Nate Hagens on BBC Regarding Obama Energy Policy

Nate was on BBC-World regarding Obama's energy policy yesterday (which was likely heard by millions). You can listen at this link. Nate is on, immediately after a recording of President Obama starting at about 2:25 into the show, and ending at about 5:53.

In the interview, Nate says what President Obama said was good, but it didn't go far enough. He eventually needs to get across the idea that we cannot continue to grow facing multiple resource constraints, and that that our current conspicuous consumption paradigm needs to be changed. He reiterated that energy is what we have to spend, not money.

Nate suggests we need people to demonstrate by example what changes are needed. The interviewer asks if that means celebrities should buy electric cars. Nate says they should go even further.

This is my recollection. Listen and find out what he really said!

Wohooo! You go Nate!

Great job Nate, congrats. You really summed up the neccesary headlines in a concentrated manner, thats not easy. I loved your conclusion : The celebreties directly onto bikes ! (no in between vehicle :-)

IMO Peak Oil or indeed any other resource that turns out to be our system's 'Liebig's minimum' for constraining continued growth are all symptoms.

Riding bikes just treats one symptom, the lack of energy for BAU transport.

The underlying cause of the cluster of symptoms we now face is massive continued exponential growth of already TOO MANY HUMANS living unsustainably.

Treating symptoms not causes is doomed to failure.

I don't yet see anybody successfully attempting to treat the cause ... so, realistically, there are no signs of optimism for the medium term outlook.

I don't yet see anybody successfully attempting to treat the cause ... so, realistically, there are no signs of optimism for the medium term outlook.

While I agree with your point, and I don't at all intend this question to be snarky, what exactly do you suggest? I think Dr. Albert Bartlett poses the essence of the dilemma quite well in his lecture Arithmetic, Population and Energy.

Now, in this column are some of the things we should encourage if we want to lower the rate of growth of population and in so doing, help solve the population problem. Well, there’s abstention, contraception, abortion, small families, stop immigration, disease, war, murder, famine, accidents. Now, smoking clearly raises the death rate; well, that helps solve the problem.

Remember our conclusion from the cartoon of one person per square meter; we concluded that zero population growth is going to happen. Let’s state that conclusion in other terms and say it’s obvious nature is going to choose from the right hand list and we don't have to do anything—except be prepared to live with whatever nature chooses from that right hand list. Or we can exercise the one option that’s open to us, and that option is to choose first from the right hand list. We gotta find something here we can go out and campaign for. Anyone here for promoting disease? (audience laughter)

We now have the capability of incredible war; would you like more murder, more famine, more accidents? Well, here we can see the human dilemma—everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem. There is a dilemma if ever there was one.

Maybe you know of an acceptable choice, (palatable to general public), that we can all embrace?

The cure is having less children in total ... there is NO WAY to avoid it ... it is another 'inconvienient truth'.

Dr. Bartlet gives a list of possible ways to do it starting with the ones most might accept if they knew the mathematical truth (and a few, though not nearly enough do already accept).

As we are now adding around a billion new mouths every ten years or so (and accelerating!), the longer the problem is ignored the worse the cure ... as always in the past, the problem will be solved by nature if we don't collectively take action ... I presume that the world's religions think nature's way is God's way so, realistically, I don't expect any helpful intervention from them.

As a start I think the total world population must actually be told the horrible truth about exponential population growth in a finite world ... this is a serious, urgent, education problem ... IMO much more serious than AGW or peak oil but I doubt anything adequate is likely to be done and it is therefore sensible to plan on that basis.

IMO assume humans in general aren't smarter than yeast when it comes to population control - but if you are smarter then there are things you can do so that your genes continue to propagate sucessfully into the future, as they have for the last 3.5 billion years or so.

Perhaps you have seen the movie Idiocracy. The basic premise: Folks like us Get It, so we choose to limit our reproduction. Meanwhile the least intelligent reproduce like yeast.

From wikipedia:

Idiocracy -

A narrator explains that natural selection is indifferent to intelligence, so that in a society in which intelligence is systematically debased, stupid people easily out-breed the intelligent, creating, over the course of five centuries, an irremediably dysfunctional society. Demographic superiority favours those least likely to advance society.[1] Consequently, the children of the educated élites are drowned in a sea of sexually promiscuous, illiterate, alcoholic, proletarian peers.

Consequently, the children of the educated élites are drowned in a sea of sexually promiscuous, illiterate, alcoholic, proletarian peers.

Certainly contains errors, perhaps just in language... First, level of education has little if any corelation with intelligence, almost total corelation with wealth. Second, level of alcohol consumption very closely corelates with level of wealth. Others, but why bother.

Overall, agree with some of the points raised this discussion, but am disgusted that no-one has discussed the most likely contributer to the solution, which is GET EVERYONE ON EARTH SECURITY OF PERSON AND LIVELIHOOD! Second is "GET RELIGIONS TO ALTER PRESENT PRO_BIRTH PROPAGANDA! Then people will then reduce their rate of reproduction of their own accord.

"A narrator explains that natural selection is indifferent to intelligence, so that in a society in which intelligence is systematically debased, stupid people easily out-breed the intelligent, creating, over the course of five centuries, an irremediably dysfunctional society".

I am seeing this happening is Thailand. The large underclass breed like rabbits, have minimal schooling, and then go on to breed like rabbits. So the cycle spirals ever downward. It explains how an economic despot like Thaksin can economically gut a country with a smile on his face, and still get a local audience even though he is in exile as a convicted criminal. What is that tourism motif, 'Amazing Thailand'. For sure.

1 stupid Male + 1 stupid Female
(does not)=
1 stupid Baby.

Or vise versa.

In other words, Einstein's parents were not physicists.

In other words, it takes an idiot village to raise a village idiot.

In other words, George H.W. Bush (41) was not a village idiot and neither was his wife Barbara. So how do you explain their offspring, uncurious George the 43rd?

This is regression to the mean. If two very smart people have a baby, the baby will most likely be smarter than average, but not as smart as the parents. If two extremely stupid people have a baby, it will most likely be smarter than the parents, but dumber than average.

I've said the same thing many times here. If humans had maintained the population growth rate of the past 50 years for the past 2000, there would now be several quadrillion people on the planet. Literally stacked on each other. No room for cows, fields, forests, waste disposal, etc.

BAU cannot continue. It is impossible. I'm glad to see that Obama has taken one small step toward making contraceptives more widely available. But until we get buy-in from the worlds major religions, many of whom see procreation as nothing but a membership drive, we are doomed.

Noticed that the Rethuglicans objected to Obama's putting in some money for birth control for poor people and teenagers as 'wasteful'.
Voting for GOP is like voting for a fanatical religious cult.

remedial alleviation of "the symptoms" is not unjustified......... if the numbers are unsustainable (i think your right) then crash or slide?

I am trying to think this through. President Obama follows your suggestion, and starts riding a bicycle. Five million (or 10 million) people follow his lead. With all of the people riding bicycles, the number of new cars purchased remains very low (or worse yet, drops further).

GM, Ford, and Chrysler still have all their debt to pay back. In fact, they now will have more, because of the additional cost of the changeover to building more fuel efficient cars and trucks. How are the Big 3 supposed to make ends meet? Raise the prices of the more fuel efficient cars and trucks, so they can still make enough money to pay back their debt? Default on their debt? Stop paying health care for retired workers?

Aren't we just back to a delayed crash (assuming the delay can be arranged), if the Big 3 build more fuel efficient cars, and we convince people that they don't need as many of them? Even if there is another reason besides a conscious decision not to use automobiles as much (for example, people are poorer because of peak oil), don't we still get back to the same result?

The big three can start building bikes instead.

Plus Alan's standard gauge RR & TOD, and narrow gauge SpiderNetworks for support of full-on O-NPK recycling, plus wheelbarrows. The Optimal Overshoot Decline goal is for Americans [and global others] to burn energy at the Bangladeshi level or less, but to use this limited energy very, very efficiently.

BTW Nate--good job!

Could you explain that a bit? 'RR' i'm guessing is railroad; TOD is probably not 'the oil drum' in this context, what are SpiderNetworks (googling it didn't lead to much) and what would Detroit build to help with NPK (fertilizer?) recycling?

Hello BenAhualoa,

My Sincere Welcome to a newbie TODer!

Yep, RR is railroad. TOD is Transit-Oriented-Development where walkable and/or pedal JHKunstler-type efficient housing and business develops around urban light rail. SpiderWebRiding is my term for light, cheap, but smooth and sturdy narrow gauge track that is spread radially out from an urban cluster, to help move goods & people with pedal-power and/or electrical assist.

Think of the standard gauge RR & TOD as the 'spine & limbs' of a future postPeak organized geography with SpiderWebRiding as the 'ribcage'. For example: you're an egg farmer 15 miles from town, but also a long way to a RR depot. You could get your eggs to the depot on a smooth, narrow gauge double track with a steel-wheeled cargo bike, then on to the town market on the standard gauge RR track. Much better than using bicycle or wheelbarrow over non-existent rural roads.

IMO, this is postPeak more efficient and SMOOTHER than a lot of broken eggs from having no asphalt for roads, potholes, mud, ice, snow, thorns, broken glass,etc. Steel wheel on steel rail will last a lifetime vs lots and lots of replacing tires.

As far as Organic fertilizer[O-NPK] or Industrial Fertilizer [I-NPK]: both are generally composed of the major Elements--Nitrogen[N], Phosphorus[P], and Potassium[K].

Lots of people around the world cannot afford I-NPK now, they need to use O-NPK. A Spiderweb is my proposed bi-directional method to haul rural foodstuffs into town one direction, then bring O-NPK back out to replenish the topsoil. Hope this brief explanation helps.

Thanks toto for the explanations! I feel very welcome.

Interesting you mention egg farmers, as i am in fact a (very small farm) egg farmer 3.5 miles uphill from the nearest town. I'd love to see any kind of spiderspoke coming up here, although i fear that the low population density of rural areas like mine means that we'll be lucky to (at most) keep any kind of surface on our (current) asphalt road.

Our farm also grows food. Getting N is solvable locally, but PK are more problematic in the long term. As far as i know, when i buy a sack of "organic 6-6-6" from the store (45 miles away by car), the P and K are strip-mined from somewhere thousands of miles away. We compost fanatically and bring in manure, but .. well, that's getting off topic a bit.

On topic, i am loathe to install RealPlayer for the BBC thing, does anyone have a transcript of Nate's interview?

Hello Ben,

Cool survival setup! You are much better positioned than I am as we go postPeak--I am just renting a bedroom smack-dab in the middle of Asphaltistan [Phx,AZ] in the middle of the Sonoran desert.

Your being uphill from town is actually a geophysical location advantage [as opposed to being downhill from the town]. Let me explain:

You pedal one ton of NPK and other crop inputs home *uphill*, but if your farming efforts are reaching towards Liebscher's Law of the Optimum [plus good climate and weather], then you can later by kinetic energy **coast/freewheel downhill** to town 20 tons of harvested goods to sell. This 20:1 downhill/uphill ratio can work to your benefit as opposed to a competing farmer who lives downhill from town [where his geophysical location will make it much more energetic to get his goods to market].

Even better, use gravity and the weight of the goods moving downhill to town to pull the lighter weight of the NPK uphill to the farm - a simple pulley system, but does require two sets of tracks.

[This was supposed to appear below BenAhualoa's comment about

"On topic, i am loathe to install RealPlayer for the BBC thing, does anyone have a transcript of Nate's interview?" ]

What you really want is not the Real Player user interface, but rather the behind-the-scenes "codec" (coder/decoder) that actually decompresses the datastream.

An excellent alternative to the Real Player with it's hidden agenda of user profiling and sludgeware advertising is the "K-Lite Mega-Codec Pack" and player.

Go to:

< >

The annonymous developers on this site have reverse-engineered the Real Media player, the Apple Quick Time player and others. They have extracted the "active ingredient" codecs and have packaged them with a program called the "Media Player Classic". This player LOOKS like the classic Windows Media Player from Windows 2000, but under the hood it totally different -- no copy protection, digital rights management, user profiling (or registration), or hidden marketing agendas.

The combination of the "Mega-Codec Pak and Media Player Classic" plus the "Quick Time Alternative" will yield a single media player capable of playing virtually EVERYTHING including Windows Media, DVDs, video clips from digital cameras, Real Media, Quicktime and virtually every compressed file format used to distribute movies over the Internet, with no hidden agendas.

These developers update the Codec Pak every month or so to keep up with the ever-changing file formats of Real Media and Quicktime.

That is likely a better solution. The technology for bicycles is pretty well known. Perhaps they should work on sturdy bikes that will not wear out in three years.

Bikes were easy to maintain until the end of the 1980s. They will be again if the market returns. When cycling decreased, the surviving manufacturers became more 'boutique' with ever fancier ideas to fight a dwindling market.

Huh? Gail, your writing here suggests that we cannot have growth without debt and this requires cheap energy (I paraphrase). So some (many?) industries are going to have to fail. What is the 'result' you refer to? A crash with something we can use (bicycles) or are you suggesting that the sooner the existing paradigm comes to a close, the better off we are. I am confused. I saw a Richard Heinberg presentation once with a chart showing that bicycles were the most energy efficient mode of transportation known to man-even better than a full double decker bus and much better than walking.

IMHO, neither Nate nor Obama goes far enough, but I expect they both have many opinions unvoiced.

I saw a Richard Heinberg presentation once with a chart showing that bicycles were the most energy efficient mode of transportation known to man-even better than a full double decker bus and much better than walking.

I believe this. I mostly gave up biking just for that reason -- it wasn't enough exercise. Now I walk.

IMHO, neither Nate nor Obama goes far enough, but I expect they both have many opinions unvoiced.

I agree with this too. But how much further could Nate go and still be aired on the Beeb? It's not so hard to guess Nate's unvoiced opinions, because he voices them elsewhere. That's not so true of Obama. But it doesn't matter: if he were to go too far outside the box, he'd end up IN a box.

I believe this. I mostly gave up biking just for that reason -- it wasn't enough exercise. Now I walk.

While I very much enjoy walking and often go on walks of many miles I'm scratching my head at that remark, was that meant as snark?. I also ride my bike and no matter how efficient it may be, after a couple of miles of hard pedaling I can feel the muscle burn in my thighs. So the exercise benefit probably has something to do with my pedaling rate and the terrain on which I bike.

BTW walking at one's "preferred stride" is a pretty darn efficient means of locomotion maybe you should try running instead of walking ;-)

The efficiency of cycling is hugely dependent on (a) tire pressures and tire quality (affecting rolling resistance), (b) speed relative to the air (affecting air drag), (c) too low a saddle (re which just try going for a walk with your knees half bent to find out why), and finally far from least, (d) use of toe-clips (without which you have to waste a ton of energy constantly cramping three-fourths of your leg muscles to retain your feet on the pedals). Cycling without clips should be a criminal offence in any civilised dictatorship.

I saw a Richard Heinberg presentation once with a chart showing that bicycles were the most energy efficient mode of transportation known to man

Was this the one?

I think he meant this one (though I don't know original source):

That image will show up only if one is a member of Open University. I've uploaded it to PhotoBucket:

Energy by Mode of Travel

Check the book Bicycling Science as it had lots of great efficiency information.

Bicycles are great if you can continue to get spare parts. Sharon's book (Depletion and Abundance) screamed at me in two places - one was the inferred statement that bikes are great because they just keep going and are great for year round use. I use mine year round and every winter destroys a bike. If I use 1950's technology (Sturmey Archer three speed) then I can get about 5 years before I have to throw most of the bike away and rebuild the wheels. Her other one had to do with population and energy - and if everyone just makes due with less energy then we can all breed like rabbits and .... make things worse. Ie no thinking 7 generations ahead. If everyone does what you do for seven generations - where do we end up.

Back to bikes. Winter is hell utter hell if you have to deal with salt and slush and ice. In places where the roads are sanded and not salted/graded as much ... well, the bike lasts a lot longer but you also have to travel a lot slower. Of course in any place that doesn't have snowy winters bikes are great. I always love getting off the winter beast/beater and getting onto my summer bike. I finally pitched my 1951 Ralleigh (3-speed of course) after not being able to get parts and fix certain bits. But if anyone is worried about long term bike durability - get a bike with internal gears. They're also less efficient as outlined in Bicycling Science.

The only thing that will save the big 3 is a return to total US auto sales of 15-16 million a year. Unless the oil fairy refills Spindletop that is hard to envision.

Gail, your caution well noted however at least on the healthcare- this is false concern. Without a single payer system like our trading partners have, the USA spends 16 % of our GDP on healthcare versus Europe and East Asia which spend 9-12%- the most effective shot in the economic arm that Washington could do would be to enact HR 676, Conyers healthcare for all bill- this will enable car manufacturers and other industrial users to compete on a world stage again instead of relentlessly outsourcing. The retirees would basically be handed a medicare card and we'd get Detroit away from being the worlds largest hmo's who just happen to make cars as a sideline Who would lose?
well the healthcare insurers that skim( by their own reports) 20-32 pct of of every dollar in nonproductive overhead and shareholder profits would lose. Something has to give so let's eliminate the health insurance industry before it kills the rest of the american economy.

Absolutely correct.

Just a reminder. Don't forget Boeing, and all the airlines. They must fail badly at the same time if the auto business is to fail. LA container ports. GE, Pratt&Whitney engine manufacturers. etc. etc.

A single-payer health insurance system would give all of them a huge boost, perhaps enough to re-direct efforts. Are they all to be sacrificed simply because the health insurance companies don't wish to re-structure themselves to their actually beneficial role of offering insurance for supplemental benefits such as private hospital rooms over universal multi-patient ward services, etc.?

Here is a thought - the car manufacturers compete in the context of making cars. What is stopping them from combining their health coverage requirements into a single scheme and then benefit from the discounts that ought to facilitate?

In fact why don't the airlines and the airline manufacturers and all the School districts and all the other employers ..... no wait .... duh! That would be a single payer system. Can't have that.

Making healthcare a government expense would surely ease the burden of your industri. But this expense would require a higher taxrate and then a higher paycheck.

No matter how you put it, your industry will have a hard time competing.

Currently the american carindustri is surviving on a reduced tax on light trucks. If Detroit were only to produce "normal" cars they wouldn't stand a chance.

The fact that Toyota is doing so much better dealing with the financial distress in the US shows that Toyota's products are more in line with the new preferences. Buying a three ton SUV used to be fun and Japan couldn't compete with Detroit. In the world of small cars without taxexemptions the american carindustry is toast.

The US can either try to sell more products to the rest of the world or they can stop buying stuff from the rest of the world. The easiest fix would be to let the USD plummet. But then we have the small problem tha there are soo many goods you just need to buy! among other stuff: OIL

To tell the american population that they need to start producing something usefull (and exportable) at a low wage is going to be a tough sale... Having only 11% of the workforce in manufaction is not sustainable.

Having only 11% of the workforce in manufaction is not sustainable.

Well, for a no-growth scenario, that sounds about right, right? Are you advocating a return to growth?

I am in NO WAY advocating return to growth. I am advocating a return of domestic production.

I am advocating more people in manufacturing to reduce imports and less people in the servicesector.
People serving coffee at starbucks doesn't really contribute to the wellbeing of the american economy.
Get your industry back within your borders.

Paying some chinese worker a few dollars to make a pair of Nike shoes might be cheaper than paying an american.
But maybe 10$ paid to an american worker is better than 5 paid to a chinese.

The situation now is you pay the chinese worker 5$ to make the shoes AND you pay the american worker 10$ to pour the coffee.

My suggestion would be to pay the american worker 10$ to make the shoe and pour the coffee yourself!

The whole industry of hairdressers for dogs, homedecorators, nailartist and personal shoppers is convenient but very much a waste. Manpower should be used with more caution. The more you think about this the worse I feel, because the first thing you will stop buying is service. You need clothes more than you need someone to pour your coffee.

As we enter an age with massive unemployment it is a disaster to have outsourced all of your manufaction.
I cant create new jobs, but I can get be the jobs you gave to the chinese.

Creating new jobs by building more roads and bridges is good for the people that receive the paycheck but bad for the people that must pay the taxes to fund this.

Creating wealth, money and income is harder than transferring it.
Government spending doesn't create wealth it distributes it!

The problem here is that this is in dire contrast to the free market.

I see same issue with danish natural gas. Currently the danish energy minestry is planning the construction of a pipeline to russia because they see the need to be importing gas by 2016 because of falling production.


Slow down production and make it last longer!

Who knows if we can even get the gas by 2016? And at what price?

Short sighted economic gain is given priority over security of supply in a way that makes me sick.
Wonder if UK is currently regreting that they exported so much oil and gas in the last decade...

Reducing our export might be bad for the rest of Europe but maybe it could be a wakeup call for others.
If we shift this supply from now to 2020 it might even ease the blow. A long and slow reduction in production must be a good thing even if we start by slashing production 50%.
Heat in our houses in 2020 is better than money in the bank today!

Well Nate, I have to say you summed up the world situation far better than I could have in 90 seconds!

The commentator had a point that celebrities driving around in hybrids might not be enough (implied by his tone of voice).
If I understand your prior posts, what you are saying is that we need to have efficiency and voluntary simplicity become our cultural "good" or the thing which bestows high status (much like vows of poverty are seen as signs of great great holiness in other cultures).

Maybe it would be better expressed as saying "we need thrift to replace consumerism, much the same way it did during WWII, when people sacrificed personal goods to help the war effort" or something to give a much clearer feel for the size of the attitude change you are proposing.

I hope you get many more opportunities to speak on these issues! May the time zones work in your favor however!

"what you are saying is that we need to have efficiency and voluntary simplicity become our cultural "good" or the thing which bestows high status (much like vows of poverty are seen as signs of great great holiness in other cultures)"

I mentioned something similar to a Jesuit priest not too long ago. My term was a vow of non-accumulation. It definitely got his attention. I've often thought that the Jesuit "system" could be a model for a more sustainable system -- without the dogma and doctrine, of course. According to this priest/professor, students must take 50 credit hours or so of classes not related to being an engineer or an accountant or so on. The problem with the Jesuit education system is that it trains students to work in the material world. There is simply no place -- no institution or employer -- for them (or you or I) to go and earn a livelihood without buying into the whole energy-sucking system.

The interesting part of this is that if a group of people dedicated to "non-accumulation" decided to compete in an organized way, they would have an advantage in the marketplace. (No house payment, car payment, etc. ) The problem is finding meaningful work. My idea is to identify industries to compete in and go after that market. First, the spa business:

The amount of talk about reducing our footprints in online forums/blogs is stunning. The amount of real change is stunningly low.

This is great Nate, but does this mean you won't be able to do my show on local public radio and GPM anymore?


But it reminded me about realpolitik. I prepare for your shows a bit, but am pretty much myself. When the BBC called, my internal 'political' instinct was to water down what I said to appeal to both the producers and the audience, which are both larger and more diverse than that on GPM (I suspect). I think there's a natural human inclination to be 'inclusive' at the expense of the truth. Fortunately this interview was short enough that I wasn't put to the test, but it reminded me the power of conformity, and how difficult it is going to be for minority viewpoints to gain traction in an entrenched culture, even with the facts (or what we know not to be facts).

Hello Nate,

I thought it was interesting that your interviewer did not press you for some plausible postPeak examples of 'a celebrity on a bike'. I guess he felt constrained by realpolitik too. #119198 cautions about getting accustomed to such short-term behavioral realpolitik...

You should have jumped right ahead and freely offered:

1. Imagine all the NASCAR, INDY, and Formula-1 racers instantly abandoning their motorized-sport to instead participate/compete with Lance Armstrong in the next 'Tour De France'. Shall we call such a dramatic paradigm shift in racing 'Detour De Peak'?

2. IMO, mentioning Tiger Woods & the PGA giving up golf to instead plow golf courses and become Master gardeners is an excellent way to quickly reboot, then re-orient the radio-listeners' thought processes.

3. How about a Peak Outreached Madonna transforming her lifestyle into doing a newer, even better version of Mother Teresa?

4. The Duggar parents suddenly proclaiming that they were absolutely insane to have more than two kids, then dropping 16 kids off at a Nebraska hospital or firehouse.

Unfortunately the carbon footprint of the Tour De France is huge. Behind the riders is a massive wagon train of support vehicles and media all traveling at very inefficient speeds. Then there are the millions of spectators who drive to see the race as it passes their 'locality'.

All hi tech sports are likely to suffer in a post-peak world. The only value I have ever seen in sport is in personal fitness and local team building. There are many other ways of reaching those ends.

Very true.

I feel that pressure just when talking to family and friends, so I can imagine it's almost overbearing when coming from an institution like the BBC.

You're also taking a strong position about something, which seems harder for people who think deeply, and are intellectually honest.

I've often tended to hesitate in taking strong positions because I know how much my opinions have changed over time (in part, due to this site), and fear that the perceived inconsistency - if they change again - will force me into an intellectually dishonest position where I must keep to the narrative I've already been seen to present - for political purposes (as I think many people do).

Hope that roughly makes sense.

On the other hand, I'm not sure one can ever be certain about anything. So at some point you have to take a chance, and get off the fence if you're to change things.

You don't get many chances in a typical interview. In this case, the "NO, we need them on bicycles" was the take away sound bite. The other stuff was supporting data that made the case you were not a crack pot. I think it worked *really* well. Besides, bicycles IS watered down. :-)

cfm in Gray, ME

Yes, I think Nate judged the whole thing really well. Not just an ugly face... oops I meant pretty.
Having Nate on there seems to be saying that messages are getting through (albeit too little too late). Just this week uk "leader" GBrown broke the strongest rule of politics and told the truth that we are in uncharted waters with no historical precedent. But even then he failed to explain that growth-as-standard must now be replaced with contraction-as-standard. I stand by my view that the "leaders" will be useless at providing solutions.

thanks - but the one linked by Gail seemed to be a different interview (at beginning instead of end)

Quite the responses off the top of your head, especially when they threw a curveball ("So a few celebrities driving green cars will suffice?"). Ya know, I would have preferred to have a few script paragraphs in front of me, so talking off the top of your head (soon after getting up) may mean you have genuine public speaking potential. Congressman Hagens anyone?

Didn't hear any barking sounds, so their technician likely surgically removed them...

Thanks Will.

Congressman Hagens anyone?

No way - (unless political system changes and even then I enjoy my privacy, animals and naps too much).

Rob Hopkins outlines in his Transition Towns handbook that the first thing elected officials in communities should do is establish the rules/procedure for their own departure in a relatively short time frame- I think this is only way politics will work in a world with a commons - kind of a sacrifice to others rather than a 'power victory'. I feel passionately about my writing here and that I am seeing the bigger picture correctly but like most would prefer others do the heavy lifting. As yet I can't see a way that in a resource constrained world that politicians will 'do the right thing'. I hope to be surprised.

I think Obama is stretching the limits of what he can politically get away with now. It is a tough gauntlet he faces - kind of a 'don't tip the waiter' game in real time - I don't think he is doing near enough but yet again compared to recent politics this is a sea change and I respect him for that - he didn't cause these problems and is only one man. Several years down the road, the global decline rate will have more of a say on events than even a President, though if oil (and gas) decline somehow end up being low to moderate, then the measures Obama is announcing could have real impacts - but I think declining energy surplus and general per capita unaffordability, will result in near double digit crude decline rates due to lack of drilling and capital, etc.

BBC sent me 4 questions ahead of time all on vehicle efficiency and US oil imports which I prepared for - so yes - these questions were quite unexpected. And my Rottweiler was constantly barking and they somehow edited that out...

Nate Hagens wrote:"...but I think declining energy surplus and general per capita unaffordability, will result in near double digit crude decline rates due to lack of drilling and capital, etc."----------------
I believe everything isn't so bad. To Achieve Energy Independence government 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: ).
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 mitigate impending oil crises significantly.
Thanks for attention.

noise removal software like soap/dart/cooledit is my guess... you can hear the artifacts in your dialogue ..sort of bassy sound to your voice and a hissing low gain tone.

you came across very well and you could do the biz on MSM as a talking head.. more exposure is required

Euan needs to brush up on his presentation.. (just kidding thou he would probably agree)

Loved your comments Nate.

Glad they aired your points !

Celebrity on a bicycle LOL :)

I can't get it to play. The link just tells me to install realplayer, which I did, but when I go back it tells me the same thing. Is there another link?

All I can say is, "Well done!"


Presumably as consumerism dies in the face of the economic circumstances, there'll be more demand to provide an alternative narrative of what is happening, and what needs to happen.

Such opinions as Nate's (and the general views of many using the oil drum) may be quite sought after by the mainstream media outlets, as these points and comments provide the basis of an excellent logical argument against consumerism and consumption. This could be very useful in diverting anger towards more productive responses - lets hope so anyway - and hope it works!


Nice job Nate ... and on BBC no less! I will admit really liking what Obama said during this piece. When you compare his comments to what we have heard from other leaders in recent years there is no comparison. You have got to admit this is a real turn around for US policy even if it is not yet sufficient. We know that change takes time and trying to do it all at once can be counterproductive to its rate of adoption. The challenge is to set the pace so that people will continue to follow and act upon this change and not shut down, or turn away because they are unwilling to absorb what to most Americans are very radical lifestyle changes. I know we need this all yesterday but humans do not seem to be wired this way and will probably have to suffer the consequences during our energy transition.

You can't haul a bale of hay on the back of a bicycle or 1,000 pounds of cattle feed or a roll of fencing or drag a 10,000 pound trailer full of livestock. Rural America will be in real trouble without pickup trucks that travel for at least 300-400 miles without pedaling or recharging.

Umm - just to be clear, I wasn't advocating moving society to bicycles, but away from 'bigger/more is better' mentality. And relating to the population comment upthread - overpopulation IS a problem, but far less severe than overconsumption. If we consumed 1/3 as much and did it on renewables, as vegetarians, living locally, etc. we could support even more people than we do today - the ultimate question is quality of life (which includes healthy ecosystems, other species etc.) for how many? Even 2 billion couldn't live like modern Canadians or Americans for too much longer. But 10 billion could live like Phillipinos, or Nepalese, etc. for quite some time. That bridge down crosses some huge psychological chasms.

I agree ... if we consume 1/3 as much, if we are all vegetarian, if we are using renewables for everything, if we are all living locally, if we can somehow stop the population growth at ten billion ... etc.

However that's lots of 'ifs' for success, I'll add another ... if the population carries on growing at the present rate pretty much the whole world can expect to live like the Nepalese in just 20 years or so! ... thus I think the future problems are likely to be somewhat more than just 'huge psychological chasms' ... and how do we intelligently stop population growth at, say, ten billion poor if we can't stop it now?

IMO if there are lots of things that must all happen to ensure success then it is very likely not a future scenario - spend your time/effort planning to survive likely sustainable scenarios.

In human evolution intelligence has been selected for at various 'pinch points', it likely will be again within most of our lifetimes ... think what skills you will need to survive in your part of the world.

You can't haul a bale of hay on the back of a bicycle or 1,000 pounds of cattle feed or a roll of fencing

You most certainly can on a bike trailer. Cattle on pasture (instead of stockyard feeding) is much more sustainable and healthy, anyway.

or drag a 10,000 pound trailer full of livestock

Here we have lifestock haulers who do that as part of their livelihood. Removes any need for the farmers to do it themselves.

Rural America will be in real trouble without pickup trucks that travel for at least 300-400 miles without pedaling or recharging.

If your market is half that far away, you're in big trouble. Any real honest need for 300-400 miles? America is in trouble now because of an overabundance of pickup trucks.

You will note that all of the photos are on paved streets which do not exist on rocky ranches in the Texas Hill Country with vertical elevations in excess of 400'.

So we've narrowed down the areas that are less conducive to bike hauling to farm country with significant elevation change from source to destination. That impacts a small percentage of US farming acreage.

Another aspect not yet touched on is having the local supplier deliver the feed or hay. That way, far few trucks are needed by farmers. I have a lot of my feed, hay, and fencing supplies delivered for our sheep farm, and have the sheep hauled to market by a livestock hauler.

Unfortunately while vendor or outsourced hauling reduces the farmer's need for equipment, the reduction in fuel use is much smaller. Not negligable, but not great either. A local feed dealer and the local lumberyard share a delivery route. It costs me a gallon each way to get a pickup load from either. With size of the truck they send out I doubt they're saving more that 20% of the fuel, and a smaller truck would require more trips. For a single stop they do have a pickup, which clearly saves no gas at all.

That's not the point in contention;

Rural America will be in real trouble without pickup trucks that travel for at least 300-400 miles without pedaling or recharging

Does rural America need pickup trucks at every farm that travel for at least 300-400 miles? That point has not been made and BAU is not a reason.

Many suburban people I know justify having a pickup truck so they can go and pick up supplies at Home Depot. Then they drive it to all other places at a consumption rate far greater than an economical car.

One thing about our cars and trucks that sticks in my craw is why do they need to go so fast? Go back to the Model T and we see a vehicle that was put to many uses with only a 20 HP engine. 75 years ago the early flathead Fords were considered powerful machines with only 85 HP. Go back just 14 years and look at my 1995 Chrysler with its small V6. A big car with at most 150 HP but rarely uses more than 50 HP. My Amish neighbors get around using 1 and 2 HP vehicles most of the time. Do even farmers really need more than a 100 HP engine for any task?

a vehicle that was put to many uses with only a 20 HP engine.

Here's one 2+2 passenger car coming out with a 20hp engine, the 157 mpg Loremo;

Yeah, I would much rather see those guys get money from congress instead of the big three automakers.

When it comes to bikes you are missing one other very large issue. Most likely only 10% of Americans are capable of using one. I am 65 and peddle all summer, spring and fall. I have a trailor. I know of no other individuals my age that use a cycle. 40% of Americans are over weight, very over weight. It is a great idea. I have used one for years, even raced a bit so I am in shape. I have also crashed and am wounded for it. The bike is not for everyone. I don't think we should over play it.

All it takes for those overweight people is to spend more time in the saddle. Being overweight is no reason for being unable to ride a bike; quite the contrary, actually. People have crashed cars, and are wounded for that as well.

Your entirely correct but I am talking about reality. How do we move folks from sloth to your bicycle world? Look around you. Yes, your friends and mine bicycle (my friends are all younger) but this is not real America. The transition of which you speak must deal with reality. Yes, we crash cars. Put them on bikes and hospitals would be over-run just from the injuries of getting on a bike much less riding one. Reality!

Recumbent trike, then. Very hard to fall over on one of those.

We simply can't use the excuse, "We're so wimpy, we're helpless".

You got that right. I might add in more ways than one but that is reality. Another inconvenient truth. I support your efforts.

And I support yours.

Small towns all across the MidWest died or are dying because the pickup truck and car made it possible to go to a larger town and get a better deal. When energy prices permanently rise relative to real income, the remaining small towns may see a revival because it becomes cost effective to shop there.

Well congratulations on that Nate and I gotta admit you speak more handsomely than you look.


On this:

I wasn't advocating moving society to bicycles

Advocate away Nate, there is nothing better than a human powered bike to give us eco-chummy energy leverage. I can move myself and my bike miles and miles and miles on a tablespoon of olive oil. Try moving me and my bike with a gas guzzling auto using a tablespoon of oil and what does that get you except some cursing over screwed up fuel injectors?

Good job again, Nate! Three cheers for you!

Also some fine comments in response, I must say. As a cargo triker for 8 years, I can say that one can do much working with bikes, trikes, and trailers.

I do drive a small electric utility vehicle now, but plan to put together another HPV for better weather and specific errands.

On a topic other than bikes: over at The Automatic Earth there is much talk of our house prices going down to 10 or 20 percent of their peak a few years ago -- a house that sold for $200,000 a few years ago might soon be worth only $20,000 or less, and so forth.

Do you think that the economy might tank to that point, and if so would the crisis be such that we would somehow be able to put together a new economic order at all? Would such an economic order likely be based on sustainability, or just plain old survival?

Related to this -- I guess that Obama and many others are concerned that things could fall apart to extremes where the "too many competing for too few resources" slides into even more chaos for those of us in the more "advanced" detritivorous nations, so that it becomes difficult to govern at all.

Do you wonder at all if Obama and Co. have this kind of possibility in mind as they try to save the status quo? Might they want to move the direction you talk about, but feel a need to preserve confidence in the institutions that exist just to buy more time in which to begin to make positive, environmentally sound changhes?

You'd mentioned sort of going into a mode to try to keep the BBC audience listening and at least engaged, and that Obama must need to do the same.

Behind this is my question: will things fall apart to the point that it becomes nearly impossible to govern by anything other than Martial Law, and if so, what will that sort of governing look like, and what sort of "solutions" will be called for?

Seems like we could slip off into a very deep ditch with the economic crisis and the energy and environmental crises happening at once. Population overshoot may then be solved in very uncomfortable ways.

One wonders if much would be salvaged if things fall apart to the extent that house values drop as far as 80 or 90 percent. The economic system we know and love (ahem -- a touch of sarconal there) would cease to exist, would it not? How likely is that, and what would it mean for us?

as a cargo triker for 8 years, I can say that one can do much working with bikes, trikes, and trailers.

Sometimes Beggars CAN be choosers...;-)

One wonders if much would be salvaged if things fall apart to the extent that house values drop as far as 80 or 90 percent. The economic system we know and love (ahem -- a touch of sarconal there) would cease to exist, would it not? How likely is that, and what would it mean for us?

Remember - we have tons of energy, both fossil and renewable remaining - the key problem though is we don't have the large energy surplus we used to run social democracies with growth as their driving force. IF we went into power down mode and devoted all energy towards basic needs (plus a few frills to keep people motivated), in 10-15 years we might have the infrastructure in place to shoot for something grander.

My prediction (interquartile) for next few years is continual advances in technology at the margin, continuing but slowing global trade, and a deepening recession/depression. On the surface everything will seem almost normal, but under the surface, the disparity between the rich and poor will accelerate (as measured by a statistic such as the GINI coefficient at local regional and national levels). So peak oil, resource depletion and a credit crisis whose origins were reflexively spiked from declining energy surplus, won't immediately cause a collapse, but crumble the foundations of a social democracy - that being the perception that even though all are not equal, all have a CHANCE at being equal. In the end it will be the larger disparity between the haves and the have nots that will precipitate violence and decay in social contracts.

I think it means that governments have one chance to scale renewables and devote the cheap remaining fossil fuels towards this task, build redundant and resilient local and regional economies, trade internationally for super comparative advantage items (those that would still be advantageous if oil was say $500 per barrel), and retrench. I think many can see this as a strategy that would at least 'work' in terms of resources. But how to keep the social cohesion when people have become accustomed to certain standards of living is going to be the wildcard.

VERY likely in either case that economic system you know and love will cease to exist in next 5 years - there just isn't the energy gain - RIGHT NOW this seems an erroneous comment based on monetary prices of energy, but when we need to rebound prices will be very 'supply elastic', perpetually so, until we reduce our consumption demands more in line with what we can harness renewably, and in an infrastructure that supports this.

What can we do? We can blog about what needs to be done nationally and globally in the 1 in 1000 chance that it happens-and politically educate civic and regional leaders to go up the food chain - beyond that - get healthy, get friends to understand the future trajectories (meaning there are many, and there is not one discrete outcome other than economic growth as we know it is over (and backing out fake gains juiced by credit, has been over for a while), get regional industries focused not on exports but on basic good synergies (shoes, clothes, heat, food, water, etc). But, most importantly, pursue a barbell strategy - spend 1/2 your time trying to prepare you and your community for the future and the other half enjoying life at the present - lots of things to enjoy, and very few of them require energy or much money.

It's an important time to be alive and aware on the planet - don't be asleep (and I know you are not).