body politic’, an old fashioned term to be sure, no longer exists!

We have allowed ourselves to forget what has given us a workable politics to begin with. From the Magna Carta Libertatum to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we have endevored to limit power to avoid despotism. Oil and nuclear power have fundemetally undermined these efforts. The usefulness of oil for projecting military power and the deep connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons have built an unassailable preserve for the concentration of power. Nuns are imprisoned for peaceful protests. A minister is injured and arrested in the very capitol where the right to petition should be most honored.

Eisenhower's warning about this concentration of power has not been heeded and now our politicians seek not to serve but to participate in enourmous power when they seek office. It cannot be spoken that our war is about oil or our missle defense is actually agression because to do so would begin to limit this overweaning power that has become the reason for our existance.

This is the political environment in which the peak oil issue exists. The atrophied body politic cannot look at it because it seems to imperil its facile abdication of power to fancied military necessity. We have a willful blindness because the practice of vigilance would reveal our deep deep decay.

Yet, because the concentration of power is centered around physical energy, we are seeing a new element that has not been part of our heritage before. In Macbeth, the physical world provides portents against the despot, for us, the physical world is actually rebelling against our hubris. This rebellion may yet shock us into deep democracy and a return to a workable politics just as the deep shock at the tactic of non-violence brought some moral reform in the last century. We still have the documents, the Magna Carta, the Declarations, the Constitutions from which to draw lessons. We even have surpisingly elegent technical ways to decentralize physical power and come into harmony with the rebelling physical world. But the degree to which we manage to do this will depend most on the degree to which you are will to commit to a civic life and to bring others along with you. Will you join the Kiwanis or the Elks or stay after Church to discuss oil and politics? Will you run for office even though it is hopeless just to make the dialog richer? These fading and tattered civic institutions must be revitalized and this takes a commitment of time which we now devote to being good shoppers, recieving our instructions from TV before heading to the mall. Can you join a bowling league? Can you be a citizen first and never let anyone define you as a consumer? Will you always protest when your government calls you a customer? These are the practices of vigilance and if you take them up, and bring others along we'll have a body politic that can live and breath and see and shake off the miasma of the concentration physical power that is enslaving us.


Eisenhower's warning about this concentration of power has not been heeded and now our politicians seek not to serve but to participate in enourmous power when they seek office. (...) This is the political environment in which the peak oil issue exists.

Yes. Specialization (complexity for some), and very top-down hierachical organization is either going to killl us, or, optimistically, accounts for how we got to where we are now and ensures the future, see techno fixes - or both at once...!

On the ground, the problem is that all seek to associate with power, which trickles thru the complex system. Ignoring it, or saying no to it, is not a reasonable option. Even mediaeval society, with its unfair, rigid if patchy power structure, left more room for individual nonsense or initiative, though perhaps one should not compare on only this point, there are too many differences.

Until about 1700 technology used to be a question of best practices, transmitted culturally generation to generation, and innovation, which gave an edge but was slow to spread, that is tested again and again in function of common sense criteria, physical possibilities, cultural acceptance, the support needed from social organization (slavery, for example, but today many are slaves without being called that - their food has been outsourced!)

Once fossil fuels were harnessed a different era began.

Did you mean demand? Because Uranium production was 39,000 tonnes and demand was 67,000 tonnes.

If true that's great news, would you please share some details with us. I.e sources of growth in production and expected production rates.


I wrote a post about this in the beginning of this year with some pictures and links for reference.

The main body is in Finnish language, but images with legends are in English.

I'll include just the images here:

World Annual Uranium Production (2005)

World Annual Uranium Requirements (2005)

When looking at the 1st two images, please note the World Total sum and compare Production to Requirements. There was a nice -25245 ton/year gap there in 2005.


The program that recovers uranium for nuclear reactors from decommissioned FSU warheards is coming to an end.

This remarkable cache of uranium has helped to supply the markets for some time.

When it ends (and it can do so in a fairly short timespan), it may cause a temporal not insignificant shortfall in supply compared to demand.

This at least is the view of some of the analysts.

It'd be nice to hear more on this from somebody who is really deep in the industry.

The whole issue has been for so long known that I'd be surprised if it hasn't been taken into account in various ways for some time already.

2.2 million tonnes is their latest minimum estimate

If true that's great news

So much misunderstanding. If Uranium were free, nuclear power would cost 98-99% of what it does now. They cannot drive more consumption with more supply. What incentive does that mining company have to prove those reserves (to prove anti-nuclear activists wrong?)? Would there really be something like 150 new reactors in the works around the world right now if the resource will run out in 2015?

The industry reserve numbers are meaningless. We need to look at what we know about the distribution of Uranium in the crust. That analysis show that there are about one trillion tons recoverable at very high to relatively high EROEI. And then a couple of more orders of magnitude for Thorium and other fuel cycles.

The IAEA Redbook (2006 press release) showed 85 years of conventional uranium (4.7 million tonnes - 2004 use rates) and 633 years (35 million tonnes) if we include the harder to reach uranium in phosphate ore bodies.

Even before the recent Olympic statements there was enough conventional uranium to fuel all of the present reactors vessels to end of life, and fuel a complete replacement fleet for their practical service lives.

This looks to be a prima facie case for building a reactor or two a month for the next few decades.

I suppose we can point to the usual non-technical suspects; NIMBYism, misguided environmentalism, and political pressures for the slow development of more reactors, but I'd like to see a deep analysis of the energy and economic factors. (Something on the order of Fredrik Robelius' Doctoral Thesis on oil.)

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I think that such a study is lacking because it would put a pin in the ballon of misguided nuclear boosterism. I am amazed at what passes for a reference here.


Still at it I guess. What, you're not satisfied with solar at 25% of electricity in 25 years. At least they have a reference; I know you don't like to supply them.

I attempt not to link to weak or flawed sites when it is clear which I am discussing. A link would boost stats and thus amount to spreading disinformation.

As pointed out in the report on the conference, only speculative resources can be said to be "available" to support increased use of nuclear power. It would not have occured to you, since you are so credulous, that the French have a very strong interest in building reactors regardless of their usability since they get paid for the building, not the power, and they are also in a position to profit from uranium scarcity since they have a large and costly enrichment operation. Higher uranium prices mean that they can charge more for thier fuel product.


Frances neighbours pay for delivered kWh and not the number of buildings in France.

The French market for reactors is way past saturated. They want to build them here if we are foolish enough.

Frances neighbours pay for delivered kWh and not the number of buildings in France.

I think a small misunderstanding.
The companies building the reactors, get paid for the building (construction) of the reactors.
Those companies do not get paid by how much electricity the reactors produce.


I'd like to see a deep analysis of the energy and economic factors.

I strongly second that. Those industry numbers are so misleading because people do not understand the difference between the oil and Uranium industries. The producing industry does not have any incentive to prove reserves beyond the mid term needs of their customers, especially where a greater supply will not drive demand. It costs money to find and prove reserves. For the oil industry, mid term demand (20-50 years) is greater than the known world supply, so the industry has a need to try to identify the total world supply. For Uranium, the industry is looking at this vast supply which all those people ready to put down $3 billion for new plants know is out there. So the industry only needs to identify their mid term inventory. Beyond that it would be wasting money. Like an aircraft manufacturer trying to line up engine suppliers for 100 years from now. The business need of trying to convince those of us having these pointless arguments is not that strong. Their customers know the deal.

Deffeyes says the uranium is there in the ground in Beyond Oil, and I've seen nothing to refute that data, but my spidey sense is tingling, and I worry that we simply won't be able to get to enough of it because of other resource and infrastructure constraints.

What a tragic irony it would be if we can't get to the uranium because of a lack of oil.

The answer to why we've not even built reactors for the uranium we are sure of might well be simple economics. You can probably get a much better return on investment on a spare billion dollars by buying newspapers, which as a business are still notorious cash cows.

I have to guess if you stumble down to Wall Street with flush pockets there are any number of investments that have a higher return and a lower risk than being in the nuclear power industry.

The answer to why we've not even built reactors for the uranium we are sure of

Nuclear power generation has been stalled by the availability of cheap coal and gas and because opponents have been able to pile costs for safety and waste mitigation on nuclear power plants that we do not require of the other two types, even though they are much less safe and much more polluting. Also, the nuclear industry has needed time to develop good standard designs and highly reliable operations. Once the world comes to understand that all fossil fuels will peak in the next few decades at the longest, I am convinced that nuclear will take off. Post peak will be an entirely new world in term of energy economics.

What a tragic irony it would be if we can't get to the uranium because of a lack of oil.

I do not think the the decline in oil will make it impossible to transition to a primarily nuclear powered world (with as much wind and solar as can also be built) if the world can be mobilized on a World War II scale over perhaps a generation. If this project is given wartime priority, the fossil fuel tail should be enough.

I think we can already see how we could build an electricity based transportation system that could replace the one we have today. There have been some really impressive recent develoments in battery technology (200 mile ranges for cars like those of today with 5-10 minute charge times). Also, there are very large quantities of low grade hydrocarbons that could be used for chemicals, fertilizer and aviation fuel if we did not care if they were not energy sources (e.g. we have to put more energy into them to exploit them than we get out of them).

The Energy Watch Group did a study last year predicting peak uranium production by 2050:
Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy, Energy Watch Group, December 2006.
EWG-Series No 1/2006

Energy consultant, writer, blogger

Thanks, that report looks to be meaty and interesting reading.

I'll take a detailed look this weekend, but I'm disheartened to see resources binned by dollars - not that I have a great idea about an alternate unit for these measurements, it's just that if many of those dollars have to be converted to oil or natural gas to work the mines you're going to need more dollars these days.

(Dollars are not engineering units.)

Does anyone detect the desire for a calamity among humanity?

I believe indeed we may march along until the alarms are ringing loudly, then panic. But human nature wants a shock, to break the emptiness of the current consumerist world. And the poor nations are also consumerists in many ways, just without the funds to express it. Of course there are pockets of societies that live in a more enlightened way, but they are the exception.

Too bad that we as a world society are not sophisticated enough to realize that improvement can occur without requiring a calamity in the environment. The real hard work is to change the nature of society and improve the experience of life, and to make that change despite the absence of a major crisis. But we may not acquire that understanding soon enough, and will eagerly march into calamity, with the hope that there is a better world on the other side.

Please let me know if more exposition is needed, as I realize these ideas may seem a bit mysterious.

David Alexander
Love your Planet

PlanetThoughts asked,
"Does anyone detect the desire for a calamity among humanity?

The catastrophists often make a big rhetorical case of the fact that there are people who's whole existance and career rest on the acceptance of perputual and infinite growth, and continuing petroleum supply increase.

What they fail to mention is that we now have a growing number of people who have predicted, written about, blogged about, and appeared on national media predicting assured catastrophe SOON.

What these people cannot stomach and will not tolerate is the idea that solutions are possible. They have based their whole career, their whole intellectual existance, their very purpose in life, on the idea that solutions are not possible.

There is a vested industry in shutting up ideas and in denial of anything other than the most horrible outcome.


You don't get it. You just don't get. it.

You're gonna die!

We're all gonna die!

(Excuse me, sir, but you've just stated the most stupid truism I've ever seen. I'm gonna have to kill you.)


Hi ThatsitImout,

So what is the solution, or, are the solutions?

There is a lot of talk, but the only solutions I see happening are not very nice to see.

As far as intellectual existance, or career, mine depends on this house of cards sticking around so please try not to utter such all inclusive twaddle. I have seen no real solutions that will be of our own volition. If you expect 'business as usual', after few tech fixes I think you better catch a quick latte while you still have the chance.

If the deed need be done , better it be done quickly... sorry don't have time to look up the quote. All I can see as a result of alternate energy fixes is a long and protracted disaster much worse for the planet than a quick collapse. If you want to help in a 'realistic solution' do something realistic like flooding a coal mine.

You and people like you have been pushing solar for 35+ years now. You and people like you have been pushing wave power for 35+ years now. You and people like you have been promising fusion for 50+ years now. You will have to excuse me, Roger, if I look at your claims with a cynical eye. Get back to me when you have something that matters.

Meanwhile we have Roger engaged in yet another straw man fallacy, constructing his usual "doomer" straw man so that Roger can then bravely knock it down, showing the whole world, how brave and mighty Roger really is against those poor little doomers! Your demagogic methods are duly noted. Have you considered running for office? After all, you certainly have the art of irrelevant "embellishment" polished to perfection.

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Dr. Albert Bartlett
Into the Grey Zone

Grey Zone wrote:

You and people like you have been pushing solar for 35+ years now. You and people like you have been pushing wave power for 35+ years now. You and people like you have been promising fusion for 50+ years now. You will have to excuse me, Roger, if I look at your claims with a cynical eye. Get back to me when you have something that matters.

A curious demand, Grey Zone. Aren't you aware that low temperature solar thermal is cheaper than oil at today's prices in many situations? Wouldn't that be considered as something which matters? Of course, the cost accounting must be done on a level field for comparison. For example, the proposed 2008 Budget for the Occupation of Iraq (~$200 Billion) should be accounted for as an oil expense of $1.50 per gallon, which the consumer does not pay for directly.

BTW, I installed the first "modern" wind energy system in California in 1973 before the OPEC Oil Embargo. The device was imported from Australia, where it was used in the Out Back since the only other source of electricity was a diesel generator. The mill had a three bladed prop with variable pitch blades, a speed limiting mechanism which changed the pitch to limit RPMs and a brushless DC alternator. A appeared to be well designed device, which might still be useful today, if it were available at lower voltage to run a battery/inverter storage subsystem. Combined with a PV array, the result would be that each component could be of smaller capacity, since the energy generated by wind and PV tend to complement each other.

E. Swanson

Thank you for the reply.

What I was really trying to say, and I am sure it was too compressed, is that humanity is reaching for greater meaning, possibly by destroying that which we have now... and that is very easy to do simply by keeping the blinders on. Do nothing, and it will self-destruct. The reason we keep the blinders on is to allow a new, and unknown (but different! maybe better!) social order and personal order to arise.

In other words, by allowing our house (the Earth) to burn down, we are hoping to create something better as a result, despite the suffering it will entail to get there.

I am not saying that I am in the camp of those who want to see things destroyed. No, I state that we could get to a better world and a better life in other ways, if we would allow ourselves to evolve. There should not be a need to destroy the old, and many people with that, in order to find something new.

My thoughts have no connection with claiming people are trying to make money from calamity, nor the opposite. Just trying to clarify that.

David Alexander
Love your Planet

What I've observed (over a few decades) is that there are people who are skilled at discovering a problem but seem to lack the skills/whatever to get on to the problem solving phase.

Are both these guys sleeping walking into doom? Well a huge brain has to be an advantage over huge antlers.

Yes a huge brain is able to make really big mistakes. I guess though that is only an advantage when playing that game Reach for the Bottom.

As in this: "Duh!, I say it's the guy without the antlers has the small head an brane."

Julian, thanks for this excellent overview.

Skrebowski’s April 2006 estimates are a net gain of less than 2mbpd till 2009 declining thereafter.

I'd just point out that 83+2+2+2 = 89 mmbpd in 2009. So this is not a million miles away from leonard's 90-100 mm. I believe, Leonard saw plateau extending to 2020 - and that I believe is a major difficulty cos that will need 4.0 to 4.5 mmbpd new capacity every year to compensate for decline from 2009 just to maintain plateau.

The other day, a post on The Oil Drum, GLT149, gave us a fascinating link....

This was a copy of an article published in 1901 in the Ladie’s Home Journal predicting the future in the next century (out to 2001)

More interesting than the audacity of many of the predictions was the failure of the ability to “think outside the box” on the part of the contributing experts in their respective fields of the time.

The narrowness of thinking regarding energy was most noticable: There was little mention of oil. There was absolutlely no mention of natural gas, propane or nuclear energy, these having not yet been discovered. Energy predictions involved coal (whiich was predicted to be very rare by now). The prediction was that we would live in a world powered by electriicity provided by hydro electric power from every river and stream and tidal power from the oceans. (“Just as Niagra provides today” it was said in 1901)

The participants at the ASPO 6 Conference in Cork seemed very well meaning, very thoughtful IF the thought remained inside the current framework, much like the thinkers of 1901. I say this not rudely, but the most surprising aspect of the ASPO Conference is that there was virtually nothing on the agenda that showed breakthrough thinking or consideration of the possibility of breakthrough thinking. This conference could have been done in 1975, and would have been right in step with the times a third of a century ago.

For anyone willing to actually read the literature and with an ability to visualize at all, the picture out in the real world is incredibly different. The advances in PV solar, Concentrating Mirror Solar, and batteries in themselves put the creation of a new energy industry within years away, not decades. And they are just the tip of the iceberg. Nano technology developments in these areas and in advanced materials, in gene technology, in understanding of energy conversion and efficiency design, in information systems applied to drivetrains in power supply and in transportation are just now beginning to be applied to product design and development.

Why is it not happening more quickly? Because oil and gas are still abundant enough to be givaway cheap, so cheap that it can be wasted almost without thought. It has been said that real change occurs when technical ability meets economic need or advantage.

The technical ability is already there, waiting, developing, growing. But there is no economic advantage in using it. YET.

Sadly, we live in a world in which so called “leaders” know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Use advanced technology to assure our nations security? Not if it costs an extra dime a mile to travel. Use advanced technology to protect the climate? Not if it costs an extra few cents per killowatt hour....
“Ron Oxburgh said that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology increases the capital cost of a coal-fired power station by 30% and reduces efficiency by around 10%. So that’s the breaking point? Is that really the logic we now use?

Of course, the United States must now know that it is falling behind. Several years ago, when the hybrid drive technology was being developed by Toyota, the Americans laughed it off. Yeah, they will sell a few, but it’s too complex, it won’t scale....that was a million units ago. What does it now take to prove scale....10 million units, 100 million? What will our next excuse be?

Yeah, but hybrids really don’t save that much fuel...a little car or a Diesel does as well.

Anyone with vision could see that the gas electric hybrid per se was not the end of the development path. It was the first step to a potentical grid based transportation system. To the use of portable liquid fuel as a “range and performance enhancer” not as the foundation fuel for propulsion. But, in our cyncial disbelief in any potential forward development, the U.S. passed it up and missed the advantage. Now, we lack a developed battery and hybrid drive control industry, and have to purchase the advanced components from another nation.

“I had some time to speak with Schlesinger after the conference and as Julian says he’s not too concerned about the date. He recognises the problem but more seriously he recognises how we aren’t addressing it. It makes no difference if peak oil 5, 10 or 15 years away if we do nothing to address it. He said it’s going to “hit us between the eyes like a two by four”.

The pivotal words in the above paragraph are “if we do nothing to address it”. This implies that something can be done to address it, making Schlesinger the likely target of doomsterist ridicule. But I think Schlesinger is VERY wrong when he says “It makes no difference if peak oil 5, 10 or 15 years away.” That is, IF we do something to address it. I said in a my first posts over a year ago here on TOD that if Peak oil does not occur within 10 years, it is essentially a non event.

I would now shorten that time to 7 years. The technical development is moving MUCH faster than I thought possible at that time.

Of course, I will be riduculed for saying that, as someone who dreams of gettng methane from Titan or some such ignorant comparison. The difference should be clear between what is not technically achievable and what is being held up by the unwillingness to pay a few extra pennies a kilowatt or mile for real energy security and independence.

We have only two choices, really....attemp to cower and hide in the hills, or to educate our young, and take on the challenge of the advanced design that we know is possible for a very small price compared to the price we will pay if we give away our leadership and out ability to achieve.

I do not believe in the Just-in-Time Technology Fairy. New technology WILL arrive, but the timing (your 7 years) and specifically which technologies will arrive is uncertain and, IMHO, unknowable. Many new technologies have been promised in the past, yet were stillborn or are still "in development".

So I believe that we should make our plans ignoring potential new technologies UNTIL THEY ARRIVE. Once they arrive (hybrid technology has arrived, Neighborhood Electric Vehicles have arrived, and so have bicycles), then modify plans to accommodate them.

Best Hopes,


Yes that link was fascinating. They predicted google earth (basically), air conditioning (electric) but thought rats would be exterminated.

New technologies, their invention / discovery, their development and possible general application are the outcome not only (as today, more or less) of ‘markets’, that is the amount of money that can be made (money isn’t a decent measure of anything) but also of collective decisions - political will. ASPO doesn’t deal in politics... I seem to be beating just one drum...

The world will carry on doing what it is doing with lipservice being paid to efficiencies under the guise of 'Global Warming' (a cause that is still almost political suicide so no great strides made). One year sometime soon an event will occurr that will bring the issue out the closet (another 'Al Gore Video' or 'UN Energy Crisis Report' perhaps?) and it will be plain to see that the queues at the gas stations are not just another 'here today gone tomorrow' 70s rerun. The result will be a crushing mass realization of the dangers, crstalising the events going on around people. Readers here know this, you have gone through it in your mind havn't you? This is the panick stage that Nate speaks of, the hording, the looting, the army on the streets to bring order to a world turned upside down overnight. It is almost a truth that must not be spoken for fear of the outcome.

Then, with the ELM model not 20 or 30 years but perhaps just 10 -10 years of excruciating year on year decline- during which any and all of this technology will be tried and deployed most likely by states shrinking rapidly from the economic horror of it all... One last Hoover Dam to keep the masses employed. 10 years of acute economic hardship. Will people be rushing out to buy Hybrids in the hundreds of millions? This does not sound like the meaning of Depression to me. People cannot afford things in a Depression let alone go out buying shiny new things...

Demand destruction and efficiency by necessity: technology turned massively towards the problem at hand and permeating every aspect of how we do and make things. That is the tech theme of the next two decades.


The success of the Transition Towns movement (Rob Hopkins described it as the fastest-growing political movement he’d ever experienced) shows that there is movement at the grassroots but it is not being mirrored by sufficient intensity at national government level. Several speakers and conference attendees I talked to were not impressed by the Irish government’s apparent inability to recognise the precarious position of Ireland’s electricity generation system, so it is not just the UK government which has blinkers on.

List of Transition Towns

Totnes, Devon, UK
Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.
Ivybridge, Devon, UK
Falmouth, Cornwall, UK
Moretonhampstead, Devon, UK
Lewes, East Sussex, UK
Ottery St. Mary, Devon, UK
Stroud, Gloucestershire,UK
Ashburton, Devon, UK
Mayfield, East Sussex, UK
Glastonbury, Somerset, UK
Wrington, UK
Dunster, UK
Maidenhead , UK
Brampton, UK
Portobello, UK

Bristol, UK
Exeter, UK
Nottingham, UK
In London

Brixton, UK

Forest Row, East Sussex, UK
Places Not a town or a village? Perhaps you're a rural area?

Penwith, Cornwall, UK which is not a town as such but is an area of Cornwall following this process. We also have our own website.

I posted following yesterday on TOD drum beat comments:

Have only little time to post give the time ddiffernece from Germany and that I post from work. I have had the following idea for a while now. To do a sort of local assessment of my local area by googling around and getting up a lot of information to be able to do a sort of "Transition Town" planning. I thought perhaps if a wiki was made with following template or similar as a template, everybody could participate. For instance the template could be standard with links to various cities.In every town or city different peiople with knowledge of an area (public transit, farming, electricity generation, water resources, foot or bike paths, hman resources) could edit the wiki according to theeir knowledge. This could orgaincally grow and be available ot local transition groups for lanning and eventually political purposes. Given the first two links above by Leanan I thought it was an appropriate day to make the contribution.


1) Arable land in and around city
a)Gardening plots/allottments
c) Lawns
e)Forests- berries, animals, mushrooms
f)number of trees in city dispersed along streets, lawns, parks for cooling
g)fruit trees
h) food sources –where does most food come from?
i)farm animals available –sheeps, goats , cows, chickens- number
j) how much local per capita production possible given available arable land and precipitation-can the existing population survive on the 100 mile diet?
k) Horses for transport and carts

2)Water resources
a) rivers, streams
c) ponds
d) canals(transport of goods))
e) natural water table depths, aquifers
f) water collectors manmade, dams,etc.
g) precipitation total –distribution physically, seasonally
h)fishing grounds- types of fish and amount available as renewable resource, fish farming
i) water works

3)Human resources
a)population density and distribution
b) zoning, mixed business residential or separated
c) housing density, apartment buildings or SFH, DFH
d) sidewalks, bike paths along most or all streets
e) public transport available-buses, subway, trams with plans
f) shopping for foodstuffs in walking biking distance to residential areas
g)schools, hospitals, entertainment, churches mixed into residential areas
h)noise pollution from traffic
i)Psychological and physical fitness of population
j)average/mean age, educational level and types
k) Training programmes for community adjustment in terms of education in simple agricultural/horticultural techniques or making of own clothing from traditional techniques

4)Energy resources-electrical systems/networks
a) Coal- area and amounts available for mining, power plants-capacity, avg. output total and per capita
b) Nuclear –plants- sources of uranium, enrichment, power pants capacity, output total and per capita
c) Hydropower-source power plants-capacity, avg. output total and per capita
d) Is source politically reliable?
e) Maintenance standard and replacement costs of electrical systems and power plants- are resources to replace and maintain available locally(copper wire, steel smelter)?
f) renewables-wind,solar,etc.

I got a few interesting responses including following:

Under 1) Arable land, add 'seed sources'
Under 3) Human resources, add 'skills inventory, incl. food preservation, hand carpentry, stonemasonry, etc.'

If projected requirements could be identified for a community, a fairly straightforward gap analysis could then assist with prioritization during planning.

For projected requirements, there may well be some starting points in the gaming world, eg. Simcity simulations.

I think the suggeestion was very productive and if people start doing wikipedia entriesor joining the Transition Town wikis we could geet a real steamroller going.

other links offered for North American sites were:

Both sides of the ocean are working the same angle.

“Without a video the people perish”-Is. 13:24

ASPO06 Conference
Cork, September 17-18, 2007
Dr. Michael Dittmar
The Nuclear Energy Option facts and fantasies

We all need to understand that rate of technology advancement in a society is directly proportional to the rate of increase in energy consumption of that society. In pre-industrial world rate of increase in energy consumption was very low as population rise slowly and so more lands brought under cultivation at low speed, as a result technology advancement was slow. Once upon a time we did not know how to make fire, make home, raise cattle, do farming, use metals etc. Each of these technologies came at a matter of thousand years of progress. Then with using these technologies already in grip of humanity we began to take fruits of world's resources at a faster rate, making empires, increasing ourselves in numbers etc so technology advancements starts coming at a matter of a few centuries. Think about better ploughs, cross bows, castles etc. As industrial age started energy consumption growth accelerated an order of magnitude as we shifted to coal instead of wood and so technology advancement rate also increases to a much higher rate. By start of 20th century we switched to better fossil fuels, oil and gas, both energy consumption rate and technology advancement rate increases.

On the other side of curve, as we run out of major energy resources, following the pattern of direct relationship between energy consumption rate and technology advancement rate spread on entire human industry till date its a must that technology advancement slows down then stops and then go backwards.

Another way to look at it is that without enough energy available to make use of a technology there is no incentive towards research of advancement in technology. Some person centuries before Christ invented the steam engine but since he did not had an energy resource to make use of that engine no further advancement was made in that technology. Leonardo di vinci discovered the principles of flight and actually tried to fly by wearing wings and jumping from a cliff. He knew the principles correct and made the machine correct, what he lacked was simply enough energy to make that machince work. The energy needed is too high that simple movement of arms can't provide enough of it to fly entire human body. Birds fly because there wings are large and main body is small and their bones are hollow so are of less weight.

There exist a question why not early human civilizations made used of fossil fuels when it was there and aundant. Its well known that oil was known coming out of wells in iraq as long as atleast 5000 bc. Alexander was known to be shown a show in which water was spread on water and made to burn. Was an amazing and unbelievable thing for greeks of the time to see fire on surface of water.

I think why early human civilizations not made use of fossil fuels was that there was enough land available back then to brought under cultivation, to increase humans' and animals' numbers which can be more versatily and easily used in economy and military than fossil fuels. As we occupied and made use of all available arable land by 1800 in major civilizations' centers in europe and america, we had to switch towards fossil fuels if we wanted to have more power.

So, as industrial age ends with decline in major energy resources, we can't rely on technology advancement to save us. Thats because the independent variable here is energy not technology. So thinking that technology will save us is like using the effect to control the cause, an upside-down view of reality.

That is ofcouse assuming that there is no other energy resource waiting out there, other than fossil fuels and radioactive elements, that we just have to locate and mine, using current technology available.

We all need to understand that rate of technology advancement in a society is directly proportional to the rate of increase in energy consumption of that society

More energy has definitely been an important factor.
The increased production of food using energy, has freed up people to be involved in research activities.

The rate of technology advancement in a society is very proportional to the speed that knowledge is able to be transferred between people.

Sailing ships took a lot of time to go to travel to far countries.
Railroads speeded peoples ability to go places and thereby share knowledge.
Modern transportation and telecommunications speeded knowledge transfer much better then previously.
The internet and computers are now one of the best tools for information transfer.


It amazes me how we have come to think our profligate energy usage patterns are in any way normal in the West or 'advanced' nations. If you had told a human from anytime before the 20th Century that soon everyone would be consuming the energy equivalent of taking a fair-sized field of edible corn and setting fire to it -just to get to work and back- they would have stared at you like you where a madman. But that's what we do, day in day out no questions asked.

The Energy equivalent in a barrel of oil is like having hundreds of slaves working for you. Its no wonder that it has freed up Billions from back aching work and led to a technological revolution. I think we are more likely to find an alternative way of existing than an energy alternative of comparable or greater quality to keep the good times rolling. I certainly do not think that innovation will stop but whether it can remain of the same intensity and depth we have under the current system is debatable.


We all need to understand that rate of technology advancement in a society is directly proportional to the rate of increase in energy consumption of that society.

(Heh, in Milan, Italy they have a model of Leonardo’s flying machine, plus all his notes etc. Impressive. Bit of a strange museum, National Museum of Science and Technology, but well worth the visit. Ask to visit the cellars or closed rooms. Amazing junk collection of typewriters, teletypes, radios, etc. amongst others.)

Yet: one should distinguish between ‘technology advancement’ and ‘technology use.’ Has Saudi used more advanced technology in the past 80 years? Yes. Has it contributed to technology advancement? Not that I know of, but it could be so.

Before 1800 Britain used coal, had steel and iron, great sailing ships. However, agriculture stayed static, the poor basically lived off bread, fat, and scraps, in tiny hell holes, heated by wood/coal, and so it went as wages stayed flat. But birth rate went up as far as I remember. Did, in Britain, increased energy use lead to technology advancement? Yes (industrial revolution) - or was it the other way about? Hard to disentangle.

Technology of course has to be considered alongside other strands: communication and dissemination of information and - politics.

Some person centuries before Christ invented the steam engine but since he did not had an energy resource to make use of that engine no further advancement was made in that technology.

This is certainly false.  The Greeks had wood, which is all they would have needed to operate steam engines (the early railroad engines of Europe ran on wood, IIRC).  What the Greeks did not have is a culture which valued working with things or, since most work was done by slaves, any reason to replace physical laborers with machinery.

I just have to say that this is one of the best posts and collections of comments I have seen on TOD. Really insightful. Great work Julian and all you TOD'ers.

Jeremy Leggett of Solar Century alleviated some concern about the possible rise in temperature, because the IPCC models rely on IEA figures which put the amount of natural gas and oil around much higher than most peakers.

This is very little consolation. All IPCC scenarios above 2-3 degrees warming are a "different planet Earth" anyway (James Hansen)

It makes no difference if peak oil is 5, 10 or 15 years away if we do nothing to address it

It will sure make a difference for global warming reasons.
James Hansen took in one of his peak oil and gas scenarios
a 2016 peak from those long term EIA supply scenarios. (I call them "geometric" scenarios)
If we burn that "low" estimate oil and gas, coal must be phased out starting in 2025 and be completely zero by 2050, except for geo-sequestered coal. How tight the situation is shows this: 0.6 degrees warming from PAST emissions. 1 degree warming is several metres sea level rises. Every Gt of CO2 we blow into the atmosphere is 1 GT too much.

The 450 ppm CO2e stabilization path of the Stern Review requires annual emissions must be made to peak around 2010.

If the oil plateau is very long, there is enough time to go back to coal and we have had it. Only an immediate, moderate oil decline at a certain annual percentage can rescue us. It must not be too steep, otherwise the financial system gets damaged and we don't have enough funds to de-carbonise the economy.

Meet the New Mexico PNM "head shed" people and get a take on their ideas about the 20 year future of PNM energy.

PNM revises its projection every three years ... just in case they make a mistake.

PNM uses Monte Carlo simulations to do this.


The Global Warming tipping point is not what most people believe it to be. The reality is that we will be experiencing Peak Warming in conjunction with Peak Oil, a situation much more serious than a state of continued warming. Declining planet temperatures over the next few decades will result in increasing demand for heating fuels, even as availability of those fuels declines. Solar warming models, proven with centuries of proxy data from around the planet, support this forecast. Emerging cooling trend data from around the globe bear this out. Like the observed warming over the past several decades, the forecast cooling will be moderate and will result from natural fluctuations, driven by the sun, around a dynamic long cycle equilibrium. Funding from proposed carbon offset taxes, as well as proposed cap and trade Ponzi schemes, would be better spent on operationally and economically viable programs to motivate improved building insulation and to develop new energy sources, including carbon based fuels.