DrumBeat: July 10, 2006

Update [2006-7-10 9:47:30 by Leanan]:
An Australian documentary show, 4 Corners, aired a program on peak oil Monday night (Australian time):

"Peak Oil?" on Four Corners, 8.30 pm Monday, 10 July, ABC TV.

It's scheduled to repeat about 11 pm Wednesday 12 July; also on ABC2 digital channel at 7 pm and 9.30 pm Wednesday.

Four Corners also presents a Broadband Edition on "Peak Oil?" See the program in full; watch extended interviews with the experts; delve into interactive maps showing who produces the oil and who buys it; browse key reports about how much oil remains untapped; learn about the alternatives; and discover the impact of peak oil on Australia's economy and way of life."

Non-Australians can watch the program online here.

Dr. Ali Samsam Bakhtiari say the limit of global oil production has been reached.

Sequestration worries: Volcanic leaks point to climate gas storage risks.

Hundreds of deaths caused by volcanic leaks of carbon dioxide from Cameroon to California are worrying experts seeking ways to bury industrial emissions of the gas as part of an assault on global warming.
Scientists say Hydrogen is wasteful way to store energy. Nevertheless, there are Plans to Bring Chinese-Made Hydrogen Cars to U.S.

Saudis may boost heavy-oil reserves with steam

For Chad: Oil's promise still a dream.

EU dangles rewards as Russia eyes G8 energy pact

Oil tanker rates rise.

Fuel prices raised in Thailand

It is the first time that the retail gasoline price in Thailand exceeds the psychological 'ceiling' of Bt30 per litre.

Transportation industry feels the pinch of escalating fuel prices.

Iraq vows to end shortage of petroleum products.

The United States’ real problem with oil and energy policy goes beyond rising prices:

With gas prices pushing $3 a gallon, drivers aren’t just digging deep into their pockets. They’re getting angry—not just with oil companies and President Bush—and they think Democrats can do better. Yet converting those sentiments into electoral victories, let alone effective legislation, may not be so easy.
From Newsweek: Green America - Why Environmentalism Is Hot
With windmills, low-energy homes, new forms of recycling and fuel-efficient cars, Americans are taking conservation into their own hands.
Update [2006-7-10 14:34:52 by Leanan]: The next real estate boom
Dense settlements, not sprawling ranch houses, are the future of housing - and could make for a smart real-estate investment.

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Picture the scene: it's 2025, and you and your family are living in a beautiful, leafy-green village that seems more 19th century than 21st, even though it has only been in existence for ten years and is just 20 miles from a major American city.

You know all of the 150 or so souls in the village; you see them at the market where you pick up a box of locally-grown produce once a week. You see half of them in the morning as they board the commuter train for school or work in the city; the other half are the network warriors who work from home or, on warm days, use the free Wi-Fi in the village square.

Saudi Arabia Tests Its Potential For Unlocking Heavy-Oil Reserves

Behind Pay wall...

With global energy demand soaring, Saudi Arabia, whose abundant reserves of light oil have supplied the world for decades, is looking to unlock its huge, hard-to-tap and largely unexploited reservoirs of heavy crude.
If it succeeds in overcoming the technical hurdles, the effort could significantly increase Saudi Arabia's oil reserves over the next several years, potentially adding some slack to tight energy markets. It would also be a blow to so-called peak-oil theorists who have forecast that world oil production is on the brink of peaking.

Crude-oil prices have more than tripled since 2002 as increases in global demand have ...

hard-to-tap?  What exactly is this?  I'm sure someone here at TOD has more input on the Saudi hard-to-tap heavy crude...Is this hard-to-tap already included in their 260Gb of oil reserve or is this something else?


I believe they are talking about steam (see article linked above).

The WSJ article may be available for free later today or tomorrow, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  WSJ articles often are, a day or two later.

Boy you brought us lots of links to read today, Leanan.  Thanks.  I dipped into the "Chinese hydrogen cars" sure that I'd find H-ICE (hydrogen internal combustion engines) but was shocked to see talk of fuel cells.
Steam? It would be interesting to know exactly what they are talking about here. Most Saudi heavy oil can already be pumped so I imagine they are talking about the heavy bitumen shield that borders most of the southern part of Ghawar.

Another thing they may be talking about would be injecting naphtha to try to mix with the bitumen and make it thinner. But this is nothing new, Saudi has been re-injecting naphtha for some time.

Just the clip from Bradshaw made it hard to pass the smirk test.. my 'Wanna buy a bridge?' alarms are going off so often now, I worry that I won't even be able to discern them before long. 'Now we're going after the other reserves, and we'll show 'em!'

 I didn't look at the article, but in looking at the url, I saw the term 'farticle', which made me wonder if it was from the Onion or something.. that, or it's part of the WSJ's new series of FTG (food to gas) energy alternatives.  Almost like steam.. Hey, could we solve the oil-sands, shale and heavy crude extraction processes with enough hot air? Wall Street IS the solution!

And here I thought I woudl be the first to post on this topic. Saudi Arabia has "lots" of heavy crude, which no one wants to refine. The heavy oil has been known for decades, and had been discovered before  their earlier 170 GB estimates. The question is not whether heavy oil is part of their new 400GB plus estimates, but how much of that estimate is bitumen.
Not behind a paywall....at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  :-)

Saudi Arabia tests potential for unlocking heavy-oil reserves

Read the entire article, thanks.


I Read the entire article, Thanks for posting an updated link... sure would be nice to have an edit post feature :-P

Thanks Again Leanan


It seems to me that Enron may be a pretty good analogue for Saudi Arabia  

Look how long it took the investment community to finally conclude that Enron executives were lying about the true state of its finances.   Initially, only a tiny handful of analysts and reporters were questioning Enron's finances.  

The handful of early skeptical reports about Enron kind of remind me of Matt Simmons' groundbreaking work on Saudi Arabia.

I agree.  The lack of transparency allows them keep the world in mystery...(obviously not much longer as so many here have pointed out as well as other authors on the subject)

We're about to pull back the curtain and see the machinery huffing, puffing and sputtering as they spew water tainted with drops of oil.

But surely by then this heavy oil project(s) will be well underway and replace Ghawar and the likes right ;o)


I don't know about you but its well known that steam and carbonate rocks don't mix well. With dissovled co2 readily avialable in a oil well you probably get a pretty nice carbonate mobilizing agent. I'm sure steam works for a while but its got to cause massive mobilization and deposition of carbonate over any longer term.

Anyone know ?

The WSJ article mentioned that there are no large scale steam injection programs in carbonates, and the energy reporter on CNBC noted that a lot of experts are skeptical.

I have previously described my "Iron Triangle" thesis, to-wit, that most housing/auto/finance companies; most media companies and most oil exporters/major oil companies/energy analysts have a vested interest in persuading energy consumers that all is well--just keep buying and financing large homes and autos.

The oil exporters/major oil companies/energy analysts provide the intellectual ammunition for the media to spread the word that Peak Oil is bogus.   Note that the second paragraph of the WSJ article had the following:  "It would also be a blow to so-called peak-oil theorists who have forecast that world oil production is on the brink of peaking."

There is a little bit of unintentional irony in the article, when the authors note that conventional recovery factors are typically about 35%--which is about where Ghawar, the largest producing oil field in the world, is at.   Do you think that there might be a connection between this PR release by the Saudis, on the front page of the WSJ, and collapsing production in the Ghawar Field?

have you ever read this book
it's a real eye opener
and here's an interesting page that starts to show how hard aramco et. al. will work to sell the status quo
Peak oil made the front page of the Wall Street Journal today, in an article about the heavy oil in Saudi Arabia. The article shows that there is some awareness of the concept in the main stream media, but still little understanding of its import.

The article suggested that development of the heavy oil projects in Saudi Arabia could deal a "blow" to "peak oil theorists," because it could unlock the potential for hundreds of millions of barrels of "new" oil. Missing from the article was any concept of the capital cost, the time to develop, the ultimate daily output of any project, or the interim decline in production from depletion of Saudi Arabia's existing wells.

One good quote in the article came from a Chevron engineer: "It's all about draining the tank to the bottom."

I have long wondered whether Saudi Arabia's claims of recoverable oil include any allowance for mining the tar mat, ala the Athabasca and Orinoco developments. After today's article, I am beginning to think it might.

IMO, the fact that the Saudis are talking about using steam injection to start producing very heavy oil/tar deposits is a huge warning beacon.
Is steam the last tertiary method or better yet what are the escalating means of recovery?
Tate 123- Steam is just one of many methods of tertiary recovery, including waterflood, fireflood injecting solvents and heating the rock with microwaves or electric heaters. What works best depends on the economics and reservoir charachteristics.
  There is not enough info in the story to decide what would work best. The steam method is based on the fact that oil is easier to produce when it is heated because the viscosity changes. It flows more easily through the rock in to the borehole. Kern County California production has been using steam for 30 years or more.

If they had more economical, readily available reserves, why tap these expensive deposits?

westexas -

I think you're absolutely right about that one. It's not good news; it's bad news.

If the Saudis were so confident that they could continue to meet current production levels with their conventional oil production infrastructure, then why bother even talking about steaming out these crappy heavy oil and tar deposits?

If you have a freezer packed full with fillet mignon steaks, do you try to pursuade your guests to try these nice yummy veggy burgers?

I believe Matt Simmons touched on this very subject in his book 'Twilight in the Desert'. The Saudis are already heavily into secondary recovery and are having increasing technical problems with their existing fields.

Bhushan Bahree has a front-page article in today's Wall Street Journal:

Saudi Arabia Tests Its Potential For Unlocking Heay-Oil Reserves

With global energy demand soaring, Saudi Arabia, whose abundant reserves of light oil have supplied the world for decades, is looking to unlock its huge, hard-to-tap and largely unexploited reservoirs of heavy crude.

If it succeeds in overcoming the technical hurdles, the effort could significantly increase Saudi Arabia's oil reserves over the next several years, potentially adding some slack to tight energy markets. It would also be a blow to so-called peak-oil theorists who have forecast that world oil production is on the brink of peaking.

Bahree writes frequently for the Journal; he was the author of the recent article about Saudi not being able to find buyers for their oil but also not being willing to reduce the price.

"Bahree writes frequently for the Journal; he was the author of the recent article about Saudi not being able to find buyers for their oil but also not being willing to reduce the price"

The Saudis are increasing the price of light, sweet crude.

Look at the recent facts:  (1)  Saudi oil production is down since December; (2) Their largest oil field is very old; (3)  They are desperately trying to increase the number of rigs and (4)  They are now talking about steam injection to produce very heavy oil/tar deposits.

Yeah, I agree. This is not a "blow" to the peak oil community, it's more like a 4th of July fireworks display to announce that we're right. Sent you an e-mail.
What is significant is not that this announcement somehow falsifies peak oil theory, but that the WSJ felt it necessary to frame the story as a rebuttal of "peak oil theorists". I am reminded of a quote from William Irwin Thompson:

If a political polity is unsound, one discovers it through noise. Noise is an expression of the ignored and the unknown, of the irrelevant and the undervalued. As the noise builds up it reaches a point in which it overwhelms the signal, and then one gets a reversal in which the noise begins to be heard as information and the old signals fade into a background hum, a musag of buzzwords and archaic rhetoric.

It would be interesting track the discussion of peak oil in the WSJ from its first mention to the today, and see where it goes from here. I expect the volume of screechy anti-peak oil editorializing in the WSJ to increase as peak oil theory becomes more widely accepted.

US Government Concern Over US Railroad Capacity

I find it odd that no mention is made of modal shift from truck to rail.  RRs are actively working to increase capacity but not quickly or hard enough. Tate, any comments ??


Contact: Dennis Watson06/29/2006 (Thursday)
(202) 565-1596

No. 06-08
FIRS 1 (800) 877-8339


Surface Transportation Board Chairman W. Douglas Buttrey today announced that he has corresponded with the chief executive officers of each of the seven largest railroads concerning their respective goals and plans to meet the expected increase in demand for railroad service during the fall shipping season known as the "fall peak." Chairman Buttrey similarly corresponded with the association that represents the Nation's small and regional railroads.

In announcing his correspondence with the railroads, the Chairman noted:

"There is heightened focus this year on the ability of the railroads to meet demands for rail service. At least four major factors have converged to cause this heightened focus: the healthy domestic economy; growth in import/export traffic; the agriculture sector's forecast of record harvests; and the fact that rail infrastructure has begun to show capacity constraints.

"Consequently, I believe it is essential that the Surface Transportation Board continue its close monitoring of the railroads' service plans. This will contribute to the Board's confidence level that appropriate planning is being done to ensure that spikes in rail traffic demand that are expected for the remainder of the year can be handled as efficiently as possible. As in past years, this will also provide an important tool for rail customers to keep them better informed and enable them to plan efficiently for the needs of their rail-served businesses."

Click here for a hotlink to Chairman Buttrey's letter to the railroads (RBC: or see text below). A fact sheet is attached.


The fall "peak-season" letters that Surface Transportation Board Chairman W. Douglas Buttrey sent on June 28, 2006, to the seven largest railroads requested information relative to each railroad's service plans and operational goals during this year's peak shipping season. The letters specifically focused on each railroad's

o Steps being taken to ascertain demand for, and to prepare for, the provision of fall peak-season service;

o Performance goals for the remainder of 2006;

o Plans for achieving those performance goals; and

o Plans to communicate goals, plans and steps with customers.

There's really nothing new.  Capacity hasn't been increased substantially in years while freight traffic has exploded.  There is only one MAJOR project and that's out on the West.  Intermodal(rail to truck) traffic sets records near every month, while drivers are in short supply.  Many smaller truck carriers are experiencing cash flow issues and are failing.  I think this is the earliest stages of a failing supply chain.  I mean really early.  

There are always companies going out of biz, but there are more YoY.  It will take a lot more, and I mean a lot more say perhaps 50% higher crude costs.  Most freight co's are succesful in passing on higher fuel surcharges.  Many update bi monthly to keep up.  The RR's are repairing old lines that have been left to disrepair.  Very little new capacity is being added, but there are efficiency gains being made in the operations side.  New technology is being used in the North to speed up turnaround times on that coal being ripped from the Earth.  Not to mention Peak time is now.  The summer is peak for the retail warehouse supply chain preparing for the fall back to school AND christmas begins shipping in Aug/Sept.

Alan and Tate,
  As I write this, I'm watching some doubledecker freight cars squeaking through Vegas at a crawl.  As hopeful a sight as a bicycle to me.

  What can you guys tell us about lifespan and maintenance costs of rails and beds, as opposed to maintaining the Asphalt system?  Not that I propose leaving the roads to rot, but they would certainly live longer, too, if the heavy work started moving onto a greater system of SteelWheels and rail..  but I know very little about the real costs of supporting a rail infrastructure. What are the challenges that would be a detractor's argument against rail? (Understanding how thoroughly the parallel of Highway Funding has been so well coddled)

  Like Solar Hot water and other technically simple and 'unsexy' solutions, I need to build up my vocabulary to be able to be able advocate for improved Rail Freight and Pass. Rail. to my local and state Representatives.  (I'm from Maine, just working in Vegas this summer)  Actually, a 'campaign for trains' at least has a level of classic sexiness to it.  Maybe the new electrics need to be tricked out to look like 'The General' and some of the other classic Steam Locos.

Alan will no doubt provide the meat for your answer, but I can touch on the topic.  Maintenance costs for the rails are low.  The great thing about rail is the simplicity and known variables.  We know the max (weight) we can stuff on a train and send it.  Not to mention there is central planning to coordinate schedules.  

The cost efficiencies from trucks to rail is immense.  After reading Alan's handout on electrified rail, IMO, the real gains are still to come in terms of freight traffic.  After talking to some people in my co. there is talk of electrifying the rail, but it's still early.  PO isn't the motivation per se, but increasingly high diesel costs are becoming an issue for customers, since much of the price is passed on in the form of fuel surcharges.  The issue at hand is the competition, well the lack thereof.  There is little competition among any RR's, so the motivation to improve has been lax.  If you're mad b/c the train's not on time, who you gonna use next time...One of my other two buddies in the business?  It's an oligopoly in the truest sense.

As we speak freight traffic has exploded due in large part to the ports in the West.  The only response to this is a massive track investment from LA to West Texas.  It will be a new dedicated corridor to move freight from west to east.  This won't be done for at least another 3-5 years as I understand. I haven't really seen any arguments against moving freight back onto rail.  IMO, even the marginal improvements that rail creates add up to enourmous savings in the form of traffic time, CO2 cost, & reduction in highway damage.  

The Swiss state that the infrastructure that they are installing in their TransAlp tunnels (from memory, 56 km, 30 km, 20 km, 15 km) will last 100 years.  Everything (rails, bed, wires, signals, etc.) is built VERY robustly and to the highest quality.  It is supposed to handle 200 trains/day when finished and growth from there.

In addition, Swiss (and Euro) loadings are significantly lower than US.  Single high containers for example.

The US uses the heaviest rails and highest loadings, particularly out West (the East has slightly lower limits).  Enough to create plastic deformation in steel.  Thus higher rail wear & steel wheel wear on our busy main lines, but more freight moved as well.  The balance "works" economically.

I would like Tate to confirm this, but the UP Omaha-Los Angeles Line (VERY heavy use, at least double track, perhaps triple) rail is replaced about every 15 years from old conversation.  Same for triple track shared to WY & MO coal fields by CSX & BN-SF. HEAVY loads, HEAVY traffic !

Worn out rail loses it's 1 to 20 slope on top, the majority of the steel is left for recycling.

BTW, 1 billion of the 31 billion Swiss francs being spent to upgrade their rail system is to make quieter rail cars.  They don't have to be quite so loud.

Two factoids; Adjust the Swiss rail improvement for population and it is like the US spending $1 trillion over 20 years to get heavy trucks off the roads and supply semi-High Speed rail pax service as well.  But the big francs are to get the trucks off the road.

And the Chinese are spending five times as much (about $12.5 billion/year) as the US for new Urban Rail, despite being a much poorer society.  Put another way, per capita, the poor, still mainly peasant Chinese are spending slightly more than we are for new Urban Rail.

What are the challenges that would be a detractor's argument against rail?

The same arguments that got rail into trouble all the years ago.   The trusts, the monopolies, the right of ways.

If rail was allowed to have an unregluated market, America would see the trusts and monopolies all over again.  

If the regulations were loosened, people might move from cars/trucks to rail...and how would that effect GM and the economy built about GM?

I see more rail freight as a survival strategy for truck freight. Trucks can transport door to door everywhere, rail cant. When diesel gets too expensive for long truck hauls a truck-rail-truck combo can save the freight economy and the business of the production or logistics served by the freight company.
truck-rail-truck combo

Being done already.    Its even been mentioned before on TOD.

Some businesses 'get it' - Menards tries to buy land near railroad right of ways.

This is called intermodal shipping and it's all I work with but on the RR side.  That is the traffic I say is growing exponentially and it's all due to container shipping.  Long haul is being priced out, slowly.  The largest will try with all their might to hang on.
It is also starting to be popular in Sweden and Norway who has  a fairly integrated railway system and transportation market.

The latest local news is that CargoNet AS has ordered 300 wagons with an option for an additional 100 for trailer or container transportation. I dont have any hard numbers but according to a railway nerd this would be a 50% increase in the Norwegian and Swedish trailer carrying fleet if all rented wagons are kept within the system.

These systems have lumbered along for some years with small growth, it seems like they both need higer fuel prices and some kind of shock to begin growing.

The timber transportation market got such a shock in Sweden 1,5 years ago when we had a small hurricane that were one of the worst storms for about 100 years. The previous timber transportation systems in southern Sweden were totaly reorganized within about two months and all available railway stock were used with old and some new loading spurs. This worked so well that manny of these train connections are being kept and new wagons are on order.

It also prompted a massive cablification of the 0.4-20 kV part of the grid but that is another story. There were also some talking about better civil defence but I dont know how much will come out of it.

You might want to take a look at the Powder River Basin project of the DM&E Railroad. 2.5 Billion Dollar construction project billed as one of the biggest Railroad projects in many many years.
DM&E runs right through the middle of my farm so I do watch what they are working on <BG>.
DM&E is Dakota Minnesota and Eastern Railroad. Expansion is from Dakotas to Wyoming Powder River Basin Coal fields.


You could almost have a separate thread on this project and what it takes to get new trackage turned into reality from the regulatory and community/citizen and finance points.
Reading the DM&E project site will give you a better idea why no new rail projects are being planned or built.

The Saudis are having such problems finding customers for their light crude, they are now investing in developing heavy crude fields - http://money.cnn.com/2006/07/10/news/international/saudi_heavycrude/index.htm

I always knew the big money was in heavy sour crude - those sneaky Saudis were just saving the best for last, right?

Reminds me of that Hughey Newton and the News song "I want a new drug"
I'm sure all will forgive your lack on knowledge on music. However that song was byHuey Lewis and the News.
Huey Newton was one of the founders of the Black Panthers.
Expat, thanks for the great laugh! :oD
Borrowing this article from the top...


But Americans are notoriously reluctant to surrender their fates to the impersonal outcomes of an equation. One by one--and together, in state and local governments and even giant corporations--they are attempting to wrest the future from the dotted lines on the graphs that point to catastrophe. The richest country in the world is also the one with the most to lose.

Gee look whats happening.  People are being pinched in their pockets and are thinking of ways to conserve.  Energy awareness is rising.  TO point it out that the US has the most to lose should be sobering to many.  It will take a lot more articles like this to create the consciousness needed to understand the waste of many people.

In the UK thread, I just read that coal-fired electricity produces 960 grams of CO2 per kWh of electricity.

That's pretty horrifying. I had no idea--just never thought about it.

Leaving a 100-watt lightbulb on for half a day puts a kilogram of CO2 in the atmosphere? That's a very different proposition than costing $0.10. I might not walk 30 feet to pick up a dime--so I leave lights on sometimes--but I would walk 30 feet to clean up a mess like that.

Could someone make an ad showing graphically what this means? A person leaves the lightbulb on in a nice white room, comes back in a few hours, and the room has had several hundred grams of carbon black blown into it? I have to think I'm not the only one who would respond to that.


For our American friends, 100g = 3.5 oz, 1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs (approx).
I am an American and I have been all metric (S.I. Units) for years. What are the rest of you waiting for ? <BG>
Velocity in S.I. units is in meters-per-second (m/s). I don't think highway speed limit signs showing 30 m/s (~65 mph) and 35 m/s (~78 mph) for interstate highway speeds will go over well with many Americans. And think of those 10 m/s signs for surface street driving... ;o)

Then again, 65 m/s is 145 mph, so perhaps by changing units and keeping the numbers on the signs the same will result in greater acceptance of S.I...


"Velocity [speed] in S.I. units is in meters-per-second (m/s)."

Maybe so, but the standard used around the world (AFAICT) is km/h, which has a conversion factor of 1.6 from statute miles per hour.  Those who like bigger numbers will surely have no difficulty in converting from "65 mph" to "105 km/h"!  (Actually,  I've never seen 105 on a sign, it's either 100 or 110 - with half the traffic generally going 120-160!)

Regarding CO2 and energy, I think an add like that is a great idea. With the gasoline price rising as it is the real worry for climate change is coal. Especially with the hundreds of planned coal plants in both the US and China. This situation is almost too scary to contemplate if sequestration is too dangerous or is too expensive for a "free market" to accept (probably the latter).
Good Point, Chris.
  As so many of these problems are tucked away and Outa-sight, Outa-mind, I need to remind myself, as much as anyone else in my life just how much destruction is happening just to keep the lights on.  Electricity CAN be clean, but it isn't there yet.

  I saw this film, homemade (and only a little rough) about this very issue.  The author not only piles coal in front of his house to demonstrate how much his own lifestyle has thrown into the atmosphere, but also looks at disappearing mountain ranges, little known 'muck floods' in the Mountaintop removal areas, etc, etc.  The Filmmaker is Jeff Barrie, and it's called 'Kilowatt Ours'

A review-

"...Too many works like this suggest things you can do to help that are all well and good, say, if you have $50,000 in loose change in your sock drawer, but aren't very helpful to the average person. Barrie shows how he and his wife went about actually making that difference, all on a realistic budget. This is what makes this worthy film deserving of a look - followed by thought and, hopefully, some action."

- MY first real investment into alt.energy is to have bought the parts (still being assembled, installed) so that my office is predominantly Solar Powered.  I have about 100watts of PV panels, and a 110ah battery/ charger/ inverter.. built into a housing to look like a "Gonk" power-droid from Star Wars.. remember the 'Walking Box' robots? (might as well make it fun, right?.. or "How I learned to stop worrying and love the dieoff")

Here are a couple more links that I only briefly checked..

http://www.voiceyourself.com/article.php?section=3&more=1&id=2472  <Another Film about this<p> "I went to a congressional hearing where a gentleman that worked for [the U.S. Geological Survey] did a presentation and said that coal production in Appalachia had reached peak," Bonds says. "I know this. I know by looking at the signs in my area that the coal production has reached peak and it's on the downslide now. And America, if we increase our use of coal, we're going to be in the same situation with coal that we are now with oil, but it's going to be worse because all the land, air, and water will have been contaminated to the point that nothing will be able to live in this wasteland. So this is more than just about the mountains."



From Mother Jones "Razing Appalachia"

Bob Fiske

Note: The SEEN database calculates emissions estimates of carbon dioxide. Many other sources calculate "carbon equivalent" emissions. Carbon comprises 12/44 of the mass of carbon dioxide; thus to convert from CO-2 equivalent to C equivalent, one multiplies by 0.2727. Conversely, to
convert carbon equivalents to carbon dioxide, multiply the carbon equivalent by 3.67. In 2000, the most recent year for which data are available, worldwide carbon equivalent emissions from fossil fuel use and venting to the atmosphere totaled 6.44 billion tons. This is the equivalent of 23.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Environmental Costs of Electricity, a book by the Pace University Center for Environmental and Legal Studies (Oceana Publications, 1990), summarizes rates of carbon dioxide and other emissions from various power plants. Table 2 in Chapter IV of the book, "New Coal Plant Emissions," summarizes studies by PLC Inc. and the Oak Ridge National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy.


According to these studies, a new coal fired power plant will release between 1.96 (PLC) and 2.09 (DOE) pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour of operation. For our report, we assume that any given coal-fired power plant will emit 2 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

A power plant with a one megawatt (1,000 kilowatts) name plate capacity will produce the equivalent of 8,760,000 kilowatt hours annually at full operation -- that is, 8,760 hours multiplied by 1,000. At this rate, such a plant would emit an estimated 17,520,000 pounds, which is the equivalent of 8,760 short tons or 7,947 metric tons of CO2.

Natural Gas

Pace's table 3, "Emissions for Natural Gas-Fired Generation," puts the rate of emissions for these type of plants at 1.14 pounds (PLC) and 0.99 pounds (DOE) of CO2

per kilowatt hour. For this study, we assume that 1 pound of CO2 will be released per kilowatt hour; that is, a plant with 1 megawatt capacity will release 8.76 million pounds per year -- 4,380 short tons / 3,973 metric tons.


Pace's table 4, "Emissions for Oil-Fired Generation," puts the rate of emissions for oil-fired plants at 1.65 (DOE) to 1.75 (PLC) pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour. For this study, we assume that 1.7 pounds of CO2 will be released per kilowatt hour, or the equivalent of 7,446 short tons / 6,754 metric tons of CO2 per year per megawatt.

This table also summarizes the PLC-determined rate of emissions from diesel-fired plants: 2.19 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour, the equivalent of 9,592 short tons / 8,702 metric tons of CO2.

Multiplying these rates' emissions by the assumed 20 years of operation at full capacity, the following conversion rates are used to determine estimated total emissions of World Bank-financed power plants:

Estimated CO2 emissions per megawatt capacity of World Bank-financed power plants over 20 years of full capacity operations:

- --------------------- Coal Natural Gas Oil Diesel

CO2(in metric tons) 159,968 79,484 135,118 174,061


Wharf Rat, thanks for these numbers!
You're welcome. I had just posted them elsewhere to answer somebody's queston about plant emissions. Google is a good thing :>)


Interesting article on financialsense.com

(this is a discussion of the fear premium in oil prices)
Author: Roger Conrad



In the minds of some--including members of the US Congress who should know better--oil and gas producers are intentionally holding back capital investment in order to keep energy prices and their profits at high levels.


The world of oil today isn't what it was in the `50s, when US sources accounted for all of our oil needs. It's not even what it was in the `90s, when imports were rising but the supply/demand balance for black gold was squarely in the hands of consumers.

Rather, the balance of power has shifted dramatically to producers.


So, if both super oils and the Bush administration can't fairly be blamed, what's at fault for high energy prices? The answer is two things: Surging demand that continues to strain global supply and a political premium that's now built into global oil prices. And both factors are inextricably linked.


Greater production of nonconventional fuel sources like bitumen from tar sands and ethanol/biofuels can reduce dependence on energy imports. But they're also only economic with conventional oil and gas prices are high. Increasing their use won't bring down prices.

Use of nonconventional fuels could conceivably reduce the political premium on oil and gas, to the extent they replace their use.

Unfortunately, these fuels have one major drawback: By definition they're always more expensive to produce than conventional oil and gas.

One of the articles is about tanker rates rising.  Is there a site where one can get a chart of tanker rates over time ?  Also, what is known about orders for new tanker ?  If some of the estimates about supply/demand growth are accurate, then wouldn;t tanker capacity have to increase ?  Or, is the fleet not fully utilized now ?
Tanker cpacity won't increase for the same reason that refineries aren't being built in the US.  The ones in charge know there will probably be less oil available within the next 5 years, so building additional capacity for a dwindling resource doesn't make financial sense.
Yes, that is the theory, but I was asking about data to support that.  In general does anyone have a link to info about tanker/shipping related issues ?
Actually There are a lot of new oil tankers being built.  The reason that rates may be going up is tha single hull tankers must be retired.  Regulations can be found at http://www.imo.org/About/mainframe.asp?topic_id=1018&doc_id=4801
BakedPlanet has good points. There is a conversion to internationally-mandated doubled-hulled tankers going on. The best way to learn amout the market is reading independent tanker companies' annual reports. Tsakos, Teekay, Frontline, etc. These companies are having a good run the last few months after slipping a bit last year.
Very interesting information.


Chaotic Dubai builds up ... as oil dries up

"We are now ready to live without oil," says Hamad Mohammed bin Mejren, manager, Department of Tourism, for the government of Dubai. Tourism is now one of Dubai's biggest earners. From six million visitors in 2005, the target is to reach 15 million annual visitors by 2010. "Our vision is to position Dubai as the leading centre for commerce and tourism in the world."

...if all goes according to plan, life after oil in Dubai could be far richer and longer lasting than it was with it.

I found this interesting, because Dubai clearly understands their own oil is running out:

But the clock is ticking in Dubai. It is estimated Dubai's oil reserves will be depleted by 2016. Dubai's construction chaos is, in fact, part of a well-orchestrated plan for life after oil.

But they don't seem to think oil depletion world-wide is a problem, or they would not be building their future on tourism.  

Saudis love to go to Dubai for
  1. booze
  2. fabulous prostitutes
  3. gambling
  4. ham and other things hard to get in S.A., such as Scotch whiskey, which is much much cheaper in Dubai than on the black market in S.A.

The Saudi princes I've met (including a former student I got to know rather well) are the most hypocritical people ever that I have encountered.
Note the disconnect between public piety and private indulgences--kind of similar to the disconnect between their repeated public promises to increase production and the reality of falling production.
Totally off topic, but there seemed to be some admiration for the young ladies of the night.
Are they Russians, East Europeans etc.? Can't imagine they'd be local girls..
Cicassian blue-eyed blonds get top dollar, as do Russians and Ukranians, etc.

BTW, I have plumbed the depths of Saudi obtuseness, bigotry, ignorance, and of course hypocrasy--found no bottom at 600 fathoms.

Specific example from my student:
"I love the U.S. because the women are whores--and you don't even have to pay them!"

Then I pointed out to him a "Wall St. Journal" article on the discrepancies between public and private life for wealthy Saudis, including the charming custom Saudi princesses have of going to Switzerland for the easy sew-up operation to "revirginize" and thereby provide plenty of good red blood on their wedding nights.

"Lies! All Lies! Wall Street Journal owned by Zionist pigs! New York Times under the thumb of Israel! All your media is Jews, Jews, Jews! All unmarried women in Saudi Arabia are virgins!! It is the Law!"


Can't help having some admiration for such show-boating hypocrites.

As long as they're our hypocrits. :-)

OK, Don, I'm trying to figure our TOD standards of behaviour: anti-semetic rants are OK if the are direct quotations from a bigot, but not OK if they are direct posts by a bigot?  :-)
Saudi bigotry is as relevant to peak oil as anything I can think of. I know of no nation that has a ruling class more short-sighted and narrow-minded than the Saudis.

You should lose sleep over this.

No regime I can think of on earth is more vulnerable than the Saudi royal family. They have no legitimacy WHATSOEVER. Indeed, King Hussein's father or grandfather was given Jordon (then called "Trans-Jordon [Across the Jordon from Israel]) as a consolation price; his claim to rule Saudi is way way more legitimate (insofar as any monarch can claim legitimacy these days) than the Ibn Saud family.

BTW, the CIA has mulled over the idea of unifying Saudi and Jordon under the auspices of our good friend and true ally, the current king of Jordan.

You heard this first on TOD, the only site you can trust;-)

Don, I was just gently yanking your chain (apparently with some success). I generally accept your points about the Saudi ruling class, and the cultural values in Saudi are anathema (and frankly, incomprehensible) to me. But I'll bet their pocketbooks will drive their producing and exporting behaviour, not their social-cultural-religious attitudes.

I find it interesting that Matt Simmons is generally laudatory about the Saudi's historic role as the swing producer that stabilized world markets. Ironically, they may have been so good at it that we came to depend heavily on a capability they no longer have.

My questions about Saudi: What can they produce, for how long? I think internal economic pressures will lead them to essentially maximize their current output. Will they remain a somewhat stable authoritarian regime, or will it all descend into chaos? It is entirely possible that by supporting Wahhabism the rulers may have sown the seeds of their own destruction.

And yes, I actually was awake in the wee hours of this morning, losing sleep over peak oil. But it wasn't Saudi-specific.

Personally, I really miss the late Sheik Yerbouti:

Are you sure that is not a colored picture from a famous Rudolph Valentino poster?

I do worry what happens when regime change comes in Saudi Arabia. What happens when the slaves there are freed? What happens when the majority of noncitizens rise up against the minority of Saudi citizens now that the sheriff (i.e. the U.S. armed forces) are no longer in town?

Stay tuned for interesting events from S.A., and I'm not talking about South America here;-)

One thing nobody knows and nobody talks about are how many actual slaves there are in S.A. The lowest credible estimate I've seen is 200,000 and the true number is much greater. Large numbers of "guest workers" are essentially serfs who "owe their soul to the (Saudi) company store."

Talk about an oil-soaked tinderbox . . .

looks like Frank Zappa to me.
Maybe SA is going to raise dental floss when the oil runs out?
Well, maybe--Montana will be a huge open-pit oil shale mine, so no dental floss farms there. FZ made Tipper Gore cry with his profanity, and did not like mainstream media:

"I'm the slime oozin' out
From your TV set
You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for help . . . no one will heed you ..."

But I'm sure he'd be right into the hydrogen economy.

I will remind you that the only successful slave revolt recorded was in Haiti from 1791 to 1803, and even there it "took a while" (perhaps 3 years of active combat AFAIK).  As Iraq demonstrates, civil wars are not a good way to maximize oil production.

I routinely use "Islamic Republic of Arabia" to illustrate the need for a non-oil alternative transportation system.  Most Americans "get it" quickly.

According to my history books (i.e. the one's I've studied) the revolting slaves killed every French man, woman, child and baby they could find. Then they killed the mulattoes. Every person known to have "French blood" in Haiti was either forced to flee or killed--no exceptions. IMO, the French had it coming.

It would not surprise me to see genocide on this scale carried out against the uber-class of Saudi citizens by the great majority of non-citizens who do the work in that courntry.

The Saudi armed forces are a bad joke. They could maybe invade a few miles into Kuwait or Yemen, but they are, without exaggeration, about the 44th best armed forces in the world--somewhat behind Slovenia.

My history book (just saw exhibit here as well) is more complex.  Initial revolt swept all the fertile rural areas, many French survived in coastal towns.  Toussaint L'Ouverture organized a military and took control after the massacre Phase I.  He played the 3 powers, France, Spain & England and ended up with nominal French control (remember that Paris was in turmoil then) and himself as de facto military dictator over both white & black (well recieved by all by reports).

Then Napoleon sent a 20,000 man force under Gen. LeClerc to take control.  His method of warfare was to kill any black (regardless of age or sex) his forces came accross.  He captured Toussaint L'Ouverture in a peace parley and shipped him to Paris.  The replacement Haitian leader mimiced French tactics.  The French lost and most of mulatto populstion migrated to New Orleans (and many of the whites as well, but they also went to France and other French Caribbean colonies).  We were the only French speaking area with an established population of "Free People of Color" (under the flag of Spain until mid-1803).  The population of New Orleans doubled just before the uncultured Americans took over.  A very important piece of our history and character.

The Free People of Color (forgot French expression) were incorporated into local French society (many became skilled craftsmen, some merchants) while the uncouth Protestant Americans were forced to establish villages distant from civilization (The Garden District and Lower Garden District resulted. So named for their peculiar habit of putting the garden in front instead of to the rear of the house).

Sources, please.

In part I am relying on old documents in French, and that was never one of my best languages (because I could never get the accents right!)

The standard work is Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James. Probably one of the top ten best known/most influential historical works of the twentieth century. And a pure delight to read. You should know this one without being told.
Closed June 30, Common Routes St. Domingue - Louisiana and Toussaint Louverture exhibitions at the Historical New Orelans Collection (core is the Notorial Archives).

Only remnant of their web page is a photo-op with Laura Bush


Typically, the most scholarly museum, even more so than the WW II Museum (the offical US museum of WW II) or the Confederate Museum (all within long walking distance or a streetcar ride away :-)

Also a lecture on the Women of New Orleans that mentioned the Free People of Color and some women that had an impact as well as the later Quadroon Balls.

Old history books NA on internet, so a Google:



No, the great majority of the Saudi population are not non-citizens.
Guys, everything concerning population is available on the web. Just Google it!

Saudi Arabia Population 27,019,731
note: includes 5,576,076 non-nationals (July 2006 est.)
And who did the estimates? The ghost of Joeseph Goebbels?

For those who have lived in Saudi Arabia, some input please:

Who exactly does most of the work there?

Eyewitness accounts, that is what I tend to believe, from believable witnesses.

You believe Saudi numbers . . . oh my, I thought there was medication for that affliction;-)

And why do you believe Saudi numbers to be true.

"It ain't necessarily so . . ."

e.g. everybody knows that Palestineans way outnumber Bedouin in Jordan, but there has not been an honest and accurate census since the Brits left.

The estimates I've seen for Saudi Arabia vary wildly, by a factor of 3 or more for the number of resident foreigners. I do not find the lower numbers credible.

Nevertheless, you may be correct.

IMO, David really did kill Goliath, just as it tells in three different religions' Bibles.

arn't you forgeting the revolt led by sparticus?
Despite initial successes, Spartacus and his followers were crucified.
I heard that the Sultan of Brunei made the Saudis look smart, but I can't source that.
Whoops! I meant "Circasian" or maybe "Circassian," but anyway, blond, fair-complected and blue-eyed.
Dubai is making a gamble.  Even if there is world-wide depletion, most of the remaining exports will be from their neighbors, who will be very rich.  If they can establish themselves as the "go to" place, they can still do well enough.

What better option do they have ?

I think their order for 48 A380-800s and many 777s (60 from memory) was unwise.

As a side note, they are building two light rail lines; on the heavy end of "light rail".  Almost Rapid rail (subway).

But if all goes according to plan, life after oil in Dubai could be far richer and longer lasting than it was with it.
I'd like the Ali Al-Naimi Suite on the 49th floor, please. Price is no object. Where do I park my camel?

hmmm...dubai....and exactly where do they get the energy for the airplanes to fly the tourists there and air condition them while they are there??...oh yeah...they'll be a tourist mecca without oil!
steverino -

My thoughts exactly.

Plus, isn't Dubai like Saudi Arabia in that it is very heavily dependent on desalination for its potable water supply?  One can live without the jets and one can sort of live without the air conditioning (maybe as a bedouin in a tent, but not as a tourist in a high-rise hotel), but obviously potable water is non-negotiable.  So, even after they run out of exportable oil, they are still going to have to scrounge for fossil fuel to run air conditioning and desalination plants.

From what I've seen, Dubai is an incredible fanasty world propped up by a huge infusion of capital from oil and gas revenues. Sometimes the greatest excesses are seen right before the collapse (e.g., Roaring Twenties right before the Crash, or Versaille right before the French Revolution).

I don't really get it either - but perhpas they can hold on to enough oil to keep their city running.  There will still be wealthy people, I'm sure.  But somehow, I just can't see it holding together.
Perhaps, they have already stored the oil to keep it running far in the future.
I've watched the aussie Four Corners program online and it is pretty good, the best TV program I've seen online about PO. It also seemed even handed in its presentation of information and balance of interviewees. Robert L. Hirsch is rather worried, watch his 10 minute interview in the extras. Recommended. Listened to the Ali Samsam Bakhtiari audio too, he got quite worked up, bless him. Worth hearing.
Buried near the end of the July 7 Drumbeat is a response by Jason Godesky, the author of the Thirty Theses, and one of the authors at the Anthropik Network, to the discussion of his "Peak Oil may lead to collapse" thesis and the map showing parts of the world already in collapse.  His response is long, edifying and recommended (sorry, I can't figure out how to link to it).  A few snippets:

The map . . . has its problems.  The areas in red are those areas that some commentator or another has made a cogent argument of collapse for.  It is by no means complete, but it seems to me that the red areas need to be expanded--I don't see many examples where they would need to be contracted. . . . What the map is meant to illustrate is that I think the process of collapse is already well underway, probably going back all the way to the dissolution of the European empires in the world wars.  Likewise, the Roman collapse was well underway before any contemporary observers began to lament the end of the Empire.

Most of the issues I see raised here get down to the question of what "complexity" and "collapse" mean.  These are both discussed in the Thirty Theses.  Firstly, complexity is a feature of all societies; there is no such thing as a society without complexity.  The relevant question is one of degree, not kind.  There is, however, a certain threshold: namely, the point of diminishing returns.

It is not only useless, but terribly ethnocentric, to define civilization in such meaningless terms as "progress" or "advancement" when we have no objective metric for such things; neither can we define civilization in terms of art, knowledge, etc., or we've simply defined a synonym for any society.  The best definition of "civilization" that I've yet found is "any society which chooses to answer all stresses with an increase in complexity."[1] . . . After 9/11, George Bush created more complexity: in this case, bureaucratic complexity, with the Department of Homeland Security.  In response to Peak Oil, many advocate new technology; this, too, is responding with more complexity.  Asking people to use less energy, on the other hand, is a response of decreasing complexity. . . .

I am also skeptical of civilization's capacity for steady state.  I see no evidence of it. . . .

What, then, is collapse?  Our accounts come from the literate classes, naturally, and that colors our accounts with the perspective of the wealthy--i.e., those who had the most to lose from the loss of complexity.  . . . Collapse is an economizing process that ultimately makes society more livable, though this usually does not apply equally to all parts of society.  To define collapse in terms of "starvation, plague, and war" is particularly ironic, because each of these are conditions either peculiar to civilization, or extremely exacerbated by civilization. . . . If these are all products of civilization, why do we associate them with collapse?  These are responses to civilization, but when the complex systems of civilization break down, there is a lag.  Civilization develops complexity to deal with the negative consequences of its complexity; which in turn, leads to more negative consequences, requiring still more complexity.  This is one reason why I argued that civilization must always grow (thesis #12), and why civilization can never exist very long in a steady state.  If a civilization is not growing, it is dying.  The effects of civilization, like war, starvation, and plague, continue on, and even increase for a time as civilization's means of keeping such negative consequences confined to acceptable levels breaks down.  The process of collapse itself is a horrible, merciless one, Darwinian in its most dire sense, but when it ends, it leaves a much improved society.  Civilization reduces quality of life; collapse increases it.

Naturally, this comes as cold comfort to those actually caught in collapse, but it must also be understood that the long-term effects of collapse are quite positive.  Richard Heinberg's notion of "Powerdown" offers a possibility to reap those benefits without enduring the horrors of collapse, but I remain skeptical of how realistic such a plan really is.

As I mentioned above, I believe we're already fairly far along in a process of collapse.  I've argued that we've past the point of diminishing returns (thesis #15).  Peak Oil has the potential to be the kind of trigger that initiates such a process, as I argued in the thesis linked above that began this discussion, but so does environmental change, terrorism, and any number of other problems we face.  The convergence looming in the next decade is one that I will be very surprised to see our civilization emerge from, but these are only proximate causes.  The ultimate cause of collapse is always the diminishing marginal returns of complexity.

That said, I don't identify myself as a "doomer."  I don't expect civilization to outlive me, but I don't see that as a terrible thing.  I do see civilization as a terrible thing.

    Our fear of collapse is an irrational one; one that is projected onto us by our leaders, who truly do have something to fear.  This is the same class of elites that are the drivers and architects of all the problems we have so far discussed (see thesis #10).  Now that we can see that civilization did not give us medicine (see thesis #22), or knowledge (see thesis #23), or art  (see thesis #24)--but it does give us illness  (see thesis #21), makes our lives difficult, dangerous and unhealthy (see thesis #9), destroys the way of life to which we are most adapted (see thesis #7), and submits us to the unnecessary evil of hierarchy (see thesis #11)--the true nature of civilization should now be plain to see: it is the means by which elites maintain their power and privelage, at the cost of everyone else.

Interesting.  He's made several posts in that thread, all worth reading.

Here's a link to the one you are referring to.  (Clicking on the timestamp at the top of a post will give you the URL for that post.)

I'm not sure I buy his definition of civilization as a society that must become more complex.  That is surely what most of them to, but as Tainter has pointed out, it is possible to avoid impending collapse by simplifying.  He points to the Byzantine empire as an example.  (PDF, ca. page 27.)

Jason Godesky quote from above:

Civilization reduces quality of life; collapse increases it.

That is the dumbest damn thing I have read in my life. When I see my grandchildren starving in the street, digging for grubs in order to eat, I can be assured that their quality of life has increased.

Not just dumb, that is down in the dirt stupid!

It's argument Tainter makes.  But it applies only after declining marginal returns rears its ugly head.  At first, increased complexity brings great benefits.  That's what leads societies down the path toward complexity in the first place.  

Digging for grubs is actually not a bad way to make a living.  Hunter-gatherers spend roughly 3 hours a day providing themselves with food, shelter, and clothing, compared to 8 hours a day for us.  The drawback is that you must maintain a very low population density to live by foraging.  So if your grandchildren are starving in the streets...I'd say the problem is society hasn't collapsed enough.  ;-)

Grubs are pretty good fried in olive oil with lots of garlic. But then again, so is most everything;-)
from what i understand they are also high on protein and low on fats that are bad for you.
so basically if you want to go on a diet and need more healthy food you might want to consider grubs.
though i do admit i have not had one myself, and it might be a fight for me to get past the cultural programing that all insects are evil, dirty, disease Bearing plague from heck.
Insects are eaten (often as an important part of the diet) in almost all known hunting and gathering societies. Grasshoppers and their relatives apparently are quite a delicacy for some people. All (so far as I know) are highly nutritious, as are earthworms and snakes.
Well, my main problem with Jason Godesky is he suggests that Thomas Hobbs was full of it when he suggested that life before modern civilization was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". It wasn't all that solitary, as Homo sapiens have always been a gregarious species, never solitary animals. However life was definitely nasty, brutish and short. The bones of the inhabitants of early Britain indicate that the average life-span was not even thirty. And life before modern civilization was hard, very hard. Even just a few hundred years ago, after civilization but before we had all the comforts of today, life was, even that late, nasty, brutish and short.

"Sennely is a typical self-sufficient village near the French City of Orleans. It consists of subsistence farmers whose needs are supplied locally: rye grain for bread, cattle, pigs, apples, pears, plums, chestnuts, garden vegetables, fish in the ponds, and bees for honey and wax.

"Population and resources are more-or-less in balance because of the poor health of the residents: they tended to be stunted, bent over, and of a yellowish complexion. By the time children were ten or twelve, they assumed the generally unpleasant appearance of their elders: they moved slowly, had poor teeth, and distended bellies. Girls reached the age of 18 before first ministration.

"Malnutrition was the norm. One third of the babies died in the first year and only one third reached adulthood. Most couples had only one or two children before their marriage was broken by the death of one parent. 'Yet, for all that, Sennely was not badly off when compared to other villages.'"
[p. 3]

After the Black Death: A social History of Modern Europe.

"Malnutrition was the norm." And that will likely be the case when civilization is gone. People who think we will return to paradise are going to be badly fooled. It was never paradise before and it will definitely not be paradise after the collapse. It will be a hard world where life will be nasty, brutish and short.

your doing something just as bad, pointing to a solitary example and applying it to all.
Your example is one of a society already well on the way to complexity. As Jason pointed out, Jared Diamond called agriculture "the worst mistake in human history"...for good reason.  

If you compare the bones of pre-agricultural Europeans to modern ones, they compare favorably.  Stone Age Europeans were tall, robust, well-nourished, and generally free of disease.  The problems in your example are caused by civilization, not by the lack of it.  Agriculture allows people to settle down and increase their population density.  But it also makes them vulnerable to famine, overpopulation, and disease.  

Right, they were robust because none of the skinny or frail ones survived. And the average lifespan was about thirty years.
There was likely a high infant mortality rate (but not as high as there was when we started settling down).  If you reached adulthood, you had a good chance of living a reasonably long life.  
TB? Tetanus?

According to some source I cannot recall at this moment, in ancient Rome an infant had about a 50% chance of surviving to age 1.

If a child survived to age 1, then a 50% chance to living to age 8.

If alive at 8, then about a 50% chance of making it to age 25.

If alive at age 25, then mortality rates were similar to those in the U.S. around 1900 (before antibiotics and other wonders of modern medicine). If memory serves, U.S. life expectancy (mean, including tons of infant mortality) in the U.S. in 1900 was somewhere around 40--but much lower in the Southern states.

If you weren't killed by someone from a competing clan.
There is that.  Not really a problem when you can just move elsewhere.  But when it starts getting too crowded to move, disputes are solved with violence.

And it happens even in pretty complex societies.

In agricultural or foraging societies?  There's very little archaeological evidence of violence prior to the Neolithic (I can't think of any, frankly), but we have a sudden explosion of such evidence almost immediately following the first evidence of agriculture.
There's very little archaeological evidence of [any kind] prior to the Neolithic  ;-)

BTW, a great read, with visceral stories of human violence and survival:

Adventures at Sea in the Great Age of Sail : Five Firsthand Narratives

(short version: get a dog)

That's not true, we have quite a bit of archaeological evidence from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic.
It's one thing to have a group of individual remains, and to argue what befell them.  It's another to say that you have enough individuals to extrapolate a rate of violence among the broader culture, etc.

Well, not just enough individuals, enough individuals with unequivocal injuries.

Our sample size for pre-Neolithic populations, proportional to our best estimate of pre-Neolithic population, isn't much different from our post-Neolithic populations.  Archaeologists have been pretty confident in their ability to extrapolate pre-Neolithic lifestyles (well, as confident as archaeology ever gets), so I don't think the state of our evidence for the Paleolithic or Mesolithic is any less than what we have for the Neolithic.

If you find no one with injuries, do you conclude from that, that there was no violence, or do you conclude from that, that your evidence is insufficient to find violence?  The latter seems to beg the question, to me.  (We do have a great number of skeletons with injuries, but they're consistent with large game hunting, not combat.)

Can you provide some links to support these assertions, preferably from a non-biased source.

The claims that everything was good before agriculture are often cited, but rarely referenced. It is very hard for me to tell if it is just guess work and revisionist history, ot an actual accepted theory by those that study the field.

Please let me know which sources you consider to be reliable;-)

Alternatively, spend five minutes on Google. It is easy to find numbers, hard to evaluate them for validity.

Estimates vary greatly, and thus critical thinking is much needed.

Jared Diamond's The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race can be read online.
I cite a number of sources in thesis #25, "Civilization reduces quality of life," where I lay out the full argument.
Skinny and frail people that don't survive still leave skeletons.  Why do we have so many of them from after the Neolithic, and so few before?
Another problem with agriculture is that it introduced humans to the consumption of grains containing gluten, which has been linked by some researchers to autoimmune diseases.
I dunno, look at the PA Dutch before the end of the 1800's.  Yes, people were using coal then, but I think not that much in  those areas.  It seems to me they lived pretty well, and while they worked quite hard, I don't think it was crushing and they lived long lives.  

But it's not viable now with the popluation as it is - can't seem to get away from that little detail!

I recommend a book called "Farming, Always Farming",  "A photographic essay of rural Pennsylvainia German land and life" by H. Winslow Fegley.  ISBN: 0-91122-50-8


That's agricultural civilisation. Hunter Gatherers are never in bad health because you can be unhealthy and survive as a farmer, but not as a hunter. It's hard to run down a deer when you are already suffering from malnutrition. Carrots are about as fast as you can run. But they don't provide much protein...
A healthy young human can run down a rabbit. One of my insane friends used to do this regularly, just to prove a point. Alas poor Alan. M., I knew him well.
Discover had an article a couple of months ago which argued that humans are literally "born to run."  Many of our physiological characteristics are meant for running, not walking.  It's hard for modern American couch potatoes to comprehend, but humans can run down just about any other animal on earth.  While some animals sprint faster, few have the endurance of Homo sapiens.  (Hairlessness and sweat glands are among the adaptations that help us.)  
As a group, no, you would need someone to be healthy.  First of all, hunter-gatherers simply tend not to get sick--most of the causes of disease come back to civilization (thesis #21), so while the pre-civilized world was not a utopia of perfect health, sickness was a far less common thing.  But they did have very effective medical treatments (thesis #22), and took good care of each other.  I would argue much better care than we take.  The suggestion that hunter-gatherers simply leave the sick to die is another common idea that's completely unsupported by evidence.  It's a theme I run into very often: the recieved, unexamined knowledge we all accept unquestioningly that keeps us committed to complexity no matter the cost.
The suggestion that hunter-gatherers simply leave the sick to die is another common idea that's completely unsupported by evidence.  It's a theme I run into very often: the recieved, unexamined knowledge we all accept unquestioningly that keeps us committed to complexity no matter the cost.

i think your right about homo-saipains, and the Neanderthals. but what about homo-erectus, homo-habilis, etc?(i know i misspelled their names..)
personally i do think they are confusing our early ancestors behavior with our own.
Extrapolating human behavior that far back is tricky, you're right.  The first archaeological evidence for caring for compassion and caring for sick/elderly tribe members only appears with Neanderthals, so you're right.  I didn't think earlier species of humans were quite germane to the question of less complex H. sapiens societies, though. :)
Notice that your examples are all civilizations, or at least agricultural societies.  I suppose that agriculture brought with it a massive loss of quality of life from which we've never fully recovered.  This is certainly what the archaeological record bears out.  Only since the 1950s have Western Europeans attained the heights of their Mesolithic ancestors, and I understand they still lag in Greece and Turkey.

I find it interesting that I'm so often answered with the squalor and poverty of civilizations and farmers when I say that life was better before we took up farming.  The heights and longevities of modern Westerners, medieval nobility, and hunter-gatherers are all roughly comparable.  The difference is, before the Agricultural Revolution, everyone enjoyed such benefits, and since then, it has only been a minority.  The fact that the modern world has concentrated that minority geographically in the West does not make those of us privelaged enough to comment on websites such as this any less a minority elite.

When the Barbarians invade they succeed because they cut taxes on farmers and other producers. It's bad for the city people who own the mortgages, but not bad at all for the rural people who have their taxes, rent, etc, cut.
Indeed, since they'll be eating a more varied, healthier diet than you ever did, and working much less for it.  We tend to denigrate forager life, but by every objective measure of quality of life, they are at least our equals and often our superiors.  While there's plenty of ongoing debate, 20th century anthropology gave the lie to Hobbes' notion of "isolated, nasty, brutish and short."  It continues to be widely believed, regrettably, despite its dearth of real evidence.
The author apparently thinks that the quality of life would improve if we would just go back to being hunter-gatherer-scavengers.  I disagree.

A couple months ago, I gave birth 9 weeks early to my first child.  Without modern technology and medicine, my little 2 pounder would have died.  But, more importantly, without modern technology and medicine, I would have died.  Apparently, 120 is supposed to be one's systolic blood pressure, and not one's diastolic blood pressure.

As I sat in the NICU, looking at my fragile little baby hooked up to all sorts of wires and tubes, knowing that my little one could die at any minute, or could grow up and be retarded, or have any number of other developmental problems, I realized that despite many rumors to the contrary, there are many, many things that happen in life that I can not ever control.  I could not control the timing of my little one's birth.  I can not control the weather.  I can not control whether or not my government decides to spy on me.  I can not control how fast oil is extracted from the ground all over the world.  I can not control how fast or how deep collapse occurs locally or globally.  Most of this is because I do not control the actions of other people.

However, I do control my own actions, and I do control my own emotions.  I choose to enjoy every little precious moment I get.  I choose to face my fears, acknowledge their likely probability, and move on with the enjoyment of life.  I have the means and the ability to prepare for the coming die-off.  I will adapt, improvise, and survive to the best of my ability.  I am a doomer, and I will not go quietly into that good night.  I choose not to give up hope in the face of everything that life may throw at me.

One's quality of life is not based upon complexity or lack thereof.  A full satisfying life can be had in the middle of an Amazonian village, or in the middle of the New York Stock Exchange.  Quality of life is in large part a state of mind.

As for what to expect in collapse, think of millions of angry mother bears whose children's futures are suddenly perceived to be threatened.  It is the women who you need to be afraid of, for they will go to any lengths to feed and protect their children, and they will do it with great cunning, without any need for bravado or honor.

I do not think that we should go back to the stone age, where life was nasty, brutish, and short.  That is not the solution.

Mother Bear -

That was extremely  heartfelt and well-written!

Hope to see more of your comment on TOD.

I agree!
first off this is not a insult to you two so don't take it that way.
the story provided no proof and played heavly on the heart strings to drive home a point.
yes it's a good thing you and your child survived but please do not use your experence as the ruler to judge the past.
Why not?

I fail to follow your logic.

Could you please explain?

she is doing the written equivalent of basically picking up her infant and shoving him/her in the face of the person she is talking to and saying "so you want to see this 'insert cute phrase describing how cute the baby is' to have died?"
knowing full well the answer is no. why? because it's used as a trap, saying yes will only make her and others think she has a point, saying no will let her paint you as the next despot.
either way she wins.
the problem with this whole point in the discussion is that while pre-agricultural times depended on more factors for food resources. it was not brutish, and short is a relative term, but both are legacy views from the Victorian era. i also might say they ate better because they had a more varied diet(i don't really consider the us department of health's idea of nutrition to be accurate.)
it also was not a utopia your food depended on what the area provided. also i don't think anyone was saying it would be a utopia, only that it appears to have given a better quality of life. as for parasites thats very debatable they don't fossilize very well.
I agree with you that Mother Bear's post does not prove the point. But neither do the frequent assertions, with no more documentation, on the other side. This entire conversation just seems like two groups of people who want to believe different things - so they do.
I've offered more than a little documentation.  The Thirty Theses are full of documentation, citations, and evidence.  I can understand that they may be too long for many people to justify the time, but please don't say I've not assembled any evidence simply because I've assembled too much of it to read.
I'll second that.

And I just don't get the original posts. I don't get it at all.

What exactly is the appeal of the Stone Age or whenever, i.e. living as beasts with absolutely nothing in our lives save for animal survival, and with short, horrendously arduous, disease-ridden life spans? Have any of you folks ever looked at the carcass of a freshly-killed wild animal - infested and riddled with parasites? A Stone Age life seems to me an infinitely worse fate than even the worst reasonable GW scenario of abandoning low-lying coastal areas centuries or millennia from now, far beyond the useful lifetime of almost any building or infrastructure.

I just read your source. You should try reading it too.
Or not. People always see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, read what they want to read. This whole thread is more about belief systems than anything else.
"Reasonable" scenarios include sea-level rise at one meter per twenty years. I didn't come up with that, your source did. This would not leave millenia to contemplate the problem.
I don't get what's so great about the Stone Age, even if the worst-case scare story that I find hard to take seriously comes true!
People in hunting and gathering societies have way way way more sex than those in modern societies.

After all, what else is there to do during one's ample leisure hours.

Talk to any cultural anthropologist on this . . .

and why do i think you would be asking for that as payment to let females into your group ;)
What exactly is the appeal of the Stone Age or whenever, i.e. living as beasts with absolutely nothing in our lives save for animal survival, and with short, horrendously arduous, disease-ridden life spans?

That was not what the Stone Age was like.  There are people today who are living foraging lifestyles, and they are not living "like beasts." Their lives are not short or arduous - quite the opposite.  In fact, they work less than we do, and therefore have more leisure time.  They don't spend said leisure time downloading tunes for their iPods, of course, but they're happy enough.  They socialize a lot, make art, tell each other stories, etc.  It's not a terrible life.

What exactly is the appeal of the Stone Age or whenever, i.e. living as beasts with absolutely nothing in our lives save for animal survival, and with short, horrendously arduous, disease-ridden life spans?

For me, it's the longer lifespans, the far greater liesure, and the greater health and lack of disease--as well as a genuine community.  Those are the known facts of forager existence.  Your portrayal is a common one, but still utterly without evidence.

You are exactly right Mother Bear, without modern medicine most of us would be dead. Hundreds of minor ailments we now suffer, like appendicitis or even an abscessed tooth could lead to death. And people worked crushing grain, chewing leather, making weapons and so fourth every waking hour.

It may be that hunter-gatherers worked only a few hours a day but they suffered body lice, intestinal parasites, and when their teeth went bad, or wore out from eating food laced with sand, they just suffered the consequences. And during times of draught, they suffered miserably from hunger.

During the hunter-gatherer times it took thousands of years for the population of the world to double, and hundreds to double during the early agricultural periods. Why? Well, it wasn't because of voluntary birth control, it was because of an extremely high death rate, high infant mortality rate and a high percentage of mothers died in childbirth.

And in times of scarce resources, tribes lived in fear of invasion from other tribes. That's just the way it was, people would kill before they would starve.

Humans starve only when there are no other choices. One of those choices is to attempt to take either food, or food-producing land, from someone else. People do perceive resource stress before they are are starving, If no state or central authority is there to stop them, they will fight before the situation gets hopeless.
Steven LeBlanc: Constant Battles:The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage

Life in those days was nasty, brutish and short.

Well said.
Too many back-to-the-simple-life posters here do not account for the tremndous impact that modern medicine has had on our quality of life. Even the most minor of infections can flare up into a fatal one. How many times would each one of us have died if we had not gotten that easy-to-use Zithromax or Cipro packet from our doctor just as the sinus infection was building up and heading for the brain area or the respitory was turning into pneumonia? (Cipro was the antibiotic everyone was chasing after during the anthrax scare. Remember?)
True, infections could be deadly.  But with lower population density, disease was less of an issue.  People simply weren't exposed to a lot of the germs later societies had to put up with.

And there are many diseases now that are diseases of civilization.  Diabetes, cancer, heart disease - due our sedentary lifestyles and overrich diets.  Plus all the immune diseases: allergies, lupus, asthma, colitis, etc.  These are quite rare in developing countries, and apparently, the reason is that too much cleanliness is bad for small children.  

Too many back-to-the-simple-life posters here do not account for the tremndous impact that modern medicine has had on our quality of life.

Because it hasn't had much of an effect.  "Primitive" medicine is just as effective as our own.  I wrote a whole thesis on this because it's raised so often: #22.

Even the most minor of infections can flare up into a fatal one.

Which is why every forager knows a number of good methods and herbs to treat infection.  On one camping trip, we got a couple of bee stings, and actually compared over the counter creams to some mud-and-plantain poultices I whipped up.  My poultices won, hands down.

How many times would each one of us have died if we had not gotten that easy-to-use Zithromax or Cipro packet from our doctor just as the sinus infection was building up and heading for the brain area or the respitory was turning into pneumonia?

Assuming that instead of knowing about over the counter drugs, you had a basic understanding of herbal rememdies?  None, I'd wager.

That was not the only reason the population was so low.  The foraging lifestyle also lowers birth rates.  Women tended to breastfeed longer (3-5 years), and they had lower levels of body fat, from the constant exercise.  Those two factors kept birthrates low.  Children were naturally spaced 4-5 years apart...enough so that the first one would be walking by the time the second one came along.

It's farming and the sedentary life that lead to a baby every year, and more difficulties with childbirth.

Well stated!

In addition, many cultures had a taboo that said a man could not have sex with his wife until she was finished breast-feeding the last baby they had had. True, if an infant has nothing to eat but breast milk, then fertility for the woman is greatly suppressed. But I am struck by the wisdom of so many traditional cultures.

Of course, the men still had sex--but with their other wives or with unmarried women (or, if truth be known, with other men's wives. Alas, adultery seems to be a cultural universal.).

That's simply not true.  Not only is our medicine no more or less effective than any of the medical systems used by foragers (thesis #22), but most of our ailments are caused by our civilization (thesis #21).  The treatments are often quite different, but just as effective, and more importantly: it's much more rare to develop such conditions in the first place.

Hundreds of minor ailments we now suffer, like appendicitis or even an abscessed tooth could lead to death. And people worked crushing grain, chewing leather, making weapons and so fourth every waking hour.

No, they enjoyed much more liesure time than we do now, but their lifestyle made things like appendicitis and abscessed teeth all but unheard of.  For those ailments they did still have, their medical treatments were just as effective as ours.

It may be that hunter-gatherers worked only a few hours a day but they suffered body lice, intestinal parasites, and when their teeth went bad, or wore out from eating food laced with sand, they just suffered the consequences. And during times of draught, they suffered miserably from hunger.

Most foragers balk at the concept that people are capable of starving to death.  Famine is almost entirely an agricultural phenomenon (see Richard Manning's Against the Grain).  Tooth decay is almost unknown amongst hunter-gatherers (it's mostly the result of a grain based diet, with all that sugar constantly in the mouth of a non-granivorous animal).

Why? Well, it wasn't because of voluntary birth control, it was because of an extremely high death rate, high infant mortality rate and a high percentage of mothers died in childbirth.

That's simply not true.  Death rate during childbirth was significantly LOWER, almost unknown (it seems that a grain diet has some pretty nasty effects for childbirth--I find this interesting, especially in light of G-d's curse on Adam to till the soil, and Eve to give birth in pain, in Genesis).  Infanticide was involved, but you're totally wrong when you say it wasn't voluntary birth control, because that's exactly what it was.  The !Kung tradition was that a woman goes into the bush to birth; maybe she comes back with a baby, and maybe she doesn't.  If not, no one asks any questions.  It was seen the same as abortion.  We argue whether life begins at birth or conception; they generally said it began at age two.

And in times of scarce resources, tribes lived in fear of invasion from other tribes. That's just the way it was, people would kill before they would starve.

And yet, no evidence for invasions before the Neolithic.  Curious.

And yet, no evidence for invasions before the Neolithic.

The extinction of the Neanderthals, and North American megafauna.

The hunter-gatherers of the NA Great Plains were often at war, commonly used torture, slavery, etc.

Your "solution" requires a 99.999% die-off fro some hypothectical.  I have decided that I have better things to do than read your posts, much less your thesis.

The extinction of the Neanderthals, and North American megafauna.

There's no evidence of violence in the extinction of the Neanderthals, though people have certainly looked, and the overkill theory is certainly not proven.

The hunter-gatherers of the NA Great Plains were often at war, commonly used torture, slavery, etc.

The Plains Indians did not exist prior to European contact.  Their population came from refugees after smallpox and European encroachment, with a new culture synthesized around the European introduction of guns and horses.  See Peter Farb's Rise of Man to Civilization.

Your "solution" requires a 99.999% die-off fro some hypothectical.  I have decided that I have better things to do than read your posts, much less your thesis.

I can appreciate that, but mine is a solution to a 99.999% die-off.  I see the die-off as the problem that must be solved.

"As for what to expect in collapse, think of millions of angry mother bears whose children's futures are suddenly perceived to be threatened.  It is the women who you need to be afraid of, for they will go to any lengths to feed and protect their children..."

A statement that under-represents paternal instinct. If anything threatens my daughter, I'm there. No hesitation. I'll do anything it takes to keep her alive and healthy. Don't doubt it.

Furthermore, I find it funny how, when the drawbacks of the old hunter-gatherer ways are compared to the newer and oh-so-wonderful ways of "civilization" there's a tendency to overlook the daily brutality that is shared by us all right now, in all this "luxury." In the U.S. alone, there's 40-50,000 dead in vehicle crashes each year, and millions injured, many of whom end up with permanent disabilities (at what cost to society?). There's the polluted air, which is likely linked to increased incidents of asthma, among other ailments (and fatalities). There are many new toxins that have been created by industry that one might unknowingly encounter. There are nuclear weapons that have been used on civilian populations, and perhaps could be used again. There are jet planes that can be crashed into high-rise office towers. There are explosives, which can be worn, or put in vehicles and easily transported to an intended target, and so on and so forth... Anxiety levels are through the roof in our modern society... I suspect that this civilization only seems like a wonderful place from behind the walls of, say, a suburban home, with a Disney DVD on the tube.

Perhaps the difference in lifestyles between hunter-gatherer, farmer, and city-dweller results in trade-offs, with some things better and some things worse. A hunter-gatherer may only live 15-30 years (some much more than this), but those years could be very fulfilling ones. A person in such a situation might lead a more fulfilling life than someone who's survived 75 years to be in 21st century America (and vice-versa).

Anyway, something to think about...


Anyone who hurts or threatens one of my children or grandchildren has a life expectancy measured in double digit minutes.
Apparently, 120 is supposed to be one's systolic blood pressure, and not one's diastolic blood pressure.

Since foragers typically have much lower blood pressures than civilized people, due to diet, lifestyle and stress, you probably would never have had this problem to begin with.

One's quality of life is not based upon complexity or lack thereof.  A full satisfying life can be had in the middle of an Amazonian village, or in the middle of the New York Stock Exchange.  Quality of life is in large part a state of mind.

It's certainly true that you can make the best of any situation, but I think it's also true that some societies are more conduscive to quality of life than others.  Quality of life is a tricky thing to define, as I started the thesis in question mentioning.  The metrics we've chosen are, of course, biased in our favor, but even by those metrics, we faily to measure up against forager societies.  Maybe the metrics are wrong (I think they are), but I do think it takes a lot less effort to be happy in the social context humans evolved in, than to try to force ourselves to be content in a setting so alien to our adaptations.  I see it as a square peg in a round hole problem, and I see it as the underlying cause of most of the problems we face today.

I do not think that we should go back to the stone age, where life was nasty, brutish, and short.  That is not the solution.

That's simply not true.  Life in the stone age was pretty good.  It's life now that's nasty, brutish and short, for most of humanity.  Not those of us with the privelage to discuss these issues online, of course, but for most of humanity, that is most certainly the case.

Results of my informal, nonscientific sampling of 27 TODer's useable responses from yesterday's drumbeat:

Q #1: When do you think TSWHTF?

41% 3-5 years
33% 6-10 years
15% 1-2 years
11% 11-15 years

Q #2: If you believe TSWHTF, how prepared are you?

30% No preps yet, just gathering information.
22% Moderate, I have needed food and supplies in storage,  am reading all I can and networking in my community.
18% Major, I've done major preparations, and have a real plan in place.  I've devoted many hours to this.
15% Minimal, I'm storing a little extra food and water etc.
15% My plan is to return to where I grew up if and when the time comes so that I am near parents, other familiar people.

Q #3:  Do you plan to relocate (or already have) because of TEOTWAWKI?

55% yes
30% no
15% not sure

Note: My apologies for not having the technosaviness to set up an efficient polling system such as Prof. Goose's and I promise not to do this again!!!  Thankyou, sheeple's for your responses.

I enjoyed it.  I think the missing question (as someone else observed) was "how bad will it get" ... but I can leave that to the hosts to poll as they think appropriate.
If Stephen Hawking is concerned about humanity surviving another 100 years without independent space stations, I just assumed that it will get BAD.  Sorry, I tend toward the doomer side.
This notion of Stephen Hawking (and others) that humanity can somehow save itself by building space stations strikes me as laughable.

Does he have any idea how much energy it takes to put a ton of material into orbit?  Clue: take a look at the size of the rockets and the amount of fuel required to make just one Space Shuttle round trip. Now picture perhaps tens of thousand of equivalent Space Shuttle trips.

Hell, if we can't accumulate and mobilize enough capital to make even modest changes to our energy and social infrastructure here on earth, what makes him think we could carry off an effort that would be orders of magnitude more difficult and orders of magnitude more expensive?  Unless and until we perfect some form of teleportation ('Beam me up, Scotty'), this just ain't gonna happen.

This is pure rubbish concocted by an academic trying to use his reputation in one field to lay claim to expertise he totally lacks in another. Attention must not be paid.

I didn't bother to read the Hawking article, but I assume it is based on the valid argument that N-earths are more fail-safe than 1-earth.

As you say, the practical considerations my moot that otherwise valid observation ;-)

I don't think he means humans in the sense of moving massive numbers from earth but in the sense of a migration of a large enough population to give a good gene pool and the further growth. Note with current and near term future technology this could be genetic material and automatic wombs with robotic teachers. With slightly more advanced tech it could even be electronically stored genetic codes.

This is almost certianly the way we would go to the stars.

The only thing thats missing and its not unfeasible is a way to upload a personality into storage and imprint later.

Its all chemistry.

memmel -

I see, sort of like a high-tech Noah's Ark?

And I wonder how and by whom it will be decided who goes and who gets left behind. (A rhetorical question: as I think I already know the answer.)

Yes, I'm sure it is much easier to send up a vial of your frozen semen or frozen egg rather a whole living you. Recreating a genetic clone of you via artificial wombs might be a little bit more tricky. And if we are able to eventually perfect a way to totally digitize the essence of a human being, maybe we could pull it off. If we are ever able to develop fusion into a practical power source, that might help too.

But I suppose the thurst of what I am trying to say is that if we are now at A, and moving the human race into space is at say Y, then we've got a hell of lot of B, C, Ds, etc. to go through first. And if we're having a tough time merely getting from A to B, then that does not bode well for getting all the way to Y.

I personally think it far more likely that we're going to have a global resource war where we nuke ourselves back a few centuries on the human progress scale before we even get close to accomplishing what you described.

One might also ask: if we are able to develop the wherewithall to live in space stations, then should we not also be able to fix things down here?

Yeah  I think what he is after is genetic survival of the species not really a large physical migration into space.

Note you don't have to have the advanced methods I mentioned
for local colonization of the solar system.

I was more talking about the real solution 500-1000 years when we would want to colonize the stars. The fact that to get us to the stars using todays technology and a minimal technical progress on developing artificial wombs just points to the
how close we are to the ability to colonize the stars today.

Also note the artificial womb need not be artifical in the
real sense.

You could do the following with little effort.

Starting this chain off is hard but...

Start with a egg laying species
have on of the eggs implanted with a embryo of a live young bearing species.
Implant progressively different embryos until
you get up to say a money and can implant a human female
and bring her to term.
Chimera could be possible by saying replacing the genetic material of the egg bearing species with that of the placental animal.

She would be the initial eve
via continued in vitro fertilization you get the genetic
diversity quickly.

In a sense you play the evolution game in real time.
This approach should be feasible with off the shelf technology.
Now if we can just store and imprint ourselves :)

I think we will get there the world is a big place
I see no reason that technocrati elite civilization centers
based around nuclear reactors or hydro energy won't continue
for a long time to come.

I guess I see our society continuing to split with the haves becoming increasingly physically isolated from the have nots.

The new democratic societies of US/EU/Japan i.e western societies were fueled by cheap oil everyone became equally rich differing today essentially on brand name not on fundamental qualitative differences in lifestyle.

Once this is gone only a small percentage of our population can continue to have a wealthy lifestyle this is a given.

I don't know the numbers but I figure for the US for example your talking a population of less then 100 million but even with this there is strong incentive to move back to slave labor or a working class.

Similar numbers apply worldwide.

Even though the overall population of the planet may fall to
say a billion people and be sustainable its still full and we still need to go into space to expand.

So even in this futuristic utopia/hell there would be a lot of pressure to go into space. At best if peak oil is as bad as it seems it will be were only and I don't mean to be crass looking at say 25 years of death and destruction and billions of deaths. And say another 25 years to stabilze
and technology won't stand still during this time period in fact there probably will be enourmouse investment in all branches of technology in attempts to forstall collapse.

At the end of the day no matter what happens once the oil is gone we have to go back to a population level that is sustained by the yearly solar input with only a small amount of nuclear to potentially get beyond that.

A link to the concept


Like I said its almost doable with today technology.

Add transgenic/trans species embryo implantation then
its basically possible today.

As I've indicated in other threads, I think human immune systems would get f'd up to the point of auto-immune destruction in the absence of a quasi-earth biosphere.

At least that's what my "gut" says ;-)

Clearly very few paid attention to what Hawking said. His statement began with his concerns about sudden climate change, vral warfare, nuclear warfare. And if we can't pay some attention to those problems an exodus to space is what we'll have left.
Space travel grabbed the headline and no one heard the climate and war cautions.
He lifted the idea from some reputable other people with PhDs in physics, etc. O'Neill is one, but since the fifties a number of bright people have floated the idea.

Stephen Hawking is pretty bright. In fact, I think he is probably smarter than I am;-)

Do you think Hawking might have a sense of humor?
Actually, he does have a great sense of humor.

After you have time after time beaten the doctors firm predictions that you will soon die in misery, Hawking has quite a sophisticated sense of humor.

But about space travel he is dead serious.

OK, then.  Billionaires say cheap oil is over. Geniuses say our only chance is outer space. Hmmm...waiter, more red wine please!!!
I interpreted question #1 to mean "When do the effects of peak oil get really, really bad?" If that's how others interpreted the question, 56% of the respondents see big problems in a 1 to 5 year time frame. Pretty grim.

Like Dave, I'm feeling that this is all unfolding much faster than I expected. I'm watching smart people's revised estimates about the peak change for the worse, notably Matt Simmon's. There's a steady drip of worrying signs, but nothing to counter it. At this rate, Colin Campbell is starting to look like an optimist!

Thanks for the survey.

Sorry I'm late. Wasn't on line yesterday.

3.5 (< Todd, < I was when I was married and we had chickens and bees and wool goats)
X (20 years ago)

Thank you for this poll, unscientific and technically inept it might have been - did you get in trouble?? - it was still interesting.

So 24 TODers see TSHTF within 10 years, but so far only
4 or 5 have made any major plans. And this is a group of believers. No wonder Hirsch is worried about the government getting its act together on time.

Would any of the major planners be prepared to share their plans with us?

Maybe they are semi-believers. They believe it enough to spend time posting about it. But they don't actually believe it enough to do anything about it.

If you assume that actions are more powerful than words, the conclusion would be that they don't really believe it.

I suspect much doom-mongering is a hobby, not a conviction.

well here is a shocker.
it takes money to prepare, many of us don't have enough of it to do anything. i am debt free but the person who owns the house i am siting in is not. so it's not a very smart idea to start investing in repairs, getting off the grid, etc.
No, I did not get into trouble, thankyou the powers that be.  I would not be offended if Prof. Goose would ever want to take this one step further and do one of his polls with his own choice of questions in which way we'd probably get a larger sampling.   The thing I found quite impressive was that 55% of these respondents either have already moved or plan to move.  Moving is not easy for anyone.  That says a lot. Also, can you imagine the implications of that down the road? Personally, I'm hoping to move and make preparations,  but feel I have a little more time to do it (plus family issues and timing, not to mention spouses agreeing).  Maybe that explains why many have not yet made their preparations.  
24 TODers see TSHTF within 10 years, but so far only 4 or 5 [out of the 24 = about 20%] have made any major plans.

This is a valid criticism.
Seeing an approaching problem is one thing.
Doing something about it is a whole other animal.
Talk is dirt cheap compared to the price of action.

I can only speak for myself as to why no action despite the talk. First, to be able to take action, one has to be financially "independent" as they say so that you don't have to show up at the job each day just to make ends meet, just to keep treading above water. Some folk out there are young and single (unattached) and therefore mobility is not a big problem. On the other hand, some have families and family obligations and have to contend with divergent views of family members and also with health or other crisises of family life. It's not as easy as asking why "you", the individual, haven't moved? In many instances we have to get a whole family unit to move (either physically or in terms of preparation). But first they must agree even that there is a problem worthy of their attention.

I know precisely where I would stand the best chance WTSHTF and what I should do there till then (become a high school math  & science teacher. Summers off to build up local refuge, create community bonds) and I have a back-up Plan B & C as well.

But Why ?

Is the highest and best goal that I can have is to be self-sufficient and die peacefully (and well nourished) in a warm and comfortable bed ?

I prefer to try and help local and broader society prepare, just a little, than spend that same effort on myself.

When the time comes when I can contribute nothing more that is significant, I will make a dash for a pre-planned exit.  Not as good as starting now for myself but perhaps better for others.

I am reminded of the maintenance workers and building engineers in the WTC that worked furiously till the end to get and keep the elevators & escalators going.

A very noble example.  Thanks for sharing and you are a role model for us all.  No small part of a person's plans is their life situation.  Are you single?  Are you a provider for young children?  Where are you living now? What are your economic resources?  How much time do you have in your life between work and duty?  Health?  Extended family?  But, lets not lose sight of the bigger picture by using our daily lives as an excuse.  We all must keep in mind in what way we will contribute to society now and and in a more difficult later.  Don't forget to do those random acts of kindness now and especially later.  Also, any "plan" one devises now may not work out as expected.  Even on this website, there is the equal debate between those who think urban vs rural is best.  IMO anyone who bothers to go to this website is contributing by caring and being aware of what is going on probably in hopes of being part of a solution to the large problems that we face.
I missed this one.  My answers are that (1) I might expect a lower level of "s" than some others, (2) I am prepared for high energy prices (say another doubling), and (3) I feel I can be responsive to more critical conditions should they develop.
Yours for a mere $80,000


I like to think of myself as a good driver ... but I'm not that good.
What is the ecological value of a 50 MPG personal suicidal machine? Reducing the population pressure?
Watch the videos. The outriggers seem to work, This thing is designed so you can drive your suicide machine like a complete moron, while drunk, and live to tell about it
Most unfortunately will not reduce population pressure. Not eco.
As far as I can tell, this thing is neither automobile replacement (as the ending -mobile suggests), not that "eco", with those 50 MPG - only slightly better than a Toyota Echo, which you can have for some 1/6 of the price (or get a Prius for 1/5).

I see it as a fancy toy for high-speed lovers, and I would accept it as such, but the label "ecomobile" slightly irritates me.

Hmmm... Motorcycle with training wheels? :)
It's actually an enclosed trike that can lean into a turn.  This is a 9 Mb video that is fairly amusing:


It's smaller than an Echo, right? Might be able to fit into more places, like in the living room instead of out on the street... ;o)
Yeah, there's nothing particularly eco about it and it's a bit of a joke they call it that.  The one that the person that told me about it said he was going about 70mph on the highway and that it passed him like he was standing still.  I wonder if we painted a Hummer green and put "EcoHummer" on it if it would be more ecologically friendly...
For the second day in succession, nonsense on future energy costs from the UK press.  This time its the Daily Express (a lower-middle ranking tabloid, so perhaps to be expected), with a front page article about domestic gas and electricity prices.  Domestic gas prices have almost doubled since 2000 and electricity is up about 50%, with further rises of about 10% (the article says) on the way.  There is no mention at all that world market prices for energy might have anything to do with this, and also there's an absurd telephone poll where you can vote on whether you think energy companies are ripping off the public.  A striking similarity with reports on TOD and elsewhere of US politicians trying to shift the blame for gasoline prices onto the oil companies.
Various news article providing yet more proof to the end of the world as we know it....

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060709/ap_on_bi_ge/asia_nuclear_renaissance;_ylt=AnolLFxKOgmJpg2LHUm33J yyBhIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ--

ULSAN, South Korea - Led by fast-growing China and India, Asia is going nuclear in a big way to feed its ravenous appetite for energy.

The strains of economic growth are already showing. Energy shortages have forced Chinese factories to scale back production, and farmers in India often have power for only half the day. Both countries say their future growth is at risk unless they diversify their energy mix.

While those in China are driving cars in DROVES....

China car sales in the first half of 2006 climbed almost 50 percent year on year, with General Motors <GM.N> staying out front, Xinhua news agency said on Sunday.

At least GM can build volume SOMEWHERE.  Too bad these aren't the kinds of cars GM wants to sell the Chinese.

And lastly some Venture Capitalists are getting into green, albeit at a snails pace.


"Climate change and policies to combat its impacts are going to fundamentally change the energy makeup of a lot of economies. As the shift away from fossil-based to more renewables happens, companies will win or lose depending on how that shift occurs," he said.

That quote was for a Citigroup conference.  Big business wants to loan all the money in the world for this I bet.  I mean it's energy and people NEED it so you would think an underwriter would see the forest.

China would be the perfect place to sell the pure electric car like the EV1 that GM killed.  I don't understand why the Chinese government is assuming that it can get all the oil it needs to imitate America, unless there is a more sinister motive to crowd the US out and put a lid on its economy and power.
I don't think that China "wants" to "imitate America".

It is ordinary people (1.5 bln. in count) having ordinary desires they want to fulfill - cars in that case. The question is not what China "wants", but what they (the government etc.) can do to handle this natural pressure. To my knowledge they are doing the best they could in such environment - building dense cities and heavily investing in rail and mass transit.

China is still a dicatorship where the government can impose a course on the economic development.  Obviously the people there don't have the choice to follow all of their desires.

They are building a lot of highways so they are imitating America.  They are imitating America by buying hummers and other gasoline powered dinosaurs that will not be viable in twenty years.  They are imitating America by creating a large domestic automobile industry based on the internal combustion engine.  I wouldn't call this "natural pressure" from the "ordinary people".  It is an active decision made by a select number of people with party approval.  The vast majority of Chinese would be happy with an EV1 type car since for example it would cut back on air pollution that is choking their cities.

Social and economic systems have their own inertia and respond in complicated ways to stimuli. It is a great mistake to think that because the PRC central government has no elections, they can give orders which are directly implemented in every detail.
Yes, I find the vision of a dictatorship country build up as a top-down monolithic pyramid being too naive (and probably influenced by the perceptions for the ex-USSR).

Actually there are lot of similarities the way societies work, and in fact the differences between the so-called "democracies" and the so-called "dictatorships" can be brought down to the level of communication and feedback between "those above" and "those below". In this context I find US society becoming incresingly undemocratic, while China seems to be opening up (though not that fast as they could).

Those EV1s seem to have been massively subsidized, and they were really suitable only as second or third cars, because the limited range was useless for most intercity trips. Present day Chinese folks would have a tough time affording them - since even a dictatorship can't succeed at massively subsidizing everyone, as both China and the USSR demonstrated in their doctrinaire Marxist heydays.

It's hard to know what pollution tradeoffs people want, because we don't easily get to do controlled experiments. On the other hand, we can speculate intelligently. Even in the USA in the prosperous 1960s and amidst the hippies and go-backs, the big efforts to clean up the regular occurrences of yellow skies and choking smog in New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, did not come about until cleanup methods appeared to be available that (1) were judged to be affordable and (2) were judged to leave the usefulness of cars largely intact.

Perhaps there will be an early peak and they will get into supply trouble that they're not counting on. But it ain't over until it's over, so we'll eventually see.

My friend Jim leased one, and ferried me around in it when I visted LA.


It was a beautiful car, and worked very well for him. I'd say it would be a great first car, and a second, long-range car could be shared or rented as necessary.

Egg-zactly.  In a beautiful world GM would lease EV1s with the built in option to pick up a Tahoe for 10 days each year.

I think Singapore was a big lesson for many, that a "strong leader" could manage a market economy.  They are still in tighter control than the Singapore example, but the might be loosening toward that level.

Imitating America

I think that's as accurate as saying "imitating Japan" at this point.  I can't think of any Chinese moves that were "uniquely American" before the Chinese adopted them.


I saw a photo blog of the huge variety of electric bicycles being used in China.  I have no idea how their numbers relate to cars - though I seem to remember that the bicycle to car ratio still hugely favors the bicycle.

(We see photos of downtown Beijing, but complexity falls off as one leaves the cities.  Remember, "China's 7 million public servants consume about 5 percent of the country's total electricity a year, equal to the electricity consumed annually by 780 million farmers." link)

An alternate explanation is that they are trying to leverage high growth with cheap energy ... while it lasts.  I think they (like everyone else) have one eye on a post-oil world.

... too bad they (and we) don't have both eyes on that goal.

But the growth has to create economic structures that are functional once the fossil fuels run out.  Why waste the resources building internal combustion automobile plants and gasoline station networks instead of electric car plants and rapid charge stations?  They should be taking peak oil much more seriously since a fossil fuel based economy will bounce off a hard lid.
Since China's electric industry is moving to a new coal plant a day, or something obscene like that, just how do these electric cars prevent polution?
There is still less carbon dioxide emitted by using coal generated electricity to power transport than to burn 25% efficient gasoline.
We'd have to know how they view the ratios.  Perhaps the good infrastructure balances (in their mind) the bad.  I do remember solar energy requirements for new building (hot water), and of course some pretty big hydro projects.
Anyone see this?


I've been away from the computer (and work) and thus have not had time to catch up on TOD postings.  Sorry if it's old news.

For others: This is an open letter from Richard Heinberg to Greg Palast. Worth reading.

I almost never click on posts that say "Have you seen this?" but don't provide at least one sentence telling you what it is you are supposed to chase down. I would guess many others don't either.

It was posted last week by "Consume More," and discussed in Drum Beat 6.
Definitely. Heinberg makes an excellent argument in this letter.