TOD Inbox: From Investment Resource to 'Eco-nitwits' in Under a Year

Each day the editors box at gets about 100-150 emails. A few are spam. Many are form letters relating to energy. Many are from readers linking to energy news, etc. Others are from friends/staff. There are a number of 'complaint' emails too, usually 'why don't you write more on the environment?' or 'why haven't you done a post yet on my new energy technology?' etc. Given recent market and world events, I thought I'd go offtopic on a Saturday evening and share with you an email we received today. Plus it's cathartic...;-)

(Vladimir Kush - Breach)

From: (a reader in Vancouver BC)
Date: October 18, 2008 1:00:27 PM MDT
Subject: content chnages

Hello. i am/was a frequent reader of your weblog for a while now, as last year i found it a valuable investment tool to find research that was under the radar. as this yaer has gone by however, the shift to a hairbrained 'ecocentric' left wingnut content has caused me to totally avoid your site. what i'm trying to tell you is this. the ENTIRE FKN WESTERN WORLD is full of left wing hairbrained 'ecofarming' nutcases with a non-factual axe to grind. Why is it that a decent site, with as close to useful facts as possible, has to degenerate into a fkn 'eco-farming' blog, that has NOTHING to do with the intricacies of oil production? talk about mission creep!
obviously a lot of it comes from the posters who have thier own agenda, but its your job to filter out the fkn ECO-FARMER loincloth crew and get back to what the blog was about.
if its not truly about that, then change your name to the 'HairBrained PepperHaired Eco-nitwitz ' blog and we(intellegent types) can get it off our bookmark list.
thanks for the site, it was GREAT.

your truly,
a liberatarian capitalist.

I'd like to briefly highlight the bigger issues raised in this email. (Believe me we get worse). First of all, let me clarify something- the content on this site is not choreographed - we have a team of great regular writers who put essays in the queue at random intervals - sometimes we have a full cupboard - other times we have crumbs....Also, when things are especially hectic in financial markets, we usually save the better (read: more effort put into) posts for days when people can actually access them mentally. As the economy deteriorates, people naturally are going to be more emotional - stress/unease is transferable due to mirror neurons, herd-behaviour and the psychology of crowds. Civil discourse among thoughtful, intelligent, well meaning folk can then more easily become hijacked by 'believers' of all stripes. (It's kind of funny that if we organized the totality of complaints we get in the inbox, they would mostly cancel eachother out (e.g. 'we are beholden to right wing oil interests' cancels out 'we are beholden to left wing econutz', etc.)

This is not a capitalist site. Nor is it a socialist, a communist, a fascist, or a green site. It is definitely not an investment site, though I expect it is often used as such, as we collectively were years ahead of the wall st analysts on crude supply plateau, declining net energy, and systemic risk (well, one year ahead on that one). However, I am sure we have capitalists, communists, socialists, fascists, and tarot card readers among our readership. I am almost completely certain we have at least one, if not several hairbrained pepperhaired eco-nitwits reading too. Theoildrum is a place for people to come to provide viewpoints presented with logic and evidence, that bear on our current energy predicament, now made worse by the global deleveraging of financial assets. From our Mission Statement:

The goals of The Oil Drum are as follows:

1. Raise awareness of energy issues

Most people are not aware of the problems we face or they underestimate their potential impact. Politicians and the traditional media have overlooked the problem, out of ignorance or due to a conflict of interest. We seek to fill the information gap, disseminating underreported facts and analysis.

2. Host a civil discussion

This website is a space where energy issues can be debated in a civil manner. Through the encouragement of evidence-based reasoning and logical arguments, we aim to host discussions with a depth and breadth absent from the traditional media or current political discourse.

3. Conduct original research in a transparent manner

We believe that the issues such as the timing and impacts of our supply and demand problems and the feasibility of alternatives to oil can be explored empirically, in an open and honest manner. Our site draws on the fast pace of the internet and the time-tested traditions of peer review in search of the truth, whatever it may be.

4. Create a global community working toward a common goal

Our society can only address a problem of this magnitude through cooperation. We seek to leverage the open nature of the internet to create a global forum for the discussion of energy problems and solutions. Your participation is welcome—if not necessary—for the improvement of our energy future.

(Source: Sitemeter); NB, October 2008 data is only for half of the month, obviously.

The above graph shows (apparently) a steady flow of hairbrained econitwitz reading the analyses our contributors put forth. I'm certain we could have significantly higher traffic if we wrote exclusively about energy investments and how to profit from peak oil (basically be short). But what good would this do in the long run? Just a paper wealth transfer from some, to others, and the transferees would probably spend it on something of higher energy footprint than the transferers. We have always hoped to have a greater impact than that. (Though I admit to periodic regrets of closing down my hedge fund to work in this area - I could have made a fortune....;-)

Regarding investment/intelligent types, one of the smarter investment analysts I get research from (unrelated to this site) had this to say on Friday:

People asking about gold weakness - in the medium term I think its a mix of higher inventories of physical like many other commodities we have heard about as shippers cant even get LOC's to move the commodities from sellers to buyers and the system is still in logjam, as well as funds unwinding long positions.

Longer term I also think gold will underperform, this is where I get a lot of slack from people -- first of all gold futures are still in some serious contango (I will revisit this later), gold is overowned, physical prices for delivery of coins and bars are 20-40% above spot prices on the screens and take days. People are playing gold for two reasons - inflation and the end of fiat/Armageddon trade. If you are long for end of fiat/Armageddon then you should be long in physical b/c you wont get paid being long GLD or gold futures when there is no one left to pay you, and I promise you that if fiat ends that will be the end of all contract law as well and civil society is pretty much over too.

So the other reason is inflation - well here is where one of my favorite macro trades lies - what I call inflation/deflation trade.
Short 30yr treasuries and short gold. If you believe in inflation over the next few years as the driver, then 30yr yields are at new all time lows recently, the govt is going to be issuing enormous amounts of long term paper and your downside to being short 30s is theoretically somewhat limited given where yields are. If we are in inflation then gold arguably is already pricing this in with its contangoed curve, interest rates likely will go to the moon and at 4% there is room to double digits easily.

On the other hand if we (as I believe) are in deflation due to the collapsing of lenders and forced mergers of banks which is destroying the money multiplier globally then gold will go to $200 if not lower and the long end is poised to go much lower and being short 30s will be painful but has some limit to where they can go on a yield basis.

The point of me posting this is not the investment advice (though I actually agree with it), is that, rightly or wrongly, there IS the possibility of the fiat/armageddon scenario being priced into conventional financial markets. The people making these bets likely don't understand or appreciate ecology, systems analysis, or net depletion in relation to financial capital, but they connect the dots very quickly when it comes to money. Financial armageddon would mean the breakdown of our interconnected networks. Without those networks, we would revert to local sources of energy and food, eco-farmers (with or without loincloths) might just be your best friends. Renewable energy is an ecosystem service. Perhaps our inbox correspondent should become more familiar with the local natural capital in and near Vancouver. Just in case.

Bigger picture, NOW is the last critical chance to educate and generate discussion on regional and national scales on changing how we view energy. We are in the midst of what your investment crowd would term a 'higher low', in the long term uptrend of crude oil. The events causing crudes price drop, are simultaneously making the long term energy situation worse. Leanan has been providing links all week to the scale backs in capital spending among oil producers, cutbacks in production are expected at OPEC, projects will be scrapped, marginal, low EROI oil producing companies that need financing will likely go out of business, all the while ongoing net depletion of existing wells continues in the aggregate range of 4.5% per year. (Several on TOD staff are working on analyses on what all this may mean for world oil production.) The credit crisis and 'investments' are first and foremost on everyones mind. But without energy surplus in a usable form coupled with healthy planetary ecosystems there can be no growth. Withouth growth (or in the near term the perception of it), there can be no repayment of debt, and withougt debt there is no financial system as we know it.

As an editor, the reason I was compelled to post this publicly, is that I fear Gresham's Law may end up applying equally well to people as it does to money. I sincerely hope that petty arguments, distractions, disparate viewpoints etc, do not take our contributors (and experts among our readership) limited time away from educating the public on the future of energy, which last I checked, remains intricately involved with our natural environment. Indeed, if/when faced with starving/freezing, or denuding the landscape, all signs point that we will choose the latter. Leaders in Italy are already making a similar choice this weekend, and the ethanol and tar sands scaling are evidence of trading natural capital not accounted for in the market for profit.


We are going to keep this site going as long as possible, as education and open (to a point) community discussion are some of the only tools we have to steer the aircraft carrier that is called modern society in a less precarious direction. We will probably never know the impact this site has had or will have on the global energy transition. Perhaps none. Perhaps we are changing things locally at the margin in lots of locales. Perhaps lots of people are starting to think in terms of ecological limits and natural capital as our real wealth, and making local civic changes. I don't know the future - the variables are too many. But I do know that the internet is fast, and not only is the 'good' information about whats happening to our planet in real time found online, but the people reading it may be better able to visualize the bigger picture.

I am hopeful that we are making a positive difference. But I could just be an eco-nitwit.

< / Rant off>

Some general points in response to the irate emailer;

1) the business-as-usual community failed to see some major events coming. I'd bet every real world development has been accurately predicted somewhere in TOD albeit with high noise-to-signal

2) quite a few TOD posters have a diversified knowledge base eg software/engineering/law/energy yet they still entertain dirty hippie ideas

3) the fact a core group is somewhat doomerish may reflect the wisdom of the crowds rather than groupthink.

The irate emailer should start his/her own peak oil blog and moderate out 'wrong' ideas.

For a long time my tag line was ,"Todd: A Realist." In my case, it doesn't have a thing to do with crowds or group think. Rather, I consider my negative views of the future to be rational and well considered.

I believe most TOD posters evaluate information from a variety of sources of which TOD is only one.

My response to the email would be, "If you don't like TOD, there are thousands of other forums that may be more to your liking."


and that's pretty much what was said. :)

To add some to what Todd stated.

I was raised on a farm. Bridged several cultural states(wood,kerosene,coal,n.gas,elec, energy sources) and very different lifestyles.

I migrated to the field of electronics and finally programming..programming mainly in the area Tele-Communications..which was just methods of using computers and earlier mechical-electrical devices to communicate first by businesses(railroard,stockmkt) and then by the masses.

I worked and lived in the very early forms of communications via computers. Many companies established networks far before the Internet came into being. I also was a Amateur Radio Operator since even before computers. Wrote code.yada.yada..etc.

So that being stated...I have long long followed forums and even created them.

I have discovered that the most important and successful one that I have ever become a member of or used the most is and was TOD.

I feel that reading TOD places me way way in the forefront of what might and perhaps will occur. Gives me a great advantage over my peers out here in the vast,ignorant?,rednecky FLYOVER.

I reside in a county that relies totally on farming as industry/livelhood. I see all the industrial ag activities and participate in most of them ,hands on. And I also commment on them here.

We are at the very edge of something very large lumbering our way and its seems to be gaining on us.

If we(collectively) cannot and do not become prepared then life as we know it may well cease to exist over time.

I read Cormac McCarty's book ...The Road some time ago.

I understand a movie based on it is due to be released perhaps next month(Nov). I suggest many read this excellent apocalyptic novel and see the movie.
It will likely galvanize many into action or terror. That is precisely what we need. To become afraid...become very afraid.

Thanks for the medium you have created. Long may it live but I suspect it will die early if chaos comes.

Airdale--the Key Post on Org/Indag was spot on. I am now becoming more familiar with 'compost tea' and expect to order one{brewer) for next year..if their is a next year(God willing)!(and yes I am a nitwitz as many here at home can attest but many naysayers are suddenly starting to get worried.)

People are terrified. There is good reason, we are in completely uncharted waters, financially, ecologically and politically.

I hear the 'living in a cave' line all the time, usually a lobbyist making excuses or looking for a bailout. It's denial ... and kind of funny.

I suspect the financial crisis is the first in a line of crises. We will default or Cantarell will poop out ... some war will start ... I suspect people will get by. We Americans are civilized, crises tend to pull people together. The conveniences will go, but there will be other things to replace them. Once the vested interests wash away, there is the routine of daily life that connects new threads to replace those that are broken.

What is most interesting is the exercise of trying to figure a way out of this mess. Recognizing that problems exists goes a long way toward crafting solutions. Along the way fo solutions, there will be errors. Fortunately, almost all the errors are survivable, even if seeing them made is aggravating.

Another thing is the diversity of ideas is valuable all by itself. Even if the 'living in a cave' cliche is overdone, it represents as useable idea that has a lot of currency. Even a self-absorbed commodities trader can come up with a brainstorm. If he's motivated by his appearance in a loin cloth, more power to him!

You do not qualify as an "econitwit" until you've bought yourself a scythe. Scythes will be essential to cut grass/hay to make compost, which in turn will help grow your food. No more ride-on mowers, Elmer.

I have the model pictured above from scythe supply. Recommend it highly.

Yup, I have several. Good people at Scythe Supply too. Recommended. Not just for hornweed in the ditch or cutting under the electric fences, but for general meadow grass or in the orchard. In my experience, these scythes are just as quick as lawnmowers (say about 1/2 acre all broken up with plantings) and far faster than a mower when you get into the ditches and puckerbrush. Might be the right tool for Congress too, cut them all off at the ankles.

cfm in Gray, ME

If you're accumulating scythes, remember to get 1/6 of them in the lefty model.

No. You don´t qualify as an econitwit until you have successfully sharpened a scythe. Any old fool can buy one, but it takes special skill to keep it in good working order.

got 2 community garden, desert ranch 30 miles from nearest town, several engineers, simple living, ecologists and computer geeks among other members ..

Hmmmm...looks like the 'Grim Reaper' model;-{)

Ah! So the Grim Reaper is just another "econitwit"...

Backbreaking work.

Mental-note-to-self: Cut the lawn before the peak. ;-)

Nate, I have spent the last few days at parents weekend at MIT as my daughter is a sophomore. I had an interesting discussion with the president of the Institute. To my surprise, she not only was aware of the seriousness of the current financial situation, aware of the seriousness of the current energy situation, including peak oil, but was more than willing to openly discuss both. That is until her handlers decided she needed to talk to someone other than me and dragged her away. The last comment she made (paraphrased) was that we as a country probably only have one last chance to save our economy and our country as we know it and that is to develop a new energy growth industry based on our innovation and hard work. Jobs produced locally and not given away to other countries. As you would guess, she is quite concerned.

The President of MIT? That IS encouraging...

I think the situation is thus. Two people, head to head, and there is little politics - they can tell it like it is - especially if the other person is part of their 'tribe' on that topic. Once a third person joins, tiny bits of the truth are withheld, so as to continue the discussion in the common circle that the three share. As the numbers in the group increase, the common circle of opinions, beliefs, concerns, priorities, etc. shrinks. What comes out in discussions in large groups is politics: watered down statements that pass our internal cultural editor, and sound politically correct to the group. Think of Obama and McCain, talking to tens of thousands -the circles are so small as to be sophomoric in content.

But, as I said, that is encouraging...I expect a great number of people out there 'get it', but are rarely in situations they can voice their opinions without social ridicule.

I've had two encounters with fellow MIT alumni at the Portland Maine Bioneers satellite conference this weekend. The first, with an architect (I too was course 4 and 11) - she was proposing plans to put trains UNDER Rt 95 and to turn the above ground into local new urbanism strip complete with parking meters at which one could
plug in one's EV - all powered by solar of course. What's that, off by three orders of magnitude every way you look at it?

The other encounter - more disturbing - was with a group associated with EPA's new "Environmental Finance" group. Essentially, they are planning to rebuild the entire coastline of US, assuming global warming and bigger storms. I contributed my usual pithy rant about the only Smart Growth is shrinking and "there aren't enough resources on the planet", yadda, yadda. But they are stuck in their silos and focused exclusively on water levels
and storm surge. SLOSH they called the model.

It wasn't until I was halfway home that I realized something else: the scale of that EPA undertaking implies that "our" government has given up on any effort to stop AGW, but intends to handle the results as "opportunity" aka tsunami aka New Orleans aka Disaster Capitalism. Ilargi wrapped today's AE update with What we see unfold before our eyes is not an economic crisis. It is something much bigger.. Doubleplus yes.

What is the MIT mascot? A beaver. And there's that inscription something to effect of "we will tame the world". It's not helpful to "get it" unless one contributes as well and more beavers chewing won't help. An institution like that dumping resources into resiliency thinking and community planning libraries would be powerful. [And I'll point out that a disproportionate number of systems analysts and thinkers DO come from there.] Still, follow the money; funding determines. If I recall, I cost them something like $250k and only paid maybe $20k; I too am a product of the Pentagon.

As for loincloths, sure, I'd treasure a TODO logowear branded loincloth. Think how easy it would be to identify other TODers by sight!

cfm in Gray, ME

What is the MIT mascot? A beaver. And there's that inscription something to effect of "we will tame the world". It's not helpful to "get it" unless one contributes as well and more beavers chewing won't help.

Put an ever increasing number of beavers on a stream or lake and soon all the damn dam* building materials and food source is all gone. Then the beavers can not repair their damn dams when the rains come and they have no pond and no foods so they all die off - And the denuded landscape is ravaged and gullied and ruined by the storm waters.
Welcome to the modern world of Government and Corporate leaders encouraging over breeding of our species and over consumption of our natural recourses which will shaft our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, ad naseum.

*I live on a farm with a river on one border and a small lake and creek. Beavers are NOT my friends!

*I live on a farm with a river on one border and a small lake and creek. Beavers are NOT my friends!

I suggest you make friends with the damned Beavers... ;-)

Hello Jon Kutz,

I am not a game/habitat management expert, but it seems your area needs more Keystone Predators to help keep the beavers and other animals in a rough habitat equilibrium of overall Optimality. I don't know where you live, but I suggest your area needs more wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, wolverines, etc to whittle away excess numbers of beavers, deer, etc. Especially if huge numbers of humans would now prefer to play video games versus hunting/trapping this game that is now in Overshoot quantities.

My AZ had a bad episode of killing off the keystone predators [early 1900s] which allowed the deer to Overshoot so bad that they starved to death in huge numbers. IMO, the habitat is still trying to recover/re-equilibrate from this event many decades later.

I suspect that a great many of our problems would be resolved fairly quickly if we were to reintroduce, and accept the presence of, keystone predators in human habitat.

As an employee of the EPA, let me respond to your comments about the EPA. First, EPA is actually "run" by the President, not by the Administrator of EPA. Thus, the actions of EPA reflect those of President Bush and President Bush was put into office by the American people. EPA is therefore acting on the wishes of the American people, who drive SUVs, purchase large homes etc. I think that the mood of the American people with respect to climate change is beginning to change, but it is a little late. The President's strategy with respect to climate change was first to deny it, and then when the science became overwhelming, to adapt to increasing climatic temperatures instead of addressing the issue head on. With a change in Administration, we are likely to see a different strategy with respect to climate change.

It seems that we are fast approaching (if we have not already passed it...) the tipping point where whatever action we take, we will still head towards rapidly increasing temperatures (over the next centuries, which is rapid relative to changing earth temperatures). Thus, it could be that the only real strategy we have to address climate change would be to deal with its consequences. This is sad, but perhaps true.

This from a guy who ridee his bike to work, and put in a ground-sourced heat pump for my house etc...


"President Bush was put into office by the American people."--NOT TRUE.

A number of newsworthy points can now be made regarding this issue:

1. The structural inefficiencies, oligopolistic ownership and ideological bias of the media meant the story went uncovered in the USA when it mattered - during the dodgy Florida recount in late 2000.

2. Those who say Bush won because Nader ran in 2000 are wrong. Bush won because of massive electoral fraud.

You can read all the details at the following weblinks of Palast's articles about the sordid affair:

Florida's flawed "voter-cleansing" program -'s politics story of the year:

A Blacklist Burning For Bush (The London Observer, Sunday, December 10, 2000)

"THEFT OF THE PRESIDENCY"; BBC-TV Newsnight; Thursday Feb 15, 2001; This is the transcript of Gregory Palast's appearance on BBC News' Newsnight on February 16, 2001:

I expect a great number of people out there 'get it'

The thing that I find rather strange is that they may "get it", but yet do nothing to prepare for it. Like they believe the underlying systems they depend upon to live will somehow be unaffected. A common thing seems to be to recognise the problem then attempt to game it by investing for collapse via stocks and shares or vote some politician in or some such. A kind of virtual preparation with no corresponding preparation in the real world. That by putting their faith behind some thing or someone will be sufficient to get them through.

I believe what we face is a systemic failure brought about not only by energy depletion and Climate Change, but also by the internal dynamics of the system. There is no fixing it.

I surmise that what they "get" is that there are problems and what they don't "get" is how those problems are going to take down their lives.

I "get it" at a deeper level, but still do not have a good course of action. I am not technically savvy, I am a psychologist who can teach, counsel and reason, but I feel lost as what I need to be doing to prepare given my skill set and lack of mechanical prowess. I see what comes, but have little idea of where to place my energies.

Wow. That is a perfect explaination of the anatomy and development of "group think" at the micro-scale (small group conversations) and the macro-scale results (the babble from politicians).

It's something I'm sure all of us have experienced in our discussions with friends and relatives about peak oil.

treeman wrote:

"The last comment she made (paraphrased) was that we as a country probably only have one last chance to save our economy and our country as we know it and that is to develop a new energy growth industry based on our innovation and hard work. Jobs produced locally and not given away to other countries. As you would guess, she is quite concerned."

Nate replied:

The President of MIT? That IS encouraging...

I think the situation is thus. Two people, head to head, and there is little politics - they can tell it like it is

I don't find that particularly encouraging. Nor do I see anything indicating that the president of MIT "gets it". I was not there and treeman was paraphrasing, but... "Save our economy and country" ... "energy growth industry" ... "innovation" ... "jobs" ... that sounds like the same garden variety bullshit we hear from everyone but the drillaniacs. Is the president of MIT really aware of peak oil? Did she introduce the term or did she just nod and agree when treeman mentioned it? I will repeat and amend what I wrote last month:

I make the following statement with much consideration and in all seriousness: any candidate, office holder, pundit or journalist who discusses energy and does not include "peak oil" in that discussion is either uninformed or untruthful and should not be trusted while that behavior persists.

Add big name college presidents to that list. Also, to clarify, by "discussion" I mean public discussion (broadcasts, speeches, printed material, etc.), not five minute one-on-ones over punch in the campus quad. At this point almost no one will deny that we have a "problem" related to energy. But we all know that very few people get it. I am not even sure I get it. But I just can't take seriously anyone who still uses the words economy, energy, growth, industry and innovation while describing what we should be doing to "save our country". To me that indicates not getting it. What the hell is so special about our economy and our country anyway?

Although I have been focused on peak oil the last few years, I have come to understand that it is merely one symptom of larger problems. I still haven't found the bottom of the rabbit hole, but I think Derrick Jensen is right about The Problem of Civilization. There, now I've brought it back to the subject of the post with some left wingnut, eco-nitwit, non-profit-generating fluff. Most will no doubt scoff at the 20 premises at that link, but that's only because they are insane and in denial.

Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

While I agree that what we currently call Civilization is not sustainable, the underlying premise is false. There is absolutely nothing that I can think of (maybe others can) that precludes the possibility of a society that has a high level of culture and social organization and understands by means of scientific inquiry what it takes to be sustainable and then proceeds to organize itself in a conscious willful manner in that direction. Even if there has never been such a civilization and one based on these premises never evolves, it is not a given that civilization and sustainability are mutually exclusive. I further posit that only when a society that has developed to the point of actively promoting sustainability can it truly be called civilized. What we have now is a primitive barbarian culture based on the destructive superstition of growth and shallow materialism being touted as the marks of progress. It's not exactly what I define as being civilized, not by a very long shot.

Best hopes for a real enlightened civilization.

As a reader who began coming to this site only a couple of months ago, I want to say I very much appreciate your work and I think it is important that you continue.

I have learned a lot here...and I am using some of this to try to motivate my community to prepare for peak oil and the financial disaster that is still playing out.

I enjoy the lively discussions is good that everyone does not agree. That would be really boring.

Thanks to you and the other editors.

Yo! Bluemarble, Where does your handle come from? Blue Marble is one of the timber trees I plant. Eleocarpus grandis

with the first link, i get permission denied.

give it a shot now. I had some filters in it--this will take you to the intro page, then you can go to the 12 months visits and views graph--left bar.

sorry Prof it was the second link.
'breakdown of our interconnected networks'

works for me - and that post is well worth reading The Failure of Networked Systems- we have asked the author to update it and will put on front page in primetime again.

I've just tried that link and also get the "you do not have permission" notice. :-(

That's the link to the original post.

Nate is linking to the updated (draft) post which is not yet published (and thus can't be accessed unless you are an editor - which is why Nate can see it).

from the post;
aeldric on January 6, 2008

'The financial system has an important role to play in this network. If energy, food and the environment can be considered 3 portions of the network, then our financial system can be considered to be both a form of network monitoring, and the communication medium that the network uses to pass signals around...our finance system is a network of networks, and it is glowing red. In addition to monitoring and communication, the financial system provides support for maintenance and upgrades of the energy systems, so capacity in the financial system is critical.

increasing demand past capacity will not immediately “crash” this system. Oil facilities that are working at capacity will not “crash” if demand exceeds the capacity, they will simply continue working at capacity. The crash may come, but it will come because demand heats up the financial system and crashes other systems that depend on finances. Since the oil production system is dependent on other systems, this could conceivably cause an eventual crash. Eventually lack of maintenance will degrade the capacity, but this is a process that occurs over a period of months or years.'

fascinating to read the recent post[repost of gail's too] & comments in the light of our recent financial turmoil.

interesting times...

thanks nate for u'r recent rants. they carry a quality of as u say 'what u [less filtered] think'; & are helpful & communicative.

Thanks Nate. Your e-rager was not unlike some I have had the pleasure of experiencing as an elected official. They say things in email that they would never say to your face. My technique is to reply with my personal phone number. They almost never call but when they do they are as pleasant as they could be.

Politics (not republican/democrat) but basic human interaction, is at the core of our problems. When you emailed me earlier this year and asked my help on an energy question related to your voters, I first asked 'do you want me to tell the truth or do you want to get elected?'. You asked for the truth. As trite as this sounds on the surface, I DID hold back in my response to you, softening the edges, conforming to what my brain filters suggested would be easier to accept for people not versed in thermodynamics and depletion. So even between you and I who are friends, politics plays a role- I think its largely unconcsious. (see my note above).

I really hope you win. first of all, we need energy focused people in DC. Secondly, as an n=1 sociological experiment, I wonder if you will undergo the same internal poltical filtering as I just explained once you land in the city of high politics. I wish you well in either case. Even if you weren't my friend and interested in energy, the guy you are running against is a neandertal. Says alot for the voters in Orange/LA county if you don't win. Good luck. Be yourself...;-)

I am realy happy to be living in a country where fiscal responsibility is an election winning issue and I have from a fringe of the core political system seen that it do listen to scientifical advice. Its perfectly doable to make a political career in Sweden on environmental, energy and resource issues.

A libertarian capitalist from Vancouver? Oh, that guy.

But seriously Nate, there are a few single-topic posters, I think you know who they are, who probably contribute to the writer's 'eco-farming' impression by repeating the same unsupported opinions daily. Why don't you give them a key-post, then allow no further comments re-hashing the same point?

Of course he could also use the 'no comments' button...

He almost spelled intelligent, and Libertarian right.

Yeah - but ya gotta give him some credit for: HairBrained PepperHaired Eco-nitwitz

I do pottery in my spare time and live in the Pacific NW -- meaning I hang out with such people on a fairly regular basis. Nice people ... but many amusing ideas.

I moved to maui in april MANY eco-nitwits here tiresome but harmless. too much good maui mj ?.not many on TOD though , a few here might underestimate what living on contemporary energy sources would mean.A big garden and a few chickins does not equal self sufficentcy .

Yes, but not one person in this whole thread corrected the spelling of harebrained...ugh!

I realize you all do not need the reassurance, but here goes anyway. I have been reading your site at least once a week since 2006 when I found it. I have never been motivated enough to post about anything on the site.

Please do not let the criticism get to you all. I value the information that TOD generates or relays to your readers every day. From another Libertarian Capitalist, keep up the good work. Most people (like me) never complain so you never hear from us. Don't let emails like this be a distraction.

I first found this site in feb this year shortly after reading "The party's over "and "overshoot". These got me thinking in terms of energy and i feel has greatly expanded my fundamental understanding of the world and its functioning. This site has added and helped me assimilate this new(to me), disturbing knowledge of our human predicament.
p.o. the limits of growth and the rest are difficult subjects to broach with the uninitiated. It is a great comfort to be able to come TOD and read the various posts and discussions by the p.o. aware . There may be a general agreement here about basic p.o. idea, but there is little agreement on what it will mean.I view this site as a place to thresh that out. I would like to thank all the contributers and readers ,to those who seek truth and understanding no mater how terrible and esp. those who change there thinking and lifestyle in accord.
Whatever happens in our uncertain future may we all retain our humanity.

thnx and god bless


farming=food=useable energy .farming seems relevant to me.

Hello TODers,

Forgive me if this has been posted before, but it seems to be an important message from the NextGen Energy Council**:
The U.S. Faces Serious Risks of Brownouts or Blackouts in 2009, Study Warns

A new study released this week highlights what experts have been saying for years: the U.S. faces significant risk of power brownouts and blackouts as early as next summer that may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives.

Link to Next Gen Study [36-page PDF Warning]:
Lights Out In 2009?

A Critical Analysis of:
► The Threat of Major Blackouts Facing the U.S.
► What Is Needed To Maintain Grid Reliability Through 2016
► The Major Barriers To Keeping The Lights On
My thxs and full credit to LATOC Senior forum member Satori for bringing this to my attention.

**NextGen is led by a Board of Directors that includes these members:

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE)
APS/Pinnacle West
Arch Coal
Babcock & Wilcox
Evergreen Energy
Intermountain Rural Electric Association
Montana Dakota Utilities
Pacificorp/MidAmerican Energy
Peabody Energy
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association
Xcel Energy

The NextGen Energy Council is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization comprised of a wide variety of energy and technology leaders and companies that work collaboratively with Governors, federal and state officials, academic institutions and others to promote the rapid development and commercialization of cutting-edge energy technologies.

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

These scare tactics have been used for more than a decade without the brownouts or blackouts occurring. These energy companies are trying to frighten the government into spending huge amounts of money to expand the electrical transmission infrastructure. Their list of demands is a wish list for the power industry intended to fleece the customers and taxpayers to increase their profits. Pay it no attention and put a photovoltaic system on your roof.

That complaining e-mails cancels each other out is not surprising at all. If you gear the site one way or the other, readers will tend to quit or join based on this, so your reading community will always be more or less aligned with the site, in a normal distribution fashion, and complaints will be from both sides.

So, that you get equal complaints from both sides doesn't make you "centrist" and it doesn't make your views more likely to be correct or interesting. I happen to agree to a large extent with the quoted libertarian complaint. It does put one off to have to skim through crazy ideas about the financial crisis among the main editorials, for example, and all the hogwash about the current crisis being caused by peak oil is irritating too. And for example, the recent guest editorial by Robert Costanza was in my humble view neither good nor on-topic.

Of course, it is all about signal-to-noise ratio. I'm willing and able to filter out some nonsense, but if signal-to-noise gets too low, I'll quit. The financial crisis has actually made the s/n too low, but I think that it will improve when all the commotion has subsided, so I'm staying for a while.

Sure, many of you now are about to say "if it doesn't suit you, then don't let the door hit you ..." and so on. And you are right in a sense, of course. But as libertarians are more correct (more grounded in the science of economics) and interesting than "leftist hairy-brained eco-nitwits", I think this site will be better, more productive and more influential if you try to balance editorials a bit and preferably don't introduce as much non-energy related stuff. But it's all up to you.

Jeppen - thanks for your thoughts.
Regarding signal to noise ratio, some of that is the fact this is a completely volunteer site - sometimes the cupboard is full of caviar and tasty crackers, other times there are only crumbs. So ocassionally the editors have to choose between crumbs or nothing...And it takes time to retool and old post or write a new one, something that is in short supply.

Regarding Costanza, he is my thesis advisor. A post from him would have to be downright awful before I would censor it and risk not passing my defense....;-)

Yes - energy is and always will be the central theme: the types of energy we use, how much we have, how much it costs- in monetary and other terms, but also how we use it. If we accelerate energy production just to turn it into a planetary garbage machine, then what have we gained? So discussions on energy will often stray towards the widest boundaries....

Nate, thanks for your reply. I understand what you are saying here. However, if posts are in short supply sometimes, perhaps you could invite "adversaries" (i.e. people who think we'll easily manage) for guest editorials to balance things a bit, provoke some more discussions and provide a broader perspective overall. I don't know if it is practically possible or fits your goals, but - just a thought.

As the economy deteriorates, people naturally are going to be more emotional

You're right there.

I have noticed over the last weeks that my retail customers are becoming much more grumpy and rude than ever before.

I provide a good and low cost service, so I'm used to friendly clients.

At the moment I'm tempted to look for a new career where people can't dump their worries on to me because I can't answer back ... 'the customer is always right'.

(A young couple I know gave up their shop last year. Their reason: '... because we are fed up with smiling'.)

A short comment concerning gold:
I think that the development of gold prices is hard (if not impossible) to predict as it is influenced by at several factors working in different directions. The main are:
- Buying gold as a "save haven" in an inflation environment. This may drive gold up.
- Selling of gold as last assets when other capital sources have dried up. This may drive gold down.
- Buying Gold for hedging against the oil price (very good correlation in the past; can this change in the future?). This may drive gold up as soon as the oil price rises again.
Frankly, I have no idea which direction gold will take in the future.

Well, for USians,

There is a nice chart of the buying power of US dollars over the last 100 years, and there is basically only one significant occasion where the value of a dollar increased, over the course of the history of the dollar. 1929. and it only lasted 4-5 years.

The question is how big is this crash and are the central banks doing the "right" thing this time? Well, they're not going to make the same mistake as last time. I'm betting with history on the long term. You can just keep adding zeros to the bits of paper until all your problems are in perspective. (Still mostly cash for a short while though.)

One thing I will say about owning gold and silver physical metal. There are other aspects that many seem to be discounting.

As a monetary standard, neither gold nor silver grow. They are a static supply of circulating money. Neither requires growth the way credit does. What allows the centralisation of government? Multinational corporations? Money, particularly credit. With gold and silver circulating as currency, a lot of monetary power moves back to the local level, though there are other problems with them as currencies. The source of money defines quite a bit of the kind of society we live in.

As a monetary standard, neither gold nor silver grow.

Never forget that gold and silver represent energy. Tons of rock have to be mined and crushed to produce these relatively rare metals. The energy required to produce these metals is set to become more and more expensive, eventually prohibitively so. Moreover, in times of great upheaval and uncertainty — much worse than the current financial squall — gold and silver will almost certainly become some of the most sought after commodities, the currencies of last resort. I've staked my family's financial future on that estimation.

And BTW, the current deleveraging-induced price fall represents an unparalleled buying opportunity, maybe the last great chance to get yourself a stake in this future bonanza. Don't delay.

I've gone back and forth on this, and have decided I don't know the answer. So I own some gold and some stuff...;-)

But if you think about gold/silver's historic roles as 'value' in times of crisis, they may decouple this time. Since the dawn of agriculture, we have had an empty planet, meaning that gold and silver WERE concentrated energy and a store of value that people could trade - there was plenty of land, sun, water, wood, etc. to provide for basic needs (in total), and if not you could just emigrate. This time it's different. The planet is overpopulated. Assuming globalization collapses (and I feel confident that at least the current version of it will), communities will become more local - barter will become more common - the people around you might prefer that you DID have a scythe, and knew how to use it, instead of a pile of krugerrands, which pay no interest, and you can't eat or burn. I think a slow crash and gold goes up in value, as people will still hold in their minds that some sort of 'currency' is a store of value - in a fast crash people will want (badly) basic goods and I think gold will be socially frowned upon. In a no crash scenario, gold will probably decline for a few years as deleveraging trumps attempted government infusions of credit - but they will eventually push too far and nominal inflation will return (even though the average person will still feel deflation). In that scenario gold could be king.

In the end it gets down to embodied energy and energy quality. In the past, gold has represented high embodied energy, but that era was not constrained by basic needs. Sometimes I wonder who will be first in the world to turn down the offer of an ounce of gold for a wheelbarrow and a ladder...? Lots of gold bugs out there - and they are stubborn buggers in my experience....

(Note: my younger brother was a fan of Scrooge McDuck comic books when he was a kid and it's been his lifelong dream to take a bath in a tub full of gold and silver - a few years ago he dumped 15 cans of pennies in the bathtub and burrowed in- said it was disgusting...)

Sometimes I wonder who will be first in the world to turn down the offer of an ounce of gold for a wheelbarrow and a ladder.

Maybe some guy who wants to elope with a rich farmers corpulent daughter?

BTW I figure I can ride my bicycle for miles and miles with an ounce of gold in my pocket to buy some magic beans , I wouldn't wanna do that with a cow.

I'm with you. Not sure where deflation/inflation will go, but I have some gold, some cash, a few acres, a few nice guns, and some modest possessions. I hope you have far more than I. :)

My current plan is to consolidate properties to be free-and-clear on several. Then I just need to stay employed as long as possible.

Interesting thought.
I think you were just being polite, 'wishing that I had more than you'.

But if you really DID wish that? And everyone else had a similar mind-set?
Wow - the EIA would have to revise down their petroleum demand stats for 2030 substantially!

Gold is nice to look at but practically (other than as a specialized material for electronics etc) you cant do much with it. If I was advising anyone on what to invest in for the circumstances you describe one word comes to mind-GUNS. They will only go up in value, you can hunt food with them trade them or forcibly take what you need from others/defend the things you need. Why stockpile gold until you can safeguard it?

Well gee OM, if you want to go that route, I would add that shotgun shells could be quite convenient for day to day purchases. Maybe 22 shells could serve as dimes or even quarters depending on the degree of deflation? As far as nickels go I think they would hold their value as long as one drilled a hole in them for use as washers. Pennies? I've had quite enough of pennies, of course in a small bag they would make a reasonable cosh. Voilà the New Yankee currency: The DEMONIC, with 4 forcibles or 10 coercives equalling that one Demonic.

Grab your carpet bags guys, and start stocking up, we will have some righteous rapacious pillaging to do.

Scythes, ammunition, fertilizer or gold. What you buy depends on what you think will be the rate of decline and the context. Pretty hard to imagine going wrong with shotgun shells in a "reasonable" quantity stored safely. Scythes a local blacksmith could develop. Fertilizer maybe - though it is embodied energy and hard to imagine it every being cheaper.

TOD needs an Investor's Corner!

Not a bad idea.

3 Indexes (lists) of companies which will either:

  1. Improve the situation.
  2. Profit from the situation.
  3. Provide basic necessities when the proverbial hits the fan.

A TOD Doomer's Index (The TODDI) for those expecting a mass die off might contain:

  • Gun manufacturers.
  • Agricultural land.
  • Fencing providers.
  • Livestock.
  • Fertilizer companies.
  • Manual tool producers.
  • Security companies.
  • Funeral Directors.

The TOD Cornucopian Index (The TODCI) on the other hand for those who think it will be Business As Usual, we'll step out of oil, and into...:

  • Battery electric vehicle companies
  • Nuclear Power companies
  • Coal companies
  • Rail companies
  • Alternative fuel source companies
  • Battery & other energy storage companies.

And we need a name for "The Middle Way", The TOD Middle Way Index (The TODMWI), just doesn't have a ring to it. For those of us who think society will have to change and therefore will. That inflation, high prices, will cause social upheaval but not necessarily a die off.


  • Nuclear Power companies.
  • Coal companies.
  • Rail companies.
  • Alternative fuel source companies.
  • Battery & other energy storage companies.
  • Agricultural land.
  • Livestock.
  • Commodities.
  • Fertilizer companies.

I am only half joking about this btw. Indexes of companies which can profit from the situation are also indexes of companies which can change it for the better. The more investment which heads their way, the faster things will change.

Not to be a doomer, but dropping nuclear power from the lists might make sense. It just does not seem possible to find competent management for nuclear power. For example, nuclear power plants are suppose to have decommisioning funds to pay for the cost of cleaning up the plant sites etc. when the plants are shut down. These are plant-by-plant funds. So, you would expect the investment profile of these funds to follow that used of individual retirement planning. Start out in the market for growth then switch to annuities close to retirement exchanging growth for reduced risk as the time draws close for when the money is needed. So, what has Entergy, one of our largest nuclear power companies done? Vermont Yankee will almost certainly be retired in 2012. Entergy has asked for an extention, but the plant gets a huge number of unplanned shut downs and has obviously not been maintained propery. So, does Entergy put the docommisioning fund into bonds? No, it is still in the stock market and losing value:

There are a number of nuclear power plants which will not be relicensed in the next decade or so. And, we don't know which they will be. The funds for decommisioning for all of these should be mostly out of the stock market already, yet we don't see this prudent behavior on the part of the companies that run these plants.

For some reason or another, nuclear power just seems to attract incompetence. This makes it a poor investment no matter where you fall on the doomer--horn-of-plenty scale.


Maybe another index, for "technological singularities that will save us"? Nukes could go in there. Both the plants and the bombs. Or would that be a social singularity?

I don't see much alternative to the inclusion of nuclear in the short term... i.e. less than 10 years. Anything dropped has to be made up elsewhere.

I'm in the middle group. Not convinced of a die off, but the timescale is looking really tight.

I'm just suggesting keeping a poorly managed industry out of the index. But, to your point, is it very easy to make up for the loss of nuclear power from the energy mix through conservation. It's market share is shrinking anyway. In the specific case of Vermont Yankee, hydro from Quebec replaces it without even that.


So you suggest a lead standard? It is certainly more useful than gold. I have never heard of a gold-acid battery.

I always thought a basket of needs - canasta basica - a South American concept that was invented in times of great inflation (as far as I know), was a better measure of real value. Such a basket is geared to local conditions. It may be an essential component of future economic policy as needs are priced out of reach for more of us, at least if actual utility for real people is concerned.

There's always the contrary argument that one job at $100mm per year is better than 2,000 jobs at $50,000. It's true that more is saved and reinvested even if the $100mm man eats six or seven meals a day and has a whole harem shopping their heels off. This is where we are now. A luxury basket has been driving the economy with not enough re-invested in basic supplies like water and even oil.

"And BTW, the current deleveraging-induced price fall represents an unparalleled buying opportunity, maybe the last great chance to get yourself a stake in this future bonanza. Don't delay."

I've been watching the energy sector for a while. Conventional, alternative/green and nuclear.

Well, since the crash happened anyway, I reckon I can hit a couple of birds with larger stones than I would otherwise have been able to. Make some money and accelerate investment in desirable directions at the same time. I would much rather there was a viable energy infrastructure for any children or grandchildren I happen to have.


as a reader of the generally highly thought provoking contributions over the past couple of years, just want to say, thanks and 'Don't Let The B****rds Get You Down'.

What we have going here stands as a haven of sanity in an increasingly turbulent and unsettled world.




Thank you for this big picture view of what you are, and hope to continue, accomplishing here at TOD. I am learning from and applying your shared knowledge on the how our complex social issues are played out in our nuerology and our biologically and socially driven behaviors. I learn more here everyday- today about thinking politically and self-sensorship, brain evolution in response to digital info flow, and more.

In my agrarian, rural community I'm given wide berth because I volunteer, bring in resources, try to care for my neighbors. So people give me room to express my thoughts- even asking me to speak at local events. I do not shy away from peak oil. I DO use the information I learn at TOD to communicate with the people in my community.

As you said- you hope to keep TOD going as long as possible. My very best hopes for achieving that. As one on the edge of the digital brain imprinting (started computing in middle school) I would be lost without the streams of information.

Two years, 45 weeks ago I joined this site with an express, stated purpose. It was to affect a change to public policy towards post-Peak Oil mitigation.

I knew that I could not join in the broad Peak Oil blogosphere, I needed to impact just one strategically chosen site and let the meme spread from there.

At the time, rail was hardly mentioned as a mitigation strategy and the depth of analysis when it was mentioned was a "hand wave". And I gave myself a 2% or 3% chance of success.

Since then, electrified rail has become generally (but not universally, need to work on a few hold-outs !) accepted as a "Necessary but not Sufficient" response to post-Peak Oil mitigation. And my odds have improved to close to 50%.

Hans Herren, Ed Tennyson, Andrea Bassi and I have a peer review paper "in process" modeling what is "strongly suggestive" as being the best economic, best environmental and best energy policy !

Thank You,



I appreciate your efforts, rail is one of the most significant positive approaches to the whole problem of peak oil.

Due to complete coincidence, I was in the Amtrak station in Chicago on Wednesday when "Transportation for America" held a press conference. At the top of their list of priorities is "a world-class rail system." They don't make it explicit on their web site (and they didn't mention peak oil) but in responding to questions they made it clear that they intended electrification for these new rail systems. Check out:


Thanks !

I should have added that TOD has been more than I first expected. It is an extremely useful place to sharpen my thinking and arguments and learn QUITE a bit as well !

Best Hopes for Thinking and Interaction,


One plus of an Obama-Biden ticket is that Joe Biden (Light Rail Now article) is a pro-rail senator. I think that rail may have more allies if Obama wins.


Thank you for sharing the Report. Member contributions of diverse viewpoints and resources such as this keep me engaged in TOD. Articles/papers/etc from all points along the bell curve of opinion help reasonable folks synthesize a picture of the energy physical, social, corporate, political, and emotional landscape.

A few comments about the report: It uses the 'be afraid, be very afraid' undertone to motivate political support for the authors' preferred courses of action (the pics of the looting and the person being attended to in the battery-lamp-lit hospital room were good marketing). Blame is assigned, connecting the fear of blackouts to loathing of 'activist environmental groups' for having the gumption to actually question the wisdom of corporate development. Fear is back front and center when the graph of countries' GNP per capita vs electrical power per capita consumption is presented, backed up by the statement that higher (and better) standards of living are directly linked (and caused by) higher consumption of electricity. The US is shown on the graph as #1 on both counts. Higher GDP per capita is automatically presented as better, and ergo, higher per-capita consumption of electricity is presented as better as well, no questions asked. The capacity factor and extra transmission line negatives of wind and solar electricity are highlighted, while the promise of 'clean coal' is breezily offered up, no mention of the fact that the government's clean coal poster child project has been scrapped, and no mention of mercury and other heavy metal poisoning from stack emissions, as well as nary a mention of Appalachian mountaintop removal coal extraction.

What is great about TOD is that these ideas can be compared and contrasted to other ideas from other contributors. Perhaps a concerted energy efficiency campaign could reduce demand sufficiently to greatly reduce projected electricity demand, even given the unfortunate reality of adding an extra 100M people to the country by 2047 (compared to 2007). Perhaps, with maximum effort and investment, solar PV could be widely implemented on rooftops across the land, obviating some of that projected need for increased transmission lines. On the other hand, perhaps we suck it up and build all the transmission lines necessary to take wind-generated electricity from the Midwest to the rest of the country...and build offshore wind farms close to major population centers on the coasts. Maybe we turn to modern, modular, scalable nuclear plants for base load and leave the coal in the ground for eventual use to make chemicals/plastics/etc.

There is room for all at the energy table: Nuclear, coal, NG, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, conservation (use less to begin with, make products that are more efficient, control population to steady-state).

As for the blackout scare tactics, it seems interesting how CA has not experienced any more electricity distribution debacles since Enron was taken out of the picture.

TOD moderators, keep up the great work.

Yes Enron is gone, but Enron was not the pathogen that caused blackouts in California. Enron was the symptom.

When California de-regulated their electricity distribution system, they dis-allowed utilities from making energy delivery contracts for more than one day. This was the catalyst that allowed the system to be manipulated by Enron and others within the regulatory rules.

Fixing the rate to consumers at the same time doomed the plan from the start.

When the state legislated it's self as sole purchaser of electricity in California, the first thing they did is demand long term delivery contracts from suppliers. (The very thing they prohibited utilities from doing.)

This rule change, not the collapse of Enron, is what made California's grid reliable.

You are correct. California's politicians "sort of" deregulated electricity and when they reaped the results of their own folly it was very convenient to have an Enron around. It makes much better press than saying, "Boy, we really screwed that up."

Yes, what happened in California was more misregulation, not deregulation. The idea that the wholesale market could move without the retail market moving meant there was no way to cut back demand when wholesale prices rose. It makes no sense to hold retail rates constant and then let wholesales fluctuate hour by hour.

This was really stupid. It had bipartisan support. Again, it was really stupid.

I think an important topic has been broached here, namely that as the crisis continues to unfold, so will our emotions.

As prepared as I think I am, I cannot prepare for how my neighbors will react. As a social creature, their angst will become at least partly mine and that's just the way it is.

While I happen to believe that a deeper and more resilient community is an important puzzle piece for the future, I fret over the fact that when we are under stress we're not going to be building quality relationships.

On thing that can help, is to realize that everybody is going to be undergoing emotional shifts all along the way. Awareness of these stages can provide a helpful map and be a source of calming perspective when interacting with people at some other position along the spectrum.

Here's one view of that:

The Six Stages of Awareness

The text below is from a past End of Money seminar. It is a very loose adaptation of the Kubler-Ross "Five Stages of Grief" framework.

Often a broad new awareness results in a series of emotional responses that mimic the grief associated with loss. I have termed these the Six Stages of Awareness.

Each of us here is somewhere along this progression. Most of us will inevitably pass through all six stages, each at a different speed, not always in order, and some will skip a few stages.

STAGE 1: You might begin with a series of statements to yourself such as “No way can this be true. There must be alternative explanations. This simply can’t be; I would have heard about it.” To help speed you through this stage of denial, I offer you full access to all the source data so that you can check it for yourself. Further, I only draw upon sources that most reasonable people would consider to be highly credible. If you can view all of the data that I will present and find some alternative set of explanations as to why/how all of these things will not matter, I need you to share this with me. Pronto.


I t seems pretty clear from this persons email that they do not understand the broader ramifications of the constraints the world is facing. Not that anyone totally does but...

I think that the most common mistake any of us make is to focus too closely on just one or two elements of the pending collapse. Not that there is no value in analyzing and discussing individual elements but to dismiss other elements is to miss the whole thing.

P.S. I consider myself a Ouijaist ;-)

The greatest thing I have extracted here at TOD is that it has caused me to reevaluate my own thinking.

I have moved in the opposite direction than most people have over the last 2 years by coming here, in that I am actually more optimistic now than I was at the time I registered here!

I now know there is at least a sizable minority of very bright folks actively involved in thinking out these issues and some who are actively engaged in working on transforming our energy system.

A sizable minority is all that is needed. It is said that Lenin began by converting a few people on a boxcar to his ideas, and I remember when the Polish labor union Solidarity was born with Lech Walesa (spelling, I didn't check) climbing over a fence at a shipyard.

If I have faulted some of the folks at TOD for anything it is that they have UNDERESTIMATED the transformation coming, but in a different way than many folks expect here.

I think that the major industrial post modern nations may have already seen peak oil consumption, and this is before the "confluence" of new technology that is coming fast upon us. Has anyone here really thought hard about how they intend not to be left behind, consuming the remaining drops of fossil fuel as the world moves on to a newer energy base? We can already see the pattern emerging: It will be the poor, uneducated and disenfranchised that will be left to concern themselves with fossil fuel in a few years as the prosperous elite go forward and take themselves and their children on to the next level of development, a level that anyone who is alert and informed has long known had to come. The transformation away from fossil fuel consumption was long known as a fact of history, it HAD to happen.

Where I work, we have employees who are falling further and further behind. Our benefits packages and the ability to chose options and view options are all done online. It would astound many to know that there is a sizable number of Americans who have never even been on the internet, and who have never sent or recieved an e-mail. The technology has essentially left them behind and now they are as crippled in the new age as an illiterate person was just a few years ago.

Such will soon be the situation with energy. Those who can perceive of no options other than the fossil fuel driven methods of transportation or home energy will fall further and further behind, essentially living in "shacks" and limping on out to the end of life in outdated and primitive jalopies.

The magnitude of the change coming will make the advent of the desktop computer and the internet seem as a small blip by comparison.

Finances will be transformed. Investment will be transformed. Education and social patterns will be transformed.

Alvin Toffler said in 1980 that the transformation into the new post modern, post industrial high tech information age could not truly begin until the energy system of the world was transformed. We are now approaching at long last what we have so long waited for. Is anyone ready?


RC - Its Morning in America?


"RC - Its Morning in America? ROTFLOL"

I am afraid it will most certainly NOT be "Morning in America" for many people.

There is already a very wide gap educationally and in terms of access to technology and the ability to use in the U.S. We are not the only nation suffering from this. I know it exists among Europeans, as I have friends from Europe on both sides of the divide.

Up this string are some remarks by the father of an MIT student. If you were to take a poll, I wonder how many Americans can tell you what the initials MIT stand for in this context. If you tell them it is a college, I know what the response would be in my part of the country: "If the're a college, how come I never see them play ball?"

People are being shoved out of the economy now, peak oil or not, simply because they are not able to deal with the technical advance we already have. I recently had a young woman come to me at work in a panic...she had been asked to mail her supervisor an e-mail with a file attachment...and she had no idea how to attach a file. Her only knowledge of the internet she had gained at work through assistance by coworkers she trusted, so she had at least sent a few e-mails. She could only gain help from very trusted co-workers, because in today's work world, the one thing you learn not to do is expose weakness.

Now magnify that a hundred fold as people are asked to make very hard decisions about their energy use, and asked to participate in decisions about energy as citizens and voters. How many people do you talk to whom you would trust to make such decisions? When people wonder how it is that the ethanol program can be sold to the public as such a cure all, perhaps they should think about what the public REALLY knows when it comes to energy production and consumption.

We will soon see an array of technologie in the marketplace involving automobiles for example. Ask a few people you know if they can describe the difference between "flex-fuel" vehicles, Hybrid vehicles, Plug Hybrid Vehicles, and Electric vehicles. Which ones do you have to plug in? Which one have range limited only by the batteries, which one have range that can be extended by onboard fuel, which ones can run limited distances with no fuel if they are charged?

Solar...are there different kinds? I know a lady who was told by her accountant son that solar was rubbish, it could never pay for itself. I asked her, was he referring to PV (we live in a coal state so he could be right IF you assume that over the 30 to 40 years life of the sytem we would never face a carbon tax {likely? unlikely?}, or was he referring to solar hot water (which can be economic in the south especially with tax breaks) or was he referring to utility scale PV or concentrating mirror solar? She said she had no idea, he just said it wouldn't work here...did he have any idea there is more than one kind of solar?

Geothermal...don't you have to live around geysers or hot springs for that?

Methane recapture...isn't that like ethanol? I heard ethanol is bad...Distributed Generation, Co-gen, what is that? CHP (Combined Heat and Power), yes the Japanese actually use it at the household level)

"Cars can run on propane? Natural gas?" Your kiddin' right...(yes, I have actually heard that on more than one occasion from otherwise intelligent people)

No, it may not be "morning in America" for many. Being poor is hard enough, but it is bearable (I know from experience) but what is so much harder to take is watching others go forward into a more prosperous future while you remain poor due to your own lack of preperation and knowledge. That is hard to take emotionally as well as financially, knowing you have deprived yourself and your offspring due to your own lack of willingness to learn or due to lack of ability to acknowledge the possibility of change.

The bigger danger is that we as a nation may be depriving our nation of it's destiny and the future it deserves simply because we refuse to change, we dismiss everything as "impossible", "unscalable", "too expensive" (one almost wants to weep to think what that $750 billion dollar bank "bail out" could have bought us in the way of beginning an advanced energy seems we can afford ANYTHING except an advanced energy system. We now get most of our wind turbines from Europe, most of our PV panels from China, and China is already well ahead of even the Chevy Volt in the building of a plug hybrid automoble. All the ideas that we dismiss as jokes others are making money on. I remember when the Toyota Prius was consided a toy, "show business" General Motors Chairman Bob Lutz called it. Now GM races to catch up and races to survive.

Morning in America? For some yes. If we make changes, for more, yes. But as we are going now, for many, no.


Now magnify that a hundred fold as people are asked to make very hard decisions about their energy use, and asked to participate in decisions about energy as citizens and voters. How many people do you talk to whom you would trust to make such decisions?

That is the sad truth. There are too few people in the world who have a basic understanding of peak oil and even fewer who know what the ramifications and possible options are. It's late, so I'll be brief. I've mentioned in earlier posts that energy education in our schools is vital for the future of our planet. Grades 1 -12 must have energy courses. We need an educated society if we are to make educated energy decisions.

One of these days I'll flesh out my idea a bit more as to what the courses might consist of. But, at the very least, 12th graders should have a firm grasp on 95% of the information in TOD articles by the time they graduate. The other 5% are a bit math/science intense for the typical 12th grader:)

Think about it. Imagine how our energy future would change if 12th graders around the world were graduating with the energy knowledge TOD has accumulated.

The sad truth about the state of scholarship in the country is that once you get your energy education as part of the curriculum, someone is going to come along and insist on the Biblical teachings of energy. They would probably call it "Intelligent Thermodynamics".

The way I sum up the predominant U.S. culture is it is more important to believe than to know.

My further U.S. education rant (and even among the highly educated on this blog site) is the spelling of "there", "their", and "they're"! The number of times my teeth have ground seeing "their" used when it should be "there". Working in the U.S. it drove me nuts that people did it all the time, and high level exec's didn't notice the difference.

Finances will be transformed. Investment will be transformed. Education and social patterns will be transformed.

Yup, - Finances: I'll trade you a tomatoe for a potatoe
Investment: I bought 10 packs of seeds for next year
Education and social patterns: That is a vegetable and this is a weed. Now leave your toys and go pull all the weeds out of the garden.

-Tongue in cheek - sort of?

The failure of the vast majority of people, politicians and academics to take the overpopulation/under energy supplied problem(s) into consideration is turning me into more of a doomer every day.

I just feel sorry hat I did not discover TOD before, it would helped me out. Thanks for this excellent window to information.

This is my second time round the oil crisis. The first began in the late 1960s with the Limits to Growth and other reports. Hubbert's papers appeared. Maybe not so well known now, was a similar paper by Harry Warman who was BP's chief geologist at the time. Then came the "oil shocks" of the 1970s and there was plenty of talk even in the MSM of the end of the oil era.
Big oil piled into the Athabasca tar sands and Colorado shales. Gulf Oil invented a new kind of nuclear reactor. Some of my friends went off to be hill-farmers in Cornwall. It was not on quite the same scale, but the World Bank sent me to look at projects using charcoal gasifiers for vehicles and water pumps in the Philippines which were being fraudulently promoted by Imelda Marcos. As part of the same study, I also went to Brazil where charcoal gasifiers for vehicles were commercially available.
Oil was $40 a barrel and rising. I remember chairing a meeting of energy economists to discuss the prospects for renewables if oil went up $80. Peter Odell, who was there, suggested we should be looking at what would happen if it went down to $10. I am still embarassed at the indulgent way I smiled and suggested we needed to be serious.
I have really appreciated the level of discussion in the Oil Drum on issues of oil production, depletion and so on. The analysis of IEA and EIA projections has always been careful and informed. The attempts to get behind the KSA figues, the discussion of prospects for Tupi, I found all of this fascinating and could see that this time it truly was different. It was good fun to join in the mockery of Yergin and CERA and wonder how they could get things so wrong.
These days, I am find the Oil Drum much more diffused and I slightly sympathise with the opening post. I have no objection to people discussing their survival strategies or how they think the energy scene can be transformed. But I think it would be great if we had an easily identifiable thread which collects the technical and economic discussions on oil and gas production and depletion.

Thanks for the note. If you have expertise or know people who do - please consider writing a guest post. "Most" oil analysis is done for a fee - our writers just pick at publicly available information and condense it into digestible form - anyone who is willing to do this in an informative, educational manner is welcome. We need help.

The bigger issue now, is that Peak Oil has morphed from a scientific probability into a psychic certainty. We could chart the impact of flat supply had on demand and growth - at such high prices, most of non-OPEC (and one could assume OPEC) was drilling/producing flat out. The market was supply constrained. With oil at $100, someone somewhere had to do without. Now with a credit crisis, oil far below the marginal cost of production, (and possibly approaching the AVERAGE cost of production), the oil market is now demand constrained, be it for 3 weeks or 3 years I don't know. But that means that Peak Oil, if it is in the past, is no longer 'science', because it is unprovable. I contend that we peaked in the net energy surplus from global aggregate sources in 1999-2000. I could show many pieces of anecdotal evidence for this, but in the end, this assertion too, is unprovable, as most if not all producers do not keep track of energy inputs.

So, standing in 2012 at 75 mbpd, many will say 'see -Peak Oil was in 2005', and others (scientists, government officials, wall streeters, OPEC), will refute these claims with perpetual 'oil capacity is far higher than 75 mbpd - all we need is the money to drill - we have trillions of barrels lying underground just waiting for the bit and subsequent pipelines....'.

In short, your wish for hard data and similar empirical analysis that existed before the credit crisis can only partially be met. Because now there are (at least) 2 variables. Science works best when it has time...years to percolate...hypothesize, test, take note, readjust hypothesis, repeat...Events in the world are happening way too fast for peer review on these topics - I can assure you of that. We'll do what we can, but in the end, we're just a rag tag team of concerned citizens with few resources....

My two favorite Internet sites are and Anyone reading either of those sites was not surprised by anything that has happened during the past year.

To my mind peak oil per capita which occurred in 1971 is more important than the absolute Peak which occurred in 2005.

We now know that it was financial levitation that has kept the U.S. and consequently most of the world except for the basket cases like Haiti and Zimbabwe going since 1971.

We also now know the method of post peak oil collapse. The constraints of peak oil cause monetary authorities to try to keep the system going through financial manipulations and "innovations". Eventually these become untenable as they cause oil and other commodity prices to rise rapidly.

Then in reaction to the inflation threat, interest rates are increased which pops the commodity and financial bubbles, thereby ending the cycle and reducing oil demand faster than oil is depleting. Rinse and repeat.

The Post Peak Oil world looks like it will be a series of these cycles since it is politically imposible to admit the consequences of a declining finite resource.

You make a most astute point in your last paragraph: The limits of political possibility are just as important (probably more important) than physical limits. Currently it is politically impossible for those in power to state the compelling fact that we are going to have declining standards of living (as measured by falling real GDP per capita) for many years to come due to declining production of fossil fuels. The idea of future economic decline is taboo.

I'm a qualified doomer. The only reason I'm not an unqualified doomer is that it is possible for political limits to change for the better (unlike physical limits). If we go into a deep depression, it may become possible to implement a transition away from fossil fuels as part of a government public works problem to attack massive and long-lasting unemployment. If we have a debt-deflation Greater Depression, one reasonable response to that is an Energy New Deal. If we have inflation followed by hyperinflation, then current leaders will be discredited, and major reforms are likely to be possible as part of getting back to some sort of monetary stability. In other words, crises and severe economic pain may be a necessary prerequisite to expanding the limits of the politically possible.

Political possibilities are also a function of scale. What is that famous Margaret Mead quote, something like "never underestimate the ability of a small group of dedicated people to change the world?" I wonder, we know we need global change, yet the states are paralyzed, and it's groups at the community level, like Hamas, that can provide the services that the states cannot provide. [I don't know how.] And some sort of open source library of various best practices layered over all.

And yes, the pain is absolutely necessary. We don't need hope; we need to go "beyond hope" - through despair. But all the thinking needs to be "on the table". Just as the Chicago Boys had it ready for 9/11/73, just as they had it ready for the recent bank plunder package, those who want to project future alternatives need to have plans on the table too. The Library. The First Foundation. Open Source.

cfm in Gray, ME

I think a lot of people here overweight the importance of political recognition of the reality of Peak Oil. What is far more important is whether the Sand Hill Road venture capitalists think Peak Oil is real. They show many signs of believing this. Lots of PV start-ups and battery start-ups and other energy-related start-ups suggest to me that the big money people get it.

The financial crisis as a function of energy and Ponzi schemes explained...

I have another wacky economic theory for you:


Not original you say? Well, you are correct. I use it as a model and not for it's original purpose. I came up with this while contemplating project management, but I think it applies to the current financial situation just the same.

E = energy
m = money
c = complexity as f(p), where p is a probability function

if m = E/c^2 and c decreases as the complexity increases, then we can see how money can increase. If modeled correctly, c will have boundary conditions and discontinuities (say asymptotic curves) that will dictate the behaviour of money as a function of Energy.

Complexity as a probability function could be as simple as the odds of success. If ordinary breathing could be considered = 1, then breathing under water with scuba gear could be considered much less than 1, say = 0.01. Therefore, the money required would increase proportionately, and the Energy available would decrease.

The recent money increases over the past few years has been a result of increasing complexity while E remains fixed - or decreasing. As c is exponential, it has hit the discontinuous infinite limits of asymptote, and will either destruct (caused by a forcing function), or return to equilibrium. Since the density of E (or per capita) is decreasing:

c = (E/m)^1/2

The reduction in complexity (or increase chance of success) dictates m has to decrease with Energy.

This is overly simplified, and just having fun with numbers; but, I think this little attention grabber has some merit. Note: "E" may have to be a density, or rate value as this may fit empirical evidence better.

Many of the ideas here are good the method is madness. The problem here is that lot of the people that post are not design engineers and as such are loose cannons. The use of air as a means of propelling vehicles is one that sticks in my craw. Most of these people couldn't design a lifesaver without losing the hole.

Just a brief footnote, that the end of material growth and/or economic growth does not actually mean that it is impossible to repay debt.

Classical capitalist debt is receiving a loan of money to gain command over productive resources to produce goods to sell at a gross profit, which should refund the debt and leave a net profit.

Now, whether or not a profit exists is a matter of the division of income, and it is evidently possible for the distribution of a steady-state income to include a profit share. It follows directly that it is certainly possible for debt to be repaid in the absence of even economic growth.

So the "lack of economic growth makes debt unsustainable" meme is a facile oversimplification.

Now, clearly the scope for debt repayment increases if profit shares are amplified by economic growth ... it is economic growth through material expansion that is the most use to those sharing in that profit through fixed obligations, since economic growth through technological improvement is both intrinsically uncertain in advance of the innovation and tends to be cyclical rather than ongoing.

But projecting from a reduced reliance on debt-finance in a steady state to no reliance on debt-finance is over-reaching the argument.

I meant in aggregate. And I meant 'perceived growth'. I suspect that whenever the world stops growing (and I would argue that point is past), it will be a very long time before we attain the 'perception that growth is over', as there will be continual rationalizations of how/when we restart. Clearly, regions of the world will grow again, and certain industries will experience rapid growth. So debt associated with those industries will be repaid. But what it means for the whole system is another question. You are correct though - it was an oversimplification.

I do mean debt in the aggregate ... but focusing on the full balance sheet, a la Kenneth Boulding's A Reconstruction of Economics, rather than the aggregate net position.

It is certainly arguable that our productive sector is overextended in the sense that ongoing, unsustainable material expansion is required to generate the income levels that permit the payment of all outstanding debt without a political revolt from other income recipients ... but in comparison to the current massive speculative overhang and the unsustainable growth of the finance sector itself, the write-down that will be needed for the debt obligations of the productive sector seem likely to be modest.

I certainly think its arguable ... since I do argue ... that fixed obligations predispose the economic system toward the pursuit of growth in a very important way.

By contrast, an argument that the advance of credit and the payment of interest is strictly dependent on economic growth is simply invalid. Payment of a fixed interest obligation can proceed indefinitely as a subinfeudation of profit.

I'll be damned! Someone on TOD that understands economics!

I have zero tolerance for the tone of emails such as this one. Can't people make a point without resorting to insults and name calling? It is not worth the trouble to try filter the actual content from the insults. Past a certain threshold of name calling I tend to assume the author just vent out his anger and has nothing of value to say.

Such things should not be tolerated in comments either. There is no way insults can improve the signal ratio and they only make TOD a more disagreeable place. I think comments that can't make their point politely should be deleted.

A modest suggestion:

Most posts only attract a few votes on the rating system. Might this suggest that most readers don't find this system all that useful to them?

I suspect that a lot of readers are busy, and don't have the time to wade through hundreds of posts, including many that are not considered to be "on topic" or particularly valuable.

May I suggest that the TOD management consider a different sort of rating system - one that is focused on relevance rather than like/dislike?

Because things are so interconnected, it would be mistaken to think that it would be useful to limit posts only to those that are directly relevant to the supply or demand of oil. Clearly, things that directly impact the supply or demand of other energy sources also have their impact upon oil, and should be welcomed here. Even things that only indirectly impact energy supply or demand have their relevance. On the other hand, the farther away we get from comments that have some bearing upon energy supply or demand (present or future), the more likely it is that we are straying into "off topic" territory. Some readers may nevertheless find such comments useful or interesting, and I am not suggesting censorship. However, it nonetheless remains true that there exist other fora that might be more appropriate for comments that have little, if any, relevance to energy-related topics.

Thus, may I suggest that the following relevance-based rating system be implemented in place of the present one:

5 = posting directly relevant to oil supply or demand issues

4 = posting directly relevant to supply or demand issues for other or all energy sources

3 = posting indirectly relevant to supply or demand issues for any or all energy sources

2 = postings that discuss general environmental, societal, or economic issues that have a marginal bearing upon energy supply or demand issues

1 = postings that have little obvious bearing upon energy issues, but which may nevertheless be of some interest or usefulness to typical TOD readers

0 = obviously "off-topic" postings with little or no redeeming value

I would also suggest that editors have an "override" capability to prevent the "ballot box" from being "stuffed".

Were such a system in place, a filter system could also be made available which would allow readers to just view postings rated a 5, or higher than 4 or 3 or 2, or all of them, depending upon preference.

This would seem to me to be the best way to both preserve maximum freedom of expression and also to preserve the maximum topical relevance and utility of TOD.

In my opinion, we don't need a revised rating system. Over the years of my reading TOD I've come to recognize the names of commenters that I respect. This is a fairly short list, maybe sixty to eighty names. When I see comments posted by these people I always read them with care. The useful thing about the current rating system is that it can draw my attention to new commenters who have very worthwhile things to say.

WNC, I like your idea, but suggest it rate the relevance to the specific subject rather than oil supply.

If somebody writes an article on solar thermal energy conversion, a comment on floating oil platforms would be a 0 rather than a 5.

We could keep the existing rating system for quality and put the new one for relevance in the right hand corner.

Hi Folks,

The danger with any rating system is that it will become mostly emotive - used as an expression to vent ones feelings - as opposed to a more rational assessment of whether an article/comment has merit or not, along with a tendency to build 'groupism':

"Berque notes that 'groupism differs from the herd instinct in that each member of the group, consciously or otherwise, attempts above all to serve the interests of the group, instead of simply seeking refuge there'. The term 'groupism' may not be particularly sonorous, but it does have the merit of underlining the strength of this process of identification which allows for the attachments that reinforce our common bonds." (Maffesoli, "The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society", 1996:15)

While this is all well and good on one level, it re-enforces the science by values that Kuhn points out:
"the fact that Kuhn identified values as what guide judgement opens up the possibility that scientists ought to employ different values"
... The danger here is that really novel and useful insights and information become lost as they fall below the consensual radar.

Its a tough call - personally I would opt for an all inclusive system with no editing-out of 'unwanted' posts (unless repeatedly abusive! - but keep personal editing open so people can re-phrase posts) - but perhaps with a posting limit - say maximum of two posts on any subject thread, thus encouraging people to think about what they are trying to say (I am as guilty as anyone on this one!) and preventing flaming/praising. This then supports freedom of speech without the threat of reprisal (perceived or otherwise).

Also, there is the problem of the written word interpretation - the "what is read is never what is written" conundrum. So in some respects with this particular written technique of exchange you're 'dammed if you do and dammed if you don't'!

That's my (probably) incomprehensible 2'penneth...


Or we could have a rating system that gives both the Up tally and Down tally, and not just the net score.

Or we could have a rating system like Slashdot, which could include qualifiers like Interesting, Insightful, Funny, and Troll.

I like the current system...saves me from having to reply to posts I simply agree/disagree with, or those I consider to be trollish. Cuts down on the numbers of "ditto" type responses, in other words.

I like the current system...saves me from having to reply to posts I simply agree/disagree with, or those I consider to be trollish. Cuts down on the numbers of "ditto" type responses, in other words.


I up voted you.


"...its your job to filter out the fkn ECO-FARMER loincloth crew and get back to what the blog was about.
if its not truly about that, then change your name to the 'HairBrained PepperHaired Eco-nitwitz ' blog and we(intellegent types) can get it off our bookmark list.

Nate - I was drawn to this site over a year ago out of a personal recognition of Peak Oil and what that might mean going forward. As I explored this site I listened to and participated in debates about ideas from The Club Of Rome discussing Limits To Growth, Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb and The Olduvai Theory which states that industrial civilization (as defined by per capita energy consumption) will have a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years (1930-2030). These issues are related to the harvesting of fossil fuels and have earned the right to be debated on this site.

Recently I read a report published by The EPA (Another HairBrained PepperHaired Eco-nitwitz Organization) listing in order of severity the

Relative Risks To Human Welfare
Relatively High-Risk Problems:

• Habitat alteration and destruction
• Species Extinction and Loss of Biological Diversity
• Stratospheric Ozone Depletion
• Global Climate change

Nate, if TOD is going to narrow it's focus to simple supply and demand issues (yawn) then a lot of "doomers" and "eco-nitwitz" might be heading for the exits. Best wishes to all of the "intellegent types.


I've been looking for a point to jump in on the main topic, and this might be as good as any. I think what is missing is an understanding of the local situation which the email writer reflected in the larger arena of discussion.

Having returned to live in BC just over a year ago, I have come to call it DSRBC. The Delusional Socialist Republic of British Columbia. You see, being a pepper-haired eco-nitwitz is a full time occupation for far too many people here; and they can only do it at the luxury of the real wealth generators and infrastructure. I think eco-nitwitz is far too nice, I call them eco-nazis.

I could rant on and on about these actors, but let's sum it up with the preposterous shallowness of their hypocrisy. I actually read on one local forum dedicated to blocking a run of river hydro development (NIMBY) say in the next breath that it would be o.k. to flood an entire inhabited valley up north for storage hydro electric generation if "it was just one more time for the greater good".

I mean really, how do you not punch people like that in the mouth?

I am quite aware of the energy situation we are in. It is a principle reason for moving back to BC, and I have been working on renewable energy developments ever since. But this eden/nirvana world view some of these people believe in defies physical reality. More frustratingly, they get lots of media attention and the politicians take them seriously.

We have an opportunity in BC to get this right - once. There is over 12 GW of renewable, low environmental impact energy generation available in this province and we could be a worthwhile electric exporter to the western continent. But, instead, the eco-nazis will object our way into the Dark Ages.

I despair for the species.

Not a libertarian conservative. Just some engineer that understands energy rate, EROEI, development timelines, and the dynamics and perturbations of the times we live in (barely).

Hey Joe,

I came to TOD after long frustrating eco-meetings dominated by special interests (save the wildwood wombat!) and, in particular, people who need to publicize themselves and get a pat on the back and maybe a green/gold star for changes they have made in their lives, not to critique ideas that relate to sustainability.

I guess these are the "eco-nitwits". However annoying, there's a place for them. Most people need the reassurance of approval. It is, however, very different from peer and popular review of ideas, which is what drew me to TOD. The site has a lot of positives in different areas, but it does slow down when its beset by special interests: Individuals and their causes.

Maybe TOD could devise a star system (colours, numbers) to give people their well-deserved recognition and flag these kind of posts, as well as coveted science stars for energy theory and proper peer review. This could actually lead to conclusions. The recent wind posting from jerome was a good example.

By the way, RU the Joe from DC? If so, I'm the Fred from Canada.

Please hang in there, TODers. I've noticed an increase in grumpiness too. A lot of anger without any definite idea about what to do with it.

I applaud your decisions to be a Big Tent, and to keep the focus broad. Personally I'm less interested in the technical aspects of oil depletion and investments than ever before. Scrooge McDuck isn't my role model, nor will it be such a good life no matter how much money you have, if the country and the climate are going to hell.

I'm old enough now to see the finish line (death), and I want more to be written on my tombstone than, "He made clever investments."

Energy Bulletin

My reply to Bart is definitely OT butttt.....

Comes a day , perhaps sooner rather than later,when we all start to see the finish line, as you say. The day when one can imagine friends and neighbors leaning over your casket and making comments.

You begin to realize that ,No your not going to live forever and youths dreams were mostly just dreams.

Suddenly what used to be soooo very important to you? Now becomes useless dross. You then tend to reach for what really matters in life.

A good meal, a restful sleep, a smidgen of luck, and perhaps that those leaning over the coffin will have something worthy to say about your life.

Its best IMO to steer to those things that are interesting and worthwhile. Forget all the rest. Make your last years COUNT!
Too me its not about impressing anyone. Its about telling the truth and getting down on your knees to bless the earth and hope its somehow recovers from what we have foisted on it. Work in it. Relish it. No more is being made so make the best of what there is of it and not trash it with fast food wrappers, empty soda bottles and other debris. Respect it. Its really all we have.

I am putting on my tombstone these words: "I did it my way."

Airdale-I'm where Bart is and its not The Golden Years. Its The Leaden Years. I cut my firewood,play my banjo and pass my latter years with a good pair of Jack Russell's.

Thanks for that comment, Airdale. You said it!

Some of the most optimistic people I know are Silver Foxes (as my wife calls us). No time for nonsense or quibbling.

We know that life is wonderful, that one doesn't need airplanes or cars or the 1000 distractions of modern life.

After we watched "End of Suburbia," I asked my wife what she thought. "I'm looking forward to it," she smiled.

Gotta take up the banjo again.


After we watched "End of Suburbia," I asked my wife what she thought. "I'm looking forward to it," she smiled.

I would be, too, were I still single.A ten month-old son has changed my outlook. If I thought it at all possible to get an entire planet to think and live sustainably, in small, egalitarian communities and with the health, wellness and security of all as the primary focus of all economic activity, I'd welcome this change with open arms. As it is, I welcome the opportunity for this all to happen with open arms, but a very wary eye.

It's all in the timing. Were I at the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation rather than the very end, how different things would now be.


I am "only" in my mid-50s and family history would suggest that I have 3 more decades left ("circumstances" will likely shorten that time). yet I have made much the same choices.

Enjoy life for the day, good friends, food, music, community and a beautiful environment and do fulfilling work for the local and larger community.

Best Hopes for Living Life,


Although I've got a while yet before I really contemplate imminent departure(30 years I hope), I like to advise on the "tombstone reality check".

When I see some of my co-workers burning it at both ends and you can tell family life is suffering, I say, "Go take a walk through a cemetery and tell me what you read on the grave markers."

"Did you read any final bank balances, net worth, their executive position in a company, a list of expensive possessions, the names of female conquests?" (I'm self censoring here)

No, you read from date, to date, and maybe "A Loving Husband and Father", or "A Loving Wife and Mother". That's all you get. Remember that.

Thank you Nate Hagens. Ignore those mails and keep up the good work.

Erik Rolfsen Nissen

I used to think that Gail Tverberg is excessively pessimistic about the financial system's response to declining oil production. But the events of the last couple of months have caused me to reassess. Maybe the financial system will fall apart as oil available for import plummets.

Wars cause more severe dislocations and governments manage to keep war time economies operating. So will governments take more control over economies in order to prevent collapse of financial systems?

I'm thinking of Stalin's Russia in WWII for example. The deprivations were extreme. If memory serves average daily calories might have gone below 1000. Yet the Soviet Union held together. Also, even as the German Army retreated and losses mounted while bombers wrecked Germany cities the German economy didn't cut back production much until the final months. That was an amazing achievement too.

Psychologically, war is an inherent external threat (real, perceived or manufactured) which allows the populace to act as an entity for mutual survival. Plain Jane chaos and competition, not so much the same effect. (Yes, I could go into great detail, but you get gist.)

Unless the current problems are successfully played as an external threat, and "they" will certainly give it a shot, that cooperative spirit will be spotty at best.


I think things will get bad enough that this sense of needing to come together for survival will build up some. Drastic actions (like cutting down review times before construction projects can start) will become possible.

At the risk sounding like an HairBrained PepperHaired Eco-nitwit, that is an awesome image. Funny, cute, and totally over-the-top. That's how I like my surrealists. Thanks for making me google Vladimir Kush.

Vintermann said,
"...HairBrained PepperHaired Eco-nitwit, that is an awesome image. Funny, cute, and totally over-the-top..."

But the poetic effect would have been greater with an inversion, like this "PepperHaired HairBrained Eco-nitwit", with the repetition on "hair" it's much funnier that way and has real rhythm! If your going to do these type ironic and humorous insults, at least be willing to try and do them well! :-)


I second the motion.

The Vladimir Kush painting is the perfect illustration for eco-nitwitz.

What our colleague from Vancouver is missing is the fact that The Oil Drum has been a constant source for information and analysis on energy when information is generally lacking on the principal media. Newspapers and TV news does not award much time to Oil and Gas news on a regular basis. Having read and learned a great deal on The Oil Drum, I find it is a rich source for information and also a forum for other energy sources.
Perhaps we are all forgetting that after the US elections finally run their course and the financial market goes through whatever death or life convulsions it has to in the next year or so, we are still in the same bucket: dependent on oil in a major way and facing diminishing supplies. That reality has not changed. Just because the banks are in trouble does not mean that cars and trucks now run on magic potions these days.
The more time and effort we can put in to better understand the coming oil shortage siuation the better. And the Oil Drum is a major help in that regard.

Advertising exists because we are receptive and easily manipulated, cajoled or directed. We are not free, if I travel down a street and see a sign that says “Jesus bailed you out!” I cannot erase it from my memory, I can never be free from it. I have been subjected to a mind assault, primarily because of the double edged sword of sentience.

There are those that draw dubious parallels between how far a gallon of gasoline can move a car and how long it would take a person to push that car the same distance and then equate that amount of time, many working weeks or several thousand dollars, to the true value of a gallon of gasoline. The comparison is dubious bordering on specious because on the one hand it has a 21st Century sophisticated and technologically developed person driving the car, reverting back to a cave man when it is time to manually push the car. Yes, the true value of a gallon of gasoline, is many orders of magnitude greater than the price paid at the pump. Just as the true of cost to the planet of constructing motor vehicles or chemical plants in Bhopal or nuclear plants in Chernobyl is many orders of magnitude greater than the price actually paid in any currency valued at any point in time.

The true value of all resources that allow our continued existence is beyond measurement, and yet we live our lives to put prices on them and through advertising encourage ourselves to consume conspicuously as fast as possible. There can be little doubt that we are bent on destroying ourselves.

Other than humans there are no arrogant animals. I believe arrogance to be predicated on sentience and ego. Without sentience and ego there would be no arrogance and the world would likely be a better place. It is not germane to discuss or attempt to solve minor problems like the man made credit crisis and other consequences of debt based fiat currencies and capitalism as we know it, when there are much bigger and more important problems. For example, it would be appear to be the natural order for the number of animals in a species to reduce exponentially as one ascends the food chain, therefore it is extremely unnatural for there to be billions of us and even more of our factory farmed animals. Our attempt to divorce ourselves from natural order is our principal mistake.

With historical hindsight the corrections taking place over the next few years in our so called modern economies and civilization (sic) will appear minor relative to the evolutionary split that is about to happen to our species, or we may join the many other species we are forcing into extinction. We are largely spectators of our own lives and arrogance leads us to believe that we have much more control. What humanity needs is more humility and less religion.

The ultimate irony is that our grand arrogance is matched exactly by our profound ignorance and willingness to accept absurd levels of risk despite the desire of the powers that be to keep us all living in a constant state of fear.

What a great comment!

Other than humans there are no arrogant animals. I believe arrogance to be predicated on sentience and ego.

I disagree here. I expect arrogance is some combination of self-deception and confidence, which are both prevalent in animal kingdom (See Trivers 2007 for review). The fact that we have language definitely adds another level to the self-deception/self-confidence found in other species.

Think about it. How COULD we wish to have less energy, less political influence, less popularity, less 'options', than our neighbor? Not possible in aggregate. Only hope is to realize that what we compete for gives us short dopamine fixes and turns lots of stuff to garbage. We c a n n o t rewire, but we can be 'smart' enough to change what gives us our satisfaction, and tread lighter.

I disagree here. I expect arrogance is some combination of self-deception and confidence, which are both prevalent in animal kingdom (See Trivers 2007 for review). The fact that we have language definitely adds another level to the self-deception/self-confidence found in other species.

"I expect arrogance is some combination of self-deception and confidence ...", if arrogance is generally accepted to be a negative characteristic, then it should be safe for me to assume that your use of the term confidence is in the sense of erroneous confidence. Self-deception is undeniably also tantamount to an erroneous state, so in both contexts you are equating arrogance to erroneous states. Are you saying arrogance is some combination of erroneous states?

In a room with ten people, using the simplistic metric of physical stature, one person is going to be stronger and more capable than all of the others. If that individual is cognizant of their stature then that may be reflected in their demeanor as arrogance or not at all [a gentle giant]. i.e. arrogance does not necessarily stem from an erroneous state.

My use of the term arrogance, was less to do with what it is per se, and more to do with what allows arrogance to come into existence (sentience and ego). Self-deception and erroneous confidence may be present in many other species, but to characterize these as arrogance smacks of anthropomorphism.

When I said "Other than humans there are no arrogant animals. I believe arrogance to be predicated on sentience and ego." The first sentence was fluff and not meant to carry so much weight.

Think about it. How COULD we wish to have less energy, less political influence, less popularity, less 'options', than our neighbor? Not possible in aggregate.

Given that I agree with you completely, you might understand how the above has left me confused. Are you arguing a point?

Only hope is to realize that what we compete for gives us short dopamine fixes and turns lots of stuff to garbage. We cannot rewire, but we can be 'smart' enough to change what gives us our satisfaction, and tread lighter.

I agree.

I agree with everything except for arrogance being exclusive to humans. You haven't met my cat.

Hi Houston,

Other than humans there are no arrogant animals.

I take it you have never lived with a cat!

If by arrogance you mean the dictionary type of 'aggressive assertiveness' - then for the greater part the animal kingdom is based on just that. That and symbiosis - which while to our simian based brains seems counter intuitive, to nature and the infinite is perfectly possible.

The trouble with this theme of good and bad hair is that it is for the most part merely opinion and irrational judgementalism. What is really required is the leap to another paradigm, another modality of being entirely. For instance, the concept of 'Dialogue', that seeks to find a way beyond the often purely emotional response (as in e-motive - causing action) and developing instead an awakened conscious awareness of what is actually going on.

This also takes us beyond the currently fashionable 'we're all neurotransmitter junkies' to an entirely new level.

But I guess that is beyond most of us simian 'nitwits' ;-}... ("Oh the humanity arrogance") - Woaa - watch that emotion go for the down arrow!!


Dear Nate,

Our story:

We are a family of four, but were three when our story began.

I was in Bristol, United Kingdom, when I started connecting the dots with TOD help.

I have some college education in Psychology and the scientific research about happiness was a big interest to me. The results of research show that the most important factors contributing towards happiness are, in general, the quality of our relations with our partner, family, friends and the community. The oil civilization promoted values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours incompatible with real happiness.

In the beginning of December 2007, I was in a house in Freemantle Road, Eastville, Bristol, when I saw a news article connecting the current financial crisis to oil and the U.S. style of urbanism.

I started researching, to get the big picture, the peak oil theory, geopolitics, economics, environmental studies, and the correlated psychosocial aspects of all these issues.

It seems to me that the global monetary and banking system is by definition unsustainable for the world in economic, environmental, and social terms.

I believe the following scenario is possible: the current financial crisis could escalate dramatically; the real economy could become severely affected; cheap oil will not be there to help the recovery; the global purchasing power will tend to diminish; the unemployment will rise significantly; millions of people will have to return to agriculture; as peak oil intensifies, global starvation will increase (without cheap oil); in a decade, the world has to change a lot for the better, to a sustainable path.

Our lifestyles will change, I believe we have a big opportunity to return to nature and improve our relations with other human beings. (It`s also true that peak oil is a solution for climate change and will force us to live locally)

TOD help us make the decision to relocate to a small town and start Transition Pombal in Portugal.

Thank you Nate and thank you TOD.

Hey folks, the nit-wit rant could have been written by Canada's New Government - their quasi-official title. If you want some more of this kind of commentary, visit the editorial pages of the Financial Post, whose cornucopian and junk-science piffle is almost without parallel. It's so far out there, you have to admire their chutzpah.
In Canada, we are well on our way to a permanent state of RW bliss where sites like TOD can be discredited or shut down unless they tow the line pushed by Big Oil, the Iron Triangle and this commentator. Funny how the people that claim to represent "freedom" are the very first to demand social and philosophical uniformity - and always with a perceptible note of menace. I guess freedom is for sale.

lots of good comments re the uncivil poster ... this is one place where the intelligence and civility are very high

thanks for your good work

ex- forester, programmer, ecological modeler now living on the land in retirement

Hi Nate,

You wrote:

"The credit crisis and 'investments' are first and foremost on everyone's mind. But without energy surplus in a usable form coupled with healthy planetary ecosystems there can be no growth. Without growth (or in the near term the perception of it), there can be no repayment of debt, and without debt there is no financial system as we know it."

What a wonderfully succinct summary. Did you notice that to change it into an epitaph would require only a change of tense from present to past?

Pretty scary.

It also occurs to me that most of the personal wealth in this world is in the form of abstract agreements (contracts, loan documentation, financial instruments, bank records and so on) that are only as good as the laws and courts that enforce them.

If the laws are not upheld then most of the wealth in the world isn't worth the paper and electrons that it's recorded on. How big is Warren Buffet's fortune if the law does not back up his claims of ownership, debt obligation and other contractual agreements?

Yet if those laws are upheld then the many trillions of dollars of bad debts extant must soon be confronted and cleared... and the ensuing concatenation of write-downs will bankrupt the world. Bail-outs and guarantees seem to be forestalling collapse, but I am just not smart (or informed) enough to estimate how much time that is capable of buying. Seems like a matter of months at the best

Every time I try to think it through it goes to the same conclusion, and not a good one. Anything short of a universal and simultaneous debt amnesty seems completely inadequate to prevent the dominoes from starting to fall again one we've burned through the first few trillions of bailout money.

Time to buy a scythe & stone?

another idea

i have remember reading B. Mandelbrot's the (mis)behavior of markets and thinking i should try to incorporate those ideas into my reflections on the market ... did not really follow through on that sorry I did not

(a reader in Vancouver BC)
Who left that nasty email sounded angry, like they lost some money. Seems clear they were using the site as an insider investment letter, strangely enough the subscription is FREE here at TOD so they got what they paid for.
I read everyones posts yet again, we all have our own selfish reasons for haunting this place. While no one suggest they have all the answers or future chisled in stone, the likely and plausible future situations seem well explored here. Many TODers show tendencies of hanging on to BAU as much as possible, who could blame them. Others are equally convinced a dramatic shift is unavoidable. I liked Nates astute observations on how people communicate and use personal political filters all the time. Humans arent even intimate with themselves most of the time.

Still clinging to the gold debate and energy and societal transformations will continue up too, during, after this next great adventure we find ourselves on. Seems this transit doesnt have a chain to pull and alert the conductor you want off. Iam going to enjoy the ride, and may see if a hippy eco nitwitz has a bottle in a brown bag in the back. I seriously doubt those who have a silver flask of single malt will look down on anyone here at TOD.

And now for a little levity at the letter writer's expense...with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, [and also apologies to Libertarians who do farm in response to PO Crisis, Financial Crisis, and Climate Crisis].

I Am the Very Model of a Modern Libertarian
by Kim Plofker

I am the very model of a modern Libertarian:
I teem with glowing notions for proposals millenarian,
I've nothing but contempt for ideologies collectivist
(My own ideas of social good tend more toward the Objectivist).
You see, I've just discovered, by my intellectual bravery,
That civic obligations are all tantamount to slavery;
And thus that ancient pastime, viz., complaining of taxation,
Assumes the glorious aspect of a war for liberation!

You really must admit it's a delightful revelation:
To bitch about your taxes is to fight for liberation!

I bolster up my claims with lucubrations rather risible
About the Founding Fathers and the market's hand invisible;
In fact, my slight acquaintance with the fountainhead Pierian
Makes me the very model of a modern Libertarian!

His very slight acquaintance with the fountainhead Pierian
Makes him the very model of a modern Libertarian!

All "public wealth" is robbery, we never will accede to it;
You have no rights in anything if you can't show your deed to it.
(But don't fear repossession by our Amerind minority:
Those treaties aren't valid – – Uncle Sam had no authority!)
We realize whales and wolves and moose find wilderness quite vital,
And we'll give them back their habitats – – if they can prove their title.
But people like unspoiled lands (we too will say "hooray" for them),
So we have faith that someone else will freely choose to pay for them.

Yes, when the parks are auctioned it will be a lucky day for them –
We're confident that someone else will freely choose to pay for them!

We'll guard the health of nature by self-interest most astute:
Since pollution is destructive, no one ever will pollute.
Thus factories will safeguard our communities riparian –
I am the very model of a modern Libertarian!

Yes, factories will safeguard our communities riparian,
He is the very model of a modern Libertarian!

In short, when I can tell why individual consumers
Know best who should approve their drugs and who should treat their tumors;
Why civilized existence in its intricate confusion
Will be simple and straightforward, absent government intrusion;
Why markets cannot err within the system I've described,
Why poor folk won't be bullied and why rich folk won't be bribed,
And why all vast inequities of power and position
Will vanish when I wave my wand and utter "competition!" –

He's so much more exciting than a common politician,
Inequities will vanish when he hollers "Competition!"

– And why my lofty rhetoric and arguments meticulous
Inspire shouts of laughter and the hearty cry, "Ridiculous!",
And why my social theories all seem so pre-Sumerian –
I'll be the very model of a modern Libertarian!

His novel social theories all seem so pre-Sumerian –
He is the very model of a modern Libertarian!

BRAVO!! Best comment I've seen in a long while.

It seems to me that the only logical outcome of a libertarian convention is to mutually agree not to bother each other and all go home.


For the use of future email senders, I would like to propose the following form letter...

Subject: Website content changes

[greeting], I have been an avid reader of your website for the last [timespan] due to its extremely valuable information and insight on [topic]. However, of late, the focus of the site has shifted toward [topic2]. I feel this negatively impacts the discourse in [manner], leading to a worsened signal to noise ratio and leaving visitors with the impression that this is a site of [derogatory].

With this in mind, I ask that you consider improving the site by posting what I want to read, rather than what you're interested in writing.


What does any of this have to do with left or right politics?

As far as I can see, The Oil Drum is all about the history and future of the extraction, use and economics of fossil fuels; about business and government energy policies; and about awareness and preparedness for future supply constraints.

All of the above ideas cross party and ideological boundaries. We all live in the real world of physics, chemistry, geology and geography, and no amount of politicking by either side of the left-right divide can change those factors one whit.

We all live in the real world of physics, chemistry, geology and geography, and no amount of politicking by either side of the left-right divide can change those factors one whit

With that, Drat, you've summed up the situation nicely, other than the politicking usually does change the real science a few whits, by increasing the speed of entropy...

Sorry, did the e-mailer mean "eco-nitwit" or "econi-twit"?


Many Americans seem to get themselves so hung up on Conservative Liberal, Republican, or Democrat that they cannot see any issues in terms of reality.

There is an over riding principle which transcends all of these labels. A dumb Republican is just at dumb as a dumb Democrat.

The opinions of both are valueless.

In all matters there should be a filter of "Intellect". Each issue has a reality. Each issue will have an outcome, regardless of the colour or political creed of who proposes or discusses it.

As soon as any person sees an issue in terms of Conservative, Liberal, Republican or Democrat, that person has disqualified themselves from discussing the issue intelligently.


Hi Nate,

First of all, let me clarify something- the content on this site is not choreographed -

But then you say:

Also, when things are especially hectic in financial markets, we usually save the better (read: more effort put into) posts for days when people can actually access them mentally.

Slightly contradictory???!!! Or am I missing something?

Then my main point:

[...]we have a team of great regular writers who put essays in the queue at random intervals - sometimes we have a full cupboard - other times we have crumbs.....

That is your main problem. Silence is indeed golden - do not be afraid of it. By all means extend the field of inquiry, but not at the expense of feeling the need to post any old rubbish just to be seen to be up-to-date. That is creating fashion not wisdom. Keep the quality at the expense of quantity.

This is not advice, just an observation from a perspective 'over here'...


Neither Libertarians or Eco-nitwits really have a handle on the situation. The Libertarian toad who smugly sits upon his pile of coins and dishes TOD should not be taken seriously, he will be swept away by the tsunami of coming consequences just as the Eco-nitwits are busy adjusting their loin cloths and taking another hit off their bongs. It is a matter of too little, too late and the inability of most to see the big picture in time. The current financal crisis has put an interesting spin on the unfolding tradegy, the timetable is uncertain, but the following should be expected.

1. Reduction in government services and rampant inflation

2. Rationing of food, manufactured goods, electicity and fuels by price

3. Social unrest and rationing by the government of the above

4. A military police state with suspension of all liberties

The solutions to the energy crisis put forth by comfy chair philosphers cannot come on line fast enough and be made scalable in time. The government moves too slowly and lacks all foresight. The Pentagon is busy planning its survival and supremecy. I am grateful to TOD for the link to the scythe supplier, I am growing my own grain and food and enjoying it very much. I have come to appreciate the modern conveniences for what they are and relish them ever more intently, anticipating their loss. In the future, being able to sit with friends drinking home made wine, and eating home made bread, watching the sunset, will be the high point of ones life devoid of investments, advertisements, and all other inducments of modern (soon to be defunct) capitalist life. All Hail the Neopeasant and the descent into the 12th century......