Suggestions for Posts

This is really more than an open thread than a post. What suggestions do readers have for articles they would like to see? Are there any particular questions you think staff members should be addressing?

Thanks Gail,

I would be grateful for an article about energy and water. Pumping water around the cities and towns of the developed world, and removing the sewage must be highly energy intensive yet we never recognise it. I am guessing that the pumps must be electric but possibly diesel?

Is there a water engineer lurking on TOD?...

Yes, esp. the other end of the water pipeline - moving and treating sewage. How much energy does that take? What kinds of pumping is required in municipal systems? What kinds of back up systems are in place if the grid goes down? How long can those back ups function?

Also curious about the energy required to run elevators in city buildings. Clearly structures above 2 or 3 flights of stairs have been cost efficient under past (and current) energy pricing regimes. At what point do the costs begin to outweigh the benefits?

-- Philip B. / Washington, DC

Sewage treatment is a relatively uncomplicated process and is not very energy intensive. I took a course as part of my engineering curriculum, and also worked a little with industrial waste treatment.

A good summary is here:
Many municipalities will let you tour a facility. They are not as unpleasant as you would expect.

Pumping the water involves some energy. More is used in aerating or oxygenating the water to allow the micro-organisms to consume the biodegradable components. The amount of oxygen required is called biological oxygen demand or BOD.

Underground septic systems do not use oxygen and rely on anaerobic bacteria, which is a slower process. I do not know of any decent reference book on their design. Their use is dictated by soil permeability which determines the area of the leach field, if the soil is even suitable. There are also aerated systems for single family homes but they require enough electricity to notice on your bill, but you will not have to pay sewer cahrges. The treated water is safe, they are not malodorous and the treated effluent can be used for irrigation of crops or lawns.

You cannot have a septic system near a water well, typically within 100 ft.

Essential services like drinking water and waste treatment always get priority in an emergency.

Elevators use truly insignificant amounts of energy. However they are expensive to maintain and inspect for safety and insurance reasons. A portion of the condominium fees in high-rises goes to elevators.

In industry we used diesel back up fire water pumps. Perhaps high rises should have a natural gas generator for the elevators.

FL. Adminstrative Code section (FAC) 64e-6 has a good rundown of how to design a septic system.

This was brought up once before, but the process of getting sewage to the treatment plant is probably at least as energy intensive as actually treating it. And at least for the treatment of water and waste, it's usually done in massive plants where you get a good economy of scale and it can be pretty easily maintained. Not necessarily true for the lift stations that collect and pump sewage further down the line to the treatment plant. You'll often see larger stations with an emergency number to call, and a warning light of some type. In FL, over a certain size they are required to have 3 or 4 pumps and a diesel generator on site. But smaller ones serving a commercial development or small neighborhood may only have 2 pumps and a connection for a portable generator. After the hurricanes that hit central Florida in 2004 they had announcements telling people to limit their water use since many lift stations were running off backup power, and they couldn't get diesel to them easily. The pumps tyically have a cycle time of 15-60 minutes, and I believe they normally require roughly 24-48 hours of backup power that could be extended with lower water use.

That distributed infrastructure, including all the pipes underground that often need maintenance, are probably a lot more vulnerable than the treatment plants. Every once in awhile an area will have a severe drought which will cause many more cracks in aging pipes than normal due to the ground shifting/shrinking.

And the existing infrastructure is designed for certain flows.

Rationing, drought conditions, low flow and waterless urinals already create a whole host of headaches for muni-maintainance and utilities.

Firstly, heads up for the invitation. On the issue of waste treatment would like to see a post on composting toilets as a way of nutrient recovery and redistribution.

Sewage appears to be only realistic source for recovering and recycleing the phosphorus that will be in critically short supply before too long.Perhaps the water engineer could work the phosphorus question into his piece.

Another line of thought that seems worthy of pursuit is the development of an economy wide set of durability and serviceability standards.I would envision such standards to apply only to labeling for really cheap products(this kitchen knife will last for thirty days continious use before the handle falls off versus this one with riveted or properly bonded handle will last ten years).

At the other end of the spectrum automobiles should be subject to a CONSTRUCTION CODE similar in concept to the building codes that apply to houses and office buildings.

Such a code could result in the saving an enormous amount of energy and materials,thereby greatly lowering the cost of owning and operating our vehicles.And let's face it,cars are here to stay for as long a few more drops of fuel can be found at any price.
It could mean that your next washing machine will outlast you and your kids too.(Most such consumer owned machines are scrapped for trivial reasons such as the failure of a single cheap component.)

It might even be useful in breaking the back of the planned obsolescence design paradigm.

Any engineer familiar with the construction and maintainence of commercial trucks as compared to passenger cars and pickup trucks could do a good job with the motor vehicle code idea.

I posted a long comment laced with amatuer humor on this topic a little while ago under the article on natural gas supplies.

Mac, check out today's Dilbert cartoon.

I think it answers perhaps the biggest reason why we won't see a construction code for vehicles. It's against corporate interests to make things last longer and be directly comparable to your competition. Designing for long service life and easy maintenance requires a totally different mindset for today's "buy the cheapest" consumer. Walmart rules because cheap is in, not long lasting nor lowest energy use nor most sustainable or longest useful life.

Designing for long service life and easy maintenance requires a totally different mindset for today's "buy the cheapest" consumer.

This problem will solve itself with economic and resource decline.

Today individuals have a high discount rate because they assume their financial situation will improve. So they churn through stuff because they "know" that tomorrow they'll be able to afford something better. They value money today more than value tomorrow. This will reverse when they perceive the thing they buy today might be the last thing of that type they ever own. The shift to quality has not started yet, but is inevitable.

The problem is that poverty will proceed this mindset change for most people, so they'll be stuck with no income, no savings, and a bunch of junk.

Cold Camel

Camel,Odyessus,OFM is flying under false colors for a couple of days ,this account is a new one for a friend ( I'm visiting at his house)of mine who will probably use it occasionally in the future.

You make good points which I addressed to some extent in my longer comment.Of course such a code for constructing vehicles flies in the face of bau and is not actually likely to be put into efect in the very near future.

But the potential savings are simply enormous in terms of energy, materials,and disposable income.And a general serviceability/durability code should apply to other products as well as automobiles.Other than safety ,building codes exist mostly for these very reasons.

We have laws nowadays that fly in the face of entrenched big business and work,such as clean air and clean wqter laws ,fuel efficiency laws and standards as for lighting ,rtc,as well as numerous laws regulating the tobacco indusrry,etc.

Passing such a law is a formidable job but it has been done and can be done again. Please take a few minutes to read my original comments at length which were posted under the article about natural gas reserves on August 16 2009.Just overlook the amatuer humor,ok?

I really do believe thay conditions are such that such a standardization is not only possible but perhaps even inevitable at some point if we are still able to build new cars and small trucks once fuels and metals are truly scarce and expensive.And the market might be a lot closer than you would think,as there are many such vehicles being used commercially these days.A delivery service might be very interested in a car or truck that will last indefinitely and can be cheaply and quickly upgraded.A hard press from the environmental front could probably result in the purchase of such vehicles being mandatory for various govts-if they are available.

I deliberately posted these comments on a thread that was already getting old as they were off topic and probably not many people saw them as aresult.

My take on the issue:

In the (distant!) past, products were reliable and durable (your grandfathers' watch).

In and around the 1960s and 70s, this built-to-last philosophy gave way to the built-in-obsolescence approach, where goods were designed with a limited lifespan in mind, on the expectation that the consumer would believe that a better/faster/lighter/cheaper replacement would be available after some time.

The calculations for the chosen lifespan were in the order of the pay-off period for the typical finace arrangement, so the second-hand market was affected, and people encouraged to buy new.

A great many of the consumer standards had, as part of thier motive, the objective of raising barriers to market entry by new competitors, and also indirectly enhancing the economies of scale, which had the effect of: 1) making smaller competitors less profitable, who could then be bought up and assimilated, to expand market share; and 2) giving strategic advantage to industry members able to closely monitor and influence forthcoming standards.

The outcome of this industry/finance/government hanky-panky is that we now have industry which, as a matter of economic survival, MUST, to pay the interest on the loans for develoment of the next generation/season/fashion of product, sell a certain large number of new products, necessarily implying the scrapping of huge numbers of 'obsolete' products.

Industry can't afford to make and sell durable easy-to-fix goods. I guess the returns would only cover thier debt obligations if the up-front cost was in the ball-park of the same amount needed to buy X 'new' products over N years, for a durable product lasting N years.

Otherwise the industries would simply go tits up. And there's your problem. Cue auto manufacturers bailout.

The funny thing is that it is concievably cheaper, given good general knowledge and acquirable skills, to build one's own cooker/fridge/washing-machine/automobile/windmill etc etc (always assuming the avalability of the components, which would be salvageable..), which might well perform comparably with some shop-bought mass-produced cack.

(112MB PDF) Henley's twentieth century formulas, recipes and processes, containing ten thousand selected household and workshop formulas, recipes, processes and moneymaking methods for the practical use of manufacturers, mechanics, housekeepers and home workers (1914)

There's an immense store of knowledge of handmaking huge numbers and varieties of things which are slipping out of living memory (in western world at least) and very much worth keeping alive; the future may well be the day of the amateur, of the generalist; of those unintimidated by lettered expertise and willing to apply practical common sense to some experimentation, replacing technology with know-how.

;) check out my home-made flame-proof troll-resistant underwear ;)

Yes, the ability to safely bring the nutrients from human waste back to the farm/garden is going to be a crucial loop to close.

What do people think of Jenkin's Humanure Handbook? Pooping into potable water seems a luxury we may not long be able to afford.

Flushing with gray water isn't a new concept.

Good point, but how many people (in the US, at least) do it or have even thought about it.

If greywater is going to achieve much, it's going to happen through building codes and high water prices.

I think anaerobic digestion has more potential than carrying poop around in buckets anyway.  AD yields fuel and kills pathogens while producing a liquid fertilizer; I'm not sure how safe "humanure" is.

I recommend the book. It is quite convincing with much detailed and technical discussion of pathogens...But I like the idea of biodigesters, too--does requires a bit more infrastructure, though.

Here are some observations I have made that could provide questions for an engineer to answer in a future TOD post.

Having worked just a bit with a biodigester on a dairy farm, one consideration that loomed large for those of us much north of the Mason-Dixon is the temperature of the surrounding air and soil, and related to soil temperature, the proximity of the groundwater table.

Digesters on the home scale seem to be doing pretty well in warmer climates (there are videos on youtube and projects undertaken by Sustainable Harvest International).

Anaerobic digestion is a really great process, and enables the users of properly designed and well-maintained systems to benefit from energy and soil nutrients.

Some of the wrinkles, aside from the potential heat-sink issues include:

-not all the gas produced is methane (toxicity, corrosion)
-balancing efficiency versus complexity (using methane for heat versus electricity)
-safety issues dealing with above-mentioned noxious fumes
-aesthetic issues - one leak, and the whole place could stink (how close are the neighbors?)
-handling the outflow (can be very wet and gloppy - separating solids requires another component in the system)

I would like to find out how those of us up north might be able to take advantage of anaerobic digestion on a household scale that could be managed by "mere mortals."

All of those are good reasons that those without considerable skills and resources might not want to go the anaerobic direction, at least as do-it-yourself-ers.

If an aerobic pile starts stinking, you just put more sawdust or other high-carbon material on it--very low tech. The only thing it's nice to have is a thermometer to keep track of (and be astonished at) how hot the center is getting.

More tan a few careless farmers who have put up wet or green hay have found out the hard way just how hot an aerobic compost pile can get,ditto mechanics 3who have allowed a pile of greasy rags to approach the critical size.

Of course a lot of sludge makes it back to farms and that returns some of the lost phosphorus.My guess is that in the future there will HAVE to be improvements in phosphorus recovery.

And most of us will apparently be living in towns of some sort.Maybe it will be sludge all the way.

I agree that aerobic is a more manageable way to go - less equipment and know-how required. I still think that basic anaerobic digesters (the way Sustainable Harvest International and others install them) in a warm climate have the potential to reduce local pressure on woodland resources. They are installed on a slight slope so they are gravity flow, no mechanical parts!

The latter can also take a certain amount of food wastes in, another benefit. The phosphorus is still in the slurry that remains and can be land applied for fertility, still another benefit.

I should check out Jenkins' book. As I had previously noted on here with some trepidation, I pee into plastic gallon jugs and pour it onto my compost. I thought it would sound strange but someone else who saves urine for that purpose replied. It would be good to see a post about this and any implications, positive or negative and maybe some other, more convenient way to do it.

Jenkins does a great job of breaking through the taboo of handling night soil through his clear and easy mannered writing style.

OK, I am outing myself as a barbarian here, but I quite like the vague transgressiveness in going out back and providing liquid fertiliser to the compost heap directly. There's enough biological activity in the heap that there's no perceptible smell; the problem with public urination is that it's generally onto impervious surfaces and the stuff sticks around long enough for nitrogen-to-ammonia bacteria to colonise it.

I know what you mean. I have to get a grip on myself every time I walk past a fire hydrant! LOL!

Urnie is an excellent fertilizer except that people eat too much sodium. Therefore urine should not be continuously applied in the same place. It should also be diluted 10:1 with water so that it will not burn plants and so that it will soak in the ground and conserve the nitrogen.

Urine contains N, P and K. It is strile but will not remain that way for long.

oldfarmermac -

While I recognize that we are facing a tightening phosphorus supply situation, attempting to reclaim it from sewage on a large scale would be extremely expensive and highly problematic.

First, one must make a distinction between raw human waste and sewage: the two are not quite the same. Basically, sewage comprises all liquids that (legally) enter a municipal sewerage system. Each time you flush a toilet you are diluting a relatively small amount (by dry weight) of human waste with about 5 gallons of water. They you have showers, bathroom and kitchen sinks, washing machine discharge, plus some amount of storm water and industrial wastewater. The result is that in the US the per capita water consumption is something on the order of roughly 100 gallon per day. Only a very small amount of that is human bodily waste.

An urban sewerage system is essentially a water transport network, designed to cheaply and efficiently transport human waste via a piping system to a central sewage treatment plant. This is usually done by gravity flow. A typical sewage treatment plant with secondary treatment produces two outlet streams: i) the liquid treated effluent that is discharged to a receiving body of water, and ii) a wet sludge that is partially dewatered and then disposed of in various ways as solid waste.

Both the nitrogen and phosphorus loading of the incoming waste become partitioned between the liquid effluent discharge and the sludge. Typical concentrations are quite dilute, being in the low parts-per-million range in the liquid effluent, and in the fraction of a percent range in the sludge.

In some parts of the country the treated (digested) sludge is used as a weak fertilizer, but the economic radius of distribution is generally quite short. This fact presents a problem for the large sewage treatment plants in densely populated urban areas, particularly in the East Coast: most farm land is just not close enough. Then there is the problem of seasonality. Sewage sludge is produced year round, but crop fertilization is highly seasonal. So there are storage issues.

Yes, it is technically possible to extract a fertilizer-grade phosphorus concentrate from sewage sludge, but it entails redissolving the sludge (after having gone through great effort and expense to take soluble organic matter out of solution) and then subjecting it to various separation techniques. It's an uphill battle all the way. One huge material handling headache.

Unless we all go back to living on subsistence farms, where we periodically pump out the contents of our outhouses into carts and then dump them in the fields, I see little or no prospect of recovering any significant amount of phosphorus from sewage.

I have speculated about the possibility of using algae to extract P and K from sewage as an energy crop.  Perhaps some processes like reaction with supercritical water can yield both fuel gases and phosphate as a filterable or settleable solid.  Addition of sodium fluorosilicate might re-create phosphate rock as a precipitate, yielding an economic product (speculating here, I'm no chemist).

We engineered our way into this crisis. Typical of every (very slight hyperbole for "every") has an engineering solution. Block the sun, build thorium reactors, build impossibly efficient battery cars, combine harvesters, and helicopters.

I reckon engineers should be banned from TOD, you belong back with DaVinci. Think about engineering solutions to what you can salvage, not what you can save.

"...sodium fluorosilicate might re-create phosphate rock ..."

Ouch! - this is wrong.

Phosphate rock is various calcium phosphates (with impurities of, among other things,
calcium fluoroapatite and silica, a.k.a. silicon dioxide).
Calcium phosphates are salts of calcium - valence of +2 and various phosphates (with various valences), compounds of phosphorous, oxygen and sometimes hydrogen.

n.b. Part of the biological usefulness of (thus requirement for) phosphorous is its wide range of easy to change oxidation states and the sensitivity of phosphate bonds to the chemical environment, e.g.

Sodium fluorosilicate is a compound of two sodium atoms, each with valence +1
and the hexafluorosilicate ion, SiF6, with valence of -2.

The sodium fluorosilicate associated with phosphate fertilizer production (and phosphate rock) comes from byproducts of byproducts.

The sulphuric acid (H2SO4) that is used to change, say Ca3(PO4)2 into, for example,
orthophosphoric acid H3PO4, also reacts with the impurity calcium fluoroapatite
Ca5(PO4)3F to make phosphoric acid and the 1st byproduct hydrofluoric acid = HF.

The byproduct HF attacks the silica (SiO2) to make silicon
tetrafluoride = SiF4, which immediately hydrolyzes (in the water) to make the 2nd byproduct
H2SiF6 = fluorosilicic acid.

To avoid handling a somewhat nasty acid, this is often neutralized with a bit of sodium hydroxide (aka lye, caustic soda)
H2SiF6 + 2NaOH ---> Na2SiF6 + 2 H2O.
(And some of the Ns2SiF6 is them sold for the dubious purposes of mass fluoridation of drinking water, most of which is flushed down toilets and sprayed on lawns.)

No calcium in sodium fluorosilicate means you can't make phosphate rock.
Better to just use the sludge, and irrigate with the liquid effluent.
Or as suggested, grow algae on the effluent for biofuel, and then take the harvested, oil extracted algae carcasses and compost/use them for fertilizer, as they would retain the P and K.

The real problem with sewage sludge is that there's only one sewer line typically,
and people dump (legally and illegally) drugs, household chemicals, various liquid
wastes, used plating/photographic/... solutions, etc. down the drain,
so sewage sludge can be fairly toxic.

Or sometimes valuable, this is dated I believe, but a few years ago there was enough
electronics industry in Palo Alto, CA to make the sludge a source of gold and silver.

I stand corrected.  Thank you for that, I learned something worthwhile.

Would the addition of limestone (or slaked lime) precipitate phosphate?  Is the solubility product small enough?  The issue with the sludges (aside from toxics) is the high mass per unit of nutrient, which makes them impossible to ship for very long distances.  (I suspect that the capture of P and K by algae which do not concentrate heavy metals might ameliorate the toxicity issue.  Organic contaminants would be oxidized during processes such as reaction with supercritical water.)  If excess phosphorus can be removed as a concentrated product, the shipping problem disappears.

I found this link
covering just this problem - while trying to find out what form the phosphates take in sewage. Looks like a decent site.
I note they say (regarding precipitation as calcium phosphate): "However, the process is relatively expensive and no new installations have been built since 1993. In addition, this process only recovers half of the phosphate."
(I take that to mean only the part from urine - see below).

--- below is what I was writing before finding the link ---
I do not know the form of the phosphates in sewage sludge, or urine for that matter.
The wiki page on urine and the following
claim the urine has 50% of the phosphorous in wastewater.

(and thus the link's focus on urine separation, to bypass the problems of bulk and toxics).

The 70% of wastewater nitrogen that is in urine is mostly in the compound urea,
which is synthesized for fertilizer use (from ammonia and CO2).

But I can't find any well referenced info on what form(s) the phosphorous is in.
The wiki claims the 2nd most common kidney stones are calcium phosphates, so if the phosphorous in urine/poop is free phosphate ions, then yes, it could be precipitated with calcium (though probably other things would precipitate as well). Most phosphates are not very soluble. It appears it is likely that urine contains phosphorous mostly as phosphate ions.

But I would suspect (here I am guessing), that the phosphorous in poop is tied up
in phospho-lipids (i.e. cell membranes: yours shed, food matter, bacteria), DNA/RNA, ADP/AMP/ATP and other biochemicals, and thus would not be precipitatable.

--- here I found the link to --- below is after comment ---

If you were to perform SuperCritical Water Oxidation of sewage sludge
then many of the toxics problems are solved (everything gets burned: antibiotics, bacteria, etc.), and any phosphorous tied up in organics gets converted to phosphates, which would be precipitated with calcium.
(though you have to deal with the CO2 from lime burning, and the toxic metals in the wastewater from SCWO). (and see the 2004 patent application, link below).
In addition, you've converted all the nitrogen into NOx --> nitric/ous acids, which is kind of a waste to burn all that urea, but cheap windpower and electrolyzers can make all the ammonia we want - just not as cheaply as done now from natural gas derived hydrogen.

Hmmm - Burn the sludge with SCWO, do some ion exchange on the SCWO effluent to grab the nasty metals, then grow your algae on *this* effluent, don't bother with the lime burning/phosphate precipitation, capture the CO2 from the initial sewage digestion (and burning the methane from that digestion) with the algae or other biomass accumulating organisms, make biodiesel or other biofuels to "pay" for shipping the algae, etc. carcasses back to the farm - voila - closed loop of N/P/K and no net GHG emissions (the food crops & algae absorb the CO2 from burning the biodiesel). Your homework is to figure out the energy balance and economics.

NOTE: if no one else has thought of and filed on this complete cycle, the above invention is hereby abandoned and released into the public domain to the extent allowed by law as of this date, Sept. 6, 2009.
n.b. US application 20040232088 of July 12, 2004 (PCT date June 20, 2002 PCT/SE02/01221)"Process and plant for the recovery of phosphorus and coagulants from sludge"
contains some of the first parts of this process, but seeks to precipitate the phosphorus rather than use it in solution to grow algae, etc.

Some closing thoughts:
* urine recovery seems like a good idea, but lots of expensive piping, and people need to NOT pee in the urinal when taking antibiotics, etc. I will plumb this way in my planned "off the (sewer pipe) grid" house, but it will be an expensive retrofit in town, even if done bit by bit.
* regarding the return of sewage sludge (or algae remnants) to farms - what about the presumably empty trucks heading out to pick up the farm crops?
* the toxics issue and biohazard issues, particularly from large municipal sewer systems with many nasty contaminants are big problems.
* there are other related issues: antibiotic resistance, hormonal pollution, antibacterial soap resistance, ... that are part of the sewage problem. At root this is due to a "dump it and out of sight, out of mind" mentality.
* what to do with sewage sludge is a big problem, getting bigger and nastier.
* peak phosphorous is tied in here too.
* and of course, peak oil - transport of all the related material.
* sustainability won't come cheap, especially at high populations.

Further reading:
A just say no to spreading sludge organization:
US application 20040232088:

What I had in mind was phosphate recovery using the product of tertiary treatment; primary and secondary sludge could be processed separately (I have no problems with e.g. fusion of ash containing heavy metals and disposal as non-leachable waste).  Algae, water hyacinth or even common marsh flora would receive the effluent after secondary treatment and be harvested to remove the captured nutrients; I'm not sure just how low phosphate levels could get after this, but marshes are said to be very efficient at capturing nutrients and allowing a bit of excess nitrogen through might make phosphate the limiting nutrient and thus preferentially captured.  The flora would be processed via something like SCWO with a bit of added lime or limestone, precipitating Ca3(PO4)2 (solubility product 1 x 10-26 at 25°C).  Solids and char could be filtered as a soil amendment, the water could be returned to the inlet of the marsh/algae system to capture any ions left in solution.  The gaseous product of SCWO would be a carbon-neutral fuel, either used to run the operation or sold for revenue.

I found this abstract listing background phosphate levels as 0.2 mg/l in Florida, and this brochure for a test device with a lower limit of 0.15 mg/l PO4 ion.  That's roughly 1.6 μmol per liter.  To precipitate phosphate down to a concentration of 0.1 μmol per liter would require essentially no excess calcium (1*10-19 mol/l).  I doubt very much that such small amounts of calcium would be an issue for carbon emissions from limestone.

(Using a friends computer and handle today.OFM)

Expensive or not we must have the phosphorus,there simply is no substitute.

Lots of people are going to starve regardless but w/o some way of getting the phosphorus back to the farms cities are finished ,except for whatever food can be produced on a subsistence basis locally inside or adjacent to the cities.

This is the sort of problem that must be solved regardless of costs because the cost of not solving it is collapse.

Yes, I would love to see one or more essays on energy and water... and food. Those three seem to be very intimately related.

Concretely, what about international water shipping? For instance, here in Norway we have an abundance of fresh water. I recall that a few years ago, a Norwegian company proposed to fill gigantic bags with fresh water and then tow them, by tugboat, into the Mediterranean. Could that sort of scheme ever have any practical significance? The energy cost of distribution would be enormous?

A 2001 news article says 'But water is not yet profitable. In the first half of 2001, Nordic Water Supply earned 5.7 million crowns ($647,200) from transporting about 1.0 million tonnes from Turkey to northern Cyprus. But costs were high and it had a net loss of 14.7 million crowns'; that is, it's about $2.50 to transport a ton of water a few hundred miles across the Med.

As an unreasonable comparison, my water company in rather rainy England, charges $2.12 for a ton of water - so carrying water by sea is a process for rich deserts, and the issue is whether desalination is cheaper. I suspect the answer's yes.

As an unreasonable comparison, my water company in rather rainy England, charges $2.12 for a ton of water - so carrying water by sea is a process for rich deserts, and the issue is whether desalination is cheaper. I suspect the answer's yes.

Well, yes, that is unreasonable. Considering that it costs the Arabs about 50 cents per ton to desalinate sea water to irrigate their rich deserts, one would presume that you should get it a bit cheaper in rainy England...

Looking at my water bill, I see I'm paying about 47 cents per ton here in the Canadian Rockies. There's a 100 MW power plant upstream of the water reservoir, and a 22 MW one downstream of it, so I thing they've got the energy issue solved, too.

It helps that there's a bit of vertical relief in the landscape, and a few glaciers to smooth out the supply.

Thanks for the series on Canada's oil sands.
I had previously asked for some info and that may have been some of the impetus behind your articles. thanks again and for all the great work.

I would like to see one of your updates on the economic and financial picture for the next 6-12 months.

Me too.
But unfortunately in the words of Clubber Lang. "I see Payyyyyyyynnnnnnnnnn."

Absolutely agree. You were extremely prescient last year (not lucky, right Gail?). It would be good to see whether your economic principles have changed since last year and whether they have or not, what you think next year (and 5 years) bring.

long time first poster...
i would like to see more on this financial aspect; how long will the shell game continue....etc..
i am most interested in thoughts about possible manipulation by the BAU crowd of the long end of the bond long can this be maintained and the ramifications of the realization that the "emperor has no clothes" in the general public.

I would be interested in a key post and thread relating to energy and the textile industry.

What is the status of the textile industry in the US? How local can or will it become?

I would be interested in a key post and thread relating to energy and the textile industry

very witty!

The connection between filaments and connected ideas is very ancient. The Sankrit word 'sutra' means 'thread' and is related to the word 'suture.'

Textiles mills are not energy intensive and certainly nowhere in the range of things like steel, cement, pulp and paper or chemicals.

Early textile mills used water power; however, the power was transmitted by lineshafts and belts, which had high losses and were inflexible to operate. Electric motors revolutionized manufacturing and dramatically cut labor inputs.

This brings up an interesting point. An industry-by-industry analysis of energy use would be most enlightening (to me, at least).

I'd be interested in a post on "spare capacity" and what we believe the actual spare capacity of the world is (how true the quoted figures are, how long it might be deployed for, what type of oil it is, etc.),


Yup, that is also what I would like to see. At what point will decline reduce spare capacity to zero?

Guess it's pretty dificult though to get a handle on what Saudi Arabia has up its sleeve.

This has already been discussed on drumbeats. I answered you on today's drumbeats since this thread is for suggestions only.

My suggestion, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Oil Drum works perfectly just as it is.

Ron P.

Can you describe what "it" is? I think TOD works because it constantly adapts to a changing environment. It will continue to be vibrant as long as the staff and contributors remain open to new suggestions and new ideas.

What I would like to see is a "best of" page. Perhaps folders for specific topics. How about a "best of" news page and a page where contributors share their favorite resources/photos/graphs. I also recognize that it is too much work for one Super G. But I can dream...

The Capacity Utilization Index, further down the page on the link below, measures the output of factories, mines and utilities in the US.

Also look at the various freight indexes.

There are a good measure of the economic cycle.

I would also like to read an article on the current state of the global spare capacity of crude oil. It should include the state of refining capacity for the various grades of crude oil because that limits what can actually be brought to market. There was an article linked in a Drum Beat a while ago that claimed OPEC has increased the price of heavy crude since July 2008 to reduce sales which put economic stress on people who invested in expanding the refining of heavy crude. Is this true? Has it resulted in the loss of refining capacity? How much did the price collapse in 2008 damage refining capacity?

I would like to get your opinion on the "nuclear waste issue". The guys at lunch who watch Fox News say its a non-issue. Others say that the costs to contain/dispose of the waste will be way more than was ever spent building and operating the plants. And what about that place in Nevada anyway? (Yucca Mountain). A book I recently read, In Mortal Hands (2008) by Stephanie Cooke, suggests that none of the other nuclear powers have figured out what to do with the waste either, other than turn it into plutonium and make bombs out of it (or as fuel for the breeder reactors which don't yet exist). The world looks to you for guidance.

I would also like to see an analysis of the energy required to operate AND maintain our water and sewer systems. I think that topic would also need to include an analysis of the costs to maintain our roads. The roads are needed to access those water and sewer lines. In fact, I believe most of those lines are buried under those same roads.

Asphalt is a heavy residual from oil refining and more advanced refineries have less residuals. Look for asphalt to get somewhat more expensive, but as long as there is heavy oil and tar sands we should have asphalt.

Making cement takes a lot of energy, usually natural gas, although I belive coal is sometimes used.

Production of cement only requires heat.  I once found a reference on the use of "coal breeze" (unmarketable fines from mining) to make cement.  Some cement kilns have burned toxic waste, and both charcoal and electricity would be suitable energy sources if the price was right.

I also found a reference on the burning of asphalt in an IGCC powerplant in Japan, so the energy content of asphalt may price it out of paving use sooner rather than later.

It seems that a consensus has developed among most TOD posters and editors that we are now on the far side of Hubbert's peak. How fast the decline turns out to be hinges in large part on the condition of one giant field, Ghawar. There has been some interesting speculation in a few threads lately about how that field is currently being managed. This is an area where TOD really distinguished itself in the past.
In particular, what warning signs signs should we be looking for if, say, the water cut were to increase dramatically? What would be some physical signs of an imminent Cantarell-like dropoff? What human intel in terms of possible capital flight would we expect?

Gharwar has been extensively studied and analysed at TOD and other sites. see and search TOD archives.

Gharwar is under constant management and development. It is so large, that it is effectively 3 or 4 oil fields, each with very different properties and levels of depletion.

The northernmost field is indeed close to final watering out, but the other fields still have a lot of life in them, the southernmost is still in early development but has the most challenging geology.

Overall, Gharwar is important, but less critical than some have espoused in the past.

The 3rd part of Michael Dittmar's article on nuclear power (should have appeared today) will be a few days delayed. I am currently on travel (I presented a talk to NATO in The Hague yesterday, and I am now in Trondheim for a Ph.D. dissertation defense committee), and therefore, I could not yet finish editing and formatting the article. I'll work on it as fast as I can.

Could you let us know were your talk in The Hague was about and who attended?

The talk was on qualitative modeling and simulation of dynamic systems (inductive modeling from observations of input/output behavior), i.e., not directly related to energy issues. NATO decided to offer in-house training to their employees, and to that end, they currently organize different series of lectures on different topics, for which they invite external speakers. One of those series is on modeling and simulation, and I was their first speaker of that series.

I don't know the names of most of the attendees, and I don't think that I am at liberty to tell you who those attendees were whose names I do happen to know.

I ran across this on Thorium Nuclear Reactors a while back ...

... and I was completely fascinated by the way the science and engineering was made approachable. There is more stuff on the main site (

If you can recycle and/or expand the thorium subject matter, I think its a great way to approach the nuclear issue. There are multiple fissile materials, each with pros/cons, so its a great way to realize there are even broader options than are usually discussed.

I am a relatively new reader, so I may have missed what I am about to ask for, but I am endlessly fascinated by the basic principals by which energy exploration and production works. The stuff on drilling granite was just awesome; good, basic usable knowledge.

I just saw today BP drilled a 35k feet well (7 miles!). I would *love* to have a break down of what challenges that presents, even if its basic know-how for someone close to the industry (most of us aren't).

So far the content has been wonderful. Your time is appreciated.


TOD people believe that energy is crucial for modern civilization. There are a lot of new energy ideas and even claimed imminent solutions. I hope that TOD will maintain its skeptical stance on all such things. If we find a new source of energy, or lightweight batteries that make electrical energy more useable, then all might be well [though transitioning to new energy mixes is painful in itself]. Meanwhile we need to think clearly about planning for a world where these things don't happen.

Hi Gail, I think your articles on Canadina oil sands were absolutely great and I really look forward to you doing a critical review of the Brazilian Pre-Salt fields in order for us to have a real idea of the potential, practability and profitability of these new discoveries. Greg

Glad you like the Canadian Oil Sands posts. The Brazilian Pre-Salt fields would take some work--and need some good sources.

This is a post Luis did back in November 2007 on Brazil's Tupi field.

I have been really liking Heading Out's dumbed down tech articles on the specifics of oil extraction. Perhaps this could be expanded to other energy tech specifics. Also his and others reviews/critiques of energy alternatives are very helpful to me. One usually sees only the PR accounts of MSM stuff which is way too dumbed down for me. This site has an excellent learning experience for me.

Hi Gail,

Thanks for your recent posts on Alberta Tar Sands, and of course your primer, which I point to often in my Transition Town and Permaculture talks.

I'd like to see more in-depth discussion on the economic and legal barriers to moving to sustainable energy.

A number of commentators above have pointed to water and sewage systems. The legal issues around change here are immense and multi-level: local, state, federal and international (I live in the Great Lakes area), as well as differences in water-rights and access issues.

On the economic front I'd like to see more on role of speculation in prices, effects of wild price swings, investment issues. I know we get a lot of this but I think we're still not anywhere near the bottom of the stack of topics involved.

Finally, I'd like to see more on the different aspects of energy and energy use from a systems perspective, for example the difference between efficiency in conversion vs. power, transportability, storability, input and output streams of processing and so on.

THanks- TOD is a massively useful resource thanks to you and others on the team.

Other than electrified rail transport, EVs, and a few other topics, we haven't really covered energy efficiency/conservation anywhere near as extensively as we should.

I concur. A focus on the places where energy can be most readily and painlessly saved up to the hardest choices eventually facing us would be very worth while. Saving energy is the cheapest approach, and having a set of basic energy saving measures worked out would be a nice thing to present to the world as they start to (or if they ever really) wake up to our message.

An update of what is happening in the solar area would also be nice.

On top of these kinds of very practical discussions, I would also like to see some more reflective, philosophical discussions about our relationship with energy. Heinberg has some interesting ruminations along these lines toward the end of peak everything that might be a jumping off point.

At a recent meeting of peakoilers in my neighborhood and the other week here one TOD the issue of gender and PO issues came up. I would like to see this developed further and expanded to issues of race, class, justice, empire...What are the relations between political/social power and energy?...

I think TOD does just fine as it is. It covers pretty much everything of interest for me.

Thanks Gail, I have been a long time reader of the site but I never registered out of laziness, this post made me register because I have some very important questions in my mind which this community can help answer.

It will be very helpful for me to have a better understanding of -

- What is the future of Irrigated agriculture 10-20-30 years from now
- What would be the response of billions of people in developing nations when they find out they can not have the current American way of life.
- The best way to approach people and raise PO awareness without being marked a doomster!!!

Like Rokuogun I'd really find it useful to know how to get people thinking about the issues surrounding PO without coming across as hopelessly pessimistic. I've been scratching my head on this for a while.

I'd like to see more activity on TOD: campfire too; if we are now on the far side of the curve, we need to be preparing individually and any practical help on what this means would be very welcome, especially discussion of what skills and experience will be most valued in a post-oil world?

Yes, practical articles about individual preps are nice. But I'd also like to see discussions of Transition Towns and other places where communities, municipalities and regions are starting to really grapple planning for the Long Emergency.

The best way to approach people and raise PO awareness without being marked a doomster!!!

Tell people to stop treating petroleum like food or air, and start treating it like perfume or alcohol:  perfectly okay to use occasionally, but if you've got a lifestyle which can't do without it, you have a problem.

Very nicely put. Hope you don't mind if I use that one. (Though the thought of using petroleum like a perfume creates a rather striking image..and odor!)

Along those lines, a case by case analysis of how we use oil might be interesting. Particularly where it seems most discretionary. How much would be saved if people had business meetings and many other kinds of get togethers through the electronic media rather than flying?

And speaking of treating petroleum like food, I would like to see an update on the treatment of food as petroleum--biofuels.

Use it if you want.  If you can make it pithier and more memorable, I may steal it back.

How about "Gasoline is like beer:  okay to use occasionally, but if you can't live without it, you have a problem."

Is population a valid concern to be discussed here?

Historically the environmental movement has dealt with population. ZPG and Barry Commoner's "overpopulution" concept.

Garret Hardin wrote extensively about these issues, but maybe that was all too long ago.

Odum's work (EROI) is showing up now, but is not really acknowledged or considered from an ecological point. It is interesting that a lot of the comments really parallel Odum's concerns but people seem not to search the web for anything along those lines.

Yes, a whole range of environmental issues must come up if we are really trying to peer into what the future has in store for us.

The Arctic is looked at in energy circles as a potent new potential source of fuels and commercial traffic. But it looms much larger as a source of methane and other feed backs that seem to be pushing gw into a feedback system which will be hard or perhaps impossible to unwind.

On a related front, it would be nice to have more regular updates on the status of natural gas. Did discoveries peak decades ago? Are we close to peak in North America? Globally? What are the consequences of natural gas shortages for the millions in the north that heat their homes with it?

I'd like to see the entrapped water method of food growing carefully critiqued. (I am not the person to write this article.) We often discuss anxieties over food and water here, and this technique would seem to be the answer to many of the concerns over future food supplies.

This method is also referred to as easygrow garden beds, wicking beds, "The Earthbox" (small scale), or "self-watering container" gardening.

Build your own earth box.

Youtube - How to Make a Self-Watering Planter

Using the self-watering principle on a larger scale.

On a similar note, I came across the concept of 'Aquaponics' a couple of days ago. Could this have any place in the future of food?

I'd like to see a TOD Factbook.

I can't count the number of times when I've been in an email discussion, or commenting in a drumbeat where I wanted to look up a particular fact (or estimation) which has been covered here over the years. A recent example is Michael Lynch's declaration that there are "some 10 trillion barrels out there". That was a number that I recognized as being way out of whack, but when I went to blog about it, I was unable to locate the references. There is just too much information in the TOD archives!

I suggest a monthly Factbook post which would also become part of the masthead links. It could start simple, with just a couple of dozen facts with references, and the open thread would be a discussion area to refine and add to the list.

Yes indeed. And perhaps, as they do over at , a set of sidebars that address the most frequent denialist claims.

for both comments
Facebook and denialist countering talk points

I would like some information about how individuals can sensibly lobby for their governments to build more nuclear power plants. The anti-nuclear lobby is enormous, and has managed to arrange that it's almost impossible to be taken seriously in arguing for nuclear power plants; how do you deal with that?

I'd like to see a series called "Oil Drum Essentials" that are previous articles introduced one-by-one and then put under their own menu item.

TOD is old enough now that there is much information "buried" in the archives.

My goal of keeping the previous information accessible is partially accomplished by my Best of the Oil Drum Index (a bit neglected for the last year or so) but this idea would be even more focussed.

Aangel you really are aptly named if you can create some sort of really good index of the OD archives.

I have only been reading this site for a few months and I can't easily find data or the odd highly relevant fact or comment in articles posted only a few weeks ago.

I can't underline or highlight the stuff the way I can in my books.

Speaking of good indexes, one possible way forward is to include the Solr search module on TOD.

I've installed it for several websites and would be happy to support Super G in getting it going here. In fact, I've even given a presentation to a local Drupal user group on why it's so great:

The out-of-the-box Drupal search is not very good and most high-traffic Drupal sites that rely on search look for an alternative. Solr is the current favorite. Solr provides faceted-search, which is the kind of search one sees at an ecommerce site like where you can keep narrowing down the search until you've zeroed in on what you're looking for.

As I'm writing this, the more I think of how great it would be to have Solr installed here. I'll send a letter to the editors to gauge their interest.

If you are using a Mac, you can print The Oil Drum article to a pdf file. Then using the Mac program "Preview" you can highlight texts and add comments.

Zotero is somewhat helpful in collecting resources for later reference.

Another thing I'd be interested in, though I'm not sure it fits well with TOD's remit, is what we do when fossil water runs out. I've read _Cadillac Desert_ and the more recent _When The Rivers Run Dry_, which suggest that this is really a serious problem, and quite possibly likely to lead to actual famine in a time scale before the oil has run out.

Nice point. We can walk or bike to work drinking water, but we can't drink oil.

Putting oil depletion within the context of the other depletions and limits we are bumping up against would be most valuable.

"Nice point. We can walk or bike to work drinking water, but we can't drink oil"

Seems like the last bozo villain in the latest 007 fantasy thought he could.

Club Orlov has a good list of questions submitted to his (cancelled) summer talk in NYC. We've done some as Campfire topics already. Others are interesting.

Buildings in most developed nations consume approximately 40-50% of primary energy and are associated with about 50% of CO2 emissions therefore I would like to see more articles that relate energy and the built environment. Some ideas:

Green/ bioclimatic architecture
Energy efficiency in building use
Primary energy content in building fabric
Sustainable building materials & methods
Green building technologies
Sustainable urban development

I second that suggestion. In Switzerland, it is commonly put forth that buildings consume 45 or 50% of energy, independently of the human activity within them such as cooking, manufacturing, etc. but including heat/hot water, yet I think it is probably more; of course it all depends what / how you count..roads to reach them?

Generally speaking, I would like to see more about end-use, beyond the pies that show so much to transport, etc. even if some of these are quite sophisticated, detailed.

TOD is very strong on extracting, capturing, harnessing, energy, past, present, future; using it properly, mostly concerning transport, deals somewhat with the commerce of energy (China etc.) but a general picture of end-use is naturally missing. To my mind that reflects a BAU attitude - we ‘Westerners’ need more energy, or need to scale down our use, or both, coupled perhaps with some ethical or fairness criteria, geo-political considerations, and so on... but basically a Victorian mechanistic schema that leaves basic assumptions untouched.

We don’t really know how we use energy, or it is partly not acknowledged in public. For example, the US military. Second example, I buy a doll made in China for a gift: these examples from the mega to the minute can’t be integrated into a decent overview, even if only intuitive and approximate. I find this very troubling.

I realise that examining such in more detail is not wished by overlords, and that TOD may condemn itself to irrelevance by not addressing geo-politics (being balanced and neutral and all that, respectable, technical, cool, etc.) thereby implicitly supporting the status quo, no matter how many arguments about light bulbs or nukulear or trams or car-sharing or the state of Ghawar break out, that is all grist for the BAU mill. Not that these discussion aren’t of interest.

Peak oil - per capita - is well past, and that hasn’t stopped Westerners from consuming more and yet more and posturing about it. Both doomerish and technotopic arguments seem trivial if the whole picture isn’t there to be looked at coldly.

Went off on a tangent there...

I have construction photos of the aerated concrete house I designed and built. I could write up a post with the advantages and disadvantages along with some how to build tips if there is sufficient interest.

I would be most interested with pictures if you feel OK with that.
Also costs and time to complete etc. relative to standard methods.
I would imagine it is pretty well insulated but just guessing.

yes, please do. - we need to be doing all net-zero buildings, and moving toward zero carbon ASAP.

Thanks for the opportunity to ask some questions Gail. At the risk of revealing my monumental ignorance...

I would like more conversation about the slope of the production curve and how it is impacted by investment. Production in the US appears to be declining at 1% per year while Cantarell and the North Sea are declining much faster. Is this a function of investment or geology? Is there a way to tie investment to the marginal cost of production? Could it be that investment isn't happening (and therefore declines ensue) in some areas because there are lower cost, higher probability investments elsewhere? Thus have we "fooled" ourselves into believing there is/was a peak in any particular province?

A related question... it is my understanding that "reserves" are based on current pricing and technology. Has anyone published a credible guide to how reserves would change based on different price scenarios. If, for example, XOM reserves are based on $60/bbl, what would their reserves be at $90/bbl?

JJPfeiffer, IEA's WEO shows reserve growth according to their pricing forecasts (but I don't know if the method used is reliable. In fact I have no idea what the function Reserve_Incrase($ invested) is at all).

Somewhat along the lines of your question (but different) I would like a more detailed (maybe technical?) explanation about why reservoirs are flow-rate sensitive.

Presented in a simplistic way it seems that if you extract oil too fast, then you're bound to leave some behind. There seems to be a "rate of extraction threshold". And so reservoir engineers need to make a decision between getting money back quickly or getting a lot of money slowly.

And this rate seems to be related to the remaining reserves. In particular if you extract faster than a number proportional to Reserves-to-Production ratio, then you will be leaving some oil behind.

In that spirit, as the R/P ratio declines (you're getting the stuff out) you need to slow down, to make sure you don't reach the dangerous flow-rates which will leave a lot of oil behind. And so the decline occurs, because it makes sense financially and in the long run.

If anyone (reservoir engineer?) can give more insight about that process and what geological structures account for such behavior I'd be very thankful.
Particularly why the threshold is related to the reserves (or the R/P ratio).

If it's already buried in the archives I'd love to know about it too.

US production declines bounce around, too; 2005 was -4.61%, probably a considerable chunk of that the impact from hurricanes. In 2006-2008 declines were -0.78%, 0.09%, -1.62%; -0.56%, -2.96%, -2.32% for 2002-2004.

Some nations exhibit wild swings in production, Sudan for instance increased 29.27% in 2007, 2.50% in 2008. Congo declined -15.33% in 2007, increased 10.92%
in 2008. This tends to happen more with smaller producers.

JJ -- You've got it right with respect to reserve size and pricing assumptions. A simple example but it applies to all reserves reported by public companies like Exxon. Field A contains 1 billion barrels of oil. At a price of $80 per bbl one could produce 400 million bbls But change that price assumption to $30 per bbl and ult recovery falls to 200 million bbls. Historically US public corporations were required to use a price assumption based upon the closing price of oil/NG on the last day of the year. But recently those rules have been changed. I don't recall exactly the new protocol. A grander example: the shale gas plays. We've proven there are many trillions of cubic feet of NG recoverable from these reservoirs with existing technology. But at what price? Drop your price assumption from $12 per mcf to $3.50 and you may have destroyed 80% of those "proven" NG reserves.

As far as published data I know of none. But trust me: every public company has those models at changes price increments of pennies.

As far as declining production in different fields it controlled by geology for the most part. Producing a field cost much less developing one. But there are fixed costs associated with production. If prices drop so low as to not cover these fixed costs a field will be abandoned. This is noticeable in offshore fields where fixed costs can be very high. You'll never see an ultimate recovery from Deep Water Gulf of Mexico like you would if it were onshore.

Here's a piece on the change in reserves accounting: New SEC Oil Accounting Rules : EclipseNow. Since P1 will now include 3D seismic and oil sands I figured this would mean the companies could make out like bandits in some fashion, but from what I've read they're more up in arms about how it will impact their business - tons more paperwork, for instance. Forget all the details, I posted about here and there were some solid replies. Google the site for "Dec 15, 2009" plus terms like "SEC" if you're interested, should show up.

Edit: Hey, we had a whole topic on this last Dec: The Oil Drum | New SEC Oil Accounting Rules. Must have been too blitzed on eggnog to read at the time...

How about an article about how biodiesel is going to be replaced with the new versions of synthetic diesel because they meet the D975 diesel specification, while biodiesel has its own specification (D6751)?

Many people in the biodiesel industry have wanted B100 (pure biodiesel) to eventually be a possibility. However, after being dogged for years with materials compatibility issues, and now the Diesel Particulate Filter issues with 2008+ vehicles, B100 is no longer a viable transportation fuel for the future (unless of course something big changes).

Now that many companies are working on technologies that will "crack" the vegetable/animal oil molecule and turn it into a hydrocarbon which is virtually indistinguishable from petroleum diesel, a whole new generation of "biomass-based diesel" plants will begin to appear.

Biodiesel advocates need to reset their expectations and aim for a strong additive position, starting with B2-B5, with an end goal of B20. These biomass-based diesel companies can aim for the other 80%. This would ensure the full compatibility of existing vehicles and infrastructure, and once the entire country is at B20, with the 80% being biomass-based diesel, we can then start a new quest to have cars re-engineered to run on pure biodiesel. However, the big question is emissions - none of the biomass-based diesel companies are publishing emissions data because they don't have to - they meet the D975 spec, which already has an established emissions profile.

Lots of layers on this one - someone needs to start doing the work to peel them back.

Jason Burroughs
DieselGreen Fuels, Austin TX

The primary problem with biodiesel is it's high cloud point. When you reach the cloud point as temperature drops the waxes in the biodiesel start to precipitate out and clog the fuel filters, injectors and fuel lines bringing the engine and what ever it is powering to a stop. Currently the cloud point is 30 to 40 degrees F.
It would be very expensive to retrofit the existing fleet of diesel powered vehicles with electrically heated fuel tanks, lines, pumps and injectors.

Please continue with the TOD oil data postings from the contributors.

I'd like to see more of the following peak oil mitigations;

- Transition Town (Relocalization) planning, execution, early results, and lessons learned
- Detailed transportation options that take into consideration the breadth of current human settlement patterns (from high density to suburb)
- Psychological examination of demand (along the lines of Nate's previous articles)
- Investment options (along the lines of Nate's recent article)
- Food supply mitigations: Gardening/Horticulture/Permaculture solutions for the currently built environments (from apartment balconies/windowboxes to suburban/exurban yards)
- Building energy mitigations: Techniques to reduce non-renewable energy consumption
- Refactoring of human settlement patterns, along the lines of the just released NRC study

At this juncture, my real interest is in what will be the new societal paradigms as BAU goes down the tubes. I know this topic is really a can of speculative worms but I believe there is value in at least discussing them. FWIW, I think the Transition movement and Permaculture are not where it's at. To me, the are BAU Lite.


My post deleted?
Tsk, tsk, Gail.

To paraphrase the Gong Show, You've Been Flagged!

Yes, but not by me.

Didn't suggest as much, such is the nature of the Flag as inappropriate (?) button, which I assume was why his post vanished.

Actually I'd like to seem some full length articles from Majorian - he packs a lot of detail into his arguments for (!) left-for-dead techs like corn ethanol and oil shale. Left-for-dead by the common consensus here, that is. I'm always interested to see if there's a new wrinkle to these things; and if oil shale is just complete insanity for a whole range of reasons, why are Shell dumping any money into it at all, hmm? Are they insane themselves?

I don't care what anyone on this site says, oil shales are viable. Maybe not as liquid fuels for current technology, but if nothing else, they will be used as COAL II: THE SEQUEL to produce very dirty electricity as has been done before.

Gail, you were actively posting at that time so I assumed...
but it doesn't sound like you.

And it's not important either (but the feeling is one of being blackballed).

My post was meant to shake things up so I wasn't THAT surprised it happen.
It concerned expanding/ 'reforming' the editorial staff.
Now I am the first to recognize that our editors do try hard to serve this community.
However, I do detect amount of self-censoring, etc...leading to a certain monotony...(oh well)..etc.

(In the past at another forum I was even BANNED but a clique had take over and it soon was empty even without my irritating presence )

At any rate, I'm not sulking and should someone foolish post some
pangyric on fluoride powered radium fast breeder reactors or seeks to prove that there are only 10 billion tons of coal left in the USA I shall certainly return to ruin everybody's breakfast.

I'll back you up on that one Todd. Many are already working towards the future on the assumption that we're in the midst of Peak Everything. Some are stuck in the BAU by alternate means rut, whilst others are seeking more sustainable solutions. We really need more thoughts on how to move forward with nothing more than what we've got (no techno-futurist nonsense), but in ways that transform how we live.

One direction I'm particularly interested in is the one being explored by John Rob and Jeff Vail (albeit separately) covering autonomous zones, resilient communities, P2P networks, good enough tech, diagonal economies, local manufacturing, etc. I'm pretty convinced that between the two of them they've captured the essence of what needs to be done, albeit with plenty of detailing to be done on how. I think that this ongoing work would benefit from its own weekly thread (a la Campfire) although it would need moderating to keep it on the ground (ie. without the fantastical top-down solutions that will never happen).

Long-time lurker, first time poster. This thread brought me out of the woodwork.

I'd second more discussion of the concepts being developed by Robb and Vail. How to mitigate the fallout from the collapse of centralized dependency systems for those of us who don't have the opportunity/resources to retreat to the wilderness and establish a lifeboat homestead (as much as I'd like to follow you out, Todd...). Theories on alternate modes of social, economic and political organization that increase local autonomy while bypassing and circumventing formal state/monetary/corporate power structures. Methods and strategies of implementing localization within market space but without corporate and state patronage.

I agree with Burgundy that these ideas, what they're calling Community Resilience, Rhizome and Diagonal Economy, seem to have the best chance of proactively responding to the crisis of our institutions and the decline in resources. TOD has given lots of air-time to the collapse theory and survivalist life-boaters (for which I am very grateful), but I think a wider range of collapse-response strategies would be extremely useful, especially given the unique and insightful community that comments here.

I'll third more discussion of the concepts being developed by Robb and Vail.

In general, more discussion of ideas of economists who understand limits. There was a nice piece by Daly a while back, but there must be some others that are thinking about what an economy might look like that can accommodate perpetual negative growth.

How to mitigate the fallout from the collapse of centralized dependency systems for those of us who don't have the opportunity/resources to retreat to the wilderness and establish a lifeboat homestead ... Theories on alternate modes of social, economic and political organization that increase local autonomy while bypassing and circumventing formal state/monetary/corporate power structures.

YES, I second (or third) this one.


In the same direction at a tangent -

The site links/resources could be enhanced (noting the refs above to 'best-of', 'current state of play',backgrounders,denialist rebuttals, etc) with links to local resources, local action groups, including and extending transiton towns, doomer prep, home-made stuff, etc etc.

Stuff of this sort could be 'hosted' on wikipedia; would be nice if there could be an effort to keep it up to date and somewhat complete.

Another suggestion is a "best of TOD" could make a nice christmas present as a printed book ..


Ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the concept of more or less continuous economic “growth” has been a given in the mindset of at least, the West. Now we seem to be entering an era of Peak Everything (I think Peak Oil is only the first of who knows how many canaries in the coal-mine) it will only be a matter of time (5-10 years?) before a critical mass of the population will wise up to the fact that the “growth” era is over, essentially forever, and that we face an era of contraction, until at some future point (likely a century or two out), when we level off at some sustainable point.

If one steps back and takes the longer view going back to the development of agriculture, one thing rapidly become obvious. With the exception of the Roman Republic and some Greek and Medieval Italian city-states, virtually every society was governed by a hereditary monarchy. Not only was the government hereditary, but so was the society at large. Since charging interest was generally quite a taboo, there was no loan industry, no real estate industry; nobody sold their house, whether you were a Lord or a serf, when you died, your kids and extended family would go on living in your castle or peasant’s hut.

But along with the Industrial Revolution and long-term economic growth came all the political and economic isms and ideologies that we have seen in the last couple hundred years, everything from various kinds of republican democracy (usually “free” market oriented) to Fascism and Communism, both as theorized and as practiced in a number of places. All these latter systems, no matter how violently they oppose each other, have one thing in common. They all take continued economic growth as a given, often not even addressing the matter, it is simply an assumption subconsciously assumed.

So this sets up at least two discussion threads, consideration of both the short-term and long-tem outcomes that will come down when, as I mentioned above, a critical mass of the population will wise up to the fact that the “growth” era is over, essentially forever.

Short term: Since current economies are completely dependent on growth it seems that like it or not, circumstances will force us to change our economies, and circumstances will not likely give us 30-40 years to have our dysfunctional political systems try to placate everyone and come up with some sort of “democratic” solution. So in the short term, how does this play out, assuming, as I am that it is 5-10 years before the “green shoots” BS wears out and real, permanent decline issues (in the quality of life as well as in energy and the economy) become obvious to some critical mass of the general population.

Longer term: Is the return to a hereditary society and government inevitable. Personally, I think it is, but it could take a century or two before things stabilize at that point. So part of this question isn’t where we’ll end up, but how we will get there, as the century or two of overall contraction promises to be, shall we say “Interesting.” And, seeing how all the political and economic experiments on any scale done over the past 200-300 years have all taken growth for granted, it seems that those who have a problem with hereditary systems are going to have to envision something altogether new, something that all the political/economic philosophers and ideologues have never thought of. Is there any such thing? I don’t know, but methinks it would be a good discussion.

Antoinetta III

We may not be able to grow much, but I don't think that requires us to give up our gains.  We can certainly substitute products made from renewable metals (magnesium from seawater) and bio-plastics for things now made from petroleum.  Energy itself isn't a problem (we are swimming in renewable energy); what we lack is technologies for capturing and storing it on the scale we are used to.

If we want to maintain free societies, we need a frontier for all those people who get fed up and say "screw it, I'm outta here"; you can't oppress people very much if they can just up and leave.  Two possibilities for frontiers are the oceans (sea-steading) and space.  Our major problems with these is the energy to get there.  I think we need to work on energy for humanity's sake.

If we can't grow, but can keep our gains, in essence, we have a steady-state economy. Not only can our current economies not deal with contraction, they also can't deal with simply holding even, they need actual growth. So in any event, some dramatic change in our economic organization will be coming down the tracks.

While some substitution will no doubt happen, all the industries involved in this, and in alternative energies in general, are dependent on the foundation of the current, huge BAU fossil-fuel based economy. When that goes down the tubes, I find it hard to believe these industries can stand alone. If BAU could be kept going another 50 years, some of this might happen, and maybe not; thermodynamic problems with long-term storage and large-scale capture of renewable energy might make this truely impossible. But we don't have 50 years, the BAU economy is starting to slip away even as we discuss this; any technology that is still in the lab or being worked on, is quite simply, not gonna happen, certainly not on any scale sufficient to mean anything insofar as maintaining our accustomed way of life.

And for "frontiers" for people who get "fed up?" Well, a few more people might live on boats in some places, but space colonization was a sci-fi fantasy since I was a kid in the '50s, if not from before. Even if economic "good times" could keep going forever, I don't think terraforming other planets or living in huge spaceships would ever be possible on any meaningful scale. Certainly, with the imminent decline of the economy, it isn't gonna happen.

All of this optimism depends on a number of technologies being ready to roll on a commercial/industrial scale NOW. Stuff that's in the experimental stage and that might be ready in future years or decades, for practical purposes doesn't exist.

Antoinetta III

I don't expect electricity to be a problem unless the PTB refuse to use what we have.  For instance, liquid fluoride thorium reactors appear to be something we could start producing very quickly and with relatively little material; the USA has enough thorium for years of total electric demand that was buried as useless!  We can go on for centuries on US thorium reserves.

Ultimately, there are vast amounts of materials and energy over our heads.  Once you've gone over the threshold to make an energy-positive outpost in LEO or above, the thing can feed on itself.  People with the mindset to live in log cabins in a wilderness will burrow themselves into hundred-meter asteroids and count themselves lucky.  You need to do this sort of thing once, to prove that it works, and then the crowds follow.  We need to get started on those speculative things, because that's where all the big stuff comes from.

It's too late for large top-down solutions. The Western World can hardly maintain what its got never mind build more and that situation is going to deteriorate further as financial, climate and energy pressures increase. As our ability to effectively undertake large scale social solutions has diminished over the years and we've maintain growth by backing into a synthetic digital/nano economy (ie. shrinking problems down to a size we can still cope with). We can build digital highways, bridges, communities, industries, etc. all things we cannot achieve in the real world any more.

More posts on

- Copenhagen Climate Summit (can help out cause will be there) and peakoil
- Peakoil in the south / and development aid (effect, policy, awareness there)
- Policy debate (what should governments, local authorities do, are doing etc.)

And most of all
- Strategy: what should we lobby, petition, vote and push for, how to get peakoil on the political and media agenda again,
and as some one doing lobbying, actions, grass roots stuff, I'm more then willing to help out on that.

And for the rest: keep up the good work.

Thanks for the prompt PP. Considering that a substantial number of the Earth's growing population live in South, East and Southeast Asia (including myself and other expats), I would like to see a TOD Asia. Anyone interested in participating in this?

You have done us all a great service in your continuing series of Peak Oil for Dummies. I have used these extensivly to raise the awareness of non believers and the basic cluless masses.
I am always amazed how so many well informed and educated people refuse to acknowledge Peak Oil and all its implications.

While we are educating and twisting the arms of politicians ( I just joined a Green Team in the small NJ town I live in ), lets make some money with the broad and deep knowledge of the community. I know you cant recommend stocks, but I enjoy the articles on investment and would like to see more of those. I could use a moped, a Kyoto Stove and a new mountain bike to be better prepared.

An honest and comprehensive assessment of Venezuela's future production capacity, bearing in mind that declines in its long-established Maracaibo Lake region will be greatly outweighed by the results of extensive development in its Orinoco Belt in the coming decade.

Practically all references of Venezuelan production I've seen have been tainted by the assumption that Chavez's government is incapable of significantly raising national production. This is despite bidding contests for Orinoco projects being as well-attended (and diversely populated) as the diplomatic arrivals lounge at Caracas' main airport.

And of course, the small point that Venezuelan reserves are quite probably the largest remaining on the planet, not requiring mass excavation in freezing temperatures, nor deep-sea drilling, nor imperial security forces to protect them.

You are not the first one who has mentioned this issue. I have gotten e-mails about it and comments on other threads.


I have been thinking lately about whether a program to replace oil-burning furnaces with natural gas-burning ones makes sense. Currently the US imports most of its oil, but most natural gas is still domestic. Are North American natural gas supplies more stable than global oil supplies? Are modern gas-burning furnaces more energy efficient than oil-burning ones, and do they generate less air pollution, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions? Would the program generate 'green jobs'?

I had to install a new NG furnance in March, after the dinky model original to the house finally crapped out after 30 years; the installer told me that the deals in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed in February were the best he'd ever seen: Stimulus Bill Benefits Natural Gas Customers. Hmmm, waddya know, that's my NG company, first hit when I searched for that bill.

Modern furnaces of all stripes are more efficient. Opinions vary on how stable NG supplies in NA will be, some see the resources in shale/coalbed methane/etc and see endless bounty, others have analyzed a bit more closely and found the claims thrown out by the drilling companies as wanting. See Arthur Berman's studies of declines in the Barnett Shale, for instance: Petroleum Truth Report: Haynesville Sizzle Might Fizzle. Or look up his name here, you'll find plenty of attendant commentary.

The consensus here is that you can't go wrong beefing up the insulation in the house you live in. I don't think anyone would disagree.

Moving to heat pumps - either air source or ground source depending on your location - would be a much better long term bet for home heating.
If electricity goes off, about the only furnaces that would be still working would be gravity operated wood furnaces. (Gravity operated = the air rises through the heating ducts because hot air rises - ie no blower - A lot of furnaces in the 1940's and earlier were of this design.)

And moving to solar heating systems with heat pump backup would be the best long term bet for home heating.

The world has a temporary surplus of natural gas. It is also possible to gassify coal. I see gas as being much cheaper than oil long term.

As someone else pointed out, heat pumps are a good option, especially geothermal if you have soil and not rock. Geothermal systems can either be trenched or drilled like a well. Geothermal is a good choice if you have acerage.

Hi Rose,

I suspect the biggest hurdle is access to the natural gas distribution system. I've lived in a couple post-war areas in Toronto (e.g., East York) where some of my more elderly neighbours still heated with oil but, eventually, as these homes were sold, they were changed over by the new owners (this was during the late 80s/early 90s when natural gas was selling for $0.20 per m³). Today, if you were to walk through any of these neighbourhoods, I think you'd find just about everyone has already switched.

Conversion costs can be another potential stumbling block. I haven't priced anything recently, but I'm guessing a new, high efficiency gas furnace and CAC runs between $8,000.00 and $10,000.00 CDN. Unless your system is due for replacement, it may be hard to justify solely on the basis of expected fuel savings.

Edit: I dug through boxes of old records and found one of my Consumer Gas bills from March of 1991 when I lived in Leaside (Toronto). Between February 18th and March 19th, I used a total of 257 cubic metres of natural gas during what was likely the coldest time of the year (1 m³ = 0.36 therms or 10.83 kWh). The gas portion of the bill came to $54.43 CDN ($49.00 US), so that works out to be 21.2-cents per m³. This home was equipped with a natural gas boiler, water heater, cook top, dual wall ovens, dryer, BBQ and three gas fireplaces.


Hi Gail,
One of my own frustrations in presenting Peak Oil to the politically active community, is that despite the tremendous work being done at the Oil Drum, there is still too little analysis of how it might effect our local economies and cultures. For example, I am a member of a ‘green committee’ advising a city council for a population of 100,000. The committee’s focus has been almost entirely on long term gradual reduction of CO2. Try as I might, however, the council has also acted deaf dumb and blind to any suggestions of changing zoning or burdening citizens with any action that is of more than token value. The reasons for this are two fold as I see it. First, all the charts and bold talk of declining energy we can muster, is still just abstract math. It does not conform with all the divergent claims about why the economy is down, nor do they see gas lines at the stations. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but Peak Oil is easily dismissed with suggestions that more people could ride share, and besides, we have that new light rail line scheduled for construction in 2015. Secondly, climate change has visual cues. Pictures of melting ice caps and glaciers can be imaginatively translated into flooded streets and failed crops. Most people intuitively get that rising seas are a bad thing, even if weather pattern changes are more likely dangers in the immediate future. Even more, thoughts of capturing CO2 from coal burning smoke stacks does not require them to change their personal arrangements.

Now I somehow squeaked by through a semester of graduate statistics, but I have to say that the Oil Drum staff are far better at it than I am. Given that Peak Oil represents such a fundamental for modern societies, there are a plethora of effects which will ripple through our economies. However, this also represents multiple opportunities for mitigation, providing that people can visualize the causes and effects. For example, I have done some back of the envelope calculations to try to visualize what the San Francisco Bay Area might look like if it had to survive on just 20% of the total energy available to it now. I calculated that the area would need to have 50% fewer residents, and the inhabitants would have to live exclusively in high density walkable communities. Much of the suburban landscape would have to revert to farm use. This came from considerations such as how to allocate this little energy between city services such as fire, sewer, police, heating and cooling (given major use of passive solar) and local food production, (i.e. how many can you feed from a 50 mile radius, using minimal mechanical agriculture). These remaining people could live content and fulfilling lives. The others would have to migrate and build anew elsewhere in the same manner. But how do you get there. One, you need a map of the destination. Then you need a step by step guide on the transformation to get there. And you need to know how to allocate available resources for each of these steps. The point being that this is a visualization process that people could picture themselves in, rather than hoping that it is someone else’s problem, and it is plan that can be grounded in statistical analysis and scenario planning. I think your staff could make major contributions to these thinking patterns, given your excellent research abilities, and penchant for seeing how multiple variables fit together, especially how alternate fuel decline rates would effect these processes. It would make it real.


I second these excellent suggestions. They also brought to mind the idea that some people are going to be most motivated to find out about PO if they see some way to make money from it. This is not necessarily a bad thing (though we should be ever-ready to expose scams)--some products will surely be in more demand as we slip down the other side of Hubbert's curve, and picking the right ones to invest in, produce or sell could make some entrepreneurs big bucks. Pointing out some of these potential opportunities could get some people's attention more effectively than our gloomy scenarios (as important as those are).

(I hope jeppen and others who have labeled me socialist and worse mark this date in their calendars--dohboi comes out if favor of business and entrepreneurialism!)

Like you say, the issue becomes too many people for many existing locations. But how does one fix this? Change land ownership for rural areas? This will be tricky. It all becomes much more difficult than getting 1% of the population to ride the bus.

I second the suggestions on water. What are common misconceptions about water? What recent water sustainability projects are being implemented across the globe?


What are the cultural, psychological, and political aspects/problems of zero population growth (ZPG)?

I second the suggestions on water. What are common misconceptions about water? What recent water sustainability projects are being implemented across the globe?

Actually, I do not agree. I see the Oildrum as the most competent ENERGY site on the network. This is the place where I would love to find the answers to any question I might have on Peak Oil (and Gas), possibly combined with skilful entries about renewable alternatives to the same. Gail's reports about Canada's Oil Sand is a brilliant example, earlier posts on the current state of Gawahr another.

As for Peak Everything, I think it belongs elsewhere.

I'd like to see someone analyze the Pickens Plan and take it on for what it is: little more than a shameless marketing ploy. Speaking of which...
buy green products here!

thanks guys!

fast collapse/slow collapse; why, etc..

as Todd above raises similar questions. what might work in communities? decision making models for communities.

lotas discussion goes on about the above issues here & there, but it rarely has a set of facts/history to relate to unless leanan, etc. lays such out ad hoc.

maybe greer will present/defend his slow descent position; i remember he did one post on TOD.

I have mentioned the idea of an "Ask TOD" series that goes up at some regular interval and asks readers for questions. I have had great success with this on my blog. I always get some very interesting questions. See for example the latest installment:

In general, a thread would be put up similar to this one but inviting readers to ask specific questions. Various TOD contributors would answer them in a post a few days later.

Great idea - enjoyed your Q&A series very much. had an Ask the Experts forum in its early days, pose your question(s) for Richard Heinberg et al. Maybe we could rope in some prominent names in similar fashion; we've had Charlie Hall and Jean Laherrère contributing here, after all.

I think the big debate now, in spite of articles by Lynch and others, is not peak oil, but whether the alternatives in toto can allow us to continue BAU after peak. I'm convinced not, but would like to see the issue addressed and debated head on.

Matt Simmons, whom I respect, was interviewed on the August 21 Financial Sense Newsletter podcast:

Matt discussed a wind project in Maine that will use the electricity to offset Maine's use of heating oil and excess electricity to produce liquid ammonia for transportation fuel.

I would appreciate a discussion of this project. It sounded very promising, both from a technical perspective, and in a political sense since it received 100% bipartisan support.

Perhaps I missed it but I do not recall much discussion on TOD of ammonia as a fuel. Matt Simmons appears convinced that it is the best sustainable liquid fuel.

The Oil Drum | Stories tagged with "ammonia". A big booster for wind powered ammonia was member SacredCowTipper; this is the link to his blog. He's been posting more at DailyKos in the last few years. The first article that comes up on ammonia was by him: The Oil Drum | A National Renewable Ammonia Architecture.

thanks kindly


Congratulations for your great work. Yours is the only blog I fully follow, because of the quality of the posts and the comments.

Answering to your question, I would like to read a post (perhaps subject for a campfire...?) on "How much oil will the developed countries have available in 2020?" and another on Which are the consequences for the developed society of a 20-25% reduction in the availability of oil in 10 years time?.

I have read in TOD several posts about the perspectives for the availability of oil for the USA or Australia, always looking at these countries separately. There was recently a post on the future of availability of oil for the USA taking into account the future of Mexico or Canada's supplies. But sometimes it is forgotten that the oil market is a world market, so the oil will flow to the place where it is paid. It is not a problem of countries, it is a problem of pockets. If there is a shortage of oil and highy prices, an italian guy (it is just an example) with money will most probably have more gasoline availabe than an american with little money, independently of the amount of oil sands available from Canada. Furthermore, the impact of high prices will be even greater for the average american than for the average european, because of the lower taxation of gasoline and lower efficiency of cars.

In other words, if there is a shortage of oil in the long term, all the countries in the world will feel it in a similar way for similar uses with similar levels of economical development except, perhaps, in oil producing countries which "protect" (?) their citizens with subsidised fuel.

The analysis would have two parts: first, it would be necessary to estimate the total amount of oil available in 2020 for the world. Second, estimate how will this oil be distributed among countries in the world.

To simplify things, I would separate countries in two groups: OECD and NON-OECD. In the last years, NON-OECD countries have increased oil consumption faster than OECD, which has reduced consumption; it seems that in a few years NON-OECD will exceed 50% of the total consumption. The growth of the developing countries will then substract oil from the OECD.

An estimation of the share of the total oil between OECD and NON-OECD in 2020, together with an estimate of the amount of oil available in 2020 will give us the amount of oil available for USA or any european country, assuming that proportions are maintained among OECD countries. My gess is that the result of this exercise would give a 20-25% reduction in oil consumption in 2020 in OECD with respect to 2008.

The second and most interesting discussion would be: Which are the consequences for the developed society of a 20-25% reduction in the availability of oil in 10 years time?

I have my guesses on this, but prefer to leave the question open for the moment.


I am always on the lookout for that "root cause" for all our depletion problems, and a few months ago someone from TOD (can't recall the post) directed us to the following book:

The book is as near as I have gotten to that panacea. I would like either a well written book review, or a Campfire session that asks some of those root cause questions such as:

Why have the myths of Progress and Separation from Nature persisted since the dawn of civilization?

A monetary system based on interest will inevitably break the carrying capacity of any civilization; what kind of economic systems will be implemented after a massive die-off?

Will future generations of children be told the truth of human nature and societal collapse at earlier ages? Should they?

The Dubious Lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador - Part 1

Will we ever get to see Dubious Part 2?

I wrote an article on Whiskey and Gunpowder instead.

I would like to hear some ideas for young people. These are the people who are getting stuck with the mess, if there is a chance to make things better then they are ones who are going to have to do it. Not how to grow back yard vegetables or how to build an electric bicycle, ideas about what education, skills, jobs will be needed 5, 10, 15, 25 years from now.

According to this 5 minute video (worth watching IMHO) the top 10 jobs in-demand in 2010 did not exist in 2004 so it might be a bit tricky to know what will be required in the next 5 years or more. I wonder how they know the top ten jobs for next year:-)

My kids ask me what they will do in the future and i tell them i don't know exactly but to make sure they have the best education possible and learn to think critically and keep healthy. I have also told them that things will change in the future, possibly for the worse, they must be adaptable. It's a bit tricky practising to be a warlord though when we live in a very nice civilised community:-)

I would like to see a discussion on the net energy effect of conservation methods. For instance the first layer of insulation lowers energy use from 100 units to 50 units. A second equally thick layer lowers use from 50 units to 25 units and therefore has only half the net energy impact as the first layer. Somewhere there is a crossover point where the energy of manufacture, transport, and installation is more than the energy saved over the next X number of years.

Energy analysis must be holistic. You have to analyze the entire structure. Once you have well insulated walls, floor and ceilings the windows will become the big heat conductors. There is also the efficiency of the HVAC equipment and the duct work.

See Manual J that HVAC contractors use for design caluclations.

Practically every existing house was built without regard to proper solar window orientation. That is what generally happens when plans are picked out of a catalog without any consideration to which direction the house will face. An architect will consider window orientation only if you ask.

High mass homes like insulated concrete get a significant energy savings from evening out day and night temperatures.
Cellular window shades are a relatively inexpensive way to reduce heat conduction through windows.

It's nice to know TOD is engaged with its posters, and open to suggestions on topics.

The most fascinating articles to me are the ones that atttempt to combine a number of topics or ideas and extrapolate possible futures. I know that is a difficult endeavor, but some take information about peak oil, the economy, eroei, exploration, climate change and meld them together to see how they interact to affect our near and longer term future.

One of the most amazing articles ever posted was the one on the 'inflection point'. It combined several conceptual ideas to extrapolate a possible future oil per barrel dollar amount that would in effect stalemate the economy.

I also really liked it when polls were taken on oil price. Itss not as pertinent now because oil price is stable, but there could be polls on other subjects like will the peak in 08 be surpassed, or what do most people think is the inflection price point, or will we maintain a rocky plateau of production (aside from the latest recession) or deplete from now on. There are so many subjects relating to peak oil, with just as many opinions that it would be interesting to get a feel for how people stand based on some simple polls. Maybe there could be a quarterly poll with numerous categories. As time passes, I'm sure changing perceptions would alter the poll numbers. Might be interesting to look at poll changes over time as a reflection of changing events.

Hi Gail:

I would like to see TOD discuss possibilities for reducing energy consumption where we-the-people have high discretion - especially activities like recreation and amusement. I seldom see this mentioned anywhere, and in some venues it is verbotten. (For example, I was a citizen participant in the Wisconsin Governor's Task Force on Global Warming. Despite numerous attempts to get members of the Task Force to seriously consider how many greenhouse gas emissions were associated with recreation & amusement or things like lawn-mowing, they wouldn't touch it.) My guess is that recreation, amusement, driving to high school for status reasons, mowing supersized lawns on gas-guzzling go carts, etc. account for well over 10% of oil consumption in Wisconsin.

I would like to see fewer, but more focused and scholarly postings at TOD.

Lastly, I would like tools which allow me to zero-in on the most important postings. For numerous reasons I can no longer read TOD every day; sometimes I am able to peruse it only once a week. And if several weeks or a month go by, how does one catch up? What about a "Top 10" for the year? Some sort of ranking would be very helpful. My preference would be for TOD editors and regular contributors to do the ratings.

Thanks for all that you and other TODers do!

Excellent suggestion. Some form of article ranking would be REALLY helpful. There's a ton of very good stuff on TOD. We need quick access to the exceptional stuff.

TOD: Most interesting energy website on the net.
You have TOD USA and you have TOD Europe and you have TOD Australia. Maybe you should consider producing some articles on energy and sustainability problems in the rest of the world. What about TOD China, TOD India, TOD Africa, TOD South America and TOD The Arab World.
What will the effect of the coming energy crisis be for these regions? Are they better or worse off than the rich world? How will this influence us? Will they (we) be able to handle the population problems when energy get's scarce? Most of the people in the world live outside USA, Europe and Australia and in most places they are in more dire straits.


I would be interested in a key post on the natural gas situation in Europe. I know this has been covered before, but perhaps an update is due where the latest natural gas production figures for both Russia & Norway could be highlighted.

I like West Texas's idea of having a "Friday Favorites". We keep getting waves of people who have not read "10 principals of net energy" or "past energy transitions", for example, that would benefit (and raise the discourse a notch as we don't have to retype all those discussions in the comments).

Here are a few subjects and possible authors who could be invited to post

Transit Oriented Development - Laurence Aurbach
I think this is the long term solution in the US to peak oil - walk almost everywhere and don't use any. It would be nice to have some discussion around this topic.

Passive House Retrofits - Pat Murphey
Peak gas follows right behind peak oil, so lets not get our tails kicked as badly next time. It would be nice to hear how the retrofits he has been working on are going. How they have performed so far. A little peak oil cross pollination with Community Solutions

The Build Efficiency Wedge - Architecture 2030 - Edward Mazria
How do we modify existing buildings to meet the efficiency goals of Architecture 2030?

Funding Home Energy Improvements = Aangel?
I have been looking into deep home retrofits and they are expensive. What alternate funding mechanisms exist, how effective are they, and how were they created (laws passed, companies lobbied). Again, a key post would help people pitch in and put what they know in one location.

Heat Pumps and Geothermal Heat Pumps - HereInHalifax?
What climate zones can use them? How do you calculate efficiency? When are they better/worse than resistance electric heat? What are the drawbacks / advantages?

It seems like heat pumps are one of the essential technologies we will need moving forward. It would be really nice to get what we know about them summarized into one post that can be referred to people.

Energy per Square Meter - David JC MacKay
David has done some excellent work making clear why energy density is so important when discussing renewables. I have found his work very helpful when working inside the environmental community. Once people see how things "add up" they argue less and do more. A keypost length summery (longer than the new york times article, shorter than the book) would be fantastic. And, secondly, if he is up for it, a written report on his findings about wind energy production density.

Moving people and freight without oil - Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl
Allen does a great job advocating for electrified rail. Can we get him some support? Gilbert and Perl have a book "Transport Revolutions" on this topic and they state they are willing to give presentations, so perhaps they would be open to writing a keypost.

Why the Market alone is not sufficient to mitigate peak oil - ??
From falling energy density per kg, and l, the market mispricing oil (less oil = lower prices?) to volatility, etc. This argument is the most common thing people I know say when the argue "I don't need to lift a finger". And it would be great to get the discussion out in the open and hashed out in the comments. There are a lot of feeling pro and con and lets get them out (in a rational, quiet, adult mannered way mind you.)

How to speak to your Mayor / City Council about peak oil - Debbie Cook or John Kaufman
Those of us working on Transition efforts could use more advice here. What topics should be selected? Should we come with solutions? How to pick a spokes person? Approaching staff first? Etc. Suggestions for those of us who are not professional lobbyists, how to lobby.

Key Approaches to Integrating Peak Oil into Long Range City Planning - Debbie Cook or Bryn Davidson
There are critical documents that are used for long range planning. How can we work peak oil scenarios into those documents. What are the typical documents (with examples from Huntington Beach as an example) and what is the kind of political processes needed to modify them. And secondly, how to go about selecting a peak oil scenario? What might such a scenario look like (Bryn has several good examples).

Retirement Investment for City Survival - a financial wizard?
I won't get to retire. I have come to terms with that reality. But how can I get my retirement funds aimed toward keeping my city alive rather than just chasing doomed investments in Chinese plastic doll factories? How can we get the funds into light rail, solar panels powering the waste and water systems, etc. These may not pay any monetary return, but while I am living in a refugee camp, I would appreciate the clean water more than the worthless $ bills I will be burning for heat. Do we setup a bank? An public utility? What?

I have more requests, but no author suggestions for them yet (which seems a bit unfair). With these suggestions I have tried to focus at the city/town level. I think that is a vital missing piece in peak oil planning. The real work is going to happen town by town once the Fed is bankrupt. We need more people thinking on that level. Lots of advice on the family level exists, and not nearly so much one level up. TOD seems to have reached the energy community, the financial community, and the medical community. Can TOD editorial policy target city planners and staff as the next group of converts? Just a thought.

Has anyone tried writing a unifying philosophy of basic peak oil science.
It seems to me the potentially strategic nature of much political manoeuvring has not really been examined to see if it is value for money.
After all it is why we allow our politicians to pay themselves so perhaps a measure should be taken of how much a good tonguing helps to keep the oil flowing at the desired rate and price.

At the risk of appearing stupid, I'd be very grateful for an article that explains to a non-technical layman how average depletion rates for World oil fields post-peak is likely to relate to the decline rate we might reasonably experience (if that makes sense).

To put it another way:
The IEA in its World Energy outlook for 2008 stated that the observed decline rate worldwide is currently 6.7% for fields that have passed their production peak & that this rate is increasing. Once we are past peak for total World production what sort of % decline figure might we have to deal with? Presumably it will change every year but it won't be 6.7% (at least initially) given other fields will still be coming on stream.

Thanks - I appreciate how much work goes into this site.

Enter the Net Export guy.

Net production decline rates (net after new wells) tend to be in the low single digit range, e.g., US Lower 48, about -2%/year, North Sea, about -4.5%/year.

However, net export decline rates tend to exceed production decline rates (I have cited 21 examples), and our model and recent case histories indicate that net export decline rates tend to accelerate with time. So, our outlook for oil importers is that they will see the volume of net oil exports worldwide tending to fall at an accelerating rate of decline as time goes on.

Along similar lines, I would love to see a developed Import Land Model:

What are the current major importers of oil and gasoline?
What are the histories of their imports?
How are these import patterns likely to change in the coming years?
How do these patterns affect international relations...?
What kinds of conservation...measures would be required to turn some current importers into exporters (or neutral)?

On the production side, I would like to see a discussion of how a global agreement on rapidly fazing out all fossil fuel extraction could be implemented. Has anyone besides George Monbiot raised this issue in a major publication or forum?

Ian -- I'll take a shot at the basics. This might help explain the problems many have with IEA et al. Above all notice the distinction WestTexas makes between production rate declines and net export declines. The NE decline falls into the above ground factors category along with intentional supply disruption, etc. Let's set that aside and look at estimates for the natural decline in production. Oil/NG is pushed out of the ground by one of two forces: high pressures in the reservoir and upward moving water pushing the oil/NG towards the surface. Predicting recovery and decline rates from pressure depletion reservoirs is fairly straight forward. Plot the pressure reduction as the reservoir is produced and it will generally (more or less) be a straight line. Extrapolate that line and you get a pretty good prediction of future production rates (and thus decline rate).
Now a complication. Mexico's Cantarell Field is such a pressure depletion oil reservoir. But many years ago they began injecting nitrogen into the top of the reservoir. This destroys the pressure decline relationship I just described. But it doesn't mean PEMEX didn't know the field would suffer the drastic decline seen the last couple of years. Monitor wells can detect the N2 gas cap as it expands and reaches down dip producing wells (and thus ending oil production from those wells). Though PEMEX had the data they chose not to share it with the IEA or anyone else. The N2 gas cap expansion can quickly accelerate production just as we've seen in Cantarell.
Water drive reservoirs (like the Saudi Ghawar Field) will produce at a fairly constant pressure. In this case one can only map the volume of the reservoir containing the oil. With that number and a series of assumptions one can estimate ultimate recovery and anticipate the arrival of the water at each well (and thus predict decline rates). Unfortunately the assumptions one must make can deliver a wide range of answers. But as the water level reaches each successive oil well these assumptions can be refined. But the KSA doesn't share these observations with the IEA or anyone else. To some degree of accuracy the KSA knows what the future will bring. As WT also mentions, as water drive reservoirs proceed towards a depleted state the decline rate will typically also slow up.
I've made a living doing such calculations for 34 years. Given the historic production of any and all fields we can make a pretty good guess at global decline rates. As WT also mentions, you have to split the old fields from the new ones. But each set of fields can be estimated to some degree of accuracy. But there's the ultimate problem: those who have the data won't share. This leaves us to make our own rough guesses. And then when you add in the above ground facts it only makes the guessing more unreliable. Toss in some really big new discoveries (which won't change the global decline rate to any significant degree) and it's easy to understand why we see such a wide range of opinions as to future oil availability.

Gail, I want to see 1) more women 2) more posting from non-G8 posters 3) more discussion of "peak everything" -- such as where will enough lithium come from, what do we expect to run tractors and fertilizer factories on, why aren't we building mass transit while we still can, and where do survivalists expect to get canning lids when they run out of WalMarts to stock up in?

I agree with having more 'peak everything' discussions, as well as more on net energy/EROEI (I must acknowledge TOD as being one of the best sites on EROEI but it does sometimes get a bit complex for a lay person to follow).

While oil provides most of the energy for global activities, the climate debate has turned everything into reducing carbon when it should be about reducing energy use/demand. But as we scrabble for the last oil reserves, with little reference to their net energy problems, we have to ask what would we do if we found a totally free and clean energy source? I fear that we would use it to further exploit other non-renewable reserves. So the global debate needs to be holistic and unafraid of raising contentious issues, like population and inequality. We have to challenge those who talk of electric cars without considering how many cars, who will have these cars, where the raw materials will come from to build the cars, make their batteries and maintain the roads on which they travel. We also need to highlight the madness of thinking that we can replace the millions of years worth of natural energy contained in fossil fuels with plants grown in a few years.

At the end of the day, the 'infinite growth on a finite planet' narrative is falling apart but those who have done very well on it might not be so keen to see it go. "Regression - the new progress!" Not sure how to sell that one!

In keeping with "The Oil Drum" focus, I would like to see a good post on LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas - principally Propane).
This pops up every Wednesday on the weekly petroleum stats, but I have very little real knowledge of where it comes from (USA vs Imported), What it is used for (Agricultural, home heating, transportation, industrial), How changes in refining oil or producing natural gas will affect supplies And finally how all of this will affect pricing volatility of this petroleum product.

Thanks Gail! I have learned a lot from your well written and researched posts!

Considering Jim Kunstler's advocacy for rail and water transportation infrastructure, I am curious about the condition our rail infrastructure and what sort of investment would be needed to make it more efficient and passenger friendly. It seems like we will need to rely much more on heavy rail for shipping and transportation in the near future. Research focusing on river and small port infrastructure would also be of value.

From my perspective, the reality of Peak Oil and it's more dire effects will soon be on top of us. Debating or 'proving' Peak Oil as a theory or its timing will not be as important as having good ideas to implement to cope when the touble deepens. I think we need to start advocating mitigation strategies and alternatives to truck and air transport. Good information gathering and research would be helpful.

I also think it would be interesting to envision a more localized America and to look at what industries or products would be a good economic fit for the locally available resources.


Good points. Along those lines, a series of pieces on how Cuba handled its "Special Period" when it suddenly lost its access to Russian oil could be quite interesting (especially if we can avoid both idealizing and demonizing them).

An aspect of the peak oil situation that I'd like to see looked at in depth is what will happen to investments in hydrocarbon based companies when/if renewable technology is displacing them on a massive scale. Could they coexist, as seems to be the case with electrical power (hydro and nuclear vs. NG and coal), or would they be at odds, which seems to be the case to me; beyond that bad joke about Beyond Petroleum, how much involvement could there be in EVs and solar/wind for companies like XOM? They could charge prices comparable to what they charge for gasoline for electrical outlets at gas stations, but drivers would just laugh and use alternate services - which could spring up most anywhere. And really, I try to think of an avenue in a Green energy environment they could participate in that doesn't involve starting wholly from scratch, and beyond charging stations I'm really at a loss. Their retail fuel sales go down with every step up in efficiency; if they step up prices to take up the slack those who haven't purchased a PHEV etc. are hurt, possibly quite badly.

And what will investors think when it's obvious beyond a doubt which way the wind is blowing? They'll dump all their Conoco Phillips stock in a flick of a keystroke, that stuff's so filthy and 20th century. And even if the FF companies dive whole hog into electrical transmission or solar panels etc., that will divest that much more of their capital away from E&P and F&D, impacting supply all the more. We could face massive declines with a fraction of vehicle fleets converted to running on electricity - a nasty version of Robert's Peak Lite. This also makes me think of Kurt Cobb's essay on cornucopians; if they're only half correct, we buy half the time and wind up worse in the end.

This is something I'd like to see examined, I lack the chops to do more than throw it out here as a suggestion. Glad this thread is here, too!

Something else I'd like someone knowledgeable to put under the microscope is the impact of the new CAFE standards. I tinker around with the data a bit myself, and it looks like, even with poor sales, it will at least keep US gasoline consumption flat for a spell.

Could we get Michael Klare to do a guest post on the current geopolitics of oil. And perhaps someone could do a post on the petrodollar.

This may sound strange, but it might be interesting to ask Yergin or Lynch to do a guest post so they can give it their best shot and see how they stand up to our withering crossfire. Yergin certainly has some interesting things to say about the history of the oil industry, even if his recent work has been a

I would also like to see a series of articles on the corporate shenanigans of the major oil companies, current and past. Without such rigorous critique, this site comes off as a bit soft on these enormously powerful entities.

I would like to see less discussion about the end of civilization and how we're all going to be riding donkeys soon (if we're sill alive lol).

There is a tremendous amount of new technology being developed and implemented for alternative energy. It would be interesting to try and project these developments forward to see what effect they will have on oil production. Perhaps oil will peak from lack of demand because of new technologies?

What effect is ethanol having on US oil consumption?

What's the growth rate of electric scooter use in China?

Is First Solar really producing a nuclear power plant equivalent every year?

How much fuel can be produced from garbage?

In my opinion the main stream power of tod for which most people including me keep coming is articles on oil reserves especially those in middle east. Add in articles about gas and coal, standard mining and advanced methods of extraction, side stuff like tar sands and methanes and tod have become really glamourous. Also important are articles about nuclear power and renewables.

Tod should also include articles about more fundamental things to human lives such as food, clothing, shelter and basic medicines. How to make ice or near-ice needed for preservation of many medicines.

One thing that should be emphasized in all articles is quantifying things to make more sense of matters. Also it must be seen to what extent a certain scheme can be scaled up, minor remedies such as bio-fuels should be put aside as they are no solutions but time wasters.

The main emphasize should be on powering down, living within means, reducing carbon foot print and simplyfying one's life.

Some knowledge about plants and farming methods and how to preserve things are also welcomed.

I'm really stuck at how on earth we can get our political system to function and produce results. We need a working government here in the USA that will address PO and not merely talk about it. With the exception of Roscoe Bartlett I haven't heard people in congress or the white house talking about this and seeing how F**ked we will be with flat to declining liquid petroleum and ravenous competition for those resources. I'm an engineer, and as much as I hate to say it, we need government and politics to deal with this. Now, we can't have a rational discussion of healthcare reform but the looming impact of PO will make that look trivial.

How about a guest post by Thom Hartmann? I just finished reading his latest book "Threshold" and he has some good ideas on this subject. A lot of them are pretty radical, but based on rational science. I think it would stir up some rowdy discussion.

Hi Gail,

Couple of ideas

1) CERA (Lyncy & Yergin) have frequently stated that the amount of oil totaled each year is keeping pace with consumption, and that the backdated graph showing declining finds is an accounting allusion. It would be interesting to see what the trend looks like when broken down in to their reason(New finds, resource growth, enhanced recover, etc) and tallied in the year its made. This would then enable analysis and comment on a frequently used claim dismissing peak oil.

2) Uranium use, supply, and futures.
I know this has been address before, but the comments seemed to indicate there still was considerable confusion regarding:
a) EROEI for present and proposed NP’s
b) How much Uranium is available at what cost
c) How long will the supply last, depending on which fuel cycle is used. For example, if CANDU power plants, which can burn fuel from U.S. plants, were added, our supply would potentially last much longer. How much longer also seems to be a fuzzy number.

Thanks , Pragmatic

Hi Prag,

Here's a graph I discovered in some IHS pdf, I neglected to bookmark it but this one from 2004 has a similar chart to the following:

Looks like they were fessing up to production exceeding reserves then. Curiously enough in the intervening years I haven't found any IHS presentations showing a similar trend, or the amount of discoveries per year.

I would like to see less articles about global warming/climate change in Drumbeat.

I like the Primers at the Automatic Earth. I think they are organized very well and provide a convenient gateway for beginners. Oil Drum could benefit from a similar system for newbies.

I'd like to see an update on the "satelliteoerthedesert". That site seems to be dead, so we're missing out on a valuable opportunity to find out whether or not Ghawar has peaked.

More on maglev/maglift eroei, both in transportation and wind power. And possibly other applications. (Tidal and ocean power?)

More posts challenging the disinfo, like LifeAfterTheOilCrash's main pages.

More info about LED efficiency and eroi. Especially for the newest generation of LEDs.

Gail -

Getting back to your original question: quite frankly I don't get as much out of the subject-specific articles as I do the daily news items in the Drum Beat and the associated discussion thereof.

Having said that, I think the most informative articles have been those tutorials on oil extraction and mining technology by Heading Out.

On the other side of the coin, the ones that do the least for me are these highly theoretical pieces mostly coming out of academia that touch upon evolution, human behavior, dubious correlations between energy and all sorts of thing, and ecological dynamics. Maybe they are of theoretical interest to some, but not to me.

I also think that a lot of article writers get carried away with graphs. I think that's a result of all these spread-sheet software programs. Way back when, it used to take some effort to generate a graph manually, but now it's quite easy, and the result is that we are sometimes inundated with all sorts of marginally useful graphs, simply because they are easy to make.

In general, I am not exactly sure what I'd like to see, but am more certain of what I don't want. I know that is not very helpful, but I think the only thing I am certain of is that TOD means very different things to different people. So, it is inevitable that some people are not going to be happy regardless of what you do. I really wouldn't change much of anything.

I would like to see some information about brick as a building material and also especially as a paving material. I know it is probably a cliche, but I am always seeing the old bricks of paving show through as the concrete/asphalt has worn out, many times. Is it possible brick paving is really better? What is the energy cost as opposed to concrete or asphalt, especially if brick paving lasts much longer (and especially as we run out of asphalt). And if we are going to have fewer cars and perhaps more vehicles drawn by draft animals, will that be a factor? I always wondered why brick street paving was abandoned, but have not had time to do much research about it. I just assumed that the asphalt and concrete contractors had better lobbyists.

Brick (and cobblestones) have the disadvantages of being labor-intensive to install and maintain and rough and noisy to drive on.  We'll go to concrete before we go back to brick.

I don't have a good sense of the costs, but one definite advantage of brick and cobblestone, and presumably a reason that they are still very commonly used in much of Europe, is that they are much more durable. Maybe this is because settling and shifting is easily accommodated or perhaps because it looks better even when old and deteriorated. The drainage costs are presumably also lowered because a fair amount of the rainwater can percolate into the soil through the gaps. My guess is that many central European countries will expand the use of brick, particularly for sidewalks, driveways and small streets. Repair costs may also be an advantage, a couple of guys with hand tools can remove and stack the bricks from a driveway, fix a pipe or something, and replace everything in a couple of days and without hardly any new materials.

Bricks have very low strength compared to concrete. They would never stand up to truck traffic.

Asphalt should be available for a long time, especially as we use heavy oil and tar sands. It will get more expensive.

It is impossible to go back to draft animals and still have anywhere the current population. We would go back to a pre-1900 standard of living. We can find enough oil for farm equipment. Electric street railways will eventually replace cars.

I'd like to see more discussion on
soft rationing
by means of allowances and price controls.
economics of the energy cliff
the business case for high EROEI power sources
synthetic hydrocarbons
eg made with biomass and nuclear hydrogen
advances in energy storage
with cost estimates in cents per kwh
future of broadacre cropping
filling our bellies in a world with no diesel or NPK
speeding the build time of nuclear
which is currently just too slow.

I know there are links to some of these topics but it would be interesting for the proponents to respond directly to comments on TOD.

I don't have time to read all comments as I am busy starting a new business.

Crazy in these financial times I know but it is all about food.

I would like to see some deep analysis of global diesel.

It seems everyone is becoming comfortable coming up with their GUESS of what happened last year and the $150 a barrel oil and peak.

What DID happen is diesel supply started to be unable to meet demand weeks even months before oil made its climb.

IMO diesel is the most critical FF and a greater understanding of the flows, market, regional use, etc would be important.

I agree, diesel is critical.

If it was not already told by someone, it might be helpful to read and think more about the psychical and philosophical side of the peak-oil-show.

I learned really much since i rode firsttime about the topic in July 2007. I think humans are only able to be thankful for things, when they know that they will not last forever. Therefore i learned more about life, not only facts about oil.

The recognition of Peakoil by people is very important in additional for the response. Only if people try to use the chances our future will happen in an useful way. It is surely necessary to accept the problem, before someone can use to solve it. But the psychical strenght needed to respond is very high. More likely people might panic. This topic must be understood, if our knowledge about peakoil should be used usefully.


I have a few questions and comments:

1. TOD seems to be the most prominent peak-oil and energy blog on the internet. These leaves me wondering why most of the big peak-oilers out there (Matt Simmons, Deffeyes, Savinar, Colin Campbell, Richard Heinberg, JH Kuntsler) play literally no role on this site, in the articles or discussion threads. I mean, I'm sure they would have their two cents and more to discuss and contribute to this website. Yeah, duh, they have jobs and lives to deal with, but so does everyone else here. I think trying to get them involved could enrich the content of the site even more. I always think its cool when I see posts by Jason Bradford, and I am generally more interested to hear what he has to say than posters who I have no idea who they are. Basically, encourage known peak oil celebrities and experts to join the discussion and that would be really cool.

2. More posts by Nate. I also think it would be cool to do another survey of TOD readers. That was really fascinating. Also I think it would be cool for Nate to post something about his work at UVM. I am really interested in that since I am trying to follow a similar path academically.

3. Archiving of articles to make it easier to dig back for the best ones.

4. A way for us to rate the articles. Would help editors see more clearly what kind of content the users really like.

5. There should be some kind of way to download pdfs or even buy a collection of the best articles from TOD. Based on its own predictions, the website probably won't be running soon (blackouts) so you should get all this printed so we can show our kids and say to people "Look I knew all this was going to happen so long ago and nobody listened!" The internet wont be a good place to store all this great text come the next stone age.

6. A lot of people say that despite peak oil, we can still expect to see renewable technology improve in various ways over the coming decades. I would dispute this, and I would like to see some kind of discussion about it. I mean, can we honestly expect improvements in solar technology or biofuels when we can barely feed ourselves? And where will these new panels be made? China? .... Tight and scarce oil supplies mean declining industrial productivity which means advances in science will be meager at best and 99.9% of the now farmer/peasant/raider will never see another working telephone, let alone some breakthrough thin film solar for their suburban fortress farm.

7. Lets talk about human abilities to cope in crisis situations, and how the mentality of people might differ based on the speed of the decline. Nate has touched on this but I think we should talk more.

Kunstler and Savinar have posted comments here in the past, JHK mostly to gripe about being misinterpreted. Savinar's been busy for years with his own forum. Matt Simmons has called TOD the best energy blog going. Heinberg had his coal supplies article posted here, albeit he didn't comment directly. Jean Laherrère has submitted a handful of posts. Sharon Astyk has contributed and posts occasionally. That's a fairly impressive roster if you ask me.

I would like to see a series of articles on the impact of declining oil production on unemployment. As oil production declines we're going to see increases in both structural unemployment (e.g., fewer jobs in airlines and tourism) and cyclical unemployment that results from declining GDP.

I would like to see more articles regarding the human resources and skill sets the oil industry runs on.

It's common to hear in passing "50% of employees will retire in a decade" or some similar stat, but particularly which skills are, or will be, in short supply? What are the risks to future production if these skilled personnel aren't available? Which occupations are projected to be most in-demand?

I don't know how much support there'd be for it, but it would be interesting if somewhere on the net there was the equivalent of a TOD:nonhuman. In other words, discussion of the immediate and long-term effects of the human resource/population/energy bottleneck on earthlife as a whole, as opposed to how it relates to short-term human well-being.

You'd think that there would be such a thing elsewhere, and maybe there is, but it seems few conservationists I run into show the breadth of cross-disciplinary systems thinking which is often seen here. Thus, those who would work towards a reasonably healthy planet are often just as deluded by the "business as usual" paradigm as everyone else is. Few if any key conservation orgs seem to grok "peak everything" in practical terms. And there's a need for it, I think.

Or heck, it'd also be interesting to have discussions about our human future 500 years hence, and thereafter. TOD is super, but it's mostly discussions about energy and our immediate future.

There's a crying need to have more articles on whole systems act as a whole, how they grow, change and stabilize as whole balanced networks, equally distributing stresses and strains, and failing as a whole when they can't. Economic systems are like organisms in those and lots of other ways.

People tend to only talk about one part at a time, though, as if the parts and their problems could exist in isolation. The main source of our problems seems to always be the unexpected consequences of multiplying of solutions for other things, disrupting the whole system's ability to respond.

Maintaining economic and population growth requires using the cheapest energy sources to their maximum physical capacity, and so traps us in continually increasing our dependency on things that are running out, as the other impacts of growth multiply costs for responding to all the other systemic crises, for example. That saps the whole system's learning capacity instead of boosting it... We need to boost the whole system's learning capacity.

It's apparently hard for others to pick up on, but this comes from solid empirical systems research. The natural system structure of economies is of diverse parts that actively explore their environments and the uses they can make of each other. It's that collective learning, layer by layer, that is their steering mechanism. You can understand how the parts are faring with their challenges by studying the relative growth curves of the whole and their parts. Treating growth curves as learning curves serves to point directly to their complex learning processes in action, and how they capitalize on each other's successes or cause each others failures.

The Hubert curve, showing the general plan to use up cheap oil as fast as we can learn how to do so, is but one alternative learning curve to consider, for example. Each path to using up all the oil would come with variety of choices for the whole system's ability to learn anything else.

I am afraid everything works until the system breaks. Then we attempt to pick up and start over.

Well, nature does use that technique too, but not exclusively. People too. We actually only use that technique when we're sort of clueless as to the consequences of our choices. When we can see them we demonstrate considerable skill and enjoyment in the system steering problems we run into. Take driving a car, managing a business or just having a family debate. We're very skillful at fitting our purposes to our environments when we have the basic info and are not lost in some spiral of magical thinking. So, I think it's a learning question, not a fate thing... ;-)

I completely agree with you that every system that humans design should be an analog of natural process.
And also that we are very good at steering IF we have the true basic information.
There in lies the heart of the problem. Much effort is put forth to obscure the truth or promulgate dis-information. As the old saying goes....."garbage in garbage out".

I have visited your site and find it very interesting and in line with many of my own beliefs and observations.
I read your piece on economics and it explained much of the ideas that you presented in response to an earlier post of mine.
I also followed your leads on embedded energy (emergy) and the UT professor Odum that developed the idea back in the 60s.
I want to run some more ideas by you in the future but I will do it via your e-mail or your website.
It seems apparent that our man made macro systems could be much better and that the only reason they are not is corruption in the process(human corruption that is).

Great, I look forward to corresponding. That people do try to get the "true basic information", but "human corruption" gets in the way anyway, is a fascinating but knotty issue. I think it's mainly that we're not schooled in telling the difference between our imaginary meanings for things and the realities they are opinions about. That leaves us thinking that our private realities are what controls real events all the time. How to break out of that calls for some kind of empirical method to demonstrate how the reality is considerably more interesting than you imagined...

What are the resource constraints for various ways of saving and generating
energy, avoiding carbon dioxide emissions, and making the United States independent
of pretroleum cost energies.

I see money figures such as costs per
killowatt hour for solar, energy pay back
times for various energy costs. But what are the constraints? If we build more
rail to save energy and more windmills,
would our steel mills max out, etc. Do we have enough rail capacity to ship the parts and materials for a very rapid
increase of windmills?

Theoretically, one should be able to develop a linear program and solve for
the fastest time to achieve energy independence, the least carbon-dioxide
emissions, etc.

What are the resource constraints for various ways of saving and generating
energy, avoiding carbon dioxide emissions, and making the United States independent
of pretroleum cost energies.

I see money figures such as costs per
killowatt hour for solar, energy pay back
times for various energy costs. But what are the constraints? If we build more
rail to save energy and more windmills,
would our steel mills max out, etc. Do we have enough rail capacity to ship the parts and materials for a very rapid
increase of windmills?

Theoretically, one should be able to develop a linear program and solve for
the fastest time to achieve energy independence, the least carbon-dioxide
emissions, etc.

Steel should not be a limiting factor, although the capacity to make rails might. After all, we built out the US railroad system over 100 years ago with a primitive steel industry. We probably do not need that much more rail for freight. Alan From Big Easy posted a rail upgrade plan here some time ago. And then there are 230 million cars for scrap steel.

It should not be a problem to ship wind turbines. If there is that much demand, factories will be located closer to end use. Besides, there is a lot of spare freight capacity because of the current depression.

Streetcar systems require considerable amounts of track but they would only be used in areas with high population density. Besides, building out such a system would take at least two decades.

The real problem we face is financial. The transition away from oil will destroy a lot of value in the economy and markets as the automobile system and the petroleum industry declines. If we are able to develop affordable electric vehicles that will create new employment, as will alternate energies. However, the period of economic growth of the past two centuries has about exhausted its technology driving forces and what force that remains is not strong enough to overcome higher energy, fertilizer, water and other resource costs. The decline started in the US about a decade or two ago.

I agree. There have been confusing discussions on the relative impact of a 20% renewables quota versus a 25% CO2 reduction. That is actually a straightforward problem in linear programming if the parameters are set correctly. Complications are non-linearities and disputed bounds like the relationship between intermittent sources and fossil fuelled backup. It gets beyond the eye-glaze-over stage if people want to split hairs.

My comment on Gail's Oil Sands article led to discussing the unclear way EROEI is defined in different places. I concluded:

Precisely, it's all a mishmash of different people calculating different things. So we clearly don't have or don't know about the definitions for EROI measures that would clear up the mess. I've tried very hard to contribute to that conversation, offering a simple whole system EROI strategy to include the energy equivalent for all the business and technology costs of resource extraction, taken to a comparable end use equivalence. I didn't get anyone to offer their suggestions so didn't go beyond concept. I'd be glad to help others working on the problem with the systems theory if you know of anyone.

It would be great to see articles on how to make EROI figures comparable.

As has been previously raised, Energy (inc, Oil), has been & is still one of the Macro factors that have driven & influenced Global Economic & Political directions, for the last 200 years (in particular).

However, there are other Macro Factors, including Population Growth & Aging, Innovation (Technological Advances), as well as Economic & Political Power issues.

I am most interested, to investigate how these Macro Factors have interacted in the past & present, what are the cause & effect relationships between these majors factors & others and what the Future may hold in store for us & the Planet, in terms of Where, When, What, Why & How?

In future terms, my understanding is that the "Fundamentals" of Energy, Economics, Politics & Other issues, are now in a process of irrevocable change and the next 5-10 years, may well set the course of humanity for the next 200 years & more.

We are currently looking at a “Perfect Storm”, which is about to present as a Category 5 Financial Black Swan Event!

Why is this happening, what caused it, how can we affect the course of this event, where are the likely outcomes leading us to?

These are just a few questions, there are many, perhaps you & the team, can provide some insights?


I too want to thank Gail and all staff of TOD and the contributors to this site for making it the most valuable source for energy information on the Internet.

What I would like to see discussed is the following:
1. Assume we reach peak oil what is the time line for what happens afterwards. An effort should be made not to assume the worst case but the most likely case, I know there has been lots of information on TOD relative to the decline of oil production and/or the amount of oil available for import. So lets take the most likely decline in available energy and discuss how that would affect our various countries.

2. Assume that one's government will respond to peak oil in the expect not the ideal manner, what is a reasonable set of actions an individual family can take. For example what 10 books should one acquire that will help the most in dealing with the consequences of PO? I know books list have been posted, but they tend to be long and exhaustive. Realizing that most people will not have large lots for a garden, what tools and how many would it be smart to get? What are the best plant to plant? How big does it need to be to feed 2 or 4 people?

3.Discuss what investment strategy is good for dealing with PO. Individual stocks need not be mentioned. Instead portfolio allocation, categories of stock by business, real estate, and/or commodities.

I would not expect nor want the lead off author to produce the definitive answer to the above questions but just offer up a plausible straw-man for the TOD community to discuss.

TOD is a forum for discussion of controversial issues and as such doesn't have a dogma. You have a choice, go elsewhere for PO lite or delve deep.

I think TOD has grown to the point that the editors should ... edit. TOD sucks time in a big way. Gresham's Law applies to blogs too....

Cold Camel

CC - I want to thank you for a comment you made in a previous discussion here. A short while ago you recommended people read "Hands-on Agronomy" by Neal Kinsey. Absolutely. Brilliant. Thank you a dozen times. I got it through inter-library loan and haven't been able to put it down. I'm going to have to buy a copy somewhere. It sure explains a bunch of the weed problems I've been having, and has made me completely rethink my soil supplement plans. Thanks again!

Be careful with that knowledge. Yesterday I had a "discussion" with a former Iowa farm girl while I helped build a community snow-proof greenhouse. She felt I was arguing with her and stormed off angry. I was just trying to understand. I think she was offended that I didn't accept her pronouncements as gospel. Arguing is pointless, learning is not. I have great respect for Iowans, but not ones with closed minds.

And you should know that Neal's perspective works for sustainable but not commodity farming. And don't discuss the book with gardeners. It will confuse you and irritate the gardener. Go ahead and try it, you'll see what I mean.

Cold Camel

Hi Gail,

IMO, and as long as they stay within the broad confines of the energy sphere, the content of articles is less important than the people writing them. I would like to see as many articles as possible written by individuals who are experts in their field. Ideally people who have not just a sound academic grounding but also many years practical experience as well. At one end of the scale this could be a petrogeologist who has worked on oil field development, at the other end it could be a gardener who has been growing their own veg for a couple of decades.

Articles written by experts and focussed on a specific subject in order to bring out the detail (where the devil resides!). The ensuing discussion can then happily branch off in all directions and explore implications, consequences and the macro picture. But real value is most usually added by those who know what they are talking about. Know not through general reading but through having walked the walk so to speak.

Not sure how you go about getting more experts but there do seem to some good candidates posting on here. Once chap whose posts I always read is ROCKMAN - not sure if he's ever written an article for TOD but I'd read it if he did. I'm sure there are plenty of others though.

A higher concentration of 'expert' articles would not only raise the general knowledge of TOD readers but would also IMO raise the status and profile of TOD

Thanks for posting the request for suggestions.


thewatcher ,
I agree, the devil is in the detail!

However, I must also observe that there were many "expert economists" who completely missed advising "the Public" that there was an economic problem coming and most of those economists are now happily singing, almost in unison, that the financial crisis is now history.

So, whilst in depth analysis, is good, I am more interested in the message, than the messenger.

"more interested in the message, than the messenger"

To me, message and messenger are inseparably intertwined.

There is a hidden framework from which each messenger delivers his/her message and another framework by way of which readers/listeners receive the message.

Consider for example the words, "economists" and "financial crisis" as used in the up-thread comment.

For some TODders, I suspect, these words trigger a feeling of derision and hate: Yeah you mean the !@#$% folk who promote "fiat currency" and other such insane concepts. (May the curse of my deity be upon them!).

For other TODders, I suspect, the same words trigger a feeling of awe and admiration: Yeah you mean the wise folk who know how to do the deep dive math and calculate amortized value for default swaps and know how our world is truly put together. (May the blessings of my deity be upon them!).

What I find interesting is the question of how we each and all came to our respective frames of viewing things the way we do.

How did Michael Lynch and Daniel Yergin get to be who they are and preach the way they do? How did Kunstler get to be the diametric opposite?

How did my friends and family get to become the blind denialists about PO that they are today? Why do they remain that way even after oil has traded as high as $147/bbl recently and even after our "economy" has teetering on (and still teeters on) the edge of collapse because of it? What makes their eyes glaze over (as if they were brain washed zombies instead of rational, fellow species-mates)? Or am I the one who is crazy? Is TOD nothing more than a gathering place for cult members who believe in Malthusian nut cake theories?

In the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is nuts.

"more interested in the message, than the messenger"

To me, message and messenger are inseparably intertwined.
What I find interesting is the question of how we each and all came to our respective frames of viewing things the way we do.
step back,
I agree, there is something to be learned, from both the message & the messenger!

And, I couldn't agree more on how we frame our view!
One of my favourite phrases is, "there are over 6 Billion likely views, on almost everything, because at any given moment, we are the sum product of our heredity and environment.

However, I must also observe that there were many "expert economists" who completely missed advising "the Public" that there was an economic problem coming and most of those economists are now happily singing, almost in unison, that the financial crisis is now history

Point taken but I would make a distinction between knowledge and prediction. A knowledgeable economist should be able to educate people as to the intricacies of supply and demand or how the financial system operates. But that doesn't mean they will be very good at predicting the evolution of the economy over time - as you rightly point out this has proven difficult!

So on here I would look for expertise on all aspects of energy but leave the implications/consequences of that knowledge to subsequent discussion in which hopefully the original article writer would also participate.

Really it's about making sure we get the facts right before moving on to debate them. Otherwise the whole discussion is based on poor foundations.


"So on here I would look for expertise on all aspects of energy but leave the implications/consequences of that knowledge to subsequent discussion in which hopefully the original article writer would also participate.

Really it's about making sure we get the facts right before moving on to debate them. Otherwise the whole discussion is based on poor foundations."

Whilst I understand where you are coming from, the foundations of Energy, the detailed knowledge of it and the implications & consequences of it, do not stand alone, those issues flow and mix with the other Major factors that I referred to in my earlier/original post.
As has been previously raised, Energy (inc, Oil), has been & is still one of the Macro factors that have driven & influenced Global Economic & Political directions, for the last 200 years (in particular).

However, there are other Macro Factors, including Population Growth & Aging, Innovation (Technological Advances), as well as Economic & Political Power issues.

I am most interested, to investigate how these Macro Factors have interacted in the past & present, what are the cause & effect relationships between these majors factors & others and what the Future may hold in store for us & the Planet, in terms of Where, When, What, Why & How?

All of these need to be look at and reviewed separately, but also as a whole, because they interact with each other separately and as a whole.

In any event, The Oil Drum may decide to do both or neither.

That said, it seems there may be enough interest here to have a good look around and see where things go?

I must also observe that there were many "expert economists" who completely missed advising "the Public" that there was an economic problem coming

You should try reading "Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises" by Kindleberg and Aliber to get some historical perspective on this. In every boom, some people believe that this boom is different from every other boom and will give you convincing reasons why. Others are more realistic, and they are the ones who get out with most of their savings intact.

Interestingly, the book refers to a paper on "Seven Unsustainable Processes: Medium-Term Prospects and Policies for the United States and the World" by Wynne Godley. Although this was published in 1999, among other things it says, "If the growth in net lending and the growth in money supply growth (sic) were to continue for another eight years (emphasis mine), the indebtedness of the private sector would then be so large that a sensational day of reckoning could then be at hand." (emphasis his)

Now, doesn't that sound like what's happening these days? Good call there, Wynne. See

Paul Krugman has a magazine article in today's NYT about the grand failure of modern economic theory. It's fairly long. I haven't read it all. So too early to say more.

Depending on your perspectives, there are a few basic ways that the world’s Economic system is meant to function –
1) Hands off/Market based approach, more commonly known as Capitalism.
2) Planned or Hands on approach, more commonly known as Communism or Socialism
3) A Mixed economy, which is a mixed of both Market and a planned economy.

It is apparent that there are those who are “true believers” in these variations, come what may, there are those who take a pragmatic approach and there are those who say, we need to start again.

At the basis of these systems, are two competing assumptions –
1) Markets are efficient and governments ruin everything they touch.
2) Only governments can provide the planning needed, to avoid irrational markets.

The truth is that “Economics” does not stand alone, it's not like mathematics, where we know that 2+2, will =4.
Economics is not a science, where you routinely have the same inputs factors and the same outcomes.

The truth is that Economic is, in fact, a culmination of many factors, which are in a constant state of change!

Included in the economic mix, is the past history of what has happened, which people, by enlarge, rely on. However, included in the mix (amongst others) are the competing interests of Domestic Politics, international Geo-political power struggles, Elite Multi-National organisations and the apparent human desire for infinite (exponential) growth, in a finite environment.

The truth is that neither Markets nor Humans are rational or inherently efficient and that Economics is a fluid, moving, living thing, not a fixed target that may be easily hit by a “silver or single bullet solution”! It is also true that the vast majority of past Economists & Politicians, would never have imagined, in their wildest dreams, some of the Global factors, now in play.

In fact, most current Politicians & Economists still refuse to admit to the Public and even themselves that we are at and are approaching once in history tipping points, which may change Humanity, forever.

The current Global Financial slowdown includes examples of systematic failings, in that –
1) Many Politicians, Economists and Business failed to realise &/or consider that a number of once in history factors would impact on and change their basic assumption, that the usual “Boom/Bust” historic cycles, would simply continue to repeat. Those factors include Population Aging & Total Population Growth rate reduction and Peak Oil.
2) The Political & Business games are now too closely interwoven, with corruption a systemic player, not just an occasional interloper.
3) Humanity, including the establishment (the FED, Politicians, Business & others) refused to voluntarily consider that our system requires exponential (infinite) Growth, in a world full of finite limitations.

The truth is, irrespective of the “smoke & Mirrors” of Politicians and other self-interested party’s, we are now in the early stages of some vital once in history events, Exponential Growth is no longer an option. The Global Economic & Political situation is now under great stress and change must come to the whole system or that system will break!

Finally, I would say to those “truebelievers”, there must be room for flexibility. Markets can be effective, but they do need parameters & regulations that are enforced, to function properly, for the long term benefit of all. Governments are a necessity, to provide that which the Private sector is neither designed nor equipped for, such as Police, Armed Forces, the setting of realistic Business regulations and the provider of long term vision for the future. But, above all, Politicians (Globally), business & other self-interest players need to disconnect themselves from their self-interest, long enough to understand that these arrangements are not in anyone’s long term interest!

As per the following NY Times article, “this seems like a good time to recall the words of H. L. Mencken: “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible and wrong.”
NY Times article link -

Politicians, Economists and Business, need to rethink their foundations, we need to help them in those endeavours and we should encourage them to get it substantially right, via easily understood means, the electoral vote & consumer spending.

This is a link to the one guest post I am aware of that Rockman did. We certainly would be happy to have more by him. He tells me he has a new job, which limits his time for making comments on The Oil Drum.

BP has just announced a find of 'oil' (BOE?) several miles down under several miles of water as have the Brazilians and others - what has happened to the geology to allow these accumulations at such huge depths.

Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is currently the deepest point in Earth's oceans, the bottom there is 10,924 meters (35,840 feet) below sea level, the BP Tiber well was drilled to a total depth of approximately 10,685 metres (35,055 feet.)

We surely didn't start with water as deep as the deepest part of the current oceans and then lay down layers of rock - or did we?

How far down does sedimentary rock go in places like the GOM, do they sit on thick continental crust or thin Oceanic crust? says that the base of the Gulf of Mexico is '10 to 15km of sedimentary rocks ranging from 230MYA to present'. The Mississippi has been carrying down sediment for a fair old while; ten kilometres is an inch a century since the Triassic.

The base rock sinks as sediment accumulates on it, so the water above has never been inordinately deep; the Gulf must sometimes have filled with sea water and then dried out to produce the salt formations that trap the oil.

Thanks for that - I am still puzzled by the fact that the original sea floor has sunk by at least 5 or 6 miles but the land on the coast supposedly connected to it has not! The Subterranean world is a strange, complex place.

It's amazing that they could find oil that far down. In most places, thermal cracking would have reduced it to pure methane by now. But, I guess the Gulf of Mexico is different.

Not that much different, though. Eventually they'll hit the bottom of the oil window, and all they'll find below that will be gas.

I would like to read some sort of discussion about oil's role as an "enabler", in establishing alternative forms of energy and the limitations that that entails. Specifically in the first instance, electricity. So many people I know assume that if oil is ever going to be a problem that we'll drive electric cars. But what about the extent to which we rely on liquid fuels for the vehicles to build and maintain the electricity grid infrastructure? How long for example could the grid stay up and running in an oil shock, if the chaps in the diesel trucks couldn't get out and about to fix faults? I saw a documentary on wind turbines and they said it takes 13 semi-trailers just to bring in the crane to put the thing up. If there is not sufficient fuel for even one of those semi-trailers, where's your wind turbine now? Then there's powering the machinery and equipment for mining, shipping and processing the resources needed to manufacture the equipment for harnessing alternative energy sources, although that may be moving further away from my initial area of discussion. So many people assume that we will continue to live more or less the way we are now, only fire it on something other than petrol and diesel. I know most TOD readers are as dubious as I am about the prospects for that, but I would like to be able to assemble the talking points, facts and figures so that I can point out to people how and in what ways the prevailing fantasies about alternative energy schemes fall down. I'm not saying of course that we won't or shouldn't use alternatives, only that we won't be living anything like the lifestyle we "enjoy" now, using them.

The classic approach to installing large/heavy articles was to lay rail up to the site.  There would be some issues with slopes (or maybe not; cog railways are well-established technology and speed isn't exactly an issue) and the preferred layout of wind farms might get far more elongated, but it's hard to argue that rail can't bring in large articles with far greater ease than trucks.  When you're done, you pull up the rails to re-use on another job.

If you are running wires to a wind farm anyway, powering the rail system and the work on site with electricity seems like a relatively simple change.

Whenever I see a sharp rising curve like this I wonder when it will level off and start to decline. The production of biofuels cannot keep growing like this.
What about peak-biofuel ?
We live on a finite sphere and biofuelproduction will compete with foodproduction.
Limiting factors in biofuelproduction are arable land, fertilizer (nutrients), water, capital and perhaps demand for biofuel.

I'm working on an peakbiofuel-article in Dutch, when it's finished I will try to translate it.

Greetings everyone.
Somewhat off topic, but I figure this is the thread for it. I'm thinking of storing a few small containers of gas to ride out small disruptions for hurricanes and the like. I'd like to store about 20 gallons, not a meaningful amount in the bigger picture but sufficient to run the generator for a while and top off the car in a pinch. So my question is this, is it better to buy and store summer or winter gas? I understand the blends can be different seasonally depending on where you live and I've never found an answer. Is the difference so trivial that it's not worth worrying about and just rotate out whatever I have stored every 6 months and forget about it?
Thanks all!

It depends on whether you expect to have a summer emergency or a winter emergency. The winter gas is more likely to cause vapor-lock, the summer gas is more likely to congeal in your fuel lines. You have a choice.

The point about rotating it out every 6 months is important. Unbeknownst to most people, gasoline has a limited shelf life. I've known a number of people who have destroyed their lawnmowers by running them on gasoline that was a few years old.

And I could talk about the $7500 we had to spend on engine repairs on the sailboat because there was bacteria growing in the diesel tanks over the winter, but that's just too depressing to elaborate on.

Since fuel they even change the Reid Vapor pressure limit seasonally anymore via more or less volatile blends?
I do the same thing and rotate every 2-3 months. I will say that I have left gasoline in a boat for a year and it started right up no problem.
I don't know about contamination but if you are worrying about evaporation of the more volatile aromatics causing hard starting it seems if you keep the container full and sealed they can't escape.

I have had vapor lock in an old Homelite string trimmer after it runs for a while and gets good and hot and that is why I don't think that there is much difference anymore between winter and summer fuel blends.

Sorry if repeat some suggestions. I didn’t read the whole thread.

- Talking about sewage and water, I’d like to see more data on contaminants such as medications that are flushed down the toilet that contaminate our ecosystem.

- Not sure if this enters a ‘red zone’, but I haven’t seen a detail analysis of energy use by militaries and their ecological footprint, especially American since its budget is more than all other nations combined. Also the impact of future declining military sector on the US economy.

- How will education be evolving in post-peak energy societies? Will it be eventually curtailed to teaching practical farming/engineering/etc. skills with no room and energy/economic surplus to maintain and develop general and fundamental studies such as philosophy, ethics, social sciences, history, etc?

- Do we have data on how the current extensive network of International organizations correlates to the availability of cheap energy? What will be their roles and structure in an era of a post-globalization and resource constraints?

Thank you!

I have been following the blog for about six months. I became interested because of information on natural gas markets that I thought was informative and relevant. It seems to me now that the blog is mostly concerned with alternative energy, food/water scarcity, and the environment. Is this a new direction for the blog or the norm?

We go back and forth. Expect more natural gas articles. These were the most recent US ones:

Are Natural Gas Reserves Now Overstated? - Gail

How Much Natural Gas Do We Have to Replace Gasoline - Robert Rapier

Natural Gas Revisited - Gail

We also have had some European ones. These seem to come up more when there is talk of shortages, as winter approaches.

I'm not going to go back in this thread and specifically review what was requested as a topic on Natural Gas, but as an Oil Drum reader I am most interested in the ability of the new shale resources to serve as a "bridge fuel" as oil declines. It seems that this is really the US's only viable option to transition off of oil without complete collapse in transportation and without a disasterous expansion of Oil Sands.

However, I am also interested in a clearheaded and objective analysis of the dangers of widespread "fraccing" to get at this gas. It seems this process really could pose a threat to groundwater.

The most valuable thing we can do is to visualize and project a future. Maybe we should be a Peak Oil version of Dickens Christmas Carol with ghosts of the future, good and bad ones. Perhaps a modern day "Looking Backwards, 2000-1887" which was written when electricity and the telephone were being introduced.

I am not thinking about science fiction, but more in terms of identified technologies and diffusion / S curves and mathematical models. Think streetcars, electric vehicles, passive solar houses, disappearance of oil infrastructure, globalization extrapolated with USA de-industrialized, wind turbines, alternate nuclear technologies, etc.

I'd like to see a Petroleum 101 type article:

How is oil formed?
What type of source rock contains oil?
Why is there no oil in the deep ocean?

Much of this was covered in the early years of TOD. But it would probably be nice to have an "Index" of some sort that points back to places where each of these fundamental questions were answered: What is the definition of "oil"? What is the history of mankind's use of "oil"? etc., etc. It's an awful lot of reading. In today's short-attention span world, few people are willing to spend time obtaining a deep dive understanding of many of the intricacies of the world of oil. It is a big and very complex world after all (despite what Disney says).

Solar thermochemical fuel
High temperature ferrite water splitting. e.g. Suggest a post by Richard Diver, Sandia Labs.
Economics of solar hydrogen as a function of dish cost.

Impact of cost of energy and carbon taxes on the poor in developing countries.
Demand curves as a % of GDP or GNI. Compare impact of prices on developed vs developing countries.
Rich nations like US can bid up the price with relatively small portion of disposable income.
That increase completely wipes out the ability of the poor to purchase - Consequent impact on irrigation and fertilizer.
Note 1 billion people live on < $1.25/day, another 2 billion on less than $2.5/day.

Compare the collapse of agriculture in No. Korea after the collapse of the Soviet Union and consequent drop in tractor parts, diesel fuel, and fertilizer production. Consequence - 1-3 million deaths by famine.

China making methanol from coal.

I wandered away from TOD to The Automatic Earth. The third storm, which is the end phase of the economic growth model, has recently overtaken the Peak Oil storm.

Seems to me that TOD is very techie. Without a better understanding of banking and finance, TOD discussions frequently forget that Peak Credit and Peak Gov't Revenue and Peak Grant Funding put the kabash on applying high tech solutions in the macro system. This is the same flaw as assuming endless BAU cornicopia. It makes all these high tech discussions moot except for micro applications of low tech solutions.

I prefer to read proposals which apply low tech gerry-rigged substitutions for today's evaporating high energy-based processes.

Perhaps in the vein of what urbangardener wrote, I'd love to see articles that tried to examine what sustainable societies might look like.

Many articles here try to outline temporary solutions to some resource problems, often via some kind of substitution or alternative technology. These are all doomed to failure, ultimately (and that may be near term or long term), and rarely look at the big picture of what resources societies need to function. We do, after all, live on a finite planet.

Richard Heinberg distilled sustainability ideas into Five Axioms of Sustainability. What would a society look like, and what would the world look like, if those axioms are followed? If they aren't followed by a society then that society would be unsustainable and would collapse. It seems to me that a sustainable society would look very different from those of developed and developing nations. But just how different would be a good subject for articles.

I would like to see a piece or a series of pieces on what countries around the world will be most and least effected by peak oil. Which are best prepared and worst prepared for the coming change. This could be framed in terms of relative current and potential future infrastructure, relative energy dependence and supply (both traditional and future alternative), flexibilty to adapt in terms of available adaptations and regulations. In other words, what countries are likely to relatively suceed or at least weather the storm and/or survive in the next 20-30 years.

This would be both interesting and very practical information for readers around the world.

Another suggestion for topics to discuss might be how to deal with living with a husband/partner/family who think you're a bit mad for worrying about peak oil, net energy etc. I'm sure I saw a similar thread on TOD somewhere - a guy who just kept the peace by not talking about it coz his family thought he was depressed. I appreciate that there's the wider range of psychological challenges which being tied into a handcart en route to hell raise but this stuff must be easier if the whole household, or at least the main earner, gets it. Do any of the TOD staff members find themselves in this situation?


You are a bit mad if you just worry about it. Take control of your life and do something to prepare for a lower energy future. I discovered that I don't need to convince hubby of the facts in order to do this.

In the field of human psychology, when you come across a delusional person, to help them you have to 'join with the delusion' ie agree with them even though you recognize it's not reality. Since we are entering a major change in energy flow within civilization, the majority are delusional when it comes to BAU assumptions about our future. They aren't hearing voices or anything , just locked into a certain way of thinking that used to work before but that you understand will soon no longer apply. You do not need to make them understand in order to get prepared.

So you've noticed that you don't get anywhere when you directly challenge the family's delusional BAU assumptions [ eg "this is just a temporary dip in the biz cycle", "the price of homes in this neighborhood will rise again", "I'll always have a job", "they'll find more oil", "human ingenuity and new technology will save us" etc]. Don't bother fighting the delusion itself.

Instead you let them assume that you have an eccentricity that they can tolerate. Like... you just love to save money by finding ways to reduce the electricity bills or you are a convert to environmentalism or gourmet cooking or local food or you develop an old fashioned hobby. So you hang your clothes out on a line instead of using the dryer. You keep breezes through the windows instead of running the AC. You convert your lawn into a food garden. You raise a dairy goat and some chickens. You start a coin collection. Or you take up backpacking/camping skills.

They may think you're nuts now but at some point in the future, they'll face the same realization that the modern ways were unreliable. But only after the modern ways fail them, not before. For now just humor them, "yes dear, would you like an omelette with goat cheese for dinner?"

Urbangardener, I disagree with your reckoning of how to deal with the deluded/denialist. Though it depends. My own mother and brothers are useless because they are strongly unwilling to discuss things (as an ingrained habit of lifestyle). Such people are a lost cause re which you would probably do best to write off. People do not learn by others' example because very often the deviant example is that of a nutcase anyway (e.g. people who persist in raw/juice diets for some years before they become blind cripples).

In respect of those people who are not pathologically hostile to uncomfortable discussions: You either have a sound case of reasoning/evidence or you don't. If you don't then it is you who is in error in believing this tod rubbish without such a basis. If you do have a sound case then you must learn to present and argue it. And then rather than preach lectures down at your colleagues, you engage them with questions, to challenge their false assumptions. Or maybe not false.

Struggling as ever to keep up with the rate of great content here....but would be interesting to have some proper analysis of the conditions and extent to which cities/towns can continue to be supplied with food and water. Or for that matter commuter-dormitory villages which no longer function in the self-sufficient way villages did less than a century ago. One poster the other week reckoned that in the event of "collapse", he would be safer in a city. Really? Just a safer bet on being hungry, scared, and herded by riot troops I'd have thought.

Some ideas for posts:

- Oil use per capita per state or, even better, per county. Where is the decline of oil going to hit hardest due to how much people need it?

- Which countries will be hardest hit by Peak Oil? I'm not expecting the US to be hardest hit because we still have lots of coal and natural gas. Canada similarly has lots of natural resources and that'll reduce the speed of the decline in spite of their colder weather.

- The economics of heating oil usage in New England. I'd like to know why New Englanders continue to use heating oil when other heating energy sources are cheaper and what the trends are in heating usage in New England. Is there a big trend toward natural gas or ground sink heat pumps? I do not ask this as a New Englander. I live about a mile from the Pacific Ocean.

- Who is most in need of getting a new job to adjust for Peak Oil? What occupations will shrink the most? Which will grow the most? Truck drivers obviously will get hit hard for example. Will lumberjacks suffer more from declining housing construction or benefit more from use of wood for heat? Which parts of the vacation resort industry will shrink the most and which might even grow when people decide to travel shorter distances?

- At what price oil do various substitutes make sense? For example, at what price oil does rail electrification become cost competitive at least on some routes? Also, at what price oil do nuclear-powered cargo ships become cost competitive?

- During what part of the decline in oil production will things get the worst? Will the economic decline continue every year with the oil decline? Or at some point will the effect of substitutes cause a bottoming out of the economic decline? Also, is 2030 the absolute bottom because at that point no more oil is exported? Or does decline continue beyond that point as capital infrastructure built before the decline continues to wear out?

- Will the decline in oil production cause inflation or deflation?

- What's the per barrel cost of converting coal into oil? Will this be done after Peak Oil?

- What areas of the economy are easiest to electrify when oil production declines?

Some more post ideas:

- Small things you can do to cut your energy consumption.

- Top 10 things to check in your house to look for energy leaks.

- Appliance age and efficiency. How to guess (or measure?) the efficiency of your refrigerator, water heater, air conditioner, heater, or other appliance. What's the likelihood a replacement will save you much energy.

- Electric bicycles and electric scooters. Go small to save energy more cheaply?

More solutions please, and examination of how the solutions intersect and interact with daily life for the "average citizen". Technological solutions I think are already well-covered on the small scale (eg solar hot water) and large scale (eg CCS) but I think we need more of the "medium scale" community-sized solutions. So...

- analysis from PO viewpoint of the Transition Town movement; are their goals reasonable, are they too much, too little, etc?

- "adapting in place" as Sharon Astyk puts it: is it feasible for today's communities to continue to function with similar structures or will they have to change more fundamentally and if so, how?

- population psychology: to whom do the public really listen (by which I mean, listen, process, and change behaviour accordingly) and what is the most appropriate way to communicate the dangers of PO and CC?

- is there a role for Peak Oil campaigners along the lines of the climate change campaigners? should we march through the streets with billboards and placards? I find it interesting that the usual response to PO is a much more selfish one (I don't necessarily mean that pejoratively) than the response to CC... run for the hills rather than shout from the rooftops.

- what do we want life to look like in 2020? 2050? Technocracy, techno-democracy, low energy consumption per capita, high consumption? I'd be interested to see a poll.

- in general I think the readership of TOD is sufficiently diverse that it would be very interesting to include more polls. We get the viewpoints of a minority who choose to share their views in the comments, but not of the lurking majority who might be more easily persuaded to point and click.