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Peak Oil, a plea to learn about it, teach, and press for resposible leadership

IF YOU FEEL YOU CANNOT ABSORB SOME VERY UNSETTLING INFORMATION, DO NOT READ FURTHER. This is critical information, but you cannot help if you are upset beyond recovery.
I have been very busy the past days researching and writing letters about a topic of the utmost urgency to you, to me, and to every citizen of Earth. It is a very shocking topic at first consideration. I was devastated for 2 days. It is also of such extreme importance that you learn about it, and use your resources to teach others, that I have decided to share it with you, and every other persons I know who are willing to stretch their minds to include a very different future than they might ever have expected.

Please, take this request very seriously: IF YOU FEEL YOU CANNOT ABSORB SOME VERY UNSETTLING INFORMATION, DO NOT, I REPEAT WITH EMPHASIS, DO NOT READ FURTHER. There will be nothing that you will not learn of by other means in the next few months and years.

The information below is, itself, rather benign. The impact is if you choose investigate further by looking at the suggested web resources.

This is a very serious topic. It is not a wacko, conspiracy theory. You can find reports about it online that come from every industry, academic, and political point of view. The mystery that persists for me is why this is not the number one issue of the ongoing presidential campaign.

Following is one of the letters I have been sending to every community, social, environmental, political, and media leader I can find. My plea is that you take the time to help get the word out, too, by every means available.

I also want to say that while what you will find if you follow the suggested links is a virtual punch in the gut, it is upon reflection the sign of a very exciting time to be alive on the planet. I don't think I would rather be here any other time than now. We are soon to embark on a path that could lead to the most advanced and responsible civilization imaginable, or it might lead to devastation.

I pray for success.

---
Following is my letter. You may copy it, alter it, or write your own version. The important thing is to do your best to educate everyone you know, and encourage leaders to assume meaningful responsibility.
---

Hello,

Thank you for reading this brief letter. This letter is about an issue I have come to be convinced may define the rest of our lives on Earth.

The issue of post-peak oil production, known in the energy industry simply as "peak oil", is by many measures one of the most important problems that will affect the entire human race. The impact of peak oil is most likely beginning now as we see the price of energy rise; prices which will escalate rapidly during the next few years. Every facet of modern life is going to be dramatically affected.

The question begging is "Why is this subject of peak oil going unnoticed by the media and the public at large?"

Indeed, "Why?" There is certainly no benefit to be derived from ignoring peak oil, and there is great harm to be had for waiting too long to react.

I plead with you to review this issue and use your leadership role to open a dialog and expand awareness of peak oil. It is very important that this begin in order that our society commence to make the adjustments and innovations that will be required to avert catastrophe.

I suggest a Google search of "peak oil", include the quote marks, to quickly locate many informative documents, including scholarly and industry sources. You can also read a highly regarded summary of peak oil at:  http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net.

Sincerely,

MK

homepage: homepage: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&edition=us&q=%22peak+oil%22&btnmeta%3Dsearch%3Dsearch=Search+the+Web

It's not the biggest issue in the election, because 17.Feb.2004 12:19

James

a) We've been hearing this for the past 50 years
b) Boeing and others have solar cells approaching 35% efficiency in the lab
c) Nuclear power accounts for 20% of power in the U.S. and could relatively quickly account for much more
d) Proven oil reserves give us decades of oil
e) Unproven but massive reserves, such as the tar sands in Canada, give us much more, if not quite as easily extractable as Saudi crude.
f) Cheap semiconductors have opened up whole new arenas of renewable energy research
g) It's really not the end of the world.

So cheer up.

Thank goodness 17.Feb.2004 12:36

Mark

James,

Thank you sooooo much for clearing up that little problem. It's good to know that everything is AOK.

Audio file on this subject 17.Feb.2004 12:41

Jim Lockhart eagleye@PhilosopherSeed.org

An audio file of Albert Bartlett, who was in town a while back speaking on, "Arithmetic, Energy and Population -Effects on the Future of Humanity." This gentleman gave an hour or so slide presentation concerning these issues, and speaks directly to the rapid depletion of the world's oil reserves, and it's connection to population growth.
Albert Bartlett, Arithmetic, Energy and Population

This was also a program airing on Community television for a while, but has since played through. It can be turned in again for reprogramming, but until I can do so, one can always call the programming departments and request it be played as fill material.

Portland Community Media is 503-288-1515, ext #23.
Multnomah COmmunity Television is 503-491-7636, ext. #5


James 17.Feb.2004 12:54

MK

I did not say a thing about the end of oil or the end of the world.

We are not about to run out of oil. We ARE NOW running out of cheap oil and demand has surpassed production. That trend will continue and escalate. Alternate sources of energy are presently theoretical, insufficient, and not on line with capacity to sustain us. It is critical that these other ideas be developed and deployed. Public knowledge and political pressure is needed. That is why I posted this message. Can you suggest a better forum?

Cheap oil is deeply connected to virtually every aspect of modern life. The oil embargo of 1973 was like an earth tremor, the earthquake is going to be much more serious.

Take 15 minutes to read the site:  http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ It will answer your comments. I have sent this link to relative who is an expert in big business and the economy. He concurs that these things are true. Search up the Google link. You will find documentation from every persuation that only disagree in terms of a few years until the impact is severe. An amazing thing about peak oil is it is NOT controversial among experts in the field.

a note to "james" and the rest of us 17.Feb.2004 14:03

republic of cascadia citizen

to JAMES:

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."
- Mark Twain (1835-1910)

RX: keep on driving your suv, watching t.v., taking your meds and shopping, everything will be JUST FINE.


to EVERYONE ELSE:

RX:
1. read through everything at:  http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/
2. adopt a vegetarian/vegan diet
3. transition to a bicycle/public transport-based lifestyle
4. conduct a full "energy audit" of your home and lifestyle in general and drastically reduce energy consumption whereever possible
5. support local food co-ops and local farming
6. stop buying non-essential items
7. educate others
8. begin seriously thinking how you are going to attempt survival for yourself and those you care about after the crash
9. demand that elected officials publicly acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and take immediate steps to change the current course, and purge all elected officials who continue to live in denial and follow "business as usual"
10. join forces with others who will be doing everything they can to lessen the suffering

REMEMBER: the real question is not "IF" this is going to happen, only those in extreme denial will cling to that line of thinking. the real question is "what can we do as a species to lessen the suffering for ourselves and other life forms in the coming decades?"

fight for 3 things 17.Feb.2004 14:04

Wes

Three things would help to greatly lower our oil consumption and the greenhouse effect.

1.More efficient transportation including mass transit and converting all vehicles to hybrid power. Currently the US doesnt even have one commercail hybrid car. Hybrids increase gas mileage by 100% ofr so. Stop dilydallying talk about controversial hydrogen and demand your senators for more hybrids and less SUVs.

2.LESS SPRAWL FOR LESS need for transportation! Higher density urban housing so that the yuppies dont have to drive 80 miles a day to work every day in their fucking Chevy GASSHOLE Suburbans.

3. Support green energy like windpower which seems to be the best hope right now. Nukes suck!!!!!!!!

Not quite, MK 17.Feb.2004 14:11

James

"An amazing thing about peak oil is it is NOT controversial among experts in the field."

This statement, I believe, is illusrative of the depth of your research into this subject. There is, in fact, a great deal of controversy surrounding the true amount of economically extractable oil. It's hardly a settled matter. I think you may be living (and reading) in an echo chamber. It might make sense for you to step out, and take an objective look at the facts.

Most people don't doubt that we'll eventually run out of fossil fuels. (Note: Some, such as Thomas Gold, say we won't -- or at least that it's more quickly replenishing than we realize). The question is when. If Peak Oil is really 2010 as the doomsayers predict, energy will be more expensive soon. But if Peak Oil is 2025, or even 2050 -- as most people predict -- it won't be a big deal.

Oil is not the only fossil fuel on earth. Coal is also abundant and cheap. Coal is much dirtier if burned, but there is research going on which chemically extracts the hydrogen from coal, leaving solid carbon behind.

Uranium is also fairly abundant. We haven't built any new nuclear power reactors in this country since Three Mile Island, but we easily could -- and safer.

I also like pointing out to Peak Oil doomsayers a contradiction held by most of them: If you believe in Peak Oil as a coming energy crisis, you necessarily cannot believe in a coming (human-caused) global warming. Because if you accept the predictions of the doomsayers, there's not enough oil and gas to trigger global warming on any note-worthy scale. The global warming theorists all estimate oil and gas reserves on the order of 5x what the doomsayers predict.

There's no harm is talking, or worrying about Peak Oil though. There are many other good reasons to end our oil addiction. Peak Oil is just one of those reasons, something to think about along with all the rest.

Good point, Wes 17.Feb.2004 14:19

James

"2.LESS SPRAWL FOR LESS need for transportation! Higher density urban housing so that the yuppies dont have to drive 80 miles a day to work every day in their fucking Chevy GASSHOLE Suburbans."

Good point. I take it this means you will fight the environmentalists tooth and nail and try to repeal building height restrictions which have been enshrined as law in so many cities across the country.

James 17.Feb.2004 14:47

Wes

>>>James
"2.LESS SPRAWL FOR LESS need for transportation! Higher density urban housing so that the yuppies dont have to drive 80 miles a day to work every day in their fucking Chevy GASSHOLE Suburbans."

Good point. I take it this means you will fight the environmentalists tooth and nail and try to repeal building height restrictions which have been enshrined as law in so many cities across the country. <<<<

Well they (Portland and Seattle) are currently looking at Vancouver which has some very tall skinny towers for housing. But there is a huge acreage difference between a short multi-story loft/condo building with say 30 condos/lofts and single story McMansions. The bad thing about going too tall is that it blocks out all the sunlight at ground level, which is not good.

James, cite your sources 17.Feb.2004 17:25

MK

I said: "An amazing thing about peak oil is it is NOT controversial among experts in the field."

James said: "This statement, I believe, is illusrative of the depth of your research into this subject. There is, in fact, a great deal of controversy surrounding the true amount of economically extractable oil. It's hardly a settled matter. I think you may be living (and reading) in an echo chamber. It might make sense for you to step out, and take an objective look at the facts."
---
James, please cite your sources. I have not found one scientific refutal of the peak oil issue.

Every web page I have read from right wing to left wing, from energy industry white papers to environmentalist's statements, every one where this topic is mentioned, is in basic agreement with the information presented in  http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net. If you don't like Matt's style, look it up yourself on Google.

I cannot understand why you, or anyone, would argue with the actions needed to address this issue. Even if oil were infinite, the means of reducing its use are of tremendous value in reducing pollution.

Perhaps your are splitting hairs with this term "economically extractable oil." Yes, I have to agree, there will economically valuable oil to be extracted for a very long time, just as there is economic value in gold and diamonds. The less there is, more valuable it will be. But will you be driving your car with it? Or heating your house? Or riding a jet on vacation? Or wearing it in synthetic fabric? Or using it to grow, contain, and ship food you eat? Those are the issues that affect us.

Good luck discussing anything with James 17.Feb.2004 19:07

Fred

James comes off like a serious researcher, but pretty soon you realize that although he can appear to cite a lot of info and sound good, the ideas behind his facts stem from absurdities. Here's an interesting example -
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/05/264734.shtml

James - "This is yet another reason for school vouchers. With the government running the show, people think they have some sort of special right to public education."

Two sides of the same coin 17.Feb.2004 19:13

Whiskey Sour

The trouble:

Two sides -- one believes things are fixin' to fall apart, the other believes that everything is A.O.K. now and forever.

Who's right? It would be nice to just pick the most sincere, or the most strident, or the most clever proponent and go with that. Unfortunately, it's like religion and ANY proponent of either position will sound sincere and strident (though often not clever). The real choice is to think carefully and read around. Too bad it takes a lot of effort and education to really evaluate research and "evidence."

Maybe the choice follows C.S. Lewis' argument for accepting Christianity (paraphrased): which is the greater risk, believing in hell and being wrong, or NOT believing and being wrong?

peak in oil, head in sand 17.Feb.2004 19:15

Agent Adam Smith

Some reasons we don't hear more about this subject are:

It scares the shit out of most people. How many people want to coolly
and calmly contemplate catastrophe?

There are a million and one excuses for trying to ignore or derail a discussion on this subject. Anyone can point out that there is uncertainty as to the precise date when oil production will peak. Anyone can point out that there are alternative energy sources that could be developed.

It scares the shit out of powerful government and corporate interests. If ordinary people were actually invited to consider the momentous consequences of an early peak in oil production, there would be immediate demands for conservation, and even more ominously, nationalization. How could it be otherwise? Why should people stand for the private control of a limited and vital resource upon which millions of lives depend? Of course, this resource has always been limited, and has become increasingly vital, but so long as the public has not been confronted with the imminent extinction of cheap oil sources, it could be appeased into accepting the private expropriation of these resources in much of the world.

The problem in a nutshell is that, while there are surely alternative energy sources, none of them are liable to be as cheap as the accidental windfall of "ancient sunlight" which we have been enjoying for the past few generations, a really tiny anomaly in the larger course of human history. If alternatives are not pursued immediately and the most pessimistic forecasts are correct, we could end up in a permanently energy limited economy, with dire consequences for much of humanity. It will take a significant portion of all the oil left in the ground when the peak comes to even carry out the conversion of all our existing infrastructure to any alternative sources. Right now, our agricultural system requires ten calories of fossil fuel energy to produce and supply a single calorie of food energy to the consumer. We have to start work now on becoming vastly more efficient.

Just because predictions on this score have been made in the past that didn't bear out is no cause for complacency. When geologist MK Hubbert first wrote papers on this subject back in the 1950s, predicting that US production would peak in 1969, he was pooh-poohed as a Cassandra. It was only in hindsight, years later, that economists were able to confirm that he was only a year off. The actual peak was 1970. So we may not actually know for sure when the peak has come until the consequences are already upon us.

James believes he has pointed out a contradiction in the arguments of those who worry about peak oil, because the same sort of people who worry about this are liable to also express concern about global warming. Actually, the two arguments are complementary, not contradictory. If diminishing oil production forces civilization to begin exploiting much dirtier and less efficient, powerful greenhouse contributors like coal, just in order to bridge the gap to safer energy sources in the future, this will compound the world's problems still further.

James the Lesser 17.Feb.2004 19:37

Portnoy

Hey James --

You running a reactor in your Escalade? How soon will that nookyular option trickle down to those of us driving Kias?

Hahahahahahahahahah!

You make me laugh, shit-for-brains.

Revised prologue for friends and family, and letter to leaders 17.Feb.2004 19:42

MK

Dear Friends and Family,

I have been very busy the past days researching and writing letters about a topic of the utmost urgency to you, to me, and to every citizen of Earth. It is a very shocking topic, and for two days after learning about it, I felt devastated. I also feel it is so extremely important for you learn about it and use your resources to teach others, that I have decided to share it with you, and all other folks I know who are willing to stretch their minds to include a very different future than they might ever have expected.

The information below, in itself, seems rather benign. The impact will be felt more, if you choose to investigate further by looking at the suggested web resources I have included.

This is a very serious topic. It is not a "wacko conspiracy theory". You can find supporting reports about it online that come from every industrial, academic, and political point of view. The mystery that persists for me is why this is not the number one issue of the current presidential campaign.

Below is one of the letters I have been sending to every community, social, environmental, political, and media leader I can find. My plea is that you take the time to help get the word out, too, by every means available.

I also want to say that, while what you will find if you follow the suggested links is a virtual punch in the gut, it is, upon reflection, a very exciting time to be alive on this planet. I don't think I would rather be here any other time than now. We are soon to embark on a path that could lead to the most advanced and responsible civilization imaginable or one that might lead to devastation.

I pray for success.

---
Here is the letter I have been sending. You may copy it, alter it, or write your own. The important thing is to do your best to educate everyone you know, and encourage leaders to assume meaningful responsibility.
---

Hello,

Thank you for reading this brief letter. This letter is about an issue of which I have come to be convinced may significantly define the rest of our lives on Earth.

The issue of post-peak oil production, known in the energy industry simply as "peak oil", is by many measures one of the most important problems that will affect the entire human race. The impact of peak oil is most likely beginning now as we see the price of energy rise. We can expect energy prices to escalate rapidly during the next few years. Every facet of modern life is going to be dramatically affected.

The question begging is why is this subject of peak oil going unnoticed by the media and the public at large.

Indeed, "Why?" There is certainly no benefit to be derived from ignoring peak oil, and there is great harm to be had for waiting too long to react.

I plead with you to review this issue and use your leadership role to open a dialog and expand awareness of peak oil. It is very important that this begin now in order for our societies to commence making the adjustments and innovations that will be required to avert catastrophe.

I suggest doing a Google search of "peak oil" (include the quote marks) to quickly locate many informative documents, including academic, environmental, and industrial sources. You can also read a detailed summary of peak oil at: www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net.

Sincerely,

(Your Name)

MK 17.Feb.2004 21:07

Wes

Thanks. Good letter, great work.
One other thing you might also do is target the Big 3 auto companies. They have been relentlessly advertising gashogs SUVs and trucks that have resulted in a DECREASE in the average overall mile per gallon of all vehicles in the US. That combined with an increase in the average miles per year of each vehicle because of more and more sprawl means we are using more and more oil every year. On top of that, American auto companies are already brainwashing masses in CHINA into buying gashog SUVs!
Our government must set much more strict fuel efficiency standards double what they are now. We must also demand a huge increase in windpower generation in this country.

I suggest you and everybody else send this letter to General Motors who makes the most obscenely wasteful vehicle of all time which they are brainwashing millions to buy. The Hummer.

Dear Mr. Wagoner:

For the time being, I am boycotting GM products.

Cars and light trucks consume 40 percent of the oil used in the U.S. every day, and in an effort to cut our dependence on foreign oil and curb global warming pollution, auto makers like GM should be designing and manufacturing cleaner more efficient vehicles. Your Hummers are the antithesis of what qualifies as a responsible vehicle for our times.

Although GM engineers claim the Hummer will get 12-14 mpg, independent tests have found it gets an average 10.7 mpg -- and that's when driven primarily on highways. Ten miles per gallon is less than half the fuel economy that experts are recommending for light trucks and SUVs up to 10,000 pounds. The extra materials that go into the Hummer to make it withstand boulders, twisting, and stumps is a colossal waste of resources. You and I both know that this vehicle will rarely if ever require such protection as it is driven though suburbia USA.

To produce a behemoth vehicle that is untouchable by CAFE standards is not only shameful, but disrespectful to all that inhabit this earth. GM is not doing its part to do less harm to a planet we all share. Instead, for effect and potential profit, GM has created a vehicle that directly harms our environment and this nation's progress towards oil independence.
Edit as you see fit!
Website that will automatically send the letter to him>>>

 http://www.greenmatters.com/gm/subscribers/activism/hummerh2.php3

building height restrictions 17.Feb.2004 22:03

Agent Adam Smith

James:
The matter is not so simple as you make it out to be. There may in many cases be an optimal height, which in some instances is neither what developers want, nor what activists want. From an energetic standpoint, taller is not better, because tall buildings come with their own complex and imposing set of energy demands. Bigger buildings are harder to supply with natural lighting, thus demanding artificial lighting even in daylight hours, unless designed very cleverly. Taller buildings make huge demands on water supplies, usually requiring pumping, which requires greater energy inputs. Even elevators become big energy consumers in very tall buildings.

I have heard ecological planners like Richard Register throw around the guesstimate of 3-4 stories as the average optimal building height for a downtown business area. That hardly counts as "high-rise" in modern terms.

new innovations 17.Feb.2004 22:13

Dumplin'

And let us pay attention to those amazing new innovations in energy devices at

 http://www.energenx.com/

 http://www.lutec.com.au/

 http://www.tilleyfoundation.com/

 http://www.trinitymotors.net/

We really don't need no stinkin' oil !!!

Nature takes it's course 18.Feb.2004 00:37

sybil

I wouldn't stay up nights worrying about this. The article you site is really not well thought-out, logically or scientifically, and can be picked apart in many ways. The whole concept of 90% of the population dying out based on petri dish bacteria running out of agar is an indication that the author doesn't really know what they're saying. Humans don't eat oil, and for thousands of years we have grown food and survived without oil. Thus, this analogy is inanalogous and simply used for sensationalism. We may be forced to, and should regardless of oil supply, make changes towards organic and locally grown foods for the purpose of environmental sustainability. However, oil is not required to grow food and people do not require things like fertilizer, pesticides, and plastic to live. Ever hear of glass and manure?

The article glosses over alternative sources of energy because we can't use them for such unnecessary purposes of producing plastics, pesticides, fertilizer, or flying planes. It also completely disregards the fact that a giant chunk of the 6 billion people it claims will die off, live in underdeveloped countries where electricity and cars have never been reliably available or depended upon by the general population. Furthermore, all sources of energy require more energy to retrieve them than in produced by them, due to the physics of changing oil into elecricity into heat and so on.

Completely sustainable alternatives such as wave generators and underground thermoconducted water for heating are not even considered in this article, let alone magnetic (not electomagnetic mind you) railways which require virtually no energy, but have remained undeveloped due to the oil industry. As long as oil is available, these alternatives will continue to be underdeveloped and written off. Thus, it is vital that global oil reserves DO run out, because continued reliance on oil will be more destructive than any peak oil crises could ever be.

If I were you, I would be much more concerned about sustained oil supplies provoking a new ice age or the human population continuing to grow after it has already passed the earth's carrying capacity than the prospects of living without oil. Even if 90% of the human population dies off, I can't say I'd be sorry to see it happen. If we continue to parisitically consume and destroy our own planet, while being feuled by oil, it is only fitting that mother nature kill us off once we have raped her to the core.

Yikes 18.Feb.2004 00:55

James

You're right, and I didn't mean to suggest we should all live in 80-story skyscrapers. But I think residents of San Francisco, most of whom cannot come close to affording a home anywhere near downtown, would beg to differ about what is "optimal." This is pretty offtopic though, which I'm frequently criticized for, so I'll try and leave this one alone for now.

"James, please cite your sources. I have not found one scientific refutal of the peak oil issue."

Well, first, you might take a looksie at the USGS 2000 EUR Assessment, which estimated something on the order of 3 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. Some people have problems with the assessment and claim the numbers are fudged, for political reasons. I'll freely admit most of it is outside my area of knowledge, so I'm not in a great position to judge whether or not that's true. But the USGS conclusions certainly differ with the conclusions of the doomsayers.

Michael Lynch has written frequently about the unlikelihood of peak oil being reached by 2010. Here's one such commentary:

Closed Coffin: Ending the Debate on "The End of Cheap Oil" A commentary
 http://sepwww.stanford.edu/sep/jon/world-oil.dir/lynch2.html

Another commentary worthy of your reading focuses on past predictions of energy demand, which have frequently been wrong. This is important, because even small changes in demand variables make huge differences over decades. You'll find it here:

Oil: Are we running out?
 http://geology.ou.edu/library/aapg_oil.pdf

Those are just a few, which I've found with a quick Google search. I'm sure you'll find more if you look much. The articles listed above really are a small sampling.

Oil is the cheapest energy available to us, what with easily extractable Saudi crude and all. I don't dispute that. If we reach peak oil production, energy prices will go up. That much *is* true. I want to be clear that I don't dispute that.

But I do dispute the notion that such an increase in prices -- and commensurate re-allocation of resources -- would have the dire effects on society that the doomsayers claim. Oil usage accounts for something like 40% of the energy consumption in this country. We can't replace that overnight, but we quite easily could over a period of two, or three decades. We could build new light water-moderated nuclear power plants, which are safe. We could build more wind farms. Wave generator farms. Solar fields -- especially if we really see 35+% efficiency solar cells available cheaply, as Boeing claims we soon will.

There is an ever growing number of alternatives available. None of them are cheaper than oil, but many of them are not a great deal more expensive. If they are not much more expensive, then the problem is not a large one. We're not going to run out of oil overnight, nor is energy demand going to go down. So even if we *already have* reached peak oil production, it's not a problem. We -- as a society and market -- will simply re-allocate resources towards other energy sources: renewables, coal, nuclear, etc.

It requires little in the way of government help. This is a classic problem solved by the "invisible hand." (Not that I think it's wrong to help this along. I've advocated for various new taxes on oil, or gasoline here before, with revenues feeding into a special trust fund to support renewable energy research and subsidizing. I'd support a $0.75/gallon tax on gasoline, or a $10/barrel tariff on foreign oil, if and only if the proceeds are directed into specific trust funds for renewables).

But there is no evidence that peak oil has been reached. Some doomsayers say we're already reaching it, and they point to flat growth in oil production as evidence of that. But that's not a good piece of evidence to look at.

If we were dealing with a truly free market, influenced solely by supply and demand, it could be. But we are not. We're dealing with OPEC and other price-fixing cartels, which control production to influence prices. They have, in recent years, stuck to a policy of keeping world oil prices within the $20 - $25 range, by limiting their production.

What's somewhat interesting is that in this time period -- the last 5 years or so -- energy demand (and consumption) has increased, but oil production has been flat. What has happened is that since oil prices shot-up from $15 to $22+ in the period 1996 - 1998, energy production has shifted to other sources. While energy consumption from oil was flat from 1999-2001, energy consumption from all other major sources (gas, hydro, nuclear, coal) went up, to meet demand.

You can see a graph of this here:
 http://production.investis.com/bp2/ia/stat/

I never said we shouldn't pursue alternative energy sources. I went out of my way to say otherwise. In fact, I said at the end of my last post:

"There are many other good reasons to end our oil addiction. Peak Oil is just one of those reasons, something to think about along with all the rest."

I believe that. We should get off oil for cleaner skies, to end our foreign dependence, and because I think it's safe to assume that within the next few decades at least, alternatives will become cheaper than oil is presently.

I'm not an oil executive. I just don't believe we'll reach peak oil in 2010, or that it'll be an unmitigated disaster when we do finally reach it.

Also, I'm interested in a show of hands: How many here believe in peak oil *and* global warming as a human-induced occurrence? How do you reconcile those two beliefs?

Grrr, accidentally missed the top of my last comment. 18.Feb.2004 00:57

James

Cut and paste error. My apologies. The text below should have been at the top of the previous comment:

Quite a bit of commentary since I was last here. I'll start with the outright stupid comments and go from there.

"You running a reactor in your Escalade? How soon will that nookyular option trickle down to those of us driving Kias?"

No. But maybe I'm running on an electric engine, powered by near-frictionless flywheel batteries, charged from the outlet in my home, receiving power from the local nuclear power plant. Or it could be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, with hydrogen converted from water by electrolysis, using power generated by photovoltaics.

"James comes off like a serious researcher, but pretty soon you realize that although he can appear to cite a lot of info and sound good, the ideas behind his facts stem from absurdities."

Extremities, perhaps. But I guess that's par for the course around these parts, even if my swing is a bit different. I stand by most of what was said in that thread you linked to, including that which you quoted. (Even if I might phrase it somewhat differently if the subject were broached again).

"The matter is not so simple as you make it out to be."

sfjskdyu,hx 18.Feb.2004 10:16

bjsrthsf

Sybil

the problem with the current situation is that it will require large amounts of oil to create the alternatives you suggest. It takes oil to produce solar cells, wires, motors, provide tranportation, etc etc etc

If oil were to run out today, indutrial civilization would collapse... period... and many billions would die... that is what would happen. This is not theoretical.

The fertilizer that is used to prop up the food industry and counteract the depleted soil and force the amount of food per acre is critical to sustaining the level of population. If oil suddenly stopped, there would be mass starvation die-off before more sustainabl practices were established. Today, oil is food.

Many many millions of people live in places where their food and water and other goods are shipped in using oil. If oil ceased, they would all migrate elsewhere, with huge shortages forcing warring over resources.

The situation is serious. Not insurmountable, but very serious.

Noone predicts we will 18.Feb.2004 11:35

James

You're misunderstanding peak oil. Noone suggests we're going to run out of oil tomorrow. If we hit peak oil this year, we'd have decades of oil left. The decline would be gradual, easily offset by alternatives.

It wouldn't even take an effort by government, as I touched on. As prices rose, people would turn to alternatives of their own volition, to save a buck. As they did so, demand for oil would go down, as would prices.

Which is why I said in my previous comment:

"Oil usage accounts for something like 40% of the energy consumption in this country. We can't replace that overnight, but we quite easily could over a period of two, or three decades."

More likely scenario 18.Feb.2004 18:31

Wes

Gas /oil will get more expensive and scarce and some event or Saudi leader will disrupt the nice transition and we'll all be in a shitload of trouble. But we will be able to laugh hysterically at the big SUVs as they can only get a few miles on their ration of gas.

To bjsrthsf 18.Feb.2004 19:18

Sybil

I understand your concerns about the implications of oil running out, and it will run out eventually. However, fossil feul consumption is creating the global climate conditions that will very quickly lead to a domino effect of global warming, oceanic conveyor belt shutdown, rapid entry into another ice age, draught, phamon, plagues, species extinctions, and natural disasters. Thus, worrying about running out of oil at this point is kind of like worrying about your car breaking down when your about to drive full speed into a brick wall.

"If oil were to run out today, indutrial civilization would collapse... period... and many billions would die... that is what would happen. This is not theoretical."

And if industrial civilization continues in its current course, it will also lead to its own collapse, with billions of people dying.

"The fertilizer that is used to prop up the food industry and counteract the depleted soil and force the amount of food per acre is critical to sustaining the level of population. If oil suddenly stopped, there would be mass starvation die-off before more sustainable practices were established. Today, oil is food."

Again, petroleum fertilizer is not required for effective agriculture. Human and animal waste, crop rotation, and tree plots encouraging natural rodent and insect predators have been proven to yield healthy and sustainable agricultural production. Furthermore, the byproduct of petroleum fertilizer is the pollution of our waterways, which creates algae blooms that kill fish and coral reefs that many parts of the world depend on for food.

In addition, the current human population has exceeded the earth's carrying capacity, meaning that we are depleting the ocean's fish stocks, natural aquifers, agricultural lands, and forest at an unsustainable level. In other words, the current level of population cannot be sustained period. Thus, unless the entire world quickly adopts Chinese style regulations on reproduction, we will inevitably encounter a massive collapse of population in one way or another - starvation, global climate change, plagues, war, natural resource collapse, whatever - it really makes no difference how it happens, the result is the same.

So, the point is, worrying about running out of oil at this point should be one of our last concerns, and in many ways it would be a blessing considering the alternatives. If the industrialized world collapses, this is probably the best thing that can happen to the earth and the rest of its inhabitants, considering that we are consuming the world resources at the highest rate while oppressing the developing world's population to maintain our unsustainable lifestyle. If we are the first to go because we are incapable of adopting organic agriculture, alternative energy, and public transportation, then it is only fitting that our greed and stubbornnes is what kills us in the end.

"Peak Oil" and the Many Excuses for Complacency 19.Feb.2004 01:35

Agent Adam Smith

Here, in a nutshell, we've seen the reasons why it is so hard to mobilize people into serious action on this issue. There are so many excuses for complacency:

Sybil illustrates the "left" reasons for such complacency: We're already f*cked anyway. Maybe if we just burn up the remaining oil faster, we'll save ourselves even more problems in the long run. This reminds me of jokes people used to make. "Ah was so scared about pollution and all them nasty oil spills, Ah bought me a 8 cylinder muscle car! Figger Ah oughta do mah part to burn up that nasty oil fastah!"

James illustrates the soothing, mellifluous sirens songs of Free Market Libertarianism: "Don't worry. Be happy. The Invisible Hand will seamlessly ensure a smooth transition to alternative energy sources."

The attraction of these excuses for inaction illustrates a lot of very instructive things. For one thing, it tells us something about the mortal terror that this subject inspires in people, that it so quickly stirs up their self-defense mechanisms as to make any refuge from facing reality attractive.

People in our culture are unaccustomed to thinking about "limits." The very idea seems vaguely "un-American." The thought of having to face severe limits in consumption and figure out how to share stuff in a neighborly fashion to make it go around seems utterly unrealistic. The last time people in this country had to do anything like that was World War II. It seems only the dread of an external enemy is enough to stir up a passion in Americans for such discipline and community-mindedness. That's part of why Bushco is so successful. Just seize the world's oil reserves by FORCE until we can figure out how to tide ourselves over. In its own way, this probably IS the establishment oligarchy's response to the problem, the one it has judged to be the most palatable, both from their own standpoint and that of "public opinion."

Another reason complacency goes over so well is that it plays perfectly to Americans' ahistorical anti-intellectualism. Especially the part about the "Invisible Hand." What people seem to forget is that this "Invisible Hand" has historically been perfectly content to solve problems of scarcity by the simple expedient of mass starvation. People in vast swathes of the world starved en masse at the turn of the century, during the huge El Nino wave that struck the world at the time. It's not that grain was unavailable, or even means of transport. Millions starved to death on the Indian subcontinent, for example, most of them within spitting distance of railroads and in many cases full grain silos. Grain was scarce but, whereas in previous times formal and informal social safety nets assured that it would be distributed to the needy, the British imperialists insisted on honoring the Gods of the Free Market and it's Invisible Hand. Grain speculation soon drove up prices so high that even places unaffected by shortages saw mass starvation. I recommend reading the book "Late Victorian Holocausts" by Mike Davis to learn more.

The only half-joking notion that we're better off "burnin' 'er up faster" is blown out of the water when you contemplate what will be in store for us while the world is flailing to achieve "transition." If we have to move to coal, for example, or oil shales, we'll be facing massive pollution, strip mines, water contamination, and so on, in a world of growing scarcity where we have less resources to bounce back from the negative effects of these "externalities."

France this past summer is an instructive example. The French were seemingly well prepared to face petroleum shortages AND global warming, having built the world's most extensive civilian nuclear power infrastructure, with some 80% of their electricity needs met by nuclear. However, when struck with the most recent wave of unprecedented, extreme weather conditions, with Paris baking in 105 degree (F) heat for days on end, energy demand skyrocketed. Nuclear plants had to be run at or near capacity, generating waste heat at levels too high to be safely expelled into the natural environment. They then had to risk boiling the fish alive in the surface waters of rivers, already overheated due to the ambient temperatures alone.

What we really need is a disciplined program of conservation and conversion to alternative energy sources and energy thrifty machinery and lifestyles. We need a crash course in repairing our cities to make them both more livable and more ecological. This is a "no regrets" strategy, regardless of the outcome of global warming or when oil production peaks. Finally, I would add, we need to nationalize the world's petroleum and hold it in trust to make sure that every cent collected on a gallon of gas, over and above the cost of producing it, is used towards making this transition and offsetting negative side effects, and not lining the pockets of oil executives.

Because of the reality of unanticipated "network effects," complacency of any sort is uncalled for. Think about it: Would any of us respond with such complacency in our personal lives, if our children were faced with a potential scarcity of food to eat due to our own inaction or carelessness? Would we sit on our hands and hope the "Free Market" would take care of things? Yet our culture as a whole is perfectly content to engage in such recklessness.

Limits of "The Market" and Fallacies of Free Market Evangelism 19.Feb.2004 03:58

Agent Adam Smith

I thought I should say a few more words on the subject of the much vaunted "Free Market" and its Invisible Hand here.

The Free Market should be given its due. It excels at distributing, say, toothbrushes, and ensuring supply and demand meet on the level of certain simple commodities. No one would seriously propose that toothbrush supply and manufacture needs to be nationalized.

Where the market shows its limitations is in situations that require longterm, large-scale commitments by society as a whole. Consider public transit. Private interests are unwilling to undertake the risky, longterm planning that major investments in public transit require. This is the reason the US has such an inadequate public transit infrastructure. The private automobile is almost the perfect vehicle by the lights of the market. Each vehicle is sold separately. The owner undertakes all the costs and risks of maintenance, insurance, fuelling. Even the cost of tooling up an entire assembly line pales in comparison to the costs of planning a public transit system for a major city. By worshipping so slavishly at the altar of the Free Market, Americans have deprived themselves of decent public transportation, among other things.

The vaunted Free Market also does a bad job of meeting demands that can't be quantified in dollars. Another reason the need for public transportation is poorly met by the market is that many of those most in need of it don't have the money to pay a lot for it. Even though access and some reasonable mobility are preconditions of participating fully in society, our society doesn't adequately acknowledge these truisms and accordingly underfunds this vital need, which the market is under no obligation to provide.

Also, the "Free Market" is not good at pricing things that are not truly commodities in the Marxist sense. Commodities are items sold at a price reflecting primarily the value of human labor. Non-renewable resources fail this definition. The dangers of leaving such things to the "Free Market" are the same as the dangers arising from any monopoly. The monopolist can turn his monopoly into a source of rents for access. As oil becomes scarcer, and our dependency on it for basic survival grows, this danger increases. This is unacceptable.

Finally, the market is not guided by any moral agency. Without detailed regulatory and political supervision and intervention, it is as likely to produce pernicious and sociopathological results as not, indeed more likely. It makes a very big difference to most of us if the problem of energy scarcity is solved by resorting to highly polluting coal or nuclear energy, or by planning now for an energy efficient, green future. If we want sane, ecological cities, we will have to undertake a massive dismantling and rebuilding project, since much of the urban wastelands that have been built in this country in the past century are sustainable only at colossal costs to the environment and other species. The "Free Market" is not going to spontaneously bankroll and initiate this project. It can only come about through the direct political engagement of millions of citizens at the grassroots level.

misleading statistics on energy 19.Feb.2004 04:25

Agent Adam Smith

James cites the figure of 40% for the share of energy supplied by petroleum in this country. This overlooks the fact that many vital sectors depend on petroleum for far more than that, agriculture and transportation prominent among them.

Also, the ability of other energy sources to supplant petroleum without major adverse side effects of their own is not infinitely elastic. We're just about tapped out of hydro, and the hydro we're already using has had devastating impacts on the environment. Coal and uranium strip mining has laid waste large expanses of the countryside already, and it's highly polluting. Nuclear energy by itself might seem attractive from the standpoint of pollution but, as France illustrates, waste heat is a serious environmental problem. Long-lived radioactive waste is another.

All in all, we'd be a lot better off NOT burying our heads in the sand and hoping these problems spontaneously take care of themselves through the atomized, amoral "Free Market," but instead taking the initiative socially and politically to actively shape a humane and sustainable future for everyone.

A natural age based die off would be preferable to starvation and disease 19.Feb.2004 09:55

MK

An unmanaged oil collapse will lead to certain starvation, disease, and political and technological chaos. Recovery from this condition will be difficult.

If we can get our leadership to face the reality of peak oil, we might be able to live in James' world. I don't think pure market forces will have the heart to make this happen.

A managed, positive outcome can occur if technology is used to cushion the oil fall, and allow time for a natural age based die off to reduce the population gracefully. If we can make oil conservation and population reduction critical priorities, we might be able to use the remaining resources to develop the means of sustaining a small population. The result would hopefully be a small, healthy, and technologically advanced human population living on a much healthier Earth.

This is certainly a more worthwhile make-work and spending project than a trip to Mars.

not true 21.Feb.2004 08:32

cannon

Sybil, while it is true that it is possible to exist without oil, and farm without it, as you said, the point is that we donīt, and we donīt have the infrastructure to do it. To switch to all these alternatives would require lots of oil. I donīt doubt that we will eventually switch to them, the question is, will we do it in time? Probably not.

Regression to the mean 14.Mar.2004 22:11

edminster

I always like to look to history for ideas about the future. Bet on the mean and you will usually win.
Before fossil fuels, after mature agriculture:
1. Land is deforested
2. Few baths are taken (cold "french baths" oh la la)
3. Fresh water is scarce
4. People are short and consume less food
5. Residential structures are about 6 stories max
6. Individual people dont cook their own food, too inefficient.
7. Peasants/Serfs/Slaves instead of machines ("Come see the violence inherit in the system. Help, help, I'm being repressed")
8. In cold climes, beds are nooks so your breath heats the space.
9. People snuggle a lot to keep warm and wear all of their clothes.
10. No mass transportation, foot power is the norm.
11. Houses are close together
12. Towns are walled
13. Houses are made of mud and stone and straw (wood houses get burned one way or another, over time)
14. Potage anyone?

BTW, USGS and EIA fudge their forward numbers and even admit it in the fine print. We are likely in peak now, but the economy interacts with energy prices in a very complex way so i suspect you'll see the tail trail way out as the economy slows. The biggest worry I have is that govt keeps jumping through more hoops to keep prices artificially low; the economy will become incrasingly distorted and erratic. For a fun ref:  http://qv3.com/policypete/policypete.htm

COST OF ONE TRUCK FULL OF GASOLINE 31.Mar.2005 06:00

Am thinking of openig a chain of service stations. bobemms@ comcast.net

How much is one truck of gasoling?

How maney gallions in one tank?


Thank You


Bob Emms  bobemms@comcast.net

503-245-3908
8010 S W Mapleleaf Tigard Oregon 97223