DrumBeat: August 2, 2006

[Update by Leanan on 08/02/06 at 9:32 AM EDT]

Oil tops $76 as storm heads toward US Gulf

Oil rose above $76 on Wednesday as a tropical storm gathered strength and headed toward the Gulf of Mexico, threatening U.S. oil and gas rigs still recovering from last year's devastating hurricanes.

Heat wave strains power grids in half of nation

In New York, Consolidated Edison asked customers to disconnect computers and TVs. Thermostats at train stations were raised, bridge and tunnel lights were turned off, and the Pepsi-Cola sign on Brooklyn's waterfront was dimmed.

"I am asking New Yorkers to conserve energy and say a prayer," said City Councilman Eric Gioia, who criticized ConEd's performance in last month's blackouts.

Not looking good for Cantarell: Mexico's Largest Oil Field Output Falls to 4-Year Low

Mexican crude oil output at Cantarell, the world's second-largest field, fell faster than expected in June to a four-year low, signaling the government will miss production targets.

The field, which accounts for about half of Mexico's crude production, yielded 1.74 million barrels a day in June, 13 percent less than a year ago and the least since November 2001, according to Energy Ministry data. Petroleos Mexicanos, the state oil monopoly, forecast Cantarell output would fall 6 percent this year to average 1.9 million barrels per day.

The drop worsens the outlook for Mexico's crude exports, about 80 percent of which go to the U.S., and for the country's public finances. Taxes on oil sales account for almost 40 percent of Mexico's government revenue. Cantarell is the world's No. 2 field by output and Mexico's biggest.

"The situation is probably much graver than the government would like us to think it is," said David Shields, an independent oil consultant based in Mexico City who has covered the industry for 18 years. "Oil production and oil exports are going to decline considerably over the next three years."

It's time to invest for $100 oil

When Chaos Replaces Oil

Peter Lloyd is preparing for a ghastly future. The world he foresees is one in which it will cost $700 or $1000 to fill the family car - if petrol is available for private use.

It will be a world in which the scarcity and expense of oil, widespread pollution, environmental ruin and climate change will bring down modern civilisation in terrible anarchy as countries go to war over oil, fresh water or arable land; as ordinary people try to adjust to living primitive lives without the medicines and technology that support their lives in the 21st century.

Dr Lloyd, an anaesthetist at the Hawke's Bay Hospital, estimates about 80 percent of the world's six billion people will die of hunger, disease or "slaughter on a scale never before seen in history".

On the other side of the oil ‘peak’

Heinberg in San Francisco: Peak experience

A Game: Date That Quote!!

* "Whale Blubber Scarce -- World to Go Dark"

No, I didn't make it up. And no, it wasn't Herman Melville.

The month - November. The year - 1857. The source - The Boston Globe. Really.

Gasoline's fledgling rivals: the race to power your car

The coming "war" with Canada

U.K.: Study warns new energy law will see prices plummet

New legislation on energy efficiency could sharply reduce the value of much of Britain's commercial property, an architecture firm warned today.

...In a report published today, the international architects Gensler said 75% of property developers believe that the impending legislation will have a negative impact on the value of older, more energy inefficient buildings.

Rationing could be key to war on climate change

Governments may be forced to turn to wartime-style rationing to combat climate change, or risk mass migration and more than 40 million deaths, an expert in global warming has warned.

Hybrids in the Third World?

Customers pony up for renewable energy

[Update by Leanan on 08/02/06 at 10:53 AM EDT]

Oil off highs on supply report

Gasoline stockpile posts smaller drop than expected; crude dwindles, distillates in-line.

You can read the Weekly Petroleum Data Report here.

"Stop whining; ExxonMobil is doing its job"
by Jim Jubak


Sorry, but ExxonMobil (XOM) critics are just plain wrong. They've picked the wrong target for their rage. ExxonMobil is actually doing a good job at what an oil company is supposed to do: find oil and gas and sell it to make money for its shareholders.


Face it. The world has a shortage of cheap, easily refined oil. It's become harder and harder to find significant new reserves of oil -- especially reserves outside the control of the national oil companies of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and the rest of OPEC. And much of tomorrow's supply of hydrocarbons is going to come from unconventional sources that are expensive to tap and that take a long, long time to get into production. I don't think we're ever going back to the days of cheap gas.

A little light from the end of the tunnel...
Greg in MO

Love affair with cars starts to skid
By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Writer
Tue Aug 1, 3:22 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Americans love their automobiles, but not as much as they used to.

Nearly seven in 10 drivers enjoy getting behind the wheel, while the rest think it's a chore. In 1991, nearly eight in 10 said they liked driving.

The biggest reasons for dreading the road: traffic and the behavior of other drivers. Only 3 percent point to high gas prices.

"Other drivers get on my nerves," said Steve Heavisides, a 45-year-old teacher from Vernon, Conn., who had just returned home from a short drive. "There was a women who could have gone right on red and she was just sitting there talking on her cell phone. People don't pay attention and that gets on your nerves."

About one in four drivers thinks of his or her car as "something special" instead of just a "means of transportation," according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Nearly one in three thinks it has "a personality of its own."

Americans have been loving their cars for about a century, buying increasingly bigger, faster and more expensive cars while the rest of the world moves toward economy and efficiency. But the new poll suggests that driving is becoming more of a burden for many.

The souring attitudes evolved as many Americans moved farther from central cities, generating longer commutes and more congestion. By 2001, the U.S. had more personal vehicles (204 million) than licensed drivers (191 million).

Urban drivers endured an average of 47 hours of rush hour traffic delays in 2003, a threefold increase from two decades earlier. The worst problems were in Los Angeles, where the average driver suffered almost 100 hours of traffic delays. That's about four full days of waiting for the car in front of you to move.

"I sit there in traffic when it should take half an hour, now it's taking an hour and 15 minutes," said Stacy Baglio, 36, who drives 28 miles to her sales job in northern New Jersey. "People are weaving in and out of traffic. There is no common courtesy whatsoever."

Pew conducted the survey of 1,048 drivers from June 20 to July 16. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The results were compared with a Gallup poll done in 1991.

The new poll's results were consistent among drivers of cars, pickups and SUVs. There were few regional differences among drivers, although northeasterners were more likely than drivers in the rest of the country to have "shouted, cursed or made gestures to other drivers" in the past year.

The key to rediscovering automotive bliss: Zen out. Too many people think of driving as competition, says Leon James, co-author of the book, "Road Rage and Aggressive Driving." Happy drivers think of traffic simply as part of the process of getting from one place to another, kind of like the process of taking a shower to get clean, he said.

"Americans are nice people," said James, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii. "But there are certain areas that have to do with games and competition, where we become less nice to each other."

Jennifer Geisinger seems to have it figured out. The 31-year-old Realtor from suburban Minneapolis said she loves to drive her 1999 Honda CRV.

"It's something about being in control and getting out on the road," Geisinger said. "I don't have a sports car and I don't speed. But I love my car."

Geisinger also has something in common with 68 percent of all drivers: "Oh I sing, of course," she said, adding that her stereo plays country, opera and Broadway show tunes.


On The Net:

The Pew Research Center, Americans and Their cars: Is the Romance on the Skids?


"There was a women who could have gone right on red and she was just sitting there talking on her cell phone. People don't pay attention and that gets on your nerves."

 Turning right on red isn't a requirement, bozo.  If she doesn't want to go while the light is red, she doesn't have to.

Hmmm. Is courtesy a requirement?
Of course not.  You can't legislate courtesy.
We simians don't always legislate it, but the common response to a deviation from a social norm is (in champanzees or humans) anger ;-), enforcement.

I wonder, seriously, if the lady at the stoplight made a conscious "golden rule" decision that she would be willing to wait for anyone else?

Regardless, I observe her behavior, and that of the man behind her, as entirely within our semi-monkey nature.

Regardless, I observe her behavior, and that of the man behind her, as entirely within our semi-monkey nature.

What do you mean, "semi"?

And who's to say who is being rude in that situation?  What if she hadn't had her blinker on, and he thought she was going straight?  Would he still be annoyed?  

For me, it's a matter of safety.  There's a monster intersection outside my office.  Split-phased, arrows, divided highways, cat-tracks, jug handle, etc.  Many of those who drive through it are commuters.  They drive it every day, and know how it works.  They recognize the timing of the light, and know when it's safe to turn right.

People who aren't used to it find it very intimidating.  They sometimes try to turn right on red, and get nailed by people turning left.  (The split-phasing throws them off.)  If you you're not familiar with an intersection, there's nothing wrong with waiting for the light to turn green.

Most intersections are timed so that that the longest you have to wait is 4 minutes.  (Any longer than that is a safety hazard, because people will try to run the light if they have to wait too long.)  So this guy was having a cow at having to wait at most four minutes.  


If we flee into details we miss the central story that much of human behavior is determined by socail norms and non-legislated feedback and enforcement.

Another driving example is the "slower traffic keep right" rule.  Most people follow it, probably out of a "golden rule" instinct.  The few people that violate it are met with honking, flashing headlights, gestures, & etc.

So sure, maybe this was a "special" situation and the guy misjudged.  Maybe the intersection was the factor and not the cell phone.

But in terms of illustrating human nature that doesn't matter.  It was the perception of anti-social behavior that provoked the response.

The human nature I saw illustrated was the incredible impatience and selfishness that is now part of American culture.  Right on red has gone from something you are permitted to do to something you have to do, because hey, the guy behind you wants to shave 30 seconds off his commute.
<shrug>.  The only time I remember hearing honking at such a right turn was on a blank empty street, when there was no question that safety was not an issue.

But hey, this is California, I understand that we honk less anway ;-)

Right turn on red also endangers pedestrians, which makes them less likely to walk in the future, which in turn adds another automobile to the traffic nightmare.  I'm amazed at how hostile many drivers are when they see me in the crosswalk with a walk signal.  It's almost as they see my walking as an insult to their decision to drive.
Nah, you're just in their way.  How dare you delay them for 10 or 20 seconds?
I pciked up two volunteers on Esplanade Aveunue in New Orleans the other night (they got seperated, I have a standing ofer to pick up any volunteers, etc.).

There was a delay in getting both aboard and six cars were stacked up behind.

Both visitors were amazed that there was not one honk from anyone.

You know I stop and think about this 30 seconds.  It's nieve to say they are shaving only 30 seconds off their time.  You've got to take into account how these 30 seconds can snowball.  First off, going faster usually results in getting their faster.  I don't care if you think otherwise, I drive faster I get places quicker.  It's pretty simple.  Now if I drive faster now I hope to get somewhere quicker, but what if your pay off isn't NOW.  

I've got something similar to this.  It's a left on the highway and if you miss the light when you are suppose to get it you sit for roughly 2.5 minutes.  If you miss that one, whose to say if you had been on that highway 2.5 minutes ago, the traffic would be less and result in a faster commute.  During these 2.5 minutes I wonder how many cars have managed to be added to the highway?  This is cumulative and those first 30 seconds adds to the chance at shaving another 30 and so on.  If some idiot hadn't been typing in 2pt font on their cell, I could have gotten there quicker.

I know I'm too aggressive, but the alternative is gritting my teeth as I watch people not drive.  Here in the STL we were just name in like the top 5 best drivers (not driving because the roads blow bigtime) and I can't figure out why.  NO ONE uses a turn signal ANYWHERE.  Now I hate making blanket statements b/c I realize the fallacy, but on my daily commute I see it everyday.

As aggressive as I am my fiance thinks I'm fair.  I always signal, even before cutting you off.  I know people are out there just darting in front of me if I don't ride your ass so I'm going to ride your ass because all those cars that want those extera 30 seconds adds up when 10 cars manage to fit between me and that car that used to be in front of me.  So I'll cut you off if you're going to slow in the far left lane, but I'll let you know about 2-3 seconds and give you a moment to keep me out.  I think it's fair enough.

My driving is concentrated on the highway so you would think its a simple trip, but when people are constantly failing to use their signal and simply barge into traffic (many times large SUV's) rather than merge.  WTF happened to MERGE or YIELD!?  I really don't enjoy driving at all.  I hate it, I hate traffic and I hate dealing with the idiot people who attempt to jabber on the phone or any other activity besides actually looking ahead.  

On second thought maybe I've just got Intermitent Explosive Disorder and need to be treated.

In the SF Bay Area, right turn on red isn't the rule, it's a rare occurrance. Many intersections are set up to aim unseen high-speed traffic at you randomly, which you can't see due to bushes, trees, walls, etc until it's about 30 ft away. Try turning right on a red and BOOM! It will be your last act. So, waiting for the green to turn right is just good sense.

Also, the driver who thinks about their longetivity signals EVERYWHERE and EVERY TIME. People here are working a minimum of 60 hours a week, stressed out unbelieveably, and you have to think of them as the extreme ADHD cases or simply mentally ill - the mentally ill are generally unable to determine the motives of others, and this translates to driving by their having no idea at all what you're going to do unless you signal. So you signal. Every damn time. From when you leave your parking space, for every turn, lane change, every turn in a parking lot, when leave a space, entering a space, to when you finally return home from your errends and of course have a car or two right on your tail when you're simply trying to get into your own parking space. You signal.

I can't imagine anyone actually likes to drive any more.

  1. I still like to drive.
  2. Agree with the signaling bit... for me it has become so automatic that I signal when turning most everywhere.
I've found that a really loud horn tends to wake these people up...recommend the Hella brand (the name is particularly apt).  Incidentally, those of us who (motor)"cycle" know that a loud horn is an absolute must in traffic.
Fiamm's are also good. Made in Italy, sold for Ford trucks, neato el loud-o
I like your attitude alot, and mostly agree with it. However, my pet peeve is tailgaters. If you tailgate me I will become agitated and agressive. Perhaps this is mostly because I know there are other drivers on the road with their vehicles barely in control. You know you see them too, playing pinball in the lane, on the cellphone, reading, texting, whatever... point is, I like my space. Otherwise, I totally agree with what you are saying.
In Chicago changing lanes on a freeway is such that you normally get punished for using turn signals. When you use them the correct way, an idiot will speed up to the spot you're getting ready to occupy.

The solution is to quickly swivelneck to check the blind area you are ready to occupy, give the turn signal one blink as you do an instant lane change! This helps explain why I always drive with my right hand on the wheel and my left free to do the turn signals for the one blink. Becuse I do this instant lane change move, I don't like to drive trucks, becuse swivelnecking doesn't reveal the car in the blind area becuse you're too high up.

They should have turned right anyway. :)
For me, it's a matter of safety.

Then the woman referred to in the article should have hung up her damn phone.  THAT is what annoys me most.

In some states, it's illegal to use a cell phone while driving.  Not that people pay any attention.

And most of the laws allow handsfree phones, when those are just as dangerous.  It's the distraction that's dangerous, not having something in your hand.

That said, if you are going to use a cell phone, doing it while stopped at a red light is better than doing it while the car is moving.

Personally, I hate cell phones.  I don't own one, and don't want to.  

Same here. I refuse to own one.
I had a couple.  They always cost more then I expected, but what bothered me most was that once I signed up, they acted like they owned me.
They do. 2X cellfones = about $100 a month, for life. They at least own part of you.
Let's see, what political event happens between now and year-end?

Breaking News from ABCNEWS.com:



"I am asking New Yorkers to conserve energy and say a prayer," said City Councilman Eric Gioia, who criticized ConEd's performance in last month's blackouts.
Not only will the Iraqi military be miraculously transformed into a fine and effective homeland security force, but if we "Conserve energy and say a prayer" we will also be rescued by Technomagic and the Second Advent.

The political scene is mighty ugly in the USA.

Most folks want to be told that Iraq will be OK, that Global Warming will be OK, that there is an infintie supply of petroleum and other easy stuff to extract from the planet, and that we can continue to dump toxins into the infinite waste-sink of the planet as well.

"Tell 'em what they want to hear in such a way as they will believe it and also believe that to make sure things will be OK, you must vote for me."

The USA is politically paralysed in the face of real challenges.  I hope the GOP does not fare at all well in the coming elctions, but the Democrats might have a tough time managing the mess all the same.

"Tell us a soothing bed-time story," saif the Voters to the Politician.  Please don't make it too scary, just enough to be exciting.  Make it come out all right so I can get back to sleep."  "OK," said the politican, wanting nothing more than a sleeping electorate.

There is no viable political solution, no matter who wins in November. As has been discussed here ad nauseum, no alternative fuel is going to coming riding in to rescue the future. Neither democrats or republicans have even stratched the surface in preparing America - and the world - for the massive societal upheavals that are soon to occur. In the meantime, millions of Americans go about their daily tasks, somehow thinking that no matter what happens, the status quo - or at least something close to it - can be infinitely maintained. Its mind-boggling.

I just read the "When chaos replaces oil" article, and it dovetails 100% with what we'll certainly be seeing within the next decade. Who's ready for the advent of subsistence living?

I'm depressed.

Don't be depressed. Subsistence living is really the better way to go anyway. Certainly more fulfilling than sitting in a cube all day dreaming about how I'll spend my mega-salary at the new mall 20 miles out on the interstate. Maybe the collapse of western civilization will bring some true meaning back into our lives - we won't measure our success in material gain or some la-la land reward after death. Might just give us all a chance to live in the present again, rather than lusting after what is to come or what was.

I agree with you. Ultimately humankind will be better served by localization and subsistence living, but how to get from here to there? Right now I feel like this guy did who witnessed a pig getting killed on his cousin's farm:

The setting seemed right for killing a pig. There was rain outside. A bare lightbulb illuminated the barn. The pig snorted about its pen (known on that farm as "maximum security"), oblivious to what was about to happen.

Feeling the cool evening breeze and noticing the smell of animal manure in that barn, I thought about all the pundits and articles and armchair collapse theorists (of which I am one) bloviating on the Internet. Sitting in front of a nice, clean computer, writing about corruption and fascists and Peak Oil and killer robots suddenly seemed ridiculous. None of those topics really mattered for much out in that barn.

All the talk about living a sustainable lifestyle, preparing for the crash, re-visioning the future etc. etc. is mostly a waste of time. By engaging in this sort of endless babble, all you're doing is postponing the acceptance of the hard---and sometimes ugly---realities involved with practicing what you preach.

As I helped Paul lift the bloody, dead pig out of the cage, that's when it hit me:

People, in general, aren't just going to wake up one day and be able to do this. People used to do this, but too many generations have passed since this was considered a part of everyday life. How will people go from office cubes to this? No way, man. No way!

The people who supposedly "get it" are taking classes on everything from permaculture to biodiesel, they're attending feel-good-me-too Peak Oil meetings, they're making websites, they're waving signs, they're writing books, they're buying books, they're selling books. Don't forget the endless DVDs and bumperstickers... and underwear, baseball caps and pins. It's nonsense!
I would have to agree. Preparation has to be as much emotional and mental. Indeed, this overemphasis on physical preparation is just a matter of the predominant cultural values impinging on your thinking about what is coming. If there is one preparation that is most valuable it is this - learn how to live in the moment. Even in the worst collapse scenario imaginable there will still be the joys of being alive. Or not, in which case it doesn't really matter.

I think that's great advice, and thank you for it. However, even among those that are mentally prepared for the coming rigours, the physical aspects of tending to a farm and growing/killing your own food will be much more than expected.

Great excerpt. Can you give the link you pulled that from?

Here's the link. I forgot to include it with the excerpt.

I also agree.  I have friends who are probably typical of most Americans in that they are aware of environmental and geological issues in the abstract, but are unwilling to adress these issues in any way that would impact their current lifestyles.  Most people I know understand that industrial farming leads to depleted soil and environmental damage from feedlots, but feel that the proper way to address the issue is to purchase organic produce at the local Wild Oats  supermarket.  The fact that Wild Oats does not offer locally-grown produce does not seem to register.  Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are seen as non-negotiable aspects of the American lifestyle, as are meats that come neatly packaged with no clue as to their living, breathing beginnings.

The people who are most likely to be aware of GW (and to a lesser extent, PO) are the same ones who gasp in horror when I tell them I enjoy small game hunting.  The gasps get louder when they realize that yes, I really do eat squirrel and rabbit.  It's going to be very difficult for some people to adjust.

Another thing, is that it takes some trial and error to learn to raise your own food.  If you don't have a knowledgeable person to rely on for tips and instruction the learning curve can be pretty steep.  I write this as my garden is withering in the sun, crying out for more water and another layer of mulch to cool those roots.
Brilliant. And yes, most people are just going to sit down and die. I mean it. The old time Hawaiians and other peoples amazed Westerners with their ability to decide they were going to die, and just sit down and die.

I just can't imagine the average cubicle-dweller doing anything else. They're idea of roughing it is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on their granite countertop at home.

I just can't imagine these people butchering a hog or a stray dog, and sewing up the holes in their clothes by hand. I can't imagine them making an educated guess as to whether the water in the ruts by the side of the road is safer to drink than the water trapped in an old stump.

If the Fall is fast, we're going to see a lot of people make, for them, the most logical decision and just sit down and die. The problem is, the fall will in all probability be rather slow, because of complexity and inertia in our system.

Agreed.  The fall will be slow.  If the end of Europe's position as a globe-spanning imperial power took a century to occur, I feel fairly confident that the U.S.'s decline will take about as long.  Of course, the decline of Europe was anything but comfortable for those who lived through it.  Think Italian hyperinflation post-WWII.  No fun.

I disagree. I predict that the fall will be both fast and brutal. The situation is far different from Europe's in that for the vast majority of the population, there is no cushion whatsoever. The overall personal savings level is actually in negative territory, which means that most people are just a couple of paychecks away from disaster. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that a negative savings rate, along with unbelievably high levels of personal debt, has been present in any other global super-power in history. Once the general population runs into the coming adverse conditions, a good number will lose everything -- and quickly.

Another factor is that the chief source of energy that is becoming scarce cannot be replenished. As you all know, there's nothing no energy source that will be able to replace cheap oil. So once Peak Oil really starts to make itself felt, there's going to be no place to turn and society will be forced to change. This will feed into the first reason given, as once economic growth is no longer possible due to energy scarcity, then the lack of savings and high personal debt will act as accelerants to the collapse. Add to that the incredible amount of bad will that the US is building all around the world. Who is going to want to help to get us back on our feet?

So, I don't see any way that this crash will not be chaotic and rapid. I see no major ameliorating factors that would tend to augur a slow collapse.

I disagree that the fall will be slow due to social compexity.  In my experience, complex systems tend to fail rapidly and catastrophically when a seemingly insignificant but actually crucial part breaks.

If by inertia you mean "we have a lot of capital we can burn in place of depleting resources", I'm tempted to agree.  I read the Greer article Leanan linked this afternoon, and his idea of "catabolic collapse" - makes intuitive sense.  It's like a body surviving without food for a long time by burning its muscle mass.

How those two competing factors (complexity and mass) will balance out is anyone's guess at this point.

You've experienced a societal collapse?  
No, but I spent twenty years programming large firmware control systems.  I experienced plenty of complexity-enhanced system crashes.  That's one of the reasons I hate flying on Airbuses...

I'm not trying to sound ignorant, but I'm curious - is there any degree of flexibility in the systems with which you are fammiliar, or is a crash inevitable once it begins?  Are there opportunities for mitigation?

Familiar.  There goes my statement about not sounding ignorant.
It all depends on the cause(s) of the crash.  If the causes have not been foreseen by the programmer, the crash is inevitable.  If there are warning signals that the programmer can put in checks for, then the crash can be averted, even if the means used to avoid it are sometimes ugly.

As an example of the first sort of failure, a large-scale telecommunications crash that took out phones down the east coast of the US in the mid '70s was caused by a programmer neglecing to put in a check for an out of range value in the code for a big telephone switch.  That value was normally never out of range, so the problem was never encountered.  Then one day a bad value got passed in to this section of code, maybe due to a memory fault, and the code bombed. The fault cascaded through all the switches in the network as the bad value was passed along - because they all had the same code - and the whole system came down.

An example of the second type of failure is what happens when you try to access an out of range memory location in an application running under a good operating system.  The error will be intercepted by the OS, and the application will be shut down (catastrophic for the app) but the whole system stays up (good for the system).

So, if the failure is one you can predict, and do plan for it, you can mitigate the crash.  If it happens because of a bug in the system design or implementation, or if you simply neglect to guard against a fault scenario, all bets are off.  

Just like real life.

One fallacy here though. A program is prone to crash because it is a single entity (a single CPU core, if you will, not to over simplify...) performing instructions in serial. Any problem (a single byte flipped in RAM by cosmic background radiation, say) can cause the system as a whole to crash, because (at least in system mode) it trusts every piece completely. Whew, that was a lot of parentheticals. :-)

However, when was the last time the internet went down? Sure, it went down for one guy here, one guy there, and systems on the internet fail daily, but the whole network continues to operate, why? The answer is that the internet doesn't trust each element completely. All the communications protocols have checksums, and each node just discards stuff it can't deal with rather than crashing.

Basically, I'd say a person is analogous to a computer, each one will, eventually, crash, for lack of a better word. A society is like the internet, much less pronet to blanket failure if the general design is good. Complexity alone is not enough to make a system like that fail, because it has to cope with failures. A human has no backup if his heart stops working, but there is no single person alive today whose loss would dramatically affect the functioning of the society as a whole. There is not even a single building (or, some might argue, city) whose loss would terminally undermin the society.

A society can still fail due to systematic pathology, but it is not really clear that complexity makes this any worse. In fact, having large groups of overlapping rules (cities, states, feds, different departments, etc...) it makes it less likely that any one loophole has a catastrophic affect. In this way, complexity might actually help to stave off systematic failures, as there is no single loophole whose exploitation allows a full circumvention of all the defenses.

My $0.02.

I agree with your observation, and would venture that this demonstrates the inherent danger of reasoning by analogy.  And while I also agree that the inherently distributed nature of society makes it more survivable in toto, I'd point out that just as all nodes in the Internet need electricity, so all our social nodes currently rely on oil to a significant extent.  So we are are still looking at a single point of failure, even though the social nodes will respond to the failure differently.

OK, I can see that. I'd actually disagree with it as a general statement, but surely lots of infrastructure will have to be swapped out by any real solution, so there's definitely more reliance than would be liked.

It does bring it back into the technical realm though, as a problem based on a very specific issue, not a broad indictment of complex systems in general.

Great comment and hopefully you are correct about civilization.  Unfortunately, at least for the United States, there is one system that will shut down the entire civilization.  If we lose oil, we crash completely.
I refuse to fly on an Airbus plane, for that very reason.

Let's go back to the good old days, when pilots flew planes.


Completely unrelated - did I read that you've got a Pelican?  You've gotta love that sampan bow.  Have you ever taken a look at Sam Devlin's Lichen?

Planes may seem necessary, but the world might be better off if we all embraced the boat.

Yes, I am proud owner of Pelican "Princess Abby," named after my able seawoman eight-year-old number one granddaughter, to be skippered out later this summer and promoted to pirate in training. With us on the water, nobody on the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota is safe . . . from an invitation to grog (also known as lemonade).

I thinking about building one of the bigger Pelicans for sailing across Lake Superior. They are so well designed, so sturdy, so forgiving. Now, if I could only find a woman with the qualities of a Pelican . . . :=)

Wooden boats are the answer, never mind the question.

And oh yes, the junk or sampan rigs are very practical and efficient.

"No, but I spent twenty years programming large firmware control systems.  I experienced plenty of complexity-enhanced system crashes.  That's one of the reasons I hate flying on Airbuses..."

Reminds me of this (it's fake, btw)...


What's wrong with Airbus's? :-)
Yuppies butchering a stray dog? Given how yuppies pamper their dogs with everything from healthcare (even as millions of humans do without!) to dog houses that are all but scale models of McMansions, the thought- let alone seeing it done - of butchering a dog will get them to puke. To me, dogs are just another form of livestock.

I fail to see what an electrical distribution grid has to do with peak oil. We don't make electricity from oil, and soon enough we won't be making it from natural gas either. Coal, nuclear, wind, those are the options. There are pros and cons of each (please, please, please, let it not be coal....), but I don't think starvation is option #4.
I thought 100% of the electricity which supplies Washington D.C was produced by oil?

I really doubt that is true.
Two things:

  1. the emergency backup systems are usually diesel (buildings like your hospital and businesses like your ISP)

  2. the repair crews who carry the line and transformer replacements aren't riding bicycles. They are in big trucks with lift buckets.  

Oil is a bit like oxygen. You may only need a little bit, but what you need is mission critical.
Big roll of the eyes here.

Can you say, "Mid-term elections?"

Yup, repugnican skullduggery all over again. Next we'll see the Iraqi president standing in the green zone in front of a banner declaring, "Mission Accomplished."

The sad thing is, the feckless American people will buy into the propaganda. Stalin is alive and well and living in the White House.

Excellent article in today's WSJ. Long, but well worth the read.

How California Failed in Efforts To Curb Its Addiction to Oil, by Jeffrey Ball

I did not see it at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yet.

For a quarter century, California has pursued petroleum-free transportation more doggedly than any other place in the U.S. It has tried to jump-start alternative fuels ranging from methanol to natural gas to electricity to hydrogen. None has hit the road in any significant way. Today, the state that is the world's sixth-largest economy finds itself in the same spot as most of the planet: With $75-a-barrel oil, and increasing concern about the role fossil fuels are playing in global warming, 99% of its cars and trucks still run on petroleum products.
I'd be interested in reading the article, should it become public ... but my off-hand comment as a Californian is that the "effort" to get off gasoline has been nothing more than background noise for the last few decades.

People who drive from the ocean (Pacific) to the river (Colorado) with boats and jet-skis in tow have always outnumbered the non-fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Anyone know how crowded the river is this year?

The article is now at the Post-Gazette:


Indeed. California continues to build more roads at the expense of rail. There's no will to tax gas guzzlers through vehicle registration fees. Here in Northern California, there's an unused railroad line that extends from Sausalito all the way to Eureka. Plans for passenger rail have sat on the table while residents voted an increase in their general-revenue sales tax to widen their freeway in Santa Rosa.

In my rural area, citizens of a smallish town passed a general-revenue sales tax increase just to maintain the city's asphalt streets!

Chris is strengthening.  It may become a hurricane later today.  

Last night's entry at The Stormtack is about why they were wrong about Chris.  (They didn't think it should even be called a tropical storm yesterday.)

Natural Gas Surges in New York on Hurricane Threat, Heat Wave

Natural gas soared in New York on concern that Tropical Storm Chris may strengthen into the season's first hurricane and track toward the Gulf of Mexico, where about a quarter of U.S. gas is produced.

The threat of the storm, which is forecast to become a hurricane today or tomorrow, comes amid the worst heat wave in five years in the Northeast. Power plants burn more gas during periods of hot weather to meet air-conditioning needs.

The National Hurricane Center says a hurricane watch has been issued in the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Chris seems to be developing an eye.  

Path still looking a lot like Rita.

Astoundingly (or perhaps not, 'natch) that was exactly what I was thinking. Same path (and who knows, same development?) as Rita.
Here's another pic....

The Stormtrack reports that Chris is in a favorable position to strengthen.  

Most of the models still have it heading into the Gulf.

The graph on Cantarell in "The Wall Street Journal" sure looks like "Hubbert's Peak" to me but I am no expert. They titled it "Over the Hill". I guess they couldn't use the word"Peak". All in all the article is pretty good.
The article that "Ricko" mentioned is on Page A-4 of today's WSJ.  It's a follow-up to the prior WSJ article on Cantarell.

From today's article:  

"The data show that Cantarell, the world's second-biggest field after Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, is living up to what is known within the state oil apparatus as a worst-case scenario, detailed in an internal oil company report that suggested earlier this year the field's output could fall by nearly 75% by the end of 2008."

Note that on Khebab's HL plot, Mexico is past the 50% of Qt mark.

Again, East Texas is to Texas, as:

Ghawar is to Saudi Arabia;

Cantarell is to Mexico;

Burgan is to Kuwait;

Daqing is to China.  

Possible outcome in Mexico: because Mexico is not required to export oil to the US under NAFTA, Mexico essentially ceases export of oil, and insteads retains all oil for domestic use. Mexico then has a competitive advantage for petroleum dependent industries, which move to Mexico to enjoy the available, and somewhat subsidized, oil and petroleum products. Mexico's economy grows as the US stagnates. The illegal immigrant issue dies back down.

I can see this with Lopez in power, but not with Calderon.

With Calderon, Mexico continues to export oil to the US, while the poor in Mexico do without, and the North/South tensions escalate, until Mexico's government and economy either (a) collapse, or (b) turn toward Lopez's policies.

Eventually, unless the US can maintain an export favorable government in power in Mexico, there will be a substantial shift of power between the two countries, and not in the US's favor.

Mexico does not have to export oil to us under NAFTA?

What about us?  If their production tanks, do we have to export oil to them?

Anecdotally I understand that the compulsory export provisions with regard to oil and gas in NAFTA only apply to the US and Canada, and not to Mexico. If Mexico's production tanks so much that she ceases to export oil, the US will not be in any position to export anything to her.

The problem with that scenario is that the Mexican government currently derives more than 40 percent of its revenue from PEMEX exports. If they suddently decided not to export any oil, what would make up for the loss of income? Waiting for petrolem-dependent industries to move to Mexico would be a time-consuming process -- it certainly wouldn't happen overnight, or even come close to making up the revenue shortfall in the short run.

Besides, do you see any US administration allowing Mexico to use all of its oil for domestic purposes, and forgoing exports? I don't.

And if Mexico does not have oil to export it will not have a surplus for those oil dependent industries.
I think the loss of revenue is a problem in ANY scenario.
Can someone point me towards some production and economic data for an aging (in decline) oil field(s)?

Specific items of interest are:

  1. Exploratory drilling costs
  2. Startup costs and time to bring online
  3. Oil and Gas production data
  4. Operational expenses
  5. Added expenses due to (and timing of) enhanced recovery efforts

What I am looking for is a life cycle assessment of energy inputs and outputs. I imagine this has been done, but perhaps not all the relevant data has been made public. Even a detailed case study would be of interest. Thanks.
Hello TODers,

Cantarell crashing is pretty sad, but geologically inevitable.  But consider this post, or this post on future shortages and resource wars.  Our future is looking increasing (pdf warning)thirsty.

Our future will be very interesting to say the least!

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

A tip: You could better support your argument by avoiding references to your own posts. Referencing yourself any more than sparingly makes it look like you only know your own work. That's not the case here, but perception matters.

In the above comment the two posts that you reference both point out a link and contain (lengthy, non-blockquoted) passages from those links. You could have just pointed at those links directly. Bam! You look better.

Just trying to give you an edge. And sorry for doing this out in the open. I would have much rather emailed you, but couldn't track down your email.

Hello MarkinCalgary,

Thxs for the advice, I appreciate it, but I was just trying to make it a short & quick post by referring people to the earlier posts that had brief excerpts and supporting links.  When the threads nowadays routinely reach 200-300 posts: I am assuming that alot of readers don't go back very often to the older threads, but instead use the "your comments" tool on the right hand column as I do to respond to other TODers.

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

Hello Everyone.

A question about imports. As Cantarell rapidly declines, we have to make up for that loss of imported oil. Where do we go for to make up for the loss of Cantarell oil? It doesn't really seem like there is a swing producer left anymore?

Also what percent of oil is available on the 'open' market for purchase vs oil that is locked up in contracts? example, say we wanted to import oil from country X, but all their oil is currently being exported to country Y via a pipeline, would we still be able to buy it even at a higher price?

"A question about imports"

Since you asked. . .  
(Repetitive information follows)

IMO, we will see the following cycle over and over again:  (1)  a decline in net export capacity (because of falling production and/or rising consumption in the exporting countries); (2) a round of bidding as the remaining export capacity is auctioned off to the high bidders and the low bidders do without; (3)  a period of stability; and then the cycle starts all over again with a drop in exports.

The decline in consumption will initially show up in poorer countries, but it is only a matter of time before the developed counties (and rapidly developing countries like China and India)  start bidding against each other.  

All but a handful of the 2006 four week running average numbers of total imports into the US are below the 12/30/05 number, while oil prices are up 15% to 30%, and the price increases this year correspond to import declines (note that oil was back at $75 prior to the conflict in Lebanon).

Thanks for the response westtexas

In regards to point (2), when you say remaining export capacity, is that just export capacity after domestic use, or domestic use + prior export commitments? Can a higher price from country X trump an existing long term export contract to country Y?

Of course these are really two separate issues--meeting domestic demand versus contractual obligations--which will vary from country to country.  Actually a good example of this question is flat to declining Canadian natural gas production versus Canada's obligations under NAFTA regarding natural resource exports.

I first raised the export question in a January, 2006 post on TOD:  

My prediction was that we would face an export crisis--before we see a large drop in total world oil production.

hmmm where is Freddy H.? I want to hear that you are all wrong and that everything is AOK
It will be interesting to see whether or not countries start forming alliances that make some "exports" more like "domestic" supply. For example, Iran and Kazakhstan agree to meet China's oil import needs while decreasing their total exports somewhat in exchange for security treaties, nuclear technology, manufactured goods, whatever. What is a "mutual defense" agreement with a Security Council member worth to either of those countries at this point in time? What if Norway curtails exports to countries outside of Europe?
By the way, Jimmy Carter wrote an excellent opinion essay that is in the Washington Post.

I found it here:


"Stop the Band-aid Treatment."  (Carter focuses on the Middle East, but the same could be said for energy policy, environmental, economic, and educational policy... health care policy.....)

Carter's conclusion:
A major impediment to progress is Washington's strange policy that dialogue on controversial issues will be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and will be withheld from those who reject U.S. assertions. Direct engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority and the government in Damascus will be necessary if secure negotiated settlements are to be achieved. Failure to address the issues and leaders involved risks the creation of an arc of even greater instability running from Jerusalem through Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.
"Dialogue...[is]...a reward for subservient behaviour."  That kind of sums up the authoritarianism of fascism, does it not? So who needs dialogue when subservience is the prerequisite?

Question; Am I the only one on this list that believes this is the future we face? Has anyone read William Catton, Reg Morrison, Joseph Tainter or David Price? Do you deny that collapse is read William Catton, Reg Morrison, Joseph Tainter or David Price? Do you deny that collapse is inevitable.


Peter Lloyd is preparing for a ghastly future. The world he foresees is one in which it will cost $700 or $1000 to fill the family car - if petrol is available for private use.
It will be a world in which the scarcity and expense of oil, widespread pollution, environmental ruin and climate change will bring down modern civilisation in terrible anarchy as countries go to war over oil, fresh water or arable land; as ordinary people try to adjust to living primitive lives without the medicines and technology that support their lives in the 21st century.

Dr Lloyd, an anaesthetist at the Hawke's Bay Hospital, estimates about 80 percent of the world's six billion people will die of hunger, disease or "slaughter on a scale never before seen in history".

If you haven't read Catton, Morrison or Tainter because you do not have time to read a whole book, at least you should read Price. His essay takes about 5 to 10 minutes to read, depending on how fast you read:


Sorry the text of my above message got a little screwed up. It should read:

Question; Am I the only one on this list that believes this is the future we face? Has anyone read William Catton, Reg Morrison, Joseph Tainter or David Price? Do you deny that collapse is inevitable.


I too pretty much agree with you.

I don't know exactly how it will work out, but it seems to me that the political powers that be will try for draconian powers in order to guide the situations that they can.

I heard on Air America Radio this AM that the bush administration had asked Congress to consider allowing Don Rumsfeld to decide who goes before military tribunals - that is, allowing the Secretary of Defense to have anyone, anywhere, arrested, held indefinitely, and given a secret trial before a tribunal whenever the government decided to get around to it.

The geopolitical situation and the domestic political responses of nations to the crisis may involve authoritarianism such as we never dreamed would come to the "civilised" nations of Europe and "the West."

The collapse is so far being met with denial, bargaining, and angry scapegoating.

I just want to make clear for the record that I am not Dr. Peter Lloyd of Hawkes Bay who was quoted in the article referenced by Darwinian.  However 3 out of 4 of the doctors in my group are doomers.  One rides a scooter.  I either bicycle or take the 659cc Keicar on cold rainy days.
Hello Darwinian,

Yep, collapse is already ugly for millions, soon to be ugly for billions.  Please read my earlier post with the link about soldiers dying over control of a small water sluice gate.  Then extrapolate that incredibly violent desperation to the last link: "Lester R. Brown, Plan B 2.0 Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble".

His concerns are mirrored in a World Bank report: "Anecdotal
evidence suggests that deep wells [drilled] around Beijing
now have to reach 1,000 meters [more than half a mile] to tap fresh water, adding dramatically to the cost of supply." In unusually strong language for a Bank report, it foresees "catastrophic consequences for future generations" unless water use and supply can quickly be brought back into balance.8

Since expanding irrigation helped triple the world grain harvest from 1950 to 2000, it comes as no surprise that water losses can shrink harvests. With water for irrigation, many countries are in a classic overshoot-and-decline mode. If countries that are overpumping do not move quickly to reduce water use and stabilize water tables, then an eventual drop in food production is almost inevitable.76

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

Are you the only one?  No, you are not.
I think we are headed for collapse.  What's not clear is the timing.  It may not happen in my lifetime.  Which will probably be worse in the long run, but it won't be my problem.

I fear catabolic collapse is the most likely outcome, which can take centuries.  It will also maximize the damage we do to the environment, as we desperately try to maintain our way of life while converting all resources and capital to waste.  

In regard to collapsing civilizations, secular trends, inevitablility and all that good stuff I've always been a fan of the late great sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin. (When he used to lecture at Harvard, he would say: "There have been two great sociologists--Durkheim and Sorokin. And Durkheim is dead!")

Anyway, as one might expect, Sorokin looked at the rise and fall of civilizations through a sociologists lenses, and he focused on value systems. According to his analysis, there are secular master trends that fluctuate between sensate (i.e. materialistic) and ideational (spiritual or faith-based) extremes. Either extreme is likely to cause collapse. Civilization flourishes best at the midpoints, brief periods between the extremes--e.g. Golden ages of Athens or Rome, U.S., c. 1776 - 1950.

Clearly Sorokin's analysis is incomplete, but I do believe that he was on to something important.

If U.S. society collapses, I will point my finger right at our insanely extreme materialism (sensate to the max), and say to Sorokin's shade: By golly, Miss Molly, you were right.

Awful mystical, don't ya think?
... fluctuate between sensate (i.e. materialistic) and ideational (spiritual or faith-based) extremes ...

This "mystical explanations" nonsense has been rightly trashed by Tainter.
You don't breed any kind of civilisation without an adequate ressource base to foot the energy bill.
How far does the "civilisation" of the Inuits or the Khoisans goes?

Tainter made serious mistakes in his analysis.

For example, he uses the concept of "diminishing marginal returns" from economics. However, by definition, in economics diminishing marginal returns ASSUMES that technology is fixed and unchanging. To assume that technology is fixed begs all interesting questions in regard to the collapse of civilizations.

Thus, it is not too much of a stretch to speculate that all of Tainter's world view may based on one huge monster false analogy fallacy.

Personally, I find Tainter tainted by mysticism in contrast to Jared Diamond who is doing hard solid science.

In what way does diminishing returns imply that something is fixed and unchanging?  Tainter's case assumes that technology changes—it also observes that we invent the most obvious, most effective technologies first (like the wheel), leaving what's left to invent either less obvious, or less effective.

I've heard people complain about errors in Diamond, and many of them are legitimate complaints, but you're the first person I've ever heard call Tainter into question quite like that before.

Don no one cares about economic assumptions.  He used the premise of diminishing returns merely to point out that there are limits in civilization complexity.
There is an important issue here.

Is Tainter doing science?

Or, is he doing something else?

My reading of Tainter says that he is doing something else.
Why? Because his premises are dogmatic and not to be questioned. His interpretation of the data is somehow "special" and superior to the many, many other and diverse interpretations of the same data.

The issue of diminishing returns is fundamental for evaluating the cogency and validity of Tainter's work. Based on my reading, he made what is in logic called a "category mistake." In other words, he is applying the theory of diminishing returns where (by definition) it cannot apply.

Tainter is dogmatic and unquestionable?  He's been questioned from the very beginning; his may be the most cited study of collapse yet published, but that's not because everyone agrees with him.  He argues that his model is "special" only insofar as all the other models are logically self-defeating, and because his makes predictions that fit the model.  Most of Collapse of Complex Societies deals with archaeological data testing his hypothesis, to see if the facts fit his model.  This is the very definition of science: you come up with a hypothesis, you test it against the data.  Archaeology is rarely so methodical.

In what way is diminishing returns inapplicable to an investment like complexity?  Complexity has an energy cost, and an energy return, so it would seem to me to be as subject to diminishing returns as any other investment.  Could you back up your assertion?

In all of Tainter's work, find me one single citation to Sorokin.

IMO, Tainter did not do his homework.

His logic is riddled with deep fallacies, including the "self-sealer," in which case if you puncture his argument, that proves that you "don't get it."

N.B. Marxism and Freudianism also have "self-sealers" built in. Thus I see Tainter on the gray border area between science and ideology.

Diamond, on the other hand, is clearly a scientist--not only by his credentials but also by his transparent methods and willingness to be swayed by evidence.

For Tainter, IMO, evidence is all to often something to be explained away or swept under the rug when it does not fit his grandiose "model."

My main criticism of Tainter, and one that Diamond makes, is that he, in effect, says that societies are designed to handle the ecological, social and other problems that confront them and won't fail due to plain simple stupidity. I beg to differ. My own readings of history have stupidity--failure to recognize what should be obvious-- ranking way up there as a prime cause of collapse.

I am also a fan of Diamond although he does stretch a bit trying to be even-handed and not go into diatribes for one point of view or another, but hey, this is what a scientist is supposed to do.

Diamond's argument seemed like a simple lack of curiosity to me.  "Simple stupidity," OK, but then, why were they so stupid?  We're talking about a system created specifically to handle resource shortages, and it's collapsing due to resource shortages?  Why wasn't it able to handle the resource shortages it was made to handle?  Where did that stupidity come from?  That's what I see Tainter's model as explaining, how a civilization can get bogged down under its own weight--to anthropomorphize a bit, how a civilization can become slow and stupid.
Civilization can become slow and stupid

Broad paintbrush characterizations like "Stupidity" and "Complexity" fail to home in on the detailed mechanisms that underly a Civilization behaving in a manner that appears "slow and stupid". It doesn't get us to root causes. It doesn't help us in seeking solutions.

If a professional teacher spots a student who appears to be "slow and stupid", that should not end the inquiry. Why is the student acting in a way that can be termed "slow and stupid"? Is the student suffering from a particular pathology, and if so what are the details of that pathology? What steps can be taken to correct or compensate for the pathology?

Well stated. In thirty-one years of teaching I never assumed that a student was "slow and stupid" based on one bad test. Invariably, after I'd called the student in for a conference after the first quiz (which I did with all students for every class I taught--all essay questions), we'd go over the test and typically what would be found was:
  1. Homework was not done.
  2. Student has severe personal problems (with parents, money, significant other, drugs, alcohol, etc);
  3. Illiteracy;
  4. No motivation, no idea why in school in the first place;
  5. Panic.

Out of about one thousand five hundred students who flunked or dropped out of my classes, I think exactly two were significantly below average in intelligence.

Indeed, I found one student who was about a standard deviation below average in intelligence who got on the honor role consistently. Nobody had ever told her that she was stupid, and she attended every class, took notes in shorthand, typed them up, memorized them and also memorized much of the textbook. On multiple choice tests she often got one of the highest grades in science classes because of her "brute force" approach to learning.

Many many times I have seen brilliant students flunk out.

Out of about one thousand five hundred students who flunked or dropped out of my classes, I think exactly two were significantly below average in intelligence.

So all of your students were at or above average?
Interesting, how did you manage to pick the "cream"?
Some IQ tests, or your "intuition", or ferocious screening at entry?

Otherwise (if the classes WERE representative of IQ distribution in the general population) this only proves that this "education" sheds the intelligents (only 2 dunces over 1500) and makes a lot of "learned idiots" (the bottom of the bell curve who DID NOT flunked nor dropped)!


Thank you.
Certainly it's worthwhile to examine 'reasons for stupidity.' It is the scientific way, after all, to use reductionism as a means of figuring out how things work. It gets tough, however, when it comes to group consciousness (sociology?) and defining amorphous things like 'political ego' or other such phenomena that may induce a group to behave in ways contrary to what a researcher might think of as more logical and sensible. IMO this kind of thing cannot be pinned down definitively and we will always be resorting to somewhat amorphous psychological notions.
this kind of thing cannot be pinned down definitively and we will always be resorting to somewhat amorphous psychological notions.

I agree that a researcher who is a member of our own society will be blind to certain machinations because he (or she) will take them as givens (i.e. Why of course no one would disgrace himself by becoming a fisherman in our bountiful "Green"land). However, a researcher from a foreign society might not be blinded. So part of the "scientific" approach should be for us to study foreign civilizations and for us to ask them to study us.

I can't think of any examples of a "self-sealer" in Tainter.  Could you point one out, specifically?  As for not citing Sorokin, from the above, Sorokin made the "mystical" argument, which Tainter rejected on purely logical grounds.  He's right: any "mystical" argument, such as the one you attribute to Sorokin above, is immediately, completely unscientific.
The "self-sealer" in Tainter is that all evidence has to fit his model. In other words, no matter what happens, it fits his prediction.

Thus his approach fails the "falsification test" which is essential in science. For similar reasons, both Freudian theory and Marxist theorizing fail the falsification test.

In other words, if a hypothesis can in no way be tested to see if it is false, then it is not a scientific hypothesis at all.

So I ask you: Where exactly is any falsifiable hypothesis in any of Tainter's writings??????

Tainter's falsifiable hypothesis is that civilization collapse due to the diminishing marginal returns on complexity.  It would be quite simple to prove Tainter wrong: just find a civilization that was not experiencing diminishing marginal returns on its complexity, and collaped anyway.  For instance, if civilization A collapsed, and at the time of its collapse had, say, an increasing rate of invention with inventions being made more easily, and more effectively, than ever before, well, that would prove Tainter wrong.  All evidence doesn't have to fit his model; it just does fit his model.  Most of the book is dedicated to precisely this: examining the data for anything that might prove it wrong.

By comparison, I see scant little of this in Diamond.

IMO Diamond cites several clear examples that by your criterion would falsify the Tainter hypothesis. Indeed, in MOST of the societies discussed that failed in COLLAPSE, I think there is no indication whatsoever that increasing complexity played a role at all. For example, the Roman Empire was simpler--far less complex in some regards--than the late Roman Republic. Yet while the complex republic morphed successfully into the long-lasting Roman Empire, that relatively simple empire fell to a combination of factors--a large very large number of factors.

But by no stretch of the imagination was increasing complexity one of these factors.

Since a single counterexample serves to demolish a sweeping generalization, here is what I have to say in regards to Tainter's single-factor explanation:



Since your "opinions" are balderdash (*) that does not prove the point.

* Something that does not have or make sense: blather, bunkum, claptrap, drivel, garbage, idiocy, nonsense, piffle, poppycock, rigmarole, rubbish, tomfoolery, trash, twaddle. Informal tommyrot. Slang applesauce, baloney, bilge, bull, bunk, crap, hooey, malarkey. See knowledge/ignorance.

But by no stretch of the imagination was increasing complexity one of these factors.

I couldn't disagree more.  The collapse of the Western Roman Empire was all about diminishing returns on complexity, from every angle.  This is a topic I was interested in long before I discovered Tainter, but Tainter's case is the best I've ever read explaining the many trends that converged to bring down the Roman Empire.  I won't repeat Tainter's case here, except to note that he explained the fall of the Roman Empire in terms of complexity, at length, in Collapse of Complex Societies.

My big point was that after several hundred years of flourishing, the Roman Republic turned away from complexity and greatly simplified its politics by becoming an Empire (though many of the forms of the Republic were preserved, they were largely empty of practical consequences).

Thus the Tainter hypothesis of societies becoming ever more complex is simply flat-out wrong.

Is Don doing science?

Or, is he doing something else?


Tryin to befuddle the newcomers to TOD.
You have been warned...

Actually, I, and most people who think about it, see Diamond as the more mystical guy and Tainter as the hard-science guy.

Diamond's theory is that civ's succeed or fail based on how their constituents "choose" to deal with resource shortages. Tainer does not depend on states of mind, he simply looks at definable things like energy inflows, complexity, etc. Diminishing returns as the process you use to get paid, get fed, etc are a well-known occurrance whether you're a corporation or an individual.

In Diamond's studies, the more spectacular crashes have been among civ's in environments with a winter. Greenland's Vikings simply died out. Tikopia's people, on the other hand, downscaled and were able to keep on chugging along, with the help of their much more forgiving tropical climate. Easter Island, despite being an island in the Pacific, with speakers of Polynesian, is really not a tropical place. It's rather barren and although the size of the island of Oahu, is far less forgiving - so, their crash was a good example of a middle ground. Not the total dieoff of Greenland, not the successful Powerdown of Tikopia. There's a good arguement that Occam's razor is on the side of this arguement than on the side of theoretical mental states like "the Greenlanders decided not to eat fish".

In my opinion, you have presented a cariacature of Diamond's views. Diomond has solid credentials and there is not the faintest whiff of "mysticism" or "nonscientific methods" in any of his work.
Credentials have nothing at all to do with science.  I like Diamond a lot, but I have to agree that Collapse ascribes societal collapse ot mental states (like stupidity), rather than natural causes.  It may be true, but it's fairly unscientific.  It violates that naturalism that lies at the heart of the philosophy of science.  So yes, there is quite a bit of mysticism, and the folks at Savage Minds have torn into Diamond for his often unscientific methods (very often too harshly, I think).
... theoretical mental states like [Jared Diamond's] "the Greenlanders decided not to eat fish"

One cannot "decide" to not eat fish until the question is first raised, seriously considered and answered.

I don't think the question was ever raised in Greenland society. It was simply taken as a non-negotiable way of going forward. The option of forming a fishing industry and eating fish never rose into the minds of the Viking elite in Greenland. (Maybe because it would be an admission that the land was not as "Green" as the politicains in Greenland wanted outsiders to believe?)

Similarly, in our current American Dream society, one cannot decide to forego fossil-fuel transportation until the question is raised and given serious consideration.

So far, our elites have decided that the question of foregoing fossil-fuel transport has a "non-negotiable" outcome.


This was one of my big problems with Diamond, too.  Social taboos do not develop nearly so consciously as Diamond seems to imply, nor even as consciously as you imply with reference to Greenland politicians.  I liked Diamond's suggestion of "Eric the Red got a tummy ache," since that is much more along the lines of what you'd expect for taboo formation.

Why People Starve:

Starvation is not nearly as common an occurence as "common sense" would suggest. As Bernard Angier puts it in the first line of his How to Stay Alive in the Woods, "It's impossible to starve to death in a forest." You're surrounded by life, all the time--and as omnivores, we can eat almost all of it. So why is it that people starve to death? Most commonly, people starve to death surrounded by edible matter--just no food. There is the essential issue, because "food" is not just edible matter, it's the culturally constructed subset of edible matter. That mismatch has garnered a small fortune for the producers of "Fear Factor." Bull's penis is entirely edible--it's even a high-priced delicacy consumed by China's elites to bestow sexual potency--but it isn't "food." At least not in our culture.
Yes, but somtimes Senior', the bull wins --punch line answer to restaurant patron's question on why today's portion of spaghetti and fresh meat from the bull fight had smaller meat balls than usual. :-)
I'd agree with this analysis.  There's a lot of "squishiness" in Collapse that is absent in Tainter's work. Diamond's hopefulness for the future of humanity is the most glaring example; after presenting horrendous examples of environmental destruction in Australia, China, etc., he seems obliged to include this message of hope where, IMO, none is warranted.  Here's a critique at Collapse, The Long Emergency and Revenge of Gaia: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/May06/Rodgers17.htm
Diamond's arguments are anthroplogical, not mystical. Anthros do have a hard time keeping bad science and fallacies out with a pitch fork, because of the subjects they study, but Diamond did a good job of it. You should read him more closely, especially about what he means by "choosing."
Hey now, my background's in anthropology, and I resent that!  OK, I get a little tired of the arguments over "agency," as if a determinative theory is somehow wrong just because it's determinative, but remember that Tainter was also working within anthropology (archaeology, specifically), but he managed to avoid the "bad science and fallacies" that Diamond threw in, so it's not a failing of anthropology as a whole.
It may not happen in my lifetime.

Wow! Do you expect such a short life?

I think it is at most a matter of years til TSHTF.
The numbers given in catabolic collapse by John Michael Greer (somehow a weirdo if a brilliant one) are from onset of collapse to utter devastation.
Our own collapse will be much faster thanks to financial tricks and much tighter constraints on the daily operations of commerce and industry than in ancient times.

We could learn the "appropriate" policies from the Iks.
Not entirely kidding...

Wow! Do you expect such a short life?

Not really.  My great-grandmother lived to be 106.  

I'm not ruling out a much faster collapse.  But I think in all likelihood, it will be a slow-motion wreck.  We're a very large system, and there's a lot of inertia involved.

Life will get much more difficult for everyone, economically and politically, but I don't think the dieoff will come right away.  At least, not the U.S.  

I'm with leanan on this one, I think it will be a slow-motion train wreck. Within that we may have epidemics, summer dieoffs in summers with no more AC, stuff like that, but the overall process will take a while. Frankly I'd rather see demoralization and infanticide than cannibalism myself, so this is rather comforting actually. The end result/goal will be a world population about 1/10th what it is now, and we can do it. After all, this is what happened to the "Indians" in the US, the Polynesians, the Inuit, etc when their worlds were turned upside down by the arrival of the capitalist beast, it's only fair that "we" undergo what "we" have so enthusiastically imposed on others.
The "capitalist beast" did not impose population reductions on the Indians. They died from diseases from another agricultural civilization, which that civilization acquired from intense animal husbandry and to which the subsequent civilizations had no immunities. No matter what economic system Europe had, the diseases from there would have made short work of the other populations. Economics had nothing to do with it. Disease did.
Correct in that disease was killing Native Americans from earliest contact and that this was unavoidable and unstoppable.
Incorrect in that European settlers pushed their advantage and  practiced genocide without pity or scruple for the simple economic purpose of taking land.
I did not say that they failed to press their advantage. However, pressing that advantage had nothing to do with capitalism. What if Rome had crossed the Atlantic? Would they have been any more merciful? Greece? Babylon? Assyria? I highly doubt it.

It is a hallmark of most civilizations that they expand or die, and most have done so violently at the expense of societies around them.

So my point remains. Sure it was capitalism and Europeans that destroyed the native peoples in the Americas but any encroaching civilization that began colonizing in large numbers would have done the same. China would have had the same impact if they had heavily colonized the west coast instead of just visiting it. Read Diamond. It's glaringly obvious what would happen and why. The Eurasian landmass tamed far more animals than the Americas, Africa, and Australia, and was consequently exposed to far more diseases of animal origin than peoples in the Americas, Africa, or Australia. The richness of the plant species available for cultivation also was stronger in Eurasia than elsewhere. The two factors are what gave Eurasia such a gigantic lead over other continents. Again, as I said, read Diamond, particularly Guns, Germs, and Steel. It will give you a new perspective on many things.

If the future has historians as we know them, I think they'd probably trace our collapse all the way back to the end of the coal era, when the old European empires began to fall apart in the World Wars.  The dissolution of large political units into smaller ones is collapse, after all.  The switch to petroleum shifted the focus of complexity away from Europe, to the United States, and there's some definite growth there—but then, there was growth under Diocletian and Constantine, too, but I don't see anyone having a problem putting them under the heading of Rome's decline and fall.  Today, most of the world is in a position of "collapse."  As Tainter points out, collapse can never fully progress in a peer polity system (unless, of course, the peer polity system itself collapses), so they're kept in a bit of a limbo, suffering all the bad parts of collapse, but denied the one real benefit of it: it ends.  The "Third World"—most of the world—still suffers from the post-colonial legacy, and so can easily be described as examples of contemporary collapse.  The former Soviet Union shows the same signs.  The First World is really the only part of the world that still has strong complexity, and even there, Diamond made convincing arguments for Australia and Montana as examples of contemporary collapse.  I would add the post-Katrina Gulf coast to that list, as well.

There's the thing about collapse: it gets pretty far before anyone notices it.  The Romans show little sign of recognizing their own collapse until it is well underway.  It's a tricky thing; not every indicator turns negative all at once, and there's a slow squeeze that can easily disguise the true state of affairs.

I've debated the issue of collapse timelines with Greer before—I even had him on the Anthropik Podcast (episode #6), where we talked about this—and I think much of the disagreement is a matter of perspective.  If you take the perspective of someone staying inside civilization to the bitter end (as I feel Greer does), then it seems much, much longer.  Most collapses suffer some major catastrophe from which the society never recovers, that takes place in a short period of time, but many also manage to limp on for some time to come.  Greer points to Maya cities that managed to survive for up to a century after the Maya collapse.  I, too, would not be surprised if there are some cities left in 100 or even 200 years: small, brutal places hanging desperately to the last days of their lives.  My perspective, however, is of someone trying to escape civilization, so my criteria of collapse is less when the last vestige of it dies off, than when a space outside it opens up that allows me to escape.  When you look at that perspective, collapse looks like a much quicker process.  The Third Century Crisis from which Rome never recovered was one of the longest ones, taking 49 years (Rome's collapse in general was remarkably slow), but after that, slipping beyond the empire was fairly easy.  The empire was never really hegemonic again after that, though many starts and stops attempted to reassert that dominance.

In our interview, Greer compared collapse to falling down a set of stairs, and I think I agree with that.  If you're judging the length of the affair by when civilization reaches the bottom of the stairs, that may be some time; on the other hand, if you're judging by when the fall begins, that can be quite short.

Even by the long view, though, we may already be up to 100 years into our collapse already, and only now are we figuring that out.  That's about what you'd expect of a collapse, too.

To quote George Carlin:

"I'm not afraid of all hell breaking lose, I am more afraid of only part of breaking lose, and nobody noticing."

That is where we're at boys and girls.

We will keep doing what we're doing, until we can't, then we won't

I agree.

If the next hundred years provides TEOTWAWKI, I do believe that both historians (assuming that two remain) will agree that the beginning of the End came in August 1914.

Before that date, the Idea of Progress was alive and well and had much to back it up. Since then, we have lived in excessively "interesting" times.

Doesn't the next hundred years always provide TEOTWAWKI? ;-)

No one, as I'm sure you know Don (speaking more to others in this thread) has correctly predicted the path of human society a century ahead.  Indeed it might be an amusing discussion to name how fast the world "as we know it" tends to veers to the unpredictable.

(he typed, on the internets, known by a few in the late 40's but invisible to the masses until the 90's)

The path of the world has been accurately predicted a century ahead plenty of times; the only thing is, they're rarely the headline-grabbing, doom-and-gloom predictions.  But not always.  When Jesus predicted that the Second Temple would be torn down before his generation was gone, for example, he was right.
Ah, I'm not sure which direction I should go here ...

Should I ask whether any PO pundits have the same inside track with an omniscient Deity?

Or should I ask what fraction of all far future predictions have to be correct (70%, 80%?) in order for the entire genre of predictions to be trustworthy?

I don't know if Jesus had the inside track either, but I think he was one hell of a sociologist if nothing else.

There is no fraction at all; that would be far too binary in a situation that demands a sliding scale.  Like I said upthread, every prediction comes with a probability and a bracket.  When predicting something farther in the future, all that means is that your probability goes down.  Even events in the far future can be accurately predicted with a sufficient bracket to offset that: "The sun will expand into a red giant somewhere betwwn 1 and 10 billion years from now."  That's pretty far in the future—at least a billion years—but because I gave myself such a ridiculously large bracket, it's also pretty damn certain I'm right, isn't it?

You simply can't make such bald statements as "it's impossible to predict the future," or "you can't predict what will happen a century from now."  That's nonsense; of course you can.  The only question is what you're predicting.

Remember who I'm talking to.  The doomers think they have nailed (well a small number of leaders have nailed) a specific path for human history over the next century:

Humans will stupidly use up all fossil fuels and then die-off.

You tell me, is human history predictable decades in advance?

I guess the extra credit question is why those fringe leaders are right (doomers) while some other fringe leaders (cornucopians) are wrong?

As a "doomer,"* I'd say the reason I'm right and the cornucopians are wrong because their evidence is shoddy, and mine is not.  But now we're talking about the evidence for a prediction, not the fact that a prediction has been made.

* I hate that term, and I don't think it describes my viewpoint very well at all.  I get more a sense of foreboding and dread from the cornucopian nightmare that this is the way things will always be and there's no way we will ever be able to escape it until we've succeeded in wiping out all life in the universe.  But that's me.

I think it is productive to understand and name our (global human society's) problems.  I think I'd reserve "Doomer" for those who have locked onto a fixed conclusion.

If nothing else, one loses one's flexibility and ability to respond to changing circumstance.

You know ... shifting gears a bit, I think a lot of the frustration of Peak Oilers (Doomers or not) comes from the lack of response by society.  An interesting possibility is just that we are early adopters by nature, and mistaking the lack of early response as a sign that there will be no later response.

I tripped on one of my earlier comments today, in which I wrote (may 2006, when an injury prevented capital letters):

i'm sure it is a common feeling to experience a mini culture shock when you leave a peak oil site like TOD and walk out your door into the real world.

if we aren't going to commit the sin of hubris, we have to consider that those folks out there might be as right as we are.  it's always a danger that one might fall into "big secret" thinking, and the lure of arcane knowledge.

if i were going to split the difference, i might think that people out there have skills for survival.  they not only 'can deal' with change, they are made for it.  the brain is a mechanism for thinking through forward-leaning survival problems.  imperfect perhaps, but good enough for umpty-ump thousand years.

i think culture has not changed on a wide scale because it does not have to.  the costs of energy are still low.  the gas to get you to work/lunch/mall is still trivial compared to the money made or spent in the rest of the activity.  on the other hand, our culture perceives enough of a problem to discuss it in the public space (60 minutes) and launch attempts at solutions (hybrids, ethanol, hydrogen).

we are seeing a cultural response.  we are part of a cultural response.

To me, a Doomer has to be sure that this response is all there is.

An interesting possibility is ... that we are ... mistaking the lack of early response as a sign that there will be no later response.

I disagree. A late response will likely be too late to prevent collapse or even to enact some sort of semi-controlled contraction.

Can you prove that without invoking religion?
I can't prove it, but I would say a late response will follow a certain pattern:

  1.  Less Oil
  2.  Recession/Depression
  3.  Energy Use Falls as Supplies dwindle/price increases
  4.  At some point our alternatives (coal, nuclear, wind, hydro) will be enough to even out supply to a point where it is no longer falling.  **Someone should note that the peak curve does level out somewhat after 10-20 years.  I might even argue that at some point our energy production will begin to rise again.
  5.  Population will level off, possibly decrease.
  6.  New economies will emerge from this lower energy world to increase productivity.  This will happen not because of govt, but because modern man is the greatest innovator the world has ever seen.
  7.  There will be another boom.
  8.  Hopefully it won't take us a 1000 years this time.
Prove it? No, of course not. Provide good supporting evidence? Yes. I don't want to do it here, but think of the Hirsch report. His basic conclusion (as most all of us around here are aware): We need to start mitigating peak oil 20 years ahead or the economic and societal impacts will be of an unprecedented scale. The longer we wait, the worse impacts and the harder it will be to mitigate.

I like to use this analogy. It's winter in the Northeast. You can use the limited natural gas supply you have to
a) heat people's homes so they don't freeze to death
b) use the energy to manufacture insulation and solar pv for next winter

I think the evidence thus far indicates society will choose option (a).

I don't disagree with you that there will be winners and losers.  But price WILL regulate supply.  

You may have a mass migration from New England to Virginia or North Carolina where you don't freeze to death in January,  But some people will still be able to afford some form of heat.  Other people will block off large portions of their home and heat smaller sections.  Or live with more people.

We, as a civilization, don't require anywhere near 85mbd of oil to survive.  We'll adapt.

The argument upstream is for "collapse."  You used that word yourself at 4:24 PM PST.

You've confused me now when you shift from that to "supporting evidence" of some sort of problem.  If the argument is really for collapse, and not simply trouble, isn't a proof required?   If you believe in collapse without proof, merely uncalculable evidence ... isn't a leap of faith required?

I don't know how I missed this comment back in May (maybe it was 250+ posts in or something) but it's a keeper; perfectly describes my "doubting self" and the disconnect I feel between my PO reading and the lives I see in front of me on the freeways...OTOH, the technologist/cornucopian case is not a strong one.
The people that get me are the ones that I call "blithe optimists."  They are the folks who don't really want to know the details, but just have faith that something will work out.  It's a mirror image to the faith that nothing will work out.

You'd see me giving them as hard a time as the doomers ... if they'd only show up here ;-)

(There is the guy over at AltEng, still insisting that "Peak oil will be a non-event" but he's not so much blithe as superficial.  For him a press release is as good as a solution.)

[Those who] just have faith that something will work out.  It's a mirror image to the faith that nothing will work out.

And in between "them" and "they" are about 6 Billion other monkeys pounding out predictions on their typewriters. I have "faith" that one of those predictions will turn out correct.

P.S. How dare you question "the Brain".

There is a difference between a "prediction" and an educated guess.  Some people might even call it an hypothesis.

An hypothesis does not need to be proven 100% correct to be accepted as fact.  It just needs to be accepted by the "majority" of the scientific community as a fact.

Evolution is one of those accepted facts.

Peak Oil is slowly becoming one of those accepted facts.

This starts out good, when you say "There is a difference between a 'prediction' and an educated guess."

But unfortunately it takes a wrong turn when you say "An hypothesis does not need to be proven 100% correct to be accepted as fact."

Sorry, no.  My dictionary still shows a difference between "hypothesis" and "fact."

As for predicting decades in the future, I generally don't.  I'm more concerned just with the factors coalescing in the next decade or two.  I'm not sure peak oil will necessarily cause collapse all by itself; any one of the factors I'm watching could cause collapse, but none of them come close to guaranteeing it.  What worries me is the synergy of all those crises, a la Katrina's combination of global warming and peak oil, as well as their concurrency.  The reason I think collapse is so likely is not because any one factor guarantees it, but that they all have a reasonable probability, and they are all happening at the same time, making the probability that at least one of them will be sufficient to cause collapse extremely high.
I agree we have problems, and it is correct to call them out.
Note: The crux should be worrying to any follower.  It is that a small number of leaders have a lock on the future.
To the best of my knowledge, not one single science-fiction story published prior to 1950 had the Internet or anything like the Internet in it. Indeed, it is hilarious to look at science-fiction magazine covers from the mid 1950s, where space pirates a few hundred years from now are carrying slide rules in their teeth, and computers fill whole buildings to do such tasks as are now done on a laptop computer. The big problem is getting enough liquid helium to cool the massive computers on which civilization depends . . .

Cause of collapse? Running out of helium.

There's a great little book called "where wizards stay up late - the originis of the internet."  Digging out my copy now I see that they start their story with 1960's ARPA projects.

I seem to remember that Vannevar Bush said some things earlier than that .... ah:

In 1945 a seminal article appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. Titled, "As We May Think," the article's author, Vannevar Bush (1890-1974), proposed a new mechanical machine to help scholars and decision makers make sense of the growing mountains of information being published in to the world. This article presaged the idea of the Internet and the World Wide Web and was directly influential on the fathers of the hypertext and the Internet as we know it today. Ted Nelson, who coined the term "hypertext" in 1967, describes Bush's article as describing the principles of it.


Now there was a smart guy.

Speaking of diggin out books ... "Scavengers in Space" by Alan E. Nourse, 1958, originally 35 cents.  I'll have to read it again ;-)

I am reading the new Verner Vinge book right now (Rainbow's End).  As with all Vinge books, it rocks, and spins an interesting arc from today's tech and social trends.  For those who haven't read the guy's bio, check it out ... the guy has good tech chops to be writing about computer-tech trends.

 Actually, Pete Townshend invented the Internet in 1971...

[Lifehouse was set in the future --a future we're currently living in - in the last days of this millennium Townshend had written about a world in which people stayed sealed up inside their houses to protect themselves from pollution and experienced the world through a communication network that he called The Grid.

At the end of the piece, Townshend envisaged a concert at which a band played music that was somehow "programmed" to reflect the people in the audience; as each individual's music was layered on all the others, the sound would evolve until it finally became "one note" -- a note that would connect spiritually with everyone.

Let's see now: rampant pollution, a computer network that connects everybody and music that is programmed rather than composed in the traditional way. Townshend appears to have got it all about right, if we allow him a certain exaggeration for dramatic effect. But in 1971, the press and the public felt otherwise. Nobody believed in the premise of the plot, and an attempt to stage a version of the ''one-note" concert at the Young Vic proved disastrous.

Well, it wasn't published until 1994, but Verne wrote this in 1863:
In his Paris in the 20th Century, Verne predicted or alluded to a wide variety of modern technological items we, and earlier generations, have come to take for granted. Among them are:

    * gasoline-powered automobiles
    * high-speed trains
    * calculators
    * The Internet (a worldwide "telegraphic" communications network)
    * fax machines ("photographic telegraphy permitted transmission of the facsimile of any form of writing or illustration")
    * electric chairs (criminals "executed by electric charge")

- Wikipedia
Thanks for this, Jason.

When I read Tainter, I always wonder whether a society (or perhaps the clever leaders in a society) couldn't realize that complexity was creating diminishing returns, and "shed" complexity voluntarily. 20th-century Europe, for example, saw the "collapse" of the large, centralized empires into simpler ones since WWI: The dismantling of the Russian, Prussian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman into smaller and simpler nation-states after WW1, and the collapse of the multi-ethnic Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia in the 1990's.

I know that a voluntary reduction in complexity has rarely, if ever, happened on a large scale, but that is not to say that it can't happen. For example, the world had never seen the voluntary reduction in fertility to levels below replacement until the 20th century, but now most of the OECD countries are voluntarily shrinking their populations in the absence of famine, war, disease, or economic crisis.

I am reminded of an essay by Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote in Granta magazine in 1990. In it, he praised the political "demolition experts", as he called them:

In the past few decades, a more significant protagonist has stepped forward: a hero of a new kind, representing not victory, conquest and triumph, but renunciation, reduction and dismantling. We have every reason to concern ourselves with these specialists in denial, for our continent depends on them if it is to survive.

It was Clausewitz, the doyen of strategic thinking, who showed that retreat is the most difficult of all operations. That applies in politics as well. The non plus ultra in the art of the possible consists of withdrawing from an untenable position. But if the stature of the hero is proportional to the difficulty of the task before him, then it follows that our concept of the heroic needs not only to be revised, but also to be stood on its head. Any cretin can throw a bomb. It is a thousand times more difficult to defuse one.

His examples are Kruschev, Kadar, Suarez, and Gorbachev, who rose through the apparat, but realized that the ongoing existence of their respective regimes was untenable, and went about their dismantling. They occupy an awkward position; the establishment see them as traitors, while the reformers see them as compromised. None of them are loved, or even celebrated, in their home countries, yet their role in history may be, in retrospect, much more crucial than that of the conquering hero. Enzensberger concudes with:

A German philosopher once said that by the end of the century the question would no longer be one of improving the world but of saving it, which applies not only to those dictatorships whose elaborate dismantling we have watched with our own eyes. The Western democracies are also facing an unprecedented dissolution. The military aspect is only one of many. We must also withdraw from our untenable position in the war of debt against the Third World, and the most difficult retreat of all will be in the war against the biosphere that we have been waging since the industrial revolution. It is time for our own diminutive statesmen to measure up to the demolition experts. An energy or transport policy worthy of the name will only come about through a strategic retreat. Certain large industries -- ultimately no less threatening than one-party rule -- will have to be broken up. The courage and conviction necessary to bring this about will hardly be greater than those the communist functionary had to summon up to do away with his party's monopoly.

Maybe, by making us aware of diminishing returns, the insights of Tainter, Diamond, and the rest offer us choices of whether to collapse or powerdown voluntarily. I just hope that some societies (which looks unlikely to be the USA, I'm afraid, although some regions and cities might do better than others) is clever enough to act effectively on the insight.

20th-century Europe, for example, saw the "collapse" of the large, centralized empires into simpler ones since WWI: The dismantling of the Russian, Prussian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman into smaller and simpler nation-states after WW1, and the collapse of the multi-ethnic Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia in the 1990's.

So how would you account for the EU??? An increase in complexity, surely??

For example, the world had never seen the voluntary reduction in fertility to levels below replacement until the 20th century, but now most of the OECD countries are voluntarily shrinking their populations in the absence of famine, war, disease, or economic crisis.

I really have a problem with your use of the word "voluntarily"... it is simply a consequence of the above-mention factors...

So how would you account for the EU??? An increase in complexity, surely??

Absolutely.  Collapse is a start-and-stop process, where you have breakdowns of complexity, momentary returns, and then further breakdowns.  If my guess is right, then the EU is a momentary return.  Of course, this will remain only my guess for my whole lifetime--we'll only be able to really judge this with a few centuries of hindsight.

The EU is more complex than its nation-state members, although it seems that a majority of the French and Dutch electorates (and, to judge from opinion polls, the UK populace as well) are dubious of the benefits of further investment in complexity. Whether the EU gets "deeper" (further integration) or "wider" (more countries) seems an open question now.

As the EU has grown, so has sub-national and regional autonomy in a number of EU countries -- Spain's 22 regional governments, devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales, "unitary authorities and metropolitan governments in the UK, regional assemblies in France, Belgium's "dual federalism", etc. So while the EU represents a trend of centralization, there is a separate trend of decentralization in the EU member states going on at the same time. Both trends have progressed fits and starts, and both trends have seen progress and reversals in recent years. Whether we will see a centralized European super-state, something like the present loose confederation of nation-states, or Denis de Rougemont's decentralized "Europe of the Regions" is anyone's guess. For me, the bigger question remains whether a society, or the leaders of a society, might choose to dismantle its untenable infrastructures and institutions rather than face collapse.

I don't think it would be possible to shed complexity voluntarily, because at every level we're locked in a game of prisoner's dilemna (thesis #12).
Nice post Rose.  One idea for discussion another day might be why "complexity" must fall with "powerdown."

On the surface (and perhaps for us pedantic engineers) powerdown is about energy use.  Complexity is about information content.

But I'm willing to fudge that for a moment and say that some level of complexity/energy reduction is required for powerdown and continued "success" in our society.  I can even say that we must need some value of reduction ... X%, in order to avoid "die-off."

With that premise stated, I'd ask the die-off folks if they've calculated X?  Do they think they know what is a sustainable level of energy and complexity in human socieity ... or do we revert to faith, and simple mental concepts like "agricultural society?"

I've never nailed down X to a specific number, but I keep coming back to something in the high 90s, at the very least, when comparing our society to even the most resource-intensive sustainable societies known.
That's interesting.  Is your methodology "numeric?"
Not really.  I'm not even sure where I'd start with a rigorous, mathematical examination of the matter.  I've compared the pre-Columbian population (even going with Mann's "permacultural utopia" presented in 1491), to the current population, forager EROEI to petroleum, things like that, and I keep coming up with numbers in the high 90s.  I think the lowest was comparing current North American population to Mann's 1491 estimates, which was just 90% or so.  But no, I wouldn't call this rigorous by any stretch of the imagination, just a general ballpark that keeps cropping up no matter which angle I take.
If I were to use an engineer's term, I'd ask you if you really have an MTBF for complex human societies ;-)
Oh, for a high value of X we might also add a timeframe question ... 90% in Y decades?

(I was thinking of a couple decades myself, and that ... per the Hirsch report, etc., yields values of X less than 50%.  Stuat's "slow squeeze," etc.)

There's the question.  To avoid die-off, my guess would be we needed to start 30 years ago, back when they were saying, "Hey, we need to change things in 30 years or we'll be in for some real trouble."  We may already be too far along to avoid die-off.  Obviously, if you cut energy by 90% overnight, that will cause die-off, so how long can you take, minimally, such that powerdown no longer requires massive mortality?  I don't know.
For what it's worth, I think the slow squeeze scenario looks manageable.  That's using other people's numbers (Stuart's, Hirsch's, etc.) and then looking at the obvious "low survival value" uses of energy around me.

I think it should give pessimists pause that they seem less to start with numbers than to go from their gut.  If an expectation of die-off really starts from a subjective view of human nature ... then you are really telling me more about yourself, and less about our world.

I'm not so sure.  I think the "slow squeeze" scenario neglects a lot of factors that are more difficult to quantify—which is why I've never managed to come up with a number.  I have no idea how to calculate our society's complexity, for example, but that may be the single most salient metric in this entire discussion.  Yet we can only estimate it.
Why is complexity, which I as a chemist, engineer, programmer, would call a measure of information content, a critical issue?
Well, as an anthropologist, I can tell you that complexity is very much at the heart of the very definition of civilization, and collapse is simply a massive loss of complexity.  Then of course, there's Tainter's argument that complexity is subject to diminishing returns.
Sure, that translates to the recent fuzzy idea coming out of programing and biology that so much of what we experience is information flow.

But the hard question for you is how you define complexity in this context, and how you show what constitutes "too much" complexity in a lower energy environment.

... we've gotten very good at increasing the bits/watt in both storage and communications over the last 50 years.

Complexity, for an anthropologist, is just how many elements are in play.  It can be counted, and has been for other (simpler) cultures.  "Too much" is when you pass the point of diminishing returns, when each new thing you come up with takes more energy to come up with, and has a lower return for your effort.  At that point, solving your problems by increasing complexity--creating new bureaucracies, inventing new technologies, etc.--becomes ineffective.  Your ability to cope with new problems is diminished, while the pace of problems contiues on (or, in our case, actually escalates as a consequence of our complexity--see, for example, global warming).  In that context, it's basically like playing a game of Russian roulette every day, and every day you put one more bullet in the gun than the last.  It may be hard to predict how many days you'll last, or which specific bullet will kill you, but it becomes increasingly easy to predict that you won't survive that pattern for very long.
I'm sorry, but I see that "'Too much' is when you pass the point of diminishing returns [...]" at best as an unproven conjecture, and at worst as an emotional invocation.
I'm afraid I don't understand.  Are you saying, then, that an investment past the point of diminishing returns will continue to yield the same returns for the same investment?  Because that's really all I'm suggesting; the rest is merely the consequences of that.  If it takes more energy to come up with the next bit of complexity, or if complexity becomes less effective the more of it you have, then complexity becomes less viable as a solution to problems.  If you rely on complexity as your primary problem solving strategy (as we do), then your ability to solve problems is diminished.  What part of this is unproven, or emotional?
I really should start riding ... but consider the guy coming from the other side.  AltEng posts every possible alternative energy press release, to imply that one of them must pay off.  That's unproven, and a long time ago I took the guy to task for that.

He's suggesting (emotionally, IMO) that with all of these things one of them must pay off.  One of them must (in the TOD phrase) "save us."

That's unproven.  He's wrong that some number of tries proves a success ... but I think you're wrong that the average success rate of all those tries determines our future.

We need "enough" wins in all those tries, and we won't know if we have them until they all play out.  In my old phrase, "we can't count our chickens before they're hatched.  we can't count 'zero' chickens as pessimists do, and we can't count 'enough' chickens as optimists do."

The correct (if painful) course, is to wait and see.

OK, I'll accept your argument.  We don't need to "win" all the time, just "enough" of the time.  So there's some threshold, X, and if our percentage of "wins" drops below X, then we're looking at collapse--do I understand you correctly?

With diminishing returns, Tainter argues that our ability to answer problems is diminished.  So, it's harder and harder to "win."  The result is that our percentage of "wins" continues to drop.  Whatever X may be, if the percentage is steadily dropping, we will eventually drop below X, no?

The only way to do otherwise would be to stop the decrease, and instead increase.  For that, we'd need complexity to suddenly become much more cost-effective.  In other words, as Tainter argued, we need a new subsidy, like fossil fuels once were.  If there is no subsidy, then there's no way to reverse the trend of complexity's diminishing returns, so there's no way to stop our percentage from eventually dropping below X, so there's no way to stop collapse.

I really think this argument knocks down Tainter (or at least Tainter as he is presented here).

All you can do is reassert that "diminishing returns" means "reduced problem solving."

Unproven.  Indeed, "diminishing returns" may indicate cumulative completion of a great number of problems ;-)

I shouldn't try to post right after a bike ride.  Posts between 3:00pm and now are unsatisfactory, for me anyway.

FWIW, to answer your specific question about a threshold of innovation required to prevent collapse ... all I can say is possibly.  These there are an interaction between social and technological forces ... that I still frankly see as unpredictable.

The "return" on complexity is its ability to solve problems.  "Diminishing returns" on complexity is "reduced problem solving."  That's the return on complexity!  A solved problem!
No.  Return is a rate of success.

A problem does not need 1000 solutions, only one.

We do not need 1000 flavors of effective solar cells, only one.

Yes, but how do you come up with that one solution?  Complexity is a strategy for coming up with a solution.  Want to invest in some new technology, R&D to see if we can invent a more effective photovoltaic cell?  That's an investment in complexity.  Diminishing returns on complexity means that it takes more investment in complexity to come up with a solution, or that the solution is increasingly poor.  Either way, it's the very definition of reduced capacity to solve problems.
It's an interesting question how you come up with solutions.  The state-centered approach is to fund one project, or a small number of competetive project.  The market solution varies.  Sometimes fields are left underfunded, and some are what I call oversubscribed.  IMO there have been more companies working on the design of things like USB thumb drives and MP3 music players than are really "needed."

But note, you are continuing to "assert" that the average changes the success rate of the particular.  I still see that as flawed at the logical level.

Remember "diminishing returns" is all about innovation "per" something.  Per year, per thousand researchers, per million dollars.  None of those "pers" will matter a thousand years from now.  All that matters is the success of the particular.

What's a good example .... do we care about the success rate of all pre-Wright-Bros flying machines?  Or do we only care that the Wright Bros changed the equation?

(Certainly the pre-Wright success rate, was an indicator that man would never fly)

The "state-centered" and "market" solutions you refer to are merely different strategies to come up with greater complexity.  New technology or new bureaucracy are just different types of complexity.

But note, you are continuing to "assert" that the average changes the success rate of the particular.  I still see that as flawed at the logical level.

No, I'm not.  I'm not making any claims whatever with regards to the particular.  You keep asserting that I am, but I am not and have not.  I have made two claims, both referring to averages:

1.) Supposing there is a class of problems that could break a society if unsolved, an increasing difficulty solving problems means that it becomes increasingly likely that at least one such problem will not be solved, which will cause collapse.

2.) Supposing there is some threshold of solved vs. unsolved problems beyond which a society collapses, the same increasing difficulty solving problems means that the ratio will continue to deteroriate until collapse occurs.

In which way does either scenario make any reference whatever to the particular case?  Both deal with averages and probabiltiy, not particular cases.  I have no idea which particular problem we will fail to solve that will be "the straw that broke the camel's back," I know only that the current trajectory makes that eventuality increasingly likely.

If you are going to stick with averages, why should I worry, in the least?

How does the average result in solar energy research effect me?

We're going in circles here; I've already explained why averages are important.  You keep insisting on applying my statements about average results to a specific example—I can't tell you anything about a specific case.  I can't tell you if we'll come up with better solar or not (I'd guess yes, but I don't know).  I'm beginning to suspect that your consistent charges of applying averages to specific cases is a bit of projection on your part.

But, to reiterate, the reason averages are important are twofold: (1) there is a set of problems that crop up regularly, that must be solved, or they will destroy a society.  Climate change is an excellent example of such a problem.  Complexity is invented to deal with precisely this type of problem, but failure to solve this problem has resulted in many collapses, most famously the Maya.  If our ability to solve problems is being diminished over time, the probability that one of these problems will go unsolved, and thus bring about collapse, approaches 1.  (2) If, as you supposed upthread, collapse occurs when some threshold X is passed in the ratio of solved to unsolved problems, then the same degradation in our problem solving capacity will continue to lower that ratio until collapse occurs.

I agree we are at a wall, but I think it is because you insist, without proof, that averages dictate future events.

smacks self

Oy vey.

OK, one more time, for posterity ... averages do not dictate future events.  But averages are averages.

(1) If you are dealing with an iterative phenomenon, like the incidence of problems that must be solved or society will collapse, then as your ability to solve problems is diminished, the probabilty of one of those problems will go unsolved approaches 1.

(2) If collapse occurs when a threshold in the ratio of solved to unsolved problems is breached, then as your ability to solve problems is diminished, the number of unsolved problems increases, and you will eventually cross that threshold.

This has nothing to do with the prediction of specific future events; it has to do with the understanding that if you play Russian roulette every day, you're eventually going to die.  If every day, you load one more bullet than the day before, you're going to die more quickly.

I think you are a smart and honest guy Jason, but I really feel that you have a conclusion and are back-filling to get there.

If collapse occurs when a threshold in the ratio of solved to unsolved problems is breached, then as your ability to solve problems is diminished, the number of unsolved problems increases, and you will eventually cross that threshold.

There is no evidence that a ratio of solved to unsolved problems leads to collapse.

The need, as I tried to frame it some time back, is for "enough" solved problems ... and we won't know what enough is until we live it.

There is no evidence that a ratio of solved to unsolved problems leads to collapse.

The need, as I tried to frame it some time back, is for "enough" solved problems ... and we won't know what enough is until we live it.

What could "enough" mean, except a ratio of solved to unsolved problems?  Even non-critical unsolved problems can accumulate into major crises, unless you solve enough other problems to keep it under control.  I agree that what that threshold might be is probably unknowable until we cross it, but that is your supposition, not mine.

What could "enough" mean, except a ratio of solved to unsolved problems?

I don't think so.  To take it back to solar cells, there might be 1000 unanswered questions on all of the lines of innovation: trackers, concentrators, efficinecy, lifetime, etc., etc., ... or there might be 2000 unanswered questions.

I don't care.  I only care if one (or one combination) of those questions is answered, and cuts solar cell costs/watt in any significant way.

... or one of the 100 questions in geothermal might pay off, and suddenly I don't care about those solar questions any more.

Indeed an answer might obviate a whole series of pending questions.  Do I care how many geothermal questions are pending, if solar suddenly kicks ass?

Why is complexity, ... a critical issue?

Because, at any given level of development, complexity is COSTLIER than simplicity.
It is the COST that kills, not complexity per se.

Did you actually read Tainter before going into critiscism?

No need for elaborate "models" or "measures" to understand the metaphor of the LOW HANGING FRUIT.
Why does everybody picks the low hanging fruit first?
Because it is easier and cheaper.
Once there are no more "low hanging fruits" what do you do?
Reach for the more EXPENSIVE ones (the vaunted "market pressure").
But this IS actually the problem, after a few such moves it does not worth the trouble anymore.


You can't just say (undefined) complexity has too great an (undefined) cost.

State your definitinos for complexity, and cost.

(A CD-ROM costs, either in energy or materials or dollars, less than any text storage mechanism in the history of man ... help me understand how that translates into a crisis in cost)

State your definitinos for complexity, and cost.

You cannot have it both ways odograoh.
Asking for an accurate model AND being supportive of Fooled by Randomness which main thesis is that it is WHAT IS OUTSIDE the "accurate model" which brings failure.

So you are TROLLING.

I think I'm consistent.  I start with this being unpredictable, and ask those with a conviction to support it with a model.

Now, if I had a prediction myself, a firm model of the future I claimed to be true, while at the same time pointing people to "Fooled by Randomness" you might have a point.

I think I'm consistent.

Yes, you consistently try to confuse the issue and Jason is no match for your wickedness.

... you might have a point.

I DO have a point, EXACTLY the same one I just explained:
It is CONTRADICTORY to support "Fooled by Randomness" AND ask for an accurate model, it does not matter if you have a prediction or not.
Or, rather it DOES MATTER, it is yet another WICKED TRICK for you not to have a prediction, as soon as Jason or anyone else would come up with a model you will be able to shoot it down with the arguments from "Fooled by Randomness" without appearing to have switched policies.

You seem to have "selective dumbness" like not being able to understand a metaphor which can be grasped by anyone.
And trying to derail the reasoning with irrelevant mumbo-jumbo:

(A CD-ROM costs, either in energy or materials or dollars, less than any text storage mechanism in the history of man ... help me understand how that translates into a crisis in cost)

Which I attempted to preempt on Thursday August 03, 2006 at 9:11 PM CET by explaining the specifics of software complexity and to which you replied with your usual muddling on Friday August 04, 2006 at 1:20 AM CET, that is, 4 minutes AFTER writing the above drivel Friday August 04, 2006 at 1:16 AM CET.
Another "dumb, tired, post-ride, comment", what a pity or what a CLEVERNESS in the timing!

So, let me think...
Not a troll, not an asshole, not a lobbyist, a psychotic may be?
There is a Club at TOD you can happily join.

I agree with odograph that Jason (Anthropik) keeps using the word "complexity" and keeps refusing to define it.

It's not that hard to find a list of definitions and to pick one.

But to keep going in circles about this "complexity" thing without ever nailing down some definition is not a sign of complex reasoning power. It is a sign of circular logic.

Many software packages have the characteritic of "complexity" in that they are intricate and entangled. Sometimes that complexity makes them more robust rather than prone to failure.
 There is no one-to-one correlation between complexity and failure. There is no one-to-one correlation between simplicity and success. Simpletons often fail (even in Don's class :-)

Jason (Anthropik) keeps using the word "complexity" and keeps refusing to define it.

May be he cannot, Jason is driven by his primitivist faith, not much by reason, so this argument is irrelevant to the core of the matter.

Simpletons often fail

Simplicity is not about simpletons :-)

There is no one-to-one correlation between complexity and failure.

Of course not, no one-to-one correlation (and correlation is not causation), but complexity does bring failure from two different courses of action :

- When increased complexity means increased cost, this is what Tainter is mostly about.
- When complexity entails brittleness upon unexpected changes in the operating conditions.

Software suffers from BOTH causes of failure.

Industry HAD suffered mostly from increased costs ("low hanging fruits" first syndrome) but it comes to suffer more and more from brittleness of operations too.
Too many single points of failure along paths of operations.

Earth ecology and life dot not APPEAR at first glance to suffer from brittleness in spite of complexity several orders of magnitude larger than our puny economic contraptions, but this is because they had matured and settled down for incredible lengths of time, millions and millions of years, over relatively STEADY CONDITIONS.
This has allowed natural selection to weed out most of the unstable and brittle gizmos no matter how "clever" they could look.
Evolution selects for stability, not cleverness nor even fitness.

The scourge of "civilisation" and "progress" is that they bring RADICAL CHANGES in operating conditions and are much TOO FAST with respect to evolution.
Occurring within the framework of an already overly complex system (earth ecology) those two factors are sufficient to bring trouble REGARDLESS OF ANY OTHER CONSIDERATIONS.
We should have been overly cautious with this, we were not and STILL are not.
Then, guess what...

May be he cannot, Jason is driven by his primitivist faith, not much by reason, so this argument is irrelevant to the core of the matter.

I've defined both now several times: complexity is the number of cultural elements in a society, and its cost is energy.

As for my "faith," that's fairly uncalled for, I think.  I wasn't always a primitivist; it's the view I found that made the most sense of the facts as I knew them.  I've shown far more flexibility and willingness to change my viewpoint due to new facts than one usually finds, so I don't think a barb like that is warranted at all.  As far as the religious undertone, you're right, but show me someone who doesn't have that.

"Complexity" is the number of cultural elements in a society, and its "Cost" is energy.

Well, at least we are finally whittling things down to their nub. The next question is what makes an element "cultural" versus not?

Is a verse of poetry a "cultural" item? And if so, how does increasing the number of poems in a society increase its "complexity" and bring about its demise? What if a poem is written but never read? What if a solar powered computer is used to automatically generate random lines of poetry? What is the energy "cost" of such a cultural-item auto-generator (the poem generating computer)?

To be complicated,
Or not to be complicated?
That is the complicated question!
What say thee hollow friend?

The idea of a cultural element is fairly well defined in anthropology.  I'm not sure a poem would count, but certainly "poetry" does.  The idea of a "president" or a "king" is a cultural element.  A thumbtack is a cultural element.

"Complexity, Problem Solving, and Complex Societies" by Joseph Tainter:

Complexity is a key concept of this essay. In an earlier study I characterized it as follows:
Complexity is generally understood to refer to such things as the size of a society, the number and distinctiveness of its parts, the variety of specialized social roles that it incorporates, the number of distinct social personalities present, and the variety of mechanisms for organizing these into a coherent, functioning whole. Augmenting any of these dimensions increases the complexity of a society. Hunter-gatherer societies (by way of illustrating one contrast in complexity) contain no more than a few dozen distinct social personalities, while modern European censuses recognize 10,000 to 20,000 unique occupational roles, and industrial societies may contain overall more than 1,000,000 different kinds of social personalities (McGuire 1983; Tainter 1988).

As a simple illustration of differences in complexity, Julian Steward pointed out the contrast between the native peoples of western North America, among whom early ethnographers documented 3,000 to 6,000 cultural elements, and the U.S. Army, which landed 500,000+ artifact types at Casablanca in World War 11 (Steward 1955). Complexity is quantifiable.

Is a verse of poetry a "cultural" item? And if so, how does increasing the number of poems in a society increase its "complexity" and bring about its demise?

Actually, there's some practical application of that idea.  We have a lot of poetry, a lot of literature and so forth.  These things are referred and alluded to every day.  To be basically conversant in our society requires at least a passing familiarity with a rather large body of literature.  That increases the cost of education.  Specialized training for a specific career usually happens, primarily, in college.  Grade school education is all about catching us up with the basic, minimal requirements needed to be conversant in our society; a familiarity with Shakespeare, for instance, so we're not caught as idiots if someone drops a reference to Hamlet, as you do above.  This kind of complexity increases the size of the "common knowledge" expected of everyone in a given society.  That increases the cost of education.

Thank you for responding.
I think your definition of "Complexity" differs from Tainter's in that he looks at taxanomy within a society (how many different kinds of specializations are there?) and not at raw numbers.

In terms of example, adding a new math teacher to the school system increases the raw numbers of teachers according to your definition but it does not increase the number of specializations according to Tainter's. So under your defintion, complexity is increased everytime a new baby is born. Under Tainter's definition, complexity increases only when that baby grows up and adopts a new role within society (i.e. a complexity professor) that had not existed before.

With either of these defintions, complexity decreases every time the last sasquatch in a given field of speciality dies off.

I think your definition of "Complexity" differs from Tainter's in that he looks at taxanomy within a society (how many different kinds of specializations are there?) and not at raw numbers.

You honed in on just one of the aspects of complexity that Tainter mentions.  He also includes:

the size of a society, the number and distinctiveness of its parts, the variety of specialized social roles that it incorporates, the number of distinct social personalities present, and the variety of mechanisms for organizing these into a coherent, functioning whole.

As for raw numbers, you seem to have neglected the last paragraph I quoted:

As a simple illustration of differences in complexity, Julian Steward pointed out the contrast between the native peoples of western North America, among whom early ethnographers documented 3,000 to 6,000 cultural elements, and the U.S. Army, which landed 500,000+ artifact types at Casablanca in World War 11 (Steward 1955). Complexity is quantifiable.

Emphasis added.

So under your defintion, complexity is increased everytime a new baby is born. Under Tainter's definition, complexity increases only when that baby grows up and adopts a new role within society (i.e. a complexity professor) that had not existed before.

You misunderstand me then.  I thought I'd taken care to distinguish this, but obviously it was insufficient.  I don't have a definition of complexity of my own.  I agree with Tainter's view: complexity is defined in terms of number of types.  As I mentioned upthread, a "president" is a cultural element, but George Bush is not.  A "thumbtack" is a cultural element, but the individual tack in that wall over there is not.

Thanks for the clarification.
To those lurkers out there who may wonder why we are pursuing this geek-fest re "Complexity", it is because "Complexity" is one of the reasons our society fails to react appropriately to the oncoming (or already here) Peak Oil phenomenon.

Part of the Complexity equation, is the in-rooted infrastructure for supporting an oil-based economy (plastics, gasoline, asphalt, ...).

Once such a complex infra-structure becomes pervasively entangled with the rest of our society, it is like an unstoppable ivy plant It becomes increasingly difficult to "weed" it out.

I've defined both now several times: complexity is the number of cultural elements in a society, and its cost is energy.
I've defined both now several times: complexity is the number of cultural elements in a society, and its cost is energy.
I did see you put that out there as the anthropologists measure.  I didn't realize you were using that measure in the complexity/collapse equation.

Anyway, has this relationship between "cultural elements" and energy been calculated?

Wouldn't it be non-linear?  Surely each incremental web page added to the google cache did not result in an equal fixed increment of energy expenditure.  Information, and costs of managing that information, have been on their own separate non-linear curves.

Shorter: does this definition make complexity/cost incalculable?
No, it is calculable, it's just extremely difficult to do so.  It makes calculating ERoEI seem easy by comparison, but at least it's theoretically possible.
I think what you are really saying is that you have an untested idea of how to model it.

Or has someone both computed this complexity, and tested that computation against the real world?

Tainter did precisely that, but not for our society.  Others have done it, but only for other societies.  I do not know of anyone who has ever successfully applied the model to other societies, but it certainly works in theory, and has worked as applied to other societies.
I apologize for the typo; I wrote:

I do not know of anyone who has ever successfully applied the model to other societies, but it certainly works in theory, and has worked as applied to other societies.

That should read:

I do not know of anyone who has ever successfully applied the model to our society, but it certainly works in theory, and has worked as applied to other societies.

Maybe I should ask "works" in what sense?

If someone calculates a complexity for our society, and weighs the number of public companies by factor X, and the number of public web pages by factor Y ... how on earth can we know that the result "works" in any meaningful sense?

"Works" in the sense of any hypothesis: that when you enter the data, it accurately predicts what happens next.  Since we are talking about whether or not a hypothesis "works," I would think that sense would be obvious from context.
How many societal collapses have you predicted in advance?
In advance?  None, I'm not that old, but the data is pretty agnostic about history.  Take a look at Tainter.  He defines a function.  You supply the values for complexity and energy, and it makes a prediction.  You can then compare that prediction to what actually happened.  This is precisely what most of Collapse of Complex Societies deals with, and it's about as scientific as archaeology gets.  It's certainly as scientific a warning as we're going to get before it happens to us.
You know the old gag ... predictions are hard, especially about the future.
For a follow up on another thread see here.

BTW, pessimists who worry over comlexity might be interested in cross-reading the wikipedia entry on "complex systems."

To pick up one line that might support my view that such systems are unpredictable:

A complex system is one whose evolution is very sensitive to initial conditions or to small perturbations, one in which the number of independent interacting components is large, or one in which there are multiple pathways by which the system can evolve (Whitesides and Ismagilov)

So sure, a complex system (our industrial society?) might fail ... but do you know not only initial (or current) conditions, but also every small perturbation that might occur over the next century or two?

I'm afraid that's the true insanity of any "knowing" of the future of a complex system.

I go back and forth on whether complexity means the same thing to anthropologists as it does to biologists as it does to chaos theoreticians, but to briefly recapitulate the argument I made the last time someone countered me with chaos theory, statistics is all about understanding uncertainty.  Chaos theory effectively shows us that we can never predict how civilization will collapse with 100% certainty, but I think we can certainly observe that the system is becoming less and less capable of dealing with shocks, problems and crises, constituting an escalating probability of breakdown, don't you think?
I don't think you need (formal) chaos theory to make the case that a network of autonomous agents, each with memory and volition, is difficult to predict.

As to the rest ("we can certainly observe that the system is becoming less and less capable of dealing with shocks"), has anyone done that with world economies (or more pertinent to die-off, death rates) in a numeric sense?

Or is this again a call to the subjective?  I'm afraid that's really the way I'm experiencing it in this thread.  My sudden thought as I walked away a few minutes ago is that the whole doomer thing relies on the lack of a formal definition of complexity.  Is it just a scary word, or can you define it in a way to make the argument that we have "too much complexity" into something numeric?

There's nothing inherently scary about complexity, and it does have a possible metric: you add up the number of culture items.  The kinds of tools, the kinds of social roles, cultural concepts, and so forth.  Such studies have been done of other cultures--Tainter cites some of them--but our own gets pretty dizzying very quickly.  In my own thesis #15, I examine a number of metrics that seem like good estimates of different aspects of complexity, but I'm not aware of any study that actually came up with the full count of culture items in our culture.  It would be quite a large number, I'm sure.
I'm familiar with the argument that we have "diminishing returns."  It might be an interesting side argument how such returns are averaged over the many facets of human endeavour ... but I think a more direct challenge to the "die-off" concept is:

How does any of this prove "too much" complexity?

I did not find that answer convincing.  I'll try to be open minded here ... but I'm not seeing a solid logical connection between a proposed "diminishing returns" and an inability to deal with critial issues.

The whole argument rests on the average result determining the specific result.

No, it rests on the average result, period.  After all, there is a constant stream of problems that any society has to deal with; all you have to do is fail to meet one of them, and your society will break down.
Don't be silly.

Consider 1000 projects to improve solar power by a factor of 2x in EROEI.  What do we care about as consumers, the average result?  Or the specific result of just one of them?

You know, I spent some time arguing against the methodology some use to determine "diminishing returns" in a past TOD thread, and I thought I convinced some people ... but I see now that I was dumb to even go down that path.  I don't even need to go to the data, when the logic is flawed.

... fail to meet one of them ... geez louise ... you've never been in the "creative destruction" of the tech buisness have you?  Did google succeed on the average utility of search engines, or the specific utility of their engine?

So, if we manage to solve peak oil, but global warming turns all the arable land in the world to desert, will civilization survive?  It's entirely possible for just one crisis to wipe out a civilization if it's not successfully managed.
I should clarify.  There is a certain class of problems, let's call them "societal breakdown problems."  Peak oil is a good example.  Peak oil has the potential, if unsolved, to lead to a breakdown of society.  It is a solvable problem, and solutions have been proposed: the "technofix," a carbon tax, and so forth.  Notice what all of these solutions have in common, though: they all represent an increase in complexity.  A technofix is an increase in complexity, made difficult by physical constraints and so forth.  A carbon tax is an increase in complexity, made difficult by the political climate.  In both cases, the cost of the solution to this problem is made extremely high by our existing complexity.  The complexity of the government and the resources that complexity requires makes constituents unwilling to pay further for a solution to peak oil, for example.

Peak oil is a fine example of problems in this set, but it's hardly alone.  Global warming, mass extinction, the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, salinization and the loss of arable land, and a whole, long list of other problems belong to the same class.

A society must solve every problem in this class that it is presented with, because each, individual problem has the potential in and of itself to end a society.  If we do manage to solve all of those problems except peak oil, we'll collapse just as surely as if we'd solved none of them at all.

These were the kinds of problems I had in mind—the kinds of problems a society develops complexity to deal with.  Past the point of diminishing returns, it becomes more and more difficult to solve new problems that develop.  Eventually, collapse follows.  Collapse is an economizing process, remember; it downscales complexity to the point where it is viable again.  It occurs when people decide that the solutions to such problems that depend on continuing civilization have simply become too costly, and that these problems could also be solved by reducing complexity, rather than increasing it.

You are stating as a premise that there is a class of "societal breakdown" problems, and that "peak oil is one of them"

ah ... this was the conclusion you were supposed to come to, from more basic data.

My apologies, I thought we'd already established that.  I made that argument elsewhere, but I presumed that it would be one familiar to readers of the Oil Drum.
The argument is familiar, but it seems to be returning to the same self-similar loops, doesn't it?

I don't see it breaking out to a grounding in projected barrels per day, and any rigorous computation of minimum acceptable barrels per day.

We are supposed to accept the general (IMO emotional) argument that not enough oil and too much complexity will take us down.

For what it's worth, I think it's fine to have a gut feel.  It's fine to say "my gut says X will happen, and I'll bet Y on it."  But I wouldn't make Y too big for something that is just a gut bet.  And I certainly would not confuse a bet from the gut with knowledge.

No, that's not the case at all.  I'm saying that it has the potential, if it is not solved, to cause a breakdown in our society.  If peak oil decreases our net energy, and we do not come up with a solution--if we don't come up with some way of either managing our changes in energy, or supplying energy by some other means--then our society will break down.  That seems rather obvious; how could our society continue, as is, with less energy?  It seems almost tautological to me.  Notice I'm not saying anything about potential solutions here; all I'm saying is, this one problem, by itself, could break down our society if it is not solved.  There is an entire class of these problems, and all it takes is a failure to solve one of them for a society to collapse.
In the link you provided, you stated it as pretty much a certainty:

Collapse occurs when the returns on complexity are no longer sufficient to warrant further investment--and that is precisely the problem that Peak Oil may very well pose.

Have you, or Tainter, or anybody else succesfully predicted one of the break points, where complexity yields collapse?  Or is this a first time thing?

(We know in the stock market that people can come up with plenty of models to fit past data.  Their record on fitting future results is pretty spotty.  Beyond spotty, in fact, as they have a slogan: past performance does not dictate future results)

"May" does not generally denote certainty.  The "break point" is impossible to predict.  All that we know is that the further a society progresses past the point of diminishing returns, the more the probability of collapse approaches 1.
We should probably end this, because it's clear we've run up to a wall.

I see a flaw, when you simply pronounce things like "the probability of collapse approaches 1" ... but if you cannot, you cannot.

Well, the alternative is that I can play Russian roulette, every day, and load one more bullet than the day before every day, and my probability of surviving remains the same?
Many thanks for all your comments above odograph.


Holding off for a moment with the direct energy cost of computations,
(Re. your idiotic remark : ... we've gotten very good at increasing the bits/watt in both storage and communications over the last 50 years.)
why not asking Microsoft about the MTBF of Windows ?

It is not (yet) the cost of electricity nor even the cost of manufacturing a PC which threatens its usability.
It is the direct impact of software COMPLEXITY which COSTS everyone.
How many hours or days did you (or your IT staff) spent with upgrades, software crashes, virus, deleted files, unsuccessfull searches, unmanageable disk contents (I have 2843207 files and directories on the PC on which I am typing this).

Does not all this have a COST?
Do you expect this cost to decrease?
Do you think it is only Microsoft gouging which make the price of software so ridiculous?
Don't you think that Microsoft would not prefer to deliver their software on schedule rather that 2 or 3 years late?

The nominal performance DO increase (even for software reliability if so much slower) but Jevons Paradox has eaten all benefits.
Todays computers are about 20000 times more powerfull in both speed and memory capacity than since I began in 1968.
We are NOT doing 20000 times more work with them (except for a few specialized "number crunching" applications).

THIS is the "class" of complexity which will likely crash our civilisation.
You CANNOT build nor repair such large systems as banking software, power plants, army CCC etc... without enormous COSTS and DELAYS.

That's it!
Thanks for your attention.

Speaking of software.....
To illustrate the fundamental failure of complexity and the pursuit of diminishing returns, I present - bloatware:
So I assume you two will stop using this medium, starting tomorrow morning?

FWIW, I'm running Firefox on Ubuntu which (with the broader category of open source) has made an interesting end-run on problems of complexity.  Indeed, you might spend a moment or two thinking about central vs. distributed management of software, or other problems.

So I assume you two will stop using this medium, starting tomorrow morning?

Willful deception or willful idiocy?

Why should I renounce using something NOW as long as it works and DOES NOT COST anything?

FWIW, I'm running Opera on Knoppix.
Yet I don't see that open source "has made an interesting end-run on problems of complexity".
Open source "has made an interesting end-run" on the problems of societal costs by slashing all the marketroids, management and sales costs.
This only works as long as the open source developers can make a living on REAL JOBS.
The complexity is NOT brought down, customizing a Linux PC is just as bad as customizing a Windows PC.
The truly important difference is that you are almost never stuck in a dead end.
You do find solutions, but it costs HOURS and HOURS of tinkering.
This is the cost which kills, unless of course your time is accounted for at thirld world rate.
Open source has ALREADY collapsed, it won't collapse no more.
Only software has a zero replication cost this is what brings the illusion of a gain.
If the STANDARD setup works for you, so much luck!
If it doesn't you are DOOMED...

That was a dumb, tired, post-ride, comment on my part ... but my frustration was with this idea that complexity means failure.  My thought was that if you really believed computers had hit "diminishing returns" and that "deminishing returns means collapse" you would protect yourself from that.

Maybe I should back up and just ask you ... are you making that argument, that the complexity of our digital world will bring it down?

BTW, if you are a programmer and have some time, it's interesting to return to Tanenbaum's "Operating Systems: Design and Implementation."  It reminds us that a simple UNIX-like (MINIX) operating system can be pretty small.

There is actually an interesting community of hobbyists who write their own small, but Internet connected, operating systems.  They still hang out (after all these years) on the USENET group "alt.os.development."

Now it is a mental shift for us old timers to go from systems small enough for us to read all the source code, to systems where we only have time to download and install packages.  We have gone from an early dream (80's) of eradicating bugs ("proving" sw reliability, lol) to practice (acknowledged or not) of surfing the edge of manageable complexity.

The thing is, the definition of what's manageable has changed.  That's allowed the complexity to (so far) grow.  Open source was one of the game changers.

... in my gut I might worry that there's some wall out there ... but I honestly think that's unprovable.

So you don't like feet held to the fire, and you'd like to return to a good emotional rant about how we are all going to die.

How ... expected.

I think you've gotten diminishing returns from chasing after the Anthropickers trying to get them to be more complex about their definition of "complexity".

Which proves their point in a way: the more you chase after "complexity", the less you get in terms of a satisfactory result. :-)

Some of the answers were smart and honest, so it was fun talking about it yesterday ... but you're probably right ... not much else to say.
A complex system is one whose evolution is very sensitive to initial conditions or to small perturbations

NO, this is the definition of chaotic systems, which may be NOT COMPLEX AT ALL.

Don't have "faith" in Wikipedia, it is usually a good start on any subject, not the source of definitive answers.

P.S. I am beginning to think you are not just a troll but an asshole, OR... a lobbyist?

Lobbyist?  LOL, name a number, maybe you can buy me ;-)
I question whether we could avoid a die-back by reducing energy consumption.  The fact that a reduction in energy availablility might start a die-back doesn't imply we can avoid one by preemptively lowering consumption.  Die-back would be caused by systems collapse long before we reached the  per capita energy levels that were sufficient to sustain earlier societies.

For instance, the world's current average per capita annual energy consumption is about 1650 kg of oil equivalent according to the World Resources Institute.  The estimated energy use of a Middle Ages farmer was about 1/8 of that.  Would cutting our energy use by 90% enable us to continue undimished by simply adopting a Middle Ages peasant lifestyle?  It hardly seems a reasonable proposition.

The rate of decline seems to be the important determinant of whether we adapt or enter a generalized die-back.  Also keep in mind that die-backs will not be globally uniform.  They are happening right now in Africa, for instance.  Based on what I've seen of approaches like "energy wedges", my personal impression is that we can probably adapt to a global energy reduction of 2% per annum without too much trouble.  4%-6% gets us into trouble out at the margins, and 8%+ means diebacks would probably start to happen in the developed world due to systems failures (food distribution, medical care, sanitation etc.)

If the population does decrease to a new equilibrium point, it makes sense to me that we would eventually settle at an energy consumption rate higher than that sustained in the Middle Ages but lower than the early Industrial Revolution.  That should mean a population in the range of 1 billion +/- 50%  Whether we settle on the low side or the high side depends on how gradual or abrupt the decline is.

Here I'm taling about total energy consumption.  I don't know if it's a totally valid assumption, but I take "oil and gas consumption" as a first order approximation for total energy, given that they comprise over half our global energy usage.

This hinges on the response of a complex system (actually a complex nesting of complex systems) to reduced energy availability.

You call the outcome of that response as "systems collapse."

... but you can't really know that without knowing every response the complex systems make, can you?  Or maybe I should ask you how you could possibly know in what year the US government will institute energy rationing, and how well it will work out?

Would you be happier if I used the term "progressive system failures"?  I'm not talking about the total collapse of the whole society here.  I'm referring to a disintegration caused by the incremental failures of its component systems. The fact that those systems are interlocked will cause cascade effects.

For example, increased fuel costs could cause the Canadian Coast Guard to cut back their icebreaking program in the far north.  Because the icebreakers open routes for supply vessels, northern Inuit communities would be cut off from supplies, including diesel fuel.  The lack of fuel for their generators would bring down the local power grids, cutting off the telemedicine services they rely on due to the shortage of doctors.  That would cause infant mortality to climb.  And that in turn means that over the years their population may decline.  With enough time to adjust (and some help from the rest of Canada) they could move their communities or otherwise adjust.  Without that time, the outcome is the collapse of their little portion of society.

Trying to predict the precise course of collapse of a system as complex as modern global civilization is a mug's game.  Insisting that it be somehow quantified, as though only the numbers can give it validity, is asking too much.  In essence your request is a straw man.

It is entirely possible to come up with plausible social predictions based on the numbers we do have (particularly oil flow rates and global energy use statistics).  It would be foolish for anyone making these predictions to point to just one one and thay "That's how it will unfold" - even Nostradamus wasn't that unequivocal. I think it's perfectly justifiable to say things like, "Within this range of decline rates there is a strong probablility that we will see some of the following occurrences."  Quoting numbers to two decimal places regarding specific cause/effect linkages in this kind of a scenario is foolish, and requiring it of the theorizer is just as foolish.  However, it [b]is[/b] reasonable to ask the people making social projections to keep in mind the conept of error bars.

It doesn't really matter if you use the term progressive or not.  In both cases you assert that you know the path of history.  You propose to know the response of each complex system in sequence.

If you don't know that, you are going with your gut.  This is yet again a return to a personal, subjective, pessimistic, expectation about humans and their society.

(BTW, there is ten miles of difference between a "plausible" social prediction, and one with accuracy of foresight.)

Well, I would argue that what I'm talking about is more accurately (and less pejoratively) characterized as a "qualitative analysis", but that's neither here nor there.

Can you present a numerical analysis that supports an optimistic outlook, or do you propose refraining from all social predictions until the probablility wave collapses?  Do we have any predictive or cautionary obligations in this matter?

I've chosen a much more defensible position than that ;-).

I propose that our predictive ability is actually quite low.
Actually read "Fooled by Randomness," great book, to understand why.  That book reinforced a lot of observations I'd made over the last few decades.

I suggest that the best strategy, merely for mental outlook, or more importantly for family finances, is to be continually aware of events and updating our "short term model" of the future.

I believe long term models of society and our economy are not just laking in utility, but possibly a dangerous distraction.

Collapse may indeed come ... and having heard the warning I am forearmed ... but I am not committed.  Indeed I am equally forearmed for a cornucopian future ... while likewise uncommitted.

Best (now I will ride my bike 50 miles to eat Indian food.)

Perhaps your predictive ability is quite low.
I've found that my ability to correctly predict future events to be quite high.
That's what characters in "fooled by randomness" say, just before they "blow up."
BTW2, when I look at your response again I see that you've almost got all the dots connected.  You get that trying to predict the precise course of collapse of a system as complex as modern global civilization is a mug's game ... but you still hold to the conclusion of such a "mug's game."
Could you be more precisew about what you mean by "hold[ing] to the conclusion of such a "mug's game""?  All I'm really saying is that in an energy-dependent civilization, the loss of energy will cause problems, and the extent of the problems will be linked to the degree of energy loss.

I do also believe that complex systems have tipping points or leverage points, where small changes make big differences, due to the way overlapping control structures ineract, but neither of these positions seems in the least controversial.

Following from those, the notion that a sudden, significant  decline in energy supplies could cause disporportionately large problems for a civilization also seems self-evident.

If you are arguing for a collapse or a crash, that is a very specific outcome (in the vast range of possible outcomes).
Thanks for the link to Greer, Leanan - I'd never heard of him before.  The concept of catabolic collapse is one of those ideas that can make you say, "Well, of course!"  It has an intuitive rightness that makes it both profoundly appealing and scintiefically dangerous.  I like that in my sociological metaphysics :-)

Seriously, it does seem to fill in some gaps in Tainter, Catton and Diamond in a most satisfying way.

"I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth."  Rev. 6:8

"A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths." Rev. 9:18

I am currently bored with this question ;-), but I will make a passing effort.

  1.  The first principle has to be that the future can never be known.
  2.  The second principle has to be that honest projections must be fluid, and open to change.
  3.  From there you can go to specific questions, but not in my opinion to a proposed path from there to a thousand years hence.

No one (no named list necessary) is smart enough to call not only a future that far out, but the specific path to such a future.
In reply to Odograph:

  1. The future can be known. We all die. If you push something hard enough, it will fall over. Every action has an equal an opposite reaction.
  2. I'm not sure what this second statement is supposed to mean. Things change and plans change is what I think you are saying. If that is the case, well, duh.
  3. This is a bit of a silly thing and is perhaps a succinct summary of the engineer's conundrum: holistic thinking is abhorrent to the engineer so they concentrate on fixing one thing at a time, ignoring the spin-off problems that will obviously result. This results in more problems which the engineers love because that means never ending work. Since there is no over-arching goal with a series of sub-goals all constrained by natural parameters, the engineer has no idea if they are going in the right direction. Kinda like building a large boat in their basement.

It is possible to have an over-arching, long-term goal. Here. Let me present one: live in harmony with natural processes in such a fashion that ecological fecundity increases. (for more info on this concept, read Cradle to Cradle) Now, you set sub-goals that spring from where you are now and the general direction you want to go. You may want to set milestones or write up a wish list.

  1. reduce population
  2. decentralise cities
  3. eliminate industrial farming
  4. eliminate all industrial wastes
  5. restore ocean stocks
  6. eliminate all new construction except that which is part of a holistic sustainable design
  7. rebuild the railroads
  8. create walkable communities
  9. remove the "grow at all costs" imperative of interest demanding loans
  10. admit that letting the market decide is like letting a four year old run your household
  11. establish a parliamentary system
  12. provide free health care
  13. provide free unlimited education related to sustainability
  14. disassemble suburbia and recycle the materials in better communities
  15. try the war criminals now in office

As you can see, these are simple, or at least achievable, goals, all a part of a path that may take ten years, twenty or a thousand. The time referent is only important if you feel that there is a deadline.

My guess is -- there is a deadline.

So, for each of the items on the list, you must work out a series of sub-goals and then work with each of the other items on the list since nothing acts in a vacuum and each sub-task will be affected by what you do and you by what they do.

For instance:

Reducing population:

  1. study the studies. There have been thousands of fine studies that have been ignored.

  2. implement their recommendations
a. public education about sex and birth control
  i. broad media blitz in order to shape public opinion
b. free education in general
c. free birth control and travelling instructors
d. help peasant farmers to become self-sufficient with their own labor so that extra hands are not necessary.
e. empower women
f. provide financial incentives for those who opt for sterilization
g. provide for free abortions
h. free health care

3. examine ramifications for watersheds, arable land, building materials, disease, etc.

You see, Odograph, planning is possible, perhaps even essential to avoid a really awful dieoff. In fact, one would have to be pretty cynical, irresponsible, and generally evil not to plan ahead.

Of course the best way to ensure that your plan does not lead to future evils is to make sure it stays in tune with nature and is not some extension of this failed technological binge. Thus planning for a technological future automatically means a dead end.

Of course one might argue that we cannot imagine what will happen in the future, implying that space aliens will swoop down and save our butts, or that some really smart woman will discover how to eliminate all of the problems we face (see list above). But isn't that what we are trying to do now? Should we simply wait for the saviour, for that other to come and do the things we should already be doing? Shouldn't we be trying to live in harmony with nature? Shouldn't we be trying to eliminate waste and pollution? Shouldn't we be trying to control population? Now? Not at some willy-nilly future point?

Why not save the planet now and wait for aliens later?

I'm surprised I even have to ask the question.

Don't BS me.

You can go look up whatever logical fallacy it is to go from one simple type of prediction ("We all die. If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.") to imply that much more complex forms of prediction are equally valid ("PO will mean die-off").

I'm too bored to do it myself.

Ah, boredom kills thought dead.

Reminds me of my slack-mouthed students all fresh from highschool, too bored to do the work, too bored to participate in life. Their only thoughts regarding college revolve around that technical degree at the end of their long educational career, that piece of paper that allows them to get that cubicle monkey job operating a calculator so they can buy the cool tech toys they all crave.

Never mind that their world is coming to an end -- that is soooo boring. They can't even take the time to mount an argument. Why? Because as long as the status quo seems to be, well, in stasis, they are only too happy to say, "let it ride." Don't think about a messy future, cause, man, you can't know, you can't see the future.

I shake my head and look down at my gradebook and mark another "F." "F" for failure. Failure to think. Failure to care. Failure to be part of humanity. Just failure.

And though they will go down the road to the community college to get the easy grade on their road to consumerland, they will still be a failure. A failure to humanity. A failure to their future, their family, and themselves. And, since they are too bored to think about it, they are too ignorant to even realize the extent of their humiliation.

Perhaps some are better at predicting future events and prevailing themes than others?
Statistics should tell you that every prediction comes with a probability and a bracket.  "We all die" has 99.9% probability, because the bracket's open-ended.  If I were to close that bracket up and say, "We're all going to die a week from Tuesday," then suddenly my probability goes way, way down.  The tighter the bracket, the more useful the prediction, but the more likely it is to be wrong.  That said, it is entirely possible to predict the future—the caveat is, "with a given probability and within a given bracket."
"We all die" has 99.9% probability,

Not 100%?
Jason! You secretly turned from primitivist to singularitarian?

Hardly; I just like to leave myself wiggle room in case the wholly unexpected actually does happen.  Hey, you never know....
Live forever. Somebody has to do it first.
Yes jason, this is absolutely correct:  prediction, probability, and a bracket.

Now is the bracket for a specific path though the next 100 years of human history calculable?

What if it isn't?

Well, with the theory out of the way, we get to the good stuff.  What is the predction?  What is the probability?  What is the bracket?  How do you calculate those things?

I have no idea. :^)

But we do know that there are good predictions that can be made; and we know that the more specific the path, the lower the probability.  That means that we can't just reject a prediction because it's a prediction.  For any given prediction, you need to evaluate its evidence and come to your own conclusion as to how likely it is to come true, but that should be based on the evidence presented for it, not just because it's a predicton.

I agree, and I think this is loosely where I started from.

I think I am talking to people who have faith in a prediction, rather than those who have caluclated probability or bracket.

What I think is some demand certainty more than others.  Those that demand certainty beyond available data are cult fodder.  They'll line up for anyone who will give them an impassioned view of "what the future will be like."

They might be foolish enough to believe it is as easy to predict the climate, oil prices, or economy, as it is to calculate the probability of a coin toss ... but chances are they won't think about it at all.  It's conviction that they are looking for from their leaders, not any underlying logical framework.

... they certainly are not looking for an open intellectual framework.

The UN has some good population projections, and it isn't steady growth until the end of time.

The UN population projection guesses that human population will probably peak around 9 billion people in the year 2050, give or take, and then decline. Each time they publish new projections, this number is revised down. This is not mostly due to people dying, but rather due mostly to women  choosing not to have a lot of kids, a trend that will be accelerated by economic development, not slowed.

Population problems are here for awhile, but the exponential growth just isn't showing up any more.

Can we give 9 billion people decent lives until the human population stabilizes at a more reasonable figure, that's still an open question, but 9 billion is a lot easier than infinity. :-)

Doesn't the UN projection assume continued development in the Third World?

The prosperity of the First World is based on externalizing our costs to the Third World.  If the Third World joins the First World, then where will they externalize their costs to?  It seems to me that "development" can only go so far before it threatens First World interests--in order for some to be rich, many others must be poor.  The U.N. projections are based on current development trends in the Third World, and the assumption they'll continue.  I think that puts their projections on an untenable assumption.

I think this doesn't follow. A sizeable fraction of the world's population is now richer than even the very wealthy of centuries past. It need not be a zero sum game.

Also, it is not clear that the first world really externalizes much of anything to the third world. The only thing we do is compete with them for resources. As for sneakers being made in sweatshops, we would probably be better served by forcing their manufacture locally anyway. When it costs $100.00 for a pair of shoes, is it really a reasonable assertion that the consumer is benefiting from this situation? There is no way those things cost more than $10.00 to make, and they might cost $20.00 if made by robots in a modern factory in the US, a far cry from $100 and up that they go for on the store shelves.

As far as the oil goes, it's pretty clear that we're going to have to not rely on oil pretty soon anyway, and it therefore seems likely that (modulo some bump as the transition occurs), competition for resources should actually diminish in the coming decades, not increase.

Basically, it seems like there are some unsupported assertions here...

  1. First world prosperity is built on 3rd world poverty. How so, any good reason to believe this is true? It's hard to imagine that with our 3rd world trade only a few percent of GDP that all our prosperity can be based on it.

  2. Third world cannot develop to first world standards. Once again, why not. Energy isn't really a limitation. If society can run off of solar or nuclear or wind, then there's plenty around, no reason why Somalia should need to go without. If it cannot, then it seems that we're still in the same boat sooner rather than later.

  3. Birth rates only fall due to gentrification. Certainly this helps, but it is unclear that only economic advance causes birthrates to fall. As an example the US is more economically advanced that Europe (in terms of GDP per capita) and yet has a higher birthrate. There is something else going on here. It probably has a lot to do with Carter's work getting free school lunces in 3rd world schools, but I won't really speculate on the matter much here.

  4. Food. Does a poor man not require as much food as a rich  man? If there is a difference, is it really that substantial? It seems to me that in a world where most of the agricultural output is fed to farm animals, and diminished wealth does not appear to impart a miraculous ability to survive without food, that food will not be an impediment to economic advance, but rather only to continued population growth.

I just don't buy the "The third world must be poor so we can be rich." argument. It is taken as gospel without much supporting evidence, and its primary pilars just don't make much sense when subjected to any significant scrutiny.

Also, I think the whole living in harmony thing maybe doesn't work so well. People are never really in harmony with everything. I think more Manhattans and fewer suburbs would help a lot more than trying to spread people evenly over the globe.

Pack them into a small space (like Manhattan) and a lot of the problems go away. Transportation can be vial rail, all electrical. Even getting supplies in can be mostly rail based. heating and cooling takes far less energy (an apartment is only exposed to the elements on one of its 6 sides), and the ecological footprint is miniscule compared to a McMansion.

No giant lawns to take up precious water, and leech fertilizer into the environment. Moving to a paradigm of farms and densely packed cities would probably be the best thing for the world.

Of course NYC also has the added advantage of being in a part of the country that gets immense rainfall, and so water isn't really an issue here.

Odograph wrote:

I am currently bored with this question ;-), but I will make a passing effort.

 The first principle has to be that the future can never be known.

I hate to bore you further but you are simply dead wrong. Many things can be known about the future with near absolute certainty. Unless the sun for some reason disappears before tomorrow, then we know for certain that the sun will rise tomorrow.

That being said, we are not concerned with absolute certainty in this case, we are concerned with things that have a high probability of happening. And if you do not believe in the laws of probability then we are all wasting our time even talking to you.

That we will hit peak oil, then peak fossil fuels in general, and thereafter must get by less and less energy has a probability of, in my estimation, of greater than 99.99 percent. That less energy will mean less food has a similar probability of happening. That less and less food will mean less and less people can be fed is a given, no probability need be stated.

Therefore we can infer that the probability of collapse after peak oil, or at least after peak fossil fuel, is about 99.99%. In other words a near certainty.

And just in case you think biofuels will save us, think about this. There is no more certain a path to collapse of the human population than using the world's arable land to grow fuel instead of food.

Such sloppy logical argument.

First the tired bit that one simple prediction (the sun will rise tomorrow) somehow validates more complicated and longer term predcitons.

From there we go to not some solid logical framework, but "my estimation" that there is a ceratinty of "greater than 99.99 percent."

If you can't see the naked faith, the pure religion in your position, you need to take another look.

Oh I'm sorry! Yes it is all naked faith. Perhaps fossil fuels will last forever. After all, none of us really know. Perhaps oil does come from the center of the earth and will continue coming up forever.

Perhaps the water tables will never be drawn down. Perhaps they will start to refill, rain or no rain. Perhaps water also comes from the center of the earth.

Perhaps desertification will reverse. Perhaps the rainforest will regenerate faster than we can cut it down.

Perhaps population growth will just stop. Perhaps grain stocks will start to grow again as the oil supply from the center of the earth increases.

After all, none of really knows.

Yeah Right! Some people wouldn't know blind faith if it hit them in the face. Claiming ignorance for everyone is just a way of covering up one's own lack of knowledge on the subject of which he speaks.

Don't play games.  The claim was not that fossil fuels would last forever, it was that energy use would decline forever:

That we will hit peak oil, then peak fossil fuels in general, and thereafter must get by less and less energy has a probability of, in my estimation, of greater than 99.99 percent. That less energy will mean less food has a similar probability of happening. That less and less food will mean less and less people can be fed is a given, no probability need be stated.

Now, I actually have reservations about our post-fossil-fuel future ... but reservations are quite different from certainty.  And "99.99% probability" is sure as shit, certainty.

Advances in battery technology,nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and solar power are probable. Some important advances should happen within ten years.

Yes!!  Advances are possible, even probable.

I also think there is a large portion of oil use that can be discontinued.  There is still tremendous waste that needs to be curbed.  This waste will only be curbed through higher prices.  $3.00 has proven to not be high enough.  How high is neccessary?  $6.00.  $10.00.  I have no idea.

I would love to see a breakdown of where the global 85mbp goes.  There are still way too many cars on the road.  People still love to travel (by air, and car).  Public transportation is under utilized.  How much energy is wasted on entertainment?  (Stadium rock concerts, movie theaters, race cars, etc)

Can we improve heating efficency in our houses?  Certainly.  I know the heater in my recently purchased house is 20+ years old.

Overnight mail delivery is destined to become a thing of the past.  All shipping is probably going to get a lot more expensive.  Scanners and computers can do it faster and cheaper.  Society will have to adapt to not having hard copies of signatures, but this is something that the politicians and lawyers probably can fix through legislation.

Fish farming as a food source will grow, while the fishing fleets will dwindle.

Computers will become more efficient.

All sorts of things will change.  People will adapt.  We'll have no choice.

My biggest concern is the global finacial system.  Fiat currencies are going to be under extreme pressure.  The US government is in a horrible position, and that makes me nervous.  

Yes, thank god. This argument (the one you're arguing against, not your own) reminds me a lot of creationism, and strict constructionism.


  1. Strict constructionism: Basically... "The only valid way to interpret a law is by understanding what the founders intended." Also known as the founders intent fallacy.

  2. Creationism: Basically... "We don't know exactly how it works, therefore it is magical." Pretty much an argument from ignorance.

And this brings us to the standard peak oil contention...

  1. Modern Society is currently based on oil (40% or so, at least).
  2. I don't know why it's based on it, and I don't now how to come up with one that isn't based on it, surely the founders always wanted it to be oil based, and surely they're right...
  3. Therefore it is impossible to have a modern society that is not based on oil. So we either die, or live in caves with sticks and stones....

It just doesn't follow. There are too many plausible alternatives, so I will give one right now.

1) Use nuclear, a lot of nuclear. Something on the order of 500-1,000 reactors could provide all our energy (at about $0.04/KWh), but it would come in the form of electricity, not oil. Get rid of coal entirely, use electricity for all heating and cooling (pretty much wipes out most needs for natural gas).

What is natural gas still needed for? Basically for high temperature operations (steel smelting, cement manufacture, etc...) andd to produce hydrogen for other  purposes (fertilizer production, oil refining...).

2) Produce hydrogen either through electrolysis from nuclear energy, or using the heat directly for thermal decomposition if it can be made efficient enough. This is about 50% efficient in the electrical case (starting from electricity, so about $0.08/KWh), and more efficient in the thermal case (about 50% efficient, starting from reactor heat, or something like $0.03/KWh, if it works well).

Now, how about the high temperature smelting and such...

3) Use hydrogen instead of natural gas for smelting, cement making and similar operations.

So, what's left, only oil for cars. Easily solved, if you have hydrogen available, then....

Hydrided pyrolysis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methanol#Production

Basically, use annything containing carbon (wood, coal, trash, CO2, doesn't matter), and convert directly to methanol by adding hydrogen.

Since our total oil use is only about 1 billion tons per year, and our organic waste production is well in excess of 10 billion tons per year, there should be no problem coming up with a little under half a billion tons of carbon compounds each year.

So, how much would this cost, something like $0.10/KWh, roughly $200/barrel for oil, or about 10% of GDP (rather than 5%, which is about what we spend currently). But, all the money would be spent within the country, rather than sent out, and it uses for raw materials only Uranium, which will not be exhausted for many thousands of years.

I'm not saying this is the answer, but it is a plausible answer. If we're willing to pay 2x as much as we currently do for energy, then nuclear can be converted to liquid and gaseous fuels, and there is no energy shortage.

Given the choice between the cave, or my life as is now, but paying 2x as much for energy that doesn't run out and can't be interrupted by war in the middle east, I know what I'll choose. I imagine I'm not going to be in the minority, and life will go on.

Of course a goodly dose of stupidity from our current Oil barron in chief could make for some very interesting times before the inevitable takes hold.

Thank you.  

The question then becomes HOW LONG will it take modern society to ramp up those nuclear plants (or alternatives)?

As long as ROEI (is that the acronym - return on energy invested?) is greater then 1:1 we will find a way to exploit it.

The Chinese already chose coal - at least for the short term.

France has invested heavily in Nuclear - so chances are they are going to suffer less then other places, at least in the short term.  

Britain has stated it's intention to go Nuclear as well.

There are still lots of people against windpower.  When the gas station down the street starts running out of fuel - societies attitudes towards energy will change.

It's a fractal pattern!!  After the contraction there will come another expansion.

My God! You are so brainwashed. Nuclear can never replace oil--in fact it depends on it. Tell me how, exactly, are you going to build 1000 nuclear reactors without a fuckton of oil to power your machines. Then how are you going to mine all that ore without oil? And you're telling me we are going to run our steel smelters on electricity? Get with it. Learn some physics.
No your not. I expect collapse in the good ole' US of A will be especially ugly given the amount of guns in this country and the shattering of the belief in the pyramid scheme that is called the American Dream. The cities should be the worst spots. Getting out of a major urban area would be good advice in the coming years. Unfortunately, the high price of rural real estate due to the housing bubble is making good areas difficult to find at a reasonable price. I sold my three flat in Chicago last year and have since been trying to find some rural property seventy to one hundred and fifty miles south of the city. Everything is grossly overpriced. Most of the listings I see indicate that people are still hoping to cash in on the housing boom, which by all indications is over. I might just buy a smaller property about one to two acres size with an old building (I'm a carpenter so repair is not a problem) to get a footprint in an ideal area and wait until a good bargain presents itself.

Bruce in Chicago

Good choice, Bruce, regarding the smaller property and fixer-upper. A couple of acres (average medieval farm size) is more than most individuals can manage by themselves anyway, without mechanical means.  And I agree with most of the rest of your sentiments.

So assume 2 acres for a self sustaining farm.  How much forest acreage would you need to provide yourself with a cord or two of wood per year for winter heating?  Would 3 additional acres be enough assuming you replant the trees?
You know, you need to attend The Learning Annex's Real Estate Wealth Expo, the one in San Francisco will star AL GORE. I guess old Al is into cashing in on snake-oil expos? Maybe Al will tell you how to set up some flipping or Ponzi scheme that will allow you to buy that farm, tax-free and um, with a set of Ginsu knives thrown in.....
Only if the Al Gore autographs the Ginsu knives! WTF! I can't believe these assholes are still pumping real estate as an investment. About three weeks after I sold my property the bottom literally fell out of the Chicago market. Properties in my neighborhood that were listed soon after are still on the market. I was sweating bullets days before the closing hoping the deal would not fall through. I presently live rent-free by bartering my carpentry services for a friend who owns a few rental properties.
good for you that you got out while the gettin was good...if only I could emulate the example.
I can't believe that Al Gore is such a whore that he'lll associate himself with things like this.

Go ahead, google "the learning annex" and look  up their Real Estate Wealth snake oil shows, check out the one in San Francisco, and there he is, smilin' Al.

Try Iowa.

No, not Iowa.  Go East.  Um, Vermont.  Yeah, go there.

According to Richard Manning, the actual soil of Iowa is buried under several feet of fertilizers made of fossil fuels.  Is Iowa still arable underneath all that?  Would it still be viable farm land without an industrial society?
There are pockets of Iowa that have never been cultivated, or that have not been farmed recently.  Land in these areas are rarely for sale though, and when they are the price can be high.

Cheaper land can be found that is as you describe.

I have a co-worker with who lives in Iowa and he is seeing what is available in the Iowa City area. I have done some preliminary research on Iowa real estate on the mls but the prices seem about the same as central-north Illinois. I think my best tactic will be to start knocking on doors in the areas I would like to locate to (going to have to tear the Darwin fish emblem off of my car so as to not piss off the locals).

Bruce in Chicago, hopefully not for very long.

Have you looked west of I-35 along the Missouri border? Real bargains are to be found in that area.

You are not alone. I agree that collapse and die-off is the future of humanity. I am still very uncertain whether humans as a species will survive or go extinct. It is a very difficult future to face and accept, a process I am still struggling with. One thing that has helped me most in accepting the inevitable is the discoveries of modern physics and ecology--specifically thermodynamics, cosmology and planetary formation, and the evolution of life.

Overshoot and die-off is a very common dynamic in an ecological system, and has been demonstrated by many species before our own. We humans have simply carried this cycle to new heights due to our fantastic success as predators and as dominators of ecological processes. (Note that while we temporarily dominate these processes, we most certainly do not control them.) I especially like this quote from the end of Price's essay:

Before the appearance of Homo sapiens, energy was being sequestered more rapidly than it was being dissipated. Then human beings evolved, with the capacity to dissipate much of the energy that had been sequestered, partially redressing the planet's energy balance. The evolution of a species like Homo sapiens may be an integral part of the life process...Such a species, evolved in the service of entropy, quickly returns its planet to a lower energy level. In an evolutionary instant, it explodes and is gone.

We are certainly energy equalizers, restoring nature from its unnatural state of negentropy (that is, negative entropy--a system where order dominates over chaos). Is this our purpose for existing? Is our discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels a natural evolutionary outcome?

My big questions all revolve around the future of life on earth. How will lifeforms, including humans, evolve as a result of anthropogenic impacts on the environment? (Here, I use environment in the broadest context possible.) Humans have, in an incredibly short time period, accelerated traditional evolutionary processes: We have introduced "invasive species" that evolved in radically different ecosystems, released large amounts of radioactive materials and other genetic mutagens, and, perhaps most importantly, directly modified the DNA of other organisms.

We humans as a species are still subject to the forces of evolution. Indeed, evolutionary process will dominate human existence now more than ever, despite what the creationists believe. The question is, if we survive, will we remain essentially the same species as today, or make a massive evolutionary jump into something altogether different?

Natural gas production in North America.

Click to Enlarge

Big trouble. Financial hardship for many. How can you put on solar panels if you're spending all your disposable income for your natural gas bill?

Solar panels will become next to impossible to produce due to high energy costs, it will be a double wammy on those who would like to get them.  

I would say, just buy them now, but the problem with any significant social collapse is that those who plan ahead are likely to be attacked by those who didn't.  Living on a community farm in Idaho that is self sustaining is great until the roaming bands of starving people find you.

Living on a community farm in Idaho that is self sustaining is great until the roaming bands of starving people find you.

Bingo! That's why I always say that it is critical that we get society to prepare. I can prepare all I want, but when panic ensues I will be at the mercy of the masses.

Yes. Roaming bands of drunken big mammalian predators with guns...

What about your friends?

Without friends and family, we are all toast, no matter what.

Some of my friends are currently overseas in hot climates or high altitudes--but they will be back. And my extended family includes many remarkably resourceful people of all ages.

An interesting (and realistic) view of the comming collapse was presented in Paula Hay's Escape from Megalopolis.

There will be a period of time in which gasoline is crazy expensive but still accessible to large numbers of people. Those heading out of the cities in these conditions may be dissuaded from wasting the gas to travel to a town that cannot be seen from the main road--all the more so if road signs announcing the town's existence are removed. Later, people will be walking out of the cities; they, too, may be dissuaded from traveling to a town they cannot see from the main road, especially if maps indicate a more accessible town lying a shorter distance down the main road.

Hey postulates that well-concealed small towns close to rivers and streams which also possess enough natural barriers to keep the hungry hoards at bay might offer a viable alternative to some former city-dwellers, post-Peak Oil.

I suspect it will be like ants looking for food.  All it takes is for one of the buggers to find you and then they tell someone else.  Next thing you know, the guys from Mad Max are breaking down your door and stealing your crops.
  At one end of the spectrum is the unprepared and at the other end of the spectrum is the fully prepared. Obviousley, people will fall all along the spectrum if the worst case unfolds.

 A person can be one of the starving masses and, with some luck, join a gang  that is successful in taking food/sustenance from others.
 Develope the skills to take advantage of what the land gives us, while at the same time avoiding the starving mobs attention.

 Knowingly or not, we are all placing our bets and each passing day ups the ante.

Doing nothing with the assumption that death will come in any event seems to be an example of the learned helplessness common to America.
Hell, death will come for all of us eventually,, but we can choose to fight it tooth and nail.
 I greatly respect the many people  that are working so hard to get society to turn to beneficial ways. I fear the odds of a societal turning are low though if people won't even prepare on an individual level.

Perhaps not. That's when your self-defense strategies have to kick in. Collaboration between neighbors in such towns will not only be to grow crops -- people will have to figure out how to kill and discourage the hungry hoards from coming back. It will be something akin to old 'wild west' where the villagers had to band together to fight off the raiders.

Not a very pretty picture, but that's what it will take to survive.

And it's amazing how easily manufactured they are, isn't it? And for efficiency, strew some of those along a roadway and watch the resulting mess, whether on foot, on horseback, or in a powered vehicle.
I have a hard time accepting this wandering hoards scenario. It just doesn't jive with what I've read about other infrastructure collapses. People tend to stay near food distribution points. Large scale displacements or refugee creation is typically connected to war, not food or resource distribution collapse. Indeed, there is reason to believe that people will flock to cities because they will expect governments to manage relief from those points.
Hear, hear.

The wandering hoards scenario presupposes that there isn't enough food in the central cities to support all who reside there. Initially, people may congregate in the cities waiting for gov't handouts. Ultimately, though, when the Peak Oil reality really sets in and the food starts to run low, or it gets to be too dangerous at the distribution points, people will be forced to leave the cities in order to survive. It will be every mane and woman for themselves - kind of like a nation-wide Katrina situation.

Katrina might be a good example - how many people congregated at various "authority-designated" shelters waiting for the government to help? You must remember that for the vast majority of people food comes from grocery stores - end of thought process. Hunger may indeed drive people to action, but to reasoned action? I think you'll see a dramatic dissappearance of cats, dogs, rats and pigeons long before you'll see any mass exodus from the cities.

My apologies to you spelling whizzes - what I get for not proofreading before I post.

After Katrina, people DID try to leave the city.  They were turned back by the police and military.  Some escaped anyway, but the flooding made it more difficult than it might have been otherwise.
Katrina might be a good example - how many people congregated at various "authority-designated" shelters waiting for the government to help?

You made my point for me. People did expect the government to come through, and thousands died because that help never came. I see no reason to suspect that the next major disaster won't be handled in the same inept, uncaring fashion. Once people understand that they can't rely on the gov't, they'll start leaving the cities in droves. When Peak Oil really hits, large cities will become very dangerous places to be.

Dunno about you guys, but I'm thinking it'll be quite a cold day in you-know-where before I go to a designated spot and wait for government help to arrive, after last summer...
Not much food grows in cities. Few trucking companies are centered in major cities. Trucks carry food from rural areas to urban ones.

Hungry people in the country may be truck drivers--or able to influence them.


Take a look at the megalopolises all around Africa, not to mention pre-boom India. Huge cities, all of them dependent on food grown in the immediate vicinity.

Selling your excess crops, even at low prices, is a good strategy if it will keep those hungry hordes from travelling out. And if you don't agree, the government might find ways to persuade you of this.

Oh, wandering hordes ... I get it. I had a mental picture of food hoards wandering to avoid, you know, wandering hordes.

They're hordes who want to hoard. Now do you get it?

You'll be OK until people learn to follow rivers/streams because that's where food is.
The thing about starving people is they tend to be poor soldiers. If you look at the people who are currently starving in Darfur, you will not find them moving en masse towards those settlements and cities that have food. Instead, they huddle, weakened, listless, dying, each one trying to conserve what little energy they have while death steals up on them.

No, I am more worried about the healthy, fat-assed Americans armed to the teeth, backed by the fascist government out looking for slaves to labor on their biomass farms.

also they will only be useful for you, maybe your children.
your grand children will be using them for tables though.
Solar panels will be made using power that they produce. What's the energy payback period for an energy producing plant like solar panels, windmills, or drill tube?
Months at most. That's including the cement, the steel, the diesel for the locomotives to haul the stuff, etc.
If you want to make wild claims like this, you have to back them up with numbers. I'd like to see some references, or your own calculations (if you determined this yourself).

Numbers I've heard indicated a energy payback time of years (maybe 5 or so) for solar PV. But you also have to consider energy quality (Odum's emergy) and the intended application of that energy. Coal is a great way to process iron ore into steel, electric-powered smelters are not. Electricity is great for powering computers, coal (forget the power plant) is not.

The electric arc furnace is the best for making steel/iron I believe.



From that wikipedia article:
To produce a ton of steel in an electric arc furnace requires on the close order of 400 kilowatt-hours per short ton or about 440 kW·h per metric ton (1.5 kJ/g). Electric arc furnace steelmaking is only economical where there is a plentiful supply of electric power, with a well-developed electrical grid.

Case in point. You can't compare primary energy and end-use energy directly.

Iceland has a steel making industry using electric arc to produce ferro-silicon alloy steel.   Most surgical scapels are also made with electric arc steel.
How Australia got hot for solar power

Down under, they're all over alternative energy - starting with a 1,600-foot tall "solar tower" that can power a small city.

The effective efficiency of this system is below 2%. This means that only 2% of the solar energy is actually turned into electicity. There are other technologies currently available that can at least transform 20% of solar energy into electricity. I don't think the capital cost of such a tower and surrounding greenhouse would be economical.
Your opinions may be true.
Got a reference for that statement?  I thought solar thermal was ~20% efficient via parabolic trough mirrors, and I highly doubt they'd do a solar thermal variant (power tower) that was an order of magnitude less efficient!  Something doesn't make sense here...
You can do the math yourself quite easily, but here is a link:


The solar tower actually has the lowest conversion efficiency at less than 2 percent. The reason the tower is still a viable choice as a source of solar power is that its sheer scale and undeniable simplicity means its economic efficiency could be equal to the more energy-efficient methods, or even greater.

This technology is about 10 times less efficient than other concentrating solar technologies. To make up for that the capital cost need to be at least 10 times less than the other technologies. I highly doupt that that is possible.

tommy -

To some extent, the efficiency of a stationary solar power system, in terms of percent of incident sunlight converted to electricity, is less important than the life-cycle cost of the power in terms of dollars per average kilowatt hour generated.

In other words, in comparing two solar power systems of equal generating capacity, it may be more desireable to have a large but cheap system that has a low conversion efficiency than to have a compact though expensive system that has a high conversion efficiency. It's the old high-tech vs low-tech or quality vs quantity tradeoff.

For the purpose of solar power, land area, for all intents and purposes, can be considered infinitely available (particularly in Australia). Investment money, however, is not.

I hope nobody is doing the same thing at this time to avoid redundancy.

The EIA Weekly report is out. Some data :

Summary of Weekly Petroleum Data for the Week Ending July 28, 2006

* U.S. crude oil refinery inputs are down 301,000 barrels per day
*Gasoline production decreased slightly last week
*U.S. crude oil imports averaged over 10.4 million barrels per day last week
* Total motor gasoline imports last week averaged over 1.3 million barrels per day.  
*Distillate fuel imports averaged 473,000 barrels per day last week.

  • U.S.  crude oil inventories  fell 1.8 million barrels   * Total motor gasoline inventories inched lower by 0.1 million barrels last week
  • Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline demand has averaged 9.6 million barrels per day, or 1.6 percent above the same period last year.  

Burried in the data but not highlighted is the fact that finished gasoline stocks decreased by 1,3 million barrels at 118.3 million barrels a mere 12.28 days left, near the absolute minimum at 12.23 days in may 2006.
Total Net Imports are:
  • UP 3.5% (4 week average)
  • UP 3.2% (YTD [208 days])

I remain unconvinced of the import decline scenario.
As you know, we measure declines from the peak, and US imports don't represent world export/import numbers.  

Since the week ending 12/30/05, we have had 30 weekly reports of total US  imports (four week running average).  80% of those 30 reports show that total imports are below the week ending 12/30/05, while oil prices are trading in a range 15% to 30% higher than late 2005.  

The two price uptrends this year correspond to periods of declining US imports.  As I said, I think that we will see rounds of bidding for declining export capacity, with the losing bidders doing without.

Cantarell's production is higher than in some past years.  Does that mean that it is not now declining?

Maybe look at total world oil imported 4 week avg YoY from a year ago and let us know.  There should be less oil flowing into ALL the countries, but there will be a shift from those countries that can pay increasing costs and maintain(increase here) the same volume of oil imported from those who begin to be priced out of this group.  So of course we'll pay higher prices, but Laos might not, so they don't import as much and their imports fall off a bit.  Total world oil exports 4 wk avg YoY should do the same I suspect.
Cantarell, "13 percent less than a year ago" !!!
In terms of time to adjust to a new world, that number is truly scary.
Try down "nearly 75% by 2008."
Toyota's U.S. Sales Edge Past Ford's
Published: August 2, 2006

DETROIT, Aug. 1 -- The Japanese auto giant Toyota passed the struggling Ford Motor Company in July to rank as the second-biggest-selling auto company in the United States, behind General Motors, sales figures showed Tuesday.

And in another development that lifted automotive eyebrows, Honda, another Japanese company, outsold DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler group last month for the first time.

In all, Detroit companies fell to their lowest market share in history last month, just 52 percent, as their lineups, laden with pickups and S.U.V.'s, failed to attract American buyers seeking fuel-efficient models in the face of high gasoline prices.

"It's not just higher fuel prices, but higher fuel prices which have changed consumer behavior toward more fuel-efficient vehicles," Mr. Pinelli said. "Toyota and Honda have certainly been the beneficiaries of that."


It's petty, but I can't help it:

Have you driven a Ford lately?

I big pink puffy heart my Toyota and my Honda.  I wouldn't take a Ford if it was given to me.

Okay, maybe if it was truly a gift (no taxes, etc.)...

Have you driven or seen the Ford Escape? It tempts me but what I really want is a hybrid Toyota RAV4. I'm more impressed with the Toyota workmanship in the Toyotas of friends than the Fords of friends that I've seen. I've been tempted by a VW Jetta TDI but I'm not happy with the capacity of that given how much hauling I tend to do between places like the hardware store and home.
I was hoping to find smaller hybrid SUVs when I bought my RAV4, but in my price range, it was the Ford Escape hybrid or the Toyota Highlander hybrid.  The regular 06 RAV4 was cheaper and got good enough mileage for me so that's the route I went.
Yeah, I know what you mean but I'd line up for a RAV4 hybrid. It should come in close to 40mpg city, have Toyota quality, be reasonably efficient but still give me capacity while the world is still spread out across highways and byways instead of closer in villages.
"I've been tempted by a VW Jetta TDI but I'm not happy with the capacity of that given how much hauling I tend to do between places like the hardware store and home."

Now is your time...revive the trailer!

Those TDI's have got enough torque to pull a small trailer, but remember, they are front wheel drive.

The Golf (hatchback) has a good amount of space with the rear seats down. My 5 hp tiller fits.

That is a bit of a bummer with front wheel drive cars that you're fairly limited as to the loads you can take with a trailer.  The best you could do is get a neutral hitch pressure trailer, though that has it's own inherent limitations.  But if you can fit something into an SUV, I'd say you've got a damn good chance a front wheel drive car with a trailer could handle it.
And a whole bunch of spare parts for the ones that will inevitably break before the warranty runs out. F.O.R.D. = found on road dead.
Duh! should have said a day after the warranty runs out.
One of the most common memes in the mainstream culture right now is, "Those evil oil companies are at fault for the price of gas."  I get emails from friends and family members with this topic fairly regularly (one recent email even used the words "...they're raping this country").  I generally try to respond with something about geologic reality, and how price is the way a free market allocates resources, etc.  However, I think that the most convincing argument against this type of cluelessness would be to demonstrate what share of the world market Exxon, Chevron, and the other majors occupy... I seem to recall a comment in a thread recently that was along the lines of these companies control X% of world reserves, where X was in the single digits.  Does anyone know where to find documented information relevant to this topic?
I hear that one all the time too.

I had dinner with an investment banker friend who is totally convinved the problem is just that there aren't enough drills out there. Once we add more wells, which are of course coming because there is financial incentive at these high prices, there will be more supply and it will all even out.  

His commodity trader friends are all telling him that as soon as Iraq gets settled, there will be plenty of oil and the prices will collapse.  They're basing this on the fact that oil is attracting lots of fund money right now and that when this has happened in the past for things like gold, when the funds eventually pulled out their money and put it into other investments, the price collapsed.  There doesn't seem to be any thought given to the fact that oil is being consumed and is not renewable.  

So it appears the oil "experts" in the financial world are disconnected from the fact that oil, gold, and frozen concentrated orange juice aren't all the same thing.

Pavlovian response.

Commodity traders have been trained their entire careers to view oil, gold, and orange juice the same way inside the context of the commodity market. Throughout all this time and the time of their predecessors in recent memory this method has "worked" (it allowed them to be financially successful).

However, now the circumstances are changing and they won't alter their behavior until it hurts enough to realize that old behaviors don't work anymore.

I can't talk to any of my friends, they're convinced abiotic oil is real, that the Lebanese-American refugees being cruise-shipped back to the US are all Hezb'allah terrorists who will start blowing stuff up here.

And, I have NPR (national public radio) burbling away in the background here, and they just got done talking about how quickly they can turn Cubans into "consumers" and get them all behind the wheels of modern cars, as soon as Castro dies.

See the recent article in BusinessWeek:

Why You Should Worry About Big Oil

I don't think it's behind a paywall, but I'm not sure.

In the 1960s, 85% of known reserves worldwide were fully open to the international oil companies. That number is now 16%. The rest of the world's oil and gas is either restricted or entirely cordoned off. "You don't have an infinite number of prospects to drill anymore," says T. Boone Pickens, the raider and oil patch veteran. In 1979, U.S. and British companies accounted for 27.8% of world oil and gas production. By 2004 their share was just 14%, says Bernard J. Picchi, an analyst at Foresight Research Solutions LLC in New York. National champions such as Saudi Aramco, Kuwait Petroleum, and Mexico's Pemex outweigh publicly traded oil companies in the production contest. "Everyone is pointing their fingers at the ExxonMobils, but they are relatively small players," says Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.
Use google
4% according to this EB posting
Hello TODers,

Mexico City edging closer to the political cliff.
President Vicente Fox called on Mexico City authorities Wednesday to clear streets of protest camps that have crippled the capital's center as part of leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's battle in the disputed presidential race.

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

Bob, I appreciate this and all all your other updates on the Mexico situation. Maybe the People want the nations's oil wealth distributed more equally, like in Venezuela. Was it James Hamilton who worried if everyone was granted a vote then they would raid the treasury?
Hello JN2,

I just hope it all works out peacefully in Mexico, but one never knows.  The next Presidente' will have an extremely difficult task re-capitalizing PEMEX so they can look for more oil in the GoM to try to offset the Cantarell depletion rate.

I sure as hell would not want the job.

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

We have overheated mayors of overheated cities calling for electricity conservation. They ought to tell the TV stations to shut down at least from 10 am to 10 pm. No over the air or cable TV would reduce loads by several hundred megawatts to several gigawatts. Or is TV so sacred that we'd rather have people dying of heat stroke?
Gotta give the masses their "bread and circuses."

Look at what happened in South America.  People put up with load shedding and such, but no TV while the World Cup was on was just too much.

You turn off the tvs and people get bored so they end up having sex and creating more consumers.  I read somewhere a few years ago that India was sending televisions to rural villages in an effort to keep down the birth rate.
Maybe a Celine Dion marathon would be enough to reduce population? :->
Why?  Increase the suicide rate?
Yes, that is where I was heading ... unfair to Celine, just using her as a cultural marker as it were.

I second the motion to shut down television broadcasting during the day, its just soaps, repetitive news, and commercials. It won't be missed!

Can U.S. Coal Supply Meet Projected Demand?

http://pepei.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=ARTCL&ARTICLE_ID=260863&VERSIO N_NUM=2&p=6

Can U.S. Coal Supply Meet Projected Demand?
A decade ago, natural gas was portrayed as a panacea to energy needs. Does coal face a similar disappointing future - for far different supply reasons?

By Larry Metzroth, Vice President, Fuels Advisory Service, Global Energy Decisions

A study by the National Coal Council (NCC) to the Secretary of Energy endorses doubling current U.S. coal production of 1.13 billion tons per year (btpy) by 2025. To achieve such a dramatic goal, U.S. coal production must increase at an average annual rate of about 4 percent annually for the next two decades. As coal rushes to fill the supply/price gap that natural gas promised to do in the 1990s, and is currently failing to do, is the United States facing a similar disappointment with the promises of coal?


I think it is likely that coal production will start to drop soon after oil and NG drop. It will be extremely difficult to expand coal production significantly without cheap oil. The economy may slow down so much we won't even need to expand coal production. I still think peak oil is almost the same as peak energy.
Quick post from Hydroelectric conference (some repeat from yesterday):

Had long, involved talk with utility exec.  He is now motivated to partner with neighboring utilities and offer electrification services to XX railroad.  Also interested in developing pumped air storage for seasonal shifting of demand of excess winter wind energy.

He "bought into" Peak Oil "kind of, sort of".  (Better action with less than perfect understanding than perfect knowledge and no action).

Also talked with another board member about offering investors a hydroelectric portfolio from around the world.  (New $$ into hydro).

Excess electricity (spill water) has a cost (for Itapu in Brazil) or 0.6 cents/kWh and that might over state costs.

Grand Inga in Congo has potential of 44 GW (think 44 nukes).

A movement towards using excess to make ammonia (transports like propane).  Substitute some sources of ammmonia today (heavily NG); also easily gives off hydrogen.  Can (I question this) be used directly as a fuel. (Input from TOD on this concept ?  Is ammonia (zero carbon) a good carrier of energy ?)

Spill water is an issue in many areas (150 MW average in Icelandic summers as one example).  Spill water is lowest cost energy in the world.

Lots of hydro potential left, even in US. (maximum 300 GW, practical perhaps 17 GW in 1 to 30 MW plants).

TVA is middle of 23 year upgrade of existing hydro plants; will expand capacity by 750 MW.

Had long, involved talk with utility exec.  He is now motivated to partner with neighboring utilities and offer electrification services to XX railroad.  Also interested in developing pumped air storage for seasonal shifting of demand of excess winter wind energy

This is interesting -- what's in it for him? Moving some of the transportation load off oil to electric? PR? Betting on the long term?

Also, what were his issues with PO?

Good new customer, a ROW for electrical transmission (that 100'/30 m wide railraod ROW), good PR, good for nation.  Plus a bit of "just doing the right thing".

He had "uneasy feeling" about oil before; now even more uneasy.  I did NOT give him more than cursury summary (more later if he likes); but action is what is needed from him; not another HL grapher, TOD gloom & doomer, etc.

And I HOPE that the first major railroad to electrify will set off a chain reaction elsewhere.

AlfromBigEasy -

To answer your question: Yes, ammonia would make a decent carrier of energy. But good Lord, you don't want to use it as a fuel!  

The combustion of ammonia  will give off huge amounts of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a most serious air pollutant that is a major contributor to photochemical smog. There are about four different stable forms of NOx, one of which (NO2 I think) has a nice brown/amber color.

I seriously doubt you would be able to get an air emissions permit in any state in the US to burn anything but very small amounts of ammonia (particularly in California).  

(Of course, NASA gets away with spewing out huge amounts of NOx during some of its launches, as
certain rocket fuels either use NOx as an oxidizer or generate NOx upon combustion.)

Better to stick with hydrogen or something else.


Roughly, how much does it cost to move a pound (or ton) of cargo using electric rail (watts and dolllars, if you have it). Also, if you have it, how much does it cost to move the same by diesel truck (gallons and dollars).

Thanks for any help on this.

In my paper I show 2002 data from US railroads and US heavy, intercity trucks.  US railroads use 1/8th the diesel (rounded) to move a ton-mile that US heavy trucks do.  On an "apples to apples' comparision; trucks use 8x as much.

Alan still in Portland

What about electric rail in watts per ton-mile or something?

The only thing I have is that Nick approximated electric motors at 3 times the efficiency of typical ICE. Of course, locomotives are hardly typical.

The savings of electric motors vary with terrain & service (better in mountains).  I use an efficiency gain of about 2.5 for diesel vs. electric locos (probably conservative).

One plus is that electric locos can exceed HP ratings for an hour + without harm.

I will try and post excerpt from eMail from Ed Tennyson tomorrow.

Getting back to NAFTA and article 605, how does that tie in with hyperinflation when our imports and exports renormalise? Are the Canadians going to want to get paid for their gas in real money? Or will the tar sands companies pay to lock in gas supplies that we can no longer afford so they can continue to make tar into oil?
One thing that would not surprise me at all is that when the sugar hits the fan the U.S. will take advantage of its physical custody of most of the world's gold.

True, a lot of this gold is "earmarked" to other countries down in the basement of the N.Y. Fed or Fort Knox or someplace else, but when push comes to shove, possession is nine points of the law and ten points of what it takes to survive.

Were the U.S. to be an Evil Nasty Suviving At All Costs (ENSAAC) country, we could gain a whole bunch by repudiating all our massive paper debts and flinging the world back onto the gold standard.

Goldfinger would be delighted.

After all, the U.S. taxpayers pay to guard all those thousands of tonnes of gold; why should we not benefit from that which we are custodians of?

On the other hand, perhaps the U.S. is a Sweet Altruistic People Loving (SAPL) country, and we would never dream of doing what is in our national interest and repudiating debt that we cannot possibly pay.

Where is Ian Fleming, now that we need him?

Cuban oil renews embargo debate
Discovery of sizeable reserves means U.S. trade ban may finally have a cost
The new edition of the EIA's International Petroleum Monthly just came out. It has May's production figures. All liquids were down, April to May, by 208,000 barrels per day and crude + condensate was down 154,000 barrels per day.


So...Deffeyes still ain't wrong yet?
When I plotted the 1969-1973 month-by-month data it really surprised me how flat that entire 5 year period was and how hard it was to see the peak year in amongst the others. I wonder what noises the cornucopians will make if we're still between 84 and 85 mbpd next year and the year after that? An admission of being in error? No, that's not the human way, is it?
As I have described before, we have allegedly serious scientists in Texas--33 years after we peaked--talking about the possibility of matching our peak production, through the use of better technology.  

Perhaps people can burn Peter Huber's books in their fireplaces to stay warm in the winter.

Petrologistics said that Saudi Arabia is probably below 9 mbpd, and with Cantarell definitely crashing, I don't see anything that can bring world production back up.  

Regarding the two great unconventional hopes--Canada and Venezuela--Canadian production is growing very slowly and Venezuela is falling.  

The East Texas Field is to Texas as . . . .

Cantarell collapsing??? People will freak-out if they realize what's happening!!! Somebody should ***DO*** something!!! -- like the Fed could raise interest rates and engineer a big recession to disguise the fact that...

[several men in dark suits and sunglasses are approaching]


Boy, the men in dark suits and sunglasses were Men in Black or Matrix's agents ?

Not that make any diference anyway, your memory will be wiped...

I woke up a little groggy. Can't tell if MIB or Matrix. Although one of them said something to another one who he called Freddy Hut...[clunk]
can we start the doombeat yet?
Does anyone have links to sites similar to the California ISO, for other states/generating regions?
There are 7 de-regulated energy markets in the U.S.:
CAISO  - www.caiso.com         - California
NYISO  - www.nyiso.com         - New York
ISO-NE - www.iso-ne.com        - New England
PJM    - www.pjm.com           - East Coast + Chicago
MISO   - www.midwestmarket.org - Midwest + Manitoba
SPP    - www.spp.org           - Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri
ERCOT  - www.ercot.com         - Texas

And 1 in Canada
IESO - www.ieso.ca - Ontario

Pemex admitted today that Cantarell will fall faster this year than they had projected. They are now projecting an 8% fall this year instead of 6%,. See here
Followed by a 10% fall in 2007 and another 15% in 2008.
Yes, according to the projections Pemex made last December.

However this Bloomberg article says:
'Pemex is developing different geological models and estimates that could change the forecast for Cantarell production it made in December of 1.68 million barrels per day in 2007 and 1.43 million barrels a day in 2008'

and I presume the new model will result in larger falls being projected.

The article also says:
'During the first half of the year, Pemex shut down 33 wells in its Cantarell field, which was discovered in 1976, because of increasing amounts of gas seeping into oil fields, Suro said.

Pemex is attempting to keep Cantarell's output from falling faster by injecting nitrogen in other parts of the field and using new extraction techniques such as horizontal drilling, he said.

The company has stepped up production at other fields, such as Ku-Maloob-Zaap, to make up for the decline of Cantarell, the world's second-largest oil field by volume.'

Very late in the thread I add this. Thailand to use 'coal water' to fuel industrial plants in place of bunker fuel. What struck me was at no point were CO2 emissions discussed. The target to have the first plant running on the 70% and 30% water is expected within a year.
"King Abdullah's First Year: A Personal Perspective" John Duke Anthony

Beyond the uncertain longer-term results of elevated Chinese and Indian demand for Saudi Arabia's and other Gulf countries' fuel deposits, there are additional considerations that investment analysts, bankers, and energy consultants will want to ponder. Market predictions for oil and gas, for example, are confounded to some degree by articles focusing on the future of Saudi Arabia's energy resources. Of particular concern is the intermittent public fascination with the topic of "peak oil" -- this is in spite of the fact that many specialists believe that the earlier sustained public interest in peak oil has itself begun to show signs of peaking.

Some banking and financial publications have caused a stir by hyping the fear that Saudi Arabia's production will peak years sooner than expected. A few maintain that world reserves peaked as of 2005. Such alarmist reporting has helped sow a degree of doubt among energy planners. No such lack of confidence was evident, let alone as publicly obvious or widely discussed, in years past. Earlier unchallenged views that Arabia and the Gulf would be the main source of world oil supplies, and that Saudi Arabia would definitely be the premier source for the indefinite future, have been, if not exactly shaken, then at least nudged.

Lost in the swirl of controversy surrounding this new analysis by some people of world energy dynamics is that few publications have noted that the accompanying scare was originally the result of writings by Matthew Simmons. The latter has been and remains a controversial source. Simmons' analytical credentials, if not also his prognostic ones as well, are considered by many to be dubious given that he has long been an American investment banker based in Houston, Texas.

Beware ye rabblerousers; his royal highness is not amused.


The blogspot

recently posted some diagrams based upon data from EIA International Petroelum for August 2006.

Seems very much like global oil production now has plateaued, diagrams have a 12 MMA supporting that impression.

Another diagram shows the development in world supplies og NGL, the 12 MMA suggests supplies of NGL's peaked in 2005.


Found 2 spelling errors

Petroleum (drawback by using the toucmethod, some fingers are quicker than others)

...supplies og NGL ...

should of cource be

...supplies of NGL ...

og is perfectly good Norse :-)

Many of your countrymen and women here at the hydro conference.  Is there anyone left in Trondheim ?

I don't know, about Trondheim, I live in Stavanger.
Would someone explain what PEMEX is doing/will do to Cantarell to slow its depletion from  "... 13 percent less than a year ago" to "... would fall 6 percent this year to average 1.9 million barrels per day." More nitrogen injection?
... or was it just that last June was a particularly lousy month for them?
They delivered my Kill-a-Watt today. Neat gadget.

There is value in community connections. I was attending the last performance of Gypsy, before strike, and I happened to run into an architect I know. He's busy, so I've got a bit of work to do while I look for something permanent. And I can keep the Kill-a-Watt. :-)

Global Population Concerns
The first billion took from the dawn of humanity until 1830.

The second billion took only 100 years -- from 1830 to 1930.

Three billion more arrived in the next 60 years.

The next billion will take only 13 years (yes, just 13 years!)

There is a direct population connection between human activities, global warming and the greenhouse effect.

Currently the U.S. earns $40 billion per year as the largest food exporter in the world.  About 60% of the oil used in the U.S. is imported at a cost of $75 billion per year.  About 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended to feed each American, about 17% of all energy used, each year.
If present trends in population growth, domestic food consumption, and topsoil loss continue, the U.S. food exports (and the income from them) will cease by 2030.

We are in for a serious correction in population, if things continue as is!

on a seperate note:

I recently read somewhere that if the USA were to convert all automobiles to 100% ethanol, then 97% of all US farmland would be needed to grow the crops to make ethanol.
So where does that lead to fruit and veggies being grown? muchless dairy farms, cattle ranches.

Here's an interesting link about those few people who live without a car in an urban area with little mass transit: http://www.asuwebdevil.com/issues/2006/08/01/webextra/696964
Cracks appearing in UK economy, as oil prices, debt rise -

Debt defaults knock Barclaycard:


UK interest rates raised to 4.75%:


One in five 'ponders insolvency':


Recession by end of next year, I forecast.

Regarding the Peter Lloyd exerpt-  

I listened to him speak on Global Public Media back in January and something he said really struck home to me.  He said, (about peak oil), "At the very LEAST, it's something everyone should be talking about."  That rung true then and still does now when the buzz on the street is what Mel Gibson thinks of Israel.