From the Editor's Desk: Peak Oil, Heretical Thought, Complexity, and the Future of The Oil Drum

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the direction of The Oil Drum. Much of my thinking on this set of ideas has been brought about by some soul-searching, trying to understand the problems we face as a community, and then figuring out how to "positively push the future." My thoughts under the fold.

[editor's note, by Prof. Goose] If you haven't done so yet, check out this podcast of the Jerry Michalski interview that was one of the forces prompting this post.

Section One-Heretical Thought and Social Trust

One of the pieces that brought me down this journey of thought is this podcast of Leif Utne (of the Utne Reader and worldchanging fame) interviewing Jerry Michalski (a technology consultant, writer, and futurist); in the interview, they talk about two of my favorite subjects: heretical thinking and the development of social trust and norms.

I bring you all a few quotes from Michalski's interview (and you should listen to the entire (I think inspiring and positive) eleven's quite worth your time, and it will probably help you understand where I am heading with this post):

"There is one incredibly strong pattern [about heretics] [...], their critiques of society [...] say that the current systems and institutions in our society are designed to not trust us."

"If you begin to design systems that have in their core a basis of trust, you begin to see wonderful things show up."

"When you come in and start to play with us, we will happily teach you how to play this particular game, and maybe we'll learn how to cooperate. That's really earth-shaking for a lot of people."

"What if we trusted you?"

"When you think about these systems a little differently, and begin with an opening gambit of trust, you can actually build highly resilient systems, in fact, systems that are more resilient, less likely to take us into conflict, less likely to create dysfunctional things inside the system."

First, Michalski brought to mind what we have been trying to do here at The Oil Drum, on most days and with most posts and most of the comments, fits his model to a "t." We are building a wonderful empirically-based place to discuss the controversies surrounding our energy problems grounded in the notion of social trust--we have open comment threads with 200-plus responses that are, on some days, worth reading. (Though, of late, some of our comment threads have gotten rather chippy and disturbing, I would still argue that, after you sort through the crap, we have the best, most informative and engaging comments and learning going on out in the 'sphere.)

The next question of course is "what else can we accomplish while maintaining these norms?" Michalski's example of a (energy-based in our case) wikipedia is an easy one, with as much information as we have available that has passed through here, it seems to that's a slam dunk. But what other resources can we produce? What other good can we do?

The other thought that Michalski inspired was the role of heretical thinking in peak oil thought and research. The Oil Drum challenges the conventional wisdom with its empirically-based and theoretically-interesting arguments every day. I hope this can continue, so that we can continue educating individuals and policymakers about the details of their energy situation, so they can make more informed choices about our energy future. I hope we can learn from and continue improving on Michalski's model, improving our chances of our heretical evidence affecting the mainstream.

Section Two-Complexity, Social Trust, and the Future of TOD

Because the topic of energy is beyond complex and interrelated to so many of the main arteries of society, we need not worry that the empirical study of energy will get boring any time soon. Whether it is understanding energy's dynamic impact on global temperatures, the consequences of the maximization of the world's oil supply on our security and well-being, the sciences of increasingly available alternative energy supplies, consumer and corporate behavior, the economics and fungibility of energy supplies, oh, I could keep going all day. (By the by, Jamais Cascio does a very nice job summing up America's post-hegemonic future here, so go there to do more thinking about the meta-impacts of observable trends when you're done thinking about this little missive.)

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that what we are doing every day here at TOD is difficult--and the people here do amazing things on a daily basis to make it work.

Ad hominem, purposefully obtuse, or not-even-related-to-anything comments do not help. They only defile our contributors' hard work, discourage others from participating, and really contaminate what is, most of the time, a really interesting and informative place to be.

The staff here mostly consists of academically-trained individuals or specialists; this is about ideas and knowledge for us, and from our perspective that is why this site succeeds. We are gearing this site towards the people who want to learn and think about and understand the problems we face and solutions we can credibly espouse in the policy arena. That's right: we want to bring the smartest people who think about this stuff together into one place and talk about ideas, solutions, and policy.

We all know that other sites on this topic have had a life cycle that began with smart, informed comment and became less and less informative over the course of their existence, becoming places where doomer v. anti-doomer troll battles and screechfests take the place of interesting and informed dialogues.

Frankly, most of the people who work hard to keep this site functioning so well would like nothing more for the screechers, trolls, malcontents, and ad hominem players to go elsewhere. Seriously. Please. Go start your own blog if you wish.

I am reminded of a Quaker saying: "Be silent until you can improve upon the silence."

We really don't care if we lose a lot of readership over this little declaration, because the aforementioned people are creating a level of toxicity that cannot exist if we are to continue to credibly and enjoyably do this. The people who come here to read and learn should not have to sort through crap to find the knowledge they seek.

The people who write here already have credibility in the peak oil world; we are not going to lose the credibility we have accumulated over a bunch of trolls. We'd rather we shut down the comment threads altogether than allow that.

Don't get me wrong, many (if not most) of the commenters are wonderful and we want to keep it that way, and many of you folks really really add to the discussion. It's sometimes beautiful how much one can learn from the discussions here. There's good satire, there's good (and on-point) humor. And also, don't get me wrong, there's nothing ever wrong with constructive dissent either. However, yelling loudly or profanely just to make sure you're heard over and over and over again or calling attention to yourself, well, it's juvenile, and it's just been getting ridiculous in some cases. (Believe me, as the person who primarily mans the TOD mailbox, I see the complaints daily.)

We here at TOD are here to facilitate education, empirically-centered debate, good policy, and learning, not create a battlefield on which people can try to foist their normative views on others: and I think most of us here agree with that vision.

And while I am not one to quash dissent (I have never deleted a comment here at TOD, and I never will), I also know that there are times when we will have to defend what we believe in.

Also, just an FYI: in the next version of TOD (3.0), we are tossing around some mechanisms, including disabling comments completely, comment ratings (slashdot style), comment moderation, making folks pay nominal fees to make comments, and other mechanisms to try to retard the growth of some of negative things we've been seeing of late. Again, just to be clear, we would rather not do any of that and keep things as they are--abiding by Michalski's model of social trust to allow people to be their best in an unconstrained atmosphere. But that may not be possible.

Until we make those changes, it is up to the community that is TOD to police its own comment threads. Feel free to hit that suppress comment button and not engage the trolls, it's much better than creating a 19-deep thread of ad hominems that no one wants to read. Really.

I think this place and its approach is worth defending. I also believe that a large majority of our readers feel the same.

PG:  Very good comments

My comments regarding this topic on the open thread are shown below.  As I noted in my comment, I really do believe that a lot of the "recent unpleasantness" is a result of the increased attention that TOD is getting.  While I think that I have been the primary tactical target so far, don't be fooled.  The strategic goal, IMO, is to destroy The Oil Drum.

IMO, Hothgor is a result of the increased attention that TOD gets.  I think that he represents, either on a paid basis or on a freelance basis, the interests of some group that perceives The Oil Drum as a threat.  I think that his purpose is to make the TOD experience as unpleasant as possible, and you have to give him credit, he is remarkably effective at it.  I know that I have begun to wonder why I should continue to bother.
It is difficult to know where a particular person is coming from, but...

A friend of mine once met a young person just out of college who was hired by a PR firm to troll the internet, engage in chat rooms, promote one thing and trash another.

How's that feeling of trust doing?

Yeah, I just ban any troublemakers on the Latoc forum. I don't have time or energy to suffer fools.

What I do also is attach a picture of me sunbathing naked, ass up along with the message informing them they've been banned. It's my way of getting a bit of justice/venegence for somebody trying to screw up my board.


I could send you the pic if you want to use it. Works like a charm. (I pulled it off the google satellite photo map, btw.)

"Yeah, I just ban any troublemakers on the Latoc forum. I don't have time or energy to suffer fools. "

Try this for fun 19/324#comments

more available

AMPOD - just scanned through the posts here before falling into bed. IMHO - it is a really difficult job to retain the freedom of speach and quality ( I'm only really interested in equality to speak where that is weighted by the speakers qulaifications to speak) - and here in lies the problem - who decides what's crap and what's not crap?

We are confronting a new problem. And that leads on to PG's discussion of trust.

I would judge that when I started posting here I got a rough ride - and I've moved on a bit since then.

What I will say is this - if I were to trust anyone with comming up with an new and fair editorial system it woud be the TOD editors and contributors.  If they drift from what I find to be accpetable - I'm off - but right now thetyre on the money but grappling with a difficult problem.

My hope is that TOD becomes the industry standard.


My hope is that TOD becomes the industry standard too. The only other "golden" links are which is too full of 9-11 conspiracies and other highschool level nonsense, (although improving lately) and which is great for some people, who like to dig into big meaty tomes  - not the other 99% of the population.

I'd like to see this site stay up as long as there is an Internet. It's very hard to wrap one's mind around the basic realities that "Progress" is a recent, and deranged, idea, that the bare-ass Australian Aborigine is more successful in Mother Earth's eyes than the CEO, and so on. This page provides the best help of all of them towards digesting these things at a gut level.

your half right..
it's not nonsense but you do need a good grasp of at least high school level math and physics to understand it.
". . . and here in lies the problem - who decides what's crap and what's not crap?"

Just pick somebody trusted, preferrably a female as she is not as likely to get emotionally invested in the ritualized dominance contests.

If "TheEnforcer" gets out of hand or starts acting like a Beyootch, then you boot her ass and get a new Enforcer.

"preferrably a female as she is not as likely to get emotionally invested"

do you know any females?

LOL, any stalking horses you have in mind?
At Kunstler's CFN trolls and bad behavior have made the unadulterated blog much less worthy of reading(I use a kill program to block comments by trolls). Many informed and intelligent people left because of this fact. Of course we thrive on open debate but there seems to be paid and unpaid individuals who would destroy what has been so wonderfully created.

Trolls need to be penalized and discouraged.

Seriously - this is the third time Ive seen this and perhaps Im ignorant....but who would PAY someone to troll TOD and for what purpose??
Exactly - and while he has been very controversial, I haven't seen him promote anything in particular and he is a believer in Peak Oil on the same time frame as Campbell and advocates alternative energy. This is really why his contentiousness and hostile attitude has me confused more than anything. His position behind the rhetoric is very similar to RR's, but boy is the rhetoric different. He has really obscured whatever point he his trying to make by his demeaning, hostile style.
um... who are you referring to?
Hopefully me.  I'm campaigning to get myself voted off as a troll--one way to cure the addiction. as an "oil troll" you get stuck in the tarsands or is that tarzans I can't remember..
Sorry, I was thinking of Hothgar following the preceeding line of comments.

I'm certainly not ready to let westexas (no, it's not you) go so easily.

Who would pay someone to deny the science behind the conclusion that the climate is heating up?

If the USA (and the west in general) embarked on a program of best-available-technology efficiency improvements, replacement of fossil fuels and R&D aimed at extending both of the above, the price of oil would sink and the total amount produced (before declining fields are closed and abandoned) would also decrease.  The difference in revenues to oil producers versus the current "plenty of oil" peak-denialism could be a trillion dollars.  If you think it isn't worth a few tens of thousands of dollars to troll TOD, Real Climate and other blogs where experts meet the public, I think you underestimate what's at stake.  Even a few months' delay could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Wow - I never thought of that. I guess its plausible. Kind of scary though.
Re:  Engineer Poet

Just think of what would happen to some industries if everyone did adopt my ELP recommendations, which are really nothing more than a suggestion that you live within your means and maximize your savings.

I tend to not go for conspiracy theories, but I do believe in "follow the money."  I lot of very powerful interests want Americans to continue buying--and financing--large homes and autos.

Note the headline that Leanan just posted:
Detroit foreclosures lead nation

I have previously recounted a story about pitching my ELP message to a guy last year.  He thought about it, and then said, "But what happens to the US economy when we stop borrowing and spending?"  

It goes to show you how far this once great nation has fallen, when a simple suggestion that we live within our means is somehow considered to be vaguely un-American.

I wouldn't be surprized if this is connected with the unpleasant troll issue you've been discussing (this posting should probably be under one of those threads I know...but here I go)

There is a long history of violations of constitutionally protected activities and rights in the US.  One that's grieviously under-reported and unrecognized is the Freedom of Association (this would include such rights as not having to associate with gov't spies, provocateurs, moles, professional disruptors, etc...  in your contitutionally protected association).

The book "The War at Home" describes how COINTELPRO (an FBI operation) was used to "misdirect, discredit and disrupt" any organization/individual not to its liking.  (Generally anyone with an activist agenda perceived as threatening by large corporations.) It makes for chilling reading, but it will give even the most polite Boat-Rockers new eyes with to perceive their activist experiences.

We only know of COINTELPRO because some brave citizens actually burglarized an FBI office, found the incriminating documents, and published them!  At that point, congress was compelled under public pressure (this was the 70's after all) to order them to shut the operation down, which they nominally did.

One doesn't need to be a cynic to assume they just decentralized and renamed the operation.  I've known many activists working on some incredibly benign campaigns tell stories of organizations and work destroyed by events that look like they were scripted out of "The War at Home".

If you can't recognize it, you can't see it.

I have been known to speculate about the privatised version of some of this stuff (paid trolling to further various industry PR campaigns like global warming denial), using Netvocates as an example.

Nice post by the way PG - I feel much the same way - I guess its the price you pay for success (those of us ranting away in relative obscurity don't have the same problems of course)...

WG - We had formed a group to oppose a gov't asphalt plant. There showed up a guy with a vague backround( no real job to speak of, no work phone #, no real address, etc.) that wanted to get deeply involved.  Claimed to have bought this piece of bare property which had been bought only under a different name(we did a county records check). Said he wanted to build a house etc. etc.
One of our members had read an article in the NewYorker magazine that said these type of operations are alive and well here in the US.  We kept him at an arms lenght.  Luckily we live in an area where the "new comers" are the ones who have been here 8 years.
He went away as wierdly as he showed up.  Property sold a year or two later. Never really saw him on it(the land).
No proof or anything just a little too strange for a few of us.  I have never forgot it.
Wasn't it Egar Hover(FBI) that had the dirt on everyone so he could go dress like a woman and no one could call him on it.
It would be a little niave IMHO to think that with the incredible money that rides on our oil based economy that there isn't more than a few people watching this blog.
I've been living well below my means for the past twenty years.  What I need now is someplace to park my assets where they'll be worth relatively more after a contraction or dollar crash.
well, in the case of a dollar crash, do you think interest rates will rise or fall?
Westexas, I know you've already seen the news that our Dallas foreclosures, through November, lead those of all of last year. And, you still have puff-writing Realtors' advocates saying, "Nothing to see here; it's all getting better."

I wrote an editorial in my newspaper last month advocating against a local school bond, mentioning the housing slowdown allowing a little breathing room.

Got flamed.

A group of US senators recently requested ExxonMobil to stop funding groups and individuals that deny/understate Global Warming/"Climate Change".

One can buy quite a bit of "science" with XOM's checkbook !



there are plenty of people out to trash PO and GW.

From the New Scientist:

Interesting that Pat Michaels of University of Virginia rubbish's Global Warming by counting the number of published reports against Global Warming and using that number as proof that GW is a figment of someone's imagination. I would have thought that a responsible academic would have spent years gathering data with an unbiased view point, seeing where the data was heading and publishing a report on the data that they had collected.
On the various securities message boards, like Yahoo's for example, there are paid "bashers" and "pumpers" that are the same as trolls. I've seen that here and directly accused one of such behavior quite some time ago. Indeed, there are many times when I ignore the comment threads after the main article because the format is unwieldy and discourse disjointed. It's been my experience that once confronted trolls are best ignored except to debunk sophisticated FUD.

You need to get a tinfoil hat. I can let you borrow mine. Now granted a lot of times you'll end up worrying about stuff that is just flat out crazy. But nowadays for every 5 ideas that sound totally crazy at first (like corporations paying trools), 1 or 2 of them turn out to be true. So the tinfoil hat is quite usefull if you get my drift.

I can think of a number of people/groups who would profit from diminishing a group like this, as Westexas has hinted.
  1. CERA. The more convincingly Yergin's puff becomes refuted, the more he has to lose.
  2. CERA's Big Oil masters.
  3. The Democratic Party, if it gets challenged enough to actually start addressing Peak Oil.
  4. Residential housing developers, planners, etc. The more untenable the "big box" becomes as a cheap way to ramp up the cost of houses enough to let cities exercise a modicum of socioeconomic control over their growth, the more this group fights back.
  5. Utility companies
  6. Maybe even speculative financiers of the Soros sort who don't want the potential for market manipulations altered, undercut or exposed.
How's that for a starting list?
Here's another way of thinking about it: I saw a job ad on Post Carbon's Institute page. Part of the job included participating in internet forums to promote PC's views.

Personally speaking if a PCI paid poster showed up at the LATOC forum, I wouldn't mind one bit. My guess is the overlords of TOD would feel simiarly as such a person would add positive/informative commentary.

My point is this: if a small operation like the PCI is willing to pay a person to participate in internet discussions for what we consider constructive reasons, how much more motivated would a multi-million dollar operation with less benevolent intentions be to pay people to participate in discussions for destructive reasons?

It only makes sense that big insitutions would hire professional posters.

a pic of my "blindingly white ass of doom" sent to their inbox will do the trick mighty fine.

ummm  MikeB "at" foxhill "dot" com

That's probably the most ridiculous theory I have ever heard.  I work at my family store.  I have no reason to want to 'destroy' TOD, or 'debunk' PO and GW.  PO and GW are both very real and very present dangers.  You wont hear me say otherwise.

But seriously, these troll comments are getting out of hand.  People don't want to hear any dissenting opinions because in some ways they don't want to admit that the potential exists for them to be wrong on any occasion.  Debates are good in the long term, and its ridiculous to think that you are getting any kind of constructive unbiased opinion out for the whole world if the entire TOD community is only there to cheer you on and back slap you.  

Calling someone a troll without examining the merits of a post is tantamount to admitting that you are either too lazy or too unsure of your own position that you don't want to risk defending it for fear of being proved wrong.  If I'm wrong on a subject, then I'm wrong.  I have no qualms about admitting that I am.  If I'm right on a subject, then likewise I'm right.  I don't go to sleep at night dreaming of my next 'victory' over PO.  Thats just nonsense.

All this talk of censoring people based on their popularity defeats the entire purpose of a website devoted to the discussion of peak oil and the future of our energy needs.  You won't see me derailing a thread onto a subject that isn't related to the topic :/

I am however flattered at all the attention I seemed to have garnered.

For what it's worth I doubt you're a paid troll. Trollmasters would dream of having someone as good as you. OTOH why are you going headon with Jeffrey Brown? He has credibity beyond what you will earn for many years and you are going backwards.
And what is that name? Gothic horror? Goth Whore? The name is my first reason for suspecting you are but a young whippersnapper.
And why do you think your method has a future? Look at all the turmoil you are causing here. If you want respect, if you want your arguments heard, sit back a while. Persist and hear only a clamor to throw you out.
Hothgor is a misspelling of Hrothgor the king of the Danes from the Beowulf poem. I am guessing anyway...a grendel posts here to but not for some time I think...


Hrothgar...sorry I mispelled it too!
I have noticed Hothgar has not appeared on this commentary.
Hit ctrl and F, type in Hothgar you will see, he/she has not commented. interesting!
Yep!  I'm caught!  I love playing that game :)
For my part, disabling comments would be fine if it becomes necessary.
More readership= lower signal-to-noise ratio.

Also, just an FYI: in the next version of TOD (3.0), we are tossing around some mechanisms, including disabling comments completely, comment ratings (slashdot style), comment moderation, ....
I think that's an excellent initiative.
More readership= lower signal-to-noise ratio.

Seems to be a universal problem with overpopulation. And I no longer read slashdot for just that reason.

Also, I'd just like to thank the leaders of this forum, PG, HO, SS, Leanan, westexas, Khebab, RR, Sasquatch and others for creating such a civil forum. And realizing that, having nothing further to contribute I need to sit quietly in the back of the class and stop lobbing spitwads at the professor...

It would be nice to have an applaud/smite function where a comment could be smited out of existence.
I will suggest using Simple Machines Forum.

"Its powerful custom made template engine puts you in full control of the lay-out of your message board and with our unique SSI - or Server Side Includes - function you can let your forum and your website interact with each other. SMF is written in the popular language PHP and uses a MySQL database. It is designed to provide you with all the features you need from a bulletin board while having an absolute minimal impact on the resources of the server. SMF is the next generation of forum software, and best of all it is and will always remain completely free!"

It can be found here -

Thanks for that Prof Goose. Debate over substance is great but really there is so much side discussion that people have to invest too much time to get the real nuggets of wisdom out of the comments. Rather than view a thread as a success if it gets more than 100-200 comments, it should be something that attracts new readers and educates them or provides new depth to old readers understanding of complex subjects.

We have a lot of newly elected officials out there and many new people in positions of power. They have a lot to learn about energy issues and could benefit from some good solid posts and comments on these issues. Let's not scare them away, but rather invite them to a civil discussion of the issues.

I appreciate the open words about the trolling and would like to add one thought of my own.

Peak oil is a very serious problem which requires political and technical solutions. I am confident that the technical problems of renewable energy systems can and to a non-trivial fraction have been solved. The political problem, however, is the perception by the overwhelming majority that things that were always available in the past will always be available in the future. We know this religiously held belief is wrong. We also know that the opposite of oil is not chaos and the apocalypse. However, there is a large faction among the readership here who identify themselves with a "doom-and-gloom" religion which is absolutely counter-productive in the discussion about peak oil.

I would suggest TOD authors seriously examine realistic post-peak scenarios instead of letting the crowd feed on its own the-world-is-near fantasies. They are, in my opinnion, the single most devastating quality hit this site takes and could be easily moderated by more articles which discuss real mitigation strategies.

We also know that the opposite of oil is not chaos and the apocalypse

I dont think we KNOW anything. The overshoot crowd might have it right and the techno-optimists have it wrong, or vice-versa.  What PG is getting at, is no matter what your perspective or viewpoint, to add to the discourse at a high level, referencing prior studies, academic or otherwise that might lead the 'doomers vs antidoomers' to each learning. I have restarted from scratch 4 times about PO, going through the pieces over again from the perspective of those who have answers for the particular steps.

There is a certain element that gloms onto doom type scenarios because it instantly, at virtually no cost, increases their own relative fitness. Something that cant yet be disproven, yet gives someone apparent 'knowledge' that others dont have, will be appealing to someone who's life might not be hitting on all cylinders. If PO is a disaster, then all the rich, successful people will be in the same boat as the unrich, unsuccessful people so 'relatively' speaking, this faction may actually be 'rooting' for peak oil.

In other words, PO, Y2K, UFOs, Bird Flu wiping out millions, WTC being taken down by Cheney etc, all have a mutually intersecting circle of followers.  It is my personal viewpoint (and of course shared by most on this site) that Peak Oil, though started in conspiracy circles, is anything but, and is real scary.  The universe of people understanding Peak Oil has now broadened way beyond its initial group (and to those who figured it out years ago - congrats - you were ahead of your time)

I would suggest TOD authors seriously examine realistic post-peak scenarios instead of letting the crowd feed on its own the-world-is-near fantasies. They are, in my opinnion, the single most devastating quality hit this site takes and could be easily moderated by more articles which discuss real mitigation strategies.

You are defining 'realistic' from your own lens. Again, there are many versions of 'realistic.

I think what youre saying is that we should have more articles on MACRO mitigation strategies, because if the end-of-the-world as we know it folk are even half right, then TOD is probably not the place to learn about permaculture, building chicken tractors, which vegetable strains to plant, how to pickle rutabagas, etc.  Those discussions are valuable as well, just probably not here - this is the place where we try to impact local regional and national policy, not backyard tactics.

I don't believe that Peak Oil started in "conspiracy circles."  At least, that isn't the accepted story of how Hubbert introduced the topic.
I meant the large increase in its followers a few years back, not the scientific concept.
Peak oil is the application of science to a rather simple supply limited economics problem. I can assure you that the derivation of the Black Scholes option pricing equation and its modern successors is by far more demanding.

Unfortunately, apocalyptic visions are vastly more popular than science and people have a tendency to extract DoomGloom Juice (TM) from pretty much everything and anything. Peak oil, the science result, is simply the perfect candidate. I don't think TOD should go there. It does not help the cause, it does not educate, it provides no solutions. DoomGloom is a quick adrenalin rush like a roller coaster ride and falls into the same category: entertainment. The Disney Company, Warner and Pramount are better equipped to provide people with those kinds of tales.


"You are defining 'realistic' from your own lens. Again, there are many versions of 'realistic."

By realistic I mean scenarios which do not violate laws of nature. The wood burning oven scenario is as unrealistic in that regard as the flying car scenario. Neither will happen because of a little law called the conservation of energy.

A realistic question is: "How long does it take to effectively change fleet consumption after a change of CAFE standards and how does it measure up against an expected annual 1-5% post-peak production decay? What are the consequences for a responsible federal policy?"

What if from reading books like Tainter and Diamond, you can see that such a federal policy will either A)  never be implemented or B) will fail spectaculrly because it represnts more of the same: an attempt at solving the problems associated with societal complexity by becoming yet more complex.

You might tempted to say such a person is just being a "doomer" when in reality they are anaylyzing your proposal through the cold hard lens of reality and concluding that is a no-go from the get-go.

Do Tainter and Diamond have a crystal ball? Is it a reliable model? Can I get one, too? "What-if"-analysis gets you anywhere you want to go. It usually gets you to "Ridicule Junction" when you are riding my train.

In my opinnion you underestimate both the capacity of politicians and voters to change course radically once the shit hits the fan, not to mention the force of flying shit.

That politicians don't act, does not change economics realities. Just look at the sales figures of Japanese hybrids and compacts vs. SUVs. Gas went above $3 and Americans began acting rationally. Based on that data point, what do you think will people do when it hits $4? Buy more H2s and mount machine guns so they can defend the farm or buy more small Japanese compacts and hybrids?

OK. The train has reached its final destination... "Ridicule Junction, everone! Thanks for riding The Reality Express! Have a nice day and please come back!"

But there is another thing that happens when politicians fail to change course: they get voted out of office. I think we got a rather strong data point on that one this week. We shall see if US politicians have a capacity to learn. If not, reality will teach them and their voters a pretty smacking lesson. It takes no crystal ball to know that. You can read it in the newspaper.

The one Republican that succeeded spectacularly, while all else were being voted out, was Schwarzenegger.

He did it by responding to the voters on energy issues.

You mean he succeeded by decieving the voters. Watch - the financial flows will be to super large corporations for boondoggles (sp?) that will drain money from the taxpayer and give it to the already ultra-wealthy with the benefit accruing to the corporations while the cost(s) are shouldered by the average person.

Arnie is very smart, people have greatly underestimated him. He's great at playing suckers and fools for what they are: suckers and fools.

hmmmh.  Do you know anything specific about that?
"you underestimate both the capacity of politicians and voters to change course radically once the shit hits the fan, not to mention the force of flying shit."

No, I don't. See Hitler, 1933.

"I think we got a rather strong data point on that one this week."

Oh boy.

Watch, as with Arnold in Ca, the financial flows will remain largely the same. There might be some small changes with the dems but nothing terribly significant. You are watching their lips when you should be following the money.

Quick remedial primer for you on how our republic functions:

The US is founded on the pursuit of more and more wealth. I thought everybody knew this but maybe I was wrong. The politicans are paid for by whoever has the money. So George Bush is going to do what the nice folks at Exxon want not what us at The Oil Drum want. The dems in the House and Senate will tell the peasents they are going to stick it to Big Oil and then guess what? Nothing significant will happen.

But the peasants fall for it because the rich have the money to hire the slickest talkers. Remmeber most of the politicians are former attorneys. They've been trained to "massage the truth" while maintaining the appearance of sincerity. "the best liars money can buy."

In short, the politicians are paid to go out and talk a good game to the peasents in their districts then go back to D.C. and rewire the financial flows to the benefit of the top 1%.

You are falling for the scam and you don't even realize it. It's just as well that most people fall for for the scam the way you have. If a significant enough percentage saw it for what it really is, the whole system would fall over on itself like a house of cards and I don't know if that would benefit anybody.

Thank you Matt, You articulated exactly what some folks may sense as "irrational Doom & Gloomer" is actually a cold rational wide awake look at the reality we face.

You said it, follow the the money

Try The Creature from Jekyll Island as an example.

You are falling for the scam and you don't even realize it. It's just as well that most people fall for for the scam the way you have. If a significant enough percentage saw it for what it really is, the whole system would fall over on itself like a house of cards and I don't know if that would benefit anybody.  

Thank you.

Your comment further up about Tainter and such, is what some of us have concluded.

As everyone else who gets even a inkling of the scope of impact of PO, I have gone thru numerous phases and over again.  I read something at FTW in 2001 and saw the reference to Dieoff, then I just consumed everything I could.

I think you would agree Matt that what we are facing in essence is as I have coined the word, "The End of More".

Our entire set of paradigms is based on growth, based on "More".

Thanks for fleshing out this viewpoint.
Also to Darwinian to pointing out Population growth effects.


Tainter, Diamond, et al. are analyzing the historical record of how humans adapt - or in the particular case, misadapt or adapt in a way that looks like misadaptation from a civilization bias - to environmental, resource, and other disruptions.  I think Tainter and Diamond would point out that you are undoubtably right that people will adapt, but there are important examples in the past of adaptations that involve reductions in complexity.  

As others have pointed out, this is not a question of technical ability.  Just about everyone agrees that humans are technically capable of dealing with at least the short-term effects of oil production peaking.  However, human response to the decline of this important resource is not a technical question.    Actually, if we could come up with another site with the level of conversation of TOD, but dealing with collapse, maybe we could move that part of the conversation over there.  OTOH, the byline says TOD is about "Discussions about energy and our future.", so the collapse or not collapse conversation may fit.

And, it's just as arguable that YOU overestimate the response ability of politicians.

And, the idea that politicians would get voted out of office by short-sighted voters who have been kept cozy and comfortable in their Big Box McMansions is ridiculous.

There's no analogy between the visibile carnage of Iraq, where the questions are simple: Withdraw when? Provide what sort of post-withdrawal help? ...
And the invisible, to non-studious Americans, not thinking beyond up-and-down swings at the gas pump.

Hybrids are just one part, a fairly small part, of a big equation, and you know it. Assuming Peak Oil is hitting sooner and harder rather than later and more softly, you know the work involved is huge.

I don't consider you a troll, certainly, but I would put you in a certain class of "shiller."

We also know that the opposite of oil is not chaos and the apocalypse. However, there is a large faction among the readership here who identify themselves with a "doom-and-gloom" religion which is absolutely counter-productive in the discussion about peak oil.

Mr. Possibilities, if one wishe to point to an example of why the chaos-apocalypse theory should be discussed they could point to no better example than your post. You seem to know that whatever the outcome of the demise of fossil fuels are, it will not lead to chaos or the end of civilization as we know it.

However I would suggest that you have not proved that case. Let me direct you to a very short essay that counters your argument---in spades. I would suggest you read it then argue with Dr. Price. (That would be difficult however since he died in 1998.) At any rate here is the essay. Energy and Human Evolution

But back to the subject. I think TOD is the perfect place to discuss these things. If not, then what the hell are we supposed to discuss here?

Ron Patterson

To add to Ron's comments re discussion of negative scenarios:  99+% of lurkers and posters aren't doing "it".  They talk about AE and alternatives but have no real life experience.  In other words, they can only offer conjecture about how to proceed (regardless of how gloomy the scenario might be).  In contrast, there are people like me who have lived with AE stuff for years. I have the big PV system, the solar and wood hot water, the super insulation, grow food, etc.  I've been working with this stuff for personal interest for 30+ years.  Although I am a doomer (or more accurately, a Realist), failure to disucss a chaotic future or a collapse scenario(s) does not advance thought that might be applied to avoiding these end games.

Todd: a Realist

Let me ask you this... do you feel that your efforts to grow your own food conserve energy when compared to a well run farm?

Do you have information that says North Korea is doing well by forcing the city population to work on the fields every year because they lack modern agricultural technology?

I have no problems with PV, hot water and insulation. They are known to work and they solve the vast majority of problems. I do have a problem with the notion that we have to go back to agricultural subsistence. It is a pretty ridiculous thought... if for no other reason than the following:

If everyone starts attending to their own gardens, who is going to make the pumps and control systems for the vacuum deposition machines that are being used to make those solar cells on your roof?

If everyone starts attending to their own gardens, who is going to make the pumps and control systems for the vacuum deposition machines that are being used to make those solar cells on your roof?

This is precisely why I think our technology is unsustainable, even renewable stuff like wind and solar.

Let me see that... as a white collar worker I can produce $50 of GDP per hour. Let me know where in the world I can produce one tenth that much as a veggie farmer with half an acre.

In my case I need roughly 50 cents worth of energy to produce that GDP. In your world I could save 45 cents worth of energy and would loose $45 worth of GDP. That is about as much as I can make my way with energy cost being ten times what it is today and still making $40 (i.e. nine times) more than you.

I can see that to some retiring on a farm is attractive. To most people, however, installing a few solar panels seems a lot wiser. In my case, if we had solar panels on the building I work in, it could power itself and ten residential homes on top of that. The buildings in my neighbourhood alone could generate 100MW easy on a sunny day. That is enough electricity to power a small town all year long.  

I do not see that we suffer from energy. I do see that we suffer from collective imagination. And that is a generational problem. Our grandparents did not seem to have it when they faught the war and built our future. So I can only conclude that on average our parents did something wrong because so many of us want to go back to a third world farm and feed the chickens.

Let me see that... as a white collar worker I can produce $50 of GDP per hour.

Unfortunately, you can't eat GDP.

How much do you pay for your veggies? The average third world family lives on a couple of dollars a day. To feed a child a healty diet costs 50 cents. Filet Mignon is a different animal, though. I haven't had it in years. It's not quite worth the price.
I don't want to derail this thread too much, so I'll just say that I think both price and GDP, as we use the terms now, will be entirely meaningless in the post-carbon age.
That is an interesting position. Why do you think that? Both, price and GDP had very real meaning in Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, during the Middle Ages and, I can tell from a recent visit to a developing country, are just as important if you make $1 a day as if you make $1000. Why would that suddenly change? Economic realities do not change just because the technological means of a society change. They are far more general than that. You can tell price in chickens and  evaluate GDP in cow equivalents. It does not matter for the concept. As long as humans trade (and they never succeeded without it), price is well defined (it is the number of X you have to give to get a Y). As long as humans work for a living (and for all practical purposes we die as soon as we stop) GDP is a reasonably well defined concept. It is the total number of X and Y and Z that resulted from one year's work and it does not matter if X,Y,Z are stone axes or lunar landing modules.

My thoughts to your thoughts.

IP, This thread is being distracted. I will attempt to reset its course. Clearly you and Darwinian and others come from different perspectives.  Some focus on micro solutions and others point out macro problems hoping that clarifying their severity will cause decisionmakers to act quicker and with precision.  Both can be correct from different vantage points.

As long as humans trade (and they never succeeded without it), price is well defined (it is the number of X you have to give to get a Y).

Yes. Except that X is not magically traded for Y between places. It requires Z cost of transport. Z in our globally connected world is oil, and easy, close to free, oil is running out.  That poses the question:  is there a cost of Z that will disrupt the global transportation sector so much that people dont have time to build solar PV and alter the transportation sector that brings them food that they dont grow locally? Is there a timing of running out of cheap Z that alters the texture, implications and urgency of the preceding question?

These are some of the critical issues trying to be teased out here and different perspectives are needed. Some will not change their viewpoint no matter how much evidence is thrown their way.  Anyone that is THAT certain that they have the answers should continue to share data and careful patient analysis with us, so that we may learn.

To dismiss some of the realists out of hand to me is dangerous folly.  William Catton, I would classify as a 'doomer' and his book "Overshoot" introduced me to all this.   I met him earlier this year at our conference in DC and he was one of the kindest, broadest thinking people I have ever met.  His ecological study of overshoot (and Tainters and Dennis Meadows, etc) are areas of this equation that need to be incorporated.  Because we live in an intricately linked world and quantifying how much solar power a panel will generate is an important but very small part of the big picture.

Broad perspectives.

Multiple disciplines

Systems thinking

Constructive, empirical leaning dialogue

And we will make progress here

Everyone does not know what they do not know. (Including and especially me.)

Since you may be interested, go above and study in detail just how this thread got trashed or, distracted as you said.

-- Dave

And just think, Dave.

I didn't do it.

Hothgor, you are correct, you didn't trash the thread. I'm glad-I hope oilceo is right and you actually learn some manners. You are obviously smart, have an ability to research and come to conclusions as well as to express yourself fairly well. I can put a lot of it off on youth-I was an abrasive asshole at 24 too-and some of it off on social isolation. Longview Texas was the home of my first wife, whom I affectionately call Old Whats-her-name, and its small minded and isolated in the extreme. People with a brain are ostracised behind the Pine Curtain.Your Bushista position makes you an extreme liberal in Gregg County, Texas!
  You can lose your Troll Status if you just apologise to WestTexas, Khebab and others and resolve to do a little better. Attribute your sources, don't be afraid to ask questions-simple good manners. This isn't a gaming site, its a serious forum. That doesn't mean we can't have a little fun, but lets not try to antagonise each other.
Bob Ebersole, Galveston , Texas


I can give you a data point on transportation. I recently went to England where I took a train from London to Cambridge. The well built and rather luxurious trains (compared to US standards) were scheduled to run every 15 minutes and were pretty full. These people were enjoying a train ride through a beautiful landscape. The platform at the destination was well populated with people going the other way. Trains were running well into the late evening hours. Transportation by train is not cheap but still far more affordable than keeping a car.

If you go to Singapore, you can have the same experience on well maintaned busses. Keeping a car in Singapore is completely unaffordable. If the bus won't do, you can take a taxi anytime. Cabs are cheap and they work.

You go anywhere but the US and you get better service on public transportation and there are working freight systems in place. Systems which can transport goods for a fraction of the cost of trucks.

I am afraid that your viewpoint is rather limited to an exceptional case of a country which destroyed its own infrastructure for some hard to understand historical reasons. Well, the good news is, other countries did not and the US can rebuild anytime it likes. The cost might be astronomical. But so is the cost for the mother of useless wars. So that shouldn't be a real problem. May I remind you that the $440 billion the US spends on defense is not a wholy cow? Or it shouldn't be when the shit hits the fan.

"To dismiss some of the realists out of hand to me is dangerous folly"

Not to question "what-if" scenarios that violate the most basic things we know about reality is even more ridiculous. If you don't know better, inform yourself.

Good points all around. Speaking of astronomical costs, anything that serves a nation of 300 million people is going to be astronomically expensive, but then again, a big number divided by another big number, is it really still a big number? Hard to say, it's more productive to talk in terms of per-capita expenses, etc...

So yeah, if "the solution" came for even as little as 5 trillion dollars, give or take, it'd be a steal. I remember a great anti-nuke article once that talked about how expensive it would be to build all the nuclear reactors that it would take to replace some number of coal plants, or something similar. After many pages of whining, the number ended up being something like a trillion or two, which he bloviated on and on about being "unthinkable". Unthinkable only if you don't know how much we spend on energy. Yeah, more than I have in my wallet, but not really expensive on the scale of major energy projects for a country of our size.

If we spend around 3% of GDP on energy (a pretty low estimate), and a nuke reactor amortizes over, say, 30 years, a trillion dollars ends up being something like 10% of the total energy budget, not even 1% of GDP, depending on interest rates of course....

The mass transit systems are similar. NYC is spending something on the order of 10 billion dollars (at least) on the second avenue subway, ASTRONOMICAL!!!! Divide by 10 million people who will be served by it, and it's down to $1,000 each. Not too bad, consider that (if the current system is any guide) it'll last 100 years, give or take, and it's not much at all. $10 a year, yeah, backbreaking.

In the end, we just don't spend much effort or money on energy or transportation. Even a massive overhaul (ASTRONOMICALLY EXPENSIVE!!!!!) isn't going to be much, in the grand scheme of things.

Of course, if we wait until the last minute and get caught in an unfortunate situation.... Trains don't cost much, but people unable to make it to work sure do!

Thanks. Couldn't have said it better.
Singapore is tiny. It cost under $10 to take a taxi across the Island north south, and under $20 east west.

The USA is rather bigger.


A. Comparing Roman GNP to ours is not even comparing apples and oranges. It's comparing apples and 2x4s, or artichokes and oil wells, if you will.

B. You can't feed solar energy to a cow; you can't turn solar energy into ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Simple enough.

I am pretty sure you can turn solar energy into ammonium nitrate via electrical nitrogen fixation.TVA hydro was originally for this.

If you feed a cow hay is that not solar energy?

A. That's more energy intensive and material intensive than using natural gas to produce ammonium nitrate.

B. The hay feeding is indirect; and, going beyond Peak Oil per se, converting hay, or worse, corn or soybeans into animal matter is highly energy inefficient compared to humans eating the corn or soybeans directly.

C. Related to B, the U.S. became a net food importer last year. Think about THAT.

The average third world family lives on a couple of dollars a day.

I thought 1/3 of the population lived on less than a dollar a day.

You might be right. It is a ridiculously small number.
less than a buck a day - the effects of one PV solar panel or more efficent stoves for cooking can be amazing to helping improve the quality of life.

Alas, projected droughts and increased heat would swamp the other positive effects.

One of the major problems in Africa is clean water. Poor people have to work very hard just to make a living. Poor people who get sick can't even do that. Indeed, a few solar panels, a pump and a UV light can produce enough clean drinking water for a whole village, eliminating a large fraction of health problems. Vaccines for a few dollars a year can do the same. Once you got electricity, you get communication even into remote places. With communication in place people can call for help and doctors can be brought in. One mother, one Dad saved means that a family can survive and probably create a little security. We are not doing enough by orders of magnitude.

We seem to be very worried, though, that our SUVs have to go from 13mpg to 19mpg soon. What does that make us? Selfish?

We seem to be very worried, though, that our SUVs have to go from 13mpg to 19mpg soon. What does that make us? Selfish?

The 'worry' doesn't bother me,  its the reaction of the few that cause my worry.

$50/hr with 1/2 acre no problem   and i know where you can get some really "killer" seeds
OK... I should have added:

"... without going to jail for drug dealing."

But I admit... you really got me there.



Aside from taking things out of context and asigning things to me I didn't say, what's your point.

Todd:  a Realist

My point is still the same: we need solutions discussed, not dreams of retirement on the farm.

And I did not mean to assign that to you personally but I can see it as a general trend among the "sceptics" around here.

The theme of that scepticism seems to be to take a real problem, peak oil, ignore the vast majority of research about solutions, and then jump to the wrong conclusion that using less energy means loosing civilization.

I do not call that realism but faulty logic.


I note below that I am one of the moderators on another forum.  Were I a moderator here, I'd see your initial post linked to mine as so OT that it amounts to thread hyjacking.  The initial intent was to disucss the future of TOD.  You bring up issues that have absolutely nothing to do with this - not even peripherially.  With my mod hat on, I'd have done A) posted a reminder on the tread to get back on topic. B)Sent you a private message asking that you refrain from going so far off topic. And, lastly, if you wanted to argue about it, I would have talked it over with the other staff members to take away your posting priviledges for a few days because no one argues with a mod.

My response was to agree with Ron that TOD needs to have discussions/posts regarding a not so rosy future.  And, further, that people who are doing it need to participate in thess discussions because it is easy to have naive expectations regarding amelioration.

In this particular case, the appropriate thing to have done was to copy and past my post to tomorrow's open DrumBeat where I would have been glad to respond.

Maybe thats what we need - A TOD posting etiquette page - everything you just said was news to me, I guess because this is only discussion site Ive ever been to. (well overgrow once or twice).

If people knew there were general rules and boundaries, that might improve things a bit. Just like climate change and externalities - tell the corporations the rules, and they will follow them - dont have any rules - they will do what they want.

I apologize... I got it wrong, but certainly not wilfully. I am new to TOD and I still get confused by the format.

"You bring up issues that have absolutely nothing to do with this - not even peripherially."

You are probably wrong about that. I also have discussions on other sites about peak oil. I would love to use TOD as a resource because many of the articles are excellent. However, I can't and I don't for a very simple reason: I will be shot down immediately because world-end-fantasies seem to be intimate part of the peak-oil community on the internet. I have heard this time and time again from doubters.

You might not like to hear this but the major problem with the peak oil community is that it does not distance itself from those who do not care about the science as much as they care about the survivalist aspects of "what if scenarios".

You can shoot the messenger, if you like. It changes nothing about the problem.

My initial post was about this very issue and I think you should consider it carefully. I understand that TOD is worried about the format and about trolling. All open sites have to live with that. Personally I care more about content and my perception was that TOD has one of the most scientific approaches to the problem. I would like to see it go towards the quality of a peer reviwed journal more than a gazette.

And maybe that's all I should have said and left my other observations for another day.

Let me start with the last question first:

"But back to the subject. I think TOD is the perfect place to discuss these things. If not, then what the hell are we supposed to discuss here?"

One could discuss technological strategies for renewable energy. One could discuss renewable energy policy. One could discuss how to educate the broad public about the problem and how to give them a sense of the opportunity of the fastest growing market in the world. All of the above are by far more important than the question "Which wood burning oven should I buy?". Unless you happen to be the owner of a forrest (I am not and like the majority of people I do not intend to buy one), it is rather irrelevant.

"You seem to know that whatever the outcome of the demise of fossil fuels are, it will not lead to chaos or the end of civilization as we know it."

Of course I do. Since I happen to have a degree in physics, I can do the following trivial first order calculation:

Photovoltaics can produce approx. 20W/m^2 of continuous power with current technology. An American citizen needs approx. 1kW of power generation capacity to satisfy their needs at current levels of luxury. Photovoltaics alone therefor would require no more than 50m^2 of roof area per citizen installed over the next three decades. In other words: if we did nothing else than to buy 2m^2 worth of photovoltaics per citizen per year (that is a $2000 investment at the current rate and will fall shortly to a fraction of that as the industry grows exponentially), gloom and doom would never happen. Quite the contrary... we might piss off the people who invested good money in coal burning power plants which will not amortise over the next 40 years anymore.

But let's run the numbers. At current prices we are talking about $600 billion per year for a breakneck speed that will by no be means required and using the most expensive renewable technology available. How much is that in comparison to the US GDP of $13.6 trillion? It is a mere 4.4%... If we were to plug in realistic numbers reflecting the potential savings by conservation, falling PV prices, the already competitive price of wind energy, we are probably talking less than 1% of GDP averaged over the next three decades. Is that worth energy independence and a clean environment. It is to me.

I would want to see someone who is competent in such an analysis publish it here on TOD and compare technological potential with current trends. Wouldn't you?

The fuel crisis can be completely avoided for decades by replacing SUVs with compact cars. Certainly that is neither impossible nor unprecedented. It happened before in the 1970s. I still remember when the American and European car manufacturers had a hard time against the Japanese. Ironic how history repeats itself, isn't it? I am sure TOD could find an upright industry analyst and historian to write about that story.

These are but a few ideas what could and should be written about. I am eager to see TOD go more realistic. I am not eager to hear why the "Flamming Star 700" is better than the "Woodchip XL". It is not relevant to my life. I would put good money on a bet that it is not relevant to yours, either.

"An American citizen needs approx. 1kW of power generation capacity to satisfy their needs at current levels of luxury."

According to this the per capita residential use of electricity is 12.5 KWh/day. So for a household of 4 persons, it would be 50 KWh/day.

The amount of peak sunlight a house receives varies dramatically from 3.1 hours/day in Binghamton, NY to 6.6 hours in Phoenix.   The average, weighted for population, seems to be 4 or 5 hours/day.  And of course your greatest electricity needs are in winter, and you have to have extra capacity to adjust for system losses, and long stretches of bad weather.    

Having installed a system for our very energy efficient home, in Southern Arizona, I view this as a non-trivial, non-cheap problem. Especially for people in the north, east, south-east and north-west.

I agree. We are far more energy efficient than any of our neighbors, and have a nominal 3 kW system on out roof, actually an optimally 2.5 output after losses (never quite gets there, but close). We are in California, outside Sacramento with good roof exposure. The system just about meets our full annual electrical usage (we cook and heat water with gas).
The Germans built a zero energy home in the 1980s. It was quite luxurious. If you know anything about the German climate (I come from there), you will understand that it is quite an engineering challenge. Compared to that the Southwest of the US is a solar paradise.

In other words: Germany could do a better job with probably half the sunshine two decades ago. What gives? Certainly not physics and engineering.

It is not just the electricity use per household. To run a car down the highway for a one hour commute requires the equivalent of half a dozen to a dozen kWh. We can greatly reduce that with smaller cars with economic diesel and hybrid engines and finally switch to electric cars where appropriate. You would do that in L.A. and Dallas but not in Alaska.

I was not suggesting to use solar electrity for heating. That would be nonsensical. Solar water heaters are maybe effective late spring to fall and cost an order of magnitude less than PV for the same amount of energy. In the middle of winter we will still require either hydrocarbons or hydrogen for heating. Hydrogen can be made more efficiently in solar thermal plants than it can be made at home. There will (have to) be new technological infrastructure for that. Either that or we will have to compensate for burning coal one way or another (sequestration is one option).

The variation of sunlight as a function of geographic location is not a problem. Obviously, since PVs are expensive, you want to start installing them on a large scale in the Southwest of the US first and go higher north as the technology becomes cheaper. But this strategy only optimizes cost of solar electricity, it has no effect whatsoever on total solar flux and how much energy we can extract from it. And the simple fact is that we have thousands of times more solar flux than we need. It is the single most abundant energy source with the exception of thermonuclear fusion, which will not be able to be competitive for another three decades, if ever.

But solar does not have to carry the burden alone. It is easy to forget that we already have non-trivial renewable capacity in hydroelectric plants. Other renewables only have to fill the gap between that and the demand after aggressive conservation efforts.

I never said any of this was trivial, or cheap. My first order result is on the order of close to $1000 per person per year for the comming decades or 1% of total GDP.

But I have to remind everyone that building the atomic comb was neither trivial not cheap, winning WW II was neither trivial not cheap, winning the cold war without killing everyone on the face of Earth was neither trivial nor cheap.  Flying to the moon was neither trivial not cheap, neither will its repeat be. Developing the internet was neither trivial nor cheap.

I could go on to list a large number of things that happen to be difficult, expensive AND necessary. Renewable energy infrastructure happens to be one of them. It also happens to be the fastest growing industry with currently virtually unlimited earnings potential. If you think oil is big... wait until renewables have become mainstream.

As for my own feelings about the cost, I can only say: bring it on NOW, because right now I happen to have a steady and very reasonable income. I can afford it. If you put it off until I am retired and the cost will explode because we waited too long, I will be in deep shit. Minimizing the pain means acting NOW.

Nuclear, it works in winter as well as summer.
"I would put good money on a bet that it is not relevant to yours, either"

Since I will save about a $1000 in natural gas costs with my wood burning stove this winter, you would definitely lose that bet.

If saving the money for natural gas is relevant to your budget, I will gladly pay up because, no offense, you really seem to have a limited income. I used to have a wood burning oven and chopping and piling it in the woodshed were not my favorite tasks. Maybe there is gasoline powered equipment out there now...

But let's say a million city dwellers came to your neck of the woods and started chopping all the trees they needed to get through winter. How much would be left of the forrest and how much, do you think would firewood cost at that level of demand? Still the same as before or a little more?

Now, say ten million people went into the forrests. Or let's make it real and say we had three hundred million people with wood burning ovens in the country. How long would our forrests last? I don't know. I haven't done the calculations, but I am sure the result is not pretty. Anyone having an idea? This is a serious question.

This is why collapse must be avoided at all costs. Collapse will finish destroying the biosphere to such a huge extent that homo sapiens may end up among the huge percentage of species that go extinct in such an event. And this is why collapse is so dangerous - collapse will lead to very short term decisions by individuals struggling to survive that will lead to long term harsh consequences. Yet I still fail to see any sign of the necessary political will to really act on these problems (peak oil is just one).

One of my first posts to TOD said something like "peak oil is not a technical problem; it is a political, psychological, and social problem" because I believe, like you, that technical solutions exist that could solve these issues. However, remember that for these highly technical solutions to be implemented and to work, we must retain a reasonably sophisticated civilization. That civilization does not have to be a consumption based society like we currently have but right now we seem unwilling to consider any other way of life and instead want to have our cake and eat it too. Consequently, unlike you and because I see little evidence of this political, psychological, and social will to really address the core issues, I expect collapse. I absolutely do not want it but I expect it. And because collapse will invoke behaviors that I briefly described above, I expect collapse to be catastrophic to the biosphere.

You are discussing an event that has no historic precedent.

In order to even speculate about it you have to make assumptions that are an order of magnitude off the chart like "All Chinese and Indians will suddenly live like Americans" or "The world will collapse if Americans have to live like Europeans". The flexibility of the US to adapt to higher energy prices is enormous because of its culture of waste, not despite of it. The resources of the US in terms of renewables are enormous compared to Europe. Yet, here we are, baby is crying because it fears that the next bottle will not flow over.

In the end, I think, that is really all that this is about: the angst that tomorrow will not be better than yesterday.

Tomorrow will be better than yesterday, in a qualitative, not in a quantitative sense. But I agree with one thing: Americans have not learned to distinguish between the two things. And that, my friend, is a sign of cultural poverty.

"You are discussing an event that has no historic precedent"

Yes he is is.

The last time we showed this level of global risk, there was not 6 - 7000000000 people - all wanting to be like the US. Even if A SMALL PERCENTAGE of the the citizens of other nations reach western consumption level, it will be enough to geographically bankrupt everyone.

Which of the following is more relevant:

Discussion A, which is about a susbsidy for renewable energy that within 5 or 10 years will find its way into the pockets of Archer Daniels Midland or BP or Vinond Khosla with little or no benefit accruing to the average person including you.

Discussion B, which is about how to best insulate your home or heat it using low-tech methods.

IMHO, you may as well be discussing a spectator sport in Discussion A as that's how much of an effect it's going to have on your life.

Discussion B, if you're smart, is going to have an effect on you and yours.

Subsidies for renewable fuels without horizon or subsidies for fossil fuels upon which the sun has already set?

FYI - farmer collectives and small enterpenuerships make up the bulk of ethanol production in the US not ADM, BP or Vinod.

FYI - farmer collectives and small enterpenuerships make up the bulk of ethanol production in the US not ADM, BP or Vinod

I think you just gave a perfect example of how true Alpha will turn out being without knowing it.

You are right, TODAY they DO make up the bulk of it.

Why? because TODAY there AIN'T no money in it YET.

PV started the same way, small companies, As soon as it was seen as making a certain size...

Who are the biggest today?  Shell Oil Company.  
Evergreen closed.

What Happened today?  84 million barrels gone, never to return and we are at this level of discussion.

What happened today?  Some number of millions of new people were born in the world, and we are still at this level of just talking about what the problems are.

I'm with WT, Alpha, Darwinian and others.

Go to your nearest walmart as a Temp gauge and ask 1000 people about the "Energy Problem"  or the "Nat. Gas Cliff"
that's coming and you will see how small the circle of Peak Oil conscious people are.

On the topic of today,  Look above and see how many posts, by who, how much was said of new value.

I try to minimize my posts to a bare minimum, and don't have the numbers and graphs others post, but I AM included in the group of people concerned about this topic.  

I not a newby, and have done a great deal of reading on the subjects involved.  Loved this place when it was a blog. Love it now.  Don't shut down the discussions, but some people just hit a site new, and deluge it with comments, rebuttles after rebuttles.  

And yes, I think Pro's visit sites like this to "Lower" the value and mute the message.  See what messages are yelled down the most.  In essence, all that revolve around answers stemming from ELP as WT would say.

Ignore them as best as possible.

I also love the tangent URL's posted by everyone.

Thanks to all who run and make this site great.
Even the Honest cynics state their case simply.

Photovoltaics can produce approx. 20W/m^2 of continuous power with current technology. An American citizen needs approx. 1kW of power generation capacity to satisfy their needs at current levels of luxury.

Luxury is not having to do manual labor.   150 watts is what a person in good health can pedal on a bike with ease.  300 watts is worth 20 mins of your time kneeding dough to make bread.   What is a passivehaus worth when you don't have to go and collect and process wood to heat?

That whole energy slaves mime.    Energy is not looked at via the lens of how much manual work is avoided and how many resources are not consumed.  

Quite the contrary... we might piss off the people who invested good money in coal burning power plants

What is the fraction of the money/energy flow that supports and allows the buracracies of the world to grow and thrive?   How about needed to keep the various fiat currancies growing?

You left out energy storage, and some cost to funnel electricity from one place to another. The downtown bank isn't going to have enough cells to power its server farm, for instance.

All told, lets round it up to 3%, and then declare it to be "a cataclysm unlike anything ever before seen." just for good measure.

Fuel issues, seem about right as well. Soccer moms can no longer drive 10 ton cars, I'll deal.

Perhaps you will consider the actual context of PG's post (this thread) when you address someone as Mr. Possibilities and, as you addressed me the other day, Mr. Embarrassed.

Are you getting my drift here, getting a clue -- or is what I just said going entirely over your head?

(sound of large object going over head)
I'm guilty of these alias-mangling insults too and of other trollish behavior.

In the future I will try to tone down the sarcasm and contempt.  I need to remember that most posters are sincere and are not simply trying to get on my nerves.  I will also try to tone down the melodramatics in my post (that "Z" thing comes from my interpretation of how Mother Nature would sound with her fangs getting in the way).

My sincere apologies.  For now on I will try to remember there are actually human beings on the receiving end of my posts and I will not assume they are danny yergin clones.

Dave Cohen wrote:

Perhaps you will consider the actual context of PG's post (this thread) when you address someone as Mr. Possibilities and, as you addressed me the other day, Mr. Embarrassed.

Are you getting my drift here, getting a clue -- or is what I just said going entirely over your head?

Dave, you called me an Idiot! I consider calling someone "Mr. Embarrassed" to be far kinder than calling someone an idiot. Are you getting my drift here, getting a clue -- or is what I just said going entirely over your head?

Ron Patterson

Yes, I did call you an idiot -- sorry about that. It was after all my reasonable arguments had been exhausted and ignored by you.

And you completely ignored my argument. You stated:

Perhaps we haven't figured it out, Ron, because incremental production is not purely a function of reserves other than the trivial observation that the oil must be there & be recoverable (geology, technology, economics) before you can produce it.

And of course my argument had nothing to do with incremental production, my whole argument was that ultimate production was directly related to the amount of oil in the reservoir. I also further stated that the entire Hubbert Linerization was based upon this very simple and well-known fact.

You wrote:

In fact, the Cornucopian argument, in a nutshell, is just as you state in the part I quoted above. They believe f(Reserves(Field)) = IP (incremental production from the Field), where f is the magic function that no one can define and as Reserves(Field) grows, so does IP.

But of course after half a century of production, as the Saudi fields have been, and it is just so damn obvious that incremental production is no longer growing, we can look at the Hubbert Linerization with confidence that it is at least somewhere in the ball par.

Let me repeat. The oil you can pump, and have pumped from a reservoir, is directly related to the amount of oil in the reservoir. That is what the Hubbert Linerization implies and I believe it. The reason all the old giant Saudi fields are declining at about 8 percent is that there is less than 100 billion barrels left in all those tired old fields. And there are no more giant fields left! If there were truly 264 barrels left in Saudi sands then those fields would not be in decline and they would not be drilling new wells in very old fields. They would be drilling new wells in new fields.

Anyway, that is basically what my entire argument was all about. To which you replied:

How many times have I covered this on The Oil Drum? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

I considered that extremely insulting. Then you called me an idiot. And your remark to Westtexas this morning was insulting also. "Memory is important." Like he was an idiot for not remembering that the table he posted was posted some time ago. Hell, I never saw it and I am sure lots of other people did not see it. You have a subtle way of insulting people and it grates.

And now you dare chastise me for my language. Just where the hell do you get off?

Ron Patterson

Prof Goose, hear hear!

As Ive said before, I dont KNOW what is going to happen in coming years - I visualize in my mind every day a new probability distribution of likely events ranging from a world war over resources in next few years to a vision of 2030 with the world humming along with wind turbines, tidal and solar panels - most outcomes are somewhere in beween and I shade my 'distribution' every day based on new knowledge or events. I come to TOD to share my experience and perspective and to learn from others - there are just too many angles on this problem to be an expert on all of them - here is where I 'cheaply' shore up my blind spots.  I also feel a sort of 'tribal connection' to many of you that post here, as I have gotten to know some people who share my world view - TOD is a place to have intelligent discourse among like minded, thoughtful people and I really value that.

That said, I get upset at times that much hard work goes into posts on discrete topics, and the comment threads are hijacked by totally unrelated tangents.  David Hughes( who I consider a foremost Peak Oil expert and may become a contributor to TOD) read my summary of his ASPO talk and all 145 comments yesterday.  I have yet to speak to him but feel badly that the vast majority of the thread discussion was about China, the dollar, or something other than natural gas depletion. (There were also many excellent and educational comments (oilmanbobs come to mind) completely on topic.) But the ratio was so skewed that someone who really cared about the topic might have gotten fed up and left.

We all have alot to say, but I would please ask that on the content specific posts (as opposed to open threads or Drumbeat) staying on the topic of the post.  Other than making it more educational for us, it also increases the chances that the post will be forwarded/read by policy/academic/mainstream people that we ultimately need to convince of what we are facing.  These viewers might get turned off if >50% of thread is inane banter.  Humor from time to time is welcome, (but make sure its funny..;)

Furthermore, the content specific posts (Khebabs plots, or an economic piece from Dave Cohen) are archived, complete with comment sections - who knows when these will be valued resources to go back and review - if comments sections are full of mud-slinging of off-topic stuff, it reduces the reader TODEROI...;)

Bottom line: this site has a chance at influencing and broadening our national discussion on changing our energy policy and structure, from a grass roots, internet perspective. When you post, please consider that in its broadest context.  

Lets leave the esoteric, subtle debates for the open threads and drumbeats.

Prof Goose -thank you for attempting to continue to make TOD special.

One idea is to simply have more open threads each day. Frankly, 200 comments is way too many to wade through, and it's too many to keep track of when you're trying to have a discussion and monitor responses to your own comments. In addition, the "indent" format makes it difficult to follow who is responding to whom, and that difficulty gets much worse when there are hundreds of comments.

Another idea is to implement user diaries. The best diaries can be recommended by readers so they are promoted to a more visible list, or they can be posted with the editors' posts.

Be ruthless about deleting users who abuse the privilege of commenting at TOD.

One idea is to simply have more open threads each day.

I think they are reluctant to do that because it pushes the articles, which TOD contributors work very hard on, down the page.

Another idea is to ask each poster to fill in a filtering  matrix that will help categorize the topic and content of the post.

This may sound more onerous than it really is because most posters have a fairly consistent style. So if you were RR for example, your default matrix would have ehtanol and biofuels checked off and you wouldn't have to start afresh each time:

FF    | OIL      | COAL      | NG ....
ALT   | Wind     | Solar     | Ethanol ....
mood1 | optimist | pessimist | by the numbers ....
mood2 | serious  | goofy     | critical ..

The filter function would allow readers to get rid of unrated, troll or goofy postings and focus on ones that are by the numbers and serious for example, if that is all they want to see

Better idea.

In order to post, you have to rate/categorize a couple of other posts first. Basically, rating and categorizing can build up tokens, and it takes a few tokens to post. Maybe it takes fewer tokens if people consistently rate your stuff highly.

This has two effects.

  1. Stuff is read by a person, and categorized appropriately (make sure there are at least 2-3 sifters per post to average it out).

  2. People don't post as much, so only things of some importance get said. It certainly hits the trolls hard, they have to categorize, and then when they post its super expensive, and their stuff gets sent to the bottom of the heap anyway by the conscripted moderators.
In other words, a service tax on commentors?
You have to perform a service for TOD in order to get your own 2 cents in.


That will certainly slow down the trolls.
Maybe TPTB at TOD can give a no-tax pass to certain emeritus posters here who are known to never post trollish material. And then suddenly we are becoming a stratified society of the taxed and the not-so-taxed. Interesting.

I'll rate your post as an idea worth trying just to see how it plays out. Are there any blogs out there that already do this? (Case histories?)

I'm a big fan of automated systems. I don't like the idea of stratifying things based on nepotism, or just basically the judgement call of TPTB. This is why I like simple rules that determine the stratification automatically, less chance for abuse.

Slashdot does a little of this, but doesn't go this far. If your posts are consistently rated highly, then you start out with a higher rating for everything else that you do post.

We are after all a country of laws, not of people, and this has worked well on the large scale. Here's a couple more examples where making it less based on the actions of people would help dramatically.

  1. Congressional districts. Compute by formula (Minimize the sum of the distances from each person to the center of his district, subject to the usual constraints). This eliminates gerrymandering entirely. None of this "select x people, put them in a room, have them draw lines, fight about it in court, and end up with horrendously unfair districts based on who those x people were..."

  2. Taxes. One exception, two exceptions, pretty soon, GM pays no taxes, how did that happen? No exceptions, draw a curve with a couple of parameters (lets say a hyperbola with two parameters alpha and sigma), and then congress gets to set one in the tax law. At the end of the year, the other one is set such that the budget is balanced. The more they spend, the higher it goes. Balanced budgets every year, and nobody gets off without paying their fair share.


Maybe it's the computer scientist in me, but I think that getting people out of the system as a whole tends to improve it. People should make rules, not (where this is actually possible) make decisions.

I like the idea of diaries, a la Daily Kos. That way you have the mainline journals in the center, and the second tier discussions have a discrete place to congregate. Everyone is accomodated, people with ideas or comments have a place to put them other than in unrelated threads.
I think that is a great idea.

The main articles would get the attention they deserve.

Users could post a diary on any tangent they want. Comments would be attached to the individual diaries, so off topic posting is minimilazed.

A top recomended list would help bring attention to well written posts that aren't quite main article quality.

Users could skip or read diaries on the basis of the title, or even Author. ie, don't bother to read Rethin's diary, he's terrible. Oh hey, a post by Westexas I'll read that.

It's easy to monitor responses from your own comments:
When you are logged in, go to the box at the upper right of the screen, click on "Your Comments", and you'll be taken to your comments with responses to each.  Very handy.

To track which comment is being responded to, hit [parent].

Is there a way to sort this by the date of the responses?  Sometimes people post something on an old post of mine, and I have to check all of my old posts to be sure of of finding them (or memorize the pattern of replies...).

It would be very nice to see new responses...

Yeah. Too bad we can't add Titles to our own posts so that we can find them later by title in the TOD database.

Is it do-able Super G?

Yes Mr. Goose.  We have an incredible resource here.  The level of expertise shown in the discussions is astounding and such that any interested reader can understand and learn from it.  Posters seem always to remember that not all readers are experts and take pains to provide a basis to understand their arguments.  I agree that a few posters have been hijacking the threads and making themselves obnoxious.  They have for the most part been treated with a lot of tolerance.  

I have only a couple of suggestions.  Let's make discussions of religion and politics off limits, or give them their own thread.  They take up a lot of time and shed no light since the protagonists have already made up their minds.  Also, lets have a mechanism to identify counterproductive trolls,  maybe three or five or ten nominations for trolldom, and thereafter such posters will not be responded to.

I want to keep TOD the learning resource it is.  It is a treasure that gets more valuable all the time.

Let's make discussions of religion and politics off limits, or give them their own thread.

Religion, maybe.  But's kind of hard to avoid that on a peak oil site.  It's my impression that one of the purposes of TOD is to influence politicians and public policy.  Kind of hard to do that without discussing politics.  

And once you allow discussion of politics (oh my) ... you open the flood gates to discussion about faith-based politics.

To me, the bottom line is that Mother Nature does not divide herself into "specializations". The latter is a total fabrication of the humanoid mind.

Peak Oil is a subject that expands itself into all realms of human introspection:

  1. How did we paint ourselves into this corner?
  2. How do we get out (if we can at all)?
  3. How do we avoid painting ourselves into another corner?
  4. How do we avoid being distracted into sideline arguments (if that is at all possible given human nature)?
  5. Why are we here? (No you fool. Not in the Universe. I meant here lurking at TOD.)
Yes, discussion of politics related to energy is relevant.  I was referring to tirades about the evilness of republicans or democrats or israelis or palestinians or iranians.  That sort of thing that gets people wound up and off topic.
Nate,  I plead guilty for having added to the digression from the excellent summary of the even more excellent work of David Hughes.  But as you recall, the discussion re China etc, began with an off-topic comment from a new poster from India.  I'm sure many of us welcomed this comment because it was indeed a thoughtful challenge to a questionable but common premise for many statements made during TOD discussions.  Realizing that this intervention was off-topic, I was going to hold my tonque.  But then something without basis in fact or logic, IMO, was said and bingo...

Is there a mechanism to shift 'digressive subthreads' to the open thread?

Regarding the general drift of Professor Goose's remarks, it occurs to me that if money/time is available it might be worthwhile to offer a 'best-of' summary of the commentary on the discrete topics.  This might provide an incentive for all of us to improve our commentary. It would, it seems to me, become the go-to place for researchers for  politicos, policymakers, reporters and other interested, but time-constrained individuals.

I know -actually that thread wasnt that bad, especially compared to some - but Mr Hughes, and others, in deciding whether to give of their valuable time to an internet site, might be turned off by the off-topicness of some of the quite discrete topics. Not singling you or that post out in particular - it was just fresh in my mind)
Nate, thank you for the complement. I also fel frustrated that the topics drift so much when we are trying to look at a difficult subject, but I can't think of any perfect strategy for dealing with the problem.
  One of my favorite things about TOD is how we educate each other. And, I really appreciate the Heresy podcast that Professor Goose turned us on to in his essay at the top. To quote my favorite poet, William Blake "What is now real was once only imagined"-Marriage of Heaven and Hell, sayings of hell section. Blake is my favorite heretic.
Yeah, I wish a lot more people would listen to it.  It's really worth the time...
Just a thought or two about the situation with the comments:  The human race has a demonstrated need for being moderated - or policed.  --Left to our own devices we've proven time and again that we're perfectly willing to get into squabbles intense enough to leave large tracts of territory a smoldering ruin.  The "community" that frequents the TOD is nothing special in that regard - I think it's safe to say- we simply share an awareness of and interest in the subject matter of the website.  

Mankind has made a couple of flawed -so far- attempts at moderating itself -thinking of the League of Nations and the UN here.  But at least there is recognition that you just can't leave yourself open to the law of the jungle.  Sooner of later things get seriously out of hand.  One hopes that we finally get it right, and soon, 'cause there isn't a lot of time left for continuing the SNAFU.  So while I applaud the appeal to everyone's "better nature", and hope that such appeals are a consant (because we all need reminding frome time to time). I think that you're just gonna have to break down and decide what's to be considered acceptable and what won't be, and start moderating the comments.  To include banning repeat offenders if need be.  

Ooops!  That should read:  "I hope such appeals are a constant"
This is an excellent analysis and I agree wholeheartedly.  I would just like to comment about why I changed my username.

I used to be Dragonfly41, but am now Virtual Ipecac.  My main reason for doing this was a reaction I felt to some elements that entered TOD, which I had determined were subversive.  I was trying to challenge them at their own game and push them back on their heels a bit.  This was in lieu of a governing body here at TOD.

I support restrictions on this site 100% and would gladly pay $$ to be a part of this community.  It has been one of the more uplifting experiences of my life.  

I would also support any call from the TOD senior staff for me to stop participating here at TOD because of some of the distracting comments I have posted here in the past.  I knew this (becoming ostracized) was a possiblity, but I thought it was important during the months leading up to the midterm elections.  I will not lie that I had an agenda these last few months.  I learned some tactics from Rove and employed them. There is nothing I posted that I did not believe in, but in the past, I would not have been so animate.

I no longer have this agenda since the elections are now complete.  I believe we have crossed a watershed of hope.  We have not overcome all inertia in dealing with PO problems, but the probabilities have increased significantly.

Thanks for hearing me out.


Professor Goose is not talking about you.  Neither is anyone else.

Your posts here are always thoughtful, sincere, enlightening, and greatly appreciated.

The fact that you were willing to point the finger at yourself after reading PG's words says a lot about your character.  

Ha...thanks SAT.  I needed that shot in the arm.  I try to be honest, which can get me in trouble sometimes.

I had not seen the news you posted...interesting.  I haven't done my typical searches on the iran/military buildup lately.  It continues...under the radar...I know that Israel has been stepping things up lately.

Remember...the new congress does not take office until next year...much can happen.

Where the heck are Cheney and Rove???  I envision a grand bonfire in South Dakota in which years of secret documents are set aflame.

Better than shredding.

I dont really understand what paying for access to TOD would achieve. If the 'supposid' trolls are 'supposidly' in the pay of dark forces to destabilise TOD, then those 'supposid' dark forces can sure as hell pay the fees to allow their pet troll to continue can they not?
Don't worry. It is one of those grand ideas which end up destroying the good idea with which everything began. I expect it to get 5 seconds of airtime at the official discussion before it is being discarded as the utter nonsense that it is.
Inevitable growing pains, I fear.  

I would not be in favor of a "pay to post" system.  It would be a hardship for people overseas, many of whom have a lot to offer.  A "nominal fee" here might not be so nominal elsewhere, especially if there are conversion charges.  Also, in many countries, they simply have no way to pay.  Not everyone has bank accounts, credit cards, or PayPal.

I hate the idea of disabling comments.  The comments are the part of TOD I enjoy most.  

Comment moderation...sounds good in theory.  In practice, it's kind of a pain for an active site. uses moderators, and it's a lot of work.  It also results in a lot of arguments and controversy.

Comment rating a la dKos is not without its flaws, but it may be the best option.

Maybe a combination of moderation and comment rating?  The problem with comment rating at dKos is that it's too easy to get "trusted user" status, and you end up with a lot of people troll-rating comments simply because they disagree with them, or dislike the person who posted them.  Perhaps if "trusted users" were picked the way moderators usually are, we could avoid the ideological troll-rating spats that dKos suffers from.

I would also like an "ignore" button.  That feature was much-requested at, and the place has been a lot more pleasant since they enacted it.  

What does an "Ignore" button do? Who presses it and when?

Everyone would have an ignore button, and could press it, whenever they want.

It allows any user to ignore any other user.  You simply do not see their posts any more.  On some message boards, you get a little note saying, "You are ignoring this poster," with an option to drop shields and read the post anyway.  On others, you don't get any sign that the person has posted at all.

Good idea...I used a kill program at CFN and it really was great not seeing the troll bloviations.
 It may also be worthwhile to have the person whose posts are being ignored by a majority of the user population get a message to this effect when he/she next posts. This would alert them to the fact that thier "contributions" are not being valued, or appreciated, by the TOD community. The individual gains community feedback on the quality of his/her contribution.

 This might be implemented along the following lines:

  1. When assigning ignore status to another contributor the assignment button permits selecting the reason the poster is being ignored. This could be a simple radio button and the categories should be limited but clear i.e. "off-topic," "ad-hominem," "lacking factual basis." The problematic person can then sense what the TOD community thinks of his/her participation.

  2. This feedback data should also be available to TOD moderators so that they can revoke posting permissions for someone being ignored by 90% of the community, or for posting repeated ad-hominem attacks, or non-factuals.

  3. A further enhancement to 2) above would be to use a micro-payments system to permit a banned idividual to purchase posting rights on a per-post basis. Under this system the the community "tags" an individual as unwelcome. Should that individual continue to wish to post then they pay $5.00 per post. If that post is also viewed negatively then the next post will cost $10 and so on. These individuals then contribute financial support to TOD as their unpaid intellectual support is not deemed to be of value by the TOD community.

  4. I would also suggest the implementation of a positive feedback mechanism where posters whose hard work, and insight, is appreciated can be "modded-up" as Slashdot terms it. I very much appreciated the David Hughes NG articles and hope he becomes a regular like Robert Rapier and Kebab and Westexas but have no way of conveying that without generating a post. Without such a mechanism the valued posters have no means of knowing that the "silent majority" appreciates their effort.

  5. TOD should also post a link to a beginners page that hosts some of the seminal prior posts. Newbies could then access that page and gain immediate access to key background information. I sense that some newcomers lack a basic foundation in the topic; it may be worthwhile to provide a new member foundation information page. I would include Prof Goose's current post on social trust as a key element that each new TOD member has the opportunity to review. In fact you could set it up that a newbie only earns posting rights after review of the TOD code of social expectations.
Think like we do or you will be ignored.

Wonderful.  Really.

Post quality analysis based on good source data* or either be ignored or criticized.

WesTexas and Robert Rapier have had a long running argument about the date of Peak.  Two quality analysts with different conclusions from the same data set.

BTW, my offer for collaboration on non-transportation oil uses still stands.

Best Hopes,


or explain why such is not available.  In 2000 census, 0.5% commuted by bicycle.  Encouraging bicycling will increase that %, but I have *NO idea by how much !

Unfortunately a system like that would not help anyone else, really.  If someone new were to come in they'd still see all of the chaff and have to spend time to pick the wheat out.

I could possibly see a system working where the TOD community can "vote" on posts, whereupon reaching some critical threshold the comment would collapse.  The collapsed comment would still remain accessible, but anyone viewing the page would only see that a comment is there, and not see the comment itself.  Users could then choose an option to see all collapsed comments or be able to open them individually.  A moderator would also be able to re-open a collapsed comment if he/she thought it was unfairly collapsed.

I could also see (possibly simultaneous with the system above) being able to "vote" a post as being exceptionally good.  Again it would probably employ some sort of threshold of votes.  You could then, if you didn't have much time (such as senators, congresspersons, businessfolk) could choose the option to see all the posts which have been rated exceptional.  Thereby getting the "greatest hits" of a particular thread.

Those two things would hopefully allow TOD to continue policing itself with little moderator input, as I believe the majority of the readership and participation tends to be civil.  What "outsiders" should find after all is said and done is a self-policed page representing the core values (or at least valid arguments) of the majority of TOD readership - but they'd still be able to see the fringes if they wished.  

One other thing that just crossed my mind is that something should be done soon, as things like "trolling" tend to build on themselves.  Like a fire which could be put out easily if caught when small, can rapidly take off and become unmanageable.  A poor solution now may be better than an excellent solution later.

Substrate -

 We are pretty much in agreement. What I was proposing was that the community assigned tags would block from view, collapse, or remove the chaff, plus give feedback to the errant poster, plus provide a data set so that TOD moderators might block a poster if errant behaviour continues.

 In addition to your idea of each post being assigned a value, I think readers should be able to assign a value to the article. When searching on a topic the search results presentation would be indexed by value with the highest value article at the top of the listing. This would help new and old readers quickly find the quality wheat.


A very important part of this whole discussion is the "ANYONE" part the Substrate mentions. Meaning that high priority should be given to making the site appear informed and reasonable to ANYONE who visits it for information. Especially first-timers.

The first time visitor following a link from a search on oil issues should NOT be bombarded by some of the frankly weird conversations that happen here. Sometimes I want to share a link to a well written report or essay here with friends but then stop myself because of the discussion that is tacked onto the bottom of the page. Occasionally the report has been so good that I just tell the people I am sending the link to to ignore the discussion section.

My idea for making the site more reliable looking, and for taking away some media exposure from the potential trolls is this: DO NOT HAVE THE DISCUSSION ON THE SAME PAGE AS THE REPORT OR ESSAY.

To allow discussion have a link or button following the article that says something like:
 "Open Discussion on this article - For Members Only - Views expressed in the Open Discussion are not endorsed by TOD"
and maybe also a link or button that says:
 "To become a Member - Free"

The site would look more professional, discussions could still carry on in their free form way, and the trolls would loose their open channel to the general public that is beginning an exploration of Peak Oil.

Perhaps the author or site editors could have the ability to append the article or essay with worthwhile further information or clarifications that come from the open discussion.


Greg in MO

Someone suggested that before, and IIRC, there is a way to link to just the story.  I can't remember what it was, though.  

I do like the idea of having the "default" be stories with no comments.  dKos does that now, I think.  

Yeah, I've liked the DKOS interface for some time.  Initial reports are separate, you have to choose to read the comments.  There is a collapsible thread interface.  Users can rank comments.  I'm not sure if you can rank a comment so negatively that it doesn't get displayed.  I've seen that elsewhere.  It looks like they use Scoop.
I'm not sure if you can rank a comment so negatively that it doesn't get displayed.

Yes, you can, if you have "trusted user" status (which you get from posting highly-rated comments).

And yes, they do use Scoop.

"you get a little note saying, "You are ignoring this poster," with an option to drop shields and read the post anyway."
Silicon Investor has an ignore button just like that. I highly recommend it. Also, the thread moderator can flat out ban people from posting.


"Comment rating a la dKos is not without its flaws, but it may be the best option."

I have long thought that there needed to be some way of rating -- and hopefully discouraging uncivil behavior and just plain obscenity.

Recall the open thread RR set up as a way for us to address Mr. Khosla on ethanol. Don Sailorman urged us to be civil, and a couple people immediately used up about two column feet in a vicious fight. This was followed by a couple more feet of guys comparing penis sizes.

If I were Mr. Khosla, I would have stopped reading there, and all the hard work by a lot of people to be heard on a vital issue was probably for naught. (This also may have something to do with why so few women contribute to these discussions).

So please, set up some system whereby trolls and bashers and screamers can be disenfranchised if they get out of hand too often.

That was something of a turning point for me as well.  At first I though it was going to be great.  We had someone of importance showing an interest in the discussions that go on here, and that they'd read through what we had to say and perhaps get them to start thinking about things in ways they hadn't before - I was embarrassed.  An anonymous poster and I was embarrassed to see the garbage in that thread.  That's sad.
Before that, I urged people like my mother to read TOD. After that, I still participate, but I don't recommend it to very many people. Especially not my mother.
I would be in favor of a "pay to register" system. That is, some sort of annual membership fee but not necessarily a per-post charge. You could also consider a system based on cellular telephone plans wherein you get a certain number of free posts per month but after that you get charged, either by the post, word, or amount of computer storage used. I have no idea how you are defraying your expenses at the moment but I'm guessing that they are more than trivial and growing.  A paid subscription business model would allow you to recoup your costs and provide funding for future growth.

You could still allow non-paying visitors to read the site for free.

I don't really have a good answer to Leanan's objections that it would be a hardship for some, and for others it would be impossible to pay due to lack of billing infrastructure. It is admittedly a drawback of a fee-based system.

I recall an occasional poster from Romania, who has fascinating insights, in somewhat broken English. With pay-to-post, I fear we would have lost him.
I'd be happy to pay for my own postings and contribute to a "scholarship" fund for others, particularly, or maybe only, for non-TOD countries.  I'm not sure how that could be made to work.  As someone else pointed out above, that would eliminate a good number of people who are casual posters, but would do nothing to stop paid trolls, if there are such people posting here.
Ditto for the posters from Brazil and India.
Speaking of "pay to post," how would I go about contributing $ to this site?
We probably do need a method where us civilians can help contribute to defray expenses. I'd certainly kick in a Benjamin once in a while.
Just a thought. Yes, the trolls and much of the discussion sometimes approaches college freshman b.s. sessions but perhaps it isn't altogether bad to reminded from time to time of what we have to confront in the real world. I find myself increasingly skipping through a lot of the b.s. to get to some useful meat and wish there was a better way of doing this, skipping that is.

Quite frankly, I am mostly interested in those discussions that deal with global warming as it relates to energy production and consumption.  Also, whether it was the intent or not, this site is about far more than peak oil.  At some point, consideration might be given to changing the name or creating some spinoff sites.

Also, while the information on this site is fantastic and as far as I know unsurpassed, a focus on affecting the political powers that be would be welcome. Now that the Dems have taken over, things seem a bit less hopeless. However, the time is ripe to take action and influence those now in charge of congress and many of the state houses throughout the country. Otherwise, there may be a tendency here to engage in intellectual masturbation. Not that there is anything wrong with occasional masturbation.

A few quick observations:

The increasing level of unproductive (to be kind) comments on this site have driven me to severely limit my participation.  To be blunt, I'm more than a little disappointed in some of the personal nonsense that gets posted here.  There is clearly some terrific information that shows up in the comments, but at times we all have to wade through a lot of manure to find the pony.

Those comments have also played a major role in my decision not to add a user comment ability on my own site.  My site is a one-man show currently, and I simply don't have the time or the desire to start my site on that path to continual food fights or policing.

I sincerely hope that v3.0 will help curb these problems, as TOD is already an extremely valuable resource and could be even better with some relatively minor changes.

Re: unproductive (to be kind) comments have driven me to severely limit my participation

Yes, I think I knew that, Lou, although we have not discussed the matter. You are not the only one.

The word troll is not well-defined. Note that PG said

We here at TOD are here to facilitate education, empirically-centered debate, good policy, and learning, not create a battlefield on which people can try to foist their normative views on others
All such "normative" views are unproductive since they beg the questions we are discussing. Various people commenting at TOD have an axe to grind and are not willing or able to engage in reasoned argument. In so far as these people have already made up their minds about the questions under discussion, there would seem to little reason for them to stick around.

Unfortunately, the problem is deeper than that since any psychologist will tell you that many comments on this web site are affective (feeling-based) responses pushing a personal agenda. Not speaking for PG, I interpret his remarks to say that those people should go away and start their own websites where they can push that agenda to their heart's content.

In the meantime, The Oil Drum currently enjoys a good reputation. We do not want to lose our credibility. Others coming here may not differentiate between voices that represent the website or are otherwise well-reasoned, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, voices who have injected their own agenda into a general discussion of issues critical to human & planetary well-being going forward. There is also the frequent problem with such people that they do not know what they are talking about because their agenda does not require reasoned arguments based on theory and data.

This being the internet, we face an uphill battle in this regard. I have done some background "damage control" lately -- not with my colleagues, but rather with reputable outsiders who get a bad impression when they visit our website.

Needless to say, none of this makes me happy.

Maybe we need a "membership pledge" to open and honest debate that everyone has to agree to to become a member. Then at least we will have everything upfront and we can collectively enforce these norms and call people out when they violate them. Three strikes and you're out?

    Does anyone know how or where I could obtain a copy of the documentary " A Crude Awakening- The Oil Crash" by I think Mark Oliver?

You can get on a mailing list to be notified by going to the website.

But don't hold your breath. I've been waiting months for the DVD to come out.

As kebab says, more readership == lower signal to noise.

Of all the blogs I've seen, I think slashdot strikes the right balance. It's a rare article that gets less than 200 comments there and the comment moderation system makes it possible to find the best ones quickly.

The downside is that some really worthwhile comments are not given prominence they deserve, but once an article has over 100 comments, it is really hard to read everything anyway.

  1.  Thank you all very much for this site.  It is one of a very few (and increasingly fewer) sites I read regularly -- because of the quality of the information. This is not my field, and I have nothing to add, but much to gain.  You should charge, at least for people who can pay.  Clearly, not everyone can, as the poster above noted-- their are parts of the world that don't (gasp!) have PayPal.

  2.  Be careful, please, with words like "heretic".  Heretics violate an imposed orthodoxy.  It is a theological word.  Skepticism, debate and challenge in an empirical system such as "science" is not "heresy"--it's the way you do business. And as much as some in the current Administration and their camp-followers would like it to be, "science" is not theology.

  3.  Have you thought about allowing comments only on the Drumbeat, but not on the main articles?  Or at most, allow comments only by selected members of TOD who have known credentials?  
We should remember that "heresy" is Latin for "To choose."

In theological terms, choosing whether or not to worship in the Catholic manner during the Middle Ages would get you burned. In Iraq today, it could get you murdered.

In scientific terms, it is how scientists are trained and how they get ahead. To be a scientist literally means to be a heretic.

Be careful, please, with words like "heretic".  Heretics violate an imposed orthodoxy.  It is a theological word.  Skepticism, debate and challenge in an empirical system such as "science" is not "heresy"--it's the way you do business.

NeverLNG- you are correct about these terms, but I have to apologize, I'm going to commit this same error of etymology bc/ many of the posters here do elevate their views to a sort of theological status.  Although TOD espouses a "heretical" view relative to the mainstream, we should also recognize that TOD itself has an "orthodoxy" and those who don't fit the mold are quickly labelled "heretics".  Just mentioning a peak of 2010 can be met with viscious attacks.  When we do this, we've elevated our views to at least a philosopy, if not a religion.  Hopefully we are willing to allow dissenters to post here (at least if they are willing to engage in constructive debate and not childish name-calling).  There is, of course, a fine line between trolling and dissenting but a lot could be learned by all if we could have an oil expert post on this site and try to defend a peak date 10 to 20 years away.  Unfortunately, this poster would probably be chased off, but if a constructive debate could occur, we could all learn a lot.  
For that matter, how about inviting Michael Lynch or some other cornucopian to post an article here defending his position.  Lynch would never do it of course, but if he did, we'd learn more by investigating his arguments than by rehashing our endless peak oil now vs. peak oil in 2010 debate.

I firstly thank you sincerely for providing this free and unhindered forum for the discussion of what is arguably the most important aspect of life: energy.

Putting forth heretical views will naturally produce countering arguments - some even filled with invective. It is the price one pays for going against perceived wisdom and the common man's comfort with his ongoing way of life. Inertia is our enemy - not trolls, whoever they may be, since concerned readers/commenters know the difference between valuable postings and spleen-venting or loony catastrophology.

I respectfully recommend minimal changes to TOD - the open thread is extremely valuable as a place where a variety of news items come together and can be judged. The ability to post at will is beneficial to the creative exchange of ideas. And, finally, who is to judge what is worthwhile and what is not? Science is not orthodoxy.

I second that - the only thing I would suggest is a filter button for those who want to jump over comments by individuals they have a problem with. I dont think its broke, so dont try and fix it..........
I respectfully recommend minimal changes to TOD - the open thread is extremely valuable as a place where a variety of news items come together and can be judged. The ability to post at will is beneficial to the creative exchange of ideas. And, finally, who is to judge what is worthwhile and what is not? Science is not orthodoxy.

i second that.
any system other then the way it is set up now will only let the majority hide the minority view, this includes a slashdot like system which i find very poor.

making it a pay to post would be the worst idea that i have ever heard of, it will not solve the the perceived problems here. it will only allow the suspected 'paid trolls' win since they would have the deep pockets of who ever is funding them.

having a rating system will only make this place end up like wiki-pedia where only the best sounding but not really the most factual posts get seen making people work harder to actually get to best information. adding a cut-off point to the system will only make it too easy for the so named 'trolls' to get rid of their opposition. this also applies to the purposed 'ignore button' idea.

the only changes that would make this place better is to loose the lined indent system to more of a threaded system so all the children of a top level post are kept underneath it. also add to that a way for user's to collapse posts/threads so they can skip over ones they do not want to read without harming the people who post them. basically to give any visitor control over what posts he/she wants to read or not while not infringing in any way what so ever the ability  of people to actually post, excluding of course the rare viagra spam etc.

thank you.
i looked through all the suggestions that people raised here and did not like any of them. they all allow a mechanism for abuse so they could possibly exploit them to their benefit.
micro payments and account fee's per post would only lead to a contest of  who has the bigger spending account.
i don't need to point out how badly slashdot's system works or just about any system that hides/shows posts on user ratings.
I was pleased to see your utne link as I am also an utne fan.  I have learned so much from contributors to TOD.  It is addictive.  It is also frustrating to see some days drumbeats not having much meat in them.  IMO there is too much discussion of human nature and politics which are probably driving good people off, and I tend to skip those discussions.  I also skip over certain people all the time.  Life is too short.  Thus, IMO a lot could be solved by having an IGNORE button or maybe categorized comment threads.  That way we could regulate our own reading, according to our own interests.  It might motivate people to keep their comments at a higher level, too.  Another possibility might be to suggest a limit of comments per day to 2.  That would motivate people to keep the quality high.

we want to bring the smartest people who think about this stuff together into one place and talk about ideas, solutions, and policy

Last week, I was privileged to be in the company of an academic engineer and state Ag professors at a conference related to the changing world of energy and agriculture.  It was enlightening, and I learned a great deal on their perspectives on the real world.  There is so much expertise out there that could be tapped.  The Internet seems to be our crowning oil age achievement.  At the highest level imaginable, TOD could be part of that Apollo project.  An appeal to all academic and field engineers in the world, along with architects, agriculture experts, green city planners, and key economists to join this site is probably an unattainable dream, but maybe not when people realize the future of humanity is dependent upon it. The key would be to make it worth their time. And now I've given myself away as a dreamer...

These things could be attained in the architecture of the website, however, so its nice to know your goals here seem ambitious, PG!  Keep up the great work.  

Another possibility might be to suggest a limit of comments per day to 2.  That would motivate people to keep the quality high.

While on the surface this makes sense, in reality it will then result in very long posts where people will cram everything they have to say.  Which due to the average persons visual attention span, will be totally ignored.  

I agree with Nate here, to a point. Perhaps two posts are too few. How about five?

But I can tell you something that, if imposed, would greatly improve things. Insist that peopel stick to the subject of energy, peak oil, or whatever the list owners like. Yesterday there were about 150 posts on religion. One person decided he wished to prove the Bible true and opeaned a thread in an attempt to do that. Such debates have no place on TOD, in my opinion anyway.

Ron Patterson

Also limit the length of the post.
I would be in favor of that.  Or at least, hide most of over-long posts, so people have to click to see the rest, as they do at dKos.  
I'm ambivalent about that one. Some up and coming posters have posted excellent graphs and analysis before being accepted as regular contributors. Would we really want to foreclose that? (also, at 5 posts I'm past my -proposed- limit).
They could still post.  They would just have to keep it short.  Or they could post it to their own blog, and link to it.

Though the way dKos works, there no limit on post length.  If you go too long, your post is simply "windowed."  You only see the top part, and have to scroll or click to see the rest.

That way, you don't have people hogging the top of a new thread wit a 25-page dissertation.  They can still post it, but it only takes up a few inches of real estate.

Philip Greenspun had some thoughts on building trust as users interacted more and more often with a site. As they did they got more and more tools and options, etc.... That used to be in the background to arsdigita/ACS system. maybe here

An example might be a moderation system where only experienced users, perhaps with accumulated good karma (one way or another) get to post on some stories, but everyone gets to post on the drumbeat.

All of that becomes more than a full time job.

I think a Slashdot-style moderation system could be extremely valuable here, but the negative mods need to be finer-grained than used there.  In addition to "troll", "flamebait", and "offtopic" I would suggest a list which includes:

  • Spam
  • Unsupported assertion.
  • Cornucopian propaganda.
  • Doomer propaganda.

It would also be useful to be able to attach links to certain mods, especially those last three.  If the public is going to be told someone is spouting propaganda, they shouldn't have any doubts about where it originated and why it's propaganda instead of serious discussion.

Last, users need to have karma.  I'd suggest tagging propagandists with their propensities, so the public has some idea of how seriously to take them.  You can slap "Technocratic optimist" on me.

Slashdot gets millions of unique visitors. We do not. When we have the money to moderate comments, as Slashdot does, we'll let everybody know.

My remarks just above apply to all comments that have already been made about implementing moderated threads and all those that will be made in the course of this day.

"Money to moderate comments"

Not sure where that comes from, Slashdot doesn't pay anyone to moderate comments, those with mod points do the task. Note the Slashdot code is freely available. If people were to go down the /. route I'd suggest a tag of "unpopular viewpoint" to stop the usual situation at /. or digg of useful but unpopular comments being modded out of existence by those that don't agree with them.

However from a more general standpoint I'm note sure I agree with the whole direction this is taking. Command and control approaches to reducing 'trolls' is in my view the wrong path. Instead seek to tailor peoples' underlying behaviours towards positive directions that enhance value returned.

To me the main thing that needs addressing in TOD is making connections across articles and comments to form a coherent and inclusive view of the subject at differing levels of detail. Currently its 'bity' and impossible to see the wood for the trees. As such people focus on parts of the issue, not the whole. Surely if peak oil is anything, its about the whole, rather than the parts?

Tagging, pan-site threading and encapsulations of understanding / key issues should be the order of improvement for TOD, not trying to impose an orthodoxy of viewpoint on the subject.

As a rule of thumb you can tell the really useful and important nuggets of knowledge by the fact that some people violently with them when spoken. If nobody disagrees its probably wrong or unimportant.

When we have the money to moderate comments, as Slashdot does, we'll let everybody know.

The only cost is a bit more hard drive space and writing the code to use it.

Slashdot-style comment moderation in a nutshell: "Average" users (based on participation) are randomly granted five moderation points.  Each comment gets an option box in its head, and a moderator can select one of a dozen or so words (insightful, informative, flamebait, offtopic, etc.) which add or subtract from the comment's score.  A reader can sort the comments by score and/or limit the minimum visible comment score.  Users can't post in and moderate the same discussion.

On the rare occasion I read slashdot anymore, I read with "high scores first" and a minimum score of 3 (out of 5).  I generally only see fairly well-thought-out comments and reasoned arguments, modulo Slashdot's roots as an advocacy site.

This is for garyp just above as well.

The Oil Drum is a small operation. Only a handful of people run this website. No one here gets paid. No one here has time to moderate threads.

From a personal perspective, how would I do the research I need to do in order to publish stories and find the time to moderate the Drumbeats or other threads? And that goes for the others as well. Compared to Slashdot, TOD is small potatoes.

If someone were paid to moderate at TOD or to implement Slashdot-style software, then that might make sense, given TOD's small scale. In either case, there is work involved.

In addition, I don't think I want to hand out "moderation points" to randomly chosen users at The Oil Drum.

I'm a moderator on another forum with 3,500+ members.  None of us get paid.  I moderate the Homemaking/homesteading sub-forum.  It's mellow and easy.  But there are other sub-forums that are real PITAs for the mods.  

One thing that attracted me to TOD was its degree of civility and staying on subject.  Another was no mods beause the truth is mods have personal beliefs and opinions and these can intrude upon decision making regarding threads and posts.  TOD should stay modless with the opion of tptb tossing trolls.

Todd, what is that other forum? I would like to check it out.
Hey, I have that book! That Ed Yourdon was one sharp guy. Thanks to him I surived Y2K A-OK!
Just to explain

Slashdot and their ilk run on purely audience moderation; payment doesn't come in to it. However they are not random. Gaining moderation points is driven by an algorithmic choice depending on posting frequency, the moderation and metamoderation of your posts/moderation, etc. Just try making an unpopular comment that gets moderated down and see how long it is before you get mod points again. Should you want to it would be possible to take the /. codebase and implement a TOD site using it, essentially for free.

However, in general, I'm personally not a fan of negative moderation techniques - I think they drive the wrong behaviours. Better to trust people and reward trust returned than to play games with negative approaches/monetary fees. Societies based on what you can't do, rather than what you can and should tend to turn inward towards self destruction in my experience.

I don't see a big troll problem at TOD, more one of connecting the dots.

Thanks for explaining. I may be at odds with my colleagues on staff, but reading your remarks about audience moderation, I am reminded of my strong view that The Oil Drum is not a democracy and truth does not belong to the hoi polloi  

Slashdot started as a very small system (difficult as it may be to believe now!) and had a handful of moderators (okay, three hands and two feet worth).  TOD is still small enough to go that way.

FWIW, the surging volume of comments is one reason I didn't favor the Drumbeat at first; it was more or less an open thread and seemed to create traffic for traffic's sake.  What TOD might do is have a two-tier posting system, where some threads are open to comments from all and some limit or ban comments from the bulk of the registered membership.

I think the major difference between Worldchanging and TOD is that one is an intentional community, with a stated platform, and the other desires to be more big-tent and open-ended.

While Worldchanging may pick up the occasional troll, I think they do start from a bit more of a common ground on why they are all there:

OUR MISSION: worldchanging was founded on the idea that real solutions already exist for building the future we want. it's just a matter of grabbing hold and getting moving.

On the other hand, here at TOD, I've certainly been on the receiving end of ad hominems, basically for leaning toward the worldchanging mission statement.

Something to think about perhaps.

I think the major difference is that Worldchanging focuses on ideas and experiments that could potentially affect us all, but are not currently. TOD focuses on a mature industry whose activities do affect us all in major and important ways.

An interesting larger point is that some sites seem to have a troll problem and some do not. And I think that's independent of how controversial the content is. There is great value in the editors identifying what behavior is acceptable, what constitutes a troll or bad actor, and pruning away those participants who fit the description. It's just like weeding a garden, and TOD is a garden that the editors have worked very hard to grow and make flourish.

I don't really read the threads anymore, so I had to dip back to see what this post might be referring to.  I did see some slagging of religion a day or two ago.  I think I even saw an editor deep in it.

How does that fit with the TOD "mission statement?"

I don't understand what you're talking about. Dip back to what?
I took a quick look at the last two days drumbeats, that's what I mean by dipping back.
Prof Goose I think you are heading down the right path.  I am a very infrequent poster but when I do post I try to add something constructive to the conversation.

I just gave a Web 2.0 presentation and I have been working in the Web business for years. I was one of the very first bloggers out there and I have had the opinion that, while commenting is a wonderful feature, it would collapse under its own weight someday.

The Oil Drum is one of the best community sites on the net.  I mentioned it during my presentation as a case study in how to create an effective online Web 2.0 community.  I, for one, am willing to give up my posting rights, if that is what it takes, to weed out the disruptive comments.  These disruptive posters (bandits) only want to breakup the community and they are very effective at it.

I now skim over posts to find the posts Westexas, Oil CEO, and others but it can be a chore due to the number of threads.  Unfortunately these good posters spend half their time responding to the bandits and not educating us on the challenges we face with our dwindling energy supplies.

My choice would be to grant posting rights to the Oil Drum.  I believe we should have all voices, pro and con as long as they are constructive.  If you disagree with Peak Oil that is fine please post with data or valuable insights.  If you just act like a bandit then you get banned.

At this point the Oil Drum has a wealth of data on who are good posters and those who are not.  I suggest you grant those good people posting rights and any future posters can gain those rights if they contribute positively to the community.

Of course this entails extra time, time the good people at the Oil Drum may not have.  Therein lies the dilemma.  But I think to keep the Oil Drum as effective as possible something needs to be done soon to control the bandit situation.

hear hear!
Perhaps TOD could experiment with an occasional, two tiered structure. That being, when a contributor wants to moderate a high level discussion on a specific topic, they could invite specific persons with specific credentials to participate, and everyone else would be observers only.

Then, there would be an open thread simultaneously, or subsequently, where everyone else could give their feedback. That way you might be able to lure specific notables to participate, without subjecting them to possible trolling actions or digressions. And those persons could then sift through the open threads (if they desire) to see what sort of reaction they provoked (if any).

Shorter: decide who you are prof goose.

If you think this energy thing can be managed, say that every day, and how you hope to manage it.

If you don't think this can be managed, start selling canned goods, and for God's sake drop the Worldchanging references.

That sounds suspiciously like "my way or the highway", odograph. I get the impression that rather than one set position, Prof. Goose wants to encourage debate but particularly informed debate. You are neither obliged to read nor respond to comments with which you disagree. Lately, I've tended to just not reply when I think someone is out to lunch because when I read the thread, I find that what I would say has often been stated already. You might try such a strategy. It might lower your blood pressure, for instance. ;)
I've already chosen the highway, I think ;-)

But to throw it out there ... how many "peak oil" sites stake out the position that there is no hope?  How many stand up and say they are pragmatically hopeful?

I think there is room in the peak oil constellation for a few  more sites with the "mission" to improve things.

I don't like the new format as well as the old one. I feel the daily threads create a lot of noise. I would like to see certain threads where only the "real experts" have permission to post comments.
It's been a while since I've posted, mostly because I'm a layman.  I find that there isn't much I can contribute to the wonderful information and discussion being put out by the "elders of our community".

However, I do know a little about moderating discussions, so here are my thoughts.

Don't believe that a totally technological solution to moderating exists.  Remember that these are posts made by people;  reducing them to a score belittles the contribution made from the best to the worst of us.

Reduce the frequency of a troll-rated user's comments;  only allow them to post 1 comment once every other day etc.  To prevent flamewars, only allow even the best users a certain number of comments in a time period.

Don't give a single user too much power.  Don't trust new/unknown users by allowing them to moderate.

If a user is troll rated or ignored, tell them!  Make sure they know why it happened, that X number of people felt their contribution was poor.  Only by feedback do we change our behaviour.  The worse the feedback, the less behaviour is changed.  If someone's science is suspect, then make sure they can find out why.  If possible, when downrating a comment, require the moderators to write 25 to 50 words detailing their decision.

Some trolls are just inexperienced or unskilled people who can be turned into very effective and valuable members of a community, if they are engaged correctly and early.

Have a way of flagging the worst comments such as stock pump and dumps or similar.

Make moderator status hard to attain.  Require a certain length of membership on TOD, a certain number of contributions.  etc etc.

Don't tolerate uncivil behaviour.  Don't be afraid to punish someone if they step out of line.  Make sure everyone knows that name calling simply isn't tolerated.

Don't tie the moderation system too deeply into the site;  if it breaks, it needs to be easily replaced.  One possible way to do this is to allow (pre-chosen) tagging of comments and then allow users to display comments with/without certain tags.

One possible idea would be to require a membership fee.  $10/year for posting privileges may work.  Or require new members to write an essay!  :-)

I hope this endeavour works out well;  this site may quite literally be one of the most valuable out there.  But only if the message, the signal, is not lost through trolling or draconian moderation.

Hi TODers.

This is my first post, but I have lerked for quite some time.  Thank you for all of the efforts everyone has contributed.  i believe the sharing of information and opinions has been invaluable.  I am in awe of many of the primary contributors.  Thank you all for this.

I do find it ironic that we are considering changes.  Moving to V3 strikes me as a belief that technology will provide a better solution.  Implementation of changes, limited number of posts pre day (rationing) or minimal charge for posting (carbon tax) etc seem to indicate that we can force a needed (or desired) behavioral change.  

If the Oil Drum community can not even co-operate jointly to collaborate, exchange ideas, and share our knowledge without such measures, what hope does humanity as a whole have when facing the potential dangers posed by peak oil and other major crisis we face?  


A pay to post would not keep out paid trolls or many of the "unsavory types" whoever they are....

If a troll has a weak argument their are many here who are completely capable of tearing the person to shreads academically.

I am sure there is a way to block IP addresses and if someone violates obscenities or personal attacks or stalking sure get rid of them.

I lurked here for two months laughing at the ongoing debate, sometimes it is fun to watch the battle unfold.  I am refering to educated debate not name calling.

I think PO is an important message that gets lost on this site due to political leanings and conspiracy theorists.  A majority of americans are turned off when they read things about how the twin towers were blown up by controlled demolitions and leave the site, missing the PO discussion because we all get labeled nuts.  Open threads should atleast be able to connect to energy in two direct steps.  ie mideast politics fair game because they affect petroleum exports.  just a thought.

Besides that PO is a geological event that does not discriminate against social, racial, or political lines.  We are all in the same lifeboat. Arguing over the little stuff does not get the boat safely to shore.

Pay-to-post might discourage some trolls, simply because they'd have to reveal their real name and address to pay.  There are a lot of people who feel free to be obnoxious as long as they are anonymous, but either don't post or are a lot more polite if their identies are known, if only by the moderators.

How many valuable posters would never have logged on even over five dollars? Now that people are members of this "community" sure they would pay five bucks, I am betting there is a (third year engineering student, future congresswoman, future suv or hybrid owner) out there I want to interact and be involved here.  This place has to make $ on advertising....keep thought free.  As for trolls, if terrorists can get fake ID's I am sure the TPTB that would pay someone to argue can arange papers.


I am not in favor of "pay to post," as I said before.  I was merely pointing out that it might discourage trolls.  
While I don't comment much here, I do understand completely what is going on here in terms of signal/noise ratio and would like to pass on my experience.

I've been a moderator in the past at a popular Tech site and have been in forums, chats and the like since the early 90s, so I've seen it all, and can say it's same across every discipline, medium, or application.

My personal view... "Authority" breeds contempt.

Here are my main points:

#1:  With popularity comes trolls.  It's just the way it is.

#2:  Pay sites (no matter what the cost) get no trolls.  

#3:   Pay sites loose tremendously in readership.  Especially, IMHO, "collaborative" places like TOD. Please PLEASE PLEASE don't go that route.  I believe it is anathema to TODs very soul.

#4:   With popularity come responsibility and discipline.  In order to encourage non-trolls to keep reading, TOD authors must continue to produce the same gripping, authoritative and provocative material.  If there are too many open threads, and not enough content, why come back?

#5:  I believe one "Drumbeat" a day is enough.  Anymore, and we end up with #4.

#6:  If a serious discussion concerning one of the "Drumbeat links" sprouts in the comments thread... then why not break it out into it's own article?  It would be a great way to foster discussion and emphasize the value of that discussion.  That's a carrot

#7:  Do not allow user-moderation... it simply allows people to silence those who disagree with them... on a site like this, that can be deadly (to TOD!)

#8  I really like the idea of an "ignore" button.. unfortunately, I see that as only being useful to TOD regulars.  I stuck with TOD because the comments were excellent... an ignore button isn't going to help new people stay at TOD, they'll still get potentially turned off by any trolls or overly long threads.... and tying the "ignore" rating of the site to some sort of automatic moderation could be even worse as people ignore people not necessarily because of the quality of their post, but because they disagree.

which brings me to:

#8:  If there must be a stick... make it a hammer.  Don't moderate... I believe moderation is a fools game.  A "closed" thread still breeds trolls because the fodder is still sitting there.  The only way to remove that fodder is to REMOVE the thread. (or at least the stub)  I know, it goes against the freedom that many here and around the Internet really want (including me), but given my experience in the past, I think the only way to truly moderate and limit trolls is to remove the temptation and feedback.

This also has the advantage of cleaning out the thread so that casual readers are not put off by the trolls and other inappropriate comments.

Trust must go both ways.  As Editors and Moderators, you implicitly trust Users and Commenters to abide by the TOD spirit.

However, As Users and Commenters, we must trust the Editors and Moderators to know right and wrong, and when action is taken, then that is that, no questions asked.

This is potentially a lot of work... but if you're going to moderate, you're going to have to do the work anyway, and in a way, this is a lot easier than closing threads, and, I think, a lot more effective.

People who troll are rarely interested in the topic at hand.  All they are interested in is seeing their "handiwork" and the responses it gets... and then going back and re-reading their trolls...

delete the troll threads... you delete the trolls.

That is my opinion on the matter.

Now lets get back to what makes TOD my first stop in the morning!!


My name is Brandon Stringer and I live in Longview, Texas.  How about you?

Alan Drake in Lower Garden District of New Orleans.
Some people here are not getting it, IMHO. Try this for starters:

  • Registration with personal information and a working e-mail address would be required. Confirmation would be required for registration. Payment would not. This personal information would not be shown on the user's information page at their request but TOD would have it on file.

  • Any TOD staff could flag a user. If that user gets more than N flags, they are issued a warning. If additional flags are added afterwards, the first warning not being heeded, they could be banished after some number of further warnings. The e-mail address is the key, as in a database.
I am not saying this will happen. It is conceivable, however. So, there is not necessarily a pay-to-play system and there is not complete moderation, which no one has time to do. However, all TOD staff look the website over on a regular basis.

So, in my view, we are not talking about limiting a user to 2 posts or 5 posts in a day. We are talking about zero posts for that user & e-mail forever.

This comment reflects some of my own tentative thinking on the subject of PG's post and is not the policy position of The Oil Drum.

I am in agreement with your thoughts on this matter.

As an occasional poster from a profession that is not directly involved in oil (save using it), I tend to not post too often, as I seldom have anything constructive to add to the conversation.

However I have found TOD to be an invaluable resource in developing my understanding of the way the industry works and what is to come, in an effort to figure out where my profession is going to have to change, and how best to accomplish that change.

I applaud your efforts, and look forward to many more years of  enlightened reading and discussions.

I am in absolute agreement to TNRkitect comments, and support Dave's notion of TOD staff having the right to ban individuals they see as destructive. Having been a TOD reader since TOD 1.0, the increase in noise is definitely distracting from the reason that I read this site, which TNRkitect said so clearly. As a case in point, the very presence of off topic posts on this article demonstrates a certain lack of self moderation by the posters. Earlier on this thread, there was mention of systems where the TOD community can rate posts/posters which would in effect collapse the posts once receiving a demoted rating. This seems a fair method also, less dependant on the effort and discretion of the TOD staff.
"Any TOD staff could flag a user.."
Instead try flagging exchanges that are getting excessive. Maybe a yellow caution stripe past a series of posts out in the left margin. Posters would not want to be seen in that zone often. No direct opprobrium on an individual poster but definitely a nudge towards restraint and self-control. And a sure signal to those who want to skim. It wouldn't matter if staff was not on top of it all the time, if stripes appeared with any frequency the hotheads would take the point. Hopefully.
My first thought in suggesting this is that the status quo is not that far from unmitigated success. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Discussion here gets odd, gets tedious, but is lightyears better than other sites. All staff here have and have earned respect. Show yourself and see how the peanut gallery responds.
I agree with the "confirmed registration" requirement and would also like to see the requirement that the comment posters real name and location (State or outside USA country) be at the top of their posts.
People seem to be a lot more reluctant to post nasty stuff when their real names are attached for all to see. Tends to make people a lot more civil usually.
There are many posts that say something like "In my location" and then never give any  idea where their location is. A general location on the posts would be very helpful sometimes.
I love the good technical stuff and the grafs and would like to say "Thank You" to all the people that work so hard to bring us all the relavant technical information.

If your name is Jon Kutz, there are 16 listings on zabasearch or other similar sites.  If you give out your age or state it greatly narrows the field.  Some people want to remain semi anonymous for safety.  There are nut jobs out there who might do whatever.  I don't care my name is matt tipton I live in brasil and work in the gulf of mexico my email is on my profile.  But other people are aprehensive and maybe rightly so.


Regarding the DRUMBEAT:

a weakness of that format is that there are a dozen or so news articles cited on top, but then, more often than not, these articles are not discussed, or the discussion relating to one particular article is difficult to find. Could you change the layout to:

ARTICLE blablablablablablabla             Discuss this news
                                          [post a comment]
ARTICLE blablablablablablabla             Discuss this news
                                          [post a comment]

that means the DRUMBEAT would "branch out" into a dozen different, focussed (hopefully) discussions on top. The remaining unfocussed part would remain the same, at the bottom.

TOD seems to insist on ignoring forum software. Several good web based forum packages exist. Forum software already has user registration, the ability to merge and separate topics, the ability to read topics hierarchically or in a "flat" mode, the ability to ignore other users, the ability to ban users, etc. I have stated before that Drumbeats should be closed posts with no comments allowed and for each daily Drumbeat a thread could be started in a forum. Many forum packages allow you to flag users such that only certain ones can start new threads but everyone else can reply. This would ensure garbage threads did not start in key forums, such as Drumbeat forum.

I also encourage others to simply start a blog and link to it here. If you don't know how, just go to (as one example), create an account, create a blog, and start writing. Khebab and Westexas tend to reference posts from elsewhere though they also do post here as well. Oil CEO references his blog. So do some other posters, most of whom usually add to the quality of the discussion here.

I still believe that TOD would be well served with the addition of forums. Packages such as PHPBB or VBulletin are feature rich and would accomplish most of what you want to accomplish. Why reinvent what has already been written?

The whole point of DrumBeats is that they are "open threads."  Not least because it helps keep the clutter out of the other threads.  

The news stories are just to provoke discussion (though it's not usually needed, these days).

And that could be accomplished in a forum more easily, in a more readily manageable manner, and in a more readable manner than what occurs here, couldn't it?
To be honest, I don't see any reason to have forums here. and other peak oil sites already have message boards.  What would we be adding?
To be honest, I don't see a reason to have a roof over my head. My neighbors already have a roof over their heads. What would a roof be adding?

Seriously, Leanan, forum software would allow for searching (an oft requested feature since the searching here is lousy), ignoring users, email notifications, more logical organization of comments, and all the other features that I noted above. TOD is talking about adding ignore buttons. Who is going to write and debug and maintain that software? Why not use software that is already written, debugged, and constantly maintained by someone who wants to do exactly that? What you are saying is that you think SuperG (or someone else) should write all these features from scratch just so we can keep the current commenting format? Why such a waste of effort? In a way this is hilarious. TOD is like modern America, not wanting to touch already developed and proven solutions to existing problems, instead choosing to wallow in its own misery and/or develop its own version of those same solutions, probably at greater expense, time, and trouble. Do as I say, not as I do - is that the lesson that TOD wants to convey?

Who is going to write and debug and maintain that software?

I'd assumed they were going to buy a package.  

If they have to write it, forget it.  Not worth it.

... allow for searching (an oft requested feature since the searching here is lousy), ignoring users, email notifications, more logical organization of comments, and all the other features that I noted above. TOD is talking about adding ignore buttons. Who is going to write and debug and maintain that software?

Who is going to write that software?

You will.
Each user can write his own software & share with others if he/she wants to.

Lately I've been playing with AutoHotKeys (freeware with a GNU license attached).

It's definitely not for the faint at heart.
The coding gets pretty obtuse fairly quickly.
But a very simple code can get you doing some powerful stuff.

Here is simple 3-liner (AHK code) that I use every day:

#right::Send !n!n!p

#left::Send !p

#down::Send ^f[new]

Hitting the Win key and right arrow sends the sequence: Alt-N Alt-N Alt-P to the FireFox engine. It then pops the next "[new" (Sorry, sorry) post up on my screen without need for scrolling. Don't know how I lived without it before.

There you go. I shared some code with the TOD community and paid my service-to-the-community tax at least for this year (this month?)

I am in agreement with TOD taking a look at the forum software out there. I have participated in a number of forums on different sites, and that format works extremely well for the types of wide-ranging discussions that I see on TOD.

They also allow for mail notification of responses to comments or threads that a reader is interested in, something that I have wished for in the current iteration of TOD. (If I am just overlooking a setting that will accomplish this, please point me to it!)

The way such software could be implemented is similar to that used by newspapers. The posts would continue to be listed in order on the TOD main page as they are now, but when you click the link to comment, you will be taken to a thread in the forum software for that article. The first post in the thread would be the article again for continuity's sake.

The moderator functions of the forum software are feature filled, and allow for taking care of problem posts or posters, not just by deleting, but also by moving the comment if off topic. There are also typically free-for-all threads whose sole purpose is to be able to make off topic postings.

Most forums I use have volunteer moderators that are regular contributors to the forums. The posters tend to "play nice" as they know that a moderator is watching, and will take action if needed.

just go to (as one example)

Totally agree.
If you're going to go way off topic from PO
Do it on your own turf. is free and easy.
All you have to do is learn some basic HTML.
If I can do it, so can the village idiot.
(Wait a minute, I am the village idiot. Doh.)

The structure of TOD is a disorganized mess. I much prefer the structured type of forum software that has.
I come to TOD because of the high quality of the contributors.
We here at TOD are here to facilitate education, empirically-centered debate, good policy, and learning, not create a battlefield on which people can try to foist their normative views on others: and I think most of us here agree with that vision.

I am reminded of a Quaker saying: "Be silent until you can improve upon the silence."

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Like most here I'm sure, come to this sight to gain information about things relating to oil. I know very little about the subject and have found the TOD to be very informative on this subject. I stopped coming to this sight because of all of the unrelated post that has nothing to do with the original subject that was posted. I enjoy what Westexas, Ceo, Heading out, Etc. has to say on a subject. I do not believe in any type of censorship when it comes to a persons post unless it has the intent of destroying the purpose of the forum in the first place. I have learned from the TOD that there are no oil pipes coming into the state of California, but I still do not understand what prevents a well head from blowing out of the ground from all of the pressure that it sees. I am still totally in the dark about how in the hell do you establish a well head that is several thousand feet under the water. Hope to hear about these things here in the future.
For what it is worth, here are some suggestions to the creators of the TOD.
I'm looking for information on oil related matters so I can make an informative guess in what to expect regarding what kind of life one will experience in the future. I matters that we may be coming to a point that demand exceeds supply but I'm not sure if this is one of the subjects that the creators of this sight originally intended to cover. Making a forum outline on just what this forum is all about would be a great help regarding subjects that are covered.
I enjoy going to sights like LATOC forum, and Sustainability Arizona Community forum. They both use the same sight format regarding how and where subjects are posted. When someone post a comment that has nothing to do with the subject being discussed it is not deleted but moved to a topic that is located elsewhere in the forum under a different heading. If something like this is established here at the TOD I recommend a forum heading, (Troll posts). It doesn't matter if someone should ever go there and can not make heads or tails out of what the poster is saying because what they posted didn't make any sense in the first place.
One other thing that I find disturbing here is that you establish a forum heading but then list a lot of links to other topics under that listing. Instead of just calling it DrumBeat, add, (and related news stories,) then allow your members to post comments to a story that they feel  needs further discussion under a new forum listing. Only post news stories that you intend to be discussed here at the TOD.
One last comment that I need to make and then I'll go where few trolls dare to go,
Please, Please, Please, I know allowing Ad's is a necessity in keeping this sight alive and well, but please do not allow ads that jump, flash, roll or whatever. It is very annoying in trying to read something and have something jumping all over the place next to what you are trying to read.  :o).

LOL, amazing, till you just pointed that out I never realised there were actually any adds on this site! I guess I have developed blinkered vision that automatically ignores all adverts!
But there they are - one for WWF!
I still do not understand what prevents a well head from blowing out of the ground from all of the pressure that it sees.

 You cement steel casing into the rock in the upper reaches of the well. The initial open hole even in the offshore will be 36" in diameter. Once this is down to the designed depth (the oil company geologist determines this depth based on the rock formations encountered), you run in steel casing pipe and then force cement under pressure into a shoe at the bottom of the wellbore. The cement flows up in the space between the outside diameter of the casing and the surrounding rock formation.

 Once this sets up you now have a subsurface platform on which you can erect a blow out preventor stack. This is a 30 foot structure containing variety of valves and shear rams. The drill string goes down through the center of the BOP stack. In offshore applications a riser pipe will run from the rig to the BOP on the ocean floor. The drill string runs inside this riser, down through the BOP and into the well bore.

 After setting surface casing and the BOP you then drill out the cement plugging the bottom of the well and continue with the next section of the well again running smaller diameter casing and cementing that into the formation. This process is repeated with smaller diameter pipe until TD (total depth) is reached. You then use explosive charges to performate the casing within the pay zone in order to produce the well.


I am still totally in the dark about how in the hell do you establish a well head that is several thousand feet under the water.

 With great difficulty and at enormous expense.

Thank You, now I can sleep at nights.
I am curious about when things like this happened. I'm referring back in time to 1859 at Ttusville, Pennsylvania being the first successful oil well ever drilled. Did they know that they had to do stuff like this or did they just end up having a Hugh environmental spill that the Federal Government is still throwing money at in trying to clean it up (Today)?
 Actually the first well ever drilled was in 1848 in Baku, Georgia, FSU. The first European well was drilled in Poland in 1854. The first North American well was drilled in Ontario, Canada in 1858. Billy Smith was the first person to drill a well in Titusville. Col Drake ran the show.

 Basically, they had huge environmental spills. The Titusville well was "discovered" the morning after the driller pulled his gear to abandon the well; the oil came in the form of a seep and simply collected in the bottom of the well bore. When a big well like Spindletop "blew in" the drill string was forcibly ejected fron the well bore followed by several thousand bbls of condensate and fluids. The oil was collected in large ponds until the well could be brought under control.

BOP well head control equipment was first made mandatory in California in 1929. I do not know the year when closed completions became common but it was likely in this time frame. I did once talk with a fellow who had worked in the east Texas fields. These were open hole wells and when it came time to plug and abandon a treetrunk was simply rammed into the well bore with the roots and the rest sticking out on the surface.


I once plugged a well with a pine stump. Oil was at $15.00 a barrel and the well was drilled before 1932 and not on a Railroad Commission map and there was no way I could afford to do the right thing. I'm not proud of it.

BOP, thanks for giving an explanation to a non-industry sort thats pretty clear and doesn't talk down. I feel that this is one of our most important functions as a community.If people actually understood the oil business I believe we would have a better chance of getting through the transitions from fossil fuel. I'm always glad to see a gentlemanly response to an honest question.

Professor Goose, if you seen my posts over the last few days you can see that I also worry that the trolls and off-topic nuts will drive away new readers of TOD. I'm barely computer literate, so I have no good ideas for you. I am heartened that you are concerned and actively seeking a solution.

Please, Please, Please, I know allowing Ad's is a necessity in keeping this sight alive and well, but please do not allow ads that jump, flash, roll or whatever. It is very annoying in trying to read something and have something jumping all over the place next to what you are trying to read.  :o).

Switch to Firefox.  You'll almost never see another ad again.  You'll spend a lot less time waiting for stuff to download (yes, even if you have broadband).  Honestly, you'll wonder how you stood the Internet without it.

I second Leanan's motion. I also strongly suggestion installing AdBlocker and NoScript. AdBlocker shuts out ads. NoScript disables Javascript from a website by default. You can then optionally turn it on. Frequently, on big sites like CNN, you will have Javascript from but also Javascript being thrown at your browser by various advertisers on the page. By using NoScript, I can keep the page working by enabling the target page but still disable Javascript being sent from other domains. These two extensions will save you a huge amount of time. Also install the AdBlocker FilterSet.G as it predefines a huge number of known advertisement sites. The last step you can take is to remap most advertisement source web sites to the localhost loopback address. For a hosts file that does this already for you, see Blocking Unwanted Parasites With A Hosts File. The combination of these actions (some of which overlap) will make your web browsing experience almost completely advertisement free unless you personally choose to view a particular ad.

I have a GREAT idea. You see, this site is run for FREE by VOLUNTEERS. They pay for the server costs and what not out of their own pocket. That's in addition to the heavy time and energy investments they make. So here's my super duper awesome idea, I'm curious as to your opinion: Let's eliminate the one source of income they have to cover their costs so that they have to pay for it all out of their lavish academic salaries! Yeah, that'll help em out now won't it?!

When a way is created for advertisements to not carry hostile Javascript code (and this has occurred), then I will be amenable to seeing ads. Until then I will not choose to expose my computer to unwanted code that often tries to install malware/spyware on my system without my permission.

Your argument is silly. You are arguing that I must subject myself to evil effects to enjoy this website or not use the website. Frankly, I would be more than willing to pay a subscription fee to help offset the costs of this site. I have done this with other sites in the past and would do so here. But I am not required to expose my computer to security risks, no matter how you may try to twist this. Further, many sites do exactly this, putting ads on pages of those visitors who are not paying subscribers and not putting ads on the pages of subscribers.

didn't know they posed a security risk.  that's a valid complaint in my book.
they really don't have much choice over whether the ads flash or not. what you're getting is free so I'm sure you can find a way to sack up and muddle through the
evil killer flashing banner ads of death from outer space!"
A thought for TOD 3.0:  Give everyone a blog space.  Bear with me...  if everyone who wants (from the regular, academic authors to the trolls) can maintain a blog at TOD and link back and forth as they see fit, but no one can post comments, then the value of your comments on another's post (via the commentary that you post to your own blog) determine how many people link to you, and whether anyone even sees what you're writing.  This type of networked organization is, roughly, how the larger blogosphere works, so it may be worth considering it in microcosm for TOD as a non-hierarchical, open-to-all solution to the problems.  The "front page" of TOD could list the most recent and linked-to article, or could post a blog-feed from internal blogs that is prioritized according to some social ranking system.  It would be a radical departure from the present system, but it might be just what is needed to keep fresh and insightful content rising to the top.  Just my two cents...
There is a well working system on the german IT-forum As a registered user you can mark any contribution from double minus (most insignificant) to double plus (remarkable).
It takes only minutes after the first comments show up that troll stuff is deep red. This makes comments in the forums very clearly laid out.

Even if you can't read German you might like to have a look at any forum page at - here is one where disputers are quarreling about Windows Vista.

The advantage of such procedure in my perception is that there is no such thing like censorship. If there are enough pro and contras the result will still be neutral, but trolls are sorted out fastly.

Good luck, PG and TOD - the problem of online discussions is a knotty one.

Pesonally, I've stopped reading and participating in discussions. Reasons:

  1. Low signal to noise ratios.
  2. Lack of time.
  3. Not learning much new from them.
  4. Unpleasant attacks and trolldom.

I would second the suggestion from odograph, for TOD to decide who it is and what it stands for. It's not necessary to please everyone, and trying to do so will wear you out.

Another suggestion might be for individuals to advance beyond discussion forums to essays or books. If a subject is important to you, doesn't it make sense to do the research and develop one's ideas fully?  

Discussion forums are a good place to get an introduction to a subject, but past a certain point one is spinning one's wheels - reading and repeating the same themes.


Thanks for your thoughts, Bart.

I generally agree with your observations. As to who TOD is, it is my view that part of the impetus behind this conversation is a conflict between our posted stories and the daily Drumbeat open thread. The latter is deteriorating ie. there is lot of noise.

Originally, The Oil Drum made its living from the articles we contributors posted. But it seems, through no conscious choice we made, that the emphasis has moved away from those researched posts toward a commenters free-for-all on the Drumbeat. It is disappointing, at least to me, that contributions from the TOD staff take a backseat to the open threads. Moreover, I think many users are not willing to do the hard work of reading the research we do here. Thanks to you guys at the Energy Bulletin for republishing it.

Maybe it is not possible to do both. That is part of the issue being discussed. I know I've been told that offline by people I respect. So, yes, we have to figure out who we are.

-- Dave

Interesting.  At this time, there are more comments on this thread than on the open thread AND a heck of a lot of them have nothing to do with Professor Goose's topic.

Is there a way to have a 'best of' summary of comments on discrete threads, available within a few days after the initial post?  What I had in mind would be accessible via a subject index.

It is disappointing, at least to me, that contributions from the TOD staff take a backseat to the open threads.

I got all the way down here without having to say anything, but I can't let this go by. Dave, I hope you didn't get this impression from the number of comments in a thread. The topic threads by TOD's main contributors are absolutely the most educational part of this site, which is why I and presumably others come here regularly.

However, Drumbeat is context and I like that too, even if I skip most of the comments. I hope TOD finds a way to keep both.  


I would second the comment made by porsena above.

In fact, I hardly ever go into the Drumbeats because I know they can be similar to stepping into a wild-west saloon!

If the editors/contributors politely 'nudge' off-topic comments in their posts, then the 'noise' in those posts would be less. Off-topic posters should be directed to the Drumbeats as much as possible.

That's not to say that I don't have a quick scan through Leanan's hard work.  I just very rarely step over the threshold.

Basically, I live for the 'real' content by you and the other editors and contributors.

If I'm bored (or feeling brave) I'll push through the swing doors into the smokey, noisy environment of the Drumbeat.

Pesonally, I've stopped reading and participating in discussions. Reasons:
Low signal to noise ratios.
Lack of time.
Not learning much new from them.
Unpleasant attacks and trolldom.

IMO, Bart is one of the heroes of Peakoildom.  The EB is a priceless asset, and I have to say that I am beginning to agree with him.  

One of the reasons that I started posting on TOD was to see if anyone had any real arguments against Peak Oil. The data I have seen only tended to confirm my conclusion that we are at, or more likely past, peak production.

Greshams Law where the good drives out the bad. Its the Tragedy of the Internet.
it says something about you Nate that you would transpose your explanation of Gresham's Law... :)  wishful thinking perhaps!
Talosian slip?
Speaking of EB:  

Published on 10 Nov 2006 by Energy Bulletin. Archived on 10 Nov 2006.
An assessment of world oil exports
by Luís de Sousa


Four different periods can be identified:
*    2006 - 2010 : slow decline below 2%/year;
*    2011 - 2013 : first acceleration to a decline      rate above 3.5%/year;
*    2014 - 2017 : steady decline between 3.5%/year and 4%/year;
*    2018 - 2020 : new acceleration up 4.5%/year.

Once the amount oil available for export becomes lower than the amount required by the importing countries costs start to rise, forcing an abnormal wealth transfer from buyers to sellers. This newly acquired wealth will improve affluence in exporting countries, which in turn drives up internal consumption (better automobiles, better and farther away from center homes, more goods imports and transportation, etc). This feedback loop will perpetuate itself until some event or constraint tackles consumption growth in the exporters' side, or until the importers collapse from lack of new wealth to transfer. The former is the most likely scenario.

This is a very good article.  My only comment is that the projected decline rates are, IMO, too optimistic.  I suggest that PG make it the topic of a dedicated dicussion.

To PG's credit, he agreed to post my comment on this topic back in January.  In the past few months, I have been been on the receiving end of a pretty much nonstop attack by I would guess 75% or so of those commenting on my "Export Land" thesis--up to and including the most recent onslaught of attacks by Hothgor, with Robert constantly criticising my thesis in between the January post and Hothgor's attack.  

Anyone want to go back and review some of the comments you made back in January?  Sorry, but I am in a middle finger kind of mood right now, considering how early I was with this prediction--based on Khebab's work--and the onslaught of attacks that ensued.

Ya...I saw that article and thought of you WT.  It has a nice country by country analysis.
Know this is off topic but ... thanks for pointing this article out.  Not that I was particularly optimistic, but this makes me less so:

Available exports projected by Luís de Sousa minus Angola, Iraq, and Nigeria.
WT:  I read your export land model post back in January and thought you definitely had something.  The one thing that gives me pause is the uncertainty in the feedback loop causing increased consumption in exporters.

 If exports actually dropped as precipitously as the above plot shows, I can't imagine but the world economy tanking like, well, a tank thrown into the ocean.  If that happens, can individual export countries thrive economically in the face of world wide recession/depression?

On the other hand, if the above plot is remotely accurate, can we all agree we're f****d?
Hello Westexas,

With all the respect I can transmit in text:

I think you are vastly underestimating the depth and breadth of your TOD supporters because many of us avidly read your postings, but we do not always post specific replies of concordance.  Those innocently wishing more detail from you, or those wishing to intelligently debate the merits of your position [such as TODer R-squared] are useful to help you clarify and solidify your Peakoil position: not only in your own mind, but in the TODer community at large.  Please post away to your heart's content, and learn to let the spiteful remarks from others to slide off your back!

Your supporters intuitively feel that you are on the correct predictive track, yet it is mentally very hard for us to accept and deal with; to truly come to grips with our sad reality of the THERMO-GENE COLLISION.  Even if the Peakdate moves back to 2008 or later--it only gives humans that much more time to make the Overshoot situation more exponentially dire.

Your cause is just, and your advice for ELP is profound--Hold your head high!  If the world was rational, Pres. Carter's Sweater Speech  Powerdown proposals would be the default condition, and TODer AlanFromBigEasy would be swamped with funds for his RRs & mass-transit.  Understand instead the conundrum of my crude thesis, Shaw's Paradox:

Cornucopian Message helps bring the Peakdate sooner and a faster decline, Doomer Message delays the Peakdate later and helps mitigate decline.

[If you prefer: You may substitute 'Realist' for 'Doomer' as TODer Todd suggests]

TODer Hothgor should read the debates between you and R-squared in the archives to more clearly understand how civil debate is conducted, and model himself accordingly.  We will see if he can learn to conduct himself as a true gentleman [I believe he is making progress in this regard].

It is only natural for the "Peak 2005-2007" group of Westexas & Khebab, Darwinian, SS, Deffeyes, and Simmons, et al, to come under withering intellectual attack from the "Peak 2008-2012" and other future-dated Peak groups such as CERA/IHS or "Peakoil 2030".  Hold your ground by continuing to present data, graphs, references, sources, and reasoned conjecture.  Darwinian, Khebab, SS, Dave Cohen, Leanan, HO, and any others I forgot to mention will be powerful allies.  Just keep imagining yourself as overcoming the same hurdles as M. King Hubbert circa 1956 until he was data-validated in 1971 onward.

If the "Peak 2005-2007 Group" is truly correct: it maybe 2010-2012, or even later before the rear-view mirror data is universally accepted as obvious in hindsight.  I submit to you and other TODers that the Peakoil date-debate has only just begun, and will get much more vociferous unless good behavior is required by all the debating factions.

I additionally submit that Yergin is akin to "Tinkerbelle" and hand-waving magic, and his refusal to accept ASPO-USA's generous offer to free debate at the Boston Conference has severely injured his scientific credibility amongst many PeakOilers, IMO.  Similarly, Dave Cohen's open-ended invitation to CERA/IHS to do the same here on TOD has been met only with their silence.  No cojones, as they could easily afford to dedicate an expert staffer towards this end.  Vinod Khosla at least took this step, and R-squared and other TODers thanked him for his willingness to debate here on TOD.

Us TODers are made of sterner stuff; we are much more courageous in the face of our deepest fears:  the hesitant, but probing scientific inquiry into the "Peak 2005-2007 group" is akin to a generous welcome of the 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse'into our midst--we really want to take a good, close-up, and  early look at what might be saddling up to remake our global landscape.

No family ever chooses to picnic in a cemetary--we should be extremely proud of our TODer willingness to do so.  Sadly, I think it is the least we can do for all the thousands and thousands of coal & oil & natgas industry workers killed in explosions, and all the millions and millions of helpless children that perish in our Tragedy of the Commons.  This thought alone should make us all very circumspect and polite in our postings.

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

toteneila...that is a great post and a worthy tribute to WT's contributions.

I would like to add that if true Peak is anywhere between 2005-2012, the arguementation to pin it down any closer is really mute.  We need to get on with contingency plans.  

In other words, I believe we all would be wise to implement WT's ELP advice sooner than later if PO is within that range.

Thanks for the kind words, but IMO a lot of the stuff I have been posting of late has been pretty repeitive, partly because I seem to keep having the same argument over and over again with a series of cornucopians passing through town, so to speak.  I'm sure it's getting tiresome for everyone.
Just to emphasize Bob Shaw's point from someone who mostly just lurks here at TOD: westexas, your contributions are immensely valuable and appreciated. The first comment I ever bookmarked was one of yours about measuring economic activity in BTUs. It's possible you've said it dozens of times, but the one time I happened across it, it created a shift in my understanding.

Beyond your obviously extensive knowledge is your patience and commitment -- patience suffering fools, and commitment with newbies. Your efforts, like the other stalwart contibutors and editors here, make this site the valuable resource that it is.

If there's any suggestion I could pass along, it would be to  take care of yourself and do your best not to get burned out.

I find it ironic and somewhat creepy that sometimes this crowd is ROOTING for Peak Oil to be 2005-2007 instead of 2008-2012.  The later the better folks. Much later much better - Id much prefer to be wrong and viewed a Cassandra than have to adjust my life that rapidly.
Hello Nate Hagens,

Thxs for responding.

I don't think anyone is rooting for the Energy Fiesta to end, but many of us feel that time is running out on making other wholesale and peaceful arrangements.  At least, this is my primary concern.

Think of us readers who await future postings or speeches from the Peak 2005-2007 group as those positioned closest and most alert to the detection of the first whiffs of smoke in a crowded movie theater.

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

Sorry, I completely disagree.  Given that there are X actual barrels underground, I'd just as soon we save as many of them as possible for the future and never burn them.  I have only guesses for when production actually peaks, but the lower the peak and the shallower the downslope, the better IMHO.

Of course, my wife, kids, and I have done a lot to prepare, so our adjustments won't be that bad.  ELP is the way forward.

Given that there are X actual barrels underground, I'd just as soon we save as many of them as possible for the future and never burn them.

But what if we use the next Y barrels to build a sustainable infra structure ? (i.e. wind/wave/PV/Solar thermal) Sill don't want to use those Y barrels?

Just keep imagining yourself as overcoming the same hurdles as M. King Hubbert circa 1956 until he was data-validated in 1971 onward.

just like to put here that any of the mesures here people are planning on controling the comments would end up banning hubbert as a troll because he did not jive with the common view.

I disagree.  People are not considered trolls because they don't jive with the common view.  They are considered trolls because they get abusive and personal.  

If the problem was people who "don't jive with the common view," you'd expect the biggest flamewar to be between a rabid doomer and a rabid cornucopian.  Instead, the current brouhaha is basically between someone who thinks peak oil is now vs. someone who thinks peak oil is a couple of years from now.  The problem isn't the beliefs, it's the way they are expressed.  

I agree with that statement.

I find that reading TOD is sometimes exhausting and too time consuming! there is just too much too read and too much redundancy.

TOD is facing particular challenges that probably no other blogs/forums are facing. We are trying to accumulate knowledge and some kind of collective wisdom but with a very dynamic and fragmentary format that has a very short memory span. Most blog are event oriented, each story is self-contained. On TOD, there is an incremental process where each story builds or relates to previous stories.

I think that a comment rating system similar to the Daily Kos or Slashdot  could be very useful in order to filter the crap and reduce noise.

Khebab, thank you! You prodded my memory on something that has been lurking since Stuart went MIA. Stuart had the habit of linking related stories so a reader had an easy way to go back to the beginning of a set of related posts. Would it be possible for TOD to create a subject index where each article author would build lists of related links, listed in chronological sequence, so that a reader could then choose to follow the entire discussion from the beginning? Could that index then be linked to each new main post so that someone could see "the story thus far" so to speak?

 I would like to second GreyZone's suggestion re linked list indexing of related articles. I just saw Westexas' mention of economic activity measured in BTUs and this will be critical information for any PO response. Linked articles would help pull this information together across a series of posts.


They have a minimal index for Stuart's peak series and for HO's tutorials but there are many other related articles that could be grouped under a single heading.
Excellent post PG,

My two cents for what its worth.

I come here for the insightful discussions of oil, gas and energy related topics I can't find other places.  I contribute only when I think I have something of value to share.

TOD can live without my comments.  I am in favor of allowing the people who run this site to arbitrarily banish (or silence) those posters who don't adhere to the accepted rules of the site.  If that is me, so be it, I can still read the comments.

Lately it is a pain wading through all the mean spirited comments just to get to some data or new ideas posed for discussion.  Most of the positions have been stated multiple times in the past and there is still no way to predict accurately what is coming next year.  This site should not be about who can win an argument.  

It should be about rigorously investigating and bringing to light all the valid positions of topics.  If that is done, than everyone can make up there own mind about what the reality is of a particular subject.  

The key is scrupulously vetting all the data sets to make sure all are equally valid.  How valid is the data cited?  Who is citing it?  Can it be independantly verified?  Is the source known for propaganda to achieve ends?  Was the scientific method used to gather the data?  Is old data being used in predictions when new, different data, is available?  

These questions are what TOD is really about.  What is fact and what is ficton, and which one is being used to underpin policy or business decisions.  Skepticism and open mindness of all positions is required.  Posts (and posters) that don't contribute to this goal are a waste of space and everyones energy.  Weed them out.

May I point out that Leanan already functions as a moderator of sorts and that she is extraordinarily fine in that role?
Her ability to defuse tension and reintroduce a touch of commonsense, with minimal or no ruffling of feathers, is most valued.
Of course she is not always here. And probably doesn't want to  overdo or change what she currently does.
As a minimal step that might address some of the problems without changing what has been an unusually productive status quo, I suggest some of the other staff might try very lightly steering discussions, short short comments, when they happen to be online. Or perhaps coded flags or stripes in the left margin indicating that a staffer has looked over a thread and suggests that it's long, unproductive, off-topic, or short of the best of TOD.
There would be no need to review and flag content constantly. Just a small group of people empowered to flag, if they wish to. And then you find out if posters take heed.
Just a suggestion. My guess is that few would want to perpetuate a thread flagged as boring. No one would want to be caught in a discussion suddenly and independently flagged by two staffers as repetitious. But no coercive control and very little mechanism would be required.
You certainly may point that out and I am appreciative of the excellent job Leanan does everyday.

She's the bomb and has some nice graphics on occasion.  She also has a wicked sixth sense for news.  
Like others, I have learned an incredible amount from this site, primarily from major contributors (I sure miss Stuart for example) but also from the ensuing comment/questions/answers discussion.

Like others, I have learned proportionately less as the months have gone by, especially due to emotional rantings, unsubstantiated opinions closely held and angrily argued, and material that seems far from the point. There is still enough good information and insight to keep me coming back, but my addiction is growing less powerful.

We are our own enemy when we get sucked into nonproductive arguments and then perpetuate them, like the recent religious discussion that went on forever. Our first line of defense is to IGNORE people once the discussion is stale or if it has become personal. Otherwise, I favor some power of the moderator to decide whether to place something in a "trash" thread, set up separate threads for politics, post-peak survival, transportation issues, alternative energy threads, etc. I hate to lose all of the give-and-take, but it has to be managed. I favor people being dropped after one or two warnings for uncivil personal attacks, or for essentially "spamming" a thread with repetetive unproductive comments. Civil disagreement needs to be preserved, however, or we lose the point.

Sorry to make this so long myself, best wishes and thanks so much for the incredibly valuable resource this has been.


First Post.  Have lurked for years.  Read all new posts, close to a quarter of drumbeat articles, and probably about half of all comments.  Like everyone else I have noticed more "noise" lately, and as peakearl said, it does make it less productive.  However, I personally do not see it as a big problem.  One of the attractions here is the civility of the discourse.  Compared to many other forums it is amazingly civil given the subject and number of commenters.  Maybe there is merit in dealing with the increased irrelevant sniping before it escalates further.  If so, my suggestion is to be as gentle as possible.

I like the idea that oldhippie sets forth.  Something very innocuous, if it is technically feasible.  Don't get too heavy handed with blocking and censoring unless it becomes absolutely necessary to protect the integrity of the discussion.  Sometimes that can be counter productive.  Like a wounded animal, a pissed off troll may become more dangerous.

Just a thought from a longtime lurker who thoroughly enjoys this place and has utmost respect and gratitude for all who make it happen.

Thank you!

Not to be too insulting....

But, really, these threads are not that important, are they?

I come here primarily for the articles and updates.

Well, that's a good point: the Drum Beat is a good place for people to let off steam ... only if they don't get too carried away.

Now, as to the subject of trolls: as best I can gather, trollism is largely in the eye of the beholder, though some of the more extreme and annoying posters can probably be legitimately and solidly  characterized as trolls without much argument.  

What is a troll?  The currently accepted informal definition is a bit broad, but it generally has a connotation of a person who has malicious intent but who pretends to constructively participate in a website, only to wreak havoc by posting insulting, disruptive, and irrelevant material in the hope of screwing things up. A troll often pretends to be someone who he/she is not.  A troll is a skunk at the garden party, a turd in the punch bowl, a spoiler, a party-pooper, a pain-in-the-ass.

If someone is obnoxious and contentious and agrees with you, then you would not likely consider him to be a troll. But if he is equally obnoxious and contentious and disagrees with you, then you would likely consider him a troll. That's part of the problem in getting rid of trolls: who does the deciding? The 'decider'?

If someone challenges your objectivity to comment on certain things, then that person is subject to being called a troll.  We all have our own opinions and prejudices, and the one who gets there first has the privilege of calling all the rest that follow, a troll.

We all have a bit of troll in us. As an obscure itinerant preacher named Jesus once said, "He who has never exhibited trollism cast the first turd."

I really do think the problem with the Drum
Beat getting clogged up is not so much a question of trollism, but rather a matter of people not exercising enough discipline when they post. One should ask: i) is what I am about to post contributing anything?, ii) is it repetitive to what has already been posted?, iii) does it have any relevance to the general subject of Peak OIl and what to do about it?, and iv) am I doing this just to see myself talk and to feel good about myself, or am I actually contibuting to the general debate?

Not everything that can be said needs to be said.

So, I myself will try to practice what I preach and will from here in out keep a low posting profile (or perhaps none).  But when I do, and if I piss somebody off, I will not allow myself to be painted as a troll.

I don't care if I wrinkle some feathers now and then.  If the TOD becomes an inbred mutual admiration society of like-minded current and ex-oil people, then what the hell good is it? If you eliminate all the 'trolls', then what you will have left is one big circle-jerk  of mutually reinforced viewpoints descending in a spiral of ever decreasing radius.

What we DO need to do is the limit the length of some of these posts. Some people appear to have no concept of summarization.

Also, PLEASE don't be repetitive. If you've said it once, and nobody has gotten all hot and bothered over it, then let it lie. Don't beat a dead horse.

And by all means: DON'T be tedious and boring ... the worst sin of all.

As Jesus once said, "He who has never exhibited trollism, let him cast the first turd."
Almost the opposite. The threads are the community part & usually help me -a limited technical reader- understand.
PG - so I've read what your wrote twice - I've never done that before.  And you have no charts!  I've not read any of the comments - cos life is just too short.

what we are doing every day here at TOD is difficult--and the people here do amazing things on a daily basis to make it work.

First up I've learned more here on TOD in the last 6 months than I did in the last 16 years - so that's worth remembering.

Trust - the SheWolf - who is off in Dublin and Edinburgh this week, is more qulaified than I to comment on this and one day I'll persuade her to write some guest posts. However, my general understanding is that the UK has drifted from a high trust society towards a low trust society. This is a complex issue involving public empowerment and the media and politics.  Making TOD a high trust media outlet is in my opinion a priority.

With respect to posters comments - I have learned a lot form posters - which I was myself until several weeks ago.  But equally - it is problematic to sort out wheat from chaff - on oil and gas reserves and production issues I am on firmer ground - but whan it comes to electricity, hydrogen, electric cars etc - the ground seems to be quite mobile.  And I would also admit to posting some stuff I wish I haden't posted (especially when I see the spelling mistakes in the morning).  I think it is admirable to not have deleted anything thus far - more than admirable infact.

So where is this mini ramble going?

My own involvement here can be summarised in many ways, but let me say this.

All our main political parties support expanding airport infrastructure - these parties are all green! In London this week I listened to a former British Airways Captain outline strategies for conserving fuel - why?  I heard a Shell reservoir engineer say that no one would be flying in 10 years - so why are we debating this?

Our political parties have now become Schitzophrenic (don't give a toss about the spelling) - they want to reduce green house gas emissions (in fact from now on I'm going to use fonetik spelling) - and yet they want to lay the foundations for the next phase of fossil fuel led economic growth.  

Quite simply I want our UK politicians to acknowledge the problems that face us (energy shortage, energy insecurity, and the melting of the arctic ice cap) and to start implementing policies to tackle these problems - instead of saying one thing and doing another.

Well that was a fine wee rant.  I would also like to pay tribute to all the TOD staff - folks, you need to remember that SuperG keeps all this stuff running behind the scenes.

We do things because they are hard, not because they are easy - I'm in for the long haul and learned that TOD was a rough environment from some of my first posts.  So we need to retain the spirit of "piss off you ignorant b*" to see if folks pass the test - balanced against reaching a wider audience.

Evolution not revolution?

aka Euan Mearns
ps its 12:25 here in Aberdeen

This was frankly inevitable.  TOD is still the best site I've ever been to, and I can say with all seriousness that I have learned more here than I could have possibly imagined.  The level of discussion is generally very impressive, and the level of knowledge even more so.  But the noise level has been growing too, and it will have to be defended if the site is to avoid being ruined.

I have one idea for how to do that - stop commenting.  For every comment you're tempted to write, ask yourself how important it really is.  Consider it over and over, and unless  you really think it will be of extreme relevance, don't do it.  I say this with some misgiving, as I have learned much from waht are really side-bar comments.  And I also know how strong the drive is to engage in the conversation - but it is a choice of reducing the noise or having the signal swamped out entirely.

So if you care about TOD, then police yourselves.  You really can enjoy it silently - I reduced my comments from several a day to maybe once a month, and I still find it of great value.  The main difference now is that there are a lot more comments where I wish people would have refrained!    

  You have not posted much recently, your input I often disagree with but is always well stated.  Rest assured you are not "noise".


I appreciate that, and the respectful disagreements we've had in the past - but I'll have to disagree again!  Most of my past comments were noise - too little technical content, too much opinion, too off topic.  It can't help but interfere with the efforts of others trying to understand the core issues.  
Maybe but seeing someone passionately defend a point sometimes conveys the importance of the issue.  I don't agree with suicide bombers but they make the point they are willing to die for a cause.  If stephen hawkings books only had technical points they would be boring but he is passionate about physics in a creative way non-nerds can understand.  If all TOD has is undulating graphs and current outputs of various fields the color and richness would not be there.  I think some of the side conversations that randomly crop up are often more interesting than the original posts.  Much like most good college classes you learn more in the discussions than from the book.

Vote RICE 2008!


While I agree that hostile commenst and way off topics posts have damaged the comments here, I am worried that the remedies are worse than the illness.

A rating system is going to be a popularity contest. Why even bother, I can give you the ratings now. Westtexas will get a five and anyone who argues with him more than once will get a zero and soon be banned.

I think that the negative posters are in one of two categories:

  1. Old timers who hate everyone else's off topic posts, but can't keep within the bound themsselves sometimes. I am probably one of them. I think a little guidance by the site editors that certain things are inappropriate would straighten them out.

  2. Hit and runnners, who come and go and hence aren't much of a problem

So at the end, I think the solution is community policing. But it is going to be very, very hard. I think we all know what is off topic or insulting when we see it. But we don't when we do it ourselves. Everyone is guilty including some TOD contributors.

At the end of the day, I would ease off the paranioa - no one is paid or is trying to detroy TOD - and realize the there is a real danger of confusing popularity and appropriateness.

Good luck with whatever you do.  I agree this is important and will look forward to efforts to improve the discussion and plan to be supportive.

 As Jack says,'But it is going to be very, very hard. I think we all know what is off topic or insulting when we see it. But we don't when we do it ourselves.'
 Thanks for standing up to the plate Prof Goose!
Something gentle-directing ;then firm & conclusive.
Leannan does a great job with confronting; Stuart used to occasionally as well. A little goes a long way!
well could we have the normal serious discussions and a "romper room"  for the children (and adults that refuse to grow up) for trading insults  making fun of gwb arguments about religion(since these are tangentially connected to p/o)
Well, I'll try not to be redundant, after reading over 186 posts.

I like the feel of a coffee shop or pub where one might hear the odd random comment or even heretical or occasional off-topic comment. This also is a kind of richness and makes for learning.

However, moderation in some form seems to me to be very needed.  The less intrusive the form of moderation, the better -- but it certainly is needed to help reduce the noise. has a nice format to their site also, BTW.

I think moderating will be the key.  Whatever techno-changes or re-packaging might be helpful too, but I think finding ways of moderating is vital.

Also, does the term "viral marketing" ring a bell?  I hadn't seen it referenced so far, but it seems to be a real and insidious form of planting memes without revealing one's intent or identity.

I believe that any heavy-handed moderation would be counter productive. Formatting changes might be helpful to let readers  more easily skip over long threads which seem irrelevant or distasteful.

A better approach to improving the tone would be for folks to refrain from responding at all to posts which are inappropriate except to note that they are such--posting into thin air gets old after awhile. Second, do not recapitulate a heated discussion from the previous day in a long summary post. What is the purpose? To get in the last word? To make sure that people just tuning in don't get any bad ideas in their head? There are lots of differences of opinion here regarding Peak timing, Peak strategies, and Peak consequences, and I don't believe anyone can claim to know all the answers. We are in uncharted territory.

Second, do not recapitulate a heated discussion from the previous day in a long summary post.

I second that.  Leave the debate in the thread it started in.  There's no need to re-post it to a fresh thread.  

Maybe it's just me and maybe I just haven't been posting/lurking much lately but why don't you guys just have some type of fundraiser and use the money to a trusted moderate to act as an "enforcer"? If in the enforcer's opinion the person is here to cause trouble then he/she bans their ass. Maybe have a three strikes and your out policy.

Hell we don't even need to know who the person is, they can just have the handle of "TheEnforcer." I just got one of my board members to act as what I call the "board overlord." If somebody acts up she has the right to ban his or her ass as well as send them the aforementioned jpeg attachment of the "blindingly white ass of doom" (tm) to make sure they don't come back round town any more.

Moderators,owners ,et al  :

I think that TOD is exactly as it should be and remain so.
Its sucessful as it is and thats the proof in the pudding IMO.

I firmly believe that within the area of a DEFINED topic , not an open thread DrumBeat, that comment that are OT and tend to stray into other areas should not be allowed. That the topic and comments should remain fairly oncourse and that it would be time for the contributor/author to insist upon that course.

Drum Beats seem to be a different animal I discovered and in fact do not IMO detract from the defined topic but allow them the freedom to go their own course.

Its easy for a interested party to skip the Drum Beats but if they elect to browse them they should not protest that they detract. They simply can make use of the defined topics and skip the rest(drum beats).

I think Drum Beats allow many to express themselves on topics that range further afield yet do have use.

Therefore I clicked on YOUR COMMENTS on the home page and discovered, as I knew, that almost all of my comments are within the confines of Drum Beats except for the odd on here and there on Defined Topics in which case I thought my commets were very much on track.

I realize that in the heated debates that ensue that I am guilty of much coarser language than I would prefer to use. Yet I become incensed and made very much of one whom I considered a troll for he was obviously using other material I had mentioned in other topics to make personal attacks.

One who sits back watchign and chips away constantly and lies in wait for each comment you make is to me the epitomy of a classic troll.

If you perceive I am a troll then I will make the offer I made earlier on when I was a new member at this site. Delete my membership. I will still read and browse the site but will not be able to make posts.

I am not familiar with oil technology. I am a farmer and worked in many fields but primarily rocketry , electronics and programming.

I find the TOD site to be one of my set of websites I usually visit daily.

I have expressed my admiration for its existance in the past. That still stands but I would personally see it remain the same as it now is.

Self policing is IMO the best policy for the net. Trashing a website though should not be allowed. One or two warnings and then deletion of the userid.

Again if I am guilty in the view of the owners or moderators then delete my userid. I am not asking for verification one way or the other and not seeking it.

Allow me to continue to post or not. Your choice. I will not assume another id. I have been told that my views are heretical in nature by my friend.

One last point. If a poster were to state that he is a Christian or a Bush supporter or one of several other despised types then you find out real quick just how much venom can be directed at you(not me personally but I observe such often). This is very obvious by the lack of some good manners and courtesy. Some of the hate here seems to run very very deep and is not conducive to civility. Why is that? Frankly I tired recently of hearing the USA roundly condemned and spoke about it. Same for the rest. Closed mindness is surely not something that is upheld here yet seems to flourish in many cases. Again , why is that?


P.S. In summary: Keep it as is. Drum Beat serves a useful purpose. Those who eschew it just simply don't need to click on it. Stick to the 'defined topics areas'.

So....what do we do now?  Hold a vote or hope for a benevolent dictator to decide all this?

There are always going to be people to whom peak oil is a new concept, and the usual first reaction is denial.  Oftentimes the denial is quite violent (in a verbal sense).  I wonder how much of the trolling that you talk about is really just denial.

I have to confess though that I don't really read the comments very much any more.  Kind of busy with work and a new girlfriend.  I notice that a lot of the stories have a lot of comments, but I don't delve into the details and just read the stories.

I can provide these insights however.  Dailykos has had similar issues, and they have several different mechanisms that are used to help keep some amount of control.

One is that there is a concept of allowing the community to rate comments.  Comments that have an overall rating below a certain point are "hidden" from normal users.  And users with a sufficient number of highly rated comments become "trusted users" and they can still see hidden comments (and can select whether they want to see them or not).  If the troll-like comments are hidden from the vast majority of users, then

The second and more drastic measure is to ban users who simply refuse to behave in a civil fashion.   Nobody wants to be the heavy who has to do this, but the fact that the possibility of banning exists will serve to temper a lot of the bad behavior.

BTW I have recently been thinking the no edit feature was intentional-mean what you say,say what you mean & you can't take it back.
Dear profG (and other editors):

I'm tuned with you; the excellence of TOD is at peril with the new found fame. It is something we should expect but always terrible when it knocks on your door.

Just some suggestions:

. I do not favor the comments rating - the ill intended people will still have a way of creating entropy;

. I do not favor the thread less posts - it steals the TOD spirit (although some special cases might justify it);

. I do favor the deletion of entropic comments;

. I do favor comment moderation - although that would oblige TOD editors to review all comments and steal away the "real-time" interaction.

We should never forget that we are heretics, for whom the fire or the lapidation are the most likely ends.

This topic finally pushed me to register, so thank you for that and thank you to all those dedicated posters that have educated me over the last month, especially Engineer Poet whose own blog lead me here.

I have not posted before because I had little knowledge about the oil industry but I have plenty of experience watching the rise and fall of various internet based fora and I want to offer my thoughts as they apply to TOD.

Firstly, I would not bother thinking about technical solutions to manage the discussion until you can actually clarify the purpose of the site - the best solution will reflect the purpose.

To me, "Discussions about Energy and our Future" is so broad that people can justifiably shoehorn any topic, including religion, into the debate without stretching logic too much. This is no big deal when numbers are small as it's nice to range widely but, like a dinner party, it is easy to be sidetracked from something important never to return! If you try to be all things to all people, your workload and aggravation levels will increase exponentially with popularity and you will burn out and give it up. I guarantee it, because I've seen it happen again and again.

So what do you want TOD to be? Answer this first and the solutions become clear.

An exposition of your own(or invited) views on things?
Answer: Keep the blog, ditch the comments because TOD exists solely for your view on things. Use the blog to call for additional commentary you may want. Then there is no work other than researching and constructing your posts and deciding which guest contributions you will publish.

A resource to inform the interested but ignorant?
Answer: Ditch the blog and build a website and/or wiki. This will allow you to structure information in a meaningful way and you avoid people seeing old or incorrect information. A blog is completely the wrong solution if this is what you want to do.

Provide for discussions between members of the public?
Set up a discussion board so that you can control things without too much time or effort. As has been pointed out, there are incredibly well developed packages available to provide this specific capacity. A blog with comments is absolutely the wrong solution for this and CANNOT be managed effectively no matter how hard you try. The best message board software allows you to:
-create sub-boards to structure discussions, say(based on TOD history) PO timing calculations, Oil replacement options, Energy policy/ politics, The nature of humanity, Random garbage.
-create hierarchy of memberships so that once members prove bona fides they can post on, say PO timing. This separates the dregs from the most important discussions.
-shift off-topic posts to correct sub-board or threads and easily apply(or threaten) bans or suspensions based on username, IP address etc
-flexible layouts
-sticky topics
-Private messaging without email
-View only new posts since last visit
-Effective search! and more.

Provide a portal to specialist websites/blogs?
Ditch the blog and build a website and/or wiki so that you can provide structure and advice on the purpose/quality/style/usability of links.

Provide an all singing, all dancing experience?
Build a website that incorporates specialist software to meet each specialist information need. No web software can do everything you need but all of them can do a lot of things badly and inefficiently if you try hard enough.

The possiblities for this site seem endless but your time and resources are not. Be clear on what you want, constantly remind people of what that is(including yourself), pick the right technical solution and unwaveringly cull activity(or a poster) that doesn't fit. This will give you a fighting chance to keep the site going without destroying your motivation and lives.  I hope at least some of that made sense and good luck.

Your suggestions make a lot of sense, El Toro. Better to decide what one wants to do before talking about technology.

I favor your first suggestion:

An exposition of your own (or invited) views on things
Keep the blog, ditch the comments because TOD exists solely for your view on things. Use the blog to call for additional commentary you may want. Then there is no work other than researching and constructing your posts and deciding which guest contributions you will publish.
What is unique about TOD is the depth of knowledge and the quality of the essays. If there is an easy way to ensure comments of high quality, then that would be good. Otherwise, I would like to see the energy of the TOD folks spent on research and writing, not in managing forums.

Besides, already provides lightly moderated forums. Much of the discussion on the TOD threads could move over there. There's no point in duplicating functions.

P.S. Thanks to westexas and Dave Cohen for the kind words!  


   Having read 259 comments, many of which were off topic, I think even the discussion is an exercise in futility. The data, which is excellent and hard to come by, is what brings most serious readers back. Ignore the people who do not contribute to that data flow and ignore excessive verbosity. (Hows that for a word?) It will not be salubrious for anyone who criticises my english.
If you're interested in exploring one interpretation of the philosophy of heretics etc, you could do worse than read Robert Pirsig's two books 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and 'Lila' (which have a wealth of PO relevant material, I suggest, most particularly in the cultural relationship to technology, and the blindspot western culture has with regard to religion/values questions).

In 'Zen' Pirsig has a long discussion on 'heretics', and uses a classroom example from his own experience, when, for a term, he abandoned the grading system, ie trusted the students. He also writes about how he much preferred teaching the 'heretics'.

But more fundamentally, in 'Lila', he describes a philosophy built around two terms, static and dynamic, which I feel give a very useful language for describing the problems you face. In other words, how to maintain a dynamic environment (free flow of information) without it degenerating into chaos - ie how to 'static latch' all the breakthroughs and insights, eg from comment threads, without at the same time throttling off the environment in which those dynamic breakthroughs can be made.

For what it's worth, I think the great value of TOD is as much the articles as anything else; by and large I've given up reading the comments. Another commenter above said that good comments could have their own thread. Seems a good way forward.

Well, to throw out an opinion from several days ago, which was not posted, since it seemed to miss the point then.

One thing happening is that the various true believers (and if you prefer another term, please apply one that is as complimentary or insulting as you wish) are finding their beliefs to be more important than discussion with people who do not share their beliefs.

Absolutely normal, a part of human discourse, one of the things we clearly enjoy when not taken to extremes - and being normal, we all think the other person is more extreme than ourselves.

TOD comes from an academic background (tending towards hard science more than otherwise), and uses that framework in general when discussing or investigating a very complex theme.

The information, viewpoints, and opinions are valuable, but as always, the problem of signal to noise is part of the world we live in. And in the fact that various methods or perspectives really do not intersect.

I would almost propose a reduction in the open threads (themselves a response to a problem), in the same way that ripping up roads seems to reduce traffic. Not a total shutdown, but a definite reduction.

And while on topic, so to speak, the current threading of the comments tends to cause information to fracture over time - in a sense, this is an unavoidable problem, but the thread structure is certainly not improving things.

Good luck with moderation if that is the road taken - it eats up a lot of time, is definitely imperfect, and in the end, doesn't solve the problem of people, which is what is to be expected in an imperfect world.

One thing happening is that the various true believers (and if you prefer another term, please apply one that is as complimentary or insulting as you wish) are finding their beliefs to be more important than discussion with people who do not share their beliefs.

I wouldn't put it that way.  And I don't think it has anything to do with extremism.  

Rather, it's what I think of as "It was the clone" syndrome.  When I first got on the net, one of my interests was a British SF show called Blake's 7.  The last episode of the series showed the title character being killed, causing great angst among the fans.  

Now, said character was shown to have been cloned in an episode years earlier.  And so, on B7 mailing lists/newsgroups/message boards, you'd have newbies breathlessly posting, "What if that wasn't the real Blake?  What if it was the clone!???"  They'd be all excited at this brilliant idea, and so proud of themselves for thinking of it.  Of course, the veterans had all thought of it themselves, years ago, and discussed it ad infinitum.  There were dozens of fanfic stories using the idea, and even a pro novel or two.  So the veterans would post something sarcastic and cutting in response, or just ignore him.  And the poor newb would get all upset that no one appreciated his ideas, and complain that the group was cliquish and unfriendly.  

It wasn't a matter of being a true believer or not; it was fiction, so there was no "truth."  And they weren't just being unfriendly.  They were just tired unto death of that particular discussion, and didn't want to have it again.

I think that's what's happening here.  Many of us have been here awhile.  We've debated it all before.  Many are set in their positions, not because they refuse to consider other viewpoints, but because they already have.

The way dealt with this problem was to set up a forum just for newbies. People who don't have the patience to deal with the 20th "Did you see this study proving oil is abiotic?" post can simply stay away.

Good points, but I meant the growth of a true believer in the sense that there are people who are empiricists (however defined - this is not a precise discussion) and those who are believers.

Speaking broadly, academics respect facts, and struggle about the interpretation of those facts. Believers use facts which support their beliefs, and dismiss facts which don't. The facts themselves are not what is given value, it is their place in a belief which is important. Obviously, being human, all of us do this sometimes, whether academics, engineers, or whatever.

And this is where TOD started to run into some difficulty. At this point, discussion often goes far afield from the empirical, discussing points because of beliefs, not because of new information.

Of course, peak oil is a very wide ranging subject, and new perspectives may at first glance not seem to fit well into a discussion.

But having a discussion with a believer when you don't share their beliefs and they don't respect facts, becomes unproductive. For example, the citing of sources remains an academic trait, but the number of sources cited in many of these discussions continues to decline - because they are not really discussions which lend themselves to factual frameworks. Though relevant to peak oil, the tendency of humans to be good or bad, in the end, is not a factual discussion, it is one of belief.

A concrete case can be made in this sense in the timing of peak - the facts remain the basis of the discussion, and when the facts change, beliefs are also forced to change. But if someone refuses to accepts facts ('fact' is also a slippery subject itself) while holding to their beliefs, discussion becomes barren or distracted.

In a way, this is also a discussion of what is at the center of TOD - its soul, perhaps? - facts discussed in a rigorous framework, or a 'community?' If a community, how to handle members with different beliefs which are not compatible?

Odd as it sounds, this too is one of the problems with academics/scholars/scientists - over the long term, their framework has brought great benefit, but any truly new idea (water on Earth being replenished by house sized comets which strike the atmosphere constantly) often requires the previous generation of academics to die out. Trying to create a long term framework on the short term basis of the Internet is also an interesting challenge, which academics at least understand in terms of sharing information widely, and archiving.

And yet...the current problem is over facts.  In particular, which ones to use.  Crude and condensate or all liquids, or something else?  People have gotten amazingly heated over this.  
Yes they have, and that is one reason that 'facts' is itself a topic open to much discussion.

I wish TOD a lot of luck - its run has already been longer than many, and the open threads certainly solved a problem, which agains leads to problems.

Amusing, in a way - you might just say this is just another real time proof that increasing complexity leads to collapse as the time and energy isn't available to maintain that state, while I would say that all things end anyways.

However, I'm sure we would both be pleased if a long term solution which satisifies most if not all readers could be found, as TOD is a valuable resource itself. And one of the reasons it is so valuable is that facts are still considered worth more than opinions, certainly for the contributions, and the open threads allow ideas to grow in the presence of facts, without being smothered by them - not all 'facts' turn out to be true, after all, even if everybody knows they are true (old ontology lesson - the definition of knowledge is 'justified true belief' - 'facts' don't exist per se, though reality does - and yes, this was an attack against logical positivists by people attempting to return human thought, such as metaphor as a way to expand knowledge, to the center of inquiry, against what seemed a mechanically fixed system based on assumptions which denied much of what humans value since such couldn't be quantified).

Unfortunately, I am more a critic than creative, and there is nothing much positive to add to how TOD can handle the challenges - Slashdot has its moderation system, which was a decent attempt to deal with its problems using software, but the first version pre-karma was better than all the attempts to handle later problems. (Actually, there was a time to judge comment qualities simply by user name, but that was a long time ago - TOD still has that, since it is small enough.)

In any human system, the problem always seems to come back to being us.

I don't think TOD grasps it's predicament.  Consider the productive post AlanfromBigEasy made on Wednesday September 13, 2006:

I will point out that a developing nation, with 91 million people (mostly rural) and only 3% of the US's 2005 GNP, backward technology, managed to build subways in it's major cities and electric urban rail in most towns of 25,000 or more.  Over 500 cities and towns in just 19 years !

That nation ?

The United States of America from 1897 to 1916.

and the editorial response by TOD:

Sorry, I don't think something we did while we while on the upslope of the resource peak can be compared to what it will be like on the downslope...with a population more than three times larger and much fewer resources to go around.

A big part of the problem will be Tainter's diminishing returns.  You see it even with highways.  We could not build another Interstate system now.  Building a new road (or railroad, or subdivision) on  forest or farmland is relatively cheap and easy.  Retrofitting it into existing development is a huge PITA.

I asked at that point:

Are our various resource peaks really that synchronized?

and recieved this:

No.  We're probably past peak on almost everything, but as long as you have cheap energy, you can import or create substitutes. Which is what we've been doing.

Fact based argument?  I choke on the words.

(And don't even play the game that an Editor is not an Editor.  When folks show up, read the sidebar, and then scan the text for editorial position, they see that we are "past peak on almost everything.)

To stay somewhat on topic - a discussion on the nature of facts is itself a problem, which is why I often placed the word in apostrophes.

I think part of the problem, and this is my opinion, not a fact, is that different perspectives are having an increasing difficulty in reconciling beliefs and 'facts.'

And in such a completely murky area as oil, facts are slippery.

I may add, in part, academic discussion does believe in correct and incorrect - whether other participants agree to this is not considered that important. Sometimes, this academic attitude is necessary - for example, in rejecting religious explanations for physical processes (to use a fictional example from a 50s SF novel - since the first rainbow only appeared after the Flood, no light could have ever been refracted in the Earth's atmosphere before that point a scientist is told by a bishop - the monks are almost insulted at their visitor's relief when he discovers they also reject such blind orthodoxy). And the process can be wrong, as for example the medical 'fact' accepted for generations that ulcers were caused by something other than an easily treated bacteria.

There are many "tensions" in play at TOD, and they are often left unspoken, elephants in the room.

I'd say one tension is between numeric arguments surrounding Hubbert's Curve, and then non-numeric arguments that extend beyond that.

That is the difference, IMO, between "peak oil" and "peak everything."

So sure, facts and beliefs, mixed together.  That's what makes this site.

... but what's the mission again?

Well, the subtitle/tagline of the site has been changed once already, and I guess more changes are coming down the pike.
Do you suppose this Kurt Cobb essay will be linked into the discussion?
There is nothing stopping such an article from being presented/linked in an open thread now - and it was worth reading, thanks - though the reactions it may engender could be wide ranging, and not necessarily fitting into what a number of people believe.
Your answer implies that a heretic would have to post it ;-), and I agree.  I'm not interested in being the heretic's heretic ... so I'll amuse myself by waiting and watching.
There are plenty of comments here and I haven't read all of them, so apologies if anyone has already covered this. I'm sure a lot of people here read Realclimate. The posts on that are always on topic and no BS is tolerated - and this on a site that attracts a lot of disinformation and ignorance from climate change deniers, paid or otherwise.

So the question is: how do they keep things under control at RC?

However, the thing is it's pretty much data only and data-haggling at RC, and this would, in fairness, cut out a lot of the 'stars' of TOD when they start off with e.g. tendentious accounts of inclusive fitness, 'we're all doomed cos selfishness is in our genes,' etc. All that would have to go as well. Not just those who are being called 'trolls' at the moment.

I wouldn't mind though. I'd be glad to shut up entirely if I didn't see any BS on TOD. I never comment on Realclimate for that reason.

The other alternative is just forget it. Crap is part of the price of free speech. If you fear people are put off by the low quality of debate, just remember that many people are not going to buy the 'hardcore doomer' element of TOD (even without the trolls). And I say this as a hardcore doomer myself. Even I'm put off by some of the simplistic misrepresentations that crop up here sometimes, and I share most of the same outlook as the people who post such stuff in the first place!  

It doesn't take much to judge the quality of argument. If someone is posting rubbish, it shows up in the first couple of sentences. Just skip it, and look for someone of more substance.

Some quick observations:

"Trolling", aka people who disagree and therefore disrupt the status quo is as old as the internet. It is nothing to do with paranoid delusions that secret agents are "out to get" TOD.

When people say "all your comments are welcome" they never mean that. What they really mean, sycophantic comments are welcome. They don't want to hear dissent.

Promoting a viewpoint is never compatible with open discussion. You can't finesse "the result of the open discussion was to agree with our viewpoint". Promote your agenda, and ban disagreement OR open discussion and accept that your viewpoint will not be the consensus.

The reason the state has to distrust its people and keep a tight rein on them is because if they don't a percentage of people will always cause disruption, ranging from littering to terrorism. Disruption leading to distrust is an inevitable product of the system when it grows from a small cadre of like-thinking individuals (family group) to a wide spread disparate group (nation states). TOD is victim of the same systemic process at work. However, it is neatly ironic that TOD says "We are the good heretics. But we will have to adopt some measures from the authoritarian state in order to keep control of dissenters".

Comment threads will trend towards being 99% crap, like 99% of everything. If you only want "nice" comments, you need editorial selection.

Bottom line: if you don't like disagreement, don't have comments threads.

However, it is neatly ironic that TOD says "We are the good heretics. But we will have to adopt some measures from the authoritarian state in order to keep control of dissenters".

To pick up on the idea of 'good heretics', I think it is interesting to think about how self-selection plays a role in establishing that norm.

Consider the range of outlook people might have about peak oil, from optimist to pessimist.  Who is going to show up every day to talk about peak oil?  I'd say it is going to correlate pretty strongly with pessimism.

In my opinion this creates a feedback loop which reinforces a shift in the direction of greater pessimism.  Over time greater pessimists will feel at home, and more moderate folks will find themselves in the wrong place.

Moderates are called 'cornucopians' because, from the new center, they are.

I personally don't think so. After 17 months here I have become less pessimistic.
I think the re-centering comment of TOD is very true.  I state that I feel peak oil is in 2010-2015 time frame, and I'm being labeled as a cornucopian :/

Further up this very thread you now admit that even your initials are BS.

A troll as shrewd and diabolical as you are would never have let this information slip unintentially.

You remind me of Darth Maul.


I apologize for what I just wrote.  It was completely uncalled for and inappropriate.  [No, no, don't worry about it.  I appreciate a little humor as much as the next guy.  For the sake of TOD, just don't let it get out of control.]

Hey, thanks, man.  I try not to, but thanks again for the much needed heads up.  Maybe you're starting to fit in around here after all.  Oil CEO's recent barage of emails must be taking effect.


I have never seen anyone debunked as thoroghly as you have been recently by Westexas and others.

That said, there is probably no one on TOD who has not been debunked at one point or another.

Besides, as we all know, debunking is in the eye of the beholder.

Within a matter of days, I may also join the ranks of those who have not been able to live up to the incredibly high standards of Cry Wolf and his goons.


I hope you keep posting here.  I really do.  What you need to keep in mind (and I'm sure OilCEO has already pointed this out to you repeatedly in private) is that a large number of TODers come here specifically to read Westexas's posts.  I don't delude myself into thinking that the same is true of me.  Do you think it's true of you?

Typo.  Should read, "Cry Wolf and his Castle goons."

I would also have you note that Westexas is not a contributor.  He is also from the village, my friend.

I have nothing against westexas.  I only want him to be forthcoming with where he is getting his information from and I hope that he will at least broaden his perspectives a bit.  The sharing of information is paramount to the viability of any debate.
I don't think anyone would disagree with what you just wrote.  Please continue down this path. You have made your blusterous entry to TOD.  Few have ever equaled you in that.  From this point forward, I expect that you will become known for your civility, respect-towards-others, and gentlemanlyness.  If you err, err on the side of these traits.  By doing this, you will in no way inhibit or lessen the points you make.  On the contrary, you will only add to the effectiveness of your position.  
I for one would be very interested in knowing, Hothgor, exactly what your 'credentials' are.

You want to debate minutely with WT , whose creds are very well known.

Are you an oil insider? Are you just a college student in some related field?

If you are asking for everyone on TOD to give you some 'slack' then what do you proffer as evidence that you need such slack?

I assume that you will disregard this request or perhaps reply with questionable data. Can you prove your 'creds' in that case?

I find little on the net regarding a Brandon Stringer , other than proof that you indeed live in Longview , Tx, if you are that BS.

But since you wish to fill TOD with your comments then one would hope your background would be meaningful in that regard, regard being highly detailed debate on the technology. Wonder then if your knowledge is not just net based or real work experience?

airdale--myself, I have zero oil creds and hence no proofs either.

First let me ask a question. Who and what were the circumstances when the TOD was first conceived? To them let me extend my congratulations and appreciation, along with all the rest of the editors and contributors. The TOD is a treasure that we should respect, and I don't see that respect being given to PG by many of the commentators on this tread. I thought we were discussing the future of TOD here.

I have noticed that some folks don't spend enough time reviewing a contributors post before they jump in and respond to something not in context with the post, and also commentors on comments. Some are so eager to respond to a comment they say things that don't address the previous comment.

I would like to see Heading Out re-post his technical posts on all the aspects of oil field and FF technology, or at least provide easy access on a side bar so folks could acquire a better understanding of the complexity of FF production. Folks talk about the technical contributions of the space program, but have no concept of the technical contributions made by the oil field. Try building a computer that will operate in a 20,000 PSI environment at 350 degrees F, 20,000 feet below the surface. Then communicate with it between Houston and offshore Australia.

Without the comments TOD will disappear. Separating the wheat from the chaff is what makes life worth living, or sustains life.

I read and, occasionally, post on the Oil Drum because I find it a great source of information and analysis. My posts, I hope, are relevant to the topic and add extra information.

I don't mind the current format of TOD, and find the wandering off track rather charming than otherwise. My biggest difficulty is that I live in Brisbane, Australia so my response are always far to late - due to the thread format they may never be noticed, I suspect. This delay would, presumably only become worse if posts were moderated.

If a charge to post is introduced, I would almost certainly wander away.


Dear ProfGoose,

I'm sorry to see TOD so aflicted that you are brought to consider defence mechanisms.

Yet this is in a sense a measure of TOD's success in spreading information that certain vested interests plainly wish to remain hidden.

Therefore you have a simple choice - of being willing to ban posters for conduct below a threshold of quality,
or to see the site being degraded, its readership eroded and, effectively, its broadcasts silenced.

I resigned as Senior Moderator at on precisily this issue of an abject lack of willingness to censor for the common good.

[But then I'm willing to cut sheeps' throats for the sake of lunch].

Specifically, a series of fascists were using the site to promote racist predictions on the back of PO,
while here in Europe that racism was taking lives on a regular basis.
I was unable to continue serving a platform that gave such filth the space to propagate their bile.

With regard to TOD, whose content I've enjoyed for years, I would urge you to take action in the form of the minimum effective force.

As I see it, this might well be a +/- scoring system for comments, with those posters repeatedly falling below a threshold, or simply being exceptionally crass, being banned without any messing.

All the best,


Sign of the times, TOD is ovewhelmed. This is how this works, when a web site reaches a certain stage you begin to have traffic from all sorts of sources. This is a good thing. You folks are getting the message out. There isn't one of us that doesn't think that isn't a good idea. It needs to happen and is probably the most important function TOD plays.

That said the minute you chose to restrict content, you will go back below the fold. Let the community police itself. I've run a message board for a local community website for almost ten years. It's annonymous, and the group that is there polices itself.  They can be really nasty when let loose. Trolls are just not responded to and they go away.

What worries me more is this "we are scientific, we do charts and graphs from the figures"  Life is not like that, and there is a recurring theme here that the figures you all get to run your charts are hogwash. < Being restrained tonite> Restricting content in any fashion means the site becomes less usefull. Figures don't lie but liars figure.

We don't <that's the big we> don't always know everything, and the odd comment from left field can spark really remarkable things. That's why I come here daily.

I come here for the people, odograph, oil ceo, west texas, todd.. I get a laugh, I get educated. Sometimes those people
mention who they are and what they are doing, they become real people to me and I listen to them.

I would say that's what I find important here.

I consider myself a resource, teaching is key. Little tiny ownerbuilt house, heat with wood for the last 25 years, walking softly on the earth, and I'd like to be here to help others who think that is a sane path to follow. I think that is right up there on the priority list. I need to save as many of you as I can. We all have our own crosses to bear.

What worries me more is this "we are scientific, we do charts and graphs from the figures"  

That is what I like about TOD.

Of course there's more to life than that, but there are lots of other sites to cover the other aspects of peak oil.  Including one for peak oil art and poetry.  We don't have to be all things to all people, and probably shouldn't try.

Don , I agree 100%.

I see it this way.
The subject of PO is terrifying to many and well it should be. Some therefore practice denial. Others lean into the subject and hope the end can be staved off.

Others, very very few, adopt a philosophical attitude that is religious in nature. They seek to find relief and hope in the spiritual realm of humankind.

For this they are roundly chastised by many here who find belief in a supreme being to be hogwash and worthy of derision on a massive scale.

I am not saying that the site should serve as a sounding board for all types of arcane subject in that regard however all the world is not strickly a materialistic entity, as some may discover as they age more and find their lives have no real value in the material world or whatever.

Same as when politics enters the picture. We are a republic in the USA and suffer the bad with the good. Beating our American society to death is nonproductive. Mistakes have been made, they need to be remedied. If help comes it will not be from a backward , dying 3rd world nationstate that is not going to have the intellectual wherewithal to produce a scientific solution to the problems of energy depletion.

Hence IMO we need all beliefs and possible ideas brought fully to bear on our future outcome. Beating up on those whose beliefs are different is non-productive.

The native Americans were extremely spiritual folks yet they didn't take this country,USA, to its very knees. We did that. Their beliefs were to cherish and covet the earth. Some will disagree with this but I know and have friends who are half Indian. This area where I live still has many traces of their past. I can walk many times where their mocassins treaded. I can find their artifacts in the soil we plow and cultivate.

I submit that we all need , at this critical juncture, to become a people who allow diversity, for diversity may yet be what saves our very souls and bodies.

Again ,Don in Maine, I agree with your synoposis.In the future I might disagree, thats what debate is about but I think you have it hammered down fairly tight based on your above comments.


Problem: everybody wants to contribute.. not a bad problem to have, congrats all round. There are limitations to the medium in general, maybe ppls enthusiasm better used in meatspace? But we like to huddle up near Reasons flame.

All posting to articles with real technocratic content and aims should be on topic and substantive (keep the Drumbeats (1 a day) for free thought). How? A 2nd tier of membership. Posting to technical discussions could be allowed only to 'senior/technical posters', chosen based on merit/contribution and record.

I trust Ed.'s to pick the majority of tech.posters and vet nominations from ordinary posters based on open thread participation. Elite deviance (rife here, completely rife ;) could be tempered by enabling ordinary posters to (seperately and transperantly) challenge offtopic/erroneous/normative posts by tech.posters on tech threads, one way posters can earn their stripes. On Drumbeat & more whimsical articles keep current relaxed policy, except all will have the 'proving yourself' driver to keep posts alert, charming, and careful.

Whatever you do, don't take the all-tech soln. Social engineering is the gunpowder of 21C, we learn it or we lose.

The whole concern is a tempest in an oilpot...the price of success.

Of course you are going to get a lot of static...success breeds that.  You are not seeing the forest for the trees.

There are many fine threads on this site...I carefully read the primary post; then scan through the comments to see if anyone made an intelligent addition.

I have my favorite posters; I check to see what they have to add.  Then see if anyone else stands out.

Every two-bit intellect wants to have his say.  Nothing guarentees he or she will be on topic.  But the fact that they can add static is quite glorious, really.

So the number of comments lengthens.  So what?  Consider those comments a reward of success.  And stop worrying about sabateurs.  

Your problem is that the tight circle of usual posters has exponentially increased, seemingly burying their contributions.  It happens.

I have been coming here since TOD's inception.  Don't worry so much.

   I am very disturbed by some of the personal attacks and insults I read on TOD comments.  To attack Hothgor and call him a troll for some stupid comments seems to be saying that one will be attacked if they disagree too strongly with the elite experts.  Is TOD only a discussion group for experts only, or is it to bring the public into the debate about the coming crisis of peak oil?  One of the things that destroyed the Communist Party was accusing everybody who disagreed with them of being a police informant. (The FBI knew this, and fed them a lot of disinformation to encourage that).  But my point is that such accusations can really wreck an organization.  If I submit something that most of you disagree with, am I going to be redbaited or called a troll?  I don't mind a vigorous debate, but we are supposed to be scientifically  and open minded.
   I am strongly in favoe of a system to rate comments.  Is it possible to have replies to comments put right after the comments, as they do on BBC News?  It makes it much easier to follow people's train of thought.  Along the same line, we need to find some way to get people to stick somewhere close to the subject.  Maybe by setting up a whole series of topics, with all the comments on each topic on the same thread.  (I do not like the system where I sometimes have to scroll back and forth across the page as I read each line, since I can only see part of the text on the screen at one time.)  It might even be a good idea to have every author of a comment put a subject heading on it. For consistency, a list of acceptable subjects would have to be made up, and one of those used.  Like the keywords used in abstracts of many scientific papers.  The tag system you use now is practicallu useless for finding things.    
Professor Goose,

First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate the great work that you and the others have done here.  I first found this site about a year ago, and it has been fun and informative.  It's getting harder and harder to wade through the comments every day, and I know I'm reading less because of it, but TOD is still the hands-down best site on the internet for this topic.

Next, I want to apologize for those instances where I added more heat than light.  I think I missed the recent shouting matches you're talking about, but I've made plenty of comments that didn't add much.  I'll try to do better in the future.  

As I've noted before in this post, I really like the DKos Scoop system: their point system, the collapsible threads, and having points mean something.  I also agree with the previous comments that you and the other editors and contributors should get together and rethink the goals of the site.  In the organizations I've been in, I've found that an annual retreat to revisit goals and methods is very helpful.  In this case, the way the site works should support your goals in creating/maintaining it.  

I'll add one comment that I haven't seen above.  I've been to hundreds of transportation planning meetings, board meetings, etc. in the past 20 years, and I've developed a real affinity for Roberts Rules of Order.  In particular, for TOD's purposes, on each motion, each participant gets only two opportunities to speak, and each of those comments is limited to 3 minutes.  An equivalent here might be a limit to two comments for each topic and a maximum of 300 words each.  Further, if anyone breaks the rules, they can be removed from the discussion, either by ejecting them or just not allowing them to say anything more on that topic.  In reality, this is almost never needed.  Since everyone knows the rules, that there may be consequences, and that they'd be wasting their limited comment opportunities by breaking them, people tend to follow the rules.  It might be something to consider implementing here.

you, my friend, are the least of my worries...and just the fact that you would worry tells me you add more light than heat.  :)

your ideas are good...thank you for them.  

First, apologies to Leanne, Prof Goose and other editors for the length of the reply. TOD is important to me. This is a one-off.

Feedback on the direction of the Oil Drum

Summary: TOD is 'good enough' as it is. Articles are very good, and the search facility allows research on a specific topic of interest.

  1. Valuable 'signal' is hidden within the 'comments' section noise. If it is of high enough value, the reader will invest in finding it. There is a risk that high value contributors will stop posting to comments. Moderation will mitigate the risk. This involves 'someone elses' time.

  2. The 'REAL' problem may be information access. TOD articles and pertinent comments could be organised by subject under a 'tree-like' structure, constantly reviewed and updated, and constantly added to via cut and pasted 'comments'. This and other'information access' ideas also take 'someone elses' time.

If there is no one in TOD with time to do either thing, then:
re 1.  it is an executive decision as to whether or not the value in the comments is exceeded by the noise-volume. I vote to keep them, but elsewhere from the main article.
re 2. A dead issue


Thanks for standing up and speaking to the community about the bigger picture of what we have become.

As is likely the case with most people, the time available to 'extract value' from the internet is constrained. Some days are more constrained than others.

The value to me of the oil drum is:

  1. Background articles and subsequent commentary on the physical/physicals/business reality of oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, photovoltaic, wind, hydro, and biomass degradation/ferment power.

  2. updates on an intricatly interwoven nexus involving cheap fuel, unexpected consequences of burning ancient hydrocarbons, economics, data/partial data, education/prejudice, very proper gander/disinformation, cultural expectations/dissonance,geopolitical power plays,leadership/vision, and political fear/courage.

Here is a one person 'consumers perspective'.

1. It is a given that the stories and background articles posted on TOD are of High Value, and almost always read with keen attention.

Here are some more thoughts.

Specific subjects
Referring back to a 'nexus', it is hard to see the whole connected picture when looking only at a sub-element.

TOD could usefully 'organise' the subject of Peak Oil and its consequences on one page.

The 'sweep' of the subject on one page, with divisions between theory and practise, ranking down through elements and sub elements, and with currently prevailing arguments/situations/outlooks that constitute the 'ground' of the congregation helps the 'detail befuddled' rise above the detail and re-establish the big perspective.

This is similar to a 'site layout', but is actually a subject/nexus layout.

A one page overview allows quick 'dipping' into detail and return without getting lost.

Arguments against the current 'ground' could also be subsumed, along with rebuttals/exposition of uncertainties.

If 'Hubbert linearisation' is a sub-element of the 'Hubbert Curve', for example, a one page layout allowing the time-constrained to dip into the arguments against the technique and then the rebuttals can be very valuable.

It would need TOD to have the person-power to identify comments - wherever in TOD they appear - that bear on the arguments for and against, and add them (copy and paste) in the appropriate postion in the overview page.

A further refinement of this would be to have 'definitive' articles on each element written by TOD members (and others), with links to 'definitive' summaries of counter positions and their rebuttal. This is the Wikipedia model, but without the ability of the public to munge someone elses work.

In this model, the 'definitive' article could be presented (linked) to the TOD congregation for review and commentary before publication.

Like Wikipedia, the virtue is constant updating and correction.

Like wikipedia, sub-topics could be 'sublet' to volunteers to'do'and submit to the editor/TOD community.

Unlike wikipedia, there would be a burden of administration for 'someone'.

If the purpose of TOD is to educate and raise peoples conscioussness of "the reality of the current problem" - peak oil and all that flows on from that - then readers wants must be considered.

Fundementally, any reasonably intelligent visitor wants to easily find an up-to-date well rounded, easy-to-understand perspective, persuasive for its clarity, honesty, and intellectual integrity. Reference to data or other authoritative sources is a given. If no complete data is available, then the 'logic lines' should at least be accessible via a link (cyber 'note').

The visiting reader wants that perspective to be a 'review'; all-there, 'of a piece'; and all things relevant and recent both considered and dealt with. They would rather not have to cobble together a 'mental review' from a series of search results of varying age and complexity on TOD.

I am not promoting the idea that TOD 'should' do this. TOD is great, but TOD is also addictive and a time-waster. TOD is what it is. TOD (in reality, hard-working busy people with a huge generosity of spirit) 'could' do this; and would be far more effective in its purpose were 'TOD' to do so.

2. The Drumbeat. Speaking personally, I always scan the "news" and "teaser" first sentences posted by "threadbot". Those links of personal interest may be followed; only the "teaser" may be read and casually noted in the other cases; and in a few cases (usually American-centric politics), the headline is quickly ignored.

Apart from the value of the articles that are linked-to, there is the value in the comments posted about the articles. And this, of course, is the real subject needing consideration.

Comments on Comments
Speaking personally, I find gold embedded in the comments. Yes, the difficulty is that the amount of effort needed to find it has increased. The cost of the effort has NOT outweighed the return.

The question is really this: are the comments seen as useful addenda to a valuable TOD article or not?

If they are seen as 'dispensable' addenda, then the primary value of the article is unaffected.

If the addenda are publicly seen as being not just reflective of the value of the congregation, but also of the value of the message of preachers, then those members of the congregation with extreme interpretations of the TOD 'ground' (and those who are at heart narcissist "wreckers and haters") will taint the moderate message of TOD. Those acting within the ground who are ill-informed, or wilfully misinform for personality or agenda-driven reasons of their own, tend to create material that can be seized-on by folk wishing to 'rubbish' peak oil.

My experience of other fora is that a sensible moderator eventually becomes a necessity.
There needs also to be ready access to 'the rules' page.
TOD suffers from the layout not allowing a 'subjectline' or 'topic heading' above each reply that repeats the subject or topic which is supposed to be being addressed. Seeing the subject heading helps keep people 'on topic'.

It suffers from an inability to block the display of posts those authors whose writing you may prefer not to see.

But, end of the day, the 'real' problem in my view is that the 'gold nuggets' remain 'disorganised'.

By human hand, a comment apposite to a given TOD 'main article' could be 'copied' and 'pasted' underneath the TOD article; this would add expansion and commentary to the 'main feature', and put all the gold in one easy-to-access place.

Additionally, the counter-arguments - even if spurious - could be placed as a 'copied and pasted' onto another (appropriately titled) page. These comments could then have their rebuttal 'copied and pasted' beneath.

What all this implies is 'someone' editorial has to regularly read the comments section, copy the good bits and append them to the relevant TOD topic-article.

It also implies that the 'comments section' is always one click away from the main'Drumbeat'page or TOD article that prompted the comment. In other words, 'noise' comments are no longer underneath the article (but 'signal' comments will be copied in there constantly over time).

In this way, the cream always rises to the top, by the scissors and paste in the hand of the editor(s). Trusting the editor, members and vistors might simply regularly visit the easily accessible topic (via the topic map page) and read the latest comments pasted under the headline articles' topic.

Or, for recreation, they might go read the comments area.

A further refinement might be the instituting the ability to submit a comment/short note relating to an 'topic article' on the TOD information tree. If the editors thought it meritous, the comment/note could be appended to the string of comments subsuming the main article. In this case, it would by-pass the comments/forum element entirely.

As a friendly neighborhood geophysicist for the last 30(+mumble) years, I subscribe to this site's feed because its' S/N ratio on subjects ancillary (but not essential) to my "day job" is actually pretty good.  I haven't commented here often because, when I check in here I consider myself to be in "learning mode".

Having said that, I think that, to the extent that this site strives to offer a "policy guide", normative suggestions are a natural and expected result of the purely factual content (and the site's analysis of the implications of that content).  While I don't agree with everything I read here (I put myself firmly in the "techno-optimist" camp), I think that allowing anyone to comment (including trolls) is a "good thing" when discussing normative issues.  Ad Hominem attacks are stupid however; it's a good thing that I can speed-read past such (as I suspect most intelligent readers here can).

Whatever your choice, I value your existence, and thanks for what you've done thus far.