John Hofmeister: Our Energy Predicament Viewed from an Oil Company's Perspective

On Monday, May 3, John Hofmeister, recently retired president of Shell Oil Company, gave a luncheon speech at the Offshore Technology Conference on our energy predicament, and the challenges the oil and gas industry faces, viewed from inside the industry. I am not certain we will agree with everything he says, but thought we might think about the issues raised. I quote from an article that begins on page 3 of OTC2010.

More recently, despite the high oil price “wake up” call delivered to the US during the period 2005-2008, policymakers have been unable or unwilling to address the nation’s energy security, economic competitiveness that comes from affordable energy, and the potential jobs creation initiatives that a sound energy policy would and should deliver.

Given the current trajectory of an aging infrastructure, decades of restrictions on drilling, failure to tackle the obstacles that prevent both more nuclear plant and clean coal plant projects, frittering at the edges of renewable energy, and avoidance of other energy “hard choices,” within the decade the nation faces an unprecedented energy abyss.

By 2020, there will be inadequate supplies of liquid fuels and electricity taking the nation toward inevitable gas lines, brown-outs, black-outs and extraordinary high prices. The energy abyss will stick around for up to a full decade with all of the national insecurity, economic decline, joblessness and social malaise that accompanies energy shortages in third world countries.

The energy industry, despite its technological, geological, chemical, physical, molecular, logistical, scientific and engineering expertise and capacity to deliver affordable energy in endless supply, given all of the natural sources of energy in this country, and the world, will be unable to supply the demand because of public policy constraints. Yet, it will bear the brunt of the blame for energy shortages. Today’s energy professionals will bear the reputational burden of our national decline and failure because who else is blameable?

Are you prepared to accept that blame, or are there viable alternatives, things you can do, to change the nation’s current trajectory?

Understanding the scope and depth of the energy system’s problems requires careful understanding of just how entrenched the obstacles are to sound enabling public policy. What do we do about “political time” dominance in the political process, up against “energy time” requirements to get projects launched and completed?

How do you respond to the dysfunctional structures that our three independent branches of government have created over the course of time? Is it really necessary to have 13 executive branch agencies govern energy and the environment? Do we need 26 congressional committees and subcommittees writing legislation on energy? Should every federal district court have authority to delay and ultimately prevent citizens from having the energy they need because of the power of the judicial bench?

How long can you tolerate the paralysis of partisanship where right and left wing interest groups, demagogues and authority figures, elected as well as appointed, prohibit mainstream, centrist Americans, most likely the majority of citizens, from achieving needed policy objectives? Are you willing to accept zigzag efforts to move energy policy forward forever?

The nation has to come to grips with its energy future sooner, not later. The time is now not then. We can’t wait for a ninth president and 19th congress to promise us whatever it takes to get elected and then lead us down another failed path.

We should have learned by now but we haven’t. So what can change and what can you do to make a difference as an energy professional and as a citizen of this or any country.

John Hofmeister is candid in acknowledging approaching energy constraints--probably more than most energy insiders. We at The Oil Drum know that there are real physical constraints that the oil and gas industry is up against, but in my view, no one is up to admitting to that issue. Instead, we have many groups running around, blaming each other, each with a phony promise that the situation can be fixed, "if only" the fix of the day is implemented.

On one side, we have the oil companies, blaming the political groups for trying to over-regulate the industry, and thus hold down oil supplies. Perhaps there is a bit of truth to the issue, but the basic issue remains that the cheap oil and gas have mostly been extracted, and our economy cannot really afford expensive oil and gas.

On another side, we have many encouraging outrageously optimistic views regarding what alternative energy sources can do, but not considering the issue that maintaining such basics as food and heat for the current population would be a major challenge. There is also an issue regarding how much of these alternatives our financial system can really afford. If we can't afford $150 oil, it is not clear we can afford high priced alternatives, especially if they cannot operate our current oil-based infrastructure.

No one is really willing to look at what our energy future is really likely to look like, and plan and make regulations on that basis. In my view, we really should be planning for what industry and transportation will need to look like, with no (or very little) fossil fuels. We need to look at what kind of roads we can maintain, and what, if any, kinds of vehicles will be able to run on them. If we don't look to see where we are really headed, it is hard to see that we can take steps that will get us in the right direction.

So he teases us with;

...within the decade the nation faces an unprecedented energy abyss.

But then...

The energy industry, despite its technological, geological, chemical, physical, molecular, logistical, scientific and engineering expertise and capacity to deliver affordable energy in endless supply

Cornucopian Alert! All he's really saying is stop regulating the fossil fuel industry so they can get on with supplying BAU indefinitely. Never mind that 10s of millions of acres of oil leases sit idle for lack of drilling rigs, he's implying that more area has to be opened up for drilling or they will point the finger at someone other than those who are the real cause for oil production decline.

Gail said;

We need to look at what kind of roads we can maintain, and what, if any, kinds of vehicles will be able to run on them.

Absolutely. If that means buses and bikes on hardpack gravel, so be it. The Party's Over, so putting off the hangover with Hofmeister's hair of the dog will only make matters worse.

I tripped on those very phrases from Mr. Hofmeister. Endless energy if only the regulators and policies would get out of the way. Ugh.

When I read that the first thing I thought was scapegoating environmentalists.

If we left the large, profit driven companies of the world go un-regulated, how many more oil spills, Union Carbide leaks in Bopal, Love Canals would we have.

We have to stop shitting in the bed we sleep.

Bingo. I think the subtext here (though writ quite large) is that we petroleum industry people are going to get the blame here unless we can saddle the environmentalists with the blame.

I see much of this environmentalist scapegoating going on here in this forum. It is a major right wing meme.

The only world in which it would make even a tiny bit of sense is one where AGW is a myth and where this an infinite quantity of cheap oil just waiting to be extracted.

This is, unfortunately, the world in which these executives and much of the American public seems to live.

This is one of the most significant things I've read in a while. We must remember that top officials in industry, govt and the military can normally only speak freely after retirement. And since he is an HR manager, and not a techie, means that he's describing what the top management of Shell Oil believe. Which is, that by the end of the decade:

1) we'll fall into "an energy abyss"

2) we'll be experiencing major electrical brownouts and blackouts.

Given the source, this is very significant!

By 2020, there will be inadequate supplies of liquid fuels and electricity taking the nation toward inevitable gas lines, brown-outs, black-outs and extraordinary high prices.

Now just how will a reduced supply (as opposed to no supply) of liquid fuels, cause electricity shortages? The liquid fuel input into electrical generation is miniscule, and we can be sure that fuel for mining coal or drilling for NG will be top of the "essential use" list, if it comes to that.
This guy lost a credibility in my book with this statement - it is just scaremongering.

Neither Shell nor any of the other oil majors are significant energy suppliers to the electricity industry, peak oil will definitely not mean peak electricity - he should have known better.

I am in agreement with your main points. I minor quibble that, farther down the slope, there may not be enough oil to fuel trucks to repair the elaborate infrastructure necessary to keep the electric grid running. (Not my point, by the way, but one a number of others make around here--I think EVs may be able to do most of this.)

But your main point is certainly right. This guy wasn't thinking through any fine points like this--just scare-mongering to (short term) benefit his industry.

EVs, soy & cotton seed diesel, methanol, inspection by eBikes. Build lines along railroad ROWS and use them.

Best Hopes for Seeing Solutions,


large scale coal (and other) mining can be almost completely electrified if need be. Up till now, it hasn't been, because diesel equipment is cheaper.
Keep in mind there was large scale coal mining around 1900-1915, before diesel engines were in wide use, it was powered by steam. The Panama Canal was built by steam power. We can do much better today with electric. Not the cheapest way to go (initially) but absolutely can be done.
One coal mine doing coal to oil could easily provide all the liquid fuel needs for all the other coal mines (and other mines) in the country. The mining equivalent of farmers growing their own biodiesel.

Necessity is the mother of invention (innovation?), and that is something that, when needs be, both farmers and miners are very good at. In fact, before the electronic age, almost all major mechanical energy developments, have been related to farming or mining. Steam engines were invented to pump out coal mines. Powering factories and trains was just a bonus. Pelton wheel turbine was invented to power an ore crusher - generating massive amounts of electricity was just a bonus. and so it goes. Lots more innovation can be had from these two industries, they have been around as long as people, and if people are to continue, so must mining and agriculture, in some form or other.

Yep, we COULD do it. And IMVHO, we almost certainly will (or will try to).

And in the process we will drive home the last nail in the coffin of this old, haggard planet.

If you want to be charitable, you could interpret his comment as noting that there is plenty of renewable energy available that could be accessed cost effectively...which is true...except that it would take several decades and a complete rebuilding of our infrastructure to be able to harness enough of it. Read that way, his statements are pretty close to right, but I suspect that he really means the version that several of you above have suggested...'we could provide plenty of oil if the environmentalists would just stop caring about what the planet looks like in 100 years' ... which is false on top of being incredibly short sighted.

I have frequently mentioned my question to the Texas State Geologist, at an industry meeting in 2005, where he presented the CERA "Undulating Plateau" which we might hit many decades hence.

I pointed out that discrete regions like Texas and the overall Lower 48 had shown very definite production peaks, as predicted by Hubbert. He had two points: (1) Hubbert's methods work better in "Geographically limited" areas like Texas and the Lower 48 and (2) In any case, improved technology, "While it may not bring Texas back to its peak production rate, would significantly increase the Texas production rate."

So, if we assume that we have an infinite world, and that technological fairy dust will work miracles, it then follows that we have virtually infinite oil resources.

I was watching discovery or nat geo last night and they are talking up parallel universes now. There are an infinite number of universes and all outcomes exist.

You are dating Julia Roberts and Elvis is alive. And the Texas State Geologist is exactly correct.

Life is good on Fantasy Island.

But ours is unquestionably the best and most moral and historically unique, etc., of all the universes, which would give us the right -- no, not just the right, but the moral imperative -- to promote democracy and our way of life to them and to exploit their hydrocarbon resources. As soon as we figure out how to travel there, that is, and send sufficient numbers of troops.

I think you're on to something with this multiple universe idea. And you can bet your bottom dollar that at least one of them is a terrorist universe and that they hate our universe because of our freedoms.
If we weren't fighting them over there, we would have to fight them over here, right in our own universe!

Actually, that's not the way parallel universes work. Peak oil would be true in all of them in which humans could exist.

But surely, among an infinite number of universes, there would be some (perhaps many) where that would not be true. Universes where there would still be lots of oil, and/or not people who had used any of it. They might even have completely different Laws of Thermodynamics, or none at all.

To the extent these factors might seem to make those universes superior to ours, it would only be in respect to having resources we could use. Our "exceptional' universe would still be the best morally, etc. as stated above and the most entitled to decide how the resources are allocated.

If we believe it hard enough it will be true and we will be able to get there.

say, it's certainly odd to be discussing the multiverse under the topic of an Oil Company's Perspective... but why not?

Here's a nice little paper (pdf) by Max Tegmark aimed at a general audience, I think originally written for scientific american: I'm talking about what Tegmark would call a "level III" multiverse in this paper; that is, a quantum multiverse. There are conceptually and logically a number of other sorts but they would not be as intimately connected to us.

Above, I made the brief and admittedly provocative statement: Actually, that's not the way parallel universes work. Peak oil would be true in all of them in which humans could exist.

Although I'm running a fever today and have had a couple of off weeks, this struck me as a usefully pushy thing to say because in implies that the question of peak oil is a deeper one that most would suppose, for reasons which will be well-understood by most reading TOD.

But surely, among an infinite number of universes, there would be some (perhaps many) where that would not be true. Universes where there would still be lots of oil, and/or not people who had used any of it. They might even have completely different Laws of Thermodynamics, or none at all.

I suppose we can trivially agree that with different laws of thermodynamics, humans could not exist; humans being great apes with what we consider a human genome, etc.

Certainly a universe (or other planet, even) could exist in which not as much oil was yet used up. Indeed, I remember one subset of them clearly. But in the sense I think you mean it, human existence is based on a nearly-impossible sequence of random frozen accidents, which in the case of this universe and all "nearby branched" earth-luna variations which produced humans would have necessarily had the same planetary past. Path-dependency is a big deal. It perhaps isn't generally realized how tightly constrained particular quantum outcomes actually are by self-consistency requirements.

But putting that aside: Certainly, similar creatures could evolve - even evolve the same genome - on a normal-thermodynamic world, and might have oil or something similar. In which case, the distribution of such resources would follow the same basic (power-law) pattern they do on earth, and those humans would likewise probably use the "best" concentrations first. If so, you get peak oil at some point if the humans decide to use it at all.

To the extent these factors might seem to make those universes superior to ours, it would only be in respect to having resources we could use. Our "exceptional' universe would still be the best morally, etc. as stated above and the most entitled to decide how the resources are allocated. If we believe it hard enough it will be true and we will be able to get there.

I don't get what you're saying there, sorry. These "universes" do not communicate except in very restricted ways; and none is more or less real than any other.

What I'm saying in this unlikely spot on the internet is that it is likely that all quantum outcomes are equally real, which would mean that each of us exists in parallel, perhaps infinitely, with minute variationss... such as a class of universes in which I didn't just misspell the word "variations" but in all other ways identical.

And to get it back toward the topic we're posting under, that would mean that the different actual probabilistic outcomes of the current oil spill will all occur in a real universe in proportion to their true probability. Altering the probabilities would thus alter the relative number of "quantum daughter universes" in which given classes of outcomes manifest, providing either a somewhat philosophically-enriched basis for activism or a case for nihilism depending on one's predilections.

cheers. And probably enough of this sort of thing here for now.

I see no reason to believe -or not to believe -in the existence of alternative universes and realities.

It does seem rather elitist or snobbish to simply ASSUME we can see or detect all of reality, does it not-from a philosophical pov, I mean.

As a practical matter we are not only stuck in the universe we CAN see, we are stuck at the bottom of a gravity well on our bedraggled little planet.

Un fortunately all we are lacking in being able to get to them is a "D hopper", a little device like a tv remote that takes you ewhere you want to go.

Some very popular sci fi writer whose name escapes me for the moment has a whole series of books, rather entertaining, about a series of magical universes filled with every kind of being , and combination there of.

Our universe and world is Mundania,and we are magic poor,but slumming visitors are still impressed with the magic of pizza delivery via a phone call.

Not to divert the thread, but there's a reason some of the smartest people on the planet take a quantum multiverse seriously.

It's fantastical aspects seem to lend it the "feel" of a religion or fantasy; however a religion or fantasy is what one gets by adding unnecessary assumptions, and the MWI is what you get by removing unnecessary assumptions.

Quantum mechanics is arguably the most successful predictive theory in human history, and much of our current technology is based on it. It takes the introduction of arbitrary magical assumptions to prevent the MWI from directly falling out of the data for which QM has proven so far to have absolute predictive value.

A little like peak oil, the high probability of MWI is hiding in plain sight; understood by many of the top minds but too disturbing to be treated seriously by most.

It has no direct relevance to our problems in this "slice" of the multiverse; but could have deep implications for philosophy, our place in the universe, and the nature of "us".


An interesting book I've just finished, titled "Biocentrism", has some really interesting insights. The author is
Robert Lanza MD. Recommended for Dr. Lanza's take on the present predicament with String Theory, and what the anomalies of Quantum Mechanics really mean. Best from the Fremont

Agreed. Multiverse might be the simplest explanation for measured dark energy, though IMHO we need to re-re-confirm the measurements first.

I prefer Cramer's transactional interpretation to Everett-Wheeler; it's much more parsimonous, to my mind.

Probably few of you will be interested in an obscure theory that never got the attention of the general scientific community, but this talk of multiverses, quantum mechanics, dark energy and unnecessary assumptions prompts me to put in a good word for the woefully neglected work of Dewey B. Larson, the subject of Richard Heinberg's July 2007 Museletter feature, "The Smartest Person I've Met" (no longer available online to nonsubscribers). Of the dozen or so books that Larson wrote, the one that should IMHO be of the most general interest is the one that best exemplifies his skills a as sure-footed critic of conventional ideas - The Case Against the Nuclear Atom (1963), leaving his own theoretical views out of the mix. Though the text is available online - I recommend borrowing an ILL copy through your local library. It's an absolutely gripping read.

As for Larson's own theory, "dark energy" (Larson called it the "space-time progression" back in 1959) figures in his theory as a necessary prerequisite for gravitation, among many other things, and on the basis of his ideas, the expectation of the astronomers (until 1998) that gravitation should be slowing down the recession of the distant galaxies, involved double-counting the gravitational effect. (The reason that the other galaxies of the Local Group are not receding from our location whereas those at greater distance are is that there is a limiting distance - related to the mass of the Local Group - at which the net of the two motions - gravitation, which decreases in proportion to the square of the distance, and the oppositely directed space-time progression, which is constant at all distances - is zero. It follows that the net motion beyond that point will be accelerated.) As for multiverses, Larson held that the number of sectors of the physical universe is precisely two.

Larson, like most modern scientists, seems to have failed to understand the basic unsustainability of hydrocarbon civilization (one of his posthumously published books is called The Road to Permanent Prosperity), but his theories were not friendly to technologies that figure much in science fiction and speculative science - anti-gravity devices, and anti-matter generators - or for that matter atomic fusion as a potential source of net energy for humans.

Not to divert the thread, but there's a reason some of the smartest people on the planet take a quantum multiverse seriously.

I think these two guys qualify in both those respects. Laurence's is the funnier of the two presentations but his good friend Frank though a bit more sedate is just as, if not more profound.

Anyways these guys make me feel pretty dumb.

A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

And his Good friend Frank Wilczek The winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics

The LHC and Unified Field Theory - Frank Wilczek (1 of 8)

A quantum multiverse is about as real as it gets.

" (1) Hubbert's methods work better in "Geographically limited" areas like Texas and the Lower 48 and"

As opposed to the geographically unlimited world, eh?

While we might not know how much oil is in the ground, it seems to me the model works the same given a large enough time scale.

Ya think maybe we could sprinkle some of that miraculous technological fairy dust on the oil spill in the Gulf on the off chance that it will protect the ecosystem out there. I think it could probably use a little help right about now.

What's that you say? It doesn't do those kinds of miracles. Oh, well...then #$%@!&!! those damn environmentalists, its all their fault anyway.

For the record I'm not an environmentalist, I'm just a newly minted Eco-Jedi minding my own business. Though I'm kind of new at this game, I think I need to get with Yoda and learn a bit more about using the force to steer collapse, I think I'm beginning to to see a few cracks developing in the time continuum

It's pretty obvious now that we have just about used this world up. We need to order up a new one, pronto. Seems logical to get busy engineering Venus and/or Mars, since they are so close by. Wonder if we may have waited too long to get those jobs underway?

Of course, we just may have to live more modestly in future, which could be a blow to some egos. Darn.

Oh pal-lease.

This is actually good news.
Hoffmeister is saying we need a public policy addressing imminent energy shortages. It's not BAU.

That cornucopian slip was sop for the industry deniers in the audience.
What should he say?
'The energy industry can do nothing to address the future of the USA and guess wot, prices are going to go thru the roof too!'?

Right now, domestic energy policy is paralysed by NIMBYism on the one hand and
political deadlock on CC on the other.

The industry needs money which ultimately comes from consumers/taxpayers.

Where I would fault Hoffmeister is the fact that industry/Shell doesn't really offer any plan.

How did all that cool aide taste, maj? Did you save some for the rest of us?

I do believe the Kennedy's are continuing their fight tooth and nail to keep windmills out of there precious Connecticut harbor adjoining ocean meanwhile environmentalists in Arizona complain about the desert destroying space requirements of solar farms and half the greenie weenies are frightened to death over Nuclear power anywhere on the continent.

I'm all for breaking our connection with fossil fuels (given enough left for hobbyists to have some fun with their little engines), but until a viable coordinated direction comes about in terms of public consumption and government regulation, I can't expect anyone in industry to vary from BAU.

"a viable coordinated direction comes about in terms of public consumption"

This is where the lion's share of change needs to come. Trashing yet more of the ecosystem in a vain attempt to perpetuate was is unperpetuatable (word?) is just going to extend the footprint of our very heavy boot on the face of a dying grandma earth.

'[Reduction in public consumption] is where the lion's share of change needs to come. Trashing yet more of the ecosystem in a vain attempt to perpetuate was is unperpetuatable (word?) is just going to extend the footprint of our very heavy boot on the face of a dying grandma earth.'

Problem is that this is wishful thinking. People are not going to drastically reduce their footprint in order so preserve anyone's notion of how the planet ought to be. Not saying you are wrong about what ought to be. Just stating the overwhelming evidence about human nature. So we have to come up with ways forward that keep essential ecosystems working while producing enough renewable energy to maintain stability of society. Seems pretty foolish to try to preserve pristine deserts and views of Nantucket Sound and end up with much of the world's forests cut down for fuel.

What if it was in their economic self interest to change ?

What if the change lead to a better quality of life ?

Best Hopes,


Good points, Alan.

ganv said, "Just stating the overwhelming evidence about human nature."

And this is based on a thorough analysis of all human societies since the beginning of time?

Most traditional human societies were strongly bound by a large number of taboos, most of which were about not disturbing the ecosystems their societies were embedded in. I have to assume that your "evidence" is all from recent modern industrial (and probably mostly capitalist) societies. This is a very recent aberration from the norm in human societies, and such ideologies can change rapidly (consider the fall of the old Soviet empire and it's ideology).

In this case, the dominant ideology of ignoring the ecosystems our human society is embedded in will change rapidly or will be rapidly wiped out, along with much of the complex life on the planet (a great mass extinction that is already well under way).

"People are not going to drastically reduce their footprint in order so preserve anyone's notion of how the planet ought to be."

Yes they will, although it won't be from their own free will of course, but they will, it is called a major recession (for instance).

Agreed...economic forces can produce large reductions in footprint. It's the moral argument about preserving mother earth that just doesn't work in practice. I was responding to dohboi's comment above about focusing on footprint reduction rather than renewable energy to lighten the load on the planet. Humans are not going to just revert to 18th century living standards because of a moral argument or government regulations. I suspect that an economic collapse could result in a significantly larger amount of environmental degradation due to wars and deforestation as 7 billion people try to survive. The only way to lighten our total footprint over the next century is to maintain society stability and put up a whole lot of renewable energy sources and use a lot of natural resources to do it...which is the suggestion that dohboi was arguing against.

Humans are not going to just revert to 18th century living standards

What I Have to Do To Install a Woodstove:

1. Purchase a woodstove that is 1995 or newer (read: WAY more expensive, we're talking thousands)

2. Apply for a permit, including detailed drawings of proposed installation, and pay permit fee.

3. Have it installed by a licensed professional (at a cost of thousands)

4. Get inspected, and pay another fee for that.

5. Watch my homeowners insurance triple, if they don't cancel me outright.

We are talking about nearly half my annual income here. *sigh* Guess I'll just go on heating with electric...

VT, I don't know what part of the world you are living in, but I feel sorry for you. Here in BC, you can buy a new, EPA certified woodstove for less than $1k, and get it installed for not much more than another $1k, if it is a simple installation (e.g. flue out horiz through external wall). And as long as the stove is certified, the insurance companies don't charge any premium. They DO get very picky about old stoves. When I bought my house here 3 yrs ago, it had a new wood burning insert upstairs, and an old cast orin stove downstairs. Insurance co said they wouldn't insure the house, period, come October if the old stove was still there!
I use two cords of wood a winter for fuel, which I cut myself, and save about $1500/yr on electric heating.

If an installation is going to cost you as much as you say, then something is just wrong - there has to be a cheaper way!

Here's a woodstove that will heat 1100 sf for less than $800. One for 1450 sf (70 000 BTU) is less than $1000 delivered to my door.

What I had to do:
1. Go to Lowes, buy one for under a thousand on sale. Pollution controlled, 3.6 cf firebox,heats 2000 sf.
2. Put it in myself in an existing flue.
3. Keep my old homeowner's insurance. The policy is old enough it makes no mention of wood stove installation. I read it & checked w. the agent.
That's it.
It helps to live where your home life is not micro managed by a bunch of fee assessing control freaks ie not near a city.

Problem is that this is wishful thinking. People are not going to drastically reduce their footprint in order so preserve anyone's notion of how the planet ought to be.

Obviously you have not yet experienced life under a military dictatorship. Things like that are done all the time when the option is either that or you are lined up against the wall and shot.

BTW in case you are wondering I have experienced life under a military dictatorship. In that particular case they weren't interested in preserving the environment either but back then nobody perceived that as being very important. I'm quite sure if they had thought it was important they would have had no qualms about shooting a few recalcitrant individuals who didn't want to reduce their footprints for some reason...wishful thinking isn't even an option.

Until someone levels with the world, how do we know what the world will do. I mean really level with them about what the future is going to look like. Someone in high places. Maybe Obama, Putin, and all the heads of major religions. OK that is wishful thinking too. But it dawns on me of late that the "people" can be influenced and are being influenced with all sorts of propaganda and advertising. The "people" of various countries have sent their young sons to war on the basis of what authorities have told them was true. If people can be influenced to become suicide bombers or holy crusaders for a democracy that doesn't exist why can't they be influenced to give up a lifestyle. If Rush Limbaugh would admit that AGW is real and that we are running out of oil anyway why couldn't he use his magic to sell car pooling? If the pope can convince people that he is infallible then why can't he infallibly require all Catholics to turn their cars in and start riding public transport.

The "people" are sheep perhaps, but sheep can be led so lets put the blame in the right corner.

Interesting to think about how much people can be led. But when it comes to obvious decreases in quality of life because of energy shortages, it is going to take more than propaganda I suspect. Big price signals due to shortage and good leadership could do the trick...but I think they will have to giving propaganda about victory over this crisis by building a new energy system rather than propaganda about shrinking our environmental footprint to save mother earth.

Ganv, while I have thought the same way in the past, I wonder why it would be easier to trick someone into signing up to go to war over non-existent weapons of mass destruction than to use the truth to get someone to cut back their lifestyle. Certainly when one joins the military their lifestyle changes drastically and they become at increased risk of dying. I think it might in fact be easier for the people to be led to reducing their footprint than the leaders to lead in that direction. In the case of the people in both cases the threat to make them change their lives would be similar, a threat to their safety (WMD in the one case and AGW in the other). However the motive for the leaders would be vastly different (making money in the war scenario and giving up profits in the power down scenario). It seems on reflection that the harder nut to crack is TPTB and that if anything is to change they are the ones who have to see that they will fall too if the planet is totally trashed. Of course the possibility of a mushroom cloud is a nearer and more sure disaster (except Sadaam didn't have any nukes) and war is more exciting for the young (until they loose a leg or sanity or their life) while the effects of warming are more distant and powering down your lifestyle is less exciting. But what is Madison Ave and the NY Times for if not to sell a product? It could be done, its just that there is no profit in it.

It could be done, its just that there is no profit in it.
And there's the rub. Whoever can find a profitable way to do power down (not this meaningless consumption of "green" products)will change the world. Transition towns are an attempt, but not even close to making a real difference. Don;t know what the answer is, but if someone cracks it, it will be as disruptive to cars as they were to horses, and lots of people have a lot to lose in that scenario.
It's not a limitless supply of energy that we need - it's a way to make our existing supply last a limitless time, quite a different task altogether!

Nicely put. The question ultimately comes down to "What is profit?"

Beyond a very minimal point (about $10,000), increased wealth shows diminishing returns on increased happiness and money beyond this is mostly unnecessary for sustaining life.

So what is that profit for?

Mostly it buys you objects and activities that mark your prestige as high.

So the trick, to me, is to change the perceptions of prestige.

Such cultural markers can change quickly and have done so often in the past.

Already, people talk about the 'counter-prestige' of owning a Prius. It was intentionally designed to look distinctive for just this marketing reason.

To take a dramatic example from linguistic history, before the French Revolution, the prestige pronunciation of the letters 'oi' was /we/, but after many speakers of this dialect had were relieved of their articulators (i.e. beheaded), the prestige pronunciation changed in a matter of days to /wa/, as it is today. Not that I think social change through generous use of the guillotine is advisable (though hearing about the shenanigans on wall street does make one wonder whether this may be a way to 'head off' the next wave of scandals ;-)

I have noted in post-K New Orleans (where rebuilding has a green tinge) that getting a tankless hot water heater, or better yet a solar one, has some prestige.

And solar clothes dryers are quite acceptable (best if noted that way).

Also noting that I spent almost as much on my cobbler, repairing shoes, as on fuel for my car is received quite positively.


The question ultimately comes down to "What is profit?"

Good question - I should have clarified this.

What I mean by profitable is something, as an enterprise/business, that can be self sustaining, and does not need government subsidies to exist. Presently, solar, wind and ethanol all fail this test.
I am not really concerned whether such an enterprise would be done at an individual or corporate level, preferably both, though in matters involving "equipment" of any degree, it usually means corporate.

Certainly, this alternate enterprise should not be a ticket to obscene profits - if it s that good, other people will start doing it. The steam engine is a good example. A revolutionary invention, and in the 19th century any foundry/machine shop worth its salt could make them. Designing them took a more knowledge, but making them was something lots of businesses, large and small, could participate in. Who knows, maybe we will have some new form of personal transport that can be substantially made at a local level? Rail handcars come to mind.

Organic farming is a semi-good example, though the benefits are often lost by the modern storage and distribution chain. What is the point of organic produce if is cold stored, or transported from Mexico or Chile, so that we can enjoy it in the off season? But many people can participate, profitably, at large or small scale, in organic farming, without needing government mandate or subsidy.
Any plan that is reliant on subsidies to operate is,by definition, not a self sustaining solution. There are somethings, like garbage collection, that do exist only because of govt funding, because we as a society deem it worthwhile. For energy related matters, there is obviously no agreement that it is worthwhile to heavily tax oil, or to build more railroads, etc. And if there is no agreement, there is likely no gov involvement. But if it is a profitable enterprise, large or small, gov involvement, and thus agreement, is not needed, and things can happen much, much faster.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

I wonder, though, if you are really unaware that the nuclear, oil, airline and many other "mature" industries are still massively subsidized.

If these massive subsidies were removed (including funding for wars to protect the non-negotiable, happy-motoring, cheap-gasoline lifestyle) were removed, suddenly many other alternatives would become profitable in your sense.

Some people jump up and down and scream about the comparatively minuscule (very unreliable) support that wind and some other alternative receive from the government but are completely mute about massive subsidies to longstanding industries that surely should be able to make it on their own by now.

I always wonder if these people are really that ignorant about the reality they claim to speak authoritatively about, or are they consciously being selective in their free market ideology.

Do not blame the sheep dogs.

"What should he say? 'The energy industry can do nothing to address the future of the USA and guess wot, prices are going to go thru the roof too!'?"

It is a bit disingenuous to say anything else, isn't it?

There are not oil leases sitting idle for lack of drilling rigs. The market for drilling capability is still soft. Read the quarterly earnings reports Q&A sessions that RIG, Ensco, etc have with financial analysts and see how they talk about hot stacked rigs and current prices for rigs versus during the boom in 2008.

I attended John Hofmeister's speech at the World Trade Center in New Orleans (part of a larger tour).

In the Q&A I said that the largest part of the answer to our oil and energy problems was quite literally under our feet (that wing of the WTC was built directly over the Riverside Streetcar Line and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad), but only a couple of hundred feet down.

I briefly explained a shift to efficient Non-Oil Transportation (electrified RR, Urban Rail, bicycles and walkable communities/TOD).

He mentioned his experience in building a new corporate HQ in the Netherlands and how they got 1 parking space for 4 employees, and he remembered bicycling in the rain to work.

He said that he would rather drive to work. he did not address electrified RRs and shifting freight to them, and passed over Urban Rail dismissively.

I take the same attitude towards "Let's maximize oil company profits and that will solve all of our problems".


PS: Shell employees told me that he came up through Human Resources, and had little technical training. I never bothered to confirm.

Cars have been good for business..., maximizing profits.

"John D. Hofmeister serves as a Director of U.S.A. Operations of Royal Dutch. Mr. Hofmeister founded Affordable Energy Inc. and serves as its Chief Executive Officer of Citizens. He served as Chairman of U.S.A. Operations of Royal Dutch Shell plc since March 2005. He served as the President of Shell Oil Company from March 1, 2005 to June 2008 and also served as its U.S. Country Chair. He served as Director of Human Resources of The Royal Dutch/Shell Group. Mr. Hofmeister ... served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Human Resources of Shell Oil Company. Prior to joining Shell, he served as Vice President of International Human Resources of AlliedSignal Inc. He was responsible for developing and implementing AlliedSignal's Asian and European human resources strategy and infrastructure for its Aerospace, Automotive and Engineered Materials businesses. Mr. Hofmeister joined AlliedSignal in 1992 as Vice President of Human Resources for its Aerospace business. From 1988 to 1992, he was employed with Northern Telecom Inc., where he served as Vice President of Human Resources since 1990. Mr. Hofmeister began his career in 1973 in the General Electric Lighting Business' international marketing and sales department. During his fifteen years at GE, he held a variety of marketing, manufacturing and human resource positions in five of GE's major businesses, including locomotives, telecommunications, factory automation and electric motors. His last position at GE was General Manager of Motor Relations Operation. He joined Shell as Director of Human Resources in 1997 and served as Country Chair of Shell US. He serves as the Chairman of the Board of Greater Houston Partnership. He has been a Director of Lufkin Industries Inc. since January 4, 2010. He has been a Non Executive Director of Hunting Plc since August 2009. He has been a Member of Advisory Board of Sodexo, Inc. since March 11, 2009. Mr. Hofmeister serves on the boards for the American Petroleum Institute and the National Urban League. He is also a Member of the National Academy of Human Resources and is Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Centre for Advanced Human Resources Studies at Cornell University. Mr. Hofmeister holds a BA and MA degrees in Political Science from Kansas State University."

So his academic background is PoliSci, most of his career was in HR, and now he is spouting non-sense about endless oil. I don't care if he is a former CEO of a major oil company. I'd wager that nearly anyone who has frequented this forum (especially if they have read posts by rockman and others in the know) have more real insights into the industry than this clown.

Posting his speech here seems a bit of a waste of our time. But perhaps Gail just wanted to amuse us.

Of course, it may well be that he knows much more, but what he presents for popular consumption must be chalked up to pure spin.

We can respond to most anything--whether we agree with it or not.

The issue of energy limits need to be talked about and addressed. Hofmeister is taking a step in the direction of talking about the limits, but he is following the usual practice of finding someone to blame (policy makers), without mentioning the real problem.

I know several of our commenters have said bicycles, trains, etc. are partial solutions. In my view, they are only solutions if we can keep up a reasonably robust international trade system without fossil fuels--and it is very hard for me to see that being done.

I think part of the problem is that people can only see one tiny piece of our predicament at a time. The big issue is that the underlying system that is holding everything together seems to be in danger of failing. We can talk about fixing one or another tiny piece on the periphery of the system--making bikes, for example--without stopping to think that making bikes really depends on the whole oil-based infrastructure that we have in place--roads, electricity, steel making, tire making. So bicycle-making is not any more sustainable than auto making, for more than a few years.

At one point, we had a highly developed system that operated without oil and electricity, making wooden boats and many products using much more human labor, plus water power and some low tech wind power, and using animal power on farms. But we don't have such a system now. No one seems to have thought about the need for such a system. They assume we either won't need it, or it will somehow spring into place on its own.

Gail -

As is the case with many of the examples you cite in arguing that alternative energy isn't worth the effort, you bicycle example is just plain wrong.

First, oil is not used in the production of steel. And in the US most of the electricity needed to manufacture the bicycles is generated using coal, natural gas, and nuclear. As to rubber, oil really isn't even needed there, as rubber-like substances can be made from a variety of organic substances from bio-mass, not to mention rubber plants themselves. bicycle seats can be made of leather, like they once were. And finally, petroleum-based asphalt is not absolutely essential for building roads. (If I recall correctly, the Romans built some pretty decent roads without asphalt.)

And If you still doubt this, just keep in mind that the modern bicycle goes back to the latter half of the 19th Century and that its manufacture at that time entailed zero use of oil, because there wasn't much use of oil for anything other than lighting.

Smells like another red herring to me.

I know several of our commenters have said bicycles, trains, etc. are partial solutions. In my view, they are only solutions if we can keep up a reasonably robust international trade system without fossil fuels--and it is very hard for me to see that being done.

Your position fails the reasonableness test (as well as some others).

Once built, bicycles will last for a century. During WW II, in occupied Europe, bicycle tires were sometimes replaced with wood.

But even minimal FF (say 500 b/day) *OR* trade with Brazil (using just existing sailing yachts) *OR* local sources (milkweed is being promoted as an economically viable source of natural rubber today/recycle car tires) can supply better tires than that.

I could use local resources in New Orleans today and build bicycles. Low quality and expensive, but usable. Scrap from cars could provide MANY centuries of raw material for new bikes. But it behooves us to build and maintain as many bicycles today as we can.

The original rails for the first Trans-Continental Railroad were still in place in Summit Tunnel (the highest point) when it was scrapped @ 1990 (a better tunnel built in the 1920s was expanded and the first one abandoned).

I have read the maintenance schedule for the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland. 58 km long, 300 trains/day at speeds from 100 to 240 kph (150 mph).

How long before they rebuild the tracks and signals ?

100 years.

In Cambodia and Liberia, even as society fell into genocidal chaos, primitive hand made rail cars were still used. In one case, villages banded together to keep the rails from being sold for scrap because of their transportation value.

I can think of no more robust solutions except hydroelectric power (see North Korea and Albania during their half century of isolation).


I know several of our commenters have said bicycles, trains, etc. are partial solutions. In my view, they are only solutions if we can keep up a reasonably robust international trade system without fossil fuels--and it is very hard for me to see that being done.

L'll second Alan in disagreeing with this statement.

In the 2nd half of the nineteenth century (the Victorian era) society was largely one of trains and bicycles. There were horses too, of course, because there always had been, but they were on their way out in cities even before the car came along.
Bikes and trains, and international trade can all be made and operated without fossil fuels. Steelmaking can be done with charcoal. Trains can run on wood, and ships can be powered by wood (steam) and winds, and sun. Not at the same volume of trade as today, to be sure, but it can be done.
City streets can be paved with paving stones instead of asphalt, it worked well for the Romans, and, in fact, segmented block pavers are the preferred pacing for shipping container terminals! They do fine for roads, as long as you don't want to go over 50mph, which means all non highway/freeway urban roads, and a good many rural ones too. Some of the original Telford paved roads still exist, and are i use, in England today.

There are ways to do these things without fossil fuels, they are just not the easiest and cheapest ways. But when FF's are getting expensive, these ways will again be competitive options.

if we eliminate all the really wasteful uses of FF's, particularly oil, then what's left will last a long, long time. Oil used as a manufacturing feedstock (plastics, rubber, etc) accounts for just 5% of US consumption. If oil were restricted to be for this use only, the US would be oil self sufficient for centuries. Add in the reduced rubber requirements from getting rid of all the cars, and the picture gets better still.

I will concede Gail's point that these things cannot save use, if were are trying to preserve BAU. But take all the cars out of the picture (as was the case in 1900), and then see what oil and FF's are and aren't needed for. The world enjoyed a good standard of living in those days, just not unlimited personal transport. If we are prepared to give up unlimited personal transport (cars and air travel) for limited transport (walk, bikes, trains and ships) then we can maintain pretty much all other aspects of modern life.

That's a trade I am willing to make, but the Dick Cheney's ("the American way of life is not negotiable") are not. They may (and people have/are) die defending it, but I'd rather adapt and live - that is how Nature does it, we can too.

Best hopes for a prosperous, car free, future.

No one seems to have thought about the need for such a system.

I have !

Your preferred approach is not feasible without a massive die-off and a better part of a century to reorganize, etc after the die-off. That is, it has no applicability to anyone living, even a new born.

My preferred approach is viable with a transition that has many pluses as well as minuses.

One starting point was Switzerland during WW II. *FAR* worse that the USA will face in the next 30 years.

No domestic oil, coal, natural gas or any FF.

Seven year complete oil embargo. 10 or 11 months in storage, and Swiss Army gets more than half of that. Say 3 months for civilian (including agriculture) use over seven years.

International trade cut by over 90% (for a small landlocked nation), and only a limited range of goods can be imported (no food, oil, rubber for example).

Yet they maintained a decent, if stressed, quality of life in a Western industrial democracy.

Per your assumptions, Gail, that would not be possible.

There is no need to assume that modern knowledge will be completely lost.

Electrified trains are sustainable for centuries.

Bicycles are sustainable for centuries.

Walking is sustainable.

Hydroelectric power is sustainable for centuries.

Best Hopes for Realism,


One starting point was Switzerland during WW II. *FAR* worse that the USA will face in the next 30 years.

Yes. But the Swiss had a ginormous advantage that we don't. They could blame it on an essentially untouchable external enemy, and get on with the task of getting by. We likely will have a battle between scapecoats and scapecoaters, rather than adaptive coping.

Well, the USA, as exemplified by the leadership of GWB, seems to have no shortage of external enemies. It's just that the decision has been to go after them, to the detriment of getting on with things at home.

I am still of the opinion that the one policy that could unite and motivate the people of the US, under any leader, is "energy independence", or more specifically, oil independence. Instead oft he war on terror, we have the war on imported oil (imported from off continent, anyway -f we leave Canada and mexico in there, the target is actually much easier to achieve).

Combine country (or continent) of origin labelling for oil, like we have with almost any other product you can buy today, so that people know when they buy from Citgo, they are buying from Chavez. if EXXon is importing 20% of it's oil form the mid east, then they have to label it as such. Let the people start to vote with their feet/wallets where they get their oil from. Are they prepared to give up a little, if it means giving nothing to Venez/Saudi Arabia? I think they are, if they know that that is what is going to happen.

Oil independence is as good a motivator as we will get, but so far, no one has picked up this ball to run with it.

I've often thought exactly the same thing. Start a movement, Paul. I'll join it!

Whenever one brings up points similar to the ones you have made, the rejoinder is typically, "but, but, we cannot solve all our problems with bicycles, walking, conservation, alternative energy, etc." What that rejoinder really means is, "let us continue the way we are and hope that coal, nuclear, oil, and natural gas will last long enough into the future that we won't have to worry about the problem." Not to mention that the same people just don't care about carbon emissions anyway.

Let us change business as usual. Let us do all the things we can possibly do that address the amount of oil and other energy we use. Let us build cities as compactly as possible which will be easier if they are car free. Let us encourage zoning that will bring required goods and services as possible to people as possible. Let us do all those things and hundred other things there is not space for here.

All those things will clearly reduce our requirement for oil, coal, and natural gas, especially oil. At the end of the day, we can then assess our need for some additional coal, for example. We can then see how absolutely necessary it is to use those fossil fuels for a decent quality of life. Regardless, we will be in a much better position to stretch out domestic availability of those resources.

But we have not even tried. Nor do we seem to really want to do anything that would in any way disrupt our current trajectory.

Don't tell me how bicycles and walking are not the answer. Does it then follow that automobiles are the answer?

For those of us who have lived in cities where we got around quite well without a car, we know what a blessing it is, both to the livability of the city and our own health. Even with great public transportation, we ended up walking more and bicycling. Coming home for work, maybe we decided to skip the last bus leg to our homes. Or maybe we just decided to get on a metro to a new part of the city and just walk around for a day at our new destination.

As a people, we have lived so long with poison that we think it is a necessity for existence. We cannot seem to imagine any other way of living. Regardless of the oil problems or the carbon problems, even if those things didn't exist, our lives would be enriched if we slowed things down and quit being slaves of the machine.

Aren't we yet sicked and tired of burning money? That is what we might as well we do as a society that is so overwhelmingly dependent upon stuff you have to burn to keep things going. Stop the burning. Stop the insanity.

To be fair, Hofmeister's piece is titled "straight talk from an insider" but he is not very clear exactly what he thinks policy should be, so people are likely to fill the void and assume he is in favour of unrestricted drilling. In fact he says

"Given the current trajectory of an aging
infrastructure, decades of restrictions on drilling, failure to tackle the obstacles that prevent both more nuclear plant and clean coal plant projects, frittering at the edges of renewable energy, and avoidance of other energy “hard choices,”"

which could be interpreted as equal minded, yet he puts drilling near the top and "frittering" could be interpreted as "wasting money on". Wind and solar are pretty easy choices, I guess putting the environment at risk is the "hard choice".

And "given all of the natural sources of energy in this country, and the world," could refer to wind and solar power, or oil and gas it is hard to tell. I'm not aware of any policy restrictions in the area of renewables - only drilling.

So it certainly seems like Hofmeister is touting his industry, perhaps his book of the same name is a little more "straight" about what he means.

My response to Hofmeister would be, "policy restrictions exist because you keep screwing things up".

When I hear either a politician or businessman talk about "hard choices" they usually mean hard on the poor and powerless. The rich rarely if ever offer up the hard choice of higher taxes on the filthy rich or accepting lower profits on big business in order to pay their employees better, make workplaces safer, or reduce pollution.


The big issue is that the underlying system that is holding everything together seems to be in danger of failing.

Of course it is in danger of failing. Since we will run out of oil anyway no matter how many deep wells we dril, it will fail eventually. If we keep pumping lower and lower ERoEI oil and coal, less and less energy will go to infrastructure and when that fails it all fails. The system is doomed.

Preparing to power down now will cushion the failing and leave humans with something of a planet to live on. Propping up the system will make the crash more severe and probably bring the whole thing down with more loss of life and less left for humans to build on. If you care about the future of humanity you need to care about oil spills, mountain top removal, CO2. If you only want the system to last until you die, well keep on promoting propping up the system.

using animal power on farms

Using animal power in the cities!

The Horse in the City: Living Machines in the Nineteenth Century by Clay McShane and Joel Tarr

When Horses Walked On Water: Horse Powered Ferries in Nineteenth Century America by Thomas Kinney

"He said that he would rather drive to work."

I would like a solid gold commode, but it ain't in the cards babe.

Thanks, Alan,

One never knows...maybe something sunk in that will connect later (we can only hope).

Gail said,

"No one is really willing to look at what our energy future is really likely to look like, and plan and make regulations on that basis."

Very true.

Many of us look at what the energy future is really likely to look like.......and are doing our best to make personal plans that reflect our beliefs.

It has been very helpful for me to be able to source online knowledge (TOD and other sites), and use that information to go forward, plan, and set up for my family to the best of my ability.

I think that is all we can do. Right now, readers will have to lead by example, and be willing to help others with problems, (which will be different everywhere) as events unfold. Acknowledgment of the problem with a universal focus in changing laws and regulations will only occur after the facts become so obvious our way of life is no longer recognizable, and may be untenable.

Tomorrow I fence in a seven acre sheep pasture and fence out the elk on a new garden site. If I lived in a city I would bicycle more and use transit, and maybe make some connections in other parts of our country, either by attending workshops or taking helpful courses. It all depends on who we are, what our skills might be, and where we hope to live.

Business and special interests own the political process at this point, and except for the odd 'amber alert' type initiative, I don't believe laws serve the people or truth, (in most cases).

Respectfully, Paul

Paul, what kind of sheep will you be raising? What kind of forages are in your pasture, and which ones do you plan to add? How many paddocks will you create for rotational grazing (for which simple solutions exist)?

Will, you make a good point. It is awfully difficult to produce a truly sustainable alternative to our current system. Our forefathers had to have a truly huge number of skills, or faced degrading their land quickly. (I suspect quite a bit of the latter.) We now know more about the situation, and theoretically could set up a proper system, with multiple grazing plots and proper mixes of crops providing the right nutrients.

But even this will be hard to keep up long-term, unless we work out a lot of details. For example, it is likely that fencing that is put in now will at some point not be repairable, because replacement fencing is not available, except perhaps with wooden posts made locally. It is possible to work around this, with hedges and short fences, but if we don't plan ahead, Liebig's Law of the Minimum will kick in.

One old standby for a fence is a willow wattle fence;

Willow trees would be coppiced or pollarded in order to produce profuse numbers of willow rods;

Yes indeed. It is certainly conceivable that we could switch over, or back, to an older model, but most of it can't be scaled up that quickly. For example, I read a lot of things related to using draft animal power, e.g., following the "Amish model." But you are not going to be able to breed and grow all the necessary mules, oxen, donkeys and horses overnight! I don't have statistics at hand on how many of these animals currently exist, but it might be a good topic for a post.

Putting a Mule or a Horse in harness is a tricky business. If you don't know what you're doing, as in a lot of previous experience at the direction of the older folks who do know what they're doing, then good luck. You're looking for a runaway, dead or badly injured animals, and quite possibly badly injured or dead human beings. Folks who don't know, have no idea of the power in the muscle of a horse or a mule. Best from the Fremont

Well, yes, that part is certainly true too. I was just talking about them even being available in sufficient numbers to begin with. I did not have the privilege of learning to work with draft animals but I was around dairy cows a lot. They are strong -- even the "little," week-old calves! Not to mention their mothers, especially when they deliver a well-aimed kick.

Hi Metz,

We absolutely aren't going back to horse power on the grand scale anytime soon because as you suspect there are not enough animals available to serve as breeding stock.

I didn't save it, but I recently saw a piece written by someone who used what seemed like very reasonable (to me ) assumptions about the present herd size and reproductive rate of horses and it would take a couple of decades at least to get back to horse farming;and this assumes a firm policy of raising as many as possible.

Tractors can actually be fueled with biofuels on less acreage than draft horses by a considerable margin, because tractors only "eat " on the days you use them.The realities of farming are such that most of the larger machines sit in sheds most days.

The manure as fertilizer thing is also commonly misunderstood ; when the produced foods leave the farm in large quantities, rather tham most of it being consumed on the place, the soil nutrients still get used up pretty fast.Horses don't CREATE phosphorus or potassium in thier digestivre tracts.

As a practical matter, it is now bau ag or starvation , over the short to medium term.But bau ag can move to biofuels or continue with diverted and rationed petro diesel if absolutely necessary for quite a long time..

The long term looks really bad, but not because there aren't ways to grow the food necessary w/o the oil; it's getting them implemented that is the real problem.

IMVHO, many pleasure mares (hobby horses, we have about a million of them) could be artificially inseminated and bear useful mules. An average size (and bone structure) mule can do a lot of useful work. Much more than his or her mother could.


I sure like Mules. They'd be the Philosopher Kings if they just had fingers and a voice box. A Mule will get along fine where a horse can't make it. They have the sense to stay away from hazards, like wire or other traps, that cause horses all kinds of injuries. Lots of horses die of colic, hardly ever does a Mule. They're not near as prone to founder either; they know when to stop eating. They're eyes are set further out on their skulls and so they can see their back feet, something a horse can't do. That's why they're so sure footed in rough country. You can make a horse do just about anything, but you can make a Mule do only what he wants to do. That's why, Cavalry Mules are the exception. They'll haul the ambulance, and the cannon, but as far as the Mule is concerned, let the dumb horses charge into gunfire. Mules consider their options. They're cogitators; horses react. It's flight for the horse, it's always weighting the options for a Mule. A Mule will attack a Bear if cornered, where a horse will come apart, come unglued. Mules understand fair treatment. Abuse one, and he'll wait his whole life to even the score. They always hit what they kick at. I had a friend with a perfect print of a Mule Shoe between his eyes on his forehead. It was permanent. When I first saw it I asked him if he got rid of the Mule that kicked him. His reply was "Hell no, why would I get rid of a Mule who has that kind of control and aim. He didn't want to kill me, just wanted to show me a lesson". The same friend got tired of his wife and moved out of his house into his barn so he could be nearer to his mules. I read that Kit Carson preferred to ride a Mule and over his career he owned 135 of them. He had 132 of them for dinner. He preferred Mule meat to horse meat. So, here's to Mules, may they have a robust and a useful future. Best from the Fremont

The only two times in my life I have been seriously injured by an equid was by a mule. Two different animals, years apart. A draft mule, who I had been warned had a nasty temper, got a burr up his butt or something, decided he was pissed at the world, and clamped his teeth over my shoulder and lifted me off the ground. Mules are stubborn- if they don't want to do something, they won't. And he didn't want to let go. Years later I was leading a mule along, and suddenly a rooster came bursting out of cover when another rooster jumped him. That mule did a lovely impression of the space shuttle lifting off, and my foot was the launch pad. Don't care for mules much...

And I prefer to spend my feed dollars on something that can be fruitful and multiply.

I like em, get along well with them. Not everybody does. All you need for more is a good mare and a Jack. There is a sadness with the Mule that comes, I think, from the fact that they know they can't have little mules. You have to keep the Mules away from the Cows, because a Mule will take a newborn calf for it's own and try to mother it. Best from the Fremont

After my Dad's funeral, my aunt, his last surviving sibling, told a sweet little story about their mule. There were 10 or 11 kids in that family; I don't even remember offhand the exact number. My granddad was an OK guy I guess but he had an awful temper and my Dad, aunts and uncles would make reference to getting "whaled on" (I thought that was a peculiar word usage but I understood what it meant) when they did something to make him mad.

My aunt was just a little girl and Granddad had gotten after her about something. She crawled underneath the mule! He was the gentlest thing with all the kids and she knew he wouldn't hurt her. She also knew that he would kick the crap out of Granddad if he tried to get at her. Granddad knew it too and he was scared of the mule. All he could do was stand there and cuss her out. She stayed under there until he cooled off and she escaped getting "whaled on." That time, anyway.

hobby horses, we have about a million

There are somewhere between nine and ten million horses in the U.S.

So, assuming about half are mares, and employing alan's scheme of artificial insemination (though that doesn't sound as fun as the real thing), and restricting ourselves to one breeding season per year, that would give us 50 million mules in ten years. Maybe not quite enough, but a pretty good sized herd, it seems to me.

Oops, I just looked it up, and the length of pregnancy for horses is about eleven months, plus or minus a month. Pushing out a foal a year without any recovery time would, I imagine, be rather rough on the old gals.

Maybe a year or two of increasing the mare population would be wise.

Unfortunately, many horses were put down or let loose (with generally fatal consequences) during the downturn when people with hobby horses suddenly did not have the means to support them.

Many tragic tales there.

Putting a Mule or a Horse in harness is a tricky business...runaway, dead or badly injured animals

I learned from a book with a very calm and gentle Percheron mare who patiently waited while I spent nearly three hours figuring it out. Granted I knew this mare well, and she me; I had plenty of non-draft experience with horses; and I knew for a fact that the mare herself was already fully trained.

I don't have statistics at hand on how many of these animals currently exist

30,000 mustangs in holding facilities, right now.

Yes, Yes, I Know!! Untrained feral animals.
Last year, more than 100,000 horses sent to slaughter in the U.S. Yes, Yes, I Know! Some old, some crippled, some diseased; but a goodly number perfectly good animals whose owners got laid off, or had to choose between the beloved horses and foreclosure...

Is the glass half empty, or half full? I CHOOSE HALF FULL!

The glass is nedlessly big.

Knowing how to use draft animals, how to grow feed for them, and having the production capacity or home grown skills to make yokes, traces etc may be more difficult than actually breeding them. Being a animal that can produce a new offspring every year for a number of years brings us into the power of exponential growth that can easily exceed the exponential growth of humans (who have to reach about 14 years before they can have offspring). Not overnight of course, but if we dedicated ourselves to the project it might not take so long as one would think.

I'd have to disagree on this point.

People can be trained into new skills much faster than we could have one generation of new draft animals.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." - Robert Heinlein

Mares can be bred at 18 months, they carry a colt or filly for 11 months and within a year it should be ready to work. Thus starting with a filly newborn it takes 3 1/2 years to get the next generation. After that she can have a foal every year into her 20's.

Some skills can be learned quickly, some take time. It has often been discussed here on TOD how long it takes to learn how to garden successfully. To learn how to fully and successfully care for horses is probably not doable in 3 1/2 years. Horses are bigger and more powerful than humans and from what I have read are quick to take advantage of any human that doesn't know what they are doing.

I have not raised a horse so perhaps I am wrong, but maybe some who have raised draft animals can comment on the likelihood of a human who has never even ridden a horse being able to raise, train, learn to grow feed for, learn to treat, and use a team of draft animals.

Heinlein is a great fiction author. Quotes from fiction authors are always fund to read but don't prove a thing. The list of skills he has are NOT things all humans can do. Specialization has in fact allowed humans to vastly extend their range. The man with the skill to chip a flint just so may not have the fine hearing or smell to find game, and that man may not have the skill to shoot precisely at a moving target. But put them together and you get excellent arrows heads for the hunter to use when the tracker finds the game. They might all be able to learn all those tasks but not do more than one task really well and thus specializing makes the team stronger than the individuals.

They might all be able to learn all those tasks but not do more than one task really well and thus specializing makes the team stronger than the individuals.

I disagree with this assumption. It might make an efficient team, but what happens when your marksman gets the flu?

As a tangent, an interesting recent (2007) book on soil in America is Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery.

Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery.

An excellent book! The stuff about how every civilization since farming began decimated their land was really an eye opener for me. Take home lesson- where dirt is concerned, Bare Is Bad. I was being bad. But I am being good now! :)

Our forefathers had to have a truly huge number of skills, or faced degrading their land quickly. (I suspect quite a bit of the latter.) We now know more about the situation, and theoretically could set up a proper system, with multiple grazing plots and proper mixes of crops providing the right nutrients.

Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth Century America by Steven Stoll

They knew back then. It isn't all that tough, not rocket science or anything.

Hi Will

I am going to get Katahadin? hair sheep for meat rather than a wool breed. I have about seven acres of Christmas trees and thought that it was pretty stupid to use a sickle mower to keep the grass down when I can run sheep instead. My half acre garden is divided in two with chickens ranging on each side every other year. The sheep will range in a low area during summer and fall, (which is too wet in winter), and on slightly higher fields over the winter. If I have the money next summer I will bring in an excavator for a pond (fly fishing). Another 8 acres is in woodlot, mostly red alder.

Our biggest problem is marauding elk herds which are too big for predators and the hunting is by limited entry draws. We may have to go to electric fencing which is the only thing that seems to keep them out.

If you already have a fence, you can put an extension of a couple of strings of electric wire relatively inexpensively on top (corners would be the tricky part in terms of tension), which can extend the height of the fence another 6-8". Quite common, especially in horse country where they want to keep high spirited horses in adjoining pastures from annoying each other. For fence heights for elk, see;

You might want to create 2 interior paddocks with a simple electric fence using push-in fiberglass poles (per the link in my previous post, highly recommended for a number of reasons).

Paul, please note that Gail only selected and posted this piece, she is not the author (a common confusion to those new to this forum, and sometimes even for us oldsters.)

Why she chose to present this bit of tripe to us, on the other hand, is another question entirely.

Sometimes the best way to win an argument is simply let the audience hear the other side.

I have won a lot by simply letting the other side run free and saying in response "I rest my case".Of course this strategy presupposes first, that I am right, and second, the audience is smart enough to know that.

Seriously, thre is a case to be made for running some stuff occasionally from the opposite end of the belief spectrum , for the sake of objectivity, and to remind the occasional visitor just what those opposed to the OIL DRUM do stand for, precisely.

There will certainly be many new visitors here over the next few weeks, and many of them will know very little about the politics of energy.I skipped the piece after a fast skim, recognizing it for what it is, but new comers will benefit from seeing it ripped to shreds-which is happening, as Gail doubtlessly expected.

Now there is the problem "second, the audience is smart enough to know that".

This is the country where Fox's News is king. I rest my case.

You win by resting your case in terms of msm and the public, but this is TOD, and the average visitor here is a lot smarter than Joe Sixpack aka John Q. Public.

It is simply astounding just how few idiots post comments here.I extrapolate from this that very few idiots read the site.

As one of the few idiots that do frequent this site, let me add one of my typically arbitrary and non-sequitur random observations that you may or may not find interesting.

The word 'idiot' is from a Greek root 'idio-' that means 'individual' (compare 'idiosyncrasy').

For the Greeks and for most other traditional societies, the individualist, rugged or otherwise, was beyond foolish.

A colleague of mine regularly gives talks about how one person cannot make a difference (in spite of the usual tripe preached at graduations and other inspirational fora). A person only makes a difference by working with others consistently over a long period toward common, well articulated goals.

You win by resting your case in terms of msm and the public, but this is TOD, and the average visitor here is a lot smarter than Joe Sixpack aka John Q. Public.

It is simply astounding just how few idiots post comments here.I extrapolate from this that very few idiots read the site.


I think that Paulo is justified in thinking that the sentence that he quoted was authored by Gail.

That is how the quoting appears to indicate in the post above. I disagree with Gail, or whoever actually wrote that line. But, I hope that the discussion could be less shrill. IMHO, nothing about the way we do business today is absolutely necessary for the survival of the human race. Certainly international trade is not necessary. It might be highly desireable, but the race can or will survive without it.

Some things about BAU will stop working. I hope we choose to preserve what it is actually possible to preserve, and to do it in such a way that there is a 'soft landing' at the bottom of the decline. IMHO, an important part of achieving that soft landing is open discussion about what we are going to try to preserve. So, Gail, can you make a case for the preservation of international trade? Suppose the choise is between international trade and hospitals, would you really choose IT? Yes, that's an unfair way to put it, but what is a fair way?

I think what goes first is the financial system, and it takes with it international trade and hospitals. It would be nice to have a choice on the matter, but I don't think we do.

Dennis Meadows (one of the authors of "Limits to Growth") says that the limiting variable to our current system is capital. If you think about it, we could theoretically continue to have enough oil after liquid oil hit its peak just by ramping up biofuels and oil sands, and coal to liquid and oil shale and everything else we could think of. But we would run out of capital. Capital (if one ignores debt considerations) is generated by the net energy that comes through Charlie Hall's cheese slicer model. If EROI is going down, the availability of capital is going down at the time the need for capital is going up. Add in the influence of debt, and one has a real problem. (It cannot be paid back with interest, without economic growth, in general.)

Adding renewables and new infrastructure for renewables (electric cars, etc) makes the capital needs worse--further acting to max out capital.

So what we get is a big financial crisis.

Will the current volume of our international trade decline ?

Quite likely.

Will *ALL* international trade disappear ?

Almost impossible.

One doomer novel had the annual trade ship (sail) from Antarctica, laden with wheat and timber, coming in to the ocean port around St. Louis (the new New Orleans, close to the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers).

The USA can find something to trade with Brazil for enough rubber for bicycle tires for example.

And if we build it in the next few decades, the rubber can arrive here by electrified rail.


There is a MUCH more than adequate source of funds for capital.


Currently (from memory) 66% of GDP. *WAY* too much for our own good.

Reduce that (savings, taxes, investments, higher profits, what ever means work) to, say, 57% and we have a MASSIVE source of capital !

And if that is not enough, cut consumption to 45% of GDP.

Works for the Chinese BTW.


Please add the defense budget. Use freed up capital to reduce need for foreign oil, a win win which frees up additional resources currently devoted to defending the oil empire. Hardly anyone ever mentions the pointlessness of most of our so called defense budget.

Begin by taking our troops out of almost everywhere.

Oh. And quit building any additional roads. Do not permit any additional urban sprawl, which reduces need for roads and other expensive infrastructure.

Or continue bau and have no freed up capital.

How much energy did we produce as a result of the Iraqi and Afghani wars?

Shrink the realm.

Oh, and if our buddy from Arizona was still posting, he would advocate turning our golf courses into community farms and gardens. Where is he,anyway, because I really miss his always original and insightful commentary.

According to Bob Shaw's former girl friend, he is OK but has re-orientated his life completely.


And don't forget that other massive source of ready, idle capital--

"Eat the rich!"

Consumption is one of the things holding this whole house of cards together. We have to spend our way outta this.

The spending can be on capital goods, long live appliances, retrofits (insulation, more energy efficient doors & windows, weather stripping) and TOD (Transit Orientated Development) housing.

A different type of economy, but one with 5% or 6% unemployment and growth coming from the ever growing efficiency and growing production of renewables.

PS: If I reduce the energy consumption of my home by 75% to 80%, am I wealthier ?

A penny saved is a penny earned.

In a very real sense, I am producing over $100/month in additional income. Even if it does not show up in GDP #s.

I agree with Alan. Several points:

- Some people, faced with the truth (which will become apparent to all within 5 years), will cut their consumption and invest more. They might invest in insulating their home or in gardening equipment or in the IPO of an electric bike company or in electrically powered farming equipment or in a condo next to a train station.

- Many societies have experienced far worse cut-backs without collapse. I think of WWII combatants and neighboring nations. The UK didn't collapse and neither did Switzerland. What is impressive is the extremes to which societies could be pushed without collapsing. In fact, total collapse into anarchy is rare in human societies.

- We had industrial civilization in the late 19th century before cars. So why can't we have it again?

- We had international trade before oil-powered ships.

- North Dakota farmers can produce enough diesel fuel from Canola to operate all the farm tractors in America. So why won't they?

- We can electrify the rails. So why won't we?

I'm not saying the next 20 years are going to be pleasant or low stress. I expect many of us to lose jobs for extended periods of time. But I do not see the inevitability of collapse.

FP, I'm on the same page as you and Alan here. There are solutions, but they are not being implemented for a variety of reasons, mostly political related IMO.

There are indeed many examples of surviving hardship, we've done it before and could do it again. But, everyone thinks that "someone else" should suffer the hardship, and any government (at least, in US/Can) that tries do so pre-emptively will be demonised and voted out.

The farmers are producing biodiesel, but then were exporting it to Europe to game the tax breaks. An import tax on oil would soon have them producing it for themselves.

Same tax would also get more people off planes and on trains (actually, this trend has already started, Amtrak is seeing a rise in patronage this year).

IT comes down to the fact that making systemic changes (e.g. rail electrification) is a big task, requiring capital, and determination over the naysayers. Right now, it;s hard to get parties to agree to support for those projects, so we end up with no change, until we are forced to. And by then, the optimum time has passed, and solutions will be rushed and less effective. They likely will get done, but could be done sooner, better, with less pain.
Elec rail, smart grid, urban transit - these should have been the "stimulus" projects, not bank bailouts.

yeah, I screwed up even though I knew it was another author.

yeah, I screwed up even though I knew it was another author.

This reminds me of the movie scene where the drug pusher threatens to withdraw the junkies supply, in order to gain cooperation from the junkie. They rarely have a happy ending.

I saw that movie! I believe it was called 'Requiem for a Dream.' Very good, and very disturbing.

The image that sprang first to my mind was actually Angel Heart, the scene where Harry Angel takes the addicted doctor's morphine and forces him to go cold turkey to persuade him to talk. Angel Heart also a metaphor that applies here, the PI seeking the evil killer discovers that he himself is the culprit. In the last scene, Harry rides down the elevator to Hell...

"No one is really willing to look at what our energy future is really likely to look like, and plan and make regulations on that basis."

Two points I'd like to make:

First - I think he painted a pretty clear picture of our energy future will look like (rolling blackouts, gas shortages, unemployment, cultural malaise, higher mortality rates etc...), he was simply wrong about why that is what the future will look like (attributing it basically to dirty hippies and bureaucrats instead of peak energy).

Second - I am currently writing a term paper centered around that exact question for a 'planning sustainable communities' course I'm taking. As has been stated many times one this site, our current system is self organized, so it is, in effect, unplanned. So while I doubt that anyone can 'plan' a sustainable community through zoning, LEED requirements or multimodal transportation planning, policies pointing a community in this direction will help (in my view, they will help quite a bit). But just as many solutions will come from neighborhood gardens, jitny style commuter taxis, and civic groups augmenting (and in some cases replacing) public safety departments. These efforts cannot be planned, but they can be assisted through red tape reduction, favorable zoning laws and a responsive civil service.

(Of course as an MPA candidate, my perspective is from the public policy POV, rather than industry, technical, or otherwise...)

"it is, in effect, unplanned"

I'm afraid that you have been hoodwinked by a myth here. The system of mass consumption we are in was about as carefully planned as the old Soviet "five year plans." It's just that most of the planning happened first in industry rather than government. Some of the records of industry strategy are openly available. I don't have the citation here, I recall a particular article about the creation planned stylistic obsolescence--they couldn't make cars that were guaranteed to break down after a year, but they were hoping to make cars different enough each year that everyone would want they newest styles. The line I remember was, "When we can get them to buy a new car every year, we've won."

If I'd been 'hoodwinked' by TPTB, I seriously doubt I'd spend time reading articles on TOD. I'd be watching porn on the job like the jack%*ses at the SEC.

But i digress...

I'm familiar with the notion of planned obsolecense, and 'model year ____s' but the fact is that no matter how well made a product, with a few exceptions, it will wear out. Sure there are artifacts in museums and the USS Consitution still floats and the stonhenge still stands, but these are outliers. The vast majority of everthing mankind has ever made no longer exists in useful form. Corporate bigshots accelerated the problem of obsolecense, but they didn't create it.

This was not a helpful thing to do from a sustainability POV, but I doubt a bunch of industrialists sat around at some chalet in 1920 and drew up a plan to turn the USA into a dysfuntional, suburbanized, energy starved mess. I will make an exception for the Standard Oil/GM/Firestone conspiracy to destroy the light rail/streetcar network, that was planned.

Anyway, my point was that we can't 'know' what the energy regieme in America will look like in 80 years, but we can make an educated guess and plan accordingly.

... and the stonhenge still stands, ...

Yes, it still stands, but I doubt that its builders would find it to be still fit for its intended use, whatever that was ;)

It was/is a calendar. A very accurate calendar that was able to predict everything down to eclipses of the moon and sun.

"This was not a helpful thing to do from a sustainability POV, but I doubt a bunch of industrialists sat around at some chalet in 1920 and drew up a plan to turn the USA into a dysfuntional, suburbanized, energy starved mess."

Sorry, but they did. They weren't interested in sustainability but in maximizing profit.

Current sprawl housing patterns were planned. This is all very well documented. Read a bit.

Very true.

GM, Standard Oil (NJ ?) and Firestone Rubber conspired together. Also influenced VA loans, road and highway building, new school and sewer subsidies, and MUCH MUCH more.


The same "political time" that makes nuclear power plants take 10 years to build, also strikes solar energy projects, wind, powerline, light rail , heck everything. The first US offshore wind project just got a permit after nine years of politicians flapping their jaws. Now they just have to build the thing.

No I don't buy into his premise that it is "enviromentalists" bringing about the end of oil. And I think standards should if anything be tightened not loosened. But how about we address the "political time" issue. Hold a hearing, everyone gets a vote, and the project goes forward, or not.

Given a set of fixed standards, industry can quickly decide whether its viable or not to pursue a project. Politicians however, would prefer as nebulous a standard as possible to encourage projects they want (with assurances like "don't worry about the wording here, its just parlimentarian language, it means this") and then when something goes wrong they can jump all over the company they just assured. Its stupid, its lazy and if you're going to regulate, put your ass on the line for the consequences of what is written down, don't try and pass the buck. IMHO, politicians should be held just as accountable for any bill they sign as engineers are held responsible for any design they agree to. Then, if something goes wrong because of a poor bill, we take the politicians to the cleaners for the liability.

The largest solar thermal power plant to be built in the US has been delayed by a year and will cost approximately $30M extra to build because the site was occupied by a few desert turtles. It is not even a case of these being an endangered species they simply occupied the site where the plant was to be built. The builder of the plant has been forced to buy an equal sized block of land to relocate the turtles to, even though they would probably be happier living in the shade under the heliostats. The price... a little over $1M per turtle.

So long as this type of thinking prevails their is no hope of putting alternative infrastructure in place in either the time or cost necessary to prevent a major colapse in society.

Some places have found a solution to the "political time" issue, like Texas and Alberta. In both cases, the rules are fairly well set, and you can decide whether your project will meet them, or what has to change to meet them, before starting. Time period for approval of a wind farm in Texas - 3-6 months. In California, 3-6 years, and the answer might still be "no", or that you have to do these turtle like exercises such that your project is now uneconomic. That is why Texas leads the US in wind growth and Alberta does the same for Canada.

The government makes these decisions, and the compromises necessary/acceptable to both proponents and public, once. The rules are set, and then let the people/companies play by them, and enforce them. In California, you get few clear rules and lots of expensive lawsuits, so nothing gets done.
Sports works well because everyone knows the rules, and most people play by them, and, generally, the referees enforce them, and rarely, are they challenged. There is lots of organised sport played when there are clear rules for the game, and they referee enforces them.

There will be lots of renewable energy projects when there are clear rules for the same. It doesn't really matter how high the environmental standards are, what matters is that you know what they are, and that they will remain, so you can decide whether you can meet them, or not, before you start.

It is usually uncertainty/risk that drives away investment, not the regulations themselves.

Mr. H. has poly sci degrees (B.S., M.S.) from Kansas S.U. and has held a variety of non-technical management jobs for GE and others, including lots of PR experience. Back in the '80s I remember a trend within industry, at least in the U.S., of anointing CEOs without a technical background, though I never understood why. Maybe they decided wearing matching suits and ties made for better public and political relationships, rather than technical credibility. Or perhaps another form of plausible deniability?

Back to Gail's motive - what can we learn from this? One thing I would expect a poly sci major to be very good at is blaming someone else for an unsolvable problem your technocrats tell you is coming along full steam. Given the reluctance of oil industry CEOs to discuss or be honest about peak oil, I can totally understand why a blame game seems like a good strategy, especially to someone like Mr. H. with his non-technical background. I expect this approach will seem attractive to economists as well. The skeptical corner of my brain is saying "it sounds better than peak demand" - a notion which violates core tenets of human behavior.

From a politician's perspective, one of the last things you'd want is to have the "not enough energy" finger pointed at you, and I'd expect to see many more oil'n'energy CEO comments along these lines over the next few years. We've seen dramatic evidence of political finger pointing avoidance with the recent lifting of drilling restrictions in some off-shore waters - and from a supposedly progressive Democratic administration at that (and what a boomerang effect that turned out to have). So now we get to enjoy dueling fingers. That's what I learned from Mr. H. (and Mr. O.).

I agree with Mr Rawlins. Technical pronouncements are routinely posted and then disparaged here; we should do the same for political weaseling.

Back to Gail's motive - what can we learn from this? One thing I would expect a poly sci major to be very good at is blaming someone else for an unsolvable problem your technocrats tell you is coming along full steam.

I think this is exactly right. We are going to be seeing a lot of this. There are both commercial, and political motives for this. The commercial motivation, is not just blame shifting, but profit seeking. Get more areas of potential profit generating drilling opened up. Delay efforts to conserve, as high demand is good for suppliers -even (or especially) if they can't satisfy demand. Politically, the rightwing think tanks know an energy crucnh is coming, so they are carefully creating/feeding the myth that we have inehaustable supplies (including such concepts as abiotic oil), if only we walked over the dead bodies of the greenie-weenies. The idea is to blame anyone to the left of the current conservative movement. The tactic is to prepare the mental mythology well ahead of time.

So we had better get used to seeing and responding to this sort of wilful disinformation. Early exposure to it is valuable to be able to combat it.

Thanks, articulates for me why, since i moved to a rural area (SE Aus.), i've dropped (as much as i can) the standard Green issues and jargon and tried to talk like an old fashioned conservative. It's no secret really where i am coming from, but i'm not feeling any anti-green heat, of which there is plenty around.

Mr. Hofmeister seems to suggest that 'policymakers' are responsible for our impending energy crisis. As a result, we are likely to face an immediate crisis that will plunge us into a decade of scarce and expensive oil supplies. He then suggests that once the policymakers wake up and recognize the error of their ways, an unfettered industry can then be free to "deliver affordable energy in endless supply"... this begs the question - where does he think this endless supply of affordable is oil going to come from? Another planet?

We have plateaued in our current level of global oil production [in spite of the apparent restrictions by policymakers]. We have already used close to half of the recoverable oil reserves [mostly the easy to recover stuff], and the demand for energy resources continues unabated - fueled by an ever increasing global population and technological advancements. I would contend that we are barely keeping up as it is, and at the end of the day, we are going to be faced with an accelerating decline in global oil production within a few short years.

As much as I would like to think that Mr. Hofmeister is right, I am afraid that common sense dictates otherwise.

You automatically substituted "oil" when he said "energy". Solar, wind, and flowing water in both rivers and the oceans are examples of endless supplies of energy. It is all a matter of capital investments. Do we invest billions in a single drilling platform in deep of shore oil or billions in wind farms, solar power, conversion to electrified rail, a stronger smarter grid, etc.

Also the original article said the supply was "endless" but did not consider the rate at which the supply could be tapped. Solar is, for all our practical purposes, endless. How far the rate can be pushed beyond sustainable natural capture by photosynthesis is another matter. Like others I see a degree of "collapse" to be recovered from is in the cards. The depth of collapse, given current social structure, makes me rather gloomy. As a rough rule of thumb, no pathway is taken seriously if it does not further cement the privileged positions of those already in such positions. It seems to me this is the first, unspoken requirement of any pathway. I don't see any pathway that meets this requirement.

The energy industry, despite its technological, geological, chemical, physical, molecular, logistical, scientific and engineering expertise and capacity to deliver affordable energy in endless supply, given all of the natural sources of energy in this country, and the world, will be unable to supply the demand because of public policy constraints.

What the hell is with this sentence?
1) It is a long incomprehensible run-on sentence with poor grammar and punctuation.
2) "deliver affordable energy in endless supply"? C'mon. Violates laws of thermodynamics.
3) "given all of the natural sources of energy in . . . the world". So, are we supposed to invade other countries for energy? Is that what they are asking for?
4) What an arrogant braggart. If you are so awesome then deliver cheap non-polluting renewable energy, OK?


How about some of you *&*^ trashing Gail for posting a relevant speech from a polysci educated CEO of Shell because the CEO is "not technically educated" post you own credentials? These attacks on Gail are disgusting.

I agree lenny. The posting serves to follow the old philosophy: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." If folks don't like what Mr. H says then you better find yourself a cave. As we slide deeper into a PO world such statements will fill the airwaves IMHO. I'll take much upon myself to offer an oil industry view from someone who is not a spokesman for a public company.

First, the energy future of the country is not our responsibility. No one offered us the job. The people, through their elective representatives, are responsible. We just adapt to their plan in any way that maximizes our profits. Taxes and regs are just the cost of doing business for us. We'll figure out a way to minimize them and just carry on.

Second, we don't really care what you think about us. We've been those "dirty lying bastards" forever. Go ahead...try to hate us more. Can't be done. Na na na na.

Third, we are 100% behind the fact that less than 5% of the world's population uses 25% of the energy resources. Without such greed there would be much less demand for our products. Again, we didn't make the rules. The American consumers did with their never ending desire for more stuff. But we're so lucky you're like that. Thank you very much.

Fourth, we'll risk as much environmental damage as you allow us. Just like your energy future the environment is not our's yours. If we follow the rules and still spill oil in the water it's because you gave us permission to take that risk. Your call...your responsibility.

Fifth, as reserves decline and the country can't meet even basic needs our value and power will increase. You might bitch and scream but you can't do anything about it. Oh, yeah, nationalization. Then the gov't can do for the oil industry what it did for the Post Office and Social Security system. After that fiasco you'll be on your hands and knees begging us to start up biz again. But we'll just laugh. At that point the folks left in the oil patch will have taken theirs to the house and won't care to play this silly game anymore. So we'll just sit on our retirement accounts and watch you tread water in the crap pool of your own making. We might even feel sorry for you but you set the system up so now you deal with it.

And finally, the only honest remorse we feel over this whole situation is for those who have and will continue to sacrifice themselves in foreign lands to support our country's effort to maintain BAU. A very sad abuse of our military but, again, we don't get to make the rules.

Holding the public responsible for energy policy is fine as long as Exxon, Chevron, Shell etc don't spend millions of dollars funneling money to CERA, New America Foundation, Energy Foundation, political campaigns, ... to spread disinformation and sway public opinion to ignore science.

You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

realist -- If you don't like how companies contribute then you and the other voters need only elect politicians who would prohibit the policy. As I said...we didn't make the rules...y'all did. You allow us the opportunity to influence the system then we're obligated to our shareholders to do just that.

Balls still in your court, friend.

I usually agree with your comments Rockman but will take issue with this one.

When 4 of the 5 (and 6 of the 10) largest companies in the World (Forbes 2009) are oil companies there is an uneven playing field for buying influence.

If every renewable company in the U.S. today (ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar voltaic, passive solar, mass transit, etc) combined budgets to put out a concerted message about non fossil fuels I doubt it would equal Exxon's PR budget.

I don't disagree with you that companies will do everything legally possible to maintain profits. Just commenting that the truth can be manipulated if a lie is repeated often enough.

I stated years ago on this forum that if the public ever found out that oil supply really will peak, but that oil companies have consitantly said it won't if they are allowed to drill, that violence would be the likely outcome. The oil companies are playing a very dangerous game in putting profits ahead of National security if they have insider knowledge about peak oil.

I lived in Santa Barbara and I did elect politicians that prohibitted offshore drilling. It isn't the oil companies and their PR budget I worry about. It's Bubba and his 1984 Chevy truck who believes he has a god given right to $2.50 cent gasoline and the hell with my beaches. And my response is the hell with your driving a 13 mpg beast.

I perceive the argument to be more along the line of "the only reason there is a supply problem is we are being overly resticted on where and how we can liberate oil". This implies that if drilling is allowed in all places (including offshore CA) than we wouldn't have a supply problem.

I think that is a false argument. Even if all US waters were opened to drilling we would still have a supply problem. So the willingness to sacrifice pristine environments would not solve the problem and can only damage the environment until you stop operations.

This is analogous to "We need to log the old growth forests because that is the only way to keep the logging industry solvent". Doing so only delays making the hard decision and in the process risk destroying a precious ecosystem.

At some point we have to transition to sustainable systems, both lumber and liquid fuels, there is no reason to destroy the entire natural foodweb environment before doing so. I am not against lumbering or petrochemicals but those industries need to be balanced against other uses of the land and environment.

I know it's a false arguement. You know it's a false arguement. Bubba and the rest of the drill baby drill crowd really believe the oil company is their friend if only those communist enviromentalists will get out of the way.

NC - Again, a easy solution. The oil companies can't buy influence from politicians who won't sell it. It's not our fault if the public elects these politicians. Put a pile of food in front of a hungry man and don't expect him to eat? Accept a political system where companies can put a pile of contributions in front of a money hungry politician and not expect he to help himself?

As I said, the companies don't make the rules. If the American people wouldn't collectively vote for politicians who accept corporate contributions then the companies would have zero influence. We aren't the enablers...the American public are.

Hi Rockman,

Thanks, this is an interesting line of thinking - (though I'm not sure how much - if any - of what you say is solely for purposes of argument, ditto w. "sarcanol" factor).

One way to look at responsibility is 1) Who knows what? 2) Who is in a position to act - (and/or make decisions about action - based on that knowledge?

re: Your post above, where you say: "First, the energy future of the country is not our responsibility."

Well, it may not be entirely, but is it to any extent? Rather than "all or nothing" - can we look at contribution (as an idea)?

Who else knows?

In terms of wanting to consume - this is what people are taught is their "job."

re: "The oil companies can't buy influence from politicians who won't sell it."

So, aren't both parties culpable?

People in this thread are confusing responsibility with causality or blame. Responsibility is nothing like those two phenomena. Because it's a concept that can be sliced and diced any way one wishes, there is no "right" way to apportion responsibility and those conversations really should be using the concept of blame. (I'm not advocating that, I'm just saying it would be more accurate.)

A better way to look at responsibility is as a choice. I can choose to take responsibility for anything in the universe. For instance, I can say, "I'm taking responsibility for child poverty." If I do that, then I will begin to take actions consistent with taking that responsibility. But the likelihood of me taking those actions without first taking responsibility is pretty much nil.

Now, my ability to impact what I am taking responsibility for varies from nothing to complete, and that is distinct from the act of taking responsibility. Responsibility is ultimately a context from which to operate in life. I can say, "I take responsibility for the health of the oceans" and then do nothing about it. Or I can hop in a boat and go clean it up. I can do the same with my health, with the condition of my community or anything else.

In Rockman's post above, he was choosing to take no responsibility. It's not wrong that he doesn't and it doesn't make him an evil person. There are many, many things I don't choose to take responsibility for, from the big (the slave trade) to the small (sweeping the sidewalk in front of my neighbor's home). We each choose what we take responsibility for and no mix is better than another (thus no human is better than another).

But the question remains: what if BP and the rest of the industry did choose to take a different set of responsibilities than they are currently? What would they have done differently? Would they so blithely explain away buying the politicians and poisoning the planet (as well as powering it)?

Well said aangle. You talk good.

Long ago when I taught young geologists I would beat one lesson into them repeatedly: do not take responsibility for that which you have no authority. At best you'll frustrate the hell out of your self. At worse you'll look the fool. But if you do choose to take on such a responsibility you better be ready for a fight: there will be serious forces opposing you no matter how correct your position maybe. Not neccesarially because they disagree with you but because they don't want to give up control/power.

Aniya -- The Rockman sarcastic? Mon cher, how could you say such a thing after all you and I have shared?

And who isn't cupable? At this point I would only say that lad from Nawlins, Alan, isn't.

Thank You Rockman for the most profound compliment I have ever received !

Best Hopes for your daughter, and all the other children that will inherit the future,


Welll, it WOULD be a great compliment if he said you were the only one not cuLpable. As was, he said you were the only one not CUpable, which isn't a word, as far as I know, but if it were, it would mean something like "able to be turned into Cupid" or "able to make love or to desire."

Sorry, in a snarkily pedantic mood today, I guess.

Really though, to pretend that the oil industry, like Exxon that made more money than any corporation since the beginning of money (in McKibben's trenchant words), has no influence (not to mention enormous influence) over politicians and policy, is to be disingenuous at best. No matter how "good" the politician is, few are immune from the influence of the hordes of well paid and well trained lobbyists who swarm the capitol, not to mention corporate shills like Bush and Cheney at the very top of the structure.

I am quite fond of rock and gail and respect their expertise enormously, but I notice that they rarely criticize the oil industry in any very deep way and sometimes come off as industry apologists. That's fine, we need voices from all directions. But I don't see a lot of lead posts really taking the industry to task for its enormous influence no policy, its destruction (direct and indirect) of ecosystems, and its broader warping effect on governments at home and abroad.

A series evaluating the major claims in each chapter of Peter Maass's excellent book "Crude World" might be a great place to start.

Again, I'm not saying that the American public is guilt free--far from it. But the pose that these enormously wealthy corporations are just doing the people's will, exert no influence over policy, and share zero responsibility for our current predicament(s) is naive at best. I'm willing to accept that it is an honest blind-spot, and example of black-and-white / all-or-nothing thinking that we are all guilty of at some point.

We may or may not all be 'cupable,' but we are all, including corporation, NGO's, environmentalist...even you, I'm afraid, my dear Alan (much as I appreciate your posts), cuLpable.

Perhaps a beginning is for everyone to admit 'mea culpa' (or 'nostra culpa'), and get it over with, then move on to figuring out what to do.

We are all culpable if we operate within our economic system.

But if we do our dead level best to both minimize our personal impact (whilst still enjoying life), to help others and try to promote viable solutions at a societal level, does that mitigate the culpability ?

Best Hopes for Trying,


Yup, it's not a black and white, all or nothing equation.

I just try to be a bit less of an eco-*ss-hole than I was yesterday (or at least last year). I see no possibility of much actual eco-virtue on the horizon right now. I replant monoculture lawns with carbon sequestering native grasses and flowers, but I know that my carbon foot print still massively overwhelms these pathetically minor efforts. Doesn't mean I'm not going to stop, but keeping the big picture in mind certainly keeps me humble. The problem is that most people who do see my efforts assume that I think myself perfect or virtuous in some way. This could not be further from the truth.

By the way, Democracy Now is just completing a program on BP, including the massive influence they have had on policy, particularly on undermining safety regulations on oil rigs.

dohboi -- Read my words again. I didn't say Exxon et al didn't have influence. I said they have all the influence politicians, who are elected by the American people, are willing to sell them. It's not their fault if they take advantage of the system put in place by the voting electorate. In fact, they really do a moral obligation to the shareholders to do just that. Again, no matter how much money the industry pumps into the system, the American people have the final say with their votes. And if all that money gives the companies too much advantage then folks can elect politicians who'll change those rules. Ole Teddy Kennedy held his seat for decades so don't say it can't be done.

I just don't understand how you folks can still be mad at the oil industry: we are only playing by the rules set up by the political system put in place by the American people. The industry isn't doing anything the unions and the Sierra Club are doing except maybe we're just a little better at it. Gee whiz...get mad at us for being good at a game someone else designed.

I just don't understand how you folks can still be mad at the oil industry:

The whole discussion goes back to expectations of paternistic powers in control. The main significant change in thinking from the 1950's to about the 1990's has been a gradual reduction in the paternalistic attitude of the wealthy. I haven't studied it enough to have an opinion on why, but clearly large corporations used to take a far more paternalistic attitude to their employees and their communities (though not to their natural surroundings) two generations ago than in the "Greed is Good" present.

My thinking is that its a change for the better but one to which society has not yet developed the required adaptations, eg. compensating restrictions on influencing political representatives, using financial power to affect political processes etc. etc. Those who are opposed to increased regulation to compensate are either beneficiaries eg. wealthy elites, or nostalgic for the age of paternalism, when one could leave all the complex issues to "magnanimous upper classes who actually understand things" and expect to be better off for it. The problem is, one has to be really "worse off" to start with for that to work.

Once agaim dohboi I confirm my credentials as a geologist by my poor speling skiles.

great post.


Unfortunately, you paint a pretty accurate picture of the way Big Oil currently sees things. Though I think its vision is getting increasingly arrogant and myopic. Think French aristocracy circa 1787, or in a later era, the Pennsylvania Railroad or US Steel circa 1900. Things change, and they can change fast and in very unpleasant ways.

Permit me to add a sixth item to your Big Oil manifesto: 'We are huge global multinational companies who really don't give a rat's arse about the United States, but we expect US citizens to sacrifice the lives of their sons and daughters plus hundreds of billions of dollars to protect our oil production assets in politically unstable parts of the world so as to ensure our continued profits.' How does that one sound?

Now let me try out a sort of inverted version of the famous 1950s proclamation by then Secretary of Defense, Charles ('Engine Charley') Wilson, "What's good for General Motors is good for the United States, and vice versa."

So, here goes: What's good for Exxon is not good for the United States, and what's good for the United States is not good for Exxon.

Think there's some truth to my version?

All true Joules. But what is good for Exxon IS good for Exxon. And the SEC requires that Exxon follow that mandate. The law requires that all public companies put their shareholders interest above all else as long as it is done in a lawful manor. If the CEO of Exxon intentionally damaged shareholder value for the benefit of any other consideration would face prison time (think insider trading).


I think what you said needs to be qualified.

So I will modify my original statement: What's good for Exxon management and its shareholders is not necessarily good for the United States, and what's good for the United States is not necessarily good for Exxon management and its shareholders.

This recognizes that i) some citizens of the US are Exxon shareholders, and ii) what is good for those citizens who are Exxon shareholders is not necessarily good for those who are not.

Example: Exxon Valdez oil spill. It was not good for Exxon's bottom line, and hence its shareholder's wealth, to have to pay to clean up the oil spill and compensate those who were harmed, but it was good for the residents of Alaska and those directly harmed to force Exxon to do so. Obviously what we have here are conflicting interests: those who benefit from Exxon's actions (or inaction), and those who do not.

In the same vein, would it not be in the interest of BP shareholders for BP not to have to compensate those harmed by their recent oil release? Again, a conflict of interests between those who benefit and those who do not. There is nothing new to this. It is one of the reasons why it took so long for any meaningful environmental protection to become a reality in the US.

One of the fundamental things that has to change is the basic structure of corporations. A change I've heard proposed might be that the purpose is to OPTIMIZE profits to shareholders rather than to MAXIMIZE them. An appropriate compensation for the risk that the capital investment is worth would be established--maybe 3-4%--would be established, and corporations would be judged on how close to that they got, not how much they exceeded it by.

The whole 'super-personhood' thing needs to be re-evaluated, too, though recent Supreme Court decisions seem to be moving us in the opposite direction.

The enormous influence corps have on all parts of the political system have made any move in this direction pretty much impossible so far.

.would it not be in the interest of BP shareholders for BP not to have to compensate those harmed by their recent oil release?

There is more to this question than merely not paying compensation. Were BP to take that stance, it is a fair bet that, in addition the the lawsuits, they would be barred from doing any business in the US ever again. That may well cost the shareholders much more than paying compensation.

I am in agreement with Rockman here. The oil companies are doing their business - oil. It's that simple. Like any other business, they engage in marketing, even lobbying, to encourage use of their product, and access to the resources to get it. As long as they are operating within the laws of the land, then, by the standards of that land, they are doing nothing wrong. And in the case of the US, where the laws of the land are (nominally) made by the people, they are getting what they voted for.

Norway has an oil industry that is a far larger % of their GDP than the US industry, yet it does not dominate the people or government, and pays huge royalties to the government, which is then invested for the good of the people. It is following the rules as set by the people, government (and possibly the King) of Norway. America (and Canada) could choose to go that way too, but we haven't.

We cannot expect companies to put the country's interests ahead of their own, and anyone who thinks they will/should is kidding themselves. if we want to change the system such that they have to (e.g. environmental regulations) then that's fine and we should make said changes. We should also be prepared for the companies to decide not to do business and take their operation elsewhere (e.g. offshore).

If we want these companies to out the country's interests first, then we can nationalise them, and we will have service and efficiency levels as good as we get from the postal service, social security, courts and other such govt organisations.

The body that is meant to act in the country's interest is government - we get what we elect. WE don;t get to have a say on Exxon, unless we are a shareholder, but we all get to have say in government. If governments in places like Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, Hong Kong have done a better job of looking after their people it is because that is what the people have wanted. There may have been some other tradeoffs to go with it (e.g. higher taxes, gov't health care, stricter env regulations etc), but that is what people, gradually, voted for.

We cannot fault the companies for gaming the system, no matter how well they do it, as that is the nature of companies and people alike. We need to change the system so they game it in a direction that is of benefit to both them and the country. This has been done in the past (e.g. the car companies turning their plants to war production in WW2), and when done, properly, the results are spectacular.

It needs government setting clear goals and rules, and enforcing them. Even the oil industry will agree with that. As Rockman commented previously about offshore drilling, make a decision, one way or the other, and then let's get on with it, or not. It;s the endless debating, non-decisions and vague rules that are the real problem. And that is government and, by extension, voter's fault, not companies.

One very simple rule that exists in Australia that I think the US should adopt, is mandatory voting. The fact that you must vote, or you get fined, means that everyone is involved in the process, and takes it more seriously. the election is this a true picture of the opinion of the people, on that day, and there is no disputing that the new government has a mandate from the people. And there is no escaping the fact that they have to face all the people, at the next election, not just the ardent supporters and detractors. Democracy works best when the people are engaged in it. Indifference leads to corruption, as we have seen.


The Rockman has taken off his Exxon cheerleader uniform and has retired it for ever.

But do understand that my previous public service announcements are exactly the views of the industry. Not judging as right or wrong but just the way it is. Everyone loves a representative democracy as long as their reps win the vote. If one side of the debate wants to bitch about the results that's OK but let's not be hypocritical by claiming a superior position when you win. IMHO it's seldom about what's right or wrong but who has the stroke.

And in the interest of full public disclosure any and all efforts to curtail offshore drilling will be of financial benefit to the Rockman and his company. Less oil/NG brought to the market will increase the value of the company's reserves when PO hits like an SOB and we finally sell and go to the house.

The energy industry, despite its technological, geological, chemical, physical, molecular, logistical, scientific and engineering expertise and capacity to deliver affordable energy in endless supply, given all of the natural sources of energy in this country, and the world, will be unable to supply the demand because of public policy constraints. Yet, it will bear the brunt of the blame for energy shortages. Today’s energy professionals will bear the reputational burden of our national decline and failure because who else is blameable?

I see a challenge for Shell to deliver on this. I expect ten good plans (Economical feasible, with high net energy, which can be built within the next ten years and with serious reduction of CO2 and other emissions) to be delivered to ? not later then 1 September 2010. Of course there must be clear guarantees that up front we know required subsidies and a 30 year guarantee on the price of power.

Mr H made a good point about the American political and judicial system causing delays in all kinds of big projects. Under a federalist system projects can be subject to to hearings and court challenges at several layers of government. Having so many different Congressional committees and federal agencies involved in energy policy shows how dysfunctional it has become. We have an 18th century system trying to work in a 21st century world. We have a 19th century concept of making maximum corporate profits as the only goal of a corporation when 21st century technology has invented so many new ways of poisoning your neighbor's well. We have competing political parties which have different definitions for the same terms like freedom, liberty, and duty which get in the way of understanding what each side says about almost anything. There is a 50/50 split in what the proper role of government is, what it owes its citizens, and what citizens owe in return. Therefore there is no consensus on how to provide goods and services while still minimizing harm to employees, customers, the general public, and all the other species around us. Unfortunately the law of entropy applies to human affairs also. It is so much easier to make a mess than it is to clean it up.

We have an 18th century (political) system trying to work in a 21st century world.

Excellent, keep going with that. It's too bad that esp. in the US but also in Britain and some former colonies, the "18th century system" of government is a sacred object of worship, the centre of a religion dedicated to maintaining control of the financial system by maintaining political power among the wealthy oligarchy. We need to seriously examine it.

1) The core criterion for gaining elected office is being enamoured of the wealthy oligarchy.
2) The elites don't care what president or political faction is in the white house or much of congress and senate, PROVIDED they can maintain control of the financial system, eg. how did a wall street banker get to be Obama's treasury secretary? Obviously a backroom negotiation, perhaps not even formal or spoken explicitly, just understood.

It's an outdated system explicitly designed to keep the wealthy in control of anything which might affect their wealth, even so stated in the public statements by the designers.

We face an "energy abyss" in any case, whether the restraints (such as they are) on the oil industry are lifted or not. The only difference is that if they are not lifted, if indeed far greater restraints are not placed on the industry, then the biosphere, the surface ecology, which is our ONLY ultimate resource, will be far more completely devastated than otherwise, and readjusting our relationship with the planet will be far more difficult. And we will have done this only to have extended the oil age a few years at most.

So Hofmeister is getting ready for the attacks towards the oil industry - and is trying to defend it by asking for even more political support:
He seems to ask for even more deregulation (please don't bother us with this pesky environmental stuff - just don't worry about those offshore oil spills...)
and he certainly wants more money from the taxpayers (although the US oil industrie is already receiving huge subsidies this doesn't mean that this is enough - it never will be...)
So although the alarming tone may sound new - the solutions are nothing but business as usual.

I couldn't possibly be less interested in hearing the "views" of John Hofmeister.