Poll: Where are you in the peak oil taxonomy?

Last week there was a hilarious post that proposed a taxonomy of the camps in the peak oil debate. (Hat tip to several commenters who pointed it out over the past week.) While I don't agree with everything that was said, it's definitely an interesting exercise. Four main species are proposed: Cornucopians, Traditionalists, Technopeakers, and Doomers. WHT joins the fun with a fifth species, Wingpawns.

I was going to paste in descriptions of each species, but I found that quotes were too lengthy and I didn't want to cut out anything. So I encourage you to read the two posts linked above and then take the poll below the fold.

The choices below are from WHT's interpretation of the original article. You may find that multiple choices describe you. Please pick the single choice that describes you best. Remember, poll answers are anonymous, so feel free to answer honestly.

this is not what we need at the moment.
deviding people up into camps like this and labeling them with mostly ill fitting definitions.
Oh, lighten up. Can't we have a little fun before the lights go out and we can't watch Desparate Housewives anymore?

Anyhow, we're only slapping silly labels on our own foreheads -- or at least, that's what one hopes. Or are you just a one-shot Johnny?  (-:

(The post below is a bit long, yes, but I think you will find it thought provoking, and more importantly, question provoking.  We are at an important time in history.  Consider this my "appreciation" of all our TOD fellow compadres, of whatever "taxinomy" or inclination..., read it, you'll like it!  (see, that's me, always the optimist! :-)

Actually, that was fun! :-)

I of course consider myself to be closest to the techno-peaker/techno optimist, but of course, I think that has always showed in my posts...

My background is mostly responsible for this:  I was a true techno/doomer in the 1970's, and was certain that the U.S. and the world economy was DOOMED in those days....I was going to drafting school at the time, with an eye to engineering as a career, and dropped out, because, well, who would be hiring engineers in a rapidly collapsing economy?  A friend of mine was studying because he said he wanted to work for General Motors...I laughed..."General Motors isn't even going to survive the coming decade!"

Needless to say, he has had a long career with them, and even if they collapse tomorrow, he has had 25 years of high income, and assets paid for...now, we say, "General Motors won't survive the next decade!"  But....and I know this thought is horrific to many here, what if it does?

In 1978, someone was talking about investing in the stock market...ohhh, how we laughed!!  What kind of idiot would invest in a market that had been collapsing for almost the whole decade when you could get double digit interest on a CD with no risk?  It would have been INSANE!  In 1982, the market took off....people leaped in front of us "doomers" because as always, the really big money came right after the turn to bull market....being a doomer has already cost me a fortune....

But, this does not mean that I can make the leap to "cornucopian".  The technology being touted to "save us" is still so much in it's infancy, and the investments needed will be huge....unlike the 1970's, we now do not have a HUGE generation of young technicians, scientists, managers, bankers and socially aware young minds coming out of the universities.  It is a smaller, more conservative, and more obedient generation now...

Someone asked in another post, why do we come back, why do we keep the debate and the exploration going....why don't we DO SOMETHING.

First, that assumes that because we are here, we are not DOING SOMETHING.

I differ strongly with that. I think many of us are engaged in work related to energy alternatives, energy conservation and forms of networking that will help lay the groundwork for the transition.  But, we need to communicate with and know there are people out there who feel there is a need for a transition!   Great revolutions begin at the emotional/intellectual level.  People who intend to affect/assist the change must first come to grips with themselves.  "Know Thyself" said Socrates.  What is it you want, what is you think you can do, what is it your willing to do?  

Then the revolution moves to the social level.  It is well known that one of the first steps to achieving any goal is to "externalize it".  It is important to find out that you are not completely alone in your goals, views, desires, and efforts.  This is the difference between let us say starting a business firm, or a hobby like building a boat out of popsicle sticks!  The latter can be a personal flight of idiocy, since almost NO ONE is going to share this goal.  It may be fun, it may consume days, years, it may require skill, but it is not a "revolution" or even a social goal in the normal sense.  You may attract some similar eccentric who wants to build a popsicle stick boat, but it is a project not likely to attract mass interest, investors, or change culture in any way.  

A business firm, or a social movement, or a political party, is different.  But how do you tell the difference?  The "Peak Oil" aware and interested can only find out that their efforts are much more meaningful and important than a popsicle stick boat if we COMMUNICATE, DEBATE, AND MEASURE OUR IDEAS AMONG LIKE MINDED PEOPLE.  If there are few of us, this does not matter, just so there are some, and the number increases.  In the early days of aviation, people communicating about "heavier than air flight" were in the extreme minority.  At the birth of the auto age, the number of people who were even aware of the effort probably numbered less than the current number of posters on TOD.  But, they communicated, argued, debated, improved their goals and their message....such is the way change is born.


TOD is just one of many (and despite my occasional outburst of annoyance...I CAN'T STAND negative thinking, it has already hurt me enough in my life!), I think TOD is one of the BEST places for where we are in the "Ideas/Action" spectrum (because setting up TOD was AN ACTION, and posting here is AN ACTION) ...we are now moving to the Change/Communication part of the spectrum....and of course, we know how important this is.

This is why "miscommunication" is taken so seriously, (re:  Ken Deffeyes recent "stone age by 2025" remark, which to his credit, he has since retracted...it was the "Peak Aware" community, or at least parts of it, that were most upset...not by whether the remark was factually correct (because it was obviously hyperbole) but by the MESSAGE, the communication, the IMPRESSION it gave the world of the Peak Aware community.

We are moving from Communication to Culture...and more than just an online culture now, the culture exists out in the real world, at places like The Community Solution in Yellow Springs Ohio, or Stelle Community in Illinois
to name just a couple.  We also have "fellow travelers" in the culture, the technicians working on Distributed Generation, the pioneers at Calcars working for free on the Plug Hybrid, the windmill operators and designers of the world.  We may not all agree that these technologies will work, but we are in agreement on the need to diversify away from a fossil fuel only world.  

One last caveat:  As we move to the realm of "Communication", and even further into the realm of "Culture", we face more and more the need for a key ingredient:  RESPONSIBILITY.  As we have an effect, an impact on the world, we have to be willing to be more and more and more responsible for what we say and how we say it.  We must accept the possibility that people will accept "our" ideas, "our" statistics, "our" view.  For example, if we come out against an option, (take ethanol) we must know that we are factually correct.  If not, and we influence policy away from a possibly workable alternative, we will be at least partially responsible for the missed opportunity.  I think we (meaning the Peak Aware who seriously doubt the viability of ethanol) are correct.  But part of the reason for debate, for argument, for exchange of data is that we MUST BE SURE.

There are many other controversial ideas on which "we"  (meaning the self proclaimed "Peak Aware" of whatever faction) will begin to have a more noticeable voice in affairs, and have the ability to sway opinion, first in small ways, but then in larger ways.  "Peak Aware" politicians such as Senator Roscoe Bartlett, DOE contractors/advisors such as Robert Hirsch are beginning to have an impact on CULTURE.  "We" (the Peak Aware) have already moved from communication to culture. In effect, the "Peak Aware" are already inside the gates of the proverbial castle.  This is extremely important:  With that move, begins REAL RESPONSIBILITY for what "we" say, and the sides we take (and in the end, it will be about taking sides)

This is what differs a movement or a revolution (whether technical or cultural) from a hobby.  This is why the discussion, the clarification of what we believe, and what we believe in is so important.  It's fun!, yes, but it's more.  This is why what we do and say matter more than some eccentric hobby like building a popsicle stick boat.  

This is why, for instance, I sign my posts and writings on this issue.  It is a small way to take responsibility for what I say.  

It is also why we must keep the HUMANE aspect of the issue and possible alternatives firmly in front of us.  As a movement moves to the CULTURAL LEVEL, it begins to have effects on other peoples lives.

TOD is at a fascinating  and crucial place.  We are all at an exciting crossroads. Even the older among us have a role to play.  Due to the dearth of a young educated crowd familiar with these issues, our role may even be magnified.  "We", the "Peak Aware", and even the more senior among us, can be relevant to a great cause.  But, if we undertake the venture, "we" will have to be willing to be at least partially responsible for the outcome.    Thank you for you patience and attention.

Roger Conner known to you as ThatsItImout

Thales (635 BC - 543 BC) said "Know Thyself" not Socrates.

My apology on the error, I would not want to irritate Thales by failure to give him due credit!  :-)
Interesting. My memories of 1978 include learning the metric system as a standard part of American education (see how that failed? - no one in America uses the metric system), being taught that conservation was a social necessity, not merely a private virtue (man, was I misled - disposable everything was the wave of the American future), and in 1978, the idea that the American government had been massively involved in domestic surveillance and law breaking was a horrible sign of government gone wrong, not the necessity that seemingly so many support today.

Boy, I still regret actually believing in all that stuff, since it has made my life so miserable compared to so many other people who I went to school with, who have houses/mortgages, cars/payments, and so much nice shiny new stuff/nice credit card balances.

The only problem, it wasn't belief, it was the truth.

I will agree on one thing - the late 70s was not a very hopeful time. Luckily, the Alaskan oil pipeline kicked in, Reagan got elected, and since then, everything is just peachy. More people own more stuff with more debt than ever before in American history, and I still can't see how anyone can find fault with that proof that the American Dream didn't become turn into the American Nightmare that people in the late 70s foresaw - you know, a future where corporations would plunder everything they could unless stopped by the will of the people, a future where environmental degradation becomes so commonplace that no one even cares, a world where a government for the people, by the people is one with no respect for any law which would restrain those with power from simply engaging in whatever military or punitive action they see fit, from invading a country to torturing prisoners.

Sometimes, I think not joining the Young Republicans was my biggest career mistake, ca. 1980.

And think about this - instead of living in the country which is the envy of the entire world in its own eyes, I live in Germany, with its dreadful old tired European disadvantages, like free health care for my children, 6 weeks vacation, and a functioning public transportation system. Hell, Germany still hasn't even become post-industrial, to show how far it lags behind America.

All jesting (not really jesting, but not mockery either) aside, we all make choices, and the future is unknown. If you had gone into the oil industry, you would have done great for a while, and then it would have collapsed, and then today, you would be looking at a great future again.

I think the one thing that is true about much of this debate is that human beings still really have a very short term scale when looking at time or complex systems. I make no predictions about the next 10 or 20 years, in the sense of saying what life will be like for my children (colder or warmer? wetter or drier? plant in April, plant in June?). On the other hand, America does seem to look a lot like the society which some people in the late 1970s tried to oppose - filled with crassly selfish materialistic consumers, with no concern about future consequences of their current actions, a place riven by huge disparities in wealth/power, and one seemingly incapable (note the 'seemingly') of actually changing itself. For the more paranoid vision, a society now more capable of making sure it will not be changed by those outside of the current power structure, since it seems as if effectively all that late 70s legislation intended to stop the government from misusing its vast power is either swept away in various PATRIOT measures or ignored with impunity.

Oh, and since so many seem to feel that a classification is necessary - I am just a believer that oil/coal/natural gas are finite resources, and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. From there, the science and engineering is very hard, but as we are all participating in this first truly global scale real time experiment in climate alteration, the results should be clear enough in the next few centuries - and we won't be the ones paying any bills which come due anyways. Well, that is the consensus from ca. 2000, right? Strange how some of the trends don't seem to be following that comforting majority belief - maybe the idea that that awful future will happen after we are all dead will seem as delusional as the late 70s belief that America was heading for a vast fall if it didn't learn how to live within its means?

Yes, it is the trends that are important to watch. Trouble is, the 'cornucopian' sees different trends than the 'doomer.' The real cornucopian sees virtually everything getting continually better and cites statistics to 'prove' this. You know, like fewer people dying in wars, higher caloric intake on average for world population. Higher per-capita income, etc. etc. It is frustrating, but seems ever thus, that at least the extremes merely talk past each other with little substantive said or understood.
Might be a fun exercise in taxonomy, but tends to obscure the need for serious study of issues in such a way that, even if a hard-core minority cling to a point of view (e.g. global-warming isn't happening or has nothing to do with humans) the scientific data and consensus becomes overwhelming in forming a more 'realistic' point of view.


The opening of the post was to do no more than give a little background of how I came to where I am today...it was the rest of the post that I was most interested in developing my thinking on, to help me explain to myself why discussion and communication on the energy depletion issue is more than just an "eccentric hobby".

The 1970's, and my own complete misread of what would follow in the 1980's and 1990's taught me a few major lessons though...

(a) timing matters-if you are right too early or too late, it is equal to bing wrong.  Even a stopped watch is right twice a day, and if you predict either good news or bad, sooner or later, you'll bump into both.

(b) It is good to be prepared for bad times should they occur.
     It is also good to be prepared for good times should they occur.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Roger, in the seventies you were sucked into the psychology of a bear market as were many, if not most, others. As you say, you suffered for that world view by holding on to it beyond the arrival of the new bull market, leaving you unable to take advantage of a significant reversal of fortunes. Perhaps now you risk the converse - holding on to bull market psychology at another time of impending reversal. That might leave you unprepared for a radically different set of circumstances.

I suspect in a few years there will be many people who come to see the world as you did in the seventies, and for the same reason.


You say....
"Perhaps now you risk the converse - holding on to bull market psychology at another time of impending reversal."

When you say "you risk" I assume your talking in the generic sense...I own no shares, and have little faith in the current bear market, which is what it is, by the way, we have been in a full secular bear market since 9-11-01, with stocks now getting out to a half decade with no real gain, if you count for inflation, plus the lost time, and the lost interest money that could have been earned at no risk, stocks have been a massive loss.  What you call the reversal is now a half decade old, despite attempts to recover since that time.  

You say....
"Roger, in the seventies you were sucked into the psychology of a bear market as were many, if not most, others."

True, but to limit the scope of the mood, the culture, the sheer shock of defeat and decline of the 1970's to just "a bear market" does not do the period the justice such a defining, declining deserves...

You see, We have seen post peak. Do you want to know what it looks like?

Go to the poor rural states in the South, and take a look at the scattered "basement homes", with nothing but a roof above ground, heated with nothing but a woodstove.  The "zero energy home" is not a high tech idea.

Look behind them or up in the shed, up on the blocks sit a Diesel Volkswagen Pickup truck, long ago broke down, now brown on the creases with rust as the paint disappears....these were capable of hauling firewood, commuting to work, and getting the kids to school.  With a stick shift, 50 plus miles per gallon  (Coca Cola Corp. used them as route trucks for their order takers and vending machine service....one Coca Cola route salesman told me how they knew when to take it to the shops and change the filters and check the timing of the injection pump...."we keep a log, and when it drops to 48 miles per gallon it goes to the shop."  This was in 1978.

Allow me to quote a bit of poetic nostalgia for the days that would never come again.  There is something haunting about people writing the chronicle of a dead or dying age.  Think of the Biblical passages of the Jews in exile..."we sat by the waters of the river and we wept for old Israel", or W.H. Auden as he sat in the dives, feeling the pain of a destroyed London in World War II....sad, but haunting and beautiful.

Now, for the 1970's version, I hold in my hands a treasured issue of "Automobile Quarterly"  Third Quarter, 1978.  The issue opens with an essay by a Stan Grayson, called "Garages".  It celebrates cars, but not cars out on the road.  Instead it celebrates cars as they consume no fuel, stored, treasured as art pieces in the garages of the nation, the world.  It is a haunting beautiful ode to the end of the auto age by a magazine and a writer who deeply love the auto age.  Allow me to give you a sample of the last two pagagraphs, describing the last garage examined in the essay.  
After describing the collection of a wealthy Wall Street broker, complete with V-12 Ferrari built into his home as a centerpiece beside which the owner can sit and eat dinner, we move to...

"...the opposite extreme is a young Firebird owner who lives in a small northeastern Pennsylvania city.  His little apartment is lined with hot rod magazines and Pontiac brochures among which are filed a few treasured letters from Pontiac executives responding  to some of his more esoteric mechanical queries.  The object of all his affections sits out in a detached and dingy alley way garage.  The building is red brick and there's a window at one end so grainy you can't see inside.

Open the door and you'll find an utterly immaculate red Firebird Trans Am crouching in the gloom.  It's got a Super Duty 455 in it, maybe the last really high performance V-8 Detroit will ever build.  In front of the car on a workbench is a set of pistons, on the floor, a set of specially prepared, flowed and polished cylinger heads.  There, hidden away with less than three-thousand miles on the odometer is just the sort of exciting, brutally fast car that the government and a changing world is going to eradicate.  Now, it goes out for an occasional midnight ride.  Think what it will be like to see the car still alive in that garage ten years from now-forty years from now.  It will be enough to make you very sad indeed."

Notice, please, there is no mention of seeing it on the road 10 years, 40 years from now...

Think about the time frames mentioned, 10 years from 1978, as the first of the V-10 Dodge Vipers came on the market, or now, with twin supercharged Porsches and Mustangs on the market, and 500 horsepower Corvettes taht also get over 20 miles per gallon....how could they have imagined in 1978, at that darkest hour for the automobile, for those who loved the powerful and fast auto, or the giant luxury trucks, (one writer called them "road locomotives") that the "last giant V-8"  would soon be rendered puny by a new muscle age and astounding advances in automotive technology?  

But, reread the piece above, WITHOUT knowing what was to follow, as I did for the first time at 19 years old....

No, the 1970's were not a "bear market".  For most people who read, studied and learned and payed attention, it was what the current peak folks call TEOTWAWNI.....the end as we knew it.  There was no doubt then....the fossil fuel era was over, the good times had ended, America, disgraced by Watergate and Vietnam was powerless, social, racial and sexual unrest was dismantling the nation as interest rates soured into the teens, unemployment soured past double digits, and the stock market spent a full decade running downward and sideways.  American airliners were hijacked almost weekly and blown up in the Arab desert, Iran held our hostages, and we were powerless to change a thing.  THIS we knew was the result of American wealth and power being drained away by oil, as Sheik Yamani of Saudi Arabia stood higher in respect and was more feared than our own American President Carter.

 We have already felt the sadness for a dying age.  And we knew, WITH CERTAINTY in 1978 that the markets would only go lower and lower, fuel shortages would only increase, prices of gas and oil would skyrocket past all ability to bear the cost.  Rodale Press published The Cornucopia Project, with long essays proving that food prices and transportatin combined with water crisis and soil erosion would soon result in massive price increases in food prices.  The price of Diesel and fertilizer would destroy the national food production system.  We knew that if all of this did not happen by the 1980's, it would surely happen by 1990.

For those of us old enough, and who paid attention, we have seen post peak.  We have seen "The End As We Knew It."
It was 28 years ago.

No one could imagine then that we were preparing to enter what even the greatest cynics would come to call "for most people, these really are the best years of their lives."  (Pat Buchanan, in reference to why it was almost impossible to stage an upset of his arch nemesis, Bill Clinton...in a shocking moment of candor by Mr. Buchanan).

But this time, it really could be different.  Like the economists who proudly proclaim that they have predicted 6 of the 4 recessions, sooner or later, we will run into hard times.  Sooner....or later....

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Correction:  I mispelled "TEOTWAWKI" !

I used the phonics method of spelling, and spelled "know" with an "n"
(TEOTWAWNI....The End Of The World As We No It?......sorry, it's late....

Roger Conner  Nown to you as  ThatsItImout  (hee, hee) :-)

There is something very tricky in this line of reasoning. I will try and simplify it. You state: We have had this prediction before and it failed therefore every such predictions will fail. But that is illogical to the extend that previous failures of prediction do not indicate that it will fail this time. Your way of reasoning resembles the man that smuggles a bomb in a plane and not detonates it for the sole reason that it would be highly improbable that *two* bombs would have been smuggled in a plane independantly, and thereby preventing an terrorist attack. To be short, this line of reasoning defies statistical mathematics.
Master p,


ThatsItImOut states that he is a optimist because previous pessimism has been proved wrong before. But statistics learns that previous results do not say anything about the chances of anything happening in the future.

Let me give you an example: Whenever you roll dice the chance to hit a "6" are 1 in 6. If you have rolled the dice hunderds of times before without hitting one single "6" you are inclined to believe that that has some influence on this time you will roll (Perhaps thinking that it has to finally be time for a "6"), but statistics learns it hasn't. The chance to hit a "6" still is 1 in 6.

This, to me, debunks stories that "we have seen pessimism not work before, therefore now I quit being a pessimist."

I see your point but I would examine the die to see if had been altered.  Optimism/pessimism is not just a straight course in statistics though.  Believing you can win often helps you do so.  Its not Faith or God or Luck, just the positive image of success in your mind can drive you.  And in complex scenarios positive thinking is crucial.  I have a duality of imagining whats the worst/best thing that could happen then forcing the best to be so.

I said what because I read your post about the bomb on the airplane and could not get your message.

Statistically you are right odds are odds and they are not changed by history.

Your point is well taken. However, the point of criticizing pessimism is not, I think, that it has failed to produce results till now but rather that pessimism usually rears its head as a fear, not as a rational prediction. Therefore, we should pay attention to the flashing red light but we should not try to interpret it as a logical argument.

If you look in various fields there have been many "doom lies ahead" arguments. I recall reading a book predicting a financial meltdown around the year 1990. EDN magazine in the early 1980s predicted a crisis in engineering as there would not be sufficient engineers to design electronic products. This was largely solved by the vast scale of chip integration which made it easier to build products with fewer engineers. A book about future problems I picked up written in the fifties predicted a shortage of chemical engineers (but totally neglected future problems with pollution). Currently some economists are predicting an economic meltdown due to the extraordinarily high debts we have run up.

It is not that any of these arguments were deeply flawed. It is just very difficult to predict the future. Also, things generally happen to mitigate the imagined problem. Personally, I don't agree with the doomers. Technically, it does seem clear that we are at or near peak oil production. It is the result that is in question. I think we will muddle through though there may be some hard times ahead.

Good post. There is widespread agreement on this site re oil depletion. Most of the disagreement concerns the results of oil depletion. The trend for the last 25+ years in the USA has been a widening of the gap between the financially successful and everyone else. For the top 20% of the population it has never been this good. Even if an economic tsunami hits, there is no reason to assume that this trend will not continue. Therefore, as others have stated and I think you are saying, figure out how to improve your financial situation (if that is your concern). Even if things become like Mad Max, the people that will survive and thrive will be the ones that can adapt to the new reality.  
When you say "you risk" I assume your talking in the generic sense...I own no shares, and have little faith in the current bear market, which is what it is, by the way, we have been in a full secular bear market since 9-11-01, with stocks now getting out to a half decade with no real gain, if you count for inflation, plus the lost time, and the lost interest money that could have been earned at no risk, stocks have been a massive loss.  What you call the reversal is now a half decade old, despite attempts to recover since that time.

The bear market actually began in 2000 when the NASDAQ peaked in March. The downward spike after 9/11 was the culmination of a larger downward move that had begun earlier. I agree with you that stocks have been a losing proposition since then. When I point to a reversal, I mean the end of the dead cat bounce that has been in effect since October 2002 - bounce that has had investors clinging (with a considerable degree of thinly disguised desperation IMO) to the old bull market optimism and assuming the old 'rules of the game' are still in force.

Not that I'm recommending that you, or anyone else, become pessimistic - far from it. What I am suggesting is that pessimism is about to become resurgent exactly as it was in the seventies because the psychology of a bear market is 'catching'. If you recognize it for what it is, then you can be forwarned as to the prevailing attitudes of the majority, and the consequences that will flow from those attitudes, while avoiding being sucked into it yourself. That route means losing hope, as happened to so many three decades ago, and is couterproductive.

Prevailing attitudes are inherently temporary, although they may persist for relatively long periods of time - long enough for economic, social, and political consequences to result (see my comment further down this thread). I expect this bear market to be considerably more severe than the seventies and to last for longer, but I do not expect a final and permanent decline as in Olduvai theory. In that sense I am optimistic - I am expecting future upbeat and expansionist phases, but perhaps not for a long time.

And we knew, WITH CERTAINTY in 1978 that the markets would only go lower and lower, fuel shortages would only increase, prices of gas and oil would skyrocket past all ability to bear the cost.

That is exactly the prevailing psychology of a major bear market bottom, but it is an emotional certainty. Successful investors look for that kind of wholesale capitulation to a trend as a signal to begin investing again. Similarly, successful investors regarded the ubiquitous optimism of the dot com boom as a warning that a trend reversal was coming and pulled money out of the market (selling stocks to the unsuspecting public just in time to leave them holding the empty bag).

Excellent point at the close of your post Stoneleigh', "Wholesale capitulation" is the key....

I don't think we have seen anything like the "wholesale capitulation" of the 1970's yet...

Most folks are still in the "it's just a scam" phase, but "it always goes back up..."

When everyone, not just the peak oil aware become convinced as they did in the 1970's that "the market economy is finished",  "this time it is different, it won't rebound from this", and "buy a shack out in the country, it's time to run...", that is when the turn comes....we have only seen that sort of thinking....well, here.

But, your right...look for the capitulation in the mainstream....that is no where in sight....yet.

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

You're quite right that we haven't see anything like the wholesale capitulation of the seventies - in fact we haven't even reached the point of recognition of the bear market trend yet among the general public, despite a bear market that has already lasted six years. That's why people are still thinking it will all go back up again - bull market thinking still prevails. Funnily enough, Morgan Stanley permabear Stephen Roach finally capitulated to the bulls a couple of weeks ago, just in time for the bear market to resume!

I suspect the point of recognition will be seen this year, but that will still be relatively early in a trend with a lot further to go to the downside. I would be inclined to look for a market bottom in the first half of the next decade, with an economic depression (a lagging indicator)continuing for at least several years after that as happened in the thirties. Various investments may begin to make sense again by the second half of the next decade, but by then it should feel like the seventies only much worse and everyone is likely to be telling you that you'd have to be crazy to invest. In that pessimistic abyss, opportunities should begin to present themselves. The difficulty will be resisting the impulse to give in to the prevailing negative mood despite relentlessly negative news and social pressure to conform. You need nerves of steel to buy low (when everyone is telling you things can only go downhill from here) and sell high (when everyone is piling in to the market and telling you how foolish you are to sell).

I would add:

  1. The Jay Hanson Realist
  2. The Bambi School of Sociology Advocate
  3. The Wanna Be Policy Analyst
  4. The Wanna Be Cult Leader
  5. The "Profit" of Doom
  6. The Mini-Dictator

I'm a combination of numbers 1, 4, and 5 as I subscribe to Jay's theories best described by the term "thermo-gene collission", am woking on starting a cult, and am earning $$$ from these issues both through product sales and investments. (Although not recently since pms are getting hammered.)



Shouldn't every category be called 'realist' ;-), since we all think we are.
great comment :)
Plebeian is spelt like this.
Spelled is spelled like this
Spelt is the correct spelling for the past tense of spell in International and British English.
Spelt is a grain. What is International English?
International English or Standard English is the English spoken by most of the World.  It's also sometimes called Commonwealth English although it's use extends far beyond the the borders of the countries of the Commonwealth.


Come On!  Give me a break.
Have a Kitkat

Wow, I'm the first "techno-curmudgeon".

Now all youse kids stay off my lawn.

I guess I'm a techno-curmudgeon too, all for tech, but also know how much our system is based on light, sweet, and cheap, crude. Change the basic fuel to almost anything else and EROEI goes way down. No we're not going to grow corn to run SUVs, at least not in any future we'd want to live in, oil shale and photovoltaics are not going to save us. Since we're engaging in a game of Last Man Standing and we're not going to limit our population, Mother Nature is going to do it for us, and that means population crash. The good news is, there will be plenty of oil when the world pop. is down around a billion or less than that. Hope someone remembers how to make a "kerosene" lamp.
Despite my crumudgeon leanings, there is still a Tooth-Fairy/ Cinderella part of me that believes a Messiah-technology will arrive at the 11th hour for us --from somewhere in this vast world, from some unexpected corner, to save the day.

Well, it always works like that in the movies. Sigh.

I suppose I fall into the Doomer-Powerdown category, although there seems to be some overlap with Traditionalists.

This is my first post at The Oil Drum.  I have been lurking here for about six or seven months, but have been unable to post on the site due to my utter lack of any kind of technical computer ability.  Many thanks to Super G for helping me get around the barriers that had kept me off the site.

As for my own take on this, while I don't think that we are going to revert to the stone age or the Olduvai Gorge, I think it inevitable that massive economic and social dislocations will be coming along in one form or another.  I am pessimistic about a slow and orderly decline as I feel that as soon as Peak Oil reaches a certain critical mass, or tipping point in the consciousness of what we could term the "investor community", that the latter will panic, and the markets will implode, crashing with an earthshaking roar that will usher in a Great Depression, Act II.

I think that some of the renewables have a degree of potential, like wind and solar, even though I don't foresee their coming anywhere near replacing our current use of electricity.  Others, such as fusion, have been worked on for 40-50 years and still haven't been successful on any scale larger than in the lab vessels in which the experiments have been done.  Ethanol, in my opinion, is a waste, another example of government handing out subsidies to its corporate pals and lobbyists; biodiesel, on the other hand has potential as a "niche" fuel, but any ideas of its coming anywhere close to replacing our current oil usage is a fantasy.

The brightest future I can predict for the private auto in 50+ years is a relatively few glorified electric golf-carts available for relatively well-to-do seniors for in-town or short-haul trips, and that attempting to maintain the auto beyond this level will ultimately be unsustainable, and merely waste resources that could be better spent rebuilding the railroads, for example.  And as far as railroads are concerned, I agree with Alan from Big Easy that municipal transit networks should all be electrified, and, even more importantly, changed from rubber-tyres to steel wheels on rails.  But I do not think long haul railroads, such as Amtrak or the freights should be electrified.  Electrical rail requires that the train get its power from an external source, either a third rail or overhead wires.  I ride Amtrak a lot, and it goes through vast stretches of remote and isolated areas.  A third rail would be a bad idea because of the electrocutions of people or animals trying to cross the tracks, and overhead wires would be vulnerable to storms, etc.  I think long-distance rail needs to have its own independent, self-contained energy source, and it seems that this would be a good "niche" for biodiesel.  The most important thing that needs to be done for passenger rail is to lay a set of dedicated tracks which are for Amtrak only, the freighters are so heavy that they eventually deform the rails to the point that the passenger trains frequently cannot safely attain even the 79 MPH speed limit imposed on Amtrak.

And I do NOT think that our electoral, representative "dumbocracy" will be able to address any of this in any meaningful way.  Cuba is frequently mentioned as an example of a country dealing with a post-peak situation, but Cuba has two enormous advantages over the US in dealing with this stuff.  First of all, Cuba is a relatively small country and has a population of only 10-12 million people.  They, therefore do not have the immense problems of scale that we will, and scalability seems to be the major problem with those alternative energies/technologies that actually do have some potential.  Second, Cuba has a government where Castro can sit down with his inner circle and hammer out a coherent response to the crisis, without the conversation constantly being skewed by legions of parasites, the hucksters and lobbyists for every imaginable alternative, whether real or imaginary.  In addition, Castro could then implement this response without having to worry about the "politics" of the matter, without having to pay some price at the polls for doing the sometimes unpleasant but vital things that have to be done.

Within a hundred years, I would foresee society reverting back to the way it was throughout human history before the oil age, with 80-90% of the population farming the land, to grow stuff to eat.  I don't think that this will be a complete replay of the Middle Ages because various technologies of various eras will be to some extant sustainable.  A basic passenger rail system can be kept going, as I said above, on biofuels.  The vast factory farms of to-day will no longer be tenable, but the small farmer of the future shouldn't have to revert to horses to pull his plough, as I expect biofuel will be able to keep his tractor running.  Wind and solar will keep at least some electricity available.  And above all we have a knowledge of hygiene and sanitation unknown a few hundred years ago, the lack of which was by far the largest cause of premature death and general misery at that time.

Finally, I expect monarchy and hereditary government, and the hereditary principle in general to eventually return, and for four basic reasons.  First, after any serious post-peak decline in living standards, I think that all our current governmental models will be entirely discredited, as having been the enablers of the nastiness of the entire traumatic situation we will all be in at that point.  Second, when the large majority of the population has to return to the land and at the same time personal mobility declines with the demise of the private auto, multi-generational households will again become the norm.  In such a society, the concept of a "real-estate" industry would be a thing of the past, vanished along with our contemporary version of a non-agricultural "employment" oriented economy.  This last point, a relocalization of human activities will, I believe, cause large political unions, such as the United States to break apart into separate nation-states along regional lines, as did the Soviet Union.  Third, government at whatever level, if it is to retain any relevancy, must be able to operate within a generalized long-term perspective, always incorporating an understanding of the impacts of their actions on generations yet unborn.  Elected government is inherently incapable of doing this.  Fourth, any sustainable society will have to fundamentally re-define the meaning of "ownership."  Our current economy is based on the present moment, therefore if I "own" something, I have the "right" to do what I want with it, thus the environment ends up being permanently trashed so Wal-Marts, sprawl, etc. can be built--all for the short-term gain of a few corporations and individuals.  The concept of ownership, in a monarchic, hereditary society is much more one of  "stewardship."  A local ruling family could derive some benefit from what they controlled, but the underlying idea was that when they in turn died, their kingdom/principality/duchy/whatever should be in more or less the same condition as it was when they themselves first inherited it.  In reality, the true "owner" wasn't ever any one individual, but an entire family hereditary line, extending through the generations, in theory at least, for all eternity.  In other words, a sustainable paradigm, one that actually dares thinks in terms of "forever", as opposed to the "exploit the maximum short-term profit and to hell with the next generation" mentality that pertains to-day.

Antoinetta III

"[...] government at whatever level, if it is to retain any relevancy, must be able to operate within a generalized long-term perspective, always incorporating an understanding of the impacts of their actions on generations yet unborn.  Elected government is inherently incapable of doing this."

My emphasis.

Hmmm, there is a group not very well accounted for in this scheme: people like the doomers in the British National Party, which expect partial powerdown followed by a return to glorious (nation-scale, isolationist) fascism.
Although I don't think you are on the right, such anti-democratic sentiments, that people are inherently incapable of ruling themselves, are in themselves as much of a concern as peak oil. The last thing we need when times get hard is a bunch of people proclaiming that we have to reject all values of common decency and embrace their totalitarian "solutions".

And totalitarianism, that's what you suggest. There are only two kinds of government, those (s)elected and those imposed with violence.

Vinterman, where did I say anything about rejecting "all values of common decency?"  No, I am most certainly not "on the right"; indeed, 30 years ago I would have considered myself "progressive."  The right, to me seems mostly about greed, religious fundamentalism and xenophobia, but progressivism, when viewed from a holistic, macrocosmic perspective, seems to have devolved largely into dealing with the microcosmic and the feel-good BS that Kunstler refers to in his most recent Clusterfuck Nation essay, the self-esteem stuff, the various "bills of rights" thet get enacted that are focussed on small sub-sets of the population, and on and on and on.  Thirty-five years ago, progressives were at the forefront of the opposition to the war in Viet-Nam.  I am here in San Francisco, and remember back in the early `70s the massive marches of 800,000 and more who would turn out; now, the opposition to the war in Iraq is disorganized and feeble, and the progressives seem to be spending far more time and energy on microcosmic issues of perceived "unfairness" to one or another group of people, rather than the serious, large-scale issues with which we face.  And I have worked with a number of different organizations and groups over the years, and have discovered one rule that generally seems to apply:  the more "progressive" an organization is, the more disorganized and dysfunctional it is.

Personally, I think a large part of our problems is the dualistic way we view society, it seems we would be better off thinking outside the box, and get off of the narrow two-dimensional line ranging from the "left" to the "right", and look at things in a more complete and holistic manner.  This dualism is reflected in your post by the statement "And totalitarianism, that's what you suggest. There are only two kinds of government, those (s)elected and those imposed with violence."  Well, virtually every government started off with some violence, including ours (a small quibble we call the American Revolution.)  And not all, not even most governments are either "democratic" or totalitarian.  Most, I think would come under a heading between these two extremes, the usual term is "Authoritarian."  Elected government, unfortunately, involves a rather complex and expensive process.  It responds, not to the real overall "will of the people", but to those best constituted to pressure it.  This essentially requires two things, organizational capacity and money.  And who already has a huge head-start with this?  Well, those who are already organized, even if influencing the government was not their original purpose, and those who already have access to large amounts of cash.  These are corporations, of course, who find it relatively easy to divert a bit of their attention away from whatever they are selling and making money on and to lobbying the government on their behalf.  The only non-corporate interest groups tend to be those of the one-issue fanatics, the partizans on either side of the abortion, death penalty, affirmative action, etc. debates, issues which have been going on all or most of my life (I'm 54) and which our democracy seems unable to resolve, as the losers at any one turn simply retreat, re-organize, and keep pushing the issue.  And its long gotten past the point IMO that the persistance of these issues as issues has become more divisive and destructive to society than if they were autocratically resolved, regardless of which side the resolution ends up favouring.

Ultimately, the complexity of democratic systems means that these above lobbyists etc, learn how to "game" the system to get what they want.  The vast majority of people do not follow politics in any kind of depth and their lives focus almost exclusively on the minutae of daily life; get up in the morning, get something to eat, get the kids off to school, get to work, then come home and eat dinner, while somewhat listening to the crap on Fox News.  Since only about half the people even bother to vote, and the vast majority of those who do, do so based on gut "feelings" derived from the newspaper headlines and TV news, "gaming" the system is not all that hard to do; marketeers and admen have long ago made a science of it.

In the end, I feel that trying to hang on to "our democracy" will be as impossible as trying to hang onto the private auto and airplane; in the end it will prove to be unsustainable, but we'll waste oodles of time and energy before we finally come to accept this.
Antoinetta III

Amen. Very few people are as clear-sighted as you when it comes to the real nature of "democracy" in our time.
Has anyone actually thought out an overthrow of this government?  I mean there have been some fringe people, but really there are so many things that OUR government does to us and we just ho hum about our days.  

American people are dejected and lack the intensity or the will to follow the Constitution which gives us the explicit authority to overthrow our government if we see fit.  With all the power in the gov't possesion do you think for a second anything meaningful wouldn't be squashed?  I firmly believe it takes extraordinary circumstances to create extraordinary reactions, like a revolution.  

Tate...I have a battle plan for you.  Go round up 51% of the people then VOTE.  

I think David Koresh thought about it and Timothy Mcvay.

Being as it is few people vote, as long as there is soda and milk in the store and friends on TV they are happy.  The Constitution provides for amendments but not " explicit authority to overthrow our government if we see fit"

you probably went on a watch list....I should not even be talking to you....someone just knocked on my door!

That's funny I was thinking the same thing....I can't remember that computer program the CIA uses.  But I'm sure they found me.

You have a choice.
You can fear it. Become a cringing lizard hiding under a rock hoping "they" get the next lizard and not you.

Or you can become a lion. Say: bring it on. I'm part of a pride of other lions. We are not afraid. We stand together. This is a Democracy. We hang together so that we won't hang apart. We have a right to speak freely, to think freely, to exchange ideas with other free thinking humans. If you are some slime ball FBI guy or NSA hack or CIA operative that is spying on me and looking to squash my God-given rights, my Constitutional rights, then here is a big FU right in your face. You will be spying on me whether I give you the FU or not. But now you know how I feel. And you should be ashamed. Ashamed that you have disappointed your high school civics teacher. You know, the one that taught you about Democracy and civil rights and how you should be fighting on that side rather than working for the lords of Darkness and doing their dirty deeds. Besides, it's my tax money. You owe your allegiance to me, to the Constitution, to the Declaration of Independence, and not to "them".

Step Back,
  When making the tin-foil helmet, is it neccesary to cover up your ears to or just the frontal lobe.  I mean what is the range and strenght of their thought reading capability.  

Here is an article just for you....


Evidently they watch us even now....

"When governments fear people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." - Thomas Jefferson
I think they got the requisite 51% of the vote in 2000 and 2004; unfortunately the powers that be conveniently forgot how to count.
We in New Orleans just completed the best election of my life.  

Instead of the all too typical "Win at all costs" it was "What is best for the city at all costs; including my defeat".  Not just for the Mayor's job, but 5 of the 7 city council offices were noteworthy for their concentration on positive plans and not on mud.

25,000 absentee votes.

Virtually everyone was willing to accept either candidate that won.  One yard had two signs; one for Nagin and the other for Landrieu with a hand painted sign "Two Good Men".

The Saints (NFL football team) General Manager was fired for trying to keep strong ties to Louisiana.  Instead of taking another $1 million job elsewhere (he was well thought of in the league), he ran for City Council.  And won against a very strong existing city council member in a race on issues and not "mud".

Monday after the election, the Mayor appointed two defeated candidates to a team on what needs to be done in the next 100 days.  He said that he nodded his head "yes' to some of their ideas during the debates.  Asked why no one noticed, he said that he tried to be "unobtrusive".

Perhaps democracy works best after a disaster.

So I'll wait...
Good post Antoinetta (and thanks for Expat, too). But I still think that democracy works best in a time of crisis. Truly democratic governemnt, a government that has the peoples trust, can handle very stressing situations. If necessary people will accept hardships, if asked, and be ready to sacrifice personal benefits, if it is necessary for the survival of the society. Everybody will rant and slip a little, but it works nevertheless.

You might think that this is impossible in the US. May be. But these things have really happened, at least elsewhere. Dont't give up all hope on democracy. It will be needed.

"And its long gotten past the point IMO that the persistance of these issues as issues has become more divisive and destructive to society than if they were autocratically resolved, regardless of which side the resolution ends up favouring."

This is nuts. Yes, they tar each other, yes, they waste a lot of energy fighting, but even in a two-party state, the public restrains them - you need only look to those states that have less. And it's not as if "autocratic resolution" would end the fighting, or consume less resources! On the contrary, it would mean senseless violence and waste.

Taking the hassle of arranging elections and living with less than perfect leaders is by far preferable. As long as people have differences, we must strive to solve them peacefully. There is no better way. As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others.

The amount of support you and your anti-democratic ideas recieve is frightening. There should be a category for Peak Oilers who believe that society will or should peacefully submit to fascistic rule.

The public may restrain them, but it can't resolve the issue so we can all put it behind us and move along.  And if these perennial issues were resolved by fiat, the partizans in these struggles who didn't like the decision would have no options other than to go home and sulk, or go down to the local bar and debate the matter with the bartender or other customers there.  The advantage is that this stuff would no longer be in the news, continuously distracting society from the real issues facing us.  As it is now, we are NOT resolving these issues at all, either peacefully or otherwise.  Debate and discussion is fine, to a point, but there comes a time when everything has been said, and some resolution needs to be found.  We came closest to this with the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade, but in our system no decision is really final, and the anti-abortion fanatics just kept working at the issue, mostly on the state level.  We need to be able to resolve such issues, then tell the fanatics who don't like the resolution SHUT THE FUCK UP, THE ISSUE IS DECIDED, NOW GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE.

And the problems really isn't the "hassle of arranging elections, its that the overall complexity of the system, the influence of money, and the entirely corrupting political campaigns means that those with the money and organizational capacity can hire the hucksters and admen to, as I said earlier, "game" the system.

Vintermann, you seem to think that any governmental organization which isn't "democratic" and elected is "fascism."  Would you consider the Germany and Austria-Hungary under the Hohenzollerns and Habsburgs fascist?  Would you consider all the governments of the Middle Ages to be fascist?  You seem to be coming from a pecularly Manichean, dualist either/or mindset.  Governments are not all of one extreme or the other, there's a lot of options in between.

Antoinetta III

"And if these perennial issues were resolved by fiat, the partizans in these struggles who didn't like the decision would have no options other than to go home and sulk, or go down to the local bar and debate the matter with the bartender or other customers there."

Have you read what I said at all? Apparently not! They would have another option - violent force. Especially if these "partizans" were in fact a large majority, and the issues were important to them, thinking they would all go and fret in a bar is naïve in the extreme!

So the governments of today may be incapable of solving the problems we face. Perhaps that is true. What you don't get, is that this may be because the people itself is incapable of finding a solution. In that case, a dictatorship will most likely be worse (remember, you don't get to choose who the privileged group will be!).
If it's a fault of the institutions, well, fix them. That a government is influenced by wealthy special interests is bad, but much easier to fix than a government which consists of violent special interests.

This "fiat" of which you speak, exactly where should the authority for that come from? How do you ensure that the majority, which is to stupid to see that you are right, don't lynch you instead? All authority a government has it has because the people have given it - willingly or reluctantly. They have to give you the right to decide somehow. Either,

  1. they give you that right because they think you are sensible. Then it's elected democracy after all. You've ruled that out, it seems.

  2. they give you that right because you have large, legitimate power to decide their fortunes. I suppose you could have that in a post-powerdown world if you had critical knowledge, skills or resources that you could withhold, and that couldn't be taken from you. Is this what you want? Don't you see that's exactly what you complain that powerful interest groups do today?

  3. they give you that right because you have a large, illegitimate power to decide their fortunes, in other words violence. Is that the way you want to ensure that the majority just "goes home and sulks"?

As it is today, authorities are given the right to decide through all three ways, in different amounts. Everyone sees that the first source of authority is better than the second, which is better than the third. But you want to remove the first source. That will either reduce the authorities' ability to act (since you think they are already incapable of doing what needs to be done, I gather you don't want this), or they will have to make up for in one of the other two ways.

(No, all dictatorial regimes weren't fascist. Inherited dictatorships are bad, but I don't call them fascist. However, those historical regimes that removed or tried to remove a form of elected rule to glorify an elite or a strong decision-maker, from Caesar and Napoleon and on, I have no problem describing as fascist. You fall into that category.)

> But I do not think long haul railroads, such as Amtrak or the freights should be electrified.  Electrical rail requires that the train get its power from an external source, either a third rail or overhead wires. ...  A third rail would be a bad idea because of the electrocutions of people or animals trying to cross the tracks, and overhead wires would be vulnerable to storms, etc.

I will point out that one can ride on electrified rail from London to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, almost all of it with overhead wires.

The overhead wires of the Canal Streetcar Line came through Katrina with minimal damage, Riverfront with none and St. Charles Streetcar Line suffered from falling trees.

So your concerns can be solved with good engineering.  Yes, the line may dail for a short time in the worst of a hurricane or Siberian storm, but it can be quickly repaired.

Using grid power allows for braking to regenerate power and "recycle" it back.  Biodiesel will be more expensive, much rarer and far less efficient (~1/3) as wind turbine & hydro & geothermal electricity.

As for the failures of democracy, I would point to the success of one of the world's oldest democracies.  In the 1920s they made the investments to allow them to "powerdown" for a 6 year 100% oil embargo.

And in 1998 they voted for a 20 year, 31 billion Swiss franc investment in their (hydro) electric rail system to largely replace heavy trucks.  Adjusted for population, that is like the US voting for a $1 trillion program.

I have suggested electric semi-high speed rail that combines passenger trips of 250 miles or less with longer distance high value frieght.  Not enough pax demand to justify new ROW.

BTW, Amtrak is only slightly more fuel efficient than airlines for trips over 250 miles (sleepers far less so).  Biodiesel airplanes are likely to be a better choice than biodiesel Amtrak for longer trips.

I have a hard time seeing how biodiesel is going to be of any use with aircraft.  Essentially because of the cold weather properties - it depends upon what the feedstock was that you started with, of course, but at altitude the temperatures are generally far below the gel point of every fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) that I can think of.

It is of course possible to make a synthetic diesel substitute from generic biomass using some sort of thermal process.  Some people would still call this 'biodiesel', but these fuels are chemically quite different from a FAME.

Biokerosene might have been a better choice of terms.

It is possible to build a/c with fuel in belly tanks (an option for extra fuel today in some models) and keep it warmer than in the wings.

The 787 is supposed to be at least 20% more fuel efficient than the 767 it replaces and the 737 replacement is rumored to be 25% more fuel efficient (use 3/4 of the fusl).  Not fast enough or large enough, but aviation fuel efficency is improving.  

Given the labor costs/mile for cross country Amtrak, and the energy wasted carrying your hotel with you on wheels (sleeper rail cars), I do not see cross country rail pax service (electrified) as being competitive with air even at $250/barrel.  Time will still have value, and a fuel efficient a/c flying at 320 mph will still beat electric rail by days.

I do see a very good niche for passenger rail for trips up to 250 miles (possibly stretched with high fuel costs to 350 /400 miles).  No need for sleepers & minimal crew needed and time spent traveling is comparable to air.

I remember reading that Soviet airmen referred to MIGs as "the flying restaurant" because it was filled with ethanol (which they drank, leaving the jets stranded). I don't remember, however, if the ethanol was fuel or hydrolic fluid.
I think you are quite conservative with the applicable rail range. Where I come from (Bulgaria) rail is a preferred mode for intercity transport and distances are up to 300-350 miles. The rail network is quite old and poorly maintined, the trains are raltively slow (to wester standarts), but people still prefer to use them. It is a much more convenient trip that can bring you to the center of almost any city above 20 000 in the country.

With modern electric trains and given the larger distances, rail in US can easily achieve average speeds of 100 mph making distances of 5-600 miles quite preferable (especially for people who hate planes like me).

The real killer of the idea in US, IMO is the urban layout and lack of adequate mass transit. In Europe the railway stations are always served by number of buses, shuttles, taxis etc. and in some cases you can even walk to your final destination from the railway station. Here the pattern is most often to rent a car which kills the whole idea - why choose rail, when you'll have to drive again in the end (and increase your trip bill significantly)?

You hit on one of the reasons fewer Americans/Californians will take intercity rail; the lack of Urban Rail.  Except for San Francisco (and to a lesser extent the Bay area) there is a lack of comphrensive mass transit.

San Diego has a quite decent transit system by American standards, Sacramento OK, San Jose marginal and Los Angeles poor.

$33 billion could build excellent systems in all of the above, and transform the urban fabric of those cities.

And save *F*A*R* more than 5 million barrels of oil/year.

Another reason is that Bulgaria did not have a low cost airline, which are now taking market share from EU HSR.

California is dominated by the best low cost airline in the world (by a good margin) Southwest Airlines.  A gov't run railroad simply cannot compete over distances as far as LA-SF and Sacramento-San Diego with this exceptional well run airline.

There are always a few who dislike airlines and are willing to pay more for a longer trip.  But one does not spend $33 billion to "capture" that market.  They will happily ride 110 mph trains.

In summary; the ONLY reason to spend $33 billion is to capture a decent % of the LA-SF market.  That is "sexy" !

But semi-HSR would cost half as much or less (smaller turning radius and thinner ROW makes routing MUCH easier), add VERY valuable freight service (which alone could justify the cost), better serve smaller cities like Bakersfield (HSR would likely bypass them with an outer station).

The LA-Sf market is simply not worth 200 miles of Light Rail, BART to San Jose, and the Red Line "SUbway to the Sea".  And that is what it would cost at a minimum.

The real reason for the most part comes down to the much lower cost of the energy for the trip by electrified train than by plane, car or a bus (per passenger). Thus the trains are able to attract the lower/middle class of the people for which the difference in price matters a lot. For that reason the passenger trains are still subsidized by the govt, though after including the profitable cargo freight the national rail company is around the margin.

Of course the conditions in US are light years away from that, but who knows? There may come a time for reverse know-how flow... With energy becoming dearer, many of the assumption we now use when planning for the future may turn out to be wrong. But for the foreseeable future I entirely support your urban rail + semi-HSR freight/intercity rail proposals.

I read an article about American Airlines and gas.  For every penny that jet fuel increases it costs the airlines an additional $33M.  So when these low cost airlines finally start paying market rates or at least higher rates, those savings will dissipate because there is little they can do.

Southwest is the best positioned because they have long term contracts for fuel and they are locked in at far below market rates at times.  However new contracts will be significantly higher in the coming years and they will falter.  Then we can talk about urban rail.

> Then we can talk about urban rail.

Southwest will not provide service between LAX and Burbank airports; 18 miles apart.  That is the role of Urban Rail, which CA needs DESPERATELY !

If you meant inter-city rail (Industry definition, 99 miles and less is commuter rail, 100+ miles is inter-city rail), the proposed California HSR cannot compete at any price that you care to mention.

Remember that marginal source of electricity (the extra MWs needed for a new user like HSR) come from natural gas and HSR is an energy hog.  With the new 787 like replacement for the 737 coming in 2012; Southwest may possibly take fewer BTUs than HSR to travel between LA & SF.  Oil instead of NG BTUs, yes.

If the interest of the $33 billion is recouped from ticket sales; HSR will always, at any energy price, be more expensive than SW.

At, say $300/barrel there will be little demand for travel between SF-LA.  Southwest could fly once or twice a day.  HSR would have to keep its' ROW up (expensive) for a once/day short train.  The ROW costs would kill HSR and it would be abandoned.

The Southwest advantage is much broader and deeper than their fuel hedges (although it WAS good management wasn't it ?).  They will raise prices in the future, that is certain.     But HSR will never be price competitive.

HSR is just a boondoogle.  If CA has $33 billion to waste, build LOTS of Urban rail (BART to San Jose, Red Line to the Sea, streetcars in Bakersfield & Oakland, etc.).

Semi-HSR makes sense. Make a small profit off of freight and run apx service at close to break-even.  And for far fewer $$.

Very nice first post!  Welcome.  I share many of your assumptions, just haven't bothered to think them through as well you have.  Our form of government, in particular, seems extraordinarily ineffective in facing the problems which lie ahead--perhaps an early sign of the "increasing costs of complexity" postulated by Tainter? To your example of Cuba would add that of Sweden: very peak energy aware country taking large steps to independence from oil by 2020.
Seadragon, don't believe this: "Sweden: very peak energy aware country taking large steps to independence from oil by 2020." In fact it is a typical political good-sounding promise. Sweden had a referendum on nuclear power int the '70s and decided to close all their nuclear power plants. Today Sweden produces more nuclear energy than at the time of referendum. It was easy to promise but impossible to fullfill: no alternative energy source in required volume.
  Great thinking, thanks.

  I liked the way you described the combination of 1)having to jump backwards into previous cultural setups that didn't have the cheap energy that we have taken for granted, but 2)will inevitably turn out differently with the advances that we have made that don't just disappear with a vanishing cheap-oil economy.  Some arguments that predict the 'Stone Age' consequence do not, I think, really look at the many changes we've undergone, and how they might affect a low-energy (and possibly more socially chaotic for a while) new world.  Sanitation, Nutrition and Health will be critical, of course, and the ability to keep from falling into a true dark age will require keeping these together somehow.. not only the infrastructure of Agriculture, Medicine, Water Supply, but the education needed to pass these sciences along to subsequent generations.  The example of Cuba, I hear, bears up well enough in Education and Medecine.

  The factor I think about that could affect what the flavor our future governments will take is communication technology and literacy.  I think I recall there were great shifts in Europe that occurred once the Gutenburg press started making the Bible available to the common person (without the help of petroleum, tho' the whales ultimately paid the price), which forced the Book and the church from it's Latin stranglehold, increased the call for basic literacy, and started a phenomenal movement of new knowledge flowing around the world,  wagging the dog, as it were.  I don't think people will stand for illiteracy and isolation as we move forward, and this control over news, thought, truth and 'the changes in what we know' is a signifigant factor in what kind of governance develops.

  I suppose that generalization might invite a snapshot of the 'typical American', zoned out at a TV and not doing much with the literacy or government that they've had so far, but I would submit that this (as far as the Stereotype has that much truth to it) is one of the symptoms of people who've been brought up in a ridiculous surplus of cheap energy, or have been numbed by a system which, which access to vast energy resources, has allowed them to self-medicate with this 'plug-in drug', since they weren't being required to do anything practical and essential with their minds and bodies.  The industrial age has allowed us to view workers as machines, as drones, and so many of us have sadly risen right to that level of expectation, and watched our minds and bodies suffer as a result.

Bob Fiske

"Did you think you could kill time and not injure eternity?"

I'm less pessimistic than you and I crossed under "doomer, powerdown".
Maybe it's the 'techno-pedant' :->
I voted other. At this point in time, I'm completely apathetic about peak oil, and I really wonder what keeps all you folks going. Energy topics are fun to learn about, but I'm not sure how you maintain interest after you've learned the important stuff.

It's a little like EROEI. Some of  you folks are spending HUGE chunks of your life stressing out on this stuff. Why? What's the pay-off? Is there some advantage you patricians and plebes derive from keeping up with the trivial details of energy? Some advantage which justifies the huge amounts of time you put into it? I mean, if you're worried about expensive energy, why don't you just change your lifestyle and get it over with? Then you can change the channel and move on to other more interesting topics.

Sorry for the double-post, but just to be clear: What useful purpose is there in worrying about peak oil on forums like the Oil Drum? I could understand if you wanted some info to DO something practical like insulate your house, or build an electric car. But what's the point of just tuning in everyday to debate and worry? Debate and worry are just a waste of time.
Maybe you should ask yourself. You are coming here too. I understand that when like-minded people get together, they can go on flights-of-fancy that are impossible amoung naive compatriots. The thing i've never been able to understand is how and why dissenters persist in internet groups like The Oil Drum. Anyone is free to leave and not come back.

It is certainly useful to have those dissenters around: they keep discussion lively and at times seem to be the only contact to reality. Without any dissenters, it is hard to imagine any internet group really flourishing. But what do they get? I don't understand.

Lately I read Peter Heather's "Fall of the Roman Empire." Someone else might think that a total waste of time, because they have no interest in history. I happen to find it fascinating.

I find "present history" even more fascinating, because it's happening now, it involves me and everyone I know, and, like a soap opera, what happens next is unknown, and is heavily dependent upon what 6.5 billion people do next.

So J.D., I presume that your Peak Oil Debunked site (which spent an awful lot of energy attacking TOD) got boring? So now you've moved over here? That's cool. But I don't understand why you find us interesting.

If we're wasting our time and energy (and the cornucopians certainly think so), then aren't you wasting your time watching us and reading our meaningless drivel?


Jim Burke,

Well put.

JD --also well put.
You are both right.
Our persistent yakking here at his site and at hundreds of other Internet blog sites is part of the "Great Conversation" of a Democratic society --that's not my term but one used by someone who presented their book on CSPAN about half year ago. The point was that politicians listen to the buzz on the street; and this is part of that buzz. It is necessary for the common folk, us, to converse with each other, to think things out, to learn from each other and to sort out among competing ideas. I don't know about you, but often I learn something new here. Something I didn't know about yesterday but another TOD contributer knows about and chimes in on.

JD you are right too. All talk and no action (meaning no action by anyone, anywhere) may be a waste of time. Maybe too much lurking here at this site is a sign of some mental and unhealthy obssession? It's worth pondering on. There is no way to know what action each of us takes in our daily life as a result of having read stuff here on TOD. I for one find that I am driving slower these days, watching how I accelerate out of the starting gate at each red light and how I coast to stop at the next one (if there is not a lot of traffic behind me). Perhaps that is an insignificant gesture. Perhaps not. Action often comes in the form of many baby steps rather than one giant revolution.

Why do people read or watch the mainstream news every night? Why do people memorise which teams have won the World Cup for the last 20 years?
I personally find the issue entertaining (fascinating?), and mind-expanding. I guess this could be explained by the fact that I am a student, but peak oil news and debates are definitely much more interesting than the same news or debates on the Palestinian situation or AIDS in Africa, or the latest celebrity 'news', for example.

Its definitely more fulfilling and relevant than debating issues of religion, for example.

I agree.  I'd much rather discuss issues that matter, even if sometimes I gloss over the minutiae.  Don't discount religion, though.  I don't think a conversation about religion will ever resolve anything, but it's certainly a perfectly interesting and fulfilling topic of conversation.  Of course, to each his own.  
I concede your last point about religion. Definitely my 'born-again' Atheist side showing through. :P
Here's the point for me.  I mostly bike for transportation, have a woodstove as well as 92% efficient gas furnace, added 12" of insulation to the attic this year, have a garden, etc.  I have moved significant amounts of investment money to falling dollar/rising inflation investments.  I have many of the stockpiles that FEMA and others recommend for disasters.  I'm more or less ready for come what may, and I largely expect what will come will not be the end of civilization.

However, my region is utterly unprepared for oil production peaking.  I'm not expecting a complete breakdown in law and order, but it's pretty easy to imagine some severe civil unrest.  Burglaries and muggings are already on the rise around here.  The sooner and faster the effects of peak oil hit, the worse and more quickly I expect these problems to occur.  It's hard to steer my family to safety if I don't keep my eyes on the energy and civil situation ahead of us.  

Likewise, I want to end up with enough wealth to give my two kids the best start I can manage, and have enough left over to give my wife and I a comfortable enough retirement.  Whether or not oil peaking results in riots, this country is in for some significant financial shake-ups in the next few decades.  It looks to me like energy prices will have a large impact on, and may be the catalyst for, large changes in American society.  Again, in order to direct investments, I need to be able to see what's coming down the road and how soon it will get here.  

As far as I've found, The Oil Drum, Energy Bulletin, and PeakOil.com are valuable resources to watch for important changes in the situation.  (I prefer Matt Savinar's comments here to his actual website.) The rate of change in the situation is more important in the short run than the actual change.  

I use TOD to promote my specific agenda, as a source of names to forward some of my ideas to, as a learning tool and place to sharpen my thoughts and some intellectual "fun".

Yes, I think there is a small chance (SWAG >1%, <5%) that my individual efforts will make a difference.  That someone(s) will incorporate my thoughts into their own and finally convince our government to change some specific policies.

The path of a "Good Idea" will probably be untraceable.

Since my ideas are good for both Peak Oil & Global Warming, I am unsure which will be the driver *I*F* they are implemented.

I also know that my concepts are not enough by themselves, but they inhibit no other solutions.

It is like my efforts to help reforest Iceland.  In the best of all cases, it will turn back GW by just one year.

I do what I can do.

You forget that new people arrive every day.  I've only been here under a month and I've learned so much only because of the people who are here "preaching."  The constant expanse of our knowledge can only be beneficial.

The fact that I have a Finance/Econ background and there are engineers with a different take on things creates a dialogue not match anywhere else.  When people put themselves with others like them, all you get is group think.  Companies that pull different specialties into major projects, perform better.  

I agree with JD.

JD and Jay Hanson have something in common: once they had answered these questions sufficiently for themselves, they quit writing about them.

What keeps me going? Well, I make my living from these issues so I have an (obvious) financial incentive to continue discussing them.

Other folks may be hoping to score a book deal, a job as a policy analyst, or otherwise be a big shot among the blogging tribe. (gaining social capital)

JD and Jay Hanson had no such incentive (no $$$, no book deal, no desire to be a policy analyst) so they stoped discussing them.

As far as debate and worry: I do think there is something to be had (a form of "fun") to debating. Even if I wasn't gaining financial capital from discussing these issues  I might log on to debate simply because I enjoy an intellectual battle. But in that case, I'd probably only be logging in 10% as much as I do currenlty.

In that regard, debating this topic is not all together different than debating other topics such as politcs, sports, etc. The dopamine rush is from the debate, not necessarily from the particular topic.



Something I've been mulling over. Nowadays, whenever I meeet somebody who spends a lot of time on Peak Oil,  I ask myself, "what is this person's motivation to putting so much time into such a depressing issue?"

If there is no obvious financial motivation, I start to wonder "does this person want to be a mini-dictator?"

I've seen this on the local level. Guys who I suspsect want to be big shots and see this issue as avenue to increase their political power. Often times, these folks will come in a very green-orieneted, "community-activist" disguise, one so well-put on they don't even realize it themsleves. Ultimately, their real hope is to be in a position where they can tell everybody else what to do and how to live their lives. Doing so under the guise of a "sustainability advocate" is a testament to the flexibility of their Machiavellian subconsious muscles.

The issue is ripe for potential dictators and demagogues. Reason being that even the least sensationalistic overview of the basic facts will inspire great fear in people and make them want to "do something!" This is a great starting point for mini-dictators and wanna-be demagogues.

Obviously, I don't intend this to apply to anybody reading this. =)



So let me get this straight: the only reason to care about the issue (with the obvious implications for all humanity) is if you can directly make money off it?

If that is true, that seems reprehensible to me.

The only reason ANY of us care about in the first place is because (subconsciously) we perceive a way to benefit from being concerned about it. This benefit is typically derived from acquiring social capital or financial capital.

In my case (and the case of others with merchandise to sell, book deals, newsletters, paid speaking engagments) we gain both.

Most bloggers or sustainability advocates only gain social capital. Nonetheless, the reason they are concerned is the same: it benefits them. They get to be a bigshot in the tribe via their efforts.



Also to be clear:

If I wasn't making money from the issue, I'd sill be just as freaked out about it. I just wouldn't be investing so much time reading and writing about it.  I'd be out making money in some other endeavor in order to finance my "escape from suburbia."



I find benefit in being better informed and hopefully better prepared for what may happen.  We've cleaned up our finances, cut up the credit cards, moved away from natural gas, etc., etc.

I also pay attention because TOD provides good guidance on subjects like hydrogen or ethanol, which sound good in the MSM, but don't quite pan out under closer examination.  Nukes seem to be more of an open question.

As far as the social capital part, I really haven't seen it yet.  A few of my LEED-certified coworkers seem receptive, but for most of them it goes in one ear, out the other.

The only reason ANY of us care about in the first place is because (subconsciously) we perceive a way to benefit from being concerned about it. This benefit is typically derived from acquiring social capital or financial capital.

Utter bollocks. People like investing time in this to obtain a form of safety. Understanding means control means safety.

Percievied safety = percieved benefit from being concerned about it. Thanks for proving my point.



I think you're overemphasizing the social capital angle. I'm sure that some TOD readers are staying informed because of their investments (financial capital), but most of the people here seem far more worried about their children and grandchildren than their social capital.
So benefit to yourself or to your direct genetic line, I should have been more specific but did not want to open up the selfish gene bag of monkeys.



"Doing so under the guise of a "sustainability advocate" is a testament to the flexibility of their Machiavellian subconsious muscles."


 Google savinar and Machiavellian.

http://www.google.com/search?q=machiavellian+savinar&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&start=10& ;sa=N

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Seriously matt someday in the future a grad student is going to nee to us "machiavellian" in a thesis paper only to find it worn out. Just messing with you...it is a pretty accurate word for much human behavior.

On a sidenote JD, I must say I'm disappointed to see you've stopped blogging. You have a smartass sense of humor and I found many of your posts laugh out loud hilarious.

The one where Dick Cheney's picture pops up really big had me literally rolling on the floor laughing. I'm not exagerating, I distincly remember falling out of my seat onto the floor upon reading that one.




Your website is currently headlining a post by a Mr.Orlov which features the work of a Mr. McKillop. Orlov is an engineer who rips traditional economists and the financial community for misleading the world in various ways, but then bases at least some of his piece on the work of the economist McKillop.

McKillop puts forth the notion (and there is a table on your site laying this out) that higher oil and energy prices accelerate both demand for oil and economic growth.

I found this interesting so I spent 5 minutes looking up Mr. McKillop. I found and read an article by him saying many of the same things.

But I'm wondering - and maybe someone can point me in the right direction - where is the evidence for this being the case? I look at the numbers and the history and see something completely different. How does Mr. McKillop look at two things that are both going up concurrently and determine that one is driving the other, rather than the other way around - the way everybody else sees it?

I'm assuming he has did some research on these matters before settling on the theory. Where is it?

Oil Ceo,

I should put something at the top of my blog and the breaking news section which states I don't necessarily vouch for the opinion presented in said article.

That doesn't mean I necessarily disagree either. As far as McKillop's theory, I'm somewhat agnostic. Leeb makes a good case in "the Oil factor" that one of the best indicators of a recession is the price of oil.

As far as Dmitry's general less-than-stellar opinion of economists, I'm largely in agreement with his opinion and the opinion of Jay Hanson who has compared economists to the court astrologers of the medieval days. In the modern day, economists are generally hired by the wealthy to rationalize (propagandize) their power to the peasatns much the way the court astrolger would rationalize the king's policies by pointing to his chart.



"Sorry for the double-post, but just to be clear: What useful purpose is there in worrying about peak oil on forums like the Oil Drum"

JD you are so pathetic it is hilarious.


I hate Christianity, for example, but I have not even logged on to a Christian site, let alone spent thousands of hours trying to counter their arguments.

I am a pretty new poster around here, but I still think I can respond to your comment.  I do see where you are coming from, however, I think it's worth considering that peak oil can potentially have a great impact on all of our lives.  To some extent, "just reducing your energy consumption", will probably not be enough to limit it's impact on you.  The future of energy can be an important from an investment standpoint.  It can also be important from a lifestyle standpoint.  For example, if one were to truly believe that modern society will fall apart due to a sudden collapse in oil production (essentially the worst case scenario), then one would probably want to own a farm somewhere with plenty of rain.  

Although I am not one of them, the guys who hang around here all the time are probably truly concerned about the prospect of peak oil and how society will react and wish to educate people about it.  

I don't really understand the rather snide tone of your post.  People have different interests, and probably some people find this interesting, even though you don't.  The "more interesting" things you've moved on to might be considered by others to be boring.  Some people discuss investments online, others computer games, others politics.  There are even "audiophiles" who spend their time discussing things related to audio like speakers, what speaker wire is best, etc.  The world takes all kinds, I guess.  

Well, yes, ppl do have different interests and discuss them on the net. Just keep in mind the old Internet saying:

"Only internet discussions of antenna design are worth the time engaged in them" - Me, 5 minutes ago.

Right, Nagorak. Yes, I do love the oil technology stuff here, I have got some insight to how it all works. I voted for "doomer powerdown", but I would more think of me as a "realist". This means that I seek a broad picture of what the Peak Oil will mean. I have an economists viewpoint here - and find myself as rather lonely. As well here at the TOD and in the economists' blogosphere.

I think there is a lot of evidence of a serious energy crisis coming soon (in this I rely on the oil experts). I think we should look not only at oil but at all energy and have a global view (a single country can always import energy but the World cannot).

I think that the Peak Oil will have serious repercussions, but not all of them will been as such. My main interest is in what will happen in an energy crisis, not only to individuals, but to the society and economy. My point is that we have some empirical data on that - we DO know something about what happens after an energy crunch. Many societies have experienced this before and we should learn from them.

One of the lessons from this experience is that the real cause of social and economic decline and sometimes collapse has usually remaned in the dark. I have seen societies in a grip of a very severe energy crisis - only I didn't understand that, and neither did the people of those societies. Afterwards everything is so obvious - but only after a long effort to understand the significance of energy in the economic development and growth - and also the laws of energy production and use. Now I understand why most economists are Cornucopians - energy based economics is not taught and even if there are lot of reasearch on these matters, it is not easy to find it see its relevance.

I think that people don't see the Peak Oil even after it has happened. So no wonder many would not listen now. In fact we could say that the Peak Oil is already here and now - we can feel the warning symptoms and see actions that are related to it (and it is possible that the Net Energy Peak Oil is already here, because of the lower EROEI of the new projects). Cheap oil is history. Europe and the US are societies in energy decline. People drive in their SUVs like before -  no problem here yet. But the World is drifting towards a conflict between great powers on Iran. There is serious talk about using nuclear weapons. These are also symptoms of the Peak.

Don't expect seeing the Peak Oil only at the gas pumps. More probably it will come masked as a stocks (exchange) crash and financial turmoil, international conflicts and the like. Personal energy conservation doesn't help here.

So. I am a real doomer. And as such I have to answer the question what should we do. And my answer is: understand all this and think what should be done to consequences of the energy crisis. It is not only the energy policy that matters but mostly the social and economic policy. I think that societies that understand what is really happening to them have a better chance to cope with the consequences.

One of the lessons from this experience is that the real cause of social and economic decline and sometimes collapse has usually remaned in the dark.

As another realist I'd like to note that there is no one cause for collaps. Collaps is a perfect storm. The Third Reich e.g. was a good example of such a thing. The enormous economic decline caused widespread despair. But the humiliation that was laid upon the proud Prussian military elites, often nobles, made them look the other way, even though the nobility hated the NSDAP, whom they thought of as churlish.

It is my firm believe that peakoil and the energy crises ahead will aggrevate already existing problems. Therefore peakoil will have a different impact on different locations. The best you can prepare for peakoil is fixing your nation/city/communion's other problems.

Quite right, P. "The enormous economic decline caused widespread despair". Yes, and the economic decline was caused by an energy crisis. The German coal production peaked in 1913 and Germany lost important coal mines to France and Poland after the WWI. There were no German international oil companies and Germany didn't have any colonies. We have statistics on all this.

But what happened then could not be predicted directly from energy stastics. There are several layers in the society, and economy, political, social and cultural structures, and history are among them. Energy and geography/geology are at the very bottom, they are the fundamental physical layer. It is possible to say that a severe energy crunch will have considerably impacts, but it is difficult to say what concretely will happen.

Therefore it is important to study "energy history". From Nazi Germany we can learn that an energy crisis can lead to aggression. And it is good to note that in that case the crisis was not overt. Energy supply was setting a limit to the future development of German economy. It still had considerable resources and military capability and it used them to get more. And we know for sure that Japan, too, was after oil in the WWII. I think here we have something familiar.

And we shouldn't look only for dramatic crises, but also for small, hideous changes in net energy supply (EROEI creep) and growth rates of energy production. These changes can accumulate and can cause repercussions that are very difficult to explain. One example of this is the relative decline of the British industrial revolution in the latter half of the 19th century. There was a slow decline in the growth rate of coal production and deteriorating EROEI. Jevons did get it right. Now we can see a similar phenomenon in the EU.

So I want to say to the new people having a look at the TOD:  there is more here than meets the eye. We are here talking about a very important issue - about something that is already near you.

I'm glad you brought up the German angle, which directly relates to the present in at least one regard; during World War I the Germans told their people they were winning right up to the moment they surrendered. So the population was primed for a "stab in the back" theory from the national socialists (Nazis.)

Right now, we're heading into peak oil, and the oil companies, political leaders, economists and media are telling everyone that oil is endless. (So why is the price going up?)

Unless something changes fairly quickly, the population is primed for another "stab inthe back" theorist. Bush is already reaping the sour fruits on that one, as people blame him for high oil prices. (after all, he DID tell everyone there is no supply problem, right?)

The victims? Who knows. Certainly environmentalists (for opposing opening ANWAR and Santa Barbara for drilling), as well as oil companies (huge profits), Republicans (being in charge and enabling), and certain media elements (for obfuscating). The blame game to come might not be very edifying.

In fact, as long as energy prices continue to skyrocket in the absense of truth telling, we are unlikely to make much progress. Instead, there is enormous potential for enormously regressive political movements. (For example, instead of promoting knowledge of peak oil, Demos are pinning all the blame on "corporate greed" and the Bush administration. These targets richly deserve the animus, but I don't see how it advances any progress.


Totally agreed, very well put. If I didn't have to live through it myself, I would say the next few decades will be quite a "show" here in the states.



There is a huge amount of denial out there, even among Peakers.

They say "it" can't happen in America.
It being a switch-over to a fascist-like response to the collapsing infrastructure just as in civilized Germany, the hysterical masses flipped into a psychotic state once the reality of their collapsing civilization sunk in.

One of the first stages of the psychotic German response was a xenophobic one. They looked for an "outsider", a stranger in the midst to cast "blame" at. Does this in any way resonate with current American politics? For the Germans, the convenient "outsider" were the Jews. If only they exterminated the Jews then all their problems would go away. In America today you have all the politicians screaming to kick the "strangers" out of this country. If only all the Mexicans were forced back across the border then all our problems would be solved. Don't folk out there see the similarities?

Yes back-stab is a next psychotic response. The you-were-not-warned masses can make believe some evil cabal was responsible for stabbing them in the back, not telling them the truth --as if they were ready to listen.

How do we set up a soft landing?
Kill your cleaning lady is not a viable response.

"the hysterical masses flipped into a psychotic state once the reality of their collapsing civilization sunk in"

Germany was progressing and graowing the entire 15 years before WWII and through the first half of the war.  They would not have been beaten if they did not attack russia.  Pick another word and another comparison.  

Has ANY politician or policy maker suggested rounding up immigrants for deportation?  I have only seen various ways to secure the border and hold immigrant wages down.  This may be wrong but it is not what you describe.


"Any" is a big word. Here is your huckleberry. Of course, after GWB's last speech, many right wingers are softening their position to match the President's, realizing that mass deportation is going to be physically difficult to do. The law is the law unless it is inconvenient for certain pigs on our Animal Farm, you know, the more equal pigs, the ones that are doing as best as they can for themselves.

My recollection of German history before WWII was that they were in a hyperinflatinary death spiral. People had to bring wheelbarrows of cash just to buy a loaf of bread. That's not my definition of progress and growth. Also they were running out of coal which is why they invaded Poland first --for the coal. Then they needed more elbow room for their revived manufacturing operations to sell into.

True that they made a psychotic blunder by attacking Russia too soon. But what do you expect of a nation/leadership that had gone psychotic?

It is M*O*R*E important to study societies that could have collapsed and did not.

Iceland has survived the equivalent of three nuclear wars; massive volcano explosions with fall out that killed many and poisoned (flourine) more. Half or so of the population died.

Communal efforts helped those that survivied.

And the Swiss survived a six year complete oil embargo and "powered down" with prior infrastruture investments in hydroelectric powered transportation.

And the Swiss are doing it again with a 2000-2020 MASSIVE investment in rail to replace heavy trucks (and give "almost" high speed passenger rail).  Adjusted for population, = to US spending $1 trillion on new and improved rail.

"And the Swiss are doing it again with a 2000-2020 MASSIVE investment in rail to replace heavy trucks (and give "almost" high speed passenger rail).  Adjusted for population, = to US spending $1 trillion on new and improved rail."

   How are you adjusting the $ to apply here.  The same product in the US would cost much higher.  We are not only a higher population we are more spread out and geographically larger.

I was measuring comparable economic (social/political) effort.

I used the month ago exchange rate ( 1 CHF = US 80.8¢ ) to convert 31 billion Swiss francs to US$.  I then multiplied by the US population divided by the Swiss population.

It is worth mentioning that Swiss Rail (SBB) may be the finest rail system in the world (some Japanese would object).  The Swiss are spending a substantial sum on improving an already VERY good rail system.

It is also worth noting that a national referendum voted for a 20 year program (if one looks closely at the details, there is "something for everyone").  That is foresight that is more widely needed today.

Very funny. Many countries have survived devastating wars famines and natural catastrophes. But it just happens that Iceland has probably the best energy situation in the world. Lots of geotermic energy. Switzerland has abundant hydropower - the Alps, you know. It is easy to survive an oil blockade if you have lots of domestic energy. Besides, everybody needed the Swiss products for warfare during the WWII and it did trade them succesfully.

But I am not talking about natural disaster, or wars, but about energy in industrialized societies with large populations. This is what is interesting here. And I am not speaking mainly about collapse, but a gradual decline and economic and social problems.

Besides, Switzerland is not investing in railroads for its own transport needs but for the transit. This is not energy policy but transport policy. The transport flow is suffocating the roads through the Alps.

The Swiss are spending so much money for many reasons, some "green", some economic, some national defense in the largest sense of the word, some even "Peak Oil".

Exports & Imports and pax from Zurich and Bern to Italy will benefit significantly.  The Germans and Italians will pay money to the Swiss (which the Swiss like).  They will meet Kyoto carbon reductions,  They will import less oil.  1 billion of the 31 billion Swiss francs are being spent on quieter railcars.

Many benefits, many reasons, all good !

Switzerland in an average year is 55% hydro, 45% nuke.  They buy French nuke electricity at night and sell hydro at peak during the day.

I am VERY familar with Iceland.  Landsvirkjun, their national power company is my biggest client.

And yes, they liken the large volcano explosions to nuclear attacks, and with decent reasoning.

The Peak Oil or Energy Peak is not an event like a volcano eruption or a nuclear attack. Hiroshima was rebuilt - with coal and oil. The Icelandic volcano eruptions did not leave the country permantently uninhabitable. Energy decline is long process. Once begun it doesn't stop. There is no day after, when you start repairing the damage and society comes back to normal, to the day before -situation. No survivalists with guns and mountain hideouts will survive - there is nothing to survive to.

The world has made a 200 - 300 years trip of relatively continous, unprecedented economic growth. Quite probably we will soon start the journey down - and this is also unprecedented.

> It is easy to survive an oil blockade if you have lots of domestic energy

As the US once had.  But we squandered ours.


Only if you spend a couple of decades building the infrastructure required to turn hydroelectricity into transportation.  Without that investment in trams, trolley buses and electric railroads, their society could have collapsed.

They are making a comparable investment today (2000-2020).

TI, what are some great economist blogs?  I'm a Finance/Econ major in my last year.  I want as much data as possible.
i'm only an ameteur web surfer, but I like:



both are jumping off places to more ...

You might take a look at Prudent Bear which has some similarities to TOD.
Why should there be any pay-off for thinking about important things ? Did Fermi, Dirac, Maxwell, Feynman, Planck, Curie, Hebb, Broca, etc... think about pay-offs when they made their theories ?

Of course there were pay-offs. But they were and are (for true researchers) no motive for thinking. Go to any true researcher and ask him about pay-offs. He will give you some polite answer but in himself he will consider your question nuts.

I don't know about any real pay-off when I think about these questions. I believe that the question of energy is far too important to hunt for my own pay-offs.

Of course I am looking into solutions for my family, but thinking about these issues takes me much further than only that. Because saving my own ass won't do anything for others. But the world will go on correctly only if the majority of humans make the correct choices. But how can we influence choices if we don't think about the consequences (look at the good post by ThatsitImOut in the beginning) ? I fully embrace the existentialist view on this : thinking is acting.

"Go to any true researcher and ask him about pay-offs. He will give you some polite answer but in himself he will consider your question nuts."

  Go down the list of Mazlo's hierarchy and there is your pay-off for research.  You can cure a disease for the patent or the self actualization.  You can research because you enjoy research or because you hate your wife an want to work late.  Scratching the itch of curiosity is a pay-off.



I think however that what JD called pay-off was more materialistically oriented. The way you see things are more oriented to "reward" than pay-off in terms of money or economic decision, even if this plays a role in a researchers mind.

I hope we will keep a world with researchers feeling the itch of curiosity, the beauty of discovery, the thrill of logic and the urge of knowledge.

I think that I would put myself firmly in the "techo-curmudgeons" category.
Wait, something's not right ... Where's the "Cringer" category?
What useful purpose is there in worrying about peak oil on forums like the Oil Drum?

Despite the fact that I like to debunk the debunkers, I agree a with JD here. But my main interest is not peakoil or energy issues. I like a lot of stuff, and I would certainly not call myself a "peakoiler".

There is so much to be said here that escapes narrow definitions. For instance: Peakoil is not a movement. It is an event and quite a lot of extremely different people opinionate on it's impact and effects. It is not an environmental issue in the strictest sense either: I could argue that the use of NG for heating and electricity saved quite a number of peatbogs and forests in Europe. It is no Armagheddon in the biblical sense. The full effects of fossil fuels peaking and the aftermath will, I guess btw, take the whole part of this century.

Now for the doom part. Quite a number of people have said a thing or two about technology that would be able to save us. Debunkers of those arguments often try to proof that those technologies won't work. But consider this: What if several technological solutions will provide a consistent level of wealth to a western civilisation, while the real explosion of population growth is in the third world, in huge mega slums? If I really try to combine both the developments in photovoltaic cells with that demographic change it might even be conceivable that the future is a technosolution combined with a dieoff..

Bottom line is we don't know. But the peakoil discussion is the first in ages which tries to look beyind the next year, next election, which tries to weigh our impact and see over the generation. And that is a great improvement with the nineties. Just the fact that people are stopping to consider longterm impact of our actions is beneficial. It has been fun.

Along the lines of what you are saying, one reason for optimism is it seems that economics itself encourages a decline in population.  Look at all of the first world countries and you are witnessing a declining population, with the exception of the U.S. but that is primarily due to immigration.  It simply is too expensive to raise massive families in a modern society, so in all but rare instances it is effectively discouraged.  

I am not one to believe that the market is the solution to every problem.  I think the market can solve problems, but only in a decentralized and haphazard way, which would not be described as the ideal or best solution.  That said, I think what is interesting is what this trend may be telling us about our current society: our standard of living IS unsupportable at current population levels.  The interesting thing is, it seems like we've actually already begun to solve this problem, despite no concious knowledge of it.  

I suspect that as other nations develop they will begin to see this same trend of falling populations.  This should continue until we reach some point of equilibrium (if worst comes to worst, governments will do things to encourage more babies, even if individual people don't want to have them).  This is why I hold out some optimism about a post-peak world, because indications are that population will not keep expanding, but rather begin to decline, and likewise we should eventually see a trend of declining energy use.  If oil peaks too soon or too quickly, then it won't be an orderly decline, and will be greatly forced upon us.  

But it won't be the end of the world, it will just be the end of an era.  Remember, as long as life exists, we can create power.  Maybe we'll go back to horses turning generators, or people pedling them, but we can still have power.  Oil is a convenient source of energy, which has allowed the rapid expansion of modern technology.  Just maybe we have reached the point where we have the knowledge to make the transition now.  Sure, we'd be better off 50 or 100 years down the road, but can you imagine what would have happened if oil peaked in, say the 50s?  At least now we have a fighting chance.  

I put myself in the "Other" category and I would call my species "Agnostics". Here are the basic Agnostic tenets:

  1. It is obvious that oil production will eventually peak.
  2. It is not obvious when it will happen and what consequences it will have. The systems are complex, the experts have agendas, a lot of data is being obfuscated. All predictions are dubious. The likelihoods of various scenarios are not well defined by any means.
  3. Having said that, some measures promoted as responses to various possible Peak Oil scenarios have clear intrinsic benefits regardless of oil depletion. These include:

    • investing in one's physical fitness
    • learning practical survival skills (CPR,  etc.)
    • cutting one's energy consumption
    • cutting other dependecies on the overall economy
    • investing in assets that would provide some form of value in the event of an economic collapse
    • getting to know one's neighbors (see the previous point)
    • dispensing with superficial status symbols such as houses & cars
    • truly appreciating civilization's conveniences and cherishing them without over-indulgence
    • learning about the energy industry and various technologies
    • learning about political candidates' energy proposals
    • spreading awareness - even if Peak Oil turns out to be nothing but alarmist hype, energy issues are too important not to be talked about

    Doing these things makes one better off no matter what. Peak Oil is simply an additional motivator and for some people it can prove incredibly effective.
  4. Similar measures are possible on a society-wide scale but the typical Agnostic sees little opportunity to influence society-wide responses. He/she does pursue what opportunity there is, mainly by spreading awareness of the issue among friends and family, as well as doing the right thing at the ballot box.
  5. An Agnostic follows the Peak Oil debates to get additional ideas and information - one can never know enough about a complex topic like this.

So, all ye Agnostic masses, sign up below!
How about becoming a Zen monk, and move to a hole in the side of a hill?

Or ride a bicycle... no petrol needed other than a tiny bit of
oil for the chain once a fortnight.

There's also the dynamite helmet folks who intend to blow
themselves to tiny bits when things go so bad they can't take
it anymore.

They left out Grumpy Old Man.

And no, this is not the same as Techno-Curmudgeon.


Agnostic sounds okay-with the caveat that the available info suggests that oil production has peaked-85-86-87-why count the extra pennies?
I'm multi-category, and haven't voted yet.  Maybe I'm really one more than another, rather than just 'other.'

I think I'm part agnostic though, and agree with the above.  No matter how many ideas I work through, the future will sort itself out.  I have some stocks, and some real estate, because (as the post up top says) things may just keep going.

The simple, productive, things to do are to take care of your health, your finances, your familiy, your friends ...

who knows, the horse may sing.

I would put myself in this category as well.  I did a Master's Thesis in 1990 on Climate Change and US Energy policy.  It seemed at the time, given the uncertainty of Climate Science, that the best approach was a "no regrets" policy, implementing policies that made sense even if the predictions of climate change were wrong.  It would have meant increased efficiency, incentives for conservation, pricing to relefect the true cost of energy (military expenditures, subsidies etc.).  Such actions would increase future flexibility of response if the climate models were correct.

I tend to approach peak oil in the same way.  We have installed a solar intertie system (with plans for battery backup as funds permit), I have gradually been replacing electric appliances with non electric ones (Check out lehmans.com) and learning news skills that would help us to cope with the Powerdown scenario if it does occur.  In the meantime knowing that you are  cutting down on your GHG emissions, knowing how to make beeswax candles from your own bee hives, cooking on a wood cookstove, and growing your own fruits and vegetables are very satisfying in and of themselves.

In the meantime I read Real Climate and TOD to keep informed of the new information on both issues and plan accordingly.

As so often, I am all over the place... I could fit as a trad-pleb, or as a powerdoomer, but I'm fundamentally a technomudgeon.

I'm quite sure that the end of cheap energy and global warming will both have a major impact on the world, not only in my lifetime, but in the next couple of decades. The grave consequences will mostly be for Other People : not because I'm particularly smart, but because I'm one of the Lucky Few. The third world, and the poor of the rich countries, will go to hell in a handcart (which grieves me greatly because I have a Social Conscience), but my countries of adoption (France) and of origin (New Zealand) will be spared the worst. Which to choose when the SHTF? I am lucky to have such a dilemma.

While I'm waiting, I try to teach my children frugality, along with the other ordinary virtues, and such useful skills as growing vegetables.

How about a category of powerdown optimist.  I know it is unlikely that humanity will suddenly start making great decisions in the face of the coming calamity, but I hope against the odds that maybe we'll learn to get by on less and we'll value people over material things, we'll invest in pubic transit, we'll live in closer self-sustaining communities, we'll stop ruining our environment and destroying the countryside for sprawl, nations will give up imperialism.  I know it's probably just a pipe dream.  
I like that label: Powerdown Optimist.

I'm acting as one; we're building a permaculture oasis in the desert (passive solar house, small PV system, an eGO electric scooter on the way), and intend to act as a source for those in our small town if and when people decide to grow their own veggies etc.

We want to live a quiet, but rich life, and hopefully provide a template for others. But it's tough being optimistic when watching the desert grasslands fill with houses (not one of which makes use of passive solar), with two or three car garages full of BIG vehicles, ATVs etc.

For change to happen, there has to be change (obviously). And I'm watching and waiting, and hoping it will come. But it's hard to imagine a turning point that doesn't include some sort of crash.

I reviewed a variety of Peak Oil websites before deciding to put my time and energy almost solely in The Oil Drum.  So that makes me a Traditionalist, since TOD is our exclusive home.

I came with an agenda to promote (electrify railroads, much more Urban Rail are high priorities, but also a renewable grid and some minor points).  I believe that I have had an impact, so I chose patrician.

Actually it is kind of sad for me to read this article, because it reminds me of how TOD has changed over the past year. At one time it was true, this was the home for what the article calls Traditionalists, people looking at this issue from an informed, technical perspective, lots of hard science and geology.

But no more. Just look at the poll results. More than twice as many in the Doomer category than Traditionalist. And it shows. Comments here more and more are the same kind of thing that you can read at every other end-is-near Peak Oil site.

The blog posters here at TOD are as good as ever, and new members like Robert Rapier continue the tradition. It's the commentors who have changed. And the bloggers can't keep up. Just look at the abundance of Open Threads vs blog postings any more. Every day we have hundreds and hundreds of comments, mostly doomers celebrating the upcoming end of the world. How often do we hear from Stuart Staniford, Heading Out and the other high-quality posters here? I get the sense that even they see the blog as getting away from them.

This poll is for me a sad confirmation of what I have been observing and noticing for the past few months. TOD has changed, its audience and its membership has switched from people hungry for technical knowledge to the more emotionally focused doomers. The numbers to prove it are right there at the top of this page.

As peak oil becomes more popular, I'm not sure this is easily avoidable. One option is a fully moderated discussion, but these have their own problems.

I have been a reader at TOD since very early on but didn't start posting until recently. I agree that the quality of the average post is declining, and I'm sure I am contributing to that, being a hack. I think this usually happens to internet forums as they age. Do you remember what peakoil.com was like in the beginning? I suspect TOD is undergoing a similar transition.

I have felt that the bloggers have sought to expand their readership, and encourage amateur participation in their blog. Daily open threads are a reflection of this. I agree that this seems to debase the project from a point of view, but it is certainly a way to increase traffic as well.

In any case, you have a fellow lamenter here. Must things always change?

Interesting point.

I asked myself, "what is my (real) motivation for posting here?"

The obvious (self-serving?) answer is relatively innocent: we all need social contact and in regards to this issue it is not one you can discuss/joke about/argue over with most folks in the "real" world. So one has to come on to the net. After all, if you start a conversation about oil use with folks in the real world they are liable to shoot you. In states like Florida, doing so might even be legal.

The less obvious answer is that my decision to start posting here was some sort of Machivellian invasion strategy.

Perhaps those of you more conspiracy minded can envision a backroom meeting between me, Bob Shaw, The Last Sasquatch and other prominent doomers where we plotted to take over the threads of The Oil Drum much the same way BCR plotted to take over the oil fields in Iraq.

If that is indeed the case all I have to say is this:




Worked out your timeline yet?

P.S. - When you think about it, that is the quintessential question from a "traditionalist" to a "doomer."

P.P.S - I hope you enjoy the resulting endorphins.

You have a point, Halfin. But the TOD posters have initiated the discussion of energy policy. And that is not purely technology.

I find the technical stuff fundamental. We need as realistic picture as possible of the development of the oil and energy supply. From a macroeconomic viewpoint this makes the basis for a realistic forecast on the impacts of the Peak Oil. If people would read more the technical stuff the discussion would be better. It seems that many don't understand the volume of energy consumption, the energy production rates, the use of energy, the energy mix, EROEI and other basic concepts. I miss the original "technology lessons" on oil and coal production.

In the year I've been reading TOD, little meaningful progress(i.e. good news) in the world has occured, while much incoherent and chaotic noise has been generated, and each day brings news of missed opportunities (i.e. bad news).  
It could be that many of the original Traditionalists or Technopeakers have slowly slipped into the Doomer category, as "inputs" for the last year have, for the most part, born this out.
As for the Traditionalists, it is hard to remain eternally detatched on such a matter. This is not a laboratory experiement, and the outcome DOES matter.

I have seen evidence that the more optimistic posters of the past have either moved on, or slowly changed their tunes to be more "realist" (middle of the road), while those in the realist camp have slid slightly further toward the pessimistic end of the spectrum.  
I would contend that the identities of the commentors have not changed markedly. Bloggers either. Stuart, Prof. Goose, Yankee, and Heading Out are all still here, they just have less to say that has not already been covered.  Bubba I have not seen in ages. Dave, Kyle, Robert, and Leanan are all excellent.

I used to think of myself as pessimistic until I started reading TOD.

Now I know that I've been a giddy optimist all along :)

I used to think I was an optimist, until I started reading TOD :).  Seriously, though,  its nice to get a wide variety of voices and opinions here, including members of all of the different groups described.  
Other:  Energy may very well be the least of our worries.  Food production has been flat for the last five years.  In four of the five consumption was greater than production so that we've had to draw down stockpiles to the point where there is little room for error.  Water supplies are under strain in many parts of the world.  The Colorado, Indus, and Yellow rivers no longer make it to the sea--their water is entirely used up along the way.  The same for many smaller rivers.  Thousands of lakes have disappeared off the map.  Aquifers are being drained: Mexico City sinks by a foot a year as they pump the water out from under themselves.  Global warming now looks like it will be worse than previously thought.  Droughts in The U.S. Southwest and in South Asia are already making themselves felt.  The North China Plain is so overgrazed that it has become the biggest dustbowl in history.
With oil, on the other hand, we may face a plateau for a few years then a steady decline, but there's still going to be plenty of oil around.  Cut out the fat in the American lifestyle and we could go on for years.  Oil is not the most pressing problem we face.

Call me a Limits of Growth pessimist.

Well, yes, PO is just the largest iceberg in the field of exponential growth and overpopulation...many other signs abound.  This is why I believe that ultimately, these "solutions" will fail--they just prolong, slightly, the inevitable.
Yeah, but exponential growth solves itself.  The first world population is in the decline.  Chinese population will aso soon be in the decline, due to their one-child policy.  And eventually the third world countries that make it over the hump, will also start to have a declining population.  

And sad as it may be, an overpopulated third world means that people there will just die-off if there's not enough food or power available.  It's certainly not what I want-- I feel bad about it-- but it's what will happen.  If things get too far out of balance, the laws of nature will put them back in balance.  

The conclusion you seem to be coming to is that exponential growth equals all of us dying, and that's not what will happen.  Certainly people will suffer, it's unavoidable, and things will have to change, but there is still some reason to hold out hope.  Even in the first world, we can still cut back probably by 75% of our power usage and still maintain effectively the same standard of living.  We don't need to replace easy energy, we just need to be able to replace some energy.  

I'd also call myself a "Club of Rome" pessimist - my survey response was "doomer powerdown" although I lean heavily toward doomer nihilist. "Malthusian rat bastard" comes closest.

In my view the green revolution's sole effect was to bid up the world's population to the point where all the inputs to industrialized civilization are under seige. Peak everything. Overshoot. Collapse.

It's entirely understandable that more people won't come out and say what we're all thinking: there's nothing wrong with the energy supply that a 4/5 reduction in the world's population can't cure. Wouldn't be prudent to say that, however.

I didn't beleieve the foot a year claim.  In case anyone else didn't either it is true...WOW!


I think the taxonomy needs a new dimension:  optimist or pessimist.  For example, you can be a doomer powerdown pessimist if you think that life minus cheap energy will be a miserable existence, or a doomer powerdown optimist if you think the powerdown will reestablish community life, recreate the public sphere, local culture, small town life, environmental sustainability, etc.  I take Kunstler be be this case.
Other. Mitigation will work much better than doomers predict. "3A" on the following poll

Would a more serious poll be:

Peak when?

  • (1) Peak after 2017
  • (2) Peak 2007 to 2017 or so
  • (3) Peak now (2005, 2006, 2007)


  • (A) Mitigation efforts will work OK or better
  • (B) Mitigation efforts will not work well
  • (C) Mitigation will fail
  • I'm 3A minus or 3B plus.
    That's a good one.

    Of course things working out "ok" might be in the eye of the beholder a bit.  An avid bicyclist might be happy with emptier roads, a GM dealer may be learning new skills ...

    Very good point. Energy consumption or production per capita and happiness/enjoyment of life are not the same thing. I think some posters on this site forget this. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted to live in 1956 North America. I think that life was the pits. My point is that even if the extreme doomers are right, some people will find that ironically their lives have improved. If 2006 USA was so great, the citizens wouldn't be gobbling anti-depressants like Pez.
    I've been under orders from SWMBO for the last couple of months to look for solutions rather than problems.  Despite my best efforts I find I still fall firmly in the doomer camp, and somewhere between "powerdown" and "nihilist" at that.  I think as a species we'll be able to pull up short of a slide back to the paleolithic, but I see too many rocks and icebergs in the water to imagine we'll be able to successfully mitigate the number of interacting problems we're going to face.  The earlier observation that it's not "peak oil" per se that will be seen as the proximate cause of collapse is an useful one one. I'm particularly concerned about two "first derivative" problems: food supply and finance.

    The problem of the global food supply is getting a bit more attention at the moment.  We are beginning to recognize that it will inevitably take a hit from the rising cost of natural gas and its impact on fertilizer production, as well as from rising transportation costs due to fuel price increases.  This is likely to be a gradual problem, that nibbles away at civilization from its margins - the most vulnerable will be affected first, while the impact on North America will be felt later.

    The financial problem that makes me sweat at night is a potential collapse of the fractional reserve banking system.  This could happen when world's financiers recognize that the contraction of the global economy due to declining energy supplies can not be reversed.  Negative growth means that interest-bearing loans are no longer a viable financial instrument.  A shutdown of new lending coupled with a spiral of bad debt is the very definition of financial collapse.  I further suspect that we could see a "tipping point" scenario in the financial sector, as the precipitating factor will be a realization and loss of confidence by the bankers - similar to 1929, but with much less possibility of devising a turnaround.

    Obviously the two problems intersect - without a healthy financial system how can factory farmers continue to pay escalating fertilizer costs?  And these are only two of a host of potential problems that are well known to the PO community.

    The real thing that separates the powerdown doomers and the more optimistic members of the PO taxonomy is their perception of the likelihood of effective mitigation.  As was noted above, the current western democratic political systems seem ill-suited to a solving problems requiring draconian counter-measures.  In addition, once things begin to go south the temptation will be overwhelming to attack the apparent problems rather than the underlying causes.  We may see such things as fertilizer subsidies or new banking rules - each "solution" being nothing more than a new position for the deck chairs.

    Unfortunately, at the moment I fall between a 3B and a 3C.

    The financial problem that makes me sweat at night is a potential collapse of the fractional reserve banking system.

    This is exactly the issue that keeps me awake at night as well - a deflationary financial collapse. Integrating financial and energy issues is of the utmost importance in my mind, as neither is sufficient on its own to paint an accurate picture of the obstacles facing us IMO. Individual long-term energy solutions as approached in isolation may leave the adopter vulnerable to financial ruin in the short-term. Conversely, those who get their financial house in order may still have far too many structural energy dependencies/vulnerabilities. Those who fail to understand the impact of human psychology on the anatomy of a crisis likewise have a huge blindspot. I see my role as attempting to reconcile different views of the world by setting each in the context of the bigger picture.

    I am concerned primarily because we will be tackling our difficulties within the context of the corrosive psychology of a global bear market. During optimistic, expansionist phases where the essentials of life are generally in surplus (at least for a larger proportion of the population than usual), problems are tackled far more constructively. Bear-market pessimism can spread very rapidly, however, thanks to the effectiveness of the herding instinct, particularly where sharp, negative emotions are concerned.

    Optimistic people (before the manic irrational exuberance stage of a developing bubble where much energy is invested in money chasing its own tail) tend to cooperate, invest for the future, build business, use credit judiciously and constructively, broaden the range of people they are prepared to trust beyond their own 'tribe', seek peaceful solutions, value life and public goods, and behave within the 'rules' of the 'social contract' without having to be monitored or coerced among other things. This outlook, which reinforces itself over time as the optimistic consensus spreads, promotes and sustains economic prosperity. A whole generation has been raised in, or has lived most of their adult life in, just such an economic environment and it has shaped their expectations of society.

    In contrast, the inevitable upwelling of bear-market pessimism is associated with a much-reduced appetite for risk (and therefore a disinclination to lend, borrow, invest for the future, attempt to build businesses etc), a tendency toward suspicion rather than trust of others who are different in any way, a tendency to look for scapegoats to blame, a reduction in cooperative and constructive behaviour, a greater inclination towards violence, and a perceived decline in the value of life and public goods among other things. A pessimistic society tends to elect politicians who promise to root out the blameworthy. That society will then take perverse pleasure in pulling the icons of the old bull market down from their pedestal and punishing them for their erstwhile success, whether or not they did anything to deserve censure. This outlook, which reinforces itself as the pessimistic consensus spreads, promotes and sustains economic contraction and unequal access to scarce resources, both within and between nations.

    This is the psychological backdrop against which peak oil mitigation will have to occur over the next couple of decades, and it will make the task immeasurably more difficult. I also think it very likely that we are headed towards a liquidity crunch, which would cause our economy to seize up (like an engine run with the oil light on) for a period of time. I don't think mitigation on the energy front is impossible (in fact I see the challenge as being feasible from a purely technological standpoint), but it is necessary IMO to recognize the social, psychological, economic and political context in which the technological challenge is set. That context presents the real challenge.

    The taxonomy in the original post assumes that commentors have a fixed view of human psychology as positive or negative, altruistic or selfish. There is no position one can chose which recognizes the enormous pendulum swings in human social mood over time - swings which have so many lagging consequences. Humans populations are predominately altruistic and predominately selfish at different times, hence historical writers describing human nature vary widely in their descriptions depending upon the time period in which they thought, observed and wrote. The important thing is to recognize an impending swing of the pendulum in order to be able to position oneself accordingly.

    As p put it "the future is a technosolution combined with a dieoff...

    and as step back said "Despite my crumudgeon leanings, there is still a Tooth-Fairy/ Cinderella part of me that believes a Messiah-technology will arrive at the 11th hour..."...

    of course as Don in Colorado said "Where's the "Cringer" category?"

    All cover my expectations of peak and the future. 'Other' catagory.

    I have no freakin' idea which category on the poll best describes me.

    I've been studying energy issues off and on since I was a teenager watching the gas lines in the early 70's.  I'm currently running my own site and working on a book on energy issues.

    For a long time I was very pessimistic, as I didn't think that adaptation and technological advances would occur quickly enough to "save us."  (The rate of free market-driven adaptation is completely decoupled from the rate needed to maintain modern civilization, avoid human suffering, etc.  It could be quicker, just barely fast enough, or slower.)

    I've grown increasingly optimistic as the evidence has accumulated.  The big wind power push in the US and the EU, hybrids, the (soon) rise of mainstream EV's, the signs of demand destruction before US gasoline prices are truly high, etc.

    The best thing each of us can do is NOT sit here typing at each other (since this site is populated almost exclusively with peak oil insiders, as are all energy sites), but make an effort to spend at least 50% of our "energy geek time" educating others.  Give a night class through your local school district, sign up to do a presentation at a public library, etc.  There's still time to use outreach efforts to make a difference.  (And with all due respect, if you think we're beyond help or that nothing you can do will make a difference, then STFU and get out of the way.  I have had it up to HERE with the neo-TEOTWAWKI/Apocalypticon crowd.)

    One of my current projects is to finish and post on my site one or more canned presentations that other people can download and use in their own outreach efforts.  Interested?  Drop me a line.

    > make an effort to spend at least 50% of our "energy geek time" educating others.

    I "mine" TOD for names of energy analysts and decision makers/influencers and send them my "10% reduction in US Oil Use in 10-12 years with mature existing technology" paper.  Newt Gingrish yesterday.  I try for seven per week.  Professors, columnists, politicans, researchers, anyone that might spread my ideas.

    The rate of impact is low, I know that.  But I also believe in the power of a good idea.  My strategy ia to keep trying, trying, trying and hope that someone will remember my plans when thinsg get tougher.

    Also, this weekend I worked with a local neighborhood on an inexpensive plan for a 2 mile streetcar extension that serves the Medical Center, SuperDome, a cluster of 25+ story office towers & hotels, City Hall and the main City Library.

    Not enough, but I do what I can do.

    I have no trouble getting political letters to the editor published all over my state. But my PO letters got pigeon-holed.

    Perhaps I should try again. Thanks for the encouragement.

    (One reason I frequent this site is to learn as much as I can, so I'm more confident of what "reality" actually entails.)

    In order to have whatever chance of success you have to be able to show them how they will win money and/or political influence from that. I've been giving this quite a thought, but hasn't come up with anything productive...
    I believe it is a mistake to focus soley on peak oil/energy. In fact, there are any number of issues that have the capacity to cause the collapse of society or at least result in radical societal change.  Among them are:

    Global warming
    Current account deficit
    Governmental and personal debt
    Depletion of aquafirs/excess water use
    Population overshoot
    Housing bubble
    Stock bubble
    Resouce depletion such as metal ores, rock phosphate
    Extinction of species
    Emerging diseases
    Governmental ineptitude
    Geopolitical stupidity
    Multicultural society w/o shared values

    If one were to use probablity measures, it is reasonable to assume that one or more of them will be the tipping point(s) that will result in massive, negative societal change.  This seems especially likely when there is massive public apathy to these issues.

    I put myself in the doomer-powerdown group although the best I anticipate are a few lifeboat communities scattered here and there.  As I have noted on other posts, my personal goal is for the four families on my rural, private road to establish a more or less self-sufficient "community."  I have no hope that society at large will make the transition.

    You know, I was going to answer JD above, but maybe your list is a better point to hang this. He asked:

    "At this point in time, I'm completely apathetic about peak oil, and I really wonder what keeps all you folks going."

    My weird way of looking at it is that human societies have lots of problems (your list works here), but that individuals sort of distribute themsleves across those problems.  There are people watching (and working on) each of the above.  I guess we only have to worry if peak oil is "oversubscribed" with too much human energy and effort.  I don't think that is the case.

    In related news, some idiot on fox news said last night "terrorism is a much bigger problem than global warming."

    No, terrorism is a much shorter term problem than global warming.  Fortunately we have umpty ump billion people on the planet, and we can distribute ourselves on problems and solutions.

    I really can't see how I can fit into this particular taxonomy.

    I don't really "believe" in Peak Oil, because all the data is so flaky, and everything "known" is just an estimate. A good bout of H5N1 would mean abundant energy for quite some time. Still, I sense that energy prices will stay high, and that there will be energy shortages.

    I don't really "believe" in technological fixes, because, as an engineer, I have observed how just about every technological improvement creates more problems down the road. With rapid climate change, this trend is reaching a climax. I don't feel compelled to go out of my way to promote what appears to be a failed approach.

    I don't really "believe" in doomsday scenarios. Economies and civilizations have collapsed before, and life went on. True, many people died as a result, but everyone dies sooner or later. I think that what people consider "normal life" now is not exactly normal, and they are not exactly normal, in their heads. That's why something a third of them are medicating themselves just to get through the day. So, if this bogus thing crashes and something else takes its place - perhaps that something else will be an improvement in some ways? Most of us have trouble even imagining what it would be like - so who are we to judge?

    Finally, I don't really "believe" that the Peak Oil movement, in all its variants, will amount to a hill of beans. Yes, a small minority of not very influential people will have more of a clue than the vast majority which will never have any clue, but so what? But it certainly is entertaining!

    So, if you have a category for me, let me know. I'd be curious.

    What's wrong with intellectually stimulating conversation? Do you really need a reason? Why should any of us apologize or feel a compelling reason to explain ourselves.

    I would find NASCAR "boring" if I were forced to talk about it. But I'm not, so I don't.

    I hope nobody is forced to be here....

    This whole thread displays the puritan history of the USA. People feel they have to justify their existence on this site, simply enjoying the intellectual exchange is not enough-it must be a "movement" or one must achieve some form of capital. Alpha Doom is superior because he is a "pro", the rest of us are just peak oil sluts.  
    Yes, I also don't understand this compulsion to stop all the time and keep checking up on each other. Who's kewl?
    Who's just a noob? What are you doing with your knowledge?
    Don't you know there's an opportunity cost to just acquiring it?

    I couldn't think of a catagory for ya', but your post somehow reminded me of an old joke...

    Question:  What's the difference between illiteracy and apathy?

    Answer:  I don't know and I don't give a damm!!

    Now take my wife...please...:-)
    Thank you Henny Youngman!! :-)

    You are missing the "doomer climate change meltdown" catagory.
    We hope that peak oil will mitigate the problem, but suspect that in reality, the switch from oil to coal will make matter worse, and that the species is really living its last hurrah.

    In my heart of hearts, this is exactly what I believe.  We're hurtling at breakneck speed towards a bottleneck.  I know it's bad form to cop to that belief on this site, but the combination of GW and PO, with a switch to coal in the process stands to hose the species down pretty hard.

    '...bottleneck.  I know it's bad form to cop to that belief on this site, but the combination of GW and PO,...'

    No, I dont think it is 'bad form'. I for one have this at the back of my mind a lot these days. I have said before, that I am (for example) 'pro nuke', some agree , some dont. But when you put PO together with its evil twin GW, then thinking beyond another two generations gets very tough.

    Truly, If the science is right (and why should it not be? I dont recall meeting many scientists or engineers who lie for a living)then we are facing something that we never faced before. Not the Tambora event, not the glaciation events, The Great War, WWII, Even the Black Death.

    What am I? I am an increasingly grumpy old man, formerly a techno-hopeful. Every where I look, its turning to crap (Peak Crap?). - This could be ageing, or it could be just the truth.

    Every Generation has expected / hoped things to get better for the next generation, whatever their personal circumstances at the time (depression, war, persecution).
    Up until Peak Oil and GW, This was a safe way to bet.

    Soon , when PO and GW become 'in-your-face', we will then see 'Peak Hope'. Which way do we bet when we get to Peak Hope?

    I come here to listen in on / engage with people who at least understand the possible futures we may get without looking at you as if you are completely mad. Believe me, If you bring this up at a family Dinner, you are treated like a turd in a swimming pool. Except of course by the 80 year olds...

    New category "turd in the swiming pool"  Sorry.. but it made me laugh out loud  :)
    Trying to fix the taxonomy structure is kind of pointless, no?  Afterall, if the point is to make specious sterotypes why should I allow for hybrid denizen species?
    Hello TODers,

    I am from the Jay Hanson Thermo-Gene Collision school of Dieoff in 'beliefs', but doing what I can to optimize the coming Bottleneck Squeeze by my 'actions' of speculative postings, informing strangers by face-to-face discussions, and emailing influential others [maybe someday I will get a reponse].  As AlanfromBigEasy says, "Just doing what I can".

    I believe 'Peakoil and Global Warming Outreach' efforts to inform the unwashed masses is the most important thing we TODers can do to elicit postive change towards Powerdown conservation and voluntary population control.  Thus, I believe it is vitally important that TOD sends some kind of informative message to the upcoming July G8 Conference in Putin's host country of Russia at this official G8 link:


    Even better would be if we could send a couple of official TOD representatives to the G8 to discuss issues with officials and MSM, and send reports back to us TODers:  I nominate AlanfromBigEasy & Stuart Staniford as my choices.  Alan has a positive program for RRs and mass-transit, and Stuart can be very diplomatic as he inundates them with statistical information.

    If this cannot be done, perhaps someone here at TOD could convince Matthew R. Simmons to go and represent TOD, and report back to us.  He is widely admired by all, and has extensive connections into worldwide 'shakers and movers'.

    I am afraid the G8 will dissolve into a largely ineffective shouting match vs reaching meaningful agreement on ASPO's Energy Depletion Protocols.  The news releases coming out already seem to indicate political polarization:


    I wish we could impose a Haitian lifestyle regimen upon these leaders during the conference-- no toilet paper, no power, tainted water and gruel, no medicine, etc-- I think a few days of this and they would make a remarkable breakthrough towards peaceful worldwide mitigation.  One can only hope.

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

    Above is probably your best post totoneila.

    "conservation and voluntary population control"

    New poll! How many of us have personally done the voluntary population control thing?

    I have and there will probably be hell to pay when I am old -if something else doesn't get me.

    Like it! I know some places like that not far from the presently scheduled summit site. I think it would be a great idea for Pootie-Poot to bring the less-than-magnificent seven there.
    I said "doombat" simply because no one else did.

    It would do my heart good to see amerikkka choke and burn and crash.

    But before All Ye Righteous get livid, remember that wishes mean nothing.