USA 2034: A Look Back at the 25th Anniversary Year

This is a guest vision by friend of The Oil Drum, Alan S. Drake.

After an extended period of bewildering, painful and rewarding transition, the people of the USA finally feel that they have found their feet underneath them, with a clear and hopeful path to the future. Oil consumption is down to 6.6 million barrels/day, 30% of our 2007 peak oil use, and CO2 emissions are 26% of their 2011 peak, a matter of pride for most Americans.

Rapid reductions in world carbon emissions (almost as great as US reductions), plus some negative feedback loops, have kept Global Warming effects manageable. Persistent and prolonged droughts in the American Southwest have been the largest effect so far in the USA.

At long last the goal of “Not One Drop” of oil is being burned to transport people and freight over the nations railroads. All of the main and secondary lines are electrified with battery locomotives for some short spurs.

A nationwide system of grade separated main lines are complete with new extensions being added every year. Two tracks for heavy freight moving at 50 to 70 mph and one or two tracks (three in California and the Northeast) for passengers and light & medium density freight moving at maximum speeds of 110 to 125 mph. The 2005 CSX proposal for Washington DC to Miami became a template for the nation. There is growing demand for true high speed rail and politicians are searching for funding.

All interstate highways are heavily tolled and reduced to no more than 4 lanes (a few urban 6 and even 8 lanes survive) with some down to one travel lane in each direction with a wide and unmaintained shoulder. Heavy trucking is reduced to shuttling containers from the nearest railhead to those remaining warehouses and factories not directly served by rail, plus a few specialty roles such as delivering wind turbines to remote rural locations.

Boeing 797s (successor to 737 using 787 technology) rule the skies, with different models providing 130 to 210 seats on direct flights between major rail centers at fuel saving cruise speeds of 400 to 450 mph. The new paradigm for cross-country travel is to take rail to the regional hub airport, catch one of the 1 to 3 direct daily flights to another hub airport and rail to the final destination. Regional passenger rail dominates inter-city trips up to 250 miles and becomes a minor mode for trips much over 600 miles. Overall travel volumes have declined dramatically due to increasing costs and reduced economic activity.

Barge traffic picked up significantly twenty years ago, with container barge trains stopping daily (one up stream bound, the other downstream bound) at every major river port. Ever higher oil prices, have made electrified railroads more competitive and they have taken market share from the barges in recent years. Tugs are experimenting with coal emulsion fuel as a counter measure.

The North American electrical grid failed in it’s goal of 90% non-GHG generation due to a hotter than expected summer, but 89.7% is still a major step forward ! Wind turbines supplied nearly half the total MWh, and nuclear power over a quarter. For the first time the USA completed six nuclear reactors this year (with one each in Canada and Mexico as well). The new large Canadian hydro projects are pretty well complete and the microhydro saturation in USA is well over half completed. Several percent come from solar thermal in the desert Southwest (USA & Mexico) and solar photovoltaic is now growing exponentially, reminding many of the earlier “Rush to Wind”.

A growing grid of HV DC lines (3 to 10 GW capacity each) connect wind turbines from the Wind Export Belt to both pumped storage and demand centers in redundant triangles. The first such triangle connected western Oklahoma, pumped storage near Chattanooga Tennessee and Orlando Florida (with a spur to Miami). A short spur from Chattanooga to near Birmingham Alabama created more parallel paths and added Alabama to the new HV DC grid. Other HV DC triangles connect Southern California to Wyoming and Montana (started in 2006) with pumped storage in the Rockies and North Dakota/Manitoba with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Chicago. And thirty more such triangles exist..

Occasionally fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) are burned to generate electricity during a cold winter spell, but coal fired plants are routinely fired for months each summer to meet the still large air conditioner demand. Debate over how to turn these power plants off still rages.

Some point to the success of the conversion from oil heat to ground loop (geothermal) heat pumps and suggest this is a worthwhile path to reduce residual residential natural gas demand and to create more efficient air conditioning.

Others point to the success of implementing German standards for insulation and energy efficiency for new construction (R-49 walls etc for most of the nation) and suggest accelerated scrapping of inaccessible housing (with the well known other energy savings and carbon capture that go with converting Suburbia back to orchards) and further expanding TOD housing, both in Urban and Suburban commuter rail nodes. They criticize the money wasted on retrofitting insulation into Exurban McMansions that were later abandoned, while others think the Great Retreat from Suburbia has run it’s course and we should focus more on retrofitting older construction and less on new. All sides agree with strengthening the insulation and energy efficiency upgrades required before rental housing can be sold.

There is also a raging debate between solar, wind and nuclear supporters on how best to eliminate the summer coal burning. Wind proponents point to their lower cost of production/MWh and that new nukes will require just as much pumped storage as would new wind, They also mention the Bellefonte Incident.

Nuke supporters say that several times each year we have a surplus of wind already (all pumped storage full, nuke production stepped down and still power goes to waste) and fewer than 100 people died in the Bellefonte Incident. Wind turbine maintenance kills a dozen every year. Wind production drops in the summer and there is no practical way to store large amounts of power from spring into summer unless the Great Lakes Scheme is implemented. And even holding back the spring waters in the Great Lakes till summer would not be enough.

Solar proponents argue that solar output peaks at noon on summer solstice, and has not significantly declined by mid-afternoon in late summer when coal burning reaches a maximum. Solar is underrepresented in the national grid and more solar will help the grid.

And many Greens just want higher in-door temperatures and less air conditioning till the last coal fired plant is mothballed !

Arlington Texas is now the last American town over 100,000 without electrified public transportation (just as it was the only town without public buses 25 years ago). Needless to say Arlington is a dangerous, bankrupt slum and will soon slip below 100,000 population (at least those willing to be counted). The Texas Rangers moved from their Arlington stadium to a light rail hub over a decade ago so that fans could get to games.

Elsewhere, an array of subways and elevated rapid Rail, plus Light Rail, Streetcars and electric trolley buses supply the majority of urban Vehicles Miles Traveled and commuter trains keep the remaining suburban townships going. At night trolley freight uses the tracks to distribute food and goods. Most towns of 60,000 and more have some form of electrified transit today.

Boston was a historic example of a comprehensive commuter rail network that can support walkable suburbia clustered around rail stations. Today, dozens of cities now emulate Boston and almost a fifth of the population lives in Transit Suburbia as it is now called.

Polls from the turn of the century showed that 30% of Americans wanted to live in Transit Orientated Development but fewer than 2% could because of the lack thereof. Today, in a reverse of the White Flight to Suburbia from 1950 to 1970, almost exactly one third of the population lives in TOD and another quarter want to as part of the Great Retreat from Suburbia.

Electric assisted tricycles have become the icon of aging baby boomers, and the constant butt of jokes on late night TV talk shows. They are the ULTIMATE un-cool means of transportation and NO self-respecting teenager would EVER be caught on one !

The “in ride” is a recumbent bicycle with an oversized rear tire and fairings painted in iridescent (or black) paint, preferably with a matching single wheel trailer for “stuff”.

Early in the Post-Peak Oil Era, many turned to gasoline powered scooters and small motorcycles, but first public policy and then economics turned against them when it was realized that 100 mpg was not good enough (and accidents mounted). Instead electric assist bicycles were encouraged and many two ways streets were turned into one way streets with the other lane becoming a two way bike lane. Segways also developed a loyal following.

In the early years Post-Peak Oil, Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (such as the classic The New Model T) and Bicycles contested for modal share with the out-of-shape and obese strongly favoring NEVs at first. Cultural values and parking fees lead to today’s dominance by bicycles but NEVs still occupy a large niche.

Plug-in Hybrids and small diesels also had a contest for modal share. Farmers and other rural residents tend towards small diesels, many of whom make their own (or buy a neighbors) small scale bio-diesel. Surviving Suburbanites tend towards PHEVs, which typically get 100 to 130 mpg today.

However, since the cost of maintaining the remaining roads (asphalt is just very heavy oil that can be upgraded to fuel) has escalated dramatically and public policy has placed the full cost of all city streets and rural roads on privately owned cars and trucks (most heavily on those that use oil) and removed it from property taxes (bicycles get a free ride), the inflation adjusted cost of operating a 100 mph PHEV or small diesel is several times that of operating a Hummer in 2009. Given the economic decline Post-Peak Oil, driving a full size car is reserved for the well-to-do and is occasionally meet with hostility, especially towards those that drive oil burners and not straight EVs.

Most Post-Peak Oil Suburbia descended into a spiral that duplicated the post-WW II decline of central cities and downtowns. Mortgage defaults started the decline, with empty houses first depressing the market, followed by declining public services, poorer schools and changing population demographics and ever rising oil prices past all expectations.

The revocation of prohibitions against “red lining” (to reduce massive mortgage losses) brought back the same post-WW II effects that central cities once experienced. Willing buyers had trouble financing Suburban housing due to their perpetually declining values and massive overhang of unsold properties.

Recent academic studies have shown that once a subdivision stayed below 42% occupancy for over a year, there would be no recovery. Occupancy rates quickly plunged in “Suburban Flight” after this tipping point. After that, experience has taught us that salvaging the empty homes for materials and planting the land with orchard crops was usually the optimum choice.

Housing square feet/capita has more than doubled in the 60 years prior to Peak Oil, and declined that much and more in the last 25 years. Retail space had expanded by an order of magnitude and underwent a similar decline. The prolonged economic depression due to persistent and ever growing oil shortfalls resulted in much more compressed populations relying on primarily non-oil transportation. Even 100 mpg scooters cost too much for most people. Walking, bicycling (electric assist for the better off), electrified rail, mainly small electrical vehicles for the upper class, and even the occasional horse or a donkey with cart.

“The Energy Solution” first put forward in 2008 included housing as part of the transportation fuels solution. Reduced natural gas use for water heating (tankless gas hot water heaters, heat pump water heaters and solar water heaters), space heating (much better insulation & windows, ground loop heat pumps) and electrical generation (wind turbines, solar PV & thermal, nuclear power plants and pumped storage) released natural gas and propane/butane for use as specialty transportation fuels despite the declining supply of natural gas. Conservation exceeded natural gas depletion in a mad rush !

As we all know, the first decade post-Peak Oil was quite difficult. History calls it the “Bad Tens” for good reason. Suicides peaked at 8 times pre-Peak levels for a decade post-Peak and are now down to just twice pre-Peak levels. Demographics shifted significantly, as they did when the Soviet Union collapsed. Life expectancy declined almost a decade in the USA, but it was more gender balanced that in Russia.

Overall mortality increased dramatically in the Bad Tens, just as it did a few years earlier in post-Katrina New Orleans. The long term effects of obesity and diabetes combined with chaotic healthcare for most citizens and simple despair and disorientation resulted in a 50% increase in the death rate for those ten years. Healthcare reforms and a radical change in lifestyle and diet have turned this downward slide around and life expectancy today is now just 1.7 years less than it was in 2007 !

Birth rates fell dramatically in the Bad Tens and have crept ever lower year by year since then, and this year saw the first small increase in fertility to 1.21 children/woman.

A massive expulsion of non-citizens (both legal and illegal) followed the 2016 election. Many American living abroad were forced home as a result but the USA was left with 15 million fewer consumers, significant social issues and a still raging debate.

Much has been lost in the last quarter century, but few regret the loss of every greater extremes of consumer excess. The use of the word “consumer” is now considered a pejorative and an insult to one’s values. “Citizen” is a title of pride again, with an implied understanding of duties and obligations that go with that title.

And much has been gained. Social isolation shrank with Suburbia and the economy. Many found compassion and caring for their fellow humanity within themselves in the Bad Tens. People think, and talk and plan, of the “generations to come” and the New America.

As we close this year of 2034, for the first time in a quarter century, we can now say that next year looks to be better than this last year. Our problems are not solved, but we know the solution and we are confident of our ability to work and sweat towards sustainable, workable solutions !

Best Hopes for the Future,
Alan Drake

The above was not written as a work of fiction, but as an aid to the modelers at the Millennium Institute. A “word picture” to supplement the dry statistics.

The results of “Alan Drake’s Vision” are much more positive than any other scenario that they have run on their T21 model. Ever.

This work was also presented at the Houston ASPO-USA conference.

Now for the most important question, how was the pecan pie?


It *IS* important to stay grounded in the moment !

On the advice of my mother and my MD friend (see waist and scales), I have cut the pie into quarters, frozen it, and cut off a "nibble" and microwave it :-)

Quite Good !

Best Hopes for Good Food and other simple pleasures :-)


(After filling up on Gulf Coast seafood, Alan and JHK had no room left for pecan pie, so I gave them Goode Company pecan pies to take back home.)

They are truly outstanding pecan pies. They cook the cust a little more thoroughly than most, and it brings out the toasted pecan flavor.Jim Goode really perfected a local treasure into a masterpiece.

The Flying Saucer Pie Company on Crosstimbers has clearly the best apple or coconut cream pie, though.

There is the possibility of a lot of positive changes from peak oil for our society if we view it as opportunity rather than terror and bleakness.

Commuting is a perfect example of this. In the Houston-Galveston-Conroe-Katy-Baytown Metropolitan Area the commutting times are terrible. Most families have all the adults working, and the commuting times are averaging about 45 minutes each way. In lots of parts of the area, the times run an hour and a half each way stuck in stop and go traffic having to pay attention to the road. There's no real choice; the city bus system doesn't reach beyond the city limits of Houston and only Galveston has a municipal bus and streetcar line. Automobiles are fantasticly expensive, they cost from $100 a week up for a 45 minute commute. The average job takes 9 hours a day, so people are left with no more than 2 or 3 hours a day for their families and entertainment most days, assuming they spend their weekend time off doing the other necessities like laundry, cleaning, bathing, preparing and eating food.Sure, we have more money and a terrible quality of life.

Cutting down on home size means we won't have as much room for Walcrap, but it requires a whole lot less money to pay for or heat and cool, plus less effort to clean. Riding a bicycle to work is enjoyable, and so is sitting on a commuter train reading a book or talking with your neighbor as opposed to listenening to a shock jock or a political nut on the radio. Fresh garden vegetables taste better, as do slow-cooked meals.

So the peak will mean increased quality of life in the things that count-time for friends, time for family, good food and joy in a garden or a book! Embrace the peak! Bob Ebersole

The Markets and "CFC soars" are rising today.

They're rising because the Fed is going to cut % rates.

They're rising because the "moral hazard" is not being removed.

They're rising because DC is going to attack Iran.

Go here and see how CSX is doing today.

Like DC, if current management stays in place, and as long
as it does so, we're in The Wealth Via Failure Paradigm.


Putin Drops Bombshell: "If you attack Iran, you attack Russia"

A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online
that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a
plan to nullify the Bush administration's relentless drive towards
launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike,
against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow
as an attack on Russia.

The above is coming from several web sites that have been consistently correct since 121200.

Courtesy LATOC.

New Orleans will be in the GOM for all to see in less than ten years.

The Mississippi River will be turning into the Atchafalaya
at anytime. The only thing that can save NO, BTW.

Which meanss that all infrastructure S of BR will
be inoperative.

Perry Arnett has more on the Unruly Power Grid.

And we're past the Tipping Point on Climate Change.

The Arctic going Ice Free is not a precursor.

It's the Positive Feedback Loop kicking in for all to see.

The Triangulation of PO, Climate Change (We are now leaving the Holocene), and Population Overshoot, Stabilization and DieOff will be the End of Civilation.

Maybe we, the US can hold for a while at 1886 levels.

That's the Hope right now.

And Great Article, Alan. I love trains.

Sincerely yours,

See Iraq for details on our future.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

your support is most welcome. RESUBMITTED at 2p EDT, go bang it again!

Had we started down the track of shifting from an oil-based economy, this scenario might have been possible. With an imminent (or past) peak upon us, and recognition of it growing, the economy can't be sustained to make the investments required for such rosy transitions, no matter how desirable.

We built subways in all of our largest cities and streetcars in 500 cities and towns with almost no oil at all (1897-1916).

We had less than a third of our current population (bit more than 1/3rd by 1916) and about 4% of todays GDP (inflation adjusted).

Just give me the current street & highway building budget, and I can do a lot !

Best Hopes for Realism,


I'm aware of the prevalence of streetcar lines we had (your figures seem to be a bit on the high side), though your scenario doesn't describe how we get around;

- Massive national debt
- Record levels of personal debt
- Rapid devaluation of the USD
- Much larger population sprawled considerably further out

I am drawn to the hope expressed in your scenario, though the realist in me gives it about a 20% chance at best.

Current street and highway budgets are 'owned' by the road, auto, gasoline, and tire companies, supported by citizens who are tired of waiting in traffic. These budgets will drop precipitously after the post oil economic collapse. Coal and coal-to-liquids will undoubtedly fill much of the energy gap due to emergency 'needs' of society to maintain its current level of 'civilization'.

Best Hopes for the luck of the 20% chance,



Almost impossible to tell.

But they are zero if I, and others, do not try !

TPTB will not automatically default to the best solutions, of that I am sure.

Best Hopes,


Alan: It is a hopeful vision for the USA, but IMO there are other changes afoot that have little or nothing to do with oil depletion. If this is a vision of 2034 USA, it will have to be (to a certain extent) a vision of 2034 Mexico, because Mexico is tied to the USA like a Siamese twin. The expected overwhelming economic dominance of Asia was absent, I assume the assumption is that the USA's relative position circa 2007 can be frozen for 27 years, whatever the current trends. I don't mean to be critical, you have good ideas- for your vision to be implemented the culture of the USA will need to be radically altered toward that of Japan/Sweden/France/Germany. I don't think this will happen- I hope I am wrong and you are right on this one.

Pain is a strong motivator for change. And I expect a lot of pain in the "Bad Tens". *IF* we can replicate some of the prior changes in American history, it will be a positive change.

IMVHO, Step One in a positive change is a vision of just what that change should be. General Motors had it's vision of the future city at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair. I have mine.

Best Hopes,


"What is now prooved was once only imagined."

from William Blakes "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", Proverbs of Hell section

Bob Ebersole

I would have selected "The Terrible Tens" as the name for the next decade. Alliteration is always more catchy.

Done !

I will use this in all future revisions, etc.

Best Hopes for a short decade,



Speaking of the 'teen decade, the vision you have created bears much similiarity to the work and predictions of Professor Jack Lessinger. In his books he predicts a dramatic shift in our priorities (in our new shared American Dream actually) coming to a head in the 2020's following a very rough period during the decades of the 2000's and the 2010's.

His very persuasive premise is that our shared vision of "the American Dream" has changed - quite drastically - every few generations throughout American history. In his book he tracks the past changes and the upcoming one.

The old American dream we have grown up hearing about is nicknamed "The Little King" in recognition of its focus on getting the little suburban 1/4 acre kingdom. The Little King dream is also very consumeristic, individualistic, and focuses primarily on the short-term. BUT it was a useful dream in it's day - you'll have to read the books to see what long past problem the Little King dream fixed.

But now the excesses of the Little King have broken a different facet of our society and a new American dream is rapidly growing in strength and awareness to disperse the Little King and repair the damage. Lessinger has nicknamed this new American dream "The Responsible Villager". This new dream is strongly anti-suburb, anti-consumerism, focused on the long-term and on strengthening the community. (Sound familiar?) Pretty much an opposite of today's Little King.

His original book on this was called "Schizomania" where schizo = split and mania = American Dream (we are currently in a period of two battling manias - the entrenched faltering Little Kings vs the inexperienced but strengthening Responsible Villagers.

He now has a new book updating his theory of American social change called "CHANGE: Fall of the Consumer Economy, Rise of the Responsible Capitalist"

You can read some brief intros to his work at:
- but the books do it much better justice...

Your above future scenario meshes very well with Lessinger's predictions of our transformation into Responsible Villagers. Do an inter-library loan request and give "Schizomania" a read, it's very persuasive.

Greg in MO

"The expected overwhelming economic dominance of Asia was absent"

Peak Oil, as Hirsch said in his ASPO lecture, means the proportion fall in world GDP as oil supplies fall. I doubt very much Asia will continue growing, in fact India and China will have a disproportionate amount of people to try to manage post-peak.

Forget about the rise of China as a world superpower, the assumption was China could grow at 10% a year for the next 30 years. Not going to happen.

Yes, and what is China going to do about that? With an ever growing population, every increasing demand for food and resources, and ever increasing pollution they are going to be squeezed big time. The question is will China start to throw it's weight around to jockey for more of the resource pie. If history is any lesson the answer is yes. Just who will be in their crosshairs?

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

You may want to take a look at this:

India’s population ‘to outstrip China by 2030’

"Yes, and what is China going to do about that? With an ever growing population, every increasing demand for food and resources, and ever increasing pollution they are going to be squeezed big time. The question is will China start to throw it's weight around to jockey for more of the resource pie. If history is any lesson the answer is yes. Just who will be in their crosshairs?"

Throw its weight around with what? Chinese military capabilities are limited to say the least. They have no ability to conduct over sea operations or international bombing and they have no aircraft carriers, China may have been a superpower in 2030 with another 23 years of growth but in the post-peak reality it will be struggling developing country with a high probability of large-scale population instability issues and hunger.

All these countries that "have no ability to conduct overseas operations" already have the "American people" infiltrated big time.

Odds are that Mexico would have a easier time taking over the US then we would have taking them over, their 5th column is in place.

Of course it is a little in jest, but there no longer is anything like the American people, more like an Iraq that hasn't quite broken out yet, sort of like Iraq under SH.

Aircraft carriers are relics of yesteryear's war. If you truly believe China is so incapable of throwing their weight around then I strongly suggest you review their actual military capabilities. While they may not have the direct capacity to invade the United States, they may not need to do so in order to bring us to our knees.

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

Never deny the capability of a potential future enemy that is desparate for resources. You do so at our peril.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

Not a bad vision Alan. Lets hope we live this happily ever after.

I'm not that familiar with North American geography. Is the map included one of Boston? Before or after sea level rise?

The map is of Massachusetts with Boston highlighted in the East. A new commuter rail line (Greenbush, along coast southeast of Boston) should open in a few weeks. It is not on this map. Zero federal funding.


Are there any other maps like the one you have for Boston?
I would be interested even if you did not post them here. EMail me a link or the map itself.

Best hopes for you as Transportation Sect. Of the next President, if not the big guy himself.

God Grant you peace.
God Grant you Love of your fellow man.
God Grant you Faith and Trust.
Write in Candidate for President 2008.
Free Right Now party. No donations.
Term limits for congress, Min wage for them too
Charles Edward Owens Jr.

Houston will be underwater.

Anything built w/in 25 miles of the East Coast has maybe
a 25 year lifespan.

NO less than 10, as the Hurricane Pam/LSU folks have said.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

As a note - much of the mid-Atlantic northwards East 'Coast' within 25 miles of salt water is significantly (often hundreds of feet) above sea level.

But not where the millions live. And their infrastructure.

DC is in a swamp. NYC can barely keep it's subways dry now.

Baltimore, Philadelphia. Rhode Island. I'm sure Dover will be underwater.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens


Hmm...can anybody tell from where all the energy of this fantasy view of future is supposed to come from?

Nuclear? Don't fool yourself that tens of trillions of dollars needed for hundreds of new nuclear power plants would ever be provided. Suppose it do, then from where the engineers and scientists are suppose to come from to run these plants? How much time it take to build and run a nuclear power plant, graduate an engineer? From where would the fuel for these plants are supposed to come from? Oh, how are we supposed to mine the uranium, transport it to processing plants, then transport again to power plants? Oh yes all this can be done with electrified transport like we can make moon an inhabitable place, yes it is humanly possible, we just have to put in enough gases, fertilizers, plants, animals, micro organisms etc there. Don't worry yourself about the scale of operation thinking that if putting three men on moon for three days took 40 billion 1960s dollars how much would it take to put all those stuff discussed above on moon.

Coal? Yeah, like the current global warming is not enough. Burn it underground? What about the thousand unit volume of CO2 (a gas) produced when one unit volume of coal (a solid) is burned, ever thought how and where to store it?

Wind? Oh yes, like all the previous civilizations were damn stupid they didn't knew this 'massive' source of energy and somehow we are some kind of super humans who can do it.

Come on now, why is it so necessary to keep your personal cars? Having wealth has nothing to do with happiness. Being part of a close community is all that it is needed to make you happy.

Fossil fuels is one time gift, we found it, we used it, end of story. There is no substitute whatsoever of it.

Two days w/o electricity and New York's Subways are flooded.

According to Weisman, large parts of our physical infrastructure would begin to crumble almost immediately. Without street cleaners and road crews, our grand boulevards and superhighways would start to crack and buckle in a matter of months. Over the following decades many houses and office buildings would collapse, but some ordinary items would resist decay for an extraordinarily long time. Stainless-steel pots, for example, could last for millennia, especially if they were buried in the weed-covered mounds that used to be our kitchens. And certain common plastics might remain intact for hundreds of thousands of years; they would not break down until microbes evolved the ability to consume them.

In 5000 years the containers of nuclear warheads will
be disintegrating...

"...As serenely natural as the DMZ now is, it would be far different if people throughout Korea
suddenly disappeared. The habitat would not revert to a truly natural state until the dams that

now divert rivers to slake the needs of Seoul’s more than 20 million inhabitants failed—a
century or two after the humans had gone. But in the meantime, says Wilson, many creatures
would flourish. Otters, Asiatic black bears, musk deer, and the nearly vanquished Amur leopard
would spread into slopes reforested with young daimyo oak and bird cherry.

The few Siberian
tigers that still prowl the North Korean–Chinese borderlands would multiply and fan across
Asia’s temperate zones. “The wild carnivores would make short work of livestock,” he says.
“Few domestic animals would remain after a couple of hundred years. Dogs would go feral, but
they wouldn’t last long: They’d never be able to compete.”

If people were no longer present anywhere on Earth, a worldwide shakeout would follow. From
zebra mussels to fire ants to crops to kudzu, exotics would battle with natives. In time, says
Wilson, all human attempts to improve on nature, such as our painstakingly bred horses, would
revert to their origins.

If horses survived at all, they would devolve back to Przewalski’s horse,
the only true wild horse, still found in the Mongolian steppes...."

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Mcgowanmc, I just started reading “The World Without Us” the other night. Fascinating read and hard to put down. Alan’s fantasy post neglects the human condition in a big way. What makes Alan think that the same species that cut down the primeval forest, eradicated the mega fauna from North America in short order after arrival, and consistently raped the Earth for personal gain and pleasure is going to stop now? Pain? Human history is written in blood and misery and pain is much more prevalent than peaceful co-existence. Were masters at inflicting pain. When the resources dwindle Humans will act as they always have - raiding their neighbors resources. Read the Iliad and tell me how much different man is from the characters in that story. Humans are the most destructive species to inhabit the planet so far. It is Pollyannaish to believe that with proper education mankind will suddenly become “enlightened” and learn to live within the confines of our planet.

'Without street cleaners and road crews, our grand boulevards and superhighways would start to crack and buckle in a matter of months'


Flexible pavements have a typical treatment cycle of 7 years, rigid pavement >25 years and modern bridges >40 years between significant capital investments. Also, one of the primary deterioration mechanisms is heavy axle loads. Reduce them and increase life expectancy.

This flow chart suggests how things might progress if we (humans) were all to vanish tomorrow.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

"Within 10 Years, Methane in atmosphere gone."

Did we teach the buffalo and the other wild things not to fart before we went extinct?


Sure did thatsit, shot em all right up the ass, that larned em!

OK. Now we're in the game.

We need this implemented immediately.

That's what Monbiot et al are talking about when they/we say
Civilization must reduce emissions by 90% to get results.

Anything else and we are leaving the Holocene.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Methinks some people have a death wish.

Personally, I'd prefer to think about how humankind could live WITH nature instead of against it.

Welcome to the discussion, Pakistan!

If you have followed the threads here before, then you'll know that there is a continued discussion on both sides of any of these sources, tho' 'Clean Coal' and 'Ethanol' have few ardent supporters.

Almost everyone here would agree that Automobile use has to change dramatically, that it is simply unsupportable.

I'm not sure why you sound so skeptical about wind. Yes, previous people knew about and used windpower in many ways. They did it without hardened steel, fibreglass, carbon fibres and resins, ball bearings, and copper windings filling batteries, and as we look for what IS available to use as a power source, we will certainly use the wind more and more, in many different ways. Do you have much wind where you are? Would it make you vain and overproud to take advantage of it? Of course not.

"Being part of a close community is all that it is needed to make you happy." .. a close community that can feed itself and raise it's children, that is.

Best of luck as we seek wisdom and even some Partial answers together. Tell us about life on the ground in Pakistan.. you know how poorly Americans get informed about the world.

Bob Fiske

Earlier Civilizations were not stupid (concerning wind).

Wind can be 3% of the energy we use now?

Sail. Yes. But who pays for the retrofit?

And of course the Transmission Grid, always.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Hi WisomfromPakistan, I've enjoyed your previous posts as well.

My opinion is that our problem as a species affecting the planet is is not of too little energy but that of too much. More energy than we have been wise enough to use well. Changing from 'dirty fuel' to 'clean' fuel will not change our rapaciousness.

Prometheus, however, steals fire from Zeus and gives it back to humans for their use. This further enrages Zeus, who sends mortal man the first woman, presumably Pandora.

Alan wants to do what Pandora failed to do! Release Hope! Don't do it Alan!!!:)

What the world needs now is despair and a good dose of it...that is where change will come from:(

The US Navy invests about 2 years in training reactor operators and other maintanence personnel.
Standardization of design eliminates a huge amount of engineering costs and improves the quality of work. I prefer the pebble bed design due to the impossibility of a meltdown.

Not a fantasy, WfP, but a vision - there is where we'd liketo go. Sadly, I agree with much of your assessment.

Of all the dumbshit posts.

How the hell did we even utilize fossil fuels to begin with without any engineers or infrastructure to speak of?

It's a nice picture of where we might be able to take our future.

What would be equally nice is a discussion of how we best get from here to some version of a pleasant future. Tweak your picture a bit, suggest routes, problem solve....

And in the best of all possible worlds the doomers would not add their noise to the discussion.

But, it's not the best of all possible worlds. We will most likely now be entertained by the chronically pessimistic....

Let's look at this piece...

"converting Suburbia back to orchards) and further expanding TOD housing, both in Urban and Suburban commuter rail nodes. They criticize the money wasted on retrofitting insulation into Exurban McMansions that were later abandoned, while others think the Great Retreat from Suburbia has run it’s course and we should focus more on retrofitting older construction and less on new"

Lots and lots and lots of us do not want to live in urban settings. We want a detached house, some lawn/garden space, a bit of personal breathing room. That's how we evolved. We're only a couple of generations (at most) from the farm.

We, speaking in a great general sense, want to stay in the 'burbs, or in my case, the woods. We won't readily buy into a solution that requires us to become urban apartment dwellers. You won't get us enthusiastically supporting a 'back to the cities' movement. Lots of us are 'back to the land' people.

So what to do?

How about super efficient, very light weight personal vehicles such as the proposed Aptera? (But not so weird looking.)

Create a 'super-lite' rail system - single track each way - along major routes. Drive your "whatever" from driveway to the nearest terminal, up the on ramp, surrender control to the system (vehicle's speed/braking becomes transportation system controlled), kick back until alerted that your pre-selected terminal is close. Get shunted onto the exit ramp and retake active control.

During your commute the power to your "whatever" has been supplied by the system 'third rail'. Your vehicle speed has been controlled to maximize vehicle density and maintain safety.

Get out and have your vehicle automatically moved to a parking garage. (Two types of exit ramps. "I want to drive around" or "I just want out".) Call it back via your cell phone. Gets the city parking problem behind us.

A lot of our vehicle fuel usage is for moving safety equipment (heavy crash frames, bumpers, etc.). With today's electronics we can make cars automatically stop before *they* hit something. (Someone, Lexis?, is marketing that now or soon.) Putting super-lites on a single direction track eliminates head-ons and T-bones. Gets them away from 18 wheelers.

This type of approach would save energy, work in places where it's not feasible to build rail track, and maintain personal freedom. And it can be 100% electric.

It's an idea.....

Yes Bob but get real! You have forgotten the most important feature ... a latte cup holder for the Lotophagi

I would oppose devoting resources to an untried technology in the first 25 years just to supply your "wants".

Either become a full time farmer, with a visit to "town" ever other Friday (if the weather is good) or move to the edge of Transit Suburbia and use minimal energy for heat & cooling (superinsulate or wear sweaters inside or both).

When you retire, move to a place where it is efficient to supply your needs (medical care, assisted living, etc.) or do without.

I have *LOTS* of personal freedom, and minimal energy and oil use here in New Orleans in a very walkable neighborhood.

Without the personal freedom that I experience here, I could not do as I do. (For example, if I lived in Suburbia, the lack of freedom would smother me).

Perhaps you meant social isolation ? I do see a sharp decline in that, as I clearly stated. If you do not like people close to you, and do not like social interactions, no one will force you at gunpoint. But you may run out of money and other resources to continue living comfortably in the woods.

Best Hopes for Reduced Social Isolation,


Alan -

Not everyone wants to live like you live.

If your plans don't allow some variations in lifestyle then you will be self-selecting a smaller group of supporters.

Lots of us want our personal space. We don't want to live cheek to jowl with others. We don't want to be jambed into a commuter train car with other people.

We've tried it. We didn't like it.

Some of us live in places where walking is just not what we want to do every day. Knee deep snow, icy sidewalks, and gale force wind do not a pleasant morning make.

Why not think of ways to meet the needs and desires of a more people?

We, as a society, will be hard pressed to meet the needs of our citizens in a post-Peak Oil world, at least for the first quarter century.

I dare say that a majority of Americans did not enjoy the Great Depression, and had to live lives that "got by" (some did starve, others did die of exposure and untreated illness).

Many Americans will not adapt. Thus my notation of a massive increase in suicides and decline in life expectancy in the Terrible Tens. I *KNOW* what this means from New Orleans !

I do see a viable alternative in "Transit Suburbia". Small walkable towns clustered around a commuter rail station. Many work in town while others commute via rail.

And if you can afford it (and are willing to do without many services), you can live a mile or two outside of town and drive in. Some will be able to afford this option, many will not IMVHO.

Best Hopes,


BTW, commuter trains are almost never "jammed". A seat for every passenger is typical and standard.

What services would one forsake by living one mile outside of town?

6 days/week postal delivery. RFD used to mean "Rural Free Delivery" of mail.

Routine police patrols (hopefully on foot or bicycle).

Surcharge for UPS delivery.

"Free" pharmacy delivery (if such exists).

Home health care (without a surcharge).

Pizza Delivery.

City water and sewage.

Cable TV


Thanks for the reply Alan. I commend your efforts and vision. Here are a few more observations & questions.

I live 8 road miles outside of a very small 'city', and neither I nor my 'neighbors' benefit from any of these services now. So, no compelling reasons in this list.

It is not clear to me that highway maintenance costs would dramatically increase under your vision. If I recall correctly, the pavement damage due to a vehicle is related to about the 4th power of the axle load. So a typical truck axle is more than 3 orders of magnitude more destructive than a typical light car. If the truck freight was really removed it seems possible that any increase in material cost might be more than offset by greater pavement life.

Have you done any ballparking of national capital investment costs required to achieve the infrastructure buildout you describe?

Just Phase I. Something like $150 billion to build out all of the "on-the-shelf" Urban Rail projects.

The military has developed a list of essential railroads (33,000 miles from memory). Add a couple thousand miles of essential civilian (but not military) RRs for 35,000 miles. I figure/guess that 20% of the track miles carry 80% of the freight ton-miles & passenger-miles. 35,000 miles should be over 90% by SWAG.

Figure $2 to $3.5 million/mile for electrification.

The CSX proposal from Washington DC to Miami (2 grade separated freight tracks @ 70 mph, 1 or 2 pax/low density high value freight @ 110 mph) will cost $12 to $20 billion for 1,200 miles (much for pax service) pdf warning

11,000 miles of this type corridor would be a VERY good start, and serve almost all of the major cities.

I put more of my efforts into the early phases. What do we do in the next dozen years ?

Do that, learn lessons, react to world and national conditions, and go on with revised plans.

Best Hopes for Phase I,


Half the cost of the Iraq War would go a VERY long way !

Allan, maybe I am missing something but would you tell me what you envision the future population of the earth to be (and of course more importantly the USA ...please excuse the modicum of sarcasm here). Some sort of time line on that would also be helpful as well.

You are well intentioned and hard working at what you believe to be a solution to the 'problem', that is quite apparent. What is not so apparent is how realistic you are being in what I would think of as 'the economy of this planet'.

Between 240 and 310 million for USA in 2034. Declining birth rates (a la Great Depression) plus reduced life expectancy for over a decade minus 15 million immigrants (many not counted today). 2034 should see over half the Baby Boomers gone. World population is beyond my scope.

I did not do a detailed demographic analysis, this is seat of the pants SWAG.


Thanks Allan but that sort of really confuses me, I just googled these figures:

United States — Population: 301,139,947 (July 2007 est.)

That sort of says that you figure maybe it will go up, maybe it will go down?

BTW: you didn't just hear a sound that might have been Matt Savinor and a flight of Valrkryie hitting a large and flat solid object did you?:)

Decreasing birth rates and rising death rates (both seem highly likely to me in the next two decades, just look at obesity rates & 1920s vs. 1930s birth rates. Also 47% climb in death rate in New Orleans) will change current projections. (400 million in 2045 from vague memory)

Immigration ? Many more desperate Spanish speakers, but less opportunity here.

It is easy to judge the direction, very difficult to guess the magnitude of change from official projections.


The question I asked was not of decreasing birth rates and increasing deathrates, IMO they are a given.I suppose I could get mifffed at a nonanswer but instead how about you readingthis posted by Leanan on todays Drumbeat. Lovelock in Rolling Stone magazine oct 17.

Best wishes for new spectacles:)

May I also suggest small towns as a good option for many people. Back in 1941, the last year when US per capita GDP was only 25% of what it is now, and thus the economy was still at least potentially sustainable, the majority of the population lived in small towns or rural areas - and of that subset, the vast majority were in small towns.

There are a lot of small towns in the US that have been declining for a long time now. In some of them, housing can be bought for what seems like a rediculously small sum. Making a living there is the tough nut that must be overcome to make it work. As things go downhill, it is likely that more people will relocate to small towns, and their economic outlook will improve. However, being a pioneer will be a challenge for a while. Figure out the livlihood challenge and you've got it made.

It can also be a social challenge to be an outsider in a small town. I wouldn't recommend that pushy, arrogant, tempermental people even try it. If you are very nice & kind & respectful & humble, you should at least be able to get off to a good start. Even then, your progress in fully integrating into the community will be measured in decades, not days.

Notwithstanding all that, there is a lot to be said for small town living from a sustainability standpoint. The yards around most small town houses are large enough so that one can grow much of one's food. You'll likely find it pretty easy to get away with at least some small livestock like chickens. You are usually surrounded by farms, which could supply whatever food you can't grow yourself. Everything in town is within walking or bike distance. Usually there is a mix of tradespeople and other specialists; as things get hard, many of them might become open to barter or some sort of work exchange program. Most importantly, small town people tend to be more neighborly, and you are more likely to find the types of informal social networks and formal civic organizations that are necessary to make a sustainable community work.

Lots of us want our personal space. We don't want to live cheek to jowl with others. We don't want to be jambed into a commuter train car with other people.

This appears to be a fairly universal desire. As incomes in the developing world reach a certain level, people start spending money on single-family homes that provide a certain degree of isolation, and on personal transportation. I'm more inclined to believe that these are innate to most humans, rather than the effect of American "advertising". That is, they're not just the "American dream", they're a pretty common "human dream". Alan faces a difficult struggle in convincing people that one or both of these goals are no longer achievable.

Myself, I think Alan underestimates the effects of regionalism in the US. His scenario, with localization of production and a transportation grid that tends to isolate regions from one another, also calls for a great deal of centralized planning and redistribution of electricity. I find it more likely that an increased push to regionalism in production of other goods/services will also result in a regional attitude towards energy -- the long-haul HVDC system won't be built, or at least not on the scale that would really allow for energy balancing across the country.

Some areas of the US are sufficiently energy-rich relative to their population that they can probably afford electrified personal transportation and efficient single-family housing. The hydro-rich Northwest comes to mind, as does the wind- and solar-rich strip east of the Rockies. People write books about future wars over energy resources; it seems entirely possible that you will also see conflicts when energy-rich regions of the US are told they must give up personal transportation in order to export energy to other regions.

these are innate to most humans, rather than the effect of American "advertising"

Today, about 30% of Americans want to live in TOD (Transit Orientated Development), but fewer than 2% do because of the scarcity of the "T". Let us build-out for this EXISTING unmeet market demand (note that in 2034 I had 1/3rd living in TOD, and another quarter wanting to. With changes in oil, demographics and personal experiences, I expect demand to grow for TOD. 30% to 58% seemed reasonable to me).

I see no problem in selling what people already want today.

Best Hopes for not Idealizing post-WW II Suburban Sprawl & Social Isolation,


At ASPO, someone told me that older people in Suburbia that lose their ability to drive, usually die soon after. Not true for control populations with good mass transit access.

Best case scenario. All cities will empty.

See Rome 1 million before, to 30, 000 after.

Slavery makes a big comeback.

There's a good reason why the BLS has a "Non Farm"

A mule breeding program is a great place to start.

But as long as everyone is driving as much as they are...

and gasoline is $2.75 per gallon while Crude is now over $90,

we're in the Shock Doctrine.

Ever wonder how the POTUS/VPOTUS can survive with
less than double digit approval between them?

The Security Council has always paired the annual renewal of its mandate for the multinational force with the renewal of a second mandate for the management of Iraqi oil revenues. This happens through the "Development Fund for Iraq", a kind of escrow account set up by the occupying powers after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime and recognized in 2003 by UN Security Council Resolution 1483. The oil game will be up if and when Iraq announces that this mandate, too, will be terminated at a date certain in favor of resource-development agreements that - like the envisioned security agreement - match those of other states in the region.

The game will be up because, as Antonia Juhasz pointed out last March in a New York Times op-ed, "Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?":

Iraq's neighbors Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia ... have outlawed foreign control over oil development. They all hire international oil companies as contractors to provide specific services as needed, for a limited duration, and without giving the foreign company any direct interest in the oil produced.

By contrast, the oil legislation now pending in the Iraqi parliament awards foreign oil companies coveted, long-term, 20-35 year contracts of just the sort that neighboring oil producers have rejected for decades. It also places the Iraqi oil industry under the control of an appointed body that would include representatives of international oil companies as full voting members.

When we go nuclear, thanx GoFuckYourself Cheney,

we'll be lucky to have Colonies here on Earth in 50 years.

But that's what our Financial Markets are betting on.

Millard told IPS "search and avoid" missions continue today across Iraq.
"One of my buddies is in Baghdad right now and we email all the time," he explained, "He just told me that nearly each day they pull into a parking lot, drink soda, and shoot at the cans. They pay Iraqi kids to bring them things and spread the word that they are not doing anything and to please just leave them alone."

posted by nolocontendere at 10:53 PM 0 comments
Bushista America

"October 25, 2007 -- We're stressed out, we can't sleep, we're drinking too much - and it's getting worse.
Forty-eight percent of Americans say they're more stressed now than they were five years ago, and the same percent report regularly lying awake at night because of stress, according to a new study by the American Psychological Association.
"Stress continues to escalate, and it's affecting every area of people's lives," said Russ Newman, a psychologist and executive director..."

Bifurcation comes. A new Steady State is arriving.

Good Luck.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Lord, yes, let's get busy breeding mules.

That will help us transport people out of cities as they crash.

PLease don't tell us where the jack asses for your breeding program will come from.

OK. How did that Enron electricity deregulation thing go.

You know there has never been an investigation into Enron.

Who's going to pay for the building of the Transmission grid for the railroads?

Will the railroad own the right of way?

Just a few questions.

When these electric trains pass by the $1 a day peasants
growing the food/fiber for the "Jetsons" to maintain their current way of life, why will the peasants be blamed for taking the
transmission grid down?


Mules and slaves.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

We could put Monica Lewinsky to "head up" the mule breeding program. She's got "hands on" experience in masturbating jack asses and saving the sperm! )

(sarconal alert. I just never can resist the temptation for a good joke, its a profound character flaw)
Bob Ebersole

Me too. Or is it, I also.

We've got as much chance of starting the Mule Breeding Program (MBP) as we have of keeping our Transmission Grid.

But I've got my eye on the two donkeys and horse across the street from where I live.

Thinking Local on the MBP.


Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Well Bob, is it the pessimists or the optimists who caused the problems we have today? I propose that it is the optimists. Optimists, thinking that their actions will always work out for the better don’t really guard against the possible disastrous consequences of their actions. I can fish the sees with impunity because they will never run out. I can cut all the trees because they will always grow back. I can create all the children I want because the world will always have enough room. See the pattern? It is the optimist that creates havoc. The optimist just does not want to face the possibility that all of his plans just might blow up in his face. Moreover, it is the pessimist that created most of society’s advances. The original Constitution was very pessimistic in it’s view of human nature. This is why there are check and balances and separation of powers. As Madison stated in the Federalist papers if men were angels they would not need government. They feared the masses who could be swayed by professional liars. And they were right weren’t they? The optimist, Ronald Reagan (morning in America), defeated the pessimist, Jimmy Carter by promising we could have our cake and eat it too. Which religion is the most pessimistic? That would be Buddhism. The Judaic religions with their promise of an eternity of bliss are the optimistic ones, and also foster a philosophy of world domination that is very destructive. But don’t worry about us Bob, because we pessimists are never believed, as was Cassandra, even though our dire predictions more often than not prove correct. We have history on our side but no one is very interested in history unless the facts are cherry picked to support their beliefs. So it will be the ones who promise a chicken in every pot and a utopian vision for all that will get the masses attention. Unfortunately that tendency by humans also favors the liar who can promise a more favorable outcome. So even if Alan gets some of it right, which he does, it will be a liar with a painless plan who will be heard.

Sadly, tooo true...

There's another category.

The optimist who is also a realist.

The sort of person who looks for solutions, takes a look at the problems that might arise, and gets to work, correcting course as needed.

That person is quite different from the Pollyanna that you envision. But even the Pollyanna tries to accomplish something.

And I would hold that the pessimist has created essentially nothing of value. They expend all their energy trying to discourage others.

They didn't bother setting any eggs because they were all going to rot anyway.

No chicken in their pot. ;o)

But reality is the opposite of optimism.

Let's talk about problems/solutions.

Because that's a def of Chaos Theory and the Power Laws.

There is a solution for every problem.

Further, there is a time constraint in the equation.

Then, the sooner the problem is solved the more
peaceful the solution.

Finally, waiting for the passive solution to arrive will
give you/us the most violent resolution.

Lords of the Dark Matter:

"My worst nightmare about the collapse of the subprime-mortgage market is coming true.

The horrors let loose among mortgage borrowers and lenders by falling housing prices have begun to sink their fangs into the market for auto loans and credit cards, too. We're inching dangerously close to the point where consumers run for the hills -- taking their wallets and prospects for economic growth in the United States with them."

Fleck-h/t Calculatedblogspot-

From Fleck at MSN: Tech stocks' pain proves they're vulnerable, too. Here is an excerpt on housing and credit:

... the Lord of the Dark Matter, whose postings on the mortgage-paper unwind will be familiar to my regular readers [says] [t]he problems continue to worsen ... But people keep giving him the same silly line, that it's all been discounted, which is a variation of "it's contained." He says that there are more dark-matter downgrades to come and that some of the insurers of credit may find themselves in serious trouble as credits go bad. He points out that if the insurers get into trouble, then all of the credits they insure obviously will worsen.

For those who don't know, there is an absolute mountain of paper that trades where it does only because it has insurance. "

The Downward Trend Is Unstoppable
by J. R. Nyquist
Weekly Column Published: 10.26.2007

"The enemies of the United States are poised to take advantage of America’s financial demise. Demagogues and troublemakers from within the country are also prepared. We have right wing fanatics and left wing fanatics eager to win followers.

In a severe crisis the moderates of the political “center” tend to melt away. Discredited by the failure of the status quo, the moderate loses his voice. His truth no longer rings true. Instead, the unbalanced fanatic appears to be correct. People discover that the system is rotten after all. The system, in fact, is collapsing. The fanatic has his certainty, his heat without light. Who can deny his appeal?

When the economic crisis unfolds Iraq might as well be Mars. Iran’s nuclear program won’t matter at all. As Cato the Elder once remarked, the Roman voter is concerned with “the pebble in his shoe.” An empty bank account and poor job prospects for fifty million citizens will have a greater political impact than WMD proliferation halfway around the world."

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

But reality is the opposite of optimism

BS !

The same is as true, and as false, for pessimism.

Hans Herren, current President of the Millennium Institute, almost single handily prevented a famine that would have affected 200 million people. Reality !

Best Hopes,


The Optimist Believes That This Is The Best of All Possible Worlds.
The Pessimist Is Afraid That He Is Right.

Don't know who said that,

You Can Lead A Man To Knowledge,
But You Can't Make Him Think

Ah, I said that.
John Carr

Change Doomers to Rebirth.

Albert Einstein Quotes. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

Notice how DC is so very actively engaged in preparing for the future?

And in these "tweaking" discussions to get to "there"
the production of all of this electricity being produced
and transported to exactly where it's needed is never discussed.

Remember Deregulation anyone?

"...As should be obvious, I'm mostly concerned in this article with the fate of consumers under deregulation, and in particular consumers like myself, but the managing director of one of the largest firms in Sweden (SCA) said that his firm would not be making a planned very large investment because of the high price of electricity. Somewhat earlier, the directors of other large industries stated that they will form a syndicate in order to purchase electricity from countries in East Europe.

This is extremely interesting, because what deregulation has done by raising electricity prices is to partially eliminate the traditional and highly favorable comparative advantage that Sweden has enjoyed in some of its major export activities over the past 40 years, and which to a considerable extent accounts for the prosperity of the country.

I'm especially thinking of the industries for processing forestry products. If the present situation is not remedied, these firms will not only cease to invest, but eventually move everything movable out of the country, and Sweden will find itself having to deal with the kind of unemployment and social problems that were unthinkable just fifteen years ago.

There was a time when Swedish politicians would have instinctively understood this, but that was before their judgements were corrupted by dreams of high-paying, tax-free non-jobs outside Sweden, although I won't say just where."

Think Southern Corp here.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Nice piece of work, Alan.

One of the biggest challenges is going to be coming up with the massive quantities of investment capital needed for things like EOT, TOD, and ramp up of renewables, all in the midst of a declining economy and general economic chaos. I'm not sure how we're going to do it.

Keeping a lid on civil distrubances is also going to be a major concern, especially as those may occur in many of the same places that you are counting upon for TOD to take root.

You really didn't say much of anything about food & agriculture (other than the mention about orchards replacing vacated suburbs); a lot of us are focused on that. The transition to locally-based food production is going to have to be a very massive change from the present situation. Lawns are going to have to become gardens, community gardens are going to have to become commonplace everywhere, tailgate markets supplied by local market gardens will expand massively, and the way people eat will have to change (less meat - especially beef -- and processed foods, more whole foods - especially vegies, legumes, grains).

Furthermore, I think that a/c is likely to be a very expensive luxury that only the very well-to-do can afford by 2034. I also suspect that most people will be dressing warmly even indoors during the winter in all but the most southerly areas; it will be rare for anyplace to have the thermostat set higher than 66F at the most.

Even if we manage to cut down on GHG emissions as much as you predict, I'm afraid that we're nevertheless due for a lot of catastrophic global climate change just due to what we've already put into the air.

WNC,there is one big problem with orchards,,and relying on them for produce...

Yes its the need to have good spring weather and you also need pollinators...we had a bad late frost and lost all our fruit this year. The honey bees are having problems.

Other food can be grown even if the spring is not complying since it has a smaller growing season..all my garden vegetables did ok..and I had no real time to tend to them.

So berries and fruit trees are great to have..but hard to always count on. Even in good years we sometimes have low yields or the insects are real bad.


Yes, I know. Yet, there have always been people in the orchard business. Wheat and corn can sometimes be an iffy proposition too. Agriculture is like that.

For a lot of city suburbs, you are not going to have the sort of super-duper climate for fruit production that they have in W. Michigan or Washington State, so they are not going to be producing in massive quantities for shipment across the continent and even overseas. We are talking about limited production for local consumption only.

I'd say that avoiding a monoculture and planting a good mix of tree fruits and berries would be a wise move. Unlikely that frost, drought, or insects would wipe out everything.

Actually, in my mind Alan's "orchards" is just shorthand for a broader mix. Along with orchards, surrounding every town and city would also be dairy farms, market gardens, greenhouses, chicken farms, etc. This is exactly the way it used to be. Perishable produce, meats and dairy products would be raised close to town, while the staples like grains, legumes, and other field crops would be raised in the more distant expanses. This, it seems to me, is a more logical arrangement, working WITH nature instead of against it.

Gotta love creative writing. Did Your Dinner With Andre Jimmy give you the bug, Alan? Can't wait to have his new 'un in my hands.

GW is due to increase rainfall in the NE US, I seem to recall reading. Buy gutter futures. Might be the like of the Pacific NW in a few decades, if we can rely on any prognostications. Good weather for orchards I'd say.

This was written before ASPO (and my dinner with James Kunstler), when I was in DC helping the Millennium Institute folks develop my scenario for their T21 model. There was a problem in tables of #s, etc. in that they had some difficulty stitching it all together conceptually. So I wrote this word picture.

I later adapted it and expanded it slightly.

Best Hopes for those with limited literary ability,


Yes, "orchards" was shorthand for a reversion to agricultural for former suburbs. The land has been so disturbed, and not all of the slabs & roads will be removed (and just what is under these slabs & roads that a farmer would want ?).

I deleted a longer piece on just what use former Suburbia could be put to. Orchards (nut & fruit) seem a viable option, planted around the slabs & roads and in holes punched into the slabs, their roots will go underneath. Also berry bushes. Certainly chicken farms and greenhouses could make use of the hard surfaces.

It takes little effort to throw enough dirt on top of a slab to support a thin layer of grass, enough to support dairy cattle (low density grazing + supplemental feed), goats and free range chickens eating bugs (left over chemical contaminants will be an issue).

I claim no particular expertise in just what is the most economic use of former Suburbia. I am sure that new uses will vary.

Best Hopes for local food production,


You can raise a lot of food in containers placed on the concrete. If you can figure a way to save the water, all the water from rainfall landing on concrete would be an excellent start for irrigation water.

Five gallon paint buckets make good containers. Just punch some holes in the bottom for drainage, put some broken brick or rocks to keep the drainholes open.

That way all the fertilisers go to where the plant can use it. Compost and worm castings are at the plant's root zone, not scattered to where the nutients are leached out and wasted.

If the containers need to be moved, just lift the bucket and plant onto a garden wagon like are used in nurseries.
Each container weighs 50 lbs or less, so they aren't hard to rearrange, but that lets people use the streets for food production and is a lot less trouble than to remove a driveway or a road, and a lot less permanent

We waste a heck of a lot of water in the US.In a house with more than two bathrooms, leave one bathroom toilet hooked up to the sewer or septic tank, but reroute the other sewer to use in the garden.

This can be very productive. A tomato plant will produce a couple of pounds of "organic,home grown" tomatoes at $2.50/lb. Same with a bush variety of squash. Some vines willdo very well in containers too-cucumbers work very well.
Lettuces are excellent, and many herbs like basil or rosemary.
Some vegetables are not suitable. Green Beans are easier in rows, and potatoes need more ground. Okra and eggplants do well, but the plants end up stunted compared to row plants.

At any rate, there are no shortages of land or water unless we fail to use what is available

-- games??? I hardly think in such an era sports games in large stadiums will take place. Huge energy waste.
-- aging baby boomers on scooters? By 2034 most of them will be gone, the remainder will be in their eighties (like me). I doubt very much at 80 in such an environment you will be able to get about much.
--too heavy reliance on wind power. My suspecions will be that it will not become the reliable powersource it's currently hyped to be. It will be highly regional.
-- Long range DC doesn't work, even at higher voltages. It is a huge waste of energy to push DC long distances. You can get a huge drop in voltage in just a few feet in some cases.
--the lack of reliance on nuclear power(and Canada already has plans for 2 nuke plants now, let alone 25 years from now)
--electrtification of the railways system will take far more than 25 years to implement. Whole new fleets of locomotives would have to be made, plus the infrastructure required to support it. All built on dwindling oil supplies? Don't think so. Though I suspect it will be attempted, and should be attempted. I just don't think it will be so wide spread so quickly.
--he misses the massive unemployment and the economic hit that will take place. That in itself is a huge question mark as to how the future will unfold. How will they be housed, fed and kept out of trouble?

It is an interesting "possibility". But just that. An overly optomistic possibility. I certianly hope he's right (for my children's sake) that we can so quickly adjust and settle down in a oil depletion world, but personally, I don't see it working out that way. Not knowing what humans are capable of.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

I'm probably seven replies down by now, as this is commonly known here, but you need to learn more about HVDC.. it would suggest to me that you need to look at some of your other assumptions as well. How many auto plants in the US 'could' be refitted into Electric Locomotive mfr-ing if we chose to do so? We did it with Tanks and B17's 65 yrs ago.
Best, Bob
"Advantages of high voltage transmission

"High voltage is used for transmission to reduce the energy lost in the resistance of the wires.

"For a given quantity of power transmitted, higher voltage reduces the transmission power loss. Power in a circuit is proportional to the current, but the power lost as heat in the wires is proportional to the square of the current. However, power is also proportional to voltage, so for a given power level, higher voltage can be traded off for lower current. Thus, the higher the voltage, the lower the power loss. Power loss can also be reduced by reducing resistance, commonly achieved by increasing the diameter of the conductor; but larger conductors are heavier and more expensive.

"High voltages cannot be easily used in lighting and motors, and so transmission-level voltage must be reduced to values compatible with end-use equipment. The transformer, which only works with alternating current, is an efficient way to change voltages. The competition between the DC of Thomas Edison and the AC of Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse was known as the War of Currents, with AC emerging victorious. Practical manipulation of DC voltages only became possible with the development of high power electronic devices such as mercury arc valves and later semiconductor devices, such as thyristors, IGBTs, MOSFETs and GTOs.

Hi Bob. I'm familiar with HVDC. If it was going to work on a massive scale it would be working now. From those I've talked with, and my own use of DC power, is that the range is limited and huge amounts of power required for long distances. Question is since AC is more efficient why even suggest DC? Besides, I suspect that power production and power consumption will be much more locallized by 2034.

And the WWII effort was possible because the US had its own oil and not dependant upon most of it from foriegn sources. If that dries up for Export Peak reasons, there is no way that the same effort that was put into WWII will be able to scale up and function at the level needed.

It all depends on how much fuel is available, how much food is available, and what the state of the economy is in. Recall the US had to rely on war bonds, that meant a public having disposable income. Now the US public is in severe debt, so too is the US government. The only way would be to confiscate the billions that might be remaining from large corporations' bank accounts. Maybe not even then.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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


Don't discount what people in their 80's can do. I have several hiking friends who are in their 80's doing 10-12 mile hikes on rugged terrain frequently. I had an 81 year old on a 3-day backpack recently, the middle day of which was on the Backpacker magazine designated 'Ball-Buster' Trail otherwise known as the Slickrock Trail in the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness.

That's great. Happy you could do that. My father just passed on at 86 and was incapacited since late 70's of age due to heart conditions. It all depends on your health, and that will be questionable during a crash for anyone, let alone a retiree.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

AC also has losses due to its wavelength of roughly 3000 miles. It is the standing wave phenomenon which has to be taken in to account when engineering radar systems.

Greetings from Yichang, China.

We are wrapping up the 2007 HVDC users conference. Engineers from many of the world's HVDC links were present and many informative technical papers have been presented.

A guy from Itapu in South America was here. They have a 6000MW dual bipole link at +/-600kVDC.

The guys from South Africa were here. They have link from Mozambique to Pretoria. Forgot the voltage and power, but on the order of 3000MW.

We toured the 3 Gorges-Guandong facility, which transfers 3000MW +/-500kVDC from the Three Gorges Dam to Guandong.

Translink from New Zealand was here. They have a 500MW submarine link between the north and south island.

Transpower was here, they have a 2000MW link across the English channel.

I work on the Pacific DC Intertie. We transfer 3100MW from the Columbia river to Los Angeles at +/- 500kVDC. This is equivalent to about 10% of Claifornia's typical power consumption. The line is 846 miles long and is the longest single line (so far) in North America. I can tell you that our absolute worst-case losses are 15% (full load on a very hot day). Most of the time our losses are about 5%, mostly line losses. We have been in operation since 1970.

There were many other transmission links represented here. There were 104 people attending this year's conference.

HVDC is more efficent than AC, on a per megawatt basis, primarily because AC has reactive loading. DC lines are cheaper to build, per megawatt of capacity, but you need a large, expensive converter station at each end. For bulk power transfer, the break even point is about 300 miles. For submarine links, about 50 miles. This is a rule of thumb, your mileage may vary.

A good place to learn about HVDC can be found at

I don't know who told you HVDC was not practical, but I can say with some authority that they are dead wrong. Large bulk power transfer by HVDC is working today and has been since around 1965.

On a side note, I had heard about the smog problem in China, but until I got here I couldn't quite put it in perspective. Christ but it's bad.

Jeff Barton

The energy from James Bay is brought to Montreal via a 500KVDC line. As well it is becomming common to use HVDC to connect off shore wind farms to shore, with the added advantage of using more efficient asyncronous generators in the first place (they can work in a wider range of wind speeds). Another advantage of using HVDC is interconnecting grids reducing the sycronization problem. Hydro Quebec takes advantage of this in handing off power to New England. Currently there is a proposal in europe, being pushed by ABB the current major supplier of HVDC systems, to have a HVDC trunk connecting Scandinavia to North Africa so that wind generation can be distributed more evenly. The idea is that when the wind is not blowing in one place it will be in another. In a way both Edison and Tesla were right.

I wish we could afford the life we are living.

Just a limited response.

Decent size crowds once filled the seats with those that walked and took Urban Rail, and a few that drove. We kept playing baseball in WW II, I suspect that we will continue to do so. Sports WILL change, but not disappear IMHO.

Ed Tennyson (who provided valuable help with the Millennium Institute) is 83 and plays doubles tennis with his wife every Wednesday. George Tyson attended ASPO and is still active at age 86. The last Baby Boomer was born in 1960 (from vague memory). That would make them 74 in 2034. Still young enough to take their e-Trike 2 miles.

The concept is to transfers power between regions, mainly wind power. Long detailed discussion required here.

HV DC has a 3% loss/ 1,000 km (600 miles) as a "rule-of-thumb". Plans for Grand Inga have a single hydropower plant (44 GW) supplying most of Africa. A larger area than settled parts of North America.

I expect new nukes to ramp up slowly, but 6 in USA, 8 in North America in just one year (this is NOT a cumulative total, but just one year, 2034) is reasonable IMO.

France announced in 2006 a twenty year plan to finish electrifying every rail line & switchyard. Not a high priority, just a steady effort without the impetus of post-Peak Oil. With a high profile effort, I think 25 years is doable for the USA.

Existing diesel-electric locos can be rebuilt as all electric locos.

The details of handling unemployment, taxation, riots, work programs, military spending, etc. will require hard choices but it can be done (hopefully Jeb Bush will not be our 46th President :-P. All of these issues will be easier to handle with a vision of what "could be" rather than simply blind despair.

Best Hopes,


Putting the best possible spin on that worry....

Jeb doesn't seem to be brain-damaged. (Take that comment as far as you like into the present. ;o)

By the time #46 gets into office Big Business will most likely be cranking out the 'green' solutions and pushing for more government giveaways for 'appropriate' stuff rather than for 'dirty' stuff.

Remember. Big companies that don't adapt go under. Where are Bethlehem Steel and Wang today?

(See, one can make even the negative positive. Keep your chin held high.)

Hey hey Alan,

First off, excellent post! Excellent plan! I like your plan. I would like you to say a few words about how to get it accomplished. What all of us reading this here and now can do to move things in the right direction.

Second, this thread is trending toward the doomer naysayer side of things. I'm optimistic. I'm hoping for the best, but I'm planning for the worst because I don't know what the future holds and neither do any of you! We know that we are going to run out of oil but that is roughly the same as knowing that the sun is going to come up tomorrow. We don't know what people are going to do when the oil runs out anymore than we know what people are going to do when the sun comes up tomorrow. The future isn't written yet.

Lastly, the problem we are facing is not one of energy or even the environment, it is a problem of organization. We all know that we could implement Alan's plan. The question is will we? Go watch Apollo 13. There are two important scenes. 1) Tom hanks is looking at the moon after the party. He is thinking of the moon mission he is about to go on. He says to his wife "it's not a miracle you know. We just decided to go." 2) There was an explosion and three people are up in space and it looks like they are going to die. Underling says to the boss "It looks like dark days for NASA" and the boss replies "One the contrary, I believe this will be our finest hour"

Best hopes for our finest hour

Tim Morrison

Collectivism in a country of individualists is a non starter.

Remember "rather dead then red"? Same thing.

You are right musashi, people say lot of crap like that when their heads aren't in vises. Change won't happen when a party's is going on.

Best hopes for a quick depression and peak despair:)

You're right, musashi But the US is a country of sheep, not individualists. They mistake self-centeredness for independent thought and creativity when they think at all.

However, sheep can be herded and sheep can be led. Myself, I prefer the goats's position in the flock, so I plan to lead by good example.By that statement though, I guess you plan to stay at the rear and nip at the flock.Bob Ebersole

If all you see is ONE flock you are not dealing with reality.

Some of the sheep in some of the flocks may just be pretending to be sheep, just like every street corner has a Mother Teresa pretender singing Kumbaya fishing for a couple of bucks.

I usually have no idea as far as what I will do until I define the problem on the ground, virtual reality is just BS on a screen.

This is reality

Thats a good position to be in to herd the goats and sheep onto Adam smiths ship B and wave bye bye, isn't it Bob?:)

Games: Multiple issues. How many people will still have money for tickets + transit fare? How much longer will fiscally stressed municipalities be able to afford sweethart deals with team owners for the stadia? How many people will have time to attend games when they need to be using non-employed time to tend to their gardens?

On the other hand, baseball continued even in the depths of the Great Depression. Of course, back then players weren't free agents and were paid peanuts compared to now.

My best guess is that all of the major pro leagues will implode. Something might come along after that to pick up the pieces and do some pro-level sports in a few major cities, but it won't be the gravy train for owners and players that it has been.

It is a pretty safe bet that local amateur participatory sports will expand considerably.

Aging Boomers: I will certainly surprise myself if I'm still around by then. The combination of unexpectedly having to age in place (because there are no buyers for their houses) and relatively fixed retirement assets being hyperinflated away and inexorably rising energy and food costs are going to combine to make for very unpleasant and unhappy final decades for us boomers. "Golden years" they will not be.

Hard up, and lacking much sympathy from younger generations, we might see lots of boomers coming together to try to cope in a more cooperative mode. We might see McMansions being shared by a whole group of boomers, or boomer-dominated neighborhoods transforming themselves into quasi-co-housing arrangements.

Wind: Two big challenges with wind: 1) Much of it is not close to where the end users are; and 2) Much of it must be installed in places where people don't want wind generators.

As for 1), an obvious solution is to relocate end users to where the wind generators are. To the extent that other resources (water, arable land, etc.) allow it, this might happen to some extent, but probably not very much, and not very soon. A better solution is to develop a method of storing and transmitting the energy generated with minimum losses. Hydrogen suggests itself as a possible answer.

As for 2), we as a society have some hard choices to make. Unfortunately, we are spectacularly lousy at making hard choices. The safest bet is that the status quo - BAU, NIMBYs and BANANAs get their way -- will persist longer rather than shorter. The decision to sacrifice scenery for wind generating capacity, if it ever comes, will come in the form of a national or state government policy override implemented in the midst of a deep crisis mode.

Nukes: I think that Alan and I are pretty much on the same page on this one. I don't think Alan is totally anti-nuke, and neither am I. I am anti-"poorly sited, built, and maintained" nuke, and I believe that Alan agrees with me about that. "Nuclear" and "crash programs" are words that do scare me greatly when they appear in close proximity to each other. Yes, we do need nukes, but we do need to exercise all due care with them. It is the exercise of that due care that will inevitably apply some brakes to the process and limit the speed with which they can be brought on line.

EOT: I think that the fast track (excuse the pun) is going to be at the local, state, and regional level. The transition to EOT is not going to be uniform nationwide. Some places will get a jump start, some will be laggards, and some will become by-passed, declining backwaters. By 2036 it might become just possible to travel by electrified passenger train or ship goods coast-to-coast, but it won't be a quick and easy trip. Instead, it is likely to be a series of hops from one regional node to another. More typically, There will be regional metro networks like the Boston map Alan posted, with some inter-urban connections at the state and regional level.

Unemployment, housing, feeding, kept out of trouble: The trend for the entire industrial era has been the progressive substitution of energy-driven equipment for labor. As the price of energy rises inexorably, this long-term trend must reverse. Work opportunities will open up to do things that formerly might have been done by machine. Furthermore, as transport costs increase, the comparative advantage of low-wage areas like China will diminish, and US labor will become less uncompetitive.

Unfortunately, there will be a lag while the implications of these long-term trends work their way through the economy, and that lag will mean rising unemployment. People are also going to be earning lower incomes, as the per capita GDP will be declining. It might take a while for unemployed people to accept the reality of the situation and to downsize their career expectations and sense of self-worth. Minimum wage laws might also serve as a barrier to unemployed people moving into lower wage jobs. So yes, we are going to have large numbers of unemployed people for a while.

Where to house them? Many people living in big houses are going to have to downsize; even if they hold on to their jobs, their income is not likely to keep up with the rising price of energy, food, and general inflation. Since they will have a hard time finding a buyer, they are going to have to rent out rooms, or remodel their house to create appartments. This is how a lot of the expansion of housing at transit-accessible locations will happen. There probably will be an expansion of homeless shelters and shanty towns for the down-and-out as well. Federal or state governments might try to implement something like the CCC, providing camp-style shelter & work for some of the unemployed, getting them outside the city to reduce the concentration of unemployed people there.

Protecting home and community gardens from theft by unemployed, hungry people will be a big problem. Putting them to work growing their own food, either in CCC camps or supervised community gardens adjacent to homeless shelters, must happen.

Regarding rail. Worry about the abandonnments.

--electrtification of the railways system will take far more than 25 years to implement. Whole new fleets of locomotives would have to be made, plus the infrastructure required to support it. All built on dwindling oil supplies? Don't think so. Though I suspect it will be attempted, and should be attempted. I just don't think it will be so wide spread so quickly.

Electrification can happen very quickly and will eventually happen. It could happen quicker, but only if we demand it. The reason that it hasn't happened is the upfront cost of the support system compared to cheap oil

Whole new fleets of locomotives would not need to be built or the infrastructure. The reason is that almost all locomotives in service today are diesel-electric. You have a diesel engine powering a generator which powers the electric traction motors. It's not that difficult to go from one to the other. When the great lamented electric interurban 'Cincinnati and Lake Erie" went under, American Aggregates bought almost all of their very nice, very new, lightly used eletric freight motors, put a diesel engine inside and made them diesel electric switchers. In grand central station, NYNH&H used FL9's which were could run on diesel or on the third rail.

Servicing will become simplified because now, it's just an electric instead of a diesel electric.

Don't worry so much about the electrification. Worry about the fact that we are still dumping rail lines at this point in our history. Some of the one that have been abandonned would have been essential connections. I'm originally from Wisconsin. Wisconsin Central took over 4 routes between Milwaukee and Green Bay and cut the routes of 3. There were two lines going to Fond Du Lac - Oshkosh - Appleton to Green Bay. WC cut the line with best suburban potential between West Bend and Campbellsport. There was the old Milwaukee Road route which was the shortest but most rural through Saukville - Kiel - Chilton - Brillion that they abandonned from New Holstein to Green Bay. And then there was the Lake Michigan route through Port Washington - Sheboygan - Manitowoc - Denmark to Green Bay that they cut just north of Manitowoc to Denmark. It's going to take 10 million a mile to put it back in after the NIMBYS are put back in there place whereas for 1 million a mile for rehabilitation to 79 mph. We are going to spend more money putting the rail back in the gaps then we would have spent turning them into high speed lines.

Rock Island between Little Rock/Memphis case in point.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

You can start by buying the scrap copper wire that is being stolen regularly from Swedish electrified railroads (at least seldom used freight-only tracks - the Railroad Authority has dismantled some remaining unused stretches, and is considering scrapping about 50% of the Swedish railroads, the lesser used ones. Instead we're going to build more freeways. Yep, Sweden, land of sustainability yada yada yada). Copper prices are steep now, and the global supply of copper looks even worse than oil, although copper can be recycled.

But if you were to electrifiy the US railroads, where would you get the copper? Oil isn't the only resource constraint we're up against. Peak everything.

Copper is now so expensive, that thiefs (in Sweden, and I guess elsewhere) bring in machines and dig up freshly dug electric wires during night and sell as scrap. Not to mention plundering churches of their copper roofs and drains. And even copper crosses on graves.

The police? We don't have that in Sweden, especially in rural areas (so peak oil won't make things worse), and anyway unless it's a homicide you're out of arrest within hours. Police once arrested the same junkie for breaking into cars in the same parking lot five times during the same day. Parking lot was 500 meters from the police station. Just bring him in, book him and let him go. Unless you happen to take the law into your own hands and defend yourself, then you get busted. Happened recently over here, a father who's family and handicapped son had been harrased for two years, without the police doing anything about it in spite of complaints, defended himself using a shotgun on his own farmyard and now faces up to 15 years for first degree murder for defending himself vs six teenagers with baseball bats. One dead, one in intensive care.


There are two possibilities.

(1) Steel Third Rail.

The Great Third Rail aka The Chicago Aurora and Elgin was a third rail system where the electricity was carried by steel. Steel works, it just has to be large enough.

(2) Da YoopPee. The Upper Penisula of Michigan still has lots of copper. It's just that it was too expensive to mine with the big deposits in Chile. The history of the mines is that they were worked from the 1860's to the 1930's when they closed for the depression. During the WWII, the mines reopened because of the need and most closed again in 1945 although a few were worked until 1995. Most of the mines never were modernized and were hand worked. The tailings from the White Pine mine alone could produce 900 million pounds if sulfur leaching were allowed.

I'm not too worried about electrification. I'm more worried about them pulling the track.

In the Cincinnati area, the railroad tracks have been pulled up and the route converted to bike trails.

I wouldn't get rid of the bike trail, but an elevated monorail system could be put in. Monorails would are interesting, because they more easily fit into the existing landscape, allowing an earlier transition.

It is easy to put in both rails and bike trails. Some new light weight bridges for the bikes may be needed.

About 95% of US RR ROWs are 100' wide.

Monorails have a variety of economic problems and I am not a supporter except in very unusual urban circumstances.

Best Hopes,


Excellent scenario Allen. This is a welcome counter to "World Energy and Population:- Trends to 2100" TOD 10/17 by Stoneleigh. Personally I believe that your scenario is a much more likely future. People do and will respond favorably when economics plus knowledge drive change. Based on years of study, and some useful practise, I am confident that the USA could operate on 1/4 of the energy now used, without significant economic sacrifice. With conservation and life-style changes we could get to at least 1/6th, without suffering. With the impetus of the "bad 10s" we might approach 1/10th. People that ask where the energy is going to come from are asking the wrong question. With efficiency, consrvation, and supportable life style change (and some economically forced life style sacrifice), we will have plenty of energy, and, as you suggest, a better society as a byproduct. Murray

I'd be interested in seeing specifics of how an individual can reduce their energy consumption down to 1/6, especially people who have to heat their homes in the winter, without significant lifestyle changes or effects on the economy.

Next year I'm installing a ground-source heat pump getting off natural gas. Energy savings for home heating should be about 50%, maybe better, won't know for sure until it's in and working. I work from home, my wife must drive to work. We must drive to get food and other items. There is no way we can have an 80% drop in our energy usage unless we grow all our own food (not physically possible, not enough land) and my wife looses her job and we have no income, we might get to 75% reduction. Now granted this scenario is 25 years away, but my kids and their kids will be in this situtation.

Thus if that time requires people to be 20% energy consumers from today it will mean a huge drop in living standards, and an enormous hit to the economy (tens of millions unemployed). And quite possibly millions dying getting there.

We will recover to a stable society, but that will be long in the future in my opinion. We have on hellova crash to get through first.

But I do hope I'm wrong.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

I would add (to get to 1/6th),

-increased insulation (new siding, inside or out), perhaps blocks of Styrofoam in the windows in the winter.

- Inside temp at 17 C or so.

- Have 4 to 6 people living there or move to multi-family housing in a walkable neighborhood.

- Bicycle to buy groceries most of the year, and to the job (or bicycle/walk) to mass transit)

- Buy very high efficiency appliances and use them sparingly.

- Buy a Prius as your only car for occasional use (2 or 3 times/week average including winter)


and I would also add the small item about air pressure in the house.

Some hvac units’ end up creating negative air pressure which will pull cold air in through every crack and gap.

Cloths driers can also take air from the house and tosses it outside creating neg air pressure.

Fireplace, some woodstoves, and even some gas units take air for combustion from the room and funnel it out, result neg pressure.

Creating just a little positive air pressure in the house can do a lot to prevent cold draft and allow the rooms to remain comfortable.

Taking a small duct fan and ducting the outside air through, around, or over even the smallest heat source will go along way. You can even engineer a passive system if you are clever.

Best hopes for small things adding up.

There are a few woodstoves being made that provide an intake duct for outside air. This effectively turns them into a closed system, which is highly efficient. It is also hugely safer - no worries about CO.

My Irish Waterford has this feature, but I don't think they are selling them in the US any longer. Maybe someone else makes something similar.

I wouldn't even dream of having a woodstove that did NOT have this outside combustion air feature.

-increased insulation (new siding, inside or out), perhaps blocks of Styrofoam in the windows in the winter.

Some homes can be retrofited, like ours which I'll upgrade from R12 to R50 next year. But not everyone can, and I would claim that most can't if for one reason the costs. Example, my mother-in-law's place would have to be completely gutted. Not only driving up the cost to retrofit but produce huge amount of garbage, which is trucked away, and the huge amount of materials, which need to be made new, installed. And the time to do it. She's utterly rejected the idea for all these reasons (mostly she simply cannot afford to do it.)

- Inside temp at 17 C or so.

Carefull. Under temps like that people can easily get sick, especially the elderly.

- Have 4 to 6 people living there or move to multi-family housing in a walkable neighborhood

Highly impracticle for most people to do.

- Bicycle to buy groceries most of the year, and to the job (or bicycle/walk) to mass transit)

I've read this so much, yet the people who propose such "solutions" just do not understand the issues for most people. We can't bike to work. (There's no transit here out of town) My wife works 20 mins from here. It would take her 3 hours to ride a bike there (a hilly trip) and then 3 hours back (after working a 10 hours shift, and at 1am in the morning). In the winter utterly impossible and would be reliant on plowed roads. My daughter has to take her kids to daycare first before driving to transit, which she starts at 5Am to do. Doing that by bike is impossible. What you advocate is viable for only a very small number of people.

- Buy very high efficiency appliances and use them sparingly.

Already did. But my daughter can't afford to do that.

- Buy a Prius as your only car for occasional use (2 or 3 times/week average including winter)

Got $60,000 I can have so I can do that? I don't. So not an option.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

One cannot burn oil that does not exist. Canada does have an inherent advantage there.

The Terrible Tens would change much of what is considered "possible", and also likely result in wholesale abandonment of much poorly located housing. I think that point was clear.

Toronto has a massive Light Rail building program in the works. Your work, yourself and your family, may eventually go towards where walkable neighborhoods and non-oil transportation exists. Some changes may not be fun, but "circumstances" will force changes.

And generations of British (and others) grew up with 17 C in the winter (or often colder).

I am confused my one thing in your plans. Why not insulate first and then install a smaller & cheaper ground loop heat pump ?

Best Hopes,


I suspect my wife's job will evaporate and she will end up working locally (nurse), I on the other hand have a very useful job that I do from home that will be utterly useless by the time 2034 rolls around. I write software. Don't think there will be much of a demand for that soon.

The delimma is if you move closer to public transit you will have a number of issues. First, competetion for those closer homes will drive up the price, and lower the price of your home if you have to drive. Second, we have a large lot, hopefully large enough we will be able to grow most of our food, including a year round greenhouse. Niether of these would be possible in small lot homes in the city.

The GSHP has to go in first as we are actually adding an addition onto the back of the house. Not too big, but it will connect the house to the greenhouse (and make it legal). The GSHP needs to be installed then so it can heat both the house and greenhouse when the sun is not out (that's a lot in the winters here). If there is time and money, then I'll pull off all the brick and replace it with high insulation. Money is the issue, so they have to be done in an order that is logical. The GSHP I'm not waiting another year for, they are starting to get busy. Gee, wonder why.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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


I have a GSHP in WNY and thought I'd pass along a few thoughts/observations.

1. Consider a unit that will provide domestic hot water in addition to space conditioning. Good payback on this option.
2. Forced air delivery will be a bit noisier than most furnace systems, even with upsized ducts. The air temp is lower than traditional furnace units, with an associated need to move air faster. You can hear it.
3. Consider upsizing loop portion of system to reduce operating costs. Also, consider cost/benefit of additional burial depth or some type of insulation above coils.

Hey, thanks for that.

Was considering the hot water included in that. The fella is coming monday to evaluate. I'll be going verticle. Down about 200 ft, possibly up to 6 holes. The unit itself will be in the basement of a vestibule that will join the house and greenhouse which will be part of the new addition. The new addition will be made with the quadlock concrete forms for the walls. The greenhouse foundation already is done with them. Best method for make the walls. We're beginning to see some custom homes built using this method.

So hopefully the sound of the system will be confined inside a thick styrofoam room.

I understand the new systems are much quieter and produce more heat. I'll know for sure on Monday. I'm just looking forward to getting off NG ASAP.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

Even in upstate NY I would think that solar water heating might be a viable option worth considering. If anyone is thinking of doing anything solar, water heating is the very first thing they should do -- the technology is well established, and the payback is pretty good.

I kept track of the weather every day last winter as I was heating my greenhouse for the first time. A grand total of 17% sunny days from Nov to Apr, one stretch from Dec to Jan was no sun for 7 weeks. It's only daylight for 10 hours a day anyway.

Solar power for anything is not a very relyable solution for us here in the Great White North.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

There are months where you will use minimal heating & cooling. How will you get hot water then ?

A "on-demand" tankless hot water heater (NG or propane) might be the best economic solution then.

Solar water heating MIGHT pay even if it was useful only 6 or 7 months of the year.

Just thoughts,


I don't think that all of the suburbs are going to be abandonded. Some people won't be able to leave, some people won't want to leave, and in such cases in some places enough people will stay and do what it takes to transform their suburban neighborhoods so that they CAN continue to live in them.

It won't be easy, and the first thing you must understand is that you can't do it alone. Suburbia is not sustainable as presently configured, and there is no way that a single household surrounded by suburbia can make itself sustainable on its own. Entire neighborhoods need to be transformed.

There is a book called "Supurbia!" which I have recently been reading. It sets forth one vision for how suburban neighborhoods might transform themselves into something more sustainable. The authors are deep into co-housing, and what they end up with is something that looks a lot like a quasi-co-housing development. I'm not sold on that being the only possible pathway and end destination. Nevertheless, there are some good ideas in the book. The bottom line is: if you are staying put, then you don't just have a household project, you've also got a big nieghborhood project ahead of you.

Insulation retrofits: Alan kind of referred to the great forgotten energy conservation tool: Insulating shutters and shades. We knew about these and lots of people were using them during the 70s energy crisis; now you hardly ever hear anything about them. Big mistake. It is not all that difficult to make insulating shutters or shades - it is a great DIY project, and with a little ingenuity can be done very inexpensively. This is a great option for anyone, even people on a tight budget, and even people renting apartments. Even the most energy efficient double and triple glazed windows still lose a lot of heat at night; insulating shades or shutters will cut that down to almost zero. By bet is that, looking from a cost/benefit or payback analysis, insulating shades or shutters will beat a lot of other possible energy conservation options.

Interior wintertime temps: If the elderly and ill can't stand cold indoor temps, one option is to have them make a "nest" in one room of the house (probably their bedroom), equip it with an efficient supplemental space heater, and spend most of their time in there.

For most of us, we could invest in some warmer clothes, warmer bedding, etc., and live with cooler indoor temps that we have been.

More people per house: In earlier times, it was not uncommon for people to rent out rooms, if they had a room to spare (which, as the children moved out, they often did) and needed the money (which everyone usually did). You would especially see this in college towns, and in fact it is still not totally unheard of today; my wife did just that while she was finishing her doctoral studies. If a couple is occupying a four-bedroom house and are strugging to make the mortgage payments to hang on to it, is it really "impractical" for them to rent out a room?

It is also not unheard of for people to add an accessory apartment, or to convert a single family house into a duplex or triplex. The extra money coming in from renters will be a lot more valuable than empty, idle space. The only real obstacle to this right now is zoning codes. Once municipalities are faced with the alternative of occupied houses with renters in them and the owners still paying property taxes vs. unoccupied foreclosed homes with no property taxes coming in, I'll bet that a lot of zoning codes start changing.

Bicycle/Walk: No, of course it is not practical for everyone to commute all the way to work on a bike or to walk all the way to work. On the other hand, it might be quite practical to bicycle or walk a mile or two to a shopping center or church parking lot, securely chain and lock the bike, and meet up with several other people to car pool to work - or to hop on a shuttle bus.

I really can't believe this notion that it is unthinkable that anyone will ever be willing to share a ride with anyone else. I lived in a major city in the 70s, I carpooled for a while until I moved and took the bus (something else nobody believes that anyone is willing to do), and noticed lots of other people carpooling too. I just don't believe that massive numbers of people are going to lose their jobs rather than share a ride.

Longer term, I think that people are going to try to co-locate their homes and workplaces closer together. It will take a long time to make the shuffle, but it will eventually happen.

Replace applicances with high efficiency models: The crying shame is that low-efficiency models are still being allowed to be made and sold. People will "save" a few hundred dollars up front at a cost of many times that in lifetime operating expenses. At the very least, a sticker should be attached to each appliance telling the consumer what their lifetime operating cost will be; this should be posted at least as prominently as the price tag.

Buy a Prius (or other EV) for occasional use: If the volume of sales (and thus volume of production) were up, the cost per unit would come down. That's economy of scale. We need a much higher percentage of car sales from this point forward to be for EVs rather than SUVs or other gas guzzlers. Again, the same lifetime operating cost info needs to be provided to consumers, so they stop focusing solely on the initial purchase price.

We used to own an old victorian home 25 years ago. I spent 15 years rebuilding the inside to add insulation (it had none) and upgrade the heating and waterlines. Took 15 years and a lot of money to do that. During that time I used to take the storm windows, wrap them in layers of plastic and place them on the outside of the windows. Then a layer of plastic inside the windows. It cut out just about all the heat loss through the windows. The only problem was we could no longer look out side, and it cut down on light coming in. We had to run the lights on just about all day. So there's trade offs.

I agree that after the crash things are going to be much different in the way people live and work. Those that survive the crash that is.

But the issue I have with many of these suggestions is that the public hears them, they do a few tinkering things, and then sit back and think they have done their bit and their lifestyle stays in tact.

That's not going to happen. Once things start to radically influence people that reduces their lifestyle, their comfort, convienence and well being, they will start to resist, especially if that reduction is not across the board (which it is likely to be highly skewed at first, affecting some people more than others as various job sectors crash in sequence). Then you will start to see resistence to the efforts to cool the crash with the suggestions here (and elsewhere). Then all bets of predicting the future are out the window.

That does not mean I'm against the changes. Far from it. I think we need to do what we can to make life after the crash better for those who make it. Make the ethanol plants (with reduced population they won't compete with food), make the windturbines (for local use), and other things I've noted before. Just I see these for after the crash, not a mechanism for preventing or managing the crash.

Those of us here understand and are making the changes where we can. I just think it is unrealistic to expect the entire population to just about over night make such wholesale changes. We are running out of time to make that change over gradual enough time to have an effect. This does not include the scale up of industry to make the changes. How much styrofoam boards can be made at a time now? How many hybrid cars can be made at a time? One GSHP company I contacted are so busy they could not accomodate me for 2 years, so I went to another, who is also swamped with conversions. Imagine the entire population of homes wanting a change over once NG starts to deplete. Chaos.

But that's just my opinion of course.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

And that non-insulated Victorian house is proof that you could live without heating in the past. Or at least nothing but a stove.

Here in Sweden you didn't have insulation to speak of until the sixties, before that, perhaps some woodchips for insulation.

And people didn't freeze to death. Ever heard of slippers, pullover, blankets, hotwater-kegs? You sleep better when the temperature is below 18 C, as long as you're under blankets. Cool to cold air, warm beneath the sheets.

And you got ice on the inside of windows in the morning, before you got the stove going.

Now, houses in Sweden are insulated. All you need is a wood stove, and you're better off than 100 years ago. And we have plenty of wood. As does Canada. And I suspect the US too, but not where people live.

We heat our entire 2000 square feet six room house with a single stove (Vermont Castings Intrepid II, VC:s smaller model). We don't get an even temperature, perhaps 26-27 C when we go to bed, and down to 20-21 when we fire the stove up again in the evening, even if it's -20 C outside. No problem. Properly insulated house.

Yes, it is possible to revert back to the pre-1800's method of heating our home. In fact we did that for 4 winters in that old house. We bought 2 woodstoves that could burn coal (uprights). We would get 5 tons of coal delivered in the fall (filled one large room in the basement to 5 ft level). Cheep, $150 to heat the house for the winter. Does feel nice to sit by a woodstove. But...

Messy. Coal dust was everywhere. And the ashes had to be disposed of. Messy job.

Inconvienent. We couldn't leave the house for more than 10 hours or the fires would go out and all the piping would freeze. Thus we did not visit any relatives for almost 4 years. Not including the hauling of buckets of coal several times a day from the basement to feed the stoves. That does not include the large pile of logs I had to cut and chop. Far too old for that today.

Dangerous. We amost had a house fire several times. Aways kept a bucket of water by the stoves. Was also tough to make sure the young kids did not accedently fall against a hot stove.

Reliability. Eventually the supplier of our coal stopped getting shipments when the rail line was pulled up. So we had to instal NG central heating. It was a relief to do so.

I highly doubt people will be willing to go back to that style of heating here after being pampered with central heating where all you have to do is set the thermostat once.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

Not my experience with firewood. So what if it is cool when you've been away over the weekend? If we go away for a longer time, we put on an electric thermostate-controlled heater that keeps the temperature above freezing so no pipes are damaged etc. And past PO, where are you going to travel and with what fuel?

Anyway, our house is properly insulated.

The wood ashes goes into our fields as PK-fertilizer every other week or so. No biggie, the Vermont Castings burn clean and produce very little ash.

But yes, as we have a farm and I'm home most of the time, easier for us than for a commuter.

not all that difficult to make insulating shutters or shades

I use aluminum coated "bubble wrap" insulation. Cut to fit the window and a bit of duct tape. Quick and easy to put up and take down. Adds a few R-value (all I need in New Orleans).

I use this on interior side of windows, but I have thought of a second layer on the outside, behind the screen.

Best Hopes for minimal steps.


Richard, a lot of people on this site do a lot of armwaving, without quantification. See
We could cut total energy use by factor 4 without invoking the primary energy losses, but we only need to cut by factor 2, and not even by 2030 to be effective. On an energy per unit of GDP Europe is very near factor 2 better then the USA now, and Switzerland is a little better than factor 2. They are in no way impoverished. I have achieved factor 3 in 2 houses now, at only slightly raised cost in the mortgage, but slightly improved cash flow because the increase in mortgage payment was less than the reduced energy cost. Industry in the USA is in general grossly energy inefficient. The car fleet can easily be made 4x more efficient. Rail to move goods long haul is near 10x more efficient than trucks. Canada is less efficient than the USA so should have a slightly easier job.
While acheiving factor 2+, converting a large part of our source to renewables give another factor 3+ for the part converted. All the technology exists already.
As for resources, eg build 8 million fewer cars per year, and you can crank out a lot of windmills. Build one PV plant, and use it's total output for the first 2 years to provide the energy to build another plant, and then cascade a whole industry.
As someone else pointed out, how fast did the USA go to a war footing after Dec 1941? Check out the volume of liberty ships, tanks, aircraft etc being built by the end of 1943.
A "good" engineer can tell you all the logical reasons why somethging can't be done. A "great" engineer meanwhile goes ahead and does it. There are no barriers except industry opposition and inertia. Murray

I think that we are suffering from a lack of imagination. We can't imagine life without cars, therefore we keep insisting that there must be "a way" to maintain our auto-centered suburban lifestyles.

I'll toot my horn to that:)

And money. All this sounds so nice, but without the money to do it it's not possible. To put in the GSHP will cost me 20-30K, which I'm getting from cashing in my RRSP's. To upgrate the insulation another 10K. We just spent 10K on new windows and doors. Most people are so maxed out on their mortgages that they cannot borrow any more, especially in this crunch.

We have hard winters here, we have to heat, we have to cook, we have to light our homes from 5Pm till bed time. Sure we can cut down some, but I highly doubt a 50% reduction on average across the board for everyone is any where near achievable.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

Bravo, Murray and Alan. I'm looking at things from the other side, the supply side, and I think we can look at somewhere around 40% to 50% of our current consumption without imports and with maximum amounts from renewable energy. Because our military is so dependent on jet fuel-kerosene-i doubt we can save on that part of our economy. And jet fuel makes up about 10% to 12% of our fuel use

The whole problem with focucing on negatives is that it tends to draw that result to us. I know, it sounds like black magic-but its true none the less.

David L

This is addressed to WestTexas.

I very much enjoyed your ASPO presentation and was wondering if you had considered to expand it to include a data sub-set on oil and natural gas subsidies (or below avarage market prices) in the major oil and natural gas producing areas of developed countries.

My wife and I toured part of Houston on their metro and did quite a bit of walking. The energy waste is striking even within the Hilton hotel -even an eskimo would freeze.

In Canada the oil & gas producing provinces have discovered peak oil -they all (Newfoundland and Alberta with others expected to follow)are ramping up royalty rates with a take it or leave it attitude. Alberta has used some of the same advisors consulting for the state of Alaska.

Regardless of where you stand on what is a "fair royalty rate", I notice that one of the predictions at the ASPO conference has fulfilled, namely when government intervenes the most likely result are wrong policies. In the case of Alberta, the royalty structure negates some environmental considerations and there are no incentives to recover all the oil with today's technology as the royalty structure is linked primarily to revenues.

If I understand your question, we will certainly see--and we are seeing--increased cash flows into energy producing areas worldwide, from West Texas to Saudi Arabia, which will probably cause increased energy consumption in virtually all producing areas.

As I noted at the conference, Midland, Texas reportedly had the largest Rolls Royce dealership in the world in the late Seventies, because cash flow was going up even as Texas oil production fell--as a result of rapidly increasing oil prices.

David L

Your ELM model shows the producing areas both consuming more and increasing their revenues due to higher oil prices.

As the price of oil increases, developed countries such as Norway and the UK, oil producing provinces auch as Alberta and states such Alaska are being much more agressive in the imposition of royalties and other fees. The net effect is the supply of oil available for export (to other countries or to importing areas within the same country) decreases even faster rate than your ELM projects.

Memmel has been of the opinion for a while that our projections are too optimistic. One thing that I have wondered about is what happens when the exporting countries realize that the importing countries are in trouble. Does it make sense for them to continue to maximize their exports so that Americans can drive their SUV's for a few more years (or months)?

The importing countries are the ones that are going to see a collapse. If the importing countries are going to implode anyway, why not aggressively cut back on exports and maximize the value of every barrel that you do decide to export?

Talk about the ultimate Black Swan. The very lifeblood of the world industrial economy may be draining away in front of our very eyes, and 99% of the population probably views high energy prices as temporary.

David L

Could not agree with you more.

Thanks for the introdution of this leading indicator of peak oil.

David L

Just a minor comment on an otherwise very thoughtful piece:

Oil consumption is down to 6.6 million barrels/day, 30% of our 2007 peak oil use..

Don't you mean just gasoline? Our oil consumption is close to 21 million b/d. What happened to the rest in this scenario?

6.6 million b/day for ALL uses. Petrochemical, asphalt, ship bunker fuel, aviation, farming, lubricants, military, heating oil, diesel, gasoline.

The model run actually showed a 62% reduction by 2038, but no allowance was made for increased bicycling. And higher population growth than I expect. I also think the Colin Campbell (ASPO_Ireland) oil supply scenario used in all of our runs is a bit optimistic. So 6.6 million b/day is doable.

VMT (vehicle miles traveled) by oil burners plummet, and the few private cars get 100+ mpg (and cost more than a Hummer in 2009 to run). Garbage trucks run off natural gas or propane.

Best Hopes,


Garbage trucks run off natural gas or propane.

Small quibble, Alan, but I would expect that in 2036, most garbage and other municipal service vehicles will be running on biodiesel. They are diesel now, and as most municipalities are likely to be operating under extreme fiscal stress, they are unlikely to be replacing their equipment any sooner than they absolutely have to. It will be less expensive to convert their trucks to biodiesel and keep them running as long as possible.

Biodiesel is no silver bullet, but it will be available in modest quantities as part of the total mix. It will certainly still be in the picture by 2036. Whether it is still in use by 2136 is a more open question.

Migros, a supermarket chain in Switzerland, runs their Zurich delivery truck fleet on propane generated by digesting the waste from the produce section of their stores. That isn't a possible idea, it's a reality. Murray

Sure it's not methane?

Right. Methane.

Hello AlanfromBigEasy,

Very Well Done--BIG kudos to you! As posted before: I consider you a national treasure. My simple vision for change is touchingly [achingly?] expressed in the lyrics of the classic Harry Chapin song, "Remember when the Music":
Remember when the music
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire,
For we believed in things, and so we'd sing.

Remember when the music
Brought us all together to stand inside the rain
And as we'd join our hands, we'd meet in the refrain,
For we had dreams to live, we had hopes to give.

Remember when the music
Was the best of what we dreamed of for our children's time
And as we sang we worked, for time was just a line,
It was a gift we saved, a gift the future gave.

Remember when the music
Was a rock that we could cling to so we'd not despair,
And as we sang we knew we'd hear an echo fill the air
We'd be smiling then, we would smile again.

Oh all the times I've listened, and all the times I've heard
All the melodies I'm missing, and all the magic words,
And all those potent voices, and the choices we had then,
How I'd love to find we had that kind of choice again.

Remember when the music
Was a glow on the horizon of every newborn day
And as we sang, the sun came up to chase the dark away,
And life was good, for we knew we could.

Remember when the music
Brought the night across the valley as the day went down
And as we'd hum the melody, we'd be safe inside the sound,
And so we'd sleep, we had dreams to keep.

And I feel that something's coming, and it's not just in the wind.
It's more than just tomorrow, it's more than where we've been,
It offers me a promise, it's telling me "Begin",
I know we're needing something worth believing in.

Remember when the music
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire,
This is why I do what I can to promote Peak Outreach. Even a fast-crash realist like me would much prefer to see an optimal paradigm transition.

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

Hello Alan,

Keep up the good work! I have borrowed from your ideas and submitted the following letter to the Orlando Sentinel. It was published today and was placed as the first response to the question of increasing the number of buses in the area.

"Buses are certainly not the answer. Traffic congestion is just a symptom of much larger problems, such as our over reliance on fossil fuels, unchecked growth, and an unwillingness or unawareness of the need to compromise convenience for the public good. The solution is electrified light rail, commuter rail, and trolleys. Devising a transportation system based on a depleting resource at this point is just poor judgment. Basing our transportation infrastructure on electricity will give us the flexibility we will need to meet the challenges of climate change and oil depletion, and make our economy less vulnerable to oil shocks. Electricity can be generated from a number of sources and eventually new power plants can be built from renewable and non-polluting sources. It will be much more difficult to do this if we continue to rely on petroleum, leaving ourselves no time to make critical changes in our transportation infrastructure. Rebuilding and electrifying our rail system will create jobs, boost the economy, and insulate us against ever rising oil prices. Wake up people! Europe is way ahead of us on this."

I know it is not much, but if enough of us decide to stop wringing our hands and join in the fight we can spread the word.

I absolutely reject suggestions that we should do nothing. Responses such as this will be ignored. Hopefully in the future people who do so will be shouted down, and this site can go mainstream.


I'll reply.

I most definitely think we should do something, and that is a long list including: more wind turbines geared to local use, more ground source heat pumps installed in every home possible, rebuild the railway system as it was in the 1950's and more, start a horse and beast of burden breeding program, build massive numbers of greenhouses (heated with GSHP) so foods can be grown year round, prepare for local economies, and scale down large mega projects.

Two things prevent this from happening. Government and public awareness that PO is just around the corner. And 2, the time we have left to put into doing this. We should have started all this 20 years ago. Then we could have been more relaxed and do the work right. Now we will be rushed into implementing such things at the last moment. Such is human nature.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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


Thanks for the reply. I can't help with much, but I can help to spread public awareness. As I think a great many more of us here could, if we chose to do so. As far as rushing into things at the last minute, there is nothing we can do about that except to try and motivate change as soon as we can. I think the time is right and the message is ready to be heard. Many people are aware of these problems and need to be educated on workable solutions. I took the opportunity to advance Alan's idea when the subject of mass transit came up, and tried to plant some seeds while staying on topic. IMO, this is how to communicate to the masses. If you try to tell them doomsday is coming you will be ignored, simple as that. You have frame the problem in terms they can understand, relate it to what they hear every day. Everyone knows oil is going up and that climate change has gained a much broader acceptance. Stating that oil is a depleting resource is non-controversial. Appeal to common sense!


Something else I wanted to add on this subject. I advise against injecting politics, religion, or personal ideology into the message. This will also get you ignored.


Hi Clint.

I've tried to do the same thing (I can see eyes rolling from here LOL) and do it rationally. That we need to act. But I get denial big time. Everyone seems to think they can do a little tinkering, like using compact bulbs, and they've done their bit. Lifestyle secured.

When you try to explain that lifestyle cannot be maintained as is under depleting resources, they turn right off and want to change the subject.

I've even tried to talk to politicans about PO, the possibility it can happen soon, and they just ramble on about there's lots of oil, no one is going public it's a problem so it can't be, the market will solve it, technology will solve it, etc. My brother, as an example, once I showed him, his first reaction was it was a plot by Big Oil to get more money from us. Then he resorted to saying might as well use it all up and have a great time doing it while it lasts. Like a big party at your favorite bar on its last day before closing forever.

The problem of explaining to people is the diverse set of reactions, most of which are denials, or do not want to hear about it even if true.

The vast majority of people do not, and cannot, grasp the enormaty of the problem. Not until it hits them in the face.

So, this actually could be a good thing for those of us who understand. We have the time to stock up, prepare (physcially and mentally) while the rest of the world goes on it's normal functions. If a panic were to start from the public becoming aware might just make the situation worse. Which is likely the fear of governments from making anything public.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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


I'm sort of limited in the preparations I can make. I recognize the seriousness of the problem, but my wife thinks technology will solve everything and we'll be driving PHEV's. I have been studying the economic situation longer than I have this issue, so understandably I am not optimistic about our chances of getting through this without serious hardship. But I have to do something, I have sort of reached a breaking point after Robert's post last week. I just cannot sit by while such a major problem goes unaddressed, I have a son to think about! After posting a couple times it dawned on me that many people here think solutions are pointless. I reject this logic as it is contrary to my best interest and is not something most people want to hear.

I have been trying to spread the word, and have stepped up my efforts recently. I haven't tried to talk to any politicians yet, but I did mention to one candidate a couple of years ago that I thought it would good for our town to take over the electric service. I try to be very careful in how I approach the subject with people. I use innuendo extensively and try to get them talking about it themselves. Some people of course are not capable of understanding, I don't waste my time on them. We have contact with others in our area who have the same fears and my hope is to find others. And these are normal people with families. It takes time to build consensus, but that is what needs to be done. The hardest part is not to lose hope and keep from becoming cynical. Keep up the good fight!


Hi Clint

I once felt that way, that we could do something to soften the blow. But I think people follow a form of grief when one becomes peak oil aware. The stages may be the same. The last stage is acceptance. Thus I'm beginning to think that the train is rolling along at an ever faster rate, the economists are fixated on growth (and the oxymoronic notion of sustainable growth). Politicians also want growth for jobs as that votes them back in. So the pressure is on to ever increase the economic throttle. But the fuel is running out to run it.

Thus I've moved into hunkerdown mode. I've started to cash out my RRSP and spend it on items that we will need. One is a large passive solar greenhouse I can grow in all year (it's currently illegal, damn bylaws). Next is the GSHP to get off NG.

Next step is to get my kids set up. Escape kits, fuel, food, water, etc. So they have a chance to get here (We moved from a big city large house small lot to small town, small house large lot because of PO). Some of my kids now get the message and are looking to move near here. But waiting to see if a housing crash starts here and take advantage of it.

My last thing I have to do this year is get my firearms licence. Then start preparing for possible usage. Better to have and know how to use it than not have it and wished down the road I had.

I guess that puts me in the BunkerBoys club. Not by choice. Sure wish I could retire like my father did. My timing never has been very good LOL.

That all said. I think, if we were truly altruistic, that we would do the things I noted before to prepare, not to stave off PO, but to prepare for the next era in human society. The Post Carbon Era.

Good luck on your endevours, and the next grieving stage.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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


I wish I could talk to you face-to-face. Communication is severely hampered without this kind of feedback.

You misunderstand me. It's not that I haven't thought about what going to happen, haven't listened to the arguments for an inevitable collapse, and haven't thought about what is in my family's best interest. ( My son is nowhere near being able to take care of himself, BTW.) I have been doing this for years, and have access to all the same information as you.

One thing I have learned is that our personalities and circumstances color our outlook on the future. I think it is safe to say that the future is unknowable, despite proclamations otherwise.

At the risk of being repetitive, let me restate that the hardest part of dealing with this for some of us is not falling into the trap of cynicism and hopelessness. I have a tendency to do this, but I try very hard to step outside myself and re-examine my beliefs because of my responsibility.

Please do not underestimate me. I am very capable of understanding any of the arguments presented here. What we choose to believe can say more about us than about what the future actually holds. I think giving up hope on modern society is premature.

Good luck to you whatever may transpire,


AD- You have much more pleasant dreams than I do.


that made me sad, because it focuses by omission on the aspects that I think ensure it'll never happen. Politics and human nature.

It might be interesting to thread through the scenario the electoral cycles, the movers and leaders who actually enabled the outcomes to be realised - because I can't see the point in the story where the US elects effectively a modern socialist government, or where the representatives are a significant majority of truly selfless individuals, prepared to risk their own political power to do what need doing.

What you describe is well beyond my best-case-imaginable-soft-landing - I hope it comes true, but I'm close to certain it won't - even though everything you describe is, I think, in essence 'doable'.

Jaymax (cornucomer-doomopian)

Well I hope that it will be that positive in 2030, but it is hard to imagine. It is only 27 years away, and it will be many more years, before an action plan is put in tp place, but its a great read, well done.
Memorial gifts

What is this fascination with trains? They're not effecient; not unless you twist and distort things and use a very perverse definition of the word. Stop dreaming of a world where people waste a couple weeks of their life every year doing nothing more than waiting around for trains, buses and donkeys or - worse - waiting to transfer from one train to another or one donkey to another. If CO2 is an issue for you, address that issue in a way that actually faces up to the reality that trains died 50 years because they don't actually work for people. If the C02 solution is in a form that doesn't work well for people, like trains, they ain't gonna use it. And if they don't use it the solution fails. And if the sky is falling like so many around here claim there is no room for failure.

I'm not sure I should even respond if you're so certain of yourself, your post has characteristics that indicate an agenda. Please consider educating yourself further. Many people will consider using trains again once realization dawns that it is necessary for the public good. Europe has a very good rail system, electric mostly, and uses much less oil than we do. I cannot fathom where you get your information concerning efficiency, unless it was misinformation from a special interest opposed to rail. When I visited Washington D.C., the Metro seemed efficient enough to me.


You are replying to a troll that has been registered for 1hr 36 minutes.

There is enough noise/information on this website without feeding the trolls/intentionally ignorant. If I wanted that I could go poke Airdale and Eric Blair and see if I could get them to start another flamefest.

Larry (and Clint), bless both of you for attempting the high road. Both of you are correct in your approaches...and that's heartening. :)

Thanks Professor,

I sent some people I know to look at this story and didn't want this post to stand uncontested.


I know he sounds like a troll, but certainty doesn't come so easily to me as to you apparently. I thought that my response covered that possibility, but apparently you disagree.


LarryCO -

Why do you assume that prkCO's comment was trollish, just because it is obviously contrary to what you hold to be true?

As far as I can see, prkCO was not rude, was not belligerent, and was not being pointlessly argumentative. What he WAS guilty of was expressing an opinion contrary to the current TOD dogma. And for that he/she deserves to be labeled as a troll?

One of the reasons (among many) why I tend not to post much anymore is that a certain level of group-think has descended upon TOD. If you believe that electrified mass transit will cure all our transportation woes, if you believe that the human race is congenitally incapable of remediating the problems it has created for itself, if you believe that we are doomed to a distopian Mad Max world of scarcity and chaos, then you are OK.

But if you should have the temerity to challenge this received wisdom, then, a priori, you are a troll.

TOD is a great forum with some extraordinarily intelligent and well-informed people participating. However, if it becomes a bastion of doomerish
ultra-green ideologues, then it becomes just another single-focus internet circle jerk.

As long as one is civil and acts in a spirit of good will, then his/her opinions should not be cavalierly waved away as mere trollishness. For such is the path of tyranny.

Trollishness, like beauty, is largely in the eye of the beholder.


I don't agree with everyone on TOD. I don't even agree with the people I agree with all the time. I acknowledge the danger of groupthink.

Claiming that:

1) Rails are inefficient
2) Railroads died 50 years ago

means you are either willfully ignorant or a troll. Its that spirit of goodwill thing you comment on.... his/her comment was NOT made in the spirit of good will. It was an attack from an easily disproved idealogical position.

America's goods move by trucks. America's trucks move by rail.

America's rail roads are simply overloaded they are carrying so much freight. The dis-incentives for providing more capacity, especially the medium-high speed that it would take to make Alan's dreams meaningful are HUGE.

Anyway.... Alan dream is nice... but it won't happen. I'm way more in the AMPOD camp..... Its a Hobbs-ian world out there and we are going to kill ourselves before we change our way of life. I suspect that Climate change may well get us before running out of oil does us in.

Just in case though, I've bought a nice 6 acre plot and am working on learning how to farm/ranch along the Polyface model and hoping to retire from the 9-5 job and become a farmer. If PO doesn't kill us, I'll have a business I enjoy. If it does, I'll have food and a gun. (And neighbors with guns)

Well, but he is right, US-centric wise.

Other countries and cultures may have accepted rail, but nowhere I could think of it is the predominant mode of transportation, at least for passengers. For what you with ALan defend to come true you need to prove:
1) US people can and will accept such a major shift of transportation mode
2) What will it take and how much will it cost? Will it fit the current infrastructure? How much of it will need to be rebuilt?

Clearly we need a path from "here" to "there", otherwise this is not a plan, just science fiction.

Some people like the guy you announced as troll believe for a number of reasons that there is no such path, or it will not be picked by the majority of people. Which as a final result means the same thing. Personally I think there is a path (it could be done), but it won't be picked (it won't be done). It will just be overwhelmingly costly and unpopular and will have to be executed during time when economy is weak... just forget it.

I think that carpooling is going to be an important intermediate step.

Getting people out of the mode of always driving themselves alone during the commute, and into the mode of commuting with several other people, is an important psychological step.

Once they have taken this first step, then the next one might be to walk or bike a little ways to a central rendezvous point to be picked up by the car pool - or then maybe by a shuttle bus or express bus.

Once you've got increasing numbers of people riding shuttle buses or express buses, then the economic case for light rail starts to look a lot less iffy.

Part of it is that rail transit has been seen as a "big city" thing for a long time in the US. When more people start seeing more smaller cities installing rail transit, they are going to start asking why they can't have it too.

In my ASPO-Houston speech, I noted that Mulhouse France (population 112,000) has less Light Rail than Houston Texas today, but should have more by 2012.

This is despite a 2003 vote in Houston for 73 miles of Light Rail. The pace of building is so slow (see GWB, Tom Delay (aptly named) and Culberson) that a small French town will outrun them !

I also noted that only 5 French towns of 100,000+ population do not have a tram or plans for one.

Light Rail & Streetcars are not just for big cities !

Best Hopes for Smaller Cities & Towns,


Larry, nice to see you have a plan "b".

I do not think it's at all unreasonable to regard someone with an account less than 2 hours old, who uses in what must be virtually their first post, emotive and prejudicial terms like:

"What is this fascination"
"twist and distort"
"Stop dreaming"
"trains, buses and donkeys"
"if the sky is falling"

But pile all that, on top of blatantly and demonstrably false absurd statements like: "[trains] don't actually work for people." -- when anybody with even a brief interest in this topic would know perfectly well they work extremely well for large populations in many places...

equals either troll, or an ignorant, closed-minded moron. Calling someone a troll is probably the more polite of the likely possibilities.

I love TOD. I've seen other sites I've loved lost to people who wade in like this one did. I don't want to lose TOD. If someone's not a troll, and gets called a troll, it'll soon wash off, because they'll want to make up for the mis-impression by either asking polite questions, or rationally backing up their opinions with logic or facts.

TOD so-far is mostly group-think free. There are intelligent people of a wide variety of opinions, prepared to put their points across calmly for the most part, without the kind of emotive and demonstrably false nonsense employed in that post.

Jaymax (cornucomer-doomopian)


You make some good points. I am neither a doomer or ultra-green idealogue FWIW, but I know whereof you speak. I consider myself to be pretty centrist actually, except that I have always been concerned about energy after the oil shocks of the 70's. Finding the Oil Drum gave me a source of information that I cherish.

As far as the trains go, I just think it would be progress to bring the US up to the standards in Europe. I think it should be fairly non-controversial and something everybody who is concerned about energy can get behind. I don't expect them to solve all our problems, but it's someplace to start. I respect Alan for his conviction and diligence in his advocacy, but I think for myself and do not close my mind to other opinions.

Of course this only puts off the controversy, and we are going to have to deal with vocal minorities when the subject of other energy sources is brought up. I don't think the readership of TOD is static though, and the more it grows the more mainstream it will become. I agree that this forum is valuable and we should preserve its integrity.

I'm pretty sure the guy was a troll though :)


Light rail was installed from Pasadena to downtown LA some years ago. It is very popular. Trains run on time so there is little waiting, and it beats H___ out of sitting in traffic jams. Have you ever been to Europe? You may be certain of your opinion Sport, but you're dead wrong. Murray

Trains and buses are no fun compared to cars. Waiting, crowding in with people, lots of walking (although that's healthy). But cars are gonna be a lot more expensive to run in the future so there isn't a whole lot of choice about it.

I see a growth in bicycle use. The future ideal setup is a house close to work. But the way we've developed cities/suburbs, having a house close to work is not something most people can have.

I disagree.

I HATE driving in the city. Stressful for sure.

I'm a good city driver, I can parrallel park in 2 moves, I've never hit anyone, heck, I've driven successfully in Mexico.

I much more enjoyed hopping on train in Japan and getting where I needed to go than driving in Northern VA. If only the Metro had extended out to Herndon.

"I HATE driving in the city. Stressful for sure."

Yeah, there are plenty of areas where a strange thing has happened - the government has not increased the roads nor required developers to pay for such, but allowed all sorts of development to increase the population - and still remained in power to do it over and over. As the population swells and roads stay the same size mass transit does become more and more attractive relative to driving.

Traveling in the UK trains tend to be my first choice most of the time. Generally the time is similar, sometimes a bit slower, sometimes a bit quicker. But I get to sit down, read my New Scientist, perhaps have a drink, have something to eat without delaying my journey...

I'll generally only drive if I have something really bulky or awkward to take, and I'll only fly if wherever I'm coming from and going to are both very close to the airport at both ends, otherwise it normally takes longer, or if not, there's barely a moment to relax - it's park, walk, queue to check in, queue to pass security, queue to board, wait, wait for trolley, wait, queue to get off, queue for luggage, queue for taxi. Nyargh!!!!

Jaymax (cornucomer-doomopian)

As someone who used to live in a big city, and ALWAYS commuted to work by express bus (except for a short time carpooling), I can tell you that mass transit is indeed quite a bit more fun than cars, at least during rush hour. I made several friends on my bus and would have enjoyable conversations with them each morning and evening. Or, one could read the paper or a book while traveling. It was really nice to leave the driving to someone else.

Trains, on mass, will return big time as the only viable alternative as people and goods must get to market. But not until the dust settles. We may even go back to coal or wood burning steam locomotives if liguid fuels or over head electrification are impracticle. I suspect we would see a mix of rail power in different regions. And smaller railways emerge. Be in mind that the volume of rail traffic will be much reduced. All those over seas containers will be rotting in huge dumps mined for their metals. All those automobile rail cars may end up as scrap or used to haul cattle.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

If a smooth transition has to happen it can't be accomplished through a democratic government. Never a democratic government able to achieve anything of such scale and of so much opposition from the masses as no body likes to know that their cars needs to be taken away, load shedding can be a norm, plastic things can go scarce and so on. Reason is that public is, at a ratio of 999 out of a 1000 have no more intellect than a child has in a family. You can never trust them to make a decision. First they are not fully informed about the situation, given its technicality and hard facts on ground. Second they are too many and quarrel and oppose each other so much its very hard for them to reach a conclusion. Third they are short sighted, can't effectively plan for a long term. Fourth they are selfish, would like to maximize their own benefits while destroying the commons.

other arguments about democracy is if the magic number 51% or more votes for one candidate make him win in an election, why not not voting of 51% or more automatically result in death of democracy through suicide, when it clearly shows that more than half of population not really believe in democratic system.

Whenever humanity had to go through tough time and they were successful it was always under a dictator. See how fast communist russia under stalin recovered from massive losses of wwi and by 1930 was totally converted from an agrarian economy to an industralize economy. No other nation ever developed so fast, merely in a decade, without foreign help. Look how cuba transformed itself when after fall of soviet union its oil supplies were cut off.

Problem with a democratic country is that it is too slow. There are hundreds of people sitting in a national assembly quarrelling, criticizing and pulling each other legs, having power struggle, that little time is left for actual positive working.

Dictatorship not always work. After hard time is over things can be relaxed and for day to day operation more public involvement can be allowed.

And of course for an example of lightspeed change under dictatorship we need only turn to the example of Pakistan.

Small Correction but one that Presidential Ron Paul is trying to point out.

We were NOT created as a Democracy. We were a Democratic Republic.

The Rights of the Many Shall Not Run Roughshod Over The Few.

Beware of the Collectivists.

Democracy seems to be mainly rights with few obligations.

Beware of systems.

Some of our future cars
And on climate change Im worried more aboute new ice age than global warming

"A massive expulsion of non-citizens (both legal and illegal) followed the 2016 election. Many American living abroad were forced home as a result but the USA was left with 15 million fewer consumers, significant social issues and a still raging debate."

So when did legal immigration stop? When did illegal immigration enforcement take place? Surely they would have had to stop before expulsion. That would mean in less than a decade they will be over? I doubt either one will occur by 2016. They are both too much a part of the dogma and the indoctrination, considered too sacred by too many. I would expect to see at least one of the pundits and talking heads say that "it is precisely because we are in tough times that we must continue to reap the benefits of immigration".

My reading of this is that Alan was trying to throw in a little "black swan" into the narrative to make it more believable. It is probably pretty likely that some socio-political change of that magnitude WILL happen over that time period. None of us can know what it will be, or whether or not this particular thing will be it. It is probably as credible a possibility as anything else he could have thought of.

Based upon his other posts, I don't think that Alan is a rabid, foreigner-hating nativist.

"Based upon his other posts, I don't think that Alan is a rabid, foreigner-hating nativist."

I have nothing absolutely nothing against rabid, foreign-hating nativists. In fact, I commend them. I was only trying to see why he mentions deportation without mentioning when immigrations stops.

I have nothing absolutely nothing against rabid, foreign-hating nativists. In fact, I commend them.

Well, I DO have something against some of them. Some of them can be mean, hateful, racist, bigoted, uncivil, disrespectful, and most unkind. I take a rather dim view towards people of that type, regardless of whether they are talking about immigration or anything else.

The question of immigration, and to what extent we can or should have the door open, how many people (if any) we can absorb, border security, etc., are all legitimate issues that can and shold be discussed in an intelligent and civil manner. Decent people can disagree, but still respect one another.

I do happen to think that our capacity to absorb more immigrants is quite limited, and that border security is a concern. But I am open minded as to how to address that with a minimum of human suffering.

My "vision" is a mix of stuff that may happen regardless of what we do (massive increases in suicides (New Orleans is x6), increasing obesity catching up with health combined with health care in turmoil = decreased life expectancy) and stuff that we can do today that will pull us out of a downward spiral after a decade long delay (would that we had started even minimal efforts a decade ago).

There will be some social turmoil as a result of post-Peak Oil. I am sure of that. Exactly what, I do not know. Illegal immigration will not continue BAU post-Peak Oil. So I combined the two likelihoods into a negative scenario. Scapegoats are as old as organized societies unfortunately.

The election of 2016 seemed a good time for a nativist reaction of anger towards immigrant scapegoats.

One message meant by the negatives I put in, is that bad things do not preclude good things. The future is not monocolor (despite some doomer predictions).


"increasing obesity catching up with health combined "

I doubt there will be increasing obesity with increasing oil prices. There will be more walking and biking.

"Illegal immigration will not continue BAU post-Peak Oil. So I combined the two likelihoods into a negative scenario. Scapegoats are as old as organized societies unfortunately."

What does BAU mean???????????? I see you have pulled out the scapegoat card.

You still have not said when you think immigration will stop. Surely you don't think deportation will happen at the same time as immigration stops?

"The election of 2016 seemed a good time for a nativist reaction of anger towards immigrant scapegoats."

Yep, millions upon millions upon millions upon millions of immigrants has no affect on finite resources. Anyone who suggests so is scapegoating.

"One message meant by the negatives I put in, is that bad things do not preclude good things. The future is not monocolor (despite some doomer predictions)."

I myself look forward to the mass deportations. That may even make up for all the bad parts. Imagine a country in which population actually decreases. One can certainly dream, can't they?

"The question of immigration, and to what extent we can or should have the door open, how many people (if any) we can absorb, border security, etc., are all legitimate issues that can and shold be discussed in an intelligent and civil manner. Decent people can disagree, but still respect one another."

From my experience the people who advocate the never ending stream of immmigrants by the millions are the ones most likely to do the name calling and ad hominem attacks since they have a much tougher position to defend. Which position is better for the environment. Which position causes more traffic congestion, more crowding, more resource scarcity? Tough questions that are usually dealt with by name-calling.

"I do happen to think that our capacity to absorb more immigrants is quite limited, and that border security is a concern. But I am open minded as to how to address that with a minimum of human suffering."

You seem to be tip toeing. Let's get some numbers. Right now we have 1 million legal a year and an unknown illegal - appears to be at least a half a million. What do you want immigration to be?

Yet another fairy tale of what could have been to tell the great grandchildren. If there are any.

I've just posted a shorter term utopic/dystopic essay to my brand new blog.

Basically I show that a loose monetary policy from the Fed can bring about a short term scenario for the US that looks exactly like the doom kind of scenarios forecasted after PO, independently from how long away the physical global Hubbert's Peak may be. And that is because that scenario is "Peak Oil now" for the US only, not because of the peaking and subsequent decline of world oil production, but because of the peaking and hard decline of the US' purchasing power for oil (and everything else), brought about by the loss of value of its currency.

An excerpt:

The two paths to rebalancing.

The bottom line is that the US current account WILL eventually be balanced, but, depending on the US Federal Reserve's chosen monetary path, it will happen in either of two ways, which could be envisaged as follows:

A) The Fed follows a tight monetary policy focused on food and energy inflation and the US government adopts a sound fiscal policy, sharply curtailing its military spending and starting an orderly retreat of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The housing market implodes and unemployment rises. Most "structured investment vehicles" and "conduits" fall as banks cut their credit lines to them, honoring their status as "off-balance sheet" entities. The illegal immigration problem solves by itself as millions of former construction workers return to their home countries. The recession causes a substantial drop in non-essential imports (mainly from China) and in the trade deficit. The dollar manages to remain one of the main world trade and reserve currencies.

B) The Fed relaxes its monetary policy as necessary to try to avoid a US recession. Countries with current-account surpluses allow their currencies to appreciate against the dollar - first their central banks stop buying dollars and then, as the dollar loses more and more value, they start dumping them. There is a race to get rid of the dollar whereby its value plummets against those currencies (Paul Krugman's "Wile E. Coyote moment"). Producers of oil and other commodities start pricing them in their own currencies, and consequently their prices shoot up in dollars. As a result, both imported goods (including oil) and US-produced goods that can readily be exported (including grains and most food items) become much more expensive to US consumers, who have to sharply cut their consumption thereof. All imports drop sharply and the trade deficit switches to surplus. Subsidies to farm products are terminated, and there might even be taxes and quotas imposed on agricultural exports to try to moderate the rise in their domestic prices.

The Fed becomes the buyer of last resort for all new issues of US government debt. The massive inflation arising from debt monetization reduces the real burden of both public and private US debts, but feeds a further abandonment of the dollar as international reserve currency and a further plunge in its value. Developing countries indebted in dollars party big time.

In reprisal to oil exporters not accepting dollars and demanding to be paid in their own currencies, the US mandates that US food exports cannot be paid in dollars and can only occur within a "food for oil" framework, whereby a country will be able to buy US food only for the value of the oil and natural gas it has sold to the US during the previous year. Such a de facto repudiation of the dollar puts the last nail on the coffin of its international status. Canada, not needing US food, cuts all exports of oil and natural gas to the US. Out of oil and natural gas scarcity, electricity prices skyrocket. Cities heavily relying on air conditioning and far-fetched supplies like Las Vegas become forsaken. As the rise in gasoline prices makes commuting progressively more expensive, the price of suburban houses falls and their construction stops altogether.

Unable to procure supplies for its network of military bases around the world, the US decides to dismantle it (the network, i.e.) The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan starts as gradual but turns into a rush out of popular pressure after the TV shows images of soldiers lacking all kinds of supplies. In the US, food and fuel price rises trigger a wave of riots and looting. Martial law is enacted and troops just arrived from abroad are posted to gasoline stations and supermarkets to keep order.

Peak Oilers must have immediately noticed that scenario B looks exactly like the doom kind of scenarios forecasted after PO. And that is because scenario B is "Peak Oil now" for the US only, not because of the peaking and subsequent decline of world oil production, but because of the peaking and hard decline of the US' purchasing power for oil (and everything else), brought about by the loss of value of its currency.

If the US wants to avoid scenario B and retain at least part of its monetary most advantageous position, it needs to do some serious shock and awe. Not of military power, but of monetary and fiscal soundness.

I think the provisioning plan for "scenario B" is for the FED to sharply raise interest rates when things start going out of control.

Whether this would be enough to avert the coming collapse would be anyones's guess. Personally I think they are playing with fire. One more year of continuing dollar depreciation (which equates to plundering our creditors) and all of them might become way too pissed off with it and start selling it en masse. For what will follow your essay is a very good guess...

Thanks Beach Boy, good presentation of possible futures. I'll check out your blog:)

BTW, anyone that's interested in market and economic events check out Stoneleigh's ROUNDUP on TOD Canada as well.

I think the decision to head down path B was taken at the last FOMC meeting. Chair Bernake has already made it pretty clear that there is no way that he is ever going to allow anything even remotely looking like deflation to ever appear. That is the one lesson he learned from his studies of the Great Depression - just in the same way that generals always are prepared to fight the LAST war.

We already know that the price of oil, all energy (due to substitution), and food must go up in real terms, and thus that the prices for other stuff (including wages) must lag behind in real terms. One of the reasons why they have decided on path B is because hyperinflation will tend to obfuscate the reality of what is happening, giving politicians some cover.

I think plan B has been in the works ever since the gold standard was abandoned, some 30 years now. I don't think anybody was seriously considering that repaying all this piled up debt is possible. Not in real term, inflation adjusted dollars.

The September meeting just made what has been decided way before that apparent to everyone. I'm sure it will be named something like "the beginning of the end" by the historians that write about these events.

Thanks beachboy - this is one of the most accurate descriptions of what is happening NOW and what is to come that has been posted IMO.

Though you could have left out A) as it's neva gona happen.

Bravo !!!

These are IMO the exact scenarios that can play out. The conclusions are also correct.

The only problem IMO is that the globalists in power will not implement case A.

This is why we need many Ron Paul's, but because of who has the power it isn't going to happen.

Thank you for this effort.

While we may disagree about a number of details, I think it is exremely important that we forge a consensus vision of a "best case" scenario for the medium term (and 30 years feels about right).

The reason this is needed is in answer to a commenter's question above, "how do we get there from here?" If we have a general idea of where we'd like to end up, we can start to make intelligent interim decisions, both individually and, more important, in terms of public policy.

I am active with a local political group in my small California city, trying to influence the political debate and local public policy in the direction of sustainability.

What I see here is that the public sentiment is now pretty much opposed to new sprawl development, which is good, and is beginning to trend in favor of rail and other constructive things.

But public/voter sentifment still heavily favors spending massive public money on more and better streets and parking, more useless retail, etc. Those trends are still taking us in the wrong direction, vis-a-vis our consensus vision for the future.

It's useful for us as activists to have this screen to help evaluate policy decisions -- do they move us in the right direction, or the wrong one? Soon, hopefully, public understanding about peak oil and energy will develop to a point where we can use a vision to help frame the debate in their minds as well. (It's not there yet, unfortunately. If I use a peak oil argument to oppose a freeway expansion, I'm still marginalized as a kook...)

That is the primary reason for posting this article on TOD today.

Stake out a reasonably definitive position, subject it to the TOD meatgrinder (will major league baseball survive post-Peak Oil ? among other issues :-) and let the meme grow.

I think that there is value in proposing a defined, holistic vision of what could be. Planning and working for the future is a primary value of such a vision !

I am surprised that no one challenges the concept of the Terrible Tens. Life expectancy down almost a decade, suicides up 8-fold is NOT nirvana ! Add to that a vicious anti-immigrant backlash. And a decade of struggle is my own best guess for what will be required to just bottom out and stabilize the situation.

I also believe that the first decade need not be the first revolution of a death spiral.


Best Hopes,


My basic operating assumptions are still that the "Terrible Tens" will look and feel a lot like the 1970s, while the "Tumbling Twenties" will look and feel a lot like the 1930s. It won't be anything close to an exact fit, though; there will be lots of differences. In particular, I expect the Terrible Tens to be worse toward the end than the later part of the 1970s were, and I expect the Tumbling Twenties be worse in many ways than the 1930s; in particular, there will be no turnaround and slow recovery like there was after FDR took office.

It could be anyone's guess about suicide rates vs. other mortality rate factors. Our present health care system is too expensive now, no way will it be affordable much longer. Increased homicide rates through civil unrest, authoritarian repression, or general violent crime increases might be more likely. There is always the black swan of some pandemic.

"I am surprised that no one challenges the concept of the Terrible Tens."

Dezakin and advancednano haven't weighed in yet :)

I don't doubt we'll have some hardships with such a confluence of problems, but if we can get people to acknowledge the problems and work together there is lot that can be accomplished. You're doing a great job at showing the way IMO.


Maybe in another world, which did not follow the rules of simple economics and path of least resistance, this could happen... or should happen. But not in ours, not in USA or the majority of the world IMO. Here is my take what will follow the "Terrible Teens" (I like the 'teens' better, reminds me how immature we humans are, and how we always tend to repeat past mistakes):

1) Electricity mix becomes somewhere 60% coal, 20% nuclear (yeah I don't see it getting much better), 10% hydro, 5% wind (and I think I'm optimistic for this!). The rest 5% I see covered by newer fuels like biomass, tar sands and oil shale. CCS is finally revealed as a pipe dream. IMO in 15-20 years NG will not be used as fuel for electricity but mostly in vehicles where it will be realized as a much more precious replacement.
2) No major infrastructure/high upfront costs projects like rail are commenced. People desperate to heat and warm don't think half a century ahead (for the same reasons I don't see any significant advances in nuclear/renewables/pumped hydro etc)
3) People switch to small cars, diesel and NG powered vehicles are the most popular. Plug-in hybrids become dominant among those who can afford them (and this group will hardly grow in size). For them even more important limiting factor becomes the unreliable and expensive electricity supply.
4) Suburbs shrink but don't totally collapse; there will be vast distant subdivisions entirely abandoned, but the closer to city centers areas will thrive. A growing number of people will use mass transit - buses, not rail. Abandoned outer suburbs will become centers of crime and poverty.
5) Climate change of course proceeds as planned and NO and half Florida will already be under water

This is my scenario for the USA given its firm commitment to trusting the almighty "invisible hand" and abandoning any thought for a coherent public policy. Your scenario suits much more for Switzerland - though even they won't be able to get to 50% wind, for technical reasons.

Electricity mix: Solar will be at least 5-10%, mainly because there will be a lot of people rushing to put PV panels on their rooftops. Not everyone will be able to, of course, but lots could and would. If you add in geothermal and tidal to wind, and combine it with hydro, then perhaps your your 20% non-solar renewables could be something more like 25-30%. We can do a little better than 20% for nuclear, I am thinking 25-30% is realistic. I don't see NG plants being totally phased out, so that might still contribute at least 5-15%. I also think that, despite substitution activity as people switch out of oil, the price increases for all forms of energy will drive down demand for electricity as well as for all other forms of energy. Thus, the upper end of the ranges that I have specified above might be more realistic, which might mean that the percentage of coal might be quite a bit less than your 60%.

As to CCS, the crucial question is whether or not CO2 can be feasibly captured and pumped into oil fields to aid in recovery. That's the only way that CCS is going to make any sense.

Investment funds: This is one of the VERY BIG questions in my mind. We simply don't have enough money to do everything, especially as the economy starts to decline.

Nevertheless, I expect government to become more authoritarian, and to force resources to be accumulated and directed toward high-priority energy supply and energy efficiency projects.

Cars: I see lots of vans and SUVs eventually being used for carpooling and as small-scale neighborhood shuttles. A mix of small cars, including PHEVs, NEVs, and diesels will increasingly predominate. New cars will be bought and added to the mix very slowly, because people will hold on to their old cars and drive them longer than they have in the past; the money to be saved by not having to make a car payment is going to be a lot more than the money to be saved through higher mpg for a long time to come.

Solar costs will have to come down 5-10 times for this to happen. Absent a technology breakthrough I don't see this happening - most of the costs associated with solar PV are related to material costs, energy inputs and mostly manual labour in assembling and installing them. None of this will decline and with unwinding of globalisation it will become even more impossible to lower costs by outsourcing it to China.

Solar, wind, rail, nuclear - they all share high initial upfront costs and very long payoff times. As I have lived in times of severe economic downturn I can assure you that these investments will be the first to be foregone. A poor person has low investment horizon, and if PV does not pay for 3-4 years at most, he/she will prefer to use the money to meet his current needs. Funding and credit will of course dry up.

The way out like you pointed out is government intervention and putting the correct policy in place. Unfortunately I expect the government to be more or less bankrupt too, so their options will be limited:
High financial cost/low external cost projects like solar/wind/rail will be disfavored for financial reasons.
Lower financial cost/high external cost projects like coal, CTL, oil shale, ethanol etc. will be the prefered ones.
Nuclear lies somewhere in between and expect it will be supported, but nearly not in the required scale.

I agree that big cars won't be entirely abandoned, especially if carpooling becomes the norm. I am a big supporter of car pooling and I think there is a great opportunity if it is combined with modern technology - imagine on-demand car pooling where you just submit your beginning and final destination into a centralized system and a passing by car participating in the system picks you up. It will work, will be cheap to implement (compare to rail!) and IMO - it would be much more fun than driving alone.

I have wanted to observe this on a visit to DC, but I have read of a "carpooling" that just happened w/o planning, etc.

3 people are needed to use some HOV lanes. A person drives up at a shopping center at the, say, Pentagon line. Two people silently get in (they parked their cars @ the shopping center). Protocol is that unless the driver speaks, no one says anything. At the Pentagon they all get out and go their ways. When the driver leaves, he stops by the HOV line at the Pentagon and picks up three (rather than 2) and takes them back to the shopping center.

All per news reports and personal reports.

Best Hopes for Creative Adaptation (which I do want, but do not count on),


Solar costs only need to go down a factor of two. I'm referring to SoCal, Southern US not the entire country as a whole. We've gotten to the point where the silicon is cheap and the labor is the expensive part. If we go into a recession, it might not be too difficult to get manual labor for say twenty bucks an hour.

Tucson gets 12 inches of rain a year. LA gets 15 inches. We both also draw off the Colorado river. I have no expertise in post global warming weather patterns, but for all I know it is Georgia that is going to be thrown into a drought. We have enough water for indoor residential use in the Southwest. I predict irrigated agriculture will disappear from Arizona and SoCal. The municipalities can pay more for the farmer's water rights than they can make by growing food.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

Oh, I agree solar can go up to 5% and even more in SoCal, mostly thanks to generous subsidies and high electricity prices. But 5% nationwide will indeed require a major drop in costs.

AFAIK currently the cost of PV electricity is somewhere around 20-30c/kwth, depending on location. The difference with the retail price (~15c in CA) is covered by direct subsidies when buying the installation. Solar is additionally subsidized by forcing utilities to buy back electricity from PV owners at the same price as they sell it to them - thus the home owners use the grid as a backup essentially for free (assuming they install a kwth neutral PV).

When PV gets so low to compete wholesale baseload (3-4c/kwth) or at least peaking (6-7c/kwth) electricity we could witness the boom many people long for. Until them it will be dependent on various subsidies. Therefore the necessary ~5 times reduction of costs stays.

I almost agree. I suspect with current trends we'll go to 45% coal, 30% nuclear and 10% or even 15% wind largely driven by improving economics in the supply chain for massive cranes for wind turbine erection.

Naw, nevermind. I find your position most plausible, but I can squint and hope.

Alan...I see what you are doing everyone else so blind?

This is Alan's platform he will roll out when he runs for President in 2008!!! The vision of the future. I am not being sarcastic here. I will seriously write you on my ballot, but you have to commit to running.

What say you???

Come and now. Admit your candidacy.

After today, I seriously need some hope for our future.


You mention pluggable hybrids. But your future centered around rail only makes sense if batteries don't allow people to drive on electricity for commuting. GM and A123Systems might come up with the PHEV solution in 3 or 4 years. If they succeed then we won't abandon the suburbs and rail's growth will be smaller.

100 to 125 mpg PHEVs will not be fuel efficient enough to save all of the suburbs as is long term. There will be a role for PHEVs, no doubt (and I mentioned them). But saving most of Suburbia is not, IMO, that role.

For the massive changes required to reduce overall oil consumption consumption to 6.6 million b/day (mostly from domestic production), Transit Suburbia can "work" (I noted slightly less than half the current Suburban population living there). Suburbia "as is", cannot, even with the addition of 100 to 125 mpg PHEVs.

Yes, PHEVs can work in the medium term. But by the time they are available in large #s (say 2015) it may be too late for even an interim solution. GM, in it's UAW contract, mentions just one plant producing the Volt in 2010 (I assume for 2011 model year). Figure 100,000 to 250,000/yr from that plant.

Supply chain issues, etc. will take a few years to iron out and expand. 5 million PHEVs sold in 2015 (with another 8 million cumulative production 2010.8-2014) will likely simply not be enough, and I see problems in ramping up quickly enough to reach even that goal.

Best Hopes,


Another scenario we might see:

For suburbs located beyond walking/bike distance from a rail line, some sort of neighborhood shuttle service could develop. Perhaps PHEV vans could appear to shuttle suburbanites between their neighborhoods and the nearest rail station. The thing could be pluged in to a PV panel recharging site at the rail station parking lot during the day, then be ready for the return trip to the neighborhood when the residents return at the end of the work day. Making it a PHEV would allow for a liquid fuel backup on cloudy days.


A PHEV that only gets used in electric mode has basically infinite miles per gallon. 40 mile range is enough for most people to get to work and back home again. So why would the PHEV drivers who are commuting use gasoline?

I live in Suburbia and live close enough to work that I sometimes walk to work. I could 6 months between gas station visits if I had a PHEV. I know plenty of other people in the same boat.

I am currently helping a friend choose office space for a new company. The weighting of office space location versus where the likely future employees live is a factor in the considerations. If gasoline was $10 per gallon it would become a much bigger factor. But all the sites already are within 12 mile range of anyone who will get hired.

I figure there are plenty of others who have the ability to locate office space near workers. Also, just by building up some office buildings on suburban main streets commute distances could be reduced. The abandonment of suburbia seems unnecessary to me.

The 40 mile range is illusory, per the Toyota guy that spoke after me (I was not concentrating fully, after having just sat down). For long life, batteries need to be kept in a narrow discharge band (varies by type). Add drain of heating & a/c (large drains) and minor drains from windshield wipers, radio, lights, defog, stop & go, etc.

It is difficult to critique something that does not exist, but 8 or 10 miles on batteries before the ICE kicks in to recharge may be closer to reality than 40 miles.

Suburbia requires more than commuting energy. Drive to get almost anything (groceries, pharmacy, pizza, barber, post office; all within walking distance for me) and more energy to support (garbage, police, deliveries, plumber, roads & water/sewer, street lighting).

In addition, Suburbia is poorly built and energy inefficient (VERY high surface areas/resident, modern trends are away from cubes to complex shapes with greater surface area/sq ft AND more sq ft ! ).

This nation has about twice the residential sq ft/person (and 10x the retail space/capita) that it had in 1950. If we shrink sq ft (less to heat & cool & maintain), where do you think the abandoned spaces will be ?

Some Suburbia will survive, see my Transit Suburbia note. Likely a reformed Suburbia IMHO.

Best Hopes for TOD,



Toyota is not using deep discharge batteries with their NiMH batteries. But deep discharge batteries do exist in lead acid chemistry. Also, EnerDel claims to have a lithium chemistry battery design that will do large numbers of deep discharges. A123Systems might as well. This is what the lithium car battery start-ups are chasing.

If 40 mile range PHEVs with batteries which can do a few thousand deep discharges hit the market then are you still pessimistic about Suburbia?

I do not see why water, sewer, and street lighting are threatened by Peak Oil. We aren't going to have electric power shortages.

Similarly, we can shift to electricity-driven heat pumps (air or geo depending on where you live) for heat.

Suburbia was going to run into some trouble in the next decade anyway, even without Peak Oil.

1) Demographics. Aging and smaller families both work against "as built" Suburbia.

2) Trends. Suburbia has devolved into conspicuous consumption (McMansions = Real Estate Hummers). Fashion trends change.

3) TOD competition. 30% of population (roughly) want to live in TOD. Less than 2% do. Subtract 10% to 50% of current Suburban population as they move to TOD over next decade(s).

4) Overbuilt. GWB used Real Estate as a means to get out of the last recession. Subprime ARMs added new homes to the demand. That is now unraveling and will continue for several years.

5) High cost repairs. Older (1980s) homes were built to last 30 years before major repairs. Now, 20 years.


High commuting costs
High energy costs (all types)
Lower real incomes and higher unemployment

Suburbia is an energy hog, no matter what lipstick one puts on it.

The trends are easy to spot, judging (guessing) the magnitude of the trends is NOT so easy.

My judgment is that Americans are herd animals when it comes to housing (how else does one explain avocado colored appliances and burnt orange shag carpet ?) and I expect a stampede out of Suburbia comparable to "White Flight" of the 1960s & 1970s once the running starts.

I may be wrong. The stampede out of Suburbia may never come and the magnitude to the factors I point out may be less than simple social inertia and fear of change.


Quote of the Day from the Housing Bubble Blog:

"Why should I keep paying on my $600,000 home when it’s worth $400,000? I should just walk away."

"High cost repairs. Older (1980s) homes were built to last 30 years before major repairs. Now, 20 years."

Alan, could you provide more detail on this? Are you talking about structure? Roof & siding?

Hi FuturePundit.

To replace the oil with electrical options, such as all homes heating with GSHP, will drive up the demand for power. Hundreds of new plants would have to be built (nuclear?) and tens of thousands of windturbines.

These would all have to be built in time before FF resources go into terminal decline.

I'm not saying technology is not doable, it is. But I don't think we have the decades left to scale up such technology save what one can do for themselves.

Suberbia may indeed have a useful function for a time after the depletion. Mined for it's raw materials.

Richard Wakefield
London, Ont.

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

Interesting scenario, I'm sure lots of people here could write their own but reading some of them would be a bit scary!
It is very likely there could be huge unemployment. Those who still ahve jobs will have to chose between their car and house, there will be huge potential for neighboor hood car share / taxi schemes, major roads will have hitch hiking points near every major city, and multi occupency lanes will become much more common. Of course the services will be desperate for people at this point if there isnt a draft there will be an economic one. There are so many possible options for the future and we are making the choices now, its vital we make he right ones. Peak Oil, Global Warming and Economic problems need to be made into the politcal issue for the 2008 election.

We need to push the solutions, an intelligent environmental movement that can layout the problems, provide solutions and justification for them is a very powerful force. Would like to add to Alans 'The best environmental policy is the best economic one' is also the best foreign policy and health policy.

Cars kill more people than terrorists!!

I agree with the electric rail concept; however, I think there is one big hole that needs to be addressed and I am surprised no one has brought it up yet.

Invariably when I talk to people about the impending energy crisis their first response is to say they will work at home through the internet. Communications replaces transportation.

I know personally that with a high speed connection I can start doing this, since I work this way currently between my companies offices. Since half my local transportation requirements is currently work related, substantial energy could be saved.

It would take some investment in home software and some change in corporate culture, but it could be done.

The problem with this is that in the medium to long term I see the jobs that allow telecommuting (mine included) as the most endangered ones. Even putting this away I don't expect the savings to be that big as people imagine:

- let's say 30% of the people can telecommute (a gross overestimate IMO, most of the jobs in US are hamburger flipper or construction worker types)
- let them be able to telecommute 50% of the time (too optimistic again IMO)
- using myself as example, I use about 50% of the gasoline I burn to go to work
- gasoline usage is 45% of US oil consumption

So the savings would be:
0.3 x 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.45 = 3.4% of oil usage, optimistic case

Not insignificant of course but not that much.

Car pooling on the other hand could make much more of a difference - if we succeed in doubling the average number of passengers in each car from 1.1 to 2.2 we could effectively cut our gasoline consumption in half! This is a gross 22.5% of oil usage, 7 times more than telecommuting would bring.

Agreed LevinK. I say we force people to carpool. One way we could do that in the DC Area is make the interstates HOV-5 (exception for Hybrids (HOV-3) for them. Make this from 4am-11am, and from 2pm to 7pm. There is alredy a SLUG system here all we would have to do is expand this.

If the job can be done from your home, it can be done from Bangalore.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

Absolutely not alway true, especially in DC. The US will never outsource its government work, and i'm sure there are plenty of other examples i'm not thinking of.

I don't think that it is local commuting that will see that much of a reduction from telecommuting. Where we will see the big impact is in business travel.

We know that the price of jet fuel is going to go up. The airlines are going to have to cut back flights and raise fares. The more this is done, the more people are going to decide not to fly, especially for discretionary toruist flights. Thus, the airlines are going to be in a death spiral.

Businesses will be re-evaluating the cost of air travel (including the time value tied up in the trip) and conclude that increasing numbers of business trips are not worth doing. This is especially so as the quality of teleconferencing improves.

By 2036, I would anticipate that business travel will be down to a small fraction of the present volume.

When it comes to offices, retail stores, and other businesses however, people need to be there most of the time. Some jobs can be done at home, some of the time, but they will never amount to more than a small fraction of the total number of person-hours that most businesses need to operate.

We will need to see a massive reduction in the energy costs of local commuting, but most of that is going to have to come by carpooling, HPVs, EVs, mass transit, etc., and by people gradually relocating closer to their workplaces.

Alan Drake,
Excellent article. We need to dream positively.

But what is missing from all the comments following is any real, down to earth discussion as to how we might get there. There is one way to descrease oil consumption and decrease greenhouse gases.

Please read about Tradable Energy Quotas.

(Every person gets a quota required to create Greenhouse gases. You must surrender TEQs as you buy energy. If you are frugal, you sell for profit part of your uneeded quota; if you are rich, you get to buy them so you can continue to burn oil. Either way, everyone is thinking about using less.)

The thing about TEQs (pronounced tex)is that it addresses INSENTIVE for each and every person, both rich and poor. Then the innovations, as much talked about in this post, just falls into place.

A serious read of Tradable Energy Quotas would convince most that this is the only path out of our current journey to death and mayham.

Because there is a 20 year budget, business decisions become easier; TEQs get allocated less and less each year, so the insentive to save them rises ie the price rises. Note: the price of oil is still left to the market. All going well, the oil price might drop because people use it less.

Tradable Energy Quotas is far superior to price alone as a rationing system. The reason is that under price, the rich will buy energy and starve the poor and cause society to collapse. So, rich and poor will both be in the S&%$T.

The TEQs approach needs lots of airing. There is no other way that I know of. Doomers say there is no way to avoid catastrophe and others ask everybody to just 'do the right thing'. Economist say that everybody looks after self interest and, while I hate economists, they do have a point. So the whole nation is most unlikely to 'do the right thing".

TEQs caters for this view of humanity.

One morning, there will be a huge shortage of oil and guess what, our leaders will institute rationing. we need to lead them to this excellent system now.

Is this the missing bit in your Article, Alan?

Michael Dwyer
Beyond Oil South Australia
m.dwyer1[at ]

My mother taught me not to bite off more than I can chew.

This article took a bit of chewing (note the comments to various bits & pieces). Adding implementation would have been too much IMO.

Rationing creates a two currency system (US$ and TEQs for yours) and this leads to great complexity. Greater complexity than most are willing to tolerate IMHO.

One currency is doled out per capita (to rich & poor alike as you said) and the other currency follows traditional patterns. Redistributing our current currency could have the same equalizing effect.

Does one get their electricity turned off because they were 8 TEQs short this month, even though they paid their bill (the US dollar one) ? *LOTS* of people are not going to like that scenario !

And if TEQs start to "bite" and change behavior, there will be a strong push to just print more of them (they are the ultimate fiat currency). Last summer/winter was unusually hot/cold, many people had their homes cut off from electricity/natural gas/oil, so lets give EVERYONE a double quota this month (just before the election).

Personally, I prefer a single currency system. Carbon taxes as a good example.

The Millennium Institute models showed that traditional economics combined with traditional government incentives can result in a 62% reduction in US Oil use in 30 years, and a 50% reduction in GHG emissions. And a 50% increase in GDP.

Best Hopes for Creative Thinking,


Upon reflection, there is another problem with TEQs. They focus on individual actions to conserve. The linkage to larger social actions is weak. An example:

What additional incentive does a city have to build new Urban rail lines ? Some minority of their citizens will benefit directly, have more TEQs to use at home (set the thermostat higher, take a Sunday afternoon drive) or sell for money. But no direct benefit for a majority of their citizens (VERY few Urban Rail lines directly benefit a majority of the people).

OTOH, a percentage of a carbon tax could be used to provide 90+% federal funding for new Urban Rail.

Also, your plan floods the market with TEQ liquidity (1 years supply) and then gives a new week's worth every week. Year by year, that weekly ration would shrink and the overhang would be eaten into. Such a plan would do little to induce conservation in the first years.

Also your plan calls for industry & government buying their TEQ needs on the open market. This would be a VERY difficult to estimate expense and impossible to budget for. How high do property taxes need to be to keep the schools warm this winter ? Especially if it is a cold winter.

Boeing takes an order for a new fuel saving 787 for delivery 8 years in the future. Their accountants & engineers go through a MASSIVE exercise and finally estimate that they need 1 million TEQs to produce each 787-8. They will need TEQs 7 and 8 years from now. What do they charge their airline customer ?

Best Hopes for Incisive Thinking,


BTW, I found the anti-nuke section on the linked website quite faulty.

"Economist say that everybody looks after self interest and, while I hate economists, they do have a point."

This is open to question. I don't want to get into a philosophical debate, but to me the issue is more one of unawareness. People simply don't question their energy usage because we lack any authoritative pronouncements that we are in trouble if we don't mend our ways.

There are examples to show where people have pulled together in the past for the common good. Unfortunately, in the US the current administration has not taken it any further than saying we need to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. I really don't like mixing politics with peak oil, but I am hoping for some stronger statements and a call to reduce our energy usage in the not-too-distant future. I for one would be happy to sacrifice some convenience, and if a campaign is mounted against being "energy hogs" I think most others will as well.

I think realization is dawning, $90 oil simply cannot be ignored. The deniers will have a harder time combating the perception of scarcity the longer these prices remain. The problem of course is the short time that remains for mitigation once public realization of the difficulties we face occurs.

Having a plan in place and urging people to support mitigation efforts will be critical to avoid turmoil. Others will of course be pessimistic as to the effectiveness of the mitigation. To me it seems important that those of us who are aware realize that not having a plan or just giving up on collaborative effort will only add to the misery.

Alan, did you get my e-mail concerning the plans here for a diesel locomotive on the commuter rail rather than electric?


No eMails from Clint in last week. A debate on DMU emissions only with known people is all.

Please send to Juno account :-)


First my compliments to Alan for a dose of sanity and a well written topia. The future of transportation is electric because it has to be. Physics.

I'm even more optimistic than Alan. We waste so much energy, we can cut our usage in half without much of a drop in standard of living. It simply taking planning and higher capital costs up front.

I wonder how optimistic a scenerio one can paint here and not be simply booed off TOD. I come here to be entertained and to learn a bit. Many of you are on a crusade to convince people the world is going to end again like it did in Y2K. It's a little bit people don't listen very well and a little bit they are bombarded with false prophecies of doom all day long. Well good luck to you and I appreciate the work PG and all the contributing editors put into TOD.

Nothing prevents us from turning our country into the next Nigeria, Lebanon, or Iraq but I don't think we will. There's still too much cohesion and enough sanity. Some country will be the next Congo, my guess is Mexico or Indonesia or Pakistan but not here. As an engineer, I don't really make predictions about the future. I point out the choices we have. The future is ahead of us! We aren't predestined to do this scenerio or GTA's or say mine.

I would hope solar has a bigger impact by 2030 which doesn't mean it will. I don't think the Southwest will disapear and I think we will have a stronger emphasis on solar than Boston or NOLA or the Great Plains. Alan quite likely is on the money as a descriptions of those places. Ten inches a year of rain is enough for municipal use. I have no crystal ball on post-GW weather patterns but why predict we will have even less rain. Maybe it will get wetter here. Maybe the Southeast will have the problem with drought. We already have lawns made of cactus and rocks here.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

Thanks for the kind words !

At least one climate model shows the "Cotton Belt" (mid-California to South Carolina-Georgia) with reduced rainfall due to Climate Change (slightly reduced rain just north of this) and more rain in Canada, especially Eastern Canada (good news for HydroQuebec if true). From vague memory, the map suggested about 1/3rd less rain (Alabama from 50 to 35 inches/yr, etc.) with, of course, normal variances around the mean.

Not much to "hang your hat" on, or make major decisions about. Still, rainfall patterns are likely to change and there is a good chance that the change will be drier.

Best Hopes,


My wife wants to buy a house with mature landscaping. Does that mean getting a front yard with 100 million year old rocks instead of 50 million year old rocks?

Two thirds of Arizona's water goes to agriculture. They mine it out of underground aquifers and irrigate crops with it. Sometimes they grow thirsty crops like cotton folks out east are paid not to grow.

I don't worry too much about municipal water. 1) We can pay a lot more for it than farmers can. The only way irrigation projects work out is as a give-away of federal dollars. The high price we can pay allows for all kinds of imaginative pipeage schemes. 2) Half of municipal water is for outdoor use and half the remainder is wasted.

I haven't studied specific predictions of the GW crowd other than generally getting drier. A shortage of food is bad for everybody no matter where you live. We can hunt jack rabbits for food.

Silicon is about $1.50 a watt, one sixth of the $9.00 installed cost of rooftop solar. Mdsolar suggested it could get down to $.40 shortly. If all the high paying jobs like writing software and drilling for oil go away, it seems like unskilled labor in the future will go for a lot less than now. Rooftop solar is very labor intensive which may be in ample supply itshtf. Or the homeowner who's only choices are going without electricity or installing his own panels, what is he going to do? We have what's going to be in short supply. Primary power. No heating bills.

Air conditioning in the desert can be evaporative cooling. That takes lots of water but very little power.
Out east, it will make your house even muggier plus water doesn't evaporate too well when the air is already holding 100% humidity.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

The long term models I've seen (may be the same ones as yours) show the Southern Highlands having just about the same amount of precip as at present, or maybe 1" more.

We're out of space, though, so nobody should even THINK of relocating here!



During the great depression we were resource rich, but the misery and suffering continued for a decade until we grew out of it during WWII. This time around there will be no option of growing out of our problems. Permanent changes to our basic economic institutions will be needed if Alan’s or any other vision of relative technological wealth is to be realized. In a resource constrained world people who work themselves out of a job by figuring out how to provide more net economic service with less consumption of production resources should be rewarded as community benefactors rather than being deprived of the right to consume economic output via unemployment. We need an economic system which emphasizes the production of necessities with a minimum consumption of resources rather than job preservation or the accumulation of personal wealth. Economic ‘stores of value’ are claims against the output of the economic community. Out primary goal as economic actors should be to ensure the health of the community. How such a goal can be made compatible with private finance capitalism is a mystery which no one on TOD has yet made clear to me. We need fundamental institutional change and not just a one time heroic effort to build new infrastructure.

How long would a link to this presentation continue to be active?
Do links to current postings change when they are archived?

I would like to create a link to this presentation from my own blog ("...livingwithoutoil...), since it is WAY better than the fictional narratives I wrote.

But I don't want the link to break.


Feel free to email me directly:

~live sustainably~