Gail Tverberg's Talk: Expected Economic Impact of an Energy Downturn


I checked into YouTube, and discovered that it restricts videos to 10 minutes or shorter. Since this one is something like 26 minutes, I decided Google would work better. It takes MP4s directly, and does allow downloading.

The video quality is not very good. I know some folks suggested things that might be better. At this point, I haven't had the chance to try anything else.

This is a link to the text of the talk. I have changed it somewhat since the first draft appeared. It is now longer and points out problems more directly.

Gail and all,

Sometimes answers to hard problems require a new perspective. Sometimes just understanding the problem for what it is requires a different way of looking at it.

I'd like to suggest that such a change in perspective is possible and while it might not guarantee a solution in the sense of preserving our current way of living it might get us ready for the next phase of human existence.

Hopefully yours,


I think we will have a hard time getting people to think money = energy as long as economists keep pointing out what a small percentage energy is of personal income. They don't realize that it is underpriced relative to its value.

Also, the cost keeps recycling through. We pay more for oil, natural gas, and coal where they are produced. Then we use fossil fuels to transport these fuels, so they are even more expensive at the point of sale. The fossil fuels are then used to transport all kinds of goods, so an increase in fossil fuels increases the goods costs. If the fossil fuels are actually present in smaller quantities (rather than just more expensive), there is a disproportionate cutback in the total amount of goods and services that can be sold - something that isn't generally measured.

Hi Gail, I really enjoyed your presentation.

Money = energy is kind of right but I have argued that money is really an energy allocation sytem. As weallknow energy cannot be created or destroyed,only changed from one form to another. It can also be stored, or accumulated and concentrated and it is the allocation of this stored energy for which we have invented the monetary system.

The most common and important type of energy traded is food and it would have soon become apparent to early traders that a way had to be devised to break apart the relative value of food so that you didn't have to kill a whole cow, every time you needed a cup of sugar.

The capitalist system holds that money will flow to those who are best able to allocate it in such a way as to create concentrations of energy which then perform a function in society which is desired by the participants. It really is no accident why the rich are the rich. They are typically smarter with the way that they allocate whatever energy they have to accumulate more of it, whereas poor people in the same society, all other things being equal, tend to waste their energy allocations on self indulgences which are energy dispersing. Society keeps score by allocating units of currency to people according to their behaviour.

Markets and finance of course are the logical outgrowth of this phenomenon and even though markets may stray and allocate money stupidly from time to time, it eventually corects and the money is taken off stupid people and may be destroyed (what's happening now) or re-allocated more appropriately.

The bigger the market, the longer the lag between stimulus-response and back to stimulus. Energy availability is perhaps the outer boundaries to which a market will always try to reach and then can grow no more. If the available energy actually starts to shrink, it will still be allocated along the same principles, with money continuing to be the means of allocation.

Every human activity is a decision to spend energy regardless of whether the measure is dollars or calories. The big problems come when we forget that money is only an abstract concept that represents our relative allocation of the available energy. Creating money alone does not create more energy but it is amusing to watch the various central banks try to do just that.

I disagree...

I think it is a pretty big stretch to assert that the wealthy are typically more efficient... The upper middle class maybe...

The newly wealthy (net worth > 10,000,000 US) are typically open to taking bigger risks (especially with other peoples' money) and quite often less scrupulous. A lack of empathy for others helps alot here.

To argue that those with inherited wealth or wealth from gambling (whether at the casinos or in the stock market) are more efficient users of energy is an even larger stretch.

Being efficient and careful isn't the path to riches in the US these days although these charactaristics might just keep you in the middle class.

The newly wealthy (net worth > 10,000,000 US) are typically open to taking bigger risks (especially with other peoples' money) and quite often less scrupulous. A lack of empathy for others helps alot here.

Exactly. It is those who will take risks that are most often rewarded with the money. How they then spend that money will determine if they lose it or make more. You have to ask the question of how they came by the other peoples money first before you jump to any moral conclusion that it was somehow defrauded. More likley the sheeple were gambling..., sorry investing with little or no energy spent in trying to understand what they were investing in.
The same goes for inherited wealth and winnings from gambling. In the case of the latter two, the chances are highly likely that it will be lost or dispersed.

The market is now correcting, as it always does and everyone who invested in these money for nothing schemes deserves to lose. Everyone! America has tried to build itself on these finance schemes and outsource real productive work to other countries. If you follow where the energy is now going you will also find that is where the wealth is flowing. You cannot necessarily measure wealth in terms of money either. Money is too easy to print. Factories and warehouses of food, mineral assets, energy stores are real wealth wheras money is just an abstract way to denominate it.

You can have as much money as you want, but if you are hungry and nobody will accept your money for food, it is worthless junk. Just ask a Zimbwean. However if you have a fish to trade for a loaf of bread, both are energy sources and it really doesn't amtter what numerical value you put on it, the fish is still only worth a loaf of bread.

I think in a time of plenty, we have been concerned about allocating money/energy to those who are best able to perform functions that are desired by its participants. This sounds like a good idea, when the economy is set to grow-grow-grow, and there seems to be enough for everyone.

We will be heading into a very different world. Maintenance, rather than growing, will be a primary concern. Having enough food to eat, and fuel for transportation will be a top priority for everyone. There will not be enough to go around.

I think if politicians expect to be re-elected, and if we want to avoid food and gasoline riots, there may need to be some re-thinking of how money/energy is allocated. There may need to be more consideration of a minimum level for all, even if this takes away from other allocations. Also, maintenance is not glamorous, and most of us wouldn't pay much for it, but if we expect to have electricity in the future, and roads that we can use, we will need to put an increasingly large share of government budgets into maintenance, even if this reduces funds for other uses and raises taxes.

Gail, where I don't follow you is in your bottom-line energy costs - I use as my fall-back position nuclear energy, but that is because it is a proven technology, likely utility-scale solar thermal or wind-power can do the same job.
My assumption is that it will cost no more than around twice the price of fossil fuel energy, which in the form of coal does not pay the full cost of it's emissions anyway.
Of course, this does not cover liquid fuels, but battery technology seems fair set to do most of the needed job, and the remainder can be taken care of by coal to liquid fuel technology.
This is not to say that any of this will be easy, and you make a powerful case for a substantial downturn, but the main problem in the past was that no one knew when they would be undercut by cheap oil from Saudi, and so investment in other energy resources was problematic, indeed many lost fortunes.
Once it is accepted that fossil fuels will continue to be scarce and expensive, surely investment in alternatives will follow.
Why is a technological society run on nuclear or renewables not viable?
Tough times yes, collapse no.

I think not being able to replace liquid fuels is going to be a huge problem. All of our infrastructure is built to use liquid fuels. I don't think replacing this infrastructure with anything else - electric or otherwise -- will happen on more than a very limited basis.

The other thing that I don't people realize is that the electric system is in nearly as bad shape as liquid fuels. Euan has written about the problems in Great Britain, and I have written a little about the problems in the United States. In the United States we have a combination of problems-

• Margins of excess electric supply are dropping lower and lower, due to deregulation and inability to build new plants (due to climate concern and nuclear NIMBY)

• The Northeast, California, and Florida are very dependent on natural gas for electricity, but long-term supply is not good.

• Few coal-fired power plants are being built, because of environmental concerns.

• Upkeep of the electric grid has been badly neglected in recent years. It now needs major upgrades and replacements, but funding will be very difficult to obtain with peak oil problems.

• Work force of electric utilities is near retirement age. Few young people have been hired in years.

• Water needed for cooling coal and nuclear power plants is in short supply, particularly in the Southwest and Southeast. See this article by Platts.

• Long time delays are expected before new nuclear plants can be built. Some problems include inadequate number of skilled workers, lack of (or poor quality of) specialized parts, and short-term uranium shortages. A change to thorium, or other different technology, will add time to the process.

• Solar and wind are not likely to scale up adequately in the time-frame required.

• Needed parts (both replacement and for new facilities) may not be available because of balance of payment issues.

• Peak oil will bring shortages that can be expected to affect the electric industry as well - lack of gasoline for workers to get to work, and to run trucks used to maintain the grid.

If the electric grid is not working for some reason, it spills over to the liquid fuels sector, because pipelines need electricity to continue to pump oil as usual.

I think part of the problem is the complexity of the whole system, and the fact that Liebig's law of the minimum works in so many ways simultaneously.

When you consider we built most of the infrastructure in industrial society with nothing before it to build it upon when everything was far more costly, this laundry list of annoyances doesn't present itself as any sort of threat to civilization.

I would agree that there will be severe disruption, and that shortages of oil, gas, and later perhaps coal will impact heavily.
However, in the slightly longer term it seems to me that the problems are manageable for a number of reasons.

Firstly, generation costs will still be relatively low, ie no more than twice the price of electricity generated by natural gas, using nuclear power as the base line figure to get that cost, with wind, solar thermal and PV kicking in as they reach cost targets.

The question then becomes, if you accept that alleged uranium shortages are manageable, how do you get from a to b.

There is massive waste in the current system at all levels, from ICE engines burning inefficiently, to the use of road rather than rail transport, to inadequately insulated homes and the low use of heat pumps - air heat pumps will do just fine almost everywhere, rather than the far more expensive ground source pumps.
This effectively means that vast savings in energy use can be made relatively easily.

That brings us on to another point. Many of your arguments predicate their timescales on present practice, for instance the authorisation times for uranium mines, or authorisation difficulties for coal plants, and do not take account of human adaptability, it appears to me.

IOW, the more we are hurting and we have a greater emergency, the more procedures will be streamlined.

If power shortages bite, then NIMBY's will not be popular.

The solution to many of the issues discussed, for instance dry cooling to deal with water shortages, are well known, and what is needed is the will to deal with them.

The very magnitude of the problems ahead seems likely to me to lead to a vigorous response.

None of this is to say that adaption will be easy, but most of the issues are those of realising that we are in trouble rather than fundamental problems in applying technology.

Demand for nuclear reactors from France and Japan, for instance, is likely to rapidly grow, and in France at least the power is not likely to turn off as they have so high a percentage of nuclear power, so internationally trade in their plants should be vigorous.

Demand for wind turbines and transmission lines should also be high, as will be demand for advanced batteries.

Economies such as China also tend to be very resilient at their stage of growth.

Impact in the US and the UK, and in Africa, should be relatively high, but many areas seem much better placed to cope.

With the world that will change rapidly, citizen's priorities will change quickly.

This list is not in order, but could happen due to varying severity of the crisis.

1. People won't put up with electrical outages. They will gladly trade some air pollution for a coal fired plant. With less automotive use, the total amount of pollution might be a wash.

2. Look for nationalization of energy projects. If private enterprise waits until it becomes profitable, it will be too late. The government will take over or oversee the production of commercial wind turbines, and solar manufacturing. It will also sell the products at little to no profit to get the project moving.

3. Efficiency standards will be enacted. Any private vehicle getting less than 35mpg will be banned or heavily taxed. The incandescent light bulb will be outlawed. Any non Energy Star appliances will be banned as well. The clothes line will make a roaring comeback.

4. Public transportation will be heavily subsidized or 'free' to encourage ridership.

5. Watch for more toll roads to come in to existence. Want to use it? It will cost you.

6. International collaboration - Internationalized energy research projects will be founded. Instead of many parallel energy research tracks, money will be pooled. We're all in this together, after all.

These are very interesting comments that essentially point to the need for clarification that might come from the perspective I propose.

Gail invokes the recursive nature of energy extraction that currently keeps true costs opaque. She notes that economists are loathe to do the rethinking, although the ecological economists do engage in thinking of energy as the true currency and all that that entails.

Turmoil has essentially recast the proposal noting the relationship between money as a token representation and free energy, which actually does the work. This description shows that economics isn't completely off the mark in studying markets and allocation. It is the disconnect between true currency and its artificial surrogate that is at the root of misunderstandings.

And Kohesion notes the fog that exists around understanding wealth, its creation, and its proper uses. People can be rich in monetary terms and not contribute one iota to the economy in the sense of increasing the availability of free energy.

Both viewpoints can be true.

I don't know if it will be possible to change enough people's perspectives or not. I don't know if it could be done in time to make a difference. But I am reasonably sure that for us to eventually understand and maintain a sustainable economy we will have to realize the true role of energy flow and work processes. We will have to be able to manage this by measurement (accounting) and allocation (markets, yes, but also coordination). Most of all we need a strategic view of what kind of world mankind needs to have in order to achieve actualization and balance with the rest of nature. Once we have such a view, and a means to manage our behaviors, perhaps our species can settle into a mode of enjoying the world. Prudent reshaping, wisely chosen new technologies that enhance sustainability and comfort might replace the frenetic drive to consume and corrupt. I remain hopeful.


Nice job, Gail!

Keep up the good work.

Hi Gail,

Thanks for posting this. I looked at Roscoe Bartlett's presentation from the streaming site and would like to be able to refer to a number of these charts, in particular the discovered vs consumption since to me that is the one that should make it so clear to anybody. Since I just don't have time to plough through all the posts, is there somewhere we can get the latest copies of all the great charts we see on TOD? If not would it be possible to have a link at the top of the front page?

It is not all that easy to keep up-to-date charts available. One of the issues is that you really want to have some description with the chart, so that you know what you are looking at.

One approach is to use the little rectangles at the top of the screen that say "Peak Oil Overview", "Peak Oil Update", and "Oilwatch Monthly". If you click on any of those rectangles, you will find a series of articles, with the most recent ones on top. These articles have a lot of graphs in them. The most recent stories are at the top of the screen. Once you have the story open, you can link to a chart by right clicking on the chart, and choosing an appropriate option.

If you know which person is likely to have put together charts of a particular type, another way to find recent charts is to look at the list of stories by the particular author (Click first on the person's name in the personnel list, then click on "stories by"). From the list of stories, one can choose the most recent story that would likely have graphs of the desired type.

Regarding the charts that Roscoe Bartlett used, I found this link to recent presentation he gave, that has many of the same charts as in his Converging Environmental Crises talk.

Thank you.

There seems to be an archive of the live (4 hour and 22 minute) conference at this web site now:

To view the talks, you need a Windows machine without pop-up blocker. The last page of this PDF gives other troubleshooting issues.


I'm in no position to agree or disagree since I have no degree, but it seems to me we are headed for deflation rather than inflation, simply because the loss of credit availability would lead to decreases in trade and commerce, which would lead to lower incomes and a poorer consumer. It is possible for the Government to turn up the printing presses, but with lower availability of fuel to transport goods, would the increase in the availability of money lead ultimately to an increase in trade? (A sort of parallel to this would be, fewer people will be able to fly in the future, not just because they won't be able to afford it, but because less fuel will be available to the airlines.) Don't know the answers, but finding out is going to be interesting.

Thank you for posting this talk.

It is hard to see how international trade will continue at its present level if we have a combination of problems:

1. Poor countries with more and more electric power outages, so their production of export goods is likely to drop.

2. Less oil for all purposes, including exports. Air shipments are likely to be especially lower.

3. Many fewer airplanes flying, making it harder to oversee international companies and have face to face negotiations.

4. Falling value of the dollar or other balance of trade problems.

It seems like everything is conspiring to reduce imports, over the long term.

The shrinking world of the last half of the 20th Century is going to become the enlarging world of the 21st. We think of China as being just over the horizon, a few hours away, and of Europe as just over the pole, an overnight flight. Our isolation will come as a shock to a new generation.

John Williams, Shadow Government Statistics directly addresses the monitary and economic impact of the Federal Reserve's response to Peak Oil in yesterday's phone interview by Jim Puplava Financial Sense......Topic: Hyperinflationary Depression 2010. You can download the audio file at Williams' interview supports Gail's presentation from the perspective of current (and past) financial policy and is, in my opinion, an appropriate companion piece for those wishing to educate individuals on this important topic. You can access Williams' website at .

Thank you Gail for doing your homework and sharing your excellent presentation.

I've just finished watching The Crash Course (the segments that are posted so far) and also recommend it:

Thanks to both of you for the links.

Enjoy? Sounds like we already enjoyed and now the bills are coming due. Anyway, great to have a face and voice attached to Gail the Actuary, despite the bleak message.

Gail's point about looking at poorer countries and people in poor countries for healthcare solutions is good advice in general. An excellent example is shared taxicabs called jikos in East Africa. Almost every poor city has them.

The omnipresent role of extended family in health and basic financial (and emotional)security is another key element of future solutions. Again, always present in the barrios, not the glass bubble-encased Cartesian culture of consumers.

Someone suggested that instead of sending Peace Corps members to Africa to teach them the American way of life, we should be importing people from Africa to teach us how to live without fossil fuel.

I understand that in some parts of Africa, any windfall is always shared with the entire village, rather than a person's immediate family. Also, if parents are unable to raise children, extended family will step in without any question. These actions aren't great for maximizing an individual's wealth, but they help the community survive in times of adversity.

Thanks for sharing this Gail. Powerful in that it is so direct.

Should this continue to evolve, I'd like to suggest that you replace the "fingers crossed" bullet with something that promotes adaptive thinking. I think part of the point you are trying to get across is that folks need to understand thier context to avoid the kind of confusion, or possibly even shock, that would result in compounding already poor market based choices. This angle might resonate with a health minded audience. Beyond that, since you raise the issue of paradigm it may be helpful to point out that out-of-the-box thinking by a well grounded policy makers and individual voters could help us make smart deliberate choices (such as prioritizing health care). Finally, actually naming an alternative paradigms to growth like a steady state economy, or rediscovering the merits of planning, may lend an air of credibility and give the intellectually curious something constructive to pursue.

I realize that depending on the intended audience, this may be off target.

I am still trying to see what the real alternatives are. If we are an overshoot, I do not see a steady state economy as an option. Planning sounds good, but I don't think we really are able to fully understand the scope of the problem. If we are not able to maintain our electric supply, a lot of would be options - like electric cars, electrified rail, ground source heat pumps, and even maintenance of water and sewer systems become very problematic. If we cannot maintain our roads, transportation will be very difficult, whatever we do.


Very good and succinct, but you have not mentioned the US annexing Canada and Venezuela. Will the US go gently, I think not. Also you characterize the world as the US and "the poorer nations" whereas there are lots of "developed" nations that operate on a much lower energy input than the US. see G8 energy consumption per capita to see how perversely distorted the US/Canada are.


The US is already in Iraq, so when are they going to do the job "properly" there? Oh wait a minute I forgot, at 20 million barrels a day they ALSO need Canada and Venezuela to provide 6 million/day on top of the 2million(?) from Iraq. Or how about Saudi?

I am not convinced we are up to annexing Canada and Venezuela. We need to keep our own country running, and that is likely to be a challenge. It seems likely that the US federal government will become weaker over time, especially if it cannot pay its debt. It seems like local governments are likely to become more the center of power.

You could convince yourself that it is a good idea to invest in the future and make the people who build for the future and overcomes NIMBY by getting people on a bandwagon heroes instead of ecouraging the quicksand lawyer ideal. If your politicians, hollywood and so on did that life would also become easier in far away places like Sweden were USA makes a large cultural impression. It is good for us if you start trying to save yourselvs ASAP.

How about a "Top gun" film about a very good looking guy who saves the day and community by getting something done and gets the good looking girl?


Annexing was a little tongue in cheek but it does seem to fit with the current admins thinking. The current ferment in Colombia could be considered a plot to justify invasion of Venezuela (Canadians are more difficult to provoke). As we now have a 'credit unwind' as a result of over supplied cheap money, I wonder if you will stagger into an 'ethanol unwind' as a result of over supplied liquid. What will be the effect on the price of oil of taking 1mbpd out of liquid fuels now? and what will taking 1.5 or 2 mbpd out in 12 months time do?


Ben Bernanke was worried about deflation, yet all we have seen indicates that the dollar has been devalued and inflation is on the rise. Deflation is needed with loss of jobs, but in reality prices continue to go up. The policy of the Federal Government operation on borrowed money have led to the fall of the dollar.

Billionaire George Soros predicted a recession in terms of the actual value of the dollar based economy more than a year ago. He wrote another book predicting major turmoil ahead. His book, 'The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means,' should be in print next month.

While the peak oil + liquids may not have occurred yet, it is likely to occur within a few years. This peak oil event is likely to result in a downturn in the worldwide GDP unless large scale energy efficiency increases and the rise of alternative energy sources will be produced. As we have seen with the unfolding biofuels disaster, some forms of alternative energy are not properous.

Don't worry rainsong the politicos are on top of it, NOT.

I was just looking at the Hirsch report from February 2005 which was sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. They said "Prudent risk management requires the planning and implementation of mitigation well before peaking." OOPS.

How many more reports must we wait for?

Bernanke was worried about deflation, yet all we see is ... his cure against deflation works so far, and it is inflation. He wants to burn the excess debt in the furnace of inflation. Hopefully, no farm foreclosures this time, contrary to 1933, food price inflation will keep the farms afloat etc.

The stock market seems to oscillate around flat - some people seem to understand that while inflation causes lots of problems for companies, their value is not completely destroyed in inflation. However, the value of cash, CDs etc. is destroyed, and that is why many people stay in stocks.

Thanks for the reference to the book.

I think EROEI is going down and down, and biofuels only makes it worse. I expect a downturn in worldwide real GDP, with some countries more affected than others.


you sound like an honest and sincere woman- but not too well informed in my opinion about the responses already underway to the peaking of oil and other resources. Yes the initial period of peaking of oil is going to result in the negative impacts that you describe- probably will be worse since the developing world will most likely be left to starve to death. But we have the underlying values and vision already in place to change this currently unsustainable society into a much better place- One of the leaders of this vision is Permaculture. It is a set of design principles that are surprising applicable to the precise problems that resource depletion is going to present to our leaders- and ourselves-

It is a true statement that we create the world we live in- and even though i can see that on most elements you are correct in terms of the negative impact of peaking of oil and water and other ore's in the short term i do not share your bleak vision for 20- 30 years out- for the internet is going to be still around - i hope measures will be taken to maintian our abilities to communicate globally for if we on the local level are able to leverage off the global intellectual capacity to fix problems and issues that arise from scarcity then all that is limiting us in transition will be the imagintation and the belief that we can actually muddle through to a much better world-

now having said that i choose to believe in the more positive aspects of humans but i do not discount the very real possibilities of total and eventual decline of this society and the resulting death of everything we know - so i think we should get to work to avoid that for it is a real possibility in this situation!!

take care and thank you for your contribution to getting people to see the serious nature of the issue if we don't start taking action now!



Concerning Permaculture: Without knowing it, I've been practicing it in one section of my garden for years. My opinion is, it's great for low level production over a large area over a very long time, but I don't think you can feed all the World's people with the amount of land we have without the use of plenty of cheap available energy and petroleum by-products. "Analysts" say that North Korea is suffering through a low-level famine because of the economic system it is under. Personally I think the real blame is the fact that they can't afford to buy enough oil to keep their agricultural system going. That's my interpretation.

And I don't see any investment into research on how best to adapt to a new version of agricultural production on a large scale. There are probably a lot of unconventional answers out there, but nobody's searching for them.

It is possible that the United States has enough land for permaculture to support its population (if we were really working in this direction, which we aren't). I am pretty sure that the world as a whole does not have enough land for permaculture to support its population. If there are parts of the world without enough land, we are certain to have fighting over what is available.

I would have more confidence in permaculture, if we had done a huge amount more in the direction of teaching people what to do and getting necessary supplies. It is a very tough life, trying to support ones self with just simple tools, no fertilizer, limited access to water, and only the seeds one can save from the previous year's crops. We are a long way from being as self-sufficient as people were in say, 1900, when people had horses and skills to handle the situation.

Sadly I have not as of yet been able to watch Gail's talk on video. I have access to the internet by way of dial up, not broadband, and the download would take hours. So I reread the original text of the talk.

This caused me to muse upon the subject of economics, technology, and culture in our modern age.

Look at it this way. If Gail had appeared in the largest city within easy driving distance to me, Louisville KY, I could have driven up and seen her speak live, possibly meet with others who are interested in similiar subjects, perhaps she would have held a Q&A session afterward in which we could have gotten clarification of her ideas and even debated a few points. Before leaving the city, perhaps a nice meal at one of Louisville's many fine restuarants.

My car gets about 22 miles per gallon, and the distance to Louisville from where I live is some 48 miles. so some 96 miles both ways means 5 gallons of gasoline at $3.20 per gallon or $16.00 for the round trip.

I am willing to bet that Gail would have had to charge more than that to rent a venue and present her talk which in person would have probably been longer than the 25 or so minutes on the webcast and would have probably been able to include some local peak oil activists to make for an even more interesting event.

A dinner in Louisville of any quality would have to cost more than the $16 the gasoline would have cost me to get there, so I can safely assume that the gasoline to see Gail in person, had she appeared in Louisville, would have been no more than a third of my overall expense for the evening. And that is with a relatively inefficient car, and with a 96 mile round trip. For those who live inside Louisville, the cost of the trip would have been virtually nothing, or if my car achieved the mileage per gallon of a Toyota Camry Prius, the cost of the fuel even at my distance away from Louisville could have been cut in half. Long story short, the energy cost would be the marginal part of the trip, especially if I counted in the money it costs to own and operate a car at all (tax, insurance, liscense, etc)

But of course, if I had broadband internet, I could have watched Gail talk on the internet. We do have a limited sort of broadband in my area, but it costs twice as much as my dial up, or an added expense of some $25 per month, and even at that the speed is not great.

What this means is that a nice long presentation, complete with interactive possibilities and with added guests could be broadcast on the internet, a presentation which could be seen over and over again as opposed to a one time personal appearance. The problem is that many areas of the nation are still without efficient and affordable broadband internet. Are we to assume that the money (or the oil) no longer exists to modernize and upgrade internet services throughout the land, an improvement that will become all the more important as transportation expenses rise?

Are we to make the assumption that bankers will no longer loan money for any project? Advances in solar energy offer the possibility of stabilizing the U.S. power grid, even if they cannot "save the world" all by themselves just yet. Are we now to assume that banks will no longer finance modernization of the power grid?

It is stated often that if there are tough financial times then no one will be able to borrow the money to buy more fuel efficient cars. Upon what premise is this contention based? In the late 1970's in one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, the U.S. car fleet was modernized to a fleet of considerably higher efficiency, right into the teeth of a recession. Right now cars are being financed zero down simply to keep car sales moving. If people were buying highly efficient cars zero down, how would that be more of a problem than people buying luxury cars, power boats, high powered motorcycles and lawn care equipment zero down, all of which they are doing now?

The whole logic of the economy is perplexing. After what is being called the "biggest housing price collapse" since the Great Depression, I sit holding the real estate pages of the Louisville Courier Journal. I am looking at a castle,

As late as the 1980's, the number of houses of this level would have numbered perhaps a few dozen in Louisville. This is Louisville KY!

I drove around some in Atlanta a couple of summers ago and was absolutely disoriented by what I saw. THOUSANDS of houses of a size and level of finish...words fail me. But of course there has been that "greatest price collapse" since then. Now, they are forced to give these houses away at discounted prices, cheap, cheap. The ones I linked in Louisville are now priced at $450,000 to $1,750,000. Why shoot, any WalMart employee should be able to swing that, right? But of course, no bankers will loan, even though in our area the banks still spend thousands of dollars running TV ads saying "We are NOT leaving the mortgage business...we were here with you yesterday, we are here today, we will be here tomorrow. Call us for new reduced closing costs." This is the look of the great collapse?

Food prices. We hear constantly of the world grain shortage, riots over shortages of rice. Just in the last two days Bill Moyers Journal on PBS showed the massive acres of rice taken out of production in the U.S. south in Texas and Louisiana. Mansions were shown sitting on prime rice land, paid for the government, money paid to people who had bought the land to get the payments, people who had never grwon rice being paid not to grow rice! Texas alone has had more rice taken out of production this way than it now grows.

Are we to assume that the above is caused by "peak oil"? Would it not be more logical to assume that it is caused by insane policy?

There is one chart that is linked in one of Gail's presentations on TOD that I have saved for constant reference:

Look at the sections of the pie that are given over to gasoline, jet fuel and distillates. That is the transportation fuel of the nation. If you take these sections out, all the oil used for "driving the economy", for agricultural production, for plastics and chemical production, for giant screen TV's or for heating houses, etc. become almost marginal.

Gail, this was a chart from the EIA that you yourself used in a prior presnentation

For lack of gas for the SUV barges, the whole of Western Culture fails, billions die and we sink back into the fuedal age"? Ask yourself, does this REALLY make sense?

One more issue: Money, or "fiat money" or "money equals energy" theory. There have been posts in the last several days in which the poster was bewildered by what could act as money without oil. Leaving aside the point that oil and gas will be with us at some level for the rest of our natural lives if we are old enough to read TOD, there is one more more issue that comes up: Wasn't there paper money long before the discovery of oil and gas? Wasn't there debt (HORRRORS, DEBT!), wasn't there promisary notes? In what weird nightmare has it become accepted that only energy backs money? In only one way is that true: Human energy, both mental and physical, backs money. Yeast do not use money, apes do not use money. The pure power of a human mind created the concept of money and creates money. If you don't believe it, ask the songwriters, book authors, inventors and scriptwriters. I have a friend who makes more in royalty checks that I can hope to make by labor. Where do these strange notions that only oil allows an economy to exist even begin? So much of it is sheer madness.

But, for lack of a liquid transportation fuel, the world will fall, we will destroy each other in wars (because we all know there was no war before oil, right?), and we will devour our young. (sigh)

I say this only as an opinion, and with no intent to insult anyone. A lot of this catastrophe talk is a scam. I'm sorry to say it but there is a very real "hysteria industry" in this country that fully intends to profit by driving people out of their homes, out of their investments and if they can get away with it, into serfdom. Peak oil may be nigh, but for the poor bastards that get caught up by the hysteria peddlers, it really won't matter. They will already be peasants, with no insurance, no medical care, no future and possibly very little mind left, having been driven into idiocy by these hysterical fears. There are many people confused by the complexity and pace of the modern world (hell I'm one of them!) but surrendering to hysteria certainly does not improve the situation.

I am becoming more and more resentful of those who are willingly, purposefully taking advantage of the fears of many, especially those who are most at risk, such as the elderly, those with illness, and those with ill and dependent children. Many of these folks are not so frightened for themselves, but for those they love and care for on a daily basis. To frighten these people needlessly again and again with hammer blows of wild scenarios that have virtually no basis in fact is not "science" or "reality". It is just plain immoral and wrong. Those who do it should be ashamed of themselves, and the rest of us should have the courage to tell them so.

Peak oil may be at hand. We have no way to know. And it WILL have major effects on many aspects of life, technology, economy and culture. I have NEVER denied that. But look at the many factors causing so many of our economic and cultural woes before attributing every possible stupidity to peak oil. Look at the madness of our farm policy. Look at the idiocy of assuming every minimum wage earner can be horned into castle like houses if enough "creativity" can be found in financing, and then being surprised when it doesn't work. Look at the idiocy of our vehicle design which consumes THE BULK of the oil we use before discussing driving people back into slums and peasant serf villages or fantasizing about a disappearing 5 billion people. I guess what we should be saying is GET A GRIP.

And for your own sake Gail, please examine some of the assumptions you make, and the scenarios you have built on them. If you are preaching to the converted, those who already accept any catastrophic scenario with glee, you will do fine. But be careful if you ever have to approach a critical audience not already bought in. They can be cruel. I think you are a caring person, very smart, and your underpinning examinations are useful and helpful. I just would not want such a nice person to be ridiculed because she sometimes goes, how can I say this politely, a bit overboard on the scenarios. Outsiders will not be as charitable saying it as I just phrased it. I just wish that we could get back to a more "cause and effect" based way of scenario making. If I say the lights will go out, I must say why that would be the case. If I say the end of paper money is nigh, I must say why that is so, and admit that there was debt and money before oil. If I say there will not be enough oil for asphalt, I must show the amount of current oil consumption that goes to production of asphalt, etc.

Otherwise, we are just amusing each other with hysterical rantings.
I know that certain views in this post will not be popular here, but I have suffered that fate before. We simply must avoid going overboard. The issue of oil depletion has gained widespread attention in the press. Credibility is an important but hard won asset. It behooves those who speak and write here to question their own assumptions and really JUDGE their own scenarios. Thank you.



Relax. Breathe.

Gail's video (mostly slides) is about 75 MB if you want to download it for your iPod.

I think it's an approximately correct analysis. Note that airlines are going bankrupt at this date. YMMV. Not sold in stores. etc.


75MB on dial-up will take something like 3 days.

And yes, for lack of fuel for the SUV barges, Western civilization IS going to collapse.

This was covered a short while ago, that we're not going to gracefully reverse course, that natural systems never do - the dinosaurs got bigger, more specialized, the harder things got for them. Then they died out.

Our civilization is not any smarter than a dinosaur, in fact I agree with Totoneila, it's not any smarter than yeast.

That 48 miles to Gail's lecture is travel-able by bicycle, except that you have homocidal fellow Americans in SUV-barges conditions to run over anyone not also in an SUV-barge. It's also do-able by bus, a jitney-cab system, etc except that level of cooperation is Un-American and most forms of cooperation are actually illegal in the US.

Take the doomiest predictions on this site and amp 'em up a bit, and that will be our future. If we're left at the level of the year 1500, we'll be lucky.

Give a date, we'll have a wager.

I'll wager in 20 years the global population and economy is larger than today.

I get something more like 7.5 hours at 28.8kbps. Still not a pleasant thing to do on dialup.

...the dinosaurs got bigger, more specialized, the harder things got for them. Then they died out.

Bullshit. Some dinos evolved very large size, most were medium sized and some were quite small. Some dinos were trophic or niche specialists, others were generalist foragers. There was no trend towards extreme specialization, and generalism evolved as readily from specialism as the converse. Dinosaurian diversity was at a peak in the late Cretaceous; they were thriving until a totally fortuitous bolide impact whacked down their diversity. Evenso, they didn't "die out." Quite a few clades of therapod saurischian survived the impact's aftermath, to radiate over the course of the Cenozoic. Learn some biology before pontificating stupidly on topics you're ignorant of.

"they were thriving until a totally fortuitous bolide impact whacked down their diversity"

bullshit. where do you get this crap ? marvel comics ?

It was in a chat he had with Darwin's -other- dog. He's about 150,000 years old in dog-years, btw.

I repeat:

Learn some biology before pontificating stupidly on topics you're ignorant of.

(Sorry for feeding a troll.)


Hope for the best, plan for the worst. IMO: Unless you know how badly a system can fail you can never prepare for anything in between.

Globally, we've become so dependant on cheap energy that we have forgotten how to exist without it. That's gonna hurt.

Well someones been busy at the keyboard.

I'm not quite sure where you made the leapfrom money=energy to money=oil. See my post further up for my thought son how money and energy are related. FWIW I don't beleive that money = energy it is just the way that humans have devised to allocate stored energy. As oil is the current energy supremo, money is the way we allocate the use of this resource. America is able to suck up more than its fair share, in part becasue of the industrial and knowledge capital that it has accumulated and the fact that it can turn that oil into food (another energy form) and export it back to the world.

As for completely repalcing the entire car fleet if oil prices get high enough, yes it may happen. But there will be some tradeoffs like the destruction of value of the old car fleet which can happen at the strokes of a thousand pens. It may make no sense whatsoever to actually repalce the car fleet and discard the emodied energy that is tied up it, just to build a new car fleet that when taken in its entirety may represent a greater consumption of oil than if th old fleet was just retained but driven less. Many peopl will be shoccked at the trade in value of their old car, do the sums and decide that extra payments on a new car do not outweight the extra cost of gas to keep the old one running. I've just been through this and decided that It made much more sense to buy a two year old petrol driven car than a brand new sexy European diesel at nearly three times the price ut only 15% better fuel economy. I can buy a hell of a lot of petrol for the $40K I saved and I will still get everywhere I have to be so I figure I am way in front by not updating.

Car finance companies cannot possibly keep financing on 0%, $0 down on assets that are losing value and which they will be repossessing at greater levels. At some point, the risk outweighs any possibility of return of the capital and it will stop. Just becasue credit is easy now, doesn't mean it will be in the future. You are a fool to assume that the fantastic bonanza of the last decade is now the permanet state of life as we know it.

Until I becasme aware of Peak Oil, I wa always a little onfused as to how we could just keep growing the economy supposedly forever, which is what the ruling elites have drummed into us as the only acceptable state of being. TOD actually fills in those answers as I now know that energy supply growth is the only thing underpinning economic growth.

As for your tirade at those who prefer to be forewarned of coming change, and your cahrge of those who will exploit the situation: so what! It is human nature to profit from others weaknesses. Always has been, long before oil. Funny that I don;t actually see much hysteria about peak oil but I see plenty of complacency and denial. Remind me again why we should reward stupidity and punish those who prepare? Personally I don't care if you believe peak oil will cause catastrophe or not. I will be prepared though for it and live without regrets. If the catastrophe comes to pass and you come to my house with a begging bowl afterwards I will trade with you some of your energy, expended in my service, for some of my energy, drawn from my foodbowl. Call it serfdom if you want, but don't tell me you weren't warned.

Roger: Have someone set up a web site for yourself. You can post these long, rambling, content poor posts every day-your fans can go to your web site to read them. Unpopular views are appreciated, but using 100 words to state an idea commonly expressed in 5 words is a major irritant.

I found Roger's comments to be interesting. I won't fully agree with all of them, but they are valid points to be pondered on.

I don't think Roger writes often enough to fill a blogsite.

One thing I find interesting about TOD is the diversity of opinion; more ways to look at a problem. True, some people do go beyond the point of civility occasionally in terms of HOW they say things, but their content is still worth hearing.

I don't think you really missed as much as you think. This is a PDF of the presentation that I showed while I read the text. It should be easier to download ( 219KB) than the talk. You will see that most of the slides look pretty much like what is included in the text.

All of this was pretty much a low budget operation. There weren't very many of the participants actually in Cincinnati. I did the recording in my kitchen.

I hope that things turn out better than this talk suggests. I think the part of my forecast that is most likely to be wrong is timing. Things may turn out badly, but over a longer time-period than I indicated. It is fairly clear that things cannot work out very well over the long term, but it is less clear what will happen over the shorter term.

You are right that we have a lot of other stupidity that is feeding into our current problems. The problem is that peak oil, and all kinds of resource depletion, can only make all these problems worse.


I am glad you replied, because I wanted the opportunity to clarify a bit. First, I found your piece very interesting and have read and studied many of the posts and educational talks you have discussed giving. I in no way intended to sound "on the attack". I did use one rhetorical "device" I guess you could call it, in that I somewhat "grouped" several posts on TOD over the last few days into what I was replying to. This created a not exactly accurate portrayal of your post in certain ways, as part of my reply was not aimed at your post per se, but at an overall "Zeitgeist" that has been present recently on TOD. I could not see any other way to cover the "big picture" as was my intent and still retain any measure of brevity (and yes, I know, it may not look like it but I was attempting to be as brief as possible!)

I am not distancing myself from what I wrote in my original reply, but simply wanting to make the case that it was not intended in to be in any way rude or unfair to your post or you.

I would love to have you share some ideas on your view of the future of transportation, which is in fact such a big share of the oil consumption pie. I feel that it is possible that the effort to confront peak oil and rising oil consumption is being watered down by too many conplex issues. Can we consider confronting the transportation consuption as a first priority, and then work outward to the others? If so, what options are viable, and what others are a waste of effort or even destructive, as I feel the ethanol scheme to be?

Either way, I appreaciate your posts and the obvious efforts you put into them, and I agree with you that timing the issues discussed is very difficult. Thank you, Roger Conner Jr.


Focusing on transportation is a good thing, but how are you going to get things done if there's no funding? You're right, this is a complex issue... and will probably become more complex over time. That's why I think Gail's post on economics is also very important.

I still prefer to have access to as many points of view as possible... if I'm not interested I'll skip it and move on.

I think with transportation, as with everything else, funding is going to be a big part of the problem. We are going to have a huge problem maintaining roads. We are not going to be able to afford an electric car for everyone, even if we could make them.

I am having a difficult seeing a good way out. If our electric system were in better shape, I would say electrified rail would make sense, for at least some of the transportation. It is going to be difficult to build very much new.

The biggest part of our effort will have to be taking what we have, and using it better - carpooling, making sure every truck is full on the return trip. Perhaps we can add a few railroad cars, and expand capacity that way. I am sure there are some other low cost things we can do as well.


If we can blame one person for the mess we are in it is Michael J Foxs character in 'Back To The Future"... If he had found a Prius in the drive rather than that awful pickup truck then the world would be a very different place today :o)

Seriously though, I remember seeing a post that stated that the existing grid with limited upgrades could cope with the additional demand of PHEVs as most of that demand would be at night / off current peak (although I would like to see a full analysis). Highly efficient ICE cars with a mix of CTL and GTL, PHEVs and all electrics slowly taking over from as the price signal stops inneficiency. We have already seen the move to "smaller", "lighter", "more efficient" here in Europe, the price signal just hasn't got through to the US yet but it will and probably soon. Where is the analysis that says we do not have time to transition (albeit perhaps painfully) away from gas guzzlers? Worse case people cannot afford to drive them anymore, go on welfare and demand destruction removes 100% of demand.

Anyway, here's hoping for the best.


This is one of those doomsday scenarios that gives the whole peak oil community a bad name, somewhere down with the JFK conspiracy groups. Don't get me wrong, all the forces outlined in the video are at work, and will cause big changes. But the exact sequence of events won't happen because people will react at every stage changing the outcome, for better or worse. This makes the outcome unpredictable, but that's the point: trying to predict what will happen is pointless and, more importantly, it turns people off.

However, we still need to get the general public aware of the stakes we are playing for, without coming off like crackpots. Our politicians have had their heads turned with bad science (nobody else is up there and telling them the truth), and they're supporting dead end initiatives. Dead end policies are the cornerstone of the Bush administration's energy policies, designed to give oil centric energy policy a few more years to operate until we realize out how (deliberately) dumb his intiatives are.

Corn based ethanol comes to mind: we're making farmers rich by taking food our of peoples' mouths and putting it in our SUVs. Thats not energy policy, it's organized crime. Oil companies love it, precisely becasue it won't work. Hydrogen is another Bush boon-doggle (its been around since the 1960s). It will never happen because of the huge infra-strucutre which just duplicates our natural gas system, and that hydrogen happens to be a lousey fuel.

We won't start building something intelligent, until we collectively realize how dumb some of these things really are. The clock is ticking and we're doing essentially nothing.


"Corn based ethanol comes to mind: we're making farmers rich by taking food our of peoples' mouths and putting it in our SUV's."

Ahhh, the Great American Way: Choose the most idiotic of all possible alternatives, and then scream that the world is coming to an end because the most idiotic of all possible alternatives is indeed unsustainable.


But this is how it works; this is how empires always work. Americans WILL starve while they try their utter damnedest to keep the way of life they have going.

Rudyard Kipling's first published writings were stories from his service in India. Famines happened periodically, and the British (who were busy sucking India dry) would try to keep the Indians alive by bringing in rice, or wheat, or some grain the Indians were not used to. The Indians would literally starve rather than eat a strange food. The solution in one famine he wrote about was the Indians feeding the strange grain to goats, then eating the goats.

On Easter Island, the response to the breakdown of their way of life, to population overshoot, was to build bigger stone heads. That, and warfare between different groups on the island.

This is how civilizations work. This is how *people* work. There was a 90% dieoff rate among Pacific Islanders for the same reasons - disease, slavery, etc took out quite a number, but the vast majority simply no longer had the will to live. They killed their kids, killed each other, killed themselves, often just lay down and willed themselves to no longer live, and no longer did.

The American empire is the ugliest one yet. Americans will go to war, burn food, buy even BIGGER trucks, send their own family members to work-camps, so they can continue their one way of life. This is what always happens.

Most of those statements sound entirely implausible.
I very much doubt, for instance, that Indians were stupid enough to starve rather than eat unfamiliar grains.
Have you got any references at all to the many unfounded statements you make here?

BTW, if you think the American 'Empire' is the ugliest one ever, you are seriously ill-informed about other historical empires - try looking up the Roman's relationship to Carthage or Israel, to use a couple of random examples.

Site malfunctioning again .... I'll stand by my position that the Internet is in fact dying and we won't admit it yet.

OK. I'm not accusing the indians of being stupid, not at all. I'm saying, they're human. It's like asking Midwesterners to eat bugs, raw. I don't think Kipling was lying or fabricating, I think what happened was what always does when humans are asked to step outside of their culture, or starve. They always starve.

And I'm sure Rome was ugly, but Rome never had the ability to destroy the whole world. Rome was horrible to areas around it, but was not also creating havoc on other continents. As for Israel, it's not an empire, it's an arm of our empire.

And this is yet more proof of why we'll have our foot on the accelerator all the way to the brick wall we're headed for. Good Americans, even so-so Americans, can't comprehend what we're heading for or how people act, have always acted, and any realistic statements sound flat-out crazy.

BTW, if you think the American 'Empire' is the ugliest one ever, you are seriously ill-informed about other historical empires...

USA was founded on the triple pillars of slavery, genocide, and ecocide. You mention Rome. The Romans were indeed slavemasters. But did the Romans ever attempt the systematic elimination of the indigenous population of an entire continent, employing biological warfare? Who did the Romans ever nuke? Rome may have hastened the desertification of North Africa, the Med Isles, & Iberia, but it took them many centuries to accomplish only limited damage. They didn't have bulldozers, chainsaws, biocidal chemicals... to hasten the process. We do. Your "patriotism" is touching... but get real. The fossil fueled devestation of the Americas is something the Romans could only have stood in awe of.

It seems fairly unlikely that I would feel 'patriotic' about America, since I am not an American

As for the rest of your arguments, they are essentially one of scale.

That is not much consolation if you happen to be one of those brutally slaughtered by the swords of the Romans, for instance in the siege of Carthage, where the order was to kill every living thing down to the dogs in the street.

Or to look at current circumstances, the deaths in Baghdad in no way compares to it's sacking by Halagu Khan, which still echoes down the centuries.

On occasion America has implemented genocidal policies, but in many empires as for instance in the Roman or Aztec, terror was a fixed instrument of state policy throughout the history of that civilisation.

As for the rest of your arguments, they are essentially one of scale.

Yes. Had the Romans (or Aztecs or Mongols) possessed the technology I have no doubt but what they would have killed as many and caused as much environmental devastation as the USAn empire has accomplished. The cannibal ape's rapacious nature is the same regardless of culture or pretense.

I'm sorry to have assumed you were American, if you aren't. I am a native born US citizen and I feel no obligation to defend the monstrosity USA is & always has been since its inception. Sorry if you had some idealized view of USA, to have knocked the empire off the pedestal you seem to have placed it on.

Sorry if you had some idealized view of USA, to have knocked the empire off the pedestal you seem to have placed it on.

You are simply engaging in gross distortion. Stating that the US has been guilty of occasional genocide as I have is hardly placing it on a pedestal in any reasonable estimation.

Since, for instance, the Mongols managed to kill often by barbaric means a high percentage of the population of many of the countries they invaded it really makes little difference if it was with more basic weapons than present technology affords.

You are demonising the USA, who whilst on many occasions acting very badly in no way approach, at least to date, the homicidal behaviour of many historic empires.

The mongols recruited widely. There were only a million of them, far to few to conquer the world. One simple way to recruit peasants to help you besiege a city is just to promise to cut their taxes and rents in half.
Killing the minority of people who lived in the city didn't bother the farmers. That was who they were paying the rent and taxes to in the first place.

The mongols did indeed recruit peasants to drag their siege trains around. Not as partners though, but as disposable haulage engines, when one lot wore out simply replacing them.

Siege warfare did not change greatly through the ages, and Froissart gave a good account of it during the Hundred years war, with the English armies slaughtering all who fell into their hands, and desperate peasants trying to escape into the city, where they barred the gates as they could not feed any more, and the English cut them down to the last baby at the very foot of the walls.

Nearer our own time you could see the way the Ukrainian peasants were treated by both sides on the 2nd World War, often having to flee to the forest and try to subsist.

The initial invasion force of the German Army was only around 4 million men, a fraction of the Russian peasantry.
Just as in the Mongol army, it was speed, mobility, organisation and firepower which counted.

Hi Gail,

As always good stuff and interesting. I am not an American and do not trust American geo-politics. They seem to be doing what all failed Empires seem to do, to speed up their failure. So be it.

If we crunched some numbers here on domestic transportation?

Chinese Mag-Lev systems seem to be viable?? If we phased out and converted every internal Air craft and its infrastructure into a country Grid of mag-lev systems, connected then to nuclear Power stations, could we replace our present Airline-insanity with a sustainable and cost effective system?.

Speeds would be acceptable, comfort ten times better, safety probably five times better. Oil-economy profoundly better. All in all a plus for mental health.

This caused me to muse upon the subject of economics, technology, and culture in our modern age.

ThatsItImout posted.

Sumerians exchanged people (labor, services: marriage, servants, etc.), land, livestock, goods. They had an accounting system, a clever one, first material (tokens, exchanged hand to hand, but also filed and stored), then written (representing the tokens allowed more complex accounting and removed the need to exchange physical objects) that allowed them to keep track of exchanges, debts, promises (e.g. gradual payment of dowry), rents, and so on. Their mathematical, numerical capacities - abstract, that is in the head and in the language, were high, better than their representative, symbolic tools (imho ...)

They had an administrative/ruler class, paid, by taxation, to take care of all this, to set up laws, standards, smooth economic relations. Educators / doctors and so on were paid by users, not by the ‘state’.

The early currency (‘a standard’) used was an X of grain, barley. This proved unsatisfactory (impermanence, fluctuating exchange, etc. - so not a real standard) and in the later period silver equivalents were set up: silver could function as a yardstick; it could be amassed and stored; and while it had little real use, it became a sign of richness and domination.. (See bags by Vuitton.) In this way, they converted the evanescent (24 sheep! a wife! bolts of cloth, beer...) to...dollars in the bank. (Oops, not dollars, but anyway.) They invented usury, or interest - only possible when value is stored, so that went hand in hand.

The Sumerians had no concept of sustainability. They took from the environment what it provided and were primarily concerned with proper, fair, exchange (rules for debt relief, price of this or that, priests salaries, etc. ) or some would say, social struggle between ‘classes.’ The environment was a backdrop, the scene on which all was set, and it afforded only, from time to time, nasty suprises (drought, a Katrina..), deviations from the norm, for the rest, it was just ‘there’. They used only sunlight, water, agriculture, animal husbandry, territorial manipulations - irrigation, de-weeding, etc., so in daily life, for the energy punch, biomass and animal fats, animals and humans, which were managed through ‘best practices’ of the times.

What has changed? With the exploitation of oil, the combustion engine, and the understanding and use of electricity, nuclear power stations, the environment is still a backdrop, more or less, though that is changing slowly.

- on sumerian money, from first google pg., but looked ok, and brief:


Not a bad rundown of the history of money. It makes me wonder what the really idea currency would be in the world of the future. What would PV solar panels be worth, in portable format, per square foot in an oil and gas limited world?

o.k., so it may not make juice except when the sun shines, but on the other hand it might be the only way you would ever recharge your MP3 player that has all your songs trapped on it....would you trade a little grain or veggies just to get to your favorite few Cowboy Junkies songs just one more time? :-)


ha ha :) . Yes.

It really looks like a double accounting system has to come into being, tallying,

1) relations between Humans and Nature

2) relations between Man (and woman) and Man

In fact we already have the beginnings of it in a way (tax on SUVs, carbon credits, pollution fines, redistribution to Nature Parks, etc.), not explicitly stated. But it won’t happen (imho.) The understanding, the will, the acceptance of the limits that would have to be imposed are not present. The complexity of a crackpot and devilish system also seem hard to take on board.