Interview with Colin Campbell

Photojournalist Neil Jackson has recently conducted an interview with Dr. Colin Campbell, founder and Honorary Chairman of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO). The interview is reproduced here in full.

Neil Jackson: Why is peak oil important?

Colin Campbell: Peak Oil is a turning point for mankind. It is a big subject.

In short, the population only doubled over the first 17 centuries of the last millennium. But then came coal followed by oil and gas, and the population increased six-fold. These new energy sources, especially oil, the easiest, allowed the rapid expansion of industry, transport, trade and agriculture allowing the economy to expand greatly. It was accompanied by the growth of financial capital as banks lent more than they had on deposit, confident that Tomorrow's Expansion was collateral for Today's Debt.

But now we face the dawn of the Second Half of the Age of Oil when supply declines from natural depletion, meaning that debt goes bad (as is already happening) and the economy contracts. Today's oil supply support 6.7 billion people, but by 2050 the supply will be enough to support no more than about 2.5 billion in their present way of life. So the challenges of using less and finding other energy sources is great.

The transition threatens to be a time of great tension : there are already tribal wars in Africa, disturbances in many places including rioting in Greece. Urban conditions will become especially difficult.

Looming lifestyle changes, derelict housing. Ibrox, Glasgow, UK

NJ: What has been your personal reaction to peak oil?

CC: I happened to have worked in the oil industry and I was not alone in being fully aware of depletion for a long time. But geologists are passive people, given to describing rather than changing things. We can describe the Cretaceous but not change it.

NJ: How are you or your family preparing?

CC: I am too old to do much, but live modestly in an Irish village. My wife however is actively trying to introduce allotments here by which people can feed themselves. We do have a solar panel on the roof, providing hot water from about May to October. If the sun doesn't shine I don't wash.

NJ: Do you think the media are playing the issue down? Has there been much coverage of the issue in the mainstream media? Any ideas as to why?

CC: The media is now taking a serious interest : a trail of journalists and TV crews have been here over the past few years. The BBC and no less than Korean TV was here recently. There are of course vested interests (BP for example) keen to suppress Peak Oil but I think the word is out.

NJ: How about governments? Are they playing the issue down, and if so, what examples can you give? Do you think any governments are approaching Peak Oil correctly? Who?

CC: The position of governments is changing. They are heavily influenced by classical economics and badly advised by such practitioners for whom finding oil is just a matter of investment.

The International Energy Agency is the OECD watchdog, although in practice more of a consumers lobby (not wanting OPEC to know its strength). Ten years ago internally it recognised that peak oil would arrive around 2010, but issued no more than a coded message. Now as Peak Oil arrives it changes its tune, for fear of losing credibility, and begins to admit to it under the slogan let's leave oil before it leaves us.

I happen to know the Irish Minister, who understands the position perfectly and is trying to prepare, but he tells me that the political obstacles are very great. It is promising that Obama has renewables high on his agenda and seems to recognise that the attempted conquest of Iraq's oil failed. Oil discovery in Britain peaked in the 1970s and should have alerted the government that the inevitable corresponding peak of production would follow, but Mrs Thatcher believed in the free market, and exploited the resources as fast as possible, which accelerated depletion.

Britain exported its surplus at low prices but now faces rising imports at high prices. Russia now seems to be aware of its power by controlling Europe's gas supply, and will likely try to conserve what is left for its own use rather than export, which makes sense. It is a big subject, and does not exactly give one much confidence in government.

NJ: It is sometimes said that there are billions of barrels of oil reserves locked up in Canada’s tar sands. Can you say anything about these reserves with respect to peak oil? What are the challenges faced when bringing this oil to market?

CC: The resource in the ground of tarsand in Canada and elsewhere is huge, but extraction is slow and costly, yielding a low or even negative net energy return. My guess is that oil prices in the future will range in the $50-100 range as higher prices would dampen demand by economic recession. If so this is a constraint on developing tarsands (some projects are said to be viable only at $90+) ... and indeed restrain the development of renewable energy).

Poverty and the end of suburbia. Benchill, Manchester, UK

NJ: The discovery of oil peaked some 40 years ago – how much oil are we discovering now and what potential is there for further discoveries--new, significant discoveries? Does the Arctic represent another Saudi Arabia? How about the Antarctic?

CC: It is difficult to get good information on recent discovery, but my best estimate is that it is running in the 5-10 billion barrel a year range. The accessible world has now been thoroughly explored, such that all the major productive provinces and large fields within them have been found.

Attention now turns to the deepwater and Polar regions. I think that the main deepwater areas have also already been found : they depend on very exceptional geological conditions as most of the oceans are definitely non-prospective. I do not entertain great hopes for the Polar regions because I think they are generally deficient in effective source rock, and that seal integrity has been impaired by vertical movements of the crust due to the weight of fluctuating ice caps.

There are a few freak occurrences, such as Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, but generally Polar seems to be a gas-prone domain, with sniffs of encouragement that eventually disappoint. It is unlikely to have any material impact on Peak Oil.

NJ: How familiar do you think the senior staff of Western oil majors are with the concept of peak oil? Do they see it as a serious problem either for their business or the wider global economy?

CC: In earlier years, major oil companies did tend to be run by people with exploration experience, for whom peak oil has long been evident (Harry Warman once Exploration Manager of BP was one of the first to publish on it), but now most are run by financiers and engineers, who lack the deeper resource insights. But generally I think they understand.

The Seven major companies are now reduced to four by merger, which is a sign of contraction, and they are selling off subsidiary refineries and marketing chains, evidently recognising that falling supply will give downstream over-capacity.

But remember that the job of managers is to sing to the Stock Market to protect their shareholders' interests under the present system whereby the merits of a firm dividend have surrendered to speculative movements on the Market, which is largely a public relations exercise, as these brokers can have little real understanding of the businesses in which that take positions ("investment" is hardly the word). It is simply not the job of oil company managers to concern themselves with global issues. But that said they do begin to hint and half admit to the obvious truth : Total and Chevron are probably the most forthright, with BP being the least.

NJ: How does oil form, when did it form, where does it form - what does this tell us about the likelihood of finding significant new oil in the middle of the Atlantic... or in the Arctic?

CC: The bulk of the world's oil was formed under special conditions of global warming 90 and 150 million years ago.

Algae proliferated in warm sunlit tropical waters, and the hot surface water prevented normal circulation such that stagnant anoxic conditions occurred at depth. The algal organic remains were accordingly preserved in rifts. On burial to about 2000 meters, it was cooked enough to be converted into oil, which then began to move upwards. Much escaped or was dissipated, but some was trapped at the top of geological structures (arch-like anticlines or against faults).

In addition to these two main epochs there were other local occurrences of little global significance. Naturally, the older the source-rock the greater the chance of loss over geological time.

The crash of supermarket culture. Ibrox, Glasgow, UK

NJ: What is your opinion on reserve growth?"

CC: Assessing the size of an oilfield early in its life poses no particular scientific challenge, although it is naturally subject to a degree of uncertainty. Reporting its size is another matter.

The oil companies were subject to strict Stock Exchange rules designed to prevent fraudulent exaggeration while smiling on under-reporting as commercial prudence. Accordingly the major companies reported only as much as they needed to deliver a satisfactory financial outcome. The resulting upward revisions gave a comforting but misleading image of reserve growth.

Those days are however substantially over as the giant fields offering the main scope for upward revision mature. OPEC for its part greatly exaggerated in the 1980s when they were vying with each other for quota based on what they reported as reserves. The industry has developed various technologies (steam, nitrogen, CO2 injection and horizontal drilling plus sophisticated seismic to map the reservoirs in detail) which can increase the recovery, and hence give reserve growth. But the scope for doing so could easily have been foreseen early in the life of the field, even if it was not normal to report it.

NJ: At the ASPO meeting after the Barcelona conference you were talking about retiring from the newsletter at the end of 2008 - and after around 1000 items. The future plan was for individual national ASPO chapters to produce newsletters, or submit items for someone else to correlate. Is that still going ahead?

CC: Yes, I am a bit undecided about the future of the ASPO Newsletter. Obviously I can't keep doing it for ever, and also the main message has been delivered, so I find myself touching more and more on political subjects on which I lack any expertise.

ASPO has evolved as a loose organisation lacking any normal management or cohesion or rules, but that is a good thing as the different entities can do whatever is appropriate and possible in their own countries. I suppose in one sense the Newsletter does hold them together giving a certain common purpose.

One model might be to rotate the overall direction (including the newsletter), but in practice I doubt if that will happen. In one sense its mission has been accomplished as dealing with life in the Second Half of the Oil Age when everything is in decline calls for very different approaches.

NJ: Are we progressing towards implementing technologies to utilize alternative energy sources at a fast enough rate to prevent an economic collapse, or at least to minimize the impact the advent of Peak Oil is having/will have on the global economy?

CC: I doubt that renewable energies will ever replace oil and gas sufficiently to maintain the past order of things or still less allow economic growth to continue. They are of course greatly needed for the surviving communities.

My own preference is tidal energy to tap the massive regular lateral flows of water. Apparently they can build funnel-like walls on the sea bed forcing the tides to speed up through the constriction, and turn a rotor, generating electricity. But apparently such schemes did not compete with cheap oil and gas so far.

There is of course massive scope for using less energy : turning off all those loudspeakers and TV screens in public places would help.

NJ: What effect do the new technologies have on the projections for when production will peak?

CC: I don't think new technologies will have any impact on the date of peak, which I estimate to have been passed in 2008 ("all liquids"), but they can of course ameliorate the subsequent decline. I think most of the necessary technologies are already well known, so the issue is more about applying them than inventing a magic wand.

NJ: There is a lot of debate about why oil prices were so high during this summer, why they've dropped so quickly since then. What is the explanation for this? Were high prices due to "speculation" as many have argued or was it supply and demand, or both, or something else?

CC: I think that Regular Conventional oil peaked in 2005 and prices began to rise, although the shortfall was partly made up by costly tarsands and deepwater production. The rising price trend attracted the interest of the traders who started buying futures and so forth. It might also have made sense for the industry to keep the tanks full, watching them appreciate in value.

But eventually the rising price had an adverse impact on the real economy and the shrewd traders started to unload, selling short on the futures market. The industry too might have started draining its tanks.

But perhaps more important was the flood of petrodollars that the high prices delivered to the governments and royal families of the Middle East, where it still costs $10-15 to produce oil. They probably sent the surplus to western banks who promptly loaned it out on ever less sure collateral. The petrodollars were not really money in the sense of representing work or barter, but simply profiteering from shortage.

The whole flimsy financial edifice has now crashed, and some of the sillier governments are now pumping yet more fictional money into the system to encourage new consumption. Such policies may briefly succeed, but will only make the subsequent crash worse.

We enter a new world, as the principal energy that drove the anomalous past two centuries heads into decline from natural depletion. This is not necessarily a doomsday message. I have known many simple people in different parts of the world who smiled and laughed not being part of the consumer society.

There are encouraging signs. A BBC film crew who was here recently told me that they had become so convinced of the Peak Oil issue, which they had studied to make their programme, that they had decided to quit the BBC and buy a small farm in the west of England on which to build a simple sustainable future. That was most encouraging, I thought.

The end of the road for one petrol station. Near Derby, UK

Photojournalist Neil's slideshow, which looks in part at Peak Oil, can be viewed here.

One of the issues Dr. Campbell mentions is that if the purpose of a periodical is to forecast peak oil, once peak oil has arrived, its purpose has been met. This is an issue for all of the ASPO organizations.

For The Oil Drum, we are talking about energy and our future, so the issue is not quite the same. Nevertheless, when it is clear that peak oil is here, it becomes necessary rethink our focus, and make certain we are looking at the correct issues.

One issue is how we should go forward from here, both collectively and individually.

Another issue is the track oil, gas, and other energy sources are on (in quantity and price), and their likely future tracks.

Another issue is the connection to the financial picture. There are several different aspects of this--varying from what actually happened in the past, to what is theoretically expected, to what we should do now, to match our financial system with our future resource base.

As you point out, staying relevant and useful is an important topic for all organizations involved in peak oil awareness raising. Dmitri Orlov makes that same point in his talks:

"I think I prefer remaining just a tourist, because I have learned from experience – luckily, from other people's experience – that being a superpower collapse predictor is not a good career choice. I learned that by observing what happened to the people who successfully predicted the collapse of the USSR. Do you know who Andrei Amalrik is? See, my point exactly. He successfully predicted the collapse of the USSR [but you've never heard of him]."
Essential Dmitri Orlov

As you point out there is still valuable work to be done tracking oil (and other energy) on the way down and the Campfire series also extends TOD's relevance.

But will your readership soon be consumed by the needs of everyday living? Not entirely, of course, but perhaps mostly.

Andre's question of:

But will your readership soon be consumed by the needs of everyday living? Not entirely, of course, but perhaps mostly.

is given a whole different perspective if the wording is changed to:

But will your USEFUL WRITERSHIP soon be consumed by the needs of everyday living?

On the downslope of the energy curve there will be a strong desire for information on how to adapt successfully. But only a tiny percentage of those individuals who are adapting successfully are likely to be:
1. skilled presenters of information
2. with time to write their stories
3. and TOD members

Creating and living a different lifestyle is hard work that takes much time and emotional energy, likely leaving little desire to document it for sharing with others. Perhaps some TOD members could take on the task of reporting on the methods and ideas of those they notice transistioning well?
* Hopefully with some moderation on the reader comments to avoid excessive demoralizing tearing apart of the pioneer's ideas. Such treatment just reduces the pool of those willing to share later. An example that pops to mind is how much grief one Campfire writer got over mentioning the use of a bread machine...

I doubt that Peak Oil became clear to the greater public and to the politicians. The recession will create the illusion that lack of demand drove down not only consumption, but production also. The world is now producing 4 millon barrels less than last year, that gives enough leeway for 3 or 4 years of apparent production growth until hitting the geological restraints of the peak again. Widespread recognition of peak oil might be as late as 2012 or beyond. That would mean many years lost that could have been used for prevention of the worst.

Conclusion: The word of Peak Oik still has to be spread for quite a couple of years.

The Campfire approach of course has been covered on other websites -, LATOC, frugalsquirrels, etc. Does Mother Earth News have a forum? Copious amounts of discussion on self-sufficiency is out there, each site having members who bring particular specialties to the table. It would be great to collate all this info somehow, but seeing how it took unsolicited volunteer effort to provide a simple index for this site I don't know if anyone will step up to the plate soon. Where'd that index go anyway, André?

It's still around, being updated slowly in the background:
Best of the Oil Drum Index

westexasfanclub says,
"I doubt that Peak Oil became clear to the greater public and to the politicians."

That may be true if you are talking in terms of "peak oil" per se, but peak oil has an ally: Hysteria concerning global warming. I use the word hysteria intentionally, as the press and the global warming concerned are simply coming off the rails and burying a great deal of the media that the inteligentsia and the intellectuals see most (CNBC, PBS, C-SPAN's book TV, etc.)in the most horrifying stories concerning the drowning of whole nations as they go under the sea like Atlantis under the waves. I live in central Kentucky, and they almost had me believing we will soon be ocean front property until I regained some control of my senses! :-)

This creates an interesting double edged sword for those who want to see fossil fuel consumption come down over time:
-The peak oil crowd say it must come down because the supply is simply not available.
-The global warming crowd say that even if it is available it cannot be used because it will fry the earth.

Thus, game, set, match, if you accept these two arguments (and many folks on TOD accept both, and more folks are joining them daily, including the media). Saudi Arabia's deep concern that their product will be essentially outlawed in the upcoming years seems to have been very astute. We have already seen this in the OECD nations involving coal, where permitting for a coal fired plant is becoming so difficult that peak coal consumption has probably already occurred...jury is still out on India and China and other developing nations) Always remember that what people want, or THINK they want matters a great deal more than the technology.


While I agree that there has been a lot of hysteria about climate change, that doesn't make me a skeptic. It is a real issue that must be reckoned with. I'm interested in the transition/permaculture approach that considers the multiple issues including peak oil, climate change, population, land use, etc, together, avoiding one dimensional solutions.

Game, set maybe but the match goes on.

Bottom line, for me it makes no sense to propose solutions that don't incorporate all the converging crises. It's the nexus of our time.

Regarding peak coal, where economics, politics and other above ground factors are concerned, isn't that akin to "peak lite?"

Hi Sterling925,

approach that considers the multiple issues including peak oil, climate change, population, land use, etc, together, avoiding one dimensional solutions...for me it makes no sense to propose solutions that don't incorporate all the converging crises

I strongly support your comment. And, I would add the important variables like the increased use of coal, nuclear, wind, solar, recession, depression, etc. And, all kinds of feedback loops.

I think we need a modeling effort like the ones being done for the Human Genome Project. I am frequently puzzled by peak oil predictions that seem one dimensional.

If I really believed that the peak was now or in the very near future, I would take some pretty drastic steps to prepare for this difficult time. But, I just not sure that the predictions being make in circles like TOD are a fair assessment of future events - I worry about bias clouding the research.

I need to make some important decisions for our family - the old car needs replacement, various energy improvements for our house are needed, investment choices, travel to Europe, etc. As we are folks of limited financial resources, we can't do everything - we need to make decisions that may well result in unplesant family hardships. We would like to be reasonably informed regarding the options for the decisions facing us.

So, the question is: how do we get valid scientific research and opinion regarding the supply of natural resources like oil and gas. How do we know what to expect in the next few years?

PO might not be felt for several years by folks wandering about the USA. I would think that a barrel of oil would be over $100 in the next few months. But, it could just as easily go to $10 if there is a large scalce disruption of some sort that destroys demand.

Some of us feel that the Nat. Academy of Sci. is needed to do a full-blown study about Peak Oil.

Stirling, I just hope we don't go 'peak beer' too soon.

I honestly hope you are right, ThatsItImout. But my concerns about the recognition of Peak Oil level with those about climate change. The actual economical situation hinders both efforts: The economic slowdown already reduces CO2 output and will make cost intensive measures like CO2 sequestration less attractive. Add sinking average global temperatures in the last couple of years (though statistically irrelevant), the sunspot minimum or a favorable hurricane season prediction etc... The critics of the greenhouse effect are already getting louder. (See Denninger today - my personal opinion here is totally discrepant to what he wrote)

'The critics of the greenhouse effect are already getting louder'.

westexasfanclub, I think it is very important not to confuse the greenhouse effect with global warming.

The former is a natural process produced by the interaction of solar energy and the Earth's atmosphere. Whereby, the amount of energy absorbed by the atmosphere is equal to the amount of of energy reflected back to space from the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth. This produces a natural temperature homoeostasis under which current life forms can exist.

The latter is an unnatural process induced by anthropogenic carbon, and other, greenhouse gas emissions. This results in an imbalance where the solar energy absorbed by the atmosphere is greater than the solar energy reflected back into space.

If you must use the term greenhouse effect it should be Anthropogenic induced greenhouse effect.

The world has gone into hothouse periods without anthropogenic forcings. This is because the GHE gets out of balance due to greater solar irradiance. It in no way implies homeostasis.


If you must use the term greenhouse effect it should be Anthropogenic induced greenhouse effect.

I don't care what causes it. If I don't get my breakfast I am not happy.

I would imagine that at least some of the people out there who are vocal about fossil fuel use and its effect on global warming are fully aware of the peak oil issue and I would not be surprised if there are people out there who just want to get the PO message across, and think that joining in with the people who seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions is a better way to do it than to join in with the peak oilers.

The critics of the greenhouse effect are already getting louder. (See Denninger today - my personal opinion here is totally discrepant to what he wrote)

Bend Over: Here It Comes (Carbon Taxes)

Here's the problem, bluntly:

The science is not settled on whether CO2 is in fact responsible for climate change, and if so, to what degree.

The problem with regulating "greenhouse gases" is that you produce them. You exhale CO2. So does your dog, your cat, and your fish.

CO2 is in fact essential for life on earth. The paradox is that without CO2 there would be no free O2 - that is, oxygen - for you to breathe. Green things - from algae to your lawn to trees in the back yard - in fact respire, taking in CO2 and emitting O2. The second paradox is that the higher the atmospheric CO2 content the faster those plants grow.

So if you're going to tax me for emitting CO2 from my tailpipe, then you must also credit me for having nearly 3/4 of an acre of lawn. See, that grass sequesters approximately 3 tons of CO2 per acre per year, according to the same scientists.

Jesus what a clod.

Denninger sure as hell hasn't got a grip on Climate Change or Peak Oil and their economic consequences (our economies are unlikely to continue BAU in either scenario, let alone both together), so it makes me wonder whether he really does understand finance - it looks to me like he doesn't understand the 'big picture' at all - no surprise though, the normal human response to such threats is denial!

In my experience failure to understand the interconnectedness of elements of our economies is a common failure of the so called 'experts' that advise our Governments and set policy, they understand a lot about a very little - the implication is they understand almost nothing about almost everything, beware, this explains a lot of what is happening today!

IMO in any proactive future personal plans assume the Government will be in denial until they can deny it no more - by then it will be too late to act to save yourself.

Hysteria concerning global warming.

Can you quantify this with some examples? I see no hysteria. I see only people pretending reality ain't reality.

SLR (Sea Level Rise)? Everyone cried that the IPCC IV was "hysterical," but it has turned out to be way too conservative. Current published estimates are for around 1.5 meters by the end of the century. Privately, some scientists fear more.

Arctic Sea Ice? The lowest numbers have all occurred in the last five or six years. The heat is moving 900+ miles inland melting permafrost and forming thermokarst lakes. The number of such lakes is exploding. Methane emission readings are again rising. Methane seeps documented in Arctic waters. Lowest amount of multi-year sea ice this winter. If we have a warm, windy or stormy winter - or all of the above - you may see a new low. (Personally, I'm expecting a higher minimum than the last couple of years. Let's pray I'm right.)

Global temps? All ten warmest years have occurred since '98. (Again, privately, many scientists are starting to see +4C as unavoidable this century. That means devastation. Hysterical, eh?)

Antarctic? Widespread melting now documented.

Glaciers? Melting rapidly. Water problems starting to manifest.

Food? One word: Australia. Another word: drought.

And please keep in mind tipping points (bifurcations), which we have no way to anticipate. Much like Peak Oil, we won't be certain until we're past them. That's a very dangerous game to play with the massive force that is Nature. Remember: changes of 7C+ can happen in less than ten years.

Here's an article on a new paper on how GHG's help trigger tipping points.

These are all facts. If you ask me, the hysteria lies in the hysterics needed to pretend all is well by painting reality AS hysterics. Where is the hysteria? Specific examples with links, please.


I live in central Kentucky

That explains everything :-)

those who WANT to see fossil fuel consumption come down over time

It's not a matter of "want".
Little inconvenient facts, like law of conservation of mass and energy mandate that it WILL come down irrespective of what we "want".

This is the steep discount rate problem.
I find that I am always talking to other people's Limbic system.

They go "How is this effecting me here and now? Am I enjoying the process?" Grrrrrr.


Thanks for being ready to re-evaluate the mission. For now, it may be too early to declare we're past peak even though it seems likely. How would we know for sure anyway? Maybe 60 month decline? In any case, the TOD audience and contributors will continue to be interested in oil and other energy issues and the impacts on western internet culture and the world.

I'm betting it's going to get way more interesting in the next 2 or 3 years between Obama, Russia, China, Cantarell, massive debt, food challenges, water challenges, and the repressed republicans to name a few.

I think you are right. There is a lot going on of interest, all of it relating to energy and our future. With more energy, one can get around other problems--desalination, for example, to handle water problems.

The bit about algae forming oil in a eutrophic sea.

This might be our get-out-of-jail-free card.
The Science show on The Australian Broadcasting Corp. discussed genetically engineering algae (pond scum) to overproduce oils.

Here is our target.

In highly electrified nations on Earth, electrical consumption can average 1 kilowatt/person (or roughly 10 megawatt-hours per person per year.)[3]


I'll let Manchester and Derby speak for themselves. Is it really necessary to show a tiny speck of Glasgow as symbolic of the decline of urbanism etc. ? Ibrox is where Rangers football club play their matches and is not particularly derelict in the way this photo suggests. I didn't know reader of TOD required pictoral infills to allow them to make the imaginative jump from today's cornucopia to tomorrow's fossil-fuel depleted unknowns. The dereliction shown is a site of poverty not wholesale societal meltdown or is it now OK to rub the poor's faces in their old shit?
Have a nice day y'all!

... once peak oil has arrived, its purpose has been met. This is an issue for all of the ASPO organizations.

I happen to have the domain and if any of you wish to use it for some purpose useful to the community, I would gladly donate it. My email address is in my profile.

I'd like to think there are technical solutions that would allow us to keep our current lifestyle if we so chose (I understand there are some who think we'd be better off without such solutions on the grounds we'll just voraciously consume everything the way we have been doing). The two solutions that look the most capable of producing at least all the electrical power we would want (which doesn't directly address the issue of liquid fuels) are the LFTR ( and, based, as far as I can tell, on proven science, and the Polywell (, based on science that is not yet proven. The Polywell is being worked on (hopefully) by the US Navy, but I don't know if anyone is doing much to bring the LFTR to production.
I am just a layman, and would like to know whether others agree the LFTR should be brought to production ASAP, and what supporting evidence there is that could be sent to a politician to encourage them to do so? I know James Hansen endorses it in his open letter to Barack Obama (, and I've seen the Youtube videos by David LeBlanc etc. Do we have other super-scientists endorsing the LFTR, like say Robert Hirsch?

As we know, the BIG plant model for nukes is very inflexible, too slow to respond to rapidly changing conditions, requires massive long-term financing and thus excessive financial risk. Moreover, we need more than electricity - we also need heat for industry, chemical manufacture (ammonia, hydrogen, etc.), and even possibly district heating for commercial and residential properties. So, there is a huge potential market for semi-portable nuclear heat: small-scale, mass produced, truck/rail transportable modular reactors that are intrinsically safe. Smaller unit cost, small delay from order to delivery, economies of scale in mass production would revolutionize the industry. There are plenty of nuclear options, not just LFTR to support this. There are new designs in the wings by Hyperion Power (Uranium Hydride concept), Toshiba (the 4S), NuScale (modular LWR), Pebble-bed modular reactors, and more likely others too.

A nuclear salvation will come not from a specific reactor type as we are nowhere near resource limits and waste is more a political problem than a scientific / engineering problem. Rather, I think the answer to the question of nuclear savior lies in the regulatory regime. The current paradigm is to tie up any new reactor design in red tape such that it is almost impossible to innovate and so impossible for new companies to make a go of it. We need to have government policy SUPPORT nuclear innovation and the place to start would be to have regulators work to expedite approvals with ample funding and staff to support an applicant as much as possible, and a well funded government R & D apparatus working in the background to support it all. New designs should be capable of being certified without a massive multi-year, uncertain, budget-busting exercise in futility. If the lid is taken off so that American industry can innovate, then a revolution in the availability of low-cost, ubiquitous power units could be in hand and new global mass-market created, generating export revenue and jobs from a new industry. Mass produced micro-reactors vs. GW power plants could be to power generation as the PC vs. mainframe is to computing.

The posts about thorium reactors providing all the energy we could ever want to consume fail to provide us with a realistic timeframe for design, prototyping, assessment, piloting, manufacturing, and finally deployment in anything resembling significant capacity. It will be decades before this occurs, and Peak Oil will have devastated most economies by then, with little money available to build such reactors. I'm not anti-nuclear btw, though I also prefer putting our eggs in several baskets, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, for starters, as well as a number of energy efficiency and conservation methods.

I should say the reason to like the LFTR over the other designs is it's efficiency, in terms of power production, minimal use of uranium and minimal waste production; and for it's safety; all of which I presume is why James Hansen mentioned it and only one other design (IFRs, which I presume he mentioned because, like the LFTR, it produces less waste, and perhaps because it provides a way to consume existing stockpiles of fissile material including wastes that are not suitable for starting LFTRs).
I understand, from a layman's view, the issues of red-tape, but if one could show that here is a solution (or two, counting the IFR, or more, in complementary combination with other approaches taken on the grounds of not putting all one's eggs in one basket, which I believe James Hansen mentioned was a good and necessary outlook on finding alternative forms of energy production) that is feasible and attractive then I'd like to hope we could convince the politicians of the need to develop them on the grounds that it's a proposal for a complete solution for electrical energy.
I'm looking for a clear solution that a politician could understand. I'd like to think if we could present a clear solution we could convince politicians to go ahead before peak fossil fuels removes our access to energy needed to transition to renewable (or at least very long lasting) clean alternatives.
I figure if we can produce all the electricity we want then we can find ways to produce the other aspects of modern life, such as mentioned by Steve001: "heat for industry, chemical manufacture (ammonia, hydrogen, etc.), and even possibly district heating for commercial and residential properties".

"It will be decades before this occurs, and Peak Oil will have devastated most economies by then"

You need to consider peak water!

When world warming melts the mountain glaciers and mountain winter snow packs, the steady flow of ice fed rivers will stop. Fresh water provided by many of the world’s major rivers must be replaced with salt water desalination. I don’t know if wind and solar power can replace this massive supply of fresh water for farming and human consumption. But nuclear power can do it.

By the way, somebody should post on peak water. No water means no life.

I am glad that someone has finally mentioned this. Together with energy, overpopulation, environmental degradation/species extinction, and food, this is the 5th, and IMO, the most dangerous horseman.

I understand we are using the world in many unsustainable ways. It just seems to me that having plenty of electrical energy, being produced in a low impact way, is the first step forward, if we are not taking the stepping back process of Richard Heinberg's power down. If I understand it, the LFTR uses less water than most forms of power production. It does not require water cooling since a Brayton cycle gas turbine can be used to convert the reactor heat to energy.
There are plenty of things I did not mention in my question e.g. Food. My guess is we will be best to have more people working on farms doing organic farming, which I think is what Vandana Shiva thinks is the best way to get the most food with the least impact and the most conservation. If I understand what has happened over the last few years and decades, a lot of land is now owned by large agribusiness, and I have this image of an almost third world arrangement of large landowners and peasants, which is not desirable. The old model of small family farms seems much more appealing and I think that model, tied to the surrounding population along the lines of Community Supported Agriculture, could be quite pleasant.
There may not be enough lithium in the world for us all to have electric cars, or if there is, like with uranium, it might mean digging up more of the world than we should. But trains and streetcars can be run on electricity, and they worked in the past. The LFTR would provide the electricity in a clean fashion, and I think there must be solutions for the other aspects of a carbon free and environmental future too, without the need to greatly power down.
I guess my outlook is a little bit like this guy, except we've just got to pester the politicians for as long as it takes.

I’m suddenly very curious about the following:

“A BBC film crew who was here recently told me that they had become so convinced of the Peak Oil issue, which they had studied to make their programme, that they had decided to quit the BBC and buy a small farm in the west of England on which to build a simple sustainable future.”

Could this be the “A farm for the future” documentary team that included Rebecca Hosking who lurks on this very site?

Hi All; I'm the slideshow man, Neil Jackson. I'll gather all pertinent questions and offer them up to Dr C once this has had chance to run its course (unless he answers in this forum!)
Anyway, the main aim of my work is to raise awareness, and hopefully the link to the slideshow can be used by viewers to copy and paste into favourites for future reference. Peak oil is looked at from slide 117 onwards, current issues related to fuel security stretch from slides 73 to 93. You can, of course, look at the thing in its entirety.

Energy sources are dominant in these discussions, but we need to spend more time & effort on how we use energy from whatever source.

It is in everyones interest to make steady effort on replacing, extending, expanding capacity of railway lines. As this seems too big for individuals to contemplate, it is necessary to begin, one person at a time. Start with some reading: "ELECTRIC WATER" by Christopher C. Swan (New Society Press, 2007)gives view of renewable energy and railway infrastructure nicely joined.

The idea of riding out the Peaking Oil storm in isolation is simply a pipe dream. Individuals with wherewithal to believe they can insulate from a collapsing society are in for the rudest of awakenings. Gold is best left unused if you have it in a collapse; the moment you reveal it, you and your loved ones are targets. A better course of action is to work in your locale to establish the necessities of life: food, water, trades, resources, apprenticeship programs, and connectivity not dependent on foreign fuel or parts chain.

The railway is discussed in articles 374 & 1037. Thanks to Mr. Colin Campbell for including these modest pieces in his ASPO Newsletters 42 & 89, respectively. The railway is defined as "Second Dimension Surface TRansport Logistics Platform" in mid twentieth century military transportation manuals. Stand alone and apolitical attributes of railways maintain viability and recoverability after natural & manmade disasters. A railway link in your locale is primary "Guarantor of Societal & Commercial Cohesion".

It is not far-fetched to say the stability of the world is reliant on a stable and functioning US economy, even with a sharply reduced GNP scenario as Peaking Oil shall bring. It is important to see railway rehab as a worldwide requisite, to be sure. Considering US motor fuel demands, railway systems in the USA take on a high priority to extend overall world supplies of liquid petroleum energy.

To see the US past & present rail matrix in a map form, see "US Rail Map Atlas" from for this information. For a primer of ideak methodology of a regional railway matrix, see books on the Spreckels' "Pacific Electric Railway", the Southern California masterpiece of passenger & rail freight operations. Powered in large part by hydroelectricity, this cleanest of transport engineering delivered victuals, freight and necessities of life by night, moved passengers by the millions in day hours.

The recent "Museletters" from Richard Heinberg are helpful, and see his discussion of railway, as well as Jim Kunstler's railway suggestions.

Hi Tremain,

You brought me out of lurking, yes I think we're guilty as charged,
That's such a lovely thing for Colin to say, completely made our day.

Dr Campbell is a wonderful man, we hope to get back to see the Campbell's soon.( but this time without the cameras)
We promised we would, and we fully intend to keep that promise.



Hi Rebecca,

Thank you for clearing that up. Anyplans to do a key post in the campfire section? It would be facinating to learn what progress you have made at your farm & it would provide invaluable information to others trying to do follow in your footsteps.

Becca--I followed with interest the debates following your docu, regarding the realism of the practical details suggested therein. Your docu has created probably more questions than answers. We have to wonder to what extent those forest garden / perma practitioners are merely suffering from gamblers' delusion (like, my last ten bets all won so "it makes sense to" put all my dosh on the next one).
Was also baffled by your notion that you could not go back to using horses. And people say that chestnuts are poor producers in most of uk. And khaki campbells are not the easy that was suggested. Any follow-up hard experience on all this wd be much appreciated. Many over-enthusiasts have paid for their optimism with their lives.

What a coincidence! Several days ago I had started re-reading Colin Campbell's Oil Crisis. I urge all to read it, even though it's already 4-5 years old. It holds up very, very well.

Upthread Gail discusses TODs future in light of Campbell's discussion of ASPO. Here's my two cents as to a couple of things TOD could focus on:

1. How much of what is supplied by oil and other hydrocarbons can be replaced by alternatives? What will our energy budget be after the hydrocarbons are depleted?

2. Will the global production curve be symmetrical? Or will it be skewed to the right? The presumption so far has been that the production curve for individual fields has been a more or less symmetrical bell, and therefore the global curve will be also. I question that.

If I understand the post right, David Rutledge says it's amazing how production sticks to a normal curve.
Individual fields may decline precipitously, but new fields are found and produced in just enough numbers to bring the curve back to normal. We never get above the curve either, so the future of production is really constrained to a predictable path.

The thing is, sticking to the normal curve on the way up is one thing; sticking to it on the way down is another. We haven't done the downside yet, or no more than just started it anyway.

The US bell peaked in 1970(71?). It was a long ascent and is proving a long descent. Significant production still continues almost 40 years later. So there is no a priori reason the peak could not have been shifted right many years by intensified investment. But there was no reason to do this when there was cheaper oil elsewhere. Global production is different: there is no elsewhere. That's why I think global may differ from individual and regional curves.

If the global curve has been shifted to the right, and peak is more or less now, then URR estimates are too high and we'll pay with a steeper decline.

The standard curve (Deffeyes) is generated by:

P = Q' = Q(1-Q) (where Q' is dP/dt).

I've been playing with (on my TI-85)

Q' = Q(1-Q^n) where n=2,3, etc.

You get a right-shifted peak with a sharper dropoff.

I'm not a data cruncher and don't know if the actual numbers are noise-free enough to allow one to distinguish the two models by simply looking at points on the upside.

Individual fields may decline precipitously, but new fields are found and produced in just enough numbers to bring the curve back to normal.

Yes, but could it not also work the way I said above? I.e. the symmetry of the bell in individual and regional fields be produced by precisely the existence of new fields coming on?

I don't assert it -- I'm simply asking.


The difference between the symmetric and skewed bell on the upside alone is perhaps too subtle to be supported or refuted by noisy data.

(where Q' is dP/dt).

Oops! Q' is dQ/dt, P = Q' = dQ/dt

I can't really do maths. It looks vaguely like calculus, but it's decades since I was in school.
I'm an average citizen who wants to understand the problem and hopefully see some solutions that I can then pester a politician with.

Here is another link to Dave Rutledge's post, I think, in another form. - Calit2ube - "Hubbert's Peak and Climate Change - David Rutledge" - 1 hr 8 mins.

Sorry I couldn't really help.

There is a little math, but its really just about the shape of the production curve or graph. It looks like a bell, rising gently, then more steeply, then topping off and descending symmetrically, with the peak in the middle. I'm saying that -- possibly -- the curve for global production rises slower, but descends more quickly, so the the peak is shifted to the right. If that were the case, and we're peaking now, the we'd face a more rapid descent than were the bell symmetrical. I gave my reasons for suspecting it might be so.

Don't worry about the math. I'm was just hoping that someone who does like math and is a data cruncher to boot would take an interest and see if there is any way to check it out.

Small aside, since thus DB is looking a lot at the twin problems of energy and climate: when watching Rutledge's presentation and reading his work, keep two things in mind:

1. Coal reserves seem to be even less well known than oil reserves, so his URR's could be low.

2. His assumptions on climate sensitivity *are* low. That I guarantee you. The observed changes we are seeing are far beyond what models predict, yet those models use the conservative sensitivity assumptions Rutledge does.

I.e., even if coal reserves are lower than expected, sensitivity is higher. It's at best a wash, which means we are in deep poop regardless. 2C-4C already in the pipeline.


Those are good questions. I think it is important to consider costs when talking about replacing hydrocarbons with alternatives. With unlimited resources, we could theoretically do anything. The problem is that resources are not.

Regarding the second question, you may have seen my Adverse Scenario post. In it, I show this graph:

This is a potential scenario, if the debt unwind thoroughly destabilizes the world's financial system, so that international trade is thoroughly disrupted. I agree with you that more work needs to be done on this issue. Thinking that the distribution is symmetric could be quite misleading.

No, I missed that post. You're thinking even darker thoughts than me. :)

After going back an looking, maybe I did see it. But I wasn't thinking about it then. You're considering that factors external to geology might deform the bell (and that's seems very likely to me). I'm only thinking about the possibility that newer and cheaper fields symmetrized at least the US bell.

Bell curves only apply to individual wells, world production depends on the amount of investment in a number of wells, this agregate production is not a bell curve since the decision to drill a well is related to expectations of making a profit from oil production that consumers can afford to buy, ie: for the world economics, politics and other above ground things rule, not geology.

All things that humans exploit by 'mining' such as sea fish, coal, gas, oil, phosphorus etc. peak in production because the cheapest, 'low hanging', 'fruit' is produced first, the peak is caused by the production gradually becoming less and less affordable, (the costs of production rise faster than wages.)

Don't believe me? ... take the raw world crude oil production data and put it in an excel spread sheet and get your computer to draw a smoothing line through it.

Hint ... whatever the line is, it won't be anything like the first half of a bell curve - it will peak though and that is the important thing! All you can say about the post-peak future is that it won't be BAU!

You are being hopelessly optimistic, I know that most automobile manufactures are bring out EV and PHEV's in 2010-2011, but do you think that we are going to be able to switch to electric vehicles in just a few years? Of course if the US government took over GM, Chrysler and Ford, recalled all the retired auto-workers to train 5 million conscripted unemployed, put on 3 shifts a day/ 7 days a week and only produced Chevy Volts, in 3 years could possibly replace half the VMT by electric.

Would that be considered a hard crash? ;-) Well if such a scenario plays out I hope we have more time than that. However I doubt production could drop all the way just because of economic crash. Just as in the case of agriculture, production will be a top priority. Plus events are never as simple. I suspect it will be a slow decline that is eventually punctuated by a hard, painful crash. Maybe we will have time to begin mitigation. My $ 0.02


The point is that if we don't have currency that is worth anything, we won't be able to buy much. In such a scenario, I don't think there will be electric cars either (or electricity, for that matter).

I think it is easy to get too comfortable looking at a symmetric curve. We have no guarantee that the downside will look anything like the upside of the curve. As I keep saying, we have to have growth to keep the financial system going because society can't pay back debt with interest without growth. Another way of thinking about this is that you can't really borrow from the future, unless the future is better than today. If it is worse, or even level with today, the interest you pay will really kill you.

I was trying to show that you could be correctly predicting a drop in oil consumption due to substitution(by electricity) rather than economic depression.

"we won't be able to buy much".....from overseas?, the US's NAFTA partners currency will probably go down as well. Fortunately, just about everything needed for wind turbines (except rare earths for magnets) is or can be produced locally.

In depressions government spending doesn't cause inflation, the government only has to pay back face value of debt $US with interest not adjusted for by inflation( presently 0- 2.5%).

The hypothesis of no or very little future growth would be valid if we were at peak energy, instead of peak oil. It all comes back to successfully transitioning from 35% of energy from oil to 3% of energy from oil, and how long we have to do this. The 2008-09 recession has given the world another few years of flat or slowly declining oil output, but China may want a larger slice of that 70Million barrels/day. Their economy is still growing at 6% pa, so Chinese oil consumption will be rising over the next decade as 10M new vehicles per year are added. Lets hope they are successful in switching over to EV's.

We have no guarantee that the downside will look anything like the upside of the curve.

More to the point, this a classic example of where Nassim Taleb's fallacy of the Gaussian (from Black Swan book) comes into play. What if we have a nuclear WW III or an extinction size meteor hitting Earth? There will be a downside to the oil production curve. We simply don't know what it will look like. Let's hope it's Gaussian.

The symmetrical downside ignores the possibility (more like certainty) of various discontinuities intervening. I wouldn't call these black swans as they are not very black. Paralysis of the credit system (already happening). Demise of all the major currencies. Impossibility of non-catastrophically transitioning to a non-growth money system. Paralysis of energy and food markets. The transition to being a dime under budget to a dime over, hence lots of people and organisations becoming financially and functionally defunct.

I fail to see why Gail's "doomster" graph refuses to go below 20mbpd. (I guess she was just pulling her punch there.) I do guess that exporter countries (possessing sufficient refinery) could carry on a while after the importers had crashed, until such time as their need for some critical replacement parts is unfulfillable. That apart, for the reasons above I think the crashout graph that Nate once presented (but didn't endorse) is the most likely.

Campbell's Oil Crisis is an updated verson of The Coming Oil Crisis, published 12 years ago in 1997. I still remember the hassle I experienced ordering it from Petroconsultants (or perhaps Multi-Science Publishing Co) in the month after Campbell & Laherrère heralded this generation of peakists in the March 1998 Scientific American.

Campbell's book came 17 to 25 years after the previous most-significant titles in the neo-Malthusian library, Limits to Growth (1972), and Overshoot (1980). (I'm sure I'm overlooking some Pimentel thing I haven't read). I guess it was a happier time. Eleven years later, and I can't browse Amazon without being recommended a new handful of titles in the broad field of post-Club of Rome prognosticators.

Colin Campbell is the voice crying out warnings from the wilderness.

But the Gospel of Abundance has placated many of those who would be otherwise moved to action.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the "discovery" of oil I am trying to give presentations on the miraculous qualities of this natural resource, one which has been disrespected and carelessly consumed for decades.

I have some hope, yet few illusions, about America making the necessary preparations. Peak Oil is not a religious belief (and many have commented on it as if it were) and I admit I am certainly writing about it in that way. Peak Oil is just a fact, an event that will happen, like earthquakes, blooming flowers or ocean waves. As always, some people will make a bundle of money when it happens, and later become admired as cultural heroes.

Colin Campbell is one of my cultural heroes. Nevertheless, I think a more fiery spirit is yet to visit America: one who can deliver thunderous and graver warnings.

Kevin Walsh
Chicago Peak Oil

Such as who, Kevin?

I don't know, I really don't know- but a modern John the Baptist, a Kenneth Dahlberg type (if you know who he is) that can fire the public imagination.

I haven't given up on my neighbor Barack (I live in Hyde Park, but we have never met) and 4 years is a long time. Barack is intelligent, charismatic and articulate. More great things may yet come from the White House.


It will take much more than being "intelligent, charismatic and articulate" to save our Brothers and Sisters here in the USA. It will take B@lls, something the Momma's boy Obama, has not shown so far.

Only the most vicious, can afford to be the most gentle.

Mr. Campbell mentions that peak oil need not be a "doomsday message," and that he has "known many simple people in different parts of the world who smiled and laughed not being part of the consumer society."

It would be interesting to know which areas in the world Mr. Campbell believes will best weather the changes. Many areas in the world that are outside the 'consumer' culture are nonetheless in a very precarious situation, as in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Many people in rural parts of Latin America for example. There are vast areas with good soil, water and none industrial methods of crop cultivation.

And those areas are predicted to be getting quite dry by the end of this century.

Long-term planning <-- highly recommended


This recent TOD post is a very good example.

Associations for the Study of Peak Oil can still be very relevant post peak. Although there seems to be a sort of consensus building that we are now past peak, I am toying with the idea of trying to organize a group of think tank types in my neck of the woods. If Peak Oil is used as a premise, people approaching subjects like finance, industry, trade, tourism, agriculture, transport, energy, development and government in general, may well offer a more realistic, useful analysis of affairs. If leaders of government and industry barrel ahead with a cornucopian, business as usual approach, the results could be disastrous for the states that they lead or the businesses they are responsible for.

That is why, as one of the affected governed parties, I have attempted to bring the issue of Peak Oil to the attention to at least a couple of the members of my country's government. An organized group of respected, knowledgeable professionals in various fields, could provide advice and warnings if industry leaders or governments think of doing anything blatantly stupid. Some of the words, if not the actions of the new US president indicate that, some of the information coming from such groups might be influencing his administration.

Here's hoping for sound advice and sane action!

Alan from the islands

Very interesting to hear about Colin Campbell's thoughts on tidal energy.

Here in Scotland, there are great tidal flows about to be tapped where the north coast of mainland Scotland and the Orkney islands form a natural funnel to the tidal waters as the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea in the Pentland Firth.

Apparently, Scotland is on course to meet a target of 50% electricity generation from renewables by 2020 with 1.5GW of installed hydro and 1.5GW of installed onshore wind at present. Expansion of onshore and offshore wind and marine renewables will make up the remainder. Apparently the Pentland Firth can be tapped for many GW.

The good thing about tidal energy is that it is entirely predictable (unlike wind) and can provide a base load renewable generation capacity.

Renewable Ali.

Funding for the world’s largest wave farm, announced by the Scottish Executive, stands at just £4 million – less than a year’s wage for a typical Premier League football player

‘People just do not consider the UK to be a good place to invest in renewables.’

Jonathon Porritt, head of the Sustainable Development Commission
The Times, March 26, 2009

Where do your figures come from?

My understanding from attending the Energy Controversy lectures at Aberdeen Uni is that we will have a huge energy gap in Scotland (and the UK) by 2020 and tidal power will only provide a few percent of our requirements.

I'll sleep slightly easier if you are correct............

If you look at BWEA's web site, can see that in 2008,in Scotland, 678MW of new wind was submitted for approval, 1,537MW was approved, and 465MW was built. The problem with expanding wind energy is not enough transmission lines to England, looks like Scotland is going to have a good surplus of wind energy most of the time.

Listen to Professor Ian Bryden (University of Edinburgh) talk about this at (6 minutes in)



I am stunned to learn that wind is already providing more than 20% of Scotland's Electricity needs. I can't understand why this 'renewable' success story isn't being more effectively broadcast.

But Prof Brydon also states that the biggest barrier to development of wave and tidal energy is financial, if there were problems securing finance before May 2008 when I believe this interview was filmed, then they must be even greater now?

I also enjoyed the comment from the UK energy minister that we will still be burning fossil fuels in 100 years - mind you he didn't say at what level we would be using them.

We'll not be burning much UK produced fossil fuels in 10 years time - never mind 100 years time.

UK coal

UK oil

UK gas

Thanks for kicking us in the teeth with those graphs!
My MP has just replied that she has passed on my question below to uk chancellor Alastair Darling:

I notice that the government is seeking to restart growth of the economy.
This raises the question of whether that growth can be wisely intended to continue forever in the context of a finite planet.

I'd be most grateful if you could tell me, or enquire on my behalf, what is the government's reckoning of how much more growth there can be before planetary limits become overstretched, and what data and theories they are using to form that view.

If this news makes you feel optimistic about the future, read no further. If, however, you feel depressed after reading something like this, I recommend "Prescription for the Planet," by Tom Blees. Integral Fast Reactors, Boron powered cars, and a new energy democracy may lay in the decades ahead! According to Bruno Comby, founder of environmentalists for nuclear energy, this is the best book on sustainable development ever written!

RegardingColin Campbell's response to the following:

NJ: It is sometimes said that there are billions of barrels of oil reserves locked up in Canada’s tar sands. Can you say anything about these reserves with respect to peak oil? What are the challenges faced when bringing this oil to market?

CC: The resource in the ground of tarsand in Canada and elsewhere is huge, but extraction is slow and costly, yielding a low or even negative net energy return

Please see "EROI Update: Preliminary Results using Toe-to-Heel Air Injection "
In this post, EROIGuy and I looked at different approaches to evaluating the THAI process net energy return on the Petrobank MAY River 10,000BPD commercial permit application data. Consensus was to value the residual "stranded bitumen" at zero since it is for all practical purposes unrecoverable which results in an EROI of 56. As Nate comments,"From that perspective the 56:1 number is 'realistic', though from a wide boundary systems approach, it only appears that high because the input is 'free' (of such low quality it is costless)."

Colin Campbell's understanding of producing Tar Sands "extraction is slow and costly" is true for SAG-D however, THAI is half the CAPEX of SAG-D and greatly reduced OPEX with little NatGas consumed and net positive industrial quality water produced. Word is slow in getting out. I will copy Mr.Campbell on this comment.

Great Interview.

The concensus seems to be that our leaders will listen to learned advice and react accordingly. My experience of important events is that they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table - if you see the rest of my slideshow, I hopefully demonstrate that, despite events such as the Bosnian War played out nightly on our television screens, its self-interest and business as usual in the dumbed-down West.
Hi Becca - enjoyed the farming programme. Excellent images.

So, for us idiots, what are the final EROI and EROEI? Please include those sands that can't be recovered using THAI.


Dave--Appreciations for your article on toe-to-heel but I never saw a clear answer to the question of how fast or how much it could be scaled up. And I'd think that could be fairly crucial for how the oil/liquids graphs go in the future. Seems it just takes two wells (one horizontal) with the suction of the latter sufficing for steering the combustion area, so looks like it would be easy/cheap/fast to roll out.

Could that relieve the crunch of the next year or three and reinstate climate disaster as higher priority than energy crisis?

ccpo says amongst other myths- "antarctic ice melting" FACT - recent studies show East Antartica ( 80% of Antarctic ice cap) has thicker ice depth and growth in area of sea ice.
Oh a dollar for every failed forcast.

If you want to appear authoritative, it generally helps not to link to cybersquatter webpages.

Here is an article talking about the East Antarctic Ice Sheet growing.

Or if you're uncomfortable with New Scientist, here's one from the more popular media.

While the east sheet grows, the west sheet declines.

"On average, west Antarctica is losing more ice than the east is gaining," says Dr Ian Allison, head of the Australian Antarctic Division's ice, ocean, atmosphere and climate program.

So overall, the Antarctic ice sheets are melting. "FACT", as Coalman1 would say.

Oh, a dollar for every easily-debunked denier claim!

I mark your post, a D for "poor effort, student must work harder."

I'm new at trying links so I apologise on link .
In the 20/04/09 article in The Australian( Climate section) Dr Ian Allison said in total " sea ice losses in West Antarctica over the past 30 year had more than been offset by increases in the Ross Sea region, just one sector of East Antarctica"
Later he said - "Sea ice conditions have remained stable in Antarctica generally".

Later in general article- " Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia's Davis Station by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had maximum thickness of 1.89metres, its densest in 10years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67metres.

Be careful about selective quotations. I'm just being balanced in response to hysterical rhetoric by warming zealots.
Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

This article links Antarctic sea ice with ozone depletion:

Paper here for those with access:

I'm just being balanced in response to hysterical rhetoric by warming zealots.

You cannot claim balance when using a pejorative term like zealots. You prove yourself but a hypocrite.

Some points:

1. Overall Antarctic sea ice is not a major concern of climate scientists.

2. Antarctic sea ice around the Antarctic peninsula is because it is a strong signal of overall AGW given it reaches out away from the continent and is more exposed to the weather and climate of the rest of the planet.

3. All ice is not created equal, as is noted in #2. The losses in West Antarctica are are far more important than in East Antarctica, and models predict this imbalance, so it is hardly surprising or important if there is greater sea or land ice loss in West Antarctica. East Antarctica is more protected by the circumpolar winds, for one.

4. Overall ice mass is declining in Antarctica (Steig, et al.). This is a Very Big Deal as it is a good century ahead of time.

When you've something of interest and use to say, please do, but why waste everyone's time and bandwith with either incorrect or irrelevant data?

Oh, and regarding that "hysteria," perhaps you missed these posts from yesterday:

World will not meet 2C warming target, climate change experts agree

Guardian poll reveals almost nine out of 10 climate experts do not believe current political efforts will keep warming below 2C

How about all the natural observations, upon which the science is based? Or the ice cores? Or the Arctic sea ice? (Funny how none of you will touch that with a ten foot pole...)

EcoNuremberg, I'm tellin' ya.

Sea ice melting or building up won't cause sea level rise or fall.

What worries people is when the ice on land is going to melt, since that'll push up sea level.

It's quite possible for sea ice to increase while land ice (ice sheets) decrease. In fact, if a big chunk of ice falls off the land into the sea, voila, sea ice just increased! But that's not a good thing.

It's you who need to be careful about selective quotations. Mentioning sea ice without mentioning ice sheets or the overall climate is selective. It's like saying, "but it's rainy today, how can there be global warming?"

Sarcasm, like any other tone, is given as deserved. If you don't check links before you post them, either you think we're lazy and stupid and thus hold us in contempt, or you don't know what you're talking about and are making stuff up. Holding us in contempt will give you a response in kind; making stuff up is likewise not exactly deserving of great praise.

You need to research the issue before speaking on it, or if you've actually done it, you need to not assume your readers will all be lazy and stupid, and to demonstrate that wide-ranging knowledge.

I repeat-- My response to ccpo's original statement" Antarctic? Widespread melting now documented"
There is no widespread evidence based agreement on that statement. Not in New scientist or the latest British Antarctic Survey. They just conveniently linked sea ice growth to the ozone hole. Talk about affirmation bias. If as ccpo further states" Antarctic sea ice is not relevant to climate scientists" then why are observations of Arctic sea ice relevant?
I absolutely agree that it's the 4km thick land ice over the continent that counts. The jury is still out on that.

Is it any wonder denialists are so disdained? Is it really necessary to lie?

If as ccpo further states" Antarctic sea ice is not relevant to climate scientists" then why are observations of Arctic sea ice relevant?

Where did I say this? For god's sake, get some ethics. This is what I said:

1. Overall Antarctic sea ice is not a major concern of climate scientists.

Your addled quote - and you did use quotes, so cannot claim your twisting of my quote was unintentional - and what I actually said are not close to the same.

And with the additional context of:

2. Antarctic sea ice around the Antarctic peninsula is...

that is even more clear as I was contrasting the importance of two different bits of information. But you knew this.

You follow up with:

then why are observations of Arctic sea ice relevant?

Do you expect to be taken seriously when you state such a ridiculous question? Deniers will reveal their natures if you just give them enough rope.

As for Antarctic not experiencing melt? Good job shifting the goal post by changing the subject from Antarctica to East Antarctica. This is not honest debate technique.

I referred you to the research. Why try to infer it doesn't exist?



Post-publication, with supporting research

They just conveniently linked sea ice growth to the ozone hole. Talk about affirmation bias.

Really? No data involved in that? No checking? No positing? Why lie like this? They sat around playing poker, drunk on their asses and said, Hey, let's blame it on ozone? You are claiming they are intentionally misleading, i.e., lying. The bias is yours.

An old man's view ...

I guess it was the sixties when it became obvious to most thinking people that if one uses a finite crude oil commodity, it will at some time, run out. Duh!

At the time I was flying B-47s and we used about 10,000 pounds/hr at altitude and a normal 10 hour mission used about 120K @ 6.8 #/gal and that's not counting tanker fuel and most every flight had re-fueling. We sat on alert and just played with the idea of how many flights would it take to run out of fuel. The result was in the billions so no sweat. Of course if the cold war got hot (Cuba was getting pretty warm) and we were called to do our thing, it would be all over anyway. MAD!

Of course the 70s saw the Arab embargo and at that point we started to think about crude oil a little more earnest. Also about that time seeing the price going up without one damn thing to do about it, peak oil became obvious. If there is a shortage, the price will go up. Duh! Again.

Shortly thereafter came onto the scene the dynamic dual, Campbell writing in his matter of fact way and Laherrère backing up with the mathematics from Switzerland. I studied those two and wrote some local fiction about twenty-twenty which was a popular TV program at the time but I used it as the year 2020. These stories were about a life without fuels. Before the white man came here to the Reno area there were about 3000 indians from Tahoe and along the Truckee River to Pyramid Lake. When everyone leaves here (to California of course) there will be resources for about 3000 again (down from 350,000). At that point (mid to late 90's) I became a doomer and have seen nothing to change my mind.

So here we are over ten years later and the light crude level is further down the dipstick.

IMHO it is foolish to try to forecast the future with charts or graphs because there are still guys sitting on alert in missile silos and aircraft. KSA could boil over tomorrow. If methane bubbles up from the tundra at a high rate, no one will truly expect the full consequences. If the whole world financials go into the toilet; no mon no fun. Etc. Etc. Right now there are more pterodactyl sized black swans flying near on the horizon than I have ever imagined.

I don’t believe talk ever did much that is why I am planting a prototype garden this year to find out first hand what will grow in this high desert soil and next year we will have over 60 (4 X 12) raised vegetable beds as a community project (if the community wants to participate) on some land we don’t use.

If you are just talking the talk we will miss you, but not very much.

Lynford - any chance you can review the slideshow and email me on the link at the end of it? I'd like to discuss some issues.

BTW: The summer of 2008 was NOT a shortage except for a few places with hurricane disruption. There was never a line or a 10 gallon maximum or fist fights at the pumps. The price was something else ... but not a shortage. Now the 70's Arab embargo was a shortage that caught us unprepared. We are now only slightly better prepared for a short duration fuel shortage.

When there is a little shortage gas will cost twice the minimum wage but a serious shortage will mean only whoever has the most money will be able to buy it. Can you immagine an auction at the pumps for the next five gallons? The station owner is represented at the pump by an armed guard to make sure things don't get out of hand.

Dear Mr. Campbell,
You said:

CC: It is difficult to get good information on recent discovery, but my best estimate is that it is running in the 5-10 billion barrel a year range. The accessible world has now been thoroughly explored, such that all the major productive provinces and large fields within them have been found.

You would be right, if said "The accessible world has now been thoroughly explored" by conventional exploration methods. However conventional methods and technologies had, have and will have extremely low success rate. World drilling rate about 25% or one discovery in four drilled wildcats. Huge number of commercial field were missed during exploration. I want to say:
The accessible world has now been thoroughly badly explored.
Principal of Conventional methods do not change for about 100 years. Now there is a new technology for oil/gas detection providing above three discoveries in four wildcats. See: .
With new technology (patented invention US 7,330,790) we could make up to three times more oil and gas discoveries than when using conventional technology. The technology uses new phenomenon which allows to find new fields, as well as missed fields.
Best regards
Andrey Berg, Ph.D
San Jacinto, USA

Sadly, peak oil has nothing to do with how much oil has or has not been discovered - it has to do with the costs of producing at a profit, and the affordability, of what has been discovered.

There are still literally trillions of barrels of already known oil in the world waitng to be produced, the problem is it currently can't be produced at a price where the world can afford to buy ever more each year.

You clearly don't understand the mechanism of peak oil! ... or are deliberately attempting to confuse people?

What is "mechanism of peak oil"? I believed it is theoretical conception only. How mistaken I was.
Deliberately attempting to confuse people.

People have to know truth:
1. The accessile world has been explored badly.
2. As you wrote: There are still literally trillions of barrels of already known oil in the world waitng to be produced.....
3. There are trillions of barrels of still undiscovered fields.
4. There are proven new technology for field discovery providing three discovery in four driled wildcats (instead one in four).

What is "mechanism of peak oil"? I believed it is theoretical conception only. How mistaken I was.

Argumentative, then false. Peak Oil is a theory like gravity is a theory. Unless you know how to make oil from natural geological processes at even a fraction of the rate we use it, it's not a theory. You either a. don't understand what peak is or b. don't understand what a theory is.

Deliberately attempting to confuse people.


People have to know truth:
1. The accessile world has been explored badly.

Quantify this.

2. As you wrote: There are still literally trillions of barrels of already known oil in the world waitng to be produced.....

Trillions, with an "s?" Of economically recoverable crude? AND on a time line that would mitigate Peak oil? Talk about misleading.

3. There are trillions of barrels of still undiscovered fields.

If they're undiscovered, you must be psychic. How does misleading people help?

4. There are proven new technology for field discovery providing three discovery in four driled wildcats (instead one in four).

That's a blanket statement. Show us the facts: total number of wells drilled in the last ten years vs. successful wells.


True, new technology could probably detect a five gallon can at 1000 or more feet but would it be worth going after even if you knew you could hit it on the first try?

I believe that is where Dr Campbell is coming from.

Most all the significant fields have been found. The less than significant fields go dry very quickly. Even some of the big ones are subject to rapid depletion.


Simple logic dictates that you are correct in your assumption that many a large number of commercial fields may have been missed using traditional discovery methods, however are you really suggesting that there are significant large fields that have been missed. Lets define significant. Any Ghawar, Sugar Loaf, Cantarell type feilds left to find?


Please see:
Oil technology conference WOGO-2009 Mumbai, May, 2009
In angenda there is presentation:

"Asia’s Energy Revolution – Asia’s oil supply and its new role in setting the price – Dr. Michael R Smith, CEO Energyfiles Ltd, U.K."

I believe Dr. Smith will answer your question better me.