Dancing at the Edge of the Precipice - After Peak Oil

This is a guest post by Alexis Ziegler. Alexis is a communitarian, builder, orchardist and environmental activist living in central Virginia. He is the author of a recently published book, "Culture Change: Civil Liberty, Peak Oil, and the End of Empire". More information can be found at conev.org.

In the couple of years since Culture Change was first published, much has changed. Culture Change predicted that in 2007 we were "at or near" global peak oil production, and that we would face a "large economic contraction" as a result.1 In July 2008 oil production hit an all-time high of 74.8 million barrels per day and oil prices reached an unprecedented height of $147.27 in daily trading.2 Since then, the global economy has collapsed into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Oil prices have oscillated wildly, and oil production has declined as global demand has decreased.

Meanwhile, production from the giant oil fields which make up the lion's share of global production has continued to decline. There is a growing consensus, at least among those concerned about peak oil, that the July 2008 peak of production will probably remain as the all-time historic high for global oil production.3 As of the most recent measure, more than 60% of global oil fields are past peak and are now in permanent decline.4

World Oil Production from August Oil Watch Monthly

And the response has been.... silence.

Among peak oil devotees, the discussion has continued; but in the popular media, the concept of peak oil has been all but forgotten. We have stopped talking about the most powerful limit to growth humanity has ever faced just at the precise historical moment that it sinks its teeth deeply into the global economy. The irony is mind-boggling. The impacts of peak oil are transforming our political culture before our very eyes, but the connections between ecological limits and political change remain absent from public awareness. These changes demand with new urgency that we address the problem of blind culture, of finding a way to make our society socially intelligent.

Oil Supply Constraints and the Rise of the New Caesars

Peak oil seems to be causing considerable economic fall out. Though there are many "causes" for the current economic downturn, one can be certain that the availability and limitations of energy supply have had an enormous impact.

The economic fallout of peak oil is rippling its way through our economy, but we are being distracted from the realities of what is occurring around us. The Housing and Urban Development Department recently released the stunning claim that the "number of homeless has remained steady since 2007."5 Meanwhile, in the real world, newspapers are reporting "61 percent of local and state homeless coalitions say they've experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007." (MSNBC),6 "Cities Deal With a Surge in Shantytowns" (NY Times), 7 and "There are reports of tent cities popping up across the country as unemployment rises in a worsening economy..." (Huffington Post)8 The social impacts of the global financial meltdown are rippling their way through the American economy, though we are loathe to admit it.

The economic impacts of the limits of oil supply extend well beyond the border of the United States. Globally, the number of hungry people in the world was decreasing up until the mid 1990s. Beginning then, because of the global debt crisis and the austerity measures imposed on poor countries by the International Monetary Fund, hunger began to climb. Since then, hunger is on a steepening curve upward because of the rapid expansion of biofuel, the expansion of meat consumption among the global upper class, and the impacts of global warming on agricultural production. (Biofuel is now consuming about 5% of the global food supply, and meat consumption has been growing twice as fast as population itself.)9

Why is the United States in an undefined "War on Terror" with no end? The graph below tells the story. When this graph was first created, the authors optimistically predicted that hunger would fall on one of the two lines to the right of the graph. The dots inserted show what has actually happened since the creation of this graph. For every person starving in the world, there are many who suffer less severe privation. The upturn of hunger is a stark manifestation of the global polarization of wealth, driven to ever more bitter manifestations by a contracting energy supply. Revolutionary movements, congealed by religious fervor, are the face of the reaction from the bottom. The "War on Terror" is the witch hunt from the top down. This escalating war cannot be ended by a change of administration or policy. It can only be ended by a fundamental restructuring of our economy.

From World Band and FAO10

We live on a finite Earth. That is obvious. Oil production has been declining, and we will likely never again surpass the production levels reached in 2008. Stalled oil production has triggered an economic contraction. But the connections between oil supply and political change remain hidden from us. Global class warfare under the banner of the "War on Terror" is escalating even as tent cities pop up around American cities. Meanwhile, the U.S. has elected the first black president, a Democrat who has promised to bring a more thoughtful and humane approach to politics in our country. The Bush administration was blamed for many of the ills that developed under its reign, but are those policies and problems being reversed? Or are they continuing to grow, fed by unrecognized resource constraints?

President Bush was vilified for his assertion of unlimited power in a time of war under the title "Commander in Chief." The Bush Administration set up the prison at Guantanamo Bay, ordered the military incarceration of "enemy combatants" without judicial review, ignored long standing principles of habeas corpus, set up military trials resembling those that operate under dictatorships around the world, established targeted killing of enemies on foreign soil, established a policy of the "rendition" of enemies to foreign governments or secret prisons where they might be tortured, ignored the Geneva Conventions concerning the treatment of prisoners, approved the use waterboarding and other forms of torture on prisoners, and established an extensive domestic spying program. How has President Obama responded to these challenges that he inherited?

"Obama is actually strengthening (rather than "changing") the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism even more effectively than Bush did by entrenching those policies in law and causing unprincipled Democrats to switch from pretending to oppose them to supporting them, thus transforming them into bipartisan dogma." Glenn Greenwald, Salon online magazine11

"The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric." Jack Goldsmith, The New Republic 12

"If you mean the actual policy of how are we detaining people, how we are monitoring communication in order to gain intelligence, what we are doing with Predator drone strikes in Pakistan and so forth, the substance of what is happening now, and what was happening on, say, January 20, 2009 before noon, when Bush was president, is very similar, and there's some superficial changes like they're going to try to close Guantanamo, but the policy of indefinite detention without trials for terrorism suspects who are deemed too dangerous to release, but too difficult to put on trial, remain. So the essence of that policy is the same, whether it's at Guantanamo or somewhere else. Charlie Savage of the New York Times13

There is no objective way to measure President Obama's record on civil liberties or to weigh that record against his more ameliorative statements on foreign policy issues. But, to re-frame the question: Imagine we are back again in the year 1999, ten years ago. Imagine that we could foresee the future enough to know that a Republican administration would be followed by Democratic one. Would you have guessed at that time that the aforementioned policies of detention without warrant or trial, domestic spying, or oversees rendition and execution would be unfolding as they have under a nominally liberal president?

Getting lost in the right-vs-wrong, ethics-vs-political necessity debate only buries the truth about what is currently unfolding in our society deeper in the mythological mud. The reality is that the United States is changing. We are part of an aging Empire that is now facing a constriction of energy supply, which will in turn exacerbate the impacts of other ecological and resource limits. Put simply, if the global supply of energy and resources is shrinking, and if the global upper class is intent on maintaining its lifestyle at current or expanded levels, the consumption of the rich must be supported by a reduction of consumption among the poor. If the energy pie is shrinking and we intend to continue to eat the same or more, than everyone else must eat less.

What are the political and cultural ramifications of these changes? They are manifest in the changes we see in our political system. Maintaining current levels of consumption demands strong-handed intervention around the world, as well as growing state power at home. The number of starving people on the Earth has been growing substantially, and the number of people left out of economic growth has been growing even more rapidly. This economic polarization will of necessity breed political resistance. But we are loathe to recognize that our economic choices drive political change in our own society. We want to see ourselves as the masters of our own destiny. Now we have "liberal" democrats pursuing policies that we could not have imagined ten years ago. These changes are driven by the structural changes in our society, in our economy, and will continue to be so in the future.

The moral fabric of our society is not created by our conscious intent, even if we are hell-bent on believing that we are the conscious masters of our political universe. If we allow the ecological and economic foundation of our society to unravel, then the impacts of that unraveling will be overwhelming, and will be far more powerful than our ability to overcome poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other form of oppression by means of moral exhortation.

We see the unthinkable before us; large-scale domestic spying and state sanctioned extra-judicial killing around the world, initiated by conservatives but emboldened and carried forward by liberals. Large scale economic growth is over -- forever. For now President Obama is trying to clean up the mess he inherited. Soon, it will be his mess. Already, there is a vocal movement on the far right to vilify him. When the economy takes its next dip, or fails to recover as his presidency matures, he will be blamed. It is hard to say exactly which social movements will succeed, or what symbolism they will employ or precisely what policies they will enact. The general trends are, however, predictable.

The form of civil liberty that we have enjoyed until now was a product of economic growth. The demand to maintain very high levels of consumption under conditions of constricting energy supply will demand a further concentration of state power and a very aggressive foreign policy. Just as Caesar Agustus took Rome from being a limited democracy back to a dictatorship, our presidents will in the coming years enforce whatever measure of state power necessary to maintain access to resources. Civil liberty has always been to some extent constrained by class status. Civil liberty will become increasingly limited by class status as this process matures.

Real Problems, Real Solutions

If you listen to the news every day, you will hear stories about bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health reform debate, the state of the economy and the timeline for recovery, perhaps a story about the latest organization to take a stance for or against gay marriage. The myopic nature of our political and academic debate is dangerous. Instead of building the machines we will need to support ourselves as energy supplies decline, we continue to use the steel, glass, electronics, and energy to build the old economy. Even the most radical news outlets rarely mention limitations of energy supply, or the other limits we inevitably face.14 And even then, a recognition of the connections between the limits of energy supply and current political changes is utterly absent.

The limitations we face are going to manifest in ever-hardening global class lines. The escalating price of energy means that those who can afford to pay the higher prices will grumble and pay, while those who cannot will starve. As this crisis matures, the political obfuscation will only intensify. It is as if we are standing on the deck of the Titanic. The warnings have been issued, but not heard. We are waiting until we feel the water at our ankles. Remediation only becomes more difficult with each passing day.

In the larger perspective, we do not face an energy crisis at all. Even as oil supplies decline, we will still have a greater supply of energy and other resources at our disposal than our grandparents had. The vast majority of people live very frugally, simply because they have to. Even in industrialized nations, some people live much more frugally than others. The real issue is power. As we discussed in Culture Change, consumption is power, throughput is power.15 The desire of the global upper class to hold on to power drives them to continue to consume, and that is creating a conflict over dwindling resources.

Dancing Rabbit Common House, fully solar powered. House in the left corner of the picture is strawbale. Dancing Rabbit uses about 90% less energy per capita compared to the American average. Dancing Rabbit is an ecovillage in Missouri.

Since the publication of Culture Change, I became curious about the difference in energy consumption as it relates to differing ways of living in the U.S. To explore that curiosity, I conducted a small, non-scientific survey of the energy use of my friends and acquaintances, all dedicated environmentalists. I also conducted a survey of various groups who choose to live cooperatively, both rural and urban.16 I was curious how the energy consumption of these various groups compared to each other and to the American norm.

The results were startling. Among the people living in private homes, each using their own strategy to conserve, domestic energy use was higher than the American average. How could that be? The answer to the riddle is that the American average includes many people living in urban settings in apartments. An apartment with other apartments around it uses less energy because the apartments have shared walls. Single family homes, even when occupied by conscientious individuals, use more energy because they stand alone.

Various environmental groups have made the radical assertion that we need to decrease energy use by 80% or more over the next 50 years in order to address global warming. The startling discovery about people living cooperatively is that many of these folks are already using 75% to 90% less energy than the average American today, not 50 years from now. This subject has been pursued in greater depth in a book by the author, Beyond Greenhype, Real Solutions for Global Warming.17

Twin Oaks residence, with solar electricity, solar water heating, passive solar design and super-insulated. Twin Oaks uses about 75% less energy per capita compared to the American average. Twin Oaks is the largest, secular income sharing intentional community in the U.S., and is located in central VA.

Clearly, we have already discovered the solution to our energy problem. Real solutions involve living differently, and using alternative energy cooperatively. Alternative energies such as wind and solar are, relative to fossil fuel, expensive to produce, intermittent, and modest. Alternative energy is very poorly suited to private use, and well suited to cooperative use. If the solution is that simple, why have we not adopted it already? Because throughput is power. The voracious consumption of resources among industrialized nations ensures they will remain on top. We have a crisis of power, and the concentration of power is the single most significant factor driving the creation of blind culture. Social stratification and blind culture are two sides of the same coin.

To assert that "we" should live cooperatively or conserve energy is not likely to yield much result when speaking to the privileged classes. All of the graphs plotting the rates of consumption of vital resources remain nearly vertical. While many are aware of the serious nature of our environmental problem, very few take it seriously. The vast majority of even highly informed citizens of industrial society continue much as before: traveling, living, and eating as they choose. Many people feel overwhelmed by the complexity and scale of the issues we face. Some focus on one particular aspect of the problem by obsessively recycling or vehemently espousing veganism.

But there is no identifiable movement towards the basic structural change of industrial society that is so desperately needed. This is not surprising given that, even in the environmental literature, readers are assured over and over that they can continue to live in their own private homes, drive private cars, and eat as they choose, as long as they make small adjustments over time toward conservation. In his latest book Bill McKibben even goes so far as to tell his readers that they "don't have to join a commune," without defining what terrible fate must await those who do cooperate, or why that fate is more terrible than global ecological collapse. 18 Over and over again, Americans are assured that token conservation measures will suffice. The bottom line is the consumption is power, and those who have the power to consume will hold on to that power tenaciously.

Some people within the U.S. and other industrial states are truly committed to a sustainable transition, but they are not numerous enough to constitute a real movement. One has to assume that token gestures that leave current power structures completely unchanged will remain the norm for the near future in industrialized states.

Globally, the situation is much more complex. There is growing resistance to the neoliberal agenda that seeks to further concentrate wealth and power. There are many movements and projects that are working toward real sustainability among people who are willing to live more simply, or heaven forbid, cooperatively, because they always have. Can those movements coalesce into a global movement toward real sustainability? Perhaps. Can that be achieved without severe class conflict? Probably not.

Our future is messy and uncertain. The collapse of industrial civilization, if it manifests as a disorderly disintegration, will cause great destruction of people and the natural world, and it will not resolve the fundamental cause of the problem -- the polarization of power and the blinding of cultural evolution. It's up to us to do that.


1. Zeigler, Alexis, Culture Change: Civil Liberty, Peak Oil, and the End of Empire, Ecodem Press, Charlottesville, 2007, p.15, 41.

2. Oil production numbers from http://www.postcarbon.org/peak-oil-day

3. Heinberg, Richard, http://www.postcarbon.org/peak-oil-day
"On July 11, 2008, the price of a barrel of oil hit a record $147.27 in daily trading. That same month, world crude oil production achieved a record 74.8 million barrels per day." "Maybe it’s a stretch to say that the production peak occurred at one identifiable moment, but attributing it to the day oil prices reached their high-water mark may be a useful way of fixing the event in our minds. So I suggest that we remember July 11, 2008 as Peak Oil Day."

4. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5576

5. Homeless Numbers Include More Families, KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer Kevin Freking, Associated Press Writer, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090709/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_homeless_americans

6. Associated Press, Thurs., Sept . 18, 2008

7. Jesse McKinley, March 25, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/us/26tents.html

8. A Tent City Near You? Tell Us About It, March 13, 2009 10:10 AM http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/13/a-tent-city-near-you-tell_n_174...

9. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2431, Brown, Lester, Plan B 2.0; Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble, Norton, NY NY, 2006, p.176

10. World Bank: Global Food and Fuel Crisis Will Increase Malnourished by 44 Million, Press Release No:2008/107/EXC
UN FAO: Briefing paper: Hunger on the rise, Soaring prices add 75 million people to global hunger rolls http://www.fao.org/newsroom/common/ecg/1000923/en/hungerfigs.pdf

11. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/radio/2009/07/02/savage/index.html, Glenn Greenwald Thursday July 2, 2009

12. http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=1e733cac-c273-48e5-9140-80443e...
Jack Goldsmith, May 18, 2009

13. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/radio/2009/07/02/savage/index1.html
Thursday July 2, 2009

14. We face innumerable limits to continued industrial growth on the Earth, and each of these limits it made more difficult by decreasing energy supply. Resource substitutions, such as using steel instead of wood as a building material, requires more enery. Limits such as soil erosion, water supply, declining mineral ore density are each made more difficult by declining energy supply. See Meadows, Donnella, Jorgen Rogers, Dennis Meadows, The Limits to Growth, The 30 Year Update, Chelsea Green, White River Junction, VT, 2004 or Heinberg, Richard, Peak Everything, Waking up to a Century of Declines, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island BC, 2007

15. "Throughput is the volume of resources that must be passed through (extracted, processed, and sold) in the industrial economy to maintain employment, profit, and growth. Throughput results in; 1) economic stimulus, 2) political power, and 3) military dominion." See Culture Change, p.62.

16. http://www.ic.org/

17. Alexis Zeigler, Beyond Greenhype, Real Solutions for Climate Change, Ecodem Press, Charlottesville Virginia, 2009, ISBN 0-9665048-3-6, http://conev.org/greenhype15.pdf

18. McKibben, Bill, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Times Books, Henry Holt and Co., NY 2007, p.105

While many points in the article ring true from the aspect of resource supply issues, others seem either ideological in nature --

There is growing resistance to the neoliberal agenda that seeks to further concentrate wealth and power.

or are just plain wrong;

All of the graphs plotting the rates of consumption of vital resources remain nearly vertical.

There has been a drop in just about every measure of consumption, from oil to electricity to a host of commodities.

Population growth has slowed down as well.

It looks like there's been an inflexion in the seventies. For many years, per capita energy use was actually declining (according to BP's numbers) if memory serves.
Perhaps some of our older readers could chime in but my understanding is that most people living in 1969 would not have guessed that much of humanity would be living in such miserable material conditions 40 years later.

PerCapitaEnergy.jpg (JPEG Image, 705x440 pixels), found at Sept 3 2007 Drumbeat. Looks like it recently surpassed all time peak; I also found a graph for Mexico where it clearly shows a decline, so YMMV. Permalink to Drumbeat thread.

I has only been declining for a few years starting in 79 it looks like. Mea culpa.
But per capita consumption seems to have remained essentially unchanged for nearly 25 years in spite of Asian growth.

HFat, People living in the 1960s saw the future as an ever-increasing paradise. Typifying the zeitgeist were John Lennon's "Imagine", the Beach Boys, etc. There were just a very few dampening voices (more accurately in 1970s) preaching limits to growth, silent spring, small is beautiful, etc.

You know, if the advice in John Lennon's "Imagine" were followed back in the 60's (no more countries, ect...) then we would not be in such a mess right now. If the good things industrial civilization produced were distributed equitably (as they generally would without any borders for them to concentrate inside, if they were produced at all) then we would not have cars, ect... because there would never have been enough resources to go around to make them for everyone, which is fine.

As is known "Chevron fell $1.06 to $69.85 at 10:48 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has dropped 5.6 percent this year. Exxon Mobil Corp., the biggest U.S. oil company, and ConocoPhillips, the third-largest, have declined 14 percent."

Really oil industry is unable to find more oil with currently used exploration technology as it does now.

Ref. 1."Help! They Can't Find Any More Oil!" ? (by Jay Yarow, the Green Sheet, Sep.23,2009) , 2. "The need for innovation in the oil industry", ( by Javier Luque, http://hellium.com),

3."Three discoveries instead of one", ( by Andrey Berg, http://binaryseismoem.weebly.com )

Some one posted this link over at realclimate.org I think it pretty much puts the dilemma in in a nutshell.


Summer 2001
Reactions to Unwelcome Knowledge
by William R. Catton Jr.


Thanks for the reference to Catton's article. BTW, for anybody new to TOD, Catton's classic 'Overshoot' (1982) is a must-read:


A meritable account of the situation of those with wisdom being without power, while those with the power being devoid of wisdom. Which I have called the inverted meritocracy, the scum always rising to the top.


Rarely have I read a piece as well written and well referenced as this one. Without hyperbole, Alexis draws our attention to the root of the problem and shows us where much of the solution lies -- conservation through communally shared resources instead of the 'ownership society' so recently touted. Even as far back as 1958, the brilliant John Kenneth Galbraith warned of the dangers of the "Affluent Society".

Thanks for reminding us of the fundamental cause of our current tribulations.

-- Jon

Just reading the comments above I will admit that statements like:

All of the graphs plotting the rates of consumption of vital resources remain nearly vertical.

constitute hyperbole unless the time axis covers 100 years or more. (It must be hard to write about this subject without succumbing to a little exaggeration now and then.)

-- Jon

Well done Jon in having a "second thought", something that so few are capable of!

So good that for the first time I'll use TOD's PDF option and print up some for distribution to some stubborn local denialists.

Hmm, I suggest that some of Gail's intro/overview things would be better for that purpose. Also need to show them those graphs of the up (producing prosperity), the level (producing crisis) and the (oops wrong planet).

Voluntary income sharing communities seem like a good idea to me in a Long Descent kind of scenario. Assuming that Corporate America decides that less workers working full hours will be the employment model of choice, this idea will work quite well to mitigate social harm caused by some having monetary income while others have none. If the others who have no monetary income work for themselves and the community instead, then I imagine that would help keep the freeloading - something that I hear was common in communes way back whenever - down to a minimum. It can be looked at from a completely rational perspective: those with "real" jobs earn money which is exchanged for things the community will need while those without "real" jobs grow food, maintain the infrastructure, ect...

I am reminded of a settlement on an island somewhere in Atlantic Canada - I can't remember where, where the first winter nearly everyone died because there was no way to heat the single family homes they had built for themselves. The next successful colony was in a more hospitable spot - but the most important difference was the elimination of heated single family spaces; it was essentially a one-building compound which could have been heated by wood successfully.

Although I tend to divert maximum power to my BS deflector shields whenever Kunstler speaks, he makes an important point about McMansions being occupied by multiple families in the future; this will improve efficiency much faster than building upgrades will, not to mention, many McMansions could be converted into small but sufficient multi-family homes based on the 100 ft^2 per person standard.

Great article!

Hearing about people in apartments and intentional communities, and
"Voluntary income sharing communities.." reminds me again of why I put the old Marshall Dodge bit about 'Socialism' into the drumbeat yesterday.

"Goddamm it, Enoch, you KNOW I got two pigs!

(This time quoted as Dodge did it back in the 'Bert & I' days..)

We know we're supposed to share. We sure wish the rich people would share with US.. but just like on the playground, those chickens come home to roost when someone wants to take a turn using MY bike!

SO MUCH of this comes back to the insistence upon possession. My neighbor, who's a bit more fringy than I am, gave me that terrifying line some months ago..

The main sin is Possession.

(This post is copyrighted, and is under the sole control of the Author, universally and in perpetuity. Any infringement of this property, and even looking at it funny will result in immediate, unrelenting and totally legal persecution..AND, I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to violate the properties of my intellect, or any of my other stuff.)

Please don't waste your time and ours with straw-man arguments, Bob. You could instead devote your comment-writing to explaining how the US system is superior to the Canadian, German and Swedish systems, in terms of overall outcomes.

That sounds like a post YOU are eager to write, Greg. Make your case.

Do you mean the healthcare system? You have to be kidding. Half of the personal bankruptcies in this country are caused by inability to pay medical expenses.. so you mean the outcomes for the lucky portion who have insurance? Are we measuring outcomes for those who never even get into the system?

How does that not apply clearly to our value and ownership system? (Not that it's exclusive to the US, and not also an issue in the other countries you mentioned.)

Of course, I didn't post the above with particular thought to healthcare.. but it's funny how many hackles go up when anyone talks about sharing! It's like I was trying to steal your toys.. or your doctor.

huh,.. did I read your challenge backwards?

Each time I posted this idea, some people read it as if I was opposing 'anything Socialistic', which I'm not. I'm really just saying that people get really threatened with any of this Sharing, Commun(ity), Social(ist) stuff. That's supposed to be the point of the TwoPigs joke. Not that sharing and the idea of it is hypocritical and therefore untenable, just that it's hard and we have to challenge a lot of inner habits and assumptions to stop clinging like that.

It can be looked at from a completely rational perspective: those with "real" jobs earn money which is exchanged for things the community will need while those without "real" jobs grow food, maintain the infrastructure, ect...

I'm hoping your use of "real" is intended to be facetious, right? Because growing food and maintaining infrastructure sure sound like real jobs to me as opposed "real" jobs where you earn "money".


I'm glad someone else is thinking realistically about the burbs being abandoned to rot down.

I can easily see your scenario coming to pass -and fifteen guys and girls all riding in the same van to thier job at a factory twenty miles away.And stopping for thier groceries at the local farm market on the same trip on the way home.

Acres of grass also converted to orchards and box gardens-and more pleasing to the eye than the grass to boot-gardens and orchards can be just as inviting as a nice park if the labor is available to make them so.A gazebo covered with grape vines is a fine place to enjoy a smoke and a conversation or a nap on a hot day.An apple tree in bloom is quite as beautiful as an ornamental pear and much better for climbing if you are a kid.If the apples are wormy they still make good wine and high protein apple sauce .

I myself once lived in an apartment in a huge old house subdivided into six apartments-the house that once held a single family had about fifteen to twenty five people living in it most of the time.

Incidentally this was also the trendiest part of town and the hottest local real estate market too.

Of course once the prices got high enough the students, artists, musicians,and old hippies had to leave. It's lawyers and accountants who live there now and the apartments are mostly converted back into oversized and overpriced houses.

"...the house that once held a single family had about fifteen to twenty five people living in it most of the time..."

Before that's practical in most places, something will have to be done to defund Big Local Government. Otherwise the sheriff will be showing up to evict the guilty parties for violating "no unrelated people in the same house" laws, and Social Services will be showing up to take away their children on the grounds that they've been "abused" by "substandard living conditions."

Unfortunately, communalist (not Communist) ideology tends to go hand-in-hand with Big Government ideology, though I'm not certain how obligatory that marriage really needs to be. So good luck with such ideas. It'll probably take many decades to overcome the sheer inertia of bloated obese bureaucracy, as with efforts to get zoning authorities not to bulldoze eco-houses, which means only currently-young TODers may live to see it on a scale large enough to matter.

On top of that there is strong individualist backing for bloated government - for many people, their sole "asset" is the house, since as we've discussed before they wouldn't be missed if they never showed up for work again. Those people often see draconian zoning laws as the way to defend their only asset to the hilt.

Hello PaulS,

Your Quote: "Before that's practical in most places, something will have to be done to defund Big Local Government."

Kunstler has written about how at some point: the Govt, at all levels, won't have the resources to answer the phone.

Tongue-in-cheek from me: I think we are getting close to that level now. It is very frustrating to get the phone 'autobot system' already [Please select from the following endless menu-tree endlessly...], plus most of my hundreds of emails only generate an email autobot reply from countless org-websites. :(

You're right about the autobots. But the plushbottomed bureaucratic parasites can sometimes move fast when they see an opportunity to extort someone. Consider the infamous new "babysitting" case.

Indeed in the uk it is now a "~"criminal" offense~" to care for someone elses' child for more than 28 days.


You've got a good point PaulS.

In Richmond in the Fan ,as this community is known ,the city didn't have much in the line of such ordinances in place and the apartments were "done deals" before the city cracked down-then there was the fact that tax collection were rising fast in that nieghborhood so they didn't lick too much -it was better than having a derelict nieghborhood in the very heart of the city.

But now you can't cut one of those old houses anywhere in the city without a major fight and gererally you lose.

The surrounding counties would issue permits for houses of ill repute faster than they would allow a house to be turned into a duplex.

But guerilla apartments are constructed daily anyway.I have read that some cities in California have so many garage apartments that the city governments just pretend they don't exist and ignore them.

But guerilla apartments are constructed daily anyway.I have read that some cities in California have so many garage apartments that the city governments just pretend they don't exist and ignore them.

OldFarmer, the county of Santa Cruz here in California just passed a regulation that allows them to impose a fine of up to $10,000 per year for any property owner that converts part of his property to a rental without their permission. This is to be applied for each year the conversion was rented up to three years in the past, and until the conversion is undone or permits are obtained. In this county the government is so oppressive that the “permit” to place a septic system for the house I want to build on my 11 acres costs more than the septic system. Permit fees for just the 1,500 sf. house will be, according to their calculations, over $30,000. This does not include the permit fees for the driveway, electric supply, or septic system.

When you have an organization that can grow to the size it thinks it needs to be, and has a goose that is laying golden eggs it will grow until it kills the goose.

Mike Swift


My data concerning un permitted construction in California is old - I should have mentioned that.

California is one hell of a mess now ,huh?

The govt has a strong incentive to keep people out in order to keep demand for services down.

Tptb in terms of ownership of real estate-meaning everybody that owns a rental or expects to sell out eventually-have a similar vested interest in blocking new construction.

The greens want to stop all development, up to and including even solar power plants in the desert.

Yet everybody,excepting the greens, wants the state to grow ever more prosperous-which obviously attracts the people.

The old saying that goes "With friends like these ,we don't need any ememies" comes to mind.

Just substitute local factions.

But if you keep your mouth shut and your tenant is a relative or in law my guess is that you would still get away with a guerilla apartment.

I didn't mean to imply that I have any current knowledge of such apartments in Califirnia.

In this part of the world, the way it is managed is that there is no paperwork and no advertising and a bond of trust between landlord and tenant-sorta like the bond between a person with a good job who smokes a little pot and his supplier.All parties have a very strong incentive to keep thier mouth shut and maintain a very low profile.

If a house with an illegal apartment must be inspected for purposes of selling it the extra kitchen must be ripped out-hence the kitchens are generally simple and rather spartan-but for some in need of a cheap safe place to live thats not a serious consideration.

The potential savings,or returns, depending on the pov, are enormous.

As I remember, a high tax on septic fields is to keep sprawl low, which will encourage brownfield development and fewer Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Such a policy is smart considering the onset of PO.

"no unrelated people in the same house" laws ..!?!??

If ever there were laws of property developers, by>/i> property developers, for property developers, these are they.

But of course owners are silently complicit, because the artificial scarcity drives up prices.

I agree that Greer's view [Long Descent] is easier on the eyes than Kuntsler's. I hope that my preference comes from more than a desire for the easier road to travel.

Meanwhile, IMO, the human evolutionary trait that has enabled the species to survive has been cooperation, and not greed. Today I fear that the greed gene is going to destroy the rest of us... and, I have grandchildren who deserve better than we are providing.

What to do, what to do?

Meanwhile, IMO, the human evolutionary trait that has enabled the species to survive has been cooperation, and not greed. Today I fear that the greed gene is going to destroy the rest of us... and, I have grandchildren who deserve better than we are providing.

But zero percent of the populace being greedy isn't a stable equilibrium point, and zero percent altruism obviously isn't. I suspect greed oscillates eradically between some maximum threshold below 100% were everything self destructs and some minimum level where there's too many easy pickings to be ignored by those attempting to leave progeny. Darwinsdog, you there?

The escalating price of energy means that those who can afford to pay the higher prices will grumble and pay, while those who cannot will starve.

A point of continuing surprise to me is that while the US has recently shown flat to declining oil consumption, in response to rising oil prices, many developing countries, e.g., China, India, Morocco & Kenya, have shown substantial increases in oil consumption.

US consumption versus Kenya:

US Total LIquids Consumption (EIA):

Kenya Total Liquids Consumption (EIA):

Two key points: It appears that developing countries have a competitive advantage over developed countries like the US and regardless of the status of energy subsidies in exporting countries, it would appear that developing exporting countries have an inherent competitive advantage over countries like the US.

There is certainly some resistance to neoliberalism in the less developed world that to some extent overlaps with movements toward sustainability. The election of leftist leaders in Latin America falls in the former category. As for the later category, see search the internet for "solidarity economy," or look at some of the rural agriculture projects (permaculture or biodynamic agriculture) in Latin America or India. Such statements are intended to be ideological.

There has been some slowing of resource use in the OECD nations because of the recession, but the overall trends of resource use are clear and remain steeply upward, with some re-allocation from those that cannot afford to pay to those who can. (Or, as per the prior comment, from energy importers to exporters exporting less and using it themselves.)

The rate of population growth is slowing, but population itself is still growing substantially. Lester Brown is one of the more prominent environmentalist to point out that we will probably never reach 9 billion people (as forecast by the UN) because of environmental limits.

. . . but the overall trends of resource use are clear and remain steeply upward, with some re-allocation from those that cannot afford to pay to those who can.

Two points: (1) EIA data show a small decline in worldwide net oil exports relative to 2005, and our model and recent case histories suggest that the net export decline rate will tend to accelerate with time; (2) Multiyear consumption patterns--versus oil prices rising at about 20% per year from 1998 to 2008--suggest that the developed countries are going to be at a competitive disadvantage over developing countries in regard to the bidding for declining net oil exports.

Here is why I think that the US was forced to stop our increase in oil consumption, and then show a decline (with our 2008 consumption falling back to the same rate as 1999), while many developing countries showed increasing consumption over the past 10 years:

The ELP Plan: Economize; Localize & Produce
April, 2007

Author Thom Hartmann, in his book, “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,” described a high tech company that he consulted for that went through several rounds of start up financing, and then collapsed, without ever delivering a real product. At the peak of their activity, that had several employees and lavish office space--until they ran out of capital. His point was that this company was analogous to a large portion of the US economy, which has the appearance of considerable activity and uses vast amounts of energy, but how much of this economic activity delivers essential goods and services?

I have read, and it seems reasonable, that the majority of Americans live off the discretionary income of other Americans. We are therefore facing a wrenching transformation of the US economy--from an economy focused on meeting “wants” to an economy focused on meeting needs--and the jobs of a vast number of Americans are thereby directly threatened in a post-Peak Oil environment.

(if I may use your internet name), I have read your export analysis for some time, and greatly appreciate the points you make, and the data you use to back it up.

Apart from the very recent data, the long-term trends are all growth based, and the leader of every nation on Earth other than Bhutan has an expressed intent to continue growing. Clearly, as resources become scarce, "we" will be compelled to use less. The data you point out are the leading edge of that trend. But the earlier point about increasing hunger indicates that an overall belt-tightening does not get allocated evenly among the global "we."

My bigger point is that, because of the foundation of non-conscious cultural change, we as a society do not think rationally or critically about our own social system. The people who are aware of the limits we face are not actually changing their behavior much, certainly not at a level or on a scale that will make a difference. We are not acting on the information that we have. I have no intent to try to deny that oil constrictions are, and will continue to, cramp consumption. Rather, my point is that the underlying drive to continue growing and consuming, and the belief that it is acceptable to do so, is going to cause the pain to be unevenly allocated to a rather extreme degree. We have better options, and it is no more complicated than acting on the information we already have with the technology we already have.

and the data you use to back it up.

And the data show, over a multiyear time frame, that in general developing countries have a competitive advantage over developed countries in regard to the competition for scarce energy supplies.

In any case, I recommend that we abolish the highly regressive Payroll (Social Security + Medicare) tax, and tax all forms of energy consumption at the retail level, with the proceeds being used to fund Social Security + Medicare, and with part of it going to rail based Electrification of Transportation programs. This would be the "Vote for me and things may not be as bad as they would otherwise have been" platform.

Incidentally, my take on the two political parties is that they both accept, at least in public, some version of the Yergin/Lynch model, i.e., the question is whether we hit an oil production plateau toward the middle of the 21st Century, or at some point in the 22nd Century. Democrats, being more concerned about Global Warming, think we can transition from near-infinite fossil fuel resources to near-infinite alternative energy sources and therefore propose that we drive off the cliff in a plug-in hybrid, while the Republicans, being less concerned about Global Warming, think that we can rely on near-infinite fossil fuel resources, and they think that an H2 Hummer provides a more comfortable ride as we drive off the cliff. With some minor exceptions, neither party questions the sustainability of the auto-centric suburban lifestyle.

Regarding taxes, your proposal sounds fine to me. The political viability of such a proposal is another issue.

Regarding "over a multiyear time frame, that in general developing countries have a competitive advantage over developed countries in regard to the competition for scarce energy supplies."

Your earlier graphs compares Kenya and the U.S. Kenya's oil use is still growing. But the U.S. is 1 order of magnitude X5 times higher in overall use (notwithstanding the difference in population). The developed economies have an enormous amount of fluff -- discretionary consumption -- that we can let go of without starving. When gas prices go up, American shop a bit less. Poorer people use less, but rely more directly on what they use. The fluff in the American economy is not, however, limitless. We have the world's largest military, and for some recognizable reasons. To say that developing countries have a "competitive advantage" would suggest that they are going to weather the coming contractions better than the developed countries. As long as the current power structure remains in place, quite the opposite is true.

As Kenneth Deffeyes said, there will be a war for declining oil supplies, and he hoped that the war would be fought with currency, instead of nuclear weapons. But as long as we have free trade for oil supplies, I think that the US is at a competitive disadvantage.

Perhaps you could define more clearly what you mean by "competitive disadvantage." I understand that there are differences in elasticity of demand in different countries, and I understand that exporters are going to use it instead of sell it, but for me the question in inextricably political. We print the dollars, we have the power. What in this context does "competitive disadvantage" mean?

I agree: Kenya's consumption is so much smaller that I do not understand in what sense it is competing with the much more powerful USA.
We had an embryonic discussion along these lines in yesterday's DB.

"the much more powerful USA"

I assume that this is not intentional irony.

As noted down below, Kenya is merely illustrative of the overall pattern of non-OECD consumption increasing, as OECD consumption stagnated and fell, in response to rapidly increasing oil prices.

The question is why, as oil prices increased at 20% per year, that non-OECD consumption increased significantly--as illustrated by the Kenyan example--while OECD countries were forced to curtail their consumption. I provided my explanation above. What is your explanation?

As I said in the DB, in my opinion the question is rather why do OECD countries and the USA in particular consume so much more than their share.

My answer to your question is essentially the same as that of the others who have commented on this issue: there's more waste by ordinary residents of the OECD and therefore more room to cut. Much of the consumption in poorer countries is a cost of doing business or ruling class profligacy. A number of non-OECD countries are industrializing and experiencing export-led growth. As a consequence they are increasing their share of the oil pie.

So, let's assume, for the sake of argument, that we are headed for a period of declining net oil exports, showing a long term accelerating rate of decline in net oil exports, and let's further assume that oil prices increase at 20%/year from 2008 to 2018, the same rate of increase as 1998 to 2008. The US is highly indebted, with about 70% of jobs (probably less now) being dependent on discretionary spending. Who is better equipped to bid for declining net oil exports (absence the actual or implied use of force)? If you answer the non-OECD countries, I fail to see what we are arguing about.

I do not answer non-OECD countries.
I simply think that those who consume more than the others are the ones who are playing the roughest game.
I also believe that we are still living in a unipolar world. No other country could get away with with the US Mid-East policy.

I'm not arguing. I'm simply answering your question out of respect for your work.

Hello AlexisZiegler,

Thxs for this keypost--well done! IMO, I believe the biggest MACROtrend to support WT in what is being discussed in this subthread is Duncan's Olduvai Re-equalizing [link below for any TOD newbies]:

Olduvai Theory: Toward Re-Equalizing the World Standard of Living - Richard Duncan
His Fig.5 graphic with a roughly sketched future scenario is readily accessible below:


Basically, Duncan's contention is that say one billion poor people just want a little bit of energy, maybe in this example, in the form of I-NPKS. Their globally-pooled financial ability to access this amount in the postPeak market, even though it may be a small amount, rapidly reduces the marginal utility ability of 'Murkans seeking energy for easy-motoring in pointless trips and shopping. Lather, rinse, repeat continually and pointless waste heads towards Unobtainium.

Thus, it is Duncan's contention that it is expected that this MPP-trend towards global re-equalization will cause a rapid decrease in BOE/C in the USA relative to other countries. Makes sense to me: his analogy is energy utilization will seek it own level, same as all freshwater gravity seeks it return to sealevel.

My USA WAG of [19 @ '19], linked below, is my own predictive attempt of where we are headed. I could be wrong, but we won't know until 2020 when the data is finally collected and released. But ten years go by in a flash:


I have also written other postings where I try to further buttress my prediction. The MACROtrends of WT's ELM & Duncan's Olduvai weigh heavily in my assessment.

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

Between 1988 and 2008, US oil consumption rose 18% or .82% per year.
US population increases .88% per year.
Between 1988 and 2008, Kenyan oil consumption rose 95% or 3.4% per year.
Kenyan population growth is 2.65% per year.


Kenya is becoming less efficient (oil consumption rises faster than population) than the US in terms of energy use.
How is this an advantage?

The reason is the adoption of US livestyle by the Kenyans.
Third world aspirations are destroying the planet.

In the future we will miss those Marxists/Socialists who kept growth
out of their countries.
Globalists have created a Frankenstein monster of consumption.

Of course population is a factor, but how does that alter the fact that non-OECD countries showed increasing consumption, in response to higher oil prices, while OECD consumption stagnated and fell in response to higher oil prices? And what happens from 2008 to 2018?

As I understand it your argument is that Kenyans can better afford oil than americans as their economy grew more over the last two decades.

Kenya's GDP between 2000 and 2007 has been flat with a sharp spike in 2008( which I think you would agree is an outlier).
US GDP was continuously growing.

Look at the charts below.



I looked at your graphics and it seems to be a good fit with oil usage.

The problem is your range is shorter than the oil usage one so your centered on the 2002 recession.
Looks like Kenya like most of the world got hammered and it shows in the oil usage graph.
Corrected for scale they are in excellent agreement.

One thine to remember about third world countries that acutally produce and export real goods is that they are receiving a constant influx of wealth at first they are cheap but soon they develop wealthy areas.

You can see this easily looking at Japan post WWII and Hong Kong and eventually all of China.

It takes years and sometimes decades but eventually the steady accumulation of wealth creates islands of western level living conditions. Back in the 17-18th century colonialism did effectively the same thing with immense wealth eventually building in the colonies it all did not flow back to the motherland.

Generally these countries are very corrupt so the wealth is highly concentrated but even with this you still get a small middle class developing to support the ultra rich and their industrial activities.

As to why the are more resistant to increases in prices well most of the oil usage is related to some sort of industry with very little used for private transport. And of course at the top these industries are backstopped by super wealthy people so they can afford to subsidize whatever oil costs they can't pass on to their customers. Of course a lot of it was passed on via higher prices. Well the OECD is the end consumer of most products so effectively we where also paying or the oil in Kenya and else where so we paid for everyones oil and of course we waste a lot so we cut back.

Looking forward of course life gets interesting if oil prices rise since the OECD this time around will start cutting imports and or be unwilling to take on higher prices or both. Thus third world countries will have to figure out how to grow while costs are increasing and prices flat to falling. Of course the answer will be loan after loan after loan until they too default.

But in the in the interm of course one can expect their oil usage to pretty much remain on trend at least for a while before finally flattening only after no more credit is available then of course the natural default.

But overall I'd argue they can and will compete for oil primarly because we will loan them all the money they want to remain competitive. Of course as they borrow from us they can keep prices low so US consumption remains higher :)

Third world aspirations are destroying the planet.

I think I am finally rid of that convenient excuse. True, Kenyans are changing the local climate to some extent cutting down too much forest.

Nevertheless, I am pretty clear that it is my very own whining and cushy habits that are destroying the planet.

Westexas, I am trying to get it, but I don't. Why is it important that Kenya is increasing oil use? Is it the aggregate? Is it the thinking that the top 1% of the Third World will outbid the top 10% of Americans (or OECD) thus permanently crashing the growth economy?

Oil prices rose at about 20% from 1998 to 2008, in response we saw:

(1) Total non-OECD consumption, as illustrated by the Kenyan example, has shown a significant increase in consumption.

(2) Total OECD consumption, as illustrated by the US example, stagnated and fell (the US in 2008 was back to its 1999 rate of consumption).

Our forecast is for a long term accelerating rate of decline in net oil exports. For the sake of argument, let's assume that oil prices increase at 20%/year from 2008 to 2018. Given the foregoing observation regarding non-OECD countries versus OECD countries, what is the outlook for the US' ability to compete for declining net oil exports worldwide?

I'll be attending aangel's talk next week in Boulder - "Personal and family resilience in the post-oil world".

Westexas, the reason for Kenya's increase in oil consumption might be related to this extract from the CIA World Factbook: Kenya:

GDP - real growth rate: 1.7% (2008 est.)
7% (2007 est.)
6.4% (2006 est.)
Industrial production growth rate: 4.8% (2008 est.)

Globalization is moving manufacturing and its related energy consumption from OECD countries to third-world countries where the labor is cheap and environmental regulations are lax.

Very interesting issue, the purchasing power of developing countries is ... exactly what?

First of all, consumption cuts in developed countries is easy to understand. The bubble years drove credit into massive investment superstructures. Most post- modern 'investment' is for directly added consumption ... or consumption is an outcome. The recent failure of many investment vehicles reduced the capacity to consume overall. (The would make the decline in consumption, in my opinion, more a matter of circumstance rather than choice on the part of consumers.)

At the same time, investment structures are different in developing countries, often recycled subsidies of developed countries' governments and NGO's, or are exchanges for other kinds of raw materials ... including oil. Mexico would fall into this latter category along with Nigeria; domestic consumption of oil is a result of recycling (increased) oil revenues via subsidies. Higher oil prices means greater percentage of revenues 'invested' for more consumption. Foreign exchange means new roads, more imported (used) vehicle and more diesel generator purchases; also more irrigation wells and pumps, etc.

In order to gain an even higher level of consumption, the economic superstructure has to be expanded; banks, lending, legal system (to protect banks), various markets for derivatives and an overall increase in the amount of both money and money- like proxies to hedge the money - all these are required. At that point, investment can be tapped from the worldwide 'capital float' via stock and bond markets and derivatives offerings.

This float is fickle and the flood of cash into a country can instantly turn and maroon the nascent capitalists short of needed liquidity.

What your chart shows to some extent is capital float into developing nations; another deleveraging leg will have that float race out into dollars and Treasuries. Oil consumption in developing countries will slow down again. Enough capital outflow and the food riots will begin and people will start eating mud.

Of course I agree with you, the US is not the power unto itself any more. It was ... in 1949, maybe?

What in this context does "competitive disadvantage" mean?

It means that a highly indebted economy, which is hugely dependent on discretionary spending, is at a huge competitive disadvantage to up and coming economies, which are not similarly burdened with SUV's and McMansions. From up the thread:

His point was that this company was analogous to a large portion of the US economy, which has the appearance of considerable activity and uses vast amounts of energy, but how much of this economic activity delivers essential goods and services?

In other words, a huge portion of the US economy is basically an illusion, which is why I thought that HFat's comment was so funny.

I think I get it now. You are assuming that future trade is based on actual value. (That could turn out to be true, as in Cuba where farmers compete with doctors in terms of money made.) I am assuming the opposite, at least for the near term, which is that the people who control the dollars (us) will control global trade to our advantage, regardless of the fact that our economy is largely ephemeral. At some point that will end, food will be worth something and printed (much less electronic) money will be worthless. The million dollar question is how long that transition may take, and how abruptly it will come.

I think that declining net oil exports acted as a trigger for the auto/housing/financial firestorm, and I think that they are now acting as an accelerant, pushing us faster toward the ultimate resolution.

In the sense that the "winners" are those who lose the least, I think that the food & energy producers will be the "winners."

This is true about any business or system that has legacy obligations.
A young start up that can use the current state of the art information and techniques will always blow away the old sunk cost mature enterprise.
Kind of works that way in nature too.
Hmmmm I think I see a connection here somewhere.


Be careful about statements like:

There has been some slowing of resource use in the OECD nations because of the recession, but the overall trends of resource use are clear and remain steeply upward ...

This one is easily disprovable -- at least with respect to the energy resources that are the main topic of discussion here at TOD.

From the Energy Export Databrowser:

I would describe the overall trend in energy consumption within the OECD as "clearly leveling off even before the current recession".

If you want to see "steeply upward" you need to look at developing nations as exemplified in the databrowser by the O5 -- Brazil, China, India, Mexico & South Africa:

I still agree with your overall assessment but I want to make sure that your statements are backed up by the data.

Best regards,

-- Jon

I agree. The article is unfortunately laden with BS. I would prefer if it was factually based but the author is apparently interested in polemics...


Your comment seems unnecessarily harsh. The notes provide links to plenty of facts for those who are interested.

I offered my warning about his in-thread comment as constructive criticism to help him avoid being summarily dismissed by those looking for any excuse to do so. I agree quite strongly with the general premise of the article and am only attempting to help him hone his argument.

-- Jon

Thanks for your tact, Jon.

It would seem to me that the Kenyans can afford more as we can afford less because they are getting a bigger bang for thier buck.A gallon of diesel burnt on a farm is worth something-a gallon of gas burnt in a lawnmower is wasted and gone.

The article is basically on the money. I am a little disappointed in that the author seems to be interested in getting in a few minor licks for the democrats, but as articles go that touch on politics , this one is better balanced than most.

Let it be known that republicans have been hard at work for a long time giving conservatives a bad name.

A true conservative in office would have gotten to work on the energy import and depletion situation pronto,and if successful would have avoided all these overseas adventures..The movement has obviously been copted ,perhaps putting it a little more accurately, taken prisoner and put out as slave labor, by big biz over the last few decades.

The environmental movement may have made an early strategic mistake by vilifying the right wing-once you have been tarred and feathered -even if it is justified- you tend to "harden your heart" and stick tighter than ever to the old positions.

mac/WT -- I know I'm jumping into the discussion late but I was also a little confused by the "advantage" statement too. I'm sure WT has good numbers but as my memory serves me the US consumer has never in my life time not been able to buy oil it was willing to pay for. We might have bought less for one reason or another but not for lack of availability.

It's easy to understand how developing country will increase their consumption at a faster rate then a developed economy especially during a period of rising prices. The best recent example for me is the explosion of auto purchases in China. Last year's spike might have slowed sales there (havenb't seen numbers ina while) but the Chinese are probably going to buy more cars then the US for a simple reason: we got ours and they want theirs. As far as Kenya goes maybe it's that simple too: we got our fluff and now they want some too. Although I doubt the US vision of fluff differes greatly from a Kenyan.

Or did I miss something?

As oil prices went up from $14 to $100 from 1998 to 2008 (+20%/year), US consumption initially rose and then fell back to its 1999 level, while non-OECD consumption rose significantly. In other words, the oil that we would have used, if we had continued to show an increasing rate of consumption, went to developing countries, e.g, China, India, Morocco and Kenya. In other words, rising prices forced us to conserve, but not many developing countries.

So, what happens if for example, we show a +20%/year rate of change in oil prices from 2008 to 2018 (when we project that net oil exports from the 2005 top five net oil exporters will be down to about half their 2005 rate)?

I get you WT but maybe we're looking at different sides of the same coin. I could say the oil the US didn't consume is still sitting in the ground. The increased consumtion by the developing countries didn't come from our share...it's still sitting in the ground. So when the day comes that we want to buy it will be there...for a while. Until last November my auto consumption had been zero for the previous 8 years. That doesn't mean all the folks who had bought cars during that period had an advantage over me. Of course, last year my auto consumption went thru the roof comaped to the average US consumer.

I don't think we disagree on the facts as much as we differ on the semantics. But then again you wildcaters have always been a little loose with your words.

I resemble that remark.

Actually, I am a the hero for a day right now (or at least until the next exploratory well), with a 100 BOPD discovery at a depth of 3,500'. Our initial test well was a dry hole, and it was only the second well to be drilled in an area of 5,000 acres, but it appears that the followup wells found multiple pay zones. With a little luck, we may have found enough oil to meet world demand for a couple of hours.

In regard to the topic at hand (the oil being there when we want it), based on Net Export Math, I don't think so. We are putting the finishing touches on our updated net exports presentation. IMO, it's pretty compelling.

WT -- Ha ha! I beat you!!! (at least for today). I just had my latest well FARO 346 bopd. And I don't even have a map of this prospect...never did. Don't ask. As strange as it seems it's the truth. My owner bought into the deal before I got here. I don't have a clue as to whether the reservoir covers 2 acres or 200 acres. Just goes to prove that blind pigs do occasionally find a nut. But at least I'm a successsful wildcatter for the day.

I am reminded of the two German pilots in the movie "The Longest Day," who set out to attack the Allied invasion force on D-Day. Our efforts to keep world oil production from falling are comparable to these two pilots' ability to repel the Allied invasion force.

WT -- I vividly recall that scene. And, yes, there are times when all we can do is offer a similar cynical laugh at the cornucopian's expectation of we oil field trash saving their collective bacon. But the pay is still good and getting better. It's not often the collective stupidity of the American public enriches oneself. We can just keep laughing all the way to the bank.

-I was in Normandy a few months ago and bought the video when I got back. The American war cemetary alone was worth the trip...

Regarding laughing all the way to the bank I'm putting my bets on Molybdenum, check this graph out:

-whenever there is a massive energy build-out Moly prices spike, consider Matt Simmons 'Oil Infrastructure is rusting away' too. In 5 years Moly will be back in the $30-$40 range (now $15ish)...

+Article: http://www.stockinterview.com/News/03042007/molybdenum-energy-US-pipelin...


P.S. Dear Mr. Pellegrini -if you or one of your minions- reads this blog the please get in touch, I have some more ideas how to make us both rich in the upcoming chaos...

I think there is too much emphasis in private cars and driving for diversion. I don't think this is happening much in the 3d world. Instead, keep in mind what modernity means; it is a shift to industry and manchines. Here's another angle, this time from Brad DeLong and Larry Summers paper from 1993 but timely:

How Strongly Do Developing Economies Benefit from Equipment Investment?

J. Bradford DeLong

U.S. Department of the Treasury, and University of California at Berkeley

Lawrence H. Summers

U.S. Department of the Treasury

Received March 1993, final version received September 1993


We extend and improve the database used in DeLong and Summers [1991] and, focusing on developing economies, find that there is a very strong growth-equipment investment association even when rich, industrialized economies are not considered. Rapid growth is found where equipment investment is high, and slow growth where equipment investment is low. If there is a region where the post-WWII growth-equipment nexus is weak, it is the well-integrated and very rich region of western Europe--not the developing world.


We have documented that a strong connection between equipment investment and productivity growth holds for developing countries. We have also reported instrumental variables regressions that produce the same association between growth and machinery. Our instruments--savings rates, trade barriers, and the relative price of equipment--are variables that are in large part determined by economic policy, and only very indirectly affected by output per worker growth. Thus our evidence suggests that a large portion of the growth-machinery investment relationship arises from a causal nexus between equipment and growth.

Investment decreases energy productivity - shifts output from manual labor to machine labor. Since this paper was published, the world's output of energy- consuming machinery has increased due to Chinese manufacture and export at low cost. China doesn't just export cheap coal, labor and the lack of environmental protection to the US, it also does so to 3d world countries.

the oil that we would have used, if we had continued to show an increasing rate of consumption, went to developing countries, e.g, China, India, Morocco and Kenya. In other words, rising prices forced us to conserve, but not many developing countries.

The developing world wants to grow and alieviate povery. It's no secret any more how to attain developed- world economic status, simply add machinery and petroleum. The 1st world has overdeveloped. The time for the '4 Saudi Arabias' spoken of here and elsewhere was ten years ago. With five Saudias pumping and $10 oil right now, the world economy would be jumping and maybe the OECD would have the flying cars.

Of course, in a few years we would need ten more Saudias; then twenty.

Now the paradigm has shifted. Constrained petro- availability has manifested itself as deleveraging in the OECD. The percentage increase in investment necessary to increase consumsion has disappeared. Think of credit as simply another way to ration or allocate energy. Credit has vanished into the black hole in the center of the Bad Loan Universe. The consumption this credit could have bought is gone with it.

People ... still want to book passage on the Lusitania after it has left the dock. Too bad for them, eh?

Rockman ,you haven't missed much if anything-If I restate my comment and those of Westexas-I don't think he will mind.

Basically we're saying that as our disposable incomes-meaning money spent on non essential activities decline we buy less oil in the form of gasoline and other products.We drive less, we spend less at restaurants, etc as we shift income from luxuries to essentials.

If we were to actually need more oil to run our farms we would buy more but we don't need to -farm production is adequate as it is.

My point is that the Kenyans can make very good productive use of more oil-hauling stuff around on a truck is much cheaper than using a draft animal even if diesel is very expensive.The grain and pasturage the animal consumes is worth more in cash than the work you get out of the horse or ox or whatever.

An economy in the early stages of industrialization can easily absorb high fuel prices ,whereas a mature economy must shrink when fuel goes up -at least until it can adjust by using less.There seems to be a consensus that if prices keep rising, mature economies must keep shrinking.

I suppose the same holds for growing economies but at considerably higher price levels since such economies use relatively little oil for frivilous purposes such as vacation driving and flying road warriors from one sales appointment to another or lighting up skyscrapers when everybody has gione for the night.

I think we are on the same page.

In the US almost everyone drives. In most low per capita countries only the top 5%-20% drive cars. In China there are only about 30 cars per thousand people; in India there are only about 10 cars per thousand people. Also, an average Chinese or Indian or Kenyan car owner does not drive as much as an average American car owner. What all this means is that for most Indian or Chinese or Kenyan car owners, the price of petrol is not much of an issue.

The price of petrol is around $4/gallon in India. An average Indian car owner may drive 3000 miles in a year. Let us assume an average fuel efficiency of 30 miles per gallon. So an average Indian car owner would spend $400 per year on petrol. If the average annual income (for Indian car owners) is $15,000, it is not a big deal for them to spend $400 per year on gasoline. Also, remember that in countries like India and China life for most people is structured in such a way that not much cash is required. It is very common for 3 generations to live under one roof. Property taxes are negligible. You don't have rent or mortgage to pay if you are living with your parents. This frees up money to buy other things like expensive cell phones, cars, petrol, etc.

The bottom line is that the average Indian (per capita income of $1000) cannot outbid an average American (per capita income of $30,000). But the top 50 million Indians (top 5% of the population)can outbid the bottom 150 million (bottom 50% of the population) Americans. The numbers are probably similar for China, Kenya, Brazil, etc.

Yes-there seems to be a premise that the choice is between driving 20000 miles a year or public transit, which isn't the case. Cars aren't going anywhere-even if you drive 5000 miles a year, most will own a car if they can afford the capital cost and insurance-fuel costs are neglible. Walkable communities are about asthetics and quality of urban life, and have nothing to do with oil depletion at all. Anyone waiting for oil depletion to stop the growth of the auto in urban areas is going to be waiting an extremely long time.

Anyone waiting for oil depletion to stop the growth of the auto in urban areas is going to be waiting an extremely long time.

My guess is that the overall population in outlying suburban areas--and certainly in discrete hard hit areas-- has already started declining in the US.

In any case, as in the movie "The Sixth Sense," for most us our auto-centric suburban way of life is dead, but most of us don't know it yet, and we only see what we want to see.

I would agree-my point is that no public transit system can help out someone who needs to drive 20000 miles a year-if someone can get by on 5000 miles a year, then public transit might help. However, if they can get by on 5000 miles a year, they will drive if they can afford the non-fuel costs of driving. The same thing applies to the bicycle-a bicycle isn't going to help out someone who needs to drive 20000 miles a year-if a bicycle can be used for your daily commute, fuel costs are almost non existent anyway.

As someone said, what can't continue tends not to continue.

So it looks like we are heading towards emptying suburban areas and urban areas more jammed with cars every year (just like the emerging world).

Carpooling and vanpooling are gaining greater popularity. 4 people carpooling in a Prius would use 12 to 15 times less gas than a single person in an SUV.

And then there is telecommuting for many, at least some % of their workweek.

When things start getting really tight we will see businesses adjust thier schedules to enable easier carpooling,a three or four day work week ,ten or twelve or fifteen people living in three thousand plus square foot mc mansions that would otherwise remain vacant,lots of unofficial buses,people moving on the basis of how close thier new digs are to thier job rather than the amenities,clotheslines, woodstove inserts in fireplaces,a boom in the insulation business,older cars junked by the tens of millions the first time they need a serious repair unless they are subcompacts.

Folks with the lowest paid jobs will quit driving altogether-the kid or single mom who commutes to a burger flippers job will be a thing of the past-once somebody who lives within biking or walking distance lands such a job they will take very good care of it as finding another will be tough indeed.

Doubling up is not that hard.I have converted a large room into a spartan but spacious and very functional kitchen and a bath in only two weeks with two helpers and spent less than twenty five hundred dollars doing it within the recent past, not including my helpers wages.

Everything was done to ordinary building code standards too.The only thing was , it was an under ground economy job because the locality will not allow two kitchens in one residence-tptb can't see having people consuming two families worth of services without paying two families worth of real estate taxes.

So this guys Mom now lives with his family but a few years from now when she has gone to her final resting place his kids will probably be living with him in his (nonexistent) duplex if they have no money for a place of thier own.

Her former apartment cost five hundred bucks a month plus water ,electricity and gas. Grandma now uses her sons existing phone and cable tv thereby saving another seventy bucks.

The net savings to this family in cash will exceed that amount by at least a two hundred dollars a month.The only extra expense will be a minor addition to the water and electric bills, which will be more than offset by not having to drive over to her apartment frequently. If there are new additions to the family, Gramdma will be a very handy and economical baby sitter.

If the son loses his job,Grandma's ss check is enough to pay his mortgage.

You know, if this kind of scenario came to pass, I wonder how the government/msm will respond? Will the last gasp of American Imperialism (and American Exceptionalism) be another invasion of somebody?

What I fear is not so much government contracting, but government expanding in the future. What might happen in a scenario where:
(1) The lights are on and sufficient food is available, but gas is mostly unobtanium for the average person
(2) The US dollar is fairly worthless
(3) The US doesn't lose interest in "Homeland Security" (this one is a given)

We might see a situation where there is few jobs left in the conventional economy, so the government decides to put people to work in exchange for US dollars, which are the only way to get food and other essentials, because the only entities that can survive the deluge of red tape and anti-small business taxes are the corporations, which probably aren't interested in barter. The US dollars would effectively function as little other than a means of keeping track of who is being a good serf and as an incentive to be a good serf, because that might be the only way to get food.

The new middle class would likely be primarily composed of police/corporate security forces and the military, as well as whatever specialists are necessary to keep the whole apparatus grinding along.

This is only a possible future, and is more or less lifted from Oryx and Crake, probably one of the best peak oil/climate change books that avoids the use of both terms. Interestingly, in Oryx and Crake, the internet was relatively uncensored, whereas I believe that we will see a new pricing model for the internet emerge in the future where you pay to receive packages of corporate websites, the same way that cable TV is sold now. (That means no more Oil Drum, although social networking won't be going anywhere for reasons any good tin-foil-hat will understand).

On the subject of media, I wonder what the official story will be like about what is happening with regard to energy from the MSM? The idea that we are running out of oil is seeping through the dam (I also believe that "global warming" is also kind of a code word for peak oil, although I am not an AGW denier).

All speculation from a non-expert, anyway.

Yawn....Has anybody looked at the copyright date of Matt Simmons book about twilight in some damn desert...2004....And it is nearly 2010....and the oil continues to flow....Of course, the Malthusians on The Oil Drum will continue to preen...and claim the sky is falling....

You're right aviator...the oil continues to flow. And will for the next 100+ years. It will be just be a small fraction of the current rate but Ghawar will still be producing oil many decades down the road. Of course, it will be producing just 100's of thousands of bbls instead of millions but it will still be producing. I suppose that's why Matt used "Twilight' and not "Midnight" in his title: we're not there yet but it's easy to see the sun's slow but inevitable progress towards the horizon.

Saturn just fell.. it's in the sky, by Jupiter.

And the oil continues to flow from Texas and the North Sea, which respectively peaked in 1972 and 1999, but Texas production is down by about three-fourths from its peak and North Sea production is down by about one-third from its peak. These two regions were developed by private companies, using the best available technology, with virtually no restrictions on drilling.

Matt's book was published in 2005, and Saudi production has been below their 2005 rate for three years.

Excepting commuter trains obviously (which are really one step above public transit in that they are not as inclusive).

I have to respectfully disagree Brian. Transit can very much help those who drive 20,000 miles a year. I'll use my brother as an example. His daily commute is about seventy five miles. In a fifty week work year, he will drive his Prius 18,750 miles -- not far off from your 20,000 mile example. In 2012, the second phase of our commuter rail line, now under construction, will be completed and he will be able to take the train instead. Sure this is only a single sample, but only one is required to refute your "no public transit system can help someone" statement. :)

I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum. My daily commute is about forty feet, but I will still benefit from the commuter rail, as I commute ninety miles round trip each weekend for my social life. I currently take bus and light rail, but the commuter link will cut the one way time from two hours down to just one.

BTW, potentially our commuter rail line could replace up to 50,000 yearly commute miles for a person that commutes its full length. Two million people live within ten miles of the line.

Hello Suyog,

Your last paragraph is well-stated:
"The bottom line is that the average Indian (per capita income of $1000) cannot outbid an average American (per capita income of $30,000). But the top 50 million Indians (top 5% of the population)can outbid the bottom 150 million (bottom 50% of the population) Americans. The numbers are probably similar for China, Kenya, Brazil, etc.
Again, I refer people to Duncan's Fig 5 chart for consideration of what Suyog said above:


I propose that If the USA was to go whole hog into Alan's standard gauge RR & TOD electrified 'spine & limbs' buildout plus localized 'ribcages' of narrow gauge SpiderWebriding--the energy efficiency increase in transport of people and vital goods would help strategically position us to better bid for the marginal BTU.

Unfortunately, unless US political trends rapidly change, I fear China, and other enlightened countries, will postPeak beat us in the shrinking energy-pie game, and the race to maximize their MPP-punch of transport efficiency. Once China completes their 108,000 mile standard gauge buildout [2012?], I then predict a rapid buildout of Spiderwebs.

For example: is the US even talking about, much less moving towards full-restoration of our earlier canals and railtracks? IMO, we need to give serious thought of how we want to postPeak move fresh and fragile eggs, and other vitals, to market when our asphalt & concrete is kaput, and fuel and tires are largely Unobtainium. YMMV.

You're kidding, right? The graph for Kenya is at .2% of the scale of the US one, of course they show greater movements. The sum of those gains for the past decade would barely register as statistical noise on the US graph. Charting developing nations in aggregate would state your case more convincingly.

Sam has prepared a chart showing the significant increase in non-OECD consumption, as OECD consumption stagnated and fell, and I assume that he is going to do a post on the topic. I just thought that example of one of the poorest non-OECD countries, showing a significant increase in consumption as oil prices increased at 20% per year, was a good illustration. Basically, in terms of who was able to increase their consumption versus who was forced to conserve, the Kenyans kicked our high consumption butts.

Well they had a drought in 2006 (this was interesting: http://www.kinnon.tv/2006/03/famine_in_kenya.html), and another this year, where 11 million out of the country's 35 million total population are at risk of starvation.

It boggles my mind to think of who it is that could possibly be driving, and I wonder, if there was a just deity, what the appropriate fate would be for the leadership of that country. I am not sure I would know how to govern there, but clearly, the oil is not used for the "cost of doing business" relevant to the 75% pastoralists mentioned in the link above.

On a post-related note, when 30% of your neighbors are starving, and you still neeeeeed to use that car, you exemplify why the average American increases their energy consumption when they mean to decrease it.

I would wager that most people paying for transport fuel in Kenya and other impoverished countries are not driving, but riding on a bench or in the back of a pick-up. One person per vehicle is only the norm in countries run by stupid white men.

It is not surprising that oil consumption continues to rise in developing countries in spite of rising oil prices when you consider how local oil consumption fits into the equation of the local economies in these countries. Only a small fraction of the elite in these countries ride around in large private vehicles with low passenger per vehicle ratios. Public and private transportation for the masses means that you almost always sitting in a vehicle where the passenger per vehicle ratio is at the maximum. You can be adding buses and jeepnies and taxis and cars on the road and your oil consumption goes up along with oil prices and this is sustainable because each passenger is still able to pay his nickel and dime for the ride. Contrast that with the USA for example and how this is relevant to the topic of this thread. Poor people in developing countries out of necessity are already socialized toward sharing transportation and living spaces.

Hello Ibon,

Good points. Consider the metric: passenger-ton-miles per gallon of fuel. One US driver [and no passengers] per SUV will give a very low result. Especially in stop'n'go city driving: 15 mpg for the single driver or less. If the driver weighs 200 lbs, or 1/10 of a ton, then
the SUV is moving the human mass at 1.5 ton-miles per gal of fuel, which is an absolutely terrible waste of energy [but is the 'Murkan norm]. Stated another way, one gallon of fuel only moved 200 lbs just a mere 15 miles down the road.

Now let's compare to this India train photo:


The claim on the CSX commercial is accurate and can be supported by operational data reported by CSX on their most recent SEC Form 8K filed 1/22/08.

From the 4th Quarter 2007 report, CSX moved 253 billion revenue ton-miles of goods in the 12 months ending 12/31/07. In that same period CSX operations consumed 569 million gallons of diesel #2 fuel. Taking the net ton-miles and dividing by the fuel consumed (253 billion / 569 million) you get 444 ton-miles per gallon of fuel. Stated another way, one gallon of fuel moved one ton 444 miles. That is pretty close to the 423 mile claim in the ad.

Data reported by other railroads is similar.
If we convert 444 ton-miles into Indian passengers @ 150 lbs apiece, then 444 X 2,000 = 888,000 lbs, now DIV by 150 lbs = 5,920 Indian train riders can be moved by one gallon of train fuel.

Thus, it is easy to see how approx. 6,000 poor Indians can easily outbid a single 'Murkan for that marginal gallon of FFs. If 'Murkans don't want to build trains, then pack and wildly overcrowd them as readily as these Indians--then we will be easily outbid, then forced to walk.

If this Indian train is really overloaded to a much higher weight average than your typical USA freight train, who knows-- possibly 12,000 Indian train riders can be moved by a single gallon of fuel. Which is what I suspect from looking at the photo above--LOL!

Now let's do the math. I want to buy one gallon for my own pickup at $3.00/gal to go 15 miles. But, 12,000 Indians pooling their cash for just one gallon only need to individually contribute $3/12,000 or .0003 of a buck to go each mile. A train ticket to go 444 miles [or more if the ton-miles is higher due to overloading] across India would only cost [2,000 lbs/ 150 lbs] or 1/13th of $3 or 25 cents if the 150 lb passenger only had to pay for the fuel to move his mass that distance.

For me to go 444 miles in my pickup would be 444/15mpg = 29.6 gal x $3/gal = $88.80, thus I would be easily outbid for those marginal gallons. The difference: I sit in solitary A/C comfort with tunes versus holding on for dear life on the exterior of a moving train.

EDITS: for further clarification.

That shouldn't be too surprising. We waste a ton of oil here. When it went up in price, we could no longer afford it. When we lost our jobs, we could no longer afford it. But above all: we didn't really need all of it, and so when things get tight, you cut frivolous stuff first.

It easier for US citizens to cut out frivolous fuel use (often without really affecting quality of life) because we use it so frivolously. We might have two cars; take the small one. Consolidate shopping trips. Car pool; developing country residents are already often car pooling if they're luck enough to get to be in a car.

Simply put, a larger percent of the oil uised in developing nations is already going to more critical uses.

Here's the reddit and SU links for this post (we appreciate your helping us spread our work around, both in this post and any of our other work--if you want to submit something yourself to another site, etc., that isn't already here--feel free, just leave it as a reply to this comment, please so folks can find it.):



Find us on twitter:

Find us on facebook and linkedin as well:

Thanks again. Feel free to submit things yourself using the share this button on our articles as well to places like stumbleupon, metafilter, or other link farms yourself--we appreciate it!

Alternative energy is very poorly suited to private use, and well suited to cooperative use.

I am not so sure. This may be a "grass looks greener on the other side of the fence issue".

What Alexis is saying is that alternatives work better, when backed up with fossil fuels and as part of a complex system that includes roads and heavy equipment. We don't yet have very good electrical storage, even as part of the bigger system, making the availability of fossil fuel back-up important.

As we move to more local solutions, we need to have energy solutions that work locally. These are not necessarily easy to come by, at least scalable to anything like the quantity we are used to.

I'm not sure that was the take-away of Alt-Energy's 'usefulness'. The example showed an RE setup as a shared part of a small community, as opposed to on a single household. It didn't seem to be a nod towards utility scale RE or big backup systems, in this case.

As with expensive tools and other household equipment, there is a great advantage to joining forces with even a few other families and co-owning such assets, in which case you can get the really industrial duty versions, not the cheapest HomeDepot deals, or in the case of Alt-Energy, a much more substantial system, tied in possibly to a big communal kitchen or a big Common House, as in the picture, where the benefits; including the tough to measure 'quality of life' can quickly develop a number of synergistic gains unavailable to a single 'Nuclear Family'.

Just my sense of that comment.. a big investment like solar is easier when shared.

And Storage.. there are Thousands of Off-Grid Solar setups that work perfectly well on Batteries.. big, heavy, expensive battery packs.. but it's not 'Fusion'.. it takes some care and some maintenance, and an eventual replacement, but this is a working solution that is completely off-the-shelf, so I am regularly tweaked to hear that 'it's an unsolved problem' .. It's a big expense, but so is hiring a Lawyer, so is replacing a furnace, so is replacing the roof, getting a degree. It's unhelpful to make it sound like some mystical bit of vaporware.


Agree with Gail. My 2kW PV system is net-metered, so anytime I'm not using power, it goes back into the grid.

I am NOT NOT NOT saying that alternative energy works better "when backed up with fossil fuels and as part of a complex system that includes roads and heavy equipment." In the photos posted, the first photo (Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage), about four dozen people use that building. It is their main community center. In the second photo, about 20 people live in that building. In each case, the cost of those solar arrays (electric and heat) are divided by the number of users, and the savings are multiplied by the number of users. You get a multiplying factor, and that's how you end up 75% to 90% below average use. To think you can do that with America suburbia is an illusion. Granted, if and when the grid and other infrastructure of mainstream America are disrupted, communal groups along with everyone else is going to face a harsh adjustment. But if we had the sense to develop cooperative use of alternative energy now, the whole collapse could be avoided. That isn't going to happen because we like the power we have in our consumptive society.

In each case, the cost of those solar arrays (electric and heat) are divided by the number of users, and the savings are multiplied by the number of users.

I'm not following. What 'savings' are you talking about and why wouldn't they be divided amongst the number of people, just as the costs are?

Really what has to be looked at is the energy use and cost per capita. Heating/cooling costs are lower when there is a multi-family housing unit because of better performance of a multi-unit dwelling, though that's not the main subject of this thread.

What about the savings of purchasing one 5kw array instead of 6 or 8 maybe 2kw arrays? Or even if you were going to assume the multiple separate households would only buy the exact same wattage overall, you would still have more labor, more balance-of-system parts, and wouldn't be gaining the advantages of some of the shared spaces and facilities that Alexis describes.

The advantages of sharing resources is a significant part of the message here, since it's easily shown that this can directly affect energy use and cost per head.

I can see the cost-sharing of labor, BOS components, etc ending up as savings. With net-metering, though, shared spaces are hard to quantify in terms of what is truly 'saved' in electricity. There are any number of scenarios and configurations.

I can see that HVAC bills would be lower if we are talking about multi-unit dwellings vs. single family units.

The reason that the savings add up so quickly is that Americans are accustomed to over-powered appliances. One water heater that supports a single person in an apartment can easily support two dozen people in a cooperative house, particularly if the water is solar pre-heated. Alternative energy pays back slowly. It takes expensive machines to concentrate diffuse solar/ wind energy. Fossil fuel by comparison is dense energy, which means a small, cheap machine can convert it to kinetic energy or heat. The up-front cost is cheap but the running cost is high.

Alternative energy is the opposite -- high up front cost, slow return. With alternative energy, if one person is trying to use the output, then the savings do not accrue rapidly, if at all. Specifically, to provide solar hot water for one person, or a couple or small family, requires a set of panels, pumps, storage tanks, and then a fossil fuel unit is usually used to pick up the slack. It is a relatively minor expense to expand that system to support a dozen or two dozen people. What happens in a practical sense is that the single-user solar system stores energy that does not get used (same applies for solar heat or solar electric), while the cooperatively used system tends to make much better use of the output. Even the most minor of consciousness raising of the users ("try to use hot water when it's sunny") then further expands the savings.

I have had callouses on my hands since I was six years old. I have built and maintained numerous conventional as well as alternative energy systems, in residential and commercial settings. I came to these conclusions not from theory, but from watching how it works. The house I am sitting in right now runs at 91% below average American use on a per-capita basis.


The house I am sitting in right now runs at 91% below average American use on a per-capita basis.

It is people like you who are destroying America! ;-)

At least that part of America which needs to be destroyed, yesterday...

Alex, I can appreciate the fact that you are promoting (and installing) renewable energy systems (we have PV and passive solar at our home). It shows you are walking the walk, not just talking the talk, and that speaks volumes. We have to be careful, though, not to oversell the benefits of renewable energy. For example;

One water heater that supports a single person in an apartment can easily support two dozen people in a cooperative house, particularly if the water is solar pre-heated.

Let's use the case of a family in a house compared to 20 people in a larger dwelling. If all the people used the same amount of hot water, the per capita use would be virtually the same. The house with 20 people would need a system not the same size, but one proportionally larger.

And with the current overbuilt housing inventory, few are going to go out and build new homes of any size at this timeframe, so the best approach is knowing how to retrofit current homes to make them more energy efficient and generators of renewable energy (whether it's electricity, hot water, solar heating, etc).

And of course, YOU just can't WAIT for the grid and the infrastructure to fail, can you?....Ahh, the picture you make...hunched over your keyboard, swilling cola and cheese doodles.....

No, Aviator. YOU are making that picture.

Alexis made THIS picture..

"But if we had the sense to develop cooperative use of alternative energy now, the whole collapse could be avoided."

It's that damn sharing thing again, isn't it? Got you all freaked out.

I happen to agree with Alexis stand on alternative energy for private use, even if I am one interested in using them.

It just so happens that the engineering mentality of our time is “just good enough”, and it works well under our insane economic paradigm, because things are cheap and you can buy new ones when they break.
However this mentality proves to be a nightmare when we need to build something that will last for a long time without the industrial support structure that we have today.

The intricate chain of agents involved in the supply of parts required for complex machinery is easily broken in time of crisis. Eventually any machine needs repairs, and if no spare part are available on stores…

So, alternative energy for private use is good to save money in the long run. We can feel good about ourselves for not contributing *as much* for global warming, or to the hiper-consumption of our times. But in the end it is meaningless to humanity as a whole, and of little value for long term survival in a post-peak world.

Even at local level, it is uncertain that the knowledge level and manufacturing capabilities can ever be sufficient for total independence at a long run.

At the limit, the “individual alternative energy independence” idea is nothing more than an attempt to extend present day commodities into a perceived future time of scarceness.

This society is blind to its problems, and those that are not blind appear to have problems thinking outside the box that created the problem.

At least 5 countries (Argentina,Germany,Italy,UK and Sweden) are using less oil than in 1970. Sweden is down 63%, so a future for the USA similar to a hybrid of those would appear more likely than an all out collapse.

You are comparing a period of expanding net oil exports to (IMO) a period of declining net oil exports, with an accelerating rate of decline.

Good point-the other difference is that none of the 5 has a suburban/exurban infrastructure built up that will have to be transitioned from.

Thanks Gail and Alexis. I found this very thought-provoking. Recently, I have been emailing all the organizations I recently joined (Environmental Defense Fund and the like) letting them know that we all need to get behind very bold action that meets the science, or we'll surely lose the polar bears, the wolves, the Colorado Roan plateau etc. etc... I'm even getting a Letter to the Editor published in the Boulder Daily Camera.

In my mind the order of magnitude reduction is what needs to happen to fight climate change. Peak oil and what happens unless we learn to share more equitably is a more long-term problem - though as you point out, the war on terror and defense budget is clearly already affecting us.

I would not be too hard on Bill McKibben. I think 350.org is clearly premised on actions that meet the science, and this will inevitably result in your recommendations. You may also be interested in the Riot for Austerity, where people discuss trying to decrease carbon footprint by 90%. Writers like Sharon Astyk discuss both home-sharing and getting rid of your fridge.

People are terrified of change. They claim "others" will never go for it, but by the tone of their voice you can tell they are taking it personally. I was telling my husband's friend, who loves the idea of solar panels (but would rather invest his own money in Brazilian oil), that solar only works if you cut consumption way down - for example, we use no A/C. That got him upset. Then I said, but we need to do this to fight climate change. Then he got it. He works at NCAR after all, cradle of the IPCC. I would surely lose him if I started talking about throughput and control, but this was very useful for me.

The limitations we face are going to manifest in ever-hardening global class lines. The escalating price of energy means that those who can afford to pay the higher prices will grumble and pay, while those who cannot will starve. As this crisis matures, the political obfuscation will only intensify. It is as if we are standing on the deck of the Titanic. The warnings have been issued, but not heard. We are waiting until we feel the water at our ankles.

These are going to be some very interesting, heart pumping times ahead. Here's another thought. Some scientists say we have already put enough greehouse gasses into the atmosphere to get a 2 degree centigrade temperature rise, but it hasn't happened yet because of dimming, which is the aerosols mankind puts into the atmosphere by way of our industrialized activity that blocks enough sunlight to counter enough of the global warming effect to stay below the 2 degree tipping point. What if there is a worldwide economic collapse causing a quick de-industrialization, then won't the dimming effect be nullified and when the air clears the 2 degree tipping point will be passed, adding insult to injury, making survival that much more difficult?

I guess that scenario is secondary to the economic consequences of collapse, but its an interesting possibility that gets little mention, don't you think?

It's almost as if the farther we go down this road of carbon emissions in a failed effort to maintain BAU, we will just be making the secondary affect that much more pronounced. Ouch!

Briefly, yes.

There's also the thermal inertia of the system to consider. The warming we're seeing is only the beginning. This is why people are running around with their hair on fire.

Yes, thermal inertia which is a 30-40 lag between increases in greenhouse gasses and the time it takes for increased atmospheric temerature to penetrate the oceans, to then have its effect on the weather. The reason why is because the atmosphere only holds 1/1000th the thermal energy the oceans hold, so the weather always follows the tempurature of the oceans. Thermal inertia cannot be overlooked, and I'm impressed Hfat because most people are not familiar with that idea or its implications.

30-40 YEARS I meant to state there. So as it relates to thermal inertia, we are actually enjoying 1969-1979 weather right now. Wait until we catch up to 2009 weather in 2039-2049! Super-ouch!

Thermal inertia is a well-known issue. But the oceans mix much slower than that: assuming fixed noncondensible GHGs concentrations and albedo (totally unrealistic), it would take centuries if not millenia for temperatures to stabilize. Though much of the effect is believed to be effectively immediate, there's a long tail (sort of). The IPCC AR4 gives an educated guess of about 80% for the temperature change realized during first century. Most of the theorized slow warming is due to slow feedbacks and carbon cycle feedbacks rather than thermal inertia anyway.

I have now adapted my long held stance on peak which was 2012±3 years (based on Khebab's loglet analysis) to 2012±4 years.

I'd warn against crying wolf too loudly. There is no doubt that the July 2008 peak is produced by a slump in demand. True, this was caused by high oil prices caused by inelastic supply. But I'm fairly certain we will see demand increase, for a while at least, with oil at $70.

Hello Euan Mearns,

Thxs for your predictive window [2012 +/_ four years]. Do you have any predictive feel for what comes next [excluding giant resource war-grabs and other potential Black Swans]: gently-sloping downward plateau, moderate downslope, or fast shark-fin decline [Memmel & WHT]?

Bob - setting aside the possibilities of economic or financial "black swans", which are not possible to forecast, I'd expect the downside to follow the Hubbert curve. One feature of the Hubbert curve is that it has a fairly narrow top, hence that would argue against a prolonged plateau, if we are indeed in peak territory.

Other factors to consider are the slowly declining ERoEI and net Hubbert curve effect discussed by David Murphy and the fact that going forward the developing countries will likely continue to increase their share of global oil supplies at the expense of the OECD. Combined, these will provide enough stress and we will need to adapt quickly to a changing world - which might mean buying a more fuel efficient car in the first instance.


The one thing I wonder though, is if the Saudis have intentionally leveled off their production at a lower level than they could have taken it to, with the idea that they will stretch out that plateau as long as possible? If this were the case, then there might indeed be a bumpy plateau on a global basis stetched out for a while, no?

Well right now looking at all the data the outcome is still up in the air.

I think a shark fin is still very very possible and I suggest that although not conclusive the data suggests this is the curve we are on.

If you look at it from the big picture we plunder the absolute crap out of everything that type of behavior leads to a shark fin. I've found nothing that precludes it from happening.

Now with that said the curves are very close through most of their lifetimes any deviation between a perfect gauassian like distribution and a sharkfin can readily and credibly be explained with shocks.

However if you assume a shark fin like curve in the first place then the shocks are not added on top of a guassian they are the result of the fact the true curve is a shark fin. For example in the shark fin world KSA did not cut production in the 80's because it wanted to support prices it cut because it did not have the reserves to keep pumping i.e they conserved because they had to not because they wanted to. Also in the shark fin model even back then KSA did not actually cut near as much as they claimed in fact the shark fin suggests they where pumping 6mbd at least while claiming much lower production levels 3mbd-4mbd.

Its a pretty damming models starting way back in the 1980's now that I'm confident in backcasting it in the review mirror so to speak. This suggest that for about ten years the saudi royal family pumped about 3 million barrels of oil and kept all the money never giving a dime back to the rest of the country. And its a pretty good guess where this oil went it went to the US. So backcasting it turns out to give some very very interesting results.

Moving forward using the sharkfin as fact one finds that peak production occurred way back in 1998 peak oil if you will is well in the past and has been for some time. Now thats peak for capacity that was in production. A significant although unknown amount of spare capacity existed in the system at that time and as all the fields in production waned it was brought online. Thus the overall production which is questionable was a mix of declining active production and spare capacity increments brought on line from 1998 onwards. Now at this point your on the top of the shark fin which lasts for quite some time best guess is it sort of had a second peak in 2003. Given its a long undulating plataue peaks are not super important however at that point spare capacity additions where not making up in declines i.e overall oil production was starting to fall. Its bumpy and 500kbd to 1mbd make a difference for the economy and also thats well within the noise level of trying to backtrack very corrupt data. WT Export land for example was already looming large and as internal consumption climbed in exporting countries overall production numbers became ever more suspect. Obviously price is starting to suggest that exports where starting to become strained at this point.

Again the shark fin model is damming since it shows that plenty of obvious evidence existed that we had indeed peaked and it was just a matter of time before overall world production would fall. You would need excellent internal information on the real situation in Saudi Arabia and how much spare capacity they where bringing online to maintain exports and how much they had left. But the situation would have been completely clear at that point. This means of course that the US invaded Iraq after peak oil was very certain.

Thats the past for the shark fin and although it is highly suggestive of some very interesting possibilities the big issue is when it turns the corner and start to really head down this seems to be in 2004-2005 and picking up rapidly by 2007. By 2008 we had clearly dropped oil production significantly say at least 2mbd if not 4mbd.
Now it should be screaming downwards with us losing say 4-6mbd each year.

Up until recently there have been some mitigating factors the tar sands are not really part of this and act like additional spare capacity being brought online so they mitigated things somewhat and probably bigger NGL's are not part of this and NGL's act is excellent substitutes for oil in many use cases most importantly gasoline production allowing refineries to focus on distillates.

So for a long time peak oil was really a distillate problem not and overall liquid fuel problem. The much maligned ethanol program for example helped. The move to complex refining and cokers help etc.

All of these factors worked and of course price itself worked to lower demand substantially. If you think about it "Peak Oil" should occur when oil is relatively cheap its the most oil we will ever get and a number of partial substitutes are readily available. From history significant spare capacity should be around when all the fields in production peak etc. In fact the minima in oil prices actually fits perfectly with the shark fin plateau starting.

It does not have to be flat but in general oil production does not change that much once the top sets in of course this implies yet another damming result we never had major jumps in oil production as the price of oil rose all the data after 2003 is pretty much completely bogus. It never happened and the price curve faithfully tracked real oil production remaining flat vs increasing demand pressure. What did happen was NGL's, NG conservation etc etc etc. Flat to falling OECD demand and demand contraction amongst the poorest nations offset flat/slightly declining to slightly rising oil production. Undulating is probably the right answer.

Yet again another truth comes to light Yergins undulating plateau claims where based on fact i.e he had the real data and knew for a fact thats what had been going on for a long time. He was actually right at least for a while.


Now they lied like bastards placing it into the future etc etc but they had a very firm reason to make the claim they just shifted the real numbers they had up and out.

Now I'm confident that if my model is correct then everything I wrote above is correct. And the beauty is its fail fast given the claim of rapidly falling production sometime within the next 12 months at most probably within the next six months oil supplies will simply not meet our infrastructure demand requirement i.e even simply conservation won't work. Nothing thats been done to day will work short of a complete economic collapse.

Or its wrong and the price of oil remains relatively cheap for years it now reached the point that the shark fin model is either right or wrong with all it implies.

Whats really interesting is it seems like we had demand fall at least 6% maybe as much as 12% if you use the distillate numbers in the US from late 2007 its hard to tell what the right number is and remember peak oil is still very much a distillate issue so even if oil supplies collapsed over the very short term the demand collapse was much faster and although I'm pretty sure we turned the corner then it pure guesswork how the actual decline rate accelerated around the curve. We are on the backside for sure if the model is correct but the exact nature of the curve as we turned from flat to falling is not something thats easy to determine.

Regardless we had a very fast drop in demand real economic indicators indicate that the economy is no longer in a free fall but also no longer recovering thus oil demand has flattened and if I'm right oil production is now falling rapidly. The price of oil indicates something is going on however although I doubt we had the oil glut claimed the demand collapse was so fast we did manage to pump and store a significant quantity of oil in the last half of 2008 and first few months of 2009. The hurricanes effectively cutting demand by 1-2mbd in the south eastern US helped a lot in this respect. And of course distillate demand the key one for oil seems to have been knocked in the head.

Moving forward to right now oil prices have already rebounded and are repeatedly crossing 70. Also the large stockpile of distillates in the US is very damming again using the shark fin model since thats exactly what you would have to do if oil production was heading over a cliff. Crank out as much distillates as you can and use NGL's as much as possible to help cover gasoline supplies. I don't think this pile is as big as claimed its now a very super strategic resource in whats coming but its explains a lot.

Also of course I have my concept of a oil bank all those tankers how ever many their really are sitting off shore loaded with distillates and oil are there for a reason.

For now at least gasoline is not and issue and we seemed to have stockpiled distillates the rise and fall of oil prices with the stock market ( which is in fantasy land ) indicates that the same players keeping the stock market up are also working the oil markets however unlike most my opinion is we are aggressively trying to keep a lid on oil prices using everything within our power not speculators pushing the price up.
You can see the oil market get repeatedly bludgeoned as it crosses towards 75 a barrel. Thats not fundamentals at work but some serious market players spanking it. Also of course the EIA data is suspect and now ever more rosy pronouncements are having less and less effect.

In my opinion sooner than later oil prices will cross this 75 barrier and the political spin will be interesting.

On the political front if we do see oil prices start heading to 100 and beyond then Iran is pretty much home free at that point the influx of cash will quell dissatisfaction and a strike on Iran becomes impossible.
We had a very strong window near the end of 2008 to hit them I can only guess that the US election was the only factor that stopped a strike. However the window to hit them before oil takes off is closing rapidly.
And of course a strike on Iran is excellent cover for collapsing oil production no one will ever know the truth.

This time around I think it will be the Israel doing the dirty work but we shall see. If we are lucky the US will not take this path it does not have to happen just if my model is right there is a limited amount of time left before its basically impossible to do anything without effectively starting WWIII.
For Iran at least I'm guessing that they still have not assembled any weapons or if so only a small number.
They are I think in it for the long haul wanting 75-100 long range nuclear missles as a deterrent with the threat and real potential for a first strike on Israel but not soon. The regime could well collapse before they reach their goal or lots of things could happen. Over the longer run given ExportLand Iran will be forced to rejoin the world completely. My point is we don't have to strike and Israel can defend itself with its own nuclear arsenal so nothing is certain except that if my model is right the real chance to strike is fading fast.

Again this is import because the pressure on Iran has built up rapidly recently and it would if my model is right.

So to finish here are the current facts consistent with my model.
1.) Large distillate build
2.) Significant amount of oil stored in VLCC's with no fear of price collapse
3.) Serious political games afoot always happening but think about what and why.
4.) The US does not care about defaulting on its debts it knows it won't ever pay it has years left before our society changes dramatically.
5.) Gasoline still readily available its not in deep trouble yet however gasoline imports into the US which is a double export land model should be under strain. Imports are down substantially now why is not yet known.
6.) Sharp rebound in prices.
7.) Serious financial games and even playing with real oil via the offshore storage to keep prices low.
This is my view of the prices and 6-7 are not at odds with each other. Its a balance act and constant work.

We shall see what the future holds but if I'm right all I can hope is that at some point in the future the truth comes out and we can see how close I got. There should be lots and lots of dirty laundry and skeletons floating in many closets a sharp crash and oil production should start bringing them out.

As far as our economy goes well to be honest we waste a crapload, high oil prices may well reduce us closer to a third world standard of living but so friggin what it won't really hurt us. The US is still a large relatively lightly populated country so we will probably end up a lot better than we deserve. Europe has a bit more problems but still they can make it. India and China not a chance to many people and same for a lot of the rest of the world. So things may get hard here and certain regions may become hell holes but most of the rest of the world is certain to be a hell hole and a lot worse of than we are.

Just to make it clear


Global production will eventually follow an “undulating plateau” for one or more decades before declining slowly. The global production profile will not be a simple logistic or bell curve postulated by geologist M. King Hubbert, but it will be asymmetrical – with the slope of decline more gradual and not mirroring the rapid rate of increase -- and strongly skewed past the geometric peak. It will be an undulating plateau that may well last for decades.

CERA in I are in 100% agreement the problem is I'm claiming they made such a bold statement because they where talking about the past and simply used real data to forge a fake picture of the future.

That should at least bother you if you think about it. The easiest lie in the world is to take facts and simply change a few numbers.

Rise of the New Caesars

Nice Spengler reference.

Alexis, I started to read bits of your post and a few of the comments and wished I hadn't, since I have a lot of other stuff to be getting on with.

Culture Change predicted that in 2007 we were "at or near" global peak oil production, and that we would face a "large economic contraction" as a result.[1]

I note here in this "well referenced" piece that you are referencing yourself.

Since then, the global economy has collapsed into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

I wasn't aware of this, which is somewhat surprising. Are you sure you know the difference between the global economy and the US economy, and I'm not even sure this is the worst recession in the US since 1930? - though it may develop into one.

Meanwhile, production from the giant oil fields which make up the lion's share of global production has continued to decline.

Do you know what a giant oil field is? Where is your evidence for this statement?


As of the most recent measure, more than 60% of global oil fields are past peak and are now in permanent decline.[4]

The reference you site here suggests that 60% of countries are past peak. I'm pretty sure that the number of oilfields past peak will be much greater than this.

Among peak oil devotees

WTF are they? Are you a peak oil devotee, an environmental activist or both? TOD is supposed to be a site for dispassioante analysis of facts. I can't be bothered reading on.

Stalled oil production has triggered an economic contraction.

You got this 270˚ wrong.

The number of starving people on the Earth has been growing substantially, and the number of people left out of economic growth has been growing even more rapidly.

These statements really need to be backed up by data. The number of starving may well be rising, but what matters more is the % of the global population that is well nourished compared to those that are not. And energy consumption is the hallmark of industrial society, and since this is rising throughout the developing world, it seems that an ever growing number are involved in prosperity that flows from industrialisation - prosperity among the working classes in 19th Century England might have been the difference between dying aged 6 and dying aged 10!

On a more conciliatory note, I strongly believe that co-habitation is one of the main energy conserving measures that can be made. Two people living in a two bedroom flat instead of one.

If you listen to the news every day, you will hear stories about bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health reform debate, the state of the economy and the timeline for recovery, perhaps a story about the latest organization to take a stance for or against gay marriage...

From this point I tend to agree more with your views on American society. But you need to ask how you plan to influence the outcome? Persuading folks that living 2 (or more) to a home makes economical sense would be my tack.

Agreed. As McKibben writes, people "don't need to join a commune" to consume and spend less.

Packing people into smaller and smaller units reaches a point of diminishing returns. Save energy you will, but every person still requires roughly what, 2,000 calories of food a day? If the green revolution fails, then people no longer having direct ownership of land in a large enough size to feed them is to fly live without a net.

That's why I look at reurbanization as casting one's lot firmly with macro level mitigation. As much as independent living is less efficient, it's also less vulnerable to forces outside of your control.

'as much as independent living is less efficient, it's also less vulnerable to forces outside of your control..'

That sure sounds like American Frontier logic to me. I think it could be just as easy to conclude that having developed a lot of strong bonds in a tight community can help you 'be much less vulnerable to outside forces'. They aren't mutually exclusive, of course, but there's still a level of 'illusion of safety in isolation' that has been nurtured by our easy access to cheap energy.

I think there are a lot of loners who'd move back closer to town if they couldn't keep the F-150 and the Propane tank filled up.

Hello Mos6507,

My speculative theory is that the long-haul viability of Alan Drake's ideas [which I back 100%], plus the dispersive transport radius of localized SpiderWebRiding, is the best societal match to connect urban-suburban-rural bi-directional flowrates as we postPeak Kunstlerize for energy-efficiency.


I wish I had the political pull to test this theory out in real-time real-life. Ideally, I would like for it to first occur in a moderately sized NorthEastern town that suffers Great Lakes' effect snow & ice for much of the winter.

From what I have read, some [many?,most?] of these people have seasonal cars: A nice car and/or MC for good weather, then an older car that they drive in bad weather [a large fixed expense]. But this way they minimize the overall damage from road salt, rust, other cars' colliding from slipping on ice, and so on. The local govt cost of snowplowing, snow removal, and road-salting must be a tremendous tax-burden to all, plus the loss of [sales, closed schools, etc] when the weather is just too fierce.

Compare the cost of broad road snow removal to what can be quickly hand-shoveled for a narrow gauge web to keep people mobile and vital, but minimal supply chains viable [in the photo below]:


So for a simple WAG example: let's say this town of 50,000 has 10,000 'winter vehicles' @ 150 HP apiece. Add another averaged 50 HP/vehicle for the big trucks and snowplows to move goods and clear roads. Thus, winter movement wastefully requires [150+50]X10,000= 2 Million HP! Don't forget the tremendous sunk costs either: maintenance, pothole refilling come spring, insurance, etc.

An optimal batt-powered, narrow gauge winter web would only require 50,000 X 0.66 HP = 33,000 total HP--compare to 2 Million HP above!--plus minimal snow removal. Maintenance and fixed costs would also be a breeze compared to our standard asphalt model. Compare hand-shoveling a narrow path from your front door to the street versus hand-shoveling a broad two-car wide driveway so you can get both vehicles out of the two-car garage.

IMO, we need to postPeak decide how best we want to move any goods:

firewood safely moved easily on narrow gauge

firewood dangerously moved terribly by narrow thinking
What will our kids think of us if we continue our narrow thinking and denial?

A few more points of consideration:

Remember this poor woman is probably averaging much less than 3 mph when frequent rest periods are factored in on her arduous 'return leg' of 12 km [7.6 miles]. Her speed will drop much more when it rains and she then has to tread through very slippery mud. Lastly, I strongly doubt if she is carrying tree-seedlings & fertilizer on her initial 'outbound leg' of 7.6 miles for habitat rehabilitation before she starts her firewood chopping.

The minitrain is probably moving the Greater Quantites of firewood at in-bound speeds of 10, 15, or maybe 20 mph--a huge time and safety improvement. It is also ideal for bi-directional movement: a minitrain can move huge quantites of O-NPK, tree-seedlings, and water on its 'outbound leg' for easy habitat rehabilitation.

The human scale of minitrains and/or pedal railbikes makes it inherently possible to quickly lay track and bypass the need for installing many track-switches until volumes reach a certain scale. If a minitrain or railbike needs to 'jump' to the next track section: just unload the cargo, pickup the vehicle, place on the next track, reload cargo, then go. Compare to moving a standard gauge loco or railcar.

I was thinking more along the lines of 2 people sharing 60 square meters in the first instance instead of each occupying their own apartment. But no matter what is done to adapt to and mitigate for energy decline, it is all in vain if nothing is done to curb population growth. We either devise a mechanism to reduce population going forward in a controlled manner or nature will at some point do the job for us. In the 19th Century, one of the primary mechanisms was very high infant mortality.

Meanwhile we have to make the most of what we have by way of infrastructure.

These statements really need to be backed up by data. The number of starving may well be rising, but what matters more is the % of the global population that is well nourished compared to those that are not. And energy consumption is the hallmark of industrial society, and since this is rising throughout the developing world, it seems that an ever growing number are involved in prosperity that flows from industrialisation...

This very memorable presentation by Hans Rosling presents the data of growing prosperity quite beautifully. But I haven't been able to assimilate the potentially tragic irony here. "Good news" challenges the dooomer in me. If consequences of hitting limits to growth are severe then these data are on the rising side of the curve and it's like watching an impending auto wreck (like the recent texting while driving ads with all the gleefull girls) and not being able to do anything. On the other hand, lots of people are living more prosperously and it's improving (or was in 2007). Nothing bad about that from the point of view of the formerly impoverished.


With all due respect Eaun, from a purly philosophical - historical point of view Alexis article is spot on.And if the first graph of oil extraction is accurate, production is beginning to take on a clearly ostensible well defined plateau; and this obviously will lead to crisis soon.The sad fact is 90% of the American population does not have a clue regarding macro economic events as related to energy supply and are only concerned with bread and circus.Of the remaining 10%, the majority are somewhat shell shocked and are withdrawn these days (I cannot back these percentages with data - it is merely an educated guess).

The point is well taken Alexis.

By coincidence I have been studying the Roman Empire during the ascension of the Emperors' rise to defacto unipolar rule.The similarities with America are astonishing: i.e. - the two major factions within the Senate; that being the 'Populares' (equivalent to the Democrats) and the Optimates (analogous to the modern Republicans).The divergencies between the rich and the poor reached critical mass and produced a crisis by which Julius Caesar was able to take temporary emergency measures that in reality were never to be abrogated to restore the 'democracy'.

We, however, face a much more critical emergency; and just imagine if the Roman Empire had access to the high technology that we currently possess.

Well....we are about to find out what could have happened.

There are certain laws that ultimately cannot be put off indefinitely, and all I can say is that ones morals will ultimately determine an individuals destiny.All we can do is seek to be fair and equitable in how we treat our fellow man in all things.Believe me, the Kingdom of God will not be a technocratic Orwellian nightmare, but a world in which mankind will finally understand what freedom is.Forgive me for bringing faith into to this thread - but I cannot make excuses.
It is always the darkest at night before the Son rises.

The world is polarizing economically, there is a plethora of statistics to demonstrate that.

So how does the degree of polarisation today compare with the 19th Century when the British Empire was at its height?

At the end of the 19th century more than 25% of the [British] population was living at or below subsistence level. Surveys indicated that around 10% were very poor and could not afford even basic necessities such as enough nourishing food. Between 15% and 20% had just enough money to live on (provided they did not lose their job or have to take time off work through illness).


Why? Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?..
I have been forced to support the establishments I
have mentioned through taxation and God knows they cost more than
they are worth. Those who are badly off must go there.

(Many can't go there; and many would rather die.)

If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

There's a reason why socialism is as old as market capitalism.

These replies are not valid replies to Alexis who said nothing about a comparison with the 19th century. He just proposed that inequality is (currently) in upslope. My understanding is that Gini coefficient analysis supports that. It is also in accordance with the theoretical understanding of capitalism in which those who already have are thereby in a position to gain even more, and the debt system ultimately ends up with Bill Gates owning everything and everyone else with no money to do anything.

Home energy use is a small fraction of all the energy that supports our lives. Reducing home energy use by 80% will not shut down the coal plants.

I'm not sure where you are getting your numbers; residential is about 1/3 of all US electricity according to the EIA. Dropping residential by 80% would drop overall electricity use by about 25%, which would be the equivalent of shutting down about 1/2 of the coal plants.

Our future is messy and uncertain. The collapse of industrial civilization, if it manifests as a disorderly disintegration, will cause great destruction of people and the natural world, and it will not resolve the fundamental cause of the problem -- the polarization of power and the blinding of cultural evolution. It's up to us to do that.

The collapse of industrial civilization must not happen if the ideas about communal living and so on shall get a good future. Everybody including most forms of "alternative living" needs tools, electricity and communication that are cheap due to an infrastructure of large and efficient factories. My personal understanding of this infrastructure is that it mostly needs electricity and skilled people and that the hydrocarbon inputs can be switched between coal, oil, natural gas and biomass over a generation or two. But if the hydrocarbo inputs are low it wont produce much volume goods but it could still produce the technology "vitamins" for alternative societies and the lucky areas with close to todays BAU.

This extremely important and valuble infrastructure must be cared for and owned by some entities and I hope it will be a mix that include a lot of rich individuals and corporations where the owners care about the individual plants. The average global historic experiences of government running of complex businesses is not good and multi level owning by the finance industry does not seem to be good for keeping production on-line and adapting to new circumstances.

I hope that the country I live in, Sweden, will be a good place for getting advanced manufacturing to weather a period of large uncertanties. This must be a better way to get capital to weather bad times then buying gold since it provides stuff you can buy with gold.

My personal understanding of this infrastructure is that it mostly needs electricity and skilled people and that the hydrocarbon inputs can be switched between coal, oil, natural gas and biomass over a generation or two.

Some industry like you say can switch, but not mine. I can't imagine the biotechnology sector surviving when the cost of plastics and transport go up. I have seen the price of plastics increase as much as 40% in the last four years. The increase in price is made worse with fewer researchers buying enough for baseline production to continue.

I simply don't believe this. First, transport can be electrified.

Are plastics really that big of a chunk of the biotechnology budget? Would 40% increase mean what to the over all price tag of most such industries? A percent? A fraction of a percent? I'm making a wild-assed assumption here, but I am going to guess it could go up 10 times in price and not be that big of a deal.

Also, we waste a lot of plastic.

As I recall there was no runaway oil demand in late 2008 and early 2009; instead demand cut back as gasoline prices passed $4.00 a gallon at the pumps. Demand was so low OPEC started cutting production as the price of oil was heading to below $40.00 a barrel. It was OPEC cuts more than giant oil fields being plugged and abandoned.

At this point carbon emission legislation might do to the economy what peak oil is not yet capable of. How to cut 80% of your fossil fuel carbon emissions in 40 years and not feel any pain? I suppose you might try solar sod houses and hydroponic tomato gardening where applicable. PV power is not for those of limited disposable income.

I thought I was radical until I read Alexis.

Peak Oil will lead to one of two outcomes..., either we take the high road..., or we take the low road......
I'm hoping for the high road but I'm not holding my breath.
Unfortunately..., most Americans feel a strong sense of entitlement.

We'll be taking a whole lot of roads.. mostly by foot, but still the mileage will vary, depending on what that bit of land is still able to support, and how those people decide to live on it.

I highly doubt it will happen homogeneously.. it may well look fairly Darwinian after all is said and done.

Thank you.


And absolutely right.

The only way humanity is going to save it's dignity is through communal endeavor.

If the rich are allowed to go on predating the poor, we are already dead.

Thank you.

For now President Obama is trying to clean up the mess he inherited. Soon, it will be his mess. Already, there is a vocal movement on the far right to vilify him. When the economy takes its next dip, or fails to recover as his presidency matures, he will be blamed. It is hard to say exactly which social movements will succeed, or what symbolism they will employ or precisely what policies they will enact.

Actually what Obama is doing is taking the mess Pelosi and the Democrats created and making it much worse. The economy will obviously keep getting worse until the socialists are removed from power. And it's not hard at all to say what movement will replace them - conservative Republicans. Perhaps then, economic growth, and growth in energy supplies will emerge.

Politically conservative agendas may range from supporting the Vietnam War to upholding traditional moral and religious values to opposing welfare. But are there consistent underlying motivations?

Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

Fear and aggression
Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
Uncertainty avoidance
Need for cognitive closure
Terror management
"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.

Assistant Professor Jack Glaser of the University of California, Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy and Visiting Professor Frank Sulloway of UC Berkeley joined lead author, Associate Professor John Jost of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, and Professor Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland at College Park, to analyze the literature on conservatism.

The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.

Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material - which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups - yielded consistent, common threads, Glaser said.

The avoidance of uncertainty, for example, as well as the striving for certainty, are particularly tied to one key dimension of conservative thought - the resistance to change or hanging onto the status quo, they said.

The terror management feature of conservatism can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished world views, they wrote.

Concerns with fear and threat, likewise, can be linked to a second key dimension of conservatism - an endorsement of inequality, a view reflected in the Indian caste system, South African apartheid and the conservative, segregationist politics of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South S.C.).

Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the authors said. Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form. Talk host Rush Limbaugh can be described the same way, the authors commented in a published reply to the article.

If you are working with conservationist to make him look good or not so bad you are doing a great job.

Just supplying analysis, so people can come to their own conclusions, as to the conditions they have arisen with.

Hello Conservationist,

Your politicized 'hit & run' snippets are Boring.

Instead, Please regale us with detailed analysis, numerous weblinks, and carefully explained articulations of rampant Exponential Growth, that will stand up to the standards of the TOD Meatgrinder--it is an open forum, you see==>please make use of it to the best of your abilities, Please. I am sure Prof. Albert Bartlett would love to read how you have overturned the Field of Mathematics.

I, myself, am insanely curious to read how you intend to scientifically prove that greater Energy & Element resource extraction will drastically & automatically rehabilitate our oceans, air, and lands, so that endangered species and elevated extinctions will not be a future concern. Please inform us what your offspring think of your ground-breaking research.

Energy & Elements [E&E] are true 'equal-opportunity employers': gasoline burns the same in the gastank of a suicide bomber, or Al Gore's vehicle, or Hannity's Cadillac Escalade, Todd & Sarah Palin's snowmobile, or your ICE-vehicle. Mine, too, then it is largely wasted by the Thermodynamic Laws, or Entropy. Politics, beliefs, gender, ethnicities do NOT matter to E&E--only how they are utilized in the Circle of Life [Economics is a subset of this].

Again, I will be truly fascinated to read how you will scientifically reverse this process with growth so that all of humanity can back-track away from the abysmal, abyssal edge of the Net Energy Cliff. Printing dollars to be stuffed down an oilwell or mineshaft to enhance long-term future E&E flowrates will not withstand the Meatgrinder scrutiny.

So please research diligently, for as you said yourself: "Perhaps then, economic growth, and growth in energy supplies will emerge."

I assure you the "Net Energy Cliff" is a figment of Colin Campbell's imagination, that he has been predicting very regulary, and very unsuccessfully for the past 20 years (at least).

And politics DO MATTER! This is why the production of Russia and Venezuela have dropped since the leftists kicked out western oil companies. And why US employers began laying off "en masse" when your Messiah was elected. You see, although government employees, union members, and welfare deadbeats count a lot in elections. It's the corporations that are the world's movers and shakers.

Tim Robbins: Let me explain to you how this works. You see, the corporations finance Team America. And then Team America goes out and the corporations sit there in their, ih in their corporation buildings and, and and see that's, they're all corporationy, and they make money. Mhm

Conservationist: Aren't you on the wrong website? You're obviously trying to sway minds to your conservative viewpoint, but this isn't a website for just liberals or conservatives, but rather those interested in the topic of peak oil. Maybe you need a more political type website to banter back and forth. Just a suggestion.

No not really trying to "sway minds", just stating a different viewpoint. Are some viewpoints not allowed?

And the topic article did get into politics somewhat didn't it?

For now President Obama is trying to clean up the mess he inherited. Soon, it will be his mess. Already, there is a vocal movement on the far right to vilify him. When the economy takes its next dip, or fails to recover as his presidency matures, he will be blamed. It is hard to say exactly which social movements will succeed, or what symbolism they will employ or precisely what policies they will enact.

I realize it must be hard for liberals to try and accept that all of the world's problems have not gone away just because George Bush is no longer President. Don't blame me, blame the left wing media who put that idea in your head.

Good. So you are at least ready to concede that Bush led us into a disastrous and illegal war in Iraq over OIL, and despite the trumpeting from BOTH parties, we aren't able to pay for it WITH the oil from there, and we have left a shambles even Saddam would have been ashamed of..

As Yeager said, 'sometimes you just get a pooch that caint be screwed..' Good luck Obama, but the china shop you inherited is already fully busted up.

jok -- I see it as you do but you need to be a little more generous with your disdain. Bush led us into led into Iraq with the support of the Democrat controlled Congress and the the American people. Not all of them , of course, but enough. And it won't matter which party controls Congress or the White house when TSHTF for real. We'll start extending "democracy" to a host of oil exporting nations IMO.

Dems didn't control congress until '06. The agreement they signed onto was not the clearcut permission to go to war that the President used it for. We are now officially a nation that uses Torture.

The opposition to the war was immense, and only the misinformation of Colin Powell's address to the UN or the compliant bantering of the Media created a level of confusion and fear was able to make the public adequately inactive and docile after the invasion. Bodybags? What Bodybags?

No, Rockman, as with George Will's lullaby yesterday, there is a fervent desire to make sure noone is uncool enough to call these things the disasters that they were and are.

I think my disdain is fully justified.

Saddam Hussein started that war when he invaded Kuwait in a dispute over OIL. And before you say that was the "Gulf War", the Gulf War didn't end in a peace treaty, there was only a cease fire. You don't like the war? Blame Hussein.

Of course liberals always have to blame America. Part of the code isn't it?

Bush2 killed far more Americans, over 6,000 now, and over 1 million Iraqis.

Blame Saddam? Not so much. They hung Saddam.

Bush2 lives the high life in Texas.

Blame me, I voted for him twice.

IMO one of the major problems in the USA is this entrenched Democrat or Republican thinking among the public. It appears that those vulnerable to this condition are unable to comprehend that criticism of some grifter politician is not automatically an endorsement of the grifters on the other side of the spectrum. If there was only one major political party in the USA, the public would have seen through all this nonsense a long time ago-it appears that all that is necessary to sooth the mob is the appearance of two opposing parties, the bad and the good (and pretty well all Americans into politics seem to think it is just that simple). Even when confronted with the reality that the same people own both parties, nothing can sink through. Denninger has railed against this mentality recently http://market-ticker.denninger.net/

And Brian, one of the convenient tools used to mask the abysmal record of the Republicans over the last 8 years is to point out ANY flaw that the Democrats make, and to say 'See, they're ALL crooks'.. which seems to effectively provide adequate cover for the crimes of GWB.

Jokuhl: YOUR guy is the one that doesn't want to prosecute any wrong doers from the Bush administration. Almost everything put in place by Cheney and Bush is either being carried on or expanded. Seriously, how is the blind allegiance to the Dems any different than the blind allegiance to the Repubs during the Bush/Cheney era? It appears to be identical to outside observers. Hulk Hogan had his fans and Andre the Giant had his fans,but it was still just a show. Bill Clinton is a close personal friend of the Bushes. Do you really think GS or JPM could care less who is in the White House? Is Bernanke Dem or Repub-how about Paulson or Geithner? They are all on the same team, just like the wrestlers, and they do not include you on this team.


You do score a minor point once in a while but you are in way over your head due to a lack of knowledge in the basic sciences.

All you are doing is pointing out to the readership of this site that you understand some free market economics but little or nothing (else) relevant to the energy and environmental picture.

It's probably not your fault that you have no knowledge of the relevant sciences.My own family and 99 percent of the people I live with think the way you do.Tens of millions of college graduates think this way too.

I myself, back in my younger days, even though armed and forewarned with this same knowledge, believed as you do now.

The good guys would solve the problems ,just get outta thier way!

It took a long time - decades -for me to realize in my gut that things are spinning out of control,and that the free market republican paradigm will not stop our progress towards a tipping point leading to some VERY BAD CONSEQUENCES.

Abandoning beliefs held for a lifetime is a very difficult thing to do.

Much or maybe even most of the body of thought known as conservatism is worth preserving and needs to be preserved and represented in our political body politic.

But when someone like you who(someone fundamentally ignorant of the true state of the world and how it got to be the way it is) keeps posting the same old same old big biz big money republican talking points you make the rest of us conservatives look like idiots in a forum such as this one.

Why don't you just retire to a barbershop some place where everyone will be glad to cheer you on?

It's rather tiresome playing on a team with such an inept player on it.

Sounds like you have a fine family, and a fine group of friends. You should learn to listen to them. :)

Wow.. I think I actually see your point now. Thank You.

Cause it's the same leftists that took over Texas in the early Seventies!
How could I have been so blind!

Sign me up, I'm converting!

"...when your Messiah was elected. You see, although government employees, union members, and welfare deadbeats count a lot in elections. It's the corporations that are the world's movers and shakers."

Your Messiah comment is weak hyperbole. Nobody is moved by the analogy. What are you really scared of?

All welfare recipients are not deadbeats. Union memebers are not evil and there are no socialists currently serving in public office at the ferderal level AFAIK. RE: Socialist, read a book about it and you'll be able to distinguish between the wide variety of political philosophies. There's a wide spectrum, not a few discrete archetypes. You can call a horse a pig because it has 4 legs and a tail but you'd still be incorrect.

Let me share something with you. I was called to serve on the grand jury and sat next to a guy from a "big corporation." When the judge asked us all why we should NOT serve on the grand jury "that one" ;-) said, "I manage a large department in a big corporation and I don't mind serving on the jury but it will require that I work hours before and hours after in order to get work done that hundreds of people depend on. I really would like to serve but I am responsible for a critical department in my company."

The judge didn't buy it. The big corporation guy thought he was too important and irreplaceable to be bothered with the plebes in justice system.

The coporations are not movers and shakers nor are they good or evil. They just maximize throughput of resources and externalize (environmental, social, ethical) costs to increase profits.

Sounds like the big corporation guy was committed to his job and has a good work ethic. We need more of that in America.

you might contemplate changing your posting-name. It does the rest of us - the real conservationists - no good at all. Most folk on this site are a long way down a track you appear to know little of, and seem to be unprepared to get informed about.
From where I sit, your comments are just a waste of space. Could I suggest you get up to speed before you publicise an opinion? Homework suggestions would be: the exponential function. Finite resources. rates of depletion.
I doubt you'll get there....

Perhaps you should study the plethora of failed doomer predictions to date.

And BTW, your screen name matches your posts well. lol

(no need for others to read)

Dear "Conservationist",
Are you being paid to make a very unflattering exhibition of yourself here, or are you just doing it for want of any more sensible ideas of how to use your time?

I assure you the "Net Energy Cliff" is a figment of Colin Campbell's imagination, that he has been predicting very regulary, and very unsuccessfully for the past 20 years (at least).

You what? You "assure" us? Big deal in absence of any evidence or reasoning to dismiss this which is a figment of many other imaginations than just Colin C's.

Are you really so dense that you cannot get the point being made by such as the following:

Hello Conservationist,
Your politicized 'hit & run' snippets are Boring.
an open forum, you see==>please make use of it to the best of your abilities, Please.

From where I sit, your comments are just a waste of space.

It's rather tiresome playing on a team with such an inept player on it.

Of course,
sometimes I wonder if there aren't posters who are here simply to create angst and havoc.. bring up 'keyword' arguments that are certain to waste a lot of energy in 'speaking reason' to unreasonable contributors..

Thanks, but I read those comments already. Repeating them is a waste of space wouldn't you say?

Great article. Agree or disagree, this is the type of thinking we need to tackle the challenges of climate change and peak oil.

Here's a recent thought piece outlining how the prosperity of the 1980s and 1990s was simply a function of cheap oil:


Excellent piece by Alexis. I agree with the main drift, and see no point in quibbling with details.


I have read cogent comments, op-eds, essays, that seek to attribute the cause of the ‘economic crisis’ or 'banking crisis', 'economic downturn' or depression, to:

1) Capitalism, the oppression of labor - marxist analysis holds up its head here.

2) Banking practices: most often fiat money, national banks (aka. private entities like the Fed), fractional reserve lending, leveraging, etc. - see the Austrian school and gold bugs! Sometimes coupled with the lack of controls, or inoperant oversight (e.g. a complaisant SEC, Madoff, etc.) This last pov seems to hinge on the idea that the controls were efficient in the past and somehow became corrupted, failed.

3) The rise of the use of computers and thus ease of complex, opaque, and very speedy calculations - leading to a sprouting of golden shoots in the form of incomprehensible algorithms built on smoke, which could not have been created or implemented before.

4) Human greed and the general corruption of society, lack of morals, etc. Here there is a big variation from explanations that refer to the individual (essentialism in neuroscience and so on ...some would have us believe that it is human nature to overshoot, accumulate, be a predator...) to more collective scenarios, following different disciplines, sociology, ethics, politics (loss of political ideology, societal values, etc.) These kinds of explanations are old as the hills but are always re-vamped in modern dress.

The re-birth of ‘collectivism‘ - sharing and community - in societies that are basically individualistic, while eschewing political discourse, or political activism, are in my eyes unfortunate (and the head piece, the comments, suffers somewhat from this kumbaya back to the the 70’s mindset.)

5) Global trade imbalances that create disruptions and cracking which are poorly understood and can’t be handled. International competition and sneaky moves. Dollar hegemony. The Anglo-Saxon model. Globalization. (Lumped all those together.)

6) Peak oil / FFs / energy.

7) Peak everything ... a sort of bumping up against limits in many areas, including agriculture, notably due to population explosion.

8) other, mystical, esoteric, world wide conspiracist, etc.

Now the status of these different ‘causes’ differ and can’t really be fixed. Are they proximate, distal? Main, subsidiary? Co-causes that interact? Correlative so not necessarily causative? Are some of them perhaps just pre-conditions? If so, necessary ones, or not? Is one or another the result of one or another (causative chain)? Are some to be dismissed as being pet topics or theories, favored interpretations that are in fact irrelevant?

Alexis ties it together coherently.

Still I am very doubtful about a direct, causal relation between ‘peak oil’ and the recent banking / then ‘economic’ debacle. For ex. peak oil per capita (see the discussion about Kenyans, etc.) passed by long ago, unheralded, though it is one way of relating a fixed quantity to its use. There are others...and it is use, and thus waste, and distribution that count.

You don't mention the most obvious and mainstream explanations... unless your explanation 1) includes most of economics and not only marxist/marxian stuff that is. It's difficult to guess what people mean by "capitalism".
Perhaps you think there's something abnormal about crises.

As to your questions, any explanation that amounts to more than handwaving should rely on certain assumptions and causal linkages and could therefore be dismissed (or not) by observations.
In the case of the peak oil explanation, simply asserting that the price of oil caused the crisis is handwaving at best. An actual explanation would include a mechanism by which the price of oil would cause the crisis and one could then check whether there's evidence of this mechanism at work in macroeconomic data.

It is hard to know where the oil price will be. Here are some of the factors that can change the whole picture:

1. Many are forecasting a severe winter for the northern hemisphere.

2. Natural gas production should start declining.

3. Iran escalation - they are threatening a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz. That could send oil way over $100.

Some nice ideas here, but I think they are still rather simplistic. For example, the Dancing Rabbit compound is called an "eco-village" but it is really a bunch of admirable structures scattered somewhat haphazardly around the landscape. What if someone made something that looked like a real village?

In time, people will discover that, for people not directly involved in agriculture (70%-90%+ of the population), the Traditional City is not only very pleasant to live in, it is also the most energy-efficient! And, it can all be built and maintained with hand tools, as all cities were before 1900 or so.

I've written a number of comments on these topics, a few of which are available here:


A real Dark Ages village (living without money or writing let alone oil):

For some reason, whenever I show pictures of Traditional Cities and Villages, mostly from before 1900 and often before 1800, people assume that I mean whale-oil lamps and writing with sharpened bird feathers dipped in ink, bedpans and tuberculosis.

That's a little weird, no?

Actually, I mean brand-new buildings, electric lights, notebook computers, superinsulation, proper sanitation (possibly composting toilets), hot and cold running water and modern medicine, all in the format of the Traditional City, which is the normal mode of human habitation for 5000 years.

I know some people here at TOD understand what I'm talking about, but I think it is bewildering to 90% of the people here. In their mind, it is Suburbia-as-usual (with battery-powered cars), or a wasteland of catastrophe -- exactly those two, and no other.

This is an odd mental deficiency.

OTOH cities 5000 years ago were not jammed to the gills with automobiles-if your premise is that cities and their inner suburbs of the future will not be jammed to the gills with automobiles, present your evidence.

He's trying to present a picture of possible ways to envision these future towns, Brian.

You want 'evidence' of someone's future designs? If any of us is remotely right about the Peak, then clearly towns of the future won't be ABLE to be jammed with Autos. Even the rusting hulks would have been dragged away or scuttled for materials in a few years..

Or are you raising your hand and volunteering to be one of the other two groups of people he described?