Peak Oil and Mass Communication

The following is a guest essay on the role of media in expanding awareness of Peak Oil related issues by Kurt Cobb. Kurt speaks and writes frequently on energy and the environment and is featured on many sites including Energy Bulletin and EV World. His personal weblog is Resource Insights.

If you remember one thing about mass communication, remember this: Effective mass communication is sloganeering. Unfortunately, this truism makes mass communication a poor fit for a complex issue such as peak oil.

The main assumption behind much of the communication alerting people to the risks associated with world peak oil production is as follows: If people just understood the facts, they would take appropriate action. There are two problems with this assumption. First, facts by themselves do not explain their implications, their importance or their connections with other facts. Second, there are countless examples of human societies and individuals ignoring ample warnings of danger.

My experience is that many more people are now aware of the peak oil problem than just two years ago. Skyrocketing oil prices last year helped to propel the issue into mainstream publications and broadcasts. But even before the historic price rise, most people I met acknowledged that society's oil dependence is a problem. Most of them also shared a belief that we have all the necessary solutions to that problem.

Therein lies a knotty obstacle. To convince such people that something other than benign neglect is necessary to address oil dependence, one needs not only to explain peak oil (which is hard enough to do), but also to debunk the myriad silver bullets that are currently on offer: ethanol, hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and unconventional sources of oil such as tar sands and oil shale. It is one thing to go through this process with a friend, family member, colleague or even a small group gathered to hear your case. It is quite another to attempt it with a mass audience.

It is certainly an appropriate strategy to take up an issue as complicated as peak oil with opinion leaders and policymakers. Convincing these groups of the risks of peak oil can in theory have far more impact than convincing well-meaning citizens who may not necessarily be networked with elites in society or with policymakers. For those who have tried this avenue, if they've gotten any favorable response at all, they have probably heard something that goes like this: "Yes, I understand how serious the problem is. But I can't even go near this issue until the public is better informed and ready to accept the difficult task of addressing it." Like the current White House resident, they are saying, "Make me do it!"

Which brings us back to the conundrum of peak oil and mass communication. Peak oil isn't one problem; it is a set of highly interdependent issues including oil demand, technological change, oil and natural gas exploration and infrastructure investment, consumer preferences, alternative energy, unconventional oil resources, energy policy, climate change policy, geopolitics and so many others. Sometimes peak oil is a stand-in for ideas about limits to growth, population and sustainability. Not everyone who utters the words peak oil has the same concepts and concerns in mind. So, it is no wonder that there is no unified message when it comes to peak oil.

And, even if there were agreement that peak oil is a serious problem, there would probably be no agreement on what needs to be done about it. For some, the marketplace will bring about the necessary energy transition, however tumultuous that may be. For others, massive government intervention in the form of subsidies and taxes will be necessary to move the marketplace in the right direction quickly enough. For yet others, the only hope is rapid and extreme energy conservation combined with the relocalization of production and commerce. These three general approaches in the order I've presented them imply increasingly urgent timelines. For some the peak oil issue is one that can be addressed over several decades. For others our response must be immediate and thoroughgoing to avoid extreme hardship for world society or at least to lessen that hardship.

With no agreement about the nature of the peak oil problem and no agreement on a set of responses and a timeline for those responses, there seems little hope for convincing the broader public that peak oil is a problem which requires urgent attention. If you ask someone whether they want to contribute money to help find a cure for breast cancer, that person will either accept or decline your request. He or she will not argue with you about whether breast cancer is a problem. Peak oil, however, does not fit into a category that people readily classify as a problem such as disease.

Another not inconsiderable impediment is that there is no peak oil study or advocacy organization with the resources to mount a widespread and sustained mass media campaign. One could say that the cornucopian lobby has so far fielded only sporadic efforts at a direct rebuttal of the peak oil argument. But this lobby has the upper hand because the cornucopian idea is embedded in nearly every advertising and public relations message to which the public is now subjected. The cornucopian assumption that we have virtually limitless resources is constantly reinforced by these messages, and the mass consumer society would not exist without such messages.

Why is this ongoing campaign so effective? Because objective circumstances such as currently low oil prices and plentiful, cheap consumer goods as well as recent historical experience tell the public that no matter how bad the current downturn is, growth and prosperity will return.

There is, however, reason to believe that public receptiveness to the peak oil message can and will change. First, objective circumstances such as the high oil prices of last year have created a more favorable backdrop for the peak oil message. And, new spikes in the oil price--which many in the peak oil movement expect in the next few years--will further erode the public's confidence in pronouncements of plenty. Second, the number of people who are aware of peak oil is steadily growing. And, the number of those who can speak with some facility on the topic has vastly expanded. This is important because mass communication of the peak oil message can really only make people aware that there might be a problem and cause them to seek more information.

Third, the Internet has become a vast repository of information about peak oil and responses to it. Fortunately, mass media campaigns have proven quite effective at steering people to the Internet for more information. Fourth, public confidence in reports from governmental sources and financial firms (both of which often evince a cornucopian view on energy) has been severely eroded by the ongoing financial crisis. That means there is an opening for the peak oil argument from so-called "non-official" sources that may be seen now as more reliable than the government or Wall Street.

Still, there remains the problem of what to say. There are many successful approaches for addressing people one-on-one or in small groups. These are outlined extensively on several peak oil sites, so I won't detail them here. When it comes to mass communication, however, the single most important factor will be a unified message.

One possible solution to creating a unified message might be to bring together many of the prominent voices in the peak oil movement, taking care to create a group with a wide range of views. The group, with the help of some facilitators, would work to find a set of principles, statements of fact and suggested responses that all can agree on. Do they agree, for example, that increasing local food production is an important response? Do they agree that alternative energy sources should neither exacerbate global warming nor endanger food supplies? Do they agree that the expansion of passenger rail ought to be a priority? Once a consensus is reached, the group would issue a joint declaration that would serve as a messaging blueprint for the peak oil community.

Some will argue that such a document would be watered down to the point that it would evoke little response from the public. That is why it would be important for the organizers of such a meeting to set some minimum guidelines for participation. One guideline might be that only those who have publicly stated that peak oil is an urgent problem would be invited. Another might be that they agree that no single approach can solve the problem. This second criterion would weed out most of the hired lobbyists and think tank pundits who toil on behalf of narrow interest groups such as the coal and nuclear industries. The event could also be by invitation only to provide some assurance that participants meet the minimum criteria.

The joint declaration itself would probably generate little media coverage. But with such a consensus in hand, it might be possible to coordinate a common message strategy which the entire peak oil community could get behind. It might also be possible to raise funds specifically for mass media efforts which would most likely emphasize public relations--that is, placement of peak oil related stories in major media outlets--and perhaps some paid advertising in carefully targeted venues. A consortium of organizations might be assigned the task of implementing such a media strategy, or a separate entity funded by the consortium and/or wealthy donors might be created to carry out the plan.

The most important task of the entity charged with coordinating and executing any mass communication strategy will be to boil down the peak oil message into a few slogans and visual illustrations. That won't be easy. And, once that's done, having the discipline to repeat those slogans and spread those illustrations often and everywhere will be even harder. But with what's at stake, the peak oil movement must find that discipline or continue to limp along on the edges of the mainstream media and public consciousness.

Short, concise answers is the successful strategy for communication in the 21st century.

See Chris Nelder's Peak Oil Media Guide for a start.

It's all about public relations and packaging the message to reach a wider audience. America is a land of reckless consumption and given our evolutionary past, both recent and distant, this is a tough survival habit to break.

Like the Soviet transition to capitalism, the answer for America may be based the next generation- raised on consumption awareness and reduction. If that's true us baby boomers have been hopelessly and irremediably indoctrinated.

Kevin Walsh
Chicago Peak Oil

Hi Kev; You wrote

"Like the Soviet transition to capitalism, the answer for America may be based the next generation- raised on consumption awareness and reduction. If that's true us baby boomers have been hopelessly and irremediably indoctrinated."

Every person is entitled to their opinion and I respect that. However, I would be careful to make generalisations like that. I am a boomer. I buy what I absolutely need, do not have debt for anything of any kind, and everything I 'own' could almost be put in the box when I go six foot under (I will not be cremated bcause of energy and pollution ethics).

I think that we should look at why a major global issue like Ozone depletion was so successful. Perhaps there may be a few pointers there on how we can positively act on Peak Oil awareness and action. On the other hand. Do we really want people running around in panic when they realise humanity is in a box canyon with overpopulation smoking us out at one end and resource depletion firing arrows from above?

Hi Thaicoon,

You're absolutely right and I apologize- I mean no disrespect. I was generalizing and making broad, sweeping statements, for which there is little room for nuance or sensitivity to fine shades.

I, too, try to live a low carbon life yet in my condemnation I condemn myself as well. I do what I can but it must be a collective effort.

Apologies again Thaicoon and keep up the good work,


The forces supporting Business as Usual (BAU) are much better financed and organized than the people wishing to educate about Peak Oil and other Limits to Growth issues. Add to this that their message is much more palatable. The Republican/Conservative media machine puts its full weight behind the industry propaganda as well.

Examples (I have seen these 'Energy' ads all over TV):

Wow! 160 million households and 60 million vehicles for 60 years! Drill, Baby, Drill!

I really like the shafts of sunlight and the colorful fishies in this ad...

Do you own an oil company? Better stop making trouble or they will lose the rest of your IRA/401(k):

Wow, we can get oil from there, and there, and even over there! Isn't that easy and clean? Now forget those PO and LTG folks and go back to shopping!

Has anyone seen the movie 'Thank You For Smoking'?

It can give you an idea of what we are up against...the forces promoting endless consumption, wars, pollution, and unnecessary baby-making have plenty of Nick Naylors in Congress, on the AM commercial band, on TV, and on the Intertubes.

More bad news: There was the time one of my comrades related to me that oil is made continually in the ground (abiotically), and that "we have enough oil to last for millions of years." He said that oil was a gift from God, and that his words were true since the World was 6000 years old per the Bible and that those silly theories about oil being cooked vegetable matter for millions of years were obviously hogwash.

Oh, and he clearly states that AGW is hog-wash from the godless, communist, anti-American eco-liberals.

This person commanded a $50+ million weapons system, and is responsible for handling some of the most powerful weapons on Earth...and had 4 kids and counting, home-schooled. He is by no means an anomaly in the U.S. armed forces.

We have an uphill battle indeed.

This person commanded a $50+ million weapons system, and is responsible for handling some of the most powerful weapons on Earth...and had 4 kids and counting, home-schooled. He is by no means an anomaly in the U.S. armed forces.

Which brings us back to what Nate - and Isaac Asimov - wrote about a little while back: there is no hope of paradigm change short of massive die-off of the "old and in the way". Nor is there any guarantee the new paradigm will be better.

Gaia dances with Shiva.

cfm in Gray, ME

But also, 'rust never sleeps'.

Some of these untenable fantasies (as above) might have more termite holes in their framework than anyone could guess. Is it possible that surplus energy is all that's really holding them together?

Just try to stand clear in case they do start to fall. (ELP)


(if it was the Missile defense system that the guy was in charge of.. just pretend you're a missile, and you're probably safe.)

I'm of two minds there. Is it a good thing that the missiles in the silos are made of cardboard and the defense contractors ran off with the money or is it a bad thing?

Gaia dances with Shiva

Love It. May I keep It?

I agree wholeheartedly that "what we have here, is a failure to communicate" to borrow a phrase.

I've run into the same problems of describing the issues involved with peak oil and climate chaos to a wide range of audiences, in size, age, and general science background. It ain't easy, especially when they've heard just a little about the topic--mostly from ads financed by the fossil fuel lobby--and they think they know things that just ain't so, a condition far worse than simple ignorance.

But I think the proposed solution has some non-trivial problems, as well. Even if you limit participation in the declaration to just those you mentioned (conviction about the situation's urgency and the lack of a silver bullet), you've still set the stage for some huge battles within the group. I'm as convinced as anyone here that peak oil is "real, imminent, and an enormous problem", as I've said over on my site (The Cost of Energy) countless times, but that would still leave me at odds with many other people who share those beliefs. There's a heck of a lot of real estate between "yes, it's a real and very serious problem and we can't squander any more time" and "we're cooked and should forget about fixing anything and learn how to make needles from rat ribs". How do you get everyone under that enormous umbrella to play along?

Based on my roughly five years of writing and speaking about this topic, such an effort can only succeed via a push--as in advertising. Relying on a pulled message, meaning things people have to take action to find online, just won't cut it. First of all, very few people (relative to the overall adult population) will bother looking, no matter what the message is and how well it's portrayed. Second, those that do find it online are all too happy to dismiss it as just another example of Internet idiocy. They know what a bust Y2k was (see below), and they know that the Internet is loaded with ridiculous stories of alien abduction, Dick Cheney still running the world from hidden bunker, Illuminati, 300 MPG fuel injectors, Area 51 technology, etc. Why the heck should they believe this wild story about "the world running out of oil", when it's never happened before?

Still, I think it's an idea worth pursuing. Right now, the peak oil message sounds to an outsider like a room full of zealots all trying to out-scream each other. I have to believe we can find a way to do better than that.

(On Y2k: I know for a fact thanks to many industry contacts with first-hand information that it was a very real and very serious problem. The only reason it didn't turn into a disaster is that a huge number of very smart people fixed it. All the scare mongers on the 'net didn't know squat about what was really going on, and their displayed lack of understanding of how humanity responds to at least some crises is nothing less than pathetic.)

I have been thinking that the 'consensus' of the message, instead of picking a few winners, so to speak- among the mitigation strategies and the silver BB's of alternate energy sources.. that the unified message to broadcast is simply that 'Oil is Peaking.' with the subheader that 'there isn't much time to take evasive action'.

As with the myriad quesses to the future implications, strategies, technologies, 'what then about NGL or CTL' etc.. The term 'Let God sort em out' comes to mind.. while in this case it would be let that brawl happen 'out there' in the public sphere ... there are plenty of places to find out and plenty of people (no doubt) to take up these details.. camps would form, surely a mighty Ethanol Camp, or a Permaculture Camp, etc. Fine. As long as people are seeing what Crude is, and where it's headed. Like Climate Change.. let's work to get that core idea firmly planted.

The side-effects are, as Lou said, 'just gunnin' for a fight'.. and the core idea is enough of a fight for now.

Just a thought.


"It's Oil Downhill From Here"

"On Y2k: I know for a fact thanks to many industry contacts with first-hand information that it was a very real and very serious problem."
How serious still unclear. What was clear to me was that knowledgeable people had a dilemma: No one is listening to us. If we scream loud enough to be heard, we'll create a panic. So they went ahead and screamed enough so that the excitable types took it up. And a lot of code got fixed or replaced.

Just like with the reporting on the flu currently(read the WSJ reporters experience)...and the rest of the reporting on most every crisis we currently face.....the reporting on Y2K back then was

Totally obscene and unrealistic.

I was there. I worked two years on mainframe problems during Y2K.

The blood was on the floor, the systems were in deep trouble and many worked very very long and tiring hours over many months and years to correct the major problems.

The one I remember most clearly was when operations was unable to mount a scratch tape to store data. The experiation dates would not allow it and each tape mounted prompty dismounted and could not be used.
When they called me they said " we have exhausted our supply of scratch tapes and we are stopped and can do nothing"....the problem of course was due to the date. It was a flaw that had been implanted many many years ago by the mainframe operating system.

This same customer I asked this "you have a tape library of archived data going back since this company was formed and all those dates are in a two character field and are of course imbedded in a serial data fashion. Just how do you intend to go back and correct all that huge amount of data that is now going to cause data errors in the future?"

The response was 'we will do nothing'...and of course they didn't as well as no other corps did..The ONlY one that did was Social Security. They really replaced all the 2 date fields with actual updated 4 date fields....or so I was told and remembered and think that was true'.....

So yes a real emergency was averted yet I personally knew and worked at one small company who died on Y2K. The code was not altered and when it was too late the system had lost support from the they shutdown. One of the execs went to prison over stealing. He was the one over the data center and his lack of attention forced the issue. This company was a major employer in a small county and employed about 100-150 employees. Hurt the area very severely when it went bellyup.

Another corp I worked at was a major electrical utility. They took that opportunity to downsize all their electrical engineers. Leaving as I heard just one. They were later taken over by another firm.

It was real even though the American people were told different.

Exactly as it is now. Exactly.


There's a heck of a lot of real estate between "yes, it's a real and very serious problem and we can't squander any more time" and "we're cooked and should forget about fixing anything and learn how to make needles from rat ribs".

Not to worry, we're getting there, a little more funding for research and I'm sure it's doable. :-)

Osteogenesis by chondrocytes from growth cartilage of rat rib

Abstract Chondrocytes were isolated from growth cartilage and resting cartilage of rat rib and cultivated in vitro. The cultivated chondrocytes were placed in Millipore diffusion chambers, which were then implanted into the abdominal cavities of rats for several weeks and prepared for histological analysis. The results indicate that growth cartilage cells have a remarkable osteogenic potential, even after cultivation in vitro, whereas resting cartilage cells show no osteogenic activity. However, growth cartilage cells alone do not form new bone but require the participation of certain host cells to initiate osteogenic differentiation.

I once had a high school teacher who told us this: "I am going to tell you something that I know to be the truth, and I would scream it from the highest mountain if I could make you believe it: There is no such thing as a revolution in the mind of man, there is only slow eventual evolution." Of course he, and I, would agree that there are a very few whose mind can grasp the eventual outcome of events that are unfolding, regardless of their severity, though they be denied by the vast majority of people.

Peak oil, or rather the eventual consequences of peak oil, is a revolutionary concept and they are arriving far too fast for general acceptance. It is only human nature that they be denied. The general public, regardless of the evidence to the contrary, will continue to take cheap energy for granted. They will continue to believe "X" will save us. And X is either the government, science, providence or God.

Peak oil will happen, or more correctly, has happened. The consequences of peak oil are currently happening but almost no one realizes it. They all expect there will be a huge recovery and the economy will return to growth, year after year and so on forever. It will happen because it has always happened that way in the past.

Even many of those who are acutely aware of peak oil believe that only good and better times will come from it. That is, they believe we will find something better than oil to fuel our society. This is the argument that Roger Connor made on TOD for many months.

The terrible consequences of peak oil, and peak everything else, will simply happen and they will come as a total surprise to the vast majority of people. They will panic, they will demand that action be taken to correct the situation, they will blame the Democrats or the Republicans or the government in general or the "elites" or "the powers that be" or anyone except the true culprit. And that culprit is none other than the evolutionary success of this rapacious primate called Homo sapiens.

Ron P.

Peak oil will happen, or more correctly, has happened. The consequences of peak oil are currently happening but almost no one realizes it

Peak oil (2005-2008) is covered up by the financial crisis which was triggered by peak oil. It's the "greedy bankers" who are to be blamed.

They will panic....

Because they will mix up the peaking with "running out of oil" which is the next disaster. And this is the whole drama evolving now. Those who suppressed peak oil news wanted to avoid the panic and did not warn the banks that peak oil is around. Consequently, eternal growth was universally assumed, which caused mis-investments and ultimately the banking crisis. So this peak oil denial mode terribly backfired.

...they will demand that action be taken to correct the situation...

Like asking OPEC to pump more oil. Then the truth comes out about their paper barrels, all reserves will come under scrutiny and suddenly the world will realize there is much less oil than on the books. That will be the last act in the peak oil denial game.

And that might happen all within the next 5 years or so, if not earlier when there is another oil or oil proxy war but that will then also be used to cover up peak oil.

OPEC's paper barrels may not come under as much scrutiny as you think. A differnt scenario would have the western hordes clinging to OPEC's paper barrels and thumping the desk demanding they be force if necessary. It could all get very messy without the peak oil paradigm ever seeing the light of day.

....thumping the desk demanding they be produced....

We have been there before in 2008. That's what President Bush said in January 2008:

If they don't have a lot of additional oil to put on the market, it is hard to ask somebody to do something they may not be able to do.

President Bush Questions Saudi Ability to Raise Oil Supply

Nevertheless he tried it again in May 2008:

Saudis Rebuff Bush, Politely, on Pumping More Oil
"President Bush used a private visit to King Abdullah’s ranch here on Friday to make another appeal for an increase in oil production that might give American consumers some relief at the gasoline pump. The Saudis responded by announcing they had decided a week ago on a modest increase of 300,000 barrels a day.
The White House said the increase would not be enough to lower gasoline prices, which are nearing $4 a gallon, and industry analysts called it mostly symbolic."

One slogan I have heard in a recent Government workshop on energy was "AWAY FROM OIL". But that, of course, means many different things to different people. To some it means biking, to others it's electric cars. And that leads us immediately to the other big problem: where will the carbon free primary energy come from to replace oil? Not from coal:

Dear coal plants, you're doomed.

CLIMATE scientists have written directly to the chiefs of the country's main coal companies and users, warning them that coal-fired power stations are doomed and that the Federal Government's carbon capture and storage plans are likely to be a waste of time and money.

According to my experience, when talking with people about peak oil, they either get it quite quickly - because they suspect that something is wrong with oil supplies anyway - or they are complacent or even outright desinterested. Someone even responded: "Ah, it's about a conspiracy theory?"

One slogan I have heard in a recent Government workshop on energy was "AWAY FROM OIL".

Not only does it mean different things to different people, they could just be lying. Do you really think the coal plants are doomed?

cfm in Gray, ME

Do you really think the coal plants are doomed?

It does not matter what we think. Nature will physically force us to abandon coal, by throwing weird weather and other climate change events at us. Latest example in Sydney:

Surf's up at Coogee ... for cars

THE assessment from Graham McMillan, knee-deep in water, was simple enough. "This is fairly extreme," the commander from Randwick fire station said yesterday. "We've been to flooded basements, but the scene of carnage here is unusual."

At least 12 cars were lifted and thrown onto footpaths as floodwaters a metre and a half deep surged through Coogee on Saturday night. Shops were inundated. Water gushed from light fixtures. Two people had to be rescued from a car.

"It was like a river," the manager of the Coogee Tennis Club, Steve Loeffler, said. "Like a river's come through your house and you're standing there going, 'What the f---.' "

I agree with you doesn't matter what we think. What matters is what the countries that are expanding coal fired plants, like China, think. And I'm pretty sure they don't care if all of Australia ends up under water as long as they can grow their economy on the back of coal. And I suspect China is more then ready to loose their low lying coastal areas if need be.

For your information. I've lived at Coogee for 56 years. As a child in the late 50's I saw a flash flood 10 times worse than this race down the natural valley to the beach and leave Coogee oval under water for a week.. have seen many more minor events as well. This happens when concentrated rainfall occurs and runs down a hillside to the sea via a natural flowpath.It's simply an extreme weather event NOT someting mysteriously caused by coal fired power stations!.

Oh, puh-leeze. They had a whole 77mm of rain - at the very highest-reading gauge, with far less elsewhere. A mere routine heavy thunderstorm of the sort encountered in many places from time immemorial. I'm not even slightly impressed. So what?

One wonders whether the municipal officials weren't the usual narcissistic incompetent cheapskate hacks, too busy memorializing themselves with sports palaces (or whatever other rubbish municipalities waste tax money on Down Under) to care a tinker's damn about mundane matters such as proper drains or avoiding building in stream beds. There could not possibly be anything the least bit new or unusual in such behavior. So again, so what?

You (and Coalman1) have missed the point. It wasn't about that specific weather event. No one with any intellectual honesty blames specific events on AGCC. It's the trend you have to look at, and the trends are towards ever-more destructive events. AGCC theory predicts not more events, but that existing events will be made more severe. So a once-in-ten-years flash flood might become a once in five years flasdh flood, as a typical storm cell that might have once dropped 75mm overnight suddenly drops 75mm in two hours.

How does the message of 'drive more fuel-efficient vehicles' get effectively communicated?

From this story:

But at some point, some task force members acknowledge, the drive for profitability is likely to collide with Mr. Obama’s fuel-efficiency and low-emission goals. G.M. produced heavy gas-guzzlers because they were among the most profitable in its line and, for a long time, the most popular. It is unclear whether smaller cars can be as profitable — or, for a few years, competitive with offerings from Toyota and Honda and soon a new raft of inexpensive cars under development in China.

I would offer (again) the ideas of a hefty fuel tax combined with a greatly enhanced and enforced (no loopholes for trucks) CAFE, combined with a 'gas guzzler' tax.

We are fighting decades of marketing whereby peoples' self-worth, manliness, patriotism, pioneer spirit, etc. are seen as being represented by 0-60 acceleration times, the ability to use your vehicle to climb slickrock and ford streams, etc.

Additionally, the sound machine will crank into overdrive and scream messages to the effect that the administration is Socialist, restricting our freedom, destroying/hating America by taxing fuel, mandating minimum mileage, etc. Remember, Tricky Dick Cheney said that the American way of life in non-negotiable, and plenty of people out there mean that with a vengeance.

Perhaps a well-funded, professionally executed series of TV ads depicting money flying out of soccer moms' wallets/purses at gas pumps, through the ATMs, into the hands of oil companies, then into the hands of oil ministers from producing countries, then into IEDs blowing our troops to smithereens, than into nuclear device construction, transportation, and culminating in NYC being vaporized? Dramatic? Yes. Plausible...yes. Make the link crystal clear...the link between every dollar we put into the gas pump and 9-11, the Iraq occupation, and the Afghanistan imperial adventure. Through in some video of Hugo Chavez as well.

The Bush administration used fear to justify the wars...we should use justifiable fear to tackle the root cause of these conflicts.

More interesting ideas that need to be better formulated and communicated:

This initiative would make more sense if the incentive was provided only if one purchased a car that gets 40MPG or higher. It could be graduated in tires...40-45MPG...more rebate for 45-50 MPG, max rebate for 50 MPG+.

I really dislike the concept of deamonizing another group of humans simply to improve a PR campaign.

I doubt if anyone has reached the mass media more than Boone Pickens who spent many millions on his quest. He has also reached the oily media having among other things been the featured fund raiser at the Houston ASPO meeting. This is not meant to suggest that I am enthusiastic about all aspects of the Pickens Plan.

The first problem is to understand the problem one has to have a good firm grasp of some scientific fields such as geology, biology, thermodynamics. A decent grasp of math, at the most basic level enough to understand the exponential function. A strong background in history so they are not blinded by snake oil. The sad fact is, in the united states at least, for the past several decades our schools have not been giving their students these tools(tools i had to find myself due to this). Instead they have been more focused on how the kids feel then what the kids know.

The second problem is not a 'sustained campaign', anyone can do that, but the sheer Volume of the mass media one has to fight against. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards, ad-trucks, music, even parts of the internet all make up the 100 foot tsunami you will be going up against. The recent run up in oil prices only helped a small amount of people become aware of the problem, most of the population was just concerned with getting the price to go down by any means necessary.

While getting the message out is good, one must always keep in mind the scale of the monster you fight. Though personally my opinion is that it's tilting windmills, you will always be out-yelled and out-gunned simply because you do not control all but one of the mediums mentioned, and in the long run reality will do the job for you anyway.

Thanks Kurt.
I think a bigger question is what to do when the message of 'past peak oil/limits to growth' is understood by a large % population. (Be careful what you wish for, etc.)

It is my personal opinion (i.e. not necessarily shared by anyone else writing on this site), that all this voluminous exposition on both the supply and demand faults of the current business and cultural models will never do much to steer the aircraft carrier in time - rather it will serve as a)a homing beacon to people that think about and understand these issues and b) a rough framework and common points to adhere to after a collapse has occurred.

Not to say that education and media isn't important - but the penetration of the Peak Oil message to the greatest number is less important (theres the gross vs. net again...;-)

Hi Nate;

"Not to say that education and media isn't important - but the penetration of the Peak Oil message to the greatest number is less important (theres the gross vs. net again...;-)"

Yes, there is a lot of wasted space out there in humanity. Do we really need the consumptive supersizes out there breeding any more-producing more supersizes, or running amok when the burgers run out. This imminent cull of humanity is an opportunity to 'cut the fat off the bone' and perhaps once again strengthen our species for whatever lies ahead. I am voting for net gain. Thanks Nate.

When I figure out how to convince my wife, brother, parents, inlaws, and best friend that we have a problem that requires immediate personal action I will come back to this thread with some suggestions.

The problem is that Peak Oil, and in general Limits to Growth, is less a problem than a predicament and while we are very good at solving problems, we are awfully bad at handling predicaments. The very notion of Limits to Growth contradicts so much the dominant paradigm of our civilization that it is bound to remain in the minority until it is too late. Even when things will begin to go really wrong, we will be more likely to have utopian (socialist, libertarian or whatever you want) schemes than anything constructive.

Elites are still less likely to be receptive, not because they are evil or power-hungry, well - they are power hungry but that's not the point - but because they are generally both more ideological and more sheltered from the crisis. An unemployed worker from the shipyard near my home can understand why decline means because he experienced it first hand. The socialist Mayor of the home town, who has built his career upon the idea of Progress can't, and neither can his heirs... or they wouldn't be his heirs.

The goal of Peak Oil communication, as I see it, shouldn't be to convince the masses - we won't, it amounts to convincing an evangelical to become a wiccan - but to convince enough people to make a difference in the coming decline, so that we can salvage something from it. To use a reference scifi geeks such as I will easily understand : we can't save the Galactic Empire, but we can lay the foundations of what will come after.

It should be perfectly clear why the internet is the only place where the peak oil message is being disseminated. There are few elected officials who understand the internet let alone the energy issue. Even if they did - straight talk isn't going to get them reelected.

The mainstream media has no motive whatsoever to discuss peak oil. TV commercials and print ads are about pure consumerism. The perfect example is CNBC and all the criticism that was directed at them by Jon Stewart and the Daily Show for completely missing the fraud and eventual downfall of wall street. Those of us who have followed peak oil and follow the bloggers like Jim Kunstler knew about the crash years and months beforehand. My retirement funds didn't loose 50% of their value because I reallocated all of my retirement accounts out of the stock market. I tried to tell everyone I knew to do the same but most people prefer to live in a bubble. CNBC has shows like "Fast Money" and "Mad Money" whose sole purpose is to perpetuate the myth of no-limit growth and all things corporate are good. Those talking heads are not journalists. They are entertainers who mesmerize us with the idea of get rich quick. Newspapers are going out of business and TV ad revenues are rapidly declining so we should never expect to hear a peak oil story on ABC, NBC or CBS. They are going to tell us about limitless oil in Saudi Arabia like a recent "60 Minutes" and produce shows like Heroes where people with magical powers are going to save the day.

Keep the message simple: "We are running out of oil."
When met with the reply of, "What about ....?" respond, "Too expensive."
It concerns me the common expressions of knowledgeable people that the problem is "the flow" or some such esoteric (to the general public) formulation of the problem. On the level of generality or abstraction that the public can here, what is meaningful is just that: "running out of oil." When you say, "No, were not running out, but ..." the part of the message that gets across is what comes before the "but".

IMHO the strongest motivational force in the human psyche is to be in agreement with their community. Once there is community-wide recognition that we have some problems (economic crash, peak oil, climate & water), then there will be community resources to deal with the problem. We are a good distance from such recognition.

I find a good deal of understanding about peak oil in the TOD community. For information on economics or the environment, I look elsewhere. It's remarkable to me how the same sort of blindness about peak oil that is decried on TOD is exhibited with respect to the economy and the environment.

Some people in some areas of their life are able to act on the basis of information, others will need to experience the facts in that area in their lives.

Along the same lines as the previous poster, the problem is really more that we are in a rut that is almost impossible to get out of. Our society is like a homeless orphaned kid under the direction of a gang leader (e.g., hydrocarbon fuels and those that promote them). The gang leader promises all sorts of comforts relative to the life the homeless orphan had, but the orphan constantly has to compromise all sorts of moral and ethical decisions to stay with the gang. Leaving the gang is impossible unless the orphan wants to be homeless again, and the gang leader probably will not let the orphan leave without a fight.

We obviously need to get away from using hydrocarbon fuels as much as possible, but the problem is that none of the green technologies can do this cheaply. People like the standard of living that they enjoy now, and unless hydrocarbons are taxed into oblivion so that green technologies are more appealing, we will continue to use fossil fuels. Even with high hydrocarbon taxes, it is doubtful that green technologies can actually replace fossil fuels even if a drastic reduction in our standard of living is made. As others have stated, if we tell people this, is it any surprise that they deny that we should hold off abandoning oil?

Mass media is an amplifier. Signal or content going into the media amplifier is mostly business as usual or some variation on the modern mythology of how humans and their technology are the magic that can solve problems as disparate as keeping babies in diapers, cheeseburgers in bellies and rockets circling the globe. Illuminating the links between the magic conveniences of modern civilization and those pesky foundations of energy, resources or natural laws is heresy. When I talk about peak oil amongst my friends and acquaintances, I always get that look... and silence, meaning: You are a kook, but we'll be polite and won't say anything.
Immerse yourself in wide boundary thinking about energy, resources and sustainability, then try immersing yourself in popular culture, myths and common perceptions - ideas amplified by popular media and culture. Rational and intelligent people who experience these two disparate realities will realize that there exists a great chasm, and very little bridging the two. Personally, I think what civilization exists beyond overshoot and collapse are what substantive dialog is all about now, laying the foundation for what comes after.
At least for me, things like TOD are cathartic, and I continue to hope that such dialog as found here will lead to better policy making, but believe that things like TOD CampFire will end up being most helpful.

"the peak oil movement must find that discipline or continue to limp along on the edges of the mainstream media and public consciousness"

Not sure I get the thrust of this post. So who cares if it makes Oprah, I don't. Do we need a media campaign so those who got it early on can lord it over the people who hear about it on NPR? Does coverage in the MSM change anything? What good does telling the sheep they are on their way to slaughter, when slaughter is inevitable. Actually seems kind of cruel to me.

You're all going to die, and I knew before you did.

Must be my mood today.

Don in Maine

Realistically, oil depletion isn't the most important and immiment problem being ignored by the American MSM and public-it is the impending bankruptcy of the USA government. Prior to the actions of the last year or so under the Bush and Obama administrations oil depletion would logically have been the greatest and most imminent economic threat, but the extraordinary and widely misunderstood actions during this period have relegated it to second place IMO.

I generally agree that financial collapse is a more real-and-present danger to the executive, but Gail, here, argues forcefully that the financial crash is an effect of limits-to-growth, rather than a sideshow.

I myself am not entirely convinced by her arguments; she proposes that the oil-price spike was due to short-range pricing mechanisms hitting suply contraints, which had the direct effect of kiboshing the growth that everybody and thier dog had bet thier life savings on.

I wonder if the dynamic was more to do with some 50 trillion dollars galloping around the world chasing the highest rate of returns, having the effect of pulling into existince ever-more-fraudulent and -risk-discounting investment vehicles -- then

  • hizbullah defeat israel (implying US cannot sieze Iran)
  • Iraq is not meaningfully held by US
  • China conspires to raise the Yen
  • The horses of international finance are spooked into retreating into commodities, generating oil (and copper, steel etc) spike

.. my take on events is broadly what Gail says, though I think the the mechanism was more the shock of the failed geopolitical ploys of the Bush team.

The Persians invented Chess. The Chinese play 'Go'. Yanks play bowling. go figure.

Kurt, thanks for this posting!
I think that one of the main issues for communication peak oil is that so far there aren't any NGOs (like eg Greenpeace) or other well-funded professional initiatives of mass-motivation or policy activism that are really aware and feel responsible for dealing with PO.
Of course there is ASPO and a few other specific initiatives, but ASPO deals mainly with the scientific "study" of PO (as its name says), and there is nothing comparable with the players dealing with environmental issues, climate or social issues.

The reason for this may be that PO is in an entirely new category of problems that isn't covered by any of the existing NGOs. For example climate change is covered by initiatives that are concerned with environmental issues, but PO is not as such an environmental problem (although there may be some similarities). PO is basically an economical problem, and so far - as far as I know - there aren't any major initiatives, NGOs or even mass movements dealing with this sort of problems.

I hope your suggestions will be a first step to gather the Critical Mass for moving from the peak oil "theory" to a real Peak Oil mass movement.

Let me respond in a preliminary way to the comments so far. First, I agree that there is little hope that a broad section of the public will come to understand the true implications of peak oil. But this doesn't have to happen for policy to be influenced. When enough people understand peak oil, a committed minority, perhaps less than 10 percent, this can have a very powerful effect on the rest of the population for one of the reasons mentioned above. Most people tend to follow opinion leaders in their social group, especially when there is enough chatter and media attention accompanying what those opinion leaders are saying.

Second, the goals of any mass communication program need to be clearly articulated ahead of time. I purposely did not suggest what those goals should be. But they could be as narrow as some commenters are suggesting, namely, to create as broad an understanding of peak oil and its consequences as possible among individuals in preparation for what will need to be done after the collapse. The aim could also be to help support policy changes and preparations at the local level rather than the federal level, a much more humble ambition than preventing a calamity which some on this site believe is inevitable. Just because a media strategy might prove challenging doesn't mean it couldn't be successful if the aims are clear and the execution is based on those aims. I am convinced that the greater the number of people who are aware of peak oil and its implications, the more likely we as a society will be able to mitigate the pain that results from it.

Third, most people when they think of mass communication think of television, radio and newspapers. They also think of advertising as the main means of mass communication. But advertising has limited effectiveness when it comes to issue-oriented campaigns. This is why I emphasize the public relations aspects of such a campaign. And, public relations strategies use a multitude of venues to succeed that go far beyond what we think of as mass communication. And, when I think of advertising, I definitely don't think of the three mediums I mentioned above. I worked in advertising for a decade and more recently in various political campaigns as a communications consultant. There are many more ways to reach people more cost effectively than television, radio and newspapers. I'm not discounting them altogether, but they wouldn't be my first choice.

"Most people tend to follow opinion leaders in their social group"
Convert an opinion leader and (s)he ceases to be a leader. 'Fraid it's gonna take some pain.

When people see the 10% Ethanol sticker on the gas pump they assume it's not there because we have "too much" gasoline.

They also assume, rightly, that when oil gets more scarce they'll start seeing 20% ethanol. Then 30. Then, more electric cars. And, hybrids.

They, also, assume it's Not going to be the end of the world (unless they're in the Oil bidness.)

Anybody have any numbers on what 30% ethanol would do to food supplies? More people are impressed with price than with % ethanol. Given the sequence you foresee, what do you think will happen to prices of fuel and food? Wishing that the TOD outlook would look beyond the middle class for which higher prices are "not going to be the end of the world". To all of you so focused on preserving your assets from deflation, consider those without assets.

D&G, D

The last chicken I bought was $0.88/lb. Five pound chicken (a good dinner, plus leftovers, for four) for $4.40.

We're using about 8% ethanol, and the CBO estimates that a $100.00 grocery bill increased by about $0.70 as a result of the biofuel.

Edit: And, that was a year that a variety of factors (record floods, rampant speculation by traders with no knowledge of corn cultivation, etc) took corn to a record high $0.14/lb. Today, corn is selling for a little over $0.07/lb.

Edit No. 2: Remember, 10% is all the law allows for "Corn" ethanol. Any remaining amount must come from "non-food" crops, which will be grown on "marginal," read: basically, unused land. It looks like the first out of the gate will be forestry waste, followed by switchgrass, poplar trees, and Municipal Solid Waste. Then "Sweet" sorghum, and a variety of other feedstocks.

We took 5 Million Acres Out of Cultivation, this year.

Brazil has taken about 5 Million acres out of soybean cultivation in the last 5 years.

But, Ia State University did a study which gave a result of a Saving of about $0.35/gal on gasoline as a result of the competition from ethanol. Inasmuch as shipping is much larger cost in the food bill than corn is, I would say that the price of food would go down.

I know the cost of my trip to the grocery store would. Also, the cost of my kids making a living would diminish.

And, all those subsistence farmers (70% of the impoverished) around the world might even come up with a new "cash crop."

I'd say it would be the best thing imaginable for Poor People.

"When people see the 10% Ethanol sticker on the gas pump they assume it's not there because we have 'too much' gasoline."

Yes. When I see that sticker anywhere outside the heart of the Corn Belt, I indeed assume it's not there because of "too much" gas.

No, I assume it owes to hopelessly corrupt Congresscritters who habitually vote against their perpetually gulled constituents. Of course, whenever it comes to anything even vaguely agricultural, another matter that comes into play is the same silly romanticism for rural life that enables Henry David Thoreau's pointless mundane accounting ledger - a.k.a. Walden - to be seen as required reading and even, most bizarrely, as great literature.

And, when I see the word "gasoline" I think of Terrorists, people jumping out of 100 story windows, and dead American kids.

But, most people don't see what I see, or what you see, but, instead, they see fuel to get them to work. And, they, really, don't care if it's 10% ethanol, or 30% ethanol, as long as the car runs good, and they can afford to put it in their tank.

Thanks Kurt.
Is there any mileage in the ideas of Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point)?
He is quoted by Jeremy Leggett, British geologist, academic, Greenpeace, runs a company Solar Century fixing solar roofs, in his book 'Half Gone'.
Gladwell / Leggett examine ideas, fashions, products that have taken off like viruses. Suggests 'stickiness'; no good if the notion goes in one side and comes out the other. Emphasizes the role of the 'few'. Few needs to include 'connectors' who maintain large networks of weak connections: 'mavens' who love accumulating info (ask for a quiz answer and s/he has got it): 'salesmen' who are the types who persuade the unconvinced.
Perhaps ToD connects up the 'mavens'. There are also some connectors and salesmen - and there is a wider audience. That BBC film on future farm connected with a certain audience and still progresses across the net. Some (a few?) university kids are getting savvy. Some in UK to my surprise do not expect to own cars or get a pension and expect to have to learn some practical skills. They also expect to enjoy themselves. I have an older daughter who lived and worked in Russia who takes her time from her young Russian friends and their moms, who did the practical stuff during the difficult years. She tends to be impatient with my 'systems' more doomerish stuff.

There is another approach to getting the public to do something about peak oil - motivate them with a related but less scary problem. The alternative problem is climate change. The things we want to do about climate change are the same things that we'll have to do about peak oil - stop population growth, lower our carbon (i. e. fossil fuel) footprints, find alternative energy sources, conserve etc. The difference is that our response to climate change is proactive; we are doing something for the environment, rather than the environment doing something to us. And climate change is reversible, at least in theory and in the long term, while peak oil is not. I think some people in media and politics understand this, but dare not mention it in public. Our response, then, should be to join the climate change bandwagon as much as possible, while continuing to try to educate leaders about the underlying fossil fuel problem.

"I worked in advertising for a decade and more recently in various political campaigns as a communications consultant."

Ok I got it now, part of the industry that got us into this mess to begin with. Right up there with the banksters and politicians. Now I understand the bad taste in my mouth.

Don in Maine

I share your reaction to the world as advertised, but how did we get here? As far as ToD?
I observe fashion, kids' cults (Goths? And why did I grow my hair long a long time ago?). I wonder about the somewhat longer ago Protestant Reformation (was it books that did it?) and the inevitable schismatic cults just like kids' cults that have adherents still singing their songs? And the result, America, Protestant Work Ethic that could still bring the world about your ears and no New World this time round?
Many Russian moms had to let their men go down the tubes - alcohol, smoking and heart disease and no work - but managed. Interestingly some of the really old geezers made it, and the grand daughters and great grand children stay over low-cost from Moscow the whole summer long at the cabin by the lake shore. The cell / mobile phone helps even when the eyes go.


You are quite correct that advertising has been a driving force in proselytizing people to become part of the consumer culture. But the methods of advertising are available to the peak oil movement and I don't have to tell you that they are effective. The evidence is all around you. Just because a method can be used to ill purposes doesn't mean we shouldn't use it for sound purposes.

As for the advertising business, it left a bad taste in my mouth in the end which is why I left. That was long ago, pre-peak oil awareness. I hope you won't hold my youthful indiscretions against me.

As for the political campaigns, I worked on state and local campaigns where I respected the candidate and where I really had a chance to influence the views of that candidate. I've managed to make several peak oil aware. At the federal level I have little hope of changing anything for reasons that any newspaper reader understands. I've chosen therefore not to work with federal candidates. But I think it is a mistake to discount political participation, especially at the local level where it will ultimately be crucial to work with local officials as the crisis unfolds. Why not get peak oil aware officials elected to local offices? I've helped to do it and I hope others will, too.

The Sacramento BEE is an interesting case in Mass Media fear of Peaking Oil. In Sept. '08 the BEE sent ace Editorial Board member Stuart Leavenworth to the ASPO USA meeting, at the downtown Hyatt meeting facilities. That story never was told, various excuses for delays were offered, and most recently, Stu is on a leave of absence from the BEE, attending "Chef's School" in the wine country.

People like CalTrans' Will Kempton, SACOG (area council of government) Director Mike McKeever have indicated they "have heard of Peaking Oil" when I have buttonholed them at meetings, and they have told me they intend to follow up as the information develops... No sign they have so far.

I mention Mssrs. Kempton & Mk Keever because they are at the core of California transportation planning and policy. If men like these refuse to be curious enough to spend some time in TOD, read Heinberg & Kunstler, then it falls to the BEE and other regional info sources to get on the story.

I have got to say, I feel like Peak Oil savvy people are somehow collectively in the TWILIGHT ZONE! We know something is about to happen, actually in progress, and mostly, people who need to know can't be reached. For my part, trying an end run has yielded some results, but too little, too late, I fear. It seems that talking about railway rehab has at least allowed discussion to move a little further than conspiracy theory gridlock.

Because Lake Tahoe has a rail branchline history, Truckee to Tahoe City, the idea of a renewable powered railway to connect Tahoe with Reno is at least included in some planning efforts. Moreover, CalTrans has a 1995 US 50/I-80 Corridor Rail Study (unabridged) which has not completely disappeared, and is back in the open. Talking about renewable power linked to electric railways offers a convenient segue to bring in the oil depletion topic.

The BEE is understandably reluctant to talk about Peaking Oil, because of what PO means to the auto and suburban homes advertising sections. Would an early exposition have produced better results, allowing preparations to be made by CalTrans & SACOG, to enhance commute amenities? We are talking about a decade or so, of stonewalling and underplaying oil depletion, reacting to my efforts to get thru to the BEE Editorial Board.

To help the media minders who see this, get hold of the US Rail Map Atlas offered by and at least get familiar with your respective locales' rail footprint past and present. Christopher C. Swan wrote "ELECTRIC WATER", a look at renewable generation and transport scaled to local infrastructure. We would benefit to see this book reviewed in the print media. My particular approach is to look at working examples: the Spreckels "Pacific Electric Railway" operating methodology is appropo for the Peaking Oil solution set.

Matthew Simmons calls the new era "Plan B". Actually, what he urges America to look at is the transport mode mix circa 1900-1950's. An America existed that was a lending, not a borrowing nation, energy independent. Part of the energy efficiency was based on a railway matrix of mains, branchlines, and local Interurban Electric network, sprouting neighborhood and suburban streetcar lines. What is so hard to understand about this? Add renewable generated electricity and keep 'em rolling.

The BEE is understandably reluctant to talk about Peaking Oil, because of what PO means to the auto and suburban homes advertising sections.

An excellent example of the newsdesk being subservient to the adds desk. Happens now on all major media, print and TV, since about the 1980's elimination of all regulation and resultant "consolidation" and "economization" of media.

I briefly discussed peak oil to Will Kempton and most of the state transportation board. I lobbied our local transportation board on peak oil, using very nice graphics, charts, expert quotes, etc. I pointed out that it is not legal to spend money on a "bridge to nowhere" project and that massive freeway expansion is not legally justified since the traffic 20 years hence will be less, not more. I warned that a rise in oil prices was going to happen soon that would choke off tax revenues, cause inflation, and lead to problems financing and maintaining such large-scale infrastructure.

Result of my efforts? Totally ignored by politicians and bureaucrats.

Yet my prognostications have been vindicated but none of them have apologized for treating me like dirt.

Are we hell bent on creating a hell on earth or something? "Leadership" is in such a state of cognitive load that I don't see them understanding anything new unless they are hit over the head by a falling brick and have to take a few months off to recuperate.

none of them have apologized for treating me like dirt

The reason for that, Taylor, is because you dared to challenge the status quo.

The Scrolls of the Ape Lord sayeth that the dark manna shall poureth forth from the bowels of the Earth for all eternity, Chapter 5, Verse 8. You speak heresy.

If you remember one thing about mass communication, remember this: Effective mass communication is sloganeering. Unfortunately, this truism makes mass communication a poor fit for a complex issue such as peak oil.

The main assumption behind much of the communication alerting people to the risks associated with world peak oil production is as follows: If people just understood the facts, they would take appropriate action. There are two problems with this assumption. First, facts by themselves do not explain their implications, their importance or their connections with other facts. Second, there are countless examples of human societies and individuals ignoring ample warnings of danger.

Therein lies a knotty obstacle. To convince such people that something other than benign neglect is necessary to address oil dependence, one needs not only to explain peak oil (which is hard enough to do), but also to debunk the myriad silver bullets that are currently on offer: ethanol, hydrogen, compressed natural gas, and unconventional sources of oil such as tar sands and oil shale. It is one thing to go through this process with a friend, family member, colleague or even a small group gathered to hear your case. It is quite another to attempt it with a mass audience.

This is well stated, and the "sloganeering" aspect is both central and inherently limited. I'll put my own spin on it here, briefly.

As a person who has spent decades taking various complex issues from obscurity to a high profile for purposes of advocacy, I'll note that it's powerful, terribly easy to do wrong, and you seldom get a second chance.

Whether it should be tried in the first place is always a question worth asking, as well: if you quickly succeed, what will the effects be? Are they predictable at all? Is there ground work you need to do beforehand to prepare the culture to fall a certain way once your new cultural icon, your designer-memeplex, takes hold? In my experience, that's one of the most important - and seldom considered - aspects.

If one decides it should be done, they need to realize that understanding of issues is something that will not be conveyed. This isn't cynical, it's just reality. Believing that "understanding" can be disseminated by mass media, or quickly by any means - in the sense of a complex issue's context, central facts, and implications - is an error. Teaching an understanding of something is entirely different from usefully popularizing something for advocacy purposes.

This has to do with the way people think. They reduce a new bit of knowledge to something which can be efficiently manipulated, accessed and catagorized, by their brains' existing wiring and programming.

For instance, as you read a word like "cannibal" or "refrigerator" here, your brain recognizes the word and its associations, and a shorthand version of the meaning and relevance you have assigned it; you don't go off on a tangent and think about its deep meaning unless, like my wife, you have ADHD. Other terms, like "archdruid", might be semantically meaningless, confusingly similar to mental icons already classified, or vaguely positive or threatening in a generic way. (Thus my former comments about the fundamental mistake of using EROI instead of EROEI; which is confusingly similar to an existing concept, and my recommendation to instead use the phrase "net energy".)

If you're familiar with "fitness landscapes" in biology (feel free to google), you will understand (if not agree) when I note that there is something very analagous which goes on in the virtual space of the human mind, and its result and aggregate, human culture generally. What I have for years thought of as "cultural icons" and which might more modernly be called "shorthand memeplexes", compete for valuable space in the mind in much the same way competing species inhabit niches in biophysical fitness space. Even if one has deep understanding of a subject, there is still a "shorthand memeplex" you will use in your thinking when in conversation, general thought, or rationalization. Lets call it a smeme for short. (© 2009 Greenish Enterprises).

You currently have no smeme for a smeme.

Not your fault, I just made it up. Perhaps in a decade once it has revolutionized human self-understanding, it will potentiate universal enlightenment or nuclear war. More likely, it won't go far unless I decide for it to and take certain steps which must - for the nonce - remain classified.

Harkening back to "fitness landscapes", I'll note that there are both "inhabited" and "uninhabited" smemes, in the sense that a fitness niche exists independently of whether or not it is filled. For instance, even during times icthyosaurs and dolphins, pterosaurs and condors, did not exist, those peaks in fitness landscape may have existed to be claimed, and often did.

Once a niche is filled, what fills it acquires a counterintuitive robustness in that niche. For instance, Windows was a terrible OS, but Mac didn't dislodge it. Likewise VHS and Betamax machines. Likewise, mammals existed alongside dinosaurs, stably, and the dinosaurs were in no danger of being displaced without some huge perturbation. There we have examples of virtual, mechanical, and biological cases; the rules are the rules and are remarkably similar across seemingly conceptually disparate kinds of systems.

Back to smemes: A smeme contains a visual element, an emotional element, and a verbal element for ease of cognitive indexing, access, and manipulation. Even better if it also has an auditory or olfactory component, though most won't.

Concepts aren't smemes, although smemes can incorporate simple concepts.

Continuing this new taxonomy, what I'm calling a smeme refers to a ripe smeme, one which has successfully been completed with visual, emotional, and verbal components. Before this point, it is an unripe smeme, lacking in brainspace fitness.

We may also speak of bastard smemes, which are heterogenous in terms of the visual, emotional, and verbal components in different brains due to natural evolution or sloppy creation. For instance, if a smeme is released into the wild with some aspect not fully established, it will be assigned the missing parts by any brains which decide to pick up on it. This assures that it will be classified differently in different brains, and will not behave in a very predictable way. This sort of smeme is often produced by coalitions or other dysfunctional smeme-generation processes.

Ah, you may be thinking, this is gibberish and this fellow is running a fever. You'd be right on the latter but not the former.

How often human advocates sally forth with nothing to offer but an unripe smeme, only to fail utterly.

It is the moment when a smeme either evolves ripeness through natural evolutionary processes, or the parts are successfully joined by an activist, that it will find its fitness niche. If this is done at a pre-planned time into a pre-planned context, it can create huge change.

Counterintuitively, one does NOT need to get people to agree on the definitions beforehand, which is just as well since it doesn't work, parTICularly among those disposed to be "advocates". Rather, once inserted at a level which is resistant to stochastic extinction (the higher the better), a certain smeme will automatically rise to the level of its fitness, for better or worse, and with little subsequent control, like zebra mussels into the great lakes. It doesn't take a lot of money, a lot of people, a lot of energy, or a lot of complexity.

I haven't yet tried with "peak oil", and may or may not. I'm still working on the rationale.

I don't conceptualize in english or any verbal language, which isn't rare but isn't standard; and I haven't translated most of my concepts, or the way I think about things, into communicable form. Perhaps not here either.

This post is just a bit of fun for my deranged mind on a sick-day; but it contains some deep truth which I have employed in steering world culture, which has been a useful hobby.


IIRC Abū 'l-Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Rushd and Rabbi Moses ben Maimon in the 12th Century agreed that the edicts of religion were to be understood as prescriptions for social order, and that the thinking person would set aside the exoteric when searching for a truer, deeper esoteric meaning.

20thC Neo-conservative philospher Leo Strauss also proposed the notion of an exoteric "noble lie" for the masses, a simplified narrative that glossed over the complexities evident to deeper analysts, which was convenient for mass-communication.

These smemes you speak of, you'd need to be careful about which level of the social discourse you are pitching them at - too high, and they'll get stuck in the rafters of the ivory towers; too low, and it'll become a component of the 'plotlines' in WWF wrestling ...

In general, interesting. A little concern with your analogy here:

For instance, Windows was a terrible OS, but Mac didn't dislodge it. Likewise VHS and Betamax machines.

1) Mac lost the OS war for very logical and clear reasons. In order to build a "better" and more robust OS, they chose to restrict the hardware on which it would operate to only hardware built by Apple. Economics of that single decision killed their efforts. Turns out that buyers considered value-for-dollar more important that absolute value. 2) Sony Beta lost the videotape war to Philips VHS for one simple reason of economics. Philips chose to license VHS to many other manufacturers, Sony tried to keep Beta proprietary.

Simply shows a concerning lack of in-depth analysis.

To add to what Lengould said - in the early days, you also had to pay a huge fee and jump through bureaucratic hoops to become authorized to write software for the Mac. The barrier was far lower for the PC. So the PC had a much greater variety of something resembling what we today would call open-source software. That counted for something when a high proportion of PCs were still lab tools and hobby devices. Nowadays, of course, with most PCs serving as slightly glorified TV sets serving up much the same moronic twaddle as unglorified TV sets, it may count for less.

Also note that Beta lacked a decisive advantage over VHS. Hardly anyone anywhere cared about marginally better resolution. People in cramped Tokyo apartments may have cared about cassette size, but run time came first in large North American houses. People wanted the whole movie on one tape.

Indeed, one needs to take care with these analogies, especially when they morph into unquestioned common "knowledge".

I don't disagree with any facts presented, and my post is clearly identified as a sick-day amusement. It is not rigorous, since I don't actually expect or plan for anyone to read it and go "eureka!"

However, I will stand by the points and examples. It's always possible to retroactively go back and create a narrative on why something happened. Such narratives are reasonable by design, and may even be true, but narratives don't express the totality of context and fitness. I'm talking about general niche dynamics. Narratives have no real predictive value; watch CNN and they'll tell you everyday why the stock market did what it did, but they have no idea what it will do 10 minutes in the future.

One could similarly make an impressive list of reasons dinosaurs were not pushed aside by mammals in the Jurassic, but that rather misses the general point. These are all aspects of relative fitness, and robustness is acquired by occupying the niche and remaining in it. It's a different way of looking at things than reductionism.

If you don't agree, that's OK. It's a somewhat alien viewpoint.

sick-day amusement

Well I'd love to hear you hold forth on a good day :) - most interesting.

What gets me, though, is the idea that there may in fact be no narrative available or concievable which would provably conform to the event, place or process being discussed.

To Experimental Physicists, I suppose, this is the bread and butter of thier work, tying down observations with the best confidence and precision. But outside the repeatable experiment in the carefully controlled lab, at a remove of years and across continents and cultures and linguistic barriers, it's very hard to be at all sure of one's ground.

Taking any decade in the last several generations, one finds a simplified historical view, then digging deeper, all kinds of intersting stuff going on in all kinds of fields of art, dance, music, science, politics, philosophy, etc etc. Still deeper, one can find viewpoints that contradict or challenge the simplified view in quite profound ways, e.g. Howard Zinn.

That no narrative can be proven to be the best fit implies that some other different narrative could hold similar pursuasive power.

Orwell touched on this: "We have always been at war with oceania..."

So it's really up for grabs? what would happen if mass amnesia were to occur, in, say, ex-Yugoslavia? A new narrative would have to be invented to exlain the bullet-holes, the mass graves, the orphans. In the absence of histories, newspapers, etc, I'm sure they'd come up with something plausible.

So I guess memory moors the smeme in the mind, and intrusive information dislodges it from it's perch, forcing it to adapt or succumb.

I would say the financial crash has seriously weakened the capitalist smeme which is failing to convincingly explain the situation. The time is ripe for a competitor, though sadly even the most committed and radical political activists I know are focusing only on short-term wage bargaining.

The God of technological progress still holds us in thrall, however...

Well I'd love to hear you hold forth on a good day :) - most interesting.

Heh. You and me both; the good days are ever-rarer. Thanks.

What gets me, though, is the idea that there may in fact be no narrative available or concievable which would provably conform to the event, place or process being discussed.

That's rather what I was going on about in MY inadequate narrative. That there are consistent and knowable dynamics which are not, even in principle, completely described or explained by a linear explanatory narrative.

Of course, I'm still a bit delirious from a fever as I write this and that doesn't help my clarity, but as I alluded, I "think" in some rather strange ways which have little to do with language. Visual abstract imagery largely, since I was a little head-banging kid. Communicating the process and concepts to other humans generally got blank stares, so I quit trying quite early. I'd dismiss it as idiosyncratic delusion, except that I have been very successful at getting "impossible" projects done over the last 35 years with my methods, so either I'm barking mad but quite lucky, or perhaps there's something to the way I conceptualize and approach things.

Taking any decade in the last several generations, one finds a simplified historical view, then digging deeper, all kinds of intersting stuff going on in all kinds of fields of art, dance, music, science, politics, philosophy, etc etc. Still deeper, one can find viewpoints that contradict or challenge the simplified view in quite profound ways, e.g. Howard Zinn.
That no narrative can be proven to be the best fit implies that some other different narrative could hold similar pursuasive power.


I would say the financial crash has seriously weakened the capitalist smeme which is failing to convincingly explain the situation. The time is ripe for a competitor, though sadly even the most committed and radical political activists I know are focusing only on short-term wage bargaining.
The God of technological progress still holds us in thrall, however...

As it happens, (straightens bow tie), I'm a committed and radical activist. Perhaps we'll see what can be done.


Phil Harris is right to suggest that Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" has something important to say about how the peak oil movement might proceed. I tried to summarize his ideas in this piece in 2006 and came to the same conclusion: The peak oil movement has lots of mavens and not enough connectors and salespersons.

That said, I believe Greenish is also on to something. The peak oil meme fills a niche in the human psychic landscape. Whether than niche will end up being decisive or be at such a marginal level as to make little difference in the lives of most people is as yet unknown. The movement hasn't really reached the tipping point yet or definitively failed to do so and faded. Ideas that will make you more popular, healthier, or richer in the context of our current society are much more likely to catch on than those that promise less of these things. Hence it is not surprising that the one part of the peak oil message which seems to have taken flight (at least until the crash of oil prices) is peak oil investing.

Tahoevalleylines is probably familiar with Jeffrey Brown's idea of the iron triangle which he describes as "(1) Some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts; (2) The auto, housing and finance group and (3) The media group" on his weblog, GraphOilolgy where he discusses in more detail why newspapers and local broadcast stations shy away from the peak oil issue.

That said, I believe Greenish is also on to something. The peak oil meme fills a niche in the human psychic landscape. Whether than niche will end up being decisive or be at such a marginal level as to make little difference in the lives of most people is as yet unknown.

Thanks Kurt, and good essay.

My post is just a smattering of an inkling of one aspect of the situation, but it's true enough. I haven't read Gladwell, but an understanding of "Tipping Points" is a necessary part of advocacy which seeks to induce a rapid information cascade to a targeted new (relatively) stable state. Indeed, "tipping points" is a nicely-honed phrase for getting across some salient aspects of the way chaos, complexity, and criticality happen in the real world.

The point I'll add here is that you can identify and tweak existing "criticalities" - information systems in pre-avalanche state - across broad classes of qualitatively different phenomena in human affairs and the real world. Taken together, the art of doing this, and of then perturbing it with a designer-smeme, can create large-scale change.

For better or worse.

"which I have done", as Arne Saknussemm purportedly etched.

Hence my still considering the rationale, and possible contexts.

I, frankly, fear for the biosphere.
Not to be a species-quisling, but the whole cyborg-ape thing is getting very tired.
I'm disappointed by some of the bright people I know; one asked me if I thought I'd die (or would be 'uploaded' or have aging 'cured').. others are too focused on thier branch of math or music or sociology to take in a wider view.
From sci-fi there's
- 'red mars' (kim robinson) : 100 geeks sent to mars cure aging, terraform mars, set up techno-utopia, return to areoform terra.
- 'foundation' (asimov) : hide the encyclopedia for the next bunch
- [culture novels] (iain banks) : elightened AI runs the show
- A half-remembered P K Dick book has the future population as dispersed hippy farmers with leftover, slowly-advancing technology somehow.
- 'star trek' (roddenberry) : hi neighbors, nice wheels
To my mind, the surface bioshpere is the alamo.
Given that we're quite unlikely to wipe out the archaea, it's probably worth trying to retain some of the sentients.

I, frankly, fear for the biosphere.
Not to be a species-quisling, but the whole cyborg-ape thing is getting very tired.
To my mind, the surface bioshpere is the alamo.
Given that we're quite unlikely to wipe out the archaea, it's probably worth trying to retain some of the sentients.

That's egg-freakin-zactly where I'm comin' from, and what I do, and have done fairly well.

Not that the odds are to my liking, but there's probably still heroic planet-level stuff left to try with a reasonable shot of success. Feel free to email me if you like.

Regarding the Iron Triangle, I have frequently used the example of the 2005 Simmons/Kunstler conference in Dallas. I proposed, and helped organize the conference, which had significant underwriting support from Boone Pickens. Boone Pickens and Herbert Hunt found time in their schedules to attend the conference, but the sole local media coverage of the event itself, other than a local public radio joint interview prior to the event, was the SMU student newspaper. Not only that, none of the Dallas Morning News editorial staff could find time in their schedule to even attend the event, and they were well aware of the conference. I sat in on an hour long interview that they conducted with Jim Kunstler prior to the conference (and not a word of the interview made it into the paper).

However, to be fair, a year or so later the Dallas Morning News did run full page pro and con columns on Peak Oil, so perhaps there was a delayed effect, and Rod Dreher has emerged as one of the few Peak Oil aware MSM types willing to write about it.

Mr.Cobb has done a great job here,we should all thank him!I find myself either agreeing or at least sympathizing with every just about every comment this time, which is unusual,indeed.I suppose that is a good indicator in itself of the difficulty of communicating any new idea to the general public,especially one that threatens the status quo when the old status quo is a wholly owned subsidiary, so to speak,of big biz/big oil.

I would like to add one strategy to the small group or one on one scenario that I believe has not been mentioned here.(I may be wrong.)

That strategy is simply avoid trying to convince your potential peak oil convert of the truth of our argument/position and just gradually introduce him to information which will set him to thinking about the issue.People are much more inclined to change thier thinking when they think they are doing thier own thinking.I haven't ever met more than a handful of people who are less than strongly attached to thier own obviously superior intellects.

The sort of information you need varies from case to case. If they are nature lovers,when the right occasion arises,just casually bring up the fact that recently oil production in Alaska has been falling like a rock,and pretty soon the only vehicles headed that way will be hauling vacationing fishermen and hunters.This may not be precisely true, but a little exaggeration in service of a good cause is not a major sin.You can bet they will bring up the Exon Valdezspill.Sympathize.Recall a comment made by some English environmentalist giving thanks that since the North Sea is pretty well depleted,it is now rather unlikely that English beaches will suffer a similar disaster.

Surely some Englishman has said as much.

Change the subject to football.

Another day you can bs a little about how you used to fly across country to visit an old friend, but that you can't afford it this year 'cause the tickets went up so much.

NEVER SAY PEAK OIL until your convert shows some interest in the subject.

Thanks for the perspective, Kurt!
Nevertheless, 359 years after Descartes death yet we still rely on the duality of the brain to persist with magic, mystery religion and the MSM. However, with more black swans, I believe peak oil will evolve before our collective frontal lobes.

Good post Kurt and the three categories of general responses that you outlined make a lot of sense. My experience is that when you discuss peak oil it causes eyes to glaze over as something unthinkable or off in the distant future.

Last spring, I presented on this topic before the Michigan Senate Energy Policy committee. On friday I met one of the senators from this committee and learned that his main take away was that I was promoting renewable energy. The peak oil message, which was the primary thrust of the presentation, did not seem to register...or, perhaps it was something unspeakable until the voters get behind it as you suggest.

On a positive note, we had quite a bit of media time from the local TV stations and Interlochen Public Radio for the Michigan Future conference and especially Richard Heinberg's presentation. IPR's news director is very interested in this topic and played some of the conference audio proceedings weekly over a two month period afterwards.

Thanks for your participation. We are holding another conference this year and hope you can be there again. IPR has asked if they can do some live coverage at this year's event so it looks like we are making some progress with the mass media in our region.

I'm coming to the conclusion that the vast majority of people will continue to demand a Happy Story (with uninterrupted Happy Motoring, of course!) until it is way too late to do much proactive. The religion of Perpetual Growth may be the the most powerful, overwhelming relition Earth has ever seen. No, the Limits to Growth heretics aren't shot or tortured on the rack; they are just ignored by the collective consciousness of commercial Media. Much cheaper, much more effective than the old, bloody methods.

It is a profoundly disturbing, depressing thing to conclude that the trajectory of one's civilization is fundamentally tragic, and that the overwhelming inertia of the existing paradigm would seem to all but guarantee a devastating collision with the very same limits that civilization proudly claims to have overcome.

Simmons attempt ......

Slide show ..Lots of graphs ....

Your post is fine given its intended purpose, but I am puzzled and wonder if perhaps you're going after the wrong audience.

Why do you need to communicate all this stuff to a wide audience? Do you somehow seek a mass conversion, a sudden illumination that will encompass the mass of people on the planet, the result of a sort of gigantic Billy Graham evangelistic crusade? If so, why?

The old 80:20 rule holds in this case, I think. You hardly need to persuade everybody, just the 20% or less who matter, who eventually make the decisions, and the other 80% will follow, because that's what they do.

But even of the need to convince only a limited number of people does not quite do it for me. Do you (by you here I mean peak oilers) really have to communicate and convince anyone other than yourselves? Can you on your own develop a lifestyle and infrastructure necessary for a post-PO situation and let it go at that? When the worst happens, the mass of folk will scream and hollar, but there won't be anybody there to listen.

Think, for example, of old Noah, fable or true it points to a similar situation: he went about his business and saved himself, his family, and a few animals, so the story goes, and the rest of humanity perished because they did not listen. Why assume it will be any easier for you to convince the present mass of people or their leaders to listen? Do you feel you have some sort of ethical obligation to save the mass of humanity from their sins?


You are quite correct that we shouldn't be trying to reach everyone. If you see my first comment above, I mention the possibility of trying to reach certain segments of the population, especially opinion leaders. But even if those opinions leaders make up 20 percent of the population, you cannot reach them one-on-one. You need a mass communication strategy. I'm thinking such opinion leaders actually make up considerably less than 10 percent of the population. But this is still a lot of people. Mass communication today can mean carefully targeting a fairly large group of people (but small segment of the population) whom you think will be most influential.

You ask whether I feel some sort of moral obligation "to save the mass of humanity from their sins." I do not. That's a job that's way too big for one person. But as a practical matter none of us are going to be able to save ourselves by building arks. The world is too interconnected; the systems are too complex. Will it be possible for a few isolated tribes to ignore the coming decline? Perhaps. But unless you've figured out how to join such a tribe, I don't see that you have any choice but to try to work with others in your community to make it work as the decline proceeds.

The article makes an interesting point, that if Peak Oil could be communicated well enough the message would hit home and society would in turn set a new direction.

Unfortunately not. Why, because there is a disconnect with people when trying to communicate the need for major changes in their lives. If you tell them they need to have greener grass in front of their homes, they will make an effort to achieve it. But if you tell them their whole way of life must change, they will say, would you like some coffee? What they will mean by that is they aren't going to entertain any big changes unless all of society is forced to make those same changes for obvious, tangible, here today reasons.

Life for the most part for most people is a series of minor adjustments. People get use to making minor changes and really don't mind them that much. But try to get them to make huge changes, and unless its obvious like a car that is too unreliable, or a home that has been leveled by flood or tornado, they won't make those big changes.

So what will happen in the case of Peak Oil, is it will proceed by way of a series of major changes from crisis. My opinion is, just let the idea of communicating Peak Oil to the masses go, because it won't make any difference whether most of them get it or not.

If you look at Peak Oil in the mirror without flinching you will see an organism that has evolved subconsciously, but in a thermodynamically predictable manner, to consume everything in its path and convert it into human utility and comfort. Success is in being and our individual being is promoted by satisfaction of long-evolved mental rewards. The joys of copulation, eating, drinking, beating ones competitor, feeling superior, dominating others, controlling space, being high in the dominance hierarchy. Humans have even found it possible to establish rules of conduct in their competition only to immediately begin to try and break those rules in order to gain an advantage - it's called cheating and obviously it has advantages or it wouldn't exist.

A selfish being, as are most, would spread the message of Peak Oil in order to modify the behavior of others to avoid catastrophic system collapse. However, spreading the word could result in the realization that most long-term debt will never be repaid, that great swaths of our infrastructure evolved to eat vast quantities of fossil fuels will soon be worthless and abandoned, that expensive life-saving medical care may soon disappear, that retirement savings will be wiped out and the government's safety net will disintegrate. If you tell them what is likely to happen in the future they may take actions immediately that will have the same effect as being well down the back slope of depletion.

Our leaders have failed us by pandering to the existing order of fossil fuel energy flow. The energy flows, the profits are extracted, the politicians are paid to keep BAU going. Redirecting the energy flows becomes almost impossible without upsetting the apple cart. Pundits and mass media gurus sell us the hopes and dreams of ethanol and abiotic oil so that profits continue to be made by major corporations. By purchasing advertising, the major corporations support the news media that hires the gurus and pundits.

In the future, our children may ask:

Q: "Why didn't you make the changes for us 40 years ago?"
A: Well, it was just too hard. We were watching T.V., a lot of T.V., and they said it wasn't going to be a problem. And there was American Idol, Funny Videos, any kind of entertainment you could imagine. We had over 100 channels and the internet.

Q: You believed them?
A: Yes. We believed them.

Q: Why?
A: Why not:? They were like us. They were against gay marriage and abortion. They were folksy and religious. They said the environmentalists were wackos.They sounded so convincing. We thought everything they said was true because they were like us.

Q: Do you think that was a little foolish?
A: In retrospect, yes, it was very foolish.

Q: What first made you think you had been misled?
A: I don't know. Maybe when the price of gas went through the roof again - when you could get it.

Q: Did you ever hear about Peak Oil?
A: Yea, I heard it a few times, but they said it wasn't a problem.

Q: What's your greatest problem now?
A: I'm cold and I'm hungry, there are no jobs. There's nothing I can do.

In a sense part of the problem may be that "proving" peak oil essentially amounts to proving a negative. You have to prove that all of the alternative forms of energy won't work or won't scale, and once you have dismissed all of the known forms of alternative energy, there is the magic fairy dust that you have to argue against. It hasn't even been invented yet, so how can you argue that it won't work?

But in part, the public is complacent. As long as prices are low they don't care very much, and they don't see the urgency as they assume there is plenty of time to deal with the problem, and they don't want to pay extra now so that we have something in place later. Last summer was a rude shock for lots of people, but prices are relatively low again so people are tempted to go back to their old ways. I suppose though they have this nagging fear that the high prices will return again.

Successful mass communication often requires something else: A WELL KNOWN CHAMPION WILLING TO LEAD. It's not just what is being said and how it is being said, it is also who is saying it.

Al Gore was arguably that strong, persistent, passionate and visible voice for climate change. Who should it be and who will it be for "Peak Oil"?

Weisshb is wise to suggest that peak oil needs a champion. Actually, in the case of peak oil we may have too many champions, none of them gaining enough prominence to become a frequent guest on regular news shows. The closest we've come is Matt Simmons who has appeared many times on financial news channels. I don't want our current champions to discontinue their efforts. But Weisshb is correct in thinking that we need to groom somebody for that role, perhaps even two people, but surely not 10, and then provide that person or persons with support.

Al Gore was visible.
And yes he talked the talk but didn't walk the walk.

And then that terrible time when on the stage and all Amerkuh was watching as he put his wife in some kind of vise grip and sucked her mouth to the point where she must have been silently screaming "get off of me you slug" and he still wouldn't let go. You could almost read her mind then.

This more than anything cooked his goose. I could not believe my eyes and I knew he had just marginalized hisself forever.

You see sometimes real body language speaks more than your mouth can cover up.

Where were his handlers then?

Speaks about CC? He just had to have something to carry on about.

Airdale-there appears to be no one anymore in political life who can carry a white flag or wear a white hat ,I will however very much miss Jack Kemp, the closest to a decent politician in my recent memory

It is almost as hard to get the message of peak oil across to unbelievers as it is to get the message of possible mitigations across to peak oilers. - Photovoltaic Technologies Beyond the Horizon: Optical Rectenna Solar Cell - 90+% efficiency

Agreed, its not a guaranteed solution, but there's also NO GURANTEE that it's not. A plastic sheet, a few ounces per sq meter of carbon nanotubes, a tiny amount of metal for diodes. Once fabrication is figured out (no science remaining, simply fabrication) it's likely that every exterior cladding material will come with 90% efficient solar cells included on the surface for free, only decision will be how much of it to connect up to inverters or DC circuits for a particular building.

Point is, people who request proof from you have very valid reasons, none of which have to do with denial etc.

Interesting point. Or, as outlined in the May/Jun IEEE Power and Energy magazine, the southwestern US has enough CSP potential in the high-value resource areas to provide about 11 times the 2006 nameplate power generating capacity (about 1 million MW) and over 6 times the electrical energy consumed in the US (about 4 million GWh). This assumes about 1 MW of installed capacity per 5 acres of land.

You give a link from 2003, and you talk about "once they figure things out" as if it is just a matter of time before they get it all working with these high efficiencies.

And when I look around now, I don't see any evidence that many people are actively working on this any more.

I totally agree. When science of this importance is abandoned, either a major grant to the researcher has not been renewed and he cannot find a new funding source (very unlikely), or the technology was impractical, expensive, etc. If I was a government funding agency and this came across my desk for funding, if it had sufficient preliminary data to back up its claims, I would definitely fund this kind of research.

When I taught physics a year ago, students would tell me about technologies they saw on TV or heard about on the radio, and I would carefully explain why hype of the technology did not match up to most people's expectations. I warned people that most of the technologies that were being promoted as future energy sources were not practical either beause of cost, human endangerment, accelerating environmental damage, or just poor efficiency. The research of the article is probably one of these technologies. I do not really know how many of my students paid attention, but hopefully I got through to some.

Hope springs eternal and all that, eh? What many appear to be hoping for is rapid and total disintegration, perhaps hoping to be the one on the lead bike in a Mad Max scene, or the one on the altar at the revival tent.

I believe these should be some of the goals for unifying the message into something that can influence the masses:

1. Exposing climate change disinfo. The power of the "Climate change movement" is based on the fallacy that carbon emissions will continue to increase over the next century, leading to higher and higher CO2 levels. If this were true I admit even I might be a bit worried. However we know this isnt true because the source of the emissions is peaking. So it is pointless to focus on a problem that is going to solve itself. If the masses know and understand that emissions are going to be considerably lower no matter what we do, then political support for the banker-coopted climate change agenda drops back to insignificant levels.

2. Educating the masses on the difference between the "size of the keg" and the "size of the tap" and what effect each has on the economy. If your keg is down to half full, it dont mean the party is over. But it does mean that if there is a line at the keg, then that line is going to grow longer because it is taking longer and longer to fill each cup. But the idea that being at the halfway point is somehow significant is a fallacy. It doesnt matter whether we're at 40%, 50%, or 60%. regardless of where we are the fact remains that it is taking longer and longer to fill each cup.

3. Explaining how to read the price of oil. If a million happy motorists die of the flu (just an example), the price of oil is likely to fall to $2 a barrel, and we're going to be permanently past the peak. No one will be able to argue that wasnt caused by a massive gyration in demand. Supply only matters when demand is somewhat stable. Price is a product of a dynamic relationship between supply, demand, and monetary policy (ie, inflation). If anything, we want high and steadily rising oil prices because it most likely means there is inflation. And when there is inflation, it means that the high demand and constrained supply is altering the money flows and allowing the market to solve the problem. Under deflation that mechanism cannot work since the only thing in demand is cash. The problem is this government is continuously striking at the core pillars of capitalism, and sooner or later they are going to break another one, and it is going to cause another serious bout of deflation. Look what is going on with the Fed buying nongovernment backed debt. That's not even legal. Or that Fed guy who bought shares of GS. Regulators buying stock in the companies they regulate, perfectly timing the bottom? That's called a felony. And this Chrysler deal, where they are threatening and the judge could rule that senior debt is in fact not senior. That could send a shockwave through the markets. This kind of crap is ongoing, and any one of these crimes and manipulations could knock out a central pillar of the market and cause another serious bout of deflation.

One thing that I do is to leave little messages everywhere I go. I have a bunch of small business card size notes that have a peak oil message on one side and oint ot the oil drum opn the other. i just print these off at home and cut them up and get 12 to an A4 sheet.

Where do I leave them? In Library books, waiting room magazines, with coffee cups, handed over with money. On bus seats and bust stops. Practically anywhere where someone may find it. I don't know how effective this has been but it makes me feel like I'm doing some good with being a raving evangelist.