David Paterson: First Openly Peak Oil Aware Governor

Eliot Spitzer's historic fall from grace was a blow to many progressives who believed that he would reform New York's dysfunctional state government, but his replacement may be equally transformative, but from a Peak Oil perspective.

David Paterson will be the nation's first legally blind Governor and only the fourth African American governor (New York's first)since Reconstruction ended. As I wrote back in 2006, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson is not only peak oil aware, but willing to make public speeches about it and fairly eloquent on explaining peak oil to ordinary folks.

He also has a 20+ year history with the state legislature, holding the minority leader post for the Democrats in the State Senate. News coverage has brought to light the high level of respect he gets from both Republicans and Democrats, many noting his soft touch and collegiality as very different from Spitzer's "I'm an effing Steamroller" approach to getting his way.

It's not clear yet what his adminstration's priorities will, but he has a good record on environmental and alternative energy issues. But if tackling oil dependence is high on his agenda, it is possible that he will be able to find the right bargain to strike with legislature and assemble a working majority on key issues.

I can't find a current version of the speeches he gave during campaign that used to be on the campaign website, but here's what I captured at the time from a campaign speech that summarized his views:

Eliot Spitzer, my friend, and I, outside of our goals, have a little polite competition. We try to find the most obtuse quotations to work into government policy, and I still haven't been able to match Eliot's presumption, which I think is very, very applicable to energy policy, in the words of Yogi Berra: If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up someplace else.

Tell me if this verse sounds familiar: "And then one day, while he was shooting for some food, up from the ground there came a bubbling crude.'' Those light-hearted lyrics from the CBS 60s comedy series, "The Beverly Hillbillies," in my opinion poignantly portray the mass availability of oil and gas in American society, in the society at that time.

But the situation comedy that allowed a poor mountaineer to become a Hollywood millionaire may have obfuscated the work of a Shell Oil geologist who was offering a different interpretation at the same time.

In 1956, Dr. King Hubert offered a prediction that United States' oil production would, in effect, plateau somewhere between 1970 and 1971. This was the culmination of research where the first drilling for oil in this country came in 1859. By 1870, we had a network of oil pipes, starting the first network of delivering of oil as a fuel alternative at that particular time, and the curve went up steadily and steadily until, alarmingly, October of 1970 when we were producing 9.5 million barrels of oil per day. That's the highest we ever achieved.

Currently, we're producing about 5.1 million barrels of oil per day. We will go under half of the oil production of 1970, 37 years later, sometime in the middle of next year. Now this is staggering because, in addition to that, the United States Department of Energy - and I don't know how they got this past Phillip Kooning, Bobby - offered a paper describing the mitigation of oil peak downside, meaning that, after the production of oil slips below half of the peak production, at that point the energy return on energy investment becomes negative.

In other words, it takes as much energy to bring the oil out of the ground as it would to realize energy benefits from the oil that's actually drilled. So the reality is that in the flourishing 50s, we were getting 30 barrels of oil out of the ground for every barrel invested, and we are now somewhere between five and 10 barrels of oil for every barrel we invest.

So the question is: when is the oil going to run out? The answer is: nobody knows.
There were alarmists in the 70s after the fuel shortage crisis that said that we'd run out of oil in the 80s. There are bloggers on the Internet who say we're going to run out of oil in the next 10 years. No one really knows. Discoveries in the Yucatan Peninsula, the Gulf of Mexico, and in Credo, Alaska, have certainly extended that period of time.

But then the drilling that took place in the Caspian Sea in 1998 that was supposed to yield 400 billion barrels of oil is now being estimated at 40 billion barrels of oil. So it goes back and forth, how long the oil supplies are going to last.

But what's more important than that would best be represented by this example: The human body has 21 quarts of blood contained in it. We don't die at the moment we offer our last drop of blood. What's more important is when our first drop of blood is spilled, and that's what Shakespeare taught us in the "Merchant of Venice." The problem is that if a person loses 20 to 25% of his own blood, it severely impairs the systems of the body, and death will not be long.
This is the problem we are going to have if there is any cutoff of our oil supplies in the immediate future.

Remember the 1970s oil shortage only involved a 5% lessened amount of oil than we actually have now, than we actually had at that particular time. What we've got to start concentrating on, as a society, are alternatives to what has been the lifeblood of our economy.

The Spitzer administration's policy on energy can be summed up in four words: conserve today, renew tomorrow.
We have got to stop throwing good energy after bad. We will use conservation for immediate results, and we'll hope that we can find alternative sources of energy for long-term and future positive results. These are not new ideas. They're not dramatic. They don't even cost that much, but they are effective.

And the most effective and immediate way to establish some kind of impact on our environment is through conservation. Conservation doesn't mean privatization. It doesn't mean austerity. It just means doing more with less, not just doing with less.

We're asking New York businesses to raise profits by reducing their utility costs, not by reducing their businesses. We're asking the families in New York to lower their utility bills, not to lower their expectation of a lifestyle. Conservation is good business sense, because if it saves energy; it saves money. Because energy is the new currency.

We want to make sure that the community action agencies, the not-for-profits and the weatherization organizations, get the proper funding that they will need. So we will use conservation in the short-term. We will implement it to get immediate results, but we want to pursue renewable energy sources as a long-term solution to New York's energy uses.

This is the long-term solution that can liberate America from its dependency on foreign oil importation. And we certainly think that this is an avenue that we can go on now because it will decrease greenhouse gas effects, create high-skilled, high-paying jobs around the state. It can stimulate in-state investment and generate huge tax revenues.

There is an ancillary benefit to bringing renewable energy, and it is that every dollar invested in renewable energy can create 40% more jobs than the conventional sources and more widely-used sources of gas and oil.

And this typifies Eliot Spitzer's view of dealing with crisis: he believes that crisis creates opportunity, and opportunity is enhanced by more jobs and economic development for this state.

Paterson is expected to lay out his priorities as governor later this week and then be formally sworn into office on Monday, March 17th at noon.

Nice to see the brotha is peak aware. It will be interesting to see to what extent energy conservation and renewable energy are found in the priorities he lays out on Monday.

Here is what they mapped out last April.


Energy Efficiency, Conservation, and Renewable Energy Sources Are Called the Keys to Achieving Economic and Environmental Goals

It may not be PC to say, but he looks completely white to me in that picture.

Well, even Thomas Jefferson crossed racial boundaries in search for love . . . and the outcome of such liasons is often better equipped genetically than the parents (bastardization).


So as far genetic diseases (and -thinking of Alicia Keys- as looks ;-)) are concerned we and our children would be better off if we'd all chose partners from a remote gene pool ;-)

J. Daehn

To quote a famous singer (freak show):

"It don't matter if you're black or white....eee.eeee...........eee...ee..eeeeeee"


At least he isn't blind to some of the realities of the world around him!


Thanks for finding this speech. Very interesting.

"Conserve today" -- that means he supports congestion pricing, right?

There's more than one way to cut down on car travel, and congestion pricing is a lousy one in my opinion.

My favorite would be to tax gasoline and diesel to the hilt. It is regressive (though not as much as a flat rate), but doesn't invade people's privacy and it's easy to administer. It also promotes smaller vehicles (whereas congestion pricing encourages larger vehicles).

How does congestion pricing invade people's privacy?

Because every proposal I've seen for it uses RFID and centralized tracking. It invades privacy in the same way as the RFID tool booth tags do (the ones called "Easy Pass").

Hi yartrebo,

I wonder how much energy use is involved in the tracking function.

I see nothing wrong with making people give up some privacy when they decide to use an oil burner to get around - especially in crowded cities. People who use public transport certainly can't expect privacy. We're on-camera most of the time. People who walk or bike around most cities are routinely recorded by security cameras.

Why should oil burners be any different?

the mitigation of oil peak downside, meaning that, after the production of oil slips below half of the peak production, at that point the energy return on energy investment becomes negative.

Anyone got any insight on this? AFAIK Oil still has a good EROI in the States, and it is at about half peak now.

Was that quote from that article? There are problems with that quote.

First of all EROI is a ratio, so can't go negative. Secondly, EROI has declined, but there is no evidence that it goes subunity at the point of 50% of peak production. Thirdly, we use natural gas and electricity to procure oil, so we could still produce oil at an energy loss if the importance to society was high enough. And finally, we just don't have these numbers available - we can understand how important they are in a world of fiat currency, but we don't have the data to make definitive claims, which is unfortunate, because people respond to definitive claims.

Yes, it was from the article - here it is in a fuller version:

United States Department of Energy - and I don't know how they got this past Phillip Kooning, Bobby - offered a paper describing the mitigation of oil peak downside, meaning that, after the production of oil slips below half of the peak production, at that point the energy return on energy investment becomes negative.

I find it difficult to believe that the DOE said that - there is perhaps some confusion, Nate.

Yes its clearly wrong but it doesnt change the fact that a high ranking politician is thinking along these lines, which is impressive and hopeful. Most of us were not taught biophysical principles, scientific method, who we are where we came from, etc. in our schools. Thats how I see places like TOD - raise the level of discourse - maybe not have all the answers but at least have people speak a common language to save time and get to the heart of the matter.

And after being on the spot on video or radio myself numerous times in the past year, I know that my emotional brain burps some stuff that my rational mind would prefer it didn't...;-)

No wonder politicians don't spout facts so often - they are hard to keep straight and if you mis-speak you get called to the mat!

Not to mention that he's actually read a few books himself ;-).

Frankly, I think my governor just improved dramatically.


Hey, I wasn't knocking the guy! I was interested in what he was saying, which is unusual for me when a politician is speaking! :-)

One sentence that is dodgy out of umpteen is the reverse of the ratio of most of the politico-speak we normally hear!

At risk of being called 'innumerate', I am going to suggest that you are being 'overnumerate'. An EROEI of less than 1:1 can in all fairness be called 'Negative', since you do get Less out than you put in. I don't think the actual Ratio is required to carry a minus sign for people to make the connection.

The only reason I quibble is that this is the most useful kind of expression to ring that alarm bell and tell people in the simplest of terms that said spent barrel of oil (or the difference anyway) was, in such a case essentially thrown away, as were the time and effort of swapping 'this barrel for that one'. I think Negative is the right word. (And yes, if the oil is doing a job that no other source can satisfy, I guess we'll see how much of an overage the market will bear.. to drag it up with Solar, Nuclear or Hydro, etc..)

Sometimes being 'exceptionally literal' can get in the WAY of communicating an idea. I asked my (very literal) wife about something on the 'Left side of our car..', and she said "Left-? looking at it from where?" Now how complicated do we have to make these things?


all true points - science is about precision though so it's not good to aspire to be half-right. I don't know the answer, other than I prefer 'net energy' to EROI. Net energy is the energy surplus and is "EROI-1", so can be negative.

The credit crisis is going to be nasty, but it might smack some upside the head that are completely used to using dollars as the metric by which to make decisions. The credit/debt fiasco will at the margin cause people to rely on 'real things', and with this headwind perhaps biophysical analysis can become more common. But perhaps I am just being overnumerate....;-)

But perhaps I am just being overnumerate....;-)

Absolutely! I can't count the number of times you have done that! :-)

'Net Energy' does paint the picture fairly well. Like you, I don't pretend to know the magic formula. Communication is an imprecise art form (science?)..

But I'd suggest that the aspiration is not to be 'Half-right', which comes out sounding like 'Half-truth' or something, but it is to get the point across.

I did like Patterson's analogy of oil-depletion to blood-loss. Makes a good, visceral visual..

Giving it 110%,

"Giving it 110%"

Heh. At least it gets the point across ;-)

I'm an American.. we prefer being in 'overshoot'.

all true points - science is about precision though so it's not good to aspire to be half-right.

Science may be about precision but politics is about doing what is possible. The man made a political speech, not a scientific dissertation, which was 99% correct (I particulalary liked his blood analogy) and that is all it had to be. It's aim was to get the message across conserve today - renew tomorrow.

Bob, Nate understands human psychology and all that stuff so knows that the best way to deal with the innumerate is to chastise them and provide technical terms they won't understand.


First of all EROI is a ratio, so can't go negative.

Now, why don't we have a secondary term for Energy Lost? You could call it ELOI but people might think you're making a Time Machine reference...

But then again when somebody says a 100% increase, it sounds a lot worse than saying "doubling". This fits in with that class of euphemisms.

First of all EROI is a ratio, so can't go negative. Secondly, EROI has declined, but there is no evidence that it goes subunity at the point of 50% of peak production.

Talk about quibbling! Give the guy a break. If you invest more energy than you get in return, you may call that "going subunity" but I think most people would understand that as "negative."

I find it very strange that someone who was realy PO aware would believe this???

That is down to his researcher, who obviously briefed him poorly (regarding EROI falling below 1 once production reaches half peak)

My guess would be that there is some confusion here with cash flow, and at some time a study was done at some particular level of cost per barrel and they worked out that it would not pay in cash terms to drill for more - which even at the current cost of oil seems to be rather the thought of much of the oil industry, as even though there is a lot of drilling there does not seem to be as much as would be assumed from the current oil price, if i have read west texas's posts right.

Was that quote from that article? There are problems with that quote.

First of all EROI is a ratio, so can't go negative.

Again I'll nag about EROEI versus EROI. A financial investment can go negative - you lose money, and that's how people intuitively see it. So EROEI is always the better to use.

Probably better still to state it as ER/EI to clarify that it's a ratio, but there's that pervasive innumeracy problem... Describing it with verbal reasoning, most people would consider getting back less energy than you put in to be "negative" in a "bummer, dude" sense.

So I vote for ratios. But New Rule: anyone who uses EROI doesn't get to complain about confusion over what it means.


A financial investment can go negative - you lose money, and that's how people intuitively see it.

You mean, the 50% yield from the money I put into Click and Clack's Capital Depreciation Fund isn't what I think it is?

Sheesh.  Who can you trust these days?

Only the lobbyists. - New York Lt. Gov. David Paterson on being asked if he knew any prostitutes

in the words of Yogi Berra: If you don't know where you're going, you'll wind up someplace else.

So I wonder how long he's been headed to the governorship ? I mean actively consciously headed to that very spot.

That insight could be very helpful.

Now what is Kunstler going to find to rant about?

... oh yeah, architecture ...

Architecture and the Meltdown of the Banking System.

In case you don't follow finance, the US Fed is acting like a Soviet Commissar and socializing private debt to the public and allowing profit to remain private. Sweet.

JK has 'ranted' about this for quite awhile, now the chickens are finally coming home to roost..

JK has 'ranted' about this for quite awhile, now the chickens are finally coming home to roost..

Lots of people said that too.

That is the American Corporate Model:
Privatize the profits-
Socialize the risk.
The elite is into minimizing risk, so take out you wallet, they want you to pay for their losses.

What amazes me is that these words are coming from someone in the national spotlight. Although his analysis of peak oil and EROEI is not 100% accurate, he has the "vision" to see a path forward for the US in the energy short future. Perhaps his disability has given him more ability to comprehend energy problems and less reluctance to tell us the hard facts of coping with post peak oil economy.

I wouldn't bet that it has anything to do with his disability.

In the UK we had David Blunkett for years as a minister, and his guide-dog had more in-depth insight into issues! :-)

If New York's new governor is grasping and proclaiming things like net energy and Hubbert's method, it gives us hope that he and others will soon start grasping and dealing with the things that peak oil is rapidly causing - like a big inflation problem. The "spike" in crop prices recently is brushed off as a speculation craze that will soon pass with prices coming back down to earth. But, as Stuart showed in his March 10 story "Food to 2050", crop prices are not only down to earth, they're just now awaking from a long slumber:

Our food has actually been a deflationary force for many years countering bad Fed policy, oil, and the many inflation causes. One of our favorite deflators has always been the China imports. But rising oil and other factors have just now changed that also:

We still have the often cited technology induced productivity enhancement to rely on to combat inflation I suppose. But many of our anti-inflation bulwarks are being knocked away just as oil supply/demand is set to get ugly.

Agri crops have been severely lagging cost of living in general and they are also lagging commodities in general. This was the case in the 70s when last we had this kind of macro-economic environment. The CRB did a big climb; but oil, gold, and silver were pulling the index up with crops badly trailing. This time around, we have peak oil pushing fuel crops, which are pushing food crop prices; so crop prices may move more in line with oil in the present scenario. Add to this fuel situation the fact of historically very low levels of food crop storage, global food need running up against a relatively static arable land restraint, and BRIC dietary demand exploding; and we should expect much more participation by crops in a CRB climb than we've seen in the past.

Not only are crop prices just now breaking out of a big slumber, but commodities are as well. After the move they've had, you'd think maybe they're a bubble soon to come back to earth. Well maybe they are on earth and launching:

A new up-cycle appears to be just now forming aiming to make a new high.

Being peak oil aware is to be aware of what's coming inflaton-wise. Hopefully, the new governor will start a trend away from the numbskull "let's-not-report-M3-anymore" approach to something a little more proactive.

Heh, I like his quote, "Because energy is the new currency." Whether or not that is technically true, I think it captures the spirit of the coming era quite nicely. Kinda reminds me of CEO Morgan quotes from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (an amazingly philosophical and prescient game, in my opinion...in fact, the entire planetary currency is "energy credits"...anyone else ever play it?) :

"Energy is the currency of the future."

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

"Life is merely an orderly decay of energy states, and survival requires the continual discovery of new energy to pump into the system. He who controls the sources of energy controls the means of survival."

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

"And when at last it is time for the transition from megacorporation to planetary government, from entrepreneur to emperor, it is then that the true genius of our strategy shall become apparent, for energy is the lifeblood of this society and when the chips are down he who controls the energy supply controls Planet. In former times the energy monopoly was called "The Power Company"; we intend to give this name an entirely new meaning."

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

"Fossil fuels in the last century reached their extreme prices because of their inherent utility: they pack a great deal of potential energy into an extremely efficient package. If we can but sidestep the 100 million year production process, we can corner this market once again."

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
Strategy Session

"Planet's Primary, Alpha Centauri A, blasts unimaginable quantities of energy into space each instant, and virtually every joule of it is wasted entirely. Incomprehensible riches can be ours if we can but stretch our arms wide enough to dip from this eternal river of wealth."

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

Hubbert was advocating energy as a currency during the 1930's while involved with Technocracy. Some of Hubbert's papers are available on the Technocracy web site.

The core concept that is unique to Technocracy Inc .* (established 1934) is simply this: In a 'High Tech' society (such as North America) to ensure stability, and continuity, it will be necessary to institute measurement and control of the economy by energy units instead of monetary units (money), and management of the economy by energy budgets instead of money budgets, at all levels, including consumer credits.

Money has represented energy but the denominations have been manipulated to try to gain advantage.

The United States of America is not the richest country in the world because it has printed the most dollars. It is becasue of it energy endowment whih may be measured in oil, gas, coal, water, topsoil, land, people, sunshine, coastline and unitl 1865, slaves. Some of these things may not be immediatley obvious as an energy source, but they either represent stored energy from past activities or the keys to unlocking greater sources of energy.

The monetary system was simply invented in order to provide an equitable way to distribute the energy sources in a way that would exploit the resources ultimateley for the greater good but immediately for the profit motive. Money confers on the holder of it, a right to draw some energy from the the avilable sources and spend it however they want. It is this freedom of action which we call the market system and without it, markets exchanging money don't work. Some will spend the energy indulgently, some will build enterprises to serve those indulging an ultimately end up with more "rights". Ultimately though the money represents the right to spend energy and nothing more. The energy doesn't change but the representative exchage method can be manipulated to be anything you like.

I caught Paterson's Inaugural Address on C-Span last evening. It was really a pretty good speech. I think the Democrats would be fools not to tap him for the keynote speech at their convention.

NY should count itself lucky - they could have ended up with someone much worse. This illustrates why the choice of running mates for the top jobs DOES matter.