From an Insider: Rig Prices, Rig Depth, and How to Get a Job

One of our oil industry insiders has sent us some interesting data on rig rates, well type/depth changes, and more on the oil situation in the GOM, as well as how the industry in Texas and the GOM is staffing its rigs.  Lots of interesting stuff under the fold.
First, here's some combined corporate data (from 2 companies) that our insider has sent us. It shows how we are not only drilling more wells as fast as we can, but they are getting deeper, which in turn means more complicated and expensive. (Click on plots to expand)

Some snippets from my email with our insider (who, you'll have to trust me on this, knows his stuff):

If you don't speak Spanish, it's hard to get work on land rigs in Texas.  Drilling contractors have hired absolutely anyone who had rig experience, and literally thousands of Mexican roughnecks and especially drillers have taken jobs at rates well below what an American would cost.  Pemex is having trouble staffing their rigs due to the boom here, although this isn't public knowledge.
Someone who works for Pemex has said they have a large backlog of undrilled wells due to a manpower shortage at the rig sites, especially those near Reynosa and along their border with the US.
Pemex is also having trouble securing steel pipe (they used to get it from Korea) due to Chinese demand and their (Chinese) willingness to pay more than double what the Mexicans originally contracted for.
Several large Pemex pipe shipments have been "delayed due to routine plant maintenance", but when they (Pemex buyers) visited the steel rolling plant, there was no evidence of their order in sight. There was, however, an order even bigger than theirs going directly to China, of the same size and specifications.  This has apparently happened multiple times in 2005, hampering them in their drilling efforts.
Friends have been told point blank by a rig supervisor (with a Spanish accent) that he could hire two experienced Mexicans for the price of one untrained American. I am sending those friends to offshore contractors now.  Offshore, you either speak some form of English (Mississippi stumpjumper or Louisianan or Texan) or you don't work.
I thought it was important to relay what our open borders are doing to Texans and to the oil drilling business on BOTH sides of the border.  Again, so many things are rearing their ugly heads around the country it's hard to keep track of them!!
Good job Goose!

Your comments about steel pipe preferentially going to China before us sounds like China is trying to purposely outbid us for crucial materials-- using economic leverage to force us into massive energy shortages.

I hope that any oilrig workers are legally documented and federally approved, no matter where they work.  The dangers of drilling work requires full protection for the workers.

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

China is trying to purposely outbid us for crucial materials-- using economic leverage to force us into massive energy shortages.

Funny how Americans argue for "free markets" yet when they get outbid in those same free markets then the outcome is due to a vast conspiracy.

Who do you think gave the Chinese all those US dollars they are now using to out bid you? It was the Walmart Shoppers Put 3 Televisions In Every Room So China Can Outbid Us on Drillstring Conspiracy or WSP3TIERSCCOUODC for short. Must be a terrorist organization.

Some to come to a quote shop near you:

I don't think anyone expected the Chinese to spend any of that money we have been shoveling in their direction for the last five years. This wanton and irresponsible action just goes to show that you cannot trust the Chinese with market freedoms. They do not understand how markets work.
Hello Bop,

We would need more clarification about the original quotes in Prof. Goose's posting: but it reads to me that the Chinese somehow got their orders preferentially moved ahead.  I am no legal expert, but that sure doesn't sound kosher to me.  How did you read the original quotes? Please restate in your own words.

I think you semantically misread my intent on Chinese economic leverage.  If you recall my earlier posts on Powerdown and biosolar habitats, I am all in favor of choking production in the US to shift funding from detritovores to biosolars, as long as careful controls are implemented.  If the Chinese, using economic leverage, legitimately outbid us for crucial materials, so be it.  When prices start to rise here in the US, the pioneering people will be ready to join Richard Rainwater in building biosolar habitats, the oil companies will still profit, and billions of dollars will finally start flowing into a proper Powerdown.  If the Hubbert decline is steep and ASPO's Depletion Protocols are going nowhere, then the US must assert it own version in the national interest to minimize future internal strife.

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

The only reason they get their orders moved ahead is that they are better customers.  They pay more, and they order more.  Of course you're going to give preference to your best customers.
I agree leanan, if the chinese want to pay higher prices sell it to them.  That being said if prices go up other comapnies will produce pipe.  I have not seen any shortage of drill pipe in the gulf and I just asked my company man if it is hard to get and he said "no why I can get as much as I want."  So is this chinese thing one company got burned on one deal or an industry thing?  I see racks in Mobile and Fourchon and Lafayette FULL of drill pipe.  If there was a shortage would all that pipe not be in use?
oilrig medic -

Drill pipe is the small volume end of oilfield tubulars. It is only replaced when it is completely worn out, and so has a relatively long life.

CASING and liner runs are the big dollar and volume items, as they are used in EVERY well and LEFT IN THE GROUND as part of the well construction process. Thus they are consumables, whereas drill pipe is reusable.

FWIW, Rockdoc over at (I think he's a petroleum geologist) said shortages are afflicting the entire industry:

Middle East (Saudi, Qatar) are paying top dollar for pretty much anyone breathing to work in the oil/gas fields and on rigs

Tubulars are in high demand. Mill runs are now 7-8 months out

Rigs both offshore and onshore are in short supply, rig rates have nearly doubled in the last year. Most rigs are now on long term contracts.

Apparently the McDonalds in Fort McMurray had to close because the tar sands were employing pretty much everyone...they can't get burger flippers.

Sounds like the illegal immigrants have a place to go! flipping burgers and etc.

"As Fort McMurray's population has increased to 61,000, from 33,000 in 1996, housing has become in such short supply that the average mobile home now sells for $277,000 and people are renting couches for $500 a month

The crowding and labor shortages pushed Canadian Natural Resources to build a jet runway long enough to accommodate Boeing 737s to allow workers to commute to their giant new Horizon project. Shell Canada has built a giant pipeline to transport diluted oil sand bitumen hundreds of miles south to a new upgrading plant outside Edmonton. "

I don't think too many illegal burger flippers can afford to fly in / fly out - or pay $500 a month to sleep on a couch...

Holy Heisenberg.  A quarter of a million dollars for a mobile home?  And I thought real estate prices were bad here...
Not quite. What happened is that the steel companies signed a deal at one price, the price moved up, and they defaulted on the deal.
That isn't legal. So, don't deal with the steel companies that aren't upholding their contracts.
Hey, Mexico may have done the same thing to the Koreans, for all I know. Maybe Mexico contracted to sell oil to Korea at 50$ a barrel, and then sold it to the Chinese for 60$ a barrel. Turnabout is fair play.
Where I live in Pennsylvania is pretty much the nation's pipe and tube capital.  The tube mills here that produce commodity pipe are struggling due to Chinese dumping.  (The mills that do custom sizes are in good shape and are working flat out.)  In fact there were just major layoffs because of the Chinese imports.  I doubt there is a shortage of drilling pipe.

Interestingly, the U.S. International Trade Commission found the Chinese to be involved in illegal dumping and recommended tariffs.  However, Bush refused to sign off on the ITCs recommendation.  Layoffs have resulted and the largest mill's owners put its plants up for sale.  Guess who came in as new owners?  Carlyle Group.

There is outrage from both labor and management against Bush.  (The quote in the local paper--"What is the reason for the layoffs?  Bush, Bush, Bush.)  Of course, the widespread opinion here is the whole reason Bush didn't sign off on the ITC's recommendation was to set up a sweetheart deal for the Carlyle Group.

Excuse me here if I'm wrong, but isn't a more likely reason Bush isn't moving on this because he's already had he's steel tariff fiasco, which was ruled illegal by the WTC?
Wow, the Chinese are really out to get us, eh? Can you please keep these conspiracy theories to yourself?

Your comments about steel pipe preferentially going to China before us sounds like China is trying to purposely outbid us for crucial materials-- using economic leverage to force us into massive energy shortages.

Why would the Chinese even have an interest in causing a deliberate shortage of crucial materials such as steel pipes? If costs go up for oil companies in the US to secure adequate oil supplies, then crude oil prices go up. The US is not going to stop consuming oil just because it went up by 10 $ a barrel. Instead, it will cause a lot of pain in China and to the Chinese govt. Increasing gas shortages and the spectre of public unrest. Whatever the crude oil price is at the given point, the Americans pay that. And the Chinese too. The Chinese would rather see oil for 30 $ a barrel rather than 66.5 $. The Chinese consume a lot of oil too. The cost of higher crude negatively affects the Chinese by diverting money from economic projects to the middle east.

Wow, the Chinese are really out to get us, eh?

No more than the Americans have been 'out to get' others over the years.   Simple observation of "what works" to obtain resources w/o a gun barrel.

Can you please keep these conspiracy theories to yourself?

Why label it a conspiracy?   Simple economic arguments will do.   The Chinese have a pile of American dollars and are willing to spend 'em.  More willing than the Mexicans or the Americans.


So what if it IS a conspiracy?   How does that change the reality?  Or the shafting of the non-insider parcipatants?

Really Bob?

"Purposely outbid us for crucial materials", thats what I would call a market economy.

"Using economic leverage to force us into massive energy shortages", you think their doing this to hurt you? Why would they hurt their customers.


It's not deliberate. It's a predictable side effect of becoming a consumer economy driven by JIT manufacturing all tuned to quarterly bottom lines (aka pure greed unmoderated by any external moral system) above health, long term wealth, national security, the ecology, or even basic human decency.
 This means industry statistics will reflect a significant increase in drilling costs but that these costs will continue to understate the true increase due to the use of lower priced illegal labour.

 It also suggests that if the "guest worker" program is rejected then trained labour would not be available to the drilling contractors. This would decrease the number of working rigs. Since the industry appears to be operating at capacity just to maintain current NG production levels the outcome would be a drop in production.

So that "giant sucking sound" is actually the sound of Mexican drilling pipe being siphoned off to China.

Even Perot would think that was weird ...

Hello Don in Colorado,

Yeah, and the next sucking sound we will hear are the upcoming hurricanes to tear up what is left of the oil infrastructure in the GoM.

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

 Bob, I'm sorry to say you have it wrong. Drillstring sucks but hurricanes blow.

 Folks who are not industry insiders somethimes get these two opposing forces confused. I've done it myself.

Hello Bop,

I hope there are no illegal roughnecks!  If there is, the companies should be heavily, heavily fined!

It seems that two races to the bottom are occuring worldwide: one is decreasing net energy, the other is worldwide wages decreasing to bare survival levels. Hopefully, they are not economically linked, but I fear they are.  In that is not the case, I hope somehow Chinese wages come up faster than ours ratchet down for doing the same kind of work.  It is really starting to get ugly out there.

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

Nice post prof G.

What we are seeing from this is the fast maturing of GOM as a hole. I'd like also to remember the bit from `We Were Warned' were exploratory drilling was shown already at 6000 feet deep (+/- 1850 meters [funny that's a nautical mile]). It'll get increasingly harder to maintain the current rates of production in GOM.

These news of hands and resource shortages on Pemex are also very important, especially after the news of Canterell.  Mexico is heading to that brick wall really fast.

Adding to lads' concerns, I found the second graph extremely worrying. The overall growth of amount of wells without an equivalent increase in production means EROEI is going down, fast.

As for the pipes acquired by China, it's not suprising. Don't they do the same with cement, copper, steel, etc.?

The point PaulusP brings up about the climb in wells without a climb in production is explained by Hubbert's theory. In the books by Deffeyes, you typically have the discoveries curves peaking about 40 years before the production peaks for large bodies of land. This is happening now globally. The current drilling boom, while quite robust, actually pales in comparison to that of the 70s despite way higher oil prices:

The gray line is oil price, the red line is global oil well rigs. We are simply not finding the pools of oil to be found with drilling now and getting vastly lower return on investment. When you consider that global discoveries peaked in about 1962, we are at a vastly different place on the discoveries curve here in 2006 than we were at in 1976. There just isn't that much left to be found and drilled. And a lot of the new drilling now is punching holes like crazy into old, mature reservoirs to grab the remaining primary recovery faster (putting the production profile more into an "off the cliff" pattern at the end of primary recovery). Having said that, however, there is little danger of a giant wave of new supply causing a bust to this current boom, and the oil price climb this time is likely to be more or less permanent. So this drilling boom has the legs to carry on and on. I would like to see a 40 year chart of total wells broken down into exploratory wells, # of discoveries per exploratory well, and inflation adjusted cost per well. This would likely show a rapidly widening divergence between # of wells/cost per well and discoveries per well now as compared to the 70s drilling boom.

Your insider's comments reek of old-fashioned nativist anti-immigrant jingoism. Do we really need to know that the rig supervisor had a Spanish accent? It's supposed to help us to pigeonhole him so we know he's one of 'them'. That's a classic sign of racism: they want to put everyone into a box so they go out of the way in their stories to mention the race and ethnicity of even minor characters.

I've spent enough time in Texas to know how common those views are among the Anglo majority. People in that part of the country are accustomed to expressing racist views openly among their like-minded friends, but IMO it has no place on this message board.


May I suggest that you have just put into a catagory that "Texas . . .  Anglo majority."

And yes, a Spanish accent is relevant, as is an accent from China versus Taiwan, or Iranian.

Do we have to be politically correct so we stifle discussion? I think there is enough of that in the USA already.

The original post was "good knowledge."

I for one would like us to post technical knowledge at TOD, be it blue or red state knowledge. There is a wage differential between Mexico and the USA and immigrants, in either direction, impact that. We should discuss it and know it.

They took urr jobs!

I work in the Gulf of Mexico right now and there are people on my rig of multiple nationalities.  Most are bilingual and a few only speak spanish.  I don't think that is bad americans follow the money all over the world to drill oilfield workers are notoriously mercenary.  You are right halfin this insider has a problem with anyone who is different.  


They took urr jobs!

First of all, I would question whether "Anglos", as anyone who is white has been pigeonwholed into, are actually, demographically, the majority anymore.  2000 census was a fairly long time ago, and it tends to under-represent Hispanics.

Second, to make such a blatently stereotypical statement that "Anglo" Texans are xenophobic is pretty pigheaded.  Of course there's people who are, but it probably doesn't represent the majority, or even a large percentage.  Alot of it tends to be where you live in Texas, as people don't really recognize that Texas has several different regions. The valley, the coast, and far west Texas is less hostile to Mexicans than say, far North Texas, which has a much more plains feel to it.

They took urr jobs!

You raise a most interesting point about Texas; it is such a diverse "country." What I have seen is a whole bunch of "anti-Texas" stereotyping, and that goes back for at least fifty years, and probably longer.

Of course the history of racism in Texas is a long one, going back about five hundred years to first contact between Spaniards and Native Americans.

From casual empiricism (also known as "horseback opinion," i.e., no solid data to back it up) I have seen far, far more racism agains both Latinos and Blacks in northern states than I have seen in Gulf states. People who grew up with others of different ethnic identity know that people are individuals, regardless of accent or appearance. People who grew up in lilly-white suburbs often have a fear of nonwhites that is virulent and based on the most primitive fears and stereotypes.

What I find most sad is the increasing hatred that I see of one minority group for another--especially Blacks vs. Latinos, but also ones you might never think of, such as Somali immigrants vs. Blacks, or warfare between Mexican and Asian gangs.

Why the migration to exurbs? Very largely this is White flight to get away from poor people of color, who tend to be concentrated in urban slums.

Regarding Texas "Anglo majority"...non-Hispanic whites are probably less than one half of the state's population right about NOW.  See
Us white folk are a minority of the globe's population though we consume a majority of the world's oil.
Actually, Texans tend not to be as virulently racist as those in other states who haven't had as extensive contact with those from Mexico.  We have our share of xenophobes, to be sure, but this immigration conflagration didn't really start to ignite until Mexican immigrants starting spreading out from their landing points in Cali, Arizona and Texas. Look at who's pushing the far right on this isn't the Texas politicians.  
I get the same sense of this.  I live in a California beach city. Inland from my house is a partially hispanic community.      A mile from where I live there is a ~180 year old Spanish adobe.  This is one of those "landing points," but given 200 year history of migration, it's hard to be shocked.
For the record, there is no Anglo majority in Texas anymore. There is no racial majority at all in fact. Heck, I am white and I am a minority in my own house.

Not that there aren't racists etc. here, but it is less common than many other places I have lived. I have definitely noted that the really agressive anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican folks that are not confortable around non-whites tend to be people from other more Northernly climes that have recently moved here, but that is anecdotal. your own home.  Dude, you better put a deadbolt on your bedroom door and call Lou Dobbs for backup!  : )


 First they take urr jobs.

 Then they take urr bedroom!

Canada Pacific Rail is completing additional lines to ship raw materials to British Columbia and BHP (the worlds's largest mining operation?) in Australia is busily shipping much of their Australian mining materials, to, tah dah!, China.

I have seen some strange stuff in the rebar industry (also concrete/cement) in California over the last 5 years that reflects material going to China (and we getting rebar from Egypt of all places). It is simply a market reaction.

Competition and free markets at work for a change.

If you could sell steel at a higher price to China, or a lower contract price to Mexico, what would you do?

I would honor my contract.
The Koreans didn't dishonour the contract... they simply delayed it.   It happens in business allll the tiiimme.  

I find this "concern" by people so ironic.  It's the same as the Softwood Lumber dispute between Canada and the US.  Canada gets accused of "dumping" logs into the US market when in fact it's market economics that dictates the price payed.  Our dollar is low... it's cheaper to buy from us than from the US.  That's just the way it is!

Re:  Drilling Booms at or Beyond 50% of Qt

Historically, these booms--Texas; Lower 48 and North Sea--may have been profitable, and companies may have found new reserves, but the drilling booms did nothing to reverse the production declines.   By and large, we find the big field first.  The smaller fields that subsequently find can't make up for the declines in the large, old fields.  

Having said that, you ain't seen nothing yet.  IMO, everything to date has just been the preamble. I think that we are right on the verge of the really large oil price increases.

I think that the markets are sending a signal that the US is running short of light, sweet crude oil imports.  Gross US oil imports--all qualities--were down about 4% in March, 2006 versus March, 2005.    Our problem is that we have a lot of importers bidding for--I predict--declining net export capacity worldwide.


Where do you get your numbers from West Texas? I see gross imports down 1.7% not 4% here at the EIA.

You will have to talk to the EIA.   The above website, based on historical weekly data, shows average imports of 10,244,500 BOPD  for March, 2005.   The most currently weekly data shows average imports of 9,879,000 BOPD for March, 2006, a reduction of 365,500 BOPD.  I was rounding off to get 3.9%.  If you don't round off, you get a reduction of 3.56776807%.  I suspect that there is some kind of rounding error between the two data sets.  

In any case, I think that this is akin to debating whether or not we should take air friction into account as we are falling off a cliff, in attempting to calculate when we hit the ground.  

We have no way of evaluating the quality of the imports or of the inventories, i.e., light, sweet versus heavy, sour.  

We do know that light, sweet crude oil prices are trading at all time record high (nominal) levels (in the $60 to $70 range), up significantly from March, 2005.  

And we know that aggregate imports--all qualities, light sweet + heavy sour--are down year over year while light, sweet crude oil prices are up significantly year over year.  

And we know that there is a significant spread between light, sweet and heavy, sour prices.  

What does that tell you about supply--especially light, sweet crude oil supplies?

Hi West Texas, sorry to be pedantic, but I checked you link and I think the EIA is right. Your figure of 10.245 kbpd is correct, but only for the last week in March 2005. The 4 week average for March 2005 is more like 10.049 kbpd. So, apples to apples, the reduction in gross crude imports is more like 1.7%, year on year.

However, I agree with all your points: the trend is down and given the increased income of the exporting nations, their consumption is likely to increase and hence their exports to decrease.

isnt it possible (even likely) that imports are down 1.7% due to warmest winter on record in 100 years? and that we used a wee bit less of heating oil than usual?
I don't know. What is this telling us about supply?

While it is true that crude prices are trading near an all-time nominal high, they are nowhere near the real high, nor the high when you factor in wage/GDP/efficiency ratios.

The price is significant here because it shows us fairly accurately what is going on with the production/consumption situation.

Here is the real scoop on prices. For the last two months crude oil prices when measured with a 26-week moving average have been dropping, or at least plateauing.

You yourself acknowledge that we have now way of evaluating inventory qualities.

Where are the historical corollaries to the present situation? I admire your detective work and hypothesizing, I  just can't come to any conclusions based on these numbers.

Commercial stocks are high. It is perfectly reasonable to assume imports are down because stocks are high and consumers, the refineries, are shutting down from spring maintenance and cannot take any more crude at this time. Crude prices are likely to decline until refineries get back on line, as is frequently the case in the spring shoulder season.

And a "knowledgeable" talking head-
a bankster in charge of his bank's portfolio
says the SPOR is full.

That's impossible.

Facts on demand.


Westexas, you've been posting this in almost every thread lately, that we are on the verge of huge price increases and that net exports are about to hit the wall. How about putting a date on this, or at least a time frame? Then at least we'll be able to look forward to when you'll either be proven right or you'll shut up about it.
Halfin, you always post about the wonders of the market solving our energy woes. How about putting a date on this, or at least a time frame? Then at least we'll be able to look forward to when you'll either be proven right or you'll shut up about it.
I have a question for those working in the Gulf: According to this story a new Ocean FOCUS began issuing forecasts on 16 February 2006 - just in time to warn oil production operators of a new warm eddy that has formed in the oil and gas-producing region of the Gulf of Mexico.  These eddies, similar to underwater hurricanes, spin off the Loop Current - an intrusion of warm surface water that flows northward from the Caribbean Sea through the Yucatan Strait - from the Gulf Stream and can cause extensive and costly damage to underwater equipment due to the extensive deep water oil production activities in the region.  

This website from the esa has a video of an eddy that appears to last for several months.  It also states that in Summer 2003, such eddies caused serious and very costly damage to deep-water installations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Is there anyone who knows anything about the current eddy and the effect that it is having on the oil installations?


What this basically does to us is limit the window where we can position a rig, and in some cases even drill. When the current is in full force, it usually keeps us from being able to spot a rig within the strong parts of the current. The tugs cannot handle it, and the anchors cannot hold things due to the soft mud in deeper water. In some instances, depending upon depth, it precludes us from drilling due to the current setting up destructive low frequency vibrations in the rig legs, drive pipe or riser assembly.

We have been watching this current for years, and we often postpone or rush wells to avoid these complicating currents.

Why no Mexicans on offshore rigs?  Are they not subject to the same economics as the land-based ones?

Very interesting stuff.  Again, I think this points out how tight supplies are.  It's going to be tough trying to build up substantial new infrastructure (coal, nuclear, wind, public transportation, solar, electric cars, etc.) when steel, silicon, aluminum, copper, cement, etc., are in short supply.  

At my office, the recent project bids are coming in way high.  Like, 30% or more.  We have an automatic adjustment factor now for fuel, asphalt, concrete, and steel, but they are still bidding high.  If there's wisdom in crowds, the crowd seems to be expecting a steep rise in the price of materials.

  There are mexicans offshore my rig has six painters currently and two welders.  One of the toolpushers is from brazil and several guys are from the UK.  Oil is all over the world and it takes a diverse group of people to pull it out of the ground. Do we want Angola and Nigeria and all those juicy foreign contracts to say no americans.  That foreign money comes back to the states and is spent here.

You are right every thing costs more past few years.

OK, let's see how many think this is racist...

I recently had a drilling engineer turn down 3 different rigs in south Texas (November 2005)BECAUSE NOBODY SPOKE ENGLISH FLUENTLY ENOUGH ON THESE RIGS, including the toolpushers.

Is it racist to want good communication when you are renting a rig for $30,000 a day?
Is it racist to want your safety program to be implemented effectively WITHOUT HIRING  several full time translators to get your message across?
Is it racist to worry about being understood when you yell, "Get the hell out of there!", when a hand puts himself in a dangerous position during rig operations?
Is it racist to want a crew to speak english as their primary language in the United States?

When I did work for Pemex a decade ago, I had to be able to speak spanish to work in Playa del Carmen - why is it that people fight and get all PC when we insist that english be spoken within our own borders?

IMO, it's not racism but business. Operators are responsible for the rigs they rent and safety programs. They are the ones getting sued when someone gets hurt, whether illegally here or legally here. Some operators have spanish speaking personnel, and can use these rigs without worry. Others do not.

So, IMO, a "spanish accent" needs to be followed up to see how many crew members cannot grasp english language fundamentals. And we haven't even started talking about filling out reports and paperwork correctly....

Just a view from the working side of things.

I agree with your points on safety and communication.  I speak/write spanish and am learning portugese.  This makes me more marketable as a medic/stc.  In international waters you have to expect a company to hire foreigners its cheaper. If americans want the jobs they need to distinguish themselves to where a company will want to hire them.  So I don't think it racist to complain about a hand not speaking the main rig language, but the original posting was xenophobic.  

As for other tubulars I don't see a shortage there either I just went and had a second conversation with our drilling superintendant and the company mans boss.  They said everything they need for all their rigs is available on 48 notice shipping being the only delay.  We are a big company so maybe the suppliers are keeping us happy and screwing the little guy.  A view askew also from the working side.

What's the pay grade for a Rig Qualified ESL(English as Second Language) qualified instructor?



"Is it racist to want a crew to speak english as their primary language in the United States?"

Not if you speak Apache or Comanche.

You're arguing that it should be OK to refuse to hire rigs where people don't speak English well, raising a safety issue. OK. But the "insider" in the blog posting complained, "If you don't speak Spanish, it's hard to get work on land rigs in Texas." Isn't it just as reasonable to demand that rig workers speak Spanish well, if that is the language spoken on the rig? If someone yells "get the hell out of there" in Spanish, he needs to be sure that everyone will understand him.

If you don't want to be racist, you should look at the situation objectively and symmetrically, and not have an automatic preference for your own race and culture.

There was a good article on about Pemex yesterday:

Pemex Oil Output to Drop Without Private Investment

The long-term solution to replace Cantarell will require investment of $17 billion a year to tap deep-water deposits and an onshore field called Chicontepec, which now contains 40 percent of Pemex's proven, probable and possible oil reserves, Ramirez said.

Chicontepec has remained untapped since it was discovered in 1926 because the small pockets of oil tucked in fractured rock require drilling technology that Pemex lacks. Pemex needs to spend $38 billion over 20 years in Chicontepec to drill 20,000 wells, more than during its nearly seven-decade history, Ramirez has said. Production cost per barrel in Chicontepec will be $12 a barrel, he said.

It looks like Pemex won't be able to exploit their new deep offshore fields anytime soon.

China death threat for oil theft

China is currently battling with spiralling demand for fuel and soaring prices - a factor which has made the risk of oil theft a more attractive proposition.

The majority of crude oil thieves are farmer peasants in the impoverished and remote regions, who earn a third as much as their city dwelling counterparts, Mr Ma said.

One popular method used to steal oil involves thieves building a hut and then drilling into oil pipes beneath the building.

A glimpse on things to come?

Remember this photo?  It's of a Chinese boy stealing natural gas.

Wow. There's an eye opener. But something about that photo seems ever so slightly off. Why doesn't the balloon touch the ground? And is that a foot and leg of someone standing behind the balloon?
Yup.  Here's the back view:

And a side view:

Let's hope there are no leaks and that these kids are nonsmokers.
I find it very amusing that so many people complain about illegal immigrants and then avoid advocating the one solution that will work.

I recommend that everyone read Molly Ivins' latest column at:

Here is a quote from this wonderful piece:

Should you actually want to stop Mexicans and OTMs (other than Mexicans) from coming to the United States, here is how to do it: Find an illegal worker at a large corporation. This is not difficult -- brooms and mops are big tip-offs. Then put the CEO of that corporation in prison for two or more years for violating the law against hiring illegal workers.

Got it? You can also imprison the corporate official who actually hired the illegal and, just to make sure, put some Betty Sue Billups -- housewife, preferably one with blonde hair in a flip -- in the joint for a two-year stretch for hiring a Mexican gardener. Thus Americans are reminded that the law says it is illegal to hire illegal workers and that anyone who hires one is responsible for verifying whether or not his or her papers are in order. If you get fooled and one slips by you, too bad, you go to jail anyway. When there are no jobs for illegal workers, they do not come. Got it?

Then, if corporations want Americans to do the jobs they allegedly do not wnat to do, they will have to pay them well enough that working in such jobs make sense. And then we may see a better economy. Of course, the free market ninnies will immediately start crying about this solution because it will hamper our competitiveness. Horse hockey. I say that paying CEOs 200 times the average wage of American workers is hampering our competitiveness. The day that management wages get in line is the day they can start crying.

I'd support this.  The people we should be cracking down on are not the illegal immigrants, but those who employ them.  (Lou Dobbs of CNN is a big supporter of this idea as well.)  They do it in order to dump the costs of labor on the taxpayers.  Rather than offering a decent wage and benefits, they pay low wages and their health care system is the local emergency room.

I think immigration/globalization is going to be huge in the upcoming years.  Peak oil will mean the unwinding of globalization, and that is going to have benefits as well as costs.  The end of globalization may mean more jobs and better wages for many, but it will also mean higher costs and perhaps outright scarcity of some things we now take for granted.  

Great, 200 years of capitalism in order to get a job as a gardner.  Our founding daddy´s are turning over in their graves´.
Nope, they knew the worm turns.

The founders had just rid themselves of a corrupt and expensive imperial layer. The East India Tea Company, for example, was a major Crown multinational. It had become a big nuisance. So was supporting the expanding British military establishment.  

The founders would have recognized our corporatized government They would have recognized the military spend. They were familiar with imported labor too.    

Jefferson, Madison & Co. also worried a great deal about the effects of luxury, and how the sons of the rich would become degenerate slobs, much as happened during the late Roman Republic and some stages of the Roman Empire.

They were not easy with the concept of aristocracy and knew of its tendencies to decay.

In their more optimistic writings, they put what little faith they had in an enduring republic into education. Of course they had to, because there is no other possible answer, as was clearly stated by Plato and his notable student Aristotle, not to mention the later philosophers who so influenced our founders.

Wht the hell is wrong with being a gardner?

This American mentality that certain jobs are beneath them speaks volumes to the issue of classism. Manual laborers are legion in this country and they have to feed their families. Just because they are not college graduates, or rich from inheritance, or even all that intelligent, does not mean that we can treat them like inferiors, or slaves.

Since when is America the land of exclusion, snobbery, and elitism?

Why do Americans hate Americans?

The day we learn to act as a country of people, of humans with the same basic needs, instead of a country of competing special interests is the day we start taking care of our citizens viz. single payer health care, free eduation, and day care.

First, being a gardener is fine if you can support your family.  

Second, aren't there minority guest workers brought in throughout Europe to do menial and dirty work, too?  Turks in Germany and so on?  I don't think elitism is just an American mentality.  

Very good point! Sixty years ago many Americans of Japanese ancestry were the best gardeners in Calif. (Mr. Mioygi in "The Karate Kid" is based on tens of thousands of real-world prototypes.), and now their grandchildren are some of the best doctors and engineers and scientists we have. They hire Mexican gardeners, who are, by and large, very hard-working, intelligent and honest.

In the largest nurseries of the biggest horticulture business in Minnesota, you will find only Spanish being spoken by the workers, and they are paid relatively well to prevent them leaving for high-pay construction jobs.

Are you a gardener?  Why not?  How about a dishwasher?  Why not?  I don´t know about you but I don´t enjoy wiping rich men and women´s hineys if you know what I mean.  

How about a revolution in the way we do politics.  For example before the military releases the dobermans on the Iranian´s we vote whether this is ok or not?  

A real democracy, ah I am dreaming.  Still i draw my inspiration from a few months back.  Ah the good old days of 2005, when all of Brasil´s stakeholders voted on whether it is legal to carry a gun.(non security and police)  

I couldn´t believe my eyes, real democracy.  There was a vigorous debate leading up to the election and then an election whose results actually reflected the populations wishes.  It´s weird to me that I had to go to a developing third world country to witness democracy, but that´s another of lifes humorous ironies.  

  We don't live in a democracy, we live in a representative democracy.  We (the voters) elect people we feel capable and they choose to go to war, make laws on gun control etc.  Referendums are very innefecient and most people are not educated on the subjects of legislation.  So we need more education or an easier method of voting (ID controlled internet route?) to accomplish a true democracy.  Most people don't even vote in presidential elections though.
Oilrig Medic,

I realize we live in a representative democray.  That´s why I wrote "here´s is a revolutionary idea".  Yes I was being a tad tounge and cheek, but I think our system needs to evolve to a more representative form of government or keep on keeping on in the direction of totalitarianism.

I suppose I am dreaming here, but the thought that electing Hillary, or a democrat will change our current predicament is just as absurd.  

Whatever, sigh, inertia shall rule the day, why should us moron´s take the time to learn about important issues anyway?  Let´s just let the informed rich blowhards with their paranoid conspiratorial correct view´s, do it for us!

Unfortunately there seems to be the wild idea that Queen Hillary will solve ALL our problems. from education to immigration. You know better, and i know better. But THEY don't know better. We will be no better off today with Queen Hillary, than we will be 10 yrs from now. Immigration will still be a problem, and congress will introduce a NEW guest worker/amnesty program. Education will still be defunct. High school grads will still be as dumb or dumber. college and universitys will have more foriegners. And all the border states will have elected their hispanic representatives, and the following election years will grab the states one by one with hispanic votes.
The states bordering the border states will have new hispanic congress and senators, the following election year.
And this will continue until it hits Maine to Washington state. This may take 10 to 20 yrs, but i have no doubt it takes place.
Already our voting ballots are in english and spanish. ATM's offer the language choice too.  

Am i Racist? No........but just my prediction. Mark my words, Congress and Senate will do nothing before the elections in NOV. Then they will stone wall immigration reform, Bush heads out, Queen Hillary heads in. Nothing gets done, and we are discussing this problem again in 10 yrs. with another 10 to 15 million NEW illegal immigrants taking the low paying jobs. with the same battle crys! Yet the new hispanic congress and senate will provide complete amnesty, no questions asked.

I saw it here
that Fox met with Bush last August, just before  Katrina.

A month before that, a well prominent Senator, names escapes me said, "we as a nation need to consider a nation without borders". I never saw it on TV again. Or heard about it after that.
but there was also a politician that was nailed for having not paid taxes for an illegal immigrant housekeeper. The name escapes me.    

Times are changing very fast. we live in interesting times indeed. Where's my beer?

But also, this leads into the National ID card, whereby all individuals will be required to have. I am against such a thought. But the concept has been kicked around in the house, and this is just as good an excuse to persuade the american public it's for our own good. Positive Identification. BEWARE!
I think a national ID card is probably inevitable.  People care more about security and convenience than privacy.  Few seem to be upset about the government's illegal wiretapping program, for example.  And look at how many people use EZ-Pass.  

For those outside the northeastern, EZ-Pass is a little box you stick on your car window that automatically pays your tolls when you drive through a tollbooth.  No cash, no stopping, and in some areas, you can get a commuter discount.  The drawback: they can track your car everywhere you go.  They can see if you're speeding, and give you a ticket for it.  EZ-Pass records have also been used in divorce cases (to prove adultery), and to fire people (to prove they were not where they were supposed to be).

I think the EZ-Pass is great.  I have been using it for a couple of years with no problems.  I can say they are definitely not handing out many speeding tickets this way,(my speed has moderated considerably since I learned about Peak Oil, it is basically the right lane and cruise control over 80% of the time now.)
In fact, EZ-Pass is the means to having a speed dependent toll, perhaps an easier proposition than something like a 55 MPH speed limit.  You could drive just as fast as you want, up to some limit, like 85 MPH?, and the EZ-Pass will allow the toll booth computer to get your distance versus time.  Go fast and pay alot, go slow and pay nothing.  On the high end, tolls would transition into speeding fines.
I would be opposed to making the EZ-Pass data available to authorities without my consent.  Hunting the bogey man is not worth it to me if it means that my entire life is being profiled.
Be careful in construction zones.  They often have scanners there, and if you're speeding, they'll call the cops.  Can't really blame them; road workers see speeders as a matter of life and death.  

And they will send you an automatic ticket if you speed through a toll booth.  The speed limit is as low as 5 mph in some places.  (My boss has gotten a ton of tickets this way, in the company car no less.)

From Mexico where George Bush, Stephen Harper and Vicente Fox held meetings:

But a law is a law, Bush said, and it's his job to enforce it, so it's time to start seeing the potential positives in requiring Canadians and Americans to show some form of national ID at air and sea borders starting on Jan. 1, 2007. All other border traffic points will enforce the same requirement a year later.

"The law says it will be a passport or passport-like document that I believe if properly implemented will facilitate travel and facilitate trade, not hinder travel and trade and the reason I believe that is I think we can be wise about the use of technologies," Bush said.

By this time next year, Americans and Canadians will need passports to travel across the border by air, and by this time two years from now, the same will be true for those travelling by car.

How many average road travellers have a passport?  Invest in passport futures.

Tolls. Aside from some special situations [like Manhattan where limiting traffic is essential -- or the Delaware Turnpike where the motivation is to rip off out of staters just passing through], I can't think of a worse way to raise revenue from motorists.

A waste of fuel due to slowing, acceleration and congestion as tolls are collected. A waste of motorists time. Increases in accidents as a consequence of jockeying for lanes at the toll plazas and traffic shifting onto alternate more dangerous routes. A lot of unproductive overhead in the form of toll collectors, adminstration and those wonderful EZ pass people who make the whole scam a little more paletable so that the clamor to eliminate tolls dies down.

Raise the gas tax. Eliminate tolls.

People don't vote because political elites do not allow elections in which the "wrong" sort of options can be chosen.
amen, brother.  i have lead a fairly privileged life, not like w but more so than many, and i have always been guided by a phrase that i attribute to gatsby/fitzgerald, but i may be paraphrasing or making it up: 'remember the less fortunate.'  i may be a lawyer but that does not make me a better human than the guy in the wheelchair i pass on my walk to work -who himself hasn't worked in as far as i can remember.  (and yes i talk with him and occasionally donate -i'm a public sector lawyer.)

h clinton was mocked for suggesting it takes a village to raise a child, but she was merely analogizing, imo, to the social fabric of a people.  the (current?) ruling class, however, is too ego-centric to see the value in the concept, much less the wisdom and morality.  in any event, cherenkov's comment reminded me of one i read at the nyt opinionater thing about the french kids protesting:

"They are clinging dearly to the idea of France in which "egalité" truly is a cornerstone of the national political identity. They are resisting a world of weakened social protections and a system that values efficiency over humanity-they refuse to believe that the American capitalist model is closer to utopia than what they currently have."

valuing humanity over efficiency.  pure and simple.  why don't we feel that way?  i guess driving the hummer to the micky-d by the walmart is just too satisfying.  oy..........
ps- sorry if to political and OT.

FWIW, I think it would be hard to find a large corporation here in southern California which hires illegal workers.  The corporations have personnel departments whose job it is to prevent that.

That said, many southern California corporations do hire independent companies, small businesses, which bring in night crews for cleaning, etc.

You might get the same effect by finding illegals among those independent companies, but you'd have to harass them enough to shut them down.

The corporations have plausible deniability on their culpability.

The corporations have plausible deniability on their culpability.

Didn't seem to work for Wal-Mart.

I'd forgotten that.  I wonder how far the fear of similar posecution has spread ...

Would a generic while collar office worry that they would be liable for their cleaning contractors?  My purely off the wall guess is that the corporate customers for these services would be asking themselves how high-profile they are.

The whole "We have to hire illegal Mexicans (or whoever) because Americans will not scrub floors/pick strawberries/cut grass" is of course baloney. Or actually, just incomplete. What is meant is "We have to hire illegal Mexicans (or whoever) for 25 cents an hour because Americans will not scrub floors/pick strawberries/cut grass for 25 cents an hour, or at least we can't legally hire Americans that cheap".

Paying minimum wage, you could find Americans to do those jobs. Paying a living wage, even a bare minimum living wage, you would have people lining up.

It's not so much the pay, which is often significantly higher than minimum wage.  It's the seasonality.  Americans don't want to work only a few weeks, then move on to another area of the country.  

But then, neither do Mexicans.  A lot of the farmers are complaining that Mexicans are increasingly taking food service and construction jobs, which offer a steadier employment than farmwork.  

That's not right. It's Americans who won't pick strawberries for more like 5$ per hour, who want twice as much money to work half as hard.
When my dad was a kid in the thirties, the oakies would use dynamite to make sure that the packing sheds only hired union. They also had fruit tramps my father knew who would work four months a year and rest the other eight because they didn't need to work.
If we expell the illegals, those days will return and you will pay an extra five percent in the form of inflation so all those former welfare mommies can afford to buy new cars at their new, high paying jobs that used to be low paid jobs held by immigrants.
The only thing worse for a racist than a welfare mommy is an uppity former welfare mommy that makes as much as he does.
My grandfather was a gardener, for the rich, in the Great Depression.  For what it's worth, even then "classism" was not absolute.  The rich guy would let the gardener take his family out for day trips in the Pierce Arrow.  (That left my father with a life-long love of great cars.)

But I think it's true that we expect an immigrant's ladder of mobility in the US.  My dad, the gardener's son, went to college on the GI bill, and became a public school administrator.  My dad paid for my education and I became an engineer.  Etc.

I don't think there is anything wrong with anyone being a gardener, but I certainly hope that we are offering that gardener, or his children, upward mobility.

I'm not sure we really want to make this an immigration/globalization issue, but they do relate to peak oil, both in the oil production area (as the original topic) or as one of the drivers of overseas industry.  We buy a lot of stuff from asia (etc.) which puts both energy (cheap dirty coal burning) and labor rates (minimum wage in china is "their problem") under the table.

It's the classic framing problem, and compartmentalizing of a big issue into easy (over simplified) components.

... buy oil from Texas drilled by Mexican workers, or buy oil from Pemex drilled by Mexican workers, ...

no easy answers.

I attached this the wrong place.  It should go with the "what's wrong with being gardener?" question.
I don't think there is anything wrong with anyone being a gardener, but I certainly hope that we are offering that gardener, or his children, upward mobility.

But we really can't.  At least, not forever.  It's not a ladder.  It's a pyramid.  A Ponzi scheme.  Each "middle class" person in our society is supported by the labor of many poor people, in this country and outside it.  We justify this by telling ourselves that one day, they or their children will achieve the American dream, too.  But that requires infinite growth.  An infinite influx of poor people at the base of the pyramid, to support those higher up.    

We can certainly call a mass-production, mass-consumption, society a "pyramid scheme" ... but it's obviously worked for 200+ years, and is the reason I'm alive today (the operation I had when I was 2 months old was probably not available 50 years earlier).

It is the doomer thing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, to say that since industrial society uses oil, industrial society will die with oil.  That's not proven.  The flip side is not cornucopianism.

The moderate expectation is that our mass-production, mass-consumption, industrial society will adjust.  That adjustment may be painful (I expect it will be, especially to the unprepared), but we will adjust.

We can certainly call a mass-production, mass-consumption, society a "pyramid scheme" ... but it's obviously worked for 200+ years, and is the reason I'm alive today (the operation I had when I was 2 months old was probably not available 50 years earlier).

It's worked through constant expansion.  That can't go on forever.  I used to think it could, because I used to think we'd go to space and continue our growth.  But it's pretty clear now that's never going to happen.

The moderate expectation is that our mass-production, mass-consumption, industrial society will adjust.  That adjustment may be painful (I expect it will be, especially to the unprepared), but we will adjust.

It probably will continue...but the growth will not.  Rather that rising up the pyramid, we'll be at best frozen where we are.  More likely, we'll start to drop back down.  Each generation will have a lower standard of living than the last. can we continue to maintain our current lifestyles?  Someone has to do the dirty work.  Either they are stuck at the bottom forever, or the population continues to expand forever.  Maybe if the Jetsons' vision of the future had come true, and robots did all the menial work...but I'm not holding my breath for that.

The doomer position is always emotional.  "It can't go on."  Just because "we don't like it."

To make a rational, fact based, argument that industrial (or "high tech" because the concept of "industrial" may change) society is doomed, you have to name an energy intensity (energy per capita) that is the minimum for high tech to continue, and then show when we will hit that minimum.

I think it would be easy to maintain a high tech society with our current populations on 1/10th the current energy expenditure ... we'd just have less cheese puffs, bottled water, take-out pizzas, etc., etc., etc., ...

The doomer position is always emotional.  "It can't go on."  Just because "we don't like it."

Or maybe you are ascribing emotion to a rational argument because you don't like it?

I think it would be easy to maintain a high tech society with our current populations on 1/10th the current energy expenditure ... we'd just have less cheese puffs, bottled water, take-out pizzas, etc., etc., etc., ... is that "fact-based"?  You're pulling it out of your butt.

But I think it's possible we could do that.  I just don't think we will.  After all, we could provide food and clean water for the entire world now, if we were willing to give up the bottled water and cheese puffs.  But we aren't doing it.

Why do you think things will be different in the future?

Then just point me to an honest, numeric, engineering argument for doom.
I think I did.  Do you disagree that what we have here is a pyramid scheme?  Do you think pyramid schemes are infinitely sustainable?

Let's return to the original question.  Who is going to do the dirty work?  The hard labor that allow us to live in comfort?  If not a constantly increasing number of poor people, who?

A numeric argument has numbers, and to support the doomer position that the end of oil will lead to a collapse of technical civilization it should have numbers that support that.
I thought we agreed that I was not a peak oil doomer?

I don't think the end of oil will lead to the end of technology, at least not in any time you and I have to worry about.  The question is whether we can continue the Ponzi scheme now.  Can we keep bringing more and more people into the middle class, where they don't have to do hard work?

I know you have broader concerns, but I got the idea that peak oil was the first step down the stairs, so to speak.

And while I can see the "common fiction" of a successful mass-consumption, mass-production, economy (everyone has to believe in it), we should recognize the difference between it and a real Ponzi scheme.  Ponzi did not reinvest any fraction of his cash flow in R&D, opening new resources, etc.  On the other hand, our society does that continuously.

When I was starting work in computers (1981) and the computer revolution was just starting to roll, I was amazed to learn that Atari consumed more microprocessors than every other user combined.  That is, a game company drove the microprocessor market harder than any serious use.  If this was just a Ponzi game we would have exited the cycle with less cash, and the same tech we always had.

The fact that we are typing this little exchange demonstrates an accumulation of something more than better "pong" games.

And while I can see the "common fiction" of a successful mass-consumption, mass-production, economy (everyone has to believe in it), we should recognize the difference between it and a real Ponzi scheme.  Ponzi did not reinvest any fraction of his cash flow in R&D, opening new resources, etc.  On the other hand, our society does that continuously.

I strongly agree with Leanan on this one - that the logic of the Ponzi scheme is at the heart of the globalized economy. Ponzi schemes supported by sources of income other than funds transfered from new entrants can persist for long periods of time - enough time for a level of trust to build up which can result in many people being duped. However, this does not remove the underlying dependency on new entrants completely, it merely delays the day of reckoning, perhaps for many years.

There is a full spectrum of pyramid schemes. The pure Ponzi fraud, a localized construct with all new funds being derived from new entrants, is at one end. The globalized economy, which must continually expand the boundaries of the monetization (ie bring more people and more activities in more places into the monetary economy) at the other. Investments, for instance in increased resource use intensity or efficiency, do not detract from the underlying dynamic, although they may extend the life of the pyramid. In between there are all manner of pyramids operating at different scales and supported by legitimate business, criminality or a mixture of the two. The requirement for continued expansion remains a common feature.

Odo, I'm missing something here. I don't see how Leanan's argument is in any way refuted by asserting that Leanan is a doomer. As of right now, we have plenty of oil in the USA, and we still have the problem. There's only limited room at the top of the pyramid. That diminishes the value of promises of upward mobility, or even turns them into just pie in the sky by and by.

That, in turn, means the only fair approach is to see to it that our gardener receives an honest wage.

In the real world, the market works. Our gardener does not now, and will not ever, receive an honest wage, as long as he or she is continually undercut to zero by a limitless stream of immigrants from a semi-failed state whose people seem forever to obstinately refuse to get their own act together on their own home territory.

I rather tend to agree with Molly Ivins (except for her snide remark about jailing folks who have peoperly done their due diligence) at face value, even though I hardly think she is seeking that sort of agreement. I don't feel any moral obligation to pay even one cent in taxes to subsidize dysfunctional business relationships that leave one or more of the parties as state charges. And that's what I'm doing right now with respect to our gardener and his or her employer.

Of course, there might be a cheaper way than Ivins's suggestion of throwing the employers in jail -- strip them of their wealth and exile them with nothing to whatever country is involved in their particular case.

A couple days ago Leanan told me she expected 99% dieoff in the United States, long term, post peak oil.  I now view her peak oil views through that filter.

I'm not sure where you are going with the rest.  There have been gardeners before there was industrial society.  There was industrial society before there was oil.  I think there will be industrial society, and gardeners, after oil. ?

I also think this expectation of dieoff, and "bad behavior" as oil becomes expensive and scarce, is itself dangerous.  Not because it is likely to to damage society at the macro level, but because it could lead to some real ugliness at the micro level - gas station fisticuffs, etc.

Living in a country where the loss (or win) of a championship ball game can lead to rioting, is it that hard to believe that if you go on the news and say that there isn't any gasoline left this week that there might be trouble?

Watch the news clips from last summer in New Orleans for an idea of what behavior "we" are capable of.

Are so different that the people who lived the Great Depression?
I doubt it, other than being much more comfortable standard of living wise.
I do think that peak oil will mean "small tragedies" like shootings in gas lines, etc.  It would be nice if we missed out on that, but it's the kind of stuff that happend (rarely) in the 70's.
Are so different that the people who lived the Great Depression?

Yes.   At least in what 'we' know and what 'we' expect.

No access to mass marketing 'creating want' - want that is shown by that same mass media how it is OK to  take by force.

No living relatives who can tell the younger how they lacked the tools we are used to today.

Boy, I munged that one by typing fast and not looking back, should be:

"Are we so different than the people who lived the Great Depression?"

Not at all.  But the Great Depression did cause a lot of violence and unrest.  Crime exploded.  

And that was only four years of economic contraction.  What happens when it's 14 years, or 40?

Please check your facts. Crime rates fell dramatically during the Great Depression.
The length of a depression is important. The rug is initially pulled from the beneath the feet of a population which does not turn reflexively to violence as its members have been raised in a peaceful society. However, if the depression lasts for long enough, the next generation may be raised under very different circumstances. Their response to further economic shocks (which could become relatively frequent if it is also a period of significant economic volatility) could differ markedly from that of their parents.
That's a thought.  Though it's bad enough even with a "short" economic decline.

Note dramatic decline in homicide rate from early thirties all the way through the Great Depression until the end of 1940, when unemployment was still in the double digits.

Some of this decline after 1932 was due to a reduction in organized crime after the end of Prohibition, but that was a relatively small element.

Sociologists are not good at predicting when, where, or to what extent social order collapses. For example, no sociologist predicted the beginning of the major urban riots in the U.S. in 1965, and (to the best of my knowledge), not a single one predicted their rather abrupt end several years later.

Collective (mob) behavior is one thing sociologists do not know much about. Social change is another.

Numbers in the range of 5-10 per 100,000 hardly prove a tipping point into broad social disorder (machete wielding genocidal mobs).

My goodness, stability in that range should make you reform your thoughts about the precariousness you see in our civilization.

Me?  I am not a doomer, remember.  I think man's inhumanity to man will lead to continued stability, not instability.
You asked:

But the Great Depression did cause a lot of violence and unrest.  Crime exploded.  

And that was only four years of economic contraction.  What happens when it's 14 years, or 40?

What did you think would happen in 14 years, or 40?  I gathered you were implying social disorder.

Civil unrest is not the same thing as the end of civilization (as implied by your "precariousness of society" comment).  
No "end of civilization" is more like the 99% dieoff you've predicted for our far future.

In the short term, the question is whether civil unrest would explode past what we have managed (while maintaining our democratic and civil institutions) in the past.

No "end of civilization" is more like the 99% dieoff you've predicted for our far future.

Yup, but we're not talking about the far future now.  We're talking about in our lifetimes.

In the short term, the question is whether civil unrest would explode past what we have managed (while maintaining our democratic and civil institutions) in the past.

Hard to say for sure, but if I had to bet, I'd say the rich will be all right.  They usually are.  They may be living in walled compounds, but they'll be all right.

The difference will be many more Americans will be dropping from the middle class to the poor...with all the crime problems that change in status entails.

"Hard to say for sure" but you've been trying to prove it ... and I don't see any strong rational case for broad decline, leaving "the rich" in "walled compounds."

This is just pessimism, and doesn't need facts.

You're the one who asked me what I thought it would be like.  You have to expect some speculation when you do that, y'know.
The news clips lied about New Orleans. Talk to someone who was there. There are some on this site.
I've talked to some who were there and say the news reports were exaggerated.  I've also talked to some who were there and say it was much worse than reported.
Probably both sets of people were telling you the truth, Leanan.

As one who has been involved in some events heavily covered by the media, my perception is that what you experience depends enormously on time and place--and that means half an hour or two hundred yards can make all the difference.

Bad news makes news; that is part of the business, and if you have a great visual of a fire or bodies floating, run it. The "good news" that many people avoided the worst is not news.

Just to be clear, that's very long term - hundreds of years - and that's assuming we go through a long, slow catabolic collapse, rather than a powerdown or fast dieoff.

Of course there will be gardeners?

(I wasn't party to the conversation about 99% so won't comment - yet- on that part.)

Ack, this belonged here!

Of course there will be gardeners?

(I wasn't party to the conversation about 99% so won't comment - yet- on that part.)

[ Parent | Reply to This ]

Then just point me to an honest, numeric, engineering argument for doom.


That one is at least quasinumeric, but the problem is that it paints all energy sources (resources really) and all consumption with the same broad brush.

I'll give you this much:  If technology remains static, then we will end the fossil fuel stage of our industrialization with limited renewable sources: biomass, tidal, geothermal, solar, wind, ...

The problem I have with "doom" is that it may take a century to really get down to that stage, and it is not cornucopian (it is moderate) to say we cannot specifiy what technological improvements will have been made by that time.

You get a century out in your prediction and you are essentially doing science fiction.  This is quite unlike the worrying short-term predictions we can make (a decade out) about oil and natural gas shortfalls, given our current infrastructure and technical abilities.

 I believe you are trying to argue against the laws of thermodynamics: Energy can be neither created nor destroyed . . .

 So regardless of our technical sophistication we cannot create energy.

 We can utlize energy do do a great many other things and that is what we have been doing for the last 200 odd years; we have been consuming an irreplacable stock of energy, one which represents several thousand decades of captured sunlight.

 It is possible that we might employ techncology to compensate for the decline in oil resources. But if we intend to do that then we need to start now as we need significant time to implement the required changes, invent and deploy the technology etc. Google the Hirsch Report for greater detail.

 I do not understand your comment regarding predicting the birthrate 50 years out. The issue is not the birth rate of people, the issue is that of the creation rate of automobiles. As China and India enrich their populations they are going to increase the rate of car ownership and this will increase the demand for oil. So the growth in oil production must at least equal the growth in demand.

 But we already know that despite significant investment in E&P the discovery rate for petroleum is going down. Coupled with that is the fact that the existing major fields on which we depend are all in depletion. Heading Out, Stuart, Yankee, and Khebab have all posted excellent analyses of depletion rates. Search on their names.

 Bottom line? We have been pumping a finite reseource for 200 odd years and all good things come to an end. Increased demand and declining production will put a big squeeze on any economy highly dependent on petroleum. Prepare to be squeezed.

That study just talks in general terms about exponential growth, and then pretends that such broad math will be the principal driver for our short term population/resource outcomes.

You don't have to argue against thermodynamics to look at that report and say "so?"

Ultimately, given unlimited population growth and a mixture of finite and renewable resources, we will run out of the finite ones.  Everybody knows that.

The difference between an optimist at one end, a moderate in the middle (me), and a pessimist at the other, is how close we feel we are to exhausting those finite resources, and how we expect we will adjust to that exhaustion.

Oil is a finite resource that we, the peak oilers, think we can see declining in the short term.  And so we think we can talk rationally about that.  Talking about everything else, with a broad brush, hundreds of years out is just silly.  There are too many variables.  For one thing, we are seeing declining birthrates in many countries, and we might see that in more as affluence spreads.

Will children born 100 years from now have enough coal?  Hard question, because we don't know how many children there will be, how much coal they will have, or how much they will need it.

Let's try 50 years, odograph. For centuries now we have seen relentless growth in human population. Do you really expect that to change between now and 2056? Is it "moderate" to claim that we should not expect increased population over the next 5 decades? No, that is wishful thinking.

Only a handful of nations have seen flat or decreasing population growth rates. Others still grow, at rates as low as 1% but many far higher. But guess what? That 1% growth is still doubling every 70 years or so. A 5% growth rate is doubling every 12. At 1% growth can the world sustain 11+ billion human beings with dignity? Or will those 11 billion human beings be facing serious issues of health and even survival? The only way population can reasonably be expected to decrease over the next 5 decades is serious dieoff. Thus the question is simply how much more growth. Flat population and decline will not occur short of serious social disruption (collapse or war).

Look around at the damage we are doing to the environment, the fish dieoffs, the krill dieoffs in the Antarctic, global warming, and then nearly double the number of humans while cutting available liquid fuels by half or more.

No, we cannot know with certainty what will happen but anyone who looks at that scenario and thinks we do NOT need to do risk mitigation is beyond foolish. And right now no risk mitigation is happening. Look at New Orleans. The Corp of Engineers accurately called the disaster several years in advance. Risk mitigation could have been done and was NOT. And the disaster came. Why should humanity as a whole magically be exempt?

I disagree with doomers who say this is inevitable. I don't think that is true because I believe we have the necessary technology right now to address all these issues. The problem is that the answers available to us are unpalatable to many thus we choose to avoid the answers. But if we lack the social and political will to implement the existing solutions, then we are simply praying to the gods in the sky to rescue us from future foolishness. This is not science. This is superstitious religion. You are welcome to such if you choose but I'd rather go with a reality based viewpoint. If we can develop better solutions in the future, fine, but we are now beyond the point when we can continue to wait for tomorrow. The disaster is already in motion.

We can get into various discussions, driven by various definitions of who "we" is.

If we take the conservative position that "we" are members of a democratic society repsonsible for our own future ... I think it is arguable that we will have a declining population in 50 years.

If we take the wide open position that "we" are members of the human species on earth ... I can't help feel echos of last night's television, and neocon drives to reshape the world as we see fit.

Fact is, programs and actions are taking place with respect to peak oil, global warming, population growth, etc. ... world wide.

I thnk we have first a moral responsibility to get our house in order, and second a moral responsibility advise and asist other cultures.

And at this point energy imperialism is more part of the problem than part of the solution.

BTW, what will the world-wide birth rate be in 50 years?

No one knows, science fiction.

On "Why do you think things will be different in the future?"

That's easy.  Energy is going to get more expensive, and scarce, but as I look around me I see opportunities for savings wall-to-wall.

I can see by casual inspection that 90% of the unique items in a supermarket could be eliminated without impacting human survival, or vital industries.

It takes a heck of a lot less energy to grow, prepare, and deliver a 5 pound bag of masa (for tortillas) than the equivalent 5 pounds of corn-based junk food.

That still doesn't explain why you think our behavior will be different in the future.  If we don't give up the cheez curls now to help a hungry child in Africa (or New York, for that matter), what makes you think we will do so in the future?
I think you are moving goalposts on me.  Why will we save our own industrial society, and not the starving child in africa?

I suppose that is because we have an inner balance between our tendancies towards altruism and our own prosperity.  What I observe is that even famous benefactors (Bill Gates?) are applauded when they give sizable minorities of their wealth to such admirable goals.  We seem to have an internal expectation in our heads that this is reasonable.  If there are calls for Bill to turn over all his fortune, in his lifetime, they are few and far between.

No, I am not moving the goalposts.  The question is not whether we will maintain our industrial society.  It's whether we can continue the infinite growth that allows those on the bottom to rise to at least the middle, and those on top to assuage their guilt by telling themselves that anyone who works hard can reach the top.

You seem to assuming that human behavior will drastically change post-peak.  That Bill Gates will willingly give up his wealth so that poor people can become middle class.  I don't see that happening.  At least, not to any degree that will matter.

We had a mobile society in America before we burned oil.
That was fueled by expansion.  We "discovered" a continent full of unexploited natural resources, and colonized it.  
Ah those were the good old days, when the Petri Dish was virtually empty and an ambitious young man (or woman) could Go West to make their fortunes.

Now we are bumping up against boundaries. Peak Oil is a boundary. The end of the American Dream is a boundary. (The "Dream" having been that each successive generation will be better off than their parents, --better jobs, better health, better technology, bigger cars, bigger homes, more happiness. Growth to infinty and beyond --all without the gruesome truth of increased competition and scarcer resources.)

The internet frontier suffered a bubble and a crash, but many of us still pay for our growth and expansion by herding bits.

One half of the zero-sum argument deals with resources, and the other half is the expecation of tech.

The moderate view is that we'll have resources, and new tech, for quite some time.

But I think it's possible we could do that.  I just don't think we will.  After all, we could provide food and clean water for the entire world now, if we were willing to give up the bottled water and cheese puffs.  But we aren't doing it.

Why do you think things will be different in the future?

Things will definitely be different in any country which maintains its democratic institutions. In a democracy, you're not going to end up with a comfy, pampered elite in the middle of a starving, disgruntled horde. Recall the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette wasn't willing to give up her bottled water and cheese puffs, but that didn't really matter much because the starving masses arrested her and cut her head off. Problem solved.

Wow, JD has become a doomer!  :-D

I do recall the French Revolution.  Some argue that it wasn't really a peasant revolution.  That is, that it wouldn't have succeeded without support from some of the disgruntled elite.  I suspect it will come down to whether the military sides with the government or with the masses.  

In any case, if your scenario plays out, we may see technology end pretty quickly.  The Maya seem to have collapsed when the peons rose up and killed (or drove off) the elite.  There's evidence that some tried to continue the building and such that had gone before, but simply did not know how.  Those who did were gone.

In our society, the elite are the educated.  Kill them off, and it doesn't bode well for a high-tech society.

The French revolution was not a peasant based revolution. It was started by the Estates General, called by the King  to raise taxes to enable the State to pay it's debts. It was a conflict between the landowners, who wanted to not pay taxes, and the loanowners, who wanted to be paid for the money they had previosly loaned to the government.
Later, it spread.
Sort of like what's going to happen here when the rest of the world stops giving us free money.
We can certainly call a mass-production, mass-consumption, society a "pyramid scheme" ... but it's obviously worked for 200+ years,

Sure you can.   Human labor and grown plant matter used to be the energy source.  Oil was substuted, and that substitution allowed the apperence of pyrnidal-growth.

That base is changing, and it will hit the consumption model that 'worked' for 200 years hard.

Of course, 'worked' is in the eyes of the beholder.

"Human labor and grown plant matter used to be the energy source.  Oil was substituted, and that substitution allowed the appearance of pyramidal-growth."

It was probably closer to ... human labor, animal labor, biomass power, water power, maybe a little wind power (for wells, mills, etc), coal power, and finally oil and natural gas.

Tech, in the sense of knowledge of how to leverage the resources around us, is half the equation.  A cornucopian says "it's all happy, because tech is all there is."  A doomer says "it's all sad, because resources are all there is."

A moderate tries to measure both reasonably, and unemotionally.

A cornucopian says "it's all happy, because tech is all there is."  A doomer says "it's all sad, because resources are all there is."

And the realist believes that his fellow man are bastards, and the violent subset of bastards won't be happy when they no longer have the bread and circuses they used to have.   That unhappyness will lead to violence VS the well prepared.

I think that might be "a sociopath believes ..."

We should not, in our concern about peak oil, give free rein to the sociopaths.

We should not, in our concern about peak oil, give free rein to the sociopaths.

What's the excuse then for Rockafellow's Standard Oil, the burning of the Reighstock, introduction of smallpox blankets to Indians, Nero setting fire to Rome, and the list goes on and on.  

Man's inhumanity to man is well documented.   What makes the coming of Peak Oil an event which will change the brutish nature towards each other over resources?

As my other post mentions, there are indeed bad apples that free ride on the cooperation and altruism of the majority.

That doesn't disprove the nature of the majority, and I especially don't think it argues that the majority should give up their positive tendencies.

BTW, read "The Winner's Curse" for good evidence that what we call "altruism" and "cooperation" might just be "human nature" and a less documented part of our "behavioral economics."

See "The blank slate" for the conjecture that a certain fraction of the population may be sociopathic, but free ride on the altruism and cooperation of the majority.  This is apparently supported by "game theory" simulations of populations.

IOW, a realist takes into account human nature.  
are all doomers sociopaths?
I don't accept your definition of "sociopath."
That was a cheap shot, I'm sorry.

I suppose I'm using a loose definition based on my "blank slate" and "winner's curse" reading.  It's the antithesis of mutual cooperation and good-dealing, and not so much "criminal" in the conventional sense.

It is not so much that doomers are that, but that they have the expectation that society as a whole will be controlled by that.

Certainly entire societies have been gripped by disorder, but one of the nice things about our American traditions is that we have not.  Having maintained a civil society through things like the Great Depression (and perhaps even our Civil War), our common expectation should be that we can do it again.

Really, think about it, we wrote our constitution back before there was oil, or much coal, burned in America.  Those values should not need oil or coal to survive.  We are not (and should not become) the sort of people who expect to pick up a machete and wail on the neighboring tribe at the first hint of trouble.

We should trust, and thereby reinforce, our civil society.

Certainly entire societies have been gripped by disorder, but one of the nice things about our American traditions is that we have not.  

I disagree.  I am not arguing that we'll collapse into chaos because angry peasants will riot in the streets when they can't afford the electricity to watch American Idol.  I am saying that upward mobility will cease, as the economy shrinks.  Americans, like most people, are not going to willingly lower their standard of living to lift up someone else.  We aren't doing it now, are we?  Why should that change?

Right now, we have (almost) constant growth.  The pie is constantly growing, so people can get a bigger piece without taking it from someone else.  

But when the economy stops growing, or worse, shrinks, you can't get more without someone else getting less. The pie is no longer growing, and if you want a larger slice, someone else's must be smaller.  

Really, think about it, we wrote our constitution back before there was oil, or much coal, burned in America.  

Note that the Constitution protected property, including slaves.  Some of the founding fathers were very uncomfortable with slavery, but they went along.  All the name of cooperation and good-dealing, y'know.

Good point: Lester Thurow expands upon it in his important book, "The Zero-Sum Society" of some years ago.

An economy without growth must focus on issues of redistribution of income--issues that have been conveniently ducked under the rubric of "A rising tide lifts all boats."

But we've got to run out of both resources and new tech, for growth to stop, long term.
Actually, do you even need that?  Can a society feed its own growth with exchange of non-essentials?  Art?

(Tulips might even work, if you avoid speculative bubbles.)

I think robots who can simulate intelligence will take over most work within fifty years in rich societies.

Then the problem for almost everybody will be the problem now faced by those who inherit great wealth and have no need to work--how to use leisure to live wisely, agreeably, and well.

Note that the unemployment in places such as France is structural, not cyclical: There is simply not enough in the way of productive jobs to find "careers" for most young people. Surprise, surprise.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe "intelligent" robots are more than fifty years in the future, but they are coming. So far as I can tell, the only ones to take this scenario seriously are the science-fiction writers, pre-eminently the late great Isaac Asimov.

For a gloomy look at a future with robots, read two novels by Jack Williamson: "The Humanoids," and its sequel, "With Folded Hands."

Note that with robots producing abundant food and renewable energy while preserving the environment the long-run future could be very bright . . . or just the opposite.

In any case, there are some things not to worry about. We know how to get birth rates down below replacement levels--just educate women. This has worked in every single European country, Japan, and also the U.S.

I was thinking of far futures yesterday and pictured robot fish to swim down and eat methane hydrates ;-).  I'm not sure whether nano-fish or robo-whales make a better movie ...

Yes, France is an interesting case study of a populated, technological, country rich in renewable resources but limited in non-renewables ...

Another thought on robotics ... if you read "nanotechnology" books, or watch the few movies, you often see real magic.  A building might be torn down to grey goo in seconds, or a nano-tech redwood tree might sprout out of the ground and grow to the sky as fast.

Peak oilers might be amused to notice that the cheat here is not tech (small devices seem reasonable) but in energy!

How do you make a microscopic machine that carries enough energy to reproduce wildly and tear down a house?  A tiny ethanol tank wouldn't go very far ...

If termites can do it, machine probably can too ... but probably on a similar timescale.

As we were reminded after the dot-com bust, you can't get away from the fundamentals.  Energy is the base of the economy.  The only way to grow the economy without increasing energy use is by increasing efficiency.  But there's a hard limit to efficiency, so you cannot continue to grow by increasing efficiency forever.
Reading as widely as you do, I'm sure you have read of the dot-com millionares and venture capitalists who are now funding solar energy research.

Right there is an example of capital retained from a speculative cycle, and channeled toward society's energy problems.

And I say money doesn't matter, energy does.  

I've no doubt we will throw a lot of money at our problems.  But we won't succeed at keeping the party going, because the laws of thermodynamics are against us.  

By "the party," I mean the constant-growth, happy motoring lifestyle. Will some people do well?  Of course.  Many of the uber-rich did very well during the Great Depression.  But the rising tide won't be lifting all boats any more.  

Don't the laws of thermodynamics favor solar, wind, geothermal, tide, wave, and hyrdo(*) power as long term sources?

* - off the top of my head, did I miss any?

Don't the laws of thermodynamics favor solar, wind, geothermal, tide, wave, and hyrdo(*) power as long term sources?

I think that is yet to be seen.  On paper, they are energy-positive.  Whether we can actually maintain them after TSHTF is still unknown.  There's a lot of "overhead" to complex technology - energy costs that we will not be fully aware of until we have to pay them without cheap oil.  For example, the price of mining metal ores with electricity or biomass instead of oil, or the price of an educational system that trains enough people to keep everything going.  

In any case, because the EROEI isn't as good from these alternate sources, it seems clear to me that we will not be living as well as we have in the past.  We're going from living off Mother Earth's trust fund to working at McDonald's.

We know that these sources make a minority contribution (in most places) now.  I for instance "only" get 11% of my electricity from geothermal.  In other places it is higher (Iceland) and it might climb higher here.

The reason for moderate concern is that conventional oil is peaking and the easy motoring lifestyle is due for adjustment.  No question.

It's science fiction to look too much further than that.  One might alternately write a utopian novel in which nanotech/biotech makes it all work, or a dystopian novel where nothing works.  But it's all fiction.  No one can claim their fanatasy is the far future.

My theme is that in the short term we have real problems, and that we are distracted by the utopians on the one hand (who say there is no problem) and the dystopians on the other (who say we're all dead no matter what we do).

We know that these sources make a minority contribution (in most places) now.  

Those "contributions" are subsidized with fossil fuels.  Concrete, steel, aluminum, silicon, glass, copper...all mined, refined, manufactured, and transported with petroleum.  


In the short term we still have that subsidy.  In the moderate term we still have the coal (etc.) subsidy.  In the long term we will have an indeterminate combination of technology and resources.

It becomes an arbitrary bet whether 100 years from now we will have figured out (global warming and) methane hydrades.  It is meaningless to project that far.

In the short term we still have that subsidy.

But will it be enough?  With less and less of that subsidy available, we'll have to cut back on something.  I suspect the first thing to go will be upward mobility.  Far easier to keep people from achieving the American dream than to take it away from those who already have it.

Some children of gardeners will be smart enough to become solar system installers, others will foolishly become SUV salesmen.

This is where the dark side of being a peak oil moderate comes in - if we rely on the market to manage this change, this break point, then we rely on creative destruction to do our dirty work.

Creative destruction may be creative, but that makes it no less destructive for those on the receiving end.

(I count "short term" as a decade or three.)

BTW, if you are going to invoke thermodynamics, then yes the laws of physics say there is a lot of energy to be had in those renewable sources, for millions of years.  EROEI is about the practical engineering used to exploit those energy sources.

... but the thermodynamics is fine.

The thermodynamics is not "fine."  We don't know what the thermodynamics will be like yet, because we really haven't tried any of the alternatives without fossil fuel inputs.

In any case, just being "energy positive" is not going to be enough to keep the party going.  

You are confusing the thermodynamics (underlying physics) which we do understand, with the engineering which we have trouble projecting.

There is not a violation of thermodynamics that comes with installing solar cells (and a windmill!) on every rooftop in the world.  Period.

There are on the other hand practical, engineering and resource, questions of how to achieve that.

(People invoke "thermodynamics" in the wrong arguments sometimes.)

You are confusing the thermodynamics (underlying physics) which we do understand, with the engineering which we have trouble projecting.

No, I'm not.

OK, which law of thermodynamics is violated by a solar panel and a windmill on every roof?

("The sunlight falling on the United States in one day contains more than twice the energy we consume in an entire year." link)

This is ridiculous.  I'll post at the end of thread.  We're down to less than one word wide now, at least on my screen.



































Are you using a palm-pilot for a screen?
I wonder how small we can make this?
Darn, I did miss biomas.  That's an indirect form of solar, but worth breaking out in its own right.
We should trust, and thereby reinforce, our civil society.

This would be the same society where The President can break the laws of the land, admit to breaking the laws, and memebers of Congress say 'Lets change the laws to make that activity legal'?

Where men who are responsible for millions in illegal payments get 6 years?  

Where the RIAA and MPAA claim damage when people copy thier valuable IP AND admissions from staff in the miltary of massive MP3 copying.....why isn't the MPAA/RIAA going after the military staffers?  

When 'our society' of laws start actually inforcing the laws fully and equally across the board, then we'd have something positive.  

The longer the reality is different then the 'rhetoric of America', the more poeople who will be willing to accept a dismantling of the 'present system' for 'something better'.  

So far our Presidents have (ultimately) been caught for gross violations.  I'd hope that we catch up with this one as well.
So far our Presidents have (ultimately) been caught for gross violations.

Really?  A compelling case can be made that Depleated Uranium is in violation of the Geneva Convention,  

Yet, looking into DU isn't on the national radar screen in the US of A.    (Is Clinton getting heat over DU use?  How about Bush the Greater?)  I'm sure there are 100's of laws broken WRT past presidents, I'm just picking on DU because it is something I've read the documents on.

What about the other legal issues and how they effect the idea of 'rule of law'?

I think I start a bigger pessimist than you.  I look around and see no society on earth that is right, perfect, fair 100% of the time.

On the other hand I do see (big picture) a lot of societies that manage to maintain their civility, that do not descend into (as I've said) machete wielding genocidal mobs.

I guess if you want to go on about how imperfect our society is, you should point to the one that is more perfect.

From my standpoint, it's a win if we maintain a "civil society" even if a "civil society" has always had the sort of warts you identify.

you should point to the one that is more perfect.

From a resource consumption and using what you have within your boarders, the EDO period of Japan had a 200+ year run.

But lets come back to the US of A.   If the nation is goverened by the rule of law, why can US soldiers admit that they have violations of the DMCA, yet the RIAA doesn't go after these soldiers if the law is so valuable?

Why, if The President admits to a violation of law, is a reaction to that violation legally non-existant?

From my standpoint, it's a win if we maintain a "civil society"

Now, how are you going to get that when you need agreement by the stakeholders?  Many of the 'stakeholders' have no real stake NOR do they have an expectation of a stake.  Peak Oil will increase the size of the non-stakeholder class.  With any increaase in size, the total number of violent people who feel the only way of change is the barrel of a gun will increase.

Or are you using the Victorian definition of 'civilized', where if you were rich and had items you were civilized and the rest were rabble?

Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organisations, community groups, women's organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.

... I know the more "doom oriented" end of the peak oil movement expect such things to crumble at the drop of an oil well, but I do not.

(Not sure how EDO Japan was on "uncoerced collective action")

LOL, maybe it's a "peer to peer" pyramid scheme.
   I'll buy that the rich feed off the middle class, but the truly poor people in  the united states are eligble for social programs so they feed off everyone.  And upward mobility does not predicate infinite growth. If you outperform someone they get knocked down a peg.  If someone screws up they get knocked down several.  I know some people start higher on the ladder than others but very few people can say they have no opportunity.
"first generation peasant, second generation merchant, third generation manderin, fourth generation peasant."
I'll buy that the rich feed off the middle class, but the truly poor people in  the united states are eligble for social programs so they feed off everyone.

Even assuming that is true...what about all the poor people who are not in the U.S.?  The child slaves on the cacao plantations, the workers who make our clothing, shoes, computers, in Asian sweatshops, the people who dig gold and silver and uranium from African mines at high risk of death and injury?  

And upward mobility does not predicate infinite growth. If you outperform someone they get knocked down a peg.  If someone screws up they get knocked down several.  

That's true in theory, but in practice, it doesn't work that way.  The rich naturally want to stay rich.  They are in a position to give their children advantages others don't have.  They are careful not to do anything that would dilute their wealth.  (Hence the old tradition of primogeniture - the oldest son getting everything.)

I know some people start higher on the ladder than others but very few people can say they have no opportunity.

That may be true now.  What I am arguing is that it won't be true in the future.  That peak oil will mean the economy stops expanding, and that will mean the end of upward mobility as we know it.

I surely agree with respect for manual labor. John Gardner in his book On Excellence said (approximate quote), "A society that honors philosophers because philosophy is a noble calling and looks down on plumbers because plumbing is not will find that neither its pipes nor its philosophy hold water."

But I question the conventional concept of "upward mobility" as a worthwhile goa. That has meant having power over others with less and less responsibility to produce anything. (Peter Block argued in Stewardship that there should be NO jobs whose primary responsibility is to supervise others.) In a post-peak oil world, I expect the direction of "upward" mobility to be different-to honor those who can produce, and that (I dream) will honor capability and willingness to contribute tangibly to the community and will honor hard work, including that of the Jeffersonian farmer.

Well, I guess I just revealed my own romanticism.

I think you are onto something.  One of the reasons usury - charging interest on a loan - was considered a sin in ancient times is that it was seen as getting money for nothing.  It was wealth you did not produce anything to earn.  The steady-state economies of the time could not support a lot of people who did not produce anything, so that kind of thing was discouraged.  
OK, change it from "upward mobility" to "social mobility" and let the gardener's children decide to be come whatever they want, without restraints from society as a whole.
Why do we have to cast our gardener into the pit and concern ourselves only with the children. That's just pie in the sky by and by. Aren't we conveniently excusing ourselves from taking action in the here-and-now? We aren't capable of solving Mexico's problems - it's simply too big. But we could try addressing our own, or, rather, we could if we got over the idea that we can continue to let the whole world pile in. Times have changed, the frontier closed 100+ years ago, it's not the nineteenth century any more, and we need to get over it.
Are you saying that we can no longer afford "mobility" in our society?  I wasn't making a comment on immigration levels there, just the mobility allowed for our citizens.  I'm afraid that the flip side of mobility is class rigidity, and I would not like to see (any more of) that.
I'm afraid that the flip side of mobility is class rigidity, and I would not like to see (any more of) that.

I wouldn't, either, but I think it's inevitable.  When the cheap energy is gone, so is the upward mobility.

Speaking as a sociologist I must emphatically disagree: The steady-state allows upward mobility--so long as there is an equal and opposite amount of downward mobility by others.

Throughout the history of all civilizations there has been both upward and downward mobility. The big difference of the high growth economies is that there is much more upward than downward social mobility.

 Social mobility in America is in decline:

That is worrying.
Great article.  I expect this trend will increase greatly in the post-carbon age.  
I don't have anything to say about whether we can "afford mobility" because I don't understand the concept when it's phrased that way. Of course we want mobility. But I want to see some mobility and some honest wages in the here and now, not just in some far-distant generation. We are rich enough to pay our gardener decently in the here-and-now, and we have such a huge surplus of otiose "services" that it would be no loss if a good many ill-paying establishments simply closed and stopped wasting human resources. (For example, I'm completely unmoved by the quasi-strike in Los Angeles and elsewhere the other day.)

I am saying that we can no longer afford to let the whole world pile in willy-nilly, in the manner that we did in the 1920s and the remoter past. The frontier is long since closed and every patch of usable land seems to be spoken for (try to site a refinery!) I am implying that I see sharply falling wages, no health insurance for such huge numbers, and so on, as evidence that we are allowing ourselves to be arbitraged into the ground like the F-16 that augered itself at the local airport here a while back.

I support border patrols, and a minimum wage, so I suppose we are on the same page.

I do think that we're kidding ourselves a little bit though, when we have free trade with countries which in turn do not have a minimum wage.  We're just using cheap labor, out of sight, out of mind.

Not that I have a solution to that ...


I would also add that "globalization" is doing great harm to poor people overseas.  Mexico used to be self-sufficient in corn.  Then NAFTA forced them to compete with U.S. agribusiness.  They couldn't, of course.  Now Mexico must import corn.  Will that be a good thing, when TSHTF?  What if we decide to put that corn in our SUVs instead of selling it to them?

Then there are all those plantations that grow luxury crops like cocoa, sugar, and coffee for foreigners, instead of food for the local people who really need it.

As Heinberg puts it, globalization is a way for us to take other countries' resources because we've used up our own.  As you say, out of sight, out of mind.  

Maybe we're all sociopaths...

My best friend and future brother in law came here a few years ago with no education recognized by th US and speaking no English.  In less than five years he owns a nice car and is a paramedic/firefighter making 50K a year.  His parents came with him and worked their asses of to get ahead. They have cars and jobs and are doing fine. This family came to the US with nothing.  To say upward mobility does not exist is ridiculous. Even today anyone in america can do anything given enough hard work.
Good point, but please remember that just because somebody makes it to some level of the pyramid doesn't mean there's unlimited room there. In the same way, the fact that somebody makes it to work on Monday morning doesn't mean the freeway is adequate to the demand. Speaking metaphorically, the solution du jour to such problems seems to be to teach aggressive driving (i.e. working oneself to exhaustion) rather than to increase the supply of freeways or reduce the demand.

We seem to have immense trouble constructing new freeways, of both the literal and metaphorical kind. I can identify no evidence or promise that that will improve. Peak oil - even just peak light sweet crude - seems to be set to make it worse. I conclude that times have changed. The era of limitless mass immigration needs to end. (And it follows that the era when semi-failed states could export their problems instead of getting to work solving them is over.)

Speaking metaphorically.  I have guns lots of them. If TSHTF, there will be a pyramid much like whats on the US dollar.  Guys like me (and I expect much worse) will EAT the rich before their families go hungry.  Pyramids will always exist no man is an island. We all serve something.
Guys like me (and I expect much worse) will EAT the rich before their families go hungry.

Well, then, consider this: an awful lot of people out there think that you are the rich.  And a lot more will after TSHTF.

If you all (sorry, y'all) want to debate immigration and upward mobility, perhaps you should read the seminal study in this regard, by Borjas and Katz (2005).  Unfortunately, the full free version was taken off some time after I read it, but you can get the flavor of it in this summary:
this may be another chapter in a long stuggle.

americans kicked mexicans out of california with out compensation for their property.

history of mariano vallejo is a good example.

after defeat at san jacinto
mexico may be counter attacking?

these struggles take time.

Our bribing Pemex workers to work on our rigs would be PO neutral if US wells produce as much as Pemex wells, but they don't. Pemex does not have the capital, is now losing their workers, so as Cantarell goes down there will no replacement, Mexican exports to the US will decline, and our new wells will not compensate. PO will advance and crude will climb, just as we want - another triumph for globalization, hidden hand, markets etc.
Do you think Mexico will be forced to allow IOCs in, to develop their resources?
It depends on what you mean by 'forced'. It seems Cantarell decline will not be compensated until Pemex can tap deep gulf deposits, and they have neither the skill or capital (all revenues are either paid to bloated Pemex workforce or siphoned off by gov, so nothing available for investment) to develop these resources. This might be ok because oil probably worth more later, but the loss of export earnings will cause the gov to either raise taxes or cut services. So, the populace might 'force' the intellectuals, including the PRI, to accept foreign investment, still anathema today.
If by force you mean force of arms, I think there is no chance of that regardless of who is running the US. Likewise, while there is talk of Canada leaving NAFTA on account of running out of hydrocarbons, I first think they will probably not do it and, second, that if they do, there is no chance we would invade.
No, I wasn't thinking force of arms.  Forced as Kuwait is being forced to open up.  

Someone said earlier that Mexico has borrowed a lot of money against future production from Cantarell - production that now seems likely to be nonexistant.  So there will be pressure on them to replace that production.

Y'all have pretty much beat this one up, but I had a thought:

[quote]I thought it was important to relay what our open borders are doing to Texans and to the oil drilling business on BOTH sides of the border.  Again, so many things are rearing their ugly heads around the country it's hard to keep track of them!![/quote]

Good info, perhaps, but this smacks to me of the racism brought up before.  It's the summary idea that "our open borders" are the problem.  

IF experienced oil workers are in such high demand, not just here but around the world, then why are workers willing to work at half the wage?  That, to me, is the question.

Are Americans demanding too high a wage?  
Are the other workers demanding too low a wage?  Why?

If they are in our country illegally (which of course is the hot topic on all the talk shows right now) then it's pretty easy to "fix" the problem if you are an American that wants the job.  A phone call or two and they are sent home.  

If they are here legally, then we have a simple labor problem, where the workers feel they are worth X, but as long as the boss can find similar workers willing to work for "X/2", the lower paid worker gets the job.  Perhaps somebody should be educating the poor guys that they could get more money if they all agree to ask for more.

Isn't this all fairly moot, with the oil fields in Texas (on land at least) well past their peak?  

For the bigger picture of migrant workers willing to work for less, that will not be so easy to solve.  I'm pretty sure "oil" up above was just trolling, but he/she exhibits a mentality I've heard many times before.  People that argue we shouldn't teach spanish in school, since anybody coming to our country to work should be required to speak english.  People that argue that (X or Y minority) is inherantly lazy, or that they are corrupt, or whatever.  Yes, these people exist.  And yes, some of them are in charge of hiring and firing and managing companies - big companies.

It wasn't that long ago that I heard the term "Oil field trash" used to describe rig workers that came into town to blow some of their money on Saturday night.  I don't know if it is still used anymore (we hear "white trash" or "redneck" more) but the sentiment is still there amongst many folks.  Doesn't make it right, of course.

Ben -

First off, "a phone call or two" will do nothing. There aren't enough people in INS to follow up on every phone call.

Second, the wages paid in Mexico are in Mexican pesos, and minimum wage here is still better than "high wages" in Mexico, and you get paid in dollars which are more stable. They aren't going to push for more wages because they are here without papers - why draw attention to yourself when you are here illegally? Just take your money and be quiet is the way it works out.

The big reason I am against the current open border policy is that it is driving down wages for Americans, reducing our average standard if living. I don't buy the argument that Americans will not do the work, but I will buy the argument that Americans cannot maintain their middle class standard of living at wages Mexican illegals are willing to work for.  So the illegals willing to work for less aren't doing jobs we will not do, but doing jobs at much less than we can afford to and keep living in our nice homes.

How? They work here for months, then go home where they can make their dollars stretch farther, be with their families, and improve their lives. I would do it too, were I in their shoes and had nothing at all to dissuade me except the possibility I might get picked up and have to recross the border again - that's it - that's the maximum penalty.

If you are for unlimited immigration (called migration), then you are for lowering your own standard of living. And if you do not think it is a seasonal migration, then go to the border now - you will see thousands GOING HOME because summer is coming, and they don't want to work in the heat. BFI is having trouble staffing their garbage crews because the illegals have all left for home. I know - this is what our BFI driver told us today. I cornered him because it's been 3 weeks since they picked up my trash. Turns out it is only him and no crew trying to make his route - no way he can do it alone. His crew all left until next fall...

This argument is based solidly on economics - race isn't the issue. If people enter this country willing to work for less, they will displace current workers and wage structures. But they can only do this by returning home, where their American money is worth much more, or by living in poor conditions and overcrowded housing here, which nobody wants to do unless it is temporary. Most illegals are here to make a buck then go home where their cost of living is much less than our own, and their dollars go much farther.

This raises their own standard, but not to the same degree that it reduces ours. What it is producing is a huge windfall for corporations playing wage arbitrage. But the net result will be reduction in the US standard of living, because the more of this that goes on, the more downward pressure on domestic wages.

I think it could be fixed, but it will not be. Even if a bill or two is passed, it doesn't mean that congress will pass enough in the budget later to fund it. They garner votes from the illegals and election funds from the corporations - so what side is their bread buttered?  

I'm just hoping that PO send globalism packing, because it isn't good for middle class America, IMO.

I think it could be fixed, but it will not be. Even if a bill or two is passed, it doesn't mean that congress will pass enough in the budget later to fund it. They garner votes from the illegals and election funds from the corporations - so what side is their bread buttered?  

Exactly.  Our government has been for sale for a long time.  And these same companies are the ones that throw the lavish inauguration parties and fly senators to Cancun on "fact finding" missions and the like.  

I join the chorus that says how about we enforce our existing laws before we re-invent the wheel?  How about taking some Halliburton money and giving INS the tools to do their job?  How about companies like BFI are put out of business / made ineligible for govt. contracts if they break the law?  

Oh, wait, that might mean (gasp) higher taxes, or paying more to have our garbage taken to the dump.  America is unwilling to pay that price.

Pay $10.00 a gallon for gasoline, and they will be even more unwilling to pay that price.  Watch and see...

How about you take them off the Government payroll if they break the law?

 Take George II and put him in Guantanamo for remedial lessons on upholding the constitution. He is, after all, unlawful combatant number 1.

A Halliburton subsidary will get the contract for building that new border fence.
possible solution? remove the Mexican peso, replace it with the dollar.
"This argument is based solidly on economics - race isn't the issue."

Race is always an issue.

I'll just make my usual socialist comment and then run for cover.

What PG's story basically says is that globalization (capitalism on a global scale) is working as planned. The world's people are becoming a source of cheap labor. You want to work? Ask for or take less. This is exactly what was intended by the various parties that worked out the various globalization treaties.

Nobody asked for my opinion on these agreements, for example, NAFTA. The capitalist elites just worked them out among themselves.

As to the "racism" nonsense on this thread, that's just noise masking the globalization cheap labor signal. And that signal is coming in loud & clear.

And by the way, it would be nice if the Koreans would manage to meet their contractual obligations to PEMEX instead of taking what amount to bribes from the Chinese to give them the goods instead.

later, Dave

I'm so good at picking nits!  

Anyway, the wording in the original post was "rather than sell at previously contracted prices"

Perhaps they completed their old contract?  And the Chinese (or Russians or Iranians or whomever) are willing to pay more?

I didn't realize we were dependant on the Koreans for oil field pipe, so all of this is news to me.  Do we have recourse in some international treaty way to get them to honor their contracts, if that is indeed the problem?  

If the globalists are right (and I'm not saying they are), the next thing that should happen is that Pemex should raise its wages to re-attract those workers.

The ultimate outcome of free trade between the US and Mexico (or China) has to be a leveling of GDP/capita ... but with a fast transition we see a capital drain out of the US, as well as the predicted/promised wealth creation.

I suppose the economists must already be doing studies to argue which has been the biggest factor: wealth creation or wealth redistribution.

I'm starting to think that global free trade might be good, but fast transitions might be bad.

The idea that globalization will tend to equalize per-capita incomes between nations is an old one--and mostly wrong. Poor nations, such as Mexico, tend to stay poor because they are stuck in a population trap and have other problems that have kept most of the population poor. Some nations with no obvious advantages (Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) have done extremely well, and others, such as Saudi Arabia have pissed away humongous wealth.

Africa is poor and getting poorer.

Parts of India are doing well, but the numbers of those below any poverty line you care to draw in India keep increasing. Malthus was right for many countries.

Most of rural China is extremely poor, and it is questionable whether this fact is going to change. Again, there are more desperately poor people in China now than there were 100 years ago, when a typical greeting was, "Have you eaten today?" and lakes had signs posted saying, "Babies not to be drowned here!" because the problem of female infanticide was causing major water pollution problems.

There is a matrix here of cultural and economic factors.  If we had a culture prone to machete wielding genocide our GDP might suffer  as well ...
BTW, I agree that we are seeing that GDP/capita obviously does not equalize quickly, easily, or painlessly.  Given a "do over" I think I might shoot for a 50 year transition ... unless a good case could be made that wealth creation would overpower wealth redistribution in a shorter timeframe.
Skipping the part about racism, I'm just not reading the original post the same way that the rest of you seem to be.

What I'm seeing is:

Pemex is in trouble: They can't get pipe because they can't or won't pay the market price. And they're losing their workers because the workers can make enough more in Texas to be worth leaving their families for. So they can't drill new wells to replace declining old ones.

From there we go to 'we are in trouble'. That's the global we, not just the US we. Pemex is several percent of world production, and if they decline extra fast because they can't build new infrastructure, then world production is down, world price goes up, and China, India, the EU and everyone else suffers right along with the US.

Yes there's an effect on US roughnecks, but there's a whole lot more there too.

Apparently, Frank, PEMEX had contracts in place that the Koreans feel no obligation to meet in light of higher current prices created by the cash-rich Chinese. Re-negotiation of contracts can be made if both parties agree, but a contract is a contract.

I hope you're getting my meaning here. Because if all bets are off as far as competition for hydrocarbons (or the equipment needed to develop them) goes then we are all going to be in a world of hurt really, really soon.

In fact, this is one of the warning signs, the proverbial "Canary in the Coal Mine", of something called Peak Oil.

best, Dave

Dave -

While I obviously have no way of proving it, I have a strong hunch that the reason the South Koreans gave China favorable treatment regarding steel products for drilling, etc. has much more to do than the immediate cash differential involved.

If I am not mistaken, China has served as a brake on North Korean agression every bit as much as the US token 'trip-wire' presence in South Korea. Thus, I strongly suspect that it was implicitly understood by both China and South Korea, with a wink and nod, that it would be in their best interest to be nice to China. So that is why South Korea is nice to China.

This is why it should be abundantly clear that major international trade is not just about business, but also about global power politics, the outward manifestation of which can be exquisitely subtle.

The thing I fear is that much of the world is rapidly coming to the conclusion that it is in more in their best interest in being nice to China than in being nice to the US.

The US makes war; China makes deals.


"Re-negotiation of contracts can be made if both parties agree, but a contract is a contract."

Boy, my experience in the mining business suggests otherwise.  I've "lost" drill rigs I had contracts for...I guess I could sue them or something but I am in the mining business not the lawyering business.  Besides, I am probably going to go back to these guys again, so suing them would be counterproductive.  I even understand their reasons... I mean if I've got this little twenty hole/$70.000 project, and Newmont comes along with a multi-year $4,000,000 offer...well I would probably throw over for that too.

Where have you been? The UN Charter isn't a charter. Kyoto isn't Kyoto. ABT isn't ABT. WMDs aren't WMDs. The NPT isn't a NPT. Sovereignty isn't sovereignty. Reality isn't reality.

Get real. A contract is NOT a contract.

Power, however, is still power.

Power, however, is still power.

 Very true.

 There is the power that comes out of the front end of an F-16. And then there is the power that comes out of the end of a boxcutter.

 Truly great power appears to arise from words and ideas and the voluntary sharing of those words and ideas, without the use of force or coercion.

 "We declare these truths to be self evident  . . ." It's unfortunate that today no country in the world quite understands what those words mean.

Nice of you to say...I'm just coming to the end of Jonathan Schell's "The Unconquerable World," and the discussion of coercive vs. cooperative power has been most enlightening. Highly recommend the book if you have the time.
Thanks for this, Seadragon. Looks like a good book.
The US abides by whatever treaties they want to (or not) and feels no obligation to prior arrangements. This has been noted by the world's nations in general. It is thought, among them, that the US and it's addiction to oil--crack cocaine-just to be clear, is a political consideration that can be exploited one way or another.

In any case, the addict (the US) is screwed when the supplier (major oil exporters to the US) is not able to make the required quotas.

OK, which law of thermodynamics is violated by a solar panel and a windmill on every roof?

("The sunlight falling on the United States in one day contains more than twice the energy we consume in an entire year."

That would be the first and the second.  

Most of the sunlight falling on earth is already doing work.  Powering weather and currents, growing crops and other plants, etc.  Really, except for nuclear, all our energy sources are solar.  Wind, wood, hydroelectric, biomass, fossil fuels - all solar in origin.

Where the 2nd law rears its head is conversion.  We cannot capture all the energy of the sunlight that hits the earth.  It's impossible, according to the 2nd law.  Indeed, something like 7/8 of it is scattered by earth's atmosphere on the way down.

Because of this conversion/capture problem, even covering every roof in the country with solar panels would not replace the energy we get from fossil fuels.  

I admire you for taking a shot at it, but you are mixing thermodynamic (usable power) with engineering (efficiency, cost, etc.) issues.

The bottom line from the thermodynamic standpoint is the amount of solar energy reaching the earth's surface(*).  Here's a page with a bunch of numbers:

Incident Solar Energy on the ground:

  • Average over the entire earth = 164 Watts per square meter over a 24 hour day

  • 8 hour summer day, 40 degree latitude 600 Watts per sq. meter

So over this 8 hour day one receives:

  • 8 hours x 600 watts per sq. m = 4800 watt-hours per sq. m which equals 4.8 kilowatt hours per sq. m

  • This is equivalent to 0.13 gallons of gasoline

  • For 1000 square feet of horizontal area (typical roof area) this is equivalent to 12 gallons of gas or about 450 KWH

But to go from energy received to energy generated requires conversion of solar energy into other forms (heat, electricity) at some reduced level of efficiency.

That's the end of the "thermo" piece of the equation.  To make that thermodynamics work, we need some good (better than we have) engineering.  We need solar panels that are some combination of (1) cheap, (2) efficient, and (3) long-lived.

If solar panels kept producing and did not degrade for 100 years we could probably not care what they cost, but right now those three values don't balance that well.

* - for this discussion, long term people talk about space-based power.

I admire you for taking a shot at it, but you are mixing thermodynamic (usable power) with engineering (efficiency, cost, etc.) issues.

That, then, is where we disagree.  I say the Second Law is all about efficiency.  It's a hard limit on what we can achieve with better technology.

One way to look at it: fossil fuels are all solar energy.  Millions of years of solar energy, concentrated by nature.  By contrast, collecting solar energy with solar panels, wind turbines, or biomass is like gleaning wheat from an already-harvested gleaned field.  We will have to work a lot harder to get the same amount of energy, and that means our standard of living will inevitably fall.

Thermodynamics helps us understand the upper bounds of energy recovery, but with 450 KWH potential (per day) at my roof, I don't think we need to explore the upper bounds.  My personal use is currently 120 KWH (per month).

Assuming just 50% efficiency, I get to export (30 * 450/2) - 120 = 6630 KWH (per month)

Naturally that "win" is offset by the energy costs of making the panels, and the amortization over their lifetime.  Those are concrete engineering issues.

The problem (for a peak oil moderate) is that those problems have not been solved, and are not likely to be solved in the short term.  Of course, looking out over the long term ... while we have a poor record of predicting our future, we do get a lot of neat stuff we didn't expect.

My personal use is currently 120 KWH (per month).

I bet it's much higher than that, if you take into account your total energy use.  The energy it took to grow your food, manufacture and fuel your transportation, make your clothes and computer and all the other things you use each month.

In the solar-powered economy of pre-industrial Britain, glass was so valuable (because it took so much fuel to make) that glass windows were removed from the castle when the lord was away, and replaced with wooden shutters.  

Mine is not the only roof in the world ;-)
I once calculated that a 50 mile square of desert, 2500 square miles, at 9% conversion efficiency (the then value for cheap panels), was sufficient to generate as much electrical power as the US currently generates from all sources, coal, nukes, hydro and ng. Note too that the peak air conditioning demand occurs when solar power is at its maximum.
The problem is that $60 oil and $8 ng is too cheap to justify wide spread solar use, and meanwhile wind is still more efficient in areas where wind is usually strong. What we need is a commitment from utilities to purchase power from home generated solar at the same price they pay outside sources for power at that (peak) time, which might be enough to create a demand for panels, and this demand would lower cost and eventually improve efficiency. Incidentally, I just read a discussion of indium alloys that seem to be tuned to solar wavelength, possibly incrasing efficiency of cheap panels to 25-50%, which would be revolutionary.
As people become confident that high energy prices are here to stay, we will see the hidden hand bring more alternatives to market. The truth is that civilization will not fall if oil goes to $200, and this price will see a plethora of alternatives (alongside painful demand destruction that usefully brings about widespread carpooling and reduced congestion/pollution. Funny that many call for higher energy taxes/reduced consumption but think higher prices/reduced supplies will result in the stone age.)
Funny that many call for higher energy taxes/reduced consumption but think higher prices/reduced supplies will result in the stone age

Not so funny, really.  The idea is to prepare for the transition before the crunch is upon you.  Once oil is $200/barrel, everyone will be building nuclear power plants, wind turbines, solar panels, etc.  Look at what China's demand has done to the concrete and steel markets - and they're just spiffing up the country for the Olympics.  

I have a feeling France is going to look very smart for building all those nuclear power plants when oil was cheap and nuclear power was "uneconomical."

My comment below was intended for you. I would add...
You're right that most energy, certainly including fossil fuels, have a solar origin, and that hydrocarbons were created over millions of years. What you miss is the incredibly poor efficiency that did this - perhaps 1 trillionth of a percent, or maybe far less, of sunlight falling on earth was utilizied by algae to grow and multiply, and some incredibly small fraction of this algae ended up stored below ground for cooking and eventual conversion to oil or ng - by far most of the oil/ng leaked out, or went uselessly into oil shales, etc. The worst solar panels are almost infinitely more efficient than this 'natural' process.
Actually, you should include nuclear power as solar originated - just not our sun.
I'm aware of the inefficiency you mention.  I just don't think it matters that much, in the big picture.  (Note that I do not think $200 oil means the stone age.  I was arguing, rather, that $200 oil means far less upward mobility - the end of the "American Dream," where every generation has a higher standard of living than their parents.)

I'm a fan of Tainter's work.  He's got a sort of economic/thermodynamic view.  This is his argument in a nutshell:

  1. Human societies are problem-solving organizations.

  2. Sociopolitical systems require energy for their maintenance.

  3. Increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita.

  4. Investment in complexity as a problem-solving response often reaches a point of declining marginal returns.

When a society faces declining marginal returns, it needs to find a better source of energy than the one it is using to keep going.  One that's not as good will not do.  And if solar is better than oil, then it shouldn't need oil to become scarce and expensive before it can compete.  Hence my doubt that solar can cut it.  We really did have a lot of incentive to wean ourselves off oil, and we put a lot of money toward it...but it hasn't worked out, and that's not a good sign.  

I'm not ruling out a technological innovation that allows us to keep going, but I'm not expecting it, either.  As Tainter points out, the problems a society can face are infinite, while the resources to deal with them are not.  

(Note that "collapse" does not necessarily equal "stone age."  It is just a drop to a lower level of complexity.)

First, more complexity does not necessarily require more energy - eg internet communication, which may use various combinations of land/satellite systems combined with what were recently high tech computers, use complex systems but continuously decrease energy input/unit of information exchanged.  
Second, some methods of generating electricity, while economically competitive today, are unpopular. As fossil fuels become more scarce, we will return to nukes. I assume the gov will eventually, in response to demands for power by the populace, turn to proliferation resistant actinide consumer/breeders, both to extend existing nuclear fuels and to dispose of long-lived wastes. (As an aside, it is amazing to me that coal has been selected over nukes - perhaps the gulf states in particular will look favorably on nukes - I suppose, however, its too late for Florida.)

Even if solar makes it, we should as soon as possible replace all coal plants with nukes - it will take solar a long time to be useful for base loaded generating capacity.
Regarding solar, higher prices of course make a big difference. Investors are reluctant to invest if, say, ten innovations are required to attain profitabiity, but become more interested when only one or two are required. When oil was at $20, cheap solar panels might have had to increase from 9% to 30% efficiency, or approximately the level of the expensive ones used to power space vehicles, to compete with ng generated electricity. If rumors of recent innovations prove true, we may be there now.

Note that, if all oil had always been located four miles down, including a mile of ocean, we would have long since finished the hubbert downslope of whales. We have learned how to retrieve the treasure from difficult locations over a very long time - solar has had to jump over similarly high hurdles from the beginning, and solar's beginning (well, direct conversion to electricity) was relatively recent.

As we pass beyond cheap oil, the wasteful US has the great advantage that it can cut a lot while still maintaining complex systems and a decent standard of living. And, this is true of most developing countries, including China/India, too.

First, more complexity does not necessarily require more energy - eg internet communication, which may use various combinations of land/satellite systems combined with what were recently high tech computers, use complex systems but continuously decrease energy input/unit of information exchanged.  

I don't think you're considering the total cost of technology.  Tainter means the total cost.  Not just the cost to transmit a byte of data, but the cost of building the Internet, regulating it, protecting it, training people to use it, educating experts to develop and maintain it, etc.  All the things society has to do to have an Internet.

And the energy costs are not minor, either.  The Internet is one reason why our electricity grid is so overloaded.  The massive server farms that run large sites like eBay and Amazon can use the energy of a small city.  Some of them have their own natural-gas fired power plants.  

Second, some methods of generating electricity, while economically competitive today, are unpopular.

And yet, even countries which welcomed nuclear power found it wasn't really economic compared to oil.  I believe every breeder reactor ever built has been a money-loser.

There weren't many, and all, or nearly all, were demo plants, and from this point of view they were successful, both in proof of principal and the specific technology, liquid metal (sodium) cooled. The French Phoenix and US FFTR were clearly demo plants, Super phoenix may have been supposed to be commercial - I witnessed the installation of the reactor pressure vessel, but don't remember/maybe never knew the economics.
We are now talking of a different world, say 2010-2015. Most po'ers think oil will be much more expensive - and if not, then there is no need. So, in a high energy price world, say with crude at 150 in 2010 (just 20% yoy), we will be beginning to build nukes and worrying about running out of u235. In this environment, and thinking that oil might continue north, breeders will look much better. I don't know the economics, but since eroei is enormous, it is easy to assume that we will go down this path. SOme day solar will help, but solar, even when it comes, will mostly replace ng for peaking. Nukes/breeders will have do the heavy lifting - there's nothing else except coal, and the thinking of those living near coastal waters may be changing. Actually, coal should be reserved for conversion to liquid fuels - it is both too dangerous and too expensive to burn directly.

As an aside, the old demos were indeed intended as breeders, turning u238 to pu239, which then needed to be separated from the daughter products, including other actinides, for use as new fuel - standard water moderated (neutron slowed) reactors work by slow neutrons fissioning the few actinide isotopes that can be fissined by slow neutrons, namely u235 and pu239, or bomb material. The modern day breeder is really a spent fuel/actinide burner. First, so called spent fuel from existing reactors is placed in the burner core. Immersed in liquid sodium, fast neutrons are potentially captured by all the actinides, causing them to fission and generate heat. Eventually, when daughter products begin absorbing too many neutrons, the unburnt actinides and daughter products are removed, the metals, including all actinides plus cadmium, are plated out, cadmium (a neutron absorbing metal) is then removed from the actinides, and the actinides are then returned to the core; naturally, the process is done remotely and on site. The small mass of daughter products are eventually placed in a repository where they will decay to background in 500-1000 years. Since the breeders can burn both spent fuel plus all other actinides, including u238 and thorium, we have sufficient fuel for thousands of years, assuming the world's current population and enrgy consumption. Note that plutonium is never separated from the other (very radioactive) actinides, so it would be no easier for terrorists to make use of this fuel than current spent fuel - actually, much more difficult because the older spent fuel, cooling for decades at commercial reactor sites, is not all that hot now.

He got number three wrong. It's the other way around. Increased complexity is lower cost, lower resource, than simple systems.
But when the complexity collapses and you have to go back to simple systems, then you have a population overload. No irrigation canals and you wind up with a two goats per square mile economy at a much lower human density than irrigated wheat or peas can sustain.
This is obviously correct - simple systems come first, more complex later. The point of more complex is to be more efficient. It is true that simpler may be more rugged, less likely to degrade/collapse - or, maybe not.
Solar photovoltaic concentrators are capable of replacing oil and gas to a large extent right now. The wholesale cost goes up quite a bit, but the retail cost hardly budges.
Seems peak oil and immigration have collided. As far as Mexicans are concerned I believe if goods can freely cross the border why not workers. If they are not here illegally then those who hire them must obey wage and tax laws instead of cheating their ways to profits.
I'd like to take my pension and social security checks south of the border and live where I'd get the most bang for my buck. The problem is that in Mexico the government has the right to take your real estate without fair compensation. Also foreigners are banned from owning property more than 50 miles from the border or coast.
Let millions of young Mexicans work here and let millions of old Americans retire there and both countries will be better off.