Top 10 Energy Stories of 2009

Here are my choices for the Top 10 energy related stories of 2009. Previously I listed how I voted in Platt's Top 10 poll, but my list is a bit different from theirs. I have a couple of stories here that they didn't list, and I combined some topics. And don't get too hung up on the relative rankings. You can make arguments that some stories should be higher than others, but I gave less consideration of whether 6 should be ahead of 7 (for example) than just making sure the important stories were listed.

1. Volatility in the oil markets

My top choice for this year is the same as my top choice from last year. While not as dramatic as last year's action when oil prices ran from $100 to $147 and then collapsed back to $30, oil prices still more than doubled from where they began 2009. That happened without the benefit of an economic recovery, so I continue to wonder how long it will take to come out of recession when oil prices are at recession-inducing levels. Further, coming out of recession will spur demand, which will keep upward pressure on oil prices. That's why I say we may be in The Long Recession.

2. The year of natural gas

This could have easily been my top story, because there were so many natural gas-related stories this year. There were stories of shale gas in such abundance that it would make peak oil irrelevant, stories of shale gas skeptics, and stories of big companies making major investments into converting their fleets to natural gas.

Whether the abundance ultimately pans out, the appearance of abundance is certainly helping to keep a lid on natural gas prices. By failing to keep up with rising oil prices, an unprecedented oil price/natural gas price ratio developed. If you look at prices on the NYMEX in the years ahead, the markets are anticipating that this ratio will continue to be high. And as I write this, you can pick up a natural gas contract in 2019 for under $5/MMBtu.

3. U.S. demand for oil continues to decline

As crude oil prices skyrocketed in 2008, demand for crude oil and petroleum products fell from 20.7 million barrels per day in 2007 to 19.5 million bpd in 2008 (Source: EIA). Through September 2009, year-to-date demand is averaging 18.6 million bpd - the lowest level since 1997. Globally, demand was on a downward trend as well, but at a less dramatic pace partially due to demand growth in both China and India.

4. Shifting fortunes for refiners

The Jamnagar Refinery Complex in India became the biggest in the world, China brought several new refineries online, and several U.S. refiners shut down facilities. This is a trend that I expect to continue as refining moves closer to the source of the crude oil and to cheap labor. This does not bode well for a U.S. refining industry with a capacity to refine 17.7 million barrels per day when total North American production is only 10.5 million bpd (crude plus condensate).

5. China

China was everywhere in 2009. They were making deals to develop oil fields in Iraq, signing contracts with Hugo Chavez, and they got into a bidding war with ExxonMobil in Ghana. My own opinion is that China will be the single-biggest driver of oil prices over at least the next 5-10 years.

6. U.S. oil companies losing access to reserves

As China increases their global presence in the oil markets, one casualty has been U.S. access to reserves. Shut out of Iraq during the recent oil field auctions there, U.S. oil companies continue to lose ground against the major national oil companies. But no worries. Many of my friends e-mailed to tell me that the Bakken has enough crude to fuel the U.S. for the next 41 years...

7. EU slaps tariffs on U.S. biodiesel

With the aid of generous government subsidies, U.S. biodiesel producers had been able to put their product into the EU for cheaper than local producers could make it. In a big blow to U.S. biodiesel producers, the EU put the brakes on this practice by imposing five-year tariffs on U.S. biodiesel.

8. Big Oil buys Big Ethanol

I find it amusing when people suggest that the ethanol industry is a threat to the oil industry. I don't think those people appreciate the difference in the scale of the two industries.

As I have argued many times before, the oil industry could easily buy up all of the assets of ethanol producers if they thought the business outlook for ethanol was good. It would make sense that the first to take an interest would be the pure refiners, because they are the ones with the most to lose from ethanol mandates. They already have to buy their feedstock (oil), so if they make ethanol they just buy a different feedstock, corn, and they get to sell a mandated product.

In February, Valero became the first major refiner to buy up assets of an ethanol company; bankrupt ethanol producer Verasun. Following the Valero purchase, Sunoco picked up the assets of another bankrupt ethanol company. If ExxonMobil ever decides to get involved, they could buy out the entire industry.

9. The climate wars heat up

There were several big climate-related stories in the news this year, so I decided to lump them all into a single category. First was the EPA decision to declare CO2 a pollutant that endangers public health, opening the door for regulation of CO2 for the first time in the U.S.

Then came Climategate, which gave the skeptics even more reason to be skeptical. A number of people have suggested to me that this story will just fade away, but I don't think so. This is one that the skeptics can rally around for years to come. The number of Americans who believe that humans are causing climate change was already on the decline, and the injection of Climategate into the issue will make it that much harder to get any meaningful legislation passed.

Closing out the year was the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. All I can say is that I expected a circus, and we got a circus. It just goes to show the difficulty of getting countries to agree on issues when the stakes are high and the issues complex. Just wait until they try to get together to figure out a plan for peak oil mitigation.

10. Exxon buys XTO for $41 billion

In a move that signaled ExxonMobil's expectation that the future for shale gas is promising, XOM shelled out $41 billion for shale gas specialist XTO. The deal means XOM is picking up XTO's proved reserves for around $3 per thousand cubic feet, which is less than half of what ConocoPhillips paid for the reserves of Burlington Resources in 2005.

Honorable Mention

There were a number of stories that I considered putting in my Top 10, and some of these stories will likely end up on other Top 10 lists. A few of the stories that almost made the final cut:

The IEA puts a date on peak oil production

The statement they made was that barring any major new discoveries "the output of conventional oil will peak in 2020 if oil demand grows on a business-as-usual basis."

AltaRock Energy Shuts Down

Turns out that deep geothermal, which the Obama administration had hoped "could be quickly tapped as a clean and almost limitless energy source" - triggers earthquakes. Who knew? I thought these were interesting comments from the story: “Some of these startup companies got out in front and convinced some venture capitalists that they were very close to commercial deployment” and “What we’ve discovered is that it’s harder to make those improvements than some people believed." I am still waiting to see a bonafide success story from some of these VCs.

The biggest energy bill in history was passed

In total, $80 billion in the stimulus bill earmarked for energy was a big story, but I don't know how much of that money was actually utilized.

The Pickens Plan derails

The website is still there, but the hype of 2008 turned into a big disappointment in 2009 after oil prices failed to remain high enough to make the project economical. Pickens lost about 2/3rds of his net worth as oil prices unwound, he took a beating in the press, and he announced in July that we would probably abandon the plan.

So what did I miss? And what are early predictions for 2010's top stories? I think China's moves are going to continue to make waves, there will be more delays (and excuses) from those attempting to produce fuel from algae and cellulose, and there will be little relief from oil prices.

Not quite on the scale with the ones you mentioned, but as the "green" world falls out of love with the mercury containing compact fluorescent bulbs (billions in superfund clean up liability is now being foreseen) a new competitor is vying for the position of the "next" green bulb:

This is either (a) more internet hucksterism or (b)potentially one of the greatest investment potentials in be the judge. Either way, they seem to be struggling for survival until they can get the bulb tested and into production.


Probably not just internet husksterism, but probably not "one of the greatest investment potentials in years" either. "Electron-stimulated luminescence" is certainly nothing new; it's how old-fashioned CRTs work. Energetic electrons strike phosphors and emit light. Not much different than fluorescent lights, where it energetic photons (a.k.a. UV light) that strikes phosphors to emit light.

What could be new is the source of the energetic electrons. The web site says nothing about it, but I'd guess it's likely a cold cathode field emission technology of some sort. Maybe a thin diamond film over a patterned array of microneedles, similar to what's being tried for low-energy video displays. I suspect that the patents the company holds are fairly narrow, and have to do with the specific use of whatever technology they're employing for lighting. That's just guesswork, however. If I had funds to invest, I'd give it a closer look. Since I don't, I'll just put it on a "watch" list and see if it comes to anything.


Their description seems to be that the have a proprietary patent on the chemical mix they use, which is coated on the interior of the surface of the bulb...the interier of the bulb is then sprayed with electrons and goes luminescent.

Of course, if the mix they use is pretty easily duplicated, they could face competition, the patents could be hard to police.

Right now, the company (VU1) is essentially broke, with no salable product to date, so they are hanging on with investor the current price, if what they have works, and IF (big if) they can survive long enough to get it into production, I think it could be a hell of an investment opportunity. Lot of possibly, but a lot of If's...given that the S&P 500 has lost money over the last decade, the competition to be a great investment opportunity is pretty thin..but risky.


Einstein won the Nobel prize for the photo-electric effect and TV was the first big app.

Now are you trying to be depressing on purpose :)

Given the physics behind the technology of a microwave I'd suggest that as second runner up for the most embarrassing use of super cool physics.

I could see aliens take a look.

Everyone has these electoron accelerator rings similar to what we use for high energy physics and guess what they use them for ?



Why on GoaggonWorld would they do that ?

To eat while they watch TV..

Whats TV ?

You may want to sit down for this one.

You need to publish that one and go viral.............

Hey, it could be Project Blue Beam!

The process employed by such ELF technology are described in various U. S. Defense Department publications ... a pulse microwave device can deliver audible signals directly to an individual while remaining undetectable to anyone else. The technology is very simple and can be built by using an ordinary police radar gun. The microwave beam generated by the device is modulated at audio frequencies and can broadcast messages directly into the brain. Now here we come to the NASA Blue Beam Project. The broadcasting of subliminal two-way communication and images from the depths of space correspond directly to that kind of technology.

This has been around a very long time. I remember it being puffed in the early 70s as a means of communicating with helicopter pilots in noisy surroundings. I built a little rig circa 1973 to try it out, but all it did was give me a headache.

By publish I'm sure you mean create a video of some blue alien physicists discussing this with their lead specialist in earthling culture. Then it can be seen on TV while the viewers sit back and eat hot microwaved popcorn right? ;-)

TV does not use the photoelectric effect.  The electrons in a CRT are generated by a hot cathode.

Transmission and reception not display.
Originally it was light---> electric signals and then spawned from the telegraph.
You are thinking of the screen which is the back half and the hot cathode just makes the electrons easily emitted but they are impulsed by the received signal.

I agree that "volatilitity of oil prices" is, in a sense, the number one story. But I'd label it differently, with a different emphasis. The real story is the drop in demand due to economic conditions, and how the resulting plunge in oil prices have taken the wind out of the sails for alternative energy just at the time we need to be investing heavily.

What we've seen over the past year suggests a somewhat different model for post-peak evolution of the economy than most of us have envisioned. Rather than competition for limited supplies creating permanent high prices that hit everyone, what we've seen is a reduction in demand due to vacant buildings and loss of jobs. Under that reduced demand, oil prices have settled at moderate levels that are not a problem for the diminished pool of those stil employed. Low enough that if they don't undercut efforts to wean us from our dependency entirely, they at least make it harder to rally support.

I don't think I've seen anyone explore the notion that post-peak will just look like "business as usual" for a shrinking number of those still employed, with an increasing fraction of the population simply "thrown under the bus" to join the collection of poor souls we're so good at ignoring. "The poor we will have always with us". But that wasn't supposed to mean us.

Cheerful Christmas thought, that one.

I suspect that you can carry this principle even further, Roger. Not just that the over-prosperous Pampered Twenty Percent (the global middle class) of the world's people will shrink slowly -- and perhaps quite quietly -- to a much lower percentage of the total world human population, but that the +absolute number of humans+ will, at last, begin to shrink too, and in an equally quiet, ignored sort of way. And in both cases BAU-in-blinkers for those not immediately hit will continue.

Ultimately, this too will be a result of energy constraint causing not just one but a series of Long Depressions.

I've been wondering for some time (just a hunch) whether this tide-turn might already have happened, unnoticed so far because it's recent, and there's a lag between the event and the information-collecting machinery which will show it up. And if we're not already into the start of spontaneous population-reduction, maybe we're just standing briefly on the dwell of the tide, and it won't be long now before the ebb begins.

In the same way that the poor are always with us, but we of the PTP always manage to block our conscious attention, most times, from that constant presence, and just go on indulging our self-pampering as usual, whilst they starve, those who die untimely, and -- usually -- in dire circumstances have been with us in many millions for longer than my already threescore-and-ten span.

Excess deaths through +curable+ poverty (always curable if enough of us cared enough to insist) have been around in the background for a very long time, ignored most of the waking day by most of us who aren't actually doomed to be in that pit. It's happened during the past few hundred years that the overall global human birth rate has stayed ahead of the overall death rate, and has indeed raced ahead of it during the late (unlamented!) energy splurge, now ending.

But there seems to be an emerging consensus, at least amongst those awake and paying attention, that as energy-availability goes down, population will follow, whatever we do or don't do. Per-capita energy usage worldwide, seems to have stopped growing some time back. So can it be long now before absolute population growth follows suit, especially now that actual energy-use constraints are starting to appear?

Boof also wonders whether it might happen that "Peak Oil achieves what Copenhagen couldn't". You might push that into a general speculative principle, and wonder whether Peak Everything, including Peak Humans, and the consequent crashing of overall global economic activity (despite continuing local growth hotspots) could mean that all the Synergising Global Crises are going to see spontaneous alleviation, to some extent at least, without us stupider-than-yeast humans doing anything effective to make that happen, beyond just carrying on BAU blindly -- as, clearly, we're going to try to do -- and enduring the consequences dumbly.

I'm afflicted these days with a sense that there's a fatal mismatch in humans between our technical capabilities on the one hand, and our capacity for wisdom and voluntary self-restraint on the other. Could it mean that, if every planet gets just one chance to evolve a life-form that uses the planetary endowment to invent ways to govern its home environment wisely and sustainably, and at the same times uses a bit of that endowment to find ways to go a-viking in the universe to look for further endowments, we've missed the chance and blown what we had, simply because we turned out to be an inadequate species for the job; not Vulcan enough? Pretty pathetic epitaph, eh: "They made an Easter Island of their whole planet."


Interesting thoughts...the "one shot" theory has been with us for awhile, Carl Sagan often mentioned it but his fear seemed to be of a nuclear war dropping us backward, and given that all of the most easily extracted minerals would be depleted, it would be very hard for humans to climb back up the hill of technological advance...Recently Shephen Hawking made a similiar argument, saying that mankind only had one path forward and that was outward away from earth...

Of course that was the plan all along wasn't it? Witness the work of the techno romantics (H.G. Wells in "Things To Come" despite his fears of war caused setback, Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov of course, R. Buckminster Fuller, Admiral Hyman Rickover and less famously, myself :-), there was never any doubt that fossil fuels were depleting and that they were at most a "bridge" technology. The techno romantics however were not greatly upset by this, feeling that by the time this problem became acute we would already be on our way to nuclear power, first fission then fusion, and into space extracting the other metals we need fromt the moons, planets and asteriods.

Most of the techno romantics (Asimov and Frank Herbert seem to be exceptions) did not greatly fear population as an issue either, feeling that the chemical industry would handle this by way of birth control, and noting the normal pattern that as people get more prosperous and educated they have a tendency to stop or at least reduce the procreation of children.

Given the above beginning assumptions, the techno romantics do not see "peak oil" as a problem of resource depletion, as astonishing as that may seem to true peak oilers. They would say that peak oil was a foregone conclusion from the start, and the real cause of the crisis is poor education and application of science, technology and design. This is of course an argument I make often here, so my loyalties are very clearly obvious.

Essentially, the techno romantics argue that by disregarding science, technology (when the young turned away from these subjects in the millions in the Vietnam era and have never really come back) and the need for continuing modification of our energy system (which was slowed to a near stop by vested interests in the energy extraction and banking community)

This would only be an academic argument except...which position you take creates a serious fork in the road as to solutions...true peakers would believe in a path of reduced consumption through stopping of economic growth and it goes without saying,stopping population growth. They would see this, and not technology and design as the path forward.

The techno romantics would take a different approach, fighting against reduced education for the young (sending them back to the land would be considered an atrocity), and instead push for technological development, alternative technolgy, advanced design of consumer products and architecture, and a continuation of the work on nuclear fusion and other words, the path that in their mind was fallen away from starting in about 1968.

Interestingly, the path forward, as it often is, may end up being a middle path between reduced and very carefullly deployed growth (this seems to be what Obama sometimes describes in his "targeted" support of "green" options), and a continuation of science and technology to find potentially workable alternatives. Back to our starting point, the "one shot" problem...

We seem to be cutting it pretty close...IF, and this is a big if, I don't predict it happening but it is worrisome, if we were to allow the command, control, communication, co-ordination functions of the culture fail, then it really could be that we missed our one shot (at least as a culture). This would mean would then be rooting for the "other guys" to hold the game together, the other guys being Asia and Europe and potentially in the future, Latin America. If we are rooting for the hope of mankind, we view some of these as the "Foundations at the edge of the empire" to use a parable used by Asimov, and hope that they could hold things together, UNLESS, and this is a serious factor, a person is partisan to the idea that technology advance is the illness and SHOULD be stopped. They would then root for the collapse of modernity anywhere in the world it existed.

So at the end of all the discussion, we take our position and live (or die) with it...But it really does seem to be a "one shot deal", if we blow it, it may be centuries, if ever, before we could hope to climb back to the top of the hill...I think we're going to make it and not blow it, but then given my slant I would think that...:-) we are living in a special time.



Good observations.

Given the above beginning assumptions, the techno romantics do not see "peak oil" as a problem of resource depletion, as astonishing as that may seem to true peak oilers. They would say that peak oil was a foregone conclusion from the start, and the real cause of the crisis is poor education and application of science, technology and design. This is of course an argument I make often here, so my loyalties are very clearly obvious.

I was pretty much a "techno romantic" from a very early age. We had a TV when TV was new, and I can remember watching black and white episodes of "Buck Rogers", "Captain Midnight", and a few like shows. My favorite source of reading material was my Dad's collection of pulp science fiction magazines from the 30's and 40's.

I can also remember reading about energy resources in school -- "My Weekly Reader" if anyone out there remembers it. That would have been in 2nd or 3rd grade for me, c. 1953. They gave projections for depletion of oil and coal that were somewhere in the range of a few decades for oil to a century for coal. I don't recall the specific numbers, but I do recall how crazy it seemed to me even then that we had allowed ourselves to become reliant on resources with such limited lifetimes. (In those days, a century was still considered a short time frame.) Of course, whoever wrote the science columns for "My Weekly Reader" was expecting nuclear power to replace fossil fuels well before they started to run out.

There's one sense in which I probably didn't fit the mold of a techno-romantic. I never saw advanced technology as the key to a better world. In fact, I think I understood even back in elementary school that poverty and social injustice were not related to level of technology and would not be cured by industrialization and automation. Probably got that from my Mom's side of the family. She was an artist, poet, and environmental romantic. Her Dad was born in 1881, classically educated, and a great admirer of ancient Greece. A retired minister, he lived with us until I was six and largely shaped my moral outlook.

However it happened, I saw materialism and consumerism as wrong-headed and spiritually destructive, if not exactly evil. I was strongly drawn to science out of curiosity about the world; I was drawn to technology out of fascination with new possibilities. I really loved the idea of giant telescopes in space that could search for life on planets around other stars. But I never saw scientific and social advances as strongly related.

I did see them as synergistic, but I'm now beginning to question even that. The first decade of the new millenium has been horrendously disillusioning. But it's also been educational. I can now see that things were a lot more messed up, socially, in the past than what I had supposed. There's the notion that, as a species, we simply were not ready to venture into space. That it would distract us and divert us from some hard lessons about ourselves that we needed to learn. I can't say that I totally buy that notion now, but I have a lot more sympathy for it than I once did. My techno-romanticism is feeling pretty battered.

"There's the notion that, as a species, we simply were not ready to venture into space. That it would distract us and divert us from some hard lessons about ourselves that we needed to learn."

I think that this is a reasonably accurate description for much of our technology, not just space exploration. Our engineers have placed a live chain saw in the hands of a five year old with predictable damage to everything around.

"I don't think I've seen anyone explore the notion that post-peak will just look like "business as usual" for a shrinking number of those still employed, with an increasing fraction of the population simply "thrown under the bus" to join the collection of poor souls we're so good at ignoring. "The poor we will have always with us". But that wasn't supposed to mean us."

This is pretty much the conclusion I have come to. While I'm glad my family has not been the among the worst affected yet, I'm not placing any great hope on that continuing for long.

The one advantage of a large part of the middle class feeling under threat of dropping to the bottom might be that there would be a hue and cry for a stronger safety net. But most of the hue and cry seems to be fear of "death panels" and of presidential talks encouraging kids to stay in school. This country continually perplexes (and depresses) me.

There's the notion that, as a species, we simply were not ready to venture into space. That it would distract us and divert us from some hard lessons about ourselves that we needed to learn.

Which would be what, exactly?

The ancient photosynthesizers which expelled free oxygen and transformed Earth's biosphere forever (the "oxygen catastrophe") had no use for introspective lessons or other philosophy; they evolved and took advantage of the niche they found, and that was that.  Land plants, ditto.  Insects, ditto.  Land animals, ditto.  We have a lot of philosophy encoded in our DNA, and part of it is "grow into new niches as they present themselves".  Either we'll do it or we will be supplanted by people—or something else—who will.

Hi RC,

I think we're going to make it and not blow it

I really want to be in your camp. But, here is the worrisome part:

The range of solutions (without a lot of overly optimistic risk) are pretty clear:

- Conservation: Global family planning with a goal of 4B by 2100 (via education, empowering women, support of UN, etc.) 50% reduction in meat as a human food supply. Restoration of forests. Massive campaign to values other than consumption oriented ones. And the list goes on....

- Efficiency: dramatic overhaul of personal transportation (NEVs, mass transit, bikes, banning cars as we now use them). Building insulation. Recycling. And the list goes on...

- Technology: dramatic investment in wind & solar. Dramatic investment in education and technology research for new energy forms, greatly increased efficiency, zero waste recycling. And the list goes on...

Other TOD folks have been far more articulate in detailing such solutions to our Peak Everything problem.

However, what signs do you see that humans are smart enough to implement these solutions in a timely manner? Personally, I know very few people who recognize the problem. I know some people who are somewhat aware, but have absolute faith that technology is already solving the problems and are pretty optimistic about the future - none of these people have any idea about daily oil consumption, depletion rates, reserve data, etc. It is really hard to see how we are not going to blow it. Although I really believe "not blowing it" is technically possible.

Hi Dave,

re: "However, what signs do you see that humans are smart enough to implement these solutions in a timely manner?"

Putting our collective minds to work on Christmas Day? :)

I've been thinking about the number of practical ways that some humans, including scientists, have discovered to bring about positive changes in culture and "smarts," which, after all, involve emotions.

Some of the ones that come to mind include: meditation, "giving as life-altering therapy" (I have to find the title!), mediation and conflict resolution skills, along with my usual list:,,

and, of course, a very favorite: the empowerment (legal, educational, financial, fundamental human rights) - of women.

And, on the practical level, the NAS weighing in could set in motion what has to be done:

That's a great list. I was aware of Non-violent communication, but not the others.

Here's another good one:

Thank you, Nick.

It's reassuring that you appreciate the list.

I like practical ways to learn responsibility, which, it seems to me, these "methods" teach - starting with becoming aware of what one feels...

and, of course, a very favorite: the empowerment (legal, educational, financial, fundamental human rights) - of women.

Sarah Palin is a college grad right? How are you going to EDUCATE the likes of her?! Even Hillary has a ways to go and she holds real power...

I'm all for the empowerment of women (I come from a family of self-empowered women). I have to point out that if we empower women it will also increase their per capita energy consumption to be more on par with men's, taking the term "empower" literally.

Hello Ghung,

I'm glad to see you raise the important point of per capita energy consumption.

In order to address this fully, it would be necessary for me to explain further what I mean about "empowerment." I've attempted to do so in the related comment (above) about basic safety of one's person - this means safety from assaults (physical and sexual... verbal certain comes in as well, however, it's most often relevant because threats are made real, and thus the verbal and emotional abuse causes a quite legitimate fear in the recipient).

Perhaps this word "empowerment" is not the best choice.

Could you possibly suggest another word for the ideas of fundamental safety, legally, in respect to the desire to keep one's person safe from violation?

Fundamental safety I see as the necessary first step for "empowerment." (Violence results in trauma, which does not end once the violence ends.)

Now, in order to analyze and responds to your argument "empower women it will also increase their per capita energy consumption to be more on par with men's," we need to look at the current situation.

There are several ways I might respond to your proposition.

1) The current "per capita" way of viewing the energy consumption of humans is an artifact of a type statistical analysis. It is a way of looking at the situation.

It does not represent literal "per capita" consumption, since there are many categories and variables per individual.

We would, of course, have to look at the precise breakdown of energy use to see who (by sex/gender, i.e, males or females) consume literally more energy per capita. And, I would imagine, that the energy-consumption characteristics of the region would have quite a bit to do with this. As does, of course, those invisible (to the discussion) individuals, who are nonetheless energy end-users: children.

Also, the situation is further complicated by the fact that one can consumer goods where the energy consumption of their production is done by others, as are most consumer good end-products in the industrialized West.

I don't think one can make the case that women having basic safety of person, along with education would necessarily increase their energy consumption as a class.

It would be easier for me if you would add some substance to your proposition, by way of explaining how you see this occurring. I can't really respond to an argument I don't understand.

2) One can make a fairly convincing argument that women having this fundamental safety (as a starting point), would lower the birthrate. A very similar argument has been made elsewhere on this forum, in a particular context.

I would like to make the argument in fewer births to people who do not want children would be the result of women's basic physical safety as a legal guarantee. Doing so with references is beyond the scope of my ability to reply at this time, though I'd welcome help with the research.

3) As long as I'm at it in my efforts to attempt to discuss something more akin to "culture change," let me add this: I have a thesis as follows: What we can term "emotional intelligence" is directly linked to overall intelligence, including innate curiosity, and values we on this forum seem to hold (generally). This "EQ" is directly related to cognitive development and to the ability to analyze a situation.

So, my thesis in short is that increasing emotional health increases reasoning ability, and the ability to empathize and have the desire to prevent harm and decrease and alleviate the suffering of others. ("Peace and love," in other words. :))

The practical ways people have found to view human nature, in terms of the models I outline above ( - accessible reference, not exhaustive), help create the conditions of relationship between persons and among and betweens groups of persons whereby the important discoveries in the fields of mediation, conflict resolution and sustainability can take place.

And this would bring us to a sustainable future, or at least, it might help us address the "overshoot" question in the way that results in the least suffering.

Hi FMagyar,

Thanks for your comment.

I agree that it's frustrating to see supposedly educated people - (I don't want to take the time to look up Ms. Palin's CV) - appear to lack even basic knowledge and understanding. Frustrating, and we could also say - frightening.

And women are certainly not exempt from being in this category. Of course.

One reply: The point is to allow women the opportunity to be safe - would could start with the ability to be secure and safe from physical and sexual assault.

This condition of safety is not the norm for most of the women on earth today. And, to the degree, for example, that boys are beaten by their parents, males certainly do not escape the experience of victimization in a way that causes particular negative effects.

The next point would be, if one has this safety, then education is something most people yearn for, if the conditions are right for it. "Conditions" is a bit of a broad concept, beyond the scope of this reply.

The pre-conditions that dominate any given society or sub-group of society - (we could take one example: routine physical assault of women by their husbands) - are perhaps most important.

The phrase "emotional intelligence" has been used by discuss this.

My point is that violence results in trauma, results in the perpetuation of more violence, and more trauma, not only laterally, but from one generation to the next.

A man or a woman has the opportunity to set the example of respectful, humane treatment, and, to speak up and speak about what he sees, when he sees the opposite occurring. As it so often does.

If you look closely at her education, you'll see that it was pretty low quality.

All college courses are not born equal.

Hello Aniya,

From your user-name I presume that you're a woman. I always think that there's far too little women's input on this site. Apart from you and Gail, I can't think of anyone who's clearly declared herself.

Taking the idea further, it seems to me that the women's input to our situation, globally, is altogether too small, and that that lack hasn't done us any good.

I acknowledge that there will always be monstrous regiments of Palins, Clintons, L.Borgias, Messalinas. But on the other hand, looking at the quietly healing, always creative, always link-making and peace-making natural capabilities of my partner, and lots of other ordinary obscure women whom we know, and looking at the blundering boy-scoutery of me and most of the men, with what George Monbiot calls our testerical tendency (male equivalent of 'hysterical') always on hair-trigger to pitch us into face-struggles, shouting matches, pissing contests and outright violence, I lament that women aren't more in charge, or at least equal partners with men, with equal power, instead of being reduced in so many places still, by the ever-present threat of testerical violence, to the role of breeding and serving serfs. Nor do I think that it's just 'backward' countries 'over there' where this still happens too much. Plenty of examples in the over-rich countries too; women as essentially disempowered, semi-enslaved chattels.

I'm often reduced to a state of baffled, frustrated silence by this weird rupture between the naked primate at her/his worst, and the extraordinary level of creation, innovation, healing and the hope-inspiring things that we-all can do at our best. Like others -- well, other boys -- of my generation, I was inoculated/indoctrinated with the techno-romanticism of Arthur C., Isaac A., and all of that generation of SF writers, and by the general science/technology-driven optimism of the era. I've never really lost entirely that same hopeful wishfulness.

What's equally interesting and despair-preventing to me personally is experience picked up along the way which makes me entirely confident that us cocky, clever, meddlesome primates don't know anything like as much about the more hidden aspects of the nature of reality as we tell ourselves that we do in our current great world religion of science. I've seen enough Black Swans to be confident that there's a whole population of them about somewhere, just out of our sight.

Two things which intrigue me particularly are the odd, still little-understood phenomena of parapsychology/the paranormal, and the equally little-understood groping about that's going on in the still largely laughed-at field of vacuum energy.

I haven't done enough due diligence to have a magisterial view on the vacuum possibilities, though I find Tom Bearden and John Bedini at least patchily impressive with what they've done so far. Steorn is still in there pitching too. And I believe that there are one or two others who deserve to be taken seriously, though I haven't looked carefully enough to name any with confidence. It is, though, a field rife with idiocy and chicanery too. So -- caveat emptor! But still, there's something real there, I suspect.

In the field of the paranormal, though, I've been doing both search and practise enough to be more confident that there's something real here too which just doesn't fit at all into our present reductive, mechanistic view of scientifically-established truth. And you know how it is with paradigm-shifts in science: when the theory can't accommodate all the observed phenomena, particularly the maverick facts, it's the theory which has to give. Having witnessed flamboyant and unmistakable PK -- clearly ESP mediated, what's more -- on multiple occasions, mainly when taking part in K J Batcheldor's sitter-group work in the 1980s, I have the sterling confidence that only ever comes at its strongest from direct, personal experience that that whole mysterious matter is as real as anything that we know; and that there's some very mysterious and powerful organisation of energy going on there, as well as an equally masterly manipulation of large and intricate assemblages of both matter and information. Maybe, as a distinguished physicist of an earlier generation once opined, the fundamental stuff of the universe really is mind-stuff. And if that's so, then -- once we've crashed our mechanistic civilisation, and the survivors have picked themselves out of the wreckage and started to think about things ab origine again -- we might be able to explore a bit further along that road not -- yet -- taken.

Even after many long, absorbed theoretical discussions with Ken on how exactly all these observed phenomena might be organised into an insight-giving theory, I have to say regretfully that, even when Ken died, we only had a handful of tentative principles, and the misty outlines of a possible theory. But that there's something real here, we had no doubt. Nor have I now, decades later.

This is to say nothing much here about my decades-long practise and exploration in an updated modern Western redaction of the ancient disciplines of shamanism, beyond saying that that too has it's realities, which we dismiss to our own detriment.

These hunches and glimpses -- I'd never put it more dogmatically than that -- give me reason to suspect that the bleak planet-wide Easter Island that I mentioned in my previous post in this thread needn't be our inexorable fate. But I think that we have some beating down and humbling by geophysical forces-majeures to undergo first, till we've had a bit of the excess sand knocked out of our craw. Then we can start poking about and exploring for new insights again, and possible dependent technologies. Mircea Eliade didn't define shamans as 'technicians of the sacred' for nothing......

Steorn is still in there pitching too.

And probably will until they are hauled off in handcuffs, or victims of their fraud come at them with machetes.  The facts, on the other hand, have spoken.

In the field of the paranormal, though, I've been doing both search and practise enough to be more confident that there's something real here too which just doesn't fit at all into our present reductive, mechanistic view of scientifically-established truth.

Confirmation bias doesn't fit into reductive, mechanistic explanations because it's an evolutionary quirk of human cognition.  However, reality is and remains what continues to exist even when you stop believing in it.

This is to say nothing much here about my decades-long practise and exploration in an updated modern Western redaction of the ancient disciplines of shamanism, beyond saying that that too has it's realities, which we dismiss to our own detriment.

I'm sorry Rhisiart, you seem to be a nice enough person but I'm rather tired of having to listen to this kind of BS...

Paranoid schizophrenics have their own version of reality as well but we wouldn't necessarily wish to have them deciding public policy now would we?

Hello EP and FMagyar!

I see that neither of you has had any close encounters with the paranormal. Not knowingly, anyway. Or if knowingly, then carefully, determinedly forgotten by now.

Hardly surprising, when you take into account the 'ownership-denial' and 'witnessing-avoidance' effects which any serious psi-researcher soon learns about, and with which s/he must learn to come to terms. It appears that there's no avoiding it. We all seem to have it. I remember very vividly the utter astonishment that I felt on the first occasion that I noticed it being strongly triggered in myself. I was surprised at how strong it was, since I knew that I was also enthusiastic to gain close encounters with paranormal phenomena. Even more surprising, at the time, was the observation that I could, apparently, accommodate both impulses -- the enthusiasm +and+ the avoidance -- simultaneously. Very disorienting!

At it's most violent, the denial/avoidance impulse can lead to the kind of antics in which James Randi, for example, has indulged for many years now: in effect, fanatically aiming to deny the very existence of something ineluctably real, but equally ineluctably -- and fundamentally -- perturbing.

At a lesser degree of intensity, it leads to the kind of 'hard-nosed', 'realistic' scorning, widely popular amongst those of a scientific turn of mind, which just affects to laugh dismissively at something which -- in most cases -- has not actually been investigated: "No need to look, because I already KNOW that it's not possible!" A key cardinal sin of the true, impeccable scientific method, of course, but commonplace, even amongst scientists.

TOD being so scientist- and rationalist-heavy, I did expect some such response; or another common one: a dissonant failure to engage at all with the ideas; automatic dismissal and passing over in silence. Familiar responses.

However, those who -- for example -- have had repeated telepathic communions with a close loved one, whether human or of another companion species, will not switch into deride-and-dismiss mode so easily; not if they happen so often, as they do between me and my partner, for example, that they become a commonplace experience of life, even if often rather inconsequential. Those who have had close encounters with the arguably more spectacular side of the paranormal -- the PK aspect, as opposed to the ESP aspect; levitations of objects in clear light, for example, or directly-witnessed apports -- will find dismiss-and-deride even more difficult to do. Unless, that is, it's undertaken as a way to rewrite the memory of what you actually witnessed: also a common get-out technique for people seriously perturbed by what they've witnessed. Serious, veteran students of this field are quite familiar with these tricks that our cognitive faculty plays, in emotional emergencies.

Really intriguingly, though, the remote-viewing work done by Puthoff, Targ and Harary et al, in the '70s at SRI may perhaps have stumbled on a way round this always intractable problem in psi-research. Together with some friends, I did some smaller efforts to replicate the SRI remote-viewing experiments, with a handful of quite unsettlingly striking results. Ken Batcheldor also had considerable success in his own self-imposed free-lance psi-research programme here in Britain with his 'acclimatisation and track-record' approach. Certainly that's what helped me forward into greater effectiveness in this field, having learned the method from Ken.

I only bring up these 'damned', fortean matters -- vacuum energy, psi, and that ancient and universal form of useable psi-practise which happens to appeal to me, shamanism -- in such a probably-unsympathetic forum as TOD because I'm aware that staying in the same thinking-box which got us into our present, all-engulfing Synergising Global Crises isn't going to get us out of the mess. Thinking a long way out of the familiar, intellectual-BAU box will be essential, I suspect.

All my life, I've been painfully aware -- like an alien standing back and watching a very weird species to which I scarcely feel that I belong -- that I live in a very damaged, dysfunctional society, which has unmistakably the seeds of its own destruction germinating in it. By now, along with a growing number of other alarmed souls, I see ever more plainly that we are facing, close-to, a historic, and no-longer dodgeable imperative: Change, fundamentally, or die in very large numbers; maybe even go extinct.

Fortunately, my oddball travels in the derided disciplines have made me tolerably sure that there are indeed "...more things in Heaven and Earth.....than are dreamt of in [our current dominant Western reductive] philosophy..."

After those of us who can't hack that big change, those of us who are determined to go on searching for ways of carrying on BAU right up to the moment that they go over the edge of the precipice, and those who are just damned unlucky, have been swallowed by the big crash and die-off which now looks inescapable, there may be some survivors left. That seems feasible, at least. And if so, the shocks, and the high-speed, forced natural selection which we will have endured by then might well have sobered up our existential hubris enough to nudge us into going back and taking another look at the derided and dismissed areas of -- actually authentic -- human experience.

There's a guest post by Peter Salonius a few threads up from this one, sponsored by Gail yesterday, which revisits the by-now rather widely-canvassed idea that homo sapiens sapiens made a really bad error when we left the extremely ancient, stable, and workable gatherer-hunter mode of being. In my lifetime, the few remnantary practitioners of that way of being have been able to pass to particularly observant and acute anthropologists, and others, the insight that maybe those people really did have access to quite a different organisation of reality -- which actually worked differently, in subtle ways; or maybe even in flamboyant ways....? Rupert Sheldrake, another soberly serious enquirer into the derided areas of experience, certainly puts forward quite seriously the hypothesis that maybe it would be more accurate to think of what we call the eternal, universal Laws of Physics as being more like old, deeply-rutted, but not necessarily immutable +habits+ of reality, rather than fundamental, permanently-fixed laws.

Or putting it another way: maybe that awkward bugger Bishop Berkeley had it right after all. As my Irish in-laws would say: "Trust the bloody Irish!:"

bicycle dave, you asked,
"However, what signs do you see that humans are smart enough to implement these solutions in a timely manner?"

I won't spend too much typing time, but keep my answer to your question general, sort of a "big scope look" since the devil is in the details and we know there will be many more posts on TOD and elsewhere addressing the discussions/arguments about details. My hopes are pretty much centered around our current "bad news" which can actually be used to our other words, our enemies may also be our friends...

-Our waste: We have all discussed the incredible amount of waste that our culture lives with everyday. Overweight cars, poorly planned transportation logistics, thermally leaky houses...what this means is the that the first sizable cuts could come out of the fat and not the muscle. This is important because reducing waste would not cripple our cultural ability to continue addressing these issues. Simply reducing waste from houses in lost heating and air conditioning would mean that we would not make the house not less comfortable, but in fact more so.

This doesn't apply only to energy but also to minerals and water. Grey water recapture is technically not so complex and could conserve millions of gallons of water, but outdated local laws and ordinances make it difficult to implement, a legal and not a technical hurdle.

Correct orientation and earth berming could reduce thermal losses of many buildings such as office parks, shops and factories and even shopping malls without adding a great deal of expense, but again, local grid pattern city ordinances and legal limits make it more difficult than it has to be. There are huge possibilities of organizational changes and logistical changes that could save resources of all kinds before any new technology is even applied. With some new technology, resource consumption could become very low as would carbon release. We should again consider Europe, where resource consumption is much lower per capita, and many consider the cities and town there much more pleasant.

-On population. There is no doubt that in the regions of the world least able to afford it, population growth is still high. In the developed world however, population growth is slowing rapidly, and in some areas actually declining (Japan recently held forums to discuss the possibility of immigration to help boost home nation population in an effort to maintain market growth, this to help pay for the pensions of the aging Japanese. Even discussing this would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but without importing people the population of Japan will certainly begin dropping soon. The rest of the developed world would be in a similiar situation if they did not already allow immigration, and illegal immigration is often winked at for this reason...the feeling that we need the younger people. And remember, this is before the beginning of the major demise of the biggest population bump in history, the baby boomers. Most advanced nations are frightened more (perhaps wrongly, but still this is where we are) of a mass "emptying out" of the advanced nations than they are worried of concerns about over population in advanced nations. When people worry about over population, it is largely the third world and developig nations they are concerned about.

Technical confluence-This is a fascinating one to us techno romantics! Historically, technical ideas never exist in a vacuum, but have a tendency to cross path with other technical ideas from often unrelated industries. In other words, the whole becomes more than the sum of the parts, often by huge factors. We have seen the beginning of this in solar panel design, and how thin film panels are able to borrow ideas pioneered in the silicon computer chip industry, and new light batteries are able to borrow (and lend) to both industries. This is just the beginning, and no one can predict the efficiencies that may be possible in a very short number of years.

Advanced batteries combined with advanced gas turbine engines combined with methane recapture technique combined with smart grid recharching of plug hybrid vehicles while advanced materials make possible small wheel hub idea finds another until the vehicle really becomes fantastically efficient (of course if your opposed to vehicles on moral principle that is not a good thing!) Then the question becomes scaling up the technology, but there is no question the technology is there. Again, the devil is in the details, but the details we are normally pretty good at, it is the "big picture" thinking that gives us fits!

Having said the above, I am NOT a Pollyanna...I think we must admit we are looking at a tough road ahead, one that may well require a painful amount of frugality and some hard choices. I am not one of those who say "no problem". It is a problem because we have waited much later in the game than we should have, and the vested interests for the time being seem to be dug in for the fight for the status quo. Time is the enemy, we continue to delay and argue, and leave ourseleves ever closer to the edge. I often say here that the day of peak oil could be...why not today? One day is as good as any other, the terror of peak oil is that we simply cannot KNOW when it will (or possibly has) occur. Then our efforts will be in survival mode, and advances forward will be very hard. We should have built many of the solutions in modular steps, and been working faster along the path away from total dependence on fossil fuel (or any one type of energy for that matter) and diversified more all along the path.

One last point: We have allowed our educational system to degrade considerably given the amount of information and "inference reading" that is soon to be required. As a percent of population, we continue to have declining interest in science, math, and technical craft skills. We are soon going to lose a generation of technicians, fabricators and craftspeople who knew how to weld, machine, handle high pressure systems, design and manage hydraulics (recently, I saw a link where a hydraulics society was literally running glitzy ads to try to get young people interested in the subject at all). I think the loss of a proud and well rewarded technical class is a huge liability to the United States. Many of our competitor nations have done much better on this front and we will certainly end up importing many of the components needed for the advance (witness the hybrid car technology which must be bought from offshore because we simply have no home industry in this area).

So there...and darn it, I went long again, can tell I am on holiday from my bread winning job easily enough, yes? :-) This is what we do in America, get off from work and then bounce off the walls to be doing something constructive...again, our mental restlessness, a friend as well as a curse! :-) Happy Holidays!



When people worry about over population, it is largely the third world and developig nations they are concerned about.

I'm sure this was a typo but still a bit Freudian.

Happy New Year!

Hi RC,

In the spirit of friendly debate, I'd like to explore a couple of your points:

incredible amount of waste ... Overweight cars, ... transportation logistics, leaky houses...waste from houses in lost heating and air conditioning ... Grey water recapture ... orientation and earth berming....

I have no doubt that you are absolutely correct that these "solutions" would be very useful. However, I see very little evidence that we are moving in this direction. Night now, recycling of waste is not a very profitable business; although some movement to smaller cars, big luxury cars are still rolling off the lots; train improvements have been back burnered here for years; some improvement in building practices but nothing on the scale that is needed; grey water ideas are as popular as legalizing drugs in this county. So, the question remains "what evidence...."

In the developed world however, population growth is slowing rapidly, and in some areas actually declining.... When people worry about over population, it is largely the third world .....concerned about.

World population is growing with no decline in sight. Birth rate does not equal growth rate. Declines in either do not automatically equal a decline in population. Usually just a decline in the RATE of growth.

Here are some population figures:

Population as of 2009·11·21

1. China 1,342,074,291
2. India 1,173,160,353
3. USA 308,391,649
4. Indonesia 241,344,647
5. Brazil 199,673,616
World 6,821,106,939

Some Birth Rate - Growth Rates:

US 14.18 - .975%
Ireland 14.33 - 1.12%
Mexico 20.04 - 1.13%
Brazil 18.72 - 1.2%
France 12.73 - .55%
Poland 10.01 - -0.47% (neg)
China 13.71 - .66%

Note that it takes a negative number (like Poland) to actually get a declining population.

You can see growth rates at:

As an example if we use a recent US population figure of 308 million and a growth rate of approximately 1% then in 50 years we have approx 500 million people in the US. You can see the population and growth rate figures at

For comparison the CIA website puts Niger at the top of the birth rate list with approx 50 births and 3.68% growth rate. At the bottom of the birth rate list they show Hong Kong with 7.37 births and still a growth rate of .5%

The world population is growing and so is the population in most developed countries like the US.

Technical panel light batteries .... advanced gas turbine engines....methane recapture technique grid recharching .... small wheel hub motors...there is no question the technology is there.

I DO question that the "technology is there" to make a real difference in a meaningful timeframe. Again, the question remains: "what evidence..." I noticed a huge bailout of the financial industry and a nice effort to keep big cars rolling off the assembly line. I have yet to see any sense of urgency for these technologies. When I was drafted into the army in the 60s my first day in boot camp was greeted by First Sergeant Moore who unceremoniously announced "you $#@% civilians have no &*%$# sense of urgency - I intend to fix that". Perhaps we need to bring back the good Sergeant!

I think the loss of a proud and well rewarded technical class is a huge liability to the United States

100% agree. I worked for one of the biggest community/technical colleges in the US for 24 years. It was a great college, but seldom did I see wealthy parents send their kids to this school as a first choice. The college had a hugh enrollment (often part time, working folks) and excellent course offerings - but from a prestige perspective, it was probably the last choice for anyone who could afford a "regular" college.

We should have built many of the solutions in modular steps

YES, we should have! IMHO it remains to be seen if we will start these steps in time.

Again, I want to drink your Kool-Aid and really hope your vision is better than mine.

bicycle dave,

Thank you for your interesting and well thought out reply and the sources on population and birthrates.

And I must confess that several of your points are very difficult to refute if they can be refuted at some ways we are just going to have take what we can get in forward progress and keep building in the right direction, and building a desire on the part of the consuming public in the right direction. Are we moving fast enough?

Almost certainly not, some of the waste and bizarre structuring of the developed as well as developing economies is so obvious that even people who have no interest in peak or depletion can see it as obviously wasteful. I know old guys who dismiss all this "age of limits" and climate change stuff out of hand, but still have the old puritan "waste not want not" streak in them, and even they see consumption patterns that are idiotic, benefitting no one! As long as the waste is that obvious we surely are not moving away from it fast enough.

You mention the luxury cars rolling off the line...these cars are actually surprisingly efficient in drivetrain design and conversion efficiency...but many of them are just plain FAT. The efficiency of the engines/drivetrains has not been used to benefit better fuel economy but instead to make the car heavy beyond belief and to gain levels of performance that are completely unusable on public highways. Zero to sixty in three or four seconds? How many times in the whole life of a car on the highway will that be used? But the buyer demands not to just be fast, but be the FASTEST.

So dave, your point is made, not refuted...consumption reduction is do-able, but nobody wants to do it! Likewise with housing and other buildings, we are moving slower than we need to, and we have just been through a building boom leaving us with wasteful buildings that will be with us for a half century or more unless we decide to waste the invested energy and money tied up in them and blast them out...even more consumption there.

On population, the stats can get interesting, and complex. The argument has been made that most developed countries would have a flat or falling population without the immigrants who have come to thse countries. But the stats show birthrates have climbed at least some in these countries. However, we know that in the U.S. and Europe, a sizable amount of the birthrates in these nations can be attributed to births by immigrants. In the U.S. our predominantly Latin newcomers have a higher birthrate than native born or daughters of native born Americans. This is not being said for political reasons (which can sometimes get a bit ugly) but simply as a demographic fact. So the U.S. gets the immigrants plus the somewhat higher birthrate they bring with them, which then becomes ours. This is true in Europe also, where the African and Middle Eastern immigrants normally have higher birthrates than native born Europeans, sometimes by a considerable amount.

I make this discussion because it indicates that as immigrants become aculturated to the mentality of the advanced nations, their birthrates normally begin to fall, so in some ways it is a positive influence on them in terms of population growth to be in developed nations. That is the principle reason it is a potentially important discussion, because when all is said and done, population is fungible, and a baby born anywhere in the world still has to be fed and kept warm. While we have seen a slowing of birthrates among certain populations it is important that we still have population growth worldwide, that is not open to debate. The question is, what does the future trend look like (given that in developed nations the bulk of the female population is leaving their fertile childbearing years behind them), and will the slowing birthrate be fast enough to make a real difference in consumption patterns worldwide? That all depends on how much time we think we have.

On the confluence of technology, are we moving fast enough? The glass is either half full or half empty depending on how you look at it....we went from 1 to 1,000,000 hybrid cars in barely a decade, a fantastic growth rate given that at the beginning of the program fuel was cheap and there seemed to be no real need for the device at all other than "green conscious". With the pressure of rising fuel prices, we can expect growth in alternative technologies to at least do as well or better than the above cited hybrid idea did, and potential advances such as plug hybrid could begin catching on very fast, again depending on fuel price, carbon release concerns, concerns over "carbon tax" burdens even at the household level, etc.

Likewise so called "smart" and Energy Star appliances. People are beginning to infer forward and think "hey, even if I don't accept this peak stuff or this climate change thing, it is best to be on the good side in case the government starts taxing carbon or setting household limits...", so they will at least seriously consider the lower consumption alternative when replacement time comes.

Many of the efficiency improvements are occuring almost silently in business for the same reasons...changes made if for no other reason than to keep the pressure off from the Feds and be able to "talk green". Cogeneration at hospitals and hotels, emhanced lighting technique in remodeling of buildings, more advanced energy storage to reduce peak hour demand and demand side shifting of energy use...these developments are not obvious to those not directly involved in the company or the technology involved, but one building at a time, firms are making a difference, the question is will the difference be big enough and fast enough?

And the big improvements seem to be in front of us. As one store makes itself "greener" and more energy efficient, competitors are forced to move in the same direction and not get one upped on the green becomes a doing better than the Jones', but to the positive side. Firms don't want to be the "bad guy", the ones that couldn't keep up, and don't want to draw unwanted negative attention from the government for being dirty high carbon emitters if other firms in the same industry have proven that reductions in emission/consumption were possible.

The often hated Walmart company puts a billion miles per year on it's trucks. Walmart, beginning from a 2005 baseline committed their trucking fleet to a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency by 2008, and 100% improvement by 2015.

Now Walmart's billion miles is enough to make a diffeence, but the big difference will come AFTER the introduction and proving of this technology, because Walmart will certainly put pressure on it's suppliers and contractors to do likewise, and no one likes to say no to Walmart. Other retailers will have no choice but to match Walmart for economic and political reasons. The flattening and then dropping of consumption will have a self feeding effect. And the component makers (Eaton for the upcoming hybrid components and Peterbilt) will have bragging rights and the largest test grounds in the world to use in the development and advertizing of the nascent "green" hybrid trucking industry. The drops in Diesel consumption could begin to occur very fast as the technical tipping point nears. If natural gas continues to remain available and cheap, many of these same firms may very well diversify into CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) trucks for even bigger bragging rights and the comfort of home market supply right here in the U.S. and Canada. The pressure on Diesel fuel prices could be great to the downside unless we assumed Diesel supply will fall rapidly and soon, and carbon emissions would drop (Natural gas is normally cleaner and a lower carbon fuel at the end use)

Knowing the pressure to go green is building fast, smaller chains are trying to get out in front. Hannaford Grocery in Maine is using exhaust heat from refrigeration, and, among other things:

-Installed photovoltaic solar arrays at five stores. These arrays generated more than 200,000 kilowatts of clean energy, enough to power 270 homes for a year, through the first nine months of 2009. *And remember this is Maine, not normally considered a "solar friendly" wonders what the contribution of solar could do in the sunbelt or southwest U.S.!

-Collected data, as the first step in plans to build a wind turbine at its Schodack, N.Y., distribution center. The turbine is expected to provide the facility with 10 to 20 percent of its electricity. Wind energy is being considered for other Hannaford locations as well.

-Equipped its fleet trucks with energy-saving "hybrid" refrigeration units that run on battery power and allow the tractor engine to be shut off while stopped, saving energy and reducing air pollution. New tractors and trailers are outfitted with air curtains that enable the vehicles to move down the road with less air turbulence and less drag, increasing fuel efficiency.

More and more stores and businesses will adapt even more radical approaches such as full electric local vehicles, hybrid electric, and hybrid hydraulic vehicles as the bigger chains prove these alternatives.

And here is the best news: IF, and this is a big IF, the investment capital and the talent can be provided to implement these programs, other nations even more energy hungry such as China and India will begin to model after the U.S, Europe and Japan, and worldwide we could see a flattening of carbon release and fossil fuel consumption as the invested energy in these systems is repaid...especially so if individual house building remains slow due to the excess inventory we already have built. All this could begin to move very fast once the tipping point is reached...

Will it be fast enough? I simply cannot know. I think so, and until proven otherwise, I am going to assume so, because the alternative is very unpleasant and really offers aging folks in the developed nations no prospect for a humane retirement and final years, and consigns the world poor to at best no improvement in their lives, and at worst, more misery than they already know, and that is too unpleasant to think about.

dave, you know if we keep getting this wrapped up in this discussion, we should have just went ahead and layed out the outline for a book! Absolutely fascinating to get the opportunity on my holiday off time to engage one of my favorite hobbies, i.e., playing through scenarios.
Thank you for the fascinating discussion and pushing me to question my own assumptions. I hope for you and everyone on the planet a good and positive upcoming year! :-)


Hi RC,

Thanks for your reply - many good points to think about.

we should have just went ahead and layed out the outline for a book!

Speaking of books - I've read numerous books on the subject of Peak Everything and have yet to find that one book that I would give copies of to all my friends and relatives (although I did give away copies of Plan B). The problem I see is "the problem". I would like to find a book (relatively slim one) that did three basic things:

- Lay out the facts regarding the symptoms and causes of PO, GW, environment destruction, etc. The presentation should be very straight forwarded with little editorializing. It should be brief and easy to quote. It must be based upon the best science we have available.

- Demonstrate how these symptoms of the problems that are observable today will ultimately impact the lives of ordinary people.

- Propose how these problems and impacts can be avoided or mitigated. These are the "solutions" that you and others have thought about and articulated. The emphasis needs to be on pragmatic items of conservation and efficiency as the first line of defense and then creative techology as the back-up.

Until the first two points are fully addressed, I'm not very optimistic about the third point being planned and implemented soon enough.

And, best wishes for all in 2010.

Have you read "Plan C" by Pat Murphy?

not yet, but it is on my Amazon wish list.

Hi, RC,

Increased fuel efficiency is only a steep fuel tax away on commercial trucks.

I recently spent the day moving machinery with a good buddy using his tandem axle (ten wheeler) 1993 Ford 9ooo series dump truck and his eitght wheel twenty ton capacity trailer.

This truck has had one and only one modification made to it.

The engine governor is adjusted so that the truck will only go fifty seven mph.

We hauled a net load of 7000 pounds one trip and 14000 pounds another trip.

We got a tad over nine miles per gallon.

With the governor set to allow max engine rpm and a top speed of about severnty three mph, running this same rig hard (maintaining speed limit if possible)it get's about 7.1 mpg average on the same roads.

But the savings in fuel is not enough to make up for the lost productivity of the truck-it is normally used to haul gravel and asphalt and typically hauls five to eight loads a day, depending on the length of the haul.

Slowing the truck down results in a loss of revenue that considerably exceeds the monetary value of the fuel savings had by slowing down.

So after the day's experiment, the governor went back to the usual adjustment.

What made me give up on technology as a sort of solution was the realization that basically every single technical innovation thats been widely adopted has eventually resulted in serious environmental problems.

Technology does no good you have to live in harmony with your environment.

Next that says nothing about technology it happened that for most of our history we have learned science and technology along the way and used it to grow. Who knows what technology actually means if we use it to live in harmony with our environment. I'd argue outside of basic medical capacity simply hygiene being by far the most important the technical level if you will does not seem to matter that much.

Beyond that a desire for information access or basically knowledge so far requires a certain technical level as you go beyond books. Longer term we could certainly reach the point that advanced communication/information capabilities become natural. Not unlike our own natural DNA which is more complex than any technology we have created yet also self sustaining.

I don't see any valid reason for us to lose most of our knowledge base. Given this trying to project how we use it assuming we are forced to accept living in harmony with nature is simply unknown. We have never really either able to or had a reason to try as expansion worked.

Technology as we normally think about it does not even seem to really fit the problem domain. High tech, low tech, no tech etc. The knowledge behind picking a solution to a problem is the same and is dependent on the constraints.

For example after a lot of thought I'm still split 50/50 on if we go back to using draft animals are not. Most of the arguments against going back to using them have a lot more to do with population density in the end then any of the intrinsic issues with draft animals.

For example its valid to say they don't make sense in cities well what if we don't have cities ? In a village you can simply walk. Are we certain we need a population level requiring anything greater than a village and surrounding fields worked with draft animals ?

Sure there are a few industrial process that might perhaps need a large village but even there most problems you need to solve seem doable without a long term physical concentration of more than a few thousand people.

You don't actually need to build tunnels and roads and bridges etc etc. If the population is low enough you don't need much at all.

Back to assuming technology can be created if it makes sense all kinds of infrastructure light modes of travel make sense. From say solar powered airships to perhaps solar powered planes even. Given time decent storage of electrical energy is doable there seem to be no intrinsic barriers.
Or of course biofueled powered efficient planes would also work.

You simply would not move large amounts of goods where its hard to do so.
With a low enough population you can simply avoid solving 99% of the problems that we try and solve with technology given plenty of choices you can always pick a place with naturally usable features.

Obviously natural harbors and rivers would be important however if one silts up you abandon the site and move to another you have your pick.
You don't dredge like crazy and fight nature why ?

Obviously this assumes a low population but if we finally do choose to control our population it seems sensible we will move steadily to bring it to a level that made it easy to live without doing massive engineering works.

Given plenty of land with the need to only farm a few of the richest areas of farmland. Why not just use draft animals ? We know how to store grain so it lasts for a long time. Problematic harvests are not a huge issue and of course we would assume others would be ready to share.

If problems persisted then you just move.

Perhaps we increasingly move towards naturally adapted food plants that can exist with a very minor amount of attention. If we continue to eat meat then we hunt. Edible landscaping refined. Thus one could easily even see us go back to increasingly depending on hunting and foraging across a sort of maintained landscape thats tended more than anything else. With farming and even gardening done almost as much for enjoyment as food.

We certainly have the understanding of genetics that would allow us to develop natural crops and a new garden of eden if we chose this route.
Sure such plant might have low yields vs real crops but who cares ?
The variety would be incredible and I'm sure taste would be a huge part of the selection process and you just have to go pick it so who cares if perhaps apples 1000 years from now are smaller than today because thats what will grow naturally ?

What I see is not technology in the traditional sense but a sort of fusion of living with nature along with a intensely deep understanding of it. Eventually yes we continue to tinker and use our knowledge to make our own life easier but also the impact becomes more natural. Profoundly artificial in one sense of the word as we would alter the system to suit or needs and change the species that prosper and those that die at least around our communities but it would still be a natural ecosystem the perhaps holds it own against random changes. And vast tracks would be a allowed to evolve with no interference.

Perhaps our houses are eventually modified trees who knows.

But you can see its not high tech in the traditional sense but neither is it some sort of simple regression back to our past when we simply knew less. Its taking our knowledge forward but steadily using it to have less and less of a impact outside of choosing some ecosystems and the member species which make our lives easy to live. A naturally unnatural abundance of plants people just happen to find useful or just plain pretty.

The world are at least parts become a natural garden while other parts are intentionally left to chance just to see what happens and to include surprises in our managed ecosystems.

Thats what I see on a living level on the knowledge front itself who knows ?
No intrinsic reason to limit the hunt for knowledge and with basically zero pressure from the need for technology like we consider it absolutely no telling where science would go. Sure some ethical constrains would be needed but other than that science would be done for enjoyment more than anything else with the need to have it result in any sort of short term obviously useful result gone. Heck same for the arts for that matter. No need to be the starving artist any more.

I just don't think the way we think about technology makes sense any more.
Sure as long as our population is excessive a more traditional technical approach seems important but at some point perhaps sooner than later a entirely different approach to using knowledge seems correct.

What made me give up on technology as a sort of solution was the realization that basically every single technical innovation thats been widely adopted has eventually resulted in serious environmental problems.

It would seem that most of our technology was developed to better exploit our natural resources and to circumvent or dominate what we call nature, unfortunately, while we have been exceedingly clever doing this, we are still only apprentice wizards of the lowest order. We do not as yet have a grasp of the complexity of the system or the true costs and consequences of our actions.
And the master wizard is about to catch us in the act of abusing his spells...


Your "fatal mismatch" is real and easily explained (presumably correctly)by evolutionary theory.Mother Nature "invested" her resources in createing our physical and intellectual capabilities by throwing the dice,selecting winners only.

There was always plenty of room for selection to work on the front of increasing intellectual and physical ability measured in terms of BEING ABLE to accomplish new things.So our fine motor skills, thinking, communicating,and planning skills came together in a self reinforcing convergent snowball rolling down a slope consisting of synergetic possibilities.Thus our techno world came into being.

But there was INSUFFICIENT pressure in evolutionary terms to cause us to develop the ability to think long term, or in terms accounting for things not immediately before us and of every day use to us.Long term to a human being is at the "natural extreme" a span of three generations or less and except for family issues time is mostly measured in intervals of of seconds-jump back to avoid the angry bees accidentally disturbed -to a year -we must put up food stores sufficient to last out the winter.

Mother Nature simply never has needed to provide us with programming capable of dealing with overshoot-die off has worked just fine for close to a billion years.

There is no reason to think it will fail her in our case.

Let us dance and make merry and sacrifice so that the sun will favor us, the days grow longer , and spring come once again.

Not to mention a fine new crop of babies.

Ol farmer mac - you mean we are, or better put and soon to be, 'were' too smart (in the short term view of things) for our own good.


In everyday language, EXACTLY!

A disinterested biologist might add that Mother cares nothing for values, has no values, possesses no means of measuring or defining values such as "good " for us.....She records only extinction and survival on her scorecard.

Each of us brings our own lexicon to TOD. It is filled with all the parts of speech and their meanings and uses. Nature has no lexicon thus knows nothing of the concept extinction or survival or scorecard. Nature just ‘is’. It is the here and now of total reality of which we only see such a tiny, tiny part. ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ are part of the our lexicon and again mean nothing to reality (Nature).

It's 9:00 PM here and time to sign off. Merry Christmas to all is simply part of the lexicon too of which nature could care less but I wish good luck to all of you because it looks like we may need it.

Hi Lynford,

I do believe we are on the same page.

I use the concept of Mother Nature having a score that records only extinction and survival as metaphor, as I have found it to be a useful way of communicating with people who haven't studied biology-meaning most people, even among the visitors to as site such as this one.

Nicely put, and I might add that the very possession of a lexicon (and the grammar to put the forms in it together into meaningful utterances) has provided us with a kind of linguistic and cultural DNA that allows for evolution in this cultural sphere at a much greater rate than natural DNA-based evolution.

It is largely this mismatch in rates of evolution (and the general ignorance that such a mismatch exists and that it can cause problems) that has gotten us into trouble, IMVHO.

OFM, the delusional dreamers have a had field day with this thread.
The continual bleating that a million hybrid cars is a step in the right direction, boils my blood to steam. So much energy will be wasted trying to engineer solutions to preserve our way of life it is simply heart breaking.

All hybrid cars or any other saleable item is not humans "conserving"'s business in self preservation mode. Windmills, solar panels, nuclear, electric trains you name it, they all need consumers and business and the perception we are preserving our way of life. They are erecting the stone heads and we stupidly pay for them. We are just keeping the chiefs and witchdoctors in power.

While we continue to see greatness and grandeur in the things we build we have absolutely no freakin' chance.
And empowering women............please will they stop with the idealistic BS. Woman have reached peak power. There is no way men will turn to women as life gets harder and probably unendurable for many. Women's power will remain as it always has, silently in the home.

Why are small picture niches picked over (in the developed world) to show us how we can be "positive". There are no fences or walls around selective locales, we have devastated the whole damn plantet, we are using globalism to wring the last out of our wheezing world. What I would like and reality are not the same, so I'm positive that I'm negative.

Engineers and the "positive" thinking dreamers will take us straight to hell. Business and their hypnotized dreamers want to leave nothing, they want it all.

All I can say is that we have to take our medicine now before it's too late and let any future generations deal with what remains of our hundred years of psychopathic rampage. No more building and an exponential scaling down of energy use. That is all we have left to offer.

Hi Bandit,

We find it necessary to administer a little rough and ready veternary medicine on the farm sometimes-as in for instance getting antibiotics that taste bad down a full grown and muscular tom cat.

Basically what I do is put on my elbow length heavy duty welding gloves and leather apron ,get the cat by the back of it's head and neck with one hand, the hind quarters with the other and apply enough pressure to hang on while somebody else puts the pills using tweezers or syringe down it's throat.

Mother Nature may be administering our medicine by similar means soon.I expect quite a few of us collectively speaking to choke to death on it.

(If I had to take a barn cat to the vet I would just euthanize it-we can't afford to waste money on a cat at our house unless it happenened to be a little girls pet.)

I don't think I've seen anyone explore the notion that post-peak will just look like "business as usual" for a shrinking number of those still employed

It is definitely "business as usual" for those who still plan airport expansions, new toll-ways and road tunnels. One of the big stories of 2009 is really that governments haven't identified that the convergence of the world's accumulated debt problem and limited oil supplies have caused the financial crisis. Insofar Matthew Simmons' question was and still is the most important: How many years of falling supplies until we accept that oil peaked?

I wonder if headlines for 2010 could include 'Oil rises despite economic slowdown' or 'Peak Oil achieves what Copenhagen couldn't'. That is PO causing a general economic slowdown that takes coal and total emissions with it.

Regarding number 1: Volatility in the oil markets

IMO the bounce we have seen in the last couple of days has been quite impressive:

It appears that the bears have been shaken out and oil has put in a higher low which is bullish. I was expecting the seasonal low to come in January which is customary. But we may have already seen the seasonal low.

Oil has put in a nice 8 week base and the stochastics have turned bullish on the weekly chart with a break out this week:

This chart action portends new highs in the price of oil soon. But any chart formation can turn into any other formation so nothing is for sure.

The price action in oil appears to be for more volatility on the up side in 2010.

Backing up the action on the oil charts is the action on the dollar charts. After a 14 day run up the dollar is starting to look tired:

This fits nicely with the bullish oil charts.

And the dollar still has its problems despite its 2 week bounce:

Hi x,

Although long right now (reading the same charts) I really can't seem to find a fundamental reasons for this (at least in the short run) except for a possible dollar reversal with a switch to commodities (as you suggest). I also wonder if the tankers that filled up last year are now getting emptied? Otherwise, basic demand and geopolitical factors seem pretty tame. Even the KSA says they are happy with the current price. Could this also be another end of year, low volume, retail investor thing that will rapidly deflat when the big boys come back from xmas break? Could this be a short opportunity if the dollar only consolidates for awhile at present levels?

Or, is something else going on?

For me, the biggest energy story of the year was the Copenhagen conference.
I appreciate that Americans can have difficulty taking it seriously.

Had such a deal eventuated, I think everyone would agree that it was the top story.
In general, few people appreciate how close we got to establishing a real, concrete deal about capping greenhouse emissions. Virtually everyone *except China* was on board for the real thing.

Of course, that's one heck of an exception. Nothing was possible without China; so nothing (much) was done.

But it's not over yet. It may (I fervently hope!) turn out to be the energy story of the next decade; pushing the general acknowledgement of peak oil into a lower ranking.

In general, few people appreciate how close we got to establishing a real, concrete deal about capping greenhouse emissions. Virtually everyone *except China* was on board for the real thing.

No, India & China were never going to agree to what developed countries want - continued license to pollute far in excess of their fair & equitable share that will condemn a billion people to live in perpetual poverty.

And ofcourse some of the smaller countries like nothing more than free money that the elites in those countries can divert into their swiss bank accounts.

At our street's annual "Aussie BBQ" (males at one end, women at the other, kids in-between), Copenhagen came up briefly. Without exception, all eyes rolled in the negative: not one person believed man has anything to do with GW (though most agreed the planet may be warming as part of a natural cycle). A quick straw poll, I know, but there it is.

The curious thing, I think I'm the only atheist in the street. Funny what people choose to believe and completely discount, isn't it?

Regards, Matt B

Funny what people choose to believe

AGW = Inconvenient Belief

PO = Inconvenient Belief

Big Dude in the Sky who has nothing better to do with his/its time, energy and eternity than listen to the mutterings of 6 billion tailless apes on one small orbiting rock in colossal universe = Very Convenient Belief

If you want to rattle some "BELIEFS", here ya go!

Warning: "Do not watch this if you do not believe in freedom of speech and if you are squeamish or easily offended and if you lack a sense of humor."

I would never skip one of your youtube links!

Without exception, all eyes rolled in the negative: not one person believed man has anything to do with GW

This is why I can't stand People...

$41 billion for xto ? that is chump change for exxon. if the majors really are moving back into the us, that may be a story. chevron seemed to signal: not interested.

That is pretty much Exxon's whole profit of 2008. How is that insignificant?

I think it is significant, it signals that Exxon is moving away from oil and into ng. I think the motivation may be that oil is a lost cause and they will take a shot at something else. Ten years from now Exxon probably will be a shell of the company we now know -- I expect their fall to be dramatic.

gog -- I wouldn't call it insignificant either. But here are some details to put the numbers in perspective. First, XOM didn't pay one penny for XTO: they'll issue $41 billion of new stock to the shareholders of XTO. XOM market cap is $325 billion. Thus the XTO shareholders now own 11% of XOM. Not insignificant IMHO but still no cash. Second, XOM picked up an additional $10 billion in depth. But last time I saw the number XOM had at least $40 billion cash on hand.

As far as why XOM did the stock swap here’s my take: such an acquisition was very predictable. This has always happened when the oil industry takes a hit like we saw at the end of ’08. The strong buy the weak. Which is exactly what XTO’s business plan had been for decades. What XOM does with the undeveloped acreage XTO owned remains to be seen. Any shale gas acreage that isn’t profitable at current NG pricing isn’t going to be drilled, of course. And if NG prices don’t rise to a sufficient level quickly to do so all that acreage will expire. Mineral lease have a relatively short life: 1 to 5 years. XTO existing undrilled leaseholds probably have just a couple+ of years of life left. NG is up currently but most in the oil patch doesn’t expect them to hold up after the winter season. So IMHO much of the XTO undeveloped NG leases will expire undrilled. In fact, don't be surprised to see XOM selling off pieces of XTO over the next year. And that might include undeveloped SG leases. But undeveloped SG leases are chocking many companies right now. Anyone on TOD who has $5 million has access to hundreds of millions of $’s of undrilled east Texas SG leases FOR FREE. I can hook you up Monday. Companies holding those leases will see them expire if not drilled. We call such a trade a “farm out”. Essentially a sublease. You put the drilling money up and you can have access for free. The lease owner will get a small interest in your well often after you’ve recovered your investment. I just rejected such a deal with a company that has $11 million in undeveloped leases that will expire in 14 months if they aren’t drilled (we don’t do E TX SG). XTO was a cash flow cow. That’s why XOM did the stock swap IMHO. As far as diluting XOM stock we have to remember how Wall Street values public oil companies: reserve growth. Given the low cost XOM paid for the XTO reserve base Wall Street will probably see it as a wash with the stock dilution.

The XTO shareholders also had a big advantage: no profit to tax. Those shareholders that held stock, which could have been sold at a profit, now own XOM stock and thus no tax bill. This might have been the main motivation of the XTO management: XTO employees have been required to own 5% of the company since it began. Thus the employees might have faced huge tax bills had they liquidated their holding.

There will be more. Devon has already announced they are selling off most of the company.

xom's earnings for '08 were 2X that amount. anyhow, what other company could have bought a shrimp like xto with cash on hand ? what other company could have bought xto for 1/2 or 1 year's earnings ? and as we all know, xom bought xto for $31 b in xom stock plus $ 10 b acquired debt. xom had repurchased that much stock over the past yrs.

some call the $41 b "enterprise value", what an unmitigated crock ! what is the "value" of $10 b debt ? does the us govt has an enterprise value which includes $ 12 t debt ? who would buy ?

and here is the most weasil sh1t part of the whole deal: xom can back out if restrictions on frac'ing are enacted.

The $41bn enterprise value calculation is correct and makes perfect sense. The enterprise is worth $41bn and if it was financed entirely by equity could be sold for that. Since it is financed with $10bn debt, that comes off the amount that is returned to equity holders.

In any event, the definition of enterprise value is market cap plus debt, so it is hard to see how applying it is "an unmitigated crock"

I don't think understand the basics of capital structure. On a corporate balance sheets there are assets, which are financed by liabilities, either equity or debt. Absent other changes, the more debt increases the more equity decreases. But the asset base doesn't change.

Imagine if I has enough money to buy one machine for $1. If the market value and book value were the same the enterprise value is $1. If I borrow another dollar and buy two machines, the enterprise value is now $2 and the capital structure is half debt. If I sell entity for $2, I get back $1 and the debt is either assumed or paid back by the acquirer.

Yes, the company now has debt equal to its equity, but it also has two machines instead of one. In theory, as long as the return on the second machine is higher than the cost of debt, it makes sense to borrow to acquire it.

yes, i understand the meaning of the term "enterprise value". what i dont get is: why is debt called "value" ?

Just wait until they try to get together to figure out a plan for peak oil mitigation.

We can expect that developing countries will accuse the developed world for having gobbled up all that oil and now nothing is left over for them. They will demand a higher share than they have now to compensate for their lower consumption in the past. Petrol rationing on national level will only work if there is also a rationing (allocation system) of crude oil supply on international level. Just like CO2 cap and trading needs international agreements.

1/ Volatility

My take is that the oil market oscillates between a lower bound and an upper bound in a not dissimilar way to the way that water swills about the deck of a RORO ferry - and with an equally destructive effect to medium and long term budgeting and investment.

The lower bound is contrained by marginal cost and the relative 'purchasing power' value of the dollar to everything else.

This is maybe $40 to $50....Discuss?

The upper bound is when demand destruction for products kicks back to lower demand for crude oil.

This is maybe $80.00/bbl.....Discuss?

Market Structure

There are five constituencies.

Producers - interested in maximising energy prices and in energy price stability;

Consumers - interested in minimising energy prices and in energy price stability;

Investors - interested in taking on energy price risk and offloading dollar price risk ie 'hedging energy inflation'; interested in energy price stability;

Speculators - intermediaries interested in energy market transaction profits by selling high and buying low, not necessarily in that order; interested in price volatility.

Market Makers - provide leverage and liquidity, and operate the casino.

The key market is the Brent/BFOE complex where maybe 50 to 70 cargoes per month of 600,000 bbls - worth maybe $3bn to $4bn - sets the global market price, and all other market prices are secondary - particularly WTI. The WTI-centricity of US regulators, politicians and public is a major blind spot.

The gobal market price may easily be manipulated in the short term, and IMHO also in the medium term if financial market conditions are right - as they are.

Amplified by leverage, which is derived from two mechanisms:

(a) Forward and other derivative contracts, which may or not be margined.

(b) Debt - historically interest-bearing credit created by banks, but possibly from investors particularly if interest rates are at the zero bound.

Oil Leasing
It was probably Shell who first realised - in 2005 - that it made sense to hedge by selling forward to Investors, in this case ETF Securities. In this way Shell hedged energy price risk, while ETF investors hedged energy price risk.

Market Makers and Speculators - and the volatility tax and casino take they apply - were disintermediated.

The outcome is of Investors lending money to producers interest-free, and producers lending oil to investors. This technique has since been adapted to use by investment banks. When interest rates are at zero, producers prefer to keep oil stored in the ground for free to exchanging it for financial assets paying nothing.

Cartels of producers have frequently supported prices artificially, but this invariably ends in tears, as production increases and even sovereign nations run out of money to buy in stocks - eg the Tin crisis in 1985 when the tin price collapsed overnight from $800/tonne to $400/tonne.

More interesting is the case of 'macro manipulation' in the copper market by Sumitomo's Hamanaka, which continued for ten years, for five of them after the whistle had been blown, and involved most major investment banks active in commodities. This involved borrowing dollars and lending copper.

In the oil market investment banks currently have a massive source of funds available to lend to producers in exchange for the loan or lease (forward sale) of oil, and these funds are likely to grow if the dollar is perceived as weak, and short term interest rates are at the zero bound.

I believe that from at least 2007 onwards, aided by a huge campaign of hype, at least one commercial producer, using funds borrowed from one or more investment bank intermediaries, successfully pumped up the oil price to its upper bound, but then lost control, and the price crashed, and possibly over-corrected.

With the benefit of experience, and probably with wider participation from at least one sovereign producer, we have in 2009 seen the market pumped up again to an upper bound, where it is now performing a delicate balancing act, like an elephant dancing.

Is there a tacit agreement between the US and a major producer as to this price? Discuss

This position is inherently unstable and in particular it is entirely opaque, and probably therefore relies upon consumers' ignorance in order to continue.

But to return to the subject of volatility the effects of the massive - and I believe totally artificial - volatility consisting of swings between upper and lower bounds, are as follows:

Producers: massive short term gains, but in the medium and long term disastrous for budgeting and investment.

Consumers: massive excess costs, and associated economic losses - but in the medium and long term leading to energy conservation.

Investors: pay a volatility tax to speculators.

Speculators: a zero sum game, apart from the casino's take, and the cost of leverage.

Market-makers: make out like bandits.Was 2009 the Year of the Market maker

This is maybe $40 to $50....Discuss?

The upper bound is when demand destruction for products kicks back to lower demand for crude oil.

Too simplistic. Demand destruction appears not to be so much a direct result of high oil prices; it's more an indirect consequence of economic contraction triggered by high oil prices. As such, it's a delayed feedback that makes the system very prone to oscillation.


You did not make any comment regarding the marginal costs that dteremine the lower end of the price band.

Obviously when prices crashed lat year some marginal producers were losing money-and there seems to be no general agreement as to the real costs of some high cost producers such as the operators of the oil sands projects in Canada.

I'm interested in hearing what you -or anybody else!-has to say about producers costs in gereral in different countries.


Perhaps I should first warn that I've no special expertise in oil prices. I label myself a systems architect & engineer, with some experience in modeling and control of complex systems. That's the filter I'm looking through on these issues.

The significant thing about marginal production costs is that they're all but non-existent: once a well has been completed and is producing, the marginal cost to continue production is relatively negligible. The cost is all up front in E&D. So marginal production costs don't really set any firm lower end on the price band. If prices get too low, then E&D slows, but established production continues. Without few new wells coming online, growing demand or natural depletion will eventually raise prices, but it's a slow adjustment.

One might think that production would be more directly responsive to price signals, since producers have the option of shutting wells and leaving the oil in the ground until prices get back to levels they're happy with. I don't really know why that doesn't happen more. It's as if the producers don't see oil as a finite resource that it will hold its value if left in the ground. They choose a smaller revenue stream now over the promise of a larger revenue stream later.

Not a very encouraging statement about their expectations for the future.

My own opinion is that China will be the single-biggest driver of oil prices over at least the next 5-10 years.

Absolutely. Read:

World needs to save at least 3 mb/d by 2020 for China to grow. Any volunteers?

Biggest energy story by far was the beginning of recognition of peak demand/finance (which might be more accurately labeled 'peak affordability'), as it has major implications for future oil/gas decline rates and renewable scaling. Governments can (and will) replace the shrinking corporate and private credit with their own and eventually that will mean they nationalize important energy industries that can't make it in declining wealth environment (refiners, etc.) This credit/currency dynamic trumped all other supply news in it's impact on energy in 2009 even though a good % of it was masked by Keynesian action/rationalization, and energy industry is yet to suss out the end game of this.


While demand and affordability go hand in hand, I think the related factor of tolerance plays its part. When oil went to $140 and petrol to nearly $4, it didn't just hurt my pocketbook. I got pissed. A parallel to this was the game that my telecom began to play with us several years ago. Knowing that they are the only game in town in our rural area, they began "tweeking" services and slowly our costs began to rise and service suffered. I resent being squeezed by bullycorps, be they telecoms or petrocorps. The straw that broke my back regarding our telecom was when they cut our DSL speed in half. They said that the only way for us to get back to full speed was to drop our current provider and sign-up for their service (at an additional cost of $20/mo). Since then we have reduced our land-line to minimum service, cancelled our cellphone service with them, going to prepayed phones, and adapted to the slower DSL speeds. Our next move will be to install a cellphone repeater/booster in our home so that we can fire our megatelecom forever. The alternative would be to accept their control and adapt to the higher cost (thankyou sir, may I have another!). We got a call from Verizon the other day plugging their all-in-one service. What fun I had telling them that we were in the proccess of firing them. When they got patronizingly giggly about that, I told them the steps we had taken so far and why.They are being spanked!

I think the psycological aspects of "pissed" are almost as powerful as economic realities. It tells the world that we still have choices. Even those that can afford volitility in the oil markets get to the point of maximum tolerence and react by reducing their consumption.

In 15 years we have fired our electrical provider, mostly fired our telecom, reduced our fosile fuel consumption, reduced our tax liability, our insurance company no longer scares us into buying coverage that we don't need and we've cancelled our exclusive contract with our propane provider. We have no easements or right-of-ways into our property; if the power company truck shows up in our driveway we inform them that they are trespassing (they tried really hard to get us to sign a "blanket easement"). Knowing that we still have choices is a matter of pride. Nice to know that the free market still sort-of works.

The number one energy story is the financial crisis.


No ticket (money)?

You must get off the bus (die).

Nice recap Robert. It still is amazing to me how hidden the clueless media is in addressing these stories in a comprehensive and concise way. Obvious to anyone reading this site, that these issues will have more impact on our future than any other issues we are currently addressing, but virtually nothing in the main street press. Drug induced deaths of celebrities, big! Death of our society, of no consequence.

Not one of the biggest stories, but an undercurrent that has been growing for several years. I sense the US public has a growing acceptance, even desire, to see nuclear energy ramp up. I expect it to be part of the Senate energy/climate bill next year.


I strongly "second" your vote on China.

China's growing demand for oil.

China's running low on coal.

China's ramp-up of nuclear, wind, and solar,

China's Turkemenistan NG pipeline.

China's play for oil in Iraq, Africa.

China's struggle with drought in the north.

China's move on agro-land in Africa.

China's willingness to move into talks on climate change.

2009 is the year which mostly clearly marks China's rise to the global stage.

If it avoids destructive social collapse, this is the (geo-political) 21stC game changer.

Rating global warming near the bottom of the pile in terms of importance is typical of the American response to the crisis, which is much more serious than peak oil. And saying the contrived scandal over the "climategate" emails will have legs outside the right wing blogosphere completely undermines your credibility.

Other glaring errors and oversights are:

  1. Iraq now tipped to produce about the same oil output as Saudi Arabia. Suddenly the Iraq invasion makes sense, and Chaney looks like a smart guy. But in the end, it reveals the "Coalition of the Willing" to be little more than buccaneers and thieves.
  2. Natural gas reserves are so huge that many parts of the world, certainly here in Australia, will have a gentle transition off oil to (eventually) another form of energy or lifestyle. This under-discussed fact goes a long way to undermine the raison d'etre for the existence of this website.

Season's Greetings.

It's nice to know that some people expect that the PTB will continue to be "gentle" on everybody.

Here's to more realism in 2010.,news-comment,news-politics,in-pictur...

Mamba, I'm one of those people who believe in AGW but do not believe the worlds biggest powers will do anything about it. I have absolutely no hope that this will change, and Copenhagen reconfirmed it. I do think you are sticking your head in the sand if you don't think the climategate thing has legs. The deniers just got another tool and they will use it until it is so worn out that it turns to dust. It isn't the deniers you should worry about. It is the vast majority of people who still do not feel a stake in the issue that the deniers are targeting. Thinking that this will only affect the denial community is wishful not realistic. The next step for the US will be an incredibly watered down climate bill, the only purpose of which is to take the wind out of the EPA's sails. " We'll show you not to mess with the turf of congress."

Rating global warming near the bottom of the pile

Near the bottom because it is not directly energy related. Also as I said most of the relative rankings are arbitrary. But global warming is a consequence of energy use, and many people wouldn't even rate it as an energy story.

American response to the crisis, which is much more serious than peak oil.

As I have argued before, I simply don't think the world will collectively do anything about it:

So it isn't that I don't care, it is just that I don't see anything in the measurements at Mauna Loa to indicate that we have made any progress at combating it. Show me on the graphs where Kyoto made any difference and I might change my mind. My own opinion is that emissions will slow only when the world starts to run short of fossil fuels.

And saying the contrived scandal over the "climategate" emails will have legs outside the right wing blogosphere completely undermines your credibility.

You don't understand American politics then. If there was ever hope of getting any legislation passed that has teeth, that destroyed the possibility. Any legislators on the fence or leaning to the right can use that as cover now. The politicians solidly to the right will use this episode again and again. Watch how it plays out, and then you can revisit the subject of credibility which will only be answered in the long run. And don't misunderstand: I am not personally suggesting that this undermines global warming research, but it will seed enough doubt among politicians who were hesitant to cast a vote that they felt might slow down growth.

"Climategate" could recede quickly if the el Nino that is ramping up now causes 2010 global temp to exceed the 1998 maximum (which was also an el Nino year). Jim Hansen gives this a 50% chance.

But the doubt-makers are very resourceful; so I wouldn't hold my breath too long.

the doubt-makers are very resourceful

They are much more than "very resourceful".

They are very sophisticated and well organized, as well as being funded by those who stand to lose the most from carbon taxes.

I second that, Jim. Basically, climate cynicism has been reinforced strongly by the trivial occurrence of relatively cold weather in the US in the past couple of years; less trivially, by the masking of AGW by La Nina and by short-lived sulphate aerosols.

Obama gets it. What can he do? In the short term,drop the legislation and push regulation of industry via the EPA; then bring the legislation back in a year's time, when it will be clear that 2010 is the hottest year on record.

I check the Drudge quite often. He is always juxtaposing cold weather events with climate change news. With tactics like this, that the general population is tricked by (they want to be tricked anyway, do you think Americans will give up their personal freedom, the auto, for the future?), there is no hope of meaningful climate change legislation in the USA in the next few years. I think that the oil producers will have to have their power diminished first through lack of profits. Once the disinformation machine is handicapped then maybe there would be some hope. However, I think that peak oil will make emissions a moot point anyway -- I don't see an energy transition to coal as possible in the next ten years.

"Climategate" could recede quickly..."

I dunno, maybe so in irrelevant Europe. The global temperature is an abstraction created by complex means and accessible mainly to science and engineering types. It is of no direct experiential consequence to most people (irrespective of whether it might become so in the long run when we are all dead.) So a few hundredths of a degree in 2010 may well change the words that are shouted, but without altering the underlying politics - which remains that an average person will pay costs related to climate regulations or treaties while receiving in return nothing that he or she can see or apprehend.

For the time being, we seem to be stuck in an ongoing schoolyard "nyah, nyah" contest. There's a rainstorm in January where there might have been a snowstorm. That's loudly trumpeted as the harbinger of doom, the impending transformation of Earth to Venus. New financial burdens - taxes and regulations - are proposed as the solution, but the public sees only business-as-usual in that, inasmuch as new taxes and regulations are always the solution to every problem, as well as to every non-problem.

The following May, it snows somewhere where it might have rained. That's trumpeted as the new anti-doom, but the Earth-as-Venus folks, who theatrically pranced about in polar-bear suits after the rainstorm, airily dismiss it as "just weather". Nyah, nyah, nyah. The Earth-as-Venus folks are actually right - the snowstorm was indeed weather. But alas, they are only half-right - so was the rainstorm.

In the end there is no action for a non-scientist to take but break out some popcorn and laugh at the show, and perhaps ruminate bitterly over the sacrificed trip to see the new grandchild, lost to the higher taxes and prices. In the meantime, of course, the scientist - equipped with the customary world-class tin ear for social and political context - merrily lays down yet another huge trail of jet exhaust on the way to yet another "conference" in yet another pleasant place, on the shopworn excuse of hearing yet more so-called "speakers" mumble tiresomely and incoherently through yet more "papers" the scientist had long ago skimmed in preprint and dismissed to the great digital recycle bin in the virtual sky.

I suppose the whole affair may eventually be shoved out of the rut. Sooner or latter something big might happen that (1) can be directly experienced in some unmediated manner, and (2) inarguably (or at least relatively so) has to be attributed to more than just weather. That might change the politics.

The best description I have yet heard on this issue. May I quote you?

Sure. This is all on a Creative Commons License.

PaulS wrote:

The global temperature is an abstraction created by complex means and accessible mainly to science and engineering types. It is of no direct experiential consequence to most people

Bah. Another denialist meme.

It's disappointing to see this trash on this site.

"Near the bottom because it is not directly energy related"

It's this kind of ignorance that will guarantee that AGW will be the thing that KICKS OUR A$$.

Climate change and Fossil fuel energy are directly connected and inseparable.

Climate change and Fossil fuel energy are directly connected and inseparable.

Just because something is connected to something else, doesn't mean they both belong on the same list.

I can design a community to be self-sufficient without the need for fossil fuels. There would be fewer conveniences in that community, but they would then be less directly exposed to the fallout of peak oil (think of an island if you are more concerned about rampaging hordes).

What I can't do is globally influence the increase of global carbon emissions. That was the point of the story I linked to above. Lester Brown wrote a story about the massive decrease of carbon emissions in the U.S. Yet globally, just as they did after Kyoto, emissions rose. So I see some very significant differences in dealing with fossil energy use and carbon emissions.

Globally, carbon emissions will start to decline when we start to run out of fossil fuels. You will never get a binding global agreement on that does this voluntarily. The best you could do is slow it down somewhat - but Kyoto didn't accomplish that.

"Globally, carbon emissions will start to decline when we start to run out of fossil fuels. You will never get a binding global agreement on that does this voluntarily. The best you could do is slow it down somewhat - but Kyoto didn't accomplish that."
Robert, As I stated yesterday, this is precisely the biggest problem. Some countries may voluntarily decrease their emissions, as is likely with the US under the EPA approach taken by the present administration, but emerging countries will more than make up for it. The almighty dollar, yuan, rupee, pound, euro, etc. will trump. US oil consumption dropped dramatically over the last year but China alone almost made up for it in increased oil usage. There are still coal fires burning in China, which emit more CO2 than all the personal vehicles in the US. These fires are in other countries as well, including the US. I find very little to be optimistic about on the climate front.

Climate change and Fossil fuel energy are directly connected and inseparable.

No they aren't. I can design a community to be self-sufficient without the need for fossil fuels.

Climate change is the direct result of burning fossil fuels.

Global warming promises to be much more dangerous than a lack of fuel.
Today the Amazon rainforest is turning into a savannah(current drought is shutting down Venezuela's hydropower) ,
India and China are drying out(now self-sufficent in food), Australia, California and Western Europe are burning down.

By 2050 global temperatures will rise another 1.3 degrees Celsius( 2.3 degrees F) higher than today's temps.

During the last Ice Age the world was 3.33 degrees cooler than today. If the world's global temperature rises by 2 degrees C, 30% of the world's biological species will become extinct.

The world will have to cut back on CO2 emissions to avoid even worse consequences after 2050.

Climate change is the direct result of burning fossil fuels.

So is smog. That doesn't mean that on a list of Top 10 Energy Stories, stories about smog go on the list. That's my point. It is related to energy. Of course everyone recognizes that. The gripe was that it wasn't higher on the list. That is an irrational gripe for a couple of reasons, one of which was my caveat that the relative rankings were arbitrary.

So turn the question around. If I see a list of Top 10 Climate Stories, do you see stories on the energy list that don't belong? I do, but how can that be since they are directly connected and inseparable?

I don't mind that people are going to disagree with what is on the list. I get annoyed when people start taking potshots over it, making claims of "undermining your credibility" and "this kind of ignorance." Those are the kinds of emotional responses that have degraded discussion of Climate Change. People are too cocksure of how things are going to play out, and when someone doesn't agree that arrogance leads to name-calling.

The world will have to cut back on CO2 emissions to avoid even worse consequences after 2050.

The world will cut back by then, but not voluntarily. This is what I spend my time working locally on sustainability issues. Those can make a difference. I don't see any possibility of making a difference on carbon emissions due to the global nature of the problem. And when people dispute that, I just point to the data: Emissions continue to rise, despite everything.

So turn the question around. If I see a list of Top 10 Climate Stories, do you see stories on the energy list that don't belong? I do, but how can that be since they are directly connected and inseparable?

When I posted my comment I think you had already changed your comment, which is perfectly fine however IMO your critique of Copenhagen is that nothing will be done about GW for a long time, probably after 2050. Despite the political wreck of Copenhagen, the of market-based cap and trade, and the denier freak-show of the 'climategate', I think massive
measures will be taken in the very near future to reduce CO2 emissions in the US and in Brazil, China and India but on national basis as they are most threatened by CC.
A UN based framework has been shown to be impractical and politicized.
CC is not a political issue but a engineering problem.

Robert: You don't have to justify your list to anyone because it is your list. My list is much different.

1. PV prices are going down so I might be able to get a couple more panels for the solar powered golf cart.

2. If the cuts to medicare are as bad as publicised then this turkey (as in Taleb's turkey) in the white house will not get my vote. Search GOOOH, "Get Out Of Our House" to replace them all ... Good plan.

3. Heirloom seed prices are going up so it will cost a little more to get my remaining seeds. We got most of them but need a few more.

etc 4 ... 10. Similar but YMMV.

I enjoyed your list but it is definitely not my list. My list is more here and now about things that I might have some say about how it comes down.

"So is smog." Could be subconscious omission from your list. As fossil fuel usage declines, the smog will clear quickly leaving the evil greenhouse gasses clear to do their worst.

Majorian, You are beating a dead horse. Robert is not saying that he disagrees with the problems that may arise due to AGW. He and I are saying we don't believe the world as a whole will do anything to stop it other than run out of fossil fuels. If you have some reason to believe that the world will do something let's hear it. Restating the problem as you see it is not of any value to the discussion.

The EU governments(13.8% of CO2), the world's largest economic block has committed to a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

PM Hatoyama of Japan with parlimentary majorities)(4.6%) has committed to seeking a 25% reduction in emissions by 2020.

The Obama administration(with Congressional majorities) US(20.2%) has committed to a 17% reduction by 2020.

Together these three blocks represent 60% of the world GDP, China 7% and India just 2%.

These three blocks(US,EU,Japan) represent 38% of CO2 emissions versus 22% for China and 5% for India. If they reduce their emissions by 20% in 2020 that is equal to 30% of all of Chindia's current CO2 production.

Besides, I don't think China or India are capable of vastly increasing their use of domestic fuels as they are both experiencing severe coal shortages now and also terrible pollution.

You have all OECD government heads staking their political capital on ~20% reductions in CO2.

Something will definitely be done now that the US has moved.

I hope you are right, and I find your passion exhilarating, but grandstanding commitments and actual results are two different things. Just ask the hapless people who have lost millions or perhaps billions in algae projects over the last twenty years including the US taxpayer. When I see the CO2 levels on Moana Loa level off then I will be a believer. Hope in change does not mean change. It creates hope, but not necessarily change. I'm sorry if that sounds Jaded but at 66 I consider myself a "show me" realist. Bill

maj -- Not mocking you (as I sometimes do for the sport of it)but I have to agree with Treeman. I would gladly see you prove us wrong but "commitment" is not "doing". Not challenging you to a debate. When we see any of these govt's, especially ours, reduce emissions (excluding what happens when we're driven into a recession) I will gladly wire you a 5# box of your favorite chocolate. And I truly hope you win the bet.

But you won’t. There was a time (maybe) when our society might have sacrificed for the weak of the world. But those days, if they ever were, have long passed. If there were ever a leader who had a chance to do so it might have been President Obama. But he has spent his political capital/popularity on other issues IMHO.

Well, maybe. But treaties and "commitments" seem mainly to be a way for politicians to make pious declarations for TV, only to set them aside quietly the moment the cameras move on to some other tear-jerking episode of saving the world. European politicians, in particular, have for many centuries demonstrated full and complete mastery of quietly ignoring treaties and "commitments" (and laws) - simply because it could not possibly be any other way. Should they ever attempt to obey all the great heaps of contradictory and paralyzing treaties and "commitments" (and laws) that have metastasized on their watch over the centuries, their fusty countries will smother within hours.

In the meantime, the appearance remains that of a schoolyard game of chicken to see who can be tricked into committing economic suicide first. Notwithstanding an occasional Mugabe in the crowd, few are likely to do so voluntarily - irrespective of whether or not, in the long run when we're all dead, the same effect might come to pass involuntarily. The game is tangible, visible, substantial expense in the here-and-now, versus speculative assertions maybe or maybe not coming to fruition in the abstract long-run future, played against the backdrop of a culture that's not merely inured to over-the-top disaster movies, but eagerly laps them up.

In the not-so-long run - while we're still alive - it's not even clear that any "political capital" is "staked" on those ca. 20% reductions. In the event 2020 comes and goes with the reductions turned into increases - as happened nearly universally with Kyoto - the chattering classes will chatter as is their wont, but what politician will really pay any price beyond perhaps being hassled by cranks in polar-bear suits? Indeed, being hassled that way might just be a vote-winner in certain countries, especially if boom times do not return by then...

"Irrelevant" Europe has actually fulfilled its Kyoto obligations with room to spare.

Yet globally, CO2 emissions rose unabated. In fact, if you look at the Mauna Loa data, you (I) can't see any impact at all from Kyoto. The long-term trend has been very consistent, albeit with some minor deviations over 1 or 2 year periods. I could almost draw a straight line through the trend except for the fact that it appears to be mildly accelerating. I just checked, and I can draw a fairly straight line from about 1965 through around 2000, but then the CO2 concentration rises above the trend line.

This is why I am not optimistic that even if countries agree to limit emissions that anything will actually happen.

Europe has achieved much of its greenhouse gas reductions by moving manufacturing which produces greenhouse gases to developing countries which are not restricted by Kyoto.

China is now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, greater than the US, and there are increasingly large amounts of GHG coming from countries which do not monitor GHG production.

Notwithstanding Kyoto, global greenhouse gas emissions are increasing at an accelerating rate.

The past performance has been very bad and the
Non-OECD will produce more CO2 from fossil fuels in all categories than the OECD by 2015.

The Third World is also contributing heavily to CO2 emissions by land use changes which amount to 22% of CO2 emissions.

Both these factors are produced by their populations and their 'development'.

The argument is made that the non-OECD didn't cause the past levels of CO2 but the effects of the past levels of CO2 are not as dangerous as they will be in the near future.

Between 1800 and 2000 global temperatures have risen 0.7 degrees C and between 2000 and 2050 global temperatures will rise by 1.2 degrees C under BAU(Hansen 2003)--increasing use(0.4 degrees C under ALT scenario--capped emissions).

So obviously we can't reverse emissions from increasing. The idea is to slow the temperature rise.

After 2015 CO2 will be mostly a non-OECD problem according to the EIA.

It seems likely that higher temperatures will lead to more water stress especially in Asia.

If the OECD addresses CO2 now, it can't be legitimately blamed for future climate disasters by an overpopulated Third World (and the overall amount of heating will be lower).

Did Europe off-shore its heavy industry to China like the rest of us?
Russia met its target by collapsing. :(

PaulS, clearly an AGW skeptic and perhaps even a denier, wrote:

In the meantime, the appearance remains that of a schoolyard game of chicken to see who can be tricked into committing economic suicide first.

You have no idea what you are talking about. The glaciers that keep most of Asia alive are shrinking dramatically from AGW. If nothing is done to stop this, then you can truly speak of "suicide". Right now you are simply displaying lamentable ignorance.

PaulS, clearly an AGW skeptic ...


I don't think it's fair to label PaulS that way based on his observation of how the human brain is wired.

The people of Easter Island worshiped Stone Sculptures.

We worship the Golden Calf of Economics.

We believe that preserving the sanctity of our Golden Calf trumps all other worries.

That's the way we're wired.

Don't shoot PaulS just cause he's the messenger.

I'm feeling a bit Doomerish today...

The EU governments(13.8% of CO2), the world's largest economic block has committed to a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

PM Hatoyama of Japan with parlimentary majorities)(4.6%) has committed to seeking a 25% reduction in emissions by 2020.

The Obama administration(with Congressional majorities) US(20.2%) has committed to a 17% reduction by 2020.

I predict none of this will happen, voluntarily. Biophysical Reality might bitch-slap us into compliance, but we're not going to reduce our emissions 'just because' of a 'trace gas' (to use an Inhofe-ism). If, by some chance, we do reduce our emissions voluntarily, it'll be in line with a Chindia increase, as they take the industries/production.
We're not going to stage a massive build-out of Renewables, and we're not going to embark on a massive Negawatts campaign. Too many lobbyists have the ears of our collective representatives for that to happen.

I'm not a global warming denier but I do think that Peak Oil is a bigger story than Copenhagen. My reasoning is that the real bogeyman of climate change is coal. When oil and gas supplies dry up, the natural reaction by people in a panic will be to use more coal, make attempts to convert it to dirty power & chase energy with a low EROEI. Consumption of this energy will only increase our emissions of CO2. And, knowing mankind, when push comes to shove we'll use all that dirty energy versus pay a bit extra for clean energy. As a species we've proven that time and time again..the dollar always wins.

In the end the whole concept of Copenhagen seems like a bit of an excuse to me. If the world recognizes that we need to cut emissions of CO2, then people need to step up to the plate, not demand governments to make change. It reminds me of listening to people complain about the health care system when half our society is fat, smokes & is in general poor health. Forget Copenhagen, how about some personal responsibility and changing yourself? I don't know about other areas of the world but for me to switch to wind generated electricity cost me about the same as a large coffee in the morning (in fact the coffee is a bit more).

... how about some personal responsibility and changing yourself? I don't know about other areas of the world but for me to switch to wind generated electricity cost me about the same as a large coffee in the morning (in fact the coffee is a bit more).

Hi AE,

Personal responsibility is key. I pay an extra 2-cents per kWh for renewable energy which works out to be less than the cost of a cup of coffee per day. This, in turn, eliminates 10.94 tonnes of CO2, 24.16 kg of NOx, 121.57 kg of SO2 and 184.14 mg of Hg per year. It's easy to sign up ( and it's not going to break the bank.

Buy green power for yourself and, if it's within your financial means to do so, a second subscription for a family member, friend, your church, local food bank or some other community organization you support.


Good for you, Paul. But sadly we don't have the time to wait for universal consciousness-raising. It's like being a vegetarian, it's more than a lifestyle choice but it won't save the world. It's not enough for good people to be voluntarily good; we need governments to oblige people to be good.

Hi Alistair,

I don't disagree; we need a commitment at all levels and from all corners, and we need it yesterday. However, I can't criticize others for their lack of effort if I, myself, don't take even these very basic [token] steps.


As a 20 year eco-vegetarian, I can attest to the fact that it is not enough to just be good when everyone else is being bad. The question is how do we get our governments to first recognize and then mandate the required changes, without upsetting the BAU bad-boy industries? What will it take? An uprising from the apathetic, largely uninformed masses?

It is the "apathetic, largely uninformed masses" that got exactly the government they wanted. Give up on the fantasy that government can do anything beyond what ignorant masses "want." Elected officials will always choose the "technical fix" over the "adaptive fix." If you want to address the tougher behavioral challenges then work at the local level, within your community, neighborhood, and circle of friends. While "government" is a constant (and often entertaining) kicking boy for our problems, when we rail against government we are really dissing ourselves.

Hi Debbie,

If I waited for the Canadian government to do anything constructive with respect to AGW, I'd be long dead and I suspect so would everyone else here too. Our provincial and municipal governments are somewhat more receptive and it appears they will be the ones carrying the ball; to put it bluntly, they don't have to answer to Alberta.

In any event, there's little doubt this will be ground-up effort and it will come by way of your hand and those of folks like you.


Hi Debbie,

Is this not a bit of an oxymoron? If we successfully organize "community, neighborhood and circle of friends" do we not recreate the essence of "government"? I doubt we have time for this re-creation - I'd rather work to force changing existing governments. Not that I have a great deal of hope we can succeed with this in time either.

Our response to AGW will depend on what happens with peak oil. Cop15 showed there is no way humanity will adopt a strategy that will work (as if Kyoto wasn't proof enough). We simply can't handle long term risks.

But peak oil will force us to do something about energy since the demand-supply gap will be much more in the face threat - depending on what we do - it will make AGW worse or better ...

Our response to AGW will depend on what happens with peak oil.

Ole King Coal was a merry old soul ...

...and he called for his fiddlers three. And the bored Europeans who piously provided much of the drive for COP15 are among the most skillful fiddlers on the planet, with millennia of practice under their belts. They fiddle their taxes, they fiddle their regulations, they fiddle their treaties, and as the Kyoto record demonstrates, they fiddle their carbon emissions...

I'm a 'believer' in AGCC, but I think the 'climategate' thing will have legs. Not because of what the emails contain (virtually nothing), but because there are 'slogans' that can be used (Hide the Decline), and because the Right-Wing Blogosphere (Incorporating the right wing of the Australian Liberal Party and the entire Australian National Party) can use it to sow doubt and confusion.
Just look at all the other 'little white lies' (like 'CO2 is food for plants') that just won't die, despite being soundly shown wrong (or at best, hopelessly cornucopian) on a thousand Scientific Papers, ten thousand press releases, and a million websites.
Whether something is true or not makes absolutely no difference to the Right-Wing, the Cornucopians, the Dittoheads, and the Noddies, as long as they can use it to their advantage ("Doubt is our Product"). When physical limits finally pokes them in the eyes, they'll just change tack and blame the environmentalists, the hippies, the Chinese/Indians, Jews, 'the Darkies', the Liberal left, Speculators, the Eh-rabs, or whoever is convienient to hand at the time.
I don't think 'Climategate' has a leg to stand on, but I'm not the host of a national TV or Radio show (I can't even get a letter published in the local or state rag), so my opinion doesn't count.

I think we have to ask whether the 'bottom billion' in China, India and Africa have a snowball's chance of making it to the middle class. That is the other half of the world population having cars, jet holidays and air conditioned houses. If not then the relentless pursuit of economic growth fuelled by cheap energy is futile. If political leaders declared that publicly it would be a kind of breakthrough.

Rapier, great list. In particular the link to the long recession in #1 caught my eye. Couldn't it also be referred to it as the long emergency (by Kunslter), or at least the precursor. If cheap energy from cheap oil is what this economy was built on, then isn't the higher price for oil now the factor that will keep us in this recession? Expecting that to change may be a waiting game without resolve.

Couldn't it also be referred to it as the long emergency (by Kunslter), or at least the precursor.

I noted in the essay where I first used the phrase that I was borrowing Kunstler's terminology. I think it is one element of The Long Emergency, which may very well be underway. We will know in a few years whether this period of time marked the early stages.

Thanks for the response, and agree we will know in a few years.

I don't understand the vitriol from a couple of posters regarding America's "commitment" or "interest" in Copenhagen.

There was never going to be a deal at Copenhagen because the Chinese were never going to agree to a hard cap. Sure, Obama could have led the way unilaterally (or with the EU if necessary). But that would have been political suicide (or at least putting his career in the sick bay).

It's 2010 mid term planning time for the Dems and GOP. If Obama had committed to a hard cap without the Chinese going along, well I can easily imagine the endless sound bytes about how Obama "sold out our interests" while "letting the Chinese off the hook" at Copenhagen.

Sure in some fantasy world where the electorate is informed on the science behind global warming and not sold on easy narratives you can blast Obama all you want. But the fact of the matter is that unless you are hopeful for a revolution in America away from the two party system (and all it entails: corporate politics, quid pro quo deals, etc) then the best hope for mitigating global warming is with the American Left, however bumbling and disorganized it may be.


What is more hopeful is the actions of individual states and regions within the US. The two largest states from a tax revenue basis, California and New York, already have taken steps towards reducing emissions on a much stricter level than the federal government. In NY for example, where I work in electoral politics and thus have some knowledge, the regional cap and trade agreement has spurred such legislation as a comprehensive retrofit program for over 1 million homes in the next 5 years. This is a common sense policy that will create jobs, lower emmissions, and lead us toward a post-fossilfuel and post-carbon economy.

I generalize, but most foreigners make the mistake in thinking that the US is a monolithic entity, when in fact the federalist tendencies among the states are as strong as ever. Far from being "one actor" the US is often going in many different directions at one time, and those directions can be the opposite of what is being pushed on a federal level.

Many of the doomers on this site will say it's a "drop in the bucket" and "too little too late."

But I'm a pragmatist at base, and doing something is better than doing nothing, and we have seen in America that when the federal government is at odds with the states, then the states can and will take action that is sometimes opposed to what Washington is doing. There is hope for bottom up changes in policy, and it's at the local and state level -- as well as federal.

Hi madvillain,

re: "There is hope for bottom up changes in policy, and it's at the local and state level -- as well as federal."

Good point.

We have a project that addresses all levels simultaneously, namely a request for Congress and/or the President and/or any federal agency to direct the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to undertake an immediate investigation into global oil supplies, including impacts (of decline) and policy options.
Please see for details.

re: "In NY for example, where I work in electoral politics and thus have some knowledge..."

AFAIK, any State government can also request direct the NAS to do a study. So, that would be another way to set this in motion.

Is there any chance you might contact me (info in user profile)? It would be great to have your advice and (possibly?) help!

As we see it, such a study would provide a neutral and objective assessment for all stakeholders to use as a reference, assuming the NAS study process lives up to it's design for impartial results - (and that the chosen panelists live up to the value of scientific integrity).

As it is now, even city governments (in my experience) ignore "peak" in their plans, since there's nothing telling them to do otherwise - there's no "IPCC" equivalent for "peak oil."

The fact that the Academies current energy study entirely avoids the topic of global supplies speaks volumes to the forces arrayed against letting the facts about the "peak oil" challenge to be made public.

However, there's a straightforward way to correct this omission.

It's easy to blast Obama, but the fact driven home by the health care debate is that the only thing the US is going to commit to is whatever can get through the US Senate. Given the fact that the 40 Republicans seem willing to vote against everything all the time, that means you have to get agreement from Nelson (Nebraska), Landrieu (Louisiana) and Lincoln (Arkansas), all Democrats from traditionally Republican states. And Lieberman (Connecticut), who will never vote for anything liberal or progressive after getting primaried and losing last time out.

Forget any international treaties, which require 67 Senate votes. The Feds are hopeless. I agree with madvillain, it will be the states that push the process along.

planner -- Not arguing against your point but a correction: La is as Dem as they come (ignoring the current govenor for the moment). I always registerd as a Dem in La. so my vote would count. But La, like Texas, is conservative. A Yankee Republican would easily qualify as a Texas or La Democrat IMHO.

In fact, I completely agree: DC is totally unable to deal with AGW regardless of the party head counts.

Oops, how did I miss that?

I was trying to avoid calling them "traditionally conservative" states, since that word has pretty much lost its meaning over the last decade, but that's probably the best description anyway. So LA didn't abandon the Democrats like the rest of the South did? Some other cultural influence going on? Cajun? New Orleans Big City folks?

Some other cultural influence going on? Cajun? New Orleans Big City folks?

And your moniker is *WATERPLANNER*?!

Hint read this Sciam article and compare to what actually happened

From the October 2001 Scientific American Magazine | 8 comments
Drowning New Orleans ( Preview )
A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city

Dunno but if I lived in LA I think might hold the slightest of grudges against Republicans in general.
Since I don't, I may just be making an invalid assumption.

BTW just for the record I've never fully been on board with the official death toll in New Orleans after Katrina. I have a hunch that there may have been some under reporting going on. At the time I had a customer who was a doctor running a research lab at Tulane Medical Center. I lost contact with him after the hurricane and spoke with him briefly about six months later. He was leaving town for good and he really didn't want to discuss his experience. He had previously always been a jovial good natured bloke. I have to wonder if he votes Republican?

planner -- growing up in N.O. is not the same as growing up in La. Probably that big city-country split. For instance Nixon carried Orleans Parish...unlike the entire rest of the state.

"Oil Discovered in Israel"

This headline could merit an honorable mention for 2009, maybe a top story for 2010.

On December 24, 2009 an exploration company in Israel called "Givot Olam" announced they had recovered "significant quantities" of oil from their Meged 5 well near Rosh Ha'ayin:

Investors in other "Oil in Israel" companies such as Zion Oil (ZN) and AMG Oil/Adira Energy (AMGOF.ob) greeted this news with perhaps overblown enthusiasm for its impact on prospects for oil exploration in Israel. Others are more skeptical:

In any event, IF the Givot Olam well can be proven to be commercially viable this could lead to energy independence for Israel and have major strategic and political impacts in the Middle East.

You mean there's no shale gas in Israel!?!
That must be a God-forsaken land ;)

I'd add: this is the first year ever that electricity consumption went down in the US and Europe.

The most important Page 16 story (credit Don Coxe for the term, which implies the emergent story not on the front page) in my opinion is that the world is setting up to make a big new call, upon coal. Energy descent means we all get poorer. And poor people turn to coal. It is the energy source that is most adept at granting useful marginal utility, to the user. Peak oil and peak credit and peak wealth, for me, mean the dawn of a second age of coal (and wood). As a bookend to this story was the predicted failure of COP15, and the lack of seriousness about energy or climate from most of the world--though notably the USA. I'm not aware of any valid viewpoint on humanity that would suggest we would choose, as large groups, to voluntarily reduce energy demand--or intentionally choose to make energy transition. Carbon reduction is a fine idea. But it's an idea, not a behavior. COP15 turned out to be a very useful reality test. I conclude as follows: we will waste the remaining oil and fail to use it for energy transition to solar. Then we'll be left with coal. In many respects, this path has already been chosen, and we are already underway.


What about the IEA whistle blower story? Is it at least worth an honorable mention? Sure, it came as no surprise to us, but surely it was an important MSM story that openly questioned rosy scenarios that have been presented, and it surely helped make PO ideas seem not quite as far out as some thought them to be.