NYT says peak oil "almost certainly correct"

Was browsing the NYT on a short break from work tonight when I was amazed to discover a long op-ed by Robert Semple Jr, associate editor of the Times Editorial Board, on peak oil. Unfortunately, it's behind the Times Select paywall, so the rest of you will have to make do with a few fair use quotations:

When President Bush declared in his 2006 State of the Union address that America must cure its "addiction to oil," he framed his case largely in terms of national security -- the need to liberate the country from of its dependence on volatile and in some cases hostile nations for much of its energy. He failed to mention two other good reasons to sober up. Both are at least as pressing as national security. One is global warming...
The second reason is just as unsettling, and is only starting to get the attention it deserves. The Age of Oil -- 100-plus years of astonishing economic growth made possible by cheap, abundant oil -- could be ending without our really being aware of it. Oil is a finite commodity. At some point even the vast reservoirs of Saudi Arabia will run dry. But before that happens there will come a day when oil production "peaks," when demand overtakes supply (and never looks back), resulting in large and possibly catastrophic price increases that could make today's $60-a-barrel oil look like chump change. Unless, of course, we begin to develop substitutes for oil. Or begin to live more abstemiously. Or both. The concept of peak oil has not been widely written about. But people are talking about it now. It deserves a careful look -- largely because it is almost certainly correct.
So there you have it. The NYT editorial board is on record that peak oil is "almost certainly correct". They are a little fuzzy on the timing still:
When will oil peak? At least one maverick geologist says it already has. Others say 10 years from now. A few actually say never. The latest official projections from the Energy Information Administration put the peak at 2037, or 2047 -- depending, of course, on how much of the stuff is out there and how fast we intend to use it up. But even that relatively late date does not give us much time to adjust to a world without cheap, abundant oil.
But hey, let's give them another six months: they'll almost certainly catch up. Indeed one striking feature of the editorial was it quoted all the right experts and books - they've clearly been doing their homework.

So, our respectability just went up about six notches...

Wow.  o_O
I just noticed that they actually linked a number of peak oil blogs, including peakoil.com. But not TOD (alas!).
Nonetheless, I would hope the TOD webmasters are gearing up more tech equipment to handle a big increase in membership.  Maybe a beginner's section to help bring the flood of newbies up to speed on info, past discussion threads, netiquette, lurking recommendations-- so we don't spend alot of time 'reinventing the wheel'.  If you build it--they will come!  TOD is too good to remain unfound for long.

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

Gresham's Law applies to things other than coins..

I'm actually gearing down my tech equipment in light of Deffeye's "stone age by 2025" prediction.  I've been practicing using chalk to draw hubbert curves on the sidewalk in front of my apartment in preparation for the time when I do my site updates on the wall of a cave.



Hey Matt,

Don't forget fire by friction, chipping flint into spearpoints, small animals snares, berry wine, and bark canoes.

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

As a newbie, I second that motion.
I think every Peak Oil beginner should spend some time with the Wolf at the Door: http://wolf.readinglitho.co.uk/
Hoo, boy.  Should be interesting to see how the PeakOil.com servers hold up.    
Based on their history with the domestic spying story, probably NYT knew about Peak Oil years ago but voluntarily decided to supress it.

All the news that's fit to suppress and delay before printing-- Your NYT serving you and your community.

Wonder what Uncle Tom Friedman will say about all this?

About the only good thing I have left to say about Friedman is that he's been pushing very hard for a gas tax and alternative energy development for quite a long time now.
Of course the NYT suppressed this Peakoil story.  I sure would like to know the reasons why, too.  As evidence I refer you to Matthew R. Simmon's must-read, "Twilight in the Desert" Appendix C: The Smoking Gun, starting on Page 377.

Matt discusses an obscure reference from Jeff Gerth [of the NYT], to an old article by Seymour Hersh, published in the NYT on March 4,1979 that reviewed the 1974 closed Senate Hearings done in "Executive Session". The Senators grilled some of the World's top oil executives.  All info essentially buried because the world was riveted on Nixon's Watergate.  I am convinced the top NYT editors have kept this 'Greatest Story Never Told' buried till just recently.

Same with the Oil companies:  Ever since Hubbert's Bombshell was confirmed in early '70s--Don't you think they thought about the World's Peak?  They could have started WillYouJoinUs.com a long time ago!  At the very least, they could have asked the Press to help get the word out.

Pres. Carter knew what was up, and he tried to get all Americans onboard.  Reagan quickly put the kibosh to that idea.

I feel that if all the independents like Campbell, Laherre, Simmons, Deffeyes, et al, had not diligently dug for years, most of what we know now would still be buried.  My two cents.

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

Could you fill us in on what experts and what books were mentioned please?  Did NYT mention any websites like TOD, or did they hopefully go full DEFCON 1 with LATOC & DIEOFF?

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

Hubbert, Deffeyes, USGS, EIA, Oil Shockwave exercise, Simmons, Yergin, anonymous "well placed Saudis" who share Simmons concerns, Rocky Mountain Institute, Goodstein. Blogs linked include LATOC! hubbertpeak.com, peakoil.com, Energy Bulletin.
Didn't link in the best Peak Oil website on the web? Jesus Christ, give me a break.
The EB folks really deserve all the acclaim they can get, peakoil.com's been around a long damned time, Savinar's been fighting the good fight...they are all quite deserving.
Ah, this would be a rant so look out....

Re: "deserve all the acclaim they can get..."

Of course they do. Not the point. Matt Savinar has been outfront for a long time now. Defcon 1.

Maybe it's just ego, but when we do this stuff at TOD, I like to see it recognized for its quality in addition to what other good websites have provided in taking the lead in the past.... I know that TOD is relatively new in the world but still we've been around for a while now.

I think TOD offers up a valuable, honest and often technical kind of discussion that can not be found almost anywhere else on the web about peak oil. End of story. If some people (including the NY Times) can't figure that out, then they are just mediocre journalists. I believe--though I can't prove it--that our regular readers include Heinberg, Kunstler, Pickens, Raintree and many other "influential people" who lurk here but don't contribute. When I introduced myself to the local Boulder Relocalization Group, all I had to say was "Hi, I'm Dave from The Oil Drum". They knew who I was. They read (and still do) the website everyday. And many people who I met at ASPO-USA in Denver back in November read it too. Jesus, at this point Stuart is actually getting famous for the interesting, obscure but very illuminating posts he does. Hell, I even get the occasional e-mail.

Point is, I don't like it that TOD is neglected by some guy at the NY Times because he hasn't done his homework. Screw him.


Relax. Whenever I go gasoline syphoning, I scrawl "The Oil Drum was here." onto the bumbers. So the time when the Times links to your site in a tiny sidebar will come sooner than later.

Thus far, my site has only gotten three visits from the Times link and two of those were from me testing the link.



LOL - That's hilarious!
Take it easy Dave - we're the new kid on the block.
Maybe they know their readership is not up to following the technical discussion on TOD.
The punditry-class (and that includes the armchair pundits among the readers) listen only to specialists. The NYT is a world of 'experts' with very particular degrees and opinions,  each of whom can miss important details from the fringe of their field and other fields. Plus the editorial board have their advertisers to consider. Don't want to scare the consumers :)

No need to worry about TOD exposure.  This site is so cross linked to the other sites that people will get here as a second or third link.  The people that are inquisitive and scientific minded will stay and browse the details.  The others will go  back to the other sites for an easy summary of what they should do.

You can't force people to accept hard truths, only expose them to it.

You have done your part well.  Give yourself a pat on the back and wait for the knowledge stored here to filter out.

I was curious about the crosslinks so checked out the sites mentioned by the NYT.  I was astounded to find out that peakoil.com does not have TOD on their list of peak oil sites.  If anyone is tied in there, perhaps they could get that corrected.  
Submit it.  So far as I know, all the links at PeakOil.com were submitted by visitors.  They are screened, but anything reasonably peak-oil related that is not outright spam is approved.
If the public rated technical discussion highly then scientists and engineers would be wealthy, corporate executives would know more math than averages and ROI, and HO would rule the world.  The Times is not after us, they are after influence peddlers.  In the U.S. like it or not that currently means people who avoid technical stuff like the plague.
"Fighting the good fight."

Not this hombre. I'm here solely to increase my inclusive fitness.



I would agreee (and I dont blame you). We all have inclusive fitness algorithms that we genetically cant help but follow - very few of us follow them consciously. For those that REALLY care whether TOD was mentioned in NYT piece, ask yourself 'why'?

Is it because the site is so good that other people should read it thus making their lives better by better preparing for post peak?

Is it that you want more posters here to learn more stuff from?

Is it that TOD readers are somehow cooler?

Does it generate a 'tribal algorithm' feel-good camaraderie like a fraternity, or a club, or a sports team might?

Something else?

Any reason is valid, if we choose to feel that way, its because we like it, which is OK. Just interesting to think about the 'why' sometimes.

"Is it that TOD readers are somehow cooler?"

Hm, sounds like one of those DUETs (Deep Universal Eternal Truths) that Don Sailorman is always flogging ;)-

Those who are particularly interested in seeing TOD on the NYT sidebar can use this form to write to the Talking Points editors (TP = the series this article showed up in):


Although, I guess you have to have Times Select to do it.

Here's the problem folks. Does the TOD deserve to be mentioned? Of course. Had TOD been mentioned but not LATOC would I have thought, "Gee, what the fuck? Why wasnt' I menationed?!" Of course.

But if anybody here is looking to build a mass movement on a process that, even in the best case scenario, promises the deaths of billions due to war, starvation, and global wide cascading systems failures, you're brain has picked the wrong issue on which to pursue its Machiavellian desires.

This ain't the issue that is going to make you famous beyond a very tiny niche of people who attend relocalization meetings and perhaps the occassional billionaire Texas investor.

You're not going to get rich, famous, or be better liked as a result of being able to explain how cascading systems failures now all but guarantee catastrophe. One of the reasons I've largely stopped giving public talks about this (unless I'm getting paid) is that the message boils dow to this:

"Hey folks, the bad news is 3-to-6 billion of us are going to die. The good news is this is a great opportunity to start that vegetable garden you've always wanted!"

If you convey the facts honestly, that's what ends up being the message, even if you don't state it directly.  So it's not the issue on which to pin your hopes at being popular.

I hope that isn't taken the wrong way.  

Right now, I posit that less than 1 out of 100 people could explain to you what "peak oil" is.  I doubt it will EVER get to beyond 2-to-3 out of 100.  People are just going to blame their favorite scapegoat as the shit hits the fan. That's what millions of years of evolution has produced, sadly. In the past, we'd go kill somebody and take their stuff. That's pretty much how we're going to attempt to solve this too.



I may more or less agree with you (which is why I didn't actually send in that NYT form myself), but there's a little greedy monster inside that roars a tiny roar when you see a missed opportunity for "your" website to become a little more famous—regardless of the topic (grin). I'm over it now.

That's my point. If they mentioned TOD but not me I would have been upset too. But I have a lot of my social and financial capital invested in this. So my thinking would be:

"if they didn't mention me, I might be doing something wrong and if I am doing something wrong, book/dvd/newsletter purchases are going to drop and then my chances of purchasing the off-the-grid Ecobunker with the harem on some tropical island are shot to shit."

Most folks, including the posters here and elswhere are not thinking along these lines. They aren't selling anything and/or they are posting anonymously so they stand to gain no social capital from this in the real world.

So if you're doing just for the heck of it, then great. I post on some baseball boards even though I don't stand to gain socially or finanically from it. But if, in the back of my head, I was I'd need to reevaluate my strategies for inclusive fitness.

If you're doing in hopes of expanding your territory beyond a tiny niche of society, then maybe there are other issues which would provide a higher personal EROEI if that makes sense.

It's a Machiavellian way of looking at things, but the world's a Machiavellian place.



Matt - Looking at your comments under this user name: Before today, you have made 6 postings. Today, you made 52. 52! You have your own web site with a very strong position that is far from the mainstream view around here. Is it really necessary that you come over here and try to dominate like this? 52 postings in one day is far from reasonable.

If I want to read your stuff I can go to your web site. I prefer to read the insightful analyses of Dave, Stuart, HO, PG and the many commenters here. TOD is consistently one of the highest quality blog discussion boards I have found. I am worried that if you come here peddling your LATOC scenarios that TOD will fall into the same navel-gazing disasturbation that afflicts so many Peak Oil sites, especially yours. If you are looking for new victims to infect with your message of despair and hopelessness, I hope you will look elsewhere.

There are certainly days when Leanan, LevinK, or Sailorman, for examples, post truckloads of comments.  To be fair, I think the number of Matt's comments had more to do with the back and forth discussion than with an intent to proselytize.  
Chill.  That's Matt's pattern.  He comes and goes.  He won't be here posting 56 messages every day, so don't fret about it.  
Halfin, while I understand your concern, I think your slightly ad hominem attack is unjustified.  I greatly appreciated the exchanges  between Stuart and Matt, and I assume many others  did as well.  I tend to agree with Stuart's more nuanced position, yet a logical person cannot ignore the chance of a serious dieoff.  Frankly, everything boils down to unrestrained population growth.  And unfortunately, if we've learned anything this century, it is that humans will continue to reproduce exponentially, even in times of misery.  Our enormous population is getting to be a house of cards, with each card representing a particular essential and finite resource.  Fossil fuels make up only one hurdle that humanity will soon face.  Even if we manage to hit a home run by creating truly renewable and scalable technologies - I have a hard time seeing how we are going to avert disaster if the population keeps increasing.  Already, the steady stream of reports of environmental degradation and global climate change seem like they are from a horror movie script.  The Gulf Stream is slowing down.  The melting speed of the icecaps and permafrost are much worse than scientists' already dire predictions. The ski industry is having to make snow, because so many mountains are dry.  If you follow environmental science, you get the distinct impression that we are heading for a cliff. The ocean are already seriously degraded.  See: [The Fate of the Ocean http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/03/the_fate_of_the_ocean.html
].  Population growth will be checked, one way or another, because we are running through our all our resources like a crack-addict on payday.  Even strong conservation measures cannot win against our burgeoning mouths, faces, and grabbing hands.  

Yet perhaps peak fossil fuels will be the impetus we need to get our sustainable house in order, but I stronly fear our momentum has already sent us past the point of no return(in terms of climate change, at the very least).


Well this chimp could back to his corner of the cage and start flinging monkey poo at you as you seem to be doing here. Fortunately, I have evolved past the territorial instincts you express here.

I want you to notice something: there are alpha males on TOD such as Stuart, PG, Dave, West Texas, and others. You, my friend, are at best a beta. Why is that?

Well, the alpha's like Stuart understand that a bit of sparring between among the alpha's is good for the overall management of the cage and the health of whole chimp clan. The sparring done here harpens the instincts for when we do battle with the cornucopian chimps who would like to invade our territory and take our females.

Your inability to understand this is why I suspect will remain a a beta for the rest of your days.

True alphas can spar to sharpen their skills without actually attacking each other. It's actually somewhat of cooperative and rather sophisticated exercise when you think about it.

Ask the alpha males here at the TOD (PG) and they will tell you I routinely toss leafy branches (links to TOD stoires) to them from my side of the cage. If the alpha's subscribed to your thinking, I'd stay on my side of the cage and they'd stay on their side. That, in the end, would lower our ability to defend against the cornacopian chimps who we now have on the run as evidenced by the recent NY Times article. Soon, we shall have their females too.

Of the 46 posts, I think probably 30 of those were in one thread where I and the alpha Stuart sparred over whether our predicament will descend into a giant contest of global poo-flinging or transition into more cooparative cage management. If anything, I suspect that attracted more chimps to this side of the cage as everybody likes to see a bit of sparring between alpha-males.

The other posts were me cracking jokes, so I don't see how that plays into your accusations.

Remember Halfin: the chimp who flings monkey poo at his fellow chimps ends up with poo all over him.

Anyways, have fun being a beta!



"Hey folks, the bad news is 3-to-6 billion of us are going to die. The good news is this is a great opportunity to start that vegetable garden you've always wanted!"

You've got my vote for quote of the year Matt.  I suggest selling T-shirts and coffee mugs with the above words in neon font.  

"In the past, we'd go kill somebody and take their stuff."
Yes, though we can be quite a cooperative species - the catch is that our Enviroment of Evolutionary Adaptedness was that of small groups, where, like the TV show Cheers, everyone knew your name.  Once populations go beyond that, the trouble really begins.


We're FANTASTIC at cooperating within our own tribe in order to kill other tribes

That's Human History 101 for you. (Tragically)

I supposse this can be channelled into positive action. Mabye we could cooperate between TOD, LATOC, Po.com and do a board invasion of some cornocopian discussion board.



In a sense, you do become a celebrity. A peak oil celebrity, that is. Of course you're not going to get the Bono celebrity status, but lots of people would thank you for getting the word out.

I started a peak oil site back in October 2003 (if you do a Spanish language search for "peak oil", Crisis Energética would come in first position). I am a technical journalist (IT) and I did that because I always have felt the need of communicating with others, specially when there's something important to say. In our forums, we have a thread called "New users, introduce yourselves here", almost everyone contributing to that thread there thanks the founders and users of the site saying things like "I was feeling alone, I thought I was nuts!, I needed to find people with the same concerns as yours". Of course it helps being the largest peak oil site in Spanish (English continues to be a barrier for a lot of Spanish Internet users).

Our visitors base is smaller than TOD or LATOC (btw, thanks again Mat, you're sending us lots of users), but our site has, as today, 1829 registered users (the majority of them doesn't contribute, but I suppose they find useful to receive the daily digest), and our forums have already passed the 20K messages mark.

I know we could do "better" than that, in the sense of getting more traffic and visitors (we hover between 2k and 4,5k unique daily users), but we have chosen not to go over the board with the issue (being a self taught journalist helps a bit also). Before starting the site, I went to see a geology professor from my local university, he's the only Spanish member of ASPO, and a frequent contributor to the main Spanish newspapers (when they let him). He gave me a very good advise, very similar to something I have read today here at TOD (thanks NC):

You can't force people to accept hard truths, only expose them to it

So that's the way we do it, perhaps is slower, but the people who finally come aboard and contribute are the best ones. And I think TOD is that kind of site also (well, I think TOD surpasses us in many aspects!).

Relax Dave. Your site is very popular. Here in Russia many oilguys (owners and executives) read it so that just to sniff a mood.
Lucky I. Just another million bucks today.

Thank you for a good job.


So, Andrei, as a Russian oil industry 'insider', can you give us any more information about the state of Russian oil production now and in the near-term future?

Soon enough, anybody serious will find their way to The Oil Drum. Great work, guys!

It's be interesting to see how the NY Times article increases traffic on the PO sites.  Will this be an inflection point?

To put my political scientist hat for a moment, I would have to hypothesize that elite opinion, framing, and agenda setting are all influenced quite a bit by the New York Times.  I don't know that Joe Six Pack will read the NYT op-ed page in the morning, but the other editors, the politicians, the opinion leaders as we like to call them in my field, they are going to read it...and I don't see that being a bad thing at all.
Yeah, TOD is all over my site so people who are smart will follow links and get here. I wouldn't sweat it too much.

Thank about it this way: I get the task of filtering out the crazies.



No links to ASPO? How could they missed it?
They couldn't have missed it.  It's the second link to come up when you Google peak oil (Matt's site is first).  

If it's not listed, it must have been intentionally left out.  Maybe they didn't want links that were too scientific/technical.

Funny, for me ASPO comes first:

  1. ASPO - peakoil.net
  2. LAOC
  3. peakoil.org
  4. hubbertpeak.com
  5. Wikipedia
  6. peakoil.com
The difference is searching for peak oil or searching for "peak oil" (in quotes) ???
No, I think it just changed.  Dunno if Google changed their algorithm or one of their bots re-catalogued one of the sites in question or what, but it changed yesterday.
For me LATOC come in first if I search: peak oil
ASPO come is first if I search: "peak oil"
Maybe I'm behind the times.

The oddities of google will never cease to amaze me.

ASPO comes up first for both peak oil and "peak oil" for me today.  Obviously, that was not the case yesterday.
One the one hand, NYT may be excused for not linking to TOD given the fact the TOD website does not even show up in the first page of the google search of "peak oil" (with or without quote marks around it). On the other hand, it might be argued that if NYT journalists cannot go beyond a simple google search and enable their readers to a rich depository of information that they might have missed by relying alone, what is the use of paying for NYT?
Not in the first and not in any other.
I can't see the article but judging from your quotes and appraisal, it would appear that we've "made it" in the MSM. And I don't think it will take another six months as you say but maybe that's what they require.

Did their homework? Well, OK then! A little fuzzy on the timing? Yeah, I'd say so. How did they define the peak? I don't agree with Deffeyes that we hit 50% Qt on December 16th and that's that. There is more oil to get out of the ground from EOR (especially CO2 injection) but that's hardly the point is it? Given even an overall 4% depletion rate on existing production/mature fields, which I think is conservative at this point, the peak is this

It is that day/month that daily production in terms of millions of barrels per day reaches its maximum ± 1 or 2% and never rises above that level again.

This is the undulating plateau and who cares about the rest? And a good case can be made that we are there. Suppose we continue at current levels for the next 2 or 3 years and never exceed them within the percentages I cite above? What happens then? Others will tell us, mirabile dictu, that available supply will exceed demand and there will spare capacity, a glut. Is that going to happen? Of course not. This is peak oil. I'll make my prediction. Never above 87/mbpd (all liquids). And with all the current and pending oil shocks, I'd be surprised if the world ever makes that. Where the oil is and where the people are consuming it at high rates are entirely two different things aren't they? And, to be simple about this, the producers and the consumers don't overall like each other very much, do they? Aside from the decline rates from old fields, lack of new discoveries, the miracles of recovery technologies, etc.

Enough said.

Engineers here know what fuzzy logic is.  I think peak oil is best judged with fuzzy logic, and certainly from a consumer standpoint it will be.

So while I agree with you that the Times is not sending a strong "true" signal, I think this might be part of an acceleration.

I've actually slowed my expectations recently.  I was thinking it might be ten years before Americans really start to deal with this (waiting basically until gasoline prices jump outside their current growth curve).

So how will it go, fast or slow?

I don't know ... I've only had half a cup of coffee.

My own very simple model indicated a peak around 88 mbpd in 2008 and it was both simple and subject to lots of speculation about new projects coming online as well as what the average decline rate was worldwide. But more and more lately, especially with all the good number crunching here at TOD, it's looking like it might well be 85mbpd as the peak. I don't think anyone rational can say we'll achieve 120mpbd with a straight face and that's what the projections say we'll need in 20-25 years. So essentially, it's here. The question is what happens from here forward. And so far, the view doesn't look all that rosy.
I believe the NYTs magazine did a cover story on peak oil a couple of months ago. Remember, they interviewed the retired petroeum guru from ARAMCO who wanted to meet and talk about just how dire the situation really is?

I don't know if the editorial writers at the Times read the magazine, probably not ...

Yep, we talked about Maass a few times:


but, there's something more poignant about an associate editor taking this on from the ol' grey lady...

Semple is an elite member of the media being an associate editor of the NYT.  The ol' grey lady is a nickname for the NYT.  Sorry, dropped some serious jargon there.  laugh
Sorry, Prof, I didn't mean to disparage TOD's discussion of Maass's article or Semple's work.

But I really have to wonder about the Times. Are these senior editors really now just catching on to the possibility of peak oil?

I'm an editor of a small magazine in rural Colorado. I've been writing about this scenario for what ... more than two years now?

no, no Don...you did nothing wrong.  I was just answering Dave.

As to your question, I don't know.  It's a good point.


The Semple op-ed piece does indeed reference the Peter Maas article in the New York Times.

That is, the Peter Maass article in the August 21, 2005 issue of the New York Times Magazine, still behind a paywall, I think.
Actually, I was referring to this one, "The Breaking Point:"


This has been reviewed before and discussed on other threads as well. The spelling for his name is "Peter Maass". Do a Google search in the TOD box provided.
There are two writers named Peter M. - he is the one with two S's as Dave points out. The other one is more famous.
LATOC was in their blog list. As I said to PG in email when he told me a few moments ago:

"I guess between this and the mention in Fortune, my street cred as some sort of anti-system rebel is shot to shit. Oh well."



Matt, you are young enough and smart enough to bridge the coming societal interregnum, just work on becoming a later warlord-king.  :)

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


I have the facemask, leather pants, and gas-syphoning equipment ready to go.  

My hope is the shit hits the fan before I turn 30 in 2.5 years. That way I'll still be young, strong, and swift enough to be able to rip solar panels off roofs and haul ass back to my post-oil lair before the homeowning hippie geezers who make up the bulk of our movement know what hit them.

I told Jay that if I ever find myself in Kona, "its on bitch."

To inclusive fitness!,


Warning, my panels are electrified.
They go into a special high voltage mode when they detect criminal criminal lawyers lurking about. Sawed-off spring-door shotguns are hidden behind every panel. Also, vicious dog on premises. A word to the wise wards off lawsuits and pin striped suits. :-)
As the saying goes, "age and treachery beats youth and  skill"



Hello Matt,

In individual battle, age and treachery MAY beat youth and skill, but speaking genetically, the future belongs to the young--Always has, always will!  In the long run, Nature is on your side.  Old farts like me are just marking time.  Peak-Body&Mind eventually catches everyone.

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

You have to watch Chapelle to get this:

When I got in Fortune, I called my friend and said, "I'm in Fortune Magazine, bitch!"

Tried that with NY Times, but it doesn't have the same ring.



OT: did anyone see Chapelle on Bravo's TAS with Lipton?  Two hours of sidesplitting hilarity.  I love that bastard.  
The skit where he pretends to be George Bush had me close to peeing in my pants. When the female reported asks him about oil in Iraq and says, "Oil? Who said anything oil?What you cookin, bitch? before running off. Same for when the CIA guy pulled out the yellowcake in the "special CIA napkin" for the press corps.



hey, it may not be a big traffic producer tonight...at least not 'til morning...and even then, who knows.  

Anyone get the early morning edition of the NYT?  I am wondering if this will be an op-ed in print as well...

I don't think immediate traffic is the impact. The impact is what you cited above - this gives permission for every other editorial page to start looking into it. The NYT is still the single biggest source of societal sanction that an issue is a legitimate topic of discussion for people who don't want to be seen as crazy.

The WSJ editorial pages probably won't come around for a while, but they'll talk about it a lot more as a result of this.

The peak oil story is currently about where the global warming story was in 1986.  I distinctly remember talking to a number of friends and associates at that time about the potentially large scale impact of the "greenhouse gas effect" and very few had ever heard of it or were much concerned when given the basic thesis.  Of course, a decade later, nearly everyone was familiar with term global warming.  

The NYT editorial is certainly a major milestone.  Any guesses when these milestones are reached?

  • Time Magazine Cover story on peak oil
  • 60 Minutes story directly on peak oil (not indirectly on oil sands or CTL)
  • Peak oil mentioned by Bush in a major speech
  • The term "peak oil" as familiar to the public as "global warming" is today
That's because my local newspaper ran an editorial today saying there'd be plenty of oil if Bush would just open up the Arctic Refuge.

I checked on that. It looks like they'd be lucky to get 10 billion barrels out of that field.

I don't think that's going to cut it ...

last time i checked would that only last about a month?
Well, if you talk to Bubba, who is an oil business insider, he'll tell you there's a good possibility that we would get diddly-squat from ANWR. And the interesting thing about that is the major IOCs have had little or no interest in E&P up there in that Alaskan region.
Interesting....and yet (??)
If you take out the hurricanes, the price really has not moved upward all that much.  I know I know, back in the days of the Wild Billery Hill show, you could bottom fish oil and gas (and gasoline) at half the price, but, if you take into consideration the collapse of oil/gas prices (and thusly investment) in the late 1980's, early 1990's, and factor the long view by inflation, it's just not shown any sign that the big market players get it.
In the U.S. South (KY, TN, AL) we are paying generally a $2.15 to $2.25 price on gasoline.  Remember, this is pickup truck, motor home power boat country....that price is causing NO ONE to even consider conserving...h#ll, beer has went up that much in the last 15 years!

If the emergency is just around the corner, we have to admit this:  The price signal is broken.  Why?

Part of the issue seems to be perception:  Everybody has been led to believe that one morning after gassing up the ole' SUV, you would get out of bed and BANG!!, THERE IT WOULD BE PEAK!!  Every newpaper would be shouting it in the headlines, CNN would be reporting it like a terror attack ("Well, Bill, it seems as though peak struck about 9:20AM this morning...and Washington is calling an emergency meeting with the EU to plan a coordinated reaction..."

Energy is MUCH more complex than that.  Let's take the 1970 lower U.S. peak as an example.  There were no headlines, no one (not even the inside players) knew it had happened).  It is an astounding fact of history that it was not even admitted official until 1979, and the Secretary of Energy STILL qualified his remarks, "It looks like the United States MAY HAVE peaked in about in 1970."  (!!)  Nine years later and IT COULD STILL BE DEBATED  (among some flat earthers, it is still debated!!

What we saw in the 1970's in the U.S. we are now seeing on a global scale...multi peaks depending on what is being measured, almost silent efficiency gains in some places, and "fuel switching" both current and planned on a massive scale.

Fuel switching to what?  In the 1970's, we had natural gas.  We still do, but not near enough.  The LNG proposal is one attempt at trying to partially switch out, as is the GTL (gas to liquids), CTL (coal to liquids), bio-fuel, and back and forth between coal and gas.  

But that's only for the big players, you say.  No, not really.  In my home area of Kentucky, in a decently insulated house, I know of several friends who have backed off the natural gas heat, and went to Walmart and bought a few "space heaters".  "These things are miracles!" The proclaim as they talk about the money they save on gas....not realizing that they are essentially "fuel switching" to buy time.

It can get very complicated.  At one plant in Illinois, they are refitting an old fertilizer plant to liquify coal, to make synthetic gas, that will then be used to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer...to grow corn to make ethanol (!!!)

So we are seeing the multi peaks of a giant mountainscape:  Peak light sweet crude (almost a certainty now), peak heavy crude oil (possbly close at hand), peak non-OPEC (a big maybe, depending on Russia, West Africa, deepwater drilling and arctic drilling), peak OPEC (?), (Simmons says very soon, but hard to prove and define), peak all liquids, peak natural gas in North America (but not yet the world), and now with coal to liquids, gas to liquids, gas to fertilizer and even coal to fertilizer (and then to corn?) and fuel switching, how would you define it, "peak easy switchables"?

Peak?  When, where, and of what?  We have not even began to get deeply into the "unconventionals, tar sand, a switch by use of natural gas, oil shales, possibly a switch by way of nuclear power plants, more variety of bio fuels (pond scum, landfill gas, microbial methane production, and sewer gas (to fertilizer, to compressed natural gas, to fertilizer to corn to ethanol?)  This is the complex game of today that will only get more complex tomorrow, and makes trying to guess the peak a fool's game.
Trust the human race to go through the whole periodic table of elements in their quest to maintain this lifestyle...don't be investing in horse drawn buggies and ox carts just yet.

Well, when we peak on palm oil, that's it for me.
Lordy!  I just read the nyt,on peak oil including Friedman's repeated gripe that we have to recognize energy as the prime problem of our time, sitting here in a somewhat chilly early dawn house (15C) in my old sweater and fur hat and feeling HOT.  My house uses 1/3 the average amount of electricity and almost no fossil fuels for heating, and still when I look around I see lots of ways to cut it down much more.  And then I look at all you other guys  (?friendly jest?) blowing off joules at  insane rates and cannot believe I am hearing noises about energy shortages.  How about just a little on conservatiion methods every now and then?
you lost me....
you touched a few issues, generalized
 and i guess all in all accomplished what
 TOD is best used for....  
emotional tissue paper...dry you eyes.

having read TOD for a while and as with most
other issues of reality,
It all becomes very redundant....

web sites are always dominated by a few individuals
that eventually drive out all intelligence capable
of expotential growth..... translation - garner what you can
but, cut the crap.... no one knows jack. But, some body
is surely paying, somewhere for this wonderful life.

makes me think that a persons body/being
is all you get
and it (also) peaks with time...
how long has mankind known that?
And still .... can't stop it...
the big circle of life?
again... pretty redundant stuff....

can't change the world
if you can't change yourself

save the planet... unplug the computer
and plant a tree... sheesh... but then again
NY don't you have a senator named Clinton?

When do , have we hit...
   Hubbberts curve for peak BUSH ...Clinton ???

Love.... Peak LOVE.... Huuummnn


Think I'll just go fishing... wait..
the fish are dead.
O.k just sit in the boat... wait...
the water's gone
just roll my eyes back in my head.
ah... thats better.


pray???         works for me.

It is an astounding fact of history that it was not even admitted official until 1979, and the Secretary of Energy STILL qualified his remarks, "It looks like the United States MAY HAVE peaked in about in 1970."  (!!)  Nine years later and IT COULD STILL BE DEBATED  (among some flat earthers, it is still debated!!

In 1979 it was still possible for a rational person to think that the North Slope production might offset the post-1970 decline in the lower 48, with some to spare. If it had, there would have been a (small) new US peak.

Forget 1979. The latest IEA forecast predicts that "US Oil Production to Decline After 2016".  

Yes - they have us increasing production for the next 10 years, followed by a decline.

Well, that does seem unlikely -- they're counting on 2mbd of new deepwater production. But even with that, they don't see us getting back up to historical peak levels, or anywhere close to it.
At one plant in Illinois, they are refitting an old fertilizer plant to liquify coal, to make synthetic gas, that will then be used to make synthetic nitrogen fertilizer...to grow corn to make ethanol (!!!)
Nothing so complicated; Rentech will be gasifying coal to make hydrogen (which used to be made from reformed natural gas instead), and doing some F-T synthesis (yielding diesel for sale) and electric generation from burning the F-T off-gas.  The coal gasification is well-understood, and the only liquids are products.

I think you are more correct in the exact details of the alchemy on what they are doing, I was speaking from my memory of looking at the design and did not bother to go back and look at all the steps, because I was only trying to make my central point, that coal, gas oil, fertilizer. liqiuids, solids and vapors are now being viewed as interchangable, one being changed into another, all you need is money!
It will still have exactly the effect I predicted:  Real world "peak" anything will get harder to prove has ever happened, and when, and of what.
We still may have to look for a new name other than "Peak OIl", which now effectively tells us nothing.
Congrats to you plowers of the field! Let's pray & work for followup in the mainstream.
Interesting timing.  The 50th anniversary of Dr. Hubbert's famous speech (predicting the Lower 48 peak) is one week away.  I believe that the speech was actually given on March 8, 1956.
Interesting timing. The 50th anniversary of Dr. Hubbert's famous speech (predicting the Lower 48 peak) is one week away. I believe that the speech was actually given on March 8, 1956.

You know, that's EXACTLY the kind of event that would get some media coverage.

It seems to me that a press release and press kit that contains the relevent (and jucy) quotes, and maybe even ready-to-publish text, pictures, audio and video might get picked up for coverage on the 8th.


A Special Editorial Feature by GEORGE PAZIK Editor & Publisher, Fishing Facts, November 1976


The preprinted version of Hubbert's paper distributed at the March 7, 1956 American Petroleum Institute meeting in San Antonio, Texas had the following statements:

"According to the best currently available information, the production of petroleum and natural gas on a world scale will probably pass its climax within the order of a half a century (i.e., 2006), while for both the United States and for Texas, the peaks of production may be expected to occur within the next 10 or 15 years. (i.e., 1966 to 1971)

"Assuming this prognosis is not seriously in error, it raises grave policy questions with regard to the future of the petroleum industry. It need not be emphasized that there is a vast difference between the running of an industry whose annual production can be counted on to increase on the average 5 to 10 percent per year and one whose output can be depended upon to decline at that rate. Yet, in terms of the production of natural gas and crude oil, this appears to be what the petroleum industry in the United States is facing."

(When the paper was published, after Shell Oil Company censors had finished with it, the statement above was deleted and replaced with the following: "the culmination for petroleum and natural gas in both the United States and Texas should occur within the next few decades.")

I think we need to nominate the late, great M. King Hubbert for the Nobel Prize & the Congressional Medal of Freedom [of Honor]-- seems like a fitting tribute to him and his family.  Just imagine how much worse things could have been if we were flying totally blind energywise all these years.  To me, his genius ranks with Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Alexander Bell.

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

I believe that Hubbert will receive fresh historical scrutiny over the next few years and will come to be regarded as one of the true intellectual giants of the 20th century.

Dammit.  I get the electronic download edition (essentially a pdf of the dead tree edition), and this editorial doesn't appear there - it is online only.  There is a little blurb telling people to go online, but I wonder how many people have bothered to register for times-select.
More attention paid to PO by the NYT is certainly a good thing, if only for the additional discussion and education it will kick start, but I feel compelled to add a cautionary note based on my (magazine) publishing experience.  Editorial staffs are often amazingly heterogeneous in their viewpoints behind the scenes, and the fact that Semple and Friedman seem to have gotten the message about energy and written about it does NOT mean that the NYT is unambiguously on our side.  They might be on our side, or they might not; it's still too early to tell.

Still, I'd much rather see this addition to the conversation by Semple than not have it.

Speaking of Peak Oil revelations, the Russian Oil Minister has warned of "a real collapse in oil production."  Russia is the #2 net oil exporter, behind Saudi Arabia.


Interview with Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko
("The Need for Energy Dialogue")
Thomas Rymer, Russia Profile

Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko:

"One important point is that the longer we delay making this decision (encouraging frontier oil exploration via tax breaks), the harder it will be to feel the effectiveness of the measure taken: the structure of the country's reserves will continue to get worse and Russia could end up facing a real collapse in oil production."

Good Post, Westexas,

Russia is walking a fine line:  needs non-Russian investors for fossil fuel development funds, but investors need Russia to prove it can be classified as a 'reliable supplier'; not a wildcatter drilling for geo-political advantage.  The old what came first dilemma of the egg & chicken.

I think they are still trying to recover credibility from the recent Ukraine shutdown, and only KGB and certain other intel orgs would know who really blew up the Georgian natgas pipes about a month ago.  I imagine there were some bloody corpses in the winter snow over that event, but we will not be informed.  The energy game is not for the meek.

The upcoming G8 conference will be quite a show, especially if new geo-political events related to energy happen between now and July.

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

NYT is one thing, but it will be interesting to see how this plays in right-wing media bastions.

For example, in contrast to all the kudos PO sites heap on Cuba for surviving their crisis, look at this article (which the 7-11 clerk was reading this morning) in the conservative Washington Times:


PRAGUE -- A set of photos showing the suffering of Cuban AIDS victims and the squalid conditions in a Havana shantytown went on display here last week after having been smuggled out of Cuba by a Czech fashion model.

The Czech women were detained while photographing a slum outside of Havana on Jan. 23. Authorities confiscated a roll of 35 mm film from Miss Kroftova's camera, but Miss Houdova managed to save her photos by slipping the memory chip from her digital camera into her bra.
A diplomatic ruckus over the arrests simply increased interest in the photo exhibit, which opened officially on Saturday in a gallery just off Prague's Wenceslas Square. Miss Houdova hopes soon to bring the two dozen or so photos for an exhibit in the United States.

The NYT is one thing, but I think Peak Oil will be given far more credibility if and when it appears on the WSJ's op-ed pages.  For one thing, I believe the WSJ has greater circulation than the Times.  For another, its op-ed pieces are more aligned with political power in the U.S. at this point in time.
Re:  Post-Peak Oil Advice

The best advice I can give most people is to spend $10 at www.urbansurvival.com to buy a little booklet called "How to live on $10,000 (or less) per year."  It's on the left hand side of the website. His #1 recommendation is to arrange your life so that you don't need a car.   (I have no affiliation with the website.)  

In addition, I would strongly advise parents against going into debt to pay for a college education in a '"soft" major.  Today, the majority of Americans live off the discretionary income of other Americans.  In a post-Peak Oil world, we are going to see a massive transformation from an economy focused on meeting "wants" to an economy focused on meeting "needs."    

Consider some recent statistics (I think for 2004):  number of law school graduates in the US, 43,000; number of petroleum engineering graduates in the US, 230.  

In discussing this topic with a lot of upper income parents, they prevailing response is "Well there will still be a need for policy makers."  Translation:  it's okay for someone else's kid to work in agriculture, in the coal mines, in the oil fields, in auto repair, etc, but their "little darlings" will be magically exempt.  I don't think so.  Government, notwithstanding its ability to tax us to death, is going to be forced to downsize as a matter of necessity.  

You do not want to subsidize a college education that will result in your kid being a net consumer of basic goods and services (especially food & energy).  

You do want to consider subsidizing a college education that will result in your kid being a net PRODUCER--what a radical concept--of basic goods and services (especially food & energy).

Great points WT.

The folks I can't stand to talk to are the 18 year olds college kids. Reason being, most are being herded into a VERY tragic path by their parents who are operating from a playbook that worked 25-50 years ago. The

What they don't know is that by 25 years old, they're going to have $50,000 in debt and no realistic way to pay it off. Most of there parents have NO idea how much things have changed for 25 year olds in the last 25 years.

I tell all 18 year olds to check out the discussion board over at http://www.quarterlifecrisis.com to see what they're in for in 4-10 years if they listen to their well-intentioned but tragically uninformed parens. On that board, don't know about peak oil over there, but they are dealing with the consequences, even if they don't know it.



Most of [their] parents have NO idea how much things have changed for 25 year olds in the last 25 years.

I'm in the "parents" part of the herd and thus know other parents who are not only PO-deniers (I'm kook in the crowd) but also refuse to listen to their 18-30 year olds.

The big factor the Boomer parents of today don't get is that world population went from 3 Billion in 1960's (our time) to 6.5 Billion today (more than double!!!). The best and brightest from all over the world fight to get into the USA.

Competition for everything has gone up as a square of the population bomb function.

Want to get into a good college in USA?
--- You better have a GPA of 4.2 or higher
---- AND lots of extra-curricular pluses

Want to get a good job?
--- You better be in the top 10% of that school that is filled with all high schoolers who had 4.2 GPA or higher.

Want to become an engineer and work in America?
--You must be insane. Change your major to psychology, seek self help.

Want to become a lawyer?
--You better have some niche market in mind, like petro maritime law because general practitioners are a dime a dozen, and even that price quote is high.

Want to become a doctor?
--Just sign your soul away to the HMO's. They will tell you how to breathe and when. Sleep is a non-negotiable deal killer. You sleep, you weep.

Gun dealers and gasoline bootleggers should do well in the emerging global markets.


If I had to do it all over again now, I'm not sure I'd go to college.  Unless you're very wealthy, you end up in an awful lot of debt to get that sheepskin.  Tuition has skyrocketed, while the financial aid money of the past has dried up; most aid is now offered as loans.  Even ROTC scholarships don't pay as well as they used to. And there are so many kids who drop out of school without finishing, and end up with the debt but not the diploma.

Credentials may not be as big a deal in the post-carbon age as they are now.  You may be able to do what you want without the degree...and the debt.      

It just means that you need to fully overextend yourself into insolvency as quickly as possibly after graduation so you can go bankrupt early and get back into the game sooner with a nice fresh start. Better than endless toil simply to pay back a corrupt money system.
Having a bankruptcy on your record may be worse than not having a diploma.  Employers often check credit references these days.  It doesn't matter if you plan to be self-employed, of course.  OTOH, many who are self-employed don't need a diploma anyway.
It's not the diploma. It's what you learned. It's what you can do.

I remember many a great teacher that fotune brought my way.
I never dwell over the meaningless parchment.

(Some great teachers do not teach for a living, do not work in a university. It may be someone who mentors you at work, takes you under their wing and shows you how to fly. Do not judge the teacher by his or her lack of professorial outer garments. But do appreciate what they gave you and pass it forward.)

You can't just erase student loans, I believe they are exempt from bankruptcy, though I'll be happy if I'm mistaken :)
Partially correct (and well I'm speaking as an Ontario, Canada resident)... Government issued student loans (like my OSAP loan) survive a bankruptcy. But private ones dont, and for me the government ones were both the smallest of the loans I could get and the lowest interest. Come on, we have to put ourselves through school mainly with 18% interest credit cards nowadays. I smashed CAD$25000 private debt (about $16K credit cards of one form or another and a b.s. CitiFinancial 30%/a loan for $7000) through the bankruptcy and now have about $2000 remaining (OSAP). My situaion was unique in that I didnt plan it out like this, it just sort of happened. But if you plan it out, take only private loans, etc with the full intention of never paying them back, then well you should be fine. Except as Leanan mentioned that some employers suck, but you dont want to work for those ppl anyways. I suppose it depends on your situation but for me this is working out well.
I'm afraid bankruptcy is no longer much of an option, due to the outrageous changes to bankruptcy law that were passed in January at the urging of the credit card companies (who had been pushing this for years if not decades and finally got a compliant majority in Congress, including not a few shameful Democrats).  Basically, and leaving aside the student loan issue (and taxes, which can't be discharged in bankruptcy), you can't fully discharge private debt any more but must enter into a partial payback agreement.  Hardship exemptions such as cases where bankruptcy is due to medical costs were all voted down.  Except for some fat cat exemptions, e.g., though your principal residence is exempt from liquidation only up to some modest value, another exemption kicks in for very expensive homes, so that people like the Enron lawbreakers can stash their assets in real estate and then file for bankruptcy.  So don't stash bankruptcy in your collection of post-peak survival strategies.

...Just a reality check here...but weren't there Universities and Colleges before the first oil wells were ever drilled in the 1800's?

Sheeesh...we have got to get a grip....

Did anyone say there wouldn't be any colleges or universities post-peak?

The question is whether a college degree will be worth going into massive debt, not whether colleges will continue to exist post-peak.  

I believe that the all time record high school enrollment is going to be 2007-2008 (the Baby Boom Echo, which is bigger than the Baby Boom Generation).

The problem is that millions of these kids are going to be heading off to colleges confident that the Great American Way of Life--with a 4,000 square foot home, three Hummers and three above average kids--is an entitlement.  

Even with Peak Oil, the Baby Boom Echo kids would be facing severe economic problems because of the debt load that we are leaving them.   With Peak Oil, it's hard to overemphasize how tough it is going to be for them.  Perhaps the best advice is to suggest that they learn organic farming.

Not that they'd listen.  

If I'd listened more to my parents when I was growing up, I'd know a lot more about cooking, sewing, farming, carpentry, etc., than I do.  

The great land grant universities founded around agricultural activities aren't really focused on agriculture so much any more.  I am thinking of my alma mater, UC Davis, which is far from the Cow Town it was formerly reputed to be.  Furthermore, what agriculture still exists is dominated by the industrial model.  Some of the efficiency of fuel use in the US is due to programs of these universities, e.g., support of precision ag.  All that is better than nothing I suppose, but sustainable, small-scale ag is not something US universities know much about.

In a more general sense, for those of us who feel that Peak Oil means Peak Food, the shift towards humanities type majors seems unwise.  How many of those trained in Film Criticism can grow a carrot?

I'm 100% in support of gay rights, but I have to wonder how much value the degree In "Gay and Lesbian studies" some schools are giving out is going to have in the future.



Yes, but they served a very small percentage of the population.  In the early days, I'd guess they were mostly children of the landed gentry.


Looking at census figures, even by 1900, only 6.4% graduated High School, and 36% of HS graduates achieved a college degree. That's only about 2%.

Though the percentage of HS graduates grew to 47.4% in 1945, the percentage that went on to college steadily dropped to 11%.  Only 5% got degrees.

The GI Bill led to a 1949 surge of 59% graduating HS and 40% of those getting degrees, up to 23% of the population.

In 2000, 71% graduated HS, and 48% of those earned a bachelors.  That's about a third.

So, if I'm reading the stats correctly, in the 1800s, less than one in fifty might complete college.  Currently one in three does so.

Post-peak, how many will be able to afford college?

This is why I have my doubts about whether we'll be able to invent our way out of this, or even maintain our current level of technology.  
I think that is too pessimistic.  There might be a big retreat but there will be a lot of opportunities to invent and develop new energy technologies.  Another big opportunity area will be computer and communications technologies because they will allow people to collaborate without traveling.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention.  This crisis will spur a great deal of innovation.  There seems to be a lot of people cheering for a big die off.  Not me.  I am going to be writing a lot of code.

And yet...past civilizations, many quite advanced, did not reach the level of technology that we have.   Why not?  The answer, I suspect, is not democracy, freedom, capitalism, Christian morals, or Aryan superiority.  It's cheap fossil fuels, that meant it was possible for large numbers of people to specialize...to do things other than farm.  

Then there's Tainter's "declining marginal returns."  The End of Science is real.  There's still much to be discovered, but it takes more and more resources to gain less and less benefit.  

In the early days of science, it was possible for individuals without much education or equipment to make great discoveries.  It's nearly impossible now.  Even people who are highly educated, well-connected, and well-funded contribute only "islands of trivia in a sea of minutiae."

As Tainter puts it:

Some notable scholars have commented upon this. Walter Rostow once argued that marginal productivity first rises and then declines in individual fields (1980). The great physicist Max Planck, in a statement that Nicholas Rescher calls 'Planck's Principle of Increasing Effort, observed that "...with every advance [in science] the difficulty of the task is increased" (Rescher 1980). As easier questions are resolved, science moves inevitably to more complex research areas and to larger, costlier organizations (Rescher 1980). Rescher suggests that "As science progresses within any of its specialized branches, there is a marked increase in the overall resource-cost to realizing scientific findings of a given level [of] intrinsic significance..." (1978). Exponential growth in the size and costliness of science is necessary simply to maintain a constant rate of progress (Rescher 1980). Derek de Solla Price noted that in 1963 science was, even then, growing faster than either the population or the economy, and of all scientists who had ever lived, 80-90% were still alive at the time of his writing (Price 1963). In the same period, such matters prompted Dael Wolfle to publish a query in Science titled "How Much Research for a Dollar?" (Wolfle 1960).

Scientists rarely think about the benefit/cost ratio to investment in their research. Yet if we assess the productivity of our investment in science by some measure such as the issuance of patents (Figure 4.3), the productivity of certain kinds of research appears to be declining. Patenting is a controversial indicator among those who study such matters (Machlup 1962; Schmookler 1966; Griliches 1984), and does not by itself indicate the economic return to the expenditures. Medicine is a field of applied science where the return to investment can be determined more readily. Over the 52-year period shown in Figure 4.4, from 1930-1982, the productivity of the United States health care system for improving life expectancy declined by nearly 60%.

The declining productivity of the United States health care system illustrates clearly the historical development of a problem-solving field. Rescher (1980) points out: Once all of the findings at a given state-of-the-art level of investigative technology have been realized, one must move to a more expensive level.... In natural science we are involved in a technological arms race: with every victory over nature the difficulty of achieving the breakthroughs which lie ahead is increased.

Complexity has an energy cost - one that is already getting harder and harder to pay.  In the post-carbon age, it may be impossible.

And yet...past civilizations, many quite advanced, did not reach the level of technology that we have. Why not? The answer, I suspect, is not democracy, freedom, capitalism, Christian morals, or Aryan superiority. It's cheap fossil fuels, that meant it was possible for large numbers of people to specialize...to do things other than farm.
I think the feedbacks are more complicated here. According to Coal Energy Systems by Bruce Miller:

The first definitive record of the use of coal is found in Aristotle's Meteorology, where he writes of combustible bodies. Theophrastus, in his fourth-century Treatise on Stones, describes a fossil substance used as a fuel. Theophrastus and Pliney both mention the use of coal by smiths. The coal mentioned in these writings was apparently brown coal from Thace in northern Greece and from Ligurai in northwestern Italy. This coal was not normally used in iron-smelting furnaces because of its impurities and, hence, inability to produce the required high temperatures, although Pliney does mention its use in copper casting, which can be done at considerably lower temperatures.

Although the Greeks and Romans knew of coal around 400 BC, they did not have much use for it because wood was plentiful. When wood is abundant, there is litle incentive to mine coal. Coal was used as a domestic heating fuel in some part of the Roman Empire, particularly in Britain, but it never made more than a marginal contribution as a fuel resource. As the Romans invaded northward, they encountered the mining and use of coal in the vicinity of St. Etienne in Gaul (France) as well as in Britain, where coal cinders in Roman ruins indicated that coal was used during the Roman occupation, from approximately 50 to 450 AD.

So I think you'll need a different explanation for why 18th century England began the industrial revolution, where the Romans did not. It appears that the Romans failed to exhaust their timber resources sufficiently to require them to up their coal use enough to need to mine deep enough that they would be forced to invent the steam engine to pump out the mines. Or something like that...
Tainter and Diamond cover that.  Especially Tainter.  He argues that even when a society is past the point of diminishing returns - when economically, they'd be better off not investing in more complexity - there is a situation where they cannot collapse. That is when there is a group of societies, of similar complexity, in competition with each other. No one can collapse, because if they do, they'll be taken over by a neighbor. Collapse, when it comes, will be a group affair. No one can collapse unless they all collapse at once. (Which is what happened to the Maya.)

That is the reason Europe did not collapse long ago, and that is the reason the next collapse will be a global one. A "powerdown" is impossible in the current political climate.

The answer, I suspect, is not democracy, freedom, capitalism, Christian morals, or Aryan superiority.  It's cheap fossil fuels, that meant it was possible for large numbers of people to specialize...to do things other than farm.

I agree, Leanan. The other thing is that most of what we call "technology" now either consists of ways of using cheap fossil fuels, or depends on such ways. Take away the fossil fuels, or make them very expensive, and our current process of technological invention doesn't even have a clue about what to do next, in virtually any area. It's not just a matter of lots of people having time to sit around and think stuff up. It's rather that fossil fuels turned a lot of things into new low-hanging fruit over the last two hundred years.

The following quote shows an error in thinking:
past civilizations, many quite advanced, did not reach the level of technology that we have.   Why not?  The answer, I suspect, is not democracy, freedom, capitalism, Christian morals, or Aryan superiority.  It's cheap fossil fuels
This is exactly backwards.

The world actually had less fossil fuel at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution than it did during the Roman empire.  (How could it be otherwise?  They aren't being made any more, oil leaks naturally, and e.g. the Chinese were using coal.)  The difference between the first century CE and the eighteenth was not the amount of fossil fuel on earth, it's what we had learned to do.

We've learned to get wind and nuclear power for a few cents per kWh.  We've learned how to hybridize Asian grasses to yield up to 60 tons/hectare of biomass.  We'll get through this.

Yeah, but as far as I can see we mostly learned how to do a lot of neat stuff with fossil fuels. Maybe  we will get through this, Engineer. But two obvious things that weren't true while we were learning: no more cheap fossil fuels, and 6.5 billion of us swarming over the planet. "What we learned" had better be damned good.
I find the current status of our knowledge and technical ability absolutely amazing compared to any previous epoch in human history. I am very optimistical about this body of culture being preserved and further built upon. I am less optimistical about it being used to its full potential to give almost all humans a long and compared to other epochs rich lives.

I do not grok the idea that a culture destroying die-off is inevitable, it seems like some kind of death wish. I have never understood such, its as hard to understand as suicidal people.

the current status of our knowledge and technical ability

What do you mean by "we" keemosabi?
(That's a punch line to a racist lone ranger joke, never mind.)

The question is who is this "we" who has all this incredible knowledge --and more imporatntly, "ability"?

The general populace knows not of PO.
The general populace knows not of thermodynamics.
Even most of the leaders of our massive herds know not of any of these things.

What they do "know" is that the Invisible Hand always provides.

What they do "know" is to stay at the front end of the stampeding herd and to scream, "stay the course". That makes them "leaders".

"Die-off" is about the day that the Invisible Hand changes its mind and decides to no longer provide us with all that we were born to deserve.  "Die-off" is about the day that our linearly growing technical "ability" fails to keep up with our exponentially growing population and there is no longer enough food to go around, enough energy, enough medicine to go around.

Let me put it in simpler terms for you:
Got bird flu vaccine?

Why should I be afraid of a flu that is contagious between birds but not between humans? If it mutates to human - human then it might be a disaster. There is a capacity limit in vaccine manufacturing and we do not know how hard it will be to develop a vaccine for such a virus strain. If there is a vaccine or other medications available but in too small quantities there is a Swedish plan to prioritize hospital staff, people working with important infrastructure and services and high level leadership. This means that those who drive the garbage truck and those who can repair the electricity service will get vaccine before me if there is one available.

Lots of people know lots of things. I meet them everywhere. Very few of them decide on policies but most of them could do more then they do if there is a need. This makes me optimistical. I am not alone in knowing things, there is no critical secret. And there seem to be less consensus then a decade or two or three ago. But I am still to young to have first hand knowledge.

Technical ability is not growing in a linear way. The biggest problem is to get everyone to use the most suited and best available technology or at least a fairly good one. This will fail in different regions due to conflicts, cultural reasons and indeed leadership stupidity. If this leads to millions or whole countries dying it is a tragedy but not the end of civilization and our knowledge.

My impression of the die-off argument is that it is supposed to be a modern version of a harmageddon that brings down civilization. Manny who talk about it seem to refer to it as something we deserve for our sins.

I do not remember the joke you refer to.


Thanks for reading the old post.

I was focusing more on the claim to incredible human "ability"

Dictionary definition: abitlity: the quality of being able to perform; a quality that permits or facilitates achievement or accomplishment

Too many of us (IMHO) think we humans can do all these incredible things once we merely think of it.

It's sort of a "Captain Pickard syndrome" from Star Trek (Gen II).

You know: where the captain of the space vessel mutters, "Make it so" and whalla, the holographically gifted crew of the Enterprise takes care of all the details; especially that obedient Scottish engineer, Scotty who is always fibbing about the finite limits of his latest technology because, after all we know how those nerd engineers are, always being too conservative:

"Aye Aye Captain but the di-lithium crystals can't take much more and our warp drive, she be close to overload."

Too often we live in the holodeck fantasy of a Star Trek world.

You also of course have to do the work. Even half or a tenth of the current global manufacturing capacity is colossal ability to get things done.

But you do have a point. In the smallest possible personal micro scale I do myself figure I can easily do a lot of things but I do not truly know untill I have done them. Sometimes something that I thought was easy was indeed hard, like some math or using a labyrinthine CAD program. Try and try again, for me it often helps to read the same subject with both english and swedish books and then try again. If things go well for me I have building a small house as the next major personal project. It is probably a fairly common mistake to think you can do more then you actually are able to do.

I think it helps if you try to solve problems in different ways starting from different point of view and this can surely also work in a macro scale. Its probably very good to have variations in culture and ways to work. The only people who are truly doomed are those who do not learn from trying and others works, a lifetime is far too short to do all mistakes and successes on your own, as an individual or a subculture.

Let me explain the joke, because it has links to some DUETs (Deep Universal Eternal Truths).

"Keemosabi" is a corruption of the Spanish words, "Que me sabe?" which translates to "What do I know?"

But these words are being used ironically. How do I know this? Because the origin comes from an old radio (and comic book and later TV) series called "The Lone Ranger." The Lone Ranger is a cowboy who wears a mask and rides a white horse, named Silver. He is a Hero who fights and always defeats The Forces of Evil, and furthermore he is a humanitarian who loads his sixguns with silver bullets, because he so seldom has to shoot that he can afford the precious metal. However, as with so many great heroes, he is not especially smart. The smart one is his Indian (that is, Native American) sidekick, Tonto, who does not speak much English and is much happier with his lines of Spanish wit. (Think Don Quixote and Sancho Panza; I suspect they were the original models; Sancho is smarter and saner than Don Quixote, who has had his brain seriously damaged from reading too many romantic novels.) Anyway, when the Lone Ranger is in an impossible situation and about to be defeated by the Overwhelming Forces of Evil, Tonto saves the day. It is his job. Because he belongs to a despised ethnic group, he survives in part be pretending to be humble, but everybody knows he is the smart one who has to save his friend The Hero, who has a pure heart but is not too strong in the intellect department.

BTW, I believe that courage (together with justice and what the Greeks called by a word translated as "temperance"), or "virtue" in the Aristotelian sense, is far more important than intellectual power in solving problems.

nod Intelligence is our most important tool, its not the motivator.
As Bill Cosby noted, Tonto also got
beaten up a lot:

"Tonto, you go to town."
"You go to hell, kimosabe!"

As usual, Magnus, you raise most excellent questions.

In regard to suicide, it typically results from severe depression that, in turn, is linked to a serious imbalance in brain chemistry.

One of the things I find most disheartening about modern society is the huge and rapid increase in clinical depression (and suicide) that is found.

In Jamaica, almost nobody commits suicide because depression is almost unknown. In Iceland there is a low suicide rate, while genetically similar people in your own country and neighboring ones have high rates of suicide and depression. The reasons for these cultural differences are complex. For example, the fact that Icelanders eat large quantitities of fish (far more than Swedes) may be part of the explanation for healthier brain chemistry. But Icelanders also read a great deal, don't watch much TV, and from the small sample that I know seem to be remarkably happy and confident people.

Three of my friends have killed themselves, and so this topic is not only of academic interest to me. There was nothing I could do to help them, nothing that psychotherapy or antidepressant drugs could do either. One was a very close friend.

necessity is the mother of invention.  This crisis will spur a great deal of innovation.

Nothing personal, but that's a pile of horse shit.
I work in the invention business (from a number of different angles). Inventions don't mushroom out of some abstract "necessity". Very often, inventors struggle for many years.

It only appears to the lay public as if inventions show up just in time, when needed-- this being because no one would give inventor the time of day until a viable commercial use for the invention was understood to exist and some businessman fronted the money. Do you know the story of the Xerox machine? They laughed at Carlson when he proposed to replace 10 cents-a-sheet carbon paper with a machine that costs $10,000.

We have a great "necessity" right now for an affordable replacement for oil. So where are all the inventions that of "necessity" will automatically arise from the fog to save our day?

Hmm. I think it's true that the crisis will certainly spur innovation. My experience of innovation is that it always comes because I am trying hard to solve some problem for some reason. The more motivated I am, the more likely a creative solution will come.

However, it's very hard to say in advance how easy or hard a given problem will be. They're all easy after they're solved, but many a start-up has gone under because the problem was harder than it looked.

There was a depression for 20 years before 2000 in the oil business that shut down most innovation.  It is starting up again but may take a while.  There will eventually be a lot of innovation, especially in the area of alternative fuels.  But do not look for the oil business to lead it.

In Information Technology there is incredible momentum.  Kurzweil documents decades of exponential growth in "The Singularity Is Near".  IT is less energy dependant than your (above posters) comments suggest.  Do not discount the incredible advances of technology and widespread education.

This crisis will concentrate people's efforts.  The idea of having one computer left in some monastery that is the last remnant of the ancient knowledge is quaint but is not going to happen.  I am betting on the creativity of a highly motivated global community to find solutions which will reduce the impact and preserve some new modernity.  There is little leverage in working alone, growing your own food.

Do not discount the incredible advances of technology and widespread education.

I don't.  I just don't think either of those are sustainable without cheap, abundant energy.

"In Information Technology there is incredible momentum."

Yes, but in energy technology we are still using the same sources we used a century ago. All the advnaces in solar nanotech and other fancy new stuff still contribute less than a tiny fraction of our overall supply.

"This crisis will concentrate people's efforts . . . "

In figuring out how to better kill each other, I would argue. AGain, compare the defense budget to the renewable energy tech budget.

"I am betting on the creativity of a highly motivated global community to find solutions . . . "

I'd call a genetically modified bomb a pretty "creative" solution to the oil supply problem:


When you consider the extremely tribalistic nature of our history, that seems to be the type of creative solution we are likey to gravitate towards to.



I am betting on the creativity of a highly motivated global community to find solutions which will reduce the impact and preserve some new modernity.

What global community?

The people, such as us, who will rise to the challenge and figure out how to make the best of this situation.
The crisis is at hand.
PO is now.
You are highly motivated.
Please start innovating.

Of course, I'm teasing you here.
Innovation doesn't come that easy. Often it is an accidental confluence of what appear to be unrelated ideas and someone smart enough to recognize how to merge the ideas together to come up with something improved (so-called "combination" inventions).

I'm still in the "understand the problem" stage :-)
As are all of us given the breadth of the issues this touches on.

In your case, if I may make a suggestion, I suggest you study up on the genetic aspects:


It's the one thing almost everybody (except Jay) refuses to look at. I suspect the reason is that once you understand it, you cannot remain optimistic about society's chances of getting through this peacefully and rationally.

Being pessimistic generall makes you less popular than an otherwise equally positioned person who exudes optimism. Thus the pessimist is less inclusivley fit than the optimist. Thus, folk's brains have an incentive not to come to an understanding of the genetic problem.

I share this with you because I find intelligent people's reactions to the genetic aspect of this extremely fascinating.




This is the key part of that link:

Assume that two fundamental "genetic sets" (strains of people) exist in a tribe of primitive people. Each group is represented by ten pairs. Further assume that this tribe loses 30% of its population every twenty years due to war, disease, and famine.

Members of gene set #1 are intelligent, honest, and forward looking. The mating pairs in this set only have two children and limit personal consumption because they know the tribe is over carrying capacity (many die of starvation every twenty years). After 20 years, this set has 20 adults + 20 children = 40 members.

Members of gene set #2 are stupid, corrupt, chronic liars, and only care about the present. The mating pairs in this set consume ten times as many resources as the first group and have an average of ten children before the females die. After 20 years, this set has 10 adults (females dead) + 100 children = 110 members.

A famine kills 30% of the tribe. Now, set # 1 has only 28 members, while set # 2 has 77 members. The tribe now has total of 105 members. The fraction of gene set #1 will continue to shrink till it dies out.

What kind of people will be selected? Obviously, it's people who are stupid, corrupt, chronic liars and only care about the present. The ancestors of everyone alive today was selected by a process something like the one described above.

Ok - sociobiology is certainly very fun to speculate about, but it is extremely subtle, controversial even amongst the sociobiologists, and not generally something on which you can base an argument that is cast iron certain.

In particular your example here has a huge problem: since humanity has almost everywhere for almost all of our evolution been resource limited and subject to occasional episodes of drought, starvation, etc, why didn't the chronic liars outbreed the honest folks long ago?

There are likely to be profound effects that arise because of differential investment in children. If one family has two children and another has ten, well the first family can invest a lot more time and effort in their two children, than the second family in each of the ten. So now the two children are securely attached to the parents let's say (are you familiar with the attachment theory due to Bowlby, Ainsworth, etc, at all?), while the ten children have insecure attachments. Attachment status is strongly correlated with cognitive development. So the two children are smarter coming into school (there is an inverse statistical association between IQ and family size). Not only that, the parents can help them with homework, guide them away from drugs, etc, etc far more than the ten children. So the two children have a higher chance of becoming high status professional members of society. The ten children have a higher risk of behavior problems, criminality, etc, and ending up as low status members of society. Now, when the 30% cull arrives, do you think that high status and low status members of society have equal chances? Clearly not, right? We all know that when trouble hits society, the poor and the weak are at enhanced risk.

So it's much more complex than you suggest. It's not actually obvious which strategy will work better.

(I personally suspect that this kind of reasoning is why all human societies appear to go through a demographic transition as they develop. Since that seems to be universal, I speculate there is a biological basis for it, even though it seems counter-intuitive - a naive Darwinian analysis would suggest that individuals in resource-rich developed societies should take advantage of their opportunities and have lots of children. But without exception industrial societies have fewer childen than developing societies. I speculate that the reason is that most of us are wired not to have more children than we can keep at a comparable or better social status to our own. It takes far more investment to get a child to the point of success in a developed society than an agricultural one. (This also may be related to why hunter-gatherer tribes typically self-regulate their population which I believe is considered an open problem in population biology - Jason Bradford could educate us if he's around).

Generally I suspect that societies consist of a range of different strategies that form some kind of more-or-less stable solution to the propagation equations. I'm not a biologist but I understand it's even possible for multiple strategies to be carried by one individual and then have the early environment select amongst them via gene regulation (and indeed this may be what's going on with the different styles of emotional attachment).

Big difference between the (evolutionary) extremely recent development, before birth control, and after.
The demographic transition in European countries considerably predates the invention of modern birth control.
"since humanity has almost everywhere for almost all of our evolution been resource limited and subject to occasional episodes of drought, starvation, etc, why didn't the chronic liars outbreed the honest folks long ago?"

I think they did. Note the multiple religions where the proponents insist God told them to slaughter those of other religions. Now, those saying that usually sincerely believed that God told them to do it. Their sincerity is what allowwed them to be convincing liars. That's been going on for at least 10,000 years, probably way, way longer.

"If one family has two children and another has ten, well the first family can invest a lot more time and effort in their two children, than the second family in each of the ten. . . . So the two children have a higher chance of becoming high status professional members of society."

Which family has more children to fight wars, eg go kill the other family? In human prehistory, that would have been more of a determining factor for than sending the two kids to the caveman equivalent of an IT, business, or liberal arts degree. Consider the following:

If each of the 10 kids also have 10 kids, that's 100 grandkids for family A.

If each of the 2 kids only has 2 kids, that's 4 grandkids for family B.

So when the time comes for the grandkids' generations to fight over  diminshing resources, which family is going to kill off which family?

Stuart, again lets talk realistically here. It's 100 to 4. Somebody is going to get their asses kicked and my money is on Family A wiping out Family B unles Family B manages to develop advanced killing technologies.

If Family A (the one with the 100 grandkids) wins, then nature has selected for the family more likley to overpopulate the environment.

If Family B (the one with 4 grandkids) wins, then nature has selected for the family more likley to developed advanced killing technologies.

Is it any wonder that the clash of civilizations boils down to a "war that will not end in our lifetimes" between 1 billion low-tech Muslims and 350 million high-tech Westerners (mostly Judeo-Christian)? Obviously, that's a gross oversimplification of the state of world affairs, but it's essentially accurate from the 30,000 foot view.

"Evolution selects for the bad guys." Which is another way of repeating what most of us society already knows which is , "the nice guys finish last."

If nature selected for the nice, sustainable guys, Bin Laden and George Bush wouldn't be in charge of the world these days.




BTW, I don't think it's a coincidence that our society is moving towards rolling back reproductive rights just as we're going to need more soliders to fight oil wars. I don't think that's being planned centrally anywhere, it's just the way human societies naturally organize themselves when they collectively sense a need to fight over resources.

"Evolution selects for the bad guys."

I couldn't agree less.  Evolution has been selecting AWAY from the bad guys, away from aggression.  Aggression may have been a desirable trait 30,000 years ago in helping to cope with the savage, wild world.  But as society has developed, aggressive behaviour has been ostracized.  The jails are full of bad people and many bad people die at an early age.  You can't pass on your DNA when you're dead, or when you're in the slammer.

Those who may think humanity is not evolving should consider how social norms are changing the gene pool.

I couldn't agree less.  Evolution has been selecting AWAY from the bad guys, away from aggression.

"The Economy" is not an anthromorphic entity.
"The Market" is not an anthromorphic entity.

and by the same token,
"Evolution" is not an anthromorphic entity.

It doesn't "select" anything.

It doesn't have a brain.
It doesn't have a goal.

Here is the basic equation:

  1. {Father genes} + {Mother genes}= {Baby with random mix}

  2. IF Baby dies before reproductive age or is infertile
THEN Baby's random mix of genes is deselected
3. Else Baby becomes one of Father or Mother. GOTO step 1

//end of algorithm
Note that there are no input parameters for "bad" person. "good" person, "aggressive' person, etc.

By bad, I mean the typical definition of bad which most of us define by referring to things such as lie, cheat , steal, kill, etc.
"But as society has developed, aggressive behaviour has been ostracized."

That's whay a man whose name is synonmous with "the terminator", a fictional killing machine from the future, is in charge of the 5th biggest economy in the world and made tens of millions of dollars from pretending to kill people.

It's also why George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are in charge of the most powerful nation in the world, I take it?

Don't take this one personally, but get a clue.

"The jails are full of bad people . . ."

The jails are full of drug addicts. The vast majority of whome are there for low level crimes of drug possesion or sales under $40.

I worked at the San Francisco Public Defender's office all through law school. PD's handle 90% of criminal cases. 90% of our cases were for possession or sales of small amounts of drugs, usually under $40 bucks worth.



"Those who may think humanity is not evolving should consider how social norms are changing the gene pool."

You ever hear of "Halliburton"?



(Matt, you'll increase your clarity if you use <blockquote> tags for quotes.  That's what they're for.)
I have a much more industrial view of innovation.  Like Simmons says, we need a World War Two level mobilization of the world to take on this crisis.  Big time investments, many of which will fail.

I think we need to recognize that we have won over elite opinion.  If we are going to lead we now need to turn to what we do about it.

Think about IT.  There are countless incredible opportunities to rearchitect society so that we do not need to travel so much.  Why should most people travel to work?

A lot of people say we need a new "Manhattan project" to deal with peak oil.  But how will we pay for it?  We haven't had a "Manhattan project" since the Apollo program of the '60s.  Which was before the U.S. peak, perhaps not coincidentally.

The way I see it, peak oil is a problem because it limits our ability to solve other problems.  Given enough energy, we can solve anything.  When the problem is energy...that's when TSHTF.

The Manhattan Project was just one small part of the WWII effort.  That is nowhere near the size of the effort we need.

How to pay for it?  Some estimate that we will pay as much as two trillion dollars for the war in Iraq, which is arguably the main element of Bush's energy strategy.  One way to raise money would be to impose a $2-3 per gallon gas tax, like they have in Europe.  Or mandate really ambitious fuel efficiency standards.  Sell war bonds.  Draft people and companies into the effort.  Think of all the technology we developed in WWII.

We still have cheap energy and will for some time as production plateaus.  Sometime in the next few years people will panic as the reality becomes unavoidable.  Many people will feel seriously misled by the cornucopians.   We should have some really serious options on the table.  The free market will make many of the investments that we need if we create the right positive and negative incentives.  Think of what private industry did in WWII.

The free market will ... if we create the right positive and negative incentives.

Free? market if ...
Don't you see the contradiction in the one sentence? How can the market be "free" if it needs all its puppet strings pulled by so called "incentives"?

Good point.  So its a mix of heavy handed guidance and the profit motive.  People will find big opportunities to make lots of money restructuring society.  Quantum evolutionary change as the environment changes radically.
People will find big opportunities to make lots of money restructuring society.

I don't doubt that for a minute.  During the Great Depression, the wealthy bought up gold, land, jewelry, etc., for pennies on the dollar.  I'm sure they'll do it again.

The difference will be that the gap between the haves and the have-nots will widen into a chasm.  The rich will be very few, but very wealthy.  The poor will be legion.  The middle class will be largely extinct.

Concentration of wealth is a chronic problem for capitalism but I do not think it will be worse than usual in the coming crisis.  There will be winners and losers.  People with drive and ingenuity will make the best of it.  People who are poorly positioned and without good survival skills will suffer.  The current order will be radically shuffled.

I am completely convinced that some form of modern life will survive and prosper.  The world will be radically different than today's world of cheap energy.  But, I predict that it will not uniformly regress to some former state of primitive agrarianism.

I agree with that.  It won't be uniform.  It will go a lot faster in some areas than others.

We may be lucky to end up with agrarianism in some areas.  

The hard part is finding good people to work together with.
I think it's true that the crisis will certainly spur innovation.

Seriously, why?

"Hmm. I think it's true that the crisis will certainly spur innovation . . . "

In weapons development.

As evidence, just look at the defense budget versus the renewable energy budget. Sure, once things get "bad enough" maybe the ratio between those two figures will beging to reverse itself, but I doubt it.

(Somewhat of a carry over from our debate on the other thread, I realize)



We're developing ultra advanced genetic-specific bombs:


That's just one example I'm not optimistic about where this is heading. It may be easier or more energetically profitable for those in charge to simply wipe out the people who live on the resources rather than come up with new ways of doing things. Remember, our way of life is non-negotiable.



Stuart, were you energy-starved at any of these times?  That's the problem as I see it. I'm not good at thinking clearly when I'm hungry (ie a shortfall between my bodies demand for energy and the supply). I think the same is true for societies.

As we have multiple crises we're facing, I ask, "How many of these ideas did you think of when you were hungry, freezing, wet, and suffering from some horrible stomach flu?"



I see you are very hung up on genetics.
Do you have any biochemistry background?

Know this, in Silicon Valley where I live we have concentrated pools of boy genius and girl genius (often both with degrees from MIT). You would think that boy genius plus girl genius equals baby genius. But not so!!!

In Silicon Valley we have high rate of autistic children.
Because genius and and mentally deranged are divided by a fine line. Too much of a good thing is too much. The same genes that make some people highly introspective, sensitive and thoughtful can also make them too introspective (autistic) and too sensitive.

Genetics is a crap shoot. And the outcome is random.

So the math goes like this:
Genius + Genius = Random
Moron + Moron = Random

Remember our original equation:

Ape + Ape = human progenetor

Personally, I think religion is much more of a controller on whether we have a cooperative society versus a self-centered, war lord society.

best --step back and see the fuller picture

"Personally, I think religion is much more of a controller on whether we have a cooperative society versus a self-centered, war lord society."

This reminds me of a fairly recent report that showed that the more religious a country, the more repressive the government.  

Father I.Q. 180
Mother I.Q. 180

Sons and daughters, average I.Q. 115 or thereabouts.


Regression to the mean.

I have seen this over and over and over again in the children of Nobel Laureates and other VSP (Very Smart People) that I know. With few exceptions, they are disappointed in their children. The exceptions tend to be population geneticists and others who understand regression to the mean.

The reason we "need" to send so many to college is because high school diplomas have been almost completely debased.  A century ago a diploma meant mastery of English, mathematics through algebra/trig, some of the classics, rhetoric and a host of other things.  30 years ago, it meant much less; today, it takes threats of pulling money to make high schools give it any meaning at all.

If we got rid of the union and bureaucratic BS and just made a diploma mean something, the limits on college enrollments wouldn't matter.  We'd probably be better for it.

As for Leanan, you don't need a degree to invent something.  Some of the best inventors I've met grew up as farm kids and would be inventing if you did anything short of throwing them in a cell; university education helps back the practice with theory and insights, but education can happen with or without schooling.

Dear All, re college educations and debt. Well highlighted.
I have this exact dilemma right now. One kid at UK university doing chemistry(so who knows) One kid yet to go
(or maybe not). PO has got me questioning the validity of
kids investing in a degree. Leaving university with £15k
of debt seems increasingly pointless when you consider that 30%+ of UK Kids now graduate. Grad salaries are falling in most categories. A lot of degrees are frankly a waste of time and merely serve to keep kids off the street for a few years more. Also, the kids are quickly working it out for themselves. We have debased the degree to an irrelavence. These kids will wake up and realise the debt is not worth it and the idea of slogging themselves to death to pay college fees, mortgages, the government pay roll and pensioners is not something they will want to do.
Just throw PO into this and watch the mutiny.
I think the young people taking on all the debt may become attracted (at least a significant enough portion) to extremist ideologies once they realize how bad things are. Sort of like what happened the Weimar republic. I also think this is a blind spot among many in the peak oil community who tend to be older and may not realize how angrey the younger generations are going to be.

I'm not too happy msyelf, but I have a comparitively sophisticated understanding of what is going on so I know there is nothing to blame but basic human nature.  But most are just going to pick a scapegoat for the economic uraveling.



In a recent thread I mentioned my 20yo son (intelligent, educated, anti-Bush, etc.) who doesn't want to hear about peak oil.  In thinking about it since then I've realized that a year or two ago he said he'd lost his passion for political protest (after going to a lot of anti-war demonstrations) because it wasn't going to have any effect - he just wanted to live his life and focus on the people and activities he loves.  As to the environment, he has said how pissed off he is that the planet has been totally screwed up and his generation cheated of their future.  So I think he has put up a wall around himself so he doesn't sink into despair (tendencies to depression being part of our genetic heritage).  The potential is certainly there for a lot of anger, though in his case there is no danger of it being channeled into right-wing (or other) authoritarian movements.
Tell him to sign up with the marines. Make sure he heads for Intelligence. This country needs more like him. Go for officer. Learn Arabic. He will be safe. He will lead us. Think Eisenhower. bjj, back me up on this one, please.
I do think that the military is a solid first step for a young adult.  For many, it's the first opportunity to be a part of something bigger than Self.  The majority of people that I have met and worked with are just the average person next door (from all walks of life) who work incredibly hard and diligently, often under less than comfortable conditions, simply because it's their job and people are depending on them.

It has always been my impression that the US military is the most progressive organization that I have worked with.  I know that that strikes most people as paradoxical; how can the prototypical authoritarian and hierarchical organization be labelled as progressive?  Yet, I stand by it.  The military operates as a meritocracy to a greater exent than the two petrochemical companies I have worked for.  And while it's easy and common for Americans to self-segregate in their social and family networks, military people, especially on deployment, do not have that luxury.  The result, in my opinion, is a group that values diversity and teamwork to its core.

Maybe one of the benefits I can bring to TOD is a glimplse into the real world of the people of our military.  What I know and have experienced first hand is generally a surprise to those who have never served.  Nothing mysterious or nefarious, just plain folks who are very talented and intelligent.  And very serious about getting the job done.

A college degree is a prerequisite to become an officer.  Having been enlisted and an officer, I'd recommend the officer corps.  One of the lessons I have personally embraced is that the troops eat first.  Always.  Period.  Full stop.  As a leader, the care and quality of life of your subordinates is absolutely and unequivocably job number one.  This has helped me in all other endeavors as I try to make sure that my personal wants and needs come after satisfying the needs of those I'm responsible for.

Now....Marine Corps or another branch?  Say, the Air Farce (ahem..Force..sorry, little typing slip).  That's a very personal choice and should not be taken lightly.  Each branch has a unique culture.  All services are very professional at what they do, but becoming a Marine is a lifestyle choice.  Once a Marine, always a Marine.

"I do think that the military is a solid first step for a young adult."

I just don't see how becoming an even more militaristic world is going to help anyone on on this planet, though I certainly wish the chickenhawks running the U.S. had more than Zero first-hand experience with the reality of war...

I too have 20+yo son with similar leanings (my vote doesn't count, why bother?)

But I think you make a fatal mistake in thinking that intelligence counters the "danger of it being channeled into right-wing (or other) authoritarian movements"

None of us are immune!
We are all irrational lemmings and Karl Rove can bend us like waxed noses any time he wants to. You have no idea of where the next mind twisting attack is coming from. The element of surprise is on his side. Is it going to be more "terrrrorists' or "bird flus" or "Iranian nuke nuts"? Anything to scare you and throw you fairly off balance. Your belief in the superiority of your own "intelligence" (and that of your 20yo son, I'm sure he is high IQ as is his mother) is your greatest weak point and blind spot.

P.S. I'm not immune either. We are all frail and fallible human critters. The best defense is to accept this deniable truth and repeat it to ourselves every day.

I have to agree; one must not underestimate the "popular delusions and the extraordinary madness of crowds," as the landmark book suggests.
I didn't intend to claim, and I don't think I did, that intelligence prevents attraction to authoritarianism - on the contrary, I observe little correlation between intelligence and humane values.  Nor do I have any "belief in the superiority of [my] own 'intelligence'" or of his.  I was simply giving my assessment of this particular person and the sum total of who he is.  Perhaps I was writing too late at night to be clear.
Liz, The admonition was not targeted at you personally. It was really meant for all of us --even myself.

Need proof the government is involved in brain control?
Swim into here if you dare.

He needs to play around a bit, but I think he will soon get bored and will come back. Let it be.
Ah, that is because they have understood the REAL TRUTH: all sciences are based on the more fundamental truths of Economics. If one has the brilliance of mind to understand the deep and mysterious reality of Economics then all other things become clear and may be explained. Knowledge beyond Economics is superfluous, argument is futile.
The markets have always, always provided. Even in the time of Noah, life rafts were available for a reasonable price. The fickle consumers just weren't buying. What a shame.
For what it's worth, I'm a Times Select subscriber. I've sent in a comment on the article and put in a well-deserved plug for this website, as well as Hirsch's peak oil mitigation report. Despite the fact that the Times is well behind the curve on this issue, we can't afford to ignore the impact this kind of article can have in loosening the media logjam. It's not as though the mainstream is beating a path to the door of the peak oil movement. Perhaps at some point a critical mass of media exposure will be reached and the public will begin to take interest.
Also, just so you guys don't feel you missed out too much:

I got a whopping 21 visits today from the times link. Two of those were me testing the link, I bet half of the rest were from long time LATOC, TOD, PO.com etc readers saying, "let me see, did they really link to these people?"



Do we want "attention" or do we want to get the message out?

My pet dog loves "attention".

--that reminds me, time for our mutual hunt (aka the "walk"). bye.

Thought I would drop in and say what a great site you guys have with some very sharp posters.  I keep pretty busy at peakoil.com, but I'll try to drop in now and again an put in my 2 cents. I keep waiting for the crescendo to build, but like Matt, I think it will catch most by the ass.


Hey, Matt!  How goes it?

There are people here who have been praising the NYT and its editorial board for quite some time here. Unfortunately, they have largely been ignored. The Times has not "suppressed" anything, as totoneila "Bob Shaw" fron Arizona would have you believe. Rather, the Times has been on the frontlines pushing a Gas-Tax for quite some time.

Give credit where credit is due. How many people here caught the Times' Business section interview with the Chairman and CEO of AutoNation(and former CEO of Mercedes Benz North America)?

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/25/business/25interview.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=prin t

This wasn't even behind a paywall.

"...browsing the NYT on a short break from work tonight when I was amazed to discover..."

C'mon Stuart, you can't be leaving all this stuff to Dave and Goose. You need to look up from those spreadsheets once in a while and smell the roses. You need to read more.

Think about taking on some more help with the news. There's too much of it out there for two people to handle. I would suggest Leanan, Jack, Halfin, Lou Grinzo, and Sunlight.

You need to look up from those spreadsheets once in a while and smell the roses.

I dunno.  There's nothing wrong with TOD as it is.  There's a lot of peak oil sites, including some devoted wholly and solely to peak oil related news. I like the general geekiness of TOD.  It's different.

While I agree with you in general, I'd like to point out where I disagree. There is a lot wrong with TOD. But to me, those things are what give it so much promise. We must constantly improve, advance, and innovate. This is the best oil "gateway." This is the "Google" of the oil world. There is no question about this. This website is an energy-opinion superpower. But that can change. There will be tactical and stategic moves that will be necessary to maintain this dominance.
This is the best oil "gateway." This is the "Google" of the oil world.

I disagree.  Moreover, I don't think it's necessarily a good thing to be the "Google" of the (peak) oil world.  

I've seen it time and again.  With rising traffic comes a declining signal-to-noise ratio.  In addition, the average Joe cannot follow the technical arguments here, and doesn't really want to.  As it is, we have people complaining about all the charts and graphs.

Google aims at the lowest common denominator.  TOD does not.  And I hope it never will.

Very well stated. Kudos.
I meant it in the sense that Google is the best at what it does. And I'm not sure if those complaining about the charts and graphs are anything but a small minority. But I agree with you.
They published a correction to the NYT article and it is now NOT behind the paywall !  One still needs free registration with NYT, but once that cookie is set, one can access the NYT easily.
Glad to hear it's out from behind the paywall. That was one thing I suggested in my e-mail to the Times (a suggestion I'm  sure others must also have made). Any little bit of positive publicity in the mainstream media is a good thing given the people's ignorance of what is in store.
Can you post a link?  I can only find the "behind the paywall" version.
I am registered at the NYT and tried to to access this article, but could not. Maybe they realized their mistake and put it back behind the paywall ...
Energy Bulletin has "liberated" it from behind the paywall:


As a careful reader of both this publication and the (print) edition of the New York Times, I'd like to point out that the article that inspired this thread was not published in the print edition of the Times yesterday. It was only available on the web.

What has actually been published in print in the op-ed section, today, is an Exxon-Mobil op-ad declaring that peak is nowhere in sight.

Aw hell...isn't that just wonderful frickin' news?

I've read the article anyway, and to the uninitiated it still sounds like global warming articles from the 80s "Some wacky guys think we have a problem, but really the smart, sensible guys think the problem is way, waaaaay off. So keep driving them thar Hummers folks!"

Ruppert's analysis of the article on his website said it all...lots of information missing from the article. I mean, the USGS says there's lots more oil, but if so...where is it??? And how many years will it take to bring online? And how much further down the decline curves in the world will we be? Anyway, you guys know the drill.

Thanks for pointing that out.  I suspected as much from all the hyperlinks in the article and sidebar but I couldn't easily check because I only get the Sunday Times in print.  This article was also one of their so-called "Talking Points" articles which are "Articles from the Times editorial board every two weeks that take a closer look at the issues of the day."  I bet these columns only appear online.

It's not clear to me whether opinion journalism or page one reporting will be more important for getting the word out through the MSM.  Probably some mix of both.

Here's a Scientific American editorial response to Exxon's peak oil ad:


The 'Talking Points' series is online only. Part of an effort, I suppose, to wean us oldies away from the print edition?

Thanks for the link to SciAm. In the SciAm article, there was a link to a recent piece by Simmons full of pithy quotes that might be of use to Stuart in his precis of the peak oil phenomenon...


Re:  ExxonMobil 3/2/05 Anti-Peak Oil Ad in NYT

ExxonMobil ran a quarter page ad on the Editorial Page attacking Peak Oil head on.   This is presumably in response to yesterday's NYT editorial regarding Peak Oil.

They quote the USGS estimate of 3.3 trillion barrels of conventional remaining oil reserves.   They go on to say, "Conservative estimates of heavy oil and shale oil pus the total resource well over four trillion barrels.  To put these amounts in perspective, consider this:  Since the dawn of human history, we have used a total of about one trillion barrels of oil."

Anyone else find it odd that the biggest oil company in the world is using USGS reserve estimates rather than their own?  I think that Saudi Arabia is doing the same thing.

In any case, I think that their primary motivation in attacking Peak Oil is to try to escape punitive taxation, i.e, they are going to assert that they need every dollar of cash flow in order to bring on the production from the trillions of barrels of remaining oil reserves.  

Using Hubbert Linearization (HL), Deffeyes thinks we have one trillion barrels of conventional oil left.  

Actual cumulative Lower 48 oil production from 1971 to 2004 was about 97% of what HL predicted it would be--using ONLY 1970 and earlier production data to predict future production.  Today, the world is where the Lower 48 was at in the early Seventies.

Should be:
Re:  ExxonMobil 3/2/06 Anti-Peak Oil Ad in NYT
Take heart!

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win"

Only one more step to go!

Link to ExxonMobil anti-peak oil ad: http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/Files/Corporate/OpEd_peakoil.pdf.
They're proud of their ads and put them all on their website.
"peak production is nowhere in sight"

I have today (March 7, 2006) filed a formal complaint with the SEC about Exxon Mobil's advertisement in the New York Times on March 2, 2006. The complaint specified Lee Raymond, CEO, Exxon Mobil. The original advertisement may be seen at Exxon's web site at


/Start of details of complaint

Lee Raymond, CEO of Exxon Mobile, either knew or should have known about a very high profile advertisement placed by Exxon Mobile in the New York Times on March 2, 2006, page A29. The advertisement violates securities regulations in at least one way cited below.

The advertisement seeks to refute the imminence of an all-time peak and subsequent decline of oil production. It says, among other things,

  1. "oil production shows no sign of a peak"
  2. "a peak will not occur this year, next year or for decades to come"
  3. "peak production is nowhere in sight"

An obvious inference from this prominent advertisement is that Exxon Mobil has reasons consistent with SEC rules on claims for future performance to believe that Exxon Mobil's oil production will not peak for "decades to come". In other words, Exxon Mobil's advertisement, by obvious inference, claims that Exxon Mobil's oil production will increase generally for "decades to come".

I have searched Exxon Mobil's recent quarterly and annual reports for information or claims in support of such a claim, and have not found it. Without immediate prominent public clarification or citation of existing documentation for this claim by Exxon Mobil, this advertisement must be considered to be in violation of Rule 10b-5(b): "To make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading"

/End of details of complaint

I have a feeling that they (Exxon-Mobil) have cleverly worded their ad so that none of it is actually false. The peak will not be in "sight" until after we have long passed it and it appears far back in our rear view mirrors. So even if peak is now, it won't be actually seen as a "peak" on actual data charts until long after its time.

Also there is the fuzzy definition of peak itself. When they say "peak", do they mean the same thing as when you say "peak"?  What is their definition of "oil production"? Does it include converstion of tar sands into liquid? Is that part of "production"? What about CTL? Do you see how fuzzy everything gets as you examine their fuzzy words up close?

If peak oil is correct, then for the U.S. coal has to be the near term (50 yrs+?) answer.  We've been trying the solar and wind thing for half a century, and it's about 1% of the U.S. complex.  Nukes have a NIMBY area half a country wide, and every few years there's another 3MI or Chernobyl.  U.S. has 300 years of coal, and Montana gov. said on 60 Minutes that it can be turned into high-grade diesel for $1/gallon.
Now calculate replacing oil declines with coal increases to keep up with a "healthy economic growth." Hundreds of years doesn't even enter the picture, perhaps 30 to 60 depending on what numbers you use.
A little off topic cause its "tar sands" rather than the even more solidified "coal" but ...

Go to this slide show and read it
You'll have a better "picture" of what is involved