ASPO VII - final thoughts

The first ASPO conference I attended was in 2006, in Pisa, where it was hosted by Ugo Bardi. While I was there, I had the good fortune to meet Dennis Meadows, a man whose work I have known since I was very young, but which now has much more relevance than I first imagined. During his address, he told us an important thing: As events start unfolding and a general awareness of depletion arises, ASPO will loose its raison d'être.

I enjoyed my time at Barcelona, visiting a wonderful set of people in a fascinating city. As I wrote earlier, the city itself is a living lesson on urban planning, very walkable and cyclable, with good public transport and uniform buildings. Other than the main traffic avenues (that have two or three lanes each way plus pedestrian and cycling paths), all of the streets are one way--a small detail that makes life so much easier (and safer) for pedestrians and cyclists. The old Gothic quarters of the city are not laid in the same ruler and triangle fashion, but are comprised of many narrow streets where cars are useless--pedestrians rule, bicycles and scooters abound.

I had little time for tourism. I couldn't go visit Gaudí's works, only the eternally under construction Sacred Family Cathedral, but Sunday afternoon Chris and I went for a walk and got a good feeling of the city. Everywhere you go, especially in the old city, there's something happening--people shopping, dancing, acting, and street musicians in every corner (jazz, folk, classical, the whole lot). Barcelona is a city alight with life, where people enjoy being outside.

Just a small example of this cosmopolitanism: we eventually ended up at a park where there was warm sunshine between passing clouds. At the park, there were many people jogging; many children playing. At a corner of the park, there was an elevated bandstand, crammed with people dancing to a stereo. The majority were in their twenties, but there were people of other ages, also. Such spontaneity would never happen back home, I said to Chris. And the funniest part about it was that they were dancing to American music: Swing.

But back to the conference itself. When the TOD crew got together Saturday evening, we could already sense that this time it would be somewhat different. Unfortunately, many of the national ASPO branches could not be present, mostly for financial reasons. Without people like Bruce Robinson, Jorg Schindler, Herman Zittel or Klaus Illum, an ASPO conference is not exactly the same. None of our friends from ASPO-China or ASPO-Japan could make it either.

When I arrived at the speakers reception and complimented Daniel Gómez, one of the organizers, he told me something similar: “Bienvenido al ASPO de los resistentes”--Welcome to the ASPO conference of the resistance. This was indeed not a favourable time to host a conference on fossil fuel depletion, after a 50% decline in oil prices, with global economic recession at the door step.

ASPO found itself at a crossroads: While not everyone accepts that a peak in world oil production is here now, the general public takes cheap oil as something of the past. More than that, the economic difficulties envisioned as following constraints in oil production growth are here. ASPO must somehow evolve in order to keep a relevant role in Society. And this goes for most of the peak oil awareness movement too. The time is here to move beyond Oil.

Bob Lloyd put the situation in more explicit terms during the speakers reception, “We are facing the first impacts of the problem. A period of time is beginning when Society will be receptive to and will listen for a solution, but this period of time may be very short”. The problem is that there is no “Solution” for the depletion of Fossil Fuels, and ASPO was never was an organization of answers, but of questions. Moreover, it is likely that the problem must be addressed beyond the physical solutions.

But ASPO can be a catalyst, not for a “Solution,” but for new policy strategies and tactics that may help us fare better through the transition away from Fossil Fuels. Facing depletion is not yet at the heart of the political agenda, at every level, from international relations to state executive programs to daily family life. And although energy is becoming a concern for many policy makers, net energy is still pretty not understood, when it should be the lighthouse guiding us through the storm.

While this sort of quasi-academic conference is very fruitful for those of us who take part in it, it may not be now the best way to impact the political agenda. When ASPO started, it made sense to hold an event like this, building the network of scientists, researchers and concerned citizens who are now the fabric of the Association. But now ASPO (and the peak oil movement in general) need to start reaching out directly and frequently to politicians and industry. Some national branches have been able to do this at a regional level, but at the international, even pan-European or pan-American level, it is yet to happen.

I can't exactly say how this new step for ASPO should be taken. It may be by trying other forms of events, perhaps by focusing more on what's beyond Oil and beyond Growth. Above all, I feel that ASPO somehow needs to start offering more hope and less gloom. Maybe that way it can find its optimal role for the future.

See you next year,

Luís de Sousa
TheOilDrum : Europe

ASPO VII - first day

ASPO VII - second day

Thanks to Luís for putting together this fine series of posts! I think the question he raises in this last post is an especially important one for the ASPO organizations.

Let me add another perspective. We now have a very strange situation--peak oil is almost certainly here (although some will debate this), but the naming rights for the crisis go to the financial collapse, even though I would argue that ultimately, peak oil is the cause of the underlying problem.

Furthermore, the price of oil is lower, rather than higher, and demand seems to be less than supply. With all of these considerations, many people see no particular reason to conserve, except for climate change, and because of lack of money to pay for fossil fuels.

It seems to me that trying to talk to political organizations now will be harder than it has been in the past. Every spare dollar is being used to (try to) solve the financial crisis. Without a price crisis, no one thinks oil is a problem. I don't know that we can give up on political organizations, but our message has to be more than peak oil.

It seems to me that we need to be looking more broadly at fuels, and understanding where the problems are, and what the long term solutions are. Natural gas looks like it will be a problem in the near future in Europe. We, or ASPO organizations, need to be looking at this closely, and pointing out the problem to elected officials, as well as whatever solutions we can find.

We, or ASPO organizations, need to be looking at electricity also. We can't take the narrow view that electricity will take care of itself, because there is wind and solar. Electricity, at least the way it is done now, requires a lot of oil-based infrastructure that needs to be built and maintained. Our solutions must consider real-world electrical constraints.

We cannot ignore financial interrelationships either. (It seems to me that ASPO organizations have tended to downplay financial relationships.) While it may seem strange, a reduction in debt can be expected to lead to a reduction in oil demand, because whatever would normally be done with the cash advanced by the debt (building cars, paying salaries to workers who buy cars, building roads, etc.), will be eliminated without the debt. Because of this, we get a feedback loop (high oil prices -> debt defaults -> credit restrictions -> reduced oil demand). This feedback loop is part of what made the drop in oil prices so large, since it tends to reinforce the more direct relationship of high prices -> lower demand. We need to understand these relationships ourselves, even if they don't directly affect what we say to elected officials.

There is now also a real need for the common people to figure how to adapt, because it doesn't look like we have very long for elected officials to do much, and for this to filter back to the people. Even people who are in ASPO organizations are starting to think more seriously about what they should do to personally prepare. Maybe it is time to start talking more about solutions at the individual level, and how to bring these solutions to the common people.

peak oil is almost certainly here (although some will debate this), but the naming rights for the crisis go to the financial collapse, even though I would argue that ultimately, peak oil is the cause of the underlying problem.

In 1929 the US had a stockmarket crash, but it wasn't until the Dustbowl came along that farmers actually lost their farms in large numbers. But we talk of "the Depression" and not much of the Dustbowl.

The lesson there is that a single crisis isn't enough to knock a country to its knees. It's the combination of different crises that really hurt a country.

For example, France suffered a military crisis in 1870-71, but paid off its reparations within a few years.

But Germany's military crisis of 1918 was combined with a social crisis (civil wars) in 1918-19, and economic crisis to boot - and they didn't recover until after they'd dragged themselves into another military crisis a couple of decades later.

How the US will go we still don't know. But at the moment it's only a financial crisis. An environmental, military, or social crisis is needed to combine with it if it's to cause a genuine collapse which is worthy of being named "Depression" or whatever.

The naming of the whole collapse just goes to whatever the first crisis was.

But Germany's military crisis of 1918 was combined with a social crisis (civil wars) in 1918-19, and economic crisis to boot - and they didn't recover until after they'd dragged themselves into another military crisis a couple of decades later.

... and these were of course inter-linked, with, for example, the wide-ranging fight on the Eastern Front in WWI leading to economic difficulties all through Mitteleuropa, undermining the ability to buy German manufactured goods.

Just as the impact of the Dust Bowl in driving farmers into bankruptcy was much more severe, coming on the back of the steep dive in the price of commodities in world markets after the Panic of 1929.

Kiashu, actually I'm not sure that's true, at least in the US. The Dustbowl has a huge resonance - as part of a seperate but simultaneous crisis.

That said, your point brings us back to Dennis Meadows, the World 3 simulations, where the chronic problem was not any one crisis, but the fact that even in fairly optimal scenarios, eventually what is lost is teh ability to cope. I think we're getting very near that point.

I'm really happy to see people asking the question of whence goes ASPO - I've been arguing that ASPO is going to have to start engaging itself with the long term - and the solutions, not the problem - if it is to remain relevant. ASPO is one of the most remarkable collections of minds in the world - it is time to turn your attention to the practical realities of adaptation.

IMHO, of course.


Hi Sharon, I agree that the current ASPO approach by itself is insufficient.

But it doesn't follow that ASPO should try to do everything itself. For one thing, ASPO is not a huge organization. It needs to stick to its focus or risk overextending itself.

For Solutions, we need a panoply of organizations, movements and efforts. Each will have a different set of members.

At the recent ASPO-USA conference, the demographics leaned heavily towards white male professionals. The main thrust was quantitative and large-scale (government and industry). I was surprised at the number of people interested in investments.

Some talks were devoted to Solutions, but in general I found them the least satisfying (e.g. high tech improvements to car designs).

Maybe there should be a section of ASPO for right-brainers. It would be nice to be able to talk about soil ecology, permaculture and movement building (my favorites) or the commonsense survival strategies that interest you.

I think it would be possible to approach these subjects with the rigor that is ASPO's strength.

Opening up ASPO to different approaches might make the organization more of a Big Tent, and help members widen their perspectives.

I wouldn't hold my breath though. Fortunately, there are many other venues for right-brainers.

BTW, congrats on the books and the recent rash of publicity.

Energy Bulletin


I think you have (in low tech terms) hit the nail squarely on the head. There are a large number of can do (early retired, very bored) engineers out here who have been outsourced in favor of computer simulations. While we enjoy the rapidity of a computer simulation, we know that it will provide a "safe" solution for the bean counters, not necessarily the elegent one that originally built our infrastructure. Since we are so left brained, we need right brain types to run point. Give us scope, scheudle and budget, and we can deliver.

PS Although female, well dressed, soft spoken and totally helpless when it comes time to open the door, the male demographics are so entrenched I am usually adddressed as "Sir" when in a technical meeting.

Irre -

I know of no way to send a message to one TOD user - so - sorry to others for this post:

contact me at yeskriscan at or youtube kriscanshow - if looking for some important peak oil work.


Gail and all,

Allow me to reiterate a thought I've advocated at this site and other related sites. All of these phenomena are related at a deep level. We are observing a complex system under a driving influence, namely the flow of energy through the global economy. That the major source for this energy is now fossil fuel (with consequent CO2 emissions) and that we have reached an effective peak in energy production (without adequate replacement for the FF sources) is fundamental to the financial crisis in multiple ways.

We need to take a systems approach to both understanding the multifaceted and complex Earth system and to finding solutions if any exist. I say if, because it is not clear to me that a feasible solution exists if the problem you are trying to solve is to save our civilization as it is. I can't see any path to sustainability in our current course. A deep systems study of our situation might, however, show us the directions to feasible solutions to the right problem formulation.

It may be time for many issue-based organizations to consider collaboration on an integrated systems approach to defining the interrelationships and dynamics that we are witnessing. It is a big task, of course, but so would be any approach to "solving" these problems independently. I nominate someone like Fritjof Capra to head an inter-agency effort to map out the interconnections. We need another World Dynamics model such as developed originally by Jay Forrester and taken up by Dennis Meadows.

Question Everything


PS. Not hopeful that any help will come from the elected "leaders", even if they grasped any of this.

I agree with you, George, and sigh at such statements as this, "But ASPO can be a catalyst, not for a “Solution,” but for new policy strategies and tactics that may help us fare better through the transition away from Fossil Fuels."

The truism goes something like this: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

This idea that ASPO or TOD or the "Peak Oil community" at large or... cannot define a solution strikes me as passing bizarre. At the very least, the brain power apparent within the PO "movement" is quite capable of working up some scenarios, no? The Club of Rome did. David Holmgren has. Why not POilers?

I posit, in fact, that a failure to do so will pretty much damn the planet. Who else knows the issue so well? Who else has the breadth of participants? The variety of experiences?

ASPO/TOD, whomever. Someone has to carry the burden of being stoned as a prophet in your own home.

I have advocated for such an idea.

Get 'er done.


Thank you Luis for your chronicles! I am glad you enjoyed your stay in Barcelona (although the locals can be very critic with our own town!

Indeed, this year's ASPO conference was a special one. Were the conference had been take place in June or July, the expectations would have been very different.

I think there are two themes here. One is the unpredictability of the "above ground events" (in that sense we choose a good motto for the conferences) that led to the fall of oil prices this year's fall. Another, very different one, is the strategy ASPO should take to accomplish its goals.

I have heard many times that we should be putting forward solutions, and stop talking about gloomy scenarios. Personally, I think that if you don't know what your problem is, you can't also find suitable solutions. You are just delaying the problem. In that sense, not all ASPO organisations are the same. We at ASPO Spain think that peak oil is just another limit we are reaching to the limits of growth, and that we have to understand first that the problem is the growth paradigm itself. But that is just our take on the problem, and surely can be enhanced with other points of view.

Regarding the communication between ASPO and society in general, we in Spain have had mixed results. We haven't been able to influence much the Spanish government, but we have been more successful with the regional governments (in Catalonia, where I live, and in the Canary Islands). Peak oil is even recognised in the Catalonian Energy Plan, and some technicians in the catalonian administration are fully aware and regularly informed (by us) about all of the developments in the oil and gas market.

Maybe the problem is that all energy issues are viewed as a supply side problems: if there is a energy shortage (perceived or real ), just pump more, produce more, stopping growth in consumption is not a possibility. Also, economic growth, even the kind that leads to more problems in the future (as the real market bubble and subprime mortgages has caused) is the number one priority.

All those things make our work more difficult, at least if an ASPO organisation wants to go a bit further from the "we are running out of oil capacity" issue. So maybe there is the need to redefine the boundaries of our actions.

Speaking about the ASPO conferences, and regarding the nature of the ASPO national organisations (mostly non profit with small budgets), I understand very well why some of them didn't come this year. I had my doubts last year, whether should I go to Cork or not, we didn't have money, we knew more or less what we will hear there, etc. But every group of people that share a purpose need to see each other from time to time, so at the end, the social aspect of ASPO gatherings had its importance. But at the same time, we have to prepare for a low energy world, where travel arrangements like these are a luxury, and ASPO should give example. Maybe the future of ASPO conferences lies in videoconferencing. Personally, I think that we should concentrate in national and regional preparation, while at the same time keeping a lively and constant contact with worldwide ASPO organisations. Maybe it would be more practical to have a South Mediterranean ASPO conferences than to attend a worldwide ASPO conference...

Another important issue for me is that ASPO shouldn't be afraid of laying bridges with other organisations. The IEA is one of such organisations. We have to understand the role that the IEA has had until 2005: they were just calculating demand and assuming that demand would be satisfied no matter what. Yes, in the past the IEA didn't help us, but know they are practically in our side. ASPO is no longer in the fringe camp, but as James Schlesinger said in Cork, "we should be gracious in victory", and work together with every organism that shares at least part of our worries.

Personally, I think that the biggest problem now is assuring the needed investment in the energy sector, and assuring that we burn the high quality fossil fuels left with the most efficient goals in mind: building future renewable capacity. And at the same time, engage in a discussion about whether our current economic thinking is really connected to the physical reality of our finite planet.

(Peaknik, also known as Daniel Gómez is president of ASPO Spain and co-editor of the Crisis Energética website, a 5 years old peak oil website in Spanish)

Interesting new group reported very recently in the UK
Included Jeremy Legett, (Solar Century) longtime peak oiler, but the others (!) are worth noting.
and for the quote below

The report was issued today by the recently established UK industry taskforce on peak oil and energy security, a group of eight companies including transport firms Virgin, Stagecoach and FirstGroup, engineers Arup, architects Foster and Partners, and energy giant Scottish and Southern.

Thank you for your note my friend, I hope to be with all of you from ASPO-Spain many more times in the future.

The only problem with videoconferencing is that you can't send a pint or a cup of tea through the wire ;)

And keep on being critic of your city, that's how it get's even better.

I was in Spain for the month of October, mostly driving: Madrid, Alicante, Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, Merida, Barcelona, Madrid, Aranjuez, Segovia, Madrid. I talked with taxi drivers, hotel workers and owners, shop workers and owners, tourists from all over the world, and a business owner relative who knows the economy of Spain, Europe, and the world well. I learned much as I traveled, including much reading of the "International Herald Tribune," "El Pais," "Times of London," "Finacial Times," and the "Wall Street Journal," as well as viewing CNBC, CNN, and the local TV news.

Building construction in Spain has almost ceased and construction cranes stand idle. Capital is scarce. No amount of government priming will change that. Few new solar panels and wind turbines will be added to the thousands in use. Commercial centers, factories, and offices are all slowing down and many will close in the months ahead. Spain will soon have spare electric power. The large number of tourists on the streets is a hold over from the pre-recession economy. Tourism is declining rapidly. This is like much of Europe and the U.S.

Global oil production has been plateaued since early 2005. So, the oil flow rate has been much the same, but now more oil is consumed by China, India, and the oil producing nations. Europe, the U.S., Japan, Australia, etc. are consuming less. Peak Oil is here, regardless of the most recent U.S. Energy Information Agency data which show some possible recent minor increase. When oil production is the same after 4 years of trying hard to increase it, we are at Peak Oil.

Very soon oil production will begin to decline, probably about right now (2012 at the latest, according to independent studies). Unless they are transported to the Middle East, China, or India, those idled construction cranes in the U.S. and Europe will remain idle.

Despite a media clamor in Spain for more wind and solar investment, it won't happen. Soon all of the capital will go to subsidizing unemployment (currently at about 15% and rising rapidly) and to public works in order to employ people. The manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines produces few jobs. As soon as oil production begins to decline, global recession with devastate the global economy and capital and government revenues will evaporate.

Luis de Sousa is right, we need to examine solar and wind power. No one has a real plan on how solar/wind will move tractors and combines, transport food and goods, or fertilize crops. Showing a photo of an electric powered tractor, truck, or train or saying we can do it is not a plan. What would the infrastructure for the electric economy look like? Where would the trillions of Euros in capital come from? How can governments pay for it when people are out of work and governments have little revenue? Where will the oil come from to manufacture, transport, and maintain the electric economy? Where will people get the money to buy electric vehicles when they are out of work and have little trade in value on their gasoline/diesel powered cars?

How can we maintain the power grid without oil? When the highways fail from a lack of maintenance, there won't be replacement parts for the power grid, wind turbines, solar panels. As I cruised the highways I saw some huge transformers and gigantic wind turbine blades being transported by trucks. Everything depends on trucks moving on the highways. Most food, goods, and people in Europe move by trucks, not trains. But like the construction cranes, those trucks will one day be idle -- and there goes food distribution, the power grid and everything. Without electric power, almost nothing mechanical or modern functions -- lights, sanitation, water purification and distribution, refrigeration, heating and air conditioning, pumping of diesel and gasoline, building systems, elevators, communications, emergency services, etc.

Shall we plan and prepare for the real future: a world without oil and without electric power. Or, shall we continue to avoid reality, dream about what will never happen, and waste time, effort, and capital on illusions?

...shall we continue to avoid reality, dream about what will never happen, and waste time, effort, and capital on illusions?

well, yes... avoiding reality...

the reality is, global power resides in people who think they have power to create their own reality, and that reality of theirs just happens to include a project to grab control of the world's remaining oil at gunpoint, the better to achieve their "benevolent global hegemony".

nevermind how many millions of lives, how much talent, how many trillions of dollars and how many natural resources will be wasted in this project... and all those things ---the wasted lives, talent, money, and natural resources--- should have been spent on transitioning, as best we can, to a sustainable way of life...


the first step in regaining some control of our future resides in our facing the truth, and telling each other the truth.

too bad both are politically impossible, isnt it? ...but as decent human beings, we must try.

the first step in regaining some control of our future resides in our facing the truth, and telling each other the truth.

too bad both are politically impossible, isnt it? ...but as decent human beings, we must try.

for example...

didnt  kristol get $100,000 from lay and enron?
and kennyboy may have gotten a great return on his investment.... you remember enron's dabhol india electric plant disaster.... well, the only thing that could have saved enron was a natural gas pipeline from turkmenistan through afghanistan down to enron's electric generating plant in dabhol....
now it just so happens that turkmenistan's natural gas was, at that time prior to 9/11, controlled by one yossi maiman ---an "ex"-mossad international industrialist, involved in venezuela, serbia, china, turkmenistan, buddies with sharon--- who can be regarded as a covert arm of the israeli govt.
maiman's control of turkmenistan's gas was similar to israeli russians' control of russian oil ---all being an integral part of the israeli/israeli american/exxon/kristol plan for global hegemony through control of oil, gas and pipeline routes.
anyhow, kristol's PNAC, a spinoff of the radical likud AEI, notes in september of 2000 that "a new pearl harbor" will be needed to serve as a pretext to grab even more oil and gas...

...and somehow or other, kenny lay of enron just happens to find out about the impending 9/11 operation ---which would screw up pipeline plans for afghanistan and spell doom for enron--- in time to pump his stock to his shareholders while dumping his own personal holdings in enron..... where did lay get that warning?
...from kristol, to whom he paid $100,000, or from yossi maiman, for whom lay's enron had done the preliminary surveys for the afghanistan and trans-caspian pipelines?
and so, in the aftermath of 9/11, kristol becomes the voice of urbane reason, appearing nonstop on israeli american televison, pushing his agenda ---which includes killing thousands ---eventually millions?--- of muslims, and pushing that agenda with such gentility that it almost sounds civilized.

1680 x 1050

none of this is my fault.

Thanks for that flickervertigo.

but I wouldn't worry as I'm sure they will all come clean and start telling the truth any day now.

In case you didn't notice my tanker truck of sarcanol just arrived.


you must have tapped into one of those abiotic sarcanol wells...

the url in the post above about kristol taking $100,000 from enron is obsolete. try this instead..

This isn't meant to be a political comment. However, I think we need to accept that we live in a society where the 'market' is sovereign and effectively rules and controls the direction and allocation of resources.

I don't believe we have a 'free market' system at all. The state and the market have effectively merged. The 'bailout' to save financial capitalism from total collapse, leading to a Great Depression, illustrates this forcefully.

What is the market for exactly? The market is there to control and channel profits/power from the majority to a minority who disproportionally benefit from this misallocation of societies resources. The very essence of the market is not to respond to the needs and interests of society, but to exploit society for the benefit of the minority, those at the apex of the market pyramid.

The mechanisms, flows, signals and dispositions of the market, now more than ever, not only don't reflect the desire or interests of society as a whole, they actually work in oppostion and are contradictory to the interests of society.

Before this goes completely off the edge into esoterica and philosophy, I'll put the breaks on, as this is really only stractching the surface of large and very complex issues.

Simply put, I believe we need to find a way to 'reform' the market fundamentally, to 'democratize' it, so that it functions for the benefit of the majority of citizens over the long term - let's call it 'neo-merchantilism' shall we?

It's not as if the 'free market' really exists, or existed. It's over. That period is over. Today the state has become part of the market system for everyone to see. But is this intervention for the benefit of ordinary people or for the 'financial aristocracy? We are putting the financial elite on taxpayer welfare for billions, but what about the poor and those who are losing their homes and jobs?

The current 'financial crisis' is analogous to the peak oil crisis and the environmental crisis, in many ways, they are both part of the economic/civilizational crisis we face. Attending to these challenges, put simply, requires us to confront and control the 'dictatorship of the market' and, unfortunately, its servant/protector/enabler, the State. Obviously forcing through real democratic control of these institions isn't going to be as easy task. I suppose I'm taking about a form of social revolution here, given our limited timescale, as the challenges we face as a society grow bigger with each passing day.

Good point Writerman.

All of what we face in this crisis will be exaggerated by the financial system we have organized ourselves under. To have to ask, where will the money come from? at a time such as this strikes me as ludicrous to the extreme.

We understand resource constraints yet we allow single individuals accumulate and consume enough to support a small nation.

Its time for economics to earn its way by evenly allocating scarce resources. Kind of a tough love economics that does away with the fallacy of “stored wealth”.

If we can not change this childish system, if we insist on using monetary means to decide who lives and who dies then nobody wins and it WILL lead to mushroom clouds.

Trouble is anyone of us, even most here with any amount of stored wealth will go to great lengths, even automatic weapons, to protect it.

Me I have spent all my money on community and local production, on living wages for all involved and fair price for local produced goods and services even though it means twice the price or higher than somewhere else. So yes I’ll go first.

Hi soup,

re: "So yes I’ll go first."

My guess is for a better outcome as a result of your decisions.

Localization, higher wages, "bargaining" up...practical results for resiliency, physically and socially.

I would ask anyone to read the final couple of paragraphs of cjwirth's post above, and tell me if you think you can sell that message to the business leaders, the politicians, the intellectuals (the real ones) or the public of any developed or developing nation, the message of a return to a Gothic world "lit only by fire". A message of complete surrender, a messege of the end of all modernity, all development, all technical science, a message of the abandonment of any advance. Tell me if the "peak aware" community can be taken as anyting but an apocalyptic cult if you try to carry that message to the world.

Perhaps true catastrophists would be best to join primitive monastic orders and live a life of "contemplation" to the end of their days, because no modern human will accept the world, the "reality" as described by CJ without fighting it to the death, because for almost all of us, death is what it would mean anyway. So in fighting for a modern, humane world, we have nothing to lose.

CJ warns us against the "waste {of} time, effort, and capital on illusions?" As opposed to what? Wasting our time dreaming of living in a hovel as a serf to overlords who have some level of ambition and industriousness and will rule those who surrender with an iron hand?

Dreaming the neo-primitive green anarchist dream? The horror that cjwirth describes would be acceptable to perhaps a handful of ascetics, and even they would curse the day they made such a choice soon enough. Given that they would live a life short and brutish, they would not have much time to curse themselves for throwing in the garbage the gains made over 5 centuries, the gains made by the sacrifice of years of thought and effort of REAL humans as opposed to upright walking animals. The real MEN and WOMEN of history the real HUMANITY of of the human type have preceeded us. They seem not to be present today.

What you call a "waste", CJ, we call life.


Roger, you are still obsessed with primitivism... and every time you fall in the straw man fallacy, characterising all who criticise the actual growth paradigm as "neo-primitive green anarchists".

There are many things in this world worth preserving: science and its practical applications (medicine, for instance), education, the welfare state, etc. But also there are many superfluous and stupid things, like traffic jams (something I don't think private owned electric cars are going to solve...), programmed obsolescence, "there is no tomorrow consumerism", etc, etc.

Food, shelter, energy, all of those things that make the life of a minority in the planet comfortable are in danger. I, for one, don't want to go back to the Gothic world, but I know that trying to stay in the same course without acknowledging our structural problems can lead us to this very future you are objecting.

So please do us and do yourself a favour and stop characterising proponents of a new societal and economic paradigm as primitivist extremists.

Hey Peaknik,

Yep, taking good technology to the other side is what I advise. It is easy to make penicillin, if you know how. It is easy to make an IUD, if you know how. IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW........

Here are some books to order now, because in the first emergency and they could all be gone and you can't get em later. It is called contingency planning, risk management, a stitch in 9, or Be Prepared (the Boy Scout motto).

# Antibiotic Alernative: Natural Guide to Fighting Infection and Maintaining a Healthy Immune System, Cindy L. A. Jones
# Composting Toilet System: A Practical Guide, David Del Porto
# Crisis Preparedness Handbook: Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival, Jack A. Spigarelli
# Doctors Book of Home Remedies, Series, Eds. of Prevention Mag.
# Donde no hay Dentista, Murray Dickson
# Donde no hay Doctor Para Mujeres, A. August Burns
# Donde no hay Doctor, David Werner
# Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook, Peggy Layton
# Encyclopedia of Country Living, Carla Emery
# Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 2nd ed. Michael Murray
# Gardening When it Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, Steve Solomon
# Green Pharmacy, James A. Duke
# Herbal Antibiotitcs: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug Resistant Bacteria, Stephen Harrod Buhner
# Human Manure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Joseph Jenkins
# Natural Alternatives to Antibiotics, Dr. John McKenna
# New Organic Grower, Eliot Coleman
# Organic Gardner's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, Ed. Barbara W. Ellis
# Oxford Handook of Tropical Medicine, 2nd ed., Michael Eddleston
# Practical Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, Mark Bricklin
# Rainwater Catchment Systems for Domestic Supply, John Gould
# Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardenting, Robert Rodale
# Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing, Suzanne Ashworth
# Storey's Basic Country Skills, John and Martha Storey
# The Herbal Medicine Maker's Handbook: A Home Manual, James Green
# Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers and Ponds, Art Ludwig
# Where there is No Dentist, Murray Dickson
# Where there is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook, David Werner
# Where Women have No Doctor: A Health Guide for Women, A. August Burns
# Wilderness Medicine: Beyond First Aid, William W. Fogey, MD

Anyone got any other suggestions along these lines???


Cliff Wirth


Public health, the internet - the great library.

It seems to me we're past peak. The time of questions about "if" is way past. I'm finding myself much more interested in what kind of solutions can be put in place. Others in the thread write about all the impediments. They are innumerable and cannot be overcome. But they will be overcome. I've recently done some back-casting exercises - starting from 50 years ahead and working back. The impediments were overcome; it was a matter of rationalizing them away in some form. An exercise in fiction. At first.

Plans need to go on the table. Those plans require vision. The analysis of where we are is important, but so is the analysis of where we need to be at some point ahead in time. It's a discontinuity - so we can't take what is and project to anything useful. Those who refuse to recognize the discontinuity are wasting precious resources.

Try this exercise: it's 50 years from now and you are talking to your teenage grand*child. What do you see around you? Tell her what you did to make the transition happen, what was your role and what were the obstacles.

cfm in Gray, ME

Scroll down to Electrification of Transportation and click on the MP3 file for a one hour interview with Alan Drake and a VP of DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit):

Hi Westexas,

I listened to the stuff on electric transport for North Texas.

I am a proponent of mass transit. I wrote an article on transportation in the Mexico City metro area:

The article is still required reading for a number of university courses on urban planning and transportation policy.

Conclusion: mass transit is the way to go.

But, there are difficult problems facing mass transit in the U.S., as indicated in STUCK IN TRAFFIC by Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution. The U.S. suburbs did not grow up around mass transit lines, but rather around auto use. As a consequence, U.S. metro areas are large and dispersed, and transportation is usually from many places in the metro area to many other places without any pattern, such as radial lines from the suburbs to the downtown. Also, the number of passengers using mass transit even in cities like New York or Chicago is just a few percent. The infrastructure investment to provide coverage would be enormous. And in most U.S. metro areas expanding mass transit means cutting through existing housing, which means political and financial obstacles to building more lines.


Cliff Wirth

Public health, the internet - the great library.

I think it would be a mistake for people to depend on having on-demand access to the Internet. I don't believe the Internet will go down, but if the company that provides the last mile to your home goes bankrupt, it will have gone down for you.

Physical books are much better for the long term.

The following book is highly recommend by Dr. Jim Barson of ASPO Australia:
Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine, Fifth Edition

As for Luis' comment regarding the future of ASPO (and ultimately Dennis Meadows' comment), there will be a continued need for researchers to understand how much oil is left, where it is and how to deploy it effectively. Although the initial purpose of ASPO will disappear (pinpoint the peak and educate), it could easily find a slightly different purpose that naturally follows the expertise that has been gathered thus far.

Here are some books to order now, because in the first emergency and they could all be gone and you can't get em later. It is called contingency planning, risk management, a stitch in 9, or Be Prepared.

So true. When shuts down because they unable to access credit, or because shipping of non-essential items ceases, it will likely be too late.

It's apparent from the Amazon reader reviews that most people consider this stuff to be pure hobby. As the entire world plunges into a global recession/depression, that will soon change. The demand for these books will absolutely explode. Will publishing firms still be in business? Will distribution reach your locale? Perhaps. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Here's some of what I've purchased:

-- Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long

-- Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

-- The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control

-- Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

-- All New Square Foot Gardening

-- The Vegetable Gardener's Bible

-- Gardening When it Counts

- Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds for Domestic Supply, Fire and Emergency Use

-- The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City

-- The Encyclopedia of Country Living: An Old Fashioned Recipe Book

-- Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance

-- Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook

-- Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills

-- Peak Oil Survival: Preparation for Life After Gridcrash

-- Tom Brown's Guide to City and Suburban Survival

-- Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands (Vol. 1)

The Self-sufficient Life and How to Live It

Where There Is No Dentist

The Secure Home

Don't forget Where Women Have No Doctor.

I'm rather partial of my wife :-).


Or a cut off of oil from the Middle East could end highway use and create the emergency that exhausts the stocks of these books and bankrupts Amazon.

Everyone should be educating librarians about Peak Oil and requesting orders of these books.

As they are usually good listeners and open to new ideas, librarians are the most likely folks to take Peak Oil seriously.

When Technology Fails by Mathew Stein...sort of an encyclopedia of the other books listed.

Hi Roger,

None of us have any control over this catastrophe. This globe is moving like the Titanic at full steam. It was too late to change course even 20 years ago, and we hit the iceberg long ago.

As soon a oil production starts to decline, everything will be frozen as it is. There will be no capital, no electric economy, nor algal diesel. Soon everything will be spent on just heating homes and producing and moving food, for a time.......

You are right, few will face reality, especially politicians and leaders. I've communicated with many and they run and hide. But a few people will get some good info on what is coming and will know more about what to do. See my comments above on taking technology to the other side.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the monastic life is not for me, no siree. My plans call for the continued good life.



Wow! This is rich. And demonstrates amazing prejudice and rigidity. The people you slander have much more nuance than you give them credit for.

This paragraph seems to be self-contradictory:

Despite a media clamor in Spain for more wind and solar investment, it won't happen. Soon all of the capital will go to subsidizing unemployment (currently at about 15% and rising rapidly) and to public works in order to employ people. The manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines produces few jobs. As soon as oil production begins to decline, global recession with devastate the global economy and capital and government revenues will evaporate.

On the one hand, harvesting power from wind (and sun) is not supposed to produce any jobs. On the other hand, increasing cost of power from oil is supposed to devastate employment.

Well, which? If rising oil prices hurts employment, then domestic energy production will help employment.

Hi Bruce,

My take on this is that Cliff's questions, taken up one at a time, are important ones. As is yours.

As I see it, the issue is something along the lines of whether "domestic energy production" is both 1) feasible in the financial sense, and in the "energy sense" or 2) net energy return? In other words, for how long would domestic energy production help employment? Is that more the underlying issue?

Is there a way to have a functioning "all electric" economy and/or self-sustaining "electrical" infrastructure?

Some combination of grid, distributed energy, "no growth" (?)?

The material underpinnings of a non-FF working manufacture?

Design that and then work backwards to "how to get there from here?" - (Question mark?)

While, at the same time, addressing the inter-connection of population growth, consumption growth, resource limitation, preserving and expanding human rights (or cultural change).

Hi Aniya,

Here is the answer to all of your questions. When the cost of oil gets very high, soon, the U.S. will not be able to heat homes and maintain the highways. Without the highways the power grid will fail, and then nothing works, and most people in the U.S. will die of exposure, infectious diseases, dysentery, etc.

Do you see any changes coming as far a public awareness or congressional awareness of the Peak Oil catastrophe??? No. So things are moving in a certain direction and there will be no preparation for living without oil.

Said by cjwirth:
The manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines produces few jobs.

Said by BruceMcF:
On the one hand, harvesting power from wind (and sun) is not supposed to produce any jobs.

The first statement is misleading and the second is wrong because they ignore installing, repairing and replacing solar and wind devices. Electrical infrastructure needs maintenance, repair and replacement which can not currently be outsourced overseas. Any oil importing country will get a boost from domestic wind and solar because less money will flow out of the country to purchase crude oil. Photovoltaic and solar hot water systems installed on people's roofs reduce (or eliminate) the homeowner's electric bill or generate income. The price of photovoltaic and solar hot water systems have not yet declined from mass production. Solar hot water panels can be made easily and cheaply by a do-it-yourselfer.

As for solutions there have been many articles and comments here on TOD that discuss them, from organic gardening to electric trains. As I like to say, we need to go renewable, sustainable and environmentally friendly pronto, or we're history. The majority endlessly debate the solutions as impractical or too expensive while doing nothing. Here in the U.S., there is an attitude problem among the people and a lack of leadership.

This is one of the most frightening things I've discovered this year... (US debt*).

The way that little, tiny counter rolls over relentlessly, $100,000 each second. Is there a similar clock for global oil consumption? One for litres, one for gallons? The moving numbers in the above link are truly mesmerising!

Regards, Matt B
* I'm still not sure on the 10T gross figure. Isn't the "total" debt supposed to be much higher?

10T is just the US public debt. The total, public, personal and corporate is something like 50T.

Is there a similar clock for global oil consumption?

That is public debt, compared to a US GDP of around 14T, so roughly 70% of one years national income. This is much less than the end of WWII, but on the other hand, the US ended WWII as the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth with around half the global GDP, while George Bush's ratcheting up of US Debt as a percentage of GDP has mostly been on the back of spending that has undermined real wealth.


Was there much discussion of the export model, and did anyone dispute your conclusion that 2005 was probably the net export peak?

No Jeff, all feedback was positive. I tried to show that the uncertainty is large given that the credit freeze is halting the wealth transfer from importers to exporters. But in the end it will result in exports falling faster.

The only “challenge” I felt was from Jean-Luc Wingert's scenario of Hard Crisis, after which a sharp recovery should occur. But our friends from ASPO-France are working with total liquids while we have been concentrating on C+C+NGL. 2005 it is and 2005 will be.

I also became aware that Kyell Aleklett has been working on this subject for a number of years now with similar conclusions to ours here at TOD. I'm now trying to look into it with more detail.

Agree heartily...we should be evolving toward effective education...ideas to mitigate near and long term impacts. That's conceptually straightforward...challenge is integrating resources and developing platforms using the proper and highest quality effective management and organizational principles. Key issues are reasonable time frames...what's doable and when...very complex and non-linear.

First step...getting everyone to support this. Need organizational leadership to: 1.) Correctly frame the problem(s); 2.) Develop agreed upon goals to pursue; 3.) Ask the critical questions and identify actions to aid society, 4.) Promote effective communication toward remedies and alternatives in a non-emotional demeanor.

Fear doesn't help. We're all in this boat together. If framed with correct tone in this manner...folks will listen and can be effective.

2 cents from past experiences.


Hi Nicho,

I'd be interested in hearing more about your past experience and how it might apply.

Could you perhaps write more about this?

Also, I like your ideas here. Who is putting them into place?


Past experiences are based on nearly decade experiences from late 1980's into mid 1990's. Was a lead atmospheric physicist (i.e. Meteorologist) on numerous United States Air Force future weapon systems such as B-2 bomber and F-117A Stealth fighter and also a program manager in Climate Change...funding dozens of studies on this subject with success. Issues briefed to top levels of government.

Successful projects and programs must be based on the highest standards of organizational efficiency...accountability and transparency. We followed and successfully applied many of the proven project and management concepts of Peter Drucker...Edward Deming among others.

Greatest challenge of any project is discipline to adhere to agreed mission goals...using proven quality management...scientific protocols. Misunderstanding...misinformation and proper use of what data says and doesn't say and applying risk management techniques are very critical. Communication is always the most important and critical aspect of any project/program. TOD...ASPO and others deserve credit as a key step forward toward education...dialog and awareness of this subject.

Similar standards and processes needs to happen on this subject. For example, Climate Change is based on applying highest quality data and over 100 scientific standards and techniques. How is this getting applied and presented to key decision makers? Opinion is not relevant...only decision making procedures and protocols. In Climate Change there are essentially 4 questions...

1.) What does the theory of GHG's (Greenhouse Gases) say how our 3D (horizontal and vertical) atmosphere should change?
2.) What do the 6 major methods of tabulating 3D observational data show and what are the limitations of this data?
3.) Using numerous (dozens?) statistical criteria...what can be attributed to natural and what can be attributed to man made and where does further research need to be pursued?
4.) What is the reliability..or skill of our best models using over 100 criteria to replicate long range climate natural and man made changes and how should output be weighted...if at all...if models are not skillful?

As a reader...most may not be aware of these 4 major questions and this emphasizes the challenge as similar challenges apply to "Peak Oil" issue.

Regarding Climate Change...unfortunately...because of politicization...poor leadership and media... how many readers can properly answer these? Decisions should never be based on fear! Good..effective leadership displaces fear and conflict. This dovetails into communication and ultimately success or failure.

The same needs to apply to this issue. Using highest standards takes the emotion, filters and biases and allows balanced and objective decision making and inter agency standards allows multiple organizations to work together instead of fighting which we can't afford.

Final comment...was involved in some of the most far reaching decisions in many decades during this time. Can't stress enough how information is presented and keeping focus. Then being acutely aware when emotions...personalizing...rising stress come in...when occurs then losing track and going backwards...the true test of leadership. Discussion...dialog yes...blaming must be nipped in the bud by applying proper management standards and techniques.

Hoped this helped answer your questions. I'm now semi-retired.


Thank you for your contribution.
The tone of the climate debate is often such that scientific or rational consideration of the issues is rendered difficult.
Terms such as 'deniers' prostitute scientific thought, IMO, and many are talking far outside any area of expertise which they have, and in the most absolute terms.

For myself I have not got the qualifications to make an informed judgement, nor am I prepared to put in the immense amount of time and effort needed to make one.

The difference would be, say, between someone supporting or opposing nuclear power, and someone imagining that they were qualified to determine the best fuel cycle to use, which would take many years of study.

It is perfectly clear that there are grounds for concern about climate, and even without considering human GW, the variability of climate is known to be huge, and the changes can be shockingly abrupt.

Thank you Luis,

After this year's ASPO-USA conference, Jim Bucke, one of the guest speakers,invited me to share his cab to the airport. He metioned that for all practical purposes Peak Oil was occuring now and in the future there must be more emphasis on what do we do after peak oil.

After giving this some thought,I think that the emphasis must shift away from supply side problem by either moving talks on supply from Day 1 to another day and possibly reducing the time spent on supply. This will not please everyone especially investors however it will enable ASPO to expand it's message and maintain relevance.


Very good discussion - this is why I come to TOD.

I'll second the comments that Daniel Gómez (peaknik) and many of the others have made.

About ASPO's role...

I really appreciate the technical and academic approach by ASPO groups. It is very useful to have them as a politically neutral source of reference information.

They can reach out to industry and government in ways that the more activist groups cannot.

On the other hand, it is quite true that the ASPO approach by itself is not enough. "Woefully, pitifully inadequate" would be closer to the truth.

But isn't that to be expected? The energy/limits conundrum requires changes at many different levels. There's no way one organization can do it all.

The answer seems to be the emergence of multiple entities in a network. As Sharon Astyk said today

everyone in the peak oil community has their project, and their particular niche. Some folks chase down the data, deal with media or start up this project or that - and there’s so much to do that I personally can’t help but be grateful to everyone.

For example, TOD provides a venue for articles and discussion that would be difficult for ASPO to handle.

Local community responses are being developed by Post Carbon Institute, Transition Towns, and the permaculture people.

Those who are politically inclined take the peak oil message into their parties. For example, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and conservative Republicans. Andrew McNamara and the Australian Labour Party. John Bellamy Foster and others at the Marxist Monthly Review. Green Parties and even the far right BNP in the UK.

I'm particularly interested in encouraging participation by women and non-Europeans. Religious groups are also important for the kind of culture change that will be required.

In a network like this, none of us have to come up with all the answers ourselves. What we can do:

  • Be a good little node - pick out a task we think is important and can do well. Stick with it.
  • Learn to be a good ally. Work with people who may not share all our values.

Bart Anderson
Energy Bulletin

why is it I'm logged in but not allowed to vote on this thread?


Wishing to continue ASPO after it has reached its natural end, demeans it.

What is worse, it means that all those who were espousing its philosophy were merely transients, and will change to any cause.

Readers of Krishnamurti will understand this.


Hi Graham,

I don't see that ASPO has reached its natural end, by any means. In fact, there is a greater need than ever to have rigorous, objective information about energy.

Hopefully, governments and academia will pick up on ASPO's lead. The IEA looks as if it is going in the right direction.

Even so, there will always be a need for an independent organization to help keep us honest.

Energy Bulletin

ASPO's role is not over at all. The job at hand is to prove with statistics that the 1st phase of peak oil 2005-2008 has ended in July 2008. Many airport extensions, freeways and road tunnels are on the drawing board.

Hi Matt,

No kidding.

This has been so distressing, personally - to learn about "peak" and then watch the expansion just continue on, especially the airports and things like...paving over local, choice farmland in order to construct a huge building for a non-profit - with so much "good cause" backing by well-meaning philanthropists. It's just been painful to watch. (And to be ignored, to the extent I made the attempt to inform.)

Could you possibly write up a summation article for ASPO that might be of use for citizens to send in to...Highway Depts...or...?

What do you think would be a good strategy for addressing your last point? And who could take this on?

As a paying member of ASPO, I find Obama's desire to destroy the coal industry appalling. He wants to bankrupt the industry that gives us more than half of our electricity. His energy beliefs are downright scary and a clear and present threat to our way of life. Stop him on Tuesday!!!!!!

In fact, check his own quotes.

He and Biden are simply out of touch and want Clean Coal Technology to be sent to China!!! We would be wasting our most abundant and cheapest energy resource: coal.

Wake up America!!!!!!

Okay, this is getting old, this is at least the fourth time you've posted the same link.

At LEAST give us a little variety, anyone with a computer can find dozens of stories about this.

Not the least of which is from the San Francisco Chronicle itself, who Palin said "hid" this interview, when in fact it has been posted on their web site (all 40 something minutes) since the day it came out and was heavily promoted by them, inciting pretty much a yawn by everyone (McCain camp included) until today.

Apparently neither campaign, until now, ever felt there was much worth mentioning regarding Obama's coal comments. But it's now two days before the election and McCain is in a do-or-die battle in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

A final note: the shoddy Newsbusters blog has been caught in the past simply fabricating news regarding the Chronicle's coverage. Our paper has demanded corrections for their fiction, but to no avail.

We contacted Bill Riggs, regional press secretary of the Republican National Committee tonight on his emailing of this erroneous report suggesting a ''hidden'' Chronicle audiotape to political reporters. His response: he didn't confirm it, or write the headline. He just sent it out.

He got taken. And so did the rest.

Listen for yourself. Don't believe what the right wing news blogs would like for you to hear.

(and I can write without exclamation points. How 'bout you?)

Luis, As a founding member of ASPO New Zealand I share your assessment that TOD/ASPO needs to move towards responses informed by viable concepts of what societies might look like after transitioning to a high-energy-cost future.

In addition to the 'educational work' we are building a practical example of a human settlement that allows sane, safe and meaningful living in world with little oil at, which might serve as a fully functional beacon.

Your observations about Barcelona are poignant. Arguably the majority of humanities most inspiring achievements have been produced in ages without oil. Can't wait to get home to that state.