Shell Energy Futures

Below the fold is the full text of an email sent by Jeroen van der Veer, the CEO of Shell, to all Shell employees, and explicitly meant for wider distribution. (Update: an almost identical version is now available on Shell's website)

It is a clear acknowledgement of the reality of peak oil, climate change and of the need for comprehensive policy changes, and is worth reading in full.

From: Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive

To: All Shell employees

Date: 22 January 2008

Subject: Shell Energy Scenarios

Dear Colleagues

In this letter, I'd like to share reflections about how we see the energy future, and our preferred route to meeting the world's energy needs. Industry, governments and energy users - that is, all of us - will face the twin challenge of more energy and less CO2.

This letter is based on a text I've written for publication in several newspapers in the coming weeks. You can use it in your communications externally. There will be more information about energy scenarios inthe months ahead.

By the year 2100, the world's energy system will be radically different from today's. Renewable energy like solar, wind, hydroelectricity and biofuels will make up a large share of the energy mix, and nuclear energy too will have a place.

Mankind will have found ways of dealing with air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will have reduced the amount of energy needed to power buildings and vehicles.

Indeed, the distant future looks bright, but getting there will be an adventure. At Shell, we think the world will take one of two possible routes. The first, a scenario we call Scramble, resembles a race through a mountainous desert. Like an off-road rally, it promises excitement and fierce competition. However, the unintended consequence of "more haste" will often be "less speed" and many will crash along the way.

The alternative scenario, called Blueprints, has some false starts and develops like a cautious ride on a road that is still under construction. Whether we arrive safely at our destination depends on the discipline of the drivers and the ingenuity of all those involved in the construction effort. Technical innovation provides for excitement.

Regardless of which route we choose, the world's current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.
As a result, society has no choice but to add other sources of energy - renewables , yes, but also more nuclear power and unconventional fossil fuels such as oil sands. Using more energy inevitably means emitting more CO2 at a time when climate change has become a critical global issue.

In the Scramble scenario, nations rush to secure energy resources for themselves, fearing that energy security is a zero-sum game, with clear winners and losers. The use of local coal and homegrown biofuels increases fast.

Taking the path of least resistance, policymakers pay little attention to curbing energy consumption - until supplies run short. Likewise, despite much rhetoric, greenhouse gas emissions are not seriously addressed until major shocks trigger political reactions. Since these responses are overdue, they are severe and lead to energy price spikes and volatility.

The other route to the future is less painful, even if the start is more disorderly. This Blueprints scenario sees numerous coalitions emerging to take on the challenges of economic development, energy security and environmental pollution through cross-border cooperation.

Much innovation occurs at the local level, as major cities develop links with industry to reduce local emissions. National governments introduce efficiency standards, taxes and other policy instruments to improve the environmental performance of buildings, vehicles and transport fuels.

As calls for harmonization increase, policies converge across the globe. Cap-and-trade mechanisms that put a cost on industrial CO 2 emissions gain international acceptance. Rising CO2 prices accelerate innovation, spawning breakthroughs. A growing number of cars are powered by electricity and hydrogen, while industrial facilities are fitted with technology to capture CO 2 and store it underground.

Against the backdrop of these two equally plausible scenarios, we will only know in a few years whether December's Bali declaration on climate change was just rhetoric or the beginning of a global effort to counter it. Much will depend on how attitudes evolve in Beijing, Brussels, New Delhi and Washington.

Shell traditionally uses its scenarios to prepare for the future without expressing a preference for one over another. But, faced with the need to manage climate risk for our investors and our grandchildren, we believe the Blueprints outcomes provide the best balance between economy, energy and environment.

For a second opinion, we appealed to climate change calculations made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These calculations indicate that a Blueprints world with CO2 capture and storage results in the least amount of climate change, provided emissions of other major manmade greenhouse gases are similarly reduced.

The sobering reality is that the Blueprints scenario will only come to pass if policymakers agree a global approach to emissions trading and actively promote energy efficiency and new technology in four sectors: heat and power generation, industry, mobility and buildings. It will be hard work and there is little time.

For instance, Blueprints assumes CO2 is captured at 90% of all coal- and gas-fired power plants in developed countries in 2050, plus at least 50% of those in non-OECD countries. Today, there are none. Since CO2 capture and storage adds cost and brings no revenues , government support is needed to make it happen quickly on a scale large enough to affect global emissions. At the very least, companies should earn carbon credits for the CO2 they capture and store.

Blueprints will not be easy. But it offers the world the best chance of reaching a sustainable energy future unscathed, so we should explore this route with the same ingenuity and persistence that put humans on the moon and created the digital age.

The world faces a long voyage before it reaches a low-carbon energy system. Companies can suggest possible routes to get there, but governments are in the driving seat. And governments will determine whether we should prepare for a bitter competition or a true team effort.

That is the article, and how I see our challenges and opportunities. I look forward to hearing how you see the situation (please be concise).


Jeroen van der Veer, Chief Executive

. . . Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand. . .

Our (Khebab/Brown) middle case is that combined net exports by the top five net exporters (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran & the UAE) will be down by close to 50% by 2015, from the 2005 level. Or, to put it another way, our middle case is that it would take all of the top five net exports in 2015 to meet current US import demand.

BTW, China has stopped, at least temporarily, coal exports. Bloomberg is reporting that Russian oil exports will be down by 9% in February. And both China and Russia are working to curtail food exports. Then we had Iran curtailing gas exports to Turkey, resulting in Turkey curtailing gas exports to Greece, resulting in Greece curtails gas exports to?

The common theme is that food and energy exporters are going to take care of the home team first.

If one reads that quoted line carefully, one will notice that he is referring to combined oil and gas production. It may well be that oil production won't be able to "keep up with demand" at a much sooner date (if that date hasn't already passed). And, there's no mention of the export problem which you have so clearly shown to be important in many posts.

From an economic point of view, demand can never exceed supply over time. The "market" will respond with increasing prices for the commodity in shortfall, until demand and supply will balance. Of course, that is theory and surely leaves some folks out in the cold who would like their demand satisfied. If one thinks a bit further about this statement, when supply can no longer "keep up" with demand, that implies a rather large increase in price, limited only by the cost of the available alternatives, including FF sources that are difficult to obtain. Since the cost of the alternatives tends to increase along with the market price of energy, it's likely that we will be due for some rather large increases in energy costs, as well as major disruptions of all sorts. I think the many reports we are presently seeing about global energy shortages is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. None of this is new to those of us who frequent TOD.

Keep moving, keep growing, nothing to see here, no need to PANIC, Everything's Under Control.

E. Swanson

The only way I can read "scramble," or the "mountainous desert race" is as a euphemism for resource wars. That has been the way that mankind has traditionally resolved the allocation of scarce and vital resources. "Excitement" and "fierce competition" sound an awful lot like "Saving Private Ryan" or "The Thin Red Line." At least there is some acknowledgement in the industry that the alternatives to cooperation is the Great War for Oil.

Resource wars? Aren't those situations where one nation invades and conquers another nation with known resources? Sort of like Saddam in Kuwait? Sort of like Japan attacking Pearl Harbor as a prelude to the march toward Indonesia's oil fields? Like Hitler invading the Balkens to get the oil fields, then attacking Russia for the same reason. Looks to me like war's not the alternative, it's been the plan for a long time.

As for "Excitement" and "fierce competition", think of the after effects of a bunch of nuclear blasts delivered to select Third World Mega cities. It would give a whole new meaning to the "Survivor" programs, with camera crews dressed in lead suits catching every round of the tooth and claw fight for survival. There's more than one way for "Demand Destruction" to occur.

Of course, our conquest of Iran had absolutely nothing (Bush Co. said), NOTHING, to do with oil, got that? :<(

E. Swanson

Like the US in Iraq - Noticed you missed that one - How could you miss the obvious?

Woops! A typo in the last line, should have been Iraq, not Iran.

I thought you were reporting from the future so I figured Iran was what you actually meant.

I thought he was talking about 1952, when the US and GB overthrew a democratic government in Iran and replaced it with a dictatorship, so their oil companies could regain control of Iran's oil supplies. Isn't it interesting how the US and British press never mention this when discussing the current frictions?

Resource wars for the last of a resource considered vital (which will appreciate, year on year, with certainty) are an entirely different level of conflict than speculative wars over future profit.

It's the difference between "If we succeed, we could become rich" and "If we fail, we are certain to starve." The latter has all the power of the status quo behind it.

From an economic point of view, demand can never exceed supply over time.

So, from an economic point of view, there is only demand for 75,000 Super Bowl tickets since that how many are available.

Which proves I still can't get my mind around economics.

In the super bowl case, the elasticity of supply is zero. That doesn't occur too often in the real world.

That's because sports teams are deeply ingrained in our culture as well as our tax system (and exempted from monopoly restrictions), and there are substantial auxiliary profits to be had in allowing fans to see the occasional game.

Even though the supply elasticity is zero, that wouldn't itself invalidate the laws of supply and demand. The owners would have an incentive to maximize their profit by jacking the prices up until they have slightly less than 75000 tickets.

But they allow things like waiting lists and lotteries for tickets instead (and punish scalpers), because those represent commitments to keep watching the game (which costs them nothing), keep voting to build new stadiums on taxpayer dollars, keep buying Packers jerseys and hats, keep trying to get seats at the nearly empty certain-loss games in midseason with nothing on the line, and in general support the team until your death. If the stadium seats for the Superbowl were strictly a narrow for-profit operation, they would be auctioned in order to maximize profit, essentially.

From an economic point of view, demand perfectly balances supply... as long as price is free to fluctuate.

If price is fixed too low then demand can easily exceed supply.... at the too low price.

If price is fixed too high then demand can easily be lower than supply ... at the too high price.

Well "demand" doesn't just mean "want" or "desire".
Demand is the want or desire to possess a good or service with the necessary goods, services, or financial instruments necessary to make a legal transaction for those goods or services.

Except that governments won't allow the market to go out of control with prices like that. Pricing regulation and rationing will be introduced, you'll get your certificate each month that will permit you to buy a certain amount of oil..... This is what governments do in economic disasters and war time, infact some governments have had to do that to keep a war economy functioning. Governments will want to ensure that oil remains affordable.

If Iran invaded Turkey from the rear, would Greece help?

Turkey & Greece are members of NATO.

I think that was an anal sex joke.

Members they are indeed...however reluctant and at odds with each other!

If this was 1990 or earlier, Greece would probably invade Turkey (as would Syria and the Kurds would revolt too), resulting in a huge war. Nowadays I think it is very improbable, due to EU membership, high revenues from tourism that would be lost for many years due to war, improving trade etc.

PS. I am from Greece.


double [whoosh]!!! LOL!!!

/shakes head and just walks to the other corner of the room with wry smile on his face...

Perhaps there should be a /humour in there somewhere to alert non-english speakers?

Only if everyone finds it humorous.

Well, there's jokes and then there's bad jokes, but sometimes even bad jokes are kinda funny.

Turkey historicaly has very bad relations with almost all of its neighbours, and for many years has an ongoing guerilla war with the Kurds. It is widely thought that if Turkey went into a big war with any of its neighbours the rest of them would intervene. In fact PKK tried to stimulate this, and had talks with Syrian, Persians and Greeks for that purpose. Btw, we are way off topic here!

Hi Costas,

I appreciate hearing firsthand accounts and perspectives. Hopefully, humanity will make every effort to bring peace to our troubled times, and avoid resource wars as we face fossil fuel decline.

Here are some groups making the effort:


i only noticed lately that you found all question marks on a link i provided. that was because you didn't select the proper font for display -- that's in Chinese. anyway, here is a link for the English version:


If not Greece and Turkey then how about Chile?

Either way China will be needed.

But what will Delaware?

That's easy: a New Jersey.

I'm not so sure. That's not what Arkansas. I think that's what she said, I'll go back and Alaska.

Where will Mary Land ?

Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.

Peak Oil. We are the frog in a pot of cool water placed on a fire. Subprime is just a symptom of being incrementally cooked; the incremental increase of commute costs and house payments until more and more people cannot afford both.

Bail-outs and tax stimuli toss ice in the water but throw currency stability on the fire.

We might cool the fire or get out of the pot by changing the lifeblood of our economy from oil to ingenuity. This requires innovation. Current costs will be attacked by innovators if power generation and transportation are de-monopolized.

The Internet is a great example of innovation following de-monopolization of communications. Germany's solar success is an example of innovation following de-monopolization of power generation.

Shell made the statement that easy oil will be gone by 2015 in the Professional Engineer magazine, (The UK's Institute of Mechanical Engineers bi-weekly publication), almost a year ago. Thus the leaked, message is not as radical a development from Shells public position, as it may at first appear. The publicising of their alternative scenarios is the new part.
I spent the day at one of the two leading petrochem industry pump vendors today. They are currently working on six brine
injection pumps for Saudi Aramco, each driven by 18MW electric motors, with a 300barg casing rating. ie. the head generated must be almost 3000m, and the flowrates anything up to 1500m3/hr or if you prefer 225,000bpd per pump, 6 pump total equivalent 1.35mbpd. Quite what fraction of that injected brine flowrate emerges back as oil I don't know, it would seem to be a serious capacity edition... or maybe, its just to make up for rising water fractions, to maintain oil flow. ...

Hi Jeffrey,

Thankfully, we have the analysis of the ELM-team.

re: "top five exporters". Just to help fill in the picture, what approximate percentage of world total do theses five represent? (Or, is there some better way to place this is context?)

re: For example, "Or, to put it another way, our middle case is that it would take all of the top five net exports in 2015 to meet current US import demand."

This would leave the remaining (?) percent of the current exporters to meet demand for the rest of the world. (Or would there be any remaining exporters by that time?)

re: Is there an ELM for NG? Or, is it assumed that the situation has too many variables and/or limited possible export distances?

Hi Aniya,
I am not Jeffrey, but I wanted the answer to the same question you had. Here is the data from the EIA:

The top 10 exporters provide 32mbpd out of roughly 44 total exports. Almost all of the top 10 are in decline, with only 4 with any chance of increase, and 3 of those are in the top 5 (russia, saudi, UAE). With only algeria in the second 5. The second 5 includes mexico (done by 2014). All in all it looks pretty bad.

For natural gas, I would look at the ASPO 2007 presentation by David Hughes at the ASPO USA site. As Canada is our only real export supplier of any quantity, you can see ELM hard at work growing to consume the Canadian supply. And he projects the shortfall we in the US are likely to see. He also casts doubt on the forecast that Canadian coal bed methane will make up for conventional shortfalls.

Wind back a couple of posts to see Euan's take on how LNG supplies will not even meet Europe's planned need, much less the US. Personally, natural gas shortage is my real fear. I like walking. I hate freezing.

The top five account for about half of world net oil exports, and I think that we are seeing ELM effects for food and NG exporters.

The EB referenced a Weekend WSJ article on one guy's Peak Oil preparations. It's up on the WSJ website, behind a paywall.

In a World Short Of Oil, Provisions Must Be Made
Mr. Wissner of Middleville
Stocks Up on Rice, Gold;
No Faith in a 'Techno Fix'
January 26, 2008

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. . . . Aaron Wissner, a Grand Rapids, Mich., middle-school computer instructor, is part of a growing community of so-called peakniks, who are convinced that peak oil production is nigh and that there will be difficult consequences.

Mr. Wissner has had more than a few fretful nights since he became "peak-oil aware," as he calls it, about 30 months ago. In embracing the theory that the world's oil production is about to peak, Mr. Wissner has tossed himself into a movement that is gaining thousands of adherents, egged on by soaring oil prices, the rarity of big new oil finds and writings on the Internet. . .

. . . In the dining room, their son gurgled and cooed as Ms. Sager spooned baby food into his open mouth. "We're not there yet," she said. "It's easy to forget that growing your own food is a lot of work."

FYI I got to the article via Google News, it was the second link in a search for "peak oil".

I thought the article made Aaron out to be a little on the obsessed side. Easy to do if you take someone who just woke up to the peak oil story and looked around his snow-covered yard at the lack of a community and said "What the hell am I going to do?!"

I've been paranoid for my whole life. Peak oil is just another segment in a fractured mind full of threats from crooked governments, ignorant masses, blind religions, and corporate killers. As my mom would say, "Whoop-dee-do, cool it with the dramatics."

The WSJ will try their darnedest to put the lid on peak oil until the major shareholders can sell their stakes to the minor shareholders and to foreigners. All they need is another big dip (not too big--watch the timing on those cuts, Helicopter Ben) so they can sell on the dead cat bounce, and then they head for Paraguay with The Family.

"We're all freakin' DOOMED!!" -The Mogambo

The end of the stock market isn't the end of the world. -- me

Read this CEO's memo as:

"Shell scrambles to assert legitimacy and retain market share in the face of growing competition, ludicrous profits, laughable investment, and an imminent peak in conventional world oil supplies..."

IMO he is a rat and a liar. As his vision for the future he floats the Carbon Capture raft. Carbon capture does not address the issue of dwindling and unreliable supply nor does it deal with the obvious issue of carbon emission from liquid fuels used for transportation.

For Shell to survive long-term they will need to invest in energies that are outside of traditional fossil fuels. Something this small minded exec seems to have happily overlooked.

Maybe he will show 'proactive vision' in his later statements. For my part, I won't hold my breath. This is little more than corporate damage control.

Shell owns 1 GW of wind turbines AFAIK.


Cheers Alan and thanks! Though I think it's great that Shell has invested in 1 GW of wind power -- which is certainly a substantial amount -- I'm still disheartened that the company is leading with a fossil fuel focused agenda.

Looking at the above memo, most of the lip service is given to carbon capture. If Shell is looking to be progressive and truly address the problems we are facing it must at least support, by clear policy statements, a mix of energy sources.

For example:

"Shell has invested heavily in wind and other alternatives. We are laying out a blueprint to funnel 30 percent in the near future and 50 percent within five years of all new development investment into alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels. Shell already has a strong interest in wind energy and we will continue to strengthen our position in this promising new area. Furthermore, we are asking government to aid us, through subsidies and incentives, in all alternative investment, in retrofitting existing coal plants and building all new coal plants on the new carbon capture model. We feel that these solutions will help us better address the imminent peaking in world oil supplies which we project to be near the year 2015 ..."

If we need to depend on governments, we are totally screwed. Twice over now that a recession is coming.

Besides, who uses blueprints anymore?

But without governments aren't we screwed even more??

Yes, that would be feudalism or anarchy. Note that some Governments have been working towards enabling (or increasing) addictions to energy sources, while others have been seeking to reduce their dependence.

As Robert Hirsch noted, governments must be a major player in the 10 year transition "Grand Effort".

Oil companies know that the extraction of heavy oils and shale will not ramp up in time to offset CO declines, which is why they are now spinning PO as, "a transition to other energy forms will not be because there was not enough oil, it will be because the oil left in the ground was not as accessible or economic."

THAT is an out and out admission that PO is a near term reality.

Ah...the "corporations" will show us the way to enlightenment. They will replace governments.

Actually, joking aside, it is difficult to see the line between corporations and governments in this country (corporatocracy?). In other countries, the companies are the government (NOCs).

Are we worse off with Corporatocracies? Probably. At least as far as getting anything done that doesn't benefit cronies somewhere.

I believe the word you're looking for is Plutocracy.

No. The US system is a Kakistocracy.

ROFLMAO! Never heard of that term before. I have to remember that.

Government by the least qualified

We need a government that's on our side -- that's the problem. You're starting to have governments in Latin America that are on the side of the people, even though they screw up sometimes.

The middle class traditionally identifies with the wealthy, thinking they'll be there themselves someday. But most of the middle class is headed in the other direction, soon. When significant parts of the middle class start identifying with the people below them, and start aiming at a society based on a slogan the Venezuelans use -- zero misery -- then we'll be headed in the right direction. Meantime, we hug our portfolios just the way whats-his-name hugged the bomb in Dr Strangelove.

It's in government's hands now. Let's hope we have good leaders...

We really need to go after those darn monopolies, level the playing field, subsidize the alternatives (IMO Solar and Wind as a priority), incentivize electric vehicles, diversify the grid, increase domestic supply, and sock it to those overseas who have been wrecking havoc with our economy for the past thirty years.

Give the other energy sources (all non-fossil fuel) a chance to make their way.

Why not just call the two scenarios "US" and "Europe" ?

The real question is what happens when half the world goes one way and half the other. How do you square one half undoing the good work of the other, and the inevitable conflict that results?

Usually with aggression.

This is way our system works
The Tragedy of the Commons

Peak Oil, Climate Change, Environmental health, biodiversity, energy production, etc. all fall into this model. If we can answer the "Tragedy" puzzle, we will have great momentum.

I think I might do a cut and paste 'review' of that paper, which was written 40 years ago! in how it's tenets relate to Peak Oil.

There is no requirement for international affairs to end up as a 'market led' tragedy. There is ample evidence that it is possible for those that represent their people to agree cooperative ventures. All that is usually missing is the ability of punish those that decide to ignore the hard won consensus.

That's the real heart of breakout solution which is needed.

But the market externalizes most costs! So how can a system built on growth and self-interest (Wealth of Nations) all internalize costs when they are pursuing profit?

It's in a companies self-interest to reduce energy usage if they still want to be in business. do you think wal-mart doesn't realize that lowering their energy costs isn't essential to their business?

Don't you think you might want to mention the Tragedy of the Non-commons also since Farley is on your thesis committee?

Dear Nate
it would be excellent if you would spare the time to critique that sordid mess known as "the tragedy of the commons," that so slandered the commoners. Particularly with regard to the extent to which it has been so massively proselytized as an (wholly false) justification for the dismemberment, privatization and pillage of the Commons worldwide.

I write as a Commoner myself, having grazing rights for 800 sheep on three particular mountains here in Wales (the flock was a bit run down when I took over, but we're building back up with the introduction of two hardy ancient breeds)
I can tell you that the author of TSOTC had not the most basic clue as to what a commons is, or how it works, or how, even when it is eradicated, it will tend eventually to re-emerge and flourish.

That paper is still strangely lauded in the US, but in Europe it was shredded, forensically, practically from '68 onwards.

Wishing you happy explorations,



Full Disclosure: I got an A+ during an Environmental Economics degree for a study titled "The Slander of the Commoners."

"Two ancient hardy breeds"

For the last 3 or 4 years I have been raising Soays, about 40 breeding ewes. I'm quite impressed with them, esp maternal instincts and grazing preferences. Is this one of your breeds?

Doug Fir -

I must confess to greatly liking the Soay conformation and resilience, but being discouraged by the rumoured lack of flocking instinct - which would be a huge hindrance in the mountains - Have you found it a problem ?

I've gone for trial flocks of two native Welsh breeds, the Black Welsh (reportedly established for Cistercian monks robes), and the far older Torwen or St Idloes sheep (he was an early British saint), that are remarkably similar in colouring to the dark type of Soay, though I doubt there's been much contact at least since the Bronze age.

BTW, whereabouts do you farm ?



I'm afraid I'm can't give you any definitive info on flocking. I use them either behind or in with cattle in our pasture rotation scheme. Given their life the last 4000 yrs on Hirta and Soay, I doubt there has been any selection pressure for flocking. I've had coyote mortality with the rams that show little if any fight or flight. Nothing concrete, just observation that seems to fit their life on the islands. But they(our flock) are very skittish of people.

Their resilience and immunity is amazing. No trouble at all. Had lambing in single digits, and the ewe was right there, cleaning and drying the lamb. I'm in the US, northern Rockies. Biggest problem is size-auctions at the sale barn all want the Columbia or Targhee size, and dock me for the smaller Soay to where it isn't worth it.

Hi, Backstop.

I have not re-read that essay in a while and my impression of it was not of a group of people (apparently the Commoners) who were responsible for the exhaustion of a public resource. Even now when I think of the essay what comes to mind is that when a resource isn't managed (whether privately or publicly), unrestrained use of it eventually degrades or exhausts the resource.

The atmosphere is a case in point. It isn't managed and its state is being degraded. The global fisheries are another example, which are being fished to exhaustion.

Isn't it fair to say that when a resource isn't managed (again, publicly or privately), in the majority of cases humans will take as much as they can as fast as they can with little regard to the future of the resource?

Isn't it also likely that Nate was referring to the paper in that sense, rather than denigrating Commoners? Don't we all know there are always exceptions in this big world of ours?

Best Of The Oil Drum Index

Andre -

I think you'd do well to read that text anew.

Hardin was clearly wholly ignorant of how a Commons is a managed resource.

If a marine resource is not managed, it can usually be termed an "Open Access" resource, i.e. open to pillage.

OTOH if a terrestrial resource is not managed, it has, almost always, been a TVFI, that is, the "Territory of Vanquished Former Occupants," and has thus become an Open Access resource in that it may well remain open to pillage (for instance by incomers adding ever-more stock) until the stage of enclosure and private ownership occurs, after which the rate of pillage (if any) reflects the owner's ethics and external pressures.

A Commons is not open to pillage.

It is a resource managed in common essentially for the common good.

It is, in the great majority of cases, a traditional carefully arranged management system that pays due regard to the welbeing both of the users and their families, and also of their future descendants by means of manifesting a practical respect for the native ecology.

Hardin was an arrogant, snobbish pillock, blaming notional former Commoners for the outcomes of unendurable pressures placed on them by a grossly materialist callous society.

Given that America, being founded not on slavery (despite the hype) but actually on the genocide of the native peoples, and on the eradication of their management of diverse and often subtly structured commons, it seems pretty unlikely that Hardin, (a biologist by training) had anything other than sheer intellectual speculation on which to found his infamous guilt-trip doctrine.

Maybe he was astonished by the welcome it received on a range from preservationist environmentalists through to resource-acquisitive corporations - it was just the message they wanted to hear.

It urks me that so many young Americans seem to have accepted the conditioning of seeing that text as some kind of profound insight into human nature, when in reality it is just the reverse -- it is a gross and ideologically biased slanderous denial of the human capacity to seek to co-operate humanely and honestly for the common good.

But then, what do I know ? I'm just a Commoner.

Happy reading.



It urks me that so many young Americans seem to have accepted the conditioning of seeing that text as some kind of profound insight into human nature, when in reality it is just the reverse -- it is a gross and ideologically biased slanderous denial of the human capacity to seek to co-operate humanely and honestly for the common good.

Thank you for that, Backstop. I have often felt this was the case with Hardin's famous screed on the commons. It is hard to discuss this issue with many Americans as they seem to accept it(Hardin's point of view) as gospel.

Hi, Backstop.

I have just finished carefully re-reading the essay:

Then I looked up "commons" and found:
"a piece of open land for public use, esp. in a village or town."

I do not know the man and perhaps you do sufficiently to judge him as you do. However, I found no evidence that he used the word "commons" with any intent to disparage "Commoners" — he simply needed a name for what you call an "open access" space. He also needed actors to make his case, in this case he chose sheep and herdsmen. Quite a natural choice given the meaning of commons, I would say.

He could have used fishermen and a fishing fleet just as easily. That he used the word "commons" might be an unfortunate choice of words but to me it worked. What comes to mind for me is the Boston Common, a public and open space. What you refer to might be more precisely called a "managed commons." It was clear to me while reading the essay that there was no management in his example — just individual actors working to their own exclusive benefit.

In fact, he went on to say that there were several ways to deal with the commons, not just privatization.

What shall we do? We have several options. We might sell them off as private property. We might keep them as public property, but allocate the right enter them. The allocation might be on the basis of wealth, by the use of an auction system. It might be on the basis merit, as defined by some agreed-upon standards. It might be by lottery. Or it might be on a first-come, first-served basis, administered to long queues. These, I think, are all the reasonable possibilities. They are all objectionable. But we must choose--or acquiesce in the destruction of the commons that we call our National Parks.

People often hear/read what they want and conveniently miss the rest. Is it surprising to you that profit-oriented business people would select "privatization" out of all the options he presents and use this essay to bolster their argument?

I'm sorry; I just don't see what you're seeing in his writing. Not in this essay. Which passage are you referring to that demonstrates that he is "an arrogant, snobbish pillock, blaming notional former Commoners?" Perhaps you have other papers of his that would demonstrate what you're saying?


I would be surprised indeed if the Boston Commons is an open access space in the sense just used.

I live in a town in New England (USA) that has a Town Green--a common, if you will--but it is certainly NOT open access. It is managed quite explicitly by a private corporation whose charter of incorporation specifically charges it to maintain the Green for public (non-destructive) use BUT actively forestall both commercial and destructive uses.

That said, the deeper problem with The Tragedy of the Commons is the assumption that the selfish, predatory, and destructive psychology and social training of North Americans is a human universal across time and space--which plainly it is not.

My apologies. I would strike "open access" from my earlier comment if I could. "Public" was really what I wanted to say.

The tragedy is, there's always some @$$4013 running goats on the commons.

having grazing rights for 800 sheep

Then your commons is a well regulated one. Here in the Etats, it's unfashionable to regulate the commons.

I think we should recognize that cooperative action is possible, and quite possibly the "rational choice" for states. Europe is doing a lot of diplomatic dealing, especially with Russia. We don’t hear so much on this list, or in the news, about the Energy Charter Treaty (, the World Energy Council (, and a small host of other international bodies that are working on these things, but the global market in energy is highly politicized, and the blueprints scenario is definitely building. Of course it’s unlikely that treaties will carry the day when TSHTF, but they do represent something. (The players care enough to make them, anyhow.) So, while Russia is sitting fairly pretty (relatively speaking, of course), and Europe is well aware of its circumstances, the way they are doing business is vastly different from the US “strategy” (“go kick ass and bring it home”… or, as Shell puts it, “Scramble”). Some opinions liken US diplomatic skill or attitude to that of a teenager among old businessmen when it comes to international relations. Seems an apt interpretation. If it really is a "grand chessboard” out there, would you put your money on Vladimir or George?

As for The Tragedy, let’s remember that Hardin’s summary prescription is for “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon” (with respect to population, in particular, but could be read "consumption"). That recommendation could be likened to "a treaty with teeth", an actually-existing collective (energy) security arrangement. It hasn’t come about yet, but it may be the only alternative to Iraq, etc. I would think TPTB are well aware of their options.


Why not just call the two scenarios "US" and "Europe" ?

You're talking about the Europe that wants to build a military base in the UAE, right?

France ..... nuff said

You might not know it but France has been taken over by a neo-con puppet meant to replace Tony Blair as "the poodle".
What's wrong with helping with the fight against the "axis of evil"?
It might please a few friends...

garyp -

since the global effort for 'Blueprint' began formally with the mandate of the "UN Framework Convention on Climate Change" back in the mid-90s, proponents of 'Scramble' have made most of the running, with Kyoto being reduced to a byzantine farce.

But that is no reason to assume that such stupidity will be allowed to prevail in future.

There is already a convergence (as the CEO's letter predicts) between EU, Africa & India over the fundamental blueprint for equity & survival, known as "Contraction & Convergence." (Merkel went public over it on her recent Far East trip).

It proposes a Convergence, over an agreed number of years, of tradable national GHG emission-entitlements from reflecting national wealth (the present limitation) over to a common national emission-entitlement per head of population,
with a simultaneous global Contraction of the annual GHG budget at a rate to reflect the IPCC advice on avoiding the climate feedback loops taking over.

Whether the US & China will participate constructively before 2012 can't be foretold - no doubt reactionaries in each share a preference for Scramble and have long enjoyed the brinkmanship of who can ignore GW the longest.

Yet to have the vocal if coded support for Blueprint of a corporation of Shell's standing is a very positive sign, particularly coming as it does during the Davos Forum.

I should perhaps add that as the focus of a global blueprint, GW offers a critical advantage over PO, in that there is no dodging intensifying climatic destabilization of each nation's infrastructure and productivity,
while by contrast the cornu-thugs can readily propose semi-plausible national energy plans based on 'manifest destiny,' delusion and spin.

In addition to which, cutting GHG emissions at a rate to avoid launching the runaway greenhouse is liable to involve cuts approximating to the decline of liquid fuels' production.



Contraction & Convergence has always struck me as a dead duck that's stinking up the place. There is NO way in hell that most first world countries will undertake sweeping and expensive cuts in CO2 emissions while 'third' world countries not only increase their CO2 emissions, but do so while taking all the manufacturing jobs.

It keeps large tranches of votes happy in the UN, but its not viable.

The only viable route as far as I can see is "nobody makes it worse, big polluters make better" - the China, India, Africa contributions are capped and the US, Europe etc. contributions decline over time. Proportionately the third world contribution rises, but in tonnes terms the total takes a downwards path. That seems to me to be the only one that everyone will get behind, if only grudgingly. It also has the advantage that it doesn't make things worse in the short term for political reasons.

To me you recognise that things will start moving forward when C&C is kicked to the curb and they get down to serious negotiations on the above basis. Everything else is posturing with no action.

And any solution still needs teeth. In a situation where dictatorship is becoming the mode de jour of the 21st century, how do you impose action on the backsliders and backwards?

Geachte heer van der Veer/Beste Jeroen,

Ik juich toe dat u inziet dat er "uitdagingen" zijn op het gebied van energie. Ik vind uw aanhef echter buitengewoon optimistisch. Heeft u zich ooit gerealiseerd dat de huidige, schone alternatieven voor fossiele brandstoffen volledig afhankelijk zijn van een onderliggende infrastructuur gebaseerd op dezelfde fossiele brandstoffen? Daarbij komt het probleem van opschalen van alternatieven. En de techiek voor het afvangen van CO2 bij de verbranding van fossiele brandstof staat nog in de kinderschoenen. Om te stellen dat de verre toekomst er op dit gebied gunstig uitziet is een aanname zonder gegronde argumenten. Alle argumenten wijzen op het tegendeel. Daarnaast is het niet onaannemelijk te stellen dat de productie van olie en condensaat reeds sinds 2005 niet meer aan de vraag voldoet, en dat de situatie in 2015 ernstig zal zijn. Ik adviseer u dan ook om open en eerlijk naar publiek en beleidsmakers te zijn en uw invloed aan te wenden echte verandering teweeg te brengen.

Hoogachtend en met vriendelijke groet,
Paulus Punselie
Den Helder
ppunselie [at] hotmail [dot] com


I think he's being as honest as he can be. This is such a radical departure that the sh*t will be hitting fans big time when the articles start appearing.

I work with two clients in the auto leasing business. One is bank-owned and the other is owned by a big car manufacturer. I thought that at least the automaker-owned business would be well aware of PO as a strategic threat.

No! Even at fairly senior level there was no appreciation of the likelihood of peak oil, let alone of the severe impacts that auto businesses face due to PO at any time.

Its clear that all the world's auto makers are certainly aware of PO at the top level. Only Toyota so far has said out loud that it has no future as a maker of internal combustion engined vehicles (no future period if peak is really upon us already).

I think like all big oil-dependent businesses, they're clenching their muscles and hoping someone will come up with A Plan.

Shell is now making the call. By standing up and basically saying "The game is no longer expand or die, it is contract or die", van der Veer is telling the banks and economists the party's over.

He'll be vilified, shouted down, dismissed. But as the boss of Shell, he can't be ignored. Is it too little to late? Maybe

I've only come to the Peak Oil recently. I salute all of you who've toiled so long to keep the message going. Today you won the argument.

But can the world win the war?

I seriously wonder if this goes ahead what the implications are going to be in many energy intense industries, like the airlines, that are continuing totally oblivious to the future.

This weeks turbulance on the makets is likely to be nothing comapred to when this message is finally understood and vulnerable industries face a flight of capital as investers ditch shares.

If the wider communication of this message is undertaken by Shell hats off to them for coming clean. One hell of a ride awaits.

"Only Toyota so far has said out loud that it has no future as a maker of internal combustion engined vehicles"

GM has said it too, and quite clearly.

The Chevy Volt is by far the best EV/PHEV in the works.

could you point/link to an original reference for Toyota's and GM's statements? thx r

Dear Paulus,

Do you happen to know him personally ?


Approximate translation of PaulusP's letter so everybody can share it :

Sir/Dear jeroen,

I am glad that you agree that there are challenging facts about energy. I think however that your introduction is overly optimistic. Did you realise that today's clean alternatives for fossil fuels are completely dependant on a functionning fossil fuel-based infrastructure ? Then there is the problem to upscale these alternatives. And the carbon capturing techniques are still in their infancy. To suppose that in the distant future these issues will be favorably solved is not substantiated with sound arguments. Most arguments point in quite an opposite direction. It is not a bold statement to say that since C+C doesn't match demand since 2005 the situation will be dire by 2015. I urge you to be honnest towards the deciders and the public, and try to exert your influence to bring about a real change.

Thank you for the translation. I was working from Babel Fish where "in its infancy" came out as "still stands in child shoes." I like the Dutch version.

Some time ago I experimented with Babelfish. I translated some English into something else, and translated the result back into English. You quickly realize that translators are not in job jeopardy.

The quality of the translation seems to depend a lot on what languages are selected. To/from Spanish or French is better than something like Mandarin or Russian.

Thanks neuroil. I wanted to post a translation myself but hadn't time. Instead of "deciders" I think a more proper translation would be "policymakers".

Anyway, I hope he'll be around to read this thread, that's why I put my name under it and e-mail too. And no, I don't know him.

Blueprints assumes CO2 is captured at 90% of all coal- and gas-fired power plants in developed countries in 2050, plus at least 50% of those in non-OECD countries. Today, there are none. Since CO2 capture and storage adds cost and brings no revenues ...

Another implied assumption is that we are starting with carbon capture and storage now ... so that by 2020 many of the biggest polluters would be storing around 30%.

Any delay in starting down the sequestration route (highly likely IMO since nobody has actually shown it can be done yet!) means that we don't have until the deadline of 2050 to reach a 90% capture target - it will be an earlier date since it is the total amount of CO2 emitted that is the actual target.

I think the CO2 target has been politically determined since nobody knows for sure what it should be - but sadly, nature doesn't negotiate, there are no half measures either the 2050 target is correct or it isn't.

Care is needed with any solution to the problem. If you have no chance of meeting the target that nature requires don't bother to even start down that route, because, if you fail, you will need the money wasted to relocate flooded cities and scorched or frozen farms caused by the resulting dangerous climate change.

I don't think there is any basis for assuming nature will punish us (or not) based on a binary decision: CO2 concentration less than X OK, otherwise I unleash massive chaos. It looks much more likely that the damage done will be an increasing function of the level of CO2. That implies that even if we can't meet the targets, we shouldn't give up. Doing 10% better than the target is better than just meeting it. Doing 10% worse than the target is still better than missing it by 50%.

But hey, I just had to laugh about that 90% sequestered comment. At the rate were going we will be lucky if we sequester 25% by 2050. It seems highly unlikely to me that we are going to come anywhere close to meeting any of the targets. But we can't just throw in the towel either.

As for the US, I suspect that the attitude displayed by that woman who killed the bicylist is pretty widespread, particularly of the rightend of the political spectrum. When the energy crunch starts to bite we are going to erupt into a major argument, with one side blaming the tree huggers (if we'd been allowed to drill etc.), versus the other side who argues that lack of attention to conservation is the real cause. I don't think it is going to be pleasant.

I don't think there is any basis for assuming nature will punish us (or not) based on a binary decision

I'm not a climatologist, but the whole point of the target (from my reading the IPCC stuff) is that above a not very well defined certain point (the so called 'tipping point') it very likely becomes 'runaway' warming with likely disastrous climate change consequences for a large portion of the world's popualtion. Should it occur, huge amounts of resource will be needed to successfully rectify that situation.

IMO we don't have the resources to limit CO2 and rebuild a large part of our society's infrastructure - it is an 'either/or' situation.

It's not thought by climatologists (judging by what is known about past climate changes) to be the linear situation as CO2 levels increase that you suggest, but full of currently unknown positive feedback loops.

Judging by unexpected weather events we are increasingly seeing that are at the limits of previous experience, the tipping point is almost certainly not the current target - it may not be a problem for me, but I bet it will be for the next generation.

At the moment there isn't enough good information to allow politicians to make rational decisions - so, I expect them to use the precautionary principle, 'do no harm', but applied to themselves and not to me!

Xeroid -

A couple of points that I hope may clarify things a bit.

First, if the feedback loops are allowed to take over, there is no rational prospect whatsoever of regaining control over the trajectory or pace of climate destabilization.

Consider the vast carbon banks held in the Boreal and Tropical forests, which are evidently increasingly vulnerable to drought and combustion.
Then consider that that carbon bank is dwarfed by the oceans' notably uncertain capacity to continue sequestering around 30% of our annual CO2 emissions.
Then consider that that carbon sink is in turn dwarfed by the vast potential of the world's permafrost, whose melting is steadily accelerating.
Then consider that that bank is in turn dwarfed by the potential of what were called Clathrates and are now termed Methyl Hydrates, sitting, waiting, mostly on the continental shelves.

Every scrap of effort we can put into avoiding the release of the runaway greenhouse needs to be applied, really quite soon ! Planning to fail is plainly a very dead end.

Second, it's my guess that the author knows full well the dubious promise of geological carbon sequestration, as does most of the establishment, and that he has built a case that is plausible as a confidence-builder to provide a counter to the risk of his main message further destabilizing global markets. (It is after all a hell of a time for Shell's CEO to publish this, but Davos comes but once a year).

What he fails to state here is that there is an organic sequestration option that will not only provide significant revenue streams but also two critically important materials.

The tech is that of a giga-hectare of global sustainable reforestation under native species on third-rate hill land and mountain, particularly on shaded slopes, using the silviculture of Coppice and Standards.
The main products of the annual sustainable harvests, processed with minimum transport by village-scale refineries, are charcoal, and wood alcohol (methanol).

The charcoal is distributed to farmlands where it is interred to cause both a doubling or tripling of crop yields for the long term under the "Terra Preta" tradition;
with its material, being almost pure carbon being sequested, profitably, for millenia;
while the methanol yield provides (profitably, in perpetuity) a globally distributed liquid fuel resource of limited scale but excellent combustion characteristics.

But then how could a fossil fuel corporation such as Shell hope to control a globally distributed sustainable liquid fuel production capacity ? Or might it accept a transformation, a perestroika, from a single doddering dinosaur to numerous small, agile, furry animals ?



At the moment there isn't enough good information to allow politicians to make rational decisions

Just wanted to jump at this wording regardless of what you actually mean, sorry in advance ;)

To make rational decisions does not require complete information or even close. In fact to make a 'rational' decision one only requires the slightest skew of probability more one way than the other. We know enough decision theory and game theory to make rational decisions.

Taking the 'right' decision isn't the only factor. Timing is often much more important. Taking a half-bad decision now gets you started and saves you time. And you have the option of changing course along the way. Waiting for the 'good information' for the 'right' decision can take forever. And you're out of options when you're out of time.

We all understand the concept of moderation, caution, of insurance and of saving for the rainy day. Yet we desperately insist that we don't want to give up any of our mod-cons for our hopeless delusion is that the 'bad thing' might go away with yet another wave from the magic wand of technology.

Conservation and cutting back our excesses is the path of the least pain. And it should be an easy decision, a decision you can take now, with 'incomplete information', just in case - because its not irreversible - we don't loose anything significant if we decide to hold back a little for a while. And we can always go back to gluttony later if this 'doom-fad' turns out to be 'bogus'.

When we look at PO and GW, the decision time was yesterday. We are already beyond the point where we could've avoided the pain. Now it's just a question of how much pain we want: little now or much more later. It just shows what spoiled children we are, that we won't choose the little pain now.

"Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China," according to the New York Times. None of these facilities are designed for, or at this point could be designed for, carbon sequestration. Assuming coal supplies last, and these plants are built for a 50-60 year useful life, all these new power plants will likely still be in operation in 2050.

That in mind, I have trouble imagining the world reaching even 25% carbon sequestration by 2050.

For those politicians who purport to want to do something about global warming other than just wait for technology to magically fix it, they all don't have a problem talking about 2050 when they will be safely in their graves. But they don't want to talk about tomorrow or five years or ten years. That would actually require that something be done and would require something other than magic like, for example, people actually cutting back and perhaps being inconvenienced.

Actually, the time scale you propose is taken up by the programme now proposed by the EU and even more by a programme which is already partly enacted in Germany. In 2020, which is twelve years from now, in Germany the CO2-emissions are to be reduced by 36% below the levels of 1990. Quite a few laws will pass the parliament this spring and some of them will not be very popular. For example, building a house after 2009 will include an obligation to use at least 50% of renewable energy to heat it. Electricity will become a little more expensive, because of the support of wind and solar power, and much more is in the line.

It seems to me that there are a number of ways to used carbon dioxide that could enhance revenue. I was just estimating the energy cost of using Lonsdaleite (an easily fabricated form of diamond) as a structural replacement for steel and it looks as though the energy cost is about a factor of 280 lower than for steel when you use carbon dioxide from the atmospere as the feedstock. This could sequester a few percent of our annual carbon dioxide emissions if we replace steel, concrete and wood. Not a lot, by very permanent since diamonds are forever. Using wind or solar to manufacture liquid hydrocarbon fuels using atmospheric carbon dioxide as a feedstock also looks like it may become cost competitive if the excess heat from the Fischer-Tropsch process can be substituted for current heat use in some way. This latter is not sequestration, but it does "leave the oil in the soil" as Cynthia McKinney puts it.

What I notice about the letter is that it wants restrictions put on industries but not on the places where oil is mostly used. This is probably to be expected but it seems a little sad.


An excellent and informative post, I had not heard of Lonsdaleite before.
Many thanks.

Thanks, I'm still working on it, but I hit publish by mistake so I thought I'd link since the world can see it. I hope to clean up the energy estimate and add at least the patent number for the process so people can look into this further. A lot of people have been saying the future is in allotropes of carbon and silicon, but in this case it seems to be "easy." My main push is to start sourcing carbon from the air rather than from fossil fuels. I was originally thinking that structures might be formed in place since the feedstock is available anywhere, but now I'm thinking that transport requirements are low so I'll likely modify that. I'm beginning to think that Bucky Fuller's idea of delivering homes by helicopter might come into fashion.


"...CO2 capture and storage adds cost and brings no revenues..."

In the face of a stiff carbon tax, this "market signal" won't exist as the capture of more carbon ought to lessen the tax--which is why the tax must be heafty.

Unfortunately, "Scramble," the BAU case, is likely to win out given the refusal of US Elites to eliminate their greed. Add to that the unfounded optimism of "Blueprints," also an attempt at sutaining BAU albeit greenwashed, and one can see that preparing for the worst outcome is the best planning choice.

"For instance, Blueprints assumes CO2 is captured at 90% of all coal- and gas-fired power plants in developed countries in 2050, plus at least 50% of those in non-OECD countries."

That's a whole lota CO2 to capture and store. As I understand it, carbon capture and storage is currently completely untested on an industrial scale. It'll only take a few fatal accidents to put the public off CO2 capture. Let's not put too much hope on CO2 capture and storage.

And where do we put all that captured CO2? If water is injected to retrieve as much oil from mature fields as possible, surely most disused oil fields are now full of water? Even if that's not true (or not a problem because perhaps you can push out the water with pressurised CO2), surely there are significant risks of CO2 escaping from heavily-drilled oil fields, either in dramatic "pressure explosions" or by gently seeping into the rock / water / air.

My prediction is that carbon capture and storage will go the same way as starch ethanol: i.e. everyone gets excited about it to start with; then lots of studies come out showing that it's actually a bad idea; then governments and corporations ignore the negative studies because it allows them to continue something which resembles Business As Usual.

Well, if we can't figure out how to do something as simple as pumping a gas down a hole in the ground and having it stay for a century or two, then we probably deserve to broil.

Then what happens after a couple centuries?

My guess is that the planetary biological and geological system has some kind of gradual way of reincorporating excess CO2 and reburying it as coal or rock or whatever. Our sequestration technology should leak no faster than the planet can stash it in a more secure place, else we are just delaying the trouble.

One fundamental issue here of course is ethical. Should we sweep our troubles under the rug and leave them for our descendents in X years to deal with? If we make X big enough, does that legitimize our lack of concern?

My proposal for such an X is something like twice the average time between major extinction events. Whatever new species arise after such an event can jolly well just adapt to our garbage. No doubt we have similarly adapted to the garbage of our pre-asteroidal ancestors.

The world does have a CO2 stabilization mechanism. Silicate (a very common mineral) weathering. At higher temperatures you have more weathering, and that absorbs CO2. The problem is that the natural time scale for this is something like 100000 to a million years. There are folks advocating artificially stimulated weathering. They noted that in a twenty year old mine, the crushed rock had absorbed enough CO2 to make the mine carbon neutral. Clearly it wasn't a coal mine. But with 26Gtons CO2/year and rising, we would need roughly ten km**2 of rock crushing per year.

The most convincing explanation for why the earth entered into ice ages the past three million years, is increased weathering due to the Tibetan ,and Colorado plateaus.

Another possible explanation relates to the closing of the Ithmus of Panama at about the same time, cutting off the circulation of warm Pacific Ocean waters. There are several others. Even if yours is the correct explanation, getting there presumably took hundreds of thousands of years of weathering of the rocks in question. How to speed this up?

Which is why I still find Stuart's dissing of the whole "relocalization" message so bizzare. We need to prepare to reduce consumption dramatically (not assume timely substitutes will be available) and decentralize production (i.e., produce more locally)--and we can't expect big government or big corporations to lead the way because they are either clueless or afraid to speak the truth.

Should some folks try to influence and enroll big governments and big corporations to help with these efforts? Why not, they have a lot of power and the best chance for success (if "success" is still possible however you define it) is by having as many forces moving in the same direction. But be realistic about who to count on and who you'd expect to make appropriate contingency plans.

I don't believe "solutions" can come from just individuals, or just communities, or just from international will take all of that working together. Anyone doing whatever they can, wherever they have some zone of control or influence should be given a pat on the back.

I have learned not to expect much realism to pass through the gums of anyone in positions of power...but at least he's edging towards reality. I also don't know what I would do in their shoes, so try not to get to worked up about whether they are naughty or nice. The system is built to destroy the ethics of anyone who gets caught up in it under the guise of growth and competition.

"The system is built to destroy the ethics of anyone who gets caught up in it under the guise of growth and competition."

I feel like a conspiracy nut saying this but The Matrix provides such a beautiful metaphor for this situation. The "system" (whether it be a corporation or government bureaucracy) is like the Matrix in that it doesn't matter which people operate it, as long as they believe it is in their best interest to further the interests of the "system." The people - from the CEO of Shell to a lowly bureaucrat (me) - believe in and support the "system." They provide the fuel for and animate the "system." Unfortunately, they forget they are fungible. The "system" then develops its own emergent characteristics that are themselves self-propigating.

Yep, re-reading what I just wrote, I have confirmed that I've lost it....Peak Oil, save me from myself. No, no, in all seriousness, I think these kinds of ruminations rescue me to some extent from the despair that PO can cause because PO might force us back to a lesser level of complexity and save us from the monsters we've created. That is one of the appeals of the relocalization movement: It shows us a way forward that does not involve resource wars. Relocalization offers hope. Staniford offers despair.

Jimmy Stewart's character Elwood Dowd in Harvey said: "My mother used to say to me, . . . 'In this world Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."

Peak Oil will save those that it will save, and damn those that it will damn. Praise be to Peak Oil!! Amen!! LOL!!

Jason: folks really believe in growth. Titanic was the most impressive thing made by man, when it sunk the people watching it go down still could not believe it was true. It will be a long time before even a significant minority accept "sustainabiity" as necessary.

Subsistence farmer: JOY!! This is the proper emotion for confronting PO. No matter what happens, the history of humanity will be oh so much more impressive than that of the sea urchin.


environmental groups had a lot more success when they worked with big corporations instead of against.

Good case in point...Bono's efforts with Product Red.

Jason -

Well said !

What grates with me here on TOD as much as anywhere, and with the evidently brilliant Stuart S as much as anyone,
is the ratio of time spent considering factors of future energy provision and pollution threat, to that spent considering (and promoting) the requisite global framework for negotiating a Treaty of the Atmospheric Commons.

Given that the former will be fundamentally dependent on the provisions of the latter,
and that GHG emission-entitlements are a very useful proxy for fossil fuel usage,
and that without the said treaty new non-fossil energy supply does nothing whatsoever to diminish fossil fuel usage,
it seems astonishing to me that so many patently intelligent people should spend so much effort on a group version of intellectual self abuse.

Maybe we just need the eggs ?



Rather than assume substitutes won't be available why not try to calculate the costs of substitutes and figure out approximately when they will become viable?

Also, relocalization is one of many ways to reduce energy usage.

People who focus on a single response to Peak Oil give the impression (accurate or not) that they think we don't have any other adaptive responses available.

Electrifying about 40,000 miles of US Railroads (over 95% of ton-miles) about $100 billion.

Expand capacity (better signals, more grade separation, and adding back tracks torn up decades ago) to absorb inter-city truck movements - another $100 billion.

Do 6,000 miles of proposed CSX DC-Miami (all grade separated, 2 tracks freight @ 60 to 70 mph, 1 or 2 tracks passenger and express freight @ 110 mph) another $100 billion.

Add $50 billion for new railroad lines where needed.

And $500 billion for Urban Rail.

Or one Iraqi War,


For the price of the Urban Rail we could probably instead build about 250 nuclear power plants. Then we could stop burning natural gas for electric power generation and use the natural gas in cars outfitted to burn natural gas.

But that number of nuclear power plants is far in excess of what we would need to phase out natural gas for electricity. We could probably build just 100 nukes to phase out natural gas for electricity. So with the remaining $300 billion we could build more nukes and install ground sink heat pumps in all the houses that use natural gas and oil for heating.

With all that natural gas saved we'd have even more natural gas available for powering cars.

We could also use some of the money on a tax rebate for hybrids or maybe to provide money to police departments to switch to diesel cruisers.

There's also the possibility of spending some of the money on a massive insulation program.

$100 billion for electrified rail: That's less than I expected and good news. This means we can keep the rail flowing and the relative advantage that will give over trucks will alone shift a lot of truck freight to rails.

Any idea how much electric generating capacity we need to power 95% of rail with electric power? I'm thinking if we know how much diesel is used for rail then we just need a conversion factor to kwh.

I'm more persuaded that we need electrified and more cargo rail than I am on commuter rail (as you know). Well, on this common ground on cargo rail what can we figure out? What are the unanswered parts of the puzzle? I'm eager to learn and figure out more.

What is your source for the $100 billion electrification for cargo rail?

It occurs to me that long distance passenger rail might become attractive on that electrified cargo rail. I wonder at what price of oil does that switch in preferences occur?

Hi, FuturePundit.

I think the point made in The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy is a good one. If we were to build new nuclear capacity, a good portion of the energy from the new plants should be allocated to decommission previous nuclear power plants and contain waste, which is an enormous job that hasn't really begun. The author runs through estimates of how much energy it will take for both tasks (plant decommissioning and waste "disposal").

The alternative is to run out of energy before we take down the existing radioactive energy infrastructure in a responsible way, thus leaving it around until natural decay releases radioactivity from contaminated steel and waste into the environment.

Unfortunately, given the trajectory we are on, it is beginning to look like we are not going to have the energy post peak to clean up the mess we made from the night before without taking more energy away from the already shrinking amount of available energy.

And then, of course, one has to ask if the energy from a nuclear power plant matches the energy put into mining the ore, constructing the plant, decommissioning the plant and containing the waste responsibly. Adding up all the values on the negative side of the ledger, it not at all clear that a nuclear plant provides (much of) a net energy gain. It's a worthwhile question to ask if the amount of net energy is worth all the risk.


Peak Oil, Climate Change and Business
Free, Bi-Weekly Executive Briefing
"... very motivating...A very powerful presentation." - Sun Microsystems

Urban Rail is a combination of streetcars, Light Rail, Rapid (Heavy) Rail (i.e. subways & elevated equivalent), and commuter/regional rail.

By definition, commuter rail was up to 99 miles, so Harrisburg-Philly (104 miles, electrified, 1/3rd @ 110 mph) is not commuter rail (by 5 miles).

Regional rail goes further, perhaps 200 to 250 miles. No sleepers and minimal food service.

I have spent some time investigating the modal share London-Brussels (about 200 miles straight line). About 55%-60% high speed rail, rest air with minimal car (that ditch you know).

Looking at reductions in time as CTRL was built, with decreased travel times, I have gone in reverse and estimate that 100-110 mph rail service would get a third, perhaps 40% of the modal share (all done with cheap oil).

Both London and Brussels have superb Urban Rail systems. Without those the modal share would plummet.

Commuter service can feed an Urban Rail system city

Regional Rail, for a good modal share, needs to connect two Urban Rail system cities (decent modal share if one has Urban Rail and the other does not).

Long distance rail, with sleepers & dining cars, will get very few riders IMHO. People would reduce long distance travel as much (or more) as they would shift from air to long distance rail. A sore point with other rail supporters is my lack of support for long distance, diesel Amtrak.

IMO, we need to build Urban Rail first, and then worry about intercity passenger service. Commuter rail is the least valuable of the Urban Rail types (no or minimal TOD effect) but it still has value in increasing density on other Urban Rail modes#, and reducing oil consumption.

The CSX proposal would have express freight "paying the freight" for 110 mph service with passengers added. It would connect DC-Richmond-Charlotte-Savannah-Jacksonville-Orlando-Ft. Lauderdale-Miami. Lots of viable city-pairs once Urban rail is built in more cities. Some snow birds would ride all the way south, but not much business.

Best Hopes for Urban Rail,


# Increased density of passengers improves the economics of Urban Rail. Marginal cost for extra pax is low. More riders increases service (every 8 minutes instead of every 10 minutes) which further increases ridership. Adding a second line increases density on the first line. Adding a third line increases density on the first two lines, which is why a SYSTEM is so important in order to have a profound impact.

Just a quick response on data ATM.

Figure 17 to 20 BTUs of diesel for heavy trucks to 1 BTU electrified rail (containers, the most comparable & intermodal).

Figure between 2.5 to 3 BTUs diesel for existing rail to 1 BTU electricity for electrified rail.

Figure 2 million b/day of truck freight could be transfered to rail (almost 90%) and just under 250,000 b/day burned by today's RRs.

John Schumann of LTK estimated the cost of electrification (in 2004) in a "simple environment" as $2 million/mile for single track and $2.5 million/mile for double track. The DoD has classified 33,000 miles of railroad as "strategic". Either main lines or spurs to military bases or contractors. Figure some economies of scale and a mix of single & double track to be electrified (mainly single today) offsetting inflation since 2004 and more complex/expensive stretches of rail.
$100 billion for 40,000 miles of electrification is a rough round #.

One other quick point, "Light Hydrocarbons" (NG, butane, propane) can be a nice stop-gap measure (that I support) but North American NG is close to peaking and in a couple of decades, there will not be enough NG for cars & SUVs even if that is all we use NG for (no feedstocks, fertilizer, tar sands, etc.)

So an NG based strategy ONLY just paints us into a corner (again). Urban Rail and bicycles are the lasting solution (and MUCH better for GW than the NG stop-gap).

Best Hopes for Long Range Planning,


BTW, NG is used for peaking power and existing nukes are absolutely useless for peaking. That is why France, even with selling electricity at giveaway prices all night, still gets 10% of their electricity from FF. Nuke would have severe problems supplying much more than half North American grid.

Rail electrification costs: How recent was the estimate? The reason I ask is due to the big run-ups in construction cost in recent years. Up has gone the cost of steel, copper, and other building materials as Asian demand has soared.

What would be more useful: Numbers on how much steel, copper, etc per mile of electrification. Then we could adjust for commodities price inflation ourselves.

What I wonder: Once Peak Oil hits what will happen to commodities prices? I expect price increases due to higher energy input costs. Whether net demand will rise due to new energy projects or drop due to general economy contraction is harder to figure.

The problem with commodities prices seems an argument for doing it now before our ability to do things diminishes. If we can get ahead by doing a big surge in nukes, wind, insulation, rail electrification, etc then once the crunch hits less of the economy will be hobbled.

Baseline versus peak demand: Peak prices will go up as natural gas supplies decline. This will shift demand way from the peak. Also, electric cars will shift demand to night time.

Also, cheap night time electricity might work well for Nitrogen fertilizer production.

It was 2004. Copper has since peaked (a copper penny (pre-1982) peaked at 3.6 cents (memory) and is down to 2.13 cents). (I have been saving my pre-1982 cents for years now. A good supplement to junk silver coins).

Electric cars/PHEVs do NOT reduce electrical demand, they are new users, new demand.

And I am very far from sanguine that most Americans will dutifully time their recharge for minimum grid demand times. Drive home, plug it in ("just in case" will be the justification, or just laziness) will be the choice for many and probably most.

A massive national changeover to time of day pricing w/ new meters would likely take a decade and perhaps longer.

Meanwhile small car sales rose +0.3% in 2007 over 2006. And the subway extension to Tysons Corner & Dulles gets canceled.

Best Hopes for STARTING Mitigation,


Dynamic pricing: Suppose 5 years from now really good PHEV cars hit the market. Rising electric power demand will boost electric prices. This will create the incentives for dynamic pricing. If an electric utility says "Hey, install this box for x amount of money and then after that pay half off in electric costs from 11 PM to 5 AM for that electric car of yours" I think a lot of people will be persuaded.

The point is that once people gain the ability to shift a substantial fraction of their demand they will then have the incentive to use a way to do this as long as that way lets them lower their costs.

Small car sales: That is the beginning of mitigation. SUV sales are down. Subcompact sales are up.

Regarding Time of Day pricing, you make several heroic assumptions.

That in 5 or so years "really good PHEVs" will hit the market.

That the cost of off-peak power will be half the average costs (no new nukes in 5 or so years, and certainly not enough nuke to power the USA base load for twenty years). Unlikely IMHO that the delta will be that large. Certainly not in Pacific NW.

And that almost all PHEV owners will be motivated enough to do time of day (I REALLY doubt this !) One third. sure. Half, maybe. 90% ????

In the few locations of time of day pricing, I have not heard stories of people with electric hot water heaters putting times on their washing machines and doing their wash at 3 AM one night and drying the clothes at 3 AM the next night.

And that the USA utilities will remeter their grid with time of day meters. Significant expense and significant management/education issue.

Yes, SUV sales are down (a dozen to 20%), subcompact sales are up, anemically, but compact car sales are also down slightly. I am totally underwhelmed by the market response. If this is our solution to post-Peak Oil, then there is no solution.

In any case PHEVs (whenever the JIT Technology Fairy arrives) will be a medium size silver BB. Nice but not nearly enough !


The reason people don't bother altering their consumption patterns is because energy is still cheap.
If as you argue supply becomes much more constrained then prices will rise, and the incentive to use off-peak grow if that is much cheaper.
You are correct in saying that building substantial nuclear capacity will take a while, but perhaps some greater optimism is possible on electric cars - the lead-acid and supercapacitor used here would be good enough to substantially reduce fuel use:
This would be even better if combined with Firefly's advanced lead acid battery:
Of course there are other advances in lithium technologies and so on being investigated, so the technology seems to be about mature enough to really have an impact.
There are going to be shortages though with the run-down of the nuclear industry and the immature state of renewables technologies.

The Shell website also has an "energy hard choices" Q & A from Jeroen van der Veer.

What's this about?

Q: Still, production decreases from oil and gas fields continue and the demand for energy is increasing all the while. So the peak-oil theory would appear to be correct.

A: The peak-oil theory, as first published by King Hubbert, an American former Shell employee, is correct for easy-to-access oil, at least. But he would most certainly not have had the Gulf of Mexico on his radar screen, let alone oil sands. A peak-oil theory could also be set up for oil sands, but we’re still only at the very start of their development. And even more unconventional sources have yet to be discovered.

This will require the development of a great deal of knowledge and expertise and large-scale investments in unconventional oil projects. We have said that around 15% of Shell’s oil production will come from unconventional sources in 2015. The oil industry is already particularly capital intensive, but this will only increase – it will become an enormous investment industry. What proof do I have? The world will be using more energy in 2015 than today and more is being invested for every new barrel. This trend will certainly not be broken in 2015. A growing global population and growing prosperity are additional “inconvenient truths”.

Sounds like a non-denial denial to me. He had an opportunity to say "Peak Oil is full of tar sand." He didn't.

Hi Yosemite,

Yes, sad. "A non-denial denial" - just when he had a chance there.

What's extremely disingenuous is to be *apparently* speaking to people who do not know about "King Hubbert" - otherwise, why have to explain, as he does? (eg. "an American former Shell employee")

To go on to imply (not state outright, which would assume accountability, but imply...) that "Gulf of Mexico" and "oil sands" (a mislabel if one was ever constructed) *change* the overall picture in any substantial way - such a diversion and misuse of fact.

And then, there's the circularity of: "What proof do I have? The world will be using more energy in 2015 than today and more is being invested for every new barrel."

I.e., How do we know " will become an enormous investment industry." - ? Because "The world will be using more energy". Because " will become an enormous investment energy". Because...

My heart hurts.

Had this been dated 1973, I might have cheered it.

Fools, to pronounce a "bright" future they can't possibly know.

Even Oedipus was wise--after his eyes had been ripped from his head.

I heartily agree.

I've thought of the Oedipus story a number of times with regard to the hubris of our species.

We are in the midst of a painful process now -- one can hope that there will be something of our species to salvage after this is over.

Every official pronouncement seems to gloss over the situation by putting off the severe consequences of GW and energy resource depletion and by denying the violence already underway as elites respond by trying to steal resources and externalize the responsibilities for mitigating global warming.

I do not put this down to conspiracy, but rather it seems to be a matter of perspective.

Those who most benefit from our way of doing things are blinded regarding the rigidity, brittleness, and vulnerability of our way of doing things. It is this spiritual blindness which continues as the source of slow and warped comprehension and responses to the challenges we face.

There is a blog posting from Paddy Briggs worked for Shell for 37 years, who indicates that Shell has not used the scenarios in the past when making corporate decisions

Where are detailed copies of the Blueprints scenario and the Scramble scenario ? I do not see them online.

At the very least, companies should earn carbon credits for the CO2 they capture and store.

CO2 capture is a more expensive way to go which is why they need government support to do it in any big way.

Sequestering CO2 while using fossil fuels is more expensive than nuclear power.
Soot and dust many be responsible for 50% or more of ice melt by darkening the snow and ice causing it to reflect less sunlight. Another reason to look at the particulate pollution and not just CO2

Soot and dust are turning out to be interesting drivers in the climate change mess. While in the air (near points of origin, such as all over Asia proper) they block solar energy thus causing cooling that masks the real extent of global warming to date. The manner in which they block this energy is by acting as condensation points for moisture which creates many more (and smaller) droplets than normal which are highly reflective because of the water around the particle. This cooling effect is the basis for some scientists suggesting that we deliberately inject particulates into the atmosphere to stave off global warming. However, as the particulates settle out at distant points from their origin via rain or snow (such as the poles), their darker colors become directly exposed and become solar energy absorbers causing more warming/melting.

Which brings up the interesting scenario of a deep recession/depression bringing about a critical tipping point in actual warming. The large and widespread economic slump that many expect would bring about a large scale reduction in particulate emissions of all types, from coal burning power plants to airliners to diesel engines. The air would likely be much clearer in a recession and let the sun shine through in all its GW glory.

That is exactly what happened in the 3 days after 9/11/01 in the United States, which is what gave legs to the particulate theory. Further, while they expected one particular size of temperature increase in that brief three day period, they got something far larger and unexpected. There was a BBC video about Global Dimming (this is an excerpt of the full BBC program), which is the name given to this cooling effect. Google Video has the full program online, I believe.

The danger of global dimming is that it may be masking even larger temperature increases that are already effectively in place and only turned aside by the particulate layer in the atmosphere. Remove or cut down that layer and we may see a large immediate rise in temperatures.

It doesn't look like they have posted the details online yet. I'm guessing that the Davos crowd gets to see them first.

Shell's scenarios have always been considered very well crafted. It is amazing that they spend so much money on in-house talent and then share them with the whole world. Given the comments above to the effect that management pretty much ignores them, one is pretty much forced to conclude that these are more of a PR exercise than a management tool.

I would submit that the Shell PR release is about 20 years out of date and only the surface of what they have come up with in house.

Their past experiences and actions support this: in house R&D into alternatives since at least the 50s, heavy Salkin Island involvement and having the Russian government halve their share, depreciating stated inventories heavily, big investment in Oil Sands, deep-water, etc.

They are publicly stating what they think they can at this stage IMO. It would be interesting in the extreme to be privy to their deeper thoughts.

What, cellulosic biofuels will save you money whereas co-firing biomass with coal would cost you? That defies more laws of physics and chemistry than the Maharishi's yogic flying!

"offers the world the best chance of reaching a sustainable energy future unscathed"

Though I guess he must put on an optumistic face on this, the real future rests on that quote. For we know that in a globally increasing population, which even the UN says will reach 10 billion (40% increase) before their predicted decrease, means that there is no such thing as sustainable.

The big question is will the new generation of energy mix be enough to feed the current population let alone an increasing one.

Question? People are already starving in parts of the third world.

This, however, is more a question of the distribution than a question of total available food supplies. At least, so far.

With limited fuels how do we redistribute? With ever more people does each person get a bit less? At some point the distrubution of "surplus" food must stop as that surplus evaporates. Though interesting 40 years of aid to Africa has only made more poorer and starving people. Maybe we should stop sending AIDs drugs to Africa. Yes, people are starving, but I suspect we ain't seen noth'n yet.

The desperation of it is that the Scramble scenario is taking place, has been taking place, since maybe 50 years; and the Blueprints scenario is a conventional soft sell, designed to reassure and appease, keep the ball rolling while pretending to make some moves towards an illusory future.

buitengewoon optimistisch (paulus) is an understatement.

It will be very interesting to see how the other oil majors respond to Shell. BP have been running a tireless (and tiresome) media campaign in the UK to push the message that peak oil production is decades away.

Is BP going to do the world a favour and get behind the need to do something or is it going to try to derail Shell's more realistic outlook with a slew of spurious data and arguments? Then it will be GW all over again while the bike swipers fight to the death with the tree huggers.

The fact that BP usually wheel out their chief economist as Mr Disinformation probably tells us the answer. His articles claim that demand will simply create supply - in other words, PO not only doesn't exist, it can't happen.

I believe he was propounding this view to a group of PO-aware MPs in the British parliament but had to back down when The Last Oil Shock Author David Strahan asked him when he expected North Sea production to start rising again.

BP have been running a tireless (and tiresome) media campaign in the UK to push the message that peak oil production is decades away.

Really? Where?

I haven't seen any adverts. This must be one of BP's lesser campaigns.


BP says world oil demand to peak

Not so much a campaign but I've seen a few of these stories, with BP at the fore.

I believe he was propounding this view to a group of PO-aware MPs in the British parliament

I was at that meeting, he admits that individual wells and even countries peak, but says that the world will not peak because of lack of oil in the ground - if there is a peak it will be caused by a lack of demand!

I now know quite a bit about peak oil and I agree with him, he clearly understands the situation - I also think that oil production peaked three years ago!

Oil companies have to make a profit - put simply, 'peak oil' is the 'end of cheap oil' and the average man in the street can't afford to pay the higher prices required to grow the economy at BAU 2% a year rates and make a profit for BP, since the 'invisible hand of the market' makes the price too high! The chief economist at BP clearly knows this but (probably for business reasons) he just can't bring himself to agree that is peak oil!

I suppose the "Peak Demand" idea depends on how the current financial crisis plays out. If the US descends into something that can only be accurately described as a Great Depression, a dramatic reduction in purchasing power may reduce US oil consumption.
Suppose that in the future, it is theoretically possible to increase oil output to 90 million barrels per day, but only by going to extreme deepwater locations where it would cost $500 billion to bring an extra million bpd online? Let us further suppose that our oil companies calculate that given the risk and cost of funding, it simply does not make sense to attempt this project unless oil is $200 per barrel, but due to the dire state of the economy a price of $150 per barrel is enough to balance supply & demand.

The project would not go ahead. We might then say that oil production peaked because of lack of demand.

Well, we might say that. I wouldn't. I'd say production peaked because we ran out of cheap oil, and people couldn't afford the extreme prices necessary to pay for the difficult projects.

This has already happened with North American natural gas. Drilling rates are falling despite slowing production. They need higher prices. We must be on the steep decline part of the EROI curve.

Well put message.

Starts out with "I have a dream"

Moves on to "I have a nightmare"

Finish with "now tell me what YOU are going to do about it"

I assume the reference to 2050 is just to tie in to the Bali declaration on climate change framework. IMO that aspect of the letter is for political digestion.

The annual consumption of fossil fuels (especially oil and natural gas) in 2050 will be a fraction of what it is now. So even if you can then sequester 90% of CO2 emissions, it will have little impact on total CO2 in the atmosphere compared a reduction of CO2 emissions of say 10-15% during the next decade. Nearer term emission cuts would be on a much larger emissions base and benefit from a 30-35 year head start.

Except for coal emissions, if you trade away the deep emission cuts that everyone talks about (but delay long into the future because of their size) for smaller cuts such as 10-15% but with a much earlier start date, everyone would be better off.


Shell now adds another voice to what I have been calling "convergence" 2015, with De Margerie (check spelling) of Total, the NPC report, and the IEA. along with the moderate peak community (Leharrere etc.)

That means a seven year program starting TODAY to reduce oil and gas consumption.
That's not much time, and if we take Westexas's export land seriously (I do, even though I have some differences with the details and mathematical projections) the real problems could come sooner (2010-2012 window)

The preponderance of the major voices are starting to come to the conclusion: One minute to midnight.
The holy grail...fossil fuel consumption must come down. The longer we wait now, the more painful it will be. We are already running very late, this should have began in the 1970's and '80's.

Hello TODers,

My hope is that worldwide distribution of this letter will shellshock the cornucopians and denialists; that we can finally start having meaningful discussions of optimizing our traverse through the Dieoff Bottleneck.

As explained in my many earlier postings: maybe now we can start Asimov's Foundations, the building and enlargement of biosolar habitats, Earthmarines vs Mercs for sharply focused resource conflict resolution instead of wasteful anarchic non-strategies, and redrawing of political boundaries based on watershed demarcation, plus much more.

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

...and here is Joschka Fischer, Germany’s Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998 to 2005, talking about Peak Oil in code in today's Cyprus News - which also ran the van der Veer story on Tuesday.

Doing away with this illusion requires the creation of a global emissions market – still a very distant goal. It also requires more energy efficiency, which means a reduction of waste in both energy production and consumption. Rising energy prices already point in this direction, but this knowledge has yet to register. Finally, it requires a technological and politico-economic breakthrough in favor of renewable energy, rather than a return to nuclear power or coal. In essence, then, we are confronted by a three-pronged challenge of a new “green” industrial revolution.

Both the Fischer article and the van der Veer article are being syndicated via an organisation called Project Syndicate, which describes itself as an international association of quality newspapers devoted to, "bringing distinguished voices from across the world to local audiences everywhere and strengthening the independence of printed media in transition and developing countries."

Project Syndicate circulate to 337 publications in 133 countries. However, in the UK, for example, their membership only includes one national newspaper (the Guardian, which is already on side with PO and has a relatively small circulation). Project Syndicate don't have any circulation in North America as far as I can tell.

How much exposure Shell's clear warning about the imminent reality of PO gets in the MSM of the big oil-consuming nations remains to be seen. Basically, the ball's sitting there on the grass waiting for a big MSM player to pick it up big time (juuuust possible) or for a G8 leader to go with it (am I holding my breath?)

requires the creation of a global emissions market – still a very distant goal. ...

There seems to me to be a direct action way to deal with CO2 emission from power plants: Bomb the power plant. They should be easy to target with guidance systems that seek CO2.

This is a scramble response to a blueprint engendered problem.

Hello TODers,

Will Bush as POTUS mention the howling Shell topdog's concerns in his upcoming State of the Union speech? Will he be wearing a sweater and reannouncing programs similar to what Pres. Carter jumpstarted so long ago only to have Pres. Reagan strangle these newborns for a 'New Mourning in America"?

For any TOD newbies who haven't read the famous Sweater Speech:
Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history.....
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Thanks for that Bob, I hadn't read it. I was a little young to appreciate Pres. Carter at the time. Too bad this type of leadership is not appreciated any more.

If that speach was today, Fox and Limbaugh would be frothing at the mouth and CNN would be asking Britney what she thought.

Whatever his ideals for the future was, he was also a staunch defender of the status quo, no less so than Bush:

how do I know this letter is authentic?


Good question.

Thanks! These links probably should have been listed with the letter.

Indeed - but I did not have them then. Now updated.

I do recall demolishing some rubbish on the internet with a quick Google search and some common sense.

Common Sense ain't common

TOD Community,

The responsibility of our community I believe is to flush out solutions to Peak Oil and then understand the limitations and scalability of those solutions. Then those among us who are in the business world can work to commercialize the concepts that survive the gauntlet of peer review. Here at TOD we enjoy a world wide marketplace of ideas, where those ideas with sound backing and logical support thrive and those with little substance are challenged. I believe that our community is so successful and creative because every voice is heard and every person can judge for themselves. This forum gives power back to the individual not as a simple observer but as a judge, a critic, and an informed contributer.

Because of what I have seen and experienced these last few years on TOD. Personally I am inclined to take the path of "Scramble". To me scramble means that we begin working as individuals to solve this problem immediately and with out delay. The idea that some world government or massive world treaty needs to create a "Blue Print" that is going to address the complexities of the Peak Oil issue seems to me a silly and naive concept.

By the time the world were to ALL agree on some uniform action it would be 2030. And even if they ever did come to an agreement, I have no confidence based on their actions so far, that they would come up with the correct solutions. So far the governments solutions include energy negative corn ethanol and hydrogen fuel cell technology that cost $500,000 per car. We have pumped Billions of dollars of public money (your tax dollars) into those "so called" solutions. If you really want to have the government form a "Blue Print" for our future, go for it, but count me out. How can we honestly expect the results to be any different than the last blue print they came up with? No thank you.

For me, I say, let the scramble begin! Yes, indeed cars will be lost along the way. To me that means that some solutions will not work and will be weeded out. How can it ever be any other way? The solutions that work best in a Post Peak World will thrive and those solutions that are unsustainable will fall away, that is fine with me. Will every nation or organization pick the right solution, no of course not, but I believe it is impossible to protect some one from themselves.

I would rather we all judge for our selves the path to take, then to ALL crash together by relying on the wrong solution, set out by some Blue Print. Let the marketplace of solutions work without prejudging a winner with taxes, incentives, and penalties for other solutions.

To Quote Thomas Jefferson:

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty."

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government."

All The Best,

"To Make All Energy Available",

Renewable Energy Developer

" flush out solutions to Peak Oil and then understand the limitations and scalability of those solutions..."

The original letter and the Joschka Fischer quotation both are careful to give lip service to nuclear. I have argued that nuclear power is a dangerous and futile response to PO. I recently saw in the Wall Street Journal a letter to the Editor which I think is revealing ( ) The author is in the midst of an controvsy that is mainly internal to the Hoover Institute on nuclear weapons proliferation. He says,"These governments understand that the way to do this is to follow the traditional path of building reactors for ostensible civilian purposes because the line between civilian and military uses is thin." Reading his letter it is easy to come to the conclusion that the real reason for nuclear electrical power is as a cover story for developing nuclear weapons capability.

So why do people who come late to the PO view always mention nuclear electric power as part of the solution to the PO problem? Are they all in the pay of their respective governments, or have they all been intimidated by their respective country's CIA?

IMO, nuclear electric power will be pursued as preparation for resource wars by governments that are so inclined and should not be mentioned in civilized company except to abhor it.

The hot link to WSJ in the above doesn't work now.
Try this:

Strengthen the means of monitoring compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a counter to the global spread of advanced technologies. More progress in this direction is urgent, and could be achieved through requiring the application of monitoring provisions (Additional Protocols) designed by the IAEA to all signatories of the NPT.

Quick, the horses are gone! Shut the barn door!

We make a deal with India and next Olmert and Gates say Israel has weapons. So, they'll want an open deal too. Why would anyone stay in the NPT when those who don't sign get all the goodies? We're even helping Pakistan these days. To me, the NPT could have worked if we had disarmed more quickly. Now, we're going to have to disarm and we'll likely leave some nukes out there that might not have existed if we had moved faster. The goobers who thought a deal with India made sense are the same ones who blow an investigation of trading in nuclear secrets for political vindictiveness. I think this letter is coming out now because there is some hope that someone with a clue might be in the White House a year from now.


Tell me, is my government paying me to advocate for nuclear power? Or has the CIA gotten to me? Which one do you think it is?

Why is it that Peak Oil attracts so many paranoid lunatics?

They are paid to do so by the PLT - "Paranoid Lunacy Team" (actual name, Committee for Public Mental Health). Back in the '60s, psychiatric therapies became very effective and psychiatrists wealthy, but since everyone was now cured they started to run out of clients. The PLT was set up by psychiatrists in order to spread general fear, uncertainty and doubt aming the population (the origin of the FUD concept), so that psychiatrists were ensured a steady stream of new clients. The introduction of new (illegal) psychotic drugs is the work of the PLT, for example.

'So why do people who come late to the PO view always mention nuclear electric power as part of the solution to the PO problem? Are they all in the pay of their respective governments, or have they all been intimidated by their respective country's CIA?'
Or maybe some people just differ in their assessment to you.
If you imagine that the spread of nuclear weapons to any state that wants them can be halted you are profoundly mistaken.
The technology is getting easier and easier, and whilst you might have nostalgic feelings for the rather colonialist attitudes under which the US could decide, always with glaring exceptions, who should and should not have nuclear weapons, those days are rapidly fading into history.
Since it will make little difference to proliferation, your basic thesis is invalid, as invalid as your attribution of dubious motivation to those who have the temerity to disagree with you.
Nuclear power is a clean, safe and relatively carbon-free resource which is available now at reasonable cost, and which can fill the energy gap and greatly reduce sources of GW.
In my view those who presently oppose it do a grave disservice to efforts to move to a better energy resource.
However, this does not lead me to impugn their motives.
Perhaps the courtesy might be returned.

New nuclear power plants are also slow, especially in large #s. They will make a useful "second wave" after a Rush to Wind, more geothermal, a hopeful solar PV breakthru, etc.

Best Hopes for all forms of non-GHG power,


I would agree, Alan, but unfortunately many seem to think that renewables can substitute for nuclear, and at the present stage in technology they come up short.
For instance, in Germany they are installing solar PV - for a 1kw installation you get around 3watts in winter in that latitude.
Similarly, Britain is looking at building 33GW nameplate of off-shore wind - actual energy flow is around 10GW.
For the same price you could probably build around 33GW of nuclear, actual flow around 30GW, and provide all base load capacity in the UK.
At a simpler level, we don't get around to doing the simple things like putting in decent insulation, installing heat pumps (in the UK the far cheaper air pumps are adequate) and so on - although a lot of the fancier renewables have great long term potential, they seem to me to be a bit of a distraction at the moment from stuff which will actually do the job,and an expensive distraction at that.
That is not to say that I am against wind power in other locations, for instance in Texas, which has an excellent wind resource where you can use far cheaper land based power, but every case has to be judged on it's merits, and at the moment we know how to save energy, and how to do nuclear, but we can't really rely on renewables in most locations.

Britain could build on-shore wind in large numbers, if they chose to. Cheaper and faster than off-shore wind

Any new British nukes (other than building 3 rather than one EPR 1.6 GW new nuke on French soil for the English market) are 2020+ for the FIRST one ! Hardly a solution ! And the "sky is the limit" for prices and delays on the first new Brit nuke (see the last nuke built in the UK, Sizewell B ?) So your assertions on cost and time for the next fleet of British nukes are as valid as the initial budget for Sizewell B.

New British nukes are the "expensive distraction".

A HV DC line from Iceland to Scotland could be built sooner than that with new generation could be built sooner than that. And many GW of on-shore wind as well as slower and more expensive off-shore wind. (I doubt your capacity factor of 30% for offshore UK wind BTW).

1) 3 x 1.6 GW new nukes in France dedicated to the south English market for 35 years
2) 40 GW of on-shore & off-shore wind
3) Build a 2 GW HV DC link to Iceland
4) Build 5 GW of pumped storage in Scotland and Wales
5) Start work on two new English nukes (18 months apart), when half done, start two more. Hope to see the first one operational by 2023.

Dramatically improve new building insulation standards, and encourage retrofits. Hold off on heat pumps till marginal electrical demand is not meet with NG.


The estimates for first energy from a nuclear plant is around 2017, but I think that you are correct that 2020 is probably more realistic.
However, a fair bit of the time is to issue blanket planning permissions, so that we don't go through the same problems as haunted earlier builds and increased costs.
It seems that a substantial proportion will also be built by the French, who have a far better record for timely and cost effective build than the British.
There is also no intention to make every reactor a one-off, with custom design and retrofit, which was previously the case.
A big part of the impetus would also come because most of us here at peak oil think that oil and gas will be both expensive and in short supply - when we had cheap oil and gas it wasn't worth the political hassle of forcing nuclear plants through - if we have supply restrictions very different conditions would pertain, and much of the opposition weaken.
Since all the determinants of cost would differ, then hopefully we can do a much better job on costs than previously.
In practise of course, what would happen is that if there is a gap coal or gas fired plants will be built to take up the slack.
It would be far cheaper to do that and when they are replaced by nuclear to use them for off-peak capacity rather than build unreliable windmills.
As for wind power, taking your comments more or less in order, I used a rough figure of around 30% for wind capacity offshore as being at the top end of land-based wind power - the proposals in the UK are for the turbines to be placed as close as possible to the shore to reduce transmission costs, so although it is a good resource it is not nearly as powerful as in the middle of the north sea, and many of the farms would be based towards the south where the population live rather than in the windier north.
It is also more difficult to maintain turbines at sea, and even land-based turbines in Germany have encountered unexpectedly high maintenance, with the gusty nature of wind stressing the structure.
However, a rather higher figure would not affect my basic argument, that if on-shore wind is expensive, then off-shore is vastly more so, for a resource which still cannot be relied on- or alternatively you have to budget for vast extra expense for storage solutions such as you suggest - but even then, sometimes calms last for extended periods of time.
As for onshore wind potential, the chief problem with that is that most of it is located in the north in a fragile ecosystem - I don't favour destroying every peat bog in the country.
That is beside the simple fact that the people of Scotland and Ireland simply won't allow their countryside to become one vast wind farm, as most of the demand is in England - proposals to drive transmission lines through national parks also do not find favour in Scotland.
The biggest area where we could make a difference to any energy gap though is in conservation - in the UK we have 3 million G rated homes, which is the lowest standard for insulation, and a further 9 million F grade.
We also have no program to install residential solar thermal panels - France plans 5 million in the next few years - or to install air heat pumps, which are fine in the UK climate and expensive geothermal heat pumps not really necessary, France is installing 50,000 a year.
A total of 3 zero energy homes are currently under construction in the UK.
We need to start doing the obvious things, not to commit to vastly expensive adventures in untried technology.
Many hundreds of people die in the UK every year from hypothermia, so putting up bills to pay for such schemes is a matter of far more than academic interest.

Jerome, who has a pretty good handle on how wind works, has said that sites under consideration for off shore wind have capacity factors of at least 40% and the cost is 50% higher than for on shore wind. His cost estimates is on the price of power so he has accounted for the higher capacity factor and the reduced material needs using larger turbines. This is not vastly more expensive. Also, I think that you have a factor of ten error in your estimate of what PV produced in the wintertime. For a rather lossy system (24%) 1 kWp system located in Hannover, Germany I get 24 W average daily output in December, not 3 W. Ignoring losses gives a value a little above 30 W. You need to go to the middle of Finland to have latitude affect solar output so strongly.


Yep, sorry - I was hunting through the web for sources, and suddenly realised that I had made a simple arithmetical error - darn those decimal places!
3% of rated output is still a heavy hit though.
I'll try to track down Jerome's post.

I think solar is going to make sense for the UK once the US market really takes off. Germany is working on being in a position to supply that market. The 3% of rated power is not really the way to look at it. It is about 25% of the annual average power output. July gives about 156% in Hannover.


The only real answer to that is 'maybe, maybe not'
Sure, solar power is dropping in price rapidly, and hopefully that will continue, but it is not economical almost anywhere yet, apart from maybe on some island or where there is no connection to the grid.
I can't see why it is reasonable to make such heroic extrapolations from present performance for solar and not for other resources.
Nuclear power presently runs a whole country, France, and very modest enhancements mean that it could power as much of the world as it needs to.
Now I reckon that it won't need to do everything, as further south solar should be very competitive, but it could do if it had to.
Geothermal also makes a lot of sense, and is greatly underexploited.
With a factor of 6 or so between the winter solar electricity production and the middle of summer, and using figures for Britain since I am most familiar with those, at mid-day in the summer Britains electricity requirement drops to around 20GW on a summer's day up to around 75GW at peak on a cold winter's day.
Unless I've dropped another decimal point (!) then you would need around 24 times too much power for July to fully provide for winter needs.
Of course, you could in practise shave this quite a bit, by bringing on-line peak only coal-fired capacity or whatever, and insulating properly so that energy demand is not so high, but just the same you need to make truly heroic assumptions about future costs of PV, when no such assumptions are needed for some of it's competitors.
Now that might happen, but I would not bet the farm on it.

Nuclear power presently runs a whole country, France, and very modest enhancements mean that it could power as much of the world as it needs to.

Not true.

France has about 10% hydro and 10% FF and the FF is irreducible. They sell nuke power all night long at give away prices and sometimes buy peak power back.

An isolated grid with much more than 50% nuke is likely to have problems unless it has a lot of hydro or pumped storage.


I think solar will take off in the UK when it is cheap. I don't think it is going to be the main power source, but it will find a role. The UK has a big gas infrastructure. I suspect that electricity will be used to supply this through the Sabatier process, and the cheapest that can also be used where the waste heat is also useful will be the supplier. So, running warehouse refridgeration in the summer with the waste heat while also producing methane may be a place where solar fits in well.


Here are the cost estimates from an agency of the British Government of the costs of their wind plans:
'At £2 million per megawatt of "capacity" (according to the Carbon Trust), the bill for the Government's 33 gigawatts (Gw) would be £66 billion (and even that, as was admitted in a recent parliamentary answer, doesn't include an extra £10 billion needed to connect the turbines to the grid). But the actual output of these turbines, because of the wind's unreliability, would be barely a third of their capacity. The resulting 11Gw could be produced by just seven new "carbon-free" nuclear power stations, at a quarter of the cost.'
The Carbon Trust is the Government Agency.
For the rest of the lunacy to which the Government intends to commit us see:

Wind turbines are not longer "untried technology". They are not yet mature, but there is now enough experience (and more by the end of this year, etc.) to give economic and operating parameters.

The first new English nuke (not likely to be Scot or Welsh) will NOT solve UK energy problems, or the second or even the first dozen (a dozen would take a large slice of the problem though). Thirty or more will be required.

And I cannot see even a dozen new nukes operational in the UK before 2030 and thirty by 2038. Power outages and hypothermia will be common before then.

By the time the 30th new British nuke comes on-line, the wind turbines installed in 2010 will be worn out and the decision made as to whether to put a second generation of WTs on the old towers, reuse the same transmission lines, etc.

The 5 GW of pumped storage will last well over a century, and care not if they use wind power or nuke power to pump up water. They are vital to reduce gas and coal demand to meet peak demand. More than 5 GW may be needed in future decades, but 5 GW plus the existing 1 GW will do a lot of good.

If you build as many WTs as possible today, on land and sea (override the landscape NIMBYs, BTW peat bogs are at lower elevations, WTs on ridge lines), repower them once and then scrap them if you like and run Britain on a mix of nukes, pumped storage and a bit of hydro in 2060.

The UK has their tail in a crack, support for conservation and new nukes is likely essential BUT IT IS SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH !M/b> Only a mad Rush to Wind, coupled with some more pumped storage is likely to be enough SOON ENOUGH. And an extra GW or two from Iceland would help a bit.

Best Hopes for a Rush to Wind,


You seem to discount some things Alan:
Scotland an Ireland simply will not allow construction on the scale you want, and they have Parliaments quite capable of stopping it.
Off-shore wind is in fact not fully proven particularly cost-wise - plans include building 5MW turbines, which has not been done before, and the unknown cost of maintaining for many years turbines in a very tough environment.
You also discounted the possibility of making quite major energy savings by better insulation and so on, and also that you could certainly build more coal plants far more cheaply than wind.
We aren't going to run out of coal before we could build a major nuclear fleet.
It took the French around 20years, and they would probably be the ones building it for us.
Raw materials would also be much less than for a vast fleet of windmills.

I do not discount the savings from conservation, except that, IMO, conservation ALONE will not solve UK problems for the next dozen plus years.

The materials issue between nukes & WTs is a red herring. It is like comparing beer can aluminum with aircraft aluminum. There is *FAR* more aluminum in the world suitable for beer cans than Al acceptable for aviation.

Wind turbine towers can be build out of recycled scrap of uncertain pedigree. Many are made of Korean steel of uncertain quality (just add another mm thickness). Nukes require mine to forging documentation and precise alloying with quality control/assurance at every step.

Remember what happened when the early Brit reactors all used cheap off-the-shelf nuts ? They were permanently downrated. Thousands of GWhs lost.

It would be preferable to build (in the main) the on-shore WTs first and then shift to off-shore WTs, allowing more time for developments to mature.

The Welsh are certainly in the same power pickle that the English are and the Scots are deluding themselves if they think that they are immune to English blackouts.

But if the English continue to block on-shore wind development at whim and do not acknowledge the seriousness of their position, then regional politics will likely carry the day :-(

Best Hopes for acknowledging the Seriousness of teh Issue,


Alan said:
'Best Hopes for acknowledging the Seriousness of teh Issue,'
If you want to debate, fine, but that is about enough of the rather patronising sign-offs
You simply tend to ignore the bits of arguments you don't like:
For instance:
Peat bogs would be devastated.
The cost of the wind fleet is estimated at £76bn by the British government.
You can fill an energy shortfall with coal if you had to - and throw them away when you built the nuclear and still have a fair few billion change.
What you recommend simply makes no conceivable sense, and nor do the proposals of the British government.

Coal will violate Kyoto requirements (and take longer than wind in many cases) and have a variety of other negative issues.

Existing coal plants will likely be cheaper than new nukes, so why not just keep them for 30 or 40 years, emit a bit of CO2 and THEN replace them with nukes, if lowest cost is your goal ?

Especially if Sizewell C follows the development of Sizewell B ?

I understand that all peat bogs are in the valleys or lower slopes, WT like to on top of ridges. How do WTs "devastate" peat bogs ?


You continually say that the UK will have a disaster form lack of fuel, with real want from cold, but still imagine that the Kyoto agreement will be sacrosanct?
That will last until the first serious energy cut, and then it will be another piece of paper for fuel.
I did not indicate that 'lowest cost' was my sole goal, and indeed would have serious reservations about the long term viability of coal as an energy resource for other than peak needs, but the costs of wind power here are just crazy.
In practice of course the coal plants would not be scrapped, but would be used for peak energy whilst nuclear took care of the baseload - not a bad development pattern actually, since it seems likely to me that NG supplies will get tight.
According to the Royal Academy of Engineering even with sequestration coal is likely to be cheaper than wind, and you can't even guarantee wind for peak power.
As for the peat bogs issue, that is really part of the problem, as you are generalising excessively without knowledge of the particular conditions of this region of the world.
FYI many areas of the highlands of Britain consist of moorland rather than sharp defined peaks as you are talking about, and you in any case do not have to merely consider the windmill itself, but access roads and so on, so that the siting of a windmill will often mean the permanent destruction of a habitat.
Googling Peat bog and Britain will get you a wealth of information on the subject.

I question the cost estimate ($1 million/MW is typical for the USA) but have not the time to research it properly. ATM, I certainly do not accept the #, but have not the time or energy to refute it properly.


Your thesis is interesting, but since they are the guys who are going to be paying for it perhaps the British Government is in a better position to estimate costs than you are.
Why you should feel that costs would be like the US I can't imagine.
Land costs will be nothing like the same in Texas as in crowded Britain for a start.
Secondly much of the best of the wind resource here is in the North, where there are fewer people, and average wind-speed is critical to wind-power economics, so putting it close to the population centres can have large effects.
The lower penetration of wind in the US and the large area also mean that sites can be cherry picked as good locations.
That is aside from the very obvious point that much of the increase in British wind is projected to be off-shore, so you need to lay undersea cable, and build robust foundations, together with larger turbines than has so far been attempted.
Maintenance is also much higher.
The Lord only knows why you should feel so certain in your prescriptions when you know so little of the conditions.
Wind power may be a useful addition in the US, but I would not go throwing unlimited subsidies at it.

By the year 2100, the world's energy system will be radically different from today's. Renewable energy like solar, wind, hydroelectricity and biofuels will make up a large share of the energy mix, and nuclear energy too will have a place. Mankind will have found ways of dealing with air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will have reduced the amount of energy needed to power buildings and vehicles. Indeed, the distant future looks bright ...


As a result, society has no choice but to add other sources of energy ...


But it offers the world the best chance of reaching a sustainable energy future unscathed

I think that these quotes and others demonstrate his myopia. He doesn't foresee any kind of future that doesn't involve, more or less, business as usual, with continued economic growth. We all need to understand what sustainability means and figure out ways to get there. The alternative to sustainability is termination.

I recommend a small book by Walter Brueggemann:

"The Prophetic Imagination" 1978, Fortress Press.

The book traces what Brueggeman calls "The Royal Consciousness" that develops in cultures versus the Prophetic Critique which is the healthiest and most forward-thinking part of a culture.

The Royal or Imperial consciousness cannot foresee a future that is not an extension of the status quo. Therefore, critics are marginalized and eventually persecuted and annihilated.

Given smaller Empires with limited reach and technology, this process goes on and empires rise and fall without any one of them destroying life on the planet.

Combine this with the insight of scientists who study the Sixth Great Extinction, which is largely anthropogenic, and one can see that our primitive emotions and "Global Royalist" world views combined with godlike technology do indeed impact the planet with the same force as a major meteor strike. We rule and dominate through death and unto death.

I can see no way for this present age to avoid becoming the Eramazonian Age, the age of desolation and loneliness.

However, the mystic in me tends to think that all authentic efforts toward sustainability will bear fruit.

The Empire will try to prolong itself -- that is the only possible future that Imperialists can see.

Remnants of our species may survive this episode of hubris and weave wisdom out of this passage through the ecological bottleneck that will serve well in the future.

Dear Employees,

By 2050 half the Earth's population will have died a grisly death, and we are partly responsible. The people will have turned to burning trash to make electricity, the sky will be a darker shade of brown, and the air will not be fit to breath. Men will feed upon men, and wars will continue to be waged over oil.

On the bright side, the overpopulation problem as outlined by Malthus, Ehrlich, et. al., will have been solved. Personally I think it will be more than half.

DIYer, turning a whiter shade of pale

Two challenges, one to generate sufficient energy and the second is to reduce co2.
The co2, according to the latest from a Russian scientist, Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of a space research lab at the Pulkova observatory in St. Petersburg, as reported in RIA Novosti, is no longer causing a rise in temperatures. He forecasts that we are heading for a small ice age, based on a cyclical drop of energy from the sun. All to do with sunspots; wasn't it Jevons who was on about that several centuries ago. I believe a scientist from the Max Planke (?) institute in Germany has been saying for some time that the increase in temperature in the last x years coincided with an increase in energy from the sun, and thus may not be a function of, or solely a function of, increased co2 emmissions.
This is not to suggest that we should continue to pollute the planet with co2, but that there may be no immediate catastrophic effect.
Which should allow us to focus on energy production and consumption. Possibly i'm a pangloss, but i don't see the problem. Yes, massive technological changes, huge investments in alternative power sources, huge investments in lowering power usage, and yes, some real discomfort as all this takes place, prodded forward inexorably by rising prices for all forms of conventional energy, but this is an exciting era where change is recognized by all as necessary.
Foodstocks and potable water will be a great concern in the near future, and to some extent, our response to one set of challenges, energy, effect these other areas.
Finally, as i think we all understand, the population of the planet must stop growing, should have stopped some time back.

The third and bigger(est) challenge is what we DO with the 'sufficient energy'..
With a "more stuff" paradigm, more energy and less CO2 just buys a decade, which isn't long in the grand scheme

oh god


try getting some sources for the speculation that you posted, and taking then to RealClimate (link in right sidebar) where they will be happy to apply serious patient expertise as to exactly why your post is sheer complacent nonsense.

I am less patient, but then I not only saw the IPCC's warning with AR4 that some African nations' food production will be halved by climate impacts by 2020,
I also have African friends with children whose lives I value.

How about you ?

To what extent are you at ease in furthering a complacent inaction that serves a US-led genocide-by-famine ?



CO2 buildup is a bigger problem long term than Peak Oil. Your sources are just wrong, solar radiation has been stable (within the known 11 year sunspot cycle) since space based measurements started in 1960.

No we CANNOT "Which should allow us to focus on energy production and consumption".

If you have any optimism the day after the Bush Administration killed the Dulles subway extension, which would have saved 25,000 or so bbl/day and provided transportation at 800 pax mile/gallon equilavent of electricity, then your glasses are indeed rose colored.

Best Hopes,


Blah blah blah...We are soooooooooo screwed.

Gun's & Gold!

At the 5/2/2006 Center for Strategic & International Studies Forum, the Petroleum & Minerals Minister Ali Ibrahim al-Naimi of Saudi Arabia stated: "I believe there are at least 14 trillion barrels of reserves left, 7 trillion of which are conventional, with advancing technology, we'll produce more of it."

What is wrong here? We should demand answers or retractions to such statements, and question our government, until everyone is satisfied! Holding hands by W with the Saudi King was empty handed - what happened to the 14 Trillion Barrels of Oil Deposits? Then why are we in Iraq and waste our treasure of Trillions of Dollars for a Permanent War with 40-60 declared enemy countries?

The analysis and research of Oil Depletion, Peak Oil, Global Warming, and Climate Change has been truly commendable by the many dedicated researchers.

The converging world issues of Fossil Fuel Depletion, Global Energy Supply, Global Food Supply, CO2 Emissions, Global Warming, Climate Change, Polar Ice Melting, Ocean Warming, Droughts, Water & Land Depletion, and Global Soil Erosion now require action in order to maintain and secure our standard of living, or we will indeed face major economic consequences on a global scale.

Politicions and governments work for the corporations, but the public survival as a nation is very questionable, when our Constitution and the Bill of Rights have been trashed. For more detailed information of the above, please see my website:

Hi Jerome,

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Dear Mr. van der Veer,

Thank you for talking about the future.

Brief questions:

1) You write "Companies can suggest possible routes to get there, but governments are in the driving seat. And governments will determine whether we should prepare for a bitter competition or a true team effort."

Which do you personally want - "bitter competition" or "true team effort"?

And therefore, do you bring this desire to your position as CEO? If so, what concrete and specific steps do you propose to assist "governments" to "drive" in the most ethical and humane direction?

2) When you say "governments are in the driving seat", does this mean, then, that you are in favor of action on the part of governments to engage in immediate and large-scale conservation efforts, in order to postpone (to the extent possible) an economic shock with the advent of a gap between fossil fuel production and consumer use?

3) What is your suggestion regarding the problem of "nations rush to secure energy resources for themselves" - ? Does Shell favor adoption of the "Oil Depletion Protocol"?

"Indeed, the distant future looks bright, but getting there will be an adventure."

By adventure, does he mean chaos, mayhem, unrest, rioting, or wind, solar, bio-mass, geo-thermal, algae-ethanol and Fusion?

The word 'Adventure', gets to my sense of this energy situation the World suddenly finds itself in - that sure, the future probably will have a very green set of energy systems that will have replaced the dirty, unhealthful, global warming fossil fuels of today. However, the transition to that new technology is getting started to late to avert the peak fossil fuel issues that will arise. Consequently, the word Adventure will probably end up being a mix of terms, like chaos, solar, mayhem, wind, unrest, algae ethanol, resource wars, etc.

We will be the guinea pigs during the transition, for all the good, bad and ugly that will transpire.

The part that galls me is the repeat of history, over and over again, in which humankind is always in denial about some impending situation, like global warming or peak oil, that is until it reaches a crisis point and then finally the powers in charge cede to the idea of change. Then suddenly they all campaign with promises to quickly make those changes.

Here's the big question: Will humankind ever evolve to the point of not immediately plunging into denial, but instead anticipate problematic situations and take positive action before they reach a point of crisis?

Here's the big question: Will humankind ever evolve to the point of not immediately plunging into denial, but instead anticipate problematic situations and take positive action before they reach a point of crisis?

Here's the big answer: No.

Thanks for answering my post, which for whatever reason gave me a good laugh, probably because there is no other answer. People always wait until it's a crisis. Meanwhile the King Hubbert's and Al Gore's of the World will continue to see what others at first ridicule, and then later assert as obvious fact. Some things just never change.

I see two possible outcomes. Winning the lottery or a grand inheritance.

That neither will happen seems to be lost in this debate. Give two possible outcomes, most people would agree on selecting the best outcome. But the problem as I see it is the number of outcomes are infinite and a concensus will never be reached. Starving people do not care about the environment.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I'm really not inclined to let the president of an oil company define the debate. It's just an internal memo to show the shareholders that he is thinking about something, whatever it is.

Dear Mr. van der Veer,

Again, thanks for your expression.

re: "This Blueprints scenario sees numerous coalitions emerging to take on the challenges ...through cross-border cooperation."

We have examples where "cross-border cooperation" resulted in human rights violations, for example, in Nigeria.

Given the drastic consequences of cooperation without consideration of human rights (see excerpts below), how do you plan to incorporate fundamental human rights into the "Blueprints" scenario?

"The oil companies can't pretend they don't know what's happening all around them," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring group based in New York.

From a report by Human Rights Watch called “The Price of Oil”, (
“During the height of the Ogoni crisis, allegations of Shell collaboration with the military were regularly made, even after the company ceased production from its flow stations in Ogoni in January 1993.”

“Shell has denied all such allegations, and distanced itself from statements by government or security officials calling for repressive responses to protests, while stating that the company had repeatedly expressed its concerns “over the violence and heavy handedness both sides on the Ogoni issue have displayed from time to time.” Shell also denied any collusion with the authorities. However, Shell has since admitted having made direct payments to the Nigerian security forces, on at least one occasion in 1993, under duress. Under great public pressure, both inside and outside Nigeria, to intervene on behalf of the accused during the trial and following the conviction of the “Ogoni Nine,” Shell wrote to Gen. Abacha pleading for commutation of the death sentences against Ken Saro-Wiwa and his co-accused on humanitarian grounds, but did not make any comment on the unfairness of their trial.”

For more on the life and death of Ken Saro-Wiwa see, for eg.:

Also see, for eg.

Ken Saro-Wiwa's eloquent last words:

My lord,
We all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginilization and economic strangulation, angered by the devestation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living, and determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilization, I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Nor imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory.

Ken Saro-Wiwa's murder (capital punishment) was one of the horrific acts of our time. To have the life of this man taken by such despicable thugs is a sign of humanity's journey into the abyss of ignorance.

Jeroen van der Veer's Brilliant Ploy

I commented earlier today on what I called "Convergence 2015", which Mr. van der Veer now seems to be joining as the time that oil/gas demand begins not to be able to supply projected market demands.

I take it seriously when an oil company, by way of it's chief executive, speak.

However, I am fascinated by the brilliant tactical move of Jeroen van der Veer.

There are people at oil drum who are absolutely convinced that the oil companies, who should know the most about world oil reserves are hiding the fact that we are facing impending peak oil. This of course makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Now, let us look at the brilliant move by van der Veer: Announce the risk of impending peak oil. What oil and gas that you have in your corporate known reserves is now all the more valuable. You can lobby for drilling rights in areas that have been forbidden for environmental reasons on the basis of impending peak. And, as an oil executive, even if you doubt impending peak oil, who knows? You could wind up announcing it and being right.

On the other side of the coin, let us say that van der Veer is dead wrong, and there is no real risk of peak oil until 2050 or later? Then when 2015 comes, you as van der Veer simply announce,
"We missed catastropic shortages of oil by a hair, but only because of the willingness to take risk, explore and pioneer the cutting edge of technology by the oil and gas companies. It is our sheer guts, daring and brains that saved you from the catastrophe."

So you see, to win, an oil company should be the first to predict peak oil whether is impending or not!
Then, they can't lose....if it happens, they are right and they can claim the high moral ground (see, we tried to warn you when others were hiding the crisis!) and the oil and gas assets they control become more and more valuable...if peak does not occur, they can take the credit!

It is interesting to note that we would not even be thinking in terms of peak if not for a Shell geologist! Interesting irony that Shell was made to look enlightened by allowing Hubbert to speak (albeit with some editing). It is an oil company geologist who laid out most convincingly the intellectual case for what it is now said the oil companies are trying to hide.

Now, the employer of M. King Hubbert again makes a brilliant move. So is peak due in 2015 or so (if it has not already happened)? Who knows. Mr. van der

So he's using as a medium for a plot to admit peak oil, expand exploration and make more money. Can't blame you for such cynicism in light of what big business is willing to do for the mighty buck.


My post was incomplete due to a computer problem and I was trying to edit it when you replied.

Anyway, I can reply in short order to your post...I don't think van der Veer was creating the memo referenced with The Oil Drum in mind, but he knew it would make it's way around to parties interested in the energy business.

As far as expanding exploration, the oil companies will do that ONLY when it places them at most advantage....they will decide that one, but they can claim they are expanding it whether they are or not, it's very hard to prove in context of inflation, prior exploration expenditures etc.

As far as making money, again, the oil companies have not benefitted greatly by denying peak oil...except to be called liars....van der Veer may have found the clever way out and stole the march in the propaganda war....instead of fighting peak, just say "your right, it's coming, and it's going to be much as we hate to have to say it you governments and the public may have to give us exactly what we want! We're sorry about that, but that is a sacrifice we in the petro industry will have to make! :-)

(and this is not to deny what van der Veer is saying, by the way...I think he chose 2015 because it now seems the most likely date of a peak that, van der Veer is in agreement with many experts.
Van der Veer assumes that the public cannot/will not reduce consumption before then barring a great depression. The price, and not the fear of peak is what drives consumption. The customers would sell thier daughters as whores to buy oil if the price looked right.


Point/s well taken.

We are all doooooomed! But we should still try, because that will be more fulfilling than sitting at home watching movies with potato chips.


So taxing carbon will finally allow us to figure out a way to actually get the wind and sun to be present all the time? Yeah, right! Nuclear breeder reactors, here we come!


'Nuclear breeder reactors, here we come!'

that's laughable when you look at how long it actually takes to plan, design and build them.

This post is not responding directly to the original post, yet has pertinance to the subject of Peak Oil:

Two interconnected terms in Geology, are 'Time and Pressure', which is how the oil got in the crust in the first place, from millions of years of plant and animal matter under layers of rock under pressure causing heat, producing oil.

It seems we are now facing a different kind of 'Time and Pressure' in the form of higher oil prices. Namely, that as oil hovers around 90+ a barrel, the pressure on the world economy continues to exert a downward force over time. At first it wasn't felt with too much of a recessionary force, but over time it will have a degrading effect. I remember the high prices of oil in the early 70's and the economy didn't rebound until prices dropped back down.

However, our current situation seems to indicate that 2005 was peak, and the plateau that has followed is not meeting demand, and thus the price for oil has gone into the 90+ buck range.

Here's a direct example of how this Time and Pressure are exerting themselves. When oil was 30 bucks a barrel, tires at Walmart were 30 bucks each for the cheapos. Now those same cheapos are 90 each, a 3 times increase in just the cost of tires over a few years, and directly correlative to the price of oil.

If you think of the health of the economy as commensurate with the price of oil, i.e, the less it is the more robust the economy is, then the more expensive it is the more recessionary and inflationary it is, especially over time.

In fact one could say the recent spate of inflation is in direct response to higher energy prices, almost as if the price of goods is moving in the direction of the price of oil. But if oil continues to go up, then it establishes an upward spiral of pricing into hyper-inflation coupled with an extreme reduction in economic activity, or better put a recession up to a point, and beyond that a depression.

So all this talk of oil shale, oil sands, oil from coal and heavier forms of oil, are all pointing to higher energy costs. Sure, that type of oil may be recoverable, but what will be the long term effects on the economy with such high energy costs? Do you see what I'm saying? Time and pressure of high oil costs drives down economic activity. There is no escaping that fact. Another way of putting it, is; relative to the economy, expanding or contracting, price of energy is the pivoting, determining factor.

Our only possible saving grace will be the discovery of lots of cheap oil, and hopefully this will cause enough political force to move to other forms of energy (renewable) and develop replacement oil in the form of algae ethanol or E-coli synthesised (UCLA) fuel, to bring prices back down to continue economic expansion.

Otherwise, we'll descend by way of 'Time and Pressure', a very geologic and economic perspective.

Note van der Veer's emphases on emissions trading, harmonised carbon pricing and carbon capture from coal-fired plant.

These emphases would help lend an advantage against coal-to-liquids for Shell's model for synthetic oil via nuclear-powered extraction from tar sands, and likewise from shales, and also to Shell's co-owned Simgae(TM) flue gas algae oil system (as a 'variation' on carbon capture).

Emissions trading and instrument harmonisation, as he refers to, would give maximum international viability to these systems.

Of course what is most important for emissions cuts is effective emissions CAPS. Emissions trading can reduce economic distortions of caps but a 1:1 emissions trade does not itself reduce emissions (and in practice tends to mean more).

He is right about the danger of the Scramble scenario, but if we are really serious about emissions cuts we need net zero industrial emissions by 2050: That goal could undermine investments in CCS (which doesn't capture 100% of CO2) and reduced-emission tar sands and shale projects, although it would improve the (presumably lesser-sized) Simgae royalties for a few decades.

We have to decide if the game is about merely postponing disastrous climate change by a few decades, or averting it. But who knows if even the message about avoiding Scramble will sink in. Gordon Brown will not acknowledge it.

In the meantime I do wish Simgae well.

The only thing I found noteworthy (other than allusions to peak oil) by Shell's CEO is his clear preference for central planning as opposed to free markets.

I also found it difficult to read w/o constantly asking WTF is he talking about?!

A seemingly well-written letter that ultimately says nothing worth a darn.