Putting Peak Oil In Perspective

Every so often it's a good idea to get a little perspective on your world view, since it is very easy to slip into an ever narrowing point of view on a subject. This applies especially to the more apocalyptic visions of a post oil world that many of those in the vanguard of spreading awareness of peak oil to the public.

We've had two recent conferences in New York City that have sparked a healthy conversation within the community that is aware of peak oil on just what kind of world we should work toward and what we should expect. The Petrocollapse Conference sponsored by Culture Change featured classic outsiders like Jan Lundberg, James Howard Kunstler and Michael Ruppert. Then there was the NYU conference "Winning the Oil End Game", which had ultimate insiders like former CIA director James Woolsey, Mississippi Governor and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Robert Altman and Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute.  

As peak oil goes mainstream, I expect that many of the original advocates of peak oil awareness will be overtaken by more pragmatic and constructive people who don't revel in the idea of economic collapse or advocate policies that will result in a "Last Man Standing" scenario where humanity engages in an unending war for the remaining supplies of energy.

There are two recent articles written by local observers that add some needed perspective to some of the more narrow and extreme views on both the left and right sides of the political divide that have emerged in those conferences.

Of the two, Aaron Naparstek's article in Freezerbox called "Peak Freaks" is a somewhat more thoughtful and in-depth piece which takes on the complacent "There's nothing you can do" attitude that in particular Ruppert and Lundberg preached at the Petrocollapse conference:

If Peak Oil theory is now mainstream, splashed across the front page of USA Today and the theme of Chevron and BP ad campaigns, then Petrocollapse is a secular, left-wing, non-fiction version of Tim LaHaye's Christian Apocalyptic "Left Behind" series. The gospel according to Petrocollapse is that Peak Oil is coming, and it's coming soon. The transition to the post-carbon world will not be gradual, it will be sudden and massive. And when it comes, the sinners--those profligate American consumers and the corporate whores who oversee them--will all be swept away in violent social turmoil, starvation and environmental disaster. But there's good news too. After the tumultuous mass die-off, a new society will arise from the burned out SUV hulks and melted plastic detritus. In this post-carbon world, humans will have no choice but to live sustainably, in cooperation with each other and in harmony with nature. Those who get religion and accept Peak Oil into their hearts soon enough--they may be among the lucky survivors whose children grow to live in this new and better world.

In Grant Causwell's cover article for the NY Press, "The Coming Petrocollapse" he discusses the nature of a movement that is continually preaching the "The End is Near":

The peak oil movement is, right now, no matter how many write-ups it receives in the New York Times Magazine, a movement of people who have already lost, just as all survivalists' movements are. (I suspect Jan Lundberg would have done well for himself giving speeches about the need for fallout shelters 50 years ago.) Those who have the least worry most about losing it. In this case, it's those least tethered to the hectic crash and race of motorized life, those who not only despise it, but tremble with anticipation of the glorious day when the ones tethered to it and secure in their place are similarly lost, who drive the movement. They're the ones who buy books like "When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance & Planetary Survival" or "Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places" (hint: you want "a climate which can sustain life in an energy crisis but won't attract marauders"), and pay Michael Ruppert $50 a year to read his lurid fantasies about crack-dealing spooks and economic collapses that are always, from what I can tell, just a few weeks off.

The public will not follow someone who continuously preaches doomsday scenarios - nor will they donate money to them.

We need to stay grounded in all realities. We need to continuously evaluate and re-evaluate all the evidence in front of us and act on hard information. There should be no place for "beliefs" in peak oil - it's about science and geology, it's not a religion. It does not require "faith", but rather a skeptical nature that is willing to ask for hard evidence when others say that the faster we eat the cake, the more will appear in front of us.

Personally I think we are headed for a pretty rough time ahead starting sometime in the next 2-10 years, but I think how we react to it will make all the difference. There are many possible paths ahead of us and we collectively have a large degree of control over which path we go down. The easiest ways to squander that opportunity to adapt is to do nothing about it.

I agree that doomsayers tend to get a cold reception - in my own case, I find that most folk I know will listen to "your costs are going to go higher" more than "your lifestyle is screwed and your kids are going to starve in the cold - if they're lucky."  I am also amazed that a combination of Simmons and HO's techie talks have given me the ammo to succinctly state the "oil is getting dearer" points, and the landlords freaking out have plowed the field for sowing seeds of knowledge re NG cost (and shortage).  

You're so right - this is a time for reasoned evangelism.

Speaking of the NYU conference, did you ever get any linkable material from them?

I did not find anything online, but Aaron's article has the most coverage of anything I have seen to date. I am supposed to get something by mail from one of the organizers, but I think it's just Lovins remarks.
I guess I'm a real pessimist.  I don't know for sure what's going to happen, but if I had to bet, I'd say a slow collapse is more likely than a sudden one.  Historically speaking, societies collapse over centuries, not in months or years or even decades.

Which in the long run, is probably worse.  It will give us a lot more time to burn ever dirtier coal, cut down every tree in sight, drill the entire planet in search of hydrocarbons, pollute the oceans and rivers, build nuclear power plants and solar panel factories with ever decreasing safety standards, etc.

We may not even notice the actual peak when it comes.  Just ever rising prices, more and more people falling out of the middle class every year, an ever shrinking economy.  Until we're just another Third World country.

That's what I call the Argentina syndrome...In the first half of the 20th Century Argentina's standard of living was in the tops of the world, but then a series of military coups and other problems caused major disruptions and they never really recovered.
Yes, when Peron took power, Argentina's per capita income was sixth in the world. WHile he was a military man, the country's economic crash was more on account of his lunge for socialism, almost to the level of Russia's "Great Experiment". It can take generations to recover from the disease. Compare what is now happening to Venezuela. Any improvement to the peasants will be temporary as production from all sectors, certainly including agriculture, continue their sharp decline.
Didn't Juan Peron die in 1974?  The Argentine collapse wasn't until the late 90s with a lot of poor leadership in between.

I'm quite optimistic about Venezuela's chances.  They might very end up in better shape than the US - at least those who don't spend their money on second homes in Florida.

Peron was in power from 1946 to 1955, nine years, and it was wholly after the collapse of wheat prices caused by artificial fertilisers and crop mechanisation had destroyed Argentina's market position.
But he was the only populist they could blame things on, so he got the blame.
I think there is also the question of the "debt bomb," in the U.S. that no one really wants to talk about. The debt bomb seemed uncomfortably close to detonating a month ago when gasoline went over $3.

We aren't a country similar to the 1930s, when a lot of people lived on farms or small towns where they were fairly self-sustaining. People in those days tended to save for rainy days. Right now the U.S. savings rate is zero, and the government is into deep deficit spending to try to keep the economy going.

That's why I can never discount the "cliff" theory. We don't have a parachute if the debt bomb goes off.

It's certainly a concern.  But other countries have had economic crises.  Such as Argentina.  It was unpleasant, but it wasn't the sudden collapse of civilization as they knew it.
Exactly, Argentina and many other declining states find that from one generation to another the changes are persistently negative, but it becomes harder and harder to realize what has been lost unless you have a reference point - for instance, would East Germany have looked that if it were not sitting right next to the prosperous West Germany?

What we might find (one possibility) is that we slowly slip into a decline that we can only diagnose long after the fact when it might not be fixable.

If you haven't read Jared Diamond's "Collapse", I highly recommend it. Not all Collapses are the same. Some take weeks, some take years, some take many generations.

I love Jared Diamond.  I've been reading him since he began writing columns for Discover magazine, twenty years ago.  (One of his early articles was "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race" - which he argues was inventing agriculture.)

Collapse is great.  I also recommend Guns, Germs, and Steel, his previous book (which won him a Pulitzer).  It's sort of the complement of Collapse: it explains how Western civilization came to dominate the world.  

Until we get our troops and our nose out of the Middle East, the focus will remain on securing that area as our main source of energy. That is the sole purpose for our being there - oil.

If we can ever band together enough to elect an administration with a mandate to bring them home and abandon our doctrine of "military presence" to secure oil, then we might be able to focus on alternative strategies. Until that happens, no matter what the sound-bytes may be or what kind of pork-enriched energy bills get passed, Washington's policy remains self-evident.

Whoa. Let's be practical here. This is like saying cut the taxes then hope the government gets smaller, not a good approach.

Quickly clarification. Military efforts in the Middle East are not aimed at literally taking the oil. Rather they are aimed at maintaining and creating a market system in a free society that facilitates the maximum extraction of oil. Military efforts are also the tip of an effort that incorporates diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic efforts as well.

Yes, we are stabilizing the region (Middle East) from which we are dependent upon to receive oil. Yet so-long as we are also furthering the interests of that region's residents, we should have few qualms with securing our economic interests.

Alternatives are of course the best solution, but they are also a long-term solution, and, until they are implemented, the reality remains that our economy is dependent upon oil and most of that oil lies in a politically volatile region, requiring some stabilization on our part.

The fact that the stabilization has been very poorly executed and that the alternatives are not forthcoming are two very big counts against the current administration, but their solutions remain vastly superior to abandoning the Middle East to focus on alternatives.

Alternatives take time, and in the interim, we will still need oil. This on top of the fact that the instability of the Middle East also produces terrorism, it is in both the United States economic and security interests to continue stabilization until it is a prosperous  region, and we have developped alternatives.

Military efforts in the Middle East are not aimed at literally taking the oil. Rather they are aimed at maintaining and creating a market system in a free society that facilitates the maximum extraction of oil. Military efforts are also the tip of an effort that incorporates diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic efforts as well.

Yes, we are stabilizing the region (Middle East) from which we are dependent upon to receive oil. Yet so-long as we are also furthering the interests of that region's residents, we should have few qualms with securing our economic interests.

Sounds good but it's Pollyanna horse shit.  U.S. aggression in the ME are aimed at establishing large military bases from which to protect the flow of oil from that region to the U.S. and other points west.  It will take two generations of war and occupation to have any long term influence on how the Arabs view the Western world, and by then it will be too late - the oil and gas will be long gone.

"It will take two generations of war and occupation to have any long term influence on how the Arabs view the Western world"
That's a very contestable point. These viewpoints are not so fixed as one may imagine, and had the war been properly carried out, I imagine that we would already have succeeded at putting Iraq on the road to modernization, and thus establishing a cultural base which might influence the rest of the Middle East.

But that misses the larger point, that it is probably solely due to US intervention that the Middle East is as stabile as it is, and if it were not for our presence its' citizens would be much more miserable and the oil would not be flowing. For over a decade now it has the been the US that has been key in maintaining a balance of power amongst the nations, and to simply withdraw, as you propose, would be to pull the carpet out from under them, screwing the Middle East, the United States, and ultimately modern society.

By the way, the fact that we are obliged by current economics to create and maintain such efforts (military initiatives, support for dictatorships, etc.) in the Middle East is one of the best reasons to develop alternatives to oil. But we've got to stop consuming oil before we stop supporting the Middle East.

sadly i think perspective is of little relevance.
Fear is a big motivator.
I agree that it is not a belief  or faith issue.
Reality... but whoms?
you continue to declare the times are a changin...
upon deaf ears? ... you say.
MSM and the public yawns.
Explosive price increases and the public awakens.

save yourself first.

Exercise some will power and break
you're other dirty habits, ie. smoking , drinking and driving, nail biting, over - eating,sleeping,talking. Get your sh@t together man.
The truth be known we say.

You can't save the world if you can't save yourself.

perspective... huuummn...
uniquely human

i am but, one small piece of the bigger puzzle.

what does this big puzzle picture look like?
what if we (billions of pieces) all agreed?
what if Elvis is alive in Kalamazoo


think small, think fast, peace

what if Elvis is alive in Kalamazoo

You mean he isn't?!?!

I see three factors which could precipitate a sudden economic collapse, and one that would produce slower collapse. I have no idea how likely these would be, but they all seem possible.  

1) Real estate meltdown
Some large REITs, and Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac are perilously close to bankruptcy. Fanny is still having trouble getting a definitive audit out. This problem might take a matter of months to play out. Fanny's debt is I think 1.2 trillion - many times its market cap. The default of over a trillion dollars of real estate debt is possible and would bring the US economy to a sudden halt. The fact that the auto industry is also on the verge of bankruptcy does not help. This crisis would be exacerbated by energy shortages, but not caused by them.

2) Currency meltdown due to huge derivitive losses
I have no idea what the chances of this are. But Chris Laird, writing writing on GoldEagle.com, seems to think it is a very large risk. Due to massive currency derivitives, set on automated trading, he claims a currency collapse could spread very rapidly: url=How A US Currency Crisis Can Unfold[/url].
This year much of the slack in US treasury purchases by foreign banks has been taken up by purchases from unidentified "Carribean nations". I have read that this can mean two things, either hedge funds are buying massive treasuries, or the Fed is simply buying its own debt in a secretive manner (!!). If it is hedge funds, remember that all they want is huge returns, they do not have a vested interest in the US consumer economy (like China does) and their computers will sell off in a split second.

3) International crisis affecting oil deliveries.
Its not hard to think up scenarios. Al Queda blows up a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz. War in or with Syria/Iran/Saudi Arabia. Crisis in Venezuela (i.e. Chavez is assasinated, South America becomes a new Middle East).

4) Climate related calamity.
These would not happen suddenly, but would be more permanent and scary crises. The 2 that come to mind first are:

  • gulf stream disintegrates, sending northern Europe into an ice age.
  • drought and energy shortages make the American southwest uninhabitable.

Thats all I can think of right now. The real question is "what are the odds that none of it will happen"?
I think it might be simpler than a real estate crisis.

Given that Ford and GM's debt is rated junk and their sales are very weak... what happens when they join United and Delta in bankruptcy court? What industries necessarily follow them down?

The dollar will be in for a rough ride at that point. A lot of foreign investment will bolt.

When the dollar collapses, GM stock booms. GM is hurting because imported cars undercut their price.
GM still sells the most cars on earth, and is still profitable. Their health plans just eat up that profit. They're huge, thus, at the very worst, they'll just strip off some parts that aren't working, not file bankruptcy.
GM owes a lot of money to it's pension plan and health plan. If GM profits go up they can refund the plan all the money they took out during the 1980 to 2000 stock market, bond market, and property market boom. Then the problem goes away.
Given that Ford and GM's debt is rated junk and their sales are very weak... what happens when they join United and Delta in bankruptcy court?

Well, in all liklihood for GM... the shareholders get screwed, the PBGC takes over the pensions with substantially reduced payouts, and the retirees lose their health insurance and (for the most part) depend on Medicare/Medicaid. GM continues to operate, and sheds the $1200 or so per vehicle cost that the retiree expenses currently impose. The biggest result will be that Ford and Daimler-Chrysler will have to make the same trip through bankruptcy in order to remain competitive.

Many people ask the question, "Where will we find the workers to fill the jobs when the Baby Boomers retire?" They should be asking, "Where are the jobs that the Boomers will need when they find that they can't afford to retire?"

You forgot a stock market crash which is even more probable than currency market crash (where FED and other centrla banks can act).

The probability is quite high that if either one of all these happens will lead to a chain reaction triggering the other ones. I think the RE bubble is the least problem of these and can be overcome with a short recssion/depression at worst.

The good news is that it would probably be not such a disaster as we are imagining now. Stripping these nice dollar denominated clothes off the economy will leave people without savings, great unemployment, poverty etc. But most probably in several years US will recover and have the chance to make a clean start (by then it would be obvious we need to get rid of oil dependance).

The worst case scenario is US invading Iran, Syria etc. or/and using nuclear weapons against them. This would make impossible for EU, China and Russia to stand by. The resulting USD demise will be the least problem we would have to face.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Doomsayers are good, because they are there to tell us one possible outcome. If you put a hand on your heart you can not say "well this is impossible" a priori - just like you can no throw away the market will save us idea a priori.

Both are completely possible and I don't see a reason to reject either one. It is from our actions from now on which will be the path to go. You are right that repeating the same old song will not raise awareness among the majority of the people, who are motivated much better by emotionally apealing arguments. When you think of it it is inevitable that in such situation you will see extremes in the opinions; I think somewhere in the resulting discussion solutions will be born and will start to accelerate from the thought phase to the real world.

Re: "There should be no place for "beliefs" in peak oil - it's about science and geology, it's not a religion. It does not require "faith", but rather a skeptical nature... that is willing to ask for hard evidence when others say that the faster we eat the cake, the more will appear in front of us."

I've said the same thing. There are two sides to the Peak Oil Community (not "movement"). One side models oil depletion and looks at available discoveries, reserves, production and demand data trends etc. The other side (eg. Jim Kunstler, Jan Lundberg, Michael Ruppert) acts to alert people to the social consequences of their unsustainable energy practices. But if you are not aware of the detailed modeling work done by serious people and just pay attention to Kunstler's rants, well then, yes, you could conclude that we're a bunch of doomsayers crying wolf. Many people at TOD think Peak Oil is a real concern but have no use for Kunstler or Ruppert.

Unfortunately, the two authors of the articles cited here do not seem to be aware of any theory and data behind our concerns about Peak Oil (the "hard evidence"). They are merely journalists going to a conference that has the word "collapse" in its title. A serious person would ask - "why do these [PO] people believe what they are saying?"

It is certainly ironic that mainstream economists and others (eg. CERA, IEA) make statements all the time that seem to be based on nothing more than blind faith in the markets, politics & technology to deal with the world's oil depletion problems but we are accused of being a doomsday cult no different than the loonies that think people like me will be Left Behind.
I've always been a big proponent of "the rapture." It would solve an amazing number of problems, in my opinion.

Hurry up!

This article, entitled, "Thermodynamics and Money," appeared at Forbes.com yesterday:  


Basically, it argues that energy returned over energy invested is not the same thing as money returned over money invested...and that money will trump thermodynamics.  

Sadly, I don't think the average American can understand what's wrong with that argument.  The U.S. has become so scientifically illiterate it isn't even funny.  Most people probably think you can cool down your kitchen by leaving the fridge door open.  They see creationism as just as valid, if not more valid, than natural selection.  They have no way of telling whether or not oil depletion modelling is more "more scientific" than hydrinos or cold fusion or zero point energy or dilithium crystals.    

Let Kunstler rant on.  He's more likely to convince the "Left Behind" crowd than any charts or graphs.  As for the rest...they'll find the science on their own.

Oh M'Gosh.

"They" have let Hubristic Huber out of the Liberal Arts Loonie Lockup again.

Did $35/barrel-soon Steve Forbes give a stamp of approval this new Clucker of Thermodynamic Defiance?

(Definition: Clucker of Thermo-Defiance: One who thinks that Adam Smith's Deuce of Dumbness trumps Mother Nature's Ace of Universal Laws.)

In Steve's defense, the Huber-ubber ill-piece is listed as having been published on Halloween --a.k.a. All Saints & Sicko's Eve. So maybe it's just a joke?

Peter Huber is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, writing on the issues of science, technology, and the law.

His latest book, The Bottomless Well, co-authored with Mark Mills, examines energy technology and policy. Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (Basic Books, 2000), called "the richest contribution ever made to the greening of the political mind" by William F. Buckley, Jr., sets out a new conservative manifesto on the environment which advocates a return to conservation and environmental policy based on sound science and market economics.
Just so you know.
Wait a minute.
How can a guy that has a "Mechanical Engineering"  degree say that that "Return on dollars invested" trumps thermodynamics?

Maybe they did something weird to him in law school?

Maybe they brainwashed him?

It does not add up.

Maybe this explains it: he thinks it's curtains for ME's:
from: http://www.memagazine.org/contents/current/features/endofme/endofme.html

the end of the m.e.?

They call this "convergence." Old lines are changing, or disappearing altogether. What it's doing under the hood is downright electrifying. ... We are now at the dawn of the age of electrical engineering, not because we recently learned how to generate light-speed electrical power, but because we have now finally learned how to control it.

Peter W. Huber, a former mechanical engineering instructor at MIT, is a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute.

So the counter-argument to Hubbert's Peak is Huber's Pique?
Evolution vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design? Actually, I'm rather persuaded by the Flying Spaghetti Monster and FSMism, which should be taught in all schools.

In these dire times, we definitely need more pirates!



This from the Huber article:

But nuclear reactors extract only a minuscule fraction of the energy locked up in the nuclei of uranium atoms; all the rest gets discarded as "waste." On Eroei logic, uranium would never be used to generate either electricity or heat. But per unit of raw stored energy, uranium is a thousand times cheaper than oil.

I guess, based on his "logic" then the amount of energy we get out of oil is infinitesimal too since the total energy in oil is defined by e=mc squared.

Huber is a free-market economist which, given where his writing appears, should come as no surprise. My understanding of EROEI is the total amount of FUNGIBLE energy input to produce a unit of FUNGIBLE energy output. The fact that the nuclear reactor doesn't use all the potential energy is irrelevant. What is relevant is the energy cost of mining and refining the nuclear fuel, amortizing the cost of the reactor, eventual decommissioning, etc. Those are the real energy inputs.

As it happens, the people extracting oil out of tar sands today use gas from the fields themselves to power their refineries. There's gas, too, under what has been called Alberta's "trillion- barrel tar pit," but it's cheap because there's no pipeline to deliver it to where it would be worth more.

Presumably the NG beneath the tar sand deposits could be piped to market if it exists in sufficient quantities.  It also can be liquified and trucked to market.  I'm not prepared to do a cost analysis here but it seems to me that the NG being used to crack the tar sands cannot be considered free or even "cheap" just because it is proximal.  If there are sufficient quantities of NG to allow a significant portion of the tar sand to be processed into distillates then there certainly ought to be enough NG to make a pipeline financially rewarding.  Perhaps a calculation will reveal that the value of NG at the site is only 75% of the value at Henry Hub due to transportation costs.  It's still not free by any means. Two pipelines running side by side can be built for not much more than the cost of one.  Given that the product of the tar sands is a liquid then we should expect that building a pipeline to transport it makes good sense.  Building the second pipeline to transport NG would just be a free ride.  NG is pressurized and requires no pumping stations.  Hence it requires a very simple infrastructure to move it long distances.

Naturally the Hubers of the world aren't going to point this out because suddenly their "cheap energy" source would suddenly command a much higher price because it's no longer locked in.

Remember that NG would be used in a dual capacity for processing tar sands - it must supply heat for the cracking process as well as supporting hydrogenation.  We're talking significant quantities here.

As an alternative to gas, Total S.A., the French oil giant, is thinking about building a nuclear power plant to supply heat to melt and crack the tar.

In the same article he's blathers on about using "cheap energy inputs" to produce "expensive energy outputs."  Mr Huber, apparently, has never asked for a quote on a nuclear reactor.  Nor has he troubled himself pricing out the cost of running a water pipeline for hundreds of miles to supply the required hydrogen. I'm not saying the idea of building a nuclear reactor close to the tar sands is a bad idea.  It probably is a good idea.  But the way to find that out is by classic EROEI calculations taking into account current market prices.

As a first approximation I think it makes good sense to ask how many joules of energy are returned for each marginal joule spent. If some adjustment needs to be made because some of those joules are less useful to the current market than others, fine.  Don't discard the method.  Refine it.

Notice how completely unhelpful Huber is in this regard.  Note that his solution is to let the "free market" do its magic and just keep out of the way.  I'm sure Steve Forbes finds this advice particularly comforting.

Huber is obviously sponsored by corporate clients and charged with the task of pooh poohing people who are raising concerns about the medium and long term sustainability of our life style in the face of escalating energy costs. He creates a veneer of flawed logic atop an agenda of corporatism that collapses into a grim foretaste of the future.  He may be serving tripe but that tripe is currency to modern economic thinking. Never underestimate the power of malinvestment to separate fools from their dollars and lay waste to our world in the process. I'm sure there were compelling reasons the Easter Islanders cut down all their timber to the point where they couldn't build a boat for fishing. They must have said to themselves in the latter days, "I wonder if we really need those totems to the gods more than fish from the sea."

But by then it was too late and then they starved to death.

I would simply venture the opinion that what we are faced with today is a very serious problem that will require many delicately nuanced judgement calls. Huber IS right about EROEI being inadequate as the sole means of deciding our energy future. But it's part of the toolkit. Necessary but not sufficient, as they say.

The way I see it, EROEI is most useful as a guide to the quality of an energy source.  IOW...it doesn't matter whether the EROEI of tar sands is 0.9 or 1.3.  What matters is it's way less than the 30+ for Middle East oil.  

And quality does matter.  We're like someone tearing through a billion dollar inheritance, telling ourselves we can get a job at McDonald's when the money is gone.  The job is "money positive"; we can earn money doing it.  But it's not going to enable us to maintain the mansions and SUVs and jet planes and yachts we bought with our inheritance, let alone keep buying them.

You present a very lucid argument.  Using easily obtained fossil energy to liberate hard to obtain fossil energy so that some fraction actually gets to the rest of the world.  One facet of discussions here at TOD is the ever increasing cost and scarcity of oil and fossil fuels in the future.  As an example it is irrelevent that a Billion barrels of oil is in a deposit if only a net 250 mb will get to the end consumer (because the other 750 mb was used to liberate the net 250) that deposit should only be on the books as a 250 mb deposit.  I am playing fast and loose with numbers here but the concept is what is important.

Models that use ever more energy to liberate hard to get fossil fuels are really headed down a decreasing EROEI slope.  It would be better to take the limited easily obtained fossil energy and use it to build some other energy capture system that would have an increasing EROEI over time.  

If a greater and greater % of the total energy budget of the planet is being used to liberate the remaining energy, when will there ever be a surplus to switch away from fossil?  This is a real economic as well as thermodynamic puzzle.  I see a need for a critical mass of non fossil (conventional energy and fuel) before there can be a self sustaining replication of that system.  Until then the infrastructure is dependant on fossil fuel cost and availability.  

And since the energy density of fossil is greater than just about everything else, how can you ever put together a spreadsheet that says using fossil energy for anything other than liberating more fossil energy will give as high an EROEI?  At some point we are going to have to use non fossil to create more non fossil energy (via manufacturing, agriculture, etc.), but we are a long, long way from that point because we don't have enough energy from those sources to substitute for fossil.

For every barrel of "oil" cooked out of the tar sand, 1,000 cubic feet of NG is used.  Plus 4 Barrels or More of Water is made unsafe to drink, by everything.

There are project numbers where they USE some of the Energy in the Barrel of "oil" to extract or Coke, the next Barrel down the Line.

Both using outside NG, Or Energy from the Tar sands to Coke (adding the extra atoms, that turn kerogen into crude oil) Damage the water supply.

For every barrel of Oil you get, you waste 4 barrels of water.  Even if they can recycle the water, They will waste it over time, and increase costs.

Given that there might be As many have quoted an estimated 175 Billion Barrels of Crude Oil in those sands, Over the time to extract this oil, you will waste between 175 billion barrels of water to 700 billion barrels or water. And could use 175 Trillion Cubic feet of NG.

But at most you still get 1 to 4 million Barrels per day out.  You won't be able to plug the gap in World depletion of Conventional Oil.  But you could Fall far short by running out of the NG or the Water to process this Kerogen and sand mixture.

The tar sands are in the middle of a swamp. You don't have to run a pipeline for the water. Getting rid of the water mixed in with the tar sands is the critical part of the tar sands removal process.
What is with this guy? As an economist, he makes a passable cheerleader. Just about every other statement in this article of his is fuzzy, self-contradictory, or misconceived.

Right off, he disses Hubbert, saying that he went wacky in his later years with peak oil. Then he contradicts himself in the next paragraph by allowing that Hubbert had fixed on peak oil-like ideas as early as 1949, at the modest age of 46.
Huber somehow forgets to mention Hubbert's great triumph with the accurate prediction of North American peak oil, over a decade in advance.  He states that peak oil is junk economics, in my mind an inflamatory statement.

In the next paragraph, Huber thumbs his Cornucopian nose at matter-energy constraints.
Surely, as an ME, Huber must know that when any expotential process is tied to a physical system, something has got to give, eventually. Surely, as some sort of economist, he must know that expotential growth is baked into our current financial system with its non-negative interest rates.

Huber's main point seems to be to criticize the concept of Eroei. He does make a good distinction between cheap and low quality energy (like hot water maybe)  versus more valuable and high quality energy, like gasoline.  He justifies the disconnect between economics and resources by the fact that you can use lots of cheap low quality energy to produce a profitable amount of high quality energy.

Of course, in the next paragraph, Huber gives  a terrible example of how this works with tar sands.  
They are using valuable and  clean Natural Gas to bake rocks to squeeze out and transform some nasty bitumen.
Just think of all the homes that could be heated and all of the kWs that could be generated with the NG used to make a single barrel of tar sand oil.  I don't think that NG prices will need to go much higher before tar sands sit on their hands. Why should tar sand conversion continue when every other NG-based chemical industry in North America has closed shop for the Winter?

Finally, Huber totally misapplies the Eroei concept in a few examples to try and discredit it some more. He mentions an Eroei deficit  when he should really mean a fractional Eroei. It is never negative and always relevant. He  substitutes thermodynamic efficiency for Eroei, a seemingly elementary error.  At least both quantities are unitless and are based on ratioes of energy variables.

For power plants, he looks at the large amount of heat going up the stacks and into the cooling ponds, and compares that with the more modest amount of electricity generated to get his fractional "Eroei". He has calculated thermodynamic efficiency here, which can never be greater than 1 (you can't get more energy out of the plant than you put in as fuel).

Real Eroei has a wider scope.  It sums the energy needed to build the plant, mine the coal/uranium, transport it to the plant, and burn it.  This sum, the energy invested,  is compared to the electricity generated, the energy returned. Eroei is usually greater than 1 (you can use a little energy to release greater energy kindly stockpiled for you by Mother Nature).

In that high quality energy must be invested for mining and transport, to first order, energy quality should not be a factor for Eroei, since it is equally in both the numerator and denominator.

My main point in refuting Huber is that our economy generally invests a little high quality energy to get a larger amount of high quality energy back.  I don't think we really have much experience investing low quality energy like Huber suggests.

Huber states that Eroei is a sophomoric metric.  Judging from his performance in this article, Huber is still in the freshman class.

Huber is not a newbie.
We already worked over his same article back on 10/15/05:
I'd rather dismiss the Huber-is-an-idiot hypothesis.
What economists claim has nothing to do with science it is pure voodoo show for the public. The zombied crowd is watching how obviously smart people are throwing around obviously smart sentences having absolutely nothing to do with reality.

This is just a product like everything else in the market economics. The people need somebody to tell them that everything is/will be OK, that there are smart people in charge that have thought everything over and over etc. and there you are - the market provides economists.

Ruppert is useful to me becuase he has a worldview in which almost anything is possible, including almost incalculable amounts of human evil.  This worldview allows him to see little pieces of important information which someone with a more limited, albeit positive worldview (like myself) would ignore, or not fit into the bigger picture.  

That's why I pay $50 a year to read his lurid fantasies.  I evaluate the information they're based on, and incorporate what cross-checks with other sources into my worldview.  He might be diagnosably paranoid, but he digs up some really interesting information out of MSM sources.  I take that information, and generally disregard his analysis of it.

Interestingly, it's Ruppert who indirectly got me interested in PO.  A conspiracy-minded friend started posting his articles on a list-serv, and I started doing the research I needed for a big debunking paper.  

Needless to say, that paper never got written.

I agree - Ruppert looks at things from a different, more intuitive point of view.  Different points of view are useful.  He may be extreme in his descriptions of what will happen (or he may not be!), and he may be predicting things to happen a bit sooner than they really will.  Who knows?  That's the problem with predicting the future.  He has at least help spur me to re-examine many aspects of what I belive the reat of my life will look like, and to begin taking concrete steps to change some things.

Given the complexity of the problem, I sometimes think we fool ourselves that somehow we might be able to write an equation that will tell us what will happen.  But even if we had such a model, we have nowhere near enough good data.  Yes, it is still important to try, we'll need all the insight we can get.  But I suspect that a good sense of intuition may be just as accurate.

If you want to move people, remember that the End-of-Time thing grew out of a damn book series.  Sometimes a good story is far more effective than couple of hundred graphs - maybe not to us, but at least to "normal" people!

Incorrect. Causwell basically validates Peak Oil theory in his piece and Naparstek has written quite a bit about it as well: http://www.nypress.com/print.cfm?content_id=10329

The ideas that:

A. Peak Oil is a legit analysis, and
B. Lundberg's version of Petrocollapse is a slightly insane and not particularly useful analysis,

are not at all mutually exclusive.

Sorry, to be fair, Causwell does make good points in his article and does not buy the extremist view. I exaggerated his view without reading the whole article. My apologies in this case. In the general case, the MSM paints us some sort of cult. I myself have no use for Ruppert or Lundberg.
The public sure must like to read funny stories about wackos in orange jump suits, because that's what the MSM knows how to write.  Both articles contain parts with reasonable descriptions of energy depletion and what it implies, but both articles also contain entertaining descriptions of the extreme proponents of Peak Oil.  

Guess which parts will be quoted by whom?

I think the take-away from the two articles is that the Peak Oil movement needs to be a whole lot more careful about whom it lets be its leading voices. It was sad to see, at the NYC Petrocollapse Conference, real issues of enviro sustainability being conflated with 9/11 conspiracy theory and practical solutions shunted off to the side to make way for endless doom talk. This makes it easier for the "MSM" to write the whole thing off. And btw, neither the Press nor Freezerbox are the MSM.
There is some truth to what is in those articles.  The parallels to the End-of-Time nonsense are certainly interesting and sobering.  I am dissatisfied with the present way of life in the US right now, and would not cry to see those parts of it that I despise wiped away.  And it would be in some way gratifying, if also terrifying, to be proven to have been wise and prescient in my concerns about oil depletion issues.  It makes me susceptible to what are probably worst case scenarios of those such as Ruppert - although I give them credit for illuminating some of the connections between oil and other aspects of our lives that I would not have thought of.  But I have also inherited my father's regard for balance and the pursuit of the reasonable, and don't want to be one of the Y2K nuts I laughed about.

But there is more here than Y2K.  The issues of exponential growth and limited resources are inescapable realities.  In an exponential growth scenario, when 50% of the resource is used up, it's really too late.  I can choose not to believe in the Old Testament mumbo jumbo, but I cannot choose not to believe in exponential growth.  So I am caught between the Y2K nut and the ideas that the stability of my father's world might indeed be passing, between trying to anticipate change so I can take care of my family and over-reacting, between wanting to help others understand but not having the facts.  It is a difficult line to walk.  

In the end it all comes down to the details.  Oil will peak and decline.  When?  The results of this will be significant changes in the world.  How rapidly will this occur - will we notice?  I think these are the keys to it all - how soon and how rapidly - rapid changes cause the most disruptions, and more time to prepare is of course always helpful.  But I am very dismayed that there is no big effort by society to figure out he answers to these questions.  Are we just too early in our concerns?

So what to do on a personal level?  Keep my eyes open, gather data, try to understand and not get carried away.  Try to make changes in my lifestyle that will leave my family better positioned.  Make no assumptions about what the future holds, what is a safe investment and what is not.  And try to have confidence in my own abilities to adjust to whatever comes.  And try not to spend so much time reading TOD that I miss time spent with my kids!

BTW, Ruppert has a link to a Peggy Noonan article over at FTW.  I'm no fan of her's, but it's a good description of a national mood I sense as well.

Do not discount the Y2K analogy.  The billions spent to avoid this potentially catastrophic event were an important stimulous for the 90's computer boom. I personally know of legacy mainframe systems that were replaced with PCs for this reason. Problem avoided because we were alerted and had time for remediation. Sometimes lethargy requires fear.

"In the end it all comes down to the details." Not when the problem is a paradigm shift. Our entire system of debt/money creation depends on annual 2% economic growth--not the other way around. Consider what happens of supply restraint stymies this growth--money disappears. We have never lived through such a pertubation.

Yes - by details I meant the details having to do with the onset of PO effects.  As in how exactly it will manifest first, and the timing, etc.  PO itself is hardly a detail!
Put me in the pessimist column.  Punctuated collapse (with apologies to SJ Gould) is at best how it will play out.  As the previous post noted, we are already on the economic knife's edge.  Even if PO were not an issue, how long can our economy continue as based on well-to-do Americans buying and selling houses with Chinese money?  (Paul Krugman's wonderful comment there.)  Our massive twin deficits are the swords of Damocles.  But toss in PO and all hell breaks loose.  Just one example:  Yesterday's LA Times had an interesting article indicating feedback loops  re LA businesses hurting over rising gas prices. To simplify, unlike previously, factories now shut down until they get specific orders rather than use gas wastefully.  But the shutting down/starting up takes time, disrupts labor, and snarls the continuous flow of products--impacting the downstream factories that need that steel or those parts.  The brilliant longtime environmentalist Barry Commoner once noted that decades after you've first flagged a serious environmental problem, you always find it to be much worse than you'd anticipated.  That's the great worry about PO.  It's not just a "scientific" happening in a void--so many strands and feedbacks come into play.  

Lack of FOOD is the biggest single catastrophe that looms.  I was recently in an Oakland Safeway where half the shelves were bare due to a trucker strike.  An eerie experience with all the fluorescent lights, humming refrigerators, milling people, and almost no food!  China has so  wrecked their own ag that they are now gross importers of grain for the first time ever.  Price of bread? And grain is extremely sensitive to rising temperatures.  Scientists estimate that every 1 degree increase causes a 10% loss in grain yields.  Now mid-west farmers are howling about the tripling price of artificial fertilizer (made from NG).  Who knows what surpries Global Warming is cooking up for us--especially considering the latest expert worries that climate can flip in a matter of years.

For my crumb of hope, I look to the sea change in politics resulting from the Great Depression.  It was not FDR that originated all the New Deal programs that gave govt a powerful role and reversed the dog-eat-dog business philosophy that had reined (and is back with us).  FDR, contrary to hysterical conservatives, was no socialist.  He was pushed and prodded by an angry, hungry America to initiate the New Deal.  The point is:  it took a hard kick in the gut to move the masses politically.  

We have become fat and complacent - Stuck on Stupid - as we barrel along toward the A-Pork-Collapse.  The question is - when PO really gives a good kick in the teeth - what direction do we take?  Is it Last Man Standing/King of the Mountain?  Really the only way we can prevent a massive chaotic die-off (you starve without food) will be in a far more socialized environment--accepting various kinds of rationing, parking  the personal car for good, implementing policies that equalize rich and poor (for everyone's benefit!), and creation of thousands of community organic garden/farms.  I.e, 180 degree turn from modernday capitalist America.   Moreover, we have to somehow radically decrease the population.  At 6.5 B we have at least 6 times too many people on earth.  Without oil and natural gas we can never feed the teeming billions.  Better stop here - I was trying to stick on hope.

Punctuated collapse (with apologies to SJ Gould)

Greer calls it "catabolic collapse":


thanks -a fasinating read
Pretty scary.
While naturally optimistic, I wonder if we can shift from hydrocarbons to nuclear, and then to solar, quickly enough and smoothly enough to maintain the energy resource (and, hopefully, society)? At any rate, most of us will see how successful technology is in making the transition.
I guess the critical time is right now, because new nukes will not come on line before crude ouput begins to diminish.

We are living in interesting times.

This is also my philosophy (being defined as "leftist"). Unconstrained human activity (read greed) is like a cancer killing slowly the vitality of this planet. Whether it would be the government, local communities or the nature itself - some day it has got to stop (one way or another).
... the original advocates of peak oil awareness will be overtaken by more pragmatic and constructive people who don't revel in the idea of economic collapse or advocate policies that will result in a "Last Man Standing" scenario where humanity engages in an unending war for the remaining supplies of energy.

Maybe we should all "step back" a bit and separate the issues rather than blurring them into a massive fog of confusion.

These things do not all logically belong together:

  1. Peak Oil Awareness
  2. Energy Shortage Crisis
  3. Collapse of Civilization.

Keep this in mind:

A) "Oil" is not the only form of extractable hydrocarbons or of chemically stored energy.
B) "Oil" is not energy, it is merely one of many methods of storing energy.
C) Collapse of Civilization is rarely due to the "one big thing" (paraphrasing Curly of City Slickers). More often it is due to a rigid society that is incapable of adapting to changed circumstances.

D) There is no shortage of energy.
Planet Earth intercepts a minute fraction of the total energy radiated out into to space every minute by that big fusion pile in the sky (a.k.a. the Sun).

E) American civilization is rigidly frozen in its worship of Adam Smith and the belief that "the markets will provide". It is this religous belief more than anything else that will bring America to its knees. We do not need help from terrorists. We do not need help from bird flu.

F) We are going to do "it" (collapse) all by ourselves, just like the Soviet Union did it all by itself. (Sorry Ronald, you're fantasy space rocks did not knock the Ruskies off their roost. Your Big Berlin wall speech did not trumpet-blast the concrete monolith off its foundations. It crumbled from the other side, from within. It wasn't about "you", it was about "them" and their internal problems.)

G) We are going to do the collapse thing on our own because "we" (meaning the proudly ignorant majority) do not understand that the exponential function (a.k.a. compound interest) and Mother Nature do not mix.

H) We are going to do it because "we" do not yet understand that Mother Nature always wins. It is not a debating issue. It is the way the Universe is put together.

I) Our noises (words) will not change the rules. Other species have come and gone. The gone ones are those that did not adapt --Darwinian style. Whether we stay or go depends on whether we adapt or not. Infinite population growth is not a "negotiable" option.

So let's all step back and not confuse "PO-Awareness" with "Energy" or with "Collapse of Civilization". Yes, Peak Oil is a huge problem. But so is our "unpeaking" Polar Ice Caps. At the bottom of the pile lies our rigid social order, unable to learn and adapt (perhaps).


"So let's all step back and not confuse "PO-Awareness" with "Energy" or with "Collapse of Civilization"."

You mean stick to one at a time or it gets too confusing for the listener? All three are intertwined, we just don't know how it goes yet.

IMHO, "Peak Oil" is just one minor symptom of the bigger disease: Collapse of Our Civilization

The fact that it is hard to get friends, family and neighbors to even listen about PO is indicative of the fact that they are mesmerized by the gold and can't see beyond.

By "gold" I mean that each of them thinks he or she is "special". Each thinks he/she will win the lottery. Each thinks he/she will be picked as the next "American Idol" etc. etc. Each thinks "oil" is not his/her problem and that the "they" out there will solve the problem in the background. (The markets will provide)

I find this in buiness philosopy, manifested in the idea that a business or product line must always grow.  Why?  What is wrong with an organization that pays the bills, provides a living for those involved, and provides something of value to the customer?  Why must it always be getting bigger?  
That's the difference between private ownership and publicly traded companies! Perpetual growth is something demanded by stockholders and enforced by law. If you own the company, you can demand as much or as little as you want from your company.

Our economy is built on debt, and if it doesn't constantly grow, we can't pay the interest on that debt.  

I suspect that's the reason the ancient world considered usury (charging interest on a loan) to be a sin.  Cato equated it with murder, Islam allowed commerce but not usury, a Jew who charged another Jew interest would have all his possessions stripped from him.  And Jesus wasn't too keen on "money-changers."  In a steady-state economy, it would be awfully hard to repay interest.

Thanks - the link to interest is an interesting point and one I must ponder.  
On the link with interest, check out this 2004 article:


Check out this thread at PeakOil.com:


It's called "Debt-based money explained."

Rational thinking is required now and engineers and scientists are good at it.

From elsewhere:

It would be nice if peak oil aware types come up with their own counter sound bite type arguments that resonate with the public.

The counter argument has been around for years. Campbell, Laherrere, Deffeys, Simmons, and others note that new technology cannot put more oil in place than geology did. A finite resource is a finite resource, and the mathematics of exponential growth of production rate will always guarantee that the depletion date will be a lot sooner than the cornucopians are able to comprehend.

http://p088.ezboard.com/fdownstreamventurespetroleummarkets.showMessageRange?topicID=15368.topic& ;start=1&stop=20

We are a combination of genes and our experiences. A "classic outsider" like Michael Ruppert was a policeman dealing with narcotics gangs. Why ridicule him for expecting the worst?

This is from Jay Hanson, who years ago did most of the PeakOil heavy lifting. He started Dieoff.org. He doesn't do conferences.

"(please forward to interested lists)
Recall that President Jimmy Carter was moral, understood energy (he was a nuclear engineer), AND he understood "limits to growth" (GLOBAL 2000, 25 million copies).

President Carter's experience shows quite clearly that unless some horrible disaster strikes us which neutralizes our Constitution, our government is powerless to change "business as usual".  In other words, our Founders locked us in a rail car with a giagantic, insatable parasite -- that consumes 90% of our natural resources ("the market") -- and sent us racing down the track towards a horrible, country-destroying collision with thermodynamic laws. All we can do now is to start digging personal fallout shelters and wait for the inevitable gene/thermodynamic collision.
Jay" http://groups.yahoo.com/group/the_dieoff_QA/message/4735

To find a path to the other side of Peak Oil and survive will take a combination of trillions of individual acts. The mass of humanity are not engineers and scientists, so here those with management and "people" skills become supremely important. How to convince enough people to choose both the common good and their own self interest?

The mass of humanity are not engineers and scientists, so here those with management and "people" skills become supremely important. How to convince enough people to choose both the common good and their own self interest?

Point #1: It is a fallacy to believe that Dilbert and other "engineers and scientists" think "rationally". If Dilbert were rational, he would not have chosen a line of work that enslaves his ass to Catbird's whims. All human beings are irrational. To believe otherwise is to put yourself in a state of denial.

Point #2: Those with "management skills" are not going to save us. Part of their indoctrination into the Masonry of Management was a complete brain cleansing in the dogma of Adam Smith. As far as "management" is concerened, there is no problem. The markets will provide. Technology (a.k.a. Dilbert & friends) will save us.

So it's all up to you.

OK, not you alone.


We need to figure out how to alert the other, also irrational, humans that PO is a problem.

We need to come up with a new mentally-manipulative method (a new religion?) that encourages the masses to do the right thing rather than the selfish thing.

Anybody with ideas out there?

Anybody .... ?

Actually the original Christians were a pretty self-sacrificing bunch, living more for the next world than consuming as much as possible in this world. Same with Judaism and Buddism. Somewhere along the way, that ethic turned into something very different. In fact at their root (as opposed to their modern incarnations) most religions have this group survival mentality that encouraged putting the group before yourself - since that's what many subsistance farming communities required.
My understanding is most American Indian tribes (before contact with Europeans) lived by an ethos of thinking 7 generations into the future.  "What will be the effect in 7 generations if we do X."  Clearly killing all the animals, or digging up all the stones, leaves nothing for the future generations.  This is a very rational way to consume resorces at a sustainable level.  And for non sustainable resources how should they be used to the longest term benefit and what would replace them when they are gone?  Very different from our current society.
"Somewhere along the way..."

This somewhere point is the adoption of Christian Religion by Roman empire which started using the way all states use religion - to justify the current regime.

It would be interesting what kind of twist will have to be made by the state when it faces the need to adopt the Peak Oil paradigm, being in fact a private case of the more general sustainability theory (or idea or whatever you may call it).

"We need to figure out how to alert the other, also irrational, humans that PO is a problem.

We need to come up with a new mentally-manipulative method (a new religion?) that encourages the masses to do the right thing rather than the selfish thing.
Anybody with ideas out there?
Anybody .... ?"

I should have left it people skills. And managing humans, not management. And scientists because they can think rationally ...as per 2nd law of thermodynamics is not at present optional. As in how do we go from asleep at the wheel to wide awake fast?

In a fantasy future as presented by the TV series Star Trek there is no money.  Hard to imagine. We are firmly placed in our hierarchy of vested interests; with our consumer not citizen brainwashing. The dogma of the market is inculcated into us. Those with the most money call the shots. This is what Mike Ruppert meant by the remark that failing to change the way money works precludes any change.

The wisdom of crowds is just a step away from mobs, will groups make better choices? Maybe small groups will.

I am in management and am about as 'indoctrinated' as you can get.  But I can still see the writing on the wall and can think accordingly.  True, the markets likely will not solve this problem as the markets are built on ever-increasing economic growth.  However, price signals are necessary to achieve demand destruction on a meaningful scale.

Humans are rational in some ways but not always, the mind does not always rule the heart, or our greed.  We can even seem irrational when we can see perfectly what is happening but seem powerless to do anything about it.  A train takes time to stop if hurtling toward a bridge that is out.  We may learn the bridge is out and try to stop the train but cannot in time.  On the surface it looks irrational but we see the coming consequences with a calculating rationality, and yet know what we do will not be in time and the train continues to hurtle forward.

Despite the possibility it is to little to late, we will still try to stop the train, in hope.  I am doing my part, not as a scientist, but as a manager and am surprised with the line of posts.  It seems to partition people into types or an us and them but it is us and them together on the train.

No manipulation is needed.  I saw the truth and changed.  I am seeing others changing and questioning more.  Continue to tell the truth or what you believe and others can judge for themselves... and change.

The industrialist Andrew Carnegie supposedly said something to the effect that 100s of people have the engineering skills but people skills are worth paying for.

Good answer.

Our "energy situation" is not a train with mass and momentum.

On the other hand, our society does have mass and momentum in that so many people are "indoctrinated" into believing incredible things like: "The Markets will provide." and "Technology will save us".

We need to develop a Critical Counter-Mass: enough people to shout the other way. Maybe then, the engineer in the locomotive will start applying the brakes instead of pumping the throttle for more "growth". Choo Choo whew !!!

We are not in a train we are the train.
And what we the masses were taught about how to act is the kinetic momentum that keeps us rolling with maximum inertia toward the precipice. Worry not. Move to Suburbia young family. The Markets will provide.
It is not some ideology, it is the (dark side of) human nature that wants more and more over time. Greed is the the root of all evil - it is as simple as that.

If set to grow and take over values being established with centuries a crash with our true God (Nature) is of course inevitable. The final battle will be with ourselves :)

If "we" react in prompt and constructive ways, there is no doubt it will make a positive difference. But "we" are a bunch of very diffuse individuals, governments, and corporations with no effective and coordinated leadership. And without leadership, we get a mess.

Example: Detroit corporations lobbied to have SUVs declared to be light trucks, exempt from many fuel economy, safety, and emissions standards. Congress complied. Individuals bought SUVs in enormous numbers. Each group was self-led, acting in what they perceived their own best interest to be. Result: huge gasoline and steel consumption, more emissions, lots of rollover and collision deaths, Ford and GM dependent on a class of vehicles probably doomed by high gas prices. So:

--We have many easy technical improvements to save oil, but no real home runs that will come anywhere close to fixing the problem.
--We also have no political leadership on this issue anywhere in the world. Consider the political focus that we've seen on H5N1 bird flu to the amount of attention peak oil receives.
--And there is very limited social leadership on the peak oil issue as well. The world has far more concern about whales, fur seals, nuclear power plants, GM food ...

Peak oil will result in a massive market failure, and by definition the markets can't fix a market failure. If we want a soft landing, we'd better develop some leaders.

We do have leaders.
But their allegiance is to the country they live in, hint it's not America.

Which remote control do you think linked into the Bulge in the Back during those 2004 election debates? Do you honestly think it was someone who had the best interests of the American people at heart, or some other folk?

No, I'm not into conspiracy theory.
I'm into brainwashing theory.
We have been brainwashed, or "indoctrinated" if that softer word makes you feel comfy. We live in the Matrix. We consume oil. We keep growing new roadways and paying for them via taxes. Our programmed behavior helps somebody. Hint: it ain't us.

An idea is something you have.  An ideology is something that has you.

Treat the collection of "Peak Oil" facts and opinions as ideas -- not ideology. Otherwise, its too easy to get in a mindframe of "debunking" any new fact that does not fit your ideolgoy. And that new fact just may be the one bit of useful information that could have been invaluable to you.

In the category of ideas that don't fit preconceptions, try the latest regular Oil Drum blog entry titled From One of Our Insiders: Some Thoughts and Data about Prices and Exploration

Higher prices are killing new projects, not generating them, the opposite of what free market thinking would have predicted.

I'm not so sure that "we" (PeakOilniks) are so off-base in worrying. Look what Peggy Noonan, one of Reagan's chief propagandists had to say in the WSJ last week: http://www.opinionjournal.com/forms/printThis.html?id=110007460

No, no direct mention of Peak Oil. But fingers are starting to point in that direction.

Who needs Peggy's finger to point?
Chevron is running those WillYouJoinUs ads round the clock.

I'm at home with a family member.
The guys in the dessert come on the tube.
One goes down the hole with the dipstick.
Comes back X hours later.
It's at half-past-empty.
The voice over comes on.
We will burn more and faster than we ever did before.

End of TV ad.
I ask the mesmerized family member, what did that mean?

Huh? What did what mean?

Analogy :
the humble toilet paper roll...
who amongst us has not used it at least once?
wink... most prefer to use its daily,
on a regular basis, in a manner that is
in secrecy.
The young and or ignorant with out a thought
assume there will be T.P
when they need it.
I eye the roll it is still full.
later... I eye the roll it is half gone!
I eye the roll there is enough to fill my needs.
I sit upon my throne and attempt the deed.
I reach for the roll of little heed,
what is this upon my finger?
can i not with only three sheets
finish this job
paper work completed!!!

So - somebody grab me another roll.
oops ! no one home but, I ...
you can make up the rest of the story from here.

My kingdom for a diaper wipe !!!
adapting ain't pretty

Think small, think fast, peace

I think there is a joke associated with this one.

Why is life like a roll of TP?

It seems to run out faster near the end.

this just in ( my head)

A flock,no make that a swarm of locust,
a really big black cloud of them are airborn
leaving behind a barren waste land freshly devoured.
When one locust says to the other,
"Hey you know we're gonna eat it all and then what?"
second locust yawns and answers,
"yeah I know but, thats what we (locust) do!!!"

point... ouch... a locust gotta do what locust gotta do.
I don't wanna be locust !!!

Think small, think fast, peace

Many excellent posts in this thread ... too many to decide which to reply to!

All pessimism is fully justified until there is widespread acceptance of the reality of overshoot, and effective policies to bring about population reduction (by which I mean incentives to reduce birth rate, and reduction in immigration where that is a major factor, as in the U.S.). (And I doubt this will happen: too many people are incapable of thinking rationally in this sphere. But we should be trying to reach all those who can.)

No economist's handwaving argument that population is not a problem should be accepted as long as the world is living on capital - fossil fuel, fossil water, and virgin land (think burning rainforests). I was going to say, the burden of proof should be on their side, but it is not really possible to prove an assertion that 6.5 billion people can live sustainably on this planet without actually doing it - and climate change will step in to make everything much more difficult.

QuickBeam, I second that. Many excellent points here.

Here is my compilation of some of the big picture insights:

1. "[Slow Collapse] ... in the long run, is probably worse.  It will give us a lot more time to burn ever dirtier coal, cut down every tree" (link)

2."We aren't a country similar to the 1930s, when a lot of people lived on farms ... fairly self-sustaining. People in those days tended to save for rainy days." (link)

  1. "The real question is "what are the odds that none of it [bad events] will happen"? (link)

  2. "It is certainly ironic that mainstream economists and others (eg. CERA, IEA) make statements all the time ... based on nothing more than blind faith in the markets, politics & technology to deal with the world's oil depletion problems but we are accused of being a doomsday cult" (link)  [step-aside note: It's not "ironic", it is the epitome of manipulation]

  3. "Huber is obviously sponsored by corporate clients and charged with the task of pooh poohing people who are raising concerns about the medium and long term sustainability of our life style in the face of escalating energy costs. ... I'm sure there were compelling reasons the Easter Islanders cut down all their timber to the point where they couldn't build a boat for fishing. They must have said to themselves in the latter days, "I wonder if we really need those totems to the gods more than fish from the sea." But by then it was too late and then they starved to death." (link)

  4. "The issues of exponential growth and limited resources are inescapable realities." (link)

  5. "I am in management and am about as 'indoctrinated' as you can get. ... A [massive] train takes time to stop if hurtling toward a bridge that is out.  We [humans]may learn [that] the bridge is out and try to stop [our] train but cannot in time.  On the surface it looks irrational but we see the coming consequences with a calculating rationality, and yet know what we do will not be in time and the train continues to hurtle forward. ... Despite the possibility it is too little too late, we will still try to stop the train, in hope.  I am doing my part, not as a scientist, but as a manager" (link)

  6. "Our society does have mass and momentum in that so many people are "indoctrinated" into believing incredible things like: "The Markets will provide." and "Technology will save us". ... We need to develop a Critical Counter-Mass: enough people to shout the other way. Maybe then, the engineer in the locomotive will start applying the brakes instead of pumping the throttle for more "growth". Choo Choo" (link) [step-aside: blowing my own horn here]

  7.  "Congress complied. Individuals bought SUVs in enormous numbers. Each group was self-led, acting in what they perceived their own best interest to be. Result: huge gasoline and steel consumption, more emissions, ..." (link) [step-aside: Yhep, the Invisible Hand at its best]

  8. "I know but, that's what we (locust) do!!!" (link)
  1. Slow collapse? Of course, what else? But collapse of what? The present US way of living? Is that a collapse? Nobody wants to look at the real experience of energy crunches. The US is not the whole world. Most countries are already those "Third World countries". What about them?

  2. Saving won't help against an energy crunch (neither won't owning gold). And quite a large part of the world population are fairly self-sustaining.

  3. The decline will not be nice. Some nasty things will happen. But we cannot prevent the decline but can prevent some of the nastiest things. This is important.

  4. In fact everybody seriously in the energy sector (major oil companies, EIA, IEA etc.) agrees that oil will peak. Only the timing is a problem. And the consequences. Peak Oilers can be discredited even after the peak because of this.

  5. Eastern Islander were not stupid and they survived. Earliest European observers tell about healthy and happy people. The cut the trees for cooking (Polynesians used fire for cooking as everybody else). The making of the statues didn't consume timber. Ancestor statues are common in Polynesia, but the island had volcanic stone that made possible to make big statues with little effort. Eastern Island has no good fishing waters and the waters are very different from most Polynesian islands. Fishing was not a very good idea anyway. Eastern Island has a very different environment as the islands those people came from and they did really fairly good job in surviving there. They were destroyed only later, by the Europeans.

  6. Yes, there are limits of growth. The only difficulty is seeing where these limits are exactly. Not very far, though.  But what are the limits of exponential decline?

  7. I see a train, not hurtling toward an abyss, but slowly arriving at the top of the hill, slowing down. The abyss is not here, the problems begin later, when the downward slide is gaining momentum.

  8. The markets will provide - but what? But this is not an individual survival project, everybody, the whole world, will be in this together, also the markets.

  9. The SUVs. So what? Does anybody really think that the global steel production and fuel consumption would be lower if the Americans would drive in cars?

  10. Locusts do things that people don't do. We are already seeing the US economy adapting to the slower energy growth. The real (minus hedonic coefficients and imports generated activity, minus unreliable statistics and CPI) growth per capita has been minimal or even zero for many years. Investments have been down. People don't save because there is nothing to save for. The growth rate of the global energy production has petered out for decades. Only the Chinese coal production has made a sudden upward jump during the last couple of years. The American driving habits are not very interesting - they will change easily when they have to. What happens to the rest of the world - this is the real problem.  
  1.  Collapse as Joseph Tainter defined it: a relatively sudden and large loss of societal complexity.  Usually accompanied by an equally sudden drop in population (80%-90%).

  2.  Maybe, maybe not.  Depends on how severe the crisis is.  Many of the wealthy did quite well during the Great Depression, buying up land, gold, heirlooms, and jewelry at cut-rate prices.

  3.  I hope you're right, but I wouldn't bet on it.

  4.  I think the real question is...Is peak oil peak energy?  I say yes, for thermodynamic reasons.  The "economic" view disagrees.

  5.  You are wrong about Easter Island.  Read this article.  Europeans had nothing to do with it.  While it's true the Easter Islanders survived, it was at great cost.  And for an account of similar societies that didn't survive, read this one.  

  6.  May not be an exponential decline.  It may be "catabolic."  Which could be worse, in the long run.

  7.  I think we may be at the top of a "bumpy plateau," rather than on top of a hill.

  8.  I wonder.  I think the world's going to get a lot bigger without cheap oil.  Transportation (along with agriculture) will be the hardest to switch to alternatives.  We may return  to the days when only extremely valuable luxury items are transported any real distance.  Think Silk Road.  

  9.  Agree with you there.  Jevon's Paradox will eat up any savings.  

  10.  I think this ties into #1.  We've dealt with resource scarcity partly by becoming more efficient, but also by "globalization" - buying up the resources of poorer countries.  This will no doubt continue as long as the dollar holds up.
Diamond shows no real evidence that those statues were the reason for Eastern Islands deforestation. As far as I know it is not clear how the statues were carried. And if they used timber for that, what was done with the timber afterwards (may be it was to be used in any case for fire, for example). It is not quite clear what happened. Perhaps the deforestation was caused by slow regenaration of the forests. The islanders acted rationally and made their canoes from the big and very old trees to cath the porpoises. But the trees didn't grow fast enough for to make new canoes to replace worn out ones the same way. When this was found out it was too late.

The same culture was mostly successful elsewhere in Polynesia. There might have been exogenic environmental changes. The island is very far from the Polynesia proper and the Polynesian culture and economy did involve lot of contacts with other islands. Extremely isolated communities are generally in danger to degenarate or die out.

Eastern Island is an interesting and also tragic story, but probably there was no way to avoid it. This is not in any way encouraging - the consequences of stupidity or distorted social systems could be avoided, but if these things have no relevance here - what then? If we have no way of knowing before it is too late?

Peak oil just happens about now because there is this much oil in the ground. If it were half that much or double? Before Hubberts time nobody really knew. Research on fusion energy started 50 years ago. At time most scientists believed that it would be in commercial use within that half a century. Nobody has been very stupid. Now the task is to make the best of the situation.

I don't think Diamond was trying to argue that the statues were the reason for deforestation.  It doesn't really matter what the reason for deforestation was.  What matters is that it occurred, and it was caused by the Polynesians who colonized Rapa Nui.  

Diamond does note that one reason Easter Island was so hard-hit was that it's far from the equator - a different kind of island than most of Polynesia, in a colder, less hospitable climate.  But other islands with similar problems were supported humans sustainably for thousands of years, and other more typical Polynesian islands suffered dieoffs worse than Easter Island's.  

Diamond discusses this in detail in his book, Collapse.  One thing he takes pains to point out is that "primitive" peoples were no better, and worse, than we are.  They are exactly the same.  We're fooling ourselves if we imagine that they were "noble savages," somehow in touch with nature in a way we aren't.  We are also fooling ourselves if we think we are somehow superior, and would never do what the Easter Islanders did.  

This is probably my favorite part of the essay:

Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.

The Easter Islanders didn't intentionally cut down all the trees on the island.  They weren't stupid.  But they ended up doing a stupid thing.

I would suggest that they were not stupid cutting the first third of their most precious resource.

When they were cutting the second third they were confident that they always can stop cutting for a while and let the trees regenerate (but life is going on and we need this wood, let's leave that for next year (or generation), OK?).

In the last third, until they did that seemingly insane thing with cutting the last tree they were simply desparate.

I haven't read Collapse, but as I recall from A Short History of Progress, the settlers also brought rodents that overbred and destroyed most of the young palm trees.  Rodents may have been the proverbial straw, or they may have merely hastened the end.

I suspect "the tragedy of the commons" had something to do with it as well.  "If I don't cut down this tree, someone else will, so I might as well do it."

The last few lines of your post are the most telling.

Humans seem not to the do the right thing. Oh some of us have noble ideas, and noble gestures.  But given a bit of unsettled times, watch how we scramble like rats in a sinking ship to get out, harming others to save ourselves.

If the Oil cliff is just a hair to steep, we will only fall all over ourselves and others trying to get that last loaf of bread on the store shelves.  

I see a stagnation of sorts setting in, Maybe its the people know, but it seems to be getting worse, even without the "peak oil" debate, or time frame.  

 I think we will squander glady.  And not even notice till it is to late.

This is my first post on TOD, I have been reading for some time and have been following the Peak Oil dilema for longer still....

Having read this thread it strikes me that we have only one problem at the heart of all of this. The propensity for humans to strive to reproduce, as is their biological programming, pushes us onwards to greater and greater numbers. The question that needs answering is can WE realistically decide to stop that trend Or will nature eventually correct any overshoot to her own satisfaction.

I think most of us will not be around to see the answer...

Some claim we have already started heading toward "Fewer"
Quite right. The average fertility rate is decreasing. Human populations have historicaly had quite high stability. Malthus just saw the emerging population growth in the 18th century. That was not an universal law but a new phenomenon. There are lots of countries with diminishing natural population growth.  
Message: 12        
   Date: Tue, 01 Nov 2005 23:18:25 -0800
   From: lifeduringwartim@sbcglobal.net
Subject: Michael Lynch vs Peak Oil

[ Jay: I debated Lynch for a couple of months a year or two ago.  At bottom, he has only two arguments:

#1. People were wrong about "running out of oil" before.
#2. He just can't believe it.

People who have the ability to reason, know these are meaningless arguments.  Nevertheless, they are sufficient to place the herd of "sheeple" back into a coma -- just exactly like Julian Simon did when he was still alive.

I once asked Lynch if he would support a crash effort by the National Academy of Sciences (or something like that) to discover precisely when oil would peak.  He was opposed to it.  I concluded that Lynch was paid by people unknown to place doubt on the "peak oil" hypothesis. All you need to overcome a bunch of experts with bad news is doubt. Sheeple are extremely easy to control -- just lie and go to a "prayer breakfast". ]

Michael Lynch is perhaps the most vocal and tireless critic of the
'imminent' Peak Oil theory. The article is worth reading as a succinct
summary of his most repeated points. He makes one good point at least,
that the research base for imminent Peak Oil is very small, consisting
primarily of the Hubbert-inspired work of Colin Campbell and Jean
Laherrere of ASPO, Kenneth Deffeyes, Ali Samsam Baktiari (who uses ASPO
data), Richard Duncan, and a few others (see experts at
<http://hubbertpeak.com/experts>hubbertpeak.com <http://hubbertpeak.com>).
The Hubbert style methods are supplimented by the quite different
approaches of people like Chris Skrebowski and Mattew Simmons who reach
similar alarming conclusions. But all in all, the core work on
predicting Peak Oil is done by a remarkably small group of scientists
and researchers. What does give their work some added credibility
however is the incredibly dubious assumptions and methods used by the
international energy agencies, as best summed up in this excellent
article by Werner Zittel et al.
<http://www.energybulletin.net/2544.html> An average high school student
could easily understand the problems, and it is this, as much as the
rising oil costs which has given Campbell et al. a well deserved public
platform in the media.

I find it fascinating that these guys mention that there are so few
people talking about Peak Oil.  Every once in a while, I just have to
wonder if I'm a total rocket-fuel genius to figure out that this was
right, or if I'm just delusional.  How can it be that I'm so much
smarter than the branch managers of Morgan Stanley I've spoken with, and
a senior American Express executive, etc.  Among those that think the
same way I do are a very wealthy friend of mine that can't figure this
out either, a couple of Mensa members I know, and my old hippie lesbian

You'd think the Green Party would have this as a huge platform plank for
any election they have.  Why is it not in huge red letters on everything
they have?

How is it that we can do the simple math and extrapolate a little, and
99% of the people I know just can't do it.  They look at it and then
look away and say No, that's just ridiculous.  Can't be.  Football.

Is there some kind of gene for... forecasting?  Applying logic?  What is
it we're doing here?

It is called willful ignorance.  It is so hard to abandon a lifetime of thought habits, especially when the reward is to see the approaching misery.  Think of the red pill blue pill analogy from the Matrix.  And we all are susceptible to the mental shortcuts of ideology.  How long has it been since we really examined those things that we "know"?  Some of us are more introspective than others - I find a periodic re-examination of my beliefs to be refreshing, but I know others who find it excruciating.  It is a good time to be looking around carefully.

Hey I don't know about you, but I'm special. I going to live forever. Fame. --It's called "denial".

Almost all human creatures do it.
Kind of hard to go on without denial.

Therfore, if someone pops the Peak Oil picture up, the denial screens fly quickly in front of the pictured reality.

Oh Hubbert? He was an old man. He "lost it".

You too?  Damn - I thought I was the only one!
As a person who lived through a couple of economic shocks I can tell that I have well seen the mechanism of denial.

When you look back you clearly see all the prerequisites of the crisis unfolding brightly one after another. And when you also see that the more obvious it becomes the more is the noise e.g. government telling you it is OK. And people listened because this is exactly what they wanted to hear.

Here where I live many people seem to take it as only natural that that oil production can't continue this high forever. They have noticed that oil prices are high and connect it to an oil crisis. In the '70s there was much talk obout the "end of oil" and many have some reminiscenses of this. Most have no idea about the timing or the scope of the problem.

In Europe the energy problems are masked behind the Climate Change talk and Kyoto agreement. Not much talk about the Peak Oil, but no aggressive denial either.

It is hard to do it with people who have a lot to lose - including hopes, dreams and even a world view integrity.
I tried to explain it to my collegue but he dismissed it saying that everyone will buy more economical car and it will be all fine. The fact is that people go as deep as they want to and you can not make someone want to face bad realities.
Your colleague's eyes were glazed over with a donut-sauced answer, aye? (The markets will provide, Technology will provide, God will provide.)

It happens to all of us.

You don't realize how far you have come since you took that first step into accepting that Peak Oil might possibly, possibly be a for-real thing.

It's not a good idea to throw the hot oil right in a friend's face. It might be better to start with nonthreatening analogies, like, "Hey you ever consider that good things never last forever, like the Friday donuts in the kitchen or the coffee in the communal coffeee pot or other such stuff. Some can be replenished, but other stuff cannot .... it's a shame life is that way."

Friend, "What do you mean?"

"Friend, "What do you mean?""

I have a DVD copy of End of Suburbia. I am going to see if my neighbors will take it and watch.

I think that people generally handle the concept of PO quite well. What they don't (want to) understand is the consequences. People don't know (or don't care) about the underlying fundaments of our life. Easy living has created a careless society - you don'r care about anything which is not a direct interest to you.

Personally I believe that PO would be a non-problem if we did not have that inertia, that short-sighted thinking in which you trade tomorrow's problems with today's peace. It's like a very lazy student, so self-confident in his intelligence that does not start to study for an exam until the evening before the day... the difference is that the worst that can happen for the student is going out of school while we can easily go out of history.

Civ 4 came out the other day.  How about a variation of civilization that models the effects of Peak Oil?
Excellent idea.
I think in Civ3 they included resouce depletion, but you still could easily substitute one resource with another (substitute oil with stone?). This would require much more complex simulation than the game is right now.
That's a great idea. Let's make that a project or something. Personally as much as I try, I always feel compelled to go down the military route at some point in the game, either in defense or to pre-empt a nearby rival.
I don't have it yet, but one of the guys I work with got it.  He said they have provisions to modify it, but I don't know to what extent.  I'm a little hesitant to get it, due to the inevitable lack of sleep that will result!


Seriously though, I was listning to NPR the other day and they were talking about the use of games to promote certain ideas/causes/etc.  The Army's game was one example.  A game like Civ would really illustrate the effects of resurce depletion well.  A pity I don't have the skills in that area.

The original game for me is SimEarth. If you ran out of fossil fuels before you transitioned to a renewable energy source, there was a die off of the species. Very educational.
Probably they would need to include energy as a separate resource which serves as prerequisite to all other production.

They would also need to measure how much of the resources you consume are from natural capital and how much are renewable. If you overshoot and exaust a vital non-renewable resource you get a die-off until the system reaches equilibrium at much lower state (renewable production - loss of production due to natural capital losses - losses in corruption and chaos during the transition). Unfortunately the game itself prerequisites growth (because of the competition with other civs) so it looks like it would always lead to humans overshooting their environment.

I bought a couple dozen popular science magazines
this summer at an estate/garage sale. the old geezer was into libertarian - JOHN GALT stuff, and had a great collection of old stuff. The P.S mags were from 1939-1965.
The popular science August 1953 issue had a piece on global warming due to carbon dioxide, and almost every issue mentions Atomic power....
At least 50 years ago the science community was declaring
war on the man, but too few voices were heard.
Now the man is sticking it to us!!! Again ...as always
If a vote was taken at this time , a show of hands how many
know that Peak Oil will arrest your lifestyle? And that is followed by will it hurt?
Hurt...because inside we suspect that "The Man" is a machine
capable of total destruction, which is MY own perspective, being it is the will of the machine to self destruct.
50 years +++ and the cycle of violence is no more nearer being broken than before, in MY opinion the slippery slope to disaster is only approaching faster. The T.P roll is nearly gone.
Oh Boy... who gives a damn.
eat your humble pie and shud up!
love your self , love your friends,
keep trying to fly away.
Hey atleast it's not the TITANIC i am aboard.
Meaning there is hope in yet unknown history to be written.
You don't have to pray about it.
You've allready thought about it...good enough.
one day at a time
think small,think fast,peace
fact... we all live until we die
this group therapy thing really isn't working out .
Now i find myself talking to/and answering myself.
all for now friends