Obama's Energy Policy Announcement

Yesterday, President Obama delivered remarks on his plan to "reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs". In this post, I provide Obama's remarks on his plans to reduce our dependence on foreign oil (not really "energy independence", as some have called it), plus some graphs of current imports to put these remarks in context.

Our big problem now is that imports from non-OPEC countries are dropping, putting us more and more in need of imports from OPEC countries. The EIA shows this graph of non-OPEC petroleum imports:

Our imports from non-OPEC countries have dropped from over 8 million barrels a day to less than 7 million barrels a day. Edit:In this graph, EIA calculates oil production based on which countries are in OPEC when, so this drop really reflects OPEC's increased membership, more than it does non-OPEC's declining oil production.

Our imports from OPEC countries are flat to slightly rising, at about 6 million barrels a day.

On a combined basis, our imports are declining, because OPEC increases are not keeping up with non-OPEC decreases.

In Obama's speech from yesterday, he says:

Congress has passed legislation to increase standards to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020. That 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day: nearly the amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.

How much oil do we import from the Persian Gulf? Indeed, it is a little over 2 million barrels a day, or about 16% of our total imports. This is what EIA shows:

Solving our Persian Gulf imports is a relatively small part of our total problem, but it is a part. As non-OPEC imports decline further, we will be more and more dependent on OPEC imports from around the world.

President Obama's Speech

This is a transcript of Obama's speech, taken from here.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Please, everybody be seated. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE) Please, everybody be seated. Thank you.

Good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

OBAMA: Before I begin today's announcement, I want to say a few words about the deepening economic crisis that we've inherited and the need for urgent action.

Over the last few days, we've learned that Microsoft, Intel, United Airlines, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel and Caterpillar are each cutting thousands of jobs.

These are not just numbers on a page. As with the millions of jobs lost in 2008, these are working men and women whose families have been disrupted and whose dreams have been put on hold.

We owe it to each of them and to every single American to act with a sense of urgency and common purpose. We can't afford distractions and we cannot afford delays.

And that is why I look forward to signing an American recovery and reinvestment plan that will put millions of Americans to work and lay the foundation for stable growth that our economy needs and that our people demand.

These are extraordinary times, and it calls for swift and extraordinary action.

At a time of such great challenge for America, no single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy.

America's dependence on oil is one of the most serious threats that our nation has faced. It bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism. It puts the American people at the mercy of shifting gas prices, stifles innovation, and sets back our ability to compete.

These urgent dangers to our national and economic security are compounded by the long-term threat of climate change, which, if left unchecked, could result in violent conflict, terrible storms, shrinking coastlines, and irreversible catastrophe.

These are the facts, and they are well-known to the American people. After all, there is nothing new about these warnings. Presidents have been sounding the alarm about energy dependence for decades.

President Nixon promised to make our energy -- our nation energy independent by the end of the 1970s. When he spoke, we imported about a third of our oil, and we now import more than half.

Year after year, decade after decade, we've chosen delay over decisive action. Rigid ideology has overruled sound science. Special interests have overshadowed common sense. Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results and our leaders raise their voices each time there's a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump.

Now America has arrived at a crossroads. Embedded in American soil, in the wind and the sun, we have the resources to change. Our scientists, businesses and workers have the capacity to move us forward.

It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence. And for the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change.

It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs.

And we hold no illusion about the task that lies ahead. I cannot promise a quick fix. No single technology or set of regulations will get the job done.

But we will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is freed from our energy dependence and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work.

Today I'm announcing the first steps on our journey toward energy independence, as we develop new energy, set new fuel efficiency standards and address greenhouse gas emissions.

Each step begins to move us in a new direction, while giving us the tools that we need to change.

First we must take bold action to create a new American energy economy that creates millions of jobs for our people. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan before Congress places a downpayment on this economy.

It will put 460,000 Americans to work with clean energy investments and double the capacity to generate alternative energy over the next three years. It will lay down 3,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver this energy to every corner of our country. It will save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75 percent of federal buildings more efficient. And it'll save working families hundreds of dollars on their energy bills by weatherizing 2 million homes.

This is the boost that our economy needs and the new beginning that our future demands.

By passing the bill, Congress can act where Washington has failed to act over and over again for 30 years. We need more than the same old empty promises. We need to show that this time it will be different. This is the time that Americans must come together on behalf of our common prosperity and security.

Second, we must ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are built right here in the United States of America.

Increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and trucks is one of the most important steps that we can take to break our cycle of dependence on foreign oil. It will also help spark the innovation needed to ensure that our auto industry keeps pace with competitors around the world.

We will start by implementing new standards for model year 2011, so that we use less oil and families have access to cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks.

This rule will be a downpayment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Congress has passed legislation to increase standards to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020. That 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day: nearly the amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.

Going forward, my administration will work on a bipartisan basis in Washington and with industry partners across the country to forge a comprehensive approach that makes our economy stronger and our nation more secure.

Third, the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to forge 21st-century standards, and over a dozen states have followed its lead.

But instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way. This refusal to lead risks the creation of a confusing and patchwork set of standards that hurts the environment and the auto industry.

The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts; we will be guided by them. We cannot afford to pass the buck or push the burden onto the states.

And that's why I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately review the denial of the California waiver request and determine the best way forward. This will help us create incentives to develop new energy that will make us less dependent on the oil that endangers our security, our economy and our planet.

As we move forward, we will fully take into account the unique challenges facing the American auto industry and the taxpayer dollars that now support it. And let me be clear: Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry; it is to help America's automakers prepare for the future.

This commitment must extend beyond the short-term assistance for businesses and workers. We must help them thrive by building the cars of tomorrow and galvanizing a dynamic and viable industry for decades to come.

Finally, we will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead. To protect our climate and our collective security, we must call together a truly global coalition. I've made it clear that we will act, but so too must the world. That's how we will deny leverage to dictators and dollars to terrorists, and that's how we will ensure that nations like China and India are doing their part, just as we are now willing to do ours.

It is time for America to lead because this moment of peril must be turned into one of progress.

If we take action, we can create new industries and revive old ones, we can open new factories and power new farms, we can lower costs and revive our economy. We can do that and we must do that.

There's much work to be done; there is much further for us to go. But I want to be clear from the beginning of this administration that we have made our choice: America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet.

We will not be put off from action because action is hard.

Now is the time to make the tough choices. Now is the time to meet the challenge at this crossroad of history by choosing a future that is safer for our country, prosperous for our planet, and sustainable.

Those are my priorities, and they're reflected in the executive orders that I'm about to sign.

Thank you so much for being here.


I should mention a couple of other things. One is that the imports I show have not been reduced for exports. In some instances, particularly with Mexico, we import the oil, refine it, and send it back to Mexico. We also export an increasing amount of other oil products, almost exclusively to non-OPEC countries. This is an EIA graph of petroleum exports:

The other thing is that the EIA imports do not really show the origin of the oil. In many cases (more and more through the years) we are importing refined gasoline and other products from countries that refine the oil, rather than produce the oil. The country the EIA shows as the source of these imports is the location of the refinery: France or Italy or Virgin Islands or Netherlands. It is likely that the ultimate source of the oil used in creating these refined products was one or another OPEC country (often in the Middle East), but the oil shows up as Non-OPEC.

Venezuela's net oil exports (total liquids) have been dropping at an average rate over 100,000 bpd per year for 10 years (through 2007, with 2007 net exports down even more, over 200,000 bpd, EIA), and it appears that Mexico's net oil exports dropped by about 400,000 bpd last year, from 1.4 mbpd in 2007 to 1.0 mbpd in 2008, versus a 2004 peak of 1.9 mbpd. I estimate that Mexico has already shipped about 80% of their post-2004 cumulative net oil exports.

The combined drop in net oil exports from VenMex last year was probably between 500,000 and 600,00 bpd.

I tried to put together an annual graph showing the source of US net oil imports. In this graph, I net out US exports against US imports, and segregate out the obviously transshipped pieces. The figures for 2008 are only through October 2008. All data is EIA data.

The oil from the US Virgin Islands is almost certainly Venezuelan oil than has been refined there, and shipped to the US. The European transshipped petroleum products are US imports from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain. None of these countries has its own source of oil. I would expect that a large share of these exports is left-over gasoline, from oil that has been imported from elsewhere. While some of this may come from the North Sea, the fact that the amount is increasing suggests that it is likely coming from elsewhere (Middle East?)

With this breakdown, for 2008, 62% of imports are from OPEC or of unknown true origin; only 38% of net imports are clearly non-OPEC.

Hi Gail,

If I'm understanding your graph correctly, U.S. net petroleum imports have been decreasing steadily since 2005, well before the current economic crisis. I hadn't realized this was happening. What do you suppose caused or enabled this decrease? Increased energy efficiency? Movement of manufacturing offshore? Which segment(s) of the economy are using less [imported] oil than previously? I think that this downward trend must not be very widely known; otherwise by now some politician would already have taken credit for "reducing America's dependence on foreign oil."

Overlay the NBER deduced economic recession time periods onto Gail's graphs, and you will discover the correlation to the notches in the oil import graph.

Nice work on making this data into info. One aspect I am curious about is the impact of Canadian exports in this picture. If I'm not mistaken, Canada is the single largest exporter of crude to the USA (although the geo-political stability of this supply puts it mostly under the radar). So my impression is that US commentators give it little mindshare. Again, others may be able to correct my recollection, but Canadian conventional liquids are in plateau or declining so the known growth/maintenance must come from tar sands. But here's my point: the political discourse (here in Canada) is shifting, such that expansion of the tar sands is by no means assured. Even if crude prices rise enough to put the tar sands back into positive returns, the likelihood of adding even another million bpd is fading as the true extent of the environmental destruction and paltry EROEI is understood by the general public. I just think there is a lot of potential for the USA to get blindsided by assuming Canadian crude has no issues and is always going to show up as needed, based on the lack of visibility versus more exciting places such as Saudi/Venezuela/Nigeria.

To put Canadian net oil exports in perspective (as you know, Eastern Canada is a big oil importer), their net exports increased from 0.7 mbpd in 1997 to 1.1 mbpd in 2007, an increase of about 400,000 bpd. Mexico's net exports appear to have declined 400,000 bpd just last year, so the one year decline in Mexican net exports offset the 10 year increase in Canadian net exports from 1997 to 2007.

I put together a graph showing net US imports from Canada, Mexico, and UK+Norway.

Imports from Canada are not increasing very rapidly, and in fact are down in 2008 (10 months). And of course, as Westexas notes, Canada imports oil on its East Coast. WIthout its imports, it would not have oil to export to us.

I should mention something I discovered in the EIA data that does not affect this graph, but affects the other graphs I showed today, including the EIA graphs. In the particular report I took the EIA data from, the EIA totals for OPEC and Non-Opec change as to which countries are included in OPEC each year. My numbers are correct using this definition, but it is a little confusing. This is confusing to me, because some other EIA reports I am familiar with use current OPEC definitions for totals, rather than changing definitions by year.

If the countries included in OPEC had remained constant, non-OPEC would not have dropped as much as it did, and

OK, thanks for digging into this. I finally remembered where I had gotten the idea that Canada was the largest exporter to US. It was the EIA site : http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_l...
This says Mexico is only 1.3 million bpd but your graph implies a net 3 million bpd. Am I missing something ?
Only thing I would add about the East Coast is that from a US import standpoint, the amount Canada has for export doesn't change much no matter what the Canadian East Coast does, since we can't physically get the western oil there. I guess for the ELM model, the east coast is just another net importer competing for the oil with other countries.

Gail said:

And of course, as Westexas notes, Canada imports oil on its East Coast. WIthout its imports, it would not have oil to export to us.

Are you sure about that? According to the EIA,

Canada’s total oil production (including all liquids) was 3.36 million bbl/d in 2007. [..] Canada consumed an estimated 2.34 million bbl/d of oil in 2007.


So, if the oil could be shipped (pipelined?) east, presumably all domestic needs could be handled, still leaving a little over one million barrels per day to export, correct?

I guess I should probably say, without imports, Canada wouldn't have as much oil to export. Without looking closely at the data, I would be cautious about subtracting one number from another. I know that in Canada in particular, you get different numbers from different sources, depending on how natural gas liquids are treated (or perhaps some other variable that is handled differently).

I guess I should probably say, without imports, Canada wouldn't have as much oil to export.

Well, that's definitely true. :-) The net effect, I suppose, is that the U.S. isn't really dependent on Canada for 2 million barrels per day, it's dependent on Canada for 1 million barrels per day, and dependent on wherever eastern Canada gets its oil for another 1 million barrels per day. If those sources decide they don't want to supply eastern Canada then I suspect there would be rather a lot of political pressure to "import" oil from western Canada rather than going without.

I am, however, hard pressed to think of any political entity that would refuse to supply eastern Canada but which would supply the U.S., and I'm almost certain there is no such thing as a Canadian leader that would have the guts to not export oil to the U.S.

To be pedantic, it's also true that without imports, the U.S. wouldn't be able to export as much oil to Mexico. Clearly, though, the net export/import situation is radically different in the two countries! Which was my main point: Canada is a significant net exporter, not importer. I would think the distinction matters quite a bit to Canadians.

He's clearly more into perspiration than inspiration. It doesn't read like it was written by a speechwriting poet, as much as by someone who just wants to get some stuff done.

Not really specific enough at this point to have much to say for or against, though no doubt a lot of people with specific interests will say that it doesn;t go as far to supporting them as they'd wish. The auto efficiency standard rise is a good thing, though I'm not sure the industry is in a position fo much R&D at this point. Too bad it's politically impossible in the US to simply implement a universal single-payer medical insurance system. That alone, by lifting the double burdens of present employee and retiree medical benefit from the auto makers would likely make them solvent again.

Ford, and GM do not have to spend much on R&D as they have already spent the money and are producing the fuel efficient engines in Europe. They just need to replicate the engines in the US and fit them to US models. The technology is already there and has been there for the past 15 years.

Chrysler will have access to similar technology with the Fiat tie-up if it goes ahead.

Thanks, Gail, this is prime 'real time' information. It's nice to hear this as a juxtaposition to the economic news.

Finally, the sensible energy decisions are being made. Too many years denied by stonewalling, but good things come to those who wait. We will now find out if we can beat the Hirsch 10 year "Apollo Program" push to avoid the worst of PO impacts and successfully transition to a powerdown.

It bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism.

And finally a leader has the chutzpah to stand up and say this out loud.

Somebody pinch me...

He sounds kind of pissed about the situation he's inherited. I can't say that I blame him I only hope that he's truly capable of pushing forward with the help of science and facts instead of well whatever the hell they were using the last 30 years or so.

Economic theory.

(*cough*) Austrian economic theory (or other names, such as Smith), as opposed to a sustainable economic theory...

Dream come true! I think he will succeed to implement much of this vision because the Obama presidency will be a powerful one. The American political system is at its best in times of true crisis, and Obama is not beholden to special interests because his historic election campaign has rewritten the book on campaign finance. So my forecast is that change is indeed coming to America.

I too am encouraged by what I have heard - plus it is only his first week - but on my BBC interview yesterday (which I am guessing didn't make final cut due to dogs barking and sound problems), I pointed out that Obamas statement 'America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources or hostile regimes' - that politics and diplomacy might accomplish the latter - but thermodynamics, receding horizons and finite limits don't respond well to politics...And long time readers here will know my opinion - I agree with just about everything he is doing - but don't think it nearly enough. SOME politician, either here or elsewhere is going to have to admit that growth cannot be our end goal forever. This is political suicide of course, which is why it can't be said, even if understood. I am hoping these are appetizers into some more profound changes -for now I have to give him the benefit of the doubt...

No President no matter how popular is going to stand up and say 'game over' for the American Dream. The best he can do is frame measures into themes that people can get behind like combatting terrorism, energy independance, job creation, global warming. In a sense Bush has 'done him a favour' as all 4 have got worse on his watch :o)

He's ticking lots of boxes and I'm sure he's PO aware -or at least been briefed on the implications.

It also sets the stage for more extreme measures in 2-4 years or perhaps in the 1st part of a 2nd term if we hit a major 'PO-Epiphany-Event' like $200+ Oil.


Concerning Obama being briefed about peak oil -- this is what John Holdren, his science advisor, said in an article in "Innovations" in 2006.

"There is little agreement among specialists about whether peak oil is 5 years away or 50, and even less agreement about whether its occurrence will precipitate a shift away from fossil fuels or just a shift among them. . . . I suggest that for purposes of energy-policy planning today it does not really matter very much who is right about peak oil. The economic and security perils of the world’s current and growing dependence on oil tell us that we need to move smartly to reduce that dependence no matter whether peak oil is close or far away. And the looming danger of unmanageable climate change tells us that we must choose ways to do this that reduce rather than increase the energy sector’s emissions of CO2."

Of course Holdren may have updated his views since then; people do change their minds, and 2006 was a long time ago. But based on this I would say that Obama will direct his attention to global warming, but not peak oil, and is being told that peak oil is not relevant to the debate. Peak oil activists have failed, as far as I can see, to make clear to political leaders that peak oil requires a different approach than global warming. A lot of people, including Holdren, are saying things like "Global warming means we shouldn’t be consuming so many fossil fuels; peak oil means we won’t be able to. Either way, we should be looking for alternatives to oil. So what’s the big deal?"

I don't see an effective response to this. A quick Google search turns up some articles on the connection but nothing that really makes the case. (But I'd love to be proved wrong. Anyone got a link to a good article showing the difference?) James Hansen and a colleague published a study, I believe, saying that peak oil would help in the fight against global warming. My concern about peak oil is that it will destroy the economy and our ability to respond to global warming or pretty much anything else.

Joseph Romm made an argument similar to Holdren's ("Peak Oil? Consider it Solved") in an article on Salon:

My two cents on the peak oil vs. global warming debate:

The difference is that if our problem is just GW, then the excuse for not doing anything is that "we can't afford it, right now anyway". If our problem is PO, then the excuse for not doing anything is that "we no longer have the resources to do anything, ever again". It is the difference between action that can be postponed, and action that must be forever precluded.

My understanding is that it's the difference between avoiding an energy source with undesirable side effects versus coping with a shortage (and/or alarming price increase) of not only energy, but all the other things which petroleum provides (plastics, fertilizers, drugs, etc.). Keep burning a healthy supply of oil, bad weather. Keep burning a diminishing supply of oil, exploding costs of transport, food, medicine, consumer goods, and on and on.

Both of your responses are excellent and I agree. But somehow that message isn't getting to our political leaders, and isn't convincing otherwise really smart guys like Holdren and Romm. They're saying, "yeah, right, but either way we need to reduce oil, so what's the diff?" It's a question of articulating what you've just said in an article or presentation that shows that there's a big difference not only in the problem, but in the needed response.

Even if politicians understand peak oil, I don't think that they understand that we have managed to get ourselves into financial overshoot with all the debt we are in. Now all that debt is collapsing, and the impact of that on the financial system, as well as the impact on energy companies of all types, is huge--we just don't fully know how it is all going to shake out at this time. There are a lot of potential impacts--major reduction of imports from abroad; inability to finance new projects except from cash flow; bankruptcies of whole countries; possibly even new constitutions, new currencies, and new country borders.

By the time we get through the financial collapse, we may end up at a lower economic level than the "climate change" folks ever thought was needed. We likely will have little money to spend on the many proposed fixes.

It seems like most of the climate change/efficiency proposals are aiming to transition energy use from 100% to 99% to 98% and so on. The problem is that economy is starting to plunge from 100% to 90% to 80% and down, due to the financial collapse, with or without any planned reduction. We really need to be figuring how to live at our new lower level (maybe 40%, when we lose our imports and debt), rather than trying to plan a slow energy decent. If the discussion were taking place 20 years ago, the slow decent might have made sense, but it is too late now.

As an example, adding more fuel-efficient cars to the fleet is nice, but if everything is falling apart so quickly that few will actually be built, the plan really does not matter. This is the difference between peak oil and climate change. This is also why you don't see me suggesting that energy efficiency is the way to go (except figuring out how to use what we already have, better).


Everything you have just written is absolutely true, totally real, totally on the mark.

I doubt that anything along these lines is even spoken in private conversations in the government buildings inside the beltway, let alone uttered in public. Nor are we likely to hear anyone representing this line of thinking ever appearing on the scrupulously balanced PBS News Hour.

Reality and truth - they are way out on the fringes of US public policy discourse.

Of course, we all know what will assert itself and have its way in the end.

This suggests to me that for most of us ordinary people, discussing about what the government should or will do is pretty futile. More importantly, we had best consider how we should adapt ourselves to this new reality that is bearing down upon us in spite of the government's ineffectual actions - or which will even be worse due to the counterproductive actions the government actually does wrongly undertake.

Glad someone doesn't think I am totally nuts.

If we are already dropping rapidly, the push toward energy efficiency will just send the car makers down faster. If we try to build lots of passive solar houses, we are trying to maintain BAU for a while longer, for a lucky few. Solar passive homes will work until someone throws a stone through a large window, and no replacement glass can be found, or until it becomes necessary to move to a new location, because the current location is too far from where agriculture can be done.

We need somehow to be planning for the very long term, at a much lower energy level. It is hard to see how anyone will even consider this possibility.

Actually I'd dispute that one. If 35mpg were implemented tomorrow then the auto makers would probably survive because the bankers could see they were a good bet for financing. They would become a good home for investment cash that's finding poor returns on the market.

Its tempting to assume that everything will grind to a halt and that many thing will become impossible, quickly. However I don't feel any government would allow it to get that far before implementing rationing/centralised planning to 'manage' the economy. Free marketers would have a heart attack - but let's face it, their recent record on fixing the problems is horribly bad. They just don't have the worldview or understanding of the system to change it.

In fact I've got a feeling that C&C architecture is on the horizon no matter what - there is only so far you can go before you give up trying to 'influence' the market and start flat out dictating.

I've written before on the problems of that approach; but it's probably going to be the least worst option.

If we try to build lots of passive solar houses, we are trying to maintain BAU for a while longer, for a lucky few. Solar passive homes will work until someone throws a stone through a large window, and no replacement glass can be found, or until it becomes necessary to move to a new location, because the current location is too far from where agriculture can be done...We need somehow to be planning for the very long term, at a much lower energy level. It is hard to see how anyone will even consider this possibility.

I'm having trouble following this, so let me phrase it in the way I think you meant;

A passive solar house doesn't require moving parts to heat the house, but if someone breaks window (and most solar houses don't have huge windows), then if no replacements are available, the house becomes less habitable. (Of course, if things are that bad, many homes would be vacant, and another window could be repurposed.)

Something like this could be said for practically any situation, so what's left besides mud huts? And if people have to move to find agriculturally productive areas as the climate shifts, then perhaps teepees and a nomadic existence are the best solution. This may indeed be the future we will be passing down to our descendents. Interestingly enough, it will be sustainable, and 2 generations or so into such a scenario, a poll of individuals would likely find that they are as equally content as we have, um, had been during the Grand Party.

Did I capture the gist of what you were inferring?

In the meantime, however, a passive solar home works well for me. But yes, I've given much thought and planning into the best locations where my descendants may have the best chance.

I think my problem with building passive solar homes comes with what little I have seen of building LEED certified buildings, which are admittedly different.

In one particular case, the LEED certified home was vastly bigger than the woman needed. She couldn't afford the mortgage. The home was filled with energy efficient appliances. The laundry room was bigger than I had seen anywhere else, to hold the big appliances. She was in the process of attempting to put together some type of co-operative farm. She wanted to make certain it would be "nice", so everyone else was expected to have an equally nice (and oversized) home.

I guess I have no problem with passive solar homes if (a) there is a true need to build additional houses (otherwise they just add to the housing glut, and help brings down home prices), (b) the prospective owners can afford them, preferably without debt, so it isn't just one more thing to default on, (c) the homes are built where we are likely to need more homes long term, (d) the homes do not contribute to the need to drive further to get to everything, (e) besides being passive solar, the homes are small relative to the number of people housed, and cut back greatly on appliances used.

I agree with all the points you raised, and note the relation to passive solar building techniques;

(a) Houses continue to be built, and if the model energy code were greatly improved, then passive solar could be used to reduce heating requirements signficantly
(b) Not related to passive solar technology, but to any house in general
(c) Not related to passive solar technology, but to any house in general
(d) Not related to passive solar technology, but to any house in general
(e) Not related to passive solar technology, but to any house in general

You'll see that many highly efficient passive solar homes are being implemented in multi-unit designs, such as Bedzed, for example.

I'm with you on this, while I really appreciate one of Gail's points earlier, with respect to the 'Luxury' implications behind building energy-efficient homes. As you are saying (Will), it really applies to housing in general, but the 'Precious Model Home, Upper-Middle Class Veneer' on Solar and New-Age homes is a tough one to scrub away, and even when you do, you end up with the 'Scruffy, Underlit Hippie LoveShack' Stereotype waiting at the other end.

It's tough to model this in a way that can ride that narrow rail of 'Basic Family Home' ("which happens to be REALLY cheap to live in") and not get tossed into one of these two ruts.

I just threw away another (recycled..) Gaiam Catalog, which usurped the old REAL GOODS.. that went from the 'Scruffy Commune Dwellers' to the 'Cappucino Loft' crowd, and I just can't stand the smirking fashion show that it's become. WholeFoods meets L.L. Beans.

Maybe we have to out-market the marketers!


RE: Passive solar homes. I talked about this on the passive solar housing thread - while building such things is nice for those few that can (still) afford them, what we really need to do is to inexpensively retrofit the millions of existing homes.

This is something the FedGov COULD help with. Maybe creating a new Civilian Conservation Corps, this time trained to help poor homeowners install weatherstripping and insulation and energy efficient replacement windows and solar space and water heating systems. Maybe providing some sort of really decent voucher or tax credit program so that even poor people could really afford to buy the necessary materials.

It makes great sense, which means it almost certainly won't be done. Too much of a departure from BAU-think. Not enough profit in it for TPTB.

Whatever happens along these lines will be due to the initiative of individuals. When energy becomes expensive enough, at least some will make the effort to make some retrofits. A lot of unemployed construction workers will discover that there is money to be made helping people install these things. Community volunteer groups like Habitat for Humanity will learn that retrofitting existing housing is more helpful to poor folks than is building new housing for them. This all will happen not because of the FedGov, but IN SPITE of it.

what we really need to do is to inexpensively retrofit the millions of existing homes.

Excellent. I've been wondering about the relative cost-effectiveness of various methods to add insulation to the walls of existing homes. Is it more cost-effective and resource-effective to add wall thickness inside or outside? Determinants?

My own (not entirely successful) attempts are outlined here:
There is a substantial reduction, but not as much as I hoped. Where did I go wrong? Maybe I should have done the internal insulation rather than external. Too much thermal bridging? Anything I can fix at this point? Any consultants who actually know something about this in the U. S. A. Contact me off-list if you have any ideas. I have some ideas, but I need somebody that actually knows what they're doing. Most local "environmental" insulating type places don't know much about this level of reduction.

The Thousand Home Project is coming later in 2009, I think, to retrofit 1000 homes to reduce energy by 70-90%. What details are available you can find here (PDF):

There is also the Passive House Institute in Germany, discussed in other threads on TheOilDrum.com as I recall, but they don't seem to be available here in the U. S. A. for actual consulting work.

I am very interested in this both on a personal and social level. If we run out of oil, well, it's back to the horse and buggy. But if we can't heat or homes, it's something else altogether.

Keith: Kudos on your insulation project. 5" of R6.5 foam, eh? I'd love that. May have to do some saving up first though.

One quick thought for you. Your website implies you're less pleased with the efficiency results of your project than you'd expected. I agree, I think you should have gotten a better improvement. If the leak-fixing step you lately took hasn't fixed it, the problem might be rate of outdoor air infiltration. It sounds like presently the only outdoor air entry should be your heat-exchanging blower, which is as things should be. Have you checked it's capacity and rate of air changing? Chances are it's significantly oversized for your home, depending on how many occupants. There should be a building code standard for rate of fresh air entry required, and (?perhaps?) a viable way to measure your fan's rate. I'd guess there should be something like that as the problem, because I think you should have gotten a better result, going from uninsulated block / brick walls to R40.

Good thought. I hadn't thought about the air exchanger. I'll check it out. Thanks!

Exactly. Precisely.

Most peak oil presentations focus on whether peak oil is real. But the effects of peak oil are NOT clear to some very smart and influential people like Holdren and Romm. Part of the reason is not just their intransigence or stupidity, but our inability to make a point which is obvious to us, but NOT obvious to them. (Another reason is that this is a difficult subject which no one fully understands.) I would urge that we try to meet them on their own ground and respond literally to their questions and comments. I don't see that being done. My attempt to do so is in the link above.

Of the two crises, global warming is actually harder to prove and therefore becomes a convenient but vague political concept which can be used to justify either spending money or not spending money. Peak Oil is actually easier to understand and once you get it, your whole paradigm changes.

The PTB are sh%t scared that peak oil awareness reaches critical mass in the general populous, after which an entire new economic and political model will need to emerge. This speech sounded to me like the begining of that process with Mr Obama intent on leading the way forward. Good on him I say.

My reading betwen the lines of Obamas speech is that he is very well aware of peak oil hence the '...dwindling resourcess....' comment.Being convinced of the need to act, he has made a very ballsy decision to confront the reality and define his presidency around the energy narrative. I'm sure he will build on that narrative as he goes forward but he can't just dump the whole load on an unsuspecting adn already hurting public all at once. They need to be prepared mentally first and this is just the warm up pepe talk at first day recruit camp. I expect the language to get tougher adn for sacrifice and hard work be called for before years end.

SOME politician, either here or elsewhere is going to have to admit that growth cannot be our end goal forever.

Name one that ever has - I'm genuinely curious. My gut feeling is that it's about as likely as a dog learning to juggle running chainsaws.

I'd definitely put my money on the dog.

Alan Drake's slogan would be: "Vote for me and things may not be as bad as they would otherwise have been."

And I notice that I didn't see his name on the ballot in November

Secret write-in campaign...

At the 2005 ASPO-USA conference in Denver, Roscoe Bartlett (a Republican, gasp!) said specifically that we should not attempt to fill the gap between supply and demand in energy. This isn't quite what you're looking for, but it's at least in the general direction.

SOME politician, either here or elsewhere is going to have to admit that growth cannot be our end goal forever.

Name one that ever has - I'm genuinely curious.

In an obtuse, beating around the bush way, Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech did. Of course this has become infamous, as it is widely regarded in political circles as setting the stage for the Reagan revolution.

I've talked to several that understand it - but wouldn't say it publicly.

Wow. I suppose you can't even give us the tiniest little hint who they are?

I've written to Diana DeGette (D-CO), as well as to some of our state legislators trying to stir up hearings in Colorado. Diana DeGette actually responded, acknowledging peak oil could be a problem but saying that renewables (which she supports already due to global warming) will save the day. Since this is very similar to the line that John Holdren and Joseph Romm are taking, I have stressed the importance of actually responding to their arguments in detail. People tend to consult experts on such matters (I mean, that's what I do, too), and so we need to address the "opposition" experts in detail, trying to respond to what they're thinking -- especially when they're open-minded, intelligent people.

Any idea as to reasons why they don't speak out? Roscoe Bartlett's resolution (now H. Res. 11) once had about a dozen co-sponsors, including Mark Udall, now in the Senate. It looks like a pretty low-risk resolution, from my point of view. It commits them to nothing, since it's symbolic. The payoff could be tremendous later on, they could point to it and say "I told you so." So we have to wait for the whole system to crash before we can do anything about it? I'm trying to come up with something to do, politically, other than just gnash our teeth and wait for our impending doom: like talk to the politicians, or talk to the experts that they seem to be consulting.

Name one that ever has - I'm genuinely curious. My gut feeling is that it's about as likely as a dog learning to juggle running chainsaws.

Evo Morales has done so:

Today in our discussions, we must be very sincere and very realistic about the problems faced by our peoples, humanity and the entire planet.

I feel that we are not speaking truthfully if we talk about life and the future of humanity, while each day we are destroying the future of humanity. It is important to pinpoint who our enemies are, what the causes are of the damage being done to the planet, damage that may put an end to humanity.

I’d like to sincerely apologize if some countries or some groups are affected by the survival of my country, the survival of the indigenous people. I think that that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity and if we do not change the model, change the system, then our presence, our debate, our exchange, and the proposals that we make in these meetings at the United Nations will be totally in vain....

This is why I feel that it is important to change economic models, development models, and economic systems, particularly those in the western world. And if we do not understand and thoroughly discuss the very survival of our peoples, then we certainly not will not be addressing the problem of climate change, the problem of life, the problem for humanity....

It is important that we learn lessons from some sectors, from some regions. Let me avail myself of this opportunity: I come from a culture based on peace, from a lifestyle based on equality, of living not only in solidarity with all people, but also living in harmony with Mother Earth. For the indigenous movement, land cannot be a commodity; it is a mother that gives us life, so how could we convert it into a commodity as the western model does?....

I want to use this opportunity to call on sectors, groups and nations to abandon luxury, to abandon over-consumption, to think not only about money but about life, to not only think about accumulating capital but to think in wider terms about humanity. Only then can we begin to solve the root causes of these problems facing humanity.

But of course he comes from a country where the dominant global economic paradigm has miserably served the needs of the majority of the population. In the OECD nations the possibility of seriously addressing the problems with which we are faced will only arise when a majority of the population becomes convinced that the current economic model cannot provide for their present well being and future security.

Helps that his country is sitting on a large portion of the world's lithium reserves = Saudi Arabia of PHEV batteries.

So we have 1 Congressman and the President of Bolivia. You can throw in the members of the Peak Oil Caucus as well, but for all of Roscoe's daring I'd lay odds that at the end if pressed he'll be for a vision of growth powered along by "infinite" energy resources. Asking people to restrain themselves voluntarily...I don't think so. Business is growth = increased sales year after year. Questioning the whole paradigm would register as a de facto obscenity, I'm surprised Roscoe has gotten this far through warning of potential limitations on our freedom from outside agencies.

I believe this quote from Churchill came pretty close...

... "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…” —Winston Churchill, November 1936 ...,

Granted the context was different than our current situation.

However, once the malodorous splatterings of reality, ricocheting off the recently impinged ventilator, start becoming harder and harder to brush off their starched white shirts, our great and fearless leaders may have no other choice but to tell the truth. Not that I think they actually prefer that option.

I would imagine that a politician as astute as Obama might find it in his best interest to actually shout out, in as loud a warning as he can muster, the fact that none of us are going to escape the blitzkrieg of steaming consequences that are now flying towards us. He might figure that if he tells us to duck, at least we won't be able to say he didn't try to warn us.


I heard you on the world service

you came across great... mentioned it on the other thread by eng poet

I agree with just about everything he is doing - but don't think it nearly enough.

Unfortunately, "enough" is the entire issue. The problem is that people have placed a lot of hope and trust in Obama, so they will think that what he proposes IS enough. But it is an order or two of magnitude NOT enough.

SOME politician, either here or elsewhere is going to have to admit that growth cannot be our end goal forever

Perhaps there just needs to be a change in the language and what we actually measure in terms of what is actually required forgloabl economic security. I would like to see the word "growth" replaced by "progress" when used to describe economic activity.

Growth indicates an accumulation of material that is builton layers and added to consistently. As every sand castle building child knows, the bigger the growth gets, the harder it is to add to and manage and eventually it just sits there like a big bloated blob.

Progress on the other hand indicates a journey. Each of us are on this journey through our lives as we progress through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. The economic goal should be for everyone to be able to complete this journey, live laugh and contribute something along the way, without fouling up the path for the next generation.

Like Obama said, "Presidents have been sounding the alarm about energy dependence for decades."

“We will never again permit any foreign nation to have Uncle Sam over a barrel of oil.”
- Gerald R. Ford, Vice-President of the United States (1974).

“Let this be our national goal: At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need to provide our jobs, to heat our homes, and to keep our transportation moving.”
- United States President Richard M. Nixon, Former US President, after imposing oil price controls in response to the 1973-74 energy crisis (1974).

“Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977, never.”
- United States President Jimmy Carter (1979).

"It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs."
-United States Presiden Barack Obama (2009)

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. When does the change I can believe in start happening?

Yes, I believe this is the point. It was a pretty good speech, though there are some things I disagree with, but it was still just a speech.

I really hope he actually does something, but I won't get too excited until I see some action.


The guy is in office ONE WEEK. And he's already signed a considerable number of statements and decisions that were unthinkable six months ago.

Cynicism is understandable, but it's also a cheap refuge.

I guess, at some point, a realist must start admitting to themselves that the whole system may be broken.

"It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil"
What is this "reverse our dependence"? Why not say "reduce the amount of oil we import"? Too measurable?

By the way, 90% of all domestic oil production is consumed for other-than-transportation. When imported oil goes to zero, so does gasoline (other things being equal). Conversely, hybrids and HOV lanes can not bring imports to zero.

Reversing our dependence on foreign oil sounds like he intends to export ethanol to the rest of the world.

From Drudge:


America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet.

Sure sounds like denial to me.
Is there a difference between this and:

The American Way of Life is not Negotiable

It also sounds very much like American Arrogance.


I felt the (exact) same way.

There are a number of ways to interpret this. If we take measures to reduce our dependence on FF, then we'll have less risk of being blackmailed or crushed by spiraling prices. Same with the climate; if we take action, then we won't be impacted by the worst case scenario.

So it is just an honest mistake then.

I have to agree with Will. No matter who does what to really tackle our short and long term PO issues, they will be accused in a pessimistic light by many. I guess I'm a hopeful sort of guy and have to believe that Mr. Obama knows what needs to be done and must find the most palletable way to corral the mostly hostile and ignorant herd of Americans that do not have the slightest clue how challenging it will be to dodge the Peak Oil Bullet. National self interest is simply too far over the horizon for most to see, so they take a right turn into the mall instead.

Seems logical to me that he's waiting for absolute proof that a) peak petroleum energy is actually here and now. b) there really are the nastiest of consequences inevitably approaching.

The last thing he should do is another Jimmy Carter, eg. warn of immanent disaster and then have it not occur. This forum should be one of the helping hands in developing unassailable arguments for same, esp. second one, but its not here yet. Way too fuzzy and emotional. A lot of good work done so far on first for sure, but still depends on many things like resource estimates, not facts, esp. OPEC, subjective guestimates of final consequences of credit crunch economically, etc., impossibility of implementing any of the many alternatives proposed (thorium reactors, solar thermal, even tar sands and shale).

I argue the pro side of the alternatives in an attempt to get clearer definition of facts, but often feel unwelcome here.

Bottom line is, the reason Obama CAN'T act dramatically from where he's at is that our work is not done. We're failing him.

Edit: Having just re-viewed TOD's mission statement, I'm prepared to retract the directness of the criticism above. However, i'd really like to see TOD add to it's mission statement a goal "To produce a single, evidence-based, coherent factual analysis of the evidence for peak petroleum energy and its economic and social consequences." Sorry.

I pretty much agree with you re: Obama. I think he has to tell us everything is going to be OK, but at the same time take policies that prepare us for the worst.

America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet.

Might just as well have said "America will not be held hostage to reality."

I don't think that's what he's saying.

To me, it sounds like -'we will not be paralyzed by these hazards.. we have work to do, and we won't ignore them any longer (like He-who-won't-be-named did..) as they grow worse.'

He's looking at Kyoto and CC, he sent Mitchell to Israel/Gaza. If you just want to see this as just more BAU, I think that's a choice more than a perception on your part.

I read it very differently. For starters, there's the open admission of dwindling resources and a warming planet. Cheney would never have said such a thing.

On its own, it's an uncharacteristically fuzzy sentence for such a usually clear writer, but the following two paragraphs clarify the context: America, he says, will face the challenge of dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet.

I understood that differently: if you wait too long before acting then you are definitively held hostage to peak oil and global warming.

Actually Paul he got even closer to Cheney in the Inaugural speech:

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense

American exceptionalism is alive and well.

And with everything else in that speech and what he's been saying publically, can you really equate it with Cheney's remarks and his tone?

It's intentionally obtuse. 'Way of Life' can easily be as much a reference to 'Democracy, Free Press, Public Education, Full Suffrage' etc. What makes you suggest that this is supposed to be his code for 'Go Shopping, Conservation is for Losers, Ownership Society' ?

What makes you suggest that this is supposed to be his code for 'Go Shopping, Conservation is for Losers, Ownership Society' ?

Ummm.... Nothing, because I didn't. You extrapolated a great deal from very little. Please don't try to put words in my mouth.

You tied him in with Cheney and American exceptionalism. How would you qualify the equation, then?

If you think he means the same thing or even close, what do you think is in the subtext? What do you think Cheney was 'really' saying.. or thought he was saying? For what it's worth, maybe that was simply code for 'Freedom' as well, tho' Cheney was pretty explicit about conservation and consumption.


America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes and a warming planet.

Sure sounds like denial to me.


I'm sure Ms. Dwindling Resources doesn't give a rat's ass about Obama and his bullhorn political comments.

Does he really believe the ROW is going to snuff their collective economies in order to lend $$Trillions to the US over next few years? Tim "Innocent Mistake" Geithner should stop worrying about corporate jets and figure out who will buy the non-dwindling USG bonds and bills (phone call to Helicopter Ben?).

To Achieve Energy Independence we have to resolve many problems. One of the problems is very low oil discovery rate. Now the rate is one discovery in four drilled wells only. It means that 75% drilled wells is waste (dry holes). The ignorance of most of the world about what we do in oil exploration is amazing.
I would like to inform you, that to drill almost each well with new oil/gas discovery there is new technology for oil/gas detection (US patent 7,330,790). The technology is designed and successfully tested in the Barents and the Black Seas as well as in the Gulf of Mexico (see: www.binaryseismoem.weebly.com ).
With new exploration technology US oil industry could make up to three times more oil and gas discoveries on the Outer Continental Shelf than when using conventional technology. And the fact that new technology won't need more investments is also very important. It can significantly mitigate impending oil crises.

A silver bullet!

Exactly Will. Within a few years the folks at Geolog will exceed the combined wealth of Buffet and Gates. In fact, they don't really need to wait that long. I can promise you that ExxonMobil will write them a check for $20 billion the day they varify their new technology. Thank goodness we can stop worrying about PO.

Great, I'm going to stop gardening and cancel my order of Rhode Island Red chicks...

Rockman wrote: I can promise you that ExxonMobil will write them a check for $20 billion the day they varify their new technology. Thank goodness we can stop worrying about PO.-----------------
I am sorry, but Big Oil don't want to increase sharply discovery rate, because it requires many changes in oil industry infrastructure. Nobody from industry bureaucracy will embrace it, including you and PO supporters. -------------------------------------
“It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.”
—Upton Sinclair

Thanks for attention

Silver bullshit?

In my experience oil cos have improved their drilling success rate by becoming more risk averse. By only drilling the best prospects their success rate has improved - that does not mean they have made more discoveries. It seems that the more technology that is deployed the more risk averse they become.

Read rule 9 - you are borderline


there is new technology for oil/gas detection (US patent 7,330,790)

But the patent is worthless.
Have you read Ex parte Barnes ?

The truly wise and noble judges of our land have decided that searching for oil is a useless and abstract endeavor.


Nuclear fusion-fission hybrid could contribute to carbon-free energy future

Physicists have designed a new system that, when fully developed, would use fusion to eliminate most of the transuranic waste produced by nuclear power plants, making nuclear power a more viable alternative to carbon-based energy sources.

How soon before NRC approval?

LLNL projects to have demonstrated fusion by 2010-2011 and a prototype system 10 years (2020) from first fusion. The hard part is fusion. Deployment of LIFE starts in 2020 and accelerates from there. Other types of base load reactors are phased out until about 2050 when only LIFE systems are in the field. Time will tell.

By the way, an announcement today (1/27/2009) of a breakthrough in ITER type fusion reactors called Compact Fusion Neutron Source (CFNS) using a plasma wall heat reduction scheme called a Super X Diverter. This fusion/fission hybrid could provide some competition for the LIFE approach. Very good news.

An "Energy (Carbon) Tax" to pay for Solar/Wind etc. stimulus funds.

Viable or not ?

At a time of such great challenge for America, no single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy.

I think he understands. He starts by talking about the economy, but immediately turns that into a discussion of energy and, amazingly, energy efficiency and conservation. This is not another speech about drilling for more oil (like Nixon, and Bush, and McCain).

As many here have commented "the future is electric" and he is putting forward a proposal for more transmission lines (not pipelines).

There was also some fear that because Obama was originally a senator from a coal state he would not block coal. However the EPA did exactly that:

Today, Obama’s EPA revoked the original OK given for the South Dakota air permit, citing worries about the plant’s contributions to global warming and inadequate emissions monitoring. This action took place on the dead last day for review for the plant’s application. Talk about good timing!


I think he has exhibited more political courage in a few days than the past 4 presidents combined.

"I think he has exhibited more political courage in a few days than the past 4 presidents combined."

Really? This is a good summary:

American Presidents and Energy: a Challenge of Leadership

One of the things that really scares me about our energy problems is the fact that so much money, time, effort, thought and resources has gone in to fixing them over the decades yet the problems are always the same and never get fixed. I mean, policies produced real action yet it was never enough. I am still waiting to be convinced this president is different.

Not all problems have solutions.

Medicine, for example, has to deal with this all the time. I am diabetic. There is no cure. I will always be diabetic until the day I die.

What is the solution? There is none. All that can be done is to mitigate the disease with various drugs and changes of behavior and eating habits. Normally even with these efforts, life expectancy is reduced.

It could be that Peak Oil is the same kind of problem. All any President can do is try to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil and Climate Change. Obama has made a good start. It is refreshing to have a President that can talk in sentences, use real words and speak for extended periods without goofing.

His action in reviewing the California waiver will accelerate vehicle MPG improvement IMO. The Congress under pressure from auto lobbyists has fought higher MPG standards for decades. With auto companies on the ropes and receiving government aid, they are in no position to fight back. For him to have figured this stuff out and acted in less than a week shows his reasoning ability. Don't underestimate Obama.

Not all problems have solutions.

Good point.

Two caveats to this:
1. Not all problems have solutions we know about.
2. Not all problems are known to us irrespective of whether solutions are available or not.

According to Jared Diamond's book, Collapse, the Vikings of Greenland were surrounded by an ocean of fish and yet they starved to death. Apparently, cultural biases prevented them from seeing the fish as a solution.

As to whether Obama is an avid reader of TOD and already knows about Peak Oil or not, who knows? I suspect that eventually, Roscoe Bartlett the Congressman will catch the President's ear for a few seconds and have a talk with him about our long emergency.

Talk is cheap. Everybody loved Bush early too. I think a lot of people who understand the energy issues are looking at the technical side of it and fail to recognize the economic implications of "being early" with regard to getting away from oil or coal or whatever you don't like.

Obviously the "alternative" energies aren't economical now or we would all be using them. To put these alternatives in place now would require an economic disadvantage relative to the economies that did not take the same measures. The absolute worst thing that could happen is that the American economy would have a transformational switch to cleaner, domestic energy resources and then the prices of oil and coal stayed low for a significant time period. If California went 100% emissions free or 100% domestic right now, there would be riots in the streets and about 50 people in the whole state would have a job.

The decision makers absolutely can not be early. Not only will the economy suffer, riots, unrest, etc. but there will also be much heavier resistance to alternative energy resources, controlling pollution, etc. in the future.

I actually think having the general public mostly unaware of peak oil, however you may define it, is not a bad thing. It will become apparent to everyone when the out-of-phase roller coaster charts of economic growth and energy prices come. But until that actually happens, you have to keep the gun in the holster while you research and build a better gun.


Well said! IOW, Jimmy Carter was right but his timing was dead wrong.

That said, the timing between physical realities and political realities may be seriously out of sync.

Political timing to inform the masses may mean that the optimum mitigation window has passed. IMO, the time to deploy alternatives was some time ago but price volatility meant that investors could not fully commit. The Hirsch report talked of too early/too late scenarios but did not address the political/investment issues.

This topic could be a TOD post on its own.

Well I would say it goes back to the people would rather have $75000 salary if the average was $50000 than $100000 if everyone around them made $150000. If you hypothetically took American oil demand out of the picture, oil prices would drop so much that people in the US would be kicking and screaming, "Why did you get us off oil, its 30 cents a gallon for gas now?" Obviously that doesn't happen overnight, but even a time frame of 10-20 years could be relatively short-term.

I think for the process to play out "optimally" there has to be a lot of pain for the consumer. That's the only way to educate people about peak oil. Plus technology seems to take off a lot faster when market forces are at the break-even point without government interference. No pain, no gain IMO.

Timing the critical lack of supply of oil is like timing the stock market, don't even try. The main way I'd attack the problem is to try to make the system as flexible as possible but that's no picnic.

Look at Delta Airlines today (yesterday). They listened to the oil drum, hedged oil prices, and it cost them a billion bucks. (just kidding...but seriously) Just something to think about when you want to scream at the policy makers.

They also listened to Theoildrum and hedged prices back when oil was 40 dollars a barrel, mind you, before it went up to 145!

The Dude said;

Everybody loved Bush early too.

I wouldn't say that about post-election 2001 ...post 9/11 is probably what you are thinking about (up to a point), which is different from what is being discussed here.

Hello Keithster100,

Your Quote: "One of the things that really scares me about our energy problems is the fact that so much money, time, effort, thought and resources has gone in to fixing them over the decades yet the problems are always the same and never get fixed."

I echo your sentiment above. Welcome to the Thermo/Gene Collision and the Law of Receding Horizons. IMO, we need to move forward into Optimal Overshoot Decline strategies so that we can hopefully shoot the gap between Jay Hanson's fast-crash scenario and the Archdruid Greer's long and grinding Catabolic Collapse. Otherwise, it ends up at Requiem:

..We will see feral children mining the dumps for plastic to burn (Pampers) so they can heat the hovels they are forced to live in. The strongest kids will set traps for fresh meat -- rats -- while the weaker kids will eat anything they can cram into their mouths (old shoes, styrofoam peanuts, newspaper soup).

Pandemics will sweep the world, punctuated every so often by explosions as abandoned and rotting nuclear facilities blow up. Leaking dumps and tanks will spew PCBs and radioactive hazwaste into the feral food chain spawning surprising new shapes for young mothers to enjoy nursing.[55] Toxic chemical fires, blowing garbage and trash, genetic mutations, filthy water, cannibalism ...

As the Easter Islanders say: "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth".[56]

The situation will be especially serious for a short time because the population will keep rising due to the lags inherent in the age structure and social adjustment. Then mercifully, the population will drop sharply as the death rate is driven upward by lack of food and health services.[57] Trapped in obsolete belief systems, Americans won't even know why their society disintegrated...

you guys dont get it
it does not matter where the oil imports come from
thats like saying "well my side of the Titanic is still dry"

This is largely true, but when we lose proximal exporters like Mexico, we have to offset that with imports from oil exporters located farther away, which increases the amount of oil in the "pipeline" and makes us somewhat more vulnerable to supply disruptions, but of course that is the rationale for the SPR.