New Open Thread

Since we haven't had one in a while.
Will it really be so hard to adapt to peak oil?  My thinking has changed lately...not about peak oil itself, but about our ability to handle it.  On a ten to fifteen year timeframe, there are definitely solutions.  The thing to be worried about is a hard crash early on, which might affect the more distant future.  However, I've recently come to the conclusion that maybe it won't be difficult to conserve our way through the initial years until solutions can be implemented.  Average American families wouldn't notice it too much if they reduced their energy consumption by a few percent.  
I agree.  I think we will muddle through.  We will reac to PO somewhat like we did to the depression.  Things were tough, but society didn't collapse.
I think social cohesion will be a critical factor more than the absolute level of consumption. Those communities that pull together to solve problems will do much better. Kunstler writes about this a lot in the Long Emergency. Personally I'm not sure if suburban or urban areas are more socially cohesive. Kunstler like small towns like Upstate NY, and New England where all necessities are close by and there is more sense of community.
"Muddle through" is exactly how I see it.  There will be some industries, many businesses, and a great number of individuals who face economic pain.  There will be great uncertainty, mixed with triumphs and catastrophes from the personal, economic, public policy, and technology spheres.

As I've pointed out on my web site several times, we're in the very early stages of a long transition to a significantly more diversified and distributed energy infrastructure.  You can't make that level of change without pain, obviously, but we will make it, and we'll create a more stable and less polluting worldwide energy system.  (And I don't mean to suggest that the pain will or won't be worth the brave new energy world we build; I have no bloody idea if it will be.  It's a moot point, as we have no choice but to make the transition.)

To me, the key is understanding that there will be no silver bullet, but a whole series of silver BB's.  Coal-to-liquids, ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, wave, electric cars, better liquid fuel cars, etc.

Our energy future will be a lot of things, but "dull" ain't on the list.

I have recently come to just the opposite conclusion after 2 years of research into peak oil.

I am sitting in the midwest in December observing lows in the single digits and highs in the 20's for weeks on end.  Heating livable space requires a lot of energy.  Just to keep pipes from freezing requires more than just a wood stove and a cord or two of wood.  And don't get me started on transportation or farming.

So much of modern life is taken for granted and much of this is due to fossil energy being burned.  Replacing this with renewable energy will be an enormous undertaking.  A significant change in behavior will be required to survive when available energy is less.  There are many aspects of modern life that are luxuries that most people consider essential.  Warm building, electricity on demand, washers and driers to be used whenever needed, bright lights, rapid transportation, enetertainment based on electric energy, etc.

I agree with many posters here that we can survive without these things.  The problem is that most people I know will not do without them until absolutely forced to and those with money will not voluntarily give them up.  This makes change at the infrastructure level unlikely.  It appears to me we will have to go through a crash before we can rebuild with a more benign footprint with respect to energy consumption.  Going through that crash is the scary prospect.  I see no leadership that can steer us through it in a civilized way.

We CAN do without those luxuries.  It won't be pleasant, but humans are adaptable.
A warm house is a luxury in subfreezing climate? Hot water to clean clothes and self and thus avoid outbreaks of disease is a luxury?

Yeah, homo sapiens has survived worse in the past but if we get to the point that we are calling a warm home and clean clothes luxuries then I think the doomer position wins by default because that is exactly what a collapse would look like. That's not a technological society you are describing. That's Richard Duncan's Olduvai theory run amok.

NC, I agree. I do not think the BIG problem will be economic, but emotional.  Too many people I know believe there is more oil out there, 'all we got to do is drill'.

Our society is addicted to oil (and its many byproducts).  Junkies typically do not react well when they go cold turkey.  

Today I was talking to a Friend on the phone, and we were both on a online "MUD" game together.  The friend happens to be my last ex-wife.  The power went off!

 Most people if their power goes off so does their phone, I was on my one, plug into the wall-jack no power from the house "old" type of phone.  

 The two folks that came outside after a while, I don't have my kind of phone, so they had no clue what was going on, I called the power company to see what was up.

 Just the day in the life of a southerner in the rainy season.  But extend it out to the times like last August when a lot of folks would have rathered to have a "dull" week, but got instead Hurricane Katrina.

 The USA got a taste of Peak Oil that week,  Millions of folks without power, or homes, and we did not handle it well.

 Think about this on a world wide scale.  When a few things go wrong most folks can handle it, but when a lot of things go wrong, most folks panic, and few keep their heads.  What would Katrina been like in say 5 to 10 years from now, when "the electric car has a 50 mile range" and the Hurricane is going to hit up to 150 miles inland!! What happens when instead of 25-50 thousand that don't have cars you have 500,000 without cars ( they are a luxury, remember)?  

 Chaos on a new scale, never before seen by human eyes.

 A tsunami, a hurricane,  these happen because of weather, but the Oil crunch is going to happen whether it rains or shines, the weather is going to keep on punching us,  can we all get in our ox carts and run for the hills in time?

Average American families wouldn't notice it too much if they reduced their energy consumption by a few percent

There are two problems that get in the way of such benign adjustment, I think:

(1) Once past peak, it's going to be a few additional percent each and every year, and that adds up quickly.  The first few years won't be hard to adjust to, but it'll get progressively tougher.  E.g. 7% reduction per year is 50% after a decade.

(2) The real problem will not be energy, it'll be the collapse of the economy.  The need to reduce energy use by several percent each year directly means reducing economic activity proportionally.  Even as we adopt efficiency measures that allow similar quality of life with less energy, there will be sectors of the economy that will suffer, there will be many who will lose their income.  And that will cascade into other sectors.  E.g., if GM collapses that leaves a lot of former GM employees with less money to spend elsewhere.  The debt-and-interest-based "economy" (a pyramid scheme, really) cannot survive the end of exponential growth.  The Great Depression is the wrong model, since then there were no limiting resources, only a failure of organization.

I learned recently that the Great Depression began two years after the Stock Market crash Oct 1929. We seemed to have felt the effects of the "little situation" in the Gulf this past fall rather more quickly. Maybe things just happened slower eighty years ago. Maybe, too, it was due to 20% of the population being farmers.
We seemed to have felt the effects of the "little situation" in the Gulf this past fall rather more quickly.  Maybe things just happened slower eighty years ago.

The effects of GOM hurricane season will be impacting the economy and the gulf state residents for years to come.  Grace Period for Gulf Coast Mortgages Ends  Who knows how many people will be paying for homes that no longer exist for years to come. This is just one aspect of a big picture affecting a lot of people. It might seem that we coasted through "the little situation" because it is no longer on CNN 24/7 but for tens of thousands of gulf coast residents the suffering continues.  

The effects of this years hurricanes season will be with us for years to come.  

They won't make payments on unusable houses. They will let the banks foreclose. The banks can't sell these houses so FHA takes possession which will make future mortgages for everyone a little more expensive.
So who owns the property at that point? The bank or the FHA?
A lot of them will probably end up here:

Louisiana had 3 pages as of this morning (Dec 3).  It will be interesting to see how many pages are there in a couple months.

The differences between PO and the Great Depression situtations are so vast as to make it a completely useless example for comparison. The resource in declining availability then was cash money. People who had it could live very well indeed, though they did worry about their security. Nevertheless, many of the people suffering cash deprivation could still eat and heat pretty much as they always had, and they could usually stay where they were.

At that time, most married women earned little or no cash income. They spent their days gardening, cooking, canning, sewing, laundering, etc.

Credit financing was something reserved for the rather well off. A large percentage of farmers and home owners held unencumbered title to their property and property taxes were usually very low, since government provided few services then.

My father, and most farmers, used horses for much or all of their heavy work. The New Deal inspired REA brought electricity to our farm in 1942. Farmers were the last to get grid power and will undoubtledly be the first to lose it.

My older siblings rode to school in a horse-drawn Hack.

Most heating and cooking relied on wood or coal stoves. The wood frequently coming from your own land.

The list could get very long, but I think it should be obvious that for most of the population, the resource shortage made life a good bit more precarious, but didn't actually change it much. Mostly, because a majority of the population had never had much of it anyway.

That is certainly not the case with oil and NG. Almost everyone in the developed world has it coming out their pores. When we cannot get enough of it, just about everything will change. And, it is quite likely that it will not matter very much how much cash you have.

Perhaps, we will all be scorned by the cockroaches.

And don't forget: our population is growing.  If current trends continue, by 2050 our population will be 45% bigger than it is now.  
What do you mean "The Great Depression" is the wrong model? I know their are stock market safeguards,but a no. of economists feel a crash could still happen. I agree ,the economy will be the first issue!
The real problem will not be energy, it'll be the collapse of the economy.  The need to reduce energy use by several percent each year directly means reducing economic activity proportionally.
I don't believe this is true.

First, we're not talking about energy use per se, we're talking about fossil-fuel use.  Chemicals have close to a 1:1 correspondence between fuel consumption and output, but most other things don't.  Take natural-gas consumption and heat for living spaces.  You can make a building which requires a small fraction (30% or less, down to almost zero) of the heat that traditional (hidebound) construction does.

Many uses of natural gas and oil have potential efficiency boosts of 70% to 200%.  An oil-burning combined-cycle gas turbine at 55% efficiency is well over 3x as efficient as a car at 15.9%; feed a gallon (40.3 kWh) of oil to that turbine (22.2 kWh out) to a Prius+ (0.262 kWh/mile) and you get a whopping 84.7 MPG, plus the waste heat for industrial use.  You can expand the economy on that while contracting fuel use at the same time.

There's also wind (no fossil consumption, offsets coal and gas), coal and nuclear.  Coal isn't going to shrink for a while, and nuclear and wind will be coming up in a big way.  Last, if we get intelligent about cutting oil consumption we redirect petrodollars into the US economy.

Your scenario might happen, but it doesn't look like it's inevitable.

There's also wind (no fossil consumption, offsets coal and gas), coal and nuclear.

No fossil consumption?  Unless you're talking about those cute wooden Dutch windmills, you're wrong.  A modern windmill is 300 feet tall, made of energy-intensive aluminum and steel.  (The recent natural gas spike is killing the American aluminum industry, BTW.)

A 300 foot tall, hightech metal structure that requires helicopters for maintenance is not my idea of "no fossil consumption."

Great picture.

There is an important point to re-emphasize here. Yes, we have problems with all fuels, but the issues and solutions will be very different.

The electricity infrastructure worldwide is rickety, but there are a lot of generation fuel options available: coal, local NG, imported LNG, nuclear. There are also feasible renewable energy souces to generate electricity: hydro, wind, wave, geothermal, biomass, photovoltaic. If we ignore the environmental impact (and we will), we should be able generate large amounts of electricity for quite awhile. With some conseration, we should get by.

Transport fuels will be a huge issue. Cars, trucks, planes, and many trains run on gasoline, diesel, CNG /LPG, or jet fuel. Conversion to electricity is feasible for trains and public transport, but we're still waiting for a practical and affordable electric car. Don't hold your breath for an electric semi truck. The world will have to use less oil-derived transport fuels, period.

Oil-related feedstocks for industry will be a problem. Keeping goods moving in a global economy will be a problem. We will see structural shifts, with some industries moving to where the feedstock is (fertilizer plants), other industries declining (plastics), and less global trade.

I heard Kjell Aleklett of ASPO last week expressing a belief that the peak oil adjustment period might feel like the mid-1970's oil shocks. I think that's a best-case scenario, but he may be right.

Conversion to electricity is feasible for trains and public transport, but we're still waiting for a practical and affordable electric car.
Emphasis on and.  Li-ion electric cars are quite practical today, but they have a ways to go before they're affordable.  On the other hand, the advanced Li-ion hybrid is coming very soon, the derived plug-in hybrid should not be far behind, and the gradual expansion of battery packs allows the evolution to a pure EV.
Don't hold your breath for an electric semi truck.
It's doable today with Electric Fuel's zinc-air batteries as long as you don't demand long range.

Batteries for electric cars could still use some improvement:  longer cycle life, better low temp performance, better safety in a crash, lower cost, etc.  In general it's difficult to get most people to switch to a new technology if there are any drawbacks at all.  As things stand now it will take very high fuel prices to get a sizable percentage of the population to go electric.  At $6/gallon in Europe there still aren't many converts, so the break point here in the US (where range limitations are more of an issue) is probably above that.  But in my view the electric car path is the most viable alternative to gasoline and diesel for most of our transportation needs.

Battery technology is not standing still, however.  This is one of the alt energy areas that is currently receiving a shot of venture capital.  One of the more interesting battery companies that I've read about lately is .  There are many others.  US automakers gave up on batteries in favor of fuel cell far too quickly; the technological gap to lower cost, improve safety, increase performance and develop infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cells is far higher by comparison.

Great picture, indeed.

Think about it this way: The picture shows a 5 MW wind turbine. At full power it might replace fossil fuel (oil) at a rate of aproximately 8-9 barrels/hour assuming an oilfired power plant with 35-40% efficiency. If something happens that stops the turbine and requires servicing to restart, it would easily be economical energywise to use a helicopter if you could shorten the standstill period by only a few hours. If the turbine is offshore and the wind is strong you might have to wait for days to access the turbine by boat.

That's not my point.  Post-peak, the issue will not be economics, it will be energy. Particularly, the energy it takes to maintain that level of complexity.  

IMO, calculating the cost of a wind turbine in terms of barrels of oil in electricity generated is like calculating the cost of a car by how much gas will cost, while ignoring the car payments.

Post-peak, will we have the wealth and resources to build wind turbines?  Will we be able to build helicopters, fuel them, and train pilots to fly them?  Remember, everything will be more expensive.  No cheap petroleum means steel and aluminum become more expensive.  Fuel for the heavy equipment to build wind turbines becomes more expensive.  Mining and transporting the ore that will become steel and aluminum will become more expensive.  Heck, feeding and training helicopter pilots will become more expensive.

Complexity has an energy cost, and I don't think we will be able to maintain our current level of complexity without cheap energy.  For awhile, yes, but long-term?  No.  

Data on wind turbines, including energy payback time.

If aluminum smelting takes 13 kWh/kg then a wind turbine using 1000 tons of aluminum would take 13 million kWh to make it.  That's 5 megawatts for 2600 hours, or 108.3 days.  Making things out of aramid or glass fiber and resin might take much less energy.

Energy payback time is not the issue. EROEI is what counts...and that calculation must include everything.  If you need aluminum, you have to consider not just the energy it takes to smelt that aluminum, but the energy it takes to mine it, and to build and fuel the mining equipment, and the mine and smelt the metal to make the mining equipment, etc.

It's the insane EROEI we get from oil that allows us to support our current population and our level of complexity.  A hundred years ago, 97% of the population were farmers.  Now, it's reversed.  Only 3% of the population are farmers, and they are supporting the rest of us.  Will we have that luxury post-peak?  Will there be as many engineers and scientists and technicians?  Or will we all be forced to do things that more directly support our own survival?  I think it's the latter.

One of my assumptions is that it will be quite advantagous to be able to produce at least a fair percentage of the food my family consumes ourselves.  Beyond available quantity, there is a food quality issue.  In order to allow the present system to work, we are already performing what amounts to a great experiment in changing what counts as "food" for our population.  We are eating things that have never been previously consumed by humans on a large scale.  It has not been going on long enough to know the consequences for sure.  If things get difficult, what will we be eating then - soylent green?
Wind farms have estimated EROEI up to 80:1.  That's not "insane"?  The annual EROEI of cellulosic fuels is claimed to be something like 8:1; isn't that as good as some oil fields?

Even solar PV has a payback time of < 4 years (less than 2 years for thin-film) and warranties as long as 25 years.  That's an EROEI of at least 6:1 before the warranty runs out (should reach 10:1 over a 50 year lifespan).

I wouldn't assume that composites require less fossil fuel input than Al.  Strength members (carbon, kevlar, glass, boron, etc) either are derived directly from hydrocarbons or require extensive high temp purification steps.  Most resins might as well be solid oil.  I buy a smattering of high strength Al alloys and composites at work and my composite costs have increased at a far faster clip over the last few years.  The oil/gas required for a new 787 (carbon fiber composite panels for the body) is staggering.  However, since most composites have a better strenght to weight ratio than Al you might need less by weight for a large structural element.  From a performance perspective composites are definitely the way to go for large turbine blades, and better efficiency over the long term probably offsets the higher energy investment.
I wouldn't assume that composites require less fossil fuel input than Al.
I would.

There's considerable work going on at the moment on production of synfuels from biomass by gasification followed by F-T or other synthesis.  IIRC, one of the easier syntheses is ethylene; from there you go straight to polyethylene (aka Spectra).  HDPE seems to be going for under $1.00/lb even today; if you can get 20% conversion efficiency from biomass to ethylene, a 5 ton/acre yield from something like switchgrass would produce a ton of ethylene.  If prices rise to $1.00/lb, that's a potential $1000/acre of product.

I'm not sure what a wind turbine blade weighs (total weight of the 3.6 MW GE turbine is 290 tons), but at yields we're seeing from biomass crops today it would only take a hundred acres or so to make the fiber and resin for a new turbine per year.

HDPE is a long way away from what you would use for a high strength composite resin or fiber suitable for a large turbine blade.  And you can't get away with coke bottle glass impurity levels for the glass fibers.  Glass is dirt just like aluminum is dirt; the engergy input is largely dependent on the degree of refinement required.  As turbine blade length increases you would tend to use more carbon fiber composites anyway - carbon fiber composites have better strenght/weight ratios, although they cost quite a bit more.

I don't know the energy input required for a composite versus Al turbine blade, in part becuase the composite construction prosess is far more complex.  If you run across a good resource please educate me.  But I'm comfortable betting that one of the results of peak oil is that the price of composites rises faster than steel and aluminum.  For applications where the strength/weight ratio is critical to perfomance (like aircraft and wind turbine structural elements) highly engineered materials like composites still make a lot of sense and will continue to be used despite higher production costs.

I think the 13 kWh/kg is too high since we can repurpose/recycle aluminum that we have already smelted.  It is something like 0.5 kWh/kg to heat and melt scrap Al, though there would be some extra energy cost to deal with alloying.

Recycling is a big advantage of Al versus composites post peak oil.  Assuming a contraction of the population, there should be alot of fallow Al, with its large implicit energy investment already paid, ready for repurposing.

Recycling is a big advantage of Al versus composites post peak oil.
Probably not relevant to wind turbines.  Here's what I learned with a quick search:

Our ability to make resin and/or fiber from bio-oil or syngas is probably more relevant than the recyclability of aluminum.

Wind turbines use less than 1,000 tons of aluminum.
The blade is aluminum, and sometimes part of the tower. The girders are steel because it's cheap and strong, and the base is made of cement because it's cheap and heavy.
I think the gear box is made of steel and the motor is wound with aluminum and uses steel magnets.
It's easy to build windmills. They are made of dirt and electricity. Bauxite can be replaced by ordinary backyard dirt if you let the price go up a few more cents per pound. We just use bauxite because it is very slightly cheaper than back yard dirt because it is more pure.
Arkansas is made of low grade bauxite. It's called red clay. It's what's left when only the iron oxide, silica, and aluminum oxide is left and everything else has been leached away.
You don't need helicopters to visit every day. Just installation and removal. Otherwise the inspection people can make it on their own.
It's like electric cars. They use electricity from coal generating surplus power at night, and the coal is hauled in trains, which require diesel. So electric cars are really 1,000 MPG cars.
Windmills have energy payback in months. Cost payback is different for America because our labor cost is high, but if we started importing windmills from China the cost payback would be a lot faster.
There are many technical possibilities out there. You are correct about that. But because something is possible does not mean it will happen. It doesn't even mean it can happen. You must consider the social and economic limitations placed on technical possibilities. Assuming that we (a nation state, a society, or even human kind) will plan efficiently and far enough ahead to address a transition in the manner you are describing simply doesn't fit with experience.

As a species, we don't tend to think very far ahead, though there have been whole societies who did. Unfortunately that tendency toward short-sightedness is exagerated in modern growth oriented societies with thier emphasis on markets and the individual at the expense of the collective. And then throw in that in the most powerful nation on the planet (and the one consuming the most oil) that a good sizable portion of the population, including some at the highest levels of government, believe that we are in the end times just before the rapture.

I hold out no hope that any sizable portion of the planets population will have an epiphany tomorrow and start acting in a manner consistent with some sort of smooth transition. And I certainly don't believe that our (U.S.) government will suddenly start working toward your suggested goal. In fact, our gov't appears to be acting in a manner that suggests just the opposite, in supporting and encouraging consumption backed growth.

As a species, we don't tend to think very far ahead, though there have been whole societies who did.

Really! Any examples in mind?  Rome?  Carthage?  Egypt?  Sumeria?  Inquiring minds want to know.  In particular, any societies even remotely democratic?  It's an easy line to throw out but it may be hard to defend.

Most societies I have read about have depleted their resources and gone out of existence.

Check out chapter 9 of Jared Diamond's Collapse.  He discusses societies that succeeded, and what it takes to be a successful sustainable society.  
Actually, I was thinking of the Iroquois who supposedly made decisions based on impact out seven generations. But, your point is well taken, all significant centralized societies have failed.

I once spent 6 months reading most of Toynbee's 12 volume "A Study of History" - same conclusion and he plots out the causes pretty carefully. The ultimate cause, according to Toynbee, is the "idolization of an ephemeral self." It is our own idolization of our petro based growth that will make our collapse especially ugly.

Diamond points to Japan as a society that succeeded.  I don't know how they'll ride out peak oil, but they maintained their society before being "westernized" for thousands of years.  

Japan, of course, is an island nation.  And all of Diamond's successful societies are islands, from small Tikopia to Japan, the largest and best known.  I don't think that's a coincidence.  I suspect sustainable societies tend to be overrun by their less prudent neighbors, unless they are in some way isolated.  

Which suggests that if we are to succeed, we must do it as a nation, perhaps even as a continent.  

We tried redirecting those petrodollars into the US economy.  It was called the Iraq war.
Really?  The war was intended to cut our oil imports and keep the money we would have spent on it at home?

Somehow I missed this feature of the strategy; do please tell me all about it.  You can start with the reason the PNGV was not un-cancelled immediately after 9/11.

I'll try to do it for him. Iraq was going to be the 51st state. I'm serious. There was a good article on this in the New Yorker 6 months to a year ago.
o.k. i'm dumb, but i hadn't heard of i googled it and find out it was a gov't program to create high milage enviro friendly do they do it ...yes!

  "·... The DaimlerChrysler concept car, the Dodge ESX3, was a diesel-electric hybrid with an estimated fuel economy of 72 mpg.

· The Ford Prodigy was a diesel-electric hybrid with fuel economy estimated at more than 70 mpg.

· Two versions of the GM Precept were unveiled. The diesel-electric hybrid version of the Precept had a projected fuel economy of 80 mpg...."

do they build these what came of the results of the cancelled program???

   "...Migration of PNGV technologies into production vehicles, such as

  • production of a new, lighter, recyclable thermoplastic hardtop for the Jeep Wrangler in 2001,

  • use of 412 pounds of lightweight aluminum in the 2000 Lincoln LS, saving 188 pounds,

  • a new composite pickup truck box on the 2001 Chevrolet Silverado that is 50 pounds lighter than the traditional steel box- aluminum used for door, deck, and hood panels for Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet vehicles...." just gets you so steamed!
i hadn't heard of i googled it and find out it was a gov't program to create high milage enviro friendly do they do it ...yes!

Um, they don't get it, no.  The PNGV was cancelled in 2001 by the same people who brought us the war.
E.P.- i did mention they cancelled the program..the point i was making was they were sucessful at producing the prototypes...but no follow through after that.
Maybe. Maybe not. I'd rather keep the options open.
What really bothers me about PO (which is not often mentioned) is that it will almost coincide with peak NG (maybe with 10-20 years lag globally, much sooner locally).
The combined effect of oil and NG shortages could be unpredictable and could exceed our ability of the society to adapt. We could well do without cars even in US. But if shortages hit our ability to heat our houses or the electricity generation grid... Houston, Houston...
Sorry, but IF we did without our cars most folks living in the more rural areas, or even in the suburbs would REBEL and do it really fast.

Not to mention that most mid sized cities have poor public transit outside of the far between bus, or in some more mid-sized college towns or some small cities.

 Work would almost stop in most places.

 Heating our homes is only a problem in the winter, for some of us cooling is a problem of poor design in summer.  BUT cars have become the "drive time" need of a lot of working class americans, take that away and you can pretty much SHOOT us right into chaos.

I will not argue that. The car is a basic necessity in US you can hardly do without. But I've seen enough of bad things happening in my life to show how adaptive people are on one hand... and on the other - how just when you think it could not be worse the reality quickly disproves you.

What do I mean? Car is a necessity but it is not a basic necessity. You will not die without it. Long before fuel shortages become chronic I'd expect some kind of rationing to be imposed firstly and second - a crash program to build an adequate mass transit. It won't be a pleasant time by no means, but this can give us maybe 10-15 years of time to learn to live closer and to work on alternatives.

On the other hand - if we experience significant drop of NG... just try to survive a week without electricity or without home heating in a cold winter month... Have you read Asimov's "Nightfall"?

I'd definitely recommend Nightfall. Azimov was only 21 when he wrote that particular short story, but he was already a wonderful writer. It's chilling and very memorable. Takes me back many years.
Yes, it is very educating. I was referring to the end of the story when they started burning everything when the darkness came in... But at least they saw the stars :) I wonder what will be the silver lining in our case?
I've been wondering about this, too.  Looking at my own situation, it seems like I could weather a factor-of-ten jump in energy prices without real trouble.  (It'd be a minor hardship, but nothing to really complain about.)  Factor of a hundred would really hurt, but I don't see us getting there.

Expressed in terms of prices, about how much do we think energy prices will shoot up?  There must be some limit, since at high-enough prices, many alternatives will come into play.

I'm somewhat sanguine about the whole thing, since I'm a software engineer and watched the whole Y2K could-have-been crisis.

[I'm lucky in that I live less than two miles from work and have a job that won't be affected by economic fallout.]

I think a lot of people are missing the point of peak oil and prices rising.  

Prices will rise because demand will outstrip supply.  Someone will have to do without oil (& NG) that once had access to it.  If everybody just pays a factor of 10 more for the oil there is no reduction in demand.  This is a key concept to get to grips with.  

Some people who use oil now, will not be able to use it after the peak.  100 years after the peak some people will still be using oil for some uses.  The questions are who will do without?  How much are you willing to do without?  Are you going to be able to pay 10X more for oil and still get by with  only 80% of what you use now?

If people are assuming that they can use an equal amount of energy in the future but just pay a lot more for it they are, by default, assuming others are going to use a LOT less than they do now.  This is what will cause the problems.  "I can afford to pay more for my energy but you will have to do without."  If we get to that point bad things will happen.

This relates to my concern. PO will bring up social justice concerns, although this is an unpopular term right now. Energy is a need now, we are structured to require it. If pipes freeze, homes become unlivable. If people can't afford gasoline, they may not be able to get to work. People with money will be able to afford energy at 10x present cost, but others will not. There will will deaths among the vulnerable (as there were in the past) due to overheating or hypothermia and disease. I am not a doomsday prophet, but these are real concerns already among some of the population at today's prices, and many more will be affected as prices rise. Then the issues will be rationing & distribution vs free market with what I expect to be significant political battles.
I think you are  a little off on some of these points. Don't take it too personally, I just happened to settle on your post. I'm trying to get a grip on this blockquote deal. The same sentiment is expressed here by others and they are equally misinformed.
Nobody is going to read this anyway since it is so far down the thread.

Energy is a need now, we are structured to require it.

no it isn't, in fact a great part of the world does without what we call energy. I think you were referring to the energy that is required to feed your mindless consumerism and historically gluttoness lifestyle, your ancestors would cringe at your consumption.

If pipes freeze, homes become unlivable.

nonsense.You make it seem like a day after the peak, there will be no oil and everybody's pipes will freeze. Pipes freeze because people leave houses unattended and boilers quit unexpectedly during subfreezing temperatures. And besides, water freezes at 32 degrees not when you turn your thermostat down to 66 degrees. Get a sweater. What a ridiculous statement.

If people can't afford gasoline, they may not be able to get to work.

If a significant enough amount of people can't get to work, or haven't moved closer to their jobs, the ecomomy will crash and the price of gasoline will be the least of our worries, people will be stealing it anyway.


People with money will be able to afford energy at 10x present cost, but others will not.

If the economy crashes on the scale we are talking about here, dollar bills will be useless. Gasoline, food, water, and guns will be the only thing worth having. Build yourself a bunker and learn to swim.

There will will deaths among the vulnerable (as there were in the past) due to overheating or hypothermia and disease.

We'll have to eat their dead bodies when the local Stop'n'Shop runs out of fresh bread. Hope you're getting better at growing vegetables in your backyard.

I am not a doomsday prophet...

Yes you are, you just don't know it yet :)
Geez .. are you tongue in cheek or what?
I'm just referring to some concerns that I think are worth consideration. I'm not talking about the "rest of the world."  I guess you never lived in Minnesota. Doesn't take much for pipes to freeze - happened twice to us for example - big mess. Houses in poorer sections of the city are old, with very poor insulation. They are very expensive to heat already. This is what I mean by "energy as a need." Old houses were built with poor windows and little insulation, new houses built much too large. Things are built differently when little energy is available (few windows, small dwellings). My point is significant increases in energy costs will be a very real problem for low income people, and once basic energy needs become unaffordable, which can happen easily, there are serious choices to make as a society. Did you notice how many thousands died in Europe in the heat wave the previous summer? These are not theoretical problems. If you check with social service agencies in both rural and urban areas with severe weather you will find great concern with elderly and/or vulnerable young families who are not paying utility bills because they can't afford them. Others can't get fuel oil deliveries because they've defaulted. This will increase drastically with increased energy prices and I'm just saying we will need to decide what to do about this as a society.

I personally drive an old 41 mpg civic and have PV on my roof. I do not partake in your "mindless consumerism." I may sound radical to you but I'm pretty average and try to give serious consideration to issues and various perspectives.

For what it's worth, when I talk about paying 10x the price, I'm assuming I'll be using around 1/10th the amount.  Perhaps somewhat more, but I'm already probably in the bottom 20% of Americans...
Yeah, what will probably happen is that people and countries will fall off the cliff one by one (with the poorest first, richest last). PO already began for Africa and Central America; until it gets to us there will be quite a while... Most probably the social unrest and the consequent political responses (e.g. embargoes of exports to USA) will kick in long before we've felt the heat of even 2x current prices. I'd expect this to happen overnight and to cause a chain reaction causing the financial markets also to collapse along the way.

A calm political situation is a very doubtful assumption we make when we try to guess how we will handle PO. We somehow reason like that "Well we can handle prices 2-3-4x higher than these. So there is nothing to worry about - at a price 2x higher than current the alternatives will become feasible". Yeah, we, we we, but we are not the only ones in the equation, are we?

Yeah, what will probably happen is that people and countries will fall off the cliff one by one (with the poorest first, richest last). PO already began for Africa and Central America; until it gets to us there will be quite a while...

You're right, that is what is happening now.  But I'm not so sure we will be one of the last to fall off the cliff.

Right now, we can afford to outbid other countries for oil (and just about anything else).  But what if there's a dollar collapse?  There are many economists worried about this, even without peak oil.  We are 5% of the world's population, using 25% of the world's energy.  How are we doing this?  We don't manufacture much any more.  We are borrowing in order to fund our consumption.  What happens if other countries decide to stop throwing good money after bad, and cut us off?

Actually in the sentences after the quote I was referring exactly this type of scenarios... Personally I think it would have already happened long time ago if it has not been that it is in nobody interest right now. Such a chronic lender as USA is technically broke  and is slowly losing every potential to pay its dues (to be fair every lender is potentially broke if they request his debts one at a time, but USA does not keep even a minor liquidity in foreign assets)

My fear is that sometimes things happen even if they are against the interests of the majors. Dams break and enthropy rules over order. And maybe equally importantly the interests of the majors change.

Right now, I think we are "too big to fail."  China, India, Japan, etc., are worried that our debt has grown so large that we can never repay it.  But they also know that if they cut us off, the global economy would likely collapse.  At the very least, their export industries would suffer.  So they keep letting us borrow.  

I'm not sure this can continue forever, though.  Especially in the face of peak oil.  I could see a "run on the bank" type situation developing, where one big player decides to dump U.S. dollars, leading others to rush to do the same.  Or perhaps some hardliner al-Qaeda type overthrowing the House of Saud, and deciding they will only sell oil for euros or e-dinars or gold, undermining the petrodollar.  

I imagine that many folks on TOD do not have a great deal of contact with low income families.  I do have some experience with poverty.  

My mother directed a battered women's shelter for 20 years and I spent many years doing volunteer child care, maintenance and lawn work at the shelter.  This brought me face to face with poverty and many of it's ugly side effects.  My father directed the Head Start program (a program for low income families) for 30 years.  He was just forced into early retirement because the program funding has been striped over the past five years.  

The "safety net"  for low income families is being dismantled in the US as we speak.  The numbers of poor people grows ever year as jobs move overseas.  What kind of jobs are we creating here in the U.S.?  You many not see this side of the U.S. but is there and not going away.....

This is the most vulnerable segment of US population, but then there is all the consumer debt that the middle class has racked up......................

So many people live paycheck to paycheck and we won't be able to pay the gas bill with a credit card indefinitely.  It is this reality that makes high energy prices scary.

As some others have said, I don't think that the coming situation will look a lot like the great depression, but in at least one way they will be similar.  Google on "Hooverville".  I believe this is what awaits many of us, and it may be waiting for me too.  

Overall, I see too damn many serious problems lining up at one time - they are not really independant.  Our economy and political system are in crisis, and this will severely limit our ability to respond in any useful way.

No matter what previous crisis we try to compare this one to, there is always one crucial difference: population.  There are a hell of a lot more of us now, possibly more than we will have the energy to feed.  

At a two dollars a gallon wholesale you make methanol out of coal. That's pushing three dollars a gallon at the pump but because of lower energy per gallon you are paying the equivalent of six dollars per gallon of gasoline.
About what they pay in some parts of Europe.
The price for methanol production used to be lower but you may have noticed that the price of coal, iron ore, steel, etc, has gone up. Also, we used to make methanol out of natural gas and we will have to switch to coal because we are running out of natural gas so that's why the new, higher price of methanol. We are already winding down our NH4NO3 fertilizer production from natural gas due to price increases.
Are you so sure your job won't be affected???

Think about it hard for a few minutes, think about a crash and burn of the structure of our full debt to grave society!!  Think about high prices not in terms of what you can afford, but what others that support you can afford.

The farmers, the guys empty your trash every night, The guys that bake that nice bread in the sandwich you bought at the deli, the little folks that live on the edge most days.

 Most of my neighbors don't have computers, they do have tv's, and radios, they get their information from CNN or the local news.  I get mine from reading the internet with a lot of selective filters built in. They don't they get it streamed to them by the mass market.  Panic is a mass market supplied thing in most crisis.  

Katrina proved to folks that Gov't can't do everything, that some things just can't be solved with a lot of thinking the problem through.  100's of thousands of homes are gone for all practical purposes,  100's of thousands of folks can't make credit card payments, or mortgages.  10's of thousands of folks have had to move to totally new and out of the way places, because there is nothing to go back to.  Do the math, make everyone pay through the nose for higher prices on everything and our whole DEBT ridden living falls to pieces and along with a lot more jobs than you would have thought possible.

 Think before you ASSUME your job is secure.

A hard crash would be very unpleasant, but I've come to believe that a soft landing could be worse, at least in the long term.  

Collapse is inevitable, but with a soft landing, we can fool ourselves into thinking that it isn't.  We'll tell ourselves that soon it will be back to "normal," and so not make any real changes.  More and more people will fall out of the middle class every year.  The divide between the haves and have-nots will become a chasm.  We'll lower our environmental standards, burning all the coal we can mine, looking the other way as all our forests are cut down for fuel.  The land will grow poorer, due to pollution, falling water tables, erosion, and soil exhaustion.  And still, we won't make any real changes.  The politicians will keep telling us not to worry, this is only a temporary problem.  As soon as we succeed in our energy "Manhattan Project," or win the Middle East war, or complete the pipeline to the Artic or the new LNG terminals, all will be well.  Prices will go down, you'll have a good job again, and we'll reinstate the environmental regulations.  Only it will never happen.  

IMO, this is why the aftermath of collapse is often a dark age.  By the time a complex society winds through a catabolic collapse, resources have been completely exhausted, in a way simpler societies would never manage to do.  When we're done with this place, forests will be decimated, water undrinkable, land barren.  It won't be able to support the level of complexity the American Indians had.  

This is precisely why in the debate between ethanol or electrical transportation I stay firmly for the electricity.

Ethanol can help us alleviate the problem for a while but is utterly unsustainable in the long term. It will help us think wow if we built a little more of those ethanol/CTL/biodisel plants we'll be able to return to the good ol' days. And when the last drop of the natural capital will be invested in unsustainable practices (I argue etanol is unsustainable - not enough land) we will end-up in much bigger hole than the current one.
Better invest in true sustainability while there is still same capital left to invest. It would be much much more expensive initially, but it will pay-off in less then a century. The problem is that our idiotic capitalist system always picks the path of least initial resistance.

I keep having a feeling we are set up for the hard landing.And I feel this is the lesser of very bad experiences over the long run. Our degree of denial I feel will set up a matching intrusion to pierce this crust. As we ignore, or "patch" the  problems of the economy, war and energy depletion without making the serious changes needed we "set" up the collapse.
Something I have been wondering about:  say we are at peak oil, resources wars ensue between the US, China, Europe, Russia.  How much faster will we deplete resources fighting this war for the last drops of oil (and water and anything else)?  In other words, the irony is we will consume a lot of the very same depleting resource we are trying to take for ourselves (where we = any of the countries noted above).
And then, how soon do we get to the point where the remaining oil is claimed by governments (at the expense of the people) who argue it is needed to allow the military to continue to fight those resource wars? And will governments then use the military to enforce that claim to all the oil against its own citizens?
I see it this way too. That is why I think the U.S. ( citizen) is one-down,we have little oil, and rattling our swords.
I suspect you are right.  As soon as it becomes clear that oil is in short supply, permanently, the hoarding will start, making the shortages worse.  And it will be governments and large corporations doing most of the hoarding.  

The government will then be facing the classic "guns or butter" question.  Use the oil to fuel the military, or feed the people?

I can't help remembering how North Korea handled their oil shortage.  They fed the military, at the expense of the people.  Which meant the government stayed in power, but millions of people starved.  

Cuban government also stayed in power while picking the other option, suggesting that there are milder alternatives.
Cuba is often seen as the poster child for a smooth transition.  But I suspect they were more lucky than good.

North Korea had terrible luck.   A large chunk of their prime farmland was ruined when it was flooded by a tsunami.  Combined with the sudden loss of oil, it was a brutal blow.  

Cuba, OTOH, discovered oil of their own.  Plus, they are in the tropics, where food can be grown year-round.  They also had better trade relations with other countries, and were able to import staples like rice and beans.  

That is to their credit, of course, but if there's a worldwide oil shortage, I don't think we'll be importing rice and beans from anyone.

Cuba is often the model for how survive post peak via gardening on rooftops ,chickens, etc. Cuba did not have nuclear weapons, nor the U. S. military might to attempt to get oil. My cautious hope is  the cost of Iraq is recent enough in the public mind to thwart war.
Following the abject failure of the war in Iraq, it may be very difficult for any future US politician who wants to keep his job to advocate and support new wars. But if a new bogus terrorist threat or somesuch is fabricated by TPTB, to create a 'National Emergency' as a distraction from deep economic turmoil, maybe the public will once again be gullible...who knows?

I am not so confident as some in fairly specifically predicting the future, but it is hard not to envision increasing turmoil year by year. On a positive note, it doesn't mean individuals and families with some preparation and good luck can't get by and even learn to enjoy and even thrive on the physical and mental challenges of relative deprivation. It may just mean overcoming many nonsense ideas embedded in us - that to be happy we must have a high level of 'consumer confidence', that we can't walk 1 or 2 miles to get to a store or meet a friend, etc. etc.

A focus on quality of life not "quantity", plus family, friends, neighbors, community.
Just something I'm curious about...I've heard some people say that peak oil (if/when it comes) will not be a big deal because the increase in oil price will push our transition to the next fuel source.  Sometimes these people refer to the transition from wood to coal, and from coal to oil, as examples.

What I'm wondering about is whether these earlier transitions were driven by actual shortages of wood or coal, or whether the transitions occurred because the new fuel (coal and then oil) were so obviously superior to the previous fuel.  It seems to me that a transition being driven by a shortage would be much different than a transition made because we have discovered a superior fuel.

The transition from wood to coal was driven, in part, and in the UK by a declining supply of trees.  There are a lot of trees in the UK now that came about after WW2 giving a different impression of the countryside.  One sees the same thing in parts of the US where current tree densities do not reflect the situation early in the 20th Century.
Richard Heinberg in his book The Party's Over goes into this in reasonable detail. As Britain's population grew from the twelfth century onwards (from 2 million), so more trees were used for producing Iron, making houses, ships and cooking etc. Through the ages, the richer the household had to be to be able to afford to cook with or use wood. The sea coal first used was of very poor, smokey quality, nothing like you would use today and was inferior to wood. By the eighteenth century only the very rich could afford to use wood, everybody else had to use something else. If coal, and then oil hadn't been used, life would have become very difficult and unable to support the massive numbers of people living in society. But at least they had the skills to revert back, something that would be much, much harder to do now.

There is a funny bit where Will Ferrell spoofs the president talking about global warming.

On a completely different track, I am sure I read somewhere in one of the posts that IEA requested release of oil and oil product stocks from the emergency storage will have to be replaced sometime in 2006. Does that mean that Europe wants its oil, petrol and distillates back? Can anyone shed some light on this, because if it is true, then American refineries are going to be working flat out next year.
The answer is yes it is supposed to be paid back, though you may want to note that a considerable amount of the "loan" came from Asia I believe.
Saudi Aramco is not aiming to become a swing supplier of oil products with spare refining capacity, an official said, dampening hopes for further plant expansions that could help ease high fuel prices.

I steadily see the Saudis making excuses now for not expanding capacities (both in crude and finished product). I think they are at peak, know it, and are skirting the issue for the moment.

One of the things that they have admitted to is developing a refinery to process the oil from the Manifa field.  This is a potential 1 mbd supply that is only nominally available currently since it is not refinable at any existing plant.

Do LNG tankers still accomplish en-route cooling of their cargo by allowing LNG to boil off?  (I've seen numbers suggesting that 8-12% of the LNG boils off in this fashion, when evap cooling is used to keep the cargo cold.)

If so, LNG tankers are far worse for global warming than burning coal for elctricity generation, since CH4 is one of the most potent greenhouse gasses.

To the extent LNG is allowed to boil off during transport, how is this (global warming impact of boil-off) figured in to such proceedings as permitting of new LNG terminals, etc.?

Les Lambert

I can't comment on the global warming part, but I looked into this yesterday and the site on LNG carriers I was on said they try to use the "boil-off" to power the ship.$file/FrontRunner_09 04.pdf

Some searching suggests that the boil-off is used for some combination of fueling the LNG vessels (along with diesel fuel), or is captured and re-liquefied.  

See e.g.

Nowhere do I see indications that it's just allowed to escape into the atmosphere, which is heartening (for the global warming dangers mentioned).  Since the release is controlled and regular, it's probably straightforward and economically sensible to hold onto it.

The boil-off rate I saw quoted is 0.13% a day.

At these prices of NG they might as well let dollar bills fly out in the wind. BTW 0.13% per day does not look a minor loss.
To be clear, that 0.13% boil-off per day is the quantity we're talking about recapturing and either re-liquefying or using for fuel.  I agree it's not at all trivial, but it's not a loss except to the extent that it takes energy to re-liquefy.  Basically it just represents the energy cost of refrigeration.

I certainly agree about the profit motive for preventing excess loss!

They also need to burn LNG to cool in down and to warm it back up, I've heard this uses about 4% of the LNG cargo, on top of the transport use and don't get me started on LNG to electricty...a 50% waste in energy!  If a company wants to make electricity from LNG I can't see them getting more than 30% of the energy, that was originally pulled out of the ground.

It's a ClusterF%^k and the industry knows it.
Look @ Calpine, they are actually one of the companies trying to bring in LNG for their gas-fired power plants..if this sounds like a good deal you can pick up their stock cheap..about 33 cents this morning.

Anybody know if there are any publicly available(free) tables/spreadsheets listing the world's oil reserves? And, most importantly, breaks them out as proven, probable, possible, and potential.
Try the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. However, I'm not aware of anywhere that will give you the level of detailed breakout you want on reserves.
yeah, I've used that. The whole breakout thing is key to the issue. Guess I'll have to start building my own. Thanks.

In our area we have 4 LNG proposals on the table.  So 2 days ago our Chamber of Commerce put on a "information session" on the LNG business and the current worldwide energy least that was what was advertised.

The speaker was a Michelle Foss, it had to be the worst presentation I'd ever seen.  She knew nothing of the LNG business and only offered EIA/USGS data (and we know how the get their data) as what the future of energy holds for the world.  Her stats were wrong and misleading, she said that LNG prices will be in the $2-3  MBTU range well into the future.  She also commented on "lightboxes" being available to power everything about 20 years into the future...right.
When I asked her about the differences between a Co-gen and a water open-loop system at a LNG terminal, she couldn't give an answer, other than to argue whether a Co-generator was actually called a "Co-gen".
When asked about peak-oil (Matt Simmons was her boss at one time) she responded that the peak is a long way off and "we are finding oil and gas everyday".  She said nothing about decline rates in the US, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Kuwait, in fact she didn't say the world decline once.

After witnessing this disaster I feel sorry for a chamber that got fooled into paying money for this awful presentation.

I am going to contact the Chamber and try to get another speaker, does anyone know a decent speaker that could actually inform my area on the LNG business and our future energy outlook?

Can't recommend anyone if we don't know where you live.
Columbia River
The speaker was flown in from Texas, so I think anyone from anywhere is a possible candidate.
I have a question in regards to what is referred to, I think, as "oil intensity".  There is an argument that the U.S. is decreasing its oil intensity (less oil consumed per $ of GDP).  There is another thread that questions whether that makes us more or less vulnerable to oil shocks, but that is not my question.  My question is, if GDP is calculated using import and export data, it seems to me that the oil side of the "oil intensity" equation should do the same thing not only for the oil itself, but for the oil used to produce those things that we import.  In other words, the oil side of the intensity should be something more like: (Total U.S. Oil Consumption + World Oil Consumption to produce U.S. Imports - U.S. Oil Consumption to produce Exports).  I don't think that is how oil intensity is calculated. Or, I guess my point is that the only reason we appear to be less oil intense is that we have moved a lot of our oil consumption overseas.  Does this make any sense?
Reductions in oil intensity came primarily from from fuel switching away from oil for heat and power applications, and increases in vehicle fuel efficiency. I analyzed it here.
Yes, it makes perfect sense.  Most estimates I've seen attribute about 50% of our increase in "effiency" since the '70s oil crisis to moving energy-heavy resources overseas.  Of course, that is not really an increase in efficiency at all.  They are simply using the energy outside the U.S.  
Arrghh.  That should be "move energy-heavy industry overseas."
This is simply not right. Outsourcing of manufacturing is certainly a factor, but it is not the dominant one.
That article is talking only about oil.  I'm talking about all energy.  
Trade Imbalance Shifts US Carbon Emissions To China

The growth of Chinese imports in the U.S. economy boosted the total emissions of carbon dioxide (a primary greenhouse gas) from the two countries by over 700 million metric tons between 1997 and 2003, according to a study published online in the journal Energy Policy. The analysis, prepared by two scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, suggests that American emissions of carbon dioxide in 2003 would have been 6% higher if the United States had manufactured the products that it imported from China. Meanwhile, China's 2003 emissions would have been 14% lower had it not produced goods for the United States.

At least some confirmation to something I've always suspected: diminishing energy intensity by country means nothing if you don't take into account global trade.

Absolutely. In economics it's considered an "externality." It means that one party benefits, but another pays.

The environmental externalities of oil are huge. You point out that the carbon emissions migrated from the US to China. We should also note that neither country tried to mitigate the C02 output, and neither will pay for it under Kyoto. China and the US benefit, and the whole world warms.

The Moment of Truth could be the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when athletes could refuse to run in the smoggy air. I think about half of Australia's black coal output could be burned in Chinese plants. Not our problem mate.
China exports coal. It also imports coal, depending on where the plants are and the difference between rail and ship costs for coal.
NG future up to 14 today?  Anyone know what's going on?
return of cold weather?
Correct, like last last year traders are discovering, despite expectations, that winter will be cold :).
I have a question about this:

just about daily, you hear about either oil or gas prices on the radio, their rise and fall.

Every time the price rises one day, the next day there's a ready explanation.

Recently, oil spike up. Less than twenty-four hours later, the radio is saying: "Oil rose on fear of cold weather," etc.

How do they know?

How do they conduct psychological profiles of traders in such a hurry? How do they know there's a cause-effect relationship?

It sounds suspiciously like mind-reading to me.

It also seems illusory: traders have always expected prices to rise at the onset of cold weather, so they bid up prices. Supply has nothing to do with this?

How do they know?

"They" (MSM) don't know. They just make up a daily excuse amongst themselves and then pretend as if they speak on behalf of God.

Damn. You caught "them". Now our whole society will collapse.

Probably most believers of the Adam Smith religion have no clue as to what is scientifically sound and what is not. Everything is plausible to them. So they accept whatever story gets put out by MSM, i.e. The "economy" is feeling strong, vibrant and robust today but tomorrow the poor thing may have a headache and a slight case of the sniffles.

Witness as an example, these two folk babbling about oil, Bush and the economy

I just ran across this article about the USA and China working together, rather than competing for oil and other resources. Thought provoking.

USA and China working together

I am not sure it'll ever work out, but ya never know.

With the end of the cheap energy era in sight, it may be time to consider creating ultra-redundant, extremely long-lived, self-repairing versions of technologies that require a large, up front energy input. If such technology provides a great benefit, then we should try to make it available to the future while we still can. I am thinking of the space program.

My feeling is that when the reality of peak oil finally permeates the economy and the collective conscience, the space program will receive little if any support.  Watching a thousand tons of fuel burn for a launch is not going to impress cold and hungry people. If we are going to get anything significant done in space, we need to do it soon.

Anything  we launch from now onward should be built to last decades or centuries, if possible.  For valuable services like weather satellites or GPS, there should be multiple backup systems and satellites.  It might even be good to have a doctor satellite that could visit and repair sick 'patients.' All satellites might need electrodynamical tethers for navigation and to counteract orbital decay.

Assuming a worst case, where we lose the technology to access satellite information, we could have satellites with a visual interface.  A weather satellite could direct a laser at locations where a hurricane might make landfall.  People could see this at night and be warned. A navigation satellite could identify a bonfire in the wilderness and use a laser to indicate the location of the nearest town.

I certainly agree now is the time to refurbish the Hubbel telescope - I doubt we will be focused on outer space over the next twenty years.