John Darnell, Bartlett's energy advisor

Over at PO-NYC, peakguy (along with commenter apsmith) has posted about John Darnell's speech from the Petrocollapse conference.

I'm going to hold off on David Pimentel for now, since my notes turned out to be more incomprehensible than I'd thought. In the meantime, this Cornell publication is a decent summary of some of the points he made in this talk about the (non-)practicality of ethanol.

Pimentel was lead author on this article I found from 1994 on the unfortunately titled Die-Off website which concluded:

If the United States does not commit itself to the transition from fossil to renewable energy during the next decade or two, the economy and national security will be adversely affected. Starting immediately, it is paramount that US residents must work together to conserve energy, land, water, and biological resources. To ensure a reasonable standard of living in the future, there must be a fair balance between human population density and energy, land, water, and biological resources.

Pimentel is a big supporter of solar energy, hydro and biomass for electricity. He is very pessimistic about liquid fuels from any bio-source.

i want to know what actions are being taken by the high levels of gov't.  actions beside militarily securing resources.  only thing i know is that Rep Barlett has made several presentations/talks in hopes of educating members of congress and motivate them into action.  is there a committee being formed to lay out a roadmap to transition away from petro-society?  i work at boeing, and we have roadmaps to transition our processes to adapt to new up-and-coming softwares and technologies.  is this level of discussion and thought and brainstorming happening in our federal gov't?  personally our local gov't is senile.  my state senators and governor - all female btw - have called for a subcommittee to investigate price gouging.  wtf!  this is the kind of leadership we have to put our trust in for post-petro-society?  i'm sick.
  1. there are many govt agencies looking into this - the problem is that most are unavailable to public scrutiny - only in Congress and a few other venues can CSPAN televise proceedings, which is one reason Congressman Bartlett continually made those presentations the way he did I presume.

  2. The IEA, of which US is a member, has rationing policies in place should supply drop below certain thresholds - there are numerous speeches/presentations/policy discussions available from their last plenary:

3) Count yourself lucky - from an evolutionary sense, I would PREFER that my state senator and governor were female- womens responses to stress are more cooperative (oxytocin) than competitive (dopamine, testosterone) on average, than men. In my opinion, we need many many more female leaders if the Sustainability Revolution is to be successful (note: I am not female, but do like them quite a bit)

you only need one leader, when that leader has a direct  link to god.
from aljazeera

"Bush said God told him to invade Iraq, Afghanistan"
10/7/2005 9:00:00 PM GMT

Bush told two senior Palestinian officials that God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan

The U.S. President George W. Bush told two senior Palestinian officials that God gave him a personal message to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new BBC documentary.

Bush made the comments when he met Palestinian leader- then Foreign Minister - Mahmood Abbas and Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath at a summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in June 2003, the ministers told a BBC documentary series to be broadcast in Britain next week.

Bush also told the ministers that God ordered him to establish a Palestinian state.

Shaath, now the Palestinian Information Minister, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God.

"God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan'.

"And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...' And I did.

"'And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it'," said Shaath.

Abbas, who attended the meeting too, also appears in the documentary series to recall how Bush told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."

White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Bush never made the claims, which he described as absurd. 

The three-part TV series, "Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs", charts recent attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, from former U.S. President Bill Clinton's peace talks in 1999-2000 to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza strip this year.

The program interviews presidents and prime ministers, their generals and ministers, to reveal what happened behind closed doors as the peace talks collapsed and the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, grew.

The series is expected to be screened in Britain on October 10, 17 and 24

What am I missing?  What does this post have to with Peak Oil?



There are two things that are important here - if "God" is telling Bush what to do in the middle east, where it just so happens the majority of accessible oil reserves are, then "Houston, we have a problem".

Further, while not well known in the mainstream, a key component of the Israili/Palestinian conflict is control over water resources which is a scarce and strategic resource in the region.  This gives us a glimpse of what can happen in the fight to control scarce resources: in PO scenarios, oil becomes increasingly scarce.

billyt asked "what are the highest levels of government doing about it"

This idea seems to come out time and time again, some sort of "they wouldn't allow it", or "they will sort it out" a sense of some higher group sorting or creating the problems.

so the bush article is/was a warning to all those who follow a hierarchially structured society..

we cant wait for leaders to sort it out, they wont, it is up to us to sort it

Yeah, but you'll never be able to "think" like one, thank goodness.

No just kidding. Many women are limbically cultivated, meaning they spend more of their brain power worrying about family needs rather than their own self-centerd needs. By contrast, men are focused on power, control and self centered needs, although they do stand guard over the herd much like a stag would stand guard over his herd of does and fawns.

The Peak Oil alert message sent to women has to be different than the one sent to men.

For women: your children, your family are at risk if we do not have enough energy resources to grow food, make clothing, to feed and nurture our families. Your children will never forgive you, and you will never forgive yourself if you do not take steps to assure that your family's needs are met. Oprah will curse you for not having read the right books and felt the right, nurturing feelings. You will be ostracized from the upper groups.

For men: our command and control systems are at risk if we do not have enough energy resources to power our armies and our factories. You will be looked at as having failed to "provide for and protect" your family if you do not become alert to this problem (to the terror that can terrorize) and if you do not rally the herd to safer grounds. Dr. Phil will disrespect you for not having stood up to be a man, to fight and flight, when the challenge was so obvious. Be proud, be powerful, be among the extraordianry few.

Evidence that, duh, the sexes are different and respond to different messaging (this does not account for different religious biases as to what the proper roles of men and women are):

These accounts of polarized sex differences seem as exaggerated as the old PC argument that everything in this sphere is socially constructed. The lesson from the serious research seems instead to be that while these polar opposites do exist, they constitute a small fraction of females and males. For example, most males care about their kids and even other people's kids more than C and C systems in the military. Few males fit the stereotype of the f--- 'm and forget 'em tough guy. And in any case a lot of those guys are simply hiding such gross feelings of inadequacy that they wet their beds and would only be moved by peak oil arguments if diaper sales were threatened.

Seriously, trying to craft messages for hoary and polarized cartoons of appropriate sex roles seems unwise. People respond to price signals as well as credible arguments that their kids and their kids' kids are threatened by contemporary irresponsibility.

Sorry you thought I was claiming Men are from Mars, etc.

The actual point is that different people respond, or not, to different messages. There is no ONE grand unifying message that will motivate all to act on the Peak Oil Problem.

Despite the fact that I am a reptile brain, I do care for my children (and yours) and pray they all will thrive in the challenging world of the future.


Just a quick quote regarding the US bill number H.R. 3893.
The bill would streamline government permits for refineries, open federal lands including closed military bases for future refinery construction and limit the number of gasoline blends refiners have to produce, eliminating many blends now designed to reduce air pollution. This bill passed 212 to 210 in the House and is on its way to the Senate. This seems to be the direction of the current administration, including relaxing air quality standards.
Some unsettling comments about Pimentel at the Peak Oil Debunked website today:

Pimentel was part of a group trying to take over the board of the Sierra Club, running on a nativist, anti-immigrant platform. His candidacy attracted the support of a number of racist and white supremacist groups, who made an attempt to flood the Sierra Club voting rolls.

Unfortunately Peak Oil, like other fringe beliefs, has a tendency to attract a variety of extremist groups. Anti immigrant and racist beliefs are likely to filter in if people are not vigilant.

Ok, I have to reply to that. David Pimental is in his 80s and has been a tireless warrior on behalf of the environment most of his career. Recently he has gotten bad press because new technology has shown corn-to-ethanol EROI is 'might be' higher than 1 -perhaps as high as 1.6 to 1- big deal - in the scheme of things he suggested it is not a route that society should pour resources into - not enough land - not enough energy - 5 to 1 should be near a minimum threshold for new alternative energy schemes.

In any case, he has been out there researching problems and giving speeches and training ecologists for 50years -I assure you that there is not one Peak Oil spokesperson who EVERYONE agrees with all of his/her points - we kind of peel the layers of the Peak Oil onion and pick and choose what components make sense to us.

JD, on is smart and a good writer - but is he giving speeches where people can publicly criticize him on his views? Has he published hundreds of peer reviewed scientific articles? My point is that its tough for someone who doesnt risk to criticize someone who does.

RE: immigration - I have no solid opinion, but oil per capita use on the planet peaked in 1978. When resource quality has peaked in prior societies and organisms, there were eventual population declines - maybe his 84 year old viewpoint is one of experience and scholarship, rather than racism.

Virginia Abernethy is a white separatist and has numerous connections with racist hate groups.

For example, she is on the editorial advisory board of the newspaper for this site:

Pimental works with this woman. As does Marcia Pimental, Albert Bartlett, William Catton, Herman Daly, and L. Hunter Lovins:

Heinberg's book (The Party is Over) has a promotional blurb from Abernethy, and Heinberg mentions Abernethy as a person with political ideas relevant to peak oil:

This is all very unsavory, and, at the very least, constitutes collusion with racists.

That is indeed disgusting as well as a serious threat to the credibility of peak oil theory. Some people on this list site have worried that Matthew Simmons' speculations about $100 oil would discredit peak oil. But in Simmons' case, that fact of rising prices is likely to soften any loss of credibility from missing a dollar target. It's different business entirely with racism and xenophobia. These fringe elements should be seen as the threat they are. The more peak oil commands credibility, the more its opponents will seize on these kinds of claims to shoot it down. Keep in mind that for a while there was a whisper campaign that Simmons was a racist. Stuff like this is effective. For example, a Japanese think tank's report last year on peak oil and Simmons' arguments referred to this rumour without criticism, thereby casting peak oil as a whole in a sleazy light for readers. Because much of the peak oil theory centres on the Saudis' production capacity and credibility, it will tend to be politically vulnerable to charges that it is anti-Arab. To add to the problem by having white separatists write blurbs on peak oil books is, to say the least, foolish.
I can not guarantee for the visions of myself not to mention for the visions of the people I know.

In each movement, organisations or whatever there are people having different interests or trying to use the idea behind that organisations to persue their own goals. Even the army is not monolythic. Basicly I find arguments like this quite impotent - if you can not rule out the argument, rule out the person. Quite distasteful JD.

With regard to the EROEI of ethanol: Pimental based his calculations on North American corn -- one of the most inefficient sources of ethanol. The relevant calculations today are the EROEI of Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, and the EROEI of cellulose ethanol (poplars, willows, sunflowers, hemp) which uses the entire plant mass.

It's very unlikely that the EROEI of Brazilian ethanol is 1.6 or less, because it sells for $25/barrel = $7.81/MMbtu, versus about $10/MMbtu for crude oil. It's cheaper than oil.

JD- I never dismissed ethanol - just ethanol from corn. many biomass technologies from switchgrass to sugar cane (and algae and palm oil) are much higher EROIs than corn - somewhere in the middle is an acceptability threshold - pimental never dismissed biofuel - just ethanol from corn.
i just saw senator lieberman (D-CT) talking about "biofuels" on bloomberg tv and here is link from his site:

maybe there is hope after all

bloomberg tv is so funny, let me give a typical quote: "a bunch of poor people died from a preventable cause but don't worry the stocks are up and now to our reporter with more detail on which stocks to watch"

but it is the most professional news from the USA (on par with BBC) the reporters make the least jokes and they interview smart people.

When Lieberman talks about plugging your hybrid into the electric grid, what is going on inside his head? Exactly where does he think "electricity" comes from?

Does he think that electricity is a "commodity" that is magically manufactured by "the markets"? Does he not know that 50% of our electricity is produced by burning coal? How about that roughly 67% of the energy generated from burning coal goes up in smoke as air-polluting, waste heat? How about that superconducting transmission lines have not yet been invented and roughly another 10% of electrical energy is wasted as transmission line heat?

Plug and play hybrid is not an answer.

Misleading title, if this topic is about Pimentel and not Darnell!

I was very impressed with Pimentel's talk. Yeah, he's old and a bit cranky, but he and Darnell were the only ones who really talked about the numbers. In reality the numbers are not good at all for liquid fuels: we really need to get off them. Kunstler's suggestion of greatly upgrading US passenger rail systems is a good one.

Here's what I have from my notes on Pimentel's talk:

First he talked about malnutrition. He's an ag. professor, and the fact that much of the world is hungry bothers him. Out of 6.5 billion people, he claimed 3.7 billion are malnourished from a WHO report. Of course, US people are over-nourished, which is another problem.

He talked about about efficiency of capture of solar energy. Plants capture about 0.1% on average, corn about 0.2%. Photovoltaics, in contrast, can capture 20% or more, 100 times as much energy from the same area covered.

In 1850 our energy source was primarily biomass - wood provided 91% of US energy needs. Now, fossil fuels provide 97%. Current US energy use is about 100 quads; that's TWICE as much as the total solar energy captured in a year by ALL PLANT LIFE in the country.

But biomass (mostly wood) still provides quite a bit of our energy - about 3% of the total in thermal form (burning), similar to hydroelectric's 3% (by the way, these numbers don't seem to reconcile with his 97% claim for fossil dependence - maybe it was 87%?)

Then Pimentel got into ethanol - in the US made from corn, in Brazil from sugar cane. They considered 14 different inputs into the corn growing process: machinery, diesel, fertilizers, lime, electricity, etc. Their analysis totaled 810 liters of oil per hectare of corn, just to grow it.
Ethanol production (fermenting) and distillation (to 99.5% purity needed to mix with gasoline - only 95% is needed for "pure ethanol" vehicles); for each liter of ethanol produced, they found 6600 kcal required, but the energy content of the liter of ethanol is only 5130 kcal. So net energy is negative.

"I wish it were positive", he said. He is an ag. professor after all.

He talked about discrepancies with a USDA (and DOE?) analysis - they left out a number of the inputs he considered, and they also took credits for byproducts he believes are unwarranted. At the very large scale that would be needed, there's no market for those byproducts.

Other aspects neither side really considered are soil erosion and fertilizer runoff (creating the Gulf of Mexico "dead zone"), higher beef prices (ethanol subsidies already cost Americans $1 billion/yr in higher beef prices, in addition to the $3 billion in direct subsidies which mostly go to the big manufacturers (ADM, Cargill).

He also covered some of the same issues for soybeans and sunflower oil, and switchgrass or wood. In some cases, if you can take appropriate credits, the net energy is positive, but even so the land area requirements are enormous. For soybeans under some conditions they had a net output of 664 liters/hectare; just fueling US trucking would require planting the ENTIRE land area of the US in soybeans (not just arable land, but every square inch).

He also raised the issue, again, of world malnourishment. If we grow corn as a fuel, we lose that much of it as a food, isn't this an ethical issue we would face, burning food instead of feeding it to people?

He talked a bit about coal - conversion to liquid fuel loses energy (as we've heard in the discusison of Schweitzer's arguments) and adds to pollution; he doesn't think it's a good solution.

He summarized energy payback and land area requirements for hydro, burned biomass, wind, and solar:
Hydroelectric - 24:1 payback, 75,000 ha for 100,000 people
Wood-burning electric - 6:1 payback, 200,000 ha for 100k
wind - 5:1 payback, 13,000 ha
solar - ??? , 3,000 ha for 100,000 people

His conclusion here was that we can indeed provide US energy needs (if reduced somewhat by conservation) through purely renewable sources using only 1/6 of US land area.

The post at PO-NYC is about Darnell, Ianqui is just pointing to it here.
Right, but most of the comments were on Pimentel...
can't control the thread...the thread goes where it goes. Ianqui is going to post something more substantial later about Pimentel. His presentation probably contained the most actual data. Much to discuss about him. As for Darnell, I think we should all write to our representatives and tell the staff to set up an appointment with Dr. Darnell to learn more about (peak) oil issues. I wrote to Sen. Clinton, Sen. Schumer and Rep. Maloney today.
Well, looks like I don't have to write about what Pimentel said...the readers have done it for me!