Drumbeat: September 14, 2010

Have we passed the point of Peak Oil?

In commemoration of OPEC's 50th anniversary and the fact that, in recent days, I've read articles in the mainstream media like this one printed in Macleans that do their best to debunk the idea that the issue of peak oil is still an issue that faces us, I thought I'd take a look at the world's oil production and consumption situation. I'm concerned that media reports that dismiss the concept of peak oil paint a picture that hurts the cause of conservation of what is so obviously a finite resource.

To give you some background, I am a geoscientist with nearly three decades of experience in the oil industry.

Running out of oil?

Energy transitions are driven by technological shifts. For this reason, coal was replaced by oil, with oil giving way to gas and nuclear at least in power generation.

Oil, in the same way with coal, may rendered obsolete not because we are running out of oil.

Just like the combustion engine made coal obsolete, the electric cars may render oil a relic of the past.

Transocean and Peak Oil

I understand why people won't listen to peak oil theories. They're skeptical of radical schools of thought, opting instead to listen to "experts" who say everything is okay, that oil will keep flowing for decades to come.

But it simply isn't so.

Peak oil does not mean the world is running out of oil; it means we’ve peaked as far as finding cheap oil supply.

And we don’t believe the world will just “eventually” run out of cheap oil in 10 to 12 years. It’s already happening.

Peak oil critics don't fully grasp the concept of peak oil is —which is also a common problem among the public. People are confusing peak oil with oil running out in the world.

Iran insists global gasoline market over-supplied, sellers setting terms

TEHRAN: Iran, under sanctions that affect its ability to import gasoline, believes the market for the fuel is oversupplied and that buyers, not sellers, are setting conditions, its OPEC governor said on Monday.

“Currently the number of buyers in the market is limited and it is a buyer’s market and not a seller’s [market],” Mohammad Ali Khatibi was quoted as saying by Iran’s official news agency IRNA. “In a way it is the buyer who determines the conditions for the supply of this product in the market.”

U.S. crude turns negative on Enbridge restart news

(Reuters) - U.S. crude oil futures prices turned negative on Tuesday after Enbridge Inc said it had restarted a Canada-to-New York crude pipeline after a one-day shutdown and that it may be able to restart the key 670,000 barrel-per-day Canada-to-U.S. line 6A without submitting a formal restart plan to U.S. regulators.

BP's Hayward to testify to UK lawmakers on spill

LONDON – Outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward will come under scrutiny from British lawmakers Wednesday over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, months after he offered few explanations for the accident at a testy hearing in Washington.

Hayward is scheduled to give evidence to a British parliamentary committee studying the fallout of the spill and the future of deep water drilling.

EPA to Widen Drilling Study

Environmental Protection Agency officials said that they plan to widen their investigation into a natural-gas drilling technique that the energy industry says is critical to tapping huge new supplies of natural gas.

Justice Department 'expects it may' sue BP

New York (CNN) -- The Justice Department says it may sue BP for damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to a filing made Monday night with the U.S. District Court in New Orleans, Louisiana.

"At this juncture, the United States expects that it may file a civil complaint related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster," the court document says.

Musings: Gas Shales: Good News, Bad News

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has released Marcellus gas shale production data for the 12 month period from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010. The 632 producing Marcellus wells released 180 billion cubic feet of gas, more than double annual natural gas production in Pennsylvania from years before gas shale exploration began. The data was made public in response to changes to the state’s oil and gas disclosure law that mandates well-by-well production totals be released every six months. The revision to the disclosure law eliminated the provision that would have kept this data confidential for five years.

Brazil's Libra Discovery May Hold 8 Billion Barrels of Oil, Rivaling Tupi

Brazil’s deepwater Libra field may hold as much as 8 billion barrels of oil, rivaling nearby Tupi as the Americas’ biggest crude discovery in three decades, according to an official of the country’s Energy Ministry.

Initial estimates for the Santos Basin field off the coast of Brazil are between 7 billion and 8 billion barrels based on seismic and drilling data, Marco Antonio Almeida, head of oil and gas at the ministry, said today in Rio de Janeiro. That would rival the 5-billion-to-8-billion barrel estimate for Tupi.

Ukraine and Kazakhstan re-start Europe taps

Ukraine and Kazakhstan today agreed to re-start and to increase the transit of oil to Europe, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said.

4 Reasons to Be Long Oil - And Nothing Else

Oil recently dipped to 3 month lows on fears about global demand and currently hovers around $72 dollars a barrel (as of August 31st). Meanwhile, global economic and geopolitical concerns continue to lend themselves to a higher price per barrel in the coming year. The recent decline in the price of oil presents the investor an opportune speculative and defensive window, especially if oil continue to tracks demand destruction rather than inflationary pressures.

America over a barrel

While many North Americans may be aware of the financial and environmental price we pay for a litre of gas or a barrel of oil, Sun Media columnist Ezra Levant argues that it is time we consider ethical factors as well. In his new book Ethical Oil, Levant exposes the hypocrisy of the West’s dealings with the reprehensible regimes from which we purchase the oil that sustains our lifestyle.

Heads in the sands

Only in Alberta's oilsands do companies not only volunteer to dig up naturally occurring petroleum that's bubbling out of the soaked ground and oozing into the rivers, they spend billions of dollars for the privilege of doing it. You might call it the largest cleanup of an oil spill in the history of the world.

Deep in Ecuador’s Rainforest, A Plan to Forego an Oil Bonanza

Ecuador's Yasuni National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is home to remote Indian tribes. It also sits atop a billion barrels of oil. Now, Ecuador and the United Nations are forging an ambitious plan to walk away from drilling in the park in exchange for payments from the international community.

Yergin: Availability of Investment is Key to Meeting Accelerating Growth of Energy Demand

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – As the world puts the economic downturn behind, it will face a major challenge of meeting substantial growth in world demand, said Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS CERA, in the opening address to the World Energy Congress in Montreal.

Yergin cited the new IHS CERA Energy Scenarios, which show world demand increasing by 32% to 40% over the next 20 years. “This demand growth will require investment measured in many trillions of dollars,” he said, “and it will pose a dramatic challenge to all the energy industries.”

Natural gas fastest, cheapest route to clean energy - Shell

Natural gas provides the “fastest, easiest and most affordable” route to cleaner electricity, Shell CEO Peter Voser said on Monday.

Addressing the World Energy Congress in Montreal, he said modern gas power stations produced between 50% and 70% less carbon dioxide emissions than coal plants, and could be installed much more quickly and at a lower cost than it would take to build coal, nuclear, wind or solar power plants.

“As a result, for most countries, natural gas offers the fastest, lower-cost and easiest way to reduce carbon emissions in the coming years,” Voser said.

Opec members ‘need to look beyond oil’

Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries need to wean themselves from oil revenues in the future, Opec chief Abdalla el-Badri said yesterday ahead of the group’s 50th anniversary.

“Oil is a finite product”, the secretary general said at Opec’s Vienna headquarters. “I think we need, after 50 years, to find another source of income. “I’m not saying they should abandon oil, but they should use oil to find another source of income”, be it from industry, tourism or alternative energies.

Saudi Aramco plans strong capital program

MONTREAL (UPI) -- Saudi Aramco is planning one of its most ambitious spending efforts in the petroleum industry to meet rising energy demands, a chief executive said in Canada.

Khalid al-Falih, president and chief executive officer of Saudi Aramco, told the World Energy Congress in Montreal that a pragmatic approach to energy was needed to address the expected increase in global energy demands.

He said global progress and development meant that more people would need more energy.

"Consequently, we will have to meet the world's increased energy needs and do so in the most responsible manner," he said in his prepared remarks.

Fifty years on, OPEC can no longer be ignored

Fifty years after its creation, Opec’s carefully-worded announcements are now pored over like statements from the Kremlin at the height of the Soviet era. Nuanced phrasing and tone are studied for a sense of what member countries might do in terms of production.

Big Birthdays for Clean Air Act and OPEC

Today is the 40th birthday of the Clean Air Act and the 50th birthday of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. A 50th anniversary Web page has lots of pictures (none of the long lines of cars waiting for gas in the United States in 1973) and statements about the enduring influence of this small cluster of countries.

Opec’s 50th birthday party: not so easy

Bringing Iraq back under that umbrella is one of the cartel’s greatest challenges as Opec turns 50 today.

As oil majors invest in Iraq’s under-developed oil industry, the war-torn country could see its output rise five-fold to as much as 12m barrels a day over the next decade.

Iran’s lonely walk down the nuclear path

Iran's insistence on continuing enrichment programme leaves international community guessing at the regime's intent.

Forget Oil, Worry About Phosphorus

Modern farming methods depend increasingly on fossil fuels and major plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

We know that peak oil is fast approaching, if it has not already arrived. This isn’t the only shortage that should concern us. We are seeing the same coming shortages in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

My 10-Mile diet ... in a global food system

Local eating is not meant to simply pull up the drawbridge and take care of me and mine.

Speakers warn of farming crisis

So this is the way the world ends?

Two speakers told the Corvallis City Club on Monday that the Willamette Valley faces a looming agricultural crisis that could leave us unable to produce enough food for our own needs.

Greece's Truckers Protest Austerity

ATHENS—The Greek truckers' union's decision to stop work on Monday to protest liberalization of the sector has reignited fears of a severe fuel shortage after a paralyzing strike in July.

`Deflationary Spiral' Looms as Consequence of Premature Austerity, UN Says

Premature fiscal austerity in Europe and the U.S. is pushing the global economy closer to a “deflationary spiral” that will choke consumption and leave millions of people without work, the United Nations said.

China, Germany and Japan need to boost domestic consumption while U.S. citizens must start consuming less to start fixing world economic imbalances, the UN said today in its annual Trade and Development report.

Kurt Cobb: Class interests and the future of inflation

No doubt there are many unforeseen events which might halt the world's slide into the deflationary mire--perhaps a large-scale war or central bank policies that essentially print paper money and hand it out to the populace. But barring such extraordinary events, inflation is likely to show up only as a latecomer to the global economy's wake. What course inflation will take and whether governments and central banks will once again be capable of stemming the losses of the wealthy is impossible to know. That they will try to stem the losses of the wealthy is beyond question.

The Case Against Homeownership

For the better part of a century, politics, industry and culture aligned to create a fetish of the idea of buying a house. Homeownership has done plenty of good over the decades; it has provided stability to tens of millions of families and anchored a labor-intensive sector of the economy. Yet by idealizing the act of buying a home, we have ignored the downsides. In the bubble years, lending standards slipped dramatically, allowing many Americans to put far too much of their income into paying for their housing. And we ignored longer-term phenomena too. Homeownership contributed to the hollowing out of cities and kept renters out of the best neighborhoods. It fed America's overuse of energy and oil. It made it more difficult for those who had lost a job to find another. Perhaps worst of all, it helped us become casually self-deceiving: by telling ourselves that homeownership was a pathway to wealth and stable communities and better test scores, we avoided dealing with these formidable issues head-on.

Is Immigration a Green Issue? (Video)

TreeHugger is a blog about environmentalism, not racism, ethnicity or immigration.

Yet from holocaust deniers at the Copenhagen climate talks to the sometimes xenophobic undertones of energy independence debate, there are times when these subjects collide. When David posted about a Yale essay that claimed open immigration and sustainability were incompatible, one commenter rejected his post as "poorly disguised racism". Now activists from both sides of the immigration debate are stepping up to win the hearts and minds of environmentalists.

Dmitry Orlov: The future is rated "B"

My voluminous fan mail has made me aware a curious fact: many of my readers seem persuaded that the future is either Mad Max or Waterworld. As far as they are concerned, there just aren't any other options. What's more, some people have even tried to venture a guess as to which of the two it shall be by watching what I do. I live on a boat, and that is apparently an indication that the future must be Waterworld-like. But I have also been seen rattling around town on a rusty old motorcycle, and that is taken as an indication of a more Mad Max-like future.

It saddens me that so few people bring up the film Blade Runner, and it is even more sad that George Lucas's THX 1138 or Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville are almost never mentioned, because these particular films have in many ways proven to be predictive of the present rather than just the future.

Which Comes First – Peak Everything or Peak Us?

Another way to frame the question is to ponder evidence that we’re different than bacteria on agar (see bacterial growth in the time-lapse video above). Through science, we are getting the growing impression that our petri dish has an edge. Do we grow unabated until fundamental resource constraints rein us in, or can we modulate behaviors to soften the transition to some steadier state?

Chances of climate bill making a comeback appear unlikely

WASHINGTON – Record-high temperatures across the country. Massive flooding in Pakistan. Devastating drought and wildfires in Russia.

The summer has been marked by severe weather worldwide, a phenomenon that some scientists say matches the expected outcomes of global warming. But few who follow climate change legislation think recent events will revive the bill, which was declared effectively dead in the Senate in July.

Don't wait for US on cap-and-trade, OECD urges Canada

MONTREAL (AFP) – Canada could gain credibility at home and abroad if it unilaterally applied a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions instead of waiting for Washington to do it first, the OECD said.

Amid Trade Tensions, U.S. Creates More Clean Tech Research Partnerships With China

The number of clean energy partnerships between the United States and China reached a new peak when the U.S. Energy Department announced two new consortia aimed at tackling clean vehicles and 'clean' coal technology earlier this month.

Italy seizes $1.9 billion of assets as Mafia goes green

ROME (Reuters) – Italy Tuesday seized Mafia-linked assets worth $1.9 billion -- the biggest mob haul ever -- in an operation revealing that the crime group was trying to "go green" by laundering money through alternative energy companies.

Investigators said the assets included more than 40 companies, hundreds of parcels of land, buildings, factories, bank accounts, stocks, fast cars and luxury yachts.

Russia 2010 oil output to exceed 500 mln t-Energy Min

(Reuters) - Russian oil production will hit a new post-Soviet high this year of more than 500 million tonnes, Russia's Energy Minister said on Tuesday.

Sergei Shmatko also said that a more moderate rouble appreciation will offset the negative impact from tax hikes in the domestic oil industry.

OPEC says Russia may have to curb oil production in future

Russia may have to slow down oil production in the future, OPEC Secretary General Abdallah Salem El-Badri said on Tuesday.

El-Badri said that so far Russian oil production did not affect OPEC's operations and its quota plans.

"But if this level of production is going to continue, Russia may have to slow down a bit," he said.

AP Analysis: Gov't approval of drilling permits in Gulf's shallow waters slows dramatically

The drilling moratorium enacted after the BP oil spill applies only to the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Yet energy exploration in the Gulf's shallow waters has come to a virtual standstill as drillers grapple with tougher U.S. federal rules since the spill.

Obama asks for millions for oil, gas oversight

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama on Monday asked Congress for more than 90 million dollars to reform oversight of the offshore oil and gas industry, following the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

Some of the money would be raised by more than doubling the fees the government charges firms for inspecting their offshore facilities, Obama told House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter.

Shell May Invest $1 Billion a Year in China, CFO Says

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, may invest $1 billion a year in China should two wells in Sichuan province show potential for commercial gas production, its chief financial officer said.

Iraq output choked on pipeline woes

Iraq's crude oil exports fell in August to 1.789 million barrels per day, due to several stoppages on the country's northern pipeline, a source at the Iraqi Oil Ministry said today.

UK: Gas storage project boosts energy security

Around 700 million to 800 million cubic metres of additional gas storage will be provided by the Saltfleetby facility, the largest onshore gas field in the UK. This equates to a 15% increase in the UK’s capacity — an increase that could prove very useful given the UK’s growing reliance on imported gas. The decision will boost to the country’s energy security.

Opec turns 50

Fifty years into existfence, Opec, the Vienna-based oil bloc, continues to dominate the global oil market. Its omnipresence is more acutely felt in the crude oil business. Politically, however, the organisation is not as potent force as it could be. Its dozen members are incohesive and often pursue contradicting political agendas.

Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, as its known, is turning 50 today. It was founded in Baghdad, Iraq on September 14, 1960.

A decision that set a new international order in motion

Fifty years ago today, the world’s biggest oil exporters announced that they could “no longer remain indifferent” to what they saw as the unfair pricing policies of the international oil companies.

Thus was born the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a group that a decade later would command the world’s undivided attention.

OPEC is stabilising factor for world economy: UAE

Abu Dhabi - The UAE has always been advancing OPEC’s message to deliver balance and stability in the world economy, the UAE Minister of Energy Mohammed bin Dhaen Al Hamili affirmed today

In a statement to mark the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Al Hamili extended warn congratulations to the UAE leadership which underlined its consistent support for the oil group.

Crucial link for global oil consumers

It has often been said, not least by OPEC itself, that if the group did not exist it would have to be invented.

From the start, the group founded by five developing nations that sought to reclaim control of their energy resources provoked suspicion and animosity from oil consumers. But rumours of OPEC’s demise were always exaggerated.

Has the world, then, discovered it needs OPEC and allowed the group to attain respectability in middle age?

UAE faced a tough battle for a fair deal

The UAE is one of OPEC’s core producers, with a reputation for adhering to output quotas and remaining committed to building spare pumping capacity that can be activated in the event of a global oil crisis.

But the country had to fight hard in the 1980s and 1990s to achieve its vaunted position.

For much of the 1980s as oil prices rapidly dropped, the UAE was stuck with a total quota of under 1 million barrels per day (bpd), less than half its current limit.

Mana al Otaiba, then the UAE Minister for Oil, lobbied for a significant increase saying the country’s share of OPEC’s output was not commensurate with its huge reserves.

UK mulling options for green bank -minister

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has begun the process of setting up its Green Investment Bank to help fund the shift to a low-carbon economy and could make it commercially independent, the minister of state for energy and climate change said.

"We have begun the process of establishing the Green Investment Bank," Gregory Barker told a Confederation of British Industry event on Tuesday.

Canceled Coal Plants Show Carbon Trade Is Working, Barclays Analyst Says

Planned investment by European utilities and RWE AG’s cancellation of a coal plant in Poland demonstrates that emissions trading works, according to an analyst at the investment bank of Barclays Plc.

One European utility wants to boost its renewable energy capacity to 21 gigawatts by 2020 from 2.2 gigawatts this year, Trevor Sikorksi, a London-based analyst at Barclays Capital, said in a Sept. 13 research note, citing a speech at one of the bank’s conferences. He didn’t name the company.

Europe's climate chief scolds and praises China

(Reuters) - China's climate negotiators are moving too slowly, but the country's green energy companies are advancing at an "astonishing" pace and threaten to outpace western competitors, Europe's climate chief said on Tuesday.

The powerful coalition that wants to engineer the world's climate

Businessmen, scientists and right-wing thinktanks are joining forces to promote 'geo-engineering' ideas to cool the planet's climate.

Arctic ice melting quickly, report says

BREMERHAVEN, Germany (UPI) -- The ice around the North Pole has experienced another severe meltdown this year, German scientists said.

Around 1.9 million square miles of the Arctic Ocean will be covered by ice by the end of this summer, the third-lowest figure since satellite monitoring began in the 1970s, scientists from the University of Hamburg and the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research said Monday.

Gov’t to save Dead Sea hotels, but it may be too late

Although the deteriorating sea dominates the discourse regarding the northern or “natural” part of the mineral-rich body of water, the focus of the Knesset’s discussion Monday was the rising water levels in the southern part, due to massive accumulation of salt at the bottom of what is known as Lake Number Five.

Smart grids lack cash incentive spark

TIANJIN // Electricity “smart grids” could remove the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is produced by all of the cars and homes in the US, but pioneers of the technology fear they may never take off on a large scale.

‘Less power to deliver better results’

q What is a smart grid?

a A smart grid in the most general terms is the application of IT technology to the electric power system. Specifically it involves the installation of sensors on the lines of the electric power grid itself. These sensors are embedded with chips that detect information on the operation and performance of the grid – such measurements as voltage and current. The sensors then analyse that information to determine what is significant – for example is voltage running too high, or too low.

Nottingham named England's least car-dependent city

Nottingham's investment in cycle tracks, a tram network and buses made it the top ranking city for green transport.

Recharge your car as you sleep

TIANJIN// Electric vehicles are the darling of the renewables sector. All of the major car makers are now at work on developing these vehicles to feed the growing demand for sustainable transport.

Silent, energy-efficient cars are seen as being a major factor in the way smart grids optimise energy networks. With cars parked for most of their lives, charging them up during that period, especially overnight, would optimise efficiency, according to a process known as “valley filling”.

Embracing the Spectrum: The Clean Energy Czar

I think the energy economy has become so complicated that you really start with the whole package. There are individual rich and poor nations around the world that have everything in common: advanced smart grids, the highest-tech solar, wind and nuclear power plants, the use of traditional biofuels. So I think that doing this job anywhere, not just at the World Bank, really involves embracing all ends of that spectrum.

So what I’m hoping, again, is that my work on everything from rural cookstoves in East Africa and Ethiopia, to advanced smart grid technologies, will all come into play and that I won’t forget one because of the other. And in fact I’m very confident that my colleagues at the World Bank are going to ensure that we don’t forget those things because there’s just such a diversity of needs and also of interests.

Interview with Bob Hirsch on his team’s new book—“The Impending World Energy Mess”

Andrews: In your earlier work dating back at least five years, you resisted forecasting a time frame for peak oil. There seems to be a bit of a change on that front in your book. Care to comment on that?

Bob Hirsch: In years past, there was considerable uncertainty in my mind about when the decline of world oil production might begin. Recently it became clear to me that it’s going to be sooner rather than later. I believe that the onset of the decline of world oil production is likely in the next two to five years. And when I say “oil,” I mean all liquid fuels.

Andrews: You say that once declining oil supplies hits, we’re likely to experience deepening worldwide economic damage. How is that likely to unfold? What is your most likely scenario?

Hirsch: Our thinking is that what happened in the two sudden oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 is very likely to be repeated when oil decline sets in. Those were two real world examples of oil shocks surprising people and causing panic. We believe that the same kind of thing is going to happen again, except that the problem is going to last much, much longer because, unlike before, there will be no unused oil supply valves to turn on this time.

Crude Oil Falls in New York as Enridge Makes Preparations to Fix Pipeline

Oil declined for the first time in three days in New York as Enbridge Energy Partners LP prepared to repair a section of pipeline shut last week.

Oil dropped from near a one-month high as the dollar strengthened against the euro, curbing investor demand for crude as an inflation hedge. OPEC Secretary General Abdalla El-Badri said prices of $70 to $80 a barrel are comfortable for oil producers and for consumers.

Gas prices rise on broken Midwest oil pipeline

NEW YORK — Retail gasoline prices increased Monday as crews continued to work on a broken Midwest pipeline that transports a quarter of the oil imported from Canada to the U.S.

In its weekly report on gasoline pump prices, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said Monday that the national average for a gallon of unleaded regular was $2.721, up about 4 cents from a week ago. The Midwest showed the biggest jump in regional prices, up 10.4 cents from a week ago to $2.778 a gallon. The average pump price in Chicago was $3.018, up almost 16 cents from a week ago.

Oil Supply Falls for Second Week as Imports Drop in Survey

U.S. crude supplies probably fell for a second week as imports dropped before refiners close plants for maintenance and a pipeline shutdown threatens to curtail shipments from Canada, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Inventories declined 2.5 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, in the seven days ended Sept. 10 from 359.9 million a week earlier, according to the median of 10 analyst estimates before an Energy Department report tomorrow. The decrease would leave stockpiles at the lowest level since Aug. 13.

Energy Boom Is Coming Regardless of Slowing Global Economy, Officials Say

The world must prepare for the next energy boom, officials meeting this week in Montreal said, as long-range forecasts that demand will surge eclipse concern that the pace of the global economic recovery is slowing.

Electricity and fuel consumption will climb 30 to 40 percent in the next 20 years, spurred by rising incomes in emerging markets and global economic growth, Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS-Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said yesterday at the World Energy Congress in Montreal.

OPEC's El-Badri Says $70-$80 Price Range Is Comfortable for Group Members

Oil prices at $70 to $80 a barrel are comfortable for crude producers and consumers, and have not been affected by OPEC overproduction of about 2 million barrels a day, its Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said.

“If the situation stays as it is, $70-$80 a barrel price is comfortable,” El-Badri said in an interview from Vienna on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse” with Andrea Catherwood.

Aramco pins hopes on unconventionals

Saudi Aramco's boss Khalid al-Falih today said the kingdom's large reserves of unconventional gas could help it meet burgeoning domestic demand and free up more crude for export.

Falih told the Financial Times that the kingdom could hold hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of unconventional resources including shale gas, more than doubling its proved reserves tally of 280 trillion cubic feet.

The newspaper said Falih's announcement confirms that Riyadh has not found as much conventional gas as it had hoped.

Aramco CEO Says World Is Likely to Rely Mostly on Fossil Fuel for Decades

Saudi Arabian Oil Co. Chief Executive Officer Khalid al-Falih said the world probably will rely for decades to come on fossil fuels, mainly oil, natural gas and coal.

“Even though the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix may decline over the longer term, the absolute quantities of energy from these sources will continue to rise simply because total energy demand is set to expand so significantly,” he said in a speech today at the World Energy Congress in Montreal.

Gulf oil spill energizes foes of NY shale drilling

BINGHAMTON, New York (Reuters) – Critics of natural gas drilling in New York on Monday urged U.S. regulators to enact tougher regulations, saying the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico proves the industry cannot be trusted.

More than 1,600 officials and citizens were due to testify over two days at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stakeholder meeting in Binghamton, in upstate New York.

State tracks anti-Marcellus Shale drilling groups, notifies law enforcement

Big Driller may be watching you.

According to recently leaked documents, the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security has been tracking anti-gas drilling groups and their meetings — including a public screening of the film “Gasland,” a documentary about the environmental hazards of natural gas drilling.

OPEC's First Lady Alison-Madueke Grapples With Nigerian Reform

Diezani Alison-Madueke will take her seat as the first female oil minister in OPEC when the group meets in Vienna next month. A far tougher role may be the one she’s playing at home in Nigeria.

Enbridge Fixing Damaged Pipeline in Illinois as Smaller Link Is Shut Down

Enbridge Energy Partners LP halted a third smaller oil pipeline to U.S. refiners as crews prepared to repair a section of a link that leaked last week, prompting one buyer to seek alternative supplies of oil.

Yesterday, Enbridge shut a 70,000-barrel-a-day link from Ontario to Kiantone, New York, to investigate a possible leak. Its workers started repairing damaged section of the 6A line in Illinois that ships 670,000 barrels a day of crude from Canada to refiners in the U.S. Midwest. In July, Enbridge shut pipeline 6B near Marshall, Michigan.

PG&E sets up $100 million fund for San Bruno victims

The owner of the gas pipeline that exploded and leveled a California neighborhood, killing at least four people, is creating a $100 million fund for the victims, the utility announced Monday.

Long-delayed BP well kill back on in Gulf of Mexico

WASHINGTON (AFP) – BP began drilling Monday the final stretch of a relief well that will allow engineers to permanently seal its disastrous Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Drilling stopped more than a month ago due to the threat posed by a tropical storm, and a lengthy debate over how best to proceed then delayed the final kill operation by several weeks.

Gulf Drilling-Ban Foes Ask U.S. Appeals Court to Uphold Judge's Order

The U.S. defended its moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as offshore oil- services companies asked an appeals court to uphold a New Orleans judge’s decision blocking enforcement of the ban.

BP and partners say most victims not yet entitled to sue

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – BP Plc and its partners in the blown-out Gulf well said on Monday that thousands of fishermen, seafood processors, restaurants, hotel owners and others may not yet have the right to sue over the spill, according to court papers.

BP and its partners such as Transocean Ltd and Halliburton Co said the majority of alleged victims who have brought about 400 lawsuits must first take their claims to a $20 billion fund established by BP.

Gulf May Avoid Direst Predictions After Oil Spill

How much damage resulted from almost five million barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico is still being toted up in laboratories and government offices. It will be some time before the government releases its formal assessment of the effects — one that will define the scope of environmental restoration required by BP, Deepwater Horizon’s operator, and other companies.

Separately, scientists are arguing heatedly about how fast a large plume of dispersed oil more than a half-mile below the surface of the gulf is breaking down and how great a threat it poses to sea life.

Yet as the weeks pass, evidence is increasing that through a combination of luck (a fortunate shift in ocean currents that kept much of the oil away from shore) and ecological circumstance (the relatively warm waters that increased the breakdown rate of the oil), the gulf region appears to have escaped the direst predictions of the spring.

Where's the oil? On the Gulf floor, scientists say

NEW ORLEANS – Far beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, deeper than divers can go, scientists say they are finding oil from the busted BP well on the sea's muddy and mysterious bottom.

Oil at least two inches thick was found Sunday night and Monday morning about a mile beneath the surface. Under it was a layer of dead shrimp and other small animals, said University of Georgia researcher Samantha Joye, speaking from the helm of a research vessel in the Gulf.

Jockeying Delays Spill Research Money

Gulf state governors, backed by the White House, protested that there would be no local input on how the money was allocated this way. So BP issued some $30 million in fast cash and went back to the drawing board. Gulf scientists, some who had voiced the same worries, were torn between their skepticism of BP and mistrust of the governors’ intentions.

Fifty Years of OPEC and the End of Cheap Oil

Fifty years ago, five countries created an economic consortium to control the price and flow of crude oil: the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC's birthday comes around the same time that a new paper by a German military think-tank sheds light on how close the world is coming to the potential moment of "Peak Oil."

Extreme caution

What about oil? There is really no earthly reason for oil at 77 except for the peak oil enthusiasts but likely they have not been following the deep drilling well head pressures or the massive push off shale oil which is becoming more economical to collect and refine. We have more shale oil than Saudi Arabia has conventional reserves. But the reality is their has never been a good recovery without a big drop off of oil prices. Oil prices act as a tax on all businesses so low cost oil generates great bottom line results for both businesses and individuals. If gas prices were half what they are today, businesses would hire, and consumers would have more spending money. But here again we have a pipeline leak so oil has gone up over $77 though there are no shortages of supply.

The future of worlds oil supply

Experts are divided about when exactly oil will run out. There is a belief that the world's supply will last until about 2040. Large numbers of senior oil industry geologists and analysts have challenged this belief publicly. They believe that it is grossly optimistic.

Cuba’s Peak Oil Experience: Looking Back Over 20 Years

Mario Arrastia Avila, a Physicist in Cuba’s energy transition agency Cuba Energia, spoke in San Francisco last week about the lessons of Cuba’s transition after its own Peak Oil disaster struck in the early 1990s. At the time, the Soviet Union’s collapse meant that North Korea, Cuba, and other communist satellites faced the end of cheap imported oil that formed the backbone of the energy infrastructure in those countries.

The lessons of 20 years of energy efficiency upgrades, transition to renewables, community education around conservation, and utility-scale reinvention serve as a powerful model of what will be in the United States and elsewhere as we experience our own inevitable energy shocks. (As an aside, North Korea chose a different route, with disastrous consequences for its economy and political future….but that’s another story).

What Kind of Jobs?

Analysts warning about peak oil (such as the Post-Carbon Institute) were regarded as a fringe movement as recently as a few years ago, but since then the official international body charged with predicting production figures has been drastically revising its figures down, from the fantastic toward the present output. Even Lloyd's of London now acknowledges peak oil, which does not mean the exhaustion of oil supplies; it refers to the maximum global production, after which the graph starts sloping inexorably downward, whether or not demand is rising.

The peak is crucial, because for about a century our civilization has been increasingly built on oil. (The model-T Ford, in 1908, is a convenient starting point.) Oil yields gas and other fuels for civilian cars, trucks, farm equipment, planes, ships, and railroads; for military uses; pesticides; plastics; and many other modern conveniences. When oil gets expensive, we tend to have a recession, which is not a salubrious atmosphere for investment in energy alternatives.

The Investment Case - Sasol Ltd

Some analysts believe that the world has already reached "Peak Oil" - the point from which natural oil production will steadily decline as reserves run out. Whether that is true or not, there is little argument that the supply of oil is stagnant at best. Yet global demand is increasing.

That being the case, coal-to-liquid and gas-to-liquid technologies are increasingly in vogue. Not only do they realise a product that is cheaper than oil, but they make use of commodities with much healthier global lifespans.

Biotech Company to Patent Fuel-Secreting Bacterium

A biotech company plans to announce Tuesday that it has won a patent on a genetically altered bacterium that converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into ingredients of diesel fuel, a step that could provide a new pathway for making ethanol or a diesel replacement that skips several cumbersome and expensive steps in existing methods.

Biofuels From Trash Could Replace Half of EU Gasoline by 2020, Study Says

Biofuels made from plant waste and municipal trash rather than food crops could replace more than half of gasoline used in the European Union by 2020, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

The 27-nation bloc could produce 90 billion liters (24 billion gallons) of next-generation ethanol in 2020, or about 65 percent of predicted fossil gasoline consumption, the London- based research group said today in a study. At least 100 refineries a year could be built in the region from 2013, according to the report.

Three bizarre facts that changed Sarasin's investment case

Now, with all this talk of peak oil, many companies are trying again, and some of them can make some pretty snazzy sports cars run on turbo-charged Duracells.

But the problem for Lindsay is that in the early part of the 20th century there were really no barriers to entry into the electric car market, and there are not any more today. For this reason, he argues that backing any single manufacturer of an electric car leaves you vulnerable to disaster, much like those pioneer investors were.

For this reason, he has rejected the electric cars from Tata and even the Hollywood-favourite Tesla, which can go from 0 to 60mph in four seconds. Instead, he has found a company that provides the basic stuff on which many still untested battery designs are based: lithium.

Recession sends used car prices sky high

As the recession wears on, used car prices are hitting sky-high levels.

How high? So high that at Gerald Jones Honda in Augusta, Ga., owner Andy Jones paid $6,000 at auction for a 2004 Buick Century with 70,000 miles that he fixed to sell for $8,500 -- more than three times what a car like that would have been worth before the recession hit, Automotive News reports.

Breakfast in class: Fight against kids' hunger starts at school

Although the number of hungry children in the U.S. is rising, fewer than half of the kids who could be eating a free or low-cost breakfast at school are getting one.

In Pueblo, school officials take a counterintuitive approach: They offer free breakfast to all children regardless of income, so no one is embarrassed to be eating it. In most schools here, breakfast is served right in the classrooms. As a result, 76% of Pueblo's needy kids eat school breakfast. That's more than any state and almost every big city, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), which tracks participation in school meal programs.

Book review: The Coming Famine

Not just peak oil, but peak land, and even peak people, have and will continue create vast pressures on the food chain, with humanity running through every available resource - nutrients, fish stocks, arable land, usable water, fertilisers - without regard for the future.

Health Dividend Seen in Deeper Emission Cuts

Health advocates said Monday that adopting more ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gases could save health programs up to 30.5 billion euros ($38.7 billion) in expenditures each year in the European Union.

The study found that as greenhouse gases fall, so do other pollutants that set off respiratory diseases and other illnesses, which reduce in health care costs. Savings could also be achieved on health care costs associated with heat waves, floods, reduced food production and infectious diseases, the study said.

Thursday Shaping Up as a Senate Showdown Over EPA's Greenhouse Gas Regs

Two Senate Democrats yesterday said they may support an amendment to block U.S. EPA climate rules, increasing the odds of its success when the Senate Appropriations Committee votes Thursday on EPA's budget.

Citing the Gipper in an Energy Debate

California is in the midst of a big political fight over a proposal, backed by oil companies, to suspend the landmark climate-change law passed by that state in 2006. An interesting voice on the right has weighed in to defend California’s policy and oppose repeal: that of George P. Shultz, who was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state.

Home of "Ice Giants" thaws, shows pre-Viking hunts

JUVFONNA, Norway (Reuters) – Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe's highest mountains.

"It's like a time machine...the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries," said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of "snow patch archaeologists" on newly bare ground 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea level in mid-Norway.

Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the "Ice Giants" of Norse mythology.

Melting sea ice forces walruses ashore in Alaska

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of walruses have come ashore in northwest Alaska because the sea ice they normally rest on has melted.

U.S. government scientists say this massive move to shore by walruses is unusual in the United States. But it has happened at least twice before, in 2007 and 2009. In those years Arctic sea ice also was at or near record low levels.

Fabled Northwest Passage open in Arctic again

Arctic ice has melted enough again this summer for the legendary Northwest Passage to open up, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. It's the third time in history – and the third straight year – that both the Northwest and Northeast Passages are open due to a lack of Arctic ice.

Interview with David Sykuta, Illinois Petroleum Council, on WTTW last night.

His response to the Enbridge Pipeline leaks :-

"We depend on the pipeline system and whats in it for our way of life and our culture" closely followed by "anything made by man can occasionally have a breakdown".

Also : "most pipelines leak because somebody hit 'em with something"

Wow - go back to sleep, everyone, and stop worrying....environmental impacts, and a few people blown up in California? Decaying infrastructure ? Meh...


This is an interview crying out for another point of view. After watching it, it should surprise no-one that we aren't tackling the real issues in front of us. The industry itself is in denial.

The pipelines that broke in Michigan and Illinois were both 41 year old pipelines, and the breaks seem to have happened without anyone hitting them, so one might guess that age was a factor in their problems.

There is a possibility that swampy land (and perhaps being laid in such a way that one part was supported differently than the rest) seems to possibly have been a problem in the Michigan leak. It seems like there would have been flexing over the years. I don't know whether the Illinois leak was also in swampy land.

I am wondering too, if very viscous oil played a role at all. It would seem to be easier to send light oil through pipelines than very heavy oil (or worse yet, light oil for one interval, followed by very heavy oil, and then light oil again). If pipelines had undetected corrosion or other problems after 41 years, it seems like the heavy oil would be more likely to trigger them than the light oil.

If more information comes out about the Illinois leak, I will try to write a post. I wrote a post about the Michigan leak in August.

Hi Gail

As I understand it, the Romeoville leak is located near, or under, an industrial park. I'm sure there was some surveying that took place before building the park, if it post-dates the pipeline.

It will be interesting to see what findings are released from the leak investigation - apparently, they removed a 12-foot section of pipe and found a 2-inch hole.


Edit : there is also mention of two holes in a water pipe running just below the oil pipeline. This does not bode well for water infrastructure either, if they have the same cause.

Gail: Viscous oil has a higher pressure drop at a given rate in a given conduit. The pipeline operator is guided by allowable working pressure limits in the pipeline. Pipelines carrying heavy oil have to account for density especially in steep terrain, where the oil column falls from the peak by gravity - some pipelines require pressure reducers rather than pumps. But the heavy oil is no more nor less likely to induce a leak, other than it may be more corrosive due to its nature.

All of this needs to be factored in when managing a pipeline system. The modern solution to the problem is to run intelligent pigs as frequently as necessary to determine the pipe's condition (they look for flaws from the inside as they are pumped along with the oil stream). Pipeline corrosion monitoring should also be carried out by using coupons, as well as taking actual samples - I've seen instances where intelligent pigs detected sections which seemed to be attacked by corrosion, the line was looped, and whole sections taken out and sent to the lab to study their condition in detail.

In conclusion, there's no reason for a pipeline to have undetected corrosion problems, and the heavy oil shouldn't cause a special problem - other than some heavy oils can be more corrosive than "normal" oils.

Enbridge stated earlier today that they could restart without government approval. Don't think the government liked that too much:

U.S. says no Enbridge 6A restart until it is safe

"Enbridge will not restart this line until (regulators are) satisfied that the company's repair and follow up plans ensure the safety of the community and the environment," a spokeswoman for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said.

Yes Enbridge jumped the gun on that. However possibly because of the statement by Enbridge, regulators said that the 6A pipeline (the second break) may be up and running by this weekend. It's not yet clear if regulators will allow that pipeline to run at or near capacity right away.

Based upon prior regulator statements, the restart of the 6B will be gradual. However that pipeline has not yet been approved to reopen.

Enbridge Allowed to Start Pipeline 6A by End of Week
September 14, 2010, 7:03 PM EDT

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Enbridge Energy Partners LP will be allowed to restart a key oil pipeline supplying the U.S. Midwest by the end of the week, following the repair of a rupture, a federal official said.

Enbridge has already submitted a restart plan, said Carl Griffis, Chicago-area senior engineer from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, who was on the scene of the leak in Romeoville, Illinois. The government doesn’t see any “systemic problems” with the pipeline, Griffis said in an interview.


In a September 12th Drumbeat discussion regarding NSP’s biomass plans (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6947#comment-718669) I made the following comment:

I'm not privy to the inner circles at NSP (nor the far outer ones for that matter), but my suspicion is that this deal is intended to help prop-up a major industrial customer that should it close would result in a major loss of load.

Well, it would appear I’m not alone in my thinking:

NewPage difficulties complicating NSP biomass generation project

Considering the financial pressure on Ohio-based NewPage Corp., provincial electricity customers have a right to wonder why Nova Scotia Power Inc. would want to become involved in a deal with the paper company.

During provincial Utility and Review Board hearings last week, it was revealed that NewPage, which owns the NewPage Port Hawkesbury plant in Point Tupper, is carrying a heavy debt load requiring huge service payments.

A New York debt analyst who asked not to be identified told me Monday that Nova Scotia Power’s participation in the $208-million deal to build a biomass power-generating plant in conjunction with NewPage Port Hawkesbury is most likely an attempt to protect its largest energy customer.

NewPage is expected to make $80 million from the deal by selling waste wood to the power utility to be burned in the biomass boiler. That money will go a long way toward helping NewPage to service its debt.

Whether the provincial regulator will allow Nova Scotia Power to become involved in the NewPage biomass project, despite its desire to help its customer, is still up in the air.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1201889.html

I expect the NSURB is under considerable pressure to approve this proposal given that the closure of this firm would be a death blow to the local economy. On the other hand, there’s a lot of ratepayer money at stake and the Board is responsible for protecting the best interests of electricity consumers. I don’t envy the ones who will be calling the shots on this one.

With respect to other renewable news locally:

European tidal firms eye Fundy
Source: Norwegian, German companies have expressed interest

The prospect of harnessing the Bay of Fundy tides to generate electricity has caught the attention of two European developers of tidal power, The Chronicle Herald has learned.

Hammerfest Strom of Norway and Voith Hydro of Germany are among five companies that have expressed interest to the provincial government, a source told this newspaper.


The European companies’ interest in the Bay of Fundy tides, the highest in the world, is exciting news, an industry watcher says.

"It would mean the Bay of Fundy is really attracting the attention of the leaders in large-scale tidal," said Chris Campbell, executive director of the Ocean Renewable Energy Group of Nanaimo, B.C.

"That’s the opportunity that Nova Scotia is right on the cusp . . . this being a science experiment and turning it into a business," he said.

See: http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1201853.html

I apologize for the repetitive nature of these posts as we seem to be covering much of the same ground repeatedly, but I expect the kinds of challenges we face locally with respect to our electricity future are broadly representative of other regions heavily dependent upon fossil fuels. Hopefully others will benefit by witnessing our successes and failures.


Because they are so repetitive, and because your posts tend to be so long, please consider waiting until later in the day to post, so we don't have a big chunk of the same type of discussion at the top of the Drumbeat so often.

Thanks, Leanan; will do.


That's very kind of you. Now the daily dose of circular self-gratification involving the resident doomer population will more likely catch the attention of passing voyeurs.

It's been 5 days since this insensitive remark by toilforoil. I'm afraid TOD has lost a valuable contributor as a result.

I almost always read threads from the bottom to the top;)
(I usually skim books from back to front, too:))

Oddly, I'd make a slightly different request of Paul. I am very much interested in this project, as I generally see biomass power as part of the solution, but this project as a bad application.

But Paul keeps posting big long pieces of what seems to me to be fairly shoddy local reporting, which he surrounds with low value added commentary. It is also a little bit of inside politics, which is hard for someone outside Halifax (and I am way outside of Halifax). This is too bad, because in his EE pieces he provides a lot of detail and analysis.

I would like to ask Paul to take a minute to explain this project and his issues with it, rather than just pasting what the local reporter wrote.

I have been struggling to understand what is going on here, but the paper doesn't really provide enough detail. You can't get a feel for the size of the biomass project, its commercial prospects or the level of debt in the company.

I think the problem is that the local reporter doesn't know enough about energy to give us a good picture of the project, or enough about finance to explain the background. And Paul isn't helping to fill in the gaps.

I have been reading this for a few days and still can't figure out the economics behind it. For example, biomass rarely works at this scale and anything much over 10MW seems to require captive supply or monopoly conditions. Why can't someone else just build a bunch of small plants?

I'd like to see more RE stuff debated here, but don't have the time to download company info and dig up data myself.

I guess my point is that if Paul would add some value (local insights, additional data, analysis) to the newspaper clippings, this could form an interesting discussion. But now it just seems like cutting and pasting unclear local news reports and shouting "See I told you".

Link up top: Interview with Bob Hirsch on his team’s new book—“The Impending World Energy Mess”

In the book we avoided consideration of such things as anarchy, wars, and other catastrophes that are conceivable. We see very little chance that things will be any better than what we describe, but things could easily be worse.

By the same token, we have faith that humankind is not going to collapse because of the oil decline problem. The world is in for considerable pain for a long time. Nevertheless, we have great faith in human resilience. People will come around, get very pragmatic, dig in and do what’s necessary to meet the challenges. As a result, when we get through all of this-which is going to take longer than a decade-the societies that emerge are going to be much stronger and much more pragmatic than they are today.

Ahhh the pessimist are painting an optimistic patina on the peak oil future scenario. Panic must be avoided at all cost I suppose. And I also suppose this the best policy. But perhaps not, perhaps it would be best to panic some folks and scare them into action.

Naw, that would not do any good. But there will be survivors, perhaps half a billion survivors. It is possible you know. But... "After a few generations, they might come to believe that the rubble amid which they live is the remains of cities built by gods."- David Price

Ron P.

If by "a few generations" he means "thousands of years", perhaps.

The apocalyptic hard-crash, "lose all the tech" scenario is just as unrealistic as the BAU scenario.

People adapt to changing situations. The groups that manage to preserve the most knowledge in a hard-crash scenario are going to have a significant edge over the ones that forget.

Consider the advantage that remembering how to produce gunpowder gives, or how to make soap (and why to make soap), or how to refine and work steel.

All of which can be done without a single drop of petroleum.

If by "a few generations" he means "thousands of years", perhaps.

What kind of silly definition of "generation" would mean a thousand years. No, he meant the standard human generation, 20 to 25 years. A few generations would be perhaps 60 to 100 years. But you can read the short essay and really understand what he meant. Energy and Human Evolution.

A hard crash has nothing to do with a "lose all tech" scenario. Technology is not energy, technology is not food. When 50 to 75 percent of the people are out of work technology is not worth a tinker's dam to them.

Of course people can make soap and a few other necessities without oil. And they can smelt iron with charcoal... until all the trees are gone. Steel? That is questionable. But can you feed 7 billion people without the petroleum energy to drive mechanized farming? Can you keep hungry people from rioting?

It will be a totally different world when the economies of the world collapse.

But hey... we got technology dude!

Ron P.

The petri dish fallacy assumes a degree of coupling in the human economic and ecological system that simply does not exist.

The world is bigger than you or Dr. Price think. Not infinite, that would make the cornucopians right and they are just as wrong, but still pretty darned big.

The article had absolutely nothing to do with the petri dish, it was all about energy and food production in human evolution. Of course it mentioned the part energy played in the evolution of other animals also. However I really don't think you even bothered to read the article.

He gives the example of what a sudden abundance of food has on a population of reindeer on St. Matthew Island. The island had a mat of lichens more than four inches deep. This enabled the population of reindeer to explode when only 29 were introduced to the island in 1944. But lichens are very slow growers and when they were all gone in 1963 the population suddenly dropped from 6,000 to 41 females and one apparently dysfunctional male.

Likewise an abundance of cheap energy enabled our population to explode in a similar manner. And it will have a similar effect when it disappears. Though the speed of the disappearance will be much slower so things will play out much slower than on St. Matthew Island.

However there is a caveat. Things will play out much differently in different parts of the world. Japan and other nations with virtually no fossil fuel will collapse much faster as exports dry up. This could lead to war and a sudden stoppage in all exports. This then leads to the collapse of the economies of virtually all the nations on earth. Then we would have a St. Matthew Island scenario in many, and perhaps most, nations.

But... hey dude, we got technology. ;-)

Ron P.

Don't worry, be happy! We'll be harvesting jelly fish and seaweed from the infinite ocean agricultural zone in the future :)

Yeah, and if we can manage to grow a few peanuts we can live on PB&JF sandwiches. ;-)

It's not all doom & gloom. Look! Scientists have found that soil has something to do with growing plants; Organic farms have better soil. What a discovery, you've got to hand it to these guys.

Dr Christopher van der Gast, of the CEH, said the use of herbicides and pesticides, as well as constant tilling of the soil breaks down the fungi on intensive farms.

But on organic farms , that do not use chemicals, there is a more diverse range of microbes living in the soil. This helps the crops to grow without the expense of artificial fertilisers.

Dr van der Gast said the findings could help farmers around the world to understand how to make plants grow better in the long term, without destroying the nutrients of the soil with intensive farming.

On the other hand they could have simply asked an organic farmer or read an organic gardening book and saved themselves some trouble. Ok, you're right, we're doomed. Most of the World's arable land has been trashed and is now 100% dependent on FFs and chemical inputs. But also, as the UN have said; "the green revolution is exhausted", just like the land. Even with FFs & chemical inputs, we're in deep brown stuff.

If we stipulate that the production from organic farming is lower than conventional farming, that does not answer the question as to whether it makes sense to do organic farming. Historical comparisons may not be a good guide to what we will see in the future. Regardless of what kind of farming is done, however, there is still the potassium problem. Which of course brings up the perennial question, have you hugged your bag of NPK today? Toto is not here so someone needs to take over the mantle.

However, even if what you say is all true and even if, therfore, there is a gradual transition to organic, there will still be the unlikelihood that 7 billion people can be fed organically, much less 8 to 10 billion people. The fact that organic soil is better does not mean that it is still not mostly doom and gloom. Then there is the issue of increasing drowth and global heating. I don't think any kind of farming is going to make the planet a very pleasant place to live in the future.

For most of the world's population, life used to be nasty, brutish, and short. I expect that we will return to that state.

I think we're done either way. Organic cannot produce the quantity to replace industrial farming, especially when it is starting with depleted soils. The Green Revolution is exhausted and probably soon to be failing which will take down industrial agriculture with it. The new GMOs concocted by mad scientists may look like food, but probably rot your liver faster than neat whisky and have a about as much nutritional value as cardboard. But that's not a problem because they'll contain calories and be profitable. The only figures anybody will care to look at.

Organic can produce as many calories as industrial per acre, you just have to use the appropriate methods and practice feeding the soil vs depleting the soil. Take a look at Polyface farms as an example.

I agree that very few people who do not have vested interests and are/become knowledgable about industrial ag will want to use GMO's and pesticides in most use cases (When there is a plague of locusts, then most people will demand action).

On the other hand they could have simply asked an organic farmer

How about someone who has worked at an organic farm for four years, and who personally farms and intends to open a market garden next year? Does that count? (I'm referring to myself, of course.)

--Organic farms use tilling. They can't very well hand-dig acres of beds, can they? The five-acre farm I worked at used a rototiller exclusively. It is a certified organic farm. Occasionally they would have me cultivate with a tractor and use a chisel plow. Still, the weeds are waist-high by July.

--Organic farms use "chemical inputs." "Organic" people have a funny definition of "chemistry": if a substance is man-made or synthesized, it's "chemical"; if it is mined or robbed from organisms, it's "natural." Examples of "natural chemicals" (an oxymoron?) used on organic farms are: lime, greensand, rock phosphate, blood meal, and fish emulsion. I dare anyone to prove that these are not "chemicals."

--Organic farmers use pesticides. Like "chemical," "pesticide" is given inconsistent definition by organic people. I had to be licensed as a pesticides applicator to work at the organic farm. We learned that the "natural" substances used on organic farms to slaughter insect pests are indeed "pesticides": Pyganic, Neem, Entrust, Rotenone, etc.

--As a non-organic (or is that "inorganic"?) farmer, I, too, have the best soil in the universe. I compost cow manure and leaves, collect garden and kitchen wastes, and use mulch. There is simply no better way to stock a soil full of long-lasting nutrients than to add composted vegetable matter. But my farm is NOT organic.

I refuse to subscribe to organic dogma in order to become "certified." If I find pests, I SPRAY them with CHEMICALS.

"Organic" farmers do not own the methods they have sanctified as "organic."

He used the petri dish and reindeer analogy to anchor the rest of his argument.

You are right that I didn't finish that particular paper, I got to the place where I saw the logical fallacy rearing it's head and decided to cut my losses right there.

And of course we have technology. A pointy cursed stick is technology.

The group that has the most and uses it best wins, just ask the Sioux.

Again, you didn't get to the part about the petri dish because that part is not in there. He does use the example of yeast in a vat and the reindeer to give examples of what happens to any species when suddenly supplied with a vast abundance of food. There is no logical fallacy there because that is exactly what happened to Homo sapiens.

I could give you other examples. In many parts of tropical Asia, where bamboo forest are abundant, they have a plague of rats every 48 to 50 years. The bamboo fruits about that often, leading to an abundance of bamboo fruit for the rats. Their population explodes. Then after the bamboo fruit is gone the rats move into the wheat and rice fields, until all that food is gone. Then they die.

Swarms of rats plague rural Myanmar

The rat infestation was predictable - or at least, it should have been. British colonialists recorded in the mid-19th century that the flowering of the bamboo fruit set off a deadly domino effect every 48 years. The last cycle, in 1958-9, led to the deaths of between 10,000 and 15,000 people in Chin State and the neighboring Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, which are currently 30% covered in bamboo forest.

Stupid rats, if only they had technology. But wait, the people did have technology, why did up to 15,000 people die when their food disappeared? Why didn't they eat their technology?

You wrote earlier:

The petri dish fallacy assumes a degree of coupling in the human economic and ecological system that simply does not exist.

No connection between the human economic and ecological systems? That is the most outrageous thing I have ever read on TOD. The economy is not connected to the weather? Or to climate change? Or to the drying up of rivers? Or to falling water tables? Or to the disappearance of the rain forest? Or to the washing away and blowing away of top soil? Or to a thousand other ways where our economy is directly connected to our ecological system? Give me a break!

Ron P.

Of course they're coupled, don't be a blithering idiot.

The coupling is not perfect, or we'd already be toast.

Of course they're coupled, don't be a blithering idiot.

Watch your language R4. We do not call people idiots on this list. But I am not surprised that you would resort to ad hominem attacks. After all, if you cannot answer a man's argument all is not lost. You can still call him vile names.

You clearly stated. "The petri dish fallacy assumes a degree of coupling in the human economic and ecological system that simply does not exist."

A degree of coupling does not exist! That is what must be implied from your post. Anyway, even if you did mean they are just barely coupled then that is a fallacy, a huge fallacy. Ask any farmer how much his economy is connected to the weather. Ask the surviving members of the rat plague how much their economy was tied to the rat infestation. Everything is tied, strongly tied, either directly or indirectly to our ecological environment. That should be obvious to everyone.

I would call you a blither... But I like to think I am not a person with such a limited intellect that I must resort to ad hominem attacks. After all, I can answer your arguments, such as they are. ;-)

Ron P.

Anyone who doubts the profound--the essential--connection between the human economic and ecological system should read William Catton's OVERSHOOT. The connection is there illustrated graphically and at length. Catton argues cogently, in fact, that our ignorance and our continued ignoring of this connection are largely responsible for our present predicament.

A degree of coupling that does not exist:

Coupling exists, it is not a sufficient amount of coupling to result in the hypothesised collapse scenarios.

One of the first casualties of most collapse scenarios is, in fact, coupling over extended spacial referents.

Yeast in a reaction chamber or reindeer on St. Matthew's Island have perfect coupling with their environment. Changes in resource availability either mix evenly through the environment or all members of the population have equal access to all parts of the environment.

People on planet Earth have locally highly coupled relationships with their environment but global connections between locales are time delayed and tenuous. Changes in "global" supplies of resources are spotty and do not mix evenly through the entire environment. As an example: gasoline can be available in plenty in Chicago at the same time as there are shortages in Atlanta. That's not even jumping over a national border, let alone crossing an ocean.

The St Matthew's Island model is therefore fundamentally flawed when stretched to the global scale. Continued reference to it to make ones point without addressing (or even recognizing) that flaw is idiocy.

I stand by my previous post and my request that you avoid idiocy.

Tell me why my model is wrong and yours is right.

Differences in scale do not necessarily falsify a previous example. Scale invariance would seem to be a property of resource depletion. Since resources are by definition not infinite, the only counter argument would be that there is no efficient market to couple shortages world-wide.

Systems theory indicates that a broader range of interfaces between open systems promotes stability (adaptive homeostatic behavior), in general. However, if you can draw a boundary around a "system of systems", or a subsystem, and it has few interfaces, then it will tend to become fragile at that level.

As soon as you have a global system, you could have such an issue (really, the interfaces to the planet are quite few!). You could also have issues with global but simple markets like potash and aluminum smelting. Of course these are just broad tendencies, and a good model would be needed to predict the onset of unstable behavior.

A bit of a pity we have globalization of resources and efficient markets, isn't it?

My point is that as soon as the global system is under significant stress that globalization will be the first victim.

Ask the folks in the Southeastern US how efficient those global markets were at getting them gasoline a couple years ago.
I suspect most of them would say "not so good".

Once the global market fragments, resource allocation becomes a regional or local problem with different characteristics in different parts of the world.

Some areas will be totally messed up in that event, others will be inconvenienced.

Global disaster, on the other hand, is a highly unlikely scenario.

Paleocon and r4ndom

I think you both make some great points. I think it instructive to look at the small scale and localized effects to get some idea of deterministic dynamics. But then on the larger scale a lot of the behavior gets randomized and you have to treat it differently.

Paleo: Scale invariance would seem to be a property of resource depletion.

I would say that resource depletion shows scale invariance if rapid technological acceleration was removed. As it is, the mix of dispersion and acceleration gives us something in between.

A good example of scale invariance is in the size of reservoirs, whereby slow progress at a geologically glacial pace creates a scale-free distribution.

A non-scale-invariant system is the depletion of island phosphorus. No or very limited dispersion, just an accelerating extraction.

r4:Once the global market fragments, resource allocation becomes a regional or local problem with different characteristics in different parts of the world.

Some areas will be totally messed up in that event, others will be inconvenienced.

I would agree and this shows the loose coupling I think you alluded to. I might suggest calling it dispersion as that can cover both loose coupling as well as complexity. It's a matter of filling up the entropic state space and this can occur either way.

Tell me why my model is wrong and yours is right.

For starters you don't seem to have a model. Simply speaking the word "technology" does not express a model. You must explain how technology can be turned into food. You must explain how technology can give more people employment. The Luddites were correct, technology takes jobs it does not produce them. Technology creates labor saving devices, meaning it takes less labor or fewer people to manufacture the same products. But as the economy grew, because more and more cheap fossil energy became available every year, new jobs were created as the economy grew.

My model is the same as the model of Dr. David Price. Since you did not even read the model how can you possibly know. My model is the same as the model of William Catton who laid it all out in "Overshoot". But since you would not read a short 10 minuet essay how could one expect you to read a whole book?

Dr. Price clearly explains how the human whole world model differs from the St. Matthew Island model. But then you didn't read that far did you?


Operative mechanisms in the collapse of the human population will be starvation, social strife, and disease. These major disasters were recognized long before Malthus and have been represented in western culture as horsemen of the apocalypse. They are all consequences of scarce resources and dense population.

Starvation will be a direct outcome of the depletion of energy resources. Today's dense population is dependent for its food supply on mechanized agriculture and efficient transportation. Energy is used to manufacture and operate farm equipment, and energy is used to take food to market. As less efficient energy resources come to be used, food will grow more expensive and the circle of privileged consumers to whom an adequate supply is available will continue to shrink.

And that section on The Mechanisms of Collapse continues for another four whole paragraphs. But that is far too much reading to expect you to do.

Again, stop calling people idiots. A person resorts to ad hominem attacks because they do not have the intellectual capacity to do otherwise. Is that you?

Ron P.

Asking someone not to act like an idiot assumes they have the capacity to do so.
I assume you have that capacity or I wouldn't bother continuing this discussion.

In the interest of fair discourse I will complete reading Dr. Price's essay, but I have seen the setup before, I know how the story ends, and I will be truly impressed if the chain of logic that leads from perfectly coupled systems to our imperfectly coupled world is any more convincing to me now than it was on any previous occasion.

My model, that you refuse to even see let alone challenge, is that the global coupling that makes the petri dish model even remotely applicable is the first thing to break down. Once the inter-regional coupling breaks down, so does the petri dish model.

Just as it did for the Romans, and at the end of the 19th Century, and probably in other times and places that my studies have not carried me. I certainly have not made a significant study of Chinese history, but there is ample evidence that they see the coming storm and know how to deal with it, so I suspect there are sufficient examples in their history as well.


ELM is in particular a narrow expression of my model.
As domestic demands for a resource approach production the amount available for trade drops to zero.
This is one mode of the decoupling of global markets.

What you said was: "don't be a blithering idiot." That is an ad hominem attack if one ever existed. I do not engage in such attacks myself, I simply believe if I do not have the intellect to attack the argument instead, I will remain silent. And I deeply resent your use of the word. Regardless of what Jokhul says I have never called anyone an idiot. Such ad hominem attacks are beneath me and should be beneath anyone on this list. But apparently not.

So please do read Dr. Price's paper. It takes from 10 to 20 minutes to read the entire paper. I know that is an awful long time but please try to spare the time.

The petri dish model has nothing to do with Dr. Price's paper. He clearly explains the difference to the human environment. But then again, you did not read that far did you?

ELM is in particular a narrow expression of my model.

Mine too! What am I missing here. ELM predicts a sharp dropoff in world oil exports. This adds to the chance of a total economic collapse.

As domestic demands for a resource approach production the amount available for trade drops to zero.
This is one mode of the decoupling of global markets.

Exactly! But you think this supports a slow collapse, or more correctly, you think this supports no collapse? When Japan has no imported fossil energy, and no domestic fossil energy, this will mean they will decouple from global markets? Well hell yes, it does that. It also means that the Japanese will all starve to death. And to all importing nations it means exactly the same thing, though to some a lesser degree. And by a lesser degree I am referring to those who have some domestic production but not nearly enough, like the USA.

Ron P.

You aren't an idiot Ron, you just do a fair impression sometimes. (As do I.)

I have now read his paper in total. I'd made it farther than I thought.

The logic that I had hoped for is absent, I am not convinced of his conclusion.

That there will be a population reduction as the resources being used to maintain current population is inarguable. There can be no complete substitution for all resources that are being depleted, and it is highly unlikely that current global population levels can be supported long term.

That this necessarily means an end to civilization or even humanity itself is unsupported and pure pessimism.

I suppose this makes me a "slow collapse" supporter, but I don't think it is that simple.

I prefer to consider myself an "incomplete collapse" supporter. Some places will be absolutely devastated, others will be inconvenienced. We will lose the capability to support some technologies, but not all, and the tech considered most useful by the people living with the collapse (maybe us, maybe not) will be aggressively conserved.

That there will be a population reduction as the resources being used to maintain current population is inarguable.

Well now I guess we agree, now we are just arguing over how great will be the population reduction. I have said that there will likely be, after about fifty years or so, about half a billion people left. I have no idea what part of our current technology they will take with them. That will depend entirely on how radical the survivors turn out to be. And I would not even venture a guess on that part.

Yes, I disagree with Dr. Prices conclusion that there might be no survivors. I think that since Homo sapiens occupy every possible niche on earth, that their survival is a foregone conclusion, at least for several thousand years.

I disagree with you on the speed of the collapse. I think... I guess... that the collapse will be rather slow at first, then sudden and dramatic beginning some five to fifteen years into the collapse. And it will be total and complete. By that I mean that no government support programs are likely to survive. Individuals however may survive quite well, depending on their location and the resources available to them.

Ron P.

Perhaps not so different after all, though you come across as a fast-crash hard doomer a lot of the time.

I think that end-game of a collapse will most likely have rather large enclaves, possibly full nations still intact depending upon the positive surprises between now and then. I put avoiding a global disassociation such as we saw at the end of the 19th C. at near zero probability, the bankers have that one in the bag IMHO. In short, globally it is going to get worse, but locally it might not get too much worse depending upon where you are.

I do not believe that there will be any avoidance of large scale suffering, but we never did manage to avoid that.

Large scale full global collapse would, in my opinion again, involve negative surprises at least as large as the positive ones allowing large nations to survive intact.

I am factoring climate change into my guesses, and significant sea level change, as well as oil, K, and other mined resource depletion.

Perhaps not so different after all, though you come across as a fast-crash hard doomer a lot of the time.

Hey, I am a fast-crash hard doomer all the time. I predict, in my post above, I predicted the crash to be "sudden and dramatic beginning some five to fifteen years into the collapse." If that is not a fast crash then I don't know what is. And I predict a population collapse to about half a billion. We currently have almost 7 billion! One will stand where 14 now stand. Is that not a hard doomer scenario?

Actually we are all guessing here. But I just don't see any way we can avoid the same fate that all plague species have suffered in the past. What I see is just nature taking its normal course.

Ron P.

Some level of civilization can survive even that sort of crash if it isn't evenly distributed.

I don't think it can be evenly distributed.

Certainly being one of the survivors in that sort of crash wouldn't involve the luxurious lifestyle many of us enjoy today, but I don't think it would involve collapse back to the stone ages either.

But no "nation" as you would envision them today. There will be no islands of plenty in a sea of want.
Nations will exhaust themselves defending their claim on future resources. What remains will be "pockets" of distrustful states and enclaves.

IMO, under normal circumstances the great human species crash, could end as did previous civilization crashes, whereby at different stages, migration, substitution, technological innovation, colonialism and globalization facilitated a bounce back and recovery.
This time due to FF's and technology we have degraded the biosphere to such an extent that recovery is problematic.

Technology has allowed us the privilege of crashing slowly while we burn the crap out of everything on the way down. That scenario coupled with global warming is a quite lethal (to humanity) combination. To avoid the worst of our excesses and capabilities we need a fast crash.

Humans may not take all other fauna with us but we'll decimate the ass out of 'em, that's the most disgusting highlight of our sorry plight.

You post ad homs ALL THE TIME!

Every time you splutter out your objection with these scads of exclamation marks (are they Free in Florida?! In Maine we have to pay a .02 tax each time.), you are calling names, you're rolling your eyes like a Mall rat, you're stomping your feet and making it a personal fight.

You're SO easily riled.
(Just like my dad! There, I said it..)

And I love my Dad, and I know you're actually a good guy, and very smart. But man, it's so easy to get your dander up, because you've decided to take a single, inflexible read on what someone has said, and set your fangs into that instead of 'trying to hear what they're trying to say'.

It's damned frustrating to watch, Ron.


Jokuhl, what on earth are you talking about? I mean it is awful early in the day to for a person to be sputtering like they are three sheets to the wind. Well, unless you are posting from Europe.

Anyway, calm down and sober up, or get off whatever it is that is making you rant like... hell I don't know, who rants all the time?

Oh, an exclamation marks is not an ad hominem attack. But calling someone a Mall rat is an ad hominem attack. You should learn the difference. And I don't make ad hominem attacks. I may imply that an argument is unsound, even stupid, but I would never imply that the person making the argument was stupid. A wise man often makes stupid a argument out of ignorance. And after all, all of are ignorant on many subjects.

Ron P.

Ron...stop. Jokuhl is right. Don't make me delete this thread, because if I do, it will start with your post.

Leanan, you are wrong, dead wrong! You, like Jokuhl, do not seem to understand the distinction between an attack of the argument and an attack to the man! I have, in the past, attacked the arguments of Elwood and others, calling their arguments "beyond the pale" and other such mtaphores. But I have never attacked him or anyone else personally. Well not in the last two years anyway. My memory is not good enough to remember before that.

I was not the one who first used the word "idiot'", it was R4. Yet you chose to ignore this blatant ad hominem attack and chastise me instead! Well hell, what kind of priorities do you have?

So please delete all these posts, starting with mine. I do not like your priorities Leanan. You should have intervened when the word 'Idiot" was first used, not when I objected to the word!

Ron P.

You misrepresented my position and jumped on my claims without addressing them, or even acknowledging the point on which we clearly disagree.

You've got a better word for that?

I've gone around with you enough times to know that you can do better than this.


You skate pretty damn close to the edge. You are prickly when questioned, and use pretty aggressive language in return. You could really afford to SIMMER DOWN.

You can quibble about what constitutes "ad hominem" (as you often do), but man-o-man, you really do push the envelope, and should not be at all surprised at the replies you get, from Leanan or anyone else.

Sorry, (especially since I mostly agree with your take on just about everything), but it had to be said.

I will back Ron up on this. He has never called anyone on TOD an idiot or been personally insulting, as I recall.

That said, Ron will call an argument the equivalent of idiotic (including some of mine) and no one should take offense to this because an argument is an inanimate entity. An argument is just a bucket of dirt. And a bucket of dirt would never feel personally insulted.

It's a good rule of thumb to use when engaged in flame wars. Don't misplace anger at the argument for anger at the person.

Well hell, what kind of priorities do you have?

I'd like to keep the tone here civil and pleasant. I'm not going to get into debates about what constitutes a personal attack. I think everyone here knows darn well when they're being rude and hostile.

If you don't like the priorities here, feel free to start your own blog and show us how it's done.

Well it all started Leanan when I was called an Idiot. That should have been what upset you as well as me. That post should have been deleted and that would have gotten all the posts that followed and ended the whole mess.

Then to make matters worse Jokhul said: "You post ad homs ALL THE TIME!" That is a blatant untruth. I never post ad homs. Then to add insult to injury you agreed with him.

Ron P.

Ron...you do post ad homs. I know, because I've frequently deleted them. You usually re-post your comments with the insults removed, which tells me you know when you're crossing the line.

You've called people idiots, you've questioned their reading skills, and you've said things like, "Does your mommy know you're using her computer?"

Sometimes you go back and edit such insults out of your comments. While I appreciate the fact that you reconsider your more inflammatory statements, I'd rather you did it before posting, not after. Even if you edit your comments, or I remove them, people have seen them, and it tends to escalate the situation, generating heat, not light.

You've called people idiots,

Okay, I may have questioned someone's reading skills, but only to point out that they missed the obvious. But I have NEVER called a person an idiot!

Ron P.

Okay, how about a "horse's ass"?

And yes I was calling you a horses ass.

You justified it this way:

I was complaining about your behavior, not your intellect or your argument. Complaining about one's behavior is not an ad hominem attack.

Ummm...and how is that different from:

Asking someone not to act like an idiot assumes they have the capacity to do so.
I assume you have that capacity or I wouldn't bother continuing this discussion.

Pot, kettle.

If you don't like being treated like that, surely you understand that others don't care for it, either?

Obviously I need to apologize for the language, but look at the post I responded to with it. You gave me a verbal dressing down, calling me an idiot without actually saying the word, based on a misunderstanding of my position.

I am sorry that I was so blunt, I will try to be more polite about pointing out such things in the future.

calling me an idiot without actually saying the word

Sorry, r, but that is a nonsensical statement.

I should really watch myself, that one is too easy.

Mike, you're a writer. You know very well that you can say something 'between the lines', while never using the words. That is clearly what I meant about Ron's 'Exclamation Marks'..

Why you believe that Ron's fury-moments make his writing more 'effective' is truly amazing to me. It completely kills his credibility, and does nothing to strengthen the point he's trying to make. He regains it only with MANY well researched and level posts, elsewhere in the day.

I'm not against using emotion in writing.. but these flareoffs are just wasted power.


Ron, you win.

To me, you are the model of what ferocious, effective argumentation is.


Will, if you have a comment please post it.

Ron P.

...if you have a comment please post it.


My +1 is quite separated from Jokuhl's comment, so I suppose it does appear a bit cryptic. But SGage's comment above captures my sentiment as well.

I think you are raising the noise level, not the discussion level.

Consistently implying that someone is: a) silly, b) ignorant, c) an intellectual lightweight, d) cannot read... is not helpful.

I would encourage you to frame your response by listing the things you agree with first. You will probably find that those things you disagree with are less troublesome, and less substantial than your first impression, and therefore: are less necessary to debate.

My impression, and I've been here a long time, is that you are here to argue. That's going to end badly... especially once you start arguing with Leanan. :-)

I agree with the point about arguing.

Ron, I do appreciate your vast storehouse of knowledge. It's an asset to the conversations we have here.

At the same time, I personally would appreciate it if you argued less. Perhaps you could practice the Socratic Method more?

What seems to be missing in your conversations is an appreciation that there are many points of view on each topic and that each is valid as a point of view. Each view sees just a piece of the picture. By gathering them all together we can form more coherent insight into a topic.

This style of conversation is the inquiry and they are some of the most satisfying and engaging conversations we have here. An argument is when participants in a conversation immediately become positional and defend their positions. To some degree inquiry still happens but the quality of the discussion is worlds apart.

In my experience, you seem to stake your position early and then come from the place that your view is the only True and Correct and Complete View. Often you have good evidence to back up your assertions but that doesn't change the fact that I avoid engaging in conversation with you because my experience is that you denigrate others by mocking their views (per Leanan's post above). Really, who needs to subject themselves to that? I can have more pleasant conversations with other people on the board.

Someone who recognizes the notion that there are an infinite number of views, none of which are the only or complete view, may use these handy phrases from time to time:

"That's one way to look at it. Here is how I'm currently viewing it."

"I can see that point of view but I think you may be missing some items. Have you considered _____?"

"That's an interesting way to come at it. If you look at it this way, it's possible to see _____"

As I said, I do appreciate your storehouse of knowledge and cogent thinking and would like to converse with you more but until you hold your views more lightly, I'm going to pass on that.

You say blither and I say blather, he will dither, you'd rather dather,
Blither, blather, dither, dather, the facts don't mean a thing,
When you're in that swing.

Forgive me, Louis.

Ron wrote:

Likewise an abundance of cheap energy enabled our population to explode in a similar manner. And it will have a similar effect when it disappears. Though the speed of the disappearance will be much slower so things will play out much slower than on St. Matthew Island.

May I suggest you read Peak Oil is History

And particularly this paragraph:

Fourth, we must consider the fact that our modern global oil industry is highly integrated. If you need a certain specialty part for your drilling operation, chances are it can be sourced from just one or two global companies. Chances are this company has some very important, highly technical operations in a country that just happens to be an oil importer. The significance of this becomes clear when one considers what happens to that company's operations once Export Land Effect becomes felt. Suppose you are a national oil company in an oil-rich nation that still has enough oil left for domestic consumption, although it was recently forced to fire all of its international customers. Your oil fields are huge but mature, and you can only keep them in production by continuously drilling new horizontal wells just above the ever-rising water cut and maintaining well pressure by injecting seawater underneath. If you stop or even pause this activity, then your oil, at the wellhead, will quickly change in composition from slightly watery oil to slightly oily water, which you might as well just pump back underground. And now it turns out that the equipment you need to keep drilling horizontal wells comes from one of these unlucky countries that used to import your oil but now cannot, and the technicians who used to build your equipment have given up trying to find enough black-market gasoline to drive to work and are busy digging up their suburban backyards to grow potatoes. A short while later your drilling operations run out of spare parts, your oil production crashes, and most of your remaining reserves are left underground, contributing to an increasingly important reserve category: never-to-be-produced reserves.

In other words, the oil age may end rather abruptly. Sometimes you are just too much of an optimist Ron .

SolarDude, you are quite right, I am often the wide eyed optimist. However the reindeer on St. Matthew Island went from over 6,000 to 42 over the course of one winter. I doubt seriously that our collapse will be anywhere that fast. I think it will take several years, five or six perhaps even more, between the time peak oil becomes recognized by the world and producing nations realize that they must save for themselves most of their oil.

That will be the point where things begin to break down and the scenario you describe above starts to play out. After that it will be only a very few years before total collapse. And remember the old Spanish Proverb: Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart.

In deference to Leanan and others who believe that Peak Oil will never be recognized by the world, well that may be true for the public in general but most exporting nations will know the truth.

Ron P.

the oil age may end rather abruptly

That's my operating assumption. I asked John Michael Greer if he would be willing to revise the graph below to make the right side of the production curve asymmetric. I made that request because I am convinced we will have great trouble getting the remaining oil out and he concurred. Thus, it looks now more like a shark's fin:

Greer's Stages of Technic Societies

It should be noted that while the various constraints on production are biting harder (i.e. contracting credit, hoarding, etc.) the Export Land Model is also operating:

Great Oil Squeeze

So the "perceived" oil production curve (or perhaps a better name is the "net oil curve") will likely be even steeper than in the topmost graph. Something even steeper than this:


We have a planet that has little idea of what is about to hit us.

I was reading an article the other day where a colony of water fleas was fed a decreasing amount of food over a time period. They found that the colony died out, even though the food had not run out. Seemingly their findings also applied to stock-markets, economies, etc. Presumably oil too.

Somewhere along the down curve we're probably going to crash hard, out of proportion with the extent of energy decline experienced. Seemingly the collapse is preceded by what they call a "critical slowing down" and an inability to recover.

That is very interesting....but the results of the water-flea experiment could also be applied to a slow but hard crash. Can a crash be slow but hard? I think so. People usually think a fast crash is hard and a slow crash is soft. But actually a slow crash can be very hard, and I think that the water flea experiemnt illustrates why. The older generations eat the food (what little there is) so the younger ones cannot get it. The younger ones might be too slow, just learning, smaller, whatever. The older ones die and there aren't enough younger ones to replace them. The younger ones mate and some of the new generation survives but if the food is still decreasing the problem won't go away. The older generation won't/can't share. Finally none are left who can reproduce.

Now some "advanced" economies have lots of elderly people. Fewer and fewer young. But I still think that it isn't quite like water fleas---it's not a closed system. So the number of people won't get to zero I think. I think the crash could be very long, very slow....and very hard (in that it is almost impossible to recover from it and restart a farming/solar economy where you would see action everywhere, like people carrying hay around.) Instead there might be desolate miles and miles of empty cement buildings for centuries. And almost no one around. It will be impossible to bulldoze the buildings, impossible to get into the centers where they are thickest, for those activities will cost too much energy. I can imagine a lot of emptiness.....just nothing and no one for miles and miles.

Net available oil is the Oil Interregnum, the time to prepare, and that less so as time passes. Richard Heinberg (see "Museletter" 220) mentions the present time period will experience "fits & starts" as new discovery encourages and eases shortage. But over all, the limits tighten all too soon.

Thinking process is crucial, planning into and past the oil fall-off is what must be done to re-orient transport and other accepted fixed uses of oil. Agicultulture must immediately be adjusted to maintain on annual diminished diesel fuel, for example. In Canada the long-running wheat belt rail branches are now being retired, just as the trucking substitutes are coming alone, confident in fuel supply. Anyone in the Canadian Wheat Co-operative Peak Oil savvy? Rail savvy?

For North American Rail Map Atlas volumes, see spv.cp.uk, or "Official Guides circa 1960 & prior. Some in each locale need to be rail go-to people as the Federal Emergency Executive orders for motor fuel rationing come at us.

Reformed Army/Guard Railroad Operating & Maintenance Battalions will work with private rail operators (ASLRRA) to prioritize rebuild of dormant rail corridor. See more at "Suntrain Transportation Corporation, companion book "ELECTRIC WATER", and other postings by tahoevalleylines...

Net available oil is the Oil Interregnum, the time to prepare, and that less so as time passes. Richard Heinberg (see "Museletter" 220) mentions the present time period will experience "fits & starts" as new discovery encourages and eases shortage. But over all, the limits tighten all too soon.

Thinking process is crucial, planning into and past the oil fall-off is what must be done to re-orient transport and other accepted fixed uses of oil. Agriculture must immediately be adjusted to maintain on annual diminished diesel fuel, for example. In Canada the long-running wheat belt rail branches are now being retired, just as the trucking substitutes are coming alone, confident in fuel supply. Anyone in the Canadian Wheat Co-operative Peak Oil savvy? Rail savvy?

For North American Rail Map Atlas volumes, see spv.co.uk, or "Official Guides circa 1960 & prior. Some in each locale need to be rail go-to people as the Federal Emergency Executive orders for motor fuel rationing come at us.

Reformed Army/Guard Railroad Operating & Maintenance Battalions will work with private rail operators (ASLRRA) to prioritize rebuild of dormant rail corridor. See more at "Suntrain Transportation Corporation", companion book "ELECTRIC WATER", also other postings by tahoevalleylines...

SolarDude, Great article, but You might be a bit above their 50 word citation allowance.

Meanwhile, citation of up to 50 words is permitted.

I also noted this quote

The current and the previous U.S. administration tried hard to minimize discussion of “peak oil,” because it’s really bad news. When the public consciousness is raised on this subject, the public will be furious with governments: why didn’t you tell us about this and what are you doing about it?

I am increasingly wondering if most governments in OECD countries feel that they can't afford to address Peak Oil, because they need the tax revenue generated by continued high levels of consumption.

The DOE produced The Hirsch Report, what I believe is close to the best published discussion of peak oil to date, and so the Bush administration gets credit at least for not exactly sweeping the issue under the rug or actively suppressing the topic.

Meanwhile the US economy is contracting at a 5.85percent rate as of today, check out http://www.consumerindexes.com/index.html and this chart comparing growth and the stock market, http://dshort.com/charts/Consumer-Metrics-Growth-Index.html?Consumer-Met...

Interesting stuff. I wonder if it's really that bad, though. The economic reports have been mixed for awhile now. Today's retail sales report was good (sort of). And it doesn't "feel" as bad as last year. Roads are crowded again. Almost all my friends have jobs, including some who were out of work for quite some time (though some of them have part-time jobs when they would prefer full-time, or contract work rather than a steady job).

Hi Leanan, there's generally a time lag between the economy tanking, the stock market tanking and the unemployment rate to increase. I recently posted this comment at TAE, I'll reproduce it here;

So how many trillions have been spent already and what effect has it had on the reality on the ground in America?

Ok, so Obama and his team of Ponzi economists (A continuation from the Bush era) have borrowed and spent with reckless abandon, the US Debt burden has increased by $4.5 Trillion in the last 47 months. And the cheerleaders in the Mainstream media have been blowing as hard as ever. Over the last year, for every dollar of US tax revenue, a dollar has been borrowed by the Treasury. The FED quantitatively eased $1.7 Trillion or so into the economy but if one looks at the data, the reality is that, for all that buck there wasn't much bang.

Let's summarize the better than expected data that has been in the news of late.

First of all, the CMI growth index (produced by a private firm that has been surprisingly accurate with a considerable lead time over the official statistics) stands at -5.85pc today. The 2008 low stood at -6.02pc. We're not that far off from surpassing that trough.

Unemployment rates are still where they are a year ago, while the US is now trillions upon trillions more into debt. U3 at 9.6pc and U6 at 16.7pc while Shadowstats.com is registering unemployment at closer to 22pc.

Existing home sales registered a 15 year low as you are well aware by now.

New Home sales hit an all time record low.

Just to get the 8 million people who have lost their jobs so far in the great recession, and to provide employment to the 150,000 or so people that come into the job market every month as a result of demographic trends, a job by the end of Obama's second term, if there were to be one, would require the creation of 261,000 or so jobs per month!! What would be the driver of that job growth? In the past housing was the primary driver of the economy, as well as the constant flow of easy money bubbles. Now that engine has gone bust.

Speaking of engines, August auto sales came in at a 28 year low, think how much the population has grown in 28 years! Though I see that the Porsche sales managed to surge, while GM, Toyota, Nissan etc all tanked.

David Rosenberg writes that, The ISM manufacturing index, "managed to spike even though the three leading sub-indices — new orders, backlogs and vendor performance — all declined in what was a 1-in-100 event." So even though the internals were horrible, the headline print was all sunshine. Closely resembles the stock market don't you think? All hubris and no substance.
Further the ISM Non-Manufacturing index showed a decline in jobs as the figure came in at 48.2, a 7 month low, yet the BLS data managed to show that the US economy added 67,000 private jobs, I'll allow for the 115,000 or so jobs added from fudging with the blackbox that is the birth/death model. While the ADP survey, was more in line with the ISM data, showing a contraction of 10,000 jobs in the private sector.

What was most peculiar in the recent BLS report was the fact that Non-Seasonally adjusted data for the Not in Labor Force category showed a huge increase of 800,000 people! This was quite a move, will have to watch out for such data swings going into the next month. Maybe it's a result of summer holidays ending and teens leaving their jobs, if they ever had one?? or it could be something more substantial, either way, 800,000 people swinging one way or another is a huge move in my book.

BTW Only 47.6% of people ages 16 to 24 had jobs in August, the lowest level since the government began keeping track in 1948, the Labor Department said Friday. By comparison, 62.8% of that age group was employed in August 2000.

The unemployment rate averaged a record 18.3% during June, July and August for those under 25. That's more than twice the jobless rate for people 25 and older.

Professor Laurence Kotlikoff has shown that the US is functionally bankrupt, with a $202 Trillion funding gap between revenues and projected outlays if only the accounting weren't done Enron style. The real debt is thus 15 times official GDP.

A couple of Trillion dollars in debt later (Well about 3 Trillion in the past two fiscal years), for the month of June it was reported that the use of food stamps soared to a record 41.3 Million people. That's more than the population of Canada. Think about that for a minute!

The bulwark of job creation in America has always been small business, yet the NFIB and Discover Index used to measure Small Business Owner confidence came in with very disappointing results. The Discover index came in at an 18 month low while the NFIB index came in at a 4 month low.

Healthcare costs meanwhile are increasingly falling on the shoulders of the employee, recently we had this piece of data; "The average worker with a family plan was hit with a 14% premium increase this year, pushing the bill to nearly $4,000 a year, according to a survey by the nonprofit Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust." Apparently this was the largest rate of increase since the survey began in 1999. Rising healthcare costs mean that there is less discretionary income for consumption.

While Morgan Stanley released a report a few weeks ago saying that the US government Debt/ Revenue ratio which stands at 358.1pc is so bad that it handily beats Greece and Ireland. And we all know the pain that they are experiencing. Morgan Stanley also goes on to write, that default is inevitable, just what form will it take? The Automatic Earth can easily answer, it will be a deflationary bust, Ponzi style.

So as long as the US Government backed ponzi enablers are in charge, your goose is cooked. Protect yourself from the coming storm by building community networks around you and protecting yourself for the long term because as Stoneleigh says, to protect yourself from the long run, you have to survive the short term. So batten down the hatches, Hurricane Earl might have fizzled out but the financial storm is only just beginning.

Also the retail sales number are pretty pointless. They have a survivor bias, where closed stores don't count, only the winners are picked and thus have a larger pool of customers. Mike Larson elaborates further upon this;

The big news is out: Retail sales rose just 0.4% in August, roughly in line with forecasts. And it took deep discounts and tax-free back-to-school holidays in 17 states to generate even that paltry gain!

Plus Best Buy, the electronics giant, reported that it beat earnings expectations this morning — NOT because of a healthy increase in sales, but because of stock repurchases, layoffs and other cost cuts. In fact, same store sales actually FELL 1% from a year ago!

Meanwhile, the economic news continues to grow gloomier overseas. Investor confidence in Germany plunged to the lowest level in 19 months in September, while European industrial production flatlined in July compared with forecasts for a small gain.

Make no mistake: The economic outlook is NOT improving; every major indicator is showing massive weaknesses. These relatively small short-term rallies smack of desperation. Investors who attempt to trade them are taking huge risks for very little potential returns.
Take a step back from the day-to-day market gyrations, and the big picture becomes clear. Stocks are still more than 6% off their highs, and the recent rally has done nothing more than push the market into a zone of key technical resistance.

Similar rallies in mid-June and mid-July fizzled out once the fundamentals reasserted themselves, and I’m looking for a three-peat. The stock market is like a balloon in a room full of razor blades.
If anything, these rallies are a gift — a great chance to lighten up your stock exposure and to buy downside hedges at better prices. I recommend you do precisely that if you haven’t already.

Denninger's take on retail sales is that people bought necessities. The discretionary categories, including Best Buy's electronics, were poor.

I own a retail store that sells a little of everything. Small items like toys, greeting cards, jewelry and novelty gift items are holding up more or less. But big ticket items like furniture, lighting, window treatments and the like are totally dead -- even worse than 09. Fortunately I've been following the westexas ELP plan to the max so we're not under water yet.

An interesting sub-thread to this, I refer back to last night's "Kudlow Report". Attendance at NFL football games is down for the third straight year. The explanation offered is that more people prefer to stay at home to watch games on the new oversized, HD, flat screen TVs. This probably is true, but it ignores the obvious economics of the situation. It has got to be more economical to just buy a flat screen, HD TV than to repeatedly shell out the kind of money for tickets and concessions charged at sports stadiums. I wonder how fast a $2,500 TV pays for itself against NFL tickets? Probably pretty fast.

jabber -- You can get a real nice 60" DLP at BestBuy for around $1,200. Don't forget to mention my name so I get my commission.
I live in Texas so sports are big time here. Except with me. I might take my 9 yo daughter to basketball or baseball game once a year. When I get finished paying for those little outings I'm very thanksful I'm not a sports fan.

USA Today had an article about this. Money is definitely an issue - not just the tickets, but things like parking, food, and drink.

But it's also that the home experience has become so much better. Not just the big screen TV, but stuff like Sunday Ticket, the NFL Network, and Red Zone, and Internet access that lets you keep track of your fantasy teams live. Why watch only one game, when you can watch them all? They're even trying out things like letting you choose your point of view (pick the camera, rather than letting the network pick it for you).

And there's the other unpleasantness at the stadium. I know parents who refuse to take their kids to football or baseball games, because of the drunken, obnoxious fans. People who yell obscenities. The anatomically correct blowup dolls batted around the stands like beach balls. Brawls. That charming guy who intentionally vomited on a little girl. Add to that nightmarish traffic getting in and out of the parking lot, and staying at home looks better and better.

Attendance at NFL football games is down for the third straight year. The explanation offered is that more people prefer to stay at home to watch games on the new oversized, HD, flat screen TVs. This probably is true, but it ignores the obvious economics of the situation. It has got to be more economical to just buy a flat screen, HD TV than to repeatedly shell out the kind of money for tickets and concessions charged at sports stadiums. I wonder how fast a $2,500 TV pays for itself against NFL tickets? Probably pretty fast.

One of the things that has come out of economic studies of baseball is that seat prices and total revenue involve various trade-offs. In baseball, the seat prices that maximize revenue are those that are high enough to leave about 20% of seats empty at most games.

The NFL is a much more complicated problem, given things like the blackout rules and the various ways to circumvent those rules. Some seats are excluded from the sell-out rule, and would be subject to baseball-like optimal pricing strategies. Local stations will buy up unsold tickets so that they can carry the local game. Depending on advertising rates, the number of stations affected, and the number of seats, the local stations may be willing to pay substantially higher prices than individual fans.

Teams can also choose, on a season-by-season basis, to reduce their stadium seating (watch a Jaguars game and see how much of the seating is simply blocked off), then play around with prices and all of the other factors. For example, blocking off 10% of the seats, jacking the prices by 20%, and selling the last couple thousand seats to the local TV stations may be the revenue-maximizing strategy. There are reasons the owners are unwilling to really show anyone their books.

I'm curious as to what is included in the CMI numbers. Based on the second chart, either the CMI is off as a projective measure, or we are headed towards a big crash in GDP and Stocks.

One explanation might be if the CMI includes the bond market, which thanks to FED tinkering has seen huge drops in value recently, could account for its unusually low value.

The CMI doesn't track the bond market or the stock market at all. It tracks the following 10 sectors of the US economy on a daily basis;


Thanks. This is thought provoking.

I have heard a few stock analysts say "short everything" as stocks are over valued, but then I think about that old chestnut of "Economists have predicted 10 of the last 6 recessions", and wonder if it is just negative talk. We are approaching the 3rd anniversary of the Sept 2007 crash, and if another crash happens in 2010, it will follow the same pattern as the Great Depression.

I wish I could remember who said it, I'm sure Google knows:
"The markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

I would stay away from short positions unless you know exactly what you are in for.


Ilargi on The Automatic Earth has been discussing and analyzing the CMI numbers repeatedly over the past week.

Apparently someone forgot to tell those businesses that are keeping US diesel demand running at rate of 8 to 10% over last year since June that the economy was in a recession.

How is that explained by the CMI and other theories? I didn't see anyone here at TOD predict that, although I might have missed that.

I like John Robb's take on the economy:

JOURNAL: D2 Update

Why? Simply, the global market system the US fostered/defended to defeat Communism, took on a life of its own in the late 70's. It's now massive, insanely complex, blindingly fast, and completely out of control. Worse, it's easily corrupted by cancers (a financial oligarchy) that operate without constraint inside its core platform. All attempts at mitigation of this disease are intellectually rebuffed by an economic theocracy out of touch with reality (reminiscent of the divine right of kings). Its rise is the reason incomes in the West haven't increased in over three decades (!). Its dominance and increasing turbulence is the reason we are in D2, the second global depression.

One potential future is that the social pressures of D2 will shred what's left of the social contract in the Western democracies. That would mean that the only way out (for those of us unwilling to be passive) is to build something new. Something that mitigates our connection to this global system. My best attempt at a solution to this conundrum is the resilient community. A resilient community that can protect and sustain us. A community that can provide prosperity and a future worth living in. A community that can out compete successfully at a global level while protecting its members from the viciousness of an unconstrained invisible hand.

Could someone shed some light on what we can really expect from EOR? There's so much industry "information" that gives unbelievable estimates. But I haven't been able to find anything that gives what I would consider a balanced and reasonable view of what EOR can realistically deliver. Any links to more information, comments or links would be greatly appreciated.

And some things I've read leave me scratching my head, such as this:

Since enhanced oil recovery is capital intensive, it requires a high oil price to make it cost effective. Denbury Resources (NYSE:DNR) has specialized in enhanced oil recovery projects for years in the Gulf Coast area. It estimates that the company needs a NYMEX oil price of $36 a barrel to break even in its enhanced oil recovery operations. The company would earn a 26% rate of return at a $60 NYMEX oil price. However, this estimate excludes interest and corporate overhead, so a higher price would be needed to cover those expenses.

I have no idea how that return is computed, but it seems to exclude the capitalization costs. Which would make that number totally meaningless.

King - I can't offer any more specific numbers on the economics of EOR. But some insights might help. Typically for most EOR projects the capital costs are not that great. The wells and gathering system are in place. The increased costs are mostly chemicals and energy. OTOH, you could be looking at huge capex if you're planning to do a lot of horizontal redrilling. Those are the extremes of EOR and thus it's difficult to characterize in generalize. But focusing on recovery RATES is much more important than in the exploration game. With the exception of big (and expensive capex) projects most EOR projects will ramp up production rates to a fairly modest degree. A EOR project might double a field's URR from 1 million bbls to 2 million bbls. But it might only bump the daily production from 10% ... a much lower increase than the 100% increase in URR. This is typical of the more conventional EOR projects.

So even though someone may have a viable model that indicates URR from a number of fields could double URR, the impact on daily production rates (and its affect on PO) may be far less impressive. As far as Denbury press releases be careful how you interpret their words. They are a public company. And even if their increased investment in a field's EOR yields a return of 26% return ON THAT INVESTMENT, it doesn't mean the company is that profitable overall. Long ago Denbury came to life by buying an old oil field from Chevron. They did an IPO and used the monies ($270 million or so) to pay Chevron. They had a reserve report showing they could drill over 120 new wells in this heavy oil field and greatly increase the flow rate. They needed to: they paid an 17 year payout price for the field. Unheard of during a time when everyone else was selling production for 4 to 6 years P/O. After drilling several wells in the field and proving the original reserve report was all BS, they took a $240 right down on their books now that their proven reserves were no longer proven. But once they adjusted their books the bank came back and gave them a $100 million line of credit to go forward. Remember: they didn't borrow the purchase price...it came from the IPO. So the original stock owners were burned to death. But management and the company did just fine. A little oil production, no debt and a big fat line of credit from the bank.

IOW: be very sure you know where the fortunes lay for the players in these pitches about EOR.

Instructive example Rockman - thanks.

That parallels my experience over the years of examining energy recovery projects in petrochemical plants. Individual projects could be quite good, with great returns. But that said nothing about the overall health of the business, which fluctuated radically with the economy.

Thanks, Rockman. I have no interest as an investor. Just as someone who wants to realistically assess the how much EOR can actually slow the decline on the backside of the peak oil curve. The fact that it can increase URR by 100% is more than I expected and, I think, reason to believe that EOR will have some impact on reducing the severity of the decline.

I wonder to what extent EOR is included in the forecasts of Campbell, Skrebowski and others. I must believe it's factored in somehow, but it would be interesting to know just how.

Which would be more common with EOR, 10% or 100% or somewhere in between. But more importantly what EOR projects are you referring to. I mean is it something that has been standard for the last couple of decades or so, or is this something that is just coming on board.

What I am trying to establish is just how much more oil can we expect to be pumped from mature fields that we did not expect 10 years ago, or 20 years ago? After all, that is the bottom line, that is the figure most of us would like to know.

I read some time back that the average recovery rate is about 30% to 37% and has remained at that level for years. How much hope should we really place in increasing that to 50%?

Ron P.

Ron - I don't follow EOR efforts very closely but I've seen nothing recently like a silver bullet that will have a great impact. Ignore hz for the moment Some don't consider hz an EOR effort...just a tighter drainage spacing. All the main EOR techniques being used to day have been on going for 40+ years. They have certainly improved some of the chemicals used and increased efficiencies on the power drives. But from the little I know these have all been marginal gains. Just my guess but the biggest gains may not be from new EOR technology but using old and proven methods in fields where they've never been tried. From what I've read the NOC's are notorious for not taking advantage of such marginal (and labor intensive) techniques. The KSa has been going after EOR methods in the very big fields. But around the globe I suspect there are many smaller fields being ignored.

That's what I'm getting at. When people talk about EOR are they talking about a NEW kind of EOR that hasn't been taken into account by those making predictions? Are they claiming they can use it on previously developed fields? How realistic is all this.

<sarcasm>But frankly, it doesn't matter because EOR is so easy. Just watch this video. you see, all you need is a tube coming in from the left with CO2 in it and a tube going out to the right with oil in it and a few bits of machinery in between. </sarcasm>

SEED - The Weyburn Oil Field—Enhanced Oil Recovery. 2005 forecast in chart at bottom of page suggests about 30 kb/d for this year; actuals for last month were more like 3097 m3 = 19.29 kb/d. This is the field with the much vaunted CSS program in place, one of a whopping four such projects worldwide.

Google Scholar
has plenty of hits, if you want something rigorous to tear into. Searching for charts etc I see Dave Cohen had a post here four years ago about Stranded Oil Recovery and American Energy Independence that has lots of info on EOR. Here's a working link for the first article he mentions, "Undeveloped US oil resources: a big target for enhanced oil recovery." They project 100 bbo potential in EOR. This is one of the first hits in a standard Google search: UNDEVELOPED DOMESTIC OIL RESOURCES (pdf). They see 210 bbo for EOR. Hope that's all of interest.

This is a typical unfair comment on CO2-EOR.

The insufficient CO2 is the limiting factor.

Sleipner and Al Sahal recover CO2 from natural gas for reinjection.

If the US starts requiring CCS on coal plants you will see a lot more CO2-EOR.

A good sized 500 MW CCS coal plant would produce 10660 tons of CO2 per day and at 5 barrels per ton 53300 barrels of CO2 EOR per day.

To get a 1 mbpd at that rate would take 19 such power plants.
230 such power plants would replace all US oil imports.

From a CO2 standpoint, CO2-EOR would be a producer of CO2 as for every ton of coal 3.7 tons of CO2 from oil would be emitted;
1 ton coal = 2.0 tons of CO2 = 10 barrels of oil = 3.7 tons of CO2 from burning recovered oil.

Assuming $50 per ton coal price and a $25 per ton carbon penalty,
consumer prices would go up 5 cents per kwh to pay the tax for a typical coal fired plant.

With CCS alone, for the same electrical output the additional carbon tax would be reduced by 80%. Consumer prices would go up less than 1 cents per kwh to cover the carbon tax (not including capital costs).

With CCS and CO2-EOR, for the same electrical output the utility would pay a net -$5 per ton for coal(basically the CO2 purchase by the oil company would cover the price of coal fuel including minimal carbon tax).

The CO2 problem is transfered to the oil company who gets 13 barrels of crude($975?)otherwise unobtainable paying $65 for CO2 plus produces ~1 ton of CO2 at the refinery costing $25 or $90 total on $975 worth of crude.

The 13 barrels of oil produce 260 gallons of gasoline among other things. The customers would produce 2.36 tons of CO2 and pay $59
in carbon taxes (23 cents per gallon).
Since 84% of a barrel of oil ends up as fuel probably about $100
would be collected from burning refinery products.

So with EOR-CO2 that's $100 in carbon taxes from fuel consumers and $25 from the oil refineries to the US treasury and no increase from the power utility for the carbon tax.

A carbon tax will put a value on CO2. The consumer/polluter will have to pay but the cost is not exorbitant and otherwise unavailable crude oil will be recovered.

I've already pointed out that flat production is all the CCS program at Weyburn has brought, 19 more similar projects would just reduce imports another titch, or are we supposed to be heading up a learning curve here? Or will cheaper projects become feasible at some point? For Weyburn the pipeline alone cost $100 million; this link gives 1.3 billion in costs - $52 million/year over 25 years? No wonder this isn't being deployed much.

nonprofit technology: Clean Energy Technology: Carbon Capture & Storage

Alberta will spend $436 million over the next 15 years on the project, with most of the money coming from its $2-billion Carbon Capture and Storage Fund. Ottawa is kicking in $343 million from its Clean Energy Fund. The government is promoting it as a “leading-edge coal-fired electricity generation plant” that will capture and store up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.” The captured CO2 will be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in nearby fields or stored almost three kilometres underground.

Huh, do all these projects run you $52 mil/year? Could convert Loonies to USD for precision but the point stands. Next.

According to your source above, CO2-EOR at Weyburn produces an additional 18000 bpd or 6.6 mbpy. $52 million/6.6 mbpy = $7.9 per barrel. Is that so incredibly expensive?
Weyburn is expected to produce 155 million barrels of CO2-EOR oil by 2035.

Your link is typically holier-than-thou Canadian. Canada gets 66% of its electricity from hydro and nukes and only 16% from coal. Still, CO2 from that 16% and from tar sands operations is an intolerable blemish and they want fill Weyburn with Canadian CO2.

The other story shows the US is looking for US formations for Great Plains Gasification's CO2. Maybe there's 1 Gb of CO2-EOR oil in North Dakota, maybe not.

Regarding the story: Cuba's peak oil experience

We hosted Mario at an event in Southern California a few weeks ago. His story was not really about how they dealt with the lack of oil but about their response to their lesser known electricity crisis of 2004-5. Two aging power plants were destroyed by two hurricanes. They had two years in a row with 180+ days of blackouts. It catalyzed Castro's understanding of the nexus between electricity and water and thus their urgency in responding to the challenge. Within a 6 month period they had audited every home and exchanged every incandescent light bulb on the island in addition to the other efficiency gains mentioned in the article. By 2007 they were down to 3 blackout days. Now that's an impressive turnaround.

Mario said something that struck me as rather prescient. He said, a solution isn't a solution if it isn't affordable.

Quite often, the least cost "solution" turns out to be the most expensive over the time period of the expected life cycle. For example, using natural gas for peaking generation of electricity looks cheap today, but within 30 to 40 years, the cost of natural gas is likely to climb faster than other solutions. PV available today is a good match to the peak summer demand due to the need for air conditioning and, once installed, the cost per year is small and not likely to climb over the lifetime of the PV array. Solar thermal collectors are less expensive than new nuclear generated resistance electricity for producing hot water today, but the home owner can't get the same low interest rates as those available to the large utility and thus all the cost appears up front. Even with the available subsidies, solar thermal is a difficult sell to the average home owner when it should be a slam dunk...

E. Swanson

Thanks for highlighting the story. Good quote.

Here's a vehicle with a high "passenger miles per gallon" that is also easy to repair:

The "Jiffy" Crew

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I just found that 4 minute video totally inspiring!

Best Hopes for working together with a "can do" attitude.


X Prize Winners Ceremony

Progressive Insurance and The X PRIZE Foundation will announce the winners of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE at a special awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. where up to $10 million will be awarded.

The ceremony, will take place on Thursday, September 16 at 10:30am EDT at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. 801 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.



'Germany and the UK Prepare for Peak Oil'

The first thing you notice about a recovering economy is that it starts burning more fuel. The second is that oil prices are suddenly rising again.

Those prices are already twice as high as their lows during the recession and already at levels that, three years ago, would have been all-time highs. And that's with the economies of the traditionally large oil-consuming countries in the world, like the 19-million-barrel-a-day US economy, still miles below their pre-recession peaks.

Peak oil information starting to become more widespread and accepted. At some tipping point, it will become common knowledge.

First American oil sands project approved by Utah regulator:


The company is still trying to raise $35 million for the project, said Glenn Snarr, president and chief operating officer for Calgary, Alberta-based Earth Energy, which needs only the local approval of Grand County to get started

I've been reading TOD and occasionally posting for quite some time now, but one thing continues to nag at me about the entire Peak Oil thing. This may sound like heresy, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. So here goes...

There are any number of reports by any number of presumed smart folks pointing out the looming threat posed by peak oil, and I find the arguments pretty compelling personally. But knowing a bit about government, I also know that those reports are just so many trees sacrificed so that dust can more creatively collect on a shelf in some dingy office in the back halls of the bureaucracy. In other words, reports are almost meaningless.

Unless those reports come from credentialed scientists. To date, I have only ever seen one (and it was pretty old) article on oil depletion & peak oil appear in the refereed scientific literature. Now I'll admit that I've not gone on a literature search trying to find the illusive peer reviewed smoking gun, but I also have enough faith in TOD to presume that if such articles commonly existed, they would pop up on TOD with some regularity. I feel that the lack of "scientific" findings in this arena is a serious impediment to wider governmental acceptance of Peak Oil, which is the required first step before any action starts.

I'm not so naive as to believe that a couple of scientific studies will suddenly make everyone a believer (sure did not work out that way for climate change), but it would be a big step forward. Yes there impediments such as lack of federal support for studies (I did check into the award history of the US National Science Foundation and found nothing), but surely someone somewhere must have something to say on the subject that is interesting enough to get published. It could be the start of something big.

I look forward to your thoughts (but please, no conspiracy theories). -- Billy

We agree, and that's a big reason why TOD exists.

There is almost no scientific interest in peak oil. Science has decided it'a an economic problem, and is letting economists handle it.

IMO, this is the big difference between peak oil and climate change. Climate change is getting a ton of attention from scientists. There's really no room for amateurs. Sure, they can influence the debate, but the issues are all going to be settled in scientific journals, not in amateur blogs.

But with peak oil, there's still room for amateurs like us, because the pros are ignoring this issue.

I certainly don't want to come across as belittling the contributions of folks here -- as you note, "amateurs" are the only voice in the discussion, and I've been tuned in for years. I guess I'm just having a hard time accepting that the entire academic world could be blind to an event of this magnitude when economists, geologists, climate researchers, engineers, and social scientists all should have a professional interest in the topic, but the sum of the literature seems to be a big zero. The implications of PO and fossil fuel depletion seems to be huge for climate change research, in particular.


One thing we'd hoped to do was to get scientists interested in the topic. Maybe even set up our own scientific journal.

That time may have passed, however. I think "the Greater Depression" and its accompanying demand destruction is going to make it hard to get anyone interested in peak oil.

Weirdly, the climate change researchers might be our best hope for getting scientific attention for peak oil. NASA's James Hansen wrote a paper about peak oil's effect on climate change.

Of course, the problem with that is that climate change scientists are likely to see peak oil as a good thing.

That's really the issue, IMO. All scientists agree that oil will peak; the vast majority agree that it will be sometime in the next 30 years, if it hasn't happened already.

But they don't see it as an "event of magnitude." They think we'll switch over to nuclear or wind or whatever, and life will go on. The stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones.

I think in the future, we may move more toward thinking about peak oil's effects, rather than just counting how many barrels are left.

Given the popularity of the site during the Gulf spill, and continuing issues with pipelines now, and geopolitical issues, there may a continuing niche for simply chronicling the slide.

Few will see failure of pipelines or the grid as a symptom of the demise of a complex society unable to maintain, let alone replace, its again infrastructure. They will debate "why don't we just spend the money?", yet there will be too many demands and too little money. Today, it's primarily political. Before long, it'll be structural.

And of course this is a "peak oil" site, but there will other peaks that overlap, and this is the only site I know of which takes a world view of pending resource shortages, and of potential alternatives.

In short, I don't think there will a dearth of viable topics.

Leanan is probably right on the fact that a critical point has been reached and passed for a Paul Revere moment.

I could be chasing windmills on the oil depletion topic as well. To me the lack of interest keeps me a bit motivated. Since no one is doing any work with a real scientific or mathematical bent, you can have the field to yourself.

And it also beats me why no one else works on this. Billions and billions of smart people, and close to nada analytical insight.

"There is almost no scientific interest in peak oil. Science has decided it'a an economic problem, and is letting economists handle it."

Science-wise, it's all settled. There is nothing to argue about. Only the timing is unknown, and that is a function of economics and politics.

The scientists did get interested in the abiotic oil discussion for a little while. It was one of those "Uh-oh, did we overlook something?" moments. Once this was investigated and disproven, they lost interest again.

Science-wise, it's all settled.

Science by assertion.

I guess the point of this thread was that Billy asked for some scientific evidence. What would you say is the definitive report that settles everything once and for all? Remember that one of the main precepts of science is that someone else can reproduce the same results, in this case the same analysis.

As far as I can tell, we can't because whatever "proof" is out there is all based on heuristics. And you can't prove a heuristic because all it describes are the empirical observations. It becomes a circular argument. Look down-thread for a figure I copied from the Kuwaiti report. That is also a circular argument and is definitely not science.

Proof is proof. It is not required to be supplied in a form you like. The answer to 2+2 does not change because its easier to figure out using marbles than dispersive/curve fitting/signal processing/sine wave stochastic modeling.

I am riding the crest into the future. You have to understand all that stuff to use all entropic forms of energy -- wind, geothermal, solar & PV, hydro etc. etc. Extra benefit that it also explains oil exploration,.

Extra benefit that it also explains oil exploration,.

Since when? Web, have you gone off and applied yet another signal processing equation to bad data and proclaimed the unified field theory of everything oil without announcing it here at your favorite open science location? How mean!

A proof should be logically consistent. Any proof that requires "and then a miracle occurs" is not really a proof.

The military analysis from the US DOD and more recently the German analysis express an awareness and caution about Peak Oil at that level that is very practical.

At the political level there are just too many contradictory interests to expect a clearly expressed and rational response until the evidence is plain for anyone to see (and has been for some time). The military analyses seem to reflect this.

Yet that German report was just a review of other articles on oil depletion. I can't see that this is the definitive paper that carries the scientific proof.

Well, how interesting is it scientifically?

The concept of Peak Oil is so obvious from a scientific viewpoint that it's like asking "how blue is the sky?"

The timing is, however, interesting to generals, financiers, and politicians. So that's where we see the discussion, with interests competing with transparency as always happens when the debate is in the military, political, and business sectors.

Unless those reports come from credentialed scientists. To date, I have only ever seen one (and it was pretty old) article on oil depletion & peak oil appear in the refereed scientific literature.

I suppose you are speaking of the "Hirsch Report: PEAKING OF WORLD OIL PRODUCTION: IMPACTS, MITIGATION, & RISK MANAGEMENT That report was sponsored by the government, published by the government and ignored by the government. So if they ignore their own sponsored report, how do you expect they would respond to a report by sone "outside" scientist or scientists?

But there have been plenty of studies and reports by outside scientists. There is the report by the University of Kuwait: Oil Production to Peak in 2014, Scientists Predict

Then there is the German Military Study: German study warns of potential disasterous peak oil crisis

And there are many others like this one:Oil Reserves at 'Tipping Point' Two University Research Reports Confirm 'Peak Oil' Concerns

And with the aid of Google I am sure I could pull up half a dozen to one dozen more. But you get the idea. Bottom line: There is no shortage of scientific reports that predict the peaking of world production... and soon.

Ron P.

It was a recent link to a discussion of a new book by Hirsch et al that got me thinking about the seeming dearth of academic interest in PO. As you note, the 2005 report was summarily ignored by DOE despite the fact that they paid for it; but that seems not unusual in government. The Oxford study was new to me and I'll admit I'd forgotten about the Kuwait one though I did see it when it was fresh (on TOD of course).

Things are sometimes dismissed as being only of academic interest, implying in part that academics will study anything regardless of how mundane. Is there no way of catalyzing interest in this topic which, obviously, quite a number of people find fascinating?

The Oxford study looks like a literature survey and an empirical review based on the outline. Looks interesting if I could get a copy. I have a feeling it doesn't have much by the way of new analytic approaches though.

The Kuwaiti paper doesn't look interesting to me at all. Multi-cycle Hubbert modeling is completely heuristic and devoid of much predictive power.

[added more]
Here is a vapid figure from the paper that shows the sorry state of "analysis".

Note that actual and predicted reserves agree 1 to 1. But of course they will. Way back when the first reserves were quantitatively estimated, the order of magnitude was about right. And then many orders of magnitude later, the order of magnitude is about right. Of course the predicted and actual reserves will always match, just think about it. The actual is simply what people think they have at that moment while the predicted is just a guess at what people think they know they will have a few moments earlier. This is just ridiculous tripe devoid of any real merit.

It all reminds me of the guy who presented a graph with absolutely perfect agreement, but then some engineer in the audience pointed out that he had simply plotted X=X.

The Oxford study can be found at http://bit.ly/auvpCx

Key conclusions:
• The age of cheap liquid fuels is over. A condition of meeting additional demand is to develop unconventional resources. which translates to an increase in the price of petroleum products.
• Oil reserve data that is available in the public domain is often contradictory in nature and should be interpreted with caution.
• World oil reserve estimates are best described by 2P reporting. This means public reserve figures should be revised downwards from 1150-1350 Gb to 850-900 Gb.
• Supply and demand is likely to diverge between 2010 and 2015, unless demand falls in parallel with supply constrained induced recession.
• Reserves that provide liquid fuels today will only have the capacity to service just over half of BAU demand by 2023.
• The capacity to meet liquid fuel demand is contingent upon the rapid and immediate diversification of the liquid fuel mix, the transition to alternative energy carriers where appropriate, and demand side measures such as behavioural change and adaptation.
• The negative effect of oil price on the macro-economy is significant, and should be used to build the business case to invest in alternative energy carriers. Many alternative fuel carriers also present the double dividend of improving energy security (i.e. utilize local resources) and reducing emissions (i.e. electricity, hydrogen).

ASPO maintains a collection of publications.

The Global Energy Systems group at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, make their publications available for free.

Many thanks -- I'll have to spend some time. Looks like an impressive resource.

Although I whole heartedly agree with you, maybe this article will explain why the subject gets no traction. People will only trust what a scientist is saying if the narrative agrees with their own beliefs.

Why 'scientific consensus' fails to persuade

"It is a mistake to think 'scientific consensus,' of its own force, will dispel cultural polarization on issues that admit scientific investigation," ... "The same psychological dynamics that incline people to form a particular position on climate change, nuclear power and gun control also shape their perceptions of what 'scientific consensus' is."

"The problem won't be fixed by simply trying to increase trust in scientists or awareness of what scientists believe," ... "To make sure people form unbiased perceptions of what scientists are discovering, it is necessary to use communication strategies that reduce the likelihood that citizens of diverse values will find scientific findings threatening to their cultural commitments."

That is all true, but it doesn't explain why scientists don't even attempt to do do real research on the topic. Having people ignore their work has never stopped scientists in the past.

There is a paper published this month (September 2010) that is likely peer reviewed, published in Energy Policy.

Global oil depletion: A review of the evidence by Steve Sorrell, Jamie Speirs, Roger Bentley, Adam Brandt and Richard Miller.

Its abstract says

Within the polarised and contentious debate over future oil supply a growing number of commentators are forecasting a near term peak and subsequent decline in production. But although liquid fuels form the foundation of modern industrial economies, the growing debate on ‘peak oil’ has relatively little influence on energy and climate policy. With this in mind, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) has conducted an independent, thorough and systematic review of the evidence, with the aim of establishing the current state of knowledge, identifying key uncertainties and improving consensus. The study focuses upon the physical depletion of conventional oil in the period to 2030 and includes an in-depth literature review, analysis of industry databases and a detailed comparison of global supply forecasts. This Communication summarises the main findings of the UKERC study. A key conclusion is that a peak of conventional oil production before 2030 appears likely and there is a significant risk of a peak before 2020.

It is not a close in boundary, but it is something.

All the publications relating to the UKERC study mentioned are here

ASPO has a section on their website that collects relevant peer reviewed literature. The best stuff is probably from Kjell Aleklett and his group.

I have repeatedly pushed this issue onto my scientific colleagues and will continue to do so. I may not be anyone yet but I do know some people who are ;)

ASPO has a section on their website that collects relevant peer reviewed literature. The best stuff is probably from Kjell Aleklett and his group.

No. It is not.

You are right. The best stuff is on TOD.

Now I KNOW you are just screwing with people.....

The best stuff is probably from Kjell Aleklett and his group.

Agreed! It's very high quality (despite what RG says).

I would recommend the most recent Natural Resources Research journal to anyone who thinks the sort "one religious symbol fits all" approach to predicting the future has much value. Its not like I'm the only one who notices this obvious stuff.

Local versus Worldwide Collapse

I will avoid the thread up top where r4ndom and Darwinian are continuing to have their conversation. Maybe it is best to start a new thread.

Why speculate when you have evidence right in front of you. What happen when you don't have the means (energy) to clean things up?

So far, only about 2 percent has been cleared, which means the city looks pretty much as it did a month after the Jan. 12 quake.

Rubble clogs Haitian capital 8 months after ruinous quakes.

I can see this scenario scale up globally albeit an earthquake need not be involved. Most things will just break apart at their own pace of course. Things that is important will get makeshift fix until it falls apart beyond repair. Take it from me, I once live in a third world where adaptability and ingenuity ranks high on the success ladder. People who specialize in our complex world will find it perhaps most difficult to adapt to rapid change. I think the most successful will be those who are street smart, will do anything to get by, and have a positive attitude.

I agree absolutely. Humans are ingenious, adaptive, cunning, exploitive and violent. A combination of each of those traits may be optimal.

There is nothing which will not be tried in due course, every substitution and technological innovation facilitating an avenue of escape will be explored, it's in our nature and survival of the fittest is the final outcome.

I wonder what "fittest" in the end will mean, know that and you have the key to pass through the door at the bottleneck. Maybe in the end it will chance and luck but certainly adopting that attitude will do you no favors.

But......a "positive attitude" on it's own is a waste of calories. A positive attitude requires backup, resiliency and redundancy and ample amounts of each. A positive attitude without backup could lead to continual abject disappointment and a fast-track to oblivion. From about now disappointment will begin to gradually dominate the pleasant surprises. Personally I think I have a modicum of understanding of what's coming but I can't convince any others.

Thank you for your reply, Bandits.

I study evolutionary biology in particular modeling using Bayesian principles.

I wonder what "fittest" in the end will mean, know that and you have the key to pass through the door at the bottleneck.

The first thing I learn is that there is no optimal "fitness" i.e. opportunity present itself, you either can take advantage of it or not. There is no ideal state if you will. But of course you know this as well as most here.

I think the most successful will be those who are street smart, will do anything to get by, and have a positive attitude.

Smiling cannibals!


Hirsch: Our thinking is that what happened in the two sudden oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 is very likely to be repeated when oil decline sets in. Those were two real world examples of oil shocks surprising people and causing panic.

While economies have changed since the 1970s, the dependence on and importance of liquid fuels has not. And human nature hasn’t changed. People panic when they get suddenly frightened. Even though -peak oil is recognized by a number of people, it is yet to be realized on a wide scale.

People will come around, get very pragmatic, dig in and do what’s necessary to meet the challenges. As a result, when we get through all of this-which is going to take longer than a decade-the societies that emerge are going to be much stronger and much more pragmatic than they are today.

Hirsch in that last paragraph shows a lot more optimism for a post peak oil declining world than I can muster. "Dig in and do what's necessary to meet the challenges". Oh really. Well, tell me Hirsch, how do 7 billion people get fed when the mechanization to run all those food plants that make bread and pasteurize milk, etc. are shutting down due to the economic effects of a reduced net energy world?

It always strikes me as a cop-out when someone acts real informed in knowing about peak oil, yet gets caught up in the flavor of the always positive attitude the oil age offers, and claims the challenges at hand will be met. No, the whole point of diminishing energy is it will not support this many people. It will be a bottle-neck and super positive attitudes will transition into vacant 1,000 yard looking eyes, because of the hell they have experienced realizing all those challenges went unmet.

People will come around, get very pragmatic, dig in and do what’s necessary to meet the challenges. As a result, when we get through all of this-which is going to take longer than a decade-the societies that emerge are going to be much stronger and much more pragmatic than they are today.

That paragraph made me wince. There's a saying that a diplomat is a person that can tell you to go to hell in a way that makes you look forward to the trip? I think Hirsch is being diplomatic here.

Oh, I think he's right. We will get "very pragmatic"; we likely will get "very pragmatic" political movements that get people to work for The Cause by any means deemed necessary, and any means will be deemed necessary. We are being very pragmatic here, after all.

Civilization will survive.

I think the big question is what this very pragmatic movement will do to the environment. It might get very pragmatic about that too, and very pragmatically bulldoze what's left of the biosphere.

Which humanity won't survive.

However I think being known as a "treehugger" or suchlike may be very very dangerous or at best unpleasant. You would be, in the words of a past very pragmatic movement, politisch unzuverlässig [politically untrustworthy].

Yes, I agree, he's being diplomatic, knowing most people can handle information as long as the final outcome is positive. But post peak oil will be anything but positive, and it would be more realistic if he could just come right out and say something on the order of; It will be chaotic, and in time, out of calamity, order will arise, but for a lot fewer people on the other side of the coming bottleneck.

Perk Earl said in first comment in thread:

how do 7 billion people get fed when the mechanization to run all those food plants that make bread and pasteurize milk, etc. are shutting down due to the economic effects of a reduced net energy world

My answer, and I suspect also Hirsch's answer, is that those plants will not shut down. As a matter of survival, governments will very pragmatically bail them out. Governments that can't afford the bailouts will in turn also be bailed out in some form or other; IMF loans for some, friendly Iraq-style invasions for others.

I am not sold on the falling net energy argument. Wind appears to have an acceptable, if less than stellar EROEI. The studies that show very low EROEIs for nuclear appear to be flawed. It is not obvious to me that the EROEI of oil production is tanking.

So I think the likely medium-term development is that governments' share of the economy will grow. There will be central planning, rationing, more bureaucracy, more taxes.

I do not see the bottleneck, if or when it comes, as coming from energy decline. It will come from our overloading the ecosystems so badly that they suffer some kind of collapse.

That point may be close, but it may also be far off, and we may avoid it altogether.

In part, the outcome depends on our responses to the energy problem. For instance, pursuing biofuels or other kinds of bioenergy seems like a path to avoid at all costs.

I am agree with the bailout part about what you said, but that won't mitigate energy problems. At best it will act to distribute energy problems around the world, as the IMF and World Bank won't be able to create any more energy than what is available.

Most likely what will happen is what is happening now, OECD countries use a little less energy, some major developing countries use a little more, and the rest in third world can't keep up and basically fall to pieces out of sight first.

Yes. I think we're on the same page.

My point, I guess, is that in a sense distribution is mitigation. And that collapse doesn't happen until there's nothing more to distribute, or the distribution machinery gets so complex and expensive that it crumbles under its own weight. (My rough interpretation of Tainter).

From Tainter's assessment of resource depletion theories of collapse:

With their administrative structure, and capacity to allocate both labor and resources, dealing with adverse environmental conditions may be one of the things that complex societies do best [...] If a society cannot deal with resource depletion (which all societies are to some degree designed to do) then the truly interesting questions revolve around the society, not the resource. What structural, political, ideological, or economic factors in a society prevented an appropriate response?

(TCoCS, p50)

There certainly are "political, ideological or economic factors" that could prevent an appropriate response!

But I think appropriate response is, at the very least, possible.

It always strikes me as a cop-out when someone acts real informed in knowing about peak oil, yet gets caught up in the flavor of the always positive attitude the oil age offers, and claims the challenges at hand will be met.

In Hirsches case, it may not be a cop out. He declared that an oil crisis would happen in the early-90's in a paper he wrote in 1988. "Once bitten twice shy" would appear to work better as a descriptive phrase rather than "cop-out". The best part about that paper were the responses which blasted him, in some cases for being too optimistic. Of course, we all remember that horrifying oil crisis, right? :>)

Again, for someone who claims to be a scientist, you are vague. Where exactly do we find this paper so we can make our own conclusions about what he said?

Web's question about the lack of interest by scientists in peak oil is a good one. Scientists proceed with climate research which has been ongoing for 40-50 years prior to consideration of climate change. Oil depletion is a topic rather than a field of study. Climate change is embedded in climate science so theory evolved from the ongoing collection of data. Who ought to be interested in oil depletion? Geologists, engineers. Have geologists done much research? Some of those speaking of peak oil are geologists. Where is their research? Is research on oil depletion the kiss of death for academics?

One issue may be that most people (especially Americans raised on Hollywood movies) want happy endings with only minimal adversity. Constructing a scenario which includes severe hardship is anathema. Climate science is a respected field which is being trashed in the media by people who refuse to believe that negative scenarios are even possible. Peak oil has much less science perhaps because scientists are fearful of public response for even investigating the topic.

Last year, TOD (by Gail on 11-9-09) had a post about a geological society meeting in which 2/3 of the geologists affirmed that peak oil was a concern. There was a debate between Jeremy Leggett and a BP geologist. Jeremy Leggett replied to a questioner that he thought that only 10% would be concerned about peak oil and was very surprised at the vote. Another quote from the same article, " An oil company geologist told me once that it is viewed almost as an unspoken act of treason to voice doubts about the industry’s ability to meet projected demand. Perhaps that explains why so many geologists wait until retirement before speaking out." If geologists wait until retirement before speaking out, they are unlikely to try and get research grants on a taboo topic.

Good analysis.