Thoughts after a trip to Botswana

The ongoing energy supply problems that have emerged from continued growth of the economies of Southern Africa, and which I wrote about following my trip down there, may well be an early precursor to a future that many countries might come to face before too long. Signs that overall energy demands have been rising beyond the immediate capacity of local systems to provide supply can be transiently overcome by increasing imports of power. But when the supply of that power becomes threatened, or disappears due to factors that can range from the increasing domestic demand for power – which led South Africa to restrict exports – through the collapse of domestic order – the problems that Zimbabwe currently faces, or the inability to deliver available power (Mozambique has large hydro power reserves but cannot transmit the power to places such as Botswana) then suddenly the switches on the wall don’t work.

There are lots of excuses why not to make investments in new power plants based on domestically produced energy, particularly in a changing political climate, but the failure to properly prepare for the future by building anticipated capacity, or to assume the availability of foreign supply sources (such as increased volumes of LNG) that may not be around when needed may well mean that at some point in the non-too-distant future the switches on our walls may not work either.

SacredCowTipper pointed out that there is a new site that is covering stories of energy shortages around the world and the flags on the map show that it is becoming an international problem. Underlying those stories are some societal changes that will continue to increase energy demands particularly in countries that have historically had lower consumption. Looking, for example, at Southern Africa first one can see the electrification of rural communities, and then the increasing use of air conditioning. Both will be funded, in part, by the rising price of the commodities of which many of those countries have significant untapped quantities. And thus energy demands will likely continue to grow at better than 5% p.a. into the future.

To meet that demand the lesson from the recent past is that the countries must expect to rely on their own resource, rather than on imports, and the obvious candidate is coal, of which there is a significant amount in most of the countries of the sub-continent. And so there is, understandably, a significant pressure for new power stations to be brought on line, and for pre-existing ones to be refurbished and brought back into production. Within four years it is likely that the short-term hiatus may be behind them, and growth may well resume at an increased rate, with adequate domestically produced power to underpin that growth. The choice of coal is not made out of the ability to select from a menu of opportunities. It is there, it is what they have, and it can be brought on line fairly rapidly.

Unfortunately it is not likely to be that easy for the rest of us. True, we haven’t reached the point of rolling blackouts or limited availability of power, such as now exists in parts of India and China. But we seem unable to grasp the scale of the issues that are slowly coming to pass. There has been a significant debate over ethanol but, regardless of the energy merits of that conversion, the increasing price of feed stocks for food have driven the price high enough that that particular knight may well already have fallen off his trusty steed. Wind is now apparently the “novel-energy-source” of the day, and I have to find a trip so that I can read Wendy Williams and Robert Whitcomb’s book on the Cape Wind project. But having watched the sprouting of turbines over the area around Durham, in the UK, and the irregularity with which they seemed to turn, I am still a little under-impressed with the system capability and their capacity to meet a significant part of the coming shortfalls in power remains questionable.

And with the demise of one, and the reduced expectation of the other, one is left wondering what new rabbit will come forth from the hat as the new energy savior of us all. Conservation is a hidden and ongoing reality, as more folk insulate and try and reduce their power costs, but it can only go so far. And will we see a drop in the National Speed limit back to 55 mph – which would indicate some level of seriousness in addressing that issue – no, I am not holding my breath.

We are, in short, three years on from the time that we founded this site, and yet while the topic has seen much debate and there is at least a peripheral awareness that all is not well in the energy world, we still remain very complacent. We are much as Southern Africa was as recently as last November, aware vaguely that something is going to go wrong sometime, but not really understanding either the size or the immediacy of the problem.

The smaller incremental drops in production from individual countries and their exports are beginning to add up to more significant numbers that I don’t expect will be met. The Aramco complacency about their capacity has been tied, for a number of years, to include the roughly million barrels a day that they are going to get from Manifa. Before that comes on stream they need to have the refineries in place to treat the oil. There have been delays that I suspect, now may move that volume out beyond the time of the peak, and perhaps even the plateau.

If world oil production starts to drop off significantly in 2010 – what are we going to replace it with? OK, I’ll be an optimist - If world oil production starts to drop off significantly in 2015 – what are we going to replace it with? Um! Any candidate should have the capability at that time of producing, shall we say, the equivalent of 4 million barrels of oil a day! Southern Africa has coal, and will have the power stations to use it – what do we have ?

Well, anyone who has read Jared Diamond's Collapse or studied history in general must come to the conclusion that societies don't do a very good job anticipating problems and correcting them.

I have zero expectations that the crisis that is really upon us today will be resolved without a great deal of significant and real pain.


Thanks for this HO, I’m afraid you are spotting something here.... And it is puzzling that SA suddenly (seemingly) is standing to its knees in this kind of trouble. Didn’t they see it coming?

Now to Todd’s reply …

... history in general must come to the conclusion that societies don't do a very good job anticipating problems and correcting them.

Agreed: I see these growing energy challenges as a parallel to the “Neville Chamberlain”-syndrome. The problem is too large and obvious to recognize …. And on top of that, this world is governed by old men - and old men tend to see just a few years ahead.

I tried to Google “Neville Chamberlain statue”, no hits hmmmm ...... I can smell bad years for the Statue-industry for the years to come...

In response to the question as to whether they saw it coming - to a considerable degree I believe that those running the system did. But it has become largely a political decision as to whether to spend money on maintenance and new plants, when there are other demands that have louder voices at the table.

You have only to see how many decisions on new power plants are being influenced by arguments other than need. So that when the need comes . . . . .

I tend to agree with you that those in charge of running the system did see the problems coming... but were relatively powerless to react properly for a number of reasons.

In the case of S.A., one recent press release posted in yesterday's drumbeat suggests the law of receding horizons is also at work. Eskom's previous estimates for fuel costs (coal and diesel) were naively low, and now they have cash flow flow problems (maybe their past projections for fuel costs were based on old Yergin/CERA numbers ???).

So now S.A. is increasing electric rates by 60% to cover the cash flow problems instead of for finaincing the planned buildout of their infrastructure.

Thank you for that "influenced" link HO. Another case of bone-headed GW fantasies interfering with constructive action on the energy crisis front. No wonder Simmons and Deffeyes are frustrated over the climate change distraction.

Right now the politicians think counting CO2 molecules is more important than producing enough electricity for the future. We'll see what they masses think of that idea a few years from now when they become familiar with the terms "load shedding," "brown outs" etc

It is possible that AGW is simply the politial ruse being used to ultimately justify massive forced energy conservation, to paper over the fact that oil, gas and coal has peaked. As long as demand can be lowered to less than available supply then you really don't have an energy shortage per se beyond peak. I expect that we will see increasingly large targets for reduction of GHG which will force reduced consumption to stay just under the supply curve. While this may not be a grand conspiracy, the reality for civilization may be that it is far safer to delude ourselves about damage to the atmosphere, pat ourselves on the back for our effort to stop it and maintain a semblance of civil order rather than risk the chaos, social breakdown, and military exploits that may follow a broad acceptance and understandig of energy depletion.

Another illogical conspiracy theory to justify a thesis that AGW theory is wrong. How far can you stretch reality to justify your position? Your theory just doesn't make sense - do you really think it is easier for governments to persuade people of AGW than it is to simply say "energy is running out - we must take steps to use less"? People don't want to accept AGW theory simply because the answer to it is to use much less energy, and they don't think there is any problem with its supply. But if much more effort was made to demonstrate the reality of energy availability being in decline (this is clearly the case in terms of per capita energy availability), it would be much much easier to get people to conserve what's left than tenuously through the theory of AGW.

And to sendoilplease - take your head out of the sand and look a few years beyond next year. Constructive action on either front leads to the same end result, and just describing something as bone-headed doesn't make it so - it just makes you look like an ill-educated (or ill-researched) fool.

In response to the question as to whether they saw it coming - to a considerable degree I believe that those running the system did.

Just last week I was talking to a friend who was an MP in South Africa up until a few years ago and he told me that back in his time Eskom were warning the govt that they'd run into the buffers some time in late-2007/early-2008 unless they started investing in new capacity.

So the issue was given due prominence (in policy circles at least) and it was most definitely the political decision not to authorise new generating plant or work on constraining demand that has led to the rolling blackouts of recent months.


Well, anyone who has read Jared Diamond's Collapse or studied history in general must come to the conclusion that societies don't do a very good job anticipating problems and correcting them.

Of course do we do an even worse job of highlighting the problems that we never had because we planned for them?

Well, anyone who has read Jared Diamond's Collapse or studied history in general must come to the conclusion that societies don't do a very good job anticipating problems and correcting them.

Well, re Diamond at least, no, no one has to come to the conclusion you mention, especially as Diamond gives plenty of examples of societies that 'chose' to succeed and overcome their environmental problems. Tokugawa Japan, Germany, pre-contact New Guinea, Tikopia ... there might be others, can't remember offhand.

People read Diamond the same way they read the Bible, missing out everything that doesn't support their preconceptions. We are talking a guy who rabbits on about what a great job the Indonesian government and the oil companies are doing saving the rainforests hahahahahahahah ... hardly the ultimate doomer poster-boy.

Tokugawa Japan, Germany, pre-contact New Guinea, Tikopia ... there might be others, can't remember offhand.

You might want to explain what relevance these have to the current/upcoming crisis.

And, as a matter of accuracy, I had no preconceptions vis-a-vis Collapse. Nor, did I ever see Diamond as a "poster boy" for doomerism or view the book as a "bible". It's history.


Um … can you actually read what you wrote?

Well, anyone who has read Jared Diamond's Collapse or studied history in general must come to the conclusion that societies don't do a very good job anticipating problems and correcting them.

So the subject was Diamond, wasn’t it? That’s what I said: ‘re Diamond’. And then I quoted examples that show that what you say about Collapse is wrong. FFS, as someone has already pointed out, the book is subtitled ‘How societies choose to fail or succeed’. Diamond doesn’t only discuss failure, he discusses success.

That’s why I made the comparison with the Bible … but in your case, selective reading appears to be a general propensity.

As for explaining what relevance (Diamond's) examples have ... jeez, why don't you ask him? It's in the book ... you know, Collapse ...

Everything is so interconnected now that even energy shortfalls in the less developed nations can have an impact on the rest of the world. If we can't get platinum (or whatever other mineral we are depending on) it sets off a whole chain of events. If it is one of the components of fertilizer, we may have a real problem. People look at the world overall total and see that energy totals are not too different, but this really doesn't tell the whole story.

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost ...

It seems we've discussed this topic here before. Didn't one of the regular keyposters ponder the "freezing point" for an industrial economy? Below some level of energy input, we may see a dramatic dropoff in industrial activity.

That was me :)

You can read that article here on TOD, though it's now closed to comments. If you want to comment, you can do so by email to me, or by way of the version on my blog.

What I said there was that it's not energy input, it's fuel affordability. When the median wage (represented by per capita GDP, since finding median wages for 200+ countries was beyond my resources) can afford over 10,000lt of petrol, we see the country is a wasteful industrial society. It's so cheap we can piss it away on making things like plastic wishbones, and the engine idling while waiting in the drivethru for our burgers. Most of the West is like this.

When they can afford 1,500lt or less, fuel is barely used by private citizens, maybe only some diesel for irrigation pumps for their rice paddies, that sort of thing. That is, we see an essentially manual economy, using hand tools and animals. That's places like Laos.

When fuel affordability is in the 1,500-10,000lt range, we see a mixed-industrial economy, where there are still a few factories making cloth and tractors, but in rural areas people tend to use animals in agriculture, and in cities there are a lot of bicycles, rickshaws and use of trains. That's places like the former Communist Bloc countries, including the much-praised Cuba.

Those are broad bands of affordability only, there's some overlap. It seems like it requires very affordable fuel for industrialisation to happen, but that once it's going the fuel affordability can drop. So for example Laotians, able to afford about 1,000lt of fuel with their income, would need a couple of decades of 10,000lt or more before they could be tooling around in SUVs and eating 150% their own bodyweight in meat each year like we do. But once that was established, fuel affordability could drop to 5,000lt for a few years and they'd still be business as usual.

Anyway, below 10,000lt affordability is when people start sweating, and 1,500lt is when they just can't keep going and have to change. The West's per capita GDP is about US$28,000. So fuel would have to be $2.80/lt ($10/60/gal) for them to really feel stress, and $18.70/lt ($72/gal) for them to be truly in the shit.

That's just going on a Western average. The Scandanavian countries, for example, sure they have expensive fuel, but they also earn more than the US or Australians. Likewise, if the US has another Depression, we can imagine that the government may start subsidising fuel use, so that overall affordability stays about the same.

Now, my theory does not say that if fuel affordability drops then we have Instant Mad Max! - Just Add Assault Rifles & Spam! What it does say is that you cannot have a wasteful industrial economy if resources aren't cheap. So when the affordability of resources drops beyond a certain range, the wasteful industrial society will end.

However, that doesn't mean Mad Max. What it does mean is a collapse to a mixed industrial economy (as happened in the former Communist bloc), or else a transition to an "ecotechnic" society, one in which our use of resources is not wasteful, and yet we still have lots of machines and modern technology.

So that's why I say it's not energy input - nowhere is it written that all our energy must come from burning fossil fuels. It's quite possible to have an industrial society which is not wasteful with resources.

Certainly this would involve building a lot of infrastructure and changing the way we do things; but already we built a lot of infrastructure and changed the way we did things once before, it was called the Industrial Revolution. It involved a lot of hard work, suffering and tumult, as revolutions do; this may or may not be inevitable, I don't know.

It all depends on how we choose to respond to this challenge. Someone mentioned Jared Diamond's book Collapse, which certainly makes for bleak thoughts. But then there's the subtitle: "how societies choose to fail or succeed." Notice the key word there: "choose". What happens to us is our choice. There's nothing inevitable about resource wars, burning stuff, or backyard gardening, or whatever you think might or should happen. Things happen because we choose for them to happen. This is at once frightening and empowering.

The UK (and much of Europe) is at around $2.30 a litre (including tax) - not that far off your $2.80 a litre. Does that mean we're getting close to the tipping point? I'm certainly not disagreeing with your post - I'm just interested to see what you think on this point.

Of course it could be that rates of tax on fuel for vehicles will be dropped as we get closer to the level of unaffordability, just prolonging the agony a little bit further...

If we can't get platinum (or whatever other mineral we are depending on) it sets off a whole chain of events.

But see we can get platinum still even with the problems of South Africa.

"we" can get?

Huh. Why you speaking for me? *I* can not afford the $100 to get the one oz plat. US coins.

they are a lot more than $100 bucks unless you're talking about face value.

$100? When did the mint start selling them for face value?

That's just what you'll get for them when President Obama decides to confiscate 'em ...

Most poor nations produce little in the way of precious minerals or fertilizer. I think this problem with energy argues for making sure that a few key poorer nations continue to have enough energy to produce key minerals and key elements of fertilizer.

We need South Africa and Morocco to keep functioning. But in between them most of the countries could collapse with little impact on Western economies. Angola, Niger, and a few other oil exporters matter as well. But once they cease to export oil we won't need to worry about their stability either.

A stable and electrified african continent would be wonderfull for hundreds and hundres of millions of people and we do not know what they could produce and trade with the rest of the world. They could at least grow a lot of crops and export goods instead of raw minerals and thus make the transportation efforts give larger reslults. And who knows what future african geniuses could figure out in well functioning countries?

Another thoughtful essay. I appreciate your take on things, HO.

I have been lucky to have traveled some, and I feel that it has very much broadened my reflections on all things energy. Africa I have not been to. South Africa has been 'on the list' (good surf!), don't know if I'll make it.

One of the things I believe is underestimated by us 'Merikans is the strong desire of (billions of) people to achieve our level of lifestyle. Our level of consumption. Our level of affluence. We may call a hammock at the undisturbed seaside paradise but the locals want to have roads, cars and be driving to town. Wise folks in these less developed areas, and those dependent on the renewable natural resources, seem powerless in stopping the consumption steamroller. And if they want cars and Kentucky Fried Chicken, we're happy to give them to them.

So not only to we have to ask how to maintain our level of energy consumption in the face of coming oil + gas declines, we need to keep in mind that billions of hungry people want what we've got. Better appreciate it now.

Another related thought is in regards to the USA just maintaining energy usage. We're doing a fairly good job of preventing new coal plants - sorry, no links right now - and significant opposition to many wind projects is occurring. Nat gas terminals aren't getting fast tracked as far as I know. Where will the new energy come from IN THE SHORT TERM?

I can imagine, if shortages really hit before we've prepared, it will be a messy mix of sudden conservation, kicking out immigrants, counter productive congressional decrees, blackouts and a massive over reaction towards coal, nuclear, and any and every damn thing that could work.

wait a minute ...

'Merikans is the strong desire of (billions of) people to achieve our level of lifestyle.

I know, it is often cited that the ”whole wide world is aiming at an USaian way of life” …..
I’m not so sure about that, given all that mess coming with that society.

10 000 people murdered each year … 2 million people in jail right now ... movie scripts turnig real in schools an beyond .. the negative list is phenomenal ..… GWB, an elected president ! I think I stop here.

And sure, there is a lot of nice things to say about the US as well ... but overall I'd say US has turned quite dysfunctional in the resent years – seen from my neck of the woods or across the pond if you like.

Consider the independent film produced in 1983, El Norte, which depicted two young people escaping the death squads in Guatemala in the 80's for the paradise of the U.S.

At the beginning of the film it shows a peasant dwelling where people are huddled around a dim light looking at magazines with names like Ladies Home Journal and House and Garden as if they were looking at the Holy Grail. The attraction of a western lifestyle can only be discounted from the perspective of those who already know the dark little secrets of affluence.

BTW it was the first independent film to be nominated for Best Screenplay Academy Award. Worth a look.

looking at magazines with names like Ladies Home Journal and House and Garden as if they were looking at the Holy Grail.

You can find that in the US also....part of that whole consumption mantra

I didn't say they wanted school shootings and George Bush. And yes, we're dysfunctional.

The stylized, glamorous portrayals don't show the downside.

They want fast cars, loose women, diamonds and surfboards. Travelers just reenforce that, unimaginably rich as they seem.

I'm off to Easter festivities, after a nice morning surf, but would like to discuss these themes more...

Everywhere I've ever traveled, people, especially younger ones, are emulating the US, and it's a big status thing. In most remote Indonesia, high on a volcano, in a town that got its first television while I was there, I met an old man walking on the road: He was wearing a 'Public Enemy' t-shirt.

loose women

Yes, them loose American women....

However edenic the New World may have been, it may have harbored one bug that did kill a lot of Europeans: syphilis.

So not only to we have to ask how to maintain our level of energy consumption in the face of coming oil + gas declines, we need to keep in mind that billions of hungry people want what we've got.

It does not matter what we want, it all matters what the market says and then we determine what we want. lots of people wanted a 5,000 square foot house and 3 spec house. the market now says otherwise. while the developing nations are wanting more it's helping cause us to use more. take not of the stories of people taking less trips and tractor trailers slowing down or even going out of business.

If world oil production starts to drop off significantly in 2010 – what are we going to replace it with? OK, I’ll be an optimist - If world oil production starts to drop off significantly in 2015 – what are we going to replace it with?

Heating oil use will be almost gone by 2015 replaced with ground source heat pumps, pellet burners and district heating. District heating has recently passed 50% of the heating market and I would guess it could be closing in to 60% in 2015.

Already decided and very likely investments in combined heat and power plants, upratings of nuclear powerplants, wind power and some more hydro will probably lead to electricity export by 2015. If climate change continue and the energy prices increases we will probably have political ok for 10:s of TWh of wind power if people want to finance and build and ok for a few new nuclear reactors if anyone wants to build them. I guess the grid will be enlarged with about 10% and the project to cablifie the rural 0.4 - 30 kV grid to make it storm resistant will be close to completion in 2015.

In 2015 we ought to have the second generation of plug-in hybrids and the first mass produced ones should be available for the public. GM (Saab) and Ford (Volvo) has european EV development centers here and supporting EV development is already a national research priority. There will probably be a competition among municipialities and companies to install charging outlets and northern people will laugh their butts off since they have had block heatar outlets everywhere for decades.

A steady increase in diesel price will lead to a frenzy of rail investments to contain transportation costs and preserve industry. There will be a large political effort to ger EU to allow 40 m long 100 ton road train trucks to shave some tens of percent of the fuel use in the forestry industry. Most new trucks will be hybrids and also use a steam cycle to capture the energy in the hot exhausts. Both Scania and Volvo will release their second generation of hybrids in 2015.

Large parts of the pulp industry will be retooling to produce chemcials, other fibre products then paper and biofuels such as methanol and FT-diesel. The natural gas prices might have run away enough for some chemical industry to start making hydrogen via electrolysis. The establised refineries will start being intrested in importing very heavy crude to refine with plentifull electricity or fourth generation hydrgen producing reactors.

If biogas investments continue to accelerate the projects started around 2015 will be enough to effectively use the full national potential. All of the bus traffic, garbage hauling and other in-town service traffic could be running on biogas in 2015-2020.

In 2040 all major towns will be connected with high speed trains and all minor towns with commuting rail service and freight rail. With a few exeptions all other towns will be shrinking and get state subsidies to run homes for elderly and for environtally friendly demolition of abandoned houses and industry.

Average energy use per m2 of living area and light industry production will fall with about 10% per decade to 2050. In 2050 we will be a medium sized exporter of energy and energy rich products originating from biomass, hydro power, nuclear power and wind power. A large part of the energy rich product export will be wehicels, machines and specialized production that depends on a stable electricity supply.

I dont think a peak oil in oil production with falling production in 2015 and onward will be such a big change in Sweden since we already have started doing whats need to be done.

I doubt most of these projected energy saviours will come to pass. Investment will be lacking in a financially retracting world. With fossil fuels and resources such as water, metals and food past a peak it will not be possible to keep the wheels rolling at the same speed that we are used to. Even if we turn to nuclear, it is fossil fuels that are used to get them out of the ground efficently in Australia and Canada. I don't believe that sweden has much in the way of uranium reserves. But let us not forget that climate change may have really made itself apparent by then and rendered large coastal areas and infrastructure useless and displaced millions of people who think "you know what Sweden would be nice to move to now that it is warmer". Maybe Sweden has a few flats that they could house a few million refugees in.

There will be investments even if total resources shrink and what is then a better investment then efficiency in doing something there is a demand for? Major efforts are being done to find possible and profitable increases in efficiency and they will make great places to invest pension money.

Sweden have large low grade uranium deposits but I dont think it makes sense to develop them untill they are competitive on the world market.

Global warming is like peak oil a major unknown, we dont realy know how fast it will happen and what all the effects will be. There is serious GW adaptation planning both to handle negatives like flooding and positives like a grid strenghtening plan for trading the likely additional hydro power.

I hope Sweden will attract more immigrants and that we will become a lot better at recieving them, making it easier to find work and integrating them. We have made a mess of the migration durig the last decades and in the future there will probably be intense competition for skilled people and then we realy need to be positive to new people.

There is indeed physical room and resources for millions more but the migration limit is not physical. I think we can ramp up export and trade faster then migration and thus help more people. This is a dire time in the world and I would realy like to combine self interest with helping very manny people thru these times.

"There will be investments even if total resources shrink"

That depends on the circumstances of the time. For example, today in the US we should not expect much investment in any big projects, whether fossil fuel intensive or not. There simply isn't the available money just to pay current debts and bills, let alone make new ones.

Whether the world responds positively to resource depletion depends on two things: the speed of the depletion, and the mindset of the people.

A very rapid depletion may be too quick to respond to, while a slow depletion is deniable, "maybe we're not really at peak", etc. A mid-speed depletion may prompt useful change.

Mindset is likewise important, the mindset of recognising that important decisions need to be made. Generally we can divide these into the stages of grief - shock, denial, bargaining and acceptance.

I recall reading the diaries of Goebbels, in March 1945 when the Red Army's guns could be heard in Berlin, Goebbels was visiting Hitler to talk about income tax reform. They simply didn't appreciate the scale of the problem they were facing, that it absolutely dwarfed anything minor like income tax reform; essentially they were denialists.

The USSR, by contrast, was a country that knew the problem (fight with Nazism) was coming, but hoped that it could delay it till later; it was then surprised by the problem, but because it'd acknowledged the problem all along was able to turn things around and in the end win. They were essentially bargainers.

Likewise, the UK were bargainers in the 1930s, hoping to avoid the problem entirely or leave it someone else to solve. As a result, a war which if they'd prepared for it they could have won in 1936-40 alone with France, instead it took them until 1945 with the USA and USSR. So their bargaining made the problem worse for them.

The USA were deniers with their isolationist policy, but their immense physical, technological and manpower resources, as well as their geographical isolation, gave them some slack - they could afford to fuck it up a bit and still win in the end.

These differences of mindset contributed to one side's victory and the other's defeat. Likewise in facing the problems of climate change and resource depletion, we'll find that mindset determines success or failure. If we deny the problem - "peak oil is years away, and carbon dioxide comes from volcanoes" - or try to bargain our way around it - "just make more fuel-efficient cars!" - then we'll have a very hard time later on.

Whereas if we accept the problem now and act on it, then we should be alright. Unlike WWII, it's not a zero sum game. We're all in Lifeboat Earth together.

I am a Swede, living in Sweden, and unlike Magnus Redin, I do not have such a rosy vision of the future. Magnus is a active member of the ruling political party, and thus sees everything from a positive perspective.

Magnus utopia vision is based on that nothing goes wrong, everyone is rational and only skilled people will immigrate to Sweden.

What happens when the effects of peak oil really hits isn't possible to predict. There are way too many unknowns, one of them being the total lack of a Swedish army and also the total lack of police. Sweden really is a smorgasbord, there for the picking. Whatever we might succeed in building, we will not be able to keep. Already today the police doesn't show up when you call them, only way to get them to come is to shoot a burglar, and then they will arrest *you* for interfering on their domain.

You flatter me. ;-)

I have a rosy view of what is possible to do and I am positive about the economics in doing it. I had the same views about the possibilities before the election success, this can be proved by the ToD archives.

Now I am more sure good things will be done and one of the main resons besides that we rule are that we dared to introduce change. Mostly in the labour markets but a lot of misc things the previous minority government could not do are being done. The poll results on this were extremely negative but the policy to change things with the intent of making them better stands and hopefully we will win the next election on the sharply falling unemploymnet rates and lower taxes and misc improvemets and that it makes our vison of what to do next trustworthy.

The realy important changes are in how the society and the state institutions work and your examples are unfortunately correct. It will take a decade or two to correct this unless Finland invades, then it will go a lot faster. ;-)

Regarding defence we have to odd situation of a solid economy and having one of the worlds top armament industries but an army bordering on the rediculous in its size.

And I do not assume that only skilld people will migrate to Sweden but it is important that a lot of them are skilled and that they want to become part of Sweden.

What is possible to do is one thing, what will be done is another. 'nuff said.

What we really do is continue to build highways, and although there is a proposal for a greatly expanded main rail network, it won't be done in the next 10 years. But highways will. In the meantime, there are far reaching plans to scrap a lot of less used railroads in the finer distribution network.

Hopefully we will be invaded by Norway or Finland, but Finland doesn't have to bother. As a member of the EU, we are forced to share our energy resources and natural resources with the rest of the EU in case of shortages. So anything we do, we won't get to keep in case of shortages. And we won't have any armed forces to prevent this. Meanwhile, the rest of the EU are building natural gas powered powerplants, relying on Russian exports...

And why should I put up a lot of PV on my barn. I could. I have the money. But anyone with a screwdriver can steal them, and if I try to stop them I go to jail for intruding on the police monopoly of violence. If I call the police, they might show up in a couple of hours, but most likely just will want me to come to the station and write a written complaint and then kill the investigation for "lack of leads" (which they do, even if you have photographic evidence). Btw, they are firing roughly 10% of the prosecutors in my county, in spite of there being a 6-12 month backlog of cases (cases not killed by the police for lack of leads, might still be killed by the prosecution. Maybe 10% of reported crimes ever go to trial, or even less. There used to be 2-3 unsolved murders in Sweden a decade ago, today they number hundreds.)

For the audience - in Sweden, if you are arrested for a (non-lethal) crime, you are let go without bail pending trial, so you can commit more crimes, destroy evidence and harass witnesses. I once had my car stolen, the culprit was arrested, put free, and stole four more cars (or rather, got caught in four more cars, he probably stole more, a junkie, living in stolen cars) before the trial.

And organized crime is running lose. In the second largest city in Sweden, there are shootouts and bombings every week now, either between gangs, or directed as extortion vs primarily restaurant owners.

Oh, and I live close to a low security prison. That means that the inmates (including paedophiles and other sex offenders) need to do some work 8 hours a day, during which they are monitored, and have to be in their rooms at say 2200. Between that they sometimes stroll up to the village and get a pizza or a newpaper, there are no fences. We pay close attention to our children here in the village, needless to say, not that we can defend them unless we want to go to jail, but maybe we can grab our children and run away in case of something horrible happens.

Once peak oil hits, it is not a long leap that the social contract finally will collapse in Sweden, and we will descend into chaos as law and order finally gives up.

PS Don't come to Sweden, go to a country where your allowed to defend yourself, your family and your property.

We will see about the railway lines. The largest influence is from industry and municipialities and lots of industry interests are noticing that railway freight can be used to contain transportation costs and the difference between the have and have nots regarding commuter tran travel to a regional center is larger for each year.

We ought to do more maintainance of both railways and roads and the paved surface needs to be enlarged to consistent road standards. Few of the proposed road projects will be useless and not worth maintaining post peak. The problem is that the total volume of building needs to go up and we have personell bottlenecks and our building companies dont impress me that much.

We WANT to share, that is trade resources, EU is about free trade and we can produce a lot more electricity and energy intensive goods.

It is correct that we have problems handling organized crime. We are not used to having it and handlig it has been bogged down in petty fights between bueraucracies and among intellectuals. Since I am an optimist I think we will get the state monopoly on violence in better shape. That you are loosing local prosecutors is a good thing, reorganizing local courts in a sane way has been deadlocked for over a decade. The total capacity is going up and now every court will get properly secure premises and there will be more video coferencing instead of car travel for the staff.

That we should have hundreds of unsolved murdeds per year is not correct. The total ammout of crime realated death has gone up from about 180 to 250 during the last ten years and most of them are solved.

A quick Google produces a list of 65 backlogged unsolved murders, just in the county of Skåne, last updated may 2007.

And here's a list of 400 unsolved murders in Sweden, backlog as of 2006:

Do I need to go on? This does not take into account investigations that are killed due to taking too long.

Those lists cover unsolved cases accumulated for 20 - 25 years.

About highways, no I cannot see why we should put billions of Swedish kronor into more infrastructure that will be obsolete within a decade, and anyways increase consumption of fuels for several reasons:

1. Higher speed at highways severly increases consumption
2. Countryside people and transports have to travel longer, as the highway doesn't go through or close by villages and perhaps forces the population + transports to drive 5+5km extra to the highways
3. Highways kill off local businesses, which have to close when all bypass traffic is removed to the highways, and thus have to close. This forces the countryside population to travel to cities for simple needs, and again increases fuel consumption.
4. Highways encourage longer and faster road transports, obviously.

Maybe this is an agenda to get people out of the countryside, a countrycide? But who is supposed to produce those millions of barrels of biofuels from farms and forests when the countryside is depopulated?

Me, I take the old roads, lower total consumption (even if you have to drive 2-3% farther), nicer scenery, less stress, less traffic. But it's sad to see all closed businesses by the old roads.

Old roads are seldom closed when new ones are built. They are almost allways used for local traffic and often attract more bicyclists. Business that depend on pass thru traffic are indeed often fails or moves. On the other hand the bypassed village usually becomes nicer to live in. If it is close enough to a larger towen it becommes more attractive to commute from. If it is way out in the woods it is even more dependant on roads and the sparse railway network.

The agenda is to make our economy smoother running and resilent to bad times. This goal is not attained by neglecting infrastructure.

If the issue is peak oil, a "nicer village" doesn't reduce energy consumption. It increases it, as the villagers have to travel further to get needed services.

However if the issue is to increase Das Bullerbü Factor, then that's all and well.

If the agenda is to make our economy smoother running and resilient to energy and fuel shortages, it isn't helped by building highways and encouraging more dependence on fossil fueled traffic. It is helped by spending the money on the right infrastructure, not any infrastructure.

The agenda is called "populism" and "do whatever it takes to stay in power".

Anyway, Sweden's future isn't as rosy as the picture you somewhat naively paint, Magnus.

//Living Das Bullerbü, farm with red house and white corners and all

Much of it depends on how well plug-in hybrids will work.

Well, the issue of electricity needs to solved by either building hydro in one or two of the four untouched northern rivers, or lifting the insanely stupid ban on new nuclear power in Sweden. Hopeffully the EU can demand that we build more hydro when the shortages start on the continent, and as the EU lapdog that Sweden always is, we will jump when they say so.

I would go for the hydro solution, after all it's sustainable and doesn't produce any radioactive waste.

And combine that with the agenda for de-populating the countryside (which peak oil gas prices will help along), there won't be many people except environmentalists left to complain about the river dams.

Sweden already has the second-highest per capita use of electricity in the world. Realistically, how much do you need?

100,000kWh each?


As I talk about here, the UN has found that the HDI (Human Development Index - income, longevity, and education in equal parts) tops out after about 4,000kWh per capita. Having more doesn't improve life much at all.

Sweden already has six times that much electricity. By objective measures, that's more than enough.

So if the second-highest amount in the world isn't enough, if six times the most you need for quality of life isn't enough, then how much do you think is enough for Sweden, and why?

Sweden's heavy industry consumes a lot of the electricity; paper pulp, and paper mills, steel and iron. Most of the paper pulp, paper, steel and iron is exported, so that electricity consumption really is exports. Otherwise a lot of other countries would have to have a much greater energy use. So you have to take that out of the "per capita". I think that heavy industry use of electricity is about 40-50% of the total in Sweden.

Remember, Sweden is very sparsely populated (unless Magnus Redin gets his way), and that gets you a lot of forest per capita, and with that a lot of energy consumption processing that forest into paper. But hey, if you prefer that we use oil and coal for processing instead, fine. Back to the 1960:s... That would bring down the electricity use, but wouldn't be a good idea. Sweden gets rougly 48% of it's electricity from nuclear and 48% from hydro. The rest being biofuel co-generation and a teensy bit of wind. 40% of Sweden's energy consumption is electricity, 40% oil and 20% biofuel heat and heat recycling for heating. Or something like that.

Also, climate takes it's toll. Since electricity is still very cheap in Sweden, we use it for heating, more and more using heat pumps, but there still are millions of people heating their homes with direct electricity.

I'm not saying that this is all and well, but it is a fact.

Economics-wise it much better to export refined paper pulp or paper, than exporting electricity and raw logs for processing elsewhere. By refining our product using electricity we make more money. Simple as that.

Is that sustainable? Don't know. We will probably continue to export refined energy as paper long past peak oil, at least as long as people still need paper, if just to wipe their butts.

I see no upper limit, it depends on how much industry we can build that use the electricity to produce export products. The next question is why we would want a humungous trade surplus. My answer is that it is nice to be usefull in hard times, additional export would help millions of people, we can trade for security, we can get an additional vacation week to travel around europe on train, we can be sure to allways get small ammounts of key resources and having local growth makes manny social problems easier to solve.

Having plenty of hydropower, nuclear power, etc is like having an oil well that never runs out that also requires a functioning society around it to be valuble to the rest of the world.

"I see no upper limit"

And this, boys and girls, is why China and India laugh at us when we ask them to be nice and green and cause less emissions.

The second highest users of electricity in the world when asked how high they want to go say, "I see no upper limit."

Fuck, it's almost enough to turn me into a doomer...

Please note that I advocate more electricity production with very small CO2 emissions. If what I wish for gets built the average CO2 emission per kWh and usefull product in the world will go down. Why should we limit that?

One of our local skills are producing, distributing and using electricity and thus we can do a lot of good by doing more of what we already know how to do and plug in things like fertilizer manufacturing, titanium manufacturing, semiconductor material manufacturing, automated metal machining, carbon fibre production and so on.

The emissions per kWh are irrelevant to the world's climate. What matters is the total emissions.

The world emits about 49Gt CO2e annually, and rising. This is about 36Gt more than the world's carbon sinks can absorb. Whether that extra 36Gt comes from concrete, cow farts, coal burning, diesel trucks carting uranium ore, plastic wishbones, cutting down forests for bum paper, arson, making cement, leaking refrigeration units - it makes no difference to the climate. It's all greenhouse gases.

Increasing your kWh per person increases total emissions, whatever your power source. If you hold your kWh/person steady and change to lower-emitting sources, or if you drop your kWh/person and make no change in the mix, or if you drop your kWh/person and change the mix, then you drop total emissions.

Now, if you were increasing your emissions while increasing available energy from 1,000 to 2,000kWh per person, then while that increases emissions it also greatly increases quality of life, and that's a good thing for which the world can have much sympathy.

But going from 25,000kWh to 30,000 or 100,000kWh is not going to improve your quality of life. It'll make you some more cash, it'll let you be more careless in your use and that's about it. And for that the world will have no sympathy.

For god's sake, you guys are more wasteful with your electricity even than Australians or Americans, and that's really saying something. I mean, we've got aluminium smelters, and each of them uses as much electricity as a whole state.

Try less rationalisation, and more conservation.

The idea is to export more, that changes the global energy mix. And it is almost noticable on the global scale since we can add and handle 10:s of TWh.

It will be combined with a faster reduction of the local greenhouse gas emissions, they are already going down and electricity production and GNP is going up.

There are a lot of efforts being done to save electricity but I would not mind if Swedes in general choosed to consume electrically heated toilet seats instead of something that uses lots of fossil fuels. We want to stay rich but that do not mean that we have to flaunt our wealth in a dumb way. For instance, a large well insulated house is more comfortable then a large poorly isulated house with a thick plume of smoke from the shimney.

Sweden could increase electricity production by 50% if we were to build hydro plants in the four untamed rivers we have left. And on top of that we have windpower, seapower (the largest seapowerplant in the world, which isn't much, is located in Sweden, and an even bigger is going through the permitting process right now) and biofuels.

All in all, Sweden could double electricity production if we wanted, with very little CO2-emissions. And why shouldn't we? Using the resulting cheap electricity we can continue to refine goods and materials and sell to get us money to buy the things we don't have, ie oil.

Alas, this will not happen. The NIMBY:s and the BANANA:s will prevent it.

resources such as water, metals and food past a peak

The arguement on water is becomming true for groundwater, but the arguement is made that rainwater catching can be done and have enough water.

Picture of the authors home in Tontina's area:

And this site has a newsletter

Good points Magnus, but I think there is a danger that we are looking at things in isolation. Of course that is what we do; and do very well. It is the free market at work; and it has delivered wondrous wealth and comfort for those lucky enogh to be born in the "West".

More than in any other economic system though, the free market is like ecology - everthing is interdependent and connected. And on top of that there are a few key dependencies, the two obvious ones (on TOD anyway) being energy and finance. Then there is a long list of other factors that make an economy work: education, health care, social systems, town planning etc.

The oil industry is already feeling the effects of the lack of education of oil industry engineers; and their difficulties in expanding production are exacerbated by the lack of qualified and experienced personnel.

This transition to all the wondrous existing technologies you mention will be severely constrained by the lack of capacity and resources, unless the energy plateau is long and in shallow decline. For instance, if oil prodcution is 3m barrels per day less than today in 10 years time I think the world might have reacted and be busy developing into the new paradigm. At the very least CERA will have been dumped into the ridicule it so richly deserves. If on the other hand oil production is 15m barrels per day less than today, things will be far tougher.

I realy like comparing ecological and economical systems but a key difference is that the economical system is full of people and people can change and adapt.

Economical systems has weathered large chages before and has been recreated after falling apart. Refocusing the best and brightest people from lawyering and trade in complex papers to engineering and production might be a good thing.

The U.S. is, probably, in pretty good shape in the Long run; but, in the short run I'm afraid we're for pretty much of a Mess.

We've got some really great engines coming online in the next couple of years that will cut our gasoline usage by up to 30% by 2018, or so; but they will only be accounting for about half of the miles driven by 2015. Hybrids will knock a few percentage points off of our oil use, but, again, 2015 is going to get here a little too soon for them to be widespread.

Our Ace-in-the-hole, short-term, will be (sorry guys, but I gotta say it,) Ethanol. We should be able to replace 15% of our gasoline with alcohol by 2015, and be within a year, or so, of doing 20%.

The General Populace should be waking up to Solar, Wind, and Waste (Anaerobic Digestion, and Gassification) by then.

My Greatest Fear is an oil glut in the next couple of years arriving in coincidence with a general discrediting of the AGW meme, and setting back all efforts at mitigation.

THAT would be the Disaster.

We could see it coming:

Using all the grain in the United States each year to make ethanol might satisfy 12 percent of our oil needs, but would create a hell of a food shortage. As if food and gas prices were not bad enough; they might easily get worse unless some sort of change is wrought.

There are researchers getting grants on how to make cellulosic ethanol. So far we do not have verified proof that it will be able to replace gasoline as environmentalists might file injunctions to stop logging forests for wood chips. There was not much spare grain or fertile farmland in reserve at this time. There is also a problem as Europe wants to switch to biofuels too, and there will be increased competition for corn and a surging need for grains of all types as stockpiles are very low since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and then later the Energy Bill of 2007 were passed.

They might well have conspired to drive up the price of your gasoline with expensive ethanol additives that required subsdies and courts to insure ethanol manufacture will be carried out. There is substantial evidence that the process will not be economical, ecological, or efficient.

The U.S. is, probably, in pretty good shape in the Long run; but, in the short run I'm afraid we're for pretty much of a Mess.

We've got some really great engines coming online in the next couple of years that will cut our gasoline usage by up to 30% by 2018, or so; but they will only be accounting for about half of the miles driven by 2015. Hybrids will knock a few percentage points off of our oil use, but, again, 2015 is going to get here a little too soon for them to be widespread.

Our Ace-in-the-hole, short-term, will be (sorry guys, but I gotta say it,) Ethanol. We should be able to replace 15% of our gasoline with alcohol by 2015, and be within a year, or so, of doing 20%.

The General Populace should be waking up to Solar, Wind, and Waste (Anaerobic Digestion, and Gassification) by then.

My Greatest Fear is an oil glut in the next couple of years arriving in coincidence with a general discrediting of the AGW meme, and setting back all efforts at mitigation.

THAT would be the Disaster.

Well if we reduce the middle class by 50% then I don't see any problems. And as near as I can tell thats the solution that been chosen. The mistake most people make is assuming that the US will continue to the same size of middle class people living the same life style. Simply moving this lifestyle so its only obtainable by the top half of the middle class solves most of the problems. If needed this can easily be halved again down to a surprisingly low level before technical civilization is impacted.

Most people don't actually perform jobs that contribute to maintaining our technical lifestyle.
People focus on farmers since its easy to enumerate but we have similar situations across our entire economy. Farmers make what 2% of our population and provide all the food we need. Programmers engineers scientists etc what another 8% and thats pushing it. Next you have the skilled tradesmen that another what 10% of the population ? Also of course even in these groups you don't need everyone since a lot are focused on consumer goods not needed if you downsize the middle class.

So to get and idea of how many people you would need to maintain and grow a technical civilization lets look at California. Population is 30 million. I'd say its trivial to argue you only need 15 million as a very high estimate if you look at the jobs people do and see if they are needed or needed to support critical personal. So this gives us 15 million lets double it for the whole US so thats a population of say 30 million people that would need to be supported in a lifestyle conductive to building a technical society. Note Russia managed to keep pace with the US with a lot less resources overall so using them as a example this is probably a very save high estimate.

So our population is 300,000 so this gives 10% in line with what I estimated is the number of people keeping technology going today. Lets double this number to include dependents this gets us to 60 million. The number of wealthy is small so we don't need to increase but lets add 10 million to represent rich and others that are not counted so this gives 70 million as the number of people who we would like to continue to live the lifestyle they have now to keep a functional technical civilization.

Thats 23% lets push it up to 25% this would include military needed to protect now relatively rich smaller middle class. This matches well with what I said at the beginning that we can half the middle class then half it again without losing our civilization. We don't actually need 75% of our current population so its not really a problem if they need to be forced into abject poverty. Once the middle class is broke its of little use to anyone and can be discarded those with needed skills will be able to survive the rest will either join the army to shoot the new restive poor class or join the poor class to be shot.

Back to energy its obvious with the US fuel usage cut by 50-75% that we will have no problems transitioning off oil.

So at the civilization level at lest from the technical perspective I don't see a lot of problems. If you don't think you would be one of the 25% then I'd get worried.


Once the middle class is broke its of little use to anyone and can be discarded those with needed skills will be able to survive the rest will either join the army to shoot the new restive poor class or join the poor class to be shot.

Aside from the practical considerations, I find the whole idea of even considering the planned genocide of millions of people based on their percieved economic use to be morally indefensible and a shockingly casual disregard for the value of human life based on your own arbitrary and subjective criteria.

While I respect your right to hypothesize on the possibility of this outcome, I will not let it go unanswered when you cross the line to be seen to be promoting it as an acceptable Final Solution. Would you care to clarify your personal position?

My personal position ?

My statement about discarding 50% of the middle class because they are broke. I think its already happened. So if your shocked its a bit late. Its like complaining about the Nazi's in 1940.

I do think it will take time for the full 50% of the middle class to fail a few years probably.
Assuming that Bush does not bomb Iran and that the Democratic president wins this means we will see fascism probably enabled by anti-immigrant polices take hold about 4 years out. The threat would be imminent at that point and the US middle class would be broken and potentially the major parties in turmoil. The US was very lucky during the depression to not follow Germany. We may not know initially that we have lost democracy it may not be dramatic.
Hitler for exampled initially used the existing political machinery. Look at Venezuela for example they have lost their democracy and I'm not sure a lot of Venezuela realize it. And this is not a condemnation of Chavez's political views but of ransacking of the democratic structure.

I could go on but to get back to your question obviously I think that America as a large real democracy is already toast and most of the middle class with it the die has been cast. However I think that this will be the situation throughout the world.

If you look there is really no place to run too these days. As I mentioned I think that immigrants even previously legal ones will be under attack so even though various countries might do better than America its not clear that a American would be welcome down the road.
We probably will be doing the same. The EU has not been stress tested and Europe has a history of endless bloody wars. I'm not saying this will happen but even though the EU is better off on the conservation front its not clear yet if Europeans in the sense of Americans exist yet time will tell in any case the EU will face its trail by fire like everyone.

So now really back to your question :)

I plan to move somewhere soon that has a chance almost certainly in the US. I'm looking at towns between 10-150k in population with agriculture and low overall population. And as far away as I can get from the largest US cities.

I think that the Pacific Northwest looks good and thats my primary area. However the Ohio Mississippi valleys look good. Louisiana and eastern Texas with the oil will probably do well. On the eastern seaboard I'm less inclined to believe that the region will do well that parts will say parts of Pennsylvania for example. In any case I'm more worried about whats available within 150 miles of where I could move then out to 500 miles.

So given the above I'm trying to figure out where enclaves of high tech might continue to exist. I think that the sad truth is that even without the government either inadvertently or on purpose destroying the American middle class that this would have happened in the end anyway. If we had done the right things then people could have simplified their lives with dignity etc but we didn't. And I think a modern civilization will continue just it will be for a lot less people.

Put it this way only a fraction of the current worlds population lives a first world life style even in the US today. All I'm seeing is that as resources become scarce this fraction will decrease by 50-75% with our without overt political/economic machinations.

Thus we will move to a enclave style of living and my position is I want to be in one of those enclaves. This is not political just survival.

Now my hope is that these enclaves actually can be created and that at least some of them take the gift of high technology and attempt to finally address the real problem humanity faces and figure out how we can live in a sustainable manner. And that they do it soon enough to allow for a lot of people to live peaceful happy lives. I don't think every part of the earth will make this humanitarian decision and I can't see it done in the context of large countries so I hope that not only do I get into a enclave I hope that it manages to make the right decisions and retain or gain control of its government enough to implement them.

I'm pretty smart have a chemistry degree and lots of experience so I think given the chance I could help people. I think that Robert Rapier has already made a personal decision to go on to helping people. My area of expertise is actually mobile phones and web browsers and related technologies. I think that communication probably wireless will be critical as we go forward. This is not the 1920's few people know how to farm etc. We face a huge education task just to get people to the level that they can grow their own gardens. Most people don't have a clue how to bake bread, store food etc. So this information needs to be disseminated and people taught how to take care of themselves and of course most won't ask until its too late. I've not discussed this much because its only important once we have problems but I think you can see that its a good thing.

So to use your terms Final Solution yes I think that thats whats going to happen regardless.
Anyone that does a analysis of our current situation figures out pretty quick that we are probably facing the deaths of billions and a lot lower standard of living for most of society. Now obviously I'm bothered that its seems that the US has moved to effectively ensure that this is the outcome in the US and I think the threat of fascism is real now and will only get worse over time. But the rise of enclaves is certain. During the Middle Ages this was monasteries and these existed with decent conditions for their members despite the political situation of autocratic rule in general. Our modern civilization is more complex so we need enclaves to be much larger preferably a few million people but the near certainty of the creation of enclaves is neither right nor wrong its what the lucky few who get into them do with their chance thats good or bad.

Sorry for the long winded answer but its hard to answer your question without setting up my point of view. Given the times practical consideration are just as important as political view points however I hope that once people are finally faced with the major problems I see coming I can help find the answers or in my case help people get access to the information they need to help themselves.

Thanks for the detailed answer memmel. I do think that there is a world of difference between setting up an exclusive enclave system, as per South Africa appears to be these days, and setting up extermination camps to deal with the vast majority of the displaced poor and former middle class. But in the seeds of one is sown the seeds of the other.

By actively advocating an exclusive elitist enclave, you guarantee the necessity to defend it from the unwashed masses. Bullets and bombs will prove to be ineffective as there are just too many people constantly coming at you and you will not be able to make bullets fast enough to defend the fortress/enclave. It is but a short step to WMD's and chemical weapons at least have the advantage of not destroying builings and infrastructure. Perhaps your degreee will come in handy for that.

You may be ableto maintain a hi tech civilization with only 25% of the population, but the econmics won't ad up for very long. You will aslo have the other 75% of very pissed off people to deal with and I doubt that all of them will be completley stupid. Especially in America a lot of them will have guns.

I beleive that after the turmoil,the communities that will survive and prosper will be those that have learned tolerance, acceptance and embraced diversity of skills, knowledge and wisdom. Those who want to hold on to the old high-tech ways will quickly find that it won't work for too long if their is no appetite in the broader world to support it.

I'm really more with memmel on this one. I believe some appropriate high tech will survive such as the Internet. I also believe many things will revert to the low tech we had in the past. For example, when I was a kid growing up in the 40's, all we had was an electric stove, small refrigerator, a toaster and a radio. Yet, we never felt like we were being deprived of anything.

As far as the raging hordes goes, I would expect that people will stay where they can get their allotment of food and energy. Further, I doubt that they would survive their move. I don't want to get into this since it then becomes a survivalist debate.

And, memmel, you might want to get a copy of Rawles on Retreats. I haven't seen it but I know it is somewhat orientated toward survivalist considerations then you might be interested in. But, I think it might give you some additional insights of your move.


As far as Enclaves go thats a fairly natural reaction to resource stress. In fact most third world countries have this enclave like structure today. On a smaller scale that all these American mini-farms of a few acres are small family enclaves. I happen to think that most of these are not viable in fact not even close. However once the population drops in the country the people that remain probably will create a viable community.

The US/EU is pretty much a mega-enclave from the perspective of the rest world.

I'm not advocating a elitist enclave exactly just that they will form. Its a simple fact.
However they can be for good or for bad enclaves in and of themselves are neutral. Our civilization is directly descended from the preservation of knowledge in Monasteries and Moslem lands and catholic priests made a lot of contributions to science.

So in general the enclaves of the past did a lot of good and the two examples I used where radically different in structure and sizes one was a entire civilization.

Now I happen to think that as these form you should work aggressively to ensure that not only are they preserving current knowledge but that they are working actively to solve everyones problems. I accept that if civilization is going to make it then it will be in enclaves and they will form naturally and in my opinion I think the largest would be the size of a small country or a few US states. I also don't think any other solution is viable in the real world.

I certainly don't have any control over this and will be rolling with the punches like anyone else. So observing how things will change that are beyond my control and trying to take care of myself and my family and help others is not a bad thing.

I may come across as a bit coarse and cold hearted but I'm talking about times that will be tough and filled with ruthless people.

Aside from the practical considerations, I find the whole idea of even considering the planned genocide of millions of people based on their perceived economic use to be morally indefensible and a shockingly casual disregard for the value of human life based on your own arbitrary and subjective criteria.

VS the Insurance Companies, the government, leadership who make comments like "Soldiers Are Just Dumb, Stupid Animals to be used as pawns of foreign policy.", or the many convictions of others for murder for things like not paying a sub $1000 drug transaction?

I will not let it go unanswered when you cross the line to be seen to be promoting it as an acceptable Final Solution.

Acceptable VS what happens are two different things. Are you willing to list the various things you find acceptable?

What I was referring to was that I find it unacceptable to contemplate industrial genocide as at March 2008 if there are things which could be done now to avoid it. Resigning yourself to it being the most likely outcome post peak and then actively planning to get yourself on the right side of the line, will actually facilitate it happening.

Now jumping up and down and doing everything possible to alert the world to the coming troubles will not get you a date to the prom, but what's the point of us all gathering here at TOD to discuss the crisis and the response to it, if we hold no hope of of a relatively benign energy decline being orchestrated through by the collective efforts of those who care.

I understand where memmel is coming from and I fear a future in which there is a ruling hi-tech elite which will, by necessity, either enslave or eliminate anyone that does not serve their purposes. But it may take decades to implement in which time, hi-tech knowledge may have dissipated and declined anyway.

We do need to reduce the population to a solar carrying capacity but the world needs to collectively think about how we do this over time, so that natural rather than brutal forced attrition is way it happens. My point about what I will and won't accept is an attitude that leads to a point where it will be OK to mass murder people because it will put them out of their misery. Hitler didn't get elected on a platform of wanting to kill the Jews. It was the weakend character of the German people which allowed it to creep in and happen over time. We need to guard our thoughts carefully.

...while the topic has seen much debate and there is at least a peripheral awareness that all is not well in the energy world, we still remain very complacent. We are much as Southern Africa (...) but not really understanding either the size or the immediacy of the problem.

Cornering ‘energy’ and wasting it is the ultimate sign of power.

Be it the US invading Iraq; the West throwing away a third of its food in the garbage; corn to ethanol; SUVS with one person in them; Russian rich dollies tossing out their wardrobe to buy new; French farmers thrashing produce to get EU subsidies, etc. to mention only some *extremely* varied examples.

Being on the top of the heap requires grandiosity, largesse, richness for self and others, the glee of trash culture, self gratification, handouts to the minions, a jamboree or at least a living for all..

Gvmts, from the US to - France - Saudi - Korea - Mongolia (random exs.), are not interested in, or pushing, conservation or cutting down. Beyond some vague talk about - car sharing, better light bulbs!

Energy Cos., state or private (oil, electricity, gas, etc.) always want to expand, sell more to earn more; they need to ‘meet demand’ etc. The producers, be they the holders of the resource (Gazprom, Iraq Gvmt., Chavez, Shell, etc.) or all those earning from processing, delivery, keep upping the ante. Conservation is never seriously discussed.

And yet, it could do so much. Both in energy terms (E / watts/ whatever measure/ consumed) and in changing the energy using landscape, from lauding hegemony to parsimony... admittedly a tough sell. A very tough sell.

We need politicians who fancy building the worlds best sewage system before statues and arenas?

They can do a bit of both. In fact, in the past, that is what they have done. Rome is the prime example. But times have changed.

Hi Heading Out!
I envy you your trip to Botswana. I've traveled to many African countries, but never managed to get there!
Thanks for being willing to read the book about Cape Wind that Robert Whitcomb and I wrote. I hope you find it worthwhile. The book is not really about energy per se -- but about the lengths to which some of the embedded power structure in America will go in order to keep change from happening in our no-longer-all-that-democratic democracy.
But I do have to say that the wind resource here on Cape Cod is tremendous. If the developer ever builds the project -- and few are willing to take bets on that either way -- the project as now proposed will produce quite a bit of power.
I read The Oil Drum often and very much enjoy the information you provide.
Wendy Williams

It is actually the subject of my next post. While not totally about wind - it is more about the choices that New England faced after the Jan 04 crisis you wrote about, and their outcomes. (It is part of an ongoing thread for my posts at the moment).

You might be amused that the post ends with "I await the book sequel, it is a comment on how controversial the topic has become that there may well be one."

Grin - I did enjoy the book, to the point that I stayed up far too late finishing it - thanks for writing it.

You are very kind to say so.
I must admit -- it was not fun to write, particularly since I live here, in the belly of the beast, as they say.
But I very much appreciate your attention to the chapter on the electric grid. Very few readers seem to have picked up on the profound (profound to me, anyway) significance of that chapter.
That situation has not yet again re-occurred, but it certainly could.
New England does not have indiginous energy supplies, and is consequently extremely vulnerable. In our particular case, wind from the ocean could be quite useful, particularly since the wind from the ocean blows here when the weather is at its most extreme. This creates wide temperature differentials between the land and the ocean, so that offshore wind could help a great deal during many peak-use periods.
I believe the monitoring tower, about which you read in the book, has provided information that causes the developer to believe he could get as much as a 40 percent capacity factor.

Does not the Passamaquoddy Tidal Dam hold great promise for New England hydropower? It is proven tech, re the La Rance Tidal Gen Station in France... 40 years continuous elec power production and still going strong. The Pass. Bay Tidal project in northern Maine [part of Bay of Fundy tide basin] was planned and pushed by Pres. Kennedy for construction commencing 1963. Initial pilings are still there. All work stopped after JFK assassination.

There are some pretty serious environmental problems with that project. That body of water is quite clean and is a good nursery for many ocean-bound species.
But there are several companies working on developing new technology that may be able to use those terrific tidal changes without damaging the flora and fauna. I've met the head of one company who says he is about to put something in the water. If he does, I'll probably go up there this summer to look at it.
I feel sure that, with the large -- and growing -- number of companies involved in developing new wave and tidal technologies, we will eventually get all kinds of creative solutions.

HO asks:

If world oil production starts to drop off significantly in 2010 – what are we going to replace it with? OK, I’ll be an optimist - If world oil production starts to drop off significantly in 2015 – what are we going to replace it with?

Short answer: We won't replace it. Initially we are going to have to use less energy every year. Bringing on substantially new energy sources to replace declining oil will take too many years to make an early stage impact.

What I wonder: In what year will per capita energy usage bottom out before starting back up again? I ask this question about each of the Western industrial countries.

Which Western country will halt its per capita energy usage decline first? Which will reverse its per capita decline last? Magnus Redin makes it sound like Sweden is well prepared. But will they do a big nuclear build? German opposition to nuclear makes me think they'll go down several years longer than France.

The US response short term response to slow and reverse the energy decline: start digging out huge amounts of coal and install thousands of wind turbines.

The US longer term response: A big nuclear build and lots of photovoltaics.

My guess is France will more quickly start a new nuclear build and electrify all rail. France has the most nuclear infrastructure for restarting a big build.

Most countries will do a big shift to ground source heat pumps since electricity is the easiest thing to scale up.

The CO2 emissons per unit of GDP is falling a little in Sweden while GDP is going up. That ought to be a good indicator that we have started to do something right.

I think Sweden can handle this well if we continue to invest and work even harder. Its far from effort free and I hope we have knowledge and institutions that makes it attractive to start doing more here in Sweden.

25 years ago we had a world leading nuclear industry whose knowledge partly has been passed on to Japanese ABWR. We have some parts of it left locally, one of the most nuclear power positive populations in the western world and the municipialities with operating or closed nuclear reactors are enthusiastic about new builds, two of them are even competing about the final repository for high level waste.

The limit for expansion of nuclear power in Sweden is mostly old politicians that has a very hard time to change their views but global warming and energy prices seems to have an effect. We have come so far that one of the most anti nuclear parties has accepted an abandonment of the previous time limit for nuclear phase out and upratings and life lenght extensions of the current powerplants. The recently completed and currently building uprating projects equals adding an reactor to the 10 running.

But its not as good as our neighbour Finland who is building their fifth reactor. Its now overbudget and two year late and the reaction to that and the energy market trends is three seriously funded competing bids to build their sixth reactor and one of bids proposes multiple greenfield sites.

The compromise within the right wing and center government in Sweden is intresting since it resulted in massive investments in all power sources. A large part of our nuclear sceptics accepted more nuclear power in exchange for major investments in renewable power. If this for instance would make new wind power less expensive then new nuclear power new nuclear power will be toast wich strikes me as fair. I like nuclear power but it has to prove itself and competition is a good thing.

I think the future will be electric.

One thing that I find "interesting" about the widespread rolling blackouts is how they indicate that humans are not smarter than yeast. In this case, not willing to make do with somewhat (even 10%) less electricity to avoid the blackouts. If everybody (or most, anyway) would agree to forego air conditioning (at least somewhat), turn off unnecessary lights, etc, there would be enough wattage to keep everybody connected. Instead, people generally seem to feel entitled to use as much as they like, while they're connected, which means they are disconnected on a regular basis, which seems much less convenient than conserving.

Perhaps the real reason behind this madness is the concentration (privatization) of the gains and the dilution (socialization) of the costs. Using more while you can brings one direct benefits (or so it is perceived), while the consequent blackouts, like the polluton and the impact on the climate, affect everybody, only in part falling on those responsible. In other words, all our problems are due to GREED?

Supposedly there was significant conservation of electricity in California some years ago during their (artificial) electricity supply crisis, and to this day they use less than other states (per capita). Why was this more successful in California than most places? Understanding that may help us cope with future shortages elsewhere.

Edit: I remember reading somewhere recently about electric meters in some country that disconnect customers if they use too much. Can anybody locate this? I wonder where these are, why they were installed, how did the people agree to it, and do they work based on instantaneous wattage or a KWH accumulation (over how long a period)? Is the limit fixed, or adjusted at will by the utility (to fit available supply)?

There was something on TOD about South African pre-paid meters maybe a month ago. Also someting about air conditioning thermostats that could be overriden from outside - not sure how, perhaps a grid carried signal. Neither of those fit the typical concept of "too much", but perhaps you had one of them in mind.

cfm in Gray, ME

Come to Bangalore, India where I live and you can see collective stupidity on the road 24X7. On a good day the total IQ of all drivers might approach 1. The temptation to break the rules and gain a relative advantage is so huge that a lot of drivers do it and everyone gets screwed in the process.

It is explained in part by the Prisoners' Dilemma, where my behaviour is governed by what I think others will do. If I alone sacrificed my comfort and switched off the air conditioner and used less water, but others did not, no great difference would come about and I would be a sucker.

If 90% followed conservation and 10% were free riders, the system would still work. You would need an exceptionally wise population (not smart/clever) to go for voluntary conservation. Which is why we are forced to endure inopportune conservation.

In India, we have lived with electricity shortages from time immemorial. Thus the pricing mechanism (guided by a socialist policy that saw consumption as a luxury) punishes high consumption by having a slab structure. I appreciate it a bit better now. My state has a population of 55 million and our daily electricity consumption is about 130 million Kwh - about 2.4 Kwh per capita per day. Our family does a little better and we do 2 Kwh/capita/day. We are ruthless on any wastage - but there is still room to improve. It is but a drop in the ocean, but that is what we can do and we choose to do it, regardless of what others do.


The Buddha to Siddhartha in Herman Hesse's novel - "Be on your guard against too much cleverness".

From this info s_yajaman

My state has a population of 55 million and our daily electricity consumption is about 130 million Kwh - about 2.4 Kwh per capita per day. Our family does a little better and we do 2 Kwh/capita/day

… I’d say your family is way above per-capita average !

Being from Norway our national electricity pie is divided as follows…. Rule of thumb .. 1/3 industry, 1/3 commercial and 1/3 households.
If that was to apply to Karnataka the average household consumption is in the vicinity of only 0.8 kwh SO your household is 2,5 above average ….

Good point. I guess I will have to change the reference point to make myself look better - maybe Bangalore only :)

But you do get an idea of how little electricity the general population of India gets by with - and without meaning to brag, I am probably in the top 1% as far as income and wealth goes. The 4 of us when in Singapore used to use about 6-7 Kwh/capita/day.

of course here in Bangalore, it never gets so hot or cold that we need heating in the winter or air-cons in the summer. other places are not as lucky - it can hit 45C in summer in the north and 0 in winter. But people get by.

BTW -one of the other big users of electricity in Karnataka are farmers.


Swedens 9 million use 147 Twh, 44,7 kwh per day per person although most of it is for industry. The home use is about 35 Twh, 10,6 kwh per day per person. And we are expanding the renewable and nuclear electricity production, the production prognosis for 2008 is 148 TWh and for 2009 154.5 TWh. The latest serious electricity shortage were in a drought in the 60:s before we built nuclear power.

I am almost on another planet in the per capita electricity use.

It is explained in part by the Prisoners' Dilemma, where my behaviour is governed by what I think others will do. If I alone sacrificed my comfort and switched off the air conditioner and used less water, but others did not, no great difference would come about and I would be a sucker.

Yes and no. On the one hand, what an individual does makes little difference to the big picture. On the other hand, some things are just the right or wrong thing to do.

If I am faithful to my wife, it will not increase the fidelity in the world as a whole. If I refrain from theft, it will not make the world honest. If I don't shit on my neighbour's lawn, it will not make the world clean.

Nonetheless being faithful, honest and clean are good and right things to do - whether anyone else is doing them or not. That's why a Prisoner's Dilemma doesn't describe properly human life. We have values beyond our immediate satisfaction. Or rather, the sort of people who are likely to end up in prison do not have those sorts of values, but the rest of us usually do.

It's wrong to use more than my fair share of the world's resources, and to pollute the world so that future generations will have less.

Srivathsa, I'm sure I've seen your name elsewhere, I think there was a blog focusing on environmentalists in India? If you've your own blog or site, you should post the link in your signature or profile. Often in these environmental and resource discussions we only get a Western middle-class view of things. I think one of the strengths of the internet is that it allows a greater diversity of viewpoints. Of course it still excludes the world's poor, but it's an improvement on the daily news on television and the like.

I was not trying to justify irrational behaviour ,but merely trying to explain it :). High stress environments with a perceived resource scarcity can cause people to behave very differently.

We are in violent agreement that we need to what we can, regardless of what others choose to do or not do.

I am part of an internet based group called We are trying to build an online community with the end objective of improving urban governance and accountability of public institutions in Bangalore.

I put my view points on TOD precisely for the reason you mentioned.


Again I encourage you to put the link in your signature on these posts, or at least in your profile here.

Also, if you or someone in your group were to write an article describing energy (or the connected areas of food and transport) issues in India, I'm sure they'd put it up here at TOD, and that it'd be very popular and commented on.

But I say this because I'm selfish. I get tired of reading Americans all the time :)

PNM stock decreased to about 1/3 its value since I attended the first electric irp meeting on July 2, 2007.

Cost of coal power is rising

Electric bills are poised to soar for customers of utilities building coal-fired power plants.

The plants, long-trusted purveyors of low-cost power, no longer seem like such good bets because of soaring construction costs and the surging cost of coal. ...

The Kansas City Star
Posted on Wed, Mar. 19, 2008 10:15 PM

Concerns that PNM may go bankrupt are expressed beneath article link.

Cheers from the front.

Our expertise is not in energy.

Pseudorandom numbers, machine combinatorics, crypto, data authentication, 8051 forth, ibm 360 assembler , how the iraq/iran got started, maybe?

Maybe law too?

If world oil production starts to drop off significantly in 2015 – what are we going to replace it with?


cfm in Gray, ME

Once more, I would like to make sure that folks see what could possibly developed for Africa and Europe, the Trecers Initiative.

This is an initiative by The Club Of Rome, so it cannot be said that that it is endorsed by a group of "technophile" optimists.

The problem is, it is a big project, requiring people to work together, plan together, and build together.

If the one symptom of "collapse" in the sense that it is often used here (with references to Diamond) is the lack of ability to undertake large complex projects, then we seem to be rapidly approaching it.

It now seems unimaginable that such projects as the TVA, the interstate highway system or the landing on the moon could be completed in the 21st century, as they were by supposedly much less modern thinkers in the 20th century.

We are suppossedly in the age of internationalism, the age of information, the age of communication, the age of the "Team" concept.

There is nothing wrong with the technology of our age, and it is rapidly improving. There is as of yet no real shortage of materials, as skyscrapers sour into the sky in the Middle East, private aircraft are built and fueled and trot the globe, and megawatt powered cars hurl down the highways, while at the same time some people fret about a shortage of minerals and metals (????) There is not enough steel to build oil infrastructure, but billions of tons of it are poured into the soaring skylines of China or Dubai (????)

No. What we are seeing is a cultural crisis, that is preventing us from addressing a petroleum crisis. We have simply lost the ability to organize into constructive groups. Essentially, humans, once described as "social" creatures have become anything but.


"No. What we are seeing is a cultural crisis, that is preventing us from addressing a petroleum crisis."

You don't see us adjusting to the crisis of higher oil prices? are you missing the daily reports of truckers slowing down, ships slowing down, ships using sail, people buying high MPG cars and ditching SUVS? what about the development of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars?

maybe the problem is that there just isn't the crisis you thought there would be?

32.4 % of cars sold in Sweden in january and february were high MPG cars or cars running on biofuels. Of those were 74,2 % E85, 11.9 % gasolene with less then 120 g CO2/km, 8.1 % diesel with less then 120 g CO2/km, 4.4 % hybrids and 1.4 % biogas.


As a general rule, I fall on the optimistic side of the spectrum, as many of posts on TOD will attest, and I do see progress being made in small ways...but most folks who have looked at the real situation regarding oil production seem to indicate that the progress must happen on a MUCH larger scale and much faster than the "around the edges" changes we have seen to date.

Most of the methods you mention are good indeed, a step in the right direction. But at some point we need to develop methods of production that will pay big dividends. In many areas of the world, the grid system upon which we hope to build a grid based electric transport system is already stretched to the limit (the UK, South Africa, and the New England area of the U.S. come to mind)

The concentrating solar power technology I mentioned in relation to Africa and Europe stands ready to be tested on a large scale, integrated into a mixed system of renewable energy production. The desert southwest of the United States, and the desert regions of the Middle East also stand ready. Saudi Arabia is raking in billions upon billions from oil, while they sit in the sunniest region in the world, and discuss buying coal, building nuclear plants or consuming natural gas to produce electricity!! ASTOUNDING. The good news is, if you can consider it good news, is that it proves the Americans do not have a monopoly on idiocy.

The other day, I posted a comment regarding a CNBC story in which the only thing that the oil executives, the business press, the intellectual leadership of the peak oil movement and most TOD posters can agree on is that the alternatives will not work. ASTOUNDING.

Yes, progress is being made, but do you agree that we are still picking about the edges when what we must have is a revolution in organization,technology, finance and education?

This requires leadership, and most of all intellectual leadership. We will have to work in concert in the world, organized, using the colleges and universities, the banks, the press, the government, even the elementary schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, political parties, unions and civic groups of the world to make the effort if we hope to succeed. Think in terms of the efforts made in WWII, the Cold War, or even more of an example, the birth of the Industrial Revolution itself. The Industrial Revolution swallowed every institution in every culture it touched into it's fold, and modified all sensiblity, art and culture to it's cause. This is the astounding revolution we must see, and see soon. It will be fought against by the status quo, at first with words and slander against the possibility that the alternatives can succeed, and then with money. At some point the fight may even involve violence (we often forget that the Industrial Revolution carried in it's wake some of the most horrific wars in human history.)

Slowing down the trucks and ships is all good, but what we most need to do is get the culture up to speed, informing them of the cost that must be endured, the efforts that must be made, but most of all, the rewards that the children of the world will know because we have made this supreme effort to do what we all know must be done. The age of fossil fuel as the driving force of advanced cultures and advanced technology is coming to a close. Our choice is simple" We can let it end the cultures of the world along with it, or we can leave it behind, and recognize the age of petroleum for what it was, one phase in the continuing advance of human culture and technology.

I am an optimist. I think our advance and not our decline is already underway. The examples you give point to the edge of what is happening. So much more than we know is happening in the labs and the shops of the world. Technical development is moving faster than most average citizens can even imagine.

But we need people, all of us, to talk to bankers, talk to colleges, put together presentations. And they CANNOT be the "we're all doomed, screw it, it's over, it can't be done" type of presentations that sneeringly laugh at all effort to build the new technology of an advanced world. When we dismiss ALL alternatives, we are acting in defense of the status quo. Pure and simple.


Geez Roger,

What happened to that "only a cubic mile till freedom"?

We burned it already.

I'm going to wear this one out - for my place, at this time, I like renewable ammonia as a fertilizer and fuel, so much so I'm betting on the come and trying to get funding to build a plant or two that will do just that.

When I talk to people they fall into four broad categories. 1.) Huh? and other forms of ignorance and disbelief 2.) irrational solutions (supernatural, cornucopian) 3.) OMG we're so screwed and rarest of all 4.) lots of people are screwed, hopefully not here, this is what I am doing about it.

The first three groups concern me. They'll panic, they'll assume the shining technology Jesus will save them, or they'll continue BAU and hope the problem lands on the next generation.

I just hope we can get enough built in time to blunt the force of the blow(s). I'd much rather build under guise of renewable energy boom than under the lash of rolling blackouts and forced marches to try to save corners of civilization.

Have you gotten any interest from the PTB on TOD for a keypost on your SSAS process? It sounded kind of interesting.

I have some questions about SSAS, for example:

1. How does your air separation plant work? What is its energy budget?
2. How exactly does the electro-catalysis work to break that tough N=N bond?
3. What kind of efficiency do you get out of it?