Will Wartime Mobilisation Address Peak Oil?

I frequently hear it suggested that we need a wartime mobilisation to address the challenges we face. The most recent being in the synopsis for Lester R. Brown’s new book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization:

The world faces many environmental trends of disruption and decline. The scale and complexity of issues facing our fast-forward world have no precedent. With "Plan A", business as usual, we have neglected these issues overly long. In "Plan B 3.0", Lester R. Brown warns that the only effective response now is a Second World War-type mobilisation like that in the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

What is a wartime mobilisation, what triggers one and what relevance does such thinking have to today’s challenges?

In Brown’s first Plan B book he described the wartime mobilisation thus:

In his State of the Union address on January 6, 1942, one month after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt announced ambitious arms production goals. The United States, he said, was planning to produce 60,000 planes, 45,000 tanks, 20,000 anti-aircraft guns, and 6 million tons of merchant shipping. He added, "Let no man say it cannot be done."

Achieving these goals was possible only by converting existing industries and using materials that previously went into manufacturing civilian goods. Nowhere was this shift more dramatic than in the automobile industry, which was at that time the largest concentration of industrial power in the world, producing 3-4 million cars a year. Auto companies initially wanted to continue manufacturing cars and simply to add on production of armaments. They agreed only reluctantly—after pressure from President Roosevelt—to a wholesale conversion to war-support manufacturing.

Aircraft needs were enormous. They included not only fighters, bombers, and reconnaissance planes, but also the troop and cargo transports needed to fight a war on two fronts, each across an ocean. From the beginning of 1942 through 1944, the United States turned out 229,600 aircraft, a fleet so vast it is hard to visualize.

While the aircraft industry did nearly all the assembly, the auto industry supplied some 455,000 aircraft engines and 256,000 propellers. The aircraft industry was given the job of assembling all planes to ease its fears that the auto industry would become firmly entrenched in the manufacture of aircraft and would dominate the industry after the war.

The year 1942 witnessed the greatest expansion of industrial output in the nation's history—all for military use. Early in the year, the production and sale of cars and trucks for private use was banned, residential and highway construction was halted, and driving for pleasure was banned.

In her book No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how various firms converted. A sparkplug factory was among the first to switch to the production of machine guns. Soon a manufacturer of stoves was producing lifeboats. A merry-go-round factory was making gun mounts; a toy company was turning out compasses; a corset manufacturer was producing grenade belts; and a pinball machine plant began to make armor-piercing shells.

In retrospect, the speed of the conversion from a peacetime to a wartime economy was stunning. The automobile industry went from producing nearly 4 million cars in 1941 to producing 24,000 tanks and 17,000 armored cars in 1942—but only 223,000 cars, and most of them were produced early in the year, before the conversion began. Essentially the auto industry was closed down from early 1942 through the end of 1944. In 1940, the United States produced some 4,000 aircraft. In 1942, it produced 48,000. By the end of the war, more than 5,000 ships were added to the 1,000 that made up the American Merchant Fleet in 1939.

Douglas A-26 Production Line During World War II.

The Boeing Company / Douglas Aircraft Historical Gallery

The description is undoubtedly a powerful indication of what can physically be done. How the resources of a nation can be rapidly switched from one application to another. From this, it is reasonable to propose that it is physically possible to mobilise today’s resources and focus them towards the looming energy crisis.

The US production and sale of cars and trucks for private use was banned in 1942, releasing tremendous productive capability for the manufacture of armaments. Today the production of internal combustion engine vehicles, of aeroplanes, of flat screen TVs, of Playstations and Xboxs, of tungsten filament light bulbs etc. could be banned in a similar move and in their place renewable energy generation, efficiency improvements and electrified transport infrastructure deployed. Globally, we have never had greater manufacturing capacity. The problem is that it isn’t allocated to the problem at hand.

Wartime mobilisation is a way to forcibly reallocate resources, away from the allocative efficiency achieved by Smith’s invisible hand of the market reflecting the optimal mix as determined by the consumers. When an economy is allocative efficient no individual can be made better off (according to their desires) without another being made at least as worse off.

Wartime mobilisation is called upon to shift resources towards a more immediate goal – preservation of the very nation state (or in the US WWII case, of European nation states with which America was aligned). Under this threat allocative efficiency is trumped, the market driven by consumer choice is replaced temporarily with a command economy until the threat is diminished. It could be argued that the market can respond to energy depletion in a way it can’t to an invading army. However, due to the time scales involved waiting for the market signal leaves the response too late.

So what of peak oil? We recognise that peak oil is a serious problem. It appears that mitigation is not possible from the allocation of resources arising from today’s consumer choice leading many, including Lester Brown, to suggest a wartime mobilisation. Wartime mobilisation is rare however, it only happens at times of war. The cold war’s space race could be considered a wartime mobilisation of sorts.

Is peak oil a war? Can it command the same resources that built a quarter of million aircraft, developed the atomic and hydrogen bombs and put a man on the moon?

I don’t think peak oil does look like a war, at least not to the people for whom it needs it to look like one to trigger mobilisation. Only the heads of states and their immediate circle, with support of their military, can mobilise a country for war and they are only likely to do so when immediately threatened by loss of their nation states. Herein lies the problem, maybe peak oil doesn’t represent the absolute loss of the nation state, just the degradation of it.

Wars are primarily targeted at the leaders of a country with collateral damage usually regarded as an unfortunate consequence. This is the exact opposite of peak oil, which through increased energy and resource costs, disproportionally affects the poorer people in society.

Imagine ranking all the countries in the world by some criteria of affluence, countries in Western Europe, North America etc. would be near the top and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa near the bottom. I suggest that the impact of peak oil on these affluent countries will be to slide them down this scale, closer to the less affluent countries. This continuum might not be a gentle side as the complex and fragile systems employed by affluent countries may not degrade gracefully. However, the critical point is that affluence is eroded from the bottom, not the top. The leaders of some of the poorest countries of the world still live in luxurious houses, ride in Mercedes cars and have their own private planes. Their ‘elite’ position is maintained so there is little incentive for ‘wartime’ mobilisation to address the problems in their countries. This has been painfully apparent in Zimbabwe recently, whilst the economy crumbles Zanu-PF, the military and the police seem to retain a degree of affluence.

The same could happen to affluent countries facing energy depletion – whilst the ruling elite’s position is maintained the majority population’s quality of life can deteriorate significantly without Lester Brown’s mobilisation being triggered. Remember we are already seeing the impact of peak oil today, expressed as $140+ per barrel and increased fuel poverty yet there is no sign of wartime mobilisation.

That’s my case for peak oil not triggering wartime mobilisation. But what could do it?

The majority population could become annoyed with their deteriorating situation to such an extent that the incumbent ruling class are ousted. The threat of such revolution could lead to mobilisation. However wartime mobilisation needs cooperation from the population and with revolution in the air this cooperation may not be available.

If some aspect of peak oil didn’t have the characteristic of ‘degradation from the bottom up’ but instead hit the potential instigators of wartime mobilisation as acuity as the lower classes we might have found a sufficient trigger.

Electricity’s binary nature, it’s either available for all or not available for anyone, could be such a trigger. If energy depletion renders a nation’s electricity provision unreliable everyone is affected and popular support would be forthcoming. Peak oil and electricity shortages are different. Scarcity, pricing out an increasing proportion of the population, creating demand destruction, is different to all-inclusive power cuts.

In the UK at least, electricity supply will be under serious pressure during the coming decade as legacy nuclear infrastructure is decommissioned, North Sea gas supplies deplete and environmental legislation threatens to close some coal-fired infrastructure.

South Africa is today experiencing such electricity problems, are they moving to a wartime footing to address it? Maybe even blackouts aren’t as threatening as an enemy at the gates.

A final thought, the command economy that wartime mobilisation represents is likely an inefficient way to doing things. An energy intensive approach historically only employed by energy rich nations. In the 1940s the US was awash with cheap energy. Since the nature of our problem is energy shortage, addressing it with an inefficient process has to be questionable!


Wartime mobilisation of available resources can go a long way towards mitigating the problem of peak oil. However, peak oil is unlikely to present itself in a way that triggers a national mobilisation on a wartime scale. The leaders will be somewhat isolated from the threat and the necessary popular support will be lacking. Peak oil erodes affluence from the bottom, not threatens the top like a war does. Nations just become poorer, affluent countries sliding down towards the less affluent countries of today.

Whilst this may be the case for peak oil, considering the wider energy depletion picture electricity provision stands out. It doesn’t have the ‘bottom up’ characteristic and as such could trigger an energy led wartime mobilisation of resources.

Electricity could be more problematic than liquid fuel supply in the UK, potentially a good thing if electricity shortage is more able to trigger the massive reallocation of resources our situation requires than peak oil itself.

Unfortunately, yes there will surely be some Manhattan type project here in the U.S., and probably in the U.K. too. The result will be capital expenditures on solar and wind, when the problem is that we need liquid fuels. And the development of solar and wind will consume oil, natural gas and coal.

The price of oil will skyrocket and a wartime mobilization will be bankrupt from the start.

There is little time left now to do much except focus on risk management.

Matthew Simmons indicated in the London Times a day or two ago that global oil production is now declining, from 85 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015, while at the same time demand will increase 14%. This is like a 45% drop in 7 years.

No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand is so high that it will always be higher than production; thus the depletion rate will continue until all recoverable oil is extracted.

We are facing the collapse of the highways, that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so too does the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cable, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from "outside," and without the power grid nothing works, including home heating.

Unfortunately, yes there will surely be some Manhattan type project here in the U.S., and probably in the U.K. too. The result will be capital expenditures on solar and wind, when the problem is that we need liquid fuels.

Many countries will take different routes, especially those which have virtually no solar and precious little wind -- and no fossil fuels either. Bulgaria, for example.

They have a choice:

(a) go nuclear or

(b) freeze in winter and starve all the year round.

I reckon they'll opt for the former.

At least one study has shown that insulation retrofits make more sense than nuclear, solar and/or wind (in relation to carbon output, but I think it makes sense for EROEI as well).

The other area to concentrate on would be retrofitting old tractors to biodiesel and a crash program in breeding draft animals.

Many renewable advocates make this argument for energy efficiency. Often, completely incorrectly, implying that it is sort of a 'better option' than nuclear power.

Energy efficiency is on the demand side. Creating government programs to get people to retrofit their insulation will make zilch - squat of a difference. There is one way to get people to make their homes and businesses more efficient and only one way; increase electricity prices.

The very fact that we don't currently see demand destruction in the electricity sector shows that we need more nuclear and renewable power. However, another way to view it is that the highly regulated energy market hasn't been able to increase prices in light of the increased cost of new generation, which obviously come from increasing commodities cost and the push for (more expensive) carbon neutral and more sustainable sources.

So allow the government to increase prices to what it would be for the expensive new nuclear builds and wind power. Demand will fall and you won't have to build but half as many as you planned anyway, and then China builds a new fleet of coal plants and more manufacturing is outsourced there. Problem solved. (?)


You mention expensive new nuclear builds and wind power.

Nuclear power plants are expensive partly because of ridiculously demanding safety requirements --- a response to anti-nuclear hysteria.

. In “The Nuclear Energy Option”, Bernard L. Cohen calculates that ever-escalating safety restrictions increase the cost of nuclear power plants by as much as four or five times…

More here:


and here:


I'm not anti-nuke, but I am anti-poorly sited/built/maintained nukes. They are not something to mess around with, they absolutely, positively MUST be done right the first time. No exceptions, no excuses. If doing things right makes things more costly and takes longer than doing things wrong, IMHO that is a price worth paying. The ultimate cost of doing things wrong can be a hell of a price to pay.

I believe the problem is that a lot of the measures are mostly bureaucratic paper-filling, and often have a vast impact on cost, but little on safety.

mostly bureaucratic paper-filling

I won't comment directly on whether the paper work is useful or not because I don't have direct experience with it.

But it strikes me that complex technologies with extreme consequences should they fail probably require checks and rechecks then checks on the checks. Equipment must be within tolerances, backup systems must be equal to the job they will take over if the main systems fail, security must be tight, personnel training must be excellent, etc., etc.

I think people like to blame the "bureaucrats" or "the system" and fail to look at the root cause: nuclear energy is, as currently implemented, a complex, high-risk endeavor with catastrophic consequence if the system fails.

Very far from implementing a row of wind turbines, say.


Even with the extra costs nuclear remains several times less expensive than off-shore wind.
The case is different in the US, where good resources on land make wind a good option.
There is no one 'right answer', and as long as appropriate safety concerns are answered but no useless padding included to pander to those who are in any case entirely ideologically opposed to nuclear energy and whom no conceivable safety measures would satisfy then a variety of resources should be employed.
In the West the safety record of the nuclear industry is second to none, and way better than the coal industry which has been the real beneficiary of opposition to nuclear power - that is where Germany in reality gets most of its energy, renewables so far have added greatly to bills without providing a very large contribution.

DaveMart, do you have a source for your assertion re: offshore wind vs. nuclear? I'm suspicious because Buffet walked away from building a nuclear plant despite $18B in government loan guarantees and extra perks because his people could not find a way to make it economically viable.


The DOE in 2006 estimated the costs of wind power as around $1 million MW installed on land and $2 million for offshore:

Unfortunately since then costs of many inputs have risen drastically, with steel being notable.
Here are the latest estimates I have seen:

These still do not take account of the latest round of steel price increases AFAIK

From the Government paper it can be seen that the estimated capacity factor for off-shore wind in the UK is around 0.30, so you get a cost per MW of average hourly power generation of around $20million, or £10 million MW.

This does not include many of the costs involved in connecting up the turbines, or back-up capacity.

You can get a very generalised corroboration of these figures from the £100bn bandied around in the press as the estimated cost of the renewables commitment, which is overwhelmingly wind, although it does not include the full projected 33GW installed capacity for off-shore as much of that would not happen until after the time horizon, but does include a lot on cheaper on-shore wind.

Wind is a better resource than is indicated here as it is strongest in the winter when most needed by a factor of two, which helps a lot.
Unfortunately though you can get cold, windless snaps in the winter for several days, which means that additional back-up or transmission is needed, and also relies on natural gas for this, supplies of which are increasingly problematic.

For nuclear costs the highest estimate I have been able to find to date is from EON, who give a figure of up to £4.8 bn for an Areva reactor of 1.6GW:
Nuclear reactors will cost twice estimate, says E.ON chief - Times Online

At a capacity figure of 90%, around current US practise that gives you average hourly output of just over 1.4GW (France gets lower capacity factors, but does not run its reactors for maximum output, as not all of it is always required) you come out with a maximum figure of under $7million MW average hourly production.

This would not include all connection figures, as the larger reactors would mean that that would need upgrading, but since they will be sited on existing sites that is by no means as challenging as connections for wind power..
No allowance is made either for cost reductions due to series build.

It is clear then that off-shore wind is around three times as expensive to build as nuclear.

Costings are very different for on-shore wind in the States, which has excellent wind resources, and things like speed of build and ease of finance help bridge any small gap in costings.
That gap is just too big in the case of off-shore wind in the UK for it to be bridged.

It would not be so bad if we were likely to retain our present earnings and ability to finance expensive projects.
As Euan has made clear with his articles, neither is likely to remain true, so in my view the projected build will simply not happen.

Does anyone have any info on how in(?)vulnerable nuke stations are to terrorist attacks of various sorts? One could imagine planes being flied into them like 9-11, or Jihadists getting critical jobs (due to need to avoid discrimination against Muslims), and thereby getting to do just about anything from inside.

We've only had one Chernobyl so far, and that was disastrous enough for Ukraine which was fortunately a rather spacious country. How about if six Chernobyls were simultaneously unleashed by anti-Western suicide terrorists? At an already power-critical moment of course.

This issue has been extensively discussed in the comments to this article on a grand solar plan for the US.

It boils down to nuclear reactors being quite tough targets, and heavily protected.
The containment vessel at Three Mile Island for instance, did its job and prevented major releases - even with terrorist control, which would not last long as members of the special forces would be told to take the kid gloves off, it would be fairly difficult to breach the vessel.

Bowing up a natural gas tanker or poisoning a water supply is by comparison trivially easy, as would pathogen release.

Imagine the world's government's going onto War time footing to combat Peak Oil -- and going in the wrong direction!

The EU is already destroying rainforests and sucking up the cooking oil supplies from the world to power their transport; and the US is doing the same to grain crops.

Why should we imagine that governments will make intelligent choices? From the evidence, it would appear that they are far more likely to increase the damage, than to alleviate shortages.

Energy efficiency is on the demand side. Creating government programs to get people to retrofit their insulation will make zilch - squat of a difference. There is one way to get people to make their homes and businesses more efficient and only one way; increase electricity prices.

I disagree. A government mandated and subsidized program for upgrading insulation in houses makes perfect sense to me. It could be done along with a rise in energy prices. Simply allowing the market to raise prices will just mean that millions more people will 'freeze in the dark' because, with a collapsing economy, they will simply not be able to afford the upgrades.

Oh, yeah. This is called 'demand destruction' isn't it?

This is exactly the beef I have with those who proudly stick out their chests and proclaim energy efficiency. If you listen to industry, it's more often referred to as "demand side management" (ie maybe we don't have to build those plants after all).

These are depressing concepts. Even if we insulate homes better, then we accelerate rent and housing costs of low-income people who just suffered a subprime mortgage meltdown. It would be nice to have a beautiful democratic solution where the government pays for insulation in the exact amount needed to offset the corresponding rise in electricity prices. Now the middle class gets hit from both sides of the equation, but the likely reality is even worse. Such programs will get paid for by deficit spending, which I maintain (often against passionate rebuttals) is the most severe government redistribution of the wealth (but from the poor to the rich) in our society.

Not to mention that government involvement will in principle lead to less efficient allocation of resources. In fact, look no further than the government for an organization that already doesn't use energy efficiently. It's not a problem to leave lights on in all sorts of places at all hours of the night if done under a 'security' pretense. The fact is, the most effective form of demand destruction is done by calculated changes to lifestyle and ways of business - which is the exact thing government SUCKS at doing.

Hillary Clinton and her daughter on the campaign trail talked at length about reducing energy use of government. YES! This is what we need, the fact of the matter is that the government sector is one of the stiffest demand responses out there to energy prices and the rest of us pay dearly for that. Local governments can almost never afford to lessen air conditioning a degree or cut routes of a service, as simple complaints will set democracy in action to keep the status quo as the books fall further into the red, advancing the trends that got us into this situation. Look no further than Washington DC for an area with a nearly fixed energy usage weather it be at $4 or $10 per gallon.

Directly subsidizing insulation refitting means that those most guilty of a crime demand that everyone else fix it, while the guilty party breathes down our necks and makes the very act of efficientizing less efficient.

Discussion of the concrete meaning of 'wartime mobilization' is long overdue, and personally, I think that something of the sort is the only plausible alternative to real disaster. I've skimmed my way only a short way into the comments thus far, but let me just say that I am skeptical of your seeming belief that any kind of price mechanism would trigger the kinds of responses that are needed, whether in the form of subsidies for insulation which you think are a bad idea, or letting the market set the price. What wartime mobilization means, to my understanding, is deciding which activities are essential, and allocating resources to those activities. If one thinks of all the industries and individuals that depend on activities which are by any rational measure unsustainable (the great majority of us, I'm afraid), should we wish to see them all pursue these activities just as far as possible, up to the moment when they are attritioned - i.e. forced from the market? Let them all tread water as we gradually increase the weights around their ankles, and let the best 'unsustainable swimmers' stay in the cesspool the longest. And then what happens to those who are forced out? Do they all wake up the next day with Priuses in their driveways? In so far as the system does keep going, that would be good in comparison with an outright collapse, for those dwindling numbers who manage to stay attached to it. However, it seems to me that it would be far preferable - indeed much more efficient - to simply decide that activities X, Y and Z have no future. The only choice involves the path to their elimination. Rather than let them each just go on to their slow, painful demises, or worse, try to maintain them far past the stage where they are viable, why not stop them tomorrow? Give the people who lose those jobs a modest ration of basic goods (and the ability to provide those basic goods will depend on the ability to direct resources to activities that truly are essential) and tell them to stay home and propagate useful perennials and otherwise transform the places where they live into something much more sustainable - because they are patriotic, because they are excited about doing something truly important, and because they care about the survival of their grandkids, not to mention their own. Stopping the activities in which they were previously engaged, together with all the associated commuting to work, will save a lot of energy that is therefore left available for some essential purpose.

Similarly, activities P,Q, and R would be gradually phased out or reduced in scale, according to a deliberate schedule - because those activities provide goods which really are essential in the short-term, and which have no immediately available substitutes. Aspects of the currently unsustainable food production and distribution come to mind, as one example in this category.

Finally, activities A,B,C,D,E and F - the kind of skills, tools and infrastructure that will be needed if society is to be sustained, say, for another 500 years or so - will be ramped up with all deliberate speed. Much of the needed infrastructure and manufacturing will necessarily be of smaller scale than that connected with New Deal employment programs and the WWII mobilization. Government efforts to sustain demand will be counterproductive for similar reasons. Though absolute levels of energy available will be greater that what was available during WWII and the New Deal in the case of the U.S. - even assuming that supplies are quickly reduced to what can be obtained domestically - we will be rather limited in terms of what we can do on the large scales of the earlier programs, for two basic reasons: (1) at our current level of complexity, activities of type P,Q and R, will be consuming a great amount of the available energy, and (2) the mobilization activities of those earlier time periods were aimed at creating infrastructure for a civilization of increasing scale and complexity, whereas we will be aiming in the very opposite direction.

These things being said, there may indeed be a place for a few projects on a larger scale - whether these be functioning rail systems, or the F.H. King Canal Project in the southeastern U.S., modeled on the Grand Canal of China.

Finally, while there may be something to the economists' conception which links preferences to efficiency, that is now rather irrelevant to the predicament we face. One way of describing that predicament is that our preferences are those of Hydrocarbon Man. Regardless of our preferences, they have got to change.

Great points Steve about those ABC-XYZs. Can we get governments to apply them?

The price of power gives almost no signal to the rental sector to encourage better insulation.
Your proposals amount to allowing the poor to freeze.

"Unfortunately, yes there will surely be some Manhattan type project here in the U.S., and probably in the U.K. too. The result will be capital expenditures on solar and wind, when the problem is that we need liquid fuels."

I wonder if Boone Pickens would agree with that.
He is building a wind farm to address a liquid fuels shortage.

Is Boone Pickens stupid?
I think not.

He is taking advantage of a concept we in the peak oil community seem to have dismissed: economic substitution.

Given that in the last decade, the vast majority of new electricity generating infrastructure has been natural gas fired plant, then obviously the usage of natural gas can be decreased by substituting renewables in it's place. To be sure renewables are (currently) more expensive and there is the issue of intermittancy. I would argue, however, that intermittancy is a cost issue and not a technical barrier since energy storage solutions exist. With continued price rises of fossil fuels at some point it becomes cost effective to build renewables along with storage instead of renewables along with fossil fuel baseload.

But to return to the point: why does building renewables allow you to use less liquid fuels?

Natural Gas can be used in converted automobiles.

We need to come to accept that we simply aren't going to have liquid fuels available in the amounts and prices they historically have been. We need to shift personal transportation to a rail based system. Thats one thing a Manhattan project style project can definitely help with. I can imagine a three tiered system: High speed trunk lines between cities, light rail local lines between localities, and electric street cars to communities and residences.

Battery powered vehicles will be expensive in the future, and are also based on materials and components, which like oil, come largely from overseas. Once we start mass producing 100 million of these a year, the way we do with autos now, the price simply won't be affordable for the average person. Look at what's already happened to the price of lead, nickel, lithium, copper, etc. over the past 5 years, and we've only just started producing electric vehicles.

He's smart,laughing all the way to the bank, knows the masses and government will invest there next. The bubble goes up, and he get out. Most oilmen know that you can get piss out of solar, wind, and bovine gasses.

Well gee golly willakers, why don't you go down into the basement and jump out of the window and end your misery....

I find it interesting that you focused so much on the potential failure of highways.

I do not doubt that we will be stressed by diminishing crude oil production, but I do believe that we will adapt OK. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute says that we could get by with a LOT less oil consumption (less than 10% of what we use now), we just need to be a lot more efficient. That comment highlights just how inefficient we have been.

When I bought my house, I purchased it intentionally to be 1 1/2 miles from where I work. I ride by bike to work each day. My wife and I put in a ground-sourced heat pump to heat our house (which is 400% efficient). We use an electric lawn mower to cut our lawn.

With improved efficiency, oil will power our economy for a long, long time....

Our need to use highways will be dramatically reduced, so they will be a lot less to maintain (less wear, and they won't need to be as large).

What is needed, though, is leadership to guide us toward the changes we need to make. Thank heavens, George Bush will not be the person at the helm much longer....


Well, don't know where you live, but highways where I come from are destroyed because of the weather as well as the heavy loads..
Cheers, Dom

And snow plows. Wonder how much longer the roads would last if we could just do without them, and stay put for much of the wintertime.

In some case, there are no doubt technologies - some of them low technologies - which can reduce fuel usage by a factor of ten. But reducing society-wide usage by a factor of ten is altogether another matter. Recall that Robert Hirsch - who in his "Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management" report - was assuming a quick doubling of the fuel efficiency of new vehicles, basically changing out the manufacturing plants in accordance with the dictates of a wartime mobilization, conjoined with their introduction to the fleet in numbers similar to new car sales today, found that it would take twenty years to have much of an impact. I think he was working quite a bit too far inside the box in his basic assumption that we need to keep a fleet on the roads at all costs, and was totally unclear about the nature of the "more sustainable society" (or words to that effect) which he mentioned in his interview with David Room, which his crash program was supposed to be a step toward. There is another problem in that, on his premises, only the fuel economy, not the manufacturing process - which I understand accounts for something like half of the total energy used by each automobile - was doubled in efficiency. But I do think, however, that his assumption of car output at rates comparable to today was at least less absurd than the even more absurd proposition of scaling up car output to such an extent that the overall fleet efficiency would dramatically increased in a significantly shorter period of time.

But of course, if the few cars/homes that achieved a tenfold reduction continued to be driven/heated, while all the others stopped, the savings would be extraordinary!

Recall that Robert Hirsch - who in his "Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management" report - was assuming a quick doubling of the fuel efficiency of new vehicles

Not true.

He assumed that after 3 years all new vehicles in the US would be hybrids, with a 40% efficiency gain. Total displaced oil is about 2-3Mb/d after 20 years, or about 1/4 of current US passenger vehicle consumption. You can see this for yourself in the scenarios part of his report. He also assumed the car fleet would age and change at its normal rate (~15-20 year lifespan).

By contrast, doubling efficiency - a 100% gain - in short order would lead to a 50% reduction in fuel used, or about 5Mb/d, twice the size he assumes. 50% of vehicle miles come from vehicles < 6 years old, meaning doubling efficiency of all new cars would lead to savings of the size he assumed would take 20 years occurring in only 5-6 years, even with no change in replacement patterns. Replacement patterns would be likely to change, however, with a significant number of cars subtracted from the number on US roads for (AFAIK) the first time since WWII.

I think he was working quite a bit too far inside the box


He assumes no change in the size and type of vehicles being purchased, which we already know to be wrong. (He also assumes no effect from electric cars or PHEVs, but it's too soon to know how wrong he'll be about that.)

Basically, his report considers only (1) hybrid vehicles, and (2) ways to create more liquid fuel. He explicitly ignores all other conservation techniques, which means that his conclusions are virtually guaranteed to be overly pessimistic.

Alternatively, you could see his conclusions as "what is necessary to prevent a price increase?" Since we've already seen price increases, we're already outside the scope of his scenarios.

My neighbor has an electric mower. I get a laugh watching him splicing the wires back together every time he runs over the cord, which seems about every other week.

I think if we have to worry about a quart of gas for the mower then we really are in BIG trouble. Mine, by the way, holds two gallons (got a large yard which may be growing food soon).

lawns are an extravagance in the age of peak oil, especially if maintained by fossil-fuel powered mowers and fertilized with natural-gas derived fertilizers, and especially if they are only entered for the purpose of maintaining them, as most commercial property is. There are 30 million acres of them in the US, so if everyone eliminated half their lawn, it would make a huge difference. It would entail foregoing about 15 million gallons of gasoline or diesel a week during the growing season (it takes 1 gallon of fossil fuel to mow an acre of grass). Furthermore, an acre of well-maintained turf lawn emits a net 1/2 ton per year of CO2 due to the emissions of the activities required to maintain it, including the manufacture and depreciation of the mowing equipment. It gets worse if you hire a landscape contractor to mow/fertilize it, or have to water it regularly.

Reduce it down to the size of mowing it with a manual reel mower, and convert the rest to food production, native plants, xeriscaping (in arid areas), or beds of low-maintenance non-invasive trees, shrubs or perennials. All of these will reduce a C02-emitting landscape and convert it to one that sequesters carbon and reduces our carbon footprint. Native prairie and woodland, for example, can sequester between 0.5 to 1 ton of carbon dioxide per acre per year, facilitated by greater underground root mass and wood production.

Sow plenty of clover into your lawn. This fixes nitrogen. Mix all your lawn mowings into your compost heap, eventually to nourish your veg plot. No need to buy any fertilisers. Get a push mower to save having to go to the gym. Learn the skills of scythe-mowing.

Yeah, I'm thinking a scythe will be the way to go - you can use it for a lot more things than just mowing the grass. Unless you are going to be pasturing animals, most of the lawn will need to be transformed into garden anyway.

And yes, the amount of gasoline used to fuel a power mower each summer isn't very much. However, once motor fuel rationing is introduced (and it will be, it is just a matter of time), don't be surprised if dispensing fuel into anything other than a motor vehicle fuel tank is prohibited. Also, don't be surprised if you find that even that one or two gallons will be needed for more important things than mowing a lawn.

Our standby gasoline rationing plan has "white markets" for ration trading, so you can get as much gas as you want if you are willing to pay for other people's unused rations. http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=6307185 The rationing ensures a certain amount of gasoline will be available at the market price but you would pay more above that amount. Kind of like tiered electricity rates. In order to be sure that the market price is not imporverishing, we could attempt domestic price controls again to dilute the price but I think it would be better to ration enough to be sure that the world price goes down. This avoids exploring for oil that will be expensive no matter what. http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2008/06/oil-is-too-expensive.html


Under intense lobbying, I suspect Congress would change this plan to be more friendly to corporations.

The current U.S. government is incapable of implementing a rational plan to deal with peak oil, and the two principal presidential candidates do not look any better. We can dream about appropriate actions, but the fact remains that President Bush has set us on a path of increasing oil production at any cost and producing ethanol from corn. He has linked the price of food and fuel in the markets and devalued the U.S. dollar with crushing federal debt, both driving inflation. Bush is interfering with placing photovoltaic and solar thermal systems on BLM land. McCain advocates a holiday for the federal gasoline tax. Obama is a corporate puppet as shown by altering his position to support telecom immunity and erosion of Constitutional rights. Congress is a corporate puppet. All of them support ethanol. None of them are proposing to electrify our long distance rail lines to replace semitrailer trucks allowing food to be efficiently transported from the heartland to the cities. None of them will revoke the powers that Bush has amassed. Using the pretense of terrorism, Bush has prepared the U.S. for our transition to a police state. The elite have decided we will drive peddle to the metal over the falling edge of peak oil to crash and burn at the bottom. Wartime mobilization to actually do something good for the people and harm to corporations will not happen in our present political climate.

meaning you'll be replacing your two-gallon mower with a two-gallon tiller? At least you won't have to till every week or two..

There are several advantages to not tilling, including the fuel savings.

In areas not suited to gardening then it seems unlikely that vegetation will be allowed to go to waste - a business opportunity appear to be to herd goats from one property to another.
Mowing problem solved!

Neither goats, sheep nor cattle would be allowed in the cities to graze.

Why not?

In the U.S. there are ordinances that forbid ranchers from taking their livestock into cities and towns to graze. They have to be caged. Zoning regulations classify land as vacant, residential, commercial or agricultural. I suspect one would have difficulty rezoning an urban lot to be a mixed class of residential and agricultural. The neighbors would complain about the noise, smell and flies. Farm and ranch animals are for rural areas.

If the animal is a pet, then it might be possible to sneak one by law enforcement. It would depend on the neighbors.

Why would you need a tiller for a space the size of a yard? Ain't ya never used a shovel?


I'b eben so' my slabe laba fa muny-
Fo dolla an ara!-)

Amory does some good work, but sometimes he is, in my view, "too much of an engineer" in his thinking and loses track of how long things take to accomplish. Like Nansen Saleri in the recent WSJ article (enter 'nansen saleri site:wsj.com' in the search box of news.google.com).

You're correct that we'll see efficiency in various areas.

That will (maybe) take care of the first year's drop in oil post peak.

What about the next year's drop? And the one after that? And the one after that? And the one...

Most people I speak with about peak oil use whatever is mentally handy as a possible mitigation strategy and haven't yet thought through all the implications.


"You're correct that we'll see efficiency in various areas.

That will (maybe) take care of the first year's drop in oil post peak.

What about the next year's drop? And the one after that? And the one after that? And the one..."

Well I think the economy will solve the problem:
Prices will rise. A lot of people will stop using cars (and find they don't need them). There will be a big recession.
The economy will reoriente round more sustainable and less fuel intensive transportation. Like walking, taking the bus and cycling.

Most North Americans are too pampered to know how far you can really walk. When I worked in the UK I walked 3 miles each way to work. Some people cycled 10 miles.

You don't need a car to go pick up a quart of milk at 7-11. You can walk.

To those that say "but what about the groceries? The nearest store is 10 miles away".

The answer is that it won't be. Mom and Pop stores will start to spring up.

I live ina 4 bed house - with 2 occupants.

Gas usage for last quarter 1200kwh

Electricity usage 680 kwh

Basically achieved with high levels of insulation, condensing boiler, solar water heater and CFL's

Your average steel mill, industrial chemical plant or oil refinery have anywhere from 500-5000 workers not all of whom really want to live within 1.5 miles of the plant. Not everyone will have the same choices as you and so a re structurally locked in to high energy lives. Your bike, electric lawnmower and ground source heat pumps are all a result of a highly complex industrial infrastructure being in place to produce them. If teh workers in those industries are forced tolive close to the plnts then we are back to the ol filthy industrial cities of the past. I don't know waht you do for a job but if it is in the West then it is highly likley that either the inputs or outputs or customers are highly dependent on oil so your job may not be that secure anyway. Choosing a house location purely on its function in todays circumstances may not prove to be so smart in the future, if the circumstances of your job change dramatically and the house does not have any other nearby infrastructure whih can sutain you in unemployment. Think community gardens, community workshops, libraries, parks, rivers or casotal fishing strips. If you live in the middle of sprawl with no access to any of these things then you are vulnerable.

It is realy easy to bicyle more then 1,5 miles and having 500 to 5000 workers living within bicycling distance to a plant were SOP before mass motoring. Manny local towns has kept and built on the bicycle lane infrastructure. The quality of life were realy good after modernisation of industries and sanitation.

This structure is still in place in small Swedish industrial towns such as Finspång (steam and gas turbines and aluminium painting), Oxelösund (heavy steel industry).

But lots of these industries has of course perished and manny has been moved to get more room for making them larger and more rational.

It is easy to add busses and so on to the solution and I do not understand why industries has to be filthy? But some stuff do need a buffer zone in case of fire or an accident.

"while at the same time demand will increase 14%. This is like a 45% drop in 7 years."

He did not say that at all. You are taking numbers from the article and fabricating your own reality.

The 14% was a number that BP places on reserves increasing over the past decade.

CJ, I would definitely take issue with his 14% demand increase, plus the Mega projects work doesn't suggest that high rate of decline. If the production decline were as great as he says, then I think that demand destruction would take care of his own projected demand increase. it doesn't make sense.

Hey RESEARCH 24, Demand is so high that it will always be higher than declining production, thus no demand destruction that will impact production [this is the missing and mysterious 4th law of thermodynamics] :). The 14% comes from 1.8% annual demand increase from the EIA, which most people adhere to, but pick your own %, as no one knows for sure.

Those production decline figures come from Matt Simmons, and prolly agree with Robelius and the Energy Watch Group. Simmons knows his stuff, as he is looking at the data with his own knowledge of rig counts, failing rigs, lack of personnel, companies and projects that will go belly up, and other real world stuff. In any case, you must admit that it does not look good. We will see soon enough :) Clifford J. Wirth

You can't have a 14% demand increase and a supply drop of the magnitude you describe. It is not possible. Demand only exists at a certain price and can only be measured as product supplied, which means it is, for all intents and purposes, going to always equal supply.

First you make up the 14% number now, now you attribute it to the EIA, saying "most people adhere to." That might come as news to most people here.

Matt Simmons may know what he is talking about, but you, Sir, do not.

As I said before the 14% comes from EIA, go look it up. And go look at the Peak Oil overview on this site.

"Matthew Simmons indicated in the London Times a day or two ago that global oil production is now declining, from 85 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015, while at the same time demand will increase 14%."

Oh, I'm sorry, I must be confusing you with the other "cjwirth" who posted this in the first comment on the thread. My apologies.


I don't see any post there, must have been deleted.

As I said before the 14% comes from EIA, go look it up.

And go look at the Peak Oil overview on this site.

Demand increase in this instance refers to an upward movement in the entire demand curve. If the supply curve remains at a constant level than the price point shifts higher due to the increased demand. Basically demand increases can be reflected with either higher prices OR higher quantity demanded.

Fine, if that's the way that you need to look at it. But you can't measure the theoretical increase in demand that you describe, therefore you can't put a number on it. x amount of barrels, 3%, 14%, whatever. You cannot consume that which does not exist.

You can't say that we are producing 90 mbpd, but demand is 114 mbpd. You can only say that we have been producing 87 mbpd at a constant rate, but the price keeps going up, therefore "demand is outpacing supply," or "we are in a bidding war" or something like that.

"Curves" are lines drawn on paper in an economics classroom in order to illustrate and articulate certain concepts. When it comes to buying and selling oil, curves don't exist. Just dollars.

Actually JustanotherEtc, dollars don't really exist either. They are just meaningless promises to pay themselves written on paper in the Fed's printing rooms.
Beware of mocking those economists' theoretical curves lest you find your own life gets more theoretical than you wish!

The Manhattan Project was a tiny tiny thing compared to the whole war mobilization. A mobilization on the scale of the Manhattan Project would be, by itself, utterly inadequate for what we face today. The people involved in the Project did not, at all, think of themselves as independent entrepreneurs. They were all paid by a single paymaster. There pay was sufficient to buy anything that was available in local stores (very limited selection). Their minds were mobilized before the Project existed. All thoughts of personal planning were expressed in term of 'after the war'.

In the early 1940s, US economy was still suffering aftermath of the 1930s depression. It had a lot of idle capacity that was ready to be put to work if only a paying customer could be found.

Germany, Italy, and Soviet Union all appeared to be doing better than US and UK. Private enterprise, as a way to organize a nation's economy was under substantial intellectual attack. In that atmosphere, a government plan to reorganize all of manufacture and commerce under government rules was plausible and was deemed necessary. That is not the zeitgeist of today.

Jimmy Carter in a much later time described the energy crisis as 'the moral equivalent of war.' When he said that, I thought immediately - no, not so. wars end.

And, yet, I think that we now need some serious planning of our means of production. We don't have enough wealth or time to simply try every response to the oil shortage. And we don't have enough understanding of how our economy works to make rational judgments as to what is working and what is failing.

Our response to petroleum shortage seems to be 'the moral equivalent of the war on terror'.

That phrase, 'the moral equivalent of the war on terror,' is just too ripe. You mean unending, but the moral dimensions of the war on terror are just facinating. Ethanol is the equivilent of torture? Drill everywhere is the equivilent of aluminum tubes? I guess shock and awe is the the equivilent of... well... errr... shock and awe....


A friend and I were talking several weeks ago and he said, rather than a Manhattan Project, we need a Marshall Plan.

However, there was some question about what other countries might pay for a Marshall Plan for the U.S.

The Russians - after we finally let their tanks drive in?
Weren't those wonderful days?-)

I believe one key element regarding WWII mobilization was an expectation that things would return to "normal" once the war was won. It's also important to note that a lot of people and businesses made lots of money during that period. I have known many small businessmen from that period and they thought it was the best period they ever had.

To me, the question revolves around whether it is possible to return to some form of BAU once the "mobilization" has completed its work? My own guess is no, society has changed forever.


I believe one key element regarding WWII mobilization was an expectation that things would return to "normal" once the war was won.

Yeah, this is a key point. The change here is permanent and will require an adjustment that will take decades at least. Not that the issue isn't of great urgency -- it is. Things are developing (deteriorating) more quickly than even the more pessimistic among us thought.

Another big problem with the war mobilization metaphor is that it arouses hopes among business for huge expenditures on techno-fixes. But that's not what's going to solve this issue. What's needed is what business doesn't like, hates in fact -- societal restructuring, worse still it involves changes that are the least capital-intensive (and therefore least profitable). It means reduced population, returning to the soil, rebuilding communities that are walkable and bikable, and focusing scientific and technology on the issues of soil restoration, forest restoration, water restoration where possible. And it means figuring out how to keep as much as we can of the science and technology of the 20th century with out exceeding our resource budget.

So there is great urgency, but it cannot be a one-time war-like high-tech capital-intensive mobilization like the Manhattan project.

Unfortunately, we are almost certain to take several more giant steps in the wrong direction before a global consensus forms on the need for radical retrenchment toward sustainability.

"I believe one key element regarding WWII mobilization was an expectation that things would return to "normal" once the war was won"

.Yes and no ... the expectation in the US was that the Depression would return. The 'modern' auto- centric economic development that is associated with the 'American Lifestyle' did not get underway seriously until 1950. The most serious US post- 1945 concern was rebuilding European and Asian economies from the devastation wrought by the war.

As for a national wartime- mobilization approach to energy conservation and generation, it is unlikely that that the current government(s) have the goodwill either in the form of public mandates or an understanding with business which would allow a change of approach to move forward.

Current economic practice in the US (and in other developed nations) already utilizes the effective practices of the WWII economies in the US and in Britain. We're already mobilized!

This pattern of economic management - what is called here a wartime mobilization - was invented in the Kaiser's Germany in 1914. Here's the story:

In order to prosecute their war in 1914 the Germans needed many things including food, manpower, rubber, metals, coal, railroads, etc. After three months of battle in Russia and the Low Countries, Germany was running out of ammunition, nitrates and money. German high command had underestimated the amount of ammunition that would be fired, particularly artillery shells and machine gun cartridges. The British blockade of German ports and the sequestering of German merchant shipping had cut off Germany's normal supply of nitrates from South America; nitrates that are essential to the manufacture of explosives. There was no money in the Kaiser's treasury to pay for any of this war business.

In the early twentieth century, all money was gold; gold backed all the currencies (that mattered) and currencies (paper money) was convertible on demand to gold. The German gold had been taken out of bank vaults long previous to August 1914 except for the reserves in the German national treasury; gold is 'allergic' to conflict and the wealthy, who owned the bulk of German gold, took it out of harm's way to America. This gold- removal process started after a series of German provocations and diplomatic crises which took place from 1910- 1912.

To address these crises, which threatened to end the fighting with defeat for Germany two persons appeared on the world stage, Fritz Haber and Walter Rathenau, perhaps the most influential humans ever ... who practically nobody has ever heard of. Haber (and another German chemist named Carl Bosch) invented the Haber Process for turning methane into nitrogen oxides, an important product being ammonium nitrate. Most nitrogen fertilizers are currently produced via the Haber Process. More info is here:


Walter Rathenau was the son of Jewish industrialist Emil, an inventor who is referred to the 'German Thomas Edison'; his company began the process of electrifying Germany, it claimed many patents for electrical devices became the giant electronics concern AEG. Walter as a young man trained as an economist and considered himself a progressive. He was a personable and curious person who, as he became an adult, became friendly with the large group of German manufacturers, eventually sitting on the boards of many of them. After the war began, Rathenau took a position in the war ministry where he instigated a number of important reforms.

He 'dis- integrated' manufacturing processes. Previous, manufacturers worked on the craft principle, making for instance, all the parts to a cannon in one shop and assembling it there. There were many shops in Germany and many models of guns and different ammunitions for all of them; Rathenau standardized all the models of equipment and broke the process down and distributed manufacturing to many different shops. One shop would make barrels, another would make breeches, another would make primer, yet another would make casings, another fuses, another rifling bands ... more separate plants still would assemble the masses of parts. In this way ... and by working in shifts and by employing women ... production of ammunition and other war supplies tripled almost instantly without an increase in manpower.

Soon enough, Britain, France and later, the US used this organization to produce war material.

Rathenau discovered a solution to the money shortage as well. All the manufacturers reported their output to Rathenau's office in the War Ministry - to a large degree, and added to agricultural output, this was the total economic production of the country; Germany's GDP. Rathenau convinced the treasury to began the issuance of bonds based not on the gold reserves available to the government but on the output of German factories, mines and farms. Instead of issuing worthless scrip, the Germans went to true 'Fiat' money with a rational basis for increasing the money supply. As production increased, so did the available supply of fiat cash.

Germany never ran out of money, ammunition or other war material. They lost on the battlefield to the Americans in the Argonne Forest and the High Seas fleet mutinied; the Kaiser abdicated and the European powers France and England, tired of war, accepted the German offer of an armistice.

In the 30's the Rathenau method of economic rationalization was put into use by the Americans beginning in 1938 (not 1942). England went on a war footing in 1940. Ironically, the National Socialists did not go on a war footing until 1943 and never used women labor except for slaves. Currently, most developed countries use the Rathenau method of organizing industries by process, and all use fiat money. There is extreme standardization throughout. This method is the organizational basis for the US economy as well as for the mainland Chinese.

The source to a large degree of our resource depletion problem is the use of these wartime economic methods. They are most efficient at converting resources. This is a small issue in a war, but self- defeating when the issue is conserving resources. One reason the economy is in 'the bends' - and this site exists - is because of the inner contradiction issuing from a mobilization economic process.

A better approach is to return to a craft- process, hard currency economy.

- First, it would employ more people. This is the greatest shortage, currently, not oil or water or anything else, it is useful, interesting things for 6 billion people to do.
- It would allow for a diversification of solutions (rather than the centralized 'one size fits all' solution such as "Nuclear power is THE solution).
- It would allow for 'true' trade or mercantile exchange.
- It would remove much of the speculation from the economic system along with useless 'financial engineering', both of which are hindrances to discovering energy independence and conservaton.
- It would provide an incentive to step away from the 'auto centric' pattern that exists in the US and is now spreading like a virus across the world. Autos and related infrastructure is the greatest part of the manufactuing/consuming economic cycle.

War mobilization; we're already there. Time to declare victory and move on ...

Steve, have you ever considered applying for the post of Secretary of the Treasury? Or Chairman of the Federal Reserve? Should a move from Virginia be forthcoming, methinks Chancellor of the Exchequer in England or Minister of Finance here in Canada would be right up your alley.

Thank you for the interesting history piece and your thoughtful insights. All kidding aside, TPTB are tied to current models that are going nowhere fast. Clearly the world needs another Haber and Rathenau to think things through; though perhaps, as you infer, this time in reverse.

Too many, both on the left and right, are caught up in their respective ideologies to adequately or effectively think outside the box.

The US continues to maintain a war-time economic footing. Statistics that I've heard, and others please correct me if I'm wrong, is that the US accounts for 60% of worldwide military spending and as early as 1990, 83% of US manufacturing was tied to the defense industry. When it comes to such a paradigm, "wake me up when the war is over" is no laughing matter. The only way America will be able to free itself from this jumbled juggernaut, which, IMHO, restricts rather than enhances its current economic maneuverability and preparedness for the future, will be to do things very differently.

Steve, thanks again. You've given me (and may be a few other readers) something else to muse and think about. Cheers!

The US continues to maintain a war-time economic footing.

Now I think we're starting to confuse terms here. Having an economy focused on military is hardly having a wartime economy.
Also Steve's comments about efficiencies and systems changed during/because of war im Germany also has nothing to do with a wartime economy per se.

Historically speaking, standing armies and occupation are not that normal because troops have to be paid. Empires tend to have standing armies or be in a somewhat permanent state of war/occupation. Rom debased its currency on a steady basis during its decline. An "empire's" economy continues to funtion "normally" without being in a state of emergency.

Also between the two WWs the US scaled down greatly, although it already had Empire status (formally after Span-Am. War, actually almost since its founding, at any rate since the Mex. War). This changed significantly after WWII.

The consciousness change to the whole deal came during VietNam, under Johnson's presidency. "Guns and Butter" (his proclamation) means, that war was to be fought in Viet Nam WITHOUT switching to a wartime economy i.e. without having to declare a state of emergency. We even paid for Apollo at the same time!?!

Cheers, Dom

The UK defence Secretary, talking about the new aircraft carriers on order, spoke of their being needed to 'defend our sea routes worldwide' and to 'maintain the life we have'

Seems pretty clear that they have a deal as junior partner to the Americans to do whatever it takes to seize oil.

Great post! Thanks for the review.

Now, I have to quibble a little about your "solution":

A better approach is to return to a craft- process, hard currency economy

If I recall correctly, Churchhill tried to return the British to a gold standard in the 1920s. Result? Severe recession and a lot of unemployment, perhaps precursing the US Depression.

How is that which you're proposing different than Churchhill's attempts?

(for the second part, returning to crafts, I agree that there certainly needs to be redundancies built into the system, but rewinding the clock will hardly work here either..)

Cheers, Dom

I think you draw attention to an important issue that needs more discussion - namely the fact that the precedent that is invoked was high-tech and capital-intensive, and mostly run by the big corporate managers.

Should we be happy to see the automakers rescued, their executives and shareholders getting rich again off of the public decision to convert them to wind-turbine manufacturers? I certainly don't look on that with enthusiasm. But perhaps, depending on the circumstances, it might be preferable to no mobilization at all.

Should we be happy to see the same corporate managers in charge of the transformation process? Here, I think you're right that they are hopelessly biased toward fixes that will only make the problem worse. The best kind of answer is the sort articulated in various places by Richard Heinberg and Julian Darley. We need to have a minority articulating good ideas that really do grapple with the fundamentals of our predicament. Then there is at least a chance that those ideas will be the ones that rise to the forefront in a time of real necessity of change of course. I have in mind such essays as "50 Million Farmers," but we really should be articulating and debating details of "Wartime Mobilization," if, as I believe, something along those lines is a key to avoiding the most dire consequences.

I also think, as in my longer comment above, that there is no inherent reason why such a mobilization should replicate the scale and complexity of projects in an earlier era. As I see it, the essential issue is whether we adopt a system where, at least for a limited period, decisions are made regarding what activities are essential, and resources are allocated according to priorities thus determined. But we do need to be very conscious of the fact that we cannot replicate the experience of the past in regards to their general scale and complexity.

On the other hand, if it were to sink in that things were not going to return to 'normal,' that could be a key to getting the public psychologically behind the mobilization, in lieu of an actual war.

Like the Black Death of the 14th Century, the solutions to Peak Oil and Global Warming are local. Kill the rats, do not live in your own waste. End congestion, do not live in your own wastes. They could not see microorganisms, we cannot see CO2.

Actions are pretty simple:

  • Plant a garden, food miles.
  • Have fewer babies.
  • End congestion.
  • Stop moving a ton to move a person.
  • etc....

What is missing is leadership. Leadership shapes, makes relevant and personalizes the problem into actions. Wartime leaders who win, provide such leadership.

We do not have to wait for the one big answer. Small tasks relentless acted on can drive the changes needed.

Thanks for bring our attention to a less drastic solution to peak oil/NG rather than abandoning suburbs and collapse of civilization.

We have the advantage that we have more time than was available in WWII,and we don't have to make such a big change, really accelerating production of very fuel efficient cars and later BEV or PHEV's, expanding existing wind generation capacity, replacing nuclear power generators. Expanding solar is probably the biggest short-term challenge because manufacturing is coming from such as small base.

"We have the advantage that we have more time than was available in WWII,and we don't have to make such a big change, really accelerating production of very fuel efficient cars and later BEV or PHEV's, expanding existing wind generation capacity, replacing nuclear power generators. Expanding solar is probably the biggest short-term challenge because manufacturing is coming from such as small base."

Exactly how much time do you time we have? VS How much time it will take to convert?

I think things will start falling apart catastrophically in about 10 years. However conversion will take at least 20. How many BEV's or PHEV's are being manufactured now? Very few. How much of the cars in the US will be this type in 10 years? Probably just a small percentage. Likewise it appears it will take 10 years or so to build a new nuclear reactors--and many decades to replace the bulk of generating capacity.

And the US has not even started to convert significantly. I don't expect a major push until about 5 years from now.

How much of the cars in the US will be this type in 10 years? Probably just a small percentage. Likewise it appears it will take 10 years or so to build a new nuclear reactors...

This is business as usual thinking. My point is that 'wartime mobilisation' changes the rules. Brown's numbers above about the US WW2 mobilisation suggests that it's possible to have far more than "just a small percentage" in 10 years. At the extreme we could ban outright the manufacture of ICE vehicles from January 2009 and so achieve 100% within six months. The question is whether peak oil can trigger such a response. I'm doubtful.


The difference is that all war output belonged to the government and was used to fight the war. 100M PHEVS are notgoing to be freely distributed to the populace just so they can continue commuting and running the kids thither and yon. Public transport and rail infrastructure yes; demolishing the crazy zoning laws yes; neighbourhood food production and localdistribution yes; but brand new cars for everyone? I don't think so.

We don't have to guarantee a brand new EV. But we do need to stipulate that if you want a new car, it must be an EV. But you are right. We cannot just tack that on to the existing structure. EVs work in the overall context of more compact cities, localization, mass transit, railroads, etc. People can still use their existing vehicles as the crash transition is made.

We can stipulate that whatever cars are manufactured are allocated to community transformation needs rather than individuals - e.g. car cooperatives. Better yet, we could more or less stop manufacturing cars, and concentrate on manufacturing parts for the limited number of existing cars needed to be maintained by car cooperatives and the like.

I don't even think we need to do this. The problem is we are in Hirsch's "too little too late" phase.

What will happen is that people want electric cars but as they will not be able to get them until we are in crunch mode, it's more likely they will be made unemployed and they will stop driving altogether. That's likely what will happen to me: I can't afford nor justify a $40K aftermarket converted electric car and by the time a plug in prius comes out I'll probably be unemployed or else the banks will no longer be extending credit.

So to be brutally honest it's likely that many of us simply won't be driving and instead will be struggling just to feed and house ourselves.

In the long run, however, the top end income bracket will maintain mobility via electric vehicles (since they WILL be able to afford them) and then trickle down will take effect until they reach the masses. I don't expect the automobile to return to being a mass market item until my children are in their forties, however.

My 2c, for what it's worth.


I would like to introduce a different kind of engine that uses Compressed air to push the pistons.
It does have an 8 gal. tank for gasoline or other types of fuel to operate a burner to expand the air
when going faster than 35 mph. 8 gal.= 840 miles. combined mpg 106. The CityCat will be made and sold
in the U.S. in'10. India-09 AU.NZ.-09-10. Also, engine used for power generators etc.
This innovation could very well be the future of auto transport eclipsing battery power. $18000, Not much economic Return for the money but here it is,

electric wins every time..

Absolutely and right on. As I said above, I am sick of hearing about the promise of technology. Ban the ICE now.

Like you, I'm doubtful that an appropriate 'wartime mobilization,' of the sort that is needed to prevent general collapse, will occur. There are few signs that current leadership is ready to adopt such a program. But I don't quite agree with the reasoning that leads you to conclude that Peak Oil is not the sort of thing that could plausibly bring such leadership around in the way that a war does. In fact, it is in itself at least as much of a threat to business as usual as say (from my vantage in the U.S.) the threat to U.S. interests posed by the potential loss of Britain to German domination. One problem is that current leadership can't take the crucial step of properly informing the public that there is a problem, and to date no serious departures from BAU are openly contemplated to address the threat to BAU which they clearly perceive.

Consider the report that issued from the second Oil Shockwave exercise, excerpted in my "Who's Talking About the Peaking of World Oil Production - And What They're Saying," posted on Global Public Media. That exercise had the participation of ranking former US officials, including Robert Gates, subsequently promoted to Defense Secretary. Do you not think that this sort of thinking could be preliminary to the kind of mobilization you have in mind?

Here is some of what was in that report:

1. Demand Effects: “Given that the average household saving rate in the U.S. is negative, even middle income families have remarkably little capacity to ‘dig into savings’ to sustain their consumer spending. With oil jumping to $120 a barrel, household energy bills will roughly double to about $6,000 a year, or about 15% of total annual income for the median family. Most families will have little choice but to sharply curtail other spending. This same pattern will be mimicked around the world. Although absolute energy use is lower in other advanced countries than it is in the U.S., income levels are also lower, so the fraction of median family budgets devoted to energy in most countries will roughly double to 10-15% as well…” 2. Supply Effects: “The travel and tourism industry (including airlines, cruises, rail, restaurants, hotels, entertainment, etc.), which accounts for more than 10% of world GDP, will be especially hard hit…. The result will be a sharp reduction in revenues for travel and tourism businesses, and potential bankruptcies for many hotel chains, cruise lines, and other tourism firms. Transportation companies (trucking firms, package delivery firms, local delivery firms, etc.) will begin to cancel services, scale back promised delivery schedules, and many firms would simply declare bankruptcy. Chemical companies, locked into fixed price output contracts, will find their profits squeezed and many will suspend operations. Thousands of businesses in many sectors of the economy will declare ‘force majeure’ and break contracts. There will be massive waves of legal suits and a surge in bankruptcies. Layoffs in these vulnerable industries will spread throughout the economy because of traditional economic multiplier effects.” 3. Policy Effects: “[G]overnment budgets will be pinched by the effects of sharply higher energy costs (affecting post office fleets, military expenses, police vehicles, and the heating of public schools and government office buildings, etc.) Many local, regional, and national governments will impose income or property tax surcharges…. Developing countries that are dependent on energy imports will find their budgets especially hard squeezed…. Halted payments to international lenders will cause financial distress and hurt both the credit-worthiness of developing countries and the financial health of large international financial institutions. Given the financial stresses caused by sharply higher inflation, rising interest rates, and reduced ability of borrowers to repay loans, some hedge funds will go under and may create systemic problems.” 4. Effects on Confidence and Financial Market Psychology: “The more severe event envisioned in the scenario designed by SAFE for the World Economic Forum [in comparison with earlier impacts associated with Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 9/11 attacks] will likely cause a 25% decline in global stock market valuations, temporarily reducing global equity wealth by about $10 trillion (from about $40 trillion today to about $30 trillion). Assuming a 4% wealth effect, this will reduce global consumer spending by roughly $400 billion… [Policymakers] will try to issue coordinated confidence-boosting statements, and reassure financial markets that they will prevent institutions from failing. However, given the severity of the shock, it is unlikely that they will be able to significantly mitigate the pessimism that will permeate the financial markets.”

The conversion can be done quickly. See the article for an example.
The problem is that there is a lack of political will to do that.

Maybe if the US and the EU get nation-/union- wide blackouts as a direct result of rising oil prices we can get that kind of political will. US leaders are too eager to cover their own ass and the ass of their funders. Leaders in the EU are not really leaders but bureaucrats and they are too busy bickering about the Lisbon treaty.

There are lots of people with political will; unfortunately, none of them happen to be holding political office right now. Draft West Texas for President!!!!

Its not as though there is one date in the future when we suddenly run out of oil. Any actions now have the potential to reduce the pain when oil supplies begin to decline. If the decline is very rapid, a larger response will be needed. The point of Chris Vernon's article is that if a very big response is needed, not to preserve BAU, but to prevent economic collapse,it would be possible to totally convert industry to for example make thermal solar panels or PHEV's instead of SUVs and light trucks, build more electric trains rather than diesel trucks. So even if only a limited size Li/Fe battery could be installed for say 10 miles range this would save a lot of gasoline, especially if all parking lots were equipped with plug-in recharging. Parts of Canada have this type of infrastructure now( to stop oil going solid in winter). Even lead/acid batteries could be temporarily used at a pinch( it will be better than having no transport) or taken from existing vehicles.
This would obviously include gasoline rationing, NG rationing and probably rolling black-outs as has happened in past coal mining strikes and also a lot of symbolic gestures( no Christmas lights, office cleaning during day-light hours, turn off some elevators in office buildings, re-install solar cells on white-house roof, cancel after school football; OK that's going too far!, cancel after school ballet, to save mums driving kids) . None of these measures, however, will mean a immediate and drastic change in where we live, or work or dramatically reduce our standard of living. Longer term they will, but almost no one thinks we cannot adapt if given time, the war-time like response would be to buy that time.

It makes sense though to consider all of the different actions that people can take today without having to wait for some new technology to become widely available.

An example would be moving closer to work (or closer to transit, if available), and once you are closer to work, then the walking or bicycling to work becomes a possibility.

To an extent this is already starting to happen. The weakest housing markets in the U.S. are in the exurbs. The strongest housing markets are generally in the city centers and adjacent to transit stops.

What we do depends upon our premises and assumptions, but my premise would be that we have already entered Kunstler's long emergency and we are entering an economic, financial, and energetic death spiral. Desperate times call for radical measures. In WWII, the production of the auto was banned. This is just part of the overall energy problem, but let us start a WWII like effort by banning the sale of personal vehicles propelled by internal combustion engines. Barring that let's phase in EV by banning the sale of any vehicle that gets less than 50 mpg if an ICE is chosen.

But instead we will let the pain continue to spread from the bottom to the middle class and then on upwards until only those with stratospheric incomes can have a reasonable standard of living. The pain has already begun and we are in denial epitomized by Bush stating today that the solution was drill,drill, drill. By the time that oil comes online we will be in a great depression.

Affordable EVs will have a very short range and will be of low performance, essentially NEVs. Vehicles should be used when there are no other alternatives available. But that is where we should be going, anyway, with mid to long distances taken care of by electric railroads and other forms of mass transportation.

All we hear about is concepts, prototypes, $100,000 EVs, and $40,000 PHEVs that might come online in very small quantities by 2010. For god sakes people, we had EVs over 100 years ago. The auto companies need to have their butts kicked to deliver EVs now. They can be helped along if their options to produce ICEs are severely limited. Instead of aircraft,let's force the sale of EVs.

First, though, is that people need to really understand what is happening. Obama has the ability to make this clear, but will he have the wisdom and the courage?

Are EVs the answer. Hell, no. It is just part of the overall equation. But they are an example of what could be produced through a command appproach.

How many BEV's or PHEV's are being manufactured now? Very few. How much of the cars in the US will be this type in 10 years? Probably just a small percentage.

Although I'm a huge fan of EVs, I don't think we should focus on them. Or at least, building new ones. Insofar as we keep driving, we should just be building conversion kits for existing ICEV's. The costs for simply repairing the existing road infrastructure is going to be enormous in the years to come, so why bother too much with the vehicles that run on them?

With most trips being 50km of less a day, US$20k will be more than enough to equip an exting car with a 50kW motor, Inverter/Controller, and battery pack. If we stadardise on voltages (say 48, 80, 110, 240, 360, 540), replacing dead packs in five, ten, fifteen years will be made easier, and 'range extending' trailers can be more cheaply produced for those rare trips where you can't take the train.

Also, change registration costs from emissions/# of cyclinders to weight. Lighter vehicles do less damage to roads (and a side benefit, will be able to allocate a greater percentage of weight to batteries).

"we don't have to make such a big change, really accelerating production of very fuel efficient cars and later BEV or PHEV's,"

Dream on Neil. Classic illogic of confusing technology with energy in the false hope of sustaining Happy Motoring and expanding populations/economies.

Energy depletion,including peak oil,is only one strand of the greater problem which is sustainability.This includes climate change,population and so on.
Mobilisation is what is needed to address this larger scenario.Unfortunately it is not an easy problem to quantify in terms that the majority of the people will understand. It will be hard to muster support.There will probably be no single event,like Pearl Harbour,to draw attention to the problem.
What is needed is clear thinking,far sighted and courageous leadership.I haven't seen much sign of that for some time.
While Peak Oil is a very immediate and quantifiable phenomenon I think the people who are aware(as on TOD)need to push the big issue more - sustainability.

The term "mobilisation" conjures up visions of a mob of angry demonstrators, moving together to achieve some sort of mob rule on anyone who gets in their way or refuse to join in. When sustainability is linked to overpopulation and the call is to mobilise against it, the mob will assume that depopulation at the fastest possible rate is the answer. When you take this argument through to its natural conclusion the result is pretty grisly, even though you had something more benign in mind. A bullett and a condom probably cost about the same, but the bullet is far more efficacious when it comes to population control.

It is one of the really confronting things I have had to grapple with in my peak oil education. I do think we need to be very careful that we understand the consequences of any proposed action before we start. After all it is not thinking through the consequences of oil dependency that has led us here in the first place. We do need to learn from our mistakes.


You're no doubt correct, a 'mobilization' could go various ways, some of them very unpleasant. One reason why we need to articulate a good program, to help the leadership put the real issues before the people, or at least make it more difficult for them to demagogue or technofix the ship faster toward the iceberg.

Hey hey Thirra,

I think that we will see a Pearl Harbor event. If one of a handful of very large oil facilities goes down for an extended period of time the price will spike so high that it will be considered a national emergency. If, for example, the Abqaiq facility (~9mbd) is taken off line by terrorists or Iran blocks the straight of Hormuz (~25mbd) or a hurricane hits Huston and destroys oil facilities bringing the world down from say 85 million barrels a day to 80 overnight then the entire world will feel it.

When the world had a few million barrels of spare capacity it could compensate for interruptions with only small hiccups. But now, with spare capacity essentially at zero a large event would be devastating. losing 1-4% a year is going to cause problems, but losing 5-25% overnight will make energy security the first priority of nations the world over.

I can't say when a revolution in Venezuela will shut in production or when a fire at Grangemouth will shut in North Sea production. But I think the odds are good that something big will go down in the near future. There are numerous choke points and no slack.


A large-scale mobilisation is needed urgently - however it is problematic to implement. It is not quite true that you need a "war"-like threat to trigger it, rather you need to call a state of emergency. Once a state of emergency is declared then BAU is over, and people crowd around TVs and wait to be told what to do. Then comes the speech that holds... The Answer . (que choir).

Seriously though, this is the trigger event. Once the population's perception is orientated to the fact that 1. There is an emergency 2. BAU is suspended 3. Large sacrifices are needed 4.This is survival of our nation - Then they will be begging for a plan/vision/answer for stability. Here in Aus - people are sceptical of politicians, but if the issue was framed as state of emergency, then they will immediately fall into line (IMO this is practically hardwire into humanity).

This begs the question - can politicians change their perceptual orientation to a "state of emergency" given their current mental/cultural straight-jackets - and if they can...will they declare early or will they wait until they receive a clear mandate of chaos before they act?

Good point, and why some of us are so disappointed with our politicians for failing totally to even put this subject on the agenda. If the government explained everything in a clear and straightforward way - declared the state of emergency, I'm sure crowd round the TV as you say and we could start to make physical progress.

This comes back to my point about what could trigger such a response - an invading army certainly can, peak oil is more subtle though which is where the problem lies.

"State of Emergency" is what I was thinking of too.
BUT I don't think you have to go that far. I also don't think we need 38% of GDP to put up a nation of solar panels..

Let me present an alternative plan (Plan C 4.0 :-)..

Even the so-called democratic goverments can act quite stategic in almost normal times, IF need be. As a point in case, think of the FED's intervention in the JPMorgen/Chase case. Government (quasi-governmental institution) jumped into the private sphere with the only reason "to avert a crisis". OK, everyone saw the crisis that was unfolding. That was 1st quarter 2008...

Now we're in 3rd quarter 2008 and the USGovt. realizes that GM can't sell any of it's Chevies. Earnings? Minus 10 Billion USD.
Fourth quarter is going to look worse.

The government decides that "what's good for GM is good for America" and buys a 50% share into the company "in order to save jobs" or whatever other BS the PR people decide on (i.e. whatever the "crisis's" name is). GeneralMotors suddenly becomes FannieMotors, a quasi-governMental insitut, still trading stock.

As "owner" of FannieM, George W (or Obama or whatever the name might be) stops immediately producing ICEs and only does ElectricVs, saving the American car industry.

There are lots of precidents. BMW was bankrupt at the end of the '60s and the Bavarian govt bailed it out. Now BMW employs cheap American workers in Spartenburg..

Then the USGovt does the same to ExxonMobil..
(No wait, that was Russia taking over Yukos...-)

I hope my attempts at humour have not spoiled the obviousness of the plan.

Cheers from Munich,

Now that I've thought about what I've written:

Politicians would only do this IF
- it helped grease their campaign coffers,
- were seen as imperitive by national consensus
- helped in the popular vote, etc.

A populist candidate like Obama could do this, promising cheap EVs for all.. (Think Volkswagen)

Who cares that the grid can't possibly handle all those EVs? Of course step two would be the SOLAR (or nuclear or wind or or) SOLUTION: Government confiscates East Texas..

PeakPlus: I think West
Texas would be better for
wind and solar---ask T. Boone Pickens! OTOH, East
Texas might not yet be sucked dry in their oil fields.

Yep, by golly, I sure meant "West":-)
Looking at the globe from the wrong angle again..
Thanks, Ms. Oklahoma:-)
(or did I get that wrong too?)

Gov't could also force compatibility standards where all vehicles used standard battery packs charged by giant solar thermal power stations and wind generators. Intermittency would not be a problem since the batteries are charged as the juice is available. Include vehicle to grid and now you're talking.

Boone Pickens is already doing his part by spending billions on wind power. I think Obama knows how to send a message but I don't think he knows what the message is yet.

This doesn't mean that I am desperately trying to find a way to continue business as usual. All this is in the context is that we need to make any kind externally powered mobility unnecessary through restructuring cities.

In the UK at least, the only game-changer I can honestly see is a national disaster.

A deep cold snap in January; with rolling blackouts and then blackouts with way in excess of normal cold deaths (50,000 + above normal background cold deaths); people dying trapped in high-rise lifts; computers down; ATM's not working; Layoffs; failure in JIT food delivery; Social unrest and people taking to the street.

All of these things just aren't supposed to happen in an advanced society. Just like the way we failed to spot August 1914, September 1939, The Falklands, Bosnia etc.

This scenario is the only wake up call I can see that will work.

- Watch what happens to prevarication over Nukes when such an event happens

Pray it happens sooner, rather than later. Because if we stumble on, muddling through beyond 2012 -2015, then the impact could be terminal.

You mean, once the internet is down and I can't get my TOD fix?
THAT's when there will be rumbling in the streets!



During the petrol tankers action in 2000, Tesco started to run out of staple foods in about 3 days

Remember that little booklet that was sent to every household in the UK in 2001?

You know, the one written in idiotese and that suggested we store 21 days of food?

At the time I thought they were just taking the pish.

Now I reckon they were just covering their collective governmental asses.


I too think we need to consider the mass mobilization of the entire population in order to deal with the profound challenges to our way of life Peak Oil implies. However, this is easier said than done!

War time mobilization isn't a simple thing to impliment, even in real wartime when their is an identifiable enemy and the nation is perceived to be fighting for it's very survival. In the era of total war, society is turned into a vast machine with a clear objective, winning the war.

In wartime or a state of emergency, many of our most cherished democratic civil rights are usually curtailed or suspended until the war is over and won. In the "long emergency" era, how long would the mobilzation last? How would we know when we'd won?

Also in highly competative and unequal societies like the UK and the USA what's to stop the ruling elite from maintaining their share of national weatlh and living standard at the expense of the rest of us?

Also wartime economies are also centrally controlled, they is a great deal of planning and allocation of scarce resouces, the normal market mechanisms are modified and controlled, this has consequences for how perceive the market over the long-term, and market forces have arguably never been stronger or subject to less democratic control or influence than they are today.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that we don't have an external enemy to fight and mobilize against. In reality we are the "enemy". So we'd be mobilizing against ourselves and against the society we have created. This makes mobilization, I believe, infinitely more complicated and problematic.

My answer to the challenge of Peak Oil is different. I think we need a massive rejuvination of the entire democratic process and the reinvention of how we perceive the role of the active citzen in a democracy. We need democratic reform of nearly all our institutions, to engage and incorporate the citizenry into the running of society. We need far more honesty in public and political life, we need to take people seriously in serious times. However, all this means reversing the last thirty odd years of Western social and economic policy, which was aimed at dismantling democracy and the role of the active citizenry and raising the "market" to the status of a Leviathan towering over and controlling almost every area of society. Not only that, the "market" only really benefitted a tiny proportion of the population at the expense of almost everyone else over the longer term.

What this means is that we will inevitably come into conflict with a system and powerful and wealthy minority at the top of the socio/economic pyramid, a group who inhabit a parallel economy, and their interests, which differ radically from the rest of society. Basically we are talking about a "war" directed at the power of the neo-liberals and the neo-conservatives who currently rule without any real or serious opposition.

Peak Miley Cyrus. A bit of levity for the 'Drum.



very funny.

couldn't see how miley cyrus was connected to wartime mobilization, and then pow! the mention of etchasketchaland.

brought shivers

Yeah ... we need levity ... But, we might entertain ourselves to death ...

We are spending billions of dollars to make movies out of comic books.

People sure love indulging in their nostalgic fairy tales & fantasies!

Where is the billion dollars to spend on presenting serious issues?

I found this article on a wartime mobilization effort to be naive.

All of my posts here focus on the central issue of death controls.

Wartime mobilization notions are silly time-warps back to the past.

Unfortunately, the world has become far more hyper-complicated!!!

As far as war itself goes, the past before mass destruction weapons
has become irrelevant, and quite useless to judge our real futures.

We are fixated on the old-fashioned death control tools,
while deliberately not thinking about the purposes that
were behind why those tools became our first priority.

I totally agree that new age wartime mobilization are
going to be the only ways that we could possibly cope.

However, what I disagree with is the obsolete images.

The real wartime mobilizations are going to become
martial law, civil war, and revolution, which all
take place in an unprecedented context of there
being weapons of mass destruction that still
will exist, and still will then be billions &
trillions of times more powerful than any
that every existed before in history ...

This article on wartime mobilization
rests on lots of silly old-fashioned
ideas about how political economies
are supposed to work, and how they
could be modified by emergencies.

The thing in the article I agreed with most
was the conclusion that it shall not work.

People are not going to see this emergency
until it is way too late to respond sanely.

We are stupid little monkeys, suddenly
becoming top carnivores, possessing
lots of mass destruction weapons.

What part of collapse into chaos
can benefit from comparing events
to WW II, when all the bombs then
would not be a tiny fraction of 1%
of what we have available right now?

Death controls feedback through debt controls.

Political economy is based on organized robbery.

The world is going to continue to be guided by
belief in its huge lies, backed up with violence,
which drives it towards psychotic breakdowns.

Anybody proposing solutions within old paradigms
is going to be way more popular, and successful,
inside of their society, at the present time ...

BUT, that is part of the problem,
not a path to any true solutions.

Only what actually exists evolves.

Only what once was can provide
seeds for what may later be ...

As above, so below.

The most money goes through the arms trade.

The military & other organized crime gangs
are now the biggest players in these vortices.


However, the point of wartime mobilization
is to prepare to engage in death controls ...

New systems of death controls are imperative.

We are going to develop them the hard ways,
from what we actually already have now ...

The entire political economy is based on
the bullshit of bullies that used to be
the best at using lies and coercions.

It is superficial to think that the
existing political economy could be
ramped up to resolve these issues.

The political economy we have now
is based on huge lies about itself,
and requires the vast majority of us
not having the slightest clue about it.

The civilized systems of frauds and robberies
that we depend on now to be able to survive
are based on past deceits and destructions.

The real way that the established systems
have responded to peak oil is indulge in
bigger lies to start more wars for oil.

The issues around peak oil are all about
relationships between physics & politics.

But, the irony is that our politics is still
almost totally dominated by social stories
that are simply the bullies' bullshit ...

Most our "theories" about economics
are based on our bullshit hiding facts.

If we try to make political science
become more consistent with better
developed sciences of physics and
biology, the problems are that is
in a head-on collision with the
triumph of huge lies, that were
able to triumph, to become
what directs us now ...

Human beings necessarily act as robbers in their environment.

All groups of human beings are gangs of organized robbers ...

and they all have huge lies in the form of their religions &

ideologies to attempt to rationalize and justify their acts.

We need to go through the crucial paradox in understanding
that warfare is based on deceit, and everything we learned
to do became more & more bizarre ways to lie to ourselves.

Death control was always the most important form of robbery.

The death control built the debt control inside our economy.

Our entire political economy is directed
by the triumph of astronomical frauds ...
that evolved gradually from the robberies.

And so, the funny thing about this article
raising the idea of a wartime mobilization
is that it manages to do so without it ever
critically examining death control purposes.

It is a truism that death and taxes
are the two certainties in our life.


All of the real solutions must be based
on new systems of death control, & IF
we survive, it is because we did that.

However, to get there, we shall have to first
go through the collapse into chaos of the old,
since the old systems are based on being able
to lie to themselves, & hiding the truth, and
every old religion and ideology shall have to
be trashed & recycled during those processes.

Human intelligence is the internalization
of natural selection, and culture becomes
a form of artificial selection, which is
based on some kind of real death control.

The most extreme piercing point is that
we have had enough progress to make the
weapons of mass destruction that we do,
but, the purposes behind why we did it
were deeply hidden from consciousness.

And so, we need new age warfare, and
a new age wartime mobilization to do
that, and we are going to be forced
to adapt to do that, to survive ...

However, it is excessively naive to talk
about wartime mobilization unless we
penetrate more deeply to what exists.

One of the side-effects of the reality
that the world IS controlled by lies,
backed by coercion, is trivilization.

That is why Hollywood is spending
billions of dollars to turn old
comic books into big budget
movies, that are popular.

& comedy news seems the most true news.

Popular culture is based on believing
in their bullies' bullshit world views.

The real death controls are already
the biggest and most important real
things that we have been doing, and
are doing now, and will be doing ...

And so, wartime mobilization IS going
to be the real future solution, BUT,
it is orders of magnitude away ...

the same as mass destruction weapons

are orders of magnitude away from us.

Our civilization mentally mostly lives
inside of its own silly fantasy worlds.

Reality checks and corrections are ???

The fact that talking about death control
is something that disturbs people, and
they only want to do so in the same
old-fashioned ways they used to

is a central feature of our problematique.

Therefore, the article above manages to both
be right on, and totally wrong, at the same
time, because it vaguely sees what should
be done, but can not believe we will ...

Peak oil is simultaneously the point at which
society is approaching its peak dishonesties.

All these things are integrated,
as "peak everything" already is.

The most important thing in any ecology,
including a human ecology, is whatever
does the death control limiting lives.

We already have an established system
that does all of that, and it already
is the single biggest thing we do ...

However, that system is there in ways
that are due to the paradox that the
people who did best death controls
were also the best at being the
most dishonest about doing it.

Thus, civilization IS controlled by huge lies,
backed up with coercion, running necessary
systems of organized robberies and frauds.

That is what actually exists,
and that is what will evolve.

We need a wartime mobilization
to meet the new death controls.

We are going to get that, too!

However, it must be as different
from the past systems as are the
weapons of mass destruction from
anything that ever existed before.

We are going to see the old systems
drive themselves towards collapsing
into chaos, and we may hope some new
systems shall be able to then emerge!

I have always agreed that a little levity
was in order when talking about things
like war and environmental destruction.

In real ways, we need to laugh ourselves
out of the box of the frame of reference.

We need paradoxical paradigm shifting,
& that is actually a humourous thing.

We need real, radical, revolution
in ways we think about and do
death controls, and that is the
first thing we need before we
can do wartime mobilization.

We have gotten to the point
where the triumphs of LIES
has created cultures going
through the looking glass,
into Bizarro Mirror World.

Our political debates almost all
take place inside of the opinion
constructed by bullies' bullshit.

We have the established systems
of death and debt controls, and
they are based on hiding those.

Then, we have various controlled oppositions,
which are run by reactionary revolutionaries.

The only people who are popular are those
who promote varieties of those huge lies
that people are used to & want repeated.

The established systems of fraud and robbery,
built by all the real death and debt control,
hide themselves behind impossible ideals ...

which the established powers use as a means
to be better liars & hypocrites about what
they are really doing, while they may be
opposed by a controlled opposition that
reveals a little of that social fact truth,
but then collapse back to the same old
goals of making impossible ideals real.

The real mechanisms are due to acts
of mental subtraction & physically
real robbery, and any solutions
are going to have to be new
systems of lies & coercion.

Any real solutions must be
new death control systems.

The mechanisms to achieve
our ideal goals are the
opposite to the ideals.

We are already inside our Bizarro Mirror World.

Our culture is a pop culture, that has
amplified childish comic books, and
various trivial entertainments, that
become our dominant concerns, as
far as money is spent to promote
them to most of the public ...

In the mirror, everything is backwards.

If we do not understand that, then
everything we do will be backwards.

We are tubes of flesh through which
the environment passes, and indeed,
we are nothing but that Environment.

Our brain builds a model
that mirrors its reality ...

A vortex is a spiral, like any
whirlpool or a tornado, and
it always reverses itself.

Vortices are built from
infinite loops through
their environment ...

By & large, since our civilization
is controlled by bullies' bullshit,
our education & mass media are
doing everything they could to
try to make sure most people
never understand any of the
elementary principles of
philosophy, and surely
do not understand the
realities of death
and taxes, etc..

And so, this results in things which are,
from a sublime point of view, amusing.

It results in comedy news being
the place one sees the most truth,
while, one gets popularized ideas
about wartime mobilization that
are promoted, without ever
coming closer to purposes
of real death control ...

Sorry Blair, I had to stop reading ....before I died of boredom. Your rant was just too long and never seemed to make any point. And what is death control anyway?

somehow i think i get what he was referring too and found it one of most effective stream of consciousness rants i have read in a while. to me death control as referred too is that means argued by many as the quickest and thus most humanitarian way to get down for hopefully a period of rebuilding and restoration. As H. T. Odum, in "The Prosperous Way Down" notes on pg 205, this whole thing reminds us of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse who come to destroy humans:death, famine, pestilence, and war. Man, everything has peaked. there ain't but one way to go from here. The catalyst for the rant was probably in response to things he read in the article and in previous comments by folks who subscribe to a path defined in the following quote. "The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination." ~Marian Zimmer Bradley

Please do not think i am trying to answer for the ranter, because i am afraid to even directly respond to him, even though i find his arguments compelling. Gonna read it again later today. think it might be one of the outstanding rants on the oil drum.

Are you stoned by any chance?

Woah Blair Good one man.

I was going to launch one but I think you hit the nail.

Yes we the people will ask for mobilization and we will get it in the form of a police state and 1984 will look like ozzie and harriet. It will suck big time and we asked TPTB for it.

My favorite Menckenism:

"The American people know what they want and they deserve to get it good and hard."

Philosophical prejudices built into English makes it tough
to discuss anything, without it becoming quite misleading.

Real death control is stop the development of potentials.

True birth control promotes development of potentials.

Everything people call "birth control"
is actually some form of death control.

Real death control says "no."

True birth control says "yes."

Learning about the laws of nature,
and harnessing inanimate energies,
made exponential growth possible,


More than anything else, cheap oil
made exponential growth explosive.

However, there is nothing that can keep
an exponential growth going indefinitely.

After a few thousand years, there would
have to be a ball of human flesh, that
was expanding faster than
the speed of light ...

Death controls are all the conditions
that results in limiting more growth.

The most plainly obvious forms of it
are the weapons, which are tools to
be used to stop things happening
by killing people and destroying.

However, for systematic understanding,
one has to see that most birth control
is truly actually doing death control.

There are no alternative energies
that can sustain endless growing.

Human and industrial ecologies
must and will necessarily evolve.

They will all depend on the
control of death that stops
developments of potentials.

We should make a greater use of information
and have a higher consciousness about that.

However, the ways things are going now ...

the only solutions left will be genocides.

Since we deliberately ignore death control,
and the people who do it the most and best
are also the ones who most deny the truth,
we are doing an extremely bad job of that.

People greatly prefer to only talk about
the positive alternatives, and to ignore
the negative realities, but, therefore,
we will leave the real death controls
to become uncontrollable genocides.

All the real alternatives require
real alternative death controls.

Since endless exponential growth
is absolutely impossible to continue,
something has to stop that, somehow,
and, by definition, that is death control.

What I have written about may only be
presented as a stream of consciousness,
but the underlying reality is obvious!!!!!!

Like I said, the established systems ARE
responding to peak oil problems by using
huge lies to start wars, to claim more oil.

Weapons and war are the biggest business.

Death controls have always been priorities.

We need to go through paradigm shifting
to perceive and debate this differently ...

Paradigm shifts do not change what exists.

Paradigm shifts change how we perceive it,
and that can change how we later behaved.

I am talking about a paradigm shift
that understands real death control.

Peak oil problems look like they are
going to lead the problematique of
exponential growth hitting limits.

Those are going to drive poverty,
crime, and disease to become the
uncontrollable famines, wars &
plagues that are genocidal ...

The ONLY real alternatives are
more conscious death controls.


While people are going
to try to build that (yet
not admit they did it.)

I am well aware that:

"The road that is built in hope is more pleasant
to the traveller than the road built in despair."

It is far more pleasant to say yes, than say no.

However, we will be forced to say no, & mean it.

We are all used to being able
consume a kilogram of the oil,
to eat the kilogram of our food.

There are always going to be plenty
of creative alternatives to say yes to
and to work on developing more ...

However, there will always have to be
some death control due to real limits
that require us to enforce some "no!"

People like to focus on the good alternative,
and tend to deliberately ignore the bad ones.

However, any surviving system of alternatives
must continue to have its death controls as
the central feature that integrates it all.

It always, already, was and is that way now.

That must continue to be the way in future.

People have to become more conscious about
human ecology and its evolution, and that
means they have to think more deeply on
the ways death controls are working ...

Almost nobody wants to do that,
but we are not going to be able
to avoid doing that, after those
real limits to growth manifested
as more extreme genocidal events.

Our society is dominated by
our bullies' bullshit story,
that hides a death control
behind lies and hypocrisy.

It is practically impossible to have
rational public debates of this now.

Every natural language was full of
wrong philosophical assumptions.

Talking about death control
gives rise to very extreme
forms of these problems.

However, we have had scientific revolutions
that changed the paradigm in physics, etc.,
& we must continue to change paradigms
throughout political & social sciences.

Right now, we are cruising inside our fool's paradise,
where we HAVE weapons of mass destruction, but
we refuse to think deeply about using them.

Our instruments to do death control became
billions and trillions of times more powerful,
and therefore, we have to think more deeply
about the purposes behind using those tools.

Natural selection is never going away ...

We have to develop artificial selection, and
we have been doing that throughout history.


P.S. I was not stoned when I wrote my post.

However, I am the registered "leader" of

Parti Marijuana Party


& there I publish my bla, bla, blah in

the party leader section of my Web site,

and in the English language forum there,

which I am using like my personal diary.

thanks for the clarification. i am an old man and your first missive this morning engaged some rusty gears. I totally agree death control is an integral part of all ecosystems and prevention is key. I suppose my initial thought this morning was in recognition of the extent of overshoot which the human race finds itself today. Perhaps on the next iteration we can adopt your more humane approach, but human nature being what it is I am not optimistic. Now i am going to the Oil Drum library and review some of your other stuff. I still believe you are of the James Joyce school, but more interesting because of the subject. Plus you are one hell of a writer.


Good god man, use the 'Enter' button less.

I am afraid a WWII style mobilization of the United States will not do.

There need to be a global mobilization that involves every major industrial power, perhaps through a broad based group like the OECD.

Every country involved has to contribute resources, and unlike WWII, rather than to fight each other, to fight the common enemy of resource depletion (narrowly defined as petroleum and natural gas for now), but over time, to more broader issues involving other resources.

A reasonable and fair amount of GDP to spend on the petroleum effort would be something like 10% of GDP for the participating countries --- not that big a sum when you consider that petroleum @$140 a bbl is roughly 7% of world GDP. (Actual is less because heavy oil sells for less than $140).

Then there need to be major programs, like the simultaneous phase out of steel based light automobile bodies (the steel unibody and body on frame standard) with far more fuel efficient, lighter, composite body vehicles.

How about a radical new global standard in rail? One global standard for high speed intercity, freight, etc. that are interoperable globally?

We need lots of new ideas....

Excellent article. I think I agree with BillJames above that most Plan B's will come from the local level. And as Kunstler says, think "profoundly local."

A plan like this would probably give the world a lot more confidence in the US economy, and would likely attract capital and boost the value of the dollar... at least for a while. It would certainly be better than BAU.

But I still think the "law of receding horizons" would catch up to us quickly. Especially when the rest of the world started competing for the same limited resources for their own "mobilizations."

I'm not sure attracting capital and boosting the value of the dollar will retain their relevance as issues.

Yes, most of what will be done will happen at the local level, but without mobilization at the national and inter-national levels, I don't see how the basic life-support systems will necessarily be maintained. We need that organizing framework or we're going to be eating tree bark.

Reposting something I wrote on the "McCain’s Energy Plan" thread. I don't mean to spam, honestly. It just seems proper as a comment under this heading. In brief: if we're contemplating supercharging the renewables, we should also be planning to ease the path to sustainable local enonomies:

Weighing in from Australia - and stepping way outside my field of expertise, so this will all be subject to correction by wiser heads.

I think a missing factor in energy policy is financial. A case should be made for building a regional banking sector, with government as final guarantor, having a mandate to finance local developments which would support relatively self-sufficient economic regions. That is, privilege decentralized infrastructure and productivity over national and international systems, even though the latter have better economies of scale and can accumulate capital more rapidly.

My own position is pretty far left. But I took the point of some articles by Ron Bailey on the venerable libertarian site, www.reason.com. Bailey was writing about climate change and carbon, how they seem to overwhelm every realistic mitigation scheme; and he wound up saying that the most effective use of the money would be to leave it in peoples' pockets, and let them make their own arrangements.

Something to that. Of course, people with a lot of money have a lot of choices, while those on a tight margin may find their only choices driving them from bad to worse. But what makes it especially threatening for the poor is that they don't have effective local organizations, nor entrpreneurial backgrounds, nor capital.

The local bank, serving a local community, used to fill that need. The bank was largely in the same boat as the local businesses, had to know them well, had an interest in their survival. I won't list all the pressures to amalgamate that have been working through the last century, but there's no doubt they have led to an incredibly streamlined system for disconnecting money from locality, and reattaching it to demographics, and to particular modes of saving and borrowing. And that has probably tended to optimize economic growth; but it has also tended to where productive capacity is centralized, but consumption is spread way out.

You have this maxim round here, Economize, Localize, Produce; and you've talked substantially about what this means for individuals. I've no doubt, as early adjusters, so to speak, you're way ahead of the game. But you can see how big the risks are, even with your eyes open, in making a bad call.

Surely, ELP needs to be done on the scale of a mini-economy that can look after itself, in terms of staple foods and transport, and finance. And I'd reckon that scale is substantially larger than the independent commune - more like a city with surrounding townships. That size is big enough to finance taxi fleets, light rail, wind farms, agriculture. Projects that would be Herculean for a family or commune become practical; and if there are better technologies coming, cellulose-to-ethanol etc, a regional economy can take advantage.

This picture of the mid-level is what's missing from not only Bailey's perspective, but pretty much everyone's. Neither Party apparatus in the US is thinking this way. And that's silly, because the mid-level offers a real chance for transition to a low-transport economy, while leaving in place the entrepreneurial modes and economic relations that people are used to. It's the economies of scale that have us hooked on the present levels of fuel consumption.

Wartime mobilization only addresses the needs of the ruling class. War, in any guise, is a racket.

They (the rulers) create the problem, we (peons) react, they create the solution (war). It has always been this way, and if history is any guide, will always be. Peons never learn, the rulers never flinch.

What a tragic idea to be considered so seriously on the Oil Drum.

So your suggestion would be...The laissez faire market solution or the Apathy/anarchy/collapse alternative?

I don't know where you are from, but here in Aus, I trust the Government alot more than you do yours. MOST politicians are there to serve - and do the best they can in a dysfunctional system. I wouldn't trust Business (the market/financial elites) as no equality would be possible - money would rule; and in a failed state situation - then the toughest would go straight into the power vacuum; and might would rule.

Which ruler would you choose?

And I don't know where you are from, but where I come from, your choice is a false choice. The business elites are the government-- in reality, there is nothing to choose. In my country, might always rules. As, I suspect, it has in yours.

There is no "solution" to this dilemma, but I have increasingly found it counter-productive and mal-adaptive to trust the "government" to come up with any solution that makes the world a better place to live. One approach, however, has been frequently promoted in TOD -- build stronger local communities, and as much as possible, ignore the government.

Food and energy are too important to entrust to global corporations or their handmaiden governments.

I told you where I am from - Australia. I concede the point that the dynamic of your political and economic system is dysfunctional. I also see that you are somewhat dis-heartened by that fact, that your country has effectively been high jacked by elites who care nothing about the common good.

However, don't confuse your system with ours. How we handle it will differ from how European countries handle it and definitely from how the US handles it. IMO my Government will not collapse our country will pull together and get though this transition. The government will need to harness corporations in arrangements that work within the current system, while it is viable. They will need to enable programs that give room for your bottom up resilience strategies. They need to maintain welfare to promote stability and law and order.

Bottom up is good...but bottom up and top down and we may actually get somewhere. Face it- you cannot just "ignore" the government - you need to USE it. Otherwise you are just promoting more chaos.

I'm not considering war, in any guise, but rather a (temporary?) abandonment of the current market system of resource allocation. It isn't addressing the problem in hand so could potentially be replaced with a command economy, focusing available resources sharply on our specific problem. It's an analogy with the economic transition that happens at times of nation threatening war.

Reasoning by analogy is a precarious intellectual enterprise. There is nothing "like" war except war. In the USA we have a "war" on drugs, a "war" on cancer, a "war" on poverty, and so on. These have all been going on for a very long time -- several generations of politicians. They have produced nothing but a bloated bureaucracy, a few wealthy suppliers of the "war" effort, and an increasingly destitute, unhealthy population that has largely been disabused of the notion that the government can do anything useful.

Other experiments in "temporarily" abandoning the "market system" -- USSR and East Germany come to mind -- have indeed proved to be temporary. And arguably ineffective in the long run.

There is nothing "like" war except war.

I agree, and conclude above that peak oil doesn't look like war to those who are in the position to instigate such mobilisation. So peak oil won't be addressed by wartime mobilisation. I think electricity shortage is more likely to than oil shortage though.

Unfortunately, the only wartime mobilization that might happen is to fight a real war and this seems to have been the macro response from governments so far particularly US, UK, Australia. Even our military responses though have been industrialised and professionalised so many of the general populace does not have any direct family connections to the military and therfore no real sense of appreciation that sacrifice of a plasma TV, so that your son or daughter has screen to stare at as tehy are guiidng in the bombs, will largely be missing.

We have lost the very essence of what it means to have to respond to an all encomapssing emergency. We elect the polititicans not to fix anything but to write the cheques out to the industries that can. We have become accustomed to just buying our way out of problems. It may take a generation, post the Greater Depression, before we can rebuild the social and moral software of our societies, an essential pre-requisite if we are going to have to exercise self sacrifice for the sake of the greater good.

So let me see if I have this right: We, as a specie, wait until the arctic has a near ice free Summer (07) and geolocially we are at Peak oil. Ocean temperatures are rising along with fuel prices, yet now some person writes an article with a Plan B, which would take approx. 20 years to get any high level politician to even look at, let alone act on.

Is a plan B a good idea? You bet, but it's too little, too late. You can't wait to figure out something as simple as Peak oil when its peaking. No, the need to figure that out was 20 years ago. The same goes for climate change.

Here's the perfect analogy: Person A is driving along when they notice a little blue light on their dashboard. They think the car is driving just fine - all the gauges read normal - I'll just keep going another 20 miles. The Sun sets and the car lights get switched on - and the car loses power and Person A is now at the side of the road in a mini crisis situation. The blue light was an indicator light for the alternator, and without more power to the battery, the lights drained it and at some threshold there wasn't enough power to keep going.

The 20 miles is analagous to the 20 years wasted ignoring easily understandable information about an impending crisis. If one acts when one still has time, a crisis can be averted. Maybe next time in a few thousand years our specie will be more responsive.

Except it's been at least 35 years wasted, not 20.


Which doesn't bode well.

I believe Hubbert made his observations in 1956, which would make it 52 years by my calculations. Funnily enough, most of the oil dependence has been created in those interveaning years.

It has been 80 years since the 1928 publication of of Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley. See pages 56-58 and elsewhere One of the fictional characters Lord Edward, an amatuer biologist, pontificated on population and resources including coal, iron ore and phosphorus. Aldous's brother Julian was a real biologist. Julian gave a series of lectures at McGill in the late 50's. which I attended His sponsor, the McGill biologist N. J Berrill, was discussing peak oil at that time. Dr. Berrill was opposed to the US Interstate Highway System.
--------------------------------------------------- In Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point, Lord Edward bemoans societal loss of phosphorous pentoxide to his assistant Illidge.
In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Henry Foster tells Lenina about the recovery of phosphorus pentoxide.

Nikola Tesla talked extensively on this subject, more than 100 years ago about the finite nature of fossil fuels(specifically coal and oil) and the need to pursue solar and hydroelectric (PV was before his time, he envisioned passive solar water heaters in large scale)

He had a distain for the dirty and smoggy nature of fossil fuel use, as well as the horrible existence the typical coal miner was subjected to, however he also very clearly understood that these fuels had very finite limits. He predicted a 100-200 year use at most, this was not a supply side prediction like Hubert, but the idea that renewables would become so efficient that it could replace fossil fuels.

Let's not forget the late-comer, Adm. Rickover.


Posting from the USA -

At peak annual expenditure rates:
World War Two was 38% GDP
the Korean War was 14% GDP
the Vietnam War was 9% GDP
The NASA peak budget for 1966 (during the Apollo Program) was 0.72% GDP
The US Military (direct, emergency, and indirect) budget for 2007 was 4.5% GDP

The words 'wartime mobilization' have been used by many (including myself) to suggest the scope of the problem facing a country that runs on imported oil as the world faces gradual oil depletion. They're not entirely appropriate, but they're the closest thing a significant fraction of the population understands to the type of sacrifice needed.

It's an indication that a Manhattan Project(call it 0.25% GDP annually for 5 years) or an Apollo Program (call it two Manhattan Projects in a row), are simply not relevant units. These are not things that Americans put effort into - while they certainly weren't background-level pork-barrel spending, nobody gave up a car, recycled every scrap of metal they used, spent four years in another country, or dumped their life savings into war bonds to pay for them. WW2 changed the way every family in the country lived, to one degree or another. So will Peak Oil.

A sufficient expenditure to satisfy me, given the threat and the probability of a worst-case ELM scenario (and the weakness already present in our way of living at the plateau), would be 5% of GDP per year for the next ten years spent specifically on creating a new energy and transportation infrastructure. In contrast, right now about 8% of GDP goes towards oil. Talks of the efficiency of a command economy cut both ways, depending on the reason for the command economy - compare weapon development spending:innovation ratio through WW2 versus weapon development spending:innovation ratio through the Iraq war. Most of that 5% of GDP cannot be created money, given the fragile nature of the economic situation. We've largely maxed out our national credit cards propping up George Bush's chapter in the history books. So private expenditure/investment will *have* to be a large part of the mobilization. Technological development *can* be encouraged efficiently even in a command economy, but it has to have a strong body functioning independently from politics. Congress's left and right hands can't tie their own shoelaces in time for the summer recess - that's why independent people like Leslie Groves, and a commitment to broad spending on any possible expedient solutions, are necessary to run a successful command-economy research bureau. Insisting on accountability and scoring political points off particular developments (eg - The Corn Ethanol Congressional Reelection Campaign) need to be verboten in such circumstances - while Congress doesn't have to write a blank check, they necessarily have to be lax about the directions the tech will go.

The simplest, most effective thing Congress could do today would be to set up such bureaus *in combination* with large free-market incentives, like a revenue-neutral fuel and energy tax.


Europe spent much more on wartime mobilizations and needs to spend much less rebuilding itself in the wake of Peak Oil - so the analogy may not be precisely the right scale for local debate. Is there some other phrase with impact that might be used?

Alcoholics Anonymous I believe, is famous for saying that the first step to solving a problem is realizing that you have one. At this point, the world has not even reached the first step. Politicians, trained as lawyers and aided and abetted by wishful thinking economists and greedy incurious businessmen, are still setting the tone. Before "Wartime Mobilization" there needs to be a "Peacetime Realization". As the single greatest testament to just how clueless we are in general on the subject, population growth, is still cherished by most - even on "Peak Oil message boards". Be it from immigration or from births exceeding deaths.

Immigration is not population growth, it's population shift. However, when people move from "poor" countries to "rich" countries then their environmental footprint increases greatly.

It's time to recycle Al Bartlett:


Part 6 discusses Peak Oil and population, and the concept of peak per-capita oil consumption.

Immigration is not population growth, it's population shift.

It's population growth from the perspective of a country that is taking the hit (which unfortunately is my perspective), like the US. A country where people by and large, still - at least outwardly - think very highly of both legal and illegal immigration, despite the fact that it exacerbates nearly every problem they face.

PhilR "Immigration is not population growth.."

Most countries on the planet have the population model of encouraging their surplus mouths to go forth and become some other country's problem. Then they don't have to persuade their population to deal with it. The end result is 7+ billion

Except there's little evidence that those who migrate are outbreeding everyone else.

I'll say it again.

Immigration is not population growth.

The issues we're talking about here are planetary.

Except there's little evidence that those who migrate are outbreeding everyone else.

The immigration is from countries with high birth rates. A perfect example is Mexico, whose government will screech and whine at any feeble statements or attempts by someone powerful in the US to curtail the flood of Mexicans coming over the border. They can't deal with their population problem so they are happy to send it our way. Stop the flow and then they have to deal with their situation sooner.

If you are saying that once they immigrate they immediately have the same amount of kids as the people in the country they immigrated to - "growing Hispanic population" is cited as one of the reasons that the US birth rate has recently climbed above 2.1.


The issues we're talking about here are planetary.

Politicians cannot do much globally about "planetary issues". They can make changes for their country only, outside of some sweeping thing like Kyoto that hasn't amounted to a hill of beans yet.

Part 2 of Bartlett's lecture on exponential growth


The last half of that video, from 5 minutes onwards,

presents two lists that illustrate the points I made

above in my stream of consciousness rants about

the reality of death controls ...

Watch four minutes of that video to see the point:


To systematically understand things correctly
"birth control" is actually some death control.

Birth control is the most efficient death control.

New age warfare is to cause birth control to work.

What we need is a real peace process negotiation
where people have a peace treaty that is based
on agreements regarding human & industrial
ecologies, that limit their own growth,
as long as the others limit theirs too.

The only alternatives are that we will end up fighting
with the weapons of mass destruction, and hence,
we collectively commit suicide and/or genocide.

The first thing to do is see which column
"birth control" actually appears inside of.

I.e. "birth control" is really death control,

& birth control is the best death control.

It has to be some collectively enforced
new age warfare, because otherwise
voluntary birth control fails to
stop the overall problem, but
only allows some groups to
continue to conquer others
by reproducing too much.

What we will necessarily be doing
is juggling the dynamics between
old-fashioned death control by
using weapons to kill others,
and new age warfare which is
able to negotiate collective
agreements to all restrain
our unsustainable growth.

The four minutes of video,
where Bartlett presents
his two lists are
correct views.

Everything good that we do
to solve our problems shall
make everything else worse.

There was no escape from
needing real death control.

There is no fundamental dichotomy
between natural selection and the
artificial selection done by us.

Instead, when natural selection
gets worse, "artificial selection"
will simultaneously get worse, &
we will commit suicide/genocide.

These are chronic political problems
inherent in the nature of all life, and
we do need a wartime mobilization,
which systematically understands
death control, and does it better.

Bartlett's simple two column list
shows that all those good things
turn into bad things, and we
can not avoid that paradox.

The only ways to have truly better things,
is to systematically do better bad things.

We need to have the new ways of thinking
that are not based on false fundamental
dichotomies, but rather employs some
synthetic mode of thought, which is
guided by using unitary mechanisms.

We need to think in radically different ways
about birth and death control, and develop
new age warfare with realistic peace
that is perpetual warfare, which was
internalized, more self-aware forms
of socially enforced death controls.

All of the old religions and ideologies
from the past should be trashed, and
recycled, and the pressures that
will cause collapse and chaos
should be catalysed towards
achieving those goals ...

Any "wartime mobilization" that
works only on good alternatives
will only end up making things
become worse in the long-term,
unless it includes fulfilling the
purposes of death control ...

Barlett's video demonstrates
why any wartime mobilization
must really do death controls.

Is there something wrong with your computer?

I may want to read what you have taken the trouble to write, but the way it is typeset, it is like trying to read bloody Beowulf or the Battle of Maldon.

Eddas and Sagas have there place, but not here.


I prefer

the menacing pause

of silence

indicated by


I feel a bloody saga style is appropriate.

Right now, we are on path towards
genocidal "solutions" to peak oil ...

At the same time, that seems goofy!

Having weapons of mass destruction
makes all our historical habits insane.

And so, some silly knock off, with
poetic licence stolen from poetry,
seems to me to be quite adaptive.

But some, like me, won't read your post. I get enough poorly formatted writing from my students. If you say something sueful, someone will refer to it, then I don't need to read that... epic.

If you want to be more widely read, format.


What kind of childishness is required to down arrow Al Bartlett?

Fer cryin' out loud...

Well at least Brown has choosen the right precedent. It's not a Manhattan project or an Apollo challenge. It's everybody on the same team, pulling in the same direction to get use to a new and better place.

Alas, if only peak oil and global warming could team up and attack Hawaii... (Oh wait, maybe they will :*)
But will we be smart enough (as a political culture) to recognize it?

From UK.
British based big-oil was still selling product into Nazi Germany close to war declaration.
War was closely followed by coalition government, and drafting in of large numbers of numerate and linguistically competent academic specialists into the (a-political by constitution) civil service.
GB was 'saved' by the USA entry after Pearl Harbor.
GB changes included nearly doubling the land under the plough (GB imported more than 70 per cent food in 1939) and more than doubling fertilizer usage, under the supervision of localized War Agricultural Committees, using local industry leaders with mandatory powers.
These days switching manufacturing priorities is complicated by the recent dramatic outsourcing to economies with low labor and low relative energy costs. Essentially Britain (and US) face in the immediate term 'balance of payments' problems. There are things GB could stop doing that would at least indicate seriousness - stop the 2012 Olympics, big ticket military spend such as aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, as well as airport and motorway expansion.GB could get serious and as a 'national emergency' better insulate our dreadful GB housing. GB has a serious natural gas supply problem, (for electricity and domestic heating), perhaps more than a liquid fuel problem?
Japan's preparations (and probably Germany)probably bear watching, especially their addressing of the global markets. There are economies that will continue headlong expansion for many years, including building on the grandest possible scale, but the extent that 'they' will need 'us' to be either maintained or downsized (removed?) as economies, or indeed are able to do anything about 'us', is not at all clear.
My guess is that the immediate danger is economic collapse in US & GB economies even while total world energy is being maintained within a few percent of the all-time zenith. Rutledge's projections for peak fossil energy within about 15 years might give a prospective global timetable but that might not help US & GB cope with much earlier economic turmoil. One imagines Australia needing to work to the longer global timetable, rather than the shorter term US & GB horizon?
For especially US & GB, infra structure priorities would seem key, especially infrastructure with claims on government financing and underpinning of risk. It would be too late to wait for economic collapse.
I like Rutledge's comparison of desert concentrated solar with long term infrastructure like bridge's. Maintenance is not as difficult as new-build. More useful for USA than GB unless latter's EU partners can organize matters.

There seem to be a large no comments in TOD in regard to “alternatives”. There is going to be no “alternate vehicle” as the development and manufacture time is too short in comparison to the time when the fuel resource depletion is going to be on our doorstep. Once politicians are aware that in 10-15 years if BAU continues that he or a large no of his constituents will be starving, then the politicians minds are going to more closely focussed on the problem and are unlikely to allow any resources to be deployed in building or fuelling any “alternate vehicles”. Any “War Economy” is not going to produce “alternate vehicles”. The vehicles relied upon in a “War Economy” will be for essential users only, the rest will be smelted.
When I was a child (in Australia) we were not as wealthy as Americans in the 50’s and early 60’s. Only the wealthy or essential trades used cars, the vast majority of people used the suburban railways and tramway systems to commute to work. Recreational travel prior to the car usually involved a tram/railway trip to the beach or football on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Recreational travel was not a daily or even a weekly item. Neither was shopping, which was usually done on a Saturday morning or Friday afternoon at a local Supermarket/fruit store/butcher within walking distance from home and the goods were carried home. I walked to school 800m or ¼ mile and when I reached senior school either caught the bus or walked 3klm or 1 and ½ miles.
This is the future and it is less than 5-10 years away. The “war economy” will mean walking/bicycle or catching the bus or train. There will be a “war economy” because the only other alternative will be permanent war and that will mean extinction in short order as it will involve conflict with China/Russia/India. There is no “war scenario” that will do anything to fix the problem of resource depletion.
Governments will need to focus on 3 things;
1) TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS, that is immediate rationing of fuels/electricity (as either new or increased capacity is not likely to be available quickly) and imposing large taxes on energy consumption. Immediate, that is over a couple of years replacing the private car with firstly buses, then tramways built on existing infrastructure and as shown during the Second war it is possible to build the required transport equipment in a few years. Those that are separated by distance or complex travelling arrangements will either have to relocate their jobs or commute weekly and overnight at their jobs. By and large private vehicular travel will be ended and this will have to apply to the rich/ politicians/military as well as the populus (if the rules don’t apply to all then none will want to obey rules, a Mugabe style elite will not be tolerated and I doubt if the US military or any military in most democracies will allow this, the commanders may like to be the elite but the men will not follow).
Today’s electronic superhighway will make this transition less painful.

2) ELECTRICITY SECURITY, Raising of electricity prices via taxation. Massive regulation of efficiency standards in the consumer appliances sector and complete abolition of whole classes of consumer appliances. Compulsory installation of building insulation/double glazing, paid for by the property owners, loans provided from taxation revenue. Compulsory installation of solar and heat pump hot water systems in households at the householders cost loans provided from taxation revenue. The target set for a reduction of consumption of electricity/gas/oil in the household sector should be 50% within 10 years. Similar regulation of commercial sector and industrial sector for a reduction of energy consumption of 50% within 10 years. Conservation will have a couple of effects it will be possible for natural gas to substitute for oil in heating. Less expenditure on replacement generating capacity and distribution equipment. It will be absolutely necessary to build both solar/ wind/geothermal generating capacity to the extent that that type of infrastructure can substitute for current equipment, no matter what the cost may be (Mining coal/uranium, and transport of these commodities requires oil in vast quantities and liquid fuels in the future are going to be severely limited). In due course it may well eventuate that renewables are much cheaper than fuels, after all we built a whole society on the basis that oil would be virtually free forever but that’s not the way it finally worked out. The final cost of a coal fired power station 2400mw over 50 years could be in the region of 60-80 billion Australian dollars assuming that 8 million tonnes of coal a year is consumed and a lot more if the cost of coal rises in price at the same rate as today (wild predictions about resource pricing 20-50 years down the line are just stabs in the dark, resource prices are more likely to rise severely). The coal solution is bunkum. Then any additional capacity that cannot be supplied by renewables then Nuclear would be used.
3) TRANSPORT RESTRUCTURING, total abandonment of private vehicular transport and the aircraft industry (there will be no fuel or resources to support this and it does not really matter what the populus wants/votes for it just won’t be possible). Firstly it will involve closing down all Car/Boat/aircraft and all other fuel powered vehicle manufacture facilities and eventual collection and destruction of vehicles in existence over a 10 year period with the exception of “essential services” and conversion of the factories to produce buses (first), trams and railway equipment. All steel/concrete production would be consumed by consumed by public transport equipment (track and vehicular) or the electricity industry/conservation programs.
All Freight would be moved to ship/barge first and then railways with only truck for the final few kilometres/miles.

Such a “war economy” is going to involve the reduction of the consumer goods sector to a much smaller size that at present. The majority of the population are going to loose their careers and will have to work in industries where they are told to work with little choice, to a much older age, for much lower salaries, retirement benefits are going to be lost (either by inflation or regulation and this is a certainty). The rich and the retirement investments are going to be taxed out of existence. Large homes are going to be regulated into multiple dwellings by regulation to both save energy and construction materials. The only travel industry will be the public transport industry; walking and bicycle will be the major form of transport. The main problem remaining will be the final conversion of the agriculture industry to Fischer-Tropsch fuels. Food shortages are what Governments fear most.

I was a child during WWII. It has been said that the gasoline rationing and 35 mph speed limit were more to save rubber than oil. The US still depended on natural rubber from the Far East. The A card got a family 3 gallons of gasoline per week. My father was a lawyer, beyond draft age, and was awarded an 8 gallon per week B card. Workers at the Pantex munitions factory outside of Amarillo would have been awarded a C card to commute. I got an ultra light and simple "victory bike" to replace my old Schwinn. I also worked a little in our victory garden. My biggest problem was the severe tennis shoe shortage.

"My biggest problem was the severe tennis shoe shortage."

That is funny…

There's a somewhat different perspective to view the WW2 "mobilizition". I'm sorry I don't recall the source but years ago I read a very detailed account of two major factors that allowed the US economy to explode and aid the war effort.

Above all else, the discovery of the East Texas Oil Field during the 1930's provided us a tremendous resource base. In the author's opinion, abundant fuel supplies for the allies combined with fule shortages for the enemy was a key factor. Somewhat ironic given the analogy to a potential response to current oil prices.

Secondly, the huge surge in the US war time economy was driven by profit motive as much as self preservation. Again, I apologize for forgetting the details but the author presented a very long list of the corporations that saw tremendous profits and growth rates during the war years. And it was these corporations that spurred the great post-war expansion.

If we try to draw an analogy for our current situation it would seem like advancing technology and capital availability would be the great resources available to us now (as compared to the Eats Texas Oil Field). It would also seem that profit motivation would also be a key factor again. The gov't might fund projects but if they aren't profitable they would not likely be pursued to any great level. A good example was the very expensive coal-to-liquids project the gov't funded in N. Dakota back in the early 80's. It wasn't long before the plant wa sold for scrap metal. But the gov't could institute policies which would entice such investments by the private sector.

Hi Cobley,
You present an interesting view, and as I recall, an accurate picture of life in Australia in the 1950's.
I would like to point out that we are contemplating an OIL shortage not a general energy shortage. Australia is exporting massive amounts of thermal coal and natural gas(NG). There is absolutely no reason why there should be electrical energy shortages, even if most exports are maintained and there are no oil imports. The primary shortage will be petrol that is imported form SE Asia, and to a lesser extent diesel.
Sydney doesnt have the tram and train infrastructure servicing newer suburbs, new shopping centers or going to most beaches. We do have the Snowy Hydro scheme now, a lot of coal and NG fired power stations and the capacity to produce lots of steel, aluminum, copper etc, so there is no reason that cars, trains , buses etc cannot be manufactured.
The ONLY problem is going to be to reduce oil based fuels by at least 50%, and maybe in 10-20 years a further 50%(25% of 2008 consumption).
This could be possible with a modest (20%)reduction in VMT,and an almost immediate doubling of new vehicle fuel efficiency or building cars that can use compressed natural gas(CNG). If the oil imports stop immediately, would need about 6 years of fuel rationing until sufficient new high efficiency vehicles were built to replace about 50% of the VMT with much better efficiency or no oil use.

I am not against increasing wind, solar and other sources of electricity especially natural gas generation and nuclear, but this will not solve the shortage of liquid fuels. Building a better electric rail/tram network should be started and could contribute to reducing VMT in 5-10 years, but will not solve the problem. It will be essential to maintain and increase our electricity grid infrastructure, not let it decay.
By far the big immediate hope for Australia will be to have CNG vehicles even if they only have a 50-100km range on a tank. The long term solution will be electric vehicles or hybrid electric/CNG vehicles, provided we maintain our electricity grid.

You may not have noticed but most of the consumer goods are not manufactured in Australia, so provided we have the cash from resource exports it makes to sense to reduce the limited manufacturing or reduce commercial use of non-oil based energy.

You have given an alternative possible future Australia, but I for one and I guess most other people would rather keep the car, keep the house, even if rationed at 10-20L petrol per week.If no petrol was available could put on a NG bag on the car roof as was done in WWII.

Way to go. This is how we should be thinking. Speaking of arid Australia (as well as not-so-arid ones, like were I live), as well as the food production problem, the large costs involved in urban sewage transport and treatment - neighborhood humanure composting is another thing that just has to be slated for general implementation.

Said by kcobley:

There is going to be no “alternate vehicle” as the development and manufacture time is too short in comparison to the time when the fuel resource depletion is going to be on our doorstep.

General Motors's Volt is scheduled for production in 2010. It is a plug-in series hybrid vehicle. For those who can afford $107,000, the battery powered Tesla roadster is already available. Tesla is designing an electric sedan.

The use of buses means that roads must be maintained and therefore available for personal transportation. The bitumen needed for asphalt can be made from tar sands and oil shale as well as crude oil. Supposedly asphalt made from oil shale is more durable than regular asphalt.

Private vehicular travel will not end for the rich, politicians nor military. There may be fewer people with cars, but personal transportation in the U.S. will likely never end. The 5 Mb/d of crude oil production in the U.S. will not decline to zero in 10 to 15 years. Iraq and Saudi Arabia may not have a choice about selling their oil to the U.S.

Today’s electronic superhighway will make this transition less painful.

If your prediction of no crude oil becomes reality in 10 to 15 years, what makes you think the Internet or, more generally, the electronics industry would survive?

Although it maybe be different in Australia, I do not see shortages in the electric utility grid in the U.S. The government can simply prioritize diesel for use in mining to keep the coal flowing to electric power plants. Meanwhile wind and solar is being expanded in the U.S. Electric vehicles will not overload the U.S. electric grid because they will be recharged at night. Chargers can be built with timers to allow charging only during designated times of day or the ability to sense a low voltage condition on the grid and stop charging until the demand declines.

Compulsory installation of building insulation/double glazing....

How many homes are so poorly insulated that upgrading would be worthwhile and how much energy would that save? Mandating the installation of double glazed windows is a simplistic, high priced idea that would increase thermal resistance from about R-.13 to R-1.3. R-10, something on the order of the thermal resistance of a wall, can be achieved with minimal expense using insulated inserts or shutters. I heat my house with a wood stove and use insulated inserts in my single paned windows. I do not need some clueless bureaucrat dictating a "solution" that has been advocated by a lobbyist seeking to make his client wealthy. A "wartime economy" in the U.S. would fall prey to these special interests causing all the wrong decisions to be made.

Compulsory installation of solar and heat pump hot water systems in households....

Solar hot water systems are not suitable in all locations. Some houses do not have a large enough yard to install the buried hose for a heat pump. A homeowner should not be requited to dig up his swimming pool, rip down his fence or destroy his landscaping, which could include fruit trees, just to install the hose 8 feet (2.44 m) deep. How much diesel would be used by a tractor digging the hole? If a homeowner has basalt or granite underground, should he be required to blast the rock with dynamite? If you are going to require these systems that are not universally suitable, why don't you require a passive solar retrofit? You could force homeowners to knock out their southern walls and install windows that reach to the floor, grow tall deciduous trees on the east, north and west sides of the house or build a greenhouse on the south side. Education, tax incentives and high prices for energy would be better than mandates.

...it will be possible for natural gas to substitute for oil in heating.

Replacing one finite, depleting fossil fuel with another is not a solution.

Firstly it will involve closing down all Car/Boat/aircraft....

Wow, you do not even think there will be sail boats in the future. I do not see why a wealthy person could not use a combination of sails, batteries and photovoltaic panels to power a boat. If we can make it work, nuclear fusion reactors could probably be adapted to power commercial ships.

All steel/concrete production would be consumed by... public transport equipment (track and vehicular) or the electricity industry/conservation programs.

This would eliminate the manufacture of nails, shovels, saws, farm equipment and many other vital things. Eliminating the manufacture of trivial things, reducing the manufacture of others and increasing steel production capacity would be a better approach.

Private vehicular travel will not end for the rich, politicians nor military.

I'm trying to imagine myself a zillionaire driving over to the wedding of Bill Gates's grandson. In the context of millions of half-starved no-longer-motoring former middle classes along the way, should I feel safe going by armoured personnel carrier, or would a tank be wiser, or should I really have a first tank going ahead to check out for ieds in the road?

And is this really the future I and other zillionaires wish to look forward to?

The same thing would happen today if a middle class driver took a wrong turn and drove slowly into a slum. The wealthy would buy rugged limos, have an armed escort provided by trigger happy Blackwater Security, stay on the freeways, drive fast, use the right offramp and drive into gated communities with armed security guards. In your bleak scenario the laws would be changed to exempt Blackwater guards from the law. A curfew for pedestrians with a shoot-to-kill punishment for violators would solve the problem for the elites. Iraq is the proving ground. President Bush has prepared us for a police state.

The military is much better armed than the militia. A kill ratio of 5,000 to 1 might be achieved. They will retain the advantages of fossil fuel powered vehicles to the bitter end.

Politicians have the Secret Service or police as escorts. There's always Blackwater if the government guys are not tough enough.

Your scenario apparently concludes that electric cars will be nonfunctional or unaffordable to the middle class. Delivery trucks and anyone who converts a car to run on moonshine would be attacked. A farmer could not drive to town to get supplies nor even have them delivered. You are envisioning a permanent state of anarchy with hoards of unemployed going berserk. Such chaos could only be temporary because hundreds of millions would die of starvation if society collapsed like that on a sustained basis.

Cheap electric vehicles can be manufactured. The current problem is dinosauric U.S. automobile manufacture who lack insight and are terrified of change and innovation. Currently automobiles are filled with unnecessary, pricey electronics, antilock brakes, air bags and crash safety requirements. We would have battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles by now if President Bush had lead the greedy elite rather than aided them. If a large fraction of the population can not afford their products, then the corporations will fail and new innovative ones will rise from beneath their ashes. A swift death for Ford and GM would be good in the long term because their negative influences would be removed. Long live Tesla Motors!

Nobody fears a "real" wartime mobilization?
There is (again) a lot of talk about Iran -see S.Hersh essay in New-Yorker-, and oddly European leaders are more inline with the US on the question than they were for Iraq.
It looks to me we're going toward the old geopolitical struggles again.
Obviously at high levels there is, and has been for a while, awareness of PO although it may not be spelled that.

Nobody fears a "real" wartime mobilization?

Certainly possible. My crystal balling take on warfare in peak oil world is widespread low intensity war - or insurgency. A significant number of countries could become failed states, and become cancerous havens from which instability spreads. Guerrilla warfare is cheap, low tech and effective. With low barriers to entry every tin pot strongman will have a go.

However, despite this being probably the main type of conflict - you just can't discount conventional warfighting. Despite war being a crap cost/benefit proposition in almost all situations, there are many circumstances in which it may happen.

My concern is that time of instability, totalitarian leaders become more likely. "Social dominator" personality types can lie outrageously, prey on fears, and thrive in a crises. What happens when such a leader finds out that each year his army is losing readiness and capability due to a shortage of fuel/logistics/training? They attack a resource rich neighbour while they can still DO something. Ironically, this is what happened with Japan in WWII. The US blockaded oil and the Japanese military machine was bleeding to death. They knew that they would only have an almost non-existent chance of success - but they took it anyway. Victory or death, A fools choice - but someone is bound to make it.

'The Telegraph' was arguing today that many states are teetering on the brink of not being able to maintain their food supply in the face of rising oil costs.
My money is on Bangladesh as the first to go, check out:
Which countries are best equipped to survive peak oil?

Note the high fertiliser use.
Of course, any number of African countries could beat it to the fall.
Endemic warfare would then be likely, together with ethnic conflict - grab what you can with your kin.

If some aspect of peak oil didn’t have the characteristic of ‘degradation from the bottom up’ but instead hit the potential instigators of wartime mobilisation as acuity as the lower classes we might have found a sufficient trigger.

Electricity’s binary nature, it’s either available for all or not available for anyone, could be such a trigger.

Say what? You think "the great and the good" can't figure out how to run generators, and can't afford to install PV, micro-wind or micro-CHP? You think No 10 Downing Street doesn't have a backup power supply? Plenty of people will have electricity even if the grid goes down - such as the government, the police, the military, and the rich.

Very little of a national grid is provided by petroleum, however, if you look at backup power, almost all of it is from petroleum. Islanding from solar power and micro-wind is much more of a nuisance than a help when keeping a building running, as things currently stand...

CHP could do the trick for some communities. But that along with 100% oil powered backup generators are sure to put more of a pinch on the resources out there.

I'm sure capitol hill and the NYSE have contingencies for long outages, but other than that, hospitals, police, and the other 'privileged' places will be turning off the lights soon enough.

hmm... When you get down to it, most of the grid is provided by petroleum. the power plants themselves may be fuelled by coal or whatever, but the maintenance vehicles are all diesels, the costruction vehicles are diesels, the workers commute in cars, etcetera.

Some power sources more than other, but while grid prices are linked to gas prices, grid security is not linked very much to gas. The biggest reason for this is that the facilities are already constructed. An oil crash could prevent expansion of the grid, but it couldn't turn the lights out.

Look at it in terms of venerability by source:

Coal and nat. gas - Very vulnerable
Nuclear - mostly insulated
Wind - immune aside from light maintenance

And look at the stages in the nuclear cycle:

Mining - Very vulnerable in exploration and ore extraction, but look at the rest of it

It will depend on the process, but for the most part, existing facilities do stuff, and they require grid power as well as water and other resources.

Transportation could still be affected, but the entire point of nuclear fuel is that it is compact, yellowcake is not resource expensive to ship.

Conversion and enrichment - VERY energy intensive, but also powered by the grid.

Fuel fab - This could have issue, there are a number of inputs that come from other mined resources that I can't speak for the security of.

Operation - As long as the operators can drive there, you're pretty much fine.

I'm just saying, you could earmark a small portion of the strategic petroleum reserves and continue to run large parts of the electrical grid for years and years. Other parts of the grid... not so much.

it was actually the maintenance of the grid itself that I was talking about. trees fall on lines, xformers get old and need replaced, poles rot, meters need read, etcetera. power companies have FLEETS of large diesel trucks just to keep the existing infrastructure running, and they all run on diesel. Those expenses are the difference between 2 cent/kwh coal power and 12 cent/kwh user price.

Honestly, I think that depends on where you are. My experience living in rural areas was that during any large snowstorm, there was a high chance of power going out, and they would have to dispatch people.

However, doesn't that only really apply to the thinnest branches of the network? The high voltage (250 kV, 500 kV) lines need maintenance of types, but that is not to say that trees fall on them - ever.

Living in a city, however, I have absolutely no memory of power outages. To think of a case where repair crews could not be dispatched is to think of a case where police and ambulances can not run.

To think of a case where repair crews could not be dispatched is to think of a case where police and ambulances can not run.

And is to think of a case that's - at closest - quite a few decades in the future, at least for North America.

The US and Canada have a combined oil production of about 8Mb/d, or about 1/3 of their combined demand, and that production is in no danger of rapid (or even slow) decrease - increases from the oil sands will be about as large as continuing decreases from conventional production. Accordingly, the US and Canada will not be in a position where oil is unavailable for critical functions for a very long time, meaning that the current dependence of things like grid repair on oil is not a significant problem.

"Uses oil" is not enough for there to be a problem; it's only an issue if a task uses lots of oil.

I believe that Frederick The Great saved an apathetic and demoralized Prussia by declaring the whole country under a military System and then telling them all to do what had to be done.

I suspect the game was if you did your job well you were promoted, if not the firing squad was the option. It worked.

Democracy is rule by Lowest Common Denominator not Highest Common Factor. The classics tell us that Democracy usually slides into Anarchy followed by Dictatorship.

We are nearly there. Mobilizing to a military footing will allow some necessary decisions to be made. No more Lobbyists, no more political bribery. No more trivial or frivolous litigation over who has the right to destroy our planet. (lots of vacancies in the firing squad, a real growth industry)

Our Democracy is failing in all but form. Anarchy is looming. Lets get directly to Benevolent Dictatorship so we can clean house and create a sustainable future.

They Say that Mao had to kill 60 million Chinese to guarantee that nobody who remembered the "old ways" could subvert his new ways.

Just maybe China 2008 has proven him correct.

Governments unfortunately are perhaps more likely to mobilise in an attempt to grab the remaining oil than to provide alternative energy solutions.
That is difficult to stop once you have a dictatorship.
A benevolent dictatorship is not so benevolent under those circumstances, although all the benevolent dictatorships together would then very effectively reduce population.

A good point Dave. It will ineresting to watch the public reaction should we face a prolonged oil supply disruption for whatever reason. Folks will wonder why more oil isn't being pumped out of the SPR. And then the angry villagers will grab their torches and pitchforks when they're told that the SPR is actually controlled by the Dept. of Defense and needs to be allocated mostly to them.

I guess the angry villagers didn't read the fine print of the SPR bill way back when.







first and last warning - post in all caps like that again and it will be deleted.

You seem to be ignorant of the facts so let me try a
futile attempt to enlighten you.

America has been meddling in the middle east for quite
some time.
It was America who installed the Shaw in Iran and the
Iranian people threw him out....more then a few times.
It was America who installed Saddam and supported him
and even gave him the green light to invade Kuwait.
Before America it was Great Britain who carved up
the middle east (see the Palestinian situation) and the creation of Israel.
Read the Balfour declaration....all two sentences and
a single paragragh.
And in ending I would highly advise you to keep in
check that blustery internet Rambo sabre rattling.
Not knowing that terrorism isnt caused by people who hate our freedoms....but by people who hate us for killing their babies and installing dictatorial regimes is beyond belief.
Only a zionist neocon shill would of typed such utter
garbage as you wrote.
This isnt about God putting all our oil under all
their sand...ITS ABOUT PEAK OIL!
PFFFT now youre dismissed.

Wow! Indeed, the truth will set you free.

My father-in-law was a small town bootlegger who specialized in "fire water" from a still in his basement.

My brother-in-law, in his salad days, carried on the family tradition, supplying the neighbourhood with "Christmas Rum." BTW, potato mash was the chief ingredient in this very special rum which incidentally, when lit, burned with a nice blue flame.

Now I find out that my wife's family recipe is what will deliver us all from the nefarious clutches of middle eastern sheiks who sit around scheming to imperil our happiness and security.

Damn!! Now I'll have to be especially nice to my in-laws.


Brown's Plan B only addresses peak oil accidentally. It is a plan to cut fossil fuel use 80% by 2020. The only rational response to peak oil alone is rationing. The market can pretty much work out a response to reduced oil availability but we need to control price so that we don't waste resources on exporing for oil that is too expensive to be useful. Plan B is a response to a civilization threatening climate crisis so the motivation for mobilization is present owing to the existential threat.

Arguing that peak oil can't trigger mobilization because the threat is not large enough misses what Plan B is about. It is not power shortages but loss of water for irrigation in China, India and California, the loss of our coastal cities, the huge refugee problem and a sharp reduction in biodiversity that motivates Plan B.


My apologies for this non-topic related posting. I am sending this from Chennai, a large city in Southern India. There have been widespread fuel shortages all over Southern India. Traffic was snarled all over the city as panicky motorists tried to look for fuel.


What has happened is that fuel demand has grown so rapidly in recent years that there is very little left as an emergency buffer. In this case, the shortage was caused by the late arrival of a coastal oil tanker from the west coast. It turns out that most of the big oil refineries in India are located on the west coast. Refined products are distributed by coastal tankers. Peak oil is now the number one topic of discussion here in the city.

The effects of the shortage have been swift. Food prices have risen swiftly and many school were forced to shut down since they had no diesel for their buses. Many IT outsourcing firms were affected too since they have large bus fleets to pick up and drop off their workers.

Since I will not have access to computer later today, I'd like to request that someone post this to the July 2 drumbeat.

So, we talk about it while you live it.

Good luck Brown Bear.

Sure would help with the funding.

Who exactly are you going to ask to make this sacrifice? In the U.S. and the U.K. the national income has become so stratified that the top 1% get the plurality of income. Any mobilization will impact their income negatively, so they will do anything to prevent it. And money talks in the U.S.

And electricity outages will not motivate the rich to sacrifice, because the won't be felt by the elites. As I think westtexas has said, they'll just find local power supplies, as is happening in India now.

The only thing that might scare the respective governments into action (short of a revolution) would be a general strike. Hit them in their wallets. And history says that the gov would be just as likely to shoot the strikers as do anything positive.

Shoot somebody, anyway ... the "Iran is evil" rhetoric is winding up again, I see. (People have forgotten the visit by their President, which revealed Iran to be pathetic.)

When times get tough, the powers that be start killing people. It was ever thus.

Maximum Commercial Urgency

is the concept that I use. The most that people will do for money. The maximum effort that can be applied, where more $ in mean very little additional progress, just higher costs.

A good example would be Alberta tar sands development and Fort "McMoney".

People will do things and make efforts in war time that they will not do for money. Maximum Commercial Urgency is a more realistic concept IMO.


No not this time no resources left, in the 1930 & 1940 plenty

Sorry if this thought has already been mentioned; I'm at work and don't have time to scan them all. But here goes.

I was just saying this to my wife the other night: If politicians in D.C. or where ever were not insulated from the issues of peak oil & climate change (i.e. let them do their business in a non-air conditioned chamber), we'd see a lot more urgency.

As it is right now, most politicians - at least in affluent countries - simply do not have much skin in the game, so to speak. Hence, no action.

If I had to summarize politics right now in one sentence, it would be "Politics is the art of giving the top 1% everything they want while keeping the other 99% from interfering in any way."

They are probably not be as insulated as may first appear. Lets hope not in anycase.


Your point is well taken. A more apt analogy would not be to wartime mobilization, but to a political revolution, as you allude to. What do you make of the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution of 1917, etc.? Aren't these classic cases of degradation followed by revolution followed by mobilization? So you get to mobilization eventually, but not by rallying people around the king.

In the meantime, mobilization is actually counter-productive. With the current elites in the U. S. A., mobilization might mean a literal war and "100 years in Iraq." Or, look at the Hirsch Report: while I admire their diagnosis of the problem, I'm not sure I'd want the country mobilized behind coal-to-oil.

The idea of wartime mobilization does successfully capture some elements of the needed approach -- its "crisis" nature and the need for concentrated effort -- but fails on the question of "for whom" it is a crisis. Only when we've changed who this "we" is that faces a crisis, can we truly mobilize . . . whoever "we" are.


The US political system is terminally dysfunctional. Whatever it ends up doing will be too little, too late, and mostly wrong and counterproductive. Orlov's term, "Boondoggles", is fitting; that is all we are likely to get, if anything. Iraq is exhibit A, corn ethanol is exhibit B, on-and-off again renewables tax credits are exhibit C; I could go on, and many more exhibits will certainly be added in the near future. It is vain to hope for anything better from the current political system, it is incapable of delivering anything better.

At the federal level I would tend to agree. At the state and local level the governments are somewhat more sane as long as the Federal Government doesn't stick its nose into the picture in some way.

In this light, I suspect that some amount of the work that needs to be done will be done at the local level. Choices regarding transit vs roadbuilding, for example. Bike paths are another, and changing zoning laws to allow clotheslines, or to create small retail cores in the suburbs with small grocery stores or small hardware stores.

I think Orlov has got it right, too. Dmitry Orlov for President 2008! :-)

Some other boondoggles: suing OPEC, drilling ANWR and continental shelf; and soon: Iran, and subsidies for hydrogen,carbon capture and storage, drilling the Bakken, mining oil shales, and coal-to-liquids plants.

Wartime mobilization in the US already exists - Iraq, Afgh., and the hundreds of bases and other activities. It is more or less hidden from the public, down-played, considered normal, or ignored. It is not bringing the hoped for benefits, openings, new sources of energy, etc., plus is wildly expensive in both energy and dollars, not to mention the concurrent propping up of an ersatz economy to maintain the illusion of domination and the advantages that brings.

After ww2 everyone expected that reconstruction, a new world order (peace in the west anyway; universalist ideology; its domination in a new, economic form, abandoning the old slave type and jackboots colonialism) would not be a problem. That was correct. Everyone was keen to go and could branch out... Plenty energy, new technology, the will to do, etc. Ideological propaganda and its branches - like the today IMF - could provide...

Scarcity of resources, plus murderous competition for them has changed the picture. There will be no drive forward - though some will make money out of wind, cow farts, or electric golf carts turned into cars - because it simply is not possible, cannot be done. Some of the elites know this very well.

In the UK at least, electricity supply will be under serious pressure during the coming decade as legacy nuclear infrastructure is decommissioned, North Sea gas supplies deplete and environmental legislation threatens to close some coal-fired infrastructure.

Odds on the nuclear stations will get extensions like Hunterston B did and deals will be done in Brussels to keep the coal-fired ones going.


If nuclear fission technology didn't exist mankind would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle right now, but it does so personally I seriously doubt that the hippies are going to have the last laugh. There are societies like China where something similar to wartime mobilisation is already in place and where there is no environmental movement around to hinder progress:-


“As the country moves forward, nuclear power will become a vital source of electricity and will help reduce China’s dependence on coal, natural gas and oil to drive its rapid growth and modernization,” said Frank Wu, Chinergy’s CEO. Currently in China, the pressurized water reactor is the priority reactor. However, plans call for the high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs) to be used to supplement current nuclear power generation. “This will be a significant addition to the program since the HTR’s absolute quantity is remarkably large,” he said.


Second, the modular design enables the plant to be assembled much quicker and cost-effectively than traditional nuclear generators. Its streamlined construction timetable is also a first for the nuclear power industry, where designing and building generators usually take decades, rather than years.

The modules are manufactured from standardized components that can be mass-produced, shipped by road or rail and assembled relatively quickly. The new plants are smaller and new modules can be added as needed. Multiple reactors can be linked around one or more turbines, all monitored from a single control room. The site of the Shidaowan project will install 18 additional modules, which will total 3,800 MWe.


The nuclear reactor’s byproduct will be hydrogen, a clean fuel that provides options that are less harmful to the environment. The HTR is the only reactor that can provide a nuclear heat source to produce hydrogen, Wu said.

Thanks for that fascinating link concerning China's nuclear future. I found the 'streamlined construction timetable' the most interesting piece of news.

We in the West will still be fantasising about PV panels when China has begun to export mass-produced nuclear reactors to the rest of the world.

Two points:

1. "Instead of water, the core is bathed in inert helium, which can reach much higher temperatures."

I believe helium is in imminent short supply - it comes from a few gas fields which are reaching end of life.

2. The reactors will slow the rate of growth of coal consumption. By allowing industrialisation in new regions, they will exacerbate the transport fuels problem.

Helium is only in imminent short supply in North America due to depletion of the main commercially exploited reserve in West Texas. There is still plenty that can be exploited elsewhere, however, and it can be recycled to a far greater extent than it is now if supply ever becomes problematic.


The development of high temperature superconductors that can operate with liquid nitrogen should also eventually eliminate one of the key sources of demand.


Getting back to the original blog entry it is worth noting that the British (at least in a Scottish context) appear to be slowly moving back to using their own coal reserves again and are starting to get the environmental issues with their coal-fired stations sorted out:-


The largest coal supply deal in Scotland will account for nearly half the four million tonne annual output of Scottish Coal. It is being linked to more than 100 new jobs in the mining industry, with supply from Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Fife and Lothian.

For ScottishPower, which owns and runs Longannet in Fife, the five-year agreement means roughly one-third of its total coal supply will be sourced from Scotland.


The significant change that brings Scottish coal back into the picture for ScottishPower is the development of cleaner-burn technology at Longannet power station.

Supplying the equivalent of one-quarter of Scotland's power demand, its owners are soon to complete installation of a scrubbing technology that removes almost all sulphur emissions. Coal from Scottish open-cast and drift mines has between two and four times as much sulphur compared with imported coal.


Roger Ebert reviews movie, Kit: An American Girl. Debuts in theatres today.

unfortunalty all I can see is that we'll have BAU because here in the UK both parties follow that stupid idea that a free market knows best .

Well, yes, for a price and stuff anything else!

so GB will wait for the "market" to provide a solution to peak oil.

and it has - highr prices and more poverty until there is no more oil, gas or coal . well maybe a few windmills for the rich of course.

Pleanty of pesants though ...... all strictly controlled by those "terrorist" laws so thoughtfully brought in...


The focus on mobilization is on the supply side of resources. Some quantification of that side is needed.

How much is currently spent globally on energy infrastructure.

It is heading towards $2 trillion in 2015. It is over 1 trillion in 2008.

World nominal GDP is about 60 trillion in 2008 and will be about 90 trillion in 2015.
So the $2 trillion number is a little over 2%. Similar to current numbers.

Oil spending is heading up to higher percentages of GDP.

Look at the big energy picture (need to address transportation, residential energy and industrial and look at the needs of each)

Inflatable electric cars (XP Vehicles) - could cost as little as $2500 per car
Ultracapacitor/battery combos (variety of materials would work so there would be no supply issue)

Cheap, sustainable Electric cars could be ramped up with a larger effort on the supply chain. 3 trillion dollars would enable one billion vehicles.

Relatively modest re-allocation of funds would accelerate sensible energy plans

The technologies and solutions are all in hand or within reach.
Cellusic biofuels
algae biofuels
more desalination
More advanced nuclear
More wind and solar
More efficient industrial equipment.
Superconducting engines
More efficient residential (insulation, water heaters etc...)

If there was a need a five year effort to convert to a mostly non-fossil fuel economy could be achieved. After which there would not be a continuing crisis because the economy would be converted.

As Chris noted, there is not that level of urgency.

A cost efficient and achievable conversion over 20 years is something which is technically and politically possible.

A High temperature nuclear reactor will start in China in 2009. This will lead to factory mass produced reactors that use half of the steel and one third of the concrete and will be use the uranium more efficiently, can also use thorium. Two year construction times.

Uranium hydride reactors are also being worked on for factory mass production by a private US firm.

I suspect some people might not understand the significance of use with thorium being possible. The ability to use a thorium nuclear fuel cycle eliminates any concerns about "peak uranium":-


Nuclear fission is sustainable in other words and could easily be used to tide civilization over until fusion is finally commercialized, which will probably be by the middle of this century if all goes well with the ITER project in France:-


There is a difficult period of transition ahead but the return to Olduvai Gorge scenario is extremely unlikely to unfold.

Pebble bed reactors aren't my favourite as they make reprocessing fuel more difficult, but they will do until we finally get molten salt reactors - they were killed in the 60's as they are useless for the production of weapon's grade materials and they were too good and would have threatened coal interests, IMO.
Here are details of a Fuji design:
Next Big Future: thorium

ITER seems to me to be a boondoggle which will never produce commercial power, but other approaches to fusion are possible and fission should do us at least for several thousand years in the meantime.

I think that's why they are hyping up climate change - to prepare us for the sacrifices needed to address PO and the other problems. I don't think it will work though, people tend to react with something like "Oh, it's so bad this climate change thing, but I need my SUV because...". It will take a permanent and observable crisis environment (Katrina was forgotten in a few months) in order to mobilise all these people.

Whether we'll have it? Not in the near future. I think that in the impending crisis there is a growing chance people will never realize where the hit came from. They won't realize the underlying cause, just suffer the indirect consequences. For example I am assigning a greater than 50% probability of economy collapsing within the next decade - either in a hyperinflational or deflational spiral. Oil depletion will never be realized as an underlying cause, as it was never realized as an underlying cause of the ongoing military adventures in Iraq, and the one on the books with Iran. Only after we've been through that, and we recover and hit resource constraints again, maybe then the problem will be fully realized and addressed in a war-like effort. Not any time soon.

As you see I'm kind of a pessimist - I think that by the time the problem is fully realized the window of opportunity to get out of this without major suffering will be closed for a long time behind us.

The main problem I'm seeing with the whole global warming crowd is that the underlying assumption seems to be that the cornucopian, exponential growth BAU is going to continue. Thus, all we need to do is to just screw in some CFLs, drive a Prius, and do a little more tinkering to take care of the problem. At least that's the way it seems to be presented to the public.

The problem is that what we really need to do -- both for AGW and for PO -- is to seriously and radically powerdown to a truly sustainable economy. The uncomfortable, unwelcome reality is that this is going to require a decline to a much lower economic level than we are enjoying presently, especially for those of us that have it so good now. For those of us in the US, my own back of the envelope calculations (which could be wildly wrong) suggest that we might be able to get by with a decline of only 75% in per capita GDP - IF we are lucky.

Nobody wants to hear this, so nobody wants to even say this. Reality will force it to happen anyway.

The main problem I'm seeing with the whole global warming crowd is that the underlying assumption seems to be that the cornucopian, exponential growth BAU is going to continue. Thus, all we need to do is to just screw in some CFLs, drive a Prius, and do a little more tinkering to take care of the problem. At least that's the way it seems to be presented to the public.

WTF? By whom? You're going to have to cite your sources.


Wow...I nearly died laughing.
The war on drugs is going gang busters.
The war on poverty was a ticker tape parade not too be
missed also.
The war on iliteracy<---SP? didnt leave a single child
The war on terror they say will last forever.
Whenever America declares war on something it seems
Americans get shot in the foot.
The Manhattan project produced really big explosions
not cheap and abundant energy.
Plumbing is thousands of years old and mans harnessing
of the atom is just a few decades.
But whats the problem with nuclear energy???
(beside the nasty radioactivity problem)
Seems its always a matter of getting the coolant water
thru some valve that causes those nasty melt downs.
What America needs a a big fat hairy plumber bent
over on his knees giving you that verticle maximus
glutamous smile.

The one I'm really looking forward to is "The War on War". I doubt I'll ever see it, though it would be fun to watch. Sort of like a cat chasing its tail.

Okay, so what we have here is *could* a wartime mobilization save the day? Probably.

Will it? no.

The reason is simple. Division. Even here on TOD where we have a group of largely intelligent, educated peak oil aware alarmed people, all of whom *believe* that an emergency exists, major disagreement about what should be done about it exists.

There are the "conservationists" who refuse to consider any measures other than full permanently sustainable solutions like passivehaus passive solar homes, returns to agrarian society, or PV/wind electricity if at all.

There are the "industrial pushers" who advocate committing very large resource investments into nuclear power, wind power, PHEVs (with BEV down the line), and redevelopment into densified urban centers.

There are a few "advancers" who would pursue alternatives like shale oil or hydrogen, or drill drill drill or whatever.

There are 2 schools of thought on using the coal supplies for CTL to soften peak oil, some want it because we need the liquid fuels, others oppose it because it is unsustainable and GHG intensive.

There are 2 schools of thought on PV, 1 that doesn't believe that the economics and energy return are really there, the other that doesn't think that the economics matter, that sustainability is worth the premium.

There are 2 schools of thought about... Just f**king everything. And that is *here*. Until we can work out that crap, no hope exists for any form of effective response. Can someone please write up a response plan that works, is at the appropriate scale, includes elements of all the schools and we all agree to back that plan, even the portions of it we disagree with?

There are 2 schools of thought about... Just f**king everything. And this is *here*.

Is it any wonder then that our politicians, when faced with such tussle and pull from the multitude, gravitate so naturally to the path of least resistance?

And is it any wonder that the multitude, when faced with such twitching and turning from the politicians, gravitates so naturally to the first demagogue when confronting a serious crisis?

Pity help us!

You missed the school, supported by evidence, that solar will be grid competitive in 2015 and will continue to get cheaper after that. You might want to review this post by Stuart Staniford: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3540


I forgot to mention it, you're right, and I am even fully prepared to believe it to be the case. The only thing is, that's a solution that *starts* in 6 years. It's a solution that only really works for peaking power in hot climates in the summer and limited daytime baseload everywhere else. At least without storage. In addition to that, the energy demands of the PV revolution will be significant so we'd do well to start now with the alternatives so we HAVE enough energy to make the PV.

So I would suggest that that be part of the TOD "supported comprehensive energy policy", but that the supported policy include some measures to start now as well as backup plans in case PV doesn't happen, energy production allocation for the PV revolution, and essentially make a full plan rather than "wait for pv to be ready for primetime" :).

No one is asking you to wait. You can get solar now. You may even be able to get a deal that is cheaper than delivered power the way that Walmart does.


At least without storage.

So add storage.

Hydro is a mature, widely-deployed, long-term storage medium that could buffer large amounts of solar (or wind). Onsite solutions are also available, such as molten salt for round-the-clock solar thermal generation (a plant using this is currently being built in Spain).

backup plans in case PV doesn't happen

Wind appears to be the current solution, at least judging by the actions of the power companies - more of it was installed than any other generation type in Europe last year, and in the US it was second only to natural gas. (By nameplate capacity; keep in mind, though, that the nameplate capacity for gas is lower than for wind, at least in the US; 800TWh/yr / 440GW ~= 20% capacity factor for gas, vs. ~30% for wind.)

Okay, so so far the "plan" has wind FWIW today, exploiting hydro storage FWIW when the wind begins to require it, hoping for the PV revolution.

What else? Because that's not really enough of a plan that I feel comfortable betting the world on it.

Well, now solar is a backup to wind which can cover for new generation needs. At that scale, replacing gas is not such a problem, and that is the only place where we might think of a fuel shortage. When solar is cheaper even than hydro, perhaps less wind will be installed and more solar and it won't be worth burning coal anymore. We can be sure that the cost estimates for coal, gas and nuclear power will cointinue to rise. Doing better than $12/watt for nuclear seems pretty tough just now. The one thing not to bet on is depletable fuels I think.


Electrify long distance rail lines to replace semi-trailer trucks and allow food to be transported from the U.S. heartland to the cities. It would allow goods arriving by ship to be transported throughout the country. It is possible to lay rail lines and construct trains using little if any crude oil. Trains are much more energy efficient than semi-trailer trucks.

I am not sure if those who advocate local production support electrifying long distance rail. I do not believe a place like southern California could grow enough food locally to feed its millions of inhabitants. The same would apply to New York. To feed all of the people food must be transported from states like Kansas, Iowa and Idaho to the urban areas. Electrified rail seem a sustainable solution to me.

Connecting wind, photovoltaic and solar thermal into the electric grid only addresses crude oil shortages if things that currently use crude oil are converted to use electricity. We should reach some consensus on what things can be converted to electricity and what things are worth the effort. I advocate:

1. electrify rail lines.
2. plug-in series hybrid vehicles are good for the transition to other types of vehicles which are not yet developed.
3. asphalt can be made from tar sands or oil shale.
4. make nuclear fusion functional which would finally replace natural gas, coal and nuclear fission as electrical power sources. An effort like the Manhattan project would be useful here.
5. In suitable environments encourage the installation of solar hot water systems with electrical backup.
6. Manufacture ammonia from electricity, as in electrolyzing water to make hydrogen instead of using methane. This may not be worthwhile until natural gas production passes peak. Perhaps organic farming is a better approach?
7. How do we power farm equipment without liquid fuel?
8. Diesel irrigation pumps could be converted to a windmill and tank or pond.

Okay, so so far the "plan" has wind FWIW today, exploiting hydro storage FWIW when the wind begins to require it, hoping for the PV revolution.

What else?

That's all you need.

I did some modelling with real-world data on using present-day wind and PV solar with pumped storage backup to provide baseload power. It turns out it would cost roughly double the current US average price per kWh; that's less than what Hawai'ians already pay, so there's little question that that level of cost wouldn't be too disruptive for society.

The model's not perfect, as it does make some simplifications and assumptions (e.g., it's rolling turbines+storage into a single per-kWh cost for pumped storage, rather than disaggregating them; it's ignoring solar thermal, which tends to be cheaper but touchier than solar PV; it's ignoring nuclear baseload, which would help reduce the volatility and make pumped storage last longer; etc.), but it does demonstrate that real-world hour-by-hour solar and wind production numbers are sufficient to provide reliable power at a reasonable cost.

There's lots of other things you can add to a plan (Alan's electrified rail, which is a great idea, the Solar Grand Plan from SciAm, etc.), but it's really not necessary. Alternative energy sources are available in large enough quantities using today's technology to meet our needs at viable prices, meaning there's no physical barrier here. The only barrier is social - what will we do and when - about which it's hard to have "the plan".

I have suggested that this "community" start a conversation to come to some conclusions. Build a concensus. Agree at the outset that the consensus becomes the de facto policy of the "community" without restricting work towards other solutions.

As you said, and to coin a phrase, "If we can't do it here, we won't do it anywhere. It's up to us, TOD, TODDDDDDDD!"

Yeah. It goes nowhere. Adds to my pessimism.


Sounds like trying to ratify a european constitution.

Politicians will respond to their constituents desperate demands for reliable and affordable home energy and transportation energy.. they will build nuclear and mine and burn coal.... the two worst possible solutions, and the most likely. The planet doesn't vote... people with children to keep warm in the winter do.

Can we avoid listings of things NOT to do in this subthread please? Nuclear definitely has a place in the future grid mix, and CTL would be something to pursue to some degree for mid-term future (20-50 years) liquid fuels.

A wartime-like mobilization is precisely the worst thing that can happen. The issue is not Peak Oil in isolation; it is full planet - resource exhaustion and pollution of the entire enviroment. A wartime mobiliation - at least as conventionally understood - will only chew up more resources and make matters worse.

cfm in Gray, Milliways, parking cars.

Good observation...if one is digging a hole for onself, the first thing to do is stop digging.

Mind you, there are many things (not cars!) we could put our remaining resources into that would make a dramatic difference in people's level of suffering post-peak.


It's simple:

1. PO = The Great Depression II, on steroids.

2. AGW = Extinction. Of mankind, that is.

3. The majority of answers for one (A) are also answers for the other (B). Find for the subset of shared solutions (C). Implement mobilization.

If people can be educated as to real danger of #2, the likelihood of #1 then they can be motivated to engage in #3.


As much as I like Lester Brown, the analogy to World War II mobilization is a faulty comparison to our current situation. In essence, when the US mobilized in the 1940s it was a decision to re-direct the engineering and supply base from one-form of heavy industry, i.e. automobile manufacturing, to another like form of heavy industry, i.e. armaments. The raw materials, processes, tooling, and intellectual knowledge were readily transferrable from one end-product to another end-product. Rather than re-tool factories to produce the next year's model of automobile, US industry just re-directed the existing capability to tool for producing armaments. One example--an automobile engine is similar to an airplane engine in its design, materials, and manufacturing processes.

Unfortunately in our current situation, we will not be making this transition quite so easily. Nuclear power is a good example. Even if permits were in-place, we do not have the specialized intellectual capital of nuclear engineering which would permit rapid construction of nuclear power plants. And while it might be argued that we could simply re-train engineers, it typically takes 5-10 years before an engineer is productive in his discipline. Similarly we can't simply turn "on" producers of superalloys (e.g. Hastelloy, inconel, etc) required for nuclear pressure vessels. And while it could be argued that we could quickly re-direct these specialized skills and materials from current production of nuclear warships, this would just be a fraction of the energy supplies required for commercial power applications.

In my industry of commercial aviation, there are a limited number of suppliers for carbon-fiber, composite tooling, autoclaves, titanium billets, robotic equipment, non-destructive instrumenation, etc. Even before an airplane program is launched, there are commitments made to line-up key suppliers of industrial equipment. These key suppliers then in turn need to line up their key suppliers. For example, Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, and Bombardier all use the same suppliers for automated manufacturing equipment (MTorres, Cincinnati Milicron, Electroimpact, etc.). These subtiers cannot be tasked to simultaneously support programs from each of these airplane manufacturer.

So when we think that we can easily enact a "wartime mobilization" to transition to PHEV or PV solar power or hydrogen fuel cells, it ignores the fact that these are dissimilar technologies to what our economy currently produces and whose supply base must be built from scratch. It is for this reason that knowledgeable individuals such as Robert Hirsch raise concern that it will take 10 year lead time to avoid the severe economic dislocation associated with peak oil.

Hi Jeff B,
You have raised some important issues, but the experience of WWII mobilization was that very different skills were re-directed. For example planes, previously hand build by highly skilled technicians were manufactured in assembly lines by formerly un-skilled women. The nuclear facilities at Oak Ridge, TN, had never been built before and were operated by women who had no understanding of nuclear physics, and couldn't be told because of security.
For nuclear reactors, the military contractors could set up a production line to build 100 or 1000 per year(using same designs used in warships) all barge mounted and float to where power is needed. Also tie up most existing warships and run power into the grid. Superalloy production could be 24/7 with 5 trainees tagging along each and two new facilities being build next door. Probably wind power could be ramped up faster than nuclear, but in an emergency everything is tried. In WWII University training was accelerated by having no vacations, the same thing could be done with training new engineers(the ones who get extra food and gasoline rations).
PHEV are basically the same as ICE vehicles with a bigger battery, smaller engine and an electric motor. On an all-out crisis, where no oil imports were available, the US could probably manufacture 20-25 million electric powered vehicles per year. This would involve all car plants running 3 shifts, calling back all retired UAW members, using other manufacturing facilities for electric motors, lawn mower, outboard engine manufactures to make the smaller engines as well as re-tooling existing engine assemblies. Could use lead-acid batteries until capacity for Li/Fe was ramped up. Forget about crash testing new models, having AC, etc. The quality of the cars may not be so good(more like wartime jeeps) but if they were the only ones that could run, the choice would be easy. Actually could probably make 30 million electric jeeps in first year!

Most responding to this post are questioning how a war-time mind set could be established. I think a collapse of all oil imports could provide the environment for a government to do it!

War time mobilazation???? the stupid U.S.congress can't even pass a law for consistant tax breaks for the development of alternative energy!

This is an important discussion and I've not yet had time to get far through these comments. But can I just now pose a little thought.

Much in this article is based on the concept that some people are "wealthier" than others. And that that "wealth" somehow protects them from adversities to which less wealthy persons are vulnerable.

This "wealth" largely comes from "ownership", of money, property, chattells, gold. The problem is that this "ownership" is not a physical thing like matter or energy, rather it is merely an idea in peoples' minds. And if there isn't a critical community of people respecting that idea, then the tables can turn very radically and suddenly. As they did for the "wealthy" Russian and French aristocracy. And Ceaucescu, and so on.

Most of the dominant elite have vanishingly little real, unplunderable assets in the sense of skills and practical knowledge rather than pr spin and legal deceits. It is they who are potentially the most vulnerable in a turn-down. (back later I hope)

Change your analogy, save the world.

I believe that using the USA response after the attack on Pearl Harbour as an analogy for the mobilisation required to combat Peak Oil (etc) is not the most appropriate analogy.

I think the most appropriate analogy is that of the lead up to the 22 June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, and subsequent events in World War 2.

I see it this way: our leadership is in denial about the possibility of a massive threat from a previously trusted ally - just like Stalin was about Hitler's Nazi Germany. Our citizens will be affected by the shock of the invasion/crisis, and the apparent sell-out of our leaders.

During the German invasion, the managers of the Soviet economy then had to move large amounts of their heavy industry hundreds of kilometres out of the reach of the German armies, AND restructure their economy to produce the required tanks, trucks etc, AND while having to fight a losing battle for nearly all of 1941 and 1942.

I think that Peak Oil will be similar - we will try to restructure our economy just when it is being attacked by high oil prices.

The Pearl Harbour analogy just doesn't work for me, as the continental USA was never under serious threat of invasion, and the USA economy had the freedom to be restructured without that threat, and without the huge drain of people to fight at the frontline. The USSR analogy I think would help people to better prepare for the massive changes that are needed.

The best Swedish analog is our preparations during the cold war for handling a thirld world war. We built up a realy good civil defence that sadly is no more, stockpiled fuel and food for about a year long mobilization effort and I dont know how much critical supplies, had local production of everything a war effort and civilian medicine etc needed, we had two sets of spare bridges one for fighting a war and the older clumsier systems stockpiled for the slow rebuild after a war, there were emergency stockpiles of equipment for repairing and enlarging the rail network and dry air conservated steam locomotivs and we built blast and nuclear fallout shelters for 90+ % of the population.

All of this exept the shelters, some odd stuff and the emergency repair organization for the high tension grid is now gone since our politicians believed in eternal peace after the cold war ended and we had some rough years with economical mismanagment after toying too much with socialism. The shrinking defence budget then prioritized the defence industry wich resulted in that we still can develop and sell modern jet fighters, armoured wehicles, artillery and light missils. Could be a nice income but I hope the world holds togeather enought that it wont be the armement industry that saves us. :-/

An analog effort should be more then enough for handling a slow decline in oil production and we are wealthy enough to do it if we work hard. It would not require more then gradual change since we can build on the work from earlier oil crisises and environmental efforts including the one against global warming and a large part of our local industry and know how is in energy systems.

I am pondering how to make effective and relevant politics out of this and I think it is realistic to handle the challanges with gradual changes. I am quite sure our political system and the local commerical interests can handle the needed decisions even if we get some kind of supply shock and a fast decline in oil availablity and all that follows from this in the global market.

Sharon Astyk wrote an interesting analysis of the argument that our energy crisis requires a wartime mobilisation last year.