Saturday Open Thread and News Dump

Keep on threadin' in the free world...
North Sea tax revenue cut by £1.5bn

The Treasury has written off three-quarters of the £2bn extra revenue it had hoped to raise from oil companies in 2006-07 after its recent increase in North Sea oil taxation.

...The UK Offshore Operators Association believes that after-tax rates of return in the North Sea have been falling, even though the price of oil has gone up, because taxation has increased and the costs of extracting oil from existing fields has risen sharply.

"Production has fallen because people are finding it hard work to get oil and gas out of the North Sea at the minute. There's undoubtedly been some extra down time as people try to extend the life of their aging facilities," said Mike Tholen, economics director of UKOOA.

According to Matt Simmons, the top 10 majors working the North Sea--using the best data and the best engineers in the world--were predicting that North Sea production would not peak until 2010 at the earliest.  

The North Sea (crude + condensate)  HL plot that I did indicated that North Sea production peaked at 52% of Qt in 1999.  Oil production in 1999:  6 mbpd.   Oil production in 2005:   4.7 mpbd.  

It would be very interesting to see what the majors were predicting that North Sea oil production would be in 2010.  It looks like production will have fallen by about 50% by 2010, from the peak in 1999.    

Evaluating the North Sea was a piece of cake compared to evaluating the world, Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc., but the top 10 majors were flagrantly wrong regarding the North Sea.  The humble, simple little HL model was deadly accurate.

Remember this little story every time you hear happy talk from ExxonMobil, et al, regarding future production levels.  

Speaking of wrongheaded predictions...Jerome a Paris has a new article about EIA's natural gas forecasts at DailyKos:

Countdown to 100$ oil (23) - Running out of natural gas in
North America

We're going down, down, down...

Leanan, thanks for the link.  I have always wondered why a certain type of graph is always done for NG fields but never for oil fields. The one I am talking about is this, from Jerome's post:

If people could see this effect on oil fields, we could better explain the situation for oil as well.
Maybe oil wells do not work like that.
At least for the UK, you can see a similar graph for the oil production here: (page 6 and 7). The data only runs till 2000 though. But there is a different color for each oilfield (there are around 260). The graph is pretty impressive, by the way. You understand much better the major problems that the uk oil production is facing.

It would be convenient to group oilfields by their starting year of production, like the graph you show of NG. The data of each oilfield updated is available here: . I have imported all the data with a program. So it would be fairly simple for me to do the graph you suggest. I will try to do it soon and post it.

Norway also has a web site with the same type of data. I will try to do the same thing for Norway.

Excellent, thank you. The graph for UK North Sea does condense everything into one graph.

That was back in  year 2000.
Does anyone have a similar graph for year 2004-2005 to see how the predictions for the "future" (beyond 2000) actually worked out? And also is there a discoveries graph that shows how those correlate to actual productions in the UK?
Like this

As of 2004 it was down ~66% from peak. The prediction said 50% by 2005. Not bad, IMO.

Here is an overlap of a trace (red) of Mobjectivist's yellow dots (assumed to be actual production points) and the year 2000 prediction curve. Pretty close. (The yellow verticals are for aligning the year markers at 1980, 1990, 2000)

I looked more closely at these series of graphs and I have some questions.

The 2002 & 2003 graphs agree on 2003 production, (as do the 2005 & 2006 graphs), but there is a delat between 2004 & 2005/6 graphs for 2003, presumably a settled # by 2004.

Likewise there is a small delta between 2005 and 2006 in their "predictions" for 2004 #s.

Presumably this is a timing/later revisions issue, but it seems large and late for such.

How much of the delta between 2005 & 2006E for 2006, 2007, 2008 is due to abandoned gas wells in the GOM (near depletion wells/fields that are not worth re-entering) ?

Any offical explanation for these MAJOR erros in prediction ?



Jerome explains how the graph was made in the comments to his diary.  IIRC, there's a two-year lag between prediction and reality.  Because, for example, the 2005 prediction was done during 2004, so the 2004 numbers on the 2005 line are prediction, not actual.
Here's Statoil's version of the truth, circa 2001:$FILE/Paradoxofplenty .pdf

Forecast production for 2005:  190 million cubic meters
Actual production for 2005:  148 million cubic meters

You'd think that Statoil would have had a better handle on what's going on, given that they are the major operator on the shelf.

The interesting thing is that the beat simply goes on:  The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate forecasts oil production to be flat to 2010: uksjon_120106.htm

They seem to live in the fantasy world where EOR will provide more and more oil each year....
The Oil Sands Of Alberta

There are 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves here.  The estimate of how many more barrels of oil are buried deeper underground is staggering.

"We know there's much, much more there. The total estimates could be two trillion or even higher," says Clive Mather, Shell's Canada chief. "This is a very, very big resource."

I posed this question at the bottom of Friday, so I'll move it to the top of Saturday.  

What would have to change, or what technical advances would have to be made, to move the Canadian tar sands recovery estimate from 175 Gb to 2,000 Gb?

(Khebab posted some good links, but I don't think the author really addressed the 2,000 Gb possibility).

 At present, labour appears to be a significant constraint. Alberta is in a boom, housing has gone up by 25% and employers outside the resouce sector are loosing key employees to the high wages offered in the patch. There has been talk of trying to bring in chinese labour but I do not know the current status of this initiative.

 The above factors have resulted in a general increase in the price level and oil sands projects are seeing the impact on their budgets but capital does not appear to be a constraint.

 Khebab's links made reference to new technologies which have the potential to increase recovery, lower costs, and minimize environmental impacts. Given that this is the case, I expect we may see delay, rather than acceleration, as companies begin an in depth review of all the associated technological challenges and seek the best economic means to address them. They have the leases locked up. The goal now is to increase ROI.

 From an oil industry perspective, PO is irrelevant. The industry has been dealing with depletion since the day of the first completion. Your company does not survive if you do not replace your reserves. Our PO discussion simply changes the frame of reference to a broader concern with the survival of a sociocultural meme rather than the survival of a single unique firm.

 And from yet another perspective, your question, if placed in the context of the Industrial Revolution, is a little like asking how do we go from Stephenson's Rockett to Union Pacific's Big Boy? The question is one which it is important to ask but the chances of obtaining a credible "accelerated answer" is low.

 And if someone suggest's a form of new Manhattan project the only credible response is "Surely you are joking Mr Feynman?" Do you really belive that the process that gave the world "heck of job, Brownie!" the Iraqi civil war, and an unsupportable national debt can turn the oil sands into anything but a vast KBR boondoggle? And, most unfortunately, Mr Feynman is no longer available.

I don't think that a new "Manhatten Project" is an unworkable or bad idea--if it is focused on getting energy from fusion and
1. has the enormous resources that World War Two mobilization put into the hands of
2. someone as capable as Robert Oppenheimer, who was not only a very bright guy but one who could deal with prima donnas such as Edward Teller, but also:
3. You have to pretty much turn the physicists and mathematicians loose, because engineers keep telling you about all the things that cannot be done due to their inherent conservatism (which BTW is very good to have in engineering).

Can electricity from hydrogen fusion work? Impossible to say. But nobody knew if the atom bomb would work either, and the concern was that it might work and Germany might get it first.

The potential benefits of fusion energy are so great IMO that if there is a 50:50 chance that it can be made to work that we [including all the very brightest physicists on earth who can be dragooned into the project] should be willing to invest up to $100 trillion over a period of thirty years. If it doesn't work by then, then we can fall back on uranium.

But suppose--and I know of no reputable physicist who states that electricity from fusion is impossible in theory--that it could be made to work?

What then?  

Here's the thing: how long did the original "Manhattan Project" take?

I think when current politicos throw around "Manhattan Project" they forget that it was a short project, really short.  This is especially true when compared to the long expensive projects we now have underway (like fusion energy or fuel cell cars).  Wind and solar have paid off to some degree, but they also have been 30 year projects, essentially.

Basically if there was an Einstein who could write a letter saying "wait a minute, a magic bullet is possible on this energy stuff" then maybe we could do a crash construction and implementation project.  But that hasn't happened.

Instead we've had people misapplying the "Manhattan Project" symbolism, and making it mean "let's have a crash project to find a new idea" or "let's keep slogging away on this idea that we have."

My interest (and concern) about energy goes W*A*Y back.  My undergraduate degree was in Physics, with a clear inetrest in plasma (fusion) physics.  Found out that I would not be more than an average Physicist so I went elsewhere.

Anyway, instability in the plasma due to "caps" on the end or curves is the long standing frustration of fusion researhcers.

"Compressing jello with rubber bands" is the basic analogy, and problem.

One idea that has floated around is a VERY long* straight tube.  Plasma could start in the middle and run out the ends.  By the time they get to the ends, fusion would have occureed, and the energetic plasma would "spray" into a capturing field to harvest the energy put in + new energy from fusion.

Miles and miles of compressing magnets would squeeze the plasma as it ran past, reaching thr critical point for plasma fusion. Length would provide the time. This approach is the only one that solves (in theory) the plasma instability casued by "caps" and curves. (some are concerned that the minor magentic bumps between magnets would create an oscillation. Putting each magnet 0.05 mm closer (reducing spacing) MIGHT prevent this oscillation).

*An interesting question is how long and how intense.  a relatively short linear fusion with VERY strong magents (beyond superconducting intensity) or weaker superconducting magnets and longer.  Constant magentic force, or stronger on the ends ?  A single prototype was expected to cost $3 to $5 billion in the 1970s.  Many design variants.

One killer in the 1970s was, would any utility want one of these if perfected ?  A single source, subject to unexpected downtime, of, say 10 GW average power with massive capital costs, DC power pulses of varying voltage every second or so.  (the pulse would not be a constant power or voltage, but would be DC with a millisecond peak of ~300 GW every second or so).

Something that appeals to me about fushion power is that it is NOT a new idea; it is an idea that has been around for a long time and had a whole bunch of money thrown at it. We know a lot of approaches that (probably) will not work. However, the fundamental understanding of what the problems are is much better now than, say, twenty or thirty years ago, when too many people were way too optimistic.

The brainpower assembled for the Manhatten Project was a one-time event. BTW, most of the people who did the most important work did not have English as a first language. Physics is a universal language, as is mathematics, and my guess is that the very brightest physicists and mathematicians worldwide would be delighted to go off into the New Mexico desert (or some other isolated place) and work eighty or ninety hours a week to tackle the project.

Hardest thing to do, IMO, would be to find another Oppenheimer. Many physicists are not especially good at management tasks, and that is putting the matter politely;-)

3 to 5 billion in 1970 would probably be 30 to 50 billion now. Sounds much but this is the cost we pay for the Iraq war for some 6 months. IMO the best way to do it is to be a international project like the international space station.

I suspect that after the first prototype is built and put in operation, the problems will be identified and the costs for the next projects will drop drastically. I wonder if homo sapiens is sapiens enough to choose the path of cooperation.

I'm all for a Manhattan type project. Let's really chuck some serious money at alternative energy projects. I mean a real war effort type thing. Let's all go back to WW2 and increase taxes on gas and the rich and start buying war bonds! Lets call them energy bonds. Explain to ordinary Americans that it's their patriotic duty to buy them.

Get Hollywood stars like George Clooney and Bruce Springsteen and others to go around America explaining the reasons behind this new national effort to make America energy independent by 2026. There is so much talent and energy going to waste in America. It's kind of tragic. Get some real national pride and patriotism working here! Let's have the Real Stuff back, not all this crap "Sham Partriotism" and "fake national pride" about the "Global War on Terror" and we're spending 7 billion a month in Iraq to bring them "democracy." Christ, it almost makes one want to weep, seeing how we're wasting time and resources, on a perverse "dream", resources that we need in other areas, like alternative energy. The U.S. is literally pissing away its future in the sand in the Middle East! Bring the boys home and put the money to good use in Ameica, not tax cuts for the super rich!

If America really is at war, let's start acting like we're really at war. Form a government of national unity, not the present government of national dis-unity. I mean America is a fantastic country, with an incredible culture, full of brilliant, smart and creative people - witness the Todders; and we allow a bunch of third-rate, incompetent lawyers to run the U.S. into the ground, how the hell did this every happen? It truly beggars belief. It's time for True American Patriots to take their country back, one way or another!

Returning to planet Earth for a moment, beamed down from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, have a nice weekend everyone, in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. It's really time to start taking those words seriously and thinking about what they really mean. Power to the People!

 If America is at war it is somewhere other than Iraq. Iraq is not at war with any other state. American does maintain an army of occupation in Iraq but the war was over three months after it started. Remember "Mission Accomplished?" Don't you understand the meaning of that phrase?

 And please do not claim that there is an ongoing civil war in Iraq. Your President has stated that this is not the case and you don't want to be caught speaking out against your President. After all, you gotta remember, there's a war on!!

There is a slight misunderstanding here I fear. The "War" I am talking about is not Iraq or the coming one with Iran or any other place down the line.

I want to see us utilizing the same kind of resources and attitudes we normally reserve for wartime, for purly peacefully purposes. I want to see a new definition of "partriotism" employed in a practical and intellectual "war" directed at the dire consequences of Peak Oil.

No to imperialism. No to militerism. No to colonialism. No to more wars for oil. Yes to using all of society's vast human and economic resources to solve our real problems, and the sooner the better. And if the current crop of politicians aren't up to the job, out on the streets and kick them out! Call it a "revolution", call it whatever you like, but let's get going! Power to the People!

 Fermi's pile under the stands at the University of Chicago provided physical proof of concept; the rest of the Manhattan Project was a set of engineering challenges.

 You are correct in regard to the conservatism of the PEng fraternity. Manhattan Project engineering was handled not by engineers but by the best physicists available. Think of having a basic mechanical repair on your car undertaken by Murray Gell-man and Richard Feynman. Working from basic principles, they could perform the fix but today we would view such a process as a waste of scarce resources. I do not believe the same level of human resources are available. To the degree they are available, they speak chinese.

 Since neither Grove, nor anyone else, really understood what the physicists were up to, they were free to undertake a few leaps of faith and WAGs. They built two different production processes as they were not certain which one would work. Feynman invented parallel processing on punch card equipment and likely moved the project ahead by several years. All of this activity was funded by the unlimited pocketbook of Uncle Sam operating in a command economy where everything belonged to the state. Given the current insult to your constitution, do you really wish to encourage your government in this direction?

 America now has a debt problem. You are throwing close to a trillion dollars at Iraq and you are further from a solution then you were four years ago. Now you want to print more dollars and hope that your creditors applaud? Remember your creditors have a vested interest in black muck.

 And given the unlimited funding currently available to DARPA how is it they have not yet made the breakthrough?

BOP as you sit at home typing sipping organically grown green tea is your teacup half empty or half full. I'm guessing the first.  Not to single you out but about a third of the TODers are major pessimists.  There is a serious crisis with energy.  Is there a solution? Of course humans are like cockroaches and before fossil fuels we inhabited every continent except antarctica, as well as remote islands and mountains.  Will there be a population reduction? Maybe, Maybe not.  I think some of those on this site who complain about the war and enviornemental policies LIKE the status quo so they can complain about it.

So I invite you all down from your Ivory towers. Come to the battlefront. Lobby your politicians.  Grow a garden. Plant a Tree. Invest in a Home solar electric system (the tax benefit makes it pay for itself in about three to five years) Do something  Talk is Cheap as is Typing.

I've beaten a dead horse with Iraq/terrorism.  My point is this If you can't conceive of a solution you'll never find one.  If I were stranded in the desert they would find my skeleton at the end of a LONG set of footsteps.  Don't patiently or Gleefully await your doom be proactive.

Ding ding ding!  We have a winner!!!

At a time when we need to be pushing for solutions to our looming problems, I see too many people discussing how to survive the coming collapse of civilization.  We're better off simply avoiding collapse altogether.

I, too, believe that there ARE solutions.  We ARE in for some difficult transitions, but I don't believe this is the End of the World.  Survivalists are going to be disappointed, though oil prices ARE going to go through the roof.  We'll change the way we live, but we aren't going to have a massive die-off.  More mass transit, more in-fill (which my town already practices), alternative fuels, the return of TRAINS:  these are all possibilities.  Smaller homes, economic depression, a loss of our (U.S.) superpower status:  this MAY also come to pass.  No matter what, though, we will see this through and won't end up in the stone age.

CONTRIBUTE!  Help solve the problem!  Defeatist outlooks lead to defeat.

Adding to the list of things you can do:  live near your work.  Commuting is the biggest use of oil we have.  If gasoline goes to $10 a gallon, but you can bike to work you aren't nearly as hurt.

Oilrig Medic:  Good post.  I wish The Oil Drum had a system like SlashDot for tagging -- I'd mark you as "Friend" because your head is screwed on right!

I certainly have no objection to powering down.  As I noted on another thread, I have all kinds of alternative energy stuff, orchard, garden, etc. And, I've been doing it for 30+ years.  

However, I think you are being naive on a number of issues.  First, I believe there is an acknowledgement among peak oilers that time is of the essence.  If you take the Hirsch report's "wedges", action is already years too late to have a significant impact on societal transition.

Second, before the general public demands action, they have to be convinced that such action is warrented since it will involve not only major changes in life style but also reallocating tax money for these major projects.

Third, as Kunstler has stated, the money has been spent for the current infrastructure.  To replace it will require, essentialy, spending almost as much money as was done in the first place.  Where is the money to come from?

Fourth, I have observed a lot of naivety even in people who want to relocalize.  For example, there are several groups in my rural California county working on this subject; and they are all going in different directions.  But what they haven't come to grips with is the simple reality that this county cannot feed the current population regardless of what agricultural methods are used or the little food people could grow in their yards.  The population has to go down either because residents move out or die off.

Fifth, the only Manhattan project that will have any impact is a project to get people to radically change they life styles to ones that are sustainable - and that assumes there isn't an economic collapse in the process (I personally believe a collapse will occur first.).

I'm better positioned then most people to weather a rough tranisition.  However, I don't delude myself that even with all my stuff that it will be anything but terribly hard and I'm used to a hard, rural life.

Excellent points.  You should post more often.  

Third, as Kunstler has stated, the money has been spent for the current infrastructure.  To replace it will require, essentialy, spending almost as much money as was done in the first place.  

Probably more.  And we're in much worse financial shape now.  We really should have all started when you did.

  we keep wondering how the monkeys will react ,

  that accounts for a good percentage , and many will be swayed by those who seem " the most commited " ....
i feel rather uncomfortable when i agree with doom's lawyer ...

This report (pdf warning) seems to suggest that the USA responds only to perceived military crisis. So the USA will need another Sputnik episode to incite the politicians and public into action.

 My cup runneth over with single malt scotch.

 You have the right idea. Let us get together and pray.

 Cherenkov - clash the cymbals and cue the alien technologists to enter stage right.


"If I were stranded in the desert they would find my skeleton at the end of a LONG set of footsteps."

I'd like to nominate this for the "sentence of the month" award here at TOD.

If I were stranded in the desert they would find my skeleton at the end of a LONG set of footsteps.  

You wouldn't consider living in the desert, rather than dying trying to get out?

This is a metaphor for not quiting ever.  A hypothetical unlivable desert with infinite borders.
You are assuming that those are pessimistic about peak oil are quitting.  They are not.  They simply have a different idea of what we should be striving for.

If I were stranded in the desert they would find my skeleton at the end of a LONG set of footsteps.

 Would be no end of embarrassment if you had been walking in circles around the oasis.

 Oh I forgot. You are dead. No embarrassment then.

BOP, Why is the only possibility for you anihilation or the unlikely (stage right) entrance of a Deus ex Machina? I agree with most of the things you say, We (humans especially westerners) have squandered a valuable resource over the past hundred years, Politics and complaceny has made this so.  But why must that be that?

There is no need for apology and hand wringing over the past, move forward and plan aggresivly for the future.
I think we have a serious economic crisis ahead (10-20 years) and nothing more.  

Round and round Zut alors! A tough row to hoe no matter how you scratch it.
 Parfait! Une image d'individualism American.

 Boldly going where no man has gone before!


(This was already posted on the Friday thread, but bears repeating.)  Below is a quote from a recent paper that calculates some interesting solar facts -- including the idea that the energy problem can be solved with around $64 billion dollars.

THERMAL SCIENCE: Vol. 9 (2005), No. 3, pp. 69-83
by Mihajlo FIRAK
Concentrating solar power technology relies on beam component of solar radiation i. e. on clear sky without clouds and short path length of radiation trough the atmosphere (air mass). Both conditions are fulfilled in dry and desert climate region of the Earth (usually located around north or south tropics +/-10°). In terms of irradiated solar energy (kW/hm2 per year) premium regions should receive more than 2550 kWh/m2 per year. Excellent regions receive 2370 to 2550, and good be tween 2200 and 2370 kWh/m2. For example, systems like SAIC/STM SunDish begin to work at solar flux above 400 W/m2 what is difficult to expect on a cloudy day. According to this, the best geography region are South-West part of North America, west costal part of SouthAmerica, north and south parts of Africa, Arabia peninsula, Central Asia, and Australia.
A short calculation which would rely on assumptions that only 1% of that dry and desert land could be utilised for solar power generation, and that it receives 2200 kWh/m2, we can produce 8.8 10^13 kWh/year of electricity. This is 7.3·10^9 tones of equivalent oil (toe) or 780 times more than global world primary energy consumption was in the year 2002 (9.4·106 toe [33]).
Assuming that one SAIC/STM SunDish system produces 35,000 kWh/year, it should be produced about 3.2 million systems to cover all world's primary energy needs. Assuming the cost of 20000 USD per system the whole price would be 64 billions USD.

And its worth shooting down a second time, based on the optimistic number 64 billion.

it should be produced about 3.2 million systems to cover all world's primary energy needs. Assuming the cost of 20000 USD per system the whole price would be 64 billions USD.

  1. 20,000?   Doesn't the company say $50,000 in mass production?

  2. For each dish - what about the concrete base, the copper wire to take the power from the countryside into the city?

  3. 'solve the worlds primary energy need'?  Oil is  used as a feedstock to many chemicals.  How does electrial power replace that embedded energy?

Now, I've been waiting a low-cost stirling helostat. - all heliostat action, all the time.
Omacharon at one time talked of a 'close to production' nitrogen charged 1hp engine with a $89 price point (when you bought a shipping container worth)  Whispergen has went from $35,000 to $12,000 USD (while the strength of the dollar has dropped)  Kamen seems to be shipping his stirling, and the Tamin ppl are supposed bbe involved with

But $20,000 as a price target?   Ha!   The end of cheap energy to mine the ore, refine it, et la  is here.

I agree (a low-cost stirling heliostat system) - this is a great area that some government bucks could support while the technology (cost) shakes out.  When I was going to Ga Tech back in the 70's-80's, there was a research heliostat system on campus!  But, no Jimmy Carter and it started gathering dust.

Private industry on the aggregate has had a negative incentive to develop this and other promising alternatives.  Like in the 70's, I'm guessing that the coming crisis will shake loose the bucks needed to prop up at least some of the great existing and proposed small companies in this area.  I have had my heart broken so many times watching great companies (based on future service to civilization) go under time after time simply because the government didn't prop them up during the times of cheap oil - timing is everything...

The 3.2 million number does seems a little low for total energy.  I'm going to look for some more numbers.  However, the $50,000 number is apparently from Stirling Energy Systems -- not SAIC/STM.  The SAIC system may be cheaper for some reason.  Anyhow, the diff is still a small factor, I mean at triple the cost to provide a form of energy independence would be great.  

The end to end solution would involve X millions of these dishes and perhaps Y thousands of the Changing World Technologies plants to produce synthetic oil (their feedstock is "anything" (see April 2006 Discover magazine).

My point is that #1 both of these technologies exist (versus, say, fusion), and #2 costs can be estimated for both parts.  

The guy in the THERMAL SCIENCE article was off somehow.  At least his quote of 9.4x10^6 toe is wrong.  The number provided in an earlier post of 1.1x10^14 kwh per year is good (400 Quad Btu).

So, I'm starting over.  From a table of world energy consumption it appears that 40% of energy is oil and 22.5% of energy is natural gas.  If we held the other stuff (coal, nuclear, hydro, and other) constant for 20 years then we would have to replace 62.5% of 400 quad over 20 years -- or 250 quad over 20 years -- or 12.5 quad per year.  If we did this with the previously mentioned stirling engines this would take 12.5x2.931x10^11 kwh divided by 25000 kwh (for each engine) which equals 146.55 million engines per year.  And at $50000 each this would be $7.3275 trillion per year for 20 years.  Wowee!  Obviously if the cost dropped to $20000 each, then we could scrape by on about $3 trillion per year.  World economic output is about $59 trillion so probably over 12% of world output invested in energy production for 20 consecutive years.

Just for yucks, if we look at this as only an electricity problem, and restricted ourselves to the U.S., then starting with the average (electrical) energy consumption of a home is the U.S. (using NY state as a baseline) at 17.1 kwh per day (DOE/EERE).  We can  calculate:

17.1 kwh/day * 365 day/yr = 6242 kwh/yr (for one American house)
6242 kwh/yr * 120 million households (120*10^6 ballpark number) = 7.5*10^11 kwh/yr (for U.S.)
7.5*10^11 kwh/yr divided by 25000 kwh/yr for each Stirling Engine = 30 million Stirling Engines
30 million Stirling Engines at $50000 each = $1.5 trillion

The U.S. economy is over $10 trillion so this would be 15% of our economy (for just one year).

Some conversion factors:
1 kilowatthour = 3.600 x 106 joules = 3,412 Btu
1 quad = 1015 Btu = 2.931 x 1011 kilowatthours


"I don't think that a new 'Manhatten Project' is an unworkable or bad idea--if it is focused on getting energy from fusion..."

It's both terrible and unworkable. It's absolutely true that there is no single, simple reason that fusion is impossible. After all, the sun works on a version of fusion, as does the hydrogen bomb.

But on the empirical level, it's been worked on for over 50 years with tons of money spent on it, and success remains a constant 40 years in the future. That's a really big clue.

The other thing is, we're lucky fusion is so difficult to produce! Fire was relatively easy, which is why man discovered how to control it (mostly) a million years ago. Also, it occurs spontaneously, without human involvment. Fission is extremely rare sponstaneously in nature, at least now, although it seems there might have been  spontaneous fission reactions someplace in Africa, long ago. All that's really required is to whap two pieces of above critical mass U235 together. But U235 is less than 1% of uranium, and needs to be separated out. Anyway, it's at least conceivable that nature might somehow do this on its own under certain circumstances, but not too often or we would be in big trouble.

But hydrogen bombs are set off with regular uranium or plutonium (fission) bombs, which are in turn set off by chemical explosions. The fusion reaction is several order of magnitudes harder to get going that fission reactions. LUCKILY!

BTW, that's why cold fusion is such a crock. In any case, if, big IF, controlled fusion were ever to be possible it's becoming evident that it will necessarily be highly capital intensive and require an incredible degree of infrastructure support -- which is precisely what is becoming harder and harder to guarantee going forward.

It is my firm belief that we must no longer gamble on high-tech Manhattan-like projects saving us, but that we must proceed on the assumption they won't (while not abandoning all research on the possibility -- and do it internationally to save on expense -- and to get friendly with the rest of the globe?)

We are going to have to scale back on the high-capital-intensity stuff (energy, materials, etc.) and live within the energy and resource budget we think we will have -- that is, learn how to live sustainably. Anything else is a mad, mad gamble, which, if we lose, will cost us, or rather, our descendants, very dearly.

Unfortunately, modern capitalism (as well as Soviet style socialism), much prefers the highly capital-intensive solutions. But Shumacher's day will come (small is beautiful). Cuba has been forced into after getting orphaned.

I am no expert on the nuclear stuff and would love to see someone who is critique the above, for better ow worse.

I think I posted a link to this before... and I think some were annoyed with it, but anyway...
Science 10 March 2006:
Vol. 311. no. 5766, p. 1380
Fusion Power: Will It Ever Come?

"Heat removal is troublesome even with the D-T reaction. A large amount of energy (17.4 MeV) is released from each fusion. Although 14 MeV is carried away by a neutron--to be slowed and absorbed in a blanket containing lithium and thus "breed" more tritium--the energy released will make everything radioactive out to the radiation shield beyond the blanket. Worse, the material of the reactor vessel will undergo radiation damage, which alters its physical properties. Any material used for the reactor vacuum vessel will become increasingly brittle. Back in the 1970s, design studies indicated that the vessel would need periodic replacement."

"Scaling of the construction costs from the Bechtel estimates suggests a total plant cost on the order of $15 billion..."

"The history of this dream is as expensive as it is discouraging. Over the past half-century, fusion appropriations in the U.S. federal budget alone have run at about a quarter-billion dollars a year."

The Author - William E. Parkins worked on uranium separation at the University of California during World War II and later was chief scientist at Rockwell International. This Policy Forum was edited to shorter length by the Editor-in-Chief from a manuscript received just before Parkins's death last October.

Here are some thoughts on the relationship between Russia and China, and by extention the rest of us. Russia is the world's second largest producer of oil. China is the world's second biggest importer of oil. Currently China gets about 50% of it's needs from the Middle East. With a large American army sitting in Iraq and the ability to "turn off" the oil tap, should it choose to, China is understandably concerned about having to depend on this area for its oil supplies.

Therefore when Russia's President Putin visited China last week hope were high in Beijing that Putin would agree to supply China with all the energy it needed for its rapid economic expansion. China's Achille's heel is its need to import oil and gas. Though it does have substantial coal reserves. This reliance on imported energy is clearly why China has recently announced that it plans to build 30 new nuclear power plants over the next ten years.

Putin had an entourage of over 800 with him when he visited Beijing and he signed fifteen treaties, four dealing with energy. But they didn't sign a treaty about an oil pipeline, why not? A treaty to build two gas pipelines was agreed, more than doubling Russia's export to China and worth over ten billion dollars. The Russian energy minister, Viktor Khristenko, prevaricated about the oil pipeline, something which concerned the Chinese.

Today only about 5% of China's oil comes from Russia, and the Chinese wish to see a truly massive increase of supplies from Russia over the next decade, to over 20%, but for such an increase they need a new pipeline. As an aside, Japan is also interested in this same pipeline. Clearly its in Russia's interests to "sell" the pipeline project and the oil/gas for as much as it can get.

Interestingly, the oil/gas is mostly found in the west of Russia closer to Western Europe. This week also saw European Union energy ministers discussing energy and the need for stability of supply. Europe does not like being beholdin to Russia for it's oil and gas. But Russia and Europe have fundamentally conflicting attitudes to Russia's energy sector. Russia regards its energy as a prime national-security asset, of vital importance not only for its economy, but for the very survival of Russia itself. On the other hand Europe and the United States want to see Russia open up its energy sector to much needed Western capital and ideally would like to see Russia "liberalise" the sector completely. Russia, however, doesn't see this so much as "liberalisation", but as "colonisation." So Russia is dragging its feet on this whole question to the clear irriation of the West. Perhaps a what Russia really needs is some "regime change" and new pro-western puppet like Yeltsin, who would be prepared to hand over Russia's energy resources to the West. Putin, who is a Russian nationalist will never agree to this, but who knows what the future may bring?

At the same time Russia is answering by playing the West at its own game. The Russians want a garantee of "security of demand" from their western customers. One way of securing this would be to buy up European energy companies and thereby control not just the gas, but also the actually infrastructure too. This idea is not popular in Europe.

There is a lot of scope for friction and conflict here. Already Europe is alarmed at the thought of "its oil and gas" suddenly being pumped off to China! How hard will we push in our demand that Russia "liberalises" it's energy sector and opens it up to foreigh capital and ownership and a gloablised economy? Personally, I think Russia would be insane to allow its oil and gas to be taken over by foreign capital and they will do everything, and I mean everything, in their power to hinder this.

Already many Europeans are complaining that Russia is using its new position in relation to energy as a lever to extend its power and project its interests beyond its borders. Where will this all end?

Putin is a busy man. Recently he was in Algeria. He signed an almost 8 billion deal to sell arms to Algeria and help them develop their gas fields. This is an interesting development which hasn't gone unoticed in the wider Middle East. Perhaps this is connected with Russian reluctance to join the United States in its confrontation with Islam in the same area? Are we seeing the emergence of a new strategic alliance between Russia, China, Iran and certain Arab countries in order to protect their energy reserves and supplies from an oil-hungry and agressive Western pact? After Iraq one could hardly blame them for coming to this conclusion. If you've got oil you get attacked, if you've got nukes you don't!

It would of course be ironic and tragic if Russia didn't have near as much oil and gas as we, and they, think they have. One thing is pretty certain though. Everything that happens from now on will have something to do with control of energy resources one way or anothr.

Sorry about the mistakes in this. I've been running backwards and forwards between the computer and the kitchen making dinner, so I didn't have time to read it through!
. . . in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. It's really time to start taking those words seriously and thinking about what they really mean. Power to the People!

 That is OK Writerman. Keep going with dinner. I read your post through and I have to agree with your sentiment above 210%.

 Perhaps I can get you to join me in my current project. I seek to obtain New Hampshire license plates and ship them in bulk to Iraq for distribution to the Iraqi public.

 The Iraqi people daily demonstrate an innate understanding of the tag line on those plates. I disagree with the Iraqi's understanding of freedom but I cannot gainsay their desire for something that America has forfeit.

You betcha.  Let's keep on Westernizing them Iraqis!  

I suggest a slight change to the plates though-- rather than "Live Free or Die," they should say "Live by Our Definition of Freedom, or We'll Kill You."

One factor to note besides nationalism is that Russian management & ownership will result in much lower production levels and somewhat lower total oil production.  The IOCs do bring significant capital, management and technology to the table.
Yeah, I agree. This is indeed a problem, for us, more than them. Sure they need the money, but I think we need the oil more. I think there's a legitimate conflict of interest here.

It's a complex subject and it's hard to get the balance right. Clearly the Russians need all the things you mentioned above, but how do they get those things without us "taking over." I think it's a real dilema for them. Which may be why they are wary about letting China invest in their oil industry. They appear to want China to invest and help to develop other secions of the economy and not just oil. Anyway, I think the United States is pushing both Russia and China into each others arms. The wisdom of this policy is a whole other story.

How much oil do they really have in their reserves is another important question? How do they best exploit it? Do they sell it now, or wait until the price goes even higher? Do they sell it to us, or keep it for themselves? If they don't sell it, will we go in and take it? When Condi Rice starts hinting at the need for regime change in Russia shouldn't they start to feel nervous? If I was a Russian leader I know I would, especially after the so-called "orange revolution" in the Ukraine. But it's too big a subject to get into here.

Now I'm not an enormous fan of Putin or the current Russian system. I'm not crazy about China either. I'm glad I don't live there. They are not my kind of "democracy", but then neither is the United States. I think Putin is a patriotic, nationalist Russian, who puts Russia's interests first, at least that's how he perceives his role. He's stabilized Russia, the decline into anarchy and organised crime has been reversed and Putin seems reasonably popular.  Personally, I'm becoming increasingly sceptical about "democracy" as it's practiced today. I know that sounds almost outrageous and heretical, but I feel democracy has degenerated into something else altogether, and has almost become a parody of itself. I think we may need a "democratic reformation."

"Clearly the Russians need all the things you mentioned above"
[the foreign capital, management and technology]

Let me to disagree.
1.Capital - Russia is flooded with petrodollars. There are even speculations about the necessity to force money out of the country to avoid an excess inflation.
2.Management - The current state policy is "the Russian companies are for the Russian management". The foreign political celebrities such as the former German Chancellor are only for the representative purposes.
3.Technology - The Russian companies are not allowed to import all the equipment. They must purchase at least a part (preferably the main part) of it from the Russian producers.

 I'm curious. What do the non BMW driving elements think of Putin?

 Does the populace exhibit any form of political consciousness or are they simply imitating Americans?

 What does informed opinion say about the energy dealings with China?

 In the west we see the Ukraine NG issue as a sign of Russia using energy as a means toward hegemony. Does the same understanding pertain within the country?

In the west we see the Ukraine NG issue as a sign of Russia using energy as a means toward hegemony

In the west we see the things the way our interests dictate. If Georgia power cuts my electricity supply because I refuse to pay the prices it requests, this would be a market economy; If Russia does the same this is a imperialistic reach.

I suggest we stop with these idiotic double standarts, they already won us enough enemies. And turning your major energy supplier into your enemy does not sound wise, right?

Interesting question about Russia's reluctance to sign an oil deal, but willingness to do one for NG.   My take:
    1. Russia is starting to transition to a hoarding philosophy on oil for national security and GNP protection reasons, but
    2.  Several factor argue for wider gas sales: Russia is already commited to fully supplying Europe with NG. Plus it wants Gazprom to be the pre-eminent global public energy stock with massive financial benefits to Putin and his allies. So they may as well promise gas to the Chinese also - a good customer at a much higher price than Gazprom is now getting.  Chinese buying at a higher price also weakens pressure from the financial community on Gazprom to stop subsidizing the gas price within Russia.

The transition to hoarding is exemplified by the "puzzling" reluctance of the Russian govt. to provide financing to exploit the "frontier" oil fields.

I just read this article:,,1738931,00.html

Brazil currently produces 16 billion liters of ethanol annually. That is 276 thousand b/d, using 52.5% of there sugar cane crop. If they increase annual production by 10 billion liters over the next 5 years they
can produce 449 thousand b/d, using 85% of their current annual sugar cane crop. That amount (449 thousand b/d) of ethanol would provide the US with 10 % ethanol mix in 45 % of our current gasoline consumption. Furthermore how much energy was consumed planting, harvesting, transporting, distilling, and distributing the sugar cane and ethanol.


And round and round we go with the discussion of technological solutions.

We deforest more land to farm more land to feed more people and fuel more cars.

We deplete more water resources and deplete more soil to factory-farm more food and fuel.

A little global climate change happens here, a little global climate change happens there, and pretty soon we are talking about real droughts and floods and increased intense storms affecting harvests and agribusiness infrastructure.

Ethanol and biodiesel can be helpful, but we will do better to put our efforts into reducing human population, learning to apply permacultural practices as widely as possible, and learning to conserve and to steward resources.

The most crucial answers are not technological in the ordinary sense of the term.  The most important steps to take have to do with adapting our culture and our lives to a very new set of circumstances.

Many people do not see a new set of circumstances, and so believe that we will just keep doing what we've always done to find solutions.  No cultural change, just develop a new liquid fuel source, throw in a bit of nuclear power, and "presto-pop!" the energy problem is solved.

Culture change is needed.

My approach (which is also the Swiss approach) results in one to two orders of magnitude reduction (1:10 to 1:100) in energy consumption without a decline in the standard of living (actually an improvement I would argue)using VERY mature, well proven technology.

Electrify freight railways (add semi high speed service in limited corridors), build Urban Rail wherever anyone wants it, and put in trolley buses on busy bus routes.  Simple, relatively cheap and major steps can be finished in ten to twelve years (more in twenty years, still mroe after that).

The rail thing seems right on target to me as well.

Long distance or shorter distance mixes for higher density areas, this seems like the place to put transportation infrastructure efforts.

Here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area one of the biggest and best urban rail systems was torn up and scrapped, and now we need it badly.  I took my kids on the trike a few blocks over to Nicollet Avenue a few years ago as they tore up a section to rebuild some of the roadbed.  There were the old rails and these wonderful, huge, heavy granite pavers exposed after the top layers of asphalt were peeled off.  So many miles of rail paved over!

I think that walk-able, bikable neighborhoods largely linked by various forms of rail are the way to go, with plenty of space woven in and right around urban areas to grow food.  Seems to obvious and simple, though.


I have been widely circulating your electric rail comments to a lot of people, including Jim Kunstler and Matt Simmons. Good work.

Thanks ! :-)

I am sending a cover letter with a link to every new name I see in the field.

My arguments are becoming better and more focused with time (and new data).

So far, no response (except a few eMails @ New Orleans with Kunstler).

But spread seeds around and a few will sprout.

I hope you included a link to my paper (which I will revise fairly soon).

Best Hopes !


Absolutely, Alan!  You may be the Johnny Appleseed of rail for the USA.

I am glad you have thought so much about this and worked to educate others as well.

I think that your emphasis on rail is vital.  The sooner we get to widespread implementation the better.

I hope that we are able to do some of the more cutting-edge rail projects as well as some of the more tried and true.  I'll bet that every bit of energy saved in transportation will be significant, and if we can improve rail as is being done in too few places, we will be better off for it.

I am one of a medium size group of such "Johnny Railseeds" :-)

Lyndon Henry of Austin has organized a group of us (invite only), that are each struggling in their own city to promote more Urabn Rail.

George Isaacs recently passed away after 40 years of struggle and public promotion in Minneapolis. In many ways, teh father of the Hiawatha Line. Lyndon has spent almost 30 years in Austin, etc.

It is a multi-decade long commitment for most of us and I am, at only 7 or 8 years of effort, one of the "newbies".

BTW, on the first ride of the new Canal Streetcar Line (3:10 AM April 18, 2004)  there were 5 members of the group "Streetcars Desired" that fought the closure of the Canal Streetcar Line in 1964, and were on the last ride in May (?), 1964.

A quote from Kunstler may be in order here,
"We'll keep behaving the way we do until we can't, and then we won't."

I don't know why you would say this about culture change. After all if we continue to circumambulate the oasis we will arrive at our final resting place eventually.

You need to think big. Take all of America's leading physicists, give them an unlimited budget, and stick them in San Quentin until they come up with a solution. In fact, this may already be happening; we just lack the security clearance to be kept properly informed of progress.

 If you don't like thinking big, think small. Like Oil Rigmedic. "Grow a garden. Plant a Tree"  Just think of what would happen if every night when you bicycled home along the East River, you stopped to collect a litre of water and took it home and put it down the drain. Now multiply that same action a hundredfold, or a thousandfold. Make it a Government edict that everyone must do this. Think of how that might forestall sea level rise.

 You keep up this talk of culture change and you are going to end up on a government watchlist.


Your right BOP small things make no impact so I should buy an SUV because what difference does one make or two or twenty a million ....6.5 BILLION
Just think of what would happen if every night when you bicycled home along the East River, you stopped to collect a litre of water and took it home and put it down the drain. Now multiply that same action a hundredfold, or a thousandfold. Make it a Government edict that everyone must do this. Think of how that might forestall sea level rise.

Are you serious?  You do realize that water poured down the drain doesn't disappear, don't you?  It's discharged back into New York Harbor.  Or the Hudson River.  Or wherever, to eventually make its way back to the sea.

   I believe he may be using sarcasm to mock me.
Oh.  'Scuse me while I recalibrate my irony detectors.  ;)
Beggar has said it in four words.

Culture change is needed.

Until people get that there is cause and effect in the world, they will never see that their technological fixes are always rife with problems and unexpected consequences.

Let me pose an analogy.

If someone connected a vacuum hose to their vehicle's exhaust and ran it into your bedroom, you would probably object. You would try to protect your environment. What environment is it you are protecting? Not an environment full of carbon monoxide.

Would you physically try to stop someone who kept trying to fill your home with CO? Would you call the police? What if the police said, "Sorry, but that man is a valuable member of the economy and he creates jobs. You are on your own." Would you just take it? Would you lay down and die?

Me neither. Why are we letting these killers poison our home? Our planet?


Cherenkov, are we letting these killers poison our home and our planet because they are us?

I ride pedicabs and cargo trikes for most of my transportation needs, but I feel that my lifestyle is bathed in petroleum.

I hope to move into an urban house with my family and do permaculture, greenhouse gardening, solar hot water heat, and as much sustainable stuff as possible.

Even so, I am pretty well soaking in good old petroleum.  Plastics, tires, the way much of my food is generated and delivered, my computer, clothes, bike tires.

This won't stop me from trying to liberate myself from petroleum as much as possible, but I do see myself as the "they" who is doing the resource depletion and the poisoning of my habitat.

I earn money from people who work for big corporations, often in huge office towers, and who drive expensive (usually inefficient) cars nearly everywhere they go, every day.  Even though I do not drive or ride in cars much, I am attached to and dependent upon the petroleum-based, petroleum-soaked culture.  I am inextricably "embedded" in this culture.

The culture change begins for me as I ride and let my clients and the many people who ask me about my ride what it is all about.  My insignificant commitment to ride tricycles seems clownish and Quixotic (sp?) in a way, and it truly is.  But rather than driving a Hummer, I will continue to ride a tricycle.  I have begun to carry a cloth bag of books so that I can show them to people as we converse, and I've begun loaning them out to people as well.

All in a day's work, so to speak.

I think that the more changes we can integrate into our lives, the more opening we create for the culture change that is needed.

Digging around on the internet, I found a good example of Saudi doublespeak on oil reserves, etc. at

The article is on the recent attempted terrorist attack at Abqaiq.  Here are some relevant quotes about the supergiant Abqaiq:

>>In terms of the field, it contains 17 billion barrels of proven reserves. The proven reserves in the Abqaiq field alone are larger than the reserves of some major oil exporting countries: Mexico's total oil reserves are 14.8 billion barrels and Canada's conventional oil reserves are only 16.8 billion barrels. (This obviously does not include Canada's reserves of tar sands, which are estimated at about 175 billion barrels.)<<

Based upon the terminology used here, one would think that Abqaiq legitimately has 17 billion barrels left, as the author is comparing that number to current proved reserves in Canada and Mexico.  But wait...

>>Abqaiq produces 4% of Saudi Arabia's total oil production. Currently, Abqaiq has a production capacity of approximately 0.43 million barrels a day, and it is estimated to reach 0.44 million barrels a day in 2010. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts Abqaiq's production capacity to decrease to approximately 0.36 million barrels by 2030. This is largely to due to natural depletion; Abqaiq has the largest depletion rate of all the Saudi oil fields. In 2004, Aramco estimated that 73% of Abqaiq's total reserves have been depleted, which would leave the field with approximately 5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.<<

The flippant way "proven reserves" is thrown about is impressive, considering this guy evidently is a mouthpiece for the Saudi government.  And they wonder why folks question their reserve data...

This week's Economist (no sub required) has a profile of Vinod Khosla's ethanol investments. The best part of the article is this anecdote about Saudi market power:
The OPEC cartel is suspected by some of engineering occasional price collapses to bankrupt investment in alternative energy. Mr Khosla concedes that after he made his ethanol pitch at this year's Davos meeting, a senior Saudi oil official sweetly reminded him that it costs less than a dollar to lift a barrel of Saudi oil out of the ground, adding: "If biofuels start to take off we will drop the price of oil."
Additional comments here

 This is the tactic used by the Saudi's in the mid 1980s. They simply opened the manifolds and placed all their surge capacity on the market. The effects in the west were not pretty; the patch went through its own version of the 1929 depression.

 The few who remained in the industry at the end of that period are now the senior executives. Thier fear for an OPEC replay of this strategy is one of the reasons they have been slow to lift project economic thresholds from $15 a bbl to $30 a bbl.

 In Game Theory, one means to retain mastery over your opponent is to veil your hand and bluff to beat hell. I suspect Simmons is right about Saudi reserves but you will never get the Saudis, or the rest of OPEC, to provide accurate 3rd party verification of their reserves.

Brain Fart here - I'm listening to the latest Matt Savinar interview on Global Public Media, and they have this fuzzy picture of him on the site.

So I have to ask Matt - do my eyes deceive me, or do you actually look a little like Dustin Hoffman?

Not even close.

There is a pic in the print edition of Fortune Rainwater article, but it's pretty bad. It's like they took some very mild scaring I have on my temple (from teenage acne) and digitially enhanced it by a factor of ten.



bwahahahaha...dude, get some head shots done.  Seriously.  :)
What I did do is find an article on google on how to photoshop pictures. When I get the time, I'm going to take the fortune picture, photoshop to make myself look super studly and then post it.



Some comments regarding technology:

There appear to be two opposite poles of thought regarding the role of technology in solving our energy problem.

One posits that technology itself is the root cause of the planet's woes and that we need to take drastic steps to devolve from technology to a simpler, less energy-intensive civilization. This I would call the 'back to the garden' mentality.

 The other tends to believe that there is a solution out there just waiting to be discovered and all that we need to do is focus our vast technological capabilities to the problem and it will eventually be solved. This I would call the 'Manhatten Project' mentality.

As an engineer, I am constantly seeing examples where the term 'technology' is misapplied or outright abused. What is technology?  My dictionary defines technology as 'method of applying technical knowledge' or 'sum of  a society's practical knowledge'.  OK, so far, so good. We can and should apply society's practical knowledge to the energy problem and we should expand our knowledge in that area. However, I think there are a lot of people out there who don't really understand the way in which society steadily accumulates, develops, and uses technology.  Some people seem to think that if you lock enough scientists and engineers in a room long enough, a solution to any problem will enventually be slipped out from under the door. (Reminds me of the old chestnut: if it takes one woman nine months to make a baby, then it surely must follow that nine women can make a baby in one month.) This mindset presumes that the problem is largely of a technological nature - as opposed to a political, economic, cultural, or societal nature.

Many scientists and engineers will tell you that with regard to our energy problem, lack of technology is not the limiting factor. Lack of political will, the unwillingness to invest huge sums of money for a truly major change, and lack of societal focus ARE the limiting factors.

We could have made substantial progress toward getting ourselves out of this energy hole if the almost $300 billion the US has spent on its Iraq debacle had instead been spent on a whole suite of alternative energy initiatives, all using EXISTING technology.  The problem in this case was hardly technological, but rather foolish priorities and a proclivity toward folly.  

Regarding R&D at the far edges, such as nuclear fusion, maybe it will eventually become a practical technology; and maybe it won't.  Just because something is technically possible, doesn't automatically mean that it is technically feasible. Some concepts just don't pan out because sometimes the benefits can never be made to outweigh the costs. As an example, during the mid-1950s the Pentagon was all enthused about the concept of an atomic plane, one that could stay aloft for as long as the crew had enough food and water. Well, we don't have atomic planes today, because it soon became apparent that protecting the crew would require an unacceptable weight of shielding and that the plane would pose a major radiation hazard by irradiating all the dust in the air that flowed through its nuclear engines.

This why I think that comparing remedies to the energy situation to a  Manhatten Project or the Apollo Project is engaging in a highly flawed analogy. Those two projects had but a single very well-defined goal, and with both there was absolutely no consideration of cost-effectiveness. Nor was either project intended to produce a product  useful to the general population. And both were really one-time projects rather than an ongoing effort.

So, I really have to roll my eyes when someone says, "Don't worry, someone will come up  with a solution", or "Why can't you engineers come up with something?"   It's not about invention, but about societal focus and the spending of vast sums of money. Those two are necessary but perhaps not sufficient conditions.

Nice post and on-target!

I think in the long term there WILL be a technological solution (probably fusion), but the mid-term is going to require some social change to get through.  However, we aren't going back to a pre-industrial society.

Our cities may have to be more compact and more of us will use mass transit.  We may have economic hard times.  We will, however, find ways of moving forward technologically and we aren't going to suffer a massive die-off.

I like your point about the Manhattan and Apollo projects having a "cost is no object" mentality.  Of course, cost is no object in a SuperEnergy Project if the point of the project is  to develop a new source of CHEAP energy.  The project is an investment that could pay off greatly in the future, but the goal isn't just alternative energy but cheap alternative energy.

There's a graphic I like, which shows how R&D works on a new field, in this case photovoltaic solar cells:

Notice the rapid decline in the beginning, as scientists enter a wide open field.  This can be a bit of a "Manhattan" effect, as smart people tackle a problem the good theory on, but in which they need to work out the practical aspects.  A lot of outside knowledge can be applied to the new field, rapidly.

But, notice that the rate of innovation slows.  It is not because less money is spent, or because fewer smart people are at work.  It is because the obvious ideas have been tried.  It becomes an iterative process, perhaps reworking the big ideas in finer detail.

This is why I really think we have to recognize that every field has its curve, and that the later work in an established field is going to be the slowest slogging.

We can't just "Manhattan" something and get what we want out of it.

We especially can't IMNSHO when we ignore the history of science and innovation, and think that a "Manhattan" project can cast about and work on anything and everything.  When a project becomes diffuse, it becomes more like what we have now ... with scientists in government labs, universities, and private companies large and small.

I've been a scientist (well, I got a chem degree) and an engineer (medical and environmental systems), and darn it ... that's were I'm coming from, what I'm trying to say.
(The constant typos being of course proof that I'm an engineer.)
Great post!

Just some thoughts.

  • A "Manhattan" project is a good idea but success is not guaranteed since there is no defined specific goal. Still, it might be a good idea to throw a lot of smart people at the problem at a fraction of the cost of the Iraq war. But we might as well try.
  • Amory Lovins should be put on trial for "energy crimes against humanity" in the World Court. He is the technology fix-it man to the status quo majority in government & business as he makes his pronouncements from Snowmass way up in the mountains here in Colorado telling us how technology will solve everything.
  • That Tertzakian book I reviewed is under no such illusion. As he says, there is no magic bullet.
  • Supplying energy is not the same as making blackberries, cell phones and ipods. Somebody should tell Daniel Yergin that although I will make my position clear--I do not condone torture.
  • Most new technology for extracting hard to get natural gas and oil consists of small, incremental but important changes in technologies that have existed for decades. For example, deepwater drilling.
  • Nuclear Fusion takes place inside a star, in our case the Sun and happens at temperatures that could never be obtained or controlled on Earth. End of story.
Thanks again for the post.
Nuclear Fusion takes place inside a star, in our case the Sun and happens at temperatures that could never be obtained or controlled on Earth. End of story.

Flawed Argument its always been that way it always must be so.

Flying is for the birds man could never accomplish this.

The heavens are inhabited by the gods. Just ask Neil Armstrong.

Protein synthesis takes place inside a cell, yet we can now manufacture all sorts of unnatural chemicals with amazing properties.

We are on the verge of another era, I think quite possibly a great leap forward. Nanotechnology can revolutionize medicine and energy (optical rectenna) and who knows what else.  

So, Homo sapiens are like the Gods and can do anything. Is that it? Are you seriously comparing what the Wright Brothers did to re-creating Nuclear Fusion on the Earth? Or when Watt built his Steam Engine? Perhaps you should read this.

Fusion occurs at a sufficient rate only at very high energies (temperatures) - on earth, temperatures greater than 100 million Kelvin are required. At these extreme temperatures, the Deuterium - Tritium (D-T) gas mixture becomes a plasma (a hot, electrically charged gas). In a plasma, the atoms become separated - electrons have been stripped from the atomic nuclei (called the "ions"). For the positively charged ions to fuse, their temperature (or energy) must be sufficient to overcome their natural charge repulsion.

In order to harness fusion energy, scientists and engineers are learning how to control very high temperature plasmas. The use of much lower temperature plasmas are now widely used in industry, especially for semi-conductor manufacture. However, the control of high temperature fusion plasmas presents several major science and engineering challenges - how to heat a plasma to in excess of 100 million Kelvin and how to confine such a plasma, sustaining it so that the fusion reaction can become established.

Got it? Don't respond right away. Give yourself some time to actually think about it.
OOOH AAAH was that chart on the third tablet moses dropped?

The nuclei of atoms have a strong force holding most of them together (save radioactive isostopes) Other forces keep the nuclei of other atoms from interacting.  So you need a force (magnetism, kinetic energy or a combination of the two most likely) which can overcome that.  The heat and pressure of the suns interior are not the only place where fusion occurs. I believe as matter enters a black hole these forces are overcome and that is near absolute zero.

If you told my grandfather there would be astronauts when he was my age he would have laughed.  My whole life I've been told I can't do things and I've done them out of spite.

I will concede a black hole while cold is a definite extreme we cannot (at this time) recreate, There may be catalytic processes yet to be discovered.

It is impossible to make a triangle with four sides by definition.

Your chart and subsequent text are something someone wrote. I don't have all the answers but neither does that guy.

For most of us, the point isn't that economically useful fusion power is impossible but that we don't know that it is possible. It's all very well to talk about the marvelous achievements of science and technology, but it should be noted that looking backwards is a very different operation than looking forward. It's a good bet that the sciences will come up with many important discoveries, but that doesn't mean that it's a good bet that they will come up with what you want them to come up with. People have been predicting a cure for cancer  within 10 years decade after decade, for example. In the same period, several new cures for copper poisoning have emerged from basic chemical research. Too bad nobody gives a damn.  

Some inventions come easy, others with great difficulty as if nature just didn't like the idea. Compare the history of the development of fixed winged aircraft with helocopters or note how long it took to get the kinks (literally!) out of zippers. Fission power was a reality within a few years of the discovery of fission. 60+ years and lots of money later, we're still waiting for the first fusion machine that puts out more energy than it takes in without taking out a city in the process. That doesn't mean that fusion power is impossible, obviously; but it does suggest that nature is not very eager to help us out. We definitely need a Plan B.  

Agreed.  We've poured billions of dollars into fusion research, and we aren't even close.  Even if we got it working, the DOE estimates the EROEI would be only 24.  

I had a lot of hopes for fusion, back when Jimmy Carter warned us the end of oil was coming, but it hasn't worked out, and I suspect it never will.  Some things just never become practical.  The fact that we've been working on it so long with so little success doesn't bode well.

And we keep talking as if the pot of money will be infinite, which of course it will not.  Do you spend your limited resources trying for fusion power?  What if it does not work?  Perhaps it would be better to spend it on electric rail, massive tree planting, turning suburbs into viable communities that do not require long driving distances, insulating houses, widespread education in local organic farming, whatever.  It's the opportunity cost issue - just like the money we blew in the Iraq war that we will not get to spend on something productive.

It's a very important decision, and we better have a damn good idea of what we're doing.  

twilight youve got the electrical background what is the deal in laymans terms with optical rectenna. I read the theoretical efficency rate was much higher than conventional solar.  Why not Manhatten that technology I definitly believe it closer than fusion?
Yes! That's the point. In fact, I AM a physicist (Ph.D. in elementary particle theory in 1971, many years research and development in materials science). Fusion has had roughly five decades of generous research funding, and it's not even close to plausibility. Nobody knows what technology might work in principle, much less the normally far more costly engineering feasibility. It's absurd to talk about a chance of success meaningfully. 50/50! Not even close! But without constraints (5 more decades of billions of dollars?) the statistic doesn't matter.

Our resources, people, material, financial, and time, are limited. We have some solutions that do make it better, that are known to provide better use of energy (nuclear, rail, high efficiency diesel vehicles, hybrids) and we're not even doing that. There is, however, no solution that can support unlimited exponential growth, and I believe, none that can sustain the currently energy profligate, climate destroying lifestyle. Read Diamond's Collapse," and ask which of his five factors are present in contemporary Western civilization.

Whenever an "older" scientist asserts that something is not possible, I smile.
He did not say it was not possible - he said the odds were not good.  If you look at the record of the last 50 years, what would you expect to happen with regard to fusion, and going from where we are now to a viable, producible, scaleable power source?  Given the history, I would expect that:

  1.  There must be some rather formidable technical obstacles, and it will require a very large input of money and time to overcome these.  Or we would have done it.

  2.  It may in fact be not be possible - we may not yet understand why we have not been successful.  

  3.  Even if a positive return can be demonstrated, the effort of translating this into a practical fusion generation stations will be huge.  Look at the issues involved with implementing something like tar sands, coal gasification, various "clean coal" technologies, etc. that we already know can function (from a process point of view) - each of these faces enormous hurdles.  

So if the money is limited, is fusion where you spend it?  The return is potentially fabulous, but the odds are long.  Seems like a lousy bet to me.
For thousands of years, humans dreamed of flying, and hundreds died in futile attempts to imitate birds. Then, only a bit more than a hundred years ago, a couple of bicycle mechanics and self-educated scientist/engineers came up with some new ideas, did some experiments and changed the world.

Despite at-least three-thousand years of nay-saying, airplanes fly.

Do you recall the "wise voices" of the 1940s, people with big reputations who said space travel was impossible?

To me, it sounds as if those who so emphatically claim that something is unworkable or unfeasible or uneconomic are speaking with what amounts to "divine revelation."

I say again: No Ph.D. physicist (to the best of my knowledge) has ever claimed that getting economically useful amounts of energy from nuclear fusion is theoretically impossible.

And so where is the SCIENCE behind the naysayers????

  Thats exactly my point. Just because others failed in the past does not predict the future.  And besides not to try with a diversified portfolio of alternative energy research is irresponsible.
Agreed. Also I agree with all of your other posts, which I find somewhat uncanny.
Being the economist, you must be familiar with "hindsight bias."  Yes, we wanted to fly for hundreds of years, and ultimately we did.  But ... did we get everything we wanted in those years?

Where is my flying car?  Where is my personal jetpack?

Don - who said it was impossible?  My point is that it will take a large amount of money, and probably a large amount of time, and sucess is far from assured.  And if we spend a big part of our limited resources on that, we won't have it to spend on other things.  

I would fund research at some level, but I would not spend all the funds there - to me it's an irresponsible gamble.  I would put the money in proven technologies/techniques for conservation and generation that require only implementation, not massive outlays for research and development on the basic science.  

But it's a moot point, because none of us will get to decide, and it appears we will spend the money on war instead.

And your point, Don?  Is that contemptuous smile?
My smile is the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile, definitely not one of contempt. Perhaps a smile of ironic sorrow, for the old in spirit who are unwilling to try new things because they may, and indeed probably will, fail.

How many attempts did Edison make to get a workable light bulb? How many thousands of his attempts failed?

Why do we assume that only "sure things" are worth taking a chance on?

There are plenty of very bright physicists and mathematicians in the world. Many, perhaps most of them are underemployed.

Here is my proposal: Put a stiff tariff on oil and refined products from OPEC countries, say $20 per barrel next year, then rising by $10 per barrel up until it gets to, say $100 per barrel. Sell this tariff as a new Declaration of Energy Independence, because the power to tax is the power to destroy. If necessary, sell the tariff as a "Sock it to the Saudis!" patriotic sacrifice.

Dedicate these funds to the development of alternative energies, not necessarily fusion to start with--but put the money into things that make sense, such as electrification of railways (and Alan's other ideas), wind power generation, ethanol from biomass with "natural" fertilizers, possibly biodiesel, and other good ideas. As the tax (and hence the price of gasoline and jet fuel, etc. rise), I'd use some of the funds to help dislocated workers find productive jobs--not an easy task.

And fusion power--hell yes! There was no guarantee that the atomic bomb would work, and indeed there was no assurance that the Germans were working on it. (It turned out they were not. So what?)

Note that the Apollo program was mostly engineering using well-proven technology. The Manhatten Project was entirely different: A venture into the unknown, something that had purely been science fiction up until 1940.

Interesting that the myth of the lightbulb reinforces ... just what Edison wanted it to.
BTW, I support a fossil fuel tax (on foreign and domestic sources).  I also support government funding for basic research (I think 1960's and 1970's era DARPA is a better model than the Manhattan Project).

Our big mistake now is in funding production, in addition to research.  The production funds, credits, subsidies, all burn money and corrupt the market.  They make the most politically juiced solutions win ...

Who do you think the tax money will go to? My guess is it will be turned into subsidies for Archer Daniels Midland for ethanol and for Halliburton (or some other company like Halliburton) to build the hydrogen pipelines or something and maybe so G.M. can lower the price of a hydrogen fuel cell car from $1,000,000 to $500,000.

It will also disproportionately hurt the poor, thus widening the poverty draft.

Gas taxes are, imho, for suckers.



I tend to repeat my position that governement funding for research is desirable, and that government funding for production is not.

I said some words to that effect above.  The ADM and Halliburton stuff you describe are what I call production.

Great post.  Indeed, this is the essential point of Tainter's work, even more than Diamond's.  Complexity, including technological complexity, has an energy cost.  Eventually, societies reach the point where they can't afford further investment in complexity, and are forced to "collapse" to a lower level.

The lowest fruit is picked first, which is why technological advancement becomes harder and more expensive as time goes by.  Fusion is clearly not low-hanging fruit, and may not be reachable at all, given the resource constraints we are facing.

Never fear, Twilight.  We will never run out of money.

The Fed can print all the money we need, as long as they have energy to burn.

And we will always have energy as long as the Fed continues to print us enough money to throw at the problem.

Enough money to burn, so to speak.

And we haven't even gotten to various Enronesque accounting techniques yet.

Sorry, it is late.

Record Set for Hottest Temperature on Earth: 3.6 Billion Degrees in Lab
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 08 March 2006
04:39 pm ET

Scientists have produced superheated gas exceeding temperatures of 2 billion degrees Kelvin, or 3.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit.

This is hotter than the interior of our Sun, which is about 15 million degrees Kelvin, and also hotter than any previous temperature ever achieved on Earth, they say.

They don't know how they did it.

The feat was accomplished in the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories.

"At first, we were disbelieving," said project leader Chris Deeney. "We repeated the experiment many times to make sure we had a true result."

Thermonuclear explosions are estimated to reach only tens to hundreds of millions of degrees Kelvin; other nuclear fusion experiments have achieved temperatures of about 500 million degrees Kelvin, said a spokesperson at the lab.

The achievement was detailed in the Feb. 24 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

The Z machine is the largest X-ray generator in the world. It's designed to test materials under extreme temperatures and pressures. It works by releasing 20 million amps of electricity into a vertical array of very fine tungsten wires. The wires dissolve into a cloud of charged particles, a superheated gas called plasma.

A very strong magnetic field compresses the plasma into the thickness of a pencil lead. This causes the plasma to release energy in the form of X-rays, but the X-rays are usually only several million degrees.

Sandia researchers still aren't sure how the machine achieved the new record. Part of it is probably due to the replacement of the tungsten steel wires with slightly thicker steel wires, which allow the plasma ions to travel faster and thus achieve higher temperatures.

One thing that puzzles scientists is that the high temperature was achieved after the plasma's ions should have been losing energy and cooling. Also, when the high temperature was achieved, the Z machine was releasing more energy than was originally put in, something that usually occurs only in nuclear reactions.

Sandia consultant Malcolm Haines theorizes that some unknown energy source is involved, which is providing the machine with an extra jolt of energy just as the plasma ions are beginning to slow down.

Sandia National Laboratories is located by Albuquerque New Mexico and is part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Bubbles Get Hotter than the Sun

Dave you were right homo sapiens couldn't do it it took an angry chimp. LOL  
The United States, Soviet Union and China (possibly India as well) have achieved fusion and found it to be BY FAR the cheapest source of BTUs ever produced by humanity.  The problem has just been one of control.

BTW, one proposed source of fusion power was to explode an H-Bomb deep underground, then inject water into the cavity and run steam that came out through generator.  Afew years later, drop another, smaller H-Bomb down into the same cavity.

Alan the underground nuke thing?

Earth Quakes near metro areas.
Ground Water contaimination very few geological sites would be suitable, and an H bomb is not like a tactical nuke you must have a fairly large (I don't know how big) fission reaction to get the fusion to occur.

Does anybody know how much fissable Uranium is out there?
We could start a peak uranium movement.  No really there is a good chance many alternatives (fusion, tarsands) will require the portability if fission reactors for feeder energy. Fission reactors need cooling towers if instead the steam is driven to free tarsands, the waste heat could be utilized. I know I saw something before on TOD about this.

Besides the Uranium what about Plutonium in breeder reactors?  If we went to fission power on a large scale how many years more would we have to develop fusion?

If new reactors were built with taxation on all production specifically going to R&D what is someones best estimate on years of production.

Then take into account a stretching of years with solar etc added in.

BY FAR the cheapest source of BTUs ever produced by humanity.

And here I thought the cheapest BTU idea was to have your building with south facing windows.    Or wear black and standout in the sun as the low-cost option.

Buildings and windows cost money, as does clothing !


 You are not going to bankroll too many engineers with ideas like that. Bechtel and KBR cannot kickstart a 60 trillion Manhattan II when the key deliverable is an injunction wear black and stand 92,955,820.5 miles from the nearest fusion reaction.

 I am poking fun but the real issue here is the fact that our search for a technological fix is somewhat similar to that of an alcoholic presuming that another drink would cure all of his ills.

 It is technology that has helped us into this corner. All of our dominant technologies are dependent on cheap energy. When our supply of cheap energy is threatened then all of those dependent technologies are also threatened.

 One poster in this thread regrets our inability to wind back the clock to pre-industrial times, before the emergence of coal based technologies.

 But the use of coal only came about because of Peak Wood. Pre-industrial Britain was running out of wood for construction, wood for home heating, wood to support the basic industrial processes then in use (coking, brewing, baking, with wood ash as an agricultural supplement). Nobody wanted to burn coal - it stinks. Coal is actually the perfect Giffen good; an inferior product that we use more of as the price rises.

 The availabilty of coal permitted the firing of clay and the use of brick as a construction material. The problem of Peak Coal, the fact that the available supply was declining due to the costs of extraction and problems dewatering the works, lead directly to another technological fix - the steam engine. This lead to a positive feedback loop: Steam engine lead to railway to carry the coals, lead to demand for iron and steel, lead to demand for more coal to mine and smelt ore, lead to more railway to transport raw materials and finished products. And all of this activity created more opportunities for employment and family formation and a greater population. The invention with the greatest human impact was the cast iron pipe as this permitted fresh water delivery, a significant reduction in disease, and enabled the growth of the urban population center.

 We can put all this in perspective if we change the name of our species from Homo Sapiens to Homo Sapiens Technologicus. Put simply, few of us can survive without the technological infrastrucutre in which we are embedded. We are not separate from that infrastructure; we are not independent of it. In the words of Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

 Can we go back to a prior state as Hunter Gatherers? Go look in a roadside ditch and tell me what you see that is edible. Our ancestors may have been able to pull a meal out of that ditch. I doubt that we can.

 This brings us to the issue of culture. I too ride a bicycle but I am under no illusions that riding a bicycle somehow makes me independent of the technological sea in which I swim. My food travels 4,000 miles before I collect it and it does not move on two wheels. It is not harvested by bicycle, the fields are not tilled by bicycle.

 When we speak of a cultural change we have to recognize that we are embedded in a technological matrix and our "culture" is also part of that matrix. We cannot separate it out, we cannot stand outside of who and what we are. Who and what we are is a part of "how" we are.

 This does not mean that it is impossible to effect change. But we need to comprehend the scale of what we seek to undertake. And that scale is mind boggling. It is not just 20 years of suburbia that we must give up. It is some 250 years of human development that we need to redirect to other needs and other purposes. That scale of change is not going to happen overnight. It is not going to happen through each of us talking to our neighbours. I do not believe it is going to happen through creation of a command economy (though I do believe America may go down this route and seek out and empower their own Saddam Hussein. There are posters on this blog who are happy to encourage state sanctioned killings, preemptive military ventures, expropriations, and war time mobilization and controls.).

 TOD is a useful starting point, a means to become educated about the nature of the problem. But the solution may take a long time coming.

You are not going to bankroll too many engineers with ideas like that. Bechtel and KBR cannot kickstart a 60 trillion Manhattan II when the key deliverable is an injunction wear black and stand 92,955,820.5 miles from the nearest fusion reaction.

1) The ARGUMENT was 'cost per BTU captured'.
I offered up how that isn't a valid argument.  

2) So nice you want to pay Bechtel and KBR with tax dollars.
More big government.  More government welfare.

Our ancestors may have been able to pull a meal out of that ditch. I doubt that we can.

"we"  There are a whole lotta WE's out there these days.   So the ditch, filled with lead from the old gas additive, would be stripped rather quickly.

It is some 250 years of human development that we need to redirect to other needs and other purposes.

And in that desperation, stupidity and violence seems to be the path.   sigh

 I am in agreement with your post. Late night sardonic irony is not effective.

 Half the posts in this thread propose a massive government program as if the government was some form of magic tooth fairy.

 After Katrina and Iraq I fail to understand why anyone would entrust the same people with a viable solution. It is this lack of critical thought that gave the world Iraq and Katrina in the first place.

 Once the snowball started rolling I would think Bechtel and KBR would immediately jump on the gravy train and I am sure any Manhattan II would include building bridges to nowhere up in Alaska.

I am in agreement with your post. Late night sardonic irony is not effective.

The lack of voice inflection, visual cues or laugh tracks also hurt detecting 'the funny'.

But some people are SO willing to demand the Goverment to use the power of law to take money from one party and move it to another you have 3 choices:

  1. Not play   (yea, that will work)
  2. Decide to take no deductions to show how morally pure you are.
3)Take every deduction and try and make the system work for you.
What exactly "temperature" are they measuring?

In fact, if the plasma emits radiation with a short enough wavelength, the equivalent "color" temperature can indeed get quite high. The statistical Boltzmann to Planck photon equivalence comes from the following relationship:

E ~ kT ~ hv
which gives Temperature ~ 0.01/wavelength. For visible blue light wavelength of 500 nm, this gives a temperature of about 20,000 K. To get temperatures in the "billions" range, you need short wavelength x-rays bordering on the gamma range territory -- i.e. wavelengths shorter than 0.01 nm.

So they have created what looks like a concentrated source of high-energy x-rays. That is all there is to it. I certainly hope they have invested in high quality lead liners.

Angry Chimp,
"... the radiated x-ray output was as much as four times the expected kinetic energy input."

Awesome, they accidentally created a source of energy that puts out 4 times as much energy as it takes in!  That is great.  None of the prototype experimental Fusion Reactors have ever broke even on energy return, let alone generated a 400% return. These scientists just did what billions of dollars of Fusion research could not.    

And the best part of all is, that the researchers don't even know why it works!  They were just trying to create a couple million degrees of heat and they ended up with a couple Billion degrees.  

Next step, the scientists need to see if this reaction can be recreated for more then a couple nano seconds.  Suddenly I have a new found interest in massive accelerators and x ray production.  We should keep an eye on this development.

Prolific Researcher

WHT is right; it's just a high power x-ray source.  While it's nice to talk happy about the applications to fusion energy, the principle mission of the Z facility is to produce radiation to study the maintenance a reliable nuclear weapons stockpile safely and securely without actually setting one off once and a while to see if it still works.

This result exemplifies two things to me:  military needs (not civilian energy needs) still dictate where most nuclear research dollars are spent, and a crucial part of discovery stems from creating new environments and observing - we don't understand plasma physics well enough to rely on our theories and computational models alone.

Producing electron plasmas is actually very common.  You are probably looking at the light emitted from millions of them right now, although the plasma temperature is a lot lower than the Sandia experiment.

Imparting similar energies to atomic nuclei, and getting enough of them packed into a small enough space (confinement) so that the energy from an individual case of two nuclei fusing induces more than one additional reaction is a far more difficult problem than what the Sandia folks accomplished.

I think that if a practical fusion power source is ever created it will almost certainly not come in time to help us get through our peak oil problem and probably not our peak gas problem, and that the brute force method of trying to squeeze down sun-like atomic plasmas in extreme magnetic fields is less likely to produce results than a back-door method such as sonoluminescence.

Good info. I think the press releases tend to portray research advances in terms of vocabulary that the general public can easily understand, which unfortunately doesn't convey the true implications as well as it could.
isn't the problem with fusion the containment, and the reason that stars can do it is because their gravity is what contains the fusion reaction?
So you quote a group of researchers that think this is feasible as proof it is not?  Read the rest of the site, they actually believe that fusion as an energy source is feasible.  The temperatures for the plasma are not a problem.  The problem is in reaching the breakeven point where we start producing energy rather than consuming it.  From the same site:

The success of JET, in terms of optimising plasma stability and confinement, has led to the design of the next step device - ITER. ITER is an international collaboration with seven partners (EU, Japan, USA, South Korea, Russia, China and India) - and is a more advanced, larger version of JET. It will be capable of producing 500MW of fusion power (ten times that needed to heat the plasma). In comparison, JET can only produce fusion power that is ~70% of the power needed to heat the plasma. After much political debate, the go ahead to build ITER at Cadarache in France was given in June 2005. ITER will take ten years to build and should operate from 2015.

The so-called fast track to commercial fusion power is a strategy designed to ensure that a demonstration fusion power station puts electricity into the grid in 30 years time. During the operation of ITER, a parallel materials testing programme will be undertaken - developing and assessing the materials needed for a powerplant. The experience from both these facilities will enable the first demonstration powerplant to be operational in ~ 30 years.


Solar core conditions are estimated to be about 15 megakelvin, 340 gigabars, leading to a density of about 160E3kg/m^3. I got those numbers via a little Googling.

That temperature is cool by the standards of modern plasma engineering. Sandia Labs recently announced a new record of 2 gigakelvin in a short pulse - see here - and you can get detectable numbers of neutrons from plasmas below a megakelvin (e.g. artificial lightning strikes from Tesla coils).

The trick is to trade off density (and hence pressure) for temperature. Devices like JET operate at temperatures in the low hundreds of megakelvin and pressures of single figures of bar (IIRC) - as far as density is concerned, the active plasma is a pretty good vacuum. Fusion reactors are characterized by a parameter called Omega (I think) which is not non-dimensional and combines temperature, density and (containment) time. You have to get to a certain level of Omega to get thermal breakeven, and a higher level to get electrical breakeven (modulo thermal efficiency), and so on. These levels are just about attainable ;-) so it's just an engineering problem.

But no, I don't expect to see commercial fusion power in my own lifetime.

By the way, did you know the power density of the Sun is orders of magnitude less than that of a human body? I think the same may be true if you calculate the power density of just the core, but I don't have time to do that right now. Of course the surfce area to volume ratio of the Sun is a lot lower than the human body, hence the higher black-body temperature.

By the way, to pick up on this bit:

Many scientists and engineers will tell you that with regard to our energy problem, lack of technology is not the limiting factor. Lack of political will, the unwillingness to invest huge sums of money for a truly major change, and lack of societal focus ARE the limiting factors.

Darn right.  And I think the most ignored technologies we have are in the efficiency domain.  There have been bits of progress.  Gristmill had a bit on California's campaign against appliances inefficient in stand-by mode:

There's a lot like that that could be done quickly (in a technical sense) but are difficult politically.  If we know so much about Energy Star appliances, why are they an option?  Why aren't they mandatory?  (If you are worried about costs for low income consumers, just make sure that the high end appliances were mandatory Energy Star .. they are actually often the worst.)

I think it's worth pointing out that many people don't fall into either of those extremes with regard to views of technology.  I know I certainly don't.

Anyone who thinks that technological advancements won't help in our growing energy situation is a fool, and I'll leave it up to the readers here to furnish their own list of 20 or 30 improvements that have been made or are on the cusp of a breakthrough.  Similarly, anyone thinking we'll have a Mr. Fusion machine powering ever cary (ala Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies) is equally deluded.

Of course there were better ways to spend that $300B; but we're stuck with the idiots in power making those horrendously awful decisions, at least until the mid-term elections when we might see a change in personel in Congress and some restraint forced on Bush.

We will continue to find better solutions, some via new invention, some via better use of "old" technology (like the recent announcement from Corning that they've developed a material that will enable the construction of even larger wind turbines).  The main change I see coming is a D&D (diversified and decentralized) future.  We'll be using a lot of different energy sources for some time, from fossil fuels to biomass, wind, wave, tidal, and solar (with much more emphasis on the renewables than there is today); different transportation mixes, including hybrids, flex fuel, electrics, more mass transit, and in 3 to 4 years fuel cell cars from Honda and Hyundai.  

The future will be messy, and it will definitely cause us a lot of human and economic pain to get there because we didn't look far enough ahead to plan for the inevitable.  Unless someone finds a way to hop back in time and fix our errors, we're stuck with making the best of a nasty situation.

Boy, Lou;
Every time I came up with a thought on the above post, it all came from the same place..  it's like clues..

"The Future!"

"..That's-when you hit your head and invented the FLUX-CAPACITOR, which makes Time Travel Possible.."

"One-Point-Twenty-One Gigawatts!?

"But Noone ever knows when or where Lighting is gonna strike."

"When this baby hits 88mph... you're gonna see some serious shit!"

  Sorry, doing the Nostalgia Wave..

But I agree with your point..  sort of a 'Moderation in all things' approach.  I'm a techie, but I'm also strongly behind self-powered work, home-made things.  I think PC's are just amazingly diverse tools, but I also prefer to do most of my shop building with hand-tools, rather walk than squeeze into a car and worry about parking. I hope that Wind and PV production see a lot more investment and subsidization, and I also think that simple old Glass could be a key to our managing energy and ~some~ climate issues. (Heard about a Mainer who's greenhouses produced so well in Fall,Winter and Spring that he took summers off)  Designing a handful of Heating, Cooking, Refrigeration, and Lighting alternatives for our home.  (We Shouldn't need to be running 300,000 refrigerators all winter long in Maine!)  They're complicated, but simple; Techie, but 'Classic Farmer'

  The cynics will say, 'but nobody in America knows how to do anything anymore'..  I wouldn't bet on it.. and people can learn.

jokuhl, up the coast a bit from you.. closer to bar harbor. But yup, owned and ran 3 high tech companies, while living in a small (24' X 24') solar and wood heated house for the last 30 years.  Eliot Coleman is the man with the crops, he's just up the hill from us. With GW we may not need to worry so much about food production up here, looks like it's going to get easier. Our growing season already seems to be getting longer on both spring and fall ends.
I think Lou, that it comes down to the difference between a press release and a product announcement.

We probably see 100 press releases a week on new energy innovations.  Some are inflated into puff-pieces in the popular scientific press.  Some sites (alteng comes to mind), provide a steady stream of such "good news."  Unfortunately there is many a slip between cup and lip.  There is a winnowing proccess between what we see announced and what we ultimately see for sale.

There are many great things we can buy today, and they are the result of successful R&D.  Certainly, the current burst of interest and investment will yield more results.

But as someone said above, as I've said before:

It's a good bet that the sciences will come up with many important discoveries, but that doesn't mean that it's a good bet that they will come up with what you want them to come up with.

If you want a reality-based position on scientific innovation ... base your projections on the product curve, and not the announcement curve.

Thank you joule, you said it better than I would have, and now I don't have to put in the effort of composing it!  People seem to have such blind faith in a technological solution that will pop up from nowhere if we only get enough eggheads together and throw some money at them - and it's combined with an inability to understand the magnitude of what we face.  

We laugh about the managers who want to know ahead of time exactly where you will invent something, and how much it will cost.  Our running joke is "yes, I've got a burst if inspiration scheduled for 10:37 tomorrow".  It's a process that takes time, money, and good luck as well as skill.  And regardless, we're going to continually run into the laws of physics, as well as economics.  It's an absolutely staggering amount of energy that needs replacing, and it will take an equally staggering amount of money to develop workable new technologies and produce the infrastructure.  

I certainly believe there will need to be a large amount of technology and engineering required for us to develop viable, sustainable society.  But a huge effort is going to be needed in changing our societies - social engineering.  

And I see no sign that we're anywhere close to being able to understand and take action in appropriate ways.  As a society, we are too busy denying that we need to change our lifestyle.  Any recognition of the problem is in its infancy, and is focused mostly on how do we get more burnable liquids to put in our cars for $2 a gallon or less.

On another topic - as far as population decline goes, there is only one thing that would make large numbers of people willingly forgo having children - and that is if having children becomes a severe economic hardship.  

As I've said before, this whole population question needs to be adressed in a sober fashion. It's a vast and complicated issue. It's too big for TOD in my opinion. We only deal with it superficially, whereas we need depth and rigour.

Just one small point. Usually "economic hardship" means people having more not less children, as a safeguard against hard times. The richer people get the fewer children they have. The more women become integrated into the economy the fewer children they have. So, it would seem the "answer" to the "population problem" is to make poor people richer.

Of course if/when Peak Oil starts to hit us hard things may be different. There is a chance that post peak the population will start to rise even in rich countries. I'm discounting "die-off" for the moment, as this kind of means the end of civilization.

Those of you that love Doom don't even have to wait for "die-off". Just around the corner may be something far deadlier and quicker. Avian flu mutated so it can be passed from human to human. This could happen tomorrow, next year, in five years, or ten years. But it will eventually happen. The question is, how many will die? The last great flu pandemic in 1918 "only" killed between 5%-6%, currently the new virus kills between 50%-60%. Will it remain that deadly in a full-scale pandemic? Nobody really knows.

Notice that most of the "Manhattan project" people have never actually been involved in engineering and building large projects.  Ignorance is bliss.  Also, in terms of engineering talent, the U.S. is no longer such a technological giant, if it ever was.  We've got MBAs instead.

On the other hand, the back to the garden people should realize that the average life-span in those days was less than 50 years.  They might last a little longer on their farms, at least until the first plagues come along.

On the other hand, the back to the garden people should realize that the average life-span in those days was less than 50 years.  

Largely due to the high infant mortality rate.  

One reason why I am expecting the population growth rate to rise if we go back to the farm.  The higher the infant mortality rate, the more kids people have.  

Not sure, but you could be right.  When Russia collapsed, didn't the birthrate plunge?
The birth rate in the Soviet Union was very low anyway, even before the collapse.  It was a real concern to many of TPTB, because they wanted lots of citizens to serve as workers, soldiers, etc.  Romania went so far as to force women and even girls of childbearing age to submit to doctor's exams every month, to make sure they did not abort any  pregnancies, which was illegal.  Nevertheless, Romania had the highest abortion rate in Europe.  

But they still had health care, unlike the farmers of our past, or in Third World countries today.  They were still industrialized societies.  Urbanization discourages large families.  

Many scientists and engineers will tell you that with regard to our energy problem, lack of technology is not the limiting factor. Lack of political will, the unwillingness to invest huge sums of money for a truly major change, and lack of societal focus ARE the limiting factors.

You did a great job describing cultural changes IMHO!!  Its not technology, its us!!  

taken care of.  thanks.
`Saudi Arabia is planning' to repatriate windfall oil funds

Basel, Switzerland: Saudi Arabia, which exported crude oil worth about $163bn last year, said it will repatriate some of its windfall invested abroad to finance petroleum, utility and other expansions.
"There are big projects, in fact mega projects, that are lined up for investment,'' Hamad Saud al-Sayari, Saudi Arabia's central bank governor, said in a recent interview.

There is a picture of an oil well like the one on the page header of TOD in this video..

Nice essay about the energy cost of food by Chad Heeter at

This is how it concludes:

What I eat for breakfast connects me to the planet, deep into its past with the fossilized remains of plants and animals which are now fuel, as well as into its future, when these non-renewable resources will likely be in scant supply. Maybe these thoughts are too grand to be having over breakfast, but I'm not the only one on the planet eating this morning. My meal traveled thousands of miles around the world to reach my plate. But then there's the rise of perhaps 600 million middle-class Indians and Chinese. They're already demanding the convenience of packaged meals and the taste of foreign flavors. What happens when middle-class families in India or China decide they want their Irish oats for breakfast, topped by organic raspberries from Chile? They'll dip more and more into the planet's communal oil well. And someday soon, we'll all suck it dry.

Chad Heeter grew up eating fossil fuels in Lee's Summit, Missouri. He's a freelance writer, documentary filmmaker, and a former high school science teacher.

Between the lines of optimistic techno prose I see the dark reality of our limited spherical reality.

Let's say we get the fusion beast up and running. Okay. What then? Do we let the population continue to grow? How do we feed that population? What do we do about the destruction of habitat?

Are we ultimately headed towards a food cycle consisting of some algae glop made in vast fusion powered troughs where sustainability means dumping dead humans (since by then we will have destroyed all other sources of organic matter) in one end and cakes of nutrient bar pop out the other?

Shades of soylent green.

What do we want? Is this planet, which has come down through the millennia and the eons through a complex sorting process known as natural selection, not good enough? The planet we are taking apart bit by bit, destroying and defiling acre-by-acre, is the end result of perhaps the most complex hit and miss experimentation ever. It is like taking all of the computers, super-computers ever built and that will ever be built and running a program to design a world that takes in solar energy and produces life on a sustainable basis. Yet we are so arrogant to think that we can throw a few billion dollars at researchers and come up with a vastly simpler solution to patch over our already deep gouges in this wondrous creation.

I kind of like the planet Earth. It is a far better engineering accomplishment than anything that man can dream of. Why screw it up? Ego is my guess. Pure male ego. The desire to piss on territory and mark our place, to make it ours, to render out all the nature in it and make it a clunky, constantly-needing-repairs replica of an already perfect machine. Kind of like Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft Windows is to the human brain as human technology is to nature.

A Manhattan project? Throw money at yet another technology that is disconnected from nature? A fool's errand.

I say take the money and work back towards harmony with nature. At least you know that nature has already been in the testing phase for several billion years.


Cherenkov aren't you a little disconnected from nature blogging all the time?  If we have already (in your futuristic scenario) burn't all fossil fuels would all the free CO2 not be a source of organic material
These are what you need for life and the sea and surface will never be short of any.  As long as we are picking SCIENCE FICTION futures to live in with the prerequisite of doable fusion I pick Star Wars. Doom and Gloom my friend you need a girlfriend.
You need to play out the scenario there chief. Read the entire post before opening mouth and sticking in foot.

As to your ridiculous list of perpetual elements, here is a little experiment. Take these elements in their pure form and pour them into a bit vat. Now. Jump in and close the lid hermetically. Oh, take your cell phone, I'd like to hear your screams when you realize just how dumb you are.

Also, why do you assume I am male or lesbian?

More male ego.

You keep giving yourself away. Would you please stop doing that. For Christ's sake, we don't want to have to cut you loose, man, if that's what it comes down to. But we will. Think about it. You've got much more to gain with us, lad. These clowns got nothin.' C'mon, we'll take care of you.
Cherenkov? You want to go and hang with that lot? He'll just eat you - and burn your boots, no matter what the commie bastard says.

Oil Ceo refered to you as a "He" on peak oil contango and you did not allege him to have a male ego. I took your silence on the matter then to mean you were in fact male.

If you are going through an experimental phase I support your decision.

I hope this is an alter ego and you are playing devils advocate, because really Madam you have a bad attitude about life.  Smoke something or drink a beer.

Besides your profile says former oilfield worker, I am a current oilfield worker....My rig has no females on board currently. Of the three that I have met out here two were in fact gay.  So If I offended your man hood or womyn hood (thats right I spelled it with a y just for you) I apologize.

Ah, once again the rhetorical question involving sexuality flummoxes the poorly educated American.


I notice that you focused on the one aspect of my post that you could argue with in with any understanding.

Yup. I'm male. Gosh, you caught me. Wow, we really solved the energy problem, eh, chief?

"Ah, once again the rhetorical question involving sexuality flummoxes the poorly educated American"

This is the first comment I've made about sexuality and you initiated the subject.  Poorly educated?  Thats a rather ad hominem abusive route to take.

I have responded to many aspects of your previous posts and you repeatedly attack my intelligence, while not supporting your rhetoric.  Mocking my ideas is fine if you disagree with them but the mockery itself does not prop up your arguments.  

I'll restate my point that I do not believe you want a solution, I think you want to glibly point out how Bush, America, Consumers, and everyone who disagrees with anything you say is wrong.  I'll do you the courtesy of never responding to your posts, as you have nothing productive to say.  (and that which you do say is keyword emesis from various Doomday Scenarios)

There are several factors that exasperate peak oil, that are themselves a problem.

First is the decline of EROI.

From Charles Hall's work
we have    1930: 100 to 1   
           1970: 25 to 1   
           1990: 11-18 to 1   

If we extrapolate the trend we have, based on the 11 to 1 and 18 to one ratio

Year         Ratio    Ln(ratio)  Ratio       Ln
1930         100      4.6         100      4.6
1970          25        3.2          25       3.2
1990          11       2.4          18        2.9
2000         7.9       2.1         12.1       2.5
2010         5.5       1.7          9.0       2.2
2020         3.8       1.3          6.7       1.9
2030         2.7       1.0          5.0       1.6
2040         1.8       0.6          3.7       1.3
2050         1.3       0.2          2.8       1.0

This implies we have to process exponentially increasing quantities to stay in the same place. Of course serendipitous new tech will break this trend. So would vastly less demand. The question is at what EROI do we run into real difficulties. What was tghe EROI of 19'th century agriculture based on animal power.

The next concern is the growth of consumption by the exporting countries. Some are making a transition from exporters to importers.

Both these trends suggest that the 'availble oil' to importing countries of oil may decline much faster than produced oil.

Then there is of course climate change.

Since the average EROEI of all energy sources is declining we must do more with less or go without. A post on EV World said a process with an EROEI less than 3 was a waste of time, example corn ethanol. I've puzzled over this at length and I think all we can say for sure is the average EROEI of everything must be >1, otherwise game over. Maybe some kind of specialised rocket fuel justifies excessive inputs. Old timers may have found it easy to drill for oil but they used it inefficiently, so GWB is right to say energy intensity matters. Right now it doesn't look like more of us can have big houses and big cars unless this decline is reversed, which is not going to happen.  
What the 'technology will save us' camp always fail
to recognise is that technology is more often than
not the problem, rather than the answer.

If we could go back 400 years and prevent the
invention of the steam engine and prevent the use
of steam engines to pump water out of coal mines,
we could prevent almost every problem we now
suffer from.

The access to fossil fuel energy enabled Britain
(and subsequently much of the world) to breed,
pollute and destroy at a rate that would not have
been possible without it. Had humanity not gained
access to all the stored energy in coal, oil gas
etc. the Chinese civilisation might have lasted
another 5,000 years.

Without the advances of technology, there would
probably still be only 500 million people living
on the planet. All that technology has done is
allow a plague of humans to overpopulate the
planet, at the expense of the habitablility
-so the overpopulation is on a very temporary

All the discussion about whether nuclear fusion
processes can be made to work on Earth are really
so much stuff and nonsense.

We have a climate change problem now. We have
a water supply problem now. We have a gas supply
problem now. And very soon we will have a
fertiliser problem that will see harvests fall
dramatically. After which, presumably the
pulation problem will be partially solved.

Whilst the invention of aircraft was a
technological wonder, at this point in time,
the increasing use of aircraft poses one of
the greatest threats to the continued
habitability of the planet. Bigger, faster
planes, or more of them simply makes the CO2
emission and ozone depletion problems worse.  

The simple fact that is unacceptable to so many
people is that the further we stray from natural
[sustainable]systems, the deeper the hole we dig
for ourselves (and our descendents).

In view of the fact that a best case suggests a
severe energy crisis within 5 years and in view
of the fact that 50+ years of research have
failed to deliver on the fusion front, I think
we know the answer


Good post. Too bad we can't time travel. To guide the development of technological man back towards harmony with nature would be sweet. Of course, that is impossible. We unfortunately have to still deal with the greed and shortsightedness of the human species, something that will probably never disappear, but which technology greatly exaggerates.

As soon as the basic underlying structure of nature begins to fail, no amount of technology will save everyone. Many will die prematurely.

As long as people feel that their particular technological solution exists outside of the energy field we call reality and that it does not interact in any appreciable way with said reality field, we are doomed.

Many people here who claim to act in the interest of science often seem to act like Bush's science advisors, rewriting the conclusions of the scientific community in order to make it conform better with their own political, religious, or economic paradigms. These paradigms are all human creations, word games that have little to do with physics and everything to do with the way humans perceive reality and not with the way things simply are.

In this fashion, techno-worshippers seem blind to the ill they cause when their "fixes" and "improvements" go horribly awry or succumb to the law of unintended consequences. Rather than admit that their so-called advanced technology is really a dumbing down of the truly brilliant world that is already around us, they seem to think that all they need do is to cobble together another fix that usually causes new problems.

Sorry to say people on this planet will have to suffer at the hands of the techno worshippers for some time to come for one main reason: the average human does not understand cause and effect, or any aspect of the scientific method for that matter, and thus will never connect the dots. (I'd like to point out that many egineers and scientists seem to not understand cause and effect either. Else, why would they create so many backfiring crappy inventions?)

Oh well.

Since this is open thread, i'll toss this out for thought. Hurricane season starts up first day of June.
When a hurricane enters the Gulf (GOMEX), how quickly will production shut down?

Do they wait till it's within a certain 100 mile range?

How long does it take to "lock down"?

Once the hurricane threat has passed, and no damage has been assessed, how long does it take to restart production?

Throw in political unrest worldwide combined with hurricanes in the gulf. (regardless of category size) I think we'll see gasoline shoot well over $3.50, and oil prices shoot up to upper 70's. I am not an expert, but thats the way i see it happening. Am i the only pessimist?

[ Reply to This ]

   There are many types of rigs in the gulf.

Jackups which stand on legs jacked down to the ocean floor.  
these are close to shore and the last to shut down they turn the well off if a production platform or trip up drillpipe and shut off they well that way.

Semisubmersibles are large medium range rigs which float but are also moored via anchors.  They also shut down ops approx 12-24 hours because of the length of pipe and casing and evacuate to land.

I work on a ultra-deep drillship, we seal our well and trip up the pipe then sail around the storm.  Hurricanes while devastating move slow.

Any questions that was very basic.  

holy cow, that was a quick response. Thanks!
I was really curious how quickly the different setups shut down, then restart after a hurricane drifts through the gulf. And how it affects the price(s) of gasoline at the time. Depending on the damage, i can understand the price differential. A huuricane of any intensity will disrupt production for a day or more, depending on intenisty of storm,but, in  worse case scenario it can disrupt production indefinately depending on damage (kATRINA/RITA). but a mild cat 2 that doesn't cause any damage would result in how much disruption in production? I mean in terms of time to get back to production prior to storm.
It is amazing to me working out here as I am fairly new how smoothly things go. The industry is extremely safety and enviornmental conscious at this level (we sort all trash for recycling, nothing goes overboard, and fluorescent lighting only onboard) I know this is little in comparison to the impact of the Petroleum industry but it is a statement.  

As for your question about the cat 2 I beleive the 5 day cone begins shutdown and 3 day begins evac.  My ship sails around so we lose the least time.  So I would say a no damage storm stops production/drilling for about 5-7 days. There are extensive safety checks when the crew coms back.

If the TOD staff would like during this hurricane season I'll post photos of the shut down evac procedures somewhere.
I'm sure we'll have another big season.

 It was a very basic question and you got it wrong.

 You just presented your operator with a $250,000 cost, increased VL VDL, decreased your stability margins, and increased your ship owners energy costs.

 Next, you'll be wanting to run a spinnaker up your MAST pants.

 Next tour you better go talk to your Push. Find out how things really get done before you baffle us.

 By the way, who is your Push? If he's any good I probably know him.

email me I'll give you my rig and Captains name.
  He has a drilling superintendent under him and a night and day push under that guy.  You do know how many rigs there are? Thats like saying hey you are from conneticut do you know dave?

Anyway the dates and times of an evac are pretty close to that per our drilling superintendent, and our evac plans.  But my ship sails around. Every rig is different, the food is good though.

The cost of evac is way more than 250k. Lost production is probably in the millions. I did not do that though the hurricane did.

I love open threads because I can ramble and spread ideas.

Ok, I am a fan of the idea that technological innovation is not necessarily a function of the amount of resources devoted to a project. In fact, I remember reading an interesting quote along the lines that 'new technology will appear when the world decides it is time'. I must clarify that this quote references the 'world' not as society, but as an independent entity, similar to 'fate'. History has given several interesting examples, the one that springs to mind first is photography; simultaneously invented by two men who never met.

Here's a great solution to the energy problem; things get so bad people panic, and we build a *&%#load of breeder reactors along the coast, you know the nasty kind that can process fissable material right down the periodic table to Iron. This massive array of reactors powers the nation's electricity (wow, I am going to get flamed for this), and uses surplus capacity to desalinize salt water, and through electrolysis produce hydrogen. This hydrogen is then (using that new machine that was just patented) encapsulated via nano-bubbles into ordinary water, and distributed across the nation like oil. Cars fill their tanks with this 'water', and burn it in IC engines. Everyone is happy for about 100 years, then global warming or bird flu kills everyone. (I'm pretty good at this future stuff).

Honestly, here is what scares me: we humans do not respond to change, we respond to increasing amounts of change (second derivative). We are currently playing a game of mutual assured destruction with energy. We know there is/will not be enough to go around, but we do not care. "I will continue riding the elevator to the second floor, because if I don't waste that energy some Indian will." This attitude in itself will become an increasing problem as energy gets tight.

As I sit back and look at this mess I simply say "wow". Yet everyday life is totally disconnected from what I read on this site. Will they ever correspond? I hope not.

I won't flame the breed reactors, because I kind of like their promise.

But, I will flame the desalinization idea.  Your typical by-the-ocean esalinization are some of the worst environmental offenders.

Depending on operations, most of the brine and leftovers get dumped back into the ocean (although some extract the salt and sell it) which raises the salinity content of the ocean, which hurts wildlife (think salt on a slug, here).  Furthermore, the brine and excess water is generally not reduced in temperature before it's pumped out, so it causes a gradual warming effect on the area surrounding it, which again hurts the ecosystem and there's evidence it messes with some of the migration patterns.  Also, last years strong hurricane season (and the forecasted stronger season this year), as we all know, is due to the increased surface temperature of the Gulf, so we should be particularly cautious adding to that any.

Finally, fish and other animals get stuck in the meshing for the input pipes, and lots of microplankton gets obliterated in the desalinization process.  And you thought they were in the clear because you snip your 6-pack rings.

I know this really isn't on the topic of your post, and it's a detailed description of a minor point, but I honestly feel that this is an issue that not many people know about.  I'm too lazy right now to look it up, but IIRC, the Persian Gulf has the highest concentration of desalinization plants, and it's causing a noticeable rise in the Gulf's temperature and it's disrupting the species.  And I don't know for sure, but just looking at a map, the ocean currents can't be too strong to help diffuse the ocean, since it's only connected with the tiny Straight of Hormuz.

Something to think about.

(Thanks to the 2004 High School policy debate topic)

Thanks for the info. This is part of the reason I love TOD, one gets the chance to talk to many people and see every side of an issue. Honestly, I realize that the future prediction was impossible, but I never appreciated the problems with desalinization.
There has been some discussion about the
state of inertia that prevails in society
and the inability to respond to the various
crises: this is a natural consequence of
the western-style economic system, as
epitomised by the US. The economic system
requires mainstream media to trivialise
crucial issues (or ignore them completely)
and to exaggerate the importance of trivial
matters, in order that the populace is kept
distracted and business as usual can be
mainatained. Most mainstream 'news'media
are corporate-owned and are required o
maximise short term profits, not inform
readers/viewers of reality  

The day that a major Florida newspaper runs
a banner headline "Massive hurricane damage
as a consequence of our profligate use of
energy -stop using your SUV" is the day
things will change. The day George Bush
announces to the nation that oil
companies must be held accountable for
the air pollution and global warming they
cause will be the day things will change.
The day pigs grow wings and learn to fly
will be the day things change.

Actually, in reality, at some point in
time (maybe even this coming summer)
the disconnect between what mainstream
media say and reality will become so
great the populace will finally realise
how much they've been misled. There
were inklings of that after Katrin, but
somehow the holes in the dyke were

Just by way of anecdote, last September-
November many of us here in NZ were
predicting serious trouble for the
NZ economy around March 2006. Needless
to say we were largely ignored.
Mainstream media carried on with
the 'all is rosy, consume like
there's no tomorrow' agenda. But sure
enough, we have just had dreadful
balance of payments deficit (8.9%GDP)
and poor (negative growth) GDP figures
announced, so the NZ dollar has
dropped like a stone and petrol is already
up around 'post-Katrina' pricing.

Many of us are anticipating something
of a meltdown of the ecomomy, as ever
rising oil import costs clobber the
balance of payments even more, putting
further pressure on the dollar in a
terrible positive feedback loop:
demand destruction seems the only way

Whether our government has managed to dig
a sufficiently deep hole for us to never
escape is yet to be seen.

One positive aspect is that if NZ does
become the first western nation to
experiencce 'oilcrash', we won't have
time to think about shopping or oil
anymore -we'll be too busy growing

What do people think is going to happen in Nigeria?  Seems ever day the situation becomes more extreme.

Ongoing Unrest in Nigeria's Delta State Has Slashed Oil Production There by 26 Percent. In 2005 the CIA ranked Nigeria as the world's 12th largest oil producer, pumping 2,451,000 barrels per day and with estimated reserves of 25 billion barrels. ... Last weekend an explosion on the Tebidaba-Brass pipeline, owned by Italian multinational Nigeria Agip Oil Company, reduced the country`s export capacity by 631,000 barrels a day.

26% is the highest estimate of shut-in Nigerian oil I've seen quoted.

Also the "12th largest oil producer" shows up as "8th largest" elsewhere

Nigeria: Militant attack leaves soldierd (sic) dead ... Nigeria ranks eighth amongst the world's oil producing countries. ...

Do Chinese price caps set the world oil price ceiling now?

Will an increase in the retail price of oil in China cause the world oil price to increase?

If CHina is willing to assume the role of the "Swing Consumer" and provide the elasticity of demand as Saudi has been the "Swing Producer" for the last decades, then so be it.
I'd like to initiate a conversation here, and this way will hopefully be a bit more personal then the usual talk.  This kind of plays on my psychological angle here.

What is your personal reaction to Peak Oil?  What emotions does it bring up?  And how do you cope with them?  

Obviously, there's a fairly large group of pessimists here, and I am unfortunently in that group, as I just cannot see us as a global community to muster Der Wille to own up to an abstract concept that threatens our survival so greatly, much less work together to fix it.

I think losing your "Peak Oil virginity", so to say, is definitely a life-changing experience.  I think all of us have had the "Ignorance is bliss" moment, but the problem is we simply can't afford to bury our own heads in the sand, and we have to try to alert as many others as possible.  I think this probably creates alot of cognitive dissonance in individuals, at least it does for me.  

My personal experience was incredibly painful, especially because at the age of 20, I realized alot of the plans for my future won't happen.  I have had to accept the idea that my life probably won't be better than my parents (This is actually a crisis in my age group that nobody likes to talk about; cynicism of the future almost fringes on nihilism for my generation, even if they can't express it in those terms.)  This was heart-wrenching because it really goes against the hopes of all human beings.  I work hard to pay my own way through college and right now I have student aid debt equal to a modest three-bedroom house, since my blue-collar, single-parent mom had more pressing expenses like food and shelter, so she had to neglect my college fund.  Now, it seems that all this time and energy I have invested in my own personal capital will shortly evaporate, especially since I'm planning on becoming a lawyer and political psychologist, probably the two most useless professions in, worst case scenario, societal collapse.  This will probably be the case for the vast majority of my peergroup, who are also struggling under college debt, the decreasing value of post-secondary education, and the horrible sense of foreboding.  The group that are just graduating from high school when the crash hits will probably not be as fortunent as I am, in even having the opportunity to attend [For thought: If you accept the 2010 prediction, which is conservative from my POV, then we're talking about kids just entering high school right now.] I'm going to put my incredibly expensive education to use now and bring economics into this.  If we suffer from such a devestating loss of human capital as an entire generation missing out on college, how can we possible hope to rebuild society to our current level, much less implementing the hope of rebuilding society to be better, with energy and biosphere conservation, a more egalitarian distribution of wealth around the world, the promise of a healthy, longer, happier life free of disease, and the everlasting hope of peace.  Without heavy investment in human capital, we won't be able to push the Production Possibilities Curve for new ideas and technologies outward and dig ourselves out of our trench.

My second strong feeling is anger.  And it's generational anger.  I know there's all sorts of ages represented here, so I'll preface this by saying I don't really blame individuals, but society in large in not taking the hard stand on problems like this a long time ago.  Of course, a society is made up of the sums of its individuals, so there is at least some small individual responsibility. I recognize that alot of these problems have roots centuries back (like the invention of the steam engine and the use of coal in it, which was mentioned earlier in the threads), and hating those people feels better, but doesn't carry the same pragmaticism as hating the last person to hold the cookie jar.  Also, things are often just completely out of your control.  I feel like I will be orating apologias to my grandchildren about how my generation could have possibly been so complacent with this corrupt regime in office now, and how seeing this we did nothing, unlike the Boomers decided to do in Vietnam.  I actually am embarassed about the fact my generation has done nothing while 2,300 of our peers here in the US and tens of thousands of our peers and future neighbors of the world in Iraq have been killed for a what amounts to the most egregious violation of humanity and self-determination of this very young century (perhaps of the whole century, if history survives long enough for this to be in the history books at all.  Otherwise, it'll be a footnote as a catalyst for the dozens of large-scale resource wars that will be fought.)

Furthermore, it upsets me that so much of our post-Cold War foreign policy, while we try to search for our proper place as world Hegemon or trying to hold on to that status, has hurt the regular American's status in the world.  While we certaintly haven't always held up to the traditions (Blacks, Native Americans, Japanese), we started a society on our own dedicated to inalienable rights and living as a society united under a social contract, which was completely unique and changed the course of history, probably for the better.  Individually, Americans have always been known to be kind and generous to others, with a rich heritage of culture, even if it's regarded as hackneyed by our Western European brothers.  

The point being, we're not bad people, but since I was 3 years old when the USSR collapsed up to this point, we've squandered the honeymoon that we recieved for winning the coldwar and becoming a hyperpower.  I decided not to go to France, a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, recently because I didn't want to be harassed for being an American, despite the fact that I'm paying the ultimate compliment by spending my hard-earned time and money appreciating their rich and beautiful culture which I completely love, respect, and envy.  My generation has inherited this legacy of rampant worldwide anti-Americanism (if America was weak militarily, we would stand no chance protecting ourselves in the diplomatic arena), which while not completely the previous generations fault, is rooted in the poor use of power in exercising hegemony over the past half century.  Let me tie this back to Peak Oil, at least to demonstrate I'm not out on a complete tangent.  International cooperation is truely key to not dissolving into chaos, post Crash.  With China and Indian growing their middle-classes, competition for all resources, not just oil, will be tough.  As they want more cars, they'll use more oil, use more metal, use more silicon (competition in silicon is very high right now) and the Peak Oil will tip off a whole round of resource wars, be they hot or cold wars.  The only way to prevent this is to expend our international politcal capital on some sort of world-wide anti-oil plan, except where there use to be millions there's now only moths.  Not that we would actually sign any treaty unless it was in our economic interests.  It limits our national sovereignty.  smirk

There's some other things you guys are inheriting to us that will make our lives incredibly difficult.  The US Dollar is collapsing due to some real mismanagement in foreign trade, and because we're nice enough to put ourselves in incredibly deep debt to be the "Consumer of Last Choice".  The Housing Bubble is rediculous, and it could pop at any moment (which a good, serious three year long world recession slightly less horrible than the 20s, would be a godsend right now.  You have bankrupted this country by outrageous deficit spending to the point where half of our yearly budget goes to pay INTEREST on the loans.  You literally robbed Social Security like the kid who always has his hand in the cookie jar.  So, now my generation will pay for your entitlement, and more than likely never recieve compensation ourselves.  Social Security is a great progressive cause, and I champion it, but it'll put the hurt on us, and it's likely to bankrupt us or reduce our GDP, which, for us, is the same thing as to bankrupt  (it's not that the economy CAN'T handle it, because it supported all of you through childhood, and the economy is much more productive now then 50 years ago) You also have watched government get more and more corrupt without standing out strongly against it, and now it's so ingrained that it seems nearly impossible to halt it.  

And, of course, there's the two biggies: Global Warming and Peak Oil.  Both of these are issues that have such importance that solving these will require an entire paradigm shift for the world.  Perhaps it constitutes a Hegelian dialectic, and these two problems will synthesize to become a paradise on Earth.  But, again, nothing was done on these issues.  Global Warming has been known at least since I was reading a Times for Kids in 1st grade and yet, it has never been seriously addressed. It's a ticking time bomb, that we inherit.  As for Peak Oil,it's a newer meme but oil independence would have a been a great step forward.  On July 15th, 1979, Jimmy Carter, a national treasure and probably the most honest and sincere person to hold his office, sat down with America and told them straight to their face that not only was the country suffering from a crisis of confidence, but he also outlined a detailed plan to severely cutback imported oil, to invest in alternative fuel sources, and to practice conservation.  And, instead of listening to the man and realizing that he was speaking his heart out about something that was very important to the country, you made fun of his sweater. It's rather common for the younger generation to always be upset about the poor decisions their predecessors made.  Some Baby Boomers expressed this by marching for rights or breaking off from regular culture and forming their own.  Unfortunently, as of yet, that's not my generation, and we will more than likely face even tougher challenges.

So, losing your PO virginity, at least for me, was a mixture of sorrow for my future and mostly displaced anger at the previous generations.  It's also caused me severe existential angst, because in sociology I tend to prefer the conflict theory, and when I learned about PO it was as if I was the freed prisoner in the Allegory of the Cave.  The sudden awakening it caused in me will be repeated throughout nearly everyone on the planet, and society as we think of it really cannot be expected to last under that strain.  Society will more than likely splinter into different classes or ethnicities who are in conflict with each other, but unite similiar individuals together for survival purposes.  It is a scary thought; You can see the train coming down the track from two miles away, but you're unable to move out of it's way.  Or, I'd imagine it's similiar to being diagnosed for an n-stage cancer.  The doctors may be able to pull a fancy trick out of their surgical sleeves, but more than likely there's no cure that we know about yet, so it becomes a waiting game, and hopefully you can hold out long enough.

As for what I'm going to do, I will continue my education, and think of it as a respite from a more challenging future.  And if TSHTF, I may be out of a job, but I at least proved to myself that I can compete on the same level.  The only other thing I dislike knowing about PO is that it's not one of those compulsions you can internalize. So, you have to tell other people about PO for both educating them and hopefully inspiring them to grow the grassroots, as well as for the occasional "misery loves company" moment.  The problem is it's a fairly pessimistic thing, and people don't want to hear it.  So, by forcing the knowledge on them, it seems as if you're almost violating some right of theirs to not hear bad things.  Is it more moral to force someone to listen , or
to let someone be happy in their ignorance?  It's not something I've figured out.  If anyone has any insight, please share.  

So, that was really cathartic for me.  I apologize about the length, but I was getting into it.  Anyway, I did mine, now somebody else has to respond.  I think it is a good idea for people to really sit by themselves and try to understand the emotions that PO really brings them.  If I'm correct, I believe most members of these boards have only been members for about 6 months, and probably known about PO for that length of time.  I think it's important to get very comfortable emotionally with all possible outcomes, because you really don't know how it's going to turn out.  Furthermore, since this is a community, I think it's good to air out some of the pain instead of letting it fester.  We all will know what you're talking about, whereas others would ultimately be confused.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July.

It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else -- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.
             President Jimmy Carter, Crisis of Confidence, July 15, 1979

BTW, Totally hammered right now.

Descoloda, Is your name from Orson Scott Cards Ender series?
If so...great books I loved them. Anyway this site reminds me of his siblings faking various online postions for political respect.

As for emotions and PO I am an optimist.  I have a lot to gain in the event of PO, My farm is mostly self contained, I am trained in rural medicine, I would go from a full time medic to working 1-2hours a week on neighbors and the rest of the time gardening (which I enjoy). My home is remote and my neighbors are all armed so if society collapsed It would not be that bad for me.

However I don't think industrialized society is going away probably just hitting a speed bump.  I think a future (no aliens) like Cards is more likely.

Continue your education I think you'll have a job.

Yes, it is from that series.  I never thought the books were as popular as they were until I adopted this name as my online sobriquet.  I like it.. it's kind of different without being too different, and "Unglued" is an apt description of what I feel about myself and the world around me.  As for the books, I loved them.  I usually will reread the entire series every year, because they are so rich you can find new things all the time in them.  They were what made me interested in philosophy and geopolitics 6 years ago when we read Ender's Game in a gifted learning class at school, and it's been a passion ever since.  I always wished there was some soapbox-ish web forum that had a large bipartisanship readership, as I can't really imagine anything more fun than writing political essays and gathering people behind my cause.  It'd be great.

Ok, so you feel properly prepared for PO yourself, and you won't mourn anything that you'll have lost after the collapse?  Technology is really great because 20 years ago, living in a remote area your contact with the outside world would be limited, but with the internet, it'll be as wide as you want it to be.  

My rough guesses as to how long it will be before we return to current comfort levels break down into levels of economic destruction:

Minor recession                          6mo-1yr
Major recession                          1yr-2yr
Minor Depression (1970s)                 2yr-3.5yr
Major Depression (1930s)                 3.5yr-7.0 yr
Minor Societal Breakdown(Russia?)        7.0yr-20.0yr
Major Societal Breakdown(Rome)           20yr-35yr
Mass Dieoff                              35yr-?

Those are my guesses, at least.  They have no basis in fact, just my intuition.  With Minor Societal Breakdown, I used post-USSR Russia because it was the best representation of that level.  There was a government still in power, but it was largely ineffectual and reading some of the accounts of 90s Russia, it seems to have been a place of serious cultural confusion.

So, I think we can absorb even a major depression similiar in strength to the Great Depression without it being catastrophic, but alot of care would be required to prevent it from blooming into a societal breakdown.  

Continue your education I think you'll have a job.

Well, I have a job now, and it pays me more part time than alot of fulltime graduates I know.  So, sucks for them. =D

What is your personal reaction to Peak Oil?  What emotions does it bring up?  And how do you cope with them?  

I guess I was lucky, in a way.  My dad is an agronomist, who told me about Malthus when I was a very small child.  While other parents told their kids to eat their vegetables because it's good for them, my dad would say, "When you grow up, you'll be eating a lot lower on the food chain.  Better get used to it now." I have only one sibling, because my parents believe in zero population.  I was sort of raised with the concept of peak oil.  I remember getting into heated arguments with my dad about whether technology could save us.  I thought it could, which is one reason I became an engineer.  (I've since come to understand that Dad was right.)

If we suffer from such a devestating loss of human capital as an entire generation missing out on college, how can we possible hope to rebuild society to our current level, much less implementing the hope of rebuilding society to be better, with energy and biosphere conservation, a more egalitarian distribution of wealth around the world, the promise of a healthy, longer, happier life free of disease, and the everlasting hope of peace.

This is one reason why I have come to believe that technology can't save us.  Education has an energy cost, one that we have been paying thanks to cheap oil.  We will no longer be able to keep doing that.  And won't just be one generation.  There's a reason why before the 20th century, few people went to college.  

My second strong feeling is anger.  And it's generational anger.  I know there's all sorts of ages represented here, so I'll preface this by saying I don't really blame individuals, but society in large in not taking the hard stand on problems like this a long time ago.  

Of course, if they had, you and I probably everyone here would not be alive.  We would never have been born:

Looking at the graph, I'd say roughly 14 out of 15 of us now on earth are here thanks to fossil fuels.  

  I often disagree with your opinions but you always present well put-together posts without all the rhetoric.

I think most educated people will teach there kids themselves instead of college. And there are a lot of books in existence that will still be around after a large population crash.  Before the printing press a majority of education required educators. A good portion of media (books, DVD's, Computers) will survive a theoretical dieoff.

I'm not really expecting a dieoff, at least, not right away, and not in the U.S.  (Some places like Africa are suffering dieoffs right now, so worldwide, it's a different story.)

I've no doubt parents will teach children, but that will not be enough to keep technology at its current level, let alone increase it.  

That is the problem with complex technology.  No one person can master it all.  Hence the need for societal complexity - governments, corporations, legal systems, educational systems, etc. - that can teach all the specialists we need, support them, and coordinate among them.  All that complexity has an energy cost - overhead, if you will.  It's a lot of people and resources that are not directly productive.  

After the crash, people are not going to farm all day, and teach their kids to be nuclear physicists at night.

   You are absolutly right about the complexity needed to support technology. I am refering to our techs permanence.  We have no clear idea how the pyramids were built.  The egyptians did not record it.  Many theories abound but nobody knows.  We can not put a man on the moon tommorrow, but we know how we already did it once and there are detailed records.  I understand you are not talking about a dieoff.
   My next statement will get all sorts of flak.  We don't need a bunch of college educated people.  There are a few "Real Science" degrees physics chemistry medicine that require college to attain a level of expertise.  Our society is full of Bull!@#@ BS an BA programs that are not worth 4 years of OJT and as Matt Damons character in good will hunting put it "thirty some dollars in late fees at the public library".
   Many great minds recieved little formal education.  I think college for a good portion of those who go is a source of life experience and a time to think about a career.  If we are all going to be farmers (which I still don't believe) that career choice is already made.  Before the comments come back I have a degree and am trying to go to Med school this fall or next.  I just can't work out the financial situation in the mean time for my family.
I partly agree.  I think college is overrated; it's not needed for many, perhaps most, jobs that currently require it.  Many older engineers never went to college, and they do as well or better than the new PhDs.  The classic example: a guy with an electrical engineering PhD spends two months designing a ground for a tower.  Finally, his boss gets exasperated, and gives the job to a 50-year-old guy who had only two years of engineering training in the Air Force.  He just takes a huge wire and sticks it into the ground.  Problem solved, in 15 minutes.  Way overdesigned, but solved.  IBM gave him a $5,000 bonus.  

That said, the cutting edge stuff does require formal education.  Even Einstein, who was brilliant and hated school, found that he could not teach himself physics (though he tried).  While many of the great contributions to science were made by people without a lot of formal education, that was the "low-hanging fruit" - proof of Tainter's theory, rather than exceptions to it.  Science now requires a lot of eduction, a lot of contact with other scientists, and a lot of funding.  Gone are the days when monks growing peas can make significant discoveries.  

For this reason, I don't think it's possible to innovate our way out of this.  And I suspect we will not maintain our current level of technology forever, either.  However, I am in favor of simplifying education.  Much can be taught on a local level.  In your case, why not go for EMT or nursing training, instead of an MD?  It's cheaper, and if TSHTF, I doubt people will care about your degree.

I am a paramedic already (> emt) and I finish a RN challenge program in 2 months.  I want to be a DO slightly diff than MD more holistic.  Anyway I like to be prepared for all outcomes and I like school.  I see your point on the really easy discoveries being made. However whose to say fusion won't be discovered accidentally by other research like that Xray thing.  The future will tell, either way plan ahead for every thing.
The future will tell, either way plan ahead for every thing.

But we can't.  You are seeing this yourself, trying to get an MD degree.  Not saying it's a bad idea, but if you pursue this path, you are closing others, for yourself and your family.  Resources are not infinite.  Fusion, IMO, is the equivalent of investing your money in lottery tickets.  Sure, you could win the jackpot...but it's not likely.

Fusion, IMO, is the equivalent of investing your money in lottery tickets.  Sure, you could win the jackpot...but it's not likely.

I agree. Investing a huge amount in fusion, especially  when resources are scarce, would be to deprive other alternatives of funding. I don't think putting all our eggs in one basket (in pursuit of the elusive silver bullet) makes sense.

A good portion of media (books, DVD's, Computers) will survive a theoretical dieoff.

modern books wont last more then a lifetime, they are printed on acidic paper with acidic ink. the paper will go yellow and become brittle and the ink will eventually eat it's way through the paper.
cd's and dvd's are in a similar situation. the ones you can buy now at the store and burn at home won't last more then five years as the ink in-between the two plastic layers rot. the mass production stamped cd's and dvd's will last longer but there is little prospect that we will be able to make, repair, or even power the equipment needed to read them in the long term. If you want your books and information to last for your grandchildren or great grand children better get to work transcribing them onto non-acid paper with non-acidic ink.
So you are angry, worried, frustrated, confused, etc. Big deal. You're young now and don't know much because of that fact--not to worry, youth is curable.

Notice that much of your trouble is self-imposed: You chose to finance a worthless education with debt. You could have gotten some useful experience out of high school but instead decided to major in poli sci with the goal of becoming a . . . lawyer. O.K., blame the TV media for glamorizing the legal profession, but for decades the huge and growing surplus of unproductive lawyers has been generally recognized. You made your "existential" choices and you have chosen victim status.

Fortunately, you seem not to have done anything serious to screw up your whole life at this point, and there are plenty of things you can do to have an interesting and long and healthy life, despite the fact that we live in "interesting" times.

If you are determined to stay in school so as not to have to begin repaying your student loans, then may I suggest a change of major? While there may not be too many good captains and colonels, there are plenty of good majors;-)
What do you really want to do?
Save the world?
Yeah, I was there once. I decided that I was going to do for sociology what Newton did for physics. So I was delusional . . . that is part of what being young and idealistic is all about.

Should you scrap your ideals? Hell no!! The problem is to figure out a constructive path whereby you can develop your strenghs to help other people as well as yourself. For me (Although almost every advisor and prof I ever had told me to go into reasearch) I went into teaching and had a marvelous career over three decades.

Maybe somebody has been giving you bad advice. You cannot control the future, but to some extent you can create a good future for yourself and provide a good example for others.

BTW, did you ever read, "The Evolution of Cooperation" by Axelrod?

In any case, take up sailing. Or biking. Or hiking. Or get active with community gardening.

And quit bellyaching. What about the people who graduated high school in 1930? Or 1940? Can you have any idea of what it was like to go to school in the 1950s, when we had bomb drills and cowered under our desks on regular occasions? The Vietnam War was no picnic, and back in those days you didn't worry about student loans, you worried about going to 'Nam and getting your ass shot off.  

I imagine it wasn't too much fun.  But, you kind of paint me as being whiny and "bellyaching", and most frustratingly, you use the "You're young now" arguement when I'm just trying to extend to you my analysis of what the future looks like from down here.  Yes, you may have had to have bomb drills, but despite all the crap you guys had to go through, historically, you always believed that your generation would still do better than the one before you.  That's something that's embedded into the "American Dream."  Overall, my generation is the first one in modern history to doubt they will succeed in life as much as their parents.  That's a huge difference, and it's kind of a silent malaise that's ticking just beneath society right now.  

Notice that much of your trouble is self-imposed: You chose to finance a worthless education with debt. You could have gotten some useful experience out of high school but instead decided to major in poli sci with the goal of becoming a . . . lawyer. O.K., blame the TV media for glamorizing the legal profession, but for decades the huge and growing surplus of unproductive lawyers has been generally recognized. You made your "existential" choices and you have chosen victim status.

Not going to college is not an option any longer for anyone who wants to make forward strides.  While I think it is rediculous that you have tons of people graduating with their Bachelors only to become a secretary, that's the way it is now.  To be worth anything in the job market, you need at least the four year degree, and some postgrad degree.  I think it stinks, especially since I am the one going in debt for it, but I'm not exactly in the situation to change it yet.  That's something your generation is in charge of now.  In all of our scrambling to keep pace ahead of the Chinese, we're really wasting serious money just to graduate people who don't NEED a degree.

Otherwise, thanks for trashing what I plan on dedicating my life to.  That's very encouraging, and very adult of you.  Because as a teacher, I'm sure you did "Oh-so-much-more" for the world than a lawyer ever could.  Oh.. except for the numerous lawyers whose cases chipped away at segregation in our country, or perhaps the lawyers that created the longest standing governing document in the world, or maybe you mean the lawyers who work to protect the citizens from it's own government day in and day out.  Yea... those guys don't do anything.

This is rediculous.  I should have figured when I posted it, I would get more people complaining about what I said then actually answering the questions themselves.  It's incredibly easy to be macho and tear down what other people share, but it's alot more difficult to be honest with yourself and give of yourself in a very personal way so that others might hopefully grow a little from it.  To say that the concept of Peak Oil is happy happy and that there's nothing to cause sadness or fear of the future is to be blatently lieing.  So, we can all either sit around and fester in the pain it causes, or we could use it to grow.  I wanted to cause some growth in people, Mr. Sailorman, but you're just out to destroy.  


    Thanks for posting. I have a son of around your age. I thought some of his issues were unique to him. I now understand that the issues are generational and more widely shared.

I should have figured when I posted it, I would get more people complaining about what I said then actually answering the questions themselves.

    Ignore Don. He is an old blowhard like me. Our generation had a catchphrase: "Don't trust anyone over 30." It bears repeating. What Don didn't tell you was that after diving under desks for air attack drills, we went out and invented the '60s which was the greatest party time in the history of human civilization. To be honest, we were all slackers. But we were fortunate enough to be born into a time of growth and great wealth and that has made all the difference.

    I applaud you for you intellectual and emotional honesty. That is an achievement in and of itself.

    With regard to answers, my generation doesn't have them. We simply do not wish to admit that fact. It is embarrassing to cop to the fact that we lived life to its fullest, trashed the premises, and are now passing the dregs on to our children. But that is the truth and I think you nailed it.

    The generation before mine did some good work. If you are not already familiar with it I would recommend The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy by Christopher Lasch, Norton 1995. You will find your own argument in this book but fully expanded. His other work is also illuminating: The Culture of Narcissism describes my generation.

    If you want to read about the future you may wish to review Fear of Freedom by Erich Fromm. He is writing here about the past but I think you will quickly see how this is likely to also be our future. As to changing your major, I would take a gander at these books before you do that. Clear thinking will become even more valuable in the future.
    All the best.

Well, I definently appreciate that.

Here's the irony of this entire situation.  The generation gap between my generation and yours and yours and your parents are playing out pretty similiar.  I mean, we both have grown up in a world of chaos, yours from competition of two superpowers to destroy one another, and mine from the ramifications of a unipolar world ruled by a hyperpower.  The climate of terror and fear is exactly the same.  You guys had to hide under your desks for fear of nuclear weapons from a known threat(such a rediculous procedure that it makes you wonder if it wasn't done just to build that climate of fear), and we have to look over our shoulder for "evil doers" who "hate our freedoms."  I hate it when people reference this, but I have to.  September 11th sucked, alot.  It was a horribly violent violation of our country and the psyche of the people.  But, while it was bad, it's been repeated over and over again, and blown up, and we couldn't dare vote for this person, because he has a pre-9/11 mindset.  It was our version of Sputnik, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and McCarthyism all rolled into one little package.  

And so, we've gone to war over it, but we went to war in a country that had very little to do with our enemies.  We were so effectively propagandized it's truely frightening.  And you had your war with a country with only minor links to your nemesis, launched by the propaganda of rolling back Communism, but really having more to do with special interests in the region.  We were both lied to, we were decieved, and we sent our friends and peers off to die in such a brutal display of aggression.  My generation hasn't had as much suffering in terms of lost lives, but it isn't over yet.  But it's fractured our social cohesion in a similiar way.

Your generation was split with social strife, trying to fulfill the promise of equality to marginalized groups of people often against the will of the majority.  We've been split several times over how to fulfill and carry on your legacy, as we have also watched the saga of class warfare between ourselves.  So far, your generation was more successful in resolving it's problems.  

So, all of this has combined to show that our experiences of the world have been pretty similiar, and history seems to be playing itself out just like the axiom "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."  Both of our generations have similiar experiences of alienation, of resentment towards the previous generation, of uncertainty in a changing world.

But this is what frightens me most about the future:  Where is our Woodstock?  Where is our Summer of Love?  Where are the marches on Washington to demand change?  We kept the pot, but we lost the values. Your generation took a look at the world around them and decided they didn't like it.  When society didn't move to acommedate you, you moved around society and created something new, a real counter-culture that was vibrant and alive.  Eventually you reintegrated yourselves with mainstream society, but you did so by moving society as much as you moved yourself.  That resolve of your moral superiority over the tired old men who were your fathers is such an incredibly impressive stand, and it's why I've always respected your generation as the "Greatest Generation", not the faux people of your parents generation who have that title.  

And again, that's why I'm frightened about our future.  My generation has been presented with nearly identical circumstances as yours, and have adopted the same attitudes as yours, but we don't have the resolve to stand for ourselves.  There's no mass counter-culture in my generation, just little ones that are stiffling.  We haven't adopted a city as a city that represents us, like yours did with San Francisco.  We do nothing, and that frightens me, because we will bear an incredibly difficult period of time, I believe, but if we don't have the resolve to take a stand now, during our youth, how can we expect to 10 or 15 years from now?  That's what this is about.  We don't have the strength of our convictions to make a proper stand against you now.

I really think that your generation saved the last half of the 20th century from annihilation.  I just fear that we won't be so successful to save the first half of the 21st century. And I'll leave you with a quote from my favorite emissary from your times:

"We are living in dangerously weird times now. Smart people just shrug and admit  they're dazed and confused. The only ones left with any confidence at all are  the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is  the operative ethic."

Hunter S. Thompson, November 2000


I am glad that a 20-year-old is aware of peak oil and global climate change.

I am 47, and thought about these issues back when I was in college in the late 80's.

I thought then that people would be smart enough to listen to Jimy Carter and plan for a future.

I was discouraged from asking questions about peak oil and environmental issues as most people I knew would just shrug and say that we would solve all these problems with technology.

Of course, many people I knew were sure that Jesus was going to return at any minute and "take us Home" so that we would not have to worry about salvaging living space on this planet.

I've dug out of that, and it has taken over 20 years to do so.

My thought is that you need to follow your heart and mind as you authentically search out your path.  As you learn a variety of things -- academic or otherwise -- I'd suggest that you try to find some time to observe permaculture a bit.

If you are not familiar with permaculture, you can google it to find lots of info.  David Holmgren has an excellent book out on the topic, and there are articles referencing permaculture on Energybulletin and other sites as well.

I suggest that you look for peers and other friends who have the curiosity and courage to further research peak oil, climate change, and the implications these will have for your life.

Your sorrow and anger are certainly quite appropriate.  The emotions can feel like overwhelming waves to me at times. It does seem like most people older than you -- and many people your own age -- "don't know enough to care, and don't care enough to know."  That frustrates me to no end.

Breathe deep and keep in touch.  Refuse to be intimidated by us old farts on TOD, but keep an eye out for the occassional nugget of wisdom.

It's gonna be a crazy ride from here on out.

No, it's not ridiculous at all. I'm 27 so I'm not that much older than you although in a different "stage" of life at this point. Things are going well for me but I still totally relate to what you wrote. I generally appreciate Don's posts but for this one, I'm going to have to come back later tonight so we can go mano-a-mano on this thread. Young bull versus old bull. It's on beyootch.



Could Bob Shaw chime in here please with his analogy and pictures of the vultures?

I'm 27, Descolad is 20. We're like the young, angry vultures that Bob described will have to eat the older generations in order to keep the species going. After reading Don's caustic response to Descolada, my take is that if the culling came right now, I'd tell Descolada we should give folks like Bob Shaw and others on this board a heads up so they can get out of Dodge. As far as Don is concerned, however, he better be able to run those old legs as fast and hard as he can run his mouth in this post or it's din-din time for the vultures. =)



Bring it on!

The problem, of course, is that I agree with about 98.5% of what you post.

BTW, forty-nine years ago I bought my first survival kit and was #1 prophet of doom in Berkeley and a sought-after consultant during the missle crisis of Oct. 1962, back when people were sending their kids to Mexico and booking flights for themselves to try to avoid the mushroom clouds.

I think where we differ is that I'm older and humbler than you. I genuinely do not claim to know what is going to happen.

As stated before, I try to live my life as if there is a 50% chance that life will go on pretty much as usual for the next fifty years and a 50% chance that TSHTF within the next five years, along with a major dieoff. Neither extreme is very likely, but either could happen. By preparing, both mentally and in other ways for either outcome, I think I'm relatively well positioned for the interesting times to come.

So far as young people go, I devoted thirty-one years of my life to helping them, as best I could, to learn to become critical thinkers.

That is the most that teachers can do--to help people to learn things for themselves. That, and perhaps to be role models.

In regard to lawyers, Matt, as you well know, law school is a racket to suck money (and borrowed money at that) out of young innocent kids who think it will help them to do good in the world or to earn a decent living. Many law schools (though not your alma mater) are cash cows that have saved many a mediocre private "univeristy" with large infusions of dollars.

Challenge question: In the U.S., what percentage of those under the age of 65 who have passed bar exams are actually practicing law?


Regarding the %, I'm not sure. But I suspect it is high. There are a lot of people who maintain their active licenses (as I do) even though they aren't practicing.

As far as law school rackets, my alma mater was quite a bargain in comparison to most, although the price has gone up about 60% since I started in fall of 2000. I was extremely fortunate to have been an applicant in 1999. The economy was kicking ass so law school apps were at a low. If I was an applicant today, there is no way I'd be able to get into a first tier public school (cheaper).

Somebody posted somehwere that college is a "bubble" like the housing market. I'd tend to agree with that.

As far as knowing what is going to happen, the only thing I claim to know is that we (the world) are spending trillions on oil and oil wars but only billions on getting away from this stuff. The long term results of this ratio are pretty obvious, at least from a general standpoint.



Mmm..  flesh.
"As far as Don is concerned, however, he better be able to run those old legs as fast and hard as he can run his mouth in this post or it's din-din time for the vultures. =)"

Bad analogy. Vultures circle and wait to scavenge. Hmmm. Well maybe it's not such a bad analogy after all, except that anger is not such a good thing in a vulture.

For what it is worth, my money is on Don.

Cheer up, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.
Two plans for action that address a lot of concerns and that make sense together:  (1)  Alanfrombigeasy's rail electrification plan and (2) scrap the highly regressive Payroll (Social Security + Medicare) Tax and replace it with a fossil fuel and/or liquid transportation fuel tax.

In regard to education, the New York Times had an intersting article today on the problems with retraining programs. They frequently don't work, in the sense that once airline mechanics are laid off from high paying jobs, it is unlikely that they will ever get their old lifestyles back.

The article also discusses the reality that the number of college graduates is growing faster than the number of jobs for collage graduates.  This results in a lot of people graduating who find that they can't find a job that will pay both their student loans and their cost of living on their own.

This situation will only get worse, especially as we approach Peak College Enrollment.  I believe that the all time record high peak high school enrollment is going to be around 2007-2008, leading to the all time record high college graduation a few years later, right into the teeth of the Mother of all Energy Crises.  

I have noticed a fascinating situation regarding even Peak Oil aware parents and  their own kids.  When I explain the new reality for Baby Boom Echo generation, invariably the response is "But there will still be a need for policy makers."  Translation:  it's okay for your unemployed college graduate to work in agriculture, but my college graduate will have a cushy white collar government job.  I don't think so.

Parents and prospective college student are making tragic mistakes right now.  They should be looking at technical schools that will give them practical training, with a special emphasis on repair work and agriculture.  The last thing that you want to do is to go into debt to release another unemployed law school graduate into the marketplace.  

Of course, law school applications are headed toward record rates.

What it comes down to is positioning myself to have some policy impact on the world, to hopefully try and emolliate the crash so it's more of a gentle crash than a hard crash.  Becoming a lawyer for me is the way I'm going to take Peak Oil on.  Let the scientists invent, the economists theorize, or the sociologists predict; those are all valuable ways to explore Peak Oil, but I'm kind of fighting a clock to get there in time.  2010 will probably be the year I'm finished with law school, which gives me little time to develop the clout needed to get things done in Washington.  I just hope to have enough push to effect it in some way.  If I succeed at that, I could deal with being unemployed the rest of my life.  

An interesting consideration though is what happens to the millions that will be attending college.  A high percentage depend on federal loans, so does Stafford and Perkins just freeze up during a crash?  Eventually, the government, if it's still around, will come to it's senses and realize that government spending is key to ending depressionary periods and reinstate the student loan programs, but it's the difference between those two time periods that matters.  Although college students could actually be the most sheltered from economic fallout.  If the government continued to be generous with the student loans, college students would have guaranteed food, shelter, and extra money to spend in the economy, probably at bars, but I disgress.  The only thing that could be detrimental is runaway inflation that eats up their fed dollars, but even then that's a good thing as it slashes their loans.  I suppose deflation is a large risk, but deflation is almost always avoided in favor of inflation. A program that basically subsidized college education really would be a great way to beat stagflation, though.  It'd be like a large national works project, except it would guarantee the training of a new generation of college students, it'd put money into the economy by putting cash into students hands (I personally use my student loan overages to pay for my apartment, and I know alot of others who do the same), and it's financial drain could be smaller as it still is money that has to be paid back, even if the nominal payback is less than pre-inflationary borrowing.  I think that's a good idea.

Of course, it really just depends on the leader we have at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  For all of his talk about wanting to increase the number of college graduates, Bush has been disasterous for the educational system with his NCLB unfunded mandate, to his approving the 12 billion dollar cut to federal loan companies.  That plan will fix the Stafford interest rate from the current 4.7% up to 6.8%.  Using some quick back of the envelope calculations here, that will probably cost me around $7000 more over the life of my loans.  And the sad thing is that Stafford loans are a way of life for most college students, who often use it to pay some of their living costs so that they don't have to work as many hours at work.  At 4.7%, this makes sense as the nominal interest rate of ~2.5% is such a great deal that it makes sense to borrow now and live on it and pay it back later when your earnings potential is so much higher.  But at a nominal rate of ~4.6% it really discourages that kind of activity and encourages working longer hours, which decreases study time and performance, so it's all just a negative loop.  Myself, I already max out at 30 hours a week at my job, so I would just have to be raped by the interest rates.  

And then there's the proposed cut of the entire Perkins program, which has the double benefits of discouraging people from becoming public school teachers and would take away a vital source of student loans from students. I take $1000 a year from Perkins because of hitting my Stafford limits and because I like the possibility of perhaps working as a teacher for a couple years to boil off an extra 5 grand from my bill.  Cutting it would be disasterous.  And, Pell Grants are just stagnating, having not been raised in around 10 years, I think.  So, if I come in short, where do I go? Alternative loans don't fly because no one in my family has the credit for them. I'm at a large public university, so university financial aid is hard to come by. It's almost as if they're trying to discourage social mobility by making college, once again, into something for only the wealthy can afford.  To me, it reaks of elitism and budgeting the deficit on the backs of the poor students.

Anyway, can anyone find any information as to what happened to the student loan programs during the 70s energy crisis? I would love to see some anecdotal evidence.

What it comes down to is positioning myself to have some policy impact on the world, to hopefully try and emolliate the crash so it's more of a gentle crash than a hard crash.  Becoming a lawyer for me is the way I'm going to take Peak Oil on.  Let the scientists invent, the economists theorize, or the sociologists predict; those are all valuable ways to explore Peak Oil, but I'm kind of fighting a clock to get there in time.  2010 will probably be the year I'm finished with law school, which gives me little time to develop the clout needed to get things done in Washington.


If I may chime in here, I think this is a very poor thinking from a strategic standpoint. I graduated U.C. Hastings classs of 2003 and while I'm not practicing law, I do have a perspective on this you may want to consider.

Washington is controlled by the moneyed elite, particularly those invested in fossil fuels and weapons making. They own the newspapers and major media outlets, thus they also control 98% of the public discourse. Politicians are essentially paid-liars for the corporatons. Maybe 1 out of 100 is an exception and thus don't make much of a difference cause they constitute less than 1%.

Thinking you're going to get your law degree, pass the bar, and then make an impact in D.C. within 5-10 years of starting to practice is extremely naive, if I may say so myself.  (I'm not trying to be an asshole here, but when I read what you wrote I got that sick stomach in my feeling I so often get these days when somebody calls me and tells me "I just did X, aint that great!!!" and I know "X" is horribly tragic decisions in light of Peak OIl)

The most likely course of events is you will have to:

  1. Take your state bar exam twice. This will eat up a year of your time after graduation. YOu will be incurring even more debt at this time.

  2. Temp or take underpaid legal research jobs for a year or two once you do get your bar card. I've got friends who finished near the top of their class at first tier schools who werent' able to move out of their parent's place for 2 years after graduation.

  3. Be so in debt and under so much pressure that you take whatever full time job you can find. Most likely, it will have nothing to do with whatever you want to do. Finish in the middle of your class at a second or third tier school? GReat, you'll start off at $45,000 or $50,000 and will be stuck in your firm's law library 10 hours a day. That's nothing if you've got $1,000 loan payments to make each month.

I would NOT go to law school knowing what I know today.  But that's just me.



And one more thing, when I was 20 I was on my way to being a dietician fwiw.



Myself at 20, I had no idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I kept thinking that I knew, and damn but I wanted certainty about that!

I ended up with a double major in History and "Bible & Theology" from a conservative religious liberal arts college.

I have always read and studied more widely outside of the academic structure than inside of it, even though I didn't do badly in the academic world.  I took some grad courses ans some further undergrad stuff in fine art.

At 47, I still don't know what i want to do when I grow up.  I am glad to be this way.  I look at the tweed suits and blue suits and whatnot and gag to think that I could have been stuck into the long, flourescent-lit tunnel of conventional carreerism, punctuated with Carnival cruise vacations or rations of "soma" or whatever.  not that some conventional careerists haven't also flourished as people, too -- some do.

Back to the youth of today and their possible futures:

I really think that the following are the best investments of time:

1. learning to grow and preserve food

2. developing community

3. exploring the many efforts to understand and respond to peak oil, resource depletion, and global climate change.


Whatever academic or conventional career plans pursued, it is important to realise that the world may have changed so much in a few years that plans will have to be scrapped and new plans made.

Another thing for young peak oilers.  Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your youth as much as you can.  Soak up all the sunshine and rain and young love (responsibly, with real care) that you can.  Exalt in the strength and ability of youth as much as you can, even while searching for an authentic path to maturity.

Don't let it all be duty and drudgery.  No. Fun and laughter are just to precious to miss, no matter what the future holds.

Jeez, when I was 20 I was in the 10th Mountain Division and the 1st Sergeant was telling us we'd be guarding oil pipelines in the Middle East some day.

So I end up being an activist journalist and a small farmer ...

Don, would you mind telling about what year this was, and where you were when your Sarge was telling you that one day the US military would be guarding oil pipelines in the Middle East?
My feeling is one of amazement. Here's a good example from this thread. A number of well educated and quite articulate posters are going on and on about fusion. Have a Manhattan project, get the best and brightest minds...

And I think: our society cannot even pass a simple (and rather obvious) gasoline tax... how in the world are we going to go after a multi-trillion dollar that has a very low probability of success? How? Financed with what? The gasoline tax we can't stomach?

So I am mostly amazed. When we bag the goddamn cars then I'll believe we have the brains for fusion.

Look on the sunny side! Your "college debt" won't matter once the collapse starts.
It would under a deflationary scenario. Unpayable debt could be used to pressure debtors into indentured servitude or into the military. It can grant leverage over the masses to potential oppressors at a time when governments seem all too likely to become more dictatorial.

As Don Sailorman said quite some time ago, anticipating deflation and cashing out in advance can be disasterous if it is, in fact, inflation or hyperinflation which subsequently occurs, as in the case of Germany in 1923 (thanks for the book recommendation by the way Don - it's now sitting in my to-read pile). However, the opposite is equally true. If you plan for high inflation (by taking on large amounts of debt for instance) and we do end up in a deflationary environment it would be at least as disasterous, if not more so.

In theory, the Fed could wave its magic wand and monetize government debt, thereby generating suffcient domestic inflation to erode individual debt as well. However, financial panic can remove liquidity from the economy extremely rapidly - IMO more rapidly than even the Fed can inject it. Also, the present financial pyramid extends well beyond the US - to the global derivatives market for instance (Enron alert!) I do not believe it is within the capabilities of the Fed, or anyone else, to bail out the derivatives market. Hence I would bet on deflation as being significantly more likely than high inflation at this point.

As a reading suggestion, I would recommend The Dollar Crisis by Richard Duncan (not the same Richard Duncan associated with Olduvai theory).

I understand your anger,  But all of us have been through similar stuff all our lives as Don points out.  I'm old enough to be your grandfather and I assure you that life is a bitch. During the first Cuban missle crisis, people were being drafted left and right.  I hadn't gotten a student draft deferal (a 1-S for the other old folks) in college because you were then liable for the draft until your 35th birthday.  But here I was, a new researcher and I got my notice.  The story goes on from there and ends with a deferement as a critcal skill - and then sweating bricks for the next 12 years, hoping that nothing happened geopolitically.

Your response/feelings are why I do not expect society to be able to transition to a new culture, life-style, what have you.  You have trapped yourself by your choices just like millions of others.  You are in hock and need that well paying job to pay off the loans.  Common sense might say to transfer to an agricultureal school but you can't.

It is difficult to make hard decisions before the necessity to do so.  But it can be done - I did it many years ago when I left the chemical industry to move back to the country.  This move burned all my professional bridges; who would hire a chemical plant manager who quite his job to become a very small-scale organic farmer?  That's not the way it works.

The truth is that you still haven't really come to grips with the future or you'd be making different decisions.  By not making the decisions you believe you have to make, you will emotionally beat yourself to death and never find peace.

Let me say in all honesty, what you need is an older mentor who shares your concerns and can act as a sounding board and provide guidance.

Well, I appreciate your criticisms of what's wrong with me and how I need to deal with my problems, it's unfortunently not what I was asking people to do.  I'm a pretty self-honest guy.  I realized all of those same things when I was writing the post in the first place.  But the thing is, I wasn't writing what I realized, or how I logically thought about it, but about what it was doing to my mind and my spirit, and realizing all of those things you told me doesn't equate to feeling that same way.  And, unfortunently, I was wanting for people to talk about their fears and their emotions, not my fears and my emotions and how I should fix it.  I made myself emotionally vulnerable in the hopes that others would be willing to do the same and we could have a discussion on those fears, which is a very legitimate part of the whole problem of PO.  

All of us will experience PO if we are still around.  We're just particularly fortunent because while it will completely blindside the general public, those of us that are PO aware will have had at least a few years to wait for it.  In that time we can either repress the emotions that we feel, and when the time comes join the masses in confusion and terror, or we could have set our minds right and equalize our emotions so that when it happens, we can step up and actually be a calm leader to the people we know that will panic.  In order to transverse this problem without it meaning the death of civilization as we know it, it will take calm leaders to guide and pacify the confused.  And that starts with first setting our own minds right.  And THAT starts with admitting to our fears, our angers, and our frustrations so we can set them right.  

And personally, I don't know of any other place I could do that but for this website.  The few people who I've tried to explain PO to generally freeze up and don't want to talk about it, so they can't be any help.  Why not here?  A group of highly intelligent people who rely on each other for information, for guidance, and, hopefully, emotional support.  That sounds like a holistic approach to PO, doesn't it?

So, why don't you try responding again.  You said you are old enough to be my grandfather.  Well.. do you have children of your own?  Grandchildren?  Knowing the kind of world that they will inherit, how does that make you feel about their futures?  Or what about your own?  I'm sure your retirement plans will look alot different if they don't include traveling.  Are you a religious man?  If so, doesn't it hurt a little to think that we probably won't be helped on this one? That we are being shunned, perhaps? I know that thought sometimes keeps me awake.  What is that little kernel of anger or fear that you have stuffed away in the recesses of your mind?  If you want to be any help to those that you love and those that rely upon you, you have to admit that now, as admitting it 5 years from now will probably be too late.  

Descolada, I appreciate your post as well.  I have a 20yo son who shares your feelings about how our generation(s) have trashed the world, but he can't handle hearing about peak oil.  I was finally able to get through to him a little when I took the tack that, assuming that we can come out the other side OK, it will be a lot better world to be free of waste, ful consumerism, etc.  He has agreed to come to a permaculture workshop with me this summer and I hope we both find that inspirational.  

As for dealing with the emotional fallout, I struggle with that on an ongoing basis.  A couple of months ago I suggested that it could be worthwhile devoting a thread to that problem, and I was advised to go over to where they take that up.  (generalization/stereotype warning) I guess most engineer types  are not so comfortable talking about their feelings and would rather tell someone else how to fix their problems.  

Yea, I don't really know what has caused it, but there's something very dark about my generation now.  A couple of years ago when I first noticed it, I chalked it up as a high school thing, because all teenagers are moody, etc.  But, some time has passed and it's even more obvious, but it doesn't seem like an "angsty, woe-is-me" thing, but something else.  It just seems impossible to gleam what it really is.  

I really believe that unless people learn to be upfront about the emotional issues surrounding it there's very little chance of making it to the other side.  This is a time more than any other that people will have to step up and lead.  And if you're too distraught by the events going on around you, you won't be able to do that.  

Personally, I find the engineering part of the PO discussion slightly dull.  They can keep us updated to the progress and indicators, but I haven't found them to be particularly nuanced at other disciplines, and PO is definently something that fits into several areas of human knowledge.  Why should psychology not be a player in the discussion?  There will be mass upheavels of life, and plenty of emotional pain.  I'd imagine PTSD will be common, and PTSD is a rather debilitating disease.  

I really liked a lot of what you had to say. I too some months ago wrote a post pretty much along the same lines as yours, at least I think I did, a lot seems to have happened since then! I wanted to know how people "felt" about Peak Oil and how they reacted to it "emotionally" too. I wrote a bunch of stuff about how I "became aware."
I thought it would be interesting to "open up" and talk about our various paths and responses to PO in the hope that this might somehow teach us something about strategies for developing a political "language" we could use to commincate with "the masses" and perhaps find ways to "start the ball rolling" for social/political change.

You'll have to cut me some slack here. This is a bit garbled, as I've been writing all day and it's late and I'm tired, but I read your posts and I just had to reply, as what you said moved me and made me feel a bit guilty at the same time.

I don't appreciate people who react to other people's fears and concerns, by glibly saying "snap out of it and pull your socks up young man!"

The advice I would give you is this, go to France! Get out of the U.S. and feed your head! It's the cheap version of the European Grand Tour that the rich took to broaden their minds. Now our tours are far less grand, but they can be equally enlightening and pleasurable.

In France, in the countryside the pace of life is slower and I found people placed a lot of emphasis on the quality of life. This was illustrated by the food. What we stick in our mouths is important. I really liked the bakers in France. They have wonderful bread, rolls, cakes, pies... This may sound like a frivolous idea, but I actually found great comfort it eating beautiful food for a change. Tiny pastries that melted on ones tongue and tasted like heaven and prepared with pride and something close to love. I drove around the French countryside and stopped in little towns and hamlets and walked through vineyards and towns with walls around them and tiny, narrow streets from the middle-ages and it was a very positive experience. Go to France! Listening to you, I'm pretty sure the French would love you, not chastize you for Bush and the Iraq war, people aren't that stupid.

At about your age I left my country and became a kind of political exile in another country. I left because I feared I might become a revolutionary if I hung around anymore. As I didn't want to disgrace my family by ending up in prison, I chose exile. This was probably a mistake. I should have stayed a taken up the struggle. One of my teachers at school said that with people like me leaving the forces of darkness would just take over quicker. He may have been right.

I decided to ditch my old life, language and culture and get a new one. I chose to be reborn in another country. Starting from almost the level of a child and moving ever upwards. However, I declined the role of Spartakus and chose the life of a reclusive writer instead. I decided to write exciting and entertaining stories that would make people think and question at the same time. I wanted to use art to subvert the system and judging from my fan mail I succeeded in this aim. However, it was not revolution or political power I achieved.

Intellecutally I'm a kind of pessimist/realist, but emotionally I'm an optimist. The reason for this is strange. The moment I had children I became optimistic! I spent a lot of time with my two daughters and I found them to be great company. They were so small and fragile and beautiful. As if by magic I felt the world was a wonderful place again. Sure, I could understand that disaster could be just around the corner, but emotionally I didn't/couldn't accept this. It seemed absurd and it still does.

I've talked a bit about Peak Oil to my daughters and frankly they can't take it, in anything other than very small dosis. One is studying medicine and will be a great doctor and the other is still in highschool and seems to be an anarchist and believer in direct action and smashing the State.

I am just as angry as you are. I feel pretty much the same as I was when I was sixteen. I just know a lot more than I did then. In some was I could be considered a kind of retard. I still have all my youthful ideals and I don't think I've sold out to the system. I try to have a little to do with it as possible. I am not a political activist though. I find I can do more good through by books. At least that's what I hope. When I sold 250,000 books to China I thought that was cool. It was strange though. I could sell "subversive" books to China, but not to the U.S.

I think edudcation is a great idea, but I also think a lot of what we learn today isn't education, it's training. I like the idea of education as a process by which one is encouraged to think and question "reality" and critically observe and discuss everything around us.

When I recently returned to the "old country" I felt guilty. I left so many people behind. I could have made a difference and I chose exile instead. I saw girls that I knew, and no they looked like old women, broken down by hardship. I talked to people I hadn't seen for years and they seemed so old! I was still in lots of ways strangely young, and they remarked on this. How come I hadn't been crushed, as one old girlfriend said. I found I had more to talk about to her teenage kids than to her. It was weird.

People from the sixties had a lot of advantages and they took them. What else were they supposed to do? I was in many ways a super-hippie, at least superficially. I really looked the part. Underneath I was very sceptical. I didn't really believe that Love would change the world. I thought Power would change the world, and I still do. We can still change the world, the problem is Power, how do we get it, use it and keep it?

Back in the old country I found people were very angry and thought of society as a big confidence trick. Society seemed strong and rich and solid, but this was a lie. It's acutally far more fragile than most people realize. Paradoxically it's the very complexity of modern society that makes in vunerable to quite small shocks and disruptions.

Think of 9/11 for a minute. It was a terrible outrage. A terrible shock. Around 2,000 innocent people were murdered. But the reaction by the political class was disgusting. They prostituted the deaths for cheap political gain. They used the killings disgracefully to conduct illegal wars, commit international crimes and undermine democracy and the Republic. The tactics they are using to fight terrorism are the wrong tactics. This is way too big a subject to get into here, so I won't. I'm pretty sure I've irritated way too many people already. All I say is, you don't destroy a handful of pathetic terrorists by invading Mulim countries, levelling towns and cities and killing over 100,000 Iraqies!

Anyway, don't get discouraged, become a human rights lawyer, I fear there's going to be a lot os use for them in the future. The Law is important. The Law reflects our values as a society and we really need to defend the Law today. The Law is perhaps all that stands between us and barbarism. All around us torture and slaughter and illegal imprisonment are once again on the march again. Really great lawyers can become really great people, and we need really great people to stand up to the forces of darkness that are all around us. Once more we have to become societies ruled by Law and not men. The Law should be sovereign not the King.

Thank you for that.  That's the kind of emotional openness that I was trying to get going in the first place, and I appreciated the insight you've provided.  Especially mentioning that you are now emotionally an optomist because of your daughters.  I suppose for those of us who don't have children, our perception of the world must be much different, and I doubt it's really a feeling that's describable. You just have to experience it. And once you have, there's no turning back.  You obviously have alot of hope for your daughters' capabilities and possibilities but at the same time, I'm sure you're frightened that they may have any difficulties in life.  How those two extreme emotions stay juxtaposed inside you without it being incredibly difficult, I don't know.  I suppose that's part of the joys of parenthood, something I should keep my eye outward to, to keep hope.

I must say that your life seems very epic and I enjoy your writing style.  If you could email me, I'd be very interested in reading something of yours.  Thanks.

Anyway, don't get discouraged, become a human rights lawyer, I fear there's going to be a lot os use for them in the future.


Yeah, in the Halliburton built work camps!



"I'm a pretty self-honest guy."


Yeah, that's what I said at 20 also. Not even 7 years later and I'm like, "damn, what was I thinking back then?" And that's before I even factor in how PO has changed my perspective.



Descolada, you came to the wrong place if that is what you want.  This is a basically a hardcore geek peak oil site.  Lots of scientists and engineers, and people who like that mode of thinking.    

If you want to discuss the emotional aspects of peak oil, there are sites that are probably better suited to it. has an entire forum devoted to the psychology of peak oil:

Shocked beyond belief? Freaking Out? You discovered Peak Oil... You googled like a maniac... and ya just have to tell somebody? Discussions related to the psychological effects of peak oil.

Here's something to ponder: all of our humanity's philsophies, ideologies, religions, customs, etc. evolved in the context of a constantly increasing supply of energy. This goes all the way back to the day some guy (or gal) mastered fire.

So, it is not going to far to say our brains evolved to figure out how best to exploit more and more energy.

This meme, mainly that there will be less and less energy, in the future is virtually incomprehensible to our brains. It's like trying to put a software program into a computer hardware and the two aren't entirely compatiable. Maybe the computer will run the program for a little bit but it inevitably crashes or starts sparking.

I think this is what happens to people's brains when they truly come to realize the implications of the "thermo-gene" collission.

The only solution I've been able to come up with is to distract oneself, play classical music (proven to reduce emotional trauma), exercise, and simply not think about it.



I'd imagine that the collision between reality and what are brain needs would be enough to cause some serious diseases... PTSD, schizophrenia, self-violent activities.  

That's why I really wish there'd be more MSM attention.  People are generally ignorant enough to believe the MSM over a regular person.  So if I go up and tell someone, they can shrug it off as lunacy, or at least admit it's a problem, but that a Deus ex machina will save the day at the last moment.  But, if people know about this for at least a couple of years ahead of time, it'll be a much more calm transition.

Out of curiosity, when you say "play classical music" do you mean sticking in a CD, or actually playing?  If the later, what do you play?  

Yeah, google "Mozart Effect." I have the relaxation CD and it definitely makes a difference. I also use a lot of nutritional supplements (phosphatidylserine works wonders for me) that help the body deal with extreme stress. And exercise helps a lot too. It's kind of hard to think about the end of the world when there are some volleyball players from the local college doing bent-over rows 5 feet in front of you. Not that I time my trips to the gym to the time the women's VB team shows up or anything. Just conincidence.



Hey, I plan my entire life around 30 second intervals of seeing pretty women working out, so I won't judge. =P

I'm a big fan of classical, so if I could make the suggestion to you to learn some instrument and perfect it enough to be able to play in some local philharmonic.  Your appreciation for classical music increases 100 times when you're actually playing it because of the small little details you pick out that are otherwise inaudible.  Plus, sitting in a group of around 100 people all dedicated to this exact moment to produce beautiful sounding music, and the general group effort it takes to put on a performance... after you finish playing beautiful music, those two or three seconds between when you stop and people start clapping are the most tranquil feeling I've ever had in my life.  You stand back and figure that if 100 people could come together to interpret a piece of music written by a man who died 300 years ago, there just might be a chance of getting out of PO alright.

I play the cello, guitar, and piano, and they all appeal to different moods I have.  Anyway.. look into it.

Great idea: Start a band and forget law school.

Alan Greenspan started out as a sax player and wanted to be a career jazz musician before he ever got diverted to finance and economics.

If music is your bliss, I say, DAMN THE STUDENT LOANS, full speed ahead!

So what if your band fails. Join another band.

What this world needs now is music comparable to that of the sixties--inspiring, hopeful, protesting, angry passionate music.

In my whole life, the worst mistake I ever made was giving up the cello.

Wait a minute. My hearing is still good, I could take lessons again, get rosin on my fingers . . . .

Peak Oil Action Plan & Peak College Enrollment--a Looming Crisis?

After laboriously typing out my comment, I found myself at the bottom again, so I'll move to the top of Sunday.

Peak Oil Action Plan
Two plans for action that address a lot of concerns and that make sense together:  (1)  Alanfrombigeasy's rail electrification plan and (2) scrap the highly regressive Payroll (Social Security + Medicare) Tax and replace it with a fossil fuel and/or liquid transportation fuel tax.

Peak College Enrollment--a Looming Crisis?
In regard to education, the New York Times had an intersting article today on the problems with retraining programs. They frequently don't work, in the sense that once airline mechanics are laid off from high paying jobs, it is unlikely that they will ever get their old lifestyles back.

The article also discusses the reality that the number of college graduates is growing faster than the number of jobs for collage graduates.  This results in a lot of people graduating who find that they can't find a job that will pay both their student loans and their cost of living on their own.

This situation will only get worse, especially as we approach Peak College Enrollment.  I believe that the all time record high peak high school enrollment is going to be around 2007-2008, leading to the all time record high college graduation a few years later, right into the teeth of the Mother of all Energy Crises.  

I have noticed a fascinating situation regarding even Peak Oil aware parents and  their own kids.  When I explain the new reality for Baby Boom Echo generation, invariably the response is "But there will still be a need for policy makers."  Translation:  it's okay for your unemployed college graduate to work in agriculture, but my college graduate will have a cushy white collar government job.  I don't think so.

Parents and prospective college student are making tragic mistakes right now.  They should be looking at technical schools that will give them practical training, with a special emphasis on repair work and agriculture.  The last thing that you want to do is to go into debt to release another unemployed law school graduate into the marketplace.  

Of course, law school applications are headed toward record levels.

For what it is worth, I am an "experienced" optimist.  I have experienced failure, frustration, disorientation again and again.

More than once, the realistic voice in my head said "Why try ?"

I decided that the future is unknown "within limits", that occasionally good ideas have a power of their own (certainly much more than my own personal power & influence), and that I would try to make things better within my own limits.

The key verb is "try".

I cannot estimate the probabilities of success, other than that they are low if I try, and lower if I do not.

So I have made the moral choice to struggle, enjoy some good food, music and laughter along the way*, and see what happens.  To do what good I can, when and where I can.

I do not promise myself or expect success.  I am, at best, an agnostic on that point.

I just know that it is better to have struggled and failed than never to have tried.

No one succeeds completely, all experience failure in one degree or another.  And if I do experience a degree of success, the taste is sweeter for having taken on an enourmous task against all odds.

* This explains much of my love for New Orleans :-)

Excellent post Descoloda.

'Is it more moral to force someone to listen , or
to let someone be happy in their ignorance?  It's
not something I've figured out.  If anyone has any
insight, please share.'

I can only tell you that I have made dozens of
presentations to city countcils and other groups
and the normal response is to thank me, but do
nothing by way of change in behaviour; the
majority just continue exactly as they were, as
if I had said nothing. Effectively that means
they continue with the expansion of highly
dysfunctional oil-dependent infrastructure
as quickly as possible. Hence the region I live
in is headed straight into oilcrash, more or
less totally unprepared. I describe it as
driving using the rear vision mirror. As
I said to Manukau City Coiuncil last May:
'in 2003 Manukau had the opportunity to become
a world leader in development as a sustainable
city, but it has blown the opportiunity'. The
dogma of converting productive farmland into
shopping malls and car parks has triumphed

A few organisations, such as the Automobile
Association are so 'off the planet' they
actually go to print with total nonsense, such
as 'the oil industry is discovering more oil
than it uses', 'the hydrogen economy is just
around the corner' 'we need to build more roads
for the anticipated growth in car numbers' etc.  
Put bluntly, they do not want to know about
anything that challanges their ideology.
Presumably there could be a case for civil
damages to be taken against the CEOs of
organisations that promote delusions that are
going to cause substantial harm to their
members interests. (I have personally resigned
from the AA in disgust at the AA management's
refusal to even discuss reality, let alone face
it, and the constant promulgation of lies and
delusions). Are the CEOs of motoring
organisations smarter than yeast?

However, let's not simply blame the older
generation for this situation. I have attempted
to work with local student groups and have
discovered exactly the same kind of apathy and
complacency amongst 20-year-olds as exists
amongst 60-year-old (I'm 55 by the way). Most
young people seem to have been so indoctrinated
by the media mantra of good times and easy
living that they are incapable of seeing the
tsunamis on the horizon.

That is a generalisation of couse: I have had
a few 'successes'  -young people who have
become enlightened of the facts and have been
shocked to discover that most of what they had
been told by others was predicated on
delusions. Some have actually commenced plans
to survive the crash. But even as I write,
there are tens of thousands of students students
who are wasting their time and money doing
courses in tourism, hotel management etc.,
fields in which there will be next to zero
opportunites a few years hence.

I encourage all young people I meet to study
medicine or food production; most seem to
think that medicine is 'too hard' and they
don't want to get their hands dirty, so opt
for business studies, ecomnomics etc. When
such attitudes are endemic, society seems
doomed to head straight off the cliff.    

As I pointed out earlier, New Zealand appears
to now be in the early stages of economic
meltdown, largely as a consequence of the
failure of government, the failure of city
councils, the failure of motoring
organisations, the failure of public
broadcasters etc. to accept or deal with
reality. The chickens are already coming
home to roost. The number of empty
commerial premisis is already increasing,
even before the lastest shopping mall
(the biggest in NZ) has been completed.
Massive amounts oif money are being squandered
on motorway widening and additional links;
there is even discussion about a major
tunnelling project, the biggest in NZ's
history. Misquoting Kunstler: We are
witnessing the biggest misallocation of
resources in New Zealand's history.
Presumably it will only be when the country
has gone completely broke that the insantiy
will come to an end.

Back to you original question: Yes, you should
tell as many people as possible, make as much
noise about it all (peak oil, global warming,
ozone depletion, water depletion...) as
possible. But if people don't want to know, do
not waste time and energy trying to convince
them; move on and tell someone who is
interested. From my experience, only about 1
in 20 people will actually really understand
the issues.

But at least you will be able to look back in
a few years time and say 'I tried', rather than
'I should have tried'.

As for me. I'm hoping to 'run' soon. I don't regard
my present location as particularly good to survive
oilcrash. At one stage we were expecting the US to
under before NZ did, but now it seems that NZ will
go under first. Time seems to be running out
rather quickly.

May you live in interesting times.

Maybe this will close out the whole Descolada diversion.  There have been no other posts that have said to me that the up-coming generation is made up of assholes (yes, there are wonderful young people - my sop to this sort of thing) since I assume he/she is represntative of his/her age group.

I am an old fart and I have the knowledge, skills and resources that his/her generation will need to transition to post-oil reality.  I would suggest that him/her read the old, verbose, polemic by Ayn Rand, Atlas Shurgged.  It has one basic point - it takes the mind for society to function.  My feeling at this point is that he/she should starve in the dark.

I planted four more fruit trees in my orchard while this idiot was running at the mouth today. And, while he/she may have been considering his/her post last week, I was slogging through two foot deep snow to add charcoal from our wood heater to our raised beds (I'm hot on carbon management in soils.  Check out Terra Preta de Indio soils on google and carbon management at New

Ok.  So are you calling me an asshole, because I don't get that.  I'm simply stating a frustration of mine, one which is shared by alot of my generation, and something mirrors the strife between the baby boomers and their parents; "We got screwed."  

I even take the time to specifically mention that I don't lay blame at the feet of any particular person from that generation, and I acknowledge how frustrating to hear this is, and how I'll probably have to make apologias to my grandchildren for the actions of my generation.  The failures here can't be leveled to any one person, but is an example of a failure of the system of society itself.

Now, I know all of that rationally, and it's what I normally go by, but in a deep emotional level, I do lay blame on the previous generation personally and that was what I was admitting to as a way for personal growth.  

Nowhere did I say that the older generation's skills won't be necessary or needed.  I'm doubting my generation's ability to lead when it comes there turn to do so.  In fact, ITSHTF, you are likely to actually preempt our rule as the wisdom that comes from maturity will be in higher demand, and in small groups, the elder will probably lead, especially if they know a bit about food production or healthcare.  As for Rand, I refuse to read Atlas Shrugged. Pure laissez-faire, eh?  That does absolutely nothing to help global warming or peak oil.  We would have probably had massive weather change starting a few years ago if it were not for regulations requires scrubbers, catalytic converters, etc.

Condemning me to death by starvation?  That's not a particularly nice thing to do.  Are you truely that upset with my posts to be issueing your own little fatwa against me?  In that case, I definently apologize for that.  

As for your orchards, your raised beds, the trees you planted, and your wood heater, which I am sure is absolutely adorable, I'm glad that you've had enough time to play the Capitalist game and succeed at it.  However I just started, and as of this moment I have $5.47 in my bank account.  Do you think that might buy me a nice 20 or 40 acre lot somewhere so I can plant an apple orchard, a few acres of crops to feed my family (oh, wait.. nope, don't have one yet), and some chickens.  All designed, of course, to the permaculture standards.  Do you think I could find a place for that much?  Please, if you know of any place around the $5 range, let me know.  Because I'll be out of college the next day, I guarantee it.  

I'll even collect some change so I can buy a McDonald's double cheeseburger for the drive there in my semi truck I use to get around town.  It produces this wickedly awesome black smoke that you just have to see.

Your efforts will be for naught if there aren't some jobs for young men like Descolada.  Most won't come on TOD to voice their frustrations, they'll just steal your stuff. A large percentage of underemployed or unemployed young men is a problem we're going to have that few in the Peak Oil community talk about. Having jobs for these folks (ala West Texas's plan) is as important as growing veggies.




Whenever something comes up like this, my immediate thought is the French riots.  A group of young men suffering from institutionalized racism, very low employment opportunities, and a depriciated spirit finally snapped and it sent almost all of France (and parts outside of France) into rioting, at a level that could have easily led to a revolution.  The government saves itself by promising reform, and then manages to try to screw over the youth there even more thinking that it wouldn't be an issue, so there's more rioting.  Even though France and the US typically haven't gotten along well, they share alot of their natural character with eachother.  

The reason it hasn't happened here is because, as I've been pointing out all along now, our youth are very apathetic and dispirited to the whole process. But, they will reach a tipping point, eventually.  We'll look back on the good ol' days when half a million people crowded a downtown LA protest to object to immigration restriction.