TOD Local Open Thread: Any Hope of a Buyer's Strike?

We've heard all sorts of different ideas on how to ease the pain at the pump this Summer for motorists. The Bush administration has argued for OPEC to increase production and Congress to ease restrictions on drilling. In reply Congress wants to sue OPEC over high prices and tax oil company's windfall profits. Senators Clinton and McCain have called for holiday for the Federal gas tax. All of these various ideas have made a lot of headlines, but none of this has done a drop of good so far.

More long term, price induced demand destruction will take hold and people are making better decisions factoring in oil price - they are buying smaller cars and not snapping up McMansions in the hinterland, but with oil near $140/barrel right now what's the short term answer?

The secret answer to curbing high oil prices in a supply constrained world that no one seems to be talking about is for buyers to go on strike. And no, I'm not talking about a meaningless "Don't fill up on this day" but keep driving.

My back of the envelope estimate is that if there were a concerted effort by the major economies (hello G8 ministers meeting in Japan) to have demand pulled back sharply (10-15%) over the Summer, we could see oil prices go down fairly rapidly.

What prospects do people think there is of it? Would it be politically feasible? How much would demand need to decline to make a substantial impact of oil prices?

Fascinating idea, but it would ultimately be a game of chicken. Would the United States work to reduce demand if China did nothing, for example? Or what if all nations agreed to reduce demand, but some only made half-hearted attempts? Or the central government wasn't strong enough to prevent corrupt local officials from undercutting the policy?

Finally, if we did all of these things and were able to successfully bring the price down, would there not be a strong urge for people to try to backslide into old behaviors?

The other day I saw someone say this in regards to boycotts: I suggest you just don't buy gas for a month, then for a year. If enough people did that it would really work.

Good question ericy - here's some responses to consider.

"Would the United States work to reduce demand if China did nothing, for example? Or what if all nations agreed to reduce demand, but some only made half-hearted attempts?"

I think this could be done hand in hand with multilateral trade & security agreements. If a country did not participate or made meaningless gestures, the rest of the group would have to threaten to do something meaningful like increase trade tariffs or kick them out of whatever regional defense network they belong to. But the idea is that solidarity is paramount. If that's not possible, then it's back to laissez-faire market demand destruction - messy, inequitable, social upheaval - in other words, the perfect environment for dictators and demagogues. We need to have proactive leadership now to head off the more ominous scenarios later.

To fight the power of a cartel, you have to think like a union. We hang together or hang separately. Plus, by reducing your net consumption of oil you are improving your balance of trade, holding down inflation, which at these prices is a real risk.

Finally, if we did all of these things and were able to successfully bring the price down, would there not be a strong urge for people to try to backslide into old behaviors?

The idea is to start to put into place the societal behaviors that will reduce consumption in a more orderly and equitable way that maintain the social fabric. Some of these short term measures would be done on an "emergency basis" at first but they might gain popularity as they make people less dependent on oil and can be supplemented by more long term investments in efficiency in buildings and increases in gas mileage on newer cars.

China is busy building new airports for their growing middle class and the increasing number of tourists.

Well put Glenn.

Working in favour of cooperation is the fact that fighting climate change and addressing oil shortages actually go together quite nicely. Net importers have many incentives to reduce their imports, including the huge one of energy security. The trick is to make oil expensive locally but at the same time protect the poor and keep the money from flowing, in the form of scarcity rent, to the producing countries.

Peter Barnes has developed a great approach called Sky Trust; an Irish think tank has a similar approach called Cap and Share. These are what the world needs.

One of their strengths is that it isn't all or nothing... individual nations or regions can start, and others can join them or not down the road. The Irish government, I understand, is seriously considering this. It is the ultimate buyers' strike. Although their focus is on climate, they have written about peak oil and how a cap and share approach would keep energy scarcity from, in their words, crucifying the poor.

Yes - that's about what I had in mind. thanks

I've heard this kind of system justified on Georgist grounds.

The time we need to carry out these things is actually not that much longer than a modern war so I would think that straight out rationing should be the starting point. Introducing some trading makes some sense if it is done at the level of the individual. Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) have been discussed here:
and the US DOE rationing plan includes a ration white market. Cap-and-Trade though tends to benefit legacy polluters and I think it needs to be avoided.


Sounds like a grass-roots "powerdown" solution. Great idea!

I was doing the calculations this morning and if I really committed to it, I could go 80 days on a tank of gasoline (thats teleworking and taking the bus). I already go 3-4 weeks on a tank (16 gallons) of gas as it is. Before I started taking the bus in August 2005 and carpooling, it was a tank of gasoline every week.

A boycott on oil for a limited time will bring prices down for a limited time only.

So you might choose to reduce oil consumption permanently. If you can achieve 3-4% reduction per year - this yould be a big achievement already. However this is about the same magnitude as the decline in global oil production. Hence you might end up with no price change - which would not be a failure but a great success. I do not think you can do anything to bring prices down permanently - you can only slow down the price increases.

Global treaties to save the world are not easy to negotiate. The Kyoto and subsequent treaties about stopping global warming have been opposed by the US government. Similar to peak oil you cannot stop or reverse global warming - you just can try to slow it down to a certain level.

On the other hand the abolition of CFCs proves that global actions are possible.

The time of cheap oil and gas is over - not even subsidies can change that permanently. You might remember today as the good old days where gas was only 4 bucks a gallon.

To fight the power of a cartel, you have to think like a union. We hang together or hang separately.

It is not clear to me that OPEC will benefit from a continuation of the current steady oil price increases. Eventually the world's economy is going to be seriously damaged, and a global financial collapse is not in OPEC's interest. The best option for extending BAU operation of the global economy for a period of time will be a global cooperative oil trade (i.e. rationing) involving both producers and consumers. However, the goal of prolonging BAU by such a method only makes sense if you think that electrification of transportation or some other technological innovation is going to ride to the rescue in a decade or so and allow the stock market to go on rising for many decades into the future. My best engineering judgment tells me that such an arrival of the technological cavalry is unlikely, and that the OECD nations are going to have to accept economic contraction. I am not saying that it is impossible for some combination of renewable/nuclear energy to help cushion the effect of the decline of fossil fuel supplies; I belive that they can do so. However, I believe we need to create an economic system in which it is not the goal of all major economic players to get richer forever. Abandoning this goal will require far more radical changes than energy conservation.

I constantly hear engineers like yourself saying they don't think the electrification of transportation is possible, even in a decade.

Then I see all these media releases about new batteries, new technologies, new fuel sources and I can't help but think one of them has got to take hold.

The lithium ion batteries are a great option, no? Two days ago a fellow TODer pointed me to a company that makes ethanol out of algea secretions, another promising endeavour, they are planning on building a 100,000 gallon a year plant if I remember correctly as a pilot project which can be explanded to a great degree.

With all of our ingenuity behind this, what is your reasoning for the failure of all of these options? (not just the two I mentioned)

Thanks, I look forward to finding this out as it is a question I ask myself daily.

It's a matter of time and money. Replacing the vehicle fleet with electrics is not something that happens over night, nor is it cheap. Batteries are getting better, but go buy a 12V 100 amp-hour lithium ion battery. You'll see why lead-acid batteries are going to be around for a long time. Your algal ethanol plant is so tiny that it isn't worth talking about. 100k barrels/year (rather than gallons) is worth a glance and 100k barrels/day is genuinely interesting, but nothing like that is on the horizon.

Although many options will be put into practice and help mitigate the problem, mitigation does not mean solve.

"I see all these media releases about new batteries, new technologies, new fuel sources and I can't help but think one of them has got to take hold."

They will, it just takes a while. For instance, the Chevy Volt will take another 2 years to start manufacturing, and another 2 years to ramp up to real volumes (100,000 per year). A lot of companies are competing to produce PHEVs (plug-in hybrids) and EVs, but it will take a little while.

It won't take forever to make a difference - 50% of vehicle miles are driven by vehicles less than 6 years old - but it won't be tomorrow.

From what I see teh US culture would not allow it. The land of the free has taken on a meaning that I'm sure was never intended by the founding fathers. Free to do whatever you damn well feel like regardless of the impact of your behaviour on anyone else. No US President or congress is going to tell the people that tehy have to stop buying gasoline for the greater good.

People dont want to do "less"

That is masochism, and only masochists enjoy it.

SOOOO... what we need is positive messaging.

START bicycling

start walking

get to know your neighbors and carpool

petition our oil+auto companies to rebuild the streetcars and railroads they tried so hard to destroy, or we will nationalize them and their (oil's) windfall profits

start your own victory gardens

start planning our cities better, so we can walk/bike/train everywhere as Asians and Europeans do.

Or simply walk everywhere, as Africans do.


high prices are the only thing which will bring about overall positive changes.

it's worked in amsterdam and paris. see below.



Exactly. Europe taxes energy consumption, especially motor fuels, and their per capita energy consumption is half of what it is in the US, and they in general have far better mass transit systems than the US.

From above article on

Governments now get most of the profits. After nationalization I guess that they will get all. There is no end to greed.

There is nothing quite like walking 50 miles for medical care.

Hi Robert,

The problem.

Long before I knew what Peak Oil was, I decided I'd live a life without a car. It was due mostly to a spat of accidents I had (none my fault). I sold my car, rented an apartment near downtown and started living car-less (Lived in Waterloo, Canada, POP: 300,000). The transition was difficult at first. I had to do things like "time" out my life..if the bus came at 5 15, you had to be there at 5 15.

After some time I discovered life wasn't really that bad without a car. Over the 6 years I lived without a vehicle, I saved in excess of 30 000 dollars. I worked in IT and managed to travel for work. While co-workers would rent a car, I'd take the train and use city transit (you get some weird looks in HR submitting a bus transfer to recoup your 2.50.

Living without a car was probably the best thing I ever did in my life. I learned that one gets to know their community MUCH better on foot. You live and feel your neighborhood, something you can't do in a car. You also eat better. Fast food restaurants tend to locate where ease of access for cars is priority 1, so when you're living in a walkable neighborhood, you're more likely to sit down and eat & eat healthy. I think I lost something like 40 pounds in the first year of being car free. Vacationing took on a whole new meaning. Travel to a city that was 100 KM's away meant taking a train or bus but I discovered the riches of the city that I'd have never seen in a car.

The only times I needed a car was when I'd travel into the country just for a drive so I would rent one. Getting groceries was a little inconvenient but I learned to shop every few days rather than in massive bulk. This lowered my food costs because nothing went bad. You bought what you could carry home & that pushed me to plan my meals versus eating on the fly.

I've since bought a car that I use for work (oil industry IT consultant). I drive it for a living, but off work, I rarely use it, drive only to the gym and live in an urban neighborhood in Calgary, Canada. It was interesting that the minute I bought a car, all the bad habits returned...eating fast food (gained weight), traveling all over to buy things or just driving aimlessly wasting gas. I no longer save as much as I did before & I'm not sure I'm actually better off. The convenience of a car forces me to demand a higher income to pay for the car.

Perhaps rather than asking people to walk everywhere or ride a bike, we could ask them to think about the benefits of life without a car. When I didn't drive, most people assumed I had been charged with impaired or was just poor or a hippie. We need to change the mindset of automobile ownership and show the positive sides of car free living without getting too "granola bar" in the message. Apparently, the trend in Japan is to live car free...perhaps we should export that to North America.

Rather than saying "stop driving to save the world" how about saying if you stop driving so much, you'll save 10's of thousands of dollars, improve your health & have far less stress you would if you drive. Compare it to smoking where the positives (saved money, better health) probably did alot more than threatening people with the fear of lung cancer.

It shows what is possible when you plan a little bit. I wonder however how mcuh of the infrastructure that we have and the car culture that uses it is being used by those without a car. For exapmle we have a service in Aus called meals-on-wheels which delivers meals to housebound elderly. The deliverys are done by volunteers in their own cars and there is concern about how long this arrangement can keep going with current petrol prices. Even though we may be able to do without cars as individuals, are we still dependent on the wider community that does run them for delivery of many other services that may be hidden from our concious thoughts?

Just had a chat with my neighbor who happens to be an airline pilot and pilot trainer. I had just come home from grocery shopping at the supermarket, I had walked there and back. We chatted about the building around the corner which has been empty since about two years ago when it was foreclosed upon.
Very nice building, excellent location the developer ran out of money, the apartments were supposed to be on sale for a mere $450k for a two bedroom apartment. Well the pigeons are roosting there now.
My neighbor still doesn't get it. Well, his job depends on him not getting it. It's not up to me to break the news to him, so I didn't.

Ride a Bike or Take a Hike!

I agree. It must be a grassroots response. It won't come from government edict, no matter how positive they make it sound.

Sure, it sounds fun to walk and enjoy the great outdoors, but frankly, except for a few regions with mild weather, the outdoors suck. Someone in San Francisco or coastal Los Angeles could comfortably walk outdoors 11 months of the year, but try telling that to someone in Buffalo or Phoenix or Houston. That's why we have cars with air conditioning. I agree as anyone else here about needing to get out of cars, but the problem of weather protection is intractable as long as driving and air conditioning remain affordable. All I can say is, I've lived in New York before. New Yorkers get out and walk in all weather. People will just have to get used to being sweaty and cold and wet and all the other discomforts of the great outdoors.

Even in the worst case (New Orleans in August) walking at 7:30 AM is not too bad. Bicycling is better (more "wind"). And coming home to a shower at 5:30 PM is OK too.

And most public transit is air conditioned today (but not the 1923/24 St. Charles streetcars).

Best Hopes for Non-Oil Transportation,


I lothe responses like this... Seriously how did people _EVER_ survive before the Auto... AC and OMG central heating... Anybody who thinks like this needs to seriously get a life. Life has been made easy by oil.

Couple of things.
- That wasn't my personal opinion, but ask around and you'll find most people feel that way. Just go to a mall parking lot and see the people circling and waiting for a parking spot a little bit closer to the door. I'll go outside in any weather, and I damn well know how unpleasant it can be. I live in a city with mild weather, but I know the vast majority of North America isn't as fortunate as me. Even then, I've ridden my motorcycle in the local metro area in temps as low as 35F and as high as 115F.
- Sure, people lived in these places before the auto, but check the population rank of the Sunbelt cities, say, before and after the 1950's. Cities like Atlanta and Phoenix would likely never have grown to their present size without A/C and cars. They have tiny urban cores and huge sprawling suburbs where the distances are unwalkable and mostly unbikeable even in good weather. As Kunstler puts it, even the shortest car ride would turn into a Bataan Death March.

The problem with this is most unenlightened people will just give the response "I'd rather not". How do you overcome a response like that? It seems useless trying to convince people who have already decided they won't be convinced. Unfortunately it's the people who understand science the least, so explaining it to them in scientific terms is meaningless to them, they lack the ability to understand the problem, and don't think they can affect the solution.

I think the producers may actually like this. This would allow them to reduce their extraction. If I was Putin or the King, I would like to see my extraction get down to four or five million barrels a day right quick anyway. Enough to cover domestic demand and maybe export one million a day.

Way better than dollars in some bank somewhere these days.

If you could get something like this to semistick for long enough to demonstrate that yes, it is supply and demand. Most of the people don't understand this, and look for scapecoats. So a successful demonstration like this would be very useful. Of course getting enough governments/people to go along is the real issue. Everyone ONLY sees their own consumption as only affecting there own budget. The reality, is that if I choose to consume an extra gallon, I pay the cost of 1 gallon, but every other consumer pays a marginally higher price for the same commodity because of the supply/demand effect. With low price elasticity the total additional price paid by the entire cartel of consumers is many times greater than the price I paid for that gallon. So from the standpoint of the consumer cartel alone (isolated from the producers) the price signal that the consumer sees is several times too small. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would imply that a fairly high consumption tax (presumably with the take redistributed fairly) would maximize efficiency of the consumption cartel.

But, if we look at it in another way, we have a triage situation. Some, or all consumers must be forced to reduce their consumption. Doing nothing, and we have the price mechanism, which as we are seeing can be pretty brutal on consumers. Getting reductions via some other sort of collusive mechanism may be less painful overall (but psychologically horrid for libertarians). Rationing is one such approach. I think most common people would prefer rationing over really high prices. But the size of the psychological/political barrier is very high. This is compounded by the fact, that you got to get a large number of major consuming countries to agree to a common program.

Any ideas on how to make it socially unacceptable to drive a gas guzzler?
How can we equate using fossil fuel with defecating in public?

How can we equate using fossil fuel with defecating in public?

I can see you've never been to India then.

I see a problem with a fuel tax increase-other tax decrease. It is just taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other so they can continue buying as much fuel as usual. The tax if raised should be used for energy efficiency programs and renewable energy projects. There are still 100 million households that could use more insulation and new more efficient appliances. I would love to have a ground source heat pump but such a system would cost more than I paid for the house. (There a some real housing bargains to be had in small town Iowa.) I am stuck with a 13 year old car and an 18 year old minivan both of which get only 20-22 mpg. Would love to have a small diesel car but like tens of millions of Americans there is no way I can afford it. My yard is big enough for an algae oil pond so I could produce some of my own fuel. America's working poor are stuck with gas guzzlers many which get even worse mileage than my cars do. If we used the fuel tax increase to scrap the old guzzlers and then subsidize the leasing of American made high mileage cars for low income households enormous amounts fuel would no longer be demanded several years from now. We might even save a 100,000 good paying jobs building these high mileage cars.

While articles like the following appear, there is no problem!


The Guardian, UK, yesterday...

"The world is not running out of oil and can continue to produce hydrocarbons for the next 40 years provided restrictions are lifted on where companies can operate, the head of BP said today.

"The Arctic and currently closed areas off the coast of America should be considered for exploration if rising global energy demand is to be met in future, said chief executive Tony Hayward.

"He insisted that all other forms of energy, whether clean-tech or otherwise, also need to be developed simultaneously while rising carbon emissions could still be curbed.

"'Declining oil production in the OECD highlights the fact that, while resources are not a constraint globally, the resources within reach of private investment by companies like BP are limited,' said Hayward.

"'Political factors, barriers to entry, and high taxes all play a role here. In other words when it comes to producing more oil, the problems are above ground, not below it. They are not geological, but political,' he added.

"Some of the difficulties of access were in nations such as Venezuela, Russia and the Middle East which have adopted clear policies of resource nationalism where the state has grabbed assets previously in the hands of independent oil companies, but Hayward also noted the 92% of the US is off-limits and the Arctic needed opening up.

"The BP boss was talking at the launch of his company's annual statistical review of world energy which showed that world oil consumption grew by 1.1% in 2007, or 1m barrels a day, slightly below the 10-year average, while production fell by 0.2%, or 130,000 barrels a day, the first decline in five years.

"An increasing number of oil industry commentators have put forward the view that "peak oil" has now been reached - or shortly will be - and is responsible for a 40% rise in crude prices this year to record highs of nearly $140 a barrel. BP, though, said today that proved oil reserves at 1.24tn barrels are enough to meet current production for 41 years.

"Hayward also batted aside Opec arguments that the extremely high price of oil could be attributed to financial speculators playing the commodity markets and the slump in the dollar's relative value to other currencies.

"'The defining feature of global energy markets remains high and volatile prices, reflecting a tight balance of supply and demand,' he said, adding that 'I am certainly not a subscriber to peak oil (theories)'."


No doubt PO is an obvious reality - crude oil is finite, I understand this. And I understand that oil-producing nations must look after their own interests first. But who's telling the truth? Surely there's no conspiracy, is there? Surely the head of BP isn't publicly proclaiming a pack of lies?

Is PO with us today or do we have another 40 years to adjust?

As an Average Joe, attempting to (secretly from my wife!) research as much as I can, while trying to raise a family and pay the bills in this BAU world (climate change included), "where we're at" is where I hesitate.

Regards, Matt B from Melbourne, Australia
(Still sitting on all kinds of fences!)

I don't believe in any form of conspiracy. But what is being said here is plainly not true. At least not in any normal sense of the word true.

"BP, though, said today that proved oil reserves at 1.24tn barrels are enough to meet current production for 41 years."

Proved reserves are enough to supply the world for 41 years, IF we can get it all out fast enough and IF our demand stays stable. Neither of those are going to happen. If our demand grows at the current exponential rate, we'll be out within 10 or so years (forgotten the source - a comment on yesterdays drumbeat maybe?)

And the 40 years is not when oil peaks, it's when oil runs out altogether. The peak will be with us much sooner than that!

These aren't necessarily lies, but they are a combination of skewed statistics, clever wording and exaggerations. He may actually believe what he is saying, or he may have been misinformed, or he may be lying outright.

Get off that fence, and get on the Peak Oil boat! It's arriving sooner than you are being led to believe!

Thanks, Luminara. No doubt, as time goes on and the cost of everthing continues upward, I'll come aboard. But, will there be life-vests, a bunch of captains or a mutinous crew that awaits?

Regards, Matt

I don't believe in any form of conspiracy.

Well the US government disagrees with you - as they have laws on the books to charge people with conspiracy.

Former BP North America Trader Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
to Manipulate and Corner the Propane Market
The purpose of the conspiracy was to enrich BP by inflating the price of propane in February 2004 and then selling it at the inflated prices, and to enrich the conspirators through bonuses and other remuneration from BP.

Now you can choose to say 'there are no conspiracies' - but I've asked others who make such claims to explain the above link. Perhaps you can.

Hi Matt,

I appreciate your sharing this, and have suggestions:

First one is to...engage your wife in the research! And, any kids in the mid to upper teens? (not that they have to be that old to do research.) Have you seen the website And the "peak oil primer"? (She might enjoy the blog by Sharon Astyk.) If all else fails, she is free to email me.


re: "where we're at" is a question. Have you read the discussion on the main pages of TOD?

There are many posters here who can respond to the specifics of the quotes above, and probably have on DB. I'll just say a few things:

re: ""The world is not running out of oil and can continue to produce hydrocarbons for the next 40 years provided restrictions are lifted on where companies can operate, the head of BP said today."

Sometimes - or, perhaps most often, actually - people find it very hard to tell the truth, "the whole truth, and nothing but the truth". This is basically an emotional issue. Take secrets, for eg. Helpful? Or not? Is there any way to make it safer to talk about important matters?

Let me just posit that Mr. Hayward, for many reasons, does not feel safe enough to be completely open. And so, he passes on carefully constructed sentences that are not, taken individually, lies. At the same time, they mislead.

Anyway, if you notice, Mr. Hayward never, ever states the following: He never states unequivocally that the total supply of world oil is *not* at peak. He never states that we are *not* at the beginning of decline of production on a worldwide basis. He never states that the "Export Land Model" is without foundation, nor does he state that he even knows what it is. Though my guess is, he does. These are merely examples.

So, back to what he does say. Just take the first sentence. There is simply no connection between whether or not "more oil can be produced" and if whatever *is* produced can continue to fuel the global industrial economies we have in place.

Sure, maybe...we can continue to produce "hydrocarbons". So what? How many "hydrocarbons"? For consumption by - whom, exactly?

Each of his sentences is like this.

Next, please notice the connections between his first and second sentences.

If "the world is not running out of oil" as he states, then why the need to drill the Arctic and California coast?

There are two really nice articles on by Martin Payne that you might find helpful. You can just do a search for them.

Just one more word.

There does not have to be a "conspiracy" for people to feel afraid. Afraid for their jobs, afraid their actions or words might trigger panic...afraid for many reasons.

As a wise old woman once said "People lie when they are afraid. So, when you lie, you need to stop and ask yourself 'What is it I'm afraid of?'".

I would also suggest (so this would be two more words :)) - focus on the people who are actively dedicated to helping others by telling what they know. Matt Simmons would be one of these. Robert Hirsch. Many on TOD. I'd look up the writing of the (now deceased) former Iranian Oil Minister Samsen Bakhtiari.

Thanks, Aniya (a Mr or a Mrs?) - one thing that impresses me about this site is the level of detailed reply that comes from TODsters to newbies like myself, a simple dad with mouths to feed. Moreover, I appreciate how you guys (and gals) write in a way that I can follow.

Yes, you may very well be right that PO has arrived and yes, I understand how those at the top don't necessarily tell us everything (that's inbuilt into ALL male humans, isn't it? Saw a report the other day suggesting oil production was booming; pictures included $2b rigs being "churned out" [Rigs each have a 2 year construction time!]. Wasn't quite sure what to make of it). And I'll continue to follow the likes of Matt Simmons and lookout for docos like "A Crude Awakening".

One TOD blogger tells me he thinks we have around four years before the real trouble starts. Big Business says we have decades. MS says nothing! I guess at the end of the day, when I see how little is being done on Climate Change - even though we're told it's ever-so urgent - what can this little Average Joe do about it anyway? (I have visions of "shocked" neighbours banging on my door in a few years to get to the vegi-patch; which I need to start soon, BTW!).

But I do know oil, gas and coal are finite resources and get harder and harder to pull from the ground. And it does keep me up at night knowing that one day, perhaps when there's 9B people on the planet, that my middle-class life-style will come under threat. But today, other than getting a motorbike license (booked in for July), I really don't know how to prepare without being radical about it (at least though, I have my 11-yr-old son talking about everything solar!).

I'm still very much locked into MS, as are those loved ones and friends around me. And breaking the connection with them, particularly while PO remains a notion to most of those "in charge", or is ignored altogether, seems a tough ask.

But hey, life wasn't meant to be easy!

Thanks again for the reply.

Regards, Matt

You're most welcome, Matt,

Thank you for responding.

That would be "Ms." Aniya.

re: "what can this little Average Joe do about it anyway?"

Well, for one thing...not so sure about the "little" part. This implies that you're "no one" or "only one", when you've said many things that indicate otherwise, to me.

For eg., you have loved ones and friends near by - yes? Thus, right there, you are rich in many ways and have no shortage of people with whom to share your thoughts and actions. How many people truly have that?

Next, you don't know yet what you can do, don't know. Right? This doesn't mean that tomorrow it may be you discover what you *can* do. Or, perhaps the next day.

Second, re: "do about it anyway?"

Now, not to give you a bad time, but...this is a whole new subject. If you have not yet learned some things you believe to be important (and I agree), such as "What is the significance, if any, of the different views about time between those of Matt Simmons and Robert Hirsch and Richard Heinberg, and those of Mr. Hayward?" It seems you haven't settled this for yourself.

Plenty of people can *tell* you "what to do".

At the same time, perhaps it will jump out at you once you find out what you want to know.

Or, you could always ask people for more ideas! I'm sure you'd get many.

And, just one (very) last comment:

re: "PO remains a notion to most of those "in charge", or is ignored altogether..."

You don't really know what those "in charge" actually say to themselves, or think to themselves about "peak oil" - do you?

Perhaps they feel as you do - or, as you might - confused, helpless (ie., "what to do about it anyway? I'm just an average person-with-a-little-bit-of-limited power and/or wealth").

The other thing is...if you live in a representative democracy, those "in charge", at least the political leaders (people in government) assume that IF a subject is IMPORTANT, then THE PEOPLE will LET ME KNOW ABOUT IT. (Not exactly a scream, they say, but definitely w. emphasis.)

OK, one very (very!) last point:

re: "...breaking the connection with them."

Why would this happen? If you talk to them, and they are loved ones, as you say, and friends, as you say...would they not want to know what is important to you? Why would they not?

Do you want to know what's important to them?

I thought there was a "motherly" tone to your writing, Aniya! And now that I think about it, "Aniya" is a lady's name, afterall... Curse my Joe Average IQ!

An expression that continues to be reasonably popular in my immediate circle (both friends and family): "He who dies with the most toys wins!". Indeed, it's scary what some mates and brothers-in-law earn, what they borrow; the hours they put in away from their families. In contrast, I work from home (shooting and editing weddings), am there for the kids when they get home from school, cook meals and stuff. Having said that, if I was offered a job tomorrow jet-setting the world at three times my current take-home (twice wouldn't be enough!), I'd be off - and I suspect anyone that does the work I do, particularly after 23 years of doing it, might feel the same!

I guess what I'm saying, even after ten months of thinking about PO, I'm still not ready to accept that's it's upon us; that I still don't fully believe the world will change significantly any time soon (relatively speaking). That things will calm down a little. That in my mind, after everything I've read, PO doesn't yet seem "real" to me. So for the moment, I'll simply continue researching, here and elsewhere, get a little greener, try not to over-commit on material things (though that Fiji holiday next year for the twentieth anniversary may be a little tricky to get around!)... And keep an eye out for the signs of a storm.

I do know this, however: Discussing PO amongst friends becomes a broken record after awhile (My only on-going outlets are my dad - not much help as he loves conspiracy theories - and my father-in-law, a retired environmental advisor for Shell Australia, which is kinda handy).

Thanks again, Matt B

I guess what I'm saying, even after ten months of thinking about PO, I'm still not ready to accept that's it's upon us;

The nail in the coffin for me (with respect to peaking of supplies) came when I read Kenneth Deffeyes' "Beyond Oil", particularly the chapter about the Hubbert method. I'm a physicist and thus it's very hard to convince me of some "scientific" conclusion, because I know first hand how big, government funded science works, and my job is to be skeptical. This is my problem with climate change science: because it gets such incredible about of money, it's very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff (much the same can be said of string theory, biomedical research, even my own field of nanotechnology). John Michael Greer's article Saving Science on yesterday's DrumBeat made some very good comments along these lines.

There's no big government money behind peak oil research, only a dedicated group of individuals doing science the way it should be done: not for pay, and out of a sincere search for the truth. The fact that Hubbert's employers encouraged him not to share his findings is to me an indication that he's probably right.

Ultimately, the value of a theory rests on its predictive power. Hubbert got the peak in the US right, 12 or so years before the fact; use his method for world supplies, and you get a peak right about now. As someone who teaches physics and math to the unwilling, I know it's a pain for a "Joe Average" to sit and think about mathematical curves and such, but in my mind, it's the only way to find the truth of the matter. If you take the time to plow through it and read it fifty times, I think you'll find, as I did, that the assumptions behind his work are very simple, and the truth is plain to see.

Or, I could continue getting up each day, listening to the news, reading headlines and looking out for the words, "World Soon To Run Out Of Affordable Oil" (perhaps from the Prime Minister?).

I believe Peak Oil is an obvious reality, that at some point supply must decline; my 105 IQ is good enough to work that one out! It's the "When?" that has me puzzled, and though I acknowledge that I need to up my understanding somewhat, I'm not sure if it's ultimately necessary...

I dropped my son off this morning to his local tennis comp (carpool from there - would have walked, but couldn't find his racket, dang! Is being organised part of a TODster's life?). There's perhaps 25 junior teams at our club, 4 kids in each, most are driven to a central hub on a Saturday morning. My point; if it takes a year or more for this Average Joe to work out such methods of shuttling the kids around is totally ridiculous and unsustainable, what hope is there that the other "99%" will also "do the research"?

No doubt I'll keep chipping away, nonetheless. But gee, if things get much worse (here in Australia, Virgin Blue just announced $50million in cutbacks, directly blaming fuel prices), MS headlines must be just around the corner.

Thanks again for your response.

Matt B

Matt, in the end you can only do what your circumstances allow you to do - and I've found there's a lot you can do that makes really good sense regardless of how close the pain of PO is.

For instance - reduce your debt levels. Clear the credit card balance and cut the thing up. Try and pay off your mortgage, or if you can't, consider relocating to somewhere more affordable with good access to public transport and shops, parks etc in walking distance. Don't buy the big, grandiose looking SUV that'll impress the neighbours - instead if you really must buy a car, choose a 2nd hand one with good economy. Do you really need that plasma TV? Etc etc. These things make good financial sense even in a normal BAU economy.

As you mentioned - start a veggie garden. Its a healthy and rewarding hobby that your wife and kids will appreciate when they taste the difference between homegrown produce and the bland rubbish from the supermarkets.

If the pain of PO and/or the credit crunch descends on you, well you'll have done what you can to reduce your financial exposure and to gain some necessary skills. If it doesn't, you'll still be much better off - you've really got nothing to lose & a lot to gain.


Thanks, Andrew for the reply.

The wife and I are already doing a lot of the things you suggest; we're pretty conservative. It's the awareness thing that gets me down, the lack of discussion in MS. My fear is that things have to get really bad before "root causes" are even discussed, let alone dealt with.

At the moment, from my point of view, it's all a little frustrating.

Regards, Matt B

I think I've said itbefore Matt, First comes denial, then anger, then bargaining then acceptance. You have to go through all the stages of grief to really understand this thing. I think you might be at the bargaining stage. Hang in there buddy, not long to go!

Yes, Termoil, I believe you have told me before! I will hang in, as I sense all this may soon descend upon us (but still crossing my fingers that it won't).

Why attempt a boycott when reducing prices would bring us right back down to the status quo that has got us to where we are today? With each 50 dollar rise in oil prices we are witnessing our species adapting to living with more expensive energy and recognizing it's value and the need to conserve. No idealogical green movement toward sustainability works as well as the geological reality of resource constraints. Look at high oil prices as a catalyst toward change. We shouldn't forget that in a country like the USA only a small percentage of fossil fuel usage today goes toward the essentials of shelter, food and sanitation. All the consumption beyond that needed for survival is where our culture is expressed like driving your Hummer to the grocery store when you run out of ice cream. Expensive oil is changing human culture away from consumption and non sustainable indulgences and will move us toward less energy wasteful endeavours. And let's not forget non conventional sources of energy like the biodiesel in the fat stored in our overweight society that can be harnassed for walking and biking to get around.

And let's not forget non conventional sources of energy like the biodiesel in the fat stored in our overweight society that can be harnassed

I always thought there was some synergy between the liposuction industry and the bio-diesel industry. Maybe they could co-locate in Mississippi.

I don't get it. What would a buyer's strike do? What are the demands?

Whatever the role of the oil cos and speculators, here at TOD we know the deepest reason for the high prices. People need to understand that reason and get active in demanding that the gov't start taking appropriate actions to deal with it, and help the people deal with it. If a strike were part of such an effort, maybe it would make sense. But that's not what it would be about at this point. The demand would be to lower prices!

All in all, a very bad idea until there is enough consciousness to properly focus it.

Hey, people want lower prices and they are really hurting bad. I think my solution is the only one that offers any hope. The solution is to teach people that consumption is the problem, not supply. If we can pull back consumption in a broad, equitable and organized manner, it would be a huge generational lesson. And anytime the price goes up, the response is to pare back consumption in another area that is not critical.

The alternative is messy, inequitable and socially destabilizing demand destruction driven by an amoral market. If we don't learn to live within our geological means soon, life will become a lot more hellish for everyone.

Oh oh oh. Pretending we have power by "going on strike" is fun, but it's simply wrong-headed.

Sadly, we ought be GRATEFUL for the low prices we've had in the past, and "slow and steady" transition ourselves to other energy sources for transportation.

What's "killing us" is not the high prices but the future uncertainty of price. Sellers are afraid high prices will lead to reduced demand and lower prices.

I think buyers ought to mentally "tax" their own consumption. ASSUME gasoline ought to cost $20/gallon, and therefore any gasoline you purchase that is cheaper is SAVINGS to you. Then take that savings and INVEST it in something good!

I know plenty of people who will still drive at $20/gallon. It's still a good deal (in time savings) compared to their alternatives.

I don't understand the demands of a strike either. For truckers it's simple, to be able to charge freight rates that reflect fuel costs. Due to competitive pressures, truckers haven't been able to pass on fuel costs to customers, or in some cases, shippers have pocketed fuel surcharges instead of giving them to truckers.
For private passenger autos, there won't be any strike. It's called adapting to high energy prices by buying less gasoline. It's as simple as that. I think truck and SUV sales are already reflecting that reality.

I started my "buyers strike" in October of 1998. That's when I started walking to work; 4.5 miles one-way over a mountain. The practice received some local news coverage but I haven't seen any evidence that it motivated any imitators.

Nice, Bob.

I've started to enjoy walking more than cycling lately.

Well, that's all great, but what happens when we all want to buy some of this suddenly cheap fuel?

Even if we all reduce demand by using less during the "strike", once we go back to business as usual doesn't the same supply demand dynamic reassert itself? Worse yet, from the perspective of long term prices, does this game of "crack the whip" cause producers to dial back on marginal production projects? After all, who knows when the G8 will decide to do another "strike"? To be fair, the future production argument could be used against long term conservation programs.

Boycotts usually have a very limited success at best. Even if it is true that most of the cost of oil is from a bubble, price increases are going to be inevitable. The best thing to do is change behavior.

A well meaning boycott would show people very quickly how dependent we are on oil. It would also illustrate wide vs narrow boundary analysis. Not driving and using that gasoline would be a narrow boundary attempt - not buying imported items, heating oil, trucked in food, etc. would be a real boycott but next to impossible. Bill McKibben did it 2 winters ago in Vermont - stayed in his cabin and ate only locally - said it was very tough (especially the spices) but he did it.

The only chance for a boycott to work is to make it 'cool' and make people not boycotting look like they are losing status. But that would be a hard trick to pull off because of tragedy of commons setup.

The other chance that might work would be a mandatory boycott. But thats called something different - R-A-T-I-O-N-I-N-G.

I think you are hitting around what needs to happen. Something mandatory. But the US goverment is currently unable to enact anything related to energy risk mitigations. Completely ineffectial and right now stalemated between the two parties. Mandatory rationing or mandatory ride sharing or mandatory telecommuting would be measures that could reduce the demand a great deal in pretty short order.

Hi Nate,

Well you saw this already but here are my two cents:

Oil Is Too Expensive

The US Senate defeated a windfall profits tax measure that would have taxed oil companies on the high price of oil. It was defeated on a cloture vote: 51 to 43, a majority supported the closing of debate. It is getting close and one can guess that in November, this will be a deciding factor in some senate races and is already an issue in the presidential race:

There is not really a good reason not to capture the portion of the profits that are made on domestically produced oil since the only use for them is to reinvest in oil exploration which is becoming fruitless. But, capturing the profits does not do anything about the price of oil except to push it up a little faster since the oil exploration is not yet entirely fruitless. But, oil exploration is pointless now and for this reason it needs to be strongly discouraged. The way to discourage oil exploration is to reduce the price of oil rather than to stomp on a bunch of profit brushfires. While prices are high, some one somewhere will be exploring and finding oil that is expensive to produce even if we (in the US) manage to keep that from happening here through tax policy. Then everyone will be able to buy just as much oil as they can afford and the cancer of expensive oil will metastasize right back here where we might have stamped out incentives to find expensive oil. But, if the price of oil is reduced below the cost of expensive oil, then only cheap oil will be pumped from the ground and no one anywhere will bother to explore for expensive oil.

We can tell that oil is too expensive when people are working to be able to get to work or when people who have retired are choosing between heat and food. The promise of oil has been broken and it is time to give it up as a bad job. So, we need to make sure that people can get to work and keep warm while having something to eat. And, we need a good portion of the remaining cheap oil to get through to a point where these things can be done without using any oil. How do we ensure that we get that cheap oil at a price that reflects what it costs to produce rather than the scarcity of oil compared to how we use it now? We need to be sure that we are not using oil any faster than the remaining cheap oil can be pulled from the ground. If we try to go faster than that, we'll encourage people to look for more expensive oil since oil will seem scarce and thus worthy of investment.

Our policy should be focused on keeping oil inexpensive and to do that we need to aggressively phase out the use of oil. There are some sectors where we can't do this such as aviation, but in most we can move rapidly, and, more importantly, we can move rapidly enough overall. If the US alone, were to cut its per capita consumption to seven gallons a week down from nine, (think carpools and second small cars) we'd cut world consumption by about 6%. Dropping another weekly half gallon a year for fourteen years would cut world consumption by 25%. That is surely enough to keep the world on the cheap oil supplies out to 2025 or so since these supplies will be extended a bit by the reduced demand. Once we've done that, then it does not matter much what the price of oil is since we won't be using it, only selling our remaining cheap supplies, possibly at a markup depending on how many countries decide not to follow our example.

How to implement this policy? We might try simply restricting imports by a quarter or so. This would surely drop the world price of oil below $20/barrel. But, the domestic price of oil would likely be pretty high, $400/barrel or so, and this would encourage all sorts of foolishness in terms of looking for expensive oil domestically. We don't want to encourage that.

We could try imposing a tax, say $380/barrel, and that should solve the problem of encouraging exploration for expensive oil domestically and abroad, but is might be destabilizing for the government since the revenue would cover much more government spending than current taxes and we were warned by the chairman of the Federal Reserve at the beginning of the current administration that paying our national debt would be a bad thing. Also, since domestic oil prices would be even higher than now, we will have failed on the getting to work and keeping warm and eating portion of our problem.

Usually, when we have something serious to undertake, we ration. If we can get gasoline down to about $0.60/gallon by being careful how we use it, then our shared sense of accomplishment should help us do the rest of the transition down to using no gasoline at all. We have an existing rationing plan and it includes a white market in rations. This means that rations can be sold/traded, placing the cost of (rationing imposed) scarcity on the rations slips rather than the fuel. Getting to work or staying warm end up costing less though you might be making a choice on how to convert either of those two within a few years.

Just now, such an effort is doable, but if we wait for expensive oil to gain a greater share of the world total production, then controlling prices by controlling demand will be more difficult since there will be a floor price for much more of the production. In that situation, we will need to reduce our oil consumption probably just as much, but we won't gain the benefit of getting the cheap oil at a low price.

There would be other consequences of cheap oil. We might need to repossess some military aircraft that can't be paid for in the Middle East. Some countries may boost their dependence on oil owing to the reduced price we create. However, we can't control price beyond our ability to cut consumption to zero so as we use up the cheap oil, they will be left with a price shock when we pull out of the market on the consumption side. At that point, we can go ahead and produce our expensive (e.g. Bakken play) oil at a profit but no cost to ourselves. That should rectify our balance of trade fairly quickly. If not, then exporting our means of not using oil should do the job.

The core reason oil is too expensive is that the current price encourages exploration for expensive oil. Oil is useful when it is cheap to produce and cheap to buy, but it becomes harmful when it is expensive to buy, and even more harmful when it is expensive to produce since this places a price floor that no amount of consumption control can break. It is crucial not to spend resources on exploring for expensive oil. At present, only the US, as a single market entity, has the power to force only cheap oil to be produced and to end exploration for expensive oil. Others could, in combination, have a similar effect, but may not have the existing coordinated plan in place and thus may not be able to take such action before too much expensive (to produce) oil is on the market. The US should implement rationing as soon as possible to drive down the price of oil below $20/barrel and encourage other countries to also restrain demand. A window of perhaps 20 years of $20/barrel oil might be achieved through managed demand, plenty of time to manage a transition away from oil at low cost.

md, I read your entire comment and then re read it thinking that I must have missed something on the first reading. Nope. I didn't.I regard oil as THE key component of our industrial economic system, the energy slave of our economy.Imagine you are at a slave auction in Atlanta in 1859 overhearing a conversation between two plantation owners who have been seeing slave prices going up every year. "Aint it awful suh. What this country needs is more cheap slaves. These expensive slaves are killing my bidness. Mistuh, I tell you if these slave prices keep going up, it could just kill the South." There is a point of decreasing marginal returns for the cost of energy as there of course is for any system of inputs and outputs wherein the system cannot continue as structured and so either must retool and rebuild or suffer collapse. I fail to see the point of discussing energy in cheap or expensive terms in the manner that you did, but it was an interesting and provocative response nonetheless\. We have had a world economic system that does just fine on inexpensive energy. How will it function on expensive energy.? How expensive does energy have to get before it is too expensive? Fossil energy has been the driver and the lubricant of our economic system and and the drain plug will soon be pulled removing energy from the system and of course draining wealth as well. May we all live in interesting times!

Maybe I didn't say it right. Oil is too expensive because, at the current price, we are encouraging pointless exploration for oil that will be expensive to produce. This is not the reason oil is expensive, it is the reason it is too expensive.

Windfall profits taxes are good in so far as they discourage exploration for that expensive to produce oil. But, they don't really do the job in a gloabal market. In order to do that, we need to drive the price of oil down.

We can do that with a tax, but the volume of revenue would be too large.

So, that leaves rationing.

In the analogy that you use, it would be as if the planters decided to be sure that the slave traders had to feed the slaves they were selling for a year or so. After a while, they'd have to sell at whatever price they could get. Just so long as the planters agree to buy few enough slaves to be sure that there is always a surplus then the price will be low.

We know about how fast the cheap to produce oil will decline. All we have to do is agree to buy less than will be available, and it will have to be sold cheap. So, we start with a 25% cut in our consumption through the rationing program the DOE has ready to go then cut another 5% of current use per year for the next 14 years and there is no way that demand growth in the rest of the world can keep up with our demand cut. Oil will be cheap all during the time we are ending our use of it. 15 years is about the time needed for a car sold today to end up in the junk yard, so all we need to do is to transform transportation over that time period and we won't be using oil anymore. We'd be spending the money on cars anyway, but we don't need to spend money on expensive oil.

Hope that helps.


Hi Nate,

re: Could you please possibly direct me to an explanation of what you mean by "wide v. narrow boundary analysis"?

I read the example, but it doesn't really provide me with enough context to understand the usefulness of the distinction.

re: "The only chance for a boycott to work is to make it 'cool' and make people not boycotting look like they are losing status."

Can you envision a scenario in which status is maintained? (I don't exactly get this, though I believe you that it's an important consideration. Or, at least, I'm willing to accept it for the sake of argument.)

re: "But that would be a hard trick to pull off because of tragedy of commons setup."

There are theoretical ways around the "tocs", yes? How might those apply in this case?

Since I believe that oil is growing scarcer, and that most of the price reflects that reality, rather than some conspiracy, I'm not interested in a buyers' strike. Any reductions in price would be fleeting and it would divert attention from the cliff-edge we are driving towards.

I agree, I don't want the price of gas lowered, it needs to be high to reflect it's true value.

high prices are the answer we've been looking for on the climate change front.

Not really I think. A high oil price encourages things like coal-to-liquid and tar sands. This increases the carbon intensity of transportation rather than lowering it. I posted above that rationing oil to the level where the price is brought way down will discourage such damaging responses.


I think this is a great idea... but there will always be one major problem... to quote 99% of the consumers...


I filled up last Friday for the first time since last January.

There was still 4 gallons of diesel left in the tank, plus I filled by my old 2 gallon gas can and a new 5 gallon gas can, so I am good to go ! (Absent a hurricane evacuation).

Best Hopes for bi-annual fill-ups :-)


Congratulations, Alan. Let's hope none of this diesel will be needed for evacuation purposes.

Best of luck to you and everyone else this hurricane season.


I don't know that you need a 10% move. If the results of a recent study by Iowa State on the marginal price impact that ethanol has had on pump prices is correct - a small 2 or 3% change would likely have a 20 to 40 cent change in pump prices. We could use the SPR to push up supply by that much without too much drawdown and make a tidy profit too boot.

Additionally, don't sell short the ability of Americans to react to adverse conditions. In California gasoline and aircraft fuel usage for February was down 2.5% on a year over year basis...

Well, I checked out the original paper:
as well as one of the key papers referenced in that research:

I have some areas of contention with the Du and Hayes paper. However, the most relevant thing (to the discussion at hand) to pick up from that paper is to be found in the conclusion:

The results suggest that this reduction in gasoline prices came at the expense of refiners’ profits.
These reductions in retail gasoline prices are surprisingly large, especially when one considers that they are calculated at their mean values over the sample period. The availability of ethanol essentially increased the “capacity” of the U.S. refinery industry and in so doing prevented some of the dramatic price increases often associated with an industry operating at close to capacity. Because these results are based on capacity, it would be wrong to extrapolate the results to today’s markets. Had we not had ethanol, it seems likely that the crude oil refining industry would be slightly larger today than it actually is, and in the absence of this additional crude oil refining capacity the impact of eliminating ethanol would be extreme. In addition, the impact of the first billion gallons of ethanol on this capacity constraint would intuitively be greater than the billions of gallons that came later.

First is, the negative consequences were carried by the refiners. However it is this very industry that has been targeted as the one needing to be improved, namely to adapt the refiners to using lower quality oil as time goes on (e.g., using heavy oil instead of light oil.) So the law of unintended consequences shows up.

Secondly, the biggest impact (to adding volume) comes with the first unit. The more units you add the less the marginal effect.

Now, on the idea of having a gasoline consumption vacation - personally I do not see what any short term effort will accomplish. Reduction in gasoline consumption needs to be permanent to affect the changes desired. Unlike adding volume, when subtracting volume each decrease in unit consumed starts a snowballing effect. However, be careful of unintended consequences. If the result is that the refining business becomes so bad that required plant upgrades are not done then we will have killed the wrong goose.

As for making permanent personal consumption cuts - I have done that. However, not in a manner that is satisfactory to me. It is easy to cut gasoline consumption (if one drives); however, it is not necessarily easy to cut consumption and create a life that fulfills what one hopes to accomplish. Some people have done that - found better jobs or living conditions for their families while at the same time eliminating some gasoline consumption. I have yet been able to do that to my satisfaction.

I second DaveByGolly's sentiment. I don't think you've made the case for why you would want this.

What's the goal you are trying to achieve? I know a large number of people who have been wanting $5 gas for decades. Now that it's here, why precisely should we make it cheaper?


There is a public hungering for "something" to be done about gas prices. As I see it there are two alternatives.

1. A uncontrolled, messy, inequitable, economically disastrous and eventually socially/politically destabilizing resulting in a society open to the worst type of responses (take your pick from Fascism to Communism or plain old demagogue despotism)

2. A more controlled response (probably some type of rationing system at the individual level) that results in a much more equitable, fair and socially acceptable distribution of oil/energy consumption.

I'd prefer this to be voluntary approach through employers, government and other institutions (like colleges, churches, non-profits, etc) to reduce their consumption simply to save money and because they want to prepare for a high cost energy future.

I know a lot of folks love seeing the economic forces work themselves out and watching people struggle with the implications of higher and higher prices. However, after a point, letting the market do all the work will destroy some segments of the population - especially low incomes folks and folks in more rural/suburban areas.

If people see that reducing demand not only reduces their overall costs, but that cooperation in reducing demand reduces prices, you've taught a whole generation an important lesson about the power of cooperation.

Hi, Glenn. Thanks for responding.

Ok, I understand your reasoning and it's certainly valid.

From where I am looking, however, I have seen precious little in terms of voluntary measures that has people cut back as we destroy our ecosystems and breed like rabbits. Given that, I think forced energy savings (due to high price) has its drawbacks but on balance is a good thing. I can't prove it with numbers at the moment, but I suspect that birth rates are already being impacted as people choose not to have children or have fewer of them.

I would not participate in your endeavor but I know many other people would.


I live in Washington State, USA. I am convinced that it would take $8.00 a gallon for the drivers here to start making a pullback. Large numbers of people are still buying very large vehicles, including pickups and SUVs, and I see a dozen or so of the things every day still wearing the temporary license taped to the back window.

For me, $8 would be $160 a tank, and my income doesn't even get me into the lower part of the middle class. However, I don't know what else I could do but grumble and pay. It would mean no trips to Ellensburg where my kids live (a four hour drive), and after my wife recovers from her knee surgery, she would drive the car to work and the doggie and I would do without the dog park. However, the car would still be a necessity.

This is a rather rich county, and while there is a lot of grumbling at the pump, the average person here wouldn't be too wounded at $8 a gallon.

Doomed to failure... Let's take a moment, and suspend disbelief that China and indeed the rest of the developing world would for a moment opt to go along with this, and that in turn oil prices came down - what then?

The reason oil prices are high is that demand now exceeds supply, and its increasingly expensive to keep finding enough of the stuff to satisfy the world thirst - the oil that is still undeveloped is more and more expensive to find....

If oil prices go down - that expensive stuff won’t get developed.... until.... you guessed it, prices go up again (which will happen if oil companies curtail current exploration activities)

Make no mistake, exploration & development activities have skyrocketed in the past few years - it's not as if oil companies are just sitting on their hands here - and so too have costs. A well that used to cost $1.2M only a year ago, now costs upwards of $2.4M due to spiralling costs of personnel, steel, raw materials... you name it (I work in the industry, so can say this quite confidently).

If the record oil prices significantly pulled back, then I guarantee that a lot of this (very expensive) increased activity would reduce as well - there's only so much oil in the ground, and it's getting more and more expensive to find it folks.

Hi Glenn,

Thanks for sharing this.

I agree with Andre', when he asks what the goal is. Some clarification might help the discussion.

From what you write, it sounds like you would like to see lower gasoline prices. I also get the idea that you'd like for people to be empowered - that is, to see that there are actions they can take to effect their situation and the things that are troublesome, such as the current prices.

Do I have this about right?

In any case, I've been mulling over something similar, and I'm glad you're thinking and talking about this. Quite a while back, I was thinking (Nate? sorry if this is too obvious) - people do things when there's a point to it. (I mean, not always, of course.)

John Darnell uses the term "purposeful conservation".

Is there some way that postponing or curtailing consumption could actually get a person something tangible they can see happening in the future?

People save for their children's education or employment, for eg. Sometimes, anyway. Or many examples. "We do this, because it gets us this."

I used to think there might be a "People's SPR." But then, I couldn't figure out how to prevent it from being seized. (Kind of the same problem we often gravitate back to when talking about how to mitigate on the personal level.)

If there was a direct or visible connection between the action (consume less gasoline) and...what? mass transit? Lower food prices? More fun?

Also, it might be good to put a number on it.

Europe and Japan are already engaged in a 'buyers strike' and have been for more than a generation. We in America are the scabs. We alone don't tax gasoline at a reasonable rate (like enough to cover the cost of a navy to make sure it keeps coming).

Interesting proposal Glenn--Kudos!

It seems to me that it shouldn't be too hard with Peak Outreach to convince everyone around the planet that our burning energy to try and get black tarmac to reflect photons is a waste. Turning off the streetlamps [not the traffic-lights], illuminated billboards and signage, and outdoor lighting [especially Xmas lights] would be quite painless with huge savings. If a person is out after the Natural Darkness sets in: the vehicle headlights or personal flashlight/lantern for task illumination should be sufficient.

Recall the satellite photo of the Earth's dark side and the billions of pinpoints of light. Then recall that we are evolved, by 100,000 earlier generations, to tolerate, even thrive in the natural 24-hr solar sunrise-sunset cycle. Early nighttime Olduvai acceptance can jumpstart massive acceptance to delay [maybe prevent?] the
FF-entropic 24/7/365 Olduvai---besides, many have long forgotten just how beautiful the stars & constellations are when a' twinkling away.

Recall that Stonehenge and other temples for star, planet, moon, and solar tracking were vitally important for proper societal function and planting/harvest timing. We must not forget that the 'Circle of Life' extends far beyond our earthly grasp. Of course, the ArchDruid could explain this deep-emotional need and science-basis much better than me.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Most portfolio managers would just see it as a buying opportunity.

Demand destruction is already happening...

U.S. retail gasoline demand slipped 3.8 percent from last year's levels, as gasoline prices posted yet another record high last week, MasterCard Advisors said Tuesday.

Year-to-date, American gasoline consumption is down 1.9 percent from last year's levels, according to MasterCard's weekly Spendingpulse report.

And thats despite all new SUVs - the question is how this is offset by growing demand from China/India etc., and particularly within the large oil exporting countries. Also how supply is will hold up.. short term we are finely balance and prices could go either way in my opinion.

My back of the envelope estimate is that if there were a concerted effort by the major economies (hello G8 ministers meeting in Japan) to have demand pulled back sharply (10-15%) over the Summer, we could see oil prices go down fairly rapidly.

Interesting idea, but the question is: how exactly would you achieve that? The problem with any voluntary approach is that while most people would agree that people should use less gas, the people they mean are always other people.

For example, here in Edinburgh a while back, we had a major international conference (G8, IIRC), with all sorts of security involving major road closures. For weeks in advance, there was a big publicity campaign to alert people to this, warn them to avoid driving into the city where-ever possible, and inform them of the many park-and-ride options introduced to deal with the problem. The result? Everyone assumed that everyone else would leave the car at home, so they would be able to drive into town on traffic-free roads. We actually ended up with no reduction in the number of cars on the road (maybe even more than usual), plus a whole bunch of virtually empty buses serving the park-and-ride schemes. The entire exercise was completely counter-productive.

buyers to go on strike.

The only vote you have is your money.

What prospects do people think there is of it?

Great 'on paper' idea, not gonna happen. Because you have to have hard assets (land) - for food and energy capture. Energy capture allows for food processing (cooking and storage) and keeping shelter environment A-OK. Because you have 'land' and 'fixed assets' - the sovereign will want to tax you - for all the services they provide.

Getting rid of the land now forces you to have to use "money" as an way to obtain food/energy from hard asset holders. To obtain "money" - typically that is the result of someone somewhere making a purchase.

Some form of general strike will restrict the transfer of money in purchase form.

I personally feel that unified, serious buyers' strikes are a remedy for quite a few wrong goings-on, high prices included. But I agree with Glenn, that a "buyers' strike" can't be some silly symbolic brief suspension of making purchases, such as "buy nothing day."

Big business banks on the notion that large numbers of consumers want change ONLY if it's pain-free.

Maybe they're right. But I feel that if consumers in large enough numbers can (forgive me) grow up enough to realize that sometimes you have to suffer to improve things, and to truly take on some metaphoric scraped knees, they could effect change.

What does this mean in actual terms? It means that consumers would cut — TO THE BONE — all expenses not absolutely required for the maintenence of life.

I feel that most Americans do not fully grasp what these words mean. Consumer spending is thought by many to be an inextricable part of the fabric of life itself, and this is where we're hung by the 'nads.

What more to say?


A short-term reaction like a buyer's strike or a boycott seems to me to be completely wrong headed. It would make sense if the reason oil prices are high is that the evil OPEC cartel driving them up. It does not make sense in a world constrained by supply.

What we need are fundamental changes in behavior to permanently reduce demand. Maybe "strike" is just a poor choice of words on your part, but a strike implies a return to BAU as soon as the strike has had its effect (presumably to bring the evil oil prodcuers to their senses). But if you really meant "strike", then all you're buying is a short period of relief before the relentless rise starts again. Only this time, it will be harder to get concerted action out of people, because the strike will so obviously have failed.

Sorry to be a spoilsport, but this idea is going nowhere. You are too late by a long way. There is already a buyers' strike. Check it out. Gasoline sales in the USA and the UK are down, well down. Oil consumption as a whole in the fat countries is falling, will fall more while the lean countries continue to grow because they need it to build industrial muscle to produce goods that you buy cheaply. Energy has been too cheap for decades to build sufficient new capacity. Its capitalism, the theology of the rich. Energy will be more expensive. You will use less. The price will stay high. That will release alternatives over the next decade. You will be free one day of the hated imports, partly because the exporters want it themselves (read West texas) and partly because you will one day burn clever synfuels that you have invented but which the oil companies pushed onto the back burner with a monopoly of the cheap fuel market.

Get a horse and enjoy.

Personally, I am riding an electric bike:

and a Vespa LX150 (72 MPG) instead of using my car whereever possible. In the Mid-Atlantic area, the number of scooters on the roads is just exploding. My wife recently traded an SUV for a Prius and also uses an LX150. And the old 12 speed racing (pedal) bike is suddenly seeing a lot of miles.

My guess is that consumption rates will continue to fall. The rate of decline, however, will be constrained by the substantial capital investment of the public in old technology (SUV's, etc.) and the relative scarcity at the moment of good, affordable alternatives.

I filled up my Vespa this am right next to a Hummer. I have to say, the Hummer driver was looking a little wistfully at my bike...


I actually laughed out loud. Oil isn't just an important commodity in our economic system. It IS our economic system. It is like the world saying: Since CO2 levels are going up why don't we just have everybody stop consuming oxygen and exhaling CO2 and hold our breaths for 5 minutes. That will stabilize things!! There are worldwide water shortages. Stop drinking water. That will cut demand and increase supply! It is a great suggestion to try to reduce demand by curtailing consumption if it is part of a broader attempt at using less energy, trying to move to greater efficiency and utilize non petroleum energy sources. Absent that, it's fatuous and ludicrous.


Regarding the XB-600 - How does pedaling work on that thing? Its not geared like a bike is it? It looks uncomfortable to pedal. Real curious. I already have a Giant electic bike.


I just got back from travelling to the UK. $9+/gallon for gas - plenty of complaining - but plenty of cars on the road as well.

A boycott sounds too gimmicky to me. Fundamentally changing one's transportation behavior - walking, biking, public transit, telecommuting - sounds like a more realistic approach.

It's all about choices. People need to stop the whining already. We've made our bed, it's time to lie in it.

Many responses seem to think a buyers strike will not work. Almost everyone has the ability to dramatically reduce their own impact of high petrol prices; replace your low fuel economy car with a much higher fuel economy car. It may require replacing a newer large car for an older smaller car, although many new small fuel efficient cars are less than a 3year old SUV. Only those driving very old cars or driving very fuel efficient vehicles cannot not much except drive less. The former will be forced off road because of the rising costs, and the latter probably don't worry too much about petrol prices. Two years ago, I made a transition from a 1989 commodore(14L/100km) to a 2006 Mazda-2(6.5L/100km), fuel savings of $12 a day just about cover my car payments, but give a permanent >50% reduction in petrol use. The only thing I cannot do with the new car is tow a trailer or carry a coffin in the back.