Dr. James Schlesinger: "The Peak Oil Debate is Over" at ASPO-USA Conference

Dr. James Schlesinger gave one of the keynote talks at the recent ASPO-USA Conference. Dr. Schlesinger comes with a wealth of experience: He was the first Secretary of Energy, from 1977 - 1979. Prior to that, he had been Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, US Secretary of Defense, and Director of Central Intelligence.

The video can be viewed (for free) at ASPO.TV. Thanks to ASPO-USA for letting us know about these videos. We understand more free videos will be added over the next few weeks.

Below the fold is the text of his 11 minute talk, talking about the fact that oil production has been flat for six years. The "Peakists" have won the intellectual debate, but the political order will not respond.

Thank your very much. Between us, I cannot emulate the erudition that was displayed at the last session.

But I am delighted to be here nonetheless, and I hope you share that. May I start with a bromide. A resource which is finite is not inexhaustible. If you think that over, it should not be a revelation. That was a bromide; some people think a keynote should never rise above a bromide.

Some five years ago in Italy, I concluded a talk by saying that like the inhabitants of Pompeii, who ignored the neighboring volcano Vesuvius until it detonated, the world ignores peak oil at its peril.

Two years ago, in addressing ASPO, in Cork, Ireland, I argued that the "Peakists" had won the intellectual argument, except for some minor details about precise timing, but that, by and large, everyone recognized that there were limits on our capacity to increase the production of crude oil, as we have, steadily, since World War II. That Peakists were no longer a beleaguered minority, that they had won, and that consequently, they should be gracious in victory.

There is an old Spiritual, that is relevant here, the walls of those who doubted the peak, seemed to be impregnable. Nonetheless, you marched around the walls seven times, and then blew the trumpets, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

But acceptance by knowledgeable people is not enough. The political order should respond. Nonetheless, our willingness, let alone our ability to do anything serious about the impending inability to increase oil output is still a long way off. The political order responds to what the public believes today, not to what it may come to believe tomorrow. It is also resistant to any action that inflicts pain, or sacrifice, or those who vote. The payoff in politics comes from reassurance, perhaps precluded by a rhetorical challenge. Still, the challenge is clear, in both logic, and in the evidence.

Let me start briefly with the logic:

First, if something cannot be sustained, it will eventually will not be sustained. Ultimately, it will shrink.

Secondly, you cannot produce oil unless you first discover it, a contribution by Colin Campbell.

Third, a resource that is finite cannot continually have its production increased.

What is the evidence? First, we remain heavily dependent on supergiant and giant oil fields discovered in the 50s and 60s of the last century. (I might add, of the last millennium.) Only rarely in recent decades have discoveries equaled production. Mostly, it has been one barrel discovered, for every three barrels produced.

Second, old supergiants like Bergan in Kuwait and in Mexico have gone into decline earlier than had been anticipated, and going into decline have been Alaska, and the North Sea, Western Siberia, and the like.

Third, while it is not yet twilight in the desert, as you may have read, still, we are well into the afternoon, even in Saudi Arabia. Even the Ghawar oil field is increasingly hard to sustain.

Fourth, in 2004, we experienced our first demand-driven price spike, as opposed to the previous price spikes, driven by supply interruptions. We still operate at about the level of production capacity of 2004.

Next, given projected decline curves, running from 4% to 6%, and the projected increase in demand during the next quarter century, we shall require the new capacity equivalents of five Saudi Arabias.

Even the International Energy Agency, which previously had been sanguine, now suggests that we can no longer increase production of conventional oil in the course of this decade. Note that it is conventional oil. That is all that Hubbert talked about.

Somewhat disingenuously, the debate has been turned on him, by talking about fuel liquids in general, throwing in tar sands, heavy oil, coal liquids, oil shale, and so on. But clearly, large conventional oil production is increasingly no longer part of the future, unless there is a technological breakthrough, which Mr. Gilbert talked about just a few minutes ago, raising the ultimate recovery rate from existing fields, which at this moment we cannot expect.

Of course, there are uncertainties, which make timing predictions with regard to the peak risky: Iraq, which has been held back for a variety of reasons, may come along as one of those five new needed Saudi Arabias. Offshore Brazil and offshore oil elsewhere are promising. Shale gas, which is apparently coming in abundance, but is not of course oil, may somewhat alleviate the pressures on liquid fuels.

But in general, we must expect to get along without what has been our critical energy source, in expanding the world's economy for more than half a century.

Can the political order face up to the challenge? There is no reason for optimism. We are likely to see pseudo solutions, misleading alternatives, and sheer sloganeering: energy independence, getting off foreign oil, and the like. All of that sheer sloganeering we have seen to this point.

The political order, which abhors political risk, tends to rely on the Biblical prescription, "Sufficient unto the day, is the evil thereof."

Thank you very much.

Peakists may have won the academic argument, the battle for the grasp of reality before us, however the greater battle is the propaganda battle.

Gail said "the political order should respond", meaning they should respond sanely. True of course, they should, but will they respond as usual as Gail also alluded to?

Remember that "the climate change debate is over" too, but tell that to the politicians that vowed yesterday, if they take control of the congress, to rid us of environmental regulations that resist green house gases.

I think we do not understand, or are afraid to believe, that social dementia in "the political order" is at epidemic proportions. Peakists would have been able to convey reality to them long ago otherwise.

And "the political order" is formidable because the military thinking is not only part of it, it is the primary part.

They believe their greatest enemy is health care so don't expect the lower rungs of "the political order" (president, congress, courts) to do anything contrary to military policy, which by and large mandates propaganda.

The statistics in the link I provide show that as many people are loosing their minds as are loosing their jobs, homes, & health care.

Much of my military career, the mantra amongst many uniformed military (and also among DoD Civil Servants) is that socialized health care is bad for the country if it is provided to anyone outside of the military or DoD civil servants.

Just try to suggest diminishing or taking away their health care benefit...the same one they say is crappy, but it is what they have.

I hear highly-overpaid and under-worked DoD GS every day fret about how if all the people get subsidized health care then they, the rightful owners of such a benefit, will be forced to wait in line while all those 'poor losers' hog up 'their' benefits.

Many of the uniformed folks transition to DoD GS or DoD contractors, lining up to feast off the gravy train and engage in frequent water cooler talk about how all the poor folks need to do is get a good degree and join the military like they did....

Peace on Earth, goodwill to man, or somthin...

They have not lost their mind, you left out their reasoning. Their reasoning is that health care competes for money with everything else in the economy, and particularly in the Federal budget. Therefore, health care spending is the enemy of military spending. They mostly leave out the other victims: of course, health care spending also competes for money with road building, agricultural subsidies, education, welfare, food stamps ... everything. The rate of increase of health care spending is simply not sustainable. If health care costs rise 5% per year and the total economy only 2%, then it will take about 50 years until the whole economy is health care.

This seems to be going a little OT to me but, am I the only one who thinks that a health care system that is set up based on a profit motive for healing the sick (a little) obscene. To my mind, it sets society up for some giant conflicts of interest. If there are huge profits to be made from healing the sick, there will be lots of people willing to fund stuff that helps to make people sick or to block efforts to promote better health. Is there any other country that literally extorts it's sick and dying as much as the US.

I'm sorry if I have offended our US readers with this but, I had the luxury of growing up in a country where some amount of health care has always been provide by the state at no cost or heavily subsidized. True, on the one hand, free health care might make citizens take less care of their health but, it would also make the state less tolerant of practices that drive up health care cost like pollution, smoking etc. Availability of free/subsidized health care also tends to keep private health care cost in check since if private health care gets too expensive, there is always the option of state provided health care even if the waiting times are longer.

Alan from the islands

It is somewhat OT, but since you've brought it up, I've always considered that the private, for profit healthcare system has the effect of creating conflicts of interest, especially the way insurance is structured. Moral questions as well. Like so many of our systems, we won't see fundamental change until it is imposed upon us by reality.

That said, it could be argued that the obsurdly expensive system in the US has enabled many inovations in medicine that have benefitted other healthcare systems worldwide. What may be viewed as last year's state-of-the-art procedures in the US are often viewed as essential (and affordable) services elsewhere, a hand-me-down effect, though we have reached the point where the high costs of inovation and specialization are providing diminishing returns and unintended consequences.

No easy answers......but I suspect we are reaching "Peak Medicine" in many ways.

Relatively little health care expenditures are for "healing the sick", i.e. treating an illness or wound so that the patient recovers and requires no further care.

About half of health care expenditures is during the last 18 months of life for the terminally ill.

Much of the rest is spent on either congenital illnesses, e.g. spina bifida, or on chronic illnesses, e.g. complications of type II diabetes.

A minimal amount is spent on prevention.

In some ways, what is spent on health care is all about income for the folks in the field. US life expectancies are lower than in many other developed countries.

It seems like on the down slope, this is one of the areas that will need to change. Charlie Hall a few days ago talked about the need for income redistribution, if we have less energy resources, and I think this is one of the big areas where it would be helpful. We don't need doctors making several hundred thousand dollars a year, while many would-be patients are unemployed or struggling on minimum wage jobs.

Not trying to be offensive here, but if you feel so strongly about redistribution of wealth, why don't you try a little of it on your own instead of waiting for 'Robin Hood' big brother to do it for you. If you feel strongly enough about it give it up. I give without waiting for the government to come take it (and waste 50% or more of it administration costs) and I make sure in my giving that it goes to things that make a difference.

I have health care through Kaiser HMO, which does ration health care somewhat, and pays its doctors a salary. I figure the doctors at least do not have an incentive to over-treat me.

I have actually been fairly much involved with the health care field, over the years. My father was a physician. My only brother is a psychiatrist. I worked for quite a while in the area of medical malpractice insurance coverage.

My father, as I was growing up, was unhappy about the amount of over treatment that was being donethen- normal appendixes being removed to help physician income, and hysterectomies for the purpose of birth control. Presumably, nowadays, these wouldn't happen, but working on medical malpractice insurance did not improve my feeling about the situation. Also, trying to steer through the Medicare system with elderly relatives made it clear that we are dealing with a very expensive system, and it is hard for relatives to "just say no".

As long as doctors make money by prescribing pills and doing surgeries, they are going to err in the direction of doing more than is needed, and will miss obvious things, like changing diet and recommending more exercise.

Wow, Gail gives much of her life to this FANTASTIC website and doesn't charge you a cent to visit it any time you would like. You may "give it up" without government coming and taking it, but I feel like I'm paying for it listening to you complain and pat yourself on the back. "Robin hood, redistribution of Wealth" sounds like chapter 3 out of the Republican play book. I think your looking for the HuffingtonPost.com

Thanks Gail for all the great educational time I have spent here.


Health care, at about 16% of GDP, is even bigger than energy, at about 10%. As energy becomes a bigger part of GDP, health care is a sector that will come under a lot of pressure. Health care is a fairly intensive user of energy, and it does use a lot of consumables given that the current approach to controlling infections is to use a much protective gear as possible and discard it as soon as it is used.

About half of health care expenditures is during the last 18 months of life for the terminally ill.

Much of the rest is spent on either congenital illnesses, e.g. spina bifida, or on chronic illnesses, e.g. complications of type II diabetes.

A minimal amount is spent on prevention.

Which reinforces my point. if only the general pubic could realize this while they are still in relatively good health but alas, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and whether Beyonce is pregnant or not, are just more interesting, until they get sick.

Losing a couple members of ones family to cancer, even though they were both in th UK at the time of death (and a beneficiary of NHS health care in one case), really changes ones perspective on "health care".

Alan from the islands

to me emerging threat to the health care system stems from cheap oil, in the form of fat children and adults, people with forms of diabetes related to weight and diet, heart disease, cancers involving fossil fuel emissions .... and so on.

exercise by bicycling can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Oil depletion could solve the health care crisis with better human powered forms of transportation coming back into vogue -- along with higher food prices limiting wasteful diets.

Oil depletion could solve the health care crisis with better human powered forms of transportation coming back into vogue -- along with higher food prices limiting wasteful diets.

Unfortunately, as is evident among poorer folks, relatively higher food prices often leads to more consumption of 'cheap' calories, which are also the worst kind of calories to consume: refined sugars and carbs. IMO a healthy diet includes meat, dairy and vegetables (preferably with low carb content), and this is not necessarily the cheapest diet. OTOH, it is possible to eat a relatively healthy diet cheaply by doing ones own cooking, buying dry beans and whole grain wheat and rice and bargain hunting for cheaper high quality proteins such as chicken and turkey.

Agreed. Poor education and the lost art of cooking are also culprits in our unhealthy diets as well.

Not to mention time. When I was working my way out of student-poverty (not to be confused with real poverty, because you have an expected end-date), I could afford good food -- but I couldn't find the time/energy to learn to cook well for myself.

I see it happening around me -- people who have a kitchen and enough cash to buy good food don't have the time to cook and to learn to cook. So they eat fast food. Some of them don't know what they're missing, either.

Time is undercounted as an economic resource.

Seems food preparation has taken away from TV watching and other things I used to do.

Indeed time is the most important asset.

That sounds like a total win to me! :-)

It's worked out much the same way for my wife and I. But we now have our lives far more together than I did when I was working long hours, living alone, eating fast food, and crashing on the couch for an hour before going to bed. (She was doing pretty much the same thing -- it seems that teaming up has made all of the difference. :-) )

People in the U.S. would prefer it if private insurance companies would continue to ration care rather than our Govt.

What is it that someone said about doing things the some way but, expecting different results? Based on the content of this post lower down the thread, I'd have to say that, "People in the U.S." must be insane.

Alan from the islands


They have not lost their mind, you left out their reasoning

If we consider the case that we spend more on the military than the rest of the nations combined, then take note that our health care system is responsible for the iatrogenic deaths of 424,000 people annually, the case can be made that they are completely out of their minds.

Their "reasoning" is self evident.

BTW I discuss it at length in those posts, but this thread here is about why "the political order", as Jack Nicholson said in the witness chair, "can't handle the truth".

1) Whether that state, the employer, the individual or some "charity" pays the health insurance premiums, someone must pay.

2) If health care is not provided until the last possible moment, the medical problems of the (late/un)treated become more uncontrollable and more expensive.

3) Well proven, the most economical healthcare system (for the national economy) is government-provided universal health care insurance, with private competitive medical service groups actually delivering the services.

4) The grreatest single benefit of government provided universal health insurance is the STRONG incentive it provides governments to do preventive medicine rather than costly treatment.

5) It is morally repugnant to deny children healthcare simply because their parents cannot afford it or make poor life choices.

6) Also easily seen in CIA Factbook, Canada with universal government health insurance, significantly outperforms the US in healthcare statistics.

- - - - - - Canada - - - - - - USA

Life Expectance at Birth
Data - - - - - 81.29 yrs - - 78.24
World Ranking - 10th - - - - 49th

Infant Mortality
Data - - - - - 4.49 - - - - - 6.14 per 100,000
World Ranking - 187th - - - - 178th

The United States spends much more money on health care than Canada, on both a per-capita basis and as a percentage of GDP.[5] In 2006, per-capita spending for health care in Canada was US$3,678; in the U.S., US$6,714. The U.S. spent 15.3% of GDP on health care in that year; Canada spent 10.0%.[5]

Wikipedia - Comparison of the health care systems in Canada and the United States

US healthcare is only good at the top of the pyramid scheme we call Capitalism.

According to a piece in the British Medical Journal (BMJ 3 July 2010) 'The US continues to spend more on health care and gets less for it than other industrialised countries in the latest side by side comparisons issued by the health research charity the Commonwealth Fund'.. US citizens spent £7290 on health care in 2007 (16% of GDP) and ranked last on the cumulative measures rated. The Netherlands scored best, the UK rated second.

Canada's statistics are also significantly harmed by the influx of "healthcare refugees" from the US.

And helped significantly by having easy access to quality care without waiting lists just south of the border. The US rations by price, we ration by availability. The fact is that there is not enough money anywhere to pay for all the health care people want. No matter who pays.

7) I also am convinced that any system which allows low-health-risk people to insure themselves separately from high-health-risk people is inherintly illegitimate. Perhaps high-risk-lifestyle rider premiums could be justified in carefully proven cases, but far better to collect any such premium, as in Canada, from separate very high taxes on the medium of risk, eg. cigarettes, alcohol, sporting events etc.

You can't loose your mind, you can only loose the dogs, or the horses, or something that can get loose. You can lose your mind, however. As I will if I see this word used this way too many more times.

Maybe you could let loose of your obsession with people's (understandable) misuse of these words rather than lose sight of the topics being discussed :-/ Why does "lose" rhyme with "booze" instead of "hose", "rose" or "nose"? I wonder if anyone "knows" who they "chose" to "choose"?


Sorry for the typo, I was loosing my mind there for a sec ... ;-)

Perfectly stated.......

Hi Dredd,

Just a correction as to author:

re: "Gail said "the political order should respond"

It's James Schlesinger whose speech is quoted here.

I was excited at first when it became clear that Peak Oil had been established as fact. But I quickly realized that, what should have been a serious "now what" moment for policy makers has turned out (like climate change) to be more of a "so what" moment.

As Dr. Schlesinger states, the question isn't whether we the people and "the political order" will face up to this challenge, but can we? Methinks not. As Schlesinger states:

"But acceptance by knowledgeable people is not enough. The political order should respond. Nonetheless, our willingness, let alone our ability to do anything serious about the impending inability to increase oil output is still a long way off."

....let alone our ability.......far too many claims on too few declining resources; physical, financial, political.

Peak oil is going to be accepted as a fact in the mind of policy makers and the general public after gasoline prices skyrocket (and don't come back down). Unfortunately then is too late--as it will take twenty years or so to transition. And since the transition hasn't started yet I expect at least twenty years of economic pain.

Some don't take "skyrocketing" fuel costs as a given (i.e. Stoneleigh). They posit that demand destruction due to declining economic conditions (depession) will prevent prices from going much higher. While oil may have peaked, it is possible that its availability will outlast our economies. Seems like a tossup to me.

If fuel price is more or less inversely related to EROI, then a person would expect there to be a maximum price of oil that society could accept. Dave Murphy has shown that the economy seems to go into recession if oil price exceeds $80 ti $85 barrel, so It is possible that we are already close to the limiting price for oil. If that is the case, what we can expect is mostly oscillating prices, with recession, rather than very high prices in the future.

Quote: ".... economy seems to go into recession if oil price exceeds $80 to $85 barrel". That is US thinking because conservation of energy is not an option. There is no recession in Europe due to the oil price. In Germany, for example, the gasoline price today is US$7.69/g and business is booming.
How about changing the sickening lifestyle first? A friend of mine, single father with 2 boys under 10 just bought a McMansion in a suburb of Dallas (40 min drive), 5000sqft, 4 garages. Why? The old house with 3000sqft was too small.

That is US thinking because conservation of energy is not an option.

No, that is because no amount of conservation is going to make one whit of difference when the decline rate is at least 4% per year (2% natural decline rate plus 2% due to decreasing net exports). That's a ~34% reduction in just ten years (1 - (0.96^10) = 0.34 — thanks for the correct formula, Gail).

Our economy is going to be fundamentally restructured; no amount of tweaking around the edges can avoid that. Any time you start thinking that a bit of tweaking is going to get us through this, please take a long hard look at the graph below.

Great Oil Squeeze

Then recall this quote from the leaked German military think tank report:

"The above mentioned chain of events shows clearly that the energy supply of the economic cycle must be assured. The energy supply must be sufficient to allow positive economic growth. A shrinking economy over an indeterminate period presents a highly unstable situation which inevitably leads to system collapse. The risks to security posed by such a development cannot even be estimated."


It will take many years before enough people realize that the current system has completely failed and that it can't be fixed. A new one must emerge from the wreckage of this one. Whether that happens or not (or whether we just start the cycle again) is yet to be determined.

It is even worse than that. Something called "bi-lateral trading agreements" will suck up millions of barrels of daily oil, as countries like China tie up oil export contracts to them selfes. As more and more oil get locked up in exclusive export contracts, the amount of oil on the free markets plumets towards zero scaringly fast. I predict the international free oilmarket to collapse within 15 years, unless some sort of international agreement to share the black stuff is reached.

"Conservation is not an option ..." That is what is going to happen, conservation, either accepted voluntarily or imposed by circumstances.

Since it is the use of fuels that creates money returns the less fuel available the less returns available for both new production (to waste in turn) and for general economic returns. Since 'use' here means waste, carrying forward the existing waste- based economy accelerates its own demise. We are at the threshold point where 'use' produces insufficient returns to bring new fuels onto the markets; the point of diminishing returns on waste.

Any fuel use that does not have a permanent energy return is waste. Any argument otherwise is dishonest, this includes heating buildings, 'Driving to Work' (driving at all), fuel for agriculture except to produce non- fuel inputs. Non- consumption uses for crude oil are few: long- lived polymer feedstocks and dyes, inputs for long- term 2d tier energy platforms such as hydro that provide an energy return greater than the energy input over the platform's lifetime and lubricants (that can be recycled for indefinite periods) are some examples. All other fuel use is waste of capital and leads to bankruptcy, which is what the world is facing.

What matters more than energy return on energy invested is energy return on consumption. Almost all industrial fuel use is simple waste, this includes almost all commercial fuel use, all within the context of the 'modern' economy or modernity, itself.

Regardless of whether prices go up or down (I suspect the latter due to paucity of returns from relatively more expensive inputs) the real outcome is shortages! More and more of the machine economy will be 'stranded', rendered useless due to relative fuel costs that do not allow the machines to be run economically.

A new economy is one that rewards conservation rather than waste with fuels being diverted to producing more useful sun- based power. When @ ASPO Charlie Hall asked the participants for help in his study or EROI for different forms of power production. I remarked that I thought the study was a waste of time since the EROI issue (or EROEI if you will) was a horse already out of the barn. One of the other participants convinced me that I was incorrect, that true measurements of power sources ER were necessary to determine how far our remnants of fossil fuels would stretch.

With profit- on- waste economics well entrenched and not willing to vanish it is likely that the remnant of fuel available to capitalize replacement power supplies will be small, indeed.

What may save us is the ongoing breakdown of finance. This is a positive feedback loop accelerating the bankruptcy of the fuel cycle within the physical economy. As the affordable fuel becomes unavailable the waste enablers will go bankrupt as has been taking place since 2004. Prices (within the current waste paradigm) will decline and eventually crash leaving unproduced energy resources intact. Ongoing bankruptcy of the waste- based system may also bring a pause to destructive atmospheric warming.

The best hope for mankind and the natural world is the greed of businessmen and the stupidity of central bankers.

In this light the best of all possible outcomes is finance collapse and general breakdown of the waste- based economy and its substitution with a non- waste or conservation economy. Since the incentives for one are the same as the other - to get rich without working - the obstacle is sunk investment capital, waste- oriented infrastructure and lack of imagination.

The remedy is for individuals to pay off all debts and not take on new debts, to hold cash rather than stocks or other waste- derivatives, to not buy goods unless absolutely needed or possess long term solar energy returns (good farmland, water power access, water transport access, wind power such as a sailing ship, etc.) and generally repudiate consumption of goods. Buy local; visit your neighborhood brewer!

The revolutionary step is to walk away and repudiate debts. This will be the next phase of the finance crisis as the 'honor' of debt- repayment is hollow for those who observe the dishonor of their creditors. Once sufficient noncollectable debts are recognized the current regime is finished. It exists to extort balances due from those whose own assets diminish. It is the circle- jerk of asset collection that supports the waste- based economy and is its greatest vulnerability.


Another question I have is, how low could prices go in the (likely, IMO) event of increasingly severe recessions/depression = severe demand destruction, primarily in the West?

Inflation vs. deflation? Declining US Dollar? Increasing consumption in Chindia, etc.? ELM? Inability to invest in new sources? Credit/banking implosions? Carbon taxes, etc.?

I feel my headache coming back :-(

Further to this, it would be great if many of the current problems were linked to declining resources and or causes of excess debt, (etc), and not co-opted by politicians playing the blame game for gain.

Should be an interesting two days in the USA....election and QE. Ouch


Past oil price history has shown that oil prices overshoot on the upside, recession hits, and oil prices overshoot on the downside. This, however, was under circumstances where oil production was not declining. The new circumstances will be, after peak oil, declining oil production. This may upset the apple cart in a big way.

A number of other pundits see much higher oil prices long term. Dr. Robert Hirsch, for one. If oil production starts declining a price war may ensue to allocation the remaining supply. I don't see a good reason why oil prices won't head north of $200/barrel once oil production decline sets in.

The demand for oil is inelastic - I believe just a 5% shortfall in oil supply caused the huge price run up during the 70's. Now imagine a new world order where oil production is shrinking 4 percent every year. We'll be dealing with a declining supply of a vital commodity and dealing with ferocious competition for the remaining oil.

"This may upset the apple cart in a big way."

Plus won't countries also start building strategic reserves in a huge scale ? (knowing that it would also be a valid move financially speaking)

Yes, countries may try to start building reserves - which would accelerate the problem. What others have said and that I fear may happen is that the oil exporters may withhold some production - so that they have enough for their own future needs. If you owned a supply of valuable assets that were increasing in price you might decide that waiting for even higher prices was wise. We don't know what will happen because worldwide declining oil production has never happened before.

There is a lot of self-centered concern for US citizens here, but this comment provides an occasion to consider the future for the citizens of a country. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was attempting to establish a local agricultural sector to supply food for growing population until a few years ago. They have given up on this, and seem to be intending to import an ever increasing quantity of food. This will require an ever increasing supply of fuel oil to power the ships, among many other things required for a growing population. Quite a few centuries have passed since Arabia was a serious military power. What are their options?

Schlesinger, in his younger years, was generally ready with robust ideas for action on any public problem. That he didn't advocated any particular action in the ASPO-USA forum probably indicates that he has rejected each idea that he has generated. Not good. But not surprising.

The KSA also relies on oil for 70% of its tap water !! (through desanilisation)

(and a lot of the rest comes from "fossil aquifer" that is aquifer not repleneshing at any serious rate)

"The demand for oil is inelastic."

Not really. As major geographic regions drop out of the World Economy, demand, in the strict technical sense of economic theory, will fall.

For US, Quantitative Easing (QE) will inflate the dollar and the price of oil in US$ will rise, possibly without bound. New conventions will be introduced to express the face value of bank notes. (too many zeros to fit on the piece of paper) Parts of the US economy will decouple from the National Economy, and cease to participate. Maybe cease to exist.

"The demand for oil is inelastic - I believe just a 5% shortfall in oil supply caused the huge price run up during the 70's."

In the short term the demand for oil is inelastic. In the longer term demand can and will come down.


It looks to me as though, as oil prices (and those of commodities closely integrated with use of oil) remain the same, others are dropping. On the surface, it looks like oil is not rising; that is deceptive.

Another thought: What exactly is the correct attitude about 'Peak Oil advocates have won the debate'? First of all, who actually advocates for peak oil? Seems to me that we all are horrified by it. And, high fives all around on learning, We are right." is NOT appropriate! The debate is not whether we have are will shortly be reaching peak, but rather, 'so what?' What do we do now? What is the overall impact on society? On you and on me? What are the dangers, short term, middle term, long term?

Conflated with PO is AGW. Evidently, so is the economy in more ways that just a few.

At what level should response be initiated? Local, State, Federal, World? How can all of these independent groups cooperate? How to inculcate trust, and eliminate or limit fraud and profiteering? Who can be trusted, and why? The problems are unique, ubiquitous, and urgent. The remedies difficult, diverse and demanding. (Kindly excuse excessive alliteration)

I always come back to, when peak energy sources reduce production and delivery of food; when medicines become scarce, and when there is simply no money available for plastic toys and frivolity, how is the triage going to be done, and by whom? It has to be coming; how soon? What is the immediate impact of a 4% to 6% annual decline in oil? Gas? Coal? How long can any sort of world economy function in those conditions? What new economies might be replacing that? How about the social democracies that have sprung up around the world? Is limited energy conducive to democracy at all? Is it hostile to it? What alternatives, and why?

I would like to hear/see more attention to these questions, and less to things like whether Sarah Palin is qualified to be President (she isn't, and I personally doubt she will run - I consider this a diversion, one of many, to direct attention away from the important, and live altering, events unfolding).


I think a big part of the oil production problem is the fact that not only is oil production flat, but OECD's share of the total is falling.

Thus for the developed countries, we have been past peak oil for several years, and it is hard to see a way out, unless we can somehow bully aside those with rising consumption, or raise total production.

Why has not OECD production been compared more to world production, when it comes to predicting future production?
More often I have seen world production compared to US lower 48 or North Sea production.

If what we need is the following:

1. A mature region and large production (ie post-peak and as many Mb/day as possible)
2. As good and reliable data as possible
3. A region that includes C+C, NGL, heavy oil, deep water oil

then OECD production should suit us well.

I know that the issue of timing of peak oil is largely over (we are at or close to the peak), but the decline phase is still very interesting. And here we have a very large region that is about 10 years past peak.

Obligatory snark/reality check/repeat of lessons of history: U.S. Urged to replace oil with coal - The Windsor Star, Dec 7, 1977

U.S. Urged to replace oil with coal

NEW YORK(Reuters)— U.S. Energy Secretary James Schlesinger predicted Wednesday a vast social and political upheaval in the United States unless the country replaces petroleum with coal.

He told an energy conference sponsored by the Conference Board, the business-backed research organization, that American businessmen must make long-term capital investments now to wean the U.S. economy away from oil and natural gas by the mid-1980s.

He predicted there will be little more petroleum available, worldwide, in 1985 than in 1980 and that supplies will peak in the early 1990s.

He also foresaw increasing competition between rich and poor countries for oil and natural gas in the next decade.

Failure by U S. business to increase its use of coal over the next seven to 10 years could result in the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression of 40 years ago, Schlesinger said. Such a crisis, with attendant high unemployment and inflation, could cause the American people "to lose confidence in our existing system," he warned.

"In order to keep this society flourishing, we must have an expanding economy and additional jobs each year," he said. Economic growth "undergirds the political and social stability of this society," but such growth will be accompanied by greater use of energy sources besides petroleum.

Schlesinger told the businessmen the Carter administration wants "the decision (to switch from petroleum), given the proper government signals, to be taken by individuals and businesses."

I post this not to discredit Schlesinger but to point out that he A) might be a bit of a loose cannon/doomer/gloomy guss/etc B) he was wrong on this topic in the past, like so many others have been. What transpired should deserve our attention, as well as seriously considering whether that could be repeated - for those who wonder what I'm talking about, it's a sustained drop in demand, as per Gail's graph. Will that be obviated by a sustained growth in demand elsewhere? Have we substituted oil to the fullest in the past - will countries such as OPEC that subsidize oil massively consider moves to repeal those subsidies? And so forth.

Assuming any of this has merit real impact from declining production could be staved off for some time. Remember that in 1977 Schlesinger's scenario seemed quite plausible. What proof was there that increased auto efficiency would cause US gasoline demand to go through the floor two years in a row, and stay there for a handful more? What proof is there that the new CAFE standards will have a commensurate effect now? Etc.

In defence of the early prediction dates for Peak Oil.

If you check back what Carter and Schlesinger were saying in the 70s was based on the historical reported rise in oil demand/production of about 5-7% per year (certainly throughout the 60s and up to the mid 70s). Carter said that explicitly. Had oil production continued to rise at that rate then Peak Oil would have occurred a very long time ago. Carter said action must be taken to reduce the rate of increase - and it was.

Jimmy Carter televised speech on April 18, 1977

The world now uses about 60 million barrels of oil a day and demand increases each year about 5 percent. This means that just to stay even we need the production of a new Texas every year, an Alaskan North Slope every nine months, or a new Saudi Arabia every three years. Obviously, this cannot continue.

I leave it as an exercise to calculate where oil production would be now had it continued to rise at 5% per annum since April '77. For bonus points where would it be now had it risen at 7% :-)

Really, really high?

Aside from CAFE I don't think any of the cutbacks that made a real difference were actually mandated by the government. Rather they plowed billions into various boondoggles, namely syncrude and gasohol. Nothing for fuel switching, which helped a great deal. Schlesinger did talk in my link about a move to coal, by which he could be referring to this; likely he was also boosting for things like CTL too, though.

Ah, that forecast would equate to 225 mb/d 2010. Is that so unfeasible? I'm still in awe of 85 mb/d, after a certain point these volumes just can't be grasped easily. The cubic mile of oil is a start, I guess. Imagine bumping into that on a road.

Yes OPEC enforcing quotas was the biggest driver in reducing the rate of increase in oil consumption I suppose.

Had we continued at 7% a year that gives us the nice round approximation of a doubling every decade as had happened historically.

Back to Carter on that again.

The world has not prepared for the future. During the 1950s, people used twice as much oil as during the 1940s. During the 1960s, we used twice as much as during the 1950s. And in each of those decades, more oil was consumed than in all of mankind's previous history.

And we'd be well over half a billion barrels per day by now at that rate!

I believe the political order is more about what Wall St wants and not what the Pentagon wants. There is though a high probability that given the high respect Americans have of the military and the low respect of elected officials that an alliance of Wall St and the pentagon would be more than acceptable to a large percentage of Americans. The persistent stress that peak oil is imposing on the world economy could be the trigger of the end of any democracy in America. There may be the appearance of democracy but the choices available will be only the right wing or the very right wing.

Democracy ended with the United decision. It is over. Kaput. Not to return again. And the forces in power will ensure that nothing is done to overturn the new political order. And yeh, yeh. I know. We are not a democracy. We are a Republic. And the Dems, of course, can regain power by a complete capitulation to the Corporatocracy.

I'm hoping when it's time to lose the Republic, I am hoping for a military coup. I think anything else is either anarchy or civil war. I don't want any wing nuts taking over, right or left. The military will provide the kind of stability we will need and make the hard choices y'all keep harping on, the decisions that need to be made. I lived within the military for 20 years and found it to be an acceptable system, not always fair, but usually consistant. You will get food distribution, labor distribution, and action (something all can agree that we won't get from politicians or from consensus -- never going to happen from a population nearly split 50/50 between conservatives and liberals). When martial law comes, which it will, I hope it comes from the experts of 'martial' because the silly-vilians have just about screwed it up as bad as it can be screwed up.

I have heard this position in the past, and it is a valid assertion of one form of triage that may be realized. I do not agree that it provides long term stability, or that it is not just as bad as having the wing nuts of whichever party grabbing power. History shows that military coup fosters further coups, as each Colonel or General has his/her own army ready to support him/her, and they seldom relinquish power without further use of force. It simply substitutes one autocratic group with another.


I'm hoping the Tea Party and the Republicans have their wished-for popular-vote landslide.
They've promised to address nothing, for 2011 and 2012, but the fall and repeal of the current presidency.
So in 2012, both the great Democratic "Hope" and the great Republican "Hope" for a return to comfort will have failed.
The people may address basic responsibilities.
"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." - Declaration of Independence, JULY 4, 1776
But that will just be a mess. "Morning Sun" shows us. But it will set you back $44. Too rich for my blood.
Perhaps it is best to simply "Tra La La, Tra La La" and sing our way into life as happy little worker bees.
But there's no work. We sent the good jobs to the east, gave the bad jobs to our guest workers, and returned our lands and homes to the banks.
...We don't make anything, anyway. Only weapons.
Who controls those weapons? Who has the money to secure, maintain, and supply the logistical support for those weapons?
Gee, Goodmaj... you might just be on.
Goodmaj and others...
What happens to our vast nuclear arsenal and its fleet of ever "flight-ready" delivery vehicles if we suddenly regress to 40 acres and a mule?
By extension of the idea that "our system is owned by the corporations", do they not now, too, own these?
Pretty song:
"...delight shall drive care away..."

Back in the '50s and '60s, a number of very senior and powerful Democrat senators moved most of the military industrial complex to the sunbelt states from Virginia to southern California. About the same time, the oil companies moved from the northeast to Texas. The alliance of the MIC and the energy industry is the basis for the modern Republican party, so far as the influence of monied interests are concerned.

The money behind the Democrats, on the other hand, comes mainly from urban real estate interests, the media industry, and organized labor.

Wall Street? Mostly they a) don't have all that much money of their own, or b) make sure that they are giving some to the candidate that will win. After all, they don't really care whether stocks go up or down so long as they are long or short at the right time.

I'm increasingly become resigned to the fact that the U.S., in order to keep the Union together, is going to end up under military rule.

Which might not be the worst fate. Let nobody forget Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, just for starters. Americans have no taste for dictators which is a good thing.

Of course, it's not going to work, but then again, every single thing that every one of us does now is simply delaying the inevitable.

Hi just posted a thread at PO.com about James Schlesinger ASPO keynote, link to the thread :


So to rephrase it a bit, my first impression regarding this talk was "hey, this was a rather good talk, clear, concise, and to the point !", but as a second reaction, and especially after : ""Can the political order face up to the challenge? There is no reason for optimism." it was more "Ok you made a nice talk with nice witty remarks, but so what, what do you think should be done ?". Indeed one can talk implying "I am not a politician", however, the act of talking is in itself a political one (no escape there).

And to cut a story short, seems to me that there is a subject that is really "cleverly" ou "cautiously" avoided here, and that is simply the level of gas taxation in the US. Indeed, taken into account the fact that we are most probably right now at peak oil, if we look at broad figures about the common "oil pie", what we basically see is still this :

And also this :

Or to put it another way, below the gallon price in USD in a few countries :

country gallon price in $
UK $7.25
NL $6.38
FR $6.12
DE $5.63
JP $6.57
US $2.91

Now don't you think that there is quite a bit of fat in the US conumption that could be easily taken away ? And that a few percent in US consumption decrease quickly translate to something noticable due to its current level ?

And how to achieve this ? Raising fuel taxation appears like an easy way to do it, no ? Maybe with part of it directly redistributed as proposed by James Hansen .

-A tax doesn't change a country GDP
-A tax should be seen as an accelerator of change : if there is a "stable" solution not based on so much fossile fuel as today, a tax on fossile fuel will push towards it.
-We don't need to know the solution for the tax to push towards it (this is a key aspect)
-Basically it just pushes investment decisions in the right direction (by changing the cost curves as an economist such as Jeff Rubin would say, and decreasing ROI periods on fuel saving investments)

So who would be in favor of a $1 or $2 a gallon tax on gas starting right now here ? In general your view about this aspect ? Isn't it the best and most obvious peak oil mitigating measure that the US should set up ?

Fuel tax?

-One doesn't get elected who pushes for it.

Yeah sure, just watch the "Tea Partyers" go nuts after that proposal. What a joke!

So what you mean is that the US has just basically "given up" on the issue and is now relying on the "tea party movement" to show the way forward ?
What would be your personal take on raising the gas tax or not ?

I think as much taxes as is legitimate for governments to raise from the general population (including covering universal health insurance) should legitimately be raised from a tax on personal motor vehicle fuels first, before such things as flat VAT / Sales taxes etc.

Ok so that wouldn't be a joke then ! :)
And for sure such a tax has to be "volume based" and not "price percentage based", the "volume based" approach having the added benefit of limiting the impact of the raw material price variations on the end products price variations.

And for sure such a tax has to be "volume based" and not "price percentage based", the "volume based" approach having the added benefit of limiting the impact of the raw material price variations on the end products price variations.

Your taking an either/or position. A mix of the two, $X per gallon, plus some additional amount proportional to the price of oil. This means revenues don't collapse because of rising oil prices, and that the consumers see at least some amplification of exposure to world prices. The later is important as the principal way rising prices hurt the nation is via oil-export trade balance issues. So some sort of balanced approach seems better than eithet extreme.

Not sure I understand your point, with a tax purely volume based, revenues don't collapse because of rising oil prices, as the tax revenues are only dependent on the consumption volume, so provided the consumption doesn't collapse on an oil price increase, revenues wouldn't either.

As to the consumer being exposed to world price, yes it still is as the raw material part of the final gallon price would still be directly dependent on the barrel price. (the price of a liter in Europe still increases when the barrel price increases)

And in fact there has been pushes in France to make the tax variable the other way round : that is decrease it when the barrel increase, but it never materialized (good thing).

I would start with a huge tax on discretionary uses such as recreational vehicles (jet skis, four wheelers, pleasure boats, dirt bikes, etc.) and motor racing; any use that doesn't produce some tangible benefits. Also, incremental increases should be inacted on all road fuels. Fuels used in the production/distribution of food should be exempted (the way that off-road diesel is today). Burning fossil fuels for fun needs to be culturally and economically discouraged, eventually eliminated.

As I discussed above, increasing demand destruction may solve our consumption excesses, but won't help with revenues.

I would start with a huge tax on discretionary uses such as recreational vehicles (jet skis, four wheelers, pleasure boats, dirt bikes, etc.) and motor racing; any use that doesn't produce some tangible benefits.

Although I fully agree with you on a "gut feeling" basis (and jet skis are so noisy, besides being utterly boring), I think it raises two issues :
-first one is the associated potential black market and difficulty to enforce different prices for a given product on different usage
-second one is why trying to introduce a "moral judgement" on what is a good usage and what isn't ? (somebody taking his car or camper to go to some national park for a big "communion with nature" trip, might consume much more than another one doing a few noisy loops on his jet ski)
And maybe an evaluation of the "recreational usage" would show that it doesn't represent a major share in any case compared to basic commuting (not sure about this one, any evaluations ?)

As to proffessional use of fuel for food distribution ambulance and the like, there is plenty of ways to balance the fuel price increase impact I think.

I didn't say it would be easy or perfect. Start with a luxury tax anytime non-essential fuel using devices are bought and sold. Require annual licenses (already in place for boats) and tamper-resistant hour meters. Increase the taxes according to level of usage.

I know..... More layers of complexity :-(

My new slogan: "No gas for leafblowers"

Leave my leafblower out of it ;-) With 2400' of forested gravel driveway, the leafblower is my friend. I only use it a couple of times in the fall to gather the leaves for compost.

I'm a resident of the USA and have traveled to Europe, central America, Seychelles etc. but don't regularly travel much international. I'm curious, do other parts of the world use leafblowers? I absolutley hate the damned things.

Noise, two-cycle motor air pollution, wasting gas and oil to move leaves and dust which would be better left composting or moved with rakes and brooms. Seems like killing a fly with a shotgun.

Yes leafblowers are used during autumn near my office place (just outside Paris) and I also really hate these stuff which make incredible noise (they didnt start yet), I mean the guys need to wear noise reducing head set kind of stuff, whereas they could just be using somekind of efficient broom in silence, I'm not even sure it would be less productive !
But we somehow have even worse stuff like the "motocrottes" or "dog poop picking motobikes" as below :

or :


Although it seems to me there are now much less of them than a few years before

edit : yes in fact it has been stopped in Paris in 2002 :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motocrotte (same in fr version)
But think there are still some in Neuilly

My driveway, aprox. 3200 square meters, is covered in leaves today. Come on by, I have a spare rake. After we finish we can have this conversation again. I've posted before that there are uses for fossil fuels that I plan to preserve as long as possible; chainsaws and log splitter (we heat with wood), small diesel tractor for the farm, leaf blower (for the gravel driveway, which would freeze/degrade in winter without leaf removal, and we use the leaves as compost).

The leaf blower, while obnoxious, uses a minimum amout of fuel, has multiple attachments; pole saw for pruning, prunning shears (cutting back blackberries and raspberries increases their productivity), leaf blower, string trimmer, blade cutter, small tiller perfect for turning raised beds. All of my small ICE tools save time and energy better used for manual chores like pulling weeds, picking bugs off of plants, stacking firewood, cleaning the wood stove, spreading compost, cleaning the hen house, and doing things that actually pay bills. My total fuel use for all of these things is about equal to one day on the lake when I had a boat (though I do miss my Ranger alot :-)

No sense in throwing out the babies with the bathwater. If you read my posts you'll see that I am always seeking alternatives. Back in the '60's we had a manual push leaf sweeper, wheel driven, that swept the leaves into a hopper. Like this:


I wonder if it would sweep up the gravel on my driveway along with the leaves.

They have them in Mexico and I can think of a better use for the shotgun.


Leave my leafblower out of it ;-)

I say you can have your leafblower.

The 18-volt Black & Decker NS118info (*Est. $70) is the top-rated cordless electric leaf blower. At only 5 pounds,

Disclaimer this is not an endorsement of Black & Decker products, just an example.

I have been working on job sites and charging my 18 volt batteries for my cordless power tools with my little solar generator... works great! It has a handle and big enough wheels so you can roll it along if need be. I'm sure you can make your own if you want to. It's in an off the shelf heavy duty tool box with handle and wheels. The Panel in the one pictured is a 50 Watt Poly with a 10 Amp solar charge controller. It contains a 125 Amp/Hr sealed lead acid battery, 800 Watt inverter, 120 volt AC or 12 Volt DC output your choice. Charges a typical 18 volt NiCad or lithium battery in about an hour from fully discharged to fully charged.

Solar Generator

Speaking of inane, I cannot understand the logic behind this contraption apart from selling/consuming more liquid fuels. Attach a blower to a small portable ICE and voila! a device for moving dust and leaves from one place to another. It doesn't collect them or anything, it just rearranges them. You can't even create a decent heap of leaves with a leaf-blower AFAIK. Some sort of vacuum system that sucked them up and bagged them might make some sort of sense but, no.

What is distressing to me is that I have seen a leaf-blower being used in my country, a third world nation with a large pool of unskilled barely literate labor that could probably do a much better job of tidying the place up (if they were open to such menial work having seen the better life via US television). Another thing is the weed-whackers replacing machetes in the twilight of the age of oil.

Alan from the islands

a third world nation with a large pool of unskilled barely literate labor that could probably do a much better job of tidying the place up

I feel the same way about snow blowers. Before they came along teenagers and college students could make decent money. And I bet the total cost to the average homeowner was less. As well of having the air breathable, and haiving a lack of noise.

Amazing how smooth a cut they get with machetes, better than a strimmer.


On the subject of Jet skis, last year I visited my cousin who lives near Kaiserslautern in Germany. He took me on a day trip to Bingem am Rhein where we took a ride on one of the Rhine riverboat tours. While on the boat we saw somebody riding a jet ski and I remarked to my cousin that I had never ridden on one and how inane and pointless an activity it seemed to me.

When I questioned why anybody would ever want to ride one, a young North American lad, probably about 10 years old, standing nearby quipped "because it's fun". I remember looking at him and thinking to myself, "Young man you are going to be in for a rude awakening in a few years, when fuel becomes to precious to waste and you just might have to redefine your idea of fun." I don't remember saying anything but, I remember wondering how he would feel when he can't have fun riding a jet ski.

Alan from the islands

"because it's fun".

Jet skis are fun. I use to ride on a Kawasaki on San Francisco Bay, jumping the ferry waves and then diving underwater. The model I had was an early model and you had to stand on it sideways and have pretty good balance to master it. It was great exercise - my legs would give out after a while.

The one's today are huge and comfortably seat two people. They look like their super easy to ride on - you just sit down. Everything starts out being a challenge until they change it for 'most' people.

Sure, someday it will be a relic of the oil age.

My recollection is that around a fourth to a third of US passenger vehicle miles would fall into the "because its fun" category. About a third of passenger miles are for commuting and another third are trips for medical necessities, shopping for food and other essentials, etc.

The remaining third are stuff like going to the mall for recreational shopping, eating out, going to bars, going to the casino, going to theme parks, visiting relatives, religious events, sporting events, movies, bowling, going to the gym, getting the nails or hair done, etc.

I would charge $10,000. dollars a year for having an after market muffler on a car or truck. $50,000. for the 2nd child. $1,000,000. for the 3rd. You could really tweak the world with the right financial penalties. It would be much quieter and use far less resources.

I'm out of my depth here but, I think "the market" will eventually fix this if direct government "interference" does not. Since the US will have to maintain huge trade deficits to supply it's oil habit, the dollar must devalue at some point.

This will have the effect of raising fuel costs for Americans and probably lowering their standard of living while other countries especially those whose currencies are more closely related to currencies other than the dollar see little or no change to their cost of fuel or standard of living. This will continue until US fuel costs and per capita consumption are brought more in line with other OECD economies. (Don't we wish!)

Alan from the islands

I think "the market" will eventually fix this if direct government "interference" does not. Since the US will have to maintain huge trade deficits to supply it's oil habit, the dollar must devalue at some point.

Maybe, but in the mean time you will have given all your full tanks gas money to OPEC countries, Russia or others, instead of keeping it in the US, using it to change or adapt the infrastructure

"the market" will eventually fix this if direct government "interference" does not

One of the cable TV pundit stations (I forget which) was harping this morning over why the government is not doing a better job inspecting airline cargo for bombs.

I was just wondering why the "free market" fundamentalists were not out there demanding that the government not interfere but rather let the intelligent, ambidextrous and invisible appendage of the market take care of this "economic" problem.

[ i.mage.+]
[i]= image, [+]= more info

The market breaks when confronted by a situation we are facing, for a variety of reasons.

Please see the quote I posted above.

How can you stop a bunch of homer simpsons who claim that lowering taxes will solve all problems. LOL

we are so doomed.

You can't. People follow Wizard's first rule: "People are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want it to be true; or they're afraid it's true."

Wizard's third rule is: "Passion rules reason, For better or for worse. Letting your emotions control your reason may cause trouble for yourself and those around you." (Second Rule is "unintended consequences.")

The people who believe tax cuts will solve all of their problems are living examples of the truth of these statements. The people who feed them their lines are the wealthy who really 'benefit' from the cuts, though long term even they will suffer. In any event, simple answers for complex problems are believed because they appeal to the innate greed in the listeners.

Tell people what they want to hear... they will believe and they will follow you. Example: A.Hitler, who told his people they were the greatest, and that if they have any problems it must be the fault of some conspiracy by 'others.' Solution: kill the others, in Hitler's case. In the case of peak oil, you tell them about those huge new reserves that are being found (in existing oil fields)... tell them the stimulus will fix the economy, that wealth will trickle down from top to bottom [actually the key word here is, 'trickles,' which if defined would be any number 0 > # > 1, with proximity to zero being its key function, and its action on wealth remaining undefined), and, oh, yes... tell them that this is the 'American Century.' That will make them feel good... Solution: BAU.

I'd join in the hilarity if it was not such dangerous bull hockey.


How can you stop a bunch of homer simpsons?

Apply "Crazy" glue to the outhouse key slot.

[ i.mage.+]

The gasoline price of 1 Nov 2010 in Germany is US$7.69 using the exchange 1 Euro=1.388 US$ and 1 gallon =4 liter.

Yes took figures from below link for the price list (converted to gallons with 1 gallon=3.78 litres) :
it for sure must be a bit outdated due to oil price variations and €/$ change variations, however relatively speaking must remain quite accurate

Sounds about right
One gal Imperial (Britain) = 4.546 Litres
One gal US = 3.785 Litres

Today USD = 1.3972 Euro

This chart is a little misleading in that it only shows the federal part of the gas tax. When you add in the state gas tax, the amount of fuel taxes for a US gallon of gas is quite a bit higher (almost 3 times for most states). Now, that said, no we don't pay near the amount of taxes that Europe does, but we are considerable less socialist too.

This chart is a little misleading in that it only shows the federal part of the gas tax.

That's true of Canada, too. Certainly if you add the 10 cents per litre Canadian excise tax and the 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) together, you get something in the range the chart shows, but federal taxes are only the start. Most of the taxes are at the provincial and local levels, and these vary widely from place to place.

Take Vancouver, for instance. The federal excise tax is 10 cents, the provincial excise tax is about 13 cents, and the local excise tax is about 15 cents. That adds up to about 38 cents per litre. Add GST to it and it becomes something in excess of 40 cents per litre. That is something in the range of what the table claims people pay in Spain or Japan.

The above is somewhat obsolete since the 5% GST has been replaced in BC by a 12% HST (harmonized sales tax) which combines federal and provincial taxes. Nobody is really sure what the net effect of that is, but everybody suspects it involves taxes going up.

Canadian consumption levels can be misleading, too. There are a number of Atlantic coast refineries that specialize in refining oil for the US market. Canada actually exports more crude oil and products to the US than it consumes itself, so if you don't net exported product volumes off Canadian consumption, you are including fuel in Canadian consumption that is actually consumed in the US.

There is no doubt that a high fuel tax would be one of the best policy moves that could be done in this country right now.

It would also be political suicide.

Our irrationality is really killing this country.

re fuel tax, political suicide and our irrationality as voters

That, I think, was the main point of Schlesinger's address:
Politicians cannot do any more than their electorate will permit them to do.

Since the voting public instinctively wants/expects maximum benefit & personal comfort for minimal cost, without putting much thought into the impossibility of same, then the rest of us (who may be aware of this impossibility as well as of larger, looming issues like PO) are likely to be out-voted by those who view government as an enemy and are unwilling to even consider the merits of a bit of current sacrifice (eg. fuel tax), even though it could/should benefit their own kids (since it would improve their chances of having affordable fuel for themselves & their kids).

I think the price of gas should have been at least tripple the price we've been paying for it since WWII....

I keep insisting we should raise it now.., better late than never....,

but, all I ever hear is how crazy I am..., or stupid..., because it would destroy our economy....

I assume like it destroyed Europe over the decades...???


" A Tax doesn't change a country GDP"
Try taxing all income and wealth at 100% and see what happens to GDP. Productivity will crater.


Productivity is overrated, IMO.

Does your graph include State gas taxes as well?

One other thing to remember, gas taxes screw the poor first, just like any other sales tax.

Not sure about the state tax, it comes from the economist and took it from below :


As it is described, it should contain the state tax, otherwise can be considered inaccurate on this point.

Otherwise about sales tax hiting the poor first I agree, redistribution aspects must exist in parralel, however changing the relative cost of fossile fuel should remain a top priority

Below another one with clear identification of fed and state part :

taken from :

By comparing the two, the one in the initial post does indeed includes state tax, ie :

Canada fed + province : around 0.15 € tax a liter (as on first graph)

US fed + state : aaround 0.08 € tax a liter (as on first graph)

Note : Turkey tax increase over 10 years is really quite amazing !

I'm so happy they are putting these up. I look forward to the Chris Skrebowski and Jermey Gilbert videos.

Anyone have tips on capturing/converting these to MP3s that I can listen to while I run?

Use an audio recording tool such as the free Audacity and select "Mixer" input. Audacity will then record whatever audio your PC is playing.

Dear Blueskykate, Gail the Actuary, Ghung and Friends,

We have got to stop fooling around by evading the question, ..."Why, why have human population numbers been exploding during my lifetime without the attention of every expert on the planet being focused upon this question? Why the denial? The deafening silence? The global gag rules? The conscious collusion of experts? The elective mutism? A pernicious silence has been allowed to prevail over science. Until now, objective intellectual discussions have not even begun of vital questions regarding the nature of human population dynamics. As a direct consequence, the prodigious collective intelligence of the family of humanity has not been accessed. Preternatural thought and unscientific theorizing have been shared and consensually validated as if it represented the best available science.

Could it be we are about to become witnesses to an unexpected event, a new beginning like one that occurred in ancient times when something which appeared impregnable, like the walls of Jericho, began to crumble at the moment enough people marched, blew their trumpets.... and spoke the truth as they saw it.

Thanks to all of you, the first necessary discussion of the nature of human population dynamics could begin soon. Professor Emeritus Gary Peters is at least one top rank scientist who is ready, willing and able to report on the science of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth. In an instant we could move from being in "the nowhere" of silence and darkness to "the now here" of openly shared speech and light. Like the inhabitants of Easter Island, who ignored what they were doing to the world upon which they depended for their very existence until it was too late for survival, perhaps the family of humanity is ignoring now what we are doing to the planetary home (an island in a celestial sea of stars) we inhabit.

Earth is bounded and finite. It has a frangible ecology. It cannot be sensibly compared to a maternal presence, in the sense of it being like a mother's teat at which humankind can forever suckle. Neither the Earth nor a mother's teat is actually inexhaustible, despite the child's fantasy and the adult's belief that either one is an eternal source of sustenance.

The human family ignores human biological limits and Earth's physical limitations at its own peril. We also puts at risk the children's future, life as know it and the Earth as a fit place for human habitation.

Knowledgeable people have got to stop colluding in silence and ignoring the best available scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth, just as all of us have to share the understanding that a species like Homo sapiens cannot continue to outrageously overconsume and excessively hoard Earth's limited resources; to recklessly overproduce unnecessary stuff and relentlessly pollute its environs; and to reflexively overpopulate the planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit.

If leaders keep adamantly advocating and hotly pursuing what they are doing now, and followers keep buying into this soon to become patently unsustainable, primrose path to the future, then the time remaining to us elders, now and here, to secure a good enough future for the children is fairly short, I suppose.

We cannot effectively address any global challenge if we do not allow ourselves to understand from whence it emanates. If people cannot see that an actual threat exists, that itself is a problem to be overcome. Fortunately we can recognize the family of humanity has a human-induced problem that we have not yet so much as adequately acknowledged, let alone begun to meaningfully address and overcome.

Some people say that we have too many challenges to confront now; that we have to deny how certain global ecological challenges are themselves posed to humankind by the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers. Unfortunately the human community appears not to have space-time available to longer avoid facing the question of why looming threats to future human wellbeing and environmental health are occurring with such vengeance in our time. Please consider that we cannot wait "until tomorrow" to share the understanding that these ominous threats could be emanating from the colossal scale and unbridled global growth of overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities of the human species.

As we examine the prospects for the future of life on the relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planet we inhabit and upon which we are, and have always been, utterly dependent for our very existence, perhaps we can think about something more than lives of effortless ease and outrageous excess, short-term profits and other derivatives of greedmongering as well as about something other than waging unnecessary wars, producing unneeded stuff and stealing the children's birthright to a natural world fit for human habitation.

For a moment anyway, let us think in longer-range terms and consider how what we do now can be expected to help safeguard the future for children everywhere and coming generations. Given the way the surface of the Earth is being ravaged in these days --- leading to massive biodiversity extinction, rampant resource depletion, potentially irreversible environmental degradation and climate destabilization --- I dare say neither the children's tomorrow will look after itself nor can the children themselves be reasonably and sensibly expected to secure a good enough future for their offspring without the able assistance of their elders in the now here.



"We have been God-like in our planned breeding of our domesticated plants and animals, but we have been rabbit-like in our unplanned breeding of ourselves."

— Arnold Joseph Toynbee

Why, why have human population numbers been exploding during my lifetime without the attention of every expert on the planet being focused upon this question? Why the denial? The deafening silence? The global gag rules? The conscious collusion of experts? The elective mutism? A pernicious silence has been allowed to prevail over science.

Well, I have a hunch that it might have at least something to do with the notion that seems to be prevalent amongst almost all the major religions of the world. The notion that 'God' has ordained that we are special and superior to the rest of nature... This is also the same theme that is generally pushed by authoritarian right wing religious fundamentalist types of all the major religions. Propagating this meme is one of the ways they have of maintaining power over their flock of sheep.

Many have taught over the years that birth control is inappropriate or sinful in the marriage relationship. It is argued that marriage is for the purpose of procreation and that any attempts to circumvent this purpose violates God's command to “go forth and multiply.” (Gen. 1:28).

As an atheist myself I know firsthand what it is like to be ostracized and marginalized for being against such views. I think that as time goes on these people will be pushing back ever harder against rationalism and scientists are often quite reluctant to stand up and tell these people the truth. Nobody likes being the bearer of ill tidings even more so when there is the very real risk of being burned at the stake... perhaps not even just metaphorically speaking but quite literally.

Try telling these people the following: Uh, sorry folks, hate to break this to ya! But you ain't really the chosen ones, but rather just another group of rather ordinary apes and, whether you like it or not, you're subject to the whims and foibles of nature and it's laws. Oh, and BTW, there ain't no heaven or after life either... this is all she wrote.

And watch as all hell breaks loose, no pun intended!


And after we've gotten past the higher level stuff; religious, cultural, economic reasons for increasing population we can begin to address the more basic biological programming that drives homo dumbass sapiens to exploit his environment mercilessly to his benefit and to procreate....

.... or we could just wait a while, let mother nature do what she does so well.

I seem to remember a lot of discussion of population growth -- maybe in the 1970s -- at the time of some much publicized famines. It was when the situation became critical that silence fell. Our whole system depends on growth. If over-population means the end of the system, so does recognizing it. Disaster relief is no longer a big item in public discussion -- too many disasters to relieve. New Orleans, Haiti, Pakistan -- now Indonesia again.

The social order ought to concern itself with seeing that citizens have useful work, food, and housing. We've got diverted into the idea of getting rich. Some people made lots of money destroying our old cities and building suburbs and malls. Health Insurance stopped being about paying for care and about funding insurance companies' profits. Housing stopped being about houses and became about brokers' and bankers' fees. I used to say that I didn't mind the rich having enough money for three homes and a fleet of cars -- I just didn't want them to have enough to buy a state legislature. Now the top .01% can buy all the legislatures they want, plus a political party or two.

And those people mostly inherited their wealth -- no practical sense of value behind it. We may have missed our last chance when the Republicans were permitted to manipulate the Iran Hostage situation to put a spokesmodel in the presidency. Now our very elections are privatized, with right-wing corporations gathering and counting the votes. In many places, with no paper trail, the results are what they say they are. (All the bad-mouthing of the Democrats' chances tomorrow may be cover for some high-tech ballot-box stuffing -- in 2008 Bush was so unpopular no one would have believed a Republican victory. Tomorrow, they expect one, despite continuing Republican unpopularity.)

So, yeah, big agree that the population crisis is one with climate change and energy scarcity -- part of the picture, actually.

And those people mostly inherited their wealth -- no practical sense of value behind it.

That's a key point. Not only are most important long-term decisions taken for us by the 0.01% with the spare money to purchase legislatures and congresses, but those people are operating with the ethics and foresight of Paris Hilton.

England got in early.
My relatives who were mostly agricultural laborers were successfully having 9 children per family in the 1840s to 1850s.
England went from under 6M in 1750 to nearly 18M by 1850 and converted to a majority urban population. Inflection point seems to have been later in 19thC when number of children per woman started to come down. Has even come down since our mother had us in 1930s to 1940s.
Population of England has gone from 40M to 50M in my lifetime (UK as a whole is 61M).

US and Australian societies are thoroughly, completely wedded to the concept of perpetual population growth. Its accepted almost without question. If anyone dares suggest we start planning for the end of population growth, they are ridiculed by the media. Most people have a hazy belief that population growth is good and must continue indefinitely, and politicians and business leaders tend to believe it fervently.

The American population is predicted to reach 400 million before 2050, the Australian population 40 million in the same timeframe. In the great majority of cases media reports are giddy with excitement over these predictions. But its indicative of just how short sighted our species is that almost none of them have thought to ask a simple, obvious question "When then?".

The answer is that we will keep growing past those milestones, faster than ever, that the larger our population, the greater the impetus for continued growth. But we cannot grow forever, cornucopian delusions aside, and something will stop us. If we are very lucky, it will be a benign population decline like Japan is starting to experience now.

In the past fifty years, if discussions like this one had been occurring in professional societies like Conservation Biology and Wildlife Society or in human population-focused organizations like Population Council, Population Connection and International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, this thread would not hold the potential for what I call actual, "whole truth" dialogue of the real issues regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth. Willfully ignoring unchallenged scientific evidence must not continue in organizations with appropriate expertise. The choice to collude in silence by refusing to speak truth to power is unacceptable.

With this in mind I would like to present "Speaking the Truth as we see it to anyone ready to listen" Awards to each participant in this TOD discussion who comments on the topic of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth.

The peak population discussion is not over. It has not even begun.

Hopefully, this is a way of beginning anew to unravel what does appear as a Gordian knot. Great institutions of religion, economically expedient global gag rules, political convenience, arrogance and avarice of the masters of the universe among us cannot be allowed to squash open discussions by human beings with feet of clay of what appears to threaten the children's future, life as we know it, and the integrity of Earth and its environs.

I desperately, fervently want to believe you Steve, I really, really do.

But my realist side tells me that the probability of humanity having a serious, widespread discussion about over-population is very low.

It seems to me that the 'problem children' are self-selecting: People who have 2 or fewer children are out-competed by people who have three or more children and pass along their values about the merits of having numerous children.

The genetic programming to pass on as many genes as possible; religion; vanity; selfishness; spite; ideology...its seems as if pushing for a very wide-spread 2-child social norm is like spitting in the wind.

As I said above.... "or we could just wait a while, let mother nature do what she does so well."

The hubris that brought humanity so far, so fast, is the same hubris that allows us to believe that we can supercede the laws of the natural world, the parameters set down by the creation if you will....It's funny, unique that we think that we have a choice as a species. Perhaps we will set a planetary record for the extinction of a higher life form. If we are the first truly technological sentient species on the planet, the chances of evolution getting it right the first time are slim, as slim as are our chances of coming together globally to purposefully limit/reduce our population.

We're not in control. Never were.

You have no idea of the really big threats - dysgenetic tendencies and the forced breeding of poeple how don't have a clue on anything - worldwide. Only looking at the quantitative part of demographics doesen't get the picture. Where doomed for shure, and it will get worse either way... The populism will get harder and harder because the smart are dying out in fact - belive it or not. Just look at you're neiberhood how has the most children (poor and often religious) and how has no children at all (smart and rational ateists)...

I know this is a little bit flat-spoken but in general there is much truth in this!


This (Dysgenics + Overpopulation + Peak Resourrces + FIAT-Money Devaluation) = bad Cocktail...

By the way - these nature talk is a little one-sidded. In 150 million years the global avarage temperature will pass 15°C (288K) either way. All will be gone than. So nature has no value by itself. It will dissapear anyway! And don't say "this is long in the future" - if it happens in 150 or 150 million years makes no diference in 150 million yeasr and one day!

Oh - seems oil is soon getting over 85,- of you're FIAT-currency.

Perhaps being more intelligent is no longer an evolutionary advantage for humans, but a quart jar of my pickles is still worth about 5 pounds of potatos. Please make sure I get the jar back ;-)

Yes - sad but true - after the inevitable collapse skills like robustness, hardiness and even stone-cold selfishness will became the magna-carta off the day!

If "real issues" concerning human population dynamics -- issues assiduously avoided in professional circles by experts during my lifetime -- had been given the benefit of the light of day in order to access the prodigious collective intelligence of humanity, we would be way down to road toward addressing and overcoming the human-driven global challenges looming before all of us now here. As things stand in this moment, we are nowhere near so much as an acknowledgement much less a shared understanding of why and what is happening in the natural world that all of us can agree, I suppose, appears to be human-induced. Time has been and continues to be wasted by the self-proclaimed masters of the universe and their many absurdly enriched minions, who espouse whatever is politically correct and economically expedient; who are directed not to call out loudly and clearly for discussion of the best available scientific knowledge regarding human overpopulation of the Earth.

It does not matter one whit who among us correct and who is incorrect; however, that discussions like this one occur openly do matter. Discussions of this kind are vital, I believe. Potential causes of the global ecological challenges looming before humanity have been denied virtually everywhere by the brightest and best. Collective human intelligence has not been accessed.

Regardless of what any one or all of us believe to be true and real about the world we inhabit, of one thing we can be crystal clear: WHATSOEVER IS IS, IS IT NOT? Ultimately, Nature not greed will rule in this world.

Respectfully to all, I remain



The problem with this discussion is that we are all the same in the sense that we are all part of the superfluous numbers.

It is not that fact that 'I'm all right Jack', applies. With population, we are all in the wrong, including our offspring.

Having said that, I am doing the best I can to survive and support mine and ours just like anybody else would do.

Nature will let us know, and nature occasionally has a way of visiting all of us when we least expect it. I have been nothing but lucky in my life, and am the first to admit it. Perhaps, knowing that where we are born is simply luck, will allow us to make better choices as time moves on.

All the best...Paul

Dear Heisenberg, Fred Magyar Gail and Friends All,


Lyrics : David Gray Lyrics : Draw the Line Album : Full Steam

Full Steam Lyrics

All our lives we’ve dreamed about it
...Just to find that it was never real
This sure ain’t no great Valhalla
Coming closer each turn of the wheel
Forlorn, adrift on seas of beige
In this our Golden Age
Even in our darkest hour
Never thought that it could get so bad
Bullied, suckered, pimped and patronised
Every day your tawdry little lives
So loose your head
And step within
The silence
Now you saw it coming
And I saw it coming
We all saw it coming
But we still bought it
You saw it coming
And I saw it coming but still
Running full steam ahead
In and out of consciousness
It breaks my heart to see you like this
Crying, wringing hands and cursing fate
Always so little far too late
It’s 3am I’m wide awake
There’s still one call to make, one call
Now you saw it coming
And I saw it coming
We all saw it coming
But we still bought it
You saw it coming
And I saw it coming
We all saw it coming
But we still bought it
Running full steam ahead
Running full steam ahead
Running full steam
Gonna cover my eyes, gonna cover my eyes
Runnin' full steam, yeah
Now you saw it coming
And I saw it coming
We all saw it coming
But we still bought it
You saw it coming
And I saw it coming
We all saw it coming
But we still bought it


String theory says there are at least 10 or 20 dimensions. Pure math can not describe observed reality using just X, Y, Z, and Time.
There are 40 billion (40,000,000,000) neutrinos passing through every thumbnail-sized piece of you... every second.
Every wonderful and terrible thing that some one person did seventy thousand years ago is forgotten, unknown.
Our senses are limited.
The time... so short.
Our brains listen.
We survive.
What's in the grass ahead? Water! I smell water! She's pretty. Too hot... shade... The green ones taste terrible. They will help us. Run!
The big picture is just too big: Not immediate, Beyond control... so beyond outrage, not affecting the "Now".
Tens of millions die from smoking. No outrage. Mosquitoes kill scores of millions. Nothing. The galaxy Andromeda is coming right at us!
Social positioning is very important. Gods, too, have lives. So we gossip of "Lindsay Lohan".
I am a monster, in the congenital sense. You probably are, too. Most people are naturally constrained of mind.
"No one could see it coming" (George Bush) actually played pretty well.

Mongoloid by Devo
Mongoloid he was a mongoloid
Happier than you and me
Mongoloid he was a mongoloid
And it determined what he could see
Mongoloid he was a mongoloid
One chromosome too many
Mongoloid he was a mongoloid
And it determined what he could see

And he wore a hat
And he had a job
And he brought home the bacon
So that no one knew


Sweet Dreams By Eurythmics
Sweet dreams are made of these
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused
(The image of the cow in the board room)

Strangely enough,
I've considered the issue of 'peak oil' settled long ago, but to hear Dr Schlesinger front the idea makes me want to reexamine. What does he have up his sleeve, what horrific agenda is he getting ready to shove up my ...?

Only the words, “Thank You All”, come to mind. There must be other words, better words to express my feelings of gratitude for this discussion. I dare say that if discussions like this one had been occurring during the past decade or the second half of Century XX among people with the power to make a difference that makes a difference, and those discussions had been honorably and openly shared in the human community, there is no conceivable way so many people would not more adequately understand what is happening in our time, much less blindly pursuing an utterly destructive “primrose path” to the future.

We can see that many too many people are consuming many too many resources, producing much too much unnecessary stuff, and polluting the environs. We can also see that if all of us chose to stop momentarily, simply stop for a moment in space-time, doing the soon to become patently unsustainable things we are doing now, then turn our best efforts toward adopting sustainable lifestyles and right-sized human enterprised, and away from large-scale agricultural industrialization to small-scale farming practices, the world will surely change.

There is not a thing in what so many have reported in this thread with which to disagree. Your points of view are boldly realistic, clear and understandable. Having acknowledged this, I do want to add that we do not know what we cannot yet know——- the future. The possibility of an unforeseen human-induced event, call it an awakening resulting in a transformation of collective human consciousness, cannot be ruled out, I suppose. Such faith is bound up in the very nature of the spiritual, is it not?

Not for a moment do I hold out the expectation that humankind will proceed from now here along some sort of “primrose path” to a viable future: an alternate primrose path like the one set out before the children by the self-proclaimed masters of the universe among us. All considered, it appears there is no easy way out of the global predicament that appears before the human family. Too much time has been wasted during the course of my lifetime. Any path to the future will likely present us with damn demanding and difficult circumstances, unforeseen awakenings notwithstanding. I do believe our collective failure to change the unsustainable ‘trajectory’ of human civilization soon will lead to much greater ruin than can be expected to occur if necessary changes toward sustainably are made in the fairly near future.

One difference between what is happening now and what occurred in every yesteryear leading up to this moment in space-time is simply this: we have knowledge of what we are doing and are choosing, in the face of all the historical and scientific evidence, to do precisely the same things our unknowing ancestors did.... the things that effectively destroyed the world they inhabited. Of course, the failures of our ancestors also did not precipitate the massive extinction of life as it was for thousands of years on Earth, neither did their reflexive behavior threaten the entire planet as a fit place for human habitation.