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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

150. "DICK CHENEY" PEAK OILERS

One of the oddest aspects of peak oil is attitudes toward conservation. On the face of it, you would think that peak oilers (i.e. those who are aware of the impending decline in oil production) would be very pro-conservation. And, indeed, this is often the case (Amory Lovins being a good example).

However, as I have debated people about peak oil, I have noticed a surprising thing: many peak oilers are actually anti-conservation. I call these people "Dick Cheney peak oilers" because they essentially have the same view of conservation as Dick Cheney:

"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."
Generally, peak oil has strong left-wing overtones (environmentalism, resistance to the Iraq War, contempt for Halliburton etc.) So why would peak oilers think like Dick Cheney?

Here's the first reason: Pessimists are committed to the idea of breakdown or collapse, so they fret about supply, like Dave over at the Oil Drum:
Here's the main point: Can anyone, anywhere, point to a large new secure supply of crude coming online anywhere in the next few (5) years that solves the supply and demand equation in that time frame and beyond? I think not.
When the IEA draws some crazy curve which says world demand is going to be 121mbd in 2030, pessimists like Dave really take it to heart. They genuinely think that the world is going to need that much oil. That is why they are pessimistic. The world will need 121mbd, but it's unlikely that amount will be forthcoming, so the system is going to breakdown.

I, on the other hand, am an optimist. I believe that most oil is wasted and conservation is actually quite easy. I don't believe we need most of the oil we are using today, so the failure to meet the 121mbd target is not really a big deal. Like I wrote back to Dave:
The error in your ways is that you are thinking only in terms of supply side solutions. You think that the failure to meet demand is a terrible problem. It's not. Most oil demand is for frivolous, wasteful uses (like single person commuting in the U.S.) It's a form of addiction, and demand destruction isn't a bad thing, it's "healing" or "getting better".

To answer your question: The large new supply of secure crude is going to come from conservation, i.e. U.S. commuters riding two-to-a-car instead of one-to-a-car etc.
I've found from experience that comments like the above really make the pessimists' blood boil. For example, here's a response from EricB:
You make me VERY VERY angry with talk like that.

YOU CANNOT "CONSERVE" WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE.

Conservation is DEAD. Let's call it "adaptation." Adaptation to scarcity. And no one can even pretend to know how this is going to affect a nation like the US that has ignorantly hogged oil for decades.

What you call "waste" is another fool's necessity.
Isn't that interesting? EricB -- a guy who is firmly in the doomer camp -- is talking like Dick Cheney. We can't conserve because we really need the oil.

The fact is: we don't need most of the oil we consume. The oil used to fuel personal automobiles, for example, is totally unnecessary to live (or even to live at a first world standard of living). How do I know this? Because:

a) People lived for millenia without cars.
b) Even today, the vast majority of the people in the world don't have a car, and they aren't dying.
c) Lots of people live a comfortable first-world lifestyle without a car. I happen to be one of them.

So the sound bite "You can't live without a car" needs to be recognized for what it is: corporate brainwashing. Peak oilers who argue that supply shortages will be devastating because we need cars are on the Dick Cheney team. They are unpaid volunteers doing PR work for Halliburton, Exxon and GM.

This topic often turns into a debate about the "housing stock" in the U.S. Even if the pessimists grant that the U.S. doesn't really need the oil (because cars and sprawl are not strictly necessary), they will say it isn't "realistic" for the U.S. conserve because the housing stock is "locked in". Which, of course, sounds just like Dick Cheney. Americans must waste oil because they built their houses way out in the exurbs, and now it's too late. Like Dick Cheney says: "The American way of life is not negotiable."

But let's think about the term "housing stock". What is "housing" anyway? All you really need from housing is a warm place to sleep, some blankets and pillow, a roof over your head, a place to take a crap, and (ideally) running water.

So here's a conservation tip for people out in the exurbs: sleep at your office or workplace during the week, and commute on the weekends. That will reduce your commuting fuel usage by 80%, even with single person commuting.

Of course the pessimists will moan and howl over this one. It pisses them off that I am unmasking the "peak oil problem" for what it really is: a trivial lifestyle issue. Sleeping at the office just isn't "realistic". It's more realistic to think that the overweight American populace will wage bloody riots in the street -- because sleeping at the office a few nights a week is so ridiculously unthinkable. The American way of life is not negotiable, doncha know.
--by JD

33 Comments:

At Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 8:06:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course the pessimists will moan and howl over this one. It pisses them off that I am unmasking the "peak oil problem" for what it really is: a trivial lifestyle issue. Sleeping at the office just isn't "realistic". It's more realistic to think that the overweight American populace will wage bloody riots in the street -- because sleeping at the office a few nights a week is so ridiculously unthinkable. The American way of life is not negotiable, doncha know."


I agree totally, the doomer argument is sound if you believe that our lifestyle is totally unalterable - this has never proven to be correct. Energy shortages will change habbits, there will be lots of bitching and moaning as people accept that they can't commute every day (by themselves in a car, there are still parts of the country where train commuting is still very cheap and efficient way to get to work). The problem isn't lack of supply, it is lack of understanding that vast sweeping changes in your own personal lifestyle can and do occur. This is why the vast bulk of the PO doomer crowd is Americans, because the rest of the world already knows what the world "conservation" means.

I also don't think people give Americans enough credit either (I mean at the moment most people don't KNOW there will be a liquid fuel crisis yet), being one myself I can say that when presented with the facts I can cope with significant changes. Sleeping at the office you say? Well people would just call you weird for that at most places of employment today - but if gas was $20 a gallon I have a feeling that attitude would change, middle class people are better at adapting to hardship than I think they are given credit.

 
At Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 8:12:00 PM PST, Blogger James said...

To expand on the last thing JD said: You could either move closer to work permanently, or rent a cheap apartment closer to work, or along a transit corridor, and stay there for the week.

Even if you are stuck out in the exurbs or an outer-ring suburb, you can get triple-glazed windows, weatherstrip your house, turn the heat off when you leave the house, drive a fuel efficient car.

Cries that "we're screwed, we can't do anything!!" are clouds of hysteria that clear when one sits down and thinks the problem through...

 
At Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 10:04:00 PM PST, Blogger Paul Ramsey said...

This is where Kunstler has an insight which I fear might prove scarily prophetic, and that is that the American people will elect "corn pone Nazis" in their anger over their "diminished" circumstances. George Bush harvested a good deal of anger over gas prices caused by a hurricane. A hurricane. George has done some dumb things, but hurricanes aren't his fault. The government has been turned upside-down over far more trivial things than the kind of "lifestyle" disruption JD describes (*cough* terrorism *cough*). If people will hand over their civil rights over 9/11, what will they do to avoid sleeping under their desks 5 nights a week?

 
At Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 11:24:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

"the American people will elect 'corn pone Nazis' in their anger over their "diminished" circumstances."

Perhaps, but when oil gets to a certain price people will have to change their lifestyles. They just won't be able to afford it. So they'll change their lifestyles and get angry at the government; the two aren't mutually exclusive.

At some stage the government will realise that they have no control over oil prices. And after a while the public will also learn (the hard way) that the government has no control over oil prices.

(Remember prices will be very unstable as well, and the government will realise it's going to get blamed for every fluctuation unless it comes clean about how powerless it is. It actually makes more political sense in the long run.)

 
At Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 11:40:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Oh by the way, I also think that sometime down the track new technologies are likely to drastically reduce our needs for energy. Nanotechnology and convincing virtual reality are two examples (not to mention wacky new energy sources).

Don't accuse me of being complacent, since I'm not counting on this to happen. But there's a fair chance that 50 years from now all our fretting about Global Warming and Peak Oil will, in retrospect, seem really stupid.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895.

(http://www.amasci.com/weird/skepquot.html)

 
At Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 11:42:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corn pone Nazis can't wring more oil from the ground. Give the Americans some credit. When the situation can no longer be hidden, they'll know who screwed them over.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 2:15:00 AM PST, Anonymous hurin said...

I don't really care much about cars. The problem when people hear about peak oil is their reaction to think about gas for cars when the real problem is diesel for trucks.

I work in a factory where we got about 15 trucks coming in and out a day.

I haven't done the math. But I'll bet my life just ONE of those trucks use more energy in a day, then all the workers use commuting to and from work.

People can carpool, buy a smaller car, move closer to work, or even ride a bike. But without diesel for trucks it makes no difference, because there will be no work for them to get to.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 3:24:00 AM PST, Blogger Roland said...

"I don't really care much about cars. The problem when people hear about peak oil is their reaction to think about gas for cars when the real problem is diesel for trucks."

I could be wrong, but there are a few big solutions to the problem of trucks ...
1. Less people driving cars wastefully means more fuel left for the trucks
2. Raise the price of goods marginally and you can pay for the extra transport
3. You can also use trains instead



"Corn pone Nazis can't wring more oil from the ground. Give the Americans some credit. When the situation can no longer be hidden, they'll know who screwed them over."

So true. (-:

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 4:16:00 AM PST, Anonymous Wildwell said...

Not to conserve is just a excuse. In some people’s minds they think this means ‘going without’, when really it means more bang for each buck making the economy more efficient.

1. Home insulation, more efficient white goods and light bulbs would make a huge difference. Even new building design making better use of the sun.

2. The average US car gets 21 to the gallon. Cars doing 60 to the gallon are available now, which means 1/3 of the oil use for cars, which us 40-50% of oil.

3. The modern economy has a huge amount of food miles. Trips to out of town shopping and shipping goods that can be grown nearby over huge distances.

4. More walking and cycling; designer urban environments for sports, recreation, home working and around light rail aka New urbanism would save huge amounts of energy. Flyweels, regen braking, streamlining and lighter materials to save transport energy.

5. Simple devices for making up for human laziness like turning lights out and lowering heating in rooms not in use would save huge amounts of energy.

There’s no excuse at all for not conserving, none.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 4:30:00 AM PST, Anonymous Omnitir said...

Most people can accept the fact that there is actually a massive amount of energy efficiency to be gained in western cultures. There are examples of high wasting of energy in almost every aspect of our lives. But most people don’t see that this increase in efficiency is indeed where we will meet supply shortages for a long time to come.

I’ve noticed that as soon as you mention efficiency and conservation, doomers mention Jevon’s paradox like it’s the crowning achievement of physics or something – Jevon’s paradox is basically that the more that technology improves efficiency, the greater the increase in resource consumption occurs. What the doomers fail to see is that Jevon’s paradox is not a law of physics but an observation, and logic tells us that Jevon’s paradox falls over on the down slope of the oil production curve.

Why?

Because when oil production is pumping at maximum but demand exceeds supply (the down slope post peak), any increase in efficiency doesn’t free up resources to allow an increase in consumption, it frees up resources to meet demand. And since the down slope is gradual, and there is plenty of room in our lives for increases in efficiency, it is going to be a very long time until demand truly exceeds supply.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 4:49:00 AM PST, Anonymous Omnitir said...

Oh, and regarding the necessary changes of lifestyles – no need to sleep under the desk. The modern age has given us another technological solution that will save massive amounts of waste in the system: modern telecommunications. There is a rapidly growing number of people that work from home. They can do everything they would normally do in the office, but they don’t have to even leave their home. Many of them get the added bonus of working flexible hours, and their employment is not restricted by geography. It’s all a part of what’s often referred too as the knowledge economy, and it’s already having considerable economic benefits the world over.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 8:31:00 AM PST, Blogger Nick said...

A couple of aspects of the "car problem" give me hope. One is that we don't have to replace all 200M cars to make a big difference: the average household has two cars, which means that if half the cars were highly efficient (and distributed evenly among households) people could shift their usage quite quickly to the more efficient one. Further, there's a lot of unused capacity in the car industry, so that production of efficient cars could be raised quite quickly (assuming the battery supply bottleneck is solved). 20M/year vehicle production could replace half of the car stock in just 5 years.

2nd, the Toyota hybrid design can be retrofitted with a higher battery capacity, and a plug-in capability. Once there is a large installed base of these cars, they will make rapid reaction to an energy crisis easier.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 11:09:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

JD:
It's ridiculous that you make conservation sounds so easy to the point of trivial. By you token, we can simply go back to stone age and use not a drop more oil, and problem solved?

If it is just a lifestyle change whether you sleep in the office or sleep at home. Then it is also just a lifestyle change whether we live in a cave or in an air-conditioned house. And it is also just a lifestyle change whether we eat raw food or cooked hot food. Or maybe it is also just a lifestyle change whether we will be naked or dress in warm clothes. After you make all the life style changes, we no longer have an oil problem, but we will be no different from animals.

You don't really know what peak oil really means. It doesn't mean we are completely run out of oil. But the supply will be declining, year by year. Each year it's 5% to 7% less than last year. And decline year by year. You will have to conserve and use 5% less next year than this year. And the year after, you have to further conserve another 5%-7%. And a year after, another 5%-7% reduction.

How can you do that? The society simply can't carry out such conservation persistently, without catastrophic consequence. If the diesel supply is reduced by half, that also mean half of the good will not be transported. And the grocery store will have half the shelf to sell. And people will have half the food to buy. And where as people have three regular meals per day, they now can have 1.5 regular meal per day and live with it.

So, I say this to JD: Start the conservation from yourself. Try to have just 2 meals a day instead of three. You will have set up a good example for us in conservation. I doubt if you can do this fasting for more than 3 days.

Another thing you can conserve, is maybe we should conserve the fuel airplanes consume. If you are taking a fly from LA to New York. Let's try to conserve half of the fuel by allowing the airplane to fly half of the distance, and you and the rest of passenger walk the other half distance. Can you do that?

There is just not much flexibility in conservation.

Quantoken

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 12:59:00 PM PST, Anonymous Adenosine said...

Who needs to have expensive oil to sleep at their desk for a few nights? Has everybody forgotten the late 90s? People did it simply for their company during the dotcom bubble, let alone because there we actual huge costs associated with commuting back and forth to work.

There will also be people who'd rather pay to commute than conserve, no matter what the price. I work with a person who commutes 24 miles to work every day (around here that's pretty far). Why doesn't he move closer? Because his girlfriend's mom would 'kill him.' When the price of gasoline gets high enough, he'll move (it's actually less expensive to live in the city proper than it is to live where he does).

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 1:16:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

quantoken, you make it sound like there's no difference between moderate conservation and going back to the Bronze Age.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 1:59:00 PM PST, Blogger dub_scratch said...

Wildwell wrote: "2. The average US car gets 21 to the gallon. Cars doing 60 to the gallon are available now, which means 1/3 of the oil use for cars, which us 40-50% of oil."
That's only true when you count only motor fuel to run the auto based system. That's a far too simplistic and erroneous factor. A more systematic analysis shows that those so called fuel efficient cars only do slightly better than the 21 MPG-ers out there. When you consider the oil it takes to build the cars, the roads, the parking structures, etc, an America motoring system based of hybrids is still too much of a gas hog.

I agree strongly with JD here. We're not doomed due to some change in oil availability. It is just that some of the luxuries, such as sitting stuck in miserable traffic jams, are the things that are doomed. But when we finally shed our needless metal boxes, we'll find that we really don't need anywhere near the amount of oil we are consuming today. I also think that there will be a time when we will be glad to do it too.

Cars suck! When we get around to negotiating this way of life we’ll find that there’s no problem living oil-lite.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 2:39:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What astonishes me about this topic more than anything is that none of the replies to Quantoken's comment actually addressed his point. This seems to be endemic to optimistic arguments, but that's another can of worms.

The point is that we're going to be forced to conserve 5-7% per year. The first year, we just drive a little less. The next year, we get new jobs closer to home (that probably don't pay as well). The next year, we don't drive to the store and buy as much stuff and bunches of people lose their jobs. The next year, the trucks stop rolling into wal mart altogether, and its every city or region for itself. The next year, you can't even get seeds shipped to you because we're conserving. The next year, the power grid goes off every other day because we're conserving. And so on. We use oil right now for luxury, yes. But we also use it for critical, life supporting activity and we're just not tooled for anything else. Once we cut away the pork, we'll start having to cut into the stuff that keeps us alive.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 3:16:00 PM PST, Anonymous omnitir said...

“The point is that we're going to be forced to conserve 5-7% per year.”
Funny how many doomers rant about how for the past few decades, oil production has barely been increasing at all, only a fraction of a percent each year as we approach peak. Yet when they talk about the decline side of production, it suddenly jumps from a fraction of a percent to “5 to 7% per year”.

According to Hubbert and his many followers, the down slope matches the up slope. The decline in production is going to be a very slow and gradual decline, not a sharp and sudden drop. This slow decline will give us many years of matching the decline with conservation. Over these years there will be much incentive to make the transition off fossil fuels.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 3:57:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plus there are sources of fuel other than oil. Coal liquefaction, at the very least. Even if they can't fill in the whole shortfall they can prevent catastrophe.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 4:00:00 PM PST, Blogger dub_scratch said...

omnitir wrote:

"According to Hubbert and his many followers, the down slope matches the up slope. The decline in production is going to be a very slow and gradual decline, not a sharp and sudden drop. This slow decline will give us many years of matching the decline with conservation. Over these years there will be much incentive to make the transition off fossil fuels."

...and there will be slow but abundant non-conventional petrol fuels, natural gas imports, nuclear, renewables. All at a lower level of energy then what we are used to, but enough to run a decent, sizable 1st world population without their Idiot boxes (a.k.a. cars).

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 4:07:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

"The point is that we're going to be forced to conserve 5-7% per year."

5-7% a year is an oversimplification. The price will oscillate like it does now. Oil is likely to plateau before it falls. Different countries will be affected differently because of different oil supply arrangements. And I agree with Ominitir; think it will fall much slower than 7%. 3-5% is the figure I'm used to seeing.

"If the diesel supply is reduced by half, that also mean half of the good will not be transported."

No, because fewer cars will be on the road, thus freeing up more oil for trucks. Plus, you can use trains instead. Half the diesel doesn't automatically mean half the food.

"... Once we cut away the pork, we'll start having to cut into the stuff that keeps us alive." "Society simply can't carry out such conservation persistently, without catastrophic consequence."

* It will take a long time to "cut away the pork". If oil prices rose at a steady 5% a year, it would still take almost a decade to add 50% to the cost of petrol. JD just proposed a solution that cuts away 80%, if people implement it.

* Between 1974 and 1984 the oil price increased on average 15% a year, not including a massive spike in the middle. Consumer behaviour dealt with the problem. IEA: "One of the key lessons of the previous crises is that travel demand can be reduced (or drop on its own accord) fairly quickly, during a supply crisis."

* If all the measures in the IEA "Saving Oil in a Hurry" report were implemented you could instantly cut away another 30%, not including voluntary conservation.

* Petrol already costs 3 times as much in Europe as in the US, and far fewer people drive cars.

* If the situation was that serious, in ten years you would see more things like biodiesel, ethanol, smaller cars, hybrids, gas, better public transport, goods transported by train, denser living, and so forth. My favourite short-term solution of all is grid-powered electric cars.

* Conservation is not permanent. It's only necessary until new technologies increase our energy supplies or decrease our energy needs. The idea that PO will halt innovation is bull, it will have the opposite effect. In fact it's the best thing that could happen to us. I hate oil.

* I also personally believe oil will not peak for another decade or so.

I'm not saying it will be effortless, but I'm tired of people who confuse "serious economic problem" with "end of the world". Yes, the car companies and airlines are screwed. Yes, PO could cause the end of the world. So could an asteroid, or a supervolcano, or a nuclear war, or an alien invasion.

I'm tired of seeing people fret about one possible outcome for the future instead of celebrating the massive array of solutions to it.

My favourite quote:

"We are burdensome to the world. The resources are scarcely adequate to us; and our needs straiten us and complaints are everywhere while already nature does not sustain us. Truly, pestilence and hunger and war and flood must be considered as a remedy for nations, like a pruning back of the human race becoming excessive in numbers."

Quintus Septimus Florence Tertillianus, Roman citizen, 200 A.D.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 5:14:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roland: electric cars are not a short-term solution, because you have to build them. Medium- to long-term, they're really good.

Great post otherwise.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 5:41:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

I can cite plenty of examples that once an oil field start to decline, the decline will be very rapid. Just look at the post-peak US oil production.

The important point is the decline will be continuous, year by year decline, each year is less than last year. Let's say it's just 5% year by year decline. It's a huge problem.

Some suggest that a 5% decline of oil production just mean 5% more oil price. No, that's not the correct correlation. The way it works is supply and demand will always be balanced. When supply does not meet demand, the price will just keep going up up up, until the price is so high that people are forced to consume 5% less unconditionally. And then next year, the price go up even more, to force people to cut another 5% from consumption. And it continuous year by year.

And it is WRONG to assume people will drive less, leaving more oil from trucks to transport food and other essentials. People HAVE to get to work no matter what, and public transportation is simply not available in lots of cases. The result is more likely the cut comes from trucks, resulting in companies going bankrupt, sky high food price, and all that.

You may think science, technology and innovation can save us. No they can't. They take huge amount of time, money and effort to create. We simply do not have enough time. All researches cost money. If people can't drive to work, they don't have income and can't pay tax, and then we don't have the money for research. A collapsing economy simply can not support any large scientific research project at all.

We can save some gas by switching to hybrid cars. I am driving a Prius at 60 MPG. But it is infeasible for the whole society to do so in such a short period of time. Toyota produced mere 400K Prius annually this year. Even if the production can ramp up. It costs a lot of fossil fuels to produce all the stuff that produce cars. At $24K each, should you replace all the 150 million cars in America, it costs you 3.6 trillion dollars.

The production activity related to each vehicle consumes about 10 times the vehicle's weight in terms of petrolem. So a 1 ton prius costed 10 ton of oil. 150 million prius will cost us 1.5 billion tons of oil, or 9 billion barrel. We do not have any spare oil capacity to ramp up vehicle productions to such a scale.

Quantoken

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 5:43:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny how many doomers rant about how for the past few decades, oil production has barely been increasing at all, only a fraction of a percent each year as we approach peak. Yet when they talk about the decline side of production, it suddenly jumps from a fraction of a percent to “5 to 7% per year”.

Why it would have to match is beyond me. The history of oil hasn't been a perfect bell curve so far, and I doubt the downslope will be either. 5-7% is based on my read of depletion rates in the most important oil producing regions, though admittedly I'm a student of the topic, not a master. That said, I'm pretty certain that's the correct range.

It will take a long time to "cut away the pork". If oil prices rose at a steady 5% a year, it would still take almost a decade to add 50% to the cost of petrol. JD just proposed a solution that cuts away 80%, if people implement it.

The rise in price will not be proportional to the decline in production. Looking over production data and price data over the last few years would convince anyone of that. If oil production declines a couple points, prices may remain the same, may jump a little, or (more likely) may go through the roof.

* If the situation was that serious, in ten years you would see more things like biodiesel, ethanol, smaller cars, hybrids, gas, better public transport, goods transported by train, denser living, and so forth. My favourite short-term solution of all is grid-powered electric cars.

I recommend you become acquainted with history. The situation has been "that serious" many times, and people have wandered blissfully on until it was too late. The vast majority of people are terrible at collective planning.

Conservation is not permanent. It's only necessary until new technologies increase our energy supplies or decrease our energy needs. The idea that PO will halt innovation is bull, it will have the opposite effect. In fact it's the best thing that could happen to us. I hate oil.

No, the fact that our brains are limited in their capacity will do that. Where are all these new technologies that we're going to need? Every single one I've seen was either based on a theory that contradicted physics or that was not scalable. If someone comes up with a viable alternative to oil, I'm putting my money there. Until then, however, answers like this are both foolish and foolhardy.

I'm not saying it will be effortless, but I'm tired of people who confuse "serious economic problem" with "end of the world".

Again, acquaint yourself with history, and especially economic history. Economics is literally what keeps complex societies from dying. I can't make everything I need for my own survival. I can do a few things really well, though, and I can trade what I do for things that other people do. That's the basics of economics. If the economy collapses (not a depression, a literal collapse) then I can't get what I need to survive, and neither can anyone else.

I'm tired of seeing people fret about one possible outcome for the future instead of celebrating the massive array of solutions to it.

What massive array of solutions? Analyze correctly and you'll see that the number of solutions shrinks to very few. Those solutions that do work are, to use a euphamism, unpleasant.

That said, humanity will survive (probably), and we will maintain most of our knowledge, and will even have a global society. But not without significant hardship and lots of bloodletting beforehand.

As a doomer, I most often tell people that no matter who you are or what situation you're in, you've at least got a chance of making it. I don't believe in giving up hope. But facing up to the reality of what is happening tells us that we're in for a seriously bad time. If there's any hope for a solution, it's in first realizing just how bad the situation is.

 
At Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 8:41:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Economics is literally what keeps complex societies from dying. I can't make everything I need for my own survival. I can do a few things really well, though, and I can trade what I do for things that other people do. That's the basics of economics. If the economy collapses (not a depression, a literal collapse) then I can't get what I need to survive, and neither can anyone else.

I suppose the difference between us is that I believe there will be an economic depression, but not a collapse.

That said, humanity will survive (probably), and we will maintain most of our knowledge, and will even have a global society. But not without significant hardship and lots of bloodletting beforehand.

I never said there would be no hardship. I think lots of people are in for a rough ride. What I don't agree with is the theory that we're irrevocably headed for armageddon. It looks like that's common ground for us.

I believe Peak Oil is predominantly a short-term problem for the oil-dependent developed world. In other words, Los Angelinos should worry, but small-scale farmers in central Africa shouldn't. Neither should Italian villagers. Or the Swedish. Or my hypothetical grandchildren.

Societies like South Africa, Cuba and WW2 Germany and England had their oil supplies suddenly reduced or cut off, and managed alright. It wasn't easy, but they found solutions. And there are so many more technologies available than in the 1970s.

Moreover, different countries will be affected differently. Here in Australia, for example, we have abundant untapped natural gas reserves which can easily supply our energy for the next two decades, and I'm encouraging everyone I know to get their cars converted.

Overall I have plenty of faith that we can work things out. Civilization has been so much more screwed than this in the past (e.g. World War II). That's why I can't stand the die-off rubbish of LATOC and the likes. Human ingenuity and resilience never ceases to amaze me.

 
At Friday, November 4, 2005 at 9:36:00 AM PST, Anonymous rmark said...

If I recall correctly, Hubberts work does not require a symetrical bell curve. He likely traced it that way for convenience.

 
At Sunday, November 6, 2005 at 12:32:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why it would have to match is beyond me. The history of oil hasn't been a perfect bell curve so far, and I doubt the downslope will be either. 5-7% is based on my read of depletion rates in the most important oil producing regions, though admittedly I'm a student of the topic, not a master. That said, I'm pretty certain that's the correct range."

Why are doomers so willing to accept Campbell et al's forcasts for imminent peak but poo-poo the 3% or so decline rate they see?

 
At Sunday, January 29, 2006 at 2:53:00 PM PST, Blogger eddie_lomax said...

One comment here, the downslope of the peak oil without unconvential oil will probally be very sheer indeed. The upslope has been gentle for the world as we have had primitive technology and had to find each and every field out there.

Modern technology has shown itself to just extract what is there even quicker, a la north sea, when decline proper cuts in I expect the OPEC/Nationalised oil decline to be around 4-6% and the rest of world to be 8-10%. Fortunately the unconvential oil should blunt it a little, but I can't see it falling gently by a nice 2-3% a year in any scenario.

 
At Sunday, January 29, 2006 at 6:17:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Hi eddie, welcome to POD.
Please see the following analysis if you are concerned about post peak decline rates:

Hubbert Theory says Peak is Slow Squeeze

 
At Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 4:02:00 PM PST, Blogger ridiculous_fish said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the obvious and much less inconvenient alternative - telecommute to work.

 
At Friday, May 30, 2008 at 1:17:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well it's 2008 and gas is $4 in the USA. a gal. What's the predicted price at peak oil? $20?

 
At Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 5:35:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Barbara Celarent said...

You must have named this website Peak Oil Debunked just to grab people's attention as a contrarian, because I don't see any debunking going on. If, as your disclaimer says, you believe oil is finite, then extraction of it must at some point diminish, and the high point before that diminution is considered peak. Otherwise, if there is no peak, there is no reduction in oil production. The shape of that curve and time when it occurs is immaterial to the argument. You are all just quibbling over details--sleeping under desks, gentle downsloping of production curve versus steep precipice, diesel for trucks, commuter trains.

As I see it, your actual position, then is not that peak oil can be debunked, but that it will not be catastrophic. I will give you that point, but then you've still accepted peak oil as a premise.

On a side note--or perhaps not so ancillary--you primarily addressed transportation and lifestyle issues. Looming larger than that however, modern agriculture doesn't happen without fossil fuels. Fertilizers are made from natural gas and pesticides from oil. Of course, the tractors run on diesel; irrigation water must be pumped out of the ground. I could go on, but you get my point. It takes 10 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of food. We literally grow our food with oil.

So you can talk of just sitting at home, carpooling, buying less stuff trucked in from far away, but you'll be sitting, carpooling and buying less with an empty stomach.

 
At Friday, March 5, 2010 at 10:03:00 PM PST, Blogger LeftLibertarian said...

This entry is basically an admission of peak oil. I'd say change the name of the blog but I guess you already gave up.

 

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