Jeremy Leggett discusses the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security

Last week saw the publication of The Oil Crunch, securing the UK's energy future (discussed on TOD here). This is the first report from a taskforce of leading UK companies and sounds the alarm bell on peak oil. The group formed around 18 months ago through a common concern that peak oil and energy security are not receiving the attention they deserve.

Jeremy Leggett, Chairman of Solarcentury and taskforce member has provided The Oil Drum with an interview with "an anonymous cynical journalist". He discusses the thinking behind the report, the credit crunch, the global oil industry's culture towards the future and the report's recommendations.

Another 40,000 word report on energy. Why should we be bothered to read this one?

Jeremy Leggett: Leading British companies, across a broad spectrum of industry, are warning that a premature peak in global oil production is a grave risk to the world economy just three to five years from now, and maybe earlier. Our fundamentally oil-addicted global economy is geared for rising oil supply for several decades to come, so an unexpected oil crunch would compound the damage being inflicted by the credit crunch. "Toxic" reserves are in danger of becoming for the oil industry what toxic derivatives have become for the financial industry. Having failed to act proactively to head off the credit crunch, we must not make the same mistake with the oil crunch. When the oil price was near $150 earlier this year, panicking politicians flew around the world trying to do something about it. Even with significant reductions in demand, we risk oil prices far higher than $150 after peak oil hits.

Are you sure peak oil is so close? BP, ExxonMobil, and the Department of Business say you are not just wrong, but misguided.

JL: The global oil industry tends to lack of transparency where reserves and future oil prospects are concerned, and there are uncertainties as a consequence. But we believe the analysis we present – of a peak and descent in global oil supplies by 2013 at the latest – is, on the very strong balance of probabilities, correct, and that there is more downside risk than upside. Shell contributed a chapter to our risk assessment. Their opinion, which we had expected might be a summary of the case counter to our collective concerns, is in fact not much more encouraging than our own view. They forecast a flattening of production around 2015, and a plateau beyond, provided that the oil industry is given fairly open access to unconventional and otherwise difficult sources of oil. This proviso is far from a given outcome, not least for carbon/climate reasons. And even if it is achievable, it demands the same kind of proactive response that our scenario does. 2015 is tomorrow, when it comes to rapidly finding a new way of powering economies.

As for oil companies and government thinking our analysis is misguided, let's not forget that the banks and the Treasury completely failed to see the credit crunch coming. Why should we necessarily expect oil companies and the Department of Business to be prescient about the oil crunch?

The oil industry says they have made huge finds off the coast of Brazil recently. Lord Browne will be telling the new cabinet that there are massive amounts of oil yet to be found in deep water and the Arctic. The Saudis tell us they have plenty more left to pump and even more left to find. Are you calling them all liars?

JL: Nobody is lying, and there is no conspiracy. What we fear is that there is a pervasive and dysfunctional culture of over-optimism in the global oil business, resembling in many ways the one that has become so ruinously evident recently in the financial-services sector. In our report we present evidence that takes issue with every point made in your question. The Brazilian finds will eventually yield around an additional year's worth of supply ….more than a decade from now. That is, provided the discoveries haven't been exaggerated, as so many discoveries demonstrably are. The Brazilian finds are a blip in a spectacular megatrend of declining discoveries stretching back almost half a century. Lord Brown may say there is lots more oil to find, but Lord Oxburgh – the former Shell Chairman – says in the foreword of our report that significant "easy oil" discoveries are a thing of the past, and we show why he might think this in the body of the report. As for the Saudis, we offer reasons to fear that their production is on the point of shrinking, and we give reasons to suspect that they and other OPEC countries have been hyping their declared oil reserves ever since linking OPEC quotas to the size of national reserves way back in the 1980s.

But the oil industry says that there are well over a trillion barrels of proved reserves, and several trillions more in tar sands. In a world burning oil at not much more than 30 billion barrels a year, that means decades of supply before we need worry.

JL: Here you take on board a widespread misapprehension about the peak oil problem. Peak oil happens when flow-rate capacity coming onstream from oil discoveries fails to exceed declining flow-rate capacity from depletion of existing reserves. Peak oil is more a problem of flow rates than reserves. In our report, the consulting editor of Petroleum Review – a flagship oil-industry journal – shows how the flow rates from reported oil discoveries drop below decline rates no later than 2013, and possibly a good deal earlier. As for tar sands, you have to melt the tar. This is far from easy, and is far slower than lifting liquid crude out of the ground. Easy oil is depleting by at least 3.5 million barrels a day of capacity each year, and the oil industry can't squeeze more than 2.5 million barrels of capacity from the tar sands fully seven years from now, assuming all goes to plan and they aren't reined in because mining the tar sands creates a huge volume of greenhouse gas emissions. If we think of global oil reserves as a water tank, it's the state of the tap you need to worry about. If it is faulty, you won't get enough water out. We think the oil tap is faulty, and a lot of water is going to stay inaccessible in the tank.

But demand has been falling fast since we hit $147 oil. It's little short of amazing how quickly systemic change is kicking in through the transport sector. The credit crunch is sure to depress demand still further. Surely that's that going to head off the problem. We'll adjust to lower supplies. The credit crunch problem will fix any peak oil problem.

JL: It is true that the transport sector is morphing in front of our eyes, and it shows the scope we have for cutting global energy demand and changing supply if we try. But there are problems with the sanguine analysis. First continuing growth in demand in China and India is likely to drown out any demand reduction from structural changes in the west. Second, the oil industry has - almost incomprehensibly - been investing less in exploration in recent years. Third, the industry is relying on aged oilfields, aged infrastructure, and an aged workforce just at the time when oilfields are becoming more difficult to find and are taking ever longer - up to a decade - to bring onstream even when they are found. Fourth, the oil- and gas-producing nations have massive and growing infrastructure programmes that are increasingly cutting into their own scope for export. In the oil crunch that we describe, oil and gas exporters are going to start keeping their oil and gas for use at home. For some nations, perhaps most, that risks turning an energy crisis turn into an energy famine.

In any case, invoking global recession is hardly the best way to deal with the prospect of an oil crunch. We should be able to do better than that, and we can. The taskforce argues that if we accelerate the green industrial revolution already underway, we will surprise ourselves with how quickly we can reverse out of oil dependence. We explore that positive vision in some detail in the report.

Isn't the financial crisis the immediate priority and won't everything else, however serious, have to wait till financial markets stabilise?

JL: All three crises - credit, climate and oil – are deadly serious and have to be dealt with at the same time. Lord Stern, former chief economist at the Treasury, has argued that a £ invested today will avoid £10 in damage from climate change in years to come. The same is true of investing today to head off the impact of an oil crunch on the economy. We don't have a figure for the ratio of pain avoided, but we suspect it is higher than 10.

What have you said that is fundamentally new? Plenty of people have warned before about peak oil.

JL: This is the first multi-company alarm bell to be sounded on peak oil, anywhere in the world. We are endeavouring to warn governments, fellow corporates, and the public of a threat far worse then terrorism: a threat that holds the potential to hit us for six on the watch of the next government. Yes individuals and institutions have said that the oil and gas taps can slow, or turn off, and in growing numbers of late. Even the International Energy Agency has warned of an oil crunch in 5 years. But never before has a diverse group of businesses said this, much less compiled a deep analysis to back the warning.

So what's the solution then?

JL: We have to start building clean-energy technologies to reverse us out of oil at the speed that America mobilised for the Apollo project in the 1960s. The good news is that the survival technologies exist – dozens of them, across the full spectrum of energy supply and demand. More good news is that hundreds of billions of dollars have been already been invested in them in recent years, and they are in some of the fastest growing markets in the world as a consequence. The bad news is that these markets are still pitifully small compared to fossil fuels. We have a long way to go, and we have to move fast, just like the Americans did during the Apollo project. Another thing to recall is just how fast nations can build tanks and planes when they mobilize for world war.

UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security

Unfortunately, clean energy technologies -- wind, active solar, and nuclear -- yield electric energy, which does not solve the liquid fuels problem needed for moving tractors/combines, heavy trucks, trains, and ships, nor does it help with home heating much.

Furthermore, ample oil supplies are needed to maintain the highways (road bed and surface repair, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, bridge repair, and snow and ice removal). Without the highways, the power grid will fail, and then virtually nothing modern or mechanical works.

Without the power grid, the electric economy will fail. In addition, the electric economy will cost trillions of dollars/Euros in investment (the credit crunch is permanent due to Peak Oil), use much fossil fuels at a time when they are dwindling, and would take 20 years in research and development, planning, and implementation.

Before embarking on a plan to rapidly implement a trillion dollar/Euro economy, it would be wise to study the feasibility of the electric economy. At the same time, it is wise to begin discussing Peak Oil impacts.

Electric transportation is completely feasible for a large enough portion of the transportation sector (small cars, electric light rail, etc.). By switching these to electric as soon as possible, we can free up enough fuel, for decades, to power tractors, trucks, etc. while we work on alternatives for them.

Electric transportation is completely feasible for a large enough portion of the transportation sector

Prove it! Wasting rapidly depleting resources on faith-based assertions is not likely to be a sucessful tactic.

Also I am dubious that Government will heed the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security since the members of the group expect to profit at the expense of others from a switch away from fossil fuels - many such groups are lobbying Parliament the whole time so this also may be an unsuccessful faith based tactic.

Since peak oil is an 'affordable-flows-for-transport' problem, not a 'profitable reserves' problem IMO any education of the Government should start on that basis and to be effective the education should come from people without a profits 'axe to grind'.

It is not clear to me how solar thermal panels or windmills, as examples, can adequately solve a liquid fuels problem - to get the Government to take notice we will have to show, and prove, that there is actually an energy problem and that there is an adequate affordable solution. At the moment I don't think anybody can do this.

So what do you suggest?
The alternative would seem to be a mass die-off, perhaps you feel that we should just be happy about that.

What I have concluded after exhaustive analysis of scientific studies is that the electric economy will hasten die off and take away attention, energy, and investment away from PREPARING FOR PEAK OIL.

Since your 'exhaustive analysis' appears to exist solely in your head, it's relevance to the present discussion is limited to your own perceptions.

No, it is readily available online, but I am not allowed to reference my work here, or else the editors delete my comments.

Yeah, that does not surprise me too much. I have vague recollections of your having repeatedly presented some fairly tangled mass of prose, with the data points connected tenuously and based upon unjustified assumptions.

I am sure that in your own mind you feel that you have 'proven' your thesis, and perhaps you will forgive the rest of us if we remain unpersuaded, and are likely to remain so no matter how many times you re-present your assertion that society cannot run without fossil fuels in the same ball-park as at present.

EDIT: Re-reading this, it is rather ungracious. You have made an effort to make an analysis, and I respect that, even if I do not think that the conclusions that you have drawn are solidly based and feel the work to be deficient, from what I have seen.

At least you could read it before making insulting comments. And how is it that if you google -- peak oil impacts -- my research comes up first out of over a million hits, and on the first page for -- peak oil alternatives ???

Not easy, without a reference. And I believe I have read it in the past, as as you say you have presented it many times here in the past.
However, I give you full credit for having carried out an analysis, even though I may disagree with it, and feel that your position is much more respectable than I had previously been led to believe, with statements without an analysis of any kind, as far as I could recall.

My comments should not be taken as insulting, merely as a disagreement with yourself on the inevitability of your conclusions, and my comments refer to your arguments, not yourself.

Well I just scanned it and I think Cliffs analysis is a reasonable as say ... Kunstlers or Heinbergs. I don't know that anyones predictions can be claimed to be the only possible version of the future and your constant assertions about electric cars is probably less likely than Cliffs conclusions about massive economic and social disruption. Current events would tend to point more toward the doomer position than "magical green all electric utopia" you believe is coming.

I don't believe I have ever said that electric cars will certainly rescue us all, as you seem to be saying.
When the subject crops up I refer to the4 present state of play and how much power they use, I do not prescribe how much of present use they will be able to provide, as that also depends on other factors such as economics.
My objection is not to the thesis that the grid may break down, but to the assertion of it's inevitability poorly supported by analysis.

I am sure that in your own mind you feel that you have 'proven' your thesis, and perhaps you will forgive the rest of us if we remain unpersuaded, and are likely to remain so no matter how many times you re-present your assertion that society cannot run without fossil fuels in the same ball-park as at present.

Dave I have not heard cjwirth speak in fullness and would like, even if he be running mad in some electrifying manner, see such madness with mine own eyes; that, than staggering on, be blinded by that 'we' of yours.

Please note that the 'we' referred to those who had commented up to that point in time.
To examine his claims for yourself, go here:

If you open up the report, you will see that most of it is uncontentious stuff - and the grammar has improved since the last time I looked at what he had to say.
Much of it is simple adaptions of what others have said on this site.
However, when you get to the part where he branches off on his own, on the non-fungibility of energy resources, you can see that one of his primary references is to a report from 1980, fer chrissakes:

The 'Exhaustive analysis' he talks of is based on entirely outdated information, since, for instance, battery technology has improved in many respects by something like 8% a year for many years.

The foundation on which he builds his absolute claims for the inability to manage without a huge input of fossil fuels is in fact far from exhaustive, but an incredibly skimpy couple of paragraphs, and the referencs so dated that one can perhaps conclude that the data has been cherry-picked to find something or the other which would give some cover to the assertions made.

If you want to give credence to this, fine.
I do not intend to waste any more time on extreme claims with such flimsy backing that in my view they destroy any credibility.

So what do you suggest?
The alternative would seem to be a mass die-off, perhaps you feel that we should just be happy about that.


Don't much care for censorship which was the point of my comment. I also think that inflammatory remarks are no argument.

On the subject of die-off, which you bring up, maybe it has begun. I won't say why I say that it may have begun, as, following the dictum you have set up, it might compel me to cite chapter and verse, or risk verbal abuse. Besides, I am at heart a very lazy bugger and wouldn't feel like it.

I don't suppose I could say why I think so and have you run your butt off proving me wrong? You know, present a theory and have you knock it down?

While I am at it maybe I could present the theory that the electrical system will fail due to the decrease of net energy in the system, as provided by fossil fuel, over time.

My objection is not to the thesis that the grid may break down, but to the assertion of it's inevitability poorly supported by analysis.

Hi Dave,

The report is a policy analysis of the most reliable and up-to-date scientific and government studies (National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, Energy Watch Group [funded by the German Parliament], U.S. General Accountability Office, Union of Concerned Scientists [the latest battery technology there], Congressional Research Service, World Energy Council, Canadian National Energy Board, Joint Research Centre of the European Union, and many scientific studies that are published on TOD).

The material dealing with the multitude of energy inputs for alternatives and oil production is original, in that no one else has discussed all inputs previously. This explains why oil depletion will occur rapidly and why alternatives will not be able to replace declining oil supplies.

The claims are not extreme, but rather the Energy Watch Group (funded by the German Parliament) comes to the same conclusion in a report, PEAK OIL COULD TRIGGER MELTDOWN OF SOCIETY, that will be released next week:

"By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame."

I've had dozens of comments about how well the report is written, and only one to the contrary -- yours. I've had numerous positive comments from TOD members, including some from TOD editors.

The report was published by and


Cliff Wirth

I would agree that the report is well written, as I have said, and in it's early stages uncontentious.
Since I was not given links to it, I fell back upon possibly faulty memory of when the argument had been presented before - you have since explained why the links were absent - if I am not told I don't know.
I agree that society may break down due to peak oil.

What I object to is your assertions as to it's inevitability, supported in the case of the fungibility of energy by grossly out of date references, and a very skimpy covering of the subject rather than the 'exhaustive analysis' you claim.
I feel your analysis is not strong enough to support the degree of certainty with which you declare it's inevitability, and prefer an approach which itemises forces for and against a particular result and looks for factors which may falsify them.

What got my goat though were the claims of 'exhaustive analysis' without references or links, and you have since explained that that was as you were not allowed to by the editors, which is fair enough.

Factually you are wrong about the dates of references, as most are within 2 years, a few go back to 2004, but in any case I use the most up-to-date. The report is exhaustive in reviewing all relevant scientific/credible studies, and reporting on the most recent and credible. In some cases, there are no references, as the findings are original.

As I said, what I really objected to were your statements that you had extensive analyses of the problem, without a link.
You have since explained why that was the case, due to editorial limitations, but I was hardly to know that until informed of this.

On the case in point, the section which seems entirely unsupported is the one of Energy Non-Fungibility pg 38 and on.
This is simply a series of assertions without any foundation at all for the conclusions you seek to draw.
For instance, you mention difficulty in financing projects - however there is wide variability in the availability of funds, with countries like China being able currently to have a near $300 billion a year new infrastructure investment without moving into substantial budget deficit.

You also choose to highlight Bouldings critique of 'Energy in Transition 1985-1010', which is a 1982 report.

It may, of course be the case that a transition may not be possible, but asserting this is not the same as proving it, and your confidence in the absolute certainty of your conclusions is no guarantee of their correctness.

On this critical section what you present can in no sense be considered as the 'exhaustive analysis' which you represent it to be.
It is a couple of pages of assumptions.

So what do you suggest?

Prove to the UK Government we are actually at peak oil and that there isn't sufficient investment going on. So far as I can tell they don't even admit that the North Sea has peaked!

Prove that adequate alternatives can be made if we are at peak. I don't think the Government wants to know unless you can actually give proof since they are not in the habit of panicing the public without good reason.

Don't assume that there is actually a viable alternative to Fossil Fuels.

So, if your conclusion is that there is no viable alternative to fossil fuel, what then?
And, in those circumstances, how could any investment be 'adequate'?

I fail to see the point of your argument.

Time to prepare for Peak Oil, and the end of oil.

In PEAK OIL COULD TRIGGER MELTDOWN OF SOCIETY, it is interesting to note what the Energy Watch Group (funded by the German Parliament) concludes about alternative energies:

>>>> "By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame." <<<<<

Davemart - It seems like you are trying to work up a fresh batch of denial.

You have read here long enough to understand the thinking yet you want to re-hash it all again. Why?

To find a crack in the logic? A glimmer of hope for BAU?

...or are you just looking for a good aerobic workout for your digits?

What has BAU got to do with it?
The discussion was on whether society could run on electric without near-present levels of fossil fuel inputs.
Many results could lead to society continuing to function without it being near BAU.

Still, it is pretty much a waste of time debating since many here seem to feel that by a process of invincible logic they have determined for certain what is going to occur, and that all that they need to do is convert the unbelievers.

Personally, I think how things will pan out depends on a whole mess of political, economic and technological factors, the vast majority of which I am not an expert in and in many of them, notably the technological, no-one knows what will happen as the research is not completed - that is why they are researching it.

If it comforts you to feel that you have the inside skinny on destiny, bully for you.

None of us know what will happen but many of the possible "solutions" have been extensively explored here and to keep holding up any of them or even all of them as the answer only serves to distract from what seems to be a general consensus that we need to power down to some level.

None talk about power all the way down to zero but power down to some lower level we must.

We can't ramp up anything and power down at the same time.

Or I should say if we, the rich countries, ramp up then the developing countries, the majority, will have to power down 10X more to compensate.

I for one am not ok with that and I am pretty sure they will not be either.

Quite. It is entirely incorrect to describe me as having some neurotic attachment to BAU, as it is perfectly clear that this is impossible given peak oil, which I entirely accept.

However, it is equally erroneous to imagine that we know exactly what our circumstances will be.

Debate for me follows fairly classical lines, and meta-arguments which go from a general to the particular, such as 'this society is unsustainable', are entirely irrelevant to me.
I want to know what will break down, when, and what would falsify the prediction.

For instance, in the present debate, if someone presents the thesis that society cannot function at all in the absence of fossil fuels, and that this is not substitutable, I want to know which bits don't work, how much of total energy use they constitute.

It was argued on this forum, in my view successfully, that heavy agricultural equipment could not be successfully substituted by electricity, at any rate until decent zinc batteries are developed, but this is a fairly small part of total use and the location is ideal for the use of biofuels which would use up less of the crop than draft animals.
In any case, many here argue that localised agriculture will lead to less need for the largest machines.

On a more general level, it is argued sometimes that finances will preclude just about everything.
Well, debt and credit are fundamentally social constructs, and much less deep than physical limits, and in fact many societies have gone through a financial re-set and been extremely productive afterwards - the bankruptcy of France in the 18th century springs to mind.
It did not noticeably handicap them in fighting the whole of Europe shortly afterwards.

EROI arguments may have more weight, but thin film solar is pretty damn good, and so is nuclear if you don't assume that they are going to do it in as silly a way as can be conceived for the purposes of arguing against it.

Incidentally, I am not essentially opposed to the idea that the grid in many countries may fail - in times of social unrest and poverty, for instance, the distributed nature of wind power may mean that all the transmission lines are stolen at a rate which can't be replaced.

It does not seem tome to be possible though to be categorical that the grid will fail, anymore than I can be categorical that it will not.

We live in uncertain times, and it is well to accept that.
False certitudes do not help.

I'd go along with your notion that we will need to use less power, but it is perhaps still possible that we can live relatively well just the same.
And we will still need to generate a great deal of power, and every single one of them has downsides.

Likeliest in my view is very, very severe dislocation indeed, at least in most places in the world.

I haven't yet spotted any absolute technological limits which mean that a good standard of living in, say, 50 years time will not be possible , hopefully for a gradually falling population.

My own view is that getting there is the problem.

in those circumstances, how could any investment be 'adequate'

Exactly ... I am sure the UK, at least, is at peak oil ... if the world is too then we need viable affordable alternatives, IMO, maybe if you can't show with a very high degree of certainty that there are such viable alternatives then what we do have must not be squandered on faith-based blind alleys.

The first step to getting through Peak Oil is to admit to reality - and one reality is that the UK Government hasn't got magical powers but will do whatever is needed in an attempt to retain what power it has - what is good for them (such as 'economical with the truth') may not be good for you and me!

Xeroid, Again I share your sentiments. Why do we have this blind faith that technology will save us. It will only save us if enough people can get rich out of the process of saving us. Employment is legalised exploitation, where a company makes a profit by paying its workers the minimum amount it can get away with to retain the skills necessary to sustain the business. If people demand more than an employer is prepared to pay, then the company will eventually relocate to a lower cost labour source. There is no sentiment to the overall well being of the people or the host nation, James Dyson is a classical example of many. Whether we are saved by "technology" will be a combination of confidence of a return on investment by those with cash, and the technology itself not only being sustainable but affordable to the public at large.

The cost and availability of energy will be a key factor in all of these conditions being met. As you say, we have not even reached the point where those in power have acknowledged (in public at least) that there is an energy problem yet.

The government appears to have the mentality is that finance is the primary driver of the economy, not energy supply. Energy can be bought with money! At the moment the government is finding money hand over fist for bank rescue packages, and now possibly tax cuts. It seems to me they are solving the problem using the method that caused it in the first place.

A pessimist is an optimist who is aware of the facts!

Describing a problem does not necessarily require providing a solution. Frankly, I do not see how it is feasible to avert a severe outcome to the fast approaching phenomena of peak oil. Burying our heads in the sands of denial will only make the situation worse. Some problems do not have a solution, and bad things happen. The question is how bad will it be. The answer will vary from one individual and group to another, but the realists will will likely be less overwhelmed than will be those who cling to the fantasy of a hero rushing to the rescue or some miracle technofix that will power our microwaves into the distant future. Insofar as a mass die-off is concerned, our world will almost certainly have a smaller population in the coming decades. The only question is how will it shrink.

Hi Xeroid,

Your concerns are supported by The Energy Watch Group (funded by the German Parliament) concludes about alternative energies:

>>>> "By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame." <<<<<

Hi xeroid,

IMHO it will be most effective to get existing organised lobbying, for example if say Age Concern picked up on this it already has a well established PR machine with celebrities, acess to the press...

You said "to be effective the education should come from people without a profits 'axe to grind'", as far as i am concerned the more people and organisations that push for an answer the quicker the politicians will pick up on it.

With the new US administration taking a higher profile on energy (e.g. Rumours circulating that Governor Schwarzenegger could be offered the energy secretary post in Obama administration) now would be a good time to push in the UK.


this is becoming my most serious concern given the way things are unfolding with the credit crunch PO foretaste -namely that when cheap liquid fuels start to decline (lets just assume say post 2012 for arguments sake) we go into the mother of all recessions/depressions at which point there is AMPLE surplus electrical power as industry grinds to a halt and thus NO PERCEIVED NEED for windmills, PV, Nuclear. In addition due to this overabundance electrical power remains relatively cheap and since we will probably be facing a 2nd credit crunch investment cash is not there anyway...

Its only when we start to see an Natural Gas/LNG/Coal supply decline -i.e. electrical feedstock decline- that electrical prices go up rapidly. A shift to PHEVs will not do it on the demand side quickly enough as replacement in the crunched/depressed world will take decades...




The problem is that when there is surplus electric power due to depression and closing of plazas, offices, and factories there is lingering alternative/renewable solution ideology.

Most people have received either formal education or media education that has repeatedly told them that solar/wind/renewable energy will save us in the end. Since the 1970s, professors have pounded this message into their students. This is a deep and pervasive belief around the world, and it will last a long time. Also, you can't see surplus electric power, so it will get little attention.

Politicians basically respond do what the public wants. So we can expect to see public works jobs to create wind turbines and solar panels.

That my depend to a certain extent on capital markets which may have shrunk back to the local if most of the malls,plazaa car makers and other industries have disappeared. This could limit the scale of any alternative power production to local demonstration projects, which never achieve the scale necessary to support heavy industries like steel making and chemical manufacture.


I think that you're correct to point out that we do things with petroleum besides burn it for fuel. However, its not as if oil is just going to disappear once production starts to decline. Lets assume that oil production drops off at a similar rate to which it has risen (as Hubbert's model predicts). If oil peaks in 2010 and it takes 20 years and trillions of dollars to make the necessary upgrades to the electrical grid, the world will still be producing as it did in 1990.

Also, why do you think these upgrades will cost trillions? Estimates for revamping the U.S. gird currently stand at $100 billion over 10 years. Even if you assume this will quadruple due to rising prices, $40 billion a year is still very manageable. Is the European grid in that bad of shape?

Also, why exactly will upgrading the electrical grid hasten the "die-off"? Why doesn't that count as preparing?

In addition, while paved roads are certainly superior, cars and trucks can (and do) travel on unpaved surfaces all the time, even with very heavy loads. I don't know why these roads couldn't work to keep the power grid operational.

With one road washout, one land slide, one big snow, or one bridge out, the whole section of many kilometers of road is out. Heavy trucks do not fare well on rough roads. Watch how trucks slow to a virtual stop for speed bumps/topes -- because they don't handle rough stuff well at all.

How long do unpaved surfaces stay flat unless groomed and fixed often. One big rain storm and there it goes.

And about those trillions: millions of solar panels/wind turbines, millions of cars/trucks/tractors/combines/trains/trams, thousands of service stations, millions of transformers, lots of cable, thousands of pylons, the energy for manufacturing all of this, the transport, workers salaries, maintenance, repair, offices, factories built etc, and don't forget inflation will double and triple and 10x prices of today.

About die off, doing the above will use up/waste oil and natural gas faster, and take attention, time, and investment away from preparations for Peak Oil. Better to use the oil we have to prepare for when we don't have any.

I wasn't trying to say that unpaved roads are better than paved roads. Snow, landslides, and everything you mentioned will make unpaved roads less reliable and harder to maintain. But they will still be maintainable. Snow, landslides etc. have existed for a long time, and people to build and maintain roads long before gasoline powered vehicles. Either way, this sort of scenario is not imminent.

I see now that you weren't just talking about the electrical grid itself, but all portions of the energy generation and transportation system. All told, this will cost trillions. But I still don't understand why this will be impossible. The world currently spends trillions of dollars on cars, coal-powered electrical plants, and all of the stuff you mentioned. Costs developing transportation and sources of electricity that operate without fossil fuels will probably cost more than contemporary equivalents, but not an order of magnitude higher. We're not starting to build all this stuff from scratch.

Also, you keep talking about oil as if its just going to disappear. Yes, petroleum will be much more expensive in the future and we have to change the way we live. We won't be as materially rich as we are now. I just don't see why things would just stop after peak oil. In the U.S., it would take $300 or $400 dollar a barrel oil to push our gas prices into the realm of what Europeans pay already. Sure, the price will probably go much higher at some point in the future, but my point is that we can still function as a society while oil is that expensive, and the rise in prices should help make it easier to change the way we live.

Hi ssn139,

It is inevitable that the highways will collapse. The states won't have funds to pay workers and buy oil to maintain them, as they have more important priorities -- keeping people alive with heating oil in hospitals and state institutions. If people can't get to the job (due to closed gas stations) and they are not paid, they don't get to the job to fix the higways.

When a bridge goes out, there will be no girder to replace it, as the company that makes them will go bankrupt, and other bridges will be out, and a road washout, and the highways may be dangerous from bandits, and few police to patrol the roads, some workers will not want to go long distance for fear of never making it home.

Oil will not disappear fast, but will become very expensive fast -- look at the fast rise to $150 oil even before production begins to decline. Demand for oil is increasing, despite the credit crunch.

The electric economy will have to be developed as the rest of the economy continues along the same path. It is an add on.

Thank you both for the discussion!

I think that it is right to question various estimates of oil reserves as "Toxic Reserves" very much like the "Toxic Paper" that pervades our current financial crisis.

The multiple-headed question arises: who can tell what the total reserves are, how much is recoverable, and at what true cost? (By "true cost" here I mean to imply that we include the environmental costs of recovering oil.)

I do think that we need to emphasize that stated reserves are motivated to push up stock prices and to shore up regimes.

On an odd side-note, I facetiously posted the other day that I recently completed a tour of all of the world's oil fields -- known and not-yet-known -- and used a Magical Dipstick to discover exactly how much oil there is, and whether or not the supply is shrinking or growing. I do think that people have this silly notion that the entire "Peak Oil" question is as simple as looking at the gas gauge in one's car, or putting a measuring stick down into a big tank in the ground somewhere to find out how much is left.

The technical complexities -- geology, types of resources, EROEI, and market quirks -- all serve to allow for a huge play of misinformation and dis-information.

People are generally motivated by religious or quasi-religious narratives which give them a sense of purpose, meaning, belonging, and immortality.

Somehow all of the complexities of Peak Oil need to be fit into compelling Meta-Narratives which will motivate people to go on a species-saving binge.

Yes, indeed, I think the idea of criticizing "toxic reserves" is a brilliant strategy. To compare it to "toxic paper" will bring a lot of head-nodders into the discussion.

Yet, I do think that the understanding of reserves will turn out easier than chasing down toxic credit. Both are undocumented to various degrees, but oil is concrete and has to follow the laws of mathematics and physics, whereas credit in the worst case is abstract and can turn on a dime. The collapse of credit could play out way faster than oil, for example.

I don't think that it is a silly notion that we can come up with a comprehensive model, or Meta-Narrative in your interpretation, to explain Peak Oil. I put this life-cycle chart together today:

I think that it is right to question various estimates of oil reserves as "Toxic Reserves" very much like the "Toxic Paper" that pervades our current financial crisis.

Seconded! As long as they're on paper without a solid reviewed methodology for their estimation, they are, in fact, mark-to-myth.

Let us now take a moment to confront the deeper structural implications of what has been said so far, and by so far I do not mean in this post or in this string of replies, but in the whole "peak oil" debate to this point. Call it my "meta-narrative" if you like.

1. Exactly when "peak oil" occurs matters very little to nations engaged in living the modern technology driven lifestyle, but greatly to individuals attempting to plan their lifestyle and investment plans for the remaining years of their lives. Two or three decades is virtually an eye blink for a culture. It is most of the rest of life for many individuals. A small miscalculation of "the when factor" means nothing to a culture, which must still engage in massive structural change, change that will take several decades at least. For individuals, a miscalculation of a few decades mean that they will give up the chance to live a life of dignity and prosperity while planning for a change that does not occur, at least not yet. Whether that change is toward technology and a life of sufficient energy, or whether it be sudden and fast collapse matters little. To plan for the wrong future is equally as damaging, regardless of which future that turns out to be.

2. To continue to live in a culture that is almost exclusively dependent on oil as the fuel of it's transport system is to live in a culture of constant fear. The fear alone is reason enough to begin a radical and difficult program of moving to fuel diversity and renewable energy technology. Imagine for one moment that "peak oil" and climate change caused by carbon release is a hoax. Radical to think I know but just imagine it. The fear that would have been caused by such an elaborate hoax would have exposed a dark weakness that exists at the very core of all modern existance. And if this "episode" of peak oil hysteria had been caused by a hoax or by simple miscalculation, what about the next one, in three years, or ten, or twenty? Who could know when the real "peak" would occur, and this one not a hoax or a miscalculation? Who could tolerate such an existance, a life of constant fear, the terror that hundreds of years of technological advance and cultural advance would be lost overnight? Who could tolerate a constant dependence on fossil fuel driven existance, knowing that everything about cultural existance could be destroyed by even a short deprivation from the needed fuel, a deprivation that could destroy their culture?

3. We now know what we should have known from history: Price tells us nothing about impending peak oil. If peak oil is near, and price is a guide, we have the greatest disconnect between price and reality ever seen in modern economics. In the U.S., I can buy a gallon of gasoline today for $1.86 per gallon. If we use price as the guide, we cannot possibly assume that peak in the near term (10 years or less) can possibly be a reality. Natural gas and propane, especially propane, clean renewable and transportable fuel is virtually being given away, and even longer term futures are a third below the price we have already seen in the market place.

4. The crisis we are discussing is essentially a liquid fuel crisis. It is NOT an energy crisis in the larger sense. In many markets, there is a surplus of electric power available to the market at this time. Being a liquid fuel crisis, peak oil is thus first and foremost a transportation problem. This being the case, the first and greatest effort and use of capital must go to reforming our transport sectors away from it's virtually exclusive use of oil as it's driving fuel, and then away from fossil fuel and liquid fuel in general.

5. A dash to natural gas as a transport fuel is only a temporary solution, and is not in any way a long term solution. However, for certain natural gas rich markets, it may be the only way to bridge the crisis of the next couple of decades. While natural gas may not be a long term solution, it should not be dismissed in certain markets.

6. Likewise, certain biofuels. Despite their shortcomings, they are delivering liquid fuel. We already have a "sunk cost" in ethanol in several markets and soybean Diesel can provide needed liquid fuel to the agricultural sector. The return on imput has improved some, and with careful selection of the best technology and the best imput crops, can get somewhat better. Given the invested capital in ethanol plants, source crops and agricultural machinery we cannot simply walk away from ethanol or bio Diesel and throw this investment away, not in these economic times. We should look to gradual build away from ethanol from corn, and make the best use of already sunk costs. In certain cases we may be able to incorporate solar, wind or geothrmal to increase EROEI even further. Oil production may decline faster than the toll these already built biofuel systems will take on topsoil and water. But we cannot afford to expand the ethanol systems at public expense from this point further. Money is simply too valuable.

7. All personal planning must be for extreme volatility. Don't assume oil prices will go steadily up or down. Assume that any changes will be unsteady, unpredictable and may happen very fast. Likewise with the currency markets and the stock markets. PLAN for unpredictability and don't buy into the stories that "things have stabilized."

The big picture is this: The oil age is almost over. Even without peak oil, oil is becoming more of a burden than an asset. Carbon release and climate change issues, lack of access to oil, oil in more difficult to reach places only add to the evidence that oil is becoming a burden and not an asset to the Western nations.

We all knew that the oil age would end, so we should not be shocked. Technology will supersede the oil age. Despite what some will tell you, the human race will not end, and modern culture will not end due to lack of oil. Oil was a temporary phase, like all the ages which came before it and all the ages that will come after it. The oil producers propaganda that all modern culture was based on oil was of course what you would expect them to say. It is astounding how many people believed it. But modern culture did not come from oil. It came from hours, and then years and then decades of mental effort, thought and physical effort by millions of people, and then building the systems which made oil an almost monopoly energy source for awhile. Without these millions of hours of thought and effort, oil is nothing but smelly sticky slop. Without the years of mental and physical effort, the wind, the sun, geothermal and nuclear power are as useless as oil once was. The oil age is ending. Get over it and move forward with your life. The day will come when oil power is like horses are today. A hobby. There will be oil production and consumption for decades to come. But the growth of economies will soon no longer rely on oil as it's driving fuel for the future.

The age of growth based on oil is indeed ending. Whether the age of growth and prosperity in general terms is over humans will have to decide. The Earth can provide plenty and the sun more, if we decide to use it. This will be the choice our people and out thinkers will be asked to make. Do we want a modern world, do we still desire technological advance and technology driven lifestyle? This is an aesthetic decision we all must make for ourselves and for our culture. Our choice will establish our future and our relationship with other cultures. Rembember that the European and American "Western" nations are the minority in the world. The developing nations of Asia, Africa, and South America will also be making their choices. How we choose will decide how we will relate to these nations as well, and have geopolitical implications. We may choose to abandon the pursuit of power. Can we be certain that other nations in the world will? The decisions we make now will decide whether we will lead or follow, whether we will rely on the mercy of others or whether we will work with them as partners. Work done in the labs and shops of U.S. and European firms and universeties is already being used to produce energy around the world. Our next generation of technicians and planners are already in the schools of Europe and America. Whether we make use of their work or abandon it is a choice the people of the West will make. It will decide the future of our culture. WE will decide the future of our culture. Thank you.


how are we going to muster the resources necessary to transition away from oil when we're wasting those resources on wars to control oil?

why are we wasting resources on wars to control oil rather than using those resources to transition from oil?

Hey FlickerV,

The Pentagon folks, Bush gang, Cheney, Haliburton, etc. make out like bandits, the public is bamboozled, and many know there is no transition to make :( yikes!

Hey get this: >>>> Of course it can be argued that the US military-industrial complex has the greatest need of the greatest share of oil. Their warfare would be utterly impossible without it - imagine that! Sometimes in my wildest waking dreams I imagine those Pentagon brass hats having to pedal a 65 tonne Abrams tank to work. Oh yes! --Chris Shaw

And this: >>>> A more ominous example of the Quicksand Effect is the present method of garnering oil by force of arms. This policy burns huge amounts of precious fuel, sinking us deeper and ever more rapidly. The US Department of Defense is the largest single-entity user (addict) in the world. Every tiny unit operation, from the largest aircraft carrier to a lace in a soldier's boot, is created and maintained with high-quality energy. This leaves me wondering: Is the US military a high-tech superpower, or do I see a dinosaur stuck in a tar pit? -- Chris Shaw

and read his other 3 articles found there, good stuff!

The last time I looked, the US military used about 2.5% of the petroleum consumed by US. This is not a 'huge' fraction of the total. If the US were to become totally totalitarian and militarist, it could keep itself supplied with other people's oil for rather a long time. But there are recent indications that this is an unlikely future -- i.e. Obama winning election, general unhappiness with occupation of Iraq, etc.

Edit: Another comment on the possibility of US militarism: World domination is achieved using 2.5% of current consumption. This is the energy input in an ERoEI calculation the energy output is the other 97.5%. This computes out to an ERoEI of 39. Militarism, as an energy technology is rather better than tar sands! But there are social costs that are not accounted for fairly in an ERoEI calculation.


If I could give you 10 up arrows for your comments I would.
However I do have one, not so minor quibble:

Whether the age of growth and prosperity in general terms is over humans will have to decide.

The age of growth, being over, is *NOT* as far as I understand it, a decision to be made by humans or blooming bacteria for that matter, It is based on fundamental physical limits that will be reached unless a decision is made to end growth before such limits are reached. So the only decision that can be made is to create a sustainable stable new paradigm of prosperity. Unfortunately, propagating the meme of sustainability = prosperity vs the meme of continous growth = prosperity, is not one that will be easy to spread. Just look at every government around the world continuing to try and bailout the status quo with endless stimulus packages to keep their economies *GROWING*, China being the latest example. The simple truth is that the ecological consequences of this growth are not compatible with long term sustainable prosperity.


Thank you for your kind words. As to your "not so minor quibble", you differ with my sentence "Whether the age of growth and prosperity in general terms is over humans will have to decide."

You counter "The age of growth, being over, is *NOT* as far as I understand it, a decision to be made by humans or blooming bacteria for that matter, It is based on fundamental physical limits that will be reached unless a decision is made to end growth before such limits are reached."

Your point is a good one, and goes well beyond the limits of the discussion concerning "peak oil".

My point would be that humans, while often compared to bacteria or yeast on these types of boards are somewhat different and the difference makes all the difference. It is part of the purely biological organisms desire to reproduce at maximum rate. Humans however seem to have used their mind to come up with a way to limit this. I have often said that when yeast start taking birth control I will accept the comparison of yeast to humans.

The other area that must be discussed is waste. If we define "growth" as a willful increase in creating waste, I would be the first to say that this cannot continue. The amount of waste in our current modern societies is incredible, almost beyond belief. If you go into a current supermarket and strip out the wasted packaging alone, the actual food in the store probably would not consume one third of the current floor space used. A car of some 2000 pounds is more than enough to provide safe and comfortable transportation, yet many are closer to 4000 or 5000 pounds. We were actually more efficient in this area 30 or 40 years ago using more primitive materials! An original Volkswagen Beetle weighed barely half what a new one does, and the new Mini sold by BMW is over two and a half times heavier than the original BLMC Mini!

The landfills and junk yards of the Western world are full of junk that was brand new product only a few years ago. Recycling is primitive in the Western world.

Fresh water is wasted at an unbelievable pace. In many areas, grey water recovery systems that can reduce water use and wastage by more than half are illegal due to current building codes. Houses are enormous, big enough to house 6 or 8 persons easily, but often with only 2 people living in them. The current multi car garages of many houses are bigger than the whole house was on average in the 1950's.

So the growth in waste CANNOT continue. But to say that there can be "no growth" locks millions of people into a life of misery and suffering. We can set a "sustainable prosperity" as the standard for the nations already well off, but what of the nations and people who have never seen any prosperity? Will we lock them out of the possibility of a humane existance and continue the massive waste we are used to in the West? I don't think that is humane, and I also don't think it is sustainable. The discussion becomes how we define growth. If by growth, we mean that the already wealthy continue to get double digit returns on investment while most of the rest of the world suffers, I agree, the age of that type of growth is over.

But if we mean a gradual "inclusion" of the poor being brought into a humane standard of living, even if it means greatly reduced returns to the wealthy, I think that the resources of Earth can provide that, if we look for ways to remove waste from the systems of the world.

What we refuse to face is that our so called "modern" systems are primitive, and by primitive I mean VERY primitive. Science and "whole system" analysis has not even been applied to most of the systems we have designed and built. We have not studied the amount of resources wasted in our packaging, our use of freshwater, our use of space. We use the few feet of topsoil of the Earth as though it were the whole Earth, building often useless buildings where we could create and sustain ecological diversity, refusing to verticalize, to use underground spaces even for things that would be better build underground such as warehouse and industrial space. We build shopping malls on the surface that have no windows. They could as easily be underground, and would be more efficient to heat and cool there. We already have to provide artificial light to them anyway.

The list is endless. The useful wealth of the West should provide comfort, security, and opportunity. Instead, the heat and air conditioning is wasted out the gaps, providing comfort to no one. the packaging is thown in the garbage on the way out the door of the mall! The vehicles are 5000 pounds, of which 3000 is only for status! The waste is criminal.

There is no shortage of resources to provide REAL growth on and in the Earth IF it is not wasted and if the population is stabilized (which is already occuring in the most developed nations).

I sit writing this with the sun shining in the window on me. One more day, milllions, billions of BTU's fall on the roof of the buildings of the world uncollected, on abandoned warehouses and degraded industrial buildings, on the shopping malls and superstores of the world....uncollected. Abandoned "grey belts" that are not used for food production, abandoned buildings and railyards that produce nothing but blight, around every city of the industrial world.

We can support growth in real wealth and in humane existance. In fact, we MUST support it for all. We cannot support growth in waste. The days of the "disposable society" are behind us unless we choose to perish. Soon our economic systems should support this, and investment in real wealth creation as opposed to waste creation will be rewarded. The firms that support waste production will howl, and for awhile the governments may try to prop them up. But they will die. The transition is already underway. Remember that originally investment was seen as a way to protect against inflation, not as a way to gain massive wealth without working for it. It is only in recent times that millions of people came to believe that they could live by speculation and "investing" instead of by working or creating. In recent years, inflation was barely 3% or 4% while returns on investments were expected to be double digit. How can anyone assume that this imbalance could have been sustainable? The recent current "credit crisis" is really just a return to historically more reasonable norms.

I recently saw an article that said that China built cars that were of 1990's Korean car quality. This is totally unable to compete in the modern world, the article said, totally primitive cars that could not be sold in the world market. If you must walk to work in the rain, a car that can go 30 miles per hour and weighs 1200 pounds is a huge improvement, is it not? A 1990's Korean car would seem like the ultimate luxury! I have friends in the U.S. who still drive cars made in the 1970's! The "waste race", the "status race" is what is not sustainable. Humane growth is not what has created our problems. Insane consumption for no other purpose than proving we can afford to consume is what has created our problems and is what is not sustainable.


"A car of some 2000 pounds is more than enough to provide safe and comfortable transportation, yet many are closer to 4000 or 5000 pounds. We were actually more efficient in this area 30 or 40 years ago using more primitive materials! An original Volkswagen Beetle weighed barely half what a new one does, and the new Mini sold by BMW is over two and a half times heavier than the original BLMC Mini!"

That is not entirely accurate and it is misleading.

The Mini of days gone by did not have driver and front airbags, nor did it have rear passenger air bags. It did not have front side air bags nor curtain side airbags. It did not have three point safety belts. It did not have anti-lock disk brakes, electronic stability control, and traction control. Do you actually believe if you crashed one today it would give anywhere the same results that the current Mini gives? All this stuff adds weight. Do you believe that the old Mini is structurally as strong as the current Mini?

Comfortable? Does air conditioning and power windows count? I owned a 63 VW in Arizona. (Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe area.) No AC and the heater sucked big time in the cold. The mileage I got is about the same as the new much heavier bug.

Find out what these things weigh and get back to us on the "safe and comfortable transportation" bit.

Airbags weigh very little. electronics do not weigh much. Modern cars are much heavier because they hare much bigger. They contain a lot more steel. This is for two reasons,

1. More comfort and room for the occupants.
2. Rigid body shells and large crumple zones to make high speed impacts more survivable.

Of course, formula 1 racing cars are tiny, extremely light, and the drivers routinely walk away from 100mph+ crashes. They are extremely expensive and uncomfortable to drive.

So weight, comfort, safety and price are a four way trade off. The bottom line is do we walk or do we accept a less safe (in the event of a
crash) mode of transport?

We need far less of a crumple zone to survive a 30mph crash than we do a 50mph crash. Put speed limiters on vehicles and we could cut their weight by a quarter.

The energy used and pollution caused filling cars with safety features may ultimately kill more people than it will ever save. Instead of air bags put a sharp spike in the centre of the steering wheel. Better still make the distance between the driver and the spike inversely proportional to speed.

The original mini had 3 point seat belts in the front from way back, and from the mid 80's in the rear as well, both imposed by uk law. The old mini weighed about 650 kg. Even the BLMC Maxi, which was a very roomy car, (with a cast iron block and cylinder head) was just short of a tonne, and this 1960's designed car would achieve close to 40 MPG if driven sensibly, due to the 5th gear.

This is all in the name of progress and the assumtion by policy makers that energy and resource consumption has no bounds.

There is another point regarding uk transport policy and that is the slow transition from low pressure to high pressure sodium street lighting. LPS used to be 135W or 180W lamps on 10/12m columns, these have been replaced by 250W and 400W HPS lamps. Unlike HPS, LPS contains no mercury/sodium almalgam. The yellow monchrome light, if not particularly pleasant, was more than adequate for motorway lighting.

EDIT>> A more efficient version of the LPS SOX 180 was introduced and rated at 131 W, similarly for the SOX 135 at 91W, again changing a 91W or 131W light source for 250W/400W is progress for you.

RC, I suspect that if we sat down for a face to face conversation over a cold one we would probably find that we are more in agreement with each other than not.

My point would be that humans, while often compared to bacteria or yeast on these types of boards are somewhat different and the difference makes all the difference.

To be frank I agree with this assessment, the point I was trying to make was that neither are exempt from the laws of nature, and that despite our having the ability to understand our predicament it doesn't seem to me, that we have as of yet, embarked on the necessary course correction from our presently unsustainable path. A path by the way, which I believe to be anathema to the true progress of the world's impoverished masses away from hunger ignorance and misery.

The tired and worn cliche of "He who has the most toys wins" must be tossed in the dust bin of discarded metaphors, and human societies must evolve into a much more benign and stable form if we are to have any hope of seeing an end to the wasteful madness that we continue to witness daily.

Chris Jordan has an interesting series of photographs that address this reality: Worth a look!

yes, the photos and statistics by chrisjordan are great. They point to the issue of "scale" in the Western consuming nations, and the scale of consumption is fantastic.

Try this on out: In 1850 there were only 4 cities on the face of the earth with a population of 1,000,000. by 1900 there were 19, and by 1960 there were 141. Such is the pace of not only population growth but of urbanization.

"The same accelerative trend applies to man's use of energy."
"The late Dr. Homi Bhabba, Indian Atomic Scientist who chaired the first International Conference on The Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy, said "Let 'Q' represent the amount of energy produced by consuming 33,000 million tons of coal. In the 18 and one half centuries after the life of Christ, the total energy consumed by mankind averaged less than one half 'Q' per century. But by 1850, the rate had risen to one 'Q' per century. Today the rate is about 10 'Q' per century. This means that half of al the energy consumed by mankind in the 2,000 years has been consumed in the last one hundred years.

Now what is startling is that the above statistic was given in the book "Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler in 1970!

Try this one: "Thus for the twenty one nations nations belonging to the OECD, by and large the "have nations", the average annual rate of increase in gross national product in the years 1960 to 1968 ran between 4.5% and 5% The United States grew at a rate of 4.5%, while Japan led the rest with a growth rate of 9.8%. What such numbers imply is nothing less revolutionary that a doubling of goods and services every 15 years, and the doubling times are shrinking. This means, generally speaking, the the child reaching teen age years in any of these societies will be literally surrounded by trice as much good and services as his parents were at the time he was an infant. It means that by the time today's teen ager reaches age thirty, perhaps earlier, a second doubling would have occured. Within a seventy year lifetime perhaps five such doublings will take place since the increases are compounded, that by the time the individual reaches old age the societyaround him will be producing thirty two times as much as when he was born."

Now remember, this was written in 1970, the year given as the peak in U.S. oil production (what a coincidence). Of course we know what happened after 1970. Oil crisis, and one of the longest world recessions since the Great Depression of the 1930's. The growth rate in many of the years of the decade that followed turned negative, and energy consumption in the OECD nations had it's biggest callapse to that date in approximately 1980. The "endless exponential growth" proved to be difficult to sustain. But after 1982, energy prices dropped the most in history to that date, and growth took off again, something that many folks (including myself) had believed impossible in the 1970's.

Now, we are seeing another period at least as bad as the 1970's. The high flying growth rates are stalled, in fact collapsed for the time being. But for how long? Again, no one knows. This could be it, the final meltdown, the hard landing from which we will never see the recovery (because even if it comes we will be dead and gone by then), but how can we know? What if it is one more warning shot before the real "final meltdown occurs in say 20 or 30 years? The price of oil is already in retreat, maybe for a short time only or maybe for a long time. How can we know? And the technology keeps developing. It is hard to believe that only 5 years ago only a handful of people on Earth were familiar with the concept of the "plug hybrid" automobile, and vast solar PV farms were still the dreams of a handful of technicians. We assured with absolute certainty here on TOD that they cannot work, they are not "scalable". Billions paper cups are "scalable", tens of millions of plastic bottles for purchased drinking water are "scalable", thousands of privately owned aircraft are "scalable", hundreds of thousands of yachts and high powered high tech power boats are "scalable", millions of giant screen TV sets with surround sound and able to recieve a thousand TV channels are "scalable", hundreds of millions of cell phones with camaras and video capability built in are "scalable"...but wind or, no, not scalable. It will take too much metal, too much glass, too many rare materials we say, as the Saudi's and the Arab Emerites build manmade islands for shopping malls and luxury houses and skyscrapers to dwarf those in the west. Why is that if it consumes energy and produces none it's automatically scalable, but if it is an idea that produces energy, every single kilowatt is held against it as though it were a crime?

I beg for people to STOP and THINK about some of the conjectures they make or read, some of which are nothing more than slanders against any alternative idea if it means breaking loose from oil, stop and think about what you are saying or what you are reading. Really listen to yourself if your writing this stuff and really think about what you are reading it if you are reading it.


Now, we are seeing another period at least as bad as the 1970's. The high flying growth rates are stalled, in fact collapsed for the time being. But for how long? Again, no one knows. This could be it, the final meltdown, the hard landing from which we will never see the recovery (because even if it comes we will be dead and gone by then), but how can we know? What if it is one more warning shot before the real "final meltdown occurs in say 20 or 30 years? The price of oil is already in retreat, maybe for a short time only or maybe for a long time. How can we know? Posted by ThatsItImout

Except that in 1970, it was only the US that peaked, now it seems likely that world production has been bumping along Hubbert’s Plateau since 2004, and the real question is when will we go off the other side, something that won’t be able to be called until it’s a year or so in the rear-view mirror. But despite the short-term (5 months) Arab Oil Embargo in ‘73-’74 and the 1980-1 Iranian cut-off, imported oil increased to continue to propel US growth.

But if the world is more or less at peak production rates, another spurt of growth lasting for another generation seems highly unlikely. The energy simply won’t be available, especially since there are many “emerging economies”, from China and India to Brazil and the former Soviet/East European bloc who all now want to get in on the game of “economic growth.” And if the report leaked out of the EIA is even close to the truth, of a 9.1% decline in post-peak fields, hell, if it’s even half that, I don’t see any combination of “renewables” being able to scale up in time to keep up with the declines.

Yes, the price of oil is down, and it may even stay down for some time, but if this happens, it will be at the price of a prolonged world-wide recession/depression. And if the economy subsequently starts to pick up steam, guess what happens: the price of oil (and other commodities) will start heading upward again. But it gets worse than this. Say the world-wide depression lasts for five or six years, and demand destruction reduces C+C consumption from its current approx. 73 MBD to, say 55 MBD. Then, the economy starts to recover, and demand increases. But, even during the hard times, we have been pumping substantial amounts of oil, and depletion, although at a somewhat lesser rate, has been marching on. So as demand increases, production rises, but now we find it maxes out with a secondary, lesser peak, at, say 65-68 MBD. Then prices start taking off and once again, the economy gets pinched. Rinse and repeat.

And after two or three of these economic contractions, all denial will have finally proved futile and the awareness that the era of growth and progress, at least as they have been defined over the past several centuries is over. I expect that this will play out over the next 20-30 years, in other words while most of us are still alive. Somewhere along this time-frame, I expect the mental and psychological dissonance in society to explode as fundamental assumptions held since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution dissolve, and core “modern” values, largely made possible by cheap energy become less and less viable in an increasingly energy constrained world.

Antoinetta III
“Billions paper cups are "scalable", tens of millions of plastic bottles for purchased drinking water are "scalable", thousands of privately owned aircraft are "scalable", hundreds of thousands of yachts and high powered high tech power boats are "scalable", millions of giant screen TV sets with surround sound and able to recieve a thousand TV channels are "scalable", hundreds of millions of cell phones with camaras and video capability built in are "scalable"…” Posted by ThatsItImout

I suspect that little if any of this will be “scaleable” in 5-10 years’ time.

Antoinetta III

Sounds like a political speek inspired by B Obama's little acceptance speech the other night. Hey all power to you, but history also tells us that between the epochs are the dark ages....The Renaissance you crave will only arise from the ashes of the previous dead culture

"Sounds like a political speek inspired by B Obama's little acceptance speech the other night."

Sorry, I have not seen President elect Obama's speech. I was the only person I know who was absolutely neutral in this election, I could not bring myself to be a supporter nor a serious opponent of either man running and was just as uninterested and unconcerned regarding the Senate and Congressional races. I felt the parties and the people running for office to be completely irrelevant, and of no interest. The action will be in the shops and the labs of the world, not in the congresses and imperial mansions.


Jeremy, thanks very much for this piece which is an effective way of getting a message across. However, I'd like to pick you up on a couple of points of terminology that in fact lie at the heart of certain strategies being pursued in certain quarters - including HM Government, the EU and the IEA - for tackling energy decline.

The taskforce argues that if we accelerate the green industrial revolution already underway, we will surprise ourselves with how quickly we can reverse out of oil dependence.

We have to start building clean-energy technologies to reverse us out of oil

In these statements you imply that clean and green energy may solve our problem and indeed these concepts have been embraced widely by governments, the public and industry - BP perhaps the best example of donning green credentials whilst actually doing nothing at all that is "green".

The problem I have is that hardly any of the alternative energy technologies that are viable may be considered to be green and many that are considered to be green are not actually viable energy technologies. By way of examples:

Is nuclear green?

I think the majority of greens and environmentalists are anti nuclear - excepting Lovelock, so I'm not sure what the stance of the UK industry task force is on nuclear.

Is large hydro green?

Are you in favor of building large hydro dams in the Lake District? Or is this something best built in bleak Scottish Glens?

Is the Severn barrage green?

Is it not the case that environmentalists have played a central roll in blocking this initiative? Ducks before people?

Is temperate latitude ethanol green?

Its certainly regarded as being clean green by Andris Piebalgs, Volvo and Saab. I think the majority if not all Oil Drum staff regard ethanol as a disaster - the CH4 inputs are concealed, the low ERoEI renders it virtually useless, it has contributed to food price inflation (and the pending collapse of capitalism) and starvation throughout parts of the world.

I'm assuming your group are not in favor of this.

Is GTL green

Well Shell are certainly promoting this as clean green technology.

Is flying a 747 jet on nut oil green?

I do find Virgins participation in your group fascinating.

Is hydrogen green?

My local Councillor (Lib Dem cyclist and very green) went on a trip to Iceland where he saw busses running on hydrogen. "all that came out the tail pipe was water vapor" - he wanted to convert all Aberdeen's busses to run on hydrogen.

Would you care to tell our readers why this is somewhat impractical?

We still have a live plan that draws wide-spread support to build a hydrogen corridor N of Aberdeen - this is high tech stuff with hydrogen filling stations.

Is wind and solar green?

Well yes maybe. At last on our list we have a couple of technologies that are perhaps viable in terms of ERoEI and sustainability.

Apologies for laboring this point but my feeling is that promoting green technologies has provided governments, companies and individuals with a place to hide whilst doing nothing urgent, practical and on a scale required to tackle the very real threat of energy decline.

I have been arguing for a while now that the energy debate needs to be led by engineering and energy efficiency arguments that are set within an environmentally sustainable context.

We are about to start using a lot less fossil fuel in the UK - not through any overwhelming regard for the environment but because poor people can no longer afford them and exporting countries will shortly become less willing to sell them to us.

Since we are walking blindfold into a severe shortage of energy and no strategic plans have been made to get past it, the same things as happen in all emergencies will likely occur.
The nearest, cheapest fix is grabbed and implemented, and stuff the long term consequences.
This is compounded as in the UK we lead the world under out Beloved Leader in exposure to the financial scams which are collapsing, and will have no money to fix the problem.

What this means for energy is rationing, shoving in some insulation, wind-turbines on land but not at sea as they won't be affordable, and, above all, coal plants.
Some token 'ready for clean coal' bones will be thrown, but that is about the size of it.
If the French haven't given up on the UK presumably at some stage some nuclear plants will come on line - I just hope that in the panic mode which will follow the present torpor all safety considerations are not ignored - Government policy and pressure is what caused the releases at Windscale.
It would not surprise me to see them being built without containment vessels, as the Government suddenly decides that safety systems have improved enough to make them unnecessary.

Really now Dave,,,,you can always call Holland for Tulips, when your food runs out and the Ferris wheel stops turning.

The problem I have is that hardly any of the alternative energy technologies that are viable may be considered to be green and many that are considered to be green are not actually viable energy technologies.

You are not the only one with that problem. As regards truly ‘green’ technology, I think the issue really boils down to scaling up from toytown to reality. This message is not easy to put across, especially when experts like Jeremy Leggett himself make wacko, snake-oil merchant claims such as “Even in the cloudy UK, more electricity than the nation currently uses could be generated by putting PV roof tiles on all suitable roofs.” (page 201 of Half Gone).

Sigh. Shome mishtake here shurely?

The book to read is David MacKay’s:

Sustainable Energy - without the hot air

See here:

I would tend to agree with you that most estimates of renewable resources in the UK are overoptimistic to an absurd degree, on the size of the resource, the technology currently available to exploit it, and it's cost.

However, this draft by MacKay also contains serious errors in the other direction, notably in his estimation of wind resources, which appears to be based on wind resources at 8-10 meters, not at the height of modern wind turbines.

There are of course other severe difficulties in it's exploitation, including the remote location of the best sites, the need to build transmission lines for very long distances to the centres of population and the cost of back up, with it's inevitable future reliance on natural gas.

Belated thanks for your comment, DaveMart -- perhaps you could also send a note directly to Prof. MacKay, who I am sure would welcome any corrections.

BTW the printed version of his online book 'Sustainable Energy - without the Hot Air' should be on sale by December this year.

Is hydrogen green?

Hydrogen is an energy carrier, not an energy source. And it's not a very good one.

The only industrial-size source of hydrogen is stripping it from natural gas, which leaves the carbon to be discarded. Not only not green, but also not sustainable in light of decreasing availability of natural gas.

Theoretically, in the future, it's as green as the electrical source used to produce it ... minus the losses from converting that electricity into hydrogen, and then back into electricity to make use of it in a fuel cell.

Given the enormous problems that would be faced deploying hydrogen transportation and containment systems, it's probably better to focus on battery technology, which seems to be a much better way to make use of the same electricity.

If electricity is cheap enough it would work fine.
It depends on how much electricity you've got.
I can imagine some place in Scotland with a big wind farm with very steady winds producing electricity for a couple cents a kwh, converted by a gas station electrolyzer to $1.5 per gallon w/o taxes(.6 euro per liter?)
(2 cents per kwh x 75 kwh/kg x 1 kg of H2=1 GGE(gasoline gallon equivalent)

The question is what will be the cheapest way to get electricity in the future? Is it nuclear or wind?
Wind prices are dropping as the industry expands, something not true of nuclear. Fossil fuels can only get more expensive.

Thank you simkin - in 100% agreement with you here.

Given the enormous problems that would be faced deploying hydrogen transportation and containment systems, it's probably better to focus on battery technology, which seems to be a much better way to make use of the same electricity.

Battery technology isn't exactly suitable for long haul trucking, air travel, or merchant shipping. Fortunately we've discovered an exellent hydrogen containment scheme involving chemical binding to carbon atoms. Diesel fuel will be here long after the oil dries out.

"We still have a live plan that draws wide-spread support to build a hydrogen corridor N of Aberdeen - this is high tech stuff with hydrogen filling stations."

And you and I both know Euan that this is pie in the sky stuff because the funding doesn't exist to make it happen!


Hi folks,

Check out this in the 'observer' yesterday:
Mini nuclear plants to power 20,000 homes - £13m shed-size reactors will be delivered by lorry

I am not sure on the facts of this article - what technology they are using - though it sounds 'ancient' ("the reactor is based on a 50-year-old design that has proved safe for students to use"). There are many other up and coming technologies such as the CANDU (don't like to use wiki - but this ref seems comprehensive) and the Pebble Bed Reactor.

If we put our (physicists) minds to it we could probably find many innovative ways to actually use the insights nuclear physics has provided since E=MC2 cracked the cosmic egg. But I note in recent years that many physicists went over to study
the maths of stock and derivative trading
- oh the irony antinomy!!


Check out yesterday's Drumbeat, 9th - there is extensive discussion and links to info on this technology there.
Unfortunately, even if it works out, they are not due to hit first production until 2015, and wee will have fallen off the financial and energy supply cliffs by then.

exxon had huge plans for nuke energy, starting from the 60s.

what happened to those plans?

Cheap oil, gas and coal which succeeded in externalising most of the cost of the damage it does happened, together with poor regulation and the failure to set up mass-production lines.
Opposition to nuclear power also played it's part, but overwhelmingly it was cheap fossil fuels which caused the plans to be shelved.

here's a really gruesome theory for you...

60s--- exxon explores for uranium

1969--- exxon establishes exxon nuclear, goes whole hog on startup, 200 million spent, billions planned

1970--- american oil production peaks. how far back did exxon see this coming?

1979--- film "the china syndrome" debuts 12 days before three mile island

1979--- three mile island meltdown, israeli american media hysteria, no casualties

1983--- merle streep as karen silkwood, assisted by director mike nichols and producer norah ephron, demonstrates how evil the nuke industry is.

1986--- chernobyl. 60 deaths, more israeli american media hysteria, chernobyl contributes to disintegration of soviet union, and the collapse of the soviet union paves the way for israeli russians take over russian energy

1986--- exxon dumps exxon nuclear a few months after chernobyl

1998--- exxon overtly signs on with the israeli americans. the primary israeli american think tank, the AEI (american enterprise institute) has received $1,870,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.

2000--- the israeli american plan surfaces at PNAC ---a spinoff of the AEI, founded by radical israeli americans---- noting the need for "a new pearl harbor" to stimulate support for an israeli american project to grab control of middle east/central asian energy deposits and transport routes.

since the american taxpayer would be footing the bill for this israeli american project ---at a time when oil is getting scarce and exploration and production costs are soaring--- an alliance with the israeli americans and their PNAC project is the cheapest way for exxon to grab a share of the biggest oil reserves in the world.

it's no secret that the israelis have been pushing for reassembly of the middle east for decades, and it seems reasonable to assume that israel ---located as it is adjacent to the world's biggest oil patch--- would not be nearly as important to america if america were not so dependent on oil.... for instance, if america was supplying itself with electricity from nuke plants built and operated by exxon, fueled with uranium from exxon mines.

once exxon became aware of israeli americans' determination to thwart development of nuke plants, once exxon became aware of the power of the israeli american media, once exxon became aware of israeli and israeli american determination to remodel the middle east, exxon gave up on their nukes and joined up with the israeli americans in their land and oil acquisition project.

once again i have to say that none of this is my fault.

Who are these "israeli americans"? My wife? My son's father-in-law (a retired UPS driver)? Ok, you don't mean Jewish -- you mean from Israel? The former IDF soldier I talked to who was working a booth in Las Vegas, who said that if he were a Palestinean he would kill (his way of acknowledging how horribly they are treated)? Not him either? NYC cabbies? Who then?

Money and power are not ethnic. They do however, in times of crisis especially, in order to sidetrack attempts at restricting their power, try to stir up ethnic and religious animosities, sometimes against Muslims, sometimes against blacks. But historically, in the West, it has (also) been you know who.

I have an old friend, who when he was younger and radical explained to me how Israel was founded (by dispossessing the Palestineans) and who has now in his (and my) dotage become a right wing Zionist. I often remind him of this fact.

The biggest hunk of truly big money in his country is still in the hands of WASPs. Being one, I do not advocate animosity toward WASPs. I don't even advocate animosity toward the rich, but I do advocate removing them from power, or at least exclusive power over affairs-of-state. And I advocate it not so much because of inequality as survival. The direction required now collides with the profit system in several major areas.

from haaretz, a leading israeli newspaper...

In the course of the past year, a new belief has emerged in the town: the belief in war against Iraq. That ardent faith was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer), people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history.

White man's burden

from jim lobe, a widely read (, asia times, alternet) jewish american writer

Contrary to appearances, the neoconservatives do not represent a political movement, but a small, exclusive club with incestuous familial and personal connections.

What do William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Elliot Abrams, and Robert Kagan have in common? Yes, they are all die-hard hawks who have gained control of U.S. foreign policy since the 9/11 attacks. But they are also part of one big neoconservative family -- an extended clan of spouses, children, and friends who have known each other for generations.

Neoconservatives are former liberals (which explains the "neo" prefix) who advocate an aggressive unilateralist vision of U.S. global supremacy, which includes a close strategic alliance with Israel.

All in the Neocon Family
...details of the jewish families, intermarried, long established, whose allegiance to israel and their control of american foreign policy have gotten america into this pickle.

Whose War? A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interest.

We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people’s right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.

long article from pat buchanan, more details of the jewish israel-firsters running foreign policy

I wonder what the relationships are between the neo-con clique and the one which is gutting the US via the 'investment' banking scam?

if you were convinced the world was going to hell in a handbasket, and you were in a position to loot, you'd probably grab enough loot to hide out in comfort until the dust settled.

now all we got to do is figure out these guys' and gals' individual motivations: some are flat-out ashkenazi racial supremacists, some are religious fanatics, some are psychopathic predators, some are (e) all the above, and all of them know they're eventually gonna need a refuge of last resort, aka israel... a function of israel demonstrated by the yukos oil oligarchs, many of whom fled to israel.

common jews seem to be as helpless as the rest of us, as radical jews rise high enough to cause general anti-jew sentiment in which all jews are tarred with the same brush... but of course, that's all part of the plan... the predators attempt to terrorize all jews, common or otherwise, into supporting the radicals' projects... which is where the ADL comes in.

This is silly talk. Yes, some, maybe even many of the neo-con front men are Jewish, well enough known. Useful idiots I would call them. And well positioned for scapegoating once the wheels come off the cart (not that these particular individuals deserve any sympathy). But they would be nothing if their ravings did not resonate with the aspirations of the military-industrial complex, which has a long history preceding these characters. War and the miltary machine were not invented by the neo-cons.

It's similar to the trick Hitler employed -- diverting the wrath of the people away from the German capitalists and industrialists and toward the Jews instead. And some of the wealthiest Jews were collaborators and instrumental in setting up Zionism and betraying the Jews. It's not ethnic -- it's money, it's power.

Once one ethnic or religious group is targeted, none is safe. It benefits only the elite -- which cares about such matters only as a means of doing jui jitsu on elite opponents. No one who sincerely wants us to get through the crises we face will tolerate the spread of ethnic and religious hatred of whatever kind. They will focus on money and power, and even there focus not on revenge and hatred, but wresting power so that we can get on track to survival.

...resonate with the aspirations of the military-industrial complex...

the aspirations of the energy segment of the MIC included nuke power... until they ran afoul the israeli american propaganda establishment and figured out who had the juice.

you've got to trot hitler out, and imply jews as a racial or religious group as a whole are targeted. in other words, you're reverting back to the standard accusations of "antisemitism"... a tactic that walt and mearsheimer have been at pains to document... maybe you, too, are a useful idiot, seeing as how you're using such shopworn tactics to defend the radicals who seem to be driving this project.

but it's good to see you're willing to admit that run-of-the-mill jews are victimized by their predatory co-religionists...

and it's good to see that you think "wresting power" from the radicals is the solution... maybe you could start by writing a letter to the new york times, protesting their hiring of bill kristol, seeing as how he's been one of the ringleaders in spreading the lies that have got us into wars that have wasted so much blood, talent, money and resources.

...oh. i forgot. the new york times is the agenda-setting propaganda organ of the PNAC/AIPAC/AEI/JINSA radical establishment, and is a prime conveyor of the lies that got us into this.

what the "F" is "israeli american media"?

so your post is basically "blame the jews?"

it must be a huge relief to be able to blame somebody else for all the world's problems, such a comfort....

you should get help for your irrational hatred/fear of other ethnic/religious groups, it's not healthy - just looked what happened to Germans as the Red Army came rolling in if you'd like to see how it ends...

And for more on 'Empire Building' check out the Apology of an Economic Hitman. Nationality and race has little to do with it - its all 'bout resources (stupid! as a politician/CEO/Hitman might say...).


its all 'bout resources

it's about resources necessary to preserve the refuge of last resort for the people who've been planning this PNAC project for decades, and have been the driving force behind it.

oded yinon in 1982 recommends balkanizing muslim states, particularly iraq.

1992, paul WOLFOWITZ and scooter LIBBY, cheney's convicted ex-chief of staff, produce a defense policy guidance paper. the paper was the first generation of what was to become PNAC and later official US foreign policy, and recommended attacking iraq. the paper was leaked to the new york times, and public outcry was such that wolfowitz's paper was disowned and revised.

1996, richard PERLE and some of the usual likud israeli american suspects write a paper for bibi NETANYAHU calling for the occupation of iraq. the paper was entitled: "a clean break: securing the realm"... and the "realm" to be "secured" was israel.

1997, PERLE forms PNAC with nominal founders robert KAGAN and bill KRISTOL, and all the usual likud suspects

september 2000, PNAC issues a document, "rebuilding america's defenses", calling for control of oil in the middle east and central asia. the document says that the military transition to enable that control will be slow to materialize without a new pearl harbor to mobilize america

september 2001, PNAC's "new pearl harbor" materializes in the form of four hijacked airliners

september 2002, PNAC's "rebuilding america's defenses", the document that called for the "new pearl harbor", is adopted by the bunnypants administration as its National Security Strategy, in some cases, verbatim.

I've a great favour to ask - is there a powerpoint presentation of the report at a fairly introductory level? I'm the convenor for a Transition Towns action group ( here in the UK, and I'd love to have a powerpoint presentation to give to local businesses and the council. Do you have anything like this?

We had our Great Unleashing yesterday - on a hands-up poll of over 100 attendees, about 25% had heard of peak oil. 6 months ago I expect it have been much less.

Are there any other Transition Town people on The Oil Drum? If so, how about sharing experiences?

Hi, sparkles. There are many people active in their local relocalization effort that read TOD, but generally those conversations are held in different fora. Many occur here:
I doubt there is a presentation just for the report but you're free to use mine (which references it on slide 17) here:

Just swap out the title slide and the end slide.

Hi Aangel
Thanks for your help, it is much appreciated.

A Transition initiative is in embryonic stages in Portland OR, and several of us read TOD. See here for info.

It is a pity the industry group felt a need to talk down nuclear power.

Nobody is lying, and there is no conspiracy.

Of course not. But there could be some prevarication and covert coordinating. For example, if one were a really big player sitting on a huge mound of cash, ready to deploy, would one go around driving up prices of the assets one was about to gobble up? Just a scenario, mind you, nothing more.

We have to start building clean-energy technologies to reverse us out of oil at the speed that America mobilised for the Apollo project in the 1960s. The good news is that the survival technologies exist – dozens of them, across the full spectrum of energy supply and demand.

Yeah, this is what I disagree with more than anything else, the moon shot scenario. Oil is by far the best transport fuel, it's all downhill from there. And all other underground resources are depleting, meaning: needing more energy to get and refine. And of course there is the issue of the devastation our mad addiction is causing to the ultimate resources: soil, water, climate, species, forests, oceans, the only ones we'll be left with.

There is no choice but retrenchment on all fronts, retrenchment to sustainability, meaning using above ground self-renewing resources at sustainable rates. We have a few decades to get there. We'll get there consciously, rationally, collectively, and retain what we can of modern science and civilization, or we'll get there otherwise via paths I prefer not to think about and end up in a state I'd even less like to think about. But we'll get there.

The peak oil debate is essentially over. The debate now has shifted to peak energy and peak everything else. Peak oil is acceptable if there's money to be made from it. Peak energy and everything else is a harder nut, because there's a lot less money in retrenchment. The only reward is survival, which, as we know, comes in a distant second to money.

Mindful that there are variations in how things are said across the Atlantic, I believe the statement on the likelihood of the plateau, descent, and collapse scenarios is to be read as saying that: the descent scenario seems likely, there is a very substantial likelihood that the collapse scenario will come to pass, and the absence of reference to a probability for the plateau scenario or anything more optimistic is to be read as saying that there is exceedingly little likelihood that they will happen.

Opinions from east of the Atlantic on how to read between the lines in British English might be helpful here.

I don;'t think much reading between the lines is required. the authors make it pretty clear that the 'plateau' version is Shell's idea, and that everyone else thought that there would either be descent or collapse, and also that they were surprised that an oil company had gone that far, as they have always sworn black is white that any problems were far away.
They also mention that previous experience in non-conventional oil made them 'surprised' by Shell's optimistic projections - corporate speak for that they think they are lying through their back teeth.


I posted my comment late last night.

I was up at 0600, did my work and family stuff, and now have scanned the responses to the mainpost above by CV and JL.


From Peak Oil, Toxic Reserves, and Toxic Paper in the Global Banking Industry/Crime Syndicate(?), to EROEI and Israeli-American NeoCons running Amok amidst environmental meltdown.

Economic chaos, abundant political duplicities, tri-plicities, and quadraplicities wrapped in corrupt crony capitalism, Corporatism, various Nationalisms, and Full-spectrum Global Fascist Dominance a la Rumsfeld and Dr. Strangelove!

It is 01:23 now, and I must arise at 6 AM again to work my butt off and also willingly fulfill my role as a husband and father. What will tomorrow bring?

Hey, Chris Vernon!

Hey, Jeremy Leggett!

I honestly, truly believe the responses you've garnered -- in all of our brutal, raw, unvarnished TOD put-it-out-there internet honesty -- deserves a good look and perhaps another dialogue from you guys as a result!

What do you say?

Could you two -- and perhaps some other TOD editors/contributors -- read over these diverse responses, and post a conversation that responds to the great variety of posts your keypost has evoked?

I think that would be fantastic, and might really further our discussion.

Peak Oil ... Meta-Narratives ... the data ... the Meta Narratives... the analyses ... the Meta-Narratives ... the Geo-politics ... the Meta-Narratives ... the ethnic/racial/religious/nationalist/political/social ramifications ... the Meta-Narratives ... and finally ...

The One and Only Answer to Life's Persistent Questions!

Sorry, all -- but it is late and I am very tired. where can we take this discussion, constructively???

We are awash with plentiful supplies of 'weak energy' but have become addicted as a civilisation to more and more concentrated forms of it. An analogy might be that of a drug addict who started on coca leaves and has now moved on through cocaine to crack. Weening ourselves off this and back onto the coca leaves that surround us in the jungle is going to be a very painful process IMO.


Power supergrid plan to protect Europe from Russian threat to choke off energy

A supergrid of power supplies to protect Europe’s energy from the threat of a Russian stranglehold will be announced today.
The building blocks of the proposed supergrid would be new cables linking North Sea wind farms, and a network patching together the disparate electricity grids of the Baltic region and the countries bordering the Mediterranean, according to a blueprint drawn up by the European Commission and seen by The Times.

On this link there is also a useful graphic here:

If anyone knows how to get this pdf to show as an image here their assistance would be welcome.