And who is that, riding to the rescue?

Ah, me! It's appropriate to begin with a quote from the Times on Sunday piece that Prof G referred to:
Long before the oil actually runs out, it will have become far too expensive to use for such frivolous pursuits as flying and driving. People generally assume that we will find our way round this using hydrogen, nuclear, wave or wind power. In reality, none of these technologies are being developed anything like quickly enough to take over from oil. The great nations just aren't throwing enough money at the problem. Instead, they are preparing to fight for the last drops of oil. China has recently started making diplomatic overtures to Saudi Arabia, wanting to break America's grip on that nation's 262 billion barrel reserve.

Even if we did throw money at the problem, it's not certain we could fix it. One of the strangest portents of the end of progress is the recent discovery that humans are losing their ability to come up with new ideas.

 And then to look at this week's Oil and Gas Journal.  To make my point I will, with your indulgence, pull a number of quotes from that article.
Today the energy industry is facing one of its greatest challenges - an aging workforce and not enough qualified people to step in and learn their jobs. . . . . . . . . The problem is so pervasive that many companies are luring qualified professionals out of retirement as contract employees or part-time help in order to meet business demands. In some cases, these geologists, landmen, and others are earning more today on a part-time basis than they did previously as full-time employees.
 This establishes that the need is for technically skilled personnel (and  the article dwells on this at some length). But, on the other hand, look who they are hiring:
Even today, during a sharp upturn in all sectors of the energy business, the industry continues to attract mostly marketing and management types who want to strike while the iron is hot and oil is priced at $60 to $70 a barrel. Science professionals are often less focused on financial gain and are disinclined to begin their careers in an industry that is perceived as harmful to the environment and willing to terminate their employment when the going gets rough.
Which will lead to:
As a consequence of this dearth of qualified professionals, oil and gas companies are in danger of being left critically short of skilled workers. After years of steadily eliminating jobs, the industry may not have the manpower and brainpower to keep up with the world's growing demand for oil and gas.

The upstream sector is on course to lose two-thirds of its knowledge base within the next few years, said Pickering's Pope.

And so what are the companies and Universities doing about this.  Yup!
The University of Houston recently devised an ambitious plan that could provide a model for other universities in educating energy professionals. C. T. Bauer, a former chairman of AIM Investments, provided the university with a $40 million grant to expand its energy curricula and teaching staff.

The C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston has launched the nation's first executive master of business administration degree in global energy management (GEMBA). The curriculum is designed to provide industry workers with the knowledge and skills necessary to advance their careers in the global energy sector. . . . . . . . . initiatives are also being implemented at Duke, Stanford, and among industry trade organizations to improve the industry's appeal to elementary through graduate school students. Some efforts are already paying off. Texas Tech University has expanded its energy commerce program from 12 students in 2003 to 60 in 2005.

To summarize, the industry is criticized for not developing new technology even though in past years it has not been an attractive place for scientists to work, but now, with the current technical staff beginning to retire in large numbers, companies and universities are expanding their business administration and commerce programs to provide more folk for the industry.

Excuse me while I blink, but wouldn't it be more useful to fund the energy production departments? Oh, they don't know how to market themselves to industry - silly me, how could I have forgotten.  And then folk wonder why some in the energy production business wander about muttering about letting "those fatherless children freeze in the dark!"  I remember one time telling one of Robert Redford's advisors that if he wanted to put meaningful money into cleaning up the energy business, he needed to hire some  energy professionals as part of his team, since they could advise on what would and would not work.  As I recall those words fell of deaf ears then, I suspect that self-interest will lead to the same sort of situation now.  Most energy production departments are small sections of larger schools with interests that can quietly siphon off the investment to other areas, before it can be concentrated sufficiently to do productive good.  

HO: Can you tell us a little bit more about what kind of education an entry level position would require? Does a driller or someone who works on a rig need a BA? Are there any positions that an untrained person could take that would help fill the void?
Is this your 2nd career idea Ianqui? :)
Naah. That would mean that I endorse our continued use of oil at the levels we're consuming at now. No, if I changed jobs, I'd become an organic farmer.
There are a number of jobs in the industry that require mainly a strong back, common sense and a willingness to work hard, and long hours.  Unfortunately in the production end, it does take some time (as those in the industry will hopefully chip in and tell you) to take a neophyte graduated engineer and turn them into someone useful to the industry.  I have heard that this can take as long as 7 years, but I think that this is very dependant on the individual. It also really depends on the job that they are asked and positioned to do. The opening level jobs generally allow that they can be productively contributing while still learning the ropes. And certainly the salaries that graduating seniors are making in Petroleum have opened a few eyes across a number of campuses.   (Inducing some students to change disciplines even).
We've the same problem in the nuclear power industry.  I'm 54 and the young buck here at the reactor vendor I work at.  We've retirees coming in half time to help out.

Why?  The US has been coasting on its energy accomplishments the last 20 years or so.  The companies have had less work to do as capital investment has dropped off or shifted to natural-gas fueled combined cycle gas turbines, often fueled with Canadian gas.  Hence,  the sharpees went to greener pastures, the troublesome and the weak where moved out.  Nobody new wanted to join up with an outfit with little action and no prospects.

In fact, a shortage of experienced, trained people may be the limiting factor in nuclear ramp rates.  Big salary increases, bonuses, and maybe tock options, well publisized, might bring in the kids but it will take 5 or 6 years to get a flow started.  Hopefully, we'll get the kind of people who want to produce something useful for their country but expect and demand just compensation and decent careers.

One CEO of an oil company noted that America graduates 43,000 lawyers every year and only 430 petroleum engineers.

Indeed, "Dilbert" captures a lot of the real work of industry.

... might bring in the kids but it will take 5 or 6 years to get a flow started.  Hopefully, we'll get the kind of people who want to produce something useful for their country but expect and demand just compensation ...

Sadly, me thinks you are exuberantly optimistic about the time line.

You and I are roughly the same age ... products of the Sputnik age.

When the Ruskies got into space first, our hubristic government went ballistic (pun intended). They launched a massive science, science, science campaign in all the schools.  

It worked. 15 years after Kennedy's Moon-in-this-Decade speech, I graduated with an engineering degree. Probably you followed a similar trajectory (pun intended).

Realize that it took about 10-15 years, not 5-6 years. Kids do not just accidentally stumble into college level engineering programs. They have to be cultivated from early on.

Our current government is doing nothing to interest kids and their parents (it starts at home) to enter science & engineering programs. They are doing the exact opposite. They are "outsourcing".

But then again, the people running our government are "the smartest guys in the room".

You're right, Step Back.  It will take getting to kids at an early age to fill the pipeline with prepared engineering and science students.

I used 5 to 6 years to START since the opportunities have to be apparent to the high school juniors and seniors to even start to apply to engineering schools then 4 or 5 years in college to enter the job market.  There are few in high school who have the preparation to make that decision - but some.  That's the earliest we can see a change in job seekers and then it builds from there.  Of course, we might see a few stick to it who would otherwise change majors or some give up poli sci or "communications" for electrical engineering (OK, very, very few.)

Also agreed that our government and business "community" is looking to outsourcing instead of developing American kids.  That will continue to depress salaries and compensation and hence economic motivation.  Plus, the perks - Every Friday, they GIVE me a free donut.

For my three grown sons, I couldn't advocate engineering or science to them.  Today, their average income is higher than mine - they are all salesmen.

I'd summarize this as an example of how the elites have failed our nation over the last decades.  Overtolerance quickly turns to victimization.

A question for you energy production gurus:

Take a bunch of mirrors and mount them on hardware which can rotate and tilt.  Hook them all up to a controller which tracks the sun and knows where the mirrors are located.  The controller can then use the mirrors to collect sunlight from a large area and concentrate it into a small area for effecient conversion into electricity.  I don't really know how you'd do that, but I'd think maybe you could use a steam turbine?

It seems intuitively that this would give you cheaper and more scalable solar to electric conversion than, say, photovoltaics.

But since nobody does this, there must be more to it.  Why doesn't this work?

Already tried, tested, etc. Info available at:

Scroll down to the "Power Tower Plants"

Interesting, thank you.  I'm surprised they are not in wider use.  They seem like they'd be pretty cheap to build, and in the right areas (like a desert) you could set up large farms of them with little environmental impact.
It does work.  It's been done somewhere in California on a small scale, IIRC.  It's not done more because the initial investment is high.
I don't understand why the initial investment should be so high.  Conversion of heat to electricity is a mature technology, and aimable mirrors don't seem very expensive.
The higher the steam temperature the better your thermal efficiency for your generating cycle.  It takes a lot of mirrors to get high temperatures.
Mirrors are expensive actually.  They are basically a pane of  glass with an aluminium coating and an anti-reflective coating on top of that.  The electrical actuators used to track the sun are also expensive.  Futhermore, mirrors don't work when it's cloudy.  That limits concentrating systems to locations like the Sonata and Sahara deserts.  Concentrators can be highly effective in those high insolation environments.

Photovoltaics have no moving parts so they don't require much maintenance.  You just have to hose off the bird droppings every once and a while.  

I interviewed for a job as startup engineer on the "Power Tower" in the Mohave Desert run by Southern California Edison back in the late '70s.

What a loser!  I declined as the performance was so marginal. It's still there - you can see it from the freeway or if you take Amtrak's Southwest Chief: Route&cid=1081442673827&ssid=132

Also see for a similar idea.  They have contracts to build two plants - one is  300-900 MW.  The other is 500-850MW.

The design here is for 38 foot diameter dishes, with a stirling engine at the focus of the dish.  Very modular as each dish is independent of the others, so as soon as the first dish is complete they will start getting electricity.

To put this dire situation in a larger perspective, I would say that regarding HO's

"expanding their business administration and commerce programs to provide more folk for the industry. Excuse me while I blink, but wouldn't it be more useful to fund the energy production departments?"

Of course it would but our American culture has been losing core technical and scientific expertise in many areas for many years now. As in other areas, in a globalized economy Americans are looking for the easy money, "managing things" without making substantive contributions that have real value. Let those Chinese make the WalMart stuff or let the Indonesians make the tennis shoes or let those Indians read the X-rays. We'll manage it all from here and pile up the cash.... It's all easy money.
Geez.  Heaven forbid that science or engineering might actually be encouraged in the U.S.  Go for marketing instead.  That worked so well for Enron after all.
Enron... certainly a success story. We are, afterall, a service economy to the world.... and sometimes California....

HO's post says it all. I have brought this up before but got little response: Does anyone here at TOD share my perspective that America is a culture in severe decline? I could bring up budget deficits, trade deficits, world's biggest debtor nation, losing a foreign war, no personal savings, failing education and health care systems, corrupt financial institutions, government representatives serving corporations who pay them and then hire them after they "retire from public life", the world's 27th most free press according to a recent worldwide survey ... there's more, I could continue here. Are you there? Hello???
Personally, I think your previous comment about people wanting easy money says it all. Just the other day I heard an ad on the radio for how to sell things on eBay and make lots of money...except, you don't warehouse anything, send the product, or apparently really even sell anything at all. I didn't really get it, but I do know that it's playing to people's desire to make money for nothing.

People would also like to consume energy for next to nothing, and look at where that's gotten us.

Thanks for your comment, Ianqui. I'm not backing off ... because I think the "easy money" mentality is a primary symptom of the decline. I just thought I'd go where the path leads.

When HO talks about lack of qualified people to work on energy production, he's talking about a culture that no longer values "real work" and wants to take the easy way out. For example, profitability in the health care "business" is the easy way out. Insure and provide services to those who can pay, ignore the rest. If they die because they can not pay, who cares?

When a society no longer cares about its members, it is no longer a society at all... it's just a free for all, the world that the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes described as "[the] war of every man against every man". Or, to update the idea, it is the TV show Survivor.
There are lots of young engineers out there. I'm one of them. Many of my friends are part of that group as well. The reasons that you're all coming up with regarding why we're lagging when it comes to the production of new "tech" workers is somewhat on the mark, but I think you're being a bit more negative about it then you need to be. The issue is not that we're "culturally degenerate" or that "the kids these days are too lazy." Those reasons are, in fact, quite amusing attempts at shifting the blame. :)
... lots of young engineers out there. I'm one of them. ... Those reasons [of yours] are ... amusing attempts at shifting the blame. :)

I'm an old fart, ex-engineer.
No one is trying to fling the "blame" in your direction, honestly.

Back in the day ... of Sputnik (the 1960's),
the US Governement was all over the air waves
telling parents, "Mothers, raise your children as rocket scientists" ... telling kids, "You wanna be like George Jetson, flying around in a rocket-car, and pushing buttons at work"

Much larger numbers of young folk pursued the sciences than we see now in the USA.

We're not saying you young engineers do not exist.
Of course you do.
And millions more like you exist in India and China.
As Kruschev promised (an old fart Russian priemer who banged his shoe at the UN), they will "bury us".

It's not your fault. It's not your blame.
There is a huge, money grubbing machine out there.
You are just a small cog.

The machine is a heartless, brainless, obsessive comulsive animal that just seeks larger and larger profit "numbers" at the end of each Wall Street quarter.

It's not your fault. You did not design the machine. You did not build the machine. You did not fuel the machine. The Church of Adam Smith and his myopic followers did.

Additional readings:

Well, Dave, as long as you're on an off-topic rant, we'll support you.

"Does anyone else at TOD share my perspective that America is a culture in severe decline?" The world seems to agree with you. The Pew Trust has been researching the global image of America for years, and it is sobering reading. 2005 report at:

Example: by my count just 2 out of 14 nations rate the the image of US more favourably than China in 2005. Everybody else in the world likes China better, often much better. I personally thought that China might not be that tough to beat, what with the human rights issues, Tibet, selling organs from executed criminals, labour practices, environmental issues, and so on.

But I'll bet China is training more petroleum engineers than the US, so it must be improving their image.

it's the small newspaper articles that are killing the public opinion about the USA:

"USA has 2000+ children sentenced to life imprisonment, the rest of the world has 20"

"The USA is the third country in the world that executes children, after North Korea and Birma"

"USA does not obey Geneva convention for prisoners at Guntanamo Bay"

"The rest of the world jumps to help the US with extra oil after hurricanes but they take no actions to preserve"

"USA starts uni-lateral war against sovereign nation without UN-resolution"

I used to really like the USA, but these reports make me wonder if it is still such a great nation.

Mental manipulation is what made Fastow, Skilling and Kenny Boy (all of Enron) the "smartest guys in the room".

"Marketing" is a politically correct name for brainwashing.

This black art is addressed below at:

Dave, i share your thoughts. Severe decline, i blame congress, and will not vote for any incumbent. it's a start! But it's a myriad of stuff, from CEO's to political. Outsourcing, apathy, drugs, money, lack of a forward vison etc...
Personally, i think the political correctness is killing the USA. Answers? i don't have any, wish i did though. I noticed the decline as early as mid/late 80's. but thats just me.
i think the political correctness is killing the USA

I beg to differ.
It has nothing to do with "America" or its alleged "culture".
This a global problem.

Recent advances in brainwashing technologies are responsible for driving the Adam Smithian model into its logical collapse mode (into its inevitable end game).

A prime assumption of the Smithian religion is that rational actors will work out amongst themselves, rational transactions that are win-win for everybody.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sophisticated sellers have devised methods (brainwashing methods) which almost guarantee buyers will do the most irrational of things. The whole system tilts in favor of the sellers.

Take the lottery system for example (gambling). The sellers of this "service" tease the suckers with taunts like, if you're not part of the "in crowd", then you're a "loser" for sure (ain't in it, can't win it).

What does the lottery contribute to the betterment of mankind? Nothing. It simply moves large sums of money from a distributed regime (the many losers) into a concentrated regime (to the few winners), with a sure flow of sustanence for the unproductive managers of this ploy. The lottery system consumes energy, sucks up thousands of human work hours, distracts people from having productive thoughts, and produces nothing in the end.

I know, I've heard the "hope" and "entertainment" excuses already. They are lame. It is false hope. It is destructive entertainment, especially for people with obssessive compulsive gambling disorders. And it is sanctioned by the Government. (We're here to help you. Yeah right. Another repetitive brainwash line.)

I would recommend reading George Lakoff's book (or at least the first chapter) "Moral Politics" or if not that the introduction to "Don't think of an Elephant" (the former is more intellectual).

I would also encourage you to check out Judith Williamson, "Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising."
"30-second politics" by Montague Kern is also a good book on the subject. Also, "Ritual, Politics and Power" by David Kertzer offers an anthropologist's view of the role of, well, rituals in politics and power.

The point (among many) to be drawn from this is that ideology is not  only imposed from government, propagandists and other nefarious folks. It is created, and demanded, by the people on the recieving end as well. The creation of ideology is constant and while those in positions of power (who have entrenched rituals, like the current administration or the church) have much momentum behind their rituals, new ones can be begun by radical parties...

What George Lakoff has to say (and Kertzer expands upon) is the principle of conceptual frames for understanding the world. Since the world is far to complex to understand for what it is... in fact all reality is subjective, even if it is derived from an objective source. So to understand the world we use "frames" and metaphors to make it relate to our everday lives in ways we can understand. If you don't have the right frame to understand an idea (like peak oil, or government corruption, or global warming) you will reject it outright, no matter how TRUE it may be.

Judith Williamson goes on to explain the unconscious methods advertisers use to get inside our heads. While someone here termed it "brainwashing" I would say that there is nothing so scientific or premeditated at work. Advertisers are part of culture and thus interact with just as much advert created ideology as we do, so they come to understand what works and what doesn't. What Williamson does is to decode the latent meaning in the ad, the messages that are recieved but not understood, ignored, left unnoticed, simply not connected to the other half of the picture. These messages are the most dangerous because they bypass all our mental filters. If they were written out in plain text they would be shocking (expect in a few cases where the ad gets you to laugh along with it, and in the process pull you in anyway).

I'm sorry for being so spread out, but I think the whole notion of  "brainwashing" and consumer culture needs a careful examination, and above all acknowledgment that, like the drug addict, we had a part in all of this--a very large part.

Thanks. I'm well aware of "framing" and LNG.

The power elite have "think tanks" that work night and day at testing out new frames on "focus groups" and slowly modifying existing frames towards their desired "conservative" end game.

Progressives have no such thing. They believe in "intellectual argument". Ha.

Peak Oilers also believe they can use "logic" to convince friends and family that PO is a clear and present danger. Double Ha Ha.

OOps. meant NLP. neuro linguistic programming. must have had liquified natural gas in my brain.
While someone here termed it "brainwashing" I would say that there is nothing ... premeditated at work. Advertisers are part of culture and thus interact with just as much advert created ideology as we do, so they come to understand what works and what doesn't. What Williamson does is to decode the latent meaning in the ad, the messages that are recieved but not understood, ignored, left unnoticed, simply not connected to the other half of the picture. These messages are the most dangerous because they bypass all our mental filters.

Part 1, not true. Part 2, all too true.

As to the "nothing  premeditated" part, the very theory of Adam Smithism says there is something premediated and nefarious at work.

Folks who become specialized in effectively sending "mixed messages" to the human brain become very good at it. Sure, they think they are doing nothing more than selling toilet paper or perfume, but they are. They are conditioning all of us to be accepting of the messages from the "they" who send messages through the tube. At some point, "they" take over and start sending code red and code orange fear-factor codings through the tube. They distract, distort and divert us from what is truly going on. We are helpless to resist.

Here is what one educater says:

While advertising and the resultant high levels of consumption are linked to economic growth, they are also associated with environmental destruction, the decline of public life, personal dissatisfaction, and the commodification of culture. In this introductory class we shall look at the effects of advertising discourse on the quality of social and cultural life. Also, we shall look at websites and discuss sources related to the intent of this course.
Film: Sut Jhally Advertising and the end of the world


Recent News:

October 17th, 2005
Getting Inside Your Head; As "Neuro" Goes Mainstream, Big Business Hopes to Decode the Brain's Secrets ... Marketers already seem to know a lot about how we think, but what if they could actually watch our brains work as they test their products? A recent experiment by Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, may be laying the groundwork for just that. In an experiment last year, he scanned volunteers' brains ...

rest of story at: amp;year=2005&month=10&day=17

You see? Technology is ADVANCING. We humans do have "progress".

Going against Knustler, I would argue that the commodification of pleasure or actually everything is probably one of the worst "investment choices" our culture has "made." People are not left to choose between material products to satisfy nonmaterial needs--an impossible thing to be quite sure--no matter how rich.

"You are not capable of getting love. But if you buy this product it will get you love, it will do for you what you cannot do for yourself."

Money can buy you love. The funny part about this is that many of these non-material needs were fulfilled at one point by the community, the natural environment, and spiritual leaders (not necessarily organized religion). Its too bad the smithian hand coopted them for profit.

There are several evolutionary paths to success in this world. Two of the more common ones are the "work your butt off to survive" types - I'll call them Horatio Alger types - and the Cowbird types.  The cowbird types propagate not by intelligence or hard work but by cunning.  They con somebody else to work for them.  Although Ken Lay comes to mind as a cowbird type, I think the real cowbirds are in the marketing and political arena (very closely related these days)- sort of like the pointy-haired guy in the Dilbert strip.

Problem is, why do the Horatio Alger types let the Cowbirds run things??  Maybe they aren't paying close enough attention.  

We ain't played Cowbirds and Indian Braves yet

Actually, this is a recurring theme at TOD.

In any large human society (i.e., Dilbert's warehouse full of engineers with slide rules slipping out of their butts), there is going to be some small group of manipulators --namely, people who know how to push the right buttons on the less clued-in and make the clueless do all the hard work, while the manipulative elite (Catbird) reap all the rewards with minimal exertion of effort.

Think of US population convincing all slave laborers in China to weave shirts for Americans with promise of worthless green papers (greenbacks).

Think of US President telling the gullible "patriots" to make the ultimate sacrifice for the "noble cause". (Sorry Mrs. Sheehan.)

Think of your boss telling you to come in on Sundays so you can get that big promotion and move "up the ladder". Why you can even become Dilbert's pointed hair boss!!

In the case of Peak Oil: Think of the extractors who will be sitting in the CatBird's seat as oil gets more and more expensive --and it's too late to seek alternatives.

A book that does a good in-depth study on the manipulators at Enron: Conspiracy of Fools (warning it's a slow read):

see my post just above this one... I totally agree with the general framework (here come those conceptual frames again) you're workign with, but I think you give way too much credit to conspiracy theories... that just isn't the real world---it is far too simple (and black and white).
re "Conspiracy of Fools" --I didn't pick the book title. It is misleading to some extent. Don't shoot me, the messenger, for it.

There were not that many actual "conspiracies" at Enron (Fastow/Kopler being one of them).

Instead, it was the private greed of individual players.

Example: Anderson accountants looked the other way because the accounting firm would earn more profits from its investment banking branch if it kept Enron pleased. Enron's CFO, Fastow understood this and played them like a violin.

It wasn't a "conspiracy". It was greed. It was chaos. It was the "Invisible Hand" working its magic.

If you really believe that Peak Oil is heading towards or upon us, then you should be taking action now to prepare your children for the unknown. It may be soft - it may be hard - it may be middlin; but if you believe in it, then your life should reflect your knowledge in something other than a cognitive way.

Give your kids some options, so they do not have to accept whatever is handed to them.

Take a look at the world immediately prior to the Henry Ford and up through WWII. There were many ways of doing things in terms of fuel and work. But they were each a bit more difficult, non-instantaneous, and designed for local or immediate use. With even these simple technologies, things will be fine. It's just that society doesn't work that way anymore, so you have to do the timewarp thing to get a handle on these technologies.

Alcohol as a fuel will work - period. So will biodiesel. Both can be grown and harvested very efficiently. Both were used prior to the advent of oil very successfully. If you punt all the subsidies (esp. oil company tax breaks, etc.), then the playing field will be level. If that is the case, then corn farmers can compete with oil companies. Look south to Brazil - a most resourceful people.

Our problem is not that we cannot react to the coming shortfalls and move forward. Our problem is that we cannot do this with the current corporate oligarchy and wildly aberrant consumptive behavior.

Crisis is a required part of societal change - always has been. Until there is a crisis, societal inertia carries us down the same track, because change is risky, strange and fear laden. Therefore we will have to remove the impediments to change in order for it to occur. The oligarchy is not likely to adapt and adopt the new paradigm - and people do not change their lives without some very specific forces applied to their existence, be they mental or physical.

It may not be a collapse, it may be an erosion. It may be a slow rot, with pieces falling away to find their own way. But the concentration of wealth and power is in too few hands, and they are simply using us as fuel. Personally, I am damned tired of being a battery powering the other half of the country that is our government...

For cultural and moral devolution, I suggest renting the film "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" and compare its lessons with today's realities.

Regarding education, who wants to labor long and hard building a math based science focus of any sort when the always broadcast message is "Greed is Good," whereby the accumulator of the most money wins. If it weren't for all the asianamericans--not to mention all those foreign students, many who are no longer coming here--many university engineering programs would be worse off than they are now. IMO the best educational preparation for the future is an electro-mechanical engineering major with a minor in fundamental woodsman/mountainman skills.    

I read some really intense and intellectual comments in TOD from contributors who I assume are scientists, educators, industry insiders and other professional people. You share valuable information and insight concerning 'peak oil' and related subjects. Thank-you for allowing me to stay informed in such detail out here on the edge of the wilderness--the wonders of modern communication!!!

BUT SERIOUSLY-----do any of you really want to learn some "fundamental woodsman/mountainman skills"??? What about organic gardening and farming? REALLY? Give up your life of comfort and the quest for pleasure? If you took seriously a fraction of the information that you share, learning practical and sustainable living skills would be a high priority for each of you as well.

By the way, listening to the coyotes sing to the full moon on this crystal clear night out here away from the bright lights has a value immeasurable in terms of green paper $$$$$$$

Best wishes----Mountain

BUT SERIOUSLY-----do any of you really want to learn some "fundamental woodsman/mountainman skills"??? What about organic gardening and farming? REALLY? Give up your life of comfort and the quest for pleasure?

Seriously? No way.

Yes, I was a Boy Scout. One of my favorite short stories to read was, "To Build a Fire". If push comes to shove, I still remember how to assemble the kindlings, make that fire with just one match, and hang the food away from racoon's reach. But if there is a choice, I prefer to sleep on a soft clean matress at home rather than on rocky ground with bugs crawling up my behind. ... Well you wanted the honesty.

For people who have dreamy ideas about making it in the wilderness, here is short story (grade school level) that might make you think twice: "The Hatchet"

The point is that we do not have to go to the "living with cousin Otis and his slack-jawed yokels" scenario. It isn't necessary to return to that.

The technologies we need are already around (steam engines, biodiesel, gas-from-coal, etc. The problem is that our society is too big and not ready.

Electricity would work fine, IF we didn't have to commute by car. But most of us do, because there is no light rail infrastructure, and where there is, it doesn't connect suburbia to work centers. Amtrak for longer travel? It only serves a very narrow corridor of locations. How can we replace trucking with rail when their capacities are so unequal?

NiMH batteries are still to expensive. Lead-acid limits one to about 150 miles a charge on an optimum system. We cannot use golf carts to putt to the grocery because of local & federal vehicle regulations.

By no means do I think we need to run off to the wilderness. But we do need to revive some old technologies that worked very well and update them. We need to remove subsidies so that farmers can grow crops to compete with oil as a fuel supply. We need to get the alcohol plants back up and running off of crop waste like we had in the early 1980's. We need to get solar and wind going where it works. We need to relocate people and retool infrastructure.

There really is energy all around us in many forms. But we are not geared to use it. Sometimes it requires doing things differently, sometimes it requires equipment that has long been unavailable. The Japanese ran their Zero's on alcohol - that was a big part of their speed advantage in the early part of WWII. It was made from rice waste!

Today we are short on farms - too many people have been run out of the business. At $3.00 a gallon for gas, alcohol from crop waste or even corn can compete, but are the mega-corps that own huge farms going to switch? Not without being forced to. Coal-burning steam engines can compete and win on rail. Will railroads go back to coal? Not until they are forced to.  Co-generation alone can fill in a lot of gaps in efficiency. Will it become more prevalent - maybe.

Societal inertia has to be fought and new paths of development opened. The solutions are out there, but it falls to us and our children to implement them, BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW OIL IS APPROACHING PRODUCTION LIMITS!

The only way any of this will ever sell is for oil prices to make the switch economically attractive. We aren't there yet. The crisis isn't really upon us. So those of us in the loop on the situation have an advantage long term. Are we using it?

Way back in the ice age (circa 1972) I went through electronics technician training in the Navy. In 7 months I went through as many classroom hours as 2 1/2 years of college. We could do the same in a civilian context now and have the technicians we need in 1/4 the time then academia does now. Of course they didn't teach me a thing about music theory, Shakespearen literature, or post-modern counter culturalism. They didn't need me to know those things for me to repair an SPS-10 radar system. Same thing today for our fuel supply challenges. If we paid students to study instead of charging them for some post-doc's sabattical we would have the skilled people we need.