Heads in the Sand? Or, Why Don’t Governments Talk about Peak Oil?

This is a guest post by Shane Mulligan. Shane is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Waterloo, and is working on a book on the security implications of peak oil. Shane writes on The Oil Drum as bioprospector.

There is a train crash about to happen from an energy point of view. But politicians everywhere seem to have entirely missed the scale of the problem… [G]overnments and multilateral agencies have failed to recognize the imminence and scale of the global oil supply crunch, and most of them remain completely unprepared for its consequences.1

Anyone aware of peak oil has had to wonder (at least briefly) why the world's governments seem to be ignoring the issue. The official silence is difficult to fathom in light of the fact that the IEA has decidedly come down on the side of a likely peak by 2030, while Fatih Birol (the Agency's Chief Economist) suggests it's more likely a “plateau” from 2020, or even earlier – a claim recently published in the influential magazine, The Economist.2 As the UK's Energy Research Council points out, “The growing popular debate on ‘peak oil’ has had relatively little influence on conventional policy discourse. For example, the UK government rarely mentions the issue in official publications and …..'does not feel the need to hold contingency plans specifically for the eventuality of crude oil supplies peaking between now and 2020'.”3 The report notes that “the UK is one of many countries that are failing to give serious consideration to this risk.”4 But are governments really ignoring peak oil? Are they unaware of it? Or are they aware and taking steps to deal with it – even while they keep silent on it in public? Indeed, is their silence a policy choice itself?

This research note is an attempt to map out the range of reasons for governments' silence on peak oil. These reasons can be seen along a continuum, from ignorance (“we don't know”), to disbelief, to conspiratorial silence (“we know well, and have plans, but we're not sharing them”). This post surveys some of the more common ideas regarding governments' lack of attention to the issue, in the hope of spurring comments from readers regarding which of the scenarios is more plausible in light of available evidence.

It is worth noting that it is not only governments who have ignored peak oil. As Charlie Hall and John Day point out, population and resource concerns have “largely disappeared, at least until very recently, from most public discussion, newspaper analyses and college curricula. Our general feeling is that few people think about these issues today... Even ecologists have largely shifted their attention away from resources to focus, certainly not inappropriately, on various threats to the biosphere and biodiversity. They rarely mention the basic resource/human numbers equation that was the focal point for earlier ecologists.”5 Governments are not alone, then, in avoiding the issue of resource constraints in general, and peak oil in particular. But given the emergence in the last decade of a well-developed discourse on peak oil, why are they still not talking about it?

Exploring the Range of Possibility

Governments just don’t “get it”

Politicians and bureaucrats are busy people, who may have little opportunity to explore issues in depth, and especially in parliamentary systems ministers are often not experts on their portfolio. Thus they may be unaware of the possibility of peak oil, because they have not spent the time required to read the arguments or look at the data behind the claims that oil production is about to (or already has) hit its peak. This view of the situation seems common among those who continue their efforts to engage local officials, who similarly have to attend to a range of problems: convincing these officials of the importance of peak oil seems to be both necessary and effective. At the national level, one would think that bureaucrats and leaders are aware of the issue, but some still see ignorance as the problem. As Oil Drum writer Heading Out suggests, the US Department of Energy seems to have little concern about supply constraints, and “the Secretary [of Energy] seems woefully unaware of the underlying fragility of the energy supply situation”.6 Richard Heinberg and Julian Darley have recorded an excellent lecture for policy makers, one that seems designed for an audience that is largely unaware of the problem or its scope.7

They are overly committed to neoclassical economics

However, information alone is often not sufficient for conviction. Politicians and bureaucrats, among others, may be committed to a way of thinking that ensures their ignorance of peak oil. Excessive training (or faith) in neoclassical economics, for instance, might incline one to take seriously Robert Solow's notorious suggestion that “the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources”. This view represents what seems to be a virtually unbreakable faith in technology and the market mechanism's capacity to provide substitutes for declining fossil fuel energy services. Many officials seem to believe, as the IEA has long argued, that more investment will lead to more oil production, and that there is therefore no “physical limit to oil availability” in the near term.8 Of course, with sufficient investment, peak oil may be stalled to some extent, for a short while – but whether such investment is available (given the economic downturn) or forthcoming (given price volatility and above ground factors) remains uncertain.

They are hindered from realization due to cognitive biases

Faith in the market may be supported by innate avoidance or denial mechanisms which preclude us from witnessing any potential disruptions to our welfare. Nate Hagens has argued here “that despite facts, we exhibit certain cognitive biases that prevent us from acting on complex or frightening subjects outside of our day to day realities.”9 This category would include the notion of “cognitive dissonance” and other psychological factors that save us the trouble of facing difficult facts or “truths”, including that of our own mortality. The sheer difficulty of believing, or grasping, as consequential a figure as Hubbert's Peak, is well supported by anecdotal evidence among peak oilers who commonly report a “glazed-over” response to their efforts to present the case in classrooms, at town council meetings, among environmentalists, or at the local pub (careful out there).

Surely most of us are justified in feeling that we live the good life, and we appreciate this image being reinforced with promises of an abundant future. Albert Bartlett (1994) has observed the general complacency about the future and writes:

There will always be popular and persuasive technological optimists who believe that population increases are good, and who believe that the human mind has unlimited capacity to find technological solutions to all problems of crowding, environmental destruction, and resource shortages. These technological optimists are usually not biological or physical scientists. Politicians and business people tend to be eager disciples of the technological optimists.10

So let's allow that government personnel may, like the rest of us, have a hard time hearing bad news, and tend to steer our attention to good news. (The Oil Drum readers are exceptional, no doubt.)

They have been misled by the EIA and IEA

Some claim that this market-based disregard of peak oil is in part the fault of governments' energy and resource agencies, which tend to be dominated by economists. The US Energy Information Administration and the IEA are two that have been widely fingered for inappropriately optimistic production scenarios. According to Dave Hughes, “One of the reasons politicians, television news anchors and newspaper columnists are so reassuring about our energy future is that the people they get their information from are just as bullish... [The EIA and IEA] invariably paint a view of the future that is barely distinguishable from the past.”11 As Global Witness notes, “Governments and industry from all across the globe have come to rely on… [the IEA] to provide a consistent basis on which they can formulate policies and design business plans.”12 The IEA's flagship publication, the World Energy Outlook, is widely accused of offering overly optimistic statements regarding future production trends.

But in fairness, the WEO has also indicated for a number of years that a peak in conventional production is imminent, and as noted, Fatih Birol has been quoted as suggesting it is likely to arrive by 2020. The IEA-WEO has also consistently warned that future supply is dependent upon adequate investment, with its warnings in this regard becoming more stark in recent years. Indeed, the 2009 WEO estimates that investment in energy production is down by some 20% in some sectors: “Energy companies are drilling fewer oil and gas wells, and cutting back on refineries, pipelines and power stations... The financial crisis has cast a shadow over whether all the energy investment needed to meet growing energy needs can be mobilised.”13 Still, the Guardian reports that IEA insiders claim the agency has, under pressure from the US, especially, consistently overstated future supply projections.14

Blame it on the Media

No doubt the media also plays an important role, not only in educating politicians themselves, but also in informing the public of important issues, and thereby helping to set the terms of political debate. But the media has not picked up the story of peak oil in any significant way (though recent moves by the UK's Guardian may put them at the vanguard). Project Censored named peak oil among its “Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006”.15 In an egregious example, the New York Times appears to have completely ignored the release of the 2009 WEO, as well as the previous week's revelations regarding the IEA whistleblowers reported in the Guardian. Instead the Times gave a blog cover story to reporting of CERA's optimistic scenario, entitled “No Peak in Oil Before 2030, Study Says.”16

While there have been a smattering of stories on peak oil in major papers and TV stations, there has been little consistency, such that readily distracted viewers and readers can, it seems, just “forget” that story until it comes up at a cocktail party (“Oh yes I heard about that. Dreadful, isn't it?”) The absence of sustained media attention leaves the public largely uninformed, thus allowing “more room than is healthy for politicians to dodge, procrastinate or back-pedal on the policies needed to navigate the dangers facing us.”17

Yet the so-called “CNN effect”, or the claim that media presentations lead to public demand that then leads to government action, is inconclusive at best. Research suggests that the media is as much moved by governments' (and readers') concerns than the other way around. Thus the media may be waiting on signals that are not forthcoming. On the other hand, advertisers too may be wary of being part of the emergence of this story, contributing another reason for avoiding the issue in favour of business as usual.

They get it, but they can't talk about it

If we presume that government agencies have actually paid attention to the IEA's publications, and in some cases their own advisors, we have to approach the other end of the spectrum: This is a view of policy makers that sees them as largely aware of peak oil, and simply not being willing (or able) to discuss the issue. In a contrasting view to that of Heading Out, a former colleague of Energy Secretary Chu, David Fridley, has been quoted as saying the Secretary “knows all about peak oil, but he can't talk about it. If the government announced that peak oil was threatening our economy, Wall Street would crash. He just can't say anything about it.”19

Sadad al-Husseini (former VP of Saudi Aramco) suggests that those “who are not expressing a concern [publicly]... are doing that with a good intention: they feel like somehow this is a reality that the public at large can't handle... [that] being in ignorance of these realities is better than knowing them... and that somehow they will be solved. But in reality, if you don't have a public understanding of the issues you will never have the public support for the solutions... So it's important to actually talk about the facts...”20 This view suggests, then, that governments know but keep quiet about peak oil because the knowledge is itself seen as a threat to stability (economic, emotional, social, political). Thoughtful of them, surely – but their silence also stands in the way of efforts to prepare people and economies for the coming transition, and so increases the likelihood that transition will be conducted as a reaction to circumstances that could have been anticipated and planned for (if not avoided).

Colin Campbell has insisted that this is not the result of some “great conspiracy”: the fact that companies and governments generally don't advertise that “the North Sea is finished”, for instance, is more a matter of “practical daily management.”21 But that does not mean that leaders are not cognizant of the coming changes:

Campbell: “I think behind the scenes they are beginning to plan and prepare in sensible ways. You’ll find the oil companies, for example, are selling and disposing of secondary marketing chains, secondary refineries and so on, because they know full well that the supply is going to lead to surplus refining capacity. I think if you look elsewhere, the airline businesses is changing radically because it’s so dependent on cheap oil. We see hidden messages that do deliver the correct reading of all of this, but it’s not something people really want to talk about.”22

They are actively avoiding the issue

The growing chorus of reports, websites and media reports regarding peak oil has forced governments to actively resist discussing the issue. For example, recent efforts by Australia's Green Party to convene task forces have been voted down in the national Senate and state legislature, though the latter was by a close margin.23 Jeremy Leggett, who edited the UK Industry Taskforce Report (“The Oil Crunch”24), says that despite “a number of meetings with very senior people in government”, efforts to get the British Government to respond to the Taskforce's concerns have met with little success. Indeed, the government seems to have made up its mind in advance: the Taskforce had initially invited the Department of Trade and Industry to conduct the study as a joint industry-government initiative. The DTI reportedly replied, “and this is the exact words used: 'it would be too risky to do that'. Their argument was... basically, there isn't any risk, so why do a risk assessment, because if you do that you might scare the horses unnecessarily.”

On the other hand, the government has widely embraced the Wicks review, which (according to Leggett) “dismisses peak oil out of hand”. Though the Taskforce had earlier met with the authors, the Wicks review does not mention the Taskforce and ignores all the evidence and arguments made by the Taskforce in that meeting. “It takes my breath away”, says Leggett. “This is gross irresponsibility, and a form of betrayal of national interests, and I think the people involved in this will really live to regret it.”25

But what if Leggett is missing something still?

They're on it, don't you worry

What if the silence on peak oil is not a betrayal of national interests, but a policy choice informed by national interests? What if, with Mike Ruppert, we accept that there are “conspiracy facts”, and that the silence on peak oil is one of them?

“Most people have... a serious misconception: That misconception is a belief that there is an urgent need to somehow make key decision makers and leaders of American and global life aware of the immediate problems of Peak Oil and Natural Gas. Nothing could be more off base. The world's key decision makers have been aware of and planning for this crisis for years.”26

Ruppert's claim is that governments are informed, and are taking the matter very seriously: that is to say, they are not (as per appearances) ignoring peak oil at all. But in the absence of a discourse that reveals that awareness, and that discusses the policy moves being made to meet it, how are researchers to approach the issue? Where are we to look for evidence that governments “have been planning for this crisis for years”? One thing is clear: we cannot look to the statements of political actors as a reflection of their knowledge or beliefs regarding peak oil (or other issues). Political speech is an activity, directed at moving audiences: it is not a reliable window on the minds of political actors. A more realistic view, then, says we need to look not at what actors say, but at what they do, and to see whether an interpretation of their actions as responses to peak oil stands up to scrutiny.

Actions speak louder than words…

Middle East Adventures

“[T]he notion that the war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq (which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is actively developing a nuclear weapons programme and boasting of its intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had something it wanted. In one respect alone, Bush and Blair have been making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to secure the reserves of other nations.” (George Monbiot, December 2003)27

It is generally recognized that the first Gulf War was “all about oil”, even while many cling to the claim that the second, and the invasion and occupation of Iraq, was not about oil. Chapter 4 of Richard Heinberg’s The Party's Over opens with a four-page summary of the beginning phases of the war on terror: the oil connections of the Bush administration, the pre-existing plans to invade Iraq, the ample evidence that Bush and Co. were well informed about peak oil (including the fact they had Matthew Simmons on staff), the convenience of 9-11 for justifying the pursuit of an aggressive and oil-related foreign policy. The view that the ongoing War on Terror is itself largely about oil is widely acknowledged not only by many peak oilers (Campbell, Heinberg), but also by an increasing number of academic scholars.28

Not surprisingly, the US has been flagged above all for “covert awareness” of peak oil. In 1999, former Vice President Dick Cheney told an audience that the world would need the equivalent of five Saudi Arabias to meet projected demand, and that “the prize” was still the Middle East oilfields.29 In January 2008, Bush noted that the Saudis could not very well be asked to pump more oil if they didn't have the capacity, suggesting that even he recognized production limits in the Oil Kingdom30. (Might he have actually been listening to Matt Simmons?) While official US security literature seems largely free of discussions of peak oil,31 the close correlation between American foreign policy concerns and the oil-rich parts of the world suggests a familiar lubricant is behind recent moves on what Zbigniew Brzezinski called the Grand Chessboard, and what others see as a New “Great Game”.

Response to economic collapse of 2008

There is little doubt that the current recession/collapse was in part instigated by peak oil and high prices, exacerbated by high levels of indebtedness which left many consumers in a poor position to navigate an energy price spike.32 Those who have been watching peak oil coming have long warned of the economic consequences: Kenneth Deffeyes, in The End of Suburbia (2004), suggested the peak would result in “seven trillion dollars wiped from the stock market; two million jobs gone; state and municipal budget surpluses GONE.” Leggett subtitled his 2005 book, The Empty Tank, with a warning of The Coming Global Financial Catastrophe.33

To the degree that governments have been aware of peak oil, they have also been aware of declining opportunities for economic growth, and the likelihood of a financial shock. The licenses given by government agencies for banks and investors to pursue carnivalesque capitalism – including the invention of a range of novel instruments that depended on continuous growth (in order to service the debt they were composed of) – may also be seen as a plan of sorts, in that if leaders were aware of the coming crisis, they may have sought to enable conditions that could hold it off, at least for awhile, while being fully conscious that they were “gutting the economy” and shackling future generations.34

The ongoing borrowing binge, dressed up as a Keynesian stimulus, seems to many an utterly unsustainable corporate welfare scheme being loaded on the backs of generations yet to come. If governments realize that the old game of capitalism cannot be sustained under conditions of declining energy, then the future of capitalism – at least under existing rules – becomes somewhat irrelevant. In that case, perhaps the only thing to do is seek to gain whatever can be withdrawn from the system prior to a major rule-change. Whether these advantages will still hold under whatever new rules emerge remains an open question.

This does not bode well for hopes that leaders will make any positive decisions regarding energy futures: it suggests they see no future (surely true, in that 4-year-electoral-cycle kind of way). To the extent there is a future, it is a low carbon one, and any steps in that direction are surely positive indications that governments are in fact taking steps to address energy insecurity. A great many programs have emerged in recent years, partly in response to energy prices, and often dressed up in terms of reducing emissions. Incentives for biofuels production, including government mandated production levels, may help ensure some growth in this sector, which makes a small contribution to liquid fuel supply. Solar, wind and geothermal will contribute to growth in electricity production, and a number of European states are moving toward establishing an enhanced grid for transmission of low-carbon electricity.35 Other projects, including massive solar farms in the Sahara Desert, may do much to stem electricity supply concerns and help navigate an energy transition. They are unlikely to help a great deal with liquid fuel supply problems, however.

“Climate” policy

A third peak oil related policy response can be found in government (in)actions to curb global warming. Moves made to address carbon emissions are varied, but many governments seem to be prioritizing low-carbon energy programs as an alternative to fossil fuels. Fatih Birol recently told the US Council on Foreign Relations of his certainty that developing states are interested in climate negotiations – and in reducing emissions – far more for energy security reasons than for climate ones.36 Diplomatically, he did not suggest that major industrial states might be acting for much the same reasons.

To the extent that governments are aware of peak oil, climate change actually gives a presentable face to the necessary policy actions. Presenting these efforts as responses to climate change encourages investments in energy security, allowing them to be legitimized on well-established environmental grounds. This avoids the political difficulty of presenting peak oil and recommending appropriate policies (and explaining why they haven't done so sooner). While proposed emissions reductions are in line with depletion rates, the global warming agenda is a voluntary one, in which humans can still pretend we are in control of our destiny (and our planet). As fossil fuel scarcity begins to bite, the declining supply (BAD) can be made to look like reduced emissions (GOOD?).

Furthermore, the emerging carbon markets contribute a novel “scarcity” (pollution rights) that may stand in place of natural scarcity. They also enable profits to accrue, via emissions trading and energy development, in the face in growing material scarcity, and these may help offset declining profits from the fossil fuel industry. The benefits will accrue to the ruling class, of course, and its executive may be rewarded – or at least preserved – if it follows its mandate. This thesis is not, of course, unconnected with the thoughts on the financial crisis above.


It is clear that peak oil presents an immense challenge in terms of governance, a challenge that seems to have precluded its uptake in policy and governance circles. This does not mean that states and their leaders are not aware of the problem, although many individuals within governments may not be. If governments are aware, as seems likely, their silence may mean that they fear that the public consumption of the scale of the problem may generate more problems than it solves. It may mean that there is a widespread cognitive barrier to examining the problem and prospects, and (in part as a result) they really don't know what to do.

However, it may also be the case that they are well aware of the problem and are indeed pursuing actions to meet it, in a way; but the distasteful nature of the response requires that the real reasons for decisions be hidden from view. The pillage of Iraq and Afghanistan, the wholesale robbery of the public in order to enrich capitalist classes, and the pretence of “saving the planet” - and the polar bears – may all be seen as unfortunate necessities for power structures seeking to preserve themselves under difficult circumstances.

If political actors seem to be acting with an awareness of peak oil, the fact that they don't discuss it is relevant only on that it stands as evidence that not discussing it is part of the policy response. (Ignorance is strength, or some such thing.) But whether sticking our heads in the sand will make the challenges of peak oil any easier for governments – let alone the rest of us – remains to be seen.


1Simon Taylor, quoted in Ashley Seager, “Oil prices hit high but report warns of supply crunch” The Guardian 19 Octorber 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk.

2“The Peak Oil Debate: 2020 vision”, Economist, December 10, 2009. http://www.economist.com/businessfinance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15065719 .

3UKERC, “The Global Oil Depletion Report”, 8 October 2009, p.1. http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/support/tiki-index.php?page=Global+Oil+Depletion, accessed December 1, 2009. Citing an FOI response, BERR, 2008. "Response to FoI request, Ref 08/0091." Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform: London.

4UKERC, “Oil Depletion report”, p. 164.

5Charles A.S. Hall and John W. day, Jr., “Revisiting the Limits to Growth after Peak Oil”, American Scientist 97, May-June 2007, 230-237: 230.

6“Dr. Chu, Dr. Aleklett, and the price of Oil”, 22 November 2009, http://www.theoildrum.com/pdf/theoildrum_5893.pdf

7 http://www.globalpublicmedia.org/peak_oil_for_policy_makers

8Mr Glyde, of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics' (ABARE), quoted on p. 23 of Matt Mushalik's Report Card 2008, at http://www.crudeoilpeak.com/?p=403.

9Nate Hagens, “Peak Oil: Believe it or not?”, posted November 3, 2007, at http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3178.

10 http://www.oilcrisis.com/Bartlett/reflections.htm.

11J. David Hughes, “The Energy Issue: A More Urgent Problem than Climate Change?” in Thomas Homer-Dixon, ed., Carbon Shift: How the Twin Crises of Oil Depletion and Climate Change Will Determine the Future (Random House of Canada, 2009), 58-95, 60.

12Global Witness, Heads in the Sand: Governments Ignore the Oil Supply Crunch and Threaten the Climate, p. 36. Online at http://www.globalwitness.org/media_library_detail.php/854/en/heads_in_th...

13World Energy Outlook 2009, p.5. All WEO references here can be found online at http://worldenergyoutlook.org.

14Terry Macalister, “Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower”, 9 November 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/09/peak-oil-international...

15 http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/18-media-and-governm....

16Jad Mouawad, “No Peak in Oil Before 2030, Study Says”, New York Times, 17 November 2009. http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/no-peak-in-oil-before-2030-.... Thanks to reader Phil for pointing out the Times' selectivity.

17Neil Gavin, “Global Warming and Peak Oil in the British Media: The Limits of Policy Development”, paper presented at the Energy Security in Europe Conference, Lund University, Sweden, September 2007. On file with the author.

18Piers Robinson, The CNN Effect: The myth of news, foreign policy and intervention (Routledge, 2002).

19Alastair Bland, “Cheer Up, It's Going to Get Worse”, http://www.bohemian.com/bohemian/06.17.09/feature-0924.html

20ASPO.TV News, “Acknowledging the Reality of Peak Oil”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd7QGbNKxoQ, December 10, 2009

21Cited in Kunstler, 2005, 27.

22Interview with Colin Campbell, 23 Sept 2009, at http://www.aspousa.org/index.php/2009/10/reflections-from-colin-campbell....

23 http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/5977; http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/5168. Thanks to TOD used jaybee379 for the latter link. A close analysis of the Australian situation continues to be conducted by Matt Mushalik, at http://www.crudeoilpeak.com/.

24See http://peakoiltaskforce.net/

25Jeremy Leggett, “Discussing the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security”, http://www.aspo.tv/discussing-the-uk-industry-taskforce-on-peak-oil-and-...

26Michael C. Ruppert, “Government, Financial, and Political Awareness of Peak Oil Prior to 2005: Five Rules for Survival of the Coming Collapse”, Speech presented to the New York Petrocollapse Conference, October 5 2005. Online at www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/100405_petrocollapse_speech.shtml, December 12 2009.

27George Monbiot, “The Bottom of the Barrel”, The Guardian, 2 December 2003. http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2003/12/02/the-bottom-of-the-barrel/

28Michael Klare has been the most forthcoming. See most recently his Rising Powers Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Holt, 2009). Campbell spells it out clearly in Oil Crisis (Multiscience Publishing, 2005), pp. 188-194.

29Kjell Aleklett, “Dick Cheney, Peak Oil and the Final Count Down”, May 12 2004. Online at http://www.peakoil.net/Publications/Cheney_PeakOil_FCD.pdf.

30“President Bush Questions Saudi Ability to Raise Oil Supply”, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3514.

31See Rick's Monroe's excellent bibliography of peak-oil related security analysis, at http://www.energybulletin.net/node/50208

32This argument has been made by James Hamilton and Jeff Rubin, among others. See http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4727; see also Heads in the Sand, p. 19.

33Jeremy Leggett, The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and the Coming Global Financial Catastrophe (Random House, 2005).

34 http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/2008/10/debt-rattle-october-9-2008...

35Alok Jha, “Sun, wind and wave-powered: Europe unites to build renewable energy 'supergrid'” The Guardian 3 January 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/03/european-unites-renewa...

36 http://www.cfr.org/publication/20837/world_energy_outlook_2009_video.html

It seems clear to me that political leaders don't have any one single position you note above, but are likely spread across the spectrum, depending on the intelligence they receive (or not).

Certainly, some US leaders have been aware of the problem, and applied pressure to the IEA to "hide the decline". Indeed, the Iraq war was Dick Cheney's way of acquiring oil resources he himself said were going to become more scarce.

"That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?"

All I wish to say in response to Shane's report is "Yes.All of the above."

Sometime back I was involved in a discussion here about events that exhibit all the outward behaviors of conspiracires, but aren't actually.

I'm hoping somebody fluent in German or some other language can turn up a word that fits this description-if not maybe some body can coin a good one.


Just a few words about the situation in Germany:
The federal government never mentioned peak oil. The government mainly relies on the federal geological service BGR, which is roughly in line with the IEA (the BGR does mention PO since several years, but in a placatory tone. Currently the BGR estimates the peak of conventional oil in 2023, but expects a "delay" to 2030...2035 due to "reserve growth", unconventional oil etc.).
The BGR is subordinated by the Federal Ministry of Economics, which is even more conservative (once upon being asked if the BGR-peak doesn't mean high time to react the Ministry replied that "there are also more optimistic expertises elsewhere").

In fact there are a few generalists in governmental agencies that seem to be (more or less) peak oil aware, which discuss for example if it is really a good idea to build more and more roads. But sadly, their ideas are far from being mainstream: Most people working in these agencies are technical specialists who do not think about if new roads should be built but only out how and where.

On a state level a few years ago a committee of inquiry made an investigation, initiated by a Green party politician, which revealed quite a bit about how politicians percieve the issue:
The politicians heard statements from quite a few experts (ranging from the Energy Watch Group to the ultra-conservative German BP) and even ordered new expertises (which however were based on rather low oil price estimates).

Interestingly the committees outcome had a parallel to the Copenhagen Climate summit: Originally it was intended to draw a general political conclusion as a result of the inquiry, but there was such a big dissensus between the conservative parties and the left and green parties that only a glossed-over minimum consensus would have been possible - just like in Copenhagen. However unlike in Copenhagen both sides decided to issue their own, more tangible statement: the green and left party a statement warning and calling for action, and the conservatives with a "don't worry" message.
In this context (there is much less expertise about oil (or peak oil) here than in the U.S.) I don't see conspiracy but just plain psychology.

Thanks drillo, that's really interesting. This division between (public) optimists and pessimists is surely central to the problem. As Debbie and others note below, votes must be obtained by appealing to interests, material and psychological. And of course, such public statements tell us little (maybe nothing) about what these actors really know and believe.

Interesting too that many here probably see a greater likelihood of honesty (sincerity? truth?) in the Green position, and a sneaking sense that the Conservatives are the ones appealing to base interests (hiding the facts to maintain power). I certainly do, instinctively. But I also want to try to be aware of my own prejudices: peak oil may be our shared reality, but truth has many facets, not all of which we here can see (because our own reality may hide them). There's a hard road to follow in this, however. Trusting our reality - whatever it is made up of - is much more appealing. And as many here have commented in past, once you see peak oil it's tough to shake the certainty.

Hi drillo, as you might guess, I am also interested in the German perspective. On that score, and in general, for those interested in subverting the official government deniers, check out the Transition Towns Movement. TT originated in UK but spreading like wildfire, globally. As far as I can tell they seem to have formulated the best way to "sell" the Peak Oil message by re-packaging it with Climate Change to "Twin Carbon Crisis". German keyword for "transition" is "Energiewende". TT was designed precisely to create a grassroots movement that the politicians eventually will be unable to ignore. IIRC, there is a Transition Towns Training in Bielefeld (Germany) this month, January 16/17 . And on another hopeful note, the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce recently co-sponsored a Peak Oil event. And I believe, Berlin now has an official Transition Towns Initiative.

Transitionus.org has been criticized on TOD as "BAU light". While I can agree with that philosophically - I have done their 2-day training - based on results, their PR seems to work better that of TOD. I believe, the reason is pretty straightforward. A lot of important PO information can be transmitted digitally. But learning involves more than information. Learning - especially learning a new way of life is more effective, the more parts of the nervous system get involved. Much has been said about whether cyber connections can ultimately replace face to face human connections, especially on a subject that pushes as many primal buttons as PO does.

Yes, I would like to see official PO Policy, lot's of it, at all levels. But ultimately, the "inner transition" is as important. And that is very personal and needs to involve personal real time interaction. I recall several "let's get together locally comments" on TOD. Why reinvent the wheel? That's what TT is doing. And it looks like a very good complement to fill and stimulate the political vacuum.

However, the experience of extreme shortages of everything was very real and very behavior altering. I had the dubious privilege of learning to think in that environment at age 6 in 1945. Otherwise perfectly law-abiding middle-class grown-ups would risk their lives to jump on a freight train to steal a sack of potatoes. Then, they'd have to do the same thing to steal a sack of coal to cook the potatoes. Between 1945 and 48 our basement was broken into several times. The loot was canned food. We lived in a row house in the middle of the block, so the thieves would have either had to jump 7-8 5 foot fences - or more likely, they were neighbors.

Downspouts and rain gutters were stolen for scrap metal from houses that still had them. Probably the most redeeming factor was that there was 100% gun control. The only people with guns were the American GIs, who were extremely well fed and could contribute to the black market.

Something that has puzzled me in the Peak Oil story is that references to "collapse" are limited to the ones from Jared Diamond's writing, the Soviet Union (Dmitri Orlov), and Argentina. No mention of the German "collapse" experience of 1945 - "der Zusammenbruch". I understand, there is tremendous resistence by the rest of the world to have their village compared in any way to anything having even remotely to do with Nazi Germany or even the aftermath of it. And granted, the cause for that collapse was extremely different from what we are facing now. And there are some very eerie paralells. My parents generation had to deal with a lot of guilt and criticism - and punishment - for not speaking up when the storm clouds were gathering in the 30s. True Nazi storm clouds and Peak Oil storm clouds may look very different - the amount of resulting suffering might not.

So I am puzzled, why this reference has never been made on TOD. Am I the only one with those memories? And is it possible that the cultural pain of those memories contributes to the resistance to contemplating a repeat of that kind of experience in Germany in the context of Peak Oil?

There are some very telling interviews back from April 2008 on a German news website (Google translation /
original German).

The interview with Hans-Josef Fell, resident energy expert of the Green party parliamentary group, shows how biased governments are towards the received wisdom (coupled with mental laziness) (Google translation / original German):

Q: At least governments should have an interest in sustaining their economies, shouldn't they?

Fell: I am very disillusioned. I have spoken with many governments about the issue, even with the German. There is absolutely no open ear. I think many people do not like to argue outside the mainstream. They don't even want to think about whether the mainstream opinion is at all reliable.

Q: But climate change has also made it into the mainstream.

Fell: Yes, sure. The problem is that there are many arguments in the mainstream that are superficially viable. For example, the argument that if the oil price rises, people will be looking for oil more intensely and will find enough new oil somewhere. But: The price of oil has risen in recent years, and yet less and less oil has been found.

Of course he shows his own bias towards "Renewables to the Rescue". But that's another issue.

Then there is an interview with Wolfgang Blendinger, president of ASPO Germany (Google translation / original German):

Q: What about the governments?

Blendinger: That surprised me a lot more. The less oil a country has got, the more loudly its government insists that there are no difficulties. That also holds for the [German] federal government. Those are some very hard-boiled brothers.
Before something changes, one must first understand, in politics, economy and society, that something is going wrong, which can not be prevented by the usual instruments of the "market". We are far away from that understanding. People drive 200 yards to the baker with the car, there is racing on the highways as always. There is no awareness of the difficulties in which we are stuck. This interview is just a drop in the bucket.

Obviously, the highlighted sentence is pejorative (and difficult to translate). Germany imports 98% of its oil. So the inverse relation between domestic oil supply and ignorance/denial of the problem is apparently true. I witness that phenomenon all the time. Government officials to the highest level (Angela Merkel herself in a recent guest column for a car drivers association magazine) and car industry types mention oil resource problems only briefly in subordinate clauses, if at all. And even then, only as some vague problem in the far future. Access, not depletion seems to be the prevailing issue.

Hilmar Rempel, deputy director for energy resources of the above-mentioned BGR (part of the ministry of economy), has to be a little more diplomatic:

Q: Your website says that the BGR is a consultant to Federal Ministries and the EU, and is a partner for business and science. Do you feel that the government, the EU and industry are listening to your advice that it's "already" necessary to look for alternatives to oil?

Rempel: Yes. This finding is achieving acceptance. That is also shown by the energy summits in the chancellery. I have just returned from Berlin, we have presented our recent study on the topic. At least, not much opposition has been levied against our estimate.

The reporter notes in the main article: "That doesn't sound euphoric." He concludes with: "There is a quote, attributed to Harold Pinter, that fits quite nicely here: 'Future: the excuse of those who want to do nothing in the present.'"

Indeed, the US government has not only known about Peak Oil, but as Colin Campbell noted in his book, _Oil Crisis_, the Cheney team 'apparently' engineered 9/11 (see pp. 191-194)--all rather obvious to those of us studying that issue carefully. Sorry if you haven't been following that thread elsewhere. Unfortunately, like a huge scam, it is critical that the public be duped and continually kept in the dark about the rather disturbing implications of a "New Pearl Harbor" event that wasn't just "lucky" but was initiated to prevent what Cheney et al. considered a bigger risk--the breakdown of industrial society.

The Hirsch Report has NOT been ignored by the US government and its agencies. Nothing in the mainstream media should be mistaken for what happens in the strange 'war rooms' where the machinations of the architects of war are discussed, organized, and carried out.

The bloated military industrial complex, an arm of the modern corporate state, is unlike anything we've ever known. The uniformity of the 'debate' allowed on corporate airwaves would be the envy of Hitler. The boundaries between corporations and their government have become completely blurred. Sixty percent of the federal budget now goes to the military. The US military has over 700 bases around the world outside its national borders. It is fighting wars in five (5) countries in the Middle East--all of which are about control of oil and none of which have anything to do with the official myth of 9/11. Admittedly, an insane plan that hasn't worked out in all respects, but one that has fooled most of the US citizenry to accept a state of permanent war that is a money-maker for many of the biggest corporations. The US multinational oil companies are in the bidding for Iraqi contracts would never have been possible without the war(s). That they may not get those contracts is not for lack of an all-out effort to manipulate their own puppet government in Iraq that, to their surprise, has more independence than they expected.

I find it naive to suppose Cheney/Bush, Obamba the Bomber, and the architects of monumental crimes, monumental lies, have no clue about peak oil. Rather, the plot and purpose of Cheney's Energy Task Force (National Energy Policy Development Group) remains Top Secret. Indeed, everything our government has been doing for the last decade is 'classified' and a matter of national security. There won't be any 'transparency' in these matters until the empire completely collapses politically and, even then, all criminal plans, policies, and directives may be thoroughly redacted.

Happy Brave New Year,

Amen Stiv.

Could not have said it better. US oil companies not getting the contracts: I think it is not an issue of independence of the Iraq government. It is more like a deal behind the scenes with the winners of those contracts. It may have been blackmail by Russia or simply managing the perception (it was not about oil after all - lol). As long as the US army is in Iraq, it is pretty much irrelevant who develops and produces the oilfields, because the US is controlling the flow of oil. They can close the tap any time. And this is the main strategic reason of the US military presence in the Middle East. Taking the oil is secondary (not iunimportant though), the primary goal is to have control over the tap.

And crucially NOT having OTHERS get final control over it. It is a bit surprising that many have pointed to these contracts as proof that the US is not in control of Iraq's oil. It's an occupied bloody country for pete's sake. How blind can one be. But these contracts do seem to supply cover for the unwitting.

The result is not consistent with U.S. capitalist objectives. French, Russian and Chinese oil companies get the profits while the U.S. gets the bill for security. This is not what Bush and Cheney had in mind, but it is an example of how an empire crumbles.

Congratulations stiv for stating one of the most succinct and probably highly accurate summaries of the western (mainly USA and UK) executive response to Peak Oil. What are we who do not condone mass criminal acts perpetrated on our behalf going to do about it?

What are we who do not condone mass criminal acts perpetrated on our behalf going to do about it?

...just to point out, the post was spot-on and well done, but as far as you're question, all that was widely speculated on, reported on, written up, etc, from 2002 or so to the present. As far as Iraq, most everybody already knows and has moved on. Its a little late to do anything about it, even if some new angle turned up.

Just curious, since when is it OK to "move on" from mass murder, conspiracy to commit mass murder, etc.? If I recall correctly, it wasn't OK to "move on" after the Holocaust. If we are not a Nation of Laws, then why should I or anyone else care if someone goes on a rampage and kills a lot of innocents? In some ways, that person is far less criminal or evil in intent than those who conspire, plan and execute mass murder.

Its not ok. I was just pointing out that it happened, and not many people seemed to notice or care. As the opportunity to "do something about it" has already been passed on, the precedent set becomes a concern for the future.

Micael Parenti discusses the idea that the Bush government is stupid and concludes that they are not and have in fact accomplished most of their goals - one talk addressing this is at http://fora.tv/2008/01/17/Michael_Parenti_Discusses_Contrary_Notions#ful...

Re 9/11 lots out there - even in song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGYwN5rsvyI&feature=PlayList&p=4957A584AD...

Colin Campbell noted in his book, _Oil Crisis_, the Cheney team 'apparently' engineered 9/11 (see pp. 191-194)--all rather obvious to those of us studying that issue carefully.

Many of us have studied 'that issue' carefully and come to different conclusions. Let's keep 9/11 conspiracy stuff off of TOD please.



ET - I think you might accept that for a lot of people studying peak oil - count Heinberg and Campbell among them - the 9-11 conspiracy stuff (as you call it) is far more plausible than the claim that governments are unaware of the predicament they (we) are in.

Why censor a survey of perspectives? The tendency toward a gate-keeping response to unwelcome opinions seems to me part of the answer to the question posed in this post.

People routinely overestimate the competence of governments. I see this overestimation as stemming from a desire to think that the people in power are competent and up to the challenges they face. Um no.

Look at Alan Greenspan. He had to great success at running a company or trading. Compare his talent to the genius Warren Buffett. Yet Greenspan was lionized as the brilliant banker. Wrong.

Conspiracies require competence and a confluence of interests. Most of the imagined conspiracies are implausible if you consider the costs and benefits to the supposed participants.

Conspiracies require competence and a confluence of interests.

All depends on what one is going to call a conspiracy.

1. the act of conspiring.
2. an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
3. a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.
4. Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.
5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.

If I don't know about "the plan" - does that make it a conspiracy? How about if "the plan" is published in thousands of pages of something the elected things are going to vote on - I'm not about to read the 100's of pages and even the elected officials show up on camera and say 'Silly Micheal Moore - we don't read these bills'...is that a conspiracy? And once a law exists - the illegal is thus legal and no longer a conspiracy no?

Some kind of grand unification of conspiracy - nope. But people getting together and deciding to put the screws to someone else, that kind of conspiracy exists every day.

Most of the imagined conspiracies are implausible

Most of the attempts to find a grand unification with a unified purpose are going to be as you state.

But look at the actual definition and look at history. Plenty of conspiracies have existed and plenty of conspiracy is going on right now.

as in "et tu brute"

as in the House Select Committee on Assassinations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_Select_Committee_on_Ass...
"The Committee further concluded that it was probable that:

* four shots were fired
* the third shot came from a second assassin located on the grassy knoll, but missed."

If we had unraveled that conspiracy what a different world we would live in today as the CIA would have been shattered into the thousand pieces that Kennedy wanted it reduced to.

Does this qualify as a conspiracy?


The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

Or maybe the continued requirement to use ethanol does?


[3] "Corn Ethanol Allure Plummets", Cornell University, Dr. David Pimentel produced his initial study as chairman of the Gasohol Study Group, a task force convened by the Reagan Administration in 1980 to investigate the efficiency of ethanol production. David Pimentel released a startling study for the United States Department of Energy showing that making ethanol consumes far more energy than the ethanol contains. The United States Department of Agriculture, food giant Archer-Daniel-Midlands and others in the corn lobby vilified him, and congressmen from corn states demanded that the federal government's watchdog, the General Accounting Office, thoroughly investigate his findings. The GAO spent 20 times as much money reviewing Dr. Pimentel's work as Dr. Pimentel's own team did in creating the original study. After dissecting his methodology and scrutinizing every figure, the GAO, too, endorsed Dr. Pimentel's study.

Each of the 3 you listed could be called a conspiracy. All depends on where you want to draw the line in the sand.

The Reagan Administration did not exist in 1980.

Written by FuturePundit:
People routinely overestimate the competence of governments.

Iran-Contra was a real U.S. government conspiracy to sell weapons to Iran in violation of an embargo and use the proceeds to fund illegal military operations in Nicaragua. I think you underestimate the evil in Republicans and the U.S. military.

Iran-Contra came out into public view. They weren't competent to keep it secret. They weren't competent to keep it going for long.

Thanks, I got a good laugh from your comment when I realized the title of this subject is "Heads in the Sand? or, Why don't Governments talk about Peak oil? Maybe it's ownly a conspiracy to those who put their head in the sand. If the government said there is an unlimited amount of oil in the ground. Would that make Peak Oil a conspiracy? Problem solve, right?

The Hirsch Report has NOT been ignored by the US government and its agencies. Nothing in the mainstream media should be mistaken for what happens in the strange 'war rooms' where the machinations of the architects of war are discussed, organized, and carried out.

Stiv, have you any references (apart from the 2007 GAO report) that support the above claim? I'd quite like to see them. My email addy is in my profile if you want to chat further.

Best hopes for happy and brave.


In theory this should be “In Praise of Dr. James Schlesinger”, but I can’t quite bring myself to praise someone who used to be the head of the CIA and was the former US Energy Secretary who allegedly [proposed the invasion of Saudi Arabia](http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentI...) in order to protect US oil interests. Rather it was what he had to say that was praiseworthy and rather fascinating. Schlesinger’s message to the conference was summed up in his statement was “we are all peakists now. Conceptually the battle is over, the peakists have won”.

Schlesinger: former CIA dir, and Dir of DoE.

If you want to know some of the "war room" stuff, google "us military alternative energy programs". They're one of the big players in development, and getting bigger. Publicly they can talk about the next 100 years of abundant oil, but the military is putting its money on the opposite, and in a hurry it seems.

Hello Bioprospector, others:

Going back to 2005, following the 'Hirsch Report' in February, the US Army Energy Research and Development Center published an 86-page document, "Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations" by Donald F. Fournier and Eileen T. Westervelt, found here: www.cecer.army.mil/...EnergyTrends.../Westervelt_EnergyTrends__TN.pdf

In this document, _Energy Trends..._, the problem of peak oil is discussed and authors such as Campbell and Laherrere are cited.

Hirsch's report, also completed in 2005 and first covered by Al Jazeera in March 2005 (http://www.energybulletin.net/node/4673) was not cited in this report but was nearly contemporary to it.

_Energy Trends..._ was discussed here: www.energybulletin.net/node/13737

What was the Hirsch Report?

Published the same year, "The Hirsch report, the commonly referred to name for the report Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management, was created by request for the US Department of Energy and published in February 2005."

From http://www.energybulletin.net/node/4673--
"Authored by Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling and entitled the Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, the report is an assessment requested by the US Department of Energy (DoE), National Energy Technology Laboratory.

It was prepared by Hirsch, who is a senior energy programme adviser at the private scientific and military company, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

They work extensively on defense and geopolitical issues for clients, including many for the US government.

Hirsch/Advisory roles
Hirsch has held a wide variety of positions in the US energy hierarchy including senior energy analyst at the Rand Corporation, through to a presidentially appointed assistant administrator for solar, geothermal and advanced energy systems.

He also previously worked for the US Department of Energy on numerous advisory committees, including the DoE Energy Research Advisory Board."

Has Hirsch been ignored?

No. Hirsch didn't 'self-publish,' he was hired, along with associates, by the government/DoE to prepare _Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management_. Other reports, before and after, are published by other branches of the US military. What has the military done in response to suggestions in these reports to diversify their energy portfolio, mitigate energy scarcity, etc.?

One project is probably common knowledge to readers at TOD: http://www.nellis.af.mil/nellissolararray.asp--Nellis [Air Force Base] activated Nations [US] largest PV Array [Statement December 2007].

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellis_Solar_Power_Plant--The largest solar array in N. America--14 MW

Before Hirsch's Report

Before the Hirsch Report, an even earlier DOE published report which describes Peak Oil, 'Strategic Significance of America's Oil Shale Resource - Volume I' prepared by the Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves and disappeared from the DOE website. (Previously at www.fe.doe.gov/programs/reserves/publications/Pubs-NPR/npr_strategic_sig...) This report, last time I checked, is archived at the EV World website: www.evworld.com/library/Oil_Shale_Stategic_Significant.pdf

Why do such reports 'disappear' and why, apparently, 'ignore' these reports insofar as the mainstream media is concerned, even as soon as the research, in some cases, is completed, only to *act* on that information by providing the land for and partnering the largest US solar installation in the US? On what research did they act? What reports do we know about, when did they appear, and when did the military decide to invest in the largest solar array in N. America?

The Nellis Solar Array was completed in December 2007--"less than 18 months from start to finish." That would be a start-date of *mid-2005.* I make little distinction between branches of the military in terms of reports and actions. Indeed, I expect the US military will continue to diversify its energy sources, demonstrating a de facto recognition of the growing energy scarcity discussed in military energy research documents.

More on Nellis:

"The plant, which cost $100 million to construct, covers 140 acres of land at the western edge of the Nellis base. The company that owns the panels is leasing the land at no cost, and Nellis is agreeing to buy the power for 20 years at about 2.2 cents/kWh, instead of the 9 cents they are paying to Nevada Power, saving the Air Force $1 million each year." (http://www.metaefficient.com/news/north-americas-largest-solar-electric-...)

How many TOD readers know a US Army report cited Campbell and Laherrere in 2005? The US Military is paying attention to peak oil theorists. . . as evidenced both by various reports and, in a notable example, by partnering on the largest solar array in the US to date. Of course, the big money is invested in the *control* of oil. However, it appears smaller bets have been 'hedged,' no?


I suggest that those interested in the American military estimate of the energy situation google and read JOE 2008.

This report was written as a a guide to putting the world into perspective for military planners for the next twenty five years.It was prepared and released and signed by some very senior generals with very impressive titles.

Those not familiar with military etiquette and speech need to understand that a man of "average ability" is a klutz to be gotten rid of and that officers are supposed to be able to think on thier feet.Phrases such as "four new Saudi Arabias " are to be read the same way in Joe 2008 as they are here on TOD- polite ways of saying without alarming the public too much that It ain't gonna happen, that the s is for all practical purposes already in the fan. They peg the end of surplus capacity in 2012 and a crunch in 2015, and when a general politely mentions such things he expects to be taken seriously.

They have Mexico down as at very high risk for becoming a failed state. This is interesting reading for those interested in the next couple of decades regardless of thier political stripe or persausion.

joint operating environment


This part caught my attention:

The implications for future conflict are
ominous. If the major developed and developing states
do not undertake a massive expansion of production
and refining capabilities, a severe energy crunch is
inevitable. While it is difficult to predict precisely what
economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall
might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for
growth in both the developing and developed worlds.
Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other
unresolved tensions,...

These guys are as crazy as Drummers. The energy part reads like classic TOD.

Wow. These are a couple if nice finds! Something to read on my lunch break tonight! Cheers!

Thanks OFM. Sure looks like these guys are reading the WEO with a critical eye - and clearly not taking the EIA or (god forbid) CERA very seriously. This is where the question gets interesting, especially regarding divided government rationality. Who in government is listening to these generals, and who is listening to the EIA? Why are the generals not listening to the EIA, even though the latter is the official word on US energy data? And really, does the EIA even believe its own claims?

In the AEO2010 reference case, [US] crude oil production
increases from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to 6.3 million barrels per day in 2027 and remains at just over 6 million barrels per day through 2035 (Figure 7). Production increases are expected from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and from onshore enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/overview.pdf, p.8.

Thanks OFM. It looks like they expect the energy mix to be nearly the same in 2030 as it is now, just 50% more. It doesn't sound like they expect there will be much energy to spend on CC mitigation.

Happy Brave New world Indeed!

Unfortunately, like a huge scam, it is critical that the public be duped and continually kept in the dark about the rather disturbing implications of a "New Pearl Harbor" event that wasn't just "lucky" but was initiated to prevent what Cheney et al. considered a bigger risk--the breakdown of industrial society.

There is absolutely nothing to worry about folks move along now! This article from the WSJ that paragon of sobriety in communicating the "REAL" news to the sheeple, out does itself in an a massive exercise in "Double Speak" and obfuscation. There is something to placate everyone who wishes to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that BAU can continue unabated in this gem of cornucopian reporting! Yeah baby drill! drill! drill! in those vast oil fields that stretch from Africa to South America 5000 ft under the rock at the bottom of the sea. Gotta love their Chutzpah!

Oil companies hit pay dirt deep at sea (that's the headline at Yahoo news linking to the actual WSJ article.) Yes, this one smacks of conspiracy.

For the record I don't believe in 911 have been orchestrated by the US gov't, just in case someone misunderstands what I'm referring to when I say conspiracy.


Chevron came here, an hour-long helicopter ride south of New Orleans, because so many of the places it would rather be -- big, easily tapped oil fields close to shore -- have become off-limits. Western oil companies have been kicked out of much of the Middle East in recent decades, had assets seized in Venezuela and seen much of the U.S. roped off because of environmental regulations. Their access in Iran is limited by sanctions, in Russia by curbs on foreign investment, in Iraq by violence.

So, Chevron and other major oil companies are moving ever farther from shore in search of oil. That quest is paying off as these companies discover unexpectedly large quantities of oil -- oil that only they have the technology and financial muscle to find and produce.

Yes,so many of the big oil fields have become off limits, baaad middle Easterners, evil communists, and environmentalists are to blame, so now the poor little oil companies have to struggle so hard. BUT never fear we have TECHNOLOGY! Our non negotiable life styles are saved. @#$%!&*!!!!

stiv, this web site is not for discussing conspiracy theories other than peak oil. if people came here and saw talk about other nutty conspiracies, there might be "limits to growth" on readership! ;)

you're permitted to question only one official myth per web site. if you want to discuss 9/11 or the holocaust too frankly, you need to go to a different web address, where you won't be allowed to discuss peak oil too frankly.

I don't mean to imply that any other aspect of the 9/11 kookery deserves respect, but I'll just attack this one, stiv:

Let's say Cheney gets a briefing that peak oil is coming. How exactly does embroiling America in two financially ruinous wars "prevent" peak oil from wrecking industrial society ? That line of reasoning from "oil is petering out" to "let's bomb New York and invade Afghanistan, and the Iraq" needs a little fleshing out. Bear in mind that "securing Iraq's oil" also needs fleshing out, because putting troops into Iraq does not accomplish that goal, at least not the way the US military did it.


I agree that the generalization (in the question) is quite limiting. Governments are not all at the same stage of development, intelligence, or vulnerability. And of course, a government is not a unified mind - what in the discipline of international relations is referred to as the "rational actor" model. Reality is always messier than models. The easy way to address the question is to think of leaders as spokespersons of an organization: the question is then, why do leaders not discuss the issue? If we get into the machinations of governments, this opens up a whole range of further problems... some great comments in this regard have shown up, and thanks for those.

As per your second, wouldn't it be nice to get hold of transcripts from Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings? (Assuming, as many did (do), that he was pretty much running the show in the Bush years.) Then again, can we be certain that the reasoning that was at work in those meetings has been shared throughout the US government (let alone allies)? That is, even if Cheney pushed the buttons on account of those fifty million barrels, are there not still quite a few "true believers" (of spreading democracy, "fighting terror" etc) who support the War on Terror?


See my two energy bulletin posts:
'Who Then Will Lead Us?' www.energybulletin.net/51070
'Sasha and Barack Debate the Merits of Peak Oil Preparation' www.energybulletin.net/50932

I think it's more useful to think of politicians as executives of 'Global Wealth Concentration Inc.' i.e. figureheads of our corporate parasite.

It's basically a scaled-up version of Chomsky-Herman's (Manufacturing Consent) explanation for the inexplicably-stupid behavior of otherwise-intelligent main-stream journalists. i.e. There's something else going on: not a 'conspiracy' per se -- just efficient wealth concentration by competent, well-paid worker bees.

Bottom line: We need to save ourselves by learning & organizing at the community level -- Ehrenfeld's 'shadow structures' and Hopkins' 'Transition Towns.' It's the only thing that'll work at this point.

We should probably start now, huh?

See the closest Transition effort (or "mulling") to you at http://transitiontowns.org/TransitionNetwork/Mulling .

Had to break from my 4 year lurk on the site to respond to this.

I've talked about this with people from the UK BIS (department for Business Innovation and Skills) - government and civil service are aware of the issue but wrangling with how to best respond. Send a letter to your MP and you get the US geological and EIA party line but talk behind the scenes and it is somewhat different.

I couldn't agree more. I have given numerous talks to local and regional government and transportation agencies. PO has been incorporated into many planning documents from both local and regional agencies. But what is it we want them to "do?" We all know that human behavior is the problem, not whether anyone "gets it" or not. Government cannot mandate human behavior. Sure we pass laws that make it illegal to jaywalk or not pick up after your dog or speed. So if we citizens violate those laws, who do we blame, ourselves or government? Ask yourself next time you find yourself blaming these ignorant politicians, what do you want them to do? Do you want them to tell their ignorant voters that they aren't going to build anymore roads or airports but focus instead on bicycle lanes? Oh yea, that's going to get them re-elected. So you want them to do what will get them un-elected? And replace them with what? Someone else who will keep the status quo.

That's the problem. Politicians who get it can't do what needs to be done unless they have the support of the voters. The informed citizen has to get involved and increase the grassroots support for the initiatives that are needed. The alternative is to sit back and wait for the s*@t to hit the fan. I'm doing the former (because I meet so many interesting people), but unfortunately, 99% will do the latter.

Of course waging war for the remaining drops of oil is much easier and politically convenient than explaining why and how we need to get busy making our societies more sustainable. /sarc

Politicians who get it can't do what needs to be done unless they have the support of the voters.

They can't do "what needs to be done" because it can't be done. We are far into population overshoot and the only way down is for billions to fall off a cliff willingly or otherwise. There's no way any government can openly propose or organise such a scenario. Governments are now irrelevant. We have to look to our lifeboats instead. www.energyark.blogspot.com

Spot on.

The 99% are allowing themselves to be driven into a totalitarian pen from which there is no escape in several lifetimes.

Too bad. Democracy is such a nice idea.


For me the key phrase is informed citizen. I spend a lot of time around smart people -- familiy, friends and colleagues with advanced degrees and extensive work and travel experience. Some of them are vaguely aware that we are nearing the end of easy oil but almost all of them assume that we will somehow work things out with alternative energy and changes in behavior. (I think they are underestimating the required changes in behavior.)

For me the most frustrating thing is that it is damned difficult for even intelligent citizens to get their hands on reliable information that is neither Panglossian nor Chicken Little. The information from the EIA and IEA is tainted by government oversight. The information from the oil companies and OPEC is pure corporate advertising. The information from the Peak Oil and Global Warming community is all Doom and Gloom. My friends and family don't pay attention to any of it. Which is too bad, because the raw data pretty much tell the story on their own without any interpretation.

My belief is that we should focus on the intelligent movers and shakers in society and make it easy for them to investigate the data themselves and form their own conclusions. They can figure things out on their own and will be more convinced because of it. Smart people don't like being told what to think but they do appreciate things being presented in easily digestible forms. That's why I'm focusing on creating tools similar to the Energy Export Databrowser that simplify personal investigation of the relevant data. No comments, no diatribe, no conclusions. Just access to a high quality dataset in a simple interface.

If we can convince a community's mavens that energy issues are of prime concern then we will have done as good a job as we can do. But there is a lot of competition for everyone's attention and one thing we should be focusing more energy on is making the act of digesting data as easy as possible.

Keep up your good work.

-- Jon

One of the links in this Jan 2 story in the NYT: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/02/the-greatest-story-rarely-t...
took me to the website: Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior: http://mahb.stanford.edu/
which is where I think we need to focus.
After 5 years on the education path, I've realized that information/education isn't going to work on the vast majority of individuals. That doesn't mean we stop the other things, just that we broaden our efforts. I love data and information, but I don't find that it motivates most people. TOD is not most people. TOD is mostly made up of an interesting and eclectic bunch of outliers who would not have come to be part of a common community except for this vehicle. How do we challenge and inspire this TOD family to do more than write, read, and blog?

Have them start a Transition Town/District effort in their community.


Absolutely. After 4 years of studying this thing and becoming very frustrated at the apparent lack of social concern, I have doen exactly that and starteda Transition Town Initiative. I am now so busy with it that I don't have as much time for TOD and funnily enough, my frustration level is being positively channelled into change I can beleive in.

A transition town initiative was recently established here in Anderson Township, a suburb of Cincinnati. Frankly I have been appalled at the general lack of knowledge among those attending the meetings. The consensus view runs along the lines that if we all just turn off a few lights, drive our cars a little less and put out our recycle bins, we can "transition" to a new life. The question "What can you produce locally?" is barely on the radar, let alone garnering interest as an "initiative". Mother nature and other forces will have to turn some screws before folks in this part of the world get it.

After 5 years on the education path, I've realized that information/education isn't going to work on the vast majority of individuals.

I'd agree, and think the entire premise of scattershot education to achieve specific goals, or classes of goals, contains unexamined invalidating assumptions.

TOD is mostly made up of an interesting and eclectic bunch of outliers who would not have come to be part of a common community except for this vehicle. How do we challenge and inspire this TOD family to do more than write, read, and blog?

I think the challenge is already there, but most folks have not much idea of how to get things done outside of social networking at various scales.

And if one looks a bit deeper, there is no consensus among TOD readers as to what should be advocated. In Nate's 2010 post, he remarked "If people en masse are repeatedly told the emperor has no clothes, it may result in people actually understanding that the emperor has no clothes, which would lickety split result in what effectually would be a societal run on the bank".

This speaks to my point about scattershot education, as well as highlighting the fact that one needs to choose the constituency and time period to be benefitted by one's actions. For instance, a person who wants to be activist on behalf of their teenage kids might wish a trajectory for the world which is much different than that hoped for by someone who is looking at the best case for the world three generations hence. We've all pretty much accepted the reality of these core issues as salient, and that ties us together as a motley crew.

Yet as activists we might tend to endorse quite conflicting trajectories.

And even someone who agrees with you can negate your own effectiveness by misunderstanding how things work.

just a note in passing....

How do we challenge and inspire this TOD family to do more than write, read, and blog?


I think most Drummers understand the futility factor.
We'll have to save the World one Troll at a time!

"After 5 years on the education path, I've realized that information/education isn't going to work on the vast majority of individuals."

I'd agree, and think the entire premise of scattershot education to achieve specific goals, or classes of goals, contains unexamined invalidating assumptions.

Two true statements, and the second will I hope be explained. What are the unexamined invalidating assumptions?

Hi. It's possible the second statement will be explained in a guest post. Also possible it won't be, due to the truth of both.

Feel free to be in touch directly by clicking my user name.

Please check your assumptions.

Intelligent people?

I have a lot of sympathy for my frustrating audience.

For me it all about our malnourished left hemisphere.

Please consider reading. "Left in the dark"


I am concerned about this line of thought. It implies that some form of education of the public and political leaders about these "desired initiatives" is the primary task. The real roadblock, I suspect, is that no one (including me, I'm afraid) really knows what these "desired initiatives" are.

If we did the Vulcan mind-meld on the entire U. S. population so that we could feed them all the data on TOD plus Herman Daly's "Ecological Economics" textbook and anything else you want, then what? I think what we would wind up with is something like this (probably not the majority view of TOD, but you get the idea):
1. Set a cap on our use of natural resources such as oil, soil, etc.
2. A halt to economic growth and instead institute policies to encourage simple living.
3. A heavy progressive income tax to drastically reduce massive income inequality.

THAT'S what we need to educate people about. And it's a tall order. I don't even know how to write representatives about this; it's hard enough just talking to people with my same wild-and-crazy social and political views (e. g. Transition Town advocates). To me coming up with these "desired initiatives" is the hard part, and that's a significant reason why peak oil doesn't have any traction. If you raised this on TOD or in other peak oil type forums (as happens periodically) you would get wildly different proposals. I don't think we really know quite what to do about it, and acknowledging this would be a good first step in addressing the problem.


I can't agree. Your three points miss the critical issue.


Population is the cause of all of our problems, one way or another.

For example, if there were currently only 10 million people on the planet, how many of your symptoms go away?

A: Most if not all.

Actually, you do agree. My concern is not to promote the three points you address (though I think they're important), but to address the lack of consensus on those or any other principles among peak oil aware people. Your response, which addressed the narrow issue of my three points but not my larger concern of lack of consensus, actually confirms my point.

I do agree that population is very important. My wife and I made a conscious choice not to have children. So fine, put population on the list of things on the Vulcan mind-meld, then where are we?

You are spot on. This is why politicians speak in generalities. Once you make specific suggestions, the cohesion among this group falls apart. We, who "get it" can't even come up with concrete suggestions, let alone try to implement them.

We, who "get it" can't even come up with concrete suggestions, let alone try to implement them.

That's funny, the last time I posted specific policies that might be implemented to painlessly reduce world population (tax system that rewards smaller, not larger, families, super-cheap heavily subsidized birth control, universal literacy & voting rights for women, etc.) I got shouted down as a "eugenicist" and received unflattering comparisons to Hitler. Nonetheless, I agree that specific policy consensus is very hard to achieve --even among such a well informed and like minded group as TOD readers.


I missed the Nazi in regard to your suggestions,ad I'm suprised they were made here on TOD.Your suggestions sound perfectly reasonable to me and some folks here think I am about as unreconstruted a redneck as can be found.

We already have (reasonably close to ) universal literacy and equal rights for women in the West, and birth control is so cheap in comparision to having an unwanted kid that nearly all couples obviously find a way to pay for it unless perhaps they have renounced sex..

I would suggest that we already have a tax system that strongly encourages small families by making it necessary, first, for most women to work outside the home and second,which takes a large enough bite out of most family incomes that raising a large family requires a great deal of sacrifice.Furthermore it does put a floor under most folks old age income adequate to keep them from raising lots of kids as thier old age insurance policy.

Now I will take my own chances and risk being called a Nazi for pointing out that the number of unmarried women with large families seems to have fallen off a lot since the Clinton era.I don't really know why , but I suspect this had a great deal to to with welfare reform and also with subsidized or free birth control.

So we have what seems to be good evidence that your reasoning is correct.

The real question is how do we implement your suggestions?

Half the people in this forum will be at the other half's throat in regard to any specific suggestion that might actually work.If for instance we want to educate third world women, I would suggest that we need to light a fire under third world economies to make it happen bringing about the necessary cultural and economic change.

But not many here agree that roads, trucks, tractors, cars, and coal fired grid electricity are good policies.Nevertheless these are arguably among the most important things that allowed western women to break out of the second class citizenship trap.

I'm not saying the rest of the world must follow our path, or that it is even possible for them to do so.

I am suggesting that other paths are not so sure or so fast.

"Now I will take my own chances and risk being called a Nazi for pointing out that the number of unmarried women with large families seems to have fallen off a lot since the Clinton era.I don't really know why , but I suspect this had a great deal to to with welfare reform and also with subsidized or free birth control."

Not a Nazi, just duped by right wing propaganda. Mothers on welfare never had more kids on average than other mothers.

Hi dohboi, Maybe we can find common ground if I rephrase my remarks as follows-birth rates have been falling among poor women especially in place I know well personally such as the Richmond Va area.

Being a rolling stone type of character I have worked at whatever I found interesting and handy , and have never felt the need for money as most people do.So among other things I spent a great deal of time among the local underclass.I always have, and I always will.Furthermore I don't go as a bringer of good things, or advice, or threats, or schemes of any sort, but just as a guy who fixes leaky faucets, cusses, drinks beer,eats greens fried with fatback,drives a pickup as raggedy as any vehicle on the street.

But on Sunday afternoon I would be at a cookout attended mostly by teachers and social workers and other city employees where everybody was drinking beer anf getting stoned.In this case I get my info directly from the people involved at ground level.

Then when I moved out near the nuke (twelve hour shifts don't mix well with hour plus commutes plus you needed to be at security fifteen minutes early just to get punched in on time)I lived across the street for a long time from a welfare queen - there's no other way of describing her honestly.

She had three kids and every program you ever heard of she was on it from free school lunches to near zero rent while she indulged herself with a different boyfriend sometimes three times in a wweek , sometimes only one for a month or two.Her total family benefits came to over seventy five percent of my take home pay when I was teaching in the same area.

Primary qualification of boyfriends was that they be very free with thier money, especially beer and pot money.Lots of nights out in bars and clubs.Babysitters were no problem , she swapped with other women within a block or two.

Now I NEVER criticize or condemn when getting to know people, I listen and sympathicize -THEN you will hear them say what they really think after a while.I kept her around an hour or two twice aweek doing my housework -for cash of course.She FELT entitled, saw NO reason why she should not live as well as everybody else if she could, believed (with great justification I might add ) that most successful people are successful due more to luck (the right parents etc ) than to work.

She got married shortly after work started getting seriously mentioned in connection with benefits.

Your example makes my point well. Three kids is a pretty usual number for a mother to have, whether on or off welfare.

I am sure that you are right that women on government assistance are having fewer kids, just as their counterparts who aren't getting assistance are having fewer kids.



The only folks I know around here who still have large broods are some Catholics and Hmong families.

Hi Mac,

birth control is so cheap....tax system that strongly encourages small families...unmarried women with large families seems to have fallen off

We have danced around on this population issue before. The general thrust of you comments seem to imply that population growth is somewhat under control. I get a sense you are saying "not to worry" about this issue as it is moving in the right direction.

I contend that global human population is NOT moving in the right direction. The US has over 300 million now and, giving current projections, will have 500 million by 2050. Global population of 6.8B is moving to 9B or more. I have looked at your CIA sources in depth and do not find any contradiction to these figures.

As before, I suggest first looking at:

http://chartsbin.com/view/xr6 and study it carefully

And then support (send money): http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer
and http://www.au.org/ plus http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ and others like these.

Mac, I always read your comments and generally concur with your feelings - except about population growth which I consider as the number one issue facing humanity. Rather than adopt a position of either "not much of a problem", or "too sensitive to talk about", I advocate supporting the organizations that are actively trying to address the issues in a pragmatic manner (and I know you are a very pragmatic fellow).

Hi Dave,
Actually I agree with you about population growth being a very serious problem , a keystone type of problem although that is probably abusing the term keystone.

I am and have been fully aware for a long time that even though birth rates may fall off to replacement levels or even below , any given population will continue to grow for quite some time, at least another thirty years or so minimum.

My point is that after awhile the problem WILL take care of itself, if we don't crash first, because prosperity and exposure even only thru television to western life styles equals cultural change.Some folks talk women's education, I don't disagree but I wonder if women won't get educated faster in westernizing countries.

I guess my real point is that all the talk about one child per couple and other similar schemes is fine in principle but TOTALLY UNWORKABLE on the ground-even a govt so powerful as that of communist China can't really enforce such a policy very well, as the numbers indicate.

I try to be realistic and I see birth rates falling like a rock in places with electricity and television plus a touch of education and mechanization.

Having spent a good bit of time with men and women who have served overseas in poor countries, I have come to the conclusion that there is even a fine silver side to the war clouds-women in the third world get to see American women in postions of power, driving cars, carrying guns, telling men what to do.

I don't know what might actually work in terms of speeding things up on the population control front-but I am certain that ninety nine percent of the solutions debated here have near zero chances of being implemented on a wide scale.

Hi Mac,

ninety nine percent of the solutions debated here have near zero chances of being implemented on a wide scale.

Yes, I pretty much agree with you also. However, because it is such a major part of the problem, I feel like I have some obligation (enjoying life as we do here) to make some tiny contribution to helping move population reduction along as fast as possible (which is still really slow).

The only practical thing I can think of is to support the organizations I listed because I feel they do take a very realistic approach.

I should note that China claims that its policies have prevented 300 million births - the size of the US. This is one reason they claim to be taking GW more seriously than we do. I'm no expert on China - just repeating what they claim.

I recall seeing estimates of up to 600 million 'avoided births'. <sarcanol>I wonder if China will be able to claim those as similar to 'avoided emissions' or 'avoided deforestation'...</sarcanol>


It was a few weeks ago, but I was attacked by some basically for advocating practical policies to promote smaller populations, especially in poor high birthrate countries. I saw it as advocating sane and humane policies to avert looming disaster and misery, while also improving the average standard of living worldwide. Others (not you of course) saw it as old-fashioned western paternalism towards developing countries that have a "right" to growth.

Hi Harm,

I got shouted down

Just for the record -> run for public office on your suggested policies and I WILL vote for you.

Thanks - and ditto!

Maybe 'shouted down' was overstating it a tad, but let's just say the response was less than enthusiastic. Even discussing the possibility of limiting population growth via public policy seems to strike a raw nerve with some people. Population growth --like economic growth-- is often viewed as an inalienable "right" to many, and to oppose it (esp. in poor high birthrate countries) tantamount to neo-colonialism and western paternalism.

I've been told the same thing when I've advocated similar policies. There are people out there who 'get it', but unfortunately, not enough, at present, to get many people elected.
You sure could 'stir the hornets nets' during the campaigns though. ;)

Conventional wisdom has it that "the market" is our clever invention for making decisions in this situation.

It's just a pity that the market's not being allowed to work, what with corporate subsidies and tax breaks, companies deemed "too big to fail", blatantly anti-competitive regulations like the one that effectively shuts out CNG as a vehicle fuel, and dictatorial legislation like CAFE and the ethanol-in-gas laws.

How about lobbying to end corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and bail-outs? Surely people could get behind "simplifying the tax code" and "freeing the market".

How about lobbying to end corporate subsidies, tax breaks, and bail-outs?

If you follow politics, that's been a regular mantra since about 1976. Sincere or not, nobody and no party that got elected preaching it has ever made a dent. I suspect its a matter of misperception of the function of government to begin with; we think its an organization there to represent us...

I think this is on the right track, but needs more detail. If you follow the ecological economists (Daly et. al.), they say that the market is good for allocating goods within the economy but bad at determining the optimum size of the economy or the distribution of wealth within the economy (rich and poor). So "freeing the market" is a good slogan, but the reality is that the overall size of the economy (and distribution of wealth) is a problem that the market has no impact on.


Please may I express my strong disapproval.
We need people like you to breed.

Ah, just some more dysgenic effects of birth control occurring. While many highly intelligent TOD readers chose not to have children, the illegal aliens a few miles away were busy at work with a total fertility rate of close to 4.0. I really hope high fertility is not correlated to low iq, or there will be some issues in the future.

Well, nothing unusual going on with that. Perhaps your children will get to lord over some sort of apartheid state in the future. Maybe we will have a caste system similar to India but based on intelligence.

Meanwhile, some confused TOD readers suggest extremely steep income taxes to punish the intelligent people who have succeeded. I wonder who will reap the benefits of these taxes? What would the government even need high taxes for? The road system will need less money, I do not think the military will be overseas, funding for the "arts" will go out of style. I think I know! It will fund a massive, unsustainable welfare state for the dregs of society, not for fields of subsidized wind turbines and solar arrays.

Disagree. Spread memes, not genes.

You can have far more 'children' through education and learning (the two are not the same) than you can ever have through swapping of bodily fluids. After all, the best way to have 'less of them and more of us' (to paraphrase a common refrain) is to convert (voluntarily) them to your way of thinking.

I sort of agree with LongTermLurker on this.
People at the government level here in the UK do get it.


But they aren’t doing much about it!!!
But what do we want them to do about it? It’s difficult for either the individual or government to present peak oil in a palatable way. If you shout it from the rooftops you will “scare the horses”. If you present it in a manner that is too low key, the public will barely give it a glance and continue with BAU.

When I first realized the gravity of peak oil problem, I too wanted to engender understanding of the situation in friends and family. The desire to create a focus and community of purpose against this is normal. Unfortunately we are often not only ignored but ridiculed. I now live a dual life, where I maintain normality for the gaze of others, whilst internally I try to strengthen myself for all conceivable eventualities. Not easy as many of you probably already know.

"I now live a dual life"

Well put. Heinberg talks about this feeling of living in two different worlds in one of his books. Maybe something on this would make for a good campfire discussion.

...among old friends over the holidays, all the trimmings and smiles, as if we still all expect a better world for our kids, the end of poverty in our lifetime, a solution for world hunger, that we're still raising the developing world up to our fine standard of living and there is a bright and prosperous future for our country and the world; all those things we were taught to expect...

Sometimes its easier to be alone.

"I now live a dual life"

Heh, since I'm tricultural I often feel like I'm living a hexagonal life ;-)

Hi folks - excellent post. Excellent discussion.

Judged by their actions, some European governments seem to be getting it.

According to the German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung", Germany, UK, France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxemburg, and Norway are now joining forces to establish a 30 billion Euro network over the next 10 years in order to connect various sources of renewable energy (storage facilities/fluctuation reduction). The network will - amongst other - connect new sea-based wind turbines being implemented in the North Sea region to the grid (a total of 100 gigawatt - amounts to 10% of current European electricity consumption).


The public grounds may be reduction of greenhouse gasses. But the project is also consistent with PO awareness.

Leaders gather people under hope, not despair. Any leader admitting that situation is irreversible is taken by public as resigning. Society and all other human organizations in it are made around hope. A leader in a hunter-gatherer tribe stands and convince people to start farming for better future.

A leader can start by presenting the situation as it is, that is, decline, and then gather people on hope of making situation less worse, not better, but less worse. That would work if most of the leaders are doing this because people compare leaders and when only one leader is presenting a bad situation and all others are presenting a good situation then most people take that leader as if he is lieing/exaggerating/pessimist/doomer etc.

I am confident that Barak Obama is aware of peak oil. In an interview with the late Tim Russert on Meet the Press when Obama was a presidential candidate (oil prices were high back then), Tim asked Candidate Obama whether he thought that crude oil should be released from the crude oil reserve. Candidate Obama said no, because what do we do when gasoline is priced at $8 per gallon.

Also, one of the first things that he accomplished in the early days of his presidency was to broker a deal with the auto companies for a steep ramp-up in the fuel economy standards. The fuel economy stanards were recently proposed (35 MPG by 2016). He also has called for a cap and trade bill that would increase the cost of carbon. Such a policy obviously appears to address climate change, but it also would help reduce crude oil demand.

Finally, since the US is in a severe recession, it would not be politcally acceptable to start talking about peak oil because it could damage the chances for a recovery. Because of the overpowering need to look politically savy for your own party, it seems that President Obama would rather work on peak oil in the background.


Retzel: You could also use as proof that Pres Obama is PO aware the facts that: The U.S. is building 17 military bases in Columbia to persuade (?) Hugo to play nice. The war in Afganistan has been ramped up. The war in Pakistan is set to continue. Troops have been active in Somalia, and Yemen. The Defense budget for 2010 is equal to 80 peer cent of government revenues.

It's like watching a game of chicken between the Titanic and the iceberg, and the captain has determined he sure isn't going to swerve first. Full steam ahead, we'll teach that big ol' lump of ice a lesson it'll never forget!

There's a fascinating theory that if the Titanic had hit the iceberg head-on (instead of steering off for a glancing blow) that most of its watertight compartments would still have been OK and it would not have sunk...

Well it appears us passengers are about to live through a slow-motion analogy of this.. Can't help keeping my eye on the lifeboats while most of the other guests are still enjoying the evening cocktail party.

As a person who has worked on a lot of steel I agree with that assessment.But a lot of people would have been killed or injures severely by the fast stop-probably forty or fifty feet of the bow would have been severely crushed in stopping the ship.

As I read the accident reconstruction, the glancing blow peeled of the the rivets of the outer hull plates nearly from the bow right on back-so many compartments being breached silmantaneously must have been a one in a million accident, much worse than hitting a submerged rock or running up on a reef.

But i'm a mechanic, not an engineer.

Widely circulated e-mail joke...

This is based on an actual radio conversation between a U.S. Navy
aircraft carrier (U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln) and Canadian authorities
off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. (The radio
conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on
10/10/95 authorized by the Freedom of Information Act.)

Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South to
avoid collision.

Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the
North to avoid a collision.

Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15
degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again,
divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.


Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.


Seen joke many times and still get a kick from the punch line.

(Guess this is basically BIG POWERFUL GOVERNMENT FORCES versus lill ole mother nature, aye? Our call.)

Leaders gather people under hope, not despair. Any leader admitting that situation is irreversible is taken by public as resigning.

Wisdom fP, there are many energy experts who write that alternatives will be able to replace fossil fuels. Even if that turns out to be wrong, the leaders can give this message. In this case saying that oil will decline doesn't mean 'resigning' but means hope.

..which often comes out as having two contradictory messages. This goes back to the OP as well, where Obama is apparently, based upon what he has said, aware of the implications of peak oil, yet still obligated and apparently sincerely motivated to return the economy to "growth", or "sustainable growth" (whatever that means).

I am strongly inclined to see recession as both the inevitable result of and the natural remedy for peak oil, as economic stress reduces our consumption to a level closer to the rest of the civilized world and we begin to climb back down that ladder. But I can't even imagine a politician saying that...

Not really true.

There are a lot of politician that win on fear. The idea is to hype up threats and say they are going to protect the vulnerable (Cheney style).

Good call, evnow. I'm having some difficulty with this from the security angle, as security is all about fear. (Fear of Death, says Hobbes.) So why aren't governments using fear to spur change? (Well, yes, the time is not right.) Seems to me this approach is being tried to some extent by the ("fascist") British National Party - peak oil included - but perhaps the association of peak oil with their anti-immigration policy is a bit distasteful to the liberal element within us.

Terrorists! Now that's a fear we can work with.

The problem is them, not us. (See memmel's comments below.)

Definitely an interesting post. I suspect that the best comparison might be with Diamond's discussion of why some societies can't overcome obstacles to environmental problems and then collapse as a result of them. Surely, some on Easter Island knew trees were becoming scarce and it was folly to cut down more. Why didn't they act? Could they?

Also, I think it is instructive to compare China, the US, and the EU. While all are super polluters and big consumers of imported oil... you see vastly different responses. The US, the military hegemon essentially militarizes the problem - but does so because it is the most democratic of the bunch. Its people simply WILL NOT consume less, so the only effective, politically viable policy option is to garrison the Middle East.

The EU and China, on the other hand, have been far more willing to invoke relatively heavy-handed policies that affect domestic consumption, but for different reasons. The EU has no military ability to get the oil, so they trade for what they can and make energy efficiency gains where they can - but this is politically accepted whereas in the US is isn't. Same with China - although they can go a lot farther than even Europe because the public has no input.

Indications are that the US is moving toward a command economy. Illargiand many others have recounted the relentless drive to total government control of the American economy. It is not too far fetched to imagine it will assume control even greater than that exerted by the Chinese government over its people (if for no other reason that greater penetration of spying technology and semi-lethal crowd control techniques.)

We are getting set up for The Duel

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!" 20
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew! 25
(Don't fancy I exaggerate—
I got my news from the Chinese plate!)
Next morning where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day 30
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so, 35
And that is how I came to know.)

As a side note, I am beginning to believe that the dinosaurs were a lot smarter than we imagine, and that no asteroid wiped them out -- they killed each other off!

Who's next after people?

Cockroaches will rule...

That doesn't make much sense.

... relentless drive to total government control of the American economy...

We have always been a crony capitalist country - and we continue to be. Infact if you said the following, it would be closer to the truth. We couldn't even get enough democrats to agree to a "public option" - let alone a single payer like the rest of the OECD.

relentless drive to total corporate control of the American government

I'm assuming that the corporations are the government. I don't see much evidence to the contrary, as your example of a "public option" illustrates.

"semi-lethal crowd control techniques"

It looks bad Sir but the're only half dead.

This is a funny post - it implicitely equates democracy with neocon ideology.

The most democratic country can decide that regulating something is the right thing to do. For eg. we have heavy regulation of several industries in this country that make their products expensive (like medicinal drugs) - yet not others (like oil).

Most likely explanation of the difference between US and EU w.r.t. their response to energy issues is their spending on "defence". If what you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

"Surely, some on Easter Island knew trees were becoming scarce and it was folly to cut down more. Why didn't they act?"

Sigh. It probably never happened, not that way, though we'll never be able to know for sure. Does anybody ever read Diamond, or is it deemed sufficient just to toss off convenient quotes? He offers one very plausible scenario right there in Collapse, but it's on p.426, which may be too far along in the book to be noticed:

We unconsciously imagine a sudden change: one year, the island still covered with a forest of tall palm trees being used to produce wine, fruit, and timber to transport and erect statues; the next year, just a single tree left, which an islander proceeds to fell in an act of incredibly self-damaging stupidity. Much more likely, though, the changes in forest cover from year to year would have been almost undetectable: yes, this year we cut down a few trees over there, but saplings are starting to grow back again here on this abandoned garden site. Only the oldest islanders, thinking back to their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference. Their children could no more have comprehended their parents' tales of a tall forest than my 17-year-old sons today can comprehend my wife's and my tales of what Los Angeles used to be like 40 years ago. Gradually, Easter Island's trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. At the time that the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, the species had long ago ceased to be of any economic significance... No one would have noticed the falling of the last little palm sapling.

Now, if that doesn't, at least in a broad sense, remind a person of... other scenarios, some of them oily... then I can't imagine what possibly could. And if anyone thinks the "cutting down the last tree" meme is terribly applicable to those scenarios, well, things are happening but generally not that way...

Thank you for the very good excerpt from Diamond.


That was exactly the passage from Collapse I thought of as I read the above post.

In the U.S., where we have a venomous, vocal minority (i.e.: James Inhofe) who's MO is to attack the messenger, drowning out the message, most politicians don't want to risk the political capital required to fend off such attacks. Any revelation of bad news to the masses would require a large concensus, something that is unlikely to happen as the politicians all have their own pet issues. PO, stacked on top of the war on terror and climate change, is having a tough time getting in edgewise as an issue. Our system isn't designed to handle multiple important issues in a timely manner. People get overwhelmed and change the channel. Many of us have experienced this within our own circle of friends/family: bring up bad news and they'll change the subject.

And of course it's not just politicians. NGO's depend on a base of support. It's hard to get a lot of people excited to join an organization that is saying that we will have to progressively down scale our lives basically forever.

True, so true, so sadly true. There is a convergence of crises today, the likes of which we have never had to face. PO, AGW, economic folly, religious fanaticism and fundamentalism, increasing incivility throughout our society, water scarcity, depletion of topsoil. And above all of these things, population overshoot on a scale of 6 magnitudes so far.

Virtually any single one of those many crises could well end our civilization alone. Only by dealing with all of them is our survival as a species more than a hope.

We need more TODers making concrete proposals, as we have seen today. And, we need people who have an understanding and a willingness to deal with them to prepare to and indeed to run for public office. Politics is local, so they say, and the neo-Cons exploited that by enlising suburban 'soccer moms' into their ranks to run for local offices, and to support their national ones. Why haven't we done anyting like that? Why don't we?

Perhaps it is time for a call to arms. In fact, past time!

If you cannot take the time or make the effort yourself, find local candidates who support sustainability issues and make your views know to them by giving them your support.

Talk is cheap! Let's pony up.

If I may repeat your first, only slightly altered...

True, so true, so sadly true.
There is a convergence of crises today,
the likes of which we've never had to face.
peak oil,
anthropogenic global warming,
economic folly,
religious fanaticism and religious fundamentalism,
increasing incivility throughout our society,
water scarcity, depletion of topsoil.
And above all of these things,
population overshoot
on a scale of 6 magnitudes so far.

(nice poem Zaph)

Very interesting compilation!
I think a major obstacle can be summed up as an issue of Political Correctness:
In quite a few occasions politicians (or also other stakeholders) do mention something like "oil won't last forever, therefore we should..." but seem to avoid the p-word. They probably consider (although perhaps unconsciously) it not politically correct to talk about peak oil (or peak resources).
There for even major actors like Chu or the former EU energy secretary Andris Piebalgs don't dare to talk too openly about the issue.

To resolve the politically correctness issue we still need is something triggering a tipping point that changes the public conciousness.
Such a trigger was for example the Stern Report concerning the discussion about climate change - perhaps because it came from the UK's ministry of economy, so "economists" couldn't ignore it.
This was probably also the moment when stakeholder groups that formerly opposed to the climate "doom theory" grasped that they can take advantage of CC for lucrative businesses if they support the CC theory (which may e.g. foster businesses in nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage, renewable etc.) In some areas, which are e.g. dominated by renewable industry, PO is probably much easier to communicate than elsewhere.

Certainly a factor, especially since everyone knows that lurking behind every resource depletion story is the ultimate anti-PC figure -- Malthus. Anything is better than admitting that the deeply misanthropic Malthus was basically correct, and only wrong in his assessment of the timing.

Thanks for a great sum up of the many factors contributing to inaction. I'd add to your list a healthy dose of irrationality (perhaps as an expansion of the category of cognitive biases to include things like confirmation bias, as well as some of the "hot" biases of motivated irrationality), part of which is a result of institutional digging in of heels.

Perhaps this can be understood in terms developed by Thomas Kuhn in the context of the history of science. When anomalies to an established paradigm start appearing the reaction of those committed to the old and dying "normal science" paradigm is to explain away each and every anomaly as it arises without ever stopping to consider the impact of the whole gathering pile of things that don't fit the accepted view. The irrationality of commitment to the old paradigm is not an all or nothing situation, but rather grows more extreme as the evidence accumulates that something is deeply wrong with the status quo. Add to this the pressures on politicians to tell us that everything will be OK and irrational defenses of a failed paradigm can be taken to extremes.


You had me going there for a split second. In this context, I thought the unspeakable "p-word" would be population, which exacerbates just about every problem. Oh, well.

In part the question is, what would you have them do differently?

Sure its nice to think about adaptation, but the reality is its revolution in how society is structured that you are asking for. Modifications to make things more energy efficient and less fossil fuel dependent are already happening (slowly) under the banner of climate change. Changes in expectations, the need for less people, etc. are all things best handled in emergency (shock doctrine).

Peak Oil isn't a saleable emergency because there is no fix for it. Simple as that.

That's not to say that they smart governments (or more likely civil servants) haven't got their plans for the great game lined up. Its like a yacht race where the boats are jockeying for the start, just waiting for it to be obvious we are on the downslope and so the game can begin.

Great post!

This is implied in what many of us have already said, but it's probably worth saying specifically that the meaningful time horizon for most elected representatives is 2-6 years. Rightly or wrongly (I believe wrongly), most of them probably think the effects of PO won't be experienced until after their term in office is finished.

Exactly. Just because the government hasn't taken much action in regard to peak oil doesn't mean they don't know it's a problem. Heck, the U.S. government knows full well that Social Security is facing insolvency in a few decades, but do they do anything about it?

Besides, what can they reasonably do? Really the bottom line is there will be less energy available in the future so we need to consume much less per person and have fewer people. How well do you think a proposal to reduce world population over the coming decades would fly? So they kick the can down the road for the next guy/gal to handle, and hope the problem doesn't blow up in their face until they are out of office.

Excellent survey of possible explanations Shane.

I would like to gently remind readers that it is the peak of net energy that actually counts (peak oil after EROI is taken into account) as input to the economy. And peak net energy appears to happen long before peak gross. See: Economic dynamics and the real danger. The focus on peak oil production is like closing the barn door after the horse is out.

Question Everything

Couldn't disagree more.

It's the liquid, energy dense, diverse product variation of oil that makes it unique.

This is going to be a liquid fuels crisis. Sure, it hurts that we won't be able to turn to natural gas or nuclear when the oil is mostly depleted, but it's not clear that the calamity befalling a world critically based on liquid fuel would be substantially stifled by excess uranium/coal/etcetera.

It's fine that you disagree. But could you please explain how your comment clarifies why? Nothing you said makes sense in the context of the model and paper.

Peak oil is not neceassarily preceeded by peak net energy. Other energy sources (nat gas, coal, renewables) are still growing even in net terms. Probably not for much longer, but the peak will be even harder to spot.

The "not necessarily" part may be true if 1) oil were not such an important energy input into the extraction of other fuels; and 2) the growth in other fuels is still from measures of gross extraction not their net values. In fact we don't have an accounting system that keeps track of net (though it could be derived backward). Renewables have an extraordinary way to go before they will be impacting the net energy curve compared with oil (and other fossil fuels).

The model only predicts that in any energy dynamic based principally on fixed, finite energy resources, due to diminishing EROI, the peak of net production will come before the peak of gross production and will always be lower than gross. So if we are tracking BTUs out of the ground and not BTUs into the economy (including BTU equivalents in things like plastics and fertilizers) then we really won't know when the economic engine starts to slow down due to declining input. We could still be pulling gross energy out of the ground, happily even if at a higher market price, and miss the point of inflection in net and its consequences for the economy.


As I was driving in to work today (in a Prius, mind you), I was listening to another segment of NPR's "Jobs for the next decade" series. I was shaking my head over the lack of awareness of Peak Oil's effect on economies and jobs in the years to come. I continued to scratch my head over the disconnnect as I looked over my email and pulled up some websites. Then I saw this very thoughtful post.

Good discussion of the alternatives. Lots of work went into this piece, and there are good insights. At first reading it's a pretty comprehensive overview of the range of possible reasons for apparent obliviousness of governments and populations. I have a couple of observations, based on my own direct experiences.

Based on what I know of science and science policy apparatus in the U.S., I think there's less awareness of the issue than the readers of this set of websites might hope for. Before climate change came to general public awareness, if not general acceptance, the science and science policy literature had articles about the issues of greenhouse gas production and likely effects for years. Lots of people were collecting data independently that brought them to similar conclusions regarding inputs and likely effects. There's nowhere near the same level of discussion of petroleum/energy issues going on in the page of journals like Science. That's mostly because the data about oil reserves, production, and demand are the realm of applied scientists, economists, and petroleum engineers working for companies and governments, not the larger population of pure research scientists funded by NSF and the like whose careers depend on publishing as much as possible in peer-reviewed journals. This doesn't preclude specialists in energy and energy-policy like Dr. Chu from understanding the issue, but it does mean a lot fewer scientists are paying attention.

On the legislative side, I know of at least one U.S. Representative whose office is well aware of the Peak Oil issue, but that is not the same thing as understanding the implications of the decline. I first learned about the issue when I read Campbell and Laherre's Scientific American article in 1998, years after I became aware of the issue of global climate change. I realized immediately that we would be running out of cheap transportation energy about when we needed to respond to global climate instability. However, it's only been within the past year that I started thinking out the likely immediate dislocations in our societies, triggered by reading Steiner's $20 per Gallon and Rubin's Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller. Once I thought about it, I realized the transition period to the rosy future Steiner hypotheses was going to be really, really unpleasant. I'm very concerned about our ability to support 6 billion people or more without cheap petroleum energy. I've found it's a trick to get others thinking in those directions, including the aforementioned folks involved in science and legislation.

I'm pretty sure we'll need at least one more oil price spike followed by an economic contraction before thinking starts to shift. In the meantime, the more people and governments that can be encouraged to think forward, the better. I've been trying to write up what I've learned in a style that might encourage readership and thought by the average person (not the typical readership here). Perhaps I'll post something...

Oh, I'm a Ph.D. biologist who builds computer networks for a living. I've been interested in the natural world and people's place in it for decades.


Ross Z

Thanks for the thoughtful reply Ross. You make a good point regarding the science literature. It is in these learned journals that particular forms of knowledge gain a validity or legitimacy, one different even than reports from the GAO, IEA, UKERC and others. There seems to be a slow accumulation, enough that today a prospective writer for such journals can ground their research in statements from "authorities". But peak oil is still at a very early stage. This highlights how important it is that peak oilers who do write for journals and other media keep working on getting the word out, as you say - and prior to the next shock is probably better, as it will help people to interpret events in terms of energy (and human ecology). Pens are surely as important as swords in this effort.

I think about this and wish I had an answer or even an opinion. I've watched the energy situation coming for 20 years and I've pondered the lack of interest more than once. I watch an entire population rant and complain about government while re-electing the same old people for decades. You know, the "doing the same thing, expecting different results" routine. I reflect on my own situation. If I attempt to discuss anything more serious than "it was cold last night" my wife leaves the room, other family members tell me I'm too gloomy and you know the routine. Recently, a family member told me when I talk about an interesting job I used to have, I'm OK to be around. A neighbor is interested but his wife nags him with "why do you listen to that guy". To sum it up, I see a population distracted by video games, sports, American Idol, alcohol/drug usage and Tiger Wood's affairs. I see entire industries dedicated to providing the distractions. I see a population that will only tolerate being amused and entertained. If something on TV lasts more than 15 seconds, the remote is flicked. Then I think, how can I expect the politicians we elect to be any different. Self centered and self involved with an intense desire to avoid anything of any substance believing the reality distorting information delivered by individuals reading information off a monitor.

Sound hopeless?? There are days!!

Adapting Marx slightly...

Television is the opiate of the masses.


Not giving advice here, but I suppose I'm lucky to be married to a woman who respects me and values my intellect. If I'm talking about something that I think is important, my wife would never walk out. In fact, she'd become more attentive, figuring that I've done the heavy lifting and she gets to listen to the concise version and the conclusion.

I dare so, I can't imagine being married to somebody who walks out of a room when I'm speaking about something that I find critically important.

I think I'd give them one pass, and then I'd let them know that if they ever walked out on me again, I'd have the papers filed by noon the next day.

Why be married to somebody who either lacks respect for you, is a head-in-the-sand person, or both?

Life's too short.

And who would stock the doomstead with me?

I think the head-in-the-sand approach to Peak Oil is just another classic example of Groupthink

The phenomenon of Groupthink was analysed in some detail after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, in which the CIA tried to invade Cuba with a motley band of Cuban dissidents, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible conditions.

The question arose after the fact, "How could a group of highly intelligent decision makers think that a few thousand poorly-trained and poorly-equipped Cuban refugees could defeat Castro's army of a quarter of a million well-trained and well-equipped professional soldiers?" This resulted in some classic studies of the phenomenon.

Groupthink has also been implicated in both space shuttle crashes. Again, highly educated and highly intelligent leaders managed to convince themselves that the shuttle was safe to fly, when the engineers who had designed it knew that it very likely wasn't.

As similar situation arose in the UK with the Poll Tax, which was implemented by the government (for a short period of time) despite that, historically, the Poll Tax had never been accepted in Britain (to the point that a Chancellor of the Exchequer was dragged out of the royal palace and beheaded by a mob over the issue, while the palace guard looked the other direction). The otherwise intelligent and politically astute leaders managed to convince themselves that it would work in the face of all evidence and historical tradition to the contrary. Of course, it didn't work and quite a large portion of the population never paid anything.

In the case of Peak Oil, the otherwise intelligent leaders of the free world (and George W. Bush, too) have managed to convince themselves that the highly predictable peaking of global oil supply won't be a problem, and it is, somehow it will go away if they just ignore it, or invade enough countries. Something will make it go away and it doesn't matter what. It doesn't matter what the facts are, they will arrive at the same conclusion no matter how hard they have to distort the facts, or make up new facts that disagree with the observed facts.

This is classic Groupthink, and is well documented in some classic studies of the subject. It's interesting to watch from an academic perspective, but not so much fun if your future is in jeopardy.


This is going to really help the GDP to grow-baby-grow!

Darn glad I gave up the car over a year ago. I spent 800 quid on taxis last year and still came out about 2K better off.

EDIT: sorry this should have gone in the drumbeat...

Generally the reason governments don't talk about peak oil is that they either have automobile, truck and road construction complexes to protect or they are large net importers of oil. In addition, to talk about peak oil is to open up to the task of energy transition. And energy transition, from a political standpoint, is better left to the price mechanism. There is less political risk in letting the system crash from high prices, than preemptively undertaking preparation for future high prices. Politicians get blamed for what they have done. Only a little for what they failed to do. A politician therefore is always thinking about how much they "own" a particular set of actions. So on both climate change and peak oil mitigation...

The optimal tactic for all political leaders on the matter of climate change is to enter into agreements, and then not adhere.

The optimal tactic for all political leaders on the matter of peak oil is to do nothing, protect auto/road construction industries, and let price wreck the system. Then undertake change with the backdrop of price as the explanation.

As I wrote in my recent newsletter: The politician's role is to offer up a more elevated, consumption-denying image of ourselves--and then capitulate along with us as we crap out of the commitment.


There is no way Washington can claim never to have heard of the peak oil theory with Roscoe Bartlett and his many presentations in the house of representatives. The fact that his peers all step out of the chamber basically says all there needs to be said about how our elected leaders feel about the issue.

Generally speaking, representatives do not "step out of the chamber" just because Roscoe Bartlett makes a presentation about peak oil. What representative Bartlett is doing is utilizing time available to read his speeches into the Congressional Record. This is typically done after normal business hours so most representatives have departed, not because they have anything against representative Bartlett, but because they are "done" for the day and going home. Please note that representative Bartlett is not the only congressman to use this mechanism to ensure that key statements are recorded in the Congressional Record. Many others have done this on many topics. It's rather common, actually, and only in the rarest circumstances do the majority of representatives remain to hear such a speech given. I would not state that this means anything about the other representatives or their awareness of peak oil.

A better solution on gaining understanding of each congressional representative might be to simply write to each one's office and request a statement of their position on peak oil. If someone were to undertake such a project and then publish each statement it would do more to raise understanding of the positions of those in Congress than speculating here.

For what it's worth, I wrote to my representative, Diana DeGette, many years ago and I got this response:

January 5, 2006

Dear Mr. Akers:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Peak Oil Theory. I appreciate the opportunity to learn your views and share mine.

Like you, I am deeply concerned with our country's dependence on oil as our main energy source. The Peak Oil Theory examines the long-term rate of conventional oil extraction and depletion. The theory predicts that the total amount of oil extracted over time would follow a bell curve, leading to a permanent decline in production capacity once global production passes the "peak" of the curve. The social and economic ramifications that could occur once this peak is met are troubling. With a rapidly growing global population and more developing economies relying heavily on oil, an irreversible decline in production capacity would decimate the global economy. I believe the answer to this dilemma lies in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have been a steadfast supporter of finding and applying renewable energy sources and making better use of the resources we have now. Renewable energy provides us with an excellent opportunity to protect our health and environment while supporting economic growth, creating jobs in the developing renewable energy sector, and providing a more diversified and stable national energy portfolio. Earlier this year, as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I offered an amendment to the "Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005" that would have expanded the use of renewable energies, such as wind, solar and biomass. The amendment would have instituted a national renewable portfolio standard, requiring retail electric producers to increase the use of renewable energy towards their production of electricity from 1% in 2008 to 20% by 2027. Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated. You can be assured that I will continue to follow this subject closely and keep your views in mind should any legislation reach the House floor for a vote.

Again, thank you for letting me know your views. Please feel free to visit my website at www.house.gov/degette for further information. There you can sign up for my e-newsletter to stay up to date on current events in Congress. I look forward to our continued communication.

Diana DeGette
Member of Congress

Perhaps someone (Debbie Cook?) could advise us on whether publishing such a collection of responses would do us any good. Diana DeGette is in a key position on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

It would be wonderful to have a website that not only collected letters such as this one but also documents that address peak oil that have been published by various agencies in this country and around the world. I have amassed a fairly large collection myself but creating such a site has not been a top priority.

http://www.odac-info.org/reports-resources has a list of documents related to peak oil (with some non-peakers, including the Wicks Report, CERA Studies and others). I think any such list would need a specific focus - for example, see Rick Munroe's bibliography of recent peak-oil related security analysis, at http://www.energybulletin.net/node/50208. One might try to generate such a list by agency, too. But the problem is, where do you draw the line? Does the dismissive paragraph in the Wicks Report mean it has "addressed" peak oil? And what of the Hirsch Report - is it a document of the Department of Energy, or only an (outside) analyst's view?

Hi bioprospector,

re: "And what of the Hirsch Report - is it a document of the Department of Energy, or only an (outside) analyst's view?"

I'm out of time to look it up, but the answer should be contained in the document (front or end pages). My recall is that it's phrased as "a report to..." ("Congressional requestors").

Hi Aniya,

This from the cover page:

This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government... The views and opinions of authors
expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

This sort of disclaimer means that nobody in government is committed to following up the report. Heck, they can disown it. Which I think is pretty much what they've done, though perhaps not explicitly.

So, the Hirsch report does not really count as a "government report" (unless someone wants it to). I think the GAO report should have carried much more weight, and an NAS study, as you advocate below, would also help to commit the leadership (at least giving proponents a solid study to use as a foundation for demanding further action). I see this as a matter of "authority" - scientific, on one side, and legal/constitutional, on the other. Peak oil, if it is to become a cause, probably first needs to be embraced and held up by such authorities. The opportunity to do so is there, I think, but the will is not.

Thanks, bioprospector,

My Congressperson's staff said to me that the Congressperson will not act until such time as there are more than two constituents who call the office with a concern about "peak oil."

Really, it seems to me like the NAS study concept could be fairly easily done - even with a relatively small amount of "will."

There are lots of options: 1) 15 people per Congressional District; 2) A State legislature taking it up; 3) A letter of Concern to be published in the major dailies, or even just the NYTimes - this might start off with the signatures of scientists. 4) Etc.


As an example: Call five people and go in to your Congressperson's office with a petition of, say, ten signatures. The form for download is on the site.

My contact info is in the user profile and I'd welcome hearing from you.

Most comments are made from the US perspective. Therefore I will guote the below from the homepage of the Swedish government.

"The Swedish Energy System
Electricity production in Sweden is basically fossil-free. Approximately half of the electricity production comes from hydropower and the remainder is provided by nuclear power.

Despite rising industrial output, the use of oil has fallen from more than 70 % of the total energy supply in 1970 to around 30 % today. This is mainly due to diversification of fuels and more efficient use of energy.

The share of renewable energy sources in the Swedish energy system has increased rapidly during the past decade, from 22 % of the total energy supply in 1994 to 28 % today. Biomass accounts for the greater part of the increase. Wind energy has increased from negligible in 1994 to almost 1 TWh today.

Sweden has an extensive district heating sector. District heating accounts for about 40 % of the heating market in Sweden. The change in the fuel mix has been dramatic. Compared to 1970, when oil was the main fuel, oil accounts for only a few percent today. More than 62 % of district heating fuel today is biomass.

Green Certificates for Promoting Renewable Electricity
On May 1, 2003, a new support system for renewable electricity production, based on trading in electricity certificates for renewable electricity, was introduced to bring a greater proportion of electricity from renewable sources into the country's energy system. All electricity users, with the exception of manufacturing processes in energy-intensive industries, are required to buy certificates corresponding to a certain percentage of their electricity use.

Bio Energy and Wind for a Sustainable Future
The proportion of bio energy used in the Swedish energy system has steadily increased from a little over 10 % of the total energy supply in the 1980's to about 16 % or 100 TWh in 2004. Most of the increase has been attributable to industry and district heating plants. The bio fuels used in the Swedish energy system consist mainly of wood fuels, black liquors and tall oil pitches, and ethanol.

To a large extent, the expansion of bio fuels has come about through an ambitious policy on renewable energy, and the Swedish Government is determined to continue pursuing this policy. Investment in bio energy will contribute to a secure and sustainable energy supply as well as growth and job creation.

Wind energy today accounts for less than one percent of the electricity production. The potential for wind energy is substantially larger. The expansion rate for wind energy has increased rapidly during the past few years. A national target has been set for creating the conditions for annual wind power production of 10 TWh by 2015."


Thanks for the Swedish perspective. When I was in Europe in the Fall I was struck by how much progress the Scandinavian and Germanic countries have made toward freedom from fossil fuels.

Do you have any good sources for historical data on non-fossil energy sources in Sweden? I would love to augment the data I am currently using from BP that focuses on fossil fuels.

-- Jon


The Swedish Energy Agency has a homepage where they publish a fair amount of statistics and where you may select language.


I suggest that you start with Energy in Sweden 2008, to which there is a link at the front page.

A small reflection.
Most of the comments explain why it is impossible to prepare US for peak oil. Today it is -35 C in central Sweden. Sweden has a yearly CO2 release per capita of 5 ton compared to 20 ton in US. To me it seems to be the easiest thing in the world to cut the releases by half in 10 years in the US, it is just to increase the price (and reduce income taxes correspondingly). A good leader like Obama could certainly explain why everybody in US and the rest of the world would benefit.
- lower budget deficit
- better balance of trade
- lower income taxes
- lower oil prices on the market
- postponed peak oil
- incentive for car producers, industry and public to waste less
- less dependence on OPEC countries and Russia
- improvement of the possibilities for peace
- less money to terrorism
- less global warming
- US leadership

"""""A good leader like Obama"""""

The only thing more disconcerting than 30 or 40% of Americans not recognizing that Obama is a liar and a corporate shill is about 80% of Europeans thinking the guy is a "good leader."

Jeez Louise

Given the context, it is pretty clear that "good leader" here was meant specifically as "good communicator." He certainly is that, even if it doesn't help him much with the more rabid portions of the population.

A while a go I heard about a series of studies that showed that people looked at people as good leaders when other tests showed them to be very effective liars. So being a good leader may in fact be equivalent to being a good liar. The presidents who best perfected this skill in my life time were the Irish--Kenedy and Reagan. Even when you knew they were full of it, you wanted to believe them.

When you find a president, or even a politician, hell, even a human, who doesn't lie, please do let me know.

I disagree that . . .

1. The context should be used to change the obvious word choice of the Swede, who writes extremely well in English - if he meant that Obama is not a good leader, but rather is a good communicator, then he can post that.

2. I disagree that good leader and good communicator are remotely close to the same thing. While it is true that good leaders are usually good communicators, the latter does not imply the former. As you know, all fishermen are liars, but not all liars are fishermen.

3. I suppose we all have our own definition of "good leader." To me it means somebody who consistently leads in a direction that is most close to the actual best direction for the group. According to this definition, we haven't had a good leader in several hundred years.

"According to this definition, we haven't had a good leader in several hundred years."

Well, we pretty much agree on that, at least. Does someone come to mind when you go that far back? Alfred the Great?

I don't know. I don't know the name you referenced.
I'd have to go with Jefferson. Yes, yes, hackneyed, I know, but he was the one who pointed out for us that banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies, among other things.

Based on what I've read of him, I think he really wanted what was best for the people around him. He was often noted for walking around in stained clothes. My kind of guy.

No, the benevolent Attila The Hun ;-)

Ghengis Khan.

Sure, his forces looted, pillaged, raped, slaughtered and generally scorched earthed their way across Asia, but he also codified a system of laws that was probably more egalitarian than many we have today (just so long as you didn't cross him). Probably the only group he had significant bias against was Muslims (and women. They were still generally considered concubines and chattels, even if they were the source of much learning).

we haven't had a good leader in several hundred years

I generally don't like to president-bash, but as long as we're bashing them all I'll agree with you.


The President’s home page says the following about energy. I can just hope that he has the intention and skill to implement it.

“The country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. For too long, politicians in Washington have been beholden to special interests, but no longer. Our new, responsible energy policy recognizes the relationship between energy, the environment, and our economy and leverages American ingenuity to put people back to work, fight global warming, increase our energy independence and keep us safe.”

In my opinion the price (in this case tax) is an efficient way to affect demand. In Europe the price of petrol has been about 7 US$ per gallon for a long time. I can’t see why it should be impossible for the congress to increase the petrol price from 2,5 to 7 $ step by step in 10 years. The expectations of increased prices would immediately have a considerable influence. As I said earlier, there is no good reason for a US citizen to emit 20 ton CO2 per year when a Swede emits 5 ton.

For too long, politicians in Washington have been beholden to special interests, but no longer. Our new, responsible energy policy ... leverages American ingenuity to ... increase our energy independence and keep us safe.”

Yeah. That's what he says at the front door.

But at the back door of the White House, his administration is busy killing off the US Patent Office, stifling solo inventors (with so-called Patent-Reform that's really a Deform) and handing the keys of government over to those who just days before worked for the "special interests" and sang their songs.

Sweden has a yearly CO2 release per capita of 5 ton compared

That number is not includning embeded CO2 in imported goods and International transport, if you add that we would be more like 12-15 ton!
And I think we will be hard hit, as we are very dependent on export, and lots of road transports.

Bjerke, having visited Sweden on many occasions, I'm pretty impressed with the energy efficiency programs that the government has implemented. However, I believe that Sweden is still heavily dependent on imported oil. Freight transport appears to be predominently truck based and dependent on diesel fuel. Private automobiles in Sweden appear to be heavier and more fuel inefficient than in for example France, Italy, or the UK. A couple of years ago I saw new 4-lane freeway being built near Karlskoga. On the plus side, new, faster railways are planned or being built in some parts of the country. I think Sweden will be hit hard by peak oil but will likely be better off than the UK or the US.

In Sweden 93,6% of all energy in the transport sector comes from petroleum products (electricity 3.8% and biogasoline 2,4%) which is very close to the global average of 95%.

So in that sector we haven't made any progress at all, rather we're quite mediocre.

Frugal and Gustaf,

You are so right; Sweden like most countries has a problem with energy for transportation. It is sad that the transport sector still uses mainly fossil fuel but one should really also look at the transport work performed by a unit of oil and how the transport is organized (public transport). However there is some hope for progress. Here are some examples.
- The sales of environmental friendly* cars last year were 35 % of total sales.
- All petrol stations sell E85.
- All petrol and diesel have 5 % non-fossil additive.
- The two ethanol plants in Sweden produce ethanol from wheat with a total fossil consumption of 20 % of the energy content of the ethanol.
- Biogas production at sewage plants and farms is small but increasing.
- This year the Preem refinery in Gothenburg starts producing diesel from pulp industry feedstock.
- Volvo and Vattenfall cooperate in production of a plug-in diesel hybrid (Volvo V70) although on a closed market so far.

*The definition of environmental friendly is that the car run on non fossil fuel or has a CO2 release below 120 gCO2/km.

In some ways I think Swedes are addicted to automobiles but not quite to the same extent as Americans. I would assume that Sweden has plans to increase the fraction of goods transported by electrified rail??

Swedes like large and well built cars like Volvo and tend to use them for a very long time before scrapping them. This trend got worse during our own real estate crash and then the dot com bubble burst in combination with the very high income taxes slowing down new car sales.

Our dependancy on cars is less then the US since a large part of the population lives in fairly dense towns and cities with good collective traffic and they are fairly or very walkable and easy to bicycle. We have for a few days had -15 degress C and snow in my home town Linköping but the bicycle lanes are kept free from snow. I am one of those who still bike but its becomming uncomfortable and I have postponed some errands while waiting for warmer weather, I realy ought to buy a balaklava.

Both goods transportation and passanger rail is increasing but the truck freight increased even faster before the financial crisis.

There has been a significant mindset change for the railway sector and spur tracs all over the country are being renovated after decades of neglect. My impression not based on statistics is that this development is led by profit making private companies that want to lower the logistics cost and protect themselves from the risk of high fuel prices. This might also have been influenced by a slight shortage of truck drivers during the good years. The large trucking companies are experimenting with combined rail and truck freight and some distribution and retail companies are investing in rail freight for the image value.

Here is the annual report from Banverke who is the government agency that runs
most of the railway network:

And here is banverkets glossy paper about the development in the railway sector:

The next development in these areas are the old government agency Banverket who
runs rail infrastructure being integreted with Vägverket who runs the main road
network and both agenciens spinning off the remaining parts who do "contractor work".
This is an actual downsizing of government functions with less management and offfice
m2 while moving more of the get your hands dirty part to the free market. And it is
also an effort to integrate the infrastructure planning, it will be intresting to see
how it works out.


The increase in railroad traffic is slow but fairly steady. Passenger traffic increased by 60 % from 1990 to 2007 to 10 Gpersonkilometer and goods by 20 % from 2000 to 2007 to 23 Gtonkilometer per year. In most areas in Sweden there is not stuffcient population or industry to support a railroad, however there are a number of railroads being upgraded from one to two tracks and having road crossings removed. The rails are state owned but there is an open market for the traffic. In the populated areas the railroad traffic is competitive, for example the 500 km between Stockholm and Gothenburg which takes 2 hours and 45 min. The railroad from Oslo along the coast in Sweden via the new bridge to Copenhagen and further to Germany is well on the way in the upgrading. A lot still remains to be done especially commuting trains at main cities, separate tracks for goods traffic and higher speed passenger trains but the investment costs are high for a country which is not densely populated.

I agree with Shane that "politically correct" climate change policy might be a viable way to tackle PO - but I do not agree with him that "proposed emissions reductions are in line with depletion rates":
Adding the increased oil consumption in the OPEC countries (see the "export land model" explained elsewhere in TOD) is added to the decline rates you end up with something like 5% decline per year in non-OPEC countries - (i.e. oil imports cut by half within a decade!). This MUCH faster than any government plans to curb greenhouse gases. So very probably a big deal of demand destruction will be on a non-voluntary basis.

See my big post below your missing the requirement to maintain if not grow coal and natural gas substitution to run the economy. Its the differential between falling oil consumption and flat to rising coal and natural gas consumption thats the target of C02 emission control.

The key as I mention in my long post is to get the global warming game to focus on transportation emissions and thus oil not coal. Once coal is off the table then I expect to see "progress" in limiting emissions for the transportation sector coupled with greener NG usage EV's and biofuels.
The coal problem will only be addressed once its obvious we are past peak coal production and at best we may be approaching it as falling oil supplies stop expansion.

The central voices in the US on CC are not going to stop chastising coal. James Hansen pretty much gives (conventional) oil a pass (perhaps because he knows about PO?) as long as coal is phased out and tar sands not further developed.

A major movement (though one that went largely unnoticed by the main stream media) has stopped the planned building of dozens of large coal plants across the country. These activists are not going to suddenly ignore new plans for coal production.

I am not sure if coal production will increase anyway, as a large part of its costs is oil-related. For example in Europe about half of the coal price is from transportation. So maybe peak oil may mean peak coal as well.

I'm giving away some of my grande first post but yes this is in my paper.

Trust me the sudden interest of the worlds governments in acting like they are concerned about global warming is a farce and sick joke. They have fantastic reasons to think its good to act like they are doing something.

It just shows how big of a group of bastards they really are. The plan is I suspect to hide peak oil under the auspices of protecting the world from global warming as best they can.

In reality the rate of increase in C02 should slow naturally from peak oil induced slowdown of coal and NG production and simply by china hitting the wall or very close to it on production.

The US thinks it can get away with UNG and not worry about coal until no one cares etc.

Anyway they have good reason to think they can get away with acting like they are doing something and pass of energy issues as a result of anti global warming measures. And worst of all be able to show "progress".

Its just one more sick joke but our rulers.

Most of what I wanted to say has already been said. Especially Debbie's excellent post. I would just add that to understand what people really think you must watch what they do, not what they say. There are many examples of things that make no sense unless you frame them with a peak oil background:

- more debt to solve debt problem (grab what you can and hope others crash first)
- Iraq & Afghanistan wars (by bankrupt state)
- ethanol policy (grasp at straw despite bad physics)
- carbon trading (provided competitors join in)
- cash for clunkers (wasteful attempt to shift to higher MPG)
- US military's quiet investment in renewables

I was recently at a green manufacturing conference in Albany, NY, and a nice fellow from the state assembly or senate (can't remember) was there to talk about how he often argues for the advantages of high-speed rail in New York. He made a brief, glancing reference to high oil prices, but nothing about the future of oil, so I asked him (there were a couple of hundred people there), "Why don't you mention peak oil, or the fact that the end of the era of cheap oil is here, and we'll need something to replace planes and so on?". And his basic response was, "Any politician who talked about that would make his/her constituents very angry with them, and there are very few politicians willing to do that".

I also remember Rep. Barney Frank being on Bill Maher, during the oil spike, and he basically said that it was everyone's right to be able to commute 30 miles to work each day. This is from a guy who is in a very liberal district.

The basic problem is this: Americans love their cars. This is classic kill-the-messenger stuff. If you say anything that tells people that their gas bills are going up, they will get mad at you. Therefore, the government does virtually nothing. I mean, not even dictatorships like China, which was willing to kill thousands in Tianamen square, is building roads at a record pace, and China now sells more cars than the US. An engineer friend consulted with the Chinese in the 1980s, and when I asked him why they are going for autos, he said that they basically just assumed that making cars brought wealth.

The entire planet is not "addicted to oil", they are addicted to cars. I think it's possible -- not necessarily probable, but possible -- to convince people that a world without cars (or with many less cars, or much smaller, less powerful electric cars) would be a better place, but governments are now basing much of their legitimacy (that's a political science argument, or Max Weber, or what have you, Shane) on the ability of people to drive around as much as they like -- look at Iran and Venezuela, among others, who are basically going to go broke selling gasoline to their citizens for pennies.

This is a classic case of Jared Diamond's assertion in his book "Collapse" that cultural reasons can often lead to that outcome. The Greenlanders wouldn't eat seals, so they starved. Now, it's a global problem -- the world's people won't switch from automobiles, and governments are not going to challenge them -- apparently only some of us citizens can.

Jon Rynn

The basic problem is this: Americans love their cars.

Is this a joke comment? If Americans stopped driving altogether would that magically reverse industrialization everywhere else? Would it stop China or India's rapid industrialization, or the economic aspirations of 5+ billion third world inhabitants? Would it transport the world back to a pre-industrial time when the human population was roughly in balance with natural resources (primarily by death through war, famine and disease)?

Not only are Americans or their cars not 'the' or even 'a' root cause of the problem, it isn't even close. (In order of priority) here they are:

1. The persistent, genetically hard-wired biologocal drive of human beings to reproduce despite the macro consequences (thus leading to overpopulation).

2. The almost universal religious and cultural bias in favor of large families and against birth control in virtually every community of every nation of the world (which itself is largely an inevitable, evolutionary consequence of #1).

3. Overpopulation (as a consequence of #1 & #2), which leads to pollution, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and habitats, rapid overconsumption of natural resources, wars over resources, etc.

With comments like this, I can see *why* humanity's chances of finding a solution, much less all agreeing on a plan, are so remote.

HARM, you are evidently enamored of the ol' overpopulation-will-lead-to-doom argument. There are several problems with that one:

1) The top 20% or so "rich" countries (not everybody is rich in these countries, obviously) are responsible for the lion's share of environmental damage.
2) As people get richer, they reproduce less, particularly if women are empowered to control when they have children and when girls are educated, but also just general enrichment helps; in fact, some rich countries (such as Japan) are actually declining in population
3) Population is going to peak fairly soon anyway

The real problem is a global economic system that pollutes and doesn't recycle, and that doesn't value it's natural capital -- like the preindustrial indigenous peoples did (and not all of them, and certainly not many if not most agricultural societies that destroyed the ecological basis of their societies). It would be possible to put together a sustainable society and support more than the 8 million or so people that existed in hunter-gatherer societies.

You also seem to imply that automobiles are necessary for industrialization, which is patently not true - societies were doing quite well up to about 1920 with trains and dense cities and towns, and not cars -- and I said that the rest of the planet would have to stop, or decrease, car use as well.

In any case, I was responding to the question put forward by the post, which is, why do governments not respond to peak oil? And clearly one of the major reasons is the love affair with the automobile.

I agree with HARM.

Focusing on one country's automobile use is like focusing on one patch of trees in the forest.

Overpopulation. It's as simple as that.

As I wrote elsewhere, name one global issue that you think is important that wouldn't be immediately cured if 5.9 billion people disappeared at the exact moment you read the word meaning little green man on top of pot of gold??


AndrewB, is this the "die-off" line of thought that I've read so much about? I don't really understand it. You could also just advocate that everyone live like a peasant in a poor country (minus the burning-wood-for-fuel part). You'd also have to show that it's not possible to live with at least a few billion people, sustainably, on the planet. To me, it's clear that that's possible -- assuming everyone doesn't need a McMansion, unlimited amounts of goods, would use renewable electricity, and yes, would not need something fancier than a golf cart.

Carrying Capacity = ecological Footprint per person X number of people.

You have made a rather intresting assertion, sir - that you know the carrying capacity of the earth at a given level of technology. Would you be so kind as to explain your reasoning and present the math behind your assertion?

Much of this work has been done over at redefining progress (see www.myfootprint.org).

As far as I can tell, if everyone lived a mostly local, unmotorized life, with a mostly meatless diet, we could probably hold a few more people. But that is far from how the top quintile are living, and they set the pattern that others aspire to.


To respond to your points:

1) The top 20% or so "rich" countries (not everybody is rich in these countries, obviously) are responsible for the lion's share of environmental damage.

China has just surpassed the U.S. as the #1 polluter and global source of carbon emissions, and as "development" goes, they are just getting warmed up. Even worse, you have a population of 1.3 billion who all want to live like Americans. And then you have 1.2 billion in India, 1+ billion in Africa, etc., etc. Can't blame them for wanting to live a cleaner, more comfortable and modern existence, with access to good healthcare, clean water and luxuries like indoor plumbing, electricity and TV. Unfortunately... unless we begin colonizing other planets, not gonna happen.

2) As people get richer, they reproduce less, particularly if women are empowered to control when they have children and when girls are educated, but also just general enrichment helps; in fact, some rich countries (such as Japan) are actually declining in population.

I agree the empowerment and education of women is critical to reducing population rates, but many cultures (Islamic ones in particular) are hostile to this notion. As a result, rapid economic development and industrialization does not always = population reduction everywhere. There are a few industrialized western democracies facing (very modest) declines in population; however, everywhere else it iscreasing and in the poorest most unstable countries, it is still rising rapidly.

3) Population is going to peak fairly soon anyway

Perhaps, or perhaps not. In any case, even if the more optimistic perdictions turn out to be correct, it will still peak at a level far above the long-term sustainable carrying capacity of the planet. It is already well above the long-term sustainable carrying capacity of the planet (which by the way, is a lot greater than 8 million, even by the most pessimistic doomer estimates). There's no reason why the world could not sustainably support half a billion to a billion or so people, all enjoying a comfortable middle-class western lifestyle.

I see widespread auto use as a consequence of people in wealthy societies simply wanting more freedom of movement, not a root cause to our current problems. Does it currently contribute to pollution and FF depletion in a big way? Sure, but it doesn't have to be so in a world at a much lower population level that generates electrical power by renewable and/or other means.

David Ramsey and Harm:

Glad you asked! I'm actually writing a book on the subject, which also includes an argument for the centrality of manufacturing. I'll try to make this as short as possible, although solving civilization's problems can take a while. Basically, after a period of constructing a sustainable infrastructure, humans, even billions of us, should be able to have a very small footprint, but the infrastructure has to be radically transformed. Before worrying about whether such a transformation is politically possible, I think it's important to figure out what is actually physically possible, so here goes:

1st, the transportation sector is converted into one that is based on electrified trains. TOD'er Alan Drake has waxed poetic about freight rail replacing trucks, I'll point out that if you mirrored the Interstate Highway System, at 40,000 miles, with a high-speed rail system at 50 million dollars per mile, which is what the California one looks like it will cost, that's 2 trillion dollars, over 10 to 20 years, not so bad. Another statistic: NYC subway uses 1.8 billion kwhrs of electricity to move many, if not most of 8 million people every day. The total electricity used in the US is 4,000 billion kwhrs, so if everybody was in a dense walkable community like NYC, intracity travel could be done for, say, 10% of current electrical generating. So we can replace airplanes with high-speed rail, intracity cars with subways, trucks with freight (no figures on that, workin' on it).

2nd, we'd have to construct a sustainable energy, er, actually, electricity, infrastructure -- 1st, a national wind system is built, which means intermittency is solved, at least for enough of the system to shut down coal plants and power the trains -- don't know the cost of this, but my guess is that it would be less per year than the military. We also build a national electrical transmission system, as Gail has been discussing. Next on the energy front, we try to make all (or most) buildings energy self-sufficient, with solar panels and solar water heaters on top, geothermal heat pumps below. I once estimated that replacing all heating and cooling for all residential and commercial buildings with geothermal heat pumps would cost about 6 trillion, over 20 years not so bad (that's including solar power to power the geothermal). Don't know about the extra solar on roofs, couldn't be much worse. The one technological hail mary I'd do here, with a Manhattan Project type program, would be deep geothermal. Also, for big battery storage to smooth out the grid, I'd go for sodium-sulfur batteries, made of very common materials, although at this point only made by one small Japanese company.

3rd, cities, towns and suburbs have to build up or create town centers that are dense and mixed use so that the trains work and are efficiently used, so the buildings are easier to insulate (we could have a national insulation corps), and so cars could be electric and only have to go about 30 miles per day, slowly. This would require building lots of big buildings. So,

4th, we would need to rely on materials that are recyclable for all of this, most importantly, steel, most of which is currently recycled anyway. There's plenty of iron, so building up to a sustainable infrastructure shouldn't be a problem (assuming enough renewable electricity). Same for bauxite to use for the aluminum for the wind farms. Same for silicon from sand used for the solar panels. Buildings, I assume, would require lots of cement, which I believe is made from common materials, if not too environmentally friendly.

5th, we shift to organic agriculture in belts around now centralized cities and towns, and within cities and towns (using much of the space previously used for cars, which takes up about 1/3rd of city space). By the way, if everybody is living in unsprawled areas, something like 90% of the country could be left wild, even with organic farm belts around cities.

6th, manufacturing also goes around cities, and by the way is rebuilt by building all the other systems, and provides the means to build all of this stuff, using nonpolluting technologies -- totally possible -- and using recycled materials, which I've outlined above.

Finally, repeat for all other parts of the world. Poverty is caused by the lack of a manufacturing sector. Poor areas can leapfrog the US and build sustainable infrastructures now; the Europeans and Japanese are halfway there already, having much denser cities and better train systems than we do. I don't have all the data for this, David Ramsey, because I do not have my own research institute, but I'm trying to do the best I can. What thinkest thou?

You don't mention self-serving legislative inertia and that makes this no more than a plan, of a type (ideals, few numbers, presumptions of educability) that can be spun off in a two hour bull session.

Now MY plan is to continue to increase female sex hormones in the environment until the guys become less interested in sex with women. Muslims will become less aggressive, so we can withdraw our troops.

The government here withholds home buying credit for single homes and subsidizes infill construction, buying suburbs for conversion of the McMansions to refrigerated grain storage.

Like that. THAT's a bull session.

Now MY plan is to continue to increase female sex hormones in the environment until the guys become less interested in sex with women.

Sex isn't the problem, fertility is. Fortunately, it seems that all the Estrogen-imitating chemicals we pump into the biosphere are having an effect in that regard, as male fertility is dropping.

Dear OilDrummers:

You are frustrated that so few people "get it". Well, I'm here to tell you why. The evidence "on the ground" doesn't support it. People look out their windows and see cheap gas at the pump and everyone still driving gas guzzlers. In other words, it's still so cheap it's being wasted.

There is no getting around this. Your nice charts and essays are future predictions. The future is uncertain, which is why there is plenty of argument about it.

Now I would love it if oil was expensive now. I'd like to live on a clean planet. But it strikes me that it is perfectly reasonable to wait for price confirmation before getting all upset. And it strikes me as perfectly reasonable to enjoy the benefits of cheap oil while it lasts. At any rate, you are going to have a tough/impossible time convincing people to "rough it" before high prices force the issue.

Annual US spot crude oil prices (EIA), 2009 was about $65:

What is this supposed to be, an argument?

You completely missed the point. People and politicians don't have enough time to worry about current problems. Trying to get them to focus on some future possibility is next to impossible. It has to be in their face to get attention.

When gasoline was $4/gallon, it became a present problem and it got lots of press. When the next shock comes the same thing will happen -- anger, blaming, calls for politicians to "do something". Until then, your arguments will fall on deaf ears. That is obvious.

What I'm saying that is not so obvious is perhaps that is rational. I mean... why would the average person want to ruin himself and his family, by chucking his job and life, and moving to some tremendously risky and arduous off-grid lifestyle? Prices would have to be stratospheric for that to make sense. I'm talking like $20/gallon.

But it strikes me that it is perfectly reasonable to wait for price confirmation before getting all upset.

I was hoping that perhaps you could share some of your wisdom as to what would be an adequte price confirmation. I assume that the seven fold increase in annual oil prices in 2008, versus 1998 (falling back to almost a five fold increase in 2009), was not sufficient confirmation for you.

Regarding, "Ruining himself and his family," some of us round these parts have been offering some advice for several years that is not quite so extreme:

My ELP Plan essay from almost three years ago:


In this article I will further expound on my reasoning behind the ELP plan, otherwise known as “Cut thy spending and get thee to the non-discretionary side of the economy.”

I have been advising for anyone who would listen to voluntarily cut back on their consumption, based on the premise that we were probably headed, in a post-Peak Oil environment, for a prolonged period of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. . .

In my opinion, the unfortunate new reality is that we are going to see a growing labor surplus--against the backdrop of deflation in the auto/housing/finance sectors and inflation in food and energy prices. By reducing your expenses now, while you can do it voluntarily, you will at least be better prepared for whatever the future may bring.

I see that I ruffled a feather and I apologize for that. I'm just as frustrated as you guys are... but it shouldn't imply that I'm smarter than anyone else.

"...what would be an adequte price confirmation. I assume that the seven fold increase in annual oil prices in 2008, versus 1998..."

The price is still low enough that oil is being wasted. When we no longer see that, it means PO may be real enough for the public to take notice. At $4/gallon people cut down -- a little bit. They are used to that now. It will take $5 before they feel the same pain level.

BTW, I don't want to play dueling charts, but every commodity has behaved like the chart you posted. One possible explanation is dollar devaluation. If you plot oil in euros, for example, the rise is much less dramatic.

I agree your essay is good common sense. I don't agree with Kunsler. As a cynic, I think he says scary things because that's what sells books.

As Jim Kunstler warned, American suburbs represent the “Worst misallocation of capital in the history of the world.”

No, Jim. A worse allocation was building a business or home in the expensive city, when cheap land was available a short drive away. Someday after PO that arithmetic may change.

BTW, I don't want to play dueling charts, but every commodity has behaved like the chart you posted. One possible explanation is dollar devaluation. If you plot oil in euros, for example, the rise is much less dramatic.

Why on earth do people think the currency games are independent of oil they are the same thing.

Europe has heavy taxes on oil products and a generally more efficient transportation system. The relative increase in prices for Europeans was smaller and thus the need to inflate their currency to try and grow despite rising commodity prices lower. I suspect that when not if we see another price spike that devaluation of the Euro will occur with a very very good chance that it will exceed dollar devaluation this time around.

When it becomes time to devalue the Euro vs the dollar are you going to use the same argument ?

Well the Euro devaluation obviously does not mean anything as oil is priced in dollars therefore...

As long as your willing to limit yourself to some window of time and consider the relative devaluation of a given fiat currency vs oil priced in dollars it means nothing.

To some extent gold is a useful metric within reason.

A far better one is the percentage of disposable income spent on oil by consumers. With the asset inflation in housing and general increase in food costs and generally flat wages this number has gone ballistic. Thats the real number that matters is what percentage of net disposable income was spend on oil products. By using percentages you need not worry about fiat currency games. This is a very good proxy for the true amount of real wealth created at a given oil price.

I suspect the differences between Americans and Europeans on a percentage basis is small.

Globally in general we all devoted far more of our income to servicing housing debt that was then sold to he holders of our fiat currencies China and Oil producers in general. This of course is the biggest force in reducing the overall amount of disposable income and thus increasing the percentage costs of oil. The actual rise in oil prices itself in any currency has been a much smaller contributor.

In the US housing costs for example generally went from about 3X income to 4X or higher. Given that this debt was eventually after a lot of laundering bought by commodity sellers its about a 8% gross payment to oil producers of income. Say you make 50k and are paying 8% more for housing. Thats a 4000 dollar backend payment to the holders of the debt which as I said are eventually oil producers amongst others. It works to about 300 or so a month plus a real increase at the pump of another 200 or so per month or 500 or so a month more.

All thats really changed is no our debt is no good unless its moved to our governments balance sheets but the payments still go to our creditors in exchange for dollars we spent on oil.

As long as the debt is good it does not really matter how they eventually make money in the end your paying either though debt bought by a oil revenue sovereign wealth fund or directly at the pump they don't mind how you pay.

Now of course our dollars, Euro, and Yens are no good because our debt is no good even when placed on the government balance sheet. Now the oil producers really need higher prices at the pump plus they need to aggressively convert these dollars to assets themselves to diversify their economies. No one really want to buy debt or hold the fiat currencies regardless of who's pushing them. Of course their own wealth is denominated in said currencies so they can't allow them to collapse will divesting.

This does not mean the big squeeze is averted in general this in my opinion means a double squeeze if you will is coming soon. They will demand higher and higher interest rates for shorter and shorter term debt and really really high ones for longer term debt. Plus the pump price will increase. Next they will convert to any assets they think they can control longer term that also benefit their internal economies. A big one since these regions are deserts is buying up land in Africa and to some extent South America for food. Given the Muslim demographics I happen to think longer term a effectively middle eastern colonization wave of Africa is the big picture view. Money squeezed from the wealthy nations will generally be steadily invested in covert the overt colonization of Africa and parts of Asia by the ME countries. China seems to be the chosen partner for this move and its a fairly natural set up all around.

Obviously India with its mixed religious background and geopolitical position is in a fascinating position in this big game. Eventually northward into the stans is interesting and the US is right in the middle of it at least for now. And of course you have the shia/sunni Iranian issue. Persia seems destined to always throw a monkey wrench in the Sunni/Arab empire.

Back to money ...

What your not being told is that bubbling asset price now does no good. The debt is of now value no one wants it. We now must pay with cash and high interest rates which in effect are cash tributes.
This means to keep the game going the US and Europe will be forced to accept much higher pump prices and raise interest rates at the same time. We are now funding the creation of the great Sunni empire centered on Saudi Arabia. Our only usefulness is taking care of those pesky Persians. But I really really suspect that the obvious game there is to get the Chinese into the region and expel the westerners perhaps the Russians. Sucking us in is just a way to weaken the west even more.

We of course don't have a lot of choice but it does buy us time.

For the western nations longer term I guess that some sort of post peak technical/military perhaps fueled by nuclear power will be our eventual answer. Farther out in the future as the oil wealth disappears the ability of Saudi to hold Africa is questionable but thats not today. Today its time to pay cash and be thankful that they continue to even accept it. If the deal with China gets sweeter they may well see no reason to even do that.

We've been living the "tremendously risky and arduous off-grid lifestyle" for 13 years, except for the "tremendously risky and arduous" part. I would challenge your preconceptions in this regard.

My opinion, for what it's worth, is that price increases won't change behavior significantly. The tipping point will be gas lines, then spot shortages. Once you wait a half hour for a tank of gas, or have to do without for a day or two, that tank becomes a lot more important to you than if you have to pay twice as much for it.

$4 gas caused some increase in transit use and reduction in driving, but mostly it caused a lot of grumbling. I didn't see any of my co-workers or neighbors change their commutes because of it.

Hello mkkby,

Thanks for expressing a point I've often heard.

A couple of thoughts:

1) People actually do focus on future possibility at times. An example is encouraging a child's education, esp. higher education, or writing a Will.

2) It seems to me there's a mix of motivations from doing what's right in front of one ("get a job, any job") to having some idea or "dream." (I want to...be a...)

The current energy-intensive features of the US range of lifestyles were made possible by many factors and I agree, most people probably don't think about lifestyle as "choices," necessarily.

3) So, it seems to me that if people who see what's coming, i.e., "peak", take action, it can potentially have a positive effect on policies that people will then follow, simply because that's what people do.

Another plug for www.oildepletion.wordpress.com and the idea of asking the National Academy of Science to investigate peak oil, including impacts and policy options.


This year is getting off on the 'right' foot @ $80 a barrel. I personally cannot see the world in its current economic straits supporting oil at that price level for more than a very short time. Something important will break.

Chart from Shadowstats; M3 money multipliers.

M3 represents money supply including currency in circulation, deposits, repurchase agreements and money market mutual funds. This chart puts myth to the idea that central banks are creating huge sums of inflationary currency. In fact, the high oil prices themselves are short- circuiting money creation as money spent on fuel cannot be loaned; funds needed for growth are rendered unavailable by the energy balance sheet. High prices make certain infrastructure unprofitable. Oil refineries, for example.

How many US refineries have closed in the past 12 months? Americans cannot spend more at the pump yet refinery feed-stocks rise in cost inexorably.

In 2008, we in the developed world were paying high prices with credit. Ain't no more credit.

I think this 100% discount rate on the future is a new phenomenon. Once, in the not too distant past, people used to save, plan, and think ahead. These days we don't, and that's a major part of the problem.

I see that "they" the G2,4,6,8 take your pick, are managing collapse just fine.

#1 - The US must remain the dominant global power or else tshtf in the worst possible way.

#2 - The overall message of forever declining resources and the global septic tank being full to overflowing must never reach the general world public discussion or else tshtf in the worst possible way.

#3 - Dieoff must be managed mostly via economic constraints and war or else tshtf in the worst possible way.

Bottom line; Don't worry they got it covered.

If we lived in functioning democracies, where the people were active citizens and weilded real political power, the views of the citizens would carry weight and matter. Only we don't live in healthy democracies. We don't have a "right" to democracy, not really. What we have is a surrogate, an elaborate and highly controlled illusion. The "rite" of democracy. Empty ritual, quasi-religious, a shiny veneer of democracy and freedom, which covers another altogether uglier reality; the reality of rule by a powerful oligarchy, who don't give a damn about the other 99% of the population, the common herd, who own virtually nothing, and therefore, have virtually no real power.

Our political elite are not leaders, rather they are controllers. Obama is classic example of the rise of a man who has dedicated his entire life to the service of the powerful. He's a highpriest in the church of the rite of democracy.

What characterizes modern, market democracy, is that it is a product, bought and sold in the marketplace, and the role of the citizen, surely the core of democracy, has been replaced by the primacy of the consumer as our most important social role. Obviously it's far easier to control consumers in market system, than citizens in democracy.

When power, both economic and political, is concentrated so unevenly in the hands of so few people, democracy, rule by the many, is seen as a potential threat to the interests of the few, therefore, in a country like the US, from the very beginning, the threat of "democratic excess" was rightly perceived as a dangerous potential threat to elite rule, and consequently everything possible was done to control the threat from democracy, or majority rule.

The fundamental problem we face now is political and economic. The interests of the ruling elite and the political, economic, system they created and still control, are in almost total conflict with the interests of the vast majority of the population, and not only the people, here one has to factor in the "interests" of the rest of the physical environment we share the planet with.

An economic system which is controlled by a tiny minority and grossly favours their narrow, "class" interests, to the exclusion of virtually everyone else, cannot be reformed from within, and certainly not by a political system which, in practice, is so anti-democratic.

We are on the same trajectory that faced the French, the Russians, the Chinese, before their systems degenerated and began to rot from within, the very weight of the ruling class pulling the social structure appart resulting in revolution when the people had no choice but to act and do something.

If we lived in functioning democracies, where the people were active citizens and weilded real political power, the views of the citizens would carry weight and matter.

Back in my more optimistic, naive college days, I used to believe this. Unfortunately, history does not support this thesis. You mentioned the French, Russians and Chinese in the context of revolution, and yet only the French revolution eventually led to a system that even *resembles* (however faintly) a "democracy". And even that was only after the bloody decades of Robespierre and the Reign of Terror, followed by the Napoleonic era, followed by the Second Empire, followed by WWI & II, etc.

There is no true "Jeffersonian democracy" in the world today, has never been one, and in all likelihood will never be one. All due to the simple and universal truth that most people are not very rational, honest or intelligent creatures, capable of long term thinking or logically analyzing complex problems, politely debating the various options on their merits, and acting in the best interests of humankind.

Take a good, hard look around you. The holidays (at least in the Western world) just ended. Are most people in your immediate family, circle of friends and people you work with particularly rational or emotionally stable? Are they capable of effectively resolving their own interpersonal relationships and their own financial problems, much less fixing the rest of the world's problems? Can most people even balance their own checkbooks?

I *wish* that most people were rational, honest, intelligent, altruistic and psychologically stable individuals that could put humanity's long-term best interests above their own short term-selfish interests. Hell, I'd settle for any three out of five. But wishing does not make it so.

I've gradually come to the depressing realization that *every* political and economic system ever devised has always been controlled by a tiny ruling class minority for their own short term benefit. The only difference is the relative levels of general prosperity everyone else is allowed to enjoy, and whether or not the elites choose to maintain the social order indirectly by means of the *illusion* of democratic process, or directly through the use of naked force. If those interests occasionally happen to cooincide with the best interests of the general public and/or other species on the planet, then good things can result. But this is not typically the rule and far from inevitable.

I guess the best most of us can hope for is to live under a relatively benign oligarchy, where the ratio of natural resources to population is favorable, and where the elites are relatively well informed and actually *care* about the long-term prospects of their progeny (and so are willing to take positive action to ensure that continued reign).

Yes, but there has always been, at least since urban civilization began, a conflict between the interests of the few, the rulers, and the many, the subjects. It's not so much a balance, as a tug-of-war, a kind of battle over power.

The ruling elite never had absolute power, and the ruled were never without power, they had, at the very least, overwhelming numbers. The real trouble starts when the ruling oligarchy is too secure for the good of society as a whole, and in our case, the good of the planet.

What's happened over the last thirty or forty years, since the "democratic excesses" of what we call the sixties, is that the "system" has rolled back democracy and the vital role of the concept of citizenship. Much of this is connected to the systematic undermining of the education system, replacing it with entertainment and propaganda. What's surprising; given the vast resources chanelled towards state propaganda, and the overwhelming dominance of market mythology and values in our media; that so many people refuse to be brainwashed and can still think for themselves! The human spirit and ability to see through the veil of lies surrounding them, is truly remarkable.

What's lacking is any real structure that allows the people to express their political views and aspirations. The American twin-party system is, has increasingly become, a grotesque parody of democracy. Though it was never meant to be something as dangerous as a democracy for all, but was from the beginning, democracy for the few.

Whilst democracy for the few, could be defended on the grounds that only the few have the necessary abilities to understand and rule properly, this is actually the reverse of the truth. Rule by an unchecked, and virtually unopposed, elite, a oligarchic dictatorship, leads society towards inevitable destruction, and sometimes at extraordinary speed.

You'll get no objections from me on your critique of the two-party coporate duolopoly or how dangerous it is when an unopposed (and self deluded) plutocracy/oligrachy firmly takes hold. Where we part ways I think is with regard to our respective opinions of the perceptiveness, spirit, intelligence and rationality of the average person --Americans included.

Some people --a very tiny percentage of the overall population-- are drawn to the truth by the collection of reliable, unbiased data and the analysis of it, interpreted and tested through the scientific method, challenged by uncensored open debate and free thinking. Many of them are drawn right here, and to other sites/venues like this. Unfortunately, that types is in the extreme minority virtually everywhere.

The great majority --even in literate "advanced" nations-- are too lazy and intellectually incurious to even care about "truth". They have allowed themselves to be conditioned to think that "truth" is whatever their leaders/priests/imams/shaman tells them it is. Many are also afraid to seek real truth (out of fear some of their cherished beliefs may turn out to be incorrect or how much effort and pain real "change" might entail?). They mainly just want to hear their own biases and prejudices reinforced and fed back to them. Or they just simply don't care, filter out all the intellectual "noise", and focus on whatever is in front of them. They tend to accept whatever their tribal/political/religious elites tells them at face value. Do we worry about Gays? Global Warming? War on Christmas? Terrorism? Doesn't matter folks, just as long as keep your attention away from that man behind the curtain.

Don't get me wrong --I am far from perfect or all-knowing, and don't view TOD posters as some sort of Platonic Philosopher-Kings. Nonetheless, the more time I spend interacting with the "average American" and even my own family, the more brilliant and rational I feel by the minute. I just got done with having lunch with my (college educated) holy roller relatives who *still* think GWB was chosen by God, believe high gas prices are due to gay marriage and sundry other American wickedness, think the End Times are a-comin' and would LOVE to see a Christian theocracy setup right here in the good 'ol USA. And craziness or the capacity for self delusiuon is not limited to the religious as a weekend with the liberal half of my wife's family proved conclusively.

On the whole, most Americans --like their conterparts in every other nation-- have a mighty tenuous hold on what we might term "reality"... or sanity. I'd love to see a genuine Jeffersonian democracy of enlightened, rational, altruistic intellectuals. I just seriously doubt that I'll ever live to see it. "Idiocracy" is a whole lot more likely, I'm afraid.

The great majority --even in literate "advanced" nations-- are too lazy and intellectually incurious to even care about "truth".

I don't know about whether your group is a majority or not, and I don't know much about the electorate in any country but the US. but I strongly suspect that a minimum of 27% of the voting population of the US is even worse than lazy and incurious: they're nuts.

27 Percenters – Those Americans who will predictably vote against their own best interests. In his seminal post on the Crazification Factor, John Rogers used the 2004 Obama/Keyes senate race as a measure: “Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That’s crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% Crazification Factor in any population.”

(Quoted from the Lexicon in John Cole's Balloon Juice)

waterplanner: you gotta admit that Alan Keyes looks stunning in a suit. Far better looking than Obama. But he does appeal to the conservative religious viewpoint.

Now I will agree with you about the electorate. Highly emotional. Loyalty to party is way to strong -heck just look at Arnold Schwartznegger, his world view is pretty closely aligned with the democratic party. But when he started out he was anticommunist and chose the Republicans because of that. No matter how much his philosophy is at odds with his choosen party, he puts loyalty above logic.

Even a plurality of the smart and motivated ones, chose an ideology, and then fight for their choosen brand of ideological solution, rather than making a good faith effort to determine the truth about things.

Much of this is connected to the systematic undermining of the education system, replacing it with entertainment and propaganda. What's surprising; given the vast resources chanelled towards state propaganda, and the overwhelming dominance of market mythology and values in our media;

I guess I'd have to take exception to your attribution of the agent. I see the propaganda as coming from a combination os richly endowed foundations, and corporations. Government is of course corrupted by the process, but it is not the instigator.

The American twin-party system is, has increasingly become, a grotesque parody of democracy. Though it was never meant to be something as dangerous as a democracy for all,

I think a more proper interpretation is that the two party system was an unintended consequence of the way the system was constructed. Those who created the system did not expect political parties to arise. They were distressed to see that outcome. I think our problem is that we mythologize the founders of our system, rather than recognizing that it was a grand experiment, and that they couldn't forsee how it would turn out -or what sorts of modifications would be needed to fix it. Virtually all modern democracies that have arisen after ours have adopted some variation of the parlimentary system.

There seems to be a disconnect here:

On the other hand, the government has widely embraced the Wicks review, which (according to Leggett) “dismisses peak oil out of hand”.

but from the Wicks review (p. 29)

Oil production has already peaked in most non-OPEC countries and will peak in most others before 2030. OECD production will decline through to the middle of the next decade, managing to grow from 2015 onwards only due to the production of nonconventional oil reserves, in particular Canadian oil sands. Timely investment, which remains quite uncertain, will be critical to ensuring the availability of supplies to meet the forecast levels of demand.

This doesn't seem to be dismissing peak oil, but certainly pushing it back a few decades.

From what I remember of the Wicks report, peak oil is mentioned on P29 as you state, and thereafter completely ignored. Probably because of this restatement of the cornucopian "infinite substitutability" mythos of the economic priesthood:

Timely investment, which remains quite uncertain, will be critical to ensuring the availability of supplies to meet the forecast levels of demand.

The demand, you will note, is sacrosanct, our infants' tantrums must be pandered to...

Yup, he ignores peak oil by dismissing it with one (very biased) paragraph.

duplicate deleted...

The simple truth is that all of the above explanations regarding govt. silence on peak oil are true. Some people in govt. are clueless, some don’t want to know, some have faith in technology and markets, and still others are trying to get the word out or are making plan, but depletion and decline are difficult to run on.

I can’t show any examples of ignorance, but for example of faith in technology and markets can be found in your typical Newsweek or Time magazine, or listen to talk radio.

Roscoe Bartlett is a perfect example of a politician who knows and constantly gives peak oil lectures in Capital Hill, usually in the middle of the night, to mostly empty seats.

I do believe Iraq had a lot to do with oil. After all, during the looting, the only govt. ministry that was protected by our military, just so happened to be the Oil Ministry.

I know it’s difficult to run a campaign on depletion or decline because I remember what happened to President Jimmy Carter.

I also believe that our corporate owned media that relies on advertiser dollars would prefer to ignore the subject.

Politics is more about who’s in power than it is about finding solutions to difficult problems, especially if the effects of these problems occur after the term is over.

I'm glad you brought up Roscoe Bartlett. How does his understanding of peak oil jive with his voting record? http://www.votesmart.org/voting_category.php?can_id=26891
He is an example of someone who "gets it" but doesn't necessarily vote consistent with what we may personally believe is consistent.

My assumption (and this only applies to the US) is that there are a few people in the lower and mid-level echelons of government who are aware of Peak Oil, and from time to time they get to mention a few things to people higher up the chain. However, it is always the case that there is someone else around to immediately discredit them; this is not an accident, it is arranged. Yes, those at the top levels have "heard of" Peak Oil, but they have been told that it is essentially a non-mainstream, fringe/contrarian viewpoint. Top decision makers like to have a few such thinkers/advocates around as an antidote to groupthink (if they are wise), or to make it appear that they are aware of the dangers of groupthink and have innoculated themselves from it (closer to the reality). Having a few such people around is not at all the same thing as believing them. It is essential to understand that the people at the top have gotten there by having a highly optimistic frame of mind, first and foremost with regard to their own ambitions and self-regard. They want to surround themselves with sycophants that will mostly reinforce this basic mindset rather than be a source of cognitive dissonance. Those who are upbeat and optimistic are the ones who get promoted. The messengers of bad news do not necessarilly get shot, but neither to they find themselves to be court favorites, or on the promotion fast track.

So yes, the top dogs (and even THE Top Dog) have "heard of" Peak Oil, but they don't really believe it. They have been convinced by their closest and most trusted advisors that there is nothing to worry about. This explains why: 1) Peak Oil is not being officially acknowledged or talked about, and; 2) there are no plans to mitigate or adapt to PO, let alone any constructive actions underway.

So yes, the top dogs (and even THE Top Dog) have "heard of" Peak Oil, but they don't really believe it.

There is a big difference between hearing individual ones of many noises (e.g., have you ever heard of: PO, AGW, LTG, etc.?) and having a particular one register in the listener's mind.

No doubt the THE TOP DOG (Potus) hears many noises every day: yemen, al quita, terror, economy, healthcare, partisanship , blah eh blah oh blah da blah.

What are the chances any one of them registers as something meaningful?

Did Bush/Cheney force a war in Iraq in spite of UN inspections that could not find any WMD? Yes.

Has Obama gotten us out of Iraq or Afghanistan? No.

Peak oil aware - oh yeah! Sure, the oil must keep flowing. But also not willing to compromise on business as usual with any kind of sustainability talk. Still in a stage of not fully comprehending the implications of peak oil. Not realizing that when oil price spikes again, it will drop this economy like a stone, and back to huge borrowing we will go, if the money is available. If it's not, then head for cover.

I think, they thought, they could have gotten into Iraq early enough to stave off the plateau. We all saw how easily they portrayed the "mission" to be, which was about two years before the plateau started. They thought they could waltz right in, knock out Saddam and just drill away like there was no problem. In a sense, a failed conspiracy.

I see several reasons for the problem:

1. Energy is technically complicated. Few people have an understanding of basic physics and thermodynamics that is necessary to understand efficiency, substitution and net energy.
In industry I often did extensive background research in order to solve process variability problems only to find that most people, including other engineers, did not agree with my conclusions until I proved them by controlled manufacturing trials.

2. People have blind faith in technology's ability to solve problems. There are still people who believe that the pace of technology is accelerating. The science timeline says otherwise. We are discovering details based on principles formulated in previous centuries. What is accelerating is the speed of deployment of technologies. Internet and cell phone systems took half the time to build out as telephony and electrification.

3. The energy problem has been ignored too long and now we face a crisis. 90% of US oil has been produced, along with copper and other minerals. This is politcally difficult to admit.

4. We have a tremendous investment in infrastructures that are about to become worthless, such as oil refining, oil pipelines, gasoline stations, highways, airports. We cannot accept that this will go away.

5. We have few possible solutions at the market penetration level. Oil sands production come closest, but is still less than 10% of fuel imports. Hybrid cars and electric vehicles do not represent one percent of the 231 million cars in the USA, and practically none of the trucks. This is partly a result of problems 2-4.

Good post.

I disagree that most people can't understand efficiency, net energy, and the like. No thermodynamics need to be introduced. A simple coal mine example would work. If you gotta go deeper, and you have thinner veins, and so on, the coal costs more to bring up. Everybody can understand that. Same with oil under the water. And so on. I think people are too apathetic to understand. It's just easy to answer the question "where does gasoline come from" with "the gas station." Why think? It's unnatural.

Agree with 2-4.

Not sure what you mean by 5, but I'm curious to know. I'll add only that hybrid car technology is bad on so many levels, not the least of which is the simple fact that the belief that a 30-60 MPG "hybrid" that burns gasoline is somehow an answer to oil depletion. It's not. It's equivalent to throwing bulk containers off the Titanic thinking that sinking can be prevented. Hybrids instill the delusion that technology will save us. In a cynical way, I think a national maximum of 15 MPG per passenger vehicle would make more sense - just rip the bandaid off - don't pull it off hybrid-slow.

Item 5 deals with the logistic curve (Marchetti, Grubler, et. al.) Once the S curve begins the constant exponential growth portion (10% to 90% of market saturation) is becomes fairly predictable and the time to make a change over can be calculated. We have no replacement technologies in this growth range in the US except nuclear, but nuclear does not fit the model because of the moratorium after Three Mile Island.

These major long term infrastructure projects take a century to complete, and at least half a century to make a significant change over. So it's like we are on the Titanic and have sighted a masive iceburg dead ahead, but there is no chance of changing course in time to avoid a collision. Also, we don't have enough life boats.

Those five points are quite good in explaining the problem. I would add the following details:

Point 1: Not only is energy technically complicated, the geology of oil formation is technically complicated. Many Americans think the world is only 6000 years old. Since the world's oil is up to 500,000 years old, they have no basis for understanding how it formed or why God does not let them continue driving in the style to which they have become accustomed.

Point 2: Technology has the ability to solve a lot of problems, but not the specific one of stopping declining oil reserves. If people were willing to do something different, like take wind-powered electric trains, that has an easy technological solution. Creating new oil does not.

Point 3: Many Americans, notably in the government, will not accept that the US has already produced 90% of its oil. They just refuse to believe reality, and that is serious because there are no close substitutes for oil. The other minerals such as copper are a lesser problem. They have reasonable substitutes. Copper can be replace by fiber optics for communication and aluminum for power transmission. - Both sand and aluminum oxide are available in huge amounts.

Point 4: A lot of infrastructure such as oil refineries, oil pipelines, and gasoline stations are already in the process of being abandoned. The oil companies know what is coming - they've sold a lot of it to other companies which specialize in milking the last dollars out of old facilities. No new oil refineries have been built in the US in the last 30 years, and the pipelines running north from Texas are being reversed to carry oil from Canadian oil sands south to Texas.

Point 5. Oil sands and hybrids will help, but they will not make the problem disappear or even stop getting worse. People will have to adjust their lifestyles to an era of scarce oil. In the past couple of decades they have more or less done the reverse, on the assumption that the good times would roll forever, so the transition will be painful.

(1) Opps, you left out a few zeroes in the formation time of oil. But otherwise a correct point.

(3) I don't think we've produced 90% of the domestic oil. We are still pumping at roughly 50% of our peak rate, and our rate of decline has decreased (last year even increased). So to some extent, better technology, and high prices can change things somewhat, if only for a while. I wouldn't be surprised, if with effort we could get domestic production back up to around 6mbpd (peak was near 10). But this barely puts a dent in the import problem. The only viable alternative is to radically reduce our consumption (or go bankrupt).

(5) Correct. More aggressive drilling, hybrids, and contraction of commuting distances can only mitigate the problem. We will have to do all, and throw in significant lifestyle changes if we are to avoid serious problems.

(1) Oops! Yes, I did slip a few zeros. I meant circa 500 million years ago.

(3) The Hubbert production curve is bell-shaped. The peak for the US occurred in 1970, and one would expect that would be when 50% of the reserves had been produced. The fact that the decline is leveling off indicates that it is a long way down the decline side, to the point where the curve is starting to level off. This would occur when around 80-90% of the oil had been produced.

Last year's production increase was a result of heavy spending by the oil industry. Since spending has since collapsed, I would expect production to undergo a steep decline in the near future. A lot of new oil is not economic at $80/barrel.

(5) There was an interesting article I read today. Apparently the US now has 4 million fewer cars than it did a year ago. 10 million cars were sold, while 14 million were scrapped. This is an historically unique occurrence, but I don't think it will be unusual in future. The US may be entering a period where the number of cars on the road routinely declines from year to year.

This would occur when around 80-90% of the oil had been produced.

But not at 50% of peak production which makes the claims ahh interesting to say the least.

In fact we have been off curve for HL for quite some time. To some extent this could perhaps be the Alaska effect with the new deepwater efforts treated as a pristine additional province.
But I'm not convinced since the underlying base decline rate would have had to flatten rapidly to close zero even before we started increasing. To be producing at 50% at peak when your 80-90% depleted and even increasing production rates is a miracle esp after all these years.

I don't believe it sorry.

To be producing at 50% at peak when your 80-90% depleted and even increasing production rates is a miracle esp after all these years.

I don't believe it sorry.

The US oil industry is very, very efficient at getting the most out of its oil fields. This is generally a good thing, but it has the disadvantage that you could run out of oil with a solid bang in a very short period of time, with no warning other than that from the geologists.

I'm in Canada, where this is not really an issue. We have approximately 1/10 the population and 10 times the oil, meaning we will not run out in this century, or the next one. Canada is the largest supplier of imported oil to the US. However, while we have the oil, we do not have the population to produce enough to bail the US out if things go bad in a major way.

In terms that probably don't mean a lot to you (but which I am fond of), it's like extreme skiing. If you fall, you aren't going to stop until you hit the bottom of the slope. More prudent people stick to slopes where if you fall, you can stop.

Okay, that's probably too far out there for most people, but I like the simile.

I think where many politicians and people in general get lost with peaking of liquid fuels is the consequences. Nobody really knows what will happen for sure so the optimists use this as a way provide a possibly rosier outcome which for the life of me I cannot see a good outcome(it is a question of how bad). Most people will agree that oil is a finite resouce and will deplete over time but they haven't thought much about the ability to not grow the resource any more and what this will mean. More of the discussion should center on implication instead of trying to figure the precise date.

Knowledge and advertisement of peak oil is bad for business, empire business(Iraq) and financial business(stocks, etc..). It's pretty much that simple. It calls into question our "growth" structured financial system and the religion of capitalism itself when closely looked at. Which is why followers are scorned by the most faithful, like they did followers Copernicus.

It's a falacy to assume that politicians are unaware of the enormous problems associated with accessing enough oil and gas to serve our insatiable "habit."

They, the politicians, know exactly the predicament we are in, after all none of it, the knowledge, is secret, is it? The Oil Drum is full of it, as are other sites. But the role of politicians, is to function within the state apparatus, and the state is the servant of what we call the "market", though it long since stopped being a "market", that analogy is absurdly out-of-date; maybe one could describe it as a form of "plantation system", but on global scale.

We are all, or at least the vast majority of humanity, trapped on the "plantation" in one form or another. Some are virtual slaves, others house slaves, others are overseers, a few own and reap the benefits of the plantation system and live off in the nearest city in luxury and fine houses under cool trees, surrounded by beautiful gardens, and high walls.

The modern state and nation, is a product of, and serves our economic system. This has been true for at least two or three centuries in the west, and was integral to the expansion and success of western imperialism, with the United States as the most successful example of this historical process. An empire that dwarfs the empires of Rome or Great Britain, but an empire, like them, which is doomed to follow in their footsteps, as all empires go the same way.

The rot really starts when the ruling elite, or oligarchy, becomes detached from the reality of the many and lives in a virtual parallel world. In this virtual Versailles, one slowly begins to believe in mythology one has surrounded oneself with, and this detachment from reality is both dangerous and disasterous. When the elite begin to act like they believe their own lies things are in really bad state.

A dreadful problem in most western "democracies" is that there really is no political opposition anymore. They have all begun to resemble the American twin-party system, which strangles meaningful debate, criticism, and choice. All that's left is carefully controlled ritual. Power, in the hands of few in society, is not up for discussion, and a ruling elite without opposition always leads the empire towards destruction.

Well said Writer. I'll readily admit to having a biased view of our two-party system. And that it's not, as you imply, a two-party system. I'm sure some on both sides fully believe the views they stress. But even those folks know the value of dividing the country into two factions that they can pit against each other and thus distract everyone from the realities. Instead of selling their unique solutions they focus on telling everyone how wrong the other side is. IOW, "I might not have the best answer but the other side is crooked/selfish/naive/etc/etc so you better vote for me otherwise they'll take over". As long as the majority of folks join one tribe or the other it's very difficult to envision any real systemic change. Even worse, when TSHTF, I suspect tribalism will become even worse: frightened people seldom make wise choices IMHO.

Rockman, I have been pleased to read your posts since you hopped on board. I must admit that the two party system does seem to serve a nefarious purpose.Having said that, I laugh when I see some insignificant blogger, like myself, on some insignificant site, like this one, ( face it guys, we may be dealing with an issue of utmost importance, but we're insignificant in impact) emphatically state that Bush is stupid, Cheney is stupid, 9/11 was created by Cheney. Oh wait, doesn't that make him smart if he got away with it. Obama was not born in Hawaii. Somebody just planted the birth announcement in the local paper in case he gat elected president 45 years later. The people writing these things actually think they are the smart ones. Yeh, you don't have to be smart to become president. Your posts are actually reasonable. Nice to have you here.

Rockman --

Here's a question for you and others describing the US one-party system. How does it look in your neck of the woods for local politicians? Really local, like school board and City/Borough/Township/County Council? Where I am, Democrats are deep in the minority and don't get elected, but Republicans seem to be much more sane than the bunch in Congress and on the cable talk shows. Some of them even think the world has been around longer than 6,000 years.

I'm asking out of curiosity. Seems to me the Corporate-owned government is on the federal level, more so than the states and localities.

Seems to me also, that most local politics are truly one-party systems.

California local government is non partisan (city/county/school board/water districts, etc). That means that even a Green Party member can (and did in 2000) win election in Orange County. And it also means that a grassroots candidate can win with very little money. Eastern states are more likely to be partisan on the local level.

Some of them even think the world has been around longer than 6,000 years

So, it has come to this - these are the sane folk ;-)


I think the worlds Governments have excellent reasons to ignore peak oil as a problem.
First and foremost they have actually solved the peak oil problem so as far as they are concerned there simply is no reason to talk about it.

First you have to take a look at your financial system as thats the most important thing since governments control the money thats used to pay taxes. In fact without our fiat currencies we simply could not have the types of governments we have today running massive deficits.

This system is dependent on two types of growth intrinsic growth and steady inflation both allow a government to steadily roll its debt forward paying with ever cheaper dollars.

As and example you take out a loan for 100 dollars in the year 1980 you need only collect enough reventue to retire the interest on the debt in 1990 you borrow 100 again to pay off the 1980 debt but now the currency is say devalued by 50% via underlying inflation.

Indeed as long as you can create inflation and roll your debts the sky is the limit. Only when your creditors finally start to question your ability to pay and inflation becomes deflation do you even begin to have a problem with the nominal outstanding debt.

Thus its important to understand that first and foremost financial games are the absolutely most important thing to the worlds governments everything else is secondary.

Next you have the problem of oil food water etc core commodities in a strained world. As these decline your ability to inflate becomes problematic as your dealing with intrinsic costs increases for the basics leading to natural price inflation from shortage. Attempts at monetary inflation on top become difficult. However all this really means is that money is first spent on the basics and goes into the hands of the sellers of such commodities i.e your money is pooling up in the hands of the commodity sellers. For a very long time its no big deal as all you need to do is create additional debt for them to buy.

Now you can't spur the economy to create the debt to sell to the commodity brokers to allow you to inflate by doing something that increase oil usage as that just intrinsic basic price inflation.

The only solution is to increase the value of goods and services that are primarly created with other cheaper forms of energy you have to leverage the relative price difference between a btu of coal/NG and a btu of oil to create growth. You can arbitrage this differential to create stuff to buy.
And you can offer debt to buy it then sell the debt.

The easiest way to do this is of course buildings. Asset price inflation works like a charm all you need to do is keep the economy of people building houses for themselves going. This means a steady increase in asset prices via expanding debt that translated into equity or real money via ever higher valuations. People that got into the game early invariably reinvest their winnings back into the same assets and of course you make it easy to do so. Secondary spending lifts all boats across your economy.

The money recycled through commodities is no big deal as you have plenty of asset backed debt to sell to recover your currency and manage inflation.

Now of course oil is declining the whole time but so what ?
There are substitutes electric cars NG ethanol etc as long as the great wheel of debt rolls then you simply support these at your leisure. Its not that you don't take action its just you don't really have to freak out and you certainly don't have to make peak oil a issue. Now carbon cutting because of Global Warming is a very enticing way to hide the underlying need to cut because of lack of oil. However only if it means cutting transportation costs as no way can you cut the golden goose driving the engine of coal and NG.

Its important to understand that for global warming coal cannot be touched and only when the solutions are moved to address oil will we see progress as thats the only reason global warming is supported politically.

Its my opinion from my own work that oil production has been declining for almost ten years. So far at least lots of other issues have worked to offset this problem. The move to more and more complex refining leveraging natural gas and heavier oils for example. The aging of the baby boomer demographic in the wealthier countries and the gap between it and the boom in the third world. We have a sort of dip that formed globally with the age distribution weighted at each end of the spectrum and better with the younger people much poorer.

Now this big cycle generates what one would call jobless recoveries as it undulates up and down it sheds people who are in excess. At each stage people are cut out of the game. Housing prices become insane and some refuse to play they are simply run over by the much larger precentage of people willing to ride the game. Cheap debt and coal relentlessly create more and more overvalued buildings.

Of course this is not stable and we are at a low point where its rather obvious we simply have built far more than we need and are asking to much for our building i.e the asset bubble has burst.

But debt is infinite and everyone wants to keep the game going now the excess is hidden in whats called shadow inventory. The beauty is housing is almost like land and you can hide the excess for years and trickle it onto the market as long as you don't have to take your losses.

Same with the stock market etc etc. In general the wealth thats been created is paper equity wealth and in general losses don't need to be acknowledge except when and actual transaction takes place and even then only for that single transaction as the rest of your assets are still modeled to rebound.

Sure the system has problems eventually of course is obviously insolvent and will collapse but thats just a burst of inflation as old currencies are exchanged for new ones either via rapid inflation or a real change i.e the Euro.

Hopefully you can see that peak oil itself is not a problem as long as coal and natural gas can be leveraged to create steel and concrete to build buildings that are massively over valued then notational wealth is created.

As far as oil goes the only real side effect for a long time is that the poorest suffer the most as their fuel cost rise. The rich have quite a bit of luxury demand and can conserve some without actually changing.

This is our solution to peak oil and for the most part it actually works as long as you ignore the debt.
There is absolutely no reason to scare the people by talking about peak oil. They would realize the infrastructure is not all that well suited to a low oil environment but really thats not important since EV's or hybrids will work inferior to a planned substitute yes but doable. Along of course with natural gas and if forced more public transit. As long as the game can be played then falling oil production is really not a issue.

However there is a gaping hole in the game. At some point given that little work has acutally been done to conserver the world economy hits its intrinsic limits hiding the declining oil production. Every economy has a finite and basic level of oil demand and the substitution wedge has not really been addressed. At some point the players in the game are forced to compete directly or oil increasing the price does not naturally drop demand.

The stealthy moves to substitutes are inefficient and simply not scaled to really offset base demand.

Of course the entire time the assumption was made that rising prices would cause production to increase as more marginal oil reserves where brought into production. The whole plan actually rested on the believe that higher and higher prices would result in production increases and thus a slower and slower decline rate in oil production. Indeed for a long time and even now a massive production response is expected to be just around the corner. Today Iraq is the center of attention before it was deep water and the Arctic regions are out there.

In fact the official party line is that 70-80 is a fair price for oil more than enough to spur new production and slow the decline rate and low enough to allow the housing bubble to reform and perhaps allow another one to be created.

If not then its 90-100 etc.

I think the truth is however quite different and the great bet failed I think whats really happening is not only did oil production not respond at all to rising prices but the rate of decline in production increased and everyone missed the export land problem. So in the end they really really screwed up. At the moment the recession and probably various forms of manipulation has allowed a bit of breathing room. Given the blatantly illegal moves made in the financial world right in front of everyone I'd argue its sensible that other major economic indicators from stocks to commodities have been messed with. This includes of course allowing the recession to drag out and not "healing" the economy. Housing prices are kept artificially high for example not allowing a natural economic cycle to take hold etc. With no constraints over the short term anything works for a bit.

The problem is pretty simple and its a catch 22. Medium oil prices are needed to keep the economic engine going however we simply do not have enough oil to support such prices levels. Surprisingly high prices are needed to foster substitution and our current economy laden with debt collapses at these prices. And they don't drive higher oil production anyway.

So because we have chosen this path we now literally have no way out. There is no escape route the last hope is for some massive burst in oil production from Iraq sooner than later and that the acceleration in decline rates and export land somehow are a temporary phenomena.

I think are backs are against the wall and no economy can afford to allow high oil prices to collapse it thus everyone is now only able to create more debt to avert collapse. This means of course that demand does not fall and oil becomes scarce increasing prices and forcing ever more debt to be created to avert collapse. Basically we can't even tread water much less look at alternatives.

Whats really funny is I suspect the big mistake was that our government officials listened to the oil companies and bought into the concept that given the chance with modern technology at some price they could produce all the oil one could ever want. It would not be cheap but supply itself was not the problem. Thats what happens when two liars believe each other. Indeed this decision to play a game of chained lies turned into a circular set of self referential lying and no one it turns out was telling the truth.

Since the price of oil has risen steadily despite many economic indicators hitting values not seen since the depression and many more marking the deepest recession in history. I think the big circle of lies has failed and is collapsing on itself.

It will of course run for a bit longer as its the only game in town but its no longer viable to escape.
Eventually the last real bubble which is the sovereign debt bubble will explode and thats it.

Of course the circle of liars now don't really care they recognize that as the current system shatters the shard themselves are tasty morsels. Of course eating shards of glass is not recommended if you want to live long.

Ch Ch Chainnnnnnn, Chain of Fools! Good stuff...... requires conspiracy though. Who's the captain of this ship of fools?

memmel, when are we going to see your "big bomb"? On the edge of my seat.

(BTW, if you ever need an editor let me know. My Dad had a PhD in english and he was dys. I used to edit his stuff a lot. I made spending $ as a kid reviewing the old man's PhD cannidates' dissertations. Just a thought. I'm a little out of practice, but I'm free!)

Its done in the sense that I'm just convolving convoluted sentences now :)

Send me a email and I'll send you a copy. I had given it to Nate for review but he has stepped down as and editor and gave it to someone else who I don't even know so its in Oildrum limbo ..

My email address is in my bio. I'm happy enough to send it to more people but I'm afraid I'd get swamped by 50 editors with excellent corrections :)

It's important to preserve your flowing style ;-)

Hope you didn't scare Nate off :-()

I'll second that. For OFM below, I too have trouble reading memmel... until I *slow down* enough that I can see/hear the (invisible) punctuation as I read. It's in there. And I find it's pleasant to read thoughts like these slowly.

Hi Memmel,

I can more or less follow your arguments but it's not easy , reading you is like readinfg Faulkner's strean of consciousness stuff.

I can't exactly put my finger on it but nobody 's explainations of our current financial set up quite adds up for me.

For instance, why would any sane manager of money ever hold long term debt ?

The only real reason I can see is that there is a dead serious ulterior motive -perhaps a FORCED MOTIVE,a requirement built into the system -obviously for it to exist , somebody must hold it.

Why are the holders as individuals and institutions unable to avoid holding long term debt?

Perhaps they are compensated in some way not so obvious and seldom talked about.

I'm all ears.

Hmm good question. I think at its heart is the problem of making money with money. By this I mean creating a situation where you generally get paid no matter what happens.

I let my friend borrow 100 dollars in exchange for 110 in a week. If he does not pay I kill him.
I've got no motivation to help him come up with the 110 he has to do it on his own and I make 10 bucks in a few minutes with the transaction. So given the time I spent lets say I'm fast and made the loan and later accepted payment in 1 minute and did 60 of these in and hour. I'm making 100 bucks and hour doing nothing really. ( Have to kill a few people every now and then but ... )

With fractional reserve lending I actually only need 10 dollars in cash and allowed to create 90 out of thin air. When I get my 100 back at the end of the week I can do 1000 the next week etc.
I'm making money hand over fist.

It gets better I can then take my outstanding loans bundle them up and sell them to another bank which give me cash I can then lend at 10:1 even before the loans matured. My partner in crime is allowed to book the purchased loans as and asset good as cash and lend on them also. And of course I buy his loans from time to time.

I'm simplifying but you get the picture. Now all this debt is not real money i.e its promises to pay in the future you buy and sell debt because you don't actually have a whole lot of cash on hand.

And of course I think you recognize that over time the leverage levels become unknown.
Not a problem you create insurance to hedge your exposure and buy and sell that to each other.
With insurance even the stinkiest debt can be made to smell like roses.

So the reason for all the debt is there really is not any real cash sitting around or what we would consider money. Your savings is of course lent out the amount of paper money is minuscule vs the debt.
Gold or hard assets valued at fire sale prices a fraction of the debt.

Of course you can see if defaults become widespread then offing your debtors becomes difficult sure we have replaced physical killing most of the time with a bad credit rating but as far as the credit world goes a defaulter becomes a non person that simply does not exist and is forced to grub around paying cash in a world where everyone else has credit. Its hard to compete in a world where others lever up.

So its not that people want to hold long term debt exactly just the way the world works there is nothing else no "real" money exists any more that cannot be turned into collateral for the creation of more debt. Given that the promissory notes circulated with cash are you guessed actually debt instruments themselves there is literally nothing that passes for what we traditionally think of as money.

Now people act like our current monetary system is as good is cash i.e all the debt is considered to have and intrinsic value thats quite high but its really just old fashioned thinking. Since people are willing to exchange goods and services for higher quality debt then it acts like money.

Now the real money is not here but in the fact you have given up the right to and asset on failure to pay a debt. If you don't pay your debts then your assets have liens and they are legally seized.

Your a debt slave having relinquished your rights to actually own anything in exchange for renting it via borrowing money. The government of course enforces these rights killing you if necessary.
Try hanging out in a foreclosed home and refuse to leave and see if you make it out alive. If so then its by chance and you will be thrown in jail for a long time.

I was not lying about them killing you they really will if you don't surrender their property.

This ability to execute the debtor if they don't hand over the assets or collateral for a debt is what gives the debt value its literally and eventually backed with your very life not the actual asset itself. So called unsecured debts such as credit cards are secured by a virtual killing in the world of credit ratings. Generally people with poor credit end up being poverty stricken living in sketchy areas so it could well result in your physical death eventually.

So you can see how it in my opinion really works we have actually signed our own death warrants if we try and buck the system thus debt in the end has value because you literally have put your life on the line using it. If you don't then well you still have as like I said you live in iffy conditions.

Given we have property taxes and you can't actually really own anything and not play the debt game there is no real way out. You can of course lesson your involvement but if you put your money in a bank then your not really changing things its still lent out. Inflation will devalue any cash holdings.
Gold well golds gold and is manipulated so it sometimes works and sometimes does not as a store of value.

You can lesson your involvement in the system if you own your house and land outright and build stuff or grow food and sell it for cash quickly converting everything but taxes into real assets of some sort.
Obviously you still have to play the tax game and you still have to accept and pay with notes but by converting money as fast as you can to hard assets with no debt your limiting your involvement.
Bartering as much as you can helps but can run afoul of the IRS. So you need to be low key and barter in a trusted group.

Of course you have to pay your taxes using reserve notes you can't barter with the IRS.

I'm actually working on alternative currencies helping with the software.


There are huge reasons to use markets or money for transactions instead of pure barter but no reason these markers need to be tied into loans/debt interest like our current currency systems.
Intrinsically they are just liquidity instruments allowing you to break a series of barter transaction out over time and space. Thus there are fundamental reasons to not immediately clear all trades as pure barter transactions in real time.

You can even synthesize a certain amount of long term zero interest loans via cash flow and asset backing.

For example store owners can lend out or create money now buy backing it with a % of cash future monthly income. If they pool this together they can create a sizable loan that backed by both a reasonable expectation of future income and the asset itself. If need be even interest payments on the loan is doable. In default however the people making the loan forego the the interest in default and have to clear any difference between the asset and loan amount.

Theoretically even our current banking system has this built into it. They are supposed to keep a healthy loan loss reserve and if their loans go bad they are covered out of the loss reserve that cannot be lent out. If they don't have the money its kicked up the chain until eventually the US government is responsible. Along the way of course investors in the bank equity holders etc are wiped out and they lose all their money. The government should theoretically zero the book from its own excess savings or at worst allocating tax revenue till its accounts are again positive.

Given that the government is really the lender of last resort having them run a negative balance via promising their own tax revenue is alarming :)

Esp of course when they start doing bailouts of a fractional reserve banking system.

Letting them do it at 4% interest or less is beyond insane.

Given in my monetary system loans can only be made via a combination of hard money loans or accumulated credit and a small percentage of the current revenue stream off real wealth creating transactions you should see the difference. The ability to expand the monetary supply beyond offsetting real assets is very limited. Its good enough to stay alive and fund longer term investment in hard assets but not much else indeed its just a liquid form of bartering. Things like road construction are really really hard to do and require saving for a long time to accomplish. And I assure you you build to last when you finally are able to build. If such a society decided to send a man to the moon they would be doing it in a real colonization effort expected to yield a profit. And they would save and plan for decades.
A space program in such a society would move painfully slowly but would accomplish real gains each step of the way.

Obviously war would be crazy indeed since 99% of "government" would be local you really would not even have a real government special purpose collective interest groups perhaps ala space program universities etc. But they would operate under a clear charter and be invested in no concept of general taxes. Everything would be billed and paid for via simple transparent accounting. Think various types of co-ops. Indeed group efforts would probably be treated even more rigorously then safer daily business's and have to run exceptionally well to keep their funding. You would have to be seriously on your toes to keep a charter and believe in what your doing to even seek group funding. It would have to be a vocation that you did because you enjoyed it given far better less stressful jobs out of the public eye are available almost certainly for higher pay and better stability then a charter that could be dissolved or stripped at the next review.

Everyone would have a line item veto able to opt out of anything at their choosing. Of course they probably will collectively entrust a auditor to vote their veto but they don't have too if they don't want too. They can decide periodically to opt out say during annual or multi-annual review if they opted in in the first place.

You don't believe in abortion then don't pay for abortion services don't believe in church schools then don't pay etc etc etc. Sure perhaps fundamental religious nuts might gain control but I suspect not and its really your choice if you stick with the system.

Its in and of itself neither good nor bad but unless you disband it it forces a sort of steady accounting and balancing that makes it difficult to really corrupt for good or bad reasons.

If you have a good social system above this that supports individuality and freedom of choice i.e mind your own business and don't harm someone but other than that your free to do as you wish then I suspect it would be self reinforcing.

Of course it would be difficult to turn this expansive individualism into collective action but thats by design it should be really hard to do anything new that required a collective buy in. And your dealing with a culture that naturally supported individual freedoms at the expense of collective wealth in the first place.

Thus as long as your willing to accept living a comfortable village life as the norm and control population such that wealth steadily accrues in a renewable fashion then there is a way to make solid gains and even do big things. Its a lot slower pace of life than today but also I'd argue you would have a tremendous amount of spare time as you optimized the staying alive problem.

Nothing preventing widespread use of robotics and automation to free people of mundane tasks as lot as it was built to last for a very long time. Also no reason not to allow people to do jobs they enjoy and not automate them. I'd guess you would not even have to work if you did not want to but I'd suspect your right to have children would be rescinded if you don't contribute. Obviously I'd expect fertility to be controlled with people sterilized at birth in a reversible procedure. Reproduction would be a right or privilege that would need to be gained. That unfortunate state of events is the only really onerous part. Becoming fertile is the problem.

Whats interesting is it seems that way back in the hunter gatherer days fertility was a huge issue. Way to much evidence exists that people had a hard time having children much less raising them to adulthood.

Here is probably the key.

Occupation of household head was taken as a measure of socioeconomic status. Total fertility rates were analysed for three periods: pre-famine, famine and post-famine. Overall fertility declined due to the famine by 34%, but this was compensated partially by a 17% increase in the post-famine period. Fertility of women of all ages and socioeconomic groups was affected by the famine, a more pronounced effect being observed among the poor. Fertility showed a higher post-famine recovery among women in the middle socioeconomic groups and in those aged 25-34 years.

Thus I suspect that for 100's of thousands of years we where actually constrained by famine induced low fertility rates. This coupled with high but perhaps not as high as we think infant mortality made expanding the population difficult. Since groups where disperse disease was actually probably rare even flues and colds although deadlier since immunity would be low. As hunting grew problematic groups where forced to move and migrate not because of lack of food in general but because the periods of starvation impacted fertility to the point the group rapidly started to dwindle below replacement birth rate.

Obviously this moving and trekking about often into another group territory with the resulting social conflict limited technical evolution to a slow pace. And realistically you did not need a espresso machine if your a hunter gatherer.

Sorry for the long post but my point is that for a very very long time natural conditions worked to actually enforce a real fertility problem amongst our ancestors right into the beginnings of modern agriculture and even beyond for quite a while. This is actually the natural state of things as far as humans for the most part coexisting with the rest of the biosphere. Artificially reinstating this barrier or low fertility rate while living the good life is not wrong. Of course you can go back to being hunter gatherers and do it naturally your pick. However its really simply restoring balance to the system and bring people back into line with the biosphere. Now going all the way back to money obviously you don't really need true money in such a stagnant society that was also steadily creating real wealth every generation. Indeed in time convincing people to have kids could readily become a issue as to many choose to put off the effort.

Sorry for the long post but hopefully you see that if we actually did slow way down and take our time then within a few generations I suspect we would easily advance well past where we are today. Collective wealth would almost certainly be invested in the best route to move forward even if it took a long time to accomplish thinking long term would be natural. Now is most often just blown on baubles for the rich. I just can't see such a society not being able to quickly blow past our own wasteful culture even as it does it slowly. Each move is made with authority and each advance is fully utilized.
Indeed research into many areas would be the norm not the exception. It would be a society of PhD's if you will where being and expert was normal. But so different its hard to relate it back to our measure of knowledge a maker of fine furniture would be as respected as a mathematician if not more so. I see a society of artists where art takes many forms from the functional to the beautiful. It would urge mathematicians to create a way to express their work in a natural way just like poetry. Indeed if they cannot then people that can understand them and translate and express their work would be in high regard.

Sorry again to go here but I don't know how to explain where we are now except to contrast it with the road we did not take. When you think about what we could have done vs what we have done then its easier to see what we gave up for the fast fix and drive thru society. What we really lost by taking the route we have taken is immeasurable I suspect that in the long run very little of the technology and even science we have created today will last. I just think that in our mad rush we missed some really big things. To go on a sort of tangent the egnima of dark matter and dark energy heightens my suspicion that perhaps just perhaps we really don't know anything and are off on a failed branch not just in the way our economy works and lifestyle works but fundamentally on a dead in road scientifically and even mathematically. Our inability to create a real unified theory with our current knowledge base reinforces this. In computers the fact we have failed to create real artificial intelligence despite the early promise of the area again suggest we might have taken a wrong turn.

Classical physicists where dead certain they were correct with just a few small issues that needed a bit of work but in the end they where shown to be totally wrong and only correct in extreme cases of the more fundamental theory. I think we are collectively in the same boat but worse we have not even identified the little corners that need some fixing that will turn out to blow our own knowledge base away just like what happened back at the turn of the century. In our mad dash we don't even have a clue about what we missed or when we missed it.

Sorry for the tangent again but my point is I really think not only have we lost and wasted a lot I think we have even lost more than we will ever know. Eventually this will be corrected and our wondrous achievements superseded and left rusting if you will as a sad and terrible period of waste and fundamental mistakes. Not all of it sure but enough that it will I think be blatantly obvious we where on a dead end path and worse going in the wrong direction entirely. Of course this is the basic reason I'm not a scientist as such a belief is not conductive to working as a scientist any more than is rejection of debt conductive to living in todays society. But I don't really care.

Now if I don't get to first place on word count rankings I'm not sure what I'll do I mean there are important things in life :)

Maybe informing the populace about peak oil is like informing a cancer patient about the terminal nature of their disease. If there’s nothing you can do, why talk about it.

You can tell the patient about the terrible treatments and the amputations they will have to endure with a 50/50 chance of success. The lung cancer patient may say, “You do what you have to do doctor, but don’t take my cigarettes away.” In response to peak oil the typical U.S. citizen will say, “You do what you have to do Congressman, but don’t take my SUV, McMansion, and “American Way of Life” away.”

It seems our leaders want to make us as comfortable as possible until there is no tomorrow.

It seems our leaders want to make us as comfortable as possible until there is no tomorrow.

Ha! Our "leaders" want to keep milking the cash cow for their corporate controllers as long as they can keep the old girl on her feet!

Of course, it's all for our benefit...............

In response to peak oil the typical U.S. citizen will say, “You do what you have to do Congressman, but don’t take my SUV, McMansion, and “American Way of Life” away.”

It seems our leaders want to make us as comfortable as possible until there is no tomorrow.

Yes, your leaders don't want to tell you the cruel truth. They want to to live in a fools' paradise where you will continue to vote for them.

However, at this point in time, the SUV has gone to the auto wreckers, the McMansion has been foreclosed on by the bank, and many Americans think the American Way of Life is coming to an end.

The latter is not entirely true. It is not coming to an end, but it is changing. In fact, it is becoming more like the rest of the world. Americans will have to own fewer numbers of smaller cars, drive less, and live in smaller houses in more densely populated cities.

That is probably the hardest thing for most Americans to accept. Many won't accept it at all, but in the final analysis their opinion doesn't matter. It will just be what happens to them. Their leaders will promise to stop it, but they can't.

Professor Christie Manning, Psych Dept. from Macalester College,
wrote this great guide to helping communicate with
people about environmental topics and how to motivate them to take
sustainable actions. I have found this a great resource for two major

1. It has a lot of great ideas for how to talk to people in a way they
can hear (Transition Towns positive message for the "heart" is a great

2. You can see these tactics being used by advertisers to influence
you to purchase things, and it helps to know what they are doing to
block such appeals. The coal companies have applied these tactics
during the climate change battle.

The handbook was published by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
and you can download it here:


"The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior: A handbook introducing
research-based tips from psychology to help you in efforts to empower
sustainability in your personal life, community, and workplace. (2009)

How does one bring about voluntary change? It requires an
understanding of the complex, interacting factors that influence

Psychology, the scientific study of human behavior, can provide
valuable insight into these factors, and how they can be overcome.
With the help of psychology, environmental programs can focus their
resources on specific, cost-effective methods. Unfortunately, few
people working directly on solving environmental problems are aware of
the many psychological findings that could be helpful in shaping
environmental programs.

This handbook introduces research-based tips from psychology to
empower sustainability in your personal life, community, and
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Thanks for this, Lee, and welcome to the forum.

Forgot the Jimmy Carter effect.
Politicians may have learned from Carter's mistake and refuse to contemplate peak oil simply because they would be voted out of office.

How well we are able to deal with post peak oil depends on its onset and the combined rate of post peak decline and increasing demand. If every car purchased in the U.S. was a hybrid (7 - 8 million vehicles), the savings would be roughly equivalent to a 1% reduction in consumption. At the same time, 50% of U.S. miles driven are urban surface streets with another 25% driven on urban highways (see “Method for Identifying Rural, Urban and Interstate Driving in Naturalistic Driving Data”). Thus, we can deal with a 1% - 4% annual drop for about 10 to 15 years, after that, it will be very difficult because we will run out of non-infrastructure ways to economize (telecommuting, urban buses, etc.). NOTE - This ignores the cost of post peak oil, which might cut this time frame down to just a few years.

Unfortunately, it seems that our political institutions will not recognize that we are involved with a disaster until several years after the peak or another financial crisis hits, when it cannot be ignored. The lack of interest in why we nearly had another Great Depression shows this.

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” – Winston Churchill

At that point, there will be an intense power struggle between oil suppliers and the industrial nations. Neither can survive without the other. The exporting nations need industrial expertise & products and the industrial nations will be starved for oil. We very well may see many rounds of brinkmanship with one or more wars. Of all nations, industrial ones with remaining fossil fuel and mineral reserves will be in the best shape to cope with this period (Canada, U.S. Russia, China, Venezuela, etc.).

The other interesting change will be in the world monetary system. What will be the reaction when it becomes apparent that a country may not be able to pay back their debt? In addition, no industrial nation (not even China) can afford the cost of achieving sustainability (2 to 10 times annual revenues for 30 - 50 years or more) using the current financial system of taxes, loans and debt. Therefore, I foresee several possible outcomes:

1) Modified Currency Control: A modified controlled change rate system is created, run by the largest industrial nations and resource exporters. The system would allow central banks to print money as needed to achieve sustainability, while limiting inflation due to an inflated money supply. This type of system would only work if the post-peak decline is low (~ 1% to 2%)

2) Lifeboat Cartel: Beyond a 2% annual decline, the current banking system is scrapped and central banks are nationalized. The industrial nations and natural resource suppliers basically form a self-preservation cartel. International exchanges will be based on a barter system that uses natural resources, technology, expertise, and manufactured goods rather than money. If you don’t have a critical resource, expertise or good, then you are on you are on your own.

3) Resource Wars: Beyond 4%, militaries are used to acquire and defend resources. The first glimpse of this may have been Putin’s announcement last week that Russia will begin to start working on new military offensive weapons (see “US rejects Russian missile shield concerns”). The justification was the U.S. defensive missiles, but they may also be looking at future resource wars and the need to be able to bring muscle to the resource bargaining table. Once this future is realized, also look for nations to either sidle up to those with WMD or begin developing their own. Terrorist groups will also gain significant power as they realize that a few well-placed bombs can significanlty curtail the supply of a critial resource. Both resource attaks and WMD's will become the ultimate bargaining chips.

First time commenter, long time lurker here as well.

It's been my assumption that governments understand Peak Oil and it's implications, at least, at the very top, and by the elites who direct the actions of governments.

I think this is so because it explains the actions of government better than the explanations government gives for those actions.

I assumed when the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afganistan that it was to establish a permanent American presence on top of the largest remaining concentration of oil.
Every thing that's happened since has pointed to this being the real reason behind the occupation.

It seems likely to me that government knows full well that there is no one for one replacement for the energy provided by oil. There is no combination of alternative fuels that will run this civilization.
Some other, much smaller and less complex civilization, sure. But not this one.

That's why I also assume that the U.S. will also invade and occupy Iran within a few years. If not Obama, then his immediate successor will do so.

The government dosen't give a rat's ass about the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Al Qaida is simply a convienent foil to justifiy our presence there.
There's no oil that I'm aware of in Afghanistan, so I assume that we invaded it to cut Russia off and have a staging area for the upcoming invasion of Iran.

I've very much enjoyed the Oil Drum over the past few years. It's been a fountain of information and commentary, and mostly clear eyed consideration of the problems we face.

Thank you very much, Oil Drum!

"The pillage of ... Afghanistan." Really? Are we walking away with, what, the opium? This sort of naive claim undermines the whole article. If there were some sort of common case out there for how Afghanistan is being "pillaged" perhaps it would not have to be argued in this context. But there's not, even among those who believe we should withdraw tomorrow. (I'm not one of such, but I've been in long exchanges with them elsewhere. I've never seen "pillage" claimed before.)

And then we have the notion that "capitalism" cannot survive without ever-increasing oil consumption. This one is common here on The Oil Drum, so perhaps can be tolerated without explicit argumentation. But it requires setting up "capitalism" as a bit of a straw man, on terms separate from what it most essentially is. What capitalism essentially is is a system where somewhat-independent sources of capital are free to fund somewhat-independent business ventures. If capitalism is to "fail" then there must be some proposed alternative arrangement. All that seems on offer - other than total collapse of humanity - would seem to be bringing all capital into the service of the state, and all businesses likewise under its command. In other words, what both the Soviets and the Chinese Communists gave up on because it plain doesn't work in this world.

So you have a thesis on how despite those abject failures it will now turn out to work better than capitalist arrangements just if the single factor of oil availability should reverse its trend? Yes, that reversal is trouble for capital. But it's also trouble for systems of pure central control. The case to make against "capitalism" must argue that for some reason the advantage now goes to pure central control ... or else it must argue for some other model not dependent on central control, yet neither allowing independent sources of capital to fund independent businesses. I can't make sense of that, but perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Hey, I take peak oil seriously. It's been a large factor in where I live, what I do, and how I improve my house. But these notions of our nation as bent on "pillage" and "capitalism" as doomed look as naive to me as the notion on the other side that demand will always magically create supply. This isn't surprising. We humans, individually, just are never that smart. We've all got vast blind spots and accept "wisdom" that certainly doesn't really make the grade. Still, if the sane response to the coming oil shortage is to attempt to combine Soviet economics with a totally pacifist society, I'll be happy to stay crazed.

Mmm, good point on Afghanistan, whit. I should have said rape. Sorry if that spoiled the query for you.

The question of capitalism is more complex, surely, than you or I can set out in short order. I do not claim to have a clear picture of an alternative to the embedded institutions and culture of contemporary capitalism, though I've heard a many tempting suggestions over the years, many (most?) of which tend toward localized and, often, collective, rather than individual, pursuits. In this sense Marxists have taken up a lot of ecology, and ecologists have (it seems to me) taken on a fair bit of Marxism. But let's be serious, Marxism - or socialism - was not realized in the actually existing, Stalin- and Mao-digested centrally planned behemoths of the 20th century. Neither capitalism nor socialism has existed in anything like a pure form in a modern state. Markets are widely manipulated by the state (and for the state), and any planning has to deal with the (black) market of human needs and social networks.

At any rate, in my post I don't argue for the disappearance of capitalism as such, but for a significant adjustment to the rules under which it is conducted. This may mean an end to certain aspects - global commodity chains, certain subsidies (or the culture of political subsidization) - I don't claim a crystal ball, but it doesn't seem a stretch to expect the conditions of capital accumulation are going to change substantially in the near future - and quite possibly to the further advantage of capital, at least relative to that of the workers/peasants who have always constituted an important source of surplus value. (The pillage of our fossil acreage is another, of course.) Whether the rules will change so much that we can no longer see the system as capitalist remains to be seen.

Why does capital invest in business? Because it is going to shrink?

With shrinking sources of readily available and easily transportable highly concentrated energy, most enterprises will be shrinking. Sure, some lucky sods will be the next ones to invest in what ever enterprises will temporarily be rising, but these will be the exception more and more as things go forward.

So as a pervasive SYSTEM, it is hard to see how capitalism--an economic system based on capital being able to rely on getting a good return on their investment in business--will not dwindle.

What replaces it is anyone's guess. You seem to think the only alternatives are "total collapse of humanity" or absolute totalitarian Stalinism, which amounts to the same thing.

Maybe you're right.

But maybe there are other possibilities.

The Oil Drum is now being critiqued in real time by other web sites:

This one claims this post assumes the Peak Oil is a global disaster when it is not.

Yet, interestingly, rather than confront their own assumption that peak oil is the global disaster they make it to be, this article at The Oil Drum ignores this and concludes that non-believers around the world are either A) suffering from psychological 'cognitive biases' or B) in it together in a giant global cover up (combining many enemy governments at odds with each other, plus competing corporations we might add).

The Oil Drum makes news.

See for yourself:

Peak Oil Believers Wonder Why Every Government Ignores Them, Conclude It's Due To A Giant Cover Up


Peak Oil is not a global disaster. We are worrying about nothing. Problem solved. Wasn't that easy?

LOL as long as financial games allow you to keep blowing bubbles as the last one pops then basics such as energy and food are just part of the equation that goes into cooking up the next bubble.

Nothing a few more sprinkles of debt can't solve. Its when you can no longer blow bubbles that it becomes a issue.

I don't believe our rulers have hit the point in general that they think more bubbles are not possible.

Heck we have yet to try the obvious which is another World War.

With that said our rulers rulers recognize that the future will be one where a much smaller pie is shared amongst a much smaller elite.

This means of course that some of the TBTF's are indeed going to fail. This is banks companies, countries, states, other local governments etc etc etc. Failure always leaves stranded assets that have long term value. Even if its just working the land for yearly crop yields or stripping copper out of abandoned homes. There is always some sort of residual value no matter how small. Same goes for excess population.

Of course know one knows for sure when the last bubble is going to pop it makes tons of sense that the real last bubble is sovereign debt however its popping point is unknown and insolvent command economies historically have lasted for a very long time well past the point they where obviously dead esp if at war.

How can something like peak oil be important to a bubble blowing economy ? Its either a cause for more aggressive creation of debt or a come to Jesus moment move to a sustainable economy.

Aliens just as well come visit or we get hit by a meteorite. The dissonance between the way the world works and the concept of peak oil is of the same caliber.

To admit that peak oil is a serious problem first and foremost is and admission that its and even we cannot control just like we have no say on when/if aliens land or a meteor hits the earth. Not that we don't make movies that often result in us controlling these impossibilities but thats shows the depths of our delusional nature.

Worse after admission a bit of fact finding would bring into question a long long list of things that happened bringing into question the fundamental ability of our current elite to govern.
Obviously a dramatic change in leadership and indeed down to the core of the society is needed as you realize whats not been done. At best your talking about the fall of our current governments and most of the elite class in general your talking about shaking the very foundations of the civilization.

You have to be a stark raving lunatic to suggest that not only is the entire setup a giant lie but that worse eventually we actually cannot do anything about the situation. Our peak oil alien is not going to catch the flue.

Given of course the underlying problem is sharing less resources with more people its rather obvious that real solutions require the population level to drop. And in the end thats why this is a real lunatic fringe issue and we we cannot solve the problem because we are the problem. The alien or meteor or peak oil force that cannot be stopped is really us. We are the source of our own destruction.

Thats not something I expect the mainstream media to take up and any one that understands peak oil at all realizes quickly what the real problem is. Many chose to assume there exists some sort of variant of the silver bullet. Oil can't got to X price because people can't afford it there fore it wont happen.
We will switch to EV's or car pool therefore again X can't happen.

Of course X has this nasty habit of being some price thats higher every time its mentioned. About the only thing that has happened is now people think that X is less than the last high of 140 or perhaps slightly higher.

What few want to consider is what if there is really no upper bound to X indeed what if X continues to increase until the oil based civilization itself collapses ?

That does not mean it has to be a linear increase or assume the length of time required however what if the only choice is collapse either on purpose in a controlled way or by force ?

If true then obviously the underlying issue is of course really population and the longer you ignore it the more likely that its and uncontrolled collapse.

I just can't see how people would be willing to except the message that they have a choice of a very hard road and miserable life by todays standards for decades or almost certain death given the odds.

Many people aware of peak oil don't believe such a message much less the general population.
They may not dismiss it but almost everyone is at heart a silver bullet believer of some sort.

Heck even I believe that certain enclaves will make it. I could be right and I could be dreadfully wrong. Survivalists with their little bunkers and stash's believe they can hold up hold on and eventually walk out into some sort of new Eden.

My enclave concept is nothing more than a bit larger bunker but perhaps in the end you don't make it your bunker is overrun and then the survivors of that are further decimated until in the end if humanity does make it at all its back to the stone age. I can't even except such and out come and I'm as doomer as it gets.

Eventually then you have to have your own little bit of dream world or silver bullet. Perhaps the fact that mine is more somber than most but less than others does not matter. Maybe in the end just letting the party goes until it fails is not all that bad really. We have nuclear weapons and obviously if we start tossing those around all bets are off plus biological and all the other horrors.
The chance of the entire world peacefully powering down is more remote than even them deciding they needed too in principal.

In fact surprisingly the best solution seems to actually be to allow the delusion to last as long as possible such that when it finally fails its catastrophic enough to rip the worlds nations apart esp the US. Without a country our military becomes a well armed group of bandits without the oil and support infrastructure to wage a systematic war. The need for large scale nuclear war is gone. There is no one left to bomb on a massive scale. Thats not to say nukes and other nasty weapons won't be used but without the command and control and logistic support any war will be local with the high tech weapons system rapidly losing utility with no replacement.

So in a really even crazier sort of way national suicide is probably the best answer. Thus surprisingly I'm not sure I want our current rulers with their supporting military industrial complex to try and change I think I'm better off in general if they actually do collapse and I take my chances with the local warlord who at least needs me as cannon fodder for a war over land that can be planted and used to feed myself.

I should print this post and save it and perhaps get a bit safer position :)

And this is one of those amazing things about truly complex systems somehow they actually do think given we don't understand what thought itself is understanding how complex systems seem capable of performing cognitive acts is impossible. Somehow and I'm not sure how our own complex thinking system has probably determined the best course of events and will follow them I think I'm beginning to realize that somehow our system managed to realize it had to collapse itself or face true extinction. Complex systems somehow manage to develop and aptitude for some sort of consciousness or thought along with evolutionary capacity. I'm guessing of course but given I believe this is possible I think I've now guessed right on the chosen outcome. Somehow surprisingly the system actually managed to choose the optimum solution. Understanding it is difficult and I may have well let my bias to enclaves cause me to misunderstand but thats just a possible result. No matter what if you think about it the current system literally has to crash. Other outcomes are certainly possible some sort of global government and even more control but I don't see that as likely with the underlying system falling apart.

In any case its a interesting conclusion and offers a reason why empires collapse and that because its the only viable outcome. The only real solution is of course to one day quit building empires that collapse but of course that requires guess what ?

Population control.

Think Jimmy Carter: We had an oil embargo in 1973 which caused hardship. We had oil disruptions due to the the Iranian revolution in 1979. Jimmy Carter implements an energy policy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He looses election to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Reagan dismantles Carter's energy policies. George Bush in the 2006 State of Union Address says "And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world." Bush did nothing to act on his statement. We could have a serious oil disruption at any moment due to our dependence on oil from unstable parts of the worlds. We don't even have the political will to tackle this problem of a serious disruption. People won't believe there is a peak oil issue until we can't get gas for our cars. As far as most are concerned, $4 per gallon gas was caused by the various boogie men (OPEC, oil companies, speculators, ...) manipulating prices not peak oil The general public doesn't get peak oil so even if politician and government get it, they won't do anything. Once the crisis is obvious, things will happen.

Now I think China understands peak oil. They are scrambling to lockup oil around the world. But they are also working very hard on renewable energy. They may have some concern about global warming but what they are really after is energy in all forms, all much as they can get.

I've wondered about China & India w.r.t. AGW and peak oil.

Climate Change will have devasting effects on these countries as Himalayan glaciers will be gone and the rivers start running dry in summer. This is likely to completely destabilize both these countries.

Yet most people in China don't view AGW as bad - unlike in India or Bangladesh.

One thing that they have which we don't is a history of government control of the economy. Both can easily implement oil rationing. They have large (and getting larger) train networks. They can adopt to peak oil till AGW does them in.

When sea levels start to rise in a serious way, both China and South Asian will be in a lot of trouble. Think Shanghai and many other coastal cities underwater.

And then there's Bangladesh.

But disappearance of glaciers, disruption of monsoon patterns, and other climate-related shifts will probably have done much of the damage by then.

rbach -- based upon their actions China has been PO aware since at least the early 90's. Folks outside the industry didn't even take note back then. In the mid 90's China purchased an oil field in Vz for over $150 million. The field was producing less than 200 bo/day. That's not a mistype. Another company had bought a similar field several years before. With horizontal drilling technology they took that field from less than 100 bo/day to 40,000 bo/day. Once again the advantage of a gov't monopoly: they just do what they think they have to do. I'm sure when some low price periods hit TPTB in China had some second thoughts. But it's paid of in the long run: China is Vz's go-to-partner today. And that's oil the Gulf Coast refiners thought would always be theirs for the asking.

Cock-up or conspiracy?


Every time.

Many of us here spend a lot of time arguing the details, but this wide-angle view of governmental policies and actions does tie a lot of the big issues into a pretty neat bundle.

No politician wants to be the next Jimmy Carter.

It has taken the better part of two centuries for most of the human race to forget how to live without fossil fuels. It will take us a long time to remember. This discussion is part of that remembering.

Have patience. In our internet age we're accustomed to instant responses. Life isn't like that. Turning ideas into cultural reality takes time. In this case, maybe generations.

Keep talking. Keep working towards individual solutions in our own lives and in our own communities. Don't wait for any government to help.

I tried four or five times to alert my representative to the House of Representatives about the coming global depletion crises. Each try I recommended, if nothing else, that she have a one-on-one hour long lunch with Roscoe Bartlett. I believe my concerns were filed in the circular waste basket. Lately I checked-in on a petroleum related issue with an senior staff person to the congresswoman, a staff person that I know and respect. Seems a second constituent has weighed-in with the Congresswoman on global petroleum depletion -- managed to stir-up some attention if not concern. Perhaps those that will elicit the response from our "leaders" will be the investment-financial types -- ignorant of the science behind global petroleum depletion and generally heavily invested and self-directed in the resource. As a Geologist I prefer that our "leaders" listen to the scientists. As an alert patriot I believe the direction, and it will be the wrong direction, is and will come from those with the lions share of money.Quite sobering and lending strongly to a pejorative view of the future.

Hi Tarwater,

Here's a specific action you and your colleagues can do, WRT to your Congresswoman. And your State legislators.

Copy the petition, gather 5 signatures and take it into a meeting.

With respect to all you drummers who seems to miss that we live in an epoch where faith (in everything)is rising and reason is falling. I believe that the arrogance of our civilization has made most people think we are better than previously demised ones. Don't you believe that other civilizations had their drummers too and they were ignored too.
Toynbee summarized the demise of civilizations in his study of history in two words "Challenge" and "Response" and our blind faith in capitalism and its doctrine of growth is making us blind to even see the challenge.

I have just written the following, specifically on the GFC, but it also has some applications here.

I have heard many reasons for the current GFC, including the original suggestion regarding sub-prime mortgages.

And, whilst those sub-prime mortgages would have been a factor, it is unlikely that they were “the silver bullet”, that killed the entire Global economy!

In fact, I would suggest that there was/is no single factor or magic bullet. The culprit was/is more likely to be a combination of factors at play, around a small time frame.

Some of those factors are old human traits, such as Greed and the other deadly sins are involved I’m sure, as well as the sin of “omission to plan by not including likely changes” and power, both personal & Political.

The current versions of Political (Democratic ?) and Economic (Capitalism & Free Market) structures are also involved, due to “Exponential Growth” being the very heart of the system and an absolute requirement, for the system to continue to function.

Also, given the nature of some decisions like the following and others, it is likely that Conspiracy theories/facts will abound for quite some time -
1) The FED holding down interest rates abnormally long after 9/11.
2) The decision to invade Iraq, not go after Bin Laden.
3) The decisions by many governments to go for massive “bailouts” and “economic stimuli”, although those in power had to know these bailouts were anti Capitalist to the core and that the stimulus programs would only be effective, if the cause/s of the GFC were short term issues that could be resolved by increasing public confidence, which they are not.
4) Starting Sub-prime & other hybrid mortgage programs, just at a time when those providing the facility and who then chopped & diced it worldwide must have or should have known that the Aging Global population & the shrinking Global Population growth, would ensure that demand for housing would inevitably start to shrink and continue to shrink between 2005 to 2030 and probably for some time after that.

However, on top of our human traits, our systems and the likely conspiracies, the following major changes from our medium term past have all combined to ensure that this time period is a tipping point in human history and that the next 200 years will be nothing like the last 200 years –
1) Aging Population
The Baby Boomer Boom of the last 60 years, but particularly the last 30 years, has come to an end around 2005.
The Boom is currently morphing into a bust of historic proportions, as the Debt built up over the last 30 years is reversed in a massive de-leveraging of the financial system. Debt is now both an origanal disease cause, as well as a symptom of the other factors at play. As the current system is, in fact, built on “exponential Growth”, the de-leveraging process will be messy and require core changes to the Monetary system.

2) Total Global Population Decline
In isolation, the Aging Global Population would have been difficult enough, but the Aging Population has some help?
The Global Population Growth has been slowing for decades and some countries are already showing Population declines, but with 20-30 years that decline will be Global. The effects of this Global decline, together with the Aging effects, will make massive reductions to the “Expected Demand” across nearly all “Products & Services”.

3) Energy Decline
Together, the combined effects of Aging & Population Decline on the Status quo, as far as the Politics & Economics systems, is already significant, but they will be historic go forward.
However, there are yet two more major changes coming, the first being Peak Oil. There are two significant components to Peak Oil, the first is the realisation that we have used more than half of the total Global reserves and when that occurs Oil starts to experience tremendous Demand pressure on its pricing and that is already happening. As a result of those pricing pressures, the ratio of Gross Energy Costs to Global GDP will see-saw gradually higher, thru a process of increasing Oil prices causing collapses in the Global economy, which will happen time and again.
The second part to the Peak Oil story will come 20-30 years later, with a total collapse of Political & Economic systems, as Oil runs out, unless a replacement for Oil in its many used can be found, in the intervening years.

4) Peak Food
Hand in hand with rising Population & Energy levels, has gone a huge leap forward in Food Production.
However, Cheap & Abundant energy has been the enabler for these massive increases in both Population & Food production. As/if our Cheap & Abundant source of Energy Declines, so to will the level of Food production, in fact the per capita level is already falling.
Whilst it is true that the future likely decline in total population will reduce some stresses, it is likely that Declining Energy will exacerbate the problem more!

So, in short, the causes of this GFC are not my major concern.

I am far more interested in the actions that are needed now, to retain a future for our species.

This is not complicated like Climate Change, it is mainly a simple matter of maths, but some massive changes will be needed, to avert a catastrophe of Biblical proportions!


You point out,

"1) Aging Population
The Baby Boomer Boom of the last 60 years, but particularly the last 30 years, has come to an end around 2005.
The Boom is currently morphing into a bust of historic proportions, as the Debt built up over the last 30 years is reversed in a massive de-leveraging of the financial system."

This one demographic change is so critical and so certain that even if someone totally disregards any issues of "depletion", climate issues or any other outlying issue, it will be a radical change to all of the most developed and wealthy nations of the world. The age demographic in Europe and Japan is even more slanted than in the U.S. Since 1945 if you wanted to forecast the trends of the economy all you had to do was ask "what will the boomers be doing"? It was the most reliable predictor of large trends in the modernized world. So what will the baby boomers be doing for the next half century? The answer is assured. They will be getting older, getting sicker and finally dying. Try to grasp all that means. The impact of the passing away of the largest, richest, best educated, most artistic generation in known world history will have enormous implications.


Perhaps it's that they think (or have been persuaded to think) that there is plenty of time.

The Hirsch report says that if mitigation is begun 20 years ahead of peak, it can be managed, and the IEA, and others who have the ear of governments, are saying that peak will be around 2030.

If this theory bears out, we should expect to see more movement on energy efficiency programs this year, 2010.

The parts of the Government that belongs to the security state (huge in the USA, the CIA, NSA and the military-industrial complex etc) are of course very well informed about the subject. Their policies have been formed and set by it.
The democratic parts of Gov. like the voting cattle in the parliaments don't have a clue.

Gail, you have failed to understand that government is merely institutionalized mass-parasitism run by rent-seeking sociopaths.

If I gave you custody of a fleet of cars for a few years, after which you return them to me; if you don't particularly care about my feelings what will your incentive be? It is to extract the maximum possible rent from your custody of the cars, regardless of the damage you cause(they're not your cars, you're handing back to me in a few years so you don't care if they're destroyed).

At first glance this is not an analogous situation to the one politicians are in; what about the voters? The benefits are concentrated to you and those you extract rent from, the damage is very diffuse; because the damage is diffuse nobody has a strong incentive to pay attention or get particularly upset about it.

No politician ever openly says that the intention is to enact some regulation in order to impose large fixed costs that strangle small businesses in the crib as repayment for this large business that has donated campaign contributions. No, they pretend it's for consumer protection or whatever the hotbutton issue of the day is. No politician ever says, lets invade because we want their natural resources; nah, at best they simply lie(Saddam has WMD! He has ties to Al Qaeda!), at worst they instigate a fight(such as the Lusitania, which we now know contained ~4 million rifle bullets intended for british rifles, as the germans insisted all along).

Even when government tries to help, its tendency towards soviet style central planing often makes it impossible. FEMA's handling of New Orleans is a perfect case study. They did more harm forcing away private help than they managed to do good. One Sheriff had to post armed guards to keep FEMA from once again cutting the restored emergency communication lines. FEMA collected 85 million dollars worth of privately donated household items meant to be delivered to and help Katrina victims, they warehoused these items for 2 years then they gave them away to other government agencies because they didn't want to keep paying the storage fee. Instead of doing something useful they spent inordinate amounts of effort collecting firearms from law-abiding citizens(using the threat of lethal force if necessary).

I'd like to say a hearty thanks to TODers for so many interesting comments and resources. The next presentation of this argument will be richer for it. And thanks a lot to Gail for editorial advice.


Hi Shane,

Thanks for this topic.

The best idea I've seen is one I've taken up - namely, for the National Academy of Sciences to weigh in on "peak" - including, perhaps most importantly, impacts and policy options.

Please see www.oildepletion.wordpress.com. And, it would be great to hear from people who'd like to do outreach!

The whole thing is actually fairly easy - or seems so. Yet, for some mysterious reason...

A study can be attached as a rider to legislation, and/or directed by *any* federal agency, and/or the President and, I've recently discovered that State governments could also request such a study.

This means that it shouldn't, in theory, anyway, be that hard to get off the ground.

When the NAS weighs in...then it will give even local and State governments some solid scientific findings to use as a planning reference. Something to point to.

Right now, there isn't anything equivalent to the IPCC report, for example.

Such a study would take the pressure off the politicians/government leaders. It's amazing they don't realize this. It would mean that they personally don't have to deliver bad news - they just point to the source and put themselves in the hero role.

This whole subject reminds me of the scenario of an impending asteroid impact (large one, on earth). Except that, in this case of an asteroid, the facts would be generally known, it seems to me.

One of the questions I ask myself is, how come local governments such as cities or towns, have produced peak oil mitigation plans and national governments of those same countries are unable to. As we know a number of cities such as Portland, San Francisco and recently Bristol in the UK have published their energy descent plans, while I am unaware of any national government have produced a similar plan.

The reason for this, I believe is one of political risk. For national level politicians, the political risk is too high. Once peak oil is admitted by a national government, there is a lot else that has to be admitted. Primarily, that economic growth can't be sustained in a post peak oil world. This could cause markets to crash, something that most politicians would not be willing to risk. Of course, the irony is that by keeping heads in the sand and stonewalling any discussion of peak oil, national governments face a greater risk, that of the inevitability of peak oil and the consequences that will flow from it without any public discussion. It seems that the best governments can do is develop plans in secret and hope that they can introduce them under the guise of other things, such as climate change.

The Pentagon seems to be aware of PO/PE. See the link above to the JOE 2008 report, esp. pgs. 16-19. I'm sure that the Exec. and Leg. branches have read it.

In summary:
To generate the energy required worldwide by the 2030s would
require us to find an additional 1.4 MBD every year until then.
During the next twenty-five years, coal, oil, and natural gas
will remain indispensable to meet energy requirements. The
discovery rate for new petroleum and gas fields over the past two
decades (with the possible exception of Brazil) provides little
reason for optimism future efforts will find major new fields.
At present, investment in oil production is only beginning to
pick up, with the result that production could reach a prolonged
plateau. By 2030, the world will require production of 118
MBD, but energy producers may only be producing 100 MBD
unless there are major changes in current investment and drilling
By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely
disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could
reach nearly 10 MBD.
To avoid a disastrous energy crunch, together with the economic
consequences that would make even modest growth unlikely, the
developed world needs to invest heavily in oil production. There
appears to be little propensity to consider such investments.
Although as oil prices increase, market forces will inexorably
create incentives. But the present lack of investment in this area
has created major shortages in infrastructure (oil rigs, drilling
platforms, etc.) necessary for major increases in exploration and

The demand scenarios of 118mbd by 2030 cant be met, and the energy that oil provides cant be replaced efficiently. So they have reduced this to 105mbd at great cost to economic growth and prosperity. 105mbd cant be met either. So the only alternative is to slow down world economic growth for a long time while the scientists create alternatives sources of non fossil energy that are clean and affordable to all. Non conventional oil must also be drilled at great expense because that provides a bridge to the future. On the demand side, monetary policy must recognize the link between money creation and energy availability; it must realize that the industrial revolution was a power revolution, an energy revolution. This is no small task because economists, specially the academic types, are arrogant and lack humility, even though they are clueless as to what happened in 2008 and are up the creek without a paddle. Its hard to educate someone who does not want to be educated, but it has happened before (Galileo, Pasteur) and only energency has shed the light. I hope that my forthcoming book sheds light on the demand side.

It is clear that peak oil is in the minds of all OECD nations, particularly the most dependent on the energy source. Witness both of the Iraq invasions (as opposed to the North Korea non invasion). It is also understandable that they have elected to keep silent on the subject, not because of conspiracy, but because nobody wants a world on economic depression with oil at $500 a barril and natural resource wars all over the globe (it reminds me of the movie 2012, when the US government exec tells his geologist--who had insisted on warning everyone of the mayan catastrophe--''you want to tell them that they are doomed??--there will be anarchy'')). But it is also clear that without the cooperation of the people this peak oil problem will not get resolved. Economic growth must slow down to slow down oil consumption on a world scale and that can only be done through appropriate monetary policy that recognizes the energy within the creation of money (in my forthcoming book I unveil this by rewritting the oldest equation of economics in energy terms and by proposing a Bretton Woods style strategy). In the mean time people will be told that climate considerations are the driver of smaller CO2 emissions and therefore of smaller economic growth, which is what Copenhagen was all about. But this is only a half truth, and half truths can only be expected to work half way if at all. Carlos Rossi

The IEA's flagship publication, the World Energy Outlook, is widely accused of offering overly optimistic statements regarding future production trends.

Actually, as far as efficiency measures and renewable energies (excluding hydro and biomass) are concerned it has undoubtedly a very pessimistic view:

Even though other renewables undoubtedly do have a much larger potential and are growing faster (e.g. wind, solar hot water, PV):

The answer is "D", all the above. However, having said this, for those "govies" in the know the real answer is "CLIMATE POLICY" as described above, together with the "CONCLUSION". Government minions and the clueless masses believe the horrors of "Global Warming" because of the highly coordinated and publically orchestrated government and media information operation begun in the early 1990's. Look at the recent ClimateGate debacle. There's a lot more to the ClimateGate story than meets the eye. The small (2 to 3 dozen) cabal of UK CRU and US government climate scientists such as James Hansen, could not have possibly gotten to this point without extraordinary funding, political support at virtually all levels of government, especially at the national level and unparalleled cooperation from the national and world media. This wide-spread networked support continues even as "the people" puzzle over what it is all about. I ask you, "What are you seeing and hearing from our national media on the subject?" Anything, REALLY? What are you seeing and hearing from all levels of our government, local and regional newspapers and media outlets? Anything of substance? At all of these levels the chatter has remained remarkably quite on the subject, wouldn't you say? Why? What points and positions are you beginning to hear on the radio and see on the television? This cabal of scientists has an unprecedented level of support given the revelations contained in the emails, documented in the computer software code and elaborated in the associated programmer remarks (REM) within the code. And ---- this has gone on for years, AND continues even in the presence of the most damning evidence one could imagine, or even hope for. Watergate pales in comparison, given the trillions of dollars in carbon offset taxes, cap & trade fees hanging in the balance and the unimaginable political control over people’s lives this all implies. The mainstream media's conspiracy of silence proves the point. Their continued cover-up is as much a part of this ClimateCrime as the actual scientific fraud. ABC, CBS and NBC and many other media outlets are simply co-conspirators exercising their 5th Amendment rights. They are not about to spill the beans. They have their marching orders. The revelations of ClimateGate are and will simply be ignored.

So, because climate change is a apparently just a big scientist conspiracy trying to harm the poor and innocent Oil-sheiks, Chavez's, Ahmedinejad's, etc., the developed world has to increase its dependence on fossil fuel imports and ignore peak-oil all-together just for spite?

Btw, do these evil scientists also fly around with personal A-380s ?