So - do we have answers?

“Alright!” says the Actress, “You’ve convinced me we have a problem with oil. So what’s the answer?” Well, actually I didn’t. Eloquent and persuasive though I might like to think that I am, what really convinced her was the price she had to pay to fill the gas tank in her car. And it is that way with most of the world. We can talk about the causes, and explain why the situation won’t get better, with graphs and projections and calculations, and most folk will, under the cynical guidance of most of the press, merely look for someone to blame. Oh, and there had better be an answer, pretty quick.

In my last post I tried to show that new solutions take time, more time than I believe that we have available. And because of this, if we are going to get through this evolving period we are largely going to be stuck with the solutions that are already either being introduced or are close to large-scale implementation. Though that is one of the things I tried to allude to in the earlier post about Camry mileage. The scale of the difference between likely supply and demand at a decent price is going to get quite large. If a solution does not provide supply levels that measure in millions of barrels a day (or significant fractions thereof) then it is not going to have enough impact to make much difference in the medium term.

That doesn’t mean that we should stop work on fusion, after all, even to the next generation to be born, it is likely to be “a potential solution with the greatest promise.” But rather that we have to put more of an emphasis on finding ways to do more with what we have, in the way of solutions and resources. And that includes finding better and more efficient ways of getting oil out of the ground. It is where part of the immediate problem is most evident, and though it will not provide a long term solution, it can perhaps ease the pain over the next decade.

But even here there is likely not enough research being done on innovative ideas. I have, in a much earlier post quoted Michael Economides and Ronald Oligney from The Color of Oil in which they point out that the petroleum industry has been sadly lacking in funding research.

Many unique features distinguish the technology of the petroleum industry. First, there is little doubt that technology is crucial, and that deployment and integration of technology is essential to the industry's success. Yet, this technology is highly diversified and applied to industry segments with different needs. The scope is wide. Seismic exploration and processing, enhanced oil recovery and the construction of deepwater production facilities have little in common.

Why is it, then that the petroleum industry, so technically dependent, is the industry with the smallest R & D spending? The healthcare sector leads all industries, with 11% of sales going into R&D; the electrical and electronics industry spends 5.5%, and the chemical industry spends 4.1%. In this light, the petroleum industry's R & D spending of less than 0.5% of sales is striking.

It is not just the petroleum industry, the mining industry is equally lacking in funding research into innovative, and more effective ways of producing the minerals, including coal, that we need. If there is one thing that Congress could perhaps ask, it is why there is this lack of investment. So far it seems that there has been little investment other than in public relations.
Now, to be fair to them, I did partially answer that question in a comment I appended to that original post.

Grin - a history lesson (because I was there) - Scene Park City, Utah.
On the front row, representatives of all the big oil companies. We are meeting to talk about drilling research. Says the rep of a European oil company – “Why are the Feds doing research into drilling technology - don't they know that we are working on this?”
Says the rep of an oil company located in Houston – “What is your drilling R & D budget?”
European "$x million."

Houston guy " This new Administration that they are forming has a budget in the billions."

European "Oh, I guess if they are going to fund it there is no reason for us to."

And so they largely stopped, but ERDA went on to fund other things instead of drilling research and, in time, became the Department of Energy.
Sic transit . . .

And then, in time, the Department of Energy reduced their programs, more and more, and less and less got done . . . .
And, as for the research in mining, well that was carried out by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Among other things they pioneered coal bed methane (CBM) technology – this from 1978

The Bureau of Mines is conducting research to determine the effectiveness of long holes in degasifying an area of the Upper Split of the Lower Sunnyside coalbed at Kaiser Steel Co.'s Sunnyside No. 1 mine. These holes were drilled from the two outside entries of a section that was closed to mining because of excessive methane emissions. Two holes drilled to 430 and 450 feet produced initial gas flows of 160,000 and 127,000 cfd, respectively . Sixteen days after the completion of the second hole, the total gas production declined to just over 144,000 cfd.

In 9 months of degasification, over 35 MMcf of commercial-quality gas has been removed from the coalbed. The combined gas flows declined to 106,000 cfd in the 9-month period. The two holes have reduced face emissions by about 40%.

They also did some of the early work on horizontal wells, developed from a vertical bore, but those reports (such as USBM RI 8640) don’t appear available electronically. What happened to them? In March 1996 the Bureau of Mines was closed. It seems as though there is more than one dropped ball rolling around the floor.

As I mentioned in my last post I am an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, as well as books on energy and related matters – sometimes it is hard to tell which is which (grin). But I remember a story (though not title or author) in which the protagonist noted, about a new breakthrough, that of the scientists that investigated it, at least half would be trying to prove that it didn’t work.

I bring that up because, as ideas develop towards being solutions to the fuel supply needs that we face, they invariably encounter problems. Ethanol from corn is likely one such, there are high energy input requirements and water demands that are raising voices of concern. But among the 2007 highest yields (pdf) was Sam Santini, who raised 313 bu/acre without irrigation. Some of the problems that are given as road-stoppers to application may only be hurdles that have to be crossed, and in such cases an overly negative climate really doesn’t help.

At the moment it still seems to me that each of us has his/her favorite solution, and in seeking to push its charms, feels it is still necessary to denigrate the chances of the others. (And yes, in that regard I will admit to a personal preference for algae). The reality is that we are going to need all the help that we can get, and no solution is going to be universal – there is no silver bullet. It is hard to see solar being very useful, for example, in Alaska in December. But, as I think Matt Simmons said, there are lots of silver bb’s out there. We need to be encouraging them all, because we will need them all. The scale of the problem that is developing, and the speed with which it will arrive, is largely not comprehended. And, unfortunately, at present, I don’t see that we have enough grasp on the questions that must be asked, if we are to find those answers, let alone knowing what those answers are.

But among the 2007 highest yields (pdf) was Sam Santini, who raised 313 bu/acre without irrigation. Some of the problems that are given as road-stoppers to application may only be hurdles that have to be crossed, and in such cases an overly negative climate really doesn’t help.

But neither does the tendency to extrapolate those kinds of results to project that this is a solution. I am not suggesting that you are doing it, but it is very common for people to take a number like that, and just start making assumptions that this can be achieved under normal circumstances. Maybe, maybe not. But when the maybes start affecting policy decisions, that needs to be dealt with by applying a bit of scientific skepticism. This sort of extrapolation is exactly the kind of thinking that leads some to ask - rather naively - "If Brazil can do it, why can't we?"

Of course not all farms are going to reach that level immediately, but on the other hand average corn yield in the past 20 years has almost doubled (86.6 to 151.1) so with high numbers now being reached it is not a total fantasy to anticipate that this progress may be maintained. Further the record total yield was in a reduced till category -so the basic assumptions on the amount of energy necessary to generate the crop may not be valid either (on the other hand they probably spent more time in the field monitoring and tweaking to get the record - so we probably shouldn't stress that point too much).

I spend a fair bit of my time on applying new technologies to fields and improving performance, which requires understanding why very good results are generated and then working out how to apply them more generally. It also causes me to meet a lot of folk who would rather spend their time telling me why my ideas won't work. When there is evidence to the contrary, this can be very frustrating.

First, let me say that I Don't believe "Corn" ethanol is the "be-all, end-all." I think it's, basically, a transitional technology that has gotten us moving on the right track.

That said: Remember, that vast area of Brazil, the Cerrano, that's as large as Alaska (but with a much better climate:) was considered "Not Suitable" for agriculture just a few years, ago. Then the Monsantos, and Duponts of the world went to work. Now, it's projected to be the "Breadbasket of the World." Don't bet against the gene-splicers.

In THIS POST I showed that the "Optimum Blend" for a Toyota Camry might very well be E30 (Thirty percent ethanol.) Other vehicles seem to do better on other blends. EX. the Chevrolet Impala likes E20 quite a lot (15% better mileage than Straight Gasoline.)

The trend is definitely "better" mileage than before with ethanol blends. It's Not "THE" answer; but, it doesn't seem like it should be overlooked, either. Jes Sayin :)

Here's are two problems with our (ever-growing) reliance on bleeding-edge technology to solve all our problems:

1) It ignores the root cause of the food/oil "shortage" (overpopulation), and..

2) It ignores the long-term environmental impact of new technology and how it frequently creates brand-new problems (unintended consequences).

Why must we always assume the world human population *has* to keep expanding, consuming ever more of the world's biomass and resources, and destroying more ecosystems and species?

Why must world leaders keep ignoring the overpopulation issue and deferring to corporate globalists and religious leaders/fanatics, who desire infinite population & economic growth?

Why is genetic engineering typically portrayed in the media as this wondrous, miracle, manna-from-heaven "solution" to all our problems, when in reality, it often creates as many problems as it "solves"? Google "Monsanto" and "Terminator seeds" for more info. Nothing like playing God on a global scale with the world's gene pool --and regulators nowhere in sight.

With all due respect I disagree with both points. The increasing population is a fact of life, and while it bothers me considerably, since I recognize the problems that it creates, not being willing to deal with them is to become an advocate for the Four Horsemen.

In regard to the suggested luddite approach to new technology, I have also had to deal with this from time to time as I have helped technology move into the marketplace. If you are not willing to accept that technical advances have brought benefits to society over the past hundred years then the conversation becomes pointless.

With all due respect I disagree with both points. The increasing population is a fact of life, and while it bothers me considerably, since I recognize the problems that it creates, not being willing to deal with them is to become an advocate for the Four Horsemen.

In regard to the suggested luddite approach to new technology, I have also had to deal with this from time to time as I have helped technology move into the marketplace. If you are not willing to accept that technical advances have brought benefits to society over the past hundred years then the conversation becomes pointless.

The increasing population is a fact of life? Well, then, I guess dieoff is too. Can't really have it both ways, be ye yeast or beast.

Advocating longterm goals instead of short-term anthropocentric selfishness is hardly an endorsement of the apocalypse. I wish an apocalypse (overshoot/dieoff) had been avoided. My wishes were not consulted.

Your strawman characterization of this as a "luddite approach" is not particularly relevant, and seems verging on ad hominem, though I won't presume to speak for the poster you replied to. But since I share the poster's opinions, I'll note that I spent a fair amount of time and effort last year trying to get independent funding for Dr. Bussard's fusion research in communication with him and am a pretty high-tech person. That notwithstanding, the main problem is Too Many Humans At Once. If you don't accept the reality that this unhealthy overshoot is intimately connected with the headlong extraction of energy and mined materials, IMO that constitutes a blind spot in your arguments, and a willful disregard of long-term consequences.

Thanks for your work at TOD, it's a great site.

An extremely well expressed comment.

I have a strong scientific and engineering background, and I have no desire to roll back all of the advances of the industrial revolution. Nevetheless I have been accused of being a Luddite, a communist, a hippe moron, and tree-hugger who desires to kill off two thirds of the human race simply because I have espoused the idea that economic simplification is the proper response to resource depletion. I continue to be amazed by the ferocity of the resistance to this extremely simple idea.


(sorry, you forgot one. :) )

Derrick Jensen makes the point people will defend to the death the systems that bring them food and water. If your food comes from the forest and your water comes from the river, you'll do whatever it takes to protect it. However, if your food comes from the supermarket and your water comes in a plastic bottle...

Your idea is correct. I have a degree in physics and worked for a Nobel Prize winning experiment.

High price of technology has nothing to do with social good. Rather, it is a liability.


Again I think you are misinterpreting what I wrote. I said that we have to recognize that the population is increasing. With that as an underlying existing reality if you are not prepared to address the problems that this brings, then yes you are merely advocating the apocalypse.

Certainly population growth is a problem, but it is not one that can be resolved, I suspect, in the next two decades. Thus we have to find ways of resolving issues of food, fuel and shelter as the populace grows.

The comment about being a luddite, came from the statement that "It ignores the long-term environmental impact of new technology and how it frequently creates brand-new problems (unintended consequences)." I find that a bit presumptuous and insulting to the large number of scientists who are trying to find answers to these problems. Environmental impact is one of the factors that are discussed as technology moves forward, and while it is not always possible to cover all the problems that a new technology might bring, it is not a sustainable argument for stopping technical advances.

First off, special thanks to greenish & Roger K for offering an eloquent defense and added context for the ideas I was trying to convey.

RE; the "Luddite" charge, anyone who has followed my posts here or elsewhere knows I am no science-hating Luddite. Nor did I say I wanted "all technological advances stopped". That is a complete fabrication and strawman argument. Far from it, I am a champion of science, and am what the devoutly religious would probably describe as a "secular humanist". I believe (contrary to some regulars here) that nuclear power --along with renewables (solar, wind, wave, geothermal, etc.) can, and probably will, be ramped up to offset most of the decline in FFs... eventually. However, there will be very real costs and unintended consequences of that scale of ramp-up. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Heading Out, you seem to be conflating "technological progress" with "population increases", as though one cannot advance without the other. You also seem to subscribe to the common misperception that technology is the ONLY solution to the problems being caused by overpopulation: soaring food/NRG costs, environmental destruction, and resource depletion. I fundamentally disagree with this view.

I believe we can actually have *more*, not less, technological progress with fewer people than more. In fact, the pace of technological progress can actually *increase* when we are not desperately devoting most of our resources and R&D in a vain attempt to keep up with ever-increasing population growth. Take a look at the most technologically adavnced nations on earth right now. How many of them have a sharply rising population growth rate? No/flat population growth? Falling population growth? Now look at the population growth rates for the *least* advanced nations? See a pattern here?

I am strongly in favor of a higher QUALITY of life, not QUANTITY.

Ironically, better Quality of Life seems to lead automatically to a controlled "Quantity".
Birth-rates in some developed nations are already below replacement.

In India, the higher-tech areas of the country (delivering a middle-class lifestyle to millions of young global call centre operators and software engineers...) are also the ones with the lowest birthrates. In fact, there has been a spectacular improvement in Indian birth-rates within one generation.
- A telling map is on

My solution: a relatively small "social security" payment by the rich nations of the world into the pockets of the global poor should help to stop population growth in its tracks. It makes a lot more sense to me than much higher defence budgets in the future if we just let things go...

This is an economic solution to overpopulation which only requires clear thinking and political will to start it up.

Right on for quality,not quantity!

Unfortunately,very few people in leadership positions are prepared to even discuss population and immigration issues.This subject appears to have taboo status.

May be something to do with political correctness and not wishing to appear to be racist?

Certainly population growth is a problem, but it is not one that can be resolved, I suspect, in the next two decades. Thus we have to find ways of resolving issues of food, fuel and shelter as the populace grows.

Heading Out, I agree with you here. At this late stage in the game, population growth will not be curtailed in many parts of the world. At least not via the cultural carrot.

Environmental impact is one of the factors that are discussed as technology moves forward, and while it is not always possible to cover all the problems that a new technology might bring, it is not a sustainable argument for stopping technical advances.

A real conundrum. Take efforts to ramp up nuclear, for example. Because of long-term security issues (e.g., terrorism) in a post-peak world, I've long been ambivalent towards nuclear: should a Mad-Max scenario come to pass, the planet could be damaged for a long, long time.

However, in the absence of nuclear, the shortfall in power/electricity would only be that much worse. This shortfall probably increases the odds of major nuclear war considerably. And a large-scale nuclear war would also wreak havoc on the biota and biosphere for a very long time.

I'm curious, what do others think about these tradeoffs?

Matthew, I have a very clear opinion about nuclear and security. Non-sequitur - period!

The notion of national security is a fairy tale. The threats have always been more internal than external. What good is the idea of national security when your cities are burning?

Safekeeping fissionable material has as much value as padlocks on doors. If someone really wants to get it, they will. This is the argument of the complete non-nuke proponents. Unfortunately, it is true. I am not in one camp or the other, but that doesn't mean I can't acknowledge their truth.

If 'Murika wants to move ahead, it has to put the boogie men to rest and deal with the uncommon common sense.

The notion of national security is a fairy tale. The threats have always been more internal than external. What good is the idea of national security when your cities are burning?


What in the world are you talking about? There was absolutely no mention of national security in my post. I said long-term security: In the medium- to longer-term, millions of people (particularly Americans, who have so far to fall) are going to experience a plummeting standard of living. Prime breeding grounds for all sorts of nasties, such as religious fundamentalism and other forms of ideological extremism. These people will pose the greatest threat to infrastructure in their immediate environments.

Next time, try to read the post before responding to what seems to be a very emotional topic for you ;)

I've long been ambivalent towards nuclear: should a Mad-Max scenario come to pass, the planet could be damaged for a long, long time.

First, the mad max future apocalypse fantasies are nothing more than the wet dreams of neoprimative misanthropes. Theres not the slightest possibility of such a future actually happening.

Second the fear is unfounded and wrong. Spewing radioactive waste all over the countryside as rapidly as possible does nothing to the environment, only to real estate values. See the Chernobyl exclusion zone. If you intentionally devoted significant resources to spewing radwaste everywhere, wildlife wouldn't care. Things like hydroelectric dams and coal mines have much bigger impact.

HO, you've been taking a bit of a beating for stating your point of view (notice how I avoided the use of the word opinion). And, we are all entitled; furthermore, that is part of the scientific process to defend one's position against criticism. A last man standing survival of the fittest Darwinian approach to scientific consensus as it were.

However, I see one glaring omission in the general scientific presumption, and that is thermodynamics. I postulate the aggregate of the peak phenomena is in fact "peak entropy". Peak Entropy is a function of human activity combined with technology. We may have hit our limit for the time being.

That being said, I do agree with your pragmatic approach to using what we know now to solve our immediate issues. We hear a few analogies about the end of the stone age, or the transition from whale oil to petroleum. The difference between then and now was all these alternative energy dense resources existed but lacked knowledge of exploitation. So tell me cornucopians, what is ready and waiting and bubbling out of the ground now?

There is a revolutionary break through waiting to take us into the next era of the peak entropy cycle, however, it doesn't necessarily derive from the lab. (And no, it has nothing to do with bare little bottoms ascending to heaven). Nor does it mean that the path into our evolution will be without pain and loss. There are no guarantees in this universe, and even entire galaxies can be consumed.

In closing, I caution about the "techno-genie" and he may not be able to deliver all three wishes. We may only get one. As a species to date we have done some remarkable things - and some deplorable. However, we should not misconstrue our role in the universe as it stands now. Can the species continue with the entropy rate we are currently in? I highly doubt it.

It doesn't matter if the issue is dressed up in environmental concerns or energy crisis, the problem is still the same. We have met the natural energy transformation rate for the ecosystem for which we depend and that's it folks. That's all she wrote.

An interesting view, though, as you may have noticed, it is one that I disagree with.

It doesn't matter if the issue is dressed up in environmental concerns or energy crisis, the problem is still the same. We have met the natural energy transformation rate for the ecosystem for which we depend and that's it folks. That's all she wrote.

The only real answer to that is maybe, maybe not. Off the top of my head, supposing solar power can be reduced to $0.30cents/kw installed, which is not impossible. We would seem then to have enormously more room to play with, and your comparison would no longer be valid.
It's the sort of thing we can only really know after the event.
The assumption that you choose to make doesn't really seem to get us anywhere, and we would be fools if we missed something we could have done because we had assumed nothing could be done.

We aren't even beginning to try to cut population growth. Pregnancies are starting every day. We could distribute birth control, fund education campaigns, even offer to pay women to get tubes tied after they've had 2, 3, 4 kids.

With regard to population growth, I suggest that you take a look at the work of Hans Rosling . In this brilliant presentation he reveals some real surprises.

Are you ready for soilent green, because you know I am yea-YEA!

I think you are right that yields will increase. I think rice is probably the only crop that is experiencing maximum yield and that is only in some places so far.

The yield per acre should continue to rise but it is not clear that world production will rise ever higher. Both depletion of fossil water and the loss of ice and snow at high elevations may reduce the amount of land that can be cultivated.

So, the breakthroughs that may be needed could have more to do with reestablishing the climate that we and our ecosystem are adapted to rather than the incremental improvement in yield that we may expect as a result of improved farming methods.

In some ways the title of you post needs to go back again I think: "Do we have questions?" If we are concentrating on the wrong problem, oil rather than climate, then the answers we get to end up lacking relevance.


Aw come on Robert, HeadingOut provided the entire years yield information for the whole industry association. Even the most basic of thinkers would realise that some averaging and ranging is required, tempered with weather cyclic fluctuations (who hasn't heard of El Nino these days). This is the best piece of detailed information that I have seen put up to qualify an argument in some time. And the Brazil comment, I've gone to some trouble over a number of years to highlight what is possible with a given amount of land and to point out that what they do they do with just 2% of their farm land. But that is Brazil. What is the strength of each individual country. And for the record iceland has methyl hydrate as its strength.

HeadingOut,s comment is right on the money. It is the sum of solutions that will give us a future, not anyone individual technology. Complicating the picture is the future environment, which almost certainly will rearrange solutions and locations, if not eliminate whole possibilities altogether. We do not know from this vantage point what will be workable in 30 years time.

Personally I am with him in his preference. Algae created all of the oil in the first place. I think that they are the front runners to survive global warming as a storage energy source in the future.

Even the most basic of thinkers would realise that some averaging and ranging is required, tempered with weather cyclic fluctuations (who hasn't heard of El Nino these days).

Are you serious? Have you not seen some of the recent comments on the board, where a best result is extrapolated across an industry? I see that sort of cherry-picking happen all the time, and that's what my comment was directed at. As I said, I didn't say HO was doing it, but I think he would agree that there is a tendency from some to do it - and it can distort policy decisions when it is done by people in positions of authority (like Vinod Khosla).

While I think R&D into mining and resource extraction will naturally rise in the near term (I've seen some robotic mining R&D posts around) I think we are past the point that this will do anything other than moderate the decline rate. Spending on this will happen naturally.

At the same time, I'll bet more money comes available for R&D on alternatives, both from governments and vulture capitalists. An embarrassment of riches, given the way such a vital area has been treated to date.

However its a scale time issue and from my perspective there are only a few things that are capable of scaling fast enough to prevent a feedback disaster scenario.

1) NOT doing certain things. This can scale extremely fast and I'd expect to see the return of updated versions of this poster.

Cutting many business trips, commuting and other usages will provide breathing space. The trick is not to lose focus.

2) Tool based approaches, providing the infrastructure and smarts to utilise multiple new energy sources is the best approach today. For instance its a fair bet that distributed production will come to the fore, so a grid that can cope and grid tie inverters that cost sensible amounts are worth the investment today. Smart meters and smart pricing is also something that can be done today, as is smart journey sharing.

3) Worldview mods. People still tut at high prices and expect a no shortage. That's mentality needs to change if wider scale changes are to happen. We need a spot of memetic engineering to spread the idea quickly, like a virus.

Re #1: I'm surprised at the number of people I run into lately who *already* are scaling back on traveling. Just last night at our sons' year end track party, a friend whose family is in so. CA said he just doesn't think they'll drive this year due to cost (he quoted figures), and flying is out too. The meme may be spreading much faster than we think.

Hey garyp, how do you get pictures into post? I didn't see where I could do that on the formating options?

By using the IMG tag in HTML.

That should get you moving in the right direction.

Below the comment box is a "File attachments" line. If you click on that it allows you to upload an image, and gives a source ID for it. To insert the picture you then use the line (img src="sourceID") (but replacing the () with the arrow symbols) and it should appear. To avoid overriding the boundaries of many folks screens I suggest you use an image that is smaller than 6 inches across.

I'm guessing only special users like yourself get the file attachments options. Us mortals have to host the file elsewhere. One of the easiest is to use imageshack as you don't have to register.

Visit and upload your pic. Then use the direct
URL as the image source.


<img src="URL">

This will display the image at the URL rather than the above line.

I'm guessing only special users like yourself get the file attachments options.


Anyplace where one can 'host' the image is 'good 'nuf'.

Be it on your own server at a MAE (from the part of the IPv4 swamp), or some free-bee place, or associated to your login/account at your ISP.

'Tis nothing more than undersanding "Web .1" - basic HTML.

If your solutions to the near-to-mid-term energy problem consist of ethanol and improved extraction, then I don't think you're too far from a Luddite yourself. Given, I agree that these two sources you mention are part of the solution, but if they are the only solutions then we are in serious trouble.

A list of potential mitigations/solutions:

1. Increase CAFE standards on all new automobiles on a year-on-year basis. Make the increases aggressive and scaled.
2. TAX sales of inefficient vehicles based on mileage -- SUVs etc.
3. Provide TAX breaks on sales of efficient vehicles based on mileage -- small cars, hybrids, motorcycles, scooters, etc.
4. Provide legislative means for registering electric golf carts for roads in small communities/localities.
5. Provide tax incentives for community biking inititives -- bike paths to work etc.
6. Provide a tax subsidy that pays corporate employees an extra $2,000 per year to walk, bike, or take public transport to work.
7. Provide a similar subsidy for employees whose vehicles average 40+ mpg. Raise the mpg rate year on year.
8. Create incentives for expanding, improving, and constructing new public transportation (buses, light rail, etc.)

1. Provide increased legislative support for wind, solar, and nuclear energy. These are energy resources we can use to improve our energy posture TODAY. Fusion is hardly even a potential. It's useless in much the same way that fuel cells were useless in 2000.
2. Stop construction of gas and coal powerplants.
3. Replace gas and coal with wind, solar and nuclear.
4. Develop the smart grid.
5. Develop energy storage.
6. Provide cost sharing/tax incentives for installing home PV arrays. California's million rooftops program is a good model for national adoption.

1. Provide a comprehensive plan for transitioning national ICE production to V2G production. Put in place a 5, 10, 15 and 20 year roadmap. Add imputs from new non-fossil fuel energy sources.
2. Stop EPA meddling in state programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve efficiency. Provide incentives for state innovations development of transformative technology.
3. Continue biofuels development with an eye to protecting food resources and non-competition with crops. Cap corn consumption for ethanol at 20 percent total national supply with a look toward stabilizing at 10 percent as new biofuels come onstream.

1. Incentives for developing new extraction technology.
2. Keep wells producing as long as possible.
3. Look to incentivize transition of oil, coal and gas away from fuel source to material resource (oil is too precious to burn).

Funding of 80 to 150 billion per year until the crisis is over.

Just the act of putting these kinds of programs in place would provide a raft of mitigation that would expand over time into solutions. We are in for pain, certainly. But ethanol and new well tech, alone, aren't going to get us out of this. More likely, relying on those two solutions alone would result in a few people becoming rather wealthy while the rest of us grow even more poor. Terrible Peak Oil mitigation model and immoral to boot. Furthermore, I think it would be easier and more cost effective to transition away from oil as a transportation fuel than to sink loads of money into previous failed enterprises like oil shales.

We have solutions available now. None are ideal. But together, they can help us move away from oil and create a more sustainable future.

Hmm! I must be writing more than usually obscurely today. No, I did not say that ethanol and improved extraction were the only solutions. But at the same time there needs to be a degree of reality in the discussion. The transition from ICE is likely to take at least 20 years (check with Iceland). We don't have that time available (just read Euan's excellent post below). And, sadly, this is not an academic exercise.

The transition from ICE is likely to take at least 20 years

In twenty years (1897-1916) the USA built subways in it's largest cities, Streetcars in 500 cities and towns and a wide electrified inter-urban system. The break-even for towns with and without streetcars appears to have been 25,000 to 30,000 (my judgment from the data),

We did this with less than 3% of today's GDP (adjusted for inflation) at the beginning and slightly more than 4% at the end. The % rural population decreased steadily during those two decades, but we were still largely rural/very small towns at WW I.

Technology was, well, pre-WW I, late 19th and VERY early 20th Century tech. 90+ years ago.

There was a positive to be gained by this building boom, not a disaster to flee.

Do you not think we could do MORE today, faster, if we focused on it as a solution (at least in large part) to a looming disaster ?

Best Hopes,


Reality? The sad reality is that you've hit the age of diminishing returns when it comes to oil extraction. So how is throwing more money down the well going to help us as a primary means of dealing with depletion now? Furthermore, any new extraction technology will be on a long development timeframe beside other new tech in the pipeline. So how does extraction tech with a five - ten year window help us now? And how is that realistic? In any case, we must call a spade a spade and offer this post up as malinformation at best and disinformation at worst.

Also, from a logical standpoint, your cause finds solution in the problem itself -- over dependence on oil. So we are using circular logic. And this is counter-productive in the face of crisis.

With that crisis being caused by inevitable and inexorable oil depletion how is it in any way realistic investing more money in oil as a primary means of mitigation? Furthermore, with oil companies flush with cash windfalls, I am certain they have every means and incentive to develop the resource as much as possible. Reinvesting in stocks and then coming hat in hand to the government is duplicitous to say the least.

More oil dependence won't get us out of this crisis. It is dirty (negatively impacts the environment), dangerous (political powderkeg), and depleting (puts the world economy under dire threat).

That is reality.

As for transitioning to the ICE... I agree it will take at least 20 years. But we can fight the decline by increasing efficiency in new vehicles. Adding as many EVs and PHEVs to the fleet as we possibly can year on year -- and that helps fight the depletion curve. Providing rail infrastructure for people who fall through the cracks. And building the power sources that will be needed to transition away from the ICE.

The other side of the reality is if we don't start the transition now, it may never happen at all. So where will we be in 20 years with an enhanced extraction technology that may have netted us about 5 - 10 million barrels per day more oil while gross decline and export reduction has put us at around 60 million barrels per day production with about 5-10 mbpd world exports? Will we be more or less able to manage the transition at that point possessing less energy with which to deal with the problem?

Yes, this is no academic exercise. It is now an exercise in harsh reality. We can poison and deplete ourselves to death with more oil/ff dependence. Or we can aggressively diversify and transition our energy base giving ourselves a shot at a way through this crisis to a more modern and survivable civilization.

Hi Robert,

Good to see the ideas coming but there are some problems;
"2. TAX sales of inefficient vehicles based on mileage -- SUVs etc." We need to BAN sales of the most inefficient vehicles based on mileage or CO2 emission per km and tax the next band down, the next year ban sales of the top band and increase tax of the next band down rinse and repeat. The message has to be clear it is not optional just because you are can afford it. Agree with a stated plan to ban and increase cost of ICE cars.

"6. Provide a tax subsidy that pays corporate employees an extra $2,000 per year to walk, bike, or take public transport to work." Unfortunately there would be too many cheats, very difficult to check everybody, you could claim you work from home x days a week...

"7. Provide a similar subsidy..." same as above e.g. i have an electric car but drive my hummer...

IMHO subsidies are generally a bad thing since they are very hard for politicians to cut later on, see farming... better to increase taxes on oil and ICE cars and ring fence the money to be returned in the form of an earnings/tax credit that can be sold this will provide a double incentive to get off gas guzzling cars.


I was throwing out a number of ideas/potential solutions as, usually, there's very little talk about solutions.

Agreed, there may well be cheating under subsidies -- in much the same ways businesses game them today, except on the individual level. But there should be some way to incentivise driving more efficently/walking/biking/taking the train or bus.

The point I disagree with is the ban. We should milk the idiots who want to drive the damn things dry. Extra sales tax, extra registration fees, a toll lane for SUVs only, etc. Then use the revenue to pay for alternatives.

My favourite :

Which I never tire of showing my German wife :)

The irony is that it is likely Adolf would be far more impressed with the strides the USA has made politically, rather than Germany.

his assessment would be not enough wagner in the nude is my guess


I'm not as cultured as you are-what does that mean?

one of his visions of the future was going to state run opera and the performers are naked.


we have been over and over this point a zillion times.

no matter what technical problems/solutions lie ahead nothing will get done without conservation being a stopgap.
It is the primary political and psychological problem we need to address.

the "solution" involves this first step or problem

How do you get everybody to reduce consumption by a significant degree.




our agenda needs to focus on this problem


Wrong, it's population, population, population! ;) 70 Million net resource-hungry bellies per year added to world population - nothing will reverse the disintegration of the web of life we are causing, except steadily decreasing population which leads to a steadily decreasing ecological footprint stomping on the biosphere's throat. If people can't do it themselves, physics will do it via dieoff. Albert Bartlett was right when he said the greatest failure of humanity is the inability to understand the exponential function.

I agree with mididoctors. Conservation must happen anyway. If that requires population decrease - and IMO it must - then so be it. Conservation is about using less of something, not just less per capita.

And just how do you propose to bring this population decrease about?

I think population reduction will happen much later than stopgap conservation, and even much later than a number of efficiency improvements. Chances are we will get to quite a small fraction of our current oil consumption before we start having net population decrease, because deaths will have to rise by a couple hundred thousand per day to blunt our current rate of increase.

That's hardly a program for action, is it?
And hence the reason that population is not much addressed here.
In practical terms there is little to be done about it save to cope as best we can.

That's hardly a program for action, is it?

Come now - a 'program' for action implys planning. The population reduction is happening right now in fits and starts in 'the 3rd world'. People without land or land + the ability/willingness to keep 'goverment off their backs' look to be crushed in the up-coming reduction of 'the surplus population'.

The upcoming changes strike me as 'messy'. Pray to whatever/whomever that you are just an observer.

And just how do you propose to bring this population decrease about?

It's not my call. And I hope Mother Nature doesn't intervene to remind us that we're still animals, and that the logistic curve applies to our population as well as to oil.

My idea is to have a cap and trade system on babies. Everybody is aloted 2, and if you want more, you have to buy the right from somebody else. Therefore, if you can afford it, you can have more kids, and if you're poor, you could sell your right for your own financial betterment. It might not be highly palatable, but it is much more palatable than what China's doing (forced abortions).

Fine, if that is your platform try to get elected on it.

We have to make a serious start on population stabilization/decrease now.There are various ways of doing this.As it is well known that education of females and ready availability of birth control is one of the most effective ways then Western nations should be targeting their aid funds at countries with the highest birthrates.In some cases this will meet cultural or government opposition.The tough love solution to this would be a cessation of any aid to these countries.

Closer to home we should cease welfare programs which reward irresponsible procreation.There is also a need for a lot more education of all age groups about the population problem.

Obviously none of this will lead to an immediate decrease in population.That can only occur in a Malthusian scenario.This is becoming increasingly more likely.There are three words to describe this - famine,disease,war.

yes I think you make a good interjection...

but to mitigate population will still need to conserve while we address

can you cut down on your rutting while we figure out this air food deal

everyone on the curve from doomer to cornucopian can agree conservation is desirable including those that rightly see population as the primary root of all evil as it were

consumption per capita etc.

thats why conservation is the first port of call for all camps.


There are, I suppose, several parts to conservation, there is the personal and industrial changes that are decided individually as prices rise (the reduced vacation travel for eg, or shutting off the lights in the offices at night). These are a form of demand destruction, and are evolving as the prices change.

Then there are those conservation changes that are mandated by the government - such as dropping the speed limit to 55 mph - as happened last time. Those require an effort of political will, and it will be interesting to see when that first appears.

And then there is the step at looking at processes to determine how they can be re-engineered to reduce energy demand, I think that this is likely not to occur until later, and at which point, for some industries it may occur too late.

But you are right in that we need some leadership to suggest that we move from the first into the second and third steps.

Its a mixture of the first and third parts from above - at the same time.

You need to make structural changes:

  1. from the top down, for instance government taxation of businesses based on the distance of their employees from the office how often they make the journey.
  2. from the bottom up, for instance people choosing to car share.

If you don't do both at the same time then there is resistance, either people object, or the structure isn't there to accept their efforts.

Don't underestimate the engineering of the right meme to get people to change their outlook. Serious effort on that will result in a virus like result that scales very fast, which is just what's needed. It needs to be positive, and infectious. The right message on its own is probably worth a million or two barrels a day.

Unfortunately at the moment the message pushed by the media is the wrong one - implicitly that it will get right again. So actually the first meme is to hit reporters, to get them to sell the right story, not the comforting one.

Rationing works for me.

but I am a man of moderate intelligence and am open to bright ideas from the clever boys and girls here.

selling lower consumption as a voluntary habit?

time those ad men did something useful for a change?

do we know any?


Well, Boris, price will solve that problem. But at some point government will intervene with price controls and consumption will then zoom back up.

If there is one thing you can count on, it is that government will make matters worse. They took the stock market crash of '29 and turned it into the great depression. Come to think of it, their inflationary policies caused the crash, too.

People tend to want to only see this as a technical problem, but it was a political problem (infinite economic growth policy)that caused the current situation. When we view this in the wider macro economic/geopolitical perspective we can get a much better idea of what is likely to happen. Hoarding is already beginning and more and more oil will exit the export market (e.g. Venezuela, Russia, China, Iran making direct oil sale political deals) that will in turn rapidly escalate into a geopolitical crisis of unprecedented proportions. Government intervention will occur on a global scale resulting in chaos and catastrophe. It will resort to every nation for itself, and survival of the strongest. Whether you think it cynical or not, that is the history of human nature.

The chances of avoiding this are slim, though not impossible. Ask yourself, how do we enforce fair distribution of a dwindling vital energy supply in a political atmosphere. Could the nations of the world unite to equitably solve such a calamity, or will it end up as survival of the fittest? My answer is not the one you people want to hear.

I just don't get this thinking...

if price solves the problem then why isn't it solved or more insightfully.. why is there a problem... or lets jack it up a notch

is there a problem?

then again there is this inevitable the solution is the problem TEOTWAWKI stuff..

ok lets say its true...

do you want more or less time time to build a post apocalypse ranch in the outback?

it makes no sense from any perspective not to want to stretch the curve out


It is solving the problem. Those who can't afford it aren't buying, thus reducing consumption.

Your quest for a solution is how to get more gas when there isn't any more. All problems solve themselves. We just don't like the solution so we rant against the tide and wear ourselves out.

The philosophy of endless growth ultimately consumes itself. Problem solved.

first there was the big bang then the heat death of the universe

thats one self correcting mechanism.. problem sorted.

I have some interim plans


While it appears that the consumption of gasoline has decreased slightly in the U.S. due to a large increase in gas prices, the decrease is pretty pathetic. However, is there evidence that worldwide consumption has decreased. Perhaps we need a better definition of the problem. What is the problem? Too much consumption? Regardless of the price level, all the available oil gets consumed, so not sure that is solving the "problem" as defined.

Some might see the "problem" differently. They might see the problem as the amount of oil they want to consume as what they consider an affordable price. In that sense, the "problem" is not being solved.

Classical econ theory tells you that these higher prices will solve the "problem" in the sense that they will elicit more supply. We shall see on that one but it appears that that classical econ theory may we pretty worthless in the face of geological constraints. In any event, the pathetic amount of additional supply coming forth is not commensurate with the massive increases in prices. Those at the lower end of the spectrum are probably beginning to experience some real pain, so in that sense, their problem as they see it is not being solved by higher prices or the market.

I have been a big advocate of higher prices for gasoline but am beginning to wonder what real problems we are solving given worldwide demand. But one definition of the problem is our massive financial deficit. I would rather send part of the premium prices for oil to our government than to foreign countries. That may create a new problem, in which case much of this money should be funneled back low income people in the form of rebates.

If the problem is defined as more supply, I agree, there is no solution, including things like biofuels. Alternatives may provide some mitigation related to more expensive and scarce oil, but it is likely that we will live in a world with less available btu, regardless of the source.

Nothing, however, makes it likely that we will not experience significant dieoff. Maybe overpopulation is a given. If so, the problem defined as avoiding dieoff and collapse will not be solved. Population growth will overwhelm attempts to conserve and get better technology. And I haven't even mentioned all the nonhuman creatures that will die off and go extinct while we are contemplating solutions, which is mainly what we are doing. Contemplating.
As our government fiddles and the world burns.

I personally would like to see the price fixed low $1/g and the resource rationed kind of like Iran is doing. That way everyone gets a share of this national endowment. I would like each state to negotiate for its own petrol products and establish its own distribution. I would like to see the oil companies nationalized and broken up and formed into utilities and pay them govt wages: state wages. Capitalism requires an ever expanding universe. It has to go. By the way capitalism is not democracy, it is the antithesis; a concentration of wealth and therefore power. As a solution to the "tragedy of the commons" it has been a dismal failure. The bad guys you want to keep in line have just gotten bigger and more untouchable. Capitalism is not a thing you have to protect. It is the natural operation in any market, and is a thing you have to control if you want to keep any semblance of democracy. I think we're a couple of elections past the shredding of that veil.

Conservation & demand destruction both are euphemisms for pain, suffering, and death as it always starts at the bottom of the economic food chain, so I guess this DOES address the greater issue of population.

Perhaps 90% of the World population does not need to reduce their FF use, in fact they could use a titch more IMO.

It’s the top 10% that needs to "conserve" to an extreme degree.

Na Guna Appen.

I think we need to be very careful when discussing the thorny issue of the world's population. This is a controversial and highly complex subject, because not only is economics involved, but challenging moral questions, which by no stretch of the imagination have easy answers.

Glib talk about reducing the world's population and die-off veers close to racism, because we all know where the 'cull' is going to take place, the poor and people with darker skins.

I too believe that we should attempt to reduce the level of population increase, stabilize it, and ideally see the current world population decrease. This won't be easy and it will take time. One of the most important reasons people have so many children in the developing world is because they don't have much of a choice. Large families function as a form of 'social security' amongst other things. The humane way to reduce the growth in population is to introduce a real and effective 'social security system' in the poor countries that would, over time, make larger families unecessary. We, in the rich and profligate West could do an enormous ammount to raise living standards in the poorer countries, but we choose not to for a variety of reasons, primarily because we perceive it as not being in our 'interests' to 'reform' the lives of the global peasantry.

What's truly morally reprehensible about us, is that we actually have the resources at our disposal to solve most of the problems of the third world and rapid population growth, yet we choose not to use our resources wisely and morally and for the benefit of all, instead we waste vast, towering ammounts on staggeringly unproductive and absurd military and weapons projects that provide the worst return on our investment imaginable, but on the other hand make a tiny minority of people obscenely wealthy and powerful. The legendary military, industrial complex, which now has a veritable stranglehold on our economy, culture and politics.

The transfer of these wasted resources to more productive areas is theoretical possible, but unlikely given the premisses of our society. Too many people get too rich to allow any fundamental questioning of how societies resources are shared and allocated. We are allowed to chat, but not really to change very much, and especially not the ground rules of society. These are set in stone, like the wall of a castle, and perhaps this is what they really are, the walls of a castle.

We are obviously facing multiple challenges and Peak Oil is just one of them, though a crucially important one because modern civilization is built on cheap, easy and abundent energy supplies.

But there is still time to face up to the problems declining energy supplies pose for our civilization. We could decide to 'declare war' not on Iran, but on the coming energy crisis. We could face up to our problems realistically and, for example, put the United States on a kind 'war footing', not like this phoney 'war on terror', but something far more substantial. One could call it a 'New Deal for a New Energy Era' and begin a campaign to change the entire way our culture looks at the use of energy, and specifically how we misuse and waste so much energy. It's perfectly possible to reduce US energy consumption by at least 50% and relatively quickly, and just for starters, but it will require society to be organized in a different way. As in wartime the state has massive resources and can mobilize the population for the national war effort. However, does the American ruling elite really want a 'mobilized' population? I think not. I believe they want the exact opposite; a docile, passive, consuming, undemanding population, that can be controlled and manipulated and that don't threaten the interests and rule of the elite. Those behind the castle walls so to speak.

Dealing with the challenges we face as a society will require fundamental, structural changes to the way we live and organize things. We are talking about mobilization and particpatio. We are talking about the need for sacrifice in the coming age of scarcity. Yet the sacrifices and changes required must be shared equally and proportionally, if people are going to accept them. This means sharing the burden equally. Those with the deepest pockets and broadest shoulders must do the most and set an example to everyone else, like in wartime. More democracy, more equality, more real patriotism and pulling together for the greater good of society. None of this is rocket science. It's obvious and what happens in wartime when the nation faces the ultimate challenge, people realize what's at stake and they pull together and can see that life is so much more than shopping!

Yet all this requires a different kind of leadership for this great national project, leadership that is sadly lacking because the politicians are administrators and not leaders, fundamentally they are the servants of the elite residing behind their castle walls, the people with real power and influence, the real rulers of society. I don't believe we can talk or negotiate with the people behind the castle walls or convince them to share power and initiate the changes we need to start implimenting. They are too rich, too powerful and too isolated from the rest of us. We need to organize things differently and the rich like things just the way they are. The very word 'organize' is something they fear beyond words, they don't want the 'peasants' to start organizing, they've fought for centuries to stop the people from organizing and challenging elite rule, they aren't about to change now, on the contrary, they are building their walls evern higher, even thicker and they are arming themselves to the teeth ready to fight toot and nail to protect what they have. Along with all the other challenges we collectively face, pulling down the walls of the castle, with all that implies, may be the biggest one of all.

realize what's at stake and they pull together and can see that life is so much more than shopping

what this guy said

how do you sell it?

are there marketing resources ad men etc on this blogging community? does anybody have a inside lead to people who have planned such things..

does one act independantly.. lobby existing political or commercial entities?

Is the rate the meme is spread into the MSM good enough or should we step up our game?

how do you sell it?


I think we need to be very careful when discussing the thorny issue of the world's population.

Why? You've not bothered to contribute in any meaningful way here at TOD. And the claim of excess population NEEDS a 'yes/no' decision, followed with a 'what shall be done' is the result is yes.

But hey - you act like you 'understand' the matter. Come up with and answer so that all the other lesser TOD posters can just link to your response as an example of clarity and as the 'path that should be taken'.

Lead what with politicians are administrators and not leaders

Eric Blair,

I'm at a loss to understand why you appear so angry with me for simply pointing out that the issue of population is controversial and highly complex, surely you don't think it's a simple subject with simple solutions? I don't claim to have a 'answer' to the 'population question', that would be very foolish of me indeed. This is why I mentioned 'caution' and glibness in relation to this subject, not because I wanted to 'censor' the debate. There are no 'quick-fixes' or 'miracle methods' one can magically conjure, that are going to 'solve' the problems associated with rising population, to think otherwise is, I would contend illusory, certainly counter-productive, and probably dangerous.

You are at liberty to attack me for 'not contributing in any meaningful way' to a subject that I often think is close to overwhelmingly complex and of such enormous size and tremendous importance. I did, in a small way, attempt to outline how one could begin to deal with the issue, transfer the world's bloated military budget to a 'social security' system for the world's poor, which would, over time, probably stabilize and reduce population growth. This seems to be the way population was curbed in the West after all. But maybe this 'solution' isn't radical enough for you? Is that the kind of clarity you asked for?

I did, in a small way, attempt to outline how one could begin to deal with the issue, transfer the world's bloated military budget to a 'social security' system for the world's poor, which would, over time, probably stabilize and reduce population growth.

'The solution' is already in play. A selection of works from Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissenger can be used to show 'food shall be the controlling weapon'

What's truly morally reprehensible about us, is that we actually have the resources at our disposal to solve most of the problems of the third world and rapid population growth

No, "we" (anyone who has 24/7 power and can read this) do not. At some point free will kicks in - so at what point would you "cut off" someone from support?

On occation, news from the 3rd world bubbles up of local leaders/preachers making BS claims that prevent aid programs from working. What's the plan? Set up a fence 'round the area and declare it a 'no-go' zone?

transfer the world's bloated military budget to a 'social security' system for the world's poor

The worlds bloated military budget is another way of wealth transfer/concentration/rewards program for your political buddies.

Because who's going to say "no" to "keeping safe"?

Chalmers Johnson goes into the matter with his 3 books. The last one (Nemesis) points out how the military acts as a welfare program these days.

At some point the 'bloat' in the military budget will go away - collapse does that.

'not contributing in any meaningful way'

I appologize for my over the top statement. I had confused you with another poster. Mea Culpa.

I think we need to be very careful when discussing the thorny issue of the world's population. This is a controversial and highly complex subject, because not only is economics involved, but challenging moral questions, which by no stretch of the imagination have easy answers.

When it comes to discussion world population problems, "we" have been "careful" (read: politically correct) for far too long. It is largely the reason we're in this mess. That, along with arcane economic circular bullshit.


I think we are 'in this mess' not because we haven't discussed the issue but due to fundamental, structural deficiencies, in the way the 'free market' is organized. Very simply put, Western imperialism destroyed and distorted the economies and social structures of huge swathes of the planet for our benefit. Whilst we withdrew our armies and granted our former colonies nominal 'independece' they were still held in a form of economic stranglehold and subjugation. We have attemted to 'destroy' their agricultural sector, burden them with huge debts and maintain them as sources of cheap and plentiful raw materials, whilst we hypocritically maintain that we only want to 'help'.

Careful...when you step out of the Politicaly Correct world here on TOD, you will be threatened with Censure by the Nazi.. be careful not to call a Spade a Spade.

What? Just recently, over a Million, Men Women and Children, were hacked to death by machete in less than a month, during a little argument in Africa. Population can, and will drop quite quickly when TSHTF. No Nukes needed, thankyouverymuch.

A good post,writerman,especially the last paragraph.It is indeed a challenge,pulling down the walls of the castle.It has been done many times in the last 200 years or so.In most cases the walls have been replaced within a few years by even more impregnable and inhuman ones erected by the revolutionaries.

It is certainly the elite,more than any other part of society,who need to be educated.As long as we have democratic institutions and unrestricted access to information there is still a chance of this happening.

Dear Commissioners:

[P]NM promotes programs of energy conservation.

These energy conservations programs appear to be a smoke screen to try to mask business interests.

PNM appears to be asking customers to conserve on electricity so that new construction and other causes of electricity increases, like power hungry flat panel LCD and plasma TV purchases, can continue.

Continuation of new construction may not be sustainable for energy shortage reasons.

PNM showed that without addition of new electrical generation capacity it may have reached peak electrical production.


Continued new construction is a serious problem that I believe needs to be addressed by the PRC.

New Mexicans are faced, perhaps soon, with expensive and scarce energy which may lead to energy shortages.

Perhaps the PRC should consider options to attempt to limit new construction and ways to attempt to reduce volumes of unnecessary space currently heated and air conditioned in existing structures?

The PRC might wish to consider regulation of sale of new electric and natural gas meters?


I see some merit in this approach, but the problem with the "we need them all" analysis is that it encourages us to go riding madly off in all directions at once, and it implies that we don't yet have to triage - that is, that we aren't yet at a point where we have to narrow the scope of our investments and projects.

Now I think it is possible that there's a case to be made that we have time not to triage, but it has to be made, and argued out fully, not just implied.

If we are going to have the wealth and resources to create many little silver BBs, that's great. But we need to establish that that's true - and to remember that supporting these investments usually means maintaining the economy as it is - that is, research dollars and resources for investment dry up when the economy tightens. So a case for all the silver BBs also is a case for an extended Business as Usual period - or for a very tightly managed nationalized economy, in which all resources are directed to those goals.

My own feeling is that large scale research budgets are going to be a casualty of the realities that we waited too long - that we are going to have to prioritize. And that means emphasizing the proven over the unproven, the pragmatic over the hopeful. That means there's a good chance we will miss out on some potential long term benefits, maybe to our detriment. It also, however, means that we will almost certainly miss out on long term *consequences* that would happen if we invested our dollars in research and many of them didn't produce anything useful, instead, say, of investing our dollars in things that will get our needs for energy down.

It is easy to do analyses that see only potential benefits, and not potential costs to investment. Yes, it is possible that vast energy returns will occur if we get all the BBs in order, but any analysis must include the carbon and energy costs of keeping business as usual going, or of a large-scale build out, and it also must include an analysis of the risk that the economic costs will be too high to finish the project - that is, that capital may be scarcer than we know. We have to balance the possibility that we might have great returns against the possibility that we might not only get nothing, but have wasted our last chance to soften the blow. How to balance? That's the best use for public discourse, but the discourse is still leaving out the real choices, IMHO.


Sharon, I think you hit nail squarely on the head. Economy is in very precarious condition and deeply in debt. Asset values are evaporating at an incredible rate due to debt defaults. The US gov't is essentially broke and running on borrowed money. Raising taxes will crush the economy further and congress is about to raise taxes on anything that moves. There is reason to doubt that the money will be there to fulfill all these dreams, as well as to make the infrastructure changes needed, such as the electrical grid which is over its limits now. We want a fleet of electric cars but the electricity isn't there. I'm afraid we've become a nation of spoiled dreamers who want what they want when they want it, regardless of consequences. The California attitude toward energy prevails almost everywhere "I want power, but not the pollution." And, "I want money, but don't want to work for it."

Our biggest obstacle is psychological, and I don't think it will be overcome short of calamity.

Hi reaearch24.
Do you mean to say that all this time I should have been advocating power with extra pollution?
It's no wonder my father thought I was odd when I moved to California.

It is a cake-and-eat-it-too situation, isn't it? I made no such statement as that, just pointed out the hypocrisy of wanting limitless energy but not the effects. Double wink!

We may have philosophical differences. I much prefer to spend seed money (which may not be a huge amount in absolute terms) initially (for the sake of discussion) funding 100 ideas at $100,000 for a year to get some fundamental data on whether they might work, rather than giving one consortium $30 million from the start, and praying that they really do have the best solution around. However in neither case are we talking about the sort of investment that is likely of great significance at the moment in terms of the size of the dollar amount being invested.

Reminds me of the semi-humorous quote posted on TOD recently:

Peak Oil is the point in human civilization where everything goes to shit. The common man will end up running around aimlessly, with or without a head, yet will still fail to realize the key to solving the world's energy problems lies in his aimless running.

Hey Sharon,

There a 7 billion people on the globe. That many people can cope with a fair variety of enterprises. Take a look at battery development to see many, many options. Without that diversity the better solutions will never be found. If life itself had taken just one path then total extinction would have been a certainly. Thank goodness it didn't.

I think the most immediate solution to declining oil production/high prices is conservation. Research should be first directed at any fuel saving device or behavior because a barrel saved is a barrel found.

Certain segments of the economy may not be worthy of research such as trying to make air freight more fuel efficient. Since railroads are 20 to 30 times more fuel efficient than planes, simply shifting a majority of air freight from air to rail would bring about huge fuel savings. The research there would require developing faster train schedules and perhaps new container handling methods that would make rail freight more time competitive (at least with trucking). Perhaps integrating parcel freight and mail into passenger trains could also be a research area.

My own view is that any answer to peak oil must recognize that global warming is potentially as serious or more so... too many solutions to peak oil would involve adding increasing amounts of carbon into our atmosphere (coal to liquids, tar sands, etc). We need to use less carbon... to conserve in other words. But for conservation to reach its potential it needs to be organized. The best approach to this that I've come across is something called "Cap and Share".

Here's one example of how it could get rolling (I have pulled these numbers out of the clear blue sky... only very rough approximations).

Japan imports all of its oil, about 1.8 billion barrels a year, or about 15 barrels per person per year (1.8 divided 120 million people). Every person in Japan, in 2009, is given a "permit" to import 14 barrels. They can sell these "permits to import 14 barrels", at the bank or at the post office (which is almost the same thing in Japan). The relatively few companies that import oil into Japan would, for every barrel that they import, need a permit. If they want to import 10 million barrels, they must purchase these. This will mean that the price of oil (in Japan) will rise... as will the consumer products (e.g. gasoline) that it is transformed into.

Fortunately, everyone who wished to has just made some money selling their permit for 14 barrels. Those who use little oil (such as people without a lot of money) will actually come out ahead. They will make more by selling their permit than they will spend on increasing oil product costs. They will win, and they will have an interest in the system (more than half of the population use less oil than average... in other words a majority of people benefit financially from the system). Those who use lots of oil will end up spending more on the increased cost of oil than they receive from selling their permit... but they are usually wealthier people who may be able to afford it anyway, or be in a position to reduce their oil consumption (purchase an ultra-efficient home, bicycle, super car, decide not to fly their Gulfstream to Hawaii and fly first class on JAL instead, trade in their yacht that uses $15,000 dollars of fuel a day for a sailboat). Everyone has an incentive to reduce the amount of oil they use.

In 2010, everyone is given a permit to import 13 barrels a day... in 2011 the permit is for 12...

This system could be scaled up to a global scale that covers all fossil fuels...

My apologies to Feasta if I have butchered their elegant solution.

I think this is an excellent idea. I've never seen it formulated quite this way, but it seems like an equitable scheme, unlike taxation, which only screws the poor and allows the rich to continue to party on.

Agreed - fairness is absolutely crucial. Carbon taxes hit the poor hardest, people who often have fewer resources to change their behaviour. Of course, in theory, the revenue from taxes can be redistributed to the poor, but there are serious barriers to this actually happpening. The biggest savings must come from those who are most wasteful and have the greatest capacity to change. People need to see that everyone is participating in conservation or the whole thing will breed cynicism. And the key to the whole thing is the cap - which ensures that oil use actually falls. It's very difficult to set the right level of taxes to achieve the desired savings.

Net oil importers, especially those who import almost all of their oil, have a huge incentive to implement this for energy security reasons alone. South Korea, Japan, Ireland, Taiwan, etc. etc. are extremely vulnerable. They should act as if they have about zero time to waste.

Perhaps integrating parcel freight and mail into passenger trains could also be a research area.

Wow! What a great idea. We could call the parcel part of this "Railway Express Agency". Why hasn't this been done before. Maybe it has... Why is my suggested name so familiar to people over the age of 70?

And about postal service via passenger rail, this was the standard mode of transport for first class mail until passenger rail became too unreliable for business commercial communication. Then USPS shifted to use of air.

Now it looks like USPS will soon have to shift, again. Neither rail nor air will be reliable soon.

What questions need to be answered by research?

HO said
"I tried to show that new solutions take time"

It depends on the solution. If we are talking about building new nuke powerplants then, yes they take a lot of time to build.

My electric vehicle took 4 months of spare time to build. The solar charging system used up about a month of spare time. Now I can get to work and back on solar power.

Now that I have used the motorcycle for a year, I am working on building an electric car that I can use when the weather is bad. There are lots of people building vehicles that do not run on oil.

People have to feel enough pain to want to change the status quo. Are we there yet? I don't think so.


Heading Out,

I been thinking along an new paradigm with one question in my mind. Are the silver bullets solutions really, silver bullet solutions? So I started thinking about wind and solar. Everyone seems to immediately assume that these energy sources can replace fossil fuels, But I wondered can they really? I started to think of all the oil and gas it takes to build these turbines and the copper for electrical transmission required ect. Well if you go to the copper mine you see all these big big machines, and I asked myself how the bloody hell do you run these on wind and solar. The answer is.. you don't.. Business as usual is completely out of the question which has implications I honestly don't want to contemplate at the moment. I guess you like Algae bio-diesel but I don't understand how anything could replace fossil fuels at the moment except for nuclear fission/fusion, something with an increase in energy density. The reason is that oil was created from algae and it took million of years for dead decaying algal matter to be trapped by geological processes and transitioned into oil. How, do you harvest enough energy from algae in a year to equal the amount of energy in algae from 400 years? How do we replace millions of years worth of stored solar energy from coal, oil and natural gas and get it to equal 1 year of solar energy? I do understand algae are not as efficient as solar panels but there is still an energy loss in the complexity and manufacture of the panels.

Nate Hagen's if you are reading this maybe you could shed some light, haha, on this, this is your area I believe..

Does this mean that EROEI/Time does matter?

"I started to think of all the oil and gas it takes to build these turbines and the copper for electrical transmission required ect. Well if you go to the copper mine you see all these big big machines, and I asked myself how the bloody hell do you run these on wind and solar. The answer is.. you don't.. Business as usual .."

Electric transmission lines of high voltage 25 to 100kv are aluminum. The only copper required is for the stator/field windings of the turbine and wiring to a transformer. Even the large transformers are now using aluminum for the windings. I see a lot of copper going for scrap that was formerly going to landfill as the price hovers around $3.00/lb. Plenty of copper available for our wind energy systems and electric rail transport modes if the millions of SUV's and thousands obsolete shopping centers are scrapped. Much of the scrapping is done by hand, even here in the US.

A lot of energy goes into refining aluminum... as it also does with copper.

Even when you recycle aluminum a lot of energy is used to reform it into whatever you need.

Transmission lines require a lot of maintenance... and a lot of energy goes into that maintenance. The power lines down by ocean-front areas often need to have their insulators washed down every day, lest you get a conductive salt build-up and electrical shorts (or even fires). (If not salts, then pollen build-up will do the same elsewhere.) A lot of fuel is used to power wash those towers.

Aluminum oxidizes and reacts with trace airbourne chemicals over time... needs to be replaced eventually.

Well I could suggest you bury the cables (makes cleaning up after a hurricane a whole lot easier) - but I think you miss the point. We can install wind and solar farms now that can generate large amounts of power - I gather Boone Pickens plans on having one that will generate 4 gigawatts. These can provide the power that is needed by the mines - though in South Africa, as we learned this past winter, most of the power for the mines comes from coal powered stations. Those are still around and will likely be for some decades, or longer.

I'm not sure guys, what I am wanting to know is if all the necessary infrastructure can be replaced by wind, solar and still give us enough energy to maintain a decent standard of living? As far as Copper and Aluminum go, they are both very energy intensive and require massive amounts of energy.

This is a bauxite mine owned by Alcoa in Suriname, I am not incredibly knowledgeable about the logistics of mining, but what I was getting at is can you run the entire process, start to finish, of all the materials required for wind turbine manufacture, and come out with a net energy gain similar to what is being obtained today from oil and gas and do it on the scale necessary?

Also you need to get the materials necessary to build these leviathans, so you do have to mine iron ore ect to build wind turbines..

Maybe I should rephrase that is how do you power these only with renewables..

If you want to run everything with renewables you have to assume that you can ramp up a lot of pretty untested technologies at an unprecedented rate, and do that under conditions of fuel stress which are without precedent, and with rising energy prices to boot.
OTOH if you use nuclear for base-load you are using a technology that has been providing the vast majority of a major country's electricity for many years with unprecedented safety and currently provides some of the cheapest electricity in Europe.
You give an idea of the needed scale, if modern double reactors were built on each of the current nuclear sites in the US then you would about cover baseload - of course the many coal plants could see you over whilst they were built.
The remaining problem is one we can hope to cover with renewables, as you are not trying to make them do anything they are not good at, for instance you would be using solar power when the sun was out, and not tackling the difficult and expensive problem of storage.
Conservation and proper planning laws could mean that energy could be economised, for instance the use of air heat pumps would raise the efficiency of heating by 2.5 in old houses and 4 in new builds.
Residential solar thermal could provide 50% or more of the hot water almost everywhere in he US.
New buildings should not receive planning permission unless they did not contribute to heat island effects, often through the use of greenroof technology.
For those who are concerned about running short of fuel for nuclear reactors, it should be noted that the time scales involved give ample time to introduce other reactors, of which prototypes have been built, which would raise the efficiency of the fuel burn by a factor of 50 or so.
At worst, the reactors would have bought time to perfect renewables.
In that connection it should be noted that the commencement of a nuclear program would not set it in stone, and should other means, notable solar thermal, prove practicable then build for those could be substituted for some of the nuclear build.
In summary, there is no costed and engineered system of running everything on renewables at the moment, but a combination of renewables, conservation and nuclear would not go outside the bounds of engineering practise or rely on any breakthroughs, just some work and development of technologies which are well in sight.

I understand that, but I am thinking a bit more long term when fossil fuel supplies have dwindled to almost nothing, can we maintain such a system of solar and wind and all the levels of production from mine to installation? I am saying could you do all this with ONLY renewables. Any example such as nuclear reactors and double reactors ect are all indirectly subsidized by cheap and plentiful conventional fossil fuels. Can you build a Nuclear Power plant only using renewable energy? I understand this that it is a good argument for what to do in my lifetime, but I don't want to spend much of my life working on a system that is completely flawed without fossil fuels..

If fossil fuels have gone, why would you need the mining equipment? Or did I miss something? Because I strongly suspect that coal will outlast (in terms of resource availability) the metals that we mine with the large equipment.

Presumably you accept some of the arguments which have been made here for a very low EROI for nuclear energy.
Even if those arguments are correct, the technological improvements needed to improve fuel supplies by a factor of 4 or so by the use of thorium and the efficiency of burn by a factor of 50 or so are fairly small, and there is a long time available to do so.
With such a system you could produce liquid fuel synthetically if you had to, without recourse to renewables.
As for your question about whether you could run things on renewables only, the answer is no, at least with current technology.
Whether we will be able to at some time in the future is anyone's guess, but OTOH we don't need to, as in combination with nuclear we can keep present energy consumption levels going for at least a few million years.
The problem with renewables is that they are low density, so running all of society on them is problematic, but fortunately nuclear energy is very high density, far more than fossil fuel, and so the two balance out pretty well.
With a wee bit of help from fossil fuels in the interim, we can certainly combine renewables, conservation and nuclear energy to make a workable energy system.
Renewables alone are much tougher technological call, and whether it will ever be possible we don't know, but perhaps at a later date if population drops it might be possible at a reasonable standard of living.
That's why we need to buy some time.

that's true in a way.. The idea of transitioning to lower energy density sources of power is certainly not workable to maintain BAU, however nuclear fission/fusion would be a huge increase in energy density. I am skeptical however about uranium reserves and I want to understand more about breeder reactors, people say they are a source of infinite energy but I'm not so sure about that. Population will have to drop one way or another for sure. It makes more sense to have a stable population seeking it's increases in standard of living through responsible technological application..

A smaller population might be sustainable with hydroelectric, nuclear, biomass, wind, and solar. Rampant population growth cannot sustain a larger middle class with modern amenities without associated production growth; including energy production. This is why lust/illegitimate children and increased family size might lead to a large lower class, lower education levels, and lower standard of living.

A smaller population might be sustainable with hydroelectric, nuclear, biomass, wind, and solar. Rampant population growth cannot sustain a larger middle class with modern amenities without associated production growth; including energy production.

This sort of nonsense is ever popular here. Its this truthy sounding notion that somehow the world is currently overpopulated when theres no evidence at all what it means. Currently a larger percentage of humanity than ever before in history has more wealth, better diet, better education and so forth. Sure unending population growth would eventually be stopped, but theres no indication that 10 billion is too much at all.

Well it proved a little harder to find the power requirements for a dragline than I had thought, but one of the largest, the Bucyrus 8750 needs 25,000 kVA if I read the press release correctly. (You have to scroll down to find it).

S of D

I'm quoting a couple of sources here. Firstly google "concentrating solar power now", this will take you to some European publications on CSP. It has been calculated that an area about the size of Australia's Tasmania will provide all of the worlds electricity consumption as at 2050. Another quote stated that an area the size of Minnesota (I think that was the state) applied to algal oil was would produce sufficient oil to match the world's current consumption.

N ow if you take those areas and you spread them out over the globe in 200 different countries, support by and supplying 200 different economies, you will see that the problem is not as large as it is made out to be.

Is there one single person in all the world producing algae oil on a profitable scale? I do not know of one backyard or farm type operation that is profitable. They have been using palm oil and soybean oil as biodiesel and that was profitable when the oil was recycled from restaurant deep frying operations. Using food grade vegetable oil as tranport fuel is marginal at best as it reduces the amount of food in the food chain. The price of soybean vegetable oil in the supermarket is greater than the cost of diesel at the gas station. If it will be lower in price at the supermarket they will process it into biodiesel.

Some people claimed breeder reactors were going to greatly increase the yield of uranium fuels. I asked a friend who is a physicist about this and he told me not to believe it. I asked him about fusion energy. He told me they spent billions and have not been able to produce it.

Like cellulosic ethanol that is not profitable anywhere in the world now, algae oii is a buzz word and some investors have already lost money investing in it.

As for solar, the most profitable use has been to preheat water used in domestic and commercial hot water pipe systems by installing roof top heat collectors. It has not gained widespread acceptance in this country. Other nations had greater realized income after installing these things. It also created jobs. Passive solar architectural planning is also a proven technology.

I've got to pick issue with some of your comments there. On celluosic ethanol I suggest that you google Dedini cellulosic ethanol. Last year they announced that they were producing ethanol at a development plant which will compete with gasoline as long as oil stays above $40/barrel.
I have seen some convincing sulphuric acid method designs to extract ethanol from grass clippings. Sulphuric acid is cheap and semi recycleable and the grass is free. I've long suggested that golf courses should be using this technique.

Algal oil is difficult. New Zealand has a promising programme. I don't know anything about the Israeli programme, but no-one has more incentive to make it work then they do. They are very tight lipped about all of their research programmes so its commercial status is unknown.

Solar water heaters do indeed offer an affordable method of significantly reducing CO2 emissions for most countries.

SwordsOfDamocles, think about how these guys managed to construct and use the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1879 without semitrailer trucks.


I salute you. You are asking the necessary questions.

My opinion is that you can't use wind and solar to equal the EROI/Time that we are all accustomed to; but you can use them as SUPPLEMENTAL sources to make things a little more comfortable than they would otherwise be.

But you're right, we ultimately have to learn to use what less available energy we will have differently as well as more efficiently.

In the article I posted above I had study that showed that every year the world consumes something like 400 years worth of stored sunlight from fossil fuels. I am interested in knowing where that puts true sustainability, back to before the industrial revolution? The medieval times? The neolithic ages or before?

"every year the world consumes something like 400 years worth of stored sunlight from fossil fuels"

This seems to me to be far too small a ratio. It took several 100million years to lay down the carbon resources. and perhaps 300years to deplete them. That works out to a guess/estimate of 300kyr of storing per year of use.

Dukes' result is >400y for 1y of World fossil fuel use. My crude calculation indicates that it is *very much greater than* 400y, namely approximately 1000x greater, very approximately.

I'm not convinced that the number is important to the discussion of the problem at hand. No one is thinking that when fossil fuels are depleted, we can hold our breath until the supply is replenished by geological processes, and then start breathing again. Further, I'm not aware of any thinking on how to recreate the Carboniferous Era. From what I understand, it wasn't a climate that was healthy for humans, and some of the wildlife was pretty fierce.

Well if you go to the copper mine you see all these big big machines, and I asked myself how the bloody hell do you run these on wind and solar.

If we electrify all the transportation apps -- personal vehicles, light rail, electric local delivery, electrified rail for long-haul cargo -- then there are probably sufficient quantities of liquid fuels derived from biomass for the situations where electrification is truly hard to implement. I should go back and look at the Engineer-Poet's numbers again -- I don't recall if zinc-air has sufficient energy density to be used in the big mining machines or not.

Right, that's kind of what I am saying, Is it possible to make Renewable energy generation with renewable energy at a sufficient rate to provide BAU or anything remotely close to it?

in reply to mcain6925, and electrification of transport:

:If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Hi HO,

I certainly don't have THE answer but my favourite recommendation is for reducing our energy requirements because whilst not universally possible is almost "doable" everywhere. My mantra is reduce, reuse, repair & finally recycle.

i have posted "solutions" that do not require new technology, training or huge funding such as; banning production of cars with emissions over say 225g/km, introducing speed limits of 90km/h 55mph, stopping expansion of airports and roads. I realise these solutions are not THE answer but one of the main impacts of these type of solutions is they provide a very clear message and apply to everybody, so even Bill Gates would not be able to buy a new gas guzzler.

Today many products are not made to be easily repaired but completely replaced. A few years ago i had to replace a whole unit on my car because the in-built battery had failed whereas it would have been so simple to design the unit to have a replaceable battery.

Unfortunately there are many people claiming to have the answer but so many turn out to be frauds just after a quick buck that it just turns one into a skeptic. Wouldn't it be great if say the Bussard Fusion Reactor worked? Today i heard about "BlackLight Power Inc. is the inventor of a paradigm-shifting new primary energy source" They are projecting within 24 months they will have an on-site unit to cheaply generate hydrogen from water at gas stations. Breakthrough or ??

Best hopes for sensible debates without preconceived notions.

I'm looking at this site:
where i see that the VW Lupo gets 78.4 mpg and emits 81CO2 gm/km.

Camry-Hybrid's not listed on that site,
so i go to Toyota's site and they only say its "ultra-low-emissions". Hmmm. It gets 34/35 mpg.

But they list the Prius at 54.7 mpg & 103.2 CO2 gm/km.

The point is that the Lupo's characteristics are available now; ( in some countries ). Why not USA ?

There's the nub.

Well I can get over 40 mpg quite regularly with my Camry (Hybrid), and there was a story on CBS Early Show last week about a guy who drove from Chicago to New York and got 71 mpg , so part of the mileage you get depends on your driving habits. We might see more emphasis on that soon.

Hi dadco,

It's not just the US, for example in the UK the VW Lupo (wolf) was withdrawn from sale in 2005. The price quoted of EUR 15,225 is pretty high for a very small car. VW make some excellent low-emission cars in their blue motion range but unfortunately then add a hefty premium to the price, so you can be green but expect to pay:-(

WRT the Toyota Camry, when Toyota launched the Camry in November 2001 its European sales objective was a modest 6,000 cars per year. Even so, the Camry still struggled to find buyers and in early 2004 was withdrawn. In Europe the Camry is generally seen as a large car. So a hybrid large car sounds like a token green gesture to me.

My take would be that low fuel prices over the 90s and early 00s encouraged people to buy larger and heavier cars. Higher prices will no doubt encourage a shift to smaller more economic cars, in Europe $8-10/gallon is now the norm and more and more people are starting to complain.

Strikes against the Lupo: (1) €15,225 is over $23,500 US at today's exchange rate, (2) the vehicle would (according to Volkswagen) have to be reengineered from the ground up to meet minimal US safety regulations, and (3) reviews suggest that equipped with the diesel that got the 99 mpg, you wouldn't want to take the car out in US highway traffic.

One of the complications in US cities, particularly west of the Mississippi, is that "urban" driving frequently requires a decision about whether to drive on what is essentially a highway for a portion of the trip, or to spend 30-40 extra minutes navigating the local streets. My options about what are acceptable vehicles will change considerably once the giant SUVs and pickups are priced off the roads.

hey Tony,
i live in south-France (summer-time)and in Vt/USA in winter.In USA i was driving 96-GEO-Metro which also got "regularly" 40+ MPG with not-very-parsimonious drivinghabits. It finally died.
Then we gotaPrius and it's great machine..... but I'm not really happy that it's putting out so much CO2....(100gm+of CO2 per km).

here in France I need to get some transport as i hafta make a 130km trip once a wk and there's no other way but drive.... while i carpool on this trip, still, i need something very economical and that's why i'm looking at it's a great site.

It's true the Lupo was withdrawn after 2005. The thing i'm talkin about is NEW. It's called the 3L for 3 liters/100km. It's completely redesigned for economy and lo-emissions. It goes 102mph tops.It quotes at 15,225 euro. But you can't buy it in France.???

You're right about the VW-BlueMotion Range; their Polo is rated at 60+ mpg and emits 105gm/km CO2. Comparable. It goes 174km/hr enuf for thiis Vermonter. Quotes at 15,790euro in France where you can buy it.

The Camry is beside the point. As you say it's very big and heavy.
A gesture, really.

I also may hafta change the reason i hafta drive weekly..... but it involves health so ?????

I do buy carbon credits for coming and going by plane but that may grind to a halt soon.... and then i don't know where to stay, Fr or VT. Both are attractive but it's easier to grow stuff here in Fr. Except for the dissappearance ( by destruction ) of the RR, this (Cevennes) region seems to be eminently survivable. Old timey simple.

take care

Because we have much less than a consensus that peak oil is even a problem, we have both science-based and political barriers to research. Is there even a sense of urgency within the science and technology communities? While there is urgency within the science community about global warming, I see much less urgency about peak oil. With so little data, it is difficult to evaluate which prospective solutions are best to pursue (science)and which ought to be funded (political).

Even so, those who view peak oil as a serious problem and are involved in the science need to strongly advocate for research in their areas. I don't have enough knowledge to have a very informed opinion about which solutions are most likely to be viable substitutes for fossil fuels. I rely somewhat on the opinions of those more technically trained and experienced at TOD to guide my thinking.

Some research is privately pursued, but the public research dollar needs to fund both research to mitigate against global climate change and peak oil. What those of us who are less technically inclined can do is advocate with Congress and the funding agencies for the funding of research which has the potential to mitigate against oil depletion.

My reading of data shown on TOD by various authors is that business as usual will not be an option very shortly (less than five years)regardless of when the actual peak date is because demand is outstripping supply. Many on TOD believe our collective goose is already well-done.

Despite this, those of us who are informed have an obligation to make their voices heard (ala Prof. Goose). It may be all we can do to advocate for solar, wind, geothermal, some forms of biofuels as each of us sees fit.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Do not go gentle into that good night."

The science community has at least recently been very much asleep on peak oil. Early last year I went to the annual meeting of the AAAS in San Francisco. The theme of the conference was "Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being." I found exactly one session where peak oil was mentioned and then only to dismiss it--badly, by presenting the size of various hydrocarbon resources, and nothing about rate of production. I was the only person in the room who spoke up to defend the idea, and question the emphasis on resources rather than rate of extraction. One genius even said that the Alberta tar sands could be ramped up to more than 10 million barrels a day (in ten or more years), even if it required trucking the raw mterial to points south for processing! When I said I thought that would be too late, my remark was met with mute incomprehension, or maybe pity.

Mark Folsom

That would be an interesting convoy!

I feel your pain, at public meetings about energy, the people presenting don't seem to have a clue about really simple concepts such as EROEI and flow rates vs stocks, yet since your some guy in the audience you have no credibility no matter how valid your argument is. I have had much better luck with the peak oil topic in my area, even our state county commissioner and Secretary of Energy mentioned peak oil, however they go off to promote BAU with the jobs wind and biofuel can create. They are big on cellulose ethanol and switch grass which frankly is just not a great idea. I am from Oklahoma by the way.

welcome to the world, Mark.

As much as I love science and technology, I have come to the conclusion that the real answer lies in creating a new societal paradigm. In essence, all of the silver BB's are an attempt to maintain some form of business a usual. I think most of us agree that the current consumer society is unsustainable.

I would argue that research funds might be better spent investigating alternative, low consumption lifestyles and, I would like to add, different governance systems. I have been interested in this since the late 60's. In fact, I have several bookshelves devoted to this topic.

I'll use myself as an example: As I rose to the position of a chemical plant manager, I began to question whether having status and money was really worth it when I was giving up the one element you couldn't buy...time. Being part of the upper level of management I also saw the absolute hippocracy (sp) of many elements of business. This led me to leave the industry and move to the boondocks. Interestingly, most of the other people who moved to this area during that time period had similar feelings. What I also found interesting was that the vast majority of people were college educated and had degrees rather than a bunch of HS dropouts who couldn't make it in real life.

So, while I make use of technology such as PV and solar water heating, I live low on the consumption index. I would like to see funding or seed money available to actually try alternatives on a large scale. Perhaps, it involves psychology. Why did I and others find satisfaction? I don't know.

Anyway, I have to quit now to pound fence posts for a new fence that will, hopefully, keep the deer out of our garden and orchard this year.


Could your new societal paradigm extend into maintaining enough of a garden and orchard that you don't need to keep the deer out?

Or allowing the deer to eat out of your existing garden, and then eat the deer? Or eating the deer beforehand, so you don't need as large a garden to begin with?

keep the deer out of our garden and orchard this year.

Have you entertained the idea of laying fencing on the ground such that the deer feel shifting, pinching on their little split feet and therefore don't like it?

About the only low crop I can think of is 'sunchokes' but the deer will eat the dried dead stems in the winter - the spring/summer/fall the split-hoofed horned devil creatures are kept at bay with the electric fence.

In other news:

710 and Eric,

On the deer front: Eating them - the deer were pretty wiped out a number of years ago by the lions and the bears who would take the lion's kill so they'd re-kill. I really want to avoid eating them until necessary.

Fencing - Laying fencing on the ground really isn't an option for a number of reasons. Among them, it would become a fire hazard and once the grass/weeds had grown up I doubt that the deer would care. Electric fences don't work (I've tried them).

Bears also enter into this. They cut across the lower part of the orchard and crush the fence and let the deer in. This new fence sort of runs parallel to their usual path. BTW, I was talking to a friend who is a federal trapper and he says this is starting out to be a bad bear year because of a lack of forage for the bears. For good or bad, but at least we didn't have much of a fruit set this year so the bears won't, hopefully, trash the trees like they often do.


Todd, I understand your way of thinking. 100 years ago the word consumption referred to the disease of gluttony. I often wonder if history will write our epitaph as A CIVILIZATION THAT CONSUMED ITSELF TO DEATH.

100 years ago consumption referred to tuberculosis, a rather gruesome disease.

In the past, tuberculosis has been called consumption, because it seemed to consume people from within, with a bloody cough, fever, pallor, and long relentless wasting.

Strangely reminiscent of the societal effects of peak oil, eh?

Strangely reminiscent of the societal effects of peak oil, eh?

Not quite.

The CDC now can make you stay in your home for 9 months. Lockdown.

The hospital vector from which I may have been exposed will pay for all testing and 'forced' the worker who tested positive to take vacation time during their lockdown while they test if the version is active or if they are a passive carrier.

In the oil and gas industry, we really need technologies that can be shared across the industry. A small breakthrough by one company is much less helpful. Antitrust legislation doesn't really allow companies to work together. If companies can work together, there is a possibility of bigger research programs, and of results more companies can use earlier. When one takes into account the time value of money, the present value of these combined programs is likely to be greater than the present value of the same research dollars spent individually by companies.

Back in the 1980s, there was a belief that the oil and gas industry need assistance in research. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Gas Research Institute (a federal program) and the Department of Energy sponsored research programs. These programs contributed to the higher level of research spending during these periods. The research programs of the 1980s and early 1990s are now bearing fruit, in the form of increased unconventional gas production.

Now people seem to believe that oil and gas companies can do the research all on their own. I think it would be much better if there were government sponsored programs, similar to those in the 1980s. These programs could be funded by revenue from the energy industry, if desired. This way, there would be more research done at universities, and more cited at individual companies (but jointly sponsored).

I don't think people realize that technology breakthroughs are really needed, and that combined programs have worked in the past, and can work again.


I'd like to propose a twist on your suggestion.

1. I'm a believer that there are limitations to technology. For instance, the technological knowledge on aircraft propellers has far exceeded that what was known in the 1940s, but propeller propulsion is still incapable of producing faster-than-sound speeds. (What is needed is Jet engine technology.)

2. In other words: I think there is too much focus on funding large-scale conventional research. As a result, the independant researcher is often ignored or not given the resources to study the unconventional approaches. I think we need to also look at energy solutions that would work on localized (and even de-centralized) levels. Look at a grant application from the EPA (one that one would use to research anarobic sewage-to-methane research); I submit that filling out the grant application forms would cost more than the sum of the grant in many cases.

At minimum there ought to be a legislation to formalize all-private research consortia in such a way as to reconcile it with the antitrust laws.
Japan has done this with the Kereitsu laws.

Is this , in essence, the manhattan project that the politicians are referring is needed. I think you are right, what is needed, right now, is this massive cooperation and collabaration to begin providing intiatives and solutions.

No, damnit! I'm sorry to stick this in here but we need a new societal paradigm. Here we have a thread that is, essentially, dedicated to BAU based on the posts above and below.

Can't posters figure out that BAU is dead? Even BAU lite is dead!

Fugitaboutit. Starve in the dark when it all comes down.

You people are the problem. You can't seem to get your heads around the fact that the coming reality isn't going to be some linear change from the present with "sustainability" and alternative energy tacked on.

I'm one of the few on TOD who has been doing it in real life for a long time and, I'll tell you, it's really hard. Up thread I mention I had to put in some fence posts - yea, for 400' of fence. How many of you even have an area that long to fence? And, you think you're going to survive? Ah, hell I give up. .


My, you're extra testy today. So, ... what would you like to impose on everyone? And how would it scale?

There are nearly seven billion people crammed onto this planet, many of them in countries with very little arable land per capita. Even for the USA, which can seem like a sea of farms, arable land is given as only 18% or 19%.

So how many of the seven billion are ever going to be able to own enough useful land that they would ever need to put in 400 feet (120m) of fence all in one go?

In the USA, around 30% are over the age of 46, which was just the life expectancy in the USA as late as 1900. And never mind that, many are huffing and puffing by age 35, and after climbing just one story of stairs.

So how many are actually physically up to living in the past? True, in the past it wasn't an issue, the ones who weren't up to it simply died - but what would you have us do with them in the present?

What possible answer can there be except to keep them alive? (Heck, we can't even discuss something as innocuous as mandatory birth control via benign methods.)

It follows that the discussion might look like advocating "BAU lite" because doing so verges on being morally imperative.

I'd go for 4 silver bullets, with some help from smaller friends.
The first is drilling technology, which can help in a number of ways:

The conventional wisdom is that hydroelectric potential in the U.S. has been fully tapped, and that we can't expect its contribution to power generation to increase. Certainly, nobody wants to see giant dams built on the few remaining stretches of wild rivers we have left. However, with advanced tunneling technology, it may be practical to expand hydroelectric resources without building any large dams.

As far as power generation is concerned, a dam is nothing more than a way to get water from the reservoir inlet to the power turbine without losing head. A smooth-walled tunnel would serve just as well, as long as it was large enough to allow the water to move relatively slowly. So instead of building a giant dam and flooding hundreds of square miles of river valley,[2] one could have only two small reservoirs, connected by tunnel. A portion of the river's flow would continue in its natural course, but the larger portion would be diverted through the tunnel for power generation.

This type of technology could directly generate hydro power, but also enable the use of geothermal resources, including hot dry rocks - MIT recently estimated that at least 100GW could be got from this source in the US alone.
It would also enable storage of intermittent sources, such as wind and solar.
In some countries, with the US perhaps preeminent among them, wind could make a huge contribution.
Solar will be ready for the prime time, perhaps in thermal form, but in my view more likely in at small utility scale, in 2-10MW units built on the ground for economy and ease of access, and not needing transmission for long distances - prices look to be at the right level by 2012-15.

So what about places further north? What about power in the winter, when there is not much sun?
In my view, we can and probably will overcome the problems with nuclear energy, making the build fast in factories, not taking years, the units small so that you don't need to transmit it long distances, making it safe so that it can't explode and using fuel 50 times more efficiently, with little waste.
Here is one design, which, licensing permitting, should be ready shortly:

There are other designs, for instance by Toshiba.
These take largely existing technology and mass-produce it, so being rapidly deployable.

Switching from drill and blast to machine excavated tunnels, and especially those cut with a tunnel boring machine, made a dramatic difference in the smoothness of the walls left for the tunnels. However it is still a function of the tunnel liner, since in a lot of cases the tunnels are lined, and it is that surface finish which is ultimately controlling.

You are right though in that breakthoughs in drilling technology might be delimiting - for example with a very fast and inexpensive drill one might drop the cost of vertical geothermal ground source heat systems. But I have to go back to the theme of my earlier post and remind you that even if such an idea had been proven in lab scale today, it would still take a fair number of years before you saw it in enough use to have any impact.

I rely on you and others involved in the industry to put these ideas in perspective, but what I was trying to posit was not huge instant advances in technology, just the lesser case that already useful technology is susceptible to further improvement and we can see that it is not very limited as we move forward.
With present drilling technology hydro storage is carried out at many places, and can be used for storing renewables.
Similarly, I am trying to argue that in the nuclear field what we are doing is not inventing totally new technology, but doing something similar to Henry Ford, who transformed the custom built car into one which was mass-produced, and in that instance it dis indeed lead to a massive and rapid transformation of the landscape.
Solar power and wind, or rather wind with intermittency controlled by acceptable storage, seem to be in a similar case.
So the suggestion I am seeking to make is that these technologies are mature enough to move pretty rapidly to centre stage - by no means smoothly, unfortunately however, and probably not without lags.

Most equipment manufacturers continue to do product research, in order to sustain or increase market share. The imperatives on what they seek to change is driven by perceived market requirements. Until now the cost of energy has not really been one of those imperatives, not has been the need to deal with reducing power supplies. Those are now becoming a part of the picture, but again it will take some time before what is now a design on a draughtsman's computer becomes a functional part of large-scale operations.

It was not too long ago that the only incentive for improving drilling technology was to find a way of getting down to the water on Mars. This is not to say that there are no programs or research looking into new and better drilling methods. There are, but they don't have the intellectual muscle behind them that the programs of the 1970's did. And, while there are some things that could improve penetration rates 3-fold that have been tried in the field, (Oil and Gas Journal, March 11, 1991 - behind a paywall) the folk that made them work have now dispersed and gone away, soon to be lost.

Industries don't invest in research unless they can see an almost immediate benefit, and for the oil patch immediate defines a generally shorter time interval than most others use.

the folk that made them work have now dispersed and gone away, soon to be lost.

Industries don't invest in research unless they can see an almost immediate benefit,

In the real world, these two statements are linked more closely than is apparent from their placement in one posted message: If you, as a manager, don't have a fairly immediate application for the research results, you also don't have the budget to keep the team together while you look for an application.

Reddit and Digg links:

Why we put this here....folks, we ask that you click on these and vote up this wonderful work so that it gets more readership. If you do not have an account on reddit or digg, it truly takes about 30 seconds, and the interface for voting is really easy: hit the digg button or hit the up arrow on reddit beside the article.

The point is we need your help to spread what appears on TOD around--even on message boards or linkfarms. We really do appreciate it--it makes doing what we do a little easier seeing our readers working for us.

Nearly everything we have culturally and societally built over the last 10,000 years has been built:
1. Lacking understanding of most of the relevant issues,
2. linking together the few understood issues in a piecemeal, linear, and ecologically destructive way,
3. which yields an infrastructure and a way of life upon which people depend,
4. said infrastructure needing maintenance, which increases psychological investment in the idea,
5. said way of life, providing a living, food, shelter, which will be defended if threatened.

We are slow to change, because of psychological investment and infrastructure dependence. Our punitive system of law is 4,000 years old. Holding religion as literal truth is about 1,700 years old (the Council of Nicea for Xtians). These ideas were built on the best understandings of their times, one of which was that humans as a group are largely separate from nature and immune to its effects.

But as verifiable and testable understandings have emerged, they are not incorporated, because of dependence on centuries or millennia of ideas and social infrastructure.

Conservation of mass is 200 to 300 years old. Evolution is 150 to 200 years old. Thermodynamics is a little over 100 years old.

Chaos and complexity (which few people on this board, one of the largest concentrations of smart people on the Internet, even understand) are barely 40 years old.

So, yes, we have plenty of answers. Just none that the overwhelming majority of people will ever understand or accept, being locked into ideas, infrastructure, and ways of life dating back thousands of years. People are locked into these ideas because they learned them from culture as children, before gaining any critical thinking ability, which our parents learned from their culture as children, and so on.

This process for each individual in each generation mirrors the overall process of infrastructure dependence and psychological investment. There is a huge cost involved both physically in building a new infrastructure and abandoning the old, and a huge cost psychologically in generating a new set of ideas and digging the old ones out of your head.

Most people did not anticipate our current problems nor prepare for them, so there isn't enough energy to keep this system running smoothly and build a new one. And there are scant few people who speak truth to power in order to allow new ideas to flow (most of whom are "artsy" or "weird", like Asimov, Heinlein, Carlin, or Stanhope).

Wonderful comment, 710, spot on as usual.

710 -

You may be able to free yourself from the trap of the universal belief system, but you cannot free others who are content where they are, regardless of their complaints. Reinhold Neibur [sp?] had the right idea:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,


Quite right, r24.

But wisdom comes from the integration of knowledge, emotional awareness, experience, and reflection.

With a significant change in knowledge, the addition of chaos and complexity, the entire system changes.

So is mortality avoidable? Is a human population crash avoidable? No, they aren't.

But can we prepare for it, can we do something else after the die-off? Yes, we can, once we begin to understand the nature of the systems which both bind and enable our living human existence.

A rather dark view of your fellow man 710. I just wish I didn't agree with you. But, following your Chaos note, it is a complex adaptive system. As such I don't subscribe to anyone's model(optimistic or scary) of the future. Maybe we'll both be pleasently surprised if the next cycle of adaptation comes about at reasonable price. I do beleive that societies of the world will adapt to the new circumstances and move forward. The only real question is the degree of suffering that this will entail.

Geology is an observational science for the most part. We see trends....cause and effect....evolution. Also being a bit of a buff on militay history I see unsettling comparisons with prior resource competions.

I don't consider it a dark view, though, to recognize the problem that exists: we are all disconnected. From each other, from the living and inanimate worlds around us.

Roughly 100 billion people have already lived and died on this planet in the last 50,000 years. [1][2] Our population is about to be reduced by three to six billion in a thermo/gene collision, three to six percent of everyone who has ever lived.

Our species can survive this. What a lot of people are afraid of, I think, is that they, individually, won't survive the die-off.

Guess what, though. Individually, we weren't going to survive indefinitely anyway. The problem has never been about dying, which was inevitable. The problem that really comes to the surface now, since we're all afraid at the same time of dying, is that we lost the knowledge of how to live in the first place.

We don't have this arrangement anymore. While we are still all dependent on each other, I have no idea who grew the food I ate today, who made my sheets, my computer monitor, who mined the uranium or monitored the power plant for my electricity. Most of us don't have durable or deep relationships with neighbors, co-workers, or in many cases our own family.

We fear that when the shit goes down, we won't have anyone to turn to for the things that individually we can't provide for ourselves. Though in some cases we also fear that many will be turning to us, because we've been prepping and talking about it, and they haven't.

"Chaos and complexity (which few people on this board, one of the largest concentrations of smart people on the Internet, even understand) are barely 40 years old."

And, so, enlighten us. A few choice references, please.

For a world dominated by linear and fragmented thinking, chaos and complexity are difficult to succinctly describe in a blog post.

Chaos: Making A New Science, by James Gleick. If you have a high school education and aren't from the US, or if you have a college education with a sufficient background in mathematics and science and are from the US, this is an excellent place to start. It not only describes the evolution of the discovery of chaotic and complex systemic interactions, it talks about the people who played their parts (Lorenz, Feigenbaum, Mandelbrot, Ruelle).

Sync: How Order Emerges From Chaos, by Steven Strogatz. Very readable and insightful, and requires some math and science knowledge.

Chaos and Nonlinear Dynamics: With Applications, by Steven Strogatz. For this you will need to understand differential calculus.

I would also like to recommend The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, and Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb, but I haven't finished reading them.

Here is an analogy to the situation we are facing:

A feudal land owner has very extensive and productive holdings in lands. They support a 300 room castle, A private stable of 300 horses, yearly purchases of rich tapestries, expensive clothing made from exotic fabrics, etc. Suddenly due to climate change and less rainfall the productivity of the land falls significantly. The land owner realizes that by creating an extensive water storage system he can partially restore the productivity of his land. What action should he take? Naturally he should cut down on unecessary expenses (e.g. Keep less horeses, heat less rooms of his castle, makes less purchases tapestries, etc) and dedicate the savings to making the necessary upgrades to his infrastructure.

If, on the other hand, The land owner could temporarily maintain his high income by draining a nearby lake at the cost of serious long term environmental impacts, this choice would obviously be foolish. Draining the lake only makes sense if it is part of strategy to produce a sustainable long term infrastructure.

Instead of a common sense response to resource depletion, what we have proposed here is a delay and pray strategy. Use any all means at hand to delay any decay in our wealth, and pray that new technology will come along that will allow us to maintain our currently wasteful lifestyles. The problem is that what is common sense for the individual is craziness for the larger society because we are dedicated to an economic model of the individual pursuit of financial independence which is completely inappropiate for a resource limited world.

Roger: If the top 1% financially in the USA continue to increase their wealth, should they and will they perceive a problem to be solved? I feel these we and our statements are not facing the reality of the USA circa 2008.


If we assume that intelligent action is impossible due to cultural inertia, then there is not much point in having any discussion at all. I have little doubt that the destruction of the middle class in the name of keeping the economy 'healthy' will continue for a substantial period of time yet. However, when a real point of political instability is reached, then the larger the group of people who have thought about and dicsussed what kinds of actions really make sense, the higher the probability that something can be done other than running around like chickens with out heads cut off. I realize that this proposal may offer a relatively faint hope of some kind of soft landing from the fossil fuel age, but I prefer a faint hope over none at all.

Roger: IMHO logical discussions should focus on individual actions-the USA has no intention of becoming France, Germany or Sweden, ever. A lot of the oil supply mitigation talk lately is because of the recent price run up-were the price to drop to say $62, all discussion would cease as there would be no need as oil is "cheap".

What is the point of this comment? Yes, if oil were cheap we would go on raping the planet in the name of making next year's bottom line larger until some other resource limitation or an ecological disaster forced us to do otherwise. However, oil is not cheap and only a global economic collapse will prevent its price from going much higher. Can you give me a specific example of the kind of 'individual action' you have in mind? I do not give a rat's ass about the intentions of brain dead zombie morons. I only care about strategies that have some physical possiblity of staving off disaster.

Every single day there is all kinds of advice posted on this site about individual actions you should take to help yourself-you must have your eyes closed or mind closed.

This kind of response is typical of people who support the operation of BAU capitalism. Ignore the central points being made and focus on some periphal issue. I am all over the individual action thing and have been for years. Growing your own food, using public transportation, reducing home energy use and so forth. The subject of HO's post is about larger societal infrastructure issues which cannot be adressed simply by individual consumption choices. I cannot set up a semiconductor processing line in my garage, or personally invest huge amounts of capital in mining engineering technology. And in isolation I can do nothing about an economic system that, by structural necessity, is always attemping to leverage manufacturing engineering improvemens to produce and sell as much stuff as it possibly can. And your response to these kinds of larger societal issues is that it's a waste of time to even think about them. If this is your attitude, then you should be spending your internet time reading survivalist websites rather than posting on TOD.

Speaking as someone who's family-in-law is well into the top 0.01% ( Fortune 500 CEOs and Davos invitees etc ). I can say that perception is there but impact on them personally couldn't be lower.
The energy running costs of their lifestyles are such a tiny proportion of income that energy could go up 10 fold and it might provoke a slightly raised eyebrow. Really these people work to the nearest £10,000 when planning.
Don't forget these are not the showy wealthy who just scrape into the $1m a year bracket and are leveraged to the hilt after spending on houses, boats and cars. These are the quiet wealthy who you would pass in the street yet are making the strategic decisions that affect the world and unfortunately the welfare of the masses isn't on the agenda and never will be.
In reality you are NEVER going to get these people to reduce consumption and to be frank why would they ? The % of overall resources they consume is so small compared to the other 99.9% that in truth one should be glad they pay the sales tax and be damned.
The savings in oil useage will come from lower and middle class demand destruction and that's the politically unpalatable fact.
The challenge is to have these people see a BENEFIT TO THEM in investing in alternatives. That's starting to happen but very slowly. Otherwise we will end up with a Brazil or South Africa style society and I would be sick to see that.

High oil prices are extremely regressive-something even Deffeyes apparently doesn't understand-it isn't like a certain % will be lopped off the global economy (or within countries) from top to bottom-high oil prices, like high food prices, work their way up from the bottom-so it is no wonder there is little enthusiasm for solving the problem in the USA. I have asked the question often: why no posts focused on Mexico's grand alternative energy strategies? Is it because the USA is far more similar to Sweden than Mexico?

BRIANT -- could you elaborate on Mexico's grand alternative energy strategies? Or post some links.


And I thought I was sarcastic.

Today's WSJ, A10: Riders Swamp Public Transit - Same High Fuel Costs Sending Them More Passengers Force Agencies to Cut Services.

What meaning does it have to talk about solutions when the very first steps, the easiest, the most sensible, are not taken? How can it be that there is not funding to rapidly expand these services instead of cutting them?

And what meaning does it have to develop more technology to speed up depletion of remaining reserves while not taking steps to slow down their depletion. This is completely backwards!

There's money to be made in all the techno fixes, much less or none in doing any form restructuring that will allow us to accommodate the inevitable decline.

All major urban hubs have endless streams of cars pouring in, in the am, and out in the pm, often very slowly. Right there, alone, there is an opportunity to save a major fraction of our oil consumption. The trucks, back to rails. Much more, so obvious, so simple, except that each one steps on economic toes and doesn't happen. So we barter difficulty today for disaster tomorrow.

Arghh! Triple arghhh!

From my human perspective - and yes, I have one - I'd agree with 710 above.

But since he/she has covered that so well, I'll offer my nonhuman perspective as well. (and yes, I have one).

The lack of prudent levels of human research IS a solution of sorts. It's a solution to the actual problem, which is the runaway overshoot of hairless ape populations due to a chance confluence of evolutionary and physical factors.

Seen from the point of view of pretty much any OTHER species, having humans be totally logical about forseeing the need for new extractive technology while remaining otherwise oblivious to the planet would be the worst of cases.

If we were to put all our thought and energy diligently into ways of more efficiently extracting stuff from the planet - all else being equal - then all we'd accomplish would be a larger overshoot, worse forced global warming, the destruction of more species, etc. This would almost certainly degrade the long-term human carrying capacity of the planet further and result in a net decrease in human lives and quality of life over the coming tens of thousands of years.

Seen in this light, the lack of human foresight is (belatedly and insufficiently) self-limiting, and that's probably a good thing for the planet and for the humans who should have inherited the planet in 100,000 years. We have altered that future drastically for short-term thrills, the fun of having large numbers of children, NASCAR races and more possessions than a given individual can remember he or she owns.

Do we need one or two more generations of wretched excess just to make sure the biosphere is good and dead? There is no compelling rationale - aside from selfishness, yeastiness and dopamine - for improving extractive technologies now.

Maybe this is for Drumbeat- anyway: China Daily states that Sinopec will stop export of oil based products in 3rd quarter 2008 !

Sinopec to halt oil products exports, raise output
(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-30 08:43


I take it you've run across Reg Morrison's The Spirit in the Gene. What a great read. I am still blown away by the fact this book was published back in 1999.

If we were to assume for a moment the role of advocate for the biosphere, we should have to concede that what evolution most requires of us now is to ignore the warnings on the current environmental package and continue to behave as we always have. Should we falter in our rate of economic and technological progress we might jeopardize the nice swift end to the human plague that is now being signaled by the soaring extinction rate and the rapid carbonization of the atmosphere.

Reg Morrison, “The Spirit in the Gene: Humanity's Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature” page 237.

The answer is here:

If you don't speak Italian, you can read the english version, which is only a part of this great work, made by the scientists of "n+1".
Only Americans can solve this great crisis. No other people have this possibility.

Heading Out,
I'm not sure your numbers on R&D in the oil patch refkect the reality. I do know the majors have cut way back on R&D compared to the work they were doing 30 years ago when my career as a petroleum geologist started. There has been a great deal of R&D done in recent times but by the service industry and not the major oil companies. I won't even try to catelogs the improvements I've seen in just the last 15 years. Just last fall I was on a well in the Gulf of Mexico that drilled below 34,000' in 7000' of water. This is now the third deepest well drilled in the western hemisphere. When I started drilling half that deep in 600' of water was cutting edge technology.

A fact that few outside the industry realize is how much of the actually work product is conducted by the service companies. I'm a consultant working for such a company and focus on actual drilling operations. On a typical offshore drilling rig there may be as many as 140 souls onboard. Yet there may be only two or three company employees there. This includes projects operated by the Exxon's and Shell's of the world.

This may be rather basic but the oil companies don't own the drilling rigs nor the seismic crews. Even in the offices you'll find many consultants and "inhouse" service company personnel working along side the employees.

I wish I could support the hope that a big infusion of $'s or other forms of goverment assistance could change matters significantly...but I can't. Oddly enough one of the biggest developing problems for the oil industry right now is the lack of the steel pipe used to drill and produce wells. The company I working with at the moment drills 100's of wells and has put the drilling department on an allowance for such materials. The small companies (who don't have the buyiong power of the big guys) are having to cancel drilling plans because the can't get the pipe.

I work daily in the effort to find one more spot to poke a hole in the ground. We have the technology we need to do it, the money to do it (besides the big cash flow from production Wall Street is throwing money our way like there's no tomorrow) and almost enough people to get the job done well. There are thousands of wells to be drilled with handsome profits but targeting rather small reserves....not ones of size that change the PO situation.


3/4s of the earth is covered in water. I assume very little has been explored. Can you tell me whether oil could be found other than in the littoral zones? Are the open oceans dead zones as far as oil deposits are concerned? Would appreciate an answer by any knowledgeable person, if you know.

You need sedimentary rock to host the oil, and that is pretty much limited to the continental shelf regions around the edges of the landmass. There was a better answer in comments within the last couple of days, but I can't remember where I saw it.

I has some courses in structural geology at U. Mass. in the 70's. My prof. understood sea floor spreading from oceanic ridges and taught us about miogeosynclines along the coastal margins of continental landmasses and eugeosynclines along the edges of volcanic island chains such as were found in Indonesia. These areas were where oil type sediments might be found. Sandstones and shales associtated with oil producing strata were formed near onshore sediment sources transported by river, stream, wind, wave, and current patterns. The deep ocean areas were tyupically younger basaltic crust and the sediments there were thinner without known appreciable mature hydrocarbon deposits and too deep for reef formation.

The sea floor in some places was spreading at about 3 cm per year. Over millions of years the continents moved hundreds of miles.

It may be of interest that according to plate tectonic theory Brazil was once a part of Africa and then the two split. If you will look on a world globe or atlas you might see how South America might have fit into Africa like pieces of a puzzle. The oil deposits of West Africa and Brazil are aligned along the post Pangea split. The oil source rocks were formed millions of years ago.

My world wide experience is somewhat limited but I'll offer some generalities.

Though 3/4's of the earth is covered by the oceans much of that seafloor is igneous or metamorhic rocks. These are not the type of rocks one can expect hydrocarbons. There are a few isolated spots on earth where oil has been produced from such zones but those are truly freaks. The great majority of the open oceans have 0% chance of yielding oil.

Almost all oil has been produced from sedimentary rocks: rocks formed where sand, clay and carbonate reefs have been deposited. As far as offshore drilling goes most coastlines have this potential. The first offshore well was drilled in the Gulf of Mexico in the late 40's. But the area off the western coast of Africa only began developing 15 years ago. Last year I drilled several wells of the coast of Africa and could watch an ExxonMobil tanker pull up every week or so and take on 1.5 million barrels of oil. As big as that sounds it's still not Saudi Arabia. If I were a betting man I would look to the Caspian Sea for a true Giant Field discovery...if it ever happens.

Many folks offer the prospect of big reserves of the east and west coast of the US as well as Florida. Maybe....but you're going to have to poke a lot of holes to prove it. Most understand how big the North Sea oil fields are. But it wasn't until the 92nd hole was drilled there before a major discovery was made. Our exploration technology is a lot better now but there is a reason it's called "exploration" -- you won't what's there until you get there. For petroleum geologists the most likely place to find new large reserves is off the west coast. Worldwide the Caspian Sea looks very good. Lots of folks are getting excited about the arctic region but it could be 10 years before they even have any clue of the real potential.

ROCKMAN, thanks for the reply. I rather suspected your answer but was looking for confirmation. I'm on the Florida Gulf coast and I invite them to spill a few globs on my white beach if it means I don't have to ride a horse and grow my own food.

I suspect that when people can no longer afford to drive to Florida for vacation, and all the airlines are bust, then Florida might, just might, relent on drilling. Otherwise, not a chance.

Anyway, drilling won't solve ALL our problems so no drilling should be done. How's that for an energy policy?

It was just announced that production of the huge Caspian find in Kazakhstan has just been delayed another two years. No reason given. Iraq keeps getting blown up. All in all things are looking sweet on the energy front.

I think I'll start working on a wood-fired steam engine. Won't that be cool rolling down the street blowing my whistle and hoping the damn thing doesn't blow up on me.

Heading Out,
I'm of the opinion that the machinery was put in motion a long time ago that is now bringing us to the point of a hard landing. Yes, it was avoidable but we didn't take the actions necessary when we had time to implement them.
I'm working extensively in my community to educate my fellow citizens and our local politicians and the heads of our water, transportation and other infrastructure agencies.
However, in my view, it's also important that individuals take responsibility for preparing for economic collapse.
So please check out my new project
where I do my best suggesting methods to prepare in The Guide to Post Peak Living.
I welcome all feedback and it's best if it's left in the comment section after each page in The Guide. There are chapters on energy, transportation, water, skills and more. New chapters in the hopper include Community and Shelter. We'll also be setting up bulk purchases of products like solar panels and such. In my view, the fewer people caught unprepared the better for all of us.
Please consider The Guide as version 1.0 and a very living document.
Thanks for starting this conversation.

You might be interested in linking your efforts to this initiative:
There is just one US branch as yet:
From the latter site:

Our mission is to be a catalyst for relocalization, i.e., developing local self-reliance in food, energy, transportation, media, systems of care, and economy, while regenerating community.

We serve as a transition team, initiating a county-wide process of relocalizing all essential elements that our communities need to sustain themselves and thrive.

Hi, DaveMart and thanks for the suggestion.
Step 5 in the introduction of The Guide recommends that people start or join a chapter of TT's or
I'm a cofounder of Post Cabon Marin, which is under the network and I'm launching a series of town hall online only meetings for San Franciscans with the San Francisco Peak Oil Task Force and the Presidio MBA program.
I too believe community is a vital part of what is going to make a difference for people.

The answer is to get our transport systems off of liquid fuels and onto mains power, and to build lots of power stations (I suggest non-fossel fuel) to power it all.
One way would be to stick electric "fence" down the left side of all your highway and motorway lanes that vehicles can take power from - the same principle as a trolly bus system - and having vehicles run on batteries or compressed air on secondary roads, almost all trips of more than 30 miles would include some distance on a section of road on which the batteries or compressed air could be recharged.


It's amazing how fast things can change. We live in a gated community about 70-90 miles in a straight line north from San Francisco. As real estate values skyrocketed just a few years ago our area became a hotbed of construction activity. The constant droning sound of diesel trucks, excavating, delivering concrete or lumber went on 7 days a week from 7am to 10pm without pause. We enjoyed the increase in property value which we used to remodel our lake view home, but feared we had lost the tranquil community we thought we would always enjoy.

The contrast between then and now is unmistakable. It's so quiet now you can sit on the back deck and listen to the song birds sing. The price of fuel at the local station is enough to make you sick, so most people are curbing their outings. People's giant trucks now sit idle while their economy cars are used exclusively.

Home Depot looks like a ghost town in comparison, and the local homes that remain indefinitely for sale are vacant. The for sale signs go unattended, tiltig, drooping or laying on the ground. A quiet pall has descended over our community as people hunker down as if to ride out some storm that may only get worse.

Is it 'The Long Emergency' or just a blip on the radar screen of an undulating economy? If there is an upside later with lower gas prices temporarily before the big descent of oil production, will society take that as the green light to guzzle gas and build like mad? Or will we actually have been coerced into having a different attitude and support alternative forms of energy. I wonder.

Does anyone think this has any chance of panning out? I'm always skeptical of any new thing like it, but it sounds interesting. Then again someone just came up with another cold fusion device last week...

See comment in today's Drumbeat here for a good summary. Blacklight thing seems to be pie in the sky - the lead diagram in your link basically shows a perpetual motion machine, with the fuel mysteriously recycled. OTOH cold fusion might just maybe, conceivably, be possible - but it would need lots of work - if, for example, all you can ever get is 10mW using a gram of platinum particles, then, since there's only so much platinum, it might never scale up enough to make a difference.

Boone Pickens hell. He's responsible for partly trashing the oil patch. Remember the share holder value.

This is why I have focused on mature technology in my proposed mitigation strategies.

Bicycles have the quickest "Elasticity of Supply". Many are rusting in garages and need only minimal maintenance to be road worthy. Public Works can restripe road lanes and take lanes from ICEs with a little paint in a week (once the decision is made). A million new bike parking spaces can be created in less than a year, tens of millions of new commuter bikes could be on the road every year, etc.

Electrified Railroads All of the main lines (about 33,000 miles) can be electrified in six years with "Maximum Commercial Urgency".

John Schumann and I worked out a schedule. Four big Class I USA RRs (UP, BNSF, CSX, NS) made a more or less even effort and the rest (KCS, CP, CN, FEC, etc.) added up to a fifth big RR (in the USA).

Nothing in Year 1, just mobilization and design.

Each RR would have several teams, each with a hundred to 250 men and women (efficiency begins to go down with too large a team). Each RR would electrify 500 miles in Year 2, and train new teams. 5 x 500 miles = 2,500 miles.

Year 3, 1000 miles for each RR, Year 4 1,500 miles/RR, Year 5 2,000 miles/RR (x 5 RRs = 10,000 miles) By Year 6, some of the railroads would begin to run out of crisis priority main lines to electrify and the pace would slow to 11,000 miles.

Urban Rail I prepared a list of "on the shelf" Urban Rail projects where planning is far enough along that physical construction could start in 12 to 36 months after funding was committed. Simple projects could be completed in slightly over a year (Maximum Commercial Urgency) and the 2nd Avenue Subway in NYC and the "Subway to the Sea" in LA would take "longer" to complete once construction started.

While these projects were under construction, new projects could be designed.

Best Hopes,


hi Alan,
i really enjoy your writing and am grateful for your efforts.

I live in the Cevennes ( near le Vigan, Gard ) in summer and am buttonholing local politicians these days to work to replace the ripped-out rails that usta go from Nimes up thru leVigan on to le Hospitalet, near Millau. This line was a feat of genius engineering, IMHO.

But for the lack of RR, here seems to be "survivable" after the big slide. Here are some fotos of the line that they didn't destroy ...... our old one was very similar in terms of the beautiful viaducts..... all still standing at least.

it was bridge, tunnel, bridge, tunnel and musta been a real trip in the days of steam.

may all beings be happy and know the root of happiness,


I agree with a lot of what you are saying. There is no one answer. I also favor algae but don't know why it hasn't taken off as the superficial numbers would indicate it should. Afraid I don't see fusion anytime soon.

We need plug in cars! They were on the roads over 10 years ago in California with way more range than GM Volt claims. What a joke. US has no shortage of electricity. I don't see it being imported. Of course tractor trailers, trains, planes, etc are not going to run on batteries but this should be one of our main issues.

We have so much potential capacity with wind. Look at Boone Pickens 4,000 megawatt project in Texas. No fuel cost, no EPA issues, almost no personnel costs. Yes they require maintenance and a good bit of capital investment but long term ...

Need a lot more nuclear plants. US has just over 100 reactors producing 20% of our current electricity. That is increadible efficency. Have not built a new one in approx 30 years? How many people have died in the US from a nuclear accident? Less than 1?

Why does the US have tighter emmissions standards on diesel cars than Europe (we didn't sign Kyoto)? What kind of diesel car can you buy in the US in 2008? How much does it cost? Even if you could get a reasonably priced diesel car now at a $0.70/gal difference in price it makes you wonder if some people don't want us to have diesel cars. They are inherently more efficient than gas engines but we would just use less oil. Makes me wonder a little.

Coal is our "ace in the hole" if we don't regulate it's emmission too far. We have way more than any other country.

Natural gas should not be used to generate electricity. There are too many other ways to do that. There are many industrial processes that natural gas is vital to. Our prices are close to if not the highest in the world and that is hurting our industry. I work at a stainless steel mill and we use a lot of gas. We need some good manufacturing jobs in the US. Everyone can't be in the "service industry".

For residential and commercial energy useage geothermal heating and ac is the way. There is no way we should be using OIL to heat homes. That is crazy. In fact, natural gas cannot compete with geothermal efficency (you are getting free heat from the earth).

Wish I had the answers to our problems. I do believe people in the US will find solutions in spite of our government.

I'm new here, so please forgive any gaffes I may commit as I get acquainted with y'all (yes, I live in the US south).

One comment I want to put up front:
The failure of the US govt to plan for sufficient energy production growth (gee, that's a clumsy phrase) is the largest threat to the economy. As Toffler taught us, we are in an information economy. However, all our information devices suck up the power like nobody's business.

So to my main reaction to the comments on this thread (less so a reply to the original post):
What are you guys talking about, reduction in population?!?! In economic terms, more people is good (especially when they are educated and living in a liberal democracy (in Fukuyama's terms)). In America alone, people spend Billions of dollars on vanities like cosmetics. Once people get serious about solving our energy needs the concentrated investment and brainpower brought to bear should be able to find a way. Yes, this is faith, but one that history supports. Malthusians have very consistently been proven wrong in their predictions.

However, because of the scale of the problem and the degree of irresponsibility shown by both the political and economic elites of the first world nations means that hard sledding is a pretty safe bet.

It's easy when dealing with Platonic ideals and abstract principles to forget the bottom line: Human happiness and fulfillment. The economic method of organization (be it socialist, capitalist or some mix of approaches) is a means to that end. Once you start saying the problem is people, you open the door to a very dim future where, since humans are the problem, they are not respected (culture of death) and "nasty, brutish and short" won't even come close to covering it. A state of nature (ignorant, brutal and unsophisticated) would be preferable to being reduced to an object in a sophisticated economy that grinds it's people away in the pursuit of abstracts that rather than serving Man distracts him into chasing the Dragon of the deficient ideology that might=right, wealth=decency and greed is a virtue.

It's a bit late and this is probably a bit harsh for a first post, but if the value of human life is not the cornerstone of your value system then you are pursuing a flawed ideal at best.

Love, Care and Create (in roughly that order)

It never fails to impress on me that the absurd slogan of the dadaist Church of Euthanasia: "Save the Planet, Kill Yourself" is becoming a tenet of environmentalist dogma.

You make several assumptions that I beleive are wrong, but let me comment on just one.

More people are good, wanting less people means people are respected/desired less and will be degraded.

The opposite is true.

Fewer people leads to higher standards of living for a given capital and resoruce base. The USA would be a much better place today with 200 million people rather than 300 million. Even if we had a smaller pool from which to recruit our military (the prime reason for wanting more people, more cannon fodder, hardly an enlightened or ennobling reason).

Crowding and competition for scarce resources (see higher population) degrades humanity, not fewer of us.

See China and their "One Child Policy", Their economic boom of the last two decades started shortly after the One Child Policy. And having fewer children has made that one child MUCH more precious and valued. Multiple links to that fact if you care to look.

Population growth is the enemy of human value and economic prosperity, but beloved by war mongers,


...but beloved by war mongers

and, possibly more importantly, also beloved by certain sorts of moralizers on both the far right and far left, who may be more plentiful than intentional warmongers.

Alan, please feel free to specify my other assumptions. I hate having blind spots.

However, I can't agree with your rebuttal. You are assuming a zero sum game where having less people means more to go around. But more people means more GDP/productivity/insight/invention and that means the pie gets bigger.

Isn't it true that poor people have more children? Isn't it true that Worldwide GDP is rising, and isn't it, also, true that the birthrate is slowing?

Is all of that accounted for in the Malthusian/Lester Brown, necessary dieoff theories?

Jes wondrin.

Most stats show that global GDP is growing strongly while the median standard of living is declining.

radix023,there is a point where the pie can't get any bigger.Would you believe that?

It is a zero sum game for many resources.

Have you seem the maddening crowds at the Grand Canyon ? 1/3rd less would be a good thing at every national park.

Pollution is highly correlated with population. 1/3rd fewer Americans would mean less asthma,

!/3rd less hunters would mean a longer hunting season with higher limits. AND better fishing !

1/3rd less means that hydroelectric power alone is enough for the Pacific NW. 1/3rd fewer means MUCH less "mountain-top removal" strip mining in W Va. The Envirommental impact of 1/3rd fewer Americans would be more than 1/3rd less.

>But more people means more GDP/productivity/insight/invention and that means the pie gets bigger.

More GDP, less GDP/capita.

Fewer people means better trained and educated work-force (we would have had almost twice the resources/student a couple of decades ago). Probably better fed as well. So fewer people means significantly higher GDP

Mass culture kills insight. Perhaps we would have less mass culture with 1/3rd less people. Americans of today are among the least insightful in our history.

Invention rates would be higher with a better educated and trained workforce with less mass culture.

New Orleans, with a population of less than a half million, is a hotbed of musicians, it is our culture. More people would kill that culture. And with 1/700th of the USA, we produce *FAR* more than our share of music.

Best Hopes for Fewer Children being born,


Temple University Study of Pulsed Electromagnetic Fuel Treatment Yields Dramatic Results in Reducing Oil Viscosity
Scientific Tests Confirm Viability of STWA's ELECTRA Technology in Improving Oil Transportation and Refining Processes
MORGAN HILL, CA, Jun 05, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX News Network) -- Save the World Air, Inc. (OTCBB: ZERO) today announced that recently concluded tests that were conducted by the Temple University, Department of Physics, and which were sponsored by a major corporation in the petroleum industry, resulted in substantial reductions in the viscosity of heavy crude oil, when treated with a patent-pending pulsed electromagnetic device. These results confirmed earlier tests and hold direct benefits to a wide variety of processes associated with the oil and gasoline industry, including the more efficient transportation of fuels through pipelines, potential applications to oil refining processes, and improved fuel economy.
The sponsoring corporation, a major international engineering and oil refinery construction company, sponsored the tests and the results indicated substantial reductions in the viscosity of samples of heavy crude oil, with three differing densities. In the petroleum industry, the standard measure of crude oil is API (American Petroleum Institute) gravity and the higher the number, the "lighter" or less dense the crude oil. Crude oils with an API of less than 21.5 are considered "heavy crude oil." Typically, Brent crude is API 38, and is considered "light crude." The NYMEX crude oil futures contracts call for crude with not less than API 37, nor more than API 42. The oil in the test samples had densities of API 11, API 15 and API 21. The reduction in viscosity derived as a result of the use of the pulsed electromagnetic technology, without the heat factor, ranged from 16% for API 11 to 19% for API 21. The results of these tests indicate that oil can be moved more efficiently and at greater speed through pipelines from the wellhead, as well as a host of additional applications in the transportation and refining processes.

Light crude oils are simpler to refine than heavy crude oils and tend to trade at a premium price relative to heavy oils. At times this premium has been as much as $20 per barrel. Profit margins for companies with equipment and capacity to refine heavy grades of crude oil can be far larger than for refiners only capable of refining the most expensive grades of oil. This discovery can be of significant benefit to the oil industry, given the quantity of heavy crude available throughout the world, which has been prohibitive to extract in years past because of technological, refining, and market pressures.

In his report, Dr. Rongjia Tao, Temple University Physicist, estimated that substantial cost savings would be generated using the "Pulsed Electric and Magnetic Field" technology compared to other methods which add chemicals or gasoline to heavy crude oils. Within his scientific report, Dr. Tao stated, "We are very confident that STWA's licensed technology will be able to reduce the viscosity of crude oils, similar to AP 21 by 30% with the electromagnetic treatment technology. Dr. Tao also reported that in addition to the oil pipelines, this viscosity reduction method may also be useful for heavy crude oil production at oil wells." It is the intent of STWA and Temple University to pursue developing this specific application with major oil producers and refineries.