Deaf and Dumb in America - No Peak Oil for Us!

This is a guest post by Debbie Cook.

The failure of mass media to cover the peak oil story has been well documented and discussed on the pages of The Oil Drum. As recently as May 3, Kurt Cobb presented the challenges in marketing “peak oil” to main stream media. His article and subsequent comments are worth re-reading. Many of us believed that if we could just get the stories published, we’d be on our way to addressing our energy challenges. As a testament to the strength of The Oil Drum and its community, the very next day Peak Oil Entrepreneur responded with a marketing plan for peak oil. Seemingly all that is needed is money and a willingness to “get our hands dirty with unclean business.”

Failing to attract sufficient budgets for such a campaign, many of us have plodded on in our individual ways. We’ve met with editors/reporters/publishers. We’ve had our op-ed pieces rejected. We’ve assembled media panels at conferences. Are we making a difference? If we are, how would we know?

At the 2005 ASPO-Denver conference I met John Theobald who uses the peak oil theme in teaching his communications courses at UC Davis. At one of his Oil Forum events in 2007 I was introduced to his novel way of measuring media coverage in a given market—by using the search term “peak oil” in a paper’s search engine. It was certainly an attention grabber.

This may not be a very scientific way of measuring media coverage, but it can be instructive. I sat down yesterday and spent a few hours perusing various papers around the world. The results, while not surprising to TOD readers, are disappointing:

On the international scene there seems to be more mention of peak oil on television, as well. As an example, here is a seven minute panel discussion on peak oil, that we are not likely to see in America.

I won’t try to read too much into this little exercise, but with few exceptions, US papers have clearly turned a deaf ear to this issue. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is a bit surprising given that Pat Murphy’s Community Solutions is a 3-4 hour drive from the Cleveland area. My personal disappointment is in my newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. Frankly, all of the Tribune papers turned up goose eggs; it can’t just be a coincidence. Just as with the climate debate, the international media is light years ahead of the U.S. It’s as if we aren’t grown up enough to read adult issues.

Cynicism does creep in. I can’t help but wonder whether the current mindset can be dislodged by another meme or if our peak oil reality will just live as small mammals alongside dinosaurs as postulated by Greenish back in May:

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

I’ll check back…after the perturbation.

Thanks for the thoughts, Debbie;

Well, my Fellow Moles and Shrews, if we're right, even in our small numbers and with such apparently laughable influence in 'the dialog' .. it seems to me the most useful action aside from the attempts at outreach are to conceive and develop contingencies that can be rolled out quickly once this situation proves itself to enough of a critical mass of the people.

The reasons for creating very visible devices on my own house is threefold at least.
1) So others know I believe this is worth committing time and effort to, right now.
2) So My home actually has some alternative ways of keeping us warm and ok..
3) So I have some designs and plans worked out that I can then share with neighbors as soon as anyone is interested in them.

I do get a lot of neighborhood interest already.. even some very rough and gangsta dudes were shaking their heads in appreciation and saying 'That's it, man. That's the thing!' And no, I'm not worried about them trying to drop a 100 pound box off my roof at gunpoint and having their way with my family.. in case such responses are about to come up. Many people do get it, and just need to see that it's possible AND necessary AND already happening around them. There is a LOT of inertia to fight, and the pressure we apply against such weight has to be persistent and continuous.


Thanks Bob. People are even beginning to get it behind the Orange Curtain. I am hosting a permaculture lecture in Huntington Beach on September 4. If anyone is interested in attending, let me know: energymavenatgmaildotcom

Debbie - At least you have this SCAG report on the impacts of climate change and peak oil in OC to point to.

Co-author, Bryn Davidson will be speaking at our Michigan Future conference this November.

SCAG actually produced several documents acknowledging peak oil and we had a very good peak oil conference in 2006. I continue to serve on one of their committees and have never gotten push back from my colleagues. But again, many of them believe in the "technology will save us" mantra. I would say that overall the conservatives feel much less threatened by a discussion on peak oil than one on climate. Local electeds hate anything that threatens "local control," and they see Climate legislation as undermining their authority. I find it rather humorous (and frightening).

Michigan has a huge local control issue too, with over 2000 governmental entities within our state. In just our small county we have about 12 townships plus some small city governments.

I am hoping we can get a report similar to the SCAG report for NW lower Michigan.


I read the NYT online regularly and despite it's shortcomings it's still maybe one of the world's best papers.

But they and every other paper,with one exception, I have searched for "peak oil" dodge the issue.I did my own search a few weeks ago and got the same results you did,on some of yours and some you missed.You will get some hits at papers located in oil towns,that's the exception.

I cannot believe real reporters could miss such a story.

The best explaination in my opinion is that they must dance on the top edge of the fence
between credibility and good journalism on the one side and the wishes of thier CORPORATE owners and advertisers on the other,as the latter groups have an overwhelming interest in not upsetting the bau applecart.

That said,people who really know what is going on are always a very small minority,
and as such we are utterly lacking in social role models that impress Joe Sixpack or even his cousin the Chardonnay lawyer,who most likely knows absolutely nothing about chemistry,geology,or biology.But you can bet he knows a lot about stocks and bonds and reads lots of articles written by mainstrean economists!!

And we know about how much most of THEM know about the hard sciences,right?

Some time back I got into a little discussion of resource depletion at Barnes and Noble while drinking coffee.Although I had the only thing approaching real credentials of any body there,I made zero impression because a prosperous lawyer grilled me like a house breaker.My answers were good,but since he had decided to practice his cross examination technique on a NOBODY FARMER,albeit one with a degree from a good university right down the road,every one else was snowed,since NOBODY,excepting yours truly,knew any science. The lawyer himself obviously could not really comprehend physical and biological limits.

Everybody decided I was a charlaton of course,or at least a nutcase.The alpha role model said my position is bs,therefore my position is bs.

Add to this that the discussion at forums such as this one is loaded up with doomer scenarios and the average person will quickly assume we are indeed nutcases,especially if he is a conservative or a religious person with hackles up from all the insults slung like mud at thier values/world views.

I know it feels good,I do it myself once in a while-more to the liberals these days on this site,since acknowledged conservatives hardly exist here.But I lambaste BOTH sides regularly.

If there is any person that can be religious, believe that junk, and NOT believe peak oil is coming. Well I think they have made a poor choice for a leap of faith. There is no reason not to believe the peak oil thesis/argument. Being prepared is just plain smart, if it never comes, so be it.

This has been similar to my experience as well. There seems to be three false "divine truths" that blind most Americans (both Liberal and Conservative as you correctly point out).

Scientism - The belief that Science has all the answers, or similarly, that we will be able to develop technology to solve all our problems.

Free Marketism - The belief that the "Invisible Hand of the Open Market" will solve future shortages through substitution, and that this substitution principle insures price controls.

Growthism - The belief that growth can continue almost forever and that we are no where close to growth limits. An especially popular false belief held by almost all economists.


I agree that denialism is present on both the 'right' and 'left' sides of the political spectrum, but my experience is that BAUism is more stridently enforced by the far right folks.

Usually at work I stay on-task and keep my head down, but one day while I was building scenarios to sustain certain activities from now to 2050, I made the comment that 'well, by 2050 we'll either have figured out how to resource all these plans or we will be throwing rocks at each other, after all, oil is a finite resource.' The guy a couple of cubes down, who listens to Rush 3 hours every day, taxied by and said 'Yeah, right! You are out of your mind!' The old-hat very conservative and religious bubba whose job it is to maintain awareness on the World situation started in with a diatribe about how oil is made continually in the ground, God will provide for the righteous, and 'there is enough oil to last 1 million years'.

These are representative of many of the folks you are paying for each day to 'figure things out'.

My point is that my experience is that people on the center to left spectrum usually give you a pained look and/or change the subject because of their zen acceptance or denial or whatever, while the folks on the right usually strike out like a wounded badger and go high-order when you try to confront them with any facts or logic.

I have noticed that there is a sort of correspondence between readiness to understand reality and poverty on the one hand, and readiness to believe and affluence on the other.

I am not saying that all rich people are true believers, and all poor people pure rationalists, but there is a clear tendency towards such a state of affairs.

Interesting state of affairs. As more people 'drop' into poverty, reality hits a lot of noses very hard.
On the other hand, the more affluent will believe in maintaining the status quo, and they will be ready to pay for that. Methinks security agent - bodyguard - private security will be a booming business. And methinks redistribution and reapropriation, or liberating stuff, as it was known during the World Wars, will become widespread pastimes. And what remains of the press will call it crime and terrorism. In the mean time, paradise will be crashing into hell, but the affluent will continue to believe everything is going to be fine, especially for them.

I would not be surprised at all if affluence were to be become seen by the impoverished masses as a crime in itself, deserving the death penalty.

The low NYT count is wrong - I just did a search for "peak oil" at the site and it came back with 3,180 hits at a minimum - this does include NYT blogs (Krugman, etc.) and letters to the editor, etc., but it is so much higher than 38 that I wonder how the totals can be so different

You're right! They are the clear winner. Not sure why the other number came up earlier.

I am cynical enough to believe that the NEW numbers come up because somebody there is reading the Oil Drum.

I live in the Cleveland area, and I was also surprised by the high count of "peak oil" occurrences in Cleveland's Plain Dealer. I don't know anyone IRL who admits to thinking about such things. (Besides me.)

So I did the "peak oil" search on the Plain Dealer's website myself. Although a lot of matches are returned, most of the matches I looked at turned out to be from reader comments, not from the article as published.

I realize that this was only intended to be an informal cocktail-napkin-grade test, but I think the search system at is creating an anomaly that's unfit for even that, in this case.

It is true of all the search engines. But at least the Plain Dealer is publishing people's letters. The LA Times just rejects them. The real significance in this exercise was highlighting the differences between the US and everywhere else. I'd think that the regional/local papers would follow the lead of the WSJ and NYT.

The Plain Dealer ran a series of articles on peak oil several years ago. They even won some award for the series. It seems like that was around 2006. Maybe that's not showing up on their search engine anymore.

Here's a reference to the award the Plain Dealer won, over at Energy Bulletin. It was a pretty impressive series of articles.

The Plain Dealer did an award-winning six-month series in 2005 on the coming energy crisis. It was entitled Crude Awakening and received state and national awards as well as raves from Energy Bulletin. The Columbia Journalism Review did an article, Working the Fringes, which focused on the peak oil concept and the work of Plain Dealer reporter Tom Quinn who initiated the Crude Awakening series. Check it out at
Tom also informed his college-age daughter, Megan Quinn Bachman,about peak oil in 2003. The following year she traveled to Cuba as part of a Community Solutions film crew from Yellow Springs, Ohio to produce the award-winning documentary, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, which Megan co-wrote and co-produced. Today Megan remains as the outreach director for Community Solutions and has just started writing a column, called EarthWISE, for an Ohio-based environmental newspaper, EcoWatch Journal, where her father is senior editor and a board member . The Journal covers peak oil related issues and so does Megan in her new column. Go to

I don't understand the evangelical zeal with which many seem to want to spread the gospel of peak oil. Resource depletion is real, it follows a skewed distribution similar to what Hubbert described, and it's implications for human society and for the biosphere are profound. But why the urgency to convert the skeptic to this reality? The reality of the situation can't be change. Forwarned or blindsided, the outcome is the same. Population collapse is inevitable. If people want to wallow in denial, or are just too plain stupid to see the obvious, why is it anyone else's business to attempt to convince them? Why not hold on to whatever competitive advantage awareness may convey over unawareness?

Maybe, like the "God" gene, there is a "peak oil" gene.:-) We just can't help it. Why do you blog here if you think there is nothing to come of it anyway. You, like me, must be getting some reward out of it. My reward in writing this piece was discovering Greenish's comment.

Forwarned or blindsided, the outcome is the same. Population collapse is inevitable. If people want to wallow in denial, or are just too plain stupid to see the obvious, why is it anyone else's business to attempt to convince them? Why not hold on to whatever competitive advantage awareness may convey over unawareness?

Totally disagree. Intelligent collective action can ease the descent out of the industrial age and bring population down to a sustainable level in a gradual way. Or at least there is no certainty this is not possible. Therefore we must try. If we seek only competitive advantage, i.e. continue what we are doing, then we all go down together. I suppose in that sense the we will be working collectively.

The problem is, as everyone knows, that our global capitalist system is premissed on growth, and to admit that growth is no longer in the cards would be to acknowledge that we must take actions that are in conflict with profits. TPTB recognize peaking oil: they have adopted your prescription. Even the more strictly technical types proclaiming peak oil are on a collision course with TPTB in this respect.

..our global capitalist system is premissed on growth, and to admit that growth is no longer in the cards would be to acknowledge that we must take actions that are in conflict with profits. TPTB recognize peaking oil: they have adopted your prescription.

I am in complete agreement.

Intelligent collective action can ease the descent out of the industrial age and bring population down to a sustainable level in a gradual way. Or at least there is no certainty this is not possible. Therefore we must try.

No, it can not. We are way too far into population overshoot above the carrying capacity of the biosphere sans fossil fuels for it to be possible to reduce population to sustainable levels gradually. This is the simple fact of the matter. Trying to prevent the inevitable is futile, and would be likely to do more harm than good except that it won't make any difference to the outcome one way or the other. We are in the midst of a great mass extinction episode. Biodiversity is in freefall collapse. This is worse that chicxulub. Human extinction looms. There is nothing whatsoever that can be done about it. But if it provides you some comfort, by all means do whatever you will to promote species immortality.

I'm inclined to think more your way, darwinsdog, but I think dave's point still stands: until the die-off happens, it's not a certainty — this is just a point of logic, as it were. So I intend to keep playing the game of mitigation and adaptation until the buzzer goes off. We are deep in the third period but the game ain't over yet.

Mr. Dog....
How long do you think it will be, before the real problems start to pop up? Like the Rodney King type events?

I own an investment company where I only work with companies worldwide, who mine and process raw commodities like Potash. It would be nice to have a little insight as to when I should begin to close shop.

"Rodney King type events" are already happening. Food riots around the world occurred last year when commodity prices went thru the roof. Prices have moderated somewhat but this is merely a brief reprieve.

Ethiopian famine of the 1980s type events are in the works, and not just in the Sahel. Rapidly declining water tables and erratic monsoons in the Punjab are setting the stage for famine in the Indian subcontinent, for instance. The ongoing collapse of fisheries will deprive a significant portion of the world's population of an important protein source. The timescale is one of years to decades before starvation becomes rampant around the world. This could be greatly accelerated should recombinant strategic pathogens (probably oomycotes) be unleashed against a staple cereal grain or legume, bringing down any given year's standing crop of rice, wheat, maize or soya.

Starvation leads to social unrest, the breakdown of law & order, and the outbreak of regional warfare over resources. The threat of global nuclear war has been greatly reduced since the implosion of the USSR but regional nuclear exchanges are likely, again on the scale of years to decades. The impact to the environment and to global trade & financial markets of even a limited regional exchange would be devastating.

With the depletion of fossil fuels and P, agro-industry will collapse completely. The carrying capacity (K) of the biosphere for humans before the oxidation of reduced carbon became widespread was about half a billion. Soon human population will surpass seven billion. In the meanwhile, the erosion of topsoil, eutrophication of freshwater & shallow marine environments, deforestation, desertification, the decline of biodiversity, etc., has degraded K severely. It's doubtful that even 200 million could currently be supported sans fossil fuel inputs. Lacking these inputs, modern medicine and sanitation systems will break down, leading to deadly epidemics of water borne disease. Positive feedback mechanisms that have already been set in motion will lead to runaway climatic warming and the acidification of marine environments, resulting in the collapse of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The collapse of the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets along with melting of mountain glaciers worldwide & thermal expansion of the oceans will inundate low lying rice growing regions of south Asia, which are the "bread baskets" of billions. The dysregulation of the biogeochemical cycling dynamics of major nutrient elements and the uncoupling of these cycles from one another will intensify, to the further detriment of ecosystem integrity & subsistence agriculture. The timescale for these insults is decades. Their onset is orders of magnitude too rapid for natural selection or range shifts, especially in the face of habitat fragmentation, to keep pace with. Anthropogenic mass extinction indeed rivals in magnitude the dieoff caused by the Chicxulub impact and may well surpass it.

Relict human populations will be limited to the Southern Hemisphere. Inbreeding depression will contribute to the inability of these populations to adapt to the unprecedented environmental challenges they will face. One by one, genetic & demographic stochasticity will eliminate these populations until the demise of the last remaining group results in the extinction of humans. This could conceivably occur within the lifetimes of those already born altho a more reasonable timescale is on the order of a few centuries.

What people really need who believe this sort of thing is a good psychiatrist. Please get some help before it's too late.

Actually, I feel he is pretty close to what most of my informed clients tell me as well.

They are planning for the slide to the bottom, and a few commodities will be worth their weight in gold.

I am planning for that to happen as well. No way to prevent it. Survival is what matters most.

I have been wondering about this.
I am trying to put together a few thoughts on 'policy' matters just now for an ASPO presenter, relevant to agriculture trends. Would you join me by providing an insight or two? My spam protected email is in my details. Thanks, Phil

Hello Conservationist,

Your rebuttable is not in keeping with TOD's Meatgrinder standards. We would be fascinated to read your predictions backed with lots of weblinked equations, formulas, models, charts, and graphs. Since you proclaim yourself as a 'Conservationist', I am greatly surprised that you are not more effusive in generally supporting Darwindog's postings.

Have you started wearing a dead bat daily to show your continued support for elevated biotic extinctions and even more Climate Change? I would be happy to send you a bucket of Jumping Cholla, for placement in your underwear, if you wish to gain a more full Thermo/Gene appreciation of how Nature has us all by the balls.

Feel free to read my previous postings in the TOD archives. Nearly all supported by many weblinks. TODers should expect no less from your postings so that more debate can occur; light not heat. Thxs.

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

Hello Bob,

No thanks on the Jumping Cholla. And it may come as a bit of a surprise, but I don't even own a dead bat.

But seriously folks, studying energy supplies is one thing. Some of you are sounding like a doomsday cult. Here's a link for ya:

the turn over rate here is amazing

At least Conservatonist's posts are short.

While it is not true that all humans are dumber that yeast. Most humans are dumber than yeast.

It seem to me that the Dog and the Conservationist are discussing what is the best survival tactic.
Mr Darwin will judge.

Population collapse is inevitable... Why not hold on to whatever competitive advantage awareness may convey over unawareness?

That's not the first time I've heard you selling that meme, darwinsdog. Perhaps I can help with that.

Firstly, if you are a fan of Darwin's theory, then I would hope you've taken it to it's logical conclusion with regards to homo sapiens: our competitive advantage is, and always has been, in the communities we surround ourselves with. Cooperation is our competitive advantage, period. Our ancestral populations evolved in small groups where the only way one's genes survived was by committing oneself to the survival of the group. No amount of go-it-alone individualism can change that, no matter how much modern capitalist societies might propagandize to the contrary.

As for population collapse being inevitable, you may be correct. But it's important to note two things: one, that first world consumption is equally/more responsible for global overshoot than third world populations and can therefore be a key means of addressing overshoot (i.e. recall that I=P*C*T, or Impact = Population * Consumption-per-capita * Technological-efficiencies); two, if you have read about past collapses you may have noticed that they don't happen overnight, but instead take several/many generations, and so awareness is only likely to yield very short term advantage, at best.

Connecting that to my first point, I suspect that one's awareness is best utilized by (re)building social networks that can withstand - and thereby help you and those you care about also withstand - the coming shocks, rather than squandering it by stockpiling ammo in anticipation of a Mad Max-style shootout.

our competitive advantage is, and always has been, in the communities we surround ourselves with.

Rather than being a "competitive advantage" I would contend that human gregariousness and social collusion are significant contributors to the unsuccessfulness of humans. A species that degrades its environment at the rate and of the magnitude humans have accomplished, hardly rates the descriptor of 'successful.'

..first world consumption is equally/more responsible for global overshoot than third world populations..

Even if everyone had the standard of living of a Zimbabwean or Congolese, there would still be an order and a half of magnitude too many of us for the biosphere to support in the absence of fossil fueled agriculture.

Even if everyone had the standard of living of a Zimbabwean or Congolese, there would still be an order and a half of magnitude too many of us for the biosphere to support in the absence of fossil fueled agriculture.

Jury is still out on that. While I can see arguing that our form of industrial society needs massive FFs (though I don't necessarily agree, given nuclear and renewables and changing the way we live... cars don't really improve urban life much), it's a bit of a stretch to say that we can't fuel agriculture, especially if we ate less meat. It doesn't take that much fuel, and liquid fuels can be made with electricity. And we are not running out of all FFs anytime soon.

So maybe, but certainly not a forgone conclusion.

I don't think the problem is so much the quantity of FF required for agriculture. It's more that an entire industrial society has to exist in order to get the FF from where it is now to where it's needed to grow the food. And much more than just the fuel - fertilizers are more important and scarcer, and tractors can't be grown in the back 40.

Aquifer depletion and climate change are, imo, much more immediate threats to agriculture than FF depletion, in any case.

I will be I hope the Alpo man in my group. And I will not eat less meat! Long Pig it is the new white meat.

Rather than being a "competitive advantage" I would contend that human gregariousness and social collusion are significant contributors to the unsuccessfulness of humans.

I've been pondering that much of late. True, one cannot go it alone and true, one needs to build a tribe. But talking to one's neighbors endlessly will only get you send to the mental ward - because, as conservationist exemplified above, they simply will not and can not consider anything outside BAU. Building a community out of neighbors like that is a waste of resources.

cfm in Gray, ME

Because you view it in the context of modern Humans. A small tribe, or community if you will, is controlled by the Apha Male.

All other members are there to support the Alpha. All of them. Or they are killed off. This I think, will be the way of the future communities. In effect, you are with us, or against us. No sitting on the sidelines anymore.

The Killer Ape.----The killer ape theory or killer ape hypothesis is the theory that war and interpersonal aggression was the driving force behind human evolution. It was originated by Raymond Dart in the 1950s; it was later notably developed by Robert Ardrey in his book African Genesis (1961).

That is a model of wolf social structure. Humans do many different things.

A small tribe, or community if you will, is controlled by the Apha Male.

All other members are there to support the Alpha. All of them. Or they are killed off.

Can you quote some sources to support this claim? The first hand accounts of tribal life that I have read (Colin Turbull's The Forest People and Kenneth Good's Into the Heart) do not support this discription.

Cultural Anthropology, by Nancy Bonvillain pg. 198

Of known cultures whose kinship systems were organized on principles of unilineal descent, the great majority were patrilineal. Possibly only about 15 percent were matrilineal (Aberle, 1961:663). Matrilineal societies were concentrated among peoples whose economies were based on horticulture, especially those where women were responsible for farmwork... The proportion of matrilineal societivs was highest among horticulturalists of West Africa and Native North America (Aberle, 1961:665).

No, I'm not claiming linearity to be equivalent to power-structure, but its a good indicator. Humans are greatly variable in nearly every aspect. See also:

There are ambiguously gendered humans. This in itself shows a degree of sexual dimorphism among the lowest in the entire animal kingdom. Males are not significantly larger than females, and morphological differences are minimal, particularly when compared to many of our closest primate cousins. Male baboons are three times the size of females, and mandrill males sport distinctive coloring that make them almost look like an entirely different species. Sexual dimorphism throughout the animal kingdom is correlated with gender equality. Emperor penguins have as little sexual dimorphism as we, and they split child-rearing responsibilities evenly. This physical evidence strongly suggests that gender equality is part of human nature. Egalitarianism in general is supported by a total lack of evidence for any form of hierarchy in our species, except in cases of exceptional abundance and surplus (that is, after the Neolithic, except for the singular exceptions of the Kwakiutl and the burial sites of Sungir). This is further corroborated by the universality of egalitarianism among modern foragers. Even in hierarchical societies, in all times and places, there is a universal aspiration towards more egalitarian forms of society–even where population pressure and complexity will not allow for egalitarianism. Thus, it seems that we should consider egalitarianism part of human nature.

Polar Bear,

At one time I thought Ardrey was the next thing to another Darwin,but it seems he is sort of out of date nowadays.

But I still reccomend his books as background to any one interested in the scientific study of the fire handleing talking ape,especially "On Aggression"iirc.

Some of his insights into the human species still stand up as far as I can see.

And he was on the ground with the Leakeys,which in and of itself is reason enough to read him.

Species success is typically measured by population and range. Given that human pop. is in the billions and the species range is practically everywhere, sans oceans, I would rate humans as one of the most successful species (certainly #1 among mammals). Also, you seem to confuse the Western Capitalist culture and those it has influenced as the only thing possible for humans. This is not the case, as evidenced by the countless number of peoples who didnot and do not have a culture of Unlimited Growth. 70,000+ years as a species without instigating any sort of ecological collapse.

Species "success" is typically measured by temporal duration. Homo sapiens arose from a speciation event in which a small isolated H. ergaster/erectus population evolved reproductive isolation from its former conspecifics about 200K yrs bp - not "70K+" yrs bp as you purport. This speciation event occurred in Africa. Since H. sapiens won't be around much longer and the mean duration of a species from time of speciation to extinction is ~1 million yrs, H. sapiens is seen to be relatively unsuccessful from this perspective. This said, "success" is a qualitative attribute that consists of whatever one chooses to define it as consisting of. If you choose to define it as size of population and areal extent, you are certainly free to do so. But by doing so you contradict your assertion that humans are "certainly" the #1 most successful species among mammals. By doing so you relegate humans to less successful status than Rattus norvegicus.

Personally, I would define species "success" as integration into a biotic community and contribution to biodiversity within a functional ecosystem. By this metric humans are just about the least successful species ever to foul its own nest.

I'll give you most points. However, the assertion that I claimed 70,000 bp is false. I claimed 70,000 years BEFORE destroying things, THough I said it while thinking about the near extinction at 70,000 bp, confusing them. Your number is correct. Let me restate, using more accurate numbers:200,000 bp-10,000 bp = no significant ecocide. Also, I was referring in my analysis of species success to some biologists measure, not taking temporal considerations, but only thinking of present conditions. Your notion of "success" closely conforms with my own. Also, please read

oak - thanks for the link. I disagree with the following however:

(re: mega-fauna extinction event)...the truth lies somewhere between overkill and overchill. Human populations were almost certainly too small to wreak such havok all by themselves, and the same climate changes that opened the way for humans into Australia and the Americas also had to affect the other large mammals living across the globe.

There is a prejudice on the part of scholars and modernists that earlier civilizations, particularly hunter-gatherer groups, did little to affect the environment or the climate or species extinction events. It's hard to believe that simple hunter-gatherers chasing large mammoths around with spears were able to send them into extinction.

Michael Williams in his superb book Deforesting The Earth looking at the fossil records of North American landscapes, which was not intensively farmed or overpopulated prior to the arrival of Europeans, concluded that these forests had been burned extensively again and again. What's important to remember is that the early peoples weren't burning forests for farming. They burned the forests to flush out prey and open ranges where efficient hunting was possible. Early Americans, with the tool of fire altered the habitats enough that would easily have led to the extinction of the mega-fauna.


I would contend that human gregariousness and social collusion are significant contributors to the unsuccessfulness of humans. A species that degrades its environment at the rate and of the magnitude humans have accomplished, hardly rates the descriptor of 'successful.'

Two lines of thought on this:

1) Regarding gregariousness, our species wouldn't be here without it and neither would any of the other primates. Clearly it was at least partly responsible for past "success"; in the case of humans, it is also central to our capacity for language and symbolic thinking, so all art, culture, math, science, and technology exist in part because of it. The fact that some societies developed patterns of existence in the recent past (i.e. ~10,000 years) that have been degrading the environment doesn't change the fact that gregariousness is largely the reason we exist in the first place.

You're free to define "success" however you like, and long term survival does of course require not destroying one's ecological support systems, but biologists tend to use the term "fitness" - at least when discussing non-human species - and that's usually measured by looking at how many offspring one has, or sometimes how many offspring they have; it's not a long term metric, partly, I suspect because in the long term environments inevitably change, and species evolve and/or go extinct. Humans are quite "fit" and have evolved as generalists so we're quite capable of surviving in almost any environment, even degraded ones. However, taking that longer term perspective you advocate, perhaps not all cultures are, which brings me to my second point.

2) You must be a big critic of agriculture and industrialism because those are the primary sources of the social collusion that you despise. Hunter gatherer societies typically had several social structures in place to limit our species' destructive potential. Not to say h-g societies did no wrong - they're human after all (e.g. they ignorantly hunted some species to extinction) - but they were typically much more egalitarian, thus limiting conspicuous consumption-based status-seeking and the positional arms races it generates.

In fact, they often had redistributive mechanisms by which status was acquired: e.g. potlach and similar processes, where one "purchased" social influence by gifting away one's wealth. In addition to limiting conspicuous consumption, I suspect this also tended to have limiting effects on aggregate consumption, as only a few people could successfully engage in such status-seeking at any one time, while those who could see they wouldn't win could then simply opt out of the competition and wait for their take of the largesse. Furthermore, the less settled people were, the greater the presence of limits to their accumulation of wealth and, thus, the less materialism could dominate their value system. Finally, in cases where people initially acted out of ignorance to cause harm to the local environment they eventually tended to develop strong social stigmas against damaging behaviours as a way of preventing further tragedies of the commons.

If we can rediscover even a fraction of these and similar cultural phenomenon so as to limit further impact, it will dramatically improve the long term chances of our species. I can't help but smile at the thought that this requires even more gregariousness and social cooperation on our part; self-interested individualism simply won't cut it, I'm afraid - prisoner's dilemma, tragedy of the commons, and all that (i.e. the dominating option available to each individual leads to a sub-pareto optimal outcome for the group, in the language of game theory).

Even if everyone had the standard of living of a Zimbabwean or Congolese, there would still be an order and a half of magnitude too many of us for the biosphere to support in the absence of fossil fueled agriculture.

You may be right; I remain agnostic on this point. I agree that population reductions are probably on their way, and unfortunately they will impact the poor first and with the greatest force, but that's always been the way. Of course, there are social benefits to mitigating this: poverty is the breeding ground of sickness and viruses don't care about walls and borders. However, you conveniently ignored the other point I made, which is that these things don't happen overnight; they take generations. Many of the poor in the world live on subsistence agriculture, not ff-based green revolution-style ag, and they'll just keep doing their thing even as the developed world's food production and distribution systems come apart. Thus, [non-violent] population reductions will, in most places, be a slow and hungry process occurring over several generations.

Firstly, if you are a fan of Darwin's theory, then I would hope you've taken it to it's logical conclusion with regards to homo sapiens: our competitive advantage is, and always has been, in the communities we surround ourselves with. Cooperation is our competitive advantage, period. Our ancestral populations evolved in small groups where the only way one's genes survived was by committing oneself to the survival of the group. No amount of go-it-alone individualism can change that, no matter how much modern capitalist societies might propagandize to the contrary.

Look out ... that's heresy to a great many so-called Darwinists, both here on TOD and in the wider world. But, of course, you're right, and it's so good to see someone else who knows it.

No question that there's a mass extinction going on; no question that there's a huge die-off of H. sapiens in the very near future; no question that, at some point, H. sapiens, like 99.9% of all species that ever existed, will go extinct. (In fact, the coming human die-off may well mark the extinction of H. sapiens.) But, as long as a viable breeding stock - say, something on the order of 10,000-100,000 individuals - survives, I see no reason to assume that genus Homo will vanish in the crash that's looming. It almost sounds like wishful thinking to assume that it will.

I see hope for Homo in two places: First, there are still isolated pockets of practicing hunter-gatherers who will have little trouble picking up where the "mainstream" left off 15,000 years ago; and second, there are those in the mainstream who understand - maybe not explicitly, but at some level - that we made it the first 2 million years in groups, not as "rugged individuals." In this regard, I submit that those extant groups furthest "down" the development ladder will have the least trouble adapting to the world that's a-comin'.

Concerning stockpiling ammo - if it goes down quickly enough, there's more than enough flat-out crazy mo'fo's to pose a real threat to you and yours, especially if you live close to a large population center. A big part of being able to "withstand the coming shocks" is to be prepared for such a scenario. If they come, persuasion is going to be even less useful with them than it is today with a general population hypnotized and rendered brain-dead by MSM. Yes, by all means, get your communities (not networks) together post haste, 'cause that's what's going to get survivors through in the long run. But you gotta survive the short run first.

Look out ... that's heresy to a great many so-called Darwinists, both here on TOD and in the wider world.

No it isn't. Any evolutionary biologist is well aware of William Hamiliton's work on kin selection and Robert Triver's on reciprocal altruism. This is all well integrated into the neo-Darwinian paradigm. long as a viable breeding stock - say, something on the order of 10,000-100,000 individuals - survives, I see no reason to assume that genus Homo will vanish in the crash that's looming.

Review the literature on environmental, genetic & demographic stochasticity in small isolated populations, inbreeding depression & other Allee effects. It's true that humans passed thru a very narrow genetic bottleneck at or shortly after the time of speciation but it's also true that we were very lucky to have survived it.

..there are still isolated pockets of practicing hunter-gatherers who will have little trouble picking up where the "mainstream" left off 15,000 years ago

These peoples are very dependent on the intact environments and resource bases to which they are adapted. Global scale impacts are occurring that are disrupting these environments and depleting these resource bases. It's not so much the magnitude of change but the rapidity of onset that's the real problem. Selection simply can't keep pace, especially not in an organism with such a long generation time as Homo. But I would tend to agree that if humanity does manage to avoid impending extinction it will be tribal peoples with a foraging/scavenging lifestyle and lithic level of technology who comprise the survivors.

No it isn't. Any evolutionary biologist is well aware of William Hamiliton's work on kin selection and Robert Triver's on reciprocal altruism. This is all well integrated into the neo-Darwinian paradigm.

Yes it is. I'm not talking about kin selection or reciprocal altruism; what I'm talking about is group selection. Hamilton and Trivers' ideas were in response to C. V. Wynne-Edwards' work on group selection, in an effort to save the standard selection-operates-only-on-individuals model. But group selection theory has not gone away; see Elliott Sober, David Sloan Wilson, Yaneer Bar-Yam, and even some of E. O. Wilson's later work.

Review the literature ...

Yes, I'm acquainted with those theories. That's why I stipulated breeding populations of 10K and up - much less likelihood of such factors being decisive. While I agree that luck probably played a role in our surviving the last bottleneck - and I think that chance plays a much larger role in evolution than is commonly understood - I'm confident we'd have made it through in some fashion just on the strength of numbers alone.

Anyhow, we could go on and on, debating this or that fine - or not so fine - point, but this topic probably isn't the place for it. Overall, I tend to agree with you that we're in for a hard crash and that it's too late now to do anything about it except batten down the hatches as best you see fit.

I see no reason to assume that genus Homo will vanish in the crash that's looming. It almost sounds like wishful thinking to assume that it will.

Yes, it smacks too much of the Western myth of the apocalypse that John Michael Greer likes to deconstruct.

Personally, as regards human extinction, I'm more concerned about the long term consequences of the hormone-mimicking chemicals in plastics, in terms of the effects they are having on human development. Every baby in the world starts out with female genitalia later develops testes and a penis if they have the Y-chromosome. (Guys, notice the seam running along your taint and up your scrotum? Well, that's a remnant from your time spent as a female.) However, disruption of this developmental process is becoming more common and we've only just begun to feel the impact. Plastics release some nasty chemicals when they break down; furthermore, they absorb persistent organic pollutants and bio-accumulative toxins, which are then stored in the fat of the fish and birds that mistake the stuff for food and eat it, and then into the things that eat them, and so on up the food chain - just one more reason to eat fewer animals.

If it goes down quickly enough, there's more than enough flat-out crazy mo'fo's to pose a real threat to you and yours... You gotta survive the short run first.

Of course, you're right and I never meant to suggest that there won't be danger. However, it's more likely to be Wild West than Mad Max, in rural areas at least (i.e. there will still be community organizing: people will round up a posse to deal with troublemakers, as opposed to the heroic individual making a lonely stand - just more individualistic baloney). In cities, if it does go bad, it will be more like Lord of War (i.e. involving well-armed warlords and gangsters stepping into power vacuums left by impotent or castrated formal authorities). The stronger we build and maintain our informal social ties and formal local authorities, and the more of a stand we take against the brutal inequities that facilitate gangsters and warlords, however, the less likely they will be to manifest.


darwinsdog, I agree that a die off is inevitable, but not that it is equivalent to chicxulub, or that humankind will become extinct.

In fact, It's probably a case where the portion of population that most depends on energy from oil and other fossil fuels for copious amounts of food, etc. will suffer the most, whereas pagan populations, like the Bushmen of the Calahari or the indians of the Amazon rain forest or of Borneo will be unfettered by our decline. They live a subsistance lifestyle that is sustainable.

That is unless there is runaway global warming. But even then some people will survive by living near the poles. Even if people have to live underground and grow food by indirect sunlight, they will find a way.


I keep hearing fom the pessimists that we areCOOKEDand not just cooked but burnt to charcoal.

Now I realize that this is POSSIBLE,but I have searched long and hard for proof that it is IN EVITABLE.I take the possibility seriously,I assure you.

Where do I go to read about what PROVES it IS INEVITABLE,other than someone just saying it is?

Perhaps a flat out shoot'em all nuclear war could wipe us out.

I have read a goodly number of books by truly eminent biologists such as EO Wilson.

Bad times,tough times,major loss of diversity,ocean acidification,climate change,global warming, ff and phosphorus depletion,fine I believe in them all.Major die off ,no problem ,I agree.

Bur as long as there is oxygen in the atmosphere and it's not much over a hundred degrees f at the poles,we will still be around.

Not forever of course.

But for quite a while.

Well, I don't think everyone agrees that "population collapse is inevitable." Dr. Hirsch doesn't seem to, since he wrote that we'll have a 20 year, painful, transition period. Maybe he secretly thinks that this will result in the collapse of civilization, but that's not what the reports conclude.

I've thought for a while that it will take a 2x4 upside the head for people to get it. No amount of talking on our part will change much of anything. Surprisingly, either $147 per barrel wasn't a hard enough hit, or maybe people are too dazed to realize what hit them, or maybe they've concluded that it was just part of the housing bubble. At any rate, I agree that they haven't gotten the message, and for now I also agree that the real value of discussing things is to gain temporary advantage. I'd rather be helping my neighbors garden and learn how to fix their bikes, but they aren't interested.

As Churchill said, "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities." As the article counts show, that American affliction doesn't hold so much in the rest of the world. Too bad for all of us that it's the world superpower that will deny the whole thing as long as possible.

Well, I don't think everyone agrees that "population collapse is inevitable." Dr. Hirsch doesn't seem to, since he wrote that we'll have a 20 year, painful, transition period. Maybe he secretly thinks that this will result in the collapse of civilization, but that's not what the reports conclude.

You seem to have misrepresented Hirsch's conclusions as predictive. Rather I believe Hirsh's intention was descriptive and he meant to say we need 20 years for a painful transition, 30 for a painless one.

Too bad for all of us that it's the world superpower that will deny the whole thing as long as possible.

Actually it might have an opposite effect in the world. There is so much distrust and rejection of America and everything American in some countries that a PO message from ‘the world’s superpower’ would most likely be seen and interpreted as a renewed neo-imperialist strategy of the broken and outgoing empire. Despite the rational.

Is that Ward or Winston? Big difference.

The reality of the situation can't be change. Forwarned or blindsided, the outcome is the same. Population collapse is inevitable.

We spread it because we don't believe this. Simply stating something (especially the longterm predicted outcome of a complex system) does not make it true. What I am positive of, is that certain actions, if taken, would help mitigate some suffering. For example, how can you deny that if 90% of us gave up gas/diesel-driven personal cars, that wouldn't free up oil for more critical uses?

Why not hold on to whatever competitive advantage awareness may convey over unawareness?

Because thinking like this is what makes the world a crappy place to live. History is full of people who don't think this way (or do so to varying degrees). Selflessness, believe it or not, is a distinctly human characteristic.

Simply stating something (especially the longterm predicted outcome of a complex system) does not make it true. What I am positive of, is that certain actions, if taken, would help mitigate some suffering.

What you are positive of... does not make it true. Educate yourself about the reality of the situation. Think it thru. Wishful thinking does not substitute for reasoned projection based on fact.

In a post from the other day I calculated that Anthropogenic Global Warming is taking place at a rate 26 times more rapidly than the climatic warming episode that caused the Paleocene/Eocene mass extinction. AGW alone, discounting all the other environmental insults attributable to human activity, is sufficient to result in the mass extinction of species. Let's see your equivalent level of analysis. Mere assertion, as you say, doesn't convince.

You are arguing semantics there.... I note that you didn't blockquote the next sentence, where I offered an example of how I'd "thought it through"... no, you ignored that part.

Oil peaking is not all FF peaking. All FF peaking is not all energy peaking. All energy peaking doesn't mean we can't crash, re-adjust lifestyles, and start a new growth period from a lower level of efficient energy use.

I have seen it estimated that agriculture accounts for 3-5% of FF use. Let's assume 10%. We cannot run food production (and I'm not talking oranges in summer.. I'm talking grain and local veggies and chicken/meat) on that when we do so much more now? Look at a hubbert curve... when do we get down to 10% of oil? 5%? Note the long tail. When do we get down to 5% of all FF energy? When do we even get anywhere near it? Why can't we build out alt energy and change communities over decades? Note that gas is not peaking yet. Note renewable and nuclear potential. Food production looks like its in the bag.... I'm not saying there won't be famines, there always have been, they may get worse, but that's a far cry from the end of industrial agriculture.

I have educated myself and I have thought about it a lot. I am not rosey about the future, but I also don't think immediate extinction is the only possibility. That we reach different conclusions does not make me ignorant, as you seem to suggest. And, I will add, it is your comments that tend to lack reasoned thought... basically, as pointed out, they are just rehashing doomer mantra without looking at details at all.

I calculated that Anthropogenic Global Warming is taking place at a rate 26 times more rapidly than the climatic warming episode that caused the Paleocene/Eocene mass extinction.

What? you were there with a thermometer and a stopwatch when it happened?

Most likely the mass extinction was caused by a world-class smackdown by a giant meteor. Another possibility is that a big volcanic episode lit up the landscape. It's hard to tell since the evidence has been erased by plate tectonics.

In any case, global warming was probably just a sideshow to the big event. However, when dinosaurs were roaming the plant, it was about 25 degrees warmer than it is today, and they seemed to like it.

You're confusing the 1st order end-Cretaceous event with the 2nd order Paleocene/Eocene extinction. The evidence certainly has not been subducted. The crater from the end-Cretaceous impact has been imaged and no evidence for an extraterrestrial bolide impact occurs at the P/E boundary. The explanation for the P/E extinction that best fits the evidence is that it resulted from climatic warming due to the massive release of marine methane clathrates.

Know your historical geology & paleontology before making foolish replies.

No, I'm aware that the K/T event was separate and distinct, but unfortunately I didn't read accurately and confused the end-Paleocene event with the end-Permian extinction event. Why do so many of these events start with "P"?

We know with a fair degree of certainty that the K/T extinction event was caused by a meteor, and the P/Tr event was much bigger (but of unknown cause). But the Paleocene–Eocene thermal maximum didn't involve a lot of extinctions. Certainly some deepwater species went extinct, but on the other hand a lot of species, especially mammalian ones, thrived. And it was much warmer than today.

I'm not a big believer in the theory that we're currently undergoing a mass extinction event due to climate change. Species come and go, at some times faster than others, but most of them have been through a lot of climate changes already.

And this current hypothetical warming is a short-term event, because once we use up the fossil fuels - which will not take long in geological terms - the CO2 levels will go down. Then we can worry about global cooling again.

No, I'm aware that the K/T event was separate and distinct, but unfortunately I didn't read accurately and confused the end-Paleocene event with the end-Permian extinction event. Why do so many of these events start with "P"?

We know with a fair degree of certainty that the K/T extinction event was caused by a meteor, and the P/Tr event was much bigger (but of unknown cause).

The Permian wasn't "probably" caused by a bolide strike, either. The consensus would be that it was not. Instead, it probably represents the extreme end-state of the earth-ocean-atmosphere system. You have an intertwined network of potentially harmful effects mutually reinforced by positive feedbacks. Partly due to the continental distribution (Pangaea), the equator-pole temperature gradient shrinks, and thermohaline circulation shuts down. (The oceans were stratified worldwide for millions of years leading up to the P/T event.) Biomarker evidence indicates that the anoxic zone came all the way up into the photic zone, at least transiently (isorenieratane -> evidence of anoxygenic photosynthesis). Then you have volcanism from the Siberian Traps, almost certainly the largest igneous province in the Phanerozoic, creating a huge CO2 spike, perhaps 3000 ppm, as well as plenty of other gases. Global warming of about 6 degrees C. And that huge euxinic water mass would accumulate massive quantities of hydrogen sulfide--great modeling work published in 2005 shows that when the concentration becomes high enough, the chemocline will periodically reach the surface and vent the H2S into the atmosphere. Besides just local devastation, this potentially eliminates both the ozone layer and the hydroxyl radicals that keep methane concentrations in check. And on it goes.

In fact, this general pattern has been consistently observed in most of the major (and minor) Phanerozoic mass extinction events. K/T seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

Here's a good flowchart for the Permian extinction, although it comes from a guy whose pet theory is methane catastrophe. So in his conception, slight global warming from Traps volcanism destabilizes clathrates, and the bomb goes off. I do not necessarily subscribe to the centrality of massive sudden CH4 release. But it's a nice figure.

The Permian wasn't "probably" caused by a bolide strike, either. The consensus would be that it was not. Instead, it probably represents the extreme end-state of the earth-ocean-atmosphere system.

Of course it is a mere coincidence that the greatest extinction event ever, the Great Permian Extinction, just happened at the exact same time as the greatest volcanism ever, the Siberian Traps. And it is also just a coincidence that the second greatest extinction event ever, the KT Extinction, just happened to coincide with the second greatest volcanism ever, the Deccan Traps.

Go here: Princeton University Archived Lectures then click on this lecture:

December 4, 2002 - Public Lecture Series (a Louis Clark Vanuxem Lecture)
Vincent Courtillot , Universite Paris 7: "Mass extinctions in the Phanerozoic: a single cause and if yes which?"

You may be shocked at what you hear. However it probably will not change many minds because once a theory becomes entrenched, it seems to take forever to dislodge it.

'Science advances one funeral at a time' — Max Planck

Ron P.

Siberian Traps volcanism is undoubtedly a huge component of the Permian extinction. I have no doubt about that. Actually, I feel its effects are underrepresented by P/T specialists. Having never done any K/T work myself, though, I am agnostic with respect to the impact of the Deccan Traps vs. Chicxulub impact, and didn't wish to go there. The point I was making was that P/T was not caused by extraterrestrial impact. There is still no evidence for it despite several attempts to prove it. The LuAnn Becker stuff is a fraud; nobody ever verified, nor has been able to find, the buckyballs and He-3 she claimed discovery of in the boundary strata.

But I do find especially curious the large impact craters that the biosphere seemed not to notice (not associated with an elevated extinction rate), such as Lake Manicouagan in Quebec ~214 Ma. It was originally thought to be coeval with the T/J event but is off by some 12 million years. Popigai in Russia (~36 Ma, late Eocene) is another good one.

I will check out the lecture, but two more points: First, if you're pegging me as some stubborn old graybeard pushing a pet theory that I can never be dissuaded from, you've got the wrong guy. I'm still (narrowly) in my 20s and my mind is limber :) and second, there have been breakthroughs in our understanding of the Permian extinction since that lecture was given, such as two landmark 2005 papers (Kump et al and Grice et al) I mentioned above.

Written by darwinsdog:
... the climatic warming episode that caused the Paleocene/Eocene mass extinction. AGW alone, discounting all the other environmental insults attributable to human activity, is sufficient to result in the mass extinction of species.

The mammal population expanded and spread out during the ~1,000 year long Paleocene-Eocene mass extinction. This geologic event suggests humans would survive a rapid rise in temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration. As to climatic warming causing the mass extinction, correlation in the geologic record does not prove causation.

(Yes, I have read the other replies.)

If people ... [can't] see the obvious, why is it anyone else's business to attempt to convince them?

We have a moral duty to warn others. (Like Jehovah's Witnesses ;-)

But I agree, we don't have a moral duty to beat the knowledge into them with a stick.

We have a moral duty to warn others.

Okay. Just like all the well intentioned PO aware folks who honor the moral imperative to warn the unsuspecting of the perils of resource depletion, I'm living up to my duty to inform you all that your efforts are futile. The situation is, in fact, more dire than even the well informed participants in this forum seem to comprehend (or are willing to admit to themselves).

I'm living up to my duty to inform you all that your efforts are futile. The situation is, in fact, more dire...

Rate that up about doubleplus 10.

"what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

cfm in Gray, ME - without conviction

I agree the situation is dire,but we have ,barring a hot on the premises war here in the US, a pretty good window that will allow us to escape the burning house.

We have enough existing farm machinery and domestic oil production to stave off starvation for ten ,probably twenty years,by moving down the food chain.

We CAN move to warmer climes,double up ,triple up, live in junior high school gymnasiums if neccssary to keep from freezing.

If the raw materials exist-and they do-we can build wind farms w/o money.The pyramids were apparently built without fiat currency,and Germany recovered from a runaway inflation in a decade
(but of course we would have been better of otherwise)

In ten years,millions of people who would rather work than sit around waiting for thier bowl of beans and cabbage will move to places they can do a little subsistence farming and a little shoemakeing,furniture repair,hairdressing or streetwalking and live,albeit at a third world standard.

There will be riots,martial law,misery not seen in the states since the latter days of the Civil War,perhaps uncontrolled contagious disease,and probably all of this in spades,if things go downhill too fast.

But there are millions of scientifically well educated people who are obviously acquainted with the power down scenario.This simply must be true because you can't read a magazine regularly such as Scientific American or even National Geo w/o bumping into the depletion issue,and ten seconds of broadband time is enough to locate enough literature to keep you busy for months.

We can take considerable comfort in the fact that very few of them ,so far as I can ascertain,are stockpileing food and guns.

And there is despite the apparent consensus against it here,a possibility that we will atually survive w/o any real troubles inside the rich countrys, if we win any wars.

And the idea that we can't whip someone like the Afghans or anybody else,excepting maybe the Russians,the Chinese, or the French, is no more than wishy washy foolishness.These three and maybe a couple more have the difference- a credible nuclear deterrent of thier own.We can't every body else DO AS WE SAY ,but we can wipe them out in a few days if the decision is made to do it,and without nukes.

And from far enough away that we lose no more than a handful of troops.

Let us hope that such a thing never comes to pass of course.

Of course none of this does more than postpone the eventual day of reckoning when all the same problems pop up again.

It`s very tough to make most people understand the central importance of energy for a NET (non-equilibrium thermodynamic)system (a what????)

People can`t see energy. They can see cars and food and cords of wood, etc...but they can`t see energy actually.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics. Try explaining it to someone you know. Try! Their eyes will just glaze right over.

My father majored in physics at a decent university---about 45 years ago!. So I recently asked him...."What is the definition of energy???" He had no clue! Look it up in any dictionary or google`s the capacity to do work.

And good luck explaining to people how physics defines work: "using energy to do some coherent action". (Like giving the cells in your body the oxygen and other things they need to keep going!)

Coherent action? Work? Huh??? The vast huge majority of people are not going to be able to understand these concepts. My sister is a HS she can`t understand.. My husband is a professor with a matter, the concepts elude his grasp too.

A tiny tiny minority of people can really understand the issue of peak oil.....I don`t know why I can, I was an English major who never really was interested in physics. (But I do recall the day our physics teacher in HS told us the definition of energy and I tried to get my head around it, I guess finally succeeding).

Most people might be better off NOT understanding PO. Because it will distract them from just naturally pursuing the long and winding paths that lead to learning. Even if that learning process results in failure (like the man whose net worth has gone from 100 million $ to 4 million $ in one year I read about in yesterday`s NYT)

Mass PO mobilization would be a kind of disaster movie response: mobilize, volunteer, drown out other voices.
Why bother?

Just take Candide`s advice and tend your own garden, literally if necessary. There will be plenty of time to panic later if that is your cup of tea. Why waste your breath???

Here`s a humorous game to try at home: imagine Obama explaining "energy" "work" "2ndLaw" "entropy" "BTUs" "EROEI" "Hubbert`s Peak" "Thermodynamics" etc. on TV for a mass audience.

You can imagine the millions of PUZZLED VIEWERS sitting at home wondering and wondering what he is getting at.

Hi, Debbie. One way to look at how ideas are propagated is via conversation theory (some people use the word "memes" as analogs to "genes" propagating via DNA, as you do).

Start with that human beings are engaged in a network of conversations and nothing gets done without a conversation. For humans language is inseparable. Human conversations take all forms from the obvious (spoken) to the hidden (the little voice in our head).

When we are born, we enter the network of conversations already being spoken. Some conversations have been going for a very long time, like the conversation for war, and some are new, like what happened in a sports game yesterday.

For most people, conversations just happen to them, just like the weather. They aren't consciously choosing the conversations they participate in. Others are consciously aiming to change the conversation, like we are here at TOD.

But new conversations often have to displace existing ones as they propagate because they often say competing things. For instance, there once was a conversation that slavery is fine, now the opposite conversation is spoken (at least in most parts of the world). But that certainly did not happen overnight.

That's because conversations defend themselves. In other words, it's often difficult to dislodge existing conversations because the new ones trigger the immune system of the existing ones. Witness what is happening with the conversation for public health care. That has triggered a whole host of existing conversations that were lying in wait. In a town hall meeting on television I've heard old conversations be triggered like "you're turning us into Russia" and "government is the problem not the solution" (possibly the world's oldest conversation? ;-)

We've looked at other conversations that are triggered by the peak oil conversation here on TOD, from "technology will save us" to "it's a plot to take over the political system with a world government."

It is in the nature of conversations to disappear once something has to keep them alive, like transferring them to books, for instance. But even then someone must read the book and re-speak the conversation or it ends there.

A book is an example of the physical world supporting the existence of a conversation, but there are many others. The very fact that we are (mostly) still driving oil-fueled cars supports the conversation "there is plenty of oil." That people have these things called "retirement accounts" for which they receive monthly statements is an incredibly powerful physical support mechanism for a whole family of conversations. My website definitely has more traffic when the gasoline price signs show a high number vs. a low number — another example of the physical world altering the network of conversations.

That is all to say that although the number of people speaking the peak oil conversation is growing, it is doing so slowly mostly because the physical world does not support it, just as greenish points out. In many ways, it is remarkable that the peak oil conversation has grown like it has. I think it was Slate that recently has a piece polling its readers on the likeliest way the U.S. would end and peak oil was number 2. It's useful to consider that the U.S. is just a conversation supported by a another conversation written on paper i.e. the U.S. Constitution. (It is also supported by the physical landmass of the North American continent, of course.)

In my view, the conversation will not grow quickly enough to cause a tipping point without the perturbation some of us see. That's not a game that I think can be won, not in the time we have left.

Instead, the conversation I'm propagating is more like "people can live fulfilling lives without oil and our consumer society." I do this because, being a social animal, my happiness and safety are largely dependent on the society in which I live.


Hi Andre,
Fundamental to any conversation is the need for the participants to understand each others words/terms. In the case of "peak oil" the US public hasn't even heard the term. The media has always played an important role in contributing to our Lexicon. Right now it's just some secret hand shake.


Global warming/climate change had to go through the same process. People had to first understand what those terms meant, just like peak oil.

What I'm pointing to is that there are conversations at those newspapers that are defending themselves thereby leaving no space for the peak oil conversation. In the case of newspaper editors, I think a big conversation is "I don't want people to think I'm a nutball" — in my view easily one of the most powerful conversations humans speak (mostly to themselves).

Do you think they might also see peak oil as a "threat" to the climate discussion?

I do. I hear it all the time with my colleagues in the climate change conversation. At first I went out of my way to educate those wonderful people I got to work with when I was mostly working on climate change.

But the response was generally the same: on multiple occasions I have been directly told that they don't want to mention peak oil because they fear it will undo all the hard work they have done growing the climate change conversation. In a strange way, the climate change conversation is defending Business as Usual.

Now isn't that ironic?


Intellectual dishonesty permeates our society,which is one very important reason the man on the street has learned,over the generations,to his everlasting good fortune,to pay no attention to anything that disturbs his day to day life,because nearly everything he hears is twisted,misrepresented,a half truth ,or an outright lie- or simply OVER HIS HEAD.

Of course sooner or later the prophets of doom are right,but Joe Sixpack has survived the centuries by going with the flow,and he will continue to do so.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the blindness of the truly aware to the blindness of the average citizen,educated or not.The possession of a college drgree is no assurance whatsoever of the ability to think,or of an inclination to do so,and most college graduates don't really know any more science than the average hillbilly fundamentalist,which is to say,virtually none.

A superficial survey course or an introductory course as taught at way too many schools simply does not integrate into the world view.It is as easily ignored or forgotten as the arguments heard for the demise of some long forgotten empire ,maybe right,maybe wrong,who cares?Once you have passed that SINGLE course in history,of course!The chemistry and biology texts are sold the same day as final exams,and six months later.....

Most of us here in the States stay in school long enough to learn to count money and have very firm opinions on the reliability of the rules and results of every day arithmetic.We don't feel the same way about science,as most of us have never depended on any personally known science directly in making a decision,the way we depend on arithmetic to tally our change or our wages or plan a weekly or monthly budget.

What I'm trying to get across is so obvious it is usually FORGOTTEN when people such as the ones here engage in a discussion.

The possession of a college degree is no assurance whatsoever of the ability to think, or of an inclination to do so, and most college graduates don't really know any more science than the average hillbilly fundamentalist, which is to say, virtually none.

You have to see this: George Schultz, who has a degree from MIT, is on a panel at MIT that reviews inventions. George here talks about an invention to power the USA by capturing "the energy that is in the MIT swimming pool". (The invention is a catalyst that allows sunlight to hydrolyze water. The fuel cell that he references is unnecessary).

Fora TV, start at 04

Definition of success is attracting venture capital - not the product.

Who could find this attractive?
The invention is a solar collector, not a fuel cell, so 1)it can't be "24/7" as George says, since there is no sunlight at night. And 2) if it makes hydrogen from water, it must also make oxygen. Burn them producing energy and more water - so you don't need the swimming pool either. And if it works, can it distill ocean water? Why does not George realize this, or did I miss something.

Yes you missed something.
That something is the fact that money is dumb.
Capitalism is a cheap fit for human nature.
It basically sucks and was exalted because of a unique set of circumstances.
Timing in evolutionary history is everything and this period that we have the pleasure to live in is the perfect timing for everything up to this point in history.
I bet the last time such a confluence occurred was ancient greece.

The only reason I said "Who could find this attractive" was to hook into Dryki's comment. I raised neither the subject of success nor of investments. Your point is that what I missed is that there a lot of dumb people with money, I take it. My point was that there are some people making decisions about technology that don't understand Physics - a point that O'Reilly comes close to making in the video also, by coincidence. Did you watch the video?
David O'Reilly is the CEO of Chevron. George Schultz is working with MIT. MIT. The inventor is a full professor of Chemistry. But the invention is a crackpot scheme. This is almost as flakey as the Y2K excesses, except the scope is tiny.
Is no one embarrassed, or helping these people?


Iwatched some of the video but got tiered of it before it got to the relevant part.

George is pretty old and probably on a prompter,but he's no idiot;he IS a politician,enough said....

Part 04 is where it is.
Sorry if I didn't make that clear enough in the link.
Thanks for giving it a shot.
Na, he is not on a prompter, but that would only make it worse -
if this were scripted.

Shit, when he said Caesar Chavez when he meant Hugo I knew he was senile.

Ah, yes, I missed that. We are supporting Ceasar Chavez. :-)
Can't have that.

It is not just right wing media which is ignoring peak oil. A few years ago representative of the Sierra Club who was leading a climate change conference refused to discuss peak oil as a factor. Anybody know if they have changed their stance since then?

I assume by your reference to the "they" in Sierra Club, you mean the Board of Directors. I don't know, but there are many chapters in the Sierra Club who certainly get it. The Sierra Club is not a cohesive group by any stretch of the imagination. It truly is a herd of cats.

aangel - I like the idea (if I understand you) that for a new conversation/idea to grow, there must be room in the environment. This is sort of like Darwin's idea that Death is the creator - a little like a sculptor creates by taking away. Also similar to the Cambrian explosion - when there is lots of room you get lots of things - most of which go away as the strongest push the weaker out. Maybe TOD is like the nest that protects the youngsters from destruction.

Yes, TOD very much is a nest for this conversation. New conversations are smothered "out in the wild" all the time.

That list is quite telling, even given its limitations. But let's ask about the positive: What's going on with The Oregonian that has made the topic so prominent? How can we replicate that success elsewhere? Where can that success be replicated?

Yes, and despite their really lousy weather. But seriously, I'm sure that having a City that blessed the movement with a peak oil task force helped.

The network of conversations in Oregon is already very different from the network elsewhere in the country and the world (from personal experience visiting there). The peak oil conversation didn't have to muscle out (as much) the conversation for growth, the conversation for endless consumer products and the conversation for never-ending technological progress. I live just north of Silicon Valley, where that conversation is almost the only one spoken right now. So I think it would be misleading to point just to the Oregonian and not examine the network in which it exists. A newspaper can propagate only a few conversations that are outside of its network or it will go out of business.

Already spoken in Oregon are conversations like:

  • "People can live lightly on the land/the earth must be protected."
  • "Happiness does not come from things."
  • "A strong community brings fulfillment."
  • "I can be resilient by growing my own food and making my own clothes."

And so on. You can see that that network of conversations is much more amenable to the conversation for peak oil than the network spoken in, say, a New York hedge fund.

For sure, there is a very different mindset between northern and southern California. I live in the Twilight Zone.

Welcome to Stumptown. People have a semi-mythological idea of what the PNW is like. Portland is like any other monstrous sprawling modern US city in most respects, with gridlock and crappy cul de sacs full of ugly houses aplenty. The satellite cities surrounding it had no qualms about embracing strip malls and housing tracts.

I organized a meetup of anybody online in the Portland area interested in peak oil; 5 people showed, including a couple from outside Spokane WA, about 290 miles away as the crow flies. A fellow from the Portland Peak Oil organization showed up; he said their meetings usually consisted of a handful of people watching your choice of flick. After that the whole mass movement really lost its appeal to me, while Kunstler's advice about small towns made that much more sense.

Lots of good work being done in the Portland area with community gardens and farmer's markets and so forth, but it's all set against a backdrop of millions of other people driving long commutes and eating fast food &c.

Point taken!

Our meetings in Willits have about 50 people against a backdrop of 14,000 "other people driving long commutes and eating fast food &c."

So, even the best of demographic circumstances appears grim with this sort of comparison.

The question is: Is this something to be terribly concerned about, or does it hold true for just about any "movement" that has made progress? How many people showed up to meetings regarding voting rights, or protection of the environment, etc.?

Good points - I'd like to see some analysis of how backroom meeting groups mushroomed into real mass movements, undoubtedly someone's written a book on this. From Beer Hall to Berlin, to cite a nefarious example.

Hitler became the DAP's 55th member and received the number 555, as the DAP added '500' to every member's number to exaggerate the party's strength.

Canny marketing. They sported ca. 20k members 5 years later. Earth Day? In the wake of the '69 Santa Barbara oil spill they had ca. 20 million participants. Hmmm...

Earth Day proved popular in the United States and around the world. The first Earth Day had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform."[18]

Senator Nelson stated when that Earth Day "worked" because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. Twenty-million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated.[19] He directly credited the first Earth Day with persuading U.S. politicians that environmental legislation had a substantial, lasting constituency. Many important laws were passed by the Congress in the wake of the 1970 Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, wild lands and the ocean, and the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[20]

Any other analogues come to mind? Should we just let things take care of themselves?

Should we just let things take care of themselves?

Things will take care of themselves whether we "let" them or not.

Even during the "enlightenment", witches were getting burned.
All periods are have cross-currents.

I'll just chime in with my experience with this paper:

It is very small and often lets their report(s) follow their interests. So, one of them came to the first meeting I had regarding peak oil (showed End of Suburbia) and she was hooked. Wrote oodles of articles, attended nearly all our public meetings, etc. The paper would publish nearly any op ed I submitted too. Long ones, and questioning everything about the American Plan. This went on for 2-3 years I think.

An old-timer around here named Ed Burton had a regular, weekly, column that kept on the same themes: peak oil and climate change and localization...on and on.

Then it stopped. The paper had had enough I guess. Thought coverage had become unbalanced (perhaps fairly).

I did a search for peak oil in the Willits News and got zero hits. This is odd since the term has been in their a hundred times I am sure. Must not have an archive search function.

Could it be that the reason Oregon is open to discussion of Peak Oil is because they are more prepared for it? Oregon and neighboring Washington get 70% to 80% of their electricity from renewable sources (hydroelectric dams)already. If transportation broke down, there are enough farms in the state to feed the population of the state.

Lot of editors regard PO as a plot by Big Oil to disseminate fear so that they can pump up prices. That's why they keep it off the pages. Find a way to counteract that.

Yes, I have a bunch of friends who stopped believing in peak oil after reading Greg Palast

An Open Letter to Greg Palast by Richard Heinberg

Palast is a bomb-thrower and if you read the epilogue in one of his books, you can see that he is saying this stuff to get a rise and to get people discussing the issues. Matt Taibbi is using the same kind of tactics.

Gonzo journalism inherited from the Hunter S. Thompson school of subversion.


I have never followed or read Palast except for checking him out very briefly( U can't read EVERYBODY) but I did read the links here.

I have pointed out several times recently that some pieces lifted out of the media which are attacked here as indicationms of deluded authors or shills at work are really sarcastic rather than serious, farces rather than tragedies.

Some otherwise really sharp people here don't seem to read enough ordinary literature to recognize farce and sarcasm as such.

I haven't seen the epilogue you mention but the excerpts linked to here do not support your interpretation of Palast's writing on peak oil,in my opinion-and I have spent more of my life reading than anything else,about half "literature" and the other half ,roughly,science/history/nature.

He may have written the epilogue as a partial cynical defense of his own reputation after realizing how wrong he is on peak oil,I have no idea.

The very small amount of his work that I have read leaves me with the impression that he is mostly interested in coming across as a street wise and cynical tough guy smarter than the rest of us,and I decided fast to spend my time elsewhere with more sophisticated writers.

The real problem is that most people are technically /scientifically illiterate and take thier cues as to what to believe from people they look up to as role models/individuals higher up in the pecking order.If they have no expertise in a given area,they tend to evaluate the reliability of an author by how well his work agrees with thier own world view,particularly if the reader has some expertise in a field the writer covers,and the reader finds the author to be honest and accurate in his coverage of this field.

If I am correct,tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands,concieveably even millions of people probably have accepted his words about peak oil literally as the ordinary man on the street is all too ready to believe any big business is ALWAYS trying to run one on the public.

Maybe he really IS trying to throw grenades into the enemy trenches but my estimation is that if this is true,he has such a poor throwing arm that in the case of peak oil the grenade went off in friendly territory.

Of course any body that reads a lot would read both sides of the story,but my impression of him is such that I suspect his followers are in some respects like those of El Rushbo-the kind not likely to hear or read the other side of the story unless by accident-such as maybe getting stuck in a waiting room and finding only one mazazine handy to pass the time.

Of course, by and large, Big Oil and their hired guns are adamantly opposed to Peak Oil concepts:


"Contrary to the theory, oil production shows no signs of a peak... Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year, or for decades to come"

ExxonMobil Advertisement in New York Times
June 2, 2006


"We in Opec do not subscribe to the peak-oil theory."

Acting Secretary General of Opec, Mohammed Barkindo
July 11, 2006


"Rather than a 'peak,' we should expect an 'undulating plateau' perhaps three or four decades from now."

Mr. Robert Esser
Senior Consultant and Director, Global Oil and Gas Resources
Cambridge Energy Research Associates
December 7, 2005

My "Iron Triangle" essay on the topic from two years ago:

In regard to discussions of Peak Oil and Peak Exports, I have described what I call the “Iron Triangle,” which consists of: (1) Some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts; (2) The auto, housing and finance group and (3) The media group.

If one resides in the oil industry leg of the Iron Triangle, and if one has concluded that Peak Oil is upon us, or extremely close, does one say, "We cannot increase our production," and thereby encourage massive conservation and alternative energy efforts, or does one say "We choose not to increase production and/or we are temporarily unable to increase production for the following reasons (fill in the blank)?"

The latter course of action would tend to discourage emergency conservation efforts and alternative energy efforts, and it would encourage energy consumers to maintain their current lifestyles, perhaps by going further into debt to pay their energy bills, and it would in general have the net effect of maximizing the value of remaining reserves.

I always find it interesting that people like Matt Simmons (who are encouraging energy conservation) are widely blamed by some critics for high oil prices, while some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts are--in effect--encouraging increased energy consumption.

The prevailing message from some major oil companies, some major oil exporters and some energy analysts can be roughly summarized as follows “Party On Dude!”

Meanwhile, over on the other two legs of the Iron Triangle, the auto, housing and finance group is focused on selling and financing the next auto and house, and the media group just wants to sell advertising to the auto, housing and finance group. The media group is only too happy to pass on the “Party On Dude” message to consumers.

To some extent, what we are seeing across the board, from large sectors of the energy industry to the auto/housing/finance industry, media and beyond, is the "Enron Effect," i.e., many people know that we have huge problems ahead, but their paychecks are dependent on the status quo.

The suburbanites are caught in the middle of this, although they have a strong inclination to believe the prevailing message from the "Iron Triangle." As in the movie "The Sixth Sense," for most of us the automobile based suburban lifestyle is dead, but we just don't know it yet, and we see only what we want to see.

Meanwhile Exxon buys back its own stock at such a rate that it will cease to exist as a company in a few decades. Coincedence?

I have to say there has been quite an uptick in the number of articles I have read in the past 6 months on PO. Not to mention every major investment bank has now come out and acknowledged the issue over the past 12 months. The professional investment community knows but the majority of Americans have no idea largely because it is not something the mainstream media appears to understand yet, I do believe that may change after the next price run-up and collapse in the next 1-5 years. But I suspect the focus will again be on speculators, bad loans or some other distraction that is ultimately a result of this phenomenon. People don't seem to have the will to understand PO, which I believe to be the most significant economic event of the 21st century.

I work in the upstream oil & gas industry and there seems to be a BAU type of mindset here at least in the U.S. I think this is largely because most domestic E&P companies are now primarily natural gas (typically 80% gas 20% or less in crude) in terms of their portfolios and there is a lot more natural gas to be drilled for in places like the Haynesville Shale, Barnett Shale etc. so we are not having any problems increasing production.

Even though we have economists and financial analysts coming into our office all the time and beating the drum loudly regarding our nations future energy crisis, but many of the old guys here seem to think it is just because they are energy bulls trying to sell something when in reality we are facing the very real problem of energy scarcity. Additionally, many people working in the O&G industry are at or near retirement age and are not really the type of folks who want to be concerned with such large problems as they are nearing the end of their careers. With the exception of maybe guys like Boone Pickens or Matt Simmons.

...and there is a lot more natural gas to be drilled for in places like the Haynesville Shale, Barnett Shale etc. so we are not having any problems increasing production.

I lost some credibility around this issue. When NG was up around $13/mbtu (or whatever the unit is), I followed others in believing that things would only get worse, with zigzags. No one I read forsaw shale gas bringing it back down to $2 (that and the economy), at least for the time being. This has put some egg on the face of us peakers.

I'd love to see a lot more discussion on shale gas and its prospects, how it was missed, what it means environmentally, etc. And to what extent is the same possible with shale oil? All that.

Hi Dave,

Your right in that shale gas has allowed production to increase but that is not setting the price at $2.00. It is the collapse of the industrial (and to a lesser degree electrical power) sectors that is doing it. (If shale was profitable to produce at $2 or $3 the rigs would have shifted location, not been laid down).

The USSR saw the same thing. Oil peaked causing an economic collapse. Economic collapse caused a peak in coal production. Check out:

And recent reports suggest Mexico will have a small surplus of NG to supply to west coast USA, even while it imports LNG into its termina.


Oregon has an order of magnitude more hits than any other location in the US.

I would think the next question is "Why is it ok to cover peak oil in Oregon?"

They were first to start a peak oil task force. Did the conversation start from individuals? Or did the leadership come from government?

It seems to me that one rather inexpensive thing that governments could do is mail all citizens a document explaining peak oil and that it is real and that the citizens should get prepared for higher prices (it would not need to talk about food shortages or anything more dire than high prices).

That would end the "I would be crazy for talking about this" issue (and possibly unblock some editorial pages) and allow people to start the conversations that are needed to solve the problem.

Radio KBOO in Oregon is very peak oil friendly. I believe it is an NPR station. I have spoken on it a couple of times. When I searched on peak oil, I got three pages of hits.

KBOO is most certainly NOT an NPR station. KBOO is a community powered, nonprofit, independent radio station for more than 30 years now. The big Nominally Public Radio behemoth in town is called "OPB," which actually stands for "Obese Profits Broadcasting" but which operates under the nom de mic of "Oregon Public Broadcasting." The OPB execs are fabulously well-paid and have essentially turned the whole operation into a cash cow with tapioca programming that ruffles no feathers and annoys no sponsors.

OPB is all about corporate friendly programs like "The Splendid Table," and "Marketplace," along with the droning conventional wisdom machines of "Morning Edition" and "All Things (corporate approved) Considered." You will hear peak oil discussed on OPB with the depth and seriousness that it merits right after we have a national porcine air force and Satan comes around asking for sweaters to fight off the chill at home.

About 4 years ago Terry Gross interviewed James Baker III - real jerk - then next day it was some preacher who converts homosexuals. One of the KBOO morning political DJs is a transsexual. Bit of a contrast there.

I did first hear about the Long Emergency (Kunstler's book) on OPB, though.

Love Salem,
If you are an unattached female sixtyish I will dive to Oregon to propose,sight unseen.

It is truly REFRESHING to see someone acknowledge the realities of public radio once in a while.

But I still listen,because it's either them or Rush or sports or pop music.

To MisParrot Churchill,

"NPR, It's the worst thing on the dial, with the exception of everything else"

Their glib chatter can make me apoplectic, but at least I feel a little alive..


(We do have a hopeful College/Community Radio here WMPG .. but I can't listen to quite that much reggae anymore. But they give us the Worthy alternates like Democracy Now, Counterspin and FSRN, FreeSpeech Radio News)

In the early lamented days of Air America Radio, they had the Morning Sedition show, which took an axe to the NPR approach. Peak Oil and energy conservation were regular topics.

I can take shows like Democracy Now but not the zombie touch of NPR.

You know, I was just thinking some of you guys sounded like you needed a date on a Friday night. :-))

This is Friday night relaxation, reading the TOD while listening to the tunes ;)

Much too old and wise to date for the usual male reasons anymore.;-(

But a good conversation once in a while now.....
Scientifically literate older women are few.
Are YOU by any chance sixtyish and unattached?;)

Just to get things a little more into perspective:

14100 search hits for "britney spears"

92700 for star trek

Search results from the on-line version of the Cleveland Plain Dealer

get the picture?

get the picture?

Yeah! Britney Spears makes a guest appearance in a Star Trek movie as the sexy alien ruler of a planet in a far away galaxy where the inhabitants are destroying their ecosystems while exhausting their main fossil fuel energy source and the population is in overshoot and multiple resource wars are compounding her alien world's problems.

The plot thickens since the prime directive doesn't allow any interference in the alien world's internal affairs...

fyi, this kind of "data mining" can become a rigorous scientific tool with not too much added effort. It wouldn't work for the papers with no mentions of "peak oil" but might work for the published literature on Google Scholar, for example. With a multi-year search you can plot it as a history curve of change over time... This figure is what you get for the NY Times, with a 10 year search for the word "sustainability". If your key phrase doesn't have multiple meanings you get a fairly clean rendition of the flurries of discussion about the subject.

I think it would be great to plot the occurrences of "peak oil" mentions by geography, as well as some other key words.

These will likely be the places already in action adapting and thus good places to move to.

Google is doing this for H1N1:

Click on a region then move your mouse over the maps.

Edit: Here is a map done via Twitter of H1N1 from this article:


The Google Trends graph is also interesting:

I notice Google trends ranks Portland, Oregon number one for cities with respect to peak oil; Seattle, Washington is second; Austin, Texas is third.

And if in Google Trends you put "climate change" and "peak oil" on the same graph, it makes PO look like a pancake/Oklahoma.

Try the word "depression". Produces a remarkable self-similar periodic, based on seasons I suppose.

Depression includes the medical condition.

Try recession:

Most references, by region:
1. India
2. United Arab Emirates
3. Singapore
4. Ireland
5. South Africa
6. Malaysia
7. Philippines
8. New Zealand
9. United States
10. Australia

Also of interest is the number of Peak Oil videos on you tube, and the dates they were uploaded. Not a whole bunch the last 12 months but loads before. This is an indication that people are more concerned about the economy, imho.

Most governments are well aware of the ensuing catastrophy. They haven't got the faintest idea how to tackle it. Admitting their position will create a total chaos which will demolish any chance of getting out of the existing avalanche. Their solution for the nearest future is to postpone admitting its existance as long as possible. They hope that within a few years Alternative Energy and higher energetic efficiencies will be able to fill the opening gap of energy resources.

You may be right but it depends on how you define "government." If government is the military, then I would agree with you. If it is the CIA, I would agree again. But my experience is that policy makers/electeds do not know what it is or its implications. The "type" of person (if there is such a thing) that is most often elected is a cornucopian/techno believer--hence the parallel universe that Greenish posits.

I think that the basic problem is not getting people to acknowledge peak oil, but rather getting them to acknowledge peak capitalism. I have visted plenty of alternate energy websites where at least 99% of the discussion participants admit the reality of fossil fuel depletion, but less than 1% are willing to admit that an economic system whose raison d'etre is to "sell more stuff this year than we sold last year" is unsustainable. If a reasonable response to peak oil within the context of private finance capitalism were possible, I think that a serious, mainstream discussion of the issues would be under way.

My strategy is "let it fail."

Guess what mammals, there's a major meteorite headed our way! Is this good news or bad news? Well, it could wipe us and the entire planet out. That would be bad news. But it might just wipe out those who are big, clumsy, and not adapted to change. It could lead to . . . total planetary domination by us.

The attention to energy issues will (IMO) come of its own accord -- and in the absence of such a "catastrophe," we won't be able to succeed anyway. I tend to be skeptical of attempts to spread the peak oil message through a new, more clever media campaign. I know, Al Gore did it, but that took nearly 20 years of publicity and slow infiltration of the environmental movement -- and look how fragile it is, if some in the global warming community see the peak oil conversation as a threat to them. A media campaign sounds like a new, more clever way to take on the dinosaurs pre-meteorite, so that even if one particular mammal species seems to be doing rather well, I'm inclined to wait and see.

We should be preparing for a future in which the economy is manifestly in disarray, and previous conversations have been shown to be bankrupt. What's so scary about this? Isn't this what everyone on TOD is talking and thinking about? The economy is actually already in a crisis, but no one sees it: we are waiting for the "seeing" to come about. "Apocalypse" means "uncovering." What conversations will we be having then? We should look confidently towards this future and plan accordingly. But there is no point in trying to bring about this "uncovering" ourselves; that part will be done for us by nature, with a possible assist from us. We need to focus on ways we can help out nature, and what policies will be needed at that future point.

What policies will we need in this not-too-distant, apocalyptic future? The articles by Herman Daly and others and groups like CASSE ( are a good starting point. As a thought experiment, I'd envision a chaotic situation in the U. S. A. in 2012 (or 2016 or whenever), with 20% unemployment, 30% annual inflation, and both political parties in disarray, and what would a presidential candidate say in such a situation? I'd stop worrying about how to get on "Good Morning America" and start worrying about this question. If we have a good set of policies and a small but knowledgeable group of followers ready at that point, it could lead to success. It's the policies that I'm looking for, not the specific tactics or which prominent politicians we might recruit -- when we've got the policies, we can look at how to promote them.


I am inclined to lean more toward Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point proposition. The movie, with Gore's name was the tipping point--google trends appears to concur. If President Clinton were to do something similar with a first rate movie, I think it would have a similar effect. Of course, that's not going to happen with this issue.

The "Tipping Point" hypothesis points in a completely different direction than you evidently think. Gore's movie did not precipitate global warming awareness; there had to be a substantial undercurrent of awareness first for Gore to capitalize on. If we went back in time to 1999, not knowing the future, what would you do to try to advance global warming awareness? Agitate to get Gore to do a movie? Try to get Gore to say something in his upcoming Presidential bid about global warming? The substantial undercurrent of awareness which was already taking place furthered an event that was going to happen anyway, perhaps a year or two later than when the movie actually came out, or perhaps 5 - 10 years later in a much more politically turbulent way. Remember also that the immediate social and political implications of peak oil are much greater than those of global warming.

We should worry less about the actual precipitating event, which could be anything or anyone -- Gore actually knows about peak oil, so maybe he'd do another movie. The real problem is keeping the undercurrent of awareness developing; that's something which is within our power. In the case of peak oil, a critical factor blocking this awareness is the lack of a plan for dealing with peak oil. What do you do in a USA of 20% unemployment / 30% inflation and declining oil supplies, which could very well happen by 2012? If we don't have answers for this basic kind of question, there will be no Al Gore to come forward to lead the parade.


I don't disagree. I think there is currently enough undercurrent for an "Al Gore" type figure to tip the debate. President Clinton could tip the debate, Jimmy Carter was too early.

What foiled Carter seems to have been Alaska and North Sea Oil.

And Mexico as well?

O. K., probably I misjudged your "Tipping Point" comments. Perhaps I could rephrase this to say that the most likely tipping point for the peak oil debate would be a financial crisis, or if it happened otherwise (President Clinton makes a great peak oil movie), it would precipitate a financial crisis. Pres. Clinton probably knows this, thus his reluctance to make the movie.

I don't understand this religious zeal over peak oil. Of course it will. Everything does. But you ignore economics. As oil runs out, the price increases. As price increases society switches to something else. Did you not notice that last year all kinds of alt energy ideas/business sprang up? Or that consumers stopped buying SUV's and moved en mass to smaller cars? Or that as the recession kicked in coal demand has cratered?

Yes, you noticed those things. But you are too dogmatic, too religious in your zeal. You pretend peak oil lives in a vacuum with no economic or societal dynamics. You sound even more deaf and dumb than the public and media you criticize.

It is not religious zeal. It is careful study. You have a hypothesis that as the price of fossil fuel rises that alternatives will become more attractive and that will lead to a painless transition to those sources. The evidence is against it.

Start with reading these two articles:

Energy Transitions Past and Future

10 Fundamental Pricipals of Net Energy Analysis

The essential argument against your hypothesis is simply:
1. Energy is needed to make the transition.
2. The faster the transition required, the more energy required.
3. Net energy is in decline, meaning less energy is available every year to make the transition.
4. Alternative technologies have lower economic utility than oil (no battery powered aircraft for example).
5. Alternative technologies will need substantial non-market support to pay for growth while competing with a declining fossil base. (In other words, price dips that fossil sources can survive will kill fledgling growth in alternatives).

This will result in a disruptive transition. But read the articles and form your own opinion.

Gonzo fiddles while George Burns.

Listened to from within a different sub-network of conversations, the peak oil conversation sounds absurd.

This is the same phenomenon that occurs between different religious conversations, different political conversations, between children who want to follow their dream vs. parents who have different ideas, Palestinians vs. Israelis and so on.

That something sounds absurd is an excellent indicator that the listener doesn't have a rich network of conversations that would enable them to hear the new one. The listener rejects the new conversation, as you are doing now.

Not many people have the capacity to hear something that is outside their network of conversations without some sort of negative reaction. It is a useful (and exceedingly rare) skill to be able to stay in an inquiry into a notion that evokes the immune system of existing conversations.

"That something sounds absurd is an excellent indicator that the listener doesn't have a rich network of conversations that would enable them to hear the new one."

Oftentimes, though, it's an excellent indicator that it simply is absurd. And the world is so big that there are far too many conversations for any one person to vet. In order to stay sane a person must ignore most of them...

Perhaps. But what I'm pointing to is the actual mechanism in the brain that comes up with the response "that's absurd." Assuming that it is coherent language, there is a context created by the background conversations that enables the new conversation to be understandable.

Haven't you ever had something occur to you as absurd then someone has explained and it made more sense?These are often the "non-intuitive" answers, which is just another way of saying that the listener doesn't have the necessary background conversations for it to be intuitive for them.

Haven't you ever had something occur to you as absurd then someone has explained and it made more sense?

Sure, just try not to be too hard on folks who don't delve into every conversation you'd like them to. Life is short.

See this, too: "... perfect substitutability between production inputs fails if a corrected thermodynamic approach is used ..."

More so than the mainstream media, it is the right-wing talkers and bloggers that refuse to even pay the slightest lip service to peak oil. I listen to some of these stations and frequent some of the blogs and if they do mention peak oil, which they have done so only recently, they tend to bash it. The current meme in RW circles is to use classical economics to "reason" our way out of this. Jason Lewis is the cornucopian pushing this most heavily. A host of others back the Jerome Corsi abiotic stuff.

About the only right-winger that puts a fair spin on it happens to be the otherwise trigger-happy Glenn Beck.

There's a chapter in my book on peak oil and if you're a real, you know, freak on the program, you might have noticed that that's the only chapter that I have not discussed on the air and the reason why is because I put it in there saying that this is a possibility. However, there's a lot of people that think that peak oil is just, you know, the sky is falling. So I wasn't sure. And, you know, I've got enough "Sky is falling" stuff in my life. I didn't need to tell you that we're running out of oil as well. But I thought it was important enough credible people that do believe in peak oil that it was a piece of the puzzle that I thought you needed to know and I thought you needed to know as well. I still don't know if I buy into peak oil. However, what I do believe in is we are out of cheap oil. We are out of the, you know, the bubbling crude where, you know, Jed goes out and he's shooting some varmint and all of a sudden up comes bubbling crude? That's done. That's over. The cheap oil is gone. There's plenty of oil left but it's deep sea oil, it's difficult to get or it's heavy crude. So it costs a lot more to pull out. So the days of cheap gas are over.

So PO has got the one deranged cat from a stable of reactionary types to count on. Yet he doesn't even discuss it on his broadcast (radio or TV) programs because obviously it is too radioactive a subject for conservative listeners. And since his job is a business, he can't afford to alienate any of his blue-haired listeners and viewers.

As Thomas Frank says, the main motive behind any of the GOP’s tactics is profit, pure and simple.

No surprise really. The elites on the conservative side are very aware of Peak Oil. It has been noted on this site that Bush and Cheney openly discussed Peak Oil in the '90s when they weren't running for anything.

When they ran for election they stopped talking about it. When they ran the country they never talked about it then either. Instead, they decided the most prudent solution was to invade an oil rich country.

Bush & Cheney persistantly called for increased domestic oil drilling in an effort to have us become less reliant on foreign imports. The LEFT has been consistently against tapping our own proven reserves.

They is no evidence that The Bush administration saw "invad(ing) an oil rich country" as a solution to PO - your sacrcastic, snide comment notwithstanding.


The evidence might just be THAT we invaded this Oil-Rich country at all.

Do you have any suggestions for why we went in there? And in the process, protected the oil infrastructure and little else?

Al Quaeda followed US in..
No WMDs..
No links to 9-11..

and through Wolfowitz, they promised us that 'it would pay for itself with oil revenues'


Bush & Cheney persistantly called for increased domestic oil drilling in an effort to have us become less reliant on foreign imports. The LEFT has been consistently against tapping our own proven reserves.

They is no evidence that The Bush administration saw "invad(ing) an oil rich country" as a solution to PO - your sacrcastic, snide comment notwithstanding.



I think that the more prominent conservatives with brains ,who are imo about as common as liberals with brains,know about peakoil,but they aren't going to talk about it.

The cards have fallen in such a way that peal oil is not going to help them win any elections as things stand,and politicians are always politicians first and liberals or conservatives second.

But it took a strong conservative loke Nixon to open up the door to communist China and it could be that if a credible conservative takes up this theme in the fairly near future he might win on it.
I can't think of anyone with the right qualificatios,however.

There is no doubt in my mind that the average person who is well aware of the energy situation is much more likely to be a self described liberal than not,but no one should assume that there are not lots of thinking conservatives who are keeping thier mouths shut for tactical reasons-just as there are many thinking democrats who long ago realized that they could force the adoption of lots of new social spending but also that they could never force the public to pay for it-of course this is a large part of the reason we are in the fiscal mess we'in in now. The way the cards have fallen,the liberals get the credit due for the programs but the conservatives get the blame for he deficits.

But unless it's rape,it takes two to make a baby.

I haven't noticed a whole lot of action on the part of the democrats as far as getting something done is concerned with the two notable exceptions of Carter and Gore-and the dems don't like to run on losers platforms.

The Clintons were virtually silent,OBama seems to be interested in lip service only after running to the center to get elected visavis nuclear power etc,,and the some of the most prominent democrats have prove to be the among the worst of renewables nimbys on some pretty flimsy grounds.

I don't see much hope until we get our energy Pearl Harbor.


At the risk of sounding patronizing,it's kinda like this.You the patient(everybody) are dying for lack of an operation and if yiu don't get within an hour you die.

But the only surgeon (inventor,engineer,finanicer) capable of performing the operation is two hours away by helicopter,which is the fastest way to get him to your bedside.

Only a miracle can save your(everybody's) butt.
The calvary ain't gonna make it this time,cause it's the ARMORED calvary these days,and it runs on diesel.
I apologize,at one time I believed the same thing myself.

I don't think that Tribune did in fact come up with zero. In 2006 there was a great special section called "A tank of gas, a world of trouble" or "Oil Safari" or something. A big pull-out section.

A sidebar apparently included the words "peak oil"

...with crude prices hitting record highs since 2004, global oil demand outstripping supplies like never before and major discoveries stagnant for 20 years, peak oil has migrated from the fringe to the center of the global energy debate.

I found it by googling "where does oil come from tribune".

There was this review on Energy Bulletin:

"Just opened my hard copy of the Trib this morning and found the special insert at the number two slot, behind front page, section A. The special insert is HUGE! In my thirty odd years of reading local newspapers I cannot remember a devotion to one subject this extensively. The graphics are quite impressive also."

Yes, I think much depends upon the time window that various search engines allow. While some hits may have not shown up, I think the observation is still valid.

Is anyone really surprised by the media's lack of attention to this? Look at the reaction to attempted changes in our healthcare system. During the 2008 campaign it was either the number 1 or 2 issue cited by voters that they wanted addressed. So we vote in someone who vows to make changes and what is the response. Wah, wah, wah, "I want change but I don't want it to be hard, I don't want to give anything up, I don't want my taxes to go" up and on and on and on. We are a nation of children, babies really. We don't want to discuss the hard issues and deal with them. I speak to smart people about this and they simply reply "that can't be true, there's plenty of oil, another technology will supplant oil", without actually looking at the reality of the situation. In the last few months the highest selling vehicle in the US is the Ford F-150. The same idiots buying such cars will be crying in their beer and claiming a conspiracy by "The Arabs" when the world economy kicks back in and oil spikes. Americans need someone to hit them over the head with a hammer to get them to react. I don't see that changing as Americans feel entitled to cheap energy and that if we don't get it we demand it somehow. It's ridiculous and sad. The current administration is clueless about this as well. Oh well, as the Grateful Dead said, "going to hell in a handbasket and we're enjoying the ride."

Your premise is that 100% of the health care pain should be borne by the taxpayer. I don't think that is what anyone voted for-USA hospital expenses are a frigging disgrace and I don't see the change master addressing that in any meaningful way.

"Your premise is that 100% of the health care pain should be borne by the taxpayer."

If you are referring to me, not sure how you arrived at that conclusion. All I am saying is that Americans wanted change in healthcare as it is getting, as you point out, ridiculously expensive. And when they are provided alternatives, all Americans do is whine and cry about it.

I do not suggest American healthcare should be 100% taxpayer funded. A public option is needed though.

Also, my point was Americans cannot handle the truth nor the hard choices.

And that last is why Americans aren't going to get a public option, or if they do, it will be so festively ornamented with loopholes, donut holes, certain other holes, excuses, exceptions, and huge co-pays that it will be of no use in preventing them from being reduced to penury by the next illness, which, at the end of the day, seems to be the real political issue - but not the fundamental problem.

The real problem is that we could probably spend the whole GDP, or at least enough of it to do in the economy for good, on medical "care", simply because there is always another ruinously expensive test with negligible odds of yielding useful information, and there is always another ruinously expensive drug with negligible but conceivably nonzero benefit, and unknown side-effects. And the one thing that the religions and quasi-religions of both Left and Right firmly agree on is that nothing should ever be denied in pursuit of another second of life-expectancy, which requires infinite spending. This leaves no space for agreement on anything of practical value.


Pretty much agree but must point out that Grateful Dead are (perhaps unconscious) plairgitists as that line has been around in fundamentalist sermons and back yard and beer music(perhaps recorded,I don't know) since way before my time and I'm getting old.

But the preacher I used to listen to as a kid left out the "we" as he was mostly talking about the people not present.

Thanks for your effort here Debbie. I wish you were my representative in Oregon. I live just outside of Eugene. Oregon is full of old hippies that still remember the oil shocks from the 70's and 80's. They live in a prolonged truce with the "redneck lumberjacks" in their mega tire supercharged pickup trucks. Fortunately, it is the old hippies that hold the council seats.

I also have had some experience in Broadcast Television. It seems perfectly natural that we should see scant coverage of Peak Oil in the major media. To understand this is just "Follow the Money". Virtually all major media in the U.S. is funded by advertising dollars. The implications of Peak Oil is quite clear to most people once given a little thought. We will have to stop buying stuff, get out of our cars, and start walking. Any news editor worth their salary will say to their reporter: "Are you nuts? We can't run this! We'd be effectively telling our readers not to patronize our advertisers. The next thing you know, Ford and GM will be pulling their ads. Then we'd be out of business too! Tell you what, you bring it back to me all watered down. Interview some skeptics who support business as usual so it doesn't frighten away our income stream, and then maybe, I might consider running it then. I'll let you know."

It seems global warming is less risky to present. It is relatively easy to find "solutions" that will be somebody else's responsibility. For example: sequestering CO2 from a coal fired power plant does not require the average suburbanite to change his living arrangements or buying habits.

Several years ago, before the SCAG conference, I found a reporter who wanted to do a story. He interviewed me, then later called and told me that the "Business" section editor didn't want him to write on it. Said it belonged in the business section. They ended up running it as a Q&A only. Speaks volumes.

"Do you boys even know what makes your rocketships go up? ..
.. no bucks, no Buck Rogers!" -The Right Stuff

I think that one of the problems with the Peak Oil coverage is that in the United States, you don't get a lot of news from your news media. A lot of it is just opinion or fluff.

Last fall, I was in Kathmandu, Nepal, between treks in the high Himalayas. There you have your choice of (pirated) satellite channels. You can listen to the news from CNN, and then you can switch to the BBC, which is much less opinionated. To get the Arab take on things, you can go to Al Jazeera, which has a good English language news service, and if that's not enough you can flip through the English language stations from nearby India. India has 1 billion people, English is one of the official languages, and TV is a very competitive business.

By contrast, in the spring I was in Utah, where all the TV channels had the same news. At that time, it was all about the swine flu. Since I was sitting among a bunch of medical professionals, I asked them what they thought about the coverage, and their consensus as medical experts was, "It's all cr*p." At that point, I turned the TV off and wished I could get the BBC (or even Al Jazeera). Americans don't get any real news in their news.

The basic problem is that U.S. news coverage is focused on the events of the moment and is very shallow. An on-going trend gets no coverage until it turns into a crisis, and then the coverage ends when the immediate crisis is over. U.S. oil production peaked in 1973, and unless gasoline prices have hit a new high, the media is no longer interested.

I notice that some of the highest hit rates for "Peak Oil" were in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Houston Chronicle. The first two are noted for their in-depth coverage and the last is in the midst of the U.S. oil company head offices.

As an American, I rarely if ever, watch TV news. Its shite as the Brits say. "Local news" is confined to one or two crime stories then the second half is "human interest" stuff like the new tiger at the zoo or the birth of quadruplets at the local hospital. Of course all announced by handsome men and gorgeous women all smiling and bantering. I get my news online from various sources and the Wall Street Journal (I just skip the editorial section as my blood pressure skyrockets when I read it) and/or The NYT both with an objective mind. With the internet there is so much mis-information and outright lying going on you have to be very careful about what you believe. "Death panels" is an example.

The Los Angeles basin has huge oil refineries and production/infrastructure. Maybe it serves as a deterrent for the LA Times. It is also likely that they have long running relationships with the editors/reporters who have convinced them that PO is fringe.

Southern California has never struck me as being in touch with reality.

Reality check #1: No new oil refineries have opened in the U.S. in the last 30 years, and about 10 have closed in California alone. Certainly the ones that are left are big, but they're in a declining industry.

Reality check #2: In the mid 1980s, California produced over 1 million barrels per day of its own oil and Alaska over 2 million bpd. Much of the Alaska oil went to California. Today, California produces about 500,000 bpd and Alaska about 700,000 bpd. California imports over 1 million bpd from foreign countries, much of it from OPEC.

Reality check #3: Southern California once had the largest interurban railroad system in the world, but back in the days of cheap oil, they bet the farm on the automobile and abandoned all the interurbans in favor of freeways.

They may now be in a state of denial over the possibility that in the not-to-distant future they may have to abandon all their freeways and rebuild the interurban system again, at great expense.


Evidently you have a net connection and if it's not dial up ,all is not lost.

I listen to the BBC over the net at home.Pity I can't get it on my truck radio or out in the field, I could get away from Rush and NPR sometimes.

Yes I have high speed internet, and the BBC web site is just a click away, as are the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), New York Times, Washington Post, Economist of London, Toronto Globe and Mail, etc. etc. That's how I get the vast majority of my news. Other media are becoming obsolete.

For that matter, I could get high speed internet in the high Himalayas and access the same web sites. The cities of Nepal and Bhutan have lots of internet cafes.

You could probably set up a wireless network to get the BBC out to the back 40. Heck, the Himalayan nomads have wireless internet out in their yak pastures these days.

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

Probably these silly analogies don't help us much. Back when it mattered, Mac was a very expensive closed system, poor value for money despite significant technological brilliance (another big minus: as with the iPhone, Apple decided for you what software they deigned to allow you to have.) Back when it mattered, VHS offered uninterrupted movies and Beta offered poor run time, while the minor difference in resolution mattered only to a handful. And even if Mac and Beta had been "better" overall (rather than on just a single dimension), I don't see a strong analogy with news coverage. (As for the dinosaurs and mammals, the analogy seems simply unintelligible.)

Perhaps abstract concepts such as those called "Peak Oil" and "Global Warming" aren't really "news" most of the time. Generally, and from the point of view of a broad audience as opposed to an audience of specialists of one sort or another, there is no particular change - nothing new, no "news" - from day to day or week to week on those fronts. When there is in fact "news", such as last year's price spike, it certainly does get coverage. However, the "news", the change, was the price spike rather than the abstract concept. Searching on "Peak Oil" won't turn it up those articles since the concept may not appear in those words, or even at all.

And perhaps it's unsurprising that The Guardian and The Oregonian, or something like them, would top the search-hit lists, since their financial or editorial arrangements apparently encourage them to run funky offbeat opinion pieces, such as those by George Monbiot in The Guardian. But workaday newspapers teetering on the edge of bankruptcy probably have more immediate concerns than to fuss over conceptual abstractions.

N.B. I am surprised that the Falls Church News-Press is not on the domestic list, since Tom Whipple writes his regular series there. Maybe it's due to their obtusely structured web site - his current article at this writing is easy to find, but I have yet to discover a table-of-links page for his series.

Allow me to take a slightly different angle of attack here, and consider another angle of news coverage that has been lacking...and allow me to be try to careful and put this in a way that is understandable, and have you guys sort of "slice and dice it" for a bit:

Suppose I were to put in a newspaper that we could be on the front edge of the greatest percentage drop in crude oil consumption since the birth of the oil age, and that it is already underway.

Could I back it up with any facts or events that would demonstrate where I am getting this idea?

The two big historic players (Toyota and General Motors) in the auto industry (the biggest consumer of crude oil is still automobiles) are both committed to and preparing to deliver the most fuel efficient (in terms of crude oil consumption) vehicles in the history of the industry), and not efficient by matters of a percent or two here or there, but by orders of magnitude.

Suppose I were to point out that while people in general have basically been blind to the reality of peak oil...but that the oil industry suffers from a blindness as great and does not see that they are about to slam full speed into a brick wall.

Would anyone who is or has been involved in the production of crude oil believe that such a thing was possible?

Suppose I were to point out that with the recent unnoticed advances in battery technology, that the power of the world's grid based energy system will soon be in direct competition with crude oil for the consumers energy dollar, and that the amount of portable liquid fuel on the automobile will be so small and consumed so efficiently that it can be easily substituted by any number of natural gas, propane, bio-fuel or even manufactured methanol (made from hydrogen and captured carbon)options?

How fast can this happen? A decade? Less than a decade? Has the crude oil industry even considered how fast and how greatly demand for their product could drop in the upcoming 10 years (note: I didn't say would drop, I said could drop) and looked at any contingency plans for this greatly under-reported possibility?

This whole story could play out vastly different than most people seem to realize. Predictability is pretty much does the media attempt to predict the future for its audience when the various possible outcomes are so numerous and so wildly varied as to verge on the edge of chaos? Catastrophic collapse and failure...or a new clean industry which will free up trillions of dollars, who can know? I will say this...I don't think most people can comprehend how fast this technology is moving and how great the implications are for the average person in the developed nations.

My father recounted to me the first time he rode in a car with an automatic transmission, a 1948 Oldsmobile. He said it was one of the reasons he became a mechanic, so fascinating was the idea that fluids could move around and shift the car so that a middle aged female school teacher could drive it in comfort. It astounded him at the time. Within the next decade almost all cars had the option of automatic transmission. He asked the school teacher how he it worked, thinking that she, being an educated woman, was as interested in the technology as he was. "I have no earthly idea", she said, she simply drove it.

This is the way the revolution will occur. Most college educated people and office workers will use it and not even realize the revolution is right under the hood. It is coming fast.


I agree with you. We are in completely uncharted territory. The only assumption I make is that our future is NOT going to look like the past with batteries.

With regard to Toyota, I know they get peak oil. At last year's ASPO conference, Peter Wells (their energy consultant) gave a great presentation on the analysis he has done based on the same data that CERA uses. In a perfect world, PO would be 2015. So far we have our perfect wars, perfect governments, perfect technology, perfect economy, perfect weather,...a perfect disaster on our hands.

There is some chance that there will be a break through or two in either energy generation or efficiency that can be scaled fast and cheap.

I have read the pie in the sky sections of the science and trades magazines for many years and my guess is the odds of any ONE proposed new scheme working out are probably over one thousand to one against.

But there are SO MANY SCHEMES-and not all of them by any means violate well known physical laws.

I will hazard a guess that there is at least one chance in five or ten that somebody will developp a dirt cheap pv cell, or breed a bug that not only generates boo hoo amounts of methane from sewage but also leaves a nice safe rich sludge good for fertilizer that even smells good or who only knows what,and within the next decade.

Unless I am mistaken,there are paints available now that are fairly good insulators-not good enough to make much difference on a given house,but good enough to make an enormous difference in the aggregate.

And the power of the ordinary tradesman should not be overlooked-once certain things happen ,others will follow as responses,and faster than most people would believe.It requires only one qualified hvac man to install a ground water heat pump,and there are countless unemployed carpenters,plumbers and laborers he can hire to lay the pipes,cut the holes thru walls,pour a mounting pad,etc.
There are plenty of excavating contractors that have backhoes sitting around .
And there is plenty of excess capacity that can probably be shifted to the manufacture of the heat pump itself.

If the price signal is strong and credit is made available,installations could grow at exponential rates,probably as fast or faster than subsidized wind -and probably without big subsidies,except making loans available.

And if the govt is interested in real sustainability/conservation /efficiency,and not in propping up decrepit industries,there are simply opportunities beyond measure that could be readily siezed.

All that is needed is a tough building code that applies not only to structures but also appliances, lighting and plumbing.

And loans made available to low income homeowners and landlords,rather than tax credits useful only to those who are fairly well off anyway.

Ten thousand dollars spent insulating an older house will save more energy several times over than the same amount spent on pv subsidies.

I for one have always asserted that we are going to have some great technology -- for those who can afford it. The next thing I point out is that any such technology will simply push off the day of reckoning as long as it exists within the growth paradigm.
I certainly would like a fancy electric car during the collapse! Who wouldn't?

The media's failure to appreciate the significance of our problem may have many causes - for example: elimination of their science or investigative journalist departments - but it seems, for some, to be in their fundamental nature.

A recent study at the Univ. of Buffalo Study Demonstrates How We Support Our False Beliefs looked at how voters perceived Iraq's linkage to 9/11, however, I think this studies findings could just as easily apply to 'Peak Oil' or 'Climate Change'.

The study addresses what it refers to as a "serious challenge to democratic theory and practice that results when citizens with incorrect information cannot form appropriate preferences or evaluate the preferences of others."

Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.

"In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information.

"The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.

"We form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in our personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter.

Not sure if this is a uniquely American form of incuriousness or maybe it's true - you just can't teach old dogs new tricks.

It doesn't have to do with age. You can't teach most people most tricks, new or old.

lol...there's something to that, I think!

Under Bush America was Faith based.
Under Obama America is Hope based.
What we need is a Fact based Country.

“Take stock of those around you and you will...hear them talk in precise terms about themselves and their surroundings, which would seem to point to them having ideas on the matter. But start to analyze those ideas and you will find that they hardly reflect in any way the reality to which they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you will discover that there is not even an attempt to adjust the ideas of this reality. Quite the contrary: through these notions the individual is trying to cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his "ideas" are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.”

Not too surprising the vast majority of people immerse themselves in illusions. We need illusions to protect us from the truth about ourselves and the existential condition of life.

“As this illustration shows, the scientific attitude is in some degree unnatural to man; the majority of our opinions are wish-fulfilments, like dreams in the Freudian theory. The mind of the most rational among us may be compared to a stormy ocean of passionate convictions based upon desire, upon which float perilously a few tiny boats carrying a cargo of scientifically tested beliefs.”
~Bertrand Russell “The Scientific Outlook”


I found that article available online here. There's a session id in there, so not sure if it will work for others.


When I searched the Los Angeles Times for "peak oil" using the quotation marks, five results were returned, three of which contained the phrase. The articles are:

"$20 Per Gallon" Christopher Steiner, July 26, 2009

A green industrial revolution?, Opinion, May 9, 2008

"Letters to the editor" August 4, 2007

One reference per year is pathetic.

The transition will be a lot easier than you think. Right now energy is wasted because it is too cheap. By wasted, I mean everyone drives large cars, leaves lights/appliances on, over heat/cool, have inadequate insulation...

I agree we are near or possibly even past the point of peak oil. But as soon as that starts manifesting in higher prices, voluntary conservation will cut demand rapidly and significantly -- well beyond what you "true believers" imagine possible. I think every American could easily cut their energy use by half, without really feeling pain.

Look at the impact $5 gas had last year. Conservation really kicked in. In my city buses were suddenly crowded. SUV/truck sales tanked 40%+. Businesses all flocked to sell wind, solar and battery solutions. But the higher prices were temporary, so that investment is gone now.

My solution is a tax that makes energy permanently expensive. Give us $140 oil consistently and 10 years from now everyone would have well insulated houses, fuel efficient cars, white/solar roofs. Easy changes that would crater oil demand.

Go ahead. Argue with me and call me a dog that can't learn new tricks. But you are the dog that doesn't understand economics 101 and refuse to accept the lesson of recent history.

Annual oil prices rose at about +20%/year from 1998 to 2008. In response, as you noted, US consumption declined--falling in 2008 back to our 1999 level of consumption.

However, many developing countries, even poorer ones like Kenya, showed increasing consumption over this time period. Three examples from the EIA:




Excellent info, WT. IMO, this helps support the MPP idea and Duncan's Olduvai Re-Equalizing Theory. For example: a billion people, that can scrape up sufficient cash to each buy a single BIC-lighter, so that they don't have to worry about wet matches to light their cooking fire, can easily outbid, by their aggregate/combined buying power, a First World person for that marginal amount of fuel.

To Westexas and the graphs: That is exactly the point. The developing countries are still using absolutely primitive technology and the waste and inefficiency must be incredible!

The most advanced nations are already working away from oil and away from waste. Several years ago the poor nations and the poor regions of even wealthier nations worried about being caught on the wrong side of the "digital divide", being deprived of information because they could not afford the technology.

The issue now may be the "energy divide" between the poor and developing nations and the most advanced developed modern nations.

China is working very hard to get on the right side of this divide. Egypt...I don't know, they are pretty conservative, it is difficult seeing them being able to move fast enough. India is the giant question mark, if they get it right they could alter the energy landscape, and combined with China your looking at over two fifth of the world population. These two nations could become the workshop for the world in providing advanced technology, and the change could be explosive, completely altering the balance of energy demand, energy consumption and putting the current "big players" (oil companies, advanced economies, political parties, etc.)into turmoil in trying to cope and benefit from the tidal wave of change that is coming.
The collapse of General Motors is the first shot across the bow of the big power players of the world. No one is immune. This is big.


The developing countries are still using absolutely primitive technology and the waste and inefficiency must be incredible!

It seems to me that Mr. Jevons focused his treatise on the impact of more efficient energy consuming machinery on consumption in developing countries.

But you are the dog that doesn't understand economics 101

Good gosh, everyone, we've completely forgotten about Economics 101! This despite the fact that every few weeks someone comes along reminding us of it. All the work done here over that last few years is clearly a colossal mistake, not on the cutting edge as we mistakenly and smugly told ourselves. All those discussions of how economics has blind spots and that things aren't nearly as they first appear were completely a waste of time.

I can see now that a few points especially were so far off the mark that I'm turning pink with embarrassment. The point about how quickly the oil will decline, especially net exports, leaving little time for the transition, well that's just a whopper. We clearly have until the end of the century to move the 800 million or so cars, buses and aircraft off oil.

The point predicting incredible unemployment, that's another doozy. And the point that the economy will lose its capacity to move off oil once the price volatility begins — that especially was just wrong-headed. There will be PLENTY of money for people to buy whatever energy efficient equipment they need. A windmill in every yard, for sure!

I see now how the obvious solution mkkby points out is, when all is said and done, exactly what is going to happen. No need to look any deeper than that.

Golly, do I feel stupid now. Excuse me if I don't post for a few days. I'm going to prepare to hold a garage sale.

Does anyone want to buy a slightly used grain mill???


I like it better when people say what they think, rather than what they don't think. I don't have to reread and ponder.

"I like it better when people say what they think, rather than what they don't think."

I like that. It is much harder to build than to tear down.

Forgive me. Normally I post straight up answers but this time I wanted to have a bit of fun. Telling this group that we don't understand economics 101 is like telling a group of monks they don't consider God. Economics is at the heart of most discussions here. In fact it's hard to find a post that doesn't include some reference to supply vs. demand as a concept and how it in particular will impact oil prices.

Written by mkkby:
But as soon as that starts manifesting in higher prices, voluntary conservation will cut demand rapidly and significantly -- well beyond what you "true believers" imagine possible. I think every American could easily cut their energy use by half, without really feeling pain.

Being able to reduce energy use and actually choosing to reduce it are two different things. People may choose to cut discretionary spending to pay for the higher cost of energy. Demand destruction may not be predominately voluntary. Rising unemployment will force the unemployed to reduce consumption by doing without while preventing them from spending money on more energy efficient things. I suspect this will be the brutal primary form of demand destruction.

Written by mkkby:
Look at the impact $5 gas had last year. Conservation really kicked in. In my city buses were suddenly crowded. SUV/truck sales tanked 40%+. Businesses all flocked to sell wind, solar and battery solutions. But the higher prices were temporary, so that investment is gone now.

From January 2008 to July 2008 U.S. crude oil consumption declined by about .5 Mb/d according to Chart 23 of "The Oil Watch Monthly" for August 2009, or about 2.5%. Are you sure increased use of buses caused the decline? I got the impression people reduced vacation travel via both vehicles and airplanes. Cities were not able to purchase new buses to expand the capacity which limited the impact. Purchasing more buses requires money to purchase and energy to manufacture them, both of which were under strain at the time. Some cities even canceled subsidized bus routes because they could not afford the increased expense caused by more passengers. Since July 2008 U.S. crude oil consumption has been crashing down toward 18 Mb/d driven by a damaged economy rather than a high price of crude oil. The energy conversion caused by selling wind, solar and battery solutions in 2008 was small compared to the reduction in U.S. crude oil consumption. Those small efforts to convert fizzled when the price of crude oil collapsed and credit seized up. Raising the price of crude oil currently will not unfreeze the credit markets which would interfere with efforts to convert. The volitility in oil price may continue as the world descends step-by-step down the falling edge of peak oil making a conversion difficult. We really needed to prepare for peak oil well in advance of the peak.

How much of the decline in energy consumption was driven by the down turn in new house construction caused by the subprime crisis? Fewer tractors excavating, less lumber cut and shipped and fewer construction workers traveling to job sites reduces energy consumption.

Well said BT. Decline in energy consumption will be forced by economic downturn. Besides, mkkby looks only at the U.S. while it is about the oil use of a worldeconomy as pointed out by WT in some graphs. With especially China and India: "demand is young, but supply is old".

The Globe and Mail results are pretty easy to explain. Jeff Rubin ("Why Your World...") and Thomas Homer-Dixon ("Carbon Shift") have both recently launched books in Canada that address peak oil. These have gotten a fair bit of coverage in the print press. Having said that, I haven't seen a lot of evidence that they've become major policy issues.

There was an opinion poll conducted here in the early nineties that indicated the environment had become the number one concern of Canadians. Then we went into a fairly deep recession and it all but disappeared from the polls as a response.

I agree that the omission is shocking. I have a daily 'Google Alerts' for Peak Oil and the hits are almost never in the mainstream media in the US.

But as a former reporter and journalist, I do not think this is because of corporate interests in the media. In all the years I worked in newspapers, I never once had a story squelched because of that, despite what many people think.

But I do think there are several other cogent reasons, and they might point the way to a solution:

1. The US media is hard-driven by the daily news cycle. Story assignments are generally based on what is happening in today's headlines. Editors spend vastly less time assigning think pieces and long-term analyses, and even when they do, those kinds of stories are usually based on hard news that's already on the front page.

2. Peak Oil began years ago as a 'fringe' theory promoted by 'radicals' and 'doomssayers,' at least in the mainstream imagination. Editors and reporters rarely want to go out on a limb and appear to have taken sides on a 'tainted' issue like that.

3. Peak Oil has not yet gained a high-profile, mainstream spokesperson, as global warming did with many people, among them Al Gore. It has, to my knowledge, not even attracted the imprimature of high-profile Congressional committee hearings.

4. The chatter against the Peak Oil idea is as loud, or louder, than the chatter supporting it. Lots of mainstream pundits pooh-pooh the idea, especially economists, who loom large in the punditocracy.

However, all of this is now beginning to change. Just in the last six months I have detected the beginnings of real movement in increased coverage.

But if we want to accelerate that change, the above reasons point to some solutions.

1. Sadly, Peak Oil needs to become a news story before it becomes a subject of serious media analysis in the US. Generally speaking, when activists want to take an ignored crisis and make it a front page story, they hit the streets. I was an early member of the AIDS groups ACT UP, back when AIDS was totally ignored by the media. We chose targets on Wall St and the drug companies, zapped them with creative demonstrations, got arrested, tied up traffic and bingo - front page coverage. THEN the media began reporting about what we were demonstrating about.

2. Peak Oil needs to try to shed the 'fringe' image and claim its mainstream mantle. Actually it is already doing this, since lots of mainstream types are signing on, writing books, teaching courses, etc., but this has not really broken through. One way that other issues have accomplished this, for example, is through a things like full-page ads in places like the NY Times, WSJ, Wash Post, etc., signed by 200 REALLY IMPORTANT AND CREDIBLE PEOPLE - Nobel laureates, top scientists, university presidents, famous authors, artists, heads of major corporations, credible celebrities. That really gets the notice of assigning editors - and a lot of other people as well.

3. There's a reason why most causes have high-profile spokespeople, from Bono (Africa) to Liz Taylor (AIDS) to Al Gore (global warming) to celebs talking off their clothes for PETA. Because they're HIGH PROFILE. Because they're celebs. That's what drives the US media. That's what gets attention. So Peak Oil would do well to recruit, recruit, recruit.

4. The chatter against Peak Oil needs to be constantly opposed by the arguments for. Whenever some well-known PO denialist is going on the Newshour, say, or is going to be quoted in the Times, the editors or producers need to know exactly where to turn to find the opposing voice. In addition, whenever some supposed expert makes a boneheaded public comment denying PO, some credible voice has to pipe up to complain. This requires a sophisticated PR campaign that includes a media watchdog component. Think GLAAD, or the Anti-Defamation League.

5. The Peak Oil crisis will be addressed by the media when it becomes a political story. You can forget the Republicans, but within the Democratic Party a peak-oil caucus demanding candidates take a stand, demanding hearings, etc. can elevate the story to a news story very quickly. Similar pressure groups within the party - from labor to women's rights to the environmental movement in the 70s etc - saw their issues go from ignored to frontpage very quickly.

To my knowledge, the Peak Oil movement has not yet done these basic things, which have been tried and tested for movements and causes over decades.

There is no reason to think these strategies would be any less successful for this crisis.

To my knowledge, the Peak Oil movement has not yet done these basic things, which have been tried and tested for movements and causes over decades.

There is no reason to think these strategies would be any less successful for this crisis.

What do you mean by successful? Global warming has been 'sucessfully' placed onto the media and political agendas, but there is not the slightest sign that truly effective actions are going to be implemented. The problem is the unwavering faith in the three 'isms' mentioned by ArianeB upthread: Scientism, Free Marketism, and Growthism. Climate change concerns have not put a significant dent in these flourishing faiths, and I see little reason to to think belief in oil depletion will elicit anything other than ineffective, technocratic responses designed to bring about 'sustainable' growth.

Of course, Peak oil and climate change can be used as spring boards to attack the fundamental structural flaws of private finance capitalism, but the most vital question which needs to be adressed is not how to manage energy supplies (important though this subject is) but how to chage our base cultural conceptions about how to produce and maintain human welfare.

Thanks. Very helpful. Perhaps what ASPO US needs is 1. a PR specialist with this kind of knowledge, and 2. a spokesperson, like Daniel Yergin, who is willing to take reporter queries at any time. Someone who can become the "household name".

Or several someones. A geologist and an economist.

Hello Rockmount1,

A repost of your Third Point: "3. There's a reason why most causes have high-profile spokespeople, from Bono (Africa) to Liz Taylor (AIDS) to Al Gore (global warming) to celebs talking off their clothes for PETA. Because they're HIGH PROFILE. Because they're celebs. That's what drives the US media. That's what gets attention. So Peak Oil would do well to recruit, recruit, recruit."

That exactly what I have tried to do in my previous annual TODer email/snailmail campaigns to get George Clooney to attend the ASPO events. I will try again as usual by reposting this link from 2007:
Hello TODers,

I expect this conference will be a huge success--Kudos to all! For the last ASPO-USA conference in Boston: I wrote early by snail-mail to the agent of George Clooney [star of "Syriana"] asking for George to please attend to drastically boost MSM focus.

My goal was to hopefully arouse the Peakoil Outreach curiosity of the unwashed masses by them pondering what Mr. Clooney was doing at such a meeting, then taking the next research step to Peakoil Awareness. Alas, no reply--> and regretably, no Curious George.

Therefore, FWIIW, I will once again snail-mail his agent again for the upcoming ASPO meetings. I would encourage other TODers to do the same if you can find the time. Thxs for any TODer support as thousand of letters might make a huge publicity difference. As we all know by the travails of Paris Hilton: publicity is oxygen to a movie star.

I assume the following info is still valid:
George Clooney
c/o Stan Rosenfield & Associates
2029 Century Park East - Suite 1190
Los Angeles, CA 90067

agency address
9830 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California 90212-1825


I just found this additional info inside the previous link:
Agent: Bryan Lourd Creative Artists Agency 9830 Wilshire Boulevard Beverly Hills, CA 90212-1825 Phone: 310-288-4545 Fax: 310-288-4800 Website:

To help save time, feel free to cut and paste the following message to snail-mail/email to George Clooney's agent:


Hello George Clooney,

I greatly enjoyed the fossil fuel/political film: 'Syriana'. Since you are aware of how critical petroleum is to global society, I would sincerely appreciate it if you could find the time to attend one of the upcoming ASPO Conferences:

1. The sixth annual international conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) takes place in Cork, Ireland over Monday 17th & Tuesday 18th September 2007.

2. 2007 Houston World Oil Conference
October 17-20, 2007 Houston, Texas

I am a forum member of the energy website: or acronym TOD. TOD has multi-thousands of members deeply concerned about fossil fuels, global warming, and the resulting political and societal ramifications. Your much appreciated attendence at an ASPO Conference would greatly leverage mass-media focus towards these huge concerns.

I am sure the ASPO organizers would gladly facilitate any concerns you might have regarding privacy vs publicity. Thank you for your best efforts.

TOD member [Your TOD posting name, and/or legal name here]

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

Obviously, a person would need to update this letter above to reflect the upcoming Denver location.

IMO, Clooney attending the next ASPO conf. would be quite a publicity coup for both parties [ASPO + Clooney]. But what would be a dream-come-true for me would be if Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake [great eco-names!] both attended ASPO, then got up together on the stage to announce that they would begin plowing defunct golf courses. I think their joint announcement would send Peak Everything google-searches through the roof.

First, I'm surprised that neither of the Honolulu daily papers is listed as having run articles about peak oil. I know that the Honolulu Advertiser ran an op-ed column because I wrote it. Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter B.J. Reyes has written articles on PO. I talk with him from time to time and we've discussed TOD and some of the articles that have appeared here.

As someone who works in PR, I can tell you that getting letters to the editor, op-ed columns, articles and other features on peak oil published or in broadcast news requires some understanding of the news media, but if you do your homework, you can get the message out.

Tying your letter or op-ed to a current transportation issue is one of the best ways to get something published. For example, when an article appears in the paper on gasoline (or diesel, or jet fuel) prices going up, write a letter to the editor explaining the link to PO. I pitched my op-ed column as a response to an editorial questioning whether people would ride a light rail system.

Most media markets have morning news programs, talk radio programs and other broadcast venues that are always looking for guests. If you can get someone with credentials, either industry or academic, or someone who has published a book on energy to go on one of these programs, most producers would be happy to have them.

First, you have to take the time to learn about your local media. Who are the reporters that cover the energy or transportation beats at the papers and on the local TV news stations? Watch them, read them, listen to them and find out where their interests are and craft your pitch to tie-in with something they are covering. Who are the assignment editors at the TV stations? Who is the news director at the local NPR station and at the talk radio stations?

Believe me. You can get the peak oil story covered, but you've got to be persistent and make an ongoing effort. Peak oil is interesting to us, but it takes a lot of work to explain it to someone unfamiliar with it AND convince them of its relevance to a current issue or event. But I know from personal experience it can be done.


My 'local' paper Bellingham Herald had only one hit whereas our real local environmental paper, Whatcom watch had 11 hits just 2007-9. The word is getting out but not from our daily newspapers.

I started by writing letters to the editor (of the daily Red Deer Advocate)(Red Deer, Alberta being the Hummer capital of the world) on a fairly regular basis on the topic (as well as climate change). After a year or two, one of the editors asked if I'd like to write a column. Now, I write one twice a month called "Energy & Ecology". So far, so good. And this website is by far my best source for material.

No Peak Oil for Americans ... and I don't care. Let them eat cake, if they want their fantasies they are welocme to them.

I have my own, personal peak oil and that's all that matters to me. The longer fools deny, the more advantages I can accumulate. In the land of the blind the one- eyed man is king.

Just beware that they may tie you down and use you for a substitute eye...

On the international scene there seems to be more mention of peak oil on television, as well. As an example, here is a seven minute panel discussion on peak oil, that we are not likely to see in America.

Actually there have been a number of reports on peak oil in America, like this interview with Robert Hirsch:

Besides the obvious work of corporate newspapers to skew the news and not report fully anything that upsets the applecart of big business there is the human mind to contend with. We are very good at learning to predict those things that happen regularly and very good at dealing with dangers that our hunter-gatherer forefathers would have encountered regularly. Thus it is easy for a child to learn to fear snakes, being so primed. It is harder to teach humans to not trust authority. Humans seem not to be primed to know how to handle winning the lottery, whether it be the GA lottery, or the large unafraid mammal lottery (NA and Australia for example) or the fossil fuel lottery. We are primed to believe that tomorrow will be essentially just like today.

And we are programmed not to think about the most inevitable fact of our lives, ie that we will surely die.

Contemplating loss of lifestyle is like contemplating death for most people (the 1/2 the world that has a lifestyle rather than just a survival mode) as I have seen from 8 years of blogging peak oil.

Many people I know, despite accepting the idea of Peak Oil, live no differently and make no preparations. I think our brain, once big enough to encompass the concept of our inevitable death, had to create programs to constantly distract us from that thought so we would pay attention to passing on our genes effectively. I think that same program clicks in for Peak Oil and Global Warming. I doubt that increased press coverage would make much of a difference in what people do even if it changed what they thought.

You mentioned "it's easy for a child to learn to fear snakes being so PRIMED " . I think that the kids are the access door to achieve the adults awareness. A kids "survival" game /show in TV will do the revolution in the PO general public awareness . Get the right producer and the right copywriter and you'll get the desired effect.

We should also keep pushing the door open on how the negligence and disinterest in the peak oil problem is just one symptom of the larger negligence and disinterest in the real world and the problems associated with it being physical. People are actually so preoccupied with cultural issues they seem blithely unaware that we even live in a real physical world as well as in a cultural one too. All of nature's languages are "unspoken" is one of the problems...

In a NY Times article yesterday there was mention of how the super rich are not getting super richer any more, a kind of "max money" phenomenon... "After a 30-Year Run, Rise of the Super-Rich Hits a Wall" The strange reality is that though less easily determined than "peak oil","max money" is just as certain to approach a natural limits as a measure of how much real value people can extract from the earth. Same as any other growth limit you'd see it coming when the growth curve reverses curvature.

So I naturally wrote the Times about the real world economists, JM Keynes & Kenneth Boulding, who saw that coming as a consequence of our existing in a physical world, and what it would mean...

"The more sobering wall for “the rich” is that a limit to earning from investments also applies to endowments, insurance companies, retirement funds, globally.

What they naturally all face is the “physical world problem”. As growth economies run into natural limits, the growth of their parts run into conflict with each other. That undermines earnings and the health of every part.

How economies can remain healthy as they become zero sum games was discovered long ago by the real world growth economists JM Keynes and then Kenneth Boulding. Economies approaching limits can remain healthy if investment growth is stabilized by excess spending, rather than by mounting financial strain. It’s a neat solution, and the new physics of natural systems suggests an interesting practical way. The tax status of investments could be based on real measures of their sustainability. Then we’d learn to limit ourselves to making lasting investments."

…It treats investment as the economy's steering wheel and each investor as having a stewardship responsibility for steering the system in new directions. Using their profiting from having control of shares of the whole, which is what money is, comes with an obligation to benefit the whole too. New meaning for money…

Results from Scandinavia:
Aftenposten (Norway) 13
Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden) 11
Politiken (Denmark) 1

A leading Peak Oil expert in Norway is laughing at the Peak Oil phenonemon altogether:
- There is a large potential for energy conservation,
- Large parts of the planet remains to be searched for oil, and the potential for EOR is large
- The potential in heavy oil (Venezuela, Canada,..)
- Aramco see no need to invest at $70/barrel
- OPEC has several millions barrels per day spare capacity
- IEAs announcements is a part of a political play
- The oil market is driven by financial investors aiming at the gold, oil, etc.

I do not buy this at all, but it illustrates what we are up against.

Deaf and dumb is definitely a big part of it, but mostly I think it's the willingness of the 'non-willing to admit peak oil' demographic to only listen to certain people. They are first taught to not think for themselves. Secondly they believe only what they hear from people certified by their peers to be good sources of information, and once established 100% of that information is deemed correct. Once those two psychological factors are established, they believe anything they are told by their 'leaders', like abiotic oil, etc.

Trying to jolt them out of their predisposed perspective would be as futile as trying to stop a train by throwing an empty aluminum can at it. Better to just let them experience peak oil by way of some alternate explanation provided by their 'leaders'.

That's a part of it but my experience is that everyone thinks they are an energy expert.

Tor Olav said "I do not buy this at all, but it illustrates what we are up against."

This comment is what sanity is up against. You doomsters don't buy the counter argument, but have no reasonable counter to it. You believe -- because you believe. This is religion, not science.

Conservation is everywhere, right in front of your faces. Yet you don't believe. Last year oil prices briefly went to $140, and people conserved immediately and deeply. Yet you don't believe. PEOPLE, IT HAPPENED! THIS IS NOT A FUTURE PREDICTION. Investments came from everywhere practically overnight, developing solar, wind and biofuels. Yet you don't believe.

I personally live in a city. I live pretty energy frugally. Yet I could cut my consumption by 50% easily, and with little effort/pain. I could car pool. I could turn off every appliance except the fridge. I could shower in cold water. Hang clothing out to dry. How much of a sacrifice are any of these? Answer, none.

Believe this, everyone will adapt rapidly to higher prices. They are not adapting now because prices are so cheap energy is wasted.

And what? Leave the roaming "Mad Max" mobs of murdering rapists to have all the fun? You should be jonesing for the end of the civilization like some of the other "informed" posters.

"I personally live in a city. I live pretty energy frugally. Yet I could cut my consumption by 50% easily, and with little effort/pain. I could car pool. I could turn off every appliance except the fridge. I could shower in cold water. Hang clothing out to dry. How much of a sacrifice are any of these? Answer, none."

Then what? FF depletion is a process, not a one shot event. What's the next level of conservation, and will it not entail increasing sacrifice? That's the problem with the current "stimulus" spending spree, it assumes the recession is a one-shot event, and the economy can be restarted by government spending. If not, what then? More spending, dig a deeper hole?

The solution for the US economy is to move back to capitalist principles. Principles that reward hard work and thrift. Government spending and more socialist policies will only make things worse.

With regards to oil depletion, conservation is only one part of the solution. Another part is to develop alternatives. Hasn't anyone else noticed all the auto manufacturer announcements regarding EVs? Is this just a coincidence since everyone in the US is supposedly unaware of the oil depletion problem?

"Hasn't anyone else noticed all the auto manufacturer announcements regarding EVs? Is this just a coincidence since everyone in the US is supposedly unaware of the oil depletion problem?"

This point emphasizes an important aspect of human interactions, I think. There is likely more awareness of Peak Oil amongst the unwashed masses than they admit or the PO-aware realize. First, it is an unpleasant subject, like talking about our eventual deaths. So, humans use code words and phases, gestures, like interesting enthusiasm for new electric vehicles. It's interesting because they, the great unwashed, are not supposed to be so aware of their circumstances, and many are indeed still in denial. But somehow they "know", and my best guess is enough hints have been given in public that things aren't going too smoothly these days.

Here's an example: last fall, the President, the Speakers of the House and Senate, the Secretary of the Treasury and other dignitaries all stood on a podium in Washington, DC and announced on national TV that the US was essentially broke. They used different words of course, but the looks on their faces and the other body language conveyed a lot of meaning. I think a lot of people got that message.

Then after saying the USA was broke, they managed to steal billions of taxpayer dollars, so that broke mule still had more to give.

Principles that reward hard work and thrift.

Some of these same people that take this as an ideal also believe in the principle of dominionism. All the natural resources belong to god's fortunate ones without them having to lift a finger; and that allows them to squander it all they want as god intended.

Therefore the dualism/hypocrisy:

Hard Work <-> Divine Ownership

Thrift <-> Squander

Man works hard but has dominion over all natural resources. Moreover, the unbridled optimism stems from this idea of divine fortunes that dominionism implies.

Never heard of it. You sure have weird ideas.

Re: The solution [is] [p]rinciples that reward hard work and thrift.

I think there are two issues here. First, and more important for its advocates I suspect, it is just NOT fair to tax me to support others. Can't argue with that--a policy discussion over redistribution will be never ending.

Second, it seems to be received wisdom among many that less government spending will lead to much better days. I don't know. In general, individual and corporate income tax rates at the federal level have been coming down for years. Sure, spending by government rises, but borrowing has pushed out taxation to a considerable extent. Yet, decade over decade (look at non-farm employment this decade) the system just isn't creating the jobs it once did. The US cranked out the jobs when upper individual marginal rates were 70%. Now that they are 25% not so much.

Lower spending and taxes will be good for individuals feeling aggrieved. But how many will really use the benefit to stoke the jobs machine? I think outsourcing for profits and buying knick knacks from the People's Republic are a better bet.

Why would US companies have to outsource for profits? Shouldn't they be able to make a profit in the US? Is it because foreign governments have pro-business policies and the US has anti-business policies?

Now it seems like you are ignoring some pretty obvious things, like the wage difference between the countries.

Who sets the minimum wage? Who establishes collective bargaining rules so Longshoreman in my state can collect $90,000/yr to drive a damn forklift? And if you really want some serious wages, the thing to do is contract with a "slip and fall" attorney. Or "sexual harassment" or whatever scam attorneys have going right now. Like I said, we need to return to a system that rewards hard work and thrift. What we have is a system that rewards various scams. Like using bankruptcy as part of a financial plan, or suing your mortgage lender claiming they shouldn't have given you the loan! The list goes on and on. America has become uncompetitive because of government policies and laws enacted.

There are scams at both ends, Conserv.

The system has also rewarded offshoring your corporate flag so you don't have to pay taxes anymore, then you can offshore your labor force, manufacturing altogether and your supply lines, but still fly a brand that pretends to be 'All American', while sucking dollars and livelihood out of our country.

Why don't you show me how US policies have become less (big) business friendly over the past few decades? I am sure that if things were like the 60s, all the manufacturing jobs would have remained, too (\sarc).

In the 60s you didn't have the constant employee and liability lawsuits. A single lawsuit can put a company out of business. You didn't have the ridiculous union wages and union demands. Some companies can't even terminate an employee without union authorization now. You didn't have all the ridiculous EIS and EPA requirements to deal with. EPA has put many companies out of business. Enjoy your unemployment liberals, you caused it.

So tort reform and repeal of the Clean Air Act are the keys to restoring America to its glory! As for the unions, only about 10% of the private workforce is unionized now unlike, what, 1/3 in the 1960s?

Enjoy your drinking water, too. Courtesy of the EPA, liberals and Richard Nixon.

You think any of this unemployment could be attributed to Peak Oil?

Obviously, the oil situation is key to the economy. Unfortunately, we don't have the leadership in Washington or some of the states to promote the oil industry. The employment, oil price, and state budget situations could be vastly improved by lifting the ban on offshore drilling. If California allowed offshore drilling and had a profit sharing agreement, they would be able to pay their bills instead of issuing IOUs. The ban is just one of many examples of US anti-business policies, but is probably the most damaging, IMO.

How easy it must be to live in your world.

A single lawsuit can put a company out of business.

Name a few that you think were unjust.

Yes we know but time buys possibility.
Why so final?

How much of a sacrifice are any of these? Answer, none.

Think about what you wrote. You could be doing these things at what you claim to be no "sacrifice". But you do not. So you are lying - at least to yourself about what you know and do and your place on this planet.

Yes, the stimulus package makes it worse.

"Conservationist", on the other hand, is pushing an deceitful agenda. He argues that if each one of us conserves in our personal life, everything will be fine. A paid shill, perhaps. A beholden shill, beholden to BAU more likely. He probably believes it - despite any amount of evidence. [See the pdf on "There Must Be A Reason" elsewhere linked.] Despite any amount of evidence.

Leaving aside the detail of "socialism", "Conservationist" has to wrestle with the percentage of sunlight we humans take. Ooops.

Hard work and thrift fine. But there is no direct link to government spending and socialism. An Obama administration - owned by Goldman Sachs - sure, conservationist is right. But it doesn't have to be that way. Yes, getting away from that will take a lot more than a "vote"; it will take real violence and blood-in-the-streets, but conservationist is more interested in sticking with Goldman Sachs. Google Altemeyer "The Authoritarians".

Socialism: everyone can go to the bridge with their fishing pole.

Socialism: everyone gets clean water paid for by society. Nestles' doesn't get it at our expense. And we aren't required to purchase it from them.

Socialism: every corporation selling toxic food gets shut down and dissolved. Even if they are joint with "health care" providers.

Socialism: taxpayers leave the bankers to rot.

Socialism: dream on; the Congresscritters are piranhas, not socialists.

Those like "Conservationist" seem to conflate "socialism" with "corporatism" as practiced by the likes of Obama. Yes, the government as owned by the PTBs will turn everything to shit, but that is not socialism; it's corporatism. The line "Conservationist" takes shills for the piranhas.

cfm in Gray, ME

Dominionism + Corporatism = Puritanism

Avoiding that alone makes Obama more palatable than the alternatives.

Yes Obama has done a marvelous job so far hasn't he? What's the new figure on the deficit 9 trillion? lol

So we get rid of all those bad corporationy corporations and what happens to the unemployment rate then? I know, everyone can work at the Post Office. A true example of government run excellence. And everyone can make the same amount of money regardless of who works harder. We wouldn't want anyone to get offended by someone else making more money now would we? I'm sure everyone will be working very hard under those circumstances! lol. A big plus would be that the government employee workers union won't allow anyone to be fired regardless of what they do or don't do. Wont' that be nice!

So the next time you need to buy groceries or get a heart transplant, you can just head on down to the Post Office. I'm sure things will be much better that way. lol

Yes, of course we want to elect stupid people like Bush again. That always seems to work out very well.

I ran into this fairly nice peak oil article I ran across today in the Salt Lake Tribune. So a few are getting through. This might be one that could be reprinted elsewhere.

Current population growth not sustainable


Inhabitants of the United States literally eat oil. Oil is necessary to make the fertilizer and pesticides used on our crops; to irrigate them; and to fuel the machinery used to plant, cultivate, and harvest them. In one study conducted in 1994, it was calculated that feeding each American each year required the equivalent of 400 gallons of oil, exclusive of the energy, mainly oil,needed for packaging, refrigeration, transportation, and cooking. The authors calculated that for every calorie of food energy delivered to the consumer, 10 calories of other energy, mostly oil, are required. The lesson is clear: Without oil we starve.

So how fares the oil basket into which we have put so many eggs? Well, it's looking quite frail. Oil is a limited resource. Each successful well exhibits an early rise in production, a tapering off as production reaches a maximum (peak), and a decline until it is no longer economical to pump more. As with each well, so with entire fields and world production as a whole. U.S. production peaked in 1970.

"Oil is necessary to make the fertilizer and pesticides used on our crops;"

That's a gripping sentence. Of course, as you know Gail, from your studies of the way in which oil is used, it is also absolutely false.

If the sentence had said "Petroleum is necessary to make the fertilizer and pesticides...", they could have gotten away with that, because it would have included natural gas consumed, which is what virtually every ounce of fertilizer and pesticide is mader from.

In the sentence "it was calculated that feeding each American each year required the equivalent of 400 gallons of oil" the key word is "equivalent" of 400 gallons of oil, NOT 400 gallons of oil is used to feed each American. But of course the writer of the piece knows that most people will read it as "we use 400 gallons of oil to feed each American." Of course, if you drive a 30 mile per gallon car for 30,000 miles in a year (a perfectly valid possibility, many folks drive further and get worse mileage), you would consume a thousand gallons of gasoline, 2 and one half times in gasoline alone the amount of "oil equivalent" it takes to feed a person for that year (and recall that almost none of the pesticide or fertilizer is extracted from oil) you begin to see that Americans will be able to reduce vehicle use and supply all the fuel needed to feed everyone IF we assume they would change habits rather than starve to death.

A great deal of these "peak oil, WE'LL STARVE!" seems to be designed for no other purpose than to create hysteria. The problem is that any rational thinking person can do the math, and it undercuts the whole premise of peak oil and resource depletion. It makes the real heart of the cause look foolish. More people will starve due to lack of money than to lack of oil, but that is always and has always been true.


Actually the key words there are "used on our crops", because that's the way fertilizer is made here. The reader may get the impression that fertilizer cannot be made any other way and thus we will all starve. The fact is ammonia fertilizer can be made without fossil fuels and doesn't even contain the carbon atom.

It is also true that not all packaging is made out of oil (glass, metal cans etc). I've never seen a refrigerator that runs on oil either. And most people in the US do not use oil for cooking, it's either natural gas or electricity.

The problem is that any rational thinking person can do the math, and it undercuts the whole premise of peak oil and resource depletion.

The math is that because of oil and gas, industrialisation and population exploded. Resource depletion: water shortage is one also.

More people will starve due to lack of money than to lack of oil, but that is always and has always been true.

Yes, and farmers need money also. To buy, among other things,(sufficient)fertilizers and pesticides. There are allready countries where farmers cut back on them because they are more expensive now. What happens if severe oil (and gas) shortages hit in many countries, in the first place because of exports going down ?


Damn good points you are making about misdirection.

Rhe harder I try to understand most of the crap that passes for consumption statistics,the more frustrated I get.

You hear that it takes X thousands of gallons of water to grow a buslel of corn,but unless it's pumped water,the figure is essentially meaningless because it's rain water,and it either runs off,evaporates,sinks down into the ground water,or transpires thru the corn-pretty much in the same proportions it would if the land were in grass or trees,over the long haul.

and you don't know if the figure includes the awater that went into fertliizer manufacture,etc.

Or that a nuclear plant needs some huge quantity for cooling ,but the fact is that very little is consumed or polluted.,except for a couple of degrees of heat.

And permission to launch a boat into the cooling lagoon at North Anna Va ,which is essentially defacto private water because there are no public boat ramps,is priceless-if you like to catch the whoppers or swim and ski a few more days at each end of the season..

Gail, let's take this contrivance apart, piece by piece:

...feeding each American each year required the equivalent of 400 gallons of oil, exclusive of the energy, mainly oil,needed for packaging, refrigeration, transportation, and cooking.

What he's really saying is that feeding each American requires about 9.5 barrels of oil equivalent per year. The problem is that a BOE is not really a barrel of oil. Most of these BOEs are natural gas, which is available in large quantities at this point in time. Much of the natural gas is used for making fertilizer, and you don't need natural gas if you use anhydrous ammonia instead of ammonium nitrate. You can use wind generators if you want. The immediate problem is a shortage of oil, not natural gas or wind.

Oil is necessary to make the fertilizer and pesticides used on our crops; to irrigate them; and to fuel the machinery used to plant, cultivate, and harvest them.

Skipping over the fertilizer part, which I already covered, it's worth pointing out that diesel tractors can run on straight vegetable oil. Farmers found out some time ago that if they run short of diesel, they can top up with soybean oil and keep on farming. After all, Rudolph Diesel's first engine ran on peanut oil because he forgot to invent diesel fuel first. These days, of course, you can buy biodiesel, but you can also buy tractors built to run on vegetable oil. Since farmers can grow and mill the oilseeds themselves, it seems attractive in an oil crisis, and they can feed the leftover oilseed meal to the cattle.

Inhabitants of the United States literally eat oil.

"Figuratively", not "literally". Only illiterates and TV reporters use "literally" in this context. The real problem is not that people are going to starve because farmers cannot get oil, it is that they are going to starve because companies are turning food into fuel alcohol - which in the U.S. context is just an indirect and expensive way of converting natural gas and diesel fuel into ethanol. It is easy to demonstrate that there is not enough farmland in the U.S. to run all the cars on ethanol, so if you try, you will create a food shortage and the cost of food will skyrocket (which it already has).

As far as agricultural use is concerned, it would take about 10% more land to grow enough oilseed to fuel all the equipment. The U.S. has a lot of underutilized farmland that has gone back to forest or just sits idle, so clearing another 10% would not be hard. And wind power has been in use on farms since the windmill was invented many centuries ago.

The clear and present danger is a shortage of transportation fuels for urban dwellers. City dwellers might not even be able to get to the shopping center to buy food, or get to work to pay for it. Farmers are in a much better position to cope with the problem.

I agree with you post ,it's very well written and dead on accurate,except for one little oversight.

I will add coal to the diesel and natural gas you mention as being converted to ethanol,as the processors use a lot of electricity too.

The ONLY good reason for making ethanol is that it does undeniably create a net surplus of LIQUID FUEL usable in personal vehicles,and that reason is grossly inadequate,given the tradeoffs of environmetal degradation,rising food prices,etc.

Hi Gang (whichever gang reads old posts), sorry to have missed this and be commenting late, but real-world monkeyshines had me away from the keyboard when this initially ran and it has just been drawn to my attention.

Flattering to see my quote showing up in Debbie's post. I haven't the time even now to read all the links, though I scanned the "marketing plan" for peak oil and it's generally good advice.

My own experience/expertise is in environmental activism, in which defining and reframing issues for the culture is central. My methods are not standard ones, owing more to phase-state transitions and fitness landscapes than Madison Avenue rules of thumb. Still, there's a lot to agree with in the "marketing plan" linked above, particularly when compared with the almost entirely uncoordinated way it has been handled so far.

Whether it is even possible at this point, without a wrenching reframe and a high level of control over the message, is an open question.

For instance, I applaud Debbie's post (and Debbie's comments in general on TOD), and I think this is a good discussion to have. However, I would not discuss actual strategy in open forum, nor would I undertake a program which didn't have good control over the message, terminology, and timing, and a restricted number of key players at most stages.

Then there's the rationale. Perhaps conspicuous, inasmuch as I'm commenting here, is that I have not attempted to popularize "peak oil" to date. For me, the first step is the rationale for action, which generally involves a new pre-prepared state, or at least a reasonably probable new state, for the perturbed system to collapse into. (Perhaps analagous to planning the direction a tree will fall when you cut it down).

Several years ago I privately posed a question to one of the oildrum's key players who had become a friend: if you could push a button right now and have everyone in the world magically and instantly understand "peak oil", would you push it? I'm still waiting for an answer. And that really cuts to the quick of things.

We have this tribal "feeling" - I have it too - that once we comprehend something, we need to transfer the information to everyone else we know. This served us well during our evolution. However, in the current context it may be more of an unexamined assumption. Personally, I've found that tight controls on information are usually the difference between success and failure, and I think there are deep reasons this is true. I'll note that few understand my reasoning, so I may be simply delusional and very lucky. It can't be delusional alone, though, because I have tended to succeed on fairly large scales over the last 35 or so years where others have not.

I'm not arguing against popularizing "peak oil"; I "feel" the same way most of the rest of you do. But I have not yet convinced myself.

With that caveat, I think that the debate on "peak oil" (or related issues) can be reframed. If so, it will probably be done by a tight core of disciplined folks with real-world experience and a clear sense of exactly what they are trying to do, in detail. The stakes for the world are as high as they can possibly be. I may try putting together such a team, or could advise them; click on my user name if you wish to be in touch. I'll be leaving TOD as a commenter soon but will keep my contact information live for a time.

I do agree with "getting one's hands dirty". Most discussion on affecting the world seems to focus on "bottom up" solutions (like, creating a society whose members all understand thermodynamic reality) or "top down" solutions (like electing a really really smart person who isn't a politician and will make mostly the optimal decisions). Problem is, these haven't a prayer of changing the game in the time available. That leaves the gritty middle ground where "cultural reframings" constantly propagate wavelike through the zeitgeist, and where the direction the trees will fall is determined.

Undertaking such a daunting and thankless task is traditionally the domain of idealists, but idealists tend to not want to get their hands dirty. As though a personal low carbon footprint and good karma means anything useful in the context of a planetary mass species dieoff, as our species tapdances blindfolded through a minefield of unseen positive and negative feedbacks which will affect the next billion years of life on earth, and not incidentally the extent to which our species participates in it.

So I'll throw this out: personal crystal-green purity is a self-indulgence, a conceit. I wish such people well, but otherwise I have little time for them, and I've earned the right to feel that by listening to their opinions for decades; which I no longer do since they seldom change. I suppose if few melanoma cells aspire to become basal carcinoma cells, that's dandy but it doesn't really alter the overall prognosis. I don't mean to sound harsh, but there it is.

My respect goes to those who actually engage the complex systems we're immersed in hoping to affect them, even knowing that their chances of success may be low. So I tip my had to citizen-lobbyists, campaigners, and activists.

Those who say it's impossible to make a change now may be correct by their own definitions, but I disagree. There's something I've termed a "nihilism heuristic" which causes humans to conflate all outcomes past a certain subjective "bummer" level and consider them effectively equivalent. This is a human brainfart, an evolved conceptual idiosyncracy, nothing more. It's useful when individually running from predators, less so when planning to volitionally affect the future of a planet and all its species.

The system contains very large degrees of freedom still, and while to some people all "bummer futures" are equivalent and somehow fungible, the fact is that those possible futures are all different. A future where hummingbirds survive is, all else equal, better in my mind than one in which they don't. A +4.3395 degree global warming result may be enough different from a +4.3396 global warming result to be worth dedicating one's life to achieving. A future where 900 thermonuclear warheads are detonated is probably worse than one in which 774 thermonuclear warheads are detonated.

In other words, activism which is grounded in a probabilistic worldview can be valid and useful. I think it can also be more effective and realistic.

I've had large ad agencies under contract to me (and know their limitations), have steered international movements, have brought issues from obscurity to total change on a global level, and have also done large successful projects which totally sidestepped public awareness. (sorry, no specifics in this forum). And I'm not special, many of you could do the same stuff. Honestly. A bit of discipline and focus, a willingness to set aside personal fear and wealth, and there are many opportunities for huge change to the future due to "you" personally having been born.

And yet few of those who read this will believe it, because it stands in utter contrast to the conversations normally heard.

I'd probably be classed as one of the darkest doomers who visit here by any decent mindreader. However, I think the decision that it's hopeless to strive would also constitute a self-indulgence, one that I don't have any right to. Moreover, my associates and I - whoever they may be at the time - may make a difference. It has happened before. Repeatedly.

I'm very sorry to have missed this keypost and its comments in real time. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to engage individual comments after the fact, even to say "great!" or to rebut those taking issue with my quoted words. But there are some smart folks here and I invite them to be in touch with me by clicking on my user name.

Lets come up with that rationale. Then we will change the way the world thinks, or fail spectacularly. I'm here.

Thanks for the keypost, Debbie; sorry I missed it.