DrumBeat: August 13, 2006

Back to the Brink

With global oil supplies as precarious as they seemed last week, you’d think security-obsessed officials in the UK and US government would ensure that the supplies they have a modicum of control over – domestic oil and gas production – were in the healthiest possible state.

Not a bit of it. Instead, the dilapidated pipes and platforms of the UK and the US’s ageing oil fields are making production ever less reliable.

The CEO of FedEx asks: Are We Ready for the Next Oil Shock?

Pure market economics will never solve this problem. Markets do not account for the hidden and indirect costs of oil dependence. Businesses focused on the highest return on investment are not always in a position to implement new solutions, many of which depend on technologies and fuels that cannot currently compete with the marginal cost of producing a barrel of oil. Most important of all, the marketplace alone will not act preemptively to mitigate the enormous damage that would be inflicted by a sudden, serious and sustained price increase.

The September 2006 issue of Scientific American is a special energy issue. There's nothing online yet, but it's on newstands now. Articles include:

"A Plan to Keep Carbon in Check"
"Fueling our Transportation Future"
"What to Do about Coal"
"The Nuclear Option"
"The Rise of Renewable Energy"
"High Hopes for Hydrogen"
"Plan B for Energy"

The real price of oil

Yet a growing number of Wall Street traders seem to be agreeing with the investment guru Rogers and the Iranian official. Louise Yamada, of Louise Yamada Technical Research Advisors, said that she expects oil to reach $84 a barrel in the “short term, then keep rising.” Back in July 2004, Yamada predicted that oil would reach $67 within months. Indeed bets on futures contracts for $100 oil tripled in the past three months: the number of options to buy crude at $100 this year stood at 53,047 in late July, triple the amount quoted on 21 April.

Kuwait's reserves queried again

Kuwait's parliament has again called for the government to reveal how much oil the country has in its reserves, reported the Kuwait Times. Speculation has continued for months that the country has 48bn barrels of oil in reserve, about half of the official figure of 99bn. Kuwait's new Energy Minister, Sheikh Ali Al Jarrah Al Sabah, who was appointed in July, has said that he will clarify the situation shortly.

A strike by tanker drivers causes fuel shortages in Port Harcourt

And the message was clear. Fuel scarcity had actually hit the busy city. If people actually thought that the Monday experience was a child’s play, then, by Tuesday morning, the problem had assumed an alarming proportion as the filling stations had remained sealed. No form of activity was taking place in them. The owners and the attendants had disappeared or apparently recoiled into their shells to avoid the teeming number of motorists and other users who were likely to accost them to find out whether or not they had the elusive black gold.

Bomb damages gas pipeline in Pakistan. I think that's the fifth time in a week.

Facing Reality in Derrick Jensen's 'End Game'

Greenland's Melting Ice Sheet May Speed Rise in Sea Level

Two new scientific studies measuring Greenland's rapidly melting ice sheet and the pace of Antarctic snowfall suggest that the sea level may be rising faster than researchers previously assumed.
Got the Sept. 2006 issue of Discover yesterday.  (It's a special issue on "Does NASA have a future?")  

There was an interesting bit about urban sprawl. ("Is Urban Sprawl an Urban Myth?")  Turns out, it's not as bad we think.  Cities have grown, but the development is not more scattered.

[University of Toronto economist Mattheew] Turner's observations of individual cities are also surprising.  Miami, for example, is about a third more compact than New York or San Francisco, while Pittsburgh sprawls more than even Atlanta or Washington.  He attributes about 25 percent of difference to topological factors like groundwater accessibility, weather, and mountains.  The rest is pure human influence: Cities constructed during the automobile era are more scattered, while cities where employment is centralized and taxpayers shoulder more infrastructure costs tend to build on a relatively cheaper and more compact scale.
There was an interesting bit about urban sprawl. ("Is Urban Sprawl an Urban Myth?")  Turns out, it's not as bad we think.  Cities have grown, but the development is not more scattered.

I guess it depends on your metric. If you compare us to Europe, then we have horrendous sprawl. Over there, you come upon a compact little village, and then leaving the village you are back into farmland unspoiled by half a dozen little subdivisions. Here, it seems like we have just sprawled all over good farmland, and I think we will ultimately regret that.

Depends where you look, Robert... France has sprawled catastrophically over the 20 years I've been commuting here. though, it's true, generally by expansion around the nucleus of existing villages, rather than green-field development. But there has been a major phenomenon of urban flight, and it's still going on. Will probably take a few years, and political will, to turn around before we start re-densifying the places with the good infrastructure.

When visiting the US, I was struck by the impression that only the best, easiest agricultural land is used. e.g. the hills of North Carolina : all that superb rainforest was destroyed, the land grazed or cropped for a little while (a generation or two?) and is now reverting to forest. What happens next? Clear the forests again to plant biomass for fuel?

Another interesting bit from this issue: an estimate  of how much energy it takes to evolve a new species.  Turns out, life ain't cheap.  It's actually incredibly expensive.

Drew Allen, an ecologist at UC Santa Barbara, worked out how much energy it takes to generate a new species.

The answer: a staggering 10^23 joules, more energy than is released by all the fossil fuels burned on Earth in a year.

...He found that although the amount of energy required is constant, new species form more quickly near the equator because heat speeds up both metabolism and the rate of genetic mutations.  

Even Darwin noticed that biodiversity is more plentiful in the tropics.  "But the idea that temperature affects speciation rates through its effects on molecular-level processes is brand new," Allen says.

I may have to get to the library for that, sounds interesting.   FWIW, I remember that African Chchlids are sometimes put forward for the "reocrd" in speciation, but at 15K years or so it's not exactly fast on a human timescale.

"Interestingly, Lake Victoria dried up approximately 12,00-15,000 years ago (before becoming a lake again), suggesting that the rate of speciation in Lake Victoria cichlids is the fastest ever reported for vertebrates."


Thanks for the great load of articles Leanan.

That's not good. I read a book about agriculture and such. We need to change the varieties of crops every five years to keep up with developing resistances of pests and other such things. That won't be good when the farmers don't have that.
10^23 joules is about what Earth receives from the Sun in 16 hours.
Diamond discusses the issue of more species at the equator. I forget whether it was in 'Guns Germs & Steel' or 'Collapse' but doesn't posit any root causes. I really am suspicious of this energy calculation though. Energy necessary to form a new species??? How the hell can that be measured? Bacteria can form a new species in a few hours. I don't think this can be either accurate to any degree or useful except in a 'golly, gee whiz' kind of way.
Energy necessary to form a new species??? How the hell can that be measured? Bacteria can form a new species in a few hours.

Yeah, I thought the same thing. The nylon-digesting bacteria resulted from a frame-shift mutation. That was just a normal division process that got screwed up. All it takes is one division in some cases, as you say, to form a new species.

Actually, gene-swapping or 'horizontal-gene-transfer' is ubiquitous among bacteria so it doesn't take mutations at all for them to form new 'species' however one defines a species among bacteria. Good evidence exists that HGT occurs somewhat higher up the evolutionary ladder as well.
The definition of species is dependent on context. For sexually reproducing organisms 'species' is much more easily defined, and the pace of speciation is worth studying. Speciation in bacteria is a more subjective matter.
Anyone know some good post-Peak substitutes for coffee and tea?  It's gonna really suck waking up in the morning if I have to drink steeped twig water.
For me, that's a good argument for moving to Costa Rica ;-). Ethiopia has better coffee but ...

I really don't understand thinking like this -- that there won't be coffee and tea available? Come on. That's really silly.

Even Kunstler falls into this ad absurdum line of thinking sometimes: plastics come from hydrocarbons and we're "running out" of oil therefore there won't be plastics for medical devices in the future. He says that the US won't be able to maintain it's nuclear arsenal because there won't be enough energy. Which is just stupid for about twenty reasons.

Stuff like this turns the whole argument into a cartoon. There are still at least a trillion barrels of oil available. Coffee and tea might get more expensive like all goods (as inputs and trasport get more costly), but the idea that two of the most-cultivated crops in the world will not be available in the United States, except in a James Lovelock-type "last few breeding couples picking through radioactive waste heap" type of future. (Which is a runaway warming scenario anyway -- one I personally think is much more dangerous than peak oil.) Energy of transport for a pound of tea is a negligable cost and would only slightly less negligable with $150 oil. Thinking like this is rightfully parodied about peak oilers: "A future without tea."

I'm joking, just "going with" the doomer idea for a minute.  My "backstory" is that I'm a moderate, who while not locking into any one future, sees the "cornucopian" and "doomer" positions as equally extreme.
I really don't understand thinking like this -- that there won't be coffee and tea available? Come on. That's really silly.

no it's not that silly. Simply put will they use what little farmland they have left after loosing fossil fuel inputs to grow this stuff rather then food to feed their larger population? They can't rely on trade to get the food either since everyone around them is in the same position.

Even Kunstler falls into this ad absurdum line of thinking sometimes: plastics come from hydrocarbons and we're "running out" of oil therefore there won't be plastics for medical devices in the future. He says that the US won't be able to maintain it's nuclear arsenal because there won't be enough energy. Which is just stupid for about twenty reasons.

plastics are very much dependent on hydrocarbons. either we use them as the feedstock for the chemicals to make the plastics or we use them to power the farm equipment, natural gas to make the fertilizer to make the plants grow that we would make the plastics out of because doing it without these would not yield enough.

Stuff like this turns the whole argument into a cartoon. There are still at least a trillion barrels of oil available.

no one who know about this would argue that we are running out of oil even kunstler in his book makes this point. but what they do and you do not is account for the fact that we are running out of the high quality oil and the only oil that is left is the less useful lower quality's not only that this lower quality oil is also harder to extract and process. we will reach a point where oil is just not worth the cost of getting it before we ever run out of the stuff, long before.

This whole  thing is extremely foolish.

It makes no sense whatsoever to produce fertilizer from natural gas, none. We don't neeed methane to produce fertilizer, we need hydrogen, and it just turns out that its cheaper to produce hydrogen from natural gas than from the thermal (or electrical) decomposition of water. That won't always be the case.

Farm equipment can actually run off of electricity easier than cars can. It isn't traveling long distances, and is generally so large that  amassive battery pack wouldn't be a big deal.

why all the doom and gloom? We use oil for this process because it's cheap, not because its needed.

your mistaking money with energy. they are not the same.
you also need to look up something called the 'law of diminishing returns'
also just because it's possible to make fertilizer without natural gas, it is NOT possible to produce it as fast, as cheaply, or in such large amounts needed to continue to feed 6.5 billion people now and the 9 billion that will be alive by 2012. especially since the process is more complex to make it out of other thing then natural gas, this is why the old fashioned way of composting to make fertilizer can't do it in a fast enough fashion to beat our current way of doing it.

and while equipment can be made to run off electricity, it will end up costing more in the less obvious infrastructure to keep the electricity flowing which is NOT a trivial task.

At the risk of sounding callous, the amount of people alive worldwide is irrelevant.  Areas that can't support themselves will end up having die-offs.  We're not going to change all our production over to food and stop growing coffee and tea.  Even as people are starving, we won't make that change.  The reason is because we're not just one homogenous country with a central worldwide government.  For this reason I think it's pointless to focus on whether there is enough crop land to feed everybody.  

As for farming, many of the best farming areas in the U.S. are also ideal locations either for wind or solar.  Now, there may be some question of how to store that power, whether with batteries or pumped storage, or maybe just having a long power cord trailing along behind the electric tractor?  In any case, with more decentralized power production in farming areas, we might be able to save on infrastructure upgrades and end up saving overall on the transition cost.  Not to mention, there's also biodiesel and everyone's favorite ethanol which might be able to find some use in farming.  

Artificial fertilisers double globally, likely to be more in USA, the available nitrogen to our food crops. If the USA had no artificial nitrogenous fertiliser crop yields would be at least 25% diminished until massive changes to agricultural methods could be implemented.

At the risk of being contentious, are you a recruiter for al Qaeda ;)

As for farming, many of the best farming areas in the U.S. are also ideal locations either for wind or solar.

  1. Farming IS capturing solar energy.
  2. wind and solar are not an either-or kind of thing.  Farming can go on under wind turbines.  PV solar and farming are hard to combine, unless you could get strips of PV panels to make a lattice over Ginsing.  

Be careful, notice what I said.

Current process is this...

  1. Dig up natural gas, pipe it around, and get it scrubbed down to something ready for use.
  2. Natural gas, convert to hydrogen.
  3. Catalyze hydrogen and nitrogen to produce ammonia.

It could just as easily work like this...

  1. Use electricity to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen.
  2. Catalyze hydrogen and nitrogen to produce ammonia.

Which process do you really think is simpler?

We don't need natural gas to produce fertilizer, we need energy, of just about any form. Electricity will do just fine. The end of natural gas isn't the end of fertilzer. This is a red herring.


Makes a lot of sense! Indeed, tractor tyres are generally half-filled with water to improve traction... massive low-slung battery packs are not a problem!

And as a rural dweller, I won't necessarily miss the noise and diesel fumes very much...

Thanks for the policy idea! In France, agricultural diesel is tax-free i.e. less than half price. Replace that subsidy with an electric-tractor grant, a switch could happen very quickly.

Anyone know why it isn't happening already?

What about when EROEI goes negative on oil drilling?
then the rules of the game change. those foolish enough to continue to invest in it as a energy source will crash  and burn.
as for raw materials the price will skyrocket, if we continue on our current path oil might be worth more then gold.
Check Mainer's post again.  S/He didn't say coffee and tea won't be available.  Look at it this way, if I have $10 a month available for coffee and tea, but enough to make a morning cup has now gone up to $15 a month, that chicory growing on the side of the road might start to look attractive (roasted chicory root is often cited as a coffee substitute.)

IMHO, this is one of the fundamental misunderstandings about oil peaking.  I don't see any reason to believe that oil production will collapse tomorrow, but if you're staring down the barrel of a 50 mile commute with a gas guzzler and maxed out debt, it may not make a difference to you if gas costs $3/gallon or $6/gallon.  It isn't affordable either way.  Now the price of everything else is rising too, and your boss just frowns when you broach the topic of a pay raise.  And coffee?  It might as well grow on the moon for your ability to pay for it.

Coffee and tea were once considered "luxury goods", due to the fairly limited areas they would grow in naturally and inherent cost of transporting them from source to destination.

The same could be said of fresh fruits (like bananas) and sugar until early in the 20th century (many fruits will not keep in a fresh state for more than a couple of weeks without refrigeration....peaches come immediately to mind, as it was refrigerated boxcars that made the growing of peaches a viable agricultural product).  Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today.

The spice trade (and routes, and cultural interaction that stemmed from it) of ancient times was based on a similar premise.  
While coffee and tea will still be produced, once you factor in the cost of a 3000+ mile transportation network to get it to you, the end consumer, you might easily end up paying 10x what it costs today for the same amount.
As a coffee drinker, I can tell you that Coffee has already doubled in cost in just the last 5 years.

If we go back to that 1898 Klondike goods list, it was 10 pounds of coffee and 10 pounds of tea.  Other lists go as high as 20 or 30 pounds of one or the other.  Pound per pound of course tea goes a lot further than coffee.


So, a railroad transportation company recommended that every Klondike miner travel (by rail) with 1500lbs of goods, much of it already shipped (by rail?) from long distances.  Who made the other lists, with amounts as high as 20 or 30 pounds of coffee and tea, coffee roasters and tea plantations?  How many miners actually took that advice?  It's an interesting list, but I'm not sure what it demonstrates.
"The Royal Canadian Mounted Police required each person entering the Yukon to possses one year's worth of food and other goods before they could pass into the interior."

And so of course lists sprang up to satisfy that need.  I think they are interesting on a couple levels.  Partly because it shows that there's nothing new under the sun, and people were figuring these lists 100 years ago.  Partly because I think people in 1890 had a better grip on the basics than we do.  Partly because I could probably still pick up that list at the local markets.

Looks like this is a source for that quote.  I would like to see the list the Mounties were using.  I'd buy that.  In particular, since that's what we're talking about, that the Mounties' list required ten pounds each of coffee and tea.  

The other point is that the Canadians were apparently attempting to require 1) a sufficient amount of provisions in the province for the people coming in, 2) a certain level of stamina in the people coming in, and most importantly, 3) that the people entering were people of means.  No riffraff that can't afford a significant up-front outlay need apply.  I agree with you that the list is good and that 100 years ago they understood provisioning better than many people today.  It's a nifty, and maybe even valuable, artifact.

I don't really see what that has to do with the affordability of coffee and tea at the time, however.  A better example would be evidence that the per-capita consumption of coffee and tea among low income people during the Great Depression was about as high as during the Roaring Twenties.  Or even that overall consumption of coffee and tea was as high during the Depression as during the Twenties.  

Trying to beat me on the pedantic scale?  People were talking about coffee not being used by the common folk, and I pointed out that (relatively small) amounts of it were on the old Klondike lists.  That that for what it's worth.

If you find the Mountie list (I think they required a year and left it at that) feel free to post it.

... and (pedantically) "affordability" is a different argument than distribution of use.

In a quick internet search, both of the sources I found on coffee consumption in the Great Depression, here and here,  say that coffee consumption plunged during the Depression.  I wouldn't call those definitive sources, but they suggest that coffee became too expensive for many people.
Kjmclark is right on point, coffee (and for that matter, tea) consumption plunged during the Great Depression. Multiple sources for this information exist.  

Note also that even during worst years of the Civil War, confederate troops still had coffee, albeit now made from boiled roots. People try to hang on to what they love and know, no matter the circumstances. It is natural human behavior.

Your original comment was:

"Coffee and tea were once considered "luxury goods", due to the fairly limited areas they would grow in naturally and inherent cost of transporting them from source to destination."

If we are going to be pedantic, I think the fact that gold miners put a limited amount of coffee on their lists sort of supports that.  kinda.  10 pounds per year is maybe a luxury, but one within reach of the common man.  10 pounds of tea on the other hand, looks almost like a staple.

Mountain climbers and polar explorers usually pack tea. There are several reasons for this preferance over coffee, but one of them is that it is much lighter to pack than coffee. Another reason is that tea is marvelous to warm you up in cold weather; indeed it is diaphoretic.

(I yield to nobody in pedanticism.)

diaphoretic is a new word for me ;-)
Oh, indeed. I never made the connection between 'luxury goods' and unavailability to anyone but the wealthy.  However, as with all luxury goods throughout history, only small amounts might be affordable for the common man. There was a time when an after-dinner cup of coffee or tea was considered as "luxurious" as an after-dinner fine cigar or shot of quality liquor. All four were luxury goods.
I will stick to beer - so much more than just a breakfast drink....
This will be the best place to live, post peak:


If peak doesn't arrive in the immediate future, this might also do nicely:


A couple of interesting articles which illustrate the extent to which the SA stock market and SA economic activity in general have become examples of openness and society-wide involvement (for those who like to claim that SA is owned in its entirety by a handful of Princes, or that the oil they claim to have is really camel dung, insert other racist stereotypes here, etc.).  



No doubt it will have car parks and an airport or two. But will it be futuristic enough to have places to tie up one's camel, I wonder?

Been following the SA stock exchange lately? Last time I looked it, and some other arabian bourses, were down a bit in 2006. I presume you're acquainted with the concepts 'greed' and 'excess liquidity'?

Would you care to offer some explanation? Seems a little simplistic to me..

IMO, Dubai??... post-peak possibly... since they have recently "nationalised" (sequestered?) their oil industry... but post-oil then what...

Yes, the Gulf states are perfectly located for mass PV generation... lots of sun & local empty desert... but will that feed & water them them? And what exactly will they be "exporting" in exchange for all goods & services currently imported??

And as for Dubai's current diversification as a "tourism dream"... well, that will fall flat on it's face at some time post-peak when aviation becomes prohibitively expensive.

And besides I believe Dubai ALREADY has huge problems with water supply...

As for your following idea of living in KSA... have you ever lived there? Some pretty big lifestyle compromises needed... unless of course it is the 54th?? state by then!!


Actually is there any reason PV couldn't feed and provide water for them?  PV to desalinate and pump the water, as well as power farm equipment.  Maybe the desert there is still not conducive to agriculture, so in that case they could generate electricity and sell it through some sort of medium for transportation (hydrogen?).  

If we move to energy sources beyond oil then there's no reason that international trade will fall apart.  So, things might continue on much as they are now.  

Europeans use the root of wild or cultivated chicory as a coffee substitute or just to balance coffee's flavor. They also add the leaves to green salads. Some European cooks steam or boil the root of the plant and season it with butter, herbs, and spices.

some natural teas...


But I figure there will be a 3 masted schooner packed with coffee from Kona docked 15 miles away, and I have some gold and silver :>)

But I figure there will be a 3 masted schooner packed with coffee from Kona docked 15 miles away

Don't count on it.  The Big Island was already up against Malthusian limits in the days of King Kamehameha.  Indeed, that is why Kamehameha launched his attacks against the other islands.  

There are now twice as many people on the Big Island as there were in Kamehameha's time.  I doubt they'll be growing luxury crops for export if TSHTF.

You seem to know something about almost everything!
Leanan. Is. God. Or some adulation of that sort....

The Hawaiians islands were indeed up against Malthusian limits, hence their elaborate fishing laws and food laws, and their blase' attitude towards killing those of the working class for the smallest infractions.

I'm from Kona.  My first job was picking macadamia nuts and coffee on a Kona farm.  :)
So you have touched the food and drink of the Gods from Heaven itself!!!  That does tend to explain the supernatural websearch abilities...
Kona is good coffee, particularly if you like milder roasts(*).  But I think most coffee-heads agree that the Kona lure is as much about its limited production (very limited) than its absolute quality.  A marketing success in other words, when scarcity feeds itself.

* - I generally like a full city roast, and the beans that support that:


O'douls, Busch NA, water, etc...
Works for me <BG>.
Actually, fermentation is a great way of preserving many kinds of sugar-bearing plants and plant extracts.
Try ground roasted hazel nuts and added honey, all in a cup of hot water, of course.
Maybe global warming will create favorable areas for tea and coffee cultivation in the continental US!  It would be funny too if the BATF started conducting coca eradications in the ozarks.    
Especially if the eradications had to be done with horse and buggy because of fuel shortages.  

On the other hand, if people are scrambling for food and fuel, drug enforcement will go to zero.  Watch out for that reefer madness!


Tea was a major cargo item for clipper ships to bring to the U.S. from China more than a hundred and fifty years ago.

Bags of coffee can be loaded onto sailing ships again, as they were for more than three hundred years.

I think there may be a future for sailing ships where the sails also provide a surface for photovoltaic films to charge batteries that would power electric motors during calms. To push a big boat at a few knots in a calm is quite practical with a remarkably small electric motor. For example, a fifty-five pound thrust trolling motor can push a 4,000 pound sailing yacht at three knots for several hours on the charge of one regular-size deep-cycle marine battery (similar to a car battery in size and weight).

Big banks of lead-acid batteries would work fine for ballast.

So worry not: Caffein will keep coming to our shores.

A return to the age of sail.  I think I'd like that. Probably would mean bigger crews and smaller ships.  It may help absorb some of the post peak unemployment. Somewhere in the briny deep Joshua Slocum is getting that warm fuzzy feeling.


Yes, I think this kind of thing will be among the many good things to come of the loss of abundant burnable energy.

To take a small issue with wording, I think we will soon have a lot of nice "work."

Work is a beautiful thing. Employment sucks.

But will the coffee and tea farmers want your dollars?
I doubt they will want "dollars." Utterly useless things those are.
But my tribe will have several quite useful things to trade.
Tea was a major cargo item for clipper ships to bring to "the U.S. from China more than a hundred and fifty years ago."

Statements that talk about 75, 100, 200 hundred years ago,  I don't know how valid they are.  

What percent of the City of Boston(say) were serviced by a the amount on a Clipper ship?,  What percent of Boston would be serviced by that same Clipper ship today?

The population change and a thousand other things...  I don't know if we can use such comparisons.  


We now know how to build safer and less labor intensive (i.e. more efficient) sailing ships than we used to. Wood is still going to be around for a long time, as is hemp for rope. If we can afford to use steel and aluminum and other modern materials, sailing ships can be far more efficient than they used to be.

In the mid-nineteenth century even working class Americans could afford to and did drink coffee or tea; now there are more people, and hence more sailing ships would be needed to meet the needs of a larger population.

I do not advocate a return to the clipper ships, but if there were no other alternative, the design is proven, although it is labor intensive. Fore-and-aft rigged ships such as schooners use less labor than do square-rigged ships, and they are also better at going upwind. By the end of the nineteenth century there were some large and efficient sailing vessels that continued to be profitable for many years--in some cases right up to the Great Depression. Sail-powered Chinese junks (with no auxilliary power) continued in use I think right up until about 1960, but since then most if not all have engines in addition to sails.

Another advantage of relatively small sailing ships (compared to the huge ships of today) is that they require far less infrastructure in terms of ports, docks, cranes, etc.

We might go back to using schooners.  They were rigged specifically to be less labor intensive.  "one man per mast, a cook and the captain," I believe is how the saying goes for schooners.
Speaking as a seacook (the most important position on a sailing ship; lots of people can be skipper or able seamen), I think you'd want more people so that at least one person could be lookout and wide awake at all times. Also, in times of storms you want extra crew members to deal with broken masts, clogged pumps, and as replacements for those swept overboard.

Also, the cook should have an assistant, traditionally called "Jack Nastyface" according to Patrick O'Brian's magnificent Aubrey/Maturin novels.

Four hours on duty and eight hours off is probably optimal, for most positions, if you want to keep the ship from being prematurely wrecked. Because I have no faith whatsoever in GPS, I'd like to have a sailing master along, unless both skipper and first mate are excellent navigators.

Check out the following website for the latest in wind powered ships on steroids. http://alt-e.blogspot.com/2005/02/hybrids-hybrid-boats-hybrid-ships-and.html Wind augmentation will definitely be one of the silver bb's.
I can think of something that'll stop the caffeine trade. If a clandestine chemist figures out a way to turn it into meth, the government would have to ban coffee.
Nah, just use batteries as ballast (nice and dense lead acid or nickel iron), and use a screw at the rear for both maneuverability and recharging the batteries when you are sailing.
"Anyone know some good post-Peak substitutes for coffee and tea?"

In North America you might want to check out Cassina. The others suggested above don't have caffine, but Cassina does

Don't believe there is a substitute for coffee.  A lot of people have tried but coffee is still the addictive drink of choice.  What I do is stockpile a 1 year supply of vacuum-packed coffee that I rotate thru during the year.  All TOD coffee lovers should do this.  I always have 1 year of coffee on hand.  Stored in a cool, dry spot it is good for quite a while.  If TSHTF I'll still have my coffee for breakfast.  I'm getting too old to fight the mobs at WalMart.  This keeps me set no matter what.  Who knows?  One day I might be able to trade a pound of coffee for an SUV lawn ornament.  Figure that will be as good as it will get with coffee.  
With Climate Change, you may be able to gtow your own.....
Or plant a few arabica and camellia shrubs beneath your banana and lemon trees in the greenhouse or sunspace (you DO have a greenhouse, don't you?):


chicory-enhanced coffee is indeed yummy, there was a spike in coffee prices and things like Postum and Sunrise (the coffeee that's mellowed with chicory) appeared on American shelves. That Sunrise was some good shit.

I didn't become a coffee hound until my mid 20s though, before that I used to do push-ups, no kidding, to stay awake if I had to!

As a chicory+coffee drinker, I am NOT sure that chicory "mellows" coffee.  "Spikes" might be more descriptive >;-)

No extra caffiene, but the taste takes on an extra edge !

We already had both tea and coffee well before we had oil.
But as others have pointed out, they were luxury goods, for only the wealthy few.

If TSHTF, I will expect coffee and tea to become too pricy for many ordinary folk.  It may be impossible to grow enough for everyone, even if they could pay, because as with other crops, petrochemicals are used.  It is possible to grow coffee organically, but it takes longer and the yields are lower.    

You are quite mistaken about coffee and tea being luxury goods only for the wealthy. The wealthy drank fine wine or hard liquor; working class people drank lots of cheap beer or liquor and also lots of tea or coffee.

Check the huge amounts of coffee and tea imported to the U.S. c. 1850 (for which we have pretty good data); these amounts were not restricted to the wealthy.

Also, I seem to recall that rage leading to the Boston Tea Party was not restricted to the elite--indeed, the elite were mostly Tories.


I just blabbed to Odograph that my lame, but quick websearch found that coffee consumption dropped significantly during the Great Depression.  Is it possible that both you and Leanan are right, but for different time periods?  That is, when times are not miserable, coffee and tea aren't luxury goods, but when TSHTF, they become luxury goods?

Many people think they can afford wide-screen plasma TVs, but during a recession lots of goods like that suddenly become too expensive for "real people."

Caffeine is found in more than coffee, tea, chocolate, and kola. Extraction processes will be developed, if necessary. Caffeine is an insecticide and is in dozens of species. Some kinds of ivy, IIRC.
When guessing at the future oil price we all need a reality check from the demand side! Let's see if 'supply sider' Yergins's supply growth can keep up with potential demand:

Global economic growth from 1993 to 2003 averaged 3.6%pa (source: The Economist), so the global economy has growth about 58% since then. Growth is now running at 4.5%pa by the way - we don't get to see much of it but we're not Chinese.

Oil production (= demand) in 1993 was 66mbpd (source BP). Had GDP/bbl remained constant then demand in 2006 would now be 104mbpd. It's not; it's 85mbpd. The price has balanced supply and demand. Why the surprise that the oil price has risen?

Looking forward - In 2006 we're on 85mbpd. If you project global growth and oil demand forward at 3.6%pa you get 101mbpd in 2001, 121mbpd in 2016 and 198mbpd in 2030.

Is Yergin promising us 198mbpd on his 'undulating plateau' after 2030? Nope. Is Saudi Arabia? Nope. IEA, EIA, USGS or OPEC? Nope. So why do they say there is enough oil? Enough for who?

OPEC has lost control of the oil price because demand is capable of growing faster than any conceivable increase in supply. From now on oil will be priced at the MARGIN where the economic cost of using more oil balances the opportunity cost or not doing so. Yes, GBP/bbl isn't fixed but that is what the price mechanism is varying. If the price of gas[olene] isn't hurting it's not working. It will do whatever it takes.

I look at Stuart's oil production curve and see a demand curve, not a supply curve, and it will stay that way until peak oil arrives.

An interesting tangent on your thoughts here is what Saudia Arabia has been saying about demand for heavier crudes.  If SA's reduciton in exports over the recent months has been due to a lack of refinery capacity capable of handling heavier/sourer crudes (as they claim) it would stand to reason that the BP shutdown would not roil the oil market too much since a ready replacement of Saudi heavy should be available.  I could be wrong as I'm not an engineer, but my understanding is that the North Slope produces a pretty heavy sludge, so the refineries in California designed to handle it should be able to take heavy oil from the gulf.

Obviously there'd be a bit of efficiency loss shipping from the ME instead of Alaska, but it could not be too significant.

Does anyone have any idea how to check on this?  How does one track tanker shipments around the world?  Thanks.

As an example of what could happen, Wolf at the Door notes the following (emphasis added):

The example of North Korea shows us what happens to agriculture when oil products are removed. After the Korean war, it had developed a modern farming system depending on machinery and oil-based fertilisers. After the Soviet Union fell, Communist aid to the country stopped and they were unable to purchase oil and supplies. Without oil, farm machinery was sitting idle (80% of its capacity by 1998) and large proportions of the people had to return to the agriculture. Unfortunately the soil had been drained of nutrients over the years and, without fertilisers, it was unable to produce the same output as before. Crop yields fell by 60% over the period 1989-1998. Unless it can get access to oil and fertilisers again, the population will decline until it reaches a sustainable level.


Emphasizing the importance of petrochemicals, Pimentel (1998a), states:

If the fertilizers, partial irrigation [in part provided by oil energy], and pesticides were withdrawn, corn yields, for example, would drop from 130 bushels per acre to about 30 bushels. However, this is assuming legumes can also be used to provide a little nitrogen. Without the use of legumes, yields would decline to about 16 bushels per acre. This is about the corn yield in developing countries.

Pimentel and associates have researched the role of energy in agricultural systems, and present significant statistics. Pimentel (1998a) states:

Approximately 90% of the energy in crop production is oil and natural gas. About one-third of the energy is to reduce the labor input from 500 hours per acre to 4 hours per acre in grain production. About two-thirds of the energy is for production, of which about one-third of this is for fertilizers alone.


Ethanol problems solved!

Each half-liter bottle of vodka was exchanged for ten liters of gasoline, giving vodka far greater effective energy density than rocket fuel.

Quoted from the Dmitri Orlov's article above.

Cubans use 16 times more oil per capita than North Korea!!  

        Population      oil use     bbl/percap     person/bbl
Cuba    11,382,000    205,000      0.018010894    55.52195122
N Korea    23,113,000    25,000      0.001081642    924.52

Data source:


The North Koreans' propensity to eat dirt lowers their energy consumption just a bit...
Wow, good point Jato, you have shocked me, I didn't expect the per capita oil consumption to be that discrepant between them. I had blithely assumed that the soviet collapse had impacted NK and Cuba similarly, that simplistic assumption is almost certainly grossly inadeqate and requires further research and understanding by me.

It remains, however, that NK and Cuba did both experience severe economic, energy and trade shocks when the USSR collapsed. Quoting from here:
"The break up of the Soviet Bloc in 1989 plunged Cuba into the worst economic crisis of its history. Cuba lost 85 percent of its trade, including both food and agricultural inputs. The conventional system of agriculture was highly dependent on imported pesticides, fertilizers, and farming equipment, and without these inputs, domestic production fell. This decline in food production, coupled with a drastic reduction in food imports, led to a 50 percent reduction in caloric intake in the early 1990s. Cuba was faced with a dual challenge of doubling food production with half the previous inputs."

Cuba seems to have made considerable progress over the last 15 years in mitigating the problem, NK seems to have been notably less successful. Both countries enjoy somewhat similar pariah status, certainly from the USA, so a comparison of how they have fared should provide valuable lessons.

Your comment and data did spur me to investigate similar countries per capita oil consumption, tis fascinating and disturbing. I'll express consumption as barrels per day per thousand population, all data taken from the CIA World Factbook today, note that year of population and oil consumption data is often estimates and that year of estimate or data varies.

North Korea   1.08
Cuba          18.0
South Korea   42.2
Puerto Rico   55.5
Thailand      13.2
Cambodia      0.27
Laos          0.46
Vietnam       2.56
Haiti         1.42
Dominican Rep.  13.9
Jamaica       25.0
UK            28.4
USA           67.1
Venezuela     20.6

I'm sure I have seen a table giving per capita oil consumption somewhere and have probably a link to it, but it's hiding from me ATM. Some of the numbers I've calculated above have surprised me, their implications have upset me a bit, perhaps I have been avoiding seeing them before. On the brighter side we can might say there is scope for perhaps a 2x to 5x reduction in consumption by the more profligate countries. But it won't be life as you know it, Jim.

Thanks, I think, for triggering this thinking, Jato.

I would like to add the world average is 13 (Cuba is slightly above the world average).

The United States without imported oil would be at 25.

Cuba without imported oil would be at 6.

Curiously, we just had a two hour documentary on Cuba on CBC... presented by David Suzuki.

Whilst listening to the progress that Cuba has made with organic city gardens, community medicine etc... I couldn't help but think "how ironic".

For 50 years the Americans have been pushing the notion of Cuba as a dangerous communist "bogeyman"...and attempting to isolate it with trade embargoes etc..  

And now, it suddenly dawned on me that Cuba is actually the poster-child for the post-peak-oil world!!

How to make do with less!!

Surely the difference is this : Cuba stayed solvent, and therefore can afford to import a certain amount of oil.

The adaptive capacity of the Castro dictatorship was vastly superior to that of the Kim dynasty. They are completely different beasts.

And even with complete autarchy, surely there would be room for better management in North Korea, if they were not so rigorously boneheaded about everything. I wouldn't like to postulate it as a textbook example of die-off, because they are suck weird f*ckers.

In 1945, Switzerland emitted 25,000 metric tonnes of carbon from liquid fuels.  It would interesting to compare.


I am not at home (still in Houston :-(

Anyone care to do the #s ?

Carbon > barrels; Swiss 1945 population (today ~7.5 million).


OK, I need a bit of help. Someone recently posted a link about California's attempts to get off of fossil fuels. The article indicated that even though California has spent a lot of money over many years, they are more dependent on fossil fuels than ever before. I thought the link was posted in Drumbeat, but I have scanned the past 2 weeks worth of Drumbeats and couldn't find it. I think it was posted about 2 weeks ago.

Does this ring a bell with anyone? Many thanks in advance.

Calorie pointed us to the article back in this thread, but I don't see a graph:


Google shows these copies of the WSJ story, but I don't see graphs ... sorry.

Why did I think you were asking for a graph?  ... better finish my coffee before posting any further.
That's OK, that was the thread I was looking for. I had just scanned the links in the header, but this story was posted by "Calorie" on down in the thread. This was exactly what I was looking for. Thanks a bunch.
This it?

(found via Energy Bulletin)

This it?

Yes, that's it. I am writing an essay on California's Prop 87, and I needed that reference. Thanks.


I look forward to a thoughtful article to help me decide how to vote. For sure we in California will be hit with a lot of misinformation from both sides soon.

It reminds me of what I was talking about in 1991.  California could have used a PHEV mandate in addition to or in lieu of the ZEV mandate.  PHEV-30's were practical even then, and would have jump-started the market for traction batteries.

They would have been a direct means of reducing petroleum use, and CARB didn't do it.  Was this a failure of vision, or subtle sabotage?  It's hard to say, but the result is now obvious.

My subjective feeling was that, while we cared about smog in the 90's, gas prices were too low to worry about.  Consumers did not demand a short-term shift off gasoline.

Maybe we need to pass a new ZEV mandate so that the "oil companies" will flood the market again to defeat it ;-)

The PHEV is a response to smog.  Lots of the emissions from engines are due to operation while cold and imperfect managment during transients.  Using batteries as an energy buffer allows a smaller engine to be started later or not at all (delaying or preventing emissions), warm up faster and run at more constant power.

The Prius is an SULEV vehicle.  This is no accident.

Sorry, just trying to make the ZEV/price joke.
What's a SULEV?
Oh, OK, Google is my friend and all that.....
Years ago I came up with the idea of threshold economics WRT social spending. Conservatives keep spending low to 'prove' government can't solve problems. The same concept may apply to capital and infrastructure investments. The idea comes from a property of semiconductors such as diodes and transistors. Diodes have a threshold voltage that needs to be applied before current will flow. Vary the voltage below the threshold all you want and it has no effect.
California may have spent millions on alternative energy but the threshold of investment is much higher. Look at the amount of capital invested in tar sands just for one bbl/day capacity, something like $60,000.  Look at how large wind turbines need to be to become cost competitive, over $1,000,000 each. The era of cheap energy ended when cheap oil did.
Gathering from the book review, Jensen is raging against the machine. But the machine which has created our technological fossil fuel driven civilization has also ramped up population to 6.4 billion people and counting; all clamoring to consume more. We have already overshot the carrying capacity of the earth and when the decline of cheap energy kicks in for real our biological carrying capital will be used up faster. We in Maine have torn down some dams to bring back salmon, but this is a very small battle won when tropical forests are being decimated, coral reefs bleeched and CO2 added to the atmosphere at accelerated rates. Jensen promotes violent solutions but there is no easy solution for reducing our population by billions which is really the best solution. As I have learned on TOD and elsewhere looking for new sources of energy gradients as a solution is an exercise in diminishing returns. Malthuse will have the last laugh.
We have already overshot the carrying capacity of the earth[.]

This cannot be overemphasised. It is very sad that it is not more widely understood.

What also needs to be understood is the source of harm has been/is being caused by industrial society burning cheap fuel. The disappearance of cheap fuel is what reveals the problem, not the cause.

  New Scientist has an article about harmful effects of CO2 in oceans. Excerpt due to firewall:

Ocean acidification: the other CO2 problem

    * 05 August 2006
    * NewScientist.com news service
    * Caspar Henderson

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Shell hell
Enlarge image
Shell hell

Audio: Listen to marine ecologist Joanie Kleypas discuss ocean acidification with New Scientist's Ivan Semeniuk (mp3 file, 7MB). Listen to all the New Scientist podcasts here.

A few years ago, Victoria Fabry saw the future of the world's oceans in a plastic jar. She was aboard a research vessel in the frigid waters of the North Pacific, carrying out experiments on a species of pteropod called Clio pyramidata - frisky little molluscs with shells up to a centimetre long and flaps on their bodies that they use to swim in a way that resembles butterfly flight.

Something strange was happening in Fabry's jars. "The pteropods were still swimming like billy-o, but their shells were visibly dissolving," says Fabry, a biologist from California State University San Marcos. "I could see it with the naked eye."

She realised that the animals' respiration had increased the carbon dioxide concentration in the jars, which had been sealed for 48 hours, changing the water's chemistry to a point where the calcium carbonate in the pteropods' shells had started to dissolve. Fabry and her colleagues were aware that at some point in the future the massive influx of carbon dioxide from human activity might reduce the alkalinity of the oceans. "But this was way before anybody thought such a trend would affect organisms like these." What Fabry had stumbled on was a hint of "the other CO2 problem".

It has taken several decades and hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of research for climate change to be recognised as a serious threat. But another result of our fossil fuel habit - ocean acidification - has only begun to be researched in the last few years. Its impact could be momentous, says Joanie Kleypas of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, lead author of a report on ocean acidification released last month.

CO2 forms carbonic acid when it dissolves in water, and the oceans are soaking up more and more of it. Recent studies show that the seas have absorbed about a third of all the fossil-fuel carbon released into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and they will soak up far more over the next century. Yet until quite recently many people dismissed the idea that humanity could alter the acidity of the oceans, which cover 71 per cent of the planet's surface to an average depth of about 4 kilometres. The ocean's natural buffering capacity was assumed to be capable of preventing any changes in acidity even with a massive increase in CO2 levels.

And it is - but only if the increase happens slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years. Over this timescale, the release of carbonates from rocks on land and from ocean sediments can neutralise the dissolved CO2, just like dropping chalk in an acid. Levels of CO2 are now rising so fast that they are overwhelming the ocean's buffering capacity.

In 2003 Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution in Stanford, and Michael Wickett at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, both in California, calculated that the absorption of fossil CO2 could make the oceans more acid over the next few centuries than they have been for 300 million years, with the possible exception of rare catastrophic events. It was in their Nature paper that the phrase "ocean acidification" appeared in the scientific literature for the first time.

The potential seriousness of the effect was underlined in 2005 by the work of James Zachos of the University of California at Santa Cruz and his colleagues, who studied one of these rare catastrophic events. They showed that the mass extinction of huge numbers of deep-sea creatures around 55 million years ago was caused by ocean acidification after the release of around 4500 gigatonnes of carbon (New Scientist, 18 June 2005, p 19). It took over 100,000 years for the oceans to return to their normal alkalinity.

Around the same time as the Zachos paper, the UK's Royal Society published the first comprehensive report on ocean acidification. It makes grim reading, concluding that ocean acidification is inevitable without drastic cuts in emissions. Marine ecosystems, especially coral reefs, are likely be badly affected, with fishing and tourist industries based around reefs losing billions of dollars each year. Yet the report also stressed that there is huge uncertainty about the effects on marine life.

"On the one hand the chemistry of ocean acidification is very certain," says James Orr of the Laboratory of Sciences of the Climate and Environment (CEA-CNRS) in France. "On the other hand the biological and ecological impacts are very complex. The consequences for ocean life are far harder to predict."

So what progress has been made since the report came out? How serious an issue is acidification given all the other threats to the oceans, from overfishing and pollution to warming waters and changes in currents?

The sea creatures most likely to be affected are those that make their shells or skeletons from calcium carbonate, including tiny plankton and massive corals. Their shells and skeletons do not dissolve only because the upper layers of the oceans are supersaturated with calcium carbonate (see Graphic). Acidification reduces carbonate ion concentrations, making it harder for organisms to build their shells or skeletons. When the water drops below the saturation point, these structures will start to dissolve.

Calcium carbonate comes in two different forms, aragonite and calcite, aragonite being more soluble. So organisms with aragonite structures, such as corals, will be hardest hit. Early studies suggested that calcification rates of corals would decrease by 10 to 30 per cent during a rapid doubling of atmospheric CO2, as is happening now. More recent studies have tended to widen the range of uncertainty, suggesting that CO2 doubling might cause anything from a 3 to 54 per cent decrease in carbonate production. "In experiments with lower pH that simulate future conditions, the corals don't die. They just grow more slowly," says Kleypas.
Unable to compete

China Targeting Growing Biofuels 12x by 2020; 15% of Transportation Fuels

Corn ethanol in China, but they will look "long term" to cellulosic solutions.  Laugh or cry.

I was being a little glib above.  In their favor china's
"diesel consumption is twice that of gasoline" and we know biodiesel has better EROEI.  Unfortunately "China is a net importer in all the major edible vegetable oils, the largest importer in the world."  There's more on improving rapeseed production, "If rapeseed were planted during the off-season in the more than 29 million hectares left fallow in the central region of China (in the regions surrounding the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, and the Huai River) the harvest could produce more than 18.5 million MT of biodiesel."
China is cutting down tropical rain forests in Indonesia and Malaysia as fast as they can to put in palm oil plantations. 70% of large rivers in China support no life. Is China and biofuels a good path? Do we want to plantation over every inch of land on the planet. What then?
I think "China everywhere" is a dark and plausible future.  Such a thing would support a big world population, but I don't think it would yield "societal outcomes that allow future generations to be at least as well off as people are today."

That quoted bit ripped off from:


The article on the potential problems with price or availablity of diesel fuel for farmers for the fall harvest as a result of the Prudhoe Bay shut down is typical of the lack of understanding of how agriculture works by most city people.
Almost all farms and particularly large farms contract for their fuel before spring so they have a fixed price for the entire growing/harvest season. Second, almost all farms have large bulk tanks of fuel on the farm. They don't have to call the delivery service every time they want to fill their tractor or combine.
So, there might be a problem with farm fuel prices for next spring when farmers are signing contracts for next years fuel supply, but there won't be any disruption to this years harvest. Not by price and not by availability. That fuel is already sitting on the farms ready to use.
Almost all farms and particularly large farms contract for their fuel before spring so they have a fixed price for the entire growing/harvest season.

I don't think that's true this year.  Usually, it is, but fuel prices have been so high that many farmer bought only a small amount, hoping prices would go down.  

Thieves love farm tanks.
Noticed some articles about oil price predictions in the last couple of days...

It's apparently about to 'shatter' the '$80 ceiling' which caused me to chuckle:
http://thebusinessonline.com/Stories.aspx?Oil%20to%20shatter%20$80%20ceiling&StoryID=754774B2-F3 A1-4563-AB06-0FD70244F85A&SectionID=F3B76EF0-7991-4389-B72E-D07EB5AA1CEE

A more chartist analysis:

Seasonal trends:

The probability is high that the WTIC oil price will top $80 and approach closely to $85 over the next 8 weeks before dropping back to current levels - the low to mid $70's - providing nothing geopolitically serious develops.

Jim Willie's latest missive is an interesting analysis of what may be ahead geo-econo-politically:

Some other resources you may find useful regarding oil and commodity markets / prices:

Hmmm, I see that China's H1 2006 net crude oil imports are up 17.6% over H1 2005:

One thing that struck me in the aftermath of the Prudhoe Bay thing...everyone's calling for the government to do something.  

Even someone you might expect to be of the laissez-faire persuasion, like the chairman of FedEx, is saying this is too big a problem for the market to handle. And BP's neglect of its infrastructure seems likely to result in federal laws requiring pipe inspection.  

I have a feeling Liberatarians are not going to be happy with the way we're headed.

Leanan -

I am beginning to wonder whether the oil industry is eventually going to be transformed into something akin to a public utility and become subject to regulation as a utility.

There are strong parallels between the power company that supplies your electricity and the oil company that supplies your gasoline and home heating oil. Just as you cannot choose to have something else come out of your wall socket, so do you not have a choice as to what to put in your gas tank. In both cases you are a captive audience.  Your only decision is how much to buy, not whether you can buy something else.

So, I think if things get bad enough and disruptions are frequent and severe enough, we might be hearing political noise along those lines.

It's interesting, but my father (who does not, and probably will never believe in P.O.) came to the conclusion the other day that petroleum is so important to everything...the economy, national security, etc...that it shouldn't be left in the hands of private companies.  That they can't be trusted not to screw up and let things like the degraded pipeline happen.
This is the same thing I heard Richard Palast and an interviewer discussing on NPR today!! The gov't needs to do something, and * Bill Clinton was a Great President because he believed in low oil prices*.

I swear to God.

Do you hear the thrum of jackboots??? Adolf Hitler will be a Great Leader because he'll keep us in Bier und Brot! shudder

On the one hand you don't want the government being responsible for securing oil supplies.  The government sucks at procuring things.

On the other hand, forcing things like pipelines, refineries and oil terminals to fall under the public utilities commission's sphere of control seems likely.  Public outrage has no place to go but up, and this would be a relatively harmless way for the politicians to "Due Something".

The government sucks at procuring things.

Subtle understatement, concerning oil! cf. Iraq etc...

This will likely happen with other 'essential' businesses such as the airlines. It's ironic that the past two decades of deregulation of the airline industry might (indirectly) lead to the ultimate in regulation, being run by a bankruptcy court.
Just to give my subjective view, I didn't really notice a Prudhoe blip on "do something about prices."  Certainly enviros are speaking up about the lack of compliance.

But I agree that the "Energy Security Leadership Council" thing is an interesting shift.  He almost sounds like a TOD reader.

This version of the story has easier to read fonts, for me:


Hello TODers,

As our infinite growth paradigm continually presses us into Malthusian limits and the inevitable process result of Tainterian modes of collapse--I have always striven to pose mitigative solutions to hopefully gain some societal adjustment time.  Sadly, I am lacking the technical skills to offer specific, definitive solutions-- a clear timeline of implementation and aggregate social buy-in that would allows us to effectly precede market-based solutions.  Market-based solutions, as we all know, will never include an accounting for all the externalities affecting the global ecosystem.

After my speculative brainstorms of a science-based Foundation of predictive collapse and directed decline [Asimov]; the inevitable rise of Earthmarines, and the resulting political division of detritovore and biosolar habitats; and using future idle steel from countless abandoned buildings and cars to create steel raindrops to possibly generate bursts of postPeak electrical power: I am now moving on to speculate on possible mitigative postPeak food supplies.

My dog is fed dried kibble and bits, could this be a primary method to help feed the teeming billions of humanity as we go postPeak?  Yes, our tastebuds crave different flavors, smells, temperatures, and textures, but until the population declination curve matches the Hubbert Downslope: can an interim industrial food period forestall Overshoot violence levels as we try and transition to localized permaculture?

There is a big spectrum of difference between actually starving to death and merely craving the dopamine flush from a long transport, but mouth-watering Steak & Baked Potato dinner with all the fixings followed by the heady delight arising from a scrumptious Banana Split.

The precipitious fall of farming yields and the energetic difficulty of getting this food to the consumer is much discussed by experts and laymen alike.  The local grocery outlet has a currently mind-boggling selection and high-energy packaging that is doomed to radical simplification.  But once even these basic choices of sacks of grain, and other non-refrigerated, non-canned, strictly local and highly perishable food offerings are insufficient for minimal nutrition-- can industrial human-edible kibbles and bits temporarily fill this gap?

Consider Duncan's Olduvai Gorge Theory and how many people, even if they have basic food sources, will not have the energy to process these foodstuffs to finished forms at home or elsewhere.  In short, how many homeless people do you see globally that carry with them grain-grinding tools and simple cooking utensils that are suitable for suspending over a campfire?  Most are totally bereft and driven to survival limits by larger events beyond their control.  Invariably, violence and mayhem breaks out over access to minimal sustaining infrastructure as charcoal or wood sources locally deplete, unless already processed food-aid is charitably extended.

The American food chain supply system is remarkably concentrated into relatively few agro-industrial concerns.  When Peak Everything forces an even further energy concentration into maintaining food supplies-- can additional energetic savings be reaped by designing and distributing simple ready-to-eat kibble and bits? No refrigeration required, simple packaging, easy to distribute from the manufacturing point as it is already maximally dehydrated, no time and energy preparing wherever one lives or is currently migrating.

Even though this food alternative maybe considered unpalatable as it offers no dopamine brain rush from delightful tastebud stimulation--I believe most people would prefer this choice versus forming a gang to violently raid a neighbor's biosolar-generated larder.  Pre-emptive minimal industrial food planning to feed those teeming American millions, that will suddenly find themselves short postPeak, can thus forestall much violence to ease the nearly universal manual labor adjustment to permaculture farming.

If the stupid desire for the '3 Days of the Condor' choice can be averted by widespread education and political reform, it will require a complementary effort at home to reform our lifestyles.  It can be easily foreseen that nearly every waking moment will be dedicated to HELP and much of our current consumption patterns will fall to the wayside.  The 'pig in the python' is the predominance of elderly, sick, handicapped, and morbidly obese citizens that will not be able to physically contribute the manual labor to offset their nutritional needs until this excess is worked out of the system.  My hope is that kibbles and bits can bridge this need until a lean, physically fit society capable of heavy manual labor and that has regained the knowledge and skills for biosolar success arises.

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

do you even know HOW they make the dog food? or WHAT it's made of?
you mention none of this here yet like your steelie idea(which btw i actually did laugh out loud when i read it) you promise the world yet give a very lack luster explanation of the how.
stick to your original idea, it at least had the better chance of working.
I've seen the recommendation of dry dog food in a sailing book.  This was for your "abandon ship bag."  The idea was that it would keep you alive, and you wern't likely to snack on it before you had to.  It might have lots of stuff that would kill you long-term, but at that point (and above) you aren't thinking about long-term.

(I'm not a doomer.  My earthquake supplies are dry white rice in thick plastic bags and cans of black beans.  I think that's pretty civilized.  I have seen people trade hardtack recipes.  Maybe I'd go there before dog food.)

my abandon ship bag?
i think your confusing me with another poster.
Sorry if that didn't parse ... the sailing book was speaking to the generic "you" who might have to abandon, etc.
Some canned dog food tastes surprisingly good. As a general rule, however, I prefer cat food. Shucks, if it is good enough for your precious poodle, it is good enough for a mere human.

As an alternative to pet food, you can get yucky cheap stuff like Wal-Mart brand tuna or luncheon meat; you won't eat stuff like that unless you're really hungry, and your cat may turn up her nose and refuse to eat the gloppy tuna.

My own bug-out bag has a some pounds of beef jerky in it, as well as numerous liters of drinkable water. Dried fruit is good too, and you can make a yummy trail mix of M&Ms plus peanuts plus raisins and some oatmeal that keeps well when put into cleaned empty peanut butter jars. And don't forget peanut butter . . . loaded with calories and protein, plus it keeps for a year or two with no problems. Rye crackers seem to keep indefinitely, as does shredded wheat, if kept dry.

Don, the more I read you, the more you make sense. Or maybe it's because I read your posts in the evening when I'm enjoying some very good brew. Whatever!
Hello True Kaiser,

Thxs for responding.  I have admitted many times before my lack of expertise in many subjects and the speculative nature of my proposals.  My hope is that TODers will consider them in their entirety, and either disprove them, or move on to improve and enhance their possible viability by applying their own expertise, skillset, and political drive...afterall, that is the purpose of this forum.

I feel you miscontrue my intent as I have never "promised the world"-- whatever that might entail in your imagination.  I believe dramatic and sad changes loom ahead for the entirety of humanity, yet I constantly seek to offer my ideas to hopefully mitigate and smooth this transition.  These ideas may be totally worthless, or be of incalculable value--I really have no idea--I will leave it up to civilization to decide.  You are free to make your own decision too.

Your Quote: "do you even know HOW they make the dog food? or WHAT it's made of?"

No, I don't, but I suspect that many will be reluctantly forced to eat something similar to it at some future price point.  My hunch is that the nutritional value/economics will make it a viable food choice for many when most of our food supply chain breaks down.  How many years into the future when this finally occurs is the great unknown.  There are many scientists already researching bug-bread and other novel food sources, my kibbles and bits will hopefully be just another part of the solution.  Do you forsee a postpeak time when a vanishingly small and  miniscule percentage of the population will ever enjoy a ice cold banana split with hot fudge?--I do, but if you dispute my assertion, I encourage you to post your theory on how this abundance can be postPeak enjoyed by all.

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

interesting but in this paragraph
The American food chain supply system is remarkably concentrated into relatively few agro-industrial concerns.  When Peak Everything forces an even further energy concentration into maintaining food supplies-- can additional energetic savings be reaped by designing and distributing simple ready-to-eat kibble and bits? No refrigeration required, simple packaging, easy to distribute from the manufacturing point as it is already maximally dehydrated, no time and energy preparing wherever one lives or is currently migrating.

all you do is say how good of a food it is.

and here

Even though this food alternative maybe considered unpalatable as it offers no dopamine brain rush from delightful tastebud stimulation

here you claim that the only bad thing about it is that it lacks the good taste people like. no mention that it might not be healthy to eat it long term or at all.

I am told that dog food is not all that bad taste wise. I have a friend who lost a considerable amount of weight limiting herself to dry dog food....
But seriously, I have been concerned about being able to obtain kibble for my dogs post-peak. The raw ingredients are ground into a fine paste, cooked at very high temperatures in pressure cookers to kill any disease organisms ( but unfortunately not effective on the prions that cause mad-cow), then extruded onto a conveyor belt for dehydration. I don't know how much, but I am relatively sure that all this takes a lot of energy.
Algae may come in as a very good concentrated source of nutrients for humans. small sailing boats could go to the ocean (this is for habitats next to the sea) and scoop out large films of algae, get them to land, dry and compact them into bits.
We'll call it SOYLENT GREEN!
What about long pig?
Contingency Cannibalism: Superhardcore Survivalism's Dirty Little Secret by Shiguro Takada

"Tongue-in-cheek look at cannibalism as a last-resort survival option."

I always wanted a copy. If nothing else it would be fun to keep it on my desk at work and watch peoples expressions and reactions.


Hello BitterOldCoot,

LOL!  I read Amazon's excerpt, made me wish I could afford the book to do as you suggest.  I will have to see if my local library has it, or if it is considered too politically incorrect to stock.

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

I especially like the part about "Recipes included."
 One hell of an idea! If we can just get the US to do SOMETHING in the right direction. Maybe the UN/Unicef etc. should consider your idea- saves the fuel at least. Good one!  It could supplement any foodstuff available & if having to flee; premade journeycakes. Always glad to see your posts.
Long as they taste like wheat thins i would go for it. I think I could live on wheat thins and milk. Oops better have a cow!
Let them eat dog food!
I like a lot of your ideas, but I respectfully suggest that the term "earthmarine" is an oxymoron.

"Marine" refers to the sea. The U.S. Navy has as one of its major tasks carrying Marines to where they are needed. Marines have been affiliated with first the Royal and then also the U.S. navies for some three hundred years.

Soldiers who fight on earth, unmounted, are called infantry. The U.S. Marines are the best light infantry in the world, but their connection with the sea (and now air) is such that some custodian who defends a particular patch of earth (or ecosystem) needs a different name.

Going back to Plato's "Republic," why not call them "guardians"? Or "Ecoguards"?

The U.S. Marines are the best light infantry in the world,

Mmm... no

I think you mean Ghurkas.

There is a new article out. "Peak Oil--and the Collapse of Commercial Aviation?" - in Airways Magazine. I can only find cuts from it. Anyone able to find a link to the article?
well air passenger service is going away but the government will foot the bill for air-mail at least. well that is until they have to divert the fuel to continue filling their war-planes.
Or airships  could make a comeback! Thats something for retro-lovers, isn't it?
Gliders or lightly motorized aircrafts could be considered too.
The trade-off between cost and speed is likely to be forcibly adjusted when energy prices go up.

Good find. The last few paragraphs (after "Solutions Must be Grounded in Science") contain one of the best quick summaries of the situation that I have read.
Yes. I'm convinced that the era of mass air travel is ending.

Does anyone have graphs of world passenger-miles over time? I'd be willing to bet that 2005 or 2006 will be the absolute peak.

Found it. Very interesting article on [peak oil and aviation http://www.airliners.net/articles/read.main?id=81]
After spending a week in California,surviving the fast lane was not what the oil doctor ordered. Speed limits of 65 mph have no meaning. Try 75 to 80 on San Diego and Orange County freeways.  SOCAl is not in good shape for any kind of oil shortage that I could see.
I found this article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about farmers getting pounded by gas prices - <cite>http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2006/08/13/breakingnews/40gas.txt<cite>
I'm afraid our government is sitting idly while our food producers are getting squeezed dry. Yeah, the free market will solve it! When whales can fly!!
Has anyone read "Endgame" by Derrick Jensen? Either volumes 1 or 2? Am thinking about ordering both books today but would like to get some feedback from the Peak Oil gang.

Looks like an epic work, both books over 900 pages each. And he looks like a true doomer, and an activist as well.

Comments anyone?


I've only read Part II:Resistance. The two volume set is 900 pages, so 450 each. I wouldn't call the work "epic" per se. Whether you agree with him or not, I believe he makes a convincing argument. What that argument is about, I'll leave for you to decide. Fair warning - you may actually be repulsed by what he says. I found it to be at the very least one of the most entertaining reads I've had in some time. It will change the way you think. I'd recommend trying to find it in a local bookstore. You might want to browse before buying.
Thanks Oil CEO, but I just went ahead and ordered both, one click, from Amazon. Total for both books, including shipping, was $30.19.

I won't be shocked by what he says because I have already read several reviews. After one contemplates the consequences of peak oil, you realize nothing could possibly be worse, and you cannot be shocked anymore.

Compared to the consequences of peak oil, all other events in human history shrink to insignificance.

I actually found them at my library.  I'm supposed to pick them up this week.
I had a conversation with one of my friends, who is an energy analyst, about oil supplies, refining capacity, etc.

He was in Kuwait, working for one of the national energy companies - I asked him about the "pump down" protocol that they are going to implement.  I mentioned that this would bring increased transparency - key in Kuwait b/c they massively overstated reserves
his response: ho-hum, no big deal, something about others doing that as well
I kept pressing on this- how it would force disclosure of better reserve estimates if all OPEC countries adopted this - he said they have no interest in disclosing #'s and the countries benefit by keeping the world in the dark.  I agreed - and pointed out that the only way we could measure now is by their declining output.  I also mentioned that if they could output more - they would considering the $75 price of a barrell.

  • his response on declines- there is not enough refining capacity.  I mentioned that if we were really max'd out at refining capacity- then new ones would be built if it was economically profitable to build one.  
  • his response- regulations are too tight making it impossible to get a new one built (in the US).  I sharply disagreed - on the basis that there has been not enough production growth in crude to justify building a new refinery - b/c at these prices it would be pretty profitable.  
In addition - is refining capacity worldwide really max'd out?  I notice on the EIA page that US refining capacity is really running tight- 90-91% this past month.  If refining capacity worldwide is similarly tight- what market is there for increased production?

I did mention that this shouldn't matter- the oil producers sell oil and it doesn't matter if the oil is stored in the SPR or refined - so a producer would want to keep pumping to take advantage of the current prices.  (unless a producer thought that prices were going even higher).  I also mentioned that given this idea - that a rational producer would want to open the spigots - or at the VERY minimum meet their OPEC quotas.  I said that a failure for OPEC companies to be able to do this was indicative of a supply problem- notably the decline in production that so many countries are showing.
In conclusion- it was pretty frustrating.  He did not acknowledge a decrease in production was a problem- instead noting that they'll be pumping oil "for our lifetimes."  He wouldn't consider the idea of output decline and its implications - instead arguing that producers are keeping oil in the ground because there isn't enough refining capacity.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?  Are the arguments he posited standard thinking for those in the energy business?



I have just read Bryant Urstadt's Imagine There's No Oil: Scenes from a liberal apocalypse. I'll have to type this out because the article is not available online (Harpers, August 2006).
Liberal or conservative, Americans seem born to love the apocalypse, even though it jilts us every time. Both Peak Oil and Left Behind are mere froth on a deep historical sea of doomsaying...
This man has just used the term "Peak Oil" and the rapture title "Left Behind" in the same sentence.

Think about that for a few seconds.

Are you done? He went to Yellow Springs, not ASPO-USA. And why was that? I can think of some reasons.

  • He needed to find support for his pre-conceived eschatological theme
  • At ASPO-USA, the might have run into some very informed people. This would have required effort on his part because learning is hard. Instead, he established at Antioch College that Richard Heinberg is "the unofficial leader of the Peak Oil movement". Yes, that's right. He wrote that.
  • He likes labelling people who are concerned about peak oil as New Age "woo woo" types.

I will be in touch with him. He might be sorry that I bothered but if he reads what I have to say, at least he will be better informed. Bryant, you're On Notice.

Today is Sunday, and even though I don't go to church on Sunday, I do try to be nice to everyone.  Maybe tommorow, on Monday, when we are all grumpy anyay, we can talk about what people see when they visit TOD?

(Brings new meaning to the unfortunate tech phrase "eat your own dogfood!")

Re: Eat your own dog food

Thanks for that. I'll take up Bryant at a later time. At least he's not Dead To Me -- yet.  

woo woo...
Here's what I don't understand:

. . . if he wants to make the peak oil crowd look like cultists why not come out here and interview me? I mean I do go by the name "alpha male PROPHET OF DOOM" and I have stated (repeadetely) that I plan on starting an apocalyptic relgious cu . . . I mean ecologicaly sustainable commune out here in northern California.

Perhaps Urstadt is afraid to dance with the AMPOD*?

And it's not like I doubt he has come across my manifesto at LATOC or mention in other publications like Salon.com and Fortune.

*yes, I did just refer to myself in the third person.

This might be important:

From the Sunday Times.

Beating the retreat


THE END OF IRAQ: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End by Peter W Galbraith

Simon & Schuster £17.99 pp270 Peter W Galbraith is a former American ambassador, senate staffer and academic who did much to highlight Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against the Kurds back in the 1980s, and has been in and out of Iraq ever since. In other words, he knows more than most westerners about the country, and maybe five million percent more than any member of the Bush administration. Galbraith reminds us of some of its members' more striking pronouncements. Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the insurgents as "former regime dead-enders". The president himself said in July 2003: "There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on." Condoleezza Rice, once hailed as the brains of the administration, said in August 2004: "What has been impressive to me so far is that Iraqis -- whether Kurds or Shia or the main other ethnic groups in Iraq -- have demonstrated that they really want to live as one in a unified Iraq. And I think particularly the Kurds have shown a propensity to want to bridge differences."

Full article here:


Maybe it will be all over by Christmas.

I've noticed a rise in instances of argument and general anger  lately, in various spheres of my life.  It seems to happen more and more frequently here on TOD.  Instead of agreeing to disagree when neither can convince the other of some point, one or both parties resort to anger and vitriolic rhetoric.

The other day on the way to work, two men on the bus taunted each other and came close to blows - apparently over nothing of substance.

Of course on the geopolitical stage, we have not only Iraq, but now Lebanon, along with countless other examples.

This seeming increase in the number of instances of anger and aggression reminds me of the Star Trek episode (original series) where Kirk and crew are joined by a ship of Klingons off an alien planet.  Before long they are at each other's throats in a kind of blood lust.  It turns out that an alien being that feeds on anger is the culprit.  The episode was called Day of the Dove http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dove.

May in today's world, instead of an alien being, the culprit is oil, or the waning amount thereof.

I disagree!  I challenge you to a duel at 13 1/2 paces, tomorrow - low noon!
Of course it's definitely anecdotal on both of our parts, but I believe I am noticing a general increase in tensions in folks around me. I am meditating constantly and trying to be very centered in the midst of it.

I'm not sure if this is connected to oil or world events. I personally right now believe in a relatively high probability of industrial civilization making in through the next 3 months, which had not been my belief 6 months ago.

It may very possibly be a broad awakening to the reality of global warming. I think people may really be getting to the oh sh*t stage on that one. Rightfully.

Have you ever seen the experiments that they have doen with rats in a maze?
Put in just a few and everything is fine. But the more rats you put in the maze the more fights they get into and at some point they just start killing each other.
We have passed the point of where the problem of too many people is causing increased agressive behavior and are headed for the point where people will start killing one another in large numbers. The more external pressures like Peak Oil, the more rapid the decline in relations between people.
Personal freedom is inversely proportional to population density. Lose of personal freedom combined with external pressures is the equivalent of human dynamite - It doesn't take much to set it off.
This also happens with most domestic species in 'factory farm' conditions. Piglets have their tails removed, chicks have their beaks clipped, calves are dehorned, etc. to prevent problems arising out of fights due to crowding.
Dehorning makes sense in very small herds due to making it safer to work with the cows and it avoids almost all injuries from the normal status fights. I can strongly recommend it and it is a fairly simple procedure if it is done as early as possible. Find the horn knobs, apply local anasthesia, cut it with a scalpell and burn it with a big soldering iron.

Dairy cows can be quite nasty to each other. Bulls fight head on and thats it. Cows can sneak up from behind, charge and spear an advarsaries udder. Back when I grew up on a dairy farm there were most years a cow or two who lost the outher "nail material" cheat of a horn in the status fights after being let out for summer grazing. That leaved a fairly long bloody stump of spongy bone tissue that we covered with natural wood tar to stop any infections. Those stumps healed over but they newer grew in any significant way.

It would not suprise me if the living insides of the horns produce some kind of hormone since dehorned cows are pussies.

A fun detail about summer grazing is that at first they danced around and then it seemed like it took a little time for them to realy get into their heads that they had to walk around for the food and it dident come to them from standing still and going Mooo! This behaviour could of course be intrepreted in more romantic ways.

I could recommend survivalist doomers to stock up on natural  pine tar. Or even learn how to make it, you get great charcoal for smithing as a byproduct. With 10 year planning you can increase the yield from your forest by chopping wounds into your pine trees to increase the resin production. That can also be worthwile for very good trees since it gives you timber with natural rot protection. Wood tar can protect tree products or natural fibre ropes from rot. Re apply it regularly and your house can last for 900+ years as proven by late viking age churches if you build it well on dry ground. It can be used against some infections but be careful with it since it is a fairly vile combination of hydrocarbons. And Fins make candy out of it. :-)

Really? Are many TOD readers living in (2nd, 3rd world) countries with rapidly expanding populations, and hence have daily experiences of 'rapidly expanding populations'? If anything recent housing trends and falling birthrates have meant more space/person for many TOD readers.
A fellow Trekkie? There are 3 things I know back and forth:

  1. Peak Oil trivia

  2. Star Trek trivia

  3. 1980s professional wrestling trivia

You can imagine what I'd be doing if not in the prophet of doom business.
That, and the fact that you seem to be proud of it, explains a lot.
Seymour Hersh in today's New Yorker:

A high-level American military planner told me, "We have a lot of vulnerability in the region, and we've talked about some of the effects of an Iranian or Hezbollah attack on the Saudi regime and on the oil infrastructure." There is special concern inside the Pentagon, he added, about the oil-producing nations north of the Strait of Hormuz. "We have to anticipate the unintended consequences," he told me. "Will we be able to absorb a barrel of oil at one hundred dollars? ..."
I also like the Dymaxionworld response to the same:



Who saw the Iranian President tonight on 60 minutes? A PhD in Civil Engineering AND end of the USA type of guy.

P.S. According to Squawk on the Street Talking Heads it will take $125 to slow the economy to 0% growth in the USA. The French had their best growth in the 2nd quarter in five years. But the old saying is "Nothing from nothing leaves nothin."

Some good "solutions" news from EnergyBulletin:


So I've finally drunk the kool-aid and decided to pursue a job in renewable energy.  My background is in Information Technology.  I've spent the past several years working in San Francisco doing Systems and Network Administration.  I'm moving to Brazil in a couple of weeks, not so much out of any peak oil concerns but more because I believe the quality of life will be better there... living in the US leaves me feeling alienated and withdrawn.  I have dual citizenship and I've lived in Brazil before so I know what it's like.  I'm looking for any suggestions you guys have for how I can get involved with renewable energy.  Hopefully I can leverage my computer skills as I transition but it is by no means required.  Obviously ethanol is big in Brazil but think of this in the broader sense of: What kind of positions are in demand now and what are some practical ways to go about getting them?  Will computer skills be of any use?  Do I have to go back to school and get an engineering degree?  Are NGOs getting very involved nowdays?  What about starting my own ethanol refinery?  Or writing a book on the state of renewable energy in Brazil?  Does the world really need another book?  I'm open to anything, I'm just really eager to dig in and get my hands dirty and start doing something.  I'm convinced this is going to be the next big thing, with world changing results no matter how it shakes out, and I want to be a part of it.
 "I'm just really eager to dig in and get my hands dirty"
figure out how the folks in that area did this
your name will stand with santa, jesus, buddha and mine.
good luck in brazil