Happy Fourth (Birthday that is)

Happy Birthday, Gentle Readers, to you, Prof Goose, Nate, Gail and all those who form The Oil Drum community. It has been four years now since he who then was known only as Prof Goose, and I – Heading Out – decided to launch this site, as a way of both bringing attention to, and trying to explain some of the background behind what is happening to our Energy Supply. And, as a Birthday gift, hopefully you will enjoy a little history of the site, which you will find below the fold.

When we started the focus was only on oil (hence the name) – though we thought we might get some mileage out of The Washington Monthly if we called it “The Oil Drum”, since Kevin Drum then wrote their Political Animal column. (And it worked – he made a nice comment and brought us a bunch of readers that helped us build an audience). Kyle was, from the beginning the brains behind the organization, not only creating the site and doing all the management, but also writing posts, sending out links and drawing attention to the site from all those other sites, such as The Energy Bulletin that gave us the early publicity that helped us grow. Me, I just wrote.

The introductory story actually compresses time a little, since in the early days it was Kyle that did the site work, and it was not until after Ianqui joined us in June, 2005 after Prof had invited her to give a guest post, that she in turn brought in Super G, the following month. And he has managed the structure of the site since. It would never have worked without him.

As the Prof said early in the game

One of the goals HO and I have for this blog is to build a community that builds on itself with knowledge and purpose with regard to this ridiculously complex and salient topic. I would like to think we're moving toward that goal.

It happened more quickly than either he or I expected, again largely because of his behind the scenes work in promotion of the site. It is one of the unrecognized, and just darn hard and time consuming things, to market a new site, and he persisted, and should be given all the credit for bringing us the readership, and the interest, as quickly as he did. After 3 months we had already reached 1400 visits and 2300 page views a day.

We were helped, later that first year, with the arrival of Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina (which brought more readers than the site could handle) and Rita. By being able to couple some of the dynamics of those events, and the threats they posed to GOM oil and gas supplies, Kyle again managed to crank the machine to up our readership. We also, in one of those unexpected but great developments started getting comments, and then guest posts from some of the folks (particularly Bubba) who were involved in trying to get the situation back under control.

These hurricane “diaries” are one of the things that the site was meant to do. It created a daily record of what was going on through some of the events that really affected oil supply, and the record is still there so that you can go back and browse over what we thought was happening, and what really was, at the time. (And what we might therefore go through “next time.”)

Dave Cohen showed up with a guest post that first summer, and became a steady contributor for eighteen months, before moving on. And thus we began the transition from the pair of us into the site that you see today, and the underlying community that supports it.

All-in-all we have had 35 folk write regular pieces (as opposed to single guest posts). Most start as did Stuart Staniford who joined us after Super G, with a guest post, that Kyle lined up, and then started contributing regularly. Stuart wrote a total of 205 posts, the last in August of 2008. Other than Kyle and myself, he has been the most prolific and popular of the writers of individual pieces. Except, that is for Leanan, who far surpassed us all, and has become the rock, around which the whole site revolves. The Drumbeat itself began on May 13th, 2006, and Leanan began getting the credit for it on January 26th, 2007. Hers has been a stalwart effort, and in toasting the site she surely deserves a separate raising of the glasses on her own. Thanks again, Leanan.

The site grew from its initial location in America, to include daughter sites at home and abroad, (as shown on the panel on the right in current form). If I leave the history of those until next year, it will allow me another post then, but the wealth of information that has flowed to us, and the sterling graphs and insights from such folks as Chris, Euan, Jerome, Rembrandt and Luis, has helped keep all of us more aware of the different issues.

There are more than enough statistics to keep me writing this, and more folk to thank, than a reasonable post length will allow. But one thing I have learned is that we do need to keep some remarks short. So, I’ll resort to the speaker’s trick and do the “in conclusion” remark.

Having now met many of you, through ASPO and the other meetings that are now quite common, but once were rare, hopefully I will get to chat with more of you in meetings of the future. If not, it was a privilege to be part of the group, which I expect will continue to grow as this whole problem set gets worse.

Total number of posts on the site (up until the end of yesterday) was 3,778. There have been posts by 22 or more individuals in a month, instead of just the two of us when it began. We have thus, I believe, met that initial goal of the Prof’s. There have been regular contributors to the comments too many to mention, but even when we disagreed, that was why we are here, so keep writing there please, it’s how we all learn.

I wish you all future success, and a “Happy Birthday.”

Oil Price per barrel March 22nd 2005: 48.75$....2009 approx 42.91$


Would not have predicted that...had someone they would be mocked.

March 20, 2009, closing price for WTI was $51.06, roughly the same as when The Oil Drum started.

Interestingly, the dire predictions of $20 or $25 oil seem to have faded away. The OPEC cuts, Peak Oil declines, and Export Land Model declines seem to be keeping a floor under prices. Oilsands construction has stopped, line-of-credit addicts in the conventional oil biz are in trouble, cash-flow-drilling-only junior petes are okay, and anyone who drills for natural gas is an insane optimist. What a long strange trip it's been!

Dave, its really good to have both you and Kyle posting here today. Though some may point out that the risks of energy decline are ever-present and perhaps outweigh the importance of TOD's fourth birthday.

Anyway, its been a great pleasure knowing you and meeting you on at least 2 occasions - and I hope / assume we will meet again.

I have said on a number of occasions that you are the oldest and wisest member of our team - and I believe this is at least half correct:-)

Unexpected events will happen and TOD will leave a mark on the world and world events that you and Kyle do not yet anticipate.


I don't think that people realize how much of a group effort this site is.

The staff participate in a Yahoo Group on which we discuss everything from upcoming posts, and ideas we have for possible posts, to Drumbeat stories and potential Drumbeat stories, to the financial crisis to climate change. Through cross pollination, we are able to come up with ideas and posts that would not be possible otherwise.

HO has been, and continues to be an important part of this group, sending us his ideas, even when he is traveling in Europe this past week.

There are a lot of things members of The Oil Drum Staff have different views on, from the likely future course for Russian natural gas, to how helpful additional more wind production will be, to what precisely is the cause of the changes in climate we are seeing. We learn from each other on all of these things, finding it necessary to go back and think a little more deeply about our presuppositions. Is the story for any of these quite as clear-cut as we were originally assuming? What are we forgetting?

Exactly who is doing what on The Oil Drum gradually evolves. With many on the staff, it is possible for some to step forward for a time, while others take time off. We have been blessed with a diverse staff, and we are thankful for the contributions made by each one.

I really like the posters on this site. They have references! To the real world!

Congrats TOD and thanks for all your remarkable efforts and not least all I've learnt from you. Cheers !
Q : HTSHTF by now?

I think the financial crisis is a manifestation of peak oil. Things will never go back to the way they were, and are likely to go very significantly downhill. The financial system could, in fact, completely come unglued because one cannot pay back debt with interest without growth. With oil in decline, one cannot keep up adequate growth.

So we are in the beginning stages of TSHTF.

No. The financial crisis is a manifestation of terrible lending policies finally reaching critical mass. PO is real and a definite problem but below trace content in the current situation. The worst thing of this is demand decline dropped prices enough to discourage what was looking like promising private, public and corporate investment in alternative energy. Remember, its not the rate we produce oil, but the market price that affects growth. Short term...any way. To blow the amount of money on stimulus as we are ....can someone do the math? How much PV how many windmills? How many new nuke plants? How much electric rail conversion?

Thank you Oilrig Medic. Some people are starting to figure out what a scam this "collapse" has been, and your other point concerning the loss of money to the felony addicted vultures we call "hedge fund" managers and CEO's that could have been used to develop the MASSIVE new generation of renewables ("we can't, it isn't cost feasable...compared to what, giving it to the bankers to hide in European tax protected accounts? Sickening fraud, and although some are waking up, most American people remain blind to it...yeah, they love having "peak oil" and "resource depletion" as cover for their crimes against humanity.


Actually, I would modify that slightly: I think it is mainly a manifestation of global peak PER CAPITA energy. We hit that a couple of decades ago, and have been heading downhill ever since. That should have been the moment when we started shifting into a managed decline mode. Instead, the political and financial elites decided to goose the global economy, leading to the past couple of decades of "funny money growth" (which is where Oilrig medic pretty much has it right). We've now hit the limits of funny money growth, so it is all downhill from here. Buckle up, it will be quite an "exciting" ride!

once wages went flat in late 1970s, and were replaced by productivity gains, the average citizen had to borrow to maintain consumption (on average). Profit orgy, but large disparity in where it went. Debt, credit, easy money, etc. were socio-political response to plateau in per capita energy combined with expansion of wealth inequality - they had to keep money easy for masses otherwise social democracy wouldn't hold. I think we are in deep trouble.

Congratulations all of you. Amid the dross of the www, TOD stands out.
If I have one observation - emphatically not a criticism - it is that the posts here might not engage Mrs Average. I'm thinking about the lady who does the office admin where I work - salt of the earth, generous to a fault, but unconscious of our precarious hold on modern life. So this is a plea for soundbites. Is there a lake, reservoir or river that could be used as a comparator to our total extractable oil endowment? How many 'football fields' of ocean, collecting energy over how many years, equates to a tank of gas? How many horses would it take to pull my car for a year, and how much grass would it take to feed them? How much forest would I need to be self sufficient in biomass-derived energy for powering my life? How long would it take a wind turbine on my roof to cook a chicken?
Any takers?

"Relationships are primary, everything else is derivative." I don't know the attribution but it sums up TOD. The complete political spectrum is represented and because of the relationships that develop and are nurtured, all manner of discussion and opinions are possible. Thank you all for your contributions and for enriching my life.

Thanks for checking in, Heading Out.

I think you have succeeded in your mission. An aware community exists where it would not have previously.

Thank you to all the other TOD folks who have donated their time.

I remember when Gail was new, and Robert. Jeff Vail. The personalities are great.

I like the grumpy guys, like Dave and Ron.

And I especially appreciate your style, HO. I don't recall your background, you've shared it in the past. I think of it, in my mind, as an "English (British ??) style" of writing, and thinking. Easy to read, logical, and complete. I like Tainter and Catton and Reg Morrison for similar reasons. I appreciate an argument that is logical and thorough. Whatever the topic, it becomes readable and thus the content is conveyed.

WestTexas by now must be able to make his points in his sleep, and probably does. ELM and ELP are awesome summaries of where we're at and what to do. I have seriously ELP'd and I'm grateful for the advice.

And Totonelia - minds like that need a place like this.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

If the TOD'ers need anything from us - please ask!

Thanks for the kind comments. I am actually on my way to the ancestral home in Scotland (my grandfather was the village blacksmith in St John's town of Dalry) today, albeit a little delayed by Virgin Rail , so I couldn't be here to respond sooner.

For all those not technically astute with oil field technology, here is a post by HO with a list of posts on oil field technology. See the end of the post. There are also many other tutorials by HO on other energy technology issues.

IMO these were HO’s greatest contributions to TOD.

A happy forth birthday to TOD and thanks to all contributors and commentor’s at TOD