NYC: Best Place for $100 oil? Maybe...

[editor's note, by Yankee] In this post, peakguy analyzes NYC in relationship to the recent Sustainlane ranking for cities that are best prepared to handle a $100+ tank of gas. We invite commenters to take a look at the original survey and comment on how Sustainlane's criteria will play out in their own cities and towns.

Last week, Sustainlane ranked NYC the #1 place to live in an Oil Crisis:

New York City is the city most prepared to cope with a $100+ tank of gas. With its strong city and regional public transportation system, New York stands out above the rest. From New York City's subways to the Tri State area's suburban train lines, New York is truly the only American city where people are committed to riding over driving.

"As the largest city in the country and the business capital of the world New York City must be prepared for what comes our way, and we are," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "That New York City has been recognized by SustainLane as the best prepared city to face a nation-wide oil crisis is testament to the resiliency and strength of our infrastructure."

It goes on to highlights many of the ways that cities can be redesigned to be less dependent on automobiles for everyday transportation needs. But I have to point out a few issues not included in their analysis.

Here is a description of SustainLane's analysis:

SustainLane has looked at the largest 50 U.S. cities with this scenario in mind. We wanted to know which cities will be the best places to live and work if gas prices suddenly rise because of coming events out of anybody's control.SustainLane has ranked the largest 50 U.S. cities based on recent city commute practices, metro area public transportation, sprawl, traffic congestion, local food and wireless network access (in order of importance: see chart). There are many other areas that rising oil prices will affect: construction, retail goods of all types, utilities (especially in the Northeast, the one part of the nation where heating oil is used)—virtually every aspect of our economy will be hit. We looked at the areas most directly impacted: how people get around, where their food comes from, and how they work.

New York City is the city most prepared to cope with a $100+ tank of gas. With its strong city and regional public transportation system, New York stands out above the rest. From New York City’s subways to the Tri State area’s suburban train lines, New York is truly the only American city where people are committed to riding over driving.

While I agree the New York is probably a better place to live than the suburbs or exurbs ringing most cities, New York is a very special case for many reasons and will face it's own unique challenges. Local NYC residents may not directly feel the $100 tank of gas in their wallet at the pump, but they will feel it in many other ways.

One needs look no further than the recent comptroller's report to pick out a few of NYC's weaknesses in a high cost energy world:

Continued strength on Wall Street has helped the City's economy gain momentum in 2005, although growth continues to lag the nation's. Real Gross City Product (GCP) grew 3.3 percent in 2005 compared with 2.4 percent in 2004. Yet GCP was slightly below the GDP growth rate of 3.5 percent. Factors contributing to the City's growth were a stronger job market, higher wages, Wall Street profits, and a surge in tourism. However, the inflation rate soared to a 15-year high as energy prices rose to record levels. [Employment]...gains were broad-based, with leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and professional and business services adding the most jobs. The critical financial activities sector added 6,800 jobs mostly because of 6,300 new jobs in securities. The City lost jobs in manufacturing, government, and construction. The faster pace of job growth was reflected in a decline in the NYC unemployment rate, which fell to 5.8 percent, the lowest rate since 2000.

Seems like good news right? Here's another way of looking at NYC's position:

1. From Main Street to Wall Street

Wall Street bonuses are expected to be bolstered by high revenues as well as a stiffly competitive
market for top talent, and may hit a record $21.5 billion in 2005, according to the Office of the New York State Comptroller.

New York's economy is uniquely connected to the rest of the country's economy through Wall Street. It's tax base, real estate market and smaller service businesses are heavily dependent on the stock market's fluctuations and the bonuses given at large investment banks and brokerages. A major stock market crash, asset depreciation and subsequent lay-offs at major Wall Street firms, could send NYC back into a 1970's type public financing dilemma.

2. Tourism Dollars

New York City & Company estimates that the City hosted 6.7 million international and 34.8 million domestic visitors. Tourists are estimated to have contributed about $22 billion in revenues, generated $5 billion in taxes, and accounted for some 330,000 jobs.

New York's economy is also heavily dependent on tourism and business air travel from all over the world. As fuel prices rise, tourism will become more localized and less international. As family discretionary budgets tighten, I think a trip to NYC may become much less frequent.

3. Energy Driven Inflation

The inflation rate jumped to 3.9 percent in 2005, the highest level since 1991, and the core inflation rate, which includes all items except food and energy, was 3.0 percent, the highest since 2002 and notably higher than the nation's core rate. Energy, transportation, housing, and services all contribute to high inflation.

While most New Yorkers don't drive cars, most of the goods they consume are delivered by truck instead of freight rail. While this is far more efficient than each person driving separately to the supermarket for that last leg of the trip, it shows that we are still heavily dependent on fossil fuel driven transportation for long distance goods to be delivered here. And while NYC does have more multi-unit buildings that are more energy efficient, this winter was generally mild New York does have some bitterly cold days that require significant heating.

Can NYC survive $100 oil? Yes.
Will NYC fare better than the rest of the country? Yes.
Will it be pretty? No Way.

One part of the SustainLane report I would like to point out is this statement, which I believe is key:

One commonality each of these ten cities has--though this was not used to determine the ranking--is that each is a major port. Port cities have the natural advantage of receiving imported goods without the added fuel needed to send truck fleets across the nation to landlocked areas. Just as it was for hundreds of years before the twentieth century, a city's geographical location may once again become the most important factor keeping its economy thriving.

Every area will have it's own issues to work through. NYC does occupy a great geographic position, but will need to diversify its economic base to include more manufacturing, working harbor ports, freight rail connections and support more regional agriculture. It also needs to make sure that major economic disruptions do not harm the quality of its public services (police, fire, sanitation, etc) that might create a vicious cycle of fiscal distress, poverty, drugs, crime, corruption and ethnic tension like the 1970s. All you need to do is compare the responses to the 1977 blackout and the 2003 one to see how far we've come. I sincerely hope we do not regress back. I plan to work toward making sure that we can make NYC as energy efficient and sustainable as possible, but it will be a big job.

What do you guys think? Remember that this just focused on cities, not small towns, suburbs or rural areas, so this is not necessarily a complete analysis of where you might want to go. What cities, towns, parts of the country would you rather be in during a $100/barrel oil crunch?

They will be better off once Bloomberg gets off his
happy anti-bicycle kick.

There was a great post on BikeBlog about the last critical mass ride. The latest court ruling have gone against the city and police tactics and as Summer comes, expect more riders. I think Time's-Up for a chat.
Maybe New York can use a Mayor Daley v.2.0. Chicago's present-day Mayor Daley (the son of the original) is pro-bicycle. Bike-only lanes are slowly being added to Chicago's streets though they are mostly unused so far. I guess extreme gas prices will change that.

By American standards, Chicago has a good transit setup including to a lesser extent in the suburbs. (not including my distaste for the suburban buses that drove me to drive) Chicago gets half its electricity from nukes and most the rest from coal. This is in contrast to California with the NG debacle. In the summer of 1997 Chicago almost had a blackout problem like California due to some nukes being shut off for maintenance. But we didn't.

But only New York has a good-by-European-standards transit setup. Besides Bloomberg getting off his anti-bicycle kick, one thing states can do is relax insurance laws and registration laws for mopeds. In Illinois to have a moped, you must register and insure it practically like a motorcycle. You can use a moped if you have a car drivers licence though. More than hybrid cars, mopeds and scooters are more like the answer for the masses when transit doesn't exist or is too poor to be useful. Hybrids will be too expensive due to energy used in manufacture.

I think their criteria is very short-sighted.  (It's a company that sells sustainable living stuff, I believe.)

Honolulu?  Very dense, great public transportation, but very, very oil dependent.  Everything's shipped in.  And the major industry is tourism.  

Then there's the question of what climate change is going to do coastal cities.  Allstate recently announced it would no longer offer insurance in NY, for fear of hurricanes.    

" I think their criteria is very short-sighted.  (It's a company that sells sustainable living stuff, I believe.)"

I have to agree with you. Don't laugh, but Southern California is only one step away from doing very well in a $100/bbl "crunch". That step is SERIOUS car-pooling.

Otherwise, the mild climate, ports and proximity to the agricultural riches of the San Joaquin Valley makes me feel happy to be in LA rather than NYC.

I also believe that the real "crunch" is far higher than $100/bbl. doesn't sell anything. They put out educational information on healthy and sustainable living, a study benchmarking US city sustainability and a green living directory.

You're right about Hawaii and oil dependant offshore inputs, but SustainLane's criteria did not go tothe level of doing a local/regional metbolistic analysis, which would be super costly to do across largest 50 US cities, don't you think?

Is NYC better outfitted with dense, multi-use zoning and a decent public transportation network?  Sure.  Does that mean that they are well positioned to survive $100 oil?  Not so much...

Argument #1:  New York sits as the peak of the pyramid atop our hierarchal economic system.  It sucks off surpluses by directing activity on a large scale.  As such, as economic activity is forced to decentralized, the negative economic impact, especially in the international trade and finance areas, will be disproportionately felt in NYC.  Macroeconomic decline will be amplified in the control centers of the macroeconomy.

Argument #2:  New York is an amazing concentration of people in a small area.  As a result, it must draw its basic resources, such as food, from a larger area than must other population centers that are not so amazingly huge and concentrated.  Drawing resources, such as food, from further distance requires more energy, and will result in a disproportionate cost increase for places such as NYC that must draw from, on average, a greater distance.

Thanks Jeff - that's exactly my fear. I still think that if the city makes some good infrastructure improvements it can regain the advantages that made it a world-class city before the automobile - a central point for goods to be traded, labor and capital to be applied to raw materials, etc. But you are right that it probably

I would argue about the distance issue you set-up in Arg #2. It's not just the distance, it's the mode of transport. In terms of energy efficiency Ships are the best, Rail is next and then Trucks. In fact you can use wind power for ships! NYC has a world class harbor, connected to the Hudson River / Erie canal connection to Great Lakes and some good rail connections (although most of those are used for moving people now). That will be it's greatest advantage in the future.

sorry, I realize I didn't finish that first paragraph: "But you are right that it probably...will face a major disruption as the "paper trading" businesses need to be replaced by real value added services that are more tangible.
I think you´re right. A good harbor is critical. While rail is efficient for freight, water is superior (especially if you´re not in a hurry). The last hurrah of sail freight in my part of the world were steel hulled, steel masted square rigged tall ships. In the early 1900´s they supplied northern Europe with grain from Australia and guano from Chile. The more modern ships used steam power not for propulsion but rather for weighing anchor, hoisting sail, loading/unloading etc. This allowed a very small crew (<30) to move 100 meters of boat carrying 4 kilotons of cargo at almost 6 knots average. If this was not only possible but also profitable 100 years ago, surely there must be a bright future for sailing.
This is exactly the point - how $100 oil affects economy of particular city.
I will provide personal simple example:
I work in Microsoft (in Redmond) and the distance from home to office is 5 minutes walk. I take children to school ( 1.5 miles ) and I can do it by foot. My wife does not work.
I need car to go to supermarket. Currely out gasoline consumption is is about 40 gallons a month, but it can be made 20.
Climate in Redmond is mild, we do not need air conditioning in summer and winter is relative warm, all heating is by electricity.  
So looks like personally we are not much dependent on fossil fuels.
But the problem is - what happens with Microsoft once ( I do  not say if ) oil goes to $100 a barrel. I am 100% dependent on my employment and that creates major dependency on oil economy. Microsoft products are not essential, if one does not have bread he does not by OS.

The same problem for NYC. Wall street depends on Microsoft and other stocks.


That's not bad at all for a resident of the United States. I think the Sustainlane survey was drawing attention to the huge extent that New Yorkers shun oil usage on a family/individual level.

By way of another personal example, I live in Manhattan. My office is 175 paces away. The 24-hour supermarket is 125 paces away, and the 16-hour supermarket about the same distance away in a different direction. My bank is 200 paces away, and within that distance are a dozen restaurants and delis, two bars, a dry cleaners, an optometrist and a hardware store. My monthly gasoline consumption is 0 gallons.

Many New Yorkers like me consume an order of magnitude less oil than car dependent suburban and exurban dwellers. Getting food to the supermarkets is probably the weak link in the cain, but as long as it is there, the urban walkable lifestyle looks a lot more sustainable to me than the car dependent/suburban motoring existence prevalent in most places. New York is subject to other problems, but personal transportation is not one of them.

Walkable city and car-dependent suburb are equally dependent on trucked-in food, but the city has the advantage of cheaper distribution once it's dropped off at the store.

I could argue that teh most energy efficient urban form is 3 story buildings (high rises are quite energy, mainly electrical, inefficient) on narrow one way streets with parking (one or both sides).  Minimal, below grade off street parking.

Overall, Brooklyn, Queens & Staten Island can be quite energy efficient. Manhatten less so.

BTW, I used 6 gallons/month pre-Katrina in New Orleans (Lower Garden District and as beautiful as the name implies).

New Orleans has superb ocean and barge connections, superb rail connections (6 of the 7 major North American railroads), superb pipeline access as well.  Sugar cane nearby (good EROEI), as well as a variety of local foods (the local cuisine is based on local foods and food that floated downstream).

And good food and good music and good friends are ALWAYS a good way to deal with the stress of high oil prices, and we excel there !

That makes sense--the mode of transport (where NYC has an advantage) will help to moderate the extra distances required.  I don't know which one will win out, NYC is also in the center of the densely populated North East, and so will be facing much more competition for the product of the immediate surrounds.  A city like Atlanta--bane of our existence though it may be--may actually fare decently *on this particular point of analysis* because there is a lot of lighly populated land surrounding it.  Furthermore, in a really extreme scenario, the sparse population of standard suburbia may actually prove an advanage as the mere act of converting lawns to potato fields would be a huge (though theoretical) start...

On that note, I would re-evaluate the list in the article.  Based PURELY on this food/distance/transportation issue, I would list my top four as 1. Portland, 2. San Francisco, 3. Seattle, 4. Oakland.  These cities each have agriculturally productive and sparsely populated hinterlands in the very near vicinity.  On a full-spectrum analysis of the cities on that list, I personally think that Portland will fare far, far better than NYC...

I agree.  THanks to Oregon's restrictive land use laws, the transition between agricultural areas and Metro portland is pretty abrupt.  You dont have to go too far from downtown to reach ag lands or potentially cultivated lands.  Although M37 has loosened restrictions, it has come late in the business cycle so comparatively few projects have or will likely be completed before the economy tanks.  The downside is while suburban portland is denser, it is still suburban for the most part.  Serious retrofitting will be needed for a number of these suburbs.  Metro portland may survive $100 oil better than Dallas, LA or NY.  It needs serious work to survive without it altogether however.  
Theoretically, yes. But one or two things come to mind:

I do not know what the population of Greater NY is offhand, but the first things that come to mind are:

FOOD: assuming a localised agricultural base: Who would or could grow sufficient food within an area that can support perhaps millions of people from a radius which will enable the food to get into the conurbation? What would Greater NY have to offer in goods or services to make the trade worthwhile for the surrounding Agricultureal base?
How would the Agricultural hinterland be able to grow sufficient crops to ensure that they had enough for themselves and sufficient , regular surpluses to feed Greater NY?

If you look at the development of cities and city states in the near east and eventually in Europe, then compare them with the massive conurbations of the 20th Century, then I think there is fundamental problem with scale.

All good questions.

What would Greater NY have to offer in goods or services to make the trade worthwhile for the surrounding Agricultureal base?

I believe we would have to trade manufactured goods or some other type of manufacturing products, like in the 19th Century. And all those future sailors are going to want to spend their money somewhere...

How would the Agricultural hinterland be able to grow sufficient crops to ensure that they had enough for themselves and sufficient, regular surpluses to feed Greater NY?

They can start by tearing down the McMansions on prime agricultural land...
Fair comment.
But: We have never experienced anything like the potentially rapid drop off of energy currently required by modern conurbations created in the 20th Cent. This is not just the case for Greater NY. It is true for all the great conurbations, and this includes Europe where they appear on the surface to be well positioned, but are just as vulnerable. For Example, the Randstad of Holland is a conurbation made up of many towns and cities from Rotterdam to Amsterdam including Den Haag, Lieden, Haarlem
etc. Along side the areal growth (and therefore food miles from any local hinterland), there has been major population growth. Towns and Cities merge into each other.
The same can be said of the Ruhr, Leeds-Glasgow, etc, etc

With respect to a return to manufacturing, as energy depletes so too will any conurbation's ability to manufacture.

Speed of transition will be very important. The statement that Greater NY would do better than others at 100USD BBL oil is actually pretty short term. There is a very good chance of 100 usd / bbl by Xmas... I am sure NY can cope with 100 USD oil. But what about 'some oil', 'increasingly occassional electricty', 'intermittent gas' etc?

The question should really how will NY (and all conurbations) fare when energy and energy imputs are scarce or highly intermittent, access to globalised food is impaired, hinterlands look to themselves for the survival of their own.

"They can start by tearing down the McMansions on prime agricultural land..."

Should be "what WAS prime agricultural land". The process of subdivision construction begins with the removal of the top soil (i.e. the high humus fertile layer) for sale "elsewhere". What's put back after the houses are built is just enough to "sort of" grow chemical dependant sod. Where do you think those bags of "good soil" you buy at the Garden Center come from?

OMG, is that true? If so, you have given me one more reason to mourn sprawl.
NYC's livability will be very dependent on whether a "crunch" means you can get oil products but they're merely expensive, or it means they're unavailable, i.e. there are shortages. Since shortages are primarily created by politics (price controls, allocation by fiat, overly aggressive pursuit of so-called "gougers", etc.) there's no predicting how they might play out.

Serious shortages would probably have side effects on the reliability of the electrical supply. I wouldn't worry too much about winter, since NYC rarely has anything I now understand as winter (I grew up in NYC but now live in the upper Midwest.) I'd worry a lot more about summer. With unreliable power and steaming hot weather, there's no good way to store food. With repeated blackouts cutting off airconditioning and probably damaging the equipment, it's going to be hotter than Hades inside all those sealed buildings, especially the glass ones. On top of that, with everybody afraid to get into an elevator, you've got lots and lots of thirty and fifty story walkups.

And maybe you've even got pompous Fire Department jackasses trying to order everybody to live out in the street on the grounds that it's somehow "safer" than living in unpowered shelter.

No thank you.

It seems to me that there are three logical choices:  (1)  energy efficient communities (e.g., NYC); (2)  net energy producing areas (e.g., Fort Worth, Texas, because of the Barnett Shale Play) and (3)  net food producing areas.  

Even if (when) there is a gasoline crunch, you could convert your vehicle to use natural gas if you lived on top of the Barnett Shale.  

The ideal situation would be to live in an energy efficient area, with net energy production and local food supplies.

The worst place to live would be in an energy inefficient area, without local energy supplies and without local food supplies.  Unfortunately, most of the US falls into two or three of these categories.  This suggests the possibility, or probability, of mass migrations into the more favorable areas.  And I would expect to see this phenomenon on a global basis.   I would further expect that the people migrating in may not be welcomed with open arms.  

Note that California is a net food importer and note that they also fail regarding the other two criteria--energy efficiency and net energy.  One could reasonable conclude that this is good time to get the hell out of LAX.  

Doesn't California still have a lot of oil?  How expensive would oil have to be before it's worth their while to produce the La Brea tar pits?  ;-)
From memory, I believe CA produces approximately 43% of the oil it consumes.  That amount is declining as all areas are past their peaks (CA peaked later in 1985) and dependant on secondary and tertiary recovery techniques.  Steam injection is quite common in Kern county.  The state does have additional reserves offshore though they a politically offlimits at the moment.  That aside it would not make much differnce anyway. The state also receives a huge chunk of Alaskan oil as well.

The real problem is consumption.  LA is not merely sprawling, it is high in density as well.  So you have all of the disadvantages of a large conurbation (overpopulation, lack of empty land) with none of the advantages (highly developed public transportation).  Decreasing oil consumption just doesnt work in a region where nothing is convenient to anything else and even the poor can (and do) drive.  So despite CA's above average production, it is wastefully consumed because of their poor land use decisions.

Over the long haul water and food is a far more serious concern than oil. Currently 20% of the entire state's power consumption is used to move water.  That's huge. It covers all aspects from pumping to disposal and all steps in between.  Water is brought in from hundreds of miles away (Southern CA drinks from water tapped by Sacramento, Owens Valley and the Colorado River).  Water from Sacramento has to be pumped over a 4000 foot mountain range.  Thats bad.  What's worse is close to half of the state's generation is Natural gas fired and a good portion of the rest is coal and nuclear fired, with most of the coal plants actually located in Nevada.  Only 20-25% is hydro and wind. While that figure could probably be increased, covering the depleting NG portion is going to be "stressful" as one CA utility representative explained it to me. So forget about desalination, just maintaining the existing water distribution system may be close to impossible.  Without water, life in LA is close to impossible.  So is imperial and San Joaquin valley agriculture.  

With scant water and land too dry to support many types of ag (San Joaquin valley can support dry land farming crops) Southern CA is just a milder version of Phoenix or Las Vegas. I just dont see how these problems can be resolved.

The farther North you go, the better it gets.  The only part of CA I would consider living in is the 101 corridor north of the Bay area.  Smaller population, sufficient rainfall and viable ag operations. The Bay area may be able to handle $100 oil fairly well as public transit is better.  Unless rail transport of food from the Sacramento and northern San Joaquin can be worked out however, I would still avoid the Bay area over the long haul as well.

does the "northern 101 corridor" include Willits?  I've been hearing a bunch about that small town to the north of me (SF resident here) because they're the first to seriously do something about localizing their economy.  Is that also where you happen to live?

I think the biggest problem BY FAR in the post-peak world is freight truck traffic.  Just about all grocery stores in the US depend on it for delivery, as do the producers of grocery goods.  My company, Coca-Cola, wouldn't even be able to function without the ability to truck their product from plant to store.  So really, it won't matter where you live if the grocers start shutting down.  Either everyone will need to pick up gardening lickity-split or some serious chaos is gonna happen.

I think that's about as good a criteria as I have heard in terms of where to live for PO. Ideally you would have all 3, but 1-2 would be much better than none. Indeed, the US as a whole might not fit any of these criteria if we are net negative on food...
The value of living in a hydrocarbon producing region is inversely proportional to the fungibility of hydrocarbons.

As for California, hailing originally from a farmtown in Northern California myself, it should really be seen as two separate states:  NorCal and SoCal.  Southern California will fare about as well as Phoenix (especially considering that much of its agricultural water is provided either by a canal from the north or by a few massive reclamation projects).  Northern California will fare much better--in my opinion--though not necessarily very well.  The Central Valley of California is probably the most productive and fertile agricultural zone in the nation--but right now, because of its excellent soil and climate, it is largely used for high-value (but low calorie) cash-crop production.  Production, especially of crops like berries and tomato, might not last, but California actually exports rice to China and Japan...

Hello JeffVail,

I have done a few math calculations to show what lies ahead for the US.

From BrotherKornhoer's earlier posting:
To reach 0.5 billion by 2100 at a steady rate is a decrease of 2.7% a year, by my calculation.
From a photo caption in this month's National Geographic article on the Ukraine:

Dying of AIDS, a prisoner lies in a clinic in Odesa.  The disease's rapid spread, as well as alcoholism, poor health care, emigration, and low birthrates, are projected to shrink Ukraine's population 40 percent by 2050.
This could be a mild preview of what we're facing in the industrialized countries, minus the emigration, of course.
My calcs:
6.5 billion world pop X .027 = 175,500,000 of first year postPeak deaths or 1 year equivalent of 2 or 3 WWIIs [a 4 year long war of approx 60 million deaths].  That means we will see some pretty upsetting media headlines every year of the postPeak decline. Yikes!

From CIA website for Ukraine:

population: approx. 47,500,000  40% of this is 19 million people dying leaving 28.5 million alive by 2050.  If the same death rate comes to America: 40% of 300 million = 120 million deaths leaving 180 million alive by 2050.  2050-2007= 43 years of dying 120/43= 2.79 million/year.

From Wikipedia:

The basic Phx,AZ area roughly approximates the 2.79 mil/year.  So imagine losing a major US population area every year between now and 2050.  Isn't math fun for illustrating the conflict levels ahead?

So imagine some kind of precipitating event [drought?]making the people equivalent of the entire Phx area start heading to my hypothetical future biosolar habitats of the NW or NE US.  Seattle is approx. 600,000. In just the first year alone [2007], the migration from the Phx area would vastly swamp this city.  Then, in 2008, the entire Tucson area migration would hopelessly swamp it again if the NW allowed these people in.  Then, in 2009, the entire Albequerque area migration would hopelessly swamp it again if the NW area allowed these people in too...and so on every year.  Imagine the LA & San Diego areas vacating to these biosolar habitats-- Does everyone now see the need for Earthmarines to protect these biosolar areas from being hopelessly overrun?  Fortunately, most people will be forced to die in place--picture Nawlins without any outside help.

"We see the rising floodwaters, hoping the others drown first."

Population control and Powerdown are the better alternatives to reduce the mind-boggling levels of violence ahead.

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

Bob, where do you get this crap?

Why does the world's population have to get to 500 million by 2100?  Show me the proof!  Why can't a population of 2, 3 or even 4 billion live sustainably on this planet?

Remember, we will have less oil not no oil.

Yes, the world's population may decline over the next few decades (especially in the poorer countries), but to suggest that we will have a die-off rate of 2.7% per year after Peak Oil is just ridiculous.

"I say, chaps! Looks like world Oil production peaked last year!  I better pop my clogs, then!"

Please keep your theoretical, numerical death-wishing to yourself, unless you have credible evidence to back up the claims (Note: another doomer's comments on this, or any other blog, is not credible evidence).

My 2.7% calc was just a mathematical exercise, not a prediction, FYI.  

I do find it interesting, however, that the demographic collapse in the Ukraine is taking place in a society that's literate, educated, has discos, some industry, etc. (at least according to the Nat'l Geo article).  It's not some fire and brimstone armmegeddon, or a land of desperate peasants trying to grow crops in the mud with their bare hands (although there is a remarkably sad photograph of an old couple trying to plow their garden without a tractor or draft animal)'s just the weight of countless small things, mainly associated with decreasing wealth, that lead to the population collapse.

Yes, but in your comment you mentioned "emmigration, and low birth rates".  Both of these together could make up 50% of the drop in population, and neither of these are even the slightest related to post-peak die-off.  Indeed, emmigration isn't even a net population drop!

The other reasons are mostly health-related, but as Cuba showed, life after oil could be even healthier than it was pre-oil.

If the choice is between starving and working my butt off in the fields with the rest of the agrarian 90% of the population, then I know which one I'll choose.

Of course, the doomers are free to choose their 'sit down in a corner and chant "Waily, waily"' lifestyle.  They will certainly be helping to prove their own predictions of peak-related die-off, when their last breath leaves their lungs.

Hello DuncanK,

Thxs for responding.  TOD does an excellent job, maybe the best on the Net, in studying the Thermo-half of Jay's voluminous Thermo-Gene Collision as explained in the hundreds of pages on  I am just trying to increase the TOD discussion level on the Gene-half with all my postings on how global warming, topsoil depletion, water shortages, species extinction, human overpopulation, voluntary birth control, lifeform migrations, pollution, humanure, etc,.. all the stuff of life that is NOT directly related to fossil fuel thermodynamics and entropy, but IS directly related to the biological inevitability of Overshoot and Dieoff.

I feel most TOD posters are overlooking the incredible DOUBLE-WHAMMY headed our way.  Thermo-decline as we head down the backside of the Hubbert Curve is directly overlaid another force of genetic-decline.  Recall my previous posts explaining in simplified terms of a detritus-driven 'humanimal ecosystem' that is energetically superimposed on top of the natural ecosystem, but has a profound terra-forming capability to massively distort the pace and spacing of naturally occuring equilibrium.  After the Peak when thermo-decline kicks in; when the artificial 'humanimal ecosystem' starts dissolving towards its natural biosolar equilibration level; the now distorted ENTIRE WORLD natural ecosytem will be going through a wrenching process of equilibration too.

Thus, the DOUBLE_WHAMMY; the Thermo-Gene Collision.  The cross-cascading deleterious feedbacks from both systems will synchronize causing further depletion of both extractable mineral resources and harvestable bioresources [and Global Warming only makes the situation worse, IMHO, a possible Triple_Whammy?].  We are all familiar with the Hubbert Curve, but most TODers are unaware that a similar genetic declination curve exists for biota too.

From Reg Morrison, author of "Plague Species" and "The Spirit in the Genes":
That being said, there are two things I am very sure of:
(1) our species is an entirely typical product of the evolutionary
process, with no qualifying ifs or buts;
(2) our exponential population growth last century indicates that we
have been in plague mode for at least a couple of centuries (and
possibly for the past 5-8 thousand agricultural years).

These two facts, combined with the Chaotic nature of cosmic entropy
(and therefore, the Gaian nature of the biosphere), persuade me that we
will follow the general pattern of post-plague collapse that was
originally identified in rodents by the Austro-Canadian endocrinologist
Hans Selye in 1936. He called it the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).

The broad spectrum of increasing social and physical aberration that
Selye outlined in the GAS included a general decrease in the level of
bonding (family and tribal), an increasing incidence of aggression and
gratuitous violence, and an increasing incidence of sexual dysfunction,
both physical and mental.

These factors combine to produce a general decrease in fecundity,
resulting in a precipitous decline in population growth. Part of this
population collapse is due to a rising number of hormonal aberrations
that interfere with the complex processes of reproduction. In
combination, this spectrum of GAS factors constitutes an efficient
plague-limiting mechanism that automatically cut in to stall the
population explosion before it entirely destroyed the habitat for a
significant number of other species. (Evolutionarily adaptive!) And
judging by field evidence from mammal plagues, this GAS mechanism
begins BEFORE the deteriorating environment tightens the screws enough
to ensure a full population collapse.

Selye's original hypothesis has been corroborated by many other field
and lab studies, and he later extended it to our species.

Another significant feature of this evolutionary mechanism is that when
Selye's GAS combines with the habitat destruction that inevitably
follows a population explosion the resulting population collapse
mirrors the exponential growth that produced it. Hence, a Bell-curve

So to answer your question (at last!!), I believe that our species will
express whatever level of discord is required to disable our attempts
to deflect (via technological and cultural means) the environmental
backlash that our overpopulation and consumptive technoculture has
engendered. In other words a few people will accept Powerdown, but most
won't, and levels of cultural disintegration, gratuitous violence, and
sexually related dysfunction will rise dramatically as total per capita
energy (nutrient + commercial) becomes scarce.

Some more info taken from his website:

Judging by the recent collapse in our growth rate however, our boom phase has run its course; and this is where it gets interesting. It is clearly not the environment that initiates population collapse, as the Reverend Malthus warned in 1798 in his seminal essay on population. There is another factor: it is built into genetic material and operates by pulling a series of hormonal levers. First described in 1936 by endocrinologist Hans Selye, this auto-collapse mechanism, known as the General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS), [5] is common in rodents, and appears to represent an evolutionary fail-safe mechanism that prevents plague populations from totally destroying their environment and bringing down multitudes of associated species.  It now seems that GAS manages plagues of all kinds--bacteria, locusts, deer, rodents, and if the United Nations data are correct, even humans."
Reg Morrison regularly converses with Jay Hanson, and other Dieoffers at Jay's yahoo:Dieoff_Q&A forum.  Yes, he is very Peakoil aware, see his website:

So now we know that we are genetically inclined to collapse, but we must add the biosolar collapse component and the detritus-driven collapse component too to get the full sum for the Thermo-Gene Collision.

The biosolar collapse component is best exemplified by two Dieoff examples whereby neither had any fossil fuels or predation worries:

From studying the graphs and descriptions, it is easy to see how fast a species, human or otherwise, can decline when deprived of essential nutrients.  Humans make this declination rate even worse by attacking each other vs the reindeer just shivering and starving to death.  Remember, in both examples: each species was biosolar constrained, no fossil fuels to further distort the natural ecosystem and extend Overshoot to an even loftier level.

So now we come to the final additive quantity of the humanimal ecosystem and its possible effects:

The extrasomatic 'reach' of detritus-driven tech can vastly extend and accelerate the coming decline.  A sniper rifle is unquestionably far superior to a spear in terms of numbers killed and distance killed.   Please multiply by tens of millions being used postPeak, not only on other humans, but also to decimate other lifeforms when our 1,500 mile avg. foodstuffs become unavailable.  Conventional warhead bombs and Nuclear ICBMs are notorious for their kill ratios too.  This is just the offensive component.

The other defensive detritus-driven component is when our infrastructure starts breaking down. Picture Nawlins without any pre-hurricane evacuation--what a mess that would be!  For example, when the water delivery system of the Central Arizona Project [CAP] breaks down in my home of Phx, this can vastly add to the conflict & death rate.
But let's not forget Duncan's Oluvai Gorge Theory either:

This is just another example of how collapsing detritus-driven systems can combined with the other additive effects previously mentioned to drive us to a sustainable level in a very short timeframe.  Last, but not least, imagine the deathrate if the scientists join with the world's power elites to release smallpox or ebola as some have suggested.

In summary, I encourage all posters to try and include both sides of the Thermo-Gene Collision while composing their next articles.  We are going to burn all the fossil fuels we can, but the Gene-half is where all the action will be.

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

I am just trying to increase the TOD discussion level on the Gene-half with all my postings on how global warming, topsoil depletion, water shortages, species extinction, human overpopulation, voluntary birth control, lifeform migrations, pollution, humanure, etc,.. all the stuff of life that is NOT directly related to fossil fuel thermodynamics and entropy, but IS directly related to the biological inevitability of Overshoot and Dieoff.

Aha! Exactly what I was fearing. You are trying to turn TOD into something that (as far as I can tell in the one year I've been hanging around here) it was not designed to be in the first place.

What gives you the right to expand the topics of discussion on a blog that is not even yours?

There are many countless places where discussion of the topics that you mention are prolific.

But this is "TheOilDrum", not "TheDieoffDrum", or "TheOverPopulationDrum", etc.

Prof Goose had it right when he told you to start your own blog. I really wish you would! Then you can take your non-OilDrum related topics and espouse them at will without affecting my ability to analyse what is going on with Oil-related topics.

Hello DuncanK,

I suggest you examine how many of the total posts and threads talk about all the topics I mentioned--quite a few.  It in no way impedes your ability to study strictly oil-related topics.  Do as I do and quickly scan, then scroll past postings that disinterest you.  Prof. Goose objected to my initial postings because they were too long for the TOD discussion format: at that time period you reference, I did not realize the TOD differences compared to the Yahoo group formats.

IMHO, the dynamic between the two ecosystems is vital to the discussion, and inclusion of the Gene-half helps paint a more true-to-life reality.  Thxs for responding again.

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

I suggest you examine how many of the total posts and threads talk about all the topics I mentioned
First, let me say that the comment threads are not a good indicator of what is relevant to this blog. Some people can, and do, post all manner of useless crap in the comments (Someone was discussing NBA Basketball the other day!)

And as you obviously cannot be bothered to search through the actual stories yourself, I'll do it for you.

I used the "advanced search" to look for stories posted by the editors on the subjects you mentioned:

"Thermo-gene collision" - Found 0 results

"species extinction" - Found 0 results

"birth control" - Found 1 result (actually this was a guest post)

"lifeform migrations" - Found 0 results

"genetic-decline" - Found 0 results

Yup, they're certainly hot topics with the editors around here!

You see, Bob, I like to think of the Titanic analogy that was used here a few weeks ago. It seems very likely that the "iceberg" hit us last year. Now while you and the other doomers are running around on the top deck screaming "We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!", some of us are actually interested in finding out how big the gash in the hull is, so that we can try and figure out how long we've got until the boat sinks. The rate of water coming in (the post-peak decline rates) directly affects what the chances for us are. We may be headed for a very fast collapse (in which case we are f**cked), but until we find that out (which is what the editors and some of the posters of this sites are trying to do), then we need to reserve judgement about our fate.

It's simply a waste of everybody's time and bandwidth (we pay per Mb downloaded here in NZ) to discuss the future of mankind several decades out.

This kind of Hansen pseudo-jargon:

So now we know that we are genetically inclined to collapse, but we must add the biosolar collapse component and the detritus-driven collapse component too to get the full sum for the Thermo-Gene Collision
adds nothing to the insightful analysis done here at TOD.
We should discuss "the future of mankind several decades out", at least in a general way, because otherwise we fall into the same kind of traps that got us the problems we have now.  For example, if tomorrow somebody announced a process that could convert coal in-situ into light liquid hydrocarbons cheaply and easily, we would know that it would probably be a very bad idea to use it large-scale, due to climate change.

About the "pseudo-jargon":  I think that's real jargon.  Not very useful, granted.

To me, it looks like Bob is saying the same things over and over again.  It was somewhat interesting the first time, but it got old fast.  To be fair, posting again is probably the only way newcomers will see it - maybe cut down on the frequency a bit?  And the same could be said for that "net export capacity model" post that keeps going up; I don't want to just be picking on Bob here.

While the idea that we have a genetic tendancy towards unrelistic beliefs about the way the world works is interesting, I would like to see more discussion of how this realates to policy (individual, group, and governmental) options for a better future (in relation to the "resource wars" scenario that seems to be the present course).  If I was absolutely sure that catabolic collapse was our only option, I would just "party 'till the party's over" then kill myself, since I probably wouldn't have long to live at that point anyway.

The concept of biosolar vs. detrivore being an alternative plan is fundamentally flawed.  If I understand it correctly, Bob proposes creating a force of "earthmarines" to defend the "biosolar" community (and a large, depopulated and deresourced buffer zone) from the "detrivore" forces outside.  This sounds a lot like the standard resource-war plan of capturing a resource-rich area and slaughtering the prior inhabitants because they're in the way of your use of those resources.  One could still argue that a war to capture renewable resources is better than one to capture non-renewable resources...

To be fair, posting again is probably the only way newcomers will see it - maybe cut down on the frequency a bit?  And the same could be said for that "net export capacity model" post that keeps going up; I don't want to just be picking on Bob here.

Oops.  I neglected to recall that this part of the thread was about expansion of TOD into topics too far removed from oil.  And the "net export capacity post" is much more topical than virtually all of Bob's posts.

It was a bit selfish of me to mention I find this digression interesting - likely, few TOD readers do.  Not to mention that those who are interested will almost certainly already know.

Perhaps it would be a good compromise for Bob to get his own blog and just post the link occasionally in open threads?

This study assumes that a higher price for gasoline affects only the price of gasoline.  As others have noted, it affects much more than that, including people's ability nationwide to meet mortgage and other debt payments, which have become the underpinning of the economy of the nation, and especially of New York City.  

Gasoline sustained at $100 a barrel would almost certainly bring the financial house of cards down.  It would impact consumers' ability to add to their credit card bills the price of more and more stuff from China.  This would mean retail layoffs, on top of layoffs in finance and real estate, all of which will impact New York disproportionately.  These layoffs will add to the cost of unemployment and social services for governments and will increase the U.S. fiscal deficit at precisely the moment when foreigners will have fewer dollars to lend the U.S. due to the slump in consumption and non-oil imports.  That will either force up market interest rates, or force the Fed to print money, which would lead to a collapse of the dollar.  Either way, New York is screwed economically, more so than parts of the country that have a more diverse economic base, particularly places with surviving manufacturing and agricultural bases.

How will this impact New York?  Millions and millions of New Yorkers will be without incomes, and the government will be forced to cut the real value of government benefits.  This will be true both in the city and in the suburbs.  In the suburbs, people will at least be able to grow vegetable gardens.  In the city, people will be desperate for food.  This will almost certainly lead to looting of groceries, which will in turn shut down.  The end game would probably look something like food available only at guarded government work camps, where it will be available only for the able bodied and only to the extent their work covers the cost of shipping the food by truck and rail.  Probably there won't be enough work to go around.  People unable to get work at the work camps will try to get military jobs.  Hard to predict how many might die of starvation, violence, and disease.

People who harken back to New York's pre-automobile prosperity are ignoring the demographic and economic realities.  In 1910, the last census year before car and truck transport began to transform development patterns and the transport of food, the New York urban area, broadly defined to include New York City, Nassau and Westchester counties, and Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, Essex, and Union counties in New Jersey, had just 6.6 million people, supported by a rail network larger than today's rail network, and obtaining much of their dairy and vegetable consumption from the immediate periphery, places like Rockland County, New York; Somerset County, New Jersey; and Fairfield County, Connecticut.

In 2000, the New York urban area was home to 21.2 million people, more than three times the 1910 total.  The New York urban area has expanded since 1910 to devour nearly all of its former agricultural hinterland in an expanse of unproductive sprawl.  At the same time, much of the rail infrastructure that used to bring food from the Midwest has been destroyed.  Indeed, some of the most fertile land in the Midwest (much of Ohio, southern Michigan, northern Illinois) has been consumed by sprawl as well.

How are those 21 million people going to be fed?  Where is the manufacturing  base and gasoline-free infrastructure that would allow New Yorkers to earn their sustenance?  Even if the dense manufacturing, shipping, and rail infrastructure of 1910 were back in place (which it isn't), how would it support more than three times the population of 1910? This is a problem that New York's wonderful public transportation system will not be able to solve.

New York is not where I want to be post peak.

This is the significant point for all conurbations everywhere. Pre-oil populations were manageable to a greater or lesser extent. Pre-oil infrastructure evolved and grew to meet the conurbations, that were still , within reason feedable. Oil has changed all that. Oil for transport, gas for power, fertilisers for food combined with multi-million population growth rates changes the game out of all proportion. Everywhere: Mexico City, Cairo, All of Japan, pick any place you like and take energy out of the equation and it will implode. Energy depletion and a corresponding gentle glide down is not, in my opinion, a likely outcome. The shear complexity and inter-linkages brought about by super-specialisation (bond traders,firemen, police, health workers, power workers et al, will all be affected.) There was a pretty sad example in England a week or so ago. Some very old pensioners had been trapped on the upper floor of a care home because the lift needed a spare part from Italy. They had been trapped since Christmas Eve! I kid you not, this was for real. At time of print, they were still waiting on the spare part.
Now, just put a little real stress on the system and the old peoples home becomes a metaphor for Western Industrial Society.
Except for Washington, DC, they list most of the major cities in the Boston-Washington corridor.  At best, each of these cities has a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding suburbs.  At worst, the cities are dependent on the suburbs for many of the most highly-productive workers that support their economies, and for a large fraction of the consumption of the city-produced goods and services.  While the urban center may be somewhat better positioned in the short run for $100 oil, it is not clear what their position may be in the longer term.  How will they deal with the poor who are displaced from their housing if the more affluent suburbanites move in on a large scale?  How will they deal with the loss of revenue if the suburbanites can no longer shop in the city?

I find the scenarios with a thriving urban center surrounded by collapsing suburbs to be quite unlikely; more likely, I think, that the collapsing suburbs (if that happens) drag the urban center down with them...

Potentially - Or will the rich suburbanites flee from the suburbs and re-energize the city life, undoing much of the damage caused during the post WWII suburbanization trend. Hmm, probably not. More likely that the housing debt they have accumulated will be too great for them to get out from under. Rapid inflation is their only hope...
'Collapse' is an emotive word, a word which is used a lot on TOD. I don't see New York collapsing any time soon. If NY collapsed so would many other cities, in the United States and around the world. What about Lagos, Mexico City, London, Shanghai? There are a lot of mega-cities around the world right?

The collapse of these huge cities would imply an enormous dislocation of our whole economic/social system. Do we really believe it will happen like this? I suppose it is a partially a question of velocity, how quickly will these supposed changes in our lifestyle occur? It it's gradual over decades then we can and will adjust to changed circustances. Human culture is both tenacious and adaptive, given enough time. How much time will we have to adjust? I don't know. I don't think anybody does do they? There is an awful lot of speculation around. That's because we're anxious, confused and nervous. Something is happening, but we don't know what it is. Things are starting to look increasingly insecure, like our energy supplies. Objects that appear to be solid are not.

What do I think will happen to our great cities once Peak Oil starts to kick in? Christ, that's Big question. Where does one start if one wants to put the world to rights? One could start by being positive and optimistic and unafraid. I think we have a realistic shot at solving most of our problems in relation to Peak Oil, as long as we don't choose to go down the war path. That would be a tragedy and a disaster. It's not only unecessary, it's also counterproductive. Maybe the best thing the United States could do, to save it's great cities and it's way of life, would be to voluntarily, and from it's position of unparalelled military strength - would be to choose to disarm in relation to the rest of the world. Just walk away from militerism and Empire for good. Who needs it? Does it really make one more secure or richer? Why follow in the mistaken footsteps of Rome, Spain and England? Empire seems to eventually drag countries down to a lower stage than when they started the whole thing, so why bother. Empire is a curse, not a blessing.

Instead go for a balanced and reciprocal treaty, based on tank for tank, plane for plane and bomb for bomb. Here the U.S. could show bold and dramatic leadership once more. Lead the world, don't attempt to rule it. This would really be a paradigm shift. Slash the Pentagon's budget by 90% and challange the rest of the world to do the same. Public opinion all over the world would cheer such a decision and force other govenments to do the same. One could sweep away the old order and pull the rug out from under one's rivals. This is the real way to acomplish lasting regime change, and garantee U.S. security, release the power of the people for root and branch change all over the world. It's possible to empower the people by setting a shining example for others to admire and strive to emulate. Abandon the way of the sword. Spend the money on infrastructure projects in the third world and feeding the hungry millions. Fix Africa instead.

I think the belief in military power as a source of longterm security is a primative myth which we really have to grow out of. There are far more important things to use our minds and resources on, especially now.

Peak Oil doesn't scare me as much as the prospect of eternal war over depleting resources. If we start fighting like cats in sack floating and drowning in a river, then all bets are off for the future, we might as well start heading back to the caves right now. On second thoughts there are probably some of you that relish this idea.

Well, that was my attempt at a positive alternative to all the doom and gloom around TOD and this whole Peak Oil debate. It sounds so idealistic and unrealistic at the same time. But don't we really need ideals and ideas? Aren't these things what really set us apart from the beasts we once were? The power of human intelligence and imagination? One has to ask oneself, who is really being unrealistic here, the person who believes we can just carry on with the old ways, more and more of the same old, same old, or the person who believes it's time to start changing our ways?

Hello Writerman,

Outstanding post!  How true.  What does America prefer?

"Nuke their Ass--I want Gas"        HUMMER bumper-sticker

or "No Thanks--I like Empty Tanks"  bicycle bumper-sticker

From the movie,"3 Days of the Condor":
[Turner]: Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?

[Higgins]: No. It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In 10 or 15 years-- food, plutonium, and maybe even sooner. What do you think the people are going to want us to do then?

[Turner]: Ask them.

[Higgins]: Now now. Then. Ask them when they're running out. Ask them when there's no heat and they're cold. Ask them when their engines stop. Ask them when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. Want to know something? They won't want us to ask them. THEY'LL WANT US TO GET IT FOR THEM.

"We see the rising floodwaters, secretly working to make the others drown first".

I would hope we prefer Voluntary Population Control & Powerdown instead.

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

hey, very cool comment.  More positive energy is definately needed on this board, that's for sure.  :)

The world is very complex, as is human society.  We try to predict what happens in the future based on our own limited thinking, but history is really made up of one long string of surprises.  Peak Oil is a serious challenge, no doubt about it, but where it'll take us is really anybody's guess.  Humans fear change more than just about anything else, but we're also remarkibly adaptable.  Even seemingly hopeless cities like Atlanta can pull it together if people turn their sprawling backyards to gardens and local suburban community centers into small-scale forums.  I refuse to believe we came all this way only to fall flat on our faces.  Sure, things are going to be tough and it may not be as great after oil as it is now, but my optimism isn't dead yet.

I think the criteria is setting the bar a bit too low. In the UK, we have (near enough) already hit $100 for a full tank (just under £57 at current exchange rates; currently around 94p /litre). Has it made any difference to driving habits? Not noticeably.

Things may change in the long run, but equally, once people are used to high prices, they will just press on as before.

I'm not sure what will wake people up to change.

I think this type of ranking is utter nonesense for a number of reasons.

It appears to consider mass transit and commuting practically to the exclusion of all the other factors that would be affected by $100 oil.

Even if that were the sole consideration, I can tell you from firsthand experience that commuting into and out of NYC is no picnic even under the best of circumstances. In fact, most of the time it is downright tedious and nerve-racking.

I assume that by NYC the study is not just referring to Manhattan, but also the other four boroughs: Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Richmond (Staten Island).  In many respects the outer reaches of Brookyn, Queens, and Staten Island are more like high-density suburbs than urban centers,  and yes most people there DO have cars, particularly Queens which abuts the western end of Long Island.  

If we are talking about Manhattan, then that would be just about the last place I'd want to be when TSHTF. First of all, it's on an island accessible only through a highly vulnerable network of bridges and tunnels. I can tell you that it doesn't take much to screw things up in Manhatten: a transit strike, sanitation workers strike, or an unexpected inch or two of snow can just about cripple the place.  In the event that people are stranded on that island, it wouldn't take long for things to go to hell in a real hurry. Due to the difficulty  in getting into and out of Manhattan, shortages could develop quite fast. The distribution network serving NYC would a nightmare in hard times.

And from a survivability standpoint, what is so great about being a major financial center?  If there is an economic collapse, will having all these people working on Wall Street be an asset or a liability?  NYC does not produce much that is directly consumable.

Plus, when one says that New York is a major port, they are really saying that the New York Metropolitan Area is a major port complex. Most of the heavy commercial port activities involving containerized freight is on the New Jersey side (and there is a large oil terminal in Staten Island), so one still has to offload ships and transfer the cargo to delivery trucks, which then will have the same problem of getting into and out of NYC. No, food is not going to go directly from a ship to hungry New Yorkers waiting outside the pier.

If we are talking about Manhattan, it is only a pleasant place to live if you have a family income of at least $200,000 minimum.

If you think New Orleans was a bad place to be during a major crisis, NYC (particularly Manhattan) would be ten times worse.

yes most people there DO have cars, particularly Queens which abuts the western end of Long Island.
They have them, but they don't have to use them. The different between a luxury and a necessity is tremendous.

commuting into and out of NYC is no picnic even under the best of circumstances. In fact, most of the time it is downright tedious and nerve-racking.
Commuting into Manhattan is tedious and nerve-racking today because so many people make so many nonessential trips, or make trips they could make by rail. As gasoline increases in cost, fewer people will make nonessential trips, or will make essential trips by rail instead of driving.

so one still has to offload ships and transfer the cargo to delivery trucks
Not if they transfer them to barges instead. New York's port is in a good position at the center of a barge transportation system that could serve the region from Delaware to Buffalo to southern New Hampshire.
The Interloafer -

How is commuting into Manhattan because one works there a 'nonessential trip'?

That's what probably over 90% of the Monday-to-Friday commutes into Manhattan are for: to get to one's place of business. And probably 90% of that commuting is already via mass transit, such as buses and rail line, not by cars. That's exactly the type of commuting I'm referring to when I said that commuting into  Manhattan is tedious and nerve-racking. Driving by car is 10 times worse, but very few people do that due to the impossible street traffic and incredibly expensive parking.

I really don't get your comment about barges. Barges are generally for the hauling of bulk material such as oil, coal, grain, sand and gravel, etc. But if I wanted to ship food such frozen chickens from southern Delaware to NYC, I'd first have to ship them by truck to a barge terminal, load the barge, haul the barge to NYC, and then offload it onto delivery trucks to take it to retailers. Seems like an awful lot of steps, and no better than shipping them point-to-point by truck.

I still maintain that in a severe shortage situation of any sort, be it fuel, food, or consumer goods, NYC, particularly Manhattan, would be one of worse places to be.

Driving to work is an essential trip, but I'm not sure that 90% of rush hour traffic is people commuting. Certainly during off peak hours, lots of trips are discretionary and would be reduced as gasoline increases in cost. Even if 90% of rush hour traffic is commuting, 90% of automobile commuters could take the train, but opt not to for various reasons described in the Schaller report, which is a study of New York City commuting patterns that Peakguy wrote about on March 12. One key finding was this:
Ninety percent of auto commuters live and work in areas where most commuters use some other mode to get to work (i.e., rail, bus, walk, taxi). Only 10% of CBD auto commuters commute between home and work areas in which auto is the typical way to make the trip. The choice of auto is motivated by the comfort and convenience of driving, speed of travel, availability of free parking or a combination of these and other factors.
So if traffic were greatly reduced, New York City could continue to function largely as it does now, as long as food could be brought in and the economy continues to require people to have office jobs. The same cannot be said for a lot of places where a wholesale restructuring of land use patterns would be needed in the event of Peak Oil. I actually tend to think that the high cost of commuting would encourage people to move into the city, to shorten and cheapen their trips to work. Just as the cheap oil age encouraged people to flee the city and make long automobile commutes, the post cheap oil age will work to do the reverse.

Moving food by water uses less energy than trucking it, so even if there are a lot of steps it would still be worth it for the energy savings. Anyway, frozen chickens from Delaware could be sent to New York via rail, not necessarily by truck.

I'm not saying you don't raise a number of great points about New York's vulnerabilities to peak oil-related problems. Certainly, there will be a lot of stuff that we have to deal with. Kunstler's utopia of reinvigorated small towns near agriculture upstate and in New England is the appropriate model. It might have problems, but I don't think New York City would be one of the worst places to be. At one level, it's better off than any place that depends on the private car for mobility.

Huge parts of the city were emptied out (think of the Bronx burning in 1977) because of cheap-oil-powered automobiles and urban planning decisions that accepted the car as the be-all of personal mobility. More expensive mobility would lead people to cluster together again, especially if suburban land becomes more valuable for farming than for low-density housing.

I must admit I was staggered when I first saw that
table of survivability, because I have always
regarded NY as one of the worst possible places to
be when TSHTF.

Actually, $100 a barrel oil is not particualrly
scary  -we're 2/3 of the way there already. It's
$20 natural gas, leading to horrendous price
increases or a more or less complete shut down
of nitrogenous fertiliser production that would
really hurt.

NYC might survive a spike in oil prices tolerably
well, but clearly has almost zero sustainability
when it comes to truly local food production
i.e. within walking distance.

And who'd want to be stuck in a skycraper
when the grid goes down and turning on the tap
results in a few drips?

The debate about long term survivability will
be rather academic anyway, since the rapid
meltdown of Greenland etc. is almost certain to
put large sectors of the city under water at
some point in the not-to-distant future.

Does it really matter where you are during a long drawn out crisis such as peak oil? Odds are, there will be spikes in price, however, ultimately the entire process of declining carrying capacity will happen at a slow enough rate to allow for people in the least optimal geographic locations to migrate  to the most optimal locations. This would render the most optimal locations for survival less optimal as the population size of these areas increases. I think the ranking of cities by which ones are most survivable is irrellevant unless the crisis ensues so quickly that everybody must stay put. I think that scenario is unlikely. Rather I see a long series of mini-crises (spikes), each of which may render New York or other "optimal cities" better suited for short term disruptions. Better suited until other folks catch on and relocate to them.
just my opinion.  
I must apologize. The article was best place for 100 dollar oil not the long term post peak time period.
As someone pointed out, $100/bbl oil might yield gasoline prices in the US like those already seen in Europe.

Those prices could certainly have an impact on the US economy, but I don't think we need to worry (as some apparently are) about large regions going without food or water.

We might be back to a 70's scenario.  That meant recession, unimployment, a housing crash, inflation, disco ... but even that didn't hit everyone at once.  Some people made money in that span, and prospered.  That is when good old Bill Gates was busy founding Microsoft.

One thing to note is that Sustainlane is actually talking about a $100 tank of gas, not $100 for a barrel of oil. Now, for some people (like Hummer drivers), that's probably already a reality. But small cars are probably still somewhere around $40/tank (I don't have a car, so I don't really know).

Does that distinction make a difference? Not sure, but I trust you guys will hash it out.

Oops, that's what I get for skimming too fast.  $100/bbl, $5/gal, 20 gal tanks ... it might be similar.
My car gets decent gas mileage and has a 10 gallon tank. I fill 'er up once a week and not all the way from the E. It's about $20 so far per load of fuel. Can't say that for the moron who bought that Hummer, especially if he has a long commute. That driver must DREAD that stopoff to put a load of fuel onboard!

I get 27mpg or close to it. The Hummer maybe gets 9 on a downhill with a hurricane-force tailwind. I know people who drive 50 miles or more each way, one with a big pickup truck. Guess who's going to whine as gas prices climb? My car might not accellerate like a jet off a carrier, but that's not needed anyways. Speed limits ruin the fun, but I get that 27mpg! That's a great consolation.

As gas prices climb, those sport utility homes are going to lose value like no tomorrow - literally! Suburbanites like to equate distance in "minutes" i.e. in terms of travel times. To raise awareness, I equate distance in terms of fuel consumption. I live 2 liters away from work. That bloke with the pickup lives 4 gallons away. When gas hits $5/gallon, look out long-range commuters!

You are so right about the time comment. To Americans the equation is Time = Money or maybe Quality of Life. In the future it will be Distance x Efficiency = Energy.
Maybe more TODers should try using "gallons away" like I already do as needed to bring a paradigm shift, with the help of those escalating gas prices. Becuse I havn't been driving my whole adult life, I still think of distance as miles, not minutes. How "minutes" came about is that speed limits enforce that every driver travels at about the same speed on a given path. A CEO using a helicopter landing on the roof throws a wrench into the system. :)

The "minutes" bit deteriorates come the day when people choose a variety of different methods to travel. Walking, bikes, buses, trains, etc. all go at different speeds between two points. It would be like if airlines used prop planes, normal jets, helicopters, Concordes, and the occasional Scramjet. Imagine having to write the schedules! (or worse, being a schnook in the tower!)

Odo, you sound exactly like Stephen Leeb.
I think the difference is that I say "might" where he says "will." ;-)

I find much of this oil equiation disquieting, but at the same time I don't think it is too predictiable.  Seriously, the US economy could end up laughing at $5/gal gas ... we may (rightfully) think of such a thing as a low probability outcome now, but low probability outcomes do happen.  Sometimes.

All critics of the NY position from the point of supplying the city (with food etc.) miss a very important point - the flexibility of the infrastructure.

When energy prices skyrocket it is safe to assume that we will start a crash program of building rail as a most energy efficient alternative. Soon supplying NY with food/whatever by rail will not be a problem. The city is walkable even now, so personal transportation will also be OK.

The same I can not say about Atlanta. Yes we can move our goods to rail, but the personal transportaiton in a 50 miles wide metro area will be a problem for a very very long time.

We may find out this summer how NYC fares with $100 oil. An AP story came out today warning (again) that the Saudis will probably not be able to keep up with our oil demand . You know things are bad when the Saudis are telling us we need to conserve.

I wrote a brief blog entry on it:

Warning - Trouble Ahead

The general public is not going to like it, but I believe higher prices like this will delay the peak and give us a fighting chance.


The high prices may well soften the peak and the problems. I figured that the prices will climb like a jet on steroids just BEFORE the peak anyways. After all the supply curve starts to flatten out but demand's curve will rise a little until prices reign in that demand. The demand is real inelastic so the slight flattening of the supply curve will get the conservation ball rolling by force. It's a double-edge sword for sure.

As far as "mere" real hard times or TEOTWAWKI, we will sure find out! Human adaptability helps us. Our political climate hinders us. There are too many variables for this bookie wannabe.

Perhaps NYC will be a great place to live on the day a tank of gas cost $100.  But what about a few years later?

Trying to pick a place to live for a specific scenario which is unlikely to be a long term stable thing, such as a $100 tank of gas seems silly.

There are so many major issues percolating away, any one of which could so dramatically change the equations.  An epidemic, a bursting housing bubble, rampant inflation, rioting, civil strife, a collapse of the dollar, collapse of international trade, climate change, agricultural decline from a whole host of reasons in addition to peak oil, a descent into dicatorship, expanding conventional wars, nuclear proliferation leading to nuclear war on any scale or just nuclear terrorism, ...

Even if you think the US is stable, what happens if Saudi Arabia implodes and stops exporting oil, or China collapses and suddenly stops exporting us goods or lending us dollars, or say Mexico collapses and falls into civil war and refugees pour across the border?  The possible scenarios are truly endless.

I think we've got a lot of dominoes set up on a fairly shaky table and the direction and number of dominoes that fall can be hugely altered by the direction of the first few.  NYC could become the best place on earth or it could become a terrible hellhole.

Personally, I think conservatism is best.  We should  conserve our environment, conserve our finances, conserve our goodwill, conserve our values like openness, justice, equality, democracy, ...

It's best to deal with challenges from a position of strength.  But the US is placing its biggest bet on military strength while squandering so many other past strengths.

It seems the overriding message in the developed free market world is that we must consume our way to happiness and achieve prosperity through endless growth.  If/when limits to growth become overwhelming this ideology will increase volatility.

I don't think where you live will matter as much as who you know.

I expect those with the strongest friendships with the greatest variety of others will have the most options and the best chances to cope with whatever may come.  I think this is true for individuals, communities and countries.

And be ready to move if the place you are in goes down the toilet. :)

favoring NYC in a peak oil environment because of mass transit or excellent port location overlooks not only the likely dynamics of very expensive oil but totaly disregards one important aspect of NYC. It is the city with the biggest number of highrise buildings in the world, absolute and even on a per capita basis. Recent studies have shown that highrise buildings (higher than 20 floors) are extremely energy inefficient. Much higher prices would force landlords to increase rents dramatically or look for other solutions like cutting corners or even defaulting. Given that the tenants are likely to suffer already in their own business transactions one should assume that the dramatic cost disadvantage of working out of a highrise building will result in mass relocation of business out of Manhattan to an environment of lowrise buildings.

Yes, NYC has an advantage with the existing mass transit but it would be useless if there are no jobs because of the dinosaur skyscrapers.

"Yes, NYC has an advantage with the existing mass transit but it would be useless if there are no jobs because of the dinosaur skyscrapers."

<irony on>
May be it would be a job opportunity to tear all those useless skyscrapers down and sell the building material elsewhere? Not for too many citizens, but for some. There must be millions of tons of steel, glas and stones there.
<irony off>

It is the city with the biggest number of highrise buildings in the world, absolute and even on a per capita basis.
In the world? Hah! That's not even close to being true. Plenty of cities have more skyscrapers than New York. Sao Paulo, for example, or Shanghai, which has 4,000 skyscrapers, twice as many as New York. Please don't spread false information.

Recent studies have shown that highrise buildings (higher than 20 floors) are extremely energy inefficient.
Really? Could you provide a link to your study? The conclusion doesn't make sense to me. In describing the new "green building" technology employed at the new 4 Times Square, The New Yorker's David Owen (10/18/04, p. 111) explained why skyscrapers are among the most energy efficient structures:
The two greenest features of 4 Times Square are ones that most people never even mention: it is big, and it is situated in Manhattan. ... Tall buildings have much less exposed exterior surface per square foot of interior space than smaller buildings do, and that means they present relatively less of themselves to the elements, and their small roofs absorb less heat from the sun during cooling season and radiate less heat from inside during heating season. (The beneficial effects are greater still in Manhattan, where one building often directly abuts another.) A study by Michael Phillips and Robert Gnaizda, pubished in CoEvolution Quarterly in 1980, found that an ordinary apartment in a typical building near downtown San Francisco used just a fifth as much heating fuel as a new tract house in Davis, a little more than seventy miles away. Occupants of tall buildings also do a significant part of their daily coming and going in elevators, which, because they are counterweighted and thus require less motor horsepower, are among the most energy-efficient passenger vehicles in the world.
$100 bbl is $2.38/gal. Add 25c for refining and we are at $2.63/gal wholesale. Add 75c for distribution and tax and we are at $3.38/gal. For a 20 gal fillup it is $67.60 which is still less than Europeans pay. Prices would need to be over $200 bbl to bring famine to our urban areas.
The industry most likely to be hurt by $100 bbl is construction. A home builder I know thought nothing about driving 200 miles per day to and from a job site. He needs to carry his own tools so he needs one of those big pickups. As their costs go up housing starts will go down and were back in the early 80s again or worse.