Prepping for Peak: How Fast Can We Change?

Reading the Tea Leaves

Whether Peak Oil is on top of us now, or we have a few more years before the downturn, I think it is a problem that we will soon face. I believe that those born in the 1990's and beyond - like my kids - will grow up in a world of declining energy resources. And because like most parents I am deeply concerned about my children's futures, I am deeply concerned about the ramifications of Peak Oil.

We know the horror stories: Billions dead as oil depletes. Chaos. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina played out on a worldwide scale. Many rational people are anticipating this scenario. (In case you are completely unfamiliar with the massive die-off arguments, spend some time at Die Off or Life after the Oil Crash).

Even though I understand the reasoning, my mind just won't accept a scenario in which billions die. And I would add that I think some people toss those scenarios around pretty casually, without really reflecting on the horror of what it would mean if a billion plus people died of starvation. Look at your family, imagine them starving, and then imagine this playing out on a horrific scale. That is the reality of a billion-plus population reduction; a reality that I honestly don't believe our brains are equipped to handle.

Not a day goes by that I am not thinking about how this is all going to play out. A lot of variables are going to come into play. How much time do we have? Will our political leaders ever pass energy legislation that truly helps to mitigate falling production? Will production plateau for a few years and then decline, or will it peak sharply and decline at 5% or more each year? Will we see a totally unanticipated technology breakthrough? But for me, I think the most important question is: How fast can we change?

Powering Down

I drive a car that gets 50 mpg, and I don't drive it that many miles a year. My family will tell you that I keep the house too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. In fact, I almost always wear a jacket in the house during the winter. I am obsessive over our programmable thermostat; I don't want energy wasted when nobody is home. My direct fossil fuel usage is maybe 25% of the average usage for the U.S., and well less than the average for the U.K. (Indirect usage - like fossil fuels to produce the food I eat - is much harder to estimate, but one way I minimize this is by minimizing the meat in my diet).

I don't behave like this because I am cheap. (Don't ask my wife about that). I try to minimize my fossil fuel usage because 1). I want to be prepared to make do with less in the near future; 2). I want to know just how low I can reasonably go if things get really bad; 3). I am aware of the negative environmental externalities of using fossil fuels; and 4). I want to set a good example. But if the stakes were high, could I cut my direct fossil fuel usage even more than I already have? Yes, I think I could still cut it in half. I have given a lot of thought to what I would do if the gas stations were out of fuel tomorrow. It wouldn't be a fun exercise. But I don't think it would be immediately life-threatening either.

So, if I have identified areas that I can still cut if I have to - and conservation is already very important to me - then I imagine the average person has a lot of consumption that they can cut. Those long commutes? If you had to cut your gasoline usage in half, you would search hard for a car pool or public transportation. In the longer term you would get the most fuel efficient car you could get. You would start cutting out unnecessary trips. At home, you would start to adjust your thermostat and be more aware of lights and TVs that are habitually left on.

Don't get me wrong. I don't expect this to be a picnic. I don't expect technology to save us, but I also don't expect this to be the end of civilization. On the other hand, I don't completely discount the worst-case scenarios. I do allow for the possibility. But I think what we are likely to see is that people will start to Power Down when supplies start to shrink and fossil fuels become much more expensive. The best possible situation in my opinion is for Peak Lite to play out for several years before true peak. This will provide for a less rapid loss of available supplies, and would give us a better chance at managing a Power Down.

Conclusion: Planning for the Worst

My personal plans do involve preparing for the possibility that I could be wrong. You don't prepare for a disaster only if you know there is going to be a disaster. You try to plan for worst case scenarios that have a reasonable probability of occurring. (I have no plan for a Texas-sized asteroid impact). So this is what I have attempted to do.

I have no debt. My savings are protected against both energy inflation and a collapsing dollar. The value of my profession should increase as energy supplies become tighter. My family has a fair amount of farmland, and I also have my eye on farmland in several locations that I think would fare well if things go sour. I have a decent amount of food in storage. But I am hopeful that I never have to put my plans into action. If we can change fast enough, I don't think I will have to.

Governments could play a huge role here by getting serious about a long-term energy strategy. But on this point, I don't hold out much hope as it would require that the public is asked to sacrifice - usually not something that will make you popular when running for reelection. It would also require that the rosy scenarios painted by the EIA are discounted for more conservative assumptions about future supplies. I think our next best hope is for Peak Oil to soon be widely recognized as a serious threat, and then we have a plateau or slow decline so that governments have some time to get their acts together. But I think this is going to require a few more price spikes ($100 oil?) before Peak Oil becomes conventional wisdom.


I posted this essay first on my blog, and several commented that it was uncharacteristically dark for me. It certainly wasn't intended to be. Rather, I am trying to share the constant internal debate that I go through regarding Peak Oil. Where I am at is that I am optimistic, because we do have great capacity for change. On the other hand, I am an optimist by nature, and I recognize this. So I am able to step into the role of pessimist and take the worst-case scenarios seriously enough to have contingency plans.

Coming Soon

As I wrote in the March 4, 2007 Drumbeat:

So, count me among those who still don't think Saudi has peaked. If fact, I think you will see their decline stop by summer, and if demand picks up you will see their production head back up. If that happens, I suspect a lot of people around here are suddenly going to develop amnesia regarding all the predictions that have been made.

I took a lot of flack (to put it mildly) earlier in the year regarding my arguments on Saudi, but it is about time to revisit those involuntary decline scenarios that were so popular in early 2007 - when I was predicting the decline would soon stop. Those who favored the involuntary decline hypothesis may want to go back and look at where Saudi production was predicted to be in late 2007 based on assumptions of no spare production and an involuntary production decline. Even if we discount Saudi's recent announcements that they will raise production, steady production is inconsistent with involuntary decline and no spare capacity.

While this doesn't settle the question of whether Saudi has peaked, their steady production is in the process of falsifying those declining trendlines that were predicting 8 million bpd or lower by year end. Earlier this year I allowed myself to get dragged into endless debates over this issue, when it clearly would not be illuminated until later in the year. Well, later in the year is here, and Saudi production has been constant since February.

At the latest, I will take a look back in a year-end post in which I will also discuss the results - win or lose - of the $1000 bet on oil prices; a bet that I made because of my confidence that Saudi was voluntarily reducing production to keep prices high, and that they were sitting on some spare capacity. The collapsing dollar has made this interesting, but I still think we will end up closer to my predicted year end of $73.50 than $100.

Unrelated Footnote: If any of you have direct connections to any Brazilian sugarcane ethanol plants that use bagasse to supply the plant energy, please contact me: tenaciousdna AT gmail DOT com. The kind of connections I need are the kind that can get me inside the plant to talk to their engineers. I can't explain right now, but hopefully I can soon enough. Maybe after I get back from Brazil. :-)

submitted at 10:45 it's fresh! Thanks for your support.

Robert, your lifestyle and mine are scarily similar (with my wife having the same comments, no doubt).

Yes, the loss of billions of lives is horrible to think about, and I would also prefer to think that such a situation will not unfold. I'm not optimistic about it, however, given the decline in natural gas and phosphorous in North America (further reducing grain exports, likely to zero). China is artificially supported by a robust economy; a recession would have serious impacts on their ability to support their population. Other Asia populations are in a similar situation. Africa is already struggling and the combination of peak oil and climate change is extremely concerning.

your lifestyle and mine are scarily similar (with my wife having the same comments, no doubt).
Count me in the same boat. Not all people can shower in 6L of water and tolerate or like cooler water or live the relatively low energy life we live.
But I question being able to cut my own consumption in half. In the winter my high-eff furnace is responsible for something like 50% of our electricity use. Yes lowering the home temperature (family members already complain about wearing an undershirt, shirt, sweater and being cold at 21C - what can I say a side effect of a vegetarian diet is that you loose a lot of body fat!) is possible; but not by 1/2 and have the home liveable. Although I do know people who keep their house around 60F (what 16C) in the daytime and cooler at night I could not tolerate it unless I was working (and I don't mean typing at a keyboard)!
Our electric water heater is about 1.5kWh/day - 1/5 of our total electricity use and we don't wash in hot but it would not be easy going down to 1/2 of our energy use.
Having embraced Voluntary Simplicity our TV is already relegated to the basement and the stereo system is gone.
The car is pretty well only necessary for convience and hauling the kids around (playing the game of racing between work and preschool to pick them up on time ..) - but it is 1/3 of our total personal carbon emisssions so it's something we could easily give up.
But there are tons of fuzzies. Sure we're got enough saved to last around 15 years without having to work; but what's going to happen to our savings? Hyperinflation? What's going to happen to our taxes (home taxes are about 1/6 of our total living expenses) and how much will it cost to repair the roof / furnace over such a time frame?

Mr Rapier is EXACTLY right. The key word is how fast. There are lots of ways possible, probable and practical, most of which can or will come forward, but Mr Rapiers's question will then get precisely on point - fast = change.

There is a long list of things that may be the changes to look at here:

The operator just called on one of my prospects in West Central Texas. We have a new field discovery. With luck we could have a few million barrels of recoverable reserves. So, I continue to do my part to flatten the Lower 48 HL curve. As a result of new field discoveries, workovers, secondary and tertiary recovery efforts, etc., Texas and the Lower 48 have shown periods of stable, and sometimes increasing post-peak production. What they have not done is to exceed their 1970 and 1972 respective production levels.

That Saudi Arabia can and will add new production is not in dispute. It never has been. What is in dispute is whether they will be able to exceed, for a given calendar year, their 2005 crude + condensate production rate of 9.6 mbpd.

The problem we had in Texas, and that in my opinion the Saudis are having now, is offsetting the decline from the old, large oil fields.

Saudi fourth quarter production will determine how sharp their 2007 rate of decline will be. In 2006, they declined at -4.2%/year. At 8.6 bmpd through three quarters, extrapolated through the fourth quarter, their production decline rate would be -6.7%/year. If they average 9.0 mbpd for the fourth quarter, their average annual production would be 8.7 mbpd, an annual decline rate of -5.6%/year.

Meanwhile, at the 2005 to 2006 rate of increase in consumption, just the top five net exporters in 2007 will consume an additional 420,000 bpd of liquids, which is probably on the conservative side, given the natural gas shortfall in Saudi Arabia. I expect the actual number to be north of 500,000 bpd. Note that this is the one year increase in consumption by the top five. In five year or so, it will take all of current Saudi liquids production, just to meet the domestic consumption by the top five net exporters.

Having said all of this, as I said some time ago, I think that we were just debating how fast the ship is sinking.

Great news --- congrats --- can't wait to learn more specific location since I reside in central Texas. Thanks for sharing your info and perspective.

I appreciate Kunstler's definition from The Long Emergency;
"Fossil Fuels are a unique endowment of geologic history that allow human beings to artificially and temporarily extend the carrying capacity of our habitat on planet earth."

Recently heard Dr. Wes Jackson of the Land Institute speak. He seemed deeply concerned and shwowed that o so familiar graph of oil production and population rising in tandem.

IMHO, Die Off seems inevitable

Dieoff amongst other species is already occurring, of course. When we enter human dieoff, will it be too late to save non human species? We should be more concerned about the millions of canaries in the coal mine. And, btw, we should be closing the coal mines.

Most of us probably abhor the idea of mandatory birth control. And yet, we also abhor dieoff. Those countries, like France, which are experiencing low birth rates, are trying to incentivise population growth, a largely chauvinistic exercise.

Not to worry, magazines like the Economist are concerned we have too few people. So, I guess, dieoff, obviously is not a concern remotely within range of the radar screen.

Yes, Virgina, there will be dieoff. I see no evidence that we have the prudence to take the necessary actions to cause a different result.

I see the difference between dieoff and preventable deaths, but that is a difference in input/ouput numbers. Morally there is no difference between the millions starving now and the millions starving in ten/twenty/whatever years. We are allowing so many preventable deaths now I don't see that we will move decisively to prevent mass dieoffs. In spite of this, I think the dieoffs will happen more slowly than is generally predicted on this blog. We probably will pass the point of dieoff without noticing, it will be a series of "bad years" that no-one will see as the peak until after the fact. This paragraph makes me sound very pessimistic but I do feel a sense of optimism. The fact that we are doing such a terrible job now (in an age of plenty) implies that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit we can pick to soften the transition.

My best hope is that people and small communities see that it is in their best interest to have fewer children. Birth rate declines in Europe, Japan and liberal US states strongly suggest that the fertility rate of human beings would be well below replacement rate if the question was left to individuals (particularly women). Birth rates correlate much more strongly to access to birth control than to cultural factors, although they do have an effect. For example, Catholics often vocally support the anti-abortion stance of the church, but actual abortions among self-identified catholics is actually higher than the general population average where it is available.

I believe that mandatory birth-control will be ultimately counter-productive. Reproduction is an incredibly emotional issue and the existence of mandatory birth control has been used consistently to undermine and demonize legitimate reproductive rights activities. One of the excuses for reinstituting the global gag rule in 2001 was that money might go to forced abortions, an accusation completely contrary to the facts. The reality that a forced pregnancy is also traumatic and infinitely more common doesn't seem to bother these people.

Any solution to peak oil, global warming and poverty will depend on wide or universal access to contraception.

Morally there is a difference between deaths now and speculative deaths later. We are bound to prevent the deaths now because now is when action is required. Speculating that the deaths are only postponed does not let you off the hook of trying to do what you can now. If you save a child from drowning today, you are not saving the child from all future mishaps, only today's. But, failing to save the child means failing to give the child the same opportunity you have to do some saving. That child may grow to save a child who then figures out the solution to the future problem that you would weigh equally with today's problem. The moral compass is not a mathematical model. It has immediate imperatives.


That's wonderful news about your discovery, congratulations!
Considering the time you donate to peak oil awareness, you must be incredibly busy!

I'm really looking forward to your presentation with Khebab at the ASPO World Oil Conference in Houston this week and look forward to shaking your hand.
Bob Ebersole

I used to think that I was smart (after an early string of shallow oil discoveries about 20 years ago). I then realized that I was lucky. I now simply characterize myself as persistent.

This test well was the fourth well on a photogeologically mapped surface structure, following three prior dry holes. We weren't able to run a DST because of a lost circulation zone up the hole, so we had to make a casing point election off the logs. Once we saw the logs, there was no question about running pipe.

But fundamentally the discovery was due to the persistence of my principal joint venture partner, who is determined to test my ideas (along with several other key joint venture participants). I am now in the "interesting" position of having two drilling rigs dedicated almost solely to my prospects.

I have actually been turning down Peak Oil speaking requests, but I wanted to do the ASPO-USA gig, and perversely enough, after not doing any speaking gigs since last year, I was asked to debate Michael Economides at Texas A&M (where I got a BS and where Robert got a Master's degree), so I couldn't turn them down. I'm at A&M on Wednesday, and then in Houston on Thursday.

My son's an Aggie at the Galveston campus as his interests are marine science. Persistent always seemed a nice way to describe the Aggie personality, the less pretty ways are obstinate and hard-headed. Its a great school, I'm really proud of my son, he's hard-working and a great guy, but, like all you Aggies, obstinate and hard-headed .

I've always been fascinated by surface geology as an exploration method. For some reason its been out of fashion for the last 60 years or so, but it found more oil fields than any other technique other than seismic. And, its still useful today I suspect if people would just pay attention. I can show you four good wildcat locations in the city of Houston, which are easy to see on the surface.
There's been 15-20 feet of subsidence because of ground water withdrawel for city water, and the town is full of active faults. The Coastal Subsidence District has them mapped, and they show highs by looking at the typography. Most of the water withdrawn was from fairly deep Miocene sands, so they exist at depth. Since Harris County is truly great producing country in really great trends, they'd all make decent prospects, but just as big a pain in the posterior as the Barnett Shale in Tarrant and Dallas counties to produce. They are all in areas that were too urbanised in 1930 to be worth wildcatting,
Bob Ebersole

I've seen these kinds of generalizations (one could even call them prejudices) about post-secondary schools before, but don't share them. After working with people from different schools, departments within schools, and research work-groups, I've come to the conclusion that these sorts of generalizations don't apply. Perhaps certain schools select for a particular personality-type, but I've never had the opportunity to work at one... Of course, I don't have the right personality-type to work at these institutions.

Don’t forget, Oil Consumption has also peaked....

Looking at many of the analyses on TOD, there is a lot of data which indicates that total liquids peaked a year or so ago. Much of the discussion on TOD is about the extent to which this indicates that oil production capacity (ignoring the ability to temporarily overproduce a field) also peaked, circa June 2006. Assuming these Peak Production analyses are correct, by definition in June 2006 the world has also experienced a ‘Peak Consumption’ point.

In terms of the economic an social impact, the crunch is not at the point of 'Peak Oil' , but at the point of 'Oil Shortage', being the point at which ‘inherent’ demand clearly exceeds available supply.

From all that I have read, it would seem that we have still a way to go until we see the majority of the impact on consumption of the large increases in oil price which started about three years ago. At that point, according to Henry Groppe’s analysis (ASPO 2005 Denver), about 50% of the world’s oil consumption was for non-transportation use (mainly in the developing world).

Listening again to Hugh Groppe’s talk ( ) it seems to me that the price profile that we have experienced since 2004, should substantially moderate total world demand, mainly by a shift to much cheaper sources of energy for non-transport use in the developing world. The Consumption Peak we saw in June 2006, and the reduction since then are presumably part of this response, and there should be a lot more displacement of consumption still to come over the next few years. The net result should be that the point in time of 'Oil Shortage' may be delayed by a few years, even if oil produciton has peaked or reached a plateau. On this logic, the tightenss of supply which we are seeing now, and which may get much worse in Q4, migth then be followed by a couple of years of much more relaxed supply/demand balance, as consumption reduction projects already in the pipeline come to fruition.

The possibility of such a situation must be on the minds of countries such as Saudi Arabia, and if so should make them very reluctant to make transparent, or reveal by sustained shipment, any reserves of sustainable capacity that they might have acieved or might have in their project pipeline.

Net Oil Exports and the “Iron Triangle” (July, 2007)

Declining Net Oil Exports Versus “Near Record High” Crude Oil Inventories: What's going on? (September, 2007)

I agree that the Export Land Model represents the greatest threat to us at present. This will provide for an exponentially decreasing amount of oil available on world markets. This is a substantially different scenario to a declining tail of production that we normally associate with Hubberts famous bell curve. It is already impacting oil prices.

I understand this, but where I get lost is in among all the other variables:

1. How much will conservation help? Even if the availability of export oil declines sharply many countries (eg US, UK and Australia) have domestic oil industries that will continue to provide (declining) volumes of oil that will cushion the worst impacts. Even so how will these countries respond? Will they use their remaining reserves of oil in the military to ensure access to oil in other countries? What of countries like France and Germany with no oil? What will they do? How will they respond?

2. The world is highly interconnected. We live in a right now/just in time world where resilience has been eschewed in favour of efficiency. We have an incredibly efficient economy where the capital markets and financial systems ensure that money is available when needed provided credit is adequate. This last point is often only a perception, even if related back to supposedly "hard" assets. What happens if this system substantially breaks down? Will otherwise high quality productive units (farms, factories etc) go out of business? What will have the bigger impact: bankruptcy, or a lack of key inputs because they are no longer available? If so, how quickly will this happen?

3. How will our medical, educational, police, firemen, and social services cope? What will the impact be as these services degrade?

4. What happens to our capital infrastructure? Roads, rail, water, power, bridges, tunnels, waterways, sewers, waste treatment etc etc. Will this gradually break down or will there be catastrophic key point breakdowns that paralyse large parts of the system? Eg a bridge (Minneapolis?), or sewer pump station? We saw how a single relay brought the grid down over the entire NE US, plus parts of Canada a few years ago.

5. How will governments respond to large numbers of unemployed destitute people? Will they be kicked out of their houses? Why? If so, where will they live? How will they be fed?

These are the sorts of questions that perplex me. I suppose we must look to history to try and understand. Britains war time mentality, the recent history in Zimbabwe, Burma etc. We can look at trends and laws. The Patriot Act (or what ever it is called) in the US. I guess the key question is this: Will governments act to mitigate the worst impacts; or are we so stuck in our free market paradigm that any action government takes will make things worse?

I tend to be a bit gloomy on these things. My wife Sue on the other hand thinks that humans are adaptable and that we can muddle through. I hope she is right.

I agree that the Export Land Model represents the greatest threat to us at present. This will provide for an exponentially decreasing amount of oil available on world markets.

One correction. An exponential decline, or increase, is a fixed amount per year, e.g., -5%/year. What the ELM and some case histories show is that net export decline rates tend to accelerate with time, because we are seeing the difference between an exponential production decline and a (generally) exponential increase in production.

What the ELM, UK and Indonesia showed are the following three characteristics: (1) Net Exports declined at a much higher rate than the production decline rate; (2) The Net Export decline rate accelerated with time; (3) Only a small percentage of post-peak production was exported (10% in the case of the ELM). By the time that the UK peaked, about 80% of its total cumulative net export capacity had already been exported.

IMO, we need to start planning on a drastic--and accelerating--decline in the availability of liquid transportation fuels, which is why we are finishing our Net Export paper with a plug for Alan Drake's presentation on Electrification of Transportation.

One thing the doomers don't seem to get is that one can reduce direct consumption dramatically. I don't think it will come to that, but North America could live on its own crude oil production and adapt as that continues to decline. There is just so much frivolous waste in the system now. Famine is not really the issue any more than it is for a guy who weighs 500 lbs.

What do you suppose would be the effect on the economy and society of the huge reduction in consumption that you claim is possible?

The question is, is the American social system now built on frivolous waste? If we have so altered our values over several generations that salesmanship has overwritten any form of community loyalty, genuine conscience-based faith, etc, then we don't know how to stop promoting salesmen over leaders. Nor can we stop the largest concentrations of wealth from buying politicians. Most of all, our financial institutions may not be able to adapt to a subsistence economy, yet some kind of financial system must exist to pool capital for certain critical projects like electrified rail.

For instance, if you could even talk enough Americans into cutting back consumption, that itself could trigger a 1929-type crash or worse. But we came damn close to both leftist rebellions and an actual right-wing coup in the early '30s. Huey Long was running Louisiana basically like Venezuela is now. If Upton Sinclair wasn't necessarily stabbed in the back by FDR in the '34 California gubernatorial campaign, right-wingers in other parts of the states might have moved into a state of rebellion.

Imagine how much destructive the panic would be if you have to tell the public that, no, this time there must not be an economic recovery. No New New Deal. No 3rd chance for industrial capitalism. No hope. Stop that. 1932 forever.

Yes, this is so true. Why so many people can't make these connections is, in part, because they've had their ability to think critically fragmented by their time in the American educational system which fragments everything into distinct topics.

Robert's a good example. Knows more about geology than 99.999% of the population. But can't the connections between geology (oil) and finance, politics, human behavior etc.

Humans can be quite adaptable. Check out this video of a train making its way through a Bangkok market if you have any doubts. Think of all the places we could squeeze this in!

Connecting several different systems, their feedbacks and response curves is very difficult.

It is next to impossible to do it inside one's head only, regardless of how much education one has had. Simulations and multiple hypotheses are required.

Of course, it is always possible to select one outcome (usually from a pre-existing narrative via abduction), but this only makes one susceptible to heavy bias, when looking at the systemic picture. One usually only sees evidence that tends to reinforce one's own position/argument/belief. This is even more so, if this position is an emotionally charged ideological position.

However, bias filtering does NOT make the outcome more likely, in fact, the more specific the outcome and more components it interconnects into it's narrative explanation, the LESS likely it is to happen as imagined. This is basic probability (almost regardless of distribution).

It is very difficult to analyze and assess systemic risk. We humans tend to make intuitive judgments about probabilities that are completely false. Therefor, we should not trust those intuitions, but analyze the probabilities in question, when we can AND accept the very larger margin of error always present. Ask anybody who's been in the forecasting or future studies field for more than 10 years.

Also, bias applies as well to 'not seeing the systemic risk when it is right in front of our nose' as well as 'seeing only one or few specific outcomes out of the seemingly evident risk situation'. The biases and human thought patterns are the same in both cases. Biases do not select people based on whether they are techno-fix utopians or ultra-gloom-doomers (or something in between). We all fail the acid test, unless we use formal systems to help our own thinking.

Ref: Cognitive biases potentially affecting judgment of global risks

As such, we should NOT prepare ourselves for a few specific risks only. We should prepare for unforeseen consequences as well.

At this point it becomes an exercise in resource allocation: time, money, brainpower, resources should be allocated. But how? How can we prepare for everything, even for things we cannot yet foresee?

That is a very good question and at least I do not have an answer, although I have a feeling that it is going to be more of a philosophical one than really a practical answer.

I think resilience literature is starting to look at this issue.

One can also look at how old hats in the modeling/simulation/forecasting/risk management field are going about it.

What they are NOT doing is banking on a few very specific scenarios, regardless of how BAU, how doom & gloom or how optimistic.

I think a community of people who are serious about the possible variety of responses from peak oil should consider the same.

Ref: Shaping
The Next 100 years

PS Please note that this doesn't mean that one shouldn't do what you & Robert have done, but to do that _only and exclusively_ may not be very wise. Again, not to say you have, but as a reminder to the rest of us that we perhaps shouldn't either.

Imagine how much destructive the panic would be if you have to tell the public that, no, this time there must not be an economic recovery. No New New Deal. No 3rd chance for industrial capitalism. No hope. Stop that. 1932 forever.

I'd be outraged if anyone said it, because it's not true.

Annual energy consumption of the USA is about 98000 kWh of primary energy per capita.  A square meter in the middle of Kansas receives about 1550 kWh of solar energy per year, so an American's consumption represents about 63 square meters of Kansas.  300 million Americans would need about 7300 square miles out of the 81,815 square miles of the state.  Even if you reduced efficiency to 10%, you wouldn't need the entire state.  We probably have enough area under roofs and roads to do the job already, no further development required.

We have PV made of silicon (27% of Earth's crust) and PV made of organics (representing carbon, possibly reclaimed from the atmosphere) on the way.  Carbon nanowires are already better conductors than copper.  Technology inevitably pushes to the limits of science (just compare the 14-inch Winchester disk drives of 3 decades ago to the one in the iPod).  The science we have today is enough to supply an American level of comfort to billions, albeit using renewables rather than fossil fuels.

Hell you don't know the half of it.
The American government has 600 million solar panels already made, they are stockpiled and ready for distribution when needed.

There are also a million 50,000 meg windmills stockpiled.
We have the science to extract clean water from the air, and power vehicles with unlimited free hydrogen.
Everything will be free because there is no cost when we use renewables.

Transport is covered too, we have only being using oil to trick the rest of the world into thinking we are as stupid as they are.

We won't need food because science has invented a pill which can feed us for a month.
Wars will be obsolete, no need for them when we don't need to fight over energy.

Coal and nuclear power stations will be immediately decommissioned.
The armed forces will be used to help everyone build their McMansion.

The oil companies will be extremely happy too because their stockholders won't need money.

Life will be grand.

Not only that. The U.S. even has another big plus: they invented the cool-aid. LOL.

The science we have today is enough to supply an American level of comfort to billions, albeit using renewables rather than fossil fuels.

How many different SSRIs are you on? Seriously, the level of denial you're in is only possible with massive pharmaceutical assistance.

Oh, that's a REAL devastating refutation of the conclusion I drew from the facts above.  What's your next act?  Are you going to get the Inquisition to force me to recant, or will you be satisfied with having your friends point at me and laugh?  (FYI, the answer is "zero".  I do take blood-pressure reducers, in part due to the stress of dealing with antagonistic assholes.  I bought a 6-month supply a little while ago for about $25; perhaps you'd like to kick in a few bucks?)

We have PV made of silicon (27% of Earth's crust)

The proportion of the Earth's crust is irrelevant. More relevant is how much can be economically extracted without damaging the environment or our ability to house and feed the population. The same applies to all the other elements that may be needed to build this 73,000 square miles of PV (at 10% overall conversion efficiency).

Your strong belief in technology is admirable.

Actually, "extracting" the silicon is easy. The entire Sahara desert is made out of it (sand is essentially silicon dioxide, SiO2) ... and its extraction won't bother anyone except maybe a few camels.

How much energy it takes to make the PV panels is an entirely different issue; how much energy it takes to build the factories in which these panels are made is yet another issue; and finally, how much time and money it takes to build these factories is a third issue.

Yet, engineering-poet is right in his comment that we should invest our energy (both spiritual and physical) into creating alternate sources of energy at a time when we are still capable of doing it.

In my view, a law should be passed by Congress regulating that building permits for either new houses or upgrades of already existing houses are only granted if the builder can show that he either produces at least 25% of the energy needs of his new/modified structure locally, or that he invests at least 10% of the money required for the building into a local energy structure, whichever number is smaller.

Such a law is entirely defensible economically; it would provide incentives for new production plants for alternate energy technology; it would create new jobs; and it would get us on a way to at least mitigating the worst side effects of our dwindling fossil fuel resources.

I was not just referring to extraction but to economical extraction without harming the environment or our ability to feed ourselves. I don't really know what the effect of extracting enough sand to make 73,000 square miles of PV panels would be but it seems to me that the techno-optimists fail to look at the whole picture. I was also highlighting the often touted statistic of "x% in the earth's crust" as being meaningless. Nuclear supporters usually use this kind of raw statistic to "demonstrate" that nuclear power can be fuelled for hundreds of years to come.

We wouldn't need 73,000 square miles of PV panels, because only a fraction of energy consumption is electric.  A great deal of that collection area could just grab plain old heat.

It was you who used the 7,300 square miles figure and mentioned a 10% efficiency rate. Whether it is PV panels or solar thermal, my post still stands.

No, your post claimed "73,000 square miles of PV", which would only be necessary for the electric fraction.  Hardly the same thing, and your insistence that it is speaks poorly of your intellectual honesty.

In the real world:

  • The efficiency of string-ribbon PV is closer to 15%
  • The efficiency of low-temperature thermal capture can be upwards of 50%
  • A great deal of energy demand can just be eliminated using e.g. insulation to hold heat instead of replacing losses
  • Resources such as wind and hydro wouldn't be ignored, as I did to avoid over-complicating a simple piece

I was also highlighting the often touted statistic of "x% in the earth's crust" as being meaningless. Nuclear supporters usually use this kind of raw statistic to "demonstrate" that nuclear power can be fuelled for hundreds of years to come.

I like this counter-argument. Even though its everywhere we wont be able to use it, just because.

I didn't think I'd have to explain this but just because there is a proportion of an element in the earth's crust, there is no reason to suppose that all of this can be economically extracted or without harming the environment to a degree that affects us. When ever I've seen such statistics used as an argument, a corresponding figure for economical extraction is never shown. For example, a recent article here showed the fallacy of expecting sea water to provide enough uranium for nuclear power stations, if that is chosen as a supposed solution for our energy woes.

You must have missed my story from just a week ago.  Either that, or you have a really short memory.

There's a cursory energy-payback analysis in the comments.

I didn't read that story but have now scanned it and it seems that the only factor you appear to have used, for how much PV can be manufactured, is silicon. Are no other resources used in manufacturing the panels, in installing them, in providing the infrastructure to use them and in maintaining them?

I added a multiplier of TEN for the other elements of the system.

Look, if you're not going to actually read something, stop pretending to be commenting on it instead of just repeating your own prejudices.

Simply adding a multiplier is hardly a robust thesis.

I fell back to that because I had nothing better; I searched for price data for glass, etc. but couldn't find anything useful.  If you have something to offer, let's have it and refine the figures.

I willingly admit that I don't have anything to offer on that. What I have been trying to say is that rarely do we see the whole picture on any proposed "solution". In my opinion, it is not sufficient to use partial calculations about what is possible because we are facing a real crisis, or series of crises. I don't think we can, any longer, rely on wishes and hopes to engineer our future society; we're at the point when we need to fully research any long term plans on resource use in terms of practicality, economics, energy return, environmental impacts and anything else one can think of that might affect the feasibility of any solution and its affect on our futures and our children's futures. We live on a finite planet and have unsustainable lifestyles, so we need to change what we're doing.

I applaud anyone who goes into a lot of detail about possible alternatives for energy, or any other our our resource uses. I don't have the abilities to do this sort of research myself, so rely on others to do so. But that doesn't mean that I can't see holes, that I can't see where a full analysis hasn't been done.

I think, for sustainability, we need to power down, not just switch energy sources (if that is even possible).

I think the 500 lb guy is a great illustration, though I don't think it proves your point. If you stop feeding a 500 lb guy, he will die of starvation as quickly, if not quicker, than a 200 lb guy. He's necessarily more unhealthy, he's got incredible stress on his heart, lungs, etc, he's probably got some cholestorol and blood pressure issues, he won't be able to run around looking for food as efficiently, and on top of all the of the phsyical constraints he has, he'll feel twice as desperately hungry as the 200 lb guy next to him, cause he's used to eating twice as much. So he'll be in worse psychological distress than the other guy.

Sure, we use way, way more oil in this country than the average guy in, say, Guinea-Bissau. We could survive on a lot less. But all of our life-support systems and our national psychology are built on high levels of energy consumption. We'd have to get on a treadmill and cut out the Baskin Robbins BEFORE the energy was taken away. And we're not showing any sign of doing that.

WT, congrats on the discovery. As one who has been involved in finding just shy of a billion barrels, I know what many who have responded to you don't know. Such discoveries are meaningless in the face of the decline rates. Shoot, my whole career is meaningless. We use 30 billion bbl/year, I found shy of one in a 37 year career, and your discovery, which will have a great NPV, will not do much for that guy in central Texas. If it is 50 million, which would be quite a bit discovery in West Texas, it will last the US 2.5 days. That is the utterly horrid reality of the mathematics we face in the energy industry.


I have frequently compared myself to a small organic farmer. A small farmer can't feed the world, but he can have a positive impact on his community, feed his family and in some cases put some people to work, which is basically my ambition on all three counts.

If I am very successful looking for small, but profitable overlooked oil fields, I might be able to find some reserves in the tens of millions of barrels of oil, which would take decades to fully produce, and which would represent a few hours of world oil consumption.

I have repeatedly cautioned people not to get carried away by oil patch types enthusiasm for their prospects. Just because we find some oil fields post-peak does not mean that we can have an impact on the long term picture, which was the gist of my original comment up the thread regarding Saudi Arabia.

I have basically summarized my advice, starting early last year, as follows: "Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy." People trapped on the discretionary side of the economy are going to be roadkill.

WT I am always better informed having just read your contributions on tod. Thankyou for framing the data in bite size. I admit to having my eyes glaze over when some of the charts come out.

As a small 'organic' farmer though I am going to take you to task for that assertion. :-)
Though you are small next to the big guys I think that's where the comparison ends.

Thomas Homer Dixon writes about having to wait until the shccks can shake loose the death grip of the 'vested' interests and advocates an examination of endeavours that we can undertake to mitigate the upcoming bad sledding.
Fostering co-operative ventures that can gain efficiencies in order to mitigate future restrictions seems prudent. Canada as a raw material provider for example should seek to increase production next to source. The idea of spending the energy to ship raw goods to China and then return those goods
doesn't seem to be a reasonable proposition.

On another front has anyone ever heard of M.H.D. Generators?
In the 80's they were touted to be part of the future. Presented as being some 45% efficient when used as a topping cycle. They are not stand alone generators but paired with steam turbines. Able to use all available fuels including high sulfur coal in an ecologically safe manner. Plants can be located near source. Scrubbers aren't required because the sulfur combines chemically with the ion seed which can be separated.

There were problems identified but all seemed to be solvable. The D.O.E. had a national MHD (magnetohydrodynamics essentially it uses a magnetic field and ionized gas to generate current and is more efficient than conventional)
program in the 80's
Does anyone know what became of this? Did it prove unworkable?
Phosphorous short falls need to be thought about. John Deere and gang understood this some 100 years ago.
Buckwheat is a very useful plant for cycling phosphorous in the soil and for feeding the microbes that make phosphorous bio-available to plants. Phosphorous shortages will prove to be a challenge in an agricultural model that continually removes from farms and doesn't return the organic matter.

What part of the economy is discretionary and what part isn't? If food is non-dis is chocolate included? beer? fine wine? Can we still cut the cheese? What about new tires for a Hummer? a bicycle?

There will surely be some tricky shades of gray in the Necessities v. the Luxuries, but I don't think you were trying very hard to find them. Beer and Wine has 'some' food value, cheese certainly does. If you're starving and there's a box of chocolate.. well, it's something.. it has calories, got TP?

If all you have is a Hummer, and you actually HAVE to get somewhere to make a living, then those tires get to be considered 'non-discretionary', even if it was your discretion that hooked yourself up with a hummer.. it doesn't make it sustainable, it just means you're not spending your resources away on things that do nothing to provide for your life, health, family, community or livelihood.

It's been said a few times around here that even certain 'Luxury-type' acquisitions can be done for long-term and reasonable plans, as in the purchase of a Stretch Hummer Limousine, which you know will pay for itself in just a couple of Prom Seasons, and supply your family with enough money to pay off the Cards, set up some Alt Energy, etc. (No, I'm not a Hummer/Limo Driver.. I think it would make me suicidal, and I didn't make any calc's on that proposition.. it's just the same one I made to get my HD Camcorder..)


"With luck we could have a few million barrels of recoverable reserves."

My advice...claim 1/2 those reserves and keep the other half hush, hush!!!


Congrats on the oil find! Now you just need some blackwater contractors, a harem, and a few yurts inside a walled compound and you're set!

FWIW, if you want to really secure the find might I suggest you look into getting your own fleet of UAV Predator Drones:

So, I continue to do my part to flatten the Lower 48 HL curve.

Jeffrey, you got me confused here. I always thought you maintained that HL was cast in stone and that nothing could ever be done to modify the decline trend and URR estimated thereof. But now you seem to be claiming that your little discovery may modify the outcome for Texas. Explanation please.

As you know, the HL plot, P/Q versus Q, shows a projection for Qt, which is a mathematical estimate of the area under a production rate curve. However, as long as P is positive, the HL plot will asymptotically approach the horizontal axis, without getting there, for a long, long time.

Thus, in late stage depletion, the HL plot will flatten with time, which is another way of saying that we can find fields post peak, and we can make money, but we can't bring production back to peak levels.

In fact, I think that someone has written an essay on fitting a curve to HL data bases, rather than a linear fit, but again, all we are arguing about is a rounding error in late stage depletion.

However, this does have a bearing on the net export situation, because net exports rapidly approach the zero point, with no residual tail, e.g., UK net exports versus production.

Westexas why did you use "" for Saudi Arabia's voluntary production cuts as in "voluntary". LOL. With that amount of spin you'd make a great politician.


To put the die-off scenario's into perspective, one question is the most important:

The world currently produces 85 bpd. How many bpd will the world produce when we see the first serious famine in the US and Europe, if ever?

80m bdp
70m bdp
60m bdp
50m bdp
40m bdp
30m bdp
20m bdp
10m bdp
5m bdp
If possible, we should make a poll out of this, for all the oildrum readers.

I can't see famine in Europe or the US the populations are relatively low and both regions span a fairly broad range of climate zones esp if you consider food from Russia as part of European supplies.

This is outright shortages. However logistical famines are possible caused by local conditions war or breakdown of government. And at least in the US the population needs to probably redistribute out of the deserts and away from the coasts. If not famine could happen because of regional supply issues.

Famine from plain lack of food is more possible in regions like India Africa and China. That have large populations and climatic conditions that can result in widespread crop shortages. These regions do not have enough food production to handle a major loss of production.

This is assuming simple mathematics i.e we produce X amount of food that needs to be redistributed. In general it seems that famines seem to occur from a combination of events say crop failure and civil war. This combo is possible anywhere and thus famine is possible. Vietnam in the 1980's went through a famine even though it has more than enough farmland to feed its population. The real issue is where and when political conditions that allow famine will occur ?
From this perspective famine in parts of the US is no longer hypothetical.

I can't see famine in Europe or the US the populations are relatively low and both regions span a fairly broad range of climate zones

Both regions also span a broad range of localities. Whilst official recognition of a peak may allow some prioritization, there is no guarantee that those localities which have excess food will be able to transport the excess to other localities which have insufficient food. Also, the yields may start to diminish as farmers learn to switch to other methods and begin to improve the soil again.

I recently read that the UK is only about 70% self sufficient in food. Will other parts of Europe be able to make up the difference for ever?

I don't think any country need be complacent about having plenty of food for their citizens in future. And there is the additional complication that, as economies turn down, more and more people may be able to afford less and less food.

I don't disagree but this is different from famine in Africa or say India it very much a food distribution issue and will be forever in the US/Canada and probably even Mexico. I don't know how much arable land Mexico has vs its population.

And in general navigable rivers and trains are available to disperse the food so its not a transportation issue. Even if we have to run the trains on bio-diesel to distribute the food.

Next consider the UK for example its 70% efficient right now. Consider adding personal gardens and getting rid of a bit of the suburban creep and using more intense agriculture on the remaining land and the UK could readily be a food exporter. Add in a fairly ruthless population control scheme. And at least on the food front the UK could easily power down. The same goes for the rest of Europe especially with a little bit of trade as I mentioned to handle droughts etc. The UK is probably one of the few countries in Europe that potentially tight on the food/population issue.

This is quite different from India which is far closer to maximizing the use of its arable land and because of the poverty would easily suffer starvation on crop failure. And the region is in general dependent on monsoon rains which is problematic. India could easily run low on food with basically no source to barter with nearby except say Thailand and Australia before you have countries with excess food. In my opinion their is a big difference between Europe and India regarding food.

Consider that India's stable population for the region is probably a lot less than the close to a billion inhabitants in the region now. They are probably easily in overshoot by at lest 3 times if not more. India's stable population is probably more like 250 million.

For Europe its population is 728 million and was about 500 million after WWII so its probably in overshoot by 200million.

India was about 400 million in 1960.

But it can easily be argued they where already well into in overshoot at this point vs natural resources.

This shows a population a bit over 300 million in the 1940'.

So a estimate of 250 million sustainable is probably not bad.

In my opinion their is a big difference between Europe and India in terms of overshoot and food supply. If any famines happen in Europe then the root cause would be political.
While natural disaster with no or little outside aide is enough to send the Indian subcontinent into famine without any local war/politics.

So Europe seems to have about a 30% excess population.
While India is at least 50% and probably close to 75%
And Europe has a lot more potentially arable land currently not in production.

I think this is a big difference. Notice Europeans will have to keep personal gardens and expand agriculture but thats nothing compared to what India faces.

Are you perhaps entirely disregarding
climate issues? Europe had major
climate induced ag problems 2003 and
2007. More to come.

Agreed. We could still be in the 60mbpd category, in terms of capacity, and a multiyear drought hits us in all the temperate zones. The climate picture doesn't look good at all, far more non-linear and quicker to change than most of the predictions.

To some extent I am since Europe mainly since I'm include eastern Russia as part of Europe. As parts have problem we will see longer growing seasons in the northern half of the continent. Basically Europe extends far enough north and has enough rainfall that your looking in general more at a shift in climate zones and not effectively loss of a growing region. Russia should see a big expansion in arable land.

As a counter example consider Australia which is actually losing large swaths of formerly arable land. My understanding is India will experience conditions more in line with Australia than Europe with desertification and changing monsoons.

I might add that the US will probably also experience actual loss of some growing regions especially the southern great plains. But it will gain in the northern parts of the country. And some of the southern regions say a good bit of the south may actually become suitable for sugar cane at least once a year. We probably could grow sugar cane farther north now at least seasonally.

Remember I'm assuming a fairly intense return to local agricultural methods from private gardens to small farmers generally organic. If nothing is done to increase local production in Europe then yes the population is unsustainable.

Now as global warming progresses we probably will see the carrying capacity drop over time simple because of more erratic climate conditions so father out Europe will probably decrease in its ability to sustain a population.
So to prevent famine I think Europe will have to follow a fairly harsh population reduction campaign over time just from the perspective of food supply. So I'm not disagreeing I just think Europe has time too successfully reduce its population as global warming progresses. This may mean some fairly drastic measures like only allowing one in ten to have children and encouraging the elderly and infirm to opt for suicide. I suspect that mass sterilization will become the norm hopefully reversible.

A bit scifi but another possibility is that instead of the young going to war in the future it will be older people and those with no children that will fight probably with significant amounts of computerized weaponry and sensors.
A healthy 60 year old man or women would probably do quite well in combat. I bet that in the near future just about any excuse will be used to put people in the military effectively for life.

Obviously the easiest way to reduce population is to use your excess population as soldiers to kill the population of another country and take their arable lands.

This is no cake walk but compared to what would be happening in most of the rest of the world at the same time it will look like paradise. Sort of a Spartan/Mongol existence for the foreseeable future. I could see a lot of pressure for the creation of neutered/sterilized slaves from captured regions killed once they are no longer useful.

So overall I think a lot of the deaths that will happen will be people killed by other people either via direct war, war induced famines or slavery. Think super Nazism. We could well see the return of death camps.

About the only positive side is nuclear weapons probably won't be used all that often since nations will be interested in controlling land again.

My understanding is India will experience conditions more in line with Australia than Europe with desertification and changing monsoons.

Memmel, can you give us some references? I am hearing this for the first time.

Well. To keep it on the main point,
I'll just go to rainfall. Some
places in Spain have now had zero
rain over 20 yrs & are to join
Sahara. Med Europe generally very
dry, fires. Northern Europe has
alternated drought and flood. So
one year the Rhine and Elbe run dry
the next fields are too wet to
harvest. The whole point of climate
change is c h a n g e. Almanac
stories about rain don't mean much. about
Calling fate of any region, even
most favored spots, is a crapshoot.

Consider adding personal gardens and getting rid of a bit of the suburban creep and using more intense agriculture on the remaining land and the UK could readily be a food exporter.

I don't know about readily. For a time, perhaps, if fossil fuel inputs are prioritised to agriculture. But topsoil has been depleted through the green revolution. As the fossil fuel inputs decline, it will take some time to build up that topsoil again, enough to more than 100% self-sufficient. It will also take time to move more people into agriculture, instead of the pursuits they're interested in now.

And in general navigable rivers and trains are available to disperse the food so its not a transportation issue.

I'm not sure about the extent of navigable waterways, but the rail system is not particularly extensive, so I think it may well be a transportation issue.

"And in general navigable rivers and trains are available to disperse the food so its not a transportation issue. Even if we have to run the trains on bio-diesel to distribute the food."

Example where I live now. Lots of farm land, long distances to get it to market (ie the cities). The problem is that without trucks to move it there is almost no alternative. We used to have a large network of rail lines all through this area. All ripped up in the 1980's because the trucks took over. Most of those lines cannot even be rebuilt without knocking down buildings that occupy the former ROW. So unless we start to rebuilt the original network of railways we are in trouble, well the people in the cities anyway (which is why I moved out of Toronto 2 years ago).

London, Ont.

No one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

If oil were our only problem, the answer would be quite low on your scale.

Climate issues are going to start being a problem in the next few years. It is hard to anticipate what the weather will be now, and the hybrid seeds are unforgiving.

I am wondering too whether will be serious water problems in quite a few areas of the country in the next few years. The Southwest is one such area, including California, where we get a lot of produce from.

Monetary issues are also a concern. We have a huge balance of payments deficit. By all rights, we shouldn't be able to import nearly as much as we do now. If all of debt mess continues to unwind, we may find ourselves forced to export food that we need ourselves, in order to buy even the bare necessities of fertilizer, oil, and spare parts for our equipment.

Gail touches on an issue that I've been considering lately. In most plane crashes, there are several things that go wrong; not just one. The reason is that if just one thing goes wrong, the pilot can often compensate.

Likewise, if with peak oil all we have to deal with is a long plateau followed by a gradual decline in oil production, we may be able to compensate, difficult though it would be. Unfortunately, it's quite possible that several things related to peak oil may go wrong more or less simultaneously. For one thing, we are likely to have natural gas decline problems in North America at essentially the same time with peak oil. It's also possible that we could have a monetary crisis, Middle East conflict, bad weather, etc. all hit in the period of just a few months.

If all these things happened, we would have a sudden shock to our economy and our way of life. It wouldn't be the end of the world - most of us would still wake up the next day and try to figure out how to go forward. I just believe that when we think about how to prepare for peak oil, we ought to also consider how prepared we would be for a sudden surprise/shock scenario.

¨If oil were our only problem, the answer would be quite low on your scale.¨

I have to agree with Gail and the others. Oil and energy are not the only problems. I´m not an oil person but an environmental person. My persepctive is thus a little different. I came to this site via Die Off. There are at least 4 major problems of which peak oil may be the trigger. We also have climate change, peak population, and peak water usage. I say trigger as it seems oil is responsible for being able to feed so many people. I think we are up to 10 kcals of energy for each kcal of food energy consumed. The majority of those energy kcals are from oil. Losing the oil seems to mean losing the food either directly or indirectly.

Climate change is the next killer of available food. Rising temperature can lead directly to crop failures but there is something even more problematic and that is reduction of crop yield. Photosynthesis is at an optimum for most of what we eat or what our livestock eat from 15 C. to about 25 C. Above 35 C. photosynthesis begins to decline rather rapidly until it comes to just about a dead stop at 40 C. As we burn more and more fossil fuel we just keep getting hotter and hotter summers. You can have plenty of water from thundershower activity but if the temperatures hover around 40 for a couple of weeks to a month the yields could drop 30% maybe more.

Of course all of that heat speeds up the water cycle. We get more flash events (like thunderstorms to hurricanes) and periodic droughts. Picture 3 to 6 weeks of full sun punctuated by 3 days of hard rain. It doesn´t sound so bad if you are going on vacation but it plays havoc with agriculture. I live in the southern hemisphere and it has rained for 3 days out of each 10 for the last month. It´s spring and the farmers cannot work their fields. It´s just too wet. Last summer was so dry that non-irrigated crops did not make it. The fields were like rock or dust. Add to this the shrinking supply of ground water due to overuse. Think of this for a second, China is taking land OUT of agriculture because it can make much more money with that water in industry. India is displacing it´s peasant farmers to grow fuel crops like palm oil. It´s insane but that is what our current economics say they should do.

Population is heading toward 9 billion. Virtually all of the 3 billion new souls will be born into the $4 dollar or less per day poor. Fortunately these folks don´t use fossil fuels, eay much food or drink clean water. Many live near the coast that will likely go under water as the Arctic and Greenland melt.

Since I´m writing here and you are reading this, we are probably part of the billion saved. If we work really hard we may be able to save a billion more. Yes, that is right. I think we stand a fairly good chance of seeing 7 billion people die in the next century. The concept is fairly well known in Biology. When a population overshoots the carrying capacity, it experiences a large die off. For those of you who think I´m a glass half empty kind of guy think again. James Lovelock, renown for his Gaia hypothesis, thinks we could drop to 200 million total Earth population.

There are a couple other "horsemen of the apocalypse". Toxic planet is one usually overlooked; we are seriously poisoning our environment. The other is economic inequality; where we are not "in this together", conflict will be greater. It will offer the only possibility of survival to many.

cfm in Gray, ME

Fortunately these folks don´t use fossil fuels, eay much food or drink clean water. Many live near the coast that will likely go under water as the Arctic and Greenland melt.

HAhahahaa - what a load.

Yeah. The DECADES it will take for the seas to rise, they're just going to STAND THERE.

"Gee Mickey - look! The water's up to my ankles! I'm going to stand RIGHT HERE for the next 10 years of my life and see if it comes up to my KNEES! I'm not going to move MY family! Nosiree Bob-aroonie - we're gonna stay RIGHT HERE. Waist deep in water? HA! You'll see! We're NEVER MOVING!!! And NOBODY for the net 100 years is going to move away from the coasts. No way, man. We're going to sit right here, and drown. That Ocean doesn't scare ME man. Just LET IT try to make me move! No way!!!"

Stuart Studebaker

Toronto, ON

You're right. People won't move. They'll instead build dams and walls.

You know, the New Orleans Type.

I think we stand a fairly good chance of seeing 7 billion people die in the next century.

A good chance?  There would be a 99.9% chance of seeing this even without peak oil or climate change.  All 6.5 billion currently living are all but certain to die before 2100, and it would only take 500 million more to make it an even 7 billion dead... of old age.

If you mean 7 billion starved (or killed in warfare, or dead of disease due to social collapse), say so.

Touché. ahah

I also don't accept the scenario that billions of us will die (well, billions of us will die but not because of peak oil). If we reduce the birthrate (to say one child per woman on average) within a hundred years we can greatly reduce population "naturally." Also, I believe that we humans can be quite adaptable. Not that there won't be strife, wars, etc. but I just don't believe there will be a massive die-off. I believe we can adapt, not necessarily without hardship or losing a few pounds. But we can use so much less energy than we do now.

There are only a few ways in which millions to billions of people can die. These tend to either be health (pandemics), food(starvation), or war related.

Of these I would suggest that peak oil is unlikely to create short term large numbers of deaths (short of a nuke), but long term health degradation through poor diet and low heating could well create the conditions for a pandemic over time.

Of course, if you live near a war hotspot, or have annoyed people, war may come earlier than disease or starvation.

You might like to factor that into your scenario for survival.

there is the other possibility that declines in net energy force the liquid fuels to be allocated to the most important sectors - energy producing will be the most important but very real decisions will have to be made in the health care system including the pharmaceuticals that are making life palatable and enjoyable for a large majority of the elderly population.

If there is rationing does Pfizer get all the petrochemicals they had before??

I mentioned something on rationing in a past post. There is a definite timeline associated with the progression of a decline. Rationing is fairly early on. The only problem with this approach is that as the decline progresses the effect are felt disproportionately on non essential users - who are unlikely to see themselves that way. Say decline+4 to decline+10

Fairly rapidly after onset you enter a semi-civil war state where the government is likely to lose to local forces and where national breakup is hastened. Say decline+10 to decline+17

The large scale population loss is after this point as the systems of civilisation are unwound. Of course, not nothing is certain, but we're looking at the >decline+20 type timeframe - excepting some major military effect.

From the position of those 'in charge', protecting large numbers of mouths is unlikely to be a priority. Instead 'thinning out the herd' might well be welcomed.

And who is going to stick around and work for Pfizer when money becomes worthless and goods are the only thing that maintains its value. Payment in petrochemical fertiliser anyone?

I think that's pretty optimistic; a passage from François Cellier's article makes the kind of soft landing you are suggesting pretty unlikely.

What does a collapse entail? GliderGuider demonstrated in a recent article published on The Oil Drum that, in order to
“accomplish” a reduction in world population from 7 billion to 1 billion within a few decades, we would have to maintain
an annual excess death rate of 3% or “better” over an extended period of time.

Let us look at Iraq, for example. We read every day that approximately 100 Iraqi die a violent death. Multiplied by 365
days, we get 36,500 dead Iraqi every year. Multiplied by 4 years since the invasion, we get 146,000 dead Iraqi. Yet, we
read that the true number of Iraqis who have died since the invasion is closer to 600,000. That would be four times as
many. Okay, so probably the daily deaths are underreported and, in reality, the number of Iraqis dying a violent death
every day is closer to 400. So now, we have 600,000 dead Iraqi in 4 years, i.e., 150,000 dead Iraqi per year. Iraq has a
population of 27,000,000. This gives an annual excess death rate of 0.56%.

In order to get an annual excess death rate of 3% or “better,” we would need, on a global scale, a situation that is worse
than that of current-day Iraq by a factor of six, and we would need to maintain these conditions for 50 years in a row.

Let us look at world population statistics of the 20th century:

What happened during WW-I and WW-II? In spite of the horrors of these wars, the world population kept growing. All of
the horrors of these wars didn’t even make a dent.

What about the Spanish flu of 1918? We don’t know exactly, how many people died from that flu, but according to our
best estimates, roughly 50,000,000 people died from the flu during the winter of 1918. This corresponds to 2.5% of the
world population. So for once, we came close to our “target” of 3%, and yet, there wasn’t even a dent left in the curve,
because we didn’t keep at it for sufficiently long.

Even Adolf Eichmann had to learn that killing millions of people and getting rid of their corpses is very hard work.
Reducing our population from 6 billion to 1 billion in 75 years, that’s hell come to Earth.

6B to 1B over 75 years cf. ~7B to 2B over 100 years - pretty similar

Thanks, they are quite sobering statistics and somewhat lifted my spirits. Yet, our history shows that die-off is possible when you consider plagues like The Black Death. Previous starvation in Bangladesh, Biafra and Somalia and genocide in Rwanda.

Growing food by the masses will be hard. Hybrid seeds have been a boon for seed companies. Without hybrids and the necessary means to sow and harvest in bulk, will mean huge shortages of staples and animal feed stocks.

Starvation or at least the consumption of poor quality food will lead to many health problems. The problem this time if starvation sets in, is there will probably be no relief.

I think the point that you are missing is that even these major (by our human standards) did not have a significant effect on global populations. I'm curious how Cellier's article lifts one's spirits?!

Yes, supporting the huge mass of humanity will be difficult (read impossible if the mass is 6B and no cheap energy is available), but I think the most significant issue in Cellier's article is the huge social and economic impact of a sustained population decline.

the most significant issue in Cellier's article is the huge social and economic impact of a sustained population decline.

This is an oxymoron, for this kind of impact would mean anything but a sustained population decline. It would mean total mayhem. That's chaos, not "sustained". In chaos anything can happen. It's unpredictable. For me, this is the main reason for that theory be considered wrong.

It is a good theory though, and keeps us in perspective. But I don't think it will happen that way. People may starve, but won't die off. Look at Africa. They are already having food problems. They aren't dieing off. This could lead to even worse problems, or to the resolution of them, I don't know, but this conclusion that we are going to massively die just because we lack the oil... it sounds stupid. The main parts of the world which are growing like hell isn't the developed world, it is the underdeveloped world, were oil is rare, so the assumption is stupid.

I would look at global warming and the recession of the himalayan ices as more concerning issues. These mountains water almost 3 billion people. I'd look at that if I was concerned about "dieing off". I'd look at the devastation of forests in southern america as a probable cause. I'd look at the droughts that global warming will bring to america and europe as a probable cause.

Not oil.


Thanks for a dose of reality. Although I think your population figure for people dependent on Himalayan waters add up to more than 4 billion people.

India has 1 billion people on an arable land area equal to about 1/4th the US, and China has 1.3 on an arable land area equal to about half that of the U.S.So the problem is not going to be enough land to farm, there's plenty witout machines to replace muscles , and we have thousands of years of subsistence experience for knowledge of how to just get by.

The whole problem with the doomer fantasy is people lack any real vision of how switching to a low tech economy will actually work out. They see themselves as freeholders in a landscape of small farms (treeehugger delux) or as Conan the Barbarian on Viagra, pirate kings with armies of loyal henchmen. But the truth is very few if any of us will outlive the transition-human lives aren't too long without medical technology, and the future isn't any easier to predict with computer models than examing the entrails of scrificed animals. Bob Ebersole

I think you are conflating 'sustained' and 'smooth'; if you re-read the section you quoted, I'm sure you'd agree that 'huge social and economic impact' is a pretty good drop-in replacement for your term 'chaos'.

I also don't think that your argument about the situation in the third world is on the mark - they have oil by proxy as food and medical aid (admittedly in small amounts). I'd say that 50,000 children dying of hunger daily worldwide is a pretty good indication that people do die off (and that is with external support). The point that Cellier makes (and people seem to be missing) is that the situation is bad even before we see a population decline. He's not concerned by the die off as a reduction in population per se, but the unpleasantness of so many people dying - two quite different things.

I agree with the comments on global warming - the Gangetic Plain is screwed.

Would the world consume so much oil as Africa, we wouldn't even be here discussing this.

I'd say that 50,000 children dying of hunger daily worldwide is a pretty good indication that people do die off

This isn't "dieing off". You hit a straw-man. Of course people are starving. I did say that - read before repplying please. A die-off would mean a pop drop of the percentage type he has discussed. Africa is BOOMING in population, so you're the one who's wrong.

He's not concerned by the die off as a reduction in population per se

He isn't? He should be. I am, because it is bollocks. If the entire world used the same oil Africa does, we wouldn't have any problems of supply, and we would still be booming, the way Africa is. This is a straw-man, the thought that oil supply is correlated to population numbers. Correlation is not causation. Repeat 100 times.

Read this again: It gets bad before you even see a die off. This is what I have been saying all along.

As far as population reduction goes, it's pretty clear that the world is overpopulated (whether you consider under the current main stream view of the energy situation or a future situation with much lower energy availability). There will need to be a reduction, how this occurs is the issue; a soft landing would be nice, but getting down to a sustainable level will likely require population decline rates that lead to other social and economic difficulties. Is this argument so difficult to understand that you keep misrepresenting it?

Thank you for reminding me that correlation need not imply causation, were it not for you I'm sure I would have forgotten this principle that is central to my profession (research in population biology and systems/complexity theory with a background in philosophy). You may however like to consider that there is a good mechanistic link between petrochemical use and supportable population levels through means of production (fuel, fertilizer etc.) and distribution (fuel, refrigeration etc.) of food; correlation and mechanistic linakage are about as good as you are going to get as far as demonstrating causation goes.

By the way, you may want to read this article to reassess your use of the term 'Straw Man'.

Would the world consume so much oil as Africa, we wouldn't even be here discussing this.

No, but some future generation would. If the world consumed in the same proportion as Africa and built non-growth economies, that generation might be thousands of years away, however.

I agree with the comments on global warming - the Gangetic Plain is screwed.

Why? I have asked this question 3 times to 3 different people and no one has answered it so far. I am not aware of any climate change models that predict a failure of monsoon in the Indian subcontinent.

The Gangetic plain is of course in trouble because of the melting Himalayan glaciers; but that is a universal problem.

I didn't mention anything about monsoons - I am indeed talking about the reduction of melt water contribution to the waters of the Ganges.

I don't think this is a universal problem (unless you take an Amero-European perspective of what constitutes universal); quite a number of places don't rely on slow snow melt for water (most of Australia for example - we do rely on snow melt, but the dams are important to stretching the supply).

This is why I said it "somewhat lifted my spirits" and my thinking.

The population explosion occurred during the oil age.
It has taken 100 years to reach the present level.
Not many took any notice of the increased birthrate and it certainly was not noticed or worried about on an individual or family level.
I was supposing that a decline rate in the population, the same as the explosion would not be noticed either. I was hoping we could just fade away to a sustainable level.

On a rethink though, I doubt the population will just fade away. There would have to be reasons why the population would decline.

The obvious reasons are not nice:
Lack of food and clean water
Lack of good health care
Environmental, the inability to combat extremes of climate.

Would catastrophes in each category arrive at the same time? I don't know, I doubt it. I'm guessing starvation, disease and violence would come in pockets and at irregular times.

Without climate change, I'm sure the world without abundant oil would be survivable......the human race would go on and it would eventually be a nice place to raise a family.
Naturally, survival will go to the strongest, healthiest and smartest, though I wonder if there are any dumb rich people with other ideas.
Maybe in a couple of hundred years the human race would begin a new evolutionary phase.

Climate change has crapped on my hopes and expectations.

I am afraid, these catastrophes would all arrive at the same time, because they are not statistically independent. They all have the same cause: overpopulation.

Your little calculation about Iraq neglects an important fact: the reported deaths are only those that cannot avoid being counted as due to violent causes. If the life expectancy of a population of 27million is 75 years then there will be ~980 deaths per day from all causes. And, approximately the same number of births. So the number you use for daily death in Iraq is surely not the whole story.

It is sick, and filled with foolish assumptions.

I don't know where to start!

I guess, perhaps I should point out that the passage is from a previous Oil Drum article and not my own words. In the quote from François Cellier's article he is trying to point out the immensity of the human toll (both social and economic) of the sustained population reduction that would be required to take the global population down to a level that is sustainable given the absence of cheap energy.

I don't think you are on the same page.

many are taking the wrong route in this.

yes billions will die, but many billions more will die from old age and not be replaced, especially in developed countries.

In countries with incomes over 10,000 USD you see a children per woman drop incredibly. The Change from 1000-5000USD is even greater.

Europe and the U.S don't need population controls. South America, Central America, Africa, and India do. China is doing a good job controlling itself, but still has a long way to go.

That said, I think billions will starve to death. Those that are ruling out nuclear war are insane. Most leaders when coping with violent overthrow, and nuclear war will launch the first volley. They have nothing to lose. The problem is making sure China, Russia, and the U.S never come close to that level. Likely China will probably come the closest to being forced to, and the U.S will probably get there because crazed/facist leaders will take it there intentionally.

I think Nuclear war between India and Pakistan are a foregone conclusion. Iran must not get nukes, or all the Middle Eastern Oil rules out a pretty survival for Europe. Iran gets nukes, Europe is toast.

And yes, Memmel is right I believe. India, Australia, the Southern U.S, will all become deserts. Areas that are already deserts, will see apocalyptic shortages of fresh water. Its doubtful there will be any area of the earth that makes it through unscathed by something. Famine will kill so many, trying to help will be fruitless. You'll do more hard than good by prolonging even one person's agony.

I wouldn't rule out a disease epidemic either. Probably the more sanitary route for the leadership of the earth to pursue, and maybe even the most humane. Think about it.

Your quote: "And yes, Memmel is right I believe. India, Australia, the Southern U.S, will all become deserts."

What do you include as the Southern US? Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas?

Check out the current rainfall levels and proximity to Mexico, which will likely go *b00m* RSN. This tells you where not to live.

We'll see what happens with the drought in the southeast. If that becomes a three years out of every five sort of thing ... ugly ugly ugly ...

I think Nuclear war between India and Pakistan are a foregone conclusion.

It may happen. But why is it a "foregone conclusion"?

And yes, Memmel is right I believe. India, Australia, the Southern U.S, will all become deserts.

Climate change models predict less rainfall in some parts of the world. But I don't think any climate change model is predicting failure of the monsoon in India. If I am wrong, can you give us some references?

I think a lot of people here throw around statements without any evidence to back it up.


Europe and the U.S don't need population controls.

So you think the US's 0.89% growth and the EU's 0.16% growth is sustainable?

All they need to hit ZPG or NPG is an end to immigration.

Sounds like population control to me.

BTW, the US birth rate also exceeds the death rate, so ending immigration, by itself, will not enable ZPG in the US. However, a population control of "no immigration" will do it for the EU, where the birth rate exactly matches the death rate, in recent estimates.

Sadly, when people are poor the only real pleasure is sex. Sex leads to kids. Kids lead to population growth. If peak oil has happened, as I believe, there will be a whole lot more poor people.

People need to learn other pleasures. Chess and role-playing games are very cheap and entertaining. When I think about a doomer Olduvai Gorge future, I think of hunter-gatherers playing D&D. Why? It's cooperative story-telling - a step up from simple oral story-telling, IMO.

I'm not being entirely serious, but neither am I being entirely humorous.

Obvious comment perhaps, but you do know that there are safe ways to perform reciprocal sexual acts without there being any risk of creating children? And without a reliance on technology or medicine.

People need to learn that. Not role-playing, although both role-playing and oral, umm, storytelling could be a part of sexual acts.

So what is needed is sexual enlightenment and education in developing countries. And for that to happen, people need to learn how to read, and for that they need schools, and for that they need progress. And the liberation of women.

So yes, the only way out of overpopulation is through better standards of living and progress.

When standards of living fall and progress stops, we will have more or less permanent famines as families continue to produce children. Catch-22.

Before the intervention of christian Europeans in the affairs of for example Africa (or Polynesia) there were 1000-year old taboos and traditions which prevented population growth. But the "humanitarian" christians killed these traditions (such as retroactive abortion, ie infanticide, in case of famine).

And in the news Bill Clinton manages some charity which will provide HIV stop-medicines to 50 000 children. That's 50 000 more mouths to feed. Thank you Bill! Just what we need.

When people say "we", just who the hell are you referring too? Goldman Sachs, Duestche Bank, Chase Manhattan, the Bush Family, the Saudi Holding Company and Halliburton?

I mean come on guys . . .

I think that the issues in the future will be how we deal regional crashes.

Take for example the Palestinians and please lets ignore the political reasons for their problems and focus on their physical problems. The key point is they are in dire straits and only significant external aid keeps them alive.

Now consider what happens when a lot of people are in a similar circumstance to the Palestinians and no or very little external aid is available.

This is the problem your facing as the world passes peak oil. A lot of economies are going to start breaking down and no one will be around to help.

In wealthier countries the same cancer will spread. What happens when the local governments default ? In the US consider the fate of East St. Louis and Michigan.

The rate of decay will probably be faster than in the past but outside of this the concepts that are so horrifying exist today all that is keeping them from turning truly ugly is external stability and willingness to provide aid. When the US must focus on its own problems with a nationwide recession what happens to say the Palestinians ?

As some point fairly quickly post peak nations will turn their backs on the suffering in other nations to focus on their own problems and this is what will eventually lead to billions dying. WT ELP (Economize Localize Produce) must happen just if its done late the side effects are horrific.
Since as the western nation revert their economies basically no aid will be available for decades.

Memmel is dead right on this one - I recently saw a link either here or on DailyKos regarding a charitable organization that had to back out on commitments due to a 10% drop in the dollar's value. The troubles in this area have already begun ...

We have this whole 'crash' meme here and that is one possibility, but I think a slow motion deflation is more likely. The places that are poorest, driest, and furthest will go first. Those of us past forty will recall the awful grind of the Ethiopian famine in the mid 1980s. We should see such things everywhere based on the inputs to the food equation.

Once the whole ARM debacle really takes off we'll here "charity begins at home" and along with that an implicit "and it ends at our borders". I think that is going to lead to an up close and personal view of the Mexican state failing the Mexican nation and our reaction, rather than helping, will be crowding as many of the eleven million undocumented workers here back over the border as fast as we can. They're needed today for all sorts of labor, but we're going to have an eager pool of former professionals who will take anything they can get in short order. This I am certain of; a friend who is a java programmer asked me two weeks ago if there were agricultural jobs available here. He wasn't kidding.

That crowding out is in the works due to just economic issues. When fuel prices start seriously pushing everything else around and the light comes on for those in the southwest we'll see a Dust Bowl style migration, with people exiting to friends and family bearing just what they can carry with them. I expect a lot of trouble there, like a white on Hispanic civil war or some such, as those lands get emptier and unfriendlier to all parties.

The drought in the southeast is another head scratcher. They're going to hit water rationing all over the place by Christmas unless a nice, gently tropical depression provides some relief. If that turns out to be a three years out of five sort of thing we'll see migration from that quarter, too, only without the failed state to the south to complicate things.

I liked to photograph abandoned buildings before I became hip to peak oil. Now I do it and I suspect what is going to happen is that first I'm going to see a lot more of them as energy prices and old age push people off farms, then I expect an influx of refugees.

I have heard repeatedly, but as yet have no explanation for the recent doubling of land prices here in Iowa and the fact that the purchasers are paying cash. The statewide average is $5,200/acre, which is double what it was going for here where we have good, flat ground, and that average includes the unfarmable pasture ground in the southern tier of counties. Someone knows something is up, I'd say ...

So ... envision these sites in the future. A 40' x 40' building with a flat roof, built by EPS here in town, is planted with half of it below ground level, and partitioned four ways to make a sort of cottage fourplex that shares HVAC. A 30' wood pole goes in and a small wind turbine goes on top. The existing well is powered by the turbine for irrigation while the microcommunity draws its water from the rural water system. If the residents are skilled(or lucky) a second turbine comes, then another along with an additional house, and pretty soon a nice, sustainable vegetable farm is serving up produce for the area. Existing buildings aren't fit for human habitation. The houses will be stripped for lumber but the outbuildings are fine for pigs and chickens with just a little work.

Now if some wise guy were roaming around planting fruit trees on these we'd be one step ahead of the game, eh?

Sacred Cow Tipper wrote:
"I have heard repeatedly, but as yet have no explanation for the recent doubling of land prices here in Iowa and the fact that the purchasers are paying cash. The statewide average is $5,200/acre, which is double what it was going for here where we have good, flat ground, and that average includes the unfarmable pasture ground in the southern tier of counties. Someone knows something is up, I'd say ..."

No, it is ethanol. Corn grows in Iowa. I am looking for a farm too, but for the reason you think everyone is buying Iowa farmland.

The ethanol ramp up makes no sense ... a dry year gives us grief and we're getting into groundwater at a frightful rate. It is not sustainable to do what we're doing. The whole meme that we might depend on ethanol is foolish, because ethanol depends on weather ...

Once the whole ARM debacle really takes off we'll here "charity begins at home" and along with that an implicit "and it ends at our borders". I think that is going to lead to an up close and personal view of the Mexican state failing the Mexican nation and our reaction, rather than helping, will be crowding as many of the eleven million undocumented workers here back over the border as fast as we can. They're needed today for all sorts of labor, but we're going to have an eager pool of former professionals who will take anything they can get in short order. This I am certain of; a friend who is a java programmer asked me two weeks ago if there were agricultural jobs available here. He wasn't kidding."

Another good SCT post, thanks.

Indeed, 2 million "mexicans" were sent back to Mexico during the Great Depression, including many who were US citizens! Wrong color - the same reason why I'll probably end up in the stew pot if I return to the state that's "home" to me, Hawaii. Wrong color.

Techies asking about ag jobs, I can sure see that. If there were anything to pick around here I'd be picking it.

There is no requirement that the future be pretty, all-inclusive, diverse, wonderful, or kum-ba-ya. It would sure as hell be nice if it could be these things, I really liked the New Zion group in The Matrix. I loved the Bad News Bears beating the relatively homogeneous offspring of soccer moms. We've all read Huckleberry Finn and considered Jim to be the wise adult. But the future does not HAVE to be this way, and the ugliest rivalries always come up when there's not enough to go around*

*conversely, the most wonderful examples of peace'n'love come about when there's a general condition of plenty. That's where you find Gerald Durrel treated like a fellow King (and then basically adopted) by the Fon, the kind treatment of strangers the African Bushmen and Australian Aborigines and American Indians were noted for in the old days. I guess the happiest future would be for human fertility to go 'way down, and to cure the initial overshoot, some disease that hits the meanest people first (yeah it can come and get me) and kills them relatively pleasantly.

Hawaii is toast. I think a good 40% of the economy (tourism) just goes *poof* when the mortgage scam unwinds and the rest of the economy is military oriented. Sovereign default will make a mess of that and that is exactly where George "Waterboard" Bush has pointed us. And then there is that little thing about oil production peaking ...

I was offered a job on O'ahu not so long ago and I promptly declined - too far from the kids. I am glad I saw it before the troubles start, but I wouldn't want to be there ...

I don't believe we can plan for the ramifications of a post Peak Oil society on a individual level. I think this is close to 'survivalist' rhetoric, unhelpful and delusional. Though it's a comforting delusiona as far as it goes, which, unfortunately isn't that far.

Over the short-term, that is less than a generation, 'plan' for life in post peak world, but it won't last long. We are all far, far, more part of society than most of us realise.

There's a kind of paradox at work here. The remidies we are attempted to impliment in order to secure a reasonable lifestyle for ourselves presopose a level of societal disintegration that in itself will pose a threat and undermine the very measures we're pursuing to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil. Do we really believe that one can sustain a 'comfortable' lifestyle post peak when millions of others in the cities are reduced to poverty and they won't come looking for sources of wealth and sustainance?

At the very least one should be planning for a 'tribal' form of society and culture, not a 'survival mode' based on the individual or family level, this I believe is a recipe for disaster. But clearly this is a subject of substantial complexity with so many factors influencing possible outcomes.

I agree if you look at older civilizations the focus is on tribe and village. The US isolationist regardless of political believe will be extinct

Once a real village forms its trivial for the majority to tax the isolationist out of existence So I expect a lot of these individual farms to be seized and the land redistributed early. In cases where the government may fail these same isolated houses are trivial to burn to the ground and are indefensible of any length of time.

Underlying all of this is the implicit assumption that either law will disappear and that buildings don't burn or the law will favor small landowners. With a move back to agriculture the wealthy large landowner that is also effectively the law is certain to arise.


Grow a garden this spring. A person can provide for themself quite well on a half acre with tools no more complicated than a shovel, a rake and a wheelbarrow. You'd be astounded at how many tomatoes you can raise along a 15 foot section of chain length fence, how much basil a couple of bushes will grow and how many guests will fill your home for a menu filled with tomato basil marinara on pasta.

Now where is it that you live?
Bob Ebersole

I wish I had room.

I'm in a small apartment in Irvine California with little arable land for miles. A house with big yard would cost a million dollars. It's a major bubble area but even if prices crash I doubt the combination of land/water is realistic for gardening in this area.

I do have a small porch and grow a few plants to keep in practice.

I think I'm probably in the absolutely worst area possible for a post peak doomer :)
I'm here because I have three young children and my wifes parents are retired and live here so they can help with the kids.

However my parents have quite a bit of land outside of Little Rock AR. With a large garden etc. I grew up planting gardens canning food in Arkansas and Mississippi. I've even dug holes for outhouses. In Arkansas I could and have lived of the land. I know the edible plants in the region. Thats not saying much with a little bit of knowledge its pretty easy to live of the land in Arkansas. California would be much tougher.

I've already talked to my parents about moving in with them.
But I really want to go up to Northern CA or Oregon. My parents retire in six years and they are willing to move.
This really comes down to money since I won't carry a mortgage my parents place is paid for.

So basically I have a good backup plan and have chosen to hang out till the last minute to decide where I want to go.
Arkansas or Oregon both are good choices.

If problems come as fast as it seems they will from WT projections then its probably back to Little Rock.

In the meantime this super doomer sits not far from LA one of the first places which I think will go down. Obviously I also have the problem of talking my wifes parents into leaving so its another reason I'm waiting a bit I don't want to leave them here. They grew up in postwar Taiwan so I think once they see the problems are starting they will leave they know hard times and starvation.

I know this is a lot of detail and pretty personal but I think its good to be open about your plans.

As a former Irvine Resident, and someone who was born in LA in the 1940's, and whose father was also a California Native, I would suggest as a survival strategy to get out of Souther California. It is a disaster waiting to happen. The LA basin could support 100,000 people with a reasonably intact ecosystem.
There are over 15 million people in your area.
I have family and friends who still live there, and visit my sister in Newport Beach frequently, and am shocked by the disconnect of the population, and the surreal Blade Runner reality. I grew up surfing the beaches of Orange County and San Diego County, and can remember when Dana Point had 400 people living there.
I hang with population biologists, and they would be surprised if the planet can support 2 billion people, more like 500 million.
For every calorie of Food produced, 10 calories of petro energy is used--
A smart 10 year old can predict the outcome.

I agree 100%.

I'm gambling a bit on being able to high tail it out of here before TSHTF. Think of me as a Jew in Berlin in the 1940's who knows the future :)

Seriously though I'm ready to pack up and head for Arkansas at a moments notice. Since I think we will see some serious riots in LA proper and probably Santa Anna early in the game I still have time to move.

I'm shocked myself every day that I'm hanging around here but this housing bubble crap really screwed up most of the US even Arkansas prices are way out of whack with incomes.
I simply cannot afford to buy early in a falling market.

Also we don't know exactly how oil prices and recession/depression will play out. This is a big experiment. They could well balance out for a while with the economy slowing fast enough to keep functioning.
So we could easily see the US economy stumble along for 2-3 more years with land/housing getting progressively cheaper.
Since I don't own and want to pay cash its best for me to keep waiting and saving but not in USD.

Have you done any concrete bugout planning? I was working in Las Vegas a while back and I was driving my car back and forth - crazy commute, but cost effective compared to the alternatives as long as gas was less than $4.00/gallon. I'd started looking when I got there - was going to bunker fifty gallons of gas in a storage unit and keep the car full - would have been just enough to limp home should TSHTF.

Now I have twenty gallons stashed in an outbuilding and I just bought two more five gallon cans. Since I'm at the destination this is rescue fuel for kids three hours from here, or a hospital run for mom. Los Angeles to Arkansas is a heck of a hike ...

If you're a Jew in Berlin and it is 1940, you are already WAY too late to high tail it out of there. You should have been thinking more in terms of a 1933 exit, or maybe even 1930.

I hang with population biologists, and they would be surprised if the planet can support 2 billion people, more like 500 million.
What? Exactly who have you been hanging around with?

The population of Latin America alone before the arrival of Columbus was estimated to be around 350-400 million before it was decimated by plague.

No, it was not 350-400 million in Latin America alone. I have never seen one reputable estimate that says such a thing. All of the estimates that are considered seriously place global population around the year 1500 from 425 to 540 million total. I refer you to the US Census Bureau itself which has assessed multiple studies of global population.

Your number is so far out of touch with all reputable estimates of global population that I have ever seen that I am compelled to ask you to supply a reference or to reconsider your statement.

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

Try this one:

This book by Charles Mann is a great read for many reasons.

From the NYT review:

"Before the 16th century, there may have been as many as 90 million to 112 million people living in the Americas"

It's not clear that even Mann's book is suggesting 350-400m. Are you sure you didn't accidentally mis-read and add a zero?

I won't say what town I live in in No. Cal. but on my morning walk I saw an 11 acre parcel for sale for 3/4 of a million, and some 2.5 acre parcelse for $330,000. If my place wasn't paid for, I sure wouldn't want to move here. A tract home like my parents have near Irvine in a former orchard would not be so bad. Young people could bicycle anyplace they really need to get to. But real estate there is still stratospheric.

How much wheat can you grow on that half-acre so you can have pasta to go along with that wonderful sauce? Gardening is nice but when it comes to the staples of our daily bread perhaps it's best to leave it to the experts. That's if we can stop the bankers and taxmen from throwing them off their land.

Yeah, I planted several hundred kernels of winter wheat yesterday. [Probably too late, but hey, it's all an experiment.] If that grows well, what do I get? I doubt I get 10 lbs of wheat flour.

My guess is it will be much less than the 50 plus lbs of fingerling potatoes I pulled out that same afternoon. Potato pasta anyone?

cfm in Gray, ME

Winter wheat is wonderful. It's nice to see something grow this time of year, and it produces a much better harvest than summer wheat.

Rotate potatoes, peas and wheat. All really simple to grow. Can't fail, unless you have a draught. And household needs of wheat isn't that difficult to thresh. Fertilize with ash from your wood stove, and kitchen and garden compost. And manure if you have access.

You don't even need a household mill for the wheat. Just put the grain into water 8-12 hours before use and let it soak. After that you cook the whole-grain just like rice and eat it just like rice.

Key is location, location, location. Temperate climate and plenty of natural water. Here in Sweden we have ample rainfall, and personally we have our own lake and stream passing by the fields. The entire system collects water from a couple of square kilometers, and I only need water for a couple of thousand square meters. But so far I have not had to tap the stream for irrigation. Rainfall is enough.

And animals on green pasture produce whatever high-value proteins you need at almost no effort at all. The biggest effort is the slaughter, and of course the harvesting of winter feed, but even that can be eased by growing winter-greens, like greenfeedstock-canola/rapeseed, artichokes and letting them graze that.

If nothing else, get a couple of chickens. They eat your kitchen leftovers, about one hen for every person in the household. From those leftovers they produce eggs and high-grade fertilizer. And during the warmer half of the year they can range freely, not even needing your kitchen scraps.

I don't believe we can plan for the ramifications of a post Peak Oil society on a individual level. I think this is close to 'survivalist' rhetoric, unhelpful and delusional. Though it's a comforting delusiona as far as it goes, which, unfortunately isn't that far.

You don't believe we can plan... on an individual level? delusion?

We? Do you have a mouse in your pocket? Because I guarantee you that I am not delusional, and that I could survive with some luck, and a little planning, were I so inclined. Spoken like someone with no practical skillz whatsoever. When the SHTF, we'll find out what's really important in a hurry, and pencil pushers and bureaucrats don't have the first clue what that is. Parasites will be seen for what they are.

Hey! Some of us pencil pushers and bureaucrats have more of a clue than you think. :-)

Good on you!

Individuals have a personal responsibility to reach a certain level of preparedness and thereafter they should be working on community oriented stuff.

I've squirreled away food, fuel, and ammo, but I'm at a point (90 day supply?) where its time to do things for the area, like getting hip to this whole organic gardening thing, joining up with the Department of Natural Resources water monitoring volunteers, etc, etc.

The survivalists have the right mindset, they just need to stretch their heads to fit around a village or region instead of just themselves ...

Actually, I think the order should be 1) secure your own oxygen mask, 2) attempt to help others, 3) when 2 fails, work to improve resiliency, even though other people won't understand why. I think that whole drumbeat discussion was vital. I haven't quite given up on working on the community, but having beat my head up against that wall for over 16 years, we're working on planting seeds of resiliency and redundancy.

Hi kjm,

Thanks, this is interesting.

re: "we're working on planting seeds of resiliency and redundancy."

Could you possibly give some examples?

Planting lots of trees, planting clandestine jerusalem artichokes in certain areas, lots of work promoting nonmotorized transportation, stockpiling consumables, buying extra hand tools, encouraging gardening in the neighborhood, buying lots of other equipment that our family thinks is quaint but silly, etc.

Basically, think of something that people will need, come up with some reasonable-sounding pretext that doesn't talk about peak oil, and promote or buy some of that thing. At some point (soon!) it will be acceptable to say you're doing things because of peak oil, but for now it's better to have a more conventional reason to give people. Or better yet, avoid discussing it at all.

Writerman, I have to agree with you. However I would make the point that we are already seeing 'societal disintegration' as evidenced by increasing crime and a decreasing sense of community at the individual level. These trends worry me almost as much as peak oil.

- Clint

You are watching too much TV. Violent crime and crimes against property are really down over the last 30 years, according to the FBI wh keeps track of those kinds of crimes.

The nature of crime has changed significantly over the last couple of centuries. Kidnapping someone, then hauling them naked in chains to concentration camps to be beaten and have their lives and work stolen. This was perfectly acceptable behaviour as a slaver 200 years ago and is multiple felonies today.

Or, today 70% of our prison space in the US is occupied by drug offenders. This wasn't a crime until after WWI, and most of the sellers were perfectly respectable pharmacists and doctors

But I really agree with you about the distruction of the sense of community.Its the greatest change over my life span. I'll be 56 in two weeks. When I was a kid most adults wwent to some type of church, and there were a lot of community organisations that bonded people on a local level-groups like the Masons, the Eagles,ect. or interest local service groups like Rotary Clubs, Lions Club, ect. There were also groups that more or less ran communities and bonded with other groups to found national political parties. The Democrats owned the south and the Republicans the North and Midwest. There were liberal and conservative wings of the Democrats in Texas, the divide was on a local political basis. This changed with Richard Nixon and the southern strategy, and the rise of the consevatives under Ronald Reagan. The Republicans adopted institutional racism as a strategy to erode the strength of the Democrats, and the liberal Republicans mostly migrated to the Democratic party or considered themselves Independent.

The reason this became possible was the advent of national news through the agency of television. There were only 3 networks nationwide that could field crews to cover national politics, but finally voters could all get a look at the candidates. Before then, people participated by voting with their friends for candidates who were vetted by the state and local parties and officials, in other words, machine politics. This led to a lot of trading and compromise with all the other local party machines, while now the Candidates make their trades directly with interest groups who don't have to compromise with anyone, a much more polarising situation. If Congressman Feceshead feels he can get the Non-Denominatioal Christian vote by voting against gay marriage, he doesn't have to placate the State political machine by getting more funds for the Children's Health Insurance Program to get the same vote. So this caters to the worst elements of our political process.

Well, the kalidascope is shifting again. The internet has made us all able to influence coverage and focus on national problems with blogs and the ability to look at all kinds of sources of information. Drumbeat is a perfect example, Leanan brings us opinion and sources fro all over the blogosphere- she had a newspaper story from Sri Lanka this A.M.., Stoneleigh a bunch from Canada and Great Britain. Its just amazing.

But its not community, exactly. We may be conversing on the internet, but we are still sitting alone with electronics. Bob Ebersole

Hi Bob,

You are mistaken that I watch television, I am beginning to view it as a curse on our society. All I have to do is read the newspaper to see how things are deteriorating. This of course is somewhat anecdotal, but our community is experiencing some growing pains and perhaps this has colored my outlook somewhat. I do try to keep things in perspective with the sweep of History, and your point is well-taken about the hardships that were endured in the past. And I will also take a hard look at the FBI stats. But my point is that the destruction of the sense of the community is resulting in young men who are alienated from society, and this can only be to our detriment. I agree with your analysis, but feel that this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the consequences of mass media. If people can find their entertainment at home, why do they have to put all that work into associations with others? I am sure other factors play a role in the Dissociation of America, but television I agree is a major culprit.

Television, the Automobile and Air Conditions are the Iron Triangle for community destruction.

The year they quit building front porches is when you know community died in America.

As I've posted a few times I live in Irvine California people claim they move here for the weather and we have tons of bike routes and trails and parks. The only day they are used heavily is Saturday afternoon otherwise the parks are genrally empty along with the trails etc. It seems everyone move to Southern CA for the weather then sits inside all day long.

The nature of crime has changed significantly over the last couple of centuries. Kidnapping someone, then hauling them naked in chains to concentration camps to be beaten and have their lives and work stolen. This was perfectly acceptable behaviour as a slaver 200 years ago and is multiple felonies today.


cfm in Gray, ME

You realize that the number of people dragged off to Gitmo (and other sketchy US prisons) is only 0.1% of the number dragged off to slavery in the US?

The western world is a far nicer place than it was in the past. The fact of the matter is, the Good Old Days were never as good as we like to think.

It is a small number in Gitmo. Add to it Bagram and Abu Ghraib and - more loosely, Fallujah and Iraq as a whole - and the numbers get bigger. Though there are probably still more Brazilians functionally enslaved on ethanol plantations. My bad not being clear; I was really commenting on

"This was perfectly acceptable behaviour as a slaver 200 years ago and is multiple felonies today."

If that is any marker of future, the future is not going to be so good, either.

cfm in Gray, ME


Hmmm, still seems like many individual efforts can make a substantial difference, right? Take for example the idea of a garden in every suburban lot.

I've got to agree with you, especially about the survivalist/isolationist mentality. We are all going to need each other in a power-down scenario.The alternative is living in a plywood shack in the wilderness like the Unibomber

I'm with Robert on a power down-peak lite. The United States is not going to stop producing the 5.5 million barrels per day of crude plus condensate available in the US, plus there are quite likely another 3 million BOPD that can be redeveloped from old oil fields here. It only costs a couple of thousand dollars to convert any vehicle to Compressed Natural Gas, and there are now home compressors that can be purchased for about $3500 US that will take natural gas from a home line and fill cannisters at home overnight. Coal production can be stepped up, and we will be able to find the resources to build wind turbines and solar panels.

That still means only half of the fossil fuel we currently use will be available, but that's the level of the average European use. Of course it will cause huge anger with the powers that be and lots of just plain insanity, but it doesn't add up to a die-off.

And, frankly, I think its irresponsible to promote the die-off scenario. And I'm definitely in a minority around this site with that point of view. I'd like to point out though that cultures have predicted an end of the world and a judgement day for at least 3 thousand years and it ain't happened yet. Taking the non die-off side of the bet seems to have much better odds.


Yep. Ain't no way no how that a bunch of us will die off. Cain't happen. Why? Cuz it ain't a happened afore. Unless'n you count them dinosaurs, but, heck, they don't count nohow anyway cause they ain't what you call humans.

That's right, pahdnuh, I ain't going to let no downers out there make me sad. Screw that physics stuff. We ain't got to worry about no physics. That's for them there eggheads. Why, all we gots to do is plant us some tomato plants, and we will live offen tomatoes.

God bless the power of positive thinking, cause without it, I'd have to listen to them danged ole scientists and all their blather about desertification, sterile farmland, dead zones in the gulf, fishing stocks down to half, runaway global warming, fresh water shortages, natural gas peaking, oil peaking, extinction events, irreplaceable industrial metals peaking, the crumbling sewer, water, and electrical grids, shifting growin zones, dying forests, burping tundras and god knows what else.

We just got to stop ourn ears with some D. T. Sledgebottom's patented willful ignorance cotton and ignore all them pesky facts, physics, and logical things, watchamacallum, umm...thinking, yeah thinking. Yup, just lay to rest all your fears cause doing nothin cept awishin an awhishin is all you gots to do. Believe me cause people been worried about adyin off for many a moon and it a ain't a happened ayet.

Yessir. Just pop a beer and head out onto the porch and get ready for the swell times of peak lite. Heck, it might even be fun.

what he said, that cherenkov feller

I don't believe in no soil degreedashun neither
Hell, I kin gro anythin with that miracol-gro

and oil? shee-ut, heard them ruskies growin A-bi-otic
we all be fine

Burping tundras. Amen.

Since you have no answer other than gratuitously insulting someone you've never met, you are conceding my point. Its very sad that you are so confused about the dinosaur die-off at the end of the Cretaceous period. The most widely accepted theory is an asteroid strike. But, its a theory
taht has nothing to do with the collapse theories of anyone I've read.

Bob Ebersole

Oh Please,
Cherenkov argued cogently in humorous fashion.
Lighten up.

...and there are now home compressors that can be purchased for about $3500 US that will take natural gas from a home line and fill cannisters at home overnight.

Fwiw, we had our Phill CNG compressor finally installed this last Wednesday. It took almost six months of this and that, but I'm filling up our (used) Honda Civic GX as I write this. We would not have taken this what I like to describe as a "medium-term" solution to our transportation needs wants were it not for TOD. (Red Queen notwithstanding!)

We also run an 2000 OEM CNG Ford delivery van for work stuff. To the point however: since requirements were rolled back regarding alt fueled vehicles under this administration (as I understand it), all major automakers offering factory equipped CNG vehicles have ceased, except Honda. The story is very different in europe, asia and elsewhere, but the government must apply pressure in most areas of improving, well, everything. The "market" won't do it, as the market is profit-driven.



I know we haven't talked about it much but 4% of the Iraqi population has died (over and above the number who would have died normally) in an oil war over the last 4 years. And things haven't even gotten "bad" yet.

Point is, the "die-off" has already begun. It's just we on the internets can pretend it's not happening as we're in the pockets of wealth that still exist.

the Bob Ebersole

I have to agree with you on this point. The reason it doesn't appear that 'we' won't have much of a problem with dieoff is because 'we' aren't the ones living on $2 a day. Countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan subsidize basic foodstuffs and Green Revolution items such as fossil fuel-based fertilizers which basically support those huge numbers of $2 a day peoples. But those programs depend on the wealth of the nation. And the wealth of those nations is being hit with food and energy price rises.

I understand that there are 200,000,000 people in India who are that poor. Ultimately, food is rationed by price.

Quite simply, Bob Ebersole, you seem to need to expand your (clearly lacking) knowledge of history itself.

Are you unfamiliar with the hundreds of societies that have collapsed regionally throughout history? Are you aware that this is the first time homo sapiens has created essentially a global society? Are you aware that we have created a set of global crises that absolutely dwarf any of the crises that collapsed prior societies? I do not know of a single society ever that has faced population pressure, soil degradation, water table loss, biodiversity loss, an energy crisis, fisheries collapsing, and a host more issues and that have ever survived. Maybe someone here can manage to point out one but the vast majority collapse. Have you read anything at all about how societies have collapsed historically?

Collapse means the city of Rome going from 1,000,000 people to 30,000 people and the rest of the Roman Empire vanishing. Collapse means entire societies like Babylon and Assyria vanishing, and becoming myths until we rediscover their remains. Collapse means the Mayans destroying their ecology then killing off one another. Collapse means Easter Islanders eating each other. Collapse means the vibrant native American society at Chaco Canyon reduced to random violence and cannibalism. Collapse does not mean the end of the human race, just the end of a civilization. And the end of a civilization does not mean the loss of everything it created though it does mean the loss of much of what it created. Whether you like it or not, the Christian monasteries of the dark ages demonstrated that some knowledge can be preserved through such a collapse. There is a lesson there, if anyone is not too deaf to hear it.

By the way, who is "promoting" (another bit of straw man baloney) a die off? Most of us are telling the rest of you that it appears unavoidable unless we stop doing business as usual. But people like you insist that business as usual will somehow, this one time, amazingly, miraculously find a way to not collapse. I tire of people like you asserting that doomers "want" this to happen. Please take that tired old straw man argument and shove it.

In my opinion, Bob Ebersole, you are the irresponsible one. You are irresponsible because you are living in a dream world and you refuse to face the possibility that this can even occur. Even Robert Rapier admits to this possibility. He's just fighting it as best he knows how. Robert and Alan both recognize that the worst really can happen but they have dedicated their efforts to trying to ensure that it does not happen. This is why Robert and Alan both get frustrated at times - the rest of our civilization does not seem to grasp the very mortal peril in which it now stands.

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

Into the Grey Zone

Human nature is a wild card. People have no clue how the world works. Just look at how many Q-Ray braclets are sold every year!!

Once things start to fall appeart, once people's comfort starts to erode big time, all hell will break loose. They will march in the streets to get government to return them to their lifestyles, regardless of the costs.

But government will be impotent. Once people start to loose their homes on mass. When store shelves start to be empty. Or food prices in the winter, due to transportation costs, make a loaf of bread more expensive than a steak is today? What will the reaction of the masses be?

Human nature being what it is, makes any "upheaval" completely unpredicable, but generally in the "very bad" ball park.

London, Ont.

No one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

Wow, you really know how this is all going to turn out?

A while ago (months, years?) someone here said that the longer people look at this problem, the more of a doomer they become. What's happened for me is that I have greatly expanded my ideas about the range of how things could turn out. I look at all of this as a set of bell probability curves. They all overlap and muddy the picture, but the combination of peak oil, climate change, and an overdue virus pandemic make me concerned. I have no idea how things will look 10 or more years in the future. I think John Michael Greer has an interesting take on things.

If things turn out well, planning for a tribal form of society will seem quaint. If things turn out not too badly, small group societies may work well. If things crash hard, family units might be the only group size that gets through. Add these up: oil depletion and ELM cause increased conflict and force rationing; climate change decreases crop yields reducing global stores; the world economy stalls into another global recession; and bird flu picks up the additional mutations needed to spread through human populations. Last week bird flu was found to pick up a mutation allowing it to deal well with temperatures in human upper respiratory tracts.

That strikes me as a plausible scenario for a "die-off." Notice, that we are already experiencing the first two problems, and they are likely to get worse. The third and fourth could happen tomorrow, are relatively high probability, and are becoming progressively more likely. If your planning doesn't include the possibility of this scenario, you really need to reconsider.


Oil export stop 2013

Peak energy 2020

Peak Homo Sapiens 2020 @ 7.5 billion

Population 2100 only 2 (TWO) billion

October 2007


I don't see any of the 'Limits to Growth' works in your references. Are you familiar with these and why build a new model that omits many of the key elements they include (e.g. agricultural output)?

I believe he is aware of the "Limits to Growth". Go to his website,, and he mentions the "Club of Rome". One of his essays, "What Drives Population - Food or Energy?", is at

All in all, I think that this study is one of the best I have seen describing a potential scenerio including multiple energy sources and potential impact on world population.

I looked at the paper. The author uses a so-called shallow model, i.e., a model that is driven directly from past behavior. In contrast, the model on which "Limits to Growth" is based is a deep model, i.e., a model driven by an internal structure, i.e., by differential equations.

In general, deep models provide better insight into the processes they capture, as the interactions between the different agents are exploited better. On the other hand, shallow models can often provide better short-term predictions, because they are less vulnerable to unmodeled dynamics.

The model used in "Limits to Growth" (WORLD3) unfortunately doesn't contain a true energy sector. Its resource model is based on estimates of remaining ores (measured in metric tons), rather than on fossil fuels.

The qualitative results may be similar using either kind of resource approach, but the WORLD3 model cannot be used directly to predict fossil fuel depletion and its effects on world dynamics.

In my view, it would be useful to augment the WORLD3 model by a true energy sector and by a greenhouse gas emission sector, but these changes are non-trivial. I plan on working on such additions in the future.

What I can do for now is to prepare for TOD a report on how the WORLD3 model works (I have a version of it running on my computer programmed in Modelica).

Good to include the ELP model by Jeffery Brown. Most people don't see the seriousness in peak oil arguement until they know that counties which import most of their oil, like the USA, will have trouble long before the effects of global peak oil and energy become dominant.

The graph showing population/GDP/oil use would be better displayed using linear vertical scale instead of logarithmic.

One thing I disagree with is estimation of hydro power growth: it looks too optimistic.

The paper overall is agood explanation of the PO/Peak Energy situation wrt population.

Mark in St Louis, USA

There are 27 States in the European Union (EU).

The EU currently imports 82% of its oil and 57% of its gas, making it the world's leading importer of these fuels.
Many of the largest states import almost 100% of their needs .

The ELM seems to make many countries of the EU very vunerable post Peak Oil.

How many of the 50 States in the USA are ‘Net Exporters’ and which States import a high percentage of their oil needs?


Hi xeroid,

Matt Simmons has also asked this question.

Scroll down to "Red Sails in the Sunset..."

Thanks for posting the link, Roccman. For the HTML version, you can go to

Since this is my work, I'll respond to some of the comments here.

BKelly, I'm well aware of "Limits to Growth". I didn't reference it or the Club of Rome in this paper because the objective wasn't to discuss the World Problematique per se, but to directly address the energy/population linkage. The model I built indirectly addresses issues like food as one of the elements I've aggregated into the carrying capacity and ecological damage factors. In a longer (or different) work I will bring in issues like food, but my main goal here was to focus on the energy/population link.

M. Cellier, thanks for drawing the distinction between shallow and deep modeling. I'm not a modeler by vocation or avocation, so it would be a mistake for me to try to swim beyond my depth. I've found that shallow models tend to be more accessible to the layman, given that they tend to be more conceptual than mathematical. Deep models may ultimately be more valuable to analysts and policy-makers. However, they require a level of commitment on the part of their audience that acts as a barrier to entry for those without the required skills. My goal with this paper is to provide an analysis that goes somewhat beyond the usual qualitative hand-waving, but doesn't require a university degree to comprehend.

mbnewtrain and xeroid, the net export problem leads instantly to the question of national and regional disparities in oil supply, re-allocatable incomes and military power. One of the most important effects that my model obscures is the looming expansion of such disparities. The net export crisis will be the defining geopolitical issue of the coming decade or two. It will not only exacerbate such differences, but will make them crucial factors for or against national survival. I'd be willing to bet that the global alignment of power in 2027 will be almost unrecognizable as a result. I can't wait to see the paper that westexas and Khebab are going to present in Houston. This is THE critical short-term problem for the world community.

In my heart of hearts I'm actually a lot more pessimistic than the position I've taken here, but it's difficult to come up with enough hard data to make a supportable case, especially over the time frame I've chosen. I decided to stick with a conservative projection of the situation. On that note, mbnewtrain may be right that my hydro projection is overly optimistic, but by the same token the advocates of wind power might say that my projection for renewable energy is too conservative. I don't think it matters in the overall picture, though. Compared to the impact of losing that much oil and gas, or the ecological effects of using too much coal, a bit of hydro or wind power here or there is really down in the noise.

Thanks to all for the comments.


Thanks for posting this. It resonates with my thinking of the past year or so, and I suspect it is a background concern which many many more are wondering about.

The shape of the curve, i.e, the rate of decline of key resources is of the essence but unfortunately we can't clearly predict it. We just know that it's coming. It will not just be about oil, it will also be about water and food.

We have been blessed with abundance and we have been collectively extravagant with our consumption of that abundance. With that comes an expectation, especially for the younger generations, that it will continue the way it has "always been" based on their life experience. The shock involved will be enormous when things change in the availability of those supposedly bedrock substances, i.e., oil, water and food.

I sincerely hope that the shape of that curve is gradual so it will give more people, and yes, even societies the possiblilty of meaningful shifts in their ingrained life practises. If it is gradual the shock factor will be muted. If it is more abrupt, even regionally, it will have numbing effects, after the initial reactions of running and freezing.

Either way, coming to terms with habits of addiction to speed, excessive food consumption, to energy, to travel, etc., will be essential. And it is there which each individual can begin. As more engage in those practises, the potential of influencing more and more people towards similar actions increases. I also am of the mind that the hunkering down mentality of individual survivalism is not a meaningful strategy for even the intermediate term.

In our disconnected society we have lost contact with family and neighborhood and "clans." Those reconnections will become ever so important in the years to come.


In reply to memmel and Tim,

While I agree that the lone survivalist will have to be in a pretty remote area to pass throught the first half of this century unperturbed, I believe individual preparations are still crucial. While I've only been working at recruiting a "tribe" for a year, despite a real effort I have zero results at this time. This makes me pretty sure that I need to make individual preparations even if this optimistic scenario comes to pass:

"If I build it they will come." I am currently looking for land near my town of family origin; if I have a viable homestead I expect I will see many of my friends come to "visit".

Until they wake up, I have to prepare for as many as I can as fast as I can.

Errol in Miami

I agree. And your probably right about very remote or inaccessible areas.

I think your actually close to the right answer the key is the town/village etc and your implying that you have one where you feel that you will be accepted.

In general in a lot of the world the farmers live in the village and go out and work their fields during the day. They don't often live right on the land they own in fact their fields can often be scattered.

The American situation of a house surrounded by its lands is probably a relic of the homestead act which required you to live on land to gain ownership.

Myself I plan to buy a small house in a town with a yard big enough for a garden and a few acres outside of town but within reasonable walking distance to work. I'll probably put a small house or mobile home on the land or maybe a simple shelter. The idea is if its just basically unimproved land then the tax man would be unable to tax it too heavily or the taxes would be rejected. The same for the small house in town. So in both cases I'd not standout enough to attract the interest of the tax man. Also the house in town is relatively secure and I'm sure most of these towns will have extra housing once its not possible to commute 30-40 miles to work. Low profile is the key.

The only real issue is saving enough money to ensure I can live and pay taxes with a minimal income say half of todays minimum wage. This means you pretty much have to pay off everything.

And next historically towns tended to happen about every 20 miles or so you will probably see real towns spring up again . So if you do homestead and don't want to be in a remote area settling in or near a previous town site may be prudent.


Your thoughts echo my own. Robert's post has actually moved me to comment after lurking for years. Your observation about our 'disconnected society' is key, and is something I alluded to in responding to writerman above. My viewpoint is that even without the threat of peak oil, any effort toward localization is sure to have benefits in forming connections between neighbors that have been missing of late. I wonder sometimes if it not too late already to reverse this situation. The saying "It takes a village to raise a child." comes to mind, but the village is nowhere to be found.

- Clint


I have been thinking about the village idea for a few months. Here is how I have begun to connect to some others:

I buy fresh vegetables from a local farm. And over time I have started to talk with the husband and wife team who own the farm. I ask questions and make comments and engage in conversation so they will be able to identify me and as a way to build a resource. I keep in mind that food does not grow in supermarkets.

I buy wood from a man I know in town. I have invited him out for breakfast and we talk whenever I meet him.

I have started this summer a small garden. Not much produce this year, but I have learned several important lessons.

I have started a compost pile and for the first time we are not lugging all the leaves up into the "woods." I am layering them in my back yard and am using them as mulch after I have shredded them with the lawn mower. This will add to my soil quality next spring and summer.

Etc., etc.


I've spent most of my life attempting to assist people with making major changes in their lives. Some things I've learned. 1. People do not make changes until a certain pain level is reached (different for different people)and then it's just enough change to ease the pain. 2. Prior to that pain level, people spend endless amounts of time with wishful thinking, fanciful solutions and talking which is never connected to the severity of their situation. 3. Rapid change is always chaotic and rarely voluntary. We are very "adaptable" if the change is slow and small. It's a rare person that "changes" their lifestyle overnight so to speak. 4. Change entails far more behavioral change that we can conceive when we begin. 5. The vast majority of us try one, or more, avoidance techniques such as drug usage, anger, blaming, pacification by authority figures, etc. 6. Just because something is "too horrible to comtemplate" doesn't mean it's not going to happen.

The only people with any pain regarding either energy or climate change are the worlds poor. The rest of us are still carrying on our lives pretty much as we always have. I'm an old man. Good luck to all of you.

One of our many, many problems is that people prefer to believe ExxonMobil, CERA and OPEC and thus continue going into debt to maintain their current lifestyles, even as food and energy prices continue to escalate.

Copy of my post on the Drumbeat thread follows:

If we have trillions and trillions of barrels of oil left to produce--and if the following statements are correct--then lower crude oil production and higher prices must be the result of a "conspiracy."
“Daniel Yergin Day”

"Rather than a 'peak,' we should expect an 'undulating plateau' perhaps three or four decades from now."

Mr. Robert Esser
Senior Consultant and Director, Global Oil and Gas Resources
Cambridge Energy Research Associates
Understanding the Peak Oil Theory
Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
December 7, 2005

"Contrary to the theory, oil production shows no signs of a peak... Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year, or for decades to come"

ExxonMobil Advertisement in New York Times, June 2, 2006

We in Opec do not subscribe to the peak-oil theory.

Acting Secretary General of Opec, Mohammed Barkindo
July 11, 2006

Copy of my post on the Drumbeat thread follows:

Couldn't you just link it? Leanan was hassling someone else about multi-posting earlier today, suggesting it's bad form to copy-and-paste posts between threads.

Zeke and WestTexas,

Re. the shape of the curve of peak oil: If it turns out to be undulating - not in a plateau sense - then in a funny way that may both give people and society time to make the adjustments needed AND also during the more intense part of the undulation, will give the kick start called pain to those who are willing to make significant changes.


"If we have trillions and trillions of barrels of oil left to produce"

Then where is it? Why have we not found more Ghawar fields? Why are we consuming 5-6 barrels for every one we find? If there was truely 2-3 trillion barrels of *RECOVERABE* oil left, then where is it?

London, Ont.

No one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

Excellent post!

The more complex society becomes, the more fanacy people invoke to explain it. To our undoing...

London, Ont.

o one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

Your observations are moving. Have you published anywhere (i.e., I'd like to quote you legitimately).

You cannot make the psychological jump to a chaos that results in a billion or more dead. I can.

I have driven through 2 lane and 6 lane streets of a major American city, dodging debris, in total darkness with the stench of rotting flesh mixed with all sorts of chemicals. I see how some people bend and others break under stress.

The only response that I can make to that possibility is to stand and fight against that potential developing as long as I can, rather than immediately giving in to self preservation as the highest goal. You seem to be making a similar response.

Every day I feel guilt in escaping from the immediate and real help that I could give and wasting time here. But this is one of my escapes, and I need one too.

Best Hopes,


Hi Robert

Thanks for this simple thoughtful post. A few comments on it.

First of all you and your family are not alone. What is coming is big, something that never happened before, its impact is so big that nobody on earth other than indiginious tribesmen of forests can escape from it. That is true in both best case and worst case scenario.

What is the best case scenario? Its that production fell by a 2% per year rate. Getting half in first 35 years, then quarter in another 35 years, after that its too little and too hard to find and hard to utilize fossil fuels left that we all stop using it and start living a low energy life almost all of us in villages. Given a 70 years of slow transition hopefully not many wars.

What is the worst case scenario? Its that production fell by 4% per year AND nobody accepting its because of natural geological reasons. Instead a blame-game, 'correcting the ineffeciences' of NOCs, resource-war and in worse of worse case use of nuclear weapons. Ironically if a large amount of world population is wipe out somehow, without destroying industrial capacity and spread of radioactivity over large area size of countries and provinces, things ease out for the rest of people, as more per capita resources become available to that.

One thing that that I can tell you with almost guarantee is that the major event that reduce our numbers to long-term earth carrying capacity limits would not be wars or nukes but epidemics and other health related issues. For example, my mother need insulin to live on, without it her chances of survival are pretty thin. To produce that insulin a modern pharmacuetical infrastructure, university education etc is needed. Even the stores of insulin are useless and get rotten in a few hourse without refrigeration. In long usual load sheddings here of 10+ hours we get tough time maintaining enough ice in refrigerator and coolers to keep the insulin cool. Thanks God electricity shut down is temporarily and distributed over different parts of city, so when one part of city is out of electricity other parts of city do have it.

Other important thing is that in non human species population is mostly controlled by infant mortality. Out of several hundred eggs a typical insect lay only few hatch. Out of many babies of a street cat that are borned each year only few survive. In case of humans advances in health care increase chances of a newly born to remain alive. Once we run out of fossil fuels that privilige is taken back. Imagine how many children of our grandparents a few generations reached their first birthday.

Low quality food, scarcity of water, use of bad water etc is going to spread epidemics that in resource-restraint world would be hard to handle, especially when central govts go weak and a fight between elite is set out to take control of small territories.

How to survive in all that? Getting a general idea of what is likely to come we TODers have an edge over others but what is that we can and should actually do? I think the most important thing is to maintain a good health. If you are young and not have a disease your survival chances are much higher. Its wise to hoard basic requirements of life, food, water, medicines etc. You only have to survive a little longer than others. When the shock of reality come most would not accept it and agitate, creating lot of mess. Just keep yourself out of it.

wisdom - I am glad to see you still attend.I greatly appreciate your unique perspective.

"When the shock of reality come most would not accept it and agitate, creating lot of mess".

spot on with that comment for sure.

Family preparations are advancing. The ground water heat pump was installed over summer and is now functioning, which should reduce kW consumption to 25%. A water quality test will hopefully permit the bore hole pumps output also to be routed for domestic potable use. Its doubtful that PV/wind/storage would permit this 4kW input system to function if Frances largely nuclear grid fails. Further the system whilst proven in applications for 30 years, relies on two pumps, refrigeration circuit, etc so reliability is the product of every link of the long chain. Thus an 11kW wood burning stove, and passive measures are in/being put in place. Insulation has been added to the cellar roof, and loft space. A planning application for large conservatory and greenhouses will be placed in a week.

Similarly my petro-chem job, no debt, and investments should protect against share and fiat currency grim prospects. Next on the shopping list are two patches of adjoining land, including an x-rabbit farms hanger facility.

Food stores are being built-up. With a root cellar, being set aside. The local countrside, is a patch work of small fields, formerly worked by the draft horses, still bread locally for export to work on Japanese steep sloped fields. Theres no guarantees should things go down hill fast, but
at least most of the ingredients for reverting to a sustainable ecology seem to be present in the communes environs.

Bikes, bike trailer, bike spares, are in place, but need to be augmented with some simpler, more robust and maintainable
kit (hub gears are great until they go wrong).

I have been personally involved in some of the increased domestic consumption of KSA, as the head of mechanical/process engineering for the Aramco/Sumitomo Rabigh Project's storage/import and export facility.
Anecdotal information, from my recent inspection visits to two major pump companies (Sulzer/Flowserve): there are a lot of brine injection pumps being shipped to Saudi.
Work whilst sometimes informative on industry developments, and essential for the financial preparations, does not permit more than 6 weeks a year in residence slowing essential preparations and communal relations. When theres a hint of shortages developing, we'll make a hasty bolt to our rural retreat.

So some of us prepare? I live in rural Idaho, outside of Boise. I have over an acre of land and routinely grow potatoes, corn, tomatoes, etc. I have a potable water well, back-up generator, manual well pump, manual irrigation system, wood stove, etc. I am next thinking of installing a solar/wind turbine and batteries.

Do I also install a look out post with a machine gun? If I am the only house with power and food, what do I do when the masses who have not prepared show up? Sure, I have a number of guns, but am I going to shoot families looking for some warmth and food? And how remote does one have to get? California with millions of people is just 6-10 hours away... several days walk. What do I do when they arrive in droves here in Central Idaho looking for food, water, and warmth? How much ammo should I buy, or do you really just need one bullet for yourself?

If its a fast crash it gets messy and no mistake about that. The economy can't do that to us, although we'll be very unhappy. The oil supply can trigger things but as someone(oilmanbob?) pointed out we have alternatives there which are painful but within reach. The environment is the wildcard, because if we get a run of years like the southeast is having now all bets are off - Dust Bowl sized migrations are going to go every which way and they'll look like a big, slow motion New Orleans post Katrina.

I think one needs a certain preparedness level for personal survival, and then all energies have to be directed towards the community. If no one will listen accept that for what it is, and plan as best you can in secret. No one here is going to listen until we start seeing Great Depression type stuff so I'm trying to sort out what one guy can prepare in advance. Knowing land and water and gardening techniques for the area is a nice start, but many can do that, so I'm hunting for something that I can learn to do now which will be useful later ... haven't quite settled yet, but I've found and ruled out a few things.

Buy as much ammo as you can, because your community will need it for those who started planning too late ...

I think your about right for personal ELP. I'd add not just ammo but consider buying a lot of the good books on farming/survival and medicine and chemistry. I think books will be useful in the future. Also consider archiving stuff on DVD and keeping a few laptop computers stored in a safe place along with say a bicycle powered generator for them. It won't hurt. I think if you don't charge lead acid batteries they store for a long time or you can get the new once without acid added.

Funny you should say this. I recently joined and I was reading How To Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons off and on this evening. This book sits on top of Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth.

SeedSavers have about 700 heirloom (fertile) varieties of seed available for all sorts of different vegetable garden plants. A big bonus for me is that they're in Decorah, Iowa - same latitude as me and only three hours east. Their stuff all grows in Decorah and it'll work here, too.

I will certainly hold these copies for myself but I'm not above buying a couple more for the local library ... or better yet, getting the local two year college to offer a class in this stuff. Gotta get with that whole community survival thing, don't ya know :-)


Great stuff as always.

We have been collecting books on everything. Building, electrical, farming, medical, even fishing books.

I have been collecting stuff from the web and copy a whole page I like with pictures and everyting put them in a Word Doc, and burn them to a CD.

A whole LOAD of stuff at in pdf format. Completely downloadable. I will keep an old laptop just to use as a reader.

I have no idea how the future will unfold. However, isn't it true that reducing consumption of fossil fuels will itself fuel recession? If we each use less fuel, by consuming less, making less trips, eating less meat, etc., then we reduce the incomes of the companies providing the resources and services that we consume, thus throwing people out of work.

This is not to say that we shouldn't reduce consumption but we need to be aware that there is likely to be much pain for many people when we start to reduce consumption, either forcibly (because of scarce resources) or voluntarily.

We live in unsustainable societies. Ideally, we need to move to sustainable societies, where we don't use any resource beyond its renewal rate. For fossil fuels, this means using zero barrels per day. For economies, this means zero growth. For populations, this means zero growth.

As I see no sign of any recognition of what sustainability actually means, I would tend to think that massive die-off is likely.

Governments post-peak
My concern is that many people are devoting great efforts to promoting governmental agreements that may not be worth the time. If the carrying capacity arguements are correct, and I am inclined to believe that they are, there will be some very high death rates over the coming century. In that context, I doubt that most governments will be able to retain control or legitimacy. When you consider that a small number of people in food riots have threatened governments, mass starvation will topple most regimes. People will become vulnerable to demagogues who promise more of everything, and compliance with international agreements to reduce energy use or carbon dioxide emmission will be viewed as treason, as it sentances our friends and family to death. The North Korean model seems to work in this context, but it is not my choice for governance.
Some of us may also be placing too much value in simply owning land. If there is a breakdown in political governance, your ownership will only be as strong as your ability to defend your property. This is where a cohesive community means survival. The isolated will be able to hold on to valuable resources as long as the ammo holds out.
Sorry for the gloomy view.

This is all easy to imagine - I just imagine my family's life during the 1970s then imagine it getting worse.

As for the sugar cane plants and bagasse, just go to Hawaii and find some old guys around Wailua on the island of Oahu who used to work the sugar mill. Should be in their 60s and older. That mill used bagasse, as far as I know all the mills did. We learned this in high school during the mandatory visit to the mill it was assumed many of us would have a life's career working for. A high-schooler just can't forget a name like "Bag-Ass" lol!

IMO it all hinges on the point at which the general population gets a wiff of the fact that there will be no more growth.

The intricacies of this concept can be analyzed and debated forever but the simple concept of discontinuing the GROWTH thing blows everyones plans for…

Money/ wealth

The size or rate of the decline will not be an issue to most, just the simple fact will be enough to trigger a whole host of problems. I have seen this first hand with family and friends. I start out explaning the simple concept of limited resources and lack of viable alternatives that can maintain status quo and it doesn’t take them long to understand that what I am talking about is no more growth and in fact powering down a notch.

They are not even interested in the details. I think it is only a sertain personality type that is driven to research the situation and find out the details. The average person will only hear that “it’s the end of the world as we know it” and act accordingly (read irrationally).

Believe me TSHTF when general Q public catches on and they will be pissed.

P.S. I know the issue of growth or PO=anti-growth has been discussed here but IMO it hasn’t been given enough weight in terms of discussing the future.

End of Growth = End of Hope for most.

soup, soup, you hairy old troll.

you know the PTB/ MSM would never let that message leak out.

lets stick to hashing out the particulars and then refuting them, then modifying, then revising, then discussing how to profit from the information... again and again and again.

End of Growth is probably the biggest change thats happened to mankind since the discovery of fire. For the first time in ever we will have to live within our means. Longer term our descendants will be radically different from us and I believe that this peak event will spur further evolutionary changes in humans to the point it may result in the formation of a new species.

We have seen evolution take place fairly quickly under stress so its not far fetched to consider a new species evolving. The prospect of billions dying has to result in some sort of evolutionary effect over time. Since a big part of the problem is how our brains are wired this may be a major change in how we think. Also we are close to being able to modify our own genome so self evolution is also possible. And obvious change is giving ourselves conscious control of our reproductive cycle.

I expect just about everybody individually and society as a whole to follow the Kübler-Ross model:

1. Denial: "We don't subscribe to Peak Oil theory"; "There are trillions of gallons of oil still in the ground"; "Inventories are temporarilly out of balance"; "These are just short-term geopolitical disruptions"; "The end of cheap energy does not mean the end of economic growth"; "The ultimate resource is the human resource"; etc., etc.

2. Anger: "It is a big conspiracy amongst the major oil companies!"; "Those *&%#$*&%# Arabs/Iranians/Venezuelans!"; "Those *&^$*(%^$% politicians!"; etc. etc.

3. Bargaining: "Surely, if we all just replace an incandescent lightbulb with a CFL, that will take care of the problem?"; "Surely, if we all just drive a little slower, we'll all have plenty of gas?"; "Surely, if we all change to PHEVs or hydrogen, we can continue to drive SUV?"; "Surely, if we just sacrifice the arctic wildlife, we can get all the oil we need?"; "Surely, if we just ignored those greens and did a crash program to build more nuclear power plants, our economy could continue to grow without damaging the climate?"; "Surely, someone will come up with some sort of technology fix?"; "Surely, if I hole out in my remote retreat with enough ammo, I'll survive?"; etc., etc.

4. Depression: "It is the end of the world!"; "Nuclear war is inevitable!"; "We're going to have a massive die off, it is inevitable and there is nothing we can do about it!"; etc.

5. Acceptance: "OK, we are going to end up living in a sustainable economy, whether we want to or not. How can we best get on with the task of getting there as quickly and painlessly as possible?"; "OK, the earth's environment is going to change, and not for the better. How can we salvage what we can, mitigate what we can, and adapt to the new reality?"

One can observe people at each of all five stages posting on TOD - and indeed, on this very thread.

As I've no clinical training this is only conjecture, but I suspect that it might help just a little bit to understand what you are going through, to expect that you will go through all five stages, and to give yourself "permission" to do so. IMHO, the sooner each of us moves on to stage 5, the better. Stage 5 is the only one of the five stages that is actually "helpful" in any type of constructive way. The first four stages may be hardwired into our human nature (for all I know), and so they might be unavoidable; it might feel good or it might be necessary for us to go through them and get them out of our system so that we can get to stage 5, but in themselves they contribute nothing positive or helpful toward the situation.

Absolutely great comment! Polite and respectful content, too.

Dead right on this one, no pun intended.

The formerly depressed SCT, who has accepted things as they are and got into what actions can be taken.

As Ashley Brilliant says, "I feel much better now that I've given up all hope."

There's an alternative to the stage 5 scenarios.

Although sustainability might be desirable, I don't think there is any indication that humans are intelligent enough to build such a society. More likely, in my view, is a kind of undulating downslope. There will be times when the incumbent society will be growing. Then it will hit a resource constraint, go into denial and crash. The subsequent society will pick up the pieces and start to grow again. And so on ad infinitum, until humans become extinct. Eventually another species may form societies and do the same thing.

Could be, we'll see. My approach is to identify the best REALISTIC possible outcome, and to try to strive for it. No guarantee we'll get there, it is quite possible, maybe even probable, that we'll end up with one of many possible worse outcomes. But it is worth a try.

I agree it's worth a try. How do we go about trying?

Go back to my "Sustainability" essay of last November for an idea that would take care of perhaps 70% of the problem.  If we got that far, the rest would be relatively easy.

I agree it's worth a try. How do we go about trying?

A huge question, I'm afraid I don't have time to provide a comprehensive answer now, but I'll try to take a brief stab at it:

I think the best approach is to start by envisioning where we need to end up. One we have established an overall objective, then the way from here to there starts to become more clear. It also becomes more clear what is superfluous or irrelevant or counterproductive to the objective.

Envisioning the Sustainable Future: Renewable Resources

A sustainable future must be one that is built as much as possible upon a base of renewable resources, especially including energy. Thus, research and development and deployment of a renewable energy infrastructure must be our absolutely top priority. We are fortunate in that we have not yet totally depleted our non-renewable resources; we must not squander the opportunity to use them to build out a renewable energy infrastructure while we can. To this end, if a choice must be made between investments in renewables and investments in non-renewables, then to me the direction is clear: we must place the priority on renewables, even if that means that the depletion rate of non-renewable resources proceeds more steeply.

Agriculture is another big renewable resource base upon which a sustainable economy must be built. A truly sustainable and renewable agriculture preserves the fertility of the soil, which means that organic gardening and farming techniques are used exclusively. Composting wastes and incorporating them into the soil must become standard practice ASAP. The use of chemical fertilizers derived from non-renewable resources is an unsustainable practice, and must be phased out. To the extent that yields decline as a result, we will have to scale down our livestock production, especially beef cattle, and increase the amount of land devoted to agricultural production (mainly using idle urban and small town lawns) to compensate.

The oceans must also be farmed on a sustainable basis (which they have not been). To the extent that ocean fisheries can be salvaged, they must be strictly managed on a maximum sustainable yield basis. If that means limiting catches for a while so that stocks can recover, so be it.

Water is another crucially important renewable resource. We must get away from the practice of "mining" water by draining aquifers. Withdrawals must not exceed deposits, and this will require matching agricultural, industrial, and residential needs to available supplies. For example, populations in the arid Southwest US might need to largely decamp and relocate to other parts of the country with more abundant water supplies. Irrigated agriculture might have to be abandonded in areas with inadequate water supplies.

Envisioning the Sustainable Future: Recycling

A sustainable economy is one in which everything operates within a "closed circle". Non-renewable resources, like metal ores, are made as renewable as possible through recycling. Thus, we are going to have to get serious about recycling everything. The idea of something being "trash" that is to be "thrown away" is going to have to become extinct.

This obviously requires more than just a change in consumer attitudes. A whole infrastructure must be developed to handle the recycling of materials. Goods must be designed to use recycled materials. People must be willing to buy recycled goods as well as to just recycle their used stuff.

Envisioning the Sustainable Future: Efficiency and Waste Minimization

A sustainable economy is one that places a premium on efficiency and the avoidance of waste. Thus, energy efficiency is an obvious priority. We've talked a lot about this here on the TOD, so I'll not say much here. Obviously, we need to do all of the energy efficiency things we've identified. One thing I will say, though: There's more to it than just "efficiency". In a truly sustainable society, it is not going to be enough to just have transport options that run with as much energy efficiency as possible; we're also going to have to limit travel altogether to just those trips that are truly necessary. Thus, the sustainable future we need to envision is going to have to be one where we live in small communities that are as self-sufficient as possible - relocalization, in other words.

Efficiency and waste minimization also goes beyond mere maximization of insulation in residential building envelopes. We need to be thinking in terms of not being wasteful in the amount of heated space that we occupy in the first place. Population densities thus need to increase in settled areas, and space per person needs to decline. As we've discussed extensively on this board, large tracts of sprawling suburbia and exurbia may need to be abandonded and revert back to the truck farms, orchards, and dairy farms they once were.

Speaking of land use, lawns are a terrible waste, and need to be converted to food production. Not everyone is going to have to go back to the farm, but just about everyone is going to have to be involved in growing at least some of their own food. As mentioned above, it is well known that livestock in general, and beef cattle in particular, are highly inefficient in their use of land, energy, and water inputs relative to plant crops. This does not mean that a sustainable society must be exclusively vegan, but it does mean that we're going to have to cut down quite a bit on meat, and beef is going to have to become a rare luxury.

In a more general sense, we're just going to have to get used to the idea that we're going to have to live with a lot less STUFF. The truth is, most of the stuff we buy these days we don't really need. If we don't need it, then it is a waste to produce it in the first place. In a sustainable society, all of that is going to have to be history. People will live in small habitations, they will have a few items of well-crafted, durable clothing, some minimal well-crafted and durable furnishings and housewares, and will pretty much have to live a pretty spartan & frugal existence. Thoreau revisited.

The above is by no means an exhaustive treatment (I haven't even addressed issues regarding population, for example), but it should begin to paint the picture. How to go about trying? Begin to live that way now!

Thanks for that. Everything you say is almost certainly required to move to sustainability, though I still don't know how we get there. Individuals living sustainably is a start (and something I intend to try) but it's not going to get our society there. I think that the main issue I have with talk about sustainability is that no-one mentions what sustainability ultimately entails. Becoming more sustainable is not becoming sustainable.

Heinberg distilled some axioms of sustainability but I rarely see any solutions that embrace them fully. For me, the axioms boil down to: "do not use any resource beyond its renewal rate". To do anything else is unsustainable, though the timescales involved for some uses of some finite resources may be close enough to sustainable. Therefore a sustainable economy cannot be a growing economy. If real economic activity increases, then resource use increases over the long term (even if short term efficiencies can give the occasional impression of growth with less). I think that until we embrace the notion of a no growth economy, we will not even begin to work our way to a sustainable society.

One individual cannot make a difference. The real question is: how many individuals does it take to hit a "tipping point?" I don't know whether we will hit the tipping point, or when, or whether it will be soon enough. I do suspect that is the only reasonable hope we have.

End of Growth = End of Hope for most.

I like the byline by a guy on another list.

Our pending energy supply contraction = no economic growth = insufficient debt service = chaos + oilwars.

I was always gonna write a book called "The End of *More"

IMO it all hinges on the point at which the general population gets a wiff of the fact that there will be no more growth.

It's going to be hard to make a truthful case for this, when it only takes the sunlight falling on 63 square meters of Kansas to supply the energy consumption of one American.

Telling people that there won't be any more growth of gasoline, of coal, of smoke and noise and smog precursors, is one thing (people would likely cheer).  Telling them that we can't live just as well or better on energy from sun, wind and biomass is, to put it plainly, a falsehood.  You may believe we won't do it, but it's an article of faith rather than a fact.

I started to prepare for powerdown back pre-y2k,as several years s D.O.D/F.E.M.A./RADCON gave me a good understanding of just how little the .gov cares about the public.If you don't look out after your own ass,don't expect the .gov or the elites to.

The .gov will look out for itself,as will the elites.I will do as much to prepare for my "tribe" as I can,but my family,first,and friends/family,and my neighbors,are the first in line when it starts to get tight.Katrina,and Rita were the nails in the coffin of my belief in the abilities of our fedgov.

By the time the dems regain power,and those who care about good governance are back in the saddle,that horse will be for all effective purposes,dead.The neocons have pretty much destroyed the federal government as a effective entity.That was their goal.The current administration hurt america in ways we are not even aware,by destruction of databases,and gutting of regulatory agencies.

We know,everyone of us,whats coming.How we chose to deal with it is a intensely personal decision.

I have several silver bb' I am working on,and may ask the help of this community.That said,each of us has responsibilities,and commitments.

That we have this knowledge of "something wicked this way comes"requires that we do what we can on both a personal,and a community level.{I have beat my brains out on a state gov.level,and finally given up that route}I continue to plant ,and prepare for a ELP future,but my preparations are more focused on a local level,than even a county level.Time is very short,and the supply lines wont be there soon.

By the time the dems regain power,and those who care about good governance are back in the saddle


I imagine the average person has a lot of consumption that they can cut. Those long commutes? If you had to cut your gasoline usage in half, you would search hard for a car pool or public transportation. In the longer term you would get the most fuel efficient car you could get. You would start cutting out unnecessary trips.

You would also change your definition of what is necessary.

If gas was prohibitively expensive, you could cut down on the number of times you commute - sharing a hotel room with coworkers, sleeping in your office, or even sleeping in your car - and only drive to and from work once or twice a week.

Gas for shipping? Very little absolutely needs to go by air, and right now much of what we buy is shipped long distance simply because it's cheap and convenient, rather than necessary. Instead of buying strawberries from New Zealand, people could buy whatever's in season at their local farmer's market, cutting the oil required for food transportation by 90%+.

Oil for industrial uses? Most is used for process heating, but expect that to change if oil prices go ballistic. Fortunately, creating heat is one of the easiest uses of energy.

I fully expect the West can cut its oil consumption in half (the USA by 3/4) with little more than inconvenience, and in half again without serious hardship.

Similarly, if energy becomes scarce, expect to see extended families or groups of friends sharing accommodations in order to save on heating bills, larger houses or apartments being splits up into several units, and windows being papered over to prevent heat loss. Domestic energy consumption could probably be cut almost as dramatically as oil consumption before widespread hardship started.

Mind you, in my opinion sleeping in your car or office and living with your family of four in a one-bedroom apartment is not "serious hardship" - it's what millions of people in other countries do all the time.

Given that - and given the immense reductions possible in our oil and energy consumption if we in the West simply start living like the middle class in the rest of the world - I have no idea how anyone sees societal collapse as geologically inevitable. It's possible that it'll happen, due to stupid societal reasons, but even that is pretty speculative - the Flappers of the Roaring 20s got blinds-sided by the Great Depression and WWII, but sensibly chose to do with less rather than tear civilization apart.

Why should we expect people today to act much differently? Why should we expect people to commit personal and societal suicide rather than do with less? It might happen, but it's an assertion than needs some pretty strong evidence to support it.

SOme will commit suicide, just as some did do around 1930. But, this is a small minority. I agree the US can cut over half its usage, if we had to we could do without imports. Meanwhile, substitutes will appear, even if they do not fully cover declining imports, including eg fertilizer imports. So, there is no need for widespread starvation in the US, and IMO society will hold together in most places even as living standards decline somewhat. Clearly, however, places that already don't use much, and that have little indegenous supplies, may be at risk, including parts of africa, asia and south america.

Doomers on these threads are too pessimistic, particularly re: those regions that are fully capable of feeding themselves, eg europe/US. Indeed both are traditional food exporters, and this role can continue as we discontinue pricey off season imports. Furthermore, too much is made of the US losing its mfg base... the falling dollar is already boosting our exporters, eg cat/boeing, while discouraging imports, eg bmw/mercedes. The trend towards mfg in the US, already far cheaper than europe, will become a flood. Investors selling the dollar to purchase EU investments may be disappointed as exporting europe takes losses and sheds workers.

Furthermore, too much is made of the US losing its mfg base... the falling dollar is already boosting our exporters, eg cat/boeing, while discouraging imports, eg bmw/mercedes. The trend towards mfg in the US, already far cheaper than europe, will become a flood. Investors selling the dollar to purchase EU investments may be disappointed as exporting europe takes losses and sheds workers.

While this is a popular point of view, it is not a realistic one. The dollar has been falling for quite a while now and we have had plenty of opportunities to examine the net changes in the import and export markets due to dollar fluctuations. The simple fact of the matter is that the export boom that certain people keep predicting has never materialized and it is painfully obvious by now that it never will.

Since we import the majority of our manufactured raw materials, increased material costs due to the weaker dollar have offset the cost advantage on the export side. In the short term after a particularly steep dollar slide we see exports increase but that only lasts until on hand stocks of materials and merchandise are depleted then we are forced to raise prices to compensate for our increased expenditures.

Not to forget that increased export will mean increase in oil imports for the US. Driving up the cost of the oil.

So many factors, so many parameters, so many degrees of freedom = chaos.

London, Ont.

No one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

I fully expect the West can cut its oil consumption in half (the USA by 3/4) with little more than inconvenience, and in half again without serious hardship.

This train of thought keeps coming up in these discussions. Folks, if you want to know what is coming just study history. When human beings are faced with a loss of standard of living or shortages of critical resources, they don't make accomodations or modify their lifestyles. They go to war.

Just take a look at WW2. When the German people were faced with hyperinflation and a declining standard of living after WW1 they abandoned democracy and selected fascism and war. When the Japanese were faced with an oil embargo they didn't go back to rickshaws or whatever, they went to war.

History is going to repeat itself. The world is gearing up for a nuclear WW3. All modern weaponry will be used. It may be curtains for us and all higher lifeforms. Its in our genes.

Just take a look at WW2.

Yes, let's.

Britain needed materiel for the war effort, so people largely adhered to strict rationing and did without.

The USA needed materiel for the war effort, so people largely did without.

Australia needed materiel for the war effort, so people largely did without.

Switzerland had no access to oil due to the war, so people largely did without.

Noticing a trend yet? And all of these societies not only survived, but thrived. So history tells us that people all over the world are quite capable of voluntarily doing without, and even suffering substantial hardship, if it's necessary to do so.

When the German people were faced with hyperinflation and a declining standard of living after WW1 they abandoned democracy and selected fascism and war. When the Japanese were faced with an oil embargo they didn't go back to rickshaws or whatever, they went to war.

And yet the inflation, oil shocks, and recessions of the 1970s didn't lead to mass invasions by suffering rich nations.

You're claiming that going to war instead of modifying their lifestyles is what people do, but it'll take more than two cherry-picked - and rather dubious - examples to make the case that that's common behaviour, much less the default.

Indeed, it's not at all clear that even those two examples fit your theory - there was no particular drop in lifestyle that precipitated the aggression of Germany and Japan in WWII (as separate from Germany's descent into fascism).

So you'll need to do a better job supporting your hypothesis.

Those societies thrived because the US exported to them 6 billion of the 7 billion barrels of oil they needed to thrive.

OH, and in case you forgot, the war ended with much of Europe in ruins and a regional nuclear holocaust in Asia.

Also worth consideration is that most people of the WWII period knew how to grow their own food. There was no such thing as JIT bread on the supermarket shelf.

The people who read TOD regularly are not of the norm, they are the exception. In the United States,there's basically 300 million TV-addicted zombies who are cruising along at full speed with zero clue about this energy crisis.

Sure, all the preparations made by folks who have some foresight are a great thing.

But its not gonna do a damn thing to stem the angry, clueless mob that doesn't understand why gas is 10 bucks a gallon, why bread isn't always on the shelf and why we're continuing combat operations in Asia.

Anyhow, my first post,


most people of the WWII period knew how to grow their own food. There was no such thing as JIT bread on the supermarket shelf.

By 1945, 75% of the population of the US lived off of farms, meaning that the vast majority of the affected populations bought much or all of their food, as we do now.

The people who read TOD regularly are not of the norm, they are the exception. In the United States,there's basically 300 million TV-addicted zombies

"One issue in the study of cults relates to people's reactions to groups identified as some other form of social outcast or opposition group. A new study by Princeton University psychology researchers Lasana Harris and Susan Fiske shows that when viewing photographs of social out-groups, people respond to them with disgust, not a feeling of fellow humanity."

It's worth realizing that your dehumanization of people who don't share your beliefs - which is the majority of people - is a classic behaviour of someone in a cult, and is not at all rational or reasonable.

Or, sadly, rare.

Those societies thrived because the US exported to them 6 billion of the 7 billion barrels of oil they needed to thrive.

You're quite simply wrong.

For a start, your guesses about the level of US oil exports are nonsensical. The total quantity of crude oil exported by the USA from 1900 through 1945 was under 1B barrels gross.

US oil exports were actually down 50% during the war years, to just 35mb per year, or just 200mb over the 1940-1945 period. When compared to US consumption levels of 1500mb/yr, those 35mb/yr of exports represent only a small amount of oil for the populations of those countries.

Not, of course, that all of those countries even got US oil. Switzerland, for example, had virtually no oil during that period, yet thrived quite nicely.

OH, and in case you forgot, the war ended with much of Europe in ruins and a regional nuclear holocaust in Asia.

You're confusing cause with effect. The resource shortage to those countries was caused by the war, rather than the other way around.

So the fact of the matter is that recent history has shown us people have a remarkable ability to voluntarily lower their resource consumption when the situation demands it.

Why did they survive and thrive Pitt?
Why did we come out of the depression?
Did oil and increased energy and food production have anything to do with it?

Where is all the new construction going to come from?
A new, New Deal........
Another Marshall Plan.

Isn't there a few examples of societies which failed?
They don't suit your fanciful argument though do they?

Isn't there a few examples of societies which failed?
They don't suit your fanciful argument though do they?

You misunderstand what I'm saying.

I'm not claiming that our civilization cannot collapse; I'm claiming that those who assert our civilization must collapse are ignoring important and relevant information.

Could our civilization still collapse? Of course. But an argument that it will that conveniently ignores evidence that doesn't agree with that pre-determined conclusion is committing the fallacy of Begging the Question, and hence is an invalid argument.

Let's use the word "end", then. Our civilisation must end because it is predicated on continuous economic growth.

Our civilisation must end because it is predicated on continuous economic growth.

You make the mistake of confusing zero growth economies with sustainable economies, when in fact the two are usually different. In particular, one can get zero growth due to some kind of problem (e.g., a crash like Japan's) while the economy still isn't sustainable, whereas a sustainable economy is likely to have growth even with no growth in inputs, due to the creation of more efficient processes.

Sustainable and zero growth are not at all the same; that it's a common error doesn't make it any less unhelpful.

Moreover, I don't really agree that our current civilization is based on (unsustainably-high levels of) economic growth. Certain facets of the economy do indeed exploit that historical trend, but I don't see much that couldn't adapt to a long period of radically-lower growth rates. Japan's had terribly low growth rates for something like 15 years now, and they haven't imploded.

So I agree with your preference for a sustainable economy, but I don't agree that the current one needs to be torn down for that to be made possible.

I agree arguments against widespread war and fascism are not very good. The population of the US/Europe may far fairly well comparatively but the chance for some sort of enlightened society forming vs fascism is in my opinion effectively nil.

Thus my main concern after feeding myself is actually oppressive taxes under a police state. Hopefully the smaller farming communities will retain some normalcy even if this comes to pass.

How as life under the Nazi's and Stalin where any communities actually left untouched unfortunately I don't think so.

If this really does happen in Europe and the US one would think the shear physical size of the regions would lead to a partitioning and maybe some of the areas will be less fascist than others. So in a sort of twisted way it may be better if the US and Europe fragment to prevent formation of large powerful neo-fascist states.

Must agree that there is too much pessimism here!
I see so much energy wasted that a 40% reduction is easily reached.
In transportation we should clearly be able to raise the average number of people in a car on a typical commute (from one) This include carpooling and busses/trains
Add to this the choise of car, if two people drive together they will pick the most fuelefficient car and might even save 60%. As cars are removed from the freeways the remaining cars will save even more fuel as you can travel at constant speed without trafficjams.
The transport of goods will surely drop as the consumption of worthless crap will plummet.
Airtravel will plummet.
Going for a drive with no real purpose will stop too, and we will even cut down on the trips to visit people.

As for heating and cooling a lot can be done without casualties ;) Why do we want our buildings to be colder in the summer than they are in winter?

The industrial use of energy will also plummet as this crazy spending will stop.

At this point I believe we have saved so much energy without much pain that we have covered many years at 5% decrease.

Then we get to the food part...
Surely energy for the food industry will have higher priority either by price or by law. But when the foodindustry takes a hit, and it will, then why do you believe it will be so bad? I am quite sure we could take 25% of the calories away from the american diet without any dieoff... We might even get a healthier people!
But cutting down on calories is not the only option, changing diet is another and maybe even better.

If we take the amount of grain used to make the meat Americans eat, we could feed india with bread... (no facts behind this but you get the idea)

Eating less beef and more vegetables, bread and maybe some chicken or pork would be possible with a lot less.

We do have problems ahead, but this is much much more due to:

* Unemployment as our current consumerism dies!
* The fact that oilproducers will NOT produce flat out once everybody realizes what a wonderdrug oil is. (decline in net oil available for sale to the world will suddenly drop 25%)
* Even the oil produced will be bought, not for consumption, but for storage! (decline in net oil available to consumers will drop 25%)

In regards to the last two bullets, just ask yourself what you would do if a) you were an oilproducer sitting on a million barrels of oil underground... Would you produce as fast as you could? Or would you be nice to the reservoir and produce it slowly to maximize URR?
Currently every producer is trying to maximize net present value in $. Will the same be optimal post peak?
Next ask yourself what you would do whenever you saw petrol at the station... Would you buy a little more to the stock?

Human nature will be more of an issue in the first years post peak than geologi!


"Must agree that there is too much pessimism here!"

It's more than that. IMHO.

Seems to me that there is a gathering of the uber-pessimistic and they are feeding on each other. It's kind of cult-like in their creation of an alter-reality in which there is only one outcome and they are the small group who are privy to the inside dope.

Perhaps I've just been around too long and have seen too many of "The End is Nye!" routines. I've tired of these survivalist types with their personal armories and warehouse full of potatoes.

Leaves me looking for a site where energy issues get discussed by a more objective group.

“Objectivity” often correlates to one’s own sentiments.

“Objectivity” often correlates to one’s own sentiments.

Sadly, yes - "confirmation bias". If one is aware of that, though, one can mitigate many of its effects. Key parts of that:

  1. Evidence vs. assertions

    An argument which backs up its statements with links to reputable evidence is much better than one which simply asserts those statements to be true.
  2. Assumptions

    What assumptions is the argument making? How well supported are they by evidence? How resilient is the argument to those assumptions being wrong?
  3. Certainty

    Does the argument insist it is providing The One Truth on a subjective topic, or is it more carefully - and correctly - acknowledging uncertainty? Overconfidence is a strong sign of argument from belief, not knowledge.
  4. Attitude

    Does the arguer respond angrily to new data that undercuts their argument? If so, they may be arguing from an emotional belief, rather than a rational conclusion.

It's not easy to distance yourself from an argument enough to evaluate it objectively, but it's important to do so - the alternative is to be continuously manipulated by people using rhetoric for their own ends. Think of an argument like an advertisement - cut through the marketing-speak and just look at the facts of what the product actually does.

Scrooge: "Speak a word of comfort to me, Marley"
Marley's ghost: "I have none to give."

Leaves me looking for a site where energy issues get discussed by a more objective group.

The sad thing is that there are some people here who offer very solid discussion and analysis - RR, SS, EM, etc. - and whose well-reasoned, fact-based, and well-supported arguments are always worth reading, even if I don't agree with them, but they're all too often drown out by the chorus of doom-seekers who won't believe anything that isn't sufficiently doomy.

It sometimes seems like Peak Oil is the secular replacement for doomsday cults, and draws in people who desperately want to believe that it's all going to burn.

There's enough people here who produce enough valuable information, evidence, and reasoned analysis that it's worth my time to read, even if I spend a lot of that time throwing darts of data at devilishly-resilient bubbles of apocalyptic fantasy. The site is often skating right on the edge of what's worthwhile, though, and there's a very heavy bias that can get quite irritating.

Unfortunately, with the moth-balling of Peak Oil Debunked, it's unlikely there's a forum for discussion of the issue that isn't mobbed by pre-conceived doomers. So, for now, this is about as good as it gets for people interested in the issue, and we just have to resign ourselves to brushing away the 90% of misanthropic nonsense to find the 10% interesting information.

Maybe the problem is that most people, even most people here, think that, somehow, solutions can be engineered that allow growth based societies to continue indefinitely. It's not necessarily doomerist to state that growth based economies must end. Peak oil, for me, was merely the catalyst to that realisation. It is not sustainable, on a finite planet, to continue to use resources beyond their renewal rates. The "doom" element is merely a statement that if we don't strive for sustainable societies, some kind of crash is inevitable.

Hello R-squared and fellow TODers,


ESSAY: If FEMA is really doing a heckuva job:

Since I lack access to supercomputer clusters doing Foundation modeling of predicted collapse and directed decline for optimal paradigm transition: I have to stumble ahead, the best I can, by using my wild & crazy imagination. =)

Many will recall my earlier posted copies of emails sent to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelsen, and the PGA websites. I specifically encouraged them to lead the needed national transformation to relocalized permaculture by starting with the plowing up of Augusta National, home of the annual Masters Tournament:

The present Masters' tradition of awarding the winner a green jacket is an excellent 'environmentally green' idea that should be continued postPeak. I envision a continuing Agusta National Masters competition for the most productive and sustainable vegetable plot as the best local gardeners strive for the best yields. I think it would be a great postPeak TV moment, and would help inspire greater permaculture education and higher harvest yields across the country.

Currently ongoing in my Asphalt Wonderland is the massive effort to scalp off the summer grass, heavily fertilize, then broadcast the winter lawn seeds in the well-to-do neighborhoods, too numerous to count multi-hundred acre golf courses, and the hundreds of upscale shopping and business locations. I would imagine the winter lawn planting program is underway in many other States across the lower half of the country as the market competition for the winter 'snowbird' tourist trade begins.

In our very low humidity, the programmable sprinker systems run full-tilt almost hourly to encourage the seeds' germination and to prevent the blazing sun and heat from killing the seedlings until they are more deeply rooted. After about two weeks of heavy watering: the incessant mowing begins to give the winter grass that highly socially desired, precisely manicured, smooth shag carpet appearance. The full cost of a winter lawn must therefore be quite enormous.

It is foolishness on a truly grand continental scale when one considers the ongoing droughts in the SW and SE sections of the US plus the continuing pricing rise in vital foodstuffs. Expert predictions from Leanan's daily Drumbeat links forecast more to come, and the drought monitor link is not looking very good for much of the country. Recall the recent postings from other TODers' warning newslinks that some areas of the SE have only 60-120 days of water left in their reservoirs and distribution spiderwebs.

Thus, IMO, if FEMA is really doing a heckuva job of following its mission-statement to preplan and mitigate any disaster: a mandate from FEMA for Augusta National to be plowed would instantly inform the drought- stricken SE, SW, and the rest of the US, that the previous water-wasteful lifestyle is no longer acceptable as Climate Change kicks in. If they get started now: the first crops could be judged by the usual Masters' date of April 8th.
The primary mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the Nation from all hazards, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters, by leading and supporting the Nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation.

The plowing of Agusta would then make it very politically easy for all cities to plowup their taxpayer-supported municipal golf courses thus conserving tax dollars and jumpstarting relocalized permaculture.

Most private golf courses, that now charge the homeowners a heavy monthly fee to cover the ever-rising labor, equipment, water, and fertilizer costs of golfing turf, can then offer views of beautiful vege & flower gardens, vineyards and orchards, with happy birds, bats, and bees flitting about doing their pollination thing.

The homeowners would instead get priority delivery priveleges on freshly picked [mere minutes ago], organically grown, vine ripened vegetables and fruits, citrus, the local neighborhood wine, and beautiful flower assortments. It would sure beat the sad-looking, industrially processed, and long-distanced shipped produce available in most grocery stores today. If the golf-course conversion can generate a saleable surplus: the previously paying homeowner would then receive a check tucked into the daily flower & food delivery--How cool would that be?

FEMA: Are you doing this Foundation planning as your mission statement mandates? Or are you going to wait until everything is Wasted, Withered, and Brown?

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

Rapid Cultural Change Required

Peak Oil and Global Warming as well as widespread damage to the environment are now so urgent what we need is rapid culture change. The big question is this possible? So far it seems the answer is no. Circumstances change alright and can do relatively quickly but culture change seems to be slower.

It seems each society has a inbuilt inertia to change, and this has tended to act as a stablizing force. For example, if people could rapidly change their minds and ways on things, then there is no reason to suppose it was neccessarily be for the good. Yet this is what we need now.

Clearly the mainstream media is in the most powerful position to affect change and bring it about. I recall during the Asian Tsunami that the media covered this disaster for much longer than usual and the effect was dramatic. The public responded brilliantly, donating huge amounts of money and in the process embarrassing governments into donating more than they initially planned. The outcome unfortunately seemed to be that much of the money went to the wrong hands but thats another story. What seemed to be happening though is that some large experiment was being played out in the media, because while the coverage was on, it was the main topic of conversation amongst people in all walks of life. Then someone decided it was time to switch the coverage off, and everyone went back to celebrity land.

Now it would seem that the Internet while not capable of TV like instant global attention is possibly (evidence??) instigating significant change (aka The Oildrum) and enabling communication and discussion across hierarchies without going through the filter of the dominant groups at the top of these. There is a certain self awareness developing amongst a certain group of people who have leanings in the self education type of person -i.e people who want to constantly learn more (again readers of The Oildrum and similar types of inquiry)

So the question is poised is the Internet capable of bringing about the rapid cultural change that we need and suffice to say in the direction that we need? Will it require simultaneous response from the mainstream media. To the second question, I would think yes, but not in its present form. It must be democraticised and not remain at the service of those who have benefitted from creation of our major problems in the first place.

Survivalists should consider steam power too, oil or gas or gasoline, might not be available but anything burnable will raise steam. If you have a farm, consider growing a little Castor, the oil is a good lubricant, for all engines.

From Wallerstein's latest column:

This is the way that hegemonic decline builds on itself. The leading country concentrates on the short-term situation, and overinvests in unfruitful military expenditure. Speculation replaces innovation as the source of profits. And before one knows it, the others (in this case the Japanese, but not they alone) speed ahead controlling the technology of the future. This is what the United States did when it was, oh so long ago, an ascending economic power.

The only way to turn this around, even partially, is a major cultural shift in the United States.

I drive a car that gets 50 mpg, and I don't drive it that many miles a year. My family will tell you that I keep the house too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. In fact, I almost always wear a jacket in the house during the winter. I am obsessive over our programmable thermostat; I don't want energy wasted when nobody is home. My direct fossil fuel usage is maybe 25% of the average usage for the U.S., and well less than the average for the U.K. (Indirect usage - like fossil fuels to produce the food I eat - is much harder to estimate, but one way I minimize this is by minimizing the meat in my diet).

This may make no difference about what is what is going to happen.

The system moves ahead due to momentum until it crashes.

PNM is counseling energy saving while builders are building more energy inefficent homes on the desert around albuquerque. Water is short.

Financial interests appear to block any concerns about future energy shortages.

I looked at your link, and the calculations are incoherent.  You do not specify units, and the source of the 786.5 number is not given (let alone its units).  Further, you have a number which appears to in units of tons in your numerator, but you claim the quotient is "gallons per mile".

You'd flunk engin school with that kind of work.  Heck, you'd flunk my HS AP physics class.


While it's certainly good to take individual action to reduce energy consumption, it misses the mark on the main issue. We must have a government that helps us collectively address the issue and helps us rebuild our society so that it is possible to live sustainably. Moreover, such a government has to cooperate with other govt's world-wide to address energy, climate, population, and other issues. Otherwise your kids as well as mine, and my grandchildren, are totally screwed. This means being political. The is absolutely no other way to get anything done. It's difficult here, because our gov't is quite hostile to its own people (not to mention everyone else) and, of course, we Americans are individualists, even when we attempt things that are inherently collective.

Except as an example, I find RR's personal details pretty useless to all those people out there who are having a tough time of it as it is. Somehow I can't see how a declining energy base will help them out but rather make any sort of mitigation strategy even more impossible.

Will the shift to alternate energy produce a bonanza of jobs and security for those guys and gals who change the oil and the bedsheets @squat an hour and live in a basement suite? Walk down an urban American street and ask yourself how well many of these folk are prepared for 'normal' life in an easy energy life in a reserve currency country; then consider how they would deal with life in Burma or Bangladesh. We already see the reactions of violence and despair on the urban streets and it will probably get worse. These aren't the ones who will be producing the energy solutions but those left behind, to coin a phrase.

I'm like RR, mortgage gone, mobility and options for the deciding, but this is a slim minority of single digit percentage. What will the others stuck in a basement suite in Cleveland and working at the pool hall do? There's a huge world outside of TOD that's pretty much at the limit anyway at the best of times, and these will probably turn out to be that last of those good old days.

Keeping some sort of civil and organized society going during the inevitable transition will be an even greater challange than the technical challenge itself.

Walk down an urban American street and ask yourself how well many of these folk are prepared for 'normal' life in an easy energy life in a reserve currency country;

I tell people to park in front of Walmart or Targets and just watch the people of 1/2 hour. What are THESE people going to do. Not much, as you said, they are strapped already and have none of the Prep or mental state to go thru it.

All the "Solutions" presupposes everyone at the level of TOD, it ain't like that "Out there".

Samsara: It appears to me that the vast majority of TOD posters would not be DIRECTLY affected by $6.00 gasoline. This certainly makes this group unusual in the American context. Is this an accurate assumption? Anyone reading this that would be DIRECTLY hit by $6.00 gasoline prices?

I was making the run from Iowa to Las Vegas twice a month - would have affected me, but not wrecked me.

Now ... not such a big deal. 27 country mile commute is the worst case going forward and I'll probably relocate to walking/biking distance.

I appreciate your candid thoughts about this Robert. I think everyone should consider the full range of possibilities and at least make the basic preparations that FEMA recommends. Anyone who takes any steps to prepare for potential problems is helping everyone.

As I've noted in the past, I think the fall of the Roman Empire was in part a "peak wood" resource collapse. It certainly wasn't the only thing that brought them down, but I think it had a significant, little recognized role. And that was for a renewable resource. Rome took several centuries to collapse, and it was war and disease that brought it down.

If oil production and export were to simply plateau, and there were no other problems, I wouldn't be concerned at all. However, we're talking about a relatively fast drop in a vital strategic resource. The Romans didn't have progressively greater climate problems to deal with. They created the same kind of soil damage problems that we've produced. They had some technology to deal with their problems and we have some technology to deal with our problems. They had the same war and disease problems we have, but we have much better medicine. We also have orders of magnitude more people to feed.

It all looks like a wash, except that their resource problem was in a renewable resource and ours isn't. Their primary fuel declined slowly and could replenish some when demand dropped. Oil availability is going to decline relatively quickly, isn't renewable, and isn't going to replenish if demand drops. That difference is what concerns me.

Jeez, fellas, you guys are not doing some basic homework.
First: Look at world oil consumption. 3.1, 1.4, then 0.7. That is the percentage increases in fossil oil demand in 2004, 2005, 2006. You see a pattern? It may be zero this year. Businesses and consumers adapt. It takes time. In the short run, demand for fossil crude is inelastic. It becomes increasingly elastic over time. Then, demand keeps receding even if supply goes back up. It becomes inelestic on the upside too.
Second: The Volt, says GM honcho, is still on-target for 2010. If the planet starts moving to PHEVs, then you see oil gluts. Plain and simple. Fossil oil is used in transportation (roughly 70 percent of demand).
Once again, human brainpower rules. We have in hand (nearly) our dues ex machina.
I won't even mention jatropha, super-efficient light bulbs, densifying cities, mass transportation, or just plain smaller cars. We have so many ways to cut consumption.
I won't even mention that KSA, Kuwait, Qater are all spending to boost production. Kuwait alone says they will go to 4 mbd from 2 mbd.
The real problem today? Thug oil, not Peak Oil. Thug states control the world's oil supply. Elites in those thug states are set fine. Contracts are not contracts in thug states. Democracy is a faraway dream. Free enterprise is for fools. To be born a woman is be born second-class. Misery as a way of life.
Libya, Iran, Irag, KSA, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, former SU states, Nigeria etc. A sorry roll-call of tinpot despots, narco-states, corruption and theocratic nightmares.
There is 5-10 mbd plugged up in thug states, enough to make a glut, were it to be brought back online.
But it is reality. Our expensive adventure in Iraq has cured nothing, probably made matters worse. Oil nations are exporting less.
Nevertheless, we will adapt, perhaps easily.
In fact, I am rather looking forward to PHEVs. Cleaner urban air, quieter streets. I suspect a better, more prosperous and cleaner world is ahead. What is not to like?
Oh. No doomsday. Somehow, I think new doomsdays will be found. Thug states, for example. Now, that is something to worry about.

Why is it that people who are not up to speed on the research being done by TOD regulars always display poor grammar and formatting in their posts?

Libya, Iran, Irag, KSA, Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, former SU states, Nigeria etc. A sorry roll-call of tinpot despots, narco-states, corruption and theocratic nightmares.

You forgot to add the United States under the Bush administration to that list.

Kuwait alone says they will go to 4 mbd from 2 mbd.

Tell me, It Aint So Bad, are you a gambling man?

Once again, human brainpower rules.

Ah, but it most certainly isn't universal.

Dear TrippingOverSacred Cows--
Sure, I gamble. Play NYMEX. Lately, I have been selling puts. We are having a prolonged bull market in crude oil.
We may be setting up for a replay of 1979-1980. Oil spiked, consumption fell by 11 percent, annual peak to trough, global. Oil consumption did not recover 1980 levels for another 10 years. (Check BP stats). And then only when oil was cheap again. And that was with the technologies of the 1980s.
The decline in fossil oil demand was so severe that oil basically fell in price for the next 20 years, hitting bottom in 1998 at about $10 a barrel.
In 1979, a book entiled "Limits to Growth" was big. I was in grad school back then. Aside from studying disco, I studied energy policy. I was convinced we would all be riding bicycles in 20 years.
Alack and alas, the Phds and best and brightest who put together Limits to Growth, and their disciples (including me!) were wrong as a pickled onion on a hot fudge sundae. Oil went from tight, to looser than a drunk hooker during fleet shore leave. You know how that is.
The moral is this: Gambling in moderation is better than heavy drinking, and also taking too seriously predictions of doom.
I am sorry my hurried writing does not live up to your expectations for grammar and intellectual firepower. Happily, for both of us, brainier people than me (I?) are working on PHEVs, to save my butt and yours too. (It is amazing just how many geniuses are posting here. Everyone is so smart, at least in their own estimations).
But if you want to get really scared, re-read Limits to Growth for old time's sake. It scared me, way back when.

Actually, "Limits to Growth" wasn't wrong at all ... but maybe your interpretation of what you read at that time was.

"Limits to Growth" never attempted to make short-term predictions of what is going to happen in the near future, especially not to the oil price, since oil per se isn't even considered in the model at all.

"Limits to Growth" spoke to the predicament of mankind, it talked about our need to learn to live within our means. "Limits to Growth" evidently failed in that attempt as we still haven't even started changing our behavior, i.e., we continue to exploit the remaining and rapidly dwindling resources of this planet at an ever increasing speed.

If you had actually ever read Limits to Growth, you would know that the statements you just made are ridiculous, and have no bearing on the actual time frame cited in that work.

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

Actually, I've made the same arguments WRT elasticity. I'm not saying we won't adapt. Basically, the first half of your post argues that *our* technology to deal with our problems, and our willingness to use it, is better than the Romans' technology to deal with their problems, and their willingness to use it. You may be right. I'm not saying things *will* turn out badly, just that they really *could* turn out badly.

However, if you live on the gulf coast, it behooves you to be prepared for a category five hurricane, even though it's a low-probability event, since it's quite possible. Hubris that our technology will protect us didn't save New Orleans.

The second half of your post essentially argues for large ELM problems. You can feel free to call them petrothugocracies, but that doesn't solve the problem, does it?

Certainly we will adapt to declining oil supplies and exports, but war is a form of adaptive response, and look where that's gotten us in Iraq. The question isn't whether we'll adapt, but whether we can adapt quickly and effectively enough; or better still, whether we *will* adapt quickly and effectively enough.

You miss a number of things.

"I won't even mention that KSA, Kuwait, Qater are all spending to boost production. Kuwait alone says they will go to 4 mbd from 2 mbd."

Not a chance. Not only are the gulf states incapable of increasing output but their own export ability will go down as their own donestic use increases. They can spend all they want, but the geology of the fields will have the last word.

You biggest flaw is the growth in the human population, and not just growth in countries, but immigration from low energy use countries to high energy use countries. Such as Canada's 250,000 immigrants each year, almost all from low evergy countries, of people looking for our lifestyle.

The next big flaw is the rapid increase in China's economy. In 10 years they will consume the same oil as the US does, but on a per person basis less than 1/3 a US person does. China's going to be a major player in world consumption. So we can limit our consumption all we want, it will just make oil that much more available to China. In that same 10 year period they will have 150 million environmental refugees seeking a place to live that is free of polution, including leaving China. That's near half the US population folks, yet only 14% of their own population.

London, Ont.

No one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

I would add that I think some people toss those scenarios around pretty casually, without really reflecting on the horror of what it would mean if a billion plus people died of starvation.

The horror of the die-off or our lack of ability to comprehend it will not prevent it from happening.

If someone chooses to have hope, who am I to convince them otherwise? If someone chooses to try to save six billion doomed people... well... everyone needs a hobby.

No-one has ever been able to convince me that the Earth can sustain a human population of greater than a billion, and I am quite certain we don't know how to do that today. Eventually we might figure it out. If the Earth remains as friendly to humanity as it is today. In an Earth ravaged by climate change, that number probably is much lower. And we will certainly undershoot it before we recover.

If you ask me how far down will we fall, I would answer "all the way, baby". The interesting questions are "how soon" and "how quickly".

I do what I can in my own life to prep. Not as much or as well as some, better than many. I've tried to alert others I know to what is coming.

I have no illusions that if I am all squared away that I will be left alone to live in peace while others watch their children starve. I'm sure that someone, be it government, local warlord, corporate goon, neighbor, roaming gang, or refugee will decide for oh such good reasons that they deserve whatever I have more than I do. And I have to sleep sometime.

I gave a lot of thought to location before I bought my land. I didn't factor in climate change, though. I might be OK, or I might be just another ragged, starving refugee looking for work in the banana plantations of the Yukon.

If you haven't taken the time to read John Michael Greer's last couple of essays (they were mentioned in Drumbeats, I'm pretty sure), they are interesting reading:

He makes an analogy of social evolution to species succession after a forest fire. You can't just jump back to the climax forest without going through the various stages, because the conditions in which species C will germinate and thrive is created by species B. The climax species will not flourish until the conditions are right.

The best we can hope to do is to help create that first succession society that will follow industrial civilization, though it is probably 30 years too late to start. Hopefully, the situation will develop slowly enough that it can take root and create the conditions for its succession society. If things develop too quickly, it will just be a fire that burns down to the soil. Something will spring up again, eventually.

I would add that I think some people toss those scenarios around pretty casually, without really reflecting on the horror of what it would mean if a billion plus people died of starvation.

This keeps popping up and I've stayed quiet so far, but because this is too terrible to contemplate does not mean it won't happen. Oh, and a mere billion seems low to me. I think if we're really lucky we'll only see a drop to a little bit less than that sustainable two billion number.

We live in a magical, golden age. We fly through the air, we travel for months at a time beneath the sea, and we've reached out and touched the moon. We've defeated (for the moment) all of the diseases that plagued humans for our first forty thousand years. We regularly take organs from one dying body and press them into service in another. We speak at once with others across distances that would have taken a year to cross ten generations ago.

Most of that is going away even if we're lucky. If we're unlucky its all gone. Because someone has a difficult time getting their mind around it does not make it any less likely. The causes and conditions for a dramatic drop in human population are clearly visible to anyone who seeks to see things as they are. This has gone past the point of "if" and become a "when".

The initial blows will likely come from loss of access to energy, industrial resources, food, and water. Famine and drought will bring about food and water riots, and attempts at migration.

But because of our huge dependence on cheap energy to restrain our only remaining natural predators -- disease -- once the system starts breaking down, disease will gain the upper hand again.

As the death count grows the rest of the world will soon be overwhelmed not just by the increasing number of bodies to be disposed of, but the spread of disease and disease vectors (insects, rodents, birds which carry disease) from unattended-to bodies will also increase, and further overwhelm the system.

Disease is already rampant, only being held in check preventively by hygiene with soap, pumped water, heated water, cooking food, extermination of disease vectors, and reactively with antibiotics, healthcare, and human waste disposal.

The more closely packed together humans are, all other things being equal, disease spreads faster and more easily. We have never been packed so tightly together on this planet as we are now.

We have also given numerous bacteria an upper hand by not completely and effectively treating infections, giving rise to drug-resistant strains. Widespread use of Triclosan in anti-bacterial soaps has made the problem worse, not better. This situation has led to the evolution of MDR and XDR strains of tuberculosis.

But when the system starts crashing, when it becomes harder to treat or prevent infection, it won't just be a breakout of XDR TB. It will include typhoid, cholera, meningitis, encephalitis, H5N1 flu, malaria, various hemorrhagic fevers, dysentery, hepatitis, hanta virus, and even plague, all of which are still barely being kept in check.

All of which are carried by disease vectors like lice, fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes, biting midges, various biting flies, rats, mice, squirrels, birds, and other humans (ala Typhoid Mary).

And don't forget food-borne illnesses like salmonella, botulism, and E. coli.

It won't stop at just one billion deaths.

Jeez, man- it sounds like you are whacking off to your own post.

That was constructive.

Perhaps it would have been better had I not wrote anything and kept my own understanding to myself of the deep, wide, overwhelming scope of the problem?


Right disease is another big killer. So given war famine and disease all together and a decreasing energy supply and economy. It not hard to consider 100's of millions dead. I think conceiving of billions is impossible I think your right that it will actually be disease that kills the most. Especially if a lot of the population is weakened by malnutrition. You would have to imagine some fairly virulent strains could spread causing significant deaths even in the wealthier countries.

Also intentional germ warfare is hard to dismiss especially given the new cold war that seems to be brewing.

So I think the order of causes of death will be.

1.) Disease (High possibility of intentional outbreaks)
2.) War/violent death
3.) Starvation

With starvation overtaking war in some regions.

In general the northern latitudes will suffer the least and probably overall benefit from global warming. Parts of the US especially heavily populated desert regions may become basically uninhabitable and we probably will see restrictions on movement between regions fairly early similar to Chinese internal border controls.

Outside of major disease outbreaks or extensive nuclear war we probably will keep most of our technology especially military capabilities for the foreseeable future.

The highest probability is for the formation of restrictive fascist regimes its unclear if they will continue to control large nations or break up into smaller regional powers. These will be in constant war with flare ups involving nuclear or biological attacks a high probability.

A possible future:

The US for example may effectively give op on the south western portion of the country from Southern California to western texas and create a sort of buffer zone between itself and mexico. This region may be used to house concentration camps for south Americans attempting to flee to the US and for undesirables or political prisoners. So I could easily see the south west become the American equivalent of Siberia if climate change continues and Mexico fails. So far its almost impossible to predict anything but the rise of fascism in the US and probably Europe these newly fascist regimes will probably resort to genocide during war with the current limited approach falling by the way side. "The gloves will come off"

South America will probably go with a sort of socialist fascism with internal wars and involvement of the US/Canada for strategic reasons.

The same sort of split with Europe and Africa will also probably happen with Europe effectively recolonizing Africa.

Russia and Asia will probably get involved in a messy land war with Russia and China as natural enemies as China will probably attempt to take control of the wealth of Siberia.
A good chance exists for limited nuclear exchanges between China and Russia along with a very high chance for biological warfare.

Russia will probably also get involved in at least a limited two front war in the east probably with former soviet block countries like the Ukraine with covert or overt support from Europe and the US this could well spread through all the Stans. I think Russia will find itself fighting a hot war along most of its borders with a tense situation along the European border.

It looks like the US/Europe will actually be successful in controlling the ME supply and will not only remain in Iraq but probably expand control out through the whole region.
Turkey could well turn into a powerful player forming a sort of new Ottoman Empire aligned with Europe and the US.

You can easily see how Iran becomes a issue with the world divided up this way. And Russia seems to be the golden goose of the next decade with everyone after its resources.
Around the arctic you may see more warfare with US/Canada over arctic resources.

Pakistan India southeast asia will probably just sink into massive internal conflict. Australia probably will expand to take control of some of the south east asia resources.
Japan may also follow the same pattern it did during WWII and before expanding in Siberia and Asia probably allied with Australia/US this time around. So Japan/Taiwan/Korea my represent a sort of proxy for the former democracies in the Asian war. In general life is going to get very very hard in Asia.

This seems to be the natural divisions given a resource centric war. Everyone is going after Russia and the chance exists for a massive genocide event in Iran since they effectively block western control of the ME. So this means their is a good chance for the US to deploy biological warfare in Iran if it does not use nuclear weapons.

This seems a little over the top. We haven't had a "bring out your dead" event for seven hundred years and it seems like that while things will be horrific, they won't be that horrific, at least not everywhere, and not all at once. This is deflation on many levels, not apocalypse.

I agree that our antibacterial regime has placed us at risk ... but if there are no antibiotics what is the difference between drug resistant $NASTY, and plain ol' $NASTY? Not much to the dead and dying ...

The TB spread is worrying. That is some nasty stuff in any situation and one that is resistant ... yikes!

I think we'll see a nice, concerted move to traditional medicine. I might have something starting sinus wise right now ... oregano oil in capsules ... like swallowing napalm for anything bacterial. I haven't taken an antibiotic in years - I just let my aggressive, short tempered immune system do its job ... sure, I lose a day here or there, but I'm immune all on my own to things that might swap genes with the bad stuff some day ...

We're overdue for an H5N1 outbreak, but it ain't all that. 1918 was bad, but it hit again in 1957 and 1968, and without the masses of weakened soldiers that existed during the 1918 outbreak it wasn't so bad. The pandemic chatter these days is fueled by the whole global war on Muslims, I mean terrorists - just another thing to fear.

I fear the plague called Republicans and I'm waiting for our immune system, called the separation of powers, to start doing its job. Wandering and sleepy, so I am going to bed now :-) Good night.

Ok, then suggest how we will stop the spread of disease when 6.6 billion people are running low on:
* soap
* fuel for cooking
* fuel and resources to pump, purify, and heat water
* energy to store food (refrigeration)
* insecticides
* antibiotics
* large-scale health care response
* protected septic areas (for human waste disposal)

We 6.6 billion people are food to disease. We fight off disease on a continuing basis, never defeating it, only keeping it at bay with cheap energy.

And everything we have done that hasn't yet killed disease, has only made it stronger.

Disease is not likely to be an immediate killer. Disease, however, will take over as the number of unattended dead increase. It will be some kind of system slowdown, shutdown, or crash, caused by war, the economy, or food and water shortages that causes the death toll to rise.

Afterward, you can expect disease to run rampant like wildfire, because the resources will be insufficient worldwide to stop the onslaught.

Have you thought about how you are going to protect yourself from insects, rodents, and birds that will be carrying disease? Have you thought about how you might isolate your community? Have you thought about how you're going to treat sickness? Do you have enough fuel to account for frequent cleaning of your bodies, sufficiently cooking food, and making sure water is safe to drink?

I'm not a doctor, but I was raised by two, one of them a specialist in infectious disease. So if there's an actual doctor on the boards who specializes in infection, immunology, or virology, please speak up and tell me what's wrong with this picture.

No-one's really talking about this, and no-one's really thinking about it, either. And so no-one takes the problem seriously, exactly like when peak oil, water and food shortages are brought up on other blogs and boards. "Ha ha, ridiculous, you jack off, begone."

So follow the problem through.
1. We are food to disease. Disease is our predator.
2. We attempt to fight disease preventively and reactively using cheap energy.
3. Disease spreads quickly and easily using disease vectors in the absence of preventive or reactive care. Cheap energy provides nearly all of our preventive and reactive care.
4. We have overpopulated the planet, tightly packing us in close together.
5. Disease spreads quickly and easily with high population density. We have never been more densely populated worldwide than we are now.
6. We aren't concerned with what just one disease will do, we're concerned with what all of them will do without the resources to keep them or their vectors in check.

This is by no means over the top. This is how it works.

Disease will not necessarily start a crash or die-off, but if we don't understand how the process works, if we don't take steps now, disease will definitely keep a die-off or population crash in motion, and highly likely accelerate it.

It won't stop at one billion deaths, precisely because of the kind of current reactions coming from Bob Wallace and BrianT: ignorance and ridicule.

SCT, on the other hand, at least approaches it with healthy (pun) skepticism. And yes, there are people like SCT who have strong immune systems. They are the exception, rather than the rule. People also usually have to deal with only one or two diseases at a time, rather than waves of several simultaneously.

SCT, you should at least be slightly concerned regarding disease. You should be afraid of how your unwashed fellow monkeys will react to it. Much like peak oil.

But, hey, I'm not a doctor, so I'll shut up about this. WTF do I know, huh?

I'm not a doctor, ... WTF do I know, huh?

A couple of years ago, I'd never heard of vancomycin.
Now it's an everyday word, just as is MRSA (Medicine Resistant Staph [hospital]-Acquired).

I'm not a doc either.

P.S. Lately in the microbe world there is a new scare called "Peak Human Population". They are worried that their food supply might hit a peak and then rapidly decline. Microbe pundits however assure inhabitants of the petri dish that it is all a hoax.

P.P.S. Are you people watching the crude prices to the right? Climbing towards $85 this morning?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — often called "staph." Decades ago, a strain of staph emerged in hospitals that was resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. Dubbed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), it was one of the first germs to outwit all but the most powerful drugs. MRSA infection can be fatal.

Interesting that today the CDC raises the alarm on MRSA as being potentially more dangerous than AIDS:

I think a component of our health is the fact that we know where such troubles come from and in the past we, as a species, have assumed it was bad spirits. That tidbit alone pulls half of the teeth for disease.

I count on reduced oil to mean reduced travel - a sort of partial quarantine just due to the nature of things.

So ... that was the amount of thought I'd put into it. You are technically correct ... but too technical :-)

Is there a resource out there for planning? I don't mean perfect, technical expert planning, I mean an incremental sort of thing, like I'm doing now on the food, ammo, & spare parts front? If not can you author it as part of a community oriented survivalist effort? Has this already been done somewhere and we're just not aware of it?

So ... this is a question of proportion ... the gun nuts are prepared to shoot any species in North America at distances up to 1k yards, the infectious disease specialists are ready for any plague, the entomologists are all culturing honey bees and mason bees, but if you don't have all three in one location (community!!!) you're screwed.

Disseminate your expertise in digestible chunks :-) I'll be trying to do the same with IP networking and radio communications ...

"I'll be trying to do the same with IP networking and radio communications ..."

Question then: Do you have a rig and are you on the air?

What band then if you are?

Where have you gone with this beyond packet radio and BBSing?

My last looksee showed me that radio packet made dial look like greased lightening. Has something changed?

I have a Yaesu FT990, fully loaded and am wondering if anyone is going anywhere with the technology other than simple ragchewing.


PS. I would like to see a PeakOil net with a good sked. Maybe I will get a vertical up soon..right now I am just letting it gather dust.2 meter is great but soooo limited and the folks there IMO would just roll over on the PO issue. Nice to have something viable for when TSHTF.

Tech only, but I blew the general by one question and I'd not studied. Lots of physics and such in my background and I could get it pretty easily now.

I currently have a mighty Yaesu VX-2R. I'm about twenty two air miles from the nearest 2M repeater.

I suppose I should lay hands on an HF rig and pass the test now that they've dropped code, but I am constrained by time and money.

If I get set up we'll do a regular peak oil net on 20M?


Good post and very relevant. Definitely another wild card in the equation of our future.

London, Ont.

No one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

"Will our political leaders ever pass energy legislation that truly helps to mitigate falling production?"

Are you insane or just in an advance state of desperation? You think that a bunch of power motivated perverts can just write down their desires for more energy to coincide with your dreams, and you are suddenly saved from inevitable consequences? Pass a law and overwrite the laws of nature, seems to be much more wishful thinking than rational though.

I think that the ability to accept the logical future is a function of one's ability to deal with it. If you live in a high rise building in NY City, or if you have a 80' X 80' lot in the suburbs, completely dependent on the efforts of others to keep you alive, then you like the idea that we will collectively come up with solutions. If you are living on 300 acres complete with livestock, running water, gardening tools and relationships with productive neighbors, then I think you are more prone to accept the dieoff future.

So , what to do ?

Locally we have started a group to discuss
Voluntary Simplicity


Also a google video - ZEITGEIST, The Movie

Almost 40,000 watched this yesterday ... #1 Video

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the post, and for continuing to grapple with all this.

re: "then I imagine the average person has a lot of consumption that they can cut."

I read as far down (so far) as Saildog's comment below, which is similar to a thought I had.

To pose a somewhat contrary thought (not to contradict you , rather in an attempt to add to the discussion): I wonder if the problem for the individual/family will not have more to do with factors other than the seemingly direct ones - (rise in gasoline price, heating oil price rise and/or shortages, etc.) - which, as you point out, can be compensated for by ride-sharing and so forth.

It seems to me the main advantage to be had in a time of decreasing energy input (as we face) lies in overall financial position, including earning power. So, in a way, I believe it might be somewhat easy to make the opposite case (i.e., to the one that others have more places they can conserve).

It's more like - what happens in a personal emergency and how can one cope? (eg. you must know what category you're in to even have savings).

eg. - It may not be the commute, but rather the job loss. Or, the time spent on public transportation (eg., riding the bus) can cut drastically down on time spent on other self-sufficiency measures (including looking for that next job).

Having said that, I wonder,

re: "Governments could play a huge role here by getting serious about a long-term energy strategy. But on this point, I don't hold out much hope as it would require that the public is asked to sacrifice - usually not something that will make you popular when running for reelection."

It's funny, I've talked to so many people who want solar, but don't know how to go about it (money-wise, or policy-wise).

I'm not so sure that it's the public sacrifice that is really the issue - perhaps something more along the lines of "corporate sacrifice"?

By this I mean, to put in place policies that favor re-localization of anything, in effect re-winds globalization, doesn't it?

So, just to say, on the positive side - it may be the case people want to - or would like to - find a way. They just don't know what that way would be.

So, for eg., one practical thing might be to think about how to encourage (fund, entice) young persons to take up careers in organic ag, and the supporting careers that keep ag going. (eg., soil scientists, integrated pest management experts)

Another practical one, I'd say...not to under-estimate the potential for exercising leadership - on the level at which you believe leadership is needed. (Something I'd say to many others on TOD.)

While I don't think that the Great Depression offers a totally relevant template for the impending crisis, there are some good lessons that we can apply.

A big one: It would not have been possible for the programs of FDRs first 100 days in 1933 to have been implemented in 1929, or 1930, or even 1931. FDR could not have been elected in 1928, or probably even in 1930 if the election had been then.

The drastic action required can't happen until AFTER we are in DEEP trouble.

I hold no hope of seeing anything close to an effective and appropriate government response until after the 2012 election cycle at the very earliest. That's when I'm in an optimistic mood, which isn't often these days.

The big question is whether by that time, it will be a case of "too little, too late" no matter what the government does.

I notice that a lot of people talk mostly about falling back on organic farming. What about the other vital skills (i.e., spindles, looms, carpentry (without power tools), blacksmithy, glassblowing, cartwrighting, salt harvesting, etc.)? Even modern bakers today who rely only on processed white flower have forgotten a lot of technology that would be needed in a powered-down world; these bakers don't know how to work with whole-wheat flour that goes rancid because of the oils found in the wheat germ.

This is a huge community survival issue. I've been wondering about all sorts of things along these lines: Where do I get more glass jars ... locally? Who makes the replacement handle if I break my square spade ... locally?

I can answer the carpentry without power question myself ... I'd go to the garage and get out my father's old tools. I personally have a huge benefit of living in a rural area and with someone who went through the Great Depression. The rest of the country is probably not so lucky ... how to gather all this up and disseminate? There is probably a web site already doing so ... but which?

Somebody should come up with a website. I haven't seen any.

I think these might be a starting point, but I'm still shaking off that "OMG we are so toast" feeling I got when I started reading here, so I've not had time to digest all of it.

Your kidding me.

Never heard of WWW.WTDWTSHTF.COM...?

been in every post Durandal has made here.

But unless your an 'embarrassed' survivalist then perhaps your not up to the raw meat there(gardening,soil,planning,etc..all killer subjects which will completely render one embarrassed.


There are people out there doing traditional hand crafts (a lot of them are here in WNC). Right now, they are mostly making stuff for the upscale market. That is what they have to do to make a living. Once the economy changes and mass-produced goods become more expensive and unavailable, while the upscale market dries up, you can bet that they can switch to filling the gap left by the closed-down mass producers. Others will apprentice with them to learn their crafts.

Don't expect this to be an inexpensive solution, though. The reason they were mostly put out of business in the first place is because mass production offers economies of scale. You might eventually be able to get a hand-blown mason jar, formed from recycled broken canning jars in a mold made from an intact jar. You might be able to get it, but it will be hugely more expensive. This will provide people with a huge incentive to handle their canning jars with extreme care, and to carefully gather up the glass from any broken jars to trade with the glass blower for a discount on replacement jars.

Follow this same line of thought across a whole range of goods, and you start to get a feel for what the future economy will be like.

Dieoff isn't going to happen unless we get a nuclear war.
I'm not even with those who say we're going to suffer a powerdown.
What's going to happen is plain and simple:

As costs of petroleum rise expenditure will shift around in the economy, leading to economic collapse in some sections.
This will lead to recession and rising unemployment and aborted recoveries then recession then rising unemployment ad nauseum.

The unanswered question is at what level do we hit sustainability?

Those who say that food depends on petroleum transport are talking out of their asses.

What, pray tell, petroleum input goes into the potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, garlic etc that I am growing in my backyard?
Answer: NONE.

Those who say that food depends on petroleum feeding fertiliser are also talking out of their asses.

What fertisiler goes into the food growing in my backyard?

Can we make do WITHOUT petroleum to run e.g. tractors on high intensity farmland?

Sure we can. There is such a thing as electric tractors.
Are we going to argue now that wind is SO intermittent that we will be unable to plant or harvest because we depend on the wind? Don't be DUMB. We will wait a day or two till the wind comes back or we will use HUMAN LABOR. Hell, there is no shortage of Mexicans.

So what does Peak oil really mean?


We will get POOR not DEAD.


As an organic farmer I once thought that organic agriculture could save all the people. I no longer feel that way.

Global Organic food is very small . Fossil fuels have produced too many people to to be sustained on organic methods

An electric tractor ??? GEAT REAL

If everyone walks out the door next spring with spade in hand its a revolution. Heck, if one member of every household does this its a flippin' revolution. What a perfect job for those idle city kids today, and even better for that unemployed spouse as the whole ARM fiasco unwinds.

Of course I'm filled with hope as I read How To Grow More Vegetables so maybe it'll wear off in a few years.

An electric tractor ??? GEAT REAL

I have operated an electric tractor. The idea is not as far fetched as you might think. One of the national corporate farms has a large presence in my area and they had a tractor converted to electric operation as an experiment against the possibility of a liquid fuels shortage. It is not battery powered, but rather connects to the grid via a tether (what normal people refer to as an extension cord).

My company helped design and implement the conversion. When they first came to me with it my response was "Are you nuts" but in reality, it makes a certain degree of sense. Most agricultural fields are big, flat, and open. We run temporary irrigation lines a mile or more...why not a power line to operate your equipment?

Weird...yes...but why not? The electrical grid in most farming areas is a lot more robust than you might imagine. 3 phase power is not hard to come by (I have 3 phase at my house). The conversion was simple and surprisingly cheap. While up front fixed costs would be high (large spools of wire, some kind of handling system, etc...) they could be amortized over 30 years.

We have center pivot irrigation - why not do a center pivot power pole for garden devices? Oh, best practices seem to indicate the care of hand working the soil, if this How To Grow More Vegetables is to be believed, but there are certainly applications.

I think the "GET REAL" is for the idea of doing it with batteries - they're heavy and we want to avoid soil compaction, and tractors use a lot of juice over the distances they move when working.

Batteries aren't necessarily bad in a tractor. One needs the weight to plow through rocky Maine soil. Here are two pictures of John Howe's latest - bigger than his first FarmAll. [These smaller pictures are linked to much bigger versions.]

The solar panel on top only powered accessories and is now gone - too much rattling around. If my memory is right it takes John about three good days to charge it up with his solar panel array to do half a days work; it's nowhere near real time. [I do have the data in my notes, but have to bring in my own harvest first.]

cfm in Gray, ME

We have center pivot irrigation - why not do a center pivot power pole for garden devices? Oh, best practices seem to indicate the care of hand working the soil, if this How To Grow More Vegetables is to be believed, but there are certainly applications.

Indeed. Or a set of electrified overhead rails running down the middle of the field to which your leads attach??

My personal estimate regarding post peak decline is probably more dire than most peoples, and is regional in nature. I have trouble believing that in the face of peak oil nations like Russia will continue to export since the advantages of having that cheap (to produce) energy supply available for their own consumption would FAR outweigh the advantages (cash in hand) of selling it. That being the case, I would not be surprised to see a 30-50% decline in US oil availability in the first 5 years.

I still do not think it is logical to imagine a massive die off due to lack of available food in the US. I certainly expect to see changes in our food system, and a change in how people eat. For example, cheap strawberries in Minnesota in December will probably be a thing of the past. Growing wheat in Kansas, shipping it to New Jersey to be processed into white flour, then shipping it back to Kansas so they can bake bread at the interstate bakeries plant, to then be shipped all over the country, will probably be a thing of the past as well....but that is stupid now.

Out current food production scheme is based on cheap energy for transport, but loosing that cheap energy does not mean that we all starve to death, it means that we have to adapt the transport side of the equation. Winter wheat can be grown just about anywhere, as can field corn. We grow it in "the breadbasket" because lower production costs offset increased transport costs. If we reach the point that equation changes, it will make sense to shift production to other parts of the country. There is a lot of land in this nation that could be used as cropland that is not. We have wiggle room to adapt and even if we did see a massive decrease in available oil, by rationing what is available and prioritizing food production, we will have time to make a transition. And....I think that whoever is running the country when that time comes will do what it takes to make sure that food production continues. One thing that leaders seem to understand pretty much universally is that "three meals from anarchy" is not just a catch phrase. People will tolerate a lot, but not hunger.

If push comes to shove, you can add some information about raising rabbits, quail, or muscovies, to the knowledge you are gaining about growing veggies, and raise enough in a suburban back yard to pretty much meet all your food needs. Sell some rabbits and use the money to buy flour and milk and you are set. You would be eating healtier than you probably ever have in your life.

While I see a die off as pretty improbable, I don't think that a kill off is out of the question. I have spent a pretty good bit of time in places where TSHTF, order broke down, and people got hacked to pieces with machetes. People are not nice. Our social system, which ensures that for the most part people get fed and have at lest their basic necessities met, generates an illusion of "niceness". In the real world the cloak of civilization that we all wear is thin and easily torn, and once enough people have discarded it there is nothing to do but stand back and wait until the slaughter subsides.

Sorry this post was kind of all over the place. To be honest I find the format here to be a little difficult, so I figured I would stick all this in one post and then it will be easy to find any replies.

In the real world the cloak of civilization that we all wear is thin and easily torn, and once enough people have discarded it there is nothing to do but stand back and wait until the slaughter subsides.

I get frustrated when people like to point out to the evilness to the world and shouts "this is how man REALLY is", which would bring me to the question: what is love then? What is generosity then?

Why is that everything that is good in humankind considered an hypocrisy, and everything that is bad considered its "true nature"? It swings both ways people. It's like those stupid statements I hear once in a while that says something in the order of mankind being sleeping for decades, making hypocritically good things, and then ITS TRUE NATURE ATTACKS in a sudden blow. It's idiocy talking. Come on. We are always at our "true nature". Sometimes, we are generous, others, evil, mostly, tolerant.

It's called free will.

This is only a small rant. I liked your post and I fully agree with your points. I don't think we'll see a massive die-off.

I get frustrated when people like to point out to the evilness to the world and shouts "this is how man REALLY is", which would bring me to the question: what is love then? What is generosity then?

Why is that everything that is good in humankind considered an hypocrisy, and everything that is bad considered its "true nature"? It swings both ways people. It's like those stupid statements I hear once in a while that says something in the order of mankind being sleeping for decades, making hypocritically good things, and then ITS TRUE NATURE ATTACKS in a sudden blow. It's idiocy talking. Come on. We are always at our "true nature". Sometimes, we are generous, others, evil, mostly, tolerant.

People tend to be as nice, generous, and loving as they feel they can. When you get to the poinr where base survival is in doubt, all that "nice" tends to evaporate and humans behave like any other species that is badly overpopulated (keeping in mind that carrying capacity for humans is a moving milestone based on ability to provide base needs).

This is only a small rant. I liked your post and I fully agree with your points. I don't think we'll see a massive die-off.

Personally I think there is probably about a 10% chance of a major die off, and a 40% chance of a major kill off. I am not loosing any sleep over it.

I do think that people should make sure they have some basic gardening knowledge (read a book) and possibly some knowledge when it comes to raising small animals (rabbits, quail, ducks, etc...). If food prices continue to grow at their present pace it will not be too long before a garden can provide significant savings when it comes to your grocery bill.

Or a set of electrified overhead rails running down the middle of the field to which your leads attach?

Or why not even simpler - two parallel sets of rail at opposing edges of a field, running a pair of carts hooked together by a wire (think a structure like an H).

The wire will provide electricity to a *robotic* tractor, which you use as a tiller, plough, grate, fertilizer, seeding, combine or whatever appliance you need. Generic like a tractor. It will run down the length of the wire, then the carts on the rails will move a few yards, and the robot will run up the length of the wire. Rinse, repeat. When harvesting, the harvester will drop of harvest on carts at every end. They might even use the rails to automatically drive back the harvest to the farm.

Fully automated, remotely controlled or even pre-programmed, electricity-driven farming.

Just keep the kids outa da field, but that goes when you use the combine or tractor anyway.

Gimme a couple of hundred million in capital, and it could come true. Wouldn't even be expensive, heck you just use the same adapter for the robot running up and down the wire as you have for standard farming equipment today.

Damn, now someone steals my idea. Aw...

You miss the problem of scale. Sure, you may be able to do these things, but a large city cant. Example, where I live in London Ontario were it be be fully reliant upon local farming would require an area 35 miles in radius. But that overlaps other cities too, not including all the people who live in the Golden Horseshoe. Bottom line is that southern Ontario cannot feed it's population on it's own. The growing season is too short.

We can hope that global warming will lengthen that.

And all that food has to be transported to the cities. Rail lines are all but gone since the 1980s. So that leaves trucks, that means fuel.

London Ont.

No one is ahead of their time, just the rest of humanity is slow to catch on.

At what level do we hit sustainability?

In the US, maybe around 25% of present GDP per capita. That is a hopeful, best case analysis. It is based upon the posting that Francois Cellier made a few months ago with regard to ecological footprints; the link is posted upthread so I won't repeat it here. According to Dr. Cellier's analysis, those societies that are at or close to a sustainable footprint and are also at a relatively higher (not highest) level of human development are at or near 25% of the US per capita GDP. It is apparently not possible to be much above that level and still be sustainable. Interestingly, 25% of our present per capita GDP takes us back to 1941, or takes us to Costa Rica (best case) or Cuba (worst case) today. Poorer, yes; end of the world, no. Maybe life could even be better in some intangible ways.

I don't know if we can somehow manage to slide down and level off there or not. Maybe the dieoff doomers are right. But I think it is worth a try.


The basic adjustment that the US economy will need to make is not economic, but psychological. Massive numbers of people will have to face up to the fact that their services are not worth as much as they once were, and in fact are not really worth very much at all now. That is a very big, gut-wrenching shock. Hardly anyone has dared to even suggest it in public, anywhere. It would be certain electoral (and maybe even real) death for any politician that came close to suggesting it. But it is the hard, brutal truth. We are just kidding ourselves when we think that we have millions of functionally illiterate and innumerate citizens that are "worth" $7/hour; the reality is that most of them are hardly worth even $0.70/hour, right now - let alone a few years from now. We continue to crank out millions upon millions of funtionally illiterate and innumerate "graduates" from our public school systems each year, while most Chinese students are required to learn calculus. And we think that we can afford to ship all of our manufacturing jobs overseas, because we're going to be the "knowledge workers"!

The big adjustments that are going to have to be made are:

1) Reality therapy: Stopping the BS and facing up the the fact that we, the people, are now, mostly, worth-less as far as the global labor marketplace is concerned.

2) Dropping the farce and charade and false ego-booster that the minimum wage has become, and letting people work for whatever they are worth, however little that may be.

3) Making it possible for people earning the very little that they are worth to actually live on that paltry wage. That is going to mean throwing the snob zoning on the dustbin and allowing higher density patterns of habitation and more multi-family residences. It is going to mean more dormitories and soup kitchens, even in so-called "good" neighborhoods. It is going to mean more mass transit and transit oriented development. (Calling Alan Drake!) It is going to mean more community gardens, with opportunities for the hungry to grow their own food. Maybe we'll need some CCC-style programs to provide useful work for those that need it.

Something along these lines will eventually happen, but not for a while, and not with any of the current sorry lot running for Prez.

Petroleum & fertilizer inputs

Backyards AND frontyards will all eventually have to be pressed into food production. The digging can be done by hand, though the employment of some power equipment will get the job done a lot quicker, and probably will be done before we run out of oil altogether. Once the soil has been initially turned over, maintaining it with hand digging is less of a daunting prospect. For fertilization, at a minimum we do need compost, and that includes composting animal manure. Human waste also needs to be recycled (humanure), but there are hygenic considerations requiring careful handling; maybe those should be set up on a neighborhood or municipal basis. For animal manure, in most urban and small town neighborhoods people will need to be raising small stock along with vegies: chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats, maybe pigs. Without generous helpings of compost and manure, it will indeed be difficult to maintain soil fertility.

Electric tractors Maybe someday. Given the existing installed base of diesel-powered farm equipment, you are going to see a massive changeover to biodiesel long before you start to see widespread changeover to electric tractors.

In the US, maybe around 25% of present GDP per capita. That is a hopeful, best case analysis. It is based upon the posting that Francois Cellier made a few months ago with regard to ecological footprints; the link is posted upthread so I won't repeat it here. According to Dr. Cellier's analysis, those societies that are at or close to a sustainable footprint and are also at a relatively higher (not highest) level of human development are at or near 25% of the US per capita GDP. It is apparently not possible to be much above that level and still be sustainable. Interestingly, 25% of our present per capita GDP takes us back to 1941, or takes us to Costa Rica (best case) or Cuba (worst case) today. Poorer, yes; end of the world, no. Maybe life could even be better in some intangible ways.

Your analysis may still be a bit on the optimistic side. Remember that both Cuba and Costa Rica are in the tropics, i.e., they can grow food 12 months per year, i.e., they can grow food for immediate consumption and don't need to invest much in food storage technology. Food storage consumes additional energy.

Bonjour, Dr. Cellier!

Yes, you and I have had this conversation before. Being non-tropical does present an additional challenge. On the other hand, an annual hard frost does a lot for cutting down insect populations naturally. And if I understand correctly, there are major fertility issues with some tropical soils. So there may be some tradeoffs.

There are some relatively inexpensive (both monitarilly and in terms of energy & other resource inputs) techniques that can be used to extend the growing season almost year round in temperate climates, like cloches and cold frames. These won't allow one to have tomatoes in January, but kale, spinach, and salad greens, yes. Greenhouses are more expensive and resource intensive, of course, but can allow for virtually year-round vegetable production.

As for food preservation, root cellars can be built relatively inexpensively, and require no ongoing energy inputs. Besides root crops, they also serve well to preserve apples, cabbages, and a variety of other vegetables and fruits over the winter. Dehydration is another inexpensive food preservation method. Solar dehydrators can be put together with scrap pieces of wood, metal, glass, and aluminum foil. Canning is a more energy-intensive method, to be sure, and it is true that people living in the tropics could probably dispense with it. All this means is that people living in temperate regions, to maintain the same level of per capita GDP, would have to give up something else in exchange.

That is probably even more the case, though, when it comes to residential heating. Compared to the energy required to keep people from freezing during the winter, the amount of energy that must be expended in food preservation is relatively trivial. People in temperate zones need to live in highly insulated, weather-tight housing with some type of heating plant. People living in the tropics don't really need much more than a simple roof over their heads (and there are millions of people around the world who do literally live that way). That is the really big difference. People living in temperate zones must pay a heavy "premium" to live where they do because of that basic fact. To get to and maintain a sustainable economy, people living in temperate zones must accept some significant lifestyle sacrifices compared to what is possible in the tropical zones. Considering that this is on top of the sacrifices implicit in a 75% reduction in our per capita GDP, that means that we are going to have to live pretty poor lives indeed! But it can be done, and life can go on.

Unless Mr. Browne,your potatoes and backyard can support a planet full of people perhaps you shouldn't be so dadburned snarky about it!!!



Send me your latest brochure on your Electric Tractors...I got a man with 3,000 acres and he might could replace his 300 hp Ford Diesel 4 wheel drive tractors with them.

You might not like doomerchat but you need to get a clue on the oil thing.

So you say....unemployment happens ...duhhh then whose going to be packing food into that mass of unemployed folks?

Simple chain,,follow it please,,,oil is needed to move commodities from farm to mouth....lots and lots and lots of diesel and the truck I drive hauling grain is lucky to get 4 mpg and so electric can somehow move that 80,000 lb vehicle?

And overnite we switch everything to electric tractors? How big are those batteries than can power what was 200-300 hp?

Haul a 32 ft. set of shanks and a backend rolling harrow with some batteries? What about the combines?

Can we talk?


Didn't know PO was about the oil running out all'o'a'sudden.



WDYKMFACS(CLUE-sucker is the last word..)

Figure that one out...

So we will have all these elec tractors just before the oil becomes sparse enough to not be able to till the ground with diesel and the chemical inputs are too expensive?
JIT electric tractors anyone?

The bell curve explains it all.

Might wanta try some new reading glasses fella.


Zinc-air batteries (fuel cells, actually) are capable of running city buses on the order of 100 miles/day on a single fueling.  The throughput given electric regeneration of the spent zinc appears to be about 25%, but that's adequate (efficiency using carbon to reduce the zinc is higher).

Power Air Corporation was/is marketing ZAFC's which can be refuelled in minutes.  Suppose there's a businessman who drives by the farm every day or two during the active season, picks up the zinc hydroxide and drops off a load of powdered zinc (his truck will run on a ZAFC too).  Do you think that this is impossible?

Phew! I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but after reading all of the above, I can't help:


Hey, that feels better. But I do fear greatly for the under-50 crowd and the unborn.

Best of luck to you all from a small farm village in the remote mountains of Central America. I only wish I could come back here in 50 years and see how little it has changed...

Hello to westtexas and oilmanbob, and all the others who make this such an informative and entertaining site.

Congratulations WT on your discovery, I too work shallow oil in central Texas and know many of its headaches. When are you scheduled to speak this Thursday as I would like to attend?

Thanks, and GIG'EM - AGGIES

Thursday afternoon. I'll be at A&M Wednesday night discussing Peak Oil.

Interesting times in the Oil Patch. I have been telling everyone that this is not the real "boom." We are on the verge of a never ending desperate search for any and all forms of energy. But I try to be realistic about how much difference we can make with conventional oil reserves. As noted up the thread, we can at least try to be net energy producers, have a positive impact on our communities, and put people to work.

Hi Westexas,

I agree. In the county where my production is ( rural, good farm land, decent pasture for cattle) I have been wondering if there is some way to make and run a small refinery and then barter for food and services with homemade gasoline and diesel. This is really not my area of expetise and I haven't seen any discussion along this line here, but I think on a local scale ,where shallow production exists, this would be something to look into.


Regarding "Sustainability"

It does not exist in the real world today.
May not have existed after we started Agriculture.

How many watts to pull a disc plow or ripper shank. Electric is not going to make it.

My solar electric wood harvester

I've walked down our streets and attempted to imagine what our neighborhood and town would be like with 2 out of 3 houses still standing, but empty.

But the way I think it would play out is something similar to the protrayal of a town after a nuclear war as portrayed in the movie tiled "Testament."

If you've never seen it (it was an early 1980's release; 1983 according to it's worth renting and watching.

I don't see why a population cascade to the level where it was at the time oil was put to great use is so hard to imagine. Oil has fueled the great global population boom over the last 120 or so odd years. Without a miracle substitute, the global population will return to that equilibrium point. And yes, it's going to be ugly.

Fortunately, there's a lot of good info in wide circulation that we can use to plan ahead. It's that, Permaculture, and hoping for the best -- and I won't have sympathy for those who know what we know now and still refuse to plan ahead.