Climate Code Red: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency

David Spratt from CarbonEquity and Philip Sutton from Greenleap Strategic Insitute have published a pivotal report in Australia titled "Climate 'code red': The case for a sustainability emergency". This post reproduces the report's discussion of why peak oil and climate change must be treated together.

The full report is available from the Carbon Equity website. The dominant theme of their report, and indeed their purpose behind it, is to: Recognise a climate and sustainability emergency, because we need to move at a pace far beyond business and politics as usual.

The usual approach to an emergency is to direct all available resources to resolving the immediate crisis, and to put non-essential concerns on the back burner for the duration. Many people argue that in today’s world we should focus our attention exclusively on climate because a “single issue” approach is a good way to concentrate people’s minds on action, and cut through the competing, lower-priority issues.

While this is a powerful practical argument, is it the right strategy? To test the approach, we need to ask whether there are issues that:

  • will be seen, in retrospect, to have caused major problems if ignored;
  • are of great moral significance from a caring/compassionate point of view and therefore should not be ignored;
  • should be taken into account in the framing of solutions to issues that are tackled during the period of the emergency, because otherwise serious new problems will be created or existing crises will be worsened; or
  • are so compelling (for any reason) in the short term that they threaten to take attention away from climate if a one-issue-at-a-time approach is applied?

When these questions are asked, it is clear there are several issues that simply must be resolved together with the climate crisis. There are those that cannot be ignored because their impacts on all people, including the rich and powerful, are so great: for example peak oil, severe economic recession, warfare and pandemics. And there are ethical issues that we should not ignore such as poverty — including adequacy of food supply at an affordable price — and biodiversity protection.

Some examples might be useful to see how this multiple issues approach might work.

It is increasingly recognised that the discovery of geological reserves of cheap conventional oil cannot keep pace with growing world demand. This problem is often referred to as “peak oil”. Its emergence is reflected, in part, in rising oil prices and the expectation they will go higher as the gap between supply and demand increases in coming years. A recent Queensland Government task force (2007) found “overwhelming evidence” that world oil production would reach an absolute peak in the next 10 years.

So should we postpone dealing with peak oil until we have solved the climate crisis? Given the enormity of the climate problem, we cannot resolve it before peak oil demands our attention in a very practical way. Or should we put off the resolution of the climate issue until we have sorted out the peak oil issue? It will take at least 10 to 20 years to carry out the economic structuring required to solve the peak oil crisis (Hirsch, Bezdek et al., 2005), yet the economic structural changes that need to be made to solve the climate crisis must be completed in the same time period. Clearly the two issues need to be dealt with together and the solutions integrated.

There are two sets of responses to the peak oil problem, focusing on supply and on demand. The supply-side solution is to substitute new sources of energy for the declining conventional oil resource by using:

  • non-conventional fossil fuel sources such as shale oil, tar sands or from the conversion of coal or fossil fuel gas to petrol or diesel; or
  • renewable sources such as biofuels (e.g. ethanol or methanol petrol extenders or diesel derived from carbohydrate-rich plants) or other renewable energy types such as wind, solar and geothermal to charge electric vehicles.

The demand-side solution is to find ways to reduce the need to use petroleum products and energy in general.

So if we are to solve the peak oil and climate issues together, in a way that takes appropriate account of other issues, how can we decide on the right mix of responses and appropriate solutions? To solve the climate crisis we need to eliminate human greenhouse gas emissions, take massive amounts of excess CO2 out of the air and restore the reflectivity of the Earth surface (with clouds and ice being the strongest influences) while maintaining adequate supplies of affordable food and securing the survival of the world’s biodiversity.

If non-conventional fossil fuels were to be used and emissions released into the air, it would significantly worsen global warming. So if this supply solution is to be used, then CO2 must be 100% captured and permanently stored. But since there is already a substantial excess of CO2 in the air which needs to be removed faster than the natural carbon sinks can do it, we need environmentally safe and economical storage options for sequestering it. So the use of unconventional fossil fuels would either directly increase carbon emissions, or would block the sequestration of the excess atmospheric CO2.

So perhaps instead we should use renewable energy feedstocks to replace conventional oil? The easiest way to produce renewable carbon-based fuel is to grow crops for biofuel, but the scale of petroleum use is so huge that enormous areas of arable land would be needed. This clearly competes in many cases with food production and habitat protection or restoration. The conflict with food production is already evident in the rising prices of corn (maize), soy beans and palm oil driven by rising consumption of fuel ethanol and biodiesel, especially in the US and Europe (Vidal, 2007; Sauser, 2007; Styles, 2008; Blanco 2007). And forest clearance to make way for new palm oil trees is accelerating in south-east Asia with serious implications for nature conservation (Butler, 2008).

The other possible class of responses to the peak oil crisis is to actively reduce the demand for energy, for example by replacing current cars with vehicles designed for ultra-efficiency or by enabling a switch from car travel to public transport or walking and bicycles. Another approach is to eliminate the need for mobility by changing land uses to bring destinations together or by making use of electronic “virtual travel” such as video-conferencing.

Another interesting example of the interplay between issues is the connection that now seems to exist between climate, rising oil and food prices, the sub-prime lending crisis and the risk of recession. Since the 1987 Wall Street crash, world monetary authorities have been able to use credit expansion as a tool to stop the economy spiralling into fully-fledged recession. But now that there are strong inflationary pressures driven by rising oil and food prices (and expansionary war expenditure related to Iraq and Afghanistan), monetary authorities are not as free to use credit expansion to increase demand and for the first time in decades there is now a real chance that there will be a global recession (Blas, Giles et al., 2007).

Depending on how authorities respond, the reaction to a recession might either hinder or help effective action on climate change and peak oil. If the recession is allowed to run its course then there could be less money made available for investment in responses to the climate and peak oil crises. Or if governments invest in traditional public infrastructure areas to “prime the economic pump” then we might end up with more roads and freeways which will exacerbate the climate and peak oil problems. Only if pump-priming investment is framed with the climate and peak oil issues in mind will the response to a recession produce a virtuous cycle of change.

Dear Phil

I have downloaded the report to go over it in detail. Thank you for this alert.

I note that this weeks "Good Fruit and Vegetables" Vol 18 No 9 February 2008 has as its cover story "From paddock to pump - Can Horticulture jump on the biofuel bandwagon?" THE LAND of last week also raised the spectre of biofuels. Interestingly both publications are products of Rural Press, I think now Fairfax titles. And both from a first glance are adopting a cautious approach to the question.

Perhaps TODANZ should become engaged in this debate......

Given the above and the wide readership that both THE LAND and GFV have, TODANZ could do worse that ensure the Rural Press folk across the Spratt Sutton report.

The article mentions demand side management. That's a start. But it does not discuss.

DSM is the most important action we can take.

Let's discuss.

In the short term, I think the President of the United States, whoever she may be, should use her bully pulpit to call for a moratorium on driving, to whatever extent it is possible.

In the long term we as a collective species, be it the whole world, the nation, regions, states, counties, municipalities, neighborhoods, friends, families, and individuals should unite in a common purpose to envision and realize a future that is significantly less dependent on automobility. I suggest reducing automotive transport by 80% by 2050.

Let's discuss.

Whoever "she" may be? Being rather presumptuous there, aren't we?

RE: "moratorium on driving", you're kidding, right? What U.S. politician is going to volunteer to be defeated --and then lynched-- by an angry P.O.-ignorant (or denying) mob? Anyone recall what happened to incumbent Democrats back in '94 when they *suggested* applying a means test to Social Security? Banning autos would make that look like a pleasant romp in the park.

The only "moratorium" on driving there will be is when gas hits $20/gallon and poor people can no longer afford to drive. The vast mob will *still* be unaware this has anything to do with P.O. and will seek to locate an appropriate "villain" on whom to visit their wrath.

Cynthia McKinney gets it.

cfm in Gray, ME

Keep the oil in the soil and the coal in the hole.

I'm glad you're watching her campaign. What do you think of the call for sequestration of atmospheric CO2 in this report? I've been trying to push the GPUS to take a similar position for a few years now. We've got the timeline right for emissions reductions I think:
But what to do after that is still not settled.


Hi Chris,

My limited understanding of sequestration is that it is not really technically and/or economically feasible. I agree with the Green Party that "clean coal" is a contradiction of terms. Again, demand-side management is the key.

I agree whole-heartedly and mindfully with the Ten Key Values of the Green Party. Although I'm not sure that the best strategy is investing time and money into building a new political party, I think that a green socialist one would be the way to go. You (all) might want to check out the principles of the International Cooperative Alliance.

I'd like to hear more from others that agree that demand side management is of paramount importance.

How can we educate?

How can we organize?

To me, sequestration is a tenth key value issue. We need to unmake our waste. I think that you are thinking perhaps of sequestration after burning fossil fuels, or perhaps like Hansen, sequestration after burning biomass, as a sort of sticking of CO2 in the ground or in the oceans. This is not what the report is discussing. It focuses on storing carbon in elemental form for the most part. Their focus is on biochar. One of the co-chairs of the GPUS EcoAction committee is working on this directly in Georgia right now. I've also been interested in the potential of estuaries to mineralize carbon as calcium carbonate:

We are surely better than plants or oysters at gathering carbon from the atmosphere. I give a calculation of what it would take to derive hyrdrocarbon fuels directly from the air here:

Getting the CO2 and H2O feedstocks is the easy part. Since mineralization from silicate rocks is exothermic, the energy inputs are pretty small. So, viewed as a clean up, the cost is not all that high. The question is, could we do everything we need to do just assisting the ecosphere to sequester carbon (biochar, restored estuaries, reforestation....) or do we need to intervene technologically. I don't know the answer yet, but some of the references in this report should help.

Agreed that rapid reductions in fossil fuel use is the first step:


I came across an article on farming carbon as a cash crop that seems to mesh (albeit less technically) with your comments here.

All this points to a well established industry that has since been in decline in instustrial nations...agriculture. It's re-emergence as permaculture has also been with an eye to healing our effects on the planet.

Combining these approaches with what exists with an emphasis on sequestering carbon sounds promising. Referred to as "not just organic, but carbon-conscious organic" it would appear agriculture/permaculture offers the mental shift needed in the public and policy domain to reduce our increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Thus even land not in use could be used to sequester carbon and not necessarily be needed for food production right away.

It would be fitting that a 'technology' that's been around for thousands of years may be the means of fixing the climate. As well, renewed appreciation of the faceless industry back into a local agriculture/permaculture would make sure it continues.

Might it be enough to consider agriculture/permaculture the answer to our emission goals? Maybe not, but if it can handle 50% why not do it? With the added benefit of local food, and increased topsoil, it sounds very positive.
"Farming carbon as a cash crop"

There's a lot to take in there Chris - a bit much for my poor old brain, so I will bookmark it and come back!

I wonder if you could indicate what degree of confidence you have that GW is man-made?
The IPCC put it at 90%, which seems high to me for a system so complex with such a lot of poorly understood feedback mechanisms - don't get me wrong, I think that it is the most probable cause, but ama bit more doubtful than the IPCC.

Also there has been some talk that we are now entering a period of reduced solar activity, which will result in cooler conditions for around 100 years, and so GW could be overrode by this effect.

Since you are the astronomer, perhaps you would share your lights on this!

It is pretty difficult for those of us without the requisite training to evaluate at all realistically - it would be easy to take one course of action and then find out that someone has dropped a decimal point!

Actually, it seems to me that the practical difference is slight, as even if GW were hooey, we would still need to move from FF, but your assessment would be appreciated.

I guess as an astronomer I can say that the Sun's luminosity is not changing at the level that greenhouse gas forcing is changing owing the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, land use changes, and the beginning of saturation of some carbon dioxide uptake mechanisims as a result of warming. Theories to do with the solar cycle are not so much about a change in the energy input from the Sun but rather the effect of the Sun's magnetic field on the ability of cosmic rays to penetrate into the inner solar system, the effect of those cosmic rays on cloud formation and a consequent change in the Earth's albedo. Since the amplitude of the solar cycle has not changed during the recent warming, this is not explanatory for the recent warming. The Sun seems to be doing what it does still:

The recent warming is best explained by the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is not a complicated thing as you seem to think but rather pretty straight forward radiative transfer. This sort of thing explains pulsations in stars, the effects of abundances on the colors and luminosities of stars, the warmth of the surfaces of planets with atmospheres an the like. Changing the opacity changes the energy balance. This can have a big effect. I even got away with using and exclamation point in a recent scientific paper because the effect can be so large:

I think you can have very strong confidence that the recent warming is real and pretty strong confidence that we are causing it. If we are not the cause, then the excursion in temperature over several decades is a bigger fluke than credulity would normally tolerate. With a fundemental physical explanation at hand, doubt would seem to be less and less productive at this point.

On the other hand, I obviously approach the issue from a philisophical point of view: we should unmake our waste as a matter of principle. That we happen to be in the midst of an emergency on account of that waste does focus my attention on it, but I feel the same about trash on the side of the road or plutonium. In fact, I don't think we should be making waste at all. If you get a chance today, you might want to listen to William McDonough to get more of a sense of where I'm coming from on that:


Chris,my understanding was that the rise in temperature could not be explained directly by the rise in GW gasses, as they were far too small to do the job directly.

I thought that it was assumed that there were very large multiplier effects through feed-back mechanisms causing the present rise in temperature, and it is only then that you get this best fit to climate data.

Greenhouse gasses remain the best explanation for rises, but I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that it was a much more remote argument than a straight forward one-for-one correlation, and hence a weaker case and one more prone to error?

As regards cleaning up, I'd like to make two points, the first is that nature in fact is inherently messy, and often acts with vast apparent inefficiencies, salmon spawning and most of the off-spring dying and so on, and as a matter of pure engineering 100% solutions are not cost effective - 80% or so are effective, you pick the low hanging fruit.

Many advocates of renewables seem to have got themselves into a bind over this, and end up calling for vastly complicated, costly and in my view wholly impractical schemes such as the one Stuart suggested here recently for a world grid, simply because they are refusing to use nuclear where for all but some very theoretical considerations it is the best engineering option.

The second point would be that further development of the nuclear program should enable with some small technical progress the elimination of darn near all of the perceived problem with nuclear waste and safety.

I think that many have ended up for reasons of philosophy in an untenable position from an engineering POV.

If one wants to look at things philosophically, it is perhaps difficult to see, as Fred Hoyle argued, how a advanced technological society can be maintained without access to highly concentrated forms of energy such as nuclear.

On top of that, I want it for spaceships! :-)

When the concentration of carbon dioxide is raise in the atmosphere, that altitude at which the Earth radiates energy from the Sun back to space is increased. The temperature of this layer is fixed by the distance of the Earth from the Sun. All the temperature profile below this layer is determined by hydrostatic equilibrum plus the energy inputs all the way down. When you lift up the top, this essentially raises the bottom as well so that a profile that terminates at the bottom of Death Valley now terminates above the valley. It is true that there are follow-on effects. Warm air also hold more moisture which means that the tropsphere can hold heat closer to the surface These kinds of effect are called feedbacks and the debate now is centering on the feedback response rate and what the ultimate climate sensitivity is. For a doubling of carbon dioxide it could be 3, 6 or 10 C. Some of that debate is reviewed in the Climate Code Red report.

It is too bad you couldn't listen to William McDonough yesterday. The program schedule has moved on now. In ecosystems there is no waste. Every output is also an input. Salmon spawn are food. The carbon dioxide salmon emit feeds plankton. Your picture of nature is too narrow just now to see this I think.

I also think you have a misconception about engineering. Engineering is done to tolerances so it is alway over 100% during the design lifetime. If a bridge fails before it is old, this is considered a grave engineering error. Oft times it is not the engineering but coruption that causes the failure. A part is certified to meet spec by someone who knows that it does not for personal gain. We can see this happening now with relicencing of nuclear power plants in the US. The plants were designed with a safety factor and the corrupt NRC is now eating into that safety factor with relicencing. The regulators know they won't keep their jobs if they don't because accommodating the industry is required owing to the campaign contributions that got their bosses elected. What McDonough is advocating is essentially an extention of the concept of design lifetime. When designing, one should know how the materials will be food for new design once they have served their intended purpose. This is most of the cradle-to-cradle concept. Another part is that the process of manufacturing should include such considerations. In the case of a nuclear reactor core, we can see that there nothing that a used core can feed into so nuclear power is fundementally bad design. It turns out that McDonough's approach is very cost effective and he is quite successful in his endevours.

You might want to think a little harder about the cost of what Stuart is looking at. 30 GW capacity transmission lines are a bit more robust that 3 GW capacity lines. Their design lifetimes will likely be set to centuries rather than decades. So, you would want to look closely at the prorated cost. It seems clear that transmission lines in the GW capacity range are considered cost effective so the same may be true of higher capacity lines. The stumbling block seems to me more that our finacial instruments do not extend over century time-scales except for accumulation such as university endowments. Taking out a 200 year loan to finance a Sahara to New York transmission line which might substantially reduce the cost of energy for North America, Europe and Africa over that period seems a little hard to concieve. But, there are physical reasons to think that scale in transmission brings cost savings:

Fission for space seems like a loser to me. Matter-anti-matter has a much better power to weight ratio and, with a renewable grid, would be much less expensive. For the inner solar system, solar power seems cheaper still. Fred Hoyle has argued quite a lot of things and I have to admit that I've gotten quite a lot of milage out of the 3.4 um absorption feature. But, I doubt it is biological in orgin. UV treated ice residues seem to capture much of its shape. The universe is not always according to Hoyle....


I understand what you are saying about carbon dioxide, but that just means that the situation is by no means as straightforward as a one-for-one mechanical link against carbon dioxide, but is instead dependent on complex feedback mechanisms to multiply the strength many times.
Most of those links are hypothesised to be positive, and so you end up with the current levels they are projecting for GW.
However, at any level other forces could come into play, on the downside leading to some of the 'trigger points' hypothesised by many, which would lead to much more severe, sudden effects, and on the upside to negative feedbacks which might counteract some or all of the results.
I would agree that man-made anthropogenic warming is the best hypothesis we have, but the whole subject seems to me to have been over-simplified, and some of the pronouncements of certainty(on both sides) seem at best premature.

Of course I am aware that nature often uses resources which would otherwise go to waste.
However this is often on such a vast time-scale that the statement becomes meaningless.
You could just litter everywhere, including dropping plutonium about, and for those who choose to anthromorphosise then bountiful nature in its all seeing wisdom, or some such, will ensure that it does not go to waste, just as the photons from a sun somewhere far away with no planets revolving around it do not go to waste - but of course in any human sense they do.

I am also of course aware that engineering is done allowing safety margins.
It sounds as though McDonough has interesting and often applicable ideas, but they are not the only ones about and should not be used as holy writ.
However, the critique of reactor core design is a good one and one I will study further.
If that is the only major problem it might be worth putting up with though - regardless of what some think, life is not perfect.

The suggestion that power lines should be amortised over a period of centuries sounds incredible stretched to me - anything looks good if you squint hard enough.
It's not really necessary when we have alternatives which will do the job just fine at a tiny fraction of the cost - although of course if you applied the same criteria to nuclear and wanted your pay-back over the full 60 years lifetime not 20 you would find that it was vastly cheaper than any fossil fuel alternative.

Your last comment on fission for space suffers from the weakness that we have fission power, we don't have an anti-matter drive.

I think it really comes back to the subject of philosophy - supposing that your point about reactor cores could be answered, not perfectly but well, would that satisfy you, or is this essentially a cover, as your objections go deeper and under no circumstances would you consider it?

Anyway, a stimulating discussion, for which I thank you!

Your suggestion to have a pay-back time for power grids of 200 years merits further discussion.

Of course, the answer from classical economics would be to compare that to investing the same money in the market, and give that a growth rate, of, say 2%, and add that up over the 200 years.

The figure you would come out with then would be vastly more than the already high cost of financing in the normal way, and your original costing, which for the sake of argument is $1,000 trillion (figures by K. Levin, not disputed by Stuart, but anyways the sum is big) would increase to an even more fantastic amount.

Of course, the counter argument is that this is based on an economy which is growing, and does not apply to a static economy.

On the contrary, what those figures really show even in a static economy is that the money could be better spent, so lets look at real physical alternatives, and leave out nuclear as clearly on any rational costings this would out-perform this by a factor of twenty or so, but try to make the harder case to show that you could do better even without nuclear.

One alternative might be to put your $1,000 trn into developing lift systems for the exploitation of space resources, and also mining the moon or asteroids to build space mirror systems to provide power on earth.

The same kind of money spent that way would then not only provide energy but would provide a huge range of additional capabilities, including the ability to deliver rare minerals back to earth, overcoming shortages of indium and so on.

If you didn't fancy that, you could develop hot-rock geothermal energy, and I would guess still have plenty of change.

To go back to the nuclear alternative, you could use the price difference to perhaps provide sanitation and clean drinking water to everyone on earth, or maybe to greatly extend lifespans.

A few radioactive cores which are resistant to re-cycling seems a manageable problem when you look at the benefits you could get.

The basic point is that in the process of trying to weight things to favour the preferred alternative, you have lost any rational method of comparing benefits.

Stuart has done a very valuable service by showing that we aren't going to run out of energy, and that at costs which are still only a fraction of production you can adequately provide energy.

In my view though he has equally conclusively proved that the means chosen are vastly more expensive than alternatives.

Regarding McDonough, I am afraid I don't really 'do' philosophy, or more accurately am firmly in the tradition of British empiricism, and certainly would not use his ideas or anyone else's to evaluate and discard an alternative if it was cost effective and relatively benign.

When the application of his ideas leads to good cost effective solutions, fine, but as metaphysics it would leave me cold!


I think you mean reductionism rather than empiricism. As C. S. Lewis has so gently shown in his character MacPhee, empiricism leads to very strong ethical convictions. Empericist would, for example, be able to recognize the Yes Men's Vivloeum presentation as a satire. I think that if you look more closely at what McDonough is saying you'll find it quite empirically based. Where you are having difficulty is more in the level of (non-Hegelian) synthesis you are willing to appreciate. Reductionism, lacking synthesis, leads to a view of nature that holds the observer separate. I think you will find as you explore McDonough's work more thoroughly that while he relies on inspiration to move forward, his empirical groundwork is extremely sound.

The subject of Climate Code Red pretty much shows that unsynthesized reductionism leads to catastrophe. The observer, being biological, is not separate from nature and may not act as though that were the case without extreme consequences. The core problem with reductionism is that it attempts to legislate the value of pi. It attempts to take an intellectual stance that is useful for the purpose of study, a fictional stance, and act as though it were reality. Empericism does not attempt such foolishness.


Philosophy is a method for very clever people to end up in very stupid positions.
It's application in this particular instance seems to have resulted in a preference for a solution costing around 20 times more than a viable alternative.

That is plain silly.

We can see this happening now with relicencing of nuclear power plants in the US. The plants were designed with a safety factor and the corrupt NRC is now eating into that safety factor with relicencing. The regulators know they won't keep their jobs if they don't because accommodating the industry is required owing to the campaign contributions that got their bosses elected. What McDonough is advocating is essentially an extention of the concept of design lifetime. When designing, one should know how the materials will be food for new design once they have served their intended purpose. This is most of the cradle-to-cradle concept. Another part is that the process of manufacturing should include such considerations. In the case of a nuclear reactor core, we can see that there nothing that a used core can feed into so nuclear power is fundementally bad design. - Chris

Chris, This is absurd. You make the most wild eyed hysterical allegations about the NRC and its employees, without the slightest shred of proof. Where is your evidence that the NRC compromises of safety? Where is your proof? What you have written here appears to be the ravings of a Green fanatic.

William McDonough appears to not understand materials use in modern society, which is not analogous to organic processes in nature. The problem of disposal is endemic to modern industrial society, and not just characteristic of reactors. Most of our machines are not designed for post use use, but parts get recycled. They get taken apart. Metals are are usually sorted out and recycled in one way or another.

Nuclear cores can be reconditioned or rebuilt. The Canadians are rebuilding the cores of old CANDU reactors. Plans are now being developed to extend the life of American LWRs to 80 years. After a reactor is retired its fuel is removed. It then begins to loose its residual radioactivity. Most of the radioactive materials associated with reactor cores are either short lived or low level. Low level radioactive materials are easily disposed of. Short lived materials quickly loose their radioactivity. Once the reactor core has reached a safe radiation level, it can be disassembled. Since it is mostly metal, the metals can be separated and reused. Why complain about reactors when the computer you write with poses a disposal problem.

I think that Vermont Yankee is presently showing that, despite protestations on the part of the NRC, the lessons of Maine Yankee have not been learnded except in a very negative sense. The solution for safety issues is not to terminate operations at the end of a plant's design lifetime but rather to sit idly by while the industry attempts to use PR firms to counter legitimate concerns. Even the concerns of Sandia, Idaho and the DHS go unadressed because the NRC does not want to burden licencees:

Who is telling them not to burden licencees? The nuclear power industry, through its huge campaign contributions. This is corrupt.

I think you need to pay closer attention to what McDonough is saying. He has a very clear understanding of how materials are used. It is just his critique that failing to emulate nature leads to severe difficulties which he is able to demostrate owing to a rather deep expertise on these matters.

I would note that the efforts of Greenpeace to make consumer electronics more and more recyclable are meeting with success because the problem is tractable. This is not the case for nuclear power.


You don't seem to have addressed the key point of Charles' critique.
You can indeed recycle reactor cores.

Your point that recycling cannot be done for nuclear power is entirely unsubstantiated.

I am not really interested in studying deeply a philosophy which leads to a preference for ridiculously expensive solutions.

Systems of metaphysics are of interest only to those who hold them, and the application of normal rational criteria is quite sufficient in this case.

If you want to take part in debate then instead of requiring others to study some abstract thesis, rather as the Marxists demanded before their theories blew up in their faces, then perhaps you could translate however you see things through the goggles you have chosen to more normal terms.

In essence, you appear to be concerned with recycling, and yet appear to be completely disinterested when it is pointed out that it may be possible to recycle more of nuclear reactors than you had assumed.

I can only conclude that in fact your objections, as we discussed up thread, are in fact red herrings, and no conceivable answer would satisfy you as you have prejudged the issue.

You have also been cherry-picking your responses, and not dealing with substantial objections, such as how weak your proposal for 200year amortisation is.

This is not the technique of someone who is seeking to clarify, and in a meeting with others sort out which bits all our ideas are right, but of someone who is seeking to obfusticate.

I think you have already decided that you don't like nuclear power, and will sort out any grounds convenient later.

This is not rational debate, but a religious conviction.

I don't mean in any way to be rude to you, but I do think you should recognise that you are rationalising rather than being rational on this issue - in fact I am sorry to say that it rather reminds me of the creationists, using selected bits of science fact to bolster an entirely emotional and irrational assumption.


In the US, reactor cores are quite hot and are put in long term storage, not recycled.

You should remember that I have not said that a worldwide grid should be built. I think that storage is going to be largely free and we may never need the transmission. But, I think that your discounting argument is more a part of the problem that leads to short-termism and poor decision making. You can read more here:


Chris, if we are to have any sort of a rational discussion you really need to address the points that are raised, as they are raised.

I have attempted to address the issues you have raised, but you go off tangentally.

I do not want to 'read more here' I want you to answer the criticisms that have been made of what you have to say.

Recently I accepted that some of the critiques I made of wind-power in the UK were overdrawn, as new data of load following came to light.

I was able to do so because I had an essentially rational position, which was dependent on the information I had, and if the information I had changed, my position did.

It seems to me that you have created a position which is not falsifiable, dependent on some weird set of assumptions.

I knew you were an astronomer, but it seems to me you have already left planet earth, and are in danger of ending up as an astrologer! :-)

So answer the criticisms you have received of the points you raised if you are genuinely interested in rational discussion.

Actually, thinking about it, I would ask you to be really specific in justifying what you are talking about:
You said:

A part is certified to meet spec by someone who knows that it does not for personal gain. We can see this happening now with relicencing of nuclear power plants in the US. The plants were designed with a safety factor and the corrupt NRC is now eating into that safety factor with relicencing. The regulators know they won't keep their jobs if they don't because accommodating the industry is required owing to the campaign contributions that got their bosses elected.

Charles called you on that, and you answered with something wholly irrelevant about allegations of malfeasance in research reactors.
So can you substantiate the specific allegations you have made, or not?

You said:

In the case of a nuclear reactor core, we can see that there nothing that a used core can feed into so nuclear power is fundementally bad design.

Charles answered that cores were indeed recyclable. You did not reply. Do you wish to rebut?

In fact, I am sorry to say that you have evaded every challenge to your position.

Can you substantiate anything at all?

Start with those two points, if you would, then we will work down the list.


I think I have been specific. Publically funded election is the US would end the relicensing of nuclear power plants.

Charles is proposing recycling metal from reactor cores. This is not done. The are simply stored.


You made allegations of corruption in the licensing process, and have still provided no evidence.

Your critique of re-cycling was surely based on potential, rather than actual rates as many things are not re-cycled enough now.

In the particular case of reactor cores though, Charles has already indicated that some of the CANDU ones have been recycled.

Therefore it is clear that the two issues we are discussing have not been adequately addressed by yourself.

I really don't wish to upset you Chris, but if discussions are to have any meaning they absolutely have to have clarity and precision, it is no use skipping on from argument to argument.

I think you need to reread what Charles wrote. He said refurbished I think. That is not recycled. You can rebiuld an engine, but eventually the block is going to crack. When this happens to a reactor you are left with a hot hunk of metal that cannot be reused.

You seem to have difficulty with the concept of systemic corruption. This is actually the most pernicious kind. Everyone feels they are just doing their job but in fact they are doing much more damage than a single intentionally corrupt official could do alone. In the case of Vermont Yankee, we are hearing that there is no need for an independent safety review from both Entergy and the NRC, on the same script, because the leasons have been learned from the review of Maine Yankee. At the same time the NRC is defending their staff for cutting and pasting material from relicensing applications into their reviews saying that their staff are not "creative writers." There has been no independent varification of safety if the NRC is just repeating what Entergy is saying. No leason has been learned. The NRC is incapable of regulating. They may feel that they are doing their job with integrity, but it is obvious that they are not. Things are entirely too cosy between the industry and the regualtor. Does a $96,000 fine for losing three 18 inch sections of spent fuel rods really count as regualtion or is this just a fig leaf? That is enough material for a dirty bomb that could put billions of dollars of real estate out of service for decades. Not wanting to burden licensees is not regulation. It is the precursor to a major disaster.


Chris, You have referred me to a New York time article about a dispute concerning the safety of small research reactors. The article talks about a dispute, but does not offer a convincing case that the NRC was wrong. Since the vase involved research reactors, it does not support the you contintion that the NRC has compromised safety on civilian reactors, Indeed the so called "experts" who the NRC disagreed with apear to have argued a very impobably case about the theft of enriched uranium from inside highly radioactive reactors.

The story mentioned only the licenses of research reactors. You comment:
Who is telling them not to burden licencees? The nuclear power industry, through its huge campaign contributions. This is corrupt.

There is in fact no evidence in the story of nuclear power industry involvement in the dispute, no mention of campaign contributions, and no suggestion of any corruption on the part of the NRC, all of this exist only in your mind.

Although you tell me how deep McDonoug is, you have yet to provide any links to his deep thoughts. Mo own attempt to Google him brought no insights. I wonder though if he picked out nuclear power for special attention, since recycling waste goods from our society as a whole is cery problematic, and fat mor plastic bags than reactore cores get thrown in the dump.

Did you not notice the whiny tone about not sharing intelligence? If they were sincere in their efforts to see to the safety of reactors they would surely not have said such a thing since it is no secret that reactors are targets:


Chris, as usual you raise interesting issues.

Although you don't explicitly say so here I take it that your objection to nuclear power is also philosophical rather than a matter of engineering.

This is a interesting distinction, if I am correct as it simplifies the debate considerably.

One of our frustrations on the pro-nuclear side of the debate is that we have to deal with a lot of essentially disingenuous arguments.

Someone raises, say, the issue of waste disposal, and we answer it, setting out what measures are currently being taken and how that can be improved in the future. Presumably this is a successful rebuttal, as the dialogue normally stops at that point or changes to some other issue.

There is one other response though, which is relevant, and that is the demand for 100% engineering - ie that there should not remain any risk or any waste whatsoever.
The weakness of this position is that of course we can't engineer anything at all to 100% standards, and that certainly includes renewables - people will always die mining the ore for windmills, and so on.

I think that what these people have done is revealed that their concern is at root not about waste, but is philosophical, and that there is no argument at all which will give them a satisfactory reply, as their objection lies deeper.

So if I have read you correctly the distinction into philosophical objection is a useful one, as it saves everyone time.

I have no objection at all to someone questioning, for instance, the cost of nuclear power, or to looking at it's costs relative to renewables, or discussing how a carbon tax would alter it's competitiveness relative to fossil fuels.

There is no point though if the objection is essentially a red herring, and there is no possibility that any answer will be deemed satisfactory.

Chris, why don't you present your idea for aviation fuel to Richard Branson?

The upside is you might win the £25 million prize he is offering, plus solve aviations' fuel problems, the downside is.....
can't think of one!

The prize Branson is offering is for sequestration rather than carbon neutrality. Also, I don't think the aviation sector is large enough to meet the scale he has in mind. I've outlined a possible entry on slashdot and more recently here:
but I think that the work on terra preta probably has more potential though it is unlikely to come together under one corperate structure required to win the prize. Brason has caught on to some aspects of the solution but his talk of "War Rooms" and monolithic operations show that his approach is colored by thinking that probably holds him up from making more practical contributions.


Chris, I have posted a couple of comments on your blog, and included a e-mail if you want to contact me.

No, I'm not talking about banning autos. I'm talking about an appeal to the people for voluntary behavior changes. I would like to hear the President say something like:

"Oil is a precious finite resource. Every drop that we use for driving is that much less and that much more expensive for heating buildings, hot water, and electricity. Every drop that we use today will not be available for our children and successive generations.

I ask you all, as stewards of our great land and stewards responsible for the health and welfare of future generations, to reconsider your driving habits. If it is at all possible, please do not drive. Consider alternatives such as walking, bicycling, and mass transit..."

Then she could talk about how we will try to address the problem in the long run.

"Oil is a precious finite resource. Every drop that we use for driving is that much less and that much more expensive for heating buildings, hot water, and electricity. Every drop that we use today will not be available for our children and successive generations. [...]"

Oil is hardly ever used for electricity outside portable/backup generators.

Heating is probably the easiest place to reduce oil consumption. You can get better insulation. Conservation is easy(turn it down when you are not there or sleeping. Set the thermostat a few degrees lower and wear a decent sweater). If you don't have a physical job, don't take hot showers every day. Where population density is high you can use district heating from industrial waste heat or waste heat from power plants. 'Energy crops' make a hell of a lot more sense for heating than they (currently) do for liquid fuels; pellets can be made from saw dust and other wood waste, prarie grasses such as switchgrass, farm waste such as corn cobs and stover etc. Microturbines that take almost any dried organic waste and turns it into char(via pyrolysis), heat and power are being developed. Heat is 'annualized' just a few meters down into the ground and can be utilized in ground source heat pumps(also useful for cooling in he summer). Economies of scale are very significant; only the outer walls and ventilated air transfers heat to and from the buildings environment; for the few walls you need to insulate you can use much better insulation at the same cost per dwelling.

The (currently) hard to replace uses of oil are still transport and petrochemicals. Conservation is fairly easy in a number of places(as you mention), improvements in efficiency are somewhat low-hanging fruit still; but substitution altoghether is difficult and will require enormous investments of time and resources.


I ask you all, as stewards of our great land and stewards responsible for the health and welfare of future generations, to reconsider your driving habits. If it is at all possible, please do not drive. Consider alternatives such as walking, bicycling, and mass transit..."

I think you're probably going to have more success if you appeal to energy security and independence from "thug states" like Venezuela(They have threatened to cut of the oil supply a couple of times now, you may as well take advantage of it.) and urge conservation so that you can fit in the envelope of your own oil supply toghether with some imports from stable regions like your friends in the north. Make sure to sneak in "independence", "energy/national security", "oil addiction" and "living within your own means".

Hi Soylent,

Oil was used more in the past for electicity generation, and could possibly be used more in the future, though I wouldn't recommend it. According to Sandalow, oil accounts for 3% of electricity generation. Natural gas accounts for 19%.

You are so right about the value of weatherization and efficiency actions for demand side management. And think of all the jobs it would create! And lifestyle changes should be part of the education plan.

How about a "100,000,000 Solar Roofs" project? How about maximizing co-generation opputunities? How about rebuilding (and improving) all our neighborhoods to wean them from the dependence and dominance of the automobile?

I disagree that a better tact would be the appeal to reducing dependence on "thug" states (Is not the USA also one, by your definition). Certainly the problem related to dependence on foreign oil could be mentioned by the President.

By the way, I am not the President, nor am I interested in such a job. However, I wish I could get the "ear" of Hillary and Obama.

Thanks for your reply.

"disagree that a better tact would be the appeal to reducing dependence on "thug" states (Is not the USA also one, by your definition). Certainly the problem related to dependence on foreign oil could be mentioned by the President."

Politics is marketing more than it is about being correct; you have to sell the idea to the widest audience possible. I believe the way to appeal to the people on the rightwing would be to portray it as "war on ", national security issue and sticking it to Chavez by not buying any of his oil.

Perhaps we should change your statement to:

Politics is TOO MUCH about Marketing than it is about being correct (or doing what is right and good for the people).

I'm very much against sabre-rattling and drawing lines of contention. I believe that it would be counter-productive to frame the peak oil/energy situation as a national security issue.

I would prefer that it be framed as an issue of inter-generational equity (i.e. sustainability) and quality of life.

If framed in a non-belligerent manner, perhaps the issue of economic insecurity, due dependence on other nations, could be a relatively small part of the plea.

A moratorium on driving wouldn't work, but the creation of a Federal Emergency Gas Rationing data base would. Anyone who knew such a data base was being created would think twice about the gas mileage of the new car they were about to buy. Those who think peak oil isn't real could not complain since they would never see a need for it. But when a crisis was at hand, it would be there for everyone to pitch in to limit the damage to our economy and allow necessary travel.

Mike - You know that just might long as the President has complete dictatorial powers and unlimited military options to shove this "moratorium" down the throats of happy motorists who can't even get out of their cars long enough to walk inside a local McDonalds to get a cheeseburger.


reply to MikeMorin,

Interestingly, I have known several people, friends of mine, who have tried to cut down on driving in the last few years, and by voluntary action.

They have not done this because of any concern (or even knowledge) of peak oil, or climate change for that matter, but simply because traffic congestion had made driving no longer viable or enjoyable.

The biggest enemy of the automobile is it's own massively increasing population.


It is worth noting that in fact, most Americans during WWII preferred rationing to voluntary strategies - for example, after rationing was prematurely lifted at the end of WWII, a majority of citizens wanted it back, and responded positively to continued sugar rationing. Why? Because of the fairness issues resolved by rationing - people saw rationing as a way of ensuring across the board equal dealing, and democratic principles. Voluntary systems essentially penalized those who acted ethically, while rationing made sure that everyone had the same rules imposed upon them.

Historically speaking, rationing has been successfully linked to justice and democracy - that is, everyone gets a fair share and the right to choose how to use it. It might well be the case that a well managed rationing plan would be considerably more effective, but also preferred, to a voluntary plan.


Sharon, Rationing is possible if there is a high level of public perception of a crises. During World War II, that took Pearl Harbor. We have not yet had our climate/energy Pearl Harbor.

Virtue is its own reward.

Trying to force behaviors, such as using rationing will be viewed contentiously and resisted.

Thanks for that input Sharon - I really enjoyed your article on rationing last year.

For those who have only read the extract above and not the full report it is probably worth mentioning that a TEQs energy rationing scheme is advocated (PDF p.77 onwards). I was involved in editing that section of the report.

LandA - we'd love for you to pen your thoughts on the issue and send it to us as a TOD ANZ post. And a letter from you as a regular reader to the publications you mention bringing peak oil into their biofuel stories would be great awareness raising. I also just gave a presentation yesterday on peak oil to a regional Victorian audience talking about why we need to be cautious with biofuels.


A limited comment (about to go out the door to show some recently arrived Kazakh's Monday night @ Donna's)

The work with the Millennium Institute shows that a maximum effort for renewables plus electrified rail (increased bicycling waa not modeled) shows, for the USA in 30 years

GDP +50%
Greenhouse Gases -50%
Oil consumption down -62%

Best Hopes for establishing good relations with oil exporters,


The usual threats about tampering with automobiles and their unfettered use have been duly noted. Some still don't get the idea that there will be inexorable annual diminished supply volume of motor fuel. This will be for a period of time in best case, while the substitutes are brought online. The word to the wise is: have a backup- carpool partner, live close to work & groceries, learn to use public transportation... Instead of denial, get to work on preparation! Hint: gold & silver coins & bullion will probably be confiscated, FDR did it before, expect it. Whether about cars or precious metals, threats against the government will be noted, probably better not to...

Above, also noted, is mention of railway mode. This gets to the heart of maintaining SOCIETAL & COMMERCIAL COHESION so we can get around, get victuals and necessities of life- in short, approximate an operating society with less motor fuel, year by year. There is a company called "SPV" in the UK, offering railway map atlas volumes, 16 total, for the entire USA. These show in detail past & present US railway footprint, which shall be helpful as the various planning responsibles in each of the US 3066 County Seats wakes up to receive heads-up on gas rationing.

Rationing will most likely come in the form of a television address by the president, no assumption of what race or gender.... Planners should make initial steps to get rail/truck interface at their respective locale. To expedite construction of RR infrastructure, plant & equipment; use of actual physical plant for collateral, and Equipment Trust Certificates are workable. Financial institutions, this is a heads up to get familiar with new ways & means of doing a job that must be done to stave off disintegration of the Union of States. Can it be said any plainer?

The actual documentation mandating Gas Rationing most likely be an "EMERGENCY EXECUTIVE ORDER". There will be an assignment stipulating so many gallons per licensed driver (not registerd vehicles) per week or month, with some form allowing transfer. It shall be a federal offense to cheat...

Of course there are 999 ways to attempt to maintain the status quo, but, it probably will be well to be part of the 1 in a 1000 group of people & organizations quietly working on ways and means of rehab of dormant rail corridor, warehousing/container handling and expansion/extension of existing RR mains. Renewable energy generation link is obvious (See "" article 374) and is actually most easily combined with rail mode. A book for this time in history is: "ELECTRIC WATER" by Christopher C. Swan (New Society Press, 2007). Presidential wannabes required reading!

learn to use public transportation

I take public transportation to work most days. When it snows, and usage increases by, oh, say, 20%, the system breaks down. It operates at peak capacity on normal days. It can't handle large increases in load. It takes them years to do simple things like buy more buses, let alone expand elevated rail lines or even consider light rail. If we ever really needed it for more than a few days it just wouldn't work.

Plus it takes longer to get anywhere than a car, it's standing-room only at rush hour, the buses don't come on time, and you still have to get to the first stop somehow. Good luck getting people to voluntarily drive less for that. There are well-travelled routes that are a 45-minute drive that take almost 3 hours on transit. I'm on almost a best-case route and it still takes me half again as long to take transit as it would to drive.

Having worked for decades in public transit I second his comments on peak hour ridership. If the schools started classes at 10 am instead of 8 am a significant number of seats would be available and the whole transit system would be more cost effective. Curatiba, Brasil had riders pay their fares at boarding platforms and travel times decreased by 35%. There are ways to improve service quickly without buying more buses but getting Fed, state, and local governments plus transit authorities and school boards to work together on real solutions is more difficult than controlled nuclear fusion.

Reference FDR's Gold Confiscation: Sorry, you only get to pull that scam once! In my opinion, Global Warming is a scam and a crisis of the month that will soon be replaced by a real crisis, Peak Oil. If man-made global warming has any truth to it at all, then Peak Oil will be its ultimate solution. See, problem solved. OwlGore go home!

The demand-side solution is to find ways to reduce the need to use petroleum products and energy in general.

A purely demand side solution does not solve the problem because the existing energy sources continue to decline. It just delays the worst consequences.

On the supply side, what about nuclear energy? You cannot just pretend it does not exists. Everybody knows that it is out there and the best evidence is that there is an essentially unlimited supply.

This is where I first read about 'Peak Uranium'.

One of the primary reasons why there is no market for breeder reactors, is that the Uranium supply is so plentiful and many easily potential sources are ignored, simply because it would cost a few dollars more to extract uranium than current market prices for uranium. Some of these sources include:

* Coal fly ash - World uranium reserve several hundred thousand tons
* Phosphate mining tailings - an enormous reserve
* Sea water - Economically possible at $100 a pound - 4.5 billion tons reserve

And of course there has been no prospecting for uranium in over 30 years.

Breeders reactors produces 140 times as much energy from each pound of natural uranium. Thus a 50 year uranium supply for light water reactors would last 7000 years, with breeder reactors. In addition to uranium, the world is well supplied with thorium. Thorium can be breed into fissionable U233. Thorium is 4 times as plantiful in the earth's crust as uranium.

Easily and inexpensively extractable uranium and thorium can sustain a high energy, world wide economy for tens of thousands of years.

There are plenty of supply-side alternatives. However, we must manage the demand side or those other resources will be squandered within the next several generations.

A supply side Plan and a demand side Plan are in order.

Yes, I also read farther down, where they listed breeder reactors as providing us with enough power for hundreds of years, as distinguished from our known deposits of uranium using our present day burner reactors with a lifespan of only sixty years at our current growth rate if we used them for all our energy needs.

Some of us have been debating this fission fuel issue here for a long time. The mining industry has identified about a 50 year supply of Uranium at roughly current prices. Why only 50 years? Because that is all they need for their current and mid term business purposes. When they need more, they will just go out and find it. Their exploration efforts have so far been about comparable to where oil was around 1920. They have had no business reason to look for more.

Since Uranium costs are only 1% of nuclear generation costs, the price of Uranium could go up 100 fold and this would only double nuclear power costs. Oil and coal prices have both roughly doubled in the last year. At 100 times the current price, there is a great deal more known resource that would be considered reserves.

Since the mining companies have never had the business reason to identify much of the resources, how can we estimate how much is out there? The best way is to see how Uranium is distributed in the crust and see how much might be available at acceptable levels of EROI. It turns out that Ken Deffeyes, who has done so much for the understanding of peak oil, did this for Scientific American some years ago. His analysis showed that there is about 1 trillion tons that could be recovered with EROIs between 16 and 32 or higher. At 200 ton per reactor year, that is 1,000,000,000,000 / 200 or 5 billion reactor years, or enough to provide all current primary energy for 1,000,000 years (5,000,000,000 / 5,000 reactors).

Now it starts to get fun. It turns out that there is about three time as much Thorium, which can also be used as reactor fuel, in the crust as there is Uranium, so that increases the total to 4 trillion tons equivalent. In addition, today we only use about 2% of the available energy in once through LWRs. We can probably increase that by a factor of 30. That makes over 100 million years of fission fuel at the rate of 100% of today’s total primary energy (20 times today's nuclear production). That is what I call an essentially unlimited supply.

Yawn ! Didn't we have this discussion before ? Seriously folks !

So provide a link to the previous discussion if its all been hashed out before (seriously - newcomers are coming through all the time).

Personally I think fears of 'peak uranium" are overblown, but I can't see why most countries would go down the nuclear path - large scale renewables are now practical and have fewer issues dogging their build out than nuclear - so why no take the easy and clean path...

so why no take the easy and clean path...

Because the 'clean and easy' path means you don't have large governments and large corporations building large projects that then need large protection and large clean up later.

What levers of control would the military industrial congressional complex have if the people had land and harvested the power from the Sun?

Once again, while the world faces crises, ideology trumps practicality.

If you are happy to pay for it, and don't expect me to...

Although progress is being made, renewables are still expensive.

But if renewables are only going to get MORE expensive (my guess), and then still turn out to be our best option, then will today's prices, in hindsight, appear downright reasonable?

People are (not unwisely) very attentive to price. But there are things that trump price. Why skimp on your energy future? The lack of energy will cost a lot more than the saved cost of those KWH that we would no longer be able to buy.

College was expensive, even unduly so. (NYU) But it was an expense that has proven to be a worthy investment, and keeps paying back in many ways. That money's long gone, the product remains.


"But if renewables are only going to get MORE expensive (my guess), and then still turn out to be our best option, then will today's prices, in hindsight, appear downright reasonable?"

My fear exactly. How could this NOT be the case? What is truly horrific is that the US government policy is HOSTILE to RE at this time, even zeroing-out WEATHERIZATION.

While other countries like Germany and Japan have supported RE, the US has chosen to subsidize CON: Coal, Oil, Nukes.

Corruption--pure & simple. The corporate media has made all this beauty possible. Our country has been Enronized and while Cheney has put his money in inflation-protected Euro funds and the Bush family has bought 100,000+ acres in Paraguay, the poor in the US shall inherit one of the most dysfunctional economies in the world.

Part Corruption, part 'TrueBelieverism'

Market Evangelists are heavily invested in their belief system, as it 'Makes the world go round', after all. That's a lot of responsibility.

My suggestion:
Buy a couple small panels today. Consider it part of your household emergency kit. What they do is frankly amazing for the space and simplicity of their operation. Look at that little solar- desk-calculator that just 'works' whenever it's light enough to see it. The fact that this example is actually mundane is part of the argument itself. Both the calculator itself, AND its power source. Put yourself in 1971 and show such a thing to anyone..


I am happy to pay for it - I have 100% green power.

But frankly, with coal and gas prices rising the way they have been (even ignoring the externalities that aren't costed in) wind and solar thermal are competitive in some locales already - and will become more so as time passes...

large scale renewables are now practical

I do not think you have actually run the numbers. It would take about a 20 fold increase in nuclear power over the next 50 years to replace the declining fossil fuel sources and have reasonable growth (I know some of you think that term an oxymoron). Nuclear is currently over 5% of world primary energy. It would take many, many times that amount of growth for the renewables that can be increased to do the same because they are coming off a much lower base. And that is without addressing the intermittency problem.

Why put all our eggs in that uncertain basket? Why not build nuclear, wind and solar to a mix in 50 years of 60% nuclear, 20% renewables and 20% fossil fuels? That is the safest and most feasible option. It also represents a larger increase for renewables than nuclear.

in 50 years of 60% nuclear, 20% renewables and 20% fossil fuels?

In 30 years time, with a maximum commercial effort (see tar sands), the North American electrical grid could be 25% nuclear, 65% renewable and 10% fossil fuels. Getting nuclear above 50% of the grid is problematic, but so is a mix of renewables at 65%


Do not agree, as usual, about how fast nuclear could be built. I also take issue with the ideas that above 50% nuclear is problematic or that renewables could ever get to 65%. Perhaps you cold flesh those thoughts out a bit.

The amount of renewables you can feed into the grid is limited by :

1. The amount of storage built into the grid
2. The amount of demand management that can be performed
3. The intermittency of the full portfolio of renewables (which can be minimised by both mixing types of energy harnessed and the geographic spread of the grid)

There is no reason why you can't go 100% renewables (and eventually we will).

Why do you guys think that there is some lower limit on this ?

I think it very much depends on where you are what the likely penetration rate of renewables is.
Of course, if you hypothesise breakthrough technology you can presume anything, but I get more fun from working out what would be possible with just allowing a bit of progress from what we have now, the things we are close to being able to do.

For areas like the South-West US, I am pretty comfortable in saying that most of the electric energy will come from solar power, although currently getting all the power you need overnight is more difficult, and solar thermal has the advantage in that area.

Even in areas like the South-East US, where cloud cover is higher, a great deal can certainly be done with solar, using amorphous silicon, cheap and good under cloud cover, although not so efficient per square meter.

Perhaps infra-red sensitive PV could also play a part.

For more northerly areas then the big problem is what do you do in winter, when the sun don't shine.

One suggestion is a very large grid to take electricity from sunnier regions.
Even it's proponents admit this is a very expensive solution, and it seems not needed to me.

In many regions wind can contribute, but the costs rise at very high penetration rates, either from big grids or a lot of back-up.

It seems easier to me to get the power either from hot-rock geothermal, but the costs are unknown.

In fact most of the energy currently used could be saved by the use of heat pumps and insulation etc.

The other alternative is nuclear, which I don't regard as limited to 50% as Alan does, as by that time wee should have a lot of electric vehicles and could smooth the power use, so effectively you have greater base load in relation to total use by mainly charging your cars at night.

Generation III+ are very good technology, and generation 4, due with very modest engineering advances in around 2023 would be even better, effectively putting to rest concerns of waste storage and so on, and achieving a much higher fuel burn of around 50% against the current 1%.

Other elements which night come into the mix include some biomass, especially I feel biogas, algae making liquid fuel, energy stored in zinc for oxidation and energy release and high-altitude wind power.

So I don't see any one answer, but a portfolio which will vary from area to area depending on climatic conditions and resources locally available.

No mega-plans then, but a cost -effective and resilient system.

I didn't mention anything that requires any breakthrough technology.

Extending the grid and making it smarter is the key - but the technology required is available right now...

Sure you could extend the grid and do it, but Stuart had a pretty good look at that and the costs were vast.

How come you don't see a part for nuclear?

It makes life a lot easier - and cheaper.

I guess its partly because I don't see that 10-20 years down the track that nuclear will be cheaper than solar or wind (honest - I don't - solar and wind have a long way to go, but nuclear is a mature technology) - or possibly HFR geothermal or ocean power for that matter.

Plus its (very) unpopular, while renewables are (mostly) popular - which makes the build out more politically feasible.

And like it or not, no one wants to deal with nuclear waste, or the weapons proliferation issues - do you really want every country in the world operating nuclear power stations ?

Have you got a link for cost of building a national (US) smart grid ? (What I'd really like to see is the cost of building GENI though). I suspect it would compare favourably to the cost of the "war on terror" extrapolated out another 20 years (which is currently the BAU scenario).

I am just a very simple guy, Gav, and tend to reckon you put solar where it is sunny, and wind power where it is windy, and where it is neither you have a choice of geothermal if available or nuclear.

Ocean power is so immature it is impossible to put a realistic cost on it, and the stuff I look at tends not to assume radical changes of technology.

If you want my own personal best guess it would be that we crack high altitude wind, which could provide power virtually wherever it isn't sunny, as the technical difficulties really do not seem that formidable and the power is far more constant once you go over 800 meters as well as more powerful.

It should be so cheap that little nuclear will be built, but I would still argue for some nuclear build as it is the best way in my view of not only getting rid of but making use of the wastes from the nuclear weapons industry, and anyway it is advisable to have access to relatively compact power sources.

We shouldn't count on a technology at such an immature stage as high altitude wind to bail us out though.

It should be noted in this context that the advances to nuclear generation I am talking about here are nothing like as radical as the improvements needed to reduce solar costs to make them grid-competitive in most regions.

I don't really agree that nuclear is mature technology either, with little cost decrease likely.

The next couple of generations of nuclear power should see use of fuel improve by a factor of 50 and greatly reduce waste - not really the sign of a mature technology.

As for the popularity argument, I feel that will likely change soon as peak oil hits, in cold climate at least.

Perhaps it is also worth noting that conservation of resources via insulation etc has not exactly been a hit in the US or UK, in terms of actual installations rather than people saying that it would be nice.
In spite of it's lack of popularity I think we should try to press on with encouraging conservation, because it makes sense, just as we should with nuclear, for the same reason.

I simply can't understand the argument about proliferation - what decade in the twentieth century is that based on?
Whatever we do in the West, in China, India and other places they will go right ahead and build more reactors, probably gearing up to a capacity to make about 10 a year in China alone by 2020.
We have no colonial power in the west to stop any country in the world developing nuclear power or weapons if they so choose.
Our own civil nuclear program is irrelevant to this.

As for waste, modest development of reactors will allow us to turn that into an asset and fuel, whereas not continuing to develop nuclear leaves us with the waste from the weapons program for millenia.

The cost of the US smart grid I don't know, but Stuart hypothesised a world grid to overcome storage problems in an all-renewables scenario, presumably because he felt that was cheaper, and Levin K estimated the cost of his proposals for a solar powered world grid at $1,000 trn, which Stuart did not dispute.
The cost of doing the same job with nuclear came out to $43 trn!

Scientific American also went for a US grid powered by the sun, favouring compressed air storage.
They were going to use natural gas to re-heat the air on decompression, and the natural gas used if I remember correctly was several times total present US usage!
Where the gas was to come from, unsurprisingly they did not say.
Seed capital cost was given at $420bn, aside from all the commercial money they were looking for and even then you ended up with a fairly high electricity cost.

Personally I am not in favour of grand plans.
I am in favour of doing what is obvious and appropriate.

The emissions from coal worry me far more than the alleged 'problems' with nuclear.

Of course as a rhetorical point it is always possible to try to make an all renewables scenario sound cheap, by comparing it with something which is unpopular such as the war in Iraq, but that money is spent and makes it more difficult not less to finance grandiose schemes, and anyway the appropriate metric for comparison is other ways of powering the system, not the something very different, although I would agree part of the reason the US and UK are there is because of oil.

A bit of rational thinking and the use of the most appropriate resources including nuclear change things from expensive pipe dreams to the realm of practical engineering and economics.

It looks as though the City, at least, thinks that nuclear is economic at around present day power costs:

British Energy shares rose more than 6pc this morning after it confirmed that it is working on four deals to build new nuclear reactors in the UK.

The nuclear power generator said the Government's White Paper has allowed it to move forward with these partnerships.


Since subsidies for renewables including wind are needed in the UK, this is hopeful for nuclear's costings against coal and gas, even without sequestration, although they may have discounted some future carbon levy.

Didn't we have this discussion before?

With this topic we need to have the same discussions over and over again because, no matter how many times you debunk them, the opponents keep using the same tired arguments. That seems to be because they are acting emotionally and not really trying to understand the situation.

Amen to that!

Both sides are using their same old tired arguments, and both sides have gotten emotional.

Being tired or old doesn't necessarily make an argument wrong, and having a point challenged is not the same as having it 'debunked'. We'll see.


I think there is a grave misunderstanding about the issue of Peak Oil. People (naively) assume that we only have to decide on a suitable energy replacement for gas and coal and then after a brief adjustment our civilization will proceed harmoniously with electric cars, high speed electric trains and renewable fuels.

Get this straight: There is no replacement for Oil! Almost everything in our lives is oil based.

Now lets start an intelligent discussion about how we will survive Peak Oil.

Would that discussion be helped with an analysis and anticipation, not of 'what's lost', but 'what's left'?

In particular, I am inclined to look at the variety of tools and materials that we use, both intricate and simple ones, and try to gauge which would not necessarily evaporate with the move away from oil. (as a power source) There is this 'stone age' perception in many folks' anticipation of this that I simply don't accept. What elements of contemporary tools and methods are still viable? What products can be redesigned AWAY from the 'throw-away' paradigm so they and their materials can last as long as 'Grandpappy's Axe', etc. I don't think that the transistor is gone, or 'interchangable parts', or all our knowledge of ceramics, or metallurgy.. even if the power available to work it is MUCH more precious. I also believe that with an (inevitably) declining population, that the availability of materials from metals to plastics will not be as dependent on mining new supplies as it is today.

What does it take to create high-strength steel? Transistors? Ball-Bearings, CCD-Video Chips, Printing Presses, Sewing Machines, Drill Guns.. etc? (I only mentioned a few more 'tech' products.. but of course the list is mammoth.

Instead of trying to be comprehensive and make this a purely academic exercise, my priority is to remember what are the real needs, and what are the processes that can answer those needs as well as possible. For example, the power and simplicity of electric motors makes them a tool that I expect will be able to be kept around even in regions that may have fallen into a good deal of chaos. Magnets, Copper Wire, Insulators (!!??), bearings (!!??).. and the same device can be driving current, or be driven by it, with certain types..

Finally, on the Social front, while I don't deny that there could be serious social breakdowns, I don't expect them to be Simultaneous, Ubiqitous and Permanent, which is sometimes implied in the 'Johnny Get your Gun' parts of these discussions.

So, What can survive that's in your house today? What can have 'non-oil' substitutions that are currently fully 'embrOILed'?


Reply to discussion by Joemichaels and Bob aka jokuhl

O.K., I am only going to do this one more time: On Feb 5 2008, in a very good post (not perfect but good) Gail The Actuary posted on TOD her article on Peak Oil education for review by TOD USA members. In that post she displayed the following chart:

One quickly notices something interesting in this chart. The "everything we have come froms from oil!" argument suffers a serious blow when we notice that the catagory given over to "all other uses" of oil, that is, other than burning in engines, turbines or for heat turns out to be about 14% of oil consumed, including asphalt.

Yes, as amazing as it seems, 84% of the total consumption of petroleum is used as gasoline, Diesel fuel and distillates, jet fuel, propane and other gases. Admitting that some small portion of the propane and "other gases" may go into industrial processes of some kind, we would still see that over 80% of all the oil consumed goes either out the exhaust pipe of engines or turbines, or up the stack in residentual heating.

All of the rest of the everything we have", whatever oil that is used in plastics, chemical processing, pharmaceutical products, "tools" and processes of whatever sort it takes to create renewable energy, etc., etc, comes out of 15% of the oil produced.

The original topic of the keypost was "Climate Code Red: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency" and discusses whether we would be better to argue for much needed change on the basis of Peak Oil, or on the basis of Climate Change, or both.

If we wanted to narrow the discussion to the area that would make the most difference the fastest, we would limit the argument to OIL USE IN TRANSPORTATION AND HOW TO REDUCE IT. For it is transportation that is by far the biggest consumer of oil, and the area that is ripe for change, experiencing as it does the most waste. There are huge strides that can be made (in fact are in the process of being made) that can reduce oil use and waste in transportation, and here is the key part, without destroying transportation.

The last point above is important, in fact crucial: Transportatiion is not going to disappear. Despite the dreamers of the new dark age, and the "neo localism" advocates, or the rantings of the Kunstler ilk, transportion will remain with us, as it has in some form since long before the birth of the oil age or the GMC Yukon. It is as human as having thumbs for humans to desire to move about, and trade for items from distant lands.

The means and methods of transport will change however, as they always have. There was a time when the dugout canoe was the cutting edge of technology. I personally have known old men who swore that that the age of railroading died with the end of the steam era. Even today, one can look at pictures or even ride aboard the last remaining paddlewheel steamships and mourn the loss of these beautiful mobile floating hotels on the water (if your ever in Louisville KY, take a ride on the Belle of Louisville for a taste of classy travel!)

Reduction of fossil fuel in transportation. That is where the action is. Because if looked at in the narrowest sense, peak oil is first and foremost a transportation crisis. Wasting oil out the tailpipe that will someday be needed for it's unique chemical properties will be seen in a few years as a fantastic waste of a valuable and non renewable resource.

But to attempt to mislead folks into believing that there is not enough oil available for the uses it is put to in chemical products, plactics and the other sundry list of things that petroleum is used for beside burning in engines is wrong, and is nothing but an attempt sow to doomer hysteria where none is called for. If we want to confront peak oil our first directive should be DON'T BURN IT. It is too valuable to be wasted in inefficient transportation devices when there are so many other methods of moving about can be devised.


But to attempt to mislead folks into believing that there is not enough oil available for the uses it is put to in chemical products, plactics and the other sundry list of things that petroleum is used for beside burning in engines is wrong, and is nothing but an attempt sow to doomer hysteria where none is called for. If we want to confront peak oil our first directive should be DON'T BURN IT. It is too valuable to be wasted in inefficient transportation devices when there are so many other methods of moving about can be devised.

Agreed. I've never understood why people keep making these claims.

I'd also note that bioplastic exists and can be substituted for a lot of our plastic requirements anyway...

People make these claims because the price of oil is the price of oil, whatever it ends up being after processing (petrol, plastic, pesticides, pharmaceuticals).

The oil becomes more expensive, and more and more people can't afford everything that comes from it.

We cannot at this late date substitute bioplastic or electric cars or mass transit on any meaningful scale to avoid a collapse.

These would be good ideas, though, post-crash.

There are likely going to be some transitional difficulties, but if you want to say that there will be a collapse you really have to try to make your case rather than stating it as an assumption.

There is, at least for the moment, plenty of Natural Gas to make plastics, and if not we could use coal for at least many years into the future.

What is going to run short is petrol for cars.

Although mobility would be relatively restricted with shorter range than at present you could certainly build light electric cars with known technology of lead acid advanced batteries.

It could even be argued that the need to replace the existing fleet in a relatively short time frame will lead to something of a boom in the auto industry, and people would still have plenty of mobility for getting to work and the shops, although perhaps not as much as they would like.

At a later stage then a lot of people would want to replace these limited range cars with zinc-air cars, which would fully restore their mobility to present levels.

If we look at nature we see that transportation is a key element in evolution. Species that evolved innovative forms of movement were frequently the survivors while plants were were left behind stuck in place. Sustainability and evolution among animals depends on transport. Look at nature's innovations like fins, legs and wings. Movement is critical to survival. I see this as no less necessary today than millions of years ago. However today we have the internet which can to some extent relieve the pressure on actual physical movement thereby saving energy and making for sustainability. We can e-shop and combine trips using delivery services. We can work from home. We can take mind trips on Google Earth which are almost as much fun and effective as actually flying to the place. This morning I "flew" to the tar sands development at Ft. McMurray Alberta to check it out. Only the interaction with the people there is missing. That can be also be done on the internet at very low cost with a little effort. In sum we can greatly reduce physical movement without sacrificing the evolutionary benefits of movement by using the internet to help achieve sustainability. In that light bio fuels can over time make up a larger percentage of fuel as fossil fuel use is reduced without bio fuels becoming unsustainable.

with zinc-air cars,

The last gent who pitched such woo was asked 'and what happens to the price/use of Zinc' was unable to provide even a hypothetical case.

Or able to show the 'return the zinc oxide for re-processing' model.

Lets see if you do better.

Zinc is very common and widely used and it's resource base vast.

Here is the data:
Meridian International Research - EV Research Papers

And the pdf on that link:

Zinc is dealt with on page 16 of the pdf on.

Here is one possible way it could be utilised:
'Another alternative also uses zinc, there is the possibility of using solar energy to make zinc from zinc oxide which is then powdered and transported to filling stations, where it is used to make hydrogen by combining with steam and the car is filled with hydrogen.
The zinc oxide is then transported back to be re-cycled.'

Or the zinc can be used as a slurry in a battery, and oxygenated, after it is used up it is drained from the car tank and fresh zinc powder put in, in a fairly similar fashion to filling up today.

This would be my own preference, as I think fuel cells will remain expensive.

In either case, no zinc is used up, instead it is recycled.

Didn't mean for my post to sound too doomy, but I think that "Not Burning It" means looking at the products and supplies we use that are tied to the heaviest oil burdens, and would either

A) get priced out of production/availability, and we will have to find substitutes for them.. so let's find some of them and be ready with contingency plans? (IE, most directly, #2 Heating Oil, which I am trying to supplant with a stockpile of glass/mirrors, to become Solar Collectors of various types. ..

B) Products that represent excessive or objectionable amounts of transportation, packaging, water use or some other energy/materials waste that will make them vulnerable, and that the reduction or simple substitution of would have the result of 'Not Burning It'.

Anyway, Work Beckons..
I'm just suggesting that we keep an eye on the many things around us in our lives that may be invisibly dependent upon our energy-rich conditions of today, but which would be easily substituted if we had a minute or a month to consider the particulars of that switch. It's more of an 'ounce of prevention' thought.

For one more example, I have an exercise bike stashed in the shop, which will become a very useful tool for extracting my strength and applying towards Cutting, Griding, Lathing, Milling (Flour OR aluminum), Sanding, Polishing, Drilling, Spinning a Generator, etc.. Not to invoke 'a lawless time with no Electricity or Storebought Flour', but just to say that this will be a durable, broadly applied tool that will work for me Regardless of the availability of energy.. BUT it takes previsualizing the needs and the kinds of assets that will give back for a long time, and getting our hands on them, saving them from the trash, etc, while it's still cheap, simple and low-pressure to do so.


Ever seen a nuclear powered car? There isa reason thaat only very large ships and submarines are powered with nuclear reactors. Nuclear energy is only applicable as a transport fuel if there is a vast electrifed grid of trains, buses, trams etc. Grid electric cars, even PHEVS, are at least 20 if not 30 years away and this is assuming a stable economic environment which all ows the industryu to develop. Somehow I think we will see disintegration of the auto industry before they can invent the production model PHEV at a price that anyone can afford. A more likely outcome is for more TATA like cars built to a price and to run on very little petrol. That alon will change our driving habits and the way we live by reducing the things we actually do with our cars.

Cars can be powered by electricity stored in batteries or ultra-capacitors. The electricity can be produced in reactors. Would battery powered change our driving habits? Not much. Most driving is inside cities. Most urban driving involves short trips of only a few miles.

There is the possibility of betavoltaics but it would require micron thin layers semiconductors in order to reach a good enough power density.

Just mention that the DMVs in all states are working with the Federal government to issue mag strip cards to all registered vehicle owners. If rationing is required you will be able to run your card through the mag stripe reader on the pump and determine how much gasoline that you can buy at that time. People will start to consider fixing their vehicle, buying a new vehicle, car pooling, telecommuting and many other remedies right away.

Somewhat tangential to this: In Sunday's LA Times was an article on the emerging water crisis in the US Southwest. This bit caught my eye:

There is no simple, single definition of drought. In any region, there are periods of below-normal precipitation. These dry periods become a drought when demand for water exceeds supply. In this sense, we may be in a permanent drought throughout the Western United States.

(Emphasis mine.) This triggered the thought that a useful alternate term for Peak Oil might be "Permanent Petroleum Drought". It has the advantage of being immediately comprehensible, even by people who would otherwise need to have Peak Oil explained to them.

ASPO Australia convenor Bruce Robinson uses the petrol (gasoline) drought analogy to great effect, including coverage in a West Australian newspaper last year. Try these links:


A start toward reducing gasoline demand would be for the federal government to just shut down all assembly lines which make (and prohibit importing of) private automobiles having more than 150 HP or 2400 cc of displacement. The displaced workers would receive their average monthly salaries for a year, while they look for something else. (The jobs will be disappearing anyway, the sooner they realize this, the better.) For those who "really need" a bigger car, there will be plenty of used ones for sale at cheap prices.

Seems like all the advertising I've seen on the toob lately is for increasingly more powerful automobiles.

For existing "non-commercial" heavies, the local DMVs could take the odometer reading at registration time and calculate consumption based on vehicle weight and average highway/city driving ratios for the local zip code, and then apply an appropriate tax--say and additonal dollar per gallon to start. To encourage the states to do this, the Fed should match the revenue collected by the cash-hungry states.

Rules should be relaxed to make it easier to carpool, and large SUVs could be converted by local bus transportation agencies into "tractors" that pull 5th wheel type passenger trailers to extend bus service areas without buying a lot of new buses. The possibilites to reduce waste in the private transportation sector are endless.

The first rule of holes needs to be observed: When you're in over your head--stop digging!

The auto companies days are numbered. How can they continue to produce when there is already a terrible over-supply.

There will be a lot of work rebuiding communities to be walkable, and increasing and expanding mass transit systems. An economic plan would stress retraining workers, jobs at living wages, and ownership opportunities for workers (preferably worker cooperatives and/or worker/community hybrid cooperatives).

Or the car companies could simply produce small, very light run-arounds powered by lead-acid batteries of the Firefly type, perhaps with ultra-capacitors.

You would not have anything like the range of current ICC cars, but could perfectly well do most commutes and the shopping.

When they get around to developing them zinc-air batteries could put you back in the same performance envelope as ICC cars.

I really can't understand the doomers Mad Max scenarios.

Mobility may be somewhat restricted for a time compared to now but there is no reason why essentially the same way of life should not continue.

When I started reading this article, I thought, yeah, yeah, that makes sense, keep going, and then the latter half just seems to fall apart. But I guess that's because there is no easy answer to replacing oil. Sure, global warming/climate change and peak oil are intractibly connected, and by solving one we could solve the other. But how? These ideas of advancing renewables is great, but without clear economic advantages, is there any political will to do so? As the US gets closer to the presidential election, people will invariably get sweaty palms with the fear the conservatives infuse into them that their children will be in danger with a liberal president, and we will probably end up with another hawk seeking solutions through military might.

I think as hard as we may want to try, in the final analysis humankind painted itself into a corner, from which we will only emerge into some very different post modern reality.

If we are not careful, peak oil and global warming may end up in a "deadly embrace" in which
(a) we cannot solve the problem of reducing CO2 emissions because all necessary, large scale projects get stuck in diesel shortages
(b) we cannot increase fuel supplies because global warming reduces the potential for alternative fuels

This is a 10 point program for the down-under context:

Overall objective: Immediate, consistent and continuous wartime effort to de-carbonize our economy and to re-industrialize Australia on the basis of renewable energies.

(1) Stop doing business as usual; immediate moratorium on new freeways, toll-ways, car dependent shopping centres and sub divisions, airport extensions, coal fired power plants and other projects which increase CO2 emissions

(2) Set aside oil and gas fields for the sole purpose of serving as an energy input for all projects required to mitigate the impact of peak oil and to reduce CO2 emissions; this could be achieved by special retention leases; scale down coal exports until geo-sequestration is physically in place

(3) LNG export contracts must contain clauses that coal fired power plants in the importing country are de-commissioned at capacities equivalent to the energy content in the natural gas; reduction in oil and LPG exports and adjustments to our refineries to cope with our light oils and condensate

(4) Establish Australian Strategic Oil Reserve

(5) Organise car pooling; build light rail on all toll ways and main roads in capital cities; legislate new tax regime with the objective to minimize fuel consumption; re-tool car manufacturing plants to mass-produce components for the renewable energy industry BEFORE these plants close down

(6) Develop compressed natural gas (CNG) for the mining, agricultural and transport sectors

(7) Replacement program for all coal fired power plants; drastic power down & energy efficiency

(8) Interstate rail development and electrification (both passenger and freight); coastal shipping

(9) Bio fuels for running farming machinery and transport of agricultural produce

(10) Education campaign of the public that (1) to (9) has to be done and that there is no other choice

Assuming a 30% reduction in global oil production by 2020 as projected by the Energy Watch Group
I have calculated that - if we want all commercial and regional traffic going at current levels during the next decade (and forget about growth) - motorists in capital cities will have only 1/5th of present fuel supplies available to them by 2020. Happy motoring.

As a teacher, I've always found the key to changing behavior is to identify motivation in a student and find a way to use it. Money is frequently a good starting place.

A steep progressive tax for any vehicle, device, or process with carbon byproducts that would be sufficient to pay the cost of capturing and storing that carbon is one possible tactic to inhibit their proliferation. A corresponding tax credit or even rebate for facilities, devices, and capital investments whose processes actively reduce atmospheric carbon would act in the positive direction.

If people are given a path by their pocketbook, there is a strong incentive to ameliorate their behaviors.


I've read articles and comments on the oil drum for nearly a year now but this is the first time I've felt so compelled to login and post a comment.

Of course, Peak Oil and climate change are related disasters that will surely transform modern society in many ways. But this particular article, that estimates a need for equal interest and response is terribly misguided.

An examination of human behavior in general, and an understanding of the diverse needs and aspirations of different cultures surely render an effective human-initiated response to climate change mute. Much of the current situation supports a similar perspective for a meaningful response to Peak Oil.

The authors of this article have seemingly discounted the proximal, critical nature of Peak Oil, relative to the very existence of millions of human lives. The idea that "we" as individuals, nations, or even global-unions can somehow affect a positive solution regarding climate change is as heretical as believing in "hydrogen cars" and nuclear energy for Peak Oil solutions.

The best method for dealing with these problems simultaneously is to realize and address how and where petroleum based energy will no longer support habitats currently in use.

In other words, the only right-thinking way to link global climate change and Peak Oil is to find parallels in reasoning any responses to these twin inevitabilities. Writing about responding to global climate when absolutely no viable response to Peak Oil is in sight isn't useful and in my opinion spurs more fatalistic behaviors toward both calamities.

If one wanted to discuss "sane" responses to assure a particular level of sustainability, then start with global sterilization programs. Mandated population migrations away from sea level. And of course, legislating personal automobile use out of existence - on a global scale. But I digress. My apologies if my rant offends.

I've spent a good 30 minutes on the phone this morning, failing to convince an old friend of the reality of peak oil, at least within the next 10 years.

I'm starting to be convinced the only persuader is economic, that people won't respond to education.

With a resource as valuable as oil, those undeniable signals will come soon.

Unfortunate especially for climate change, there is no built-in cost adjuster. People will continue to deny or cite natural variation well beyond the last minute. Some sort of economic mechanism must be implemented, and worldwide, the rub. How is that to be? One that also accounts for land use changes, not just combustion, with teeth, ie enforceable.

We have the answer; it's here; and, we're doing it. Sorry folks, the world is NOT going to hell in a handbasket. All it took was $100.00 oil. At this stage biofuels are cheaper than oil. And, we've got 1 Trillion, Six Hundred and Eighty ThreeBillion Tons of it on Terra Firma. We need to use about twelve, or thirteen billion of those tons. Less than One Percent. Piece of Cake. Done Deal. Next.

Can anybody name one civilization that dealt successfully with their resource crisis? Summeria, Indus, Nile, Mayan, Yellow River? Or maybe Rome, Celebes or Guinea? I know, I know... it's different this time.

Pre-Industrial Imperial China had chronic resource shortages, and dealt with them often ingeniously, for example substituting bamboo for metal in many applications.

Switzerland survived a six year 100% oil embargo with their democracy intact and a decent quality of life.


As someone who has lived in Switzerland, the Swiss could survive Peak Oil due to a highly cohesive social climate, exceptional intellectual resources, unsurpassed transportation infrastructure (trains), significant hydroelectric resources, 3 nuclear generating plants, close-by farming resources in SW Switzerland, SE France, Northern Italy, excellent water resources, etc.

Yes, the Swiss will survive! I only wish that we in the US can make the same claim.

In keeping essential transport going in a peak oil world some coal to oil plants would help. I was reading a site about the German synfuel plants in the war. Before they were knocked out by allied bomber they kept the Wehrmact going. Despite that their peak production was equivalent to one days current US oil imports. Perhaps producing enough for essential services wouldn't be that demanding a target.

given that things are about to change, any thoughts on the teaching requirements? how many people can fix a broken bicycle? I took a course recently but was surprised to find that there are few to none other teachers available.

This doesn't come at a high social cost, the course ran for a few weeks. I would imagine as things get more local, other tasks of knowledge will also have to return. Shoes, clothes, anything that we can wear out easily seems to be a good candidate for renewed local knowledge.

I was thinking of the ball bearings in my bike. Since they're only made in China and Cleveland (closing), there would be also renewed industries, albeit at a smaller energy scale, that would be needed.

take a look around your community. support what you can.