Misguided Energy Policies

I have a friend who is addicted to nicotine. His liberal friends tell him that this addiction is bad, and point out that it is costing him too much money. Therefore, they want policies passed that ensure that he can continue to consume as much as he likes, and not hurt his budget too much. They are sure that nicotine substitutes will come along soon to save the day. For reasons I detail below, I call this the Boxer approach, but it could just as easily be the Pelosi/Democratic Party approach.

His conservative friends agree that he is addicted, but their solution is to carve out areas in the U.S. where we can grow more tobacco, and therefore his addiction can at least be homegrown. Sort of like "If you are going to smoke pot, at least smoke American pot." This is the Bush approach.

It seems to me that his friends perhaps have good intentions, but their policies are misguided and don't address the root cause of the addiction. In fact, much like their policies on our addiction to oil. On one hand, the Democratic Party argues 1). We are too dependent upon fossil fuels; 2). We must find alternatives; 3). Carbon emissions are too high; and 4). We need to promote higher fuel efficiency.

Those are good points. But they can't seem to see the irrationality in one of their proposals. At a time when Americans are starting to conserve; starting to trade-in their SUVs for Priuses, it seems to be fast-becoming a core principle of the Democratic party that we should: 5). Tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to bring oil prices down so people can afford to consume more. In fact, in a recent chain letter to me, Senator Barbara Boxer - who even maintains a website on the importance of acting on global warming, stated that we must go after "real solutions on gas prices", like "releasing some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve."

Ignoring for a moment the glaring inconsistency between this proposal and her position on global warming, just what is the purpose of the SPR?

In the event of an energy emergency, SPR oil would be distributed by competitive sale. The SPR has been used under these circumstances only twice (during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005). Its formidable size (700-plus million barrels) makes it a significant deterrent to oil import cutoffs and a key tool of foreign policy.

However, the calls for tapping the reserve continue to come, because high prices apparently constitute an energy emergency in some people's minds. Here American Progress defends this view:

Eight Reasons to Release Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Let's look at a couple of the reasons given:

1. Record oil prices have hurt American families

Ordinary families are struggling with record high energy prices. Many families’ gas costs have increased by hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. The price of home heating oil has doubled in the past year. And the Department of Energy predicts that average electricity prices will increase by 5 percent this year, and go up 9 percent in 2009.

Yes, and we are seeing significant drops in gasoline demand as a result. You know what that means? The people who argue for lower fossil fuel usage and by extension lower carbon emissions should be happy. The kicker is that the author of this article, Daniel J. Weiss, is "the Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress, where he leads the Center's clean energy and climate advocacy campaign." What's wrong with this picture? Do climate advocates think getting people to change is going to be easy? No, there is going to be cost, pain, and inconvenience. But people respond to price, and we are seeing that now. It is not hypothetical, it is observable. What people don't respond to are feel-good speeches about the need to cut back.

Let's look at one more:

6. There is plenty of oil in the reserve to withstand a supply disruption

The SPR has more oil than ever before—706 million barrels, which is 98 percent capacity. Selling 50 million barrels over 100 days would still leave it filled to over 90 percent capacity. This is enough oil to cope with a complete foreign supply disruption for nearly two months, assuming zero reduction in demand in the wake of such a catastrophe.

This is just an argument that the SPR is bigger than it needs to be. Yet the authorization to fill (eventually to 1 billion barrels) was made by congress as a part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Per the DOE, it the filling of the SPR is also funded by royalties on oil companies extracting oil from the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS):

The royalty-in-kind program applies to oil owed to the U.S. government by producers who operate leases on the federally-owned Outer Continental Shelf. These producers are required to provide from 12.5 percent to 16.7 percent of the oil they produce to the U.S. government. The government can either acquire the oil itself or receive the equivalent dollar value.

As someone who is very concerned about disruptions of future oil supplies, I want a healthy volume in the SPR. I want it tapped only in the event of something like a major supply disruption that actually threatens to sharply reduce the amount of available oil. I didn't want it tapped at $20 oil, and I won't want it tapped at $500 oil. If my choice in the long run is between a gallon of gasoline for $30 or no gasoline at all, guess which one I am going to pick?

Let's also not forget the history here. A story right here at TOD shows that Chuck Schumer has been Wrong on the SPR Since 1999, when oil was hitting the outrageous value of $20 a barrel. He won't learn his lesson, as here Schumer (and others) are at it again in 2004 (which was also an election year). Oil at that time had risen to $35 a barrel. Here's another TOD essay that recognizes Schumer's misguided logic in tapping the SPR.

Where would we be had we heeded these perpetual calls to tap the reserve? With higher gasoline consumption, higher carbon emissions, a drained SPR, and Senator Schumer still complaining that we need to reduce our dependence on oil. We would be much more vulnerable to supply disruptions, and our financial position with respect to the SPR would be billions of dollars worse off than it is now (i.e., down 100 million barrels or more from today's level with oil at $130/bbl). Think about that. Heeding Schumer's calls would have endangered national security, and put us in a multi-billion dollar hole.

High fuel prices have led to many positive changes in people's behaviors. Demand is down, fuel efficiency is being embraced, and sales of SUVs are down. The very same people who advocate these things are the same people who would reverse these positive changes by tapping the SPR. It appears that they don't understand that cheap energy is the very reason we became so dependent upon fossil fuels. We won't wean from fossil fuels if they remain cheap. As I have noted before, a big reason that Europe's per capita energy usage is half that of the U.S. is because they have maintained prices at artificially high levels. This caused them to develop different living/transportation/consumption preferences than is the case in the U.S.

If people are forced to tighten budgets - and heaven forbid carpool, ride the bus, or simply drive less as a result of high prices - that does not constitute an energy emergency. We need to get past these ridiculous calls to tap the SPR, and highlight the inconsistencies (and past history) of those who advocate such a move.

In the next essay, I am going to address President Bush's calls to answer our addiction to oil with more drilling. It makes as much sense to tell a heroin addict that what they really need is homegrown heroin. I think there is a compromise that may satisfy both sides.

The SPR is that secret stash of cigs buried in waterproof bags in the backyard. It does NOTHING to cure our addiction !

We are facing a chronic oil shortage, and the SPR is specifically designed for only acute (and relatively short lived) oil shortages.

The wrong weapon for the fight we face.

Don't bring a knife to a gunfight

Best Hopes for Carrots for Nicotine Addicts, and Non-Oil Transportation# for Oil Addicts


1. Electrified Railroads
2. Urban Rail
3. Bicycles
4. TOD/walkable neighborhoods
4.5 - NEVs & EVs

Along the same lines as your chronic/acute reference Alan, I think the “addiction” analogy is misleading.

We certainly are addicted to some of the wastefull uses of oil but IMO we need oil to live so maybe a better analogy would be like Blood Plasma. (still a needle in the arm)

It is a mistake to compare oil to drugs and imply that it is BAD and we should feel guilty, (maybe even declare a War On Oil?) this is the same old twisted propaganda mindset and we should not adopt it, we should resist it and inject rational terms and discussion.

If the general public only new the true value of oil as the live blood of civilization then it might be treated differently.

No dis on you RR just my feelings.


I'm in agreement with this. RR's astute analysis notwithstanding, the addiction metaphor is completely wrong.

We do not need alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. We can "kick" these habits.

We need energy, and in this culture we really need oil.

The ninety-year-old woman down the street from me is not "addicted" to her oil furnace. She doesn't need a twelve-step program to get off her addiction to a heating system.

Addiction metaphors also lead to AA/substance abuse treatment claptrap.

There must be a better way to describe our DEPENDENCE on oil.

We need energy, and in this culture we really need oil.<\blockquote>

The alcoholic "needs" that drink. The nicotine addict "really needs" that cigarette. And if that heroin addict doesn't get that fix, s/he might just die. If anything, this argument by you and soup seems to suggest that the analogy is even more appropriate. You guys sound like the quintessential addict - "it's a problem for everyone else, but not for me, I've got it under control. After all, I'm different, I really need the stuff."

So my ninety-year-old neighbor is ADDICTED to her oil furnace?

She doesn't need it? Her need is the same as an alcoholic's need?

Most people are NOT addicted to alcohol or drugs. EVERYONE needs energy in some way.

I'll ignore your personal attack in your last statement.

So my ninety-year-old neighbor is ADDICTED to her oil furnace?

Your neighbor needs energy. Energy can come from many different sources. Just because we have made it such that oil is the cheap, easy option doesn't change the fact that it is an addiction.

OK. Suit yourself. You're a good writer and probably can get good mileage out of the addiction metaphor.

But I don't buy it.

An addiction is a biological dependence on a substance that could be completely eradicated from one's life, unlike energy, which must come in some form. One doesn't need a substance to replace the alcohol, the way one need vast quantities of SOMETHING to continue to run one's highway, heating, and food systems.

My poor neighbor literally can do nothing to "get off" her furnace. She's on meals on wheels!

You say "we" have made oil the cheap option, and that may be the key to seeing where the metaphor breaks down: addiction is about one individual's body. There is no "we" that has forced the alcoholic into his addiction.

My last word: alcoholism/addiction is to oil dependence as a flagellum is to planet Saturn.

Yes, food, energy, etc., they are all necessities. That makes the true framing of this problem even more dire and complex than is presented by the addiction metaphor.

So, I hear what you're saying, but you are making it sound like Robert is being intentionally obtuse in his usage of the terms.

Addiction may not be the most accurate frame in this case, but it is the easier frame to understand for many--and it is probably 60 or 70% valid.

Perhaps in an informed group like this, the addiction frame doesn't work. Or it may be better said that we are addicted to the "easy" nature of oil? or addicted to the lifestyle it currently provides?

Even in the cartoon up top, Uncle Sam represents a lot of different ideas. We can deconstruct what all of that means, but we can also get the simple message: there is a problem and it needs to be addressed by means other the providing more of what causes the disease.

So, I hear what you're saying, but you are making it sound like Robert is being intentionally obtuse in his usage of the terms.

Banish the thought!

I wish him luck navigating this troublesome trope (as it were).

Thought banished. :)

"Or it may be better said that we are addicted to the "easy" nature of oil? or addicted to the lifestyle it currently provides?"

That suggests there's something wrong with "easy", or a "lifestyle" of inexpensive, abundant material posessions.

I would agree that we need to bite the bullet and invest in our future by replacing oil with energy sources that are more sustainable; reduce our impact on the planet; and move beyond trying to achieve happiness solely through posessions, but I'm troubled by the implication that there's something morally wrong with abundant energy and prosperity per se.

An addiction is a biological dependence on a substance that could be completely eradicated from one's life, unlike energy, which must come in some form.

And there's the rub. Energy. We may need energy, but energy comes in many forms. I hope we change out an oil addiction some day for a more desirable addiction to solar power.

Think of this in terms of food. A person can be addicted to sugar. This isn't changed by the fact that they require food for survival. Just as all food is not sugar, all energy is not oil.

And thats what virtually everyone needs to develop...FLEXIBILITY. One is "addicted" when the only way to heat the home is an obselete oil furnace. Or the way over-powered petrol/diesel swilling vehicle. Or living in a exurb/suburb way away from your job/public trans.

My current fav gripe is the lack(in this market) of high-quality ULSDiesel. Ya cant have small, clean-running diesel engines without it. Without jumping thru a bunch of hoops. Many vehicles could easily be getting 30% better mileage.

And certainly most alternatives need to be pursued with gusto.

My current fav gripe is the lack(in this market) of high-quality ULSDiesel.

Just like the smack addict bemoaning the adulterated cut rubbish that is pushed instead of the nice clean pure heroin...I've got it! We should invade the heroin supplying countries and get holdof their really good stuff. Now who supplies heroin again...?

"An addiction is a biological dependence on a substance that could be completely eradicated from one's life (OIL), unlike energy, which must come in some form (electricity)"

"My poor neighbor literally can do nothing to "get off" her furnace"

So buy her an electric heater. Or a good sleeping bag.


addiction metaphor. But I don't buy it.

Addiction would normally imply an unhealthy relationship.

I doubt any regular reader of TOD would claim the human - oil relationship is 'healthy'.

No, your ninety year old neighbor is not addicted to her oil (furnace).

Maybe here is where the difference lies between our two points of view. When I see oil addiction, I am not referring to an individual, but to an economic system. You are carrying the metaphor down to the individual (perhaps because you have accepted the validity of the economic system?)

Please be careful not to conflate oil and energy. It is true that most people are not addicted to alcohol or drugs. But that tells us little about the addict. The non-addict uses alcohol to relax, as a social lubricant, or perhaps just to work against heart disease. Addicts define themselves in relationship to alcohol.

As for the "personal attack" - it was not meant as such. It was meant to point out that you were using the same sort of "excusing" language that an addict uses to justify their use to themself. I learned this the hard way. I did not intend it as an insult.

The oil furnace is something I think about every winter. I don't live in the Northeast so I don't know that much about them. But I always wonder what it would take to covert those to electricity.

It is just embarassing to take heating oil from Hugo Chavez.

I would love to see wind turbines generating the electricity to heat those homes in the winter. Is that an insane fantasy?

I've been thinking about this a lot as well since we have oil heat and I can only expect that the cost of heating our house is going to become unaffordable in a few years or less. Without going into the full-on solar panels, I've been looking into solar air heating panels. It's considerably more affordable, but I need to find out if it will supply enough heat here in "sunny" Seattle.

Crunchy, speaking as a former Seattleite, I suspect you'll have better results with a ground loop heat pump than with the solar air heating modules. You might want to compare them before you buy.

Chris - thanks for the tip. I'll see what I can dig up. Ha ha ha.

BTW, I just finished reading your book, Profit from the Peak, and I totally loved it. I'll be letting my peeps know about it as many are looking for a book on Peak Oil that isn't all doomsday and conjecture. You guys did an awesome job - I can't say enough good things about it, but I'll stop here.

Thanks very much! I'm glad you found it informative. Good luck with your project.

Hi Not a Rock,

Provided you have sufficient panel capacity, it's a relatively simple matter of installing electric coils in the supply plenum. Dual fuel space heating is popular in Québec where discounted electricity is used when outside temperatures are above -12C or -15C (it varies by region); as temperatures fall and the Hydro-Québec network is more heavily taxed, an outside temperature sensor automatically flips the system back to oil. It's a smart approach -- the customer gets a great deal (at 4.33 cents per kWh, it's like buying oil at less than $1.50 per gallon) and the utility gets to drop load as colder temperatures ramp up demand. Furthermore, it discourages homeowners from replacing their existing oil heating systems with a 25 or 30 kW electric furnace which would only further add to peak demand during these extremely cold periods.

That said, if electricity is to be consumed for space heating purposes, it should be used to operate a heat pump where you can typically double or triple the amount of heat supplied from every kWh consumed.


I think heat pumps only give you better efficiency above freezing....to get double or triple the heat as you would get from resistive means 40-50oF. At -15C you would probably do better with resistive, or if possible an advantageous set of circumstances for a ground loop.

If anyone knows more, I would really like to learn.


Hi dr_dr,

Actually, their performance is better than what you may think. I live in Zone 4 (7,800 HDD) and in this climate the HSPF rating of the Fujitsu 9RLQ and larger 12RLQ are 11.0 and 10.55 respectively. Both models operate down to -15C (i.e., Hydro-Québec’s transfer point) and over the course of the winter would provide an average of 3.1+ kWh of heat for every kWh consumed.

A couple days ago, I made reference to Mitsubishi's new h2i line of Mr. Slim ductless heat pumps. These models supply 100 per cent of their rated heating capacity at -15C, 87 per cent at -20C and 75 per cent at -25C and can operate for more than four hours at these sub-freezing temperatures before executing a defrost cycle. The discharge air temperature at -25C is +38C. Their HSPF is 9.4, so the seasonal COP is 2.76 -- for a Hydro-Québec customer under the dual-energy rate structure, the operating costs of this particular heat pump are the equivalent of fuel oil priced at 13.8 cents a litre or 52 cents per gallon (82% AFUE).

I developed a spreadsheet model based on ten-years' worth of hourly temperature data to verify the theoretical performance of the Fujitsu 12RLQ and 15RLQ. My home is a 40-year old, 2,500 sq. ft. Cape Cod that has been extensively upgraded in terms of its thermal efficiency and I estimate my current space heating demand at 12,277 kWh per year (1,400 litres/370 U.S. gallons of fuel oil at 82% AFUE). If my numbers are correct, a 12RLQ can easily supply 80 per cent of my total annual needs and the seasonal COP in this case is an estimated 3.32.

The spreadsheet is over 58,000 rows in size, but you can view the summary data (and assumptions) in PDF format here: http://www.datafilehost.com/download-a8dfaf4c.html


Think of your ninety-year-old neighbor as one of those brain cells with all the opioid receptors on it. Without the drugs, that brain cell will die. But at the organism level, it is an addiction. Think of "civilization", or "democracy" or "the free world" or whatever as the organism, and you have analogy.

Like all analogies, perhaps it is not perfect ;)

Agreed - no analogy is perfect, but this one seems quite apt.

I should mention that according to the NIH, opiate withdrawal, including heroin, is rarely fatal (despite being very unpleasant). Whereas untreated DTs in severe alcoholics has something like a 30% fatality rate.

Heavy morphine users have been known to live into their 80s and beyond when the dosage is regulated. Alcohol, on the other hand, when used to excess is *guaranteed* to destroy your liver and other organs.

Non-moderate alcohol consumption is a dirty, dirty drug.

We're starting to get the shakes. I need a drink.

If we have to stick with a medical metaphor (seems like everything is medicalized these days-- similar to the Middle Ages when everything had a religious metaphor) then perhaps we need to think of it as a legitimate pharmaceutical -- like Crixivan (or whatever) to an AIDS patient. They can't survive without it, but they aren't "addicted" in the normal sense of the word.

Said by MikeB:

The ninety-year-old woman down the street from me is not "addicted" to her oil furnace. She doesn't need a twelve-step program to get off her addiction to a heating system.

The addiction is not to a heating system, but to a heating system powered by fuel oil. Her addiction is an absolute refusal to switch to a heating system that uses a different fuel even though the rising price of fuel oil may break her budget or the declining production may cause shortages leaving her with a cold house. Her addiction is the assertion that fuel oil is a necessity while it was absent for the vast majority of human history. Warm shelter is a necessity, but a shelter heated by fuel oil is not. The analogy to an addiction lies in the attitude: a refusal to acknowledge the problem and fix it.

"We need energy, and in this culture we really need oil."

seem just one small step away from
" 'merkuns have a right to cheap oil".

The ninety year old lady lving down the street, in a house heated only for herself an no others is the real problem that she is addicted to. "Independent" living is just so un-natural for humans and is only made possible by the massive fossil fuel subsidy we enjoy today. In earlier times, she would be living with and cared for by her family or she'd be dead. We are going to have to get off the idea of heating vast cavernous homes that are occupied by very few people. Learning to live locally means thinking about the space you occupy even within the home.

We (the USA) will certainly need substantial amounts off oil (more than we produce) for quite some time to function at anything close to current levels.

But, longer term (an absolute minimum of 20 years IMO, 30 years without an emergency), we can reduce oil use to specialty applications such as lubricants, farming (ammonia power has possibilities but that will take longer), aviation, shipping and a few others.

Step One is to create a Non-Oil Transportation system as an alternative to our oil based one for many, but not all needs & wants. Step Four may be a phased shut-down of our oil based transportation system.

Best Hopes,


Oil is used for lubricants, and for plastics and pharmaceuticals; fertilizer comes from natural gas.

We are not addicted to oil for which there is compelling need. Such as the above.

Oil does not have to be used for transportation (the largest waste of oil today), or for power (and it is not). We need to preserve what is left for future plastics, lubricants and pharmaceuticals; we need to hold on to natural gas to use as stock for fertilizers.

That is not to say we are not addicted to oil. Our addiction is in the form of automobile transportation. But, the administration says to drill, drill, drill so they can drive their Hummers and SUVs.

If you want to make changes, it will be in mass transit (how about electric power for trains; high speed city center to city center at 450 mpg without using any oil), including street railways, short range electric automobiles (gets you to the bus station/street car or to the supermarket, but no good for suburban commuting), etc. Also, bike paths along all streets and roads.

So... I do not mind the metaphor of addiction, so long as it is understood that it is in that specific area. My 90 year old neighbor can keep her furnace - but maybe we will want to run it on electric power at some point?

we need oil to live

Now there is a bold assertion of the irrational if I ever did see one. Do you realize what you have said here? This is precisely the argument every addict makes.

As for oil not being "BAD" - this is an assumption on your part, please do not assume that all here are going to share that viewpoint.

This is precisely the argument every addict makes.

I am trying to look at the limits of what I think is an extremely inadequate metaphor, and you keep attacking me.

This is the last time I respond to you.

mikeB - this was in response to souperman's post, not yours.

But I do wonder why you see this as a personal attack? It is an observation about the choice of language used. Is that not what you are doing by arguing against the addiction metaphor? I'm simply saying the the language souperman used (and that you used elsewhere) was actually consistent with the metaphor you said you were rejecting.

Please, (no sarcasm intended), explain to me the offense taken and I will gladly apologize and refrain from using such an approach in the future.

Ehh... fact is we are going to run out of oil. Then those who "need oil to live" will die. And life will be better forever after.

We certainly are addicted to some of the wastefull uses of oil but IMO we need oil to live so maybe a better analogy would be like Blood Plasma. (still a needle in the arm)

I disagree. We don't 'need' oil to live. At present, we need oil to live the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. In the long run, we need energy. To live our current lifestyle, we need a lot of energy. We could, in my opinion, make some radical changes to our living arrangements and kick the oil habit. At the least, we can drastically reduce it, but it would be very hard, expensive, and require a lot of sacrifice.

Thus, I think the addiction analogy - which of course was not my invention - is appropriate. Addictions are hard to beat. The heroin addict 'needs' heroin lest they suffer horrible withdrawal symptoms. But the fact that they need it doesn't mean it isn't an addiction, nor that withdrawal is impossible.

As far as your comments on the life blood of civilization or that our dependence upon oil isn't bad - many of those concerned about global warming or peak oil would disagree sharply. It is bad in that it enables us to engage in unsustainble practices that will come to an abrupt end as supplies deplete.

There was civilization before oil. The oil is going to run out. Yet I believe there will be civilization after oil.

There was civilization before oil. The oil is going to run out. Yet I believe there will be civilization after oil.

And it's the path between here and there that gives me almost complete pause. I continue to hope that we are smart enough to "go backwards" where we need to and "go forwards" where we can.

I have recently been reading about the roots of the Industrial Revolution. The key thing about industrial civilization is the concentration of production, i.e. from cottage to factory. That is made a lot easier with a high density energy source, but it's conceivable that the Ind. Revolution would have happened without coal.

The key questions are therefore can we still have modern civilization without industrialization? And can we run industry with more diffuse energy sources? (I include agriculture in industry).

The key questions are therefore can we still have modern civilization without industrialization?

Depends. What %age of production is taken by 'the government' and how is that %age used?

Thus, I think the addiction analogy - which of course was not my invention - is appropriate. Addictions are hard to beat. The heroin addict 'needs' heroin lest they suffer horrible withdrawal symptoms. But the fact that they need it doesn't mean it isn't an addiction, nor that withdrawal is impossible.

If I was able to I'd add "Heroin withdrawal is just really nasty for a while then you get over it" to the list which includes "Lemmings run off cliffs en mass" and "Frogs don't jump out of slowly heating water" as triggers for a universal internet edit bot.

People die all the time as a consequence of unmanaged heroin withdrawal attempts, often due to overdose after relapse while in a state of reduced drug tolerance. Neonatal opiate withdrawal (newborns from addicted mothers) is potentially life threatening.

It is in my opinion so close to being "content free" as an analogy that I find it almost always an unhelpful digression in serious discussion.

Best hopes for practicing BAC (Bogus Analogy Control)...

Actually, I have known quite a few people who were addicted to drugs, so I have seen it first hand. I had friends from high school who went to prison for drug problems. I know exactly how difficult it can be to break addictions, and in many cases the difficulty is physical, and as you say life-threatening. I indicated as much with "severe withdrawal symptoms." But that doesn't mean that the addict can't recover. The lemming example is a myth. My example is not.

But your example again emphasizes why the analogy is appropriate. Removing oil from oil lives would also be life-threatening right now. The withdrawal will need to be carefully managed, and it will be resisted fiercely by many.

People die all the time as a consequence of unmanaged heroin withdrawal attempts

People also die all the time from driving their car to the store. That doesn't mean a given instance of car driving is especially dangerous.

This is my area of study, and I can say with confidence that death from uncomplicated opiate withdrawal in adults is extremely rare. So rare that it's difficult to find cases. Even death from relapse and overdose is rare. The majority of opiate overdose deaths stem from:

1) Concomitant use of alcohol or tranquilizers.

2) Cuts and impurities, particularly quinine, which on occasion causes acute pulmonary edema in susceptible individuals.

Sorry, this is all OT, but misinformation bothers me.


Certainly was not my intent to misinform, so thanks for this. My first hand knowledge of such things comes from my earlier work as an EMT, and I would not doubt that, for example, alcohol or other meds might have been a complicating factor in what I saw. A junkies world is often not a "simple place" :-(

Np. You're definitely right, the situation is almost always complex, with confounding factors like poly-substance use, malnutrition, infections, etc. Alcohol is by far the biggest danger, and a great many deaths could be avoided if people were simply told not to combine alcohol and heroin, perhaps with pamphlets at needle exchanges and methadone clinics.

This is one of those topics where there's just SO much misinformation out there, so I try to correct mistakes whenever I see them. I'm sure you saw a lot of junkies in bad shape as an EMT? Because of a combination of public ignorance and misguided drug policy, addicts can't get work and have to pay obscene prices for their drugs. Consequently, they end up sick, weak, and poor, which greatly increases the risk of dying from all sorts of things. I think we will see a lot fewer drug related deaths post peak, simply because the government won't have the resources for a drug war and people will have more pressing targets for their hatred than drug addicts.

There are soooooooo many things made from FFs and yes some of them we need in order to live.

The article on hospitals and peak oil (sorry no link) illustrates this perfectly.

Also, a scientist friend of mine who has been contemplating PO since we met, says his biggest fear is that without FFs there are no clean rooms and BAM! its over.

Not sure on this one but he is truely freaked about it.

There are soooooooo many things made from FFs and yes some of them we need in order to live.

Can you name one that can't be produced via an alternative method?

Oh! So we are going to wait for "alternatives" for all applications.

I would say plastics are a biggie, and no there are no truely viable long chain carbon alternatives to UHMWPE for grandma's hip. I know she doesn't NEED the hip but I hope you get my point.

But you bring up an interesting topic that someone with better chops than I may wish to address.

There are soooooooo many things made from FFs and yes some of them we need in order to live.

Can you name one that can't be produced via an alternative method?

Yikes! Please clarify Robert that you did not just drag a huge 'Strawman' out and drop it in the middle of the floor, such would be beneath you.

A strawman? How on earth would that be a strawman? The claim was that many things are made from fossil fuels and are required for life. Thus, the continuation of the logic for why this is not an addiction. To that, I say that these things need not be made by fossil fuels. We choose to make them from fossil fuels because it is easy.

It's sort of like saying "I require broccoli in order to live." It wouldn't a strawman if someone asked if I couldn't get by on brussels sprouts. We seem to confuse that which is convenient and low cost for that which is a necessity of life.

I don’t get it. You know damn well what I am talking about.

Without FF feedstocks for chemical, pharmaceutical, agracultureal inputs, etc. billions of people will die in short order.

We are WAY past addiction. These people were brought into this world and exist primarily because of oil.

Are there alternatives for all these necessities? For any given individual, perhaps. For all of them no chance in hades.

I am just stating my opinion but I think that addiction is a bad analogy and in fact is harmful in explaining the situation the world is in.

A better cartoon might show Uncle Sam in a hospital bed with an IV in his arm.

wow, creepy. Cool, but... creepy.

The artist did a whole series. His website is here; he was in a local San Francisco peak oil/climate change art show a few years back. I loved what he'd done then.

On the first link above click on the image and then follow the arrows. His art in book form may not be a good first introduction to peak oil for your family though, heh.

looks like you missed the first link (it links to "/") second link is cool though =). To add an off color remark: that's one nasty case of pubic lice

Sorry, it is linked from the art show page but it's http://selfdestructionart.com/

I don’t get it. You know damn well what I am talking about.

I guess I don't, because you seem to be saying that we can only make these things from oil, and that no alternative means is possible. That is almost universally not true. We make them from oil because it is the cheap, easy route.

Take butanol. It was made from biological means for years before it was made from oil. But it is much more expensive and slow. But it can still be made the old way.

Without FF feedstocks for chemical, pharmaceutical, agracultureal inputs, etc. billions of people will die in short order.

We are WAY past addiction. These people were brought into this world and exist primarily because of oil.

Are there alternatives for all these necessities? For any given individual, perhaps. For all of them no chance in hades

Correct. It's a 'Strawman' because the problem is not simply making a liter of octane, for example, starting with something other than light sweet crude. That is necessary but not sufficient; I think we mostly here know enough about organic chemistry to know that there are dozens of ways to achieve such a thing.

'Substitutes' are only potentially mass life savers if they will scale up, in the time available before depletion curves overtake, at a price which is affordable in absolute terms, and without generating some other disaster as a side effect (to name just some of the most obvious constraints).

The 'We', mentioned above, for now, are not the folks reading this blog but the folks eating "green revolution" crops, trucked into the the worlds mega cities, and subsisting on $2 per day, for whom $140 oil is in fact far from "low cost" in terms of the viability of their cultures life support systems currently in place.

And you know all this Robert, clearly, it pains me to have to restate it in fact, so what is going on here?

And you know all this Robert, clearly, it pains me to have to restate it in fact, so what is going on here?

Yeah, how could any intelligent person not be a doomer? It doesn't make sense. We all know that billions of people will die very soon due to lack of FF, and there is no other possibility. Send him for re-education.

Medicine at the Crossroads of Energy and Global Warming

Our medical system: it's time to face peak oil

Public health and the precautionary principle: the case of peak oil

Wharf Rat: I was hoping you'd show up! My article of last week was about this very topic--misguided energy policies--and has a literary angle I think you will appreciate:
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse - Energy and the Politics of Partisan Paralysis


It's brother to brother and it's man to man
And it's face to face and it's hand to hand...
We shadowdance the silent war within.
The shadowdance, it never ends...
Never ends, never ends.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse, yet again...
Yet again.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse,
And wandering the land.

I knew you'd get it! (I was surprised at how few did...I guess it was a fairly obscure reference.)

Perhaps the general malady for a lot of things that plague us is over consumption. New OCD - Over Consumption Disorder.

I rather envision a 'toon that shows a big fat Sam sitting at the dinner table gobbling up large and varied sources of oil. Perhaps Bush and Boxer-Pelosi can be "waiters" bringin Sam new helpings of oil from the OCS/ANWR and the SPR - respectively.

Note that even if the USA were to reduce it's oil appetite to be more in line with the average of the rest of the world there woudl still be a PO and GW problem - deferred a bit perhaps, but still there.


Don't bring a knife to a gunfight

Not even if it is a wasp?

(under the man, you gotta be twisted to even think that is a good plan)

If, in a duel, I had a choice of that silly contraption or a gun, I'd choose the gun. At ten paces. Let 'im try to throw the stupid thing.

(Cue the Indiana Jones footage with the arab guy twirling a scimitar... You know the one -- Indy has time to shrug and make a silly face before he draws)

This is obviously an anti-democratic party piece. Too bad we can't get past partisan politics, and work together for a real change in energy policy.

For those that watched the interview yesterday by Tom Brokaw of Al Gore, most of what Brokaw tried to do was embarass Gore on a host of politically charged issues, failing to grasp Gore's intent to cross the political divide on the issue of energy production.

This ongoing political civil war between the Republicans and Democrats, which in many ways is more damaging than the more overt war between the Sunni and Shiite, is something we all need to overcome in a concerted effort to work together for the benefit of all our countrymen on this issue.

Fact is both sides have good and bad ideas. Let's become party blind and work together.

In case you missed the last paragraph:

In the next essay, I am going to address President Bush's calls to answer our addiction to oil with more drilling. It makes as much sense to tell a heroin addict that what they really need is homegrown heroin.

We have different parties because we have different interests. One party tried, thirty years ago, to put us on a path to energy efficiency and the development of alternative sources of energy. The other party ripped the solar panels off the White House, fights tooth and nail against any improvement in CAFE standards or support for alternatives, and led the nation (willingly, I might add) into a war for oil in the Middle East. Broadly speaking, these parties have two different views of the future of America.

Who determines which sides' ideas are good or bad? You and me, or ExxonMobil? Barbara Boxer or James Inhofe? As Robert Kennedy once said (to paraphrase) to make progress we must change, and change has its enemies.

The other party ripped the solar panels off the White House, fights tooth and nail against any improvement in CAFE standards or support for alternatives

Dingall (D-Mi) has been pretty obstructive about CAFE over the years. I think generalizations about political parties are often misleading...not always, but often. It seems to me that the larger reality is that both parties are mostly captive of their donors/PACs. The more ordinary citizens get involved, the harder it is for politicians to defy voter wishes. That said, if the voters are mobilized for something counter-productive...

Frankly, the entrenched powers/interests which really govern are resistant to change; we are polarized, but also mostly paralyzed. Whether the U.S. can actually act to effect needed changes remains to be seen. I think we are much like Spain during the late imperial phase; everyone knows change is needed but no one can achieve it.

Dingall (D-Mi) has been pretty obstructive about CAFE over the years.

Obviously because he represents a state where automakers hold sway. He is an exception, not the rule.

Yes, but as a committee chair, he has an unusual amount of influence over things.

How long has Dingall been committee chair? Since Dec, 2006? How long have the Republicans run the House before that? Hmmmm, since 1994. I only know that for as long as I followed Congressional politics (20+ years), Republicans have consistently and vocally opposed increasing gas taxes, CAFE standards, and other measures designed at increasing automobile efficiency.

Except that most state's have their own "automakers" and legislators from those states ignore them at their peril. Senator Reid seems beholden to the gold mining business and opposes changes to the 1872 mining act. Democratic reps and senators from Louisiana frequently come to the aid of petrol and chemical interests, likewise pro-development elected officials from Florida and so on. Dingall is not an exception, he is an example of the failure of the national political system.

Is one party worse than the other? I think so, and I agree that the Repugs seem worse. On the other hand, the Dems are hardly pure either. As a former democratic precinct committeeman, I can tell you that there is a huge disconnect between what the citizens want and what the state and national politicians deliver. The rhetoric between Dems and Repugs is more different than their donors (and their votes).

Except that most state's have their own "automakers" and legislators from those states ignore them at their peril. Senator Reid seems beholden to the gold mining business and opposes changes to the 1872 mining act.

Reid represents my district and I can emphatically say that I never have and never will vote for him. You emphasize my point. Is it fair to use Reid as an example of how the typical Democratic senator or representative votes on mines or casinos?

Is one party worse than the other? I think so, and I agree that the Repugs seem worse. On the other hand, the Dems are hardly pure either.

I have no illusion that Democrats are pure (and I find name calling by either side childish and distasteful). I registered as an independent in 2005. This year I registered as a Democrat to caucus for Obama, but I've already got one foot out the door. I was initially quite excited for a candidate who would oppose BAU. Obama does not seem to be that candidate. Maybe he will win and I will be pleasantly surprised, but I'm not holding out much hope.

I don't see Robert's piece that way at all ("an anti-Democratic Party" piece). If anything it is a critique of the misinformed steps all are proposing--even if in this piece he takes on the Dems a little more than the Rs. And he even says that his next post will take on the other sides' propositions.

Our energy future should be beyond partisanship. However, until we change our institutions or the issues get bad enough, energy policy will continue to be made by partisans.

The best we can do is inform them and their constituents about the facts, the logic, and the options. (You know, kind of like what the ethanol industry did, except for the betterment of society instead of the betterment of those involved in political boondoggles.)

That being said, in my estimation, US energy politics is creating new divides inside both parties, just as it has shifted and will continue to shift in world politics: between the haves and the have nots.

As Boone Pickens' recent comments show (he's 95% in agreement with Al Gore), it's not a left versus right question--it's a question of whether you realize that we can't have an infinite rate of increase in our consumption of a finite fossil fuel resource base.

Perhaps we need two new parties--the FFF Party (Finite Fossil Fuel Party) and the NIFF Party (Nearly Infinite Fossil Fuel Party).

I don't see Robert's piece that way at all ("an anti-Democratic Party" piece). If anything it is a critique of the misinformed steps all are proposing-

The piece illustrates well what I mean when I point out that whatever solutions come from the Powers That Be only make matters worse. The US really could use a second party - one that was able to see over the edges of the box. Both parties are dedicated to MORE. Maybe slightly different ways of getting MORE, but that's not important, because every version of MORE makes matters worse. The only thing we need a whole lot more of is LESS.

Misinformed because people are too frightened to look at real information and to think it through.

cfm in Gray, ME

This is obviously an anti-democratic party piece. Too bad we can't get past partisan politics, and work together for a real change in energy policy.

First off, as others have pointed out, you are wrong. Second, I don't play partisan politics. I am pretty much disgusted by large parts of the energy policies from both parties. What I tend to find is that people of each party take the criticism personally. I have had Republicans accuse me of being a liberal, and Democrats accuse me of being a conservative. What I think that means is that I am pretty balanced.

However, while I find myself in support of much of the Democratic party platform, I do find many of their energy proposals to be dyslexic in nature. This was but an example.

Fact is both sides have good and bad ideas. Let's become party blind and work together.

That can't happen until the sides realize which ideas are bad. So far, they don't seem to.

I have had Republicans accuse me of being a liberal, and Democrats accuse me of being a conservative. What I think that means is that I am pretty balanced.

Amen. The politics are changing--and energy politics will continue to be an increasingly important frame in political discourse. Will that result in a political realignment--and when will that occur? Tough to say until a stimulus/tipping point occurs.

The psychology of consumption is changing...to what and how much, I am not sure.

I gauge it by the number of emails coming in to the email box the same way. The number of "you're a bunch of commies" emails is almost even with the number of "you're just a bunch of industry shills." I figure that's about right.

I take it on faith that you're also getting plenty of 'Thank God for TOD!' type messages. Nyet?

I'm continually heartened to hear that comment so regularly when callers phone in on C-span.


and, ahem.. Thank whomever in Himmel for TOD!

Let's get real. The "sides" aren't Democrat and Republican-- that is just a distraction. The people with real money fund both of those so-called sides so they will fight each other with energy supplied (at a profit) by whoever it is that has the money, and avert our eyes from the real problems -- fair distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and future generations, for example.

I don't think it is possible to have a rational discourse the way the world is currently set up. Certainly not in Congress.

"I prefer the puppet on the left to the puppet on the right." Bill Hicks

A agree that this must transcend political parties. I am still waiting to hear either candidate get off the fence on PO and acknowledge that 500 lb gorilla in our midst. So far neither has done so. First one to get real also gets my vote!

I don't think this piece is anti-Democratic Party. It doesn't say anything about the Republicans' similar focus upon short term price reduction for political purposes. If anything it might be anti-ideological proposals for energy pollicies.
I was flabergasted watching Pelosi making her statement on the SPR. All proposals to lower prices are simply self-serving political opportunism and I think McCain has been amply vilified in these pages for similar suggestions. It is right to attack all the politicos who seem to have the same goal of "just let us make it to November". The one advantage you have in the USA is at least your politicins are talkj ng about it, even if they don't make sense. Here in Canada all of the politicians and most of the media seem to have the same chant: "There is no problem for us."
Best hopes that if we don't look there will be no monster under the bed.

Well put, RR.

Somehow we need to burst the bubble of unreality that passes for "political reality."

This means grassroots work in order to help change the perceptions, attitudes, and behavior of "We the people." If we are actually citizens, we can be an effective wind that blows politicians in the right directions.

Engaging essays such as the one you've just written can help to educate and inspire people while at the same time directly addressing politicians to get out of that bubble of unreality.

This kind of essay can help to change the content of public discourse in a very positive way.

I look forward to the next one.

Since "horizons" seem to be in the news this week, we might look at the oil horizon.

When a 60+ politician makes a proposal that will keep things pretty much as they are for the next decade or so then they are thinking (perhaps subconsciously) of their own horizon. Drilling in protected US areas, using the petroleum reserve and other short-term ideas are perfect within this context.

They won't be here to see what happens after, and, if slightly younger, they won't be office either.

Those who should be pushing for bold solutions are those who will still be here in 2050. If that is you, why aren't you doing more, it's your future?

Lafayette, we are here! (ooops, wrong timeframe and wrong country ;-)

But Generation X is (the Nomad generation) indeed coming into the public arena with a cool skepticism and quiet behind-the-scenes work, and I've been pretty blunt in telling my Boomer-age cousins that if they're not going to help me, they need to step aside so my generation can triage what we have for the Millenials. As for my younger Millenial family and friends, oh, they need no persuading of what we are grappling with.

I'm basing some of this on the historical theory of The Fourth Turning, by Strauss and Howe.

As far as what I've done, well, helped a bit in building the larger Puget Sound sustainability communities. The graphic may give a better sense of scale :-)

What have you done in your neck of the woods?

The generational archetypes corresponding to the turnings are as follows:

An "artist" generation is born during a crisis, and comes of age during a high.
A "prophet" generation is born during a high, and comes of age during an awakening.
A "nomad" generation is born during an awakening, and comes of age during an unraveling.
A "hero" generation is born during an unraveling, and comes of age during a crisis.

The last crisis was the Great Depression and World War II. The GI Generation were the heros that fought in it; the Silent Generation (artist) was born. The last high was the late '40s, '50s, and early 60's; the Silent came of age and the Baby Boomers (prophet) were born. The last awakening was the '60s and 70's; the Boomers came of age and Generation X (the 13th Generation, nomad) was born. We're now at the tail end of an unraveling; 13ers are coming of age, and the Millennial Generation (hero) has mostly been born. This means we're due for a crisis to start, any time now.

Yeah, what he said: any time now.

(Hey, Sharon Astyk, hello! More estrogen in the peak oil world: I just got in touch with Crunchy Chicken here in Seattle.)

Beautifully said.

The Greatest Generation was the Greatest Generation because it used the Greatest Amount of our Resources.

That does not make them Great. Instead it makes Them the Ones who dug the Hole.

The Rueful and Always Seemingly Screwed Generation X (who might or might not pay your Social Security)

The Rueful and Always Seemingly Screwed Generation X (who might or might not pay your Social Security)

After reading The Automatic Earth, I'd guess it'll be a piece of cake. You'll be paying my SS with Zim$. It might be enough to buy a postage stamp to write my Gen-X congressman. :)

we get it, the dems have their heads up their a$$e$ and we await the post showing the gop has its head up its a$$. (or maybe they, the gop, have their head up someone elses' a$$)


Just teasing, friend. I agree with your sentiments. Placing "blame" could have a benefit if it were used as a guideline on how to address the problem correctly today. I was with Jimmy C when he proposed serious efforts to curb our oil appetite. Unfortunately he and I were in the great minority (and I'm in the oil biz, btw). IMHO, the only significant chance of reducing our gluttony was to have forced the mpg standards higher. But since that time both parties have had control of both the executive and legislative branches and neither did it. Breaking it down to specifics of who didn’t do what when seems a waste of time at this point.

As someone pointed out current politics have boiled down to knee jerk horizons: what can I do to further my current political career? Call me a pessimist but it’s difficult to see anything good coming out of this atmosphere other than by sheer dumb luck. In a way, we (on this site and others) are collectively our own worst enemy. We all add our bits and pieces to the discussion but then the different powers that be select the flavor of the day that benefits their short term goals. I sincerely wish that someone could propose an approach and messenger that can change the current political course but I’m obviously not very optimistic

I think this "addiction" meme originated or at least was popularized as yet another of a bazillion silly Bushisms. And I don't know whether it's his fault or not, because it simply seems to manifest the goofy linguistic streak that obviously runs in his family. Regardless of the blame, it feeds straight into the Apocalyptophile (i.e. those who recite the Apocalypticon Catechism) mentality. How does that help and why would any sane person wish to make common cause with it?

If we actually follow this "addiction" meme to its logical conclusion, we seem to be left with little choice but to infer that any human activity whatsoever beyond mere bestial survival constitutes an "addiction" that must be "treated" and "cured" and extirpated by superior beings who know best what's good for us. Once we start down that road, we will find nothing there to tell us how far is enough.

The continued use of GWB's goofy linguistic gloss as a medical meme seems to owe entirely to the fact that customary social rules necessarily permit interventions for medical purposes that in any other context would instantly and correctly be construed as gross violations of human rights or even crimes against humanity. As John Greer says here:

Well over a dozen times in the last six months, I’ve found myself in conversations with people who believe that the imminent crash of industrial society will inevitably lead to the birth of the sort of society they themselves most want to live in.

He's right about that, and too many people seem to be capable of justifying any means, no matter how brutal, to that private, selfish end of theirs. And I would add that nearly all of them will deeply regret it should they ever find themselves actually living in the world they pretend is ideal.

Be that as it may, by using the "addiction" meme to shift the frame from politics to medicine, they seek to license brutality and shut down all criticism. It behooves decent civilized human beings to avoid joining them in that, and to avoid even licensing themselves to join them.

Ditto. See my "addiction" comment above.

It may be that the peak oil situation is so unique, so huge & awful, that ALL our metaphors fail.

I would add: apocalyptic terminology also does a similar disservice... but that's a different subject.

One has to wonder how much time and energy the planners and executors of the Marshall Plan spent trying to figure out which historic event was the correct model for their own proposed behavior. They were lucky in the sense that the immediacy of the problem was obvious and forced them to action.

PaulS - I'm having a hard time finding the logic in your post.

1) How does the origin of the argument (use of the "meme" linguistic ploy as a means of denigrating the argument noted) make a connection between the metaphor and your "apocalypse"?

2)With regard to that apocalypse and your effort to connect it with measures of "sanity;" this is your view only, do not confuse it with a fact. It could just as well be you that is not same for thinking that you can continue without some sort of "end of suburbia." The reality is we don't know. But your attempt to carve out some superior rationality based on some knowledge that will only be proven in the future is disingenuous.

3)On following the logic to its conclusion, you attempt not reason, but undertake belittling without backing.

4) On addition as a medical metaphor - interesting that I never saw Robert attempt to invoke a medical tack on the addiction metaphor. Indeed, I see this more a result of your attempt to twist the argument to your own ends. There are many competing discourses about addiction, the medical is only one.

5) The John Greer quote is nothing but a misdirection. (And in and of itself shows a pretty dramatic lack of understanding of both the totalizing power of the current system and the lack of power experienced by most people within that system).

6) Your accusation that the real goal is "seek to license brutality and shut down all criticism." is dishonest, and I think you knew that when you wrote it. Or perhaps, you really think that we aren't already being brutalized by the world you want to defend? And perhaps you don't see your own efforts to belittle as an attempt to shut down criticism?

I have no problem with honest disagreements. But your blatant partisanship in the ill-formed guise of reasoned logic does not advance the discussion one bit.

On following the logic to its conclusion, you attempt not reason, but undertake belittling without backing.

You tell me how you would avoid following the logic to its conclusion.

If you choose to assert that driving a Hummer, to pick something extreme, is a sign of an "addiction" that must be stamped out, then where does the stamping-out stop? Who decides, how do they decide, and how is the decision to be enforced? After all, the "addiction" is unlikely to cease by magic.

So does the "cure" stop at driving a Prius? Or a motorbike? Or a pushbike? Or driving nothing at all, just being imprisoned within walking distance? Ditto for living in suburbs, and ditto for all the other things that would-be social reformers advocate ending for their own private aesthetic satisfaction.

Indeed, is there any energy consumption that is not to be labeled an "addiction"? If there is, it is not identified or even hinted at in the keypost, nor in much of the commentary. So do we stamp out all energy consumption until we're all naked and subsisting on grubs or something? Who knows, maybe basal metabolism is part of the "addiction". Give them an inch, and they'll take a mile: so where does the "cure" stop?

And if said "cure" doesn't stop almost before it starts, then how better to rationalize force and brutality than to use a medical term such as "addiction" - which as a medical term puts a medical spin on it irrespective of any silly protestation to the contrary. After all, that's how the former Soviet Union suppressed dissent as well. Just label your political opponents as "ill", then use the implied social consent associated with medical enterprise to forcibly round them up for "treatment".

Indeed, is there any energy consumption that is not to be labeled an "addiction"?

All energy is not oil. I would trade in an addiction to oil for an addiction to solar power. One is clearly unsustainable. One has the potential to be sustainable. That's why the oil 'addiction' is such an issue.

my objection to addiction is how it communicates to those just getting aware of peak oil & it's implications; i think it is confusing & creates a kind of blaming - a person already feeling victimized.

addiction does communicated the serious aspects.

Above someone said it is our economic/social fabric that is 'addicted'. i think this is more accurate for the addiction term, & is educating/informing too.

we[our systems] are addicted to 'cheap' oil; if u gotta use a sound bite.

Of all the points where I question your logic, you choose this one to defend?

Answer: Reductio ad absurdum

[QUOTE] Ditto for living in suburbs, and ditto for all the other things that would-be social reformers advocate ending for their own private aesthetic satisfaction.

Bears repeating. I'm not saying I support "living in suburbs" etc., in fact constantly mourn local loss of beautiful farmlands to (lessifull) subdividions. However, the theme of this site is far too heavily biased toward a specific agenda of social engineering, using an imanent shortage of petroleum as the catalyst for achieving their ends.

And, no, I vote liberal whenever I can find a liberal candidate worth supporting, otherwise don't vote.

PaulS: So does the "cure" stop at driving a Prius? Or a motorbike? Or a pushbike? Or driving nothing at all, just being imprisoned within walking distance? Ditto for living in suburbs, and ditto for all the other things that would-be social reformers advocate ending for their own private aesthetic satisfaction.

Your line of argument unraveled (for me) when you considered walking distance a form of imprisonment. Why have you ruled out electric trains powered by sustainable sources (hydro, solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, etc.) and also in the short term, nuclear? Why is a person not free to walk to the train station, cross the country and then get on a sail boat and travel the world?

If you perceive the problem to be primarily at an individual level then you are mistaken. It is society, primarily first world and western society, that has a problem. The stark choice is very simple - managed or unmanaged collapse. Individual impositions, for example, not being allowed to drive a Hummer, will occur either way. How is the adjustment to be delivered?

The stark choice is very simple - managed or unmanaged collapse. Individual impositions, for example, not being allowed to drive a Hummer, will occur either way. How is the adjustment to be delivered?

Well, if I get any say in the matter, definitely no "adjustmet" will be "delivered" by that sector of society which enjoys social engineering as a hobby, eg. temperance movement, prohibitionists, rabid anti-anything-ists-for-your-own-good(y-goodies). Take your interest and shove it.

I'll support a democratically imposed tax to whatever level necessary to make fossil fuels in general, esp. imported petroleum and N Gas, more costly to use than its alternatives. Period. Otherwise, keep your lifestyle opinions to yourself, and your noses out of other's business.

lengould: keep your lifestyle opinions to yourself

Thank you for expressing your support for freedom of speech.

lengould: and your noses out of other's business

Profligate use of oil, fossil fuels in general and Global Climate Change are very much my business.

Best hopes for truth in karma.

Profligate use of oil, fossil fuels in general and Global Climate Change are very much my business.

No more yours than anyone else's, unless you're saying you make your living from it, which in many cases i've seen wouldn't surprise me. Just don't become another dishonest MADD-type outfit, who are pushing bans on alcohol well past any statistical evidence of reductions in traffic accidents, apparently based on an undisclosed neo-temperance agenda. References available.

MADD is a victim of its own success. MADD succeeded in what it set out to do and then, instead of declaring success and getting out, in an attempt to maintain its relevance redefined its goals. MADD isn't quite a neo-temperance organization yet, but it will get there. If they succeed in getting BAC down to .08 everywhere they will need to set a new goal and the only end to that is 0.

It is difficult for any organization to admit that they have become irrelevant.

Maybe I misunderstood the article... is there some revolutionary invective I missed?

I believe that the point is that we have passed a milestone - Peak Oil. And, our politicians are dropping the ball. We cannot be certain all of the effects this will have on us, but we can be sure it will be a real downer. We need to make changes, and we need to think them through. Also... we do not have a whole lot of time for this.

If we do nothing, we may well find ourselves with insufficient oil and gas to produce the means to our survival (as a society or civilization). Saying that the suburbs may become irrational does not negate the fact that people may well prefer to live there, and continue to purchase homes there. There is even some logic to a new suburban paradigm, based on back yard food, rooftop solar power, and telecommuting. Or not? We will see.

As I understand it, the dangers come more from inability to sustain agricultural production sufficient to feed all the folks now living on Planet Earth. I have not heard of electric plows cultivating farmland... at least not yet. Perhaps we will see that... and perhaps we will be able to keep up the production level without fertilizers. Again, we will see. There is a danger, however, that we cannot feed everyone. Hungry people become desperate - already we have seen food riots in the third world. Imagine that on a global scale!

Plus, in terms of absolute numbers of people, there may well be a problem with transporting food (or cheap junk from China?), either to the USA, or if grown here to the local Safeway 0r WalMart. Again, these are just a few of the problems that lack of fuel may impact.

Please notice, none of this speaks to climate change... we may have other problems related to warming if the gloomier forecasts materialize, such as transporting and housing millions of refugees. In any case, none of this provides a means to lower oil prices, higher oil production, or unlimited availability of natural gas and other fossil fuels. That will not happen on Planet Earth.

Add to all of the above problems the global shortage of Uranium ore, and the absolute need for natural energy production from solar, wind, geo-thermal, hydro, and tidal processes becomes clear. That, and the need for our own "Manhattan Project" for fusion power!

I guess the first step is go join with T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore and start the ball moving toward an energy policy that makes sense. Take care of a short term fix, then look to the big picture. Doing nothing, though, is an addiction that we must end.

I have not heard of electric plows cultivating farmland... at least not yet. Perhaps we will see that...

But, as with every problem we are trying to solve, we should have started down this path decades ago... We are behind the 8 ball now.


Father, Doomer, Farmer, Engineer, Drummer

I agree with this post. I think some day we're going to look back and realize that a lot of the important changes were made at the State, and Local level. Things like this:


An article about the L.A. County Commission meeting this week to consider Bluefire's request to turn their solid waste into ethanol. Othere Counties/cities/districts in California have implemented anaerobic digestion, and fuel cells to turn wastewater into electricity. Rialto, Ca comes to mind.

You have articulate analogies; however, I would tend to agree with souperman2 in that the addiction analogy breaks down when we talk in terms of oil. Also, while I certainly agree that higher prices do influence consumption patterns, I'm not sure that finding more oil shouldn't be a part of the solution in the short-term (although not from the SPR), since our transition to new sources of energy will not happen overnight.

I'm not sure that finding more oil shouldn't be a part of the solution in the short-term

Agree, and this will be covered in the next essay. Back to the addiction analogy, you don't stop a heroin addict cold turkey. You withdraw him, else he suffers severe withdrawal symptoms.


I’ll stick with the addiction analogy for one more bit. I’ve seen the problem approached in a successful though rather cold blooded approach. About 15 years ago the Swiss came up with a solution to the problems caused by drug addiction in their country. Not only did they make it legal but also subsidized it. All an addict had to do was register and he could get as many hits per day as he wanted for about $5 at a gov’t clinic. This essentially eliminated all the crime associated with drug addiction: no thefts to support habits, no drug dealers (except the gov’t), etc. It did, of course, accelerate the destruction of the future of many addicts who had little incentive to get clean and start living a full life. I don’t mean to knock the Swiss but if you really understand their culture they are very proud of their ultra pragmatic approach to life. The only negative to their approach was shortening of the lives of the addicts which, in the view of much of the population, was a win-win.

Now, take that solution and apply it to US policies of the past as well as the Chinese et al current policies of providing subsidies to fuel users. For instance, one could point to our relatively low fuel taxes as a form of subsidy (at least compared to the rest of the world). Would opening up the SPR be much different? (Except the Swiss were assured of a constant supply of dope). I’m sure others here have similar examples pop to mind.

With one major major exception: heroin, cocaine drug habits were probably in less than 1% of the Swiss population.

What is the percentage of Americans that drive?

(I'm assuming -in your analogy- that heroin overdose is equivalent to no gas at the gas station)

It did, of course, accelerate the destruction of the future of many addicts

There is no evidence for this. In fact, there is evidence for the opposite.

I actually quite liked this piece, and didn't take it as partisan, but rather as part of a "few people really get this" analysis - which is exactly right.

Now both Republicans and Democrats have mostly failed to get the idea that the larger society needs to change, and do so rapidly and radically.

But what does exist, and is relevant to both democrats and republicans, mostly in their concerns about being elected, but possibly also somewhere deep in their hearts (if such a comment is really relevant) is the idea that we might ask "Is the current way we're getting people to use less the best and fairest and wisest way to do it?"

That is, yes, we are seeing drops in consumption of energy, and that is good - I don't think you'll find a lot of people here who will argue about this, although I'm sure the pols can see the writing on the wall for the economy,

But this discussion leaves out the fact that we might legitimately ask whether it is possible to further discourage consumption while not hurting some people quite so badly. Think about it - for example, this winter is likely to be extremely difficult in the northern half of the US - but that difficulty is like to be expressed differently, depending on your economic status. Upper middle class people and even middle class people who, say, use increasingly expensive heating oil and natural gas are likely to maybe turn the heat down a degree or two, and cut back in other areas - those other areas are probably oil dependent to a degree, but the effect won't be as great as, say, using less heating oil. On the other hand, the very poor who use oil are likely to be priced entirely out of the heating oil market - which means that they'll use less oil, of course, but probably more coal as they use electric space heaters, which isn't so great for emissions, and since they already kept the house cooler, the net total change in behavior won't be as great. Oh, and some of them may freeze to death because they can't afford to heat the house at all, which some people think is bad.

I agree with you that the idea of opening up the SPR is wrong and crazy - and that the ultimate goal is to get the reductions going on. What may not be so crazy about the Dems plans is this idea that we could soften the blows quite a bit - for example, the current heating bill if it passes, will contain lots and lots of emergency fuel assistance - and comparatively little weatherization subsidies, almost all in the form of tax breaks, which most poor people don't qualify for. But we haven't thought it through that far yet.

My own feeling is that we will shortly come to formal rationing, as a better system both for reducing usage and also for ensuring political stability, than rationing by price. When I mention this, people always say that there is too much popular opposition to rationing, but that's a very quick thing to change. When there's abundant cheap everything, rationing sounds like a plan to make sure everyone gets less. When almost everyone is already getting less, rationing sounds like a way to make sure that everyone gets a fair share - and that association with fairness is a huge selling point. I think some of the false and stupid waverings of both dems and republicans are actually getting us gradually on the road to a rationing system, which is probably a good thing in the longer term.

I've written on this here, just in case anyone is interested:http://sharonastyk.com/2007/06/15/could-rationing-be-made-palatable/


The price system is less bureaucratic and more efficient than direct proportional rationing. The price system itself does not produce unfair distributions of resources; The price system combined with huge inequalities in purchasing power produces unfair distributions. If incomes were largely equalized then the price system could be allowed to operate relatively freely without causing undue suffering. I realize, of course that the 'communistic', egalitarian idea of income equalization has zero chance of garnering any real support in the near to intermediate term, and maybe not even in the long term. I am not certain why so many middleclass and upper middleclass people are horrified by the idea that someone who pounds nails or picks fruit for a living should be able to have the same standard of living as they do. Possible this horror is due to an sense that resources really are scarse so that the wealth of one half of the population is vitally dependent on the relative poverty of the other half. Or perhaps this horror is just due to love of hierarchy and a sense that life would not be worth living if one could not feel supperior to janitors, carpenter's assistants, fruit pickers, etc.

My feeling is that rationing is not a good structural solution to the problem of fairly distributing economic output in a post-growth world. Nevertheless, we will problably adopt it because nobody will be willing to give up wealth (You would be crazy to do so in an 'every nuclear family for itself' social milieu), but some kind of concessions to the poor will have to be made to prevent political chaos. Competition to accumulate wealth for security and status is not going to work well in a post-growth world, and tacking rationing on to such a system is a bandaid which will not fix the underlying problems. If a relatively egalitarian distribution of purchasing power is psychological unacceptable, then the only other possiblity for a stable social system that I can see is a relatively rigid hierarchical system in which positions of privilege are finite and strictly controlled. I suspect that to make such a hierarchial system work some sytem of religious myths will be required to justify why the occupants of various levels of the hierarchy deserve to be in the position that have attained.

If incomes were largely equalized then the price system could be allowed to operate relatively freely without causing undue suffering.

Exactly, Roger. All analysis should start from that statement.

I wonder how long it will be until the proponents of neo-liberal Reganomics trickel-down free-the-markets-and-everyone-for-themselves economic philosophy discover they've been had (by the rich folk now moved to their villas in Switzerland)?

My feeling is that rationing is not a good structural solution to the problem of fairly distributing economic output in a post-growth world.

Don't assume that because we get rationing it will be fair. Bear in mind that rationing can work unfairly. Those with more power are going to get bigger slices of the pie. After all, they're worth it.

The world is going to be like a game of musical chairs. More players coming in all the time. Fewer chairs all the time. And those with the most power making sure they have chairs set aside.

Fairness isn't going to happen by itself. Nor is it going to happen in the current economic paradigm. It will inevitably come to great violence.

cfm in Gray, ME

Roger, I agree with you completely - but I think there are a couple of reasons why an income equity system is both less likely, and probably less effective than a good rationing system. And yes, you are entirely right that rationing is not in itself necessarily fair - it can be done badly or well. My point was mostly that barriers to rationing have often dropped very quickly because rationing systems were perceived as more equitable than unrationed systems.

I would love, love, love to see income equity established, but not only is it not politically likely, it isn't clear to me that doing so wouldn't still require some kind of absolute rationing system to achieve maximum reductions. The problem would be this - you can either raise wages dramatically for the poor (not very likely, but technically possible), lower them dramatically for the rich (not at all likely to succeed), or tax the crap out of higher incomes - for example, Roosevelt had a plan to tax all incomes over 20K (to give you a sense of things, Douglas McArthur made less than 9k - there weren't all that many of them) at the 100% rate. I'd delightedly see all annual incomes over 1 million taxed at that rate, plus a big old public posting (on the order of old style wanted pictures) of "Americans" who fled the country because they couldn't get along on 999K and went somewhere else to tax shelter their money. I think that would actually be extremely effective - but what do you think the chances are?

But the sheer unlikelihood of this makes it, I think much more feasible to think about rationing strategies - because raising incomes, the most (if very unlikely) politically possible strategy simply enables more consumption in the short term, then higher prices, then more suffering again. Rationing means that you only have to get a little fairer, not deeply fairer. So even though I strongly prefer your strategy, I still think Rationing is probably the best politically possible system - because I think in very short order, perhaps a matter of months, it will be politically feasible, whereas everyone who imagines that what we are experiencing is a short term political downturn and still believes that someday they are going to be a millionaire would oppose the latter - and the transition to accepting that most people aren't ever going to get rich, is, I think too hard for many people.



I agree that rationing will be feasible and necessary in the short to intermediate term, and the so-called 'intermediate term' may stretch out for a long time. However, if approximate income equity were established (a gigantic 'if' I grant you) then I do not think that absolute rationing would be required. If we had so little fuel that we could not keep everyone alive then of course we would be screwed no matter what actions we took. But if we have some amount of discretionary energy income then shortages would result in a general contraction of the economy and approximate income equity would spread the pain with approximate equality. It is hard to conceive of this kind of effect because it is so hard to conceive of income equity. You can find plenty of people who think that the minimum wage ought to be raised and that high incomes ought to taxed at a much higher rate, but the percentage of people who truly believe in egalité and fraternité is miniscule. Personally I don't like the idea of high marginal tax rates as a means of achieving income equity. Letting people earn a lot of money and then taking it away from them is never going to be a popular system. In order for income equity to become a reality we would have to create a cultural environment in which earning your daily bread is about earning your daily bread, and the idea of earning ten, twenty, or thirty times more than your neighbor is simply alien to our conception of how economic production works. If exceptionally productive people want to make full use of their talents then they will have to make a gift of their excess productivity to the community. Exceptionally productive people should be honored in some way, and I would not even object if such honor sometimes took the form of one time gifts of material wealth. But the constant striving to earn the right to consume as much economic output possible has to come to an end if we are going to create a stable, sustainable economic system in a finite world.

I'd like to know more about the SPR. Is it real? -- that is, do they really put in oil and take it back out, or is it more like the Social Security Trust Fund where there is an agreement to put money in, but no real money?

Second, how much of the oil that is put in (assuming that it is) gets back out, and how much is lost in leaking, cost of transport, degradation by some means, etc.?

I think the SPR is real. Oil is stored in underground Salt caverns. The salt is dissolved out and it leaves enormous voids to stash the oil in.

The government is somewhat secretive about locations and amounts in each location (for obvious reasons)

The one thing I didnt see (perhaps because most TOD readers already know this much?) is that the seemingly vast SPR is worth only about 1 month of oil supply to the US. If we somehow lose our imports, and are forced to rely only on our domestic production and the SPR we'd be all done in well under 2 months. I suppose thats not really the "emergency" that its intended for, but still in the grand scheme of things its not that big of a stash.

Most financial advisors will tell you to have a cash savings account with between 3 and 6 months of your salary in it, for emergencies and rainy days. Our emergency SPR falls well short of that, and we know we have a "rainy day" coming. Not just a rainy day but a storm, a storm that will last for ever. The absurdity of tapping the SPR now just because of price boggles my mind.

I am interested in your next piece on ANWR and OCS drilling. I tend to view those domestic sources as a secondary SPR - something to be protected for now. But we know it could take 10 years or more to develop any meaningful production.

I wonder if its realistic to allow development of those sources with the contingency that some large proportion of the oil produced goes into the SPR (find new salt caverns?)

Questions for those in the know.
When we stash oil in the salt caverns, does it affect the quality of the oil? Are we storing the oil with any kind of system? Do we put 1000 barrels in, and take a 1000 barrels out to keep the stored oil fresh? FIFO (first in first out?)

Actually indy the last numbers I saw we had 700+ million bo in the SPR. I think we're importing around 13 million bopd so it's close to 2 months but it's difficult to imagine loosing all the imports as our largest supplier is Canada and thanks to NAFTA have certain supply requirements. The salt cavern locations are no secret: drive by them and there are big sign saying SPR. The salt is pretty inert so the oil doesn't degrade. The biggest cause of degradation is air and bacteria so, besides economics, that's why the store it underground.

It's also fairly understood that the bulk of the oil in the SPR is reserved for the Dept of Defense. They may produce a small amount from time to time to run into the domestic market but that's why they call it the "Stratigic"PR: it's to guarantee our military (the single largest consumer of oil products in the world) can continue to function in an emergency.

I think we're importing around 13 million bopd so it's close to 2 months but it's difficult to imagine loosing all the imports

Wikipedia says the maximum withdraw rate is 4.4mbd so the SPR could only compensate for about 1/3 of US imports. I think there are further difficulties with the locations of the reserves. They are all in PADDIII and there would be constraints moving oil from the Gulf Coast to other parts of the US.


You (and the rest of us) own a lot more oil than what's in the SPR:

It is physical sitting in salt caverns along the Gulf Coast. But there can be some concern regarding leakage although I've seen no reports of such problems. There is a transport fee put that’s paid by the buyers. But given the proximity of most of the refineries it's minimal. When SPR oil was produced in the past it was done on a swap basis: the refiners didn't pay cash but were required to repay the oil in an equal volume return...I think the time frame was within one year. I'm not sure how many refiners would jump on that deal now? They would probably have to buy futures contracts to cover their liabilities should oil be selling for a lot more than when the withdrew their share.

Forget the SPR for a moment and think about the 93,000,000+ bb/ of oil your gov't will sell this year back to you... Right now your gov't is selling 7,800,000 bbl per month of oil back to you for the going rate in the market right now. Yes...it may be hard for you to believe given the complaining Congress about the oil companies raising their prices while the US gov’t charged you $4.4 billion for your own oil in 2007. And that's when they sold the oil for $42/bbl. This year they may be selling you your oil for $7 or $8 billion. If they want to have an immediate impact on prices all that have to do is give the oil to the refiners with the stipulation that the refiners can only sell product with a fixed markup representing the processing cost and their profit margin. I guarantee you the refiners would jump at that chance...it would eliminate the risk factors for them.

For those who don't know where this oil is coming from it's the royalty oil from the federal leases which are owned by all of us. It's roughly 1/6 of the gross production. In 2007 the gross production was over 584,000,000 bbls from federal leases. This oil is titled to the federal gov't and is sold into the market place by the gov’t just like ExxonMobil does. And back to the SPR, for a moment: a lot of the oil pumped into the SPR was royalty oil as the gov't also has the right to take it in-kind.

So…how does it feel now to know that your gov’t sold you your oil last month for $130+ per bbl (plus grade adjustments)? The US gov’t is one of the biggest oil sellers in the US and thus one of the biggest price gougers in the land. Surprise!

Over 700 million barrels (709 ?) of crude oil are in storage at 4 salt domes (two in LA, two in TX and one under development in MS). One is close to the old road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Two types of oil are stored, light sweet (60%) and medium sour (40%). Several dozens types of oil were dumped together and mixed for these two generic types.

I suspect some modest gravity separation over the years (light fractions drift to the top) but otherwise stable.

In addition, a small heating oil reserve is held in the Northeast in above ground tanks. A bit less than 1% of the total.

Best Hopes for Planning Ahead,


I am in complete agreement that we should not touch the SPR. I can't believe that this is even a consideration. Is this a crisis? Have any of these people actually bothered looking around to see what the rest of the Western world pays for a gallon of gasoline?

If hardship is the issue then there are certainly better ways of mediating them than draining our emergency reserves. Fuel prices are one thing - it will be difficult to determine if gasoline is actually a necessity for an individual or not (more on that in a minute). Heating oil is another story. I'm sure that there are ways to differentiate and provide relief to people who are having troubles obtaining heating oil. How about subsidizing those folks by creating a larger gas tax like the rest of the world does? I understand there would be considerable overhead in managing that sort of system, but if you need relief (gas or oil) it needs to be proven. Not too dissimilar to food stamps, unemployment or other government aid. I'd be happy to jack it up to $10 a gallon to subsidize those who couldn't afford it.

As for determining need, I sincerely doubt that all those ginormous SUVs I saw driving around this weekend were out on essential trips that just couldn't be done without. In my tiny little Civic HX with high fuel efficiency, I sat at stoplights surrounded by behemoths out joy-riding. I felt like the girl with the B cup surrounded by a bunch of enhanced DDDs. I'm sure they are more fun to ride, but should they be subsidized? Don't think so ;)

Have any of these people actually bothered looking around to see what the rest of the Western world pays for a gallon of gasoline?

"jeez Crunchy those other people is furners!"

I felt like the girl with the B cup surrounded by a bunch of enhanced DDDs. I'm sure they are more fun to ride, but should they be subsidized? Don't think so ;)

I think that is the germ of a great idea...this EPA estimated mileage stuff is boring and only interesting to engineers...a mileage cup size, that would hold more interest, at least for the XY crowd.

ok, we wont call it an addiction if that makes you uncomfortable, because that would not be very polite.

it walks like a FREEKIN duck, and so as to not offend, we will just call it "DAFFY".

and quoting stuart of snl " i'm smart enough, i'm good enough, and doggone it people like me"

denial is another symptom of addiction.

I agree with the addiction analogy, but oil isn't the problem, it's a symptom. If you read any literature on addiction that has shown positive results (like the AA Big Book) addiction is described as the "disease of self". Alcohol is part of the symptom for the alcoholic and abstinence is only a part of recovery. Any of the other addictions and "isms" may have different substances or actions (and consequences), but they all boil down to one problem: self-centeredness or egocentrism which is really a lack of spiritual growth. Pick any addiction (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, work, food, sex, gambling, stock investing, posting essays on the Internet, etc.) and the center of the problem is ego, inflated self-importance and the confusion of hedonistic behavior with the "Pursuit of Happiness". They all are recoverable diseases by adopting a Higher Power and spiritual principles.

In the developed world this ego is manifested as unbridled capitalism, misguided patriotism and a misplaced sense of importance. Developing a spiritual (not religious) manner of living is the only recovery method from addiction and any attempted "solutions" that are motivated by purely by profit are going to go down the same diseased path as fossil fuels, with the same results.

If humans today would collectively be humbled with a less individualistic value system with more emphasis on spiritual well being we would still be 7 billion humans in overshoot. We would still need to move around and eat. The underlying problem of overshoot is not currently addressed by spirituality. There is no 11th commandment that states that thou shalt not breed beyond the carrying capacity of your environment. We have no spiritual traditions or memes that embedded cultural controls or tabus against overshoot from past cultures that over populated and exceeded their reszource base. They collapsed and were dead end cultural lineages. Like the Mayans. We haven't had a culture that went into overshoot and then made a transition over to sustainability where then memes were embedded. Our current dilemna is an exestential opportunity.

To draw Robert's analogy a little further, the reason the
Democrats and Republicans are giving poor solutions to the friend's nicotine addiction is that their livelihood depends on the nicotine addict continuing to like them. Measures to prevent him from using nicotine would be unpleasant for him, and might make him dislike the people imposing them on him, so he wouldn't vote for them anymore.

Which also explains why Senator Schumer never learns that his suggestions to use the SPR to reduce prices are a bad idea. He doesn't care whether it's a good idea or a bad idea. All he cares about is that his constituents think it's a good idea so they'll continue to vote for him.

Analogy is the weakest form of argument. For it to have any validity at all, the things being compared must be very much alike.

The similarity between oil use and drug addiction is very weak, to put it mildly, as some of the above posts point out.

It is the same old comparing apples and oranges logic trap that so many posts on TOD like to use. Saying two things are alike when they are different proves nothing. It is fallacious logic useful only as a red herring argument.

I seriously doubt that the U.S.A. is anymore "addicted" to oil than many other countries. True the U.S. uses more than others but its GDP is also proportionately higher and we are the third most populous country in the world behind China and India who also subsidise oil consumption. Plus the U.S. population is spread out over a very large land mass. As I have pointed out many times oil is heavily subsidised. To complain about addiction when the government including the President is sponsoring it is a little bazaar.

The SPR is a de facto subsidy for oil. What would most here call it if there were a Strategic Ethanol Reserve of hundreds of millions of barrels. Most would be bitching about the huge ethanol subsidy.

What if farmers received a soil depletion allowance as the oil companies do for oil depletion? Again it would be called a subsidy. What if farmers could lease land from the government to grow corn and make the payments in kind thereby shifting pricing risk to the government? It is clearly an oil subsidy.

What if we attacked Brazil to guarantee land to grow sugar cane to produce ethanol. It would clearly be called an ethanol subsidy.

Among other countries that subsidise oil are Egypt, China, Mexico, Venezuela, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran as well as many others. Is it valid to claim the the Americans are addicted to oil when so many other countries subsidise oil just as we do? I don't think so.

President Bush calling Americans oil addicts is a red herring type argument to distract from the fact that he has done nothing except support ethanol to improve our energy situation. He has failed his bully pulpit leadership role and tries to blame it on the congregation by calling them addicts. He is a true dope dealer with him being the biggest dope of all.

I seriously doubt that the U.S.A. is anymore "addicted" to oil than many other countries

Quite a few nations, almost all of the non-English speaking OECD nations for example, have non-oil transportation options. The USA does not except for a handful (or less) of large cities.

Few other nations have as large a percentage of the population who must "Drive or Starve". They are unable to put food on the table without driving.

By these reasonable metrics, the USA is addicted to oil while other nations are not, at least to anywhere the same degree.

Best Hopes for Non-Oil (and Non-Ethanol) transportation,


I didn't notice if others did, but I had to finally look the damn word up..

(From FreeDictionary)
a. Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance: a drug used in the treatment of heroin addiction.
b. An instance of this: a,a person with multiple chemical addictions.
a. The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something.
b. An instance of this: had an addiction for fast cars.

Or for a fuller attribution..


To start with, in the sixteenth century, addict was an adjective, not a noun. It came from the Latin addictus, the past participle of addicere. In this the root dicere meant ‘to say’, but it also had a sense of ‘adjudge’ or ‘allot’, so that the whole word meant ‘assigned by decree’. (Dicere is the root also of our dictate and dictionary, so that the phrase “addicted to dictionaries” might be thought an unnecessary repetition.) The English word addict to start with had the sense of being obligated or formally bound to someone else. Pretty soon, though, it took on a reflected meaning of being attached to something through one’s own inclination, or of being devoted to some practice. Examples in the OED down to 1790 refer to gluttony, lust, and “superstitious ceremonies”.

So the idea that we need to limit our understanding to 'biochemical attachments' can be tossed anyway..

"What would most here call it if there were a Strategic Ethanol Reserve of hundreds of millions of barrels."

a waste of energy ?

National Beer Blast Day?

I agree very much with this post, and I hope the article stays up for a while until everyone has digested this notion of "oil addiction".

President Bush calling Americans oil addicts is a red herring type argument to distract from the fact that he has done nothing except support ethanol to improve our energy situation. He has failed his bully pulpit leadership role and tries to blame it on the congregation by calling them addicts. He is a true dope dealer with him being the biggest dope of all.

The current administration (the Clinton admin wasn't bad at it either!) is masterful in distracting us from real issues and causing the victims to blame themselves for their misfortune.

The model is that of the abusive parent, and it works very well, because most people seem to be vulnerable to that particular form of abuse.

I guess one of the problems I have with your story is that you don't distinguish between political pandering and honest (and perhaps misguided) attempts to solve our energy problems.

The Republican proposal I believe is really just a last minute grab as the Republicans and the oil companies are expecting that Obama will be president, and it will be harder to get the leases with the Democrats in charge. But the package is sold to the voters by pandering to them - misrepresenting what it is that their proposals will do.

There are some who believe that the solution is more drilling, but those folks are getting harder to find. More and more people talk about "alternatives", but this is essentially a code for "cheap fuel that doesn't come from oil that would let us run our cars the same we we have in the past".

The Democratic proposal is really just pandering. They don't expect to enact it - I believe that there was a perceived need to say something. To tell voters that the high prices are working well to reduce demand would not go over well with lots of people. So they toss out a few of these things to give themselves political cover, but I don't really expect that any of these proposals will be seriously considered.

In terms of real policy, that won't happen until the new President is in office. Right now Bush is a lame duck, and their people are busy looking for new jobs right now.

I don't buy the addiction analogy. Most addictions have no material benefit for the individual. Rather, they are self-perpetuating behaviors that hook into the reward/pleasure center of the brain in some way (using chemicals or meaningless rewards); apart from that they are essentially meaningless and parasitic behaviors. Cheap energy, including oil and other fossil fuels, has had a fundamental and transformative effect on civilization, enabled industrial civilization, industrial agriculture, massive shifts in demographics, mobility, etc. From the vantage point of most people, this has been a good thing. Now in hindsight, some of us suspect that it would have been better had it never happened in the first place if we crash ourselves and despoil the environment in the process.


I don't really know if it's true but I read years ago that coke wasn't physically addictive. But it made one feel so good that the desire to keep feeling good kept the person hooked. I think they referred to it as being "psychologically addicted". I also recall that the only “cure” offered for such an addiction was self control…the desire would always be there. If that story was true perhaps the pleasure/gratification we gained from living an “oily” lifestyle would be analogous.

Certainly addiction is not purely chemical, but my point is that the pattern of behavior is primarily described as an addiction because it has zero or negative utility and is also self-reinforcing. I don't at all view oil in the same way, as it is materially useful for obvious reasons. I also agree that cheap oil has enabled new forms of addiction such as rampant consumerism. On the other hand, even if the U.S. was as efficient per capita as Europe, oil would still be indispensable to transportation and production, and there would be billions around the world clamoring for the lifestyle with cars and electricity.

One could make a separate case that all of industrial civilization for the last one hundred and fifty years has been on a "fossil fuel high", but that is not the same as saying that the U.S. is somehow unique in being addicted to oil.

Cocaine is mildly physically addictive, but you are correct in that the majority of the problem is psychological.

I remember the old Chevy slogan "Mom Apple pie and Chevrolet" I think most people will give up Mom and Apple Pie before they will give up their Chevrolet.

I remember the Chevy slogan as "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet." Mom got left out.


I think Robert's addiction analogy is spot on.

Our culture's oil addiction is more like an alcoholic's dilemma than a heroin or nicotine thing. Alcoholics start out drinking for the same nice reasons as non-alcoholics; but the propensity to addiction eventually results in lack of control and dreadful [if unintended] consequences upon oneself and upon others. Unfortunately, our culture has the propensity for an addiction and now we are definitely hooked on oil, which is damaging both ourselves and the planet. And like an alcoholic, yes we can die[-off] if we are forced to quit 'cold turkey'.

I especially like what Rob Hopkins has to say in the Transition Townes book about recovering gradually from our addiction to everything oily.

It's rather disturbing that individuals can become "addicted" to their ideas, metahphors and analogies, to the extent that they are willing and prepared to defend them way beyond what's reasonable. I suppose it's an ego thing?

Metaphors are usful tools that often help us to understand complexity, but often they do the opposite. Reductio ad absurdum applies here in spades.

I think this addiction metaphor or analogy is unhelpful for many reasons. It obscures rather than illuminates. It misdirects our attention. It is almost frivolous and trivializes a massively complex set of problems. It's also politically rather reactionary. It implies that there are "users" and "pushers" and frames the debate in the context of "criminality". It's a gross over-simplification of the nature of our society. Accepting and using such a primative metaphor is, unhelpful. The addiction metaphor also has a tendancy to "individualize" the behaviour pattern we are looking at, and seems to imply that we, as a society, have a "choice" about kicking our habit, if only we had the willpower - if only it was that easy! Just say No!

All this moralizing and condemnation of "addicts" and their drugs is also an oversimplification of a yet another massively complex subject. Considering the impact that various drugs have had on the artistic and intellectual development of society for thousands of years, the assumption that everything connected with them is absolutely negative, is yet another over-simplification.

So one has a not particularly sophisticated understanding of one sphere of human behaviour - "addiction to drugs", which one then uses as a crude metahphor to "explain" a massively complex subject - society's consumption of energy, specifically oil; it's hard to think of more ridiculous analogy, simply riddled with pitfalls and contradictions designed to obscure. Of course this is the problem with all bad metaphors.

You are write Writerman (criminal pun there, sorry)

Thank you.

watch those criminal ways, souperman, or you'll be heading to the pun-itentiary.

Must be anger stage.

Seriously, if you know anything intelligent at all about addictions as a health issue, then you would know that 'politics', 'criminality', 'just say no', 'moralizing', 'condemnation', and 'willpower' have nothing to do with the addictions metaphor being employed here.

Health metaphors are very useful for getting beyond the current blame game mentality so we can finally start humanely addressing the problem. From a health perspective, the addiction metaphor is particularly apt.

It's rather disturbing that individuals can become "addicted" to their ideas, metahphors and analogies, to the extent that they are willing and prepared to defend them way beyond what's reasonable. I suppose it's an ego thing?

Now that's what I call good irony!

{"addiction" is} a crude metahphor to "explain" a massively complex subject - society's consumption of energy, specifically oil

Exactly. Almost nothing about any addiction I know of is susceptible to any external technical issues, almost entirely internal to an individual and largely psychological. The addiction metaphore is attractive almost exclusively to those individuals who've pre-identified society's solution to the pending petroleum shortages as "simplify, conserve, revert to pre-industrial society". It is irrelevant to those, including myself, who believe the solution is "reduce non-productive uses of energy, and for the remaining helpful uses, identify and implement sustainable alternative energy sources".

The two viewpoints are dramatically opposed.

BTW: Addiction metaphore further fails if one considers whether they would treat someone addicted to ethanol, an alcoholic, simply by identifying and supplying them with unlimited sources of a product which has all the same effects which attract the addict to alcohol, but is much more easily available and can be produced sustainably with little or no environmental degradation. Obviously not, so addiction is a faulty analogy.

Almost nothing about any addiction I know of is susceptible to any external technical issues

It is dependent upon maintaining supplies, which are dependent upon all kinds of technical issues.

The SPR, ANWR, OCS and any other fossil fuel source are non-solutions to the long term problem. As far as addressing the impact on families( I wonder whose family they are thinking of when that word is used?) expansion of social programs like food stamps would make it possible for them to afford their fuel. Long term solutions lie in conservation measures like retrofitting or replacing the old housing stock, EVs, and development of BTL, nukes, wind, and solar.
We need to also accept the fact that the Cheap Energy Age is over. The higher price of energy from now into the foreseeable future is the most inconvenient truth that politicians of every stripe are trying not to acknowledge.

Robert (and clearly others here) appear to believe that the purpose of elected representatives is to solve real problems for those they represent. While you may call me cynical, I tell you three times:

A politician's purpose in office is to get re-elected.
A politician's purpose in office is to get re-elected.
A politician's purpose in office is to get re-elected.

Until people actually understand this and accept this, they will continue to wonder why politicians can say very logical things on the one hand and then propose inane and stupid policies on the other. (Note that this behavior affects Republicans and Democrats alike - say something inspiring then do something really stupid.)

And usually, if you assess the really stupid proposals you will find this common theme - the stupid proposal is likely to win votes for the politician making the proposal because it is a giveaway to some block of voters, particularly those likely to vote for or against the politician making the proposal. Boxer's proposal fits this criteria also.

I do not expect my analysis to be accepted. Indeed, others have made the same analysis accurately before me and been rejected as well but this is the dirty truth of how democracies operate. Until one actually understands that and begins from that basis, no useful policy changes can or will be produced. To effect change within a democracy, one must promise support (and quantifiable results via votes) to the politician proposing the change.

Just because I am lazy--and need to go a meeting--I will paste in this book review I had bookmarked in my Congress folder--and David Mayhew, noted Congress scholar, makes exactly the same point. Your point is a fundamental of political science, and why I am so chagrined, even as a political scientist. http://web.syr.edu/~avcork/CorkPaper1

Review of "Congress: The Electoral Connection" by David Mayhew

Ashley Cork
PSC 129
January 29, 2004

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, reelection rates for congressmen started to grow. At this time, a trend started of increasingly more elected individuals making a career out of Congress. Today, reelection rates still stand very high. "Congress: The Electoral Connection" is an in depth article by David Mayhew that delves into a major issue in American politics: reelection. Mayhew goes more in depth by focusing solely on one branch of the American government. If one were to look closely at the title, he could tell exactly what the focus of this article is all about. Quite obviously, the branch of government with the primary focus is the United States Congress. The words 'the electoral connection' are trying link voting to members of congress. While Mayhew does acknowledge that creating policy and being influential people are two major concerns of congressmen, he still claims "reelection underlies everything else" (16). Mayhew says there are four important reasons to analyze Congressional motives in terms of solely reelection:

  1. It fits political reality rather well.
  2. It puts the spotlight directly on men, rather than on parties.
  3. He believes politics is best studied as a struggle among men to gain and maintain power and the consequences of that struggle.
  4. The reelection quest establishes as accountability relationship with an electorate. (6)

After comparing the organization of the United States Congress, to that of Britain and more influential party systems, Mayhew goes on to describe what resources are needed to reelect a congressman over and over again. Also, he describes the methods congressmen take to ensure their own reelection. Finally, Mayhew lets his readers know how this effects policy.

My largest criticism of the book is the way in which Mayhew deals with parties when looking at reelection. Understanding parties is critical to reelection because it represents the general feel of the voters. If one is a Republican living in a predominantly Democratic area, they are going to have to take on some Democratic views if they plan on getting into, and staying in office. Mayhew is rather hypocritical at this point because he claimed at the beginning of the book that one of the four reasons to look at reelection is it "puts the spotlight directly on men rather than on parties" (6). After making this claim he dedicates a very large portion of the book towards looking at political parties and their influence.

Mayhew says Americans have a tendency to focus on individuals and look beyond party affiliation when exploring candidates. He claims the American party system is not nearly as strong when compared with those of other countries. In some countries the people vote solely according to parties. Also, a party may advertise all of their candidates together and try to "sell" them as a package. In America however, he says politicians are able to rise up beyond the parties and can become popular individuals. People vote across party lines and parties can choose to help their candidates, but it is the individual we vote for. However, Mayhew is failing to recognize the full effect of American political parties. While the party system may be less influential in comparison to other countries it still has a lot of control. I agree with Mayhew that Americans have a tendency to focus on the individual. Later in the article though, he discusses how focusing on the individual could actually be beneficial to a party. For example, if America has a Republican president then the Democrats may find it in their best interest to harm the country because they know everyone will blame it on the President, and hence, the Republicans. Mayhew is able to give many of these examples in which he can demonstrate party members wielding power to a large degree. This tends to contradict the claims he made earlier about them not having much influence.

Along these same lines Mayhew goes on to describe the most important resources one needs to become reelected in Congress. The first and most important resource is money. Money is vital to fund a successful reelection campaign. Second and third are organizational expertise and the ability to make persuasive endorsements. All of these important resources can be found largely through party affiliation, especially money. Besides failing to acknowledge the importance of political parties in these resources, Mayhew also fails to acknowledge one very important resource: perseverance and determination. Running a successful campaign means getting oneself out there and performing reelection activities in an effort to inform the public. (41-43)

Methods taken by congressmen to assist with their reelection are advertising, credit claiming, and position taking. Mayhew says members of Congress "spend a great deal of time, energy and money, trying to make themselves better known" (50). Some regularly appear on radio or television shows. One is known for randomly showing up to wedding anniversaries and other events. Whatever they can do to make themselves known helps a congressman get reelected.

Credit claiming is extremely important to the reelection of a person in Congress. Instead of giving credit to the party, branch, or government, the individual takes credit for himself. Because this member of congress is closer to the people than other members of government; he is able to do this. An individual may do this by taking credit for money given to the community, or a road that was recently paved over. Or he may do this by taking credit for "casework"- favors congressional offices perform that normally do not require legislative action. (53-56)

Finally, congressmen take positions on certain controversial issues in order to win over the votes of people. An example of position taking would be a congressman taking a stance on war. "The congressman as position taker is a speaker rather than a doer. The electoral requirement is not that he make pleasing things happen but that he make pleasing judgmental statements" (62).

Mayhew's description of policy-making logically follows the arguments he has set forth so far. The most important aspect of reelection is accountability. The representative is expected to do what is in the best interest of the constituents, hoping this leads the people to vote for him. Therefore, when making policy he tries to argue for the best interest of his voters. For example, a representative from New York would not fare well in his state if he voted to relax the rules of pollution on manufacturing companies. This is because the prominence of factories in the midwest leads to a high concentration of acid rain in New England. However, a congressman from Michigan probably would like for those rules to be relaxed.

Overall, I found Mayhew's argument to be excellent. He takes this very broad topic of Congressional motives and makes a claim that they are based almost solely on reelection. He is able to show ways in which they do this, and the resources that allow them to focus their attention on this. He provided a lot of evidence to prove their methods of advertising, credit claiming, and position taking. This book was very well-written and is easy to follow. I found throughout the text i actually agree with Mayhew. I think many congressmen are interested in creating good policy and attaining a level of leadership and prestige. However, their largest focus of their job is to get reelected, and make a career out of being in Congress.

Lawrence Dodd of the University of Texas, Austin seems to agree with me. He writes that Mayhew's text is very logical and well-argued. However, he points out that if congressmen were solely interested in reelection then they would not be able to be "bought off" into joining committees that could jeopardize their reelection by committing them to controversial and time-consuming work. Dodd attempts to make peace with this contrast by considering the idea that Congressmen are generally motivated by the drive for power. With this argument, he claims, all of Mayhew's observations are significant, and it accounts for members of Congress who do things that may jeopardize reelection.

While Dodd makes a strong case, there are ways being on a committee could help a congressman. If one finds himself on a committee that would be of large interest to people in his constituency, he could actually win voters over. These committees could actually be a good platform for position taking. Hence, Dodd did not convince me Mayhew's argument cannot stand on its own. While I think he should take a closer look at some of the arguments a little closer, as a whole they were all well fought. After providing ample proof of the strong desire by congressmen to get reelected, Mayhew showed how they achieved this and the effects on the policy-making. While he seemed to downplay any other motives too much, I am still convinced the primary goal of congressmen is simply to get reelected. Lawrence Dodd's Review.

I do agree with the review, that reelection is not the sole purpose of a politician. But I also agree with Mayhew that reelection is the foremost purpose of a politician.

One thing to consider with regards to committees is that even politicians know that gain (more power and thus enhanced reelectability) cannot come without risk. A committee is actually far safer in this regard as blame can be spread around, and if deftly managed, even sidestepped by some committee members. Every congressperson I've ever known has treated committees as opportunities, particularly as opportunities to enhance their own reelection from the folks back home.

Unfortunately, most "solutions" to peak oil are not very palatable politically, especially in the United States. When viewed in this light, it becomes obvious why Senator Boxer says one thing then calls for oil to be released from the SPR.

Boxer has been told, by people who supposedly know what they're talking about and move in the same circles as she does, that the supply of oil will increase for at least the next 20-30 years. KSA says it, IEA says it, EIA says it, etc. So why not use the SPR to benefit the peons? You can always replace it when oil is cheaper.

I think RR does not recognize that if there is any addiction in the U.S. power structure, it's not to oil but to very large piles of money.

I have a friend who says his political philosophy is entirely based on "vote out the incumbent" on the basis that a new representative in the capital will take their first year in office just to find their office, it will then take the lobbyists another year to find the representative's office, leaving them only two more years to steal from us until we again kick them out.

You do know that representatives only serve 2 year terms, right?

Assuming everyone abided by your friends voting pattern (and that your friend is right about the timelines) then you have basically moved all decision making away from the elected officials down a rung to the hired bureaucracy. This happens because the only way for the elected official to become informed about the issues is to rely on the bureaucracy. The less time the official has in office the more he must rely on the opinions of others outside of his staff. This is also the problem with term limits.

This, from MoveOn.org:

"In Gore's words:

'We're borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that's got to change.'"

My reply:

We need to stop buying junk... it is made from plastic (mostly) and transported using oil; the electrical energy at the plant comes from coal. I know it is perhaps Quixotic to urge Americans to stop their consumerism, but that is one place that we are addicted (in addition to our stupid love affair with the automobile). And, it is one place we can stop.

Ride the bus or train. Walk or ride a bike to the store.

And, just say, "No" to Chinese (imported) products.

What to call it: As the price of oil goes up, there will be many arguments about what to call the pain. And a lot of people are going to die from it, whatever you call it. Take the old 90 year old neighbor lady in and help her. She may remember how to survive on very little and save your life.

Politics: I have more or less signed on to "Don't re-elect anyone." Even if you have to hold your nose to vote for a stupido, don't vote for the incumbant.

To a more important subject: Why don't the aquarian people just use a PV panel, battery and a small DC motor to circulate the water around their fishes, plants, and other wonderful aquaculture tanks?

Reno gas price at a few stations less than $4/gal (down 8 cents this last week).

Via con Dios


Politics is going to play a major role in P.O. like
it or not.
Not DEMS and REPS but on a geo-political scale that
cant be emagined, I dont care how doomerish you think
you are.
Everyone agrees that no single magic bullet will
suffice and that all options must be employed/exploited
soon......like 30 years ago wouldnt have been soon enough.

Trouble is apparent that a few governments are very
prepared and some are kinda prepared and most
(Think USA) arent prepared at all.

Certain people who live in certain locations will by
some quirk of fate fare better then others.
The same happen stance that put all that oil under
all those other peoples sands.
Those who believe they control every minutae of their
lives will bristle at this fact but the fact remains.

Even some of those who were "aware" can be casulties
as they made wrong choices or even having made good
choices....fate wasnt for them.

The most unarguable aspects are that BIG changes are
accuring and more are comming soon. (5-10 years)
Everyone is invited to the party as this is truely
non discrimintory as regards age, race, religion,
education, gender ect ect ect

Robert, you said,
"I think there is a compromise that may satisfy both sides."

I am willing to bet against that. So much of the energy discussion is now about philosophy and aesthetics, not about statistical or scientific facts.

Everyone is beginning to realize that what we do in the U.S. is but a sliver of the world situaton anyway, and thus will have no measurable effect on peak oil.

This is why the way in which T. Boone Pickens is promoting the issue, as a national wealth and security issue, is correct.

No one in the U.S. is going to conserve to see to it that the Chinee have cheaper fuel. No one. But they may be willing to make the changes needed if it is presented as the only way to prevent national bankruptcy, as indeed it is.


I think the analogy to drug addiction is a misguided line of thinking. Addiction involves a large number of physiological effects and changes to body chemistry. Treatment of addiction is largely an art, with little scientific method and a lot of appeals to faith.

On the other hand, oil is the lowest cost feedstock for supplying many things of great value. Why people prefer oil to wood for powering ships, heating homes, or as feedstock to a plastics plant is easy to explain without an analogy to addiction. In all uses of oil there is at least one alternative way of accomplishing the same end by using some other feedstock. But, except for coal in electric power plants, all other feedstock are more expensive than oil. In most cases the alternative to oil is vastly more expensive. In many cases the alternative is mind bogglingly more expensive.

Saying we are addicted to oil doesn't help us to understand the reality. Its original use by Bush was intended to obfuscate. In this discussion, it has resulted in a lot of mental wheel spinning.

Arguing on a tangential point of whether the analogy fits the situation
because one has no understanding of the concept of addiction [see above posts]
or because you assume our wasteful oil-based consumerism is a necessity [it isn't]
or because one presumes the analogy was originally provided by Bush [it wasn't]
is the wheel spinning part that prevents understanding.

The point is that whether you think it is a good analogy or not, the stuff is going to become so expensive /unavailable that the RESULT will look exactly like severe life-threatening withdrawal symptoms for the modern world, up to and including violent theft [war] in order to protect nation-state supplies of it.

And the SOLUTION is to wean the world off the stuff in a gradual, controlled manner before it is forced to go cold turkey into severe withdrawal. Meaning LESS CONSUMERISM now, not sci-fi oil substitutes to prop up unsustainable future levels of consumerist waste.

But we are slowly weaning off the use of oil as fuel for transport. Look at what happened after the Arab Oil Embargo. Oil used to be burned for power generation. After, it wasn't.

The market will determine if a service or product is economically viable. It will also determine if a product or service will remain viable. Oil is slowly pricing itself out of the market. No need for misguided socialism by government. It doesn't work anyway. The biggest failure to date, the USSR.

The only reason why hybrids and plug-in hybrids and electric cars are now getting such a big focus, is that it's cheaper to "burn" electrons then gasoline or diesel. It's just a matter of some very motivated people making that option possible because they will make money at it. A lot of money.

The addiction metaphor is a good try but no cigar.

The best thing to do, is do nothing. Don't ration it, since the increasing cost of it will force people to self-ration. Don't force new options as people will be doing that anyway.

I think there is a place for government in smoothing the transition to non-fossil energy. I think it would be useful if government offered realistic estimates of future supplies and prices. There are still a lot of people who believe current oil price is bound to go down soon. These people should be told it will not happen, and helped, and prodded, along the path to the real future. Simply letting the market devour the hindmost is uncivilized.

Hi Robert,

Good article, and thanks for the time and “energy” to get it to print for us.

My question is a bit off the addiction trajectory, but here it is anyway:

The U.S. produces some 5 million barrels of oil per day, thereabouts. Does that oil actually stay in country or being a fungible commodity is it just part of the world’s available supply?

Does U.S. produced oil, some of it from collective taxpayer lands, get sold at market value [130 $/b.] or do we cut ourselves a break and sell it to our refiners at, say, 30 dollars a barrel?

Jim O


Here's a repost that answers part of your question:

Oil produced on federal lands cannot be exported out of the US w/o gov't permission. That has been rarely granted (Alaskan crude) and then it was done more as a swap then a sale to save transportation costs. All oil from federal leases is priced as per the market conditions. The gov't would receive 1/6 of the oil as either a cash payment or they could take it in kind. The oil is actually titled to the US gov't and is sold by them with the operators acting as proxy. Much of the SPR has been filled with in-kind oil. In 2007 the feds received over $6 billion (avg. $42/bbl) in royalties from production on gov't lands. With the current prices that number should exceed $10 billion this year. The gov't is free to sell their millions of bbl of royalty oil at any price they want. So far your gov't has been satisfied to sell your oil (7.8 million bbl per month) to you for the same price ExxonMobil does.

That bit of news might upset off a few folks...if anyone in the MSM would bother to tell them. The US ogv't is one of the biggest oil sellers in the US. And they're selling the American people their own oil back to them at the same price as the exporting companies.

Thanks, Rockman. Was curious to know how that worked.

Obviously everyone needs to use less. But for the last twenty five years or so we have become so enthralled to Free Market Fundamentalism, that price rationing is the only mechanism we can conceive of to do this. This is absolute bullshit. In a civilized world there would be a better way.

I think Robert is correct in pointing out that your politicians somehow want BAU to continue - whether addiction is the right choice for that is another matter. Their addiction is to BAU.

The problem is that the BAU has been built almost on the assumption that cheap crude is going to be around forever. Now that that assumption seems to be false, and its implications are huge for BAU your politicians refuse to acknowledge that reality and are clutching at straws. That is what I (a non-native English speaker) can understand from RR's little article.

Compared to UK/Germany/Japan, the US uses twice as much crude for every $ of GDP. It thus has the potential to cut 2.5-3GB of crude oil usage each year. Rather than looking for opportunities to reduce usage, your Reds/Blues want to drill their way out of this situation.


I need drugs, I need stimulation
I want to burn with power, motivation
I like fuel
and the smell of sulphur
and I just don't care - if you suffer
I am Lust
I am lubrication, and your life is just - masturbation
I need death, to keep my motors roaring
And I'll feed you lies
coz you like a good whoring

I Like Fuel

Apropos of RR's post, check this out:

America's need for oil like an 'addiction,' expert says

Jack Henningfield, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University who has extensively studied addictions, said there are parallels.

"Oil addiction is not an addiction in the medical sense, like a drug addiction or a tobacco addiction," Henningfield said. "But it is an addiction in the sense that powerful behaviors are involved. They're difficult to change, [and] it can be agonizing for people to change."

Henningfield said when it comes to substance addiction, the brain rewires itself to depend on the chemical.

Similarly, in the case of oil, Henningfield noted, "Our nation has been rewired. Our national infrastructure has been wired by cheap plentiful oil."