Fibber McGee, Molly, and Your Energy Future

This is a post by Debbie Cook; Debbie is the former Mayor of Huntington Beach and a former congressional candidate. She currently serves as a board member of ASPO-USA and Post Carbon Institute.

Several weeks ago at the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, California, Richard Heinberg told a audience member not to hold her vision of the future too tightly. Sound advice that I wrote on a scrap of paper and put in my pocket. This past week his words came back to me as I found myself in a two hour conversation with two peak oil aware friends who wanted to discuss the future. One friend had decided he was going to immigrate with his sister to New Zealand. Having recently returned from New Zealand I could certainly understand the attraction. But I (who am often accused of being a doomer) suggested he consider many scenarios when thinking about the energy transition and reminded him of Mark Twain’s words, there’s so much people know that ain’t so.

We tend to seek information that confirms our beliefs rather than looking for that which contradicts it. It is our tendency to be more sure the less we know, and less sure, the more we know.

During a recent “peak oil” weekend in Northern California I had the luxury of catching up on my podcast listening while driving up from Huntington Beach. In addition to my typical consumption of energy related podcasts, (including an interesting interview by Jason Bradford of Michael Bomford), I sprinkled in some lighter fare.

I love the old time radio programs and keep hundreds on my ipod for long drives or sleepless nights. One of my favorites is Fibber McGee and Molly, a popular 30-minute comedy that entertained America from 1935 to 1956. During the war years, propaganda (I imply no value judgment here) was used by all governments; radio provided a perfect venue for this important component of the war effort. For those of us who did not grow up during that era, the war time radio programs give us a glimpse at the saturation of the messages and also an idea of the efforts that might be enlisted in the future to deal with our energy transition.

From an unlikely source, I found the following episode of Fibber McGee and Molly, entitled Gas Rationing, to cause me to adjust my grasp of my vision of the future. I thought it might make a good Campfire discussion on TOD. There are a number of interesting jumping off points. Here are a few that came to my mind, feel free to suggest your own:

1. Is fuel rationing likely (check out the link to Leon Henderson)
2. How would propaganda play out in a world where media comes in many forms and everyone is a journalist
3. Numerous frames of the issue are presented throughout the program, which are unpersuasive to Fibber until the final one. How might energy transition be framed to get the greatest buy-in.
4. Fibber expresses many of the opinions of the day regarding Government. How similar/dissimilar are ours from those of that era.

I have transcribed the first five minutes of the program below, but I encourage you to listen to the entire program. If nothing else, you are likely to fall in love with Fibber McGee and Molly.

Title: Gas Rationing
Download or listen here:

Announcer: Mileage rationing has just come to Wistful Vista and in spite of it being a meatless day, get a load of the beef being put up by an average citizen as we meet Fibber McGee and Molly.

FM: I tell ya it ain’t fair Molly. They can’t do this to me. Four gallons a week. Why that’s ridiculous.

Molly: I think so too.

FM: You do?

Molly: Yes, you don’t need four gallons.

FM: Doggone it, I do too. Four gallons is outrageous. Where can I go on four gallons of gas.

Molly: Where do you wanna go, Dearie.

FM: Well gee whiz, what if I did want to go some place…in an emergency or some place.

Molly: You mean like running out of cigars.

FM: Yes….No! Running out of cigars ain’t an emergency.

Molly: You never spoke a truer word McGee.

FM: Huh?

Molly: When I get a whiff of those poison Panatellas of yours, I know why tobacco auctioneers talk that way.

FM:: Whatcha mean?

Molly: Those fellas are hysterical.

FM: Aah, forget my cigars. I’m talking about this mileage rationing. I think it’s a dirty deal. The whole thing is silly. Gonna make everybody stay at home. Why in two years a guy from Indiana won’t know what a guy from Kansas is talking about.

Molly: Where you from?

FM: Illinois

Molly: Then it’s happened already, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

FM: I’m talking about giving all the car owners a measly little medicine dropper full of gasoline. It’s an infringement on private rights, that’s what it is.

Molly: Look Dearie, the main reason their rationing gasoline is to save tires. Don’t you know if we continue driving like we have been a majority of automobiles will be off the road next year?

FM: Good! There’s too much traffic anyway. Too crowded. Get the cars off the road. That’ll be fine. That’s swell.

Molly: Well I’m glad you feel that way because yours will probably be one of them.

FM: What, me give up my car?! Oh, no you don’t. I paid for my tires and by the left hind leg of Leon Henderson I’ve got a right to… I’m gonna write to my Congressman this very minute.

Molly: Who is our Congressman?

FM: Why it’s ole…I don’t know. Who is he?

Molly: Oh just send it to the Congressman from this District.

FM: OK, that’s exactly what I’ll do. What District is this?

Molly: Maybe you ought to write it to our Senator.

FM: That’s better yet. I’ll tell him I’m not gonna stand for any such…who’s our Senators?

Molly: Look Dearie, our government has asked us to take less gasoline so we’ll drive less and save the country’s rubber. And if you haven’t got enough interest in your government to know who your representatives are, you haven’t got any right to stand around and stomach ache.

FM: Not stomach ache, the word is…

Molly: I know what the word is.

FM: Well, gee whiz, the idea of giving an important citizen like me just an A book…save rubber my clavicle. What happened to that sympathetic rubber that inventor made out of milkweed. Or was it milk he made out of a rubber plant. Any way why don’t…

Doorbell rings…

Thanks Debbie, this is a good topic.

I imagine that we, like Fibber, will first "stomach ache" a lot about it, then grudgingly incorporate the new reality and get on with life.

I wonder how long the WWII era complaining about rationing went on?

I agree, a good topic.
I will make a prediction that one of the early restrictions on gasoline usage will be a prohibition of using gasoline/diesel/liquid fuel for any "recreational purposes" when petroleum products become in short supply.
No power boating (you might want to get a sailboat franchise now?), no ATV riding, no auto racing, no car shows, no sport aviation, etc...
If you think Fibber McGee was upset, wait until the current "entitled generation" gets their toys "taken away"!
I will guess that the "recreational ban" will take place between 2014 and 2018. How's that for sticking my neck out with a prediction?

I was at a local truck pull on Friday night. Astonishing! I will do a post about it perhaps.

Thanks for this, Debbie. I have a car ride in the next hour so the recordings are transferring to the iPod as I type.
But I'll venture an answer to #1...yes, I think rationing of fuel is in our future...same with food. Our collective capacity to purchase food is declining steadily and the bread lines are mere months away...Sacramento has already had one. (A quick google didn't turn up the link, perhaps someone else has it?)

Water rationing is coming, too, especially when our water pipes fail and running water is no longer available to every home, as it is currently.

Stock up on:
Gold Eagle 22214 STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer. 32 oz.

(Does anyone know how long fuel stabilizer is, er, stable?)

"I think rationing of fuel is in our future...same with food." These and the water rationing you mention later should be happening now everywhere. We live on a very limited planet which we are rapidly using up. Yet our "economy" is based on consuming as much as you can possibly afford--in fact much more than you can afford. This is an insane, eco-cidal, terra-cidal, and ultimately suicidal system. It has to stop, and the sooner the better. Put all those who can't figure this out in locked, high-security insane asylums for treatment.

I used to go back and forth on this, but I am more of the opinion that rationing will end up happening. I used to think that we would ration by price, but I think there will be such an outcry over people being unable to afford $10 (or pick a number) gasoline that simply rationing quantities will be viewed as more equitable. Then again, we ration all kinds of things by price now, including health care.

I also view nationalization of the oil companies as something that will be discussed ever more seriously. I think oil company profits will sky-rocket with fossil fuel prices (as they did after gasoline shot up, and when oil shot up) and that is not going to sit well with people who are being bled dry. The first steps, in my opinion, will be ever more punitive taxation, but when governments learn that this only causes supplies to dry up ever faster, the nationalization option will become a subject of serious debate.

I have a hard time seeing nationalization ever happening. The corporate lobbyists have far too much influence. Witness the way the climate bills got watered down and altered to suit the needs of various constituencies. And the same thing will happen with health care reform. Although it was interesting to see how the auto companies seem to have completely lost favor in Washington, whereas Wall St could more or less write the terms and conditions for their own bailouts.

The problem with rationing is how do you decide who gets how much, and how do you prevent people from gaming the system? You might have an elderly person who never drives any more - the kids would be fighting over the ration stamps. You might know someone who has a farm and has an increased allotment, and hence you might find people getting extra from there. You might know someone who has a company that delivers stuff - would that company get an increased allotment? There are all kinds of scenarios, and if too much cheating is perceived to exist, then the credibility of the whole thing is shot.

Last year we already saw gas thefts when gas hit 5$/gallon - primarily larger trucks and SUVs as these have larger tanks and hence more to steal.

True, the climate bills got watered down, but the masses are not screaming for justice over climate change. When gas gets to be very expensive, politicians are going to be under a lot more pressure from constituents to act.

You will never prevent people from gaming the system. People game all the systems we have in place now. Under rationing, there will certainly be a black market.

The corporate lobbyists could be out in front to introduce rationing, but to make sure their interests are served first, over and above the lesser citizens needs.

I agree with you Robert -- Nationalization of the major public oils will likely become a serious topic. I'm not sure if it will be huge prices or real shortages that drive it to the forefront though. If we want to offer ideas in this thread it would be beneficial for folks to define exactly what they mean. “Nationalization” it self is at best ambiguous and at worst meaningless. I think any practical (and achievable) response to the worst effects of PO will require some form of significant involvement of the gov’t in the free market system IMO. But I doubt taking ownership of the companies would ever be a serious. olks upset about pump prices might fantasize about such possibilities but it’s good to remember that ExxonMobil isn’t owned by Mr. XOM. It’s owned by the American people. Destroying trillions of $’s of the retirement accounts of citizenship, including many union members won’t happen IMO.

But I do believe there has to be some sort of coordinated efforts between the private sector and the gov’t. I can’t see any real progress on any front given the volatility we’ve seen in the market. A few months ago low oil prices killed much of the incentives for alternatives. Even with prices climbing I doubt much capital will be funneled that way without some certainty that those prices will stay elevated for many years. I personally haven’t been able to come up with any model that is politically doable. Maybe some of the clever folks here have some ideas worth sharing

Nationalization of the major public oils will likely become a serious topic.

Perhaps by the time we get to that point - and that's only the "we" that is hashing it out on a forum like this - it will be too late and the decisions will already have been made.

Frankly, I can't imagine they have not already been made. Which sends me back to the current economic collapse. The money seems to be going directly to Wall Street, yet over the past few quarters it's been the biggest energy companies cashing out with record profits.

"Nationalizing the oils" is an ugly concept. OK if you nationalize a company where all of the assets and liabilities are within the nation. Not OK where we are talking about Iraq and other countries.

Nationalize our footprint fine. Dump our trash on others? No way. Of course, that is why we must "support the troops". What heroes.

cfm in Gray, ME

The general rules of realpolitik are:

(1) If the public wants something but the rulers don't, then the bosses pretend to do it. If the rulers want something but the public don't, then the bosses pretend not to do it (usually while everyone's on hols in August). In either case the propaganda gets tuned up sometime in advance.

(2) Nationalise the unprofitable, privatise the profitable.
(Though in this case other considerations could overrule this.)

(3) The propaganda is all about protecting society and especially the ordinary and vulnerable. The reality is about retaining privilege to the already privileged.

If there is rationing, I am going to make sure I get my share and turn around and resell it for an income. It is the form of cap-and-trade for individuals.

It would be easier if the Gov issued gas consumption rights coupons. This would be easier to trade than gas cans that have to be hauled around.

I've recently been thinking about the question of rationing.

Now I've suggested in the past that I expect to see 'rationland' effects, as government attempt to react to decreased availability of oil on the open market by slapping limits on usage. I've said that sensible though it sounds, the net effect is to steepen the decline rate for the 'have nots', in other words you and me. That increased decline rate limits the time to adapt to changed circumstances, making things more likely to break than bend.

I still expect them to do it.

However there is a tweak here. There are effectively two fuels, petrol and diesel. Although you can tweak the refining process to change the proportions produced, it's only within bounds. You will still be producing both, no matter what.

Now diesel is used in the long distance trucking, buses, trains, larger scale emergency generators, etc. - all the types of usage that will be key in a future, more resource constrained, world. Therefore a large percentage of production will be allocated to key users - making domestic diesel users very much on the wrong end of rationland effects. That's particularly important for Europe where diesel cars outsell petrol.

Petrol on the other hand gets used in domestic vehicles, particularly in the US. Although there are emergency and delivery van users, a much bigger proportion are 'non critical'.

Therefore as we coast down the resource slope, it might be that a petrol car is more sustainable than diesel - especially when rationing hits. Best bet I think is probably going to be a small, efficient, petrol vehicle (but 5 seats for ride sharing), together with an old diesel flatbed truck which you don't use most of the time, but which gives you options in 'rationland' and can also be employed to shift stuff around on the rare occasions its needed (a favourite excuse for having an SUV).

Would I be right in thinking that an increasing proportion of the crude being heavy would be shifting the balance towards more diesel and less gasoline?

As someone who has lived in New Zealand, and is married to a New Zealander, I can confirm that many Americans imagine that NZ would be a place that would solve for the laundry list of problems headed our way. If I agreed with this I would have moved there already. But frankly, I don't see it. So I agree with the spirit of this post--which I take to mean, beware of surrounding one's prospective solutions with too much certainty. It's possible, for example, that Wisconsin or Alberta will be much better places to tough out the coming changes. And yes, it's also possible that NZ will be an excellent place too.

It's very, very rare to find a society on the country level that is willing to grapple with the future in sober fashion--and, that will be able to effect changes through those realizations through the political process. The US currently, and California in particular, suddenly look like exactly the wrong scale to make such changes--even if the society were able to address them. No doubt the size of NZ gives people the impression that it would be easier to get things done there. Well, I can assure everyone that denial, intractability, stubborness, and a steep discount of the future (Hagens) are alive and well in NZ. In fact, given some of the cultural heritage from Britain, some of these traits may be even more pronounced.

I highly recommend John McPhee's book on Alaska, which shows what can happen when alot of people who think they are escaping a problem settle down amongst each other. That said, there is no question that many parts of NZ will solve for a good chunk of the laundry list, typical to those of us thinking about water, food, and energy. NZ would indeed be an excellent place to do your own thing. But I wouldn't count on Wellington to provide any kind of special or insightful action until the problems are well advanced. FWIW, this is also the view of most of my contacts in NZ. A nice of example of the realities, vs the dreams, of NZ can be found in the public transport disaster that defines Auckland, and the country's proposal to solve by building--yep you guessed it--a massive new highway.

I almost moved to NZ in 2005 as a way to escape the impending financial crisis which obviously was going to be centered in the US. Result? Global financial crisis with no escape anywhere. And while Austral-Asia still looks "pretty good" I have recently started to become quite concerned about China starting in the next 3-5 years.

I love New Zealand. I may move there still, but, it would be with the knowledge that there are no closed systems anymore and while NZ my solve for half the list of coming problems it will be very hard work nevertheless.


Terrible place NZ, highly overrated

The people are really unfriendly, it's crowded, the climate is shite.

V unfertile soils.

Hardly any high ground to escape the rising sea levels.

Great coffee though, and the occasional good wine.

The Caribbean is a much better place to tough out the arrival of the horsemen....

I'd go there.


(anyone who wants to come on down and help build some kind of functional public transport would be very welcome though)

I was with you on the sarcasm bit until you got to the coffee. I fell in love with a "flat white" and nobody in the US even knows what it is.

Hi Debbie,

Not all of that post was ironic..

I think you may have stumbled on a bit of the truth. The "though" should have helped you out...

Currently trying to get down to two flat whites a day...

Maybe with a bit more warming we'll be able to grow our own coffee. The nearest of any note is about 1500 miles away at the moment.(Queensland)

I still wonder if it would be worth planting some mango trees. Would my grandchildren be thanking me long after I've gone?



How is the supersizing of Aukland going. It was announced during my visit--the NZ Herald published my letter in opposition to it. I think the driving force behind the move was to facilitate the construction of "super" highways--colossal stupidity.

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for replying.

From my slightly cynical point of view, the current government is doing whatever it can to remove all traces of resilience prior to the issue of peak oil and other savory issues becoming household knowledge.

The current government is starting to show glimpses of the kind of behavior that got the last national government voted out for 9 years. Yes there seems to be a lot of emphasis on roads, and not a lot on creating a functioning, inclusive and equitable society.

Lots of really good community based education programs are getting the chop this year as an example.

There is however a lot of really good people rallying to the cause, and because we're effectively 20 years behind the rest of the "developed world" some of the issues we have are not irretrievable. The fishing is pretty good within sight of the CBD for example.

To compound things the community is a bit behind the very meager bits of sustainability based policy as well. Yesterday a friend and I planted a good crop of winter beans, spring onions, leeks and carrots in a garden, especially made for the local community about six months ago in a beautiful park and completely unused since. Surrounded by infill housing with no garden space. Its got about 120m2 of beautiful raised beds, piped water, glorious soil, concreted paths and no one from the surrounding houses has planted anything. It must of cost a fortune to build. We hope our plantings will inspire some of the local householders to plant some stuff and look after it. About 20 mins on the bike away, but couldn't resist the idea to plant something.

My feeling is that like a lot of cities the world, it will turn out to be quite a shock when the general populace realise how badly designed they really are.



"It's possible, for example, that Wisconsin or Alberta will be much better places to tough out the coming changes."

I don't think there is any one ideal place. Alberta has a cool dry climate with lots of petroleum and agriculture, but in the winter when it goes to -35C for a week I listen to my furnace running and try not to think of next month's natural gas bill. Other places don't get winter but they have brutal humidity (never mentioned in radio forecasts here because always dry), summer heat (we don't need air conditioners in Calgary), hurricanes (we get blizzards but they don't require evacuating cities), earthquakes (we are on a stable geosyncline), and kleptocratic governments (one reason the oilsands are so popular is because Alberta doesn't nationalize like Venezuela). No matter where you live, there's always something.

If you are whining about -35, then you have a house that is TOO big, and you don't know anything about superinsulation.

Living in the extremes is quite doable with current tech, not really that expensive, a person just needs to get over the "four squares" type of house crappola drilled into their heads.

Live as a part of Nature, not as a modern day Consumer. You will soon, whether you like it or not.

Would love to hear more about NZ as this does seem a very attractive place.

Water, food and energy pretty well positioned to navigate future disruptions. Increased west coast rainfall long term, decent ag and tremendous renewable energy resources in hydro and wind. V. low corruption. Apparently low fraction of religous zealots. Existing N-S rail line. Would never assume that it is any easier to get things done, just that some of the inherent advantages mitigate difficulty of dealing with change.

Excluding distance from family, biggest negatives that jump out from my 9000 mile view are
- high property values urban & rural
- purchasing power parity about 60% of USA

What else am I missing?

Hi BKelly

Check out this NZ village for:

- PO & GW resilience
- Food security
- Water security
- Community response to economic crash
- and a healthy, non-survivalist approach to building a future which has one

Kind regards


Nice post, Debbie. I agree that we will see more sophisticated ways to deliver unpleasant truths to the public. At least I hope so.

The problem with the first wave of peak oilers is that we are too technical, unversed in the skills of persuasion.

The big joke at Hewlett-Packard is that engineers would market sushi as "cold, dead fish."

// Interesting thought about nationalizing the oil companies, Robert. I think you're right. It is probably the reasonable thing to do. Of course that assumes that the government will be somewhat rational, and that we won't waste all the oil on vain attempts to keep the American Empire afloat.

Bart / Energy Bulletin

The problem with the first wave of peak oilers is that we are too technical, unversed in the skills of persuasion.

I resemble that remark. Speaking of technical stuff, our upcoming update to the top five net exporter paper will address both net export flow rates and cumulative remaining net oil exports. For example, using 1996 as Indonesia's final production peak, their 1998 net exports were only down by 9% from their 1996 rate, but by the end of 1998, they had shipped 44% of their post-1996 cumulative net oil exports.

I've done some hand drawn graphs, as drafts for our upcoming paper, that I will e-mail you. Based on Sam's work, I estimate that in just the 12 months since oil prices hit $134 (monthly average) in June, 2008, the top five net oil exporters shipped about 7% of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports (roughly one percent every 50 days). I estimate that by the end of next year, they will have shipped about one-third of their post-2005 cumulative net oil exports (one third gone in five years).

Mexico, our #3 source of imported oil, will probably have shipped about 90% of their post-2004 cumulative net oil exports by the end of 2004.

Regarding what to do as the bidding war for declining net oil exports heats up again, the primary contributor to US fuel prices is the world price of oil. Absent the use of force, we will have to bid the price up enough to bring the oil here. I believe that we are currently importing on the order of 55% to 60% of our total liquids consumption.

I know what you mean by getting to technical. The problem is that if you aren't technical at all, you are reduced to essentially stating your personal opinion. Other people have other opinions, and other people still believe in the technology fairy. So at some level you have to discuss some of the technical details, but you have to do it in a way that engages average people and doesn't put them to sleep.

...that engages average people and doesn't put them to sleep.

or sends them down a dark tunnel never to return...

I can't even get that far with my wife, who is very aware of the 'Fact' of resource limits, environmental decline, Multinational corporate misdirection.. etc.. but the implications of an Oil Downturn and the chances of 'No Recovery' are unable to ring that warning bell within her. It's like she tolerates my passion for this peculiar hobby, but doesn't see it as a fatal flaw that threatens us.

My solution? Collect parts and designs, and start building my ark. In this case, that means putting stuff up on my roof, put signs in front of the house that tell people what I'm doing and why I believe it's necessary, and it's time.

I think people really take notice when they see you DOING the things you believe in, not just talking or designing pithy bumper stickers .. and then, those out there who silently think about it, maybe even a lot, get to see examples out in the 'real world' that confirm their suspicions, and it lets them identify people who they can share these ideas with and not feel like they're walking the plank in doing so.

- Guess that's why I'm here, too.

I've got this big, clunky box and turret on my roof, right intown in Portland Maine, and people look up at it, squinting and pointing and wondering.. I talk to the ones I see, but I REALLY have to get those signs on the front of the house, cause many must have to walk on thinking 'It's a solar something, I guess.' A bit of PV, a bit of Hot Air, Hot water and more Hot Air coming soon.. and I don't know HOW I'll mount that Vertical Windmill without freaking out my Wife.. If I make it look like Bad Lawn Sculpture, I'm sure I'll never need a permit for the thing. Or I'll just paint 'NADER' on it, and defend it as Politically Protected Speech.


"I think people really take notice when they see you DOING the things you believe in ..."

This says it all, in my book. Leading by example. When people see others doing these things they see that they are possible; the idea is planted in their heads.

So get out there and do it.

If you don't now have a garden, start one, or if you do have one, expand it.

If you have no garden space, join a CSA.

And ... (my favorite motto): Regime change begins with trading in your car for a bike. You can begin by doing your grocery shopping by bike. Get a big basket, or small bike trailer. So you have to bike 3 miles to the store. You'll take off a few of those excess pounds, and feel better in the process.

Something changed in 2005

My first missive on Net Oil Exports--building on prior work by Simmons & Deffeyes, et al, and based on my work and Sam's work-- was in January, 2006. I focused on the top three net oil exporters at the time, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Norway, accounting for about 40% of total world net oil exports. I warned of an impending decline in net oil exports.

Here is what the EIA shows for recent net exports from the top three (Gb per year):

2002: 5.57
2003: 6.28
2004: 6.61
2005: 6.80
2006: 6.57
2007: 6.35
2008: 6.40

The cumulative increase between what the top three would have net exported at their 2002 rate and what they actually net exported from 2002-2005 was +2.98 Gb (16.71 versus 19.69, actual).

The cumulative shortfall between what the top three would have net exported at their 2005 rate and what they actually net exported from 2005-2008 was -1.08 Gb (20.40 versus 19.32, actual). If they had maintained their 2002-2005 rate of increase, they would have net exported 8.3 Gb in 2008.

Sounds like your saying we have till 2020 for net exports...

Everyone, every country, all over the world is wasting everything to keep the American Empire afloat. Soon we will face an even larger problem when the Chinese all want to be like Americans. How is it that so many people claim to hate American and what it stands for, but want to have all the crap they have?

Doesn't that make them, us... me just as bad??

Once you start living the "American Lifestyle" you literally get addicted to all these things that you don't even need.

The complexities of this issue cause me to wonder under what conditions rationing would work out.

Even today there are new auto repair shops going up in my part of Minneapolis, MN. At the same time the oil-change techs must walk the sidewalks out in front of the store with sandwich boards declaring the day's "specials" to lure customers in. I saw one tech standing out side yesterday waving and smiling wiih great enthusiasm, as if his job depended on it .... hmmmmm .....

So if we need to ration gas, then will a result be fewer miles driven and less need for new car sales and auto repair and maintenance?

I guess that many jobs will be lost whether rationing or higher-priced gas causes less driving.

My own take on this is that our leadership -- by now Obama can be seen to be more about continuity than about change on this front -- is focused on managing the endless global competition to dominate resources than anything else. So my guess is that we are heading for an economy where many people will be employed in the military or else forced to survive as agricultural laborers. Those who are lucky will work in the arms industry, prison-industry, law enforcement, and "Homeland Security."

I liked the line " rubber my clavicle..." The war economy will be a "for us or against us" kind of thing, requiring a meta-narrative that will parade cruel absurdities around as noble certainties so that we can commit increasingly horrific atrocities.

Other countries, non-countries, and coalitions will be busy doing the same thing to the best of their abilities.

" 'Save rubber for the noble war effort' -- my clavicle!"

Every article on this topic should mention the IEA's Saving Oil in a Hurry, which doesn't leave out the impact political figures can have with advocacy campaigning. How effective actions like that would be in a rationing situation is impossible to guess, of course. We'd like to think people were more noble minded in the past about propriety, but in the early 30s Texas oil glut you had "hot oil," i.e. bunkering, i.e. theft, such as we did in the last few years, documented in the Gasoline and Diesel Thefts Thread if you want to take a little walk down memory lane.

Preventing theft would be as pressing an issue as rationing. How to deter the thieves using vans with holes in the bottom from tapping gas station tanks? Then you'd need to guard tank farms more effectively - this would have to be a 24/7 operation with rotating shifts of guards. But after that you face the prospect of thieves tapping product pipelines, which have above ground markers showing where they are to prevent damage from backhoes etc. You could tear all those out I suppose. But still you have the occasional wellhead marking lines.

Was interested to find that the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) obfuscates the location of these lines for security reasons:

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 placed additional security concerns on the U.S. pipeline infrastructure. As a result, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration restricts access to the NPMS to federal, state, and local government agencies (including emergency responders). Pipeline operators are allowed access to their own pipeline data only.

To prevent theft at service stations, at least initially I suppose they would put locks on the lids. Which could be defeated if someone tried hard enough, but it would be more obvious.

All that needs to be done is to put a large metal plate over the access area that needs to be moved before the lids could be opened. This would prevent the van trick and make it difficult and obvious for an unauthorized person. Otherwise move the lids out of the traffic areas and build a fenced.
Or even large doors flush mounted. Simple solutions.

A good guard snake ought to do the trick.

pet snake

Any retrofitting would involve time and expense; many of these thieves drill into the tanks, circumventing the obvious barriers. Also they will go after any worthy target, particularly if it is isolated: from a year ago: It used to be deer poaching, now rural gangs move into the oil business | UK news | The Guardian

Oil prices have been on an upward trend since the millennium, when they were around $10-20 a barrel. The huge increases have led to gangs of thieves in lorries or vans fitted with drums and pumps roaming the countryside, often tailing tankers so they can be sure of finding freshly topped-up containers.

Petrol stations are even setting up "stingers" that puncture the tyres of motorists who drive off without paying and farmers are getting together to create secure compounds for their fuel.

Tim Price, a spokesman for NFU Mutual, said farmers were often hit by a double whammy. After the thieves take what they want, they leave valves open and let fuel leak out. Farmers face a bill for the fuel, which is usually covered by insurance, but also one for cleaning up the mess, which may not be. Cowpe's fuel loss, for instance, amounted to £6,000 - the other £60,000 was to cover the clean-up.

Price said the gangs were undoubtedly organised. Ten years ago, when there was a spike in diesel prices, thieves stole small amounts but today they are draining tanks. They need pumps, vehicles fitted with large containers to whisk the fuel away and a ready market to sell it to.

NFU Mutual has heard of farmers moving their supplies into secure, guarded compounds - but the worry is that thieves will see these mini-depots as even more tempting targets.

What should we call the next movie in the Mad Max series?
I never thought about farm storage and was referring to gas stations. This is a bigger problem than I was aware of after all.

This is what makes TOD so much fun--great photos and links. Thanks.

I thought Molly's first argument was the most persuasive: "You don't need four gallons."

It never ceases to amuse me when people talk about our various predicaments, in this case the oil supply problem, as though it were some force beyond their control, some distant complex problem in the world "out there" that needs to be solved by someone like a politician or scientist..., or something.

The reality is that the solution is profoundly simple and no farther away than the end of your nose:

Stop driving.


I agree. When oil went to $147, even some of my neighbors were walking to the grocery store. People pulled out their bicycles and gave them a tune-up.

The framing of the message is important though and it is equally important to realize that people do things for their reasons, not our reasons. How do we attract some marketing wizards to TOD to help us with an appealing message.

How do we attract some marketing wizards to TOD to help us with an appealing message.

Approach them beginning with a carefully-crafted headline promising a main benefit appealing to their emotions of fear, insecurity, greed and wish for status, and then go on to cite authoritative sources to give credibility. Do this using ordinary language (but with lots of "you" and "your") in a message as long as it takes, ending with a call to action and urgency. My fee will be in the next post.
PS:--If your approach succeeds then you evidently didn't need to make it anyway.

And when those "marketing wizards" show up, shoot them.

Can't solve this problem the way it was created. First up against the wall when the Revolution came was the Marketing Department of the Sirius Cybernetics Department.

cfm in Gray, ME

The reality is that the solution is profoundly simple and no farther away than the end of your nose:
Stop driving.

Not so much profoundly simple as profoundly impossible for me and my neighbours. There are 20 cars between 116 households here. The chairman of the residents of a neighbouring area says he has used no other mode of transport than walking in the past 2 years. And from my windows I see a lot of others walking and cycling. A six-year old Alfa Romeo untaxed the last five months, a sign of the times?

Whoa, that's harsh. That's a pretty mean-looking guard snake — and they eat too much.

Shouldn't we try one of these first? They have a pointy thing on their head that could be lethal if they ever stop prancing around long enough to aim it at someone. (BTW, breeding these is going to be my post-peak job. I'm going to make a fortune.)

Pink Unicorn

I love Debbie Cook. Too bad there is only one and she is not in office. I swear I almost moved to Calif just so I could vote again - Debbie would have been a politician I could stomach voting for in the last election.

Unfortunately, I'm firmly in the Orlovian Camp ~ "Ignore National Politicians - they are a colossal waste of time..."

Sometimes I'm stunned by the complacency of "peak oilers" in general. As if we have time to "teach the world to sing" in perfect harmony...

My godz folks, even if we got lucky and could replicate the success of the APCC crowd we would be far, far too f*cking late and then, at best, we would still be stuck with nothing more than stupid world accords everyone ignores anyway.

I love this site and a few others like it. It's good to be among the sapient - and to hear the hopeful thoughts of others. I do not like to rain on parades or be an ogre. But honestly, I hope that the sincere, intelligent potential leaders like Debbie Cook are looking out for themselves personally, and are still around after the collapse to help their locales.

(P.S. - I really, REALLY hope we can look forward to the extreme luxury of rationing fuel... but I suspect many of us will consider rationing of food a luxury soon enough - much too soon enough).


I'm firmly in the Orlovian Camp ~ "Ignore National Politicians - they are a colossal waste of time..."

I've been saying that myself for years, following my experience of the uselessness of campaigning. But it's a message that meets intense resistance. People want to believe that their "leaders" really are sensible and capable of wanting to help the society in general. And the propaganda is quite sophisticated. Just now the uk parliament is in disgrace (you may have heard) and yet I bet that within 2-3 yrs there'll be many true believers still sucking up to them.[assuming there are still leaders and a national govt by then]

Thanks for your personal support but I assure you I have all the human frailties that got us into this mess. In retrospect it may be selfish to continue the flailing because it is so much fun. The past five years I've met so many incredible people, learned about subjects that continue to intrigue me, and PO has taken me back to one of my favorite things--the garden. When I read posts like yours and others I wish I could sit down and speak with you face to face, to hear your stories and find a way to connect you into the fun I am having. So, Mr. SendOil, if you're in SoCal, give me a ring...

I too am having 'some' fun - moving to a small country farm a mile out of "town" with very few nearby, nosy neighbors; taking up gardening, raising chickens and bumbling into bee keeping (only 24 stings so far this summer, but boy are they pumping out the honey).

And I too have met some incredible people (e.g. the folks at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association: ). I just wish I had more time and energy to devote to connecting with more people like this (there are none in my locale). I spend most of my time trying to gently wean my family off our toxic culture (the toxic culture wins most of the battles) and developing useful skills myself.

I think it is much later than we imagine. I think the 'above ground factors' part of the system will fail earlier than we imagine. Our post-peak oil production pRojeCTionS will likely prove much too generous for many reasons - see:

The Net Hubbert Curve: What Does It Mean?

Ali Samsam Bakhtiari - Transition Phases

(are we still in "T1" or now slip-sliding away into the more dangerous and chaotic T2??? :)

Orlov's recent "Slope of Dysfunction:"

Hopefully the seeds sown by this site and others like it will take root in many locales in many little ecosystems all over the world.

Time for the voting buttons again, one up!

I too, have stopped the proselytizing, and have moved onto looking after my own with like minded people. I also try not to get married to one expected outcome or the other, but to keep my eyes and ears open and adapt. I've been wrong before (once!), and I'll probably be wrong again.

What I have noticed over the last few years is how my circle of acquaintances, cohorts, and friends has been changing away from the typical engineering professional to the community sustainable. Perhaps our social programming over the past 100 years or so has conditioned us to value some professions more than others, but I find myself giving equal weight to the story tellers and medical healers, as I do to the technocrati.

How does it go? I went away to a better place to leave my problems behind, but I found they were still there. There is not any nirvana on earth for escaping PO impacts, there are only those with slightly better chances. That is why we moved back to western Canada. The only short coming is they have paved over, or sub-divided most of the prime agricultural land, otherwise we could be self sustaining. Oh, and there will be the hoards of hungry, destitute, pissed-off, gun toting 'Merikans to the south - kidding. To believe our futures and outcomes are independent of each other is folly.

Rationing, now there's a pickle. For rationing to truly work, one has to go to the root of the problem. I still recall a colleague telling me how they rationed bread in WWII Switzerland. You weren't allowed to sell bread on the first day. Simple, eh? Fresh bread gets wolfed down immediately (guilty as charged), and day-old bread gets used more slowly. As they say in Guinness, "Brilliant!!" I postulate fuel rationing will come in the form of food rationing. Diminishing fuel will increasingly be allocated to key food production and transportation, thereby decreasing discretionary uses.

One positive effect that came to mind right away while pondering my own situation, is will this bring families closer together geographically? My parents live 500 km away and if fuel is rationed by whatever means, how will I plan my travels? Can we devise a method that can make hitch-hiking safe and reliable again?

Hmmm, good food for thought on a Sunday morning (PDT).

Because the U.S. already has a Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan prepared in 1980 by the Department of Energy, there is little need to speculate about the method. Upon a 20% shortfall in refined liquid fuels, registered motorists in the U.S. will be mailed Federal Gas Coupons. The ration coupons are freely transferable intending to create a market for them.

Here is an online copy of the final document: Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan, U.S. Department of Energy, Economic Regulatory Administration, Office of Regulations and Emergency Planning, June 1980, (PDF warning, 980 kB)

Knowing the current state of "markets" in the U.S., I imagine the ration coupon market will be either all black, imaginary, or broken. I can see the scams now. If they want to continue the spiraling devolution of American society, have at 'er.

How long would it take someone to figure out they can get gas coupons for a vehicle that doesn't actually operate because it needs $2,000 in parts, but they can trade the coupons for street drugs? If the U.S. wants to ensure a fairly equitable and safe rationing system, I wouldn't make them transferable.

I hope folks realize that there may be a bit of a paradox coming if we go to some kind of rationing: It is possible that how much you are allowed to have will be based on your current consumption. That means the folks who have already reduced oil consumption as much as possible BEFORE the rationing could be rationed down from their current efficient low level, while folks who have made zero effort at conservation would be able to count any improvement from their current wasteful levels as part of their contribution to the goals and thus be rewarded for their lack of effort to this point! Wouldn't that be a kick in the nuts!...:-)

I myself now consume about 85% less gasoline than I did only a year ago. In those days I drove 44 miles per day. After a relocation to near where I currently work, I drive 3.4 miles per day, but I do drive a bit more for recreational purposes than I did a year ago, simply because my fuel consumption is so low as to allow it. I now actually must worry about gasoline going stale in the tank. The much greater danger to most of us than loss of fuel supply is loss of income, i.e., unemployment.

The easiest way to ration gas is to ration money, and the easiest way to ration money is to ration employment and paychecks. It is in this way that classical Marxian model works: The owners of the means of production do not have to rely on "employment" to provide money, so the rationing of gas by way of rationing money by way of rationing jobs does them no real damage. The employed classes must rely on one thing and one thing only to provide any hope of holding on to a humane standard of living, but the folks here really don't want to hear what it is...oh well, that's never stopped me's technology.

W.H. Auden once said that the measure of a great culture, any great culture was always the same..."variety achieved with unity retained."
The first time I heard that phrase I heard angels sing. I still tremble slightly as I write it, so powerful is the idea, the most useful definition of everything I have heard to this second. It is technology that can increase variety, variety of transportation, variety of entertainment, variety of places we can see, things we can do for fun, for enrichment and for a living. Without technology, there is virtually no variety of employment, art or experience. Human life would have the variety of experience of the life of a cow, and would truly make us what those who detest humanity often say of us, no smarter than yeast and no more free than "sheepie".

So will rationing come? Who knows, possibly. But it won't last long, not unless you can ration human thought.

For those who have been reading my posts over the last several months,you may have noticed a pattern: I am back on the crusade, and like Don Quixote I am tilting at the greatest of windmills: I am defending the indefensible cause: The dignity of humanity, and the worth of our future efforts. And I have seldom felt better and more satisfied.

Damn fate, let's bring it on and get this fight underway, if it's collapse on the way, let's bring it on and have this fight! It is this infernal waiting that is destroying us!


"I hope folks realize that there may be a bit of a paradox coming if we go to some kind of rationing: It is possible that how much you are allowed to have will be based on your current consumption."

It's a good point, but not likely, at least at first. For that to work, they would have to keep some kind of records for how much you use. There are no such records right now. After the rationing had been running for a while, they may build up that information. So, if you don't use your ration, you lose the excess the next time around. Sensible people will use their full ration or figure out some way to sell it rather than lose some.

The real problem will be the people who want more ration and can't get it. If the ration is tradeable, like Martin Feldstein has called for for some time, then there's no problem, since people who use less can sell the excess.

I don't expect rationing until we go to war with China. I'm not expecting that for eight years or so, just based on the Great Depression/WWII history. Until then or some surprise event, I expect we'll stick to rationing by price. It's working fairly well at the moment.

One of the things I find interesting on TOD is that the discussion usually gets stuck on whatever the first person brings up. It seems indicative of the way the brain compartmentalizes. So in this post, it's been almost exclusively about rationing (which is not surprising) but when I was writing I thought there would be more discussion about "propaganda." We seem to prefer to occupy the same "rut" for awhile before we'll move onto the next "rut." It is not unlike the "silos" of our institutions nor the circles of our friends--like attracting like. I guess I am trying to suggest that the more cross-fertilization we do, of disciplines and friends, the better our choices will be. We tend to hear the first best answer at the expense of waiting for the next best answers. I am not suggesting there are "answers" but there are definitely responses and when we are open to hearing other possibilities, we see that our future can unfold in an infinite number of ways.


I would have liked to discuss the propaganda aspect, but really, what can we say about it? The government and environmental groups are already involved in propaganda involving climate change, and it has had some effect, but much of the effort so far has been in "greenwashing" products so the company making them can get some of the pressure off their backs. But "greenwashing" is a form of propaganda, and it plants the seed that we SHOULD probably be using less carbon releasing energy, but without the stick of rationing, why would we? Why would I, who alrady consume very little in the way of energy compared with my much more prosperous neighbors, desire to cut even more so they can use more?

Without the stick of rationing, the best propaganda is (a) peer pressure, and (b)transparent efficiency. We saw the peer pressure work in the 1970's when the "big barge" Cadillacs and Lincolns and the custom vans became a mark of stupidity, not status, for those who drove them, so they were quickly disavowed by the "in" crowd. We are seeing it now with SUV's and Hummers, especially the latter. What a turn of events for the owners of those, envied one day and seemingly only days later laughed off the block and blamed for all the ills of the nation and the world!

Transparent efficiency is to me fascinating. This is achieved by the introduction of technology in such a way so that the efficiency of consumption goes up radically without the customer even knowing it! the fuel efficiency of drivetrains in vehicles through the last two decades are a great example of this, but the propaganda of the auto companies was used to sell weight, size and performance instead of fuel efficiency, so the overall fleet fuel mileage did not improve, but the performance and size of the vehicles climbed by staggering amounts.

What this means is that when the public decides or are compelled to come back to more efficient sized and performing vehicles, the fuel mileage of thse vehicles will be astounding. In the old days, a tiny box of almost no performance such as the Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel or the Ford Fiesta or Dodge Colt was needed to get above 38 miles per gallon. Now, a midsize sophisticated well performing car such as the Mercury Milan Hybrid or Toyota Camry Hybrid can do it, and provide performance better than even performance cars did only 30 years ago.

The problem with propaganda is that it must be ABSOLUTELY CORRECT and it must be very sophisticated, or it can do more harm to the cause it intends to support than good. When I was a child, the environmental movement had thse heavy handed commercials on showing the year 2000, with a father and son out in a desert with oxygen tanks and space suits on, telling us that all the trees would be gone by the time the kid grew up. I was that kid, and at the time it terrified me. Now my memory of how idiotic the commercial was causes me to take anything said by the environmental community with a grain of salt, a big one.

Oh by the way, in the case of WWII, the propaganda in the "Fibber" radio comedy states accurately the REAL reason for conserving gasoline: It was not to save the gasoline, which the U.S. had plenty of, but to conserve rubber (tires). In recent years some folks havecome to believe that the U.S. was short of gasoline to fight the war, but nothing could be further from the truth: During WWII the U.S. was the BIGGEST producer of crude oil in the world, and shipped crude oil to our allies.

Now a fascinating point of discussion: Where did all the excesss oil and gasoline go? Remember, all construction and steel was being used in the war effort, even train tracks were being pulled up and scrapped, so there could have been no building of storage tanks to put the extra oil and gasoline WHERE DID IT GO?

I know the answer, because this was something of a controversy when it was revealed after the war, and oldtimers such as Andy Rooney and others of that era have mentioned it several times (Andy at least once mentioned it on "60 Minutes" back in the 1970's in his dismissal of the energy crisis in that period), and as late as the 1980's I had personal friends, old men who were friends and customers of my businesses then, who were personally involved in the program...but I will see if anyone wants to discuss this and tell me where all that excess crude oil and gasoline went before I say...and there was A LOT of it, millions of barrels.

Debbie, I was hoping more folks would want to discuss old time radio...I can tell your a fan! What a period that was! I still love the old time radio shows when I can find them, and the music from that period was excellent. We could use streaming audio on the internet that way and produce whole little sound dramas if we were willing, they would be cheap and easy to broadcast...a sort of a middle ground between "books on tape" and video...would anyone listen?
It could be a fun hobby just to see,

But for now, again, the quiz: WHERE DID ALL THE EXCESS OIL AND GASOLINE GO IN WWII?, since the massive rationing was to save tires, not oil?


Yes, it was at first a surprise to hear the real reason behind rationing, but then I did the Homer Simpson, Doh! because I also knew we were the largest oil producer. So I am REALLY curious now. Where did the fuel go??? If no one comes back with a response, please email me the answer:

During the 1973 and later in the 1979 energy crisis, there were still many men who were still relatively young that served in WWII, both in the coast guard, the U.S. Navy, and other branches of the U.S. military (and by relatively young, I mean still working, about the age the last baby boomers are now.) The war effort did indeed consume a considerable amount of oil, but not nearly as much as could be saved by rationing of the entire civilian population. The rationing allowed for the average user to have the 4 gallons per week discussed in the radio program (the so called "A" stamp) The "B" stamp allowed 8 gallons, and was for people critical to the war effort, war plant workers, Red 'C' stickers indicated physicians, ministers, mail carriers and railroad workers, "T" for truckers, and a rare set of "X" stickers went to members of Congress and "other VIP" persons needing to travel, and was the absolute status item of the day.

I knew a man personally when I was a teenager who very purposely ran for the local office of "railroad commisioner" to be able to get the X stamp, and was still resented in the 1970's for his use of the stamp to provide gas for his entire family and friends.

At the start of this string, someone asked about how long people complained about the rationing. I can tell you that they were still complaining about WWII rationing in the 1970's, and the short list of wealthy and influentual families who were viewed as having taken advantage of the sytem was viewed dimly, and it was still a political liability for them and their families who were involved in politics.

We must recall that those people were closer in time past to the WWII rationing than we are currently to the 1973 energy crisis! They recalled it well, and some were in a position to see things first hand that later came out after the war.

An electrician friend and customer of mine, some 40 older than I, served in the Coast Guard, and ran escort in WWII to U.S. coastal shipping. He cursed the WWII rationing, and was the first to tell me that there had been no shortage of oil in the war, that the gas rationing was to save tires: I argued with him (usually a mistake for an 18 year old to do when dealing with someone who was there!) saying that was not what we were taught in school, and he said "I know, because we escorted tankers that dumped it at sea." This was so astounding to me at the time that I dismissed it as a "conspiracy theory".

During the 1970's, one of the voices who ridiculed the whole idea of an "energy crisis" was the CBS reporter (later famous by way of his of "60 Minutes" commentaries) Andy Rooney. In the '70's he on several occasions made the same assertion, that oil and gas could not be stored in such huge quantities and was dumped just off coast at sea.

At the time, people who doubted this asked why the oil was not sent to our British allies who actually were in need of fuel, at that time having virtually no home fuel production (remember that the vaunted "North Sea" miracle did not really take off until the 1980's! Until the the the United Kingdom had always been a net oil importer from the birth of the oil age, as astounding as that sounds, their whole empire, like the Japanese miracle after WWII was built entirely on imported oil).

There was one major reason that the oil was not carried across the North Atlantic to our allies except for what was needed to run the war machine itself: Submarines. The German U-boat campaign made shipping anything across the Atlantic very dangerous until well into the war, and many tankers were sank and lives lost in simply trying to maintain the supply chain needed for our war effort alone. We could not take chances carrying any extra across to maintain the civilian sector. The "Battle of the Atlantic" a term coined by Winston Churchill himself, was deadly, with more than 100 convoy battles and over 1000 single ship encounters with U-boats by the end of the war.

Now the old men and women who remember WWII are dying away. My father, who was 10 years old in 1943 (and so 40 years old in the 1973 oil crisis)died just last year. He used to laugh at my concern about oil in the 1970's (I was 14 in 1973, only two years from being legal to drive, and many of my friends and I were in real doubt as to whether we would ever need a driving liscense). My father was a believer in some type of peak, saying "yeah, we'll run out sometime, but this is a political shortage, just like the rationing in the war..."

Most people who lived during WWII still regarded the government rationing program of WWII as a joke even in the 1970's, and saw it as a corruption riddled program that achieved nothing except to practice enforced obediance on the poor and the politically non-connected. Certain commodities were indeed in short supply (silk and rubber among them, since the areas that had produced them were occupied by the enemy). Many asked even after the war why every driver was not simply told "when you wear out the tires you have, that's it", which would have stopped the consumption of new rubber and the consumption of oil (nothing cripples a car like the lack of is possible to home brew alcohol or convert to nat gas or propane for fuel, but who can manufacture tires at home? Think about that by the way, in a collapse it will be a HUGE factor)

By the way, during the war and afterward, much more than excess oil and gas was dumped at sea, including munitions, excess aircraft and boat and ships, even nerve gas and other chemicals stores that had become redundant. Some of this dumping is just now being studied for the damage it has done to ocean life and biodiversity, and some of it was very powerful toxins that will have effects for centuries. Big time war is a messy business.


Postscript to prior post: I was running long and decided to link this in a separate post:

Interesting read. How many folks knew that there was no rationing in either of our U.S. border countries? (both of whom were allies during the war)


I remember WWII rationing. No one that I knew considered it a joke. My father was one of the lucky ones with a B card. We rarely took unnecessary trips. I don't recall my parents ever exceeding the 35 mph speed limit. My mother was no "soccer mom". During WWII I either walked, rode my light weight Victory bike or occasionally caught the bus. The shortage (and rationing) that most affected me was that of tennis shoes. The reason that many believed that tires were the real reason for gas rationing was that the US had been cut off from natural rubber supplies and the synthetic rubber industry had not yet developed.

As to Old Time Radio, I hope it comes back. There are some examples of great radio today, "This American Life" being a standout.

You've piqued my curiosity...where did the oil go?

Regarding where did the oil go, I assume you guys are joking. Huge amounts of petroleum--for the time--were being used fighting a global war on multiple fronts.

In any case, the US went from finding its largest Lower 48 oil field, the East Texas Field, in 1930, and from being a leading oil exporter, and a key source of oil for the Allies in the Second World War, to net oil importer status in 1948--22 years before our production peaked. In a similar fashion, China went from a net oil exporter to net oil importer status in just a few years, because of a rapid increase in consumption.

ThatsIt--You and others are here missing a rather obvious explanation of the bizarre dumping of oil at sea. It would of course (seem to!) make much more sense to just turn off the oil-wells (as presumably can be done just with a turn of a tap on each).

What was really involved is that the war-machines needed to use a standard fuel, for logistic efficiency. Given that the engines being made were mostly going to get bombed out of action long before they wore out, it would make sense for them not to be costly diesel but all to be gasoline (on ground) and kerosene for aircraft.

Producing the required huge quantities of gasoline resulted in huge quantities of diesel etc being produced as byproduct at the same time, and the only thing they could do with it was dump it at sea. End of mystery.

PS--Do I get the booby prize for winning this quiz? (Or for presumption that I did?!)

Hi RobinPC

Diesel for aircraft? You must be thinking of jets which basically burn diesel (kerosene actually). In WWII, virtually all aircraft had piston engines, and burned gasoline because of much higher power-weight ratios than diesels.

You get the booby prize for sure.

I never said diesel for aircraft. And kerosene (uk:paraffin) is certainly not diesel.

Nevertheless good point that they had gasoline piston engines (apart from some jets later in the war). But that only strengthens my case as a whole (everything being powered by gasol, hence surplus other outputs), so I look forward to the rightful award of that booby prize in due course.

While not common, the Germans did build and fly several aircraft with diesel engines in the late Thirties and into the Second World War. A link to an article on the topic (apparently written in the early Forties):

I know what you mean.. while I've had to remember that in posting responses, I can't make any secondary points that could act like red meat and upstage the key point I wanted to address.

It's a bit like asking a challenging, compound question at a Q&A or a political debate. You will probably get an answer to the 'easier part' of your question, while the tough one is magically left behind..

Your Point about there being 'Various Possible Responses' is well taken, and that there are a lot of different directions things surely can turn. The conversation here can very quickly become a kind of Target Practice where posters follow the old edict of 'What's WRONG with this picture?' .. because debate and argument is so rooted in Identifying Errors.. and yet I have to remind myself to look at proposals with the question of "What's RIGHT with this picture?", in order to find the potential fruit in an idea that may not work as a whole... as we look for BB's (or Blueberries, as some prefer to call it..), I think that question needs to be on our minds in order to recheck proposals that have come and gone because of incidental, but not necessarily fundamental problems. (Like Solar Hot Water, which had a misguided incentive program and lot of scam artists giving it a bad rep in the late seventies.. but which could offset just massive amounts of Oil Propane and NGas use throughout the country)

Thanks for the article!
Bob Fiske

Thanks Bob. I appreciate yours and all the thoughtful responses. You never know how the TOD readers will respond to a piece. I am probably not alone in rarely posting comments on TOD (but I am a huge fan), especially when the "tone" becomes too angry. Maybe that's a female response, maybe not, but I'm just not interested anymore in arguing about diddley squat. I think politics did that, or maybe just age. Speaking of politics, I have been toying with the idea of writing something that offers a different perspective about government and leadership. I have held off because I knew this audience would go into attack mode. I laughed as Fibber declared he was going to "write his Congressman." People may be right to be skeptical of government but I think the frustration is misplaced in many ways. It goes back to "people know so much that ain't so." We elect humans and expect them not to act like humans.

I would love to hear a perspective from the 'inside'..

Yes, the rampant disparaging comments about "TPTB", Elected Officials and 'RealPolitik' leveled as daily Truisms are tiresome, do little to approach the problem constructively, and could fly into overdrive after such a piece, but in so many parts of this topic, it's where the rubber meets the road. It could be really useful to have a clearer understanding of 'How it works, How it doesn't work, What are the Greatest Misperceptions we have of Government?, What actions really need to start OUTSIDE of the Policy Centers.. ie, when are we looking to Government to start something, as they are waiting for 'us' to initiate or grow a cause so that it can become Politically Actionable?'

Damn the Torpedoes, take us in, Skipper!


Your 'They're just Human' reminder takes me to that Mob Movie line (again, sorry folks)

Q: You're in Organized Crime?
A: To tell you the truth, we're not that organized.

Well, I suppose that could be taken as a very unflattering comparison, Mob/Gov't, but it isn't the intent, really.. for me it just says that any such 'ooh-ahh!' group label is still just a bunch of mortal mooks like the rest of us. As Koch quoted from the Greeks in his book on Guilliani, 'Character is Everything'

That makes me think of the great line by Will Rogers..."I belong to no organized political party...I'm a Democrat."

Or this one, which I find absolutely hilarious everytime I say it, here it comes..."I can say that I have never properly been a Communist...but I have spent most of my life in the red!"
Attributed to folk singer Pete Seeger

I too would be fascinated by Debbie's view of politcal structure and how the political system can be more helpful in assisting constructive change. Of course if we endorse political action then we must still be holding out hope that the structure of our political structure will survive at least partially intact.

I think a great case study would be the period leading up to political resistance to the Vietnam War in the U.S. The young public seemed to be well in front of the political establishment on this one, and the politicians who opposed Johnson and the war effort began to seek out and find like minds both inside congress and outside the halls of power among the most responsible persons in the anti-war movement.

So we know there is an natural affinity of ideas between the climate change issue and the need to reduce fossil fuels consumption due to concern about peak oil. A sort of an Al Gore/Roscoe Bartlett axis of mutual interest. Cities are widely different as San Fransisco, Portland OR and Bloomington IN to name a few have passed peak oil resoltions in their city councils or city managements. So maybe we need to start networking all these things together: Create a database of the folks who have sponsered resolutions in city and state government, Congressmen who have expressed support for the concept of peak oil at a national level, and those who have spoken out about climate change and carbon release and would support any attempt to reduce fossil fuel consumption for their own agenda.

We then would have a nice list of addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers to call, and to whom we could say, "your welcome with that message here, what can we do to back you up" (because as Debbie will probably attest, they are not welcome with the peak oil/cut carbon message everywhere, some folks are still pretty hostile to it!)

Which brings about one more thing in reference to the "back you up" issue mentioned above: We have got to cover each others back. I know I have differences with certain people about points of projection/prediction and about philosophy of viewpoint (key points about endorsing technology of cetain types, etc.) but I am training myself to not go on the attack over minor points of difference. We need something like an "apostles creed" for those of aware of the fact that one way or the other, fossil non-renewable fuel consumption WILL come down (pay now or pay later). We can lay aside the arguments abot whether it will be chaos or soft landing, whether demand will drop first and then supply drop, production/supply will crash fast or the downslope will be gradual, whether we can implement the alternatives and or conservation in time and in a way to save us from great suffering, on and on, we should first agree that non-renewable fossil fuel consumption WILL come down. This must be the core principle of admission for those of us who consider the peak oil and or carbon release issue an issue we can join forces on (if I did not believe at least the above, I would not be here).

Enough for now, thank you again Debbie for your fascinating post and the discussion it inspired. :-)


I love the quotes you guys threw out. It reminded me of one from a city planner nearly 20 years ago (when I was a community activist and had the same disparaging thoughts that everyone else has--and yes, I still disparage, too). "It's not a conspiracy, it's a conspiracy of common interest."

I really appreciate the encouragement to take on the challenge of the "insider's perspective." I will keep trying to figure out how to approach the issue in a way that will not get everybody's hair standing on end. I don't want to be provocative, but rather get people to do things that are productive.

To tell you the truth, we're not that organized.

Excellent!! (Most of your stuff too, Debbie!)

I suspect that the US FedGov will dither and drag their feet for as long as possible (actually, quite a bit beyond that point, even), but eventually their hand will be forced and they will have no alternative but to implement some sort of motor fuel rationing. They might not even call it rationing, they might very well ditch the plans they have on the books and do something totally different. The bottom line is that the military and government operations will get what they need first, then public safety, agriculture, utilities, trains, and essential industries will get what they need, to the extent that there is any left over from the military and government. Ordinary people like you and I will get whatever drops or fumes are left over after that. By the time the allocation plan is put in place, there won't be very much left for ordinary people, and even that little bit will shrink to nothing in just a few years at most.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if at that time the nation is on some sort of war footing, probably involved in a conflict to preserve access to whatever small amounts of petroleum are still available and feasibly up for grabs (or at least that will be the cover story). Even if the chances of succeeding are slim, and the amounts involved are so tiny as to make very little difference, the war footing will be the main justification for the rationing scheme. Yes, there will be a huge amount of propaganda employed to get people on board and keep them there. I don't see how such a propaganda effort can be successful given the wide-open, dispersed media environment we have now, so the government will have to go after that as well. We'll effectively end up with martial law, or something very close to it, because that will be the only way that the government can impose the types of controls that will be necessary to prevent its propaganda messages from being totally discredited.

Enjoy your freedom of movement and freedom of speech while you've got them, they won't be lasing forever. I've been saying that the 21st century is going to be one long exercise in giving up things. These are yet other things we are going to be having to give up. A particularly bitter and painful parting that will be.

WNC Observer, to your point about "wartime footing", I was frankly astounded we did not go to rationing after the attack on 9/11/01. What an opportunity we missed! People were ready to sacrifice in a way they had not been since WWII. Instead we stalled and ended up having the recession/crash last year that we were so afraid of then. "pay now or pay later"