DrumBeat: August 16, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 08/16/06 at 9:24 AM EDT]

TOD's own Robert Rapier in the news:

Robert Rapier talks about Vinod Khosla, Proposition 87, peak oil, and the need for transportation electrification - An audio interview. Internet Explorer recommended (I couldn't get it work with Firefox).

Raising Cane - An Australian article on ethanol production.

OPEC cuts 2006 oil demand growth forecast

World oil demand will rise more slowly than previously expected in 2006, partly because of record high prices, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said on Wednesday.

Militants release four hostages in Bayelsa. The oil company who employed the kidnapped workers agreed to address some of the militants' concerns.

Meanwhile, Nigeria promises kidnap crackdown

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has promised to act against those suspected of involvement in a string of kidnappings in the Niger Delta region.

He said he had ordered 24-hour patrols in the Delta's creeks and swamps, and threatened action against oil firms who paid ransoms for their workers.

Iraq and Jordan sign oil deal

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq has struck a deal to supply neighbouring Jordan with cheap oil by laying a new pipeline across the desert between them, the countries' prime ministers have announced.

Oil, water, weather crises will hit cities

Municipalities are facing a "perfect storm" once the era of cheap oil, cheap water and altered weather patterns hits with full force, says Ontario's environmental commissioner.

In a chilling speech to municipal leaders yesterday, Gord Miller said municipalities are not ready for the massive effect on communities.

"We are entering a period of consequences," said Miller. "Our present public policy is inadequate to deal with these immense problems that are upon us right now."

Peak Oil and Relocalization in Ohio

Global warming affects hurricane intensity: study

Global warming is affecting the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, according to a new study by a university professor in Florida who says his research provides the first direct link between climate change and storm strength.

[Update by Leanan on 08/16/06 at 9:43 AM EDT]

More protests over power outages in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been struggling with energy shortages for awhile now. According to the article, the suburbs are the hardest hit.

Sharp rise in oil-cash investments forecast

The recycling of surplus petrodollars through the global financial system is set to intensify, with Saudi Arabia and the five other members of the Gulf Co-operation Council exporting at least $450bn of capital over the course of this year and next, the Institute of International Finance predicted on Tuesday.

Demand destruction in Scotland:

SCOTLAND'S love affair with the motor car is waning, with Scots increasingly leaving their vehicle in the garage and taking public transport or walking instead, new statistics have revealed.

...Experts said huge rises in fuel costs, increasing congestion on the roads, coupled with increasing investment in public transport and growing awareness of the environment was behind the change.

End of the road for the Chelsea tractor

Shareholders sue BP over Prudhoe Bay

Namibia: Fuel Hike Boosts Agrigultural Production Costs

Wall Street's New Love Affair: Why some of the world's smartest investors are betting billions on clean energy.

Forecast puts Earth's future under a cloud: 3C increase would bring fires, floods and famine.

Australia: Brace yourselves, warns Costello

INVESTORS and home owners have received a rare, dire warning from the Treasurer to brace for the economic fallout from "world record oil prices".

Western Cape now hit by gas shortage. It's affecting tourism and manufacturing.

Hello TODers,

I was pondering the fact that we normally discuss gasoline prices more than diesel prices on this forum.

Maybe we should spend more time periodically watching diesel prices as it may be a better leading indicator of a possible supply-demand crunch in certain geographies. The recent shutdown of half of Prudhoe Bay really affects the West Coast of the US as this geographic area is severely pipeline-constrained from receiving crude overland from the GoM.   From this Platts link:

The International Energy Agency said August 11 the shutdown of Alaska's
Prudhoe Bay output creates crude quality issues that could be a concern for
the currently constrained global refining sector.

    "Crude quality issues are more of a concern than volumetric outages," the
agency said in its monthly report

     "In the case of BP's Prudhoe Bay, the crude lost is medium sour and
possible replacements from Saudi Arabia are likely to be sourer," said IEA.
"But this crude could be blended and will be processed by sophisticated West
Coast refineries with more flexibility to remove sulphur than refiners who
typically rely on Nigerian light sweet crudes.

According to the IEA, recent data indicates West Coast refiners are
importing crude from such countries as Angola, Argentina, Iraq, Oman, Saudi
Arabia and Yemen. But, it added, "the transit time from many of these
locations suggest refiners are likely to need to draw on stocks by late August
if already-on-sea cargoes cannot be diverted."

     BP said August 11 it has bought more than 4.5 million barrels of crude on
the global market to help cover its Prudhoe Bay shortfall, with further oil
and products to be bought as necessary. The crude is coming from West Africa,
South America, Asia and the Middle East, said a source.

Consider that California Gasoline only went up two cents in the past week, but Diesel just jumped $0.23 in the past week.  Is this an early indication of what lies shortly ahead for the West Coast gasoline consumer, or can it be delayed till after the November elections?  Is the Governator and CA oil companies hoping to delay future rampant gasoline price increases as far as possible into the upcoming election cycle?  If it takes a long time for that sour crude to arrive and be processed, your average pissed-off voters won't be in any mood to study Peakoil and the West Coast's oil infrastructure!

Consider that most diesel burned in this country is used for commercial and farming purposes--these people don't joyride, but watch their fuel costs very closely.  Contrast this with a lot of our gasoline use and one can clearly see that diesel demand inelasticity is much more tightly constrained than our gasoline demand inelasticity.  Diesel demand also has alot less seasonal variation than gasoline too.  This link on California petroleum is excellent info [pdf warning].

The other consideration is that over time it will be alot easier to improve gasoline mpg than diesel mpg.  People can switch much faster to higher mpg cars, car-pooling, mass-transit, scooters/motorcycles, bicycles, etc versus a big-rig hauling our goods or a tractor trying to plow a field.  In short, you can't carpool two semi-trailer loads into one trailer.  This diesel equipment generally costs alot more initially so they need to get the full use and depreciation out of it before they can trade up to a more efficient replacement.  The diesel problem is: how much more efficient can you make a bulldozer, diesel locomotive, or a diesel powered fishing boat?  Most diesel vehicles really work, versus most gasoline vehicles cruising with hardly any load [like the one person/car commuter mode so popular in the US].

So logically, the price of diesel/gallon should increase less than the price increase of gasoline/gallon.   But we need to remember that people vote, not corporations.  But companies can pass off their rising costs to the end-user, and most of us are unaware that this corporate method is the most powerful vote of all.

From this Energy California Govt. webpage  we can see that CA refineries turn 51.4% of a barrel of crude into gasoline, but only 15.3% into distallate/diesel.  If refinery processing problems from late and heavy, sour shipments can be publicly hidden or delayed by decreasing diesel production and keeping gasoline production up-- it benefits both the IOCs and the Governator by keeping the easy-motoring, drive thru, laidback CA voter uninformed for as long as possible.  Thus, it takes longer for diesel fuel costs to work their way into the price of consumer goods versus the immediate consumer outrage of high gasoline prices.

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

Hello TODers,

I am listening to RR's audio interview--He is an ALL_STAR rep for TOD--MUCHO KUDOS!  I hope all the TOD experts can vastly increase their MSM penetration to offset Yergin's  media pervasiveness and evasiveness.

Perhaps we need to form a TOD Speakers' Bureau and formulate a basic platform so that we can be relatively consistent in what is presented to the public.  

Consider RR's comments on California's Prop. 87 and Khosla's support for it.  The IOCs best chance to derail the voter approval for it is to keep gas prices as low as possible for as long as possible before November.  Now consider my top posting on the price disparity between diesel and gasoline on the West Coast, in fact throughout the entire Rocky Mountain region.  Notice how diesel is much higher out west?  My guess is most of the IOCs are currently upset for BP's corrosion screwup in Alaska.  Overall--it really is bad timing for the West Coast until a big pipeline is built to the GoM to equilibrate prices and volumes.  We already know the Alaskan Governor & Revenue Office are plenty upset already.

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

As others have discussed previously (I think it was Alan?), much of modern diesel usage is in truck based shipping, which can be completely replaced by electrified long haul rail. I don't recall the exact figures but something like a 25% change from trucking to long haul electrified rail would reduce US oil (primarily diesel) consumption by several million barrels. Consequently, there is much more elasticity there (for the country as a whole) than is widely believed. Of course, if you are a trucker out of business because of this, then it hurts but that's the nature of the free market.

Perhaps someone else recalls the article or comment where this was discussed in more detail?

Hello Greyzone,

Thxs for responding.  I don't dispute the potential energy savings of RRs and mass-transit at all--in fact, I have posted before how I hope everything AlanfromBigEasy advocates comes true, and soon!  But this is mostly a political voter decision, not a true supply-demand decision.  Unfortunately, RRs & mass-transit companies are outgunned by widespread Peakoil ignorance and denial, combined with the influence exerted by the Iron Triangle as explained by TODer Westexas.  Only when gas prices put a solid hurt to the typical SUV owner is when they will vote in mass for RRs, and mass-transit.

The CA oil companies are having to fight Prop 87 with one hand tied behind their back due to BP's Prudhoe screwup.  I really feel they are trying to give the gasoline motorist a break hoping to get them, in exchange, to vote down Prop. 87.  By further refining and chemical upgrading of diesel: you can get more gasoline, but at a increased cost.  If Prop. 87 wasn't on the CA ballot, the IOCs could pursue the higher goal and lower cost of optimizing the efficiency of the refineries' chemical output production mix instead of having to pursue a politically driven output production mix.  In other words, since they are having to use ever heavier and sour inputs-- it would be normal to expect more diesel and less gasoline per input barrel of crude.  The price disparities between diesel and gasoline should actually be reversed for optimal refinery efficiency on a chemical and cost basis.

I would argue that this is better for the West Coast in the long run too, as it would encourage gasoline conservation from higher prices, yet make diesel relatively cheaper for the farmer and trucker to provide us with food.

Please bear in mind that I am not an expert, but the API degree, sulfur content, and other crude factors chemically predetermine the optimal refinery outputs.

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

much of modern diesel usage is in truck based shipping, which can be completely replaced by electrified long haul rail.

Nope.  Not completely.  In part, and in fact some long haul work is now being done by rail.  

But not completely.  The capitol costs of moving all the rail to the business or the businesses to the rail will make sure that does not happen.

I work at the RR on the intermodal side, where all the trucks meet rail.  I can say this area has done nothing but explode and it's not stopping.  Long haul trucking is dead.  You can't even find the truckers who are willing to perform it if the $$ as right.  I talk to trucking companies all day about their business.  There going to be fine so long as people keep swallowing fuel surcharges that increase in some cases weekly.  

It seems to have lulled now though, but even many executives at these co's know that the future is rail.  They realize that it is simply more efficient to move distances on rail and move trucking back to strict local.  The funny thing is when I approach the topic of diesel prices and question changes made to personal habits etc and many just don't see the WHOLE forest.

I've heard thru a credible source that manufacturers of large diesel trucks will be tacking up to 10,000 dollars extra for 2007 emission requirement trucks for the fire service. If the fire service has to pay so much extra then I assume long haulers will be as well when they go to buy new trucks.
I don't really know what you're talking about.  Many trucking co's are middlemen and nothing more.  Most truckers are private contractors free to move to anther company for whatever the reason.  I run into issues with truckers damaged our equip but moved to another company and we can't charge people only companies.  So if they will be forced to take on $10K in charges, it will get passed on somehow.  Long haul trucking is dying if it's not dead already.  
I am not sure of the amount, but you are correct that there are additional costs associated with purchasing a new diesel vehicle.

The change consists of additional particulate traps, catalytic converters, etc... got a few friends that work in the heavy truck sector emmissions... it's all they talk about

The next step after intermodal is for businesses to start getting rail sidings installed like in Days of Yore. We'll see how long that takes.
Many businesses still have these.  I worked in a factory for two years in my first few years of college and there was a section of the plant where we stored rail cars still on the tracks.  We used the rail cars for storage ironically.  I don't think it would take much to reactivate these hook ups throughout the country.  I'm sure I'll see companies going back to this in my lifetime.
our current rail infrastructure can't handle the load if the vast majority of long haul trucking was moved back to being moved by freight train.
if we were to do this we would have to have a massive build up of our rail infrastructure which will gobble up any of our savings(capital and energy) we would gain by putting the freight back onto rails.
I don't get your point.  If there is a solid energy savings, then the capital-intensive buildup of new track/rolling stock would justify itself in cheaper running costs, wouldn't it? (Over time.. the farther out you go still only improves the picture if you anticipate continued rising energy costs)

The way you put it, it sounds like you don't accept the aggregate savings of cheaper fuel needs (plus, I believe, better maintenance performance, too)

Bob Fiske

in theory there are savings.
our current rail structure is a shadow of what it once was before trucking took over. to go back too having things sent mostly or all by rail would mean we would have to rebuild lines that we either tore down for recycling or let rust into uselessness and build more locomotives, rail stations, etc.
the cost of such a build up will either make the savings from ditching the fuel hog trucks dry up to next to nothing or nothing at all.
there was a reason we originally switched from rail to trucks. and that was it was cheaper in both energy and money and it was relatively faster.
No, that is not the reason we switched. I suggest you read Goddard's book Getting There. The reasons we switched are that the freight companies acted too comfortably and monopolistically (not to mention oligopolistically) and that created a huge political impetus for building ways to bypass them. During World War 1 there was considerable tension between army officers and the rails regarding the shipping of material from the industrial areas of the Midwest to the East Coast for the war effort, which resulted in experimental truck convoys being used.

That in turn inspired the Interstate Highway System and the rest is history.

It was also the behavior of the rail companies, as Apuleius implies. They really hosed the farmers, especially in the western half of the country, or at least that's what those farmers believed. I still recall the astounding, absolute, vitriolic hatred of anything to do with railroads that I ran into in Colorado and Utah years ago, just in casual conversation about the gas crises of the 1970s.

Given that context, I find it astonishing that Denver has built light rail. I suppose the bad memories are fading and lots of newcomers have moved in. Still, I don't know that I'd look for any love of freight rail anytime soon. Alanfrombigeasy, are you reading, from wherever you are?

So we shouldn't rebuild it at all, even as energy costs on trucking skyrocket? That's asinine. Of course there is going to be a cost but we can't just keep on doing what we are doing right now. Further, building out rail can provide jobs here in the US. And the reason we switched from rail to trucks was massive lobbying by Detroit and Standard Oil in the 1920s and 1930s that imposed regulations and costs on rail while subsidizing trucking in order to kill the former for the benefit of the latter. You may wish to study your history on this topic.
Laying down track is far cheaper than laying down or even maintaining macadam.
Is that still true at today's extremely tight tolerances (if you want to run the trains at any decent speed)?
Still true. Those tolerances are decided by the rails and the ties. Everything else is still plain old gravel.
Ties today are made of hardened concrete at least on heavy travelled tracks.
Why not lay down rail tracks right on the interstate highways? The right-of-ways and overpasses are already in place, which account for most of the cost of building a new rail line. This would be a cheap and energy-efficient way of massively increasing the railway capacty. We should start doing that right now, the motoring public be damned.
I would think that the interstate system would be divided down the center and light rail would be installed in many cities to keep suburbia going.  Freight still won't be going through urban areas unless it's the destination.
Rail lines running right down the expressway median... sounds like Chicago, or some places in Europe... mainly light / commuter rail as you mentioned.  I don't see why that would not be a very cheap alternative to transporting people into and out of town... I think the biggest issue though would be the freight to support those towns.
"Trolley freight" uses Urban Rail built for passengers to transport freight.  Not universal in Europe, but several cities there do it.

I think DART in Dallas would be a good candidate for trolley freight (single containers/ flatcar) once current expansion plans are completed.

"Auto Sewers" repell people. including potential rail pax.

The Green Line in Los Angeles is in the middle of a freeway, and that location has reduced rail ridership (per analysts that I believe).  Would you want to wait even a few minutes amongst the noise & exhaust of a nearby freeway.

Although running an Urban Rail line down a "freeway" is the "least best" option; it could be cheap and fast and we may need to do this.

All sorts of detail issues (overhead clearances under bridges,  entering & exiting freeways) make this option a site specific "maybe".


Alan I don't disagree, but I'm trying to be pragmatic in my thinking on this.  Bottom line is there is only a handful of politicaians with the mettle to address the coming energy issues.  Since they will most likely wait until the last possible moment, the fastest most cost effective way, IMO, is to simply put it in the middle of open stretches of land, mostly highways.  There would be no rights of way arguments, no environmental studies & reduced demand for freeway space.  We've got 8 lane highways mostly, so at WORST is we put in a single track in each direction.  I don't even think you should bother to spend the cash to raise it, since this is a capital investment that will be built upon later and elevating the track just makes it cost more unnecessarily.

Alan you call it an auto sewer, but that's ONLY predicated on a belief in cars.  I'm talking a pardigm shift in peoples perception of local travel.  My sprawling metro area is maybe 75 miles end to end.  By car it's no issue since I can get anywhere I need to in about an hour.  Once you destroy that relationship of a car and a mile, you'll see more people willing to get into the sewer to get to work.

Great work RR! We are getting in the MSM and this shows that this blog is doing a great job on its primary goal - promoting energy awareness.

What caught me in the headlines is this OPEC statement:

World oil demand will rise more slowly than previously expected in 2006, partly because of record high prices, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said on Wednesday.

What a twist of words! Now it turns out that demand is growing or slowing because of price. Do we need to write a new OPEC-specific economic theory?
What a twist of words! Now it turns out that demand is growing or slowing because of price. Do we need to write a new OPEC-specific economic theory?
What? This is exactly what conventional economic theory predicts, that higher prices cause reduced demand!

The place that economic theory does not match with reality, or at least with the claimed reality, is that high prices should cause increased production as well as reduced demand. OPEC claims that they could increase production if they wanted to, but they choose not to. Instead they watch as production falls because of lowered demand due to high prices.

So that's the real mystery: why, if your prices are so high that they are driving away your customers, you don't lower your prices? That would bring demand back up, you could ship more product, and make more money.

Two possible explanations: (1) OPEC doesn't increase production because they can't despite what they claim. They don't want to admit it, so they just talk about falling demand. In other words, we are at peak oil today.

(2) OPEC doesn't care about lost profits today because they know that oil will be even more expensive next year, and more so they year after that. They could increase production today if they wanted to, but why piss away their oil at $75/bbl when they know it will be worth $100 and more in a few years? In other words, they anticipate peak oil in the future and are taking steps to conserve now.

I would venture a guess that overall profitability may be higher just as the oil majors are experiencing.  Worldwide demand has not softened.  Individual areas (bangladesh) may be buying fewer barrels, but the world is not.  I confident that the national oil co is reaping some hefty profits as they sell higher priced oil to the rest of the world.  
Sorry to introduce a pedantic note but higher prices cause a decline in quantity DEMANDED; they do nothing to shift the demand curve itself.

The overused and inherently ambiguous term "demand destruction" refers to lower quantities being demanded because of higher prices--other things staying the same.

Prose just does not work well to express these ideas. Either equations or graphs (i.e. graphical equations) are almost a necessity to avoid the freshman Econ 101 confusion between changes in quantity demanded (solely because of price changes) and changes in demand (which are caused by a whole bunch of things such as changes in income, population, expectations, tastes, technology advances, and the weather, etc.).

Oooh, I should probably know better, but this doesn't seem quite right.

As it was taught to me, at a given point in time, the demand curve has a particular shape and position.  However, as you note at the bottom, demand curves do change over time, and expectations, including expectations of possible ranges of price, would seem to me to be one of the things that can alter demand curves over time.

That is, demand and supply curves apply at a given point in time, but change over time.  To use Tertzakian's favorite example, there were once demand and supply curves for whale oil.  There's not much of a market in that anymore.

You are talking about consumption, not demand.

The standard economic theory predicts that the price is set by the demand and the supply. That is demand and supply are the causes and price is a consequence. Saying that "demand did not grow because of the high price" is deliberatelly omitting half of the picture - namely that the high price was caused on its turn by the unability of the supply to grow as fast as consuming countries would want it to grow.

The correct statement would be that supply did not grow as much as they expected and as a consequence we have the high price to balance both.

LevinK is correct, Don.

Quick primer on fundamental economics:
Say you own a candy store (I have a massive sweet tooth this afternoon).
20 kids want a gummy bear. That's the demand.
You only have 17 gummy bears to sell. That's the supply.
You raise the price of gummy bears until 3 kids can't afford one, and go home. That's demand suppression (often mistakenly referred to as demand destruction).
You sell the 17 gummy bears you have to the 17 kids remaining "in the market". That's consumption.

  1. Consumption cannot exceed supply.
  2. Demand can exceed supply. This is known as a shortage.
Don teaches Econ last I checked so I don't think what you're saying is news to him.  After rereading his post above I assumed all that you listed above.  There will always be excess demand, it's just at a lower price.  Cold sore medication strikes me as one of the most overpriced medical items available.  The name brand one(can't think of it) goes for like $15 at WM and $18 or more at Walgreens.  Why?  If I had cold sores I would demand this, but the fact that it's nearly $20 makes me suffer for a whole week.  
Sorry, but you are mistaken.

"20 kids want a gummy bear." is NOT an example of demand.

To be an example of demand, you would have to specify at what price each would purchase one or more gummy bears. Here is an example of a demand schedule for a two person market, Alice and Bill.

At one cent Alice will buy one gummy bear and Bill will buy two.

At two cents Alice will still buy one gummy bear, but Bill will now buy only one.

At three cents Alice will still buy one gummy bear, but Bill will buy none.

At four cents, nobody buys any gummy bears.

Demand schedule for gummy bears equals Alice's demand schedule plus Bill's demand schedule.

one cent, quantity demanded is three G.B.s.
two cents, quantity demanded is two G.B.s
three cents, quantity demanded is one G.B.
four cents, quantity demanded is zero.

Thus "demand" refers to a whole schedule, often plotted as a line on a graph. "Quantity demanded" refers to a certain amount actually purchased at a particular price.

The distinction between quantity supplied and "supply" is similar to the distinctions in regard to demand and quantity demanded.

Prose is tricky stuff for discussing supply and demand; schedules, graphs, and equations really help a lot here.

The reason I post no graphs on TOD is that my sad experience from teaching economics for thirty-one years is that few people can read and interpret them properly. Very careful prose and a clear understanding of economics will work, but few college-educated people now understand prose well, and fewer still grasp even the most elementary fundamentals of economics.

BTW, "demand" is not the same as "want." Demand includes both the willingness and ability to purchase a good at a range of prices. Thus it is quite wrong to speak of "an unsatisfied demand for food among the world's poor." They need food or they will die, but without money or credit to buy the food they will die, because they have no effective demand.

This is "positive" economics, i.e., the way things are. "Normative" economics discusses the way things ought to be. This distinction was first and most clearly made by the notable economist John Neville Keynes, the father of John Maynard Keynes.

The reason I post no graphs on TOD is that my sad experience from teaching economics for thirty-one years is that few people can read and interpret them properly.

Oh go ahead and throw caution to the wind Don - post some graphs. I think you'll find that there are people here who will understand them ;-)

Ah, but then I would have to explain the graphs, and by the time all the qualifications and "other things staying the same" and discussions of graphs as a teaching tool rather than a representation of reality . . . oh boy. Long, long comments . . . . Not good.

Also, nearly fifty years ago, when I first got into serious research in the social sciences it was hammered into me that real researchers loved to wallow in raw data, which usually means tables of numbers rather than graphs (which are, after all, nothing more than plots of tables of numbers).

I may post some small tables of numbers, especially for illustrative purposes, and then anybody who wants to plot them is free to do so. Whenever I see a graph, I am tempted to ask, "Please sir or madam, could I see the numbers too?"

Another problem with graphs is reification: When somebody posts a pretty multicolored graph there is a temptation to immediately jump to the conclusion that it means something. And for the evil in heart (none of whom, of course, ever post on TOD) it is too darn easy to lie with graphs.

For a horrible example, almost all the supply and demand curves in economics books are outright lies--lies to simplify matters. In reality, these graphs should never show straight lines but should show fuzzy somewhat curved areas instead. There was once a book that tried to do this in one of its editions (Heilbroner and Thurow, about twenty-five or thirty years ago), but the publishers said: "None of the other econ texts do it this way. So do it their way if you want to see another edition of your book."

"In reality, these graphs should never show straight lines but should show fuzzy somewhat curved areas instead"


Its almost as bad as the monthly post of world oil consumption that appears in a place not too far from here the conversation goes something like this:

Hmmm... those point don't line up, run a smoothing filter over them.

What kind of a smoothing filter?

Well, a thirteen month equally weighted one, thats obvious isn't it?

Ummm... the line has some bumps in it.

Shoot, that can't be right, the largest trade system in the world MUST be bumpless. Run a smoothing filter over it.

What kind of a smoothing filter?

Well, a thirteen month equally weighted one, thats obvious isn't it? Are we at peak yet?

I'm not sure, your filters ran out of data to window 6 months ago.

Look, stop giving me a hard time, just lock the window for the last 6 months and draw the damn line!

O.k., Wow, looks like we are really past peak (takes another drink and squints at the graph) Yepper, definatly pointing down!

Thats my boy...

What about a data table, error bars, correlation coefficients, frequency analysis of the raw data, distortion properties of the smoothing filter....

Would you knock it off already! Put a pretty picture in as a background, I see those at the conferences all the time!

I also don't like the statiscal habit of ignoring the outliers to smooth out your data or graphs.  Sometimes, the outliers are the most interesting story to explain.
correction above...statistical
. . . oh boy. Long, long comments . . . . Not good.

You mean EVEN LENGTHIER than the ones you already disgorge so liberally!
Not good, I understand...

What we could use is a few graphs illustrating the implications of an inelastic demand curve (short term) versus a much more elastic demand curve in the long term.

Ceteris paribus, of course.  (isn't that greyhound bus in latin).

Hmm well two things about the current situation strike me as very relevent.

Is there anywhere a price schedule for Oil?

How are dynamics incorporated into a schedule?

It's clear from the world oil consumption graph that the price spike of 1980, caused a fundamental shift in how people used Oil and the coupling between World economic growth and Oil consumption was substantially weakened following the 1980 peak.

In inflation adjusted terms, we are now approaching the 1980's peak. Is there any research into how this will affect the coupling between economic growth (or decline) and Oil prices?

If I do a straight line projection of the world oil production from 2002 to 2004, we are now sitting about 3 MPD below where the projection says would have been if Oil remained at $40 per barrel.

So does that mean that an extra $30 per barrel removes 3 MPD of demand, or does it mean that $70 per barrel mean that world demand is decreased by 1.5 MPD per year? (given Oil production has been roughly constant since 2004).

I guess we'll find out in 2007 if production remains flat and Oil says at $70 per barrel.

Excellent questions!

Supply and demand curve analysis is comparative statics and says absolutely nothing about dynamics.

Estimates of price elasticities of demand for petroleum products are fairly good so long as you are close to existing prices. What the impact of doubling or trebling prices would be is anybody's guess--except (and this is a huge exception) we know for sure that the price elasticity is greater (Let us pretend that the minus sign is not there, just to simplify, as we usually do in undergraduate economics.) as the length of time increases.

In other words, over a week there is hardly any price elasticity of demand for gasoline. Over a year there is some but not much. Over ten years there is a helluva lot, and over twenty years a lot of economists think it is maybe close to unity. What does unity for price elasticity of demand mean? It means that when price (in real terms, adjusted for inflation) goes up ten percent, then quantity demanded goes down ten percent.

Unit elasticity is handy, because then all demand curves become rectangular hyperbolas, and with those you can do some nifty math stuff.

The price elasticity of demand depends a helluva lot on price itself. At low prices (fifty cents for a gallon of gas), gasoline is nearly price inelastic in any kind of a short run. At a much higher price, say five or ten dollars for a gallon of gas, we can expect to see far far higher price elasticities of demand for gasoline, especially in intermediate and long runs.

BTW, the price elasticity of a straight-line demand curve on a graph varies enormously, depending on price. In the real world we never see straight line demand curves; they are for purposes of illustration only. On the other hand, for small percentage changes in price, a straight line is a fairly good approximation to most real-world observations, but here we're talking about changes of three percent or maybe even six percent, but nothing too big.

If you understand the limitations of economics you can get a lot of mileage out of it. Alas, that is a gigantic hugeous humongous "If."

You make the fundamental mistake of associating demand with "want". I had intended to use it to demonstrate "need".  They are not the same.

Demand can be either need (fundamental necessity) or a want, (optional, luxury, desired). Don, contrary to your assertion, "demand" IS the same as "want". Demand has NOTHING to do with the ability to pay, and J.M. Keynes makes this point abundantly clear with his lengthy arguement that demand (eventually) creates its own supply, because they are equal (inherently) equal. You presume (and argue) that they are.

A reduction in price does not necessarily increase the demand (number of such commodities desired) for a needed good, this is typically only seen with wanted goods.

To illustrate:
You need water. You will not live long without it. The minimum quantity you need is fixed, regardless of the price. This is need demand, and it is fixed, regardless of price. There may also be some additional demand for extra water, above and beyond this needed value, for which price matters.
If the price of water is sufficiently high, you cannot buy any at all, and must go thirsty.  Most will then resort to non-market means by which to secure it.
If the price is sufficiently low, you may buy additional water beyond your need demand, with the extra water being considered a desired demand (as in your example of what various children are willing to pay for gummy bears, very much a desired good, although I had intended to illustrate them as a need demand), or 'luxury' purchase, not a need.
Regardless, the amount purchased is the consumption, which as I have already illustrated is not necessarily the same as the quantity demanded.

You can only consume so much water at a time. Later, you will need more, no matter how much you have consumed in the present.
Likewise, it is difficult to carry or store any "excess" purchased water without either further expenditure (such as hiring someone to carry it for you) or difficulty.
In addition, if the extra water were purchased for "future use", then it is still a needed good as it would then be satisfying a future need, and in this case the extra water would be considered stockpiled inventory.

Petroleum is a needed good, not a luxury item. Hence you see enormous inelasticity in its demand. It cannot be readily bought in excess, even if the price fell precipitously, for even the largest tank farm on earth will hold only very short duration's supply.  You cannot simply "stock up" and bank it.  

No, "demand" and "need" are not even close to being synonyms.

"Need" connotes something to do with human survival.

"Demand" denotes both a willingness AND AN ABILITY to buy goods in varying amounts at different prices.

The concepts are as different as night and day.

Regarding the OPEC behavior: I think it is a combination of both. IMO they can increase production, but they are reluctant to do it because:
  1. It is not that easy and is becoming harder with time
  2. Because they want to maintain the high prices and as you say profit from it more in the future

For political reasons I expect them to change this behavior if oil spikes for some reason.
If a spike happens we all will deal with it.  They can't just add a refiner and a bunch of wells.  It does takes years, so when a bottleneck occurs there will be no producer turning on the tap.  Everyone is running at full bore except maybe Kuwait, but that's not settled yet although it was suppose to be announced last wed/thurs as I recall.
This touches on the most interesting development in the supply side of oil that I have seen in a long time.  Will Kuwait decide to limit their own production based on a percentage of realistic estimates of their reserves? It clearly is in their own best interest to do so, but what would be the fallout across the entire middle east or other producers for that matter?  What would be the effect on peak oil if a couple countries decided to follpow suit? If too many countries jumped on would the world ecomony crash? This deserves a lot more analysis. Another elephant in the room.
I wonder why no one is in the media questioning why the day has come and gone since the new oil minister said he would undeniably make a decision.  I mean even those at the fringes pushing the edge all the time.  No one at energybulletin.net has done a follow up AFAIK.
  It has been said that oil's price action over the past year is more a result of speculative trading than the underlying supply/ demand fundamentals.
  I compared the price action of oil since August 2005 to that of gold and silver to see what the numbers tell us.
August '05- $445
April  '06- $725  (high price) 63% advance from August
June 15 '06- $575 (interim low price) 26% retracement from the high
Current Price- $628  9% advance from the interim low

August '05- $7
May '06   - $14.90 (high price) %112 advance from August
June 15 '06- $9.50  (interim low price)44% retracement from the high
Current Price-$12.20 26% advance from the interim low

August '05- $67
July '06-   $78 (high price) 16% advance
Current price- $73 8% retracement from the high
   (interim low?)

The price action of these 3 commodities has  been similar over the past year but oils price movement has been much more muted than that of the gold & silver markets. This indicates to me that while there is a speculative force involved in oils price action , the price is more a function of basic supply & demand than investment speculation.
 I think this conclusion is logical because the global oil market in terms of $'s exchanged is huge compared to that of the gold and silver market and less susceptible to the daily push /pull provided by commodities traders.
 IMHO, If the price of oil was as sensitive to trading sentiment as gold and silver are we would see much greater price swings than we currently are.

Bingo.  The meme that hedge funds and other speculators have affected the oil price significantly is hogwash.  There is not enough storage tankage available for speculators to hoard significant amounts of oil and then dump them back on the spot market.
I know this isn't PO, but I am curious to see what some of your opinions are on this news tid bit.


NASA, we have a problem. A historic film, depicting man's first steps on the Moon, has been lost, including the original recording of astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

Did we really go?

<Did we really go?>
c'mon Tate,,i know you're kidding,,but don't open the door to get that started
So take the bait then.
Does it really matter?

It's not likely we are going back without Nuclear Fusion or "Zero Point energy"?

So it might as well be fiction.    

Ahhh...so many childhood dreams gone.   Over population sucks...if only Hawkins could finds us a planet to go to and a way to get there.   Doh...more fantasy.

Sorry to be dreary,  a bit down today.

It's all about population!

for a debunking of the "moon hoax" see
http://www.badastronomy.com (although site seems to have temporary problem, try a bit later)

very nice site, also has critiques of all the impossible plots and devices in famous SciFi films, debunking of astrology and more

I'm firmly on the fence b/c I really believed we went, but I just wonder what people can come up with to "prove" that we didnt.  It just catches me off that the BIGGEST thing NASA ever did, has been misplaced.  That's moronic and simple inventory control.  That original video is probably the only original footage ever recorded and it's not in some glass case being protected to provide "proof" that we did go.  Again I'm just skeptical and missing originals always sounds fishy.
It may not be playable even if they found it.  It's magnetic tape, which is notoriously fugitive.  Sony did a study on it, and found that even stored in ideal conditions, the magnetic tape starts to de-magnetize in 14 years.  It's been a lot longer than 14 years for this tape.
When was the study done?
A long time ago.  I first heard about it ca. 1990.  Not sure when it was done, but it's widely accepted.  Eventually, magnetic media - videotape, audiotape, floppy disks, etc. - will be revert to the blank state, even if kept in ideal conditions and never played.  

I've seen it happen, with a friend's Starsky & Hutch tapes.  S&H was one of the first shows to come out after VCRs came on the market.  They were wicked expensive, and not everyone could afford them, but some did.  So the '70s was when TV shows first started to be recorded and saved by viewers.

S&H, being a '70s show, was very colorful.  But by 1990, the tapes were not.  They were all muddy brown.  Still watchable, but noticeably drab and dull.

When they finally started airing the show again (presumably with new tapes made from the original film), the difference was eye-searing.

Don't you think they thought all that through when the used the film?  I'm no expert on anything NASA, which is why I really don't know, but it doesn't make logical sense that intelligent people throughout the organization didn't stop to think about saving the only proof of one of the largest accomplishments of mankind.  Instead we're left with recordings off a 14ft screen at Houston.

There is some soul that has been tasked with archiving junk NASA's produces from the rovers to tapes, so wouldn't they quickly backup the only proof of this footage?  When the original account is lost for whatever reason, nothing truly replaces it.  We know all about ancient civilizations, but to this day nothing survived as to why Stonehenge was built for.  There's tons of plausible reasons with astronomical associations, but nothing survived to say this is how we did it and why.  The only original space footage that says we landed on the moon is "lost" so other than everyone telling me it happened what proof do I have since I wasn't alive?  End of stream of consciousness or stream of rambling depending on perspective....

They did save it.  There are numerous copies out there.  

The missing tapes are of interest for historical, not scientific, reasons.

Where are the copies located or where would the information be that verifies that there are copies of the original?  I'm talking the HIGH quality video that Samsara is mentioning.  Where can I access this?
It's in the link you posted.

"I wouldn't say we're worried -- we've got all the data. Everything on the tapes we have in one form or another," Hautaluoma said.
So I'm just suppose to believe it b/c someone says don't worry?  That's no different than taking Aramco's word that they aren't running out of oil anytime soon.  Ok, I'll just trust you.
Well, just think about it logically.  NASA knew the magnetic tapes were fugitive.  Even if they didn't, wouldn't the first thing they'd do be make some back up copies?  Just in case?

They also lent them to a museum to display.  

Would they do that if they carried irreplaceable scientific data?  Of course not.  Heck, I make backup copies of my favorite movies before lending them out.

According to CNN last night, NASA says they have only lower resolution copies preserved.
Can you verify with a cnn link maybe?  This is exactly the crap I'm talking about, but who knows.
It's the nature of analog formats, which is what tapes were back then.

Unlike with digital formats, you cannot make a copy as good as the original.  Every copy will be slightly degraded from the original.  Each generation will be lower-resolution than the last.

But as far as conspiracy theories go...why does it matter?  If NASA produced the tape tomorrow, how would you know it was "real," and not shot on a Hollywood movie set?  Or a copy, falsely claimed to be real?

IOW...if NASA is set on fooling us all, why would they even admit the tape was missing?

But as far as conspiracy theories go...why does it matter?  If NASA produced the tape tomorrow, how would you know it was "real," and not shot on a Hollywood movie set?  Or a copy, falsely claimed to be real?

You could analyze the video in all the places that you can't see.  You need to analyze the guts of the film, etc.  I really don't think it was faked, I just believe there are irregularites that have remained due to the nature of space travel.  However, space is far different than what we understand here so the same rules don't apply up there.  That misunderstanding creates an opportunity to exploit ignorance.

Here you go:
"Armstrong's famous space walk, seen by millions of viewers on July 20, 1969, is among transmissions that NASA has failed to turn up in a year of searching, spokesman Grey Hautaloma said."
Oops, that's not the quote you asked about.
Here you go....This link is not from CNN (they don't offer transcripts of everything said on their broadcast), but it has the same info:
"This would obviously be a big disappointment to Nafzger and the rest of NASA. The tapes contained the highest resolution images of the moon landing in existence. Because NASA's space video system was incompatible with broadcast standards, it retransmitted the live images to the world by pointing a standard television camera at a TV screen, offering lower quality video still available today.
"It was pretty good, but nowhere near as good as we can do today with the digital technology we could use on the original tapes to convert it to broadcast TV," he noted.
If the tapes are located and still in good condition, we might finally see the moon's surface almost as Neil Armstrong saw it."
Why hasn't this taped been transferred into a new format oh say 20 yrs ago?  The digital revolution began flourishing in the mid-late 80's and I would think someone would have stopped to think, gee it would be good to make the best copy I can since it's digital and all.  But then again this is NASA who forgot to convert metric/english and slammed that expensive bomb into Mars.
NASA's budget has never approached the inflation adjusted dollar values of the 1960s. Today's budget is less than half of the peak budget during the years we prepped to go to the moon. When you are constantly asked to do more with less, something has to go and luxuries like preserving such films, are the things that go.

If you want to blame someone for this state of affairs then look in a mirror (unless you are not a US citizen) because the people that you sent to Washington are the ones that put NASA in the budget situation in which it finds itself today.

I've been voting for 5 years, so it might be your fault, but not mine.  :)
I have not seen anyone say that they have copies of the tapes. What they showed on TV was very degraded compared to the real thing: it was an incompatible format, so they pointed a TV camera to a screen. The people that were in that room say that the picture was of much better quality.

It gets worse: the only machine in existence that can play those tapes was going to be decomissioned in a year.

Information survives by copying. Die copyright die.

Ah, but proprietary is profitable.
Copyright proponents would have us reinvent the wheel every few decades, or better yet, liscense the "technology" and pay royalties every time we used it.
I'll stop beating this horse if you guys do.
Fourteen and a half years ago, but they stored it on magnetic tape...
umm we are talking about the same nasa that lost a multi-billion dollar space probe due to a grade school calculation error. aren't we?
Im pretty sure it happened as claimed.  There are irregularities though and these have opened up Pandoras box for the theories.  That mars lander incident was kinda funny due to it being NASA and all.  They do make mistakes, but whats a few billion dollars compared to the ultimate claim of fame?
my post was more in defense of they just plain lost it.

the problem i see with these things is that anything contrary to what the government says is labeled as a conspiracy theory/theorist and then promptly ignored.
the end result is they all get lumped together preventing people from rationally looking at each and judging them by a case to case basis. This makes it extremely easy to prove conspiracy theorists wrong because they purposely frame the debate in such a manner that they have to prove all of them right to make their case while the government or those defending them only have to prove them wrong once.

Personally the theory that we did not land on the moon is bull.


Did you ever see the security tape of the lab when all the physicists who made the miscalculation on that probe were fighting? It looked like the cast from Revenge of the Nerds acting out a saloon fight from an old western.


Did you ever see the security tape of the lab when all the physicists who made the miscalculation on that probe were fighting? It looked like the cast from Revenge of the Nerds acting out a saloon fight from an old western.

I would love to see this video!

i did not know there was one..
Hi tate423. I understand the Japanese are very close to perfecting a telescope that will be able to actually look at the landing base on the moon. That should prove definitively whether we did or did not go. Failing that the Chinese will probably be on the moon before 2020 - 2025.

So this is one controversy that will ultimately be solved.

BTW, has anyone thought that it might have been STOLEN..
if it was they would of probibly been dumb enough to put it on ebay by now.
From what I understand these telescopes will still not answer the question.  The most powerful telescope on this planet can only see down to a distance of (memory) about 250 meters.  Hubble is down to 150 meters, I think, and thus we can't see a few feet across to distinguish the lander and rovers left.

I would be curios to know how powerful this telescope truly is.

The film that was taken was a special format. GREAT quality. There was not a way at the time to send it out to the broadcasting stations live.  

What the public SAW(You and I)  was the image that came from a TV Camera pointed at the Monitor at the space agency.  Grainy, Sketchy etc.

The ORIGINAL was HIGH quality.

Just heard it on NPR(US public Radio) from the engineer who was there.  The tape was stored somewhere and he is trying to find it.  He's 80 something now.

"It was stored somewhere"  my vision is the last scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark and his crate being stored at a gov. site.

NASA's been looking for it (and 700 boxes of other film/data/archives) for over a year now, with no luck. Lame.

Yes the US of A via NASA really did land on the moon. Just go and ask one of the  astronomers who has measured the distance from the moon to the earth with a laser.

Why? Because they bounce the laser off an array that was set up by Apollo astronauts.


Wikipedia has an exhaustive article about the whole hoax thing:


The MSNBC segment last night was a typical MSM hit piece.  Joe Scarborough had John Stossel versus Megan Quinn and Tyson Slocum.

The promo consisted of a clip from the "Mad Max" movie.  The intro was taken from End of Suburbia, with audio clips of Kunstler and Heinberg.

Megan said that we are probably at the half way point for conventional oil reserves, and that we should hope for the best while planning for the worst.  Tyson said if we hadn't peaked, we were certainly close, and he listed a list of actions.

John Stossel said that "Megan's Group" thought that we had peaked in 1970, and that we have lots of coal and nuclear energy sources.  He said that as prices go up, lots of new energy sources will be brought on line.  His clincher--in response to Tyson's point that lots of our oil comes from unfriendly places--was that Shell estimates that the Canadian Tar Sands alone have enough oil to supply the US for 100 years.

Note that we had all of the elements of the Iron Triangle:  A media guy, Stossel, quoting a major oil company source, Shell, while advertisements, largely by the auto/housing/finance group, ran between the segments.

The net result was to reassure Americans that they can and should proceed with their plans to buy a SUV to commute to and from their suburban mortgages.

"Iron Triangle" Explanation:  http://www.energybulletin.net/15126.html

Economist Magazine reports Saudi oil production can continue unabated
August 14, 2006


 In its August 10 edition, The Economist magazine asserts that Saudi Arabia can continue producing oil at its current production levels for 70 years, without having to look for another drop. Further, the magazine claims that the nation could find "plenty more if they look", calling for privitisation of national oil companies to help increase oil production.

 The language is provocative - the world has plenty of oil, and only requires sufficient investment and exploration to find it. This is a line that The Economist has held for some time, certainly since before its now infamous March 1999 issue proclaiming that we were "drowning in oil" and featuring a prediction of US$5 per barrel. That issue was followed by an embarrassing retraction in December of that year, as oil started its steady climb. It now sits above US$70 per barrel.

Even if you agree with them that S. Arabia can do that for 70 years...where does the extra supply come from to cover the extra demand from India and China?  Does that lower the 70 in half to 35.  So, then, what are we going to do in 35 years.

That is my thing. Why bother to argue with people that the supply is going to go down.  Just ask them where the increase is going to come from as the world demand keeps growing and growing.

And yes, I usually get the answer that "science" will figure it out...forever and ever...and we will never have to stop growing.

Rick D.

Yep.Of the total global oil consumption to date, 50% has been consumed since 1985. IMO, eventually China's economy will be the largest ever seen (in real dollars) for any single country, far surpassing the USA's peak.
70 years...

1.02^70 = 3.999
3.99*85MBPD = 339.96
339.96*365 = 124GB/yr


Look at the name of the magazine. That should tell you all you need to know right there. Wasn't it Friedman who stated that economics cannot know that oil is a finite resource and that economics doesn't even care (or something close to that effect)? The biggest failure of too many economists is that they totally divorce themselves from reality, then build great houses of theoretical cards which fail in the real world. My other quibble with economics is how much of it is really science and how much of it is solipsism? ;) How many testable hypotheses has economics given us? How often are economic hypotheses verified or refuted by experimental data? Too often economics amounts to circular logic finding a way to convince the speaker that he was already right.

Note: I do find value in good economists but they seem to be few and far between.

Thomas Friedman is a pretty good economist. He is worried sick about oil, as he states clearly in his best-selling, "The World is Flat."
It's a social science.  How many testable hypothesis has sociology thrown out?  Econ isn't science it's understanding human nature.  Since we have limited understanding of human nature econ is thus limited.
Sociology has a number of testable and tested hypotheses; some parts of sociology and cultural anthropology are sciences. Specific example: Matrilineal societies tend to be horticultural, and change to a market economy (either agricultural or industrial) destroys matrilineal kinship systems.

Some of economics is science, much of it is not.

BTW, most economists hate and despise sociologists, because sociologists say that we do what we do pretty much because of sociological variables such as norms and values and social institutions such as family and religion and roles and statuses and forms of social control. Economists postulate rational humans, and it is from this axiom that mainstream economics gets into humongous trouble.

For example, most (not all) economists say that the goal of a corporation is to maximize profits. O.K., then explain corporations in the airline industry;-)

The best sociologists, such as Max Weber, take economics seriously, and the best economists, such as Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon, do not fall into the mainstream errors. Milton Friedman is much more of a sociologist than most people give him credit for--see for example the readable book, "Capitalism and Freedom" that he wrote in collaboration with his economist wife, Rose.

For people interested in work at the boundaries of economics, anthropology and sociology, I recommend Foundations of human sociality : economic experiments and ethnographic evidence from fifteen small-scale societies edited by Joseph Henrich ... [et al.].  Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2004.  Various researchers played some standard rational actor games using real local currency, and found that predicted Homo economicus results were not replicated in any of these societies.  General conclusion - social context makes a huge difference in individuals' "rational" action.  Economics is a social science, whether people in or out of it like it.
Not a good idea to play telephone.
The original Economist article (here) says:

These companies are certainly sitting on a reassuring amount of oil. Saudi Aramco's proved reserves alone could keep the world supplied for several decades. But it is only exploiting ten of its 80 or so fields, so will be able to pump at the present rate for about 70 years even if it never discovers another drop of oil. In fact, Aramco and other NOCs are likely to find plenty more if they look, since their territory has not been very thoroughly explored.

Pay attention to the hedge words ("likely") and actor-unspecified language (who exactly "will be able to pump at the present rate" and pump what? water?) I can keep the world "supplied" all by myself also. Just dole out a drop a year from my fictitious oil can (my proved reserves). It won't match demand. But it will keep the world "supplied".

Actually, the "actor unspecified language" looks like perfectly good modern British (English) grammar to me - they leave stuff out of their sentences in that manner all the time. There's not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that the intended actor is Saudi Aramco. OTOH, whether Aramco will actually be able to deliver oil at their current rate for 70 years is, of course, another matter entirely.
I really don't think you can blame it on the MSM.  As long as Peak Oil is "about" survivalist communtities and die-off, it carries a big "kick me" sign on its back.

I mean, how the heck can a TV producer turn down an opportunity like that, given that PO folks do believe that stuff?

CNN managed to turn it down, somehow.  Their peak oil special wasn't perfect, but it wasn't a hit piece, either.

The problem is not with us, it's with Scarborough Country.  That show is only one step up from Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.  

I think the problem is with these types of shows in general. they are merely entertainment.  Thats the reason they can spend hours talking about the ins and outs of the natalie halloway case, and less than 5 mins on something that actually affects all americans.  The goal of those who attend these circuses should be to peak public interest.  People who are inclined will find out more info, and as they do, most will demand to know what is being done about it.
Good point.  It's entertainment, not news.  And the kind of people who watch shows like that don't want to see charts and graphs, or hear any logical arguments.  They want to see some librul verbally beaten up for their amusement.  

Next time, we should send the most "out there" doomer we have.  At least it will get people's attention.  If that's the idea, then Roscoe Bartlett types aren't going to cut it.

Well, the doomiest doomer is Jay.  Which reminds me, I don't recall seeing a synopsis of Nate's(?) or Alan's(?) meeting with Jay a few weekends ago.

I would also argue that doomers don't give the PO movement a bad name.  Most of us don't try to convince anyone about anything.  What does give PO a bad name is the lack of a consistent view within the community of what the data show, i.e., sharp peak, undulating plateau, rapid decline, slow decline, timing, etc.  Further, there really isn't a consensus as to the proper approach to transitioning away from FFs and whether it is feasible in reality, especially considering the Hirsch Report.

What does give PO a bad name is the lack of a consistent view within the community of what the data show, i.e., sharp peak, undulating plateau, rapid decline, slow decline, timing, etc.

You know, you're probably right.  The right-wing spin machine knows this, and uses it to great advantage.  It doesn't matter what you say, as long as you keep saying it.  If you're consistent, people will believe you are correct.  

Unfortunately, reality is messier than that.  I'm reminded of the early days of "creation science"  movement. With evolution under attack, some scientists suggested that the best thing to do was rally around the most conservative, mainstream flavor of Darwin's theory.  "Just until this blows over."  

Probably would have been good PR, but would have been terrible science.

"It doesn't matter what you say, as long as you keep saying it."
Some might call that "on message" and some might call it media discipline. I call it Stalinism. Interesting the best Stalinists are now the Republicans.
Unless you count those who think everything is explained by the market and scream when you tell them that that's a political position.
What does give PO a bad name is the lack of a consistent view within the community of what the data show, i.e., sharp peak, undulating plateau, rapid decline, slow decline, timing, etc.

We have a bit of common ground there.

For what it's worth, I don't think consensus has to mean a single percent rate of depletion. It be as simple as saying "estaimtes from oil industry experts(*) range from X to Y percent, and naturally people looking at the higher percentages see more dire outcomes."

* - i know, groan.
I am not a scientist, but read this blog with interest.

I have run a number of local political campaigns and so my comments are from the persuasions perspective.  Much is in how things are framed.

In my thinking about this --  The immutable fact is that oil is a finite resource and WILL be depleted.  The question is when.  

So when I try to talk to people about it, I say that... and then go on to say that no matter when it is, we better be taking steps now to deal with the inevitable dislocation that will come with decreasing supplies of cheap oil and then all oil.  And try to convince them that what could that hurt to be prepared.

I think a lot of people want to do the right thing, but no one is telling them what to do.  I try to ease them into it with suggestions on conservation, etc.  The whole scenario is further complicated by Climate Change and the interconnectedness of the two issues.  With so many people scientifically illiterate it is an uphill climb (particularly when they care more about the American Idol that life on this planet.)

Often the stuff I read here is quibbling about trees and missing the forest.

And I am not ready to learn how to skin a deer and tan his hide to make clothes as one poster suggested... I expect that the clothes that currently hang in my closet will last me until I die if they have to.  Just because there is peak oil doesn't mean that all the things we have just disappear.  

So there you have a laywoman's view.  

And I am not ready to learn how to skin a deer and tan his hide to make clothes as one poster suggested... I expect that the clothes that currently hang in my closet will last me until I die if they have to.  Just because there is peak oil doesn't mean that all the things we have just disappear.  

so how are you going to teach your kids and grand-kids. your cloths may last as long as you live but how are you going to cloth them?
hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
you should at least learn to do it so you can show your kids how to supplement their tattered clothing that was made by children in china and shipped overseas.
and again, a tree

and in my opinion a sidetrack that detracts from the deadly seriousness of the issue.  

What each of us has does not just disappear and it doesn't disappear overnight.

No kids or grandkids, but I would first teach them to knit and weave before skinning.

to ignore a tree and focus on the larger forest is to run into said tree.
either way my point stands, go out and learn now because you will not be able to later. chances are the people in your area  that already will know might die during what will happen during the collapse or the library you have been meaning to get the information might be ransacked for fuel during a cold winter.
"[To] focus on the larger forest is to run into said tree."

Only if you're running.  Each of these examples is like a frenetic, running scared response to 'what if I lose this?', 'what if that's suddenly gone?', which only supports her point.

She's not advocating a passive, sit by and wait response, but one that says you do have to stop, look carefully at the whole scene, and really think about which actions and preparations you really have to enact, while the last-minute crowd is fighting over the peanut butter tubs and ammo.

Yep, if you think it's going to get that bad, teach them to grow hemp and flax, learn to spin and weave. Our ancestors were raising both of those and making cloth from them more than 5000 years ago, hemp more than 10,000 years. Trade cloth (of various weights), thread, string, rope, and paper for leather to use in those places that cloth just isn't durable enough.
"What each of us has does not just disappear and it doesn't disappear overnight."

True enough, unless stolen or we have to move quickly and leave some things behind. Although I hope things here don't get that bad, "prepare for the worst...." I currently work in the "Yacht Management" business and when I'm doing hands-on work my clothes can wear out pretty fast...could be more manual labor in the future for many of us too.

As part of my PO preparation, with the idea that this business might not be around if the economy gets real bad and with "essential needs" (food-shelter-clothing) in mind, I recently purchased a heavy duty sewing machine and am learning to sew boat canvass. Might be a useful skill if there's less yacht work and more clothing/tent work down the road. In the meantime, I have a new hobby.



Speaking as an economist and a sailor, let me prognosticate: The demand for sailboats and hence for those who service them will increase.

On the other hand, everybody and her sister-in-law seems to want to become a sail maker. It is a noble profession, but from those sail makers I've known there is no money in it except at the very very top echelon's of sail makers for the most elite racing yachts.

On the other hand, if you can sew awnings, sail covers, biminis, etc., then you may have a good trade.

Well, the doomiest doomer is Jay.  Which reminds me, I don't recall seeing a synopsis of Nate's(?) or Alan's(?) meeting with Jay a few weekends ago.

Actually, it was Nate and me. I spent a weekend there, but Nate spent a whole week with him. I am hoping Nate finds time to write something up.

You're right. I think Megan Quinn expresses this herself in this article:


As she says,

...we are not preaching to the choir, we're preaching to the preachers. In fact, we're creating a community of preachers that is pioneering a new culture. Our tool is a different kind of "demonstration," one that doesn't fight the problem but shows the solution. We are creating a social movement through example, not protest.

So David's best strategy may be ignoring Goliath altogether. Instead, he can use his stone to lay the foundation of a decentralized, low-energy infrastructure that can actually be sustained and will, in fact, flourish into a post-peak oil era as long-distance transport and energy transmission decline.

It's harder to post "kick-me" signs on those who lead by example.

I was probably a typical viewer in that I didn't know Ms. Quinn, and didn't know where she stood.

IMO the main thing that came through was that when she was presented with the stick and mud houses and composting toilet crowd, she wouldn't separate them from peak oil.  She allowed the suggestion to stand that those were the peak oil believers.

It would have been more affected to say "A lot of people are attracked to the peak oil cause, but peak oil is not simply a hippie or survivalist movment.  Congressmen, investment bankers [...] find realistic concerns in peak oil."

pfft "effective" of course.
Speaking of congressman, I think Mr. Bartlett would be an ideal candidate to run the talk show circuit.  I still think that his presentations to congress were some of the best introduction to the peak oil crisis that we've seen.  I'd imagine its kind of hard to tie a conservative congressman to hippies and survivalist communities.  I think the real danger is if Peak oil gets caught up in t he same political storm that global warming is in now.  At that point, facts will cease to matter.    
I think its already too late for this. Facts already cease to matter. Even within the PO aware community there are sharp disagreements about where we are headed and why.

Frankly, I'm in the stick and mud houses crowd, not because passing peak demands it, but because the momentum and strength of our current cultural values make any significant accomodation for a reduced energy consumption lifestile extremely unlikely. It isn't the lack of oil that will take us to S&M houses, but the cultural and social conflagrations we will go through as we try to avoid the reality.

In my book, anyone who is looking for a "solution" to PO is barking up the wrong tree. PO is not the central issue - the issue is the growth values that come intertwined with global capitalism.

Well said, and it pretty much sums up my view.

Which the popularity of shows like Scarborough Country only reinforces...

IMO the problem with "growth values" is much too general to lay at the feet of "global capitalism".  If you look back in history, virtually every economy of any stripe - capitalist, socialist, communist, liberal, totalitarian, you name it - has had at its core the notion of interest-bearing loans.  This single fact spells disaster over the long term, because it requires continued overall economic growth to make the mechanism work.

Mankind has shown a hard-wired propensity for growth, in population (though this can show local and regional declines) but more importantly in per-capita consumption.  There are precious few examples of per-capita consumption being reduced in the absence of resource shortages.  This serves to swamp any mitigating effect of reduced population growth.  Combine this aspect of human nature with a global economic system that has an exponential mechanism at its core, and you get gloomy predictions very quickly.  It would be nice if it were just demon capitalism that is at fault, but I strongly believe the problem is more fundamental than that.  Of course that doesn't speak against your argument that there is no "solution", but rather strengthens it.

Here I'll drop in another plug for William Catton's remarkable book "Overshoot".  He makes an utterly persuasive case that the problem is so intrinsic that no amount of fiddling at the edges will improve our prospects.

If you'll reread what I wrote, I never claimed that there was some one to one correspondance between growth and global capitalism. That said, the particular form of single global economic system we now have is responsible for more growth orientation than any system ever previously existant.

As for the condition of "human nature" I'm afraid you may have succombed to western enlightenment version of history where we move from Hobbes "state of nature" to civilization. The fact is our ancestors survived quite nicely for 90,000 plus years without a growth ethic. Sure they were poor by our present standards - but isn't that the point?

Do you believe it is a consensus peak oil position that economic (as opposed to energy) growth is a bad thing?
An economist might ask you to first define growth and further illustrate what assumptions you are working with to determine that economic growth is bad.  Then he'll tell you your assumptions are wrong and walk away rambling something about ceteris paribus.
What if I'm quick, and ask him first? ;-)
He'll say, "pull up a chair, this might take a while."
If you ask an economist a question, you will likely get a clear answer. Possibly a wrong answer, but at least a clear one.

Economists know that GDP does not measure human well-being; economists know that and admit it. The main reason to focus on GDP is because of the close link between growth in real GDP and growth in employment.

In societies where income is tied to personal production, then GDP will continue to be a key concept. However, as there are more and more transfer payments (as we find in all advanced countries, such as those in Europe and the U.S. and Canada), then the link between income and production is weakened and stretched.

Hey, I don't work. But I get a decent income because society has set it up that way--fine with me, and there is nothing wrong with me going to Jamaica or Tortola for a sailing vacation from Social Security and Teachers Retirement Association pension income. The problem of income distribution is closely linked to almost all other core questions in economics and sociology.

No, I don't. That was my point. There are many within the peak oil aware universe who really only see this as a technical issue.
Note that my post is attached to GliderGuider's post, which had the closing:
Here I'll drop in another plug for William Catton's remarkable book "Overshoot". He makes an utterly persuasive case that the problem is so intrinsic that no amount of fiddling at the edges will improve our prospects.
No, I certainly don't think it's a consensus position.  I think it should be, and I think that an ecological analysis points in that direction, but that of course is just my opinion.

The only consensus position I can find in the PO community is that there will be a production peak at some point.  Beyond that, all bets are off.

Why can't we just take the Japanese example (economic growth with a reduction in total oil use) as confirmation that the connection can be broken. I suggest that the oil and economic growth binding is common because it works, with cheap oil. Expensive oil, or oil shortages, can clearly change that relationship.
I have no doubt that the connection with oil can be broken.  But if you revisit the Japanese example, you'll find they did not break the connection with energy in general, nor with other resource usage.  They are still modern, techno-industrial human beings after all.

I maintain that due to what the Club of Rome calls the "world problematique" we are in for a very hard time. Humanity is facing a multidimensional set of challenges, all of them intertwined, and all of them having the simple notion of population growth at their root.  "Solving" the oil linkage doesn't address any of the dozen or so other problems, though solving it is of course preferable to not solving it.  IMO an ecological perspective is essential to understanding what's going on, which is why I keep plugging Catton.

In "peak oil" that's all it takes.  My opinion is that discussion of "peak energy" is futile, because the projected dates put it out too far beyond our ability to make rational technological prediction.

(to tell me about "peak energy" you'd have to be able to tell me about the final EROEI of thin film, nanotech, or concentrator solar cells, 50 years out.)

I agree that the notion of "peak energy" is pointless, which is why I never use such an idea in my arguments.  If peak oil on its own doesn't get us then peak energy certainly won't.

That's not the same as saying we'd be out of the woods, but if we could successfully transition away from petroleum we'd at least be able to turn our attention and energies to any of the other dozen potential civilization-busters lurking in the wings.

That seems sensible to me.

Do we have a consensus on this?

No consensus for me.

if we could successfully transition away from petroleum we'd at least be able to turn our attention and energies to any of the other dozen potential civilization-busters lurking in the wings.

Well said...
But this is precisely where it hurts, "any of the other dozen potential civilization-busters" !
The true problems are population, growth and diminishing returns.
Peak oil is only the most pressing problem right NOW (short of GW which is a somewhat different kind of beast).
Even stabilizing population and growth is no guarantee against the vicious side effects of the "low hanging fruit" preference.

John Browne himself admits this preference :

Companies work by prioritising what they do. They take the easiest steps first - picking the low hanging fruit - and then they move on to tackle the more difficult and complex problems. That is the natural business process.

Why not looking for a more general approach?
Having to chase next for the "other dozen potential civilization-busters" will only be more hellish than peak oil (due to the very efforts and ressources used to "solve" peak oil).

Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate.

The E-ROI of renewables (like wind, solar, etc)is high enough now, and rising.  Has anyone suggested that the E-ROI of renewables (like wind, solar, etc) might drop in the future?
Why can't we just take the Japanese example (economic growth with a reduction in total oil use) as confirmation that the connection can be broken.

You have to be a little careful with that example. I don't think many people want to emulate the Japanese economic experience over the last decade. We could say the same thing about Russia, or even Europe. Their consumption has fallen, or not grown, but their economies have collapsed and not shown that much growth, respectively.

I agree with your point, but the choice of examples is difficult when people assume greater growth is automatically better.

I don't think so.

I don't think there's even a consensus that energy growth is a bad thing, although it's a common idea.

The only consensus is that fossil fuel growth is a bad thing.

Not true; the growth in energy consumption will lead to more ecological destruction. How much can we take?
hmm.  Fossil fuels certainly cause ecological destruction, but how do windmills or solar panels do that?
They do it indirectly, by supporting a continuation of the consumptive patterns we have already established.  It's not just fossil fuels that cause ecological devastation.  There is also water and soil pollution related to industry and agriculture, soil fertility depletion, fresh water depletion, the depletion of ocean fish stocks, massive extinctions due to habitat loss and pollution, and the general loss of biodiversity.

All of these will continue in the absence of fossil fuels if we simply replace our energy sources.  In the long run, the main problem that fossil fuels cause is global warming. However, even if we get a handle on that there is still plenty of ecological devastation to go around, simply due to our numbers, and our consumption imperative.

The solar folks I see are also doing big efficiency and conservation moves at the same time.  A SunFrost refrigerator is expensive, but much cheaper than a solar system to support "a continuation of the consumptive patterns we have already established."
Absolutely - most energy-aware people in the first world are doing conservation or outright powerdown.  The majority of global society does not fall into that category.  They're either not energy-aware, or not first-world.

And I agree that finding a whole new solar system would be an expensive solution to the problem ;-)

There is also water and soil pollution related to industry and agriculture, soil fertility depletion, fresh water depletion, the depletion of ocean fish stocks, massive extinctions due to habitat loss and pollution, and the general loss of biodiversity.

Exactly, Peak Water soon!
Cost of water shortage: civil unrest, mass migration and economic collapse

Of course given the names in the study (Shell, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Cargill) I expect the conspirationist minded to howl "scare propaganda" but nevertheless...

Have lemurs shown a hard-wired propensity for growth?  Bobcats?  Algae?  Most populations find a dynamic equilibrium with their ecology.  I agree that all of our historical economies have shown such signs of growth, but I disagree that this is fundamental to our species.  In fact, most humans in most places at most times have not shown this tendency at all.  The kind of complex society that does—and they are all complex societies based in agriculture—is an extremely novel thing in the history of our species; that's a perspective I think we need to bear in mind.
Have lemurs shown a hard-wired propensity for growth?

I like to move it move it!
Catton describes the ecological notion of a "climax community" that has dynamic equilibrium based on resources that are continually available.  He also makes the point that any  "detritus ecosystem" - of which mankind's use of fossil fuel is virtually a canonical example - will exhibit overshoot and die-back.  He uses algal blooms as an illustration - they grow prolifically using detritus nourishment, then die back when the food is gone.  This can happen on a yearly cycle due to annual replenishment of the food source. If the food source is not replenished, as is the case with fossil fuels, the cycle can only happen once, or at least will reoccur on such a long timescale as to make no difference.

On the question of stable human societies, I would argue that they are an example of climax communities that are inherently limited by the energy available in their environments. As such they will exhibit a constant rate of excess births and excess deaths.  As people move into more energy-rich environments, or learn to exploit energy sources previously unused, they have always always grown both population and consumption to the limits of their new circumstances.

And yes, lemurs and bobcats follow the same laws.  All species will grow if the excess death rate is reduced, because they all exhibit excess births to compensate for such things as accidental deaths, resource scarcity and predation.  It's a survival mechanism that results in rapid population growth if the excess death rate is reduced.  Humanity is in no way different, no matter how much  pride we might take in our exceptional reasoning ability.

Would you agree that humans have voluntarily reduced their fertility rates from about 5, 50 years ago, to something very close to replacement now (about 2.6), and that this decline shows no sign of stopping; that most of the world is at or below replacement; and that this has been a result of affluence and education, not resource limits?

I'm talking about fertility rates, of course, not absolute growth rates, but fertility rates tell you about people's ability to choose not to have children, and eventually will reduce absolute growth rates.

I certainly wouldn't.  First World fertility rates have dropped, not voluntarily, but because the marginal return on child-rearing has dropped.  Our society is more complex, so children cost more, and provide less return.  In the Third World, the marginal return on child-rearing remains high, and so fertility remains high as well.  Since the First World is dependent on the Third World, modernization is a trend that can only go so far, so the fact that our overall, global fertility rate continues to rise in lock-step with our food supply does not seem terribly likely to change.  Individuals may make choices, but I fail to see any evidence for voluntary action in the changes to groups.
For some of your comments, see my later posts.

" the fact that our overall, global fertility rate continues to rise in lock-step with our food supply"

Fertility rates are falling, not rising.

Define "fertility rates," because this contradicts the data I've seen.
Fertility rate is defined as the average number of children per woman.  So, a theoretical replacement rate would be 2 children, one for each parent.  In practice the replacement fertility rate is defined as about 2.1, to account for infant and child mortality.

This rate has been relentlessly dropping for the last 50 years (It peaked after WWII in large part because of the introduction of public health practices in the 3rd world which suddenly dropped infant and child mortality rates).  It was around 5 for the whole world. In 1992 it was 3.0, and in 2000 it was 2.8, and in 2005 it was 2.6.  It's expected to drop below replacement relatively soon for the whole world.  At that point absolute growth will continue because of a demographich overhang: a large young generation which which will replace itself, after which in about 2050 total population is likely to hit around 9 billion, and start falling.

The US is right at 2.1, and would be pretty stable if not for immigration. Japan is at about 1.4 IIRC, and is expected to start falling in 2007 in absolute numbers (the Japanese are kind've alarmed: their longevity continues to increase, and their birthrate continues to fall.  They hate the idea of immigration, but they like early retirement - something has to give.  Probably the early retirement, which is not so bad).

That is nonsense Jason. I am having a baby in October and such a decision has absolutely nothing to with economics. Nick is spot on here. We will try to have 2, not because we can't afford to have 4 or because we can't afford to not have 4, but because we don't want more than 2 for non-economic factors. It is obvious that as birth control techniques and affluence in general has spread population growth in those countires has (IN GENERAL) fallen despite increasing life expectancy.  
"Fertility rates are falling, not rising."

I meant to say:

"Overall, global fertility rates are falling, not rising."

I'd add, the've dropped from about 5, post WWII, to about half of that (2.6), and show every sign of dropping to replacement of 2.1 and continuing to fall below that.  That's what has happened basically everywhere in the world except Africa and the ME.

What about India and China?  And "except for Africa and the ME" is discounting a pretty significant part of the population there.  "All the data agrees with me, except for the data that doesn't"?  I specifically said that these numbers come from willfully ignoring the Third World, and why that's simply not legitimate.
The figures I gave are for the whole world, including Africa, ME, China and India.

China is at or below replacement fertility rate.  India is still above, though some regions have gone below.

Africa and ME is perhaps 15% of the world's population.  Their still-high numbers are countered by even lower numbers elsewhere.

Try these stats...
China, IIRC, is 1.7 due to forced sterilization for many years.  India is above replacement rate, and will pass China by 2050. FWIW, the "medium" UN projection of approximately 9 billion by 2050 scares the hell out of me, given the resource depletion and environmental destruction we've seen with 6.5 billion.
Yeah, I'd be a lot happier with less than that.  At the very least we're going to get a lot more species extinctions, and there's a decent chance GW will flood Florida and Pakistan...sigh.
i call bunk on that claim.
why? it's statistics statistics can easily be made to always come out in favor of what you say, all you have to do is control how many people you survey, who you survey, or how you survey.
These are not survey based.  They're based on public health statistics gathered by PH departments in cities, counties, states and countries around the world.  They come from birth certificates and death certificates.  They are very concrete.
they are still statistics, it can easily be made to look how you want just by picking and choosing which country's you look into.
hhmmm.  Well, these stats are for the whole world.  Beyond, I'm not sure how to respond.  Do you have specific examples?
Yes, we have reduced our overall fertility rate.  Was it voluntary?  I think the right answer is, "Partly, sometimes."  There are several theories about why fertility rates have dropped. One is the Demographic Transition theory you cite, another is the Economic Opportunity theory put forward by Virginia Abernethy, yet another is that education and empowerment of women is the key.  I think it's likely a combination of all three factors are at work.

If we were able to stop all further births and maintain our population at 6.5 billion for the next 25 years, would that help our predicament significantly?

" Was it voluntary?  I think the right answer is, "Partly, sometimes.""

Well, what I'm trying to get at is that the "overshoot" model assumes that birth rates never fall (until malnutrition, perhaps), and that death rates rise at the end due to resource constraints.  In fact, we have falling birth rates due to conscious decisions, and falling death rates. Completely the opposite of the overshoot model.

Why is this important?  Because the overshoot model suggests that our growth is out of control and will stop only due to coercion by resource limits, when the facts suggest that it is in some sense under our control, and that growth is slowing due to reasons entirely unrelated to "overshoot".

"If we were able to stop all further births and maintain our population at 6.5 billion for the next 25 years, would that help our predicament significantly? "

Thats's a whole different question, and could be phrased as:  While humanity may have put the brakes on population growth for reasons unrelated to resource limits of growth, is it possible that we've done so too late?

That's a good question.  I think the answer is clearly "No, if we handle things properly", but that's a big if.  It's clear that we have our work cut out for us, and no time to waste.

Do you mean to ask: "Would aggressive pop control measures be a good idea?"?

Yes, aggressive population control measures would be a good idea.  Yes, a hundred times yes, even to the draconian outer limits. It won't fix the problem, but it would help.

As to "Are we in overshoot?", my understanding is that overshoot isn't defined by birth and death rates, but by current population level relative to long-term carrying capacity.  In other words, I believe that a population can be in overshoot before the essential resource is exhausted, and this can come about either through continuous population growth or continuous overconsumption of the resource.  As soon as you know that a scarce, unsubstitutable resource can limit or reverse the population's growth you are in overshoot.  Once the resource limit bites, you are onto the crash side of the curve as opposed to the growth side.

While we haven't hit the resource limit yet, we do know that one will probably occur.  The fact that we face multiple potential resource limits of which oil is just the closest and most drastic makes the probability of hitting "a" resource limit much closer to 1.  That makes it overshoot as I understand it.

hmmm.  Well, what I was trying to come to a consensus on is this question:  " Is population growth coming to an end, albeit slowly, and is this happening for reasons unrelated to overshoot?.

I think the answer is clearly yes.  I think it might be helpful to come to a consensus on this, as some posters on TOD seem to think otherwise.

Now as to the question of whether we are in overshoot as you define it:  that's what I was trying to address in my second thing about whetther it's too late.  I guess I simply say I'm more hopeful than that.

Well, what I was trying to come to a consensus on is this question:  "Is population growth coming to an end, albeit slowly, and is this happening for reasons unrelated to overshoot?


I think the answer is clearly yes.  I think it might be helpful to come to a consensus on this, as some posters on TOD seem to think otherwise.

How can we come to a consensus when there's clearly strong disagreement on the issue?

Well, I thought there was a possibility of agreement with the original poster.  I've given a fair amount of info for my logic.  What are the reasons you disagree?
China's population growth is slowing because of their one-child policy.  Often brutally enforced.  The one-child policy is clearly due to overshoot.  China has suffered regular dieoffs in the past, and is painfully aware of the consequences of overshoot.  They are the only major country that maintains large stores of food, in case of famine.

Population growth worldwide is slowing, but it is not ending.  Having three kids instead of four is not the end of population growth.  

Moreover, I think peak oil will unwind many of the factors that led to the slowing growth rate.  If people are forced to go back to farming, suddenly kids will be free labor again, instead of a burden.

Even in China, rural families are exempt from the one-child policy.

"China's population growth is slowing because of their one-child policy.  Often brutally enforced.  The one-child policy is clearly due to overshoot.  China has suffered regular dieoffs in the past, and is painfully aware of the consequences of overshoot.  They are the only major country that maintains large stores of food, in case of famine."

All true, except that their policies are not caused by hitting a resource wall, but by the chinese planning in order to avoid hitting a resource wall.  Those two things are very different: they demonstrate people are not yeast, that they plan ahead and don't just grow until resource constraints stop them by raising death rates.

It's conceivable that it's too late to avoid hitting a catastrophic wall, but we're definitely not yeast.

"Population growth worldwide is slowing, but it is not ending. "

If you define it as exponential growth with no end in sight, it actually is ending.  See my other posts in this drumbeat.

Nick, you need to be very careful with your language here. It is the rate of population growth that is slowing. Population growth continues. Indeed, because of the age of the population, even if we dropped to replacement level birth rates as of today, the population would continue to grow.
If you look at my earlier posts, you'll see I maed careful distinctions between fertility rates vs absolute growth.

Yes, the general consensus in the public health/population planning community is that population growth is likely to continue, at gradually falling rates, for another 40 years or so.

I think GliderGuider has just volunteered for "population control". Anybody else want to volunteer?
Hi Nick,

Something I don't understand about this overshoot:

6.5 billion is a big number, people cite that as "proof" that we are in overshoot, as if it is self-evident.

Well I think that 500 million is a big number. The people who call it overshoot might have said the same thing if we were at 500 milloin people. Who know's what number is too much. I can come up with some other big numbers:

How many square metres is the surface of the earth - a lot - does that mean it is to big?

How many insects are there on the planet? More than people, probably. Does that mean the insect population is also in overshoot?

I think for overshoot to have any credibility, you have to come up with a credible, objective way of measuring what is the capcity of a planet? I think that is almost impossible to do, so presumably people who call it overshoot are just talking bla, bla, bla?

Can anyone here derive the capacity of the planet from a set of sensible objective starting principles?

It's not the numbers that determine whether an organism is overshooting its environment, of course, but whether its environment can support both its resource usage and waste production.

If you would really like to get a quantitative look at the situation regarding humans, take a look at the first three chapters of the book "Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update".  In them you will find your request addressed explicitly, with all the assumptions, techiques and numbers laid out for your delectation.

If you are interested in being able to do any critique beyond a drive-by, I'd recommend the book as presenting a dispassionate, objective and above all quantitative look at the question of overshoot.

Interesting, check out the "Customers who bought this item also bought" section of the "Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update" page:


Well, well.  There seems to be a theme developing here...
I know that I shouldn't judge before reading, but I am deeply skeptical about these kind of estimates. From experience in scientific research I am sure that a sensible prediction for the capacity of a complex system like earth would be almost impossible. We can't even get the weather right three days out.
There are individual overshoots that are observable today.  I think the state of our oceans is a big one.  We went from thinking they were limitless, to arguing about limiting our actions, to general agreement on sustainable practices ... too late.  We overshot healthy oceans with sustainable yields, and no doubt in part due to human population pressure.

... add 'em up and I think there is a global overshoot going on.  It's just an open question in my mind whether that leads to a more monochrome future with increasingly reduced biodiversity, or a genuine crash.

This group has had scientific credibility for thirty years now.  They don't so "predictions", rather they present the results of computerized models - simulations - with a variety of input conditions, assumptions and influences.  The variety of results they generate leaves a fair bit of room for interpretation.  Since you mentioned weather, what they are doing bears more resemblance to climate modeling than weather prediction.

Try it, you'll like it.

Suppose the earth can sustainably support twenty billion people. Does that mean we should have no concern for population growth now? I think not.

Why not?

Because Malthus was right. Look at Bangladesh or Pakistan or most African countries--mass misery primarily because of overpopulation.

The ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle thought that population policy was of prime importance to good and sustainable societies (by which they meant city-states).

In ancient Rome, proletarians got their name because of fertility. Having lots of kids makes your society poor. Ask any Bangladeshi. The tragedy of the commons is that the way incentives are set up in agricultural societies it may benefit a family to have many (poor) children so that each can contribute a pittance to the support of their elderly (i.e. over about age forty-five) parents.

What would be an ideal population for the earth? Based on contemporary technology I'd say that it would be far below five hundred million--possibly as low as fifty million. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating mass murder and genocide, but in terms of human flourishing I see almost no advantages (and many disadvantages) to a large human population. And by "large" I mean any population much above the relatively stable population of homo sapiens that the earth supported rather well during the first ninety-eight percent (or thereabouts) of the time humans were on this planet.

Imagine what a paradise China could be with only ten or twenty million people. Now it is a pit, and rapidly getting worse in terms of environmental destruction. For China, population stability came much too late.

Will the human population crash? I do not know, and neither does anybody else. But the larger the population (above rather low levels), the greater is the likelihood of a crash. Even without a crash, mass misery based on overpopulation is increasing every single decade, and the probability of this trend being reversed is slim to none.

Although Malthus got some details wrong, in essence he was correct.

What are the most densely populated countries on earth?

Holland, Japan, Hong Kong, Britain.

Oh yeah... these coutries are really suffering as a result of over population. BS.

Do you seriously believe that any of the countries you mentioned could maintain anything at all resembling current living standards without being able to exploit the cheap and nonrenewable resources of other and poorer countries?

BTW, I believe Taiwan should be on your list of prosperous and densely populated countries.

What happens when the cheap fossil fuels stop flowing??????

I am not making any assertions about what happens when oil runs out. I am simply pointing out that the link made above between "over-population" and "economic outcome" doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Another case of selective blindness/selective dumbness.
Did you READ Don's reply?

BTW, another amateur for "dialectics" :

not making any assertions about what happens when oil runs out.

Making a diversion on the main argument (dense populations not sustainable on a LOCAL basis) by switching to a subsidiary point.
This seems to be everyone's favorite trick.

I believe you to be wrong unless you specify time frame.

They only exist(as someone pointed out) because of input from other areas.

I could appear to be "Economically"  prospering if you look at a very short period of time while I run up my credit card.  If you don't include what will happen to me when the bill comes due.  I might not look so "Economically"  properous.

It's just that the whole world has been living on it's Petroleum "Credit Card" for a hundred years.

Well,  The bill is in the mail and will need to be paid.

Holland, etc will not look so properous when they have to pay up. And not "Borrow" any more.


"Do you seriously believe that any of the countries you mentioned could maintain anything at all resembling current living standards without being able to exploit the cheap and nonrenewable resources of other and poorer countries?"


What happens when the cheap fossil fuels stop flowing??????

They switch to renewables.  I'm not saying it's easy, or guaranteed, but it is possible.  

Again, Deffeyes:  "there are plenty of energy sources other than fossil fuels. Running out of energy in the long run is not the problem. The bind comes during the next 10 years: getting over our dependence on crude oil."

Not one of these four nations mentioned can feed itself, even given our level of technological sophistication. All four import the majority of their foodstuffs. Hmmm.....
They choose not to grow all of their own food.  Other countries choose not to manufacture all of their own windmills.  

The city of New York imports food.  It's not a problem in a complex economy.

I can counter that arguement with respect to both Britain and Japan, as I've lived there. Neither has sufficient agricultural area to grow enough food for it's populace, and in the case of Japan, has not for at least the better part of a century now (pre-WW2).

I agree that in a complex, energy cheap world this is not a problem, simply buy it elsewhere and have it transported.  But that seems problematic in a future setting.


according to this http://web-japan.org/trends00/honbun/tj000604.html

"Japan used to maintain quite a high self-sufficiency rate on a calorific supply base; in fiscal 1960 it was 79%, about the same as that of Britain now."

The article says that in 2000 Japan grew about 40% of it's food, and suggests that much of the decrease was due to switching from rice to meat.

Yes, Japan will be in for a hard time if food transportation becomes difficult due to energy shortages.

I would think that Hong Kong and Holland are pretty close to their food suppliers, and that transportation to them wouldn't take much energy.

I don't know specifically how much energy water transportation takes.  Anyone?

Hello Everyone here,

I understand that oil depletion has very important and difficult effects. I made two points completly unrelated to oil depletion:

  1. I don't think anyone is able to calculate the capacity of the planet given it is such a complex system - again, we can't even get the weather forecasts right.

  2. A high population density has not historically led to a poor economic outcome. I would suggest it may actually be the opposite historically.

So why is everyone responding to me as if I had made any assertions about oil depletion?
I don't think anyone is able to calculate the capacity of the planet given it is such a complex system - again, we can't even get the weather forecasts right.

I agree with you there, and have stated as much. We don't know the carrying capacity. We "feel" that we are in overshoot, but who knows exactly what the capacity will be in 50 years?

Thanks RR, I seemed to be overwhelmed with Doomers for a minute.
Thinking about these sorts of things in the absence of hard data leaves you open to a lot of bias.

On the question of whether anyone is able to forecast carrying capacity, you state an opinion.  How much investigation have you done on the work that is being performed on this question?

I gave you a pointer above to the new version of Limits To Growth, in which the authors describe their extensive efforts to quantify this exact measure.  They attempt this in full and explicit recognition of the complexity of the system.  Nonetheless, they have been able to satisfy themselves that such a measure is achievable, though obviously with error bars that vary between the incorporated subsystems.  Their position is that at the beginning of this millenium humanity had probably overshot the earth's carrying capacity by about 20%.  You may disagree with their conclusion, but not if you haven't read their description of how they arrived at that number.  To simply say "I don't think anyone is able to calculate the capacity of the planet" doesn't cut it.  People have calculated it, so you need to deal with their analysis if you wish to remain intellectually honest.

On your second question of whether high population densities lead to poor economic outcomes, it all depends on whether a densely populated country has been able to exploit "ghost acreage" either in other countries (through trade or empire) or by using their own natural resources either domestically or as trade goods.  Countries that can trade or that have high levels of resources (especially renewable resources) can tolerate high levels of population for long periods in relative comfort.  Countries without those advantages cannot.  The problem is that the global per capita ghost acreage is declining as the population rises, since most usable land area is now occupied and the seas are now fully exploited.

I strongly urge you to read at least "Limits to Growth" and William Catton's "Overshoot" if you wish to be able to make comments that are more than just an expression of your own opinion.

My point is: we're not doomed.  The authors of LTG would agree:

"1. increase the consumption levels of the world's poor

  1. reduce humanity's total ecological footprint

  2. support technological advances (e.g. to achieve #1)

  3. support personal change (e.g. to achieve #2)

  4. think in terms of longer planning horizons "
The book states that the authors have a range of opinions on the probable outcome.  The book presents a number of mitigation proposals, but tries to stay agnostic on the probable outcome.

This is not the case when they are speaking personally.  Here's Dennis Meadows at ASPO-5, for example:

Dennis Meadows, author of Limits to Growth, told ASPO-5 that almost all of his 35 year old predictions of ecological collapse are coming true. 'We're facing a lot of peaks and oil is just one of them. We are also drawing down our fertile soils, groundwater, and forest stocks.' Meadows is pessimistic about our collective ability to address these issues. 'Politics, with its short-term election cycles, just isn't equipped to deal with problems that demand short- term privation. That's why collapse occurs. We are fundamentally unable to do the things we must do to avoid collapse. Sustainable development is possible, but not likely, and probably too late', he said. Meadows claims that collapse is not inevitable, but it will very tough to avoid. 'There is no possibility that alternative energy sources will rise fast enough to offset the decline in oil', he said. According to Meadows, 'Global society will most likely adjust to limits by overshoot and collapse, not by growth.'

He really doesn't sound that optimistic, does he?  In fact, he kind of sounds like a doomer.

"He really doesn't sound that optimistic, does he?"

No, he doesn't.  hmmmhhh....

He does say that "collapse is not inevitable", but then he says " it will very tough to avoid."

Not completely pessimistic, but really, really not optimistic.    

OTOH, he says "There is no possibility that alternative energy sources will rise fast enough to offset the decline in oil", and that statement is clearly not true.  It's certainly possible that alternatives will not rise fast enough, but I can find no good support anywhere for such a flatout pessimistic statement (I've discussed this elsewhere - If you'd like, we can discuss it further).  I think it likely that renewables will not rise fast enough to prevent serious global warming( and I would agree that global warming is likely to be very destructive), but I don't think that's what he's talking about - he seems to be talking about economic overshoot and collapse, in part caused by peak oil.  If he believes such a flat statement he clearly hasn't done his homework  (I'm assuming he doesn't present himself as an independent energy specialist with information no one else has, but rather as a generalist who is integrating other people's work).  As oil appears to be a key element of his analysis, I have to conclude that his analysis is flawed  and his outlook is overly pessimistic.

I would be curious what the official LTG statements are about energy.  

Regarding Meadows' opinion on the probable growth rate of renewables, I have to say his assessment doesn't seem outrageous when you look at the multidimensional utility of oil (and especially if you include NG) in the context of of a global decline of, say 5% (which is itself an opinion-based estimate, presented here for the sake of argument).  Let's do some back-of-the-envelope calculations on that basis.

5% of current oil production is a bit over 4 Mbpd, or 1.5 billion barrels over the first year.  To replace all the energy of that 1.5 billion barrels of oil we would need to put online over 2 trillion KWH of replacement energy.  This of course then needs to be done every year thereafter to retain Business As Usual.

Now most of this oil is used for fuel, so the actual work done is much less than the raw energy available, duue to processing, delivery and mechanical losses.  OTOH, if you are going to switch all that fuel consumption over to electric, biodiesel or alcohol-fueled vehicles,  there will be serious energy losses incurred on that side of the equation as well.  For now let's use a nice generous fudge factor.  Let's say we need to replace only half the energy - 1 trillion KWH - and see where that gets us.

First we look at wind.

Global installed nameplate wind power is expected to go from 59 GW to about 210 GW over the next 8 years.  Assuming linear growth that's around 20 GW of nameplate capacity per year.  Given a 25% capacity factor, that gives an annual addition of (20*0.25*365*24) = 45625 GWH, or .05 trillion KWH.  That's only 5% of what will be needed.

On the solar side, Greenpeace estimates that there will be 280 TWH of solar generating capacity onlune by 2020.  That gives us 20 TWH, or .02 trillion KWH per year.  That's just 2% of what's needed to cover a 1 trillion KWH decline.

Hydro will add very little, because most suitable sites are altready in use.

So, using the current growth projections of both solar and wind, we can plug 7% of the gap created by a 5% decline in oil production.  Biofuel has too many problems to add more than 1% per year over the medium term, so that leaves nuclear power to pick up the slack.  And of course nuclear power isn't renewable.

And of course this thumbnail analysis doesn't even address the probable peak of NG, which will affect the production of plastics and fertilizers.  So, unless we can increase our production of solar and wind capacity by 15 times in the very near future, I think Meadows is entirely justified in his position.

If you're interested in LTG's "official" position on energy, I'd strongly urge you to buy the book.  It's a very worthwhile investment.

hmmm.  interesting post.  I'll have to think about it, and do a few calculations, but let me say the first couple things that come to mind.

First,  my thought about Meadows opinion is that he was making an unqualified statement.  He didn't say "If oil supplies fall as quickly as some analysts think they might....", or "Oil supplies could fall so quickly that..."  He said "There is no possibility...".

I think you'd agree that there is considerable disagreement over depletion rates and their timing.  For instance, Westexas is pretty pessimistic, and AFAIK Stuart thinks we'll have a plateau for at least a few years.  I believe ASPO thinks peak won't happen for about 3 years.  What if all liquids rise slightly for 3 years, and are flat for another 2 years, and then decline at, say, 2% per year?  My sense is that most TOD people would feel that was a little optimistic but not impossible, and it would have to be far, far worse than that to cause collapse.  So for Meadows to make such a flat statement reduces his credibility.

Secondly, growth rates (and cost reductions) for wind and solar are exponential.  That means that growth will be smaller in the short term, and greater in the long term.  This means that if a oil crisis were to hit hard, very soon, that renewables could contribute very little - greater efficiency, conservation and recession (or depression, depending on the depth of the supply crisis) would be the responses.  OTOH, I think your sources greatly underestimate the growth rates, and potential for wind and solar in roughly 10-15 years.  The average installation you used for wind, for instance, was 20 GW per year worldwide, and yet in the US alone there is 11 GW planned for 2007 - see page 8 of http://www.nei.org/documents/Energy%20Markets%20Report.pdf

Realistically, I think greater efficiency, conservation, reduced economic growth and renewables are all going to happen.  The mix is the interesting question, and it depends on how well government, private firms, and consumers react, and on depletion.  If serious depletion (greater than 4% per year, say) hits sooner than, say, 10 years, then I would guess that we would probably have economic stagnation or recession for several years until alternatives can grow.  

That was longer than I meant to write right now.  I don't mean it to be complete, but I wanted to give you an answer right away.  I'll try to write more later, with better numbers.

If we were able to stop all further births and maintain our population at 6.5 billion for the next 25 years, would that help our predicament significantly?

any country that will willingly submit to this will automatically put it's self at a disadvantage compared to those country's who continue on as normal. a higher population still gives one country a very good advantage, more feet they can put on the ground in any military conflict. and as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon now proves even high technology is defeated by simple numbers of willing fighters.
Population growth is slowing mainly for one simple reason: We have birth control methods nowadays that weren't available in the past. That's partly why birth rates have been slowing faster in more developed countries where birth control methods are more readily available.

In general, we are beginning to see the breakdown of the old system. Humans will transition to a more sustainable society simply because they have to. It doesn't have to entail mass die-off, but it may. The end result may well be a more spiritual society in which cooperation and wise use of resources is valued more than greed, growth, and acquisition.
The end result may well be a more spiritual society in which cooperation and wise use of resources is valued more than greed, growth, and acquisition.

Let's hope so, that would be nice to everyone living by those times.
But what about the transition?

- WHAT has to be changed?
- How much does this COSTS in money, energy, deaths?

Have lemurs shown a hard-wired propensity for growth? Bobcats? Algae? Most populations find a dynamic equilibrium with their ecology.

ALL species animal or vegetal DO HAVE a "hard-wired propensity for growth" otherwise they would just NOT SURVIVE.
It happens that the "equilibrium with their ecology" is met by the action of predators or ressources shortage.
We have ressources shortage (peak oil and others) and are our own predators (Middle East & als).

What are you complaining about?

I'm not.  That's rather my point.  I read Catton years ago, and by my understanding, there is such a thing as a stable, climax community.  Part of that is that the urge to grow is bracketed and turned into a good thing, it actual keeps the community stable.  I usually compare it to a tent: it's the tension that keeps it up.  It's when you manage to slip from the usual ecological confines—like we did with agriculture, and again with fossil fuels—that you get into overshoot, and then crash.  Think of cutting one of the ropes that hold your tent up—what happens?  The original comment made it seem like this is a problem of human nature; I don't think it's human nature at all, but animal nature.  There's some amount of comfort in there, though: it means that equilibrium will always be restored, and we're not condemned to an eternal pattern of growth.  We can live in dynamic equilbrium with a given ecology, just like any other animal.
I agree that what we're talking about is not just "human nature", but in fact applies to all living organisms.

I don't believe you can have a climax community if there are significant detritus stockpiles in the niche.  A climax community requires constancy in the resource base in order to match excess births with excess deaths on an ongoing basis.

Yes, humans can theoretically live in dynamic equilibrium, but we'll have to get rid of the cheap, easy oil first.

"all our historical societies"
Absolutely correct. History begins when? Maybe 3000 years ago? You want 5000? Most humans, by raw population numbers have lived in historical times, most human societies are prehistorical. What we know about them is diddle.
What we think we know about "human nature" is imaginary. What the doomers know about our genetic hardwiring is an ideological flight of fancy.
What we think we know about "human nature" is imaginary.

Get learned!
Plus, how is this more "imaginary" than philosophical/religious so-called "wisdom"?

What the doomers know about our genetic hardwiring is an ideological flight of fancy.

Even "hard science" is a "flight of fancy" OUTSIDE the error margins.
Are you pretending you know better?
Please explain.

Exactly! I've allways said that intrest is the root of all evil, the main cause of the nest-spoiling we do.
Darn it, darn it, son-of-a-gun, global capitalism is NOT the problem. Communism was harder on the environment and more materialist than any variety of capitalism ever has been. For a dramatic illustration, compare the environmental devastation in East Germany with the preservation and enlightenment in highly capitalistic West Germany. Same culture, extremely different outcomes.

Mixed economies based on varieties of welfare-capitalism may be viable in the long run. The jury is out here. Countries such as Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Germany offer grounds for hope.

Socialism in any of its varieties has never worked for more than fifty years--and where it has "worked" it has been at horrendous human and environmental cost. Take Cuba for example: Without its underground American dollar cash economy (highly capitalistic, e.g. among sex workers), the society would have come crashing down years ago. Only by tolerating a parallel capitalistic gray economy has Castro been able to hold onto power. This dual economy is striking and has divided Cuban society into two classes--those with access to dollars and those with none.

No offense intended, Don, but the dinstinctions you are making are products of an ideological worldview that was used for base competetive reasons, not for their explanatory value. "Communism" never existed. The state controlled economy of the FSU was a part of the world economy. Yes, it was environmentally whacked, but that was a relatively technologically backward region attempting to catch up to the "developed world" They took shortcuts. But their motivation was always connected to the emerging global economy. The same goes for your observations on socialism (for every Cuba a Sweden?) - you are only talking about gradations of state interference or control of the economy.
"Communism never existed."

If by that statement you are referring to the imaginary communism of Plato or "Utopia," you are correct by definition.

But the Soviet Union and East Germany most emphatically did exist, and their devastation of the planet in the quest of rapid economic growth is not in question.

There are real differences in economic systems. Some are vile, such as that of the Soviets. Some are pretty good and seem capable of improvement, such as the mixed-capitalism country of Sweden, where most resources are privately owned but there is a strong twentieth century tradition of transfer payments based on high taxes.

I find it rather funny when Magnus Reddin complains of the imperfections in Swedish politics and society, because these are mere warts on a very healthy body. He may acknowledge that his government is far more efficient, effective and enlightened than in most other places, but he grumps mostly about relatively little things in his society.

BTW, I've always thought that a big reason for Sweden's success was that it exported most of its poor people and failures to Minnesota, where there descendants now dress up in traditional costumes, gorge on smorgasbrod (sp?) and dominate the economy and to some extent the politics of the best of the fifty states. (Incidentally, I have no Swedish ancestry that I know of, but the Swedish/Lutheran/Minnesotans tolerate me and other mongrels with "Minnesota nice.")

"But the Soviet Union and East Germany most emphatically did exist"

Yes they did. Your error is believing the propoganda that these were communist states. Your belief in this propoganda is further demonstrated by your labeling of the soviet economic system as "vile."

Apparently I didn't explain myself very well, because you didn't address what I thought was the core of my argument - that these other economic systems remain part of the global economy. The scandanavian economies are an excellent example. They have been able to do what they do largely because of the global economy, in essence carving out eddies in the global flow where they could weather the business cycle storms.

The former Soviet Union and East Germany were very poor countries to begin with, Don. East German was decimated during WW2, and Russia was a poor, backward, agrarian state when the Tzar still ruled it. Apples and oranges cannot be compared.
West Germany was more devastated by Allied bombs than East Germany, because of the limited range of bombers and fighter escorts. The two parts of Germany were about equally poor by May of 1945.

West Germany benefited mightily from the Marshall Plan, and East Germany suffered mightily from Soviet depredations, but even taking those factors into account, I do believe that the striking difference in development between East and West Germany speaks volumes.

Just look at the differences in insulation of buildings in East vs. West Germany--remarkable; in the East it was cheaper to burn more coal, while in the West more efficient building codes encouraged large amounts of insulation, better windows, etc. Also, the pollution in East Germany, Romania, etc. was something out of a nightmare, while by the sixties West Germany was actively cleaning up the environment. Take a look at the history of the Rhine River, and contrast that to what happened to major rivers in the Soviet Bloc.

I find it rather funny when Magnus Reddin complains of the imperfections in Swedish politics and society, because these are mere warts on a very healthy body. He may acknowledge that his government is far more efficient, effective and enlightened than in most other places, but he grumps mostly about relatively little things in his society.

Warts or tumors, they irritate a lot, especially when you can come to a logical conlusion about a lot of them being avoidable and notice that there are reasonable suggestions for action against them. If reasonable solutions then are tested and things incrementally get better you have a very healthy society and if it isent it will be within a generation or two.

Now we need to exercise our democracy in a comparision of ideas and I hope the extremely successfull idea of expanding government and government transfers of money has come to its end. So far I am fairly pleased with the public debate, it is so far on a higher and more constructive level then during the last elections.

To come thru the peak oil downslope in good order we need to shrink our government and make it more efficient while making it easier to start new businesses and get more efficient production of all kinds of state managed services. It will be a time of change when old business die and new can and must be started and if we dont handle that well we will become nedlessly poor. We wont be able to pay as manny bureaucrats, state or private, and there wont be as much money for people withouth a job or retirees. Our economy must encourage manny more of these people to work for each other for this to work out well. They have learnt that the state provides and it has more or less done so but now will manny of these resources disappear or be needed for investments in infrastructure and so on.

Isent there an expression "biting the bullet" for something like this? We need to get about 1/3 of our state to willingly commit organizational suicide. The current government have built some parts of the gun such as initiating a very extensive commision about consolidation of  regional municipialities and so on and they state that 20% of the man hours used in private enterprise for handling official papers could be avoided but the have been unable to pull the trigger and fire manny party members, instead the increase in state size have continued. Independant think tanks suggest that about a 40% reduction is possible. The opposition dont dare to mention so high figures but have a death list for authorities that can be closed down or consolidated with other authorities.

Such drastic downsizings have been done in some extensive municipiality organizations setting some intresting examples.

The first generation were often called "buy and sell". The producing part of the municipality organization that for instance provided care of elderly people were organized as a separate company that also were separated from the buildings. The local politicians then acted as buyers making a service specification and having an open tender that the municiality producing organizations often lost. I am not good with exact figures but some parts of my own municipiality care of elderly function is now about 2/3 private with about half a dozen companies. Quality have been more or less unchanged from this but costs are way down. This also solved the problem of having two crowds of picketing people at the same time, one demanding higher pay and one demanding better service for the money or lower taxes. This even proved popular with the local socialist party politicians. The savings potential is probably exhausted now and it favors larger companies.

The second slightly newer is like the US liberal school check. If you need a public service you get a check valid for a large number of service providers and then you choose any of them. The very first experiment were for medical pedicure, almost zero bueraucracy and one skilled person can start a hole-in-the-wall shop. It worked very well and when peiople get a taste for it it gets popular among all parties members. Tomorrow I will campaign togeather with two other opposition parties and one of the main suggestions within our municipiality is to start using this system. The expectation is for it to not lower cost but get more quality for the money, provide niches for lots of new small companies and thus create jobs and strenghten the entrepreneur culture, get a better worker/bureucrate ratio and get people to become less socialistic in the way they think. And regarding peak oil it will be a generator of social capital and if things turn ugly and the tax money dry up much of it can function as a regular free market.

This will all get better if the governmnet election goes well from my point of view since I am sure we will respect the traditional but weakening municipiality political freedom more. Such experimentation as above have been severely limited by the socialist governmnet but not completely stopped. I am sure that we will provide more slack if they want to experiment in the municipialities where the socialists win. Especially since the properties tax will be made into a municipiality tax.

Things would be more cheerfull if I only cared about peak oil preparations since both sides have promised a lot and it is logical for them to deliver on these promises given the economical changes underway. If the election goes against me I have to worry about any greens closing another symbolic reactor and having a few thousend new buerocrats in half a dozen new authorities organizing the building of post peak oil infrastructure etc in an inefficient way.

BTW, I've always thought that a big reason for Sweden's success was that it exported most of its poor people and failures to Minnesota, where there descendants now dress up in traditional costumes, gorge on smorgasbrod (sp?) and dominate the economy and to some extent the politics of the best of the fifty states.

I have another but related theory. The poorest did not move to USA, they could not afford it. We had back then in the early 1800:s a very well organized and backwards society withouth industrialization but a lot of old raw material exporting industries if you get the difference. The ruling class were well off, farmers were free as allways but most were poor. But other countries pulled way ahead of us and we more or less decided to industrialize as the Japanese did and copied the best we could find in England and most of all Germany including all this theoretical stuff about a free marker. The industrial era also provided ships to enbale mass migration to USA and this bled the country on a very lartge percentage of the population wich I think scared the powers that were and this gave a major boost for liberalism and then a light form of socialism. We absolutely had to make it better to stay here then move to USA. I dont know if we succeeded or if you closed your borders.

I got a feeling that we are entering the same kind of era as about 150 years ago. We must make our state run better again and this time it is not for the population leaving but for a tragic waste of personal potential among the jobless and for the end of the oil era.

Btw, Finland is better run then Sweden and Denmark has made a good job with reorganizing and consolidating authorities. we used to be the best dammit. ;-)

If Sweden is not the best-run country in the world any more, it is still very close to the top. O.K., maybe I'd rather live in Denmark than in Sweden, but the differences are marginal.

Magnus, I think you are correct to focus on the gap between the ideal and the real, between good and better, but I do wish you would travel to the U.S. or any Latin American country or even to Russia to see how badly really bad government can screw up a society.

Do you live in Utopia? Of course not. But you live in a good society that has the potential to get much better.

The U.S. is living off its moral capital, and we are just about at the bottom of the barrel. Our public educational systems from kindergarten through twelfth grade are almost unmitigated disasters. Our health care system is shamefully unfair. Racial hatred and religious bigotry are widespread in the U.S. and possibly getting worse. We have relatively little support for public transportation (though that may be changing a little bit). The cars we manufacture are mostly low-quality compared to what Volvo and Saab put on the market. I could go on . . . .

Should not USA have an enourmous potential? You still have wealth and lots of entreprenuership as far as I can tell from over here.

There are a large number of Swedes who envy the US culture for integrating immigrants. It seems like it takes generations over here and we are quite clumsy when different groups start or continue hating each other. The basic Swedish behaviour seems to be the same as for sound or crazy neighbours, their busienss is not my business and as long as they dont do anything very stupid I dont care about what they do and ignore them. This makes it very tough to get into Swedish society, businesses and so on even if you have large freedoms in being whoever you want to be. This did not stop xenophobia, gayophobia, etc but when those battles were fought in the western culture it seems to have been easy victoriers in Sweden or have perhaps only given larger do-as-you-please-while-I-ignore-you zones. The intellectual trend of multu-culture fits in this pattern untill it crosses borders that dont budge and we for instance get a rucus about the tradition of cutting labia and sometimes more of females. I am definately sure that our culture sometimes is superior.

There is no recipie for making cultural Swedes out of immigrants but sometimes we have some luck. This hot summer has immigrants everywhere fancied taking a bathe or swim in the numerous lakes. This were reported in news media as a problem due to all the drownings. But if they go swimming in summer and perhaps even sign up for a course to learn to swim they are well on their way even if they swim in muslim style clothes.

I think or rather hope I have seen some signs of secularisation. If we get sizable groups who insist on imposing new strict religious values on everybody besides themselves I think we will strect as a rubber band for about two generations and accommondate that and then bounce back with all hell breaking loose.

Some problems seems to parallell each other. The crime rates are higher in areas with manny immigrants. The worst part since it eats social capital is bully and hate crimes mostly among young immigrants but also against non immigrants. Its hard to do something about it and some of the reaction is tougher centences that usually start years too late for the criminals to chage behaviour easily. This has led to some crowding in prisons and now a prison building program to get back to single cells only, if I have understood it right. One intresting thing to do about it is to convert hired often municipiality owned flats into owned flats wich makes people care more about their apartment, the house they share with their nearest neighbours, and it seems to then go beyond that. It seems to be very good in combination with a 30-40 year renovation of the houses and perhaps some new bicycle lanes and so on. But most of the problem is jobs, jobs and jobs, especially now when times are going to get tough.

Btw, I suspect that manny americans should have an fairly easy time integrating in Swedish society. A Kunstlerian suburbia dweller could live here his whole life withouth any problem for anybody. :-)

Our education system is a mitigated disaster with some hopefull parts. I think the lesson to learn is that you should not prioritize quantity before quality and dont let theoretical socialist write the curriculum. Finland run their schools in a better way but liberals who would like to analyze a school check systems effect on a partly failed schooling system should visit Sweden.

Part of the problem the U.S. has is that it is large--both in geography and in terms of population. When the Titanic lookout saw the iceberg through the mist it was much too late for the huge ship with so much momentum to make a quick turn to avoid the ice; also the Titanic was going "Full Steam Ahead!" which was an insane thing to do, even without the benefit of hindsight. The U.S. is like the Titanic, with the lookouts shouting, the radio man sending warnings, but the Captain is drunk, and the First Mate is entertaining the rich passengers instead of tending to business.

A sailing ship, almost any sailing ship, can turn drastically in a distance no more than twice its length, partly because it is small but also because it is slow, has a relatively large rudder and especially because its sails give it far more turning ability than any steam-driven ship. Sweden is much smaller than the U.S., much more homogeneous, has a much better educated population than the U.S. and a political system that, while imperfect, seems to be able to make many important changes--maybe not right away, but soon enough to avoid disaster. Thus, I look at Sweden somewhat as I would a sailing ship in contrast to the U.S. Titanic.

For example, I suspect that genuine reform is possible for Swedish schools. American schools are so bad that I think they should all be turned into refuges for the homeless (of whom we have many) and the administrators all fired. Perhaps worst, fifty years ago teaching attracted many of the best and brightest people. Today fine people still go into teaching, but many of them soon leave, because the system is so bad; mediocrities rule the schools and too many (not all) teachers are in despair or ignorant or unmotivated. Our educational system has decayed beyond reform. If I were emperor, I would abolish it immediately and go back to one-room school houses within easy walking distance of home, and I'd staff these computer-age learning centers with smart and dedicated people of the highest quality. The teachers' unions must go. (But they won't.)  

What syncronises the US schools? I have a hard time believeing that all of them are bad or about as bad in such a large country.

Over here they have for a long time been syncronized by strong government control and centralized teacher education. But this control have been loosed up by transfering them to municipialities wich sometimes have been bad for their budgets and so on. And the "free school" reform opening up for any kind of school that conforms to a list of requirements has opened up for large new differences.

The number of schools that have been closed due to awfull quality in the education is small but they excist and it is usually blamed on the physical building being bad. What usually happens (I dare not say more since I have not read the research myself) when a number of  "free schools" are started is that the competition for pupils force a renewal of the municipiality schools and the average performance is better in all the schools but the worst do anyway shrink into nothing. This gives the local politicians one of the worst jobs there is, closing a school that a few old generations have liked and feel nostalgic about and moving around children to other schools while parents complain loudly.

The difference in quality, organization and ways to teach is then what ultimately drive the parts of the schooling system that are getting better. Those practical demonstrations are of course recieved with rabid hatered by the ideological people who are sure that even more of the same medication that has given us the quality problems is what is needed to create the perfect school and perfect citizen.

Its almost a textbook demonstration of the benefits with free markets even if the financing is 100% tax money. And it is the main benchmark for the oppositions new ideas. Get them rooted and popular across all groups in society in this way before the next election and they will continue to bring benefit in a way that cant be stopped.

This idea or something like it should be perfect for a free market society full of entreprenurship such as USA, have you tried it in any state at any time?

Sweden has a strong central government, the federal government in the US only has limited power.

This is very similar in Germany. In some states (Bavaria, Baden-Würtemburg) schools are ok, according to PISA and other studies, whereas in other states (Bremen, Nordrhein-Westfalen) schools are bad.

As a matter of fact, Bayern and Baden-Württemberg have been governed by conservatives for some 40 years, Nordrhein-Westfalen by social-democrats.

However, the new conservative government in Nordrhein-Westfalen has recently started a reform. Parents can now freely choose the school they send their kids to across municipial borders. Schools can select their teachers, the number of kids per teacher is reduced. Rankings of school tests will be published now.

This will start competition among the schools, which is good, but a problem at the same time. We will soon have schools without any native German, so things will get worse where they are already bad, especially in districts with a high number of immigrants. How can competition improve that?

We have had free schools for decades, such as Catholic schools or Waldorf schools, but not all of them achieve higher quality compared with state schools.

JK Galbraith, who you profess to admire, called the FSU state capitalism. Same as USA. Oh well.
The Soviets called it socialism. Perhaps socialism is identically equal to "state capitalism."
Don, could you elaborate on the "capitalistic economy" of Cuban sex-workers?

Visit Jamaica. From there you can go to Havanna without getting your passport stamped. Bring dollar bills. Lots of them. Do participant observation research;-0. Sailors have long regarded Havanna as a paradise for, shall we say, easily available beautiful women. This tradition goes back at least four hundred years, and so we should not blame it on Castro, but the dichotomy in Cuban society today is striking--those with dollars live well, while those on rationed rice and beans just scrape by.
I've gone to Cuba so you all don't have to.

You can achieve the same atmosphere by visiting the city of Santa Ana in Orange County, California. Same cuteness, er, lack of prevelent cuteness but some cuteness there, of the women. Same grizzled hard-cases (men), same general run-downedness of streets, buildings, people, trees. Same "hmmm.... I think I've had all my shots" food.

Cuba has a coast, so for that go to Laguna Beach which is nicer. Getting back to Orange Cuba, next door you have Little Saigon, incredible cutie-spotting and good food. You can't read any of the signs, but in case you get in trouble, Bac Xi is "doctor".

Now, back to the real Cuba, it's 'koo-ba' not "kew-ba" that will show you as an American right away, althought those are so rare there they'll just figure you're a Brit. They love dollars, and many shopkeepers will refuse to take the Cuban money if they smell a dollar on you. Cuba needs the dollars for international exchange, and I was happy to give 'em my American play-money. Cuba is an extremely class-bound society, there are different classes of political/security cronies, and these are often set up on racial lines - they'll have for instance, blacks doing general security police duties watching over the native Cubans, since someone's much happier to snitch on the "other" group than their own. They have encampments of black refugees, from Haiti or somewhere? They have these little shacks and seem to just stand around much of the time, not much to do. There's not much traffic on the roads and if you don't include the military vehicles, not much at all. The standard Cuban vehicle is an old bicycle, pedaled by a skinny Cuban guy with his obese wife on the back. Housewives stand in the street and gossip, no one watches for cars because there effectively aren't any.

When I was there, their Peak Oil experience was just sinking in. Cuba would be a good place to go to see a country a decade along in the Peak Oil experience. The farms and the methods they're using to provide medical care, clean water, etc., would be very interesting. I think their population now is actually healthier than the US's. Warts and all, I think Cuba is a heroic country for enduring under the shit the US has been handing it for all these years. It's a much better place to look at clinics and been seedlings than at T&A.

But Don;
  The existence of a 'cash-marketplace' is not the same thing as 'Capitalism', any more than having a group of oligarghs calling them selves 'the State' makes their ownership of 'the means of production' an actual 'Communism'.

  As far as devastation is concerned, I would have to ask what would our 'Capitalist/Imperialist'  nations would look like if we had allowed the destruction we've created to simmer and stew as much on our own soil as it has on our 'colonies' and 'client-states' .. of course, as our energy needs get more dire, we are literally 'eating our own national body' by chewing up our precious appalachians, and spitting out the sad remains of our great plains topsoils-blended with synthetic chemicals down our fine waterways.

  I think we in the USA have had more land to destroy, so we've been able to go about it for longer and not have to really face the results, besides 'offshoring' much of it to the rainforests, the oceans, the new Desert-Republic of Haiti, etc.  Capitalism might be strung up eventually by the rope it eagerly sells to us, but it has done plenty of hanging by it's own accord, in the meantime.

  I don't know if it's the various economic systems or the modern, industrial arts overall that are more to blame.. or is that simply saying 'is the bug in the software or the hardware'?

Bob Fiske
Bob Fiske

As Bob Fiske remarks, a "cash-marketplace" is not capitalism, and since you acknowmedge that Cuba "sex exports" have beeing going on for at least four hundred years current communism has not much to do with this either.

I will certainly not enjoy the "just scrape by" Cuban life myself but in pretty short order this will not be a matter of choice anymore.

Cuban life happens to be better sustainable in hard times:

The power of community: How Cuba survived peak oil

It does not really matter if they have been driven here by communism, US hostility and quite unwillingly.

Dear Don,

Your example of environmental devistation in East Germnay is not entirely indicative for Communism. What you aim at is what we in Europe call the "black triangle", which is a part of Germany, Poland and the present Czech replublic, which all dug/dig browncoal in strip mining operations, devastating entire ecosystems.

OTOH by communists way many swamps, wetlands, forrests and the like remained in tact.

As my wife grew up under the communist anexation in Eastern Europe, and her grandfather died in labor camp becausee he helped people accross the Iron Curtain, you'll understand that I'm not a communist.

However they did a fine job at conserving nature in Poland, Czech Rublibic, Romania, and possibly other countries, as far as I know.

I've been to the black triangle several times and it's killing you, no mistaking about that

I think the guy is 80 years old, and while he might give a credible speech I doubt he could handle the sharpies out to make a name for themselves in the usual stupidvision format show.  PO awareness is much more widespread than most people here think.  I first became aware of it by reading an article in  "The American Conservative" approx. one and a half years ago.  So give it time this issue is being worked at from both ends of the political spectrum and sooner or later media savy message people will dispose of the looters that occupy the middle these days.
"I mean, how the heck can a TV producer turn down an opportunity like that, given that PO folks do believe that stuff?"

IMO, I think that they deliberately decided to avoid oil industry people that would make a hard quantitative case that we are at or near Peak Oil and that could rebut the tar sands argument.  Having said that, I'm sure that Megan probably could have done a good job of rebutting Stossel, but she wasn't given a chance.  You could see that Megan was pretty pissed when they ended the segment without giving her a chance to rebut Stossel.

I got that the first time, that they avoided rational establishment types.  It struck me as the show started last night that they probably dropped you because you sounded to rational and established in your telephone interivew.

But they didn't make up their PO guests from whole cloth.  They showed the viewers a segment of the PO "community" that is sure as heck out there.

Liefe After the Oil Crash is the number one google result for "peak oil," right?

But Odo... if you've investigated the peak oil issue, the chances are that you've also investigated the "Limits to Growth" issue and have connected the dots re: fossil fuels and climate. Data everywhere points to significant depletion in forests, fisheries, acquifers and ice fields. You don't have to visit doomer places like "Die Off" or read Kunstler to understand these things. You can read mainstream books by Jared Diamond or Elizabeth Kolbert. Or lurk here at TOD.  

In the gross depletion context, how does someone like Megan Quinn argue for the current "American Way of Life"? Logic suggests that if you understand aquifer depletion, you don't dismiss composting toilets. If you understand forest depletion you don't dismiss rammed earth construction.

Peak Oil advocates are destined to carry this baggage because oil is not the only resource in trouble, and, compared to water and soil tilth, probably not even the most pressing.

I think the mistake we make is catching rather than pitching.

In catching we field questions about caves and compost toilets.

By pitching we can toss the hard-ball:

How exactly do eight million 4,500 pound Silverado 4WD's contribute to the economy?


The fundamental distinction is between what is "good" for any one of use, and what is "necessary" for society as a whole.

I'd probably have fun on a cob building day.  But I'd want to make clear to the mainstream that my PO worldview does not require all their children to be cob builders.

Remember, the key thing for PO to be a driver for huge short term societal transformation is the global depletion rate.  If we don't get a rapid fall in production, we are going to get neither die-off nor hippie utopia (even if I'd kinda like the latter).

If we don't get a rapid fall in production, we are going to get neither die-off nor hippie utopia

I think we will.  It's just a question of timescale.

If I recall correctly, you believe that utlimately non-oil issues well get us, even if peak oil does not.  The problem for a pure "peak oiler" is the co-mingling of "31 flavors of doom."
I think it's more correct to say that I believe that cheap energy is what allows problem-solving.  Therefore, it's simply not possible to separate peak oil from everything else.  
Leanan, do you believe that cheap energy is not possible in the long run?

If so, why do you believe that, given the ever dropping cost of renewables (wind, solar, wave, geothermal, etc), and the enormous supply of renewable (100,000 terawatts from the sun vs 4.5 TW used by humans)??

Leanan, do you believe that cheap energy is not possible in the long run?

I wouldn't say that.  I'd say there's not enough for us to continue to be supported in the style to which we have become accustomed.  

If so, why do you believe that, given the ever dropping cost of renewables (wind, solar, wave, geothermal, etc), and the enormous supply of renewable (100,000 terawatts from the sun vs 4.5 TW used by humans)??

Cost is an illusion.  The "cheap" renewables are possible thanks to cheap fossil fuels. This is will become painfully apparent once TSHTF.

Yeah, what do people think $200 oil, sky rocketing copper costs, and skyrocketing electricity costs are going to do for the cost of constructing solar panels?
send the price through the roof because those that make them do want to make a profit right?
leaving them for the ultra rich to enjoy till it becomes just too costly in energy and in price to make.

todays solar panels are your grand-kids tables.

leaving them for the ultra rich to enjoy

So you feel that its is unfair that the "ultra rich" get some advantage.
Beside the "market" the "other way" to distribute a scarce ressource is rationing, then the Apparatchiks get the boon.
No matter what the "social apparatus" is those in power ARE some sort of Nomenklatura.
I don't see any real difference but you prefer that may be?
Why not, it is all a matter of FEELINGS.
The real trouble is when the ressource is so scarce AND vital that distributing it evenly means that everybody dies.
Then it HAS to be unfair to avoid collective suicide.
Depressing, eh?

" $200 oil, sky rocketing copper costs"

How are oil costs related to solar panel costs?  Specifically, please detail what types and quantities of energy go into them, and then we can evaluate this question.

How are copper costs related to solar panels?  There's not much copper in them.   There's maybe $2 of copper in a $500 panel.  If copper costs triple, that's a 1% increase in the panel price.

"skyrocketing electricity costs"

Given that Peak Oil is primarily a liquid fuels problem, what makes you think electrity costs are going to jump like that?  And again, how much electricity would you estimate is used in the manufacture of a solar panel?

dude, never mind. The cost of materials and energy have next to no role in the cost of constructing or transporting things.

and there aren't highly advanced, energy-intensive mettalurgical (sp?) techniques used to construct them.

and copper, silver, platinum are not difficult and energy-intensive to mine.

and we're not on the verge of a natural gas crisis. and natural gas is not used to generate electricity

Solar cells are not ready for prime time. It's a good thing we don't all need them this week, or even this year. We have to watch the progress being made. If pomises are fulfilled (the solar cells are in the mail) then we might have solar cells from Nanosolar with an energy payback in "< 2 months". A little quick math shows that a solar cell with 2 month payback could produce enough energy for 120 daughter cells in a 20 year live. If we start dedicating those daughters to producing more energy for more solar cells ... we get a little of that exponential growth ... the good kind of exponential growth. Would that be enough to cancel the apocolypse?
... the good kind of exponential growth. Would that be enough to cancel the apocolypse?

ANY kind of exponential growth will ULTIMATELY (*) bring apocalypse, not cancel it!

* Ultimately if run unabated for a while.

Of course short bouts of exponential growth are desirable for short terms goals and do in fact happens all the time in nature as well as in human societies.
You should know WHEN and on WHAT to apply the brakes, no difference with driving a car.
Who keeps accelerating full throttle and never steer nor brakes?

Oh! Yes, singularitarian junkies :

Have fun.

"The cost of materials and energy have next to no role in the cost of constructing or transporting things. "

Well, as I understand it, that's what a E-ROI of 60 to 1 means: that the cost of energy is going to be roughly 1.6% of the overall cost of a windmill. That's pretty small.

"highly advanced, energy-intensive mettalurgical (sp?) techniques used to construct them."

Highly advanced, sure, but not especially energy-intensive.  Sure, there's some energy used to make steel and concrete, but not much compared to what you get out of the windmill.  Sure, there's power used to melt silicon, but it's between 3% and 10% of the cost of solar cells (E-ROI of 10-30 to 1), and dropping quickly.

"and copper, silver, platinum are not difficult and energy-intensive to mine."

I haven't noticed any silver or platinum in a windmill, or a solar cell for that matter. Sure, copper is a pain to mine.  I wouldn't want to be a copper miner.  But if oil prices triple, and copper prices are 40% energy (I haven't checked-it's probably 10%) then copper prices go up 120%, and if solar cells prices include 1% copper then the price of the solar cell rises 1.2%.

"on the verge of a natural gas crisis. and natural gas is not used to generate electricity"

Sure, but natural gas is only 18% of US electricity, and dropping as quickly as utilities can install windmills and raise coal and nuclear plant capacity factors.

I would so like to say you are persuasive and seem to be right on each and every point - but I've been reading that PV is just around the corner since 1978 and now you have to show me. PV has suffered from too much hype for too long. If it is now really here you gonna gotta pay for the sins of the past before anyone believes you.
I've recently concluded that it (PV) does not make financial sense for my family at this time. The 40+ year payback (ROI) on the initial investment had a lot to do with that.  Maybe later.
What kind of PB are you using? Are you using discounted payback?  Just curious b/c I've done some simple math with my parents home they are currently building and it also was not economically viable but the payback was far shorter at maybe 20 yrs.  If we use a discounted payback assuming 8% inflation (conservative if you ask me), then its gets more viable quicker since you're money now is worth far more than it will be just 5 yrs from now.  
Solar costs are now around $.25/kwhr. Given that solar competes with retail electric rates this is actually competitive without subsidies (meaning a payback of roughly 15 years or less), in some places: So Cal and Japan in particular (though subsidies are phasing out in Japan, and growing in So Cal).  Solar costs are dropping about 10% per year, which puts it at $.125/kwrh in 10 years, and $.06 in 20 (this is a cost-reduction path which is reasonably well accepted among experts in the area - actually, it may be much faster, with things like Nanosolar happening).  

Demand has really gotten ahead of supply.  PV supplies are expanding at about 40% per year, but they can't keep up with demand, especially in Germany.  Now CA has increased subsidies, and France has raised the price they'll pay for PV power to Germany's level, so demand is likely to stay ahead of supply for a while.

All this means that PV suppliers can charge a heckuva markup to ration their product, until supplies catch up in a couple of years.

I wish I could get solar for >$.25/kwhr.
Hell, I'd settle for under $2/kwhr.
But the reality is that I've had three companies give estimates now, it's roughly $30K for a 3.5KW system (installed, grid tied, no battery backup). We get 5 hours of "full sun equivalent" per day.
Grid power is $0.09/KwH (average consumption is 300KwH/day), so I'm looking at nearly 30 years for payback.
Assuming I don't borrow the cost, longer if I do.
There are no subsidies here.
That same $30K would pay my power bill for the next 30 years, 15 years if costs doubled.
Less if you consider your sunk investment now and included a discount rate.
Wait at es: t two years to see if thin film and nano claims are BS.
Well, on the one hand thinfilm has been pretty disappoing for a long time.  OTOH, thin film in general is now growing at the same rate as the rest of PV (about 40% per year), so that's not bad.

Nanosolar is putting $100M into it.  That's a pretty big bet.

Probably way too late for anyone to read this, but I just did the calcs: 3.5kW for 5 hours/day = 17.5 kWh/day. Over 20 years, this works out at 23 cents per kWh. Am I missing something?
Yep, you assumed that every day the PV is 100% efficient (they slowly degrade over time, typically 1-2% per year, and typically only produce 80% rated output even under ideal conditions), the weather is cloudless and hazeless, the sun is at the same point in the sky year round, the panels never have a speck of dust on them, and the ambient temperature is never above 80 degrees F (solar panel performance declines significantly 10%-30% if the panels get hot, 80F is the typically cited temperature), the inverter used no power (it does), and so on.

Besides, even at $0.23/kWh, versus $0.09/kWh for grid power, that's still a no-brainer. The payback date is still decades away.
17.5kWh/day at $.23/kWh = $4.03/day.
$30K / $4.03/day = 20.4 years.
No can do.

"the weather is cloudless and hazeless, the sun is at the same point in the sky year round, "

I would have thought that the 5 hours per day of full sun equivalent would have included those adjustments.  Did your source tell you the assumptions made?

There's no question that PV can't compete with $.09/kwhr, which is about the national US average (about $.08 for industrial/commercial, adbout $.10 for residential).

If you include external costs (pollution, etc) or time of day costs, then the real grid cost is much higher, but of course that doesn't help you when you're deciding how to pay the bills, unless of course you have the money to mitigate costs that aren't in the bill (and subsidize the rest of us...).

Also, it would be much cheaper if it was installed as a building-integrated standard option in new homes, as California has just mandated by 2011, rather than as a retrofit.

It will be nice to see lower prices for PV, but it will be several years.

Solar PV grew at a 25% annual rate from 1994 to 2000 (doubling twice), and a 40% annual rate from 2000 to 2006 (doubling three times), and the rate of growth is still accelerating (it's constrained only by the speed manufacturers can ramp up).  In 2005 about 1.7 gigawatts was installed.  Solar is definitely here.

Also, see my reply to Fallout, next.

Specifically, please detail what types and quantities of energy go into them, and then we can evaluate this question.

No one has really done this, and I suspect it would be quite difficult.  When it comes to imagining life without oil, we are like fish, trying to imagine the desert.  Energy has been so cheap for so long that we really don't take it into consideration any more.

But some things to consider:

We use petroleum to mine, refine, and manufacture metals, plastics, concrete, composites, etc.  We use it to make the machines that mine, refine, and manufacture.  To make and fuel the trucks, trains, and ships that transport it to where it's needed.

We can see a glimpse of what a problem this is in east Africa, which has suffered various energy crises this year.  One leads to another: with one fuel scarce, there are runs on others, causing further shortages.  Factories and mines have been forced to shut down, due to lack of diesel and electricity.

We've known how to make glass for at least 5,000 years.  But for most of that time, it was too expensive for ordinary people to own.  It was used for Egyptian temples or jewelry, and more recently for windows in the homes of the wealthy.  Glass was so valuable that it was common for glass windows to be removed from the castle when the noble family was away, and replaced with wooden shutters.  No sense in wasting a luxury like glass windows when only the servants are at home.

Why?  Because it takes so much energy to make glass.  It's the same with steel.  I forget the exact number, but it takes a truly alarming amount of wood to forge a sword.

Given that Peak Oil is primarily a liquid fuels problem

Strongly disagree.  Peak oil is peak energy.

hhhmm - several things here.

First, the uses you cited are mostly transportation.  Electricity from renewables can power this - electrified rail, EV's, etc.  Electric bulldozers can certainly do mining.  Manufacturing can use electricity for everything it needs, except for a small amount of hydrocarbons for plastics, which can come from biomass.

Parts of Africa were a basket case long before oil prices rose recently.  They have critical shortages of everything, including oil.

Sure, steel and glass require some energy - it mostly comes from electricity, these days.  Of course, both can be recycled, and about 95% of steel is.  I think aluminum is about 90% recycled.  Scrap, of course, takes much less energy to process.

"Peak oil is peak energy."

I think you have respect for Deffeyes and Simmons: this is what they think:

Kenneth Deffeyes, author of both "Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage" and "Beyond Oil: The View From Hubbert's Peak," writes that "there are plenty of energy sources other than fossil fuels. Running out of energy in the long run is not the problem. The bind comes during the next 10 years: getting over our dependence on crude oil."

Simmons: "I happen to think the world can make the transition into what we might call the post-Saudi oil era in some very rational way that will limit economic disruption. As a perpetual optimist, I believe the world still works beyond Peak Oil. While oil prices in this new world will obviously rise, this rise can be a blessing, not a curse. Far higher oil prices make all other forms of energy more competitive and spur on energy research programs that might discover some real long-term fixes."

The earth receives 100,000 terawatts continously from the sun, and humans use the equivalent of 4.5 terawatts on average, so clearly there's no shortage of energy.

Does that help?  Is there anything specific that makes you think peak oil is peak energy, that I can address?

Yikes.  This is a pretty strong statement, one fow which I can find no specific supportting details anywhere.  I've looked in Simmons, Goodstein, Heinberg, Savinar, Hansen.  Some of them make general statements about this, but none go into any detail.

Windmillls have a E-ROI about 60:1.  How do cheap fossil fuels have anything to do with that?

  Sun IS free, but catching it might not be 'cheap'..

  PhotoVoltaics were dropping for a couple decades, as the tech improved, and though it still seems to be improving, the price/watt has now been rising steadily since '04.  Installed system costs might still be lower, since people are opting for more grid-tied systems and don't have to purchase batteries for them.  Other improvements and economies of scale might also be helping.


But with shortages in Polysilicon for at least another year, and demand continuing to grow as energy becomes a central issue for consumers again, I don't see these prices ever being 'cheap' in the 'cheap gas' sense.  I still think it's more than worth it to have an independent and reliable source of your own energy, even if the payback is long-term.  I've just bought about 200w of PV and will build on it every chance I get, but I don't think it will get cheaper as the basics of Supply/Demand both work against its doing so.  (Supply WILL be going up, but hard to see how, at this point it will hope to keep up with demand)

Bob Fiske

"I don't think it will get cheaper as the basics of Supply/Demand both work against its doing so.  (Supply WILL be going up, but hard to see how, at this point it will hope to keep up with demand)"

It will take several years.  The polysicon industry believes it will catch up in 2008 - they're building like mad.  Some industry analysts are predicting a price crash in 2009.

Of course, with very cheap thin-film like nanosolar, silicon may be obsolete and unable to compete on price, even with cost-reductions from efficiencies of scale and reduced wafer thickness.

Odo said:
The problem for a pure "peak oiler" is the co-mingling of "31 flavors of doom."


The question therefore is how to leverage the "31 flavors of doom" implicit in the cornucopian view.

Leaving aside your rhetorical attempt to claim the high ground by identifying yourself as "pure" - it would appear you are essentially arguing for a technical solution. I find such a position rather naive, even if well intended.
I don't pretend to be a pure anything. I sometimes try, in a particular discussion, to dive into a single issue. I don't like the failsafe of pulling an alternate doom out of the sack at the last moment. The pure issue for PO outcomes is date and depletion rate, with some noise around the edges about prices.
I would agree with you. There are those who want to lump every collapse theory into one (my personal bugaboo is the incessant noise we get on monetary collapse) That said, depletion by itself tells us nothing about what will happen to our lives. That will come with from how we respond to depletion.
Maybe it's my quantitative worldview, but I take depletion as the starting point on how we respond. One percent? Pfft, don't worry. Eight percent? Start rationing tomorrow.
Starting point, background, physical fact, whatever we call it, its the only point we all agree on here. The response, however, is not created by that starting point, only precipitated by it. How we respond is the result of who we are, how we think, etc. You (generic, not specific) may think you are responding through logic, but even logic is culture bound. And even within cultures there are often competing and even contradictory themes (e.g. science, religion). You'll see a lot of people on this and other discussion boards proposing policy solutions - they do so because they believe that is how we handle social issues. Others will look to entrepreneurial solutions, others to religious solutions, others to military, etc. And that's a mostly North American crowd. Add in other cultures (and not just the western civ versions) and the idea that there can be a single logical response becomes, well, less logical. ;-)
There are those who want to lump every collapse theory into one

There is indeed ONE main cause for collapse, the declining marginal returns.
I just happens that peak oil is the more blatant case and the FASTEST such occurrence.
I.e. declining ROI and EROEI of heavy vs light vs CTL vs shale vs Ethanol as a substitute.
So what's your beef with "every collapse theory" ?

But, declining E-ROI applies to fossil fuels, not energy as a whole.

E-ROI is high for renewables, and increasing.

but only as long as cheap fossil fuels fund them.
none of them have been shown with hard evidence to be able to built and maintained in such a manner that would allow them to not only take over from declining fossil fuels but allow room for growth without input from said fossil fuels in any way.
i know your going to throw out X country and say they did it.
well thats because.

  1. the vast majority have not done the same which lets them use what would of been used by other country's if they followed the same path(France)

  2. funded directly by internal fossil fuel resources and a small population of rich elites that can actually afford cars while the poor live in virtual slavery cutting down the rain forest to grow crops for the cars.(Brazil)

  3. lucky/unlucky enough to live near a geographically active area, while having a small enough population that they can cheaply import the oil they need to keep their infrastructure going.(Iceland, Greenland)
Are you saying that renewables aren't scalable, and therefore aren't a silver bullet?

The 3 examples you gave are: nuclear in France, biomass in Brazil, and geothermal in Iceland/Greenland.  I agree that it would be difficult for each of these three to grow to be single solutions.  But, wind and solar are large enough. The US has 2.9 TW of wind potential, enough for twice our current electrical consumption.  Solar is 100,000 TW for the world, vs. 4.5 TW consumption.  The supply is there.

OTOH, due to intermittency, I think it would be difficult for wind and solar to be single solutions.

But I think they can be silver BB's.  All of them together can easily provide a complete solution.

the bb idea doesn't work. you end up creating a rube goldberg like system for energy production that cannot provide the energy to keep it's self going.
unless you ramp up coal your not going to have enough energy to make the high grade construction steal and carbon composites needed for wind or to power the machinery to get the copper for the generators.
it's the same with solar except you need to add the costs to make the high grade silicon for the best ones. hint they require the same fabs(short for fabrication plants) as for computer chips which require 24/7 electricity to keep the clean rooms clean.
this link posted yesterday shows this in some good flow charts
The economy has allways been a rube goldberg system.

Ramping up production of for instance nuclear powerplants must not increase the total steel production, something else can give, for instance car production and the steelmakers can retool for another quality. In reality it is much more complex  but as long as the alternatives pay well in ROI and EROEI they will ad value and utility to this tough web of interdependancies.

I think I've addressed all of this in other posts in this drumbeat.  Can I invite you to read them?
Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm all for collapse. In fact, I am of the mind that its the best thing that could happen to us. I just don't buy into the various conspiracy type monetary versions, the scare tactic bird flu versions, etc. Collapse comes as the result of human actions. Toynbee highlighted the problem as the "idolization of an ephemeral self" on the societal level. That's my take on the current situation as well, at least for the west. We aren't going to make the adjustments necessary as we want to hold on to "the american way of life" (it is non-negotiable, afterall). The situation for the world is complicated by the fact that the western civilizational ideas not only have spread throughout the world, but control the way the world is organized.
...my personal bugaboo is the incessant noise we get on monetary collapse...

Let me know by, say, the end of next year if you still think it was just incessant noise worthy of being ignored. I think there's a reasonble chance you might have changed your mind by then, but I'm quite willing to let time prove the point one way or the other. Of course, by then it will be too late to begin doing anything about it...

My own 'personal bugaboo' is the tendency to divorce issues from their context, as if the implications of one issue, however fundamental, could be adequately understood in splendid intellectual isolation.

I would take this further and say lets talk Nov 1 about the monetary house of cards collapsing.  Sept/Oct are some of the worst months historically speaking.
And the #1 return for "oil."


Check out the #10 link for "oil" it's a sports news page? how the hell did that happen?

Edmonton Oilers?

Houston Oilers?

Way to go! Right up there above Ontology Inference Layer (OIL)
Re: the "kick me" sign

OK, odograph, then why were you upset with me the other day when I got highly annoyed with Bryant Urstadt's "liberal apocalypse"? I don't believe that peak oil is like some episode of Survivor. The "buy canned goods, purchase a gun and head for the hills" crowd makes us an easy target. Hence Urstadt mentioning Peak Oil and Left Behind in the same sentence -- a really cheap shot. And by the way, I wasn't knocking Heinberg and the Yellow Springs conference. However, as opposed to APSO-USA which was largely attended by energy industry insiders or journalists, it was easier to find a small group of apocalyptic doomers at Antioch. Sure enough, Urstadt, to his great discredit, zoomed right in on them.

I wasn't upset with you.  I thought you got that when you posted the "eat your own dogfood" link.

It's about this product, and how people percieve it.

Certainly, believers in apocalyptic collapse make their case here essentially every day.  TOD's approach seems to be to let the site be what it will be.  On one level that's to be commended.  On another, it builds the peak oil and die-off connection ... and frankly from out here on the other side of the terminal I'm not sure if TOD is on board with that.

Yeah, OK.

I wasn't sure how to read your comment the other day.

Re: I'm not sure if TOD is on board with that

I don't know about TOD, but I'm not on board with it. That kind of thinking detracts from the message some of us are trying to get across here. It is unfortunate that Urstadt's statements do apply to some minority segment of those concerned about peak oil.

I have no time for that. Nor any patience with it. I am worried about supply, depletion rates, discoveries, solutions, misleading Cornucopian analyses, prices, impacts and attaining a wider audience.

Maybe a fact-based article on the PO date, and rates of decline (not picking one, but surveying the rational ones), would be timely.

I haven't heard from Stuart lately, is he still on board with a "slow squeeze?"

Stuart seems to be off-line right now. As far as I know, his thinking hasn't changed. Picking a peak oil date is not possible. All we can do is gather evidence IMHO. On the other hand, anyone visiting the "First time here?" page will see Stuart's Why peak oil is probably about now (March, 2006) right at the top. He could be right.

I like the approach in the Hirsch report, and in the ASPO paper I linked to Monday.  They present the range of current predictions.

I think that's important, because in the absense of that we get some rather worst-case values presented as mainstream:

Andrew Gould, CEO of Schlumberger, said of the oil decline that "An accurate average decline rate is hard to estimate, but an overall figure of 8% is not an unreasonable assumption".48

Matt Simmons also believes that an 8% rate of decline is possible, given how Saudi Arabia's fields were mismanaged, the use of technology to extract the oil sooner than it would have otherwise been pumped, other super giant oil fields having depleted rapidly after their peak, and the likelihood that Saudi oil reserves are probably half of what is reported.

The decline after peak might initially be low, buying a few years of time, but if it does reach 8% per year, world oil extraction would decline by almost half in eight years. That is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, because there is too little time to adapt.

That from a story that headlined at TOD about how we won't have computers anymore, and need to scramble to preserve human knowledge.

Odograph, well said.

But note that in every controversy with a 'public intellectual' dimension there tend to be 'low-level' and 'high-level' advocates on both sides of the fence:

Peak Oil versus the Others:

Low level true believers: Cuba-loving survivalists versus the 'eternal economic growth' cornucopians

High level guys who are capable of civilised dialogue and the pursuit of knowledge: TOD versus CERA

Oops ...

Someone paints a radical picture then tries to disparage by association anyone connected with peak oil. And some people approve of this because in your minds the possibility that something truly catastrophic might occur is just not believable and therefore can be dismissed as extremist? The mind boggles at such pretzel-like thinking.

And yet people like Lovelock, Hawking, Hansen, and others with clearly reputable credentials hold such positions. I guess Hawking must be a nut too and we shouldn't listen to him either? Nor Diamond, nor Tainter, nor Lovelock, nor Hansen... yep, let's listen to George Bush and Dick Cheney instead.

Yeah... right.

If civilization collapses, I will be very sad and even angry. But I hope that those who worked so hard to silence the Paul Reveres are the ones that suffer most and first. I don't want it to fall but I fear it will fall precisely because of people who disparage the alternative and refuse to consider those dangerous alternative scenarios seriously.

I think there's a big difference between saying "Civilization WILL collapse" and saying "Civilization is at risk of a deep depression that might not be fixable".

One says that there's some kind of inevitable doom, like a Marxist-Leninist prediction of the economic future, based on a global and pessimistic theory like Tainter's.

The other says that we face a great risk (say, from unexpectedly very high depletion rates, or a middle east war that closes down all ME production suddenly) which we ought to prepare for.

The two are very different.  The first has very little support among reputable researchers and theorists (including the Club of Rome - they never said doom was inevitable, just that we faced great risks with business-as-usual resource usage).  The second is (IMHO)...eminently reasonable.


My guess is that you aren't preparing for anything (sorry if I'm wrong).  The essential problem with half-way measures/preparation is that it is difficult to determine what time period you need to prepare for (a month, year, multiple years, forever?) and what will be unavailable (power, water, food, fuel, clothing, etc.).

It is far easier to just assume society collpases and nothing will be available.  At worst, a person will waste some time and money (perhaps significant money); at best they will survive when others do not.

There is a further advantage of assuming the worst - you get over the psychological bagage of continually wondering if you made the right decisions.  In my case, I really don't care when oil peaks.  I don't care if the grid goes down.  I don't care if there is no fuel.  I am not saying life would be fun but rather that I can go on with my life today without worrying about the future.


"My guess is that you aren't preparing for anything (sorry if I'm wrong). "

Please, let's avoid getting personal. I know it's very tempting, especially when one feels especially frustrated with someone's ideas, but it leads to no good.

Now, I think it makes an enourmous difference whether we assume society is going to collapse.  Some people move to subsistence lifestyles, or decide not to have children based on these ideas.  Those are very big decisions, and I think it would be very sad for people to make them based on false information.

Well, Nick, it is personal because you made comments above on two ways you saw people forseeing the future of society, one of which mentioned preparing.  If you had made any personal efforts to "prepare", you'd know that the scope of preparation is, in fact, extremely difficult (daunting might be a better word) both psychologically and practically whether by an individual, group or society as a whole.  I cut you some slack with my qualifier, "Sorry if I am wrong."


I guess I wasn't clear.

I assume that both models of the world (inevitable doom (ID), and risk of really big problems (RORBP) require preparation.  The preparation involved is different.

ID might mean moving to a remote location and being a survivalist.  I think that would be a very hard life. Some people might enjoy it, but I think most people don't realize just how hard long-term self-sufficient farm life is - some people do it temporarily, but they have the support of a previous life and a larger society, and always know in the back of their mind that this choice is optional and temporary.  To really make a long-term commitment to rural self-sufficiency is really tough.  Actually, I think a lot of people would just shut down their thinking on the topic, and do nothing, but others might take drastic steps like that, if they really, really believed that nothing could be done to prevent doom.

RORBP means being active politically, changing what you eat, buy and drive, educating others, etc.  What most people on TOD do, I think.

Tainter is a very reputable researcher.  
I didn't mean to say he wasn't.  One can easily be reputable, and a good researcher, and still have ideas that are not generally accepted, or even interesting and well developed mistakes (especially when one takes the risk of working outside one's specialty: as I understand it he's an archeologist, but when he moves to theories of growth and collapse he's moving into other areas).  

What I meant to say was that his theories for the future of our society are not generally accepted as an accurate model of the world, one which can be used to make predictions, say.  I also know that some of his evidence is false, e.g. that medical research is slowing down and that human longevity increases are slowing down, and that E-ROI is fundamentally falling at the margin (as opposed to fossil fuel E-ROI, which I agree is falling, especially at the margin).

Now, I have to admit I haven't researched him as much as I'd like to.  I just know enough to say the above.

Generally accepted. How convenient. You know, General and Special Relativity were not generally accepted for a number of years either. Don't resort to the fallacy that something must be accepted by the majority to be true. In fact, there are many cases where that has not been true.

Further, Tainter nowhere says we are toast. His point is that this society has three choices:

  1. Deliberately simplify to some lower level of complexity.
  2. Collapse.
  3. Increase complexity to another level in some manner.
three is not a option because to increase complexity you need to have a increase energy supply to power it. and we do not have such a energy source to allow one to solve our problems by increasing complexity.
jason lays it out pretty well here.

so our only choice is to either let it go willingly or let nature do it for us.

We currently lack such an energy source. Further, I believe we will not find such an energy source. But you have to be honest and realize that such a possibility does exist, even if it seems remote. The simplest example of that would be a major breakthrough with fusion but something totally unexpected could occur too.

Now as I said, I am not counting on it or expecting it at all. But I have to realistically admit that there does remain a non-zero chance that such an event could occur. Increasing complexity may be a low to very low probability option but it is still a possible option, though it seems a very unlikely one.

What about wind and solar?

Deffeyes writes that "there are plenty of energy sources other than fossil fuels. Running out of energy in the long run is not the problem. The bind comes during the next 10 years: getting over our dependence on crude oil."

three is not a option because to increase complexity you need to have a increase energy supply to power it.

Not "axiomatically", if you can manage to increase the energetic efficiency of your process.
Cost is the culprit but is not DIRECTLY related to complexity per se.
Cost IS related to complexity for a given state of technology development.
We could not handle todays' burden of say, banking operations, with pencil and paper with computers we can.
Unfortunately each time we gained such a technological advantage it has been squandered on continued growth.
THEREFORE the "problem" is our drive to GROW, not complexity, not technology, not even peak energy.

"Not "axiomatically", if you can manage to increase the energetic efficiency of your process."

I agree.

I think your other question is, how can improved technology help if we always grow exponentially?

The answer is that we don't - people really do "get enough" of things that they need.

Look at the car industry in the US:  it matured in the middle 70's, and car sales have levelled off since, growing at less than the rate of population growth.

See my other posts on pop growth in this drumbeat: the idea that it is continuing forever is not correct.

At the moment GDP growth in the US largely intangible, and not dependent on greater resource consumption.  That's not true of the rest of the world yet, but there is a point where resource consumption levels off.

Nick while I like your dichotic view, to say that we live in a world where we don't grow is flat wrong.  This is a worldwide phenomenon and people keep growing.  Have you seen the hockey stick graph?  There is no end to growth so long as we can choose.  We've chosen to continue to reproduce throughout the world.  

The macro picture is simply an aggregate of individual choices and people tend to make choices that benefit them, not all of us.  I won't disagree that people get tired of stuff they "need", I fear many people "need" a whole lot of things that in fact they simply want, but won't give it up over their cold dead fingers.

"to say that we live in a world where we don't grow is flat wrong.  This is a worldwide phenomenon and people keep growing.  Have you seen the hockey stick graph?  There is no end to growth so long as we can choose.  We've chosen to continue to reproduce throughout the world."

hmmm.  I've talked about this elsewhere on this drumbeat, but (like Paul McCartney, about silly love songs) here I go again.....

Fertility rate is defined as the average number of children per woman.  So, a theoretical replacement rate would be 2 children, one for each parent.  In practice the replacement fertility rate is defined as about 2.1, to account for infant and child mortality.

This rate has been relentlessly dropping for the last 50 years (It peaked after WWII in large part because of the introduction of public health practices in the 3rd world which suddenly dropped infant and child mortality rates).  It was around 5 for the whole world. In 1992 it was 3.0, and in 2000 it was 2.8, and in 2005 it was 2.6.  It's expected to drop below replacement relatively soon for the whole world.  At that point absolute growth will continue because of a demographic overhang: a large young generation which will replace itself, after which in about 2050 total population is likely to hit around 9 billion, and start falling.

The US is right at 2.1, and would be pretty stable if not for immigration. Japan is at about 1.4 IIRC, and is expected to start falling in 2007 in absolute numbers.  Russia's population is falling in absolute numbers, and their government is desperately trying to raise fertility.  China is below replacement fertility rate.  India is still above, though some regions have gone below.  

These stats may be helpful: http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WPP2004/wpp2004.htm

" Have you seen the hockey stick graph? "

That graph covers a very long period of time, and so you can't see the stabilization that's occurring in the last 50 years.  I suspect you'd really need a logarithmic graph to see the change in growth rates.  Even then, it'd be tough to see really clearly, because of the demographic overhang.  What you need is a graph of growth and fertility rates, not absolute numbers - in effect the 2nd and 3rd differential of the graph you're referring to.

You assume that this is stabilization. Prove this. (Hint: You can't.) Every other mammaliam population overshoot has had a period where growth slowed, stopped, then reversed. There is nothing available to indicate (yet) that this is a stable plateau or the beginning of the inevitable downturn in an otherwise typical population crash. And to support the view of the those expecting a crash, I point to the resource problems. If you argue that I am bringing in extraneous data, I'd retort that resource constraints are exactly why population crashes occur and thus it is appropriate to look at them.

We've destroyed the world's fisheries. We're having issues with grain production. Clean, fresh water is becoming an issue in more and more places. Energy costs are up as energy availability gets tighter and tighter. I could go on but it would be simpler to point you to Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update.

I really hope the happy face view of the world is right because the alternative means billions of ugly and painful deaths.

I'm trying to discuss a single issue: is population growth slowing down, and why?

There is a general consensus in the public health/population planning professional community that human population growth is slowing down, and is on track to stop completely.  I've provided a great deal of quantitative backup for this. Apparently you disagree, but you haven't given me anymore than an anology with mammals.   What are your reasons? (hint: use numbers, and numbers that relate to humans).

Population stability or crash, caused by resource constraints in animal populations (as in "Every other mammaliam population overshoot"), are caused by death rates which rise to equal birth rates.  For modern humans it has been caused by decreasing birth rates.  This is very different.  There is a great deal of info to support that. I can't quite figure out why anyone would think there was a similarity.

There's no question that there are limits to growth in resource consumption and, what the heck, we may be in for a world of pain.  I haven't had the time to research soil and water lately (the last time I did so was 30 years ago when LTG first came out - at that point it was pretty theoretical, but I read the whole thing carefully - lately I haven't gone into great detail on other resources besides energy).  But, at the moment I'm trying to discuss population....

Are you even familiar with the reindeer of St. Matthews island? Birth rates in mammals fall also when population reaches its peak in an overshoot event. Birth rates in humans have been slowly falling for 3 centuries, well before modern contraception. Why? As you glibly admit, we don't know why, do we? And yet human population is doing very much what other populations do in the immediate period prior to a dieoff. As to why I think there is a similarity, it's because there IS a similarity.

And see? You try to divorce resource constraints from population growth in order to prop up an argument that fails to account for the facts. You are free to try to look at this in isolation but doing so invites drawing incorrect conclusions.

Finally, you cannot discuss population growth and its impacts without considering the finite resources of a finite planet. That is exactly the point! Finite resources coupled with geometric growth patterns has lead to catastrophe in other animal populations in the past.

Look at this chart and don't just look at the last few decades. This shows the very clear explosive human growth patterns since fossil fuels came into play. To argue that this level of population can be sustained as fossil fuels become less available unless we find an equivalent or better energy source is folly.

"Are you even familiar with the reindeer of St. Matthews island? Birth rates in mammals fall also when population reaches its peak in an overshoot event."

Well, I referred to http://dieoff.org/page80.htm

The researchers don't say birth rates fell, they say that the ratio of fawns and yearlings fell, and the parental body weight had dropped sharply.  Clearly, infant mortality had risen, and the parents were malnourished.  This is population control due to rising death rates.

"Birth rates in humans have been slowly falling for 3 centuries"

Well, based on http://www.econ.jhu.edu/People/arbatli/lee%20article.pdf
rates were as follows:
1700 6.0
1800 6.0
1900 5.2
1950 5.0
2000 2.7

That appears consistent small decreases in the US and Europe due to falling infant mortality in the 1800 and early 1900's, until around 1960 when contraception was invented.

"And yet human population is doing very much what other populations do in the immediate period prior to a dieoff."

No, both infant and adult mortality continue to fall, and parental health is just fine.  In fact, obesity is a greater problem than malnutrition.

"You try to divorce resource constraints from population growth in order to prop up an argument that fails to account for the facts. "

No, I'm trying to divorce a discussion about the past and present population, from a discussion about resource constraints in the future.  I think discussion of current and past resource constraints are fair game, and I'm arguing that current and past resource constraints have had very little to do with the deceleration of population growth.  Again the mechanism through which such constraints would work would be nutrition and death rates, and clearly nutrition
and death rates have not been the cause of the reduction in population growth.  

"Finally, you cannot discuss population growth and its impacts without considering the finite resources of a finite planet. That is exactly the point! Finite resources coupled with geometric growth patterns has lead to catastrophe in other animal populations in the past."

Well, I agree that we hav serious resource problems.  I'd just like everyone to be clear on what the problems aren't.  In this case, it would be nice for people to be clear that population growth really is going away, even if it is way too slowly.

TK, Jason doesn't provide any info on energy sources that I can find.  He just argues that some people may be indulging in blind faith in technology.  I wouldn't disagree - I think technology is a tool that can be used badly or well.
"the fallacy that something must be accepted by the majority to be true."

I agree.  I didn't suggest that non-majority acceptance was a disproof of a theory.  It does suggest, however, a higher level of skepticism.  For instance, GW is generally accepted by climatologists.  Not having the time to research everything, I take their word on it.

I have to admit I haven't had the time to research him thoroughly, and I am curious. Let me take advantage of your knowledge:  am I correct in thinking Tainter bases his work in large part on the idea of diminishing marginal E-ROI for the society as a whole (IOW,peak energy)?

No, Tainter does not focus on just energy. Tainter focuses on investments in social complexity. Such investments are made to solve problems. Consider the simple problem of purifying something. I can achieve a 90% purity level of a substance for a given level of effort. Achieving 99% might require as much again effort as 90%. Achieving 99.9% might require as much again effort as 99% did. Initial investments in social complexity (to solve problems) initially yield high returns. Over time further investments in complexity yield less and less returns while costs continue to rise in a nearly linear fashion.

Energy is one version (and perhaps a special case) of complexity. But we are seeing the same problems arise as we try to globalize commerce, etc. Our engineering is being stretched further and further and the returns from such investments don't match prior returns from prior investments. Tainter's point is that eventually people give up on trying to even maintain the social complexity of a given society because the cost is higher than the value. And further, as Tainter notes, this is completely rational behavior. Bones from the period immediately following the collapse of the Roman empire showed better average nutrition than before, probably because of the high costs imposed on those who were members of the empire (via taxes, for example). So they actually have rational incentive to walk away.

This may be behind some of the "back-to-the-land" movements we've seen by some people, who have concluded that the benefits of modern society are outweighed by the costs. We might consider these people "early adopters", a phrase the high tech marketplace sometimes uses for people adopting new technologies but in this case adopting new lifestyles partially or even fully divorced from modern civilization.

Interesting.  A lot of different ideas here.  Well, let me stay with energy for the moment.

When you say "Such investments are made to solve problems", that seems to suggest that his analysis depends on the nature of the problems he feels a society faces.  So, I have the impression that he considers energy to be a key one.  Is that correct?

as I understand it he's an archeologist

Another one who argues without having read the source I bet.
How convenient!

I think you're wrong. Tainter is widely accepted.  He literally wrote the book on collapse.  Many read The Collapse of Complex Societies in college anthropology classes. (Which is why it's so darned expensive.  @#$% textbook pricing.)

Now, believing Tainter is correct doesn't mean believing we are on the verge of collapse.  Tainter himself does not believe our society is about to collapse.  At least, he didn't when he wrote his most famous work.  

And Tainter certainly does not believe collapse is inevitable.  In one of his papers, he discusses a society that avoided collapse by voluntarily simplifying.  (The Byzantine "dark age.")  

Interesting.  Well, I didn't mean to suggest he wasn't widely accepted as regards the past(see my other reply to Greyzone).  The question is the wide acceptance of a model which predicts inevitable collapse.  If he's not actually predicting that, that clarifies things.

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that our future is necessarily easy..I'm just saying it's not necessarily terrible.

Yes, you are "suggesting" a lot, flooding the thread with unsubstanciated affirmations which are often close to plain lies:

humans have voluntarily reduced their fertility rates
Voluntarily? It has been debated...

They choose not to grow all of their own food.
How would Hong Kong "choose" to grow all of their own food?

we're not doomed. The authors of LTG would agree
They asked 30 years AGO, nothing has been done.

Given that Peak Oil is primarily a liquid fuels problem, what makes you think electrity costs are going to jump like that?
Conveniently forgetting for once about the cherished markets "fungibility" for energy, mmm...

Sure, there's power used to melt silicon, but it's between 3% and 10% of the cost of solar cells (E-ROI of 10-30 to 1), and dropping quickly.
Ooops, caught red handed!
Arguing about the COST (which currently relies on low energy prices) and then pretending to compute EROEI from those percentages.

... actually, it may be much faster, with things like Nanosolar happening
Exactly, Santa Claus told me too.

The earth receives 100,000 terawatts continously from the sun, and humans use the equivalent of 4.5 terawatts on average, so clearly there's no shortage of energy.
Sure, we just need to collect it.
Given that oceans makes about two-thirds of the earth surface there should be no shortage of water either.

The US has 2.9 TW of wind potential, enough for twice our current electrical consumption.
Potential! Turbines all over the place.

Please, let's avoid getting personal. I know it's very tempting, especially when one feels especially frustrated with someone's ideas, but it leads to no good.
Not always, sometimes it leads to STFU.

Those are very big decisions, and I think it would be very sad for people to make them based on false information.
Very commendable, you start.

The preparation involved is different.
Not necessarily much so, plus why not hedging our bets?
Who said it is either/or, we can have BOTH a collapse and some recovery/continuation, ask Somalians.

I just know enough to say the above.
Fully unknown unknowns rather than known unknowns, it's been debated.

Running out of energy in the long run is not the problem.
Gratuitous affirmation.

I'm not suggesting that our future is necessarily easy..I'm just saying it's not necessarily terrible.
Will a die-off with NO collapse be "terrible" or just annoying?

Longevity is increasing by about 2 years per decade, and has been for many decades.
Except in Russia, Africa and may be now Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of them make general statements about this, but none go into any detail.
Are YOU really going "into any detail" detail yourself?
Instead of asking others to do so:
Specifically, please detail what types and quantities of energy go into them, and then we can evaluate this question.

Well, ok I think we're making progress in this dialogue.
Yes, we "progressively" show that you don't know what you are talking about.

Where are your numbers?
Where is your "good model"?
Where is odograph when we need him?
I wonder why he did not scold you yet.

In all Truthiness this is the "Goebbels marketing strategy"!
If you repeat lies often enough they pass for true.
Yikes.  I seem to have offended you.

I've been discussing things in good faith.  I've provided a great deal of detail, and numbers.  I understand you're frustrated that I disagree with some of your ideas, but please, try to not take it personally.

I don't quite know what to do with all of your comments, especially because I've answered most of them in detail already, and you're just making flat denials.

I'll try a few:

Voluntary fertility reduction:  What I mean is that drops in population growth were not caused by rising death rates, but by contraception, education, career opportunities for women, etc. I don't think anyone is suggesting that fertility reductions in the US and Europe have been coerced.  Even in China, where there is coercion on a personal level, the Chinese government made a conscious, planned decision, as opposed to hitting a resource wall.

"Sure, there's power used to melt silicon, but it's between 3% and 10% of the cost of solar cells (E-ROI of 10-30 to 1), and dropping quickly.
Ooops, caught red handed!
Arguing about the COST (which currently relies on low energy prices) and then pretending to compute EROEI from those percentages. "

No, I started with E-ROI, and estimated the cost.  The price of the input and output's are going to be relatively comparable, especially if the inputs are both electricity (if not, then the balance tips further in favor of the viability of the solar PV, because electricity is more valuable than other forms of energy).  If the cost of the input energy rises, so will the value of the output.

"Given that Peak Oil is primarily a liquid fuels problem, what makes you think electrity costs are going to jump like that?
Conveniently forgetting for once about the cherished markets "fungibility" for energy, mmm..."

Well, sure, energy markets are fungible, with some time delays.  For instance, when oil tripled in price, spot market coal doubled in cost.  But, that was spot market coal.  Most coal is on long-term contracts.  What happens when the contracts are renewed? Well, it's a complex process of adjustments: coal production will go up, increasing supply and reducing spot prices. Oil and gas users will be switching to electricity, raising demand for electricity, reducing it for oil and gas.  

The bottom line is, in the last several years oil and gas have tripled in price, and electricity has gone up perhaps 10%.

In the medium run, cheap electricity will become somewhat more expensive, and supply will grow a great deal (from wind, coal, solar, etc). In the long run electricity from renewables will replace oil (if we haven't fallen prey to something other than energy problems....). That's fungibility.

"Longevity is increasing by about 2 years per decade, and has been for many decades.
Except in Russia, Africa and may be now Iraq and Afghanistan."

You're right, there are big pockets of bad health in the world.  There's no question that poverty, war and social disintegration cause bad health.  I was addressing Tainter's discussion of marginal increases in public health, and using data from the US and Europe, as I believe he was.  

Yikes. I seem to have offended you.

Not at all, I appreciate you are doing an excellent job at confusing the doom issue with soothing claims never backed by reliable arguments, only anecdotes, fuzzy generalisations and exceptions ("pockets of bad health"!).

Which agenda is this?
WHOSE agenda is this?

It does not take a conspirationist disposition nor even the slightest stretch of imagination to figure out that the PR budget for Big OIL and Big INDUSTRY is large enough to allow for a handfull of "PR trolls" to care for TOD, LATOC and any such others at a negligible cost vs other expenses: elected representatives are SO much more expensive!

K,  I don't understand.  If you have read my posts, you'll see that I have provided a great deal of specific, quantitative information with sources.  Just start with the whole drumbeat open in your browser and do a Ctrl-F and search for "nick".  There are few anecdotes, and I back up my generalizations. I'll admit, I don't always repeat all the data in every post: that would be really tedious. But if you take just a moment, you'll see that I present a great deal of data.

I'll tell you why I care, and put some effort into arguing about things that look incorrect to me: it's because people read TOD, and take it seriously. It's important that people not make life decisions based on erroneous information.  For instance, someone who would be a great parent might decide not to have children at all (that's different from someone who decides not to for good reasons, conceivably including over population - such a person might choose to adopt), or they might make a career choice that would be much less satisfying than their first choice.  If we're not necessarily doomed, as I suspect, then that would be very sad. OTOH, I don't think overstatement helps.  Sure, some people will be spurred to action by overly pessimistic predictions, but others will dismiss them as extreme or give up doing anything at all to improve the situation.  Of course, that's not my only motivation - I enjoy learning the info that is unique to TOD, and having conversations with people.

Now, on the one hand,  I admit I don't know that much yet about water and soil issues, or some other related areas.   I don't try to talk about those, just the areas where I'm knowledgeable. I focus on energy and renewables (though I also happen to be know about public health and population planning, so I address those too).  After, TOD is primarily about oil and energy.

OTOH,  I've been very careful to say that I think a great deal of urgency is needed on energy issues.  I feel that we are at great risk of really serious economic pain due to unexpected disruptions of oil & gas supplies, the possibilities for which include unexpectedly high depletion rates and upheaval in the ME.

I think that renewables, especially distributed renewables (solar, PHEV/EV's, cogeneration, wind) that would reduce the market power of "Big OIL and Big INDUSTRY"  are the path of the future, and that we should all work very hard to accelerate their development, including CAFE, carbon taxes, and a "Apollo Project"  including increased R&D of renewables & electrical storage.  There's nothing in what I say that would give comfort to oil companies.

I hope that helps.

Just start with the whole drumbeat open in your browser and do a Ctrl-F and search for "nick".

I did just that, where do you think I collected quotes of you from?

It's important that people not make life decisions based on erroneous information.
I admit I don't know that much yet about water and soil issues, or some other related areas.

Trying to see only ONE part of the problems IS "erroneous information" because unfortunately it is all entangled.

This is why making a model is difficult and EXACT prediction impossible, but it is HARMHUL to cherry pick the most benign aspects to paint a rosy picture.
If there is some escape out of our predicament (which I hope, I am not a "doomer" only highly pessimistic) we will have to deal with ALL the constraints.

I think that renewables, especially distributed renewables (solar, PHEV/EV's, cogeneration, wind) that would reduce the market power of "Big OIL and Big INDUSTRY" are the path of the future,

It is even more devious to ignore or deprecate what has already been debated at length on TOD about the "cherry picked" points.
Even when ONLY focusing on energy issues there is NO "consensus" about the feasibility of ramping up alternate energy sources due to concerns about EROEI, technical feasibility, financial constraints, deployment schedules and societal/political inertia.

This brings quite a lot of suspicions about your intellect and/or your motives.

"Even when ONLY focusing on energy issues there is NO "consensus" about the feasibility of ramping up alternate energy sources due to concerns about EROEI, technical feasibility, financial constraints, deployment schedules and societal/political inertia."

Well, I agree on that. I did say "I think" at the beginning of that paragraph to indicate that this was my opinion, which I was giving to clarify where I was coming from.  

I didn't say there was consensus.  I just try occasionally to identify possible points of agreement, and even consensus.  When someone seems to agree with me on some things but doesn't say so explicitly, and disagrees on others, I try to clarify which we've come to agreement on, and which we haven't.

You see, I think part of the purpose of TOD is to allow people to communicate, learn things, change their minds about some things, and change other people's minds about others.

We can't all know everything.  Some people know about rail, others about oil, others about coal, etc.  I don't think we have to debate the "big picture" all the time, in order to discuss specifics.

It seems useful to me try to come to agreement on some things.  That requires lengthy, and detailed conversations sometimes. I do think agreement, and even consensus, is possible, even if we just agree on some things, and agree that we don't have enough info to evaluate others.  That's very valuable, it seems to me.

I think you're greatly overestimating the contribution of medical research to increases in longevity.
hhmm.  I didn't say there was a direct correlation, just that neither is slowing down.

Longevity is increasing by about 2 years per decade, and has been for many decades.  Around the turn of the century it was largely because of reductions in child mortality, but lately it's across the age spectrum.

People keep expecting it to hit diminishing returns, and it keeps not doing so.  Same thing for disability: seniors are about 40% less disabled, on average, than 40 years ago.

It's not absolutely clear why: a combination of medicine, nutrition, public health...

What about saying:

Civilization is at a great risk of collapse.

Your specific wordings obscure the question, what "might not be fixable" entails?
Don't confuse pessimists with doomers, if doomers are the ones who see "inevitable doom".

Well, ok I think we're making progress in this dialogue.

Your're saying, I think, that you don't feel doom is inevitable, but that:

"Civilization is at a great risk of collapse."

Well, I would agree that there is a great risk of unnecessary pain, say economic stagnation for 10-15 years due to unexpectedly very high depletion rates.  I would agree that there is a significant risk of a deep depression that lasted several years due to, say, a ME war that shut down ME oil completely.

I would agree that there is a very small risk of doom, if we had some major wars, say.  I wouldn't have thought the Iraq war possible, so I have to admit the possibilities for screwing up are certainly there.

That's how I would lay out the possibilities. What do you think?

See my response above, started it before reading your question.

My hope is enough people were at least exposed to the idea.  Probably not a good bet considering MSNBC's ratings.  But hopefully some viewers were enticed enough to find out more info.  A little bit here, and a bit there, and hopefully some progress will be made.  So long as our arguments are presented in a sensible fact by fact basis, and not draw in to a sound bite argument. Though the clip was essentially devoid of substance, I was impressed with Megan and Tyson for not giving in the overture of doom that both Scarborough and Stossel were attempting to paint on them.  That is probably one of the most important qualities that any energy activist must have.
Joe asked the question 'Is this the end of our suburban utopia' more times than I could count.
The plot thickens

More info on the MSNBC piece.  They tried to get both Jim Kunstler and Richard Heinberg.  (Jim blew them off and referred them to me--I wondered how in the world they got my name).  

I don't think that the Iron Triangle is a conspiracy per se, but I think that the segments of triangle have an overlapping economic interest in debunking Peak Oil.

I think that what transpired was basically an attempt to attack and discredit "End of Suburbia," perhaps because Americans are (slowly) beginning to wake up to the fact that the great American Suburban Dream is rapidly becoming the great American Suburban Nightmare.

Richard Heinberg posted here yesterday, didn't he?  He said he was contacted to be on the show.  Did he end up blowing them off?
"Did he end up blowing them off?"

Richard didn't say for sure, but I assume that he did.  As you pointed out, the CNN piece on Peak Oil was a little more fair, but they felt compelled to end with "happy" talk about ethanol, in other words, we can keep driving our SUV's to the suburban mortgages, but we'll use different fuels.

IMO, the bottom line is that the auto/housing/finance group and the media group have a vested interest in trying to persuade Americans to keep buying and financing large homes and autos.   Portions of the oil industry, for their own reasons, are more than happy to provide the intellectual ammunition for the media group.

Note that Toll Brothers' orders (a leading provider of McMansions) are down 50% year over year.  I think that we just witnessed an attempt by the Iron Triangle to ambush and discredit Kunstler and Heinberg (and End of Suburbia).  

I think that we just witnessed an attempt by the Iron Triangle to ambush and discredit Kunstler and Heinberg...

Absolutely.  As I said yesterday, "Regarding MSNBC's handling of Peak Oil, is there any surprise considering who owns them, and who their target audience is?"

Speaking of End of Suburbia, I finally have, in hand, a CD copy of a joint interview of Matt Simmons and Jim Kunstler, on the local PBS radio station, on 11/1/05.  Matt and Jim did not meet until that night, and I don't think that they had even talked to each other until the interview, but they were basically finishing each other's sentences--it was one of the best talk radio segments that I have ever heard.  The host, Glenn Mitchell, was a master at what he did.  Unfortunately, he passed away about two weeks after this interview.

The CD says duplication prohibited, so I assume I can't post the actual audio on the web.

I'm sending the CD off to a court reporter to get a transcript done.  I'll try to get it posted on the web in the next few days.

Speaking again of "End of Suburbia," CNBC just used that line (with no apparent reference to Kunstler) as teaser for an upcoming segment this hour or next on "Closing Bell." Am going to try to watch it.

By the way, has anyone else given up on Kunstler recently? I've been reading his blog for 18 mos at least and within the last six weeks he's metamorphasized into a mouth-breathing psychopath. It's like reading Dick Cheney's or Michael Ledeen's MySpace page these days. He's in full-on "Kill all the filthy towel-heads because they're all terrorists and want to eat Israeli babies just for kicks and if you don't see it that way you're a terrorist and an anti-semite" mode. Revolting. Have removed him from my personal bookmarks list and would hope TOD will do the same if he continues to use the space to run interference for the the neocon regime of senseless (but highly profitable) violence that endangers the safety and stability of the entire planet.

He's always been a bit on the shrill side and into hyperbole, not to mention is course language. Not exactly what I would consider to be the best "face" of the peak oil aware community.
The last two weeks I couldn't even finish it.  I haven't deleted him, but really, really close.
I have to say that I agree with this. Wish he'd stop trying to talk about stuff he knows very little about.
I agree. His 'Lumpenleisure' post was entertaining, but his most recent posts on the Middle East seem to have had almost nothing at all to do with peak oil.

Whatever I might think of JHK in his blood-drenched Zionist superhero costume these days, his message about suburbia is going mainstream. There was tinge of regret to this CNBC segment about the whole project of the 'burbs. There is a subtle sense that there moment has already passed. Interesting. I suspect the perspective will catch on like wildfire in the media over the next year or so.

Can;t wait for the word "densification" to go mainstream. God, why didn't they get somebody with an ear for language to coin that one? Ugliest single word in the English language, I'd agrue -- meaning aside.

Anyway, the expert witness assured CNBC viewers that "densification" was happening all across this great land of ours, not just in East Coast cities.

And the host, Bob Pisani, referred to Asians as "those of type of people." Yowza.

Since Jim and I started corresponding, we have had some differences of opinion regarding the Middle East, but his work linking the fate of suburbia to our energy supply has been invaluable.  "End of Suburbia" was basically built around an interview with him.
I have to agree that Kunstler's totally gone off the neocon deep end of the pool lately. I also noticed that he's lost a lot of readership (judging from the comments), and that the Energy Bulletin is no longer linking to him.
I love Kunstler. I have always found his rants entertaining and still do. You guys on the far left need to stop putting everything in the neocon bag. They are just not that smart or all encompassing. Very few people have ever pulled off really good conspiracies. All the vitriol will eat at your stomach lining.

Who the hell is talking about conspiracies?

Get a grip, man.

them bitches ain't gonna get me.
IIRC Prof. Heinberg stated clearly that he would decline a request to be on this show in his comments yesterday
I didn't "blow them off" but I did make it clear I wasn't interested in traveling to San Francisco (an hour each way) to do a five-minute segment. I've done that before and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially if you're on a rigged show--which this one showed every sign of being.
Richard Heinberg
With all due respect, I think it's at best a waste of time to go on these shows. At worst you're setting yourself up to be a target.

I've been invited on BBC to debate some dude from OPEC (I shit you not) CNN for "Glen Beck" and some big time Canadian financial show to debate Peter Huber.

My response is always the same, "no thanks, but consider my colleagues Richard Heinberg, Jeffrey Brown, et al."

My theory is the lumpen proles are going to go after somebody and logically speaking it makes sense for that to be Richard or Jeffrey or whoever instead of me. Why? Because I'm 28 and Richard, jeffrey, Kunstler et al. are in their 50s pushing 60 in some cases. Hey with some luck they might be dead before the proles start looking for scapegoats. I figure at that point I'm lilkely to still be alive and will have enough problems on my hands. The last thing I'll need is a bunch of nuts coming after me because I didn't have faith that Jesus would provide more oil once we got rid of the A-rabs, Jews, Gays, Blacks, Lefthanders, whoever.

In AMerica you're only real if you're on t.v. so I figure as long as I stay on the net I'll be okay.

"no thanks, but consider my colleagues Richard Heinberg, Jeffrey Brown, et al."

Which is how my name appeared on the list to start with.   After watching the show last night, I thanked my lucky stars that I was not asked.  

Megan's facial expression at the very end said a lot--more or less something to the effect that "Why the heck did I waste my time coming down here."

I would think (hope) that the mobs might be more interested in going after the cornucopians, rather than the Peak Oilers, but I'm in a separate risk group--oilmen.   I've put it this way--the primary thing that the energy producers have to worry about is angry soccer moms rioting outside their homes.

it'd be real cool if she had dropped a F-bomb on them right there. Way cooler then if Kunstler had done so cause you kind of expect that from him.
Re: My response is always the same, "no thanks, but consider my colleagues Richard Heinberg, Jeffrey Brown, et al.

Given that I contribute occasionally over at LATOC, Thanks Matt! -- for not mentioning me.  

That's what friends are for...


I think I've included you or at least a mention of TOD in general.

There was a NY Times reporter who wanted to do an interview on "people who are preparing for peak oil."tghis was maybe 2-3 months ago. I emailed him back:

it boils down to this:

  1. we're running out

  2. we're in iraq to grab what's left

  3. it's time to cover your ass.

and then I told him if he wants to talke to somebody go to tod.

You see once you accept the human-nature aspect of this - that is the "genetic" aspect of what Jay calls the "thermo-gene collision", doing interviews is not all it's cracked up to be. Why? Well unlike others I have no hope we'll make it out of this. I figure the best we can do is position ourselves, well at least those of us with the resources/assets to do so, to benefit or at least not suffer as much as others.

So it's not much fun to tell the reporter "well basically we're all gonna die. But hopefully not for a while cause I'm starting an apocalypitc religious cult . . . I mean 'off-the-grid village' and I need some more time to get things in place."

As we've discussed, I'll do radio.

Re: [you] emailed him back

So, I gather that your remarks did not appear in the Times?

I can't stop laughing here...

Completely Gratuitous Picture

Why is this man so happy?

TV is all about acting ability. If you've ever done live standup comedy and died before an audience of no laughs, then maybe you're ready for TV interviews.

Some people, e.g., President Nixon, never did learn how to do TV. Others, such as Ronald Reagan, had mastered the medium, and even when his brain was mostly gone with Alzheimer's disease he could still hold a TV audience in the palm of his hand by using his considerable acting skills. I mean a guy who has been shot in the chest and comes up with a line to his surgeon before the bullet is removed, "Are you a Republican?" hey, that guy had class.

Anyone high-school student seriously contemplating how to make the world a better place through political leadership would be well advised to act in school plays, get involved with little theater groups, and then major in speech or drama. I suspect but cannot prove that it is difficult to learn acting after a certain age--maybe early twenties, hard to say.

Actors can eat lawyers alive on TV. (And they do, on all the popular lawyer shows;-)

You guys need to take a page from Mother Tersea's book. When we wanted to interview her for a Unicef documentary on child health, she would respond to every question with her own agenda (in this case adoption) no matter how far away it was from the topic.

That is how she got her message out.  Don't take the bate from moronic tv hosts, reframe , reframe, reframe.

News from Finland:

The leaders of two of the biggest parties (the Social Democratic Party and the conservative National Coalition Party) have called for Finland to become an oil-free economy by 2030. I would be very surprised if the leader of the third big one (agrarian Centre Party), Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, doesn't say the same thing tonight as he is scheduled to speak about energy policy right about now. So what are their solutions then?

As far as I have been able to find out, they all have bought into the usual suspects: biofuels, especially ethanol (from grain, presumably) and biodiesel (from rapeseed oil). In addition, at least the conservative National Coalition is generally very much pro-nuclear. So far nobody has said much about conservation or investing in wind or solar (which are the things I would emphasise). The National Coalition does suggest that buying a car should be cheaper and driving it more expensive, especially if it's not fuel-efficient, which sort of makes some sense; in Finland we have the second oldest cars in the EU on average, because of the high taxes, and naturally newer cars would probably be a lot more efficient than the current ones.

The good thing is, now it seems all the major parties accept the challenges of Peak Oil as well as climate change. I'm just worried that they may be making the wrong decisions, leading to the wrong investments, and eventually we'll be much worse off than necessary.

Finland is actually not that bad in energy conversion. Given the cold winters, most houses are already insulated very well. When I lived in Helsinki for a year, it was obvious that much of heating came from decentral heating stations, which is not bad either.

The amount of arable land in Finland to grow extra grain and rapeseed, however, seems to be limited. You do have plenty of wood, though. A great chunk of that in exported to Germany as paper. I once met a Finnish woman at Hamburg airport, and she was working for a huge shipping line. She told me that the only good they were transporting from Finland to Germany was paper.

Now, by exporting paper, Finland also exports a huge amount of energy. In Germany, we reuse old paper, and after a while, it becomes energy again in a power plant, in the future maybe as a synthetic oil.

If Finland can increase the tons of wood taken from its forests, you can make celulosic ethanol or gasify it into synfuels, depending if you have gasoline or diesel cars.

I've just read an article in Finnish according to which there are many companies here hoping to start producing ethanol from barley or sugarbeet. I somehow doubt that would really be sensible, for two reasons:

  • Although I don't have any numbers here right now, I'm fairly certain we don't produce enough barley for food (and beer and booze) right now, so we'd probably have to import more of our food as a result;

  • If corn ethanol is any sort of example, I don't believe the EROI of sugarbeet ethanol or barley ethanol would be significantly more than one (does anybody have numbers?).

Cellulosic ethanol may be much better, but if I remember correctly, it will not be produced commercially for quite some time, if ever, due to technical problems.

I don't deny we'll need lots of liquid fuels in the future, but surely there must be better alternatives... Any ideas?

Cellulosic ethanol production depends on processes well known in paper pulping. It takes a lot of energy to separate lignin out from fiber and the resulting black mass gums up fireboxes. The entire process has a negative energy return.
American "wild rice" is not related to conventional rice. It is easily capable of growing in colder areas like Finland, but is not a practical crop for a number of reasons. Perhaps biotechnology will come to the rescue and help out the farmers in colder regions like Finland some day.
Or at least not leave Finland vulnerable to crop failures in case of complexity breakdown in international transport because of a limited nuclear war.
Until then, I suggest you budget for a national food reserve of a year or so.
Oh great, thanks. I was getting worried, silly me! :-D
Great news! Its good with neighbours that share the same goals.

I guess this will lead to a sixth nuclear reactor in Finland and a technology race with Swedish companies in making fuel and industrial chemicals out of wood biomass. Perhaps you even could dust off the old plans for nuclear district heating for Helsinki? That could revive the nuclear district heating plans for Stockholm.

Ethanol and RME will never give any large volumes but every addition helps and it makes more sense then fallow fields.

Wonder if Norway will follow? How about complementing oil with a nordic biogas and natural gas grid that transfers hundreds of local inputs and norwegian natural gas?

Well, do you have any idea how much energy it takes to produce a new car? Maybe it is wiser to use the old cars...
depends who you ask but 20 boe seemed to be the most reasonably calculated number I could find.
Great news Jussi!

I was curious about energy number in Finland (I checked BP-2006) and I was very surprised about this:

So Finland has started a Powerdown!

You guys have comsumed 10% less in 2005 than in 2004. This is the record. Only Lithuania is close: 9% decline.

This has been achieved by cutting coal consumption by half. Of course electricity generation has declined: by 18%. Lithuania is champ is this cathegory with a 23% decline.

What is happening Jussi? Do you know?

Hi Roberto!

Frankly, I am puzzled. I really didn't know about this, I haven't seen anything like this mentioned in the news. What's the source?

Off the top of my head I could say that weather can make a big difference here, a warm winter requires way less energy than a very cold one. But it can't explain 10% decline, now can it?



the sourse is BP Statistical Review of world energy 2006. In the this execel file
go to the Tab "Primary Energy - Cons by fuel". I made the graph form those numbers.

The data for the electricity generation is from the Tab "Electricity Generation". It looks that by Siggi's refference electricity comsumption decined only by 2.5% (while producuction declined by 18%).

Mild weather and prolonged paper industry dispute
reduced electricity consumption

Electricity imports, emissions trading and decline in electricity consumption reduced condensing energy production,
carbon dioxide emissions down by over 50 percent
Electricity consumption: - 2.5 percent,
electricity consumption of industry: - 6.2 percent
household electricity consumption: 1.1 percent


Like in preceding years, Finland imported electricity last year from Russia almost to maximum import capacity.  The balance of Finland's power trade with the west had been markedly weighted in favour of exports in 2004, but now returned to large-scale imports. In the past 40 years, exports have been predominant in trading with western neighbours only in years of exceptional drought.


Finland usually imports about 15% of its electricity consumption. However, in 2004, net imports fell to 5% because of droughts in Norway, in 2005, net imports were at 20%!

Looks like nothing has really changed yet in Finland.

So it looks like BP statistical review of world energy 2006 in the TAB "Primary energy - by fuel" does not account for imported electricity.  

So the real (including the imported electricity) primary energy comsumption between 2004 and 2005 would be very similar, with a little decline due to high tempetatures (climate change has its positive effects).

In summary, IMO the explanation must be that coal burning was done in Russia instead of Finland.

The drop in power consumption was because of an industry dispute in the pulp and paper industry only. Household consumption was up 1.1%.

As regards coal:
Power generation from coal was down by 7,4%. The electrical efficiency of coal powered plant should be about 35%, so coal consumption for power generation was down by about 20%.
The remaining drop of 30% of coal consumption occured in central heating stations because of the mild weather.

The coal burning was largely replaced by hydro power from Sweden. Imports from Russia have been at maximum capacity for years.

Thanks for clarifying this!
I don't know why do I venture into expanations when I don't have a clue.
To clarify this a bit more:

Finland usually runs the coal powered plants only in winter, which makes sense. In winter, they can run them in co-generation mode, so the heat is not wasted, but used for heating. In addition to that, in winter, hydro electricity generation is down any way.

In summer, they usually import hydro electricity from Sweden.

In 2004, however, there was this drought in Sweden, so Sweden was unable to export, and Finland had to run their coal power plants in summer as well - and waste the heat.

Dante at PeakOil.com posted this info yesterday:

Yes, I would expect oil and product imports to be just about record highs right about now (with the possible exception of the post-Katrina bailout floatila by the IEA). US oil imports are up about 2.5% year over year recently, but products are up a much more significant 13.5%.

Last week, word got out that the Saudis were draining down their Caribean inventories at a rapid rate. I would not even be surprised if oil inventories in the US are still rising due to picked up imports. However that would be a misleading indication of where oil supplies will be in the future - especially if another Gulf of Mexico hurricane pops up (albeit the GOM is much more quiet this year than last).


With the news that Venezuela is declining, eight of the top ten net oil exporters (based on a 2004 list of top exporters)  are showing production declines since December (EIA).  The other two are flat.  

IMO, the Economist Magazine comment about Saudi Arabia is a huge buy signal for oil.

Don't buy till after the november election.

This year's October surprise will be cheap oil. Brought to you by our sponsors.

Oops, my bad.  Crude stocks down slightly also.
Latest EIA numbers:

  • US production: DOWN 6.2% (YTD = 222-day average)

  • US imports: UP 4.2% (4 week avg)

[ both numbers 2006 v 2005 ]
Although BP shut in  half of Prudhoe bay, US domestic production increased by 6000 b/day from 5,144 to 5,150 for the week ending 8/11/06!! Is that plausible ?
Couple of articles from Fortune...

Ethanol could leave the world hungry

One tankful of the latest craze in alternative energy could feed one person for a year, Lester Brown tells Fortune.

How the energy business is drowning Louisiana

America's oil and gas infrastructure needs Louisiana's coastal wetlands. But it is helping to destroy them.

I'm not sure that the 'starving children of Gwondanaland' argument will cut much ice in the general public. I think that the real clout in Lester Brown's article lay in the sentence that followed:

"If today's entire U.S. grain harvest were converted into fuel for cars, it would still satisfy less than one-sixth of U.S. demand".

Especially when you take climate change into consideration...

2006 ag losses worst single-year total ever

Drought and hot temperatures across the state -- it was the warmest first six months on record -- continue to wreak havoc. As much as 58 percent of cotton, corn, sorghum and soybeans are in poor to very poor condition, the latter meaning any harvest is unlikely, Anderson said.

Corn production is forecast to be down 26 percent, and production of peanuts and sorghum were expected to be down 40 percent. Pecan growers also expect to see a smaller harvest.

Cattle producers, who were coming off two good years of moisture and a robust market, are feeling increasing pain from the drought.

Water, feed and pasture supplies continue to shrink in the nation's leading cattle-producing state, contributing to an increase of about 200,000 head of cattle being sold to date in 2006 compared to the same period last year, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association spokesman Matt Brockman said.

"We've never seen it go from bad to worse this fast before," he said. "It doesn't look like it's going to improve anytime soon."

I view that as one of the saddest examples of the poor state we are in.  I actually had this argument with a friend of mine.  Off the cuff, i said 'i cant imagine much of a moral justification using a significant portion of our grain supply to fuel our vehicles while 1/3 of the world goes to bed hungry'.  His response, 'Not my problem.  I need to fuel my car, and I need it not to cost me too much'.  Sad to think we both went to catholic school together, and he otherwise considers himself a "good christian" (i mean no insult to christians out there, merely pointing out the lack of honest morality when it comes to policy)  A while back some one mentioned that we might one day see bumper stickers reading "nuke their ass and get the gas", i fear sometimes that we may see those sooner than we think.  
Tongue in cheek: You know that might work seeing is how I read about nuclear bopmbs turning sand to glass.  When the oil is under glass, you can find it easier!  Bombs away!
As much as we focus on defining the problem of peak oil and evaluating solutions, I do think that geopolitics will actually pre-empt efforts at technofixes and "powerdown" solutions as well.

The planet needs to lose a few billion people.  Most people want to survive and to live like waelthy "Americans" on a planet with elbow room or "living room."

My guess is that many political leaders are well aware that most people will not survive the next 20 or 30 years, and are simply trying to ride through the long, slow, violent crash as best as they can.

While global climate change sweeps over us like a tsunami, much of our resources will be focused on killing off other people so that "we can get our....cheap energy, cheap stuff at StuffMart."

We will in no way be prepared for peak oil, let alone the larger energy crisis, soil depletion, water shortages, and weather changes.

The most crucial aspect of this is that political and economic winners in our current robber baron culture do not see themselves as any npart of the cause of our problem, but only see themselves as being responsible for carrying on the staus quo.

Note that the Bill and Linda Gates and Warren Buffet have no concern for climate change or energy problems, but (sincerely, I think) want to help bring medical care and self-sufficiency to many who are being otherwise left behind.

Very little attention is given to the great "Die Off" and "Kill Off" related to resource depletion and habitat destruction.  Instead, much of our supposedly philanthropic attention is structured to be blind to these issues and to simply "include more people" in the energy-and-resource-intensive status quo.

At any rate, I do think that the Die Off/Kill Off will short-circuit attempts to find solutions to peak oil, while climate change wreaks havoc with everyone all the while.

You know, for the Gates/Buffet foundation to win in the long run, they have to solve the "biggest" problems.  They've chosen the ones they think will affect the greatest number of people in the world over the next few decades.

If they, or any of their panel of experts, had a hint of die-off you don't think they'd jump on it?  Of course they would.

I'm sorry but to see this as denial, or missing the boat, or whatever becomes a self-serving loop:  "we don't have a hope because no one sees the problems I see"

Be careful that a confirmation bias does not feed itself.

That applies the other way as well. Are you sure that confirmation bias has not locked them into a view that assumes the continuation of the world pretty much as we know it? Didn't Diamond document that some civilizations did exactly that, being unable to see the real problem right in front of their noses and instead adhering to the local faith of the day?
It can't be confirmation bias because I did not believe those were the world's biggest problems ;-).

For what it's worth, I think they make a pretty good case.

And I have a great faith in Bill's drive to "win" at anything.

I forwarded the CNN article to a trader friend of mine who responded
Addressing aspects of this article about which I know a little, I have to disagree. First, corn and soy (beans, meal and oil) prices are at several year lows. I am surprised to see that the demand for the fuel-use diverted grains and/or legumes hasn't been greater, but there you go, prices tell the story, and they are cheap right now, and falling. As for sugar, the author makes 3 mistakes. First, sugar is hardly a nourishing food. Second, prices of world sugar (the one that trades freely) are up 40% in the last 18 months, not 100% as the author claimed. It's probably up because supplies are a little tighter for general reasons and because prices were quite depressed last year. Third, #11 Sugar, or world sugar, only represents a very small amount of residual trade, less than 15%: most sugar is bought under long-term contracts. The sentence "already commodity prices are rising" is SO misleading, they (other than crude oil) are making new lows daily! Not only misleading, but the author is trying to make it sound scary. Wheat prices are an exception - they're up 4 cents "this year," since Dec 31, or 1/10 of a percent. At their high in mid-July, which had to do with hot weather scares, corn prices were up a max of 16%. They were never up 25% from year end.
The interview with RR works fine in Firefox if you are current with your updates. Please please don't point folks back to IE as a web browser!

I'm using version of Firefox with version 8 of the macromedia flash plug in, the PC is windows XP Home SP2

Chill out.  Most people keep a copy of IE around for sites that don't work with Firefox (or whatever browser they are using).  You kind of have to.  Much as I like Firefox, there are quite a few sites out there are only work with IE.  

I have not updated past 1.6 yet, because it usually breaks my favorite extensions.  I like to give them time to catch up.  


"Most people keep a copy of IE around for sites that don't work with Firefox"

Fine, but the site in question is not one of those right? if we define "Firefox" as "the current version of Firefox"

There are lots of sites out there that won't work with obsolete versions of various browsers, IE included.

IMO it's a fairly unsound strategy to continue to use old web software in this age of web based security and other issues (spyware, addware, mal-activeware of various sorts)

if we define "Firefox" as "the current version of Firefox"

I don't.  Firefox is very much a work in progress, with constant updates, some more successful than others.  It's not reasonable to expect people to have the most updated version of any browser, IMO.  (And poor Web site design to require it, but that's another story.)  But for Firefox, it's really unreasonable.  1.6 came out only a few months ago, after all.  It's not like I'm still trying to run Netscape 3.  (Which I do still have a copy of, though, just to test my Web sites with.)  

In the modern parlance, all software is a work in progress ;-)

(Everybody has a internet link to software updates Win, Apple, Open Source.)

Sorry if this is flogging the point, but I just can't resist ;>

The interview will not play with Internet Explorer version 6.0.2900 SP2, which I think is as current as you can get short of going to IE 7, as shipped and then autoupdated by Microsoft (just tried) because it requires version 8 (the most current version) of the Flash plugin which seems not to be part of Microsofts autoupdating, but needs manual updating by the user.


I'm running IE 6, and it works for me.  

It doesn't work in Firefox for me.  It doesn't even show you the link to click on to get the interview, so you're left not even knowing there's something wrong, let alone what you have to do to fix it.  

If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll try it in Opera and Netscape tonight when I get home.

Tainter's right: complexity's going to kill us...

Tainter's right: complexity's going to kill us...

Especially in software and software is everywhere.
I suspect that the total time wasted by users in bugs, virus and updates is SEVERAL times greater that the total development time.

I'm listening to it in Firefox now...no problem.
Since you cannot actually remove IE from your system anyway (thanks Uncle Billy! grumble), it still sees occassional if sporadic use by most of us Firefox devotees for the very reason Leanan cites.
Infuriating Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial about recent news that MARTA is leaning toward bus rapid transit for the inner Beltline project.  It says coal-powered electric rail would be more polluting than "clean-burning diesel fuel or natural gas."  Sadly, AlanfromBE is out of pocket.  Can anyone else give me some data for a LTE to counter this?  

MARTA, which is conducting a comparative analysis of the project, has presented some preliminary findings about the most suitable modes of travel for Beltline riders. Using a standard set of industry criteria, the analysis suggested that bus rapid transit -- a trainlike vehicle that runs on rubber wheels -- would deliver the best bang for the taxpayer dollar.

According to the study, which is still preliminary, BRT would cost up to $571 million for a complete, 22-mile loop compared to $885 million for light rail. Streetcars, once commonplace in Atlanta and experiencing a recent revival in popularity, would cost about $843 million. Those findings have angered some Beltline supporters who envision a light-rail system gliding quietly between the 45 intown neighborhoods it will serve. They worry that BRT (which is, in fact, a glorified bus) would only add more paved surfaces underfoot and more pollution to the region's already dicey air quality.

That's not necessarily so. Buses can run on clean-burning diesel fuel or natural gas. Either energy source emits less pollution than an electrified light-rail or streetcar system that gets its juice from coal-burning power plants. Some BRT buses can also run on guideways that reduce noise and require little paving.

The editorial does say that other factors such as rising fuel costs will be taken into account before a final decision, so I want to hit them on the pollution issue.
Saudi Oil: Far from Twilight

Energy Tribune - Leading the debate. Beating the Street

Energy Tribune's Editor-in-Chief is Michael Economides who has written a decent introduction to oil, The Color of Oil.  Looks like they have some other interesting articles.

Posted on Aug. 09, 2006

By Michael Lynch
Saudi Oil: Far from Twilight

With the recent problems in the oil market, renewed attention has been focused on the theories of M. King Hubbert and a new generation of oil supply modelers, who believe that geological resources are scarce and a peak in global oil production is near. In fact, these analysts - usually geologists - are unfamiliar with statistical modeling and don't recognize that they are engaged in curve fitting, not scientific analysis. The repeated failures of their predictions and their refusal to address substantive criticisms of their theories and methods are damning indictments of their claim to be scientific.

The most recent controversy over Saudi oil has focused on assertions that the Saudis are experiencing insurmountable problems in their oil fields, that their reserves are overstated, and that their production is near a peak. A debate two years ago between Matthew Simmons and Nansen Saleri at the Center for Strategic and International Studies failed to quiet the alarmist voices, although again, the alarmists did not address the substantive issues that were raised. Colin Campbell, for his part, subsequently used some of the data provided by Saleri and ignored others (such as oil in place) and massaged some of the numbers to conclude that Saudi proved reserves data are actually original reserves - that is, the combination of cumulative production and proved reserves. His evidence for this: the resulting numbers were approximately similar.

One red herring comes from the opposite side of the equation: the global need for Saudi (and OPEC and Arabian Gulf) oil. Most recent official forecasts project that sometime in the next quarter-century, the world will require as much as 20 to 25 million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia to meet global demand. Even though that would only represent a reserves-to-production ratio of 30 to 1 - still triple the U.S. level - numerous analysts have suggested such expectations are absurd and physically impossible.

Again, this demonstrates the alarmists' relative ignorance of the history of oil market forecasting. Since the Iranian Oil Crisis in 1979, nearly every forecast has predicted a near-term peak in non-OPEC supplies, and soaring OPEC production and market share, with Saudi Arabia the primary contributor. However, not only has OPEC production just regained its 1979 level, but its market share has been flat, if not declining, for a decade, since its post-1986 recovery.

This repetition of failed expectations reflects much of the nature of this debate: the alarmists are not expert in statistical analysis, forecasting oil supply, or resource economics. They are prone to errors of omission and especially prone to weak (or non-existent) analysis, most typically offering facts out of context as proof of their assertions.

For instance, much of the alarmist commentary consists of the vague remarks and rumors about the Saudi oil fields being dogs, their massive equipment purchases and so forth, which should not be given much credence. The overwhelming desire of the world oil industry to gain access to exploration acreage in Saudi Arabia should be ample evidence of how the country's resources are perceived by knowledgeable industry insiders.

Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, is particularly talented at ignoring contradictory data. He argues in one place that the 1976 Aramco estimate of 110 billion barrels of initial proved reserves should be treated as credible, suggesting "game over" since production to date is about half of that, and he believes that in three decades, the industry has not been able to increase the recovery factor. And elsewhere, he notes that peak production for a field occurs at the half-way point, by which measure Ghawar - using the 1976 estimates - should have peaked decades ago. Similarly, he refers to U.S. government studies of the Saudi resources as being "secret," and then says they were located in various libraries.

Some of Simmons' arguments have already proven fallacious, such as the suggestion in early 2004 that there didn't seem to be any significant amount of surplus capacity (in fact, production has since grown by about 1.5 million barrels per day), or that other non-producing fields had too many problems to be brought on line. Just as some Hubbert modelers interpret the drop in discoveries and/or production in OPEC countries as evidence of scarcity, rather than attempts to stabilize the market, they see the Saudi failure to produce all the oil in the ground as a sign that the fields couldn't be produced, or at least, not without great difficulty. In fact, M. A. Adelman used the investment plans of the Saudis to estimate that the average cost of adding five new fields would be about $3 per barrel.

This article has additional information available for Members. Subscribe today to get the

I'm not sure if this is the end of the article. Or just a teaser to get you to subscribe. If it is just the beginning, I don't know how much more there is. I know there are those here who will find it entertaining.

I find his use of the term "alarmist" to be cute.  At first he vaguely identifies them as "analysts-usually geologists-." Then takes it all out on Simmons. Who isn't a geologist, as far as I know.

Mike Lynch, the "expert".  Funny that his bio doesn't actually list his technical qualifications, just how he is so good at predicting the future of oil.

Does this qualify as good?  From his International Petroleum Price, Supply and Demand: Projections Through 2020.

"But GRI's mid-March analysis, titled ''International Petroleum Price, Supply and Demand Projections Through 2020,'' offered the view that prices in 1994 dollars would stick to a narrow range between $16-to-$20 through the next two decades"

Anybody know anything about his real qualifications.  As far as I can tell, he looks about as qualified as George Bush to make predictions.

Obviously he does like The Who, so he has that going for him.

"Oil scarcity, Oil crises, and alternative energies--don't be fooled again," Applied Energy, Vol. 64, no. 1-4, September-December 1999.

Oil Supply Security in 2004: Does the Song Remain the Same?

Enviro attny,

I don't know anything about Lynch's qualifications, but here are those of ARAMCO's Saleri:

Saleri is Aramco's head of reservoir management and in that role, he oversees the company's well optimization projects. He has also been leading Aramco's push to produce more natural gas. He holds masters and doctorate degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia and is on the advisory board to the petroleum engineering program at the University of Houston. Saleri worked for Chevron for 18 years before joining Aramco in 1992.

- The Energy Tribune, 30 June 2006 [http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=157&idli=3)]

The problem with the credentials issue ("My PhD is bigger than yours") is that it can cut both ways -- many of the leading peak oil activists are also 'amateurs'. For example, Richard Heinberg and Julian Darley were (I think) initially musicians!

He argues in one place that the 1976 Aramco estimate of 110 billion barrels of initial proved reserves should be treated as credible, suggesting "game over" since production to date is about half of that, and he believes that in three decades, the industry has not been able to increase the recovery factor. And elsewhere, he notes that peak production for a field occurs at the half-way point, by which measure Ghawar - using the 1976 estimates - should have peaked decades ago
I believe that's false, Simmons says that Ghawar is at 55 Gb in cumulative production which means that it has just past his midpoint in production (50% produced), not decades ago.
Whipple interviews Skrebowski:


Very nice!  With comments on the CERA report - hint: he's not impressed...(of course you knew that)

"It ain't what you know that gets you into trouble, it's what you know for sure that just ain't so."  Mark Twain

The sugar article is full of unsubstantiated nonsense. I have yet to see evidence for an 8:1 energy return for cane sugar. The number is bandied about without reference and made ridiculous with "ethanol can be produced more cheaply than the current cheapest oil -- without subsidies."

The entire brazilian sugar ethanol business is a unsustainable social subsidy--an employment program resting on the countries cheap petroleum and diminishing Panatel water supply. Sugar cane production uses the virtual slave labor of 8 workers/hectare and slash and burn methods that deplete the soil in 30 years.

Actually, most Brazillian sugar cane fields are abandoned after 3-4 years, and even less in the north....they quickly become unproductive.
"most Brazillian sugar cane fields are abandoned after 3-4 years"

Any link to support this statement, which appears inaccurate?

Brazil has been by far the world's largest exporter and producer of sugar for decades. This has bnot been done by rotating fields every few years. In Thailand, where I live, fields have grown sugar cane for many years and the conditions are no better than Brazil.

Here are five studies that all cite figures of positive 8-10 EROEI for ethanol from sugar cane. I have given page references for three of them and will find and post the others later.

1) FO Licht presentation to METI,

EROEI Calcs: Page 20

2) IEA Automotive Fuels for the Future

3) IEA: Biofuels for Transport

EROEI calcs: page 60

4) Worldwatch Institute & Government of Germany: Biofuels for Transport  (Link to register - study is free)


EROEI Calcs (for 12 fuel types): Page 17

5) Potential for Biofuels for Transport in Developing Countries

http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/IW3P/IB/2006/01/05/000090341_20060105 161036/Rendered/PDF/ESM3120PAPER0Biofuels.pdf

I was pondering, if I were the Saudis (or OPEC for that matter), what advantage I might be able to gain from having access to clear data about their own oil fields.  I recall reading or hearing Simmons say something along the lines of "If we had access to all the oil field data we could determine fairly accurately when the peak would occur."  

This is pure speculation but could the Saudis or perhaps Opec with the access to their own data, determine the peak?  Would they keep it to themselves?  How would they take economic advantage of that information and what would be the signs to an outside observer?

I don't think they are keeping it to themselves to many foreign contractors work for Aramco for that to happen.

I think that our world goverments are aware of the situation in KSA but I suspect its not being pressed for political reasons the goverment of KSA has not figured out how to handle the internal fallout from public knowledge of the status of there oil industry. When millions of poor saudi's find out the pie is half eaten I think there will be serious internal issues.

The highest probabilty result once peak oil hits the average saudi is disruption of the remaining supply so the best course of action is to actually not talk about a pending collapse in production in KSA if it is in fact occuring.

I don't think anyone believes KSA will survive peak oil much less the following production drops.

I don't think they are keeping it to themselves to many foreign contractors work for Aramco for that to happen.
Ok, but how many contractors have access to all of the kindom's oil field data?  What I'm suggesting is that if they wanted to they could analyze their data and determine the date of world peaking more accurately than anyone else.  Why wouldn't they do this?  Couldn't the Saudis, armed with that information, take economic advantage?  I'm not really thinking about SA the country or their public.  What I'm talking about is the elites making some money off of inside information.
I firmly believe that over population is the real issue at work and this article due out for Sunday is proof positive.  I haven't read Lester Browns book, but it's on my list.


The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol, for instance, could feed one person for a year. If today's entire U.S. grain harvest were converted into fuel for cars, it would still satisfy less than one-sixth of U.S. demand.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that world grain consumption will increase by 20 million tons this year, roughly 1%. Of that, 14 million tons will be used to fuel cars in the U.S., leaving only six million tons to cover the world's growing food needs.

Did you hear this bizzare news?

There are now more overweight people across the world than hungry ones, according to experts. US professor Barry Popkin said all countries - both rich and poor - had failed to address the obesity boom.


I agree that we still have huge looming population-related problems, but apparently we are carrying a little fat (literally) as we face that ...

So basically the rich countries are so rich that the average person can carry extra fat if they so choose.  The poor countries are so poor that the average person starves to near death.  I recently came across a stat(can't remember where, damn) but basically the wealth distribution worldwide used to be 65/35, but now the distribution breaks into 80/20.  The rich have managed to grab more of the growth than anyone, least of their worries are the third world countries barking at their ankles.

I met a guy who turned out to be formery employeed at Bear Sterns and we started talking about all the oil issues.  We talked for a while and since he was a finance man, I pelted him with the numbers facing the country as a whole(debt etc).  I brought up the bankruptcy article written by the STL Fed reserve and he asked what would literally happen if we declared bankruptcy.  I had no thoughts on the matter other than obvious quick ideas especially the reserve currency status.  With the massive debt hanging over us, I don't know that we won't see starving people here as well.

Maybe we need better data to contradict the article, but he didn't say "the rich countries" ... he said the global norm:
He told the conference at the Gold Coast convention centre near Brisbane: "Obesity is the norm globally and under nutrition, while still important in a few countries and in targeted populations in many others, is no longer the dominant disease."
... and on that note, i'm going to ride my bike to lunch. see ya ;-)
Obesity IS actually on the rise worldwide, even among 3rd world populations and those in traditionally famine-prone areas. The reason is not yet known why, but suspects range from a human adinovirus (that makes humans fat) to genetically modified foodstuffs to just plain unhealthy food.

"The Economist" calls obesity a disease of the world's poor.
Poor and fat do not, historically or traditionally, go hand in hand. In primitive societies and in prior centuries, being well fed was a sign of wealth (and status). Something is definitely amiss here....

It used to be that being well-fed was a sign of wealth.  Now, standards have changed, and even those we consider poor are mostly well-fed.

20% of the US is considered poor, but malnutrition is perhaps hitting 1%.

Poor and fat do not, historically or traditionally, go hand in hand. In primitive societies and in prior centuries, being well fed was a sign of wealth (and status). Something is definitely amiss here...

Poor people in England often make a habit of eating things like 'chip butties' (buttered french fry sandwiches) because they're cheap. These people may be overweight, but could not be said to be well fed. If memory serves, some of them have even been getting scurvy in recent years. (sorry, no link, just memory fragment from old BBC newscast)

Hello Tate423,

Don't forget in many Third World countries that wealth polarization is even more extreme than in the US.

MEXICO CITY - Carlos Slim is rich. Insanely rich. Astronomically rich. If you took his $37.6 billion and laid the dollar bills end to end, they would stretch to the moon and back seven times, that's how rich he is.

That the world's third-wealthiest man is from Mexico, a country still plagued by poverty, is remarkable. But what's more remarkable is this: He's not the only ultrarich Mexican out there.

Mexico is quickly becoming a land of business dynasties, families that have grown fabulously wealthy through a combination of government favoritism and the privatization of hundreds of state-run enterprises in the 1990s.

"We have a huge concentration of capital in this country," said Celso Garrido, an economist at Mexico City's Autonomous Metropolitan University. "They're the superrich, the fantasticos."

These are the Mexicans who drive Porsches and live in mansions in Lomas de Chapultepec, the Beverly Hills of Mexico City. The kind of people who have no trouble getting U.S. visas and who fly into Scottsdale Municipal Airport on private jets for weekend shopping trips.

I can vouch for the personal jets because unfortunately I live underneath the Scottsdale Airport flight path--more and more zooming overhead as the years have gone by.

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

Wealth polarization can lead to revolution.  I'm pretty sure the French got tired of not eating and thus took matters into their own hands.
i would think the 'year without a summer' played heavly into favor of revolution.
The French Revolution occurred from 1789-1799. The "year without a summer" was 1816, which followed the 1815 eruption of Tambora.

Please explain to me how the eruption of Tambora in 1815 was a factor in the French Revolution of 1789-1799.

guess i was wrong on that.
OK, you guys win. Starting with Bob, this is the funniest exchange I'm seen all day. Tate gets second place for trying to prove we didn't land on the moon. The truth is(and I have eyewitnesses)when it happened there were people who, as they saw it live on TV, refused to believe it was happening. The incident I refer to happened overseas, but still.
"The rich have managed to grab more of the growth than anyone"

That would be the fiat money system in operation.  Inflation caused by the debasing of currency simply moves money to the people that control the money.

Oil is also a big part of that.  The vast streams of dollars coming mostly from the poor and middle class go to oil companies and oil countries.  They don't sit on the big piles of cash.  It is returned to purchase assets, pay dividends, etc.  Most of the return money ends up in the hands of the already wealthy, making them even more wealthy.

I believe that this transfer of money from poor to rich has increased exponentially in the last 5 years and will continue to accelerate until the economic crash.  I predict the crash in the next 24 months.

enviro atny -

You got that right!  

Our (US) financial system is deliberately structrured to do just that. Money (whether inflated or delfated) is winding up in the hands of those who have had most of it to begin with. The goal of TPTB is to keep it that way .... at all cost.

I am becoming more and more convinced that it is a totally rigged game.  But sooner or later (most likely later) the masses are going to realize that they have been being steadily screwed for  a long, long time. And when they finally do realize that,  look out!

Vast disparities in wealth within a society is little different than a large difference in electrical potential .... sooner or later there will be a big spark, after which things will equalize.  

This situation in the US cannot go on forever. And it won't.

Consumer prices pressured by energy costs

WASHINGTON - Consumer inflation accelerated in July, reflecting a big jump in gasoline and other energy prices. In evidence that the economy is slowing, industrial output in July slipped to just half the June pace.
Yet I keep seeing MSM articles touting the recent gains in the NYSE attributed to lower than expected inflation.  I almost laughed since I read the same report and came up with a 5% inflation figure and that's OK?  This is asinine and nothing will change.  We will wake up one day and we will begin measuring time in much the same way we did following 9/11.  Everything will become before and after the GREAT crash or something to that effect.  If you look hard enough there's leaks sprouting all over. I just think it's going to be like a motor and it just seizes for whatever bursts first and takes the rest with it.
Congrats to you Robert.

Your interview was quite informative.

I agree on most points but not on others.

What I found interesting was mention that your previous work was on biomass->ethanol production paths.

Was this via gasification or bacterial fermentation?

Microbial. We were mainly using rumen microorganisms, but I also tried with termite gut microorganisms. To my knowledge, I was the first person to ever try this. I got some butanol by doing this, but with a very low yield. The reactor probably also made methane, but we only looked at liquid products. Perhaps if I could have correctly replicated the termite gut chemistry I could have gotten yields up. It still makes sense to me that since termites are so efficient at converting cellulose, that would be a good place to look for a template organism to do a bit of genetic tinkering.

Gaddy at Arkansas was looking at a gasification process at the same time, and I think my research advisor (Mark Holtzapple) collaborated with him a bit. Personally, I think a thermochemical process of gasification of the biomass followed by chemical conversion to fuel makes a lot more sense than the inefficient microbial processes.

I have not heard anything much recently about this company: Changing World Technogies. They appear to have an interesting process for thermal depolymerization that seems to be widely applicable. Oil from garbage sounds too god be true. I am sure this has been discussed before. Whats the consensus on this technology?
It flopped.
They claimed they could make oil for $15/barrel, when in reality it cost closer to $80/bbl, even with subsidies (and has been rising steadily with the cost of fossil fuels). They've since closed their pilot project and are uprooting, moving to Europe.  I'll re-locate some references/sources for you if you so desire.
it's like a man who is starving putting his own feces into machine that makes it consumable. And at a very high cost.
how big is the tip?

I've seen the economics of a comparable process. It broke even in markets with high tipping fees (for waste).

OPEC crude production fell by 260,000 barrels per day (b/d) to 29.69 million b/d in July from 29.95 million b/d in June, a Platts survey of OPEC and oil industry officials showed August 11....Excluding Iraq, the ten members with quotas pumped an average 27.62 million b/d in July, down 210,000 b/d from June's 27.83 million b/d....


The article is very good.  There is lots of data written there.  Dont get fooled in reading the monthly production numbers, they are written backward (july, june, may, april, march) instead of forward (reverse order).  This could be misleading at first.

Platts gives the reason why the supply from OPEC was lowered and mainly we can attribute it to maintenance, repairs or attack on infrastructure.  Altough it can somewhat affect prices because of localised transfer of supply or using reserves available.

It will be interesting to see how repair and maintenance will affect or delay planed increase in production in the comming years.  

I know Chris Skrebowsky and Campbell predicted small increase of production up until 2010 but is the maintenance and repair problem could reduce that planed increase?

Can maintenance problem be big enough to reduce the net available production?  I know it is more of logistic problem and that it is hard to predict unplanned problems.  

Lyondell buys out Citco refinery:


All part of the Chavez plan to get out of US market before he lowers the boom?

Yup. Oil is a weapon, and Venzuela's oil production is in decline (not counting tar). Might as well sell what's left to your friends, rather than your enemies.