Burning Buried Sunshine

I thought it was time to step far enough away from the myopia induced by current oil prices and, in so doing, provide sufficient space to review the the sustainability of the way we live. The title is taken from Jeffrey Dukes' 2003 paper Burning Buried Sunshine: Human Consumption of Ancient Solar Energy (pdf). Before moving on to Dukes' results, here is a summary of the findings of Mathis Wackernagel, et. al. Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy (pdf).

Figure 1
Sustainability requires living within the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. In an attempt to measure the extent to which humanity satisfies this requirement, we use existing data to translate human demand on the environment into the area required for the production of food and other goods, together with the absorption of wastes. Our accounts indicate that human demand may well have exceeded the biosphere's regenerative capacity since the 1980s. According to this preliminary and exploratory assessment, humanity's load corresponded to 70% of the capacity of the global biosphere in 1961, and grew to 120% in 1999.

Tracking Ecological Overshoot

The purpose of the Wackernagel, et. al. study was to develop an accounting framework by which the "extent of humanity's current demand on the planet's bioproductive capacity" could be measured. Unlike earlier studies like Human Appropriation of the products of photosynthesis by Vitousek, Erhlich, et. al. (1986), which used consumption estimates to calculate humanity's aggregate usage of the Earth's net primary productivity (NPP), Wackernagel took a different approach by calculating humanity's natural capital usage measured in biophysical units. Figure 2 shows their categories and accounting measured in hectares.

Global ecological demand over time, in global
hectares. This graph documents humanity's area
demand in six different categories. The six
categories are shown on top of each other,
demonstrating a total area demand of over 13
billion global hectares in 1999. Global hectares
represent biologically productive hectares with
global average bioproductivity in that year.
Figure 2

Naturally, the largest and fastest growing component —energy— is of interest here. The approach taken was to calculate the biologically productive area required to sequester enough carbon dioxide (CO2) to avoid increases in atmospheric levels.

Because the world's oceans absorb about 35% of the CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, we account only for the remaining 65%, based on each year's capacity of world-average forests to sequester carbon. This capacity is estimated by taking a weighted average across 26 forest biomes as reported by the IPCC and the FAO.
As they note, there is a lot of uncertainty in this terrestrial carbon sinks methodology because both the land-based and ocean sinks may change in the future due to a number of factors. For background here at TOD, see Stuart Staniford's The Carbon Economy. See my comment note there and also look at The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2 if you would like to read further.

For the purposes of this story, the key insight regards the carbon cycle as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3 -- click to enlarge

On geological timescales of millions of years, carbon is recycled through the interaction of—among other things—plate tectonics, sedimentation (burial) and volcanism. Plainly, we dig up the fossil fuels, or drill for them, and then burn them for the ancient stored energy they contain. By burning fossil fuels, humankind has altered the current carbon cycle such that we are moving carbon more rapidly from the lithosphere into the atmosphere than would otherwise occur. Currently, CO2 constitutes about 381 million parts per volume (ppmv) in the atmosphere, an increase of over 100 ppmv over pre-industrial times.

Wackernagle et. al. note that an alternative to the sequestration approach would be to calculate the "area requirement for a fossil fuel substitute from biomass, using current technology [which] leads to similar or even larger area demands [than the sequestration approach shown in Figure 2]." Jeffrey Dukes believes that the "ecological footprint" analysis they use is inadequate, saying that "true analyses of sustainability must take into account the land or NPP needed to replace the stored [fossil fuel] energy that we use." So, that is what he set out to do.

Burning Buried Sunshine

To understand Dukes' results, it is necessary to understand his methodology.
Here, I have compiled data on: (1) the proportion of fossil fuel reserves derived from different environments (i.e., terrestrial vs. marine vs. lacustrine), (2) the efficiency with which photosynthetic organisms are converted to peat or carbonrich sediment in these environments, (3) the efficiency with which organic deposits were converted to fossil fuels, and (4) the efficiency with which we are able to retrieve fossil fuels from near the earth's surface. From these data, I calculate the amount of paleoproductivity that was needed to create fossil fuels. I also estimate the amount of solar energy consumed by humans in the form of fossil fuels, compare the solar efficiency of fossil fuels to that of more modern sources of solar-derived energy, and estimate the minimum amount of modern photosynthetic product necessary to replace fossil fuel energy.

In this paper, a preservation factor (PF) is defined as the fraction of carbon that remains at the end of a transition from one fossil fuel precursor to the next, such as that from plant matter to peat, on the path to coal formation. A recovery factor (RF) is defined as the proportion of original photosynthetic product recovered as fossil fuel. Recovery factors are the product of the PFs of each transition and additional terms for extraction efficiency (for instance, the fraction of existing coal that can be mined from deposits given today's economic and technological setting).

Dukes then calculates the RF of NPP for both coal and petroleum. Both of these sections of his paper are highly recommended because—aside from telling us how Dukes made his calculations— they provide excellent detail about the geological settings and processes by which fossil fuels have been created "for our use" during the Phanerozoic Eon that started with the Cambrian Explosion about 543 million years ago.

As it turns out, the RF for both is quite small as you can see in Figure 4. In moving from ancient buried plant matter to final extraction, almost all of the original carbon is lost. For oil, the RF = .09%, for gas, the RF = .08%. For coal the RF = 9%. So, the whole process, especially for oil & natural gas, is terribly inefficient.

Best estimate (thick line) and high and low limits
(thin lines) for the percent of photosynthetically fixed
carbon retained during fuel generation and
extraction. The final value in each panel is
the equivalent of a recovery factor (RF) for the
fuel type. The actual RF for coal varies slightly
from the value in the figure, because both brown
coal and hard coal are extracted from the earth.
Figure 4

Dukes' section 5, Applications of the Recovery Factors, is the "fun facts" part of his paper.

  1. The RF for oil suggests that 89 metric tons of ancient plant matter were required to create 1 U.S. Gallon [3.8 L] of gasoline.
  2. RFs were used to estimate the amount of ancient photosynthetic product consumed annually in the form of fossil fuels. Approximately 44 Eg (44 × 10^18 grams) of photosynthetic product carbon were necessary to generate the fossil fuels burned in the reference year 1997. This is equivalent to 422 times the net amount of carbon that is fixed globally each year, or 73 times the global standing stock of carbon in vegetation.
  3. Paleoproductivity use over time (shown in Figure 5 below) suggests that societal consumption of this resource has exceeded the current rate of global carbon fixation since 1888. Cumulative paleoproductivity consumption from 1751 to 1998 exceeds 1.4 × 103 Eg of carbon (as above), which is more than 13,300 years' worth of global NPP.

Figure 5 shows the human consumption of paleoproductivity (in petragrams (Pg) of carbon per year, where

1 teragram (Tg) Carbon = 10^12 grams
1 petragram (Pg) Carbon = 10^15 grams
1 gigatonne (Gt) Carbon = 10^9 tonnes
1 megatonne (Mt) Carbon = 10^6 tonnes
1 petragram Carbon = 1 gigatonnes Carbon
1 teragram Carbon = 1 megatonnes Carbon

Don't miss the thick line (lower right) -- Figure 5

Paleoconsumption refers to the amount of ancient NPP (photosynthetically fixed carbon) that was required to generate the fossil fuels used annually between 1751 and 1998, where the thin dark line is the best estimate and the grey space is the high & low error limits. The horizontal bars represent estimates for the current annual NPP (terrestrial excludes the oceans). The thick line, which starts in 1980, represents Dukes' "conservative estimate of the amount of biomass that would be consumed if fossil fuel energy sources were replaced with modern biofuels." Also, "the onset of oil consumption in 1870 causes the jump in the high limit and best estimate [the thin, dark line, from 0 to 1] for paleoproductivity consumption" because of the large unit of measurement used.

The University of Utah 2003 press release focused on results #1 through #3 above and some other calculations made by Dukes.

"Can you imagine loading 40 acres worth of wheat - stalks, roots and all - into the tank of your car or SUV every 20 miles?" asks ecologist Jeff Dukes...

Dukes then divided the 1997 fossil fuel use equivalent of 7.1 trillion kilograms of carbon in plant matter by 31.6 trillion kilograms now available in plants. He found we would need to harvest 22 percent of all land plants just to equal the fossil fuel energy used in 1997 - about a 50 percent increase over the amount of plants now removed or paved over each year.

"Relying totally on biomass for our power - using crop residues and quick-growing forests as fuel sources - would force us to dedicate a huge part of the landscape to growing these fuels. It would have major environmental consequences. We would have to choose between our rain forests and our vehicles and appliances. Biomass burning can be part of the solution if we use agricultural wastes, but other technologies have to be a major part of the solution as well - things like wind and solar power." [Dukes said]

These shocking results bring home the meaning of the word sustainability. They also allow us to understand the meaning of studies on transportation biofuels like Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels from the University of Minnesota (PNAS, July 25, 2006. vol. 103, no. 30, pp. 11206-11210).
Relative to the fossil fuels they displace, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced 12% by the production and combustion of ethanol [from corn] and 41% by biodiesel [from soybeans]. Biodiesel also releases less air pollutants per net energy gain than ethanol. These advantages of biodiesel over ethanol come from lower agricultural inputs and more efficient conversion of feedstocks to fuel. Neither biofuel can replace much petroleum without impacting food supplies. Even dedicating all U.S. corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12% of gasoline demand and 6% of diesel demand.
All such study results follow in the larger sense from Dukes' analysis.

The Fate of Recently Buried Sunshine

It should not surprise anyone that the geological processes leading to fossil fuels creation continue up to the present. However, the word "recent" does not mean "last week" or even a hundred years ago; rather, it refers to peat formation over the entire course of the Holocene—10,000 radiocarbon years, about 11,430 ± 130 calendar years before the present (BP)— and the upper Pleistocene (from 1.81 million years BP up to the Holocene). Unfortunately, this peat is not staying buried.

Dukes makes the standard assumption that much of the Earth's coal accumulated in peat swamp forests like those in Indonesia and Malaysia.

A "blackwater" peat swamp forest

Peat is a precursor to coal. Given time, pressure and heat, peat becomes brown coal—lignite or sub-bituminous. Eventually, bituminous or anthracite hard coal is created. See Dukes' article for the details. However, these peat swamp forests have been burning in recent years, releasing "million of tons of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.".

Fires occur often during the dry season on the South East Asian island of Borneo, but it isn't only the forests that burn. Lowland tropical peat swamps are formed from layers of woody debris too waterlogged to fully decompose. Slowly deposited over thousands of years, the carbon-rich peat strata have been known to reach a thickness of up to 20 metres.

By rights these humid peat swamps shouldn't be vulnerable to flame but during the last couple of decades the Indonesian government started draining them for conversion into agricultural land. In an unfortunate side effect the dried-up peat swamps are turned into tinderboxes - and once a peat fire begins smouldering it is almost impossible to put out.

Aside from human destruction of the peat, there is an observation concerning how long ago the released carbon (or methane) was buried. The take home message, discussed in relation to melting permafrost, is summarized here:
The age of soil exposed by melting permafrost has an important impact on the release of carbon dioxide and methane and helps determine possible climate changes. If permafrost thawing exposes relatively young peat, its carbon would have been sequestered fairly recently and its release will result in little or no net increase to the world's atmospheric carbon load (O'Hanlon, 2005). However, if old peat is also exposed and then decomposes, the carbon produced will be similar to the emissions from burning fossil fuels, releasing carbon that has been stored away from the atmosphere for millions of years.
Similar remarks apply to the Southeast Asia's peat swamp forests. Although the word "old" is not defined in the text above, the insight is clear enough. For example, in the 19th century, particularly between 1830 and 1880, the forests of New England were cleared for agriculture. Ignoring the complex arguments concerning the overall effects on emissions of landuse changes, the 20th century reforestation of New England might be viewed as offsetting any stored carbon lost when the trees were cut down. However, if the carbon was buried thousands of years ago, no such argument can be made.

The peatlands situation in the Arctic, particularly Western Siberia, is potentially worse than the destruction of Indonesia's peat swamp forests. In Climate warning as Siberia melts, we learn that

  • Western Siberia, an area the size of France and Germany combined, has warmed by 3°C in the last 40 years, resulting in rapid melting of the world's largest peat bog.
  • The peat bogs formed approximately 11,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age.
  • The West Siberian region contains about 70 gigatonnes of methane, about 1/4th of all the methane stored on the world's land surface. "If the bogs dry out as they warm, the methane will oxidise and escape into the air as carbon dioxide. But if the bogs remain wet, as is the case in western Siberia today, then the methane will be released straight into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide."

There is an ongoing argument among scientists, summarized in this International Polar Year proposal, over whether new plant growth in the warming terrestrial region will replace or even increase NPP there. Thus, more carbon would be stored than is lost from the initial burst of decomposition & respiration in Arctic permafrost and peatlands in response to higher mean surface temperatures in the region. However, prima facie, no increase in biomass and therefore annual NPP in the Arctic can offset the loss of ancient carbon which has been accumulating in peatlands since they were established between 9.5 and 11 thousand years ago—a total of 70 gigatonnes representing ~26% of all terrestrial carbon formed since the Last Glacial Maximum. This is just the kind of observation Dukes makes in his study.

Quantifiying, Understanding and Managing the Carbon Cycle in the Next Decades (pdf) states that "a preliminary estimate suggests that up to 100 PgC of CO2 equivalent could be released to the atmosphere from wetlands and peatlands over the next 100 years." The estimate includes both the Arctic and the tropical peatlands. 100 petragrams = 100 gigatonnes. CO2 emissions from human burning of fossil fuels amount to approximately 7 gigatonnes per year. So, current studies indicate that the fate of sequestered carbon in Arctic and tropical peat is ultimately release into the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.

The essay has attempted to describe the bigger picture concerning the sustainability of the way we live on the Earth. It seems obvious that as demand for fossil fuels increases, population increases, stress on natural resources increases and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions increases, that eventually something's gotta give. And now, a final thought.

The Planet Earth has been shot.
Round up the usual suspects

Notice that footprint area with a time height is a kind of volume. I'd like to see a formal estimate of how fast oil is being created in seafloor mud on continental margins. If my chemistry is correct it goes something like biolipids->kerogen->alkanes.  At a guess I'd say we are consuming oil at least a million times faster than it is being generated.  
"Energy is the currency of the future."

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

Fossil fuels in the last century reached their extreme prices because of their inherent utility: they pack a great deal of potential energy into an extremely efficient package. If we can but sidestep the 100 million year production process, we can corner this market once again.

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
Strategy Session

Life is merely an orderly decay of energy states, and survival requires the continual discovery of new energy to pump into the system. He who controls the sources of energy controls the means of survival.

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

Planet's Primary, Alpha Centauri A, blasts unimaginable quantities of energy into space each instant, and virtually every joule of it is wasted entirely. Incomprehensible riches can be ours if we can but stretch our arms wide enough to dip from this eternal river of wealth.

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

And when at last it is time for the transition from megacorporation to planetary government, from entrepreneur to emperor, it is then that the true genius of our strategy shall become apparent, for energy is the lifeblood of this society and when the chips are down he who controls the energy supply controls Planet. In former times the energy monopoly was called "The Power Company"; we intend to give this name an entirely new meaning.

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Centauri Monopoly"

Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Ethics of Greed"

You ivory tower intellectuals must not lose touch with the world of industrial growth and hard currency. It is all very well and good to pursue these high-minded scientific theories, but research grants are expensive and you must justify your existence by providing not only knowledge, but concrete and profitable applications as well.

CEO Nwabudike Morgan
"The Ethics of Greed"

Pretty amazing...for a computer game character.

The combination of global warming, overpopulation, and peak oil offers a rather formidable challange.  Even if you don't believe in a worste case scenerio in any one of the three, they reinforce each other to make problems worse.  The so called "green revolution" that has allowed us to feed 6 billion has relied heavily on massive use of fetilizer (with natural gas as a feedstock), and irrigation--which is already straining existing water supplies and will only get worse as mountain glaciers melt, taking away a major source of fresh water.

We've hit the trifecta.

OK, I'll bite.
What in the blue blazes is "TRIFECTA"?
It's in the dictionary.

It's a horseracing term, that more generally means getting three things to happen at the same time.

Generally considered to be a good thing, as in "Lucky me, I hit the trifecta."
A more relevant term is "the three sisters", which at sea means the arrival of three huge waves from different directions, guaranteeing capsizing of any ship unlucky enough to be caught in their embrace.
No doubt you're right -- the quote was President Bush's response to Mitch Daniels in justifying deficit spending (in this case a tax cut) in the face of the trifecta of war, 9/11, and a recession.
Revegetation might sequester the carbon released fairly recently by landcover change but can't touch the volumes released by fossil fuels - Ouch!

And direct anthropogenic emissions pale beside the emissions from unintended consequences - god laughs.

Memo to all readers: assemble at nearest peatland, bring spade with which to aid drying to peat (so it goes to co2 not ch4). Should the Irish be put in charge? I'd vote for a picture of Spike Milligan.

Who was it who said, "Earth isn't dying; it's being killed. And the killers have names and addresses"?

Utah Phillips

and who said "conservation may be a virtue  but it is not the basis of an energy policy "   (same neocon that said "debt dont matter" )
I still have a little trouble fully understanding the exact mechanism by while the lipid fraction of plant and animal life gets converted into low-molecular weight petroleum constituents.  Most simple textbook explanations portray it as a form of breakdown or cracking and leave it at that.

However,  I wonder if the conditions are really sufficient for cracking. Take a typical petroleum deposit a mile down. While the pressure is high (say roughly 3,500 psi), the temperature is probably less than 200 degrees F.  So here's the question: don't you need a much higher temperature for any cracking to take place?

For example,  if you take say soy bean oil, put it in a pressurized vessel at 3,500 psi and raise the temperature to 200 degrees F, I doubt that you're going to see much happen. And I'm not sure that time is the answer, because if a chemical reaction is not thermodynamically favored in the first place,  the supposed reactants can sit there forever and nothing will happen. (I think this is one of the arguments put forth by some of the abiotic crowd, but I haven't the expertise in petroleum chemistry to judge the merits of such arguments.)

Or is the answer that these deposits were at one time much deeper and that the product of the cracking having migrated upward to their present level?

To put the question  another way, is there some minimum pressure/temperature regime below which no petroleum will form regardless of what time period is allowed?

Modern production needs a much higher rate of conversion.  For something that has time (millions of years of time), a statistically unlikely reaction, which nonetheless reaches a lower energy state may be sufficient.

Its the shale source rock that is baked not the resiovor where you find the oil. The temperature need not be that high I guess the lower limit might be surprising say 200-500 C and I think the role of microbes in the formation of oil is under estimated.

This link claims 600 C


But this is on the surface and for rapid formation. As I said
I think you can get formation at much lower temperatures once you consider microbes and millions of years.

I'm guessing your looking for a uplift event on a sedimentry plain or dried ocean to provide the energy and the oil will flow into the sandstone or carbonate basin and be trapped under salt domes.
Its intresting that the uplift is probably the cause of both the conditions for capture and the source of heat for oil formation.

There are a few places on earth were you have heat and shale
that may have significant oil deposits that we have not looked into. Its along subduction zones and along the deep sea trenches where the sea floor is spreading. Also there are a number of mountain ranges in the deep ocean which might have oil nearby. I'd call this ultra desperate oil.

Methane hydrates are found in abundance along the subduction zones for example and the formation is biological. This is why I think the contributions of bugs to making the oil is underestimated. In any case if we are ever crazy enough to start drilling into these areas it probably makes more sense to go after the methane then any oil thats forming. Call it biotic deep oil. There is a huge amount of reduced carbon locked away in the deep ocean silt.
Here is a drill record note carbon content is in the percentage range.


So in a sense the earth probably still has large quantities
of oil and methane left considering the source conditions of
silt and heat are common but very little of it is probably in the nice large pools we like to drill. I think that almost all dry holes hit traces of oil pretty much anywhere you drill. So there are huge quantities of dispersed small oil pockets.

There is so much focus on commercial deposits that a lot of people don't think to much about the extent of far more common non commercial oil pockets. Like any natural resource small quantities can be found wherever conditions are halfway reasonable but large deposits are rare.

memmel -

Thank you. That was a very nice explanation.

Having spent most of my career in the environmental field, I am far more familiar with anaerobic biological processes than petroleum geology and chemistry.  Given the ubiquity and incredible versatility of microorganisms, I would be very surprised if some sort of very slow biological processes had NOT been at work in the formation of oil.

However, all biological processes involve any number of oxidation/reduction reactions. So if indeed some of the final petroleum constituents are in a more reduced state than the starting bio lipid material, then it would follow that something down there must have been functioning as a reducing agent. I wonder what that something might have been?  One possibility that comes to mind is sulfur and its many compounds, which always seem to be found, in greater or lesser amounts, with oil.

I'm also glad that you pointed out that at a certain depth it is quite common to find traces of petroleum, but that commercially feasible deposits are quite rare. The highly dispersed oil may amount to a total many billions of barrels but it ain't gonna do no one no good never.

Memmel, the uplift around salt domes is provided by 1. the salt diapurs rising through sediments and by the sinking of sediments into the subsurface. Although salt domes are very prolific, they are a structure providing the trapping mechanism,fault traps providing many others plus also anticlines (hills under the earth) caused by unequal compaction of sediments during subsidence, and stratigraphic traps during lithology or permiability changes.
   I'm a landman, not a geologist, but I had a couple of courses a quarter of a century ago. A geologist like West Texas or a geochemist could provide you with a much better explanation. But, the article you linked to said that Shell Oil was heating oil shale to 600 degrees C. in order to cook kerogens in to oil that could be produced. Thats not a natural process, the real old fashioned grease out of rocks was originally produced at lower temperatures. There is a thermal window below which oil is not produced and above which oil is cracked to natural gas and condensate. There is very little oil more shallow than 1,000 ft or deeper than 10,000 ft.
  But you are definitely right about marginal, sub-economic amounts of oil being present in many rocks, particularly shales. I'm also fairly certain many microbes help in this process.
  I'm glad guys like you think about things and are curious. A huge amount of basic science was done and is stil done by gifted amatuers. Einstein was a postal clerk!

My understanding is salt domes are caused by salt deposits left from dried up shallow seas.

I don't know how common they are in the deep ocean if they do exist then the other place to look for larg pockets of oil would be near volcanic or undersea mount regions. Even in the deap sea. This would be caused by mangma intrusions baking the deep silt of the ocean floor. The conditions to recover it would be insane.  Large carbonate deposits exist to act as a resevior I just no nothing about salt domes existing past the continental shelf.


And this suggest there are salt domes and deposits off the continetal shelf.


And this is a really cool link about the gulf geology.


You know, I am by nature a pacifist as are most other liberal enviornmental types(though I do reserve the right of self-defense of course). But when I see things like this, I begin to understand the motivations behind the ELF and Earth First! people.
Burning buildings is justified??? How so?  I call it reckless vandalism - the feds call it arson.  I see no justification to do this - it only adds CO2 and the stuff gets rebuilt anyway.  I think they are criminals with some sort of self rightuous justification.  Killing themselves would be the best thing to prove that they are true believers by removing another person from our overpopulated planet.  IMHO they have turned public opinion against enviromentalists.
I said that I understood their motives, not that I approved of their actions. And btw, overopulation is not our biggest issue (though it is one of them) and committing suicide in no way helps ease that problem or any other when it is so large.
Burning buildings? I can't find anything supporting a case for that being Earth First!'s policy. To the contrary, they seem to be a non-violent (towards people) organization. They have nothing against strategic tinkering with property in defense of the environment (ie. monkey-wrenching), but don't condone indiscriminate property damage.

"Killing themselves would be the best thing to prove that they are true believers by removing another person from our overpopulated planet."

I disagree. Killing as many people as possible before being taken down by the authorities would both be better proof and be more "helpful".

From time to time, I allow myself to think about what the best way of saving humanity from it's excesses might be, assuming the ends justify all means. Again and again, I come up with a 12 Monkeys-like event (releasing a bacteria or virus that indiscriminately wipes out the majority of humanity). Now, I'm not promoting anything along these lines (my morals certainly don't allow it), but ironically, it looks like nature is making significant headway in this direction (avian flu, West Nile virus, AIDS).

Personally, I'd rather that humanity educate itself on sustainability and collectively adopt a lifestyle within a framework of sustainable systems. I'm personally working towards this end on a personal level, but I don't know how one would enspire this sort of behaviour on a large scale. (I can't even convince my wife to do anything other than to barely tolerate my actions. As I move forward, I expect that there will be conflict on this front.)

Hello MarkInCalgary,

It all depends on how the continental topdogs wish to play this out.  Do they wish to continue the infinite growth paradigm or jumpstart a wholesale shift to true, shared biosolar sustainability at a vastly reduced level of everything?  I speculate that they will go for a mixture across the North American geography.  Detritus MPP for them, and rapid, but forced postPeak biosolar MPP livestyles for the rest.

Consider the latest Hirsch update of 15 favored detritovore states and the continuing topdog push for SuperNafta.  Since the human harnessing of fire so long ago: an eventual global "Dictatorship of the Detritovores" is the paramount result.  Never forget that at this advanced state of Global Overshoot: Detritus means Life.  

How might this play out?  I think it is highly plausible to have 'National Sacrifice Zones' of massive ecosystem destruction for continued detritus extraction, and 'National Sacrifice Zones' of massive human destruction for biosolar living at the same time.  

The Southwest is a logical place for this to start, IMO, due to incredible Overshoot and high per capita detritus burn-rates.  The Asphalt Wonderland is paving its Doom despite my best email efforts.  Recall in my previous postings how I doubt Cascadia, and other areas seeking early biosolar legislative Secession, will gladly welcome a migration influx of 50 million from the cities in the Southwest postPeak.  

Lower latitude heat waves and droughts are demographically optimal for reducing headcount and preparing us for the squeeze through the Dieoff Bottleneck.  Recall how quick and effective the tragic 2003 European heatwave was in elderly deathrates: it is Nature's best way to non-violently reduce competition for the remaining resources.  Contrast this with competition in a climatic area of ideal temperatures: people have to fight each other for essential goods to reduce headcount.

We know that Cantarell is crashing, and worldwide detritus depletion is inevitable.  It is a foregone conclusion that the detritus infrastructure spiderweb will shrink to support the rich detritovores.  We can also expect the great unwashed masses of uninformed North American detritovores to protest and/or riot at some future inflection point.

The eventual US-MEX border fence will be ideal place to isolate some of the poor detritovores in the postPeak future as SuperNAFTA proceeds.  Some of the funding for KBR workcamps will be to basically dump some violent protestors south of the border.  With proper MSM coverage: these dire conditions will make the remaining protestors very compliant for the '3 Days of the Condor' scenario.  They will then gladly accept the re-imposition of the Draft for their children because of their ceaseless detritus yearning.

For SuperNafta to be successfully implemented only requires the mercenary protection of a thin strip of NA.  The topdogs can then leverage detritus trickle-down to their best advantage such as rewarding a few compliant biosolar areas with extravagant imported gifts of targeted shipments of bananas, coffee, or vanilla, and punishing violent biosolar areas by appropriating PV panels, cutting off shipments of bicycle tires, or medical equipment denial.  Use your imagination of all the possible 'carrots and sticks', or recall my previous postings on all the possible Foundation-based detritus perturbational tools at the topdogs' disposal to further induce biosolar shifts.

There is a broad spectrum of possibilities as we decline from detritus entropy and seek what biosolar powerup is truly attainable.  In short, a lot will happen before we reached the advanced state of Somalia: where brother clans fight to the death over a small stand of forest; one biosolar tribe wants the trees to live, the detritus tribe wants to make charcoal for cooking.  Such is life.

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

You don't really see a way out of this, do you, Bob?

I'm afraid the Earth Marines and biosolar communities just aren't going to happen.

"For above all else, men desire power."

Hello Don in Colorado,

Thxs for responding.  I make no claim to being a prophet--it is just speculation.  I would prefer the Energy Fiesta continues for the next 1,000 generations, but it just doesn't seem likely.  Have you read author Reg Morrison's article [teaser intro reprinted below]?  He, Jay Hanson, and Darwinian [Ron Patterson] had fascinating dialogue with other Yahoo:Dieoff forum members awhile back.  These guys know so much more crucial info than me [about what I call Jay's Thermo-Gene Collision], that I found it to be a truly humbling experience. I still consider myself a rank 'newbie' compared to these gentlemen.  Remember, I only discovered this stuff Summer of '03.

HYDROGEN: Humanity's Maker and Breaker (PDF 1.82mb warning)

A reassessment of life, its cosmic role, and the future of our species.

The primary molecular ingredients of earthly life are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur (CHNOPS).† All six play vital and particular roles in the structure and behavior of organisms, but the traditional emphasis on carbon obscures a more accurate, cosmic view of the biota, the biosphere and our place within it.† This skewed perspective effectively conceals the magnitude and immediacy of the threats we face on this hydrogen-regulated planet.
Click on the 'articles' button at his website to find it.


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

Jesse Ventura, former Gov of Minnesota stated yesterday at the Kinky Friedman rally that if a fence is built on the Mexican border, he will be the first to American to climb out of the USA. And to remember that a fence works both ways, be careful what you wish for. In 10 years time we may all be trying to climb over that same fence back into Mexico.

food for thought!  

Just goes to show that politics continues as normal, even with "independents".

Kinky swore to put 10K National Guard on the border to stop illegal immigration, but then turns around and has a guest speaker decrying border security.

Frankly a fence is a risk, most Texans, legal immigrants I think would be willing to take.

The issue of border security and stopping the flow of illegals is one that is overwhelmingingly popular with citizens, both natural born and legally immigrated, and equally popular amongst Democratic and Republican and Independent voters.  But both political parties in Washington refuse to touch the issue despite an outcry of voter anger over the issue.

Illegal Immigration Poll Results:

ELF claims responsibility in arson fires...


ELF and Earth First! are different organizations.
"Self rightous" criminals with a cause.  
Like the great crusades, with less support.  
The buildings will get rebuilt anyway.
They hurt the enviromental effort(way too radical!).
Yet more (sacred) trees must be logged to replace those buildings.
Adding to the CO2 problem by burning the buildings.

Motivation without leadership(?) Naw- misguided, deluded thinking.    

They are a negative to the enviromental movement and will probably just wind up in jail where they will be rendered ineffective(Tre arow). IMHO it is better for the rest of us that they are locked up in prison before they create a broader backlash like GW&Bushco has in the rest of the world.

I always find it ammusing(sarcasm) that they wear clothes and eat food grown on farmland that was probably once a forest.  Hang in trees, buildings, or bridges with nylon(oil) ropes.  Probably live in electric or gas using wood framed houses, ride in oil powered vechiles, but damn it they are not a part of the problem, "these other people" are! Such blantant hypocrysy!  I bet tre arow even uses toilet paper made from (sacred) trees...LOL

I agree that burning down a housing complex is not helpful. If ELF (as apposed to Earth First!) were found guilty in a court of law, I would support their being locked up. However, monkey wrenching (as opposed to the outright vandalism DelusionaL sites), makes a lot of sense if you believe in the problem.

As for DelusionaL's last paragraph, it is of little value. Everybody here at TOD uses oil, and that makes us hypocrites, but does it mean the peak oil conversation should be ignored?

Maybe we should give radical activism a little more thought. A radical peak oil activist might travel the countryside of Alberta, carefully shutting down both natural gas and oil wells. They could strategically vandalising them in expensive to fix ways. Heck, if the wells had to have (better) security systems installed, the activist would have helped to reduce production and push up the price of the commodity. I'd prefer a less radical form of action for myself.

I would think (hope) that all of us here at TOD have reviewed our life styles and are making corrections/improvements.  This message would hopefully get a wider audience.  Making corrections doesn't speak to hypocrysy IMHO.

"monkey wrenching" = a nice sounding term for vandalism.  I bet "expensive to fix" "monkey wrenching" gets jail time too!
I understand you wanting fuel prices to go up.  I agree this is needed to get the masses moving in the right direction.
I suspect there are alot of innocent hard working people making a living in the oil industry.  "Money wrenching" with thier paycheck is probably not going to make them go away.  I suspect they will employ gaurds,and lawyers.  Unless you get a thrill (my suspicion!) out of destroying things I still think this is a waste of economic rescources not to mention damaging to the enviroment.  Yes burning the fuel damages the enviroment too, but to just waste it isn't "better".  Like the buildings burnt they will come back like ants to fix the damage.  I think this will also harden thier resolve to stop "monkey wrenchers" and put them behind bars.  
Because vandalism is so wasteful don't ever expect to get broad support in public.  I personally like the idea of Tre arow in prison.  Should have jerked him off that building and made him go thin trees in the forest to reduce the forestfire potential a long time ago.  Make him work with his hands and no power tools.  I'm sure "work" isn't as "exciting" or "interesting" to him.

I have to fully agree with the other posters who have said this already...We need a fuel (carbon) tax with the money going to electric rail/ bio-fuels/solar/wind and especially conservation.  This might get us farther down the correct road.

Monkey wrenching is a specific sort of vandalism with the aim of doing good. It may or may not be misguided. Yes, it is illegal, and it probably should be. However, the intergenerational tyranny that our current system is built upon, which monkey wrench was intended to fight, should also be illegal. Legality doesn't make an action moral, just like illegality doesn't make it immoral.

Also, since DelusionaL has an uncanny ability to misread my messages, let me be (more) clear: The sort of monkey wrenching I was talking about would be carefully executed to delay extraction of a resource. Uncapping a well and setting fire to it, for example, is not my focus.

When the IRA shifted its focus to attacks on English public property, rather than people, they won a lot more support for their cause. What I'm talking about (and only talking about) is something many steps away from that kind of destruction. Essentially, I'm just talking about turning a well "off" and then making it expensive to turn it back "on". And I'm not sure that I even think that such an action is right or wrong, which is why I'd like to see some discussion.

As for Tre Arrow (note the spelling), his story is well worth a read. He has yet to be extradited from Canada to the US, but it looks like it will eventually happen. There are aspects of his story that are quite chilling. He is definitely a bit...strange. If he's found guilty of setting the fire, he should definitely be locked up. But I'd be surprised if he actually did set the fire.

I'm sorry that you think "monkey wrenching" as you call it will be viewed as anything but vandalism, even with good intentions.  I do not think you understand that I understand very clearly what you are saying - I just disagree.  You are talking about destroying some sort of equipment.  Like I mentioned above messing with someone elses income will get thier attention.  In the worst way.
It would be a waste of time/energy and resources in the long term IMHO. Like burning houses - Does anyone but the arsonist think this is going to make a diference?  "Oh I guess someone doesn't like our house here I suppose I should not take the insurance money and rebuild"  Get real! I bet the response is closer to "Some A** Hole burnt my vacation house and needs to go to prison or get shot"
Lets tarnish the enviromental movement hmmm?...
I think most people are aware that there are problems with oil, the enviroment and are somewhat trapped by circumstances beyond thier control.  They do not believe that they can make a difference.  If they 1)realized the collective power that they have (x millions of similar actions). 2) Have a clear vision/direction. PO could be somewhat mitigated.
I think the neighbor has a good saying - When the pain of not changing is greater - then you will see change.

IMHO "monkey wrenching" as you call it will be the best way that you get "the red x" on your forhead.  People will focus on the vandals as "the problem".  This will delay realization of the true problem. The world is not full of Phd's.  People need "the red x".  Some one or something will need to be blamed for the problems- illegal imigrants? Walmart? politicians? or those damn vandals - if they were not screwing up oil production evething would be fine?  IMHO the benign view you on take on "monkey wrenching" doesn't match the real world.  Currently anyone who doesn't sell the US oil gets to be a terrorist.  Why you think vandalism will be viewed as OK escapes me completely.  

The reason I think that this isn't a black and white issue is that I know people on both sides of the fence and I happen to be sitting on the fence. I know an oil worker who finds the idea of monkey wrenching quite agreeable (and for environmental reasons!). I also know environmental activists who despise the idea.

So, I don't actually think that vandalising a well to delay resource extraction is right or wrong, or at least, my opinion doesn't matter in this discussion. I see it as a political issue. There are two stalwart sets of people who's minds are made up about it being right or wrong, and a remainder that will shift one way or the other depending on the way the act is executed, its effect, how it is covered by the media, and many other reasons. I'm interested in the size of the first two sets, and in how the third would react to various scenarios. I do think that there is a reality of a hawkish reaction to "well-fiddling". However, I can certainly imagine individuals that would consider it mission accomplished if monkey wrenching a half-dozen wells increased the expense of each well in Alberta by $500 due to security measures.

Surely, DelusionaL remembers the protesters in England who had a march on Earth Day and planted a couple of large trees in the middle of a paved road? That act was, by definition, vandalism of public space. However, it was very well received and earned the environmental movement points in many circles. Among many other past events, that's why I think vandalism will sometimes be well received by the public.

IMHO Planting trees and potentially cutting off oil or making it to expensive for some poor person with children will get very different responses.  Planting a tree yes would "fit" vandalism but has alot of "warm fuzzies" attached to it.  Being cold in an appartment with screaming children would hit the MSM with a totally diferent tone.

Unfortunatly I think there are alot of "hand to mouth" er's out there and the media loves to run that stuff in our faces as "the problem with america".  The political will isn't there to tell them "tough" - disconnect your cable TV, cancel your cell phone service, drive an old car, don't buy coffee latte's, and pay for heating fuel.  We have the richest poor people in the world here but politically they have power.  The people who bring food stamps to the store where my daughter works buy nicer food, drive nicer cars, and dress nicer than she does.  It really has soured her on people in general.

IMO I think that we (you and I) actually agree that the price of energy needs to rise to "make people want to change".  

I think that we sould have a fuel tax increease of $.50 a gallon per year until we get to $6.00.  I think that is the magic number to make change happen.

I certainly do agree with DelusionaL on the need of energy prices to rise, and that the political will to stop subsidizing energy just isn't there, which is why I see desperate steps like monkey-wrenching becoming more and more attractive to a larger set of people.

I also agree that planting trees is relatively benign compared to shutting down any oil or gas production. (But keep in mind these trees were planted in the middle of a paved road. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember some furious car commuters resulting from the tree planting incident.) However, I also think that shutting down wells does bring the issue home and show people how perilous there position is.

There is also the issue of the media. Whether one feels the media would spin this in a positive or negative way, may also depend on if how free your press is. In Canada, the Wiebo Ludwig incident actually received very balanced coverage (except in Alberta-based newspapers). Maybe that wouldn't have been the case in the US.

Hello TODers,

I'm not trying to incite a war between realists (aka "Doomers") and those who advocate action in response to the looming energy shortfall, population boom, and climate change (aka "Cornucopians"), but I just don't see how this is going to work out. This is an excellent contribution by Dave Cohen.

Gaia is pissed. If peak oil and population are the deadly blows to humanity, global warming is the nail in the coffin.

We have real problems, but miscasting those who want to work on those problems as Cornucopians does not move conversation in any positive direction.
Hi Odograph,

I was just quoting your post on yesterday's DrumBeat.

Cornucopians, in the true sense of those who think oil and/or energy production will continue to increase for forever, are as rare as hen's teeth around here.
Most of us who get called cornucopains actually acknowledge a looming oil and energy shortfall, and advocate action in response.

Your's was a criticism of the use of the word "Cornucopian". Mine was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I guess I have to use the <sarcasm> tags more often.

Or maybe, as others have suggested, we should just do away with "Doomers" and "Cornucopians" and use "Realists" and "Those who advocate action".

Tom Anderson-Brown

OK, sorry.  My antenna were up as you could see ;-)
Doomer: One who advocates societal inaction because it's a lost cause

Cornucopian: One who advocates societal inaction because there's no need

Most of us are somewhere in the middle, and are advocating action - what we like to think of as realists.

And don't forget...

Moderate: one who advocates societal inaction because they can't decide if it's a lost cause or there's no need.  ;-)

Is that a dig at me?  How many times do I have to advocate action before anyone hears me?  ... tap ... tap ... is this thing on?
Wow, your antennae really are up!
I guess its doesn't really matter if you're a cornucopian or a realist, so long as we cannot collectively agree on a solution to the problem(being defined and changed daily), there will be no real solution. The course of history will take  place and we will all watch it with great anticipation regardless of the outcomes(dieoff or miracles)..

I for one am not praying to the technolgy god to save the day.. I'm just spreading the word and making small changes myself.. Perhaps someday, when its too late, people will give peak oil the time of day and culturally, we'll change..

I think if you look at today's drumbeat you'll see a messy societal response going on right now.

I see that level of action, and desire more .. but that often gets cast nonetheless as a defense "of the status quo."

Come on, this year's status quo is already different than last years.  Was the ethanol debate as high flying then?  Were SUVs tanking?

I'm sure next year's status quo will even be a bit better.  Where we get to the fuzzy undetermined part is how much we can accelerate the process, and how much it will all ultimately achieve.

Perhaps its my age, but I think you need to take a slightly larger time frame than this year to last. Ethanol has been hip before, as have smaller cars. And yet, here we are. It's not clear to me that any of the "changes" we see now are anything more than responses to short term signals.
Odograph, I find your status quo quip amusing. Especially foiled against my favourite part of Dave's post:

Paleoproductivity use over time [...] suggests that societal consumption of this resource has exceeded the current rate of global carbon fixation since 1888.

So the question is whether the rate of change in status quo is significant against the growth of our resource utilization since 1888. I, for one, feel that it is not and that that fact is plainly obvious. Therefore, I think that we should do all that we can, but even so, I also think that things will still suck hard in the next decade, starting in the next few years or so.

We probably disagree about the potential for voluntary change in status quo.

In the US we've got a mixed response.  Gov programs like CAFE were supposed to do something, but mostly failed.  Without them we have a sloooow market move toward more efficient cars.

I'd love it if CAFE had more teeth, starting 20 years ago ... but we are where we are.

I think that Peak Oil means higer prices, and that higher prices mean at a minimum more market response.  A CAFE and/or gas tax and/or carbon tax would be nice too.

I also think/hope that PO means higher prices, but I expect that the market won't accept PO until quite late in the game. I hope that I'm wrong.

A fuel tax and preferably a carbon tax would go a long way in my opinion.

Hopefulists - Wanting bird flu to reduce the population with non-economic/social bias and give a chance to the survivors.
At the heart of all this, most of us are hoping to avoid a die-off for any reason, whether the breakdown of civilization, nuclear war, bird flue, or whatever.  We are fighting for man's right to exist in the least destructive, most sustainable, most comfortable fashion.  The only reason to be concerned about any of this 'oil addiction' is that it's destructive to our environment (which is important to us) and since it's not sustainable, destructive to our civilization when we run out.

I label the rest of you - Evil Hippies.  And I put you on the same level as those who want to turn the Middle East into an irradiated glass parking lot studded with oil wells.  That human life (see: in general, sanctity of, quality of, security of) is the most important objective, should be the only thing we can all agree on.  Not your y2k dieoff-prepared compound.  Not plants and animals.  Not the United States.  Not personal transport.  Human life.

Think about it sometime.

I thought.

I disagree.

I like plants and animals and without them, of course, we're history.

Putting man first (what about the women?) seems to me to be the kind of thinking that has gotten us so screwed-up today.  We are grappling with the same issues (e.g. greed, lust for power, fear of the 'other', etc.) humankind has faced all along.  Peak Oil is a manifestation of our way of thinking, only the stakes, the consequences, keep increasing, as does our population...

IOW, we have to take care of the whole package.

You said it yourself - without plants and animals, we're history.  And you 'like them.'  You value them because Man has an aesthetic appreciation for them and a practical apprecitation for their utility.  Preserving them is therefore in the interests of man.

I was a bit narrow with 'evil hippies' - it's just a judgement of the posts I keep seeing that seem to be rooting for the plants/animals at the expense of our own human selves.  If that's truly their orientation, if they're to pursue what they believe in, then they belong out there removing people from the scene, perpetrating as big a genocide as possible.  My first breach with that viewpoint was in the novel Rainbox Six, where eco-terrorists conspire to release a supervirus to wipe out humanity, leaving only their enlightened, sustainable commune.  Such people, if they are really and truly in it for something other than humanity, deserve the condemnation of humanity.

That human life (see: in general, sanctity of, quality of, security of) is the most important objective, should be the only thing we can all agree on.  Not your y2k dieoff-prepared compound.  Not plants and animals.  Not the United States.  Not personal transport.  Human life.

If we all really thought that, we wouldn't be sitting on our butts typing on computers.  We'd be busy vaccinating children in Africa, or at least have donated the money we spent on our computers to Oxfam or the Red Cross.

Ahh, an attack on the basic rationalization of our way of life.  Now we're getting somewhere philosophically debatable.

In my defense, at least, I say that I would rather help those children than hurt those children through action, no matter what I do through inaction.  Which is a key distinction that allows us to continue to frame conversations on this site.

Whereas "I hope you all die, vive le trees!" or "I'm prepared for the apocalypse, I don't care what you have to say about mitigation, cause you're all gonna die" does not.

The real issue is our Stone Age brains.  Most of us, if we saw a child starving in front of us, would do anything to save him.  But out of sight is out of mind.  In the abstract, it just doesn't engage the parts of our brain that govern morality.  That is what we're up against.  And you really can't blame people for being that way.  It's how we're hard-wired, and it's probably too much to expect the average person to overcome that.
I guess I too need to add the <sarcasm> tag.  However...   ...   ...Our population is a problem.  I do not think that means only you but me too.  
With our advances in medicine we not only live longer but are able to check things that might wipe out a significant portion of our population from time to time.  As "bugs" get immunity from the chemicals we have to stop them I think that we will indeed see that "mother nature bats last."  
Yes I agree that most anyone whould stop to help a child in need- as I give to Dornbeckers Childrens hospital, lest you think I'm a cold hearted bastard.
There is more to it than just agreeing upon a solution (hell, we haven't even agreed upon the problem - just the presenting cause. But even if every person on TOD woke up tomorrow morning in complete agreement on what needs to be done, we would still be dealing with social and political inertia which tells the vast majority of the planet to keep doing what they're doing - don't change (unless it is desire more).


So would not the best plan of action then to formulate cost effective strategies for individuals to minimize (if not eliminate) their energy footprint?

Let us assume a slow collapse.  Rome wasn't built in a day, and nor did it collapse in one.  

If we aren't concerned with a societal collapse (aka a Mad Max scenario), then what we would most want to do as individuals would be to insulate ourselves from future energy price spikes or shortages.

Eliminating your fossil fuel energy footprint is not something that can be done overnight, but yearly 5% reductions at the personal level seems like a realistic goal.

I'm going to spend some time to see if I can estimate my personal yearly energy consumption.  Should be an interesting exercise at the very least.

So would not the best plan of action then to formulate cost effective strategies for individuals to minimize (if not eliminate) their energy footprint?

I'm already a step ahead of you in dealing with my footprint. I have installed CFB throughout my homes. I winterize my home and have since the 1980's. I educate other(which I believe is the best thing I can do for now) about peak oil and evergy efficiencies whereever I travel. I have joined our mayor's task force on energy and efficiency's to futher spread the word about peak oil.. I post to other forums to spread the word.. I hope in a small way my efforts will make the difference with at least one other person and we can go from there..


My "tag line" has been "Todd; a Realist" for some time now since "doomer" has too much baggage associated with it.

But, whether Realist or Doomer, my view of the future comes not from throwing up my hands and emotionally crying all is lost but rather a hard-headed, and, I believe logical, interpretation of the facts as we know them.  In fact, as I have posted several times, I have been doing many of the things required to ameliorate some of my footprint even though I doubt it will make any difference. At the same time, logic says that there will be no transition to a sustainable world.  There is insufficient time; there is no cohesive will to make the changes necessary; there are insufficient resources.  There will be a dieoff at some point.

However, I still believe it is better to do something much like the last surviving soldier fighting off the invading horde than to do nothing. At least there is the moral compensation of saying, "I tried."

Todd; a Realist

Nor does implying that "doomers" do not wish to do anything positive.

My problem with you cornucopians ;-) is that you want to keep some vestige of the contemporary lifestyle going in the future. For many of us "doomers" it is that lifestyle (and the culture that goes with it) that is the problem.

Vestiges?  That's what I do expect if depletion hits hard.  I doubt it would hit in my lifetime, but I've already got more bikes than cars.  I've even touted the League of American Bicyclists in these very pages ;-)
Where "doomers" is a term that is clearly understood here, "cornucopian" is not.

We all know what a doomer is and that they are not all the same. We are well aware of the range of doomerism and the vast number of flavors it is available in.

Why? Well simply put, the most colorful and prolific doomers in the world congregate here on a daily basis and with great pride explain it all to us.

Cornucopians on the other hand do not exist. At least not here. On a few occasions I've seen people post here voicing I guess what could be considered cornucopian views. They invariably disappear. I assume they are either pimping some product or just want to push peoples' buttons.

The term when used here is clearly derogatory. Doomer can be derogatory, but typically isn't. Because those who use it are describing others as they describe themselves. Doomers wear the badge with honor.

Cornucopian is derogatory. It is always a false characterization of those it is aimed at. "Realist," "optimist," "moderate." These are the one-word ways that moderates (which is the term I use for myself, until I decide to change it) use when forced to come up with a one-word term.

Look at the second definition of "cornucopian" in the dictionary, which is the one that I believe literally applies. None of the people here who are commonly misjudged as such, fit the description of one who believes in "an inexhaustible supply."

Interestingly, almost without exception, these people all:

a) believe in the concept/theory/numbers of Peak Oil - and all have a clearer understanding of oil and related issues than the doomers

b) are far more critical, analytical, and curious then their counterparts - and all have a superior understanding of the technical and geologic aspects of oil

c) show less of a religious fanaticism then their counterparts(when their opposites are the ones who have the biggest problem with the idea of faith)

d) have by far a smaller energy footprint then their doomer friends and are actively working on lowering it even more...

I would think the word "Cornucopians" is very well defined. See my story below for the details.

Cornucopians - A Guide for the Perplexed

Absolutely, my friend. Great story, everybody should read it.

But I didn't say defined, I said understood. None of the protagonists in your story post here. At least not that I know of. And that I guess was my point. We moderates are sick of being called cornucopians. We are not in that camp and don't wish to be associated with it or labeled.

Is it possible to write something here and not have Kevembuangga start frothing at the mouth because you suggested  the world might not end when Mel Gibson says it will?

By the way, which side of the fence are you on?

Sorry, you answered that question. Left of Center. Good place. I might even be a little "lefterer" than you. Wow. Has your postion changed any since you wrote that? We might need another Professor Goose Poll. I'll do follow-up charts, of course.
None of the protagonists in your story post here. At least not that I know of. And that I guess was my point. We moderates are sick of being called cornucopians.

Excellent point and worth repeating over and over.

Maybe we should ask those who rail against cornucopian TOD posters to name who they are talking about.

You, me, Odogragh, etc. Have mostly said that we believe in peak oil and think that oil supplies are finite and not adequate to meet future demand. That puts us closer to Malthusians in the conventional nomenclature.

So who are these mystery cornucopeans who seem to be making the doomers so upset?

I guess I'd be a cornucopean if people would just quit having kids.

I know they're cute, but seven billion of them is a bit much.

That route really isn't terribly difficult, if it was declared a serious problem.

Look at one of the most sexually repressed nations around.

That puts us closer to Malthusians in the conventional nomenclature.

Exactly. Who are these mystery cornucopians?

But be careful about that Malthus thing. The only doomers that can read post here.

P.S. Be expecting the full-on rabid assault from Kevembuangga.  Try your best to ignore it.

So who are these mystery cornucopeans who seem to be making the doomers so upset?

I dunno, but they may be related to the mystery doomers that have cornucopians so upset. ;-)

Seriously, in my view, the problem is exactly the same on both sides.  "Doomers" are often set up as straw men.  Anyone less optimistic than the writer is labeled a doomer.

I sometimes interchange "pessimist" and "doomer" but I actually see a distinction between the two.

A doomer is simply someone who has worked it out, and knows that our future includes a die-off ("doom").  And I'd define die-off as the mass, unplanned, disaster-induced, deaths of millions (to billions).

A pessimist, strictly speaking, might lean that way, but has not put such a high standard of certainty on their own projection.

It's not fair to categorize people on a single, linear spectrum: i.e., you are either here at the doomer end or here at the cornicopian front.

People can be both optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. A plethora of information floods the human brain leading to simultaneous optimistic and pessimistic thoughts. It's the old Fiddler On The Roof scenario. On the one hand things look grim, but "on the other hand" there is reason to be optimistic. We are always trying to find the right balance as we teeter at the vertex of that double slanted roof.

That sounds healthy.  Maybe I should have said that my personal frustration is with people who think the die is cast?  Those are the folks who anchor that spectrum.  There is very little "on the other hand" when you think you have the future by the tail.
But you don't get to write TOD dictionary.
Language is determined by usage, which is what the last few days skirmishes have all been about.

To be brutally honest, language is also a tool of cult leaders.  Ever since I went to a friend invited to me to a "personal finance" seminar in the 80's, with special meanings for words like "get" and "clear" I've been sensitive to that.

Ah well.  The question at hand today is whether it is unfair to see "doom" in "doomer" as a linguistic clue, or to abandon all, and say anyone who does not see "doom" is, by very definition, a "cornucopian."

(particularly bad proofreading, sorry)
Well, that's the reason PeakOil.com has a Doomerosity scale.  Just one word - doomer - doesn't cover the spectrum of people who use it.
Don't you agree that the "die off" thing is the prime division?
No.  As I've said before, I think Greer's catabolic collapse is the most "doomerish" scenario, and it does not necessarily include a dieoff.  

And for many people, "doom" means the loss of modern science/technology, not loss of human life.

To be honest that surprises me.  My perception is that Greer, and others, are most often introduced here to support die-off scenarios.

"if you don't believe in die-off, go read ..."

Catabolic collapse can take centuries.  Four hundred years or more.  While the population does end up much lower, it's not necessarily via dieoff as you've defined it.
I'm confused by a contradiction.  If catabolc collapse take centuries, and results in a slow progression to a lower population ... where is the doom?

You've said catabolic collapse is the most doomerish thing you can imagine ... ?

The doom is what we do on the way down.  We switch to coal, then to wood, then to whatever else there is to burn.  Eventually, all resources and capital are converted to waste, and the land can no longer support even the population and level of complexity that existed before the complex society arose or arrived.
Does "what we do on the way down" include the "mass, unplanned, disaster-induced, deaths of millions?"
could just mean massively reduced life expectancy
Not necessarily, though if there's a nuclear war or some such thing, anything is possible.  The doom part is this:  

Greer points out that after a catabolic collapse, it may become very difficult to create a sustainable society. Because all resources are converted to waste. Trees cut down, water polluted or dried up, topsoil depleted, mines exhausted, etc.

If there's a sudden collapse, that would be really unpleasant for us, but we would have less opportunity to do damage. If collapse takes 400 years, those of us currently alive may not face too much difficulty, but the environment will be trashed, as we go through coal, nuclear, natural gas, ethanol, etc.  And as Hoyle said, a high-tech society may never arise again, simply because there are no longer enough resources to support one.

For what it's worth, I'm not rising to generalities like "all resources are converted to waste" to focus on something else right now.

Instead I want to ask if there's a distinction between "sudden collapse" as used here, and simply continuing adaptation?

I'm sure the argument against continued adaption does hinge on the generality of "longer enough resources" ... but to leave that aside,

does my view of doomerism and die-off hinge on sudden collapse?

Instead I want to ask if there's a distinction between "sudden collapse" as used here, and simply continuing adaptation?

I think so.  A Mad Max scenario is not "continued adaptation."  

does my view of doomerism and die-off hinge on sudden collapse?

Beats me.  But mine doesn't.  

I think it does.  Three things seem obviously wrong to me:

  1. the die is cast
  2. we face short term abrupt collapse and die-off
  3. we face long term collapse and "resource depletion"

They're all wrong for different reasons, but to capsulize them:

  1. nobody's that smart
  2. energy flows don't turn off in a day
  3. all else fails, a lot can be done with organic chemistry

(on the last, Energy Bulletin had an essay a while back rounding up all the industrial processes that were done with plant feedstocks back before oil was common and cheaper.)
I guess to be self-consistent ;-), I have to say that the last two look unlikely, rather than simply wrong.
I think you're missing the point.  The people who do believe we face collapse do not think it will be because energy flows turn off in a day, or because they don't understand organic chemistry.  
People who are building lifeboats in the woods definitely don't understand that energy flows don't turn off in a day.

People who think "resoruces" is an even description of the atoms and molecules available to future generations, don't understand organic chemistry.

And I think you're dead wrong on both counts.

Think of it this way...if "no one can know for sure," isn't that reason enough to prepare for the worst?

Both counts?  Are you defending the short term energy-starve crash now?

(On preparing, I've powered down and kicked a few bucks to wind, solar, and bicycle outfits.  Though I guess Toyota got the lion's share for my Prius.)

Are you defending the short term energy-starve crash now?

I've always thought that was possible.  I think "catabolic collapse" is the more likely scenario, but I do not rule out the Mad Max scenario.

This thread is getting pretty nested, but for what it's worth, I think the simplification and generalization in "resource depletion" just makes us stupid.

We have real problems.  I'd like, for instance, to see bottom dragging in ocean fisheries stopped.  And longlining.  And maybe even ivory-tower calculations of sustainable yield (no-take regions are a better solution if you embrace "fooled by randmonness").

When I say that though, I hear people say "it doesn't matter" "it's population"  "it's resource depletion."

There are details which are important.  The generalization masks them.

And I think the exact opposite. You're worrying about the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

You think I don't understand organic chemistry.  Well, I think you don't understand anthropology or thermodynamics.

I've got that rusty old chem degree, that gave me 3 or 4 semesters of college physics.  Very little anthropology though, I will admit.

I've got to go, but maybe the friendly discussion for another day might deal with those averages for "resources" and their depletion.

I will say that as I look around my house I see a lot that could be done with "natural products" as we phrased it in the chem lab.

(Let's start anew in a new thread so we aren't so deeply nested.)

I will say that as I look around my house I see a lot that could be done with "natural products" as we phrased it in the chem lab.

That's not the point.  

Here's where the anthroplogy comes in.  Why is it that we have reached this pinnacle of technological complexity, while so many others have not?  Genetic superiority of Europeans?  Christian virtue?  The miracle of democracy and/or the free market?  

I don't buy it.  The answer is energy, namely fossil fuels.  All previous civilizations were based on solar energy, and there was a limit to the level of complexity the EROEI of solar allowed them.  Organic chemistry and all.

And no, I see no reason to assume we will be able to keep our technology when the energy that supported it is gone.  That didn't work for previous advanced civilizations, like the Maya, the Egyptians, or the Easter Islanders.  Why assume we're special?

"Is this a good as it gets"?
I tend to agree.  Long range space travel will have to be left up to some other species.
Well, I think you don't understand anthropology or thermodynamics.


Seriously, in my view, the problem is exactly the same on both sides.  "Doomers" are often set up as straw men.  Anyone less optimistic than the writer is labeled a doomer.

I agree with this. We love to argu agianst the extreme positions, but over look the subtle distinctions.

I dunno, but they may be related to the mystery doomers that have cornucopians so upset. ;-)

However, theere many people on this site who are openly doomers. If you search for phrases such as "I am a doomer" or "We are so f***ed", you will find a lot more than if you search for "It will all be fine" or I am a cornucopean".

It seems to me to be fairly obvious that although the two ideological extremes may exist is near equal mass in the world, on TOD, there are far more pure doomers than cornucopeans. I don't think there are mystery doomers.

Earlier I suggested, jokingly, that we name names. If you said i could have a dollar for each verfied doomer or a dollar of each verified cornucopean, I know which I would pick.

If you search for phrases such as "I am a doomer" or "We are so f***ed", you will find a lot more than if you search for "It will all be fine" or I am a cornucopean".

The problem is, that anyone who expresses hope gets labeled a cornicopian by the doomers, where as doomers willingly self-label themselves.

I tentatively count myself in the doomer camp if things continue as is.  The current trajectory of humanity has made it clear that this current paradigm is not sustainable.

However, I'd probably be called a cornicopian because I do believe technology holds the key to averting this disaster.  And because I'm a "techologist", I immediately get labeled a cornicopian.

The main disparaging argument against cornicopians is that technology != fossil fuels.  I say that is absolutely correct, and also absolutely irrelavent.  Technology is most likely not going to be able to replace perishable sources of energy such as fossile fuels, but to say there isn't a literal cornicopia of energy out there is FALSE.  The problem for humanity is not that cornicopia doesn't exist, its how do we harvest it.

How many gigawatts of energy is out there waiting to be tapped into provided we can figure out how to do it.  Tidal? Solar? Geothermic? Wind? Chemical? Fission? Fusion?

The problem is not one of limited sources of energy.  The problem is the limitation of our current preferred choice of energy.  We have a MONSTER reactor out there called the Sun, we just don't know how to tap it on the level we have become accustomed to with Fossil fuels.

Technological advancements have the potential to overcome those harvesting problems.  One of the problems is that money has not been devoted on the scale it probably should've been towards figuring out how to harvest those other sources of energy.

The question now is whether or not our race for technology and the implementation of that technology to our cultural and social framework can be completed before the effects of depletion on fossil fuels affects our cultural and social framework.  Its a foot race to be sure, and yeah currently it looks like technology is lagging behind, but the race isn't over yet.

The problem is, that anyone who expresses hope gets labeled a cornicopian by the doomers,

Which kind of "hope" ?

- Rapture?
- Singularity? (techno junkies rapture)
- A repeal of the second law of thermodynamics?
- ... ?

What's your idea of "hope" with 6.5 billions humans heading toward 10 billions or so on a DECAYING planet?

Technological advancements have the potential to overcome those harvesting problems.

"Technological advancements" have a COST and TIME LAG that do not allow us to overcome the urgency within the EXISTING framework.

Yet another one who did not bother to read Tainter!

<sarcasm on>That's nice Kev.  You go on thinking things are pointless,  and that all efforts are futile.  That type of thinking is what the world needs right now.  I mean lord forbid that someone actually think they can improve the situation.  

That would be blasphemy to the doomer religion.  Burn them at the stake!  Hang em high!  He actually has HOPE!  We don't want that... people with hope might do something to prove the doomers wrong, or at least delay the doomer's wet dream.  No...  no...  its much better to roll over and die instead.<sarcasm off>

Thanks but no thanks Kev... I'll ignore your defeatism for now and continue staying interested in the pursuit of Silver BBs.

You go on thinking things are pointless, and that all efforts are futile.

You are making your best efforts to pretend you don't understand me OR your own religion has terminally crippled the few neurons that were left in your brain.
I hold the same position than Leanan : Self-described doomers often say in the next breath that they're hoping we can avoid said doom.

I'll ignore your defeatism for now and continue staying interested in the pursuit of Silver BBs.

I for sure welcome you to do that, no one ever knows what the outcomes could be.
Yet, in each and every instance where your "pursuit of Silver BBs" will imply an increase in consumption or population I will go against you and your brethren.

P.S. And "doomerism" is NOT a religion, it is based on thinking not faith, read Tainter, i.e. put up or shut up.

P.S. And "doomerism" is NOT a religion, it is based on thinking not faith, read Tainter, i.e. put up or shut up.

Really?  So if I read Tainter that means I have to come to the same conclusion as you?  Funny because Tainter who has studied these issues far more than you doesn't believe we are at the same cliff as those nations he studied.  That means you formed a belief from his theorems, one that he himself did not come to.  Sorry Kev... Your ideas are OPINION, not fact.  Oh and remember, Tainter, like Nietzsche is just another monkey.

And if you miss that reference, have a laugh and loosen up by watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a15KgyXBX24

So if I read Tainter that means I have to come to the same conclusion as you?

Obviously not, but there is some faint hope that that you will spit out less bullshit.

That means you formed a belief from his theorems, one that he himself did not come to.

I didn't form a "belief" but a conclusion, but anyway since you know shit about "Tainter's theorems" (which are not therorems BTW) what are you talking about?
As a faith addicted religious monkey you cannot figure out that other monkeys can come up with plausibility assements which are not beliefs but more reality based.

Sorry Kev... Your ideas are OPINION, not fact.

Yeah! And the "ideas" of a religious nutcase are FACTS?
I made a special facts based explanation of my "doomer" position for the slow minded and the devious, argue about this if you will instead of just rehashing baseless affirmations.

Oh and remember, Tainter, like Nietzsche is just another monkey.

We all are monkeys, that's the "problem" given that most are stupid, mad or greedy, or have all or any of those qualities.

BTW, where did I spoke of Nietzsche? Are you sure you are talking to me?

That's nice Kev.  Now go run and play nice with other boys and girls.  And watch that mouth.  Hate to have someone use soap on it.
Watch your ARSE! LOL!

But many of the so-called "doomers" don't define the term the same way that, say, Odograph does.  Self-described doomers often say in the next breath that they're hoping we can avoid said doom.
I wouldn't doubt that I get shaped by the arguments put to me.  That's what happens in forums like these.

But I believe my typical disagreement is with someone committed to die-off, someone who believes the die is cast.

I try to use the term "Cornucopian" as a humorous tag for those who are bent on finding technical solutions. The word does not necessarily have to refer to beliefs about oil. There have been several threads recently where several TODers have told us that wind turbines will provide all the energy we could use. Just because its a "green" energy source (something I'm not so certain of), does that prevent the label from fitting? I think that anyone who sees an energy abundant future should consider that they could be labeled in that way.
If it's really "all we could use" that might be Cornucopian.

FWIW, I think the key thing in the symbolism is the "magically refilling" part, and without a heck of a lot of effort.

Tchnical "solutions" that only provide the good ol' silver bb ... they aren't Cornucopian because (a) they don't give us "all we could use" and (b) many require considerable effort.

I think that's a good distinction. So let me see - we know have five categories;

Cornucopians - believe we will have whatever energy we need or want, irregardless of source.

Unrealistic Technocrats - those who think we'll have to work hard at it, but that we can find lots of different ways of getting energy and maybe keep our cars.

Namby Pamby Moderates - think that maybe we'll find some solutions, maybe we won't. Peal oil probably will be bad, but might be some good that comes out of it.

Fashion of the Week Doomers - Believe the sky is falling and  are so glad that peak oil has given them a reason for their belief

Ultra Doomers - Believe that the oil may as well have already dried up because there isn't any possibilty that anything will replace it and most of us will die irregardless.

(Hope all recognize that I'm trying to make light of our little spats)

We moderates are sick of being called cornucopians.

Yo weasel! That's not what Dave said nor what I call you.

Dave said that the word cornucopian is perfectly defined for the context of TOD discussions, NOT that he deem you one.
Nor do I say that you, Jack or odograph and a few others are cornucopians of the "happy bozo" kind, singularitarians, Yergins and the like.
But you are NOT "moderates" either because you still push stealthily for MORE and not less of what really matters, GLOBAL RESSOURCES CONSUMPTION.
Switching personally from a car to a bike or to efficient light bulbs does not count if you still pretend that total human consumption can grow or even just keep steady when ressources are depleting.

The self-appointed "moderates" are really business/TPTB trolls.

The real moderates never claim to be so, they just try to find more lenient powerdown policies than hard crash.
So, beside the "definitions" of doomers and cornucopians we need two more for real moderates and business trolls.

And BTW I am not with Mel Gibson, this is even an insult to me.
Mel Gibson is an apocalyptic religious nutcase, not a doomer in the sense wich is meant at TOD.

"frothing at the mouth" Eh? Go have another shot of meth.

Fell for the bait. Got you angry too. I can practically see the froth. I can definitely hear it. You're the only troll here, psycho.
Got you angry too.

No I don't need to be angry to be abrasive and insulting, need no bait.

For the newbies out there,

Kevembuangga is a doomer. He also knows nothing about oil. There is a close correlation in his case. He is definitely not typical of doomers, but his case is not rare.

So it should not be surprising that a portion of the world considers peak-oilers to be wingnuts.

Thanks for being my show-n-tell exhibit, Kevem. Now go read a book.

For the newbies out there,

Oil CEO is meth junkie who occasionally post some real data on oil to maintain his credentials.

I am indeed a doomer since I have estimated from some thinking dating from the reading of Tainter in 1988 that no one can pretend fuel a continued process (not even exponential, not even growth) with finite ressources.

I expect a large die-off since we ALREADY are in overshoot and I am only looking to mitigate the effects of the impending crash, namely to preserve "some" of the benefits of civilisation, knowledge, culture, some technologies and to avoid a full return to dark ages, primitivism, warlordism or Orwellian fascism (how much this prank sounds as a prank, how much as reality?).

He also knows nothing about oil

Oil being currently our principal and most efficient energy source is the most prominent critical ressource of our time.
The only thing I need to know about oil is that it is a finite ressource and this is clearly vindicated by the majority consensus at TOD even if opinions differ about the timings an rates of depletion.

Thanks for being my show-n-tell exhibit Oil CEO, now go to rehab.

How does posting data on oil maintain one's credentials as a meth addict? Jackass. You need some new material. And you definitely don't know anything about oil. But you admit that. So I guess you're making progress.
How does posting data on oil maintain one's credentials as a meth addict?

Nice, I didn't forsee that one.  

Alright, one last one. I'm sorry Kevem. I set you up. You were a willing dupe. I knew you would go for it. I figured you out. You were an easy score. This was my thread. I owned it. From start to finish.

That's my gift to you. Now you know. So you won't fall for it next time.

So what are you going to do, go down to Africa, or South America, or Cuba, and say "sorry, no more growth!"

You might continue "I've got mine, sit in a nice city typing on a nice keyboard, but you and your kids can forget about ever having that ... because I have calculated that it leads to 'doom' you see ... not that you folks living on the street in the developing world know anything about 'doom'."

Shorter: If you want the Chinese to ride bicycles, you damn well better own a bicycle yourself.
you damn well better own a bicycle yourself.

Just as you, I do own a bicycle, a 20 years old Raleigh not a fancy aluminium/titanium/carbon fibre mountain bike, have no car and spend about 300 euros electricity a year.
What about YOU beside your fancy bike and posh Newport Beach house near Lake Perry?

Shorter: If you want the Chinese and Africans NOT to screw the planet by trying to reach US consumption levels why don't you SHARE all the wasted energy and ressources from the US "non negotiable way of life" with them?

It will be a zero sum game, NO GROWTH needed!

I think Americans, and others in the industrialized world, are going to power down whether they know it or not.  If you and I are trying to get ahead of the curve, what are you upset about?

(You seem to have an indecent relationship with your straw man, but that straw man has little to do with me.)

By the way, as I wake up a little it dawns on me how funny it is that you complain about carbon fibre bicycles.

In "peak resources" when do we hit "peak carbon?"

I really thought too much carbon was the current problem.

(Carbon fibre is currently made by the controled-burn of artificial fibres, polymers.  Fortunately polymers can be synthesized from a variety of natural product (plant) feedstocks.)


There is no war. Its doom as far as the eye can see.

And if twere a war then the doomers have already won it.

The dieoff scenario is all that remains to decide who will become the genetic pool of the future, if there is a future.

Airdale--not a proud doomer but still doomer

P.S. Around here I have been seeing the signs of the future in
crop derived fuel production. This where farmers are already clearing fence rows and removing long standing vegetation. They use large trackhoes and dozers(but mostly trackhoes) which many farmers own. They are clearing in at least 7 areas that I have noticed of late. AND its sometimes HEL(highely erodable land).

They are doing this in anticipation of being able to plant far more acres. They see the future with the talk all over of more and more of ag fuel facilites being built and understand the upcoming need to feed them.

I see woodlands disappearing already, never to come back, never. At least until the coming disruptive events stop this madness.

Adding further to my comment:

Someone on another thread stated that I believed in hydrinos(BlackLightPower)

I don't believe one way or the other but I am hopefuly that someone will pull a rabbit out of their arsehole somehow, someway and save LAWKI(life as we know it) hence my doomer clothings tend to have some holes in them.

I was once(and still partially am) an electronics technican and was drawn therefore to the debates surrounding BLP and the hydrino concept(its the electron you see).

I want to believe it and study it intently yet there are many scientist and PHDs there who deny it vehemently and I read those as well.

I was in the midst of the IBM forums(which way way preceeded the internet) at the time of the Pons/Fleischman CWF experiments and it caused a huge amount of conjecture on those forums. I have followed it somewhat ever since.

Now most scientists , just like now, tends to decry it largely even though none could really discounts some strange events transpiring in CWF or desktop fusion as some called it.

Still to this day there are those who are still proving that CWF does exist. The real problem is tbat it can not be created at will or on demand. Its unstable and we not understanding the world of subatomic physics that well(see the controvery surrounding QM and reality) have really not been able to dismiss it entirely or at least IMO have not.

There is no doubt whatsoever that enormous amounts of energy are locked up in the structure of atoms and other subatomic particles or we would never have been able to bomb Japan into submission. Unlocking those energies has not been easy.

Most point to the failure of our being able to harness fission effectively after all these many years. We do to some extent but its very problemmatic still.

So I want to see R. Mills bring something to the table. Something that will enable mankind to prosper and eventually move on to outer space and quit this constant warring upon each other.

Mills has something going ,I am convinced ,else his partners and staff would have fled long ago. His investors likewise.

So I follow the discussion and in my heart I pray for a miracle or some great breakthru. I don't relish the idea of gunning down my fellow human beings. I don't like the idea of having to hunker down and watch it all play out while living on grits and squirrel meat.

Yet I know our leaders will do little and our scientists seem to be none but naysayers, instead of going all out for some new energy source they sit and bicker constantly.

I fear we will lose it all in the end so I do prepare. If that is a doomer as opposed to the cornians? Them label me a doomer and carry on. But I would hope that all cornians are out there as well hoping for the best and encouraging those who have the power in their hands to make a change , be it a Randall Mills or Pons/Fleischman clones).

If we want to go down the path of using our soil and land to keep this current, questionable, murky lifestyle going , then we are finally going to destroy all possibilities of ever bringing anything off for we will then have screwed the pooch by destroying the climate and the biosphere as well.

I am hoping as well that when this present slump in gas prices ends and the increases come roaring back across the 'fruited plain' that many will remove those dark shades from their eyes , began to get serious and start selling off those McMansions and trashy lifestyles or just shoulder a backpack and hike out into the outback and start trying to form those oldhippe style communes of ye oldense dayse. Bomb this economy to hell and back and maybe we might survive. Maybe. It might be the only wakeup call that works.

But we are facing a problem our society is not capable of facing.

Consider this you live in the Amazon, year after year drought comes and gets worse and worse. You complain sure but each year you hope that things will go back to normal. So do you pack up and move downriver the first time conditions are not sustainable ? No you wait and wait.

This behavior is intrinsic in our societies from the dawns of time. Humanity has not developed the collective ability consider  the consequences of situations that happen over timescales of even a few years.

The deadly problem is that say in the case of drought to move to a safer place you need a 1000 large trees to build the boat but you wait till there is only 10 left before you leave. So instead of being able to move and maintain your lifestyle your left with a small fraction of your original wealth assuming you escape at all.

That's the situation the world has gotten itself into.
We are to late by almost 30 years to maintain. The question now is will there even be a single tree left when we finally act ?

Now I don't think we are going back to the stone age but I see only a small fraction of the current modern society making it through the next 50 years.

"This behavior is intrinsic in our societies from the dawns of time."

I'll take umbrage with that statement. Actually, it is western culture that believes this is the case. And the derivitave is that we have moved from some undesirable past (stone age) to the desirable present.

This is not the only interpretation of human prehistory (unless you are considering the "dawn" to have been 6000 years ago in the Indus valley). Indeed, for much of our existence we very much did pack up and move whenever the environment dictated it. It is only with the advent of monoculture agriculture that we began to think that we could bend the environment to our will.

Of course, the modern (read western) mind has a hard time wrapping itself around the idea that living within the environment could actually be a higher, more fulfilling life than living on top of the environment. That isn't to say that we give up technology completely. For what are stone tools and fire if not technology? But it is perfectly possible for us to find new ways of living and that might include some of the technology we've developed during our civilization period. But that future isn't going to include all 6.5 billion of us currently alive - and that means there is going to be some really ugly between now and whatever we end up with.

But that future isn't going to include all 6.5 billion of us currently alive - and that means there is going to be some really ugly between now and whatever we end up with.

clap  clap

There is ample evidence in Australia America and Africa that man destroyed his environment beginning with the use of fire.

Massive fires were set during hunting raids radically altering the landscape and eventually leading to desertification.

In the case of the stone-age they generally did not have enough large valuable possessions to cause a great loss of wealth when they finally exhausted the land or climate forced a move.

About the only place where there has been reasonable conservation has been in the tropic and polar regions. And I think that in both cases people were forced to come to terms with nature. In the case of the tropics burning the forest was difficult and large game rare while small game was abundant. In the polar regions I think conquering mother nature would be a hysterical concept.

I'm not saying that they stone-age cultures did not interface better with mother nature but the concept that in general at some point in the past our ancestors were ever some sort of noble savage is mistaken.

We have always been smart greedy evil bastards in general with an almost genetic resistance to accepting the results of our actions  and complete lack of empathy.

I'm not saying that the current western culture has not developed into some sort of weird mix of avarice and acceptance of others. But as anyone who has spent anytime in
second and third world countries know it only takes a few seconds when you return to see that "America" is nothing more then a thin veneer maintined as long as the money keeps coming.

If we are lucky the fact that differences in race and religion are reasonably tolerated in the west will survive the fall of our culture. The racism and religious intolerance I saw in every culture outside the west would astound most Americans.

I believe you are correct to reject the notion of the nobel savage. I think it is important to recognize that animals impact their environment. The difference seems to be in that modern western civilization sees itself as outside of the environment and that is what causes the biggest problems.

You point out that;

"In the case of the stone-age they generally did not have enough large valuable possessions to cause a great loss of wealth when they finally exhausted the land or climate forced a move."

This is indeed an important point. The measure of human beings by their possessions is precisely the problem. When we can get over thinking that having more is better, we will have corrected the biggest error in our ways.

I'm reluctant to get into the genetics question (there are far too many here who seem to think that we are confined by our genetic endowment) unless you wish to venture down the rabbit whole into discussions of epistemology and ontology. (To me, genetics is just another one of those places where people stop asking questions - kind of like "god").

I'm with you in the hope that tolerance is one of the things that survives western civilization. It is a rather late addition to our cultures, but perhaps the most laudable. I have no doubt that the future of humanity will be affected by the passing of the western civilization, in much the way that we, today, are affected by the Hellenistic civilization. I just hope that it is not our tenacious materialism that survives us.

Lovelock predicts 'poleward migration' with advancing GW much as the dinosaurs did in tough times. However I think city folks will cluster together believing in safety in numbers. New Orleans post Katrina could have been a foretaste of a city without enough services to go round. In Australia most cities now have permanent severe water rationing, but people aren't moving out. When it does happen we'll know that things have changed forever.  
There's no point in moving out of the city in Australia.  The habitable part of the Continent is almost entirely around the coasts, where the cities are.  And the cities sprawl-- lots of Australia is really just one big suburb.

Australia isn't that self sufficient.  Food yes, minerals sort of.  But most of what Australia consumes is imported.  The small towns are dying with the drought.

The Mad Max films aren't a bad view of a post Peak Oil Australia.

This is why, historically, it has always been a much more socialist society than the US of A-- big trade unions organised around the ports, food processing and resource extraction industries.  It's never really been a 'frontier' society, rather a 'colonial' society.

"Australia.  The habitable part of the Continent is almost entirely around the coasts, where the cities are."

Hmmm, didn't the aboriginal inhabitants survive for 10,000 years or more in all parts of the continent?

One of the fastest growing parts of America is the 'ruburbs', small towns which have had huge expansions in population and area.

A lot of the capital (financial and human) for that has come from cities.  But with modern telecommunications and air travel, its possible to live/work in some quite isolated places, and still be connected.

We are like the yeast in the bottle gedankenexperiment. The one that has population doubling every minute, until it's full in one hour. The one that asks "what is the value of the first 55 minutes of existence to the next 5?"
I was in the midst of the IBM forums(which way way preceeded the internet) at the time of the Pons/Fleischman CWF experiments and it caused a huge amount of conjecture on those forums. I have followed it somewhat ever since.

The cold fusion stuff was the talk of UseNet back in the last 1980's.   Somehow I doubt that IBM FOURMS pre-dated the Internet however, but feel free to provide a link or 2 to the history of IBM Forums.

(Ahhh, A news, B news and INN....)

Some facts then. Back when IBM let the VM operating system loose upon our customer bases it already had facilities for inter-processor communications. This was back around the late 60's time frame.

Internally within the company many geeks began to wire sites together and so it grew rather ad-hoc. The dim beginnings of arpanet is not known exactly to me but I only became aware of something like it when they wished to hook into our mainframes.

We had at the time the worlds largest 'teleprocessing' facilities. It was used internally and grew very fast. With the later advent of REXX by Cowlishaw it grew even faster.

As I remember all this history BITNET was the formal beginning of some inter-relationship but is was very vague at the time.

Therefore I can't give you a link for I dont' think much of that exists. Its all pretty much gone now , eaten up by the internet and corporate design. VM was scheduled to die by TPTB but with the embrace of Linux it was found that the lowly VM/CP system was capable of running myriads of linux servers. VM stands for Virtual Machine. So with VM one could clone anything.

Many of us created huge shadow disks of the IBM forums so it was worldwide(International in IBM means that).

But the time frame for the Pons/Fleishmann experiments was approximately 1988 or so as I recall.

Remember that the internet for a long time did not have the WEB. It had Usenet(of which BITNET was accessable to in some form), mail services, Veronica, Jughead and other arcane services.

And yes Usenet was very close to the forums of which I speak.

It was an engineering godsend but others did not see it that way. Sad to say.

Old history and now dead history.

Let me say this also. Ham radio operators also preceeded the net as I recall. Particularily in Hawaii where they were used for inter-islands communications. A marriage of radio and networking as I recall via the X.25 protocol or an early forerunner.

The internet was never really viable until the proliferation of the desktop PC which I might add IBM did most of back in ...the late 90's. The rest is history but PCs are still referred to as 'IBM compatible clones' because of our bios mostly.

There may be a few techical errors in the above since its basically my memory as I was part of that scene and did engineering lab work on the early suitcase computers we developed that proceeded our IBMPC-1 and even one prior to that (5150?), that ran Basic and APL on a tiny screen.

We were also running 'windows' with touchscreens and light pens way way before one of CEOs gave the 'keys to the city' to Gates. ...and the rest of that is history as well. Sad to say.


cornucopia (kôr'nyūkō'pēə) , in Greek mythology, magnificent horn that filled itself with whatever meat or drink its owner requested. Some legends designate it as a horn of the river god Achelous, others as a horn of the goat Amalthaea. It is often represented as filled with fruits and flowers and has become the symbol of plenty.

Mother Nature Bats Last.

Hello TandersonBrown,

Nope, Gaia abides.  Read Reg Morrison's excellent article:

From Gaia, with Love....
 at his website under the 'articles' button

My dear Homo sapiens,

To quote your finest writer, what a paragon of animals you turned out to be! "How noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in
apprehension how like a god!" ...........

.....How sad then, that you should come at last to the end of your comet-like trajectory through time ... to
global warming, melting icecaps and rising seas; to global overpopulation, unsustainability and catastrophic population collapse.....

.....But harbour no regrets, it's nobody's fault. You are, after all, stardust enlivened by hydrogen, and such is the nature of existence in this hydrogen-regulated cosmos of ours .........

With love, and deep regret,
Your Mother, Gaia
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

I notice that the usual technos are absent from the comments page. They seem more interested in perpetuating the murder than preventing it.

So, where are those whose battle cry seems to be, "Save the auto! Save the tech!"

No graphs to justify species extinction? No graphs to show us the way to the oxymoronic phrase "sustainable growth?"

Sphere in space, people. Sphere in space.

Reduce the footprint!  Reduce the per-capita natural-products conspumption!

(Not that this requires an end to autos or tech)

Easy to say.  The reality is that reducing footprint and per-capita consumption to anywhere near sustainable levels is extremely difficult.

Claiming that this will NOT require an end to autos or tech is misleading.  There will always be "autos" and "tech" - for the wealthy.  As the price of energy escalates so will the price of technology, putting it out of the reach of most of the population.

The choice between expensive "technology" - like health care - and eating or heating is already before much of our own population.  There are distortions in costs of health care brought on by the greed of politicians and corporations, but I hardly see this situation improving in the light of increasing energy costs, quite the opposite.

What is happening is that politicians and corporations will go on holding out the promise of life as usual, just a bit "greener" with the help of technology, more efficient autos, etc.  It's all a lie.

I think we should be able to work on common first goals, like getting the private auto fleet MPG to a freakin' 30 mpg at least ...

but beyond that, I agree with Squalish below.  It may ultimately mean that we accept a different level of personal mobility from our "cars."  Maybe they'll be GEMs (or similar) and be used for shorter distances, far less often.

(healthcare is messed up and we'd be better off socialized ... how's THAT for a moderate Republican position ;-)

Odo: It is ALREADY socialized/subsidized if you include the fat slice the insurance cos are taking off the top (I have read estimates as high as 50%).
I get that, partially and imperfectly socialized by mandate, but with bizarre gaps and gotchas.
Is Health Care really out of whack, or is the cost simply representative of the quality of the product.

As a consumer of many other products I have choices.  I can buy a Lamborghini Diablo at Half a million dollars, and have all the quality craftsmanship, status, and sheer sex appeal that comes with it, or I can purchase a Kia Spectra (like my wife and I did recently) which is affordable, economical, fuel efficient, but mass produced with "lower" quality.

The above situation is representative of so many consumer choices in todays world, but we don't apply this same line of thought to Health Care, as if Health Care is somehow different, or special, or in my opinion of what most people falsly think of as an inalienable "right".  Sorry folks, its a product, with costs, and benefits which have to be weighted.

60 years ago, Cancers, Heart Attacks, and various pathogens were tantamount to death sentences.  60 years ago people easily afforded Doctors bills, but then the level of service wasn't what it is today.  Does anyone expect this this level of service increase to be free?  Since when (especially from this crowd) do we expect something from nothing?  But yet that is EXACTLY what all the complainers of healthcare costs argue.

You don't HAVE to get chemotherapy for your cancer.  You don't HAVE to get that Quadruple bypass.  You don't HAVE to get advanced medicines to treat various pathogens.  You can choose to have a lower medical cost, but in turn you choose to have a lower quality of service(which results in a shorter average lifespan).  The question to ask is at 5 to 6K a year is it worth the probability of an extra 10 to 20 years in lifespan that most individuals will have over their 1950s counterparts.  If the answer is yes 10 to 20 years is worth that, then why complain?  If the answer is no, then don't purchase the products.  Settle yourself in for a lower cost, but lower quality service just like any other industry.  Thats not to say the industry can't be made more efficient by removing certain innefficiencies, but all businesses have that problem.  In the end, though, has it occured to anyone that higher costs in Healthcare is the direct result of a higher quality product?

For a good read that points out some of these factors check out the NYTimes piece:

Indirectly it points out the choices Americans will be forced to make.  Do we want a bigger house, SUVs, and a TV in every room, or do we want an increased probability of seeing 10 to 20 years added to our lifespan?

Well, health care is a subject that is vast enough to have forums of its own. IMO the almost exponential increase in health care costs has little to do with additional years added to our lives (US life expectancy is either static or slightly falling over the past decade). It has more to do with a mish-mash combination of factors.
  End of life 'extraordinary' measures,
  Explosion in obesity and co-morbidities such as diabetes
  Manipulations by pharmaceutical companies to keep prices of drugs high.
  Stupid insurance rules that encourage use of higher cost procedures and hospitalization when these are not necessary.
  Lack of support for preventive health care embodied in our total joke of public health system and the lack of support by insurance companies (see above)

The price of health care also fits the diminishing marginal returns model that Tainter talks about. The overwhelming bulk of health care improvements have come about with simple and inexpensive measures such as better public health, better diet (getting worse in recent decades with dawn of junk food era), conquering of the small handfull of the worst of the epidemic type 'civilization' diseases, etc.

There are several powerful interest groups that keep any meaningful changes from taking place:

  1. Pharmaceutical companies
  2. Hospitals
  3. Doctors
  4. Insurance companies

They all profit from the current status-quo and the average citizen loses. I realize the argument is complex and I'm not villifying (especially) the doctors. They are victims too, albeit victims with bank accounts.

Main point is, simply calling it a choice between stuff and longer life is foolishness.

You are forgetting about the group with the greatest influence on health and therefore healthcare costs: the consumer.

People want to eat what they want, don't want to exercise, want the latest pills and surgeries, want to live till 90 doing everything they did at 30. They want MRI's, other tests of all kinds, quick access for appts, any doctor or specialist of their choosing, but most of all they want someone else to pay.

I am ok with lots of that - after all, my father is vigorous and alive and this makes us all happy - however, he has had a bypass, artificial knee, pacemaker, carotid surgery, and takes statins and other drugs. He flies an airplane and hikes the Sierras. But one person who has chosen to not take care of their diabetes can raise a bill many times all of his costs in just a couple of months - but we insist it be done. This is all wonderful, but we need to be honest about the cost.

Not too different from the oil situation. People drive huge cars, waste huge amounts of fuel, but complain when supplies tighten up and costs rise. The driver right now has the single most powerful influence on oil price on the planet, but wants it all. There is always someone else to blame.

And yet...lots of countries spend less on health care than we do, yet have longer lifespans.
Agreed. We have the largest, most expensive health care bureaucracy in the world, but also the most obese, sedentary population.
But helping people control their weight and exercise are part of healthcare, are they not?

IMO, a big part of our problem is that we don't spend enough on preventative care, then go all-out after someone is actually sick.  Another example: prenatal care is cheap, caring for premature babies is not.  But our prenatal care is among the worst in the developed world.  

I don't disagree. However, it is very hard for healthcare to address obesity and other personal choice behaviors. Very intensive, University-based wt loss programs with eager grad students with dissertations riding on results still produce very limited results working with motivated subjects (different from the general population). Not saying we shouldn't try, but it can be very difficult, expensive and still not change things much.

It is especially difficult given our fast food lifestyles, the convenience and temptation of MacD etc on every corner, and millions of well-researched advertising dollars spent encouraging us to binge. In my opinion, this should be seen as a public health emergency like smoking, advertising should be limited and certainly not directed at children, and other nationally-based efforts need to try to change the culture, as they have for smoking. Individual health plans can only have a limited effect.

Even in areas where people do get good prenatal care, vaccinations and other preventives, costs have been rising due to the other factors mentioned.

There is actually quite a bit that can be done, that doesn't cost a lot.  For example, a lot of inner city people have terrible diets because there are no grocery stores.  Seriously.  In my small city, the last grocery store in the city moved out to the suburbs ten years ago.  Many of the people who actually live in the city have no cars.  They either have to hire a taxi to go to the grocery store, or shop at gas station convenience stores, where the food is expensive and nutritionally bankrupt.

The food given to the poor is often not particularly healthy.  A lot of cheese, for example.  So why not give them fruits and vegetables?  Studies have shown that if people have them, they will eat them (and feed them to their kids).  

This is being addressed in my city via a farmer's market and CSA, held downtown.  It's been a very successful program, with vegetables sold at the market as well as given away to the needy.

Telemuhtar: What total nonsense. In fact, many Americans are travelling out of the USA to get medical procedures. Any objective study on USA medicine has concluded that it is wasteful, overpriced and not fulfilling its supposed mandate (sustaining a healthy population of USA citizens).The "health" industry has beneficiaries, but they are mainly insurance companies and "sickness industry" employees.
Funny because I heard quite a few non-US citizens were trying to get into the US to bypass the lines in their home countries.  In fact MD Anderson, and the Medical Center in Houston is a PERFECT example of a facility in such high demand that various hotels run their business down there by providing quarters for families out of town and from out of the country.  Further there are several charities which all go to fund comforts, housing and ammenities for families of patients at MD Anderson that are from out of the country.

As for waste in the health industry, yes that is a problem (one I never denied) and one that needs to be worked on.  But how is a government run agency going to solve that?  Government is infamous for INCREASING wastefulness, not reducing it.  The last thing health care needs is government trying to "streamline" it.

And exactly how is the US medical system not fulfilling its mandate?  Is the average life span and quality of life for Americans better or worse than 50 years ago?  And as for the recent dips in life expectancy, is that the fault of the Health system, or the fault of a high calorie, high fat, and low nutrition diet that the bulk(pun intended) of the American population has adotped?  

Also Keep in mind, the American system doesn't just provide these services to Americans, it also happens to provide it for citizens of Mexico and other latin American countries, all on the dollar of Americans.  For a system that is over stressed and underfunded America's Health Care system isn't doing so bad in holding up.  

Tell me, how robust would the European systems remain if they had to provide Healthcare on their own dime for another country's population?  Many of those countries already tax their citizens into the ground to cover just themselves.  How would they fare if they also had to help non-paying patients as well?

And you, and the other respondents have conveniently side stepped the argument I presented in that over a 60 year period, medicine today can accomplish things thought impossible 60 years ago.  That kind of improvement costs SOMETHING.  The investment in research has become adtronomical, and yes, due to the complexity of things, the law of diminishing returns is probably going to kick in quite hard barring some medical miracle.  

Who is going to foot the bill?  Or perhaps the more important question is who is going to be forced to foot the bill.  Currently if I don't want Health Care I don't have to have insurance deducted from my paycheck.  But if I want it, I get a nice chunk taken out of every paycheck every 15 days.  But ultimately the choice is mine... not the government's which is where it should be.  I've made my choice.  I'll take Health Care for my family over having that Hummer, Big House, and a TV in every room.  But don't force me to make that choice, and further don't force me to provide the funds for it for anyone else.  That's theft, plain and simple.  They want the benefits of a better medical system, then they need to find a method of paying for it on their own merit.

Telemuhtar: If dollars spent/wasted produced healthy users/consumers of the "sickness industry", the USA would rank first in life expectancy and all measures of physical health. In actuality, the USA ranks poorly on life expectancy and shockingly low on certain other measures (like infant mortality). To paraphrase your comment, if you buy a Ferrari you don't expect it to be an inferior car to your neighbour's Hyundai (but in this instance that is the fact). As you are enamored of the world of 60 years ago: the cars GM turns out currently are light years ahead of the cars of 60 years ago-so what? GM (and the US "sickness industry")are not world-class enterprises any longer.  
The problem with your analogy is that if I buy a Ferrari, and forget to put oil and other essential fluids into the engine, and don't keep the tires at proper pressure, or don't do a host of other maintenance activities, is it really proper for me to blame the car manufacturer for it breaking down?

The drop in American life expectancy, and quality of life, is directly related to our adoption of poor food choices, and an increasingly sedentary life as service providers in the Office/Information/Financial Industries.

If anything the Health industry has slowed this drop in life expectancies, not been the cause of it.  And much of the costs that our health industry incurs is on the parts of highly paid specialized Doctors, advanced research pharmaceuticals, and an ever increasing amount of high tech hospitals and equipment.  But like most systems, increasing results is requiring ever more investment and resources, and specialization, which in turn generates cost.

Not everyone who goes losing a limb is going to be able to be fitted with the new thought controlled cybernetic arms.

Not everyone with cancer XYZ is going to have access to the new chemo and localized treatments which are being developed.

Because to provide it to everyone it would be impractical.  So what happens?  As with any marketable item, those with the money to afford it get access to it.  Those without don't.

It may seem harsh, and unfair, but its as good a system if not a better system as any other, and perhaps most ethically, it leaves the fate of the patient largely in their own hands.  If they get a means to fund their medical conditions, they get access to it.  If another person can't or won't provide the financial assets needed to attain it, then they have to deal with their lower probabilities at a healthy and long life.

Do you honestly think a government run system would be more equitable?  Instead of wealth being the determining factor which currently most people in the USA can still attain regardless of starting point, it would then allow political forces to reward those loyal to the government with improved care over those who are disloyal.  By handing the government that kind of control, you surrender yet another piece of our freedom to control our destinies.  No thanks, the government already controls way too much of our collective path, and a fat lot of good they've done with it.


   Who decides who merits the health care expenditure?

If we got rid of malpractice lawsuits and all billing and insurance companies we could half the costs of healthcare all this paperwork taxes the system.  If a MD screws up the investigation should focus on fixing the patient and preventing the same screwup in the future as of now if someone makes a mistake it is covered up to prevent a lawsuit.  If the guy delivers your baby and accidently kills your wife, how much $ is she worth?  It is SH@# people should not have $ values.  

So rid of those expenses when you reach a certain age or mental state you should recieve less expensive agressive care.  I personally transported a braindead vented patient twice a week for dialysis.  The transport cost alone exceeded 500$ each way for nothing no hope of recovery or quality of life.  How many of leanans african kids could be vaccinated with our waste?

But don't force me to make that choice, and further don't force me to provide the funds for it for anyone else.  That's theft, plain and simple.

This is the crux of a lot of left vs right political debates. If someone is convinced that the every-man-for-himself system is the best, I can't convince him otherwise, even as that system crumbles into the dust because of lack of cooperation among its members.

Several European countries have health-care systems that are better than the US in almost any way measurable. I didn't say perfect and sure, you can find disgruntled people to knock any system but the raw statistical evidence gives the US healthcare 'system' low marks when considered in light of the relative wealth of the country.

And, yes, there is blame enough to go around vis-a-vis the consumer of health care being willfully ignorant and profligate in abusing the system. I just don't see why we can't learn from other systems that work better in certain ways. Well, yes I can see why. Just the vested interests I've cited which don't want the system to change for the better. That's what really burns me.

People keep saying that the other systems are better.  But how?  Provide examples, numbers, statistics.

When it is not uncommon for those other systems to have so much red tape, and overtaxing of hospital/specialist resources that people in need of critical life saving surgeries can't get them in a timely manner, and end up bailing to the US to get them, how exactly is that system better?

When the US has medical centers known for being the best in the world in treating Heart Disease, Cancer, and various lethal pathogens, how can you say the US is worse?

When much of the pharmaceutical and medical technology improvements are being pioneered in the USA how can you say the US is worse?

The US is a leading innovator in SO many areas of biotechnology, from Cybernetics, to Nano-technology, to diagnostics device, and other instrumentation for various to advanced chemical treatments of cancers, and pathogenic intrusions, that I have to say your measure of "better" is purely relative.

More people being "covered" by a lower level of care does not constitute a better system... just a more thinly spread one.  Perhaps it gives a general increase in life expactancy/quality to a broader range of people, but it fails at providing, and innovating new techniques to handle ever more complex biological problems.  And further since it is so thinly spread, how will it cope with a growing retired workforce that will soon(if not already) outnumber its active workforce?  You have an inverted pyramid scheme in Europe which is going to see itself topple.  And the same conditions exist in the USA if we went to a socialized medical program.

In the everyone for themselves approach, those who pay get service, and those who don't, don't.  Despite an inverted pyramid of population, it does not impact a privately funded and handled medical infrastructure because those incapable of paying are not draining resources away from the ones that are.  Our current model which is a half socialist scheme is causing problem already because of the drain caused by non-vested members in the system getting benefits they didn't pay for.

What's worse for Europe is that many of those systems in Europe, directly benefit from the costs incurred by the US in advancing medical research without investing nearly as much in those areas as the Americans pay for.

What would happen to European health care if all technology transfer ceased between the USA, and Europe?  My bet would be European advancements in care would come to a virtual standstill.  It would not see improvements, or innovation anywhere near the scale it enjoys now, by virtue of the technology it aquires from the USA.  The US on the other hand would continue to have partial coverage of its citizens but continue to see innovation and advancements in technology.

And I'm not saying the Europeans don't have their moments of innovation, but its a lot more limited compared to some of the breakthroughs the US has pushed.  And the reason is simply that Americans are investing more into these high risk, but high gain research projects in the Private sector, which is directly driven from profits made in medical market.  Europe with the caps on profit making in the medical market discourages innovation.  Europe gets away with it for now, because the innovators can count on the US consumer to turn their profit, but if that market goes away, you will see a decline in the number of medical research projects.

Consider this in regards to US spending,

Overall, industry provides about 60% of all R&D funds, and the federal government provides about 35%. Industry performs about 70% of the R&D, federal labs and universities each perform about 13%, and other nonprofits perform about 3%. By far the biggest source-performer combination, with just shy of $100 billion, is industry-funded, industry-performed research. Federally funded research at private firms and the federal labs each account for about $22 billion

Source: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=34119&tools=bot

That quote was from a 1994 paper on spending and research in the US.

This trend has apparently continued (as pointed in another more recent paper), and more importantly, research is being demand driven in the Industry side of things in direct response to the demand being generated by the consumer.  Lately in the area of advanced diagnostic machines.

The researchers found that biomedical research funding increased from $37.1 billion in 1994 to $94.3 billion in 2003 and doubled when adjusted for inflation. Principal research sponsors in 2003 were industry (57 percent) and the National Institutes of Health (28 percent). Relative proportions from all public and private sources did not change. Industry sponsorship of clinical trials increased from $4.0 to $14.2 billion (in real terms) while federal proportions devoted to basic and applied research were unchanged.

Source: http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/cat_policy_science.html

In otherwords in the US about 55% to 60% average is spent on Biomedical innovation by Privately funded initiatives, not Government funded initiatives.  And those percentages have held true for the last 20 years.

And as for the satisfaction of those other systems, consider this:

In 1988, some 60% of Canadians thought their health system worked well, but by 2002 only 20% did, and a big majority thought that a fundamental shake-up was needed. Health care was the biggest issue in the recent general election.

Does that sound like a system that is providing well for its citizens?  Especially when there is numerous anecdoctal accounts of Canadians seeking health care across the border in the US?

Or consider this in a time when PO is on the loom, which will result in joblessness, are you going to want to remain dependent on a government system that can't fund itself?

The reason I ask is that the European models are more directly dependent on funds from their workforce to remain viable.

Several European countries finance health care mainly through compulsory contributions from employers and employees. This social-insurance model, pioneered in Germany by Otto von Bismarck in 1883, has proved vulnerable to a combination of rising health-care costs and a shortfall in contributions resulting from high unemployment.

If PO or some other major economic interuption occurs, it will turn that inverted pyramid in Europe it a more sharply inverted pyramid which will worsen conditions even further.

So tell me again, with facts, and figures some sources to back them, up, how are the other systems better?

Sorry forgot to include my source for the last two block quotes.

Source: http://www.economist.com/surveys/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2895909

Facts and figures would include higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality. You can find these statistics in the CIA WorldFactbook showing the US lagging far behind other developed nations.

One of your points seems to be that the system isn't failing, the people are failing. I guess we could say that's true, but it smacks of an ideological shifting of blame. We have the freedom to fail and we seem to be taking advantage of this freedom. I just can't believe that the way the system is structured doesn't have something to do with this failure.

Why is it an ideological shift in blame?  Why can't it simply be a directly correlating fact that is the result of poor choices Americans are making.

Look at our food/excercise behaviors compared to Europeans.  Americans eat more fat, sugars, and artifical crap than their European counterparts.  That behavior is documented and its results are obvious, and unfortunately, due to the limitations of medical knowledge, unstoppable except through behavorial changes.  

Further that with the fact that Americans get less activity and excercise than their European counterparts, in large part due to our dependence on the automobile and is it any wonder that Americans are living shorter lives.

And to throw in another factor, more Americans are working 60+ hours than their European counterparts because many European nations have caps of 35 hour work weeks so the general stress levels of Europeans are lower.

The fact that the American medical system is anywhere near par with their European counter parts despite dealing with a behaviorally more unhealthy populace should say a lot about the system America has.  Top it off with the fact that our system is also "adopting" patients and care for those people who are not citizens and here illegally, and frankly its amazing the system is holding up to these stresses.

People like to bash the American system, without giving any credit to the failures of the people themselves not taking care of themselves.  And I include myself as one of those failing people.  I love my Taco Bell, and McDonalds lunches.  I've been shifting myself to a healthier diet, but when I'm running tight deadlines at work, its DAMN convenient to woof down a burrito or burger.

The fact that the American medical system is anywhere near par with their European counter parts despite dealing with a behaviorally more unhealthy populace should say a lot about the system America has.  Top it off with the fact that our system is also "adopting" patients and care for those people who are not citizens and here illegally, and frankly its amazing the system is holding up to these stresses.

Well this is a valid point... I guess. We are so bad in our personal health habits that our health care system must be outstandingly good to keep us as healthy as it does. Did I get that right?

I think the 'adopted' patients here illegally is a minor part of the problem. The bad health care habits is the major problem, followed closely by a health-care establishment that profits from this. I agree that Americans have lousy health care habits. I disagree about our health-care system in that I think it is broken and headed for disaster. I don't think the 45 million uninsured (IMO an artifically low figure) are going out and buying SUVs and expensive home entertainment systems. I've known too many poor schlepps working two minimum wage jobs who could no way in hell afford health insurance. To be sure it is a systemic problem and real progress would have to include taking on many vested interest groups. To the list I cited earlier add the food industry who profits immensly from people 'super-sizing' themselves. I know far to many people who do take good care of themselves who can't afford insurance at all or only a minimal level of it. This is where the broken system really shows up.

Telemuhtar it's clear you haven't had to deal the incompetence in HMOs on a personal level. The medical system in this country is great for those who can afford private insurance. But for the masses it SUCKS! I have seen too many horror stories in my own family. People dying due to medical mal-practice. Even the City of Hope.

Yes it's true that the American diet sucks. It's hard to stay away from processed food. Yes Americans are sedintary and suffer from degenerative deseases.

But none of the negates the fact that the medical system in this country is falling apart. There was a newsweek article that mentioned even doctors are afraid to be patients in this country.

I will not get into my personal horror stories. But i'm there are alot of people on this thread who know better.

Also Keep in mind, the American system doesn't just provide these services to Americans, it also happens to provide it for citizens of Mexico and other latin American countries, all on the dollar of Americans.  For a system that is over stressed and underfunded America's Health Care system isn't doing so bad in holding up.  

Tell me, how robust would the European systems remain if they had to provide Healthcare on their own dime for another country's population?  Many of those countries already tax their citizens into the ground to cover just themselves.  How would they fare if they also had to help non-paying patients as well?

Are you serious? In what way is the American taxpayer paying for the healthcare of South American people?

Medical expenditures (public and private) in the USA, expressed as percentage of GDP, are double those of Europe. And they are accessible to almost anyone. The ones that come to the USA for medical service are doubtlessly the top 0.5% wealthiest in their country.

I think he's talking about illegal immigrants.

He's right, too.  Companies that hire illegals do not provide healthcare.  So if one of their workers gets injured (as is not unusual in the types of jobs they work), they dump them at the emergency room of the local hospital.  Where the taxpayers pick up the tab.

Illegal alien households are estimated to use $2,700 a year more in services than they pay in taxes, creating a total fiscal burden of nearly $10.4 billion on the federal budget in 2002.

Among the largest federal costs: Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).


And that is just Federal Impact.  Impact on State budgets can be more or less severe depending on state.  Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California are having huge amounts of state funds consumed by illegal immigrants.

California has estimated that the net cost to the state of providing government services to illegal immigrants approached $3 billion during a single fiscal year. The fact that states must bear the cost of federal failure turns illegal immigration, in effect, into one of the largest unfunded federal mandates

Source: http://www.cis.org/topics/costs.html

What's worse is that in assessing various aspects amongst states, those states are having to include illegals in their stats.

Texas education assessment is a PRIME example of how illegal immigration is dragging down the citizens of Texas.  Texas provides one of the largest blocks of education for illegal immigrants, primarily located in the Valley along the Texas/Mexican border, but can also be seen as far north as Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.  When ranking states for education levels we have to include English illiterate students' test results for our ranking.  Considering many of the illegals' children can't read Spanish let alone English this destroys our test averages in ranking.

What's worse is that since illegal immigrants are also not willing to assimilate, they maintain their Spanish language in their households, and refuse to direct their children(who may be American citizens by convenience of birth) towards using the English language and learning American culture.

From teachers, I've spoken with, they guess that if they could exclude non-English speaking students from their results, that their rankings would easily be within the top half of the country instead of the bottom half, and most think probably within the top 15.  Texas education isn't nearly as bad as its painted, but it is carrying a load it shouldn't have to be, and worse that load is taking a toll on teachers and students who should be getting those funds.

Trust me there are several institution in America that are having to shoulder not only service to citizens, but also to a growing number of foreigners.

Can I make a request that we don't go down this path. There are so many competing studies on the value or cost of illegal immigration that pointing to any one single one invites a war of competing studies. We'd all be better off to just agree to disagree here and get back to talking about Peak. After all, if the US falls into depression, illegal immigration will be the least of our worries and likely won't happen anyway.
I don't agree that new immigrants are reluctant to assimilate.  They've been saying that about immigrants for a hundred years or more.  The Swedish, the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, etc.  They all assimilated in the end.

But that's not the point.  Whether they speak English or Spanish or Elbonian doesn't matter.

Immigration, legal and otherwise, is going to be a huge issue, and is definitely part of the peak oil problem.

Jared Diamond discusses it in Collapse.  He talks about something called "overcrowded lifeboat syndrome":

Starving people would have poured into Gardar [the largest farm], and the outnumbered chiefs and church officials could no longer prevent them from slaughtering the last cattle and sheep. Gardar's supplies, which might have sufficed to keep Gardar's own inhabitants alive if all their neighbors could have been kept out, would have been used up in the last winter when everyone tried to climb into the overcrowded lifeboat, eating the dogs and newborn lifestock and the cows' hoofs as they had at the end of the Western settlement.

Diamond then draws an explicit parallel with unrest in the U.S., and our inability to secure our borders against illegal immigration:

I picture the scene at Gardar as like that in my home city of Los Angeles in 1992 at the time of the so-called Rodney King riots, when the acquittal of policement on trial for brutally beating a poor person provoked thousands of outraged people from poor neighborhoods to spread out to loot businesses and rich neighborhoods. The greatly outnumbered police could do nothing more than put up pieces of yellow plastic warning tape across roads entering rich neighborhoods, in a futile gesture aimed at keeping the looters out. We are increasingly seeing a similar phenomenon on a global scale today, as illegal immigrants from poor countries pour into the overcrowded lifeboats represented by rich countries, and as our border controls prove no more able to stop that influx than were Gardar's chiefs and Los Angeles's yellow tape. That parallel gives us another reason not to dismiss the fate of the Greenland Norse as just a problem of a small peripheral society in a fragile environment, irrelevant to our own larger society. Eastern Settlement was also larger than Western Settlement, but the outcome was the same; it merely took longer.
I guess I'm of the mind that because we are more dependent on oil than anyplace else, that the turmoil will be worse here. My suspicion is that many will leave - and I'm not talking just about illegals or those with ties in the home country.

But I think what you are saying is fair Leanan. I don't want to cutoff discussion of the connections between immigration and peak oil. What I want to avoid is the study war - my study proves my point, your study proves your point. There just so many of these studies that it becomes a fruitless undertaking.

I guess I'm of the mind that because we are more dependent on oil than anyplace else, that the turmoil will be worse here.

That is definitely possible.  If I were Canada, I'd be building a wall to keep us out.

But I do think "lifeboating" is a good strategy.  If things do get that bad, letting everyone climb into one lifeboat doesn't make sense.  If you have lots of individual lifeboats, there's a better chance of at least one making it.  

I also fear that as the economy tanks, the American public will turn against immigrants in a big way.  Even the legal ones.

I prefer a different metaphor - that of the monastery. The lifeboat sounds like all were doing is surviving until rescued. The monastery metaphor suggests not only that we are taking things into our own hands, but that we are also influencing those around us who may not necessarily be members of our monastery. It's still a retrenchment of sorts, but a more hopeful one, I think.
I prefer a different metaphor - that of the monastery.

Like the Albertian Order of Leibowitz?  

And of course, many monasteries make good beer ;)
If the US falls into Depression or resource strangulation, immigration is going to be a HUGE problem.  When we can't even feed, and fend for ourselves due to resource depletion how the hell are we going to provide for non-citizens.

Its all well and good that we don't want anyone to die regardless of nationality, but when faced with the prospect of choosing who dies and who doesn't, it is the responsibility of our government to ensure our chances are the best they can be, and that may very well mean the death of those outside our borders.

I think this illustrates the connection often made between "resourc depletion" and "choosing who dies and who doesn't"
Not saying its a pretty choice or a desirable choice.  But then survival is very rarely about pretty or desirable.

Do you fault the lifeboats of the Titanic for not going back into the waters crowded by people freezing to death and desperate enough to force themselves onto the lifeboat even though it will mean the lifeboat sinks anyhow?

I don't.  I'm sure it was a gut wrenching experience for those on the lifeboat, but they did what they did to survive.  To have done otherwise would've meant the death of those already dying in the water, and those on the boat.  

I think we have concrete things we can do now to make the world a better place, or to keep it from becoming a worse place, but I don't think "the die is cast."

We might have time, to borrow your analogy, to turn the Titanic, or to not even build the Titanic.

It seems to me that deciding who lives and dies based on nationality or citizenship is not only the most pathetic way to decide, but probably one of the more morally indefensible. But then, people have been using the excuse of nationalism (and it's worst expression, patriotism) to kill "others" for hundreds of years. I suppose I can't expect that to change overnight.
Not advocating that we kill members of other nations.  I'm advocating that we need to be protecting ourselves from them killing us, whether it is intentional or not.

If things get bad quickly in a post PO world, it is going to be impossible to save everyone.  Regions(countries) are going to have make choices that try to maximize their citizens chances of survival.  If they can afford to help other nations as well, great, but I don't expect that to be the norm.

Tell me, if you belong to a commune and have a self sustaining system in place to feed just your commune, and a horde shows up ready to consume the whole of your supplies and future production, are you simply going to invite them in?  Or are you going to man the fort so to speak and drive them off in an effort to preserve yourself and your communal "tribe"?

Nations are just bigger tribes.

I disagree fumdamentally with your basic assumption that nations are just bigger tribes.

But put that aside and lets look at your example. I live in a commune (the US is hardly comparable to a commune) and it is self sustaining (not only is the US not self sustaining, its very position is the result of extracting wealth from others).

Ok, I'm with you so far. A horde shows up and wants all our food. What makes them a horde? A few tens of million mexicans, central americans and maybe some bought people from elsewhere might be a lot of people, but a horde? Okay, so lets suppose our borders and shores are suddenly inundated by what 100 million people (200, 300, you choose, but remember they have to have a way to reach here). Okay, suppose the population of the U.S. doubled, overnight. You seriously think we couldn't feed 600 million if we wanted to? Or are you more interested in preserving your privelages?

Anyway, this horde wants all my food AND future production - boy they'd be pretty stupid to kill us all if they want the future production. So i guess I'm faced with two choices. If this horde is really huge, fighting them off is pointless, so we give them what they want. Or this horde is not so large and we feed them with the understanding that we might get some of them to join us - increasing our eventual productive power.

Not really the answer you wanted, was it? But then, if you don't start from the assumption of "us and them" (reference anyone?), you don't wind up where you started.

One flaw in your thinking...  While you may not view the world with a Us vs Them lens, most people in the world do.

You can koombaya all you want, but when that horde shows up, you and your tribe are dead with that mentality.

And no, I don't think the US can feed 600 million people Post PO.  I think its feasible albeit we will be lucky to feed 300 million post Peak.

Unless we get some really spiffy tech toys in the near future, America and most other nations are going to isolate themselves, either that, or they will attack their neighbors, clean out the population, and claim whatever scant resources are left.  It will be cannibalism on an international scale.

Its one of the reasons that if we begin entering a slow collapse that I think it will escalate to a quick a collapse very rapidly.  Nations will get desperate enough to hold other nations at gun point for ransom.  This is one of the reasons I think we are seeing a scrambling from many nations to get nuclear technology and weapons.  

With nuclear weapons you can be the leader of a starving nation, make a credible threat against a non-starving nation, and get away with it.  You will have nothing to lose, because you and your nation are already dying.  The non-starving nation will have a tough choice then... pre-emptively nuke the threat to protect yourself, or hand over the goods, and cause your population to starve instead.

If evolution has taught us anything, its that its a dog eat dog world.

"One flaw in your thinking...  While you may not view the world with a Us vs Them lens, most people in the world do."

I'm not exactly sure how this is a flaw in my thinking - you asked me what i'd do. I told you. I also told you why I thought that way. Am I suppossed to think a certain way because everyone else does? Seems to me that's a sure recipe for disaster.

On feeding 600 million - check out how much goes into feeding beef cattle in this country and then get back with me on this. Will it happen, no. You are absolutely correct. Are nations going to shut their borders. Again you are correct. Will we fight like dogs over the last scrapes on the table. Again, you are correct. Does that mean that I have to support, even promote, the last pathetic gasps of a dieing civilization? Just because its going to happen, doesn't mean I have to think its the best way to go.

And if evolution taught you that its a dog eat dog world, then I think you must have missed class that day.

oooh boy - talk about not getting it.
Since when (especially from this crowd) do we expect something from nothing?  But yet that is EXACTLY what all the complainers of healthcare costs argue.

Spot on!

All common sense of course  -- but then common sense is the rarest form of sense around!

No the problem is the US gets poor bang for its buck for its healthcare system.

It doesn't cover 45 million people, and it is the most expensive system ($ terms and % of GDP) of any country.

Yet on measured outcomes it doesn't do as well, or worse, than other systems.

In a system like the US where you can opt in or out of coverage, there will be some who opt out.  That is their choice, and they get to live, or die by it.

45 Million don't have coverage, and out of those how many don't have coverage by choice?  How many managed to buy new cars?  New houses?  Afford a nicer apartment instead of settling for a lesser one.  How many video games, movie rentals, books, magazines, CDs, MP3s, and who knows how many other "things" those 45 million people spent their money on, rather than medical coverage?  Its there choice, a stupid one perhaps, but one all the same.  And by the way, a couple years ago, I was one of the stupid ones.

As for the increase in costs, not correlating to the increase in benefit...  Well these guys disagree with you.

This paper answers this question for ten OECD countries -- Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the U.S. Specifically, the paper decomposes the 1970-2002 growth in each countrys healthcare expenditures into growth in benefit levels and changes in demographics. Growth in real benefit levels has been remarkably high and explains the lions share ÈÎ 89 percent ÈÎ of overall healthcare spending growth in the ten countries. Norway, Spain, and the U.S. recorded the highest annual benefit growth rates. Norways rate averaged 5.04 percent per year. Spain and the U.S. were close behind with rates of 4.63 percent and 4.61 percent, respectively.

Source:  http://papers.nber.org/papers/w11833

Like I've said...  its not Health Care that is failing Americans, its our sad diet and excercise behaviors.

I don't think the NBER paper is answering the point:

- the US system is the most expensive in the world, by any metric.  Administrative costs are much higher than other systems.

'real benefit levels' is a just a financial measure of how much is spent.

- the US doesn't cover 45 million people.  You argue that is 'choice' but there is ample evidence that it is not, in all cases (children under 18 aren't making that choice in any case)

Even it it was entirely choice, the US still has 45 million people without healthcare coverage, and the most expensive system.

I've read recently of a sharp upsurge in personal bankruptcies because of health care costs. The kicker is, most of these people had health insurance. Opting in doesn't necessarily help when our healthcare system costs over twice per capita what, say, France's does and provides inferior care.

Then there is the real possibility of the insurance company stiffing you for the bill, but don't get me started on that....

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."  Albert Einstein
I wonder how many people here really want to save the auto. I know I don't. However, I assume that it will, unfortunately, be with us for awhile, and that we should use every means necessary to minimize its impact. One of my favorite books is Carfree Cities by J.H. Crawford.

I also think that a heavy emphasis on technological solutions diverts us from the real problem which is ourselves as manifested in the way we choose to work, live, feed, travel, entertain and  recreate. Mostly, our inability to substantially influence the political system and our culture is making it impossible to address the resource and global warming problem in any meaninful way.

While I am basically a doomer when it comes to the future of the planet, I look for little signs of hope. Probably naive, but something needs to get me through the night. That used to be drink which I eventually found to be an unsatisfactory approach.

How about a poll.  How many of us would like to see the auto go the way of the dinosaur? Count me in.

Oh, and Cherenkov. You forgot to mention "smart growth". We tried that in Colorado and all we got were suburbs all the way to Kansas.

I asked a what-if here at TOD once.  I said what if autos were electric and fueled by solar and wind, would you still oppose them?  IIRC, a couple people said they would.

I stated my observation that cultures around the world embrace the car and personal mobility whenever it is available, and was met by some who argued that this was artificial.

IMO, personal mobility is seductive enough that people will demand it for a long time to come.  The best attainable goal is to reduce the impact of those cars.  Electric/solar cars would be a wonderful end goal ... but in the meantime, let's get the private auto fleet MPG to a freakin' 30 mpg at least.

I think that personal mobility is a nice institution to have on occasion, I just think it's a matter of scale - we've spent the last 80 years or so building a society that's dependant on personal mobility for an individual to do ANYTHING.

Frankly, it's a waste of energy and surroundings to continue to live the cookie-cutter suburban lifestyle - which is centered around the car.

Automobiles should have an important place in our society - but they shouldn't be necessary for more than about 10% of the use they see now, or around 5% of the ownership rates that exist now.

I can't see this going smooth...at all.  Just how soon and how bad.  I fear it will get pushed to later and therefor be much worse, it's too big and we are not focused.  When we become focused it will be too late.  I just wonder who will be blamed? mexicans? politicians, business people, who gets the red x?

Cars- need to go I agree. Everyone has two feet - I suppose they will work...  

Not everyone has two good feet or two good lungs or four good heart chambers. The automobile in some form will be with us forever. Trucks will always be with us if only for that last mile from the train station to your home. When your neighbors house is on fire how long do you want to wait for that horse drawn pumper?  Automobiles may no longer have 100s of HP and travel at 70 mph+ but they will always be part of our lives. Future autos and trucks will be much more energy efficient with lower maximum speeds and lower HP drive systems.
The automobile in some form will be with us forever.

You mean like this?

Thank you Leanan! Best laugh I've had all week!
Of course, you aren't arguing about personal mobility, you're arguing about fast, long-distance, zero-effort personal mobility.  I have personal mobility with no GHG emissions and no worries about peak oil already.  I use it every day; it's called a bicycle.

I know I'll demand my personal mobility for a long time to come :-)

Even if you really meant "fast, long-distance, zero-effort personal mobility" everyone can still get that without owning an automobile and using it every day.  Transit/bike-walk/carsharing does that just as well as personal automobiles, with far less GHG emissions and energy use.

So what you really mean is fast, long-distance, zero-effort, anti-social, on-demand, high-status conveying, to low-density sprawl personal mobility.

I know you mean "you" figuratively, but I tihnk it's important to look at car culture as it spans human cultures.  The old Soviet Union had waiting lists for cars, the new China does today.

It's not something we are likely to change, especially when we suggest ... bicycles to the Chinese?

Talk about coals to Newcastle.

I agree with tstreet. I think the automobile has caused all sorts of problems. Even if we can get the efficiency of autos way up, we've got to make units for every 2-3 people at least, and that uses a lot of energy. Not to mention the energy wasted in infrastructure to support the use of the auto, and the type of urban design that a comfortable personal transport vehicle like the auto encourages (sprawl instead of infill and walkable cities).

How does encouraging the perpetuation of the automobile (regardless of its efficiency) help to reduce our footprint? I don't get it.

Tom Anderson-Brown

If you think you can get rid of driving in America, and car-desire in China ... go for it.

Maybe if I thought I could I'd go that way too.


I don't have any say in it. What should I do? What action can I take? I sold my car and got a bicycle. It works for me but not everyone. The need for a car is a fact of life for most in the US.

tstreet's question was How many of us would like to see the auto go the way of the dinosaur?

I personally would like to see the world without cars.

You said

If you think you can get rid of driving in America, and car-desire in China ... go for it.
Maybe if I thought I could I'd go that way too.

Am I just supposed to say that since I can't influence the extinction of cars I support them? I don't. Cars suck.

Tom Anderson-Brown

Of course I don't think we will get rid of cars, although maybe someday we will get rid of them in a few cities or at least signicant parts of cities.  Clearly, there will be some people in relatively remote areas that will need some sort of personal mobility.  

As a transitional approach, encouragement should be given to car sharing wherein one just rents the cars when really needed and remains carless the rest of the time. As pointed out elsewhere on World Changing, if you own a car and it is readily available, it becomes the default mode.

On the bright side, our county, Boulder, has sponsored an initiative on the November ballot which will provide sales tax funds for public transit and bicyling. It's nice to have a vote on a pure non auto solution as opposed to past initiatives which included road building and maintenance.

As alluded to above, it is difficult to have it both ways. If one keeps building and "improving" runs, one makes it all the more difficult to abandon the auto. We need to come up with solutions to mobility of people and things, which does not include the auto and its accoutrements as the way to do that.

If cars could be heavily restricted, expensive, and kept out of cities for limited uses, perhaps they could be viable in the long term.

In the mean time, I would like to see the depavement process begin.  I was hopeful that exorbitant asphalt prices would help this process along. But we seem to back in cheap oil mode.


I feel similarly.  I guess I'm answering the unasked question: why don't you want to get rid of cars?  answer: what would "wanting"? really do in this case?

We'll all be lucky if we can budge fleet mpg.

I wonder how many people here really want to save the auto.


And yes.   So long as others expect neigh instant transport of materials/people, I sottra need one once every week or 2.   And because others drive 24/7, the roads exist for my car travel once a week (or once a month) and a nice riding surface for my bike.

My electric bike gets me around just fine.  If I wanna break the law, there are 2kW hubs.

Great piece Dave...

Folks, don't forget to go over to reddit/digg//. and give this one the up arrow...(sorry to be bothersome about that, but it's what gets great research like this more exposure...)

You know, Hugg might be a smaller pool, and easier in which to gain rank.
Some random thoughts:

Sure, I would love to see MOST cars go away MOST of the time (this includes mine).  Give me a little warning and I'll move to an oceanside home near good surfing and diving.  I fear I'm in a small and ever-shrinking minority though.

I'm firmly in the doomer camp.  Specifics keep changing in my mind, but as a society and the world as a whole - we're doomed!  Currently I don't see a big die-off, more of a long slow squeeze to die-back.  I've recently read both Tainter and Catton ('Collapse..' and 'Overshoot').  I strongly recommend both.  Catton makes the point that ANY use of non-renewable or fossil resources compounds our state of overshoot.  And he wrote his book when there were 'only' 4 billion humans.  And, another key point, humans are not only exceeding carrying capacity, but we are simultaneously decreasing carrying capacity; IOW, it's worse than we think.

200 (or 300) million eco-friendly cars are only going to add to our problems (see above).  Just about everything being proposed, especially tech-wise, adds to overshoot.  Perpetuating our current population, much less adding to it and adding to human consumption, is making our future a whole lot more bleak.

Stepping back and trying to have a big view, we are greedily stealing from the future, clearly in an unsustainable way, and virtually everyone is massively in denial.  It seems to be in our nature, like yeast.  I don't think we're able to act for the long term good, just short-term survival.

I've recently read both Tainter and Catton ('Collapse..' and 'Overshoot').  I strongly recommend both.

Agreed. But if you want the Real McCoy, read also Georgescu-Roegen's The Entropy Law and the Economic Process.

Heavy lifting in parts, but well worth the intellectual effort.

I'll look for it.  What did you get out of it or enjoy about it?

Sorry for my delay -- back again.

I got lots of 'added value' out of TELATEP over and above Tainter and Catton, in particular GR's brilliant critique of the arithmomorphic world view and defence of the 'intuitive continuum' (you'll have to read the book to understand what that's all about). The chapter titled 'Why is Economics Not a Theoretical Science?' is also a masterpiece.

One of GR's best essays ('Energy and Economic Myths') is also on line at Dieoff: - see here.

At last a poster who has actually read the oft-mentioned works...hats off to you.  I'm reading Overshoot right now, after finishing Tainter a couple of weeks ago.
Burning Buried Sunshine is a good title, and it suggests a similar title for the act of sequestering CO2 underground, such as by using it to flood oil fields for enhanced recovery:

Burying Burned Sunshine

Approximately 44 Eg (44 × 10^18 grams) of photosynthetic product carbon were necessary to generate the fossil fuels burned in the reference year 1997. This is equivalent to 422 times the net amount of carbon that is fixed globally each year, or 73 times the global standing stock of carbon in vegetation.

I paraphrased this finding to Ken Deffeyes during the Q and A  for a Peak Oil talk he was giving in Alaska.  I was upset with what I perceived to be his disappointing over-optimism for biofuels and synfuels during the "solutions" portion of his lecture.  He scoffed at the finding and questioned its accuracy.

The key is to not get upset. Deffeyes is the King-Monkey of Peak-Oil. Maybe you upset him. Who knows. Only trust those who will engage in debate with you. Otherwise, they are just writing books.

You can always write your own book, of course.

I guess what upset me was hearing the words "dimethyl ether" and "jungle rot" more than I heard the word "conservation."  Maybe "disappointed" is a better word to describe my own feelings; it's not as if I was crimson with rage when I asked him the question.

You can always write your own book, of course.

That is, at least, a life goal of mine.

Could you describe in more detail the "dimethyl ether" and "jungle rot" thing. We're all big Deffeyes fans here. We just can't get to every one of his speeches. I'm just not sure of the context in which he speaks of these things. In fact, I don't even know what these things are. See, you guys are so much smarter than me.
My life-goal is to score Paris Hilton before Al Qaeda hits me. I already know what's up with oil.

Paris could give a crap about books, even though she's already written two(or, like inspired and posed for them, or whatever, I don't really care).

I'm thinking TV/Movies/Hollywood. Peak-Oil is serious. Peak-Oil is real. Peak-Oil is Paris Hilton. We can only get the Hoi Polloi on board when we enlist Paris.

Simmons, Deffeyes, Heinberg. They already wrote books. Look what good that did.

If Paris told me to stop driving and move towards a sustainable future - what do you think I would do?

Or as Odo says,

Click, Click... Tap... Hello?...Is this thing on?

This discussion has many interesting variations from straight out doomers who are imagining a 90% reduction in humanity's numbers to moderates who are proposing feasible changes in car usage.

I am in the camp of the moderates. I believe that this is a time of great trial. There are farmers suicides happening in India today, so I personally cannot deny a small die-off. But i believe that through intelligent incentives and action, it will be possible for us to thrive beyond the next century.

These analyses of sustainability miss one key ingredient - Algae

Algae is the zen essence of what we humans want from the ecosystem. We want a quick conversion of sunlight (burning buried sunlight is an awesome title, btw) into carbs, protein and fats which we can ingest or burn. The stink that comes along with it is almost a reminder that everything has its price. Boys and Girls - Wear nose clips and eat your spirulina.

Growing algae is not rocket science. I agree that mainstream production processes are not in place for algae  right now. But when compared to absurdly high percentages like 25% of all productive land being used every year for sequestering carbon, mainstreaming algae production either via fertilizing oceans or creating algae out of smokestack emissions appears in a better light.

No one would go into war without considering the impact of their best weapons. So, Why do sustainability analyses not include algae, the one option with the most potential?

I guess I'm not against algae.

Are you proposing that we burn it or something?

Oil rich algae are squeezed to produce equivalent of vegetable oil, which can be made into bio-diesel.
There was an essay written a few years ago that gave a lot of us hope.

Algae seems to be the only biofuel feedstock that has yields remotely near what we need.  And it's not only much more energy dense than hydrogen/electric, it's a clean, drop-in replacement in all diesel cars - which matured in Europe over the last 15 years or so in high-performance, high-mileage turbodiesel variants.  It's also useful for diesel truck fleets, which have an undeniable need for hydrocarbons in many non-electrifiable roles.

Algae is not the answer.  It's been discussed here several times before (along with hemp, switchgrass, etc.).

Basically, algae has the same problems as all the other biofuel crops.  Growing it in a lab or small plot in one thing, growing it in monoculture another.

Grown en masse, you will need lots of water, fertilizers, pesticides.  Not to mention harvesting equipment, pumps, dryers, etc.  The real EROEI is unknown, especially if it's grown in the desert, as is often suggested.  

They've been working on algae since the '70s oil crisis, with little success.  One problem is that outside the lab, weeds become an issue.  Even in the desert, ponds get taken over by undesirable kinds of algae.  (Algae that does not make good diesel.)  So some sort of weeding or herbicide would have to be used.  Or maybe genetic engineering?  

Another problem is fertilizer.  Perhaps we could use sewage.  But it would have to be piped out to the algae farms.  And is this what we really want to use our limited resources for?  This water, fertilizer, and energy might be better used to grow food.  

Grown en masse, you will need lots of water, fertilizers, pesticides.  Not to mention harvesting equipment, pumps, dryers, etc.  The real EROEI is unknown, especially if it's grown in the desert, as is often suggested.  

They've been working on algae since the '70s oil crisis, with little success.  One problem is that outside the lab, weeds become an issue.  Even in the desert, ponds get taken over by undesirable kinds of algae.  (Algae that does not make good diesel.)  So some sort of weeding or herbicide would have to be used.  Or maybe genetic engineering?  

Another problem is fertilizer.  Perhaps we could use sewage.  But it would have to be piped out to the algae farms.  And is this what we really want to use our limited resources for?  This water, fertilizer, and energy might be better used to grow food.

I agree that industrial production of algae has not happened yet, but when compared to 22% of all productive land being used, isn't putting some research into algae production a little less extreme option?

The advantage that algae has is its ability to grow in brackish water, which unlike fresh water is never going to run out.

If properly processed, the solid residues of algae can be used as food for small animals (chickens or rabbits) or even humans. It is high in protein.

Algae is not a be-all and end-all solution. I agree that there is no One Solution, and algae is a silver BB , as TODers call it. (does that mean baby bullet, just curious. I understand what it means but don't know the expansion) I just don't understand why sustainability analyses never include it, despite it having so much potential.

The root expression is "silver bullet" which might be older than The Lone Ranger but I'm not sure.  I'd imagine that most of us are of the cohort that saw The Lone Ranger on afternoon TV, and not in the matinee.

Silver bullets, especially when fired by the Masked Man, solve every problem.

On the other hand BBs are fired by kid's guns.  I guess the hope is, you get enough "sliver BBs" going and you might be able to achieve something ;-)

(BBs are also used as names for the pellets in a shotgun shell, furthering the idea of many small contributions together.)

PS.  Algae seems a longshot to me, but if it works I will be quite happy.

I think the silver bullet metaphor refers to the werewolf myth.  Silver bullets are the only thing that can kill a werewolf.
Silver BB is in reference to load placed in a shotgun shell.

The idea as applied to PO, is that rather than a Silver bullet(a single solution) to solve out PO problems, we will have a silver shotgun load composed of Silver BBs(multiple solutions).  A silver BB is just another "pellet" in that load.

<sarcasm>oh, I'm so relieved. Why didn't anyone think of this before! We can all go back to sleep now. Might as well shut down TOD. There is no crises. </sarcasm>
Please! I am a moderate, not a cornucopian. I understand peak oil and the challenges it involves. I am just saying that presenting a sustainability picture without taking into account algae is like going to war without your best weapons.
Moderate! Yeah, dude. That makes 7 of us. Unfortunately, you're going to have to take the forward machine-gun position. Life expectancy - 2 hours. The other 6 of us are highly trained and motivated, so you can expect good coverage. For about 2 hours. That ain't no joke. You stick with us, we'll stick with you. You won't get that kinda deal from the doomers. Those f***ers are cannibals.

But there is good news as well. We have been whipping the doomers' asses up and down the block for quite some time. Their tactics have proved useless, their ideology crazy.

We are just far outnumbered. We need more recruits.

Welcome to the Machine.

You cornus are whippiung are ass? Whose stuck inside their cubby hole looking out?

We're just waiting till you are all fattened up a little before we deliver the coup de grace (sp?)


I'm not sure that is really why doomers want us fattened up!
Shorter:  "Cornucopian again?"
"Eat what's on your plate, dear. Be thankful for what you've got. There are children in Ethiopia with.... oh wait, that's right, there are no children in Ethiopia anymore."
In one of my first posts at TOD I dared to suggest that that corn was stored solar energy and that ethanol was in effect using solar to power cars.  The subject at the time was how to store solar energy. Most posters at the time thought we needed a massive federal research effort to come up with new technology.   Now here comes a post that says fossil fuels are stored solar energy.  At the time I made my observation I was roundly ridiculed by fellow posters.  Storing solar energy is not as difficult as some would have you believe.  It is going on all the time in the plant world.  Maybe TOD posters have finally figured this out.  At least I hope so.
The problem is that we dump quite a lot of energy in the form of fertilizer onto the corn as assistance in helping it store solar energy.  Whether this is more than it actually manages to store is a subject of much debate, but the consensus around here is that when you use it to make ethanol, it's so close that it doesn't matter much - we lack the land to supply quantities of significance.
Re: that corn was stored solar energy and that ethanol was in effect using solar to power cars

You weren't "roundly ridiculed" by me. Unfortunately, the real issues regarding biofuels have to do with 1) the other required fossil fuel energy inputs and 2) the amount of devoted land/crops necessary to replace even a small fraction of our fossil fuels consumption -- as I hope my story makes clear.

Corn is one of the best converters/storage of sunlight we have.

But then there is ENTROPY

The globe is running on the current EROEI of fossil fuels, which is falling

Much of the proposed solutions to deal with our current problems and to lead us into a sustainable society are wrong as they tend to look at the symptoms and do not try to understand the dynamics of the entire situation.

Back in the 1970s however Jay Forrester (incidently inventor of RAM memory) invented/discovered the field of Systems Dynamics which he extended to Urban Dynamics and from there to World Dynamics. Forrestor was a member of the Club of Rome and greatly influencend the thinking and models used in the famous Club of Rome report "The Limits to Growth" by Dennis Meadows et al -cira 1972

Basically Forrester says our mental models are not good enough and we need to be more quantitive and that we should model our various systems computationally. Getting our assumptions down and then studying the system behaviour dynamically by varying various factors gives us a much greater understanding and insight into various systems.

Our Social System is a complex non-linear system and (as he said and discovered) causes and effects are not clear or obvious and in such a complex system, causes can be further back in time. However humans tend to look for and see immediate causes to effects and then proscribe solutions based on these incorrect assumptions.

There is what I consider a brilliant, enlightening and very very relevant paper called: Counterintuitive Behavior of Social Systems at:

In this paper he shows how doing things like reducing the usage of natural resources can lead to greater problems and population crash later, largely because it allows the population to soar and cause other problems. And this is relevant here and elsewhere as people propose better mileage standards or alternative sources of fuel and so forth. Doing these things on their own will be disaster. And they all have the same characteristic of being technical solutions would little or no addressing of the what is probably the most important factor and that is the cultural.

The message that comes across loud and clear though is that the road to sustainable development requires analysing the problem properly and attempting to deal with multiple factors simultaneously and that ultimately it is a cultural problem because any technical solution interacts with the cultural system in which it is embedded.

So for example, reducing population might result in improving quality of life, but if everyone uses this opportunity to consume more, then you could well end up with a pollution problem and or natural resource problem that causes a crash later.

Relevant wikipedia page is:

See also http://www.clubofrome.org/archive/reports.php where you can find a copy of: The Limits To Growth


Thanks a lot for your Forrester link ("Counterintuitive Behavior of Social Systems")-- inter alia it's probably one of the best essays ever written on the unintended consequences of social welfare policies. My only reservation is that one can figure most of it out without having recourse to a computer.

Much appreciated.


Maybe I'm not understanding this, but I think I'd rather do Mad Max than have my life determined by someone's systems software.

I don't want to live in beehive cities.

"beehive cities"

IMO, it comes down to the size of the greenbelt.  I'd really rather have more 'hives and parks, and fewer of those shoulder-to-shoulder new homes.

Is anyone updating and refining the elements of the Limits to Growth type of models as aspects of the earth and human systems are better understood and more experience is gained on feedbacks? Such an enterprise would seem to be a very useful activity as it would force people on both sides of the debates to make their assumptions explicit for incorporation into such models as sort of a sensitivity analysis for change over time. To have credibility, anyone who believes some aspect of the output is wrong would have to point out the erroneous assumptions causing that error.

In my (limited) modeling experience, the process of creating the model is a very useful one for the modeler because it forces one to make one's assumptions explicit, which leads to a deeper understanding of the system.

The book was updated just a couple of years ago -

Here's a link to the publisher's page for the revised version.

Reading the "doomers" here make me note you don't see the real Doomsday Scenery: the global anthropocentric warming causes a Big Burp (clathrate gun hypothesis).

If you don't know it, that thing is problably the cause for the Permian-Triassic extinction event and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Go look for it at wikipedia.

We had at other post a discussion how will be live with the same temperatures from the Eemian. Guys, to live under the same temperatures that Earth had at the Permian-Triassic extinction event and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum will be harder. Eemian is the breakfast. Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum is the real red meat.

Maybe mankind have a chance to survive at the new lands that will open at the Antartic Continent. Or Greenland (that will be green then). Because that will be the only temperate regions that the Earth will have. Almost all other regions will be desert or tropical savanna with some sub-tropical regions. Yes, Europe, Asia and Americas will be mostly desert or savanna or tropical rain forest(like Africa today).

The point is: there is enough land for agriculture if we hit Eemina, but not enough land for agriculture for everyone if we hit Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

So, what are we making to escape that future?

I think we problably will use more coal if oil peak. Yes, that is what we need now, more CO2 at atmosphere. Only when it is obvious that something very bad is happening we will make something, but then will be too late.

It is too much doomer to you?

It is too much doomer to you?

No.  Dr. David Goodstein mentions this possibility in his peak oil book, Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil.

He doesn't think it's inevitable, but he does think it's possible that our desperate coal-burning will tip the planet into a runaway greenhouse effect, making Earth like Venus: a balmy 1,000 degrees on the surface.