When they said that Matt Simmons had connections . . . . .

The New York TImes is carrying a story that should trickle, like cold water from a sponge, down the back of one's neck on a hot day..
 a senior intelligence official, who insisted on remaining anonymous because he was not permitted to speak publicly on the issue, said that the Saudi plans to increase production by nearly 14 percent in the next four years were not enough to meet global demand. Even the Energy Information Administration recently scaled back its expectations of how much more oil the Saudis could pump in 20 years.
 I am not going to hazard a guess at the politics of releasing this disclosure at this time.  But one cannot but get a feeling that a world has suddenly changed.  For those of us who have written about the problem, there has always been a feeling that we would have to inveigle to get this message across to the general public in a way that they would understand.

And now we have not only this, but also the TIME magazine articles.

To go back to the NYT for a moment, this points back to an earlier Aramco study
But there are doubts about the Saudi assertions about how much oil they have. Data about reserves is tightly guarded, and the Saudis dismiss skeptics as uninformed.

But they do not dismiss Edward O. Price Jr., the former head of exploration for Saudi Aramco and an adviser to the United States government on Persian Gulf oil during both Iraq wars. He questioned future reliance on Saudi capacity in an article in The New York Times last year and wanted to know from his former colleagues how they reached their estimate of more than 150 billion barrels of extra oil. Twenty years ago, a detailed study by geologists from four large American oil companies then in partnership with Aramco found little in the way of undiscovered oil resources, he said.

The article goes on to point out that while the United Arab Emirates have also promised to increase oil production, so far they have come up empty.

And finally the article refers to the Iraqi situation.  Now here I must admit to being lazy, and am going to put that as a separate post, since it was actually what I had planned on posting tonight, and so it will immediately precede this piece.

And that brings me back to the TIME article.  They quote Yergin

The silver lining, said Greenspan, is that as oil gets more expensive, other energy sources and technologies that use less oil will become more competitive. And that's exactly what's happening. Says Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and author of The Prize, the 1991 best seller about the history of oil: "There's a lot of technological innovation kind of bubbling that really has captured the imagination and obsession of a lot of people." The question is, Are we moving fast enough?
Unfortunately they give no new technologies that have not already been addressed.  I also get the sense that the authors don't quite grasp the magnitude of the overall situation yet, nor do they understand the reality of the time interval before we can get this solved, and what it is going to mean to the global economy.

Yet on the other hand, just to have reality finally appear in discussion is somewhat refreshing.  Now all we have to do is to see that the investments are properly made and we can relax a bit.

But then this brings us back to why the topic suddenly appeared to be important today!  

Er, HO, a little problem - it's NY Times, not WaPo - your html link is correct, you just need to change the two mentions of WaPo to the NY Times
Oops! Sorry - corrected.


Former head of Saudi Aramco exploration is demanding to know where his colleagues in Saudi Arabia "found" this extra oil and says almost the same thing Simmons says.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/27/business/worldbusiness/27oil.html?ei=5065&en=c01b490705b076ac& amp;ex=1130990400&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print

Oops I saw Washington Post and didn't read the first comment soon enough. Sorry!
I just read the same article in the NY Times (by Jeff Gerth).  You left out the most amusing part, where Saleri from Saudi Aramco replies to Price "that the basis for the higher oil figures was a global study in 2000 by the United States Geological Survey estimating Saudi Arabia's undiscovered resources at 87 billion barrels," and Price procedes to ridicule the 2000 USGS estimate.

It is my understanding that the USGS assumptions about global reserves were based on an argument the better technology boosted recovery in Texas fields from roughly 25% in in 1970 to 50% in 1995, and the application of the same technology to the rest of the world would similarly boost global reserves.  This argument always seemed somewhat flaky to me; clearly the effectiveness of horizontal drilling and water/gas injection won't yeild the same results in differing geology.  Also the USGS study seemed to imply that technology would continue to inprove recovery by similar amounts in the future, which is also a dubious argument - surely diminishing returns will stall out ultimate recovery far short of 100%.

In any case, we will see if this "leak" to the press will induce the Saudis to be more forthcoming about the source of these enourmous new reserves that so many cornucopians are counting on.

You picked up on the same part of the article that jumped out at me: The Saudis are basing their estimates of undiscovered reserves on the USGS. I was flabbergasted at the absurdity of the whole thing.

And if the USGS estimate of 87bbl undiscovered wasn't bad enough, the Saudis upped it to 150bbl, just because everyone knows the USGS estimates are way conservative. This is one of those situations that treads the sometimes fine line between tragedy and comedy.

Re: "The Saudis are basing their estimates of undiscovered reserves on the USGS."

Jesus wept.
Yes - the irony of that is very rich indeed.
I love it--pretending to be able to put a number on something you haven't even discovered yet. (Not to mention invoking abstract dieties like "Tech.")

We still a bunch of superstitious apes, ain't we?

Aren't all the new technologies already factored in to more recent reserve estimates anyway so we couldn't expect the same reserve growth (as observed in Texas) even if the technology worked as well elsewhere.

I seem to remember that the way they applyed lower 48 reserve growth to the rest of the world drew a lot of criticism of the USGS report.

When you read it in corporate media it is already too late. Perhaps the CIA is pressurizing Bush Jr. with a little "news". The Intelligence elite use the media when it suits them.

Operation Mockingbird

Journalism and the CIA: The Mighty Wurlitzer

See also Sadad Al Husseini's ) recent comments at the "Oil and Money" conference in late Sept (prior to his recent retirement Husseini was the head Exploration and Prodction at Aramco).

Based on the considerations discussed above, a very optimistic production forecast would indicate the Arabian Gulf (Saudi, Iraq, Iran, UAE, Qatar & Kuwait) may increase its output from 20.7 mmbd in 2002 to 25 mmbd by 2014 but would not exceed 25 mmbd thereafter even if significant amounts of Arabian Heavy crude were put
onstream by Saudi Arabia.

I'd be really interested to see Husseini's  production projection substituted into the IEA (or other forecasts) to see what it would do to the peak date. Many optimistic forecasts are envisaging non-OPEC decline in the next decade future but are counting on the middle east to fill the gap.

I think the news is cascading down on us: peak oil is coming. Look at Bubba's post where we learn that, quietly, OGJ reports fewer recoverable reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. Then, HO, your own post on the sorry state of Iraqi production.

I can find no ray of hope emanating from any source on this problem at the moment. Bubbling technological innovation? Give me a break. Doubts about the Saudi's? No kidding. Where in hell is any close observer of the situation supposed to get any good news here? We all know here at TOD what is coming into production, quantities, what is delayed, etc. HO and Stuart have reported on the CERA projections. Worldwide demand is not decreasing except in the 3rd world countries who were marginal anyway. There is no real alleviation on the way and deepwater will not save us.

Here's the main point: Can anyone, anywhere, point to a large new secure supply of crude coming online anywhere in the next few (5) years that solves the supply and demand equation in that time frame and beyond? I think not.

I invite Yergin, Lynch, USGS, IEA, et. al. to post here. Show us the Error of Our Ways.
Also John Tierney,editor of NYTimes must be feeling real chipper about his $10,000 bet with Matt Simmons right now. The price of commodoties ALWAYS comes down, yeah right! Bought any cheap cod fish lately Mr. Tierney?
Bizarrely enough, I saw some really cheap north-sea cod in a shop yesterday. Only about 8$/kilogram. Then again, I live on the west coast of Norway :-)
More bizarre, I would venture to guess that unlike Europeans, most Americans are clueless about the "Past Peak Fish" situation that humanity finds itself in.

Not only have we over-fished many a species to near extinction, but the krill are now disappearing thanks to Global Warming. Without krill, the whole ocean dies.



Though I haven't given it a thought lately, I suppose we in the US have long ago reached the 'Peak Fish' period, particularly as it relates to open salt water fishing (as opposed to fish farming).

As a kid growing up in the 1950s, we used to have fish almost every Friday. Fish was considered a cheap food, and a guest did not feel particularly complimented if he was served fish by his host. Today many types of seafood are considered delicacies, particularly such things as shrimp and lobster.  I read that during the turn-of-the-century lobsters were so plentiful along much of the New England coast that they were  commonly used as bait by striped bass fishermen!

The family fisherman has already gone the way of the family farmer.  And as fish get more scarce, fishermen will have to put more miles on their boats to get an equivalent amount of fish, and with fuel prices rising, the fisherman gets hit with a double-whammy. The time is soon coming when all of our fish will come from fish farms.

I'm just starting to read more about "peak fish."  I was surprised to see a History Channel show last night, coinciding with my first fish post.

I thought it was  pretty cautious.  It was obstensively a "modern marvels" show about factory ships, but repeatedly noted that efficeincy was what killed other fisheries.

The show was just called "commercial fishing."

(on PO, I think "the Oil Drum Concensus" is pretty rational.  I'm finally reading  "Beyond Oil" and finding it pretty consistent with what I've learned here and elsewhere on the web.  As cornucopians dwindle, we'll get a chance to see exactly how responsive the world will be ... how fast we regear or downshift)

As far as the Northeastern part of the U.S., the cod are gone, kaput, zeroed out.  At one time the schools were so thick, boats could barely sail through.  Ah well.  For those of us who grew up on cod liver oil as the quick remedy for everything...well, those days are over.  Now the quick remedy is "where is my credit card."

The next ten to twenty years will be very strange times for everyone.  

The World has already been through so many "peaks"

We've already seen:
peak cod fish,
peak forests,
peak fresh air,
peak truth,
peak intelligence,

soon we will see
peak oil
peak natural gas
peak fresh water

Any bets on when we will experience:

peak soylent green?


Show us the Error of Our Ways.

The error in your ways is that you are thinking only in terms of supply side solutions. You think that the failure to meet demand is a terrible problem. It's not. Most oil demand is for frivolous, wasteful uses (like single person commuting in the U.S.) It's a form of addiction, and demand destruction isn't a bad thing, it's "healing" or "getting better".

To answer your question: The large new supply of secure crude is going to come from conservation, i.e. U.S. commuters riding two-to-a-car instead of one-to-a-car etc.

Do I hear an admission that there is a supply problem?
No, you hear an admission that there is a demand problem. Too much frivolous demand.

To use the junky analogy...

A junky says to me: "Man, are you admitting that there might be a drug supply problem?"

And I say: "The problem isn't the drug supply. The problem is your addiction to drugs. What you call a 'supply problem' is actually the solution to your problem."

So, no. There is no supply problem.

You make me VERY VERY angry with talk like that.


Conservation is DEAD. Let's call it "adaptation." Adaptation to scarcity. And no one can even pretend to know how this is going to affect a nation like the US that has ignorantly hogged oil for decades.

What you call "waste" is another fool's necessity.

Not only that, "JD," you're the SOB that pretends to be able to "debunk" peak oil, even going so far as to call peakers terrorists.

So WTF are you doing here?


I couldn't agree more.

You can conserve wood when there is still a forest left to cut.

You can't conserve wood after it has all been clear cut.  You just do without.

Likewise with oil.  We could have conserved oil for 25 years but we didn't because we were told it wouldn't run out.  Hell people are STILL telling us it won't run out.  Well it is running out and now conservation isn't going to buy us much time.

Oh, and unlike forests, oil isn't going to regrow in a generation or so for more controlled use.  When oil is gone it is GONE FOREVER - never to be replaced in any humans lifespan.

There is no point to decending into personal virtriol.
Even with conservation, the demand-supply gap will keep growing as long as human population climbs up the exponential "hockey stick" handle.

Use of mass-transit is not as wonderful a solution as one might think because closeness breeds bird flu (and other communicable diseases).

I'm of the same opinion as Engineer-Poet that we as a society need to make a rapid transition to electrically powered transportation as opposed to chemically-powered transportation.

We need to start building roadways with embedded electromagnetic energy exchange nodes. When your car approaches a red light or stop sign, braking energy is dumped into the grid as your car decelerates to a stop near an exchange node at the traffic light or stop sign. The grid sends a repayment surge of energy back up to your car when it is time to accelerate out of the stop.

This can't be done everywhere (i.e. rural areas), so we will need to remain hybrid.

You want vitriol? I'll show you vitriol:
ANSWER: Yes. Peak oil doom is a pernicious cult. The "believers" are just Jehovah's Witnesses in disguise. Who needs Colin Campbell when the end of the world was foretold 2000 years ago in THE BIBLE.

The doomers pass out tracts from the Church Fathers, like the ASPO newsletter. The Hubbert curve is their sacred symbol. The synergy is good, and I think the doomers should buy out the Jehovah's Witnesses and leverage their tract distribution channels. Photoshop in the Hubbert's curve in place of the cross. Do a search-replace, and change "Satan" to "Technology" or "Global Capitalism". The mayhem and die-off illustrations for the end of world can be used as is. As can the idyllic illustrations of your tranquil, grassy home in the "Kingdom of God", except the caption will be changed to "Sustainable, local agriculture".

The Jehovah's Witnesses also have extensive knowledge of how to respond as a religious organization when your date for the end of the world comes and goes without event:

Your goodbuddy, JD

More crap here:


It sounds like your arch nemesis, JD, does believe in Peak Oil, just not in the die-off extreme end of it:
Way to go! (about the electric roads)
Also with the improvment of batteries it will be possible to eliminate internal combustion engine completely in the near future.
How are we to make a transition to electric transportation when we are fuel constrained? Granted we have hydro power and some nuclear, but much power generation is still fossil fuel based. Increasing the amount of hydro or nuclear is a longterm expensive investment, as is the transmission infrastructure required. The grids are one of the most complex aspects of our exceptionally complex society and therefore one of the most vulnerable to disruption during a period of crisis. Trying to transfer energy consumption on to the electricity sector is simply unrealistic when the grids often struggle to cope with existing demand.
How are we to make a transition to electric transportation when we are fuel constrained?

Truth be told, we are not "fuel constrained" --we are energy storage constrained

We need to come up with creative new ways of storing energy in distributed mini locations

Fossil fuel cannot be the one and only way of storing energy


Huh?  Part of the basics of peak oil that we're always preaching to newcomers is not that we'll run out, but that it will become very expensive, eventually too expensive to use as we do now.  We will stop using it for economic reasons, not because there is no oil.  Call that conservation or adaptation or whatever, but it is NOT a case of not having oil.

JD has an excellent point about how we look at this situation.  We have to look at both the supply-side issues (which the PO community does extremely well, IMO), as well as demand-side factors, such as technological improvements in the consumption of energy, market psychology, overall demand response to rising prices, etc.  

Anyone who looks at just supply or just demand is willingly casting him/herself as one of the blind men examining the elephant, and laying the groundwork for reaching wildly incorrect conclusions.

I believe that an objective look at consumption patterns shows that there is indeed a LOT of low-hanging fruit to be picked, particularly in the area of US transportation.  Yes, a major reduction of oil consumed by US drivers in the short run will very likely mean a sizable economic impact (it can only come via fewer miles driven, as it takes a while to convert a significant percentage of the rolling stock of vehicles to more efficient models); I'd never suggest that such savings would be painless.  But price-driven conservation can happen, and we're already seeing a sizable demand/behavior pattern response, long before US gasoline prices become what I consider truly expensive.

Economists tend to be overly optimistic about PO, because they focus too much on markets and the demand side of the picture.  Geologists and PO adherents tend to be overly pessimistic because they focus too much on the physical limitations of oil supply.  IMO, the most useful approach, and the one most likely to yield correct predictions and therefore the best public and private policies, requires us to look at the big picture.

but that it will become very expensive, eventually too expensive to use as we do now.

If you can't afford it, then you don't have it. I never said we're running out of oil.


Regarding the tenability of conservation as a demand-side solution to the current supply-side impasse:  This is actually a very complicated problem, is it not?  The world economy is an integrated, systemic whole.  Probably that systemic whole can endure relatively low rates of demand-side decline and remain essentially in tact, but higher rates of demand-side decline will probably irreparably crack it.  The question is where exactly the upper bound of the rate lies that the systemic whole that is the world-economy can endure without cracking up.  A closely related question is how much the exercise of judicious choices on the part of the world's masses can increase this critical threshold rate by introducing more flexibility - or "bend-without-breakage" - into the systemic whole.  (The latter point is obviously closely related to the degree to which "low-hanging fruit" is present in terms of conservation opportunities that people could potentially choose to embrace).

Hasn't this issue been addressed in detail in some of the better Peak Oil literature?  Does anyone have any references?

Here was my take on the issue. I would lower my estimate of the contraction threshold since then - I would guess it's actually somewhere closer to 3%-3.5% (for the US).
Of course there is an enormous demand problem. And yes, high prices will spur long-term changes in behaviour. But I've got concerns that stickiness of demand will blunt a lot of elasticity, and I can't see how the changes will be paid for. I'd appreciate your comments.

The increase in oil price is basically a huge, regressive tax that hits hardest on those people and companies least able to afford higher costs. And they are the bulk of the consumers.

On stickiness: lots of consumption is pretty locked-in.
Can a bankrupt airline (half of US passenger seats) retire a fuel-guzzling older jet while the lease is still in force, and afford to finance a new fuel efficient model with rising (but still low) interest rates? A house in the distant exurbs is an inelastic distance to the workplace--you can get one-off savings by carpooling or buying a small car, but the housing stock is permanent. And if a driver trades their SUV at a big loss, it doesn't disappear--it goes to a used car buyer who continues to guzzle along for another 15 years. The gas consumption simply shifts from one individual to another.

On numbers and affordability:
Those who are most able to afford high prices are also the most able to buy the Prius, or insulate, or put in solar. They have a high proportion of wealth, but are low in numbers--so their impact in demand reduction is not very big. A million Wal Mart associates aren't going to go on the Prius waiting list.

If we get a big reduction in economic growth, and we're already over-leveraged, where will the aggregate wealth to pay for the improvements come from?

Lots of measures don't cost anything, and in fact save money. Here's one relating to natural gas: dry your clothes on the line instead of in the clothes dryer. Total cost: about $10 max for clothespins and line.

The same goes for car pooling. It doesn't cost anything to car pool, and in fact it will save you a lot of money.

The cost of entry is not the real barrier in cases like this.

Also, Rick, I don't understand your general approach to the problem of peak oil. You seem to be saying it is  impossible for the U.S. to substantially reduce oil consumption because it is "locked in". But we both know that the U.S. will reduce its oil consumption due to peak oil. "We can't use less because of blah, blah, blah" is not going to be an option when supply strangulation sets in.

It's a funny thing. As a peak oil optimist, I think conservation is easier than it looks, and it will really help us. On the other hand, the pessimist peak oilers have a tendency to talk like Dick Cheney, i.e. "conservation may be nice, but it's basically incompatible with the American economy and infrastructure". Which seems weird because peak oilers don't like Dick Cheney.

"You seem to be saying it is impossible for the U.S. to substantially reduce oil consumption because it is "locked in"." Impossible--no, of course not. Slow, difficult, and expensive? You bet.

We should do line drying, and carpool, and turn down thermostats and a hundred other things. But small, quick fixes won't do the job of reducing the base load. One aluminum plant probably uses more kilowatts than all the clothes dryers in the US put together. Cut power there, and you cut output and jobs.

Energy consumption does get locked in. Once you build a distant exurb, or a house in the Phoenix desert, or a Ford Expedition, or a big McMansion, or a city with minimal public transport, those assets will guzzle more energy than they should for as long as they exist. You can reduce some energy usage in any of them at the margins, but not nearly enough to make them energy efficient.

Once you build a distant exurb, or a house in the Phoenix desert, or a Ford Expedition, or a big McMansion, or a city with minimal public transport, those assets will guzzle more energy than they should for as long as they exist.

Will they? Aren't you assuming (in  contradiction to the basic tenet of peak oil) that the fuel they need will always be forthcoming? If there is an interruption in their fuel supply, they definitely won't guzzle more energy than they should for as long as they exist.

You're not squarely facing the idea of fuel shortages. If the fuel isn't forthcoming, conservation will get done regardless of all the excuses (slow, difficult, expensive etc.) It just has to happen. Otherwise you have to conjure fuel out of the air.

Do you have doubts that peak oil will lead to fuel shortages?

And now you are embracing the very doomers you despise - to wit, if those exurbs can't float, then there will be massive bankruptcies which will trigger other economic dislocations. Yes, that fuel shortage produces conservation one way or another but failure to prepare for it means economic hardship for all those unprepared, which right now is the vast bulk of the populace in the US. Try bankrupting the bulk of the homeowners of all the major suburbs around the 10 largest US cities and watch the economic house of cards implode.
Yeah ok, then give me your estimate of this "untapped reserve" and tell me how many years of decline it would hold.

This is a typical case of manipulating people with easy phrases and I'm sorry to say it but also for a shortsighted American-type of thinking. Everyone sees the frivoleous driving here in the US and somehow tends to think that if all americans trade their SUVs for Priuses this would solve a world-scale problem. But how, I might ask? A moderate 3% decline would mean 2.4 mln bpd less per year. If you use your "untapped reserve" only the whole US consumption will evaporate in 8 years. And believe me the rest of the world is already too much on the edge of efficiency to make a difference.

Damn it! The only untapped reserve we have now is TIME TO PREPARE. And people like you are doing their best to waste this too.

You think a 3% reduction in US oil consumption is moderate?  Moderate for me would be about 50%.  Driving a car is extremely irresponsible behavior.  Anybody who has been paying any attention to what has been going on in the world around them for the last 30 years would know that.  If you haven't been paying attention to the consequences of your behavior don't bother begging for sympathy.  Quit whining and do what has to be done.  Get rid of your car and find another way to get around.  Don't get a Prius.  Get a bike or walk.  It's not that bad.  When other people see you doing this they may ridicule you at first.  But they will take notice.  Gradually, more people will act and then the whole thing will reach a tipping point.  It has already started.  It's also the only hope we've got.

Don't wait for the government to do something.  They won't until they have to; when the public transportation system is overwhelmed they'll get the message and expand it.  There is enough oil to grow and transport food for many generations if you morons quit burning it in your cars.  Cars have no future - except maybe for doctors on call.

I don't believe you about the rest of the world either.  Europeans drive way too much - even in the poorer countries.  Brazilians drive way too much.  Australians drive way too much (OK, I've never been there.  But by all accounts their lifestyle is similar to ours).

Once we get our livestyles in order then we can start making demands of the Chinese.

Well, Beto, something about your comment suggests to me that it's been a very long time, if ever, since you were living paycheck to paycheck, scraping your way to your crappy job in your crappy car to keep from getting kicked into the street. The stuff you're recommending is not feasible for poor people. Just isn't. That's what "inelasticity" means.
The stuff you're recommending is not feasible for poor people. Just isn't.

Why not? Poor people can ride the bus. Poor people can ride a bicycle. They do it all over the world. Why can't they do it in America? Is there something wrong with their legs?

Squeaky, you're another peak oiler talking like Dick Cheney, or the Exxon public relations department: "Conservation may be a virtue, but it's not going to work in the real world." Whose side are you on?

Actually, poor people don't all, or most, have access to buses. You must live in a city. Most poor people live in the country, on welfare, or just scraping by paying rent in a relative's house, getting any job they can.
I'm a security guard and I barely get by. Without a car I can't even get a job because the buses don't run at night, or to all my job locations.
Sure, if all the low paid immigrants went home I could afford to buy a house because unskilled jobs would pay higher and house prices would collapse, or if the high skilled immigrants went home I could finish up my four year degree and get a job as a programmer (I only have a two year degree), but that just transfers the problem to Mexico and India.

     Well put !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Without a car I can't even get a job because the buses don't run at night, or to all my job locations.

Many of us live in a "let them eat cake world".

Your comment flashed me back to my graduate student days.
I didn't have a car.
I had a bike.
When not in use, I had to hang it on the wall in my small dorm room. People who left their bikes chained outside soon had them stolen. That is "real world" as opposed to theory.

Going back to the "good old days" is not an answer. You are so right. We have to invent our way out of this mess before our imploding civilization swallows each of us one by one.

What are your ideas?

I'm a security guard and I barely get by. Without a car I can't even get a job because the buses don't run at night, or to all my job locations.

Matt Simmons says gasoline prices could go through the roof ($12.50 to $25.00/gallon) this winter. What's your plan if something like that happens?

It's pretty clear that it would take an economic event worse than the great depression to reduce US transport fuel demand by 50%. It's not going to be done voluntarily.
Maybe, but the state of using half as much oil is not economically dangerous in itself. Japan and Europe use half as much oil per capita, and its not harming them. China uses 1/20th of the oil per capita of the U.S. and their economy is dynamic and functional.
Absolutely correct. But I'm fairly sure this is because they never drank the coolaid nearly as badly as in the US. Based on analyses like this, I'm reasonably sure that there's much less flexibility in US driving than you might think. We've committed to our choice of land-use policies (born in the era when we were the world's biggest oil exporter with plenty of land) and our slack fuel efficiency standards, and now our only options are unwinding them (very good to do, but slow - few percent a year), or economic contraction. Depending on the post-peak decline rate, we will do some mixture of those two things.

I'm generally less interested in the question of what we should do, and more interested in the question of what we probably will do.

I'm generally less interested in the question of what we should do, and more interested in the question of what we probably will do.

Me too. Are you saying that the U.S. will not conserve oil, even though they should, because there's no flexibility? You can't keep guzzling oil while the oil is running out. It's a contradiction -- physically impossible.

The U.S. will be forced to conserve not because it should but because it must.  The idea that the U.S. has no other option and will continue business-as-usual sprawl culture in the face of a steep supply decline is a form of denial (cornucopianism).

I don't think it's crazy idealism to say that the U.S. will definitely conserve oil to an extreme degree in the future. It's a direct logical consequence of peak oil.

So will it be done voluntarily or not? Will there be riots or not? Will there be social breakdown or not?

The entire US economy is built around cheap oil. To assume that we can continue to live and produce just as before because others are doing it now is absurd. To live and produce that way will require infrastructure investments to allow us to live that way. Without that infrastructure things will break down, including society, until such infrastructure (more urban housing, mass transit, etc.) are in place. Right now they are not in place and little effort is being made to put them in place.

The question is not if but when and how much society will break down, and then how it reorganizes afterwards. The sooner such economic and social dislocations occur, the more likely that the result will be something most of us understand and can comfortably transition to. The longer it takes to occur, the more likely that the transition will be harsher, and yield an end result harsher and less pleasant.

Nations can experience degrees of breakdown yet survive in some recognizable form. Look at Russia. They can also break down and never reform as a nation state in a meaningful manner. Look at Somalia and now Zimbabwe. None of those were primarily peak oil driven but all have experienced degrees of social breakdown.

I agree, post-peak we'll use much less oil. But I'm saying the primary modes of adaptation that the system has appear to be:
  • Switching to more fuel efficient cars.
  • Economic contraction
  • Subdividing houses close to cities, jobs, and transit and progressively abandoning far-flung exurbs.
These will be adopted to varying degrees depending on the severity of the decline rate. There's just not much evidence that there's much elasticity in vehicle miles.
I believe exactly that "the U.S. will not conserve oil, even though they should" - both because there's not enough flexibility nor the will to do so.  You can indeed keep guzzling oil while the oil is running out, at least right up to the point you can't manage it anymore.  By all outward manifestations this is appears to be our secret national energy policy.  Look at the irrational lengths to which we are going to secure the oil supplies that remain.  Oh, and try to be better "conservers" if you get a chance.

I still drive my old Jeep on occasion, even though it gets at best 14mpg.  Why?  I can still afford to, it's paid off, and I cannot afford to replace it for the things I use it for.  I will still drive my economy car 50 miles a day to work, because the job market sucks and I cannot find anything closer.

If you look at the almost inconceivable quantities of oil we use, what difference would it make?  If I don't waste that oil, someone else will.  Just like the idea of having individuals open their wallets to fund the New Orleans disaster management, it's clear that this problem is hopelessly beyond the abilities of individuals to solve.  It would require the coordinated efforts of the whole nation to make a difference.  I don't believe it will happen, and so we will just drive this SUV until it runs out of fuel.  Significant reduction in demand will not occur willingly.  

If I don't waste that oil, someone else will.

You are a cornucopian pretending to be a peak oiler.
Your cornucopian, denialist neighbor wastes oil in his SUV because he thinks there's plenty left. You waste oil in your SUV because you don't give a damn. What's the diff? You're on the same team. You might as well wear matching T-shirts. With regard to the response to peak oil, you're in perfect agreement with Yergin, the USGS and Mike Lynch.

"If the fuel isn't forthcoming, conservation will get done regardless of all the excuses (slow, difficult, expensive etc.)"

Now you are not talking conservation, the word is collapse.


Conservation is guided by choice.

Once there's fuel scarcity--or it's just out of one's price range--choice is not an option. Bye-bye conservation; hello deprivation.

The difference is like that between holding your breath and being suffocated.

Just how people will "adapt" to this is the Great Uncertainty, and something to be very, very concerned about.

Another data point: U.S. crude oil consumption dropped by 20% (3.6mbd) from 1978 (18.8mbd) to 1983 (15.2mbd). That didn't take a depression -- let alone an event worse than the great depression.
I think we are looking at a contraction (deflationary spiral) worse than the Great Depression, both in terms of severity and duration. The last time there was a collapse of the magnitude I would expect this time was in the 1700s after the South Sea Bubble. The resulting bear market lasted more than 50 years and culminated in a series of revolutions. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if oil demand in the US and elsewhere fell by 50% or more during such a period, with terrible consequences for all concerned. That kind of conservation certainly wouldn't be voluntary, but I would argue that it isn't avoidable either.
It did take a pretty major recession to kick the process off though. I beat that change to death here. A significant amount of it came from dramatic reduction in oil usage for commercial and residential heating and electricity generation, which can't be done again because we use very little oil for those purposes any more). The least proportionate change came in transportation usage, meaning that transportation is the big thing we'd have to tackle if we needed to repeat that performance. We improved auto fuel efficiency at about 2.6% annually from 1980-1992. Individual vehicle classes were improving a little faster than this, but the car->truck switchover was working against us. However, miles driven only went down briefly and slightly in 1979 (about 1%) and 1980 (about another tenth of a percent).

If we continue reverting trucks/SUVs -> small cars/hybrids as we've started doing, we can probably improve fuel efficiency around 4% annually.

I have to agree and to disagree.  

Where I agree, there is some demand that can be trimmed, the use of big gas guzzlers, though to solve that, we have to have small gas savers, and to replace all the big gas guzzlers will still take time.  Those who have them now, still ahve to pay for them, and find some way to get rid of them, in some cases they don't have the option to just park them.  

I disagree in that some demand destruction is going to hurt people.  NG and Heating Oil this winter, The prices of which aren't going to hurt the rich as much as they will the poorer folks, or the lower middle incomers.  I live in northern Alabama, and the other night the main part of my house hit 50 degrees, I can handle that.  But for an older person that 50 degrees can bring on many problems, and I live in the south, what about up north, they have already started the cooling off period.

Sure if your addict is fueling up the big SUV just to go tooling around town.  But if "YOUR" same addict is trying to heat their house to keep the chill off their bones, because they ache everytime it gets cold. What would "YOU" have them do??  

There might be a lot of fancy numbers here, but there are also a bunch of HUMANS at the end of your post you fail to remember.

My 3.5 cents worth (inflation adjusted to current pricing)

need help guys.
In todays press release EIA says 4 week average  product was 20700 (Approx) release. GO to this link and compare.

 this says 20400.
Is the EIA up to something? 1 day difference can make an average difference of 300,000 barrels over 28 days. That doesnt make sense.
Any ideas anyone?

This is off-topic, but I read an article in a Norwegian newspaper claiming that there are vast reserves of undiscovered oil in the arctic, and that as ice-free summers come to the north pole, there will be a rush to extract it. Sounded pretty ludicrous to me, but do anyone have any information on arctic oil?
I don't have the URL but the 2000 USGS report that is mentioned a few places in TOD and at the ASPO website, states several numbers for Arctic and Greenland OIL, I think they might have mentioned OIL in Antarctica, but I am not so sure on that.  

All in all, the best kept secret is that you can still find oil on the moon ( THIS IS A JOKE < LAUGH > )

Just think we will melt all the ice up north and down south, and then we won't have cold winters and we won't need heating in the winter time, and most of our big cities by the bay, will be up by the hill tops.

Where they get this stuff I have no clue, but just look for it to save us all. ( YAY!! ) * Sarcastic comment off *

I guess this sums up what we can expect from the current administration:

"To be sure, as Mr. McClellan said Wednesday, there is more to President Bush's energy policy than seeking to ensure surplus capacity. The administration has called for increasing domestic production and refineries, development of alternative and renewable fuels, expanding nuclear energy and, recently, greater conservation. Still, the Persian Gulf countries are seen as crucial in moderating future prices."

Bush can call for increasing domestic production until his cows waltz home and it still isn't going to happen. Calling for development of alternatives while slashing their funding is pure political masturbation. "Calling for" anything amounts to pure political posturing - expect nothing but more demand/supply problems as this administration will do nothing to upset profits entering their pockets from defense, drugs and oil.

We are facing some hard choices right now, and the current administration has yet to admit their is even a problem. The "war on terror" can never succeed, and it is the sole focus of this president. His ineptitude shows in that we are STILL at war, have yet to capture Osama, Iraq output is falling and still he bangs that single key on his piano - one-note Bush is rapidly leading us into a box canyon.

If you want to prepare, then make the tough decisions for your family and prepare yourselves. Waiting for this administration to handle the problem will likely be a 3 year wait. In the interim, we may slide by or we may not. But evidence is mounting on the PO side every day - today in particular - and ignoring personal action to prepare yourself and your family is foolish.

Reduce your own consumption. Buy the right vehicles. Make the hard financial choices for solar or the hard work choices for biodiesel or ethanol. Move into a sustainable environmnt.

Just imagine for a minute that the trucking industry decides to go on strike. Remember Houston during the exodus? Imagine store shelves stripped in a matter of days in metro areas.

NOW is the time to prepare, not when the fit has already hit the shan. If you wait until the crows come home to roost then you will get covered in crow excretia. Everybody here sees it coming. THIS is the window of opportunity. These preparations are not something one does in a weekend, so the time is now.

Call me a harbinger, a canary - call me anything but unprepared...

I'm not a survivalist, but I am getting prepared. I am originally from NYC but now live in the countryside. We have our own well and woodlot. Slowly we are getting off the grid. It takes time.

I found a place where you can buy large amounts of food packed in nitrogen that will keep for up to 15 years. I have enough for two people for a year. This of course is not a permanent solution to anything but it will give us a buffer in case transportation is ever disrupted.

Some may consider the site alarmist but I was able to get what I felt I needed. See it at http://www.captaindaves.com

I have also developed a large garden plot and have learneed how to grow, process and store food.

Yesterday we were hit by a blizzard and power was out for 24 hours. Our generator kept us comfortable. Other people fled to hotels.

I don't think people are going to respond well to an era of scarcity. Not when we were promised flying cars.

It sounds like you need to read Running On Empty 2, over on Yahoo Groups.  They do a lot of the ground work be giving you helpful hints and first hand experience.  My Library is full of useful books, I prefer MRE's they seem to last for 20 years, Though the shelf life is a bit shorter than that, I have had them that old and still ediable.

Take note of every edible plant in your area, not just on your land, but out there in the surrounding areas.  Remember if it gets rough and wild fast, you will also have little or no doctoring, no drugs for your aliments, learn all you can about GOOD tried and TRUE herbal medicine, there is a lot of "newer" yet to be proven things floating out there, be careful.

Just be warned, WTSHTF it is every man for themselves, so there will be lots of nasty things going on.  Oh we live in a civilized nation that can never happen, don't count on that!!

Oh and GOD BLESS You, even if you might not believe in him.

Good point about learning about all edibles. We are at the edge of a huge forest and there is plenty out there. I'm thinking about hiring a local guide I've heard about to take us through and identify the different plant species.

I have several survival books, "The SAS Survival Guide" and "How to Stay Alive in the Woods", but it isn't always easy to recognize real plants using the illustrations provided.

I wonder, will TSHTF at all? If we gradually run out of cheap oil and the price rises slowly but significantly (like the frog boiling), won't people just adapt? I mean, we're not going to wake up one day and have no oil right? Instead, we're going to see rising prices, denial, economic reversals and then some kind of social reorganization. But I think it will happen over enough time for people to adjust. They're not going to like the adjustment, but what choice will they have? I'd like to hear other opinions if there are any.

Thanks for the tip about the Yahoo group, I'll check it out. We had a few MREs this year on our camping trip and they were not bad at all.

You might like to check out Lehmans Non-Electric Catalogue at lehmans.com (I think). They serve the Amish and others who already live a very energy-limited lifestyle.
Hey thanks! I see something there that I want to buy: A hand-powered cultivator (manual rototiller). I'm trying to build up an inventory of as many human powered tools as I can. This way when the shock hits, I'll already be prepared. Meanwhile I like the lifestyle this provides. I'm focusing on doing this out of enjoyment and not fear.
I'm doing the same thing for the same reason George. I love the rural life and have enjoyed learning a whole raft of new skills.
In the 1990 census, the only big American city with over 50% transit ridership was New York; even Chicago and SF were in the low 30s. There's a huge amount of room for improvement, even given the sprawl. http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/journey/city.txt
Blaine -

So we will BEGIN working on these massive improvements while our economy is hammered during the backside of the curve? There is nothing even on the radar regarding the larger effects of diminishing oil, much less anyone putting forth a solution that has the power to actually make it happen. It will take a few years just to organize everybody and then laws will need to be passed and then something might begin to change.

It is not in the best interest of the US government to acknowledge Peak Oil - it will scare the beejeezus out of people, kill consumer confidence and make the markets bottom out. This will reduce spending and that reduces government revenue, as does any economic activity other than expansion. Which is why we are so screwed - we cannot just have a profitable company - it has to be growing to be attractive to investors. The economy is all paper, and sooner or later it will burn.

OK! Riddle me this, perhaps some one can come up with an answer. On the idea that 2 people could survive peak oil conditions by growing their own food. Vegetables only or cattle only, or a combo of both.

How much property does one need to grow enough crops to adequately feed 2 people? (to keep the equation simple)

1 acre? 2 acres? 5? more?

Now, depending on your geographic location, not all gardens can grow the same foods.

Look, if you are into survivalism, it's simple. You put up vitamin pills and storable foods (beans, grains, etc) in a hole. Then if things get tense you hide in the hole until everyone else starves to death, and then go and do the organic farmer thing in a much less populated world.
It's like two hikers being chased by a grizzly bear. You don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the other hiker.
As for me, I will concentrate on inventing a way out of this mess. My skill set doesn't include stalking the wild asparagus.