Wishful thinking

I was struck by a clause in the Will Hutton column that was brought up in comments. The particular comment is
We should urgently slow down the depletion rate of North Sea oil and gas
and I think it highlights some of the problems that the general public have with the developing issues relating to oil and gas. For obviously the columnist believes that, had we the will, we could just leap in our rowing boat, paddle out there and, by George, increase that production. This is either ignorance of the reality or denial of its existence. When an oilfield starts to deplete then, beyond a certain point, you cannot bring back production, or even change the depletion rate much. In fact it is the result of trying to get as much out as soon as possible that led to the current depletion rates (For those who are not aware of the problem North Sea production is falling at rates of up to 15% per year against a historic general value of around 5%).

The oil and gas that has been removed is gone, and the cupboard is starting to get empty. So it is with the production in the United States and in an increasing number of countries elsewhere. Thus, when you read stories about the steps that politicians are suggesting we make, the first question that should be asked is, will this increase the amount of oil or gas that we can use, or is it providing an alternative source of energy that can replace the amount the we need, but can no longer expect to get from the historic supply. And if the answer is no, then I think it becomes fair to ask, why not?

Updated to include comment on Brazilian ethanol production.

That thought was enhanced by something that Dr Hamilton said at the end of our discussion yesterday. "$70 crude oil encourages all sorts of ideas, and some of them will work out and some of them won't, and I think that the best way to find out what the winners are is to have the incentive there, which I think that $70 oil definitely provides, for everybody to have their dream of becoming the millionaire new turkey fat mogul, or whatever it might be.." This followed an earlier comment that he did not think that Congress was the best group to decide. And given my comment in the last paragraph you might think we are in total agreement. Well here is my perception of the problem that we have.

Right now the Congress and the Administration have picked a certain limited number of ideas that they think will provide the answer. These include hybrids, hydrogen, clean coal, and ethanol. If you wander around the funding at DoE you will find, as I have commented earlier, that other programs are being cut. Thus if the programs that are being invested in do not provide a solution in time then we are going to be in the cart.

As came up in the discussion of ethanol, the current administration plan only looks favorably on domestic generation of ethanol, which may be getting close to 5% of our gasoline use (to correct myself - thanks jdeely). It looks less favorably on importing to increase the percentage much further. So that will only get us so far (plus it neglects the fact that Brazil has a domestic demand for what they are making). And, as other countries have found, beyond a certain point food use will conflict with fuel use and we will reach a limit to what can be made available.

UPDATE The Tribune has a story on problems with demand that are showing up in Brazil.

Rising consumption of ethanol had already stretched supplies thin. Prices recently have fallen, but only after the government lowered the required percentage of ethanol mixed with gasoline from 25 to 20 percent, reducing demand. This month's beginning of the sugar cane harvest also boosted ethanol supplies and lowered prices. "This showed ethanol can help but it cannot replace fossil fuels, at least right now," said Jed Bailey, Latin American director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a U.S. consulting firm. "There's a lot more development that's needed." Ethanol has become a staple in Brazil's energy stew. Brazil's refineries pumped out 4.5 billion gallons of the biofuel this past year. All but 14 percent was consumed domestically. . . . . . .But with more than 13 million acres already growing sugar cane, such words worry environmentalists, who fear expansion will come at the cost of rainforests and savannah in Brazil's northern states, where there is little sugar production. Sugar cane production expanded by only 2 percent last year in the country's southern and central states, where most sugar is grown. . . . . .Ethanol churns out about 20 percent fewer miles per gallon than regular gasoline and must be at least that much cheaper at the pump to be cost-effective. Currently, that's about the difference in price here between the two fuels, with ethanol selling for $4.03 a gallon, while regular gasoline costs $4.86 a gallon.
(Thanks Leanan).

We currently have a small program going in biodiesel, but the plants that generate on any scale are still measuring in thousands of gallons a year, when we need millions of barrels a day.

Why do I bring this up? Because there aren't that many sources that one can go to that can fund the size of plants that will be needed even at the pilot stage, or to scale operations up to the levels that will be needed. Industrial sources will not be willing to do so without significant proof of concept, and there will need to be a very strong case that if they do invest, that there will be a satisfactory return on their investment. Does that sound like the climate we have at present?

I think that it is worth returning to the editorial that I began with, however, since outside of that one comment, I think it makes considerable sense.

Britain in all this is the doe-eyed Bambi, bleating its faith in market forces in a world of predators. We should urgently slow down the depletion rate of North Sea oil and gas and establish a British strategic reserve and, with that protection, begin determinedly to build an economy that is not dependent on oil and gas. We should get serious about energy efficiency for solid environmental and strategic reasons. We should tax aviation fuel. We must accelerate our investment in renewable energy. We must research how to burn coal cleanly. And we must commission new nuclear reactors.

We have to move on all fronts fast. The case is usually made in terms of climate change, but it is more than that. Unless we confront and change the emerging balance of world power, the consequent oil conflagrations could make the conflicts of the 20th century look tame.

Without a sense of emergency in terms of finding new methods for providing energy (regardless of type) and without a willingness to consider ideas outside the box of existing conventional ideas, we are going to have problems. Of such a nature I fear, that waiting for the law of natural selection to prevail, as Dr Hamilton suggests, is a luxury we can no longer afford the time to allow.

Although it is probably the most likely meaning, it is not 100% clear to me that Hutton is saying that they would reduce the depletion rate of the North Sea by increasing production.  One way that it is possible to reduce the depletion rate is to drop to a lower level of production.  Isn't this the idea behind many of the peak oil 'protocols' that are out there?
Exactly.  I think the original post is a misreading of Hutton's point.  I get the feeling he's, in a sense, talking about nationalizing a resource and then controlling the production from it.  He's considering it a strategic petroleum reserve, no different from that in the US except in this case the oil has never been pumped from the ground.
I don't think Will Hutton meant to use the word "depletion" in quite the way he used it. I think he meant to use the word "production" instead.
We tend to confuse the words depletion with production decline. Once a field is being produced, it is being depleted. With production at maximum, when you arrive at a certain percentage of depletion, the production rate will start to decline. A 3% depletion rate at the start of production could happen as the field is experiencing significant year-on-year increases. When new tech is applied, you increase production, but accelerate depletion. The only way to slow depletion is to reduce production.
Hello TODers,

The ultimately correct conclusion to be drawn from Peak Everything is how many of us can become like Ernest Shackleton?  How many of us are willing to build sustainable biosolar habitats and labor to become the Heroes for subsequent generations.  How many are willing to chart a course through very dangerous conditions in a deperate gambit for survival?  Recall that Shackleton left most of his crew in Antarctica, basically sentencing them to death if his sailing half failed to reach civilization.

The crewmembers that stayed behind can be compared to the detritovores: clinging to the rock of a steady, but unforgiving landscape knowing that it is totally unsustainable.  Shackleton's arduous survival journey was given very little chance across some of the most dangerous seas on the planet, but he knew he had no choice.  I would argue those wanting to Powerdown to a biosolar lifestyle must accept the same odds, but there better than clinging to our present paradigm.

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

humans are not smarter than yeast,
yeast don't have nuclear weapons
any way bob I think you need to take a few real deep breaths and try to feel the earth under your feet :  )
that said you must be familiar with these folks, they're incredible. their book is better than their web site
this stuff is real do able, it just takes money. and we need grants for it. any grant writers out there who can hook up some doers. I could build this stuff tomorrow with some money
Hello EarlDaily,

Thxs for the solviva.com link--new to me.  Looks interesting from my initial glance.

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

Ummmm... The Solviva folk are not the best source of information. They aren't necessarily the worst either, but you have to take into account that they had tonnes of money to throw at the project. Their claims on the profitability of their greenhouses is simply insane. ($500k/annum! Maybe if that's gross, and the operation is in an extremely affluent area, and they're growing pot.) Infact, many of their claims seem unrealistic IMHO. Still, as a source of motivation, and a quick overview of what might be possible, the Solviva book has value.

For composting toilets, the best source is still Joseph Jenkins' The Humanure Handbook (readable online here). He outlines many systems but champions one in particular. It is simple and cheap (but probably not strictly legal). My two years of first hand experience with the same system has consistently agreed with Mr. Jenkins' writing.

For passive solar heating and cooling James Kachadorian's The Passive Solar House is an excellent introduction (although getting dated).

Put on your shades before you click that Solviva link.
 The anology to Shackleton is a powerful one. In other words, the crew he left behind was literally betting their lives that Shackleton would be able to complete a journey that no sane person would willingly undertake. The fact that they had no choice but to take those odds is quite chilling when compared to what our own society may be facing, much sooner than any of us think.
  Oil is no longer a 'fungible commodity.' Fossil fuels should be considered a strategic asset, and treated as such. Saudi Arabia knows this. Russia knows this. Hugo Chavez knows this. Unfortunately, we have a political and business elite running out country that are so caught up in the ideology of the free market that to suggest the strict control and careful use of those finite resources is counter to all they hold dear.
   The logical course of fossil fuel depletion is to cut down production, conserve and perhaps even ration that resource, with an eye to creating a society that can transition away to other, sustainable sources of energy. This of course includes conservation on a massive scale. You know it. I know it. And probably most of the folks who come to this site know it. It would appear the population of the first world, who have been the benefactors of cheap energy for the past century or so, do not. I suspect their education in this regard will be about as subtle as a baseball bat to the knees. With much the same effect.

Subkommander Dred

I agree with Subkommander Dred that we will probably start to see some exporters begin to think about cutting back on their production.  This is just one of the reasons that I believe we are going to see a  massive decline in net oil exports.

The bidding war for declining net export capacity has only begun.

(More signs of declining net export capacity)

https:/registration.ft.com/registration/barrier?referer=http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&ie=UTF-8&q=declining+russian+oil+production& ;location=http%3A/news.ft.com/cms/s/1d5dfe3a-d653-11da-8b3a-0000779e2340.html

Venezuela buys Russian oil to avoid defaulting on deals
By Andy Webb-Vidal in Caracas
Published: April 28 2006 03:00 | Last updated: April 28 2006 03:00

Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has struck a $2bn deal to buy about 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Russia until the end of the year.

Venezuela has been forced to turn to an outside source to avoid defaulting on contracts with "clients" and "third parties" as it faces a shortfall in production, according to a person familiar with the deal. Venezuela could incur penalties if it fails to meet its supply contracts.

(Registration required for full story.)

For example: check out today's headlines.  Que Vivan los Boliveanos!  Interesting times indeed.
I assume you mean this:

Morales Nationalizes Natural Gas Industry

President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's natural gas industry and oil Monday, ordering foreign energy companies to send their supplies to a state company for sales and industrialization.

Speaking at the San Alberto gas and oil field in the south of the country, Morales warned that companies that reject the decree will have to leave Bolivia within six months.

There's also this:

Venezuela buys Russian oil to avoid defaults

Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, has struck a $2bn deal to buy about 100,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Russia until the end of the year.

Venezuela has been forced to turn to an outside source to avoid defaulting on contracts with "clients" and "third parties" as it faces a shortfall in production, according to a person familiar with the deal. Venezuela could incur penalties if it fails to meet its supply contracts.

Hello Leanan,

This military action obviously shows the amputation of the free-market invisible hand, which leaves the remaining hand--will it be a militaristic fist, or will it seek the biosolar lifestyle of actual planting something worth the later harvesting?  Will parents actually send their children to foreign war to gain those resources for futile wants?  How many redneck racefans recognize the energetic link between NASCAR and NO CAR?  Will the NASCAR owners spraypaint the racing asphalt with the names of US military dead-- as the cars hurtled around the track over the names of these Heroes would the crowd suddenly realize the sad 'reality' and beg and cry for the race to be stopped?  Or would the cheers of denial be even louder as the Circus Maximus raced to it crashing Dieoff crescendo?

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

What he means is this:

"Bolivia nationalizes petroleum industry"

Doh!  I'm a minute late, as always.....
I think I just heard some file cabinets being opened in the Pentagon.
Hello Westexas,

Absolutely correct.  If the leaders of exporting countries are far-sighted, they would immediately curtail exports to the extent that the quantity retained is used to dramatically shift to building sustainable biosolar habitats.  An exporting country that achieves 'first mover' status to biosolar sustainabilty will have an insurmountable advantage because they can slowly trickle out the oil to further enlarge these habitats.

Chavez, and the SA princes, among other exporters, are making a terrible mistake by not internally pricing their fossil fuels at world levels to encourage conservation and shifting to building a new paradigm.  

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

Dred is right. The American paradigm of laissez faire capitalism will prevent us from making the nimble and forceful changes required in order to avoid great dislocation. The primary interest of the elites is the transfer of wealth to their pockets. If it is more profitable to let the country and the world go down the tubes, then the elites will abet it with a smile on their collective faces and a song in their hearts (as small and as black as they may be).

The idealogues will undoubtedly cry and whine asking, "What do you propose to substitute for capitalism? What could possibly be more efficient? Look at all the wonderful things that capitalism had wrought."

Indeed. Look at it. No national health care. A gutted environment. A nation of sterile ugly cities. Mass transit ignored. The list is seemingly endless. The irony is that all of these things would have added to the quality of life for everyone and would have been every bit as profitable as the screwed up alternatives that industry chose. This means that the elites are essentially evil thoughtless thugs who would rather see the world go up in flames than do what must be done to ease us through this physics problem.

Oh well.

it's a harder pattern to deflect because it is a world-wide trend toward post-socialist laissez faire capitalism.

i was reading a magazine in the dr.'s office and learned that Chinese workers have lost universal health care (that right?), and now need to find a "good job" that comes with health insurance

i personally feel the US had a pretty good compromise in the 80's between our gov and non-gov institutions, but i think the fall of communism left folks here with a warped idea of what exactly worked for the last half century.

it was (to borrow from another thread) the accodation between John Kenneth Galbraith and William F. BVuckley Jr. that worked, and not the polarization/demonization that some demanded even then.

"it's a harder pattern to deflect because it is a world-wide trend toward post-socialist laissez faire capitalism."

When you say 'trend' perhaps you mean that that is how  financial institutions have been structured/organised with the encouragement of some very powerful organisations - eg IMF.
I saw that John Ralston-Saul has a new(ish) book out in which he argues that globalisation is over - it's just that most people don't realise it yet. He cites India and more especially China as examples of a more pragmatic approach to development - and whereas western commentators suggest that the adoption of 'western' practices has led to 'success' he argues that it is the non laisser faire policies (eg currency controls) that are responsible.
(Vale -  JK Galbraith)

Also, when HO says "We currently have a small program going in biodiesel, but the plants that generate on any scale are still measuring in thousands of gallons a year, when we need millions of barrels a day." Isn't this 'need' more realistically a 'want'. Let's face it, biodiesel is not going to be able to replace current consumption - ever (or is that what you meant/mean?). It can replace some of our needs but not all of our wants and the approach should be to identify the needs that can (could/might?) be met thru biodiesel.

This is exactly the problem. The system we had worked because there was constant battle between conservatives and liberals with each side forcing the other to not go too far off its own deep end. Beginning with Reagan, for whatever reasons, the conservative side "won" that battle and the liberals have been relegated (thanks much to their own stupidity) to being mostly spectators.

Historically, what worked for the US was a liberal trend with a strong dose of conservatism reigning its wilder impulses back into line. What we have now is dog-eat-dog capitalism of the worst sort, which is just as bad as the social apathy of tried and true communism. This is why I discount the Democrats as being worth anything if elected to office. What are they offering? Harry Reid for gosh sakes? Demagogue Chuckie Schumer? Such are just as bad in their own way as BushCo. Look at the years wasted under Clinton, a brilliant man but a moron of a politician who let his gonads do his thinking for him.

However, I doubt that we can successfully re-establish the balance between liberalism and conservatism. It's dead and while we can admire the corpse, we can't revive it. So we need to replace it. Any solution that does not automatically exclude the Demopublican/Republicrat mess is doomed to fail and any solution that is going to succeed needs to "throw the rascals out" on both sides of the aisle.

Yes, I agree.  My father still thinks it will pull back to the center, because in his experience it always has.  But I see nothing to pull it back - the string is broken.  I do not see the present situation as stable - somehow it must change.  Who knows how long that will take, or how it will be accomplished, but I do not expect to see a return to what was.  Something else will form, but I do not know what it will be.  Nothing says it will be good.
Well said. If consumers had to pay the full price at the pump instead of through income taxes, you would see a lot less gasoline sold, thus would hurt the oil companies. I think it is quite fair to call it an oil subsidy.

CENTCOM's budget should be funded from the gas tax, since protecting oil has become the primary mission since 1988

The strategy of the original plan called for five and two-thirds divisions to march from the Arabian Gulf to the Zagros Mountains and prevent the Red Army from seizing the oil fields of Iran. Instead, Gen. Schwarzkopf began to plan for what he thought was a far more likely situation: Iraq, emerging from eight years of war against Iran with the world's fourth-largest and most battle-hardened army, moving south to capture the rich oil fields whose output was essential to the industrial world.

Hello Dred,

Thxs for responding.  The detritovores, like those abandoned men in Antarctica, were entropically hanging by a thread of Wishful Thinking, they had nothing else.  100% of the survival power set sail for distant shores-- the biosolars must do no less.  The new paradigm is where the future hopes lie.

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


I would argue that Shackelton is a poor choice.  He doggedly pursued an old paradigm.  He definitely did not come up with a new survival paradigm.  And, the Shackelton approach is what we are seeing to day - keep doing what we have been doing albeit with different starting materials.

I posted on another thread that what is lacking today is a philosophical basis for letting go of the old consumer paradigm.  And, further, that people need to see demonstration projects showing how this new paradigm works in practice.

Someone needs to at least write a post-oil Ecotopia.

Hello Todd,

Thxs for responding.  Have you read Jeff Vails's EnergyBulletin article for his version of a postPeak Ecotopia?  This is possibly where we should be headed, but I am amenable to any workable alternative as well thought out.  Remember, postPeak detritus entropy means NEVERMORE, ALWAYS LESS--any new paradigm must seek to optimize biosolar energy, which is unlimited.

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

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az

Don't recall whether I asked you about this yet, but have you looked into Arcosanti?  Up north of you a piece, designing a 'Habitat/City' that can survive in essentially 'wastelands', with careful designs for energy and water-reclamation, etc.??

Some appeared a little grandiose, but other levels of it were already built into their 'test model'..

Also heard about Sundance or Cannes success for the film 'Who killed the Electric Car?', about the EV-1..  there's a little sub-culture for you!

Bob in Maine
"Are people faster than Blackflies?"


No I hadn't seen that article.  I'll check it out.


Todd;  Are ticks more tenacious than humans? (may as well keep it going :-)

It turns out I had read the article.  I had forgotten the author.  In fact, I had forwarded a link to it to friends in Sustainable Laytoville (a local relocalization group).

Is it a perfect concept?  No.  But, without efforts like his, society is going to waste time just when time is of the essence.  However, I do have to say that I believe more people would be led to read it were it in the form of a novel or like Jan Lundberg's recent two part essay at Culture Change.  I'd look up the URL but I need to get back outside to put in my first planting of corn.

Write a new Ecotopian novel? Now, that really sounds like a challange! However, meriad problems arise, thwarting such an undertaking. My main problem is, how do we get to Ectopia in one piece? Well, I wouldn't start from here!

I fear we may indeed be entering a new historical paradigm, I call it the move from "expansion" (which was made possible by cheap and abundent energy) to "contraction" (which results from constrained energy supplies.)

Recently I've been thinking about what it may have felt like to live in Britain when the Roman Army and administration left, and the province was no longer part of the Empire. Ostensibly everything was pretty much the same on the surface. Civilization didn't just switch-off overnight. All the trappings of Roman civilization were still there and worked; only slowly, very slowly things began to fall apart. The economic, social, political, financial, military, trade, and cultural bonds, began to breakdown. More and more links in the chain of civilization, rusted and then broke, one by one.
This was especially true of the Roman road network and the harbours and shipping routes. These things iterally held Roman society and civilization together.

It must have been strange, frustrating, and un-nerving, watching civilization slowly crumbling and not being able to do anything to reverse the process. At a local level individuals must have worked frantically to preserve as much of civilization as they could for as long as possible. But slowly these islands of civilization must have got smaller and smaller and increasingly isolated from one another. All over economic activity and wealth just kept on going down and down. Perhaps the rate of collapse was so gradual one didn't even really notice the decline? In other areas it was probably dramatic, one slipped-off civilization rapidly and forever.

I have another really big problem with the change-over from one historical paradigm to another; aren't such events usually connected to massive social disruption and usually war?

"What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another - doubtless very different - St Benedict."

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (published 1981 - and undoubtedly one of the reasons why the new Pope chose his name)

The way out of our problem is spiritual, not technical.

Should have added:

"Think of late antiquity," Ratzinger once told an interviewer. "Where St Benedict probably wasn't noted at all. He was also a dropout who came from noble Roman society and did something bizarre, something that later turned out to be the 'ark on which the West survived'. "

In so far as my thoughts on this have got at all specific, they can be found here.


Your blog at the end of your link is the most hopeful thing that I have read in a long time. Thank you.

Jeff CC

Dear Elizaphanian,

I think your probably correct about the need for increased spirituality in relation to the problems we face. But it's not as if there's a shortage of it at the moment, is it? Aren't we almost drowning in "cod" spirituality, and "cod" religion? I hope I'm not treading on your toes here. I don't mean to appear disrepectful in any way I assure you. It's odd how many of my friends are priests, considering I have a lot of issues with the supernatural basis of religion!

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "spiritual." But I think I agree with you most of the way. Defining "spiritual" precisely is rather difficult. I think I would prefer at this jucture to opt for the word "organizational" if that isn't too "technical" for you? I think we need to develop new was to organize society. I suppose this will probably need an "ideological" or if you prefer a "spiritual" foundation. If we restrict ourselves, just because its more practical, to our part of the world, then I imagine basing our spiritual values on "Christianity" is probably a reasonable starting point. We then get into all sorts of problems as to which type of "Christianity" we plump for, there are enough to choose between!

I was the person who dubbed TOD the "cyber monastery", and increasingly, at least intellectually and "spiritually", I find this an apt metaphor. I sort of wish this wasn't the case.

  How we understand each others' meaning around the word 'spirituality' is key, albeit paradoxical.

"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao" , and prohibitions in various religions about naming or taking the names of God too seriously, help to point out the limitation of language and definitions in getting Heaven properly pinned down..

That said, I think our spirits are in pretty rough shape in the wealthy western world, and under plenty of duress everywhere else, and certainly it is an area we must address in order to Heal the World, or 'Tikkun Olam' a Jewish admonishment to its people, I believe.  

As far as the Moral Values of Christianity AS Spirituality is concerned, I think you run into a contradiction.  Not that Christianity is inherently IMmoral, in my sight, but that 'Christian Morality', which is a code of social conduct, has been sort of equated with 'Spirituality', which I see as a person's deep connection and peacefulness with their own heart, with their people, the World, or with God, if you will.

The growth of fundamentalist cultures within the 3 great western religions has been a reaction to a long chain of historical forces (See 'The Battle for God', Karen Armstrong  -Knopf), with the intention of deepening the connection of these groups with their God and their Faith Traditions, but as we have seen, has often resulted in very unreligious actions as well, whether in the direction of self-righteous violence or extreme idolatry and superstitiousness.  Results I see as being as UNspiritual as you get, while there are agnostics, atheists, deists, orthodox and also pure secularists who show great examples of a people living life with a rich, healthy spirit, real love for their neighbors, and compassion for the world, in thought and in action.  Isn't that Spirituality?

I wouldn't start with Christianity, either as an example or a home-base, nor would I exclude it.  The American experiment has left us with many cities that function with truly great diversities of faiths and other forms of human spirit, and I simply expect that out of this, people will form new syntheses of religion and expression, which need new and flexible growth to work with new and flexible people, and the practises that get old and stiff will ultimately break-up and break down, as more helpful ways come about.

"Blessed are the Doomers, cause you just KNOW they actually do have hope.."

"In wildness is the preservation of the world"

"My main problem is, how do we get to Ectopia in one piece?"

You don't. The only question is how much pain there is between here and there. You don't get the option of no pain. Your choice is between some pain and more pain. We gave up the option of no pain 30 years ago. Now we are going to pay some part of the price of that decision. Wishing it were otherwise will not make it so and the longer we try to make the existing system continue working, the more painful it will be for all when it does fall.

Hello Writerman & other TODers,

Thxs for responding.  Absolutely crucial to the new paradigm even having a chance of succeeding is universal acceptance of population control.  I have no idea of what is the best method, but I surmise voluntary control by a new social norm would present the fewest violent obstacles.  I feel this is the only way to convert the fast-crash scenario to a more mitigating slow-crash scenario.  Otherwise, Nature, war, and genocide will reduce our numbers in the most horrific ways imagineable.  EnergyBulletin has an excellent article by Heinberg:


Malthus, Paul Erhlich, and Garrett Hardin have very interesting perspectives on this:


Smart people will realize Peakoil also means Peak Procreative Sex which inevitably leads to further Overshoot and disaster--  the world needs to move in the other direction if we truly understand the Thermo-Gene Collision.

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

writerman wrote: "Recently I've been thinking about what it may have felt like to live in Britain when the Roman Army and administration left, and the province was no longer part of the Empire."

Jack Whyte's "Dream of Eagles" cycle of novels is an facinating attempt to recreate that period of history, giving a decidedly non-magical interpretation of the Arthurian legends. He traces over serveral generations the decline of Roman power and the evolution of new social structures in its place. While Whyte is not in the first rank as a writer, the books are still a good read and thought provoking.

     The first book in the series "The Skystone" is in my permanent library.  IMO, it portrays all he has to say about this era, with the bonus of being a grand adventure novel.  The other cornerstone of my gloom and doom collection is "Alas Babylon", by Pat Frank, written in the sixties about a small town in Florida after a nuke strike.  For whatever reason, I found these two books the most compelling explorations into the current scenario, even more so than John Brunner, who really nailed the modern American culture much more acurately.  
I have the whole series (some brought over from the UK) and had I ever time to get away from this blog am looking forward to finally finishing them all - though it has been so long since I read the early ones that I will probably start over).
"political and business elite running out country that are so caught up in the ideology of the free market"

Only when it suits them... the rest of the time they are busy fixing the markets externally (and obviously in ways that aren't too too visible). This is clear in so many ways that only the MSM has the blindess to allow it to go unmentioned.

I would think that the real reason "control of markets" is not allowed is that would monkey with the controls they already have quite nicely in place, which are naturally already well suited to their best interests.

I'm not talking about the "political and business elite" who are following the agenda but the ones higher up who are fully aware of the reality of free markets and would have a fit if someone tried to mess with their stacked deck.


I'm glad you brought this up because over the weekend I thought I was hallucinating.

One of the captains of "free market" cornucopia, John Tierney --yes the same NY Times editor who made the $10,000 bet with Matt Simmons-- wrote in his editorial that the US government should raises taxes on gasoline because this would "allow" market forces to encourage conservation and it would encourage alternative energy solutions.

While I agree with Mr. Cornucopia's suggestion, I am astounded that a pundit of "free markets" is advocating the idea of any tax based control over how "The Market" behaves. After all, given that we have an uber-intelligent, albeit invisible Hand at the control stick of our Free Market sky ride, should it not be all left to the Inviso-Intelli Hand to guide our Hindenberg of State (our ship of state, namely, a full of hot air one) to a safe landing?

To suggest a tax-based re-alignment of the price point, as Mr. Tierney does, rather than to allow pure supply (Q) and demand (D) to set the "correct" price point (P) is to admit that capitalism does not work. It is hypocrasy pure and simple. Mr. Tierney probably does not see himself this way, but his action is one of a Soviet Central Planner. He is not letting The "Free" Markets work their invisible magic. He is advocating state control.

Amazing what a little bit of petro-asphyxia will do to one of the loudest advocates of "free markets".

"To suggest a tax-based re-alignment of the price point, as Mr. Tierney does, rather than to allow pure supply (Q) and demand (D) to set the "correct" price point (P) is to admit that capitalism does not work. It is hypocrasy pure and simple."

What if we indicate the pump tax is paying for the 3 aircraft carriers in the Gulf? Or the 150,000 men and women in Iraq?

Would that make it philosophically acceptable?


Actually, war for oil is yet another example of the failure of the free markets system.

In theory, if a given supplier, say Iran decides of its own "free" will to no longer supply oil into the global markets, then other "producers" should step in to fill the gap; or barring that, the "Market" will step in to provide alternative fuels if no more suppliers are available for providing crude.

When a "free markets" hawk like Bush goes to war in order to secure oil at the point of a gun, he is in fact and by his deeds admitting that the free market system does not work.

This is not philosophy. This is simple facts staring us in the face. If the "Free Markets" always provide, why bother going to war?

But that's OUR oil under their ground!  That changes everything!
Yes, it's our Manifest Destiny Planet under their feet.

"They" are illegal immigrants who snuck through vaginal holes in the border fences to get onto this planet illegitimatley. They should go back to where they came from.

This planet was created by God for "us" and "us" alone. It's our oil. It's our birth right.

Let us gather into a crazed army of zombies and burn this place down to the ground. That will show "them".

It seems to me that the market has great difficulty assessing the future value of assets in changing times. "The market" doesn't belive in models like Hubbert linearlization, generally, at least not enough to bet on it. They are not wrong to be suspicious, in general.

 If one could determine an accurate Net Present Value for light sweet crude, it would probably include the value rising much faster than a discount for the cost of capital. That is, the price might be even higher. After all, don't we thinkt that light sweet crude will grow much faster than, say, 6% per year?

That suggests that the President of Iran may be right in calling the value of oil still too low, though his reasoning is different and not persuasive. The oil producing nations fear what will happen when the oil runs out, so it really may be worth more to them than they can sell it for yet.

Note that the Hindenberg was not full of hot air, but of hydrogen... Hmmm...
Personally I think the hydrogen thing won't fly
(and the corn alcohol thing is moonshine).
Hindenberg was not full of hot air, but of hydrogen

Actually when the Blimpal Warming phase of Hindi's last journey began, I suspect it was a mixture of H2 and hot air.

Yes, you are right.
I was playing off of Colbert's somewhat over-the-edge mocking of the Bush administration at last Sunday's Correspondents' Dinner. Comedian Colbert accused the Ship of State of "soaring, not sinking" and the rearrangement of WH deck chairs as being on the Hindenberg rather than the Titanic--well, we are praying for salavation from the Hydrogen Economy, aren't we?

Several responses of a 'free market' to shortages of an essential commodity:
1 Demand destruction, do without
2 Starvation, do without to the point of death
3 Crime, make someone else do without

Funny, I never see economists mention these responses, they just talk about substitution.

4. System collapse

So much of our wonderous 21st Century "progress" relies on that stuff that "The Graduate" (Dustin Hoffman) was told was the future, namely, plastics.

Plastic is cheap because oil is cheap. Once plastic becomes more expensive, our whole psychology about what is inexpensive and what is not may reverse. Our whole Wal-Mart world of good living is based on the low cost of plastic filled clothes and other goods.

Yes it is humorous how the economists refuse to account for all the "externalities" of reality that fail to fit into into their unquestionable model of human economic behavior.

So much of our wonderous 21st Century "progress" relies on that stuff that "The Graduate" (Dustin Hoffman) was told was the future, namely, plastics.

I've been thinking about that scene myself.  Before, it was, "Go west, young man."  An economy based on expansion.  Then the country filled up, and it became "plastics" - an economy based on oil.  

Neither is likely to be a good option for young people in the future.  

As I pause for a moment to consider how many things in my immediate surroundings are made of plastics, I shudder:
  1. computer mouse under my hand
  2. plastic pen I write with everyday
  3. the telephone handset
  4. the imitation leather chair I sit in
  5. the "Scotch" tape and its dispenser
  6. the cell phone outer casing
  7. insulation on all power and other cables going into my computer
All these are essential plastics and I've barely moved from my desk to other parts of my world that require plastics.

Oh, I forgot, the carpetted floor that my chair sits on --that's probably made of plastic fibers, as are the fibers in my clothing.

And large numbers of those things COULD be made of wood or other materials.  I have an old TV in the attic made of wood and metal.  I could carve a mouse out of wood.  I could make one out of metal too.  It was not so long ago that plastic did not exist, and we had a fairly high level of technology too.  Bamboo is a pretty neat material for certain things (I have a workmate with a bamboo top - damn thing is nearly indestructable).

But having said that, wouldn't it make more sense to save that oil for things like plastic than to burn it in engines?  It's really nuts when you think about it.  

Why would peak oil mean that a career in plastics would be a bad choice? It is still a family of wonder materials and plastics can be developed further to get more durable and/or recycleable products. Things will be made in plastics for a very long time, probably long past the last economically viable oil.
It's not so much that it would be a bad career.  It's how easy it would be to get into it.

Going west and settling new land would still be great, too...but there's no longer any empty land left for newcomers.  

Why would peak oil mean that a career in plastics would be a bad choice? It is still a family of wonder materials

"Plastic" is a lay person word for what chemists more often refer to as polymers. The basic backbone of a polymer is the (CH2)-(CH2)-(CH2)- hydrocarbon chain. It is easiest (cheapest) to extract this chain from oil. When the price of oil goes up, the prices of polymers goes up. Our society is predicated on the availibility of cheap plastic feedstock. If that injection molded plastic Barbie doll costs $100 apiece to mass produce rather than 50 cents apiece, a fewer number of little kids will be able to have plastic toys. It will be back to playing with rocks and mud for an unfortunate majority of our kids.

when i was a chem major "natural products" was not seen as a high dollar field.  having to rejigger industial processes to use "more recently deceased" biologicals might yield some jobs.
[legal] "natural products" were not seen as a high dollar field

Hell, even the most impoverished children rely on plastics for amusement.

Take away the polymers present in that photo (nylon string?) and I'd just have a photo of another man's kids and some explaining to do.  

Ummm. Not sure of the details of that event but if the half that left for civilization didn't make it then wouldn't they be dead too? ie. isn't this splitting of the crew actually similar to diversifying chances of survival? Well, maybe the ones back on land had no hope but if they managed to get out somehow then they'd have sent people to find the other half no doubt.

I do see some value in the story though as it's true that mankind diversifying it's strategy for survival is a good thing. But that's what evolution is all about anyway isn't it? I would never expect differently from any species that had managed to survive as long as we have. Unfortunately the aspects that allowed us to survive as physically weaker beings, deception primarily, are the ones that are bringing us to our knees today.

But the elites have been embarked on a global lobotomy plan for mankind for quite some time now...

I agree that Hutton's article is not calling for greater or fster production, but rather a wholesale rethinking of the US and Eurpoean over-reliance on petrol to fuel the global economy.
Hi All,

When I look at the whole PO problem, I see that people try to cope with it in two differents ways.  The first way is to try to solve it at the supply level and the second is to understand that the demand (way of life) is the problem.

Where I come from, we have very little to say about supposed alternative and from the reseach I've done renewable energy and other readings from Giampetro, Pimentel and many other, there is no real true solution for the supply side.

Because I come from a part of North America where most people dont speak english, I'm completing a research report in french to show to all our city officials and planers that we have a big problem to face.

Being involved already in many aspect of the city, I have access to the Chamber of commerce (I'm the general manager) on a daily basis and I have a meeting regarding the situation may 8th.  Also I have great access to our city general manager and the mayor because I made the city web site and many other things for instance.  I have a meeting with the mayor and the general manager this wednesday and they have read the first version of my report.

This report as been reviewed by a Phd in industrial relation and a master in behavorial reactions, leadership and communications.  He made me divide my research on three aspect.

 1. We are at or we are fast approching decline in oil production
 2. Growth as been made available because of the mastering of fossils fuels
 3. There alternatives and solutions proposed and questionable and will probably not work
 4. The only way to cope with it is to prepare for the transition that will come.

Trough the presentation, I will ask if they understand the scope of the problem and If they want to do something about it.  Then if they come up with supply side answer, I direct them to the third part and end the discussion on that point. I will then ask them what THEY think is needed to do to cope with this.  

I will ask a question to other Toders, I know Deffeyes and Toders discussion regarding PO has stressed the we may have already crossed PO.  I also know that there is no real way to be sure of this.  When I will meet the mayor office, I will have to give some hints as to what is needed to do.  

Is this summer about the last summer left to make people prepare and do a garden?  I cannot turn all the economy in one swoop but lot's of fellow citizens are my friends and I need to know if this winter has a high chance of economic collapse.

And please go on with all your analysis, I refer to your website in the report.  I plan to put up a website to show the content of the report, and many references are made to The Oil Drum.

Thanks in advance

Wolfric - welcome. Good for you to make such a report.

No one, not Deffeyes, not Cheney, not SS, Heading Out, Mike Ruppert or Chavez, knows whether this summer is the last summer to plant a garden. There are too many unknown variables. If depletion turns out to be 8%+ we could invent some new cellulosic that has 6:1 eroi to mitigate drop in liquid fuels. Similarly, if we make new oil finds or decline rates are only 2%, we might bomb Iran and shut off Strait of Hormuz - no one knows how things are going to pan out.

What you should concentrate on is the 'precautionary principle', where taking steps to improve/save your community in the worst case, actually dont cost much at all and will make people better off (like growing more food, using public transport, biking, etc).

Its a question of when not if, so the sooner you take SOME steps the more momentum you have.

Bonne chance,
votre amis a Vermont

Thanks Sasquatch,

Well, It's the way I've understanded it as regard to the exact time of PO or the time when the effects are gona be felt. So I guess that the few steps that I will put my city trough will help in the long run.

What I advocate right now is the few thing that I do already :

 1. Keep on working and doing the stuff you do usually because there is just a limited impact we can do to the overall problem (for the whole region, we consume about only 10 000 bpd, just 10 seconds of world daily production)

 2. Keep your involvment in what you like, it helps
 3. Make a garden and convince your friends and relative to do so.

I will put up local conferences and workshop on the problem and what is needed to do in order to be prepared.  Through the network of all my relative, I hope to reach national coverage in 3 to 6 weeks.

As for public transport, we are mostly a country place so it equals hitchhiking around here :)

In 2005 we have celebrated our 150th anyversary of foundation and it took about 4 years to organize (I was in the organization). As I say now we have maybe 4 years to learn how to live like 150 years ago :)

I do a lot of humour about it too.  Because it cool the atmosphere and help a lot.

In the long run, were all dead, Keynes

For a town of 11,000 and likely an agrarian one, I would suggest building an ethanol or biodiesel plant.

Apply for funding.  Aim to be a net exporter.  Use barges.

Vivre Quebec!

When I will meet the mayor office, I will have to give some hints as to what is needed to do.

My advice is to be cautious in your discussions with him. I would tell him that the exact timing of the peak is in dispute, but that currently we are not bringing new supply on fast enough to meet demand. This means that prices will probably remain high, and certain geopolitical events, the weather, etc. can drive prices much higher in a hurry. This presents the same kind of danger as the beginnings of a true production peak, and we are experiencing this situation today.


The last summer left to make people prepare and do a garden ?

Probably not, but a damn good time to start. After all, when you know for sure, it will be too late. A garden is not something you switch on when required.  Takes time to establish, takes time - for time read several growing seasons - to learn how to, to see what suits your own growing situation. Helps to talk to the market gardeners in your area. This summer may not be the last, but even in the most optimistic scanario I can not see us avoiding a shortfall of food throughout the planet in the coming years.  Anything you grow yourself means more for someone else, means less transported, and probably tastes better.  And if TSHTF next winter, you have a made a start.  Good Luck.

"Because I come from a part of North America where most people dont speak english, I'm completing a research report in french "

Then have a look at :

There's a good intro to peak oil, then you can add things to the wiki or browse the very active forums :
where discussions are of a high quality, ranging from oil to farming as well as geopolitics or humor :
(on the door of the gas guzzler : "clean environment", and on the yellow tank : "let's protect the future"... See closer shots I put later in that thread)

T'as même un forum rien que pour le Québec !


HO- good thoughts. This again gets back to net energy, or EROI. The lower EROI options society chooses, the greater our decline in economic growth or the larger % of non-energy producing society needs to be re-allocated to producing energy. At EROI of 2:1, 50% of society needs to be working on disovering, producing, processing, and delivering the energy to the other half. And any EROIs less than that are in effect eating up our remaining fossil fuels faster, burning the candle at both ends, so to speak.

Alternative energy options may seem attractive from a bottoms up perspective, but from a top down science viewpoint, we need to make absolutely sure we are pursuing the right ones. Shortfall risk looms large.

(HO - I hope you can make the Peak Oil and Environment Conference starting a week from tonight

I keep hearing the rumor that I am registered already  (grin).
Well, I hope you show up. Running into you would be like finding a land mine though...

We're having a press conference with Congressman Bartlett and Udall, Lester Brown, Dan Lahof from NRDC and Roger Bezdek on Capitol Hill Thursday am from 10-10:30 to announce the topic and the conference.  C-SPAN will be a last minute decision but lots of media will be there. Im most looking forward to meeting William Catton - he figured all this out 25 years ago and wrote a book about it And Im told he's coming out with a sequel...

Alternative energy options may seem attractive from a bottoms up perspective, but from a top down science viewpoint, we need to make absolutely sure we are pursuing the right ones. Shortfall risk looms large.

Not according to all the talking heads that were presented on today's news forums. From Meet the Press to other, the talk of the country is oil and high cost of energy. And I listened through it all, not ONE individual stated that we will have any kind of production problem or supply problem but we should start producing more so called "alternatives" to break our dependences on forighn oil..

Not one talking head confirmed peak oil yet and not one confirmed that oil was a finite resource.. We still have alot of work to do..

The only mention I heard this weekend of peak oil came from the mouth of Sir Ian McKellan, on the Bill Maher show. The other guests, including Rep Barney Frank, were mouthing the usual platitudes of how evil the oil companies were and how our SUV drivers needed a break--McKellan broke in with "it's going to run out" and "you need to stop driving so much."  The host and the other guests acted like he had sprayed shitmist all over them, and then just passed over it like it never occurred.  Very interesting, the power of denial.
I forget the exact details but there was a segment in Jared Diamonds "Collapse" where he gave an example of cognitive dissonance resulting in denial.  A dam was old and faulty and authorities said there was a possibility in a big flood that it would break, washing away everything downstream. People interviewd 3 miles downstream were 'afraid' people 1 mile downstream were 'very afraid' and people within 300 yards of the dam, when interviewed were 'not concerned at all', or some such.

My mother has (you can guess how) become a believer that we will eventually peak and decline but its still too much for her to take.

But I think the real problem is that one needs to dig several layers deep in the peak oil story before the depth and urgency springs up at you. Reading one article explaining Peak Oil by a cornucopian and most people probably tune it out and never learn more...

OMFG ... SeaD too funny man ...too funny ;)
yes, and though bill maher himself (and barney) were a bit diappointing, the show, as usual, rocked.  sir ian may have just become my favorite actor, along with clooney, the good baldwin, and a few others.  what really struck me was that sir ian claimed that he generates all of his electricity from solar panels, and sells some back to the grid, in LONDON!  London is a town famous for fog and rain.  if one can do this in London, surely it can be done, or approximated, in much of the world where conventional wisdom might suggest otherwise.

and while we're talking/writing about hbo, i think it was in their docu "too hot not to handle" that a solar guy claimed that a square mile solar array in the mojave could provide all of the electricity currently used by the usa.  if this is even close to true, why isn't something like it being done?  an off-topic crazy (?) idea: why doesn't TOD become a clean energy company?  there seems to be the technical expertise, and resources or access to same, to give it a go.  another: why doesn't TOD become a political party and run a candidate?  or at least become more active.  the press release was a good first step, eh?


This may be a trifle frivilous, but the famous London "fog" was actually, mostly atmospheric polution caused by using too much coal. Today, there's rarely fog in London. It's also not very wet anymore either. Rainfall in the South-Eastern part of England has been way under normal for several years. There is actually a drought and a growing water-shortage in the area. This may have something to do with longterm climate change. The Southern part of England is also slowly/rapidly getting warmer.
"a solar guy claimed that a square mile solar array in the mojave could provide all of the electricity currently used by the usa"

NREL statistics show a flat plate yearly average in the best areas of the US (desert southwest) at 6 - 7 kWh/m^2/day.

So lets say 7 kWh/m^2/day * (1 day) = 7kWh/m^2

7kWh/m^2 * (1 m^2/10.8 ft^2) = 7 kWh/10.8 ft^2 = .65kWh/ft^2

.65kWh/ft^2 * (1 ft^2/3.59*10^-8 mi^2) = 18,105,849 kWh/mi^2

So we've got: 18,105,849 kWh/mi^2 (per day...with 100% conversion) of sun-energy

CIA World Factbook (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/fields/2042.html) shows US electricity consumption as: United States  3.656 trillion kWh (2003) I'm guessing that's for a year (eek!).  (33 kWh/person/day ?)

3,656,000,000,000 kWh/365 days = 10,016,438,356 kWh/day

So if my math there is correct...1 square mile won't cut it.

Yeah, you need more like 55.3 Sq Miles, or a square 7.43 miles on a side.

That's roughly 1/4 the size of the Marine Base at Camp Pendleton

I keep thinking about what the world will look like in 100 years -- after the oil, after the coal, and after the uranium. I see a lot of solar, and a lot of windmills, and a lot of pumped water and compressed air energy storage.

I don't see much Nuclear, we can probably use up all the net energy positive uranium in the plants we have today, and breeder reactors appear to be too complex and troublesome to be a major contributor. (In fact, can anyone point to a single successful breeder reactor anywhere in the world?)

Russian BN600 560 MW operational in 1981?
I see that Tainter is going speak at the conference. I hope someone can report on his remarks. I'm interested in what he has to say.
He typically has one message but its a very powerful one - that historical societys that collapsed did so because net energy availability could not keep up with complexity. Here is a link to an essay essay presented at ecological economics conference a while back
I see that Tainter is going speak at the conference. I hope someone can report on his remarks. I'm interested in what he has to say.
We are facing something that's completely outside our experience.  Like fish trying to understand the desert.  You can see that in this article - they know something is drastically wrong, but can't quite figure out what.  

Yes, it's easy to scoff at their cluelessness.  But we are all in the same boat, to one extent or another.  Even among the peak oil aware, the responses are often amazingly banal.  For example, the socialism vs. capitalism debates that often arise.  As if economic systems developed at the beginning of the Age of Oil will still be relevant afterwards.  

It kind of reminds of those people who watch the film of the moon walks, and are convinced that NASA staged it all.  They aren't used to the low-gravity/zero-gravity world of space, so perfectly natural events look horribly unnatural to them.  So "conspiracy" seems the "obvious" solution.

I agree the socialism/capitalism debate partly misses the point. But it's also completely obvious that US style capitalism is already disastrously maladaptive --- Soviet style socialism already collapsed. What's left? The key thing I think is reverting to a much less capital-intense, more labor-intense, more sustainable, more resource-frugal kind of setup. The really key thing is to get a social structure that allows us to face up to reality and act on it. And that apparently is going to be enormously difficult.

Why? Because the beneficiaries of the current system are willing to plunge the world into war to preserve the current setup. So even though there's plenty of room for debate around what the future will bring, what were are up against in getting there is getting clearer by the day.

Which brings me to conspiracies. If you look at everything that's happened on and since 9-11, there can be no doubt that conspiracies are taking place. True, peak oil is not a conspiracy, as the public is prone to think. But if you look at the systematic program of war, destruction of liberty, torture, spying, renditions, gagging of the press, plus all the recent frantic attempts to plug all and any leaks -- not to mention the actions taken on 9-11 to get it all rolling -- and do NOT see a conspiracy, then I would say that one is not looking at the geopolitical facts with same care and attention one devotes to peak oil. The greatest crime our leaders are committing is not preparing us to face this reality, but rather are preparing to face us and the rest of world in a showdown over the consequences of this unfolding reality.

It's wrong to think that we are the only ones that are aware of peak oil. This gov't and all other gov'ts war are all very well aware of peak oil and what it means. They are certainly aware of the stakes. And they are each playing a different game.

davebygolly wrote: "If you look at everything that's happened on and since 9-11, there can be no doubt that conspiracies are taking place. True, peak oil is not a conspiracy, as the public is prone to think. But if you look at the systematic program of war, destruction of liberty, torture, spying, renditions, gagging of the press, plus all the recent frantic attempts to plug all and any leaks -- not to mention the actions taken on 9-11 to get it all rolling -- and do NOT see a conspiracy, then I would say that one is not looking at the geopolitical facts with same care and attention one devotes to peak oil."

Agree, but I have a theory about that.  Scientific/technical types are basically betas in the hominid pecking order.  They can be very analytical and skeptical about nature, designing experiments to look for 7th digit errors in physical theories.  But in the social order they are subordinates.  They were usually not the head cheerleader, class president, or captain of the football team and do not often become CEOs or Senators.  In their lifelong acceptance of social subordination in pursuit of wisdom, they have become psychologically invested in believing that the authorities might be ignorant and stupid but are not evil.  Because if the authorities are evil, then the choice to subordinate onself to authority was a terrible error, too painful to even contemplate.  So one does not look at the sharp still photos of multi-ton steel assemblies blown 200 feet laterally of the WTC within the first 2 seconds of collapse, suggesting a horizontal velocity of around 100 feet per second, or the 300 ton fragment that was embedded in a building 390 feet away.  You ignore the facts the the PA coroner didn't find a scrap of human remains outside Shanksville, and all the alleged debris from the 757 that was supposedly flown into the ground was hauled off in one pickup truck.  You close your eyes to the photos of yellow hot molten iron pouring (looking exactly like thermite melt) out of the 80th floor of the South tower pre-collapse, and say to yourself that the bosses would not so betray your trust.

Eh.  I don't know if I buy that.  I don't really believe in evil, to tell you the truth.  I'm one of those relativists the right wing is always railing against.  ;-)  

No, the reason I have trouble believing in vast,  secret conspiracies is that I believe people - especially the government - are too incompetent to pull it off.  Someone would talk.  


I'm glad we share a concept, I like to
call it reality,
They have to some extent -- not the perpetrators, but several LT. COLS in the AF, several former high official in the Bush and Reagan admins, a former German defense minister, some celebrities (Ed Asner, Charlie Sheen), Colin Campbell of course, Blair's former environment minister, and I could go on. You don't see any of this in the MSM. You don't see Peter Jennings and Dan Rather saying they were looking at implosions.

Leanan, read David Ray Griffin's "9-11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions" and then tell me you any doubt whatsoever.

That said, I'll stop -- Fleam is basically right, this is not the place to make the case -- although I don't see it as any less relevant than a million other side issues that get pursued here -- just shouldn't get overdone.

Sorry, but I see no reason why I should be swayed by what Charlie Sheen thinks.  

Show me where a perpetrator is talking.  Then I'll take it seriously.  There must be dozens, perhaps hundreds.  Can't keep a secret with that many involved.

Leanan, get serious! Show me a witness to a killing by mafia don. Kevin Ryan, a manager at Underwriter Laboratories, involved in certifying the steel in the WTC, got fired for challenging the melting steel story.

William Rodriguez, a custodian at one of the towers, and a big hero at the time, got a lot of people out, met with Bush, etc. HEARD the explosions, and has a list of 27 other people who wanted to testify at 9-11 Commission hearing -- they weren't interested. He was both threatened and ofter bribes, even a run at the senate! Says firemen were threatened. Look at the leak plugging going on now, the threats to whistleblowers, retired CIA people, etc.

You've got your hands over your eyes. Read ONE book, the Griffin book, and tell me you have ANY doubt. You risk a couple of hours. And inner peace forever. But that's already gone with peak. :) So I don't feel too guilty.

I'm perfectly serious.  Lots of witnesses have testified about mafia killings.  And look at all rats who squealed about Iran-Contra and Watergate.  Especially now that Iraq has become a full-blown quagmire, I would expect a lot of people to be squealing, if there's anything to be squealing about.

And I already have inner peace forever, thank you very much.

You say it much better than I ever could.
Thank you very much.
Inner peace - anything to share? (Though 'Ignore evil' is out of bounds to me.)
No, not really.  I suspect temperament is largely genetic, and I'm pretty laid back.  

I was also born and raised atheist, so I don't have a lot of the guilt issues the average American has.

I am an anxiety stricken atheist. It would be better if you were the conspiracy nut -- you could handle it better!
Probably.  I like conspiracies as much as anyone.  (Big fan of The X-Files).  I just don't believe most of them.  But I still have a lot of interest in them.  Just as I'm interested in Fortean events, the paranormal, etc., but am mostly skeptical.  I like to think I keep an open mind; for example, perhaps one day a scientific basis will be found for, say, telepathy.  But until then...extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I haven't seen any yet.
See, on that stuff I'm a complete pooh-pooher. There is the issue of quantum weirdness, correlation at a distance, any distance, instantaneous, but totally unusable for communication. But this spooky correlation has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt -- the Aspect experiment and many followups.
     I try not to "pooh-pooh" too much out of hand, but it does get hard to do due diligence on everything one reads..."Information is NOT knowledge"...
     Could this whole thing be something as banal as corrupt local building inspectors being paid off to certify less-than-code construction?
It could be, but I suspect it's something that, in its essence, is much scarier than corruption or a government conspiracy.  It's that we don't know nearly as much as we think we do.

Engineering is basically an empirical art.  Sure, we have the equations, the computer simulations, the Fourier transforms and stress-strain diagrams, etc.  But in the end, most of what we know is from experience.  We learn from our failures.

Planes have rounded corners on their windows because we learned from experience that square corners cause cracking, with tragic results.  The Tacoma-Narrows Bridge taught us that we have to consider aerodynamics in bridge design.  The Titanic wasn't unsinkable after all.  The Northridge earthquake showed us that in earthquakes, we have to worry about not only shear, but vertical motion.  Etc.  

And we simply do not have much experience with skyscraper collapses.  It's not like anyone can afford to build them and collapse them for research purposes.  The WTC was supposedly built to withstand a commercial jet crash...but seriously, how would any engineer really be able to do that?  No one has any experience in that field.

Quite a while ago, I read an article in the New Yorker about the Citicorp building. Here's a brief recap of the situation that was shown on PBS:


In 1978, the skyscraper's chief structural engineer, William LeMessurier, discovered a potentially fatal flaw in the building's design: the skyscraper's bolted joints were too weak to withstand 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts. With hurricane season fast approaching, LeMessurier took no chances. He convinced Citicorp officers to hire a crew of welders to repair the fragile building. For the next three months, a construction crew welded two-inch-thick steel plates over each of the skyscraper's 200 bolted joints, permanently correcting the problem.

He "discovered" it from a student that was doing a report on the building, and questioned the design.

# The Citicorp crisis of 1978 was hidden from the public for almost 20 years.
# The 30-page document outlining the structural mistakes in the Citicorp building was called "Project SERENE." The acronym stands for "Special Engineering Review of Events Nobody Envisioned."
# Six weeks into Citicorp's repair, a major storm, Hurricane Ella, was off Cape Hatteras and heading for New York. With only half the repairs finished, New York City was hours away from emergency evacuation. Luckily, Ella turned eastward and veered out to sea.
You really should research this more before talking about it. There have been several cases of skyscrapers (or tall buildings anyway) that had much more extreme fires that raged for much longer than these ones. They didn't collapse. And yes, there has also been test cases where buildings have been set ablaze under extreme conditions and they also didn't collapse. Check ito this in more detail and you will see that it's very well known (from tests and real world events) that burning fuels in air in this type of situation has never resulted in metl collapse liek this. See quotes from Fire Marshall experts who say exactly this. All this info is out there and well documented. Before making stuff up about why none of this can be true why don't you spend soem time investigatin the serious work that has already been done in this area. It's all there for the reading and it isn't just a few wackos with some tongue in cheek ideas. Start with http://www.911truth.org/links.php for many links and if you want to go straight to some newcomer info (kind of like people do here for Peak Oil) then try http://www.911proof.com as a non-nutter intro.

I know I wasn't going to say more. But when I talk about this to anyone it's always the same thing - people start making up ideas why it can't be without checking further and considering that these ideas have already been well discussed. It really is worth some time to investigate it yourself.

Oh, I have researched this.    

Fire alone probably wasn't the cause of the collapses.  It was fire + impact damage.  That kind of synergy how engineering failures often happen.  The real world is messy, and can't easily be captured by equations.  You can take into account fire, and you can take into account impact, but both together...I would not want to even try estimating that.  

Part of the problem was the speed of the fire.  Fueled by jet fuel (and diesel fuel, in WTC-7), it got hotter faster than the typical office paper fire would.  A paper fire typically takes hours to reach the temperature an oil-fueled fire can reach in minutes, though it can get just as hot or hotter...eventually.  

try http://www.911proof.com as a non-nutter intro.

Non-nutter intro?  They're offering Tom Clancy movies as proof that large groups of people can keep secrets?  


That site doesn't mention Clancy but does link to one that does suggest plausibility (not proof) that secrets can be held amongst like minded believers.

A better site for more extensive info is 911research.wtc7.net and it still does not cover much of the information regarding physics of the collapse and energy based calculations of the fire's heat potential. I would have to dig through my archives for more on that but I suppose it's not appropriate here anyway. That site does have some nice exmaples of other fires and collapses and would suggest just how rare and magical those collapses were if not demolitions.

Anyway, enough for here, as it seems it's not suitable in this forum.

I studied physics and have a fairly decent understanding of science. I studied over and over what they said about those buildings going down and I still cannot buy it. No one seems to have answered about Bldg 7 yet either...

The people here on TOD talk a lot about the denial of the masses and then turn 180 degrees when talking about 911. There is plenty of very strange things about what we were told about that day and even stranger how little of it was ever investigated, and then only after so much pressure. They had the answers before it even hit the TV networks on the day it occurred. It does tie in with OIL quite clearly but it's probably as pointless to bring it up here as it would be to, say, bring up PO before the people who don't want to hear about that either.

How can we hope that people will be open to radical new info about PO when we have our minds closed to something not even as scary - the government was willing to kill it's own people to get started on the campaign to enslave and control them before PO would turn them against each other in self destruction... oh why do I bother.

Some of us see it, CS101, and some do not.  
Those who do wish not to be seen as paranoid nutters.
Those who do not, well,....do not.
The general consensus has been that TOD should try to remain focused on just the one main issue, so as not to marginalize or get sidetracked.  Whether I agree or disagree with this is not at issue, out of respect for the general consensus I try to 'stay on course'.  There are other websites and blogs that try to take in the big picture.
I do respect that and will have to bite my tongue in the future. I do think it is best discussed elsewhere if we don't want people to see TOD as a community of nutters.
Thank you cs101.  BTW, I am an honors graduate of Caltech, so I know something about physics.  My fellow Caltech alumnus and former fighter pilot Col. Robert M. Bowman, PhD, former director of the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative is a 911 truth activist.  Yet Dr. Bowman is banned from the mainstream media discussion entirely, they will not mention his name even to try to debunk him - too risky.  There have been plenty of warnings from well informed people, but they are kept off your TV so they can be ignored, same as peak oil.

Now we return to the regularly scheduled oil depletion discussion comfort zone.

Leanan: You are one of the most knowledgeable posters on TOD. However, perpetrators rarely talk and are very good at keeping secrets. 9/11 guys will volunteer info freely when: 1.Catholic priests freely volunteer info about their sexcapades 2. Pro athletes freely volunteer info about their performance enhancement (drug use) 3. Politicians freely volunteer info about their personal financial link to their decision making. Rarely does anyone feel the need to "tell all" and talking about something really important like this would be a major health risk.    
2. Pro athletes freely volunteer info about their performance enhancement (drug use)

You mean like this?

Rarely does anyone feel the need to "tell all" and talking about something really important like this would be a major health risk.    

"Rarely," perhaps, but certainly not "never."  There's always a few who will "flip," especially when it's clear they've hooked their wagon to a falling star instead of a rising one.

Maybe I used a bad example. According to US government figures, millions of US citizens have used anabolic steroids (and basically one guy has talked about it). Not sure how many guys involved in 9/11 but if only one in a million goes to the media they should be ok.
A lot more than one guy has talked about it.  I just used him as an example.  There's lots more, even excluding all the amateurs.

Lawrence Taylor has admitted he used cocaine to enhance his performance.  Jason Giambi admitted to using steroids, and he's still playing.  Lyle Alzado admitted to taking steroids from since his college days, and even blamed his the brain cancer that killed him on his steroid use.

Both Giambi and Alzado lied about roid use for years until they were forced to the wall (Alzado needed the bread). You're right- secrets can be broken. However, when it is in the best interests of people to keep their mouths shut they usually do.
Yup.  The thing is, why is it anyone's best interest now to keep their mouths shut?  Bush is a lame duck, Congress may well swing to the Democrats in a few months.  Someone could become a millionaire if they flip.  

All it takes is one.  Well, maybe two.  One could just be a nutburger, like Bob Lazar.

Millionaire? I thought you guys still had laws against mass murder. It's not exactly the same as admitting you took some growth hormone.
I thought you guys still had laws against mass murder.

Yeah, well, we also have something called "copping a plea."

That happens when somebody is on your tail and catches you. As far as I know, this thing is over. Nobody is looking for these guys.
It also happens when someone wants to settle a grudge, or just get attention.  It's amazing what people will do to get attention.  Look at BTK - he'd have gotten off scot-free, except he wanted to take credit for his crimes.  
If there is good in the world, then, by corollary, there must also be evil.  Yin and yang.
Well...in that case, I guess you could say I don't believe in good, either.
I believe in evil, but not good. Yin and yang are very useful as metaphor for human affairs (duality is a part of us, and something we grasp), but not for reality.
I do believe in evil, and I am a relativist. This is no contradiction at all to me.
i share leanan's confidence in the incompetence of humans and groups(*) ... and to be honest this doesn't fell to me like an oil drum issue.

* - we differ in our estimation of how often we rise above that status quo, perhaps ;-)

No, the reason I have trouble believing in vast,  secret conspiracies is that I believe people - especially the government - are too incompetent to pull it off.  Someone would talk.

Agree.  That's what happened with Watergate, too many people involved even in that small scale operation and someone talked.  How could 1000's of people in Oil companies, gov't, military, mass media etc. all keep their mouth shut?  I think most of these people are just clueless and really do believe that the market and technology will really save the day.

I take some comfort in the fact that the US gov't did not find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  They certainly have the capability to fabricate such evidence, but they didn't. I know they fabricated evidence before the war and we could call this a conspiracy but the cats out of the hat on that one- everyone now knows the lied and misled.

Feh. Please. This is not the Peak Oil'n'Conspiracy Site, that's down the hall, ok? We actually keep the topic to peak oil here and leave the discussions of 9-11 conspiracies, little green men, and A Man's Pursuit Of A Gun to That Other Site.
ad hominem rules, yeeeeaaah!
post-leftist anarchy seems to be a good answer for supporting individual freedom, cooperation and solidarity, while dismantling oppressive authoritarian and exploitative hierarchical structures that are endemic to capitalism and socialist-statism.  Many anarchists focus on economic, political and social localization which dovetails with  some ideas of PO.  

Here is a good primer using the recently bastardized film, V for Vendetta: A for Anarchy

Latest Saudi oil production figures from Joint Oil Data Initiative Global Database

The data speaks for itself.

It looks like the ~Apr 03 spike upward was probably SA 'making up' for the loss of Iraqi oil during the invasion. I recall a Saudi spokesperson a while after that stating that they couldn't have maintained that level of output for very long. Anybody know if the June-July 04 uptick to almost that level was because of new projects coming on line? Or are they just pushing the existing production infrastructure as hard as possible because of the high prices? Wish we had a spy or two in SA's inner circle of oil engineers.
That is indeed the crucial turning point - they simply decided to turn the tap full on. At the time most thought it was temporary, because three months prior OPEC quotas had been cut and it was supposedly working too well. But guess what? the price never did fall to pre-94 levels again.
Simmons thinks it was the Saudis drawing on their tank farms.
..and Nafta countries

The BBC has an interesting little article about a spat between Poland and two of its larger and more powerful neighbours about the route of a new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. The article is typical of the language the BBC uses to "frame" the discourse. Poland has a hardline, nationalist/Christian government, which appears to delight in fierce attacks on its two biggest neighbours - Russia and Germany. They are always digging up the past, to use as a form of moral blackmail directed against their neighbours. There are historical and cultural reasons for this attitude, but Poland is also a close and unquestioning ally of the United States. This adds spice to the cocktail. Whether it's in Poland's true interests to criticize and antagonize its neighbours in this way is a moot point. Poland has a history of recklessness and adventurism in its foreign policy, and it has too be added betrayal from its allies.

"Russia's emergence as a energy superpower, ready and willing to use its market strength as a diplomatic tool, makes less powerful countries like Poland concerned."

"The Baltic pipeline espisode underscores the difficulty of sepperating energy diplomacy from old-fashioned power politics."

"Energy security is now one of the principle issues driving international diplomacy."

"Radek Sikorski compared the deal to a pre-World War 2 Nazi-Soviet pact deviding Poland. Sikorski said the move by Germany did not bode well for plans for a more integrated European Union cooperation on foreign and security affairs. Germany should have consulted Poland before signing the deal."

Seen from the other side, it's not in Germany or Russia's interest to have such a strong ally of the United States leterally controlling the supply of gas to Western Europe.

It's always difficult, and often foolish, if not impossible, to precict the course of future events. I do think one can say with a fair degree of certainty, that, the future isn't going to be dull!

Sikorski is a neo-conservative gangster.
The Poles should be a bit more careful about who serves in their government.
Regarding Will Hutton's comments.

1)    He suggests slowing production
2)    Creating a strategic reserve
3)    Conservation.

These are all very laudable in the run up to a `war time economy'. The problems are on several levels with this plan (and lets face it, it is a plan in a UK where planning is largely absent). The problems are as follows:

4)    The UKCS Oil endowment is vital to the UK Treasury. UKT needs the money now. Without this massive cash injection, the UK Economy will nose dive, especially now that we are becoming a net importer of oil and gas. Basically, we spent the last 20 years blowing this one-time endowment. We knew no better, We knew not of Hubbert, the lower 48 and did not plan. The huge costs of field development in the UKCS meant that production was ramped from first development in order to cover the development costs.
5)    The UKCS Infrastructure of  massive platforms, oil pipelines, a skilled and expensive work force, high tech rigs, Oil and Service Co bases and depots mean that this hungry beast needs to be fed. Cut back and the infrastructure , (especially the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit fleet) and this infrastucture evaporates: The rigs and workers go elsewhere. This ultimately, leaves oil in place.
6)    There is no state or National Oil Company. Each OilCo is responsible only to its share holders. There is no responsibility to the `Common Weal', to the population of the UK, or to a strategic imperative. We did not discover and leave in place oil fields for later, in reserve. There was no `controlling mind'.

Looking back, and hindsight is always 20/20, we have blown it. But worse still, during the last decade, the Government has been made aware of the concept of PO. Campbell's first book and first presentation to UK Gov was in the mid 90's.  It was ignored. I suspect that Energy (as a strategic concept) became less important to UK Gov and the solution was to leave it to the markets. The problem for the UK and all other Western Industrialised nations and those nations now industrialising is that each nation assumed ready access to other people's resources as each nation drew down its own endowments. It did not occur to any that Saudi would deplete at the same time as the UKCS, Norway, The North Slope, Cantarell etc

Hutton's plan is at least a decade too late. But then Oil was cheap and getting cheaper then.

I would like to end with the Oilman's Prayer:

`Lawd, jes' give me one more boom and I promise not to piss it all away'.

"The problem for the UK and all other Western Industrialised nations and those nations now industrialising is that each nation assumed ready access to other people's resources as each nation drew down its own endowments. "

It is interesting to note that here in Japan there appears to be a general consensus that Japan's future will have to rely less and less on oil.   The plan is to make the difference up with Nuclear.  See http://www.upi.com/Energy/view.php?StoryID=20060428-061317-3090r   One thing to note about Japan though is that by 2030 there will be a significant decrease in population so the need for energy will be likely less anyway.

The government agency (METI) dealing with all these things recently published another outlook (not yet in English that I could find), but I do believe they are afoot with working on more aggressive plans too.

If many of these oil alternatives are only starting to become economically viable now, at $70 per barrel, won't that mean that 'gas,' or its equivalent, will need to be $3 per gallon, or its equivalent?  This ignores the whole global warming CO2 problem, I know.  It suggests that the best solution, and one the President seems (I repeat, 'seems') to now find attractive, is conservation, i.e. better milage, more public transit et cetera.
Hmmm.  A sign of reality intruding into the wishful thinking?

Brazil's ethanol program struggles to make a dent

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Brazil's booming ethanol industry has won international acclaim, but recent supply and pricing problems suggest that it's not the grand solution to tight oil supplies and ever-rising prices that had been hoped.

Brazilian ethanol producers are struggling to keep up with domestic demand for ethanol, which is projected to grow by 50 percent over the next five years. Yet a 15 percent jump in prices earlier this year sparked a sharp drop in consumption. Even so, suppliers are struggling to plant enough fields of new sugar cane, from which ethanol is produced here, to keep up with the anticipated growth in demand.

Some energy experts say this has revealed the limits of Brazil's ethanol program and that it is an unreliable energy source, one that can't be depended on to make much of a dent in worldwide use of fossil fuels.

"Here is the classic dilemma of biofuels," said Tad Patzek, geoengineering professor and biofuels expert at the University of California at Berkeley. "They fight for space in the environment, they fight food production and they fight consumption trends. They are not the answer to the energy crisis."

Such hard lessons come as unwelcome news for U.S. consumers, who are encountering record high prices at the gas pump and threats to oil supplies in politically troubled countries.

Won't this also be exacerbated by topsoil depletion? It seems at best a temporary solution dependent on fertilizer inputs. And then I would ask "are there more efficient ways to convert natural gas into transport fuel/ethanol/oil"? Or is this the best we have and it depends on huge acreages dedicated to fuel not food?
I'm sorry, this is a load of crap, and coming from Patzek and his ilk, I expect no less.  I've got a rant coming so here it is.

Let's clear up some myths right here and now.

Food does not, repeat, NOT have to compete with fuel in the production of ethanol.  Lester Brown and Monbiot and their  ilk have limited imaginations and they've never farmed.   Don't seem to know biology systems either.  

88 percent of our corn is grown for animal feed.  The world grows starch mostly.  It would take no effort at all to grow enough food for everyone but not everyone has the money to pay for the food.  That alas is the system.  People going into ethanol are often going in NOT to change the system but for the money.  And they don't care much about sustainability, not really.

Back to the food/fuel myth.  The animal feed above can be processed for ethanol and the mash becomes higher quality feed.  The yeast can make for high quality feed.  Our existing crops can  produce a s---tload of ethanol, with proper energy system design.  Barry Commoner proved that with his research in the 80s.

the country does not have a problem with ethanol, we have a problem with energy system design.  Permaculture based ethanol will revive our soil, increase yields, and localize food production and energy production hand in hand.

What is a problem in our society is centralized agriculture in the hands of a few big companies and centralized energy.  Permaculture ethanol takes all that away.  Yes, it will take time to convince farmers to do this but once they see how much money they can make through coproducts from ethanol production, they will make adjustments.  People make adjustments when it benefits them and permaculture based ethanol benefits them.  And it takes control from the corporations and puts it back into citizens' hands.

Secondly, the New York Times ran a piece a month ago which I can't link to (that's NYT policy) about all the ways that Brazil produces ethanol and how they DO NOT USE FOSSIL FUELS in its manufacture.  Did it appear in the Oil Drum?  Oh, no, that would go against the paradigm- bash ethanol as a boondoggle, dwell on the subsidies while ignoring big oil's subsidies (how much would gas be without those subsidies?).  

People look at big agriculture as an excuse to bash ethanol.  Maybe you should just bash big agriculture.  Don't blame the corn, blame the people/industries who plant it.  Blame the corn syrup and other things that make money.  They suck but we can only change that from the grass roots.  

Also, Please be reminded that the god of ethanol haters, David Pimentel, thinks methanol from coal is the best idea and that he took money from Mobil in the early 80s to do research that benefited... well, methanol from coal!  And that Patzek is a nuclear power proponent who because Pimentel is 80, is now going to be the American Petroleum Institute's shill.

Best to you at the site, but let's get to work here.  Spread the word about POSITIVE alternatives, don't just bash.  If something like ethanol doesn't work in your mind, make it work.   Design the energy system so it does.  It's natural, renewable energy and the perfect fuel to run every engine we've every invented.  It doesn't come from non-renewable poison.
We can make it work.  Beats the alternatives.

Read "Life in a Grass House" and get back to us:


Believe it or not, many here at the TOD believed ethanol was the answer.  Reality kind of intruded, though...  

Eye opening essay. Why no discussion of using corn stalks from existing production to make cellulosic ethanol? I agree that corn and switchgrass are marginal but the subsidies are still cheaper than the military subsidy for oil.
Why no discussion of using corn stalks from existing production to make cellulosic ethanol?

That would have essentially the same problems as using switchgrass.  Scaling up is ever the problem with alternative energy.  

I agree that corn and switchgrass are marginal but the subsidies are still cheaper than the military subsidy for oil.

It's not money that matters, it's EROEI.  

In any case, neither is sustainable.

I've heard from Minnesota farmers that the EROEI numbers are better than the desk bound researchers claim. I'm guessing the real number is somewhere between.

The $1/gallon transportation cost seems high. I'm sure some clever folks could figure out a way to preprocess the hay before shipping it to the refinery.

I think it is premature to give up on this without 5 more years of focused government funded research. Why not spend a $10B and shift our best researchers to the problem?

I've heard from Minnesota farmers that the EROEI numbers are better than the desk bound researchers claim. I'm guessing the real number is somewhere between.

I'm guessing it's worse.  Much worse.  I bet farmers don't have a real idea of the energy inputs.  They know what they pay, but not how much energy goes into making their fertilizers and pesticides.  

The "turkey parts into oil" plant is a case in point.  The calculations showed oil from turkey parts should cost $15 a barrel.  Instead, it was $80 a barrel - over five times as much as they expected.

I think it is premature to give up on this without 5 more years of focused government funded research. Why not spend a $10B and shift our best researchers to the problem?

We've spend billions on it already, and have been researching it since at least the '70s oil crisis.  

The bottom line is that the proof is in the pudding for all of these alternative sources.  Some thoughts:

(1)  In 2005  when corn prices were at their absolute minimum (less than $2/bushel), and ethanol sky-rocketed, ethanol producers are making money (to see an example, go to www.sec.gov and search on "badger state ethanol").
In 2005, to make a gallon of ethanol, the costs were about $0.75 for corn, and $0.85 for other costs, i.e., about $1.60/gallon to make the stuff and it currently is selling for $2.75/gallon.  Fast forward to this fall, when corn futures indicate prices approaching $3/bushel and ethanol futures are in the $2.30 range.  Will they still make money?  Much more marginal, as production costs rise to about $2/gallon, which means these operations would be LOSING MONEY were it not for the Federal $0.50 subsidy per gallon.  At what gas price will they make money without subsidies?  Nobody seems to know.

(2)  Regarding cellulose, it's time for some folks to show some numbers.  The Iogen folks in Canada have been running their pilot for TWO YEARS, and still haven't shown any legitimate numbers regarding costs per gallon, etc.  With the amount of money sloshing around in ethanol these days, from my perspective the fact that these guys haven't been able to get a full scale project funded and underway indicates that things aren't as rosy as some people have been saying, i.e., the enzyme costs or whatever aren't coming down, or they are having troubles with volumes.

(3)  What we need to realize is that all of these alternative sources (coal to liquids included) are going to cost about $100,000 per (barrel of oil equivalent/day) in capital, basically the same as an oil sands project.  For coal to liquids, see the project proposed by Rentech.  At a 2% depletion rate post peak (1.6 million bbl/d lost per year, at least initially), that means we will need on the order of (1.6 million bbl/d) x ($100,000/bbl/d) = $160 BILLION PER YEAR of capital put into these alternative energy sources.  That's roughly the earnings of all the big oil companies combined.  To achieve a return on capital of 10%, these sources will require at least $30/bbl above operating costs, which themselves will run at least $50/bbl.  

Minnesota and Iowa probably have the best EROI of any major corn-producing state. Nebraska has the worst. Even using the USDA numbers, Nebraska's EROI is barely positive, and that does not include shipping the ethanol halfway across the country.

A reality check for those who believe that ethanol is the answer, or is on the cusp of being competitive: Look at Europe, with $5-$6 gasoline. Biofuels there receive significant tax breaks, and yet they still are not competing with fossil fuels. Every time someone says something like "Let's just get off of fossil fuels and develop alternative fuels", I ask "How much are you willing to pay?" Personally, I will pay more. But most people are probably not going to be willing to pay the price.


RR: How about when the gas price hits $7?
Gas at $7 would probably enable biofuels to be competitive, but that presumes today's natural gas price. As natural gas prices run up, so does the price at which the biofuels become competitive, since they depend on natural gas (and to a lesser extent, diesel and gasoline).


Don't forget to count the military subsidy to protect our oil supplies. DOE and hawk Milton Copulos , president of the National Defense Council, spent a long time figuring out how much of our military expenditure goes to oil. It was $3.68/gallon prior to the 2003 invasion. Now it is $7.41/gallon.

I would rather pay farmers in the Midwest than buying depleted uranium shells to blow up things, kill people and generate CO2.

Those "subsidies" don't benefit big oil. They benefit the citizens. If those subsidies weren't there, and it caused oil and gas prices to be higher, who do you think would pay the price? Big Oil? No, gasoline consumers. Also, it wouldn't make ethanol any more competitive, since ethanol has large energy inputs into making it. So, they benefit from those "subsidies" as well.

Don't get me wrong. I don't favor going to war over oil. But it is a bit ludicrous to suggest that this is a Big Oil subsidy.


There is no way to tell what that world would look like, as it is so different from the one that exists.  Without military support, there might not be "big oil" as such, as perhaps the market would not have been anywhere near as large as what evolved.  You could certainly make the case that without the military support of oil, prices would have been much higher, and we would not be in the pickle we're in now.  Who benefits?
The most common biofuels in Sweden are ethanol, biogas(methane) and RME, biodiesel from rapeseed oil. They are price competitive with about $6 gasolene and diesel if they only have to pay the ordinary sales tax and no CO2/roadbuilding/its-a-god-addition-to-the-budget tax.

If I have converted the funny units right we now pay about $5.5 per gallon for gasolene and manny believe we will have to pay about $6.5 this summer. Biofuels sell for slight less per energy unit wich have prompted a lot of home made E85 conversions or manually mixing half a tank of E85 and half a tank of "E05".

What are the sources of ethanol? I remember reading somewhere that Sweden imports most of its ethanol from Brazil. (I think Finland is planning to start producing fuel ethanol from barley - they already produce a lot of vodka from it ;-)
Yes, most of it comes from Brazil. Almost all of the current and decided ethanol production in Sweden is based on wheat or rye-wheat. (I do not know what the proper hybrid name is, rye-wheat is a word for word translation. )

270 000 m3 of ethanol per year is used in Sweden today, this figure is not exact since use is increasing. 20% of it is manufactured in Sweden. The company running the biggest ethanol plant assumes that the 2008 ethanol sales will be 500 000 m3. They will increase production from todays 55 000 m3 to 200 000 m3 with a 150 000 m3 plant addition costing about $135 million that will be running in 2008.

Total gasolene sales in 2005 were 5 500 000 m3, I do not know if this includes the ethanol mixed into the gasolene but it probably do.

We are a small country compared with USA...

When I was in Sweden they were talking about energy crops from fast growing wood. How is that going now?
Some is planted by enthusiasts, I am not sure about the scale.
Using the USDA's slighly optimistic figures, found here:

And a little mathematics, we see that we can replace the US's annual petroluem demand (20mbpd x 365days = 7300mb) by just growing and converting corn into ethanol on a total of 1213 million acres of land.  Hurray!!

Only one small problem....The US only has 434 million acres of available cropland (2002 USDA figures),including pastureland, and is losing available farmland at a rate of nearly 3 million acres every year (to surburbia, housing developments, etc).

So, assuming ALL of it were converted over for ethanol production use, we could keep things running at 1/3rd of normal.  
Until we starve.

Correction....biomass, not corn. The study cited covers a variety of different feedstocks, including switchgrass (which is a much less input-intensive crop than corn), and it is these numbers I used.
Thanks for your points. The Renewable Fuel Association sure got their moneys worth on negative PR about David Pimentel.

Several thoughts:
1)That story about Brazilian ethanol was on TOD somewhere - just cant find it. They claim an EROI of 8:1 which is magnitudes better than corn-ethanol, and actually better than the 5:1 of conventional domestic gasoline. We dont have the soil conditions to grow that much sugar cane in US.

2)Standard deviation must be taken into account when looking at 'permaculture'. Brazilian sugarcane crops experienced a severe drought in 2000-1 and they had to IMPORT ethanol from Archers Daniel Midland in US. Crop volatility will always be an issue - if a major part of society is dependent on crops for fuel -one year in 6 there will be a shortfall and 1 year in 12 there will be a crash.

3)Feeding dry distiller grains to cattle as a residue from ethanol production a) is bad for them and b) makes them fart alot more, which actually ends up being the second largest greenhouse gas emission in the ethanol equation - and you can only feed them so much of it so if we scale ethanol there will be too much DDGs for feed.

  1. if the world goes down the protein chain, then your point about ethanol not competing with food might be correct, but the trend is the opposite, so increasing protein demand and increasing liquid fuel demand WILL cause competing needs.

  2. In general I think the alternative fuel discussion on TOD has been balanced, and not just bashing. We just bash things that are bad ideas, like corn-ethanol....;)

5b) Corn ethanol actually could be a great local idea for where corn yields are high and there is economy of scale. But to truck ethanol from Iowa to Maine or Washington makes NO sense - think of the fuels that are used to transport it - even Patzek and Pimental did not include that in their net energy calculations.
sasquatch -

Why does everything have to be a NATIONAL solution?? Before the sugar lobby killed it, the primary crop across the Texas Gulf Coast was sugar cane. It grew in every Texas county from the beach right up into the start of Texas Hill Country. In Louisiana, every parish south of Alexandria has the capacity to do the same, and the history. In Mississippi, their southern counties can and historically have produced abundant sugar cane crops. Florida is no stranger to cane either.

Both sugar beets and yams have similar potential in more northerly states. If you cannot grow sugar beets, it's because you are planting them in asphalt or concrete. Same with yams - they are natives and they require little in the way of pesticides/fertilizer with the correct bean rotation for nitrogen fixing.

These 2 root crops can be used with exactly the same steps as sugarcane in their processing, which makes them more efficient than corn. But then again, as gasoline prices rise, EVERYTHING needs to be looked at because we are set up as a society for liquid fuels. But why can't the solution be multiple crops suited to regions rather than one big national solution that sucks on EROEI and doesn't make sense?

So let corn do the work where it can. Let beets or yams do it where they can and let cane do it where it works best. The big advantage for us all is the liquid fuel aspect.

Of course, I would prefer going to electric cars, but until the battery pricing issue resolves itself, it cannot happen. But that time is already approaching where the battery packs for the Prius will be the same cost as rebuilding an ICE - so conversions will happen much more quickly than people realize. All it takes is additional pain in the pocketbook from gasoline.

Right now a Prius battery pack is around $3000. It takes 2 to make an EV with 100 mile range. $6000 is still a bit too high compared to 6v lead acid. But just 3 years ago this same battery pack was over $6000....

Combine that with regional ethanol and we may just have a workable solution for power down. There is no solution if we opt for continued unlimited growth - Liebigs Law will get us. But I don't think that our economic system will tolerate much more growth - it has some really big holes in it already, and may actually be what smacks us in the face first...which is all the more reason to search for regional sources and solutions, IMO.

Geopoet - i agree in the following sense. I think there are very few NATIONAL solutions and corn ethanol isnt one of them. It may be a good local solution for certain states, but to promote it nationally just leaves us more vulnerable down the road.

I certainly dont know the answers, but I do know the questions, and the right ones are not being asked nor funded.

Do we suffer from all or nothing thinking perhaps? Maybe there are no NATIONAL solutions. How about some ethanol, some electric car, some coal to liquids and a lot of passenger rail while we wait for a magic solution. No wait ... we have to make the right choice because we won't get many more chances.

I've got it! How about a poll? (only 1/2 joking)

I think we do suffer from "Magic Bullet"ism.  Pretty much everyone I've dragged into a discussion on oil alternatives has, in one way or another, said: "What ONE THING can we use to replace oil."  I inevitably respond with that there is not ONE thing, it's a mix of things that are viable.  For example, you're not going to generate a lot of electricity with solar panels in Maine and the northern tier states (and Canada) in the winter, but solar panels are great for the southern states.  Before oil there was a mix of hydro, coal and wood (steam power), human power, horse power (the things with four legs).  Solar panels can go where solar makes sense, wind where wind makes sense, solar thermal where solar thermal makes sense, biomass, etc.  What makes sense everywhere, the real magic bullet if you need one, is efficiency/conservation.  It's a crime that new houses are as inefficient as they are, that appliances are inefficient, that a 6000lb truck carries one 180 pound human tens of miles back and forth every day to a job they don't even like.
Your point is well taken, but the "one thing" that comes closest to a magic bullet is conservation.  We just don't like that concept!  It comes a little too close to "no you can't", and then we have to throw a tantrum to get what we want.
Ding Ding Ding Ding!  We have ourselves a winner!

See... the dirty little secret about Peakniks Bigelow, is that some of them (note I say some) remain quite determined to 'poo-poo' any and all solutions that might be applied to the very crisis of which they are named.

These are the naysayers.   The doom and gloomers.   Team Defcon if you will.

And with popcorn in hand, Team Defcon has every intention of sitting back to watch the dominoes fall until the pattern on the floor spells out DONE FOR.

And for what?

So that one day, starving in rags on the trash heap that was once society they can say, "I told you so! I told you there was nothing we could do."

Not just that though. I think many doomers are not happy with the world shaped as it is today - pollution, noise, concrete and steel, pressure, injustices and on and on. Despite the transition being very rough, I think many doomers on the whole expect that reversing society back to a simpler time may result in a better life overall; more human scaled again.

How about lots of approaches? There is no big fix. But the big three are alternatives, efficiency and conservation.
How about more insulation? How about wearing a sweater?
How about turning stuff off?
As to more alternatives, ethanol? How about coal to liquids and nukes? Walking instead of driving? Plug in hybrids or all-electric transportation, sure. Passive solar heating; active solar electric (concentrator/Sterling engines and solar cells); geothermal heat pumps with >3:1 gain over electricity used, uh huh! Wind farms are fine with me and they are no hazard to birds either. How about improving the passenger rail system? How about farmer's markets and growing some veggies?

Some people have called this a shotgun type approach -might hit something. They are the ones saying there must be one national solution, and it must be the right one. We are getting dangerously close to petroleum shortages, then natural gas and when shortages hit carrying out solutions gets much harder. Coal will be used for more things: plastics, unnatural fertilizer and diesel. Coal will deplete too. If there is one NATIONAL solution maybe it's a "secret". Defcon? Massive population dieoff fits the scenario; I am not in favor of such either.

fuelaholic -

I am an engineer, not a farmer - so I admittedly don't know an awful lot about growing stuff.

 But I do know that by the USDA's own (and probably optimistic) analysis the ethanol-from-corn route has an Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) of something like 1.3. This means that for every 1.3 units of energy you get by producing ethanol from corn, you must expend 1.0 units of energy in doing so.

 Assuming that the USDA's estimated EROEI is probably closer to a best case rather than a worst case, this does not strike me as anything to get all enthused about. Hell, if an oil company had an oil field where it had to expend the equivalent of 1 bbl of oil to produce only 1.3 bbls, they won't even bother breaking ground.

Now, perhaps you disagree with the USDA's 1.3 EROEI number. If so, then I'd be interested to learn what you think a realistic  EROEI for corn-to-ethanol should be. Furthermore, I'm not sure what exactly you mean by 'permaculture based ethanol'.

Is it not true that the growing of modern corn at high yeilds requires a very large fertilizer input, and that the largest single component of the energy input for the corn-to-ethanol route is the energy required to manufacture ammonia-based fertilizers?  If so, then how to propose to get around that obstacle?

When you harvest corn from a given plot of land, you are also 'harvesting' nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients. At some point, don't all of these have to be replaced if you want to maintain the same yield? And in a 'permaculture based ethanol system, how are these replaced without expending a large amount of energy?

I was also a bit puzzled by your statement that Brazil produces ethanol from sugar cane without using fossil fuels.  It would seem to me if that were really true, then Brazil must grow and harvest sugar cane without the use of fertilizers.  Is that true? If so, can they continue doing so without depleting the soil?

Please note: I am not asking these question to be argumentative - I truly  want to understand your views on these various technical matters, because I for one am having a hard time convincing myself that corn-to-ethanol is really going to do us all that much good as a primary energy source.  

hi, first of all FALLOUT below has a lot of misinformation fed to him and as usual,  Pimentel and Patzek lead the way.  Perhaps he should look at the true EROEI of fossil fuel products, which never seems to get much attention.  What sort of energy return do we really get, with pollution, co2, etc, etc?  What costs are there to society?  HOw much of our gas comes from tar sands and what is the EROEI there?   Why doesn't Pimentel or Patzek look at them?  Gee,  maybe b ecause there's no funding for it.

The UC BErkeley study from this February, not particularly flattering to ethanol, derided Pimentel and Patzek's work quite harshly by scientific standards.  

The positive EROEI of SMART ways of making ethanol has been documented in numerous Brazilian studies.  There's no reason we can't learn from them.  Isais de Carvalho Macedo did one in 1998 and numerous others there have done them since. (refer you to NYTimes article by Larry Rohter, if you have subscription and can get it)

The product left over, the DDGs, from making ethanol provides the nutrients required to maintain the land.  Yield is gradually increased.  Experiments have been done showing this.  

In many instances, Brazil sprays their crops with stillage, a liquid made from the leftover mash, for fertilizer.

Again, I agree ethanol will not work unless it is done permaculturally.  Organic farming, removal of all herbicides (DDGs are natural herbicides too) and pesticides, use of byproducts  which include yeast, carbon dioxide that can be fed into greenhouses for rapid growth of crops, single cell protein, earthworm production and fish farming, etc.

Corn should not be the sole crop.  I believe I madde that clear.  There's also marine algae, sewage filtered through cattails, desert crops that need little water( of course), and many other higher yield crops.

FYI, the plants in India and Brazil that make the alcohol are powered by methane in a closed energy system.  Waste heat is used to cogenerate electricity.  Good sound energy design.

THanks for asking.

It "requires 45% more fossil energy to produce 1 l of ethanol using 2.5 kg switchgrass than the energy in a liter of ethanol," pg.7, "Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower," David Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek Natural Resources Research, Vol. 14, No. 1, March 2005

This article was published 1 year ago in a peer-reviewed journal and has yet to be challenged in a meaningful way. Natural Resources Research sponsored by the International Association for Mathematical Geology (IAMG) and is co-sponsored by the Energy Mineral Division of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG/EMD).

Brazil is using slash and burn methods to produce their much vaunted sugar-ethanol fuels. That is, they get one or two shots of high production from a piece of savanna (south) or former rainforest (north) and then abandon the land when the nutrients deplete.

I am an engineer by trade, and a former employee of USDA/ARS (1997-2000).  
Needless to say, I've seen the USDA studies regarding biofuel EROI, cost of production, and economic impacts (on corn, switchgrass, and a host of other possibilities).  I've also read the UCalBerkley study, and was not terribly impressed with either their methodology or results.  
I see both Indonesia and Brazil having difficulties with their ethanol operations, and the Europeans largely uninterested in it from an economics perspective.
Land application of the fermented mash from ethanol production byproducts (stillage) can be harmful to many types of soils, especially those with high clay content, like we have down here in Georgia.  What works for Brazil does not translate elsewhere, as others have pointed out.
In short, ethanol salvation = wishful thinking, the very title of this post.  It's no silver bullet.

Now, to be fair and where you're way off point, Fuelaholic, is I never said anything glowingly positive regard tar sands or any other fossil fuels source, for that matter.  Good luck finding a single quote from me regarding either.

If you are very interested in ethanol, from any source, consider investing in an ethanol company, and put your money where your mouth is. Keithster100 likes Pacific Ethanol, and also seems optimisitc on the matter.  
As for me, I'll put my efforts elsewhere.

"If you are very interested in ethanol, from any source"
I believe you didn't read  my post.  I told you how it needs to work.  

Brazil is clearly not having difficulties with ethanol. Now biodiesel, which you lump in with ethanol when you mention Indonesia, that's another story.

USDA told a friend of mine he could not increase his organic matter content clay soil to 22 percent organic.   His adobe clay soil went from one inch to 16.
They told him that was impossible.  No nitrogen fertilizers used either.  And Georgia seems quite enamored of biofuels right now, based on a few editorials I've seen in the Atlanta paper.

I made the point about tar sands to illustrate two things: First, that Patzek and Pimentel did their research for a journal that specialized in minerals, non-renewable resources.  And I made the point about the UC Berkeley report simply to point out how terrible they thought Patzek and Pimentel's work was.

Second, I just think people spend too much time on EROEI on renewables and not enough on n on-renewables.  Glad you feel the EROEI on non-renewables is terrible as well.

We have researched ddgs and find them to be beneficial in most growing conditions.  We can certainly translate what Brazil has done to this country and do better, using a VARIETY OF CROPS.  Not just sugar.  Not just corn.  See my earlier note on marine algae, cattails, etc.

sorry you've seen such shoddy research work done on ethanol's potential.

Has anyone noted that in Brazil and such places, the poor are growing crops for ethanol for the elite's cars? The mass of the population doesn't have cars and can't hope to have them.

Ethanol and various biomass fuels are a popular delusion in the US because it fits in well with our class-based view of society. Unless one is very uncharacteristically aware, one considers oneself to be one of the elite, if not perhaps right now, then sooner or later, probably sooner. Almost everyone imagines himself as Bush in his limousine, or Kerry in his limousine, or one of the fat cats who put Bush/Kerry in that limousine. Hardly anyone at all in this country realizes that they are much more likely to stay right at the class level they are now, or sink lower as has been the trend over the last 30 years. Hardly anyone is willing to face the fact that in a Brazil type biofuel heaven in the good old USofA, they're most likely to be one of the starving farmers making biofuel by hand (with their wife pulling the plow) so the elite can drive their carefully-maintained Hummers.

A parody.
"Has anyone noted that in the U.S. and in Middle Eastern countries and in Africa, the poor are working in oil fields?  The mass of them don't have cars and can't hope to have them."

Now you want to blame ethanol for class divisions?????? You want to blame it for transnational capitalism??

Biofuels,  handled properly, spread the wealth and allow many to participate in the riches.   better food, better land, cleaner air. See my previous posts. Clean fuel doesn't just power cars, you know.  Brazil uses waste heat to generate electricity... but I'm repeating myself.

If you'd  like to research the benefits of clean burning alcohol fuel heating of food indoors in impoverished areas vs charcoal and other horrible alternatives in Africa and other parts of the Third World, you'll find a few more surprises about its benefits to the lower classes.

Good night.

"Has anyone noted that in the U.S. and in Middle Eastern countries and in Africa, the poor are working in oil fields?

That would be a "no."

With the growth in popularity of biofuel, am I correct in assuming that global food production has peaked (as acres devoted to food production has peaked?)
"Has anyone noted that in the U.S. the poor are working in oil fields? "
If you can find an oil field worker in the US not driving a new big assed pickup with 100 empty beer cans in the bed of the truck you haven't seen a US roughneck. The rest of the crew are making $100k/year minimum Driller, Pusher and the Co Man.
I am an engineer by trade, and a former employee of USDA/ARS (1997-2000).  
Needless to say, I've seen the USDA studies regarding biofuel EROI, cost of production, and economic impacts (on corn, switchgrass, and a host of other possibilities).  I've also read the UCalBerkley study, and was not terribly impressed with either their methodology or results.

Likewise, I am underwhelmed by the USDA studies on this. They would have never, ever passed peer-review without substantial modifications. I dissected them here:

How Reliable are Those USDA Ethanol Studies?  

and here:

Grain-Derived Ethanol: The Emperor's New Clothes


Good work, Robert. I enjoyed both articles very much.
(DDGs are natural herbicides too)
I'm sure DDG's kill weeds and make sugarcane grow. Is this any indication of the credibility of the rest of your comment?
If growing corn for animal feed is a maladaptive use (and it is), then transforming it into a higher quality feed is still a mistake. Still playing right into the hands of corporate agribiz.

As a farmer pointed out here recently cows are exquisitely designed to eat grass, feeding them corn makes them sick, hence the massive prophylactic use of antibiotics in cattle production.

actually cattle are supposed to eat brush but again, don't bash ethanol for corporate agriculture's decisions.
If we really could figure out how to use wood cellulose for ethanol, we wouldn't have to compete with food.  I know you're thinking tree farms would displace food crops but it would not have to be so.  I live in a hilly area and there is lots of land here that cannot be farmed due to the steep hills.  Now you can graze dairy cows on it and convert solar energy via a grass intermediate into milk, cheese etc on this land. I buy my cheese at a farmer's market who grazes his cattle on hills unsuitable for crop farming.  but the vast majority of hills around here are unused. Trees could be grown there for cellulosic ethanol.  Trees are easily harvested from such hills by the timber industry and you only need to harvest every 6-12 years.  So I think we could displace some oil with ethanol without necessarily displacing food crops.  
The Finns have - of course - figured out how to make drinkable ethanol from forestry industry waste products (lots of trees combined with lots of thirst). During WWII cars and buses were also retrofitted for wood fuel.
I wrote a paper that Im in process of getting published on using forests to replace fossil fuel for heat. The rough numbers are we use 7 Quads of oil, gas and electricity for heat each winter. of the 864 million cubic feet of forest in US, the annual growth is about 2.2%. After whats already being used for furniture, etc, we could replace ONLY 5-7% of our heat needs with the annual growth before it became unsustainable.
We're talking about driving, and food but theres also heating needs in this country....
If I'm reading correctly, that's absolutely terrifying. That underlines my own instinct that much of the USA is not, strictly speaking, fit for human habitation.

Or, more precisely, not fit for sustainable comfort-zone habitation.

Its a trade off between population density, living density and technology level. With plenty of cheap energy you can skip on using energy efficient planning and technology.
The day they start using ethanol in the fields to work the fields to produce ethanol, then we'll know it is worth producing.  Right now the plants are burning large amounts of natural gas, soil is being depleted and poisoned, ground water is being pumped etc etc.  It is politics as usual, largely based upon the primary being held in Iowa!  It would never make it without subsidies that it receives.  In the end, our soil and water quality will keep us alive, but ethanol will not.  The sooner we stop this scam, the better.
The U.S. Dollar is tanking. Anyone know what's causing this?
oil prices, account deficit?
George Soros found out the government is subsidizing ethanol?
Iran's new Euro-dominated oil bourse opened.
Dumping the US$$ in preparation for the reinstated, supposed Iranian Oil Bourse set to open the first week in May and trading in Euros instead of US$$ (100% for sure this time...well..maybe).
Perhaps, also, the rest of the world has tired of supporting the US National Debt:


Perhaps, because the stench of overheated currency printing presses has wafted across the ocean and our foreign friends have figured out why the M3 is no longer published.  

"Acknowledging the energy situation is a "crisis," U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said Sunday it could take three years before drivers get relief from high gas prices."


Three years and all will be well?  More wishful thinking....

At least I know I'll get relief from GWB.
I think that in 2-3 years (a.k.a. 2.7 years =January 2009), the Bush administration is out of there and washing their hands of the whole mess. That's probably what Bodman meant about the problem resolving itself.
Hmmm. Isn't it interesting that he can be so precise when it comes to a timeline? Three years? Where did that come from? I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Bush will be out of office, there might be a Democrat in his place, and the three years will be up, so the Republicans can start blaming the Democrats for high gas prices.
That would be my guess as well, Oil Ceo. Shuffle the blame, and then bail.
Reminds me of the old "three envelope" business joke.
Easter Island in the Travel pages!  Albee only mentions the depopulation in passing, but the pictures are very good.


Sad that he recommends driving a 4x4 around the island.

What is the tag - line?

''Come to Easter Island and see your future''?

Apologies in advance if I'm posting something that's already been talked to death, but did anyone see the peak oil denial-fest in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs?

Here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/zkvx5

Some excerpts...

'Despite all the predictions of impending catastrophic shortages, the world still possesses immense oil reserves. "Proven" reserves alone, more than 1.1 trillion barrels, could fuel the world economy for 38 years even at current rates of consumption. ... An additional 2 trillion barrels of "recoverable" reserves are not classified as proven but will probably meet that standard in a few years as technological improvements, increased knowledge of the subsoil, and the economic incentive created by higher oil prices (or lower extraction costs) come into play

My comment:  Good thing he put the quotes around "proven" and "recoverable."  Does anyone know how extraction costs are going to go lower? The article continues...

'Oil resources in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are still relatively underdeveloped and underexplored, despite these countries' extensive history with oil. '

My comment:  That seems to conflict with recent analysis. And then the article focuses on Saudi Arabia ...

'Saudi Arabia -- the largest oil producer in the world -- still has a huge potential for increases in oil production, despite recent claims that its production may soon reach its peak. These gloomy forecasts rest on exaggerations and mistaken views of developments in the Saudi oil sector, especially the alleged depletion of the Ghawar field, the world's largest oil field and the source of more than half of Saudi crude. Ghawar's drying up is supposedly demonstrated by a high "water cut," the percentage of water brought to the surface with the oil during drilling. A field's water cut does tend to increase as the field ages, and in Ghawar it had reached 37 percent by 2000, compared to 25 percent across the entire industry. (In other words, for every 100 barrels of oil produced in Ghawar, 37 barrels of water were also pumped out.) But factors other than a field's depletion can account for an increasing water cut, such as inadequate drilling systems, poor field management, the absence of modern techniques to enhance oil recovery, and overexploitation of certain parts of a field. In Ghawar, moreover, improved reservoir management and the introduction of new technology that recovers oil more effectively have already brought the water cut down to about 30 percent.

'More important, Saudi Arabia's vast resources are underexploited. The 260 billion barrels of proven Saudi reserves (which account for nearly 25 percent of the world's total) represent only a third of the oil known to lie beneath Saudi soil.'

My final comment:  The analysis of Ghawar's water cut doesn't fit with things I've heard from someone who's been there. I guess I don't know much about peak oil, or oil for that matter.

Denial is generally the first stage of "grief", the natural human behavioral response to a terrible loss.
Here in NZ we essentially have six kinds of

1) Native forests that are mostly National
Parks or Reserves.

2) Pasture that was forest or scrub, but was
clear-felled 100 years or more ago. This is
largely devoted to milk, wool, meat
production etc.

3) Horticultural land, planted in pip fruits,
citrus, grapes, vegetables, maize etc.

4) Exotic forests that are milled for
construction timber, paper pulping etc.

5) High country that is too steep, too
cold, too windswept to do anything with.

6 Urban land, much of it covered in
concrete and asphalt. This grows by the
year, almost invariably at the expense of
pasture or horticultural land.

When people talk about growing biodiesel
or ethanol as a replacement for oil,
irrepsective of the marginal energy profit,
I always wonder which kind of land they
have in mind mind for doing so, since
effectively there isn't any land left.

Do they envision converting pasture to
fields of rape seed, maize etc? Just
which bit of the current system are they
envisioning sacrificing?

We also have to bear in mind the
preinvstment and actual farming skills
when talking about radical conversion.
Then there is the question capital
investment in the machinery required for
harvesting and processing. This nation
is rapidly going broke, just like the US.
The energy crunch is now an the cost of
doing anything is rising dramatically,
almost by the month (fuel in NZ
is now almost twice the price it was
3 years ago).

We should also note that NZ imports
millions of tonnes of fertilizers to
maintain its current agricultural
productivity and farmers are now facing
a crisis in terms of additional costs.

Incidentally, NZ commercial fishermen
as now saying it is hadrdly worth the cost
of fuel, for the amount of fish they are
now catching, so another source of protein
(and fertiliser by way of fish bones and
skin)is being lost.

And just to add to teh woes, we have climate
change and over irrigation to contend with:
the conflicts over water extraction for
agricultural use are escalating, whilstt
there are serious concerns about the level
of water in hydro-generation lakes, so we
can forget about plug-in electric vehicles.

I see most of this discussion about biofuels
as pie in sky if we have a crisis developing
right now.

Of course the NZ government is backs such
schemes to the hilt  -they help maintain
the illusion that things can continue as
they have.

In the heady optimistic days of the late 1990's, back when I was still at the USDA, most biofuels strategies concerned using CPR land, that which is generally considered "marginal" or difficult to farm and for which farmers are paid a small stipend to leave undisturbed.  These are typically hillsides, creek bottoms, swampy areas, and the like, or very sandy or poor drained soils.  These areas represent about an additional 10-30% of the land presently devoted to farming, grazing, or similar agricultural use, depending on location.
I have no idea if this is true, I can't find any other verification of this, but it could be an interesting find. It looks like it's right off the coast of Louisiana - probably not too deep.

Cornell Scientists Discover huge Oil Field off Louisiana Coast

Scientists from the University of Cornell have discovered a massive amount of Oil off the coast of Louisiana.The find is some 60 billion barrels or 3 Times more than current US recoverable Oil of 20 Billion barrels, and would bring US total reserves to 80 billion barrels which is on par with Venezuela. In comparison to other finds around the world, this is twice the size of all Oil ever found in the North Sea and 6 times larger than the estimates of the Alaskan ANWR oil deposits.
....The area is about 10,000 sq. miles in size, and was found under layers of salt dooms by a new method of oil discovery known as "gas washing" . A process in which geologist are able to track the movement of oil deposits by the way they interact with the flow of natural gas. This method helps scientists to make extremely accurate 3D-seismic maps of deep underground oil deposits and mitigate the risk involved in drilling such deep under sea wells.
....The information was gathered from source rocks deep below the sea and was discovered by a team lead by Larry Cathles, a chemical geologist from Cornell and funded by a grant from Chevron. Efforts are now underway to rush more equipment into the area and conduct more tests, but because of the devastation left by the hurricanes Katrina and Rita there is a critical shortage of equipment and manpower to do the kind of recovery work needed to bring the oil to the surface.
.... Estimates now range from 1 to 2 years before oil can be pumped from the find area

"This is enough Oil to make the US self sufficient and make
foreign Oil supply disruption a thing of the past"

If anyone can find more about this, please post it here.

He's one of the abiotic oil crowd.  


"We're dealing with this giant flow-through system where the hydrocarbons are generating now, moving through the overlying strata now, building the reservoirs now and spilling out into the ocean now," Cathles says."

He's a abiotic oil nutter. Now. =P

I don't have more info but it seems related to the following old article:

Raining hydrocarbons in the Gulf

Apparently Larry Cathles is a Cornell colleague of Thomas Gold.

Until further notice, consider this BS. If you Google Cathles, Gulf, Oil you will find pretty much the same statements made in 2003. When they say "discovered," I'm sure it hasn't been drilled and actually found - they would report this. Just the estimate of 1 - 2 years till production is enough to show the absurdity of the report.
Weekly World News, I'd say.
Ok, thanks for all your quick responses. As oil heads toward $74, I'm guessing the oil markets have dismissed him as well.
I think this is bollocks.

Universities dont discover oil

Oil companies do

They only announce after exploration, appraisal and tests

And only under very strict reporting conditions (SEC)

Nope. Its up there with Elvis going off with aliens and a London bus found on the backside of the moon.

I really, really don't get the whole "strategic struggle for oil" thing that everyone seems to take for granted :

Henry Kissinger thinks that the 21st-century struggle for oil reserves will match the 19th-century fight for colonies.

Well, Kissinger is an idiot. There are a whole bunch of assumptions in this idea that I would like to challenge :

  • starting at some unspecified time in the future, instead of oil companies buying oil from other oil companies, we'll see nations buying oil from other nations;
  • those nations who can project military force will be able to persuade, or constrain, other nations to deliver their oil at a below-market price, even if the client nation is not solvent;
  • other nations, which have money but insufficient diplomatic or military clout, will be starved of oil, because nobody will sell to them.

I just don't buy it. I really don't.

To put it bluntly : if the US starts throwing its military power around in order to secure oil (despite the disastrous precedent of Iraq), why on earth would China continue to bankroll it?

alistairC -

Believe me, I am certainly no fan of Kissinger, but I think he's right on in that the struggle for oil and other resources will be to the 21st Century's what the struggle for colonies was to the 19th Century. I don't think he's justifying the struggle for resources - just stating what he thinks will happen.

We are beginning to see that struggle already, notably the US involvement in Iraq and its increasing belligerance towards Iran. Oil is obviously the main motivation for both, our close ties with Israel being a distant second.

Having said that, I don't believe for a second that any of these resource struggles will end well. How could they?  The Bush regime is deluding itself if it thinks that once it has pacified Iraq (a highly dubious notion at best) and has established a ring of military bases encircling the oil-rich countries that everyone is going to lie down and passively allow the US to have its way and take whatever it wants.  

There are hundreds of ways for the various countries involved to stick it to the US. And the increasing vulnerability of the dollar is the most prominent. If a group of major dollar holders felt themselves to be seriously wronged by the US, they could serious damage to the US (and themselves, but hell, this is war) by suddenly dumping many billions of dollars onto the markets.

These countries can never actually win, but they can also prevent the US from 'winning' by being always ready to drop the proverbial turd in the punch bowl.

If only a small fraction of the world's military budget were spent on developing alternative energy, we'd be so much farther ahead.  But that too is never going to happen, and that's what makes this whole thing so tragic, in the most literal sense of the word.

Hey, alistairC -- have you seen the movie "Syriana"?  Or how about the "Three Days of the Condor" sometimes referenced here?

These are illustrative narratives -- not documentary, certainly.

If you prefer reading, I suggest michael Klare's "Blood and Oil."  I can't think of a better summary of the toxic blend of convoluted military, nationalistic, and financial efforts to acquire or maintain control of oil resources.

Chalmers Johnson's books:  "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire" are also very good background related to the ongoing and intensifying struggle for control of petroleum.

yeah I don't doubt that huge resources are expended in an effort to "control" oil supplies.

What I'm asking is : where is the evidence that any of it has had any practical effect?

The notion I think is worthless is physical control of oil : that an invading army can secure oilfields and that a navy can defend tankers, that sort of stuff.

If, indeed, diplomacy, spookery and military threats have any useful effect in securing oil, it can only be (surely) in obtaining favourable contracts : i.e. guaranteed long-term fixed price or below-market rates. Obviously, this has generally been done in the past (whether by oil companies or by nations is not necessarily material) by corrupting the local elites in the producing countries.

So, what are the current tendencies in that respect? Not looking good for the consumer nations. Why are Venezuela and Bolivia nationalising their production? To get out of the exploitive contracts that the multinational (predominantly US and Euro) oil compaies had cooked up with the corrupt national elites. What can the US, with all the aircraft carriers in the world, actually do about that?

Or is my conception of oil as a fungible commodity completely wrong? Because any idea that oil can be rationed by strategic power or military force would seem to imply a severely illiquid market.

Also : this idea that the cost of the US military intervention in Iraq should be added to the cost of a gallon of gas... sorry, that's not sound accounting!

The billions spent on the Iraq didn't buy anything. Not anything good. They are completely wasted. Without that intervention, oil would probably be cheaper today, not more expensive (Iraqi production is still down on pre-war levels, despite the embargo!)

Can anyone suggest how the US could spend treasure, in a strategic or military manner, in order to effectively "secure" oil in the coming decades? Any way that might have a positive outcome for the US economy? (leaving aside all moral questions : pure pragmatism à la Condor).


I thought not.

Securing the seas for free trade is doable and good for almost everybody. It is also morally ok.

I suspect that more force then that probably gives a negative total energy result untill you reach a violence level that essentialy means mass killing for lebensraum. The exeption is if you can use corrupt regimes as middle men but then you start going down the moral drain.

Moral and working for democracy, free trade, enlightment etc is important. We have now and for a long time after peak oil, perhaps even idefinately, enough pysical resources for every human to work himelf and his friends up to a decent level of living with a long life with fairly little hardship. But it only works out well if we are reasonable and willing to change our ways in manny cultures.

Having poor people working themselves up to prosperity and rich people that have invested poorly going bankrupt and rationalizing their states and institutions is overall a lot better then large scale warfare.

Peak Oil concerns gets more MSM comment (in this case AP/MSN)

Some market participants worry that the near-term market constraints suggest the world's oil production is at or near a peak, but Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said such speculation is "very short-sighted," and fails to recognize the industry's repeated ability throughout history to improve oil recovery rates by employing new drilling techniques.

Abdallah Jum'ah, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, said Saudi Arabia is producing between 9 million and 9.5 million barrels of oil per day and that it has between 1.5 million and 2 million of extra capacity over and above that amount.

In terms of OPEC's official oil output quote of 28 million barrels a day, Naimi told Dow Jones Newswires, "There's actually no ceiling today," adding that "the challenge is having enough supply available."

 ''...and fails to recognize the industry's repeated ability throughout history to improve oil recovery rates''.

Sounds like:

  1. ''We have always done it before so we can always do it again''

  2. ''Improved recovery by employing new drilling techniques''.
This statement is true, but does not find replacement fields capable of decline offsetting. It extends the economic life of a mature field.
I agree. Obfuscate the immediate concerns with abstract statements. They have been using these "new drilling techniques" for years now but still have problem getting enough supply by his own admission.
Well I'm listening to my AM talk radio, nice rants going on, a guy with a rough, good ol' boy voice is ranting and raving on about how you gottsa have a gun (which sadly I agree with) and this is intersparsed with how them oil co's is gougin' us, I'm waiting for the abiotic oil lecture of alternately, the one on how Mother Earth has enough oil for the next 2000 years at present growth.

Wow, I listen to some nutty stations, wonder what I left the dial on? AM-910, the right-wing station? AM-560 the other right-wing station? AM-810 the middle of the road station with a fairly right-wing afternoon guy?

Let's see....... AM-860 Air America radio!! The liberal station!

Folks, at this rate the dieoff at least in the US is going to be BIG.

fleam -- One of my big concerns is that the denial is just as intense amoung supposedly well-educated "progressives" as it is amoung the righties.

I can't tell you how many people I've spoken with in the past few years who identify themselves as progressives and who have professional degrees -- law, medicine, education -- and who drive SUVs and also simply do not get it about peak oil.

Most of these folks are also glib about global climate change as well. always, always, there are soundbyte solutions -- the hydrogen economy, biodiesel, ethanol, hemp, switchgrass, nuclear power, clean cola, solar, and wind power -- these will make everything OK as we painlessly transition from petroleum addiction to energy dope with less harmful side effects.

Many supposedly smartand well-educated people are truly high on petroleum.

Incidently, I observe that most of these folks have plenty of money, plenty of rewards from the status quo.  Nothing like wealth to blind us completely.

I do listen to Air America sometimes, and get sick of the shallow nonsense that the Depublican-Republicrats spew in order to feed themselves votes.

Perhaps the sheeple aren't as dumb as we think:


WASHINGTON, April 30 -- The Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help.

Aides for several Republican senators reported a surge of calls and e-mail messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November.

"The conservatives think it is socialist bunk, and the liberals think it is conservative trickery," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, pointing out that the criticism was coming from across the ideological spectrum.

This was on the front page this morning.

They're offering bread, but they need a better circus.
Oil prices push inflation to 6%

Thailand's inflation as measured by the consumer price index (CPI) continued to surge in April on the back of soaring oil prices, rising to 6% year-on-year and up from 5.7% in March and 5.6% in February, according to the Commerce Ministry.

The jump was attributed mainly to higher energy costs which rose steadily in line with the world's market, resulting in higher production and transport costs, said Karun Kittisataporn, the ministry's permanent secretary.

I have Just joined OIL DRUM so firstly, thank you for some sanity in an insane world.
Secondly, What I thought Will Hutton was saying in THE OBSERVER was that we must stop squandering what little is left of North Sea oil and create a national reserve.
As Lou Grinzo says there isn't a silver bullet that will save us but a lot of silver BBs. There is too much fixation by biofuel skeptics on ethanol EROEI. Popular Mechanics May issue claims to give us the Truth About Biofuels. They have a photo of an ethanol plant in Garnett, KS. Conspiculously absent from the photo is the first problem with how ethanol is produced. There is no electric generating plant with gigajoules of wasted energy to provide process heat. Distilleries could be part of a combined cycle operation. Why don't they? Must be a reason my feeble mind can't comprehend.
Biofuels don't have to take the form of ethanol or transestrified veggie oil. The same FT process that a CTL plant would use could use switchgrass, straw, and all those other cellulose sources to make gasoline or diesel fuel, and other products.
As for that Carthage, MO turkey guts to oil plant costing $80/bbl. A rendering plant decided to outbid them for the feedstock. In spite of that there have learned how to improve the economics from the experience. They see a bright future in Europe due to the need for zero sulphur fuel there but not here.