The geopolitics of oil gains a new constituency

The issue of Ms. Magazine that just hit the newsstands has a cover story called "Crude Awakening: How US war policies sell out women in favor of Big Oil". The main thrust of the article is that in order to gain control of the oil supplies in many Middle Eastern countries, the United States is willing to overlook how these countries consistently violate women's rights. The article isn't online, but here are some snippets to give you an idea.

Whether or not this blood-for-oil scenario is the whole story, the new Iraqi constitution and laws already passed there contain far stronger guarantees for major U.S. oil interests than they do for the women of Iraq. Women's rights deteriorated rapidly after the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein sold them out to religious fundamentalists in order to consolidate power. The U.S. had the opportunity to restore much of what was lost after the 2003 invasion. But in the period leading up to the election of the National Assembly, our government ignored demands by Iraqi women's organizations to create a women's ministry, appoint women to the drafting committee of Iraq's interim constitution, pass laws codifying women's rights and criminalizing domestic violence, and uphold U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325-- which mandates that women be included at all levels of decision-making in situations of peacemaking and postwar reconstruction.
The author, Martha Burk, goes on to say:
In contrast, Big Oil is well protected in the constitution and through laws. The constitution guarantees the reform of the Iraqi economy in accordance with "modern economic principles" to "ensure...the development of the private sector"--essentially abolishing Iraqi state dominion over its petroleum reserves. Corollary laws guarantee that foreign companies will have control over at least 64 percent of Iraq's oil, and possibly as much as 84 percent.
I'm very glad to see the issue of the geopolitical implications of oil spread to as many new constituencies as possible, but I just find the link between American oil lust and the trampling of women's rights a little tenuous. The author doesn't convince me that there's a direct connection between oil policy and the US turning a blind eye to women's issues, though it certainly is the case that (a) women's rights are being violated left and right in many Middle Eastern countries and (b) many US decisions regarding the Middle East revolve around oil.

The question we must ask is the following: if it weren't for the abundance of oil in the Middle East, would the US do anything about their women's rights violations? It seems a foolish question, since if it weren't for the oil, we wouldn't be involved in a war in Iraq to begin with, hence obviating the need for discussion about the role of women in the Iraqi constitution. But to answer the question, we need only look at any other country with an abysmal record on women's rights: Nigeria (which has oil, but we're not currently trying to nation-build there), or Uganda, for example. Does the US government work toward women's rights reforms in these countries? Not exactly. So it is possible, and even likely, that the US government doesn't care about women's rights violations in the Middle East because they don't care about them anywhere, not because they're consciously choosing oil interests above women's rights.

While any magazine has the right to take any angle they want on their articles, I can't help but feel that this is a missed opportunity. Peak oil is an issue with a feminist angle, and it would have been more valuable for there to be an argument pointing these links out and giving readers material to work with. A couple of months ago, Energy Bulletin reran an article original published in Adaptation Blog called "Post Petroleum Woman". The article, written by Carolyn Baker, is a different flavor of feminism to be sure. It's also considerably more alarmist than the Ms. article, but Baker, as well as a blog post by jewishfarmer at, bring up some points that I would like to see raised by a more mainstream feminist magazine. For example, from jewishfarmer:

The way women live now in the Western world is almost entirely a result of cheap energy and its byproducts. I think it would be easy to lose track of how much contemporary feminism, with its focus on women in the workplace, and on the politics of equality is shaped by cheap energy in the forms of birth control, easy access to medical care, formula, breast pumps, drive-to daycare, Social Security, etc... I am a feminist, and enormously grateful for what feminism has given me, but I also feel that women have not carefully enough interrogated the degree to which their options are dependent on carbon exploitation.
It has been noticed here on TOD before that there are (apparently) not many female contributors. It will be nice to see that change someday soon, though I'm unfortunately not optimistic that the Ms. article will be a catalyst for that change.
Because it's Thread-a-licous! Couldn't help myself there, been dying to say that!

I too have noticed there are not many Female contibutors here, perhaps they are browsing TOD. Nonetheless, would like to hear their inputs.

The lack of an IGNORE function at TOD is one of the problems.  It is bad enough that one of the more prolific male posters on TOD has an adolescent sexual obsession, requiring scrolling past his many juvenile posts to get to the worthwhile content.  Best to leave gender out of the TOD discussion.  There are plenty of gender based threads at, especially in the "Hall of Flames" folder.  Anyone who needs to wax bawdy, brag about their anatomy and performance, or fight the war between the sexes should go there.  Hey, you can even flirt with the moderator "smallpoxgirl", she invites it.

Back to the issues of fossil fuel depletion please.

Roger That.


I have respected your contributions, MicroHydro. I support your right to free speech. I also support adolescent sexual obsession. I'm only going to try to balance the two for myself and by myself.

We are a different community here. And for the record - we are the most advanced fossil fuel depletion site on the planet - bar none.

We got that way by being inclusive, not exclusive. Hell, we even let smekhovo say what he wants.

Come again. Or rather, visit us again soon.

I apologize for the nasty things I said about you.

Let us please bury the hatchet.

I think you are a good person.

Dare I say that for me the first three responses to MicroHydro have firmly established her point. Ha Ha we are funny! -- Dave, Oil Ceo, Don Sailorman. Yeah you are like so funny.

I also wish for an ignore or hide function.

Yeah. Actually, I'll buy that,roy. No shit. You got it. I wish  you would stick around. And post more. I'll back you. You can count on that. If you think my backing is bullshit,look more into it. I can only give this as evidence. I thought Guns'n'Roses, Nirvana, and Jane's Addiction were gonna be winners. All my friends not only thought I was wrong but felt those bands sucked. I have never made a choice. They went into all sorts of businesses. I went into predicting how society would look at itself. I'm number two in the world. Jack is number 1.
Women's status is not ENTIRELY dependant on carbon inputs but rather has more to do with centuries-old cultural attitudes which are commonly shared among US, European and Middle-Eastern cultures. It is only in this century that the US and Europe have managed to shake this male-centric attitude. A better model for our post-carbon culture might be the Cherokee culture. This cultural model was not unique to the Cherokees but was a fairly common social organization among the Eastern Woodland Indians.  
The fundies are turning back the clock.  In fundie world, women are clearly inferior and intended to be subservient. This is a growing part of our population since the fundies have a lot more children per family than the rest of the population.  On an oil/energy related matter, these right wing groups are/will be the big consumers of oil, especially because they need to buy their Suburbans to cart those big families around.  Women subservience equals more children equals more consumption equals a crummy world for the rest of us. Plus, God wouldn't let our planet go down the tube due to oil shortages or global warming so the circle is complete. Fundies, both in the U.S. and in the Islamic world are a threat to the planet.
fundies are turning back the clock

There is no clock.
When a baby is born, he or she is not aware of a "clock".
He/she comes out, gets smacked on the behind (not always) and begins to be programmed by his/her parents and society.

FF's or Fundie Folk as you call them, did not have free will in choosing to become who they are. They were born. They were programmed. Same for their parents.

I agree. I am afraid of the leadership of Christian and Islamic fundamentalist groups both here and in Iran. It seems that both have decided that they need to "help God" bring on the apocalypse.
I've read Michael Klare's latest article here -- a summary of his take on our foreign policy and oil.  

Klare makes the point that we do indeed support tyrants, overlook human rights issues (including women's rights issues) specifically because of petroleum.

Face it folks, things are worse in Iraq for women now than they were before the USA "liberated" them in a fit of militaristic generosity.

The point is that we might want to work for human rights in when we are so deeply entangled with other regimes in terms of economics, energy, and geopolitics.  That we don't is truly a setup for massive blowback against us as supporters of oppression.

Klare makes a superb and simple point.  We must divorce foreign policy from our energy needs.  To do this, we must develop an energy strategy that brings rapid energy independence.  Then we can bring the troops home and deal with various regimes on the merits of principle rather than petroleum addiction.

I don't think it's a deliberate policy to overlook human rights abuses though, as much as it is a policy to get along with whomever is running the target country. If they would want to liberalize, we would support that. If they would want to oppress, we would support that. Mainly, we want a stable nation with a stable economy for extracting oil.

So no, I don't think women's rights are targeted specifically, just that they get ignored as other things have higher priorities.

I agree that developing an energy policy that doesn't leave us at the mercy of tyrants is a necessary first step in separating human rights issues from oil. Unfortunately, I expect us to do the opposite and make friends with more tyrants because China is doing that already and trying to lock up energy sources. Since we are on tenuous ground in the supply arena, this strategy will appeal to the Bush administration for the short term and since GW Bush only has 2 years left, it's something he's more likely to do than start a policy that may take 20 years to finally come together.

Of note, this is the third time in the spotlight for the gender/oil issue.

Feminist Kate Millet went to Iran in 1979, was expelled, and wrote about the experience in "Going to Iran" 1982 (out of print).  At that time Ms magazine noted the US accomodation of sexual apartheid oil regimes, of which Saudi Arabia is the worst.

Jay Leno's wife Mavis has been a longtime advocate for the rights of women in Moslem oil nations.  Jay Leno (much to the dismay of then Pres. G.H.W. Bush) complained about Saudi law when entertaining the troops in Saudi Arabia in 1991.  (This was before Jay became the permanent Tonight Show host in 1992)

I agree with your comments about the unnecessary lewdness of some posts. However, I don't think it's fair to tar this issue with the same brush.

People of both genders are exporting untold billions of their hard-earned dollars which support regimes with appalling policies. It's not unreasonable for the human rights issue to surface, or for feminists to view it through their own lens. And bringing it up 3 times in 24 years doesn't seem very pushy.

And then there is the cultural lens. If you live in a country where women are taken seriously, it's easy to forget that it's not true everywhere. In gender gap ratings (PDF), just as an example, New Zealand ranks #6 overall, and #1 in political empowerment for women--versus #17 and #19 respectively for the USA. The American sisters have a long way to go, and bringing up the issues can't hurt.

I am just tired of fighting the flow of history, and complaining about gender apartheid in oil states while the world lurches into resource wars just feels like the ultimate futility.  IMO, the 1970s were humanity's last chance to head off all the catastrophes that are unfolding now.  The last chance to get serious about population stabilization, to prepare for the transition to a post oil infrastructure, to complete the enlightenment by removing ancient tribal superstitions from public policy.  Establishment of universal human rights including gender equity would have been a part of that.  Well, humanity failed all the tests.  We acted like the only slightly upgraded Homo ergasters that we are.

We decided as a species to continue investing in living arrangements that were increasingly oil dependent.  We doubled the global population and the cult of consumerism and endless growth spread worldwide.  Hundreds of millions embraced the various fundamentalist religions, including insane death cults who believe global thermonuclear war would trigger the rapture.  Feminist splinter movements within traditionally masculinist cultures (never more than a small minority of women) were a passing artifact of the cheap oil era.  As the world becomes poorer, and once again more local, gender relations will return to the local past.

In a few places like Scandanavia, NZ, and Oregon's Willamette Valley, the deep rooted local cultures of gender balance will persist.  In Mississippi and Afghanistan the patriarchal plantation master and warlord will rise again.  There is no more hope of changing this than Jimmy Carter had of selling peak oil mitigation 30 years in advance.  Going forward, post peak women will need the same things that men will need - allies who can help acquire and defend survival resources.  There will be no post peak sisterhood other than ones biological sisters and in-laws.

I agree with this...just seems like a stretch to force a "feminist perspective" of peak oil. BTW, I agree with your posts on this thread. ALL OF THEM.
The reason that it's important to pitch energy issues with a feminist perspective is because most people really do see things through a particular filter. People who read Ms. Magazine don't also read Oil and Gas Journal, and they read Ms. because they are interested of the ramifications of some issue on women. Same thing for any other kind of special interest group. If you could couch PO in a way that best relates to the specific interests of Native Americans or rock musicians or runway models, then you would be able to explain to each different group why PO is such a serious issue.

I don't know what will happen to gender relations in a future era, but if the point now is to get the message out to as many people as we can, then we're going to have to learn how to tailor our delivery to different constituencies.

Unfortunately, I expect us to do the opposite and make friends with more tyrants ...

Well, al-Gaddafi is already back on the friends list. There's some work to do with Iran, of course. Don't know whether Chavez makes the "tyrant" list or not. But beyond that, are there any significant oil-bearing tyrants we're not friendly with?

There's some work to do with Iran, of course

Since we are talking about female rights in this thread it is worth mentioning, that the image of Iran in this respect is strongly influenced by the propaganda here.

I have met several Iranian women here in the US - all doctors, architects, economists. None of them said anything about sexual oppression or unequality. They all were pretty independant and proud with their country IMO. My impression (also coming from the conversations with Iranian men on the matter) is that in this respect Iran is pretty much like Turkey. There may be some provincial places or religious communities where women are oppressed, but in general the country is pretty close to a secular state.

Their husbands would beat them if they said something.

Battered women don't talk about such things.

You do understand about "honor killings", no?

Did somebody beat you down to post in this blog? Please provide me with some proof nobody did, so that I can trust your words.

Actually I met those ladies in a pretty intimate environment. No husbands, no religious clothing, nothing even remotely close to the preconceptions of the West. Now of course I wake up each night shivering that I'm going to be hunted down by angry Iranian husbands all my life. Still alive.

Yes, here are the people who beat me.

2. Here are those that don't like the sound of music

3. Here are the battered wives

4. Here is a bit more about the "modern" culture"

Yup, everything I post is a pure fabrication, a delusion invented in the isolation of my disconnected mind. :-)

I think you don't get the point.

These are remainants of an backwardish culture, which can be seen in even more modernized countries. Iran is a huge country (some ~60 mln.) and parts of it are still on the medievil level. But bashing the whole on these grounds is as counterproductive as bashing US for encouraging racism because of the existence of KKK. This country was going in the right direction and the antiiranian propaganda has exactly the opposite effect - fueling exactly those forces that are interested in Iran staying at these levels.

The case of SA is totally different one - Sheriat is a national law and the state is the one that interested in the country staying at a semi-feodal level.

The problem isn't that there is racism and sexism here it's that such things are considered outside of the law's interest there. Commit an act of domestic or racial violence here and the victims have the protection of the law. Over there if you kill your wife or daughter it is the killer who is protected by the law.
Jerry Ford negotiated and signed the Helsinki Accord on Human Rights. Jimmy Carter linked human rights to his foreign policy. Reagan and the Bushies have turned a blind eye on human rights if the violators were on thier side of the Cold War or so called War on Terror. If we linked trade privileges to human rights and simply refused to due business with the protectors of murderers perhaps things for women worldwide would improve.
LevinK has a point, though.  There are many countries where authorities and courts turn a blind eye to domestic violence, etc.  Happens all over the world - even in some parts of the rich countries.  The isn't a criteria that should be used to single Iran out as a backward country that oppresses it's women. I know a couple Iranian women and they are very educated, come from forward thinking modern families, and they absolutely defend the modernity of their country.  That isn't to ignore its faults, but these are proud women.  Take a look at Iranian cinema if you like too.  Very forward thinking.  This whole idea that Iran just like all the other oppressive countries in its neighborhood just because it's run by clerics that nobody likes is just an easy assumption for people to make who want to stereotype.
I DO think it is an explicit policy.

The PTB in global economy put property rights ahead of human rights.  That simple.    

It gets worse, because those of us in rich countries - male and female - depend on that global system to stay on top.  What would really be entailed in supporting human rights - let alone women's rights?


Greyzone -- to the contrary, consider this:

The USA promotes oppression as the preferred form of stability in petroleum-rich (or other "strategic") nations, and actively discourages democracy.

How did the Shah of Iran come to power many years ago?  A progressive, budding democracy was killed off with the USA as a prime player, then installing a torture-mongering despot in its place.

Look at Venezuela today.  Chavez comes from the poor, works for the poor, and draws much of his power from the poor of his country as his political base.  The USA, which has a sham democracy, cannot stand such an arrangement that turns the world upside down.  Therefore the USA has been actively trying to depose Chavez, and I suspect tries to depose any other Latin American leader who tends to be socialist and populist.  On the other hand, the USa loved the brutal Noriega of Panama until he got a bit too uppity.

Then there is the long and sordid love affair between the USA establishment and Saddam Hussein, which sadly came to a bad end because Saddam also got a bit uppity.

We also love the Saudis and the UAE elite and the esteemed nuclear-armed, nuclear-proliferating dictator of Pakistan and just about any brutal, sexist, slave-trading bastard who will swear to kick ass on behalf of the "interests" of the USA elite anywhere in the world.

Lovely.  Just lovely.  My, we (USA) are as sweet and unsullied as a new rose blossom in the morning, all covered with....dew....dooo...uhh, wait, that's "dew" -- no, wait!  Now I'm all confused.

The bottom line for the US elite was written by George F. Kennan, American Ambassador to Moscow, in a State Department Policy Planning Study in 1948:

"we have 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality ... we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation."

This attitude has morphed further as the Neocons of today use the US government as a political/military vehicle to develop a "pattern of relationships" which I believe will ultimately exclude most American citizens from wealth and power, as well as most of the world's citizens.

The USA is a vehicle which is being run into financial and political wreck and ruin by those who control our government bcause, at the end of the crash, they will have no use for the vehicle any longer.

We may see some trappings of the US "republic" continue, but in realityour planet is being pretty well transformed into a large Empire filled with moslty poor and powerless people who will be abandoned to the ravages of disease, global climate change, resource depletion, and war -- while the "disparity" is maintained by and for a shrinking class of people who believe themselves to deserve wealth and power at the expense of the great masses of the world's people and other species.

So, to put a finer point on it, I think we have seen the USA support oppression and sabatoge democracy and "liberty and justice for all."

Where is General Smedley Butler when you need him?

Let's do some geopolitical reality check. What is going on in Lebanon? Just the next step in the grand plan of reshaping the Middle East and first operations in the war against Iran (and Syria).

Let's see. The British and French announced for evacuation of their citizens right in the beginning of the hostilities, when the potential evacuees didn't yet think they were in danger. The locals thought that the shelling would be limited to parts of the Southern Lebanon as usual and people elsewhere would be safe. But no. The was no "we follow the situation and decide later if the evacuation is necessary", as you could expect. The decision was pre-made and the plans were ready and practical arrangements made in advance.

All the decisions on Lebanons future are made in advance. We already know that there will be "international" troops. This decison needed some negotiations, before the present crisis began, so it was made before the hostilities started.  There will be a "Balkan" solution, like in Kosovo. Permanent US bases, British and French, too, some Russian and European token troops. Occupation "UN" government and all that. "Reconstruction" a la Iraq.

But first Lebabon should "fail". The Israelis are doing the job by destroying methodically the Lebanese infrastructure and economy. All the country, not just the Hezbollah areas, is isolated, ports, main roads and airports shut. Electricity is down, oil supply destroyed.

Syria or Iran, or Hezbollah did not make these decisons, but they were obviously made before the bombing began.

Syria will be gone after the occupation of Lebanon. The Syrian economy and logistics are dependent of Lebanon, and Syria is already effectively blockaded. The US wants supply routes to Iraq through Lebanon and Syria and will get them. The Syrian-Iranian alliance will break down, the Iraq resistance will be isolated. The US troops are now "hostages" in Iraq because the heavy logistics go through the Persian Gulf and the narrow Southern parts of Iraq. This route is long and vulnerable and it could be blocked in a conflict with Iran. A route through Syria would change the situation.

When the Iranian-Syrian alliance breaks, Iran will be isolated and lose its main military advantage. No wonder Iran has been quiet lately. Now here is the real US plan for Iraq. The situation there will change decisively after Syria and Iran have their regime changes and get US military presence. This is why the dismal military situation in Iraq has not bothered much the US government. The solution lies not in Iraq - but in Lebanon.

Well, will this nice plan really succeed? At least the Russians think so - they have already agreed to be part of the occupying force in Lebanon. The Chinese may be pissed, but what can they do?

Here we see how the US becomes "oil independent": the ME oil will be firmly in the US hands, may be in the hands of the US oil companies. The oil revenues will flow to the US shareholders. The ME oil will be domestic US oil. Fine.

And human rights? Who cares.


Now, there's an analysis that you won't hear on the six o'clock news.
I do think that there's more than meets the eye in this Lebanon thing, but it's not at all clear who is trying to do what.  I disagree with TI's analysis because Syria is a much larger country than Lebanon, and Iran is a much larger country than Syria, so I don't see the dominos falling in that direction.  "The Syrian economy and logistics are dependent of Lebanon" - why?  They have their own piece of coastline further North.  "A route (for US supplies to Iraq) through Syria would change the situation." - why?  They can't even defend the road from Bhagdad to the airport, let alone the long road through the desert to (and through) Syria.  "Iran will be isolated and lose its main military advantage." - Iran does not need Syria, it is a large oil-rich country with a significant military industry and a chokehold on the Straits of Hormuz.  "The Chinese may be pissed, but what can they do?" - oooh, they can do a lot!  How about selling some of their dollar holdings?  If they can't use those dollars to buy oil and gas, why keep them?
Vtpeaknik: here is some added info.

The Syrian and Lebanese economies have been traditionally connected for a very long time. Lots of Syrians work in Lebanon (before the crisis) and send money back. Sanctions against Syria don't work if Lebanon is out of tight control.

The US logistics volume in Iraq is enormous, but the routes through Southern Iraq have been relatively safe to the huge logistical bases near Baghdad. The pro-Iranian shiites have not attacked the transports up to now. This could change if hostilities break with Iran. Closing Persian Gulf and this logisitics route is the main advantage of Iran in a conflict with the US.

China will not hurt itself economically by any forex operations or the like.

And remember, there are now UN troops in Southern Lebanon. They just watch the fighting. Sending new UN troops will mean considerable changes in the UN presence, quite likely something like in Kosovo or Bosnia.

The news tell now that the Hezbollah forces have not suffered much from the bombing, as was to be expected (remember the Kosovan war). They seem to have anti-tank missiles and can kill Isreali tansk and make resistance on the ground. So probably the Israelis have to go in with massive ground forces and there will be real fighting. When the Isrealis go in they have to go all they way to Beirut and beyound, up to the Bekaa valley. So this will be big operation. But the internationals cannot go in before the Israelis have done their "cleaning job". This will take time and kill a lot more civilians. Besides, it can cause poltical and other complications. We will see how well the plan really works.

And this is on topic: they kill women there.  

CBC News said this morning that Israel had given civilians in south Lebanon 24 hours to leave the area, including the city of Tyre. Presumably this means that a significant ground offensive is imminent.
'' and human rights? -who cares''.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

- Pastor Martin Niemoller 1892-1984
U boat commander WWI, Winner of the Iron Cross, Fiekorp Member then Lutheran Minister. Imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau for objecting to the Nazis

Ah, Yankee,

What are you expecting? Gail the accountant has made a number of good posts lately. Her stuff is really good. Beyond that, I don't know what to say. We get the usual geeks (scientists, engineers) here and lots of other types.

What could we possibly do about this?

The Man's Prayer:

"I am a man.

But I can change.

If I have to.

I guess."

(Thanks to Red Green.  A little, ummm, humour?)

Well I'm a lurker and occasional poster of the female persuasion, but I'm also firmly embedded in the nerd community being a research scientist with a physics background.

Having said that I think there is actually some truth (but not the whole truth :-) in Matt's postings about how males enjoy showing off in (for instance) a  debating context more than females. I read interesting stuff on theoildrum but there are also exchanges in some threads that are nothing more than pissing contests. Even some of the technical debates strike me as a bit like arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin - the data we have is of too poor quality to get too excited about whether the exact peak is here right now or in 5 years. It is the big picture of peak oil that interests me and adapting to it in a way that preserves community, compassion and the important things in life.

Re adaptation: an interesting possible consequence of localisation that has a bearing on "gender" related issues is a change in the way we think of "work" vs "home".

In our culture status is very much associated with the public world of work, and is not at all associated with the private world of home and hearth. Men are traditionally associated with the former and women with the latter - hence the interest of feminists in getting women recognition in the workplace.

One consequence of this very sharp distinction is that women who do stay at home to bring up the family can become isolated (depending onwhere they live) and almost invisible to the wider world. For a man to do this is highly unusual largely because of the loss of status involved, but this can come at a price. I know a number older men who in retrospect regret their pursuit of status through work because of the lost chance to spend more time with their kids growing up (eg due to working late & weekends) - they often seek to make it up with their grandkids!

In former times there wasn't such a clear distinction  between public and private or work vs home life. Much economic activity (of both men and women) took place around the home or nearby. A greater focus on localisation, with people spending more time working in and around the home would blur and change the patterns of status associated with "work" vs "home" activities. This could benefit communities and individuals and make for a more comfortable balance between work, family life & civic involvement. I may sound a bit utopian here, but if we are going to be poorer in material terms we should aim to be richer in community/social/family terms.

Nice comment.

In my view, the whole world is fucked up with respect to family and community. It takes a village. The culture (here in America) as I experience it is isolating, with people in their magic vehicles driving around cutting other people off while talking on their cell phones. This is opposed to the walking errands I do where I talk to (and give to) the homeless people I meet on the way.

I like to think the "community" part of the Peak Oil situation is a good thing. But really, when I think about the hard transitions that have to happen, I believe we are all really are screwed.

best, Dave

I like to think the "community" part of the Peak Oil situation is a good thing.

That's the one direction things may evolve. I find it too dangerous when people are assuming, this will be it. The other direction is total dissipation of connections and "everybody for themselves" becoming the norm.

If I had to make guesses I would think that places with preexistent strong social cohesion will pick the community way. Alienated societies in the west (US being the champion IMO) will probably first swing to the last man standing direction, before reaching a catarsis leading to the right path. The question is how bad will it get before this happens?

That's the one direction things may evolve. I find it too dangerous when people are assuming, this will be it. The other direction is total dissipation of connections and "everybody for themselves" becoming the norm.

I think imagining something better is the first step in getting there. It doesn't guarantee you'll get there but if we don't try then we definitely won't. I'm not naive in thinking that things will naturally evolve to a happy outcome but  we need a positive (and evolving) vision and we need to be active in at least attempting getting there.

Although I am involved in some direct peak oil awareness raising, it is the local community activities I'm involved in - not directly linked to peak oil - that I think are probably most valuable for the future.

When the A/C quits, and people have to spend more time in the backyard we'll have communities again.

 The exception will be all those "wannabe pioneers" who live on "vast" 5-80 acres spreads, mostly non-productive. They will still pretend social live at church on sunday, but otherwise they are there because they never learned to live around others.

This mentality reflected in all class levels, whether barracks living or high class frat Animal Houses IMO.

I dislike it when anyone says we're "all" screwed. If you want to stay where you are, and live like you've been living, yes you probably will be. If you think buying a farm for your family is going to save you, then yes you're probably screwed. There are answers out there though.

My fiance and I are moving to the 3rd (just being planned/constructed) ecovillage in Ithaca, NY. Things will be hard for us, yes, but screwed? I wouldn't be so pessamistic. The village will have 30 homes, 36 acres of farmland, and 60 acres of open woods. The idea is that everyone living there will practice a permaculture way of life (and relating to this post, with men and women being equal). Cayuga lake, the largest of the finger lakes, lies 6 miles away, with a piping system already in place under the city. For anyone who thinks that a bunch of hippies living together is just going to be a target for roaming bands of murdering, hungry city-folk, we will have arms.

Our first defense, as should be all of our first defenses, is education! The area is very bike friendly, and full of alternative thinking (alternative to mass consumerism) people.

We will have it extremely hard, but we are working hard NOW to make sure we won't be "screwed". I would suggest everyone here do the same :)


Out of curiousity, how much money did/do you need to come up with to do this?

It does take a village, or maybe just my mother's highly effective "CIA" network of neighbors that allowed her to cut me the slack and the luxury to let me gradually learn responsibility and more freedom as I grew up.

The street I live on now, is an almost total unknown to me. Not only is it homogenous in character of occupants, but the few young people are total unknowns as to where they live, or whether their parents would even care if I made a comment about their kids behaviour. 103 degrees keeps everyone in of course also.

Reminds me of the obsevation of Latin vs US mothers on a playground. Latins tends to keep an eye on the kids nearest them, US mothers worry exclusively about their kids, and scream across the field accordingly :-(.

You raise a good point.
When I walk the dog, I run into people. We stop. We talk. Maybe it's about something silly like the weather or doghood, but that starts a friendly relation going.

When I drive my car -aka my power tool--, we don't stop & talk. We glare, we rage, we race to see who can get to "occupy" the next piece of road length ahead of the other.

I walk to do my errands. The only other person I EVER see walking is the neighborhood drug dealer. (Seriously)

What does it say about our society when the only two people walking the street of a residential area in a medium sized city are a professional prophet of doom and a dope dealer?

It says your town doesn't pull peoples drivers licenses when they get a DUI  :)
Is that what it says on your business card, PPOD, ESQ.?
Yes, yes it does.
Picked up one of Yergin's business card the other day.
The last letters were one notch back.
His said ...


Professional Purveyor of Cornucopia
(Have Tongue, Will Travel)

I don't know what the ESP stands for.
Maybe it's a different kind of advocate.

I've often wondered if there would be a big shift towards working from home in an oil-short world, but it seems to me that currently the technology isn't really good enough to make that work well and besides, many jobs cannot be re-localised due to their nature (industrial/manufacturing related jobs for instance).

As a computer programmer it can be a bit hard to see what I can do beyond basic personal conservation. I've got a few ideas brewing now, and hopefully the resources to pull them off, but improvements to home-working technologies are something I still need to think about.

As to the dearth of women in the PO community; I suspect you are on the right track. Seems to me that the primary industries related to PO are all dominated by males: oil/gas, economics, statistics, tangenitally computing.

The Oil Drum spends a lot of time on analysis and less time on imagining potential futures. Once you branch out into environmentalism there seem to be more women involved (eg, Megan Quinn).

Hmm, seems I got mixed up, the last two paragraphs there make more sense in reply to orchid .... need my morning cup of tea, clearly.
Thanks for the nice comments. I'm actually Gail the Actuary, rather than Gail the Accountant.

I'll use this as an opportunity to provide another link to the Peak Oil article that I have referenced previously. It is a four-page PDF article, with simple graphs, that I wrote as an introduction to peak oil for insurance executives. Non-insurance people seem to find it helpful also.

Oil Shortages: The Next Katrina?

So it is possible, and even likely, that the US government doesn't care about women's rights violations in the Middle East because they don't care about them anywhere, not because they're consciously choosing oil interests above women's rights.

I agree with you on this. Yes, the Middle Eastern countries, in general, repress women in a way Westerners can hardly comprehend. But women's rights aren't on the tip of the tongue in the US, either. (Where is that pesky Equal Rights Amendment, anyway...?) At least on human rights, the standard is clear: no organ failure, no foul.

We can generalize the case including the women's rights issue, but taking it a step further. The basic situation is clear: our oil dependency means we must do business with some pretty bad actors with hideous policies. Many of these countries have real distain for the US and the West. Instability, lack of transparency, and corruption are frequent issues. And it will only get worse.

Those who claim to hate a foreign country because of the way women are treated there, actually hate it for quite another reason. It doesn't take long to find this out.
I created a graph of the US market share of world oil consumption.  I just divided the US Oil Consumption by the World Oil Consumption.  I got the data from EIA.

Here's the graph.

I think this interesting because when peak oil happens the US will also be experiencing a decline in market share.  So I wanted to get a historical perspective on it.  

I'm so glad this discussion is here!

Something I've been thinking about lately is investing money, and of course following the money means investing in the energy sector.  But I'm also keen on "ethical investing".  The oil & gas industry has had a terrible effect on US public policy and has systematically worked to stifle conservation.  Regardless of the tenuousness of claiming a direct causation between oil and women's rights in Iraq's constitution, for example, no one can deny that the oil lobby has contributed to the development of the US into a state highly dependent on oppression and exploitation of people, marginalized cultures, and the ecosystem in order to feed it's voracious appetite for resouces and growth.

Some years ago I bought into the Calvert socially responsible investment fund with a small savings from my high school part time job.  I didn't want to support evil companies.  Calvert has a policy against owning oil & gas stocks.  Now my attention has again come to investing and I'm reconsidering about how to do this ethically (or at least not unethically).  The companies this "socially responsible" fund likes are the good "corporate citizens" with high-minded liberal policies and good governance.  That is good.  But it seems many of said companies (such as Target, American Express, Microsoft etc) are just the goodie-goodies who can wash their hands of the dirty work but are nonetheless dependent on the broader gloves-off paradigm of American capitalist growth that they operate in. By focusing on enlightened management, then, isn't it just distracting from a broad view of the overall trajectory of late capitalism?

So I'm reconsidering, thinking that now in moving forward, all of the right-minded policy we could come up with will not stop oil & gas from being extracted and profits being made.  Why not get a piece of that action? (chauvenistic sexual pun intended)

In this blog, people talk of investing for profits in oil & gas, and there are a good number of industry insiders who traffic here.  And we also entertain discussions on feminism, conservation and environmentalism.

So, I want to pose this: how do you 'guys' see it?  How can we have our cake and eat it too?  Do you insiders feel ethical remorse for working for an industry that has so much blood on its lobbyists' hands?  Are there great churnings of dissent and unrest among the engineers and investors within the fossil industries who want to bargain with the natives, stop gas flaring in Nigeria, and leak the proceedings of Cheney's round-table?

Where is the line between amoral realism and immoral complicity?  The Ms. article could be a little off the mark (I haven't read it in full yet), but I think this is the question it begs.

How do you define "ethical investing"? Why isn't oil & gas "ethical"?

Incidentally, I notice that BP is part of the FTSE4good "ethical" indices.

If ethics starts with acting to protect and preserve life..

I'm not one to call a company or an industy Evil per se, but there are clearly ethical questions involved in this.  That is, if you see the continued use of Fossil Fuels either as Dangerous Pollutants, contributors to Climate Change, or complicit in costly and deadly Political Relationships, then your choice to focus your investing in a direction that doesn't endorse them is clearly an ethical one.

It stands to reason, however, that even if we were to start a tremendous push to sidestep into clean energy sources, it would of course require the use of FF to get there.  Is that UNethical?  In fact, that in itself is 'Investing' that fuel for the ethical purpose of getting past it, and is likely the only means we have to do so.  What energy we have left in oil, should be getting used to establish its successor, to whatever degree that will be possible.

BP has marketed themselves nicely, and their logo was already green.  That's 'SYNERGY'!


"How Green is BP"

"BP goes Green"  July 2000
BP has unveiled a new "green" brand image, in an attempt to win over environmentally aware consumers.

The new green, white and yellow logo replaces the BP shield and is designed to show the company's commitment to the environment and solar power.

The company is to revert to its old name of BP, following two years as BP Amoco and adopt a new slogan " Beyond Petroleum".

BP goes greener
The new logo is part of a rebranding exercise - which includes offering internet access at petrol stations - which the company hopes will boost profits.

"I didn't want to support evil companies.  Calvert has a policy against owning oil & gas stocks."

I guess the logical connection is that oil & gas companies are evil.  

My immediate question is whether you have eliminated the "evil" products of the evil companies. Have you stopped using fossil fuels for:  transportation; heating and cooling; cooking; plastics and the thousands of other products that use fossil fuels?  If not, how do you reconcile your decision to use fossil fuels with your belief that the oil & gas companies are evil?  

For what it's worth, I am a petroleum geologist and Tuesday night I vigorously debated Peak Oil on a program to be televised on PBS.  The two chief anti-Peak Oil critics were an ExxonMobil representative and Michael Lynch.  

The primary problem I foresee with the oil industry cornucopian argument is that when the promised oil doesn't show up, American consumers are going to (reasonably) conclude that someone is holding oil off the market.  I suspect that politicians will attempt to punish the oil companies.  Prior to this debate, I made this argument to the ExxonMobil guys, apparently without much success.

Sure, the fact that oil is essential to society is exactly why I've done a rethink about plainly labeling oil & gas as "evil companies", so don't get me wrong.  But on the other hand, it's obvious that owning stock in ExxonMobil means that one 'owns' a share of their funding of bogus think-tanks and denying peak oil.  Unless one owns shares directly and persues shareholder activism to address these issues, there's a mandatory disconnect that amounts to supporting said policies.

And of course we know ExxonMobil isn't the only guilty party.   Most all big oil companies have terribly sorry legacies with respect to human rights, indigenous rights, the environment, honest government, transparency, and encouraging prudent policy.  It would be one thing if these companies simply did their work to support civilization's needs, and then did all they could to respect the environment in countries with no standards, refused to bribe public officials, bargained in good faith with local communities, invested as much as they could in renewables, embraced the Kyoto protocol and on and on.  But they don't.  When it comes to "corporate citizenship", they're downright rat bastards who only care about maximizing profits (one argument for nationalization).

So that's what prompts my question, and what the Ms. article gets at.  Where is the line between amoral realism (supplying civiliaztion with it's fix) and immoral complicity?  I'm not claiming I can answer it for myself yet.

"When it comes to "corporate citizenship", they're downright rat bastards who only care about maximizing profits (one argument for nationalization)."

Three points: (1)  the majority of world oil reserves have been nationalized; (2)  I suspect that all of the sins that you attribute to the privately held companies are, by and large, more prevalent within the national oil companies and (3)  I have yet to see a national oil company that is not interested in maximizing profits.

FYI--at the current rate of world consumption of energy from nuclear + fossil fuel sources, the world consumes the energy equivalent of all of ExxonMobil's proven oil and gas reserves in less than four months.

IMO we need to kill consumption before consumption kills us, and I am advocating that we fund Social Security and Medicate with a tax on energy consumption, offset by eliminating the highly regressie Payroll Tax.

Do you insiders feel ethical remorse for working for an industry that has so much blood on its lobbyists' hands?

I think remorse is too strong a word. I don't agree with everything we do. On the other hand, if we didn't do what we are doing billions of people might die. So, I see us as providing an incredibly valuable service, but one which has some steep costs associated with it.

We are thoroughly hated by many people, but that just comes with the territory. I try to explain to the public why their gas prices are going up. It is important that people understand these issues; else they sit around and wait for government to reign in the oil companies to get their gas prices back down.

In my job, I work to promote awareness of alternatives, sustainability, and conservation. In order for an oil company to embrace my position, we will have to change. I have even spoken personally with my CEO about the need to explore alternatives due to the inevitability of Peak Oil. My intent is to consistently nudge is in the "right" direction every chance I get.



You should look into Catherine Austin Fitts' Solari Investment Circle idea. She also has some audio seminars on Socially Responsible Investing.

She also recommends Coming Clean from the economic tapeworm that currently has a hold over us.

if it wasn't for oil and gas, 4.5 billion of the world's 6.5 billion wouldn't have been born.

so maybe oil and gas is more ethical than you think.

Point is the term "ethical" is a code word for "tribal norms." It is entirely subjective. If you were really concerned about "ethics" you'd get off your coal powered computer which is contributing to global warming and all the disasters we see around us.

I think when you or anybody says "ethical investing" you REALLY mean "investments that are within the general norms of liberal-progressive tribe."

if it wasn't for oil and gas, 4.5 billion of the world's 6.5 billion wouldn't have been born.

so maybe oil and gas is more ethical than you think.

The more we are the more it is "ethical"?
Siding with George Bush?
I'm not an insider at all but your question, "Do you insiders feel ethical remorse for working for an industry that has so much blood on its lobbyists'hands?"

My reaction when I read this was, "meanwhile this punk ass drives a car and enjoys the fruits of petroluem culture like cheap internet access."

Dude, clean up your own behavior before you start asking others about having blood on their hands for providing you with the lifestyle YOU live.

"Dude, clean up your own behavior before you start asking others about having blood on their hands for providing you with the lifestyle YOU live."

We were exploring "Atlas Shrugged" on the other thread, and when I read Bicycle's posts, I was reminded of Hank Rearden and his brother.  Rearden's brother harshly criticized Rearden for being an "evil industrialist," while living off Rearden.  

IMO, the "Evil" Energy Atlas holding the world on his shoulders can't do it much longer.  Two excerpts from "Atlas Shrugged."

"If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater the effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders--what would you tell him to do?"

"Winter had come early, in the last days of November.  People said it was the hardest winter on record and that no one could be blamed for the unusual severity of the snowstorms.  They did not care to remember that there had been a time when snowstorms did not sweep, unresisted, down unlighted roads and upon the roofs of unheated houses, did not stop the movement of trains, did not leave a wake of corpses counted in the hundreds."

Hi Oildrummers,

I have been a daily visitor since the end of 2004. I have never posted here before but since the female perspective was specifically requested  ;)...

It seems to me that our government cares about human rights abuses only when there is some political leverage to be gained. In a case where our government would put at risk our access to oil, it's laughable to think that they might actually act in a moral manner.

The dearth of women contributors is really to me a more interesting topic.

I first heard about peak oil from a co-worker in November 2004. I was bemoaning the election and he said, "you think that's bad, go Google peak oil." I read Matt Savinar's site and was terrified. I showed it to my husband really kind of expecting him to tell me something like "yeah that's true but everything will be okay for the following 25 reasons..." Instead he just said, "hmmmm, that's very disturbing." From my laid back husband, that's a panic attack. My husband and I both enjoy this site and have really learned a lot browsing here for the last 19 months. I thank the many posters who keep us informed. I especially appreciate the plateau graphs for the EIA and IEA reports of the productions numbers-- The pictures are very telling-- but slogging thru the math is just not my cup of tea. I'm the choir. I'm convinced.

I won't presume to speak for 'women' as group, but I can tell you why I don't post much even though I believe that peak oil is an imminent threat to my family:

I don't post much because I don't have any special technical expertise in oil, geology, statistics, or economics and while I hope to be able to start making serious preparations for reducing our energy consumption soon, our family is just getting started. We decided that preparing our house for sale, and paying down debt are our top preparation priorities-- and that takes sooo much time. Once we get moved, I will post on our personal preparations and experiences as we reduce our energy consumption.

Topics like how much oil is left, when production will peak, new technology for extracting or possibly replacing oil are all interesting but not immediately actionable. Once I was convinced that oil is peaking and that supplies will be declining, the societal and personal implications of the declining supplies are what I worry about. I think the first effects of declining oil supplies will be economic. Will we see hyper-inflation like Argentina 2000 or Russia in the 80's or will the impact be more deflationary like the great depression in the 1930s US? Will it be better to live in a walkable small town or small city or will it be better to be remote and as self sustaining as possible? what will the political implications be in the US and elsewhere? Will we be able to maintain a democratic republic in the US? Will there be world war? Will they try to draft my kid (do I need to prepare to flee the country)? Which preparations should I make first (after I figure out where to live)--putting in a cistern or of solar power for refrigeration?

I would probably be more inclined to jump in on these types of topics-- even if just to ask questions.  

Don't get me wrong, even though I don't post on the internet often, I do talk about peak oil. I talk to my family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances on an individual basis (some of them already wish I would talk about something else). I am doing my best to prepare for my family and I wouldn't want bad karma for not warning other people. ;)

Hey, great first post.

I think you're right in that TOD could use a few more articles on preparation; but the difficulty is nobody really has any clue what will happen.

It's common for people to assume there will be some economic disaster and there might well be .... but also there might not. So answering questions like "city or hills" is really hard and gets into the real of pure speculation quickly.

I think a very good question is: If this disaster do not happen what use do I then have out of my preparations?

For instance, if you like gardening you will have more fun out of a garden then a small warehouse full of spam cans, toilet paper and copper tubing if PO turns out to be a mild event where you live.

There is a classic funny story about the drunk who looked for his lost keys under the streelight since he anyway could not see anything where it were dark.

Its likely that few of us know the correct place for the PO "key". If I myself had perfect understanding of what will happen I would still doubt it, only hindsight is fairly certain and then can your memory play tricks on you.

We have different ammounts of physical resorces, different skills, different networks of friends. Different reasonable PO scenarios fit our respective abilities to handle them.

The obvious logical thing to do is to figure out what will happen and then adapt to that. But since we dont know for certain what that would be I think it could be a good strategy to follow your own streetlight.

Become better on what you already can, build on the resources you already have, enlarge the networks of friends you already have and aim to do that in a direction that can help you in some of the PO scenarios. And be realy smart and make investments that are usefull and enjoyable if that scenario do not happen. Dont buy a small farm out in the most rural area you can find if it isent a dream for your retirement, dont buy a perfectly located shop for intermodal travellers in a big city if you dont enjoy having a lot of people around you, and so on.

If you succeed in this and you in a few years notice that you have to change direction it is not all lost time since  you have practiced at managing your life to reach a goal and you probably have a larger set of mental tools for the new problem.  This is one main reason to not immediately commit all of your monetary/physical resources to one single solution.

I forgot: Start following your own good advice. Hanging out on TOD too much seems to be a ticket into isolation.
I second that.
Preparation for peak oil is simple.
Use as little fossil energy as possible and arrange yor life for low fossil energy need for work, transport, living, food etc.  
What you don't use cant hurt your economy or your life.

And if possible, be plugged into a lasting electricity grid like hydropower.

Maybe we should start mentioning Conservation again?

For example the EU comission has found that conservation of energy is cheaper than new power.
See middle of page 1:

**The average cost of saving a unit of
electricity in the domestic sector is
around. 2.6 € cents. The average off
peak price for delivered electricity is
around 3.9 € cent/kWh

I do remember when moving and re-arrange our lives was a simple matter. Back when we had entry level jobs with little or no vacation, owned no real property, and were just starting out with no kids. Then one place was as good as another. At one point I moved all my belongings in a '66 mustang. Not so now.

Debts, assets, children, elderly family members, jobs are all things that require time and money to re-arrange.

Now, with two kids are in college, we would love to downsize to a smaller home. However, in our case, our home is in an area that has been experiencing  many lay-offs and things aren't selling well. We think we can increase our odds of selling by doing some work to get our house in tip-top shape-- but that takes time and money. Spending money to get a house ready to sell reduces money available for things that would help reduce our energy consumption right now-- but in the long run we'll be able to save more in a smaller place. We don't have unlimited resources. We owe on a mortgage. We have tuition commitments for our children. We have a car payments.

Among people my age caring for elderly parents is becoming more and more of a concern-- a situation that an imminent oil crisis is unlikely to make easier.

Re-arranging one's life is NOT a simple thing to do and yet that is what will be required for most of us in a declining energy environment.

I'm hoping and praying for a long slow descent rather than a overnight kind of a crisis.

Let's hope those investments in the kids' higher Edge-occasions pay off with a job at the end of the tunnel.

--driving down that same road (elderely sick parents, kids in college, mortgage, etc.)

It could play out in a number of ways economically. The federal reserve has a dilemma, in that they have slowing growth and accelerating inflation. If oil keeps going up there is likely to be further upward pressure on inflation and further downward pressure on economic growth. This is a dilemma because the fed can choose to fight inflation by putting rates up or stimulate growth by cutting rates. In the former case they kill economic growth but in the latter case inflation may get out of control. So what happens depends on what they do to rates. Perhaps the best case scenario is a sort of balance where we live with a bit slower growth and a bit higher inflation - the stagflation we has in the seventies. I always feel that when push comes to shove most central banks would sacrifice growth to damp inflation. This likely means rates have to be higher than where they are today. It is probably bad for shares, bad for property and bad for bonds. You would definitely want to clear up your debts as much as possible. The winners might be precious metals.
I don't post much because I don't have any special technical expertise in oil, geology, statistics, or economics...

Those who lack expertise should definitely be posting and asking questions, IMO. It is my sincere hope that lack of expertise is not keeping large numbers of people from posting. I see this site as having primarily an educational function. I work in the oil industry, and I still learn quite a bit from this site.



  Thanks for checking in on this today..

 It's funny how I read something differently when I know it's written by a woman than a man.  Some of it is probably sexism, but not all.  I just know that there are some different energies and priorities behind the thinking, and so in this largely male site, I take particular note.

 My wife and I just sat down with a financial planner so we could 'think out loud' a little about our plans.  We have thought about getting another income property (we live in and rent our primary), but of course the market might hang us out to dry.  He (the planner) was of the mind that so much of it hangs on the Rental Market, that this is where you will see the problems growing out of..  so we're holding out on the Real Estate option.  I asked him about the economics of putting an investment onto the roof, in the form of Solar Hot Water, which should pay for itself in 10 years, so the common lore gives it, and then the system is generally rated for 20 or more, before the first major components might need replacing (Tank mainly).  He was cool on the idea, thinking that this is a long time for that capital to be working, just to reach zero again.  I don't think I agree, but my wife will want to know that the plan is monetarily sound before she'll jump in.

  The main disconnect is that I see fuel prices escalating if anything, and then the payback (or Butt-saving, if this winter is a cold one) will accelerate, while the failure to do this will be worse.  His view was that we will likely be heading into a recession, at which point, buy the system then at a lower cost, having held safely onto the cash in the meantime.  Tough call for me here.  It's crystal ball work, convincing anyone that I can't see either Heating oil or Copper to do much crashing in the next 18mos... especially since I'm no expert in economics or Oil/Metals futures..

  Until this gets resolved, my intermediate activities have been to buy what few Solar Panels I can (about 200watts now), to handle at least a few essential loads in the house, minus refrigeration.  At least I could build Solar Hot Water and Air Heating with materials from the Hardware store or the dump, but I'm trying to get a bit of the material that I have little or no way of producing myself, such as Solar Electric.  If we start seeing an economic and energy landslide together, the supply and demand curve will quickly make PV skyrocket, I have to believe.. so I want to have gotten a start there, just enough to charge some lights, phones, radios, run a laptop.  Things you can't practically do without electricity (Yes, we have candles, as well).  Even refrigeration can be done from direct solar, using Ammonia in one approach..

  Good luck on your preparations.  Don't wait.  Do a little bit today..  backup cooking arrangements/fuel is a good thing to have in place. (Coleman Stove or Woodpile)

Bob Fiske


My wife and I have never had much excess money since I left the chemical industry years and years ago.  However, we have always taken the position that it is better to have something than nothing.

Assuming you are handy and you won't get into trouble with TPTB for not going "code", it is really easy to install a simple solar water system using coils of NSF poly pipe laid on the roof.  I also designed and built simple, low cost low profile, concentrating collectors for our current system (and my new design, although untested, is even better and easier to build).

I'd be glad to send you pictures and consturction details.  If so, email me at with a mailing address and I'll get something off for you.


Thanks, Todd
I'd love to see what you've built.

I have assembled a collection of Double-glazed Patio Door Glass, and I've built the first of a series of Hot Air Heaters, which have very simple control circuitry and electrics, but I do intend to make some water heating as well.

I'll toss you an email when I get a second..

Bob Fiske

"I don't post much because I don't have any special technical expertise in oil, geology, statistics, or economics..."

While it's good to keep this site relatively technical, as I believe that was/is much the intent here, I do think it's valuable for someone who's, to be there to ::cough cough:: "Ummm, that's not gonna work."  and recount personal experiences because those can be most valuable.

Things that work beautifully on paper often have difficulty in implementation.  People don't read the directions, machines get dirty, worn, il-maintained...blamo, failure.  You might have experience in something which can give other's insight. (For example: if you have a'd better follow the specified intervals for changing the timing belt AND water pump, or you'll have a destroyed engine.  Most broken timing belts are caused by water pump seizures.)  I'm not sure if you've seen the commercial where the guy jumps off the bridge with a pair of stick and fabric wings and everyone's like "He can fly! He can fly!" and the older gent on the bike is like "Yeah, but he can't swim" as he splashes into the water.  You may be the one to not be caught up in the techo-wizzardry to be able to calmly interject: Yes, but he can't swim.


I wrote an article about this EXACT topic a while back. Just substitute the word "authors" with "posters" and the point is the same.

Your post completely dovetails with the points/conclusions I make in the article, particularly the ones accompanied by pictures of livestock near the bottom


... but I just find the link between American oil lust and the trampling of women's rights a little tenuous.


I can't beleive it.
You were right on top of it but just missing the bullseye.

Yes the "electric breastpump" will catch Sailotman's roving eyes. But think more mundane:

  1. washing machines and dryers
  2. dishwashers
  3. garbage compactors
  4. refrigerator
  5. self-cleaning electric oven
  6. vacuum cleaners
  7. keep going around the modern kitchen --can opener, electric turkey carving knife, blender, ... what else?

If these artifices of cheap energy disappear, who is going to do the cooking, cleaning and canning for us men?

Not us men.
We are going to be to busy studying the Koran and going out to kill some unbelievers for breakfast.
Women will have to be resubjegated as beasts of burden to take care of all the "mundane" aspects of life. (Yes, and of course, bearing children, raising them until old enough to be warriors or harem playmates)

Yeah, well, I didn't have to make that connection because Alpha Male Matt does it for us every time a post turns to the social ramifications of PO. So I thought everyone could add that up for themselves.

Hi Matt!

Life two hundred years ago was brutally hard for both most men and most women. By age forty, most women were dead or worn out from childbearing. About half the men were dead or invalids from back injuries and hernias, etc.

The nostalgia for a past that never was has hidden these hard realities of life without fossil fuels for all but the aristocrats and slave owners.

Women had it much better in hunting and gathering societies than they did in horticultural or agricultural societies; there are huge masses of research on this issue.

Let me throw in one more thing.  It's around 90+ degrees here today.  In the old days, women had the joy of cooking on the wood cookstove.  Not only that but they got to wear many layers of clothing.  Now, we have a six burner wood cookstove in our kitchen in addition to the electric range so I know where of I speak: There is no way on heck that I would want to be out there with the fire blazing to cook food for the family tonight even with the AC on.


PS - of course, the cookstove beat the open fire and the spit.

We are going to be to busy studying the Koran and going out to kill some unbelievers for breakfast.
Women will have to be resubjegated as beasts of burden to take care of all the "mundane" aspects of life. (Yes, and of course, bearing children, raising them until old enough to be warriors or harem playmates)

More likely we'll be studying our Bibles (mostly the Old Testament with all that good punishment stuff), attending gigantic fundamentalist churches, and looking for signs of the End of Times.  Our sons will be marching off to kill Muslims in the endless crusades (only in places where there is oil, of course), and our daughters will be barefoot and pregnant, as working will not be allowed for them and birth control will be illegal.  


Same difference.
I agree.
If you are of the Muslim faith and I have offended you, I apologize. I tend to criticize all religions including the one I was raised under (programmed under). Within each religion there are many factions or splinter groups. Not all the same. Jesus after all, was just another splinter group off the Jewish religion. Islam is another offshoot of the monotheistic Judeo-Christian-Islamic evolutionary pathway.

The way we are programmed as we grow up greatly affects our outlook on life (our internal models).

It is fairly easy to program both men & women into believing that females are an inferior species --to be used as slaves or biological factories.


You may want to note that simply because you recognize these trends does not mean you are happy about them.

Otherwise it's just a matter of time before somebody says, "oh so you're not for women having rights are you!!?"

Gender and peak oil is quite sensitively addressed by Shepherd Bliss in the following articles:-

For what it's worth I am an avid follower of TOD. I will happily post if I think I can add value and no one else seems to be picking up the ball, but there is so much intellectual talent here this is rarely required.

As for this particular post, it seems to be implying that feminists should be grateful for our hydrocarbon-based lifestyle as women's rights would somehow be lessened without it. In my experience it's not oil that grants or takes away women's rights, but men. Birth control and daycare do not deliver female liberation; men's attitudes do.

Well said! I totally agree.
Birth control and daycare do not deliver female liberation; men's attitudes do.

And what attitudes do you think will be chosen by the lizard brains (of us "men") once the cost of energy goes up for washing clothing, washing dishes, canning and preserving food stuff, sewing and repairing clothing?
It will be time for a return to traditional values.

This why the demise of cheap energy should be a big big deal for femminists.

Some people are under the delusion that this is "the 21st Century" and humanity will never go back to primitive ways. Take a look at your hands. Still 5 fingers on each, just the way it was thousands of years back. Nothing has changed.

As less energy becomes available for the household, their will be less energy expended for the household. All the electric toys for the kitchen do not save time. They cost money (=time) to buy and to operate. Any time gain made that way disappears by raising standards for cleanliness and comfort. The result of washing machines is that we are expected to change clothes more often; we're not spending less time washing clothes.
The result of washing machines is that we are expected to change clothes more often; we're not spending less time washing clothes.

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with this. Even though we wash far more clothes than our ancestors did, it still takes a fraction of the time and effort that hand washing consumed.

I clearly remember my mother spending hours washing or close in an old ringer washer. All the time it took to fill the washer, run it for 15 minutes, then drain and fill it again for the rinse. after the rinse period each item had to hand fed and passed through the ringer very carefully to squeeze out most of the water. She never allowed us to use the ringer because of the danger of squashed fingers. There was also hanging clothes on line line then the ironing after wards. Very hard work. You've don't know what happiness looks like if you didn't see my mother when she got her first automatic washer and gas dryer. The hardest part of laundry these days is going up and down the basement stairs. While it may take 2 or 3 hours to wash and dry these days I can sit at the computer while the machines do their thing.
Concurred. I lived in India for a spell and washed my own clothes on more than one occasion (using synthetic detergent even), and it was a chore.
The task itself does takes far less time, I agree. But have you taken the hidden costs into account? That is the whole industrial infrastructure to build, maintain and dispose of the machinery. And of course, this calculation is different for every household utensil.
Clothes washing is very hard work, its a major win to automate it. You might use the same ammount if time but you dont wear down your body.

Another good machine is its been in production for about 50 years and still has the same kind of motor etc and you can use it daily for decades to make heavy doughs, minced meat, saussages and so on.

I find this aspect of peak oil profoundly disturbing, especially as a parent of daughters. However, I am at least as concerned for my son, who the-powers-that-be might be one day see as prospective as cannon fodder. Life isn't likely to be easy for anyone growing up post-peak, as opportunities will probably be heavily curtailed for all relative to what they have been in recent decades. There are unrealistic expectations for the future among both genders.

I can't help but agree that a return to 'traditional values' (ie patriarchy) is probably on the cards once the 'energy slaves' of industrial civilization are no longer available, although I very much hope the future will prove me wrong. I wouldn't expect the transition to happen immediately though, as much of today's generation of young men has been raised in a relatively egalitarian milieu compared to their own ancestors and those attitudes are unlikely to change overnight. I'm more concerned for subsequent generations which may absorb a different set of prevailing attitudes from their society.

profoundly disturbing, especially as a parent of daughters

I too am a parent of daughters, post-pubescent ones.
If yours are of teenager or above years, I suggest you get into their heads and find out how they view the whole dating thing and opposite sex. What music do they listen to? (Promiscuous Girl?) You may be surprised. They don't play by the same "rules" that the Boomer generation grew up with.

The flip from an enlightened society to a highly repressive one can happen over night. Don't be so cocky as to assume the "transition" cannot happen immediately. Yes it can. Faster than you might believe.

My daughters are teenage and preteen. The music all my children listen to is primarily Broadway musicals, celtic folk music and opera (my teenage son wants to be an opera singer). Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman are their favourite performers. If they are listening to CBC radio in the car and something like rap or hiphop comes on then they will turn it off of their own volition. We listen to music as a family and all have similar tastes.

The little TV they watch is typically MASH, The Waltons, Monty Python or BBC World News. They watch no contemporary network programming (other than the news) at all. They also watch quality films on DVD - films which would make them think (eg Rabbit-Proof Fence). We also watch TV and films as a family.

As for dating, I'm pleased to say that my eldest has high standards and has yet to find anyone to meet them. Neither of my other children is interested in dating yet.

I take the task of shaping their attitudes through what they are exposed to extremely seriously. The final phase of a long-term bull market seems to be reflected in a preponderance of post-modern irony. Most young children can only take this at face value, in which case the message is terrible. I would only introduce older children to this medium, as they become capable of truly understanding it. Bear market popular culture is far worse - pessimistic and destructive with a fascination for the dark side of everything.

IMO it is important to prevent children from absorbing these attitudes from popular culture while they are too young to see them for what they are. Once children have internalized a set of values, they become better able to resist external influences of the path-of-least-resistance kind which would undermine those values. Living out in the country where there are no practical alternatives to the family life we live is definitely beneficial.

I am aware that attitudes can change, but formative values do continue to wield an influence - for good or ill - if they are well established. Hence I remain more concerned about my prospective grandchildren's generation than my children's, relatively speaking. This is not to say that I have no concerns about my children's generation - far from it. The expectations most of them have are sky high and will be dashed, which will be an uncomfortable process.  Living on a farm is a good way to instill realistic expectations in my experience.

This, of course, is why so many families home school - even non-religious ones.  Were my wife and I parents, we would have home schooled the kids.

Here is a free HS curriculum including online books, all-be-it Christian oriented:

Click the link at the top of the page.


There are many things I'd agree with there - minus the religious aspects. Plenty of good books and no video games is particularly good advice IMO. Learning real hands-on skills as well as academics is also important.
I am now preparing my eight-year old granddaughters for coming hard times by showing movies such as
"The Grapes of Wrath"
"Paper Moon"
and especially the original "Lassie" movie with Elizabeth Taylor.

Then, after the movies we talk about such things as: Why did Lassie have to be sold? Could it happen that someday we would not have enough to eat and have to sell the dog? Do you think the boy was right to get so angry at his parents when the father sold Lassie? How much do you think five guineas is in today's money? How hungry would you have to get before you would sell [here I enter the name of the relevant dog] for that amount of money?

Of course one has to tread very very very softly here, but I've found that younger children can be much more realistic than teenagers.

After World War II when things fell apart in Italy, it was found that bands of small children often survived fairly well, stealing from corpses, eating from garbage cans, begging, eating putrid food, etc. Older children, from about 12 on up were much less likely to survive, because they had learned that all these things were strictly taboo, and that to steal or to beg was a fate worse than death.

If one can mentally prepare for a rerun of the Great Depression, then we are at least part of the way to thinking seriously of some of the things we will be forced to give up in the not too distant future. By the way, all my children and grandchildren are cheerful, confident and quite mentally healthy. Were it a question of dealing with an emotionally vulnerable child, or one with severe health problems, then I do not have any suggestions.

Reading or watching stories like that and then discussing them is important IMO. Young children pick up lessons far more readily when they are presented as stories than as lectures. Your choice of material sounds great. I would add to it the 1952 animated version of Animal Farm, among other things. Realistic portrayals of the Depression would be especially valuable, as you say.
I often thought that feminism did more to liberate men than women. It seems to me that as women got more freedoms so did men. Suddenly men could abandon women with children. Suddenly men could leave there wife for a younger women etc. It seems to me that while women got votes and jobs and independent wealth they also got broken families and broken relationships etc. It liberated men to also do exactly what they please.

I fully believe in equality between men and women and I am honestly not anti-feminist or anything but I can't help but think that all those negative things came as a result of equality between men and women. So I can't help but question if we are truly better off. Does anybody else have any views on it?

I would amend that that women's attitudes are just as important. To give a more distant example, that is easier to look at objectively, who learns the little Afghan girls to submit? Their mothers and aunts.
In many cases I would guess that Mothers and Aunts are teaching suvival rather than submission.
I don't want to  give the blame exclusively to one group. A fixation on patriarchal suppression can be dangerous because it locks women in the victim role, and after all culture is maintained by the whole population - one could even say women play a more important role than men throught their traditional role in childrearing. As another example one could give the female circumcision practices, often insisted on and executed by women.
Oil Girl,

Where would Amelia Earhart have been without fossil fuels?
Having read two biographies of the woman, I can tell you I'm pretty sure she would have been stuck on her family's farms dealing with her alcoholic father.

Where would MLK have been had the hydrocarbon fueled industrial revolution not replaced muscle power with machine power? Do we really think slavery would have been abolished had there not been a superior energy source coming on line at the time? is it any coincidence that the abolition of slavery tended to happen after hydrocarbon fueld industrialization got under way in earnest?

Where would I, a white male in American, be had it not been for fossil fuels? Well, on my dad's side my family were basically serfs in czarist russia.  On my mom's side they escaped the potato famine in Ireland. So I guess the answer is either "suffering in serfdom" or "dead."

Point is the role of the 150 year energy surplus we've enjoyed cannot be underestimated when examining social issues like women's rights, civil rights, and economic justice.

Do you really think men's fundamental attitudes would have shifted had we never discovered how to tap hydrocarbons as energy sources?

If you say "yes", I would like some evidence/links that the male brain is signifcantly genetically different today than it was 150 years ago.

Small world. On my Dad's side my family were serfs in Czarist Russia (Omsk). I guess there are a lot of us.
You think you're the only one? What is this?
Oh shit. I get it. There are a lot of us. Now I gotta be friends with you. OK. Come over here in this corner. And keep your goddamn voice down. Jesus, shut up. shhhh. shhhh. OK. Now brighten the fuck up. Oh, Brian....Did I entertain you, at least?
Am I to assume you are Alpha's insane little brother?

our government ignored demands by Iraqi women's organizations to create a women's ministry, appoint women to the drafting committee of Iraq's interim constitution, pass laws codifying women's rights and criminalizing domestic violence, and uphold U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325-- which mandates that women be included at all levels of decision-making in situations of peacemaking and postwar reconstruction.

Some of these are clearly no-brainers - like banning domestic violence - but others are also totally insane.

Creating a "womens ministry"? Do we actually have such a thing in Western nations? What would such a ministry do?

Requiring women to be involved "at all levels" of decision making? What does that even mean? That every decision must be taken by a committee of at least two, whoever would have normally been in charge + a token woman? How can you possibly mandate that a certain section of society - any section! - be involved with every single decision made and not have total deadlock or chaos?

Maybe some of these womens rights (I use the term loosely) haven't been implemented because they're impractical?

Well, it depends on the society in question.  Every country has ministries, customs, etc that seem odd to another.  It depends on the necessity.  For a (re)developing pluralistic Islamic democracy, a Women's ministry probably IS a must.  Secondly, many countries have such mandates for women's participation in gov't.  Take some of the scandanavian countries at the top of the gender equality index.  They have  minimum quotas for women in parliament.  Maybe it's strange to you, but it certainly works for them, and no one would say that half of their parliaments are simply "token" representatives.
I'm sure it's easy to get to the top of the gender equality index when you require women to be in top jobs by law, but what kind of a system is that? Who knows if these people are there because they're qualified or just because they're women?

The last thing Iraq needs right now is doubt about the credibility of its leadership ... and that is exactly what legally mandated discrimination gives you.

I think it depends on the culture and educational levels too.  You imply that Scandanavia's is high on the women's empowerment index because of a government mandate, but when you consider the culture and history of Scandanavia, I'd say you're putting the cart before the horse.  De facto, it's not really mandated discrimination but more of a cultural standard.

Now in Iraq that would be a different case.  But Iraq is still an educated society and was very modern untill the US f***ed it up.  There, it would amount to "positive discrimination", for better or for worse.  But I'm not interested in a debate about the merits of that; not here.

Women's Councils were a part of the Algonquin Culture.
Jefferson allegedly modeled some of our own democratic institutions on the 'First Nations', but this one didn't get in..

Ardoch Algonquin First Nation

AAFNA Women's Council

During the AAFNA Potluck/Social held on November 30, 2003, some women in attendance asked about the possibility of forming a women's group or council that would meet regularly to discuss important issues affecting women and children in the community.

Women's council are not a new concept, but one that dates back in Algonquin communities to before the arrival of Europeans. Men and women's councils served important functions in Algonquin communities.

If you are interested in being a part of such a council, please respond by e-mail to with the subject heading Women's Council. An initial meeting will then be scheduled and everyone notified .

Sorry, that link was a little on the 'hearsay' side..

Speaking on the 'Long House' or 'Five Nations' (Later Six) of the Iroqois people in the Eastern US..

(From Parag. 4)
"Each tribe had its women's council, chosen from the mothers of the tribe, and taking the initiative in all matters of public importance, including the nomination of members of the chief's council, made up in each tribe, of a certain number of hereditary chiefs (i.e. hereditary to the clan), the same number of alternates, and an additional number chosen for special fitness but without heredity in office. The hereditary chiefs of the first class, fifty in all for the five tribes, acting together, constituted the league council."

Bob Fiske
41, Filmmaker

Good point. Look at our congress --- male dominated.  Women have a choice here, but yet they overwhelmingly elect men. What's up with that?    The U.S. is hardly in a position to liberate other countries; we can't figure out to liberate ourselves. Personally, most of my heroes in congress are women. We need more.  But why can't we have more.  Are women liberated in this country in law only?  
Women overwhelmingly elect men because men run in overwhelming numbers. What first needs to change is to have more female candidates. Now, figuring out how to do that is a difficult proposition, so I guess we're back to where we started.
Note the success of the Scandanavian countries in electing women to positions of power. I suspect they are just ahead of most of the world in cultural and social evolution.

I learned sixty years ago from my father always to get people from despised groups to do work for you, because typically they work harder and better. In the forties he hired disabled vets to work as elevator operators; he sometimes hired the only black contractor in the whole county and got superb work at bargain rates.


  1. My doctor is a woman
  2. My lawyer is a woman
  3. I used to have a woman mechanic, but she moved away.
  4. My insurance guy is Black
  5. The service guy at my Audi place is Black

Well, you get the picture. BTW, I get better service from people I deal with than anybody I know.
6. My rabbi is a woman.

--Smart as hell. Well, actually, even smarter than the occupiers of that place.

Hey - you got Cynthia McKinney - what more could you ask for ;-)
Another thought ...

I wonder what the age demographics of the PO community are? Are people mostly older, younger or middle aged? What jobs do we do?

I know this is lame, cheesy, etc but could people post their age, job and whereabouts they're from? I just think it'd be really interesting. I'll start.

22, England, computer programmer

Was told about PO from another 22 year old, who is looking at joining the software world as well.


32 male, England, Share trader

I would say mostly two types:

  1. male aged 20-40, European/American, professional.

  2. male aged 40-60, European/American, hippy activist unemployed.
Well, you almost nailed it...I missed your cutoff by 5 years (YIKES!). I agree it would be interesting to take a survey.
Dude totally on the money there! I guess I fall into category 1.
White male, INTJ, working for one of the supermajors, in a place many timezones away from where he emerged kicking and screaming into the grey northern daylight of British post-WW2 reconstruction.
ooh, that's a good idea too.

I call for a survey (or set of surveys) to find out:

Age, Gender, Income, and 4 letter Jungian type of TOD registered users.

I dont' think it's cheesy, it's interesting.

44, female, ohio usa.

And since the original topic of this thread was peak oil/women's rights/the dearth of female posters at TOD, I'll add that I think it is interesting that men seem to, much more than women, define themselves by what they do for a living.

so I'll also add that I am:

  • a mother with 1 child in high school and 2 step children in college.
  • a "civil-libertarian, feminist, green" kind of democrat" (on the scale a social -7.54, economic -5.25),
  • married for 15 years to a very smart man who is an atheist, libetarian, software devoloper
  • a not very religious Christian (raised by southern-baptist fundamentalists),
  • an ENTP personality (, take the test if you are interested at:
  • doing unix system support for a paycheck from a large multi-national corporation.
  • really lovin' the autoformat list making feature at TOD ;)
how did you do the bullets? html neophytes want to know --thanks
You can learn a lot from reading the auto format help page:

Just do an asterick and a space.

  • one
  • two
  • three
25, M, Belgium, graduating as historian, INTP

I ran across the issue while procrastinating on the net from writing my dissertation.

Well, in terms of the internal geopolitics of the USA and the West in general, there seem to be two basic orientations to this issue.

(1) Uphold that part of "diversity" which is the "right" of "other" cultures and religions to do as they damned well please to their people, on the theory, perhaps, that any "norm" is merely an arrogant imposition of the congenitally wicked West.

(2) Uphold human rights, including women's rights, as a global undertaking.

One can't have this both ways, at least not for very long. So, everyone, take your pick. Picking (2) will have become more difficult in a context of peaking oil flows, but the cultural and religious practices one ratifies and sanctifies by picking (1) were invented millennia before anyone really even understood oil.

This is an important issue because our government now claims that freedom is the reason we are in Iraq.  Our government has also claimed that the freedom and power of women has increased as a result of the so called Iraqi liberation..  But, where the rubber hits the road, we mainly care about our ability to extract Iraq's war under the rubric of free enterprise.  

Oil, obviously, is critical, to the so called American way of life. All the more reason, why we need to wean ourselves off of it to the greatest extent possible.  

Speaking of Ms. magazine, only us old-timers will recall that back in the 1980s, or early 1990s, it came perilously close to going bankrupt. Then at the 11th hour, Ms. Steinem tapped her rich boyfriend for a multi-million dollar loan which saved the magazine and allowed it to carry on fighting the truly important battles alongside NOW, such as trying to get women membership the exclusive Augusta golf club.

I worked at a couple non-profits while in college and law school. I noticed that most of the full time employees were women who had husbands making lots of money. A coincidence? I think not.

Many great posts above.  My only comment on pissing contests is that unfortunately they echo the same arguments (contests) in government, and by lobbiests to geovernments.  Society is arguing now on which energy solutions we should be enacting.

If someone says "hydrogen is great," is it?  Is it so great that it should take not just my tax dollars, but the limited mindshare of my legislators?

Maybe it would be nice if they just knew, and we could shut up about it.