Peak Oil and L.A.

I have visited 43 states, about 20 foreign countries, and 4 continents, but somehow never made it out to California. That changed last week when I had to take a business trip to L.A. I spent 5 days there, seeing some sights and taking care of business. I visited the La Brea Tar Pits, toured Hollywood, got harassed by the LAPD at Hollywood and Vine, spent a day at Universal Studios, checked out Venice Beach, and drove around the city quite a bit. The topics of Peak Oil and energy utilization were constantly on my mind, but what I saw there was mostly depressing.
The trip started out well. The man in the airplane seat next to me struck up a conversation. It turns out that he was a fraud investigator for a bank. He told some pretty interesting stories about bank fraud. But we eventually got into my line of work, and I brought up the topic of Peak Oil, as I am apt to do every chance I get.

I explained the dilemma to him. I told him that I don't think we are at a peak yet, but that it is coming in the not too distant future. I told him that the situation we are in right now - with a supply/demand imbalance that may continue right up through the actual peak - should provide a preview of coming attractions (and keep upward pressure on prices). I explained the worst case scenarios, as well as how I think it is going to play out. And he "got it", just like people almost always do when you talk to them one-on-one. If only we could talk to every person in the country one-on-one, we might start making some real progress.

Then he asked me a tough question that I always struggle with: "What should I do to prepare?" Now, this is something I think about every day. But the answer to the question is completely dependent upon how bad you think things will get. How much insurance do you need, and how much are you willing to pay for it? Each person must prepare according to their personal situation, but more importantly is how we prepare globally. After all, my preparations won't amount to much if the country falls apart and descends into chaos.

I had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City, and we flew over the Great Salt Lake. I had flown over it before, but I had never noticed how much algae is in the lake. I started wondering about the prospects for a large-scale algal biodiesel operation there. From there, we flew over a lot of desert that appeared to be completely barren from the air. I wondered how much electricity we could produce from covering those barren areas with solar panels.

On the descent into L.A., I noticed two things. The first was the infamous L.A. traffic. I have lived in Houston before, and I have heard people say that Houston traffic is as bad or worse. Based on what I saw, it's not. The other thing I noticed was that the air was brown. It would be several days before I figured out this was the reason my eyes were burning and itching during my entire trip.

Driving around Hollywood, I saw some reason for optimism. There were a lot of city buses operating, and a sign on the back of one indicated that L.A. has the largest natural gas fleet in the country. There were lots of people out walking (something you don't see in Houston), even away from the major tourist attractions. At one point I saw a sign indicating the presence of a methanol pump, but I couldn't figure out why they would be using methanol.

However, once I left Hollywood and got back on the freeway, my optimism faded. Not only was the traffic incredibly dense, but it was all moving at 80 miles an hour, and Hummers and SUVs were abundant. In fact, I have never seen so many Hummers in one day as I saw on my first day in L.A. I have often thought that Houston has to be one of the worst possible places to be post-peak. But L.A. may be even more car-dependent. I drove 30 miles north of L.A., and the traffic was still very heavy. I finally pulled off of the freeway, and just observed the traffic for a while. Fuel-efficient vehicles were greatly under-represented. Speed limits seemed to be optional. Conservation certainly did not appear to be embedded in the collective consciousness.

I arrived at my hotel in Thousand Oaks, and asked at the front desk about restaurants within walking distance. They told me there was only 1, less than a block away. It later turned out that there were quite a few within a one-mile radius. But apparently, that's not walking distance. I did walk to a restaurant about a half mile away at one point, and there were few pedestrians out. Just like Houston, it seemed that everyone drives everywhere. My first impression from Hollywood was that a lot of people traveled by foot. That's not what I saw as I got away from Hollywood.

Before I left L.A., I did get to engage one more person on the subject of Peak Oil. Once again he quickly grasped the seriousness of the issue. I was pleased that I had brought the issue to the attention of another person. But all I had to do was look back at the freeway to realize that my efforts were like a single drop of rain in a downpour. Two people listened. Millions were still oblivious in this one city. Sometimes I feel so helpless. I want to affect change. I want to help point us in the right direction. So, I take little steps by writing as much as I can to educate people, and by talking to people one-on-one. Then I go to a city like L.A. and am frustrated that so many people are not getting the message. What can we do? How can we affect the behavior of the masses? And what are the consequences if we don't?

Saw this, thought about the problem of convincing people of peak oil and the consequences thereof.

We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing what we already do. And now the astonishing and perturbing suspicion emerges that perhaps almost all that has passed for social science, political economy, politics, and ethics in the past may be brushed aside by future generations as mainly rationalizing.
 - James Harvey Robinson, The Mind in the Making
Don't be down. If those two people tell two other people then four new people will understand (total 6). If four people all tell two people then another eight will understand (total 14). Soon hundreds will understand. Then soon it will get in the newspaper. You have to start somewhere.

"You have to start somewhere."

I would have hoped for the dream visit....RR of TOD to stop by the shops of CalCars.

Someday, it may have been listed in the history books as one of the signpost events of the birth of the dawning super efficient design driven era...if it had happened :-(

To paraphrase Dylan, "The losers now will be later to win, because the times they are a changin'..."

(and if you think you can get by with putting America's young behind a mule's azz when we have the tools still in the chest still unused and untried, you gotta' nuther think comin'....:-)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

I would have hoped for the dream visit....RR of TOD to stop by the shops of CalCars.

I am a big fan of CalCars. I have plugged that website at least a dozen times. I think a combination of solar and PHEVs would be a viable transportation option in a post-peak world.


This thread gets away from the LA discussion, so I had to put in my 2 cents worth here.  I grew up in Mass (now in NH) but I lived in NO Cal for 5 years and SoCal for 4 years, for a time in Long Beach.  Here's the thing about LA - most of them ignore the rest of the country, and the world.  LA is their world.  Events happening elswhere are just stuff on TV, which is a cognitive problem everywhere, but it is epidemic in LA.  Many people never leave the basin their whole lives.
What is hard to realize about LA is the fact that it is, simply, a seemingly endless suburb.  Here in New England there are at least some breaks between towns, some open spaces, patches of seemingly wild forest.  But LA is just endless, densly populated suburbs.  To escape you literally have to climb mountains or get on a boat.  Competing with 12 million people to do so.  LA will be Kunstler's best example, I'm afraid.
That's funny, I live in OC and try to ignore LA ;-)

Seriously I think the people clogging the freeways are working 50-60 hour weeks, getting their news from radio, and hoping everything works out.  It takes time to see beyond the MSM and associated advertisements, even if you have a sense of concern.

On progress though, I think RR should have tracked the Prius/Hummer ratio.  Down here it started Hummer-heavy, but esp. on weekdays it's now very Prius.  I think a few more Hummers get pulled out on weekends, but maybe that says their mileage is limited.

And beyond that, in the far future, a lot of LA is walkable.  People (like that clerk) don't know what's there because they've got a driving map in their head, not a walking map.

It's walkable now because there's someplace to go and get the stuff they need to survive.  But the concept that LA, or even OC, could be locally sustainable without massive fossil fuel inputs - sorry, I just don't see it.  There's no room left to grow anything!  
I'm a numbers-based guy.  If I believed in 8-10% global decline in oil production, I might bail.  On the other hand, if I accepted the more moderate 2-3%, I might sit happy.

BTW, remember those articles on the energy efficiency of NYC?

If you can truck food there, you can truck food anywhere ;-)

Actually, the saving grace of NYC is that it has an excellent harbor and river system to connect it to the Farmlands of upstate NY and beyond. We also get our water from the Catskills pumped here by the laws of gravity! NYC is in a great geographic position for food distribution and Water.

What NYC really currently lacks is a good freight rail connection to Manhattan, but barges from Staten Island, New Jersey and Brooklyn could carry a good portion of the truck load. The Harbor Tunnel would be a great improvement over the current stream of trucks from Brooklyn to NJ.

Every area has something different. NYC has many unique issues that are completely different from LA.

If you named harbors as a difference, you don't know LA.  We've also got a load of freight rail coming out of that port.
I grew up in LA/OC, during the Vietnam War. When the Club of Rome report came out in 1972, I "got it" instantly, perhaps because my family was strict and I had no access to a car (and there were no busses).

My wife and I are presently building a homestead on (scarce)floodplain land in the southwest, and I can attest that it is extremely difficult, expensive and time consuming. Even creating a garden takes years to bring online -- and few people even try any more. We are doing it primarily because we enjoy it, hard work and all. Insulating ourselves from possible "overshoot and collapse" is secondary. Our friends and family admire what we are creating, but generally say "but I couldn't do that myself." Because few people will put in hard work if they don't have to.

When asked "how should I prepare (for P.O.)?" I don't know what to say. It's like being asked "how can I lose weight?" The answer is "change your lifestyle," which does not gain you many friends.  

I applaud RR for proseletizing. Understanding must come before action. But I have a hard time seeing right action coming out of this. Just as people would rather take a med than change their lifestyle (with high blood pressure, say), they would rather continue their lifestyle by "other means," such as war. If you look at the Middle East right now, it is difficult to imagine the US going through all this trouble except to get oil by virtually any means possible.  

That sounds great, esp. if you enjoy it.  I mentioned my parents' 1/3 acre below, with the 12 fruit trees.  It's one of those neigborhoods where it's hard to give away avacados in season because everybody knows somebody who has a tree bearing.  The area is partly on well water still, could conserve, intall rain catchment, etc., etc., etc.

Basically for a lot of levels of decline short of crash, that's the kind of place to be.  If you really belive crash, avoid the rush ... go to the mountains of Peru or something.

BTW, I agree on getting up to speed on gardening.  I did it growing up and did all the heavy work in my highshool and college years.  It was very rewarding (even though I didn't like avacados when I planted the trees!).  For a kid they were too "slimy"
Sounds like your parents are still the partial beneficiaries of a true sweet spot in Southern Califorinia. At the time of Richard Henry Dana, the LA basin was not that nice a place to do more than raise a few cows and bemoan the lack of a local market. There wasn't enough water for even a small population until some water management was implemented. By the time the Owens Valley had been turned into a desert and the CA Colorado River Aquaduct had been built, Southern CA enterred an agricultural [and in many ways residential] sweet spot.

For the most part, the agricultural bonanza has been paved ... and suburbia has run amuk. It is still a great place for a lot of things, but population pressures have defined the highest use as near endless suburbia. [Oh well ... maybe in another lifetime or on mankind's next planet.]

BTW, for purposes of full disclosure, I have lived in LA County and it appears highly likely that I will do so again in the very near future [gasp / sigh / does anyone know a good pychologist in the Westwood / Santa Monica area?]

Good luck finding a sweet spot!
Thanks. I'm afraid I'm going to need it. :-)
I would like to recommend the book "Extreme Simplicity: homesteading in the city" by Christopher & Dolores Lynn Nyerges. They live in the LA area, and have figured out how to homestead on their suburban lot. Lots of great ideas.
Cool, I'll make a note of that.
Oh, I know LA has a port, I was more answering your vague statement about trucking goods into NYC. That only started with the containerization of freight. NYC could easily to take on direct delivery from ships when it becomes necessary. Many of the docks are still in place and ready to go when necessary. The difference is that our harbor is connected to the Hudson River and by extension of the Erie Canal, the entire Great Lakes Basin - some of the most productive agricultural land in the world.
I think you need to look back to the spirit of my original post.  I'm talkin' about the gloom people have when they think powerdown means a frozen transportation grid.

I was just throwing a word out there for bulk transport and used "truck."  The fact (that casual pessimists) ignore is that all the bulk transport methods are far more efficient (on a per cargo-ton basis) than personal transportation.  At the same time they are of course vital.

In various degrees of powerdown the ships, trains, and trucks will keep moving ... even as people carpool, bicycle, and walk, their way to work and shopping.

... and if you want to get into which regions have agriculture ... don't pick a fight with California.

BTW, my parents house is in LA County, is 1/3 acre, and has about a dozen fruit trees (including avacados which grow like weeds, yum).
With annual precipitation of a meager ~12" a year, and perhaps just 34 rain-days on average, LA's biggest Peak Oil issue will be water, which takes considerable energy to distribute throughout the Basin. Based on available fresh water, a sustainable population in the LA area might be a few hundred thousand at most, at least according to a geology professor of mine. I'd certainly like to see more studies about this issue. Indeed, from what I've read, fresh water is one of the key planning issues for much of CA.


Some data on that at the bottom of the thread.
California gets most of its water from its Sierra snowpacks.
Look here for more info.
P.S. The link between Global Warming and California's water supply= not good news
One thing that has puzzled me for years is why terrorists have not yet taken out the pipelines that supply water to So. Calif. A dozen guys, only a few hundred pounds of high explosives, and bingo--no agriculture and no toilet flushing for some twenty million people.

BTW, there is nothing easier to blow than a pipeline or a pumping station, whether for water or oil. I have to wonder if Al Qaeeda has this type of enterprise planned for this summer or the next one. Clearly, you would want to do it when reservoirs are low to maximize panic.

Drinking water you could bring in by sea or train or trucks, but So. Cal needs huge amounts of H2O from far away to keep from going back to a desert.

Nice suggestion, Sailorman. That'll add another page to your FBI dossier.
Thank you, but I lifted the idea from a 1940s science fiction story. Alas, none of my great ideas are original.

BTW, back in the day I did some work for Uncle Sam. One reason for my heavy F.B.I. dossier is that I had "God Clearance." If you do not know what that is, then you do not need to know.

Sorry about that;-)

I can guess what it is, but don't tell me, because I don't want to die ;-)

What was the 1940's sci-fi story?

I thought a bit more about the idea. Would it really be all that devastating? Sure, pipelines are easy to blow up. But are they that hard to bring back online? Seems to me they'd get it fixed before anybody died of thirst. Or would they discover that they had melted down the last batch of proper-gauge pipe?

It was published in either "Amazing" or "Thrilling Wonder Stories," I think in 1943 in the context of World War II sabotoge. The author? Um? Jack Vance? Jack Williamson? Jack somebody, I think, and for the life of me I cannot remember the title of the story. Anyway, I'm sure Jack X. lifted the idea from somebody else . . . who adapted it from something Jules Verne or somebody wrote more than a hundred years ago who lifted it from Archimedes or some other old Greek.

Originality is exceedingly rare--except when it comes to making mistakes.

BTW, when discussing ideas for terrorists, I follow the Tom Clancy rule of purposely presenting a notion in a way that it will fail; in other words, I never ever give any details that might help anybody to actually do evil.

(BTW, on the web there are some hilariously wrong instructions on how to make explosives. Somebody probably planted them with the intent that bomber/terrorists blow themselves up while mixing nitroglycerin or whatever.)

(BTW, on the web there are some hilariously wrong instructions on how to make explosives. Somebody probably planted them with the intent that bomber/terrorists blow themselves up while mixing nitroglycerin or whatever.)

Yeah, I've noticed that. Also, the instructions for bombs in the old Anarchist's Cookbook will blow you up...exactly wrong.

I have thought about simmiliar scenarios regarding my own countries electricity grid.

My conclusion about what to to about it is that vital services need their own emergency generators, preparations for icelanding random parts of the grid is a good thing and the same is true for emergency stockpiles of spare parts and emergency repair groups. Doing something about the possible terrorists is much harder.

My conclusion about why no such terrorist attack has been done is that intelligent terrorists look for attacks that have a large symbolic value and not attacks whose sum of small inconveniences and costs add up to very large sums. They are attacking symbols, not the basic and resilant economy.

The grid risk is locally handled in a few ways, none of them wholly satisfactory for a defence nerd.
The main grid gets a fairly small increases in redundance to handle increased trading on the nordic electricity market and lowering the risk for accidents bringing down part of the grid. The investments in control systems are probably more significant and as far as I know there are plans for local icelanding in case of a grid break down. How it works and how tested the present systems are is probably confidential.

There is an emergency repair organization who has everything needed for rebuilding small sections of 130-400 kV lines or building a number of emergency switchyards. I do as a defence nerd find it to small a force but it has been planned to be air mobile with common military transport aeroplanes and use small helicopters for movement of parts while working in case it will be needed internationally. If terrorists blow up your grid request aid from Sweden, probably good foreign policy planning, I hope we then ask for some future favor in return. It was used about 1.5 years ago when the storm/weak hurricane Gudrun to peoples surprise brought down 130 kV lines, the largest size that use pairs of wooden poles with complete tree fall clearance. Tree fall clearance, not fully grown trees flying around clearance.

It should be such that the telephone infrastructure, all police stations, fire brigade stations, hospitals, (disabled)old peoples homes, water and sweage works etc should have their own emergency generators. But it is not complete, the investments seems to increase every time there is an accident. Its seems like the trend is to mostly increase the number of installations to recieve mobile emergency generators (Essentially a box with a big switch, a connector, fuses, grounding and control light to indicate that mains power is back. ) and when there is some major problem it is discovered that fallen trees are in the way of the gensets, or thet they are too few, hard to organize and so on and the number of fixed installations goes up in the voulnerable spots.

The old civil defence goal for the water supply were that every area supplied by a municipiality should have full redundancy in case one water source were poisoned or one water works broke down. This goal were not reached but a fair number of towns have full redundance. But I think my own home town is growing out of it and would ration garden watering. The planning part is still maintained, there are lakes and streames tagged as possible water sources, some natural sand formations from the ice age are set aside for water cleaning and so on. But I think stockpiles of pumps and tubing whent to the scrap yard with the big drawn down after the cold war. But such redundancy is cheap in Sweden since most of the country has nearly unlimited fresh water from lakes and streams. It usually only require some sand filtration or the common artificial ground water treatment by using a natural sand formation as a giant sand filter. Most or all larger water works chlorinate, mostly to keep the water from loosing drinking quality in the water lines.

This has of course not stopped the crazy trend of bottled drinking water even when average bottled water has lower quality then random tap water. Good marketing can get people to buy and carry home a liter of water for one dollar instead of drinkig water from their tap for 0.1 cent. I had a good laugh at an evening tabloid this weekend that tested different brands of bottled water without added taste exept minerals, tap water won. This bottled water trend will probably be a quick road kill for PO.

"One thing that has puzzled me for years is why terrorists have not yet taken out the pipelines that supply water to So. Calif. A dozen guys, only a few hundred pounds of high explosives, and bingo--no agriculture and no toilet flushing for some twenty million people."

With that little HE we would be talking about 1 pumping stn, or a smallish breach in a single pipeline yes?

"Drinking water you could bring in by sea or train or trucks"

I would imagine you could repair the breech faster than you could organize the mass distribution of alternative supplies. It would take some number of days for crops to die, and most households have a 40 gallon emergency supply of potable water on hand at all times (in their water heaters) though I suspect most have never thought of it this way, so the actual death toll I would expect to be minimal.

Now on the other hand dropping hydro towers could do a lot more damage I would think, and use the HE to greater effect since the amount required to sheer 2 legs on a tower is quite modest if rigged correctly.

The east coast blackout of a few years ago which originated from a single sub-station failure at a time of max demand gives a good example of the cascade effect on a deeply coupled system close to overload at the best of times.

A distributed attack focusing on the major interconnecting lines between cities, and the interstate tie lines, all of which are well documented in open source files. Hmmm...
I hear my file starting to be added to, time to stop now ;)

Some time this afternoon you will be visited by two men in blue suits and white shirts. They will be asking you questions. Just tell the truth, these are nice guys, just doing their job; they are not out to get you.


One thing that has puzzled me for years is why terrorists have not yet taken out the pipelines that supply water to So. Calif.

I'm sure there are more flammable targets ;-)

Beyond that, I think the system is more redundant that casual observers would note (particularly there are a number of near-in reservoirs and lakes holding short-term supply).

While I'm doing notes - one amusing thing is that while we've got those big pipes going over mountains ... many of them have traditionally been siphons.  While the water goes a long ways, it is "net-net" downhill to LA.  Again details on total system electrical consumption in the WATER-ENERGY RELATIONSHIP by the California Energy Commission)

As an engineer who asked the question about the security of water in LA I learned that it is pretty easy to fix that line is gravity fed and sipon is designed to be restarted fairly quickly.  Considerably less than the storage within the Basin.

Same way with transmission lines, fixes are fast and internal supplies to back up outages plentiful in basin.

Even the amount of local refineries in LA are enough to take care of all its needs.

um . . . when the Port of Long Beach is smoking ruins, where does the crude for those refineries come from?

And BTW, I've heard that refineries sometimes catch on fire. Is that true? Or is it only vicious propaganda by uninformed nonscientists?

It occurred to me the other day that PHEV's are the only solution (to the continued happy motoring lifestyle blah blah, yeah ok..) in the near term.  The reason which, is that Four PHEV's with say a 50 mile battery-only range will displace a significantly greater amount of oil-fuel than One BEV with a 200 mile range.  There's just not going to be the kind of battery production necessary to build the BEV infrastructure, so PHEV is the the way to go.
The most cautious assumption is that battery tech will only enjoy small incremental improvements.  If that's true, I don't see electrics breaking out of their current niches.  Though certainly every niche would itself expand, incrementally.

If we let ourselves get a little more optimistic, and assume some better battery tech, then we can start to guess which segment would expand the fastest.

What do you think of the A123systems nano li-ion batteries in the Dewalt 36-volt power tools?

They say twice the power, 3x the life, 2,000 cycles minimum.  Sounds like about 6x the battery, but I haven't seen the specs.  Amp or kw-hours, anyone?

Those guys are one of the reasons I think batteries are a potential growth area.  There are also the ultracapaciters and carbon foam batteries.

By my rules I can't "count" them until they are in a car, but they look promising ;-)

hmmm.  Altairnano looks very close to that: they've received a $750k order from Phoenix, a company planning to manufacture EV's.  Interesting times.
Interesting. I was just thinking about cars yesterday and what new cars might be like in 10-15 years from now with greatly reduced or eliminated inputs of plastic, computers etc... as a result of post peak oil. I wrote the following bit and would like to have others comment on what they see as probable in the way of new cars in 2015-2020 time period and the basic assumptions they make to arrive at their prediction:

New Car 2015-2020 ?

I decided to try thinking a bit outside the box and try to describe what I believe a new car might be like in 2015-2020 time period making the assumption that we are past peak oil and down to about 70% of current 2006 output (84 mbpd down to about 60 million barrels per day).
I am also assuming that that declining output of oil will have caused a significant recession so the new car will have to be very low cost for people to afford it then.

The new car will have a 4 cylinder air cooled motor of 1000-1200 cc displacement and produce about 40 horsepower. The air cooled engine reduces weight and eliminates complexity over a liquid cooled motor. And it eliminates the need for the glycol (oil based) anti-freeze.

The body will be all steel. Steel is easy to recycle at minimum cost where plastic body components are difficult to recycle. The steel body can be crushed or shredded using electric motors, hauled to the steel foundry by rail and remelted in electric furnaces - All of which is current practice for steel auto bodies today.  Plastic or fiberglass bodies are much more difficult to recycle back into new car bodies.

The auto interior will go back to the 40's and early 50's with metal frame seats with metal springs and animal hair padding over the springs and then cotton padding over the animal hair. Low cost coverings will be cotton or cotton/wool blends and upgraded material will be mohair (angora goat hair) or mohair/wool blends. Dashes will go back to painted metal with no foam rubber (oil) overlaid with vinyl (oil) padded dashes. Side panels and  headliners will be natural fiber fabrics.

There will be no extravagances like computers, air bags, air conditioning, etc... The only primary uses of petroleum will be the tires, flexible brake lines, window, door and hood/trunk seals, distributor cap and rotor, insulation on the wiring harness and a few other very minor parts like shock absorber seals. And some of those items can probably be made from bio-plastic materials or natural rubber compounds.

Humm, Hummm, you know what I have just described ?  A late 50's early 60's VW Beetle. Maybe I wasn't thinking quite so much outside the box as I thought <BG>. The VW engine weight to (useable) power ratio was about the best in any auto engine as shown by the fact that it is the only auto engine that had any real success as a power plant for light aircraft. (I am a private pilot and flew mostly homebuilts including a number of VW powered ones). I happen to have a 1962 VW Beetle in my stable of vehicles and it is the only one that I can push around easily by myself because it is so lightweight. It has to be to keep up in traffic with only 40 HP (at 3600 rpm).

Fuel consumption on the old VW is about 30 to 35 mpg with the low compression engine. With slightly higher compression and perhaps improved combustion chamber design it should easily get 35 to 40 mpg. And that should be livable with $10.00 per gallon gasoline.

I just don't see any way that the high tech vehicles of today can be built affordably during a severe recession. As there will be fewer cars traveling fewer miles with smaller engines I would guess that you can eliminate the more crazy of the environmental constraints that require all the expensive (both money and oil) computer controls.

I have had a number of VW's in the past and have driven them in Minnesota Winters and Arizona Summers without any real problems. Air conditioning and some of the other amenities (stereos, CD players, mapping computers) might be nice, but are hardly necessities. VW = Volks Wagen (pronounced folks vahgen) = Peoples Car (English translation). ie, A basic transportation vehicle for the average person. The early 60's VW cost about ¼ of a years wages for the average worker. Today's new VW Beetle cost about 1 full years wages for the average worker. That's what all the extra glitz & computer stuff is costing.

The next 10 to 15 years are going to be very interesting times. Hope I don't up and die early before I can see how many of my prognostications come to pass. I expect I will fail as miserably as those of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics <GBG>.

Building cars without the current electronic controls would require putting capital into new machines to make the less efficient, less reliable ignition systems and carberators of the past. A deep recession doesn't make new investments impossible.  In a deep recession the Fed might lower rates to 0% and companies would turn to the banks instead of the stock market for new capital just like the Japanese.
I've noticed most home built aircraft around here use the Subaru flat 4.
Considering the weight and the power of the engine, the mpg of the old VWs was horrible.  Add pollution controls and that baby  probably wouldn't even move.  I had a 63 VW. No thanks. No back to the future for me. Constant messing with carburetor, constant tuneups, constant valve adjustments. No, I'll take today's technology in my Prius any day.  Now, if you took HSD technology and put it into something as light as underpowered as the old VW, you'd be talking 100 mpg.
My first new car was a '61 Beetle that cost me just $1,500 out the door, complete with optional gas guage and radio. Forty horsepower, would go 77 m.p.h. at 30 m.p.g. all day long, twelve hours a day. And, a dull normal mechanic on a bad day could tune up or fix that engine.

I say: Back to the Future!

(Actually, I liked the old thirty-six horsepower engines better. Who needs all that speed?)

I totally fail to comprehend your objections to simple, easy to make and easy to repair technology.

$1500 !! You are as old as me.
Diesels seem to be the way to go for me. Biodiesel is easier to get and the naturally higher efficiencies can get amazing results. Look up the German LOREMO 157MPG  or the european Honda Accord Diesel  90 plus.
So, basically you think we're going to move back to older, less efficient vehicles?  Honestly, I think you just need to go back to the drawing board.  Sorry to be rude, but of all the projections for the future, I think yours is one of the most completely ridiculous ones I've read.  
I will tell you one is MUCH easier to convince people today about Peak Oil than it was one or two years ago.

A buddy at work even traded in his Toyota Tundra for a Honda Civic last week due to gas prices.

Little by little...inch by inch...people start to make sense of things.

Umm... what was needed was a bicycle. Trading from one IC powered car to another is much like rearranging the deck chairs.
I like bikes too. Luckily here in the middle of Silicon Valley the weather (so far) is mild, streets are flat and smooth and drivers and road shoulders compatible. It's easy for me to get around for a 10 mile round trip or less. More mileage becomes time consuming and sweaty but I still do it on weekends.

The bigger challenge has been getting youngish children around to all their sports, playdates, birthday parties, etc. Leaving aside the questionable frequency of these kid trips, they eat a lot of fuel. My solution has been to get a tandem bike and it has worked well. It helped having plenty of cargo space with rear baskets.

Next step (on order) is an electric hub motor for the front wheel. Cost: $540, top speed: about 20mph, range: 15-25 miles (50% power from pedals). I expect the electric tandem to make most fair weather kid trips up to 7-8 miles one-way easily doable with the bike.  I'm hoping to convert others of course. It's really a sad feeling to arrive at, say, drama class pickup time on the tandem and ride past other parents sitting in the huge SUV with motor idling so they can keep cool - Yuk!  Anyway the bike never heats up its interior and I can generally ride it all the way to the entrance door of the destination. Very nice.

I noticed a tone in some response to bike suggestions that seems to say "Hey grow up! We're real people with jobs and we must drive. Stop suggesting silly bicycles, we're insulted"  Did I get that wrong?  Well it'll never be compulsory to ride a bike. And I don't think suggesting a bike should result in some sort of putdown.

I do believe there are literally millions of healthy adults who live in urban areas that are quite compatible with bike riding and that option deserves a lot of attention. (In fact I would say that millions comment probably is satisfied just within the N. California bay area.)


If it was my comment that had the "Hey grow up!" tone to it, I didnt mean it like that. Stranded in the burbs far away from the workplace to try and afford a decent place in which to raise the kids. Leaves a lot of people with really long commutes that a bike just isnt suitable for. Restructure society around a bike culture instead of a car culture and it could work. For some people they can already do this and Ihtink thats great. But its not for everyone, and probably not for the guy who downsized his SUV to a Civic to save on gas. I  like my bike, and I love the fact that it can bypass all the blockaded shit that cars can't access. BTW I'm lucky in that I work from home so my car gets a lot less use! ;)
A bicycle?! We are talking about getting to work here not touring around the neihborhood or a trip to the corner store for smokes.
Somehow, people in many other countries do it. Not to mention here, I rode my bicycle to work the other day. Of course, that was on casual Friday, but it was in Florida with 95 degree heat and 95% humidity. But, AFAIK, I'm the only person out of 100+ that has ever biked to work...we've got one or 2 that take the crappy bus here.
I am not against riding a bike in adverse conditions and for long distances, but when it comes to riding to work, let's remember something.  

Some people in other countries don't live in the "Land of Sprawl" like here in the US.  Like it or not, most of our cities were not built with the biker in mind.  I wish they were.  I wish I could ride my bike to work, but my wife and I both need to work to survive in this modern world. To find decent jobs we located our house half way between each job, therefore forcing each of us to commute over 20 miles.  We have 2 kids.  When there are emergencies, one of us needs to rush back to our hometown to deal with it.

This is the plight that stands before us now in this country.  We have built ourselves into a cheap gasoline trap.

Oh, I agree. Visiting Europe, and more than anything Holland, reinforces just how car-centric we are here. Luckily I live close to work and our neighboorhood school here in Orlando is just down the street (I have a 9 year old son). I think there is a certain amount of resistance to it, but when I rode my bike last Friday I had more people than usual ask me if I was trying to save on gas, complain about their commute, wish they could do the same, et al. We are building more bike lanes all the time here, and we have an extensive network of sidewalks that you can use. No one complains and the cops don't care, they'd like to see me survive also :-)
I also agree.  Here in Alabama, the roads are narrow, there is no berm and the depth of the road side ditches are measure in feet.  During the spring and summer some really horrific storm can occur (usual just when it's time to get off work).  I'd love to buy a motorcycle to commute with, but traffic and weather conditions are not conducive to this.

PS: An some of us are old fart with bad knees and asthma.

I have seen more and more scooter-riders (Vespas and the like); both downtown Kansas City and here in Lee's Summit, MO.  It's funny because, these scooter-riders used to be only the chic, young, european wannabes, but I am now seeing some retired, baby boomers types mounted on them.

As I understand it, the scooters are now more powerful and can keep up on the highway.  Might be worth the investment to use on days when no storms are forecast.

As a side, but related note...I have made a Yergin Day resolution that when gas hits $3.00/gallon, I will try out the KC Metro bus line that makes 2 daily stops in Lee's Summit.  The route times are not ideal, but I think I can swing it at work.  My company also discounts monthly passes for the bus, so it should be worth it.

If there is a kid emergency, I will fork over the taxi money to race home.

I am an old fart and spend more on drugs than food. Nevertheless, I bike and motorcycle most places most days of the year.

Someday, I'll need forty Viagra a month, and that will bust my budget. O.K., but that day has not yet come.

Pop a few aspirin, and get a good old (1950s-1960s) single cylinder two-stroke motorcycle and discover what it is to be young again.

Trust me, this works.

I will look forward to this when my kids can provide their own transportation about 11 years.  

Of course, by then we will have electric trolleys, scooters, and vehicles; the speed limit for personal vehicles will not exceed 30 mph; and the local farmer's market will provide all my culinary needs.

A man can dream....

Get excellent (but inexpensive used) bicycles for your kids and get them used to easy 10 then 15 then 20 mile rides.

At age 8 I thought nothing of riding with my gang of buddies five or six miles out of town, shooting rats at the dump with a BB gun, and then riding six miles back--all before lunch.

Ah, the good old days. Now you see a kid with a BB gun, somebody will dial 9-1-1.

I am old also.  I started riding electric bikes about 3 years ago and have found many benefits for us old folks.  It provides a little exercise by pedaling and the electric motor takes the pain out of the hills.  If you get a leg cramp you can always crank up the motor and head on home.  Running errands is easier many times than taking a car.  They aren't able to replace a car but they augment it.  The health benefits are the best.  I lost 50 pounds by biking and my blood pressure, etc are excellent!  Older people should be using these electric bikes much more than they are.  Go to and see a few of the available models.
The last time I looked, several tens of thousands of New Zealanders in the Christchurch area on South Island commuted to work on bicycle.

Swedes and yes, Norweigians too, bike to work even in severe weather.

I live in Minnesota. Studded tires for bicycles are legal.
In Canada, some commute year round on bicycles.

The problem, as I see it, is way to many young wimps.

I think it is rather obvious that most consider us wimps. I mean just look at gasoline. Europe manages to keep its economy going nicely with $6-$7 gallon gas, but if gas goes over $3 per gallon in the USA our whole economy is supposed to tip over and collapse!
I am quite sure we all agree that we in the USA are better than the EU so if they can keep their economy going at $6-7/gallon the we in the USA can keep our economy going nicely at $7-8/gallon - RIGHT!
Above is mostly tounge in cheek, but I do wonder why everyone thinks our economy can only sustain 1/2 the gas price that others can?
Yes, gasoline is underpriced in the US--but that has led to structural issues that are hard to change without a lot of time and capital. Higher prices will, I believe, hit the US harder. Compared to Europe, the US has much larger, less fuel efficient vehicles; longer distances to drive; more suburban sprawl; less public transport, and, for that matter, high expectations about indoor temperature
control. The US has more efficiencies that can be gained, but it is not fast or cheap:

The U.S. has a fleet of about 210 million automobiles and light trucks (vans, pick-ups, and SUVs). The average age of U.S. automobiles is nine years. Under normal conditions, replacement of only half the automobile fleet will require 10-15 years. The average age of light trucks is seven years. Under normal conditions, replacement of one-half of the stock of light trucks will require 9-14 years. While significant improvements in fuel efficiency are possible in automobiles and light trucks, any affordable approach to upgrading will be inherently time-consuming, requiring more than a decade to achieve significant overall fuel efficiency improvement. [Hirsch, Bezdek, and Wendling 2005]

Essentially, the US is more oil dependent, and that will be very slow to change. Europe adapted to higher prices years ago, so they are already prepared. Future price increases will also appear smaller to Europeans: a $.50 price hike is a 16.6% increase on a $3 base, but only 7% on a $7 base.

What makes getting-to-work exempt from the energy deficits we are facing?

Go back and read the thread on 8% decline rates. Trim it to 5% to be conservative. Run that out in a spreadsheet. I see $8 gasoline pretty darn quick. And a lot of service jobs in the toilet.

After that it gets worse.

Contrary to what economists say, energy won't get cheaper in the next recession. You cannot re-allocate capital to produce more. It's not there to produce.

I remember threads when people suggested 8% decline, and I countered with Stuart's Hubbert Theory says Peak is Slow Squeeze.

Seriously, even if the big reserves are experiencing something like 8% decline, the whole world can't turn on a dime and drop ... even 5% can it?

I'm not a chartist/theorist, but there are many who post here on TOD that I trust.  If they came out with a world-wide depletion above 3%, for anytime soon, I'd be worried.

We also hear that reserves tail off, and do not do any constant X% decline all the way down to zero.  So there are two questions: how long until the steep part of the world-wide depletion curve, and how long does the steep part last?

Matt Simmons is promoting the fast crash (8%) scenario. I think he bases this on the water injection methods used in Saudi Arabia. The production curve may not be a smooth curve if a major field goes down 50% in a few years. There could be some years with 8% declines, but I doubt this will be the norm.
I see that in his June 20, 2006 power point, "The Energy Crisis Has Arrived" he first mentions 8% for SA, and then later (more here)

By 2020, the current 80+ mb/d base could be reduced to 25 mb/d.*


*Schlumberger's 8% per annum estimated global decline

Which leads to the questions I asked above:  "We also hear that reserves tail off, and do not do any constant X% decline all the way down to zero.  So there are two questions: how long until the steep part of the world-wide depletion curve, and how long does the steep part last?"

Is Schlumberger really saying 8% this year?  I don't think we are seeing signs of this.


Groningen, Holland: Hello Matthew,

I appreciate your work very much. It's important that someone really puts all the puzzle pieces together. My question is: Why do you think most of the optimistic oil marketeers, energy-advisors and politicy don't talk about depletion at all? Don't they know about the depletion, do they think better techniques are going to offset depletion, or do they think we will find enough oil to offset the decline? Because it seems to me that the current world-depletion rate of 5% annually is going to be the biggest factor in the supply-demand gap. At 5% annual decline, we will need an extra 20 million barrels a day just to keep up with the current daily supply rates.

Matthew Simmons: First, I'm worried that the real current average daily decline rate is probably more like 8-10% per annum, which makes the problem far more of a challenge. The only thing I can imagine as to why so many "oil experts" seem to ignore depletion is that no company has ever produced any data about their decline rates. Economists tend to believe that good things happen for good causes and because energy is so important, if there is a need for energy we will just find more energy. There is also a wide body of optimists that believe that modern oil field technology has effectively defeated depletion. And I know that modern oil field technology has created far higher decline rates than we ever had the ability to do before this technology. Then there is a final belief that a host of new unnamed technologies will make it even easier to offset depletion, but no one has any idea what the unnamed technologies are and there aren't any being worked on that have any significance. All the technologies that have gotten so much attention in the past decade took 30 years to invent, commercialize, and introduce around the world. And the new technology blackboard is bare today.

I'm trying to get my head around what this means.  Surely the world could not be at 8-10% this year and not know it.  And reasonably it's hard to think we could fall by 8-10% next year with a whump.  Does this mean there is some cliff out there that few see?  3-5 years and then whump?

It's hard to visualize the worlds far-flung oil reserves operating with that synchronicity.

If they are talking about finding oil to replace depletion, are they just using mental accounts?  As in "this 'new' oil offsets the 8-10% depletion in that 'old' oil?"
We should remember that a very large amount of offshore oil is hitting the market now (look at ASPO's breakdown by type). And yet total production is static.

We also know that offshore, with all-out secondary and tertiary, has very little "tail," because the infrastructure is so expensive to keep in place.

That would imply that current production is experiencing massive depletion -- perhaps Schlumberger's 8% -- and that it is being masked by the glut of offshore coming online.

Which means that in several years, when offshore goes into steep decline, we'll probably experience the full brunt of depletion all at once.

There's another "data point" that reassures people.  If you look at the EIA website information on global reserves they show a consistent 1-2% INCREASE in world reserves every years since the 1980s.  I saw this yesterday and was momentarily confused.  Of course the answer is that none of the world's national oil companies are letting on that any overall depletion is taking place.  For example none of the OPEC reserves have  gone down for over a decade in spite of pumping oil for all of those years.  The only data that gets out is the production data and that is not a very reliable indicator.   If you only look at stated reserves and the new projects coming on line you might feel confident that there will be plenty of oil for the forseeable future.
Could you give a URL for this? I have read "Twilight in the Desert" and such a prediction is nowhere in that book. I have also followed Simmons, on the web, very closely. I have never heard or seen him make any such prediction.

Would you kindly provide your source?

Okay, my bad, I found it. But when I think of it, I think Simmons might be right. Here's why. When it becomes obvious that world oil is in decline, then exporting nations will start to husband their oil. Hell Kuwait is already talking about doing that, limiting production to 1% of reserves. That will cut their production in half if they accept the fact that they have less than 50 billion barrels of reserves.

So when several nations start to cut exports, saving the precious stuff for themselves, and 8% decline may be low balling it.

It's in "The Energy Crisis Has Arrived". odograph has the link above.
Freddy Hutter said something more reassuring in the other thread (2.6%?):

Will, what makes getting to work exempt, I suppose, is that most of the work we have to get to will probably only exist whilst the cheap energy does (as has been mentioned many times by others). The whole society is based on this notion of cheap energy. Why do we all have to bustle around so much just to live? Because that is the system we made, or at least which most of us accept. Some of us (me+?) thinks we are slaves to this system. We dont have much a choice -- chase dollars or starve is the mantra beat into us since childhood. I was born into this lifestyle, I did not choose it. At the moment, I have no way out. 8% depletion, tell you the truth, would be a way out, it would make the choice for me, the finance system would probably NOT handle it well and there would go my job (software web applications for financial services companies).

If the direction of my life allows me to take on the ELP model, which I hope it does, but these decisions are not for me to make right now, I will ride my bike to wherever I'm Locally Producing, (assuming I can't take adverse possession of some abandoned / crown acreage) where I can then work from home (so to speak) as I do now.

Hello Anonymoose,

Lance Armstrong would pedal his bicycle up to six hours a day or more in training, covering an incredible distance:

Now I don't expect any of us to emulate Lance and his remarkable endurance and speed records, but if we understand Peakoil's ramifications: the schools should be encouraging bicycle endurance training on machines such as Schwinn's AirDyne:

This would do much to prepare our children for their future by increasing their overall fitness so that they can readily pedal to work.  Every city should be building bike lanes to safely separate cars from bicyclists, which I see as the primary fear impediment to increased bicyclists.

I like the idea of big tax rebates to those that are willing to pedal as the cost of maintaining bike paths is a mere fraction of maintaining vehicular roads, and could greatly reduce the brown smog of vehicular emissions.  For example, Phx could have built elevated air-conditioned bicycle freeways much cheaper than our current system of  jam-packed clogged arteries in the blazing Asphalt Wonderland.

Another idea is to heavily tax personal car ownership for the young to help force the desire to pedal.  The older you get, the harder it becomes to pedal longer distances, so the rate should go down as a person ages, but the big tax increase can fund a lot of mass-transit building.  Discouraging the young from using IC vehicles will drive localization practices, improve everyone's health, and increase public socialization.

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

Bob I dont think any of those are bad ideas. Wondering a little on the ongoing energy cost to run air conditioning for elevated bicylce freewyas, although the fact that they are air conditioned would be a big incentive to actually use them ;)

My beef is with the society in general. It wont push for these measures. It will cling to the existing paradigm until its too late. All that money / complexity / civilization / growth stuff.

I'd like to see this future. But I think we're all going to have to go through much pain to get to a world where people in general WANT to do things differently.

Now this kind of person-powered-transport centric lifestyle could spring up in places but retrofitting it into the existing mess might be a big challenge to get local support for and then to actually make it happen. Maybe as things get more painful(at the pump) for everyone that will change.

Maybe they could be elevated two ways bicycle lanes, with trees in the middle? Natural A/C!
What do you expect people to do?  Go back to living in the 18th century?  All 6.5 billion of us?  You are fighting against millions of years of human evolutionary development that has brought us to this point.  There is nothing any of us can do to affect the outcome.  The human species is in overshoot and will be massively culled.  The only question is whether we go extinct or merely die back to remnant populations living as subsistance farmers.  So sit back and enjoy the ride into the Olduvai Gorge.
massively culled?

subsistance farmers?

Is this a joke? There is a lot we can do to affect the outcome.

No HongKing Trader, this is not a joke. When you are deep into overshoot there is no other way out of overshoot.

Even if world population could be held constant, in balance with "renewable" resources, the creative impulse that has been responsible for human achievements during the period of growth would come to an end. And the spiraling collapse that is far more likely will leave, at best, a handfull of survivors. These people might get by, for a while, by picking through the wreckage of civilization, but soon they would have to lead simpler lives, like the hunters and subsistence farmers of the past. They would not have the resources to build great public works or carry forward scientific inquiry. They could not let individuals remain unproductive as they wrote novels or composed symphonies. After a few generations, they might come to believe that the rubble amid which they live is the remains of cities built by gods.
David Price: Energy and Human Evolution
The earth, if tended carefully, could easily accomodate the current population - granted at a much lower energy-per-capita. Do you doubt that, or are you doubting mankind would arrive at that endpoint? Think of all the arable, fertile land that could be producing food if it became critical. Think of pre-Industrial Age housing that managed to get families through winters. Granted, populations in less endowed areas would need to migrate. Certainly one reason you do not foresee mankind arriving at that endpoint. :-)
I agree rg144. 70% of the world is ocean - if properly managed it can provide a further plentiful resource. I think some of the thinking here is a bit far fetched. We need to consume less and adapt our thinking, but we will be fine. Th sun delivers more energy everyday than the all the oil ever consumed. We just need to adjust the way we live.
There is no way this planet is going to support 6.5 billion. Even if oil supplys where unlimited and Global warming wasent accuring we are still Mining the top soil and fosile water supplys. The system is struggling to increase food production due to water problems now. Add energy supply issues and BOOM.

What we havent seen yet (but we will) Food prices must follow the oil price. As oil tripples in price so to must food (after a lag). In the 1800's a bag of wheet was worth one months average wages. Start planing for your food shoping to tripple... and as oil rises more.......

Humans breed up *hit in our nests and die....

Its what we do.

After the fall of Rome came the dark ages. History will be repeated...


HongKong, all indications are that humans are NOT smarter than yeast, we basically breed until we're into far overshoot and then die off. Just like prairie dogs, yeast, lemmings, choose your futile animal here.

 Sustainable humans may well mean an overall IQ of 50 points LESS than now. We human weeds, homo sapiens, may well have killed off the humans capable of living sustainably a while back, the australopithicines.

People are writing such rubbish on here that I don't even think they warrant response, but here goes:

Please enlighten me to exactly what ALL THESE INDICATIONS are that people are not smarter than yeast. I put to you that any piece of evidence you can come up with that indicates this is the case I could come up with a hundred pieces of evidence that refutes it.

There are many people in advanced countries that are not breeding into overshoot at all. Quite a few modern countries have declining populations actually, despite life expectancy increasing. This is not happening because people are in some kind of "energy depleted doomsday end of the world" scenario. It is because affluent people are making sensible choices. People can even exist in declining populations quite comfortably never mind "breeding into overshoot". This is a fact that is evident in some countries today.

People adapt. They always have and always will. I am sure that population growth will stop at some point and the ultimate sustainable population MIGHT be less than where we are today.

I think people can change over time, but we
hopefuly will live three score years and ten
but how long will gas supplies last to produce
fertilizer to grow the volume of food the
world population needs. It will not last out
my lifetime hopefuly 30+ years,let alone my
6 year old daughter.
 In 6 of the last seven years the world has
produced less grain than it needs, even though
grain production is still just going up.
 If the currant trend last the next 6 years
the worlds grain reserves at presant 350
million tons will be run out.
 If we get a bad harvest or two due to G.W.
Voluntary reduction in population will be to
 So in 5 to 6 years time we will see a lot more
hungary people in large parts of the world
The west will still have plenty to eat.
I agree with HongKong Trader - in terms of food and energy there is a lot we can do.  What needs doing - what will have to eventually have to happen anyway - can be done with much less distress if we start to change our ways NOW.  There is a huge amount of "slack" in terms of wants vs. needs in the lives of hundreds of millions of people in developed countries.  Just some examples - fast food and ready meals vs. buying food ingredients, preparing and cooking them; land devoted to growing luxury foods, grain for animals, non-food crops; using more people and fewer machines to cultivate land, maybe though not necessarily, organically - in US the smallest farms have the highest output per acre; less long-distance holidays, more economical transport; there are plenty more.

We could adapt to depletion rates of maybe 2-3% p.a. if we  take the right action, without dieoff and without undue suffering.  The problem is how to persuade TPTB that this is necessary, that we need true sustainability intead of endless "growth".  This needs to be one of the major functions of this forum and others like it.  The more likely outcome is change forced through recession rather than voluntarily.  A lot nastier, BUT when it is forced to the forefront of many people's thought rather than being one of a hundred issues fighting for attention, THEN people will change and adapt.  We ARE smarter than yeast!    

Perhaps forget population growth and focus on food production stablisation -- as in purposefully STOP growing the food supply, and purposefully switch to a non-usury financing model so that the perpetual need for a surplus in production goes away. If we stabilize food production, we will stabilize population. If we shrink food production we will shrink population. Woops now I scare myself.
Yeast don't point nukes at other yeast. Yeast don't drive hummers so other yeast can't afford to eat.

6.5 billion is the problem right now. The population is still growing. Energy production will start dropping very soon. About 83% of the 60 gigabarrel equivalents of energy used each year come directly from fossils fuels. The other 17% (wind, nuclear, hydro) were subsidized by fossil fuels. I have not seen any credible plan to maintain current energy production. We can either power down humanely or let wars and free market forces shed the excess.

Less energy + more people = trouble.

By credible plan you mean a plan you choose to believe. First of all the Amish could teach us how they get such good crop yields without anhydrous ammonia and pesticides.  In tropical cities an urban agriculture boom is going on using old tires to contain dirt and compost. Even if you still wanted to use ammonia the only energy input needed could come from electricity from hydro or wind. Hydrogen from water and nitrogen from the air goes into a Haber-Bosch reactor and out comes amonnia fertiliser. No fossil fuels needed. Desalinated water could come from solar heated and wind driven vacuum pump systems. The vast majority of transportation could be electrified with biofuels going to aircraft. A zinc-air fuel cell system for cars, trucks, and buses could give us an emission free transportation with railroads run off the grid.
There could be a prosperous future for over 10 billion people decades from now if we treated all energy production and distribution as well regulated utilities focused on the greater good for the long term.
The Roman Empire didn't collapse overnight. The eastern empire functioned under another name for for nearly a thousand years after the Goths and Huns sacked Rome.  Most western Europeans would have barely noticed any changes in their lives during the so called collapse. What we consider the Dark Ages actually was a time of technological innovation with the development of wind and water power and new construction techniques that built cathedrals and bridges which still stand. Other than localised famines there was no general die-off until the plagues of the 14th century.
We will experience hardships in the next few decades but these hardships will cause a big political change which emphasises our common needs as the rugged individual, strict father ideologies which dominate our government now fail to satisfy enough voters.
Thats a lot of electricity in your Utopia, Tom.

IIRC Haber Bosch needs a lot of energy. Every Critter on the planet makes good ammonia fertiliser - so why can't people just spread a little muck about, and keep their dick in their pants?

At least until we have the male contraceptive pill...

The beauty of electricity is it can be generated by so many different means. Boilers can use any solid, liquid, or gas fuel as well as geothermal, solar, and nuclear. There are so many devices that are electric powered and a distribution infrastructure already exists. The wind could provide the world with at least 24 terawatts which is much more than the rate of global energy use from all sources. Low cost thin film PVs could give us 100s of terawatts more. Small scale hydro from existing dams are just waiting to be used. 90% of dams in the US are not being used for power at the moment. The tides, waves, and ocean currents are there for the taking.
We need the model of a well regulated utility to take advantage of these opprotunities. Regulations could gaurantee investors a reasonable rate of return and a fair price to consumers, two things the free market cannot do.  It's one of those political ideologies that must change if the world is ever going to eliminate poverty.
Yeast can make bad beer without humans, but humans can't make any beer without yeast.
Are Humans smarter than yeast? YES!

Yeast will grow in an undifferentiated manner and then crash together, while humans have culture. History is littered with examples of one culture expanding its resource base at the expense of others. And when times get tough, fair trade and globalization goes out the window.

For example, during the Great Depression, Germany decided to increase its standard of living by colonizing the rest of Europe. Essentially, they did to France, Belgium and the Netherlands what those countries had been doing to West Africa, the Congo and Indonesia. As a result, Germans ate well and Parisians went hungry (while Poles and Russians went into dieoff.)

As it is now, my ability to drive is overcoming Asian and African ability to eat grains or use cooking oil.

So yes, we're smarter than yeast. Some cultures will try desperately to avoid a decline in their standard of living, even though that will cause other cultures to collapse.

Because when one population of Prarie Dogs becomes too large, every single population of Prarie Dogs dies off worldwide, right?  
Depends on the complexity of prarie dog society. Do they grow surplus food in one place and ship it elsewhere? Oh wait, they hunt and gather. Or forage or whatever. They arent like us. How is the comparison valid?
We apparently have already reached peak grain based on the fact that we continue to experience a deficit in grain year after year. The suffering is occurring mainly at the bottom in Africa, mostly  so most people have no awareness of this.  When it starts cutting into their steak consumption, they will begin to notice. This peak grain phenomenon will also result in even more violence in places like the Sudan.

Ethanol is exacerbating this problem, but is mainly serving to just speed up a process that was already underway.  People are starving and dying now; this is not a projection of future carrying capacity.  People aver that we just need better distribution.  I think we are beyond the distribution issue; we have real worldwide deficits. Sure we can do some so called redistribution, but that will require some sacrifice by the rich maybe eating not so much corn and soy fed beef.  I think, in principle, people should eat lower on the food chain, but there are not real solutions to what may have finally become a Malthusian scenario.  

We've pretty much done what can be done to increase  production which, among other things, is bumping up against expensive energy or no energy.  Now it is time to deal with the other side of the equation.  Take your choice. Population control through birth control or population control through death control.

How exactly is someone eating a steak from a cow grown in the United States or Latin America making it so people in Africa are starving?  The problem with places suffering from lack of food is over population.  The people living there don't deserve it, and we should try to help them.  But it's not exactly the same as us causing it.  

Now maybe you can argue that climate change is adding to the problem, and you might have a point, but that's not nearly the whole story, is it?  

The problem with places suffering from lack of food is over population.

People starve not for lack of food but for lack of money to pay for it. They have insufficient economic demand because we, the rich, don't share our wealth with the poor; if we did, there wouldn't be an over-population problem.

"I agree rg144. 70% of the world is ocean - if properly managed it can provide a further plentiful resource."

Sorry, too late on "properly managed".

Seriously, read this:

The Doryman's Reflection

Beat me to it!... Properly managed like the sperm whale population.
The reason we are at our current population is the advent of cheap energy which is only the use of fossil sunlight.

Once the sunlight subsidy starts to decline, food production will decline.

There is NOT a bunch of "arable, fertile land" just waiting to be used for production. The number of available hectares of land is decreasing every day with desertification, loss of water sources and supplies, and encroachment of the rapidly swelling human population. The simple physics of the matter precludes this propensity for wishful thinking and means, quite simply, that something has to give.

I am always amused, not by rg144's comments, but by others below who seem indignant that physics may treat them so roughly, that, by gosh and by gum, we will harness the great, super-duper inventiveness of the human species to wish and invent our way out of this. Sorry, that fantasy is about to come to a crashing end.

The people who point out the basic physical reality of our situation are not saying that people will not try to use technology to keep the old paradigm alive. NO, they are simply pointing out that technology is not energy. There is no equivalency. What they point out is that technology rests upon a huge pyramid of precursor technologies that all must be built and maintained with vast quantities of energy -- energy that is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. The musical chair question is, as the chairs are being snatched away one by one, where will we be when the there are too few chairs and far too many butts?

This is not a personal attack on you or anyone else. It is not an attack on the creativity of the human species. Give the species 400 million years of fossil sunlight and watch us go!!

No, my friend. IT IS SIMPLE PHYSICS.

When the fossil sunlight begins to fade, the energy inputs that feed our bloated population will no longer be enough to keep everyone in beer and chips. Someone will go without. My guess is it will be the impoverished first, then the developing countries and finally the developed -- the western world. Us.

Sometimes, Cherenkov, I wonder if it's the U.S. middle class that will be hit hardest first.

Think about Robert's visit to L.A. Oceans of big cars moving relentlessly to keep the whole house of cards operating. These Californians are currently trying to live in million-dollar tract houses with very exotic mortgages. Credit-card debt is building even faster than it was before the gas prices took off. There is no savings cushion like there was in 1980.

If there's a miscue or a hiccup, the whole thing could start coming down. One spouse out of a job could mean bankruptcy. Kunstler's right ... this was the greatest misallocation of resources in human history.

America simply cannot afford expensive oil. And guess what?

Not to argue with the idea that the energy crisis will hit the world's poor very hard, but think of the complexity of the massive machine that we're living in. Things might simply implode here.

The US has 2 vulnerabilities that will make it difficult to adapt:

  1. the US is the most indebted nation on earth and has an ongoing negative savings rate.

  2. the US is the largest consumer of oil on earth, both absolutely and on a per capita basis.

How do you afford higher oil prices when you can't live now without borrowing despite the fact that you are borrowing to consume you actually consume more than anyone else? It's clear that you have to cut back more than anyone else.

People who think the west will do better because we are richer are deluding themselves. I feel we in the west will be worse of.


Don you are right. In the 1980s I made $5 an hour and saved 20% of my take-home pay.

Now, well, I don't save that much, I'm trying to pay down debt, and the way the system is set up now, frankly the more I drive the more money I make, although the whole process seems to be one of the running harder and harder to stay in place.

This is what Tainter talks about, mainly in terms of societies but it works for individuals too - increasing complexity brings lesser returns and after a while the person can't sustain the treadmill-run or just won't, and decides living much more simply is the way to go.

Look at garage sales or the stuff that goes to a dump.  The things we spend our money on are amazing to me.  Trinkets and plastic crap.  Cheap furniture and disposable everything.  I think that you both are very correct.  the US will have a hard time with this because we as a collection in debt and we also need to return to a simpler lifestyle.
The problem I see is that this won't go smoothly and it won't be uniform.  I'm waiting to see who the next "hate group" will be ..i.e. the people that get blamed for our problems.  
If you would like to smile about some of this there is a website called -  they have the best posters about the stupid things we humans do.  I highly recomend it.  Look up "Irresposibility" - "No sigle raindrop thinks it is responsible for the flood"  I think it fits the american way of life and our oil problem.
Always easier to blame society than take personal responsibility.  Others out there have found ways to save money and not all of them are rich CEOs either.  
The million dollar tract homes with exotic mortgages are there, and they are scary ... but it's not like everyone in the state bought a new house this year, or even the last 5 years.  Some fraction have had their homes 10, 20, 30 years.

Let's see ...

The average California homeowner wrote off $14,217 in mortgage interest deductions, while the average homeowner in Oklahoma wrote off $5,710. Washington, D.C., homeowners took an average $11,759 in mortgage interest deductions, while the average homeowner in North Carolina got $6,808.

14K's a lot ... but considering that it might be at a variety of interest rates ... I think it works out to an average loan balance of around 200K.

(Tax benefits for homeowners spread unevenly)

Hi Cherenkov. I find your thinking very one dimensional. We have oceans that can provide food. We have GM crops that can improve the yield of arable land. Typically people in the west consume significantly more calories than they really need today, so we can simply consume less and be fitter. I have a PhD. in theoretical physics and your use of "physics" to justify this dribble is annoying. Technology is not the same as energy obviously, nevertheless due to the work of physicist we have a new source of energy - nuclear power. This is new technology that can become a part of the solution. This is not wishful thinking, it is real. Infact, if you truly understand physics you would realise that, contrary to what you say, we are surrounded by an absolute abundance of energy - from the sun, in the ocean, in the wind, heat coming form the center of the earth, stored in the ground in the form of coal, Uranium. Further, physics allows for nuclear fusion. This is the process that powers the sun, and although this hasn't been invented yet here on earth according to physics it is possible. People have in theory devised a scheme where we throw rubbish at the sun and extract energy from the motion as it accelerates toward the sun. That sounds far fetched, granted, but to claim that physics tells us there isn't enough energy is completely opposite to the facts. Regards.
Have you researched the actual state of the oceans and their fish stocks?  This article from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization indicates that "manageing fish stocks" to provide food may be harder than you seem to imagine:

7 March 2005, Rome - Rebuilding depleted wild fish stocks is a "challenging necessity" says the newest edition of FAO's biennial report, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), released today.

According to FAO, there has been a consistent downward trend since the 1950s in the proportion of marine fish stocks with potential for expanded production, coupled with an increase in the proportion classified as overexploited or depleted.

Currently, SOFIA reports, three percent of marine stocks are underexploited, while 21 percent are moderately exploited and could support modest increases in fishing and in harvests.

Fifty-two percent are fully exploited, which means they are being fished at their maximum biological productivity. Increased fishing of these stocks would not produce any additional sustainable harvests and would reduce reproduction to dangerously low levels.

The remaining twenty-four percent are over exploited (16%), depleted (7%), or recovering from depletion (1%) and need rebuilding. Some of these stocks are already under strict management schemes.

The fate of the Northern Cod has taught us here in Canada a very hard lesson on the difficulty of bringing back a depleted stock.

Yes, physics allows for nuclear fusion.  However, if we are going to need new non-petroleum energy supplies on-line within 10 years, is it a wise funding choice?  There are a lot of hard problems that remain tro be solved on the road to controlled, sustained fusion.  And we all know what "hard  problem" means in physicist-speak.

The problem we have is one of timeline.  If we had 30 years to solve the problem and were going flat-out, I'd feel a lot happier.  As it is, we may have only ten, and we're still pissing around with subsidized ethanol and changing out incandescent light bulbs.  It's time to get serious and fund the known technologies that have minor engineering and product-development work left to do.

Hi GliderGuilder, I don't know that much about fish stocks, although I understand that New Zealand has implemented a system whereby there are a series of nurseries up the coast where fishing is banned. These nurseries act to replenish the areas where fishing is allowed. They found that by doing this (supposed to just fishing everything out at once) stocks of sealife grew AND the fisherman got bigger catches. They seem to think it is a sustainable system. So perhaps we just need to manage the oceans better to get a better sustainable yield. Again, I only saw this on a documentary and I am no expert. I also understand that aquaculture is picking up, particularly I have seen this in Australia. They are managing to intensively farm lobsters and fish and even seahorses (for the Asian market) in really surprisingly large numbers in surprisingly small tanks (another documentary). I don't think it will be easy to adjust to a world without oil and I don't think there is a "magic bullet". However, I think there will be a series of measures which together will provide a solution. The transition may be painful from an economic point of view, but I just don't subscribe to the die off doomsday scenarios. Just because one potential solution is not the magic bullet does not mean we are all about to die. Regards.
Hi HongKong Trader,

I have a genuine question. This is in regards to your assertion that "We have GM crops that can improve the yield of arable land." Could you provide sources to back this up?

I am not trying to argue, but my 5 years of probing into this claim has only yielded so-called claims and not hard facts. And I have come across real people who do natural farming getting per-acre yields equal to or greater than from fossil-fuel-fertilizer-pesticide-GM-seed farming. Agreed, my example is anecdotal, but I am yet to be convinced as to the "benefits" of GM seeds.

Hi Maram,

This is again from a documentary. I am not sure if it has been put into practise in farming, but scientists have made the claims that yields can be improved. I will try to find something more substantive, but in general the point I want to make is that there are surely MANY ways to attack the problems of Energy and Food if we think outside of the box. To say we are doomed to death you need to show why ALL these possible solutions or combination of them won't save us, not just that one particular part of the solution is not a COMPLETE solution. And even then you have to accept that we won't come up with other solutions we haven't thought about here. That just doesn't stand up to reason.


On the GM claims, there is a website from the US Department of Energy Office of Science:

They state "on the horizon are fish that mature more quickly, fruit and nut trees that yield years earlier, and plants that produce new plastics with unique properties"

Plastics too - I didn't expect that. As I say there are solutions that we haven't even mentioned here.

The Ruin
Anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, 8th-9th c. CE

Wondrous is this wall-stone, broken by fate.
The castles have decayed: the work of giants crumbles.
Roofs are ruined, towers toppled,
gates rusted and broken, hoar frost clings to the mortar.
Broken are the roof-beams, cut away, collapsed, undermined by age.
The grasp of the earth, stout grip of the ground,
holds its mighty builders, who have perished and gone. ...

Oft this wall-stone, grey with lichen and stained with red,
has withstood storms, surviving kingdom after kingdom.
Its lofty gates have fallen ...

Yet still this wall-stone stands, weathered by wind and storm.

Bold builders bound the foundation wondrously together with wires.
Bright were these city-dwellings: many the bath-houses,
lofty the great gables, thunderous the tumult of men,
many a mead-hall filled with the joys of men,
till Fate the mighty overturned it all.

The wide walls fell, days of pestilence came.
Death swept away all the bravery of men.
Their temples became waste places:
the city fell to ruin. The multitudes who might have built it anew
lay dead on the earth. Therefore these courts have crumbled away
and these lofty gates. The slates slide
from the red-vaulted roofs. The place has sunk into ruin,
broken into a heap.

Here in times past many a man
light of heart, gleaming with gold, adorned with splendors,
proud and flushed with wine, shone in war trappings,
gazed on treasure, on silver, on precious stones,
on riches, on possessions, on costly gems,
in this brilliant city of the broad kingdom.

Stone courts stood here: the stream with its great gush
leapt forth, hot. The wall encircled it all
within its bright bosom. There the baths were,
hot at its heart ...

That was spacious ...

The ancient Egyptians were capable of great
 public works...
Sorry to find you so convinced of your own powerlessness, but "Sit back and enjoy the ride" sounds more like Detroit than Simmons or even Savinar.  'There is more under the Heaven and Stars, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy' Hamlet

I loved the tagline on the poster for Clerks II.. 'With no power comes no responsibility'..

I'm not surprised at the helplessness and certainty of doom that I see here so often.  I have to scroll around and find some LouGrinzo or Thatsitimout to recenter the scales when it gets too Malthusian.  Dour pessimism will always be in style..  (RR, you're a fine tonic, too, and thanks for this post)

As far as DieOff, I've heard population stats that says one of the challenges in the US in the next decades will be UNDER population, as the Boomers start to take their final bows.  Mixed blessing? Who knows, lotta bellies to feed, sure, but a lot of work to do as well..

 But 'dieoff' might play out as 'failure to replace' populations that thin naturally, or get hit with the odd global b-slap like Katrina or a Tsunami..  Still, Careful what you wish for.  

There's no going back to any century that we've left.  We may all be farming more, but we'll still be able to look up Stephen Hawking and we'll still be humming a Pretenders tune ("If you own a big chunk of the bloody third world, the babies just come with the scenery"..Learning to Crawl) or some Dinah Washington ( 'There's a change in the weather, and a change in the Sea, and from now on there'll be a change in me.. ) as we saunter down to the store to order seeds and see if any bearing grease has come in yet.  Being on foot, we might notice that we hear more birds than we did growing up, or driving to the Multiplex.. There are new tools, new ideas, and recent experiences that will make the future unlike the past, as much as it might seem to be repeating itself.  And there are old tools and ways that we will integrate with the new ones..  And yes, I do hope to enjoy the ride.

Bob Fiske

"Some fings in life are bad, they can really make you mad;  other fings just make you swear and curse;  as you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble.. give a whistle!- and this'll make fings turn out for de best.. annnd..

Always look on the bright side of Life!"

... I'm Brian, and so's my wife!

Bob, I see a post peak looking a bit more like you describe but I see that occuring mostly in patches throughout the world.  

I can't speak for others but it is NOT a case of "careful of what you wish for" but rather a case of "you get what you 'paid' for" - and we have been living on borrowed energy (worse than our paper debts in the USA even).

Personally, my doomy near-term views do not make me feel powerless at all.  I was motivated to become more independent and powerful as a result.

On a lighter note, the die-off will occur, and maybe we will get a new beauty standard with it (and our great-great grandsons may inherit an earthly version of Allah's Bribe):


Cavegirls Were First Blondes to Have Fun

THE modern gentleman may prefer blondes. But new research has found that it was cavemen who were the first to be lured by flaxen locks.

According to the study, north European women (who had) blonde hair and blue eyes (reproduced more throughout) the Ice Age.  (Their unusual physical assets made) them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.

The study argues that blond hair originated in the region (during) food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago. Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses. Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

Lighter hair colours, which started as rare mutations, became popular for breeding and numbers increased dramatically, according to the research, published under the aegis of the University of St Andrews.

(my changes in parenthesis),,2087-2058688,00.html

It's Darwin, not cupid that matters.

Cavemen may have preferred blonds, but what is certain is that blondes are less likely to get rickets in northern climes.

If you do not have dark skin you will generate more vitamin D the north, and you and your children will survive the long winters. In the south, of course, the blondes die of skin cancer.

Losing melamine in your skin is a necessary mutation near the poles, a fatal one in the tropics.

You're like me I bet - you cringe when you read anything to do with evolution in the press. The original article made it sound like the evolution was guided or intentional which is why I made the changes I did.

Interesting point about rickets - I didn't think of that.  But as for melanin, I think it isn't "necessary" to decrease melanin in as much as the lack of melanin was no longer fatal...

This is sort of like the sickle-cell anemia story - potentially fatal mutation in one environment and a potential advantage in another environment...

I'm hoping next round nature introduces Green-people like on the old Star Treck episode (maybe we could use photosynthesis instead of eating so we could use agriculture solely for biofuels  - and make PETA happy).

Read "Oryx and Crake". Could be Atwood's best novel. Of course, nature doesn't introduce the "new" people, but they are colorful never-the-less.
[But 'dieoff' might play out as 'failure to replace' populations that thin naturally]

Die-off is probably overinclusive and die-back is a more realistic term.  It is hard to imagine that a world population created through cheap oil can continue without cheap oil  But the increase in knowledge since the 1850s also means we don't have to go back to the same population numbers that existed then.  We can be more efficient than then; we can produce more food than then.  But we are not going to sustain 6.5 billion.  The more realistic question for us in the U.S. is can we sustain 278 million or whatever the number currently is.  But debt loads, both public and private, make change to sustainability difficult especially given our propensity for hearing only what we want to hear and a general unwillingness to change our lifestyle until it is forced on us.  If that continues to be the case, we may see economic collapse that will make achieving the necessary changes impossible.  I am more of a doomer than most probably and would love to be wrong, but it's like doctors performing triage--you have to decide how to use limited resources to save as many as possible recognizing you have to just let some die.  My primary responsibility is to provide for my family, both nuclear and extended, then help community, then state, etc.  

Your experience talking to people one on one is a lot better than mine has been. Most of my friends in the environmental community are very receptive to the idea because they are already alarmed about global warming. But my Christian Bush-supporter friends, most of whom are very nice people otherwise, simply do not believe it. They don't believe in global warming ether. They also are my friends with the most money. It may be my longtime reputation as a 'tree hugger' that gets in the way though.
I saw 'An Inconvient Truth' last week and it was excellent. However the only place it is playing in the area is at the Bijou which is the old downtown theater near the university that typically plays 'art' type films. As a result the only people who are seeing it are those that are already believers -- 'preaching to the choir'.
Hi Granny!
  I'm glad you have successful, conservative friends!  Even if you're their Treehugger friend, that's an open door, which is the universal sign for possibility.  'A way in, a way out, a way through'..  I would expect that they are as eager to have their thoughts make sense to you, as you are of your beliefs..  as long as we keep some of those doors open, and make sure they know we want it that way,  I think we'll have at least a few chances to make our communications work, and in both directions.  So many doors have been shut, each open one has a value hard to measure..

  C-span2 just had a forum with Phyllis Shlafly and some other Conservative Authors talking to the press, and I made myself stay with it.  I can't take her anger and fear for long, but I was able to accomplish my goal of seeing where I found their ideas to be in accord with some of my own.. it's part of my 'What's right with this picture?' self-incentive.. (Not using 'right' ideologically, necessarily)  For instance, on the subject of Public Schools and the question of Home Schooling,  I find myself with some similar, but not identical arguments about how to raise our daughter.  One panelist decried some of what happens at Public Schools as more a form of 'Training' than of Education.. and I have to say this is a point I can readily agree to.  I don't think the solution is to disband the Public Schools, however, though I am personally considering what kind of blend could assure me that the 'Basics' and some of my own 'Elective' subjects can be available to her, while not turning my back on what 'we can do together as a community'..

I do think we have to find what common ground exists and really help to build on that.  There is such a sense that we have to 'Highlight the problems, errors and discrepancies' as we try to communicate, instead of finding the parts that have some promise and exploiting them.  This "What's Wrong with what you said/with this picture" attitude shuts a lot of doors, and stalls a lot of conversations that had other points that were avenues for forward movement.    I have to remind myself to look at what I agree with in responding to people, and not just try to 'correct their errors'..  Golden Rule, right?

Bob Fiske

Houston TX is a big area. To drive the speed limit across the city at 5am from The Woodlands (on the northside of Harris county) down I-45 to say Friendswood (the southside of Harris county) will take an hour. Now at 5pm it will normally take 90 minutes, and thats on a "good" day! Oh and the speed limit is generally 10 miles over the posted speed limit.
Driving from the city out West is even worse than I-45, I-10 east has got problems everyday. Thank goodness i don't drive that route.

Houston folks drive everywhere, mostly in trucks or SUV's. the 90% to 100% humidity is common, and almost nobody walks outside.

This city is not geared up for mass transit, Metro (houstons answer to mass transit) is rarely 50% full.
HOV lanes that run smoothly, but are largely bypass lanes to get around the city traffic.

What can we do? How can we affect the behavior of the masses? And what are the consequences if we don't?

I don't think there is anymore that you, me or anyone else can do. Build the mass transit, and tell them this is what you gonna have to use from now on. don't fix the roads, just let them rot. People more often than not, want to be told what to do, rather than take the initiative.
Consequences are dire to say the least, because Hurricane Katrina aftermath in Nawlins' showed us how crazy situations can escalate!

In 1973 I was involved in a design for a new city that would be a non automobile economy for a mountainous area.  We were researching a furnicular system that would make dwellings  on the sides of the mountains feasible.

MIT had been doing work on a rapid transit system that was eventually taken on by the Japanese.  While we were working on the project in NYCity the 1st oil embargo hit and
the stories of L.A and California with lines at the gas pumps were pretty scarey.  In short the problem was bad then, God only knows how it can continue today.

At the time we went to Washington with a team of proffessionals that were tops in their fields and we found interest with no commitment.  People suggested that I lobby for the attention we needed to realize the project but I was up against GM and a very limited budget to accomplish the impossible.

What I am saying is that I personally tried to do something and I'm sure there have been others who have tried and failed as well.  We didn't have the internet then and we didn't have people like the oil drum to further good causes.
But this much I can assure you; the same people who were frustrating us then are the same people that are frustrating
us all today

  I'm trying to find ways to use my bike more around town, set things up to facilitate that as an easy alternative to 'hopping in and vrooming'.. and I had a wacky notion that your Funicular project reminded me of..  

  We have some good little hills in Portland, Maine, and I was suffering up one of them, still not in great shape yet.. and wondered about a system like a 'T-bar' or 'Rope-Lift' on a SkiSlope, but where thoughtful (and 'forethoughtful') cyclists coming DOWN the said hill would sidle up to the rope and grab on somehow as they went down, instead of using brakes..  Whether this would directly help another cyclist coming up the other side, or would just roll weights or a flywheel that would help the next climbers to ascend, who knows, but on a busy bike lane, this could work and maybe even be fun..

  Thought I'd just drop that one in..

Bob Fiske

Consequences are dire to say the least, because Hurricane Katrina aftermath in Nawlins' showed us how crazy situations can escalate!

It's funny you mention that. Watching the aftermath of Katrina with my wife was the first time I felt a real sense of panic with respect to Peak Oil. I had always felt like I can prepare, and I would be in better shape than most people. But watching the aftermath of Katrina, you could see just how fast events can spiral out of control. Even the best preparations won't help if everything is falling apart around you. That's why it is so important to get the message out. I don't want to see everyone else suffer, but I certainly don't want to be taken down along with the mob.

I remember pointing out the scene at the Superdome, and I told my wife that it would be like that everywhere in a matter of days if fuel supplies dried up. It would be mass chaos.


funny how that works. things go along at a very slow crawl then take off like a rocket.
Moral of the story - get the hades out of cities where you have the most Titbabies in search of the very many Nipples they believe Nature Owes them (they confused Nature and with the Federal Government).

Find a nice rural area where they look, smell, sound, feel and taste like you ( and Have Not burdened themselves with huge debt on enormous white elephant schools that require many, many busses, "enough" land to live on but not get taxed to death... etc, etc).  

A big advantage of rural living is Not being a part of the Televised Chaos.  And as things settle down you'll have fewer refugees running around your neighborhood with no useful skills other than begging and threatening.

In the Argentine financial crash (which amounted to an oil crash since nobody had money for gas) the cities fared about as well as the countryside. Of the farmers you know, how many do you think could get up the day after you burn out their tractor, hitch a horse team to a McCormick and get on with their chores? And if they could, do you really think the horse population of the US (where horses are sentimental, ornamental animals, mostly) could breed fast enough to retool the farm economy?
I suspect Argentina's "financial crash" experience as you describe it is not necessarily "typical" historically, and does not at all resemble what we are facing (although a financial crisis will be a part of it of course) ...

Talk to the elderly people you know who lived through WWII with rationing... hands down the country was better than the city in terms of who got what first, and who took a full stomach for granted...

Of the farmers I know, most are conventional and will be first in line for petroleum products as per Government Orders is my guess.  I know several who do use horses and plow the old fashioned way... sort like the Amish and Hutterites etc..

And I have no delusions of retooling anyonez economy... Profoundly Local is I... when you get your Profoundly Locale in order let me know and maybe then we can start talking about one of those Plan B dealz.

You really think the "country" would not be overrun with refugees within several weeks?  If food was scarce everyone is going to think the same thing.  Maybe if you move to New Zealand or some other island nation you can find yourself isolated like that, but the "country" is not going to save you.  Not unless it's way up in the mountains or another inaccessible area and you're armed to the teeth.  But armed to the teeth will probably be just as effective in the city.  

If it really comes to such an extreme then we're all pretty much screwed.  

Agreed. A "Century" ride is a term common among bicyclists. It means a 100-mile ride. But if you can make 10MPH for 10 hours, you can do a century. Just about anyone can pull two 50mile days if they have to. Even if everything collapses, you will get some visitors out in the countryside.

However as helpless as most modern people are, anyone who makes it out to your place may be worth giving a meal and probation.

Look at Nawlins. Humans are built to be walkers. People could have flat out walked out of there. Maybe swam the first part lol, the main point is the process would have been a cakewalk and an interesting diversion to an Australian Aborigine or a Bushman. Yet, how many actually did? I read about one guy who biked out of there and headed across the USA, actually managed to blog as he went (truck stops have internet) and got into TX ok, someone stole a bunch of his stuff and people helped him out, I think a bunch at Wal-Mart bought stuff for him. The main point is, Katrina presented a lot of modern people with the basic problems of no electricity, questionable water at best, no food. Very very very few walked on out. If the Cavelry hadn't come riding over the hill, we'd have been a very large culling process and a lot of ugliness.

Based on an article by 2 EMS workers who were in NO at the time, (article removed due to age but was
I think the Cavalry was the problem, by breaking up every group of survivors who were beginning to organise themselves to be more self-sufficient. You might have seen a lot of citizens grouped into communities of 100+ co-operating peacefully and looking after each other without waiting for FEMA.

When the Tsunami hit S. Asia, the ethnic fighting in Sri Lanka and the West of Indonesia went into cease-fire and the survivors worked together to patch things up, without waiting for state agencies. Nowhere did I read reports of riots or a serious breakdown of order.

The idea that any area that experiences natural disaster becomes a warzone seems to be unique to the US, and I suggest that the government agencies will do their best to make this the likely outcome.

In any case, the breakdown, even at 8% per annum, is going to be more like a conventional famine, with a more measured migration and land-use change, than a sudden collapse.

First, I think you have to accept that there is no "safe" - only "safer" and start from there.  Second, do not imagine it to work like a 90 minute movie - it's not likely masses will come streaming out of the cities in a month's time all across the world... this process will likely unfold over years.

And how people behave will vary greatly by Region ... based on Profoundly Local Resources.

Don't let your imagination run away from you without proper instruction... read up on past and present Depressions and then find some place you consider Safer than where you are now (maybe you'll decide to stay put ;).

And yes, We Are All Pretty Much Screwed.

Nature is a Bitch ain't it?

I hope overall you enjoyed your visit.  The observations of "outsiders" are always interesting. I am active with an organization called the Transit Coalition, supporting transit in Southern California.  

There is a lot of transit activity going on in Los Angeles:

You cannot see it from the freeway, but there has been a strong upward surge in transit ridership:

Also, Los Angeles has a charismatic mayor who really "gets it" and supports such things as subways and neighborhoods designed for people, not cars.  Of course, Rome was not built in a day.

I hope overall you enjoyed your visit.

Universal Studios was a blast, and I had wanted to see La Brea since I was a kid. I drove around quite a bit while I was there, and that was pretty stressful. I used to drive back and forth every day on the Autobahn in Germany. L.A. was a similar experience, except the drivers on the Autobahn are more predictable. There is no passing on the right, for instance, on the Autobahn.

One question you might be able to answer. Do you know where you might be using methanol? I saw a sign right after I arrived that indicated there was a methanol pump nearby. I never saw the pump, so it might have been a very old sign. But I was puzzled by it.



My guess is that this place was selling it for race cars.  

Methanol is also used to make biodiesel.  Lots of people who homebrew biodiesel end up going to places that sell racing fuel to buy a 55-gallon drum of methanol.

Which race cars use methanol?

My eldest nephew is chief mechanic on a famous racing team, and they use ethanol, which I think is also used by all or most Indy 500 cars.

Methanol is nasty poisonous stuff. Ethanol you have to denature on purpose to make it poisonous.

Ethanol you have to denature on purpose to make it poisonous.

Technically, it is a toxin.

I had to drop out of organic chemistry the first time I took it. The second time I memorized the whole textbook and and got a "B." Quantatative analysis, oy, veh.

But one thing puzzles me, and I freely admit you know way more chemistry than I do. Ethanol, and E-85 in particular has a HUGE HUMONGOUS advantage in octane. Given today's high compression engines, I am puzzled as to why you do not address this big issue.

I do not question your integrity. You are honest and hyper competent. But still, why do you not address this issue?

But one thing puzzles me, and I freely admit you know way more chemistry than I do. Ethanol, and E-85 in particular has a HUGE HUMONGOUS advantage in octane. Given today's high compression engines, I am puzzled as to why you do not address this big issue.


I have addressed it multiple times, and was not aware I was being asked to address it again. It is true that you can design an engine to run at a higher compression ratio on E85. That is exactly what Saab did with their BioPower. What they ended up with was less of a fuel efficiency drop, but they still had a drop of 12.5% (instead of the typical 25-35% drop). They did claim higher horsepower, so in theory you might be able to close the efficiency gap completely for 2 equivalent HP engines. But nobody has actually done it yet. If they ever do make an engine that gets as good or better fuel efficiency on ethanol, then that will be a big advantage for ethanol.

By the way, I presume you saw my response to your "We love E85 in Minnesota" post from yesterday?



Yes Robert, I did see that. Thank you.

IMO, you are still ducking the issue. I'm not talking theory, I'm talking actual mpg with a Ford Taurus. The Owners Manual SAYS that all performance you can get you'll get with 87 octane. That is a flat out lie. The Taurus six cylinder engine gets dramatically higher powr AND GASOLINE MILEAGE with 92 octane straight gasoline than it does with 87 octane gas. Why? Because it is a high-compression engine, that is why.

Now here are the facts, which so far you have not chosen to acknowledge: In the real world, there are several million Ford Tauruses (and twin Mercury cars) that run on flex fuel. Some thousands of them do run on E-85 and nothing but E-85. The real world performance on E-85 is superior to the performance (both in terms of mileage and power) than the performance on regular 87 octane gasoline.

Now I do understand that these facts do not fit into your paradigm.

However, when I talk to mechanics with 20 years plus experience and sales people who have been at the same location for more than twenty years, I tend to believe them. The facts are that E-85 (at least in flex-fuel Tauruses) is a fuel far, far superior to 87 octane regular. Now I know that you are uncomfortable facing evidence that does not fit into your preconceptions. I am sorry about that.

But pretty please with sugar on top, get out into the real world and do some serious listening to people who actually know the facts rather than a bunch of fancy computations and estimates that may have not much to do with reality.



I hardly believe that outburst was warranted. I am not the least bit bothered by facts. But what you have given me are assertions. Here are facts:

DOE Performance Mileage Comparisons for Flex Fuel Vehicles

The 2006 Taurus, for example, gets 27 mpg on the highway with gasoline, and 20 mpg with E85. Those numbers are consistent with every other government test that I have ever seen conducted. Show me something different. Give me something other than anecdotal evidence. Show me any study that shows better gas mileage with E85 than with gasoline.

You are talking about me being uncomfortable facing evidence that doesn't fit my preconceptions. First of all, that's a ludicrous charge. I would change my mind about ethanol in a second if the evidence bore out your claims. But second, you haven't shown me any evidence. You have made some claims. That is not the same as evidence. Show me the studies. I am a skeptical scientist. I pay no mind at all to anecdotes.

Back up your claims. Please.



One of the most reliable ways to get factual information is to do interviews of people--provided one knows how to do that. At UC, Berkeley, I took about twenty-four graduate credits at the Ph.D. level in sociology learning how to make questionnaires and how to do interviews and how to evaluate sociological data.

I know about statistics, the need for pilot studies and on and on.

Why you assume that my information is "anecdotal" I do not know. This premise is false.

One thing that is hard for some of us to accept is that others know more than we do. With all due respect, RR, I suggest that people who have spent perhaps 10,000 hours working on Ford cars as journeymen mechanics, or people with thirty years experience as a service manager, etc., I suggest that these people know more about the cars and what they actually do than what is written down in somebody's pamphlet.

Note that oil companies fund much research. A priori, would you expect that research funded from such sources is likely to show large benefits from non-oil sources? I make no assertions in this regard, but the issue is a legitimate one.

Now it is POSSIBLE that you are correct and everybody else is mistaken or lying. Yes, that is possible.

But based on what I have heard, it is not very likely.

Come on, Don. You should know me well enough by now to know that you are going to have to do much, much better than that. I take attacks on my integrity very seriously. You have charged me with ignoring "facts" because they don't fit my perceptions. Who is really doing that? I have given you controlled scientific tests that verify my claim that fuel efficiency will drop when using E85. You have chosen to ignore that. Instead, you complain that I am ignoring your "facts", which consist of "a lot of people told me." Sorry, that doesn't amount to a hill of beans with me when numerous scientific studies contradict that. You can also interview thousands of people who will testify to the positive effect that astrology has had on their lives. You can find lots of people who believe in faith-healing. Put them in a controlled scientific study, and those claims can't be verified. That's why your tales are anecdotal.

One thing that is hard for some of us to accept is that others know more than we do.

Then why are we having this conversation? You have staked out a position that I am ignoring evidence, yet when I asked you to provide it you simply make an assertion about "journeymen mechanics, etc." Your "evidence" qualifies as hearsay. Mine could be taken into a court of law. I am not sure why you wish to ignore it, unless it is because it "does not fit into your preconceptions".

I suggest that these people know more about the cars and what they actually do than what is written down in somebody's pamphlet.

Except I didn't give you "somebody's pamphlet", did I? I gave you controlled scientific studies in which mileage was tested under comparable conditions. I trust that far more than your assertions. Sorry.

Now it is POSSIBLE that you are correct and everybody else is mistaken or lying. Yes, that is possible.

Yet, it is possible that they are mistaken. Or it is possible that you are mistaken. Given that you haven't been able to point me to any study showing improved gas mileage with E85, I think you should consider the possibility that you are mistaken.

But based on what I have heard, it is not very likely.

There you go again. Based on what you have heard? I give you scientific studies, and you give me "what you have heard"? Show me some evidence, Don. You attacked my integrity. You owe me evidence, or an apology. You have accused me of "ducking the issue", being "uncomfortable facing evidence that does not fit into your preconceptions", and basing my opinion on "fancy computations and estimates". Each of these charges is false, and I want a retraction, or I want you to back up your claims with studies. You should know that if you are going to debate me, you must have your ducks in a row.

I understand that you are well-respected at TOD, Don. However, I would respectfully submit that this does not give you the right to question my integrity (even though you claimed that's not what you are doing) if you can't back up your argument. The "evidence" that I am ignoring does not appear to exist, except in anecdotal form. As I said, I can give you the same testimony from Astrology buffs. However, what I can't provide you is any scientific study demonstrating that Astrology is legitimate.



I am truly puzzled by your perception that I am questioning your integrity.

I EXPLICITYLY stated that I believed you have total integrity, I have given you an A+ for clear thinking in one of my comments, and I EXPLICITYLY stated that I thought you are more intelligent than I am.

Thus, on what possible grounds can you come to the idea that I am questioning your integrity?

I do question your premises.
I believe you are proceeding from faulty and incomplete premises to imperfect and sometimes fallacious conclusions.


To question premises has nothing to do with an evaluation of character. The finest and most brilliant people in history have often come to wrong conclusions because of faulty premises.

Now, do I know what I'm talking about?

Here are a few references, and whether you are familiar with them or not I do not know.

Hal Bernton, William Kovarik, Scott Sklar, THE FORBIDDEN FUEL: POWER ALCOHOL IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. NY: Boyd Griffin, 1982.
Now, here is what a few people said about this book:
Jack Anderson: "THE FORBIDDEN FUEL is truly engrossing reading. It traces the history of alcohol as an alternative fuel, proving that it is a viable medium for easing our energy ills. THE FORBIDDEN FUEL should make the reader angry for being unnecessarily under OPEC'S thumb for so long."

Richard J. Barnet (Author of THE LEAN YEARS and with R. E. Muller, GLOBAL REACH) "The story of the alchohol battle . . . told in fascinating detail . . . . It is an account of jousting experts, oil company propaganda campaigns, extravagant claims of alcohol enthusiasts, and of approaching vindication for alchol."

Senator Charles H. Percy: "We need to find a liquid fuel that we can use in the event of another disruption of our oil imports. This book chronicles how a handful of Americans are working hard to do this, despite the odds. Some day all of us will owe them our thanks for setting us on the road towards reduced dependance on imported oil."


Thus, on what possible grounds can you come to the idea that I am questioning your integrity?

You are accusing me of ignoring data. Ignoring data would imply a lack of integrity on my part. Simple as that. I know that you have complimented me in the past, but accusing me of ignoring data is a serious charge in my profession.

I do question your premises.

This is what I find puzzling. What premises? I have shown you data. That is not a premise. I am not assuming the E85 has inferior gas mileage. I am showing you the data that demonstrates that.

To question premises has nothing to do with an evaluation of character. The finest and most brilliant people in history have often come to wrong conclusions because of faulty premises.

I agree 100% with that. But you didn't question my premises. You accused me of ducking an argument and ignoring data. Besides that, what is the premise that you think I have wrong? A premise is an assumption. I am basing my arguments on published studies. That is not a premise.

Here are a few references, and whether you are familiar with them or not I do not know.

Don, that is a bait and switch. You have made claims about fuel efficiency. I want you to show me a study that shows better fuel efficiency on E85. As far as the claims from the references, I have shown through numerous essays that E85 won't contribute much toward our energy needs. You have the opportunity to challenge any of those arguments at any time. Start a conversation in any Drumbeat, and I will address your arguments.



  • NASCAR engines burn 110-octane gasoline.

  • Indy cars used to burn burn pure methanol (CH3OH), in the 2006 season they are burning some ethanol, an E10-M90 mix, in 2007 they claim they will be burning E100.

  • "Top Fuel" class dragsters and "funny cars" burn pure nitromethane (CH3NO2).

First, Robert, thanks for the report from the Sunshine
State, it sounds like fun, and how can you let pictures of peak dancin' in your head spoil your first visit, a trip like that....I mean, think of it this way, if you had gotten one last chance to visit Babylon in it's full bloom, it would have been an even more memorable and important visit! :-)

Then you ask, "Then I go to a city like L.A. and am frustrated that so many people are not getting the message. What can we do? How can we affect the behavior of the masses? And what are the consequences if we don't? "

Well, let's take the example we have on this very string.  You did a worthy job of informing your bank fruad examiner, new found acquintance from the airplane must have given him a reasonable explanation that somehow made sense to him, and reflected an acceptable version of reality (VERY important that, so that he doesn't begin to look at your head for the tinfoil hat, or wait for you to say that you can channel the spirit of M. King Hubbert by way of L. Ron Hubbert which is how you know this stuff....we often forget how much wierdness people actually tell each other out on the road...;-)

So now this guy goes home, and he is bought in...he tells the wife this RR fellow is onto something, and it could be BIG.  I am going to go online and do a bit more research...see what is going on in the way of thought and preparation on this stuff....and he does a bit of a google, and by golly, he lands on TOD  (we are assuming you mentioned TOD right?), so he says look, that's the group RR was talking about, so I can rely on them to talk sane and be in the know, and look!  There's the very string, he is mentioning meeting me (he remembered me, how flattering!)....and then he scrolls down a few posts, and reads some....

SolarDude on Saturday July 15, 2006 at 10:43 PM EST
"You are fighting against millions of years of human evolutionary development that has brought us to this point.  There is nothing any of us can do to affect the outcome.  The human species is in overshoot and will be massively culled.  The only question is whether we go extinct or merely die back to remnant populations living as subsistance farmers.  So sit back and enjoy the ride into the Olduvai Gorge."

Darwinian on Saturday July 15, 2006 at 11:07 PM EST
"Even if world population could be held constant, in balance with "renewable" resources, the creative impulse that has been responsible for human achievements during the period of growth would come to an end. And the spiraling collapse that is far more likely will leave, at best, a handfull of survivors. These people might get by, for a while, by picking through the wreckage of civilization, but soon they would have to lead simpler lives, like the hunters and subsistence farmers of the past. They would not have the resources to build great public works or carry forward scientific inquiry. They could not let individuals remain unproductive as they wrote novels or composed symphonies. After a few generations, they might come to believe that the rubble amid which they live is the remains of cities built by gods.
 David Price: Energy and Human Evolution"

Holy shiiit, what kind of dammm death cult have I got myself into!
Man, I have seen weekend militia folk in Montana writing home brew bank drafts that were more in the mainstream!!  And that RR guy really seemed absolutely sane to me, good at the math, good reasoning skills.....break out the tinfoil hats Martha, and stay away from any of those "peakee" types, just proves, you can never know.....dammm shame...

And, my dear friend RR, your sane and valiant recruitment effort just went to shiiit in a handbasket.  

You ask, "What can we do? How can we affect the behavior of the masses? And what are the consequences if we don't?"
What CAN we do?  Not talk like mad people.
How we can affect behavior.  Not talk like mad people.
And what are the consequences if we don't affect behavior?
According to the Peaksters in the know here, it don't matter...
"There is nothing any of us can do to affect the outcome.  The human species is in overshoot and will be massively culled.  The only question is whether we go extinct or merely die back to remnant populations living as subsistance farmers"...

"people might get by, for a while, by picking through the wreckage of civilization, but soon they would have to lead simpler lives, like the hunters and subsistence farmers of the past. They would not have the resources to build great public works or carry forward scientific inquiry. They could not let individuals remain unproductive as they wrote novels or composed symphonies..."

(brief aside, darn, I did not know that the massive fossil fuel consumption of the world at that time allowed Cervantes to write novels, or Beethoven to compose symphonies....where would literature or music be without ExxonMobil?   Evidence is that since symphonic music has never been ONE TENTH as good as Beethoven's since the fossil fuel age began, or novels never anywhere close to as outright creative, honest, heartbreaking, and yet joyful as Cervantes, fossil fuel has been NOTHING BUT BAD FOR ART AND LITERATURE.)  In fact, I would almost lobby for the end of the oil age just to have a return to a real artistic age! :-)

Be that as it may, returning to point, and try to get your bank fruad examiner to continue spreading the gospel according to RR and "peak", if he reads lunacy like the kind we have seen in this string.  Let's hope he forgets the URL to TOD on this one....

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Why is it that people who disagree with you are crazy and those who agree are just regular folk?

The physics of a dieoff are well recognized. In fact, if these simple energy equations were not that distressing then what the hell are we worrying about?

Hell, there ain't going to be no dieoff, 'cause we be happy folk who don't bring up inconvenient truths. No sirree, Bob. Phyics? Naw. Thems that sort of thing that them liberal folk all spout. No, gimme that good ole common sense like good old GW has. Like global warming, hooooweeee. You ever heard such a buncha crap like that ever in yo life? Let me tell you, I hear from my good buddy, what never been to no brainwashing institute like collitch, he tole me that them scientists are making it all up in order to feather their own nests!! He read it in a book by some really smart guy name Crichton or Cricktown or Crackhead -- somethin. Yeah, oil prices, all a conspiracy of them oil companies what are run by the tri-lateral commission. They got plenty of oil right here in the good ole USA. MORE THAN ENOUGH. Yeah, from what I hear, you can't hardly dig an outhouse in some parts without hitting oil.

Yeah, those are the people I want preparing the country for our impending powerdown. The pollyannas. They have been oh so helpful in the past.

Cherenkov, thanks for the reply, and you make some interesting and challenging points.  First, I am very leery to think of anyone as "crazy" if I can avoid it for the reason you stated.  I myself do not think of many people I have read as "crazy" here at TOD, or I would not try to discuss things with them (if they are really unable to comprehend, what would be the point?)

I was referring to the context of remarks by RR in trying to convince (choose your moniker for them) "newbies", outsiders", "neophytes", "average people", "mainstream folks", or as they are often less flatteringly referred to here, "sheepies" that "Peak Oil" is a legetimate concern, based in fact and reality, that poses a real threat and change to the way they are able to live and enjoy life, and a matter that they must take action on to protect themselves and assist in the stability/prosperity/liberty/survival of the U.S. nation and the world economy/technical system.

The first question of course is how far out into a place that is completely unconnected from the average persons understanding of modern existance and reality can we go without losing any hope of reaching them?

If the goal is to win converts to the cause that Peak oil is real, is scientific, is fact based, do we gain new students (and that is what we all are) in making wilder and wilder pronouncements?  Must the pronouncements be true?  Must they be provable?  Because the wilder and more radical the pronouncement, and the more horrific in it's ability to instill terror it is, the more it will be doubted, purely from a psychological persprective.  During the Cold War, no one really accepted on a daily basis that the U.S./U.S.S.R would completely incinerate each other.  They couldn't.  If they did, they would have went mad with fear and apprehension (some did), because they would have been in constant fear of death and loss of all family and even extinction, and what could they do about it?  So they simply rationalized won't REALLY happen, it could, but it probably won't because it would it would be no gain for anyone....and if you had stood on a street with a sign board shouting, "the nuclear exchange will happen before the end of the year.", you would have been ignored.  Why?  You would have been providing information that only served to horrify, and in no way was useful to prepare for something that could not be prepared for.  You would have been unable to prove what you said, and would have been dismissed as a fear monger, even though what you said COULD IN FACT HAPPEN.

Now let us turn to "Peak oil", and what we REALLY KNOW.  The truth is, we KNOW so damm little.  So this means that our most horrifying remarks MUST BE CAUTIOUS AND LIMITED,  if we abide by an understanding among each other to not hurt, but to help the cause of understanding and support for study and construcive action on this cause.  

If we begin to hurl about unproven, unprovable, and inprobable conjecture of the most horrific and terrifying nature, (and recall, it COULD, MAYBE, POSSIBLY, BE TRUE...but then again, well, it may, could possibly, sorta' not be true...), we do much to undercut what we hope to be and to accomplish.  By the way, what is that?

 This is a judgement/aesthetic call, isn't it?  If we view TOD as a forum for exchanging/gaining information, for viewing the working over of what statististical facts are available to try to build a usable picture of the world energy situation, as a place to discuss possible alternatives and action steps (meaning we must believe some are possible), a place to communicate with people whom we see as at least cogent on the critical nature of energy issues in our place and time, and a place to feel that we are NOT tinfoil hat types but that there are intelligent, thoughtful people involved in this issue  (because I can go to google and find a website devoted to demon possession or international conspiracies if all I want to do is scare myself and others)

In other words, a group surrounding research based in some sense of scientific fact is what many of us hope for from TOD and from those who represent the Peak oil movement.  There are those out there in the world who deny that it is any such thing.  If I believed that, I would not be here.  But, we must keep our public utterences responible and cautious IF we do not want to damage the legitimacy of the cause.  

Notice how I said that.  A person on  an open forum such as TOD can say anything they want.  It can be as horrifying, as non-fact based, as far removed from most peoples understanding of reality as it wants to be.  I love the idea of and the free exchange of open forum.  I DO NOT think we can or should attempt to limit the speech of even those who pronounce the most horrific and horrifying pronouncements, with zero proof.  They have that  right.

It does behoove those who do support a more scientific/reality based view of what TOD and Peak oil is about to respond however.  We (I refer to myself here) would not be living up to our own sense of responsibility to let some of these utterances go by without challenge.  

Cherenkov, let's turn to a few of the remarks I referenced in my prior post, and see what may have caught my eye, in the sense of being possibly something that a "newbie" would have some issues with, if we assume a relatively intelligent "newbie":

First example sentence:
SolarDude on Saturday July 15, 2006 at 10:43 PM EST
""You are fighting against millions of years of human evolutionary development that has brought us to this point."
 Now, did you really read that sentence?  The first part is a tautalogical construction of no help, and of no justification for anything.  Of course millions of years of human evolutionary development brought us to this point!!  That is as true of our use of oil as it is our use of bribing our wives with jewelry or a dinner out!  I cannot know what is was supposed to tell me, but on that mighty edifice was based a very radical conjecture:
  There is nothing any of us can do to affect the outcome.  The human species is in overshoot and will be massively culled."

It will?  When?  Soon?  Later?  Even if there is plenty of oil, since it is built on the mighty logical edifice of human evolution, would that matter?    After all, we still have the food, water and land space problems, so we will be massively culled.  It's built right into "evolutionary development right?
So what in the helll does this have to do with Peak Oil?  A newbie would say, "of course, it's a Malthusian catastrophist theory, and it's interesting, but it HAS NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH OIL OR ENERGY.  It is fatalism, it's a done deal.  Would our newbie hold out much hope of seeing alternative energy development, or conservation methods and technology in such a discussion?  No.  What would be the point? The next sentance says so...."There is nothing any of us can do to affect the outcome."
How is that scientifically proven?  How is that scientifically provable?
It is an aesthetic position of fatalism, and people have their right to it.  But it has nothing to do with science, and certainly nothing to do with energy.

The next sentence, "The only question is whether we go extinct or merely die back to remnant populations living as subsistance farmers."

Is that a scientific question?  Is it really the ONLY question?  What if someone were to question that question?  Would that make them a "Pollyanna"?  Can the conjecture that the only choices for humans is subsistance farming or extinction be accepted as useful, provable, or scientific?  Now, it MAY be true, I can never disprove it.  But, in all of history, it has virtually never been true.  We have not yet went extinct, and there have always been at least some preists, artists, prostitutes and performers!  What could a sentence like the above have to do with science, or even less so, with energy?

The snappy closer, "So sit back and enjoy the ride into the Olduvai Gorge."

No, you sit back and enjoy ain't even on my roadmap  (Olduvai Gorge has NOTHING to do with Peak anything, by the way, if you actually read it, but was born from a Puritan distrust and hatred of the large organizations that came with electric production and railroads at hte turn fo the 20th is a Ruskian/Morris type aesthetic theory with NO basis in technical fact)

Then Darwinian
Darwinian on Saturday July 15, 2006 at 11:07 PM EST
"Even if world population could be held constant, in balance with "renewable" resources, the creative impulse that has been responsible for human achievements during the period of growth would come to an end."

I will not spend long on this stuff.  How such a conjecture would have any scientific basis is baffling, but this type of language is accepted here all the time with no challenge.  People trounce out the word "Physics" and say, "Physics shows it's impossible.", "The math shows it can't be done", etc., when physics or math have shown nothing of the sort.  
We will leave aside how the Egyptians left us some of the greatest "creative impulses" in history, or the Greeks could write drama, build great and artistic temples, and fight wars all at the same time with no crude oil, and Gothic "dark ages" people could muster so many "creative impulses" so as to blanket Europe in Cathedrals that are still heartrending in their sheer beauty and scale...and all without crude oil!!

I will PAY anyone who can prove a causal link between creative impulses and a plentiful supply of crude oil!

Enough.  By the way, allow me to say, I was moved by the quotes from David Price: Energy and Human Evolution, quoted by Darwinian, but of course, I had seen them before.  They were someting of a rewarmed version of Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West", written in the late 1800's!  Spengler had no interest in oil (which was an infant industry when he wrote) but was fascinated by a cultural decline of the West, on which he was awaiting.  He passed from the world, still waiting.

So in closing, what was the point.  Simply this:  If the Peak Oil aware are going to chastise and mock the people of the mainstream, they need to be very aware of what they are saying, or be willing to be dismissed and laughed off as tinfoil hat types.  Now, they may NOT be tinfoil hat types, but instead, may just be caught up in their zeal for catastrophic collapse, and their desire to see great retribution befall the big spending fast driving "sinners" in their view.  Some would make an argument that this is a just retribution, long overdue, and a good cause in itself.

it is not, however, in anyway "scientific", proven by "physics", assurance of "evolutionary development", (still little understood by even the biological evolutionists), or proven by any numbers I have seen.  it may happen.  Or it may not.  It may be next week, or it could be a century away, or never.
If you make these wild pronouncements to those you are trying to convert to your cause, it is not helpful to call them sheepies if they  are clever enough to ask, "can you prove that in anyway?"

The whole gory fascination with fatalistic doom only pulls us further and further off the SCIENTIFIC, PHYSICAL realities:
>Fossil fuel is limited and not renewable in it's most commonly used and useful form.
>Our consumption, worldwide, does keep climbing
>The producers of the oil and gas we currently rely on are having greater difficulty finding it in the needed volumes, and when they do, it is harder and more expensive to extract
>Great amounts of wealth/resources will be needed to maintain, and modify in needed ways our energy infrastructure.
>Lead time is critical.  If we intend to get the needed oil/gas, we must begin with dispatch, to have it available in time, if we assume historical patterns of development time.

Now, those are the real, physical, mathematical, scientific issues.  
There are some others that are known, but we do not know how to use:
>The Earth is a closed system as it relates to crude oil/natural gas/coal, but NOT AS IT RELATES TO ENERGY.  The sun pours more energy on us daily that we can use.
>The known resources of "energy" in the Earth are not known.  There is still undiscovered coal, oil, gas, uranium, and wasted biomass and organic matter
>Technical systems are still very primitive and wasteful.  Two thirds of A gallon of gasoline is wasted as heat and noise in an auto or truck.  Trillions of watts of electricity are wasted in moving the current around, not in using it.
Billions of BTU's of heat are wasted from buildings, engines, powerplants, and Trillions of BTU's of heat energy are within a yard below our feet that is untapped.
Our technology can improve.

And for things that cannot be measured scientifically:  Will.  Brains.  Creativity.  Effort.  Communication.  Cooperation.  Study.  Action.

Folks, if your going to tell me that "Physics" and "Science"  and "Math" and "Evolutionary Development", (whatever the helll that means can overcome the above, you better REALLY HAVE YOUR PHYSICS AND MATH AND SCIENCE IN TIGHT ORDER.  You better be able and willing to prove it.

And if you bring "proof" that is useful for nothing but to terrify, and gives a fatalistic view that nothing can be done anyway, of what use is it to me?  It is a pointless exercise in futility, and a waste of time to study.  I will go back to the shops.

If that makes me a Pollyanna, so be it!  :-)

(not spell checked, I was running short on time and typing fast...., forgive any errors, but I think the point will be discernable)

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

Well said. I hardly see the point of more than one or 2 posts a day fatalistically describing how the human race is doomed and we're going back to the dark ages, or maybe just to the 'Mad Max-Road Warrior' type of future. Like you said, it may be true. And if we do nothing or anticipate this to happen, then it makes it all the more likely, in my opinion.
People are free to believe what they want, and express their opinions. But in this case I'm not sure I see the point.
I agree: we know the outlines, but there are many, many ways in which way that outline can be filled in. The future might turn out to be a worldwide corporatist industrial empire that keeps most of the population in underground factories, or a patchwork of ecocommunes with wildly different, localized cultures and economies. Or anything in between. Or anything no one has thought of yet. Or on of the amusing and thought-provoking scenarios Ran Prieur wrote:

Ages ago Whole Earth Magazine published a cartoon with two futures.  Techno-utopia has smiling families in flying cars.  Eco-utopia had people riding bicycles down a dirt road ... past a sign that said "Love-in Today"
Why is it there always seems to be at least one sensible "Adult" in the croud; -:)  -:)  

NO offence Roger, I loved it.

I think you give the doom and gloomers too much credit in your response.  The reality is most of what they say is pure nonsense with no logical or factual backing behind it.  There are holes in their arguments that are so large you could sail the Titanic through them, even in a post-peak world where we'd have to get out and row it.  

The assumption that all societal complexity is based on energy is one of the central tenants of such outlandish arguments, and it doesn't matter how much you point out we've had vastly complex societies dating back to Ancient Egypt and Babylon, they still refuse to listen.  Advanced human societies haven't consisted of subsistence farmers for 5000 years or more.  Although now I see we're going back to Olduvai Gorge.  I never knew that oil was the catalyst of evolution and now without it, we're going to go backwards and start devolving into proto-human forms with nothing but crude stone tools (although some stone tools were actually quite complex, I assume those also relied on oil, so we'll have to settle for nothing but the basic Olduvai chopper).  

Actually, to be honest, the doomers discredit their own arguments by making them so ridiculous.  It's possible, albeit in my opinion unlikely, that we could end up back in a pre-industrial society.  But there's worlds of difference between that and Ancient Egypt, let alone tribal subsistence farming, and Olduvai Gorge isn't even on the same map.  

Good luck bud - Fantasy Island and godz galore vs geology, BIOlogy (yeah, that's right Sap, youse is nothin' but a critter), History, chemistry, History, Biology, Physics, Biology...

"Who cares what you 'believe' little onez," purrz Mother Nature.

I was surprised to see Jack asking me how we should react to your post the other day and your lack of follow-up. Usually I'm asking Jack what we should do. Well Jack, I don't know. I just don't know.

Cherenkov, please respond. As I've said before to others, our positions are probably a lot closer than you may think, or want to believe. But by drawing away the only thing you do is make yourself more irrelevant.

Jack was only asking about ethanol. Jack likes to keep things Oil-based. I do to, but I find myself slipping often.  What? Jack wasn't worth a response to you? Forgive me if you've answered his questions in the meantime.

I'm going to try a policy that the Israelis tried through much of the 1990's. And again, in the last 5 years.I'm going to wage peace and wait-and-see if my opponents will match my efforts. Or if they are full of shit.

This is a good approach I think. It worked in the case of Israel. We now know that Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, and - of course - the Palestinians - are FULL OF SHIT.

With what has happened, no sane person can back the Arabs. Logic negates this possibility. Cherenkov, your logic always betrays you.

The Enemy is always FULL OF SHIT. That's why he's the Enemy.Excuse me while I join in the Two Minute Hate.
1984. I think we may be on slightly opposite sides of the fence on this one. But that's OK. I personally don't feel the reference is appropriate here. I dislike comparisons, usually made by Arabs and "certain" western intellectuals, of the Israelis to Fascism and Nazism. Not least among the reasons is the fact that the two could not be more different.

On the other hand. War is Peace, Two Minute Hate, and The Perpetual War between Oceania, and East Asia, and (Who was the other one?) are extremely important topics which need to discussed and understood - frequently. So I applaud your comment while I disagree with you.

In the end, 2 + 2 does not equal five. It can never equal anything but 4, and you will never convince me otherwise. That's the basis for where I am coming from. The bullshit - the propaganda is coming from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. If you want to view it through truth-covered glasses, try this. The Muslim side in this is Nazi Germany's air campaign during World War II. The Israelis are the British air campaign in response. Different psychologies in individuals and groups within and controlling these campaigns fluctuated over time and we will forever look back and analyze and re-analyze. My personal belief is that certain British committed crimes, including an extremely high percentage of the people at the very top, but the nation as a whole was right, the strategies and ideals that they pursued can only be viewed as correct from the overwhelming majority of angles. The Nazis were just wrong.



Instead of going to topics where we are certain to disagree, let me say a few words about George Orwell and 1984. You will recall that "the worst place in the world" the place where customized  pychologically tailored pain was inflicted on the wayward was called Room 101. Room 101 of Broadcasting House was also where Orwell spent the war years, recording propaganda broadcasts to Burma (he spoke Burmese). Before the war he'd already written extensively about propaganda and he hated it. He'd volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War, and when he got to Spain discovered that the war he knew from the English press was purely a fiction. Not distorted or slanted or partial. Non-existent. "I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as heroes of imaginary victories....emotions which can be turned on and off like a tap, are the result of radio and newspaper hypnosis......This prospect frightens me much more than bombs."
Then the Great Patriotic War came along and Orwell was offered a Good Job and Good Pay (he was still a pauper) and he did it. Worked as a propagandist.
You'll recall the protagonist of 1984 was Winston Smith. A winstonsmith is a person who makes Winstons. Orwell was most specially shamed by the supporting role he played in the creation of the cult around Winston Churchill. Part of his job in time of war. And that particular cult is still alive,  I've seen traces of the infection on TOD.
So Orwell, who more than anybody should have known better. got it wrong.
So I don't think those who disagree with me are wilfully evil MFs who deserve to die horrible deaths.
I am kind of leery of inflammatory rhetoric. I can't get used to how credulous average people are, or how credulous intelligent educated informed people are.  Or how often I discover I've been caught up myself.
I live in an international city. I go to a Palestinian liquor store, have a Syrian mechanic, a Sarajevan tailor. a Kurdish dry cleaner, I listened to Iraqi and Iranian musicians playing in a Roumanian band last night. I have a neighbor/exgirlfriend from Beirut. Maronite Christian (non-observant and also non-falangist) As of this morning she couldn't confirm that her family was alive. She can look at the pictures coming out and say which bombed buildings housed Christians. Two years ago the city was peaceful and prosperous enough she almost took a job offer almost went back. No one, no one, who knows anything thinks the problems of Lebanon are other than the result of Great Power machinations. The tail does not wag the dog. Blaming the difficulties of the rich strong and powerful on the poor and weak is backwards.
And I don't think my friends are full of shit.
This will not be a splendid little war. They never are.
Lebanon is something around 40% Christian and I'd not expect the Israelis to show them any more mercy than they showed the USS Liberty or any other arbitrary set of non-Jews. You have to study the history, read some Kevin McDonald, and read the memes Jewish kids grow up steeped in (here's a good one, read about Esther and the Jews being allowed one additional day to massecre women and children in walled cites to get started. See if your skin doesn't crawl.)

A poster here was wondering who will be the next scapegoat, and I hope to God it's not the Arabs, Pals, etc. - they're just trying to do what we're all trying to do, live our lives and get along. We suffer under usury, they suffer under bombs, it's the age old story of infection.

A lot to chew on here.
Don't bother with him, he's several annas short of a rupee.
no sane person can back Israel  either, the united states has invaded country's that did allot less.
so what? you're sane, I'm not. Or am I missing something? Where do we go from here?
Who is "Jack"?

Is he any relation to my old friend, Jack Shiterman?

I've known Jack Shiterman for years and years and years.

  I have it on good authority that Homer and Euripides were known to slip over to the eastern Med. and get their 'inspiration' by sipping oil right out of the sands, albeit with fairly crude straws..  to which they owe their considerable success..

  That was really to the BankFraud guy, to test whether he reads past the first paragraph or post.

  I'm not that worried about being seen as kooks.  Anybody reading more than a couple blogs these days knows that there is a given 'range' in the views available.  TOD at least has a decent amount of wheat with the chaff..(I can only hope I'm offering the former in as good an amount as the latter myself, feel free to let me know)

  I try not to get drawn into every 'crystal ball session' that portends either certain success or disaster for us all, save that I think 'Responsibility' is the ability to respond, and I don't think all the knucklehead statements should just lie there unchallenged, thus for visitors to see and judge the site by.  I have found reasonable views by yourself and others here, and knowing that there will be some reason showing up within is enough to get me back again, and to keep me trying to live up to a standard of expression that won't detract from the most mature and intelligent thinking that I expect to find from the others.  I can only hope that keeping my own writing respectful and honest will have a similar effect on those who have a choice in how they engage each other here.

  Of course, I hope the Blog-Gods don't condemn me for a ~little~ bit of snippiness or sarcasm.  But I'm trying..
(No, Matt. You're not a Blog-God, tho' I understand that they are keeping a watchful eye on your site.. but maybe that's just morbid curiousity, like the rest of us. peace..)

I disagee with your speculations about his possible reaction to visiting TOD, Roger.  What he will find when he comes here is a group of people who are passionate about the future of the human race, even those who post the most dispassionate analyses of our current petroleum situation.

I'd hope what he takes away from his visit is the realization, "Holy crap - here are a lot of very smart and fairly balanced people who have been following the analysis closely, and some of them have arrived at the most horrifying conclusions possible.  The others seem to be saying either, 'I hope the situation is soluble', or offering no opinions at all on the outcome.  What the hell is going on here?  It might be a good idea to look into this a bit more."

I for one will not restrain my concerns, lest that add support to the notion that finding our way out of this box will be easy.  Even theose of us who are not dieoff doomers know that solving this problem won't be easy.  We do newcomers no favours by soft-pedalling our concerns.

Unless we believe that exponential growth can go on forever or that the current world population combined with its current and projected uses of all resources, not just energy is sustainable, then of course there will be dieoff. We already have millions of people dying of starvation from the results of two many people on too little land.

But just because one projects even more radical dieoff at some point, does not necessarily mean that one is projecting doomsday. Isn't that what a doomer is?  The question is what will be done  while the dieoff is occuring, how long will it last, and what will we do afterward.  

The dieoff may have already begun. Further dieoff will occur elsewhere. Those who are currently on the edge, who don't have the resources for necessary energy, food, and water, will dieoff first either through famine or war or both, since they are often tied togerther.

Dieoff, collapse has happened in the past.  Those who have read Jared Diamond's or similar works, know this. The question is, what lessons do we learn from this?  

If we, as a society, as a world of peoples, don't take certain actions, things will get a lot worse, and I'm including global warming here.

I understand, however, the sense  of hopelessness. Those who have not devolved into total cyncicism and hopelessness will just give up, going into a kind of stupor or perhaps indulging in a kind of nihilistic, hedonistic roller coaster ride.

Others will trudge on against overwhelming odds, doing what they can, hoping for the best.  For now, I consider myself part of the latter group.  But there are days ......

The problem is everyone who anticipates a die-off makes the mistake of lumping every human population in every geographical region into one group.  It's a fact that population is beginning to decline in many first world countries and in fact is barely at a rate to maintain population in the U.S., but we keep growing due to immigration.  In a situation where there are not enough resources to go around the U.S. population would also quickly stabilize and possibly decline slightly, all without any massive die-off.  

The fact that the world population as a whole is increasing is actually quite irrelevant.  It doesn't mean we're all going to die-off, it just means that some places where enough food is not able to be grown will suffer die-offs.  Now, that may not be a good thing, but it's a far cry from all of us worldwide suffering a die-off.  

By and large the people who bring up this die-off crap are people who just want to assume the end of the world is coming for whatever reason.  Maybe they are unhappy with their job, or their wife left them, or their dog got hit by a car.  It doesn't really matter.  What matters is they just assume the absolute worst scenario and use faulty logic to reinforce that conclusion (like the above mentioned lumping all of human population into a homogenous group, as well as doing things like conflating societal complexity entirely with the usage of cheap energy, ignoring all historical evicence to the contrary).  Then, to add insult to injury they claim that others who don't believe their far fetched scenario are refusing to accept what is "proven" by "physics".  

""everyone who anticipates a die-off makes the mistake of lumping every human population in every geographical region into one group.""

Go with the "Die Back" idea posted earlier and do not rule anything out simply because it seems implausible to you based on your limited life experience and limited understanding of the concept of "Die off."

Don't think in terms of all-or-none absolutes.  

Civilization ebbs and flows over time and place.  The effects of Peak Oil and declining energy will vary and some regions of the world will suffer much more than others.  Basically, Third World conditions will expand now, and First World conditions will contract... sort of the opposite as the last century or two.

"The problem is everyone who anticipates a die-off makes the mistake of lumping every human population in every geographical region into one group.  It's a fact that population is beginning to decline in many first world countries and in fact is barely at a rate to maintain population in the U.S., but we keep growing due to immigration."

Not everyone is so US-centric, and might care if 4 billion out of 6 billion die even if none are US citizens.  In any case the US has outsourced much of its manufacturing and is running up an unsustainable debt.  Combine that with Peak Oil and soon the US will no longer be near the same wealth category as Sweden.  Without a large purchasing-power advantage over populous developing countries like China and India, and with much of its formerly productive agricultural land turning to desert, the US might just have serious problems with food supply itself.

The demographic shift happens because parents feel financially secure enough not to rely on having children to support them.  With enough insecurity it will reverse, even in the US.

But please ignore me - I'm a pessimist and therefore not worth listening to (my dog must have been hit by a car).  Don't worry, be happy.  Max out your credit card and consume.


In any case the US has outsourced much of its manufacturing and is running up an unsustainable debt.

That's one of those other ranting areas where, like for Peak Oil, I get the glazed-over-eyes look from average listeners.

They simply cannot comprehend the idea that the USA has become a hollowed-out management shell with the core of its manufacturing infrastructure already shipped out to over seas.

Well, let's take the example we have on this very string.  You did a worthy job of informing your bank fruad examiner, new found acquintance from the airplane must have given him a reasonable explanation that somehow made sense to him, and reflected an acceptable version of reality (VERY important that, so that he doesn't begin to look at your head for the tinfoil hat, or wait for you to say that you can channel the spirit of M. King Hubbert by way of L. Ron Hubbert which is how you know this stuff....we often forget how much wierdness people actually tell each other out on the road...;-)

One advantage I do have in discussing this is that when people find out my occupation, they often start asking about gasoline prices. That provides a very easy opening. You start out by explaining the supply/demand imbalance, which is why oil prices react so strongly to any hint of negative news. Then, you explain that this is a preview of things to come, because many experts believe we are on the verge of a worldwide production peak. You explain how the U.S. peaked in the early 70's. You explain how dependent the food chain is on cheap oil. At this point, they really start to grasp the gravity of the situation, and you haven't scared them off.

But he really got me with his questions "How should I prepare? What should I do?" He asked this a couple of times, and I told him that was a tough one. I told him that I hunt and fish, but in hard times the game and fish will be depleted pretty quickly. I told him that I have been thinking about buying a farm, but a farm could quickly be overrun by hungry people. I said the most important thing we can do is communicate the seriousness of the problem until we get a critical mass of people that the politicians will respond to.



I've been reading this site for a while, but never felt the need to post here. You guys all seem a little out of my league, so I've been content to just sit back and learn. You've provided me with a lot of interesting information and perspective, and I'm grateful. Knowing that others are similarly conflicted about what to do with this information is oddly comforting; knowing that you share the problem of how to communicate these ideas to friends, family and neighbors signifies for me that its difficulty is not just my own.

What's finally pushed me to sign on here is Robert Rapier's lament, something I experience daily because I live in Los Angeles, and it's a city almost entirely given over to the automobile. As James Kunstler has often pointed out, the scale of the problem here is so grossly overwhelming that every day feels like another step towards the apocalypse. We're clearly doomed and we seem to be clueless.

And yet, that's not entirely the case. I've managed to hook up here with others who recognize the problem; as another poster said, the mayor seems to get it as well, although Peak Oil is not on everyone's lips in this city. We are, after all, the folks who just bulldozed a fourteen acre community garden to pave it over and put up another warehouse.

I thought you might find it interesting, though, to peruse a Peak Oil discussion I managed to keep alive for a couple of weeks on, of all things, a message board devoted to animation. You can find it here:;f=8;t=001692;p=1

It's interesting I think because these really are just your average joes, like myself, workers in one of the least essential trades on the planet who are kicking the idea around, trying to get a handle of some sort on it.

Some reject it outright; some get right on board. Some folks just want to discuss their gas mileage, or their latest car purchase. I probably didn't help matters much by getting some of my facts wrong, but I'd like to imagine that for every reader who decided to contribute a post or two to the discussion, there were some unknown number of lurkers who may have clicked a link or two that took them to sites like this one. And maybe some of those lurkers got a glimpse of something they never expected to encounter on an entertainment industry message board; and maybe, just maybe, it altered their point of view.

You do what you can, when and where you can do it is, I guess, the message. Even in Los Angeles.

What's finally pushed me to sign on here is Robert Rapier's lament, something I experience daily because I live in Los Angeles, and it's a city almost entirely given over to the automobile. As James Kunstler has often pointed out, the scale of the problem here is so grossly overwhelming that every day feels like another step towards the apocalypse. We're clearly doomed and we seem to be clueless.

Well, let me say "Welcome to TOD." I hope everyone realizes that it is not my intent to stereotype an entire city. The problem I see is that if a small minority sees the problem and is preparing, then your preparations won't amount to much when the rest of L.A. starts to panic. People will pick all of the produce out of your garden, they will steal your bicycle, and they will steal what fuel you might have.

That's why I have a feeling of helplessness. I feel like we are collectively driving into a hurricane, and while I am doing my best to educate myself and be prepared, the more important thing is that everyone else is prepared, and understands the magnitude of the problem we face. That's our best hope in avoiding something like a post-Katrina  fiasco.



The problem I see is that if a small minority sees the problem and is preparing, then your preparations won't amount to much when the rest of L.A. starts to panic. People will pick all of the produce out of your garden, they will steal your bicycle, and they will steal what fuel you might have. That's why I have a feeling of helplessness.
Exactly my dilemma.
This last paragraph is mint. "Quickly overrun by hungry people." Robert is at least thinking about the possibilities. I need absolutely no excuse. I was the first person to notice him here and have been a dedicated fan ever since.

Glad to see Dan Ur is back. Since our readership has gotten so large, many don't realize he was one of the original tribe - back in the glory days of, like last year.

Let's see who's reading. Who was it that was posting the Frank Zappa/Shake Your Booty stuff last week? I got the song - finally - It's the Slime From Your TV Set. I knew I had heard it. Took me a while to find it. That is a great album. One of the best. Going to put it on again right now. That's the one with Yellow Snow and Dynamoe Humm on it. Thanks again. Told me I should be smoking more dope, listening to more music, reading more, and trusting everybody less. Yes. That includes Daniel Yergin. How you could ever trust Lynch is still a mystery to me. I'll let Westexas explain that to me. I wouldn't trust the rest of you.:)

Gee, it's almost like telekinesis. I sit in NZ, post a picture of the late great Frank Zappa in drag, and you pull out the album on (I presume) on the other side of the world. See, TOD does affect behaviour.

And yes, your oil prediction was very good (not modest, but good), but I think Dave may have been 2 or 3 dollars closer.

I was the first person to notice him here...

This is true. I still remember your early comments, and I was inspired by what you wrote. I was taking the unpopular position that "We are not yet at peak", so it was good to hear some encouragement at that time.




Your stuff is excellent. I read it. You are wrong about things. And you are right about things. And other things you don't know shit about. And I like that. Because I'm like that. I suppose I only understand people who are like you.

Recommendation 1 - Get your own blog. More on this later. But  it's really easy to do. I would totally help you out but I've got other projects going on right now and the economy is dust so I can't count on anything. And if you hadn't noticed - we appear to be at peak. I've encoded subtleties is Recommendation 1. I don't want to alarm the general public.

Recommendation 2 - And Rec.2 is serious. There is a book you need to read. Apparently very few people who read it feel the need to comment on it afterwards. I'm not sure why this is. But I have guesses. At least few feel the need to comment on it publicly. I've yet to see a negative comment about this book. That is strange. Given the nature of the topic. Very Strange. If you feel you are an intellectual you will read this book.

It comes in two volumes. I have not read Volume I, though I've skimmed through it.

Endgame Vol.II: Resistance. by Derrick Jensen.

Philosophy? History? Revolution?

Oil CEO,

Thank you for the reply, and may I have your permission to take your sentence as my motto,
"You are wrong about things. And you are right about things. And other things you don't know shit about."

I LIKE THAT! :-)  It gives me the freedom I need to operate!

I have read your stuff here of course, and always found it interesting and and Westexas being among the more informed folks about the oil industry here in my view.

Now, on the blog, I do not have one.  I have looked into it, but I am not a real techie yet on internet communication, and my work obligations have limited my time.  What I do have is a small Yahoo group, called Energy Supply Alternatives.

It has 7 members listed, but only about 4 are active at all right now, and most of the posts are mine.  It is by invitation only (that to keep down the screamers and name callers) and was born from my participation on the Yahoo boards, when some "like minded folks" wanted a forum to communicate longer posts and without the flaming that goes on on the boards.  If you are interested in looking at it the link able will get you the cover page, and if a person wants to join, they have to email me at so I can put in the email they sent from as their invite, and reply with an invitation.  The mission statement for the group as follows:

Opening up positive possibilities for the American people to remain prosperous and free, both individually and as a nation, with an adequate supply of energy to remain so into the foreseeable future while retaining American control over our own national destiny, exchanging ideas with the other nations of the world, and respecting the dignity of all nations, whether energy consumers or energy producers.

Now as you can see, this is not a decidedly "Peak oil" mission statement, and the group is not a de facto Peak oil group, although most of the members have Peak leanings and are very Peak oil aware.   My reservations are as such:

I still have not proven "Peak OIl" as an immediate event to my satisfaction, but am convinced that The Hirsch Report is exactly correct in that even if it is as far out in front as 10 to 20 years, the lead time needed means we should be making major structural adjustments NOW.

I cannot get a clear definition of "Peak Oil".  It is very murky, and moves between peak light sweet crude oil, peak crude oil, peak heavier oils,  peak including GTL (Gas to Liquids) and NGL (Natural Gas Liquids/Condensates), and in some cases even includes "Peak all liquids", which could include even unconventionals and bio fuels such as bio Diesel, ethanol, and CTL (Coal to Liquid)
I am not sure that "Peak Oil" is any longer a technically or economically useful term.

And as you have probably read from my posts, I have come to see that the "Peak oil" community has become over the last several years more and more hostile to the idea of technological improvements and alternative technical means to maintain a lifestyle relatively comparable to the one we have in the U.S. while reducing oil and petroleum consumption to a level that would be sustainable given the amount of oil, gas, and energy still available.  In other words, it is moving rapidly to a social, intellectual, and almost religious/aesthetic position of rabid anti-technology (somewhat akin to Alvin Toffler's reference, "Yearning For A New Dark Age", whether one is technically avoidable or not.  Thus, I do NOT see myself as a true peaker in that philosophical sense.

On the book you recommend, I will immediately check out Amazon, and see what I can do to get a copy of it.

I frankly do not have a lot of "peak" or "powerdown" books.  This is partially due to being too cheap to spend the money unless I know it has relatively original material  (there are many "rehash" books, that repeat the original work of the pioneers out there), and I get much of my information from the web nowadays.

I have for many years recommended people to the book that discussed ALL we discuss on TOD, my own Yahoo group, and a thousand other sites, and discussed so much more, and was special in that it did so in 1980.
Alvin Toffler's "The Third Wave", talked about powerdown, relocalization, alternative energy, decentralization, the end of mass production, the "prosumer", that is the person who produced for his/her own consumption, value added agriculture decentralized and localized.....and radical social solutions in an age of radical adjustment of raw materials and speciality technology usage, and much, much more.
When in 1980 Toffler called it the most shocking and radical readjustment the systems of modern "wealth production" would ever make and perhaps had ever made, most people thought he was engaging in hyperbole, and though millions of the book were sold, few were actually read, and fewer taken seriously....and then it was forgotten.
To read it now is like going to an oracle, it is staggering it's implications and understanding.  But, IT IS NOT a doomsayer book!  It is radical, it speaks of radical and fundemental, and yes, dangerous change.  But, it does give the human race the credit it deserves for being able to master great challenges.
But nothing is guaranteed.  However, defeat is guaranteed if we do not even make the attempts at change.  And that, of course, was my whole point!

Again, thanks for the use of the motto

Roger Conner  known to you as ThatsItImout

    Thanks for reminding me of Tofflers book. I had read some of his other work, Future Shock and War-Antiwar, but finally found the Third Wave book at a second hand store some years back. I read up to Chp.21 the Mental Maelstrom and stopped for some reason long forgotten. His intuitive grasp of things to, come from a 1980 perspective is sobering. Reading the contents of the remaining chapters I am inspired to finish the book now. As I reflect back on what I am doing I think he has influenced my outlook. I have been in the process for quite some time in changing my energy foot print of how I live and work and am now acquiring some additional equipment to help further control "my means of production" on a more local and sustainable basis as possible "at this point". There is always room for knowledge growth and adaptation, if I can help myself then I will be able to show others and help them as well.
 I live in a house my great-grandmother built, my grandfather grew up in and I raised my children in and which I have remodeled to a Super Insulated design and low energy consumption, built to last another hundred years at least. I cannot change the world I was born into or the energy I consumed to this point in time but I can change how I walk into the future from this point forward. As discussed on TOD and elsewhere there is no perfect existence that we can step into from where we are now. And even trying to make any large change is difficult to do even if one has the will and knowledge to do so. But do so I must and I will.
You have my permission, but I retain full ownership of words.
My nomination for post of the day. Nice work.
Toffler's new book "Revolutionary Wealth" describes a very positive future resulting from the info-tech, bio-tech, and nano-tech "knowledge" economy that is currently developing.
Language is powerful. Rhetoric is more powerful than logic, it connects us to passion. There is nothing surprising in doomer rhetoric, you'll hear that sort of rhetoric in any passionate debate. It comes with the territory.
I spent the day today at a rural alternative enerrgy and environmental fair near Ottawa.  There were the usual wind and solar power sales booths, and the expected complement of enviro-nerds (including yours truly).  The talk I stayed to hear at the end of the day exceeded my wildest expectations, especially for a one-hour primer on "What are the problems and what can you do to prepare?"  It was delivered by Bill Kemp, a local off-grid guru who runs a business installing agricultural biodigesters, micro-hydro installations, wind and solar - the whole gamut of small scale alternatives.  He has also consulted with governments and trade associations on "what we ought to be doing."

The talk opened up with nice pictures of Canadian nature, segued gradually into shots of increasing pollution and traffic jams.  Just as I was expecting a nice gentle "Drive less to save the bunnies and butterflies" talk, he completely blew me away. The next slide was headed "Peak Oil", and he proceeded with a discussion of Hubbert's research and predictions, accompanied by a graph of the US peak, including the North Slope addition.  He followed that up with depletion curves of Prudhoe, Oseborg, Forties, and Samotlor to prove the US peak wasn't a fluke.

Simmons got a solid mention, with his prediction of $300+ oil in the near future. Then he mentioned "a prediction that oil would have dropped to $38 by now, when it had already reached twice that".   At which point I said "Aha, I know what he's been reading!"

He left us in absolutely no doubt that we were facing imminent massive increases in fuel prices, and that it was urgent that we all start to do things to protect ourselves.  The rest of the talk was an explication of the ROI of energy efficiency and renewable energy in our daily lives and the ways we could achieve it.  I learned that my province has implemented "Standard Offer Contracts" that make it immensely attractive for citizens to capitalize their own renewable electricity sources, connect them straight onto the grid and sell the power at a profit to the utility - all in an effort to broaden the renewable component of the bsase load.

After the talk I complimented him on the quality of the presentation, and asked if he read TOD.  He said "Of coourse."  I said that I figured it out when he mentioned Double Yergin Day, to which he smiled and said "Yep!"  So Bill, If you read this, thanks again for a very nice intro to the problem, and for such an enthusiastic demonstration of the ground-level options.

What was extremely encouraging was that most in the audience of 50 or seemed to get the point.  Granted, they were primed for the meesage, but it was a good demonstration of the value of communications outreach efforts.

"On the descent into L.A., I noticed two things. The first was the infamous L.A. traffic. I have lived in Houston before, and I have heard people say that Houston traffic is as bad or worse. Based on what I saw, it's not. The other thing I noticed was that the air was brown. It would be several days before I figured out this was the reason my eyes were burning and itching during my entire trip."

One of the things I've noticed when flying -- as I recall it was from Texas to Detroit about 2 or 3 years ago -- the stratosphere is really pretty brown with pollution. Presumably it is NO2, the same gas that makes LA's air brown. Looking out the plane window toward the limb of the earth, the air has a definite brown tint to it.

Presumably the high altitude air will clear when there are no longer 4,000 jets in the air on an average day.

Is it just 4,000 planes on the average in the air in a day?

Last week here in Germany was a new record of 10,000 planes in the air, but for the whole day (and it was the day after the worldcup was finished).

I presume, there are much more planes in the air in the USA...

It was a statistic I saw on the news in the wake of Sept 11, 2001. I meant to say 4,000 planes simultaneously in the air. That was the number that were ordered to land. It was an amazingly quiet 3 or 4 days ...
"Presumably the high altitude air will clear when there are no longer 4,000 jets in the air on an average day. "

  That could be a mixed blessing...

Global dimming

Global dimming is the gradual reduction in the amount of global hemispherical irradiance (or total solar irradiance) at the Earth's surface, observed since the beginning of systematic measurements in 1950s. The effect varies by location, but worldwide it is of the order of a 5% reduction over the three decades from 1960-1990. This trend has reversed during the past decade. Global dimming creates a cooling effect that may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming.

Yeah that occurred to me as well. Is it too late to plant some trees or something?
It's never too late to plant trees. Think about multiple use; fruit, nuts, etc.
Every year I plant at least twelve trees.

I plan to do better in the future.

The older I get, the more trees I should plant.

Johnny Appleseed is my Hero.

One thing I'm tempted to do as an experiment is stand by a highly trafficked gas station and hold signs like THESE PRICES ARE HERE FOR GOOD and DONT TAP YOUR SAVINGS HERE not to mention DON'T RUN UP THE CREDIT CARD HERE.

Nothing political. Just signs like that. Then see what happens.

I'm sure an enthusiastic gang of University students would help you pull off such a well-meaning stunt.
Yeah, getting hassled by the cops is just part of the experience. One of the major rules there is, if you're out of your car, you're up to no good. Whatever you do, don't just stand on the sidewalk and talk with a friend - you belong in a Starbuck's with $5 latte's in front of you, or at least driving around in a car. Friend of mine and I got hassled for that faux pas. And the SF writer Ray Bradbury got arrested for walking in L.A.!  

Bobby Fischer also got thrown in jail for walking rather than driving, but I think his weirdness was a contributing factor too. Still in anyplace normal, Bobby Fischer would be free to walk around and mumble to his heart's content - what's he going to do to anyone, beat 'em at chess?

I was curious about the getting hassled part, too.
Here is what happened. I was driving down Hollywood Blvd. I started seeing cops in riot gear directing traffic. Pretty soon, traffic completely stopped, because there was an anti-immigration protest marching down Hollywood. I stopped the car, and sat there as the protesters walked by in the other lane, flanked by cops in riot gear. I took some pictures of that, by the way.

Finally, traffic started moving again. I was going down Hollywood, and I came up on a yellow light. I could have made it through, but I noticed that I was at Hollywood and Vine. So, I stopped to study this famous intersection. Turns out, I didn't see anything special about it, and couldn't figure out why Kid Rock would "spend all my time at Hollywood and Vine."

The light turned green, and just as it did, an old man staggered out into the street. An LAPD officer held up his hand to stop traffic and escorted the man across. They were moving from my left to the right. As soon as they cleared the lane to my left, traffic started moving. So, I thought I could probably go when they cleared me. I barely moved my car when they cleared me, but the cop was glaring at me. I shrugged at him and mouthed "Can I go?" but he pointed his finger at me and said "Stop". He got the man across, came over to my window, and said "Sir, what exactly is your problem?" I replied "I don't have a problem, I was trying to ask if it was OK for me to go." He gave me a deadly stare and said "You need to learn how to follow directions." All this time the traffic in the lane right next to me was moving. I just shook my head and took off before he had time to think about arresting me.

Anyway, that's what happened. As my boss commented when I got back, "Trouble just follows you around, doesn't it?" :)



On the other hand, last weekend me and my girlfriend took a trip from Boston to Portland ME.  We walked to the nearby subway station (known as the T in Boston).  Took that to North Sation, boarded an Amtrak train to Portland.  It was $22 one way which almost competes with the cost of gasoline.  There were no hassels at all like at an airport where you are practically stripped searched and then sit in your coffin for hours as it waits in line for clearance.  I was able to look out the window at the passing scenery of New Hampshire and Maine and marvel at how wonderful travelling is when there is no traffic and there are things to look at besides brake lights.  A shuttle took us from the Portland train station to downtown.  Portland has a wonderful walkable downtown (although a bit run down in areas) and we spent the weekend walking around, eating at some fine seafood restaurants and enjoying the nightlife.  We stayed at an old 1920s hotel downtown. Then we just boarded the train again and headed back for another hassle-free trip to Boston.  Car free all weekend.
"What should I do to prepare?"

Some concepts.

Send a letter/eMail to ALL your elected represebtatives to build no more highways but build more mass transit ASAP.  For senators & representatives, complain about de facto cutting of federal matching from 80% to 50%.  Point out that the interstate highways got 90% matching.

Plant a garden.  Get that experience.

Buy a durable, fuel efficient car.  Buy and start using a bicycle that "fits you".  Walk more.

Save money.  Even if this starts off a recession (better now than later).

Make contingency plans reafrding job and where to live.  If they move, move MUCH closer to work, shopping and into a walkable neighborhood.


Actually, as someone who has been doing this kind of stuff for a very long time, I'd argue that the first and most important preparation is mental.  Look at the posts at TOD, they range from; we'll all transition to a more energy efficient society (but essentially like today) to people like me who anticipate societal collapse.

The advantage of believing a societal collpase is likely is that you get over it and get on with taking serious action/preparations.  There is no necesssity to continually scan the horizon for signs of change.  I find HL's, etc. interesting but I'm not interested in them from a "tea leaves" perspective. I can't speak for all doomers but my life will have a continuity that will be lacking in others no matter what happens.

Doomerism also makes it easier to make choices.  Flat panel TV or a new tiller or another freezer. Work in the garden or screw off waxing the car.

Now, if nothing happens and peak energy turns out like Y2K, will I be depressed?  Of course not!  I've played with AE for 30 years.  I love this kind of stuff. The fact that my retirement hot rod money payed for our PV system is of no concern to me.

So, it comes down to the old saw, "Plan for the worst and hope for the best."


Amen!! Personally, what works best for me is to assume a 50% chance of worst case scenario, plan for it and also to assume a 50% chance of "business as usual" scenario and plan for that one two.

By planning for both extremes I avoid all worry about "WHAT WILL HAPPEN?"

We cannot know what will happen.

Live with uncertainty.


Make love, not war.

and where are people going to get the money to buy most of that stuff?
not that it's a bad idea it's just that not everyone has the cash needed to prepare other then in their attitude.
I live on Social Security and Teachers' retirement association pension. I donate 20% to 35% of my gross income to The Nature Conservancy. Pray tell, what do you squander your income on?
Sailor, pensions died out 30 years ago. Anyone younger than 40 will never see one. Likewise social security. Most ppl younger than 50 are working like hell just to stay in one place, just to keep any kind of a roof over their head and get some kind of transport to work.

The working/economic climate is like nothing the older ppl have ever experienced. Work hours are long and the money earned is both very little and buys very little. Lunch hours are 1/2 hour, work is rigidly timed by the clock down to the minute, and the atmospheres most work in now are much more oppressive than anything you'd remember.

Buying power for the working class (that's almost all of us) has been going down steadily since 1975. Yes I know, there are people with dumb things like power boats and jet skis etc., but it's really very very few people - most of these are toys owned by the older generation. Their kids may get to play with them sometimes. On the job training died about the same time the idea of a pension did - if you're hired to sweep the floor, you'll be sweeping the floor 20 years from now. It's just a very very different climate.

Go back a bit further, back to the great depression. Then, there   was no work.

As you say, not everyone can afford "these" things.  But, in any event, there are a helluva lot of people who can not only afford "these things" but $600.000 houses, and a lot of other shit. With housing the way it is in many parts of the country, what is driving all this when so many people are barely making it.  

When I retired, my income was reduced by about 60%.  Now, I find it amazing that I could have spent all that money I was making while I was working. I living at a much lower level, and even saving money.  I try to spend my money on things that have what I call a "real" return, like a greenhouse, garden supplies, or a rain barrel.  

I can't speak for you, of course, but there are a helluva lot of people out there who are spending full tilt on a shit load of consumer goods like the world has never seen.  The river of waste and lack of concern for the future knows no bounds. Maybe one day they will wake up and realize how much of their precious income they squandered on things that have little or not lasting value.  

I am a highschool dropout. Ran away from home in my senior year in highschool. Dumbest thing I ever did.
So I worked at a bottom end job days and went back to school nights to get my highschool diploma. Wasn't always fun (but I have always loved learning).
I have attended night school classes in everything from welding to CNC and drafting to solar greenhouse management and photography to airconditioning repair.
I have attended at least three different junior colleges, 2 formal universities and a language school (in southern Germany). But never managed to focus enough to get a college "degree".
I paid for all of my schooling myself, out of a next to minimum wage.
I finally started and ran my own business from scratch ran it for 20 years before retiring. While running the business I also managed my parents farm and took care of my elderly parents.
People who want to get ahead get their butts into some type of educational training on their own.
Employers don't owe employees a free education.
Oh, and my father came from a poor family and worked his way through highschool and then worked his way through the University of Minnesota during the depression of the 1930's.
I am afraid I don't have much sympathy for people that expect someone else to "give" them an education.
As a small businessman I got to develop good relations with employees at a lot of different vendors and customers and I did not find the oppresive conditions at any these places. But maybe Minnesota is just a better place to live and work (But please don't pass that around as we are full up here <BG>)
Sorry where ever you are is such a pits place to work.
RR's Excellent Aventure in Southern California reminded me of my last visit to that area during the early 1990s.

I had to make a business trip to the San Bernardino area, and after looking at a map I concluded that it would be easier for me to fly into LAX and drive the 70-odd miles to San Bernardino rather than put up with the hassle of making a connecting flight from some other airport to San Bernardino.

Man, was that a big mistake!  I got off the plane at about 2:30 PM and didn't check into my hotel until almost 6:00 PM.  Well over three hours to drive about 70 miles.

Being originally from the northern New Jersey area, I'm no stranger to heavy traffic,  but I've never seen anything like this.  Ånd the thing that really baffled me was the way everybody seemed to accept rotting in traffic as a normal part of everyday life.  One guy in the next car was casually reading a magazine as we slowly crawled forward.  Another woman was giving her hair and makeup a serious makeover.  Someone else was playing some sort of game with her toddler in the car seat.  Here I am with steam coming out of my ears and my blood pressure into stroke range,  while everybody else is just totally resigned and chilling out, as all five lanes of traffic slowly ooze forward. Insanity!

I wonder what the real collective gas mileage is for commuters in the LA area. It can't be very good, because a large part of time they are literally getting zero miles per gallon.

"I wonder what the real collective gas mileage is for commuters in the LA area. It can't be very good, because a large part of time they are literally getting zero miles per gallon."

Most assuredly abysmal.  Something I wrote a six days ago...

Substrate on Sunday July 09, 2006 at 9:53 AM EST Comments top
The other day, while waiting for a friend to show up to go hiking, I noticed several vehicles (SUV's of course) sitting around idling with people inside apparently waiting for something.  This led me to wondering how much fuel is wasted while idling.  In a quick search I found figures from 2.3 to 5.7 billion gallons (and many hours) wasted idling.  (I also found that 18 wheelers spent about 1 billions gallons idling while the driver was sleeping/resting/etc because they run the engine to keep the HVAC and electricity running).  I then quickly looked for a speed/fuel mileage graph ( to see how that looked, and it seems that up to about 25mph the engine is crap for efficiency.

Now on to the point:  Consider if the auto fleet were converted over PHEV or EVs which would 1: Not Idle, and 2: Remain in electric mode at least up to great a leap in efficiency that might represent., as well as how much liquid fuel that would displace.

As for 18 wheelers, they could be fitted with generators to run the amenities while significantly reducing the fuel usage (and this could probably be mandated).

Diesel engines in trucks (and cars) use a very minimal amount of fuel while idling. Any small generator with a small engine is probably going to use quite a bit more fuel than the idling diesel engine.
Up here in Minnesota with the humidity and mosquitoes in the summer and the cold in the winter it would be very difficult for truckers to do with out the air-conditioning/heater while they are stopped and resting or sleeping.
And I really don't want them hauling down the road when they are overly tired. Especially when I am driving my VW Beetle <BG>.
The plan is to give them electric hookups at truck stops.
That would help, but most of the idling trucks I see are in "rest stops". At the trucks stops, most of the drivers shut off the engines and sack out in a bed at the truck stop.
I have had to stop at a few "rest stops" while driving in a car or pickup and damn near froze my butt off because I didn't want to let the gasoline engine run at idle for an extended time (older carburated engines really don't like that).
Maybe you have something in electrical hookups that could somehow be added to the interstate "rest stops" for both trucks and cars to save fuel and increase drive alertness (ie safety). Any good ideas on how one could convert that electrical energy to heat/cooling in an average existing car or truck ? Coin operated would probably work very nicely.
Or, would the "Berserkers" destroy them faster than the government could install/repair them?
I grew up in towns just south of outside Boston and have lived in the area all my life. Stuck in traffic one day a few years ago, two things struck me, sort of realizations out of the blue. They were:

  • How much traffic has increased over the past 30 years. The road population seems to have doubled during that time.

  • How much faster people drive, both on the highways and local roads.

People often don't notice or realize such changes because year by year the changes are small. But now vs then video snapshots I think would show a surprising degree of change for the worse in traffic congestion, not just in New England but in most parts of the country.

Anyway, at the time it made me think that these are trends not sustainable, and some massive change or event is going to have to "happen" to reverse those trends. Then last summer I "discovered" peak oil, and it became clear that this event, or a related economic catastrophe, is probably going to be the "something".

Speaking of realizations, another one I had fairly recently, after sampling some delicious fruit while spending time in South America, is how much the quality of supermarket produce (fruits and vegetables) has decreased since I was a kid. Some tasty slices of watermelon sold by a street vendor in Trujillo, Peru brought back some old memories of childhood watermelon eating parties. Food issues - not only the availability, but the continually declining average quality of fossil-fuel-input food grown on depleted soils - are a worthy and PO related topic; when this inevitably comes up again in another thread I will put in my few cents.

You have just described collective insanity.  "There is no way outta here."  Bob Dylan  Does it occur to these people that perhaps they are not experiencing a rational transportation system.
Recently, I read a story (I think from UTNE magazine) about a bicycle culture in L.A., about mostly immigrant men riding around L.A. in search of mostly day jobs.  They ride bikes because there are no other options, because they cannot afford cars.  It is dangerous and its hard work. In essence, these men give us a glimpse of what happens when people cannot afford gas, even in L.A.  

There's nothing you can do.  People in L.A., as in other places, will change their behavior when the amount of available oil really starts to take a dive. L.A., in general, will not initially be a good place to live with gas prices at $10 per gallon and above. But there will be places, as you point out, that will do o.k., even in L.A. because people in these enclaves are already doing much of their daily routine by walking. For the rest, it will be ugly, painful, but not all bad. Walking and bicyling are good for you.  And when the amount of auto traffic subsides, these activities will be even better for you and more viable.

Many people will not have alternatives. These include people who live way too far from work and literally cannot afford to move closer.  But many others will find that they do, indeed, have alternatives. They will find that there are more important things than having a big house in the suburbs and the exurbs.  

L.A. has the availability to increase its close in housing supply.   Think of all the land taken up by all those highways, streets, and parking lots.  Reducing auto use will have its own positive feedback mechanism.

I lived in L.A. close to the airport for about a year, and I'll say one thing, I did more walking in that city than anywhere else. It was fun. Over many many trips and many calculations, I found that traveling by car averaged out to 15 miles per hour - a speed easy to maintain by bike, except like in all cities bikes are much faster and more convenient than any car, "races" held between cars and bikes in any given city are always won by a huge margin by the person on the bike.
I enjoyed your post.

I'm a first time poster and have a strong desire to learn much much more about Peak Oil.  My interest has grown the most over the last year and find myself searching the internet weekly about the topic.  That's when I found this site and have yet to post a comment or thought due to the fact that I might not really belong here because I don't really have the background to keep up with the posts I have read on here.  I'm a  young student at the Craig School of Business at California State University, Fresno. After my graduation in Spring of 2007 I high hopes to go into the Ethanol industry.  Any thoughts or insprirational comments to lead me in right direction to my success?


Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Move to the midwest.

Regarding your comment "move to the midwest".

Most of all my family is from or live in the midwest, Missouri.   I like the midwest and I do have plans someday live in Missouri.


Hi Frank,

Let me welcome you to TOD. I was about to echo what tstreet said: "Move to the Midwest if you want to go into the ethanol industry.". Long-term, I don't think it is viable in California. The economics are terrible. With the current mandates and subsidies in place, an ethanol industry may scrape by in California for a few years. But it is going to be expensive to produce. There is a chance that cellulosic ethanol may be able to stick in California, provided you have a cheap source of waste biomass. It is still too early to tell if the cellulosic hype will be justified.

I have often thought of what I might do if I had to do it all over again. Areas that interest me are solar, wind, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, and energy storage devices. Any of those might be ripe for someone with big ideas.

Cheers, and good luck.



Thank you for your comment and I hope to hear from your again.


And he "got it", just like people almost always do when you talk to them one-on-one.

Most people 'get it'.   But like the red button story of Fitts, or the way the US foreign policy is (better we burn it then them) take individual action means you are going to be loosing out/not enjoying the party.

After all, my preparations won't amount to much if the country falls apart and descends into chaos.

Which is why it is worthwhile to try the education efort.  Education is better than the 'by force' option.   The old AlphaDoomer here has a bit about

I started wondering about the prospects for a large-scale algal biodiesel operation there.

As you seem to like doing the research....most of the quoted   data has a mono culture and a high CO2 environment.   Neither is a option in a low-cost-container type environment.   Not to mention the possibility of the algae getting out into the world and out-eating the wild algae.

I wondered how much electricity we could produce from covering those barren areas with solar panels.

Its not barren....there IS an ecology there.   I'm not sure what the heat-capture effects of black panels would be in a vast enough

I couldn't figure out why they would be using methanol.

High preformace engines.   In your alcohol research, you should have noted that there is different perfromance data for alcohol-fueled engines.  Comments on the net point to SAAB being a leader.

frustrated that so many people are not getting the message.

The message is that of pain.  Of change.  That's a lot of short term pain.   You are trying to arrive on the other side alive and not in some 14th century level of existance.   Most people just assume they will make it to 90 and be in the same or better comfort than they are now.

What can we do? How can we affect the behavior of the masses? And what are the consequences if we don't?

'we'?   Talk to the elected leadership.  Post things in the public spaces on the internet so others might find our breadcrumbs.  The consequences look to be at

Not to mention the possibility of the algae getting out into the world and out-eating the wild algae.

From what I have read, the exact opposite is what happens. The wild algae, having evolved to the specific niche, tends to outcompete the high-oil monoculture.

High preformace engines.   In your alcohol research, you should have noted that there is different perfromance data for alcohol-fueled engines.  Comments on the net point to SAAB being a leader.

No, I am aware that methanol has been used in race cars. I just couldn't figure out why there would be a methanol pump at a gas station.



tends to outcompete the high-oil monoculture.

What I worry about is if 'selected natural algae' works out, the resulting DNA modified version(s) will run amock in the wild.

Prices will change behavior.  Nothing else will work dramatically.

To say that LA is going to have a worse time with peak oil than other big cities... well, I don't know, it's not so simple.  Sure there are a lot of cars, a lot of very big cars, and a lot of people that are oblivous to rising oil prices.  But that is a function of prices now still being cheap.

On the other hand:

Would you rather have to walk to buy groceries in the middle of winter in LA or in Syracuse, NY?  

Would you rather ride a bicycle or motorcycle in winter in LA or Rochester, NY?  

The cost of heating a home in LA during the winter is pretty minimal versus northern cities.

In LA, many areas actually have sidewalks, though not so many people use them.  Other cities I go to appear to have less sidewalks, which makes walking much more dangerous.

LA is actually working to build more public transit and has been for a while, I'm not sure how many other large cities are making as large an effort.

LA is surrounded by productive farmland.  (Yes, I know the inputs.)

LA has a major port and rail lines.

LA is at the heart of a worldwide industry, media, that may fair better than cities that have major industries like automobiles or airlines.  Of course, LA also has a huge tourism industry..

Southern California, minus 10 or 20% of it's car traffic (or more), may turn out to be a much better place to be than upstate NY if gasoline goes to $7 or $8 or whatever the price is that triggers a real demand cutback.

Prices will change behavior.  Nothing else will work dramatically.

I agree 100% with you there. That's exactly the position I have taken. But we need for prices to stay high for years prior to peak in order to affect significant change.

To say that LA is going to have a worse time with peak oil than other big cities... well, I don't know, it's not so simple.

Again, some individuals can adapt. You have to worry about the effects on the masses, because the mob is going influence what happens to you.



Typically, after we mention the nice weather (it's not just that you don't freeze in winter, you can grow vegetables in winter) the conversation typically comes around to water.  That happened earlier this morning and so I did some searches.  As of 2002 California generated 272,509 GWh/yr.  As of 2001 California consumed 26,000 GWh/yr for total water use (source to tap, and then to waste processing).

So, we use 10% of our electricity to get water, and already generate 50% of our power from non-fossil fuels.  That sounds like a good start.

(For those interested: WATER-ENERGY RELATIONSHIP by the California Energy Commission)

BTW, that total California power figure includes agricultural and industrial use.
Prof. Goose already told you what the consequences will be, Robert. And worse, you can't stop this. It's already too late so just sit back and enjoy the ride. If you're lucky you'll survive this and maybe be able to chronicle it all for future generations.
I listened to that lecture, and thought the prof was a smart guy and a good teacher.  But once he'd covered the basics for the crowd, I wanted to have a second conversation with him.  It's one thing to explain growth and compound interest.  But to move beyond that you have to dive into kinds of growth.

I'm sure the prof is smart enough to know there are good kinds mixed in with the bad (and that even among the bad, there are less bad).

One thing I notice in such business traveling is the frequent absence of sidewalks around hotels or when sidewalks are present, the absence of traffic lights that include pedestrian controls and signals. Sometimes restaurants are visible across multi-lane streets that can't be crossed safely because of traffic volume and speed. Usually these seem to be newer business districts but recently I was in a motel in a older business district where most of the sidewalks in front of businesses had been removed, remaining only where they had been part of the driveway. And no pedestrian traffic signals.

With regard to smog, a sight in California is to see it pouring out of the LA basin and San Jaoquine Valley through the gaps in the mountains into the eastern desert areas. It is particularly visible in the desert looking westward in the early morning when the sun is rising behind you.

I've read that in the San Jaoquine Valley the genetic improvement in cotton yield of some 17% over the decades has been exactly balanced by the yield suppression from increasing ozone levels during the same period.

In many of these car-topias, restaurants, coffee shops, etc can do quite well having two shops across from each other, because only one will be at all possible to go to, depending on which direction you travel. You can work at some place for 10 years, and have a coffee shop right across the river of cars outside your window, and never go to it since it's effectively impossible.

Another thing I've observed is, "the short way is the long way". An example is how, if I wanted to go out onto the main street where I lived in one place, to a place just to the left of the exit, that was impossible. The only way to do it is turn right, then a bunch more rights, an additional mile, then you could get there.

While walking would have been something like 1/8 mile.

I see this a lot, who cares if your car gets good mileage? We'll make sure you have to drive it 3-4X longer than the same distance traveled by foot!

Imagine if all cars in L.A. had engines like the Prius that shuts off  when the car  is stopped.  Imagine a whole freeway with everyone jammed and stopped. Imagine the silence.  Maybe then, people could hear themselves think and stop this madness.

Wo!!  A movie.  "The day in L.A. the noise stopped."

Not to mention the massive savings in oil.

The way things are going in the ME, we may well see No Driving days.

I went down to Santa Cruz today and it was horrible - I took my car. I understand I can take the train there and next time that's the ticket hehe. Santa Cruz is a nice city overlaid with cars, cars, and more cars, businesses catering to cars or the car-bound, the parking situation is horrible, and the drive there and especially back on a Sunday evening hellish.

There were a few bicyclists, it's actually a very bike-able city, being small and with a nice climate, it's just that like everywhere else, the car is supreme.

You would be surprised about the level of awareness - the problem is the installed infrastructure. As a native Angelino I know that the greater Southern California area has a group of people that are aware of the issues at hand, there is the Lovecraft bio diesel conversion garage, the Pasadena Post carbon group and the various civic groups that have been raising awareness for a while.

The deepest irony of LA is that the people who are most aware are also culturally the ones who drive the Hummers and SUV's. LA's Westside has been bedrock support for the Democratic Party and is also the highest concentration of wealth on a general level in the US. They are aware, but the entertainment industry culture does not let them get away with less consumption.  

Socal has three world class universities, a central command center for emergency response in the city proper, large warehouse districts to the south and a lot of capital, the power grid and coal plants are owned by the city directly (the city tried to start an electric car charging stations) and the aqueduct to transport water. What it needs is social cohesion, (in a city that socially defines itself as a place of second chances that will come hard) and infrastructure - the ban on new subway construction had lead to rail/bus line connections but they do not connect the Westside with Downtown. We need a desalination plant, new rail connections, mandated solar energy on new/retro fitted buildings and some luck.

Fingers crossed.....


Abandon all hope, ye who live in southern Calif.