What Does an Undulating Plateau Really Mean?

Dave did a great job on our editorial consensus statement as our official reaction to the Cambridge Energy Research Associates strange press release but here are some of my thoughts on CERA's work and how dangerous it is to have out there. My favorite exerpt is this line which claims that peak oil theory is wrong because it won't happen for another 25 years.

The new report describes CERA's liquids supply outlook as "not a view of endless abundance." However, based on a range of potential scenarios and field-by-field analysis, CERA finds that not only will world oil production not peak before 2030, but that the idea of a peak is itself "a dramatic but highly questionable image."

That's like saying you don't believe in Santa Claus because it's not midnight yet.

Well, let me just say that I agree with Representative Udall (D-NM), who together with Rep. Bartlett (R-MD) forms the bipartisan Congressional Peak Oil Caucus, when he says:
CERA's report is one of the most optimistic predictions for the peak in global oil production to date, and it still underscores the need to address this problem immediately. Whether it is Peak Oil, global warming, or the fact that some of the money we send overseas to support our oil addiction comes back to us in the form of terrorism, the U.S. cannot wait any longer to develop sensible and sustainable alternatives to oil."

That's right, even if you agree with CERA's wildly optimistic assumptions, you have to admit that we are in a bit of trouble with oil. Based on everything I've read here on the subject, I do think we are headed for a production plateau of a few years followed by a slow decline in total production. But what makes CERA's prediction incredibly scary is the fact that global supply will not be able to meet increased demand would like to continue to increase at 1-3% per year to feed the voracious Asian consumers and the continued suburbanization of America.

What CERA most gets wrong IMHO, is their obsession with oil reserves versus production rates. You can't run an industrial economy on reserves - you need to pull it out of the ground first. They treat reserves like a bank account that can be cashed out based on the economics of demand. But there are two problems with this concept.

First, there are geologic limits to how fast oil will rise out of the ground. While there are many advances in the technology to hasten this process (water, CO2, etc), it is not clear whether this is sustainable over the long term or merely "sucking harder on the straw" to get what is available to produce out quicker. Once pressure in an oil field declines, it is nearly impossible to increase production as we have seen across the US and most of the other mature oil areas with high technology.

Second, all that work to pull the last half of recoverable oil out of the ground without using the natural pressure takes a lot of energy which you have to subtract from the gross oil production to get the true net oil production. Just looking at the gross production level ignores the fact that an increasing amount of energy will have to go right back into primary energy production. This is even more true of the unconventional tar sands.

This sets up what will eventually become the real issue to concern the USA and other oil importing nations: The oil export market will be squeezed tighter every year.

Given the local political constraints of export nations, even if there is a global "plateau", oil will first meet domestic needs and then the excess will be sold as exports. World market prices will continue to rise for the export market in that scenario.

Which means that not only will future increased demand to be destroyed by higher prices, but a growing percentage of what is imported. Given how oil prices have effectively tripled within a few years with little change in our consumption, it is unclear what price levels would effectively destroy that much demand in the US.

The alternative is to outbid the other importers and send even more of our financial resources over to the unstable or unfriendly export nations (not you Norway). Either way, the plateau for just a few years means cripling the US economy with much higher prices.

To return to Udall quote above "Whether it is Peak Oil, global warming, or the fact that some of the money we send overseas to support our oil addiction comes back to us in the form of terrorism, the U.S. cannot wait any longer to develop sensible and sustainable alternatives to oil."

In fact, the best way right now for the US to tame oil prices and limit our future exposure to extortionate oil prices, is to start a crash mitigation plan now. Perhaps the Peak Oil Caucus could formally introduce Alan's "Electrification of Rail" proposal.

For New York, it's time to get serious about extending the reach of electrified mass transit deep into the outerboroughs and suburbs, building more transit oriented developments around transit hubs, congestion pricing, building a real biking infrastructure and reducing our reliance on automobiles as quickly as possible.

"For New York, it's time to get serious about extending the reach of electrified mass transit deep into the outerboroughs and suburbs"
In real terms this means:
  • building a streetcar network along busy outerborough corridors that have no subway service.
  • electrifying existing commuter rail lines, and creating new commuter rail services
  • Building suburban streetcar lines connecting from residential areas to major commuter rail stations, to reduce the need for park and ride parking lots.
  • replacing bus lines with trolleybuses
  • expanding the reach and improving the quality of service of the NYC subway.
Yup. I'm hearing some good signals on the Cross Harbor tunnel too. That would vastly improve the freight situation for NYC.
I've looked through the EIR for the cross-harbor tunnel. A big part of the environmental impact of it will be the huge ventilation structures to exhaust the smoke produced by the diesel locomotives. And the limit on capacity is also ventilation. But they do say that clearances should be left large enough to install electrification in the future. Somebody should suggest to them to make it electrified from the get-go.
They must be worried that the rest of the freight rail system is not electrified and the rolling stock won't have it. This just shows the importance of building a system-wide electrification program.
I wonder if it might just be cheaper to electrify just that line and buy a few electric locomotives, rather than build all the fancy ventilation systems. Electric locomotives would also mitigate the noise impacts on the above-ground portions of the line, since they're much quieter than diesels.
Probably. I'll send a note to Rep. Nadler's folks about this.
The main problem I see in implementing Alan's plan is political. NYC draws commuters from 3 states, NY, NJ, CN, and the metro area stretches from Chesapeake Bay to Boston on the seaward side of the Apppalachians. There are dozens if not hundreds of politican subdivisions in this area.
  The Republicrat and Demican Congress has hamstrung itself with massive debt, and Amtrack, the logical agency is a favorite subject of abuse by the plutocrats in office. I predict endless dithering and fiddling about while the US burns. The only thing our government seems united on is tax advantages for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, and exporting capital to tax havens.
  Today I'm in my anarchist phase-lets kill 'em all and let God sort it out! How much biodiesel can we make from the average Congressman, Federal Judge and political toady. That fay fat-ass Carl Rove ought to make a few gallons!
"For New York, it's time to get serious about extending the reach of electrified mass transit deep into the outerboroughs and suburbs"

    In real terms this means:

-- more mountaintop removal to convert from imported oil to electricity generated by strip mined coal.

Sounds like a wonderful plan to me!

Actually it is.

Weighing the alternatives, carbon emissions go down#, oil imports go down, and in a couple of decades renewable wind electricity and/or nuke and/or Quebec Hydro will supplant the coal.

Sorry about the W VA plains, but the higher priority gains out weight the losses.

# The gains in efficiency significantly greater than the carbon of gasoline vs. carbon from coal.

Best Hopes,


It is nonsensical to build the tunnels for diesel locos.  Energy for ventilation, extra costs. etc.

One solution (short-term) is to use dual-mode  locos (special built) that can run off of pantograph or 3rd rail in tunnel and switch to diesel once outside electrified zone.

Pantograph could be 25,000 or 50,000 V AC, 3rd rail is likely to be 750 V DC (could be AC).  3rd rail is limited in voltage but on-board transformers allow switches between voltages (EU some locos can operate on 3 different voltages & both AC & DC).

What agency is doing the preliminary design ?  Contact them as well.

Best Hopes,


Devil advocation:  Is it really so difficult to add on a battery car behind the locomotive car for shorter-tunnel-bound trains?  The motors are already electric anyway, all they have to do is shut off the diesel generator for five minutes.  They wouldn't need to specially build all-electric or dual-mode locos or super-ventilate the tunnels, just add a few cubic meters of batteries, flywheels, or flow batteries.  By my math, I get 8000kg of flywheel energy storage per 30 minutes of full-out acceleration of a 3000 horsepower locomotive.
Speciality locos, or significant adaptations, would be required for battery power as well.

IMHO, battery power would cost more.

Electrification would last at least 40 years before major refurbishment would be needed.  A single electrification would service tunnel capacity # of trains, batteries would be needed for each individual train.

Batteries have an efficiency/cycle loss much higher than electrification via grid, so higher energy costs.

Electrification can be easily and cheaply extended above ground for a number of miles.  And in the near future, for hundreds/thousands of miles (I hope).

So, I support electrification :-)

Best Hopes,


I just can't see how a dual power locomotive couldn't be easily adapted since the traction motor is electric.  You'd just need to rig on some feelers for the electric lines, have something that adapted the current to the motor current (maybe even in the electric lines themselves) and a controller to control the power output.  Presto, electric train.
IMHO, an existing diesel electric design could be adapted (and this is what should be done) to dual mode, but an existing diesel-electric loco would not be cheap to adapt.

Rearranging wires, adding a 3rd rail shoe or pantograph, mounting a transformer (where ?), new controls, etc. on an older loco would make me grind my teeth.

Far easier to do in a Cad/Cam program than to preexisting steel & wiring !

Best Hopes,


Might be a PITA, but unlike PO, that really would just be an engineering problem.  Have you ever contacted any of the locomotive manufacturers to see if they have plans on hand for conversion or whether they've done any research into it?  I would hazard a guess that someone's put some thought into it.
I have had several conversations with Larry Conrad, VP Engineering at Brookville Equipment, the last US maker of small locos.

Best Hopes,


I am an outsider, with limited local knowledge (but good will :-)

Can the Cross Harbor tunnel serve a passenger function ?

Return some of the PATH or NJ Transit trains "empty" during rush hour.

Example, early NJ train drops pax off in Manhatten at 7:15 AM.  It then proceeds by interconnections to Cross Harbor tunnel and return to service in NJ ?

This could reduce the need for a 3rd NJ Transit tunnel.

Also, could there be a demand for pax service (both ways) between Brooklyn & Queens and NJ ?  Perhaps bus terminals at new pax stops along freight lines.

Any thoughts from those with local knowledge ?



Cross harbor tunnel would go to Brooklyn. Path goes to Manhattan, they aren't that close together. Better off building another NJ transit tunnel.
There is a LIRR connection from Manhatten to Brooklyn terminus of Cross Harbor tunnel.  The major question is if Trains from NJ-Manhatten can get to LIRR ROW in Manhatten.  And if there is space capacity on LIRR lines for this shuttle service.

If a 3rd NJ Transit tunnel could be avoided, this could justify the Cross Harbor Tunnel.

Alan from New Orleans

Can we do this and also cut back on our coal use, and, say, start with a state or nation wide moratorium on coal plant expansion or new coal plants which do not include sequestration? As part of this, it is assumed or concluded that the expansion of electrified rail lines would yield a net savings of btus. If expansion of grid capacity is necessary, would the oil required to produce those extra kw be less than the oil replaced by people shifting from cars to rail?  

We really need to cut all fossil fuel use, not just oil, but I think we should start with coal and move to fuels with less carbon intensity.  If this has all been answered elsewhere, then please give me a link.

I know the concern here is primarily peak oil (duh), but dealing with that problem requires at us to look at the impact of the available alternatives.

Elsewhere, there has been discussion about the efficacy of using plug in hybrids or evs to act as a distributed storage medium for wind.  What role, if any, could rail, play in this game?  

Regular fuel-powered freight rail is about 8 times more energy efficient than truck. Electrified rail is more efficient still, due to centralization of power production and regenerative braking and so on, so at least a factor of 12-15 times better than diesel trucks. Is that enough for you?

99+% of US locomotives are diesel-electric. They have a "very small" (by utility standards) diesel ICE driving an electrical generator which then drives an electric motor that then drives the wheels.

Small islands use the same diesel ICE driving an electrical generator with VERY high power prices. Larger grids avoid this.

The rule of thumb is that on flat plains w/o stops, electric locos are 2.5 x more energy efficient than diesel locos.  In mountains or stop-start/slow suburban service the ratio is 3x more energy efficient.

Regenerative braking is probably the delta between 2.5 & 3.

2.5x (inverse is 40%) is a reasonable value in comparing grid supplied electricity (BTUs at the wire) with "on site" diesel driven electrical generation measured in BTUs of diesel.

Best Hopes,


The Weekend WSJ has a front page story on the results of forced, unplanned oil conservation in Africa--it's not a pretty picture.  
Just a short comment

The Milwaukee Road used to run from Chicago to Seattle. The electric was pulled in the late 70's, but prior to that it ran over the Rockies at St Paul pass and would add ~60% of the energy it took going over back to line.  Had a huge roundhouse in the middle of nowhere in Avery ID, where the engine was spun 1/2 way round and sent back over.

A little bit of nostalgia.

is that where they drove that golden spike ?
No, the Golden Spike was at Promotory Point, Utah, connecting the first transcontinental RR.

Avery, ID is in the northern panhandle of ID, in the heart of the Bitteroot Mtns, of Lewis and Clark fame.  Also, the RR, originally the Milwaukee, St Paul and Pacific, didn't commence till around 1900 I believe, when the "best" grades over the mountains had already been taken.

But it was electric throughtout Montana and ID, and numerous brick transformer stations can still be seen along parts of I-90 in MT.  

Before reading your comment, I wrote:

My Phase I for Urban Rail will cost, roughly, $125 billion (could easily be $175 billion) and would start (varies by project) in 1 to 3 years.  On that list 2nd Avenue subway, 3rd tunnel under Hudson Ocean, linking Penn Central & Grand Central stations and light rail for Staten Island & NJ expansion for NYC area.  Also expansion of Buffalo light rail.  NYC are might get 20%-25% of national total.

Phase II could include selected streetcar feeders to LIRR, streetcars in Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn feeding subways and connecting neighborhoods, Light Rail in Albany, Rochester, and ?? upstate, modest subway NYC extensions (add a couple of stops at the end of certain lines), Tappen Zee bridge rail.

Phase III ???  I like the idea of E-W streetcar lines in Manhatten, going like "S"s from one side of the island to the next and connecting E & W subway stations. East-West streets are much less congested than N-S streets.  Manhatten would have to repeal overhead wire ban for electrified transportation.

Phase I includes projects that have preliminary work done (at a minimum route selection and some idea of underground utiltities).  Projects that can start throwing dirt within 1 to 3 years of a financing "Go".

I am an outsider.  Is the above list reasonable ?  Any suggested improvements ?

Best Hopes,


I'm not much of a fan of your list. Do you live in NYC? Here's what my list would be.

  1. 2nd Ave subway.

  2. Connect 2nd ave. Subway west from 125th and lex (it's planned termination) to 125th and broadway to connect with 1,2,3,A,B,C lines. Adds the first crosstow connection north of Central Park, and is already contemplated in the plans, but not funded. Also, bury that hideous station at 125th st. Include it in the columbia expansion, just raze that whole neighborhood (mostly warehouses, and most slated for demolition as Columbia expands anyway), and raise it up enough that the subway can go under ground there.

  3. Connect one of the subway lines to staten island through a tunnel from lower manhattan. SI is the only borrough without any direct connection to manhattan. Connecting it would free up lots of car and ferry traffic, and make lots of new space available for dense construction. Link this subway in with the SI light rail directly.

  4. 7 line extension, a nice no brainer.

  5. Either connect a subway to Laguardia (perhaps the N from astoria, or a connection to the 2nd ave subway at 125th st?), or demolish the airport and use JFK only. That thing causes so much traffic.

  6. Rules changes to speed up housing construction in the city. People would love to live in the city, so why should we extend the transit to them when we can bring them to the transit. Save everyone some time and effort.

  7. Higher fees for bridges and tunnels. In particular, get rid of on the street parking in Manhattan. Make people use a garage. This will discourage car use, and double the capacity of the roads around the city. Your average crosstown street is 4 lanes, 2 of them are always filled with parked cars, a third is filled with people double parked (taxis, busses, people loading and unloading), so there's only 1 lane left for any actual traffic. No parked cars turns that 1 lane into 3.

  8. Maybe a nice circle line like subway. Starts in SI, goes NE to brooklyn, through queens, and then to the bronx. This would tie all the outer borroughs together, and provide lots of nice connections out there.
I think only real proposal for a direct rail connection from Staten Island to Manhattan go through New Jersey over the Bayonne Bridge, connecting to the Hudson Bergen light rail and then through the tunnels to Manhattan from Hoboken.

The Laguardia link could easily be accomplished by a light rail connection to Ditmars or BRT on the Grand Central Parkway.

Hoboken Light Rail has a transfer to PATH already.  Two seat ride into NYC (3 if transfered to subway) but quite doable.

Just hook into saten Island.


It would be important to have the line that goes over Bayonne Bridge to connect with major hubs in Staten Island - either the ferry terminal or the existing Staten Island rapid transit down the East shore. I think Victory/Forest Avenue would be a great spot for lightrail and that could connect to the existing rail on Staten Island and then it could simply take the Willowbrook Expressway to connect with the Bayonne Bridge. Then on the NJ side, just use a lane of 440 to connect to the last stop of the Hudson Bergen line. It's very doable.
I meant Hudson Bergen Light Rail.
commuter rail is electrical already.

They just need more subways, that's about it. The 2nd avenue subway will take an entire fleet of busses off the roads, that's a good thing.

Also, NYC (except along 2nd avenue, and a very few other places) doesn't have significant capacity problems with its subways. Large swaths of the outer borroughs have subways underground, and single family residences above ground. A strong push to improve density in these areas would do far more than stretching the subways further out. Keeping them compact discourages this sort of sprawl, and makes it more appealing to build densely in the city itself, rather than sprawling all over long island.

The main thing that would make the city a better place is some rules to help projects that will make new housing avoid legal fights. I'm thinking a rule like this, if you're building something that will have more than 2x as many residential units as the currently existing building (and meets some basic standards for quality, ventilation, etc...), then the project should be all but immune to challenges. Maybe have some sort of limit for extreme departures from guidelines in districts that are actively being preserved, but that's about it. None of this "I don't want you to build over an abandoned rail yard because I don't like the idea of living next to yuppies..." sort of BS that is happening around the Brooklyn arena.

It's just so hard to build anything in the city because even when someone does get the land, design, and financing, it always comes down to some guy living nearby wants to keep his $300/month rent controlled apartment so he doesn't want any new construction in the neighborhood, and pandemonium breaks out. The brooklyn arena is a good example of this.

I thought NJ Transit ran diesels.  Of course, they are accoss the Hudson Ocean :-)

AFAIK, only PATH, LIRR and along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor were the only electrified commuter rail.

As for NYC land use development, I know too little to make specific comments.  However, extending subway lines with new stations only where previously agreed upon densification will take place.

Rent controls do seem to be a barrier to further development in NYC (not insurmountable, but a barrier).  Running subways an extra stop or two to where development can occur seems reasonable to me.

And Staten Island could use Light Rail with a link to NJs Light Rail system IMHO.  And a streetcar line most of the length of Roosevelt Island also seems "interesting" if density is also increased.

Best Hopes,


The problem is that given the current speed of the subways, they have practical limitations. You could commute from far rockaway to midtown every day, but it's more than 2 hours each way. People work in midtown, so extending that extra stop or two 20 miles out isn't going to help, nobody wants to ride for 2 hours to get to work. Consequently, these places don't end up that dense, so there's severe diminishing returns.

However, if the subways could be made faster, perhaps this could be improved somewhat.

An "undulating plateau" means that we enter a phase where production and consumption cycle around the horizontal driven by painful 'market economics'.

I would suggest that oil prices need to climb towards $6 / gallon -or about the level we have here in Europe? (anyone got a more exact figure?) before there is some serious rethinkings of energy consumption and that is going to be very painful.

Think of it another way -the US currently uses about 11,000 Watts of Energy Equiv per person per hour 24/7/365. Europe uses about 5,000.  At a 3.5% ANNUAL DECLINE in energy consumption in 20 years you will be almost at our level and I don't feel particularly 'energy starved'. 20 years is long enough IMO to impliment a 50% energy saving driven by economics -especially because the US is so very wasteful. 11mpg SUVs! Ridiculous! They will -by pain of pocket as this seems the only way to affect real change- be swapped for something more sensible or sit rusting and unused on the driveways.

Regards, Nick.

An "U-n-D-u-L-a-T-i-N-g  plateau" means that we enter a phase where production and consumption cycle around [a] horizontal [Flat Line,] driven by painful 'market economics'.

I'm starting to sound like a warped 6 inch vinyl record around here, but IMO, this is a psycho-linguistic battle. CERA has no numbers. What they have are mixed messages. The phonetic BABEL embedded in their resonant sound offs have got you guys freaked. It's messing with your heads. It's doing something to you. And because you don't understand what is going on --but nonetherless you "feel" it-- you are resorting to all sorts of "rational" explanations that are way off the mark.

CERA aims to remove the "Peak" from Peak Oil.
Simple as that.
Can't you see it?

(Relax folks. There are no Peaks in sight. Just endless rolling hills. Be Happy. You are secure in your midwestern homes. The undulating plains will go on forever. Be at peace.)

I take it back.
There are some people who do "get it".
Here is SaskBoy

Yeah, a plateau is NOTHING like a "peak" - it's just "an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat open country". Do they expect oil production to never again INCREASE after 24 years? If so, while populations rise and oil production doesn't, that sounds like brain dead simple economics - Demand will out pace Supply, which results in extremely high prices for an essential commodity we base our daily survival upon. I don't know about you but "relatively flat" isn't a comfort if I suddenly had to pay [for example] four times what I do for gasoline, or my power is cut off for a month while supplies recover.
What's really just semantics here is that an UnDuLaTiNg plateau (love this step back...mind if I steal it?) has a peak and eventually a dropoff.  There will be a HIGHEST peak on this plateau somewhere and there will be final uptick before the final downtick at the tail of this plateau.  

So if you subsribe to the UnDuLaTiNg Plateau theory you are also saying there will be a peAk somewhere...eh?

Damn. I was going to coyyright it, patent it, trademark it and file it away as a trade secret. But now that you took the uNdUlAtIoNs out of my plateAU's, I guess I can't. :-)
 An undulating plateau is a 19 year old exotic dancer with a booty like a bookshelf and her own trailer..
And I thought it was just an "oye vell kah-veldt"
Hello Step Back,

LOL!-- I think your UnDuLaTiNg plateau in the African Veldt leads directly to the cliffs of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania!!!

Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail...as the lemmings go marching along!

Que CERA', CERA'--whatever will be, will be!  The future's not ours you see--Que CERA', CERA'!

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Here is a little more from the psycho-linguistic battle fields. A piece posted in The Economist

But is the world really starting to run out of oil? And would hitting a global peak of production necessarily spell economic ruin? Both questions are arguable. Despite today's obsession with the idea of "peak oil", what really matters to the world economy is not when conventional oil production peaks, but whether we have enough affordable and convenient fuel from any source to power our current fleet of cars, buses and aeroplanes. With that in mind, the global oil industry is on the verge of a dramatic transformation from a risky exploration business into a technology-intensive manufacturing business. And the product that big oil companies will soon be manufacturing, argues Shell's Mr Van der Veer, is "greener fossil fuels".

Underlinings have been added to help you spot the NLP implants: "running out of oil" --got to repeat that one over and over again. Re-engineering into a "technology-intensive manufacturing business". Wow, Now that explains why discovery is down. We don't need no freakin' discovery. We have re-engineered ourselves into a whole new business paradigm. Got it?

Greener fossil fuels. That is so cool. Where can I get me some because this shit I'm putting in my vehicle right now is not only dirty but smells and tastes bad.

Manufacturing fuel? That is even way more cool. Just think of the money we can save  in discovery and exploration costs alone.

Or maybe they're talkin' about that them thar ethanol.

I guess people on this board just don't have the book learnin' to understand this new paradigm shit.  

Ain't the future great? Wait till I tell my children and grandchildren.    

I guess people on this board just don't have the book learnin' to understand this new paradigm shi[f]t.  

Mock it much as you want.

Fool yourself into believing that "intellect" outwits the mind memes.

But neuro-linguistic programming works.
How many of you out there have managers who are bought and sold, deep & still diving into the "paradigm shift" psycho-babble?

Right-sizing? Re-engineering? Technology-intensive Adaptation to Aboveground Contingencies? Green is the new Red, White and Blue? Alternative Independent Energy? (WTF does that the mean?)

All of this stuff comes right out of the Psycho-Babbler's Handbook

The only way to fight it is to have a set of overiding noises of your own.

Warning: Do not use this:


Party of Cheap Oil ---It's Over
Party of Cheap Oil ---It's Over
Party of Cheap Oil ---It's Over

PoCo --HiO

First it was a chant.
Then it became a song (blog whoring).
Soon it will be a major movie production.

PoCo --HiO
PoCo --HiO

(What does it mean?)
Is it related to the Rolling Hills of Ohio?

Or the golden rivers of the Mex Tex border?

The article is Steady as she goes for any interested.

As you may have guessed, these new wonder fuels are manufactured with gold into lead methods.

Regardless of whether the peak is here in 2030 or even 2130 the question remains:
If we incorporate the cost of war into the price of oil, do we really still feel that we are getting our money's worth?
I daresay we are not.
Continued single minded reliance on oil at all costs is sheer lunacy.
And, of course, you have the simple solution. Do tell. What does "sheer" mean?
'Sheer' means 'complete and utter';  therefore, sheer lunacy means complete and utter lunacy. So what's your problem with that phrase?

I think the previous poster got it right in saying that we are not getting our money's worth out of the enormous amount being spent on Iraq.

While one could argue endlessly about the specific numbers, here's just one way of looking at it. If we are spending in the neighborhood of $100 billion a year on Iraq, and if we were to take all of Iraq's approximately 3 million bpd of pre-war production and send all of it back to the US free of any additional charge, the cost of that oil would still amount to roughly $90 per barrel.

Now, if you add to that a certain fraction of our total annual 'defense' budget of $400 billion+, then the per-barrel cost of Middle Eastern oil gets even higher.

Of course, it's not just about Iraq, but rather also an attempt by the US to militarily dominate the Middle East so as to secure other oil supplies for itself.  It's also about imperial illusions, prestige, and last but not least, taking care of Israel's enemies.

Nevertheless, I don't think enough people appreciate the extent to which the price of gasoline at the pump is only part of the real cost the consumer/taxpayer is paying for that gas.

There of course is no simple solution. But I would maintain that the US will never be able tackle its long-term energy problem as long as almost half a trillion dollars a year are being spent on war and the means of making war.  

This is why we need to tack on the cost of much of our defense establishement to each barrel of oil.  Now, as we know, the war related costs of oil mean nothing as we just charge that cost to future generations. Given our unlimited deficit, and our ability to cut taxes at the same time, there is no pain and, therefore, no political costs much less econonomic costs to oil.

Amazingly, though, even though this war is apprently free, the majority of the people are no longer buying it. I think this would have happended much earlier, however, if people actually had to pay for this war in higher taxes, whether they be income or at the pump.

tstreet -

That's exactly right.

The people back home simply are not feeling the pain of the war in Iraq and Afganistan. In fact, they are not even being slightly inconvenienced by it.

There was rationing of gasoline, food, and other essentials during WW II; and in WW II, Korea, and Vietnam, parents had to worry about their kids being drafted and coming home in a box.

With an all-volunteer military heavily represented by minorities and poor whites,  no additional tax burden, and a heavily sanitized media coverage, the average American citizen can easily forget that there's a war going on and that the meter for that war is spinning at a rate of something like $2 billion per week. This is the only way the Bush regime has been able to get away with it .... so far.

I'd be all for tacking an 'oil supply security surcharge' onto the price of each gallon of gasoline, just to serve as a constant reminder as to the true cost of that gasoline everytime you fill up.

"Of course, it's not just about Iraq, but rather also an attempt by the US to militarily dominate the Middle East"

Coincidently, I just read an article about the administration's plan for a "New Middle East", a term introduced by Condi.  She referred to the destruction in Lebanon as part of the "birth pangs" to be expected in this ambitious remodeling of the ME.  This is in  accordance with another article I read by a historian and political science professor who suggested that the conflict in Lebanon was orchestrated to gain leverage for MEFTA and other similar ends.

The "New Middle East" project was introduced publicly by Washington and Tel Aviv with the expectation that Lebanon would be the pressure point for realigning the whole Middle East and thereby unleashing the forces of "constructive chaos." This "constructive chaos" --which generates conditions of violence and warfare throughout the region-- would in turn be used so that the United States, Britain, and Israel could redraw the map of the Middle East in accordance with their geo-strategic needs and objectives.

Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a "New Middle East"

You have to wonder what kind of constructive chaos is in the works for the U.S.

I've seen these Plans for Redrawing the ME in some other articles and was flabbergasted...talk about nation-building.  

So the Iraqi adventure was the "conception" and the destruction of Lebanon was the "birthing pangs".  What's gonna happen when the new baby abomination reaches its "terrible two's"?

As a metaphor for a "baby abomination", this is beyond anything Mary Shelley could imagine.  I am picturing that bizarro giant human-alien hybrid baby in the last Aliens movie. Yowza!

Incidently, the link has a good illustration of the new map.

Rosemary's baby and the zombie baby from Dawn of the Dead also come to mind.
condi's papoose ?
I'm not sure that walking skeleton could ever birth anything.
you mean dubya is not properly "husbanding" her ( she refered to dubya "being her husband" but that was only in a "missionary" sense) ?  (bin laden determined to stike within the usa   ..... that was only an "historical" document)
Alright, alright...this is all rather disturbing.  So how much anyone wanna bet this map was drawn up in the dark corridors of PNAC central?


Odd thing about this site...the last published articles are 2005?  Is PNAC defunct now or have they just stopped making their information public.


The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is an American political neo-conservative think tank, based in Washington, DC co-founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan. The controversial group was established in early 1997 as a non-profit organization with the goal of promoting American global leadership. The chairman is William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel. The Executive Director and chief operating officer has been Gary J. Schmitt. The group is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project, a non-profit 501c3 organization that has been funded by the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation and the Bradley Foundation.[1]

Present and former members include prominent members of the Republican Party and the Bush Administration, including Richard Armitage, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Ellen Bork (the wife of Robert Bork), Dick Cheney, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis "Scooter'" Libby, Richard Perle, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. Many of the organization's ideas, and its members, are associated with the neoconservative movement. PNAC has seven full-time staff members, in addition to its board of directors.

Critics allege the controversial organization proposes military and economic space, cyberspace, and global domination by the United States, so as to establish -- or maintain -- American dominance in world affairs (Pax Americana). Some have argued the American-led invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 was the first step in furthering these plans. Others have accused PNAC of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in order to enable the government in progressing toward their goals.

How many of these folks are in jail, have lost their jobs, or will be in jail in the near future?  One can always dream...

Is PNAC defunct now

I hope so. Then you will have to come up with another boogie man that is secretly manipulating everything. Angry Chimp seems to blame the Council on Foriegn Relations. You could try them, but I would rather something completely new and different?


Jack, do you honestly think that PNAC had NO influence in shaping BushCo's policies?  Look at the list of participants.  This is really old hash here.
Jack, do you honestly think that PNAC had NO influence in shaping BushCo's policies?

I just happened to find it kind of funny that you couldn't decide if they were defunct or running the world.

Have they been influential, sure. Worth obsessing over, no.

"Some have argued the American-led invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 was the first step in furthering these plans. Others have accused PNAC of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in order to enable the government in progressing toward their goals."

---"Orchestrating" the attacks? That's going a bit far.
The PNAC merely placed a "want ad" for them.
Here's the text of the ad:

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."

Obviously someone answered the ad.
Who did they think reads their stuff anyway?

The other useage of sheer is transparent, as in sheer stockings or sheer lunacy.
joule sheer means to turn or thin and transparent like your mommas panties...where are you getting complete or utter.  The expression sheer lunacy meaans obvious or easily observed lunacy..
sheer 1 Pronunciation (shîr)
intr. & tr.v. sheered, sheer·ing, sheers
To swerve or cause to swerve from a course.
  1. A swerving or deviating course.
  2. Nautical
a. The upward curve or amount of upward curve of the longitudinal lines of a ship's hull as viewed from the side.
b. The position in which a ship at anchor is maintained in order to keep it clear of the anchor.
[Probably partly from Low German scheren, to move to and fro (said of boats), and partly from Dutch scheren, to withdraw; see sker-1 in Indo-European roots.]

2 Pronunciation (shîr)
adj. sheer·er, sheer·est
1. Thin, fine, and transparent: sheer curtains; sheer chiffon. See Synonyms at airy.
a. Completely such, without qualification or exception: sheer stupidity; sheer happiness.
b. Free from admixture or adulterants; unmixed: sheer alcohol. See Synonyms at pure.
c. Considered or operating apart from anything else: got the job through sheer persistence.
3. Almost perpendicular; steep: sheer rock cliffs. See Synonyms at steep1.

  1. Almost perpendicularly.
  2. Completely; altogether.
[Obsolete shere, thin, clear, partly from Middle English shir, bright, clear (from Old English scr) and partly from Middle English skir, bright, clean (from Old Norse skærr).]
sheerly adv.
sheerness n.
Check an English dictionary.
Check a modern dictionary of the English language, such as Encarta. There are several meanings for the word 'sheer': thin and transparent is one, and complete and utter is another, among several others which are obviously not applicable, such as the sheer line of a ship. What's the problem?
I have NO simple solution for it whatsoever.
In fact I think that, at this point, an undertaking that would dwarf the Manhattan Project would be necessary to end our sole dependency on the stuff. Nevertheless I maintain that it is absolutely necessary and I also maintain that simply throwing more chairs in the fireplace and continuing to advocate denial of that dependency is even more lunacy, and an increasingly expensive form of lunacy at that.
I agree that the price of the war should be tacked onto fuel costs...immediately.
RE: The military cost of oil

I posted a summary of US military expenditures to safeguard the oil supply, taken directly from a US gov't publication.  The data is pre-Iraq, but still interesting.


we are not paying the cost of the war .....  just borrowing more and more from the chinese   our children and grandchildren will pay the cost    and i suppose that makes bush a child abuser
The other issue is the insanity of using all of a finite resource in 200 years, a blink of the eye historically speaking, a millisecond in geologic time. What will our grandchildren think of us? Will they have time to think of anything besides rude survival
I think you miss the forests for the trees. It seems to me that our current misadventures in Iraq are more related to funneling DOD money to Halliburton than they are to oil.

Exhibit A: Iraq doesn't produce much oil currently, but that doesn't seem to be stopping the grand plan.

Exhibit B: Even if we could get all of iraq's oil today with no production, transportation, or other costs, the war has already paid more than $10/barrel for it. Quite simply, Iraq doesn't have enough oil to be significant compared to the cost of fighting a war. Oil isn't that expensive, and war isn't that cheap.

However, if you want to start talking about costs, then use something that's simple and easily quantifiable. How many people are killed each year by fossil fuels? It's quite a lot, primarily through air pollution, which is easily measured, but soon enough through global warming as well. If you want to start adding costs to oil, this is where you start. Just add up all the medical bills caused by the smog in LA and every other major city, and soon enough you get a figure plenty high to convince even a skeptic that this is maybe not the way to go about things. Much more direct than trying to say that US foreign policy is based on what cars we drive, more accurate too.

i think you have the essense of what is going on   even the anti war johnny come lately (murtha) favors "withdrawal to the preimeter"  what the hell ever that means   but no mention of reducing the overall size  of the military   no criticism of wasteful pentagon  no criticism of the military/industrial complex    no criticism of empire building  so murtha come lately and a lot more like him dont want to solve the problem because that would be painful for the dod contractors    what we have here is an orgy of keynesian economics   and a future hell for our children and grandchildren.......      life goes on .........  people come and go but nothing ever happens at the grand hotel  
Re: "painful market economics"

I think we're seeing a preview of what this will mean right now...the temporary slackening of demand caused by suddenly rocketing prices, followed by temporary (but ruinous for those investing in alternatives) price drops. As long as we refuse to enact a graduated gas or carbon tax, this is what we'll get. Let the market sort it out, indeed. The gyrations will paralyze us.

Thanks for mentioning that Seadragon. Stability is a key driver of investment. If people don't know what the market will be doing 2-3 years out, it's hard to justify many investments.

Markets can be ruthlessly efficient in the moment, but without investment moving in the right direction, it will be hard to imagine a soft landing post peak...

I have to disagree with this common line of thinking.  Uncertainty is just as much a drive of investment, because what you're not taking into account is uncertainty cuts both ways.  If it's uncertain whether next year gas prices will be $3 a gallon or $6, then people will plan for $6.  Even if it's slightly more costly, people will begin to look into electric cars and other modes of transportation.  

An undulating plateu would absolutely kill confidence in the oil culture.  Alternative energy investments would shoot through the roof.  Even if the alternatives were slightly more costly, at least they are reliable.  After the first few undulations people just aren't going to trust oil prices to remain low any more.  So, a short term set back, but a long term positive.  

Not to mention, let's be honest, there's a good chance that the undulation will already be at prices high enough so that alternatives gain traction.  All of these reports by Peak Oil naysayers don't take into account that even with their predictions we're going to see vastly higher oil prices due to worldwide demand growth and also higher extraction costs.  

You know, actually, maybe I am not giving enough credence to people's short sightedness.  I remember reading an article recently, which I believed was linked on one of the drum beats, about how SUV sales have gone back up.  People are quick to forget things.  I do still believe that after enough shocks people will eventually get conditioned into believing lower prices will not last.  

Another thing though, to go back to the subject of world demand growth.  It's not going to matter if there is a plateau in terms of production.  Assuming other countries continue to develop and want a larger and larger part of the oil pie, then we're going to see prices continue to go up, actually at a faster rate than before the plateau, even if we're not seeing a decline.  And whether or not we can "outbid" other countries, we're still going to have to bid.  

uncertainty may drive speculation    but many dont view that as investment    unfortunately i just dont see any good investments (buy and hold) on the horizon  so i am busy speculating    but i dont operate under the illusion of investment
Excellent point re reserves vs production. In a sense this is really where the battleground between the Peak Oil advocates and CERA now lies - the scalability of unconventional oil production. I'm sure many TOD members would quite readily accept the existence of 1.8 trillion barrels of oil reserves in the Orinoco tar sands for example, but few believe that the resource can be exploited meaningfully to offset the decline in conventional oil production.

A couple of remarks regarding some of your other points:

It's one thing to advocate the building of a huge new transport infrastructure to help lessen NY's and indeed the USA's dependency on oil imports, but I think you must also explain how you propose such development will be financed. This was one of the key points that emerged from the Hirsch report - that the transitional costs of mitigating peak oil may be crippling for Western economies at just the time when over-generous social and welfare commitments will begin stretching public finances to the limit.

This leads me to my second comment, re the USA having to outbid other importers for available oil from exporters. It seems to me that there is an overwhelming presumption that the US will be able to outbid other nations - after all, it's a tremendously wealthy nation on paper. Nevertheless, America is running a current account deficit of some 8% of GDP, and there aren't many economists out there who don't believe that the way this huge imbalance will be resolved will be through dollar depreciation. Thus it's quite conceivable that we may see the dollar price of oil rise markedly over the next few years, even though the price in other currencies remains largely unaffected. In other words, the USA may find it a great deal harder to outbid competing importers in the future.

For the above reasons, in my opinion a sharp rise in gasoline taxation to curb oil demand would still be the best way to mitigate any peak in the short to medium term, but I fully accept that this is considered a complete no-no politically.

No easy answers, especially when the basic premise isn't even accepted by the MSM and public.

It's one thing to advocate the building of a huge new transport infrastructure to help lessen NY's and indeed the USA's dependency on oil imports, but I think you must also explain how you propose such development will be financed.

Early stage financing will need to come from what is now politically acceptable.  Mid and later stage financing can come what are "untouchable" sources (one or more political "revolutions" aka 1994 Gingrich like changes will likely occur).

110th, 111th & 112th Congresses are likely to find the following possible.

1) Repeal all "earmarked" highway funds (aka pork) and finance mass transit at 80% FTA funding with any "left over" going to new highways (in mainly D districts).

If one looks at House districts served by Urban Rail, they are much more "blue" than US average.

  1. Enact a Windfall Profits Tax on oil companies (vetoed in 110th by GWB, but passed in 111th).  Devote proceeds to 90% FTA funding for mass transit.

  2. Dedicate federal oil lease & royality revenue to a) filling SPR to 1 billion barrels and b) Urban Rail.

  3. Enact a law that any interstate Railroad that electrifies will be exempt from local property taxes (interstate commerce clause of constitution and under common defense).  Any local taxing jurisdiction that has revenue loss of >1% (or >0.5%) will have the loss above 1% (0.5%) made up by federal gov't (declining straight-line to zero over 25 years) with a miniumum payment of $2,000.

Note that freight railroads have most of their track miles in red districts.

Possible to adjust current gas taxes for inflation as well.

To do the above, people have to understand that there is a problem (CERA no help) and electrification of transportation is a partial solution that works.

My Phase I for Urban Rail will cost, roughly, $125 billion (could easily be $175 billion) and would start (varies by project) in 1 to 3 years.  On that list 2nd Avenue subway, 3rd tunnel under Hudson Ocean, linking Penn Central & Grand Central stations and light rail for Staten Island & NJ expansion for NYC area.  Also expansion of Buffalo light rail.  NYC are might get 20%-25% of national total.

Phase II could include selected streetcar feeders to LIRR, streetcars in Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn feeding subways and connecting neighborhoods, Light Rail in Albany, Rochester, and ?? upstate, modest subway NYC extensions (add a couple of stops at the end of certain lines), Tappen Zee bridge rail.

Phase III ???  I like the idea of E-W streetcar lines in Manhatten, going like "S"s from one side of the island to the next and connecting E & W subway stations. East-West streets are much less congested than N-S streets.  Manhatten would have to repeal overhead wire ban for electrified transportation.

However, the costs are going to be about half an order of magnitude less than Hirsh Bezdek & Wendling proposals.

Best Hopes,



Thanks for your response.

I for one am constantly impressed by the depths to which you've thought all this though. Having experienced at first hand how budgets invariably overrun even the most conservative of costings, I'll always remain skeptical of projected financing. Nevertheless, I hope as time goes on that your convincing plans and analysis are given the consideration they deserve by decision makers.

   The last Windfall Profits Tax worked against increasing US production. The best projects-field extensions and infill drilling-were classified as "old oil" and shelved by the owners of production and drilling rights.Then, the Majors began selling off their US production.
  Majors no longer own substantial US production, the majority of which is owned by US based independent operators. If you want to discourage imports and increase the oil price to the consumers the best plan would be a Terrorism Tax of $10.00 per barrel on imported oil. Since the large majority of the major refiners and marketers production is from overseas, it would hit them hardest. It would provide huge revenue-around $150,000,000.00 per day- and provide a floor for domestic producers. It would not hit American mineral owners and royalty owners but would hit the real culprits in the energy crisis, the national oil companies of other countries.
The amazingly porky highway bill of 2005 allocated $244.1 billion, mostly for highways including that Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska, for I think 3 or 4 years. If all that money were redirected to expansion of rail and public transportation, that would go a long way toward solving the problem.
Peakguy muses "What CERA most gets wrong IMHO, is their obsession with oil reserves versus production rates."

CERA was addressing in their press release an issue of credibility that arose out of TrendLines analysis of Robt Essor's 2006/12/6 Testimony to a congressional committee on Peak Oil Theory & their 2006/8/8 medium term 2015 Outlook.

CERA's previous use of a 3.4-Tb URR dropped them to fifth place from third of our most optimistic outlooks.  It also capped their production rate from being the highest (126-mbd) to third highest at 108-mbd.  This was in conflict with long term outlook of a 126-mbd extraction rate and had to be remedied.

Their new 4.818-Tb URR reconciles this conflict.  For reference, this measure is 20% higher than the 4.005-Tb estimate used by EIA.  It is 55% higher than the Avg of the 12 Trendlines Modelers (3.112-Tb).

But as mentioned yesterday, our early work on their press release still illustrates discrepancy.  Their Peak production plateau of 126-mbd can be sustained until 2053. But CERA's Nov14th graph shows an undulating plateau that has production waning to 110-mbd by 2070.  The 4.818-Tb URR does not sustain that plateau.  Our analysis reveals that the 2070 rate will be substantially lower at 79-mbd, using a post peak 2.7% net depletion rate.

The graph as shown requires a 5.4-Tb URR.

The country-by-country analysis by CERA is among the best efforts in the world.  I find no grounds to find fault with their bottom up analyis to 2015.  Their justification of an increase to 126-mbd is merely an acknowledgement and extrapolation of the increase in URR we have witnessed since 1976.  The relationship between URR & production rates is very apparent.

The relationship between URR & production rates is very apparent.

And VERY low for

1) Tar sands (more than 5 million b/day (reached perhaps by 2030, more likely later if ever) is effectively limited by natural gas (I assume US gives them North Slope AK gas in exchange for oil, abest that #s are lower) and water.  NEVER above 5 million b.day without unknown "breakthroughs".

Reality is that Canada will likely produce between 2.5 & 4 million b/day of syncrude for almost a century.

2) Venezuala "improved asphalt".  Orimulsion (30% water, surfactant & 69.5% asphalt) production has few limits, but very limited utility.  Perhaps next generation ships will use it when away from shore (too polluting near ports).  Due to use limits, replacing more than 2% or 3% of world oil consumption is unlikely.  

Upgrading this semi-solid will require large energy inputs, capital and sources of hydrogen. Thus upgrading will remain below 1 million b/day for decades and never exceed 3-5  million.  Resource constraints and political contraints.  Why should Venezula produce more ?

So,like tar sands, massive reserves, low production rates.

  1. Enhanced oil recovery such as CO2 flood can recovery higher % of oil from suitable depleted fields (not all are suitable).  Decades to get good sources of CO2 for fields on-line and then a long lived trickle of oil for decades more.

  2. US oil shale,if it ever appears, should be a mirror image of Canadian tar sands.  Water & energy constraints.

Think 6 to 8 GW (nameplate) of wind turbines that sell electricity on peak to grid and offpeak for oil shale = 100,000 barrels/day of kerogen (still needs hydrogen upgrade AFAIK).

Think 40 to 50 GW of wind turbines near oil shale production doing this. Less than 1 million b/day for centuries.

5) Political choices for low rates of production.  Kuwait recently elected Parliment explicitly wants production to be 1% of remaining reserves "forever'. If no new reserves are found, prdouction declines 1%. UAE also has a comparable policy.  So the linkage between URR & production will be fixed at low values for these (and perhaps several other producers such as Libya).

Your analysis is faulty in your linkage rates between URR & production for the categories of production above.

Best Hopes for reality,


Thanks for your comment.

I guess my concerns with your position are, simply put:

  1. Is the increase in URR since 1976 real? I think much of this may not ultimately be recoverable. We are still relying on estimates from countries that have a vested interest in not reporting the data correctly.

  2. Are all URR the same? Reserve to production rates are more reliable when you have higher net energy and it's just bubbling out of the ground.

Production rates are really where the rubber hits the road IMO, not reserves.
An undulating plateau means desperate attempts to conserve the status quo, wavering uncertainty, hesitance, compensated by hard work;  reflected in the rudimentary rear mirror, a vague picture of the constructed past, future hopes figured in a dotted line that goes on undulating...

Or it represents teens swivelling hips and hoops on a platform. Lights off!  Crackers and sparkles!  Kisses and cake for the birthday girl, music, heels thump, the curtains sway.

Or it is a cold, arid plateau, like the Alitplano in Bolivia, that stretches on and on, up and down a bit ...Get near the edge and you tumble down!  

The plateau gives way to a sudden drop.

Ba da boom.

(that more like gas than oil)


undulating plateau   an oxymoron of the 1st order  why dont they just say we dont know what the hell the future will hold but we have to predict something  so unable to dazzle (the public) with brilliance   we will just baffle them with bullshit
Re: They treat reserves like a bank account that can be cashed out based on the economics of demand

Well said.

And what happens when the bank decides to curb withdrawls on all accounts?
I think that you should point the Peak Oil Caucus to:


as a policy guide instead of my recent TOD article.

Best Hopes,


Alan, crank up your imagination and write a lightrailnow article on rural light rail. Wasn't it you that wrote on TOD how a much smaller and much poorer country connected just about every community with light rail (the US in the 30s)?

We can't spend $1M/mile for track and $1M/mile to electrify it and $1M/car. We spent nothing like that proportionally in the 30s. And if one can put a few wheels on a truck and drive it on rails, then why not a bus or an electric bus? I get the impression the LRV industry is about on par with defense industry in terms of gold plating its hammers.

How do we take back lanes and convert them to rail? How does a two-lane state highway with wide shoulders translate into a two-lane with rail and bicycle and maybe no shoulders? What would that look like in cross-section? How do we plow it? At least until global warming obviates the need.

cfm in Gray, ME

There is an element of gold plating in US light rail.  1% for Art in Transit (FTA reg), transit palaces for stations, 25% for consultants.  ADA does place lower limits.

The numbers that you quote, are VERY affordable.  Think how much we spend on cars for purchase, operation, law enforcement, etc.

Best case for in-street track is $300/foot.  Rail on ballast $100 (I would argue for longer lasting construction at ~$130/foot).  Concrete or composite (recycled plastic) ties.

Welded rail costs more, but is easier on pax & cargo & equipment.  Probably worth it.

A two lane road with shoulder could be converted into 1 rail track, One traffic lane (both directions, so slow moving (20-25 mph) and go over into bike lanes to pass @ 10 mph) and two 5 1/2' wide bicycle lanes.

Pavement on bicycle lanes should last a LONG time :-)  Cargo tricycles with electric assist could get stuff to & from rural homes except during harvest times.

New Orleans built 500 year life streetcars for $1.5 million each.  Higher volumes should get that to just about $1 million.  Electrification is about $2 million/mile for single track, $2.5 million/mile for double track.  Signals can be primitive or complex.

We should adopt EU standards on safety and make mixing light rail with heavy freight easier (yes more rail fatalities, but far fewer auto deaths).

Interurban electric rail was once common, mixed pax & freight and a mix of dual & single track.  Twice a day to 4 times/day service was common (pax mixed with freight).

Today, a leading streetcar (say 32 seats + limited luggage) with two flatcars behind with 4 twenty foot containers (big forklift at each station to off load) and a powered boxcar with mixed freight would be doable.  Each axle of the streetcar & boxcar powered with, say 80 hp for 640 hp total.

Perhaps invent a 10 foot long container, (8' x 8' cross-section).  So choice of 40', 20' or 10' containers or mixed freight in box car.

This train would make runs between two larger cities stopping at a half dozen to ten smaller towns along the way.

Rural stops where someone can electronically flag train to stop, or where crops can be picked up, fertilizer delivered with special trains.

Build flatcar bodies out of aluminum to save weight.

4% grades should be OK even in icy weather.

The local service could interface easily with mainlines with double stack containers.  Some labor to shift to local service but doable.

IMHO, the issue is not lowest first cost, but lowest cost/year of service,  Build to last !

Best Hopes,


"Build to last"

This is IMO the most important thing. We have wasted our liquid gold completely because we haven't done this.

I really hope we will wise up in future.

I know that you are examining the idea of the plateau in terms of NYC and the USA.  The above has made for interesting stimulating reading, applicable to most of the first world at least.  In light of this please let me draw a picture in general human, global terms what the plateau will look like.
I grew up on the Canadian Shield.  If you climb to the top of a hill up there the horizon looks like that of the ocean, a relatively smooth line.  The shield is a peneplain cut by deep valleys, an undulating plateau so to speak.  If masses of humans travelled by foot over this undulating plateau, as we will be forced to do over the hydro-carbon plateau, the journey would unfold somewhat as follows.
We are living on a peak now in wondeful tents with a wonderful exhilerating view, full of hope and energy.  However a cold northern storm comes, forcing us to move south and begin to descend into the first valley.  Most of us make it to the valley floor, some more brused than others, some finding easier ways down than others, some harder paths and a sad few fall off cliffs and perish.
The valley floor is swampy and difficult but we are still energetic and make our way through, beginning to climb the next ridge.  Once again some find easier ways up making it to the next peak and arrive with some energy and hope.  Others have a harder climb and barely make it while others find impossible cliffs and fail to gain the height.
We enjoy the view and try to pitch our tents but soon the storm catches up to us and we begin the next descent.  It is a repeat of the first but because we are a little more tired fewer reach the bottom safely.  The trip across this time is harder for us all and somewhat more of us fail to make it through and up to the next peak.  We also notice that because of our weariness  we have been helping each other more along the way.
This is repeated several times with no end in sight, however each descent and climb reduces our number and our energy.  Eventually we get to the point where survivors barely crawl to the top with less and less mutual help.  In the final valley no one can make the climb and the only option is to follow the swampy creek down through the tangled spruce but now only heading lower.  Eventually survivors find small places where survival might be possible.  Never again will many people reach the high places and no one will live there.  Myths will grow of the beautiful home of our ancestors and of the promised southern land flowing with milk and honey.
  Down on these balmy southern plain of Texas the lands are more likely to flood with cream gravy and picante sauce.
Damn, thats poetic ! A simile based on local products!
With such a dramatic increases of URR for both CERA (4.818-Tb) & ExxonMobil (4.7-Tb), the TrendLines Peak Oil Depletion Scenarios has a version update (that now includes footnotes):


Nov 18th, 2006 - Our Autumn2006 update (above) includes increases in URR by ExxonMobil, ASPO & CERA.  Increases in Extraction Rates are shown for ASPO & CERA.  The ExxonMobil plateau is therefore extended.  The ASPO exhaustion is extended.  And we are now able to illustrate the CERA "undulating plateau" of 126-mbd (to 2052) which was previously thwarted by their use of a lower URR figure that did not justify its optimistic outlook for production.


ASPO - While Colin Campbell has increased his URR to 2.5-Tb, his increases to Supply in June & July will require another upward revision in his URR to 2.6-Tb to reconcile his data.

BP - Similarly, BP's URR is insufficient for its plateau outlook.  To justify that plateau, we have increased the BP URR from its published 2.244-Tb to a more realistic 2.75-Tb.

CERA -  While CERA illustrates graphically in its November press release that an undulating plateau extends out to 2070 with a rate of 110-mbd at that juncture, our analysis shows that their new URR figure only justifies a 2070 rate of 78-mbd.  Their illustration requires a URR of 5.41-Tb and thus we have opted to show only the extraction justified by its published URR of 4.818-Tb.

IEA - The Medium Term 2006 Outlook requires an increase of its published 3.6-Tb URR to 3.65-Tb to reconcile.

IHS - The discrepancy with CERA is due to IHS's lower URR of 3.965-Tb that excludes probable future discoveries.

Koppelaar - The 2005 Outlook requires an increase of its 2.5-Tb URR to 2.55-Tb to reconcile.

Laherrère - The 2006 Outlook requires an increase of its nominal 3.0-Tb URR to 3.05-Tb.  Jean acknowledges this in his submitted data.

OPEC - Their Reference Scenario requires an increase of its 2.187-Tb URR to 3.0-Tb to reconcile.  The TrendLines graph reflects that higher figure which is similar to the 12-Model Corrected Avg URR of 3.311-Tb.

Total - The 2005 Total Outlook requires an increase of its 2.4-Tb URR to 3.2-Tb to reconcile its Production forecast.  The TrendLines graph reflects that higher figure which is similar to the 12-Model Corrected Avg URR of 3.311-Tb.

NOTE - The 12 Models publish URR estimates ranging from the OPEC low of 2.187-Tb to the CERA high of 4.818-Tb.  The 12-Model Avg is 3.189-Tb while the 12-Model Corrected Avg reflecting the discrepancies above is 3.311-Tb.  Only Campbell/ASPO, Laherrère, Koppelaar & Skrebowski provide post-Peak net Depletion rates.  The aggressive Skrebowski rates of 3% to 7% do not reconcile with conventional URR estimates, hence the corrective plateau to reconcile exhaustion of his URR.  Arbitrary plateau extension and the Net Depletion Rate Avg (2.633%)of Campbell-ASPO/Laherrère/Koppelaar is used to exhaust the remaining models.

See archived comparative graphs and more at: http://trendlines.ca/economic.htm#Scenarios

Hello Freddy Hutter and attn: Prof. Goose,

Thxs for posting this chart & updates--I look forward to seeing this on TOD.  Must be a hell of a lot of research work and emails to keep this current--Kudos!

IMO, the twelve scenarios by all the expert groups allows us TODers to quickly eyeball the overall Peakoil debate around the globe.  My SWAG is if the key US/TOD experts**  reached a consensus opinion: it would trace just under the yellow ASPO line, maybe 0.3 mmbd less due to the credit the TopTODers give to the Law of Diminishing Returns and unreliable data.

Would you be willing to add a 13th line for a TopTODer consensus-- or is thirteen an unlucky number?

**[WT & Khebab, SS, Dave Cohen, Darwinian, HO, R-squared, et al,  ....OilCEO during coherent periods?]

Hey, Prof. Goose: is this a good idea, or are you guys and gals too spread out by geography, workloads, and factual differences?

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Better yet, bring all the TopTODers together from all the  different TODs to form an International TOD Consensus for the next Trendline.  I want to read that debate!

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than YEast?

Ya...I'm anxiously awaiting the release of TOD - World with wikipedia-like referencing.
Hello Dragonfly41,

I echo your sentiments.  What would really be fascinating to me is when TOD/Gazprom & Rosneft, TOD/CIA & NSA, TOD/Pemex, and TOD/KSA come online [obviously not formal groups per se, but obscure membername TODers].  Now, I am no expert at computer security, but if some 'insiders' feel so inclined as to leak some crucial classified info with some obscure membername post: TOD/WORLD could get the WWWeb word out for them without the usual MSM interference and spin.

Hopefully, the TOD software & email system is structured to allow the 'insiders' to take advantage of what could be an Incredibly Powerful Tool.  But always remember this, Prof. Goose and fellow TODers:  its huge, multi-billions$$$ potential as total bullshit unless we can find corroboration.  Recall that Heinberg still has not revealed his inside source on the supposed downfall in KSA production.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Who exactly are these 'our' and 'we' you keep talking about. I can't seem to find anything about them on your webpage. In fact I can't really find anything there. No address, no list of employees, no credentials, no pretty much of anything. Just a mailbox and a phone number. Maybe the reason being they don't excist.

You appear to be a scam artist, pandering worthless analysis to the gullible.
I also found your second webpage. You seem to have a similar scam going there.

This just keep getting better and better. I finally found a list of your credentials on your vote freddy page.

Economic/Political analyst and pollster for TrendLines.  In the past year, TrendLines has sought the opinion of several thousand voters from across the Territory's 18 Ridings and gained an incredible pulse of the wants, needs and sentiment of Yukoners.  Freddy is often found in the Legislature Gallery and is totally immersed in Territorial politics and its players.

So essentially your only credentals are working for your own phony company.

Hurin, your comments are an ad hominem attack on Freddie Hutter. While Freddie is an unrepentant asshole, it gives him no credit for his hard work and honest presentation of his data and adds nothing to the debate except venom and rancor. Chill out!
If by ad honiem, you mean I'm attacking Freddy's character rather than answering his argument. The problem I see is that Freddy has arguments he's not qualified to make.
If you came by a hopital and saw the janitor and the rent-a-cop perform open heart surgery on a patient, would you give them credit for their hard work?

Freddy states among other.

BP - Similarly, BP's URR is insufficient for its plateau outlook.  To justify that plateau, we have increased the BP URR from its published 2.244-Tb to a more realistic 2.75-Tb.

Now its up to you to agree or disagree with BP's numbers. But if you're going to make the claim that BP's numbers are wrong to the tune off 506-Gb. You better have something to back you up. And there is nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, to suggest Freddy and his imaginary friends has that.

BTW: Freddy lost the election, he got 17 votes.

Freddie, thanks for putting this graph together and presenting it to us! Its really great work on your part and should help everyone understand the parameters of the debate and the positions of the modelers on peak oil.
Freddy, I'd just draw your attention to my article of last week on reserves interpretation based on the IHS data base (don't know if you saw it):


Also in a week or so I'll be posting on the production architecture of the UK North Sea - please call by to comment.  As a foretaste, I see underlying decline in the UK of 13%.  The decline rate is reduced to 7.8% by rolling new field developments - so wrt to the North Sea - Skrebowski is an optimist, IMO.

I like your chart - but can you comment on where you see reality?

Euan, yes i did catch your reserve article and appreciated the Energy Institute forum's links to the Presenters powerpoints.

The unconventional plateau in 2020 at 60-mbd for Skrebowski is his postulation of a necessary entrenchment period in the industry.  He is no doubt in shock at the extent of it; a period necessary for exhaustion of his adopted URR (BP) which at 2.244-Tb is the second lowest of the modelers.

The lowest is by OPEC and i doubt they have done any homework.  As mentioned in the footnotes, BP's URR has some inherent faults and most would agree it can go nowhere but up in the next five years.  Their own 2010-2020 production outlook cannot be reconciled unless it's URR is bumped to 2.75-Tb.  That does not bode well for the Skrebowski Model.

IEA has the best handle on current data and i have been public about favouring their Alternative Scenario (which is the one we present) as amended by their recent Medium term outlook.

The only way Peaksters can bring back the MSM is by challenging the data.  They attempted by bottom-up studies, but their work actually bumped up most Outlooks in the short and medium term.  Only terrorist acts can prevent the obvious looking towards 2012.

From that point, only a challenge of URR can halt the very optimistic outlooks.  Refinements to HL can give us a good handle on that; but again, the recent Laherrere work shows us we may have entered a new paradigm.  Reluctantly, he is presenting a 4-Tb production scenarios to augment his 3-Tb.  We don't show that one yet as his confidence in its coming to fruition is not high.

Both the earliest and lowest Peak are seen by ASPO (90-mbd in 2010).  CERA comes off their plateau in 2053, making them the most optimistic both in production rate and timing.  What is clear from our representations is that the Peak is getting defined for the first time.  The 12 Scenarios show that the Peak is sometime between 2010 & 2052.  That fact alone is important.  In y2k, many did not see a Peak ... ever.  Worst case scenarios are now a reality!

Better definitions and transparency of URR will close the gap.  

As mentioned in the footnotes, BP's URR has some inherent faults and most would agree it can go nowhere but up in the next five years.  Their own 2010-2020 production outlook cannot be reconciled unless it's URR is bumped to 2.75-Tb.

BP has a history of overstating reserve numbers. Your claim that they have understated global URR by the equivalent of 100 supergiant fields is beyond stupid.

I am still waiting for a reason why you're better qualified to understand BP reserve data than they are themself.

we may have entered a new paradigm

I have not heard that expression since Alan Sokal kicked postmodern ass a decade ago. I remember it was a favorite method among postmodern scolars to use scientific concepts in a way that made no sense.

As a neophyte to this sector, u should learn the difference between the reporting of corporate reserves vs estimates of global reserves and URR.  There are many good websites (like wikipedia) where u can get up-to-speed.  Your link is to Shell ... not BP and has nothing to do with URR discussions.  BP's most current production rate projections are a fantasy using it's present URR.  What is not commonly known, is that BP figures include reserve growth of 55-Gb per year over the last six years.  It is this component that will grant them the 506-Gb needed to reconcile their extraction prediction.  They do not like publishing figures for Reserve Growth and Probable Discoveries ... but they use them none-the-less.  Your postings make u sound like a lunatic but fear not, u are in good company at TOD.
Thanks for that Freddy.  I guess I use Hubbert with caution - definitley has its uses - but can also misslead.  The recent Laherrere HL work I find to be a bit naive.  We are seeing the suggestion that 750 billion barrels have been added to URR without a single discovery being made.

What I beleive we are seeing in the "dog leg up" is unused capacity getting switched on - and I don't think we are seeing 750 billion barrels of unused capacity either. Extraplotaing that change in gradient into the future based on 3 years - is not something I would do.  My suspicion is that the trend will come down sub-parallel to the 2250 Gb line.

WRT refined Hubbert - I've nailed my colours for the time being to Khebabs loglet approach - which in my opinion was the best attempt to deal with non-linearity in global production data - so my colours are nailed to 2012±3.

I note your preference for IEA - but just can't see where all the oil, and the productive volumes will come from to achieve that.

I am swayed by the growing list of countries past peak, and unless some of those manage to turnaround their fortunes, then I just see a see saw being weighed down at one end (past peakers) with pre-peakers running down the see saw all the time.

In terms of the new paradigm, one thing I think that "optimists" are over looking is the extent to which the Planet has now been drilled.  In the North Sea - optimists here, see a new tranche of discovery stimulated by high price - the reality is that most 5 million barrel stoip structures has already been drilled.

In the UK there is always the prospect of a new province, deepwater Atlantic margin, but this would require Cretaceous source rocks, cos the Jurassic source rocks are to deeply buried.  Possibility of Cretacous source is slim - for geologic reasons I won't go into.  So the "UK optimists" live in ignorant hope, whilst realism rules.

Reserve Growth is a very misunderstood subject as well.  Over the last six years, between EIA/USGS, ASPO, IEA & BP ... reserve growth has pushed up their avg URR by approx 110-Gb per year.  We only use 31-Gb/yr.  Until the rate of this growth slows down, the PEAk is very far away.
Better definitions and transparency of URR will close the gap.

In the interests of transparency, I think it is intellectually dishonest the way you present these scenarios. You credit them to the source, but the scenario you present has your arbitrary adjustments to the source data. Either present the source data with a note to indicate it's shortcomings, or make it clear these figures are your interpretation of the source data.

I'm also a little confused by your labelling. You refer to "Peaksters" then claim that everyone shows a peak. Why bother with the distinction?

Let me help u, Bob.  My Delta88 uses 10 litres an hour and it uses 10 litres per 100 km.  I can tell u that i plan to drive to Fairbanks (900km) on a single tank but since my tank is only 70 liters ... it just won't happen.  Similarly with most of the modelers that didn't show peaks or illustrated outrageous claims of plateaus or long term production rates.

In the end, the production rates must tally with their URR or the URR Avg if none is offered.  In earlier versions, we ignored URR and showed production claims w/o regard.  That caused us heat as well with CERA and OPEC claims failing to reconcile.  Now we use a balance.

I use the term Peaksters for those who claim ad nauseum that the "Peak passed last year" (not 2005 - it's just always last year!) or shall in the coming weeks or months...

Hi there Peak Guy,

First, there are geologic limits to how fast oil will rise out of the ground. While there are many advances in the technology to hasten this process (water, CO2, etc), it is not clear whether this is sustainable over the long term or merely "sucking harder on the straw" to get what is available to produce out quicker. Once pressure in an oil field declines, it is nearly impossible to increase production as we have seen across the US and most of the other mature oil areas with high technology.

I think you are hitting an important point there with regard to flow rates and production.  You can have all the oil in the ground you want - but you need energy to get it it out fast.  Here's a comment I posted on Dave's article of few days back.  The natural reservoir energy was in the past one of the important energy components.

Reservoir potential and Reservoir Energy

Reservoir energy has three main components:

Bouyancy of the oil - floating on water beneath a seal
Aquifer drive the ability of the water to flow into the reservoir and displace the oil
Dissolved gas that expands during depressurisation, helping force oil up a well

In a good field with a good reservoir and light oil, these factors combined may lead to single well flow rates of 50,000 + per day.

One thing that is happening to global oil production is that reservoir energy is being depleted on a global scale. We now have tens of thousands of aging fields in production, where the natural reservoir energy is spent, many fields where the watery oil needs to be pumped at relatively low rates. There may be plenty oil left in the ground (reserves) but without the reservoir energy flow rates will fall.

see here for susequent debate


  And with more people on the planet wanting an improved lifestyle, demand rates are growing exponentially while supply is barely keeping up and are almost certain to exceed the available supply soon, not a pleasant sceneario for the middle class and poor of the planet. IMO your plain talk about optimal production rates and Freddies graph of the projections of various factions of the peak oil debate make very clear the necessity of taking action now to reduce demand through conservation and substitution of electric in transportation.
  Thanks for your contribution.
Lower Tertiary: In the excitement surrounding Jack-2, some mentioned the other "successes" in the LT, fields like Concorde, Chinook, St Malo, Das Bump, Stones, Hadrian and Great White. Others have said these discoveries were a disappointment - poor quality crudes, low flow rates, etc. Anybody have any hard data on the initial output of these other LT fields? (I can't find any.) Thanks
The trouble with the plateau as conceived (as well as with the very steady and slow downslopes in the chart posted at 10.21 by Hutter) is that the flattish line is an outcome of multiple steepish rising lines:

more energy invested, more drilling, more complicated extraction, more processing, etc.  

One would expect these `mores' to reach limits, physical, psychological and financial, at roughly the same time, as they all interact, through what one now might snidely and informally call the domino effect or pancake theory.

The Peak Oil Rag*

From the steps of his chateau
he foresees see a grand plateau
price will drop to thirty-eight then...
Undulate, Undulate, Undulate

Hear him speak to you and me
There on M-S-N-B-C
Cor-ni-co-pe-A -for the C-E-R-A
Doin' the Peak Oil Rag!

*Sung to the tune of "The Vatican Rag"

(With great affection and sincere apologies to Tom Lehrer)

Hell there Captain James T. Kirk,
Remove from thine face that silly smirk,
We're just gas and oil TODders,
Not rhyme makers and poetic plotters!

I would move the "then" of line 3 to the front so that line can end cleanly with the "ate" sound.

Something like:
From the up ramp of his Yergenesque chateau
He assuredly sees an everlasting plateau
price then will drop to thirty-eight...
Come on everybody let's do the Undulate,
Undulate, Undulate, Undulate

I'm not familiar with the tune of your song (is there a music download site?) but I like it.

P.S. Rhyming and making sense while matching a tune is hard hard work. I never appreciated what a tough song that little kid's song was, Pocohantus.