Saturday's Campfire Topic: Saturday's Campfire Topics

For the past few months, Saturday p.m. on The Oil Drum has been a slot for larger questions not easily answered via charts or graphs and that likely have no appropriate fora in academia. In a nutshell, no holds barred resource depletion questions (well, a few holds but not many). The intent was that readers would provide much of the content. Possibly due to busy schedules, or perhaps some other reason, the 'cupboard' has been largely empty since this series started. I am happy to make this my own bi-weekly piece, but for the next couple months I've decided to hunker down and finish my phd. Fish or cut bait in words of my advisor. As such, I would like to generate a list of possible topics for discussion, both my own, and those suggested by the community, that would be interesting/relevant for future essays. A partial list is suggested by me below. Please add to/refine this list in the comment section. You won't see CERA/EIA/API/DOE/EPA/OBAMA publicly asking these questions. But I think someone should be.

Here is an incomplete list, most off of top of head, though some are ideas I have intended on writing about for a while. (Actually, we should probably also have a similar post for during the week, on suggested objective analysis topics for the main site. But here are some ideas on more speculative topics:

"I Dream of GINI - At What Point of Wealth/Income Inequality do Social Democracies Break Down?"

"Is There a Trend Towards Female Farmers and Male Carpenters/Engineers?- Does it Have Staying Power?"

"If there Aren't Enough Resources for Everyone, How Should/Will They Be Allocated?"

"A Plan B For Those On Prescription Meds"

"If We All Were Robots with 100,000 year lifespans, Would Planning for 2050-2100 Be Easier?"

"How Would We Change the Political System Away from Status Seeking Democrats / Republicans to Service of Sacrifice?"

"If Climate Change is not Enough to Expand the Definition of 'Our Tribe' What Would Be?"

"What Would Happen if Women Took Over Government?"

"What if All Humans Had Discount Rates of 100%"

"What if All Humans Had Discount Rates of 0%"

"In A Powerdown Scenario, A New Incentive Paradigm for Individuals to Innovate"

"A Successful Example of Explaining Resource Depletion to a Spouse"

"An Unsuccessful Example of Explaining Resource Depletion to a Former Spouse"

"How Do We Look at Resource Depletion Problems from Vantage Point of Unborn Generations (of Humans and other Species)?"

"What Happens to Dogs and Cats Post Peak?" (Currently over 150 million in USA)

"Dopaminergic Modulation of Cognitive Function-Scaling Implications for L-DOPA Treatment"

"Do All People Have Equal Rights? If Not, How to Allocate Fairly? If So, Then Why Does it Seem Not?"

"Planet Earth - Too Big to Fail?"

"Should There Be a Tax on More than 2 Children?"

"The Correlation Between Writing on The Oil Drum and Finding a Girlfriend"

"Is There A Way to Change The Stock Market So That Five or Ten Year Performance is Rewarded" (as opposed to one quarter/year)?

"Will Academia Have A Great or Small Impact on the Changes Involving Peak Oil?"

"How Much is One Human Life Worth with respect to Future Human Lives? With Respect to Lives of Other Species?"

"What Role Will Religion Play in Post Peak Life?" ( a) lessens peoples discount rates thereby increasing value of future thinking b)creates tribal bonds c)focuses on hope in lieu of science, etc)

" Which Social Groups/Subsets/Regions Have Benefited From The Oil Drum"

"A Poll of Black Swans - What Might Be Out There That No One is Thinking About? (Acentonitrile?)"

"The Planck Problem and Law of Large Numbers: The More Data We Have the Stronger Opposing Opinions Become"

"Selfishness Beats Altruism Within Groups; Altruistic Groups Beat Selfish Groups. The Rest is Commentary"

"How Can We Switch From GDP to Well-Being as a Goal"

"Using Ibogaine to Cure Oil Addiction"

"How to Navigate The Fine Line Between Optimism and Reality"

"How To Successfully Run a Website Aimed at Moving Culture Away from 'Unsustainability' (includes: Target Audience; Correct Image/Word Ratio, Buzz Words, etc., $4.95)"

"How We Get From Fiat to Natural Resource Based Currencies"

Please add your own list of suggested topics. And if you feel strongly about them, I doubt there is anyone better than you to write them (though I am trying that tactic here...;-)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, which picture(s) would you use to convince people about Peak Oil (or anything else)?

Having to write educational material, I find that words are cheap, but create a grey impenetrable mass on the page. A good picture really counts and I find myself trawling the picture libraries in search of interesting energy-related pictures.

I really value the charts on TOD and the occasion cartoon or old wartime poster. The daily pictures on TAE are wonderful. They are mainly from

and most of these are in the Library of Congress photo collection.

Can we have a session of favourite energy pictures please? Leanan will no doubt insist that these are thumbnails or links, in order not to clog up the page.


Here is one that I like. I think it should be shown at the beginning of any presentation having to do with Peak Oil.

Running the Numbers
An American Self-Portrait

Oil Barrels, 2008
Depicts 28,000 42-gallon barrels, the amount of of oil consumed in the United States every two minutes (equal to the flow of a medium-sized river).

Food for thought how is the river being replenished? Is it raining oil somewhere? Because if it isn't it is going to get more and more expensive and difficult to fill these barrels, and guess what, literally everything in our civilization runs on this stuff.

Now do your presentation with all the graphs.

Any questions?

What if the president's nose got longer every time he lied?

Would we have a light-year-nosed president, economic collapse and new dark ages, or hope for a sustainable future? Obama says investors should have 'absolute confidence' in soundness of US

We could have him point it upward to make a nice space elevator.

Please do not make the nose thing retroactive - The freeways in Dallas are way too crowded there now, and it would clog Preston Road even worse. The Dallas Morning News would have to devote a full section to where GW was riding his bike that day and probably cause it to finish failing, or at least reduce any remaining useful information they might be tempted to print. I'm there once month, and traffic is bad enough as is - I can go to town here (OK) and only see a few vehicles, but can't go three blocks there without a traffic jam.

Some recent questions I have had, some energy related, some not:

If a company is "too big to fail", then why isn't it too big to be allowed to continue to exist?

Doesn't a globalized economy imply a convergence of prevailing wage rates toward a global mean? If so, how is this a good thing for high-wage nations?

If globalization does indeed benefit a nation "in the aggregate", but the majority of citizens do not reap the financial rewards, does this really benefit the nation?

If the federal deficit as a percent of GDP is more than doubled, will the necessary increased federal borrowing not push the prices of Treasuries down and their yields up, pushing interest rates in general up, and thus killing off the very recovery that the increased borrowing was intended to stimulate?

If we can predict with a high degree of confidence that petroleum-derived motor vehicle fuel supplies will be declining progressively in the future, why are we increasing expenditures at all levels of government on highway construction?

If methane as a greenhouse gas is twenty times more potent than CO2, and if the simple, affordable technology is available now for the anaerobic processing of agricultural and municipal wastes to capture the CH4, then why aren't we doing this everywhere, right now, as our number 1 priority energy resource development?

Why is Amtrak, which is at a competitive disadvantage against airlines for long-distance trips, focusing only on long-haul cross-continental routes, when they have a potential competitive advantage against airlines for door-to-door total travel times for shorter inter-city hops?

Why are everybody in the media, including posters on TOD, more excited about the Chevy Volt - a vehicle which is still not yet in production, and it remains to be seen if it ever will be - than they are about other electric vehicles that are in the production and available for purchase right now?

Just a few off the top of my head.

It is an interesting concept this idea that "a company is too big to fail". I am reminded of the AT&T break up and the creation of the baby Bells. Standard Oil was also broken up. These may provide models for breaking up companies that "get too big". But who decides? Maybe it could be a petition of citizens like California and its elections: and a court case.

Candidates could include the big banks, Exxon, Chevron, Gulf, Boeing, GM, Ford and Chrysler, WalMart, some of the communications companies and I am sure a lot more. Here in Australia 80% of retail activity is concentrated in just two companies. BHP is the biggest mining company in the world.

Not only should these companies be broken up but lobbying should be much more strictly controlled. here in Oz again the coal lobby has far too direct an influence on decision making. In fact coal lobbyists have been known to write government policy!

here in Oz again the coal lobby has far too direct an influence on decision making. In fact coal lobbyists have been known to write government policy!

THey wrote the ETS/CPRS, after all!

Great questions, WNC, especially as regards ANY spending on highway capacity expansions. Regarding CH4, not only is it smart to garner and use the energy from manure/waste digestion, but the process is also very good for protecting watersheds from runoff. I am putting the finishing touches on a piece regarding CH4 as the centerpiece of a sustainable economy, and plan to submit it to TOD shortly.

I look forward to reading it, biogas leads well towards distributed generation, using CHP and returning waste nutrients to the soil. It would help to stretch natural gas reserves making use of existing infrastructure. It is also a good way of using waterless sewage systems over a small area.

If there is a clean way of using coal it will most likely involve gasification and then a highly efficient use of the end gas, (combined cycle, CHP or building heating)

I see a future energy mix of a nuclear baseload with large amounts of CSP and wind in the mix, perhaps as much as 1/3 total capacity with the rest made up of smaller fossil fuelled CHP and large IGCC units which can co-fire coal/biomass and natural gas. Plug in hybrids and improved rail capacity can take a huge chunk out of oil demand, and some natural gas can be diverted from electricity production and mixed with biogas to fuel transport.

A few links you might find useful.

Advanced Adiabatic compressed air energy storage

Solar assisted combined cycle power plant

Biogas from prickly pears

Direct injection of natural gas in diesel engines

Direct injection of natural gas using glow plug for compression ignition

WNC, these are all questions I've thought about myself.

My brief answers to just the 1st 3:

If a company is "too big to fail", then why isn't it too big to be allowed to continue to exist?

This has been the most obvious question right from the moment we first heard of this theological principle, Too Big To Fail. It is now empirically proven that gigantic size in itself is an evil, even before you get into whether or not the personnel are actually malevolent. Any such structure is a clear and present danger to economic and social stability, and therefore must be broken up.

Yet in all the biblical floods of words spewed forth by politicians, pundits, "experts", and the mainstream media, I've heard literally not a word on this. (Indeed, it's even uncommon in the blogosphere.)

The correct way to see the big banks is as a protection racket. They are holding all of society at gunpoint, demanding to be massively paid off or they'll pull the trigger. This is a position they have systematically sought to build since the 70s, and especially since the 90s. They always built it into their business model that they could recklessly maximize short-term profits, and that if these practices ever led to a crash, the government would not only subsidize any losses but subsidize further profits for them. This was the core of Chicago monetarism and the financialization of the economy. The S&L debacle and government response (including how the Clinton adminstration evidently drew the conclusion that the answer was less regulation) was proof of principle. From then on everyone knew it was a can't-lose casino, where you played with house money. Today we now again we see the vicious wisdom of it.

The bankers are gangsters, or terrorists, or kidnappers, at any rate capital extortionists, and should be dealt with as such.

Doesn't a globalized economy imply a convergence of prevailing wage rates toward a global mean? If so, how is this a good thing for high-wage nations?

Globalization is about, among other things, the convergence of all wages to the subsistence minimum, and as often as possible even below this. It has driven down real wages everywhere, including in the ostensible "high-wage" places like America. This is part of the nefarious "race to the bottom" which is the nihilistic core of globalism.

The real point of globalism is to eradicate nation-based capitalism and replace it with an international neo-feudalist rentier racket, where this small elite would not only maximize profits but monopolize all real assets, while the people everywhere are reduced to serfdom.

This has to be the real end goal since "consumerism" is clearly not sustainable, especially as you systematically impoverish your customer base. If as walmart you come into a vicinity and destroy x middle class jobs but "create" x + y non-living wage "greeter associate" jobs (and this is precisely what globalist cadres mean when they claim globalism creates job growth), well, how long can this process continue? Walmart has lower prices, but it drives down consumer wages. It's another downward spiral which can't be sustained. Another contradiction of capitalism.

The process is most advanced in the non-industrial countries, but is also advancing everywhere else.

Those last points also provide the answer to this question:

If globalization does indeed benefit a nation "in the aggregate", but the majority of citizens do not reap the financial rewards, does this really benefit the nation?

Very simple: it does not benefit any aggregate, and it does not benefit any nation.

The fact is, there is no such thing as a "nation". There is no such thing as America, for example. Of course, TPTB want people to believe in such fraudulent mirages, since this is how they obscure the reality of class struggle.

But the fact is, this struggle is the only socioeconomic reality. A large country is by definition a free-fire zone of conflicting interests. While I won't go here into whether or not the struggle necessarily has to be zero-sum under conditions of economic growth and resource plenty, it is indisputable that in our brave new world of resource constraint and the end of growth, where everywhere we now run up against Malthusian limits, the fight will now be over a shrinking pie, and from here on to the end of history it can never be anything other than zero sum class war.

The globalists understand this perfectly. As always, the elite has class consciousness, the people mostly do not. That's always been the secret of their success. That's why over the past several decades they've orchestrated this world-historical shift from conventional capitalism to a rentier economy of corporatism, financialization, neo-feudalism, and asset monopoly (land, oil, infrastructure). The process is now in its endgame.

(For anyone who doubts this, who believes in the good faith of globalists, here's a question. If they were ever really serious about "comparative advantage", which concept of course incorporates regional inefficiencies which allegedly add up to a more efficient whole, then why wasn't this ever enshrined in practice? In practice, no one ever wanted to allow anyone a comparative advantage where it was possible for the handful of multinationals to seek absolute advantage.

At least in practice globalization has been literally totalitarian in seeking the hegemony of rentier finance and multinational corporatism, through the mechanisms of the dollar as reserve currency, what is basically the thuggery of the World Bank and the IMF, and the "race to the bottom".)

Hi Russ,

I think you make some good arguments - certainly passonately! However, one underlying concept bothers me some:

The globalists understand this perfectly.... the elite ... secret of their success. ...they've orchestrated ....

Perhaps I'm wrong, but you seem to imply a kind of deliberate conspiracy by a powerful group. I would almost feel better about things If I believed this notion - but I don't. If this group of conspirators existed, then perhaps they could be defeated somehow. My fear is that all the bad things you mention are probably pretty true - but no one is in charge.

I suspect that there are many underlying factors that are more insidious: many forms of greed, aggression, ignorance, superstition, fear, power lust, etc. that have conspired without any real orchestratation to create this mess. The solution may not be the direct elimination of these "elite", but rather massive, worldwide education to dispel the delusions that enable this class disparity. But, I suspect you might say that we have a chicken-egg thing here because TPTB are the ones who prevent this type of education in the first place - and I fear that might be correct also.

Hi Dave,
Perhaps "orchestrated" wasn't the most precise word. I didn't mean to say I think there's some master cabal in a dark castle somewhere plotting out the next hundred years. It's really not necessary.

I did mean to say that man for man they're conscious of the trend of what they're doing. They understand that the basic goal is wealth and power redistribution upward. This doesn't usually require any intricate conspiracy, but just the normal lobbying, bribes, and greed to get it started, and then inertia to do most of the rest. Once an elite has cohered, they all recognize one another, they all know implicitly what the common goal is, and they act accordingly. It's usually pretty easy to know what to do once you're in that position. That's what I meant by their class consciousness, how it usually manifests.

As for why anyone would want to be and act like this, it's just as you say, base drives unmediated by any human features. These also explain how readily many among the non-rich are conned into acting against their own interests to assist their own expropriation.

Hi Russ,

how readily many among the non-rich are conned into acting against their own interests to assist their own expropriation.

This is what really fascinates me - this phenomenon whereby huge masses of people to behave contrary to their own best interests - especially over a longer time frame. I suspect that religion is a major factor in this whole puzzle. Children are indoctrinated at a very early age to believe in mythical beings that have great power and authority. Religious elders then exploit this brainwashing to maintain power and a flow of money. People who understand power (really understand power) can also piggy back onto this obedience to a higher authority for their own political or financial gain. Without the underpinning of "faith" in "higher authority", I wonder how easy it would be to, as you say, "con" the masses into irrational behavior.

I dimly remember from a marketing class in my college days reading that Southwest Airlines started as a shuttle service between three Texas cities: Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, I believe. This was the early 1970s...around that time or somewhat later,there were aspirations by some people to create a high-speed rail network in a triangle between those three cities, but that SWA lobbied politicians to shoot that idea down as being unfair competition to airlines. I wish I had more time to cross-check my fuzzy memories, but other things call...

SWA started out with service to those three because that kept them totally intra-state. That was in the days when the ICC was still regulating fares, and this way SWA could undercut their competition.

Regarding your last question about the interest in the Chevy Volt: GM made promises (that they probably couldn't keep even if they were solvent)about a car with performance parameters beyond those of commonly available and affordable hybrid and/or electric cars. The promise was a mass-market vehicle that could carry four adults and some of their baggage in relative comfort and style reminiscent of a current ICE sedan, and be able to drive some 40 miles before the gas engine kicked in. The wow factor is that is was going to be done by GM, the largest car maker in the World and one that was previously intransigent towards green technology. Add to that that this car was to be 'affordable' (in terms of the smoke and mirrors economy that had people plunking 40-50 grand down for limo-pickups and SUVs. How many people can afford a Tesla Roadster at $106 a pop plus TT&L? When is the Aptera going commercial...and if it does, will it ever emerge from CA? Where can I buy a Phoenix or Miles or Fiskars electric vehicle today...or any of the other start-up products I have read about? Now that GM is likely going under, we will have to look towards Toyota and Honda and maybe Daimler to lead the charge towards a Chevy-Volt-like vehicle....or not.

Hi MoonWatcher,

This Chevy Volt thing really annoys me because I once bought into this sucker punch. Over the years (uhm..many many years) we have owned GM vechicles. When GM first started talking about the Volt (and its afforable price) I decided I'd be one of the first buyers. So, I took out a GM credit card and, over many years, builit up almost $7,000 in purchase points - which I now believe are worthless. There is no way I would buy a $40K plus family vehicle - even if they allowed us to use all of the purchase points (which they will undoubtedly not do).

Actually, I now think this whole automobile thing is insane. If the general TOD analysis about the arrival of PO is anywheres near accurate, the cost of gas for cars is going to change the whole paradigm. A rational approach would be to drop the national speed limit to 45 mph and mandate 100 mpg vehicles - pronto. 100 mpg is pretty easy if you drop all crash protection requirements and allow for glorified golf carts to go anywhere. Crash protection loses much of its value if everyone is driving really slow. I've been in communities in the south where nearly half the residents run around in golf carts. Here in WI it would require a more weatherized vehicle - but not beyond imagination. I suspect that a whole "backyard" industry would spring up overnight to supply all kinds of funky vehicles of this nature.

NEVs would work fine for most local travel. If people needed to go somewhere longer range that wasn't served by rail transport, then they could attach a tow-behind trailer with a liquid-fueled or CNG-fueled generator to provide the extra juice. These trailers could be rented as needed for those that need them infrequently - a nice little business opportunity in every community.

We just need to think outside of the box a bit more.

If someone is renting out range-extending trailers (so people can travel somewhere between loal and interstate distances), there's no need for a GenSet at all. Just more batteries in the trailer.

A modestly aerodynamic 'regular' car can get 200wH/KM (300wH/Mile). Halve the weight of the car (NEV's and such), and the efficiency skyrockets. It's why electric bicycles can go all day on just a couple of Lead-Acid batteries.

Nice one WNCO. It seems clear to me now that Barrack Obamarama is going down the same middle of the same road toward the wreck. The G20 meeting will, no doubt, initiate business as usual responses.

An interesting aside here. During the stockmarket fall, Australian Prime Minister, Mr Phil Rudd, publically declared there must be a new World economic order, based on equality and fairness. Ho Ho Ho, it was Christmas though. Funny enough, when the alleged A and B lists of the G20 Economic Summit were drawn up, Australia ended up on the B list. A sharp rap on the knuckles for Mr. Rudd.

In response to what we all know might come very soon, I suggest we start, as an OD community (that's oildrum folks and blokes), preparing for the business as usual crash that seems inevitable. I think that TOD Campfire is an appropriate forum to bring together a down to Earth action plan based on degrees of worst case scenerios-not pretty, but essential I think. From what I have seen on this site, most bases are covered, except for the timing-the big wildcard, as the largely unanticipated credit unwind attests to. That is my two cents worth.

I have a long list of possible subjects, if not the time to do them all.

I've always liked the idea of TOD:Campfire, to "push the bounds" of what can be discussed, much like what goes on around an actual campfire.

But I wonder just what standards of decorum should be observed. The list membership of TOD is well-evolved for the content TOD generally offers, and it's a great group of readers which has self-selected for the standard content of TOD. So just how freewheeling can "campfire" articles be? May they be intentionally edgy or non-PC to get discussion rolling?

For instance, to the "dog & cat" question, the first thing that popped into my mind was "recipes", although in fact I do have some notions since dogs enjoy servitude and can earn their keep in a number of ways. (I have border collies gather my avocados; they're not just for sheepherding anymore).

I'd also like to see some "campfire" posts try to catalyze projects which involve TOD's readers hooking up in the real world to do real things, and I don't mean just growing turnips.

Anywho, good job on getting "campfire" started Nate, and I trust it will evolve into something interesting....

Two sides to this. In a low-tech world, dogs and cats could earn their keep in many ways:e.g. dogs as burglar alarms, cats to control vermin around your food storage.
However, Americans are generally good at spaying/neutering pets and euthanizing strays. If we started to neglect that, we could have a short term boom in population. Feral dogs and cats are very efficient hunters and scavengers. They could wipe out wildlife and overrun our garbage dumps before crashing themselves.

As an uber-doomer with a more apocalyptic mindset, I find other questions more interesting, such as:

What kinds of new religions/cults/mass movements can we expect to emerge as civilization begins its downward spiral? Will a new religion take hold as Christianity did amidst the fall of Rome, and have the prophets of this new religion already appeared?

Will fundamentalist Islam be the big winner in a post-peak world, or will Christianity enjoy a resurgence in the Western world?

What are some possible catastrophic events that could lead to global systems failure and civilizational collapse, or is this science fiction?

What does civilizational collapse actually look like in the 21st century? What are some modern case studies in collapse?

Why are doomers still reading blogs if they believe the end is near?

I ask these questions because at the end of the day, belief systems are the most powerful force in human affairs, so it seems to me that this is where we should be focusing most of our attention as the current belief system begins its death throes.

Why are doomers still reading blogs if they believe the end is near?

Perhaps they're looking for something really worth doing, and perhaps we can come up with some answers here.

A skilled & motivated doomer is a terrible thing to waste.

Regarding Doomers - I wonder what level of pessimistic outlook it takes to become a doomer. It is really rather relative - to many who don't know of peak oil any level of doubt about the continuance of Western Lifestyle would be doomist. To a child picking rubbish on a Brazilian garbage heap almost all negative outlooks expressed on this site would look better than the life they are living.

But of course we are all doomed to not survive because we are MORTAL. Is that doomist. No, just the truth. The various projections about the future are not about survival, but about how long we might be expected to survive, how we will live in the years between now and our inevitable death, how many progeny we pass on into the future, and how we will die.

Personally looking at the worst is IMO freeing. It allows you to prepare. Staying with a rosy view prevents you from preparing. Or if you don't want to face the rigors of preparing it allows you to get reconciled to what might come. Staying with the rosy view will leave you emotionally unprepared for possible futures. Accepting that you are mortal and nothing has changed except possible timing allows you to live more in the present and immerse yourself the joys that are available now.

When first confronted with the idea that a huge dieoff might be coming I felt rather devastated. But having been a Hospice Volunteer for years I am more comfortable with death than many - so I quickly realized that everyone that might dieoff early was going to die anyway. Early and massive dieoff is hard to contemplate but would also mean less children born to an uncertain and likely very difficult future. It relieves pressure on the planet and makes it more likely that the human species will persist.

Those who react strongly and sometimes angrily to those they call "doomist" likely have not confronted their own mortality or are so wedded to their current lifestyle that they cannot believe that any different life is worth living. I recommend for those people a camping trip with few amenities and lots of meditation. They might find that what they fear losing, life and lifestyle, are impediments to living while life is to be had.

To an optimist/cornucopian (and that includes just about every occupant of every corporate executive suite and most people in high places in Washington), just about all of us here on TOD could be categorized as doomers - even those that most of the real doomers would not call doomers.

Myself, I would prefer to be called a "realist" and therefore a "declinist". I recognize the doomer scenarios as a real possibility, just not set in stone - yet.

Yes, that was the sense in which I meant "a doomer is a terrible thing to waste": I mean "doomers" as those who understand what happens to a species in overshoot and try not to delude themselves about humans being exempt. Those who can look at resource limitations and global warming predictions without putting their fingers in their ears and going "la la la". Those who don't assume their invisible friends have it under control.

Basically, those who are intelligent enough to integrate the situation and non-delusional enough to accept where logic has led them.

(it then breaks down further, to survivalist, nihilist, activist and other camps, but I won't expand the doomer taxonomy in this post).

Just as hippies in the '60's adopted the word "freaks", which was initially meant as an insult, I find that this community is starting to use "doomers" in the same way; as an ironic self-descriptor, and I'll wear it, even while I do my best to help steer the planet through the bottlenecks and dieoffs.

Confessions of a Doomer

Will humans, a species symbiotic with fossils hydrocarbons and thier own artifacts, be the "Gray Goo" that purées the entire biosphere?
- no! hurray! pop crash! :)

Will the biosphere, life as we know it, suffocate under radioactive ash, or extinguish in a final hydrogen-sulfide belch from acidified oceans?
- no way! happy day! overshoot 'n' collapse! :)

Will human life be reduced to insect-like obesiance in a hyperpopulated world of salaryman automatons and stepford wives, dumbed down to simian levels, infantilised to toddler level, institutionalised to permanent dependence on rapacious corporations, eating mass-produced gruel, acculturated to utterly unexamined subsistence?
- hey no! yaay! struggle for survival with your bare hands! :)

So in a manner of speaking, I'm an optimist - I've always wondered what life would be like if I were time-transported into the bronze age, and guess what? I might actually get to have a go at it! :)

when do we start ? :)

Early and massive dieoff is hard to contemplate but would also mean less children born to an uncertain and likely very difficult future. It relieves pressure on the planet and makes it more likely that the human species will persist.

Objectively, Humanely, and Morally, a Mass Dieoff at 7 Billion is better than a Mass Dieoff at 9 Billion.
It's still a lot of dead people though.

Will fundamentalist Islam be the big winner in a post-peak world, or will Christianity enjoy a resurgence in the Western world?

I don't know about that, but the prohibition on charging interest looks pretty smart in hindsight!

There was a story in The Atlantic Monthly a couple of years ago about the future of Christianity, the point being that Christianity in the future is not going to be a Western religion but rather a 3rd world religion. Growing by leaps and bounds there, as is Islam.

I ask these questions because at the end of the day, belief systems are the most powerful force in human affairs, so it seems to me that this is where we should be focusing most of our attention as the current belief system begins its death throes

Brain Diffferences Found in Believers vs Non-believers in God

"We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. They're much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error."

"Obviously, anxiety can be negative because if you have too much, you're paralyzed with fear," he says. "However, it also serves a very useful function in that it alerts us when we're making mistakes. If you don't experience anxiety when you make an error, what impetus do you have to change or improve your behaviour so you don't make the same mistakes again and again?"

The thin line between optimism and reality....

Hi Nate,

True we've been busy prepping for the upcoming Seattle Green Festival March 28th and 29th (plus I just got--eek--a promotion at work; now I'll be living there!) but we would like to officially request the March 25th Wednesday Campfire slot for an update from us on Puget Sound mischief:
Sustainable Communities ALL Over Puget Sound (SCALLOPS), Sail Transport Network, work with the City Council's food initative and its newest consideration: rooftop wind turbines, huge growth in gardening classes, etc.

From where I sit, religion has been evolving right along. Joseph Smith announced his 'revelations' from the alleged angel Moroni back in the later part of the 1800s, I believe. Only in the last twenty years has Mormonism come on strong and it is on=track to rival or even eclipse the 'mainline' Christian sects in the not-too-distant future. The 'Reverend' Sun Young Moon had a very 'Mormon-like' modern 'revelation' in ROK in 1938...I believe the Moonies own the Washington Times? And then there was L. Ron Hubbard, who wrote Dianetics in what, 1968? Thus was born Scientology, and now we have to suffer the antics of the likes of Tom Cruise ranting on talk shows and that facts of the not-so-secret Scientology compound in the country North-East of Santa Fe.

Who's to say that in 500 years that these three religions, currently viewed as wacko by some, won't be as mainstream as the Vatican? The non-logical argument appeals to antiquity and appeals to authority are powerful mind-control tools. I look at the modern-times birth of these religions (and other modern mystical cults)as a model for how Christianity and the other 'mainstream' religions came about.

People turn to religion when they can't otherwise deal with the World. President Obama was correct when he famously said this to a group in San Francisco. Since we don't want to leave the Republicans out, Senator McCain, as Presidential Candidate McCain in 2000, decried certain religious leaders as intolerant and hurtful...he straightened up and toed the party line and kissed the right rings when he became Presidential candidate McCain in 2008 though.

To set the record straight Joseph Smith Jr had a series of mystical experiences over a period from 1824 until his murder in 1844. The Angel Moroni was involved in only a few of these revelations all taking place prior to 1830.
Alvin Toffler pointed out that prior to the rise of agriculture that most religions were polytheistic and goddess centered. The rise of agriculture in the fertile crescent bought about monotheism centered around a male god. The problem these religions have is their symbolism is about things we in industrial and digital technology societies can't relate to. Back in the days when most folks either worked out in the fields or tended herds of cattle and sheep the concept of the Lamb of God was easily understood as was animal sacrifice. What worked to create a sense of order in life back on the farm when families were headed by a grandfather and children grew up with aunts and uncles and cousins nearby doesn't work in a world where the average household has less than four people and incomes come from office cubicles, factories, and retail stores. Religions which worked when it was common for half of all children to die before their their fifth birthday doesn't have that same effect when half of all newborns live until their 75th birthday. The old religions keep preaching their symbols as if nothing in society changed and yet new religions haven't arisen yet with a symbolism which gives people a structure to their lives.

Actually, it was the agriculturalists that tended to be polytheistic and godess centered, it was the pastoralists that tended to become monotheistic and patriarchal. We don't know that much about paleolithic religious beliefs, but I believe that a basic characteristic must have been that they tend(ed) to be relatively simple and unelaborate compared to religions of the neolithic and later periods. If you are a band of hunter-gatherers constantly on the move, you just don't have time to build a lot of sacred artifacts and conduct a lot of rituals. You do have time for telling stories, and an occasional dance, around the campfire.

Within the context of the Christian community of faith, I suspect that Bonhoeffer was thinking somewhat along your lines when he started exploring his idea of a "religionless Christianity". Pity that the Nazis cut his life short before he had a chance to fully develop his thoughts.

The big change from being nomadic to becoming a largely sedentary species began through protecting the breeding capacity, and genetic integrity, of tribes-the woman. Ten men and one woman doesn't work well. But one man and ten woman is a bonanza, in more ways than one.

For a long time, members of wild tribes from the north came to Mesopotamia with the intent to steal women to ensure their reproductive success. After some time, someone in Mesopotamia figured out the best way to protect women was put them in guarded, walled cities. To make sure that people, especially women, lived in these cities was to create dieties to be feared. Hence, the foundations of our modern civilisation.

The concentration and control of these dense populations enabled the beginnings of class stratification, and the vertical path of wealth that we see worldwide today in countries of all 'popular ('Pop') religions'. E.g. Recently, during a discussion about the Bride's dowry price in Buddhist Thailand, I asked my friend. "I wonder what Buddha would have thought about men paying a price for their bride".

There is, however, a group of people living on a group of islands not far from where I live that are still paleolithic people. The Mokan people have no chiefs, religions, or dieties. There is no art or music. There is no vertical stratification of power or wealth in this culture. The acquisition of things not directly related to survival is ridiculed and scorned. E.g. A group of hunters catches and kills a wild pig. When the hunters return to the camp, the hunters are playfully ridiculed by the rest of the group about the size, weight, and age of the pig. There is no form of idolatory that elevates one person, or a group of people, higher than the rest.

After the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, with incidently, no losses in the Moken population (they read the sea and knew it was coming), helicopters with relief aid approached the group. The Moken sent them packing with arrows from their bows. What a sight that would have been! They are not fooled by our condescending tokenism.

They are also practical in their resistance to assimilation (annihilation?). There is the well known story in these parts of Malay poachers who were illegally logging on Moken lands. Instead of killing the men outright, they cut off the poacher's hands and sent them back. Sure sounds more effective than no logging signs.

Will a new religion take hold as Christianity did amidst the fall of Rome, and have the prophets of this new religion already appeared?

Will fundamentalist Islam be the big winner in a post-peak world, or will Christianity enjoy a resurgence in the Western world?

What are some possible catastrophic events that could lead to global systems failure and civilizational collapse, or is this science fiction?


Fundamentalism thrives on poverty and inequality. The more the better. This goes for all of the Desert Monotheisms. If the people are happy and healthy, they're hardly going to be driven into a rage at the drop of a hat and go off killing 'them', pillaging, and subjugating (women, typically). I can't see a short-to-medium-term resurgence in 'benevolent' (if there is such a thing) Religion.

We're already seeing 'new' religions and cults appear all over the place, although they are typically offshoots of existing religions (just as Christianity and Islam were offshoots of Judaism).

Catastrophic events? Where to start. Perhaps simultaneous harvest failures in two major growing areas of a foodcrop (say, US and Australia for Wheat) would do it. Mass shearing of glaciers (even over decades, this would probably overwhelm our ability to cope and move infrastructure). Pandemic is a big one. Reduced travel times means a contaigent can spread faster than ever before. If a few big Oil Fields started declining at rates similar to Cantarell, we'd be in serious trouble. Or in the borderline Sci-Fi realm, asteroid strike, reception of Alien transmissions (or arrival of Aliens themselves - although if Aliens are hostile, they probably won't bother announcing themselves - as large portions of thew world fail to come to grips with the fact they we aren't the centre of the Universe), increased/decreased Solar Flux, etc etc. THe list just goes on and on and on.

A post on how complexity (nonlinear dynamics) invalidates most long-term predictions and scenarios.

A post on something humans have been able to do for as long as we've been human, that we do constantly still today yet most people never apply to the problems we're in now: evaluate a situation, plan for the future, execute, and re-evaluate, without any hard data.

A post on bottom-up thinking vs. top-down thinking, how it leads to different perspectives on problems and, thus, different solution perspectives.

A post on the decay of real-world interpersonal communication due to cheap energy and the need to improve social skills prior to a post-crash existence.

I don't want to skip ahead to answering the future Campfire questions, but

"Is There A Way to Change The Stock Market So That Five or Ten Year Performance is Rewarded" (as opposed to one quarter/year)?"

Isn't this as simple as a very high short term capital gains tax and a very low long term capital gains tax. What would be the unintended consequences of that?

In my opinion, part of the natural gas mess we find ourselves in is the industries forced behavioral match to the wall street analysts/stock recommendations which rewarded short term drilling, reserve increase type results as opposed to some longer term metric. It is why the market prefers lower EROI resources (such as shale gas that deplete 70% in first year) to 20:1 wind that have longer 'duration' - paying off equally over 30 years after large upfront costs- we get the bang right away then drill more in 18 months. Yet the agglomeration of firms trying to provide high earnings NOW to get rewarded by stock price, bonus, etc. speaks volumes about our priorities. Plus - lower energy prices today really hurt a 20-30 year discounted cash flow.

It would take more than investor tax rates to do it - it would have to apply to the company itself - incentivize future low cost flows. There has to be a better way to match our energy demand to energy supply over long term than the two-headed hydra that is futures priced at marginal barrel, and companies rewarded for short term performance. The end result of those two standbys will be lack of viable energy industry.

I agree with you that it is a shame the way natural gas has turned out, but not with your reasoning for getting there.

Twenty or thirty year discounted cash flow analyses make sense with a growth society. As long as things are getting better and better, one can plan to use energy assets for 20 or 30 years, and can obtain long term debt to match the expected life of the assets.

Once things start to go downhill, this same kind of analysis can lead to bad decision making. We don't have any knowledge that we will be able to maintain wind turbines (or for that matter, electric transmission lines) for 20 or 30 years. We really have to be able to keep society together in its current form, with lots of imports, for pretty much the full time, in order for the assumptions under this model to hold.

EROI analyses that assume long life-spans of energy infrastructure suffer from the same problem. A wind turbine that lasts only until it needs to be maintained in five years does not have a high EROI, regardless of what the analysis supposedly says.

The inability to use 20 or 30 year discounted cash flows for decision-making is one of the big changes that takes place post peak. (This is really a corollary of long-term debt no longer making sense.) I expect that most people will not catch on to this. Post-peak, it seems like one needs to use very high discount rates (so you pay little attention to the future), or amortize costs over a very short period. Perhaps this is not too far from what the Wall Street crowd is doing.

I think natural gas (and for that matter, any energy source we decide to use) needs to be treated like a utility, and protected from price swings.

I've seen several people refer to this general concept before:

We really have to be able to keep society together in its current form . . . in order for the assumptions under this model to hold.

Possible campfire topic, How many people do we need to keep society together in its current form? Necessary sub-topic, how many people do we need to keep a given technology, e. g. computers, in operation?

We tend to thing of resources as the limiting factor on human well-being because right now they are. But as the use of resources dwindles by planning or necessity, some technologies may stop operating even though there are theoretically still enough resources to support that technology on a limited scale. The answer to this question would then revolve around what technologies are necessary to "keep society together in its current form," and what the minimum human population for those technologies is. This would allow us to identify technologies at risk in the long downward spiral (wheeee!).

I'm thinking of those graphs of "Sustainable yield" or "Growth" curves for biotic resources. Like the ones that plot "Resource stocks" on the X axis, and "Resource flows (growth, harvest)" on the Y-axis? In each of these curves, there is a point of "maximum sustainable yield" -- if the population is higher than that, their food supply is limited, and can't grow as much. But there's also a "minimum viable population," below which the population is in a downward spiral (lack of mates, too spread out) and dwindles to extinction without a subsidy.

It occurs to me that, even given infinite resources, each form of technology we have has a "minimum viable population" of humans needed to support it. For example, if there were just 100,000 humans left in a fertile area with natural resources and all our current knowledge in books, the species would continue, but we probably wouldn't have cell phones. How many people would it take before society could support some simple mining technology, some sort of standardized production, or computers, or the TOD web site, and transfer such technology to the next generation?

The practical application is that in the real world elites, or elite societies might emerge, in which these technologies are preserved and their use limited. For example, in 30 years we might see computers as a labor-intensive specialty somewhat like it was in the 1970's and early 1980's. But if resources or politics depress the use of computers or the technologies that support it below a certain level, computers might disappear altogether.

Just a thought.

It seems like different parts of our society will fall apart differently.

Our financial system is first to fall apart, and it is already falling apart. Will we somehow be able to make a quick replacement for it? If not, this could be a limiting factor on a lot of technologies.

Assuming we can keep the financial system slightly together, the question become which parts of the system fail next. I think here Liebig's Law of the Minimum becomes important. It may be just tiny things that cause our system to fail. I keep saying that I expect the electric system (at least long distance) to fail about the same time as the liquid fuels system, because everything is so interrelated. It may be the financial crisis that brings down both liquid fuels and the financial system.

My mental model is progressive, stepwise decline (which is not different in any significant way from "catabolic collapse" - I just prefer to use the word "decline" because so many people associate any use of the word "collapse" with something sudden and catastrophic).

In the case of electricity (and I am repeating something here I have said before), we already have less than 100% grid reliability. Most places have at least occasional outages, and once every few years there is a more widespread and prolongued outage like they had in KY this winter. The next step is not going to be a total collapse of the grid. Rather, the outages become more frequent, almost regular occurances, and the big disruptions become more frequent and more widespread and last longer as well. Then it keeps getting worse and worse, until it gets to the point that only a minority of households are still getting any electric service at all, and then only occasionally. In the final phases, more and more areas go off grid, until there are only isolated "islands" left. I am assuming that some communities will make heroic efforts to maintain some localized electricity generation and distribution capabilities, and these efforts might be maintained for a very long time. I don't know if we will be able to avoid having the last electric light blink off forever or not. Time will tell.

I see most other systems following approximately this same pattern. Year after year, more and more things will break down, or fall apart, or cannot be sustained. Year after year, more and more people will have to put up with more and more deprivation. I have been saying that the 21st century is going to be one long exercise in giving up things, and this is what I mean.

Part of the answer depends upon what kind of society it is. Highly regimented command economies (e.g., the USSR from the mid 1920s through the mid 1980s) can manage the necessary resources to "do whatever it takes" to get key systems going and keep them running - if the regime knows what it is doing enough to recognize which systems are essential for its survival. They arguably do better in this under crisis conditions than do free market economies. However, they perform very poorly when it comes to innovation, and to optimim economic efficiency over the long haul; free market economies do much better than that. Unfortunately, free market economies just don't do a very good job of anticipating exceptional, potentially catastrophic circumstances (like war, or natural disasters - including slow-motion ones line climate change, or permanent resource depletions), and reallocating resources in a proactive way to mitigate the impacts in a way that is most advantageous to the long-term prospects of the society as a whole.

Thanks to both of you for replying.

I'm probably over my depth here, but somehow I see a catastrophe, I mean decline, in the situation in the U. S. unfolding as follows. Some sort of major financial crisis unfolds -- China stops buying treasuries, all the banks start fail, exporting nations stop exporting oil to the U. S., and the stock market goes back to 1000 or something absurdly low.

Couldn't some sort of government of national unity step in and we could get an instant regimented command economy at the macro level? (Well, with private enterprise continuing at a micro-level.) Wouldn't it still be physically possible to feed most Americans, keep the trains running, and start manufacturing basics like garden tools and bicycles, electricity at least part of the day, with a currency in bean-backed New Dollars? If it's physically possible, why couldn't it happen? Is it strictly political (either because of internal politics in the U. S., or rest-of-the-word considerations), or is there some technical reason why this couldn't work? That's why I'm asking questions about the minimum number of people to support e. g. basic manufacturing or computers. If we could do the Vulcan mind-meld between TOD and our political leaders, could this work?

Again, just a thought, I can't really answer this myself.

Possible? Yes, more or less. I suspect that when things get bad enough, the FedGov will have to dust off post-nuclear-war plans and invoke standing Executive Officers to shift into crisis mode. I do not expect them to end up acting in a way that is nearly as benign as we would like.

Capital gains shouldn't get any preferential tax treatment at all, except just possibly indexing of the basis for inflation. As far as I am concerned, I view capital gains and winnings at the race track to be exactly the same thing economically.

If you want to build in a bias in favor of good long-term economic management, then what you really need to do is create a more favorable tax treatment for dividends. Consider dividends to be a distribution of after-tax corporate earnings, and thus not taxable at all to the shareholder.

The other thing I would do is to pay all bonuses in stock shares, which must be held for a specified period before being sold. Commissions should also be "in kind". For example, if an investment banker move an IPO, their commission is a percentage of the new stock shares.

Instead of a capital gains tax a tax on investment transactions would encourage investment for the long term and discourage day and automated trades. It would also give government a source of revenue that taps into the part of the economy where 90%+ (in dollar value) of all economic transactions take place and allowing a tax cut in the goods and services part of the economy.

Hi all
I am a long-time lurker, and first-time poster.
There are a lot of worthy topics on the list !
I have 3 cats and a dog at the moment. I have been thinking about how to manage their care post-peak, and recently started a yahoo group called peakoilpets to share ideas with others. We are still very small, but folks here are welcome to join in the discussion.
Thanks !

Thanks from all of us for posting. Lurking is not a bad thing. I lurk a lot when I am not up to posting or get into a thread really late in the day.

Dogs and Cats will settle out I am sure, as other carnivores come back into the picture if they are not already extinct in the areas where they once lived.

Think about this, there are more big cats, lions, tigers and such in the USA than most people think. Wild game parks, and zoos might release them into the countryside if things got really bad, say a plague or something like that.

I'd be more afraid of wild dog packs than I would be of feral cat packs. Also most feral cats stay about the same size as a house cat, While dogs range in size from timy to bigger than wolves.

It all depends on what happens when the manure hits the fan, what sort of method does it all grind to a stop one day or is it a slow letting out of the air?


Hi spring_tides!

I also have three cats and a dog.
Some ideas for post-peak pet care I've tried:

1) when our 9kg mixed breed dog died at the age of 16 last year we replaced him with a tiny 2 kg yorkie---much more economical wrt food. Although tiny, he barks when people come so he's a useful watchdog. His main job is entertaining the children.

2) here in Japan people 100 years ago used to feed their cats leftovers of miso soup (fish-based stock) plus rice. If the cats are hungry enough they'll eat it I suppose. I am planning to try this. Cat food is just getting too expensive!

3) cat litter: I will try using sand and letting rain wash it and the sun dry it before using it again. I haven't yet tried this but am planning to. Actually 2 of our cats go outside and don't use a litter box, so that is helpful too.

Welcome Michaelle.

I believe the Koreans have a few ideas about dogs.
Cats should be prepared like rabbits.
They are a traditional food for the Aboriginals around Ularu.

"ALLIGATORS basking off the English coast; a vast Brazilian desert; the mythical lost cities of Saigon, New Orleans, Venice and Mumbai; and 90 per cent of humanity vanished. Welcome to the world warmed by 4 °C."

I wouldn't be too worried.

My humble suggestions:

Asking "Are all people equal?" is a silly question. Equality, or the lack of it, does not exist "out there"; it is a construct of our interactions with one-another. I believe it is much more useful to ask, Are we willing to choose behaviors and reinforce social norms which afford all people dignity?

Are we willing to establish an economy based on intentional need for one-another, especially at the local/tribal level?

Or put another way, are we willing to choose human labor over non-anthropogenically-powered machines at levels which ensure "full employment"? (This appears to be the case in Amish communities.)

Or put another way, are we willing to reject the lowest prices as consumers, the highest rates of return as investors, the maximum deployment of "labor-saving" equipment as business owners/operators, and the opportunity to die with the most toys?

Hans Noeldner

"Civilization is the presence of enlightened self-restraint"

The Humane way to treat each other! No greed, No envy, none of those other bad habits that humans are usually filled with if given to much freedom to do whatever they want to do.

I would say that in general we have found that most of this is what got us in this mess in the first place, and getting ourselves out of it will take hard work on everyone's part. But do I see it happening, That places me firmly in a doomer mood some days I see it happening and other days when I read the news, I feel that nope you are going to change anything about us.


Look at us here, beating the drum.
We are hoping that an increase in the rate of oil Extraction is possible.
What about future generations?
Shouldn't we be leaving them their share?

What about Global Climate Instability?
We should be praying for difficulties in our abilities to suck oil out of the ground.

Na!! It is all about Me Me Me. Now Now Now.

Someone said that burning fossil fuel is like burning Picasso's for warmth.

I try not to make to many things about me. I already know I have a bigger Ego than most people, so I try to practice making things about other people whenever I can.

I also don't think that most of the readers or posters here at TOD are "its all about me" type of people. Not all of us are doomers, and not all of us are Oil Industry folks, but we all have a common interest in these topics.


Farming Post Peak Oil
How much of farmers land would have to be devoted to growing oilseed crops to make biodiesel to run his entire farm (tractors, trucks, crop drying, heating livestock barns, heating his home, etc...) and how does this compare with the land requirement of farmers in times past to grow the feed (hay, oats) for livestock power?

How difficult would it be to convert the current electronically controlled ag equipment to mechanical controls if electronic parts became unavailable. And what are the skills required by farmers to make these changes and does the current crop of farmers have these skills?

Most of our fresh fruits and vegetables are kept in cold storage for relatively long periods to maintain an even supply year around. What happens if there are serious electrical grid failures/ energy shortages? Are we prepared and can we manage to keep all that food from spoiling?

If rubber for tires/tracks becomes in very short supply what would it take for farmers to make something that would take the pnuematic tires place. And are these skills available/being taught today?

If fuel becomes very scarce (ie - irreplaceable) will the laws concerning the use of force/deadly force in the protection of fuel/livestock/grain stocks/water/etc... have to change to reflect the new reality. And what and when should those changes be?

Roads & Highways

When asphalt becomes in short supply, which roads should be put back to gravel in what order. What criteria should be used to make the decision to moved paved roads to gravel. Is there some other type of road surface than asphalt/concrete and gravel that could replace one or the other?

How would reductions in road traffic due to high cost fuel/shortages affect law enforcement agencies? What could they do with the time not spent patrolling for traffic violations?

What technologies currently exist to modify our existing stock of automobiles to increase their fuel mileage? How could these technologies be better promoted and shown to be cost effective over the expected life of the vehicle?

How stressed do the budgets of State and local governments have to get before they have to quit spreading salt on the highways to melt snow and ice. And what would the long term savings be on lowered highway maintainence be from not having the degrading effects of salt eating up our roads,bridges and vehicles?


With increases in fuel prices or shortages people will be increasingly involved in illegal disposal of their trash by burning/discarding/etc... How are we going to handle all of our trash when the fuel isn't available or affordable to manage our waste streams - Both in the cities and in the country?


If government funds become insufficient to sustain the current level of support for various groups, what do we do? (ie mentally handicapped, persons sentenced to long term prison sentences, welfare recipients, illegal immigrants, etc...)? How deep would the depression have to get to reach a point where certain groups would have to be "terminated" in order to save the funds/food/ resources for the law abiding viably self sufficient population? Are there "humane" methods to deal with such a situation?

Can a society undergoing a severe depression manage to save/protect its valuable skilled workers at the expense of the unskilled? Is it ethical? At what point does ethics get squeezed out of the picture or changed due to stressed conditions?

At what point might we be forced to go back to the ethics of the early 1900's pertaining to letting those born mentally or severely physically disabled die at the time of birth? What were the standards back them? What other societies have had ethics dealing with allowing those born "unhealthy" to die at birth. Are they allowed to die from lack of food and water or are they actively euthanized?


What steps can be taken to eliminate road blocks and encourage people to Super Insulate their homes? How do you convince the current insulating companies to calculate insulation based upon future high costs of energy instead of current or past energy costs. (ie how do you convince them that R19 walls are not good enough to protect the building owner from crippling costs due to high energy costs in the future and that the new minimums should be R40-R50 walls/ R50-R70 attics?

How can you convince people to look at Super Insulating their buildings as an investment like stocks or CD's instead of a building improvement that needs to "pay for itself" in a very short period of time? What steps can/should governments take to promote insulation as an investment by removing the investment tax penalty for insulation? (increased property taxes due to insulating)

How much might the Government(s) save in the long term by spending the money to Super Insulate existing homes rather than paying every year into infinity for the heating costs for those homes due the inability of their occupants to be able to pay for the high heating cost fuels?

"Most of our fresh fruits and vegetables are kept in cold storage for relatively long periods to maintain an even supply year around. What happens if there are serious electrical grid failures/ energy shortages? Are we prepared and can we manage to keep all that food from spoiling?"

That is a good question, and I do have an answer but it would be a big job and it would have to be done rather fast.

Cold pack + Hot pack canning and Pressure canning of all the foods in storage. Some of the foods would last in the places where the cold storage takes place because of the methods they use, others would have to canned to save them.

We would have to have a lot of changes in our food system, more so than we do have today. Some people have faced this recently in some of the southern states of the USA when Ice Storms downed the power lines to such an extent that power was off for over a week. Though it was cold outside and food was likely safer outside than inside. I can imagine the reverse being truw when Katrina hit and food was going to waste by the TON! in every grocery store in every town.

Not everyone has canning supllies, I have some of them, but not nearly enough for more food than I store.

Interesting thoughts.


...and only those with alternate forms of energy for the heat required for canning and preserving would be successful. If the electric grid went down and electric ranges were all that was available -- disaster.

We can use wood fires for canning foods. We can also use Solar Ovens, Solar dryers, and Solar cookers. One of the fastest ways to handle a big crop of most anything is to dry it. Lay it out in the sun and let the sun do it's job.

Milk would be a hard thing to handle in the Thousands of Gallons but we would still have the cows and have to hunt for a way to use them if we could.

It all comes down to the Scale of what you need to do and willing hands and willingness to think ahead about solving problems like this that might crop up from time to time.


There is a way to store milk. It is called "cheese". Some problems were solved by people long ago.

* Break up the big farms (I'll leave the how to another day) in some way so that one family isn't farming more than one family can. Tis mihgt also be considered at a community level.

* P/NF methods, e.g.: no till, water capture, co-planting, food forest, raised beds, cover crops, composting (and composting toilets), vermiculture...

* Large Ag equipment not needed in smaller plots with high human energetic inputs. (Note: a food forest, e.g., will manage itself after a few years. It's a forest, after all. In general P/NF methods are much less time/labor intensive than traditional methods.) With so little equipment needed - if not not needed at all - perhaps communities can share large equipment.



"If rubber for tires/tracks becomes in very short supply what would it take for farmers to make something that would take the pnuematic tires place. And are these skills available/being taught today?"

They still make steel wheels for the type of farm equipment I use. The original farm equipment that was pulled by horses and also the steam powered equipment often had steel wheels as well. This is fairly low tech and could likely be done again and thereby recreate a local industry. We could make them out of those useless things people used to drive up and down the road...what were they called again? Umm..oh yeah...Lexus's! The steel wheels do have some disadvantages, but they wear pretty well.


For how long will 'growthism' remain the default economic paradigm?

"A Plan B For Those On Prescription Meds"

"If We All Were Robots with 100,000 year lifespans, Would Planning for 2050-2100 Be Easier?"

Those two topics interest me, But can I write something about them that makes others think about them? Ah there is that question again.

I have thought about the Medicine problem because of my parents and my last two ex-wives who are on a lot of medications for various things.

You got me thinking,,, I'll let you know in a few decades if I come up with a solution, you'll have to pay me for the patent and all that sort of stuff too, (snickers a bit, tongue in cheek)(big pharma would be proud of me)


"If We All Were Robots with 100,000 year lifespans, Would Planning for 2050-2100 Be Easier?"

2050-2100 with our extended lifespans, would be the equivalent of us right now, with our 80 year lifespans, planning for next month, April 2009.

Good idea about a prescription plan B. I propose decriminalization of all drugs. At the very least, it makes pain remedies easily available.

I propose decriminalization of all drugs. At the very least, it makes pain remedies easily available.

A side benefit is a reduction in basic needs. If you're sitting at home, high on Weed, and stare at the patterns in the carpet all day, you're lowering your metabolism. :)

Simple ways to get electricity/mechanical power. Since I am a heat engine guy, I have often thought of spending some serious time listing the ways to get mechanical power if we had to start from where we are with the stuff lying around within a few miles. Since the US is a huge junk pile, it would not be hard at all, but somebody has to list the ways to do it.

Maybe a contest- say within a certain time, a week or so, we all list our favorite way to get quick electricity given that TSHHTF for real, and there just ain't all that fossil fuel around. Then a bunch of disinterested judges (yea, where from?) would make the call on those thousands of entries, and the winner would get a gold star, to be punched in beside any of its posts for a whole month. FAME!

OK, so here's my entry, not at all clever or original, just simply practical. Get an IC engine, any one would do- make a wood gasifier- any design of many well proven ones- chop up the tree limbs left over from the atomic blast or fist fight or whatever did civilization in, stuff it into the gasifier, run the wood gas thru the engine, and behold! mechanical power. Then get any electric motor/generator or whatever, modify it to fit the engine, probably with direct shaft connection, and you are off and running with some kind of electricity.

I could write detailed instructions, but who reads instructions?

Right, you are now on the first step to climbing back out of Olduvai, and better luck this time. Except when you get up out of there, you will find a pretty impoverished planet- entropy in every direction as far as the eye can see. Sorry 'bout that.

And so to bed.

I'm starting to think this way. A few days ago I found out that a tractor only needs 35hp to tow a furrow forming trailer with blade weeders. Why not use steam instead of wood gas? No worries about lousy fuel quality or fouled spark plugs. Either way you can get biochar.

Steam engines hard to find. IC engines all over the place. Sure, messy work, but easy, Just like my old lawn mower - have to fix it all the time, but can do, and the wife thinks I am being useful for once instead of just sitting around staring into space daydreaming about how to fix the world- and whether its worth fixing. Answer of the moment. People are things of the past, get on to the next step.

People are heading down to Olduvai. Keep 'em there this time.

Since I am a heat engine guy, I have often thought of spending some serious time listing the ways to get mechanical power if we had to start from where we are with the stuff lying around within a few miles. Since the US is a huge junk pile, it would not be hard at all, but somebody has to list the ways to do it.

Well, that's all very good, and I agree, and thanks for bringing it to me, but I was thinking one step down- just what hardware do we use? Gail says hydro is nice. So it is indeed, but just how many of us have a flowing stream going by our front door? Combustion of some sort is pretty near always available, even if not much of it, so, run it thru a heat engine and get power. What heat engine- IC engines have bad manners, but good availability. I myself don't like IC engines, since I can think of way better ways to get heat to electricity, But all that has to be secondary to the fact that we HAVE IC engines- by the megaton. So if the town says to me we need some electricity real fast, I would give them IC engines running on gas from just about anything, including dead bodies. And don't tell anybody about that, huh.


I don't know exactly what. I think that each household/community needs to address that. But I do know the where: junkyards, abandoned vehicles, structures, etc. It's already happening, of course. It would be nice if this supply were made legal and was endorsed at the state and/or federal level.


Fact is, I really don't like IC engines, so suddenly i remember the kite windmill. Here on the ground there is no wind, but the clouds keep drifting by, so up there, there is. So- kites work. Fast. Cheap. cancel that IC body burner, go for the high windmills. Lots of widgets to marvel at, Amaze the peasants! Store the energy by pumping water up a hill or up a hole. Problem solved. Back to bed.

More on the financial markets would be good. This site has always had insightful discussion on the economic mess we've been getting into for years.

Speaking of which, the end of the bear market trumpeted this past week may be a bit premature. If you look at where some of the more reliable market direction indicators are at right now, you get this big picture:

When these indicators go over certain extremes, it typically means a sharp reversal in direction is near. Right now all three of them are lit up! What's interesting is that these levels all fall neatly on a downward curve fitted through the points. We can't even begin to think this decline is over until these short term clusters start showing up north of the curve.

"Past performance is no guarantee of future results." I continue to argue that everyone who is attempting to map current trends to past episodes has it wrong. We are in paradigm shift mode here. The world has changed. This is not JUST a financial/economic downturn, something far more fundamental is happening. The world is changing. The party is over, the punchbowl has run out, exponential growth cannot happen any more. We are now in decline mode, which is a totally different situation than anything which we have experienced. There are NO past episodes to which which we can map our present situation.

Lots of people are going to be fooled big time with this.

"A poll of black swans"---

I don't know why exactly, but I've started hunting around YouTube and other sites like "Enterprise Corruption" and GEAB for wild predictions that might indicate a black swan event.

Don't you all just have a feeling that as the underlying energy situation gets worse, the governing elite have less and less to lose by staging a black swan event...? They can't depend on the (tax) revenue stream that has been their sustenance, they can't provide services and the support to the broad populace over the long term, they probably won't even want to share what little is left (if the past is a guide). So how will they make sure the energy is channeled their way?

Does anyone else feel a vague sense of dread?

One of the reasons I'm here, It's my thought that with a group like this one that has self-assembled here, one of us might just catch the straw. . IOW you will probably read it here first.
You may not recognize it as such. That's also why I am glad TOD is so wide open to opinion. Kind of sick, watching the details of how it all just slides away. Much like watching a fire or a car accident.

Strong base of thinkers here. Gail is right on the money with the gradual failure of the grid. Experienced it here this winter as well. Chuckle.

I'm well prepped, but I won't mind a heads up to clean out the bank accounts and the last trip to the hardware store. ATM's will go down fast so you have to be ready. And you know, actually I might just heave a huge sigh of relief when it hits, if I go or not, doesn't matter much. It's just about fucking time.

Just a comment on the upthread post about pets. We have a new dog, he was abused, you can tell, it took him a some time to learn trust. He does now. He has six cats who are his friends.They sleep with him. He stands by me now, at my side or at my feet. He adores my wife. I can tell you with no uncertainty if someone tried to harm either of us, he would rip out their throat. He earns his keep. But you know "mans best friend" has been around for a very long time. Lots of lessons through the ages, we just need to be smart enough to see them. I'd rather have a good dog than a pile of gold buried in the backyard.

As to the doomer comments , I chuckled some hard, relating them to the "freaks" of the 60's, well done and right on. Insightful. I agree, the freaks became a message in themselves, and I expect the doomers will do it again.

Buy your Volt, or Prius, do your carbon capture, buy organic, add some insulation, get a set back thermostat. One day when you open your door, it will slap back in your face. Most of what you want to build won't work without power, the best thing you can all do is just picture, the lights dimming, and then flickering. Oh my, then they get very bright, like sunrise.. then they got out never to come on again. What will you do? You're heat pump no longer works, water stops, I can't believe people still cook food on electric ranges. Canning food on an electric range just tells me you need serious drugs, or electroshock. But we won't have the energy to do that.

Nope wake up call, you live or you don't, if you are in a city you die.

So here's my question Nate, why is it we seek to continue to be alive.

I'm no longer actively seeking it, just riding the wave, in a state we call alive now, and be in another state later. Given up the worry about it. When you a busy protecting being alive, you focus on one state, energy moves through many states, and you miss it.

I read hear some days, and I am enhtused by the energy. Good group, I'm proud to be a member. The I go down, I see many things and so much of it is just hope, don't get me wrong hope is a good thing.

It's odd for me, my life hasn't ended, and it won't for some time, food, fuel, warmth, but it will end for many of you here.

It's about living.

Get it?

Don in Maine

1984 vs. Mad Max: Which is more likely? Which is worse?

Along the same lines: 'V for Vendetta' vs. Soylent Green

Brave New World is more likely than either 1984 or Mad Max. A small elite who own everything with most folks working for them at subsistence wages with layers of specialists in between.

"Brave New World" is what we would have gotten if the cornucopians had been able to pull it off. They can't, so that future has been canceled.

Too bad Orwell didn't title his book "2084", or maybe "2048", because something along those lines just might happen. Governing regimes will become pretty desperate as decline comes in, and we might indeed see the rise of global totalitarian empires as the last gasp struggle for depleting resources begins in earnest.

"Mad Max" is what we just might get after Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia have finally done their worst, and left little but rubble in their wake.

I would like ideas on doomers' charitable contributions in a malthusian world.
What is worthy?
The best I could come up with is Planned Parenthood.

Perhaps to a lobbying charity for grain-based ethanol as a motor fuel.

All of our current assumptions would be somewhat turned on their heads by malthusian logic. The sooner food is minimized, the fewer people will eventually starve.

Due to our discount rates, we consider the starving of someone in 40 years less real than the starving of someone in 5 years, so default to choosing more starvation later. It isn't humane, it just "feels better" to put it off.

But discussion of stuff like this would have a hard time flying, I think, even if humanely motivated.

"I want 6 million people." said Bob (Mugabe)
He has 11 Million.
Bob gets it.
Soon the rest will as well.
Postcard from hell.

I like the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Working on developing perennial grain crops. (don't have to be planted every year -- saves energy; preserves soil). They are making good progress and have test plots growing prototypes now.

Are humans still evolving? What direction, how fast, what should we do about it?

"Are humans still evolving?"
Most asuredly sir.

In what direction? Why, let me shake you by the hand.

How fast? The bottleneck is a bit of a squeeze, but we should be through it in about, oh say, 50 years.

What to do about it?
Please try not to make too much of a fuss. There's a good chap.

That was funny reading that reminds me of Monty Python.

But we will be fine in 50 years, sunny days ahead. A lot less people around and seeing as I will be 95, I doubt I will be around to see all this stuff going on, but I expect if nothing else hits us from space that in 50 years there will still be people left going about their daily chores.

" Hey Mom, where is the Ax at, I need to chop a few logs and dad wants to kill a few chickens?"


If you laughed then I am in danger of relating to you.
I hit my mark.
This is bad.

Sunny days?
Too many sunny days if the predictions are good.

Seriously though, it is a conceit to think that humans have risen above evolution.
We have expanded to fill a niche opened up to by oil.

And then there is punctuated evolution, which is what I think we have got happening now.

This is why I infest the good folk on the oil drum.

Yep, we are still evolving.
CCR5-Delta 32 HIV-resistance allele is present and selected for (you survive with it) and is becoming more important in the population.
In Africa, sickle-cell disease is more resistant to malaria, and surviving in the population.
We are selecting for height, and getting taller as a species.
Just a few examples.

There's a strong protein component in that. S. Koreans have grown incredibly over the last few decades, but N Koreans haven't. The difference? Food. Most importantly, protein. Americans, btw, are getting shorter now. Why? Probably too much food, and of the wrong kinds.

I'm guessing if any version of doomer thought is the future we shall soon be growing shorter again. At least until global temps start selecting for greater surface area. Or, maybe we'll end up short and skinny?

Maybe short, skinny space aliens is just a collective vision of our future selves.



How to save water and energy and enrich our soil by eliminating the flush toilet and waste water disposal systems and treatment plants and using composting toilets instead.

Radiation Hormesis vs LNT (Linear No-Threshold Hypothesis)

Is there scientific evidence for LNT or is it a political construct? Is there more scientific evidence for radiation hormesis than for LNT? (Recognizing that some of the data is buried in a sea of noise.)

Being a college student, I have many questions about how best to prepare for the future.

What Degree's are likely to be useful as we move through the bottleneck?
What is the value of a Degree in a post-peak world?

IMHO, the greatest value of getting a good education lies in developing the ability to observe and communicate. Unfortunately, many people get done with undergrad work without truly learning either. In accounting, the degree I have, it seemed to me that I learned all of the rules, but then got out in the real world and found that the literal application of the pronouncements of the day were being met without really communicating a lot about what the information meant. In the area of accounting for municipal governments, for instance, adding a few comparative schedules allowed the City Councils to interpret the information which the detailled reports included.

Can someone envision a "best case" for the year 2109?
Is a future sustainable civilization possible?
How many people will be alive?
What happened to those who aren't?
What level of technology will they have?

This vision of 2034 shows the way. Just extrapolate the trends.

Best Hopes for a Change in Direction,


I liked the article Alan. Humanity gets to survive.

Here is a precis of my view.

Humanity has severe selection imposed on it.
A few exceptional individuals survive.

They understand that they are Gaia's brain cells. (Hey, life is an emergent property of entrophy, why not intelligence?)

They use the internet (and perhaps Uber-computers) to serve as dendrites.
They take on the responsibility of keeping the planet alive in the face of increasing solar output.
Their responibility forces them to gain control of their own evolution.
(at last..evolution by design)
Wow, lots of things to be done there!
Outsourced memory, better reproduction, stronger spine, decreased Limbic percentage...

But first that bottleneck. (It is all very natural I assure you. But nature can be soo cruel).

"Best Case Vision, 2109":

US real (2009 $) per capita GDP: ~ $10,000
Global real per capita GDP: ~ $5,000

US population = 100-200 million
Global population = 2-4 billion

US per capita energy consumption: ~ 100 - 150 MBTU/yr
US total energy consumption: 10-20 Quads/yr
Global per capita energy consumption: ~50 - 75 MBTU/yr

I really can't flesh it out much beyond that.

Probability of our actually having it even that good: < 50%, but definitely above 0%

What are the deal-breakers? What absolute limits are we facing?


* I see +3C as absolutely beyond what humanity can risk, and +4C probably is societal suicide.

* Population: what elements/resources cannot be replaced and when will they run out on current trajectories?

* Socio-politically, what are the limits in amplitude of the boom/bust cycle without fracturing?


It's been a very warm winter here in the southwest corner of the USA. Anecdotal for sure, but, I have no ice next to my stock water troughs. Last year, there was lots and lots of ice. This year, none. The days are warm, yesterday, almost 55F. We've been very dry here besides most of the past ten years and last summer our usual moisture from the August monsoon didn't happen. There is talk this year of restricted irrigation water usage which is a big problem for those in the lower valley. I'm in my sixties and I remember the winters when I was a youngster. Always a foot or more of snow on the ground, big storms, and cold nights. The change has been gradual, but change nevertheless. How far do we have to go before the southwest falls apart? I'm not sure. Las Vegas is in a pinch water wise. The water level at Lake Powell and Lake Mead is dropping. We had a heck of a dust storm two weeks ago. Alfalfa didn't grow well last season and so hay production was reduced.

So, my question is; At what level of climate disruption/change do we have to reach before we collectively say "It's warmer". Our scientists tell us it likely will be warmer, but very few are saying "This year is warmer than last and certainly much warmer than this time twenty years ago". Maybe this is because most of us live in artificial environments (we don't get outside much) and simply don't notice the subtle changes of the past 60 years that I've noticed by virtue of being outside almost all of my life. The follow on question is when recognition comes that our climate is indeed changing, and not only that, but it's affecting ME in a very negative way as in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, is no longer inhabitable, then what will we do about it. Best from the Fremont

I recently made the DrumBeat post below. Is this raw material for a Saturday post ?


Is it true that there were more electrified trains in the East due to the New York City underground system?

No. The four major electrified railroad lines were the Milwaukee (in WA, MT, Dakotas), the Virginian. Penn Central DC to NYC to New Haven CT and Long Island RR. NYC affected the last two.

A map of rail lines considered in the 1970s.

Would a pure electrified system have had advantages over the diesel/electric hybrid for transcontinental systems such as the Santa Fe Chief or the Canadian Pacific? Would there have been issues with power plant siting or the burning of coal?

The Russians think so. The longest and most important rail line in the world, the Trans-Siberian, was electrified in 2002. No issues in plant siting, the USA could easily conserve enough electricity to run electrified rail lines (this recession will save more than enough).

Electrified rail uses very little electricity. One BTU of electricity does as much work on an electrified rail line as 20 BTUs of diesel in trucks.

The Railroad ROWs would make excellent new transmission corridors.

How can light rail replace the portal to portal convenience of the automobile?

Urban rail cannot replace the inconvenience of the automobile.

It will not kill 40,000 people/year and maim hundreds of thousands more, it will not choke the air with pollution, it will not create massive time wasting traffic jams, it will not require that half our urban land area be devoted to serving Urban rail (thus putting EVERYTHING further away and consuming vast tracts of fertile farmland).

Urban Rail will not make walking and bicycling dangerous and impractical. Urban Rail will reverse the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease caused by cars. Urban rail will not require the USA to invade other nations to get the fuel to run them. Urban rail will not require the same size massive public & private subsidies that cars require.

Roughly 30% of Americans want to live in Transit Orientated Development today (more will in the future) but less than 2% do today because there is not enough Transit to orientate development around.

I live in an Old Urbanism community, the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. It is MORE convenient to go Downtown or Uptown by walking and catching the streetcar than by driving and parking and walking.

Endless and massive subsidies were what gave cars the advantage, NOT some inherent advantage. These subsidies required distorting our society, our culture, our public health and the way our cities were built to just accommodate and subsidize the car.


Thanks for the info, Alan.

Friday and Saturday, March 20 & 21, the Oklahoma Sustainability Network Annual Conference will be held in Edmond, just north of Oklahoma City at the University of Central Oklahoma. We will be looking at the transportation options as well as a lot of other good stuff - Energy, Ag related topics, water, farmers markets, education, and many other topics. The lineup is here , and the subject of TOD development is included. There has been a lot of heated conversation about rail, TOD, etc., in and around OKC, but the public will in OKC has not budged. The miles of rail would easily exceed that for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit operation without the economic engine which supports DART with a 1% sales tax. The DART tax proceeds are used mostly for maintenance and operations, and OKC just cannot support the whole hub cost, probably even with the tax revenues from the surrounding communities, and that aspect will also be discussed. The city of OKC has local only priorities in mind at this point, and all of that will be discussed as best we can without OKC's official involvement.

The Conference attendance cost is nominal as these things go - $ 45 a day - so anyone who is interested should be able to gain measurably from the experience. Most everything is inside, and there will be a good mixture of folks there, if it is as in the past. A mix of college students, old fogeys, highly motivated folks from all walks of life, skeptics, doomers, activists, etc. are the norm, so come join us if you can. Normal attendance is in the 400-500 range, so it won't be a MN or WI type of fair, just to let everybody know.

We will have an open "membership" meeting in the fall, and I'll try to post a mention of that in here as well when plans are firmed up.

While posting in the Drumbeat for Saturday I thought of this question.

What if the USA were to say, At noon on Tuesday next we will Forgive all those that owe us money, and Not pay any that we owe you either. Over in one fell swoop all debt to or against the USA. What would happen? Could it be done without War? Could it even be done?

Best guesses on a lot of things.


Thought provoking, Charles. But, just as Social Security is a government program which is not fully funded, I have a couple of leases which I continue to operate because I would have to plug them if I shut them down. So, I do not have any debt, but just like the Fed Govt, I have a liability there which is not "owed", but is a continuing responsibility. Nobody can "forgive" the responsibility, but if I got them plugged and owed the plugging contractor for the work, I guess I'd come out OK, except for the money the bank would have owed me as a depositor, which I would no longer be owed after noon Tuesday.

Walmart, with a good part of a day's collections undeposited, would probably be the strongest US business after noon Tuesday, but what would we do when everybody gets back to the office after lunch ? Simply shred all of those unpaid bills and uncollected invoices ? I can't imagine any business taking plastic, and the only money would be currency, presumably. After all, if it happened once, it could become a regular occurence.

I guess I wouldn't be opposed if you would agree not to tell everybody else so I can go to the bank and withdraw some of what the bank won't owe me anymore after noon Tuesday, and get a contractor to plug those wells before that day at noon. I don't guess it would matter what it cost to plug them either, since I won't have to pay the bill.

Well, I guess we would find out REAL QUICK what it is like to live with no more oil imports.

When evaluating the EROEI of nuclear power, is it necessary to account for political and environmental plant closures and delays?.

Yes, plus the more common screw-ups by the nuke building industry.

Zimmer, TMI, WHOOPS, Satsup, TVA canceling 11 partially completed \ nukes, Browns Ferry, etc.


Alan - "... TVA canceling 11 partially completed \ nukes..."
I don't understand that phrase. Do you have a link?

--Thanks for the answer on China. Consider adding Chongqing to your rail studies. It is the most important city in the interior of China. The crowding, automobile traffic, and pollution must be seen to be believed. Chongqing is in the early phase of light and heavy rail development.

A list of canceled nukes in the USA.

Looking down the list, TVA canceled (or held in indefinite suspension)

Watts Bar 1 & 2 (WB 1 was completed over 20 years after start. work just restarted on WB 2)
Repairs on Brown's Ferry 1 (down for about 20 years).
Yellow Creek 1 & 2
Phipps Bend 1 & 2
Hartsville A1, A2, B1, B2
Clinch River
Bellefonte 1 & 2 (Bellefonte 1 was 88% complete)


If one is attempting to calculate the EROEI of a planned nuclear plant in the US or elsewhere in the year 2009, should one plug in data 30 years old, more or less, or just consider problems anticipated in 2010 and beyond?

One should include a large, but unknowable, % risk that a partially built nuke will be abandoned.

One should also include a near certainty (say 80%) of major cost overruns. The management & engineering experience base for building new nukes in the USA (outside TVA) is dead, retired or "been out of the game" for over two decades (perhaps three) and last worked in a junior capacity. Same is true of the regulators.

Watts Bar & Browns Ferry did supply some US experience (finishing abandoned nukes, repairing & rebuilding a heavily damaged nuke).

Said risks will decline if the USA is building less than a handful of new nukes (say 2, 3 or 4) and will be much larger if we try to build 9 or more new nukes at once. (DoE study says practical max is eight new nukes, DoE study ignores Murphy IMHO).

I think that we need massive gov't subsidies to build, to completion, 5 or 6 new nukes in the USA just to get going again and give us the option, in 2020, of a larger scale nuclear build out.

Nuke is not economic today. See how many new nukes are under construction and the price old nukes bring on the open market.

Best Hopes for a few new US nukes,


Many excellent topics, and I found this one to be especially so;

"How Can We Switch From GDP to Well-Being as a Goal"

Other metrics include;

- Human Development Index
- Genuine Progress Indicator
- Green Gross Domestic Product
- Gross National Happiness

I'd vote for this.

There are lots of things that are valuable, but which can't be readily bought and sold. Barbie dolls can be bought and sold; going into the back yard to play with your kid cannot (or not very easily, anyway). Fertilizers and pesticides can be easily marketed; knowledge of the soil is harder. Cars can be easily marketed, walking, bicycling, or transportation reduction strategies are harder to market. Drugs and surgery can be easily marketed; personal exercise and a more vegetarian diet are harder to market. So what do we have today? Lots of Barbie dolls, fertilizers, pesticides, cars, drugs, and surgery; but not very much playing with kids, knowledge of the soil, walking, bicycling, exercise, or eating vegetarian.

This "commoditization" is what is driving the endless growth of the economy until it destroys everything. It's actually the root of the problem, and if we could deal with it, we'd have the ability to deal with peak oil and everything else. If we don't deal with it, though, then there will be this huge economic force pushing against whatever changes we advocate. We could advocate policies X, Y, and Z to deal with peak oil, but at best that will fix the oil situation but leave everything else racing out of control down the path to destruction. The peak oil policies which are closest to poliltical and economic reality are, alas, things such as electric cars and enhanced oil recovery; things like "not driving as much" and cooperative strategies like electrified rail are harder to market.

We certainly need culture change that is sustainable, but unless it has economic support, commoditization will always be there, this huge economic force always pushing against us. That's because you can make money through commodities, but there's not nearly as much money in sustainable culture change.

"Commoditization creates a hierarchy of value where what is most readily marketable receives the largest share of society's resources. As a result, what gets pruned from our existence is very much of what matters in life."

Privileged Goods by Jack Manno, p. 121-122.


"Is There a Trend Towards Female Farmers and Male Carpenters/Engineers?- Does it Have Staying Power?"

Interestingly enough there may be such a trend towards female farmers. At least in the organic/sustainable farming subject areas.

Well over half of the applicants for my farm worker position were female. From talking to other farmers similar to myself this is also the case for them.

I have also had one of the long term organic growers (20 yrs of so) state that the female workers are superior to the male ones. But she could be finding that to be the case due to the boys being more difficult to control :)

I do notice that at the farmers markets the farms emphasize sending a higher percentage of the female workers to the market to sell. From my experience, when my wife is there helping me we have better sales. I, like most men, am not particularly good at talking recipes and that does help sales.

As to the staying power of such things I think that at the small farm scale it can be no other way. Far more than with industrial scale farming, small scale farming must orient towards the family operated structure.


So did someone answer the question: "Are humans smarter than yeast?" Who won?

Joking aside, I'd like to see discussion of the "canaries in the coal mine" to watch out for that might confirm which doomer scenario is most likely.

There are plenty of anecdotal observations: less snow than usual; empty shops in the mall; farmers not planting; whatever.

The point is, if you think global warming is the main problem, then snow volumes are interesting; if you think financial collapse is the most likely, then empty malls are an important indicator. And so on.

So what I'm really looking for is a set of headings of potential scenarios: Peak Oil, Financial Collapse, Famine, ... ; and under them the indicator events which, if they happen, you would have to agree that particular scenario is looking more likely.

"So did someone answer the question: "Are humans smarter than yeast?" Who won?"

Humans are infested with yeast.
Yeast R Us.

The point is, if you think global warming is the main problem, then snow volumes are interesting; if you think financial collapse is the most likely, then empty malls are an important indicator. And so on.

It's a false dichotomy, imo. We aren't going to solve any of the major problems we have in isolation. That said, the one of the problems that has an ultimate terminus of no or nearly no humans left is AGW. So I work backwards from that. If CO2 350ppm is accurate and 6C for doubling is accurate, our time is exceedingly short. But time is already short for the economic crisis, so it's a good fit and a huge opportunity at the end of the day.

Canaries? They're already dead. All of them. IMO, they were Arctic melt > methane emissions > Antarctic melt AND economic crisis > socialized (fascist?) bailout > complacent public response AND Obama = lesser war hawk BuCheney on economy > anemic response to AGW.


I'm thinking it was a rhetorical question.


Joking aside, I'd like to see discussion of the "canaries in the coal mine" to watch out for that might confirm which doomer scenario is most likely.

There are plenty of anecdotal observations: less snow than usual; empty shops in the mall; farmers not planting; whatever.

I'm not seeing any significant change in traffic volumes, nor shoppers, but perhaps there is a small, unnoticed shift from 'corner stores' to the large shopping centres/malls. Perhaps I'm just looking harder or something, but there seems to be more vacant shops around town these days, even though the shoppers at the major shopping centres seem to be just as active.

Given the proven poor response of both local, state, and federal governments in the United States to relatively small catastrophes like Rita, Katrina, and Ike in terms of both time and resources deployed, coupled with the increasing indebtedness of the United States generally, why do people still believe that if a major catastrophe that involved multiple states occurred that government will come in and take care of all their needs?

Given the above observations, why do people believe that government could respond to a multiple state catastrophe in anything less than a three months of ramp up time?

Given the above observations, why do people not have at least 90 days of food, water, personal medicines, plus the equipment necessary to survive an outage of services of at least 90 days?

Given the above observations, what would be your own estimation of the possibility of a total social breakdown in at least some of those areas given that people were going hungry for a period longer than a month?

Given the above observations, what have you done to ensure for the safety and well-being of yourself and those immediately around you?

Given the above observations, what have you done to ensure for the safety and well-being of yourself and those immediately around you?

Nothing. :( I procrastinate. I have finally gottern off my arse and am having plans drawn up for a house. It'll be Insulated for the climate, and have space for bulk food storage. It'll also have Solar Hot water, at least a small PV system, and I'm eschewing upright fridge/freezers in favour of the 'chest' variety. Despite all that, the personal security of my loved ones is my main concern.


I want to personally thank you for your work pointing my attention to the importance of net energy. I understand your argument that oil is a particularly high net energy source of energy. I don't understand your view that a decline in the net energy of energy sources has to be accompanied by a decline in net energy supply to society.

There is plenty of wind, solar, and geothermal energy available just for starters. Civilization is becoming increasingly more energy intensive. I see this as a good thing. We have a short period of universe time to learn how to get off of planet earth, or we will perish along with it. The root source of power is more knowledge than energy. We need to focus on advancing our knowledge of how to control nature. Preaching energy conservation and self sufficiency does not advance the cause of building knowledge. It encourages the next generation to reduce expectations and to live with less. What kind of vision is that?

Your thoughts?

I don't speak for Nate, I am just curious about why you believe the things you do.

There is plenty of wind, solar, and geothermal energy available just for starters.

Have you looked at the amounts of energy these contribute to to society vs fossil fuels? How do we go about transitioning between the two? Do we have enough time to complete this transition before fossil fuels begin to terminally decline?

Civilization is becoming increasingly more energy intensive. I see this as a good thing. We have a short period of universe time to learn how to get off of planet earth, or we will perish along with it.

Conversely, we have, in a very short time, opened up a Pandora's box of problems with all of this energy-intensiveness. (Climate change, pollution, species loss, ecosystem destruction, nuclear war, etc.) Do you mean to suggest that we must destroy the planet so that we can escape that same destruction? Where are we going to escape too when our planet is destroyed? How is this going to be accomplished? Is a functioning biosphere important to achieving these ends?

The root source of power is more knowledge than energy.

Can you expand on what you mean by this?

We need to focus on advancing our knowledge of how to control nature.

Wouldn't it be more effective to use our knowledge to work WITH nature rather than against it?

Preaching energy conservation and self sufficiency does not advance the cause of building knowledge.

Sure it does, it's just not the sort of knowledge that you think is important. Why do you think "advancing knowledge" is so important?

It encourages the next generation to reduce expectations and to live with less. What kind of vision is that?

Perhaps a realistic one? While it isn't as exciting and bright as the future the last generation was promised, it's still a future worth living.

It encourages the next generation to reduce expectations and to live with less.

There are something like 7 billion humans here now on the planet Today.

The oil used worldwide today is something like a cubic mile of crude oil.

However much oil may be left in the ground, scattered among a million small pockets of varying quality, be it near the surface or miles under seafloor, it can only be pumped out at some fixed speed.

If the next generation - call it 10 billion - will all be driving SUVs, we'll need maybe a cubic mile-and-a-quarter of oil. much much more.

But we can't get much much more - we'll actually have much much less, as the supergiant oil fields run out.

It gets worse: to fabricate enough windmills, the copper wires, rare-earth magnets, concrete, installation and access roads to hilltops, new transformers and lines and pylons, new cars and batteries, and so on and on and on, would require us to divert a really good chunk or Current, Today's oil into this infrastrucure build-out.
But to do this would involve reducing people's oil consumption by say a half, Today.

Reducing people's oil consumption by a half, Today, would make oil prices explode, and seriously crash (as in the movie 'mad max') the world economic system.

So we have painted ourselves into a corner.

We don't have the spare resources today to build infrastructure for tomorrow.

Energy-wise, worldwide, we are just going to bleed to death.

A possible alternative would be nuclear annihilation of the entire human populations of one of :

  • united states of america
  • india
  • china
  • europe

That ought to free up enough spare resources.


I agree with your general sentiments J but I'll also add a point that I’m sure you’re as aware as most here but is easy to loose sight of when we chat about “our” future problems. Many ten’s of millions already live in the energy impoverished world you describe. Many of the current 7 billion don’t have to wait to suffer in that FutureWorld. The origin of many of our global hell holes is varied of course. But lack of affordable energy is a common base line. Even if most of their political/social problems were to disappear tomorrow they would still exist in a relatively energy-devoid world. In fact, a big part of our economy is based upon keeping these folks starving for oil. A while back I worked in a small W African country that was exporting billions of $’s of oil to the EU every month. Given a population of only 500,000, technically they are one of the richest countries PER CAPITA on the planet. Yet 95%+ of the population lived in severe poverty. TPTB, who ruled with an iron fist, lived very well of course.

Granted, it difficult to imagine the US dropping to this level but, as you point out, between diminishing resources and growing populations, someone will be pushed down the food chain. The big question remains: will this coming pain be shared equally by the industrialized countries or will some “be more equal” then others?

Do youremember Bio-Dome where we failed to live in a isolated environment?
Would my hand survive by itself in the wild?
Most of me does not carry my genes. I am a walking ecology.

We would join the poor wondering flying saucers forever doomed to perv on planets that are still alive.
If we fell to temptation and land, both us and the planet would disolve into goo.

This is not first prize.

"Effects of insufficient infrastructure funding on public health, especially sanitation and pollution/contamination."

I put forth the opinion that no matter how expensive fossil fuels become they will always cost less than the alternatives. The most inconvienent truth is all forms of energy will take a larger percentage of income as the years go by.

what is wisdom and should we seek it out?

How about "What can we take from how past generations (pre oil) dealt with different issues and how can we adapt and apply that knowledge to solve some of the up coming issues/maintain the highest quality of life?"

"What are some issues that past generations weren't able to resolve, will they still be issues and if so, how can we resolve them?"

“What various initiatives can the Peak Oil Community take individual or as a group to increase the mitigation of the negative impacts?”

"What are the various services that we need/want to ensure the survival of (ex. health care and eduction) and how do we go about doing this?"

A more optimistic question, "What are the various benefits or positive impacts that this transition will create? How can we enhance and ensure these benefits?"

Explaining resource depletion (to a spouse or anyone else).

It is sad that not everyone carries a basic understanding of resource depletion, imo it should be right up there with stuff like multiplication tables. Anyway, it is really simple to explain. Every ore and mineral we take out of the ground is mined at a certain percentage. It is a percentage of how much iron or copper or gobbledegook we get for every ton of dirt we have to lift. For every mine it is different, but you can add up all the data from all the mines in the world, and get a very good approximation of what the world in general is producing.

Take iron for a most basic example. I dont know off the top of my head how many pounds of iron we get out of a ton of dirt in the average iron mine in Michigan or Australia today, but I know the number is shrinking. One day, we will have to dig up so many tons of dirt to get one ton of iron that we wont be able to do it any more. Why? Because it takes iron to build the machines that dig the dirt. It takes iron to build the ships, trucks, and railcars to transport it. When you reach a point where all the mined iron has to go to building the infrastructure to mine the iron, you can safely say the resource is depleted. Meanwhile, there will be 400 morons telling you that there's still 400 years of iron or coal or copper or whatever still in the ground. So are they lying? Well, yeah, obviously. Maybe we'll replace iron with carbon fibers. Who knows? But even if that happens, it doesnt change much. We still need energy to make the carbon fibers, perhaps even a great deal more than what it takes to make the steel we eventually need to replace? Where does our energy come from? It is primarily mined out of the ground in much the same way as iron and copper. And it is subject to the same very measurable depletion characteristics.

It would be immensely helpful to have an economic discussion about the effect that different prices of oil for various periods of time will have on our systems and services. For example to determine, what effect $100 a barrel will have over a 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, 1 year period will cause a X employment rates, failure of business in X industries at X %, types of failure of government or reduced services, etc. Then do it again at $150, $200, $250 a barrel. The hope would be to create a better understanding of what impacts would occur, signposts for the community to watch for and better methods to mitigate. It may also create a better understanding of how fast things would move. Obviously, this could be quite an intensive analysis but even kept on a more basic level may generate a great deal of interesting lines of thought and information.

Along this same lines, last year there were discussions about $500 a barrel but I seriously question whether this type of price would ever see the light of day when you take it into socio-economics. It would be interesting to theorize about what the top end that a barrel of oil may go.

Another topic that would prove interesting is to talk about expected impacts from people in the middle of the cornopican and doomers camps. Many within the community suggest that the cornopican and doomer expectations are in the minority but they also state that we will experience major, dramatic shifts. This type of language is even in the IEA WEO 2008 Ex. Summary; however, these shifts are never really identified.

I would also like to see it identified what type of period most people are expecting for things to happen in and come to some sort of consensus of when that time period would start. If in fact, peak oil is in the review mirror and Simmons and many others believe then the length of time has to have start at or prior to peak oil and counted forward. So the clock would have already started and if things don't get truly messy until 2012/2013, for example, that would be a 5-8 year period or so depending on how you want to count it. Would this be considered slow or a rapid decline/descent and we simply aren't seeing it because we are in the early stages?

It might also be useful to create some basic categories/areas that peak oil should progress through and at what rate. Each different type of area and location will go through process at different times and speeds depending on their resources, skills and the size of their population. There will be a point were we can't have reasonable global discussions about outcomes as different areas turn on to different branches of a tree so to speak. For example, we know that the third world countries and those that are already struggling will be impacted first and in some ways the most heavily, while Europe’s situation will be quite different (representing a different branch of the tree and very different experience).


The hope would be to create a better understanding of what impacts would occur

I like your thoughts and would like to see two additional questions asked as a prelude to the analysis you are suggesting:

1. How can we better understand the nature of the problem?
2. What are the impediments to a critical mass of people understanding the problem and having a willingness to take action?

1. One method for problem analysis is to separate symptoms and causes. Symptoms should be readily observable and relatively non-controversial. Causes are usually more speculative and often require rigorous scrutiny and testing to validate.

The symptoms, in this case, are simple:
- Fossil fuels are finite and the reserves of conventional oil supplies, in particular, are known to be inadequate to satisfy consumption projections for the rest of this century.
- All industrialized countries are highly dependent upon a stable supply of oil that is near or above current production levels. Within this century, possibly very soon, shrinkage of that supply has a strong potential to destabilize world economies. Undoubtedly, a destabilization of world economies could easily lead to all manners of human hardship and suffering.
- Alternatives measures to offset a declining oil supply require significant lead time and commitment of resources. Little of which is currently occurring.

The causes for this impending problem are complicated but very likely include:
- To a lesser degree, are the deliberate disinformation efforts by parties that have a vested interest in maintaining dependency on oil and other fossil fuels. Lesser, because the distortions are so obvious.
- To a much larger degree, an underlying cause is the public’s willingness to ignore the obvious facts of oil depletion. It is this desire to continue with “Business as Usual” despite the fact that they (or their children) may suffer dire consequences. The primary cause appears to be the “blind spot” portrayed in a recent documentary about oil depletion – a massive psychological delusion that renders people unable to recognize the problem and deal with it effectively.

2. So, why do the majority of the people have this inability to understand such an obvious problem? What is their impediment to rational thinking? The assertion here is that early childhood indoctrination of religious beliefs is the main culprit. The overwhelming majority of US citizens self identify as believing in a god that oversees their daily life; who occasionally intervenes in daily affairs when petitioned by prayer; and who will administer various details of a person’s afterlife. The fallacy of these beliefs is obvious to anyone who subjects these ideas to scientific scrutiny. The insidious part of these beliefs is the manner in which they are propagated – small children have these irrational “faith” ideas pounded into their developing brains with the explicit assertion that these beliefs are factually “True”. Once a child has their reasoning capacity corrupted by these illogical assertions, they are then scarred for life in regard to reasoning about major issues. It is also very easy for authority figures to manipulate this “faith” in a “higher authority” to disseminate all sorts of falsehoods as “true” (because god says they are true). Authorities today include the catholic pope, corporate leaders, government officials, media personalities, and others. Most of these parties have little incentive to candidly discuss the consequences of declining oil and its counterpart: human over-population. So, when these parties ignore or downplay the real planetary issues by manipulating the levers of belief systems, the general public defers because they have such limited ability for independent critical thinking – that skill set has been crippled by religious indoctrination.

So, what can be done to counteract this impediment to rational thought? Perhaps nothing. It is truly an overwhelming task, and only small measures can be undertaken at this time. We can vigorously support legislation that promotes “Separation of Church and State”. We can fight against crackpot ideas like “intelligent design” in educational curriculum. We can promote the “Scientific Method” (see discussion and urge more scientific rigor in educational curriculum. We should fight against all “faith based” government programs. We can attempt to create awareness that critical thinking skills are more important than discovering more oil. Ideally, religious indoctrination of children should be punishable as child abuse – however, this is highly unlikely for many years to come. Perhaps efforts like these will eventually help with a return to rationality.

Thanks Bicycle Dave.

Certainly some of the problem for some individuals is based in religious doctrine/ideology. Indeed, many ministers could turn around the scenario you suggest and turn the religious community into a powerful force to find solutions if they so chose rather being reliant on prayer. Some of this is already occurring with the environmental movement and it is something that I am considering carefully experimenting with in my own community in regard to Peak. If you think about it, it is already a strong cohesive group that works toward larger humanitarian goals in a positive manner. Seems like an ideal group to make an impact into your local community with a positive force.

However, I would suggest a very strong reason for many to ignore/deny the issue of Peak. Many corporations and government officials would rather not accept it because it is to disruptive to both their profits and the organization itself that sustains both their lifestyle and self esteem. Additionally, preparing to mitigate the problems caused by Peak and Climate Change is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many organizations. The above is what I have seen and heard from discussions with various execs on Bay Street. The reactions are quite consistent.

At least in Canada, we don't have a strong enough leader (vs. politician) to accomplish bringing the masses together in a positive way to confront the issue. As we saw last fall, talking Peak (Stephen Dion did in the last election with out using the "Peak" word) without enough strength and charisma is a losing proposition. Only leaders like JFK, Martin Luther King or Churchill could accomplish this.

This seems to function on a personal level as well. The data has to be seen, analyzed and drawing conclusions from prior to allowing any emotion into it. If emotion is inserted to soon, it derails the process. This is when the individual becomes overwhelmed and unable to reach a real conclusion or be able to take effective action. The emotions and implications become to threatening to have rational reaction to the data. All the messages that they have previously received and their self esteem being at threat leaving a gulf of denial. I mention it as a threat to self esteem because rather than reaching for the dream that we have all been conditioned to want and reach for, it means probably falling from the economic and status level that they have achieved. All very threatening to their identity, dreams and wealth. Most do not have the skills, time or financing to implement a mitigation strategy that over ride these feelings.

I see this to some extent in the Peak Community as well. Individuals in the community do reach a point of acceptance but I wonder how much of the arguing between the different outcomes is as much to do with how quickly that individual can prepare vs. the number of variables that will alter the outcomes. By enlarge, I am seeing a pattern that many see the timing and speed that Peak will occur in being in sink with what they are able to prepare for. Might be a very informative survey, Nate, Gail?

In my opinion and experience, denial is primarly about psychological defense mechanisms that is protection of self interest, status and wealth. To make it harder for individuals to accept is the number of messages that they are receiving to the contrary vs. the few that indicate serious problems. The biggest impediment to the masses accepting it is actually not having the governments, corporations and media calling "a spade a spade". As we have shown in the past during war time, we can do tremendous things in very little time with great sacrifice so it isn't to late.

For the most part, I have to agree with what you said about the what impending problems being complicated by. However, I would say that it isn't a vest interests maintaining dependency on oil but in wealth and status. Also, that it isn't a psychological delusion but a psychological defense mechanisms that renders people unable to recognize the problem and deal effectively with it.

I would suggest that it isn't separation of "church and state" that is the issue but a lack of separation between "corporations and state". The system is suppose to work that the corporations innovate and push boundaries but that the state acts as an intermediary between the corporations and the peoples interests. The state is primarily supporting corporations to the exclusion of the peoples interests. For example, state allowing aggregate extraction into a community’s aquifer, self policing of industries (particularly high polluting and natural resource industries (aggregate, tar sands)), not acknowledging Peaks and Limits. Also, the number of lobbyists with their donations and meetings. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn't be experience the issues around energy consumption, consumerism, the economic crisis (deregulation of the financial sector) or the environmental crisis.

At any rate, just my thoughts.