Understanding peak oil - Why we need the national academy of sciences to study peak oil (petition)

This is a guest post by Phyllis Sladek. This post previously appeared in Energy Bulletin. The petition can also be found at Phyllis' blog.

Peak Oil: Our Need for Immediate Scientific Investigation – and Action

A growing number of international geologists and analysts warn of a looming catastrophe with the onset of the decline in the global supply of oil [1]. Likewise, reports by several federal agencies, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, point to the need for immediate action, because the foreseeable impacts on our infrastructure and economy are without precedent [2].

Please sign our petition, calling on President Obama and Congress to direct an immediate scientific investigation by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Peak Oil will present our Nation with multiple and continuing crises that will require hard decisions. With a near-term peak, for example, we face the likelihood of shortages of gasoline and diesel fuel, along with the problem of how to allocate limited supplies. Beyond the direct effect on the movement of people and goods, we might well have difficulty maintaining components of our vital infrastructure such as roads, pipelines and the electrical grid. [3].

The National Academy of Sciences is the only source that can provide unbiased and authoritative answers to the questions of how to manage in the era of the “remorseless decline” in available oil and natural gas. The Academies occupy a special place, due to their unique history and mission as the scientific advisors to the Nation [4].

The Academies will have the opportunity to lay out the pieces of the peak oil crises in a clear overview that can provide a factual basis for the emotionally difficult reality we face. We can make our political process work for us to make changes in oil use and energy policy – and influence other nations to do the same…before it is too late.

This complete picture of “peak oil”, along with the Academies recommendations for policy guidelines, can galvanize our top political leaders to dramatically change the course of world history.

Our petition specifically asks for these specific and positive directions, so we will know what constructive actions might be taken at the national, state and local levels on short notice, such as community-based emergency plans and bolstering local food production.

Please sign our petition asking President Obama and Congress to act now.

Full Text of "Petition for the NAS to Study the Decline of Worldwide Oil Production"

A Call to President Barack Obama and to the Congress of the United States of America to Commission a Comprehensive Study of Oil Production Decline (termed "Peak Oil"): Facts, Impacts and Mitigation and Preparedness Options to be undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC).

Whereas, noted governmental, industrial and scientific authorities indicate the Nation and the World face unprecedented challenge and hardships due to the decline of worldwide oil production[1];

Whereas, many of these authorities indicate that time is of the utmost importance [2];

Whereas, many studies also conclude that leaving the problem unaddressed will result in major economic dislocations and the possibility of global economic collapse [3];

Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Congress and the President to commission the NAS, NAE, IOM and NRC to undertake a comprehensive, nonpartisan analysis of the facts, impacts and implications of "Peak Oil" in order to advise the Nation on appropriate responses [4].

Further, we request that this comprehensive study be undertaken with speed and with a formal mechanism whereby independent analyses regarding causes, impacts, and mitigation, risk management, and contingency options be considered by members of the study committees.


1 US Army Corps of Engineers, Energy Trends and Their Implications for the US. Army Installations. Construction Engineering. Sep 05. ERDC/CERL TR-05-21. analysis of "primary issues affecting energy options" and the Executive Summary, p IV, states "Domestic production of both oil and natural gas are past their peak and world petroleum production is nearing its peak." http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=A440265

International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2008. English Executive Summary, p. 3 "Current global trends in energy supply are patently unsustainable", and on page 7 "Some 64 mb/d of additional gross capacity - the equivalent of almost six times that of Saudi Arabia today - needs to be brought on stream between 2007 and 2030." http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/docs/weo2008/WEO2008_es_english.pdf

2 US Department of Energy: Peaking of World Oil Production: Feb 5, 07. DOE/NETL-2007/1263. p6 "The mitigation of the post peaking oil shortage will require extremely large-scale action, starting roughly 20 years before the onset of peaking" http://www.netl.doe.gov/energy-analyses/pubs/Peaking%20of%20World%20Oil%...

3 DOE NETL. Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management. February 2005 Hirsch, R.L., Bezdek, R., Wendling, R "... the failure to act on a timely basis could have debilitating impacts on the world economy." p.60 http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/others/pdf/Oil_Peaking_NETL.pdf ; also see (1) above.

4 US Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Requesters. Crude Oil. Uncertainty about Future Oil Supplies Makes It Important to Develop a Strategy Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production. February 7, 2007. GAO-07-283. In the Highlights section , "no coordinated federal strategy for reducing uncertainty about the peak's timing or mitigating its consequences." http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07283.pdf

More about the petition

We are dedicated to promoting the understanding of “peak oil” and the interlocking problems that relate to the impending decline in our global energy supply.

We urge a comprehensive, objective and integrated “peak oil” study by the US National Academy of Sciences and the affiliated Academies, to include a study of impacts and policy advice.

We support creative and practical strategies for sustainability, based on the values of civil liberties and fundamental human rights for all people.

Author of blog – Phyllis Sladek. Please note: The best way to reach us is to submit your comments on the blog. You can also send an email to understandingpeak (at) gmail.com.

What can you do?

  • Our elected representatives need to hear from us about “peak oil”! We want the National Academy of Sciences to investigate the likelihood of “near-term” peak and its impacts. Please tell your friends and neighbors!
  • Want to do a one minute action? Go here to sign the petition.
  • Would you like to take another effective action? To reach your Congressperson, copy and paste the petition into this site.
  • Please take a minute to follow-up with a phone call to your Senators and members of Congress. The toll-free number is (866-220-0044.) Let them know you want a “peak oil impacts” study by our National Academy of Sciences – now!
  • You can also paste the petition into President Obama’s contact page here.
  • And, you can call and leave your message for the President at (202) 456-1111.

If you've already signed it, then please send this link along to friends or colleagues (even skeptics) who would respect the conclusions of the NAS in outlining the Global Oil situation and its likely impacts on our complex and tech-driven societies.

'Perhaps you could even pen a wee testimonial on our behalf..' Dr. John Hammond. dec'd.


Signed, copied pasted and sent to Congress members, sent to friends and family via email...
However it still all feels like an exercise of pissing into the wind.

However it still all feels like an exercise of pissing into the wind.

I'll second that.

I started a thread about the petition at peakoil.com; maybe someone could do likewise at LATOC? Although that may violate Matt's No Optimism Allowed policy. Very clean trousers, those doomers.

I'll third it.

What good is another petition?
What good is another study?

Oh well, might as well sign anyway.

Because human nature is to be inquisitive, understand the world around us, and to solve problems?

(but I know another internet petition won't help much, these don't have a very good track record)

Hi WebHubble,

Thanks. I'm happy to see your comment, given your interests.

To your characterization of human nature, I'd add things like - to contribute to the well-being of others, experience healthy attachment (to love and receive love), to experience a sense of belonging...

re: "internet petition".

Actually, you may be right about those. I'm not sure. We see the goal as a positive one, and are trying this.

My question is: What about making a phone call, as per the other suggestions in the list?

My own Congressperson's (high-level) staffer said to me, "When it comes to 'peak oil', we've heard from exactly two people in five years. And one of them is you." This was part of a way of explaining that they will do exactly nothing until they hear from constituents.

re: "help much".

One other possibility is: the NAS can be directed by specific Federal agencies. So, there's always that route.

Do you know anyone in any of the scientifically-related federal agencies who might be interested in promoting this?

It seems to me that everyone will be effected. The USDA, for example, might want to know how "peak" will affect agriculture. And what might be done about it.

I have Al Franken on the list as my senator. The guy has the most analytical mind of anyone I have ever seen in congress. I will start sending stuff to him soon. He will eat it up.


Another idea might be to print out a copy of the petition, get, say, ten of your friends and colleagues to sign it, and arrange a meeting with him.

Two (at a minimum) analytical minds, plus a list of supporters...

Another idea might be to have, say, 5 of your scientist (analyst?) friends sign a letter to the editor, with reference to the petition and the goal. Just some thoughts.

..And knock wood that we get to see him actually GO to Washington this year. The games they've played over his recount have really been over the top!

"When it comes to 'peak oil', we've heard from exactly two people in five years. And one of them is you."

That is funny as heck.

I'm picturing one of those doomsday meteor movies (Armageddon?) and the Congressman's staff saying over the phone: "Sorry Mr. Beederman, you're just one of two astronomers we've heard from who have spotted this big rock coming at us, and until more people spot the rock, we're just going to hang back and do nothing."

Thank you, step back,

That was how I felt. (It was funny, in a dark humor sort of way.) You have to add on the tone they used...kind of like "Do you know just how *weird* you are? Well, let me tell you!"

Yeah, you're obviously one of those "weird" people who believe that the Earth is finite and that our freedoms are to be limited by conservation of mass and conservation of energy. Now how weird is that!

Hi FMagyar,

Thanks for signing the petition - the only responsible thing for our grandchildren is to keep trying to lessen the impact.

BTW, when you get to be my age

pissing into the wind.

Feels pretty good.

I know what you mean.. but for all that it was a pretty efficient tinkle..

Only takes a second, and you can do it standing up. Even the girls!

Only takes a second, and you can do it standing up. Even the girls

Sorry, couldn't resist...


Why was the National Petroleum Council not included?

I can't speak for the group doing the petition, but the National Petroleum Council is not part of the American Academy of Sciences, so in some ways, it would be a separate issue.

Also, the National Petroleum Council did study the issue, and came out with a report in 2007 called Facing Hard Truths about Energy. Most of us would say it didn't go far enough, but it certainly went farther than anything from the American Academy of Sciences. It does talk (somewhat) about peak oil, and uses peak oil forecasts in its range of future scenarios.

Hi Wrap,

Thanks for your question.

Wikipedia has this to say about the National Petroleum Council:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
'The National Petroleum Council is an American advisory committee representing oil and natural gas industry views to the Secretary of Energy."

Perhaps now you can see why an immediate study by the Academies is important?

If you look up the structure and function of the Academies, you'll see they will be obligated to take into account the views of people such as Ken Deffeyes, Colin Campbell, and many others.

I've translated the petition to Spanish and posted it on cenit-del-petroleo.com with a link to the original one:

Petition in Spanish

I'll publicize it at Crisis Energetica too.

This petition isn't necessary because those that need to know, already do. The only reason people like Obama don't come right out and talk about peak oil, is that it would expose the dirty little world secret top politicians avoid like the plague, especially here in the US. We are so dependent on foreign oil we cannot afford to openly admit such a thing as post peak depleting oil reserves actually exists. All our top politicians can do is move forward with a new energy plan that includes many alternatives to BAU. Its in the works, so give it time and avoid making them openly admit the dirty huge secret everyone at the top already knows about, which will probably cause more panic than is necessary.

slater...you're such a darn pessimist. I just wish I did't agree with you. I'm surrounded by the oil patch all day long. Who would understand PO better. And none of them express much interest. It's just "make payday...keep your head down...prepare for the ugly future".

There are over 6000 petroleum geologists in Houston alone. See anyone else at TOD besides me?


It is difficult for someone to understand something when it is in their financial best interests to not understand.

Even in the lifecycles of an individual field-what percentage of the employees see the layoffs coming with the declining production in that field? In my experience the start of the decline and layoff cycles come as a suprise to most of the employees.

I doubt even the study proposed by this effort will prod most people to action. Business as Usual is comfortable to most people and dealing with peak oil will bring change which is not a comfortable action for them.

SMN -- Don't misunderstand my tone. The lack of conversation internally has nothing to do with not understanding the situation. It's more an old and worn out topic for us. In the oil patch we've understood PO (the "reserve replacement issue") better then anyone else and have for decades. Folks need to separate the optimistic words from the CEO's of public companies from the realities we know all too well. It's in their financial interests to keep up that tone. For the rest of us their words are generally laughable. Everyone I know was anticipating the slow down and layoffs (we been cutting heads all this week) just as soon as oil went passed $120/bbl or so. This is not a new pattern. Most of the senior players went through this in the early 80's.

The only big difference I see today is that boom/bust cycle used to run in 10-15 year periods. Now it looks like a 5 year period may be more the norm.

Hi Rockman,

I support the petition because it is one way to deal with

Folks need to separate the optimistic words from the CEO's of public companies from the realities we know all too well. It's in their financial interests to keep up that tone. For the rest of us their words are generally laughable.

You are clearly and expert in this field - it would be great to see your signature as part of this effort.

I would say that many of those that need to know have heard of Peak Oil, but many are probably not yet convinced. Remember that just because people are up high in the food chain doesn't make them any less human, and also keep in mind that many lobbyists are in the business of trying to make sure that the decision makers don't understand it very well so that the lobbyists can advance their own agendas.

Many of these people will be probably be holding onto hopes of some magic technofix, or any one of a number of other such things. Or they are listening to folks like CERA who claim the problem is decades away, and that with "innovation" we might be able to do something like improve recovery rates.

Do we need a petition for some official agency to study the future supply of mink coats?

Oil production is an economic issue. We are supposed to be free people and part of being free is freely trading with one another. Whenever government has interfered in free trading as is does so much today, it just makes a mess. So why in the world would you want to destroy the only remotely possible way out of this mess, the free market?

Do you actually think that those at the top levels of the US government are not aware of to oil future? I bet that anyone who regularly reads the Oil Drum and similar sites has all the understanding of the oil future that it is necessary for any human being to have. This problem has been well studied. What we need is for government to quit plundering us, and get out of the way of anyone who might chose to risk his own capital to find private solutions, if in fact there are any. Corn ethanol subsidies and the current clunker bill being considered by Congress should be enough warning to you that the most inefficient, ineffective, form of organization, government, is not the place to look for solutions.

My personal conclusion is that the fewer people who position themselves to survive the impending population crash, the better off is planet earth and those few people. Attempts to save everyone just fly in the face of the laws of nature.

"Whenever government has interfered in free trading as is does so much today, it just makes a mess."
You mean like with the Sherman Antitrust Laws? ..

I'm waiting for Nanotech to squeak it's little 'bots into economics so we can have a Singularity at Bargain Basement Prices!

It would make good sense to study Peak Mink Coats, IF we'd gotten into a blind dependency on Mink Coats like we have with Oil. You can question 'saving everybody' all you like, but it may be some of those everybodies out there that are essential in order to save yourself.

My personal conclusion is that the fewer people who position themselves to survive the impending population crash, the better off is planet earth and those few people. Attempts to save everyone just fly in the face of the laws of nature.

I believe the opposite is true. The more people that prepare the better. If enough people prepare we could potentially move through the bottleneck to a life that is even more rewarding than we have now(I'm not holding my breathe though).

If only a few prepare, those who don't aren't simply going to lay down and die. They will raze the earth for every last calorie they can burn or consume. What do you think about that?

Gee, I wonder how many times the Titanic analogy card has been played on TOD?

Adding to that pile, think of the Titanic as an analogy for the world, and Peak Oil as the unfortunately positioned iceberg. Having watched the James Cameron version of the movie many times, thanks mostly to a son who was enthralled by it (informally referred to as The Boat Movie), one begins to wonder how things could have been done a bit differently that could have saved or at least made more comfortable the lives of the many passengers on board. First, they could have filled the early life boats a bit fuller. Second, they could have run around the boat looking for "float-ables" like bed headboards, wood doors, table tops, deck chairs lashed together with rope and perhaps oiled tarps to make crude lifeboats, etc. (Since the water was freezing and they had too few lifeboats and a poor plan to execute the filling of those they had.) Given enough time, which was relatively short for them, the artisans aboard could even had ripped up the wood decking and paneling to make crude "boats".

The point is, the more that know, the more viable solutions will arise, as one never can tell where the next great idea will come from. It certainly won't be coming from the fusion physics crowd, ho ho, but you see my point. Far better to give the affected (just about everyone on the ship/planet) an idea of what to expect, a best guess as to when to expect it, and let them stew on it for awhile. Who knows? Some will probably decide to just take up smoking again and get drunk with their old drinking pals. OTOH, things might get organized and improve greatly, like starting to save all those petrodollars slated for new highway construction or airport expansion, fleets of new Dreamliner (aptly named) jets and new F-350 trucks, etc., etc. and open more Made-in-the-USA hand tool factories, start crash Ph.D. programs in Permaculture, how about more, ahem, trains, etc.

Given enough time...

Given enough time, they could have taken a different route or a different boat. Note that everything you suggest only tries to bandage a problem and does not avoid the problem.

But humans will use all available resources and they will do so as "efficiently" as they can and they will do so with heaping gobs of blind ignorance and hubris. Titanic sunk? Build a bigger, faster and more unsinkable one.

cfm in Gray, ME

So why in the world would you want to destroy the only remotely possible way out of this mess, the free market?

Please tell me exactly where on this planet there is such a thing as a free market. Not even the illegal drug trade is such a market. Taxes, government regulations, subsidies, trade quotas, tariffs, corporate monopolies, etc.. etc.. FREE MARKET my arse! Free market is a euphemism for control of the markets by those that are in power and have access to capital, resources and energy. Any group that doesn't, isn't part of the market and the cost of entry is very high indeed.

To say nothing of the misinformation, disinformation and worse provided by advertising and the corporate media. A properly functioning free market would require the buyers of products (consumers) to know the full real costs and impacts of said products, so that they might make an informed decision. We fall so utterly, completely, and catastrophically short of that mark in all respects that it would be laughable, were it not so tragic. See the Century of the Self, The Trap and I'm sure lots of other analyses of consumer marketing to fully grok the scale of our self deception.

We have bought and sold ourselves hook, line and sinker, and we are about to be skinned for it.

I see only one political scale. On one end is anarchy (total freedom) and on the other is tyranny (total subjugation).

Government has grown to the point where it is operating at the tyranny end of the scale. The use of government force to rig markets as you describe (taxes, regulations, subsidies, trade quotas, tariffs, monopolies, etc.) has destroyed economic freedom, as has the periodic expansion of government power to combat the selfsame economic ills government created. The advocacy of government control to manage energy is just another form of this tyranny.

I did not say we have a free market. I said that free markets are the only possible way out of this mess.

I don't personally think there is a way out, but if there is one it will not come from more government plunder and control which is what collectivist planning does. My criticism of a suggestion for a study by some official organization to bolster the case for peak oil is based on the simple fact that the purpose of such a study would be to justify expansion of government interference in the energy industry.

How like the collectivist mindset to call for a committee to study a problem! It is freedom that gave rise to the free exchange of knowledge like this web site, which has done more to spread an understanding of peak oil and deteriorating EROEI than all the government shenanigans in the world.

Hi Henry,

You bring up many interesting points.

re: "It is freedom that gave rise to the free exchange of knowledge like this web site..."

To take the last one first:

Here we have the freedom of TOD, which is also monitored by the editors (so some degree of "policing" goes on). This free exchange is the result of many people "behind the scenes" working on a volunteer basis. Lots of "freedom given up" in the sense of free time - for the benefit of all of us here.

And TOD certainly has many educated and informed people contributing.

Is there any way to "spread the understanding" beyond the readership of TOD? Is there any way to bridge the gap between noted academics, such as Ken Deffeyes, and people who are confused by the multitude of opinions from various sources?

What the petition asks is for the National Academy of Science to immediately investigate: not only the facts and causes of "peak oil", but the impacts and the best possible means of dealing with those impacts.

I don't understand the need to petition the national academy of sciences either.
if they want to study depletion, they'll study; and i don't think there are enough concerned peakists around to force them into a study.

there have been studies done in the past, there will be futrure reports too.

however, this free market thing i don't get. Not that i think govt can solve all problems, but it was the free market that built up suburbia. the free market removed street cars. the free market worships at the alter of never ending economic growth -- it's like a cancer. the free market etc..., etc..., etc
not that the free market is the root of all evil..., but it's not infalible either.

Hi leduck,

re: "...need to petition..."

Actually, the Academies are most often set in motion via a directive from a federal agency and/or Congress. Perhaps you could research a little more about them and get back to us - ? (Sincere question.)

Here's a link with FAQ:


re: "...if they want to study depletion, they'll study..."

Actually, my understanding is that this is not the way they work.

They need to be directed to do a study - especially one of this magnitude.

Check this out:

"The National Academies perform an unparalleled public service by bringing together committees of experts in all areas of scientific and technological endeavor. These experts serve pro bono to address critical national issues and give advice to the federal government and the public."



The individual members work "pro bono" - and you can bet these are folks whose time is valuable in monetary terms.

So, they don't just spontaneously decide to do things. They are each busy with their own careers and research.

It appears to me they volunteer their time as a public service.

Much like several of our own "near and dear" folks connected to TOD.

I signed petition.

Hi leduck,

I appreciate your listening and deciding to take action. (Though, I appreciate the listening, regardless of your decision.)

I hope we (all, and speaking particularly for myself) can build upon that capacity - to really take a second look (or a second emotional take on something).

Would you like to do something else?

Perhaps make a phone call to your Congressperson? Or, perhaps get in touch with the people who would like to promote - not just the petition, but the goals of the petition? (Email is on website.)

I did send an email to Roscoe Bartlett on this the other day..

my being from Maine, who knows if he'll see it.

Hi jokuhl,

Yes, sending emails over the website of a member of Congress is often not possible if one resides outside his/her district. The website will often simply not allow it to go through.

The best thing to do is to make a phone call.

I've had some very rewarding conversations with members of Congressman Bartlett's staff. They seem to represent well his views and concerns.

In your phone call, you might ask if the Congressman will issue a statement in support of the NAS study? (and if not, why not?) Just a thought...


Life is not a "paragon of virtue". (from the book Into the Cool).

I'm not sure most people are really capable of understanding peak oil anyway. Even if you present them with the facts they will find any pretext for not believing you.

Phyllis was part of the group that brought me out to UC at Santa Barbara last year to do a talk on Peak Oil/Peak Exports.

BTW, my new analogy: Peak Exports is to Peak Oil as stage four terminal lung cancer is to chronic emphysema. The latter may kill, but the former is virtually certain to kill.

terminal lung cancer

Ahem, *cough*, *cough* but doesn't "terminal", mean you *ARE* already, dead person walking? Whereas "virtually certain", still leaves open, however slight, the possibility that a miracle might still occur?

Just a pedantic quibble there, I got the point and it's a very good analogy.

Of course something else might kill you first.

Point conceded :-)

Hello WT,

IMO, your ELModel is another excellent validation point to help explain the fast decline of USA BOE/C:

Olduvai Theory: Toward Re-Equalizing the World Standard of Living
By Richard Duncan
Your ELP advice is a good method to help make the inevitable decline less worse than it has to be.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

to commission the NAS, NAE, IOM and NRC to undertake a comprehensive, nonpartisan analysis of the facts, impacts and implications of "Peak Oil" in order to advise the Nation on appropriate responses [4].

This is what the Hirsch report did. It lacked vision :
"so electric vehicles cannot be projected as a significant off-set to future gasoline use"

so has been put aside, the Obama administration seems to be already working on plan B; Improve CAFE now, replace ICE with electric vehicles using solar and wind energy. What is another Hirsch report going to do??

Another report will reach a few different ears, it might reawaken a few who fell back to sleep.. it is just another beat of the drum. Or was one or two thumps enough to prove it's impossible?

'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.'

Unless you're tired, of course.. and then you can quit.

Hi Neil1947.

re: "This is what the Hirsch report did."

Actually, this petition asks for much more than what the Hirsch report did.

The Hirsch report was limited in what it addressed. The authors of the Hirsch report stated that they had no desire to have "the last word" - they were trying to bring attention to the magnitude of the issue.

Here's an example, from page 6 of the Hirsch report.

“Our analysis was not meant to be limiting. We believe that future research will provide additional mitigation options, some possibly superior to those we considered. Indeed, it would be appropriate to greatly accelerate public and private oil peaking mitigation research. “
Hirsch report, page 6. http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/others/pdf/Oil_Peaking_NETL.pdf

The petition featured above specifically directs the Academies to consider analysis from independent sources, such as some of the great work done here on TOD - and elsewhere.

“Further, we request that this comprehensive study be undertaken with speed and with a formal mechanism whereby independent analyses regarding causes, impacts, and mitigation, risk management, and contingency options will be considered by members of the study committees.”

In my view, this is such a total waste of time and effort.

Past history has shown that the National Academy of Sciences has always been a strongly politically influenced entity. Their members fully know on which side their bread is buttered.

So, very likely after having pissed away many millions on a NAS study that will probably restate the obvious in highly watered-down terms, we will be right back were we started from.

This initiative might make some people feel all righteous and good about themselves, but in the end it ain't gonna do squat.

From your lips to Gods ears, Joule.

There's no way to know if this will have much influence, but the fact that it IS a politically connected entity with some Scientific Cred. is the reason to do it.

If we were limited to doing ONE thing about Peak Oil, I wouldn't vote for this.. but since it reaches into corners that most of our personal efforts can't, I think it's a pretty good hedge. And then, after my 4 minute detour to put my name on the list, I can get back to the thousand other things I'm trying, either in outreach or community connections or just building and designing things that will work for my house without the oily inputs..

Hi Joule,

Thank you for your comment.

re: "strongly influenced political entity".

I'm curious - do you have a specific example in mind?

re: "bread is buttered".

NAS panels, such as that of the 1980 study (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11771) , are selected to reduce as much as possible bias from one sector or the economy or from one ideological perspective.

Many disciples of academe were represented in this study above, which was the most recent - (please note) most recent - comprehensive energy study they did. Teams work on specific issues to avoid biases of one person.

The best scientists in the world can express individual views which are included in the report for all to see. (This is in addition to the work done by the committees.)

Congress and president need advice from the most credible and objective source. The Congress and president will be at a loss of how to manage this ever-worsening crises.

(Or do you see "peak oil" as something that is not a problem?)

my view has always been nothing will happen until the crises is unbearable....
but on the plus side..., what or who ever survives will be better off in the long run.

While I agree wholeheartedly with the aims of this petition, I question how effective it can be. In this reply to Engineer-Poets post "The 2012 Oil Crunch vs. Cash for Clunkers", I outlined the futility of advancing the idea of Peak Oil as long as the "official" agencies (IEA, EIA, CERA et al) continue to produce wildly optimistic forecasts of oil supply growth. I am yet to see a credible explanation as to how they arrive at their numbers, IOW where are the 90+ mbpd of oil going to be coming from in 5 years time. On the other hand, all the peakists, from M King Hubbert to Deffeyes to Campbell and everybody else, have explained very clearly their methodology and backed it up with solid data.

The big difference I see between the two camps is that one is dealing with grim reality and not willing to place any bets on "yet to be discovered" resources. The other is betting big on "yet to be discovered" resources, despite the unmistakable trend towards fewer and smaller discoveries. It did not take me long to make up my mind who I believe but, the problem lies with the powerful and influential people that make decisions on behalf of/that affect millions of people. They are listening to the high stakes gamblers and ignoring the grumbling, depressing, looser, peakist crowd. If T. Boone Pickens cannot convince the status quo of how heavily the cards are stacked against us then, is the NAS going to?

Alan from the islands

Hi Alan,

I'm glad to hear from you about this, given your location. A couple of points:

1) re: "...the problem lies with the powerful and influential people that make decisions on behalf of/that affect millions of people."

Powerful and influential people certainly cause a lot of suffering, and they probably themselves don't even understand why or how. (At least, this is my observation when I've seen people use power.)

In any case, here, with the Academies, we have an opportunity to use the best of what we've learned: the best about how to make a structure that is objective so people can speak up without fear of losing their careers, etc....the best of our educational system (we hope)...the best about how to have a way that people can provide input.

We're going to try for a *third way*. A way that people who are perhaps in a little bit better position in the sense of having some means of looking for the truth and sharing it...can use. We'll see. If we don't try, we won't know.

2) re: T. Boone Pickens.

Well, without a lot of references, (which I don't want to look up), it's hard to talk about things he's said and the effect he's had.

Personally, I've found a lot to be desired WRT his public statements. He'll say things - he'll use the words "peak oil", but he does not really go on to explain to people what this means. What it means to them in their lives and futures.

Or, do you think he's done this? I haven't seen it, personally. (But then, I may have missed something.)

3) Did you sign it? Would you ask your friends to? If you didn't - how come?

There's a lot we can do - and a lot of it is obvious. Take any one aspect of our lives...food, for instance.

A different kind of power, is perhaps one way to think about it.

1)I think of Roscoe Bartlett's series of special order speeches, of which there are several available at www.energypolicytv.com with the most recent one available here. He has made a special order presentation at least 46 times since March 8, 2005 and I suspect it has evolved over time and is tailored in each instance to relate to current events. In my view, he does as good a job as I have ever seen of covering all the bases in one hour and references oldsters like M King Hubbert and Admiral Hyman Rickover. In the video linked above at about 35 minutes into the presentation the camera pans around so you can see the room. Empty !!! One guy !!! Bartlett is talking about PO in the seat of power in Washington and NOBODY'S LISTENING !!

After watching this presentation again. I really have to wonder what this NAS study would accomplish. I think it would be much better to petition the President to demand that the EIA explain to the world how it arrives at predictions that Congressman Bartlett describes as "just bizarre" at 21min. 51sec. into the video. Another good petition would be to ask the president to have Congressman Bartlett make one of his special order presentations to a full house (both congress and senate). I will repeat, I think the EIA, IEA, CERA et al, are being irresponsible in their optimism and are leading world political and business leaders astray (Detroit anyone?).

2) During the promotion of his "Pickens Plan" at the heights of the election campaign I heard him make the following statement at least twice:"Lookit, 97 milliun barrels a day is just about all we're gonna git". He would then go on to highlight the huge transfer of wealth from the US to oil exporters that was happening. IIRC one occasion was during a spot on CNBC, no less. I also remember him being asked about the likelihood that he stood to make a tidy bit of money on the deal. His response was that he was 83(?) years old and didn't really need any more money but, that he was concerned about the future for his considerable number of grandkids! He also said he was a staunch republican but, this issue was too important to take a partisan approach to so he would be pitching it to both candidates and try to make an election issue out of it. Did it gain any traction in the broader public's mind?

3)On the point of influencing friends to sign it. No, I looked up "the curse of Casandra" and ran into this interesting article from 2006 that contains the following:

Cassandra’s curse was that her gift of prophecy allowed her to see into the future and predict events that were yet to happen…however, although she always prophesied the truth, she was never to be believed or listened to. Her punishment and torment was to be ridiculed, ignored and dismissed as being a raving lunatic.

Most of the people on this site should relate to this. Personally, I have to walk a thin line between being "that depressing (pessimistic) guy" and "that nut who thinks the world is going to run out of oil soon". If I cross the line, I will certainly suffer the curse. I would sign it if only I felt that doing so would result in the production of something that would seriously challenge the wild optimism of the EIA in a very public way.

Alan from the islands

I wonder if Obama is going to give Congressman Bartlett a private hearing?

That Room Rosco addressed wasn't empty. The C-span camera and YOU were there with him, too.

Small is not the same as Nothing.

Hi Alan,

I appreciate your taking the time to comment. I'd like to address a couple of your excellent points.

1) re: "I really have to wonder what this NAS study would accomplish."

Yes, Congressman Bartlett is a stalwart teller of the truth about oil.

One things this study could - (and, presumably would) - do is to allow those facts, as explained by the Congressman, to be understood in depth and detail by an objective body of people whose number one reason to exist (as a group) is to give scientific advice to the Nation.

This body, the Academies, could then take several steps to build on the Congressman's work.

They can issue conclusions and warnings that will reach a wider audience. (For example, I was reading some of the conventional farm journals a while back and realize that the entire issue of the meaning of "peak oil" is just not part of the planning of the people who supply most of the food.)

They can build upon their studies of the facts about the causes of "peak oil", to then look at what positive policy guidelines make sense.

Perhaps you could contact Congressman Bartlett himself and ask him what he thinks about the Academies taking a look at global oil supply?

2) re: "accomplish".

Currently, the NAS energy study in place completely omits the question of global supplies and thus, the impacts many of us are quite familiar with.

This means, the one scientific organization that has as it's *mission* and purpose to provide impartial and objective advice, is simply not doing so.

This is *our* institution - the Academies. They were signed into existence at the beginning of the oil age (1863). We need to call upon them now.

Someone may have wanted them to not look at global supplies.

We, on the other hand, need them to do so.

re: "I would sign it if only I felt that doing so would result in the production of something that would seriously challenge the wild optimism of the EIA in a very public way."

This is one - (dare I say it?)- highly probably outcome. We are asking for an objective and impartial look at the facts.

Plus, impacts and policy guidelines. (What makes sense to do?)

re: "I would only sign it..."

Would you like to start a petition that is more specific to your concerns?

That's entirely possible to do.

First let me address the issue of me starting a petition. I believe it would be somewhat out of order for me to start a petition aimed at the US government especially if it does not directly concern the relationship between the USA and my country. I suspect that many US citizens would take offense to me meddling in the internal affairs of the US and is part of my reason for not signing the petition. I have made and will continue to make efforts to inform and influence members of the government and civil service in my own country, as it is my right and duty to do. Please take no offense to this, it's just that as a non American I must be somewhat careful to mind my own business.

This means, the one scientific organization that has as it's *mission* and purpose to provide impartial and objective advice, is simply not doing so.

There is a taxpayer funded institution that has as it's *mission* and purpose, to provide impartial and objective advice, that has simply failed to do so. From the organizations web site:

The mission of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is to provide policy-neutral data, forecasts, and analyses to promote sound policy making, efficient markets, and public understanding regarding energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment. Created by the Congress in 1977, EIA is the statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy and as such is the Nation’s premier source of unbiased energy data, analysis and forecasting. By law, EIA’s products are prepared independently of Administration policy considerations. EIA neither formulates nor advocates any policy conclusions.

Who here thinks that the EIA is adhering to this mission statement? If I were a US taxpayer, I would be livid about some of the garbage coming out of this "cook shop" in the way of forecasts. Anybody could come up with forecasts that, are as meaningful as the ones provided by the EIA, by just pulling numbers out of thin air.

The point is that, this petition is asking the NAS to do the work that the EIA is paid, with taxpayer money, to do.

Do I have the permission of US citizens to petition their president to scrap the EIA?

Alan from the islands

Hi Alan,

Thanks. This is a good point, and I'll look into it further.

re: The proposed NAS study: it differs from your quoted EIA mission, in that it asks specifically for policy advice, which it seems the EIA is expressly forbidden to give.

It seems to me the point of the mission of the NAS is to counter the possible/probable/certain political bias, in this case, of the EIA (as you say). Your point is well taken, though, in that: Why should the EIA have the problems it does?

Boy do I hate this...I am essentially going to have to side with the doomers on this one... but for completely different reasons. I can't imagine anything more useless and potentially outright harmful than a report by the Acadamy of Sciences on the subject of peak oil.

We will leave aside the little problem of one more report, meaning that we will have the problem of the bankers and investors using one report against the other and one government agency against the other to avoid having to invest in anyting that is not BAU. I can hear them now, "on the one hand, the GAO report says...but on the other hand, the Acadamy of Science report says...but on the other hand, the EIA says...but on the other hand...the API or the NPC report says..., you know, we would be best to wait to get a clearer picture before we take action." Yet one more report from one more think tank will do anything but create a clearer picture, and instead would muddy up an already muddy stream of rubbish.

The other problem is of course the "Acadamy in the sky" problem, ala Jonathon Swift...technology is already moving so fast it has made the statistics and numbers in most of the so called "peak" or "energy" reports to date nothing but liabilities to the firms attempting to create and finance real alternatives, i.e., the reports from these acadamies are usually far more "pie in the sky" than so called "pie in the sky" technology.

Battery life cycles and energy density are often given as less than half what can now be bought off the shelf, PV electric power is quoted at fractions of the efficiency they are now capable of. The reports done to this point by various blue ribbon panels are used by the lovers of BAU and by the oil and utility lobby as ammunition to "prove" that no alternative will work even though newest advances have already blown past the numbers given in the reports (and the current vested interests know this, but they know that if you can say "The GAO report says clearly", or "The American Petroleum report says clearly", etc., they can shut up opposition, for who will argue with a government or major industry report, even if it is already out of date? Crap from these reports are spewed to the press to shut up any discussion of real radical technical advance, even though the advance has already occured. Can you imagine how destructive an Acadamy of Sciences Report would be in a few years?

Now for the big issue: An Acadamy of Sciences Report will not be able to force changes in the developing world no matter what it finds out, which is where the cutting edge of the crisis really is. Oil consumption is already dropping in the OEDC countries, and nearly crashing in Japan in particular. If current trends simply continue, there will be no "advanced" currently wealthy nation increasing in oil consumption as of NOW. But current trends will NOT simply continue. As a new wave of technology, computer controled logistical arrangements, lifestyle changes and organizational changes begin to take hold, the wealthiest of the nations in the world will become more and more efficient, less reliant on oil and reap a huge advantage over their less developed trading partners. Essentially many of the developed nations will be the sub-contract shops for a new technical "post-industrial" revolution, and it will NOT be fueled by oil. Of course oil will still be used, and lots of it, but the growth in the newly developing technology will not be driven by the hope or the need for increased oil production, at least not oil in any sense that we have known it to this date.

If I could make one charge against yet one more report concerning peak oil in the most developed nations, my charge would that it will be obsolete on the day it is published. Much as a report about the Erie Canal that claimed to give a truly valuable picture of American transportation in 2010 would be essentially useless, any report claiming to use "oil" in the old definition as a measure of energy issues in America will be totally useless.

The train has left the station. Peak oil HAS occured in the most advanced nations, we are on the backslope, whether the oil is "out there" or not be damned, it is no longer worth dealing with. The argument now is about who will be on the modern train forward and who will be left behind still clinging and praying to the oil god. Many in the Acadamy of Sciences themselves will be left behind.

A report from the Acadamy of Sciences on this issue would risk making the acadamy the laughing stock of the world within months after publication. I don't think they would touch it with a ten foot pole.


Hi RC,

Your post is loaded with very strong opinions promoting the futility of any scientific effort that is designed to motivate our government to recognize the actual scope of PO or take any useful action. You are certainly entitled to your opinions, but in my opinion, your level of cynicism just does not match the reality of the interplay between science and government actions. Many government programs (economic, social and military) have science based components - for better or for worse given one's POV,

The argument now is about who will be on the modern train forward

Without government leadership I find it hard to imagine how this "modern train" gets built in any kind of meaningful time frame. I see just a big "train wreck" unless there is a recogition of the problems we face as an entire nation.

This petition certainly has many challenges, but it seems to me that getting the NAS involved is a rational approach. To the contrary, I find it irrational to participate in TOD and yet not be willing to use the knowledge gained here to take some positive steps in hope of avoiding the worst consequences of PO. It's discouraging to see the lack of enthusiasm exhibited in this thread. If I was that pessimistic, I would not even bother with TOD - I would just focus on some survivalist web site. Fortunately, many TOD regulars have signed the petition.

Dave,I'm with you and tthe others that think it can't hurt and might help.

Various other campaigns of this sort have reached critical mass although in each case the early stages were different.

The civil rights movement and the anti tobacco campaigns come to mind right up front.

Unfortunately both took quite a long time to incubate and we are short of time already.

Furthermore both were better suited to sound bite style communication.

One way to look at this is that if you are responsible for awakening a single person to the
crisis,and that person changes for the better,your time has been well spent.

Personally I have had some minor success bringing up peak oil/energy/metals with my more liberal friends by using a "you're right and not only that but did you hear about" approach and throwing out some (relatively) minor fact that that doofus Thatcher sold England,s oil at thirty dollars so now they're buying it on the world market at (fillin current price) and that's half of why they can't afford a serious wind power program.

Nothing works like indirection sometimes.

Another thing that works is that if you know somebody who will have to budget serious money for gasoline and diesel-such as a school board member is to quitly suggest that you are afraid the bus budget may need a lot bigger rainy day cushion than previously and mention bottlenecks in the industry in you get a bite.Then direct to AsPO the OD,etc for background.

Nobody wants to be told,but a lot of people don't mind finding out.

I'll yawn sign the petition yawn if i can remember to click on it when I've finish.. snore

Hi oldfarmer,

re: "if i can remember..."

Would you like a special reminder? Let us know. :)


I actually had a rather detailed reply to your points, which are well taken and very astute, and then my Microsoft Explorer locked up tight and wiped it out.

I was angry at first, but then I am used to this, over and over and over and over on Microsoft, every version and every hardware.

Then I realized Microsoft had done me a favor. The truth is that I could say what I wanted to say in one long sentence:

I trust the Acadamy of Sciences...I trust them to take care of themselves, and to take care of the current power brokers. Case closed.

Scientists were being drummed out of government for talking climate change...not a word from NAS. But once the powers endorsed climate change, now the NAS can't say enough about it.

Calcars and Felix Kramer was peddling the Plug hybrid car idea and Dr. Andy Frank was building the first ones of the modern breed in 1971. Where was the NAS then? Now, they can't shut up about the need for "alternatives".

If I thought the petition would be only useless or nuetral, I would sign it, just because so many folks I have regard for here at TOD seem to like it and would like to have it signed by everyone. That's the way I am, I often do useless things to please people. But I don't think the petition would be useless or even nuetral. I think it would prove to be one more status quo roadblock to the new technology we are already can build, can use and need. It would be one more gordian knot of denials, pretensions and protections for it's supporters. Do I sound cynical? In this case I am. I am not at all cynical about what American technicians, thinkers and scientists can do. I am very cynical about one more blue ribbon think tank.

I am even disgusted with myself on this issue: We should be building, not writing. Who will sign a petition for that?


I seem to find time to BOTH sign a petition which MIGHT help, AND BUILD things, AND respond to the 'justifiable traumatized cynical pessimism' of posters at this site who avow their principled stand to eschew any silly, hopeful stabs at the dragon.

We should indeed be writing and thinking and talking to each other. We should insist that others do as well.. even if there's a good chance that almost all of them will not.

Words matter.. 'Talk' is not identical to 'Empty Talk' .. at least not when it adjoins with action. Any action that involves more than one or two of us almost automatically requires Talking and Writing.

Don't be disgusted for writing.. just don't let your writing be, as some poster opined here last week, 'Just for the scintillating discussion'.. THAT, is empty talk.


Hi Roger,

I'm glad to hear more about your concerns.

re: "I trust them to take care of themselves, and to take care of the current power brokers."

I share many of the same concerns.

I was having an in-depth conversation just last week with a (very talented) scientist who sees some politics within the scientific community and is upset about it.

Sometimes these political moves are just "not nice" and sometimes they compromise ethics.

It's hard to talk about these types of things without specific examples.

At the same time, we have what appears to me (from a distance) to be the highly principled stands of many people who's work we value - some of them are here amongst us, as contributors to TOD. I could "name names."

The point is: Yes, I hear you - I think I understand.

The ethics of looking at something in a scientific way, and also speaking out for others - this is very important.

Do you think there is no possibility at all of any of the many members of the Academies doing justice to our topic? The topic we think is so important?

I'm asking you sincere questions. If it's ethics you are worried about, do you see any way of addressing that?

re: "new technology we are already can build, can use and need"

Is it only a matter of "new technology"?

Do not the limits we see mean that new arrangements for meeting our basic human needs (food, water, waste treatment) must be part of the way we cope with rapidly diminishing supplies of oil? (My assumption on the "rapidly diminishing" part. Let us assume it for purposes of argument.)

Aniya, you ask,

"Do you think there is no possibility at all of any of the many members of the Academies doing justice to our topic? The topic we think is so important?"

Interestingly, I think there is a chance the acadamies can provide something interesting, if they are asked to do a report given as a report needed for other reasons. Take the Hirsch Report, which was originally done as a report about technology for the NETL (National Energy Technology Lab). It was simply looking at the technology that caused Hirsch to see the problem of lead team and "scalability" as critical issues.

"Do not the limits we see mean that new arrangements for meeting our basic human needs (food, water, waste treatment) must be part of the way we cope with rapidly diminishing supplies of oil?"

ABSOLUTELY. Technology is only a tool. Whether it is used and how it is used is an aesthetic issue, an ethical issue and a philosophical issue. Each person really has to decide those for themselves. If for example we take the simple term "waste not want not" and ACTUALLY life it as a philosophy, then it would apply to oil, water, food, energy, raw materials, even waste of time and talent would be fought ardently. The technology to fight waste would be used, simply because there would be an "anti-waste" philosophy creating an anti-waste audience and market for firms and for government.

I have long discussed the need for a philosophy of "elegant technology", that is technology that includes art, technology, philosophy and design to demonstrate how elegant and beautiful the device or service or experience could be delivered to the consummer. How many steps could be reduced in manufacture, how muchg of the product could be returned and re-used (is there anything elegant about landfills and waste dumps? ANYTHING?) Solutions are elegant, waste is not...I once heard a man who upon hearing air condition called waste say of air conditioning "when it's blowing on me it's not waste." And the guy was right. When it leaks our the cracks in the home, without comforting anyone, then it's waste!

To repeat, if I thought an NAS Report on peak oil would clear the situation to any extent, I would sign it.

If I thought the petition would not muddy the waters to a greater degree than they are, I would sign it.

The only thing that would keep me from signing the petition is if I believed it would only cloud the issue even more than it already is by the half dozen or so current reports, and that there would be a high risk of the report being more useful to the enemies of change (whatever that change may entail) than to those of us who feel major change MUST occur (whatever that change may entail, again, we may differ, but we agree that major and radical change is and must come) and if I felt the report would do more to defend the status quo than to propose real large scale change and point out why it MUST happen soon (I am going with the Hirsch Report on that)

Unfortunately, the above paragraph is exactly what I think a report by the NAS would provide. I think that multiple reports by NAS on particular points of science would be much more useful, just as the one that is currently on their website concerning alternative energy. You may or may not agree with their conclusions but at least the report offers interesing comparisons and some useful technical definitions and explanation of technical processes.

At least something useful can be gleaned from raw technical data.

Thanks again for your reply, RC

Just an observation here, I know from looking at the statistics of graphics that I post on photobucket that I link to some of my comments here on TOD that I usually get in the ball park of about 2500 hits for a typical post on the first day.

Well, looking at the statistics for the people who have signed this petition just now it was a bit over 400 signatures, I recognized a few names of Oil drum regulars, I saw my girl friends name and quite a few names from over seas.

From this I conclude that The Editors of the Oil Drum, and the regular readers here either don't really care about participating in such petitions, are too jaded and burnt out with this whole issue or have just given up.

From my experience on another well known science blog when there is a request to participate in a voicing of an opinion on matters pertinent to an issue of infinitely less import than Peak Oil it is not unusual to see a response of about 5000 or more in the first hour or so.

So what's up with the folks here, just curious, and granted I myself commented that this felt like an exercise of pissing in the wind.

It now seems I may have been wrong, the collective bladder is empty and it was just a passing urge.
Move along folks go have a beer or something.

So what's up with the folks here, just curious, and granted I myself commented that this felt like an exercise of pissing in the wind.

It's incongruent. For those of us who understand that the PTBs recognize the situation and are trying to bury it, acting behind the scenes and not in out interest, so forth and so on, why bother? It's just getting suckered again and in that sense counterproductive.

Your colleagues on the science blog might feel differently. They might still believe that science can fix this, that there is a rational technological fix, that the political process and petitions work.

Gandhi didn't walk up to the gates of the salt mine with a petition. He and his followers didn't sign a petition and go back to business as usual.

I can't even feel entirely good about signing such a thing because it's misplaced "hope" - thinking that somehow one can petition the lord with prayer.

cfm in Gray, ME

I can't even feel entirely good about signing such a thing because it's misplaced "hope" - thinking that somehow one can petition the lord with prayer.

I hear you loud and clear and pretty much agree that this will not change much.

However I still think it is important to show the PTB that there are significant numbers of people out there giving them the a big middle finger salute in response to their saying that all is well and BAU can continue in a few months from now.

As a native Brazilian I'm familiar with a saying that roughly translated goes like this:

The soft water gently dripping on the hard rock eventually bores a hole all the way through.

Though even I would much prefer to have a high powered drill with a carbide tipped drill bit...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

The 'Dream of a High Powered Drill' seems to be a fairly apt image, doesn't it? I like the water dripping even better now. (But being a tool guy, I also like my drills. Like Hammers and Nails, we have to know what they CAN and CANNOT accomplish)

William McDonough in his book 'From Cradle to Cradle' said that the motto of the Industrial Revolution was ..

'If brute force didn't work, you just didn't use enough.'

In answer to your initial question, my sense of 'the room' here, and why there is so little consensus on something like this Petition, is that the TOD community is built on a platform of Devil's Advocacy, and while it serves well as a means to draw out discussions and find any possible angle for a 'Yeah, BUT..' that's out there, it is not the kind of environment that has a strong 'unified action impulse' to it.. the proverbial Herd of Cats.

You Herd it here!

I mean, the detractors often have very good points.. but ultimately, I have to wonder if they've found their way to 'Arguments', or accidentally wandered into 'Contradictions' again..


This seems almost relevant.. there's a joke about Unitarians that says when they die and start the 'Great Trek'.. that they get to a little impasse with two doors, and they can choose Door #1, HEAVEN, or Door #2, 'Discussion of HEAVEN' (and I would bet there are a lot of them right there, unwilling to choose!)

FM -- Perhaps even a more simple way of explaining our low expectations from such petitions: TPTB get a constant stream of "petitions" every day on these issues. They are the combination of public polls and lobyists input. Even if a politician truly beleived that the NAS position was 100% accurate he would ignore it if the general public attitude said it was unacceptable. Some politicians are truly clueless. Others may know exactly what the problems are and what solutions are viable. But if the public doesn't agree will that politician jepordize his re-election chances?

"signing such a thing because it's misplaced "hope".. "

I'm not hanging my hopes on this. I see it as a reasonable gamble. Putting a bunch of hooks into various pools to increase the chances of catching a fish.

I don't see this having the serious chance to backfire as Roger Conner seems to.. I think it COULD be very helpful, while I have no proof of it, and I don't agree with the downsides of having these reports wash each other out. It's the Great Soda Taste Test, IMO. It IS the flap over these disputed conclusions that gets the topic to more water-coolers.

Saying the PTB 'know'.. makes it seem like they are a Monolith. There are multiple forces, vying for the top seats.. what differentiates these power-players is as important to know and exploit as their similarities. Many are rich on the Status-quo.. the up and comers get rich by seeing the next big thing.

From some dumb movie..
"You're in Organized Crime?"
"To tell you the truth, we ain't that organized."


Bob, my comments were speculations on why TODers were not going to be so gung-ho about signing a petition - and why I've not bothered. (I suppose I could open another window, find the link and sign it. But frankly, putting my name and address online in yet another place doesn't much appeal to me, either. Where's my avatar when I need her?)

Let's follow up on that "summer solar hot water system" soon. I would so love to ditch my propane tanks. [And going electric is NOT the solution - going off-grid is.]

cfm in Gray, ME

Hello, cfm,

Thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts. I'd like to reply to a couple of things you say:

1) re: "not bothered."

We see this effort and the study (which includes, BTW, a specific directive about policy advice) - to be crucial.

The NAS is the only impartial body that can deliver both "bad news" and "how to cope."

The type of projects you mention also require manufacture of physical material, plus transportation (at a minimum). Do you think people would not benefit from sound policy advice?

re: "But frankly, putting my name and address online in yet another place doesn't much appeal to me, either."

You have the option to sign anonymously.

Or, better yet, you could copy the petition and gather signatures yourself.

Then, take these to your Congressperson.

That way, your signature, and those of your friends and neighbors, would *not* be online.

They would be directly in the hands of your Congressperson.

In fact, I strongly suggest you *not sign* the online version.

Instead, make two phone calls, and gather ten physical signatures.

Hi cfm,

This may be off-topic. I have a sincere question. Followed by an on-topic question:

re: "For those of us who understand that the PTBs recognize the situation and are trying to bury it, acting behind the scenes and not in out interest, so forth and so on, why bother?"

Do you see the work of people like Colin Campbell, Ken Deffeyes, and many of the TOD contributors as pointless?

Do you think, therefore, that Association for the Study of Peak Oil (and perhaps TOD itself) should fold up?

re: "He and his followers didn't sign a petition and go back to business as usual."

Excellent point.

What do you think is the correct action for any individual TOD reader to do?

Do you think it's OK to sign the petition (which, after all, is simply a way to set in motion a request) - if one takes some other action as well?

If so, what action would that be?

"Don't care", "too jaded and burnt out", "given up".

I hate to bring this up to the people on your science blog, but, uh, have they done any analyses on whether or not your petition-signing strategies are having any noticeable impact on the multiple, complex, intertwined situations at hand?

Want to raise awareness? It's done better through the media, and even with the successful An Inconvenient Truth, climate change has gotten worse in the last three years.

Want to change behavior through changing law? Law is a reactive measure, and it doesn't re-engender behavior, it merely pushes it elsewhere. The law requires people to pay taxes, so people evade and cheat. The government goes after them, the people hire tax lawyers. The government sends them to prison, and still people keep quiet about where the money's hidden. And while you can point to a success, like policies which reduced CFCs which aided the reducing of the holes in the ozone layer, we've still managed to ravage the ecosystem on myriad other fronts.

Peak oil, climate change, these are real effects, but they are both complex, emergent effects of a system that involves nearly 6.8 billion people, each with different understandings, beliefs, local environments, and definite needs and dependencies, each making hundreds of decisions and adding thousands of people to the planet each day. To borrow a metaphor from Daniel Quinn, it's a raging torrent, and the petition is a stick dug into the riverbed in an attempt to change the water's direction.

Or, to borrow your metaphor, there's plenty of piss available on TOD. It's just that many of us understand that in this case pissing is just counter-productive, at best like pissing into the wind, or worse like onto a live electrical socket. Talk about being burnt-out.

Or maybe if everyone starts doing it, then we'll be drowning in it.

In case someone's not lucky enough to receive the Einstein quote in the upper right, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

double, delete

Hi FMagyar,

This is interesting.

re: "From my experience on another well known science blog when there is a request to participate in a voicing of an opinion on matters pertinent to an issue of infinitely less import than Peak Oil it is not unusual to see a response of about 5000 or more in the first hour or so."

Would you mind sharing the name and contact info for the science blog?

Perhaps we could post the petition there. (Or, is there any possibility you might do this?) Thank you.

I didn't respond to those readers here on TOD when they referred to this comment of mine.I didn't think they had understood what I really said!

Here is my original comment:

From my experience on another well known science blog when there is a request to participate in a voicing of an opinion on matters pertinent to an issue of infinitely less import than Peak Oil it is not unusual to see a response of about 5000 or more in the first hour or so.

While I can certainly provide you with the link to the blog,http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/ please note that I was merely saying that as an example of a group of scientists that do indeed sign petitions on line when they feel their voices need to be heard on a subject they consider important. I have followed statistics after issues have been raised there and have noted marked increases after a request for signing or participating is mentioned.

I did not say that they were doing this in reference to peak oil. As a matter of fact when upon occasion I have tangentially referred to the issue of peak oil on that blog I have had much the same response as I get when I raise the issue with just about any other group of people, namely that it is a non issue...

Why sign such a petition?

1) Speaking improves upon the silence; 2) I go on record as speaking my truth; 3) It has more impact upon the petitioners that those who are petitioned.

While so far, there are only 435 names listed, I saw the names of those familiar to me from this site. It is a very small thing which requires little of me and will most likely produce little substantive gain. However, my spirit is uplifted, so I sign.

Yeah, I know speaking out is such a futile exercise in masochism.
But WTF, I just can't sit there in silence. Only 99565 to go.

Fools said i,you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the signs said, the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
And whisperd in the sounds of silence.

Simon And Garfunkel

Thank you Phyllis for helping put together and publicize this petition. I think it is very important because of the weight that people attribute to government studies as opposed to those of individual academics. Our State put out a peak oil brochure and the state agency logo held more weight than all the facts on the page.

The Hirsch report has been very powerful and it is a very minor (short) report. A more detailed analysis, even a validation of the work done by the EWG out of Germany, would be very helpful. The NAS has the resources to purchase the whole IHS database and get access to the very best information the world has. Who else can afford this kind of data outside of the energy industry (and make it public)? No one.

The role of our government is to protect its citizens. Our automotive companies have just learned a painful multi billion dollar lesson about peak oil and our EIA did nothing to help them understand or prepare for what was coming. We need a better performance and this petition is one part of getting the improved information we need to cope with peak oil.

Thanks again!

Hi JonFreise,

I noticed that you are a software engineer - I worked in that capacity for over 30 years - but I don't miss those 70 hour work weeks!

Could you provide any links regarding

Our State put out a peak oil brochure and the state agency logo held more weight than all the facts on the page

I'm in your neighbor state to the east (WI) and would like to make some of our government folks aware of what you are doing.

Thanks for signing the petition.