free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 392. BOOK REVIEW: "THE MYTH OF THE OIL CRISIS"

Saturday, January 24, 2009

392. BOOK REVIEW: "THE MYTH OF THE OIL CRISIS"

[This post is by Ari, my co-blogger at POD. --JD]

The Myth of the Oil Crisis (MotOC) is a very recently published book (2008) by Robin Mills on the subject of oil, natural gas, and more broadly, energy. As the title suggests, Mills tackles the notion that we are on the brink of an “oil crisis,” known online largely by the monicker “peak oil,” from which the world will never recover. If Campbell and Laherrére are the professionals that gave the peak oil movement its credentialed weight (by being professional geologists), then Mills is perhaps the antithesis for the “debunking” movement. While the book is flawed, it presents a broad optimistic view of energy reserve availability and potential for development and supply of those reserves in the foreseeable future. What makes the book most important, however, is that Mills demonstrates, using easily accessed sources, that the imminent peak arguments are highly flawed and irrational.

Robin Mills is, according to his biographical blurb, “an oil industry professional with a background in both geology and economics. Currently (as of 2008), he is Petroleum Economics Manager for the Emirates National Oil Company in Dubai. Previously, he worked for Shell.” Mills is a fairly impressive person, even not including his graduate degree from Cambridge University (in petroleum geology), Then again, so are many of those who currently write about oil depletion from the “peak oil” side. What makes Mills different? For one, he's relatively young (born in 1976). But more importantly, he is someone who is currently in the thick of the oil business in the Middle East itself. Unlike many “peakniks,” Mills actively participates in the energy production business as I write this review. He is not some “armchair analyst” like many of us, and has more of a “veteran view” than many others seem to demonstrate.

Mills sets the stage by placing the oil commentators into five camps (examples chosen by me): The Geologists (Campbell, Laherrére, Deffeyes), The Economists (Odell, Lynch, CERA), The Militarists (who are actually made up of the militarists, media, and mercantilists), the Environmentalists (Greenpeace et al.), and the Neo-Luddites (Heinberg). It is important, I believe, to note that “The Geologists” doesn't refer to petroleum geologists, per se, but because they worked at some point in their careers as professional geologists. Mills notes that they can also be referred to as “Malthusians,” which is a fairly fitting appellation. Some may object to the rather broad categories that Mills uses to group the various commentators, however. After all, some actors clearly align with more than one camp. Nonetheless, it serves as a useful way to group the widely divergent views of the oil commentary community.

Mills' book's greatest strength is its ability to deconstruct the most frightening of the peak prophecies and show how they are either incorrect, or at the very least, misguided. He is thorough in demonstrating, through both data, and clear, well-sourced arguments, how the extreme pessimists of the energy commentary community are generally incorrect in their arguments and assumptions. He even demonstrates how Hubbert, commonly hailed as a sort of “peak oil prophet” (words mine), was hardly as accurate as he is shown to be. In fact, Mills scrutinizes Hubbert in the fourth chapter, entitled “Half-Full or Half-Empty?” Hubbert, despite his supposed accuracy, was actually fairly inaccurate on a lot of important issues, as Mills demonstrates in the following bullet points:
  • Hubbert actually proposed 1965 as his most likely peak date (US oil production); 1970 was a fallback if secondary recovery proved to be more successful than he expected (as it did)
  • Although arguably correct on the date of the peak, he was wrong about its height: total annual US production in 1970 was 20 percent (emphasis mine) higher than he expected...
  • He forecast that world oil production would peak between 1995 and 2000 at 33 million bbl/day. The true figure was 75 million bbl/day in 2000, and it has continued to rise subsequently.(MotOC pg. 42.)
Mills also demonstrates that the Hubbert curve, despite being seen as a sort of sacred truth of petroleum geology, fits many countries' production curves rather badly (notably the UK and Iraq) (pp 40-41.) He also-- rather adeptly, in my opinion-- demonstrates that peakniks are extremely pessimistic relative to nearly every other professional estimate of reserves. In fact, where Campbell says that the world has a total endowment of around 2000 billion bbl of oil, even the second most pessimistic estimate (Bentley) gives the world over 3000 billion bbl of oil-- that's a significant difference! Moreover, both Campbell and Bentley are over 1000 bbl behind the most conservative “non-peaknik” estimate of over 4000 billion bbl by CERA (supposed "Pollyannas," no less!). A key difference, Mills notes, is that everyone but The Geologists allows for significant reserves growth. An example of this is the reserve growth of around 69 billion bbl from the 2000 USGS review to its 2005 self audit, which amounts to nearly half of Campbell's YtF (yet to find)! If nothing else, the book demonstrates rather clearly that the peaknik community is beset in all directions by an institutionalized form of pessimism that rarely follows reality.

Another strength of Mills' book is the credence he pays toward economic factors. He shows, throughout the book, that economic factors play a significant role in energy production. One of the often ignored (or derided) factors in energy is the capital needed to keep it running smoothly. The Geologists see geography as the ultimate factor in deciding energy availability, but they are far too willing to ignore the fact that even assuming you have a powerful physical limitation in place, you cannot drill oil if you lack rigs and manpower. Unfortunately, we live in a world today where the physical and human capital needed to run the oil industry has become significantly scarcer than in decades past-- this is largely a consequence of the previous decades of incredibly cheap oil. These same low prices drove OPEC to reduce production as well, which allowed oil commentators (Simmons, for example) to say that Saudi Arabia is in a state of decline. Unfortunately for Simmons, KSA was merely responding rationally to low prices by reducing production. The reader will see a lot of this kind of debunking throughout the book. For some, it will be interesting to see the shriller voices of energy commentary dismantled. For many readers of this blog, however, it will be a rehashing of what has been said here by JD and others. Nonetheless, it is important stuff, and Mills does a good job of taking out some of the more pernicious fallacies with sound economic thinking.

Other topics that Mills deals with are unconventional oil, backdating (one of the more irritating traits of The Geologists), natural gas, geopolitics, demand, and finally the environment. I am glad to say that he does a good job of dealing with unconventional oil (it's not as impossible to produce as some say), backdating (basically, contemporary reserve growth is moved back in the past in order to make it look like we ain't finding more!), natural gas (energy of the future, he argues), and demand (not necessarily going to grow exponentially forever.) I was less impressed with his environmental arguments, mostly because I think he arrives from a strange foundation (The Stern Report). Regardless of my misgivings with his use of what I see as an unnecessarily alarmist paper, I believe it is a positive step to see petroleum executives treating CO2 emissions as a serious issue.

However, like I said at the beginning, there are problems with MotOC. For one, it is somewhat too technical for most laypersons to read without some difficulty. Mills does a commendable job with explaining the terminology as best as he can, but I sometimes found myself flipping to the glossary to relearn terms that I had forgotten from previous chapters. I also found myself occasionally having to reread sentences to figure out what Mills meant because he occasionally inserted sentences of length and complexity that would make Proust weary. While this is fine for an academic market that is used to dealing with long, convoluted prose, the book seems to be marketed more broadly toward a “well-educated” market. While Mills' sometimes awkward prose is not an overly serious issue, it does detract from the experience.

Overall, however, I recommend this book to the “armchair energy analysts” and anyone else who is interested in the topic of energy markets. It may not be groundbreaking for those of us who read this particular blog on a regular basis, but it is a useful text in the sense that it puts a great deal of important data at your fingertips, as well as giving a great deal of insight into the market itself. It is a challenging read, but it is definitely worth the time spent. I doubt it will turn any “doomers” or “peakniks” into optimists, but it will definitely put a lot of things into context for both “debunkers” and those sitting on the fence about the future. It is also, in my opinion, a good text to recommend to friends who stumble on to the “peak oil” scene for the first time, if only to give them insight into how flawed most of the doomsday arguments really are.
by Ari

235 Comments:

At Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 9:24:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

As always, please use the Name/URL option (you don't have to register, just enter a screen-name) or sign your anonymous post at the bottom. The conversation is better without multiple anons.
Thank you!
JD

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 2:08:00 AM PST, Blogger JD Walters said...

Thanks for the great review, Ari. It seems like he'll be a frustrating foil for the doomers because he is an 'oil insider' but takes the prospect of catastrophic environmental change seriously. Of course when the book came out the big news in the energy industry was the skyrocketing price of oil. Now we face a situation where the price is seriously depressed and companies are cutting back on capital and exploration expenditures. I wonder if you could say something about how he sees unconventional production being viable and in what price range?

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 5:39:00 AM PST, Anonymous HalfEmpty said...

he occasionally inserted sentences of length and complexity that would make Proust weary

Wut?
:)

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 7:38:00 AM PST, Blogger OneCrazyMama said...

Thanks for this post. I've been wondering where the voice of the other side was in the midst of the "peak oil" cacophony.

I do wonder, though, if the "peak oil" and other "doomsday" talk isn't a reaction to the unconscious awareness of some kind of meaningful "turning point" in our current society?

I'm curious what your thoughts might be on this point.

Although I'd like to pass myself off as more rational than intuitive, I can't help "feeling" that society as a whole is at a major inflection point.

Laying it all at the feet of climate change, the economy, or "peak oil" seems narrow-minded, but it does appear to be a real phenomenon. The future apparently needs to look very different from the past, but not in the "flying cars" and more consumption sense.

The neo-Luddites don't have the best answer (at least, I don't really want things to go that way), the environmentalists have a point (but I'd like to see humanity NOT have a "die-off" in order to "save the world"), and so-on through the Malthusians, etc. I think they are reacting to something we're all experiencing as part of the collective consciousness, but I don't think it is being well articulated.

If any of that makes sense?

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 8:43:00 AM PST, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

A major flaw with "Hubbert Peak II" (my term) is that it's based on the assumption global oil producers will continually increase production on a predictable basis - they have not. OPEC members, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela have consistently underproduced; Russia, which supposedly peaked in the late 80s, saw its oil industry stymied from the Soviet collapse, side-lining it throughout the 90s (production was down to 6 mbpd by mid-decade); Nigeria is constantly saddled with conflict; and Iraq has never witnessed its true oil potential, thanks to sanctions and war (recent evidence suggests Iraq may have much more oil than previous estimates).

Economic malaise also threw a wrench into Hubbert's latest "genius." One example is early 80s recession that gutted global oil demand. Worldwide demand took years to recover up to prior levels.

It's not that Hubbert wasn't a smart man; he became a vindicated when America, badly caught off guard from sudden decline in production, had done little to prepare for it. Still, predicting global production peak is a different game. Aside from the examples given above, there's still plenty of oil left to be found. East Siberia is largely unexplored, future offshore production will be ramped up immensely, unconventionals will contribute well (though there is a heavy environmental price), Saudi Arabia has a few plays left, Brazil is going gangbusters with discoveries. Aside from this, natural gas is coming more onto its own, and emerging alternatives - such as biofuels from alage or cellulosic corn, plus plug-in hybrids - will help in a big way.

The world is destined to use more energy, not less of it. We'll find ways to run our daily form of life as we slowly integrate renewables into the picture. The day is coming when fossil fuels will become obsolete.

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 9:33:00 AM PST, Anonymous cantarell said...

Hmm, I'm not convinced attacking Hubberts predictions directly is a good idea. To say he was merely "accurate" about the date of the US peak is an understatement, the fact that he got the volume wrong largely irrelevant - nobody else was predicting what he predicted, and he got it right.

Why did his basic idea fail for the world? The graph of global production clearly shows we're about 7 or 8 years "behind schedule" due to the huge drop in production/consumption during the 70s/80s oil shocks and subsequent improvement in vehicle efficiency. If we add 7/8 years to his original date we get today, and in fact production has been on a plateau for some time. So it seems to me if you correct for his inability to forsee major world events, his basic idea is still sound.

That doesn't make me a peaknik by the way. If we've seen the real peak in production and it never again gets as high as it did in the last few years I won't be surprised, but then I'm not expecting us all to die anyway :)

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 9:47:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ruppert has already discounted this book he said that the guy is a hack. ruppert knows more about oil than this guy anyway

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 10:45:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

JD W,

I took a chart of his and "copied" it into a spreadsheet:

http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h198/uclari/Picture5-2.png

Please forgive the roughness, and rest assured that his version is much more professional looking.

Anyway, there's cost. As for the viability, he's quite sanguine, noting that "unconventional" is in itself a moving target. What was "unconventional" in the North Sea in the 70s (and cost hundreds of lives) is today considered fairly "conventional." In any case, he definitely sees "unconventionals" becoming an important source, though I got the feeling that he's more interested in NG in the long run.

HalfEmpty,

It's a literary-dork joke. Proust was known for long and difficult sentences.

OneCrazyMama,

I tend to think that every generation has an inflection point that it finds meaningful. Our parents lived with the specter of the cold war and nuclear arms races. Our grandparents lived with the cold war and the civil rights movement. Our great grandparents fought the Axis.

Our generation is another in a long line that faces challenges that it will see fit to overcome. Ours, I believe, is a move toward an increasingly open and "flat" world, as well as the challenge of creating more equitable resource allocation and moving toward a less carbon-heavy infrastructure. We also face increasingly effective terrorist organizations, and the rise of potential rivals to American hegemony.

Ultimately, I think that there's one group that will lead the way: optimists. The pessimists and "regressives" will sit there and talk about how nothing can be done and we're all soooooo effed, but in the end it's optimists and elbow greasers who will get it done.

And we will.

Bloggin' Brewskie,

Hubbert's work wasn't bad, but it wasn't the gospel truth that many of the POers make it out to be. Mills does an exemplary job with demonstrating that.

cantarell,

Hmm, I'm not convinced attacking Hubberts predictions directly is a good idea.

Why not? That's what any prediction should be subjected to if we are to see if it's worth listening to. Especially ones that have passed. If we're going to pay so much credence to what Hubbert argued, then we should be willing to be completely honest about his accuracy.

To say he was merely "accurate" about the date of the US peak is an understatement, the fact that he got the volume wrong largely irrelevant - nobody else was predicting what he predicted, and he got it right.

You missed the point. Hubbert was right only by a fluke. And yes, the volume matters a great deal. "Peak oil" is, at heart, about the volume of oil we can produce in a given point in time.

Why did his basic idea fail for the world? The graph of global production clearly shows we're about 7 or 8 years "behind schedule" due to the huge drop in production/consumption during the 70s/80s oil shocks and subsequent improvement in vehicle efficiency. If we add 7/8 years to his original date we get today, and in fact production has been on a plateau for some time. So it seems to me if you correct for his inability to forsee major world events, his basic idea is still sound.

Again, Hubbert predicted production would peak between 1995 and 2000 at 33 (yes, 33) million bbl/day. We were at 75 million bbl/day in 2000. Even making the strange assumption that we only made it because of the downturn, how do we account for the fact that we were producing over twice as much PER DAY with production growth each year after 2000?

That doesn't make me a peaknik by the way. If we've seen the real peak in production and it never again gets as high as it did in the last few years I won't be surprised, but then I'm not expecting us all to die anyway :)

What? How does that NOT make you a peaknik? And why WOULDN'T you be surprised, considering the fact that we've had significant reserve growth year-on-year?

Anon,

How nice.

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 12:34:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

I don't have the time to read a book right now, so I am very glad for Ari's report.
Bloggin' Brewski; Congrats on mentioning the 1980s oil glut. What do you think is happening right now?
How powerful is thr price mechanism? We have gone from putative scarcities and skyhigh prices (2004-2008) to glut, and worsening glut in my estimate.
The brief window of higher prices (2004-2008) resulted in new suppy and reduced demand. The global recession is unrelated, yet marks the end of expensive oil for years and years to come.
Sadly, it ooks like global industrial output will sag by 10 percent or more in 2009. This is bad.
But that does mean we may see even larger declines in oil demand.
Also, if The Oil Drum were truly "a forum' as they like to say, then they would ask Mills to become a contributor.
Instead they vilify him, and even post threats against him.
A forum is where you listen to opposite points of view.

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 12:38:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Benny,

Threats? Really? Who did that, and when? That sounds pretty nasty, even from TOD.

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 1:03:00 PM PST, Anonymous HalfEmpty said...

It's a literary-dork joke. Proust was known for long and difficult sentences

o

!

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 2:30:00 PM PST, Anonymous bradley stone said...

With all of the labeling of subgroups going on here, I wonder just which one I'd fit into; maybe someone can help me out.

-I believe that peak oil WILL happen, just far from sure when; I'm ballparking what I take to be a reasonably safe estimate of sometime in the next 50 yrs. or so.

-I'm exceedingly concerned about 3rd world consumption ratcheting up to 1st world standards and what that energy demand will do to our available resources.

-I think that alternative energy sources, as promising as many are, are still years away from meeting our current energy needs, much less the likely greater needs of the future.

-Our economy being based on consumption and growth strikes me as problematic, as our resources are not infinite.

-I'm worried that the short-term nature of U.S. politcal thought/action will make a timely transition to alternative energy sources problematic on many levels.

-Given all this, I have difficulty imagining how our current (and the 3rd world's hoped-for) lifestyle/economy/energy consumption can be sustainable.

So that's my position in a nutshell. Thing is, I really like to think of myself as a level-headed, pragmatic guy; I hate to think that I'm some sky's-falling-down nutcase. Do my beliefs qualify me as one nonetheless? And if not, which of the peak oil "camps" do I fit into?

I hope this all doesn't ignorant or frivolous; I'm truly curious to see if maybe I've tipped too far into crazyville...

BS

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 5:52:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Bradley,

I'll take your points on one-by-one for clarity's sake:

With all of the labeling of subgroups going on here, I wonder just which one I'd fit into; maybe someone can help me out.

First off, I think it's important to say that I already mentioned that not everyone will fit a neat group: some will be in more than one group, or even none. I wouldn't worry so much about the groups that Mills puts people into, as they were merely a tool for convenience's sake.

-I believe that peak oil WILL happen, just far from sure when; I'm ballparking what I take to be a reasonably safe estimate of sometime in the next 50 yrs. or so.

OK, sure. But the question we should all ask is: so what? Does a peak mean an irreversible decline from which humanity never recovers? I don't think so, based on the evidence of availability of tons of sources of energy. But 50 years, that's a large window! Remember that we're being told that we're going to be doomed in the next decade, if not sooner!

-I'm exceedingly concerned about 3rd world consumption ratcheting up to 1st world standards and what that energy demand will do to our available resources.

Mills actually makes a point that one of the challenges of the coming century is the idea that resources were no longer just for Europe and North America. And yes, I'm with you here-- to a degree. Does it matter that much if the 1st world transitions away from oil and into natural gas and nuclear (as it has been doing) in the coming decades?

-I think that alternative energy sources, as promising as many are, are still years away from meeting our current energy needs, much less the likely greater needs of the future.

Define "alternative." Wind, solar, bio? If so, maybe. But natural gas and nuclear can, combined, provide fuel needs far beyond what oil and coal provide. Mills demonstrates that heavy oil, bitumen, and shale can be ratcheted up at speeds much greater than now.

I mean, if you told me that oil production would plummet tomorrow due to geology (and not OPEC policy), then I might worry. But we have what seems like decades to "transition."

-Our economy being based on consumption and growth strikes me as problematic, as our resources are not infinite.

Like I've said before: this is a truism. It's true, but uninteresting. No, resources are not necessarily infinite (peak sun?), but through careful stewardship and better supply chain management, we can effectively "close the loop" on most processes.

-I'm worried that the short-term nature of U.S. politcal thought/action will make a timely transition to alternative energy sources problematic on many levels.

All elected politics is, to some degree, "short term." However, the US, like most other developed democracies, occasionally pulls its head out of its derriere and enacts useful policy. Yes, it's true that an energy policy framework is needed (especially in meeting CO2 emissions needs), but this is not something endemic to the United States.

-Given all this, I have difficulty imagining how our current (and the 3rd world's hoped-for) lifestyle/economy/energy consumption can be sustainable.

The real question is: is oil the only resource? I mean, to be honest, I think one of the most frightening resource issues in the developing world is water scarcity. Forget oil, which you can simply mine more of-- water is a fixed resource for all intents and purposes.

So that's my position in a nutshell. Thing is, I really like to think of myself as a level-headed, pragmatic guy; I hate to think that I'm some sky's-falling-down nutcase. Do my beliefs qualify me as one nonetheless? And if not, which of the peak oil "camps" do I fit into?

You aren't a nutcase, don't worry. You, like most others, are rationally nervous about the future. That's human, and reasonable.

Hope this helps. I'm glad to go into more detail on any topic you like.

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 6:56:00 PM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

Ari,
Thanks for the excellent review of this book. I am interested in reading it, but not sure if I have the time right now to try to digest something that complex.
As an aside, would you have time to converse with me about the US economy? I've got a few questions and would like to ask someone a lot smarter than me. If so, please email me at jjoice at gmail. Thanks.

DoctorJJ

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 9:24:00 PM PST, Anonymous Soylent said...

JD, neo-luddite is almost always misused.

The real luddites weren't fighting against technology for any other reason than that it threatened their livelyhood; they didn't want their job skills to become obsolete.

So called neo-luddites are fighting against technology and energy use as if it were an evil in itself. Neo-hunter-gatherers or neo-subsistence-farmers is a more appropriate label for these people; actually you'd have to add a wannabe in their somewhere since roughly none of them seem to practice what they're preaching.

 
At Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 10:12:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Soylent, this post was by Ari.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 5:50:00 AM PST, Blogger thedoomletter said...

Good review Ari. My interest in PO, once I understood what it means, was production rates. The whole argument about total global reserves doesn't really seem important to me since it is like having money in the bank and not being able to spend it. Think of oil production as the daily limit on an ATM. If the world needs more than the daily limit can provide, there is a problem. Technology should be able to increase the daily limit, but it is becoming increasingly technology-intensive to do so. And at some point, it will be impossible and consumption will need to correct accordingly.

It seems to me that is what happened in the second half of last year. Even with high prices during the first half of the year, production was not able to compensate and stocks stayed low. Now stocks are really high not because the high price released additional capacity, but because consumption has been curtailed by the bad global economy. If the only solution to the problem of a lack of additional capacity is demand reduction then the bumpy plateau seems like an apt predictor of the future. There will be a whole lot of recoveries and recessions, but the sustained growth of the past will not return.

If peak oil is only specifically about reserves, then I am not worried. But if it is about production rates and the availability of technology, then I am worried. When reserves are more spread out and to exploit them requires much more infrastructure than in the past, reserves don't seem like a key indicator to me. And as reserves are growing based on additional technology available, how universally can that technology be applied and at what cost?

I hate reading books, so thank you for reading this one for me and providing this review.

-mike

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 6:24:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Mike,

Yes and no.

Mills demonstrates that it is possible to increase production rates. However, as he also explains, it's a slow and capital intensive process. One of the the things that people seem to be missing through all of this is the fact that oil spent about a decade or so as a VERY cheap commodity. There was a significant flight of capital from the industry (human and physical) throughout that decade, making the gearing up process slower than it had to be as demand increased.

The problem with the recent events was not geological limitations on how much we could pump, but capital limitations and time. Many superprojects are just finally coming online (in the midst of reduced prices, no less!), and will increase production capacity.

However, the common myth is that oil is the one and only form of energy-- the alpha and the omega of energy, if you will-- and that without it, we cannot have an economy.

That, I have, and will continue to, reject as false. Mills seems to be the same way, and demonstrates that nuclear and NG alone provide us with nearly indefinite sources of energy. Oil has lost "market share" in the energy market almost every year since the 1980s or so. I see that as a trend in the long run, no matter how much the Saudis want to keep us on the stuff.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 7:36:00 AM PST, Blogger thedoomletter said...

Ari,

I can't seem to find it anymore but someone (I think his handle was Chris something on TOD) had cataloged upcoming superprojects and put it online. If you know what I am talking about, do you have the link.

I realize that there are other natural resources that are relatively plentiful but I don't think that they provide a good substitute for oil if indeed we are going to face supply issues. I know Pickens is all about natural gas as an alternative vehicle fuel, but what will that additional demand do to the price if TPTB take that route? I like nuclear as a long term component to energy needs, but as Boone would say, it ain't gonna move an 18 wheeler.

As an input in the economy, oil is not easily replaced - if for no other reason than the fact that our infrastructure is based on it.

I am a doomer, but I don't think that doom is going to be a dramatic upheaval. I think that the doom we face will be incremental and will take place without a whole lot of drama. That has been my opinion ever since I had a good grasp on what is happening.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 8:05:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

I can't seem to find it anymore but someone (I think his handle was Chris something on TOD) had cataloged upcoming superprojects and put it online. If you know what I am talking about, do you have the link.

I don't have a catalog to superprojects, but Mills does a lot of discussing opportunities for project growth, as well as opportunities for EOR. Suffice it to say that we face no near term geological limitations-- only capital and political.

I realize that there are other natural resources that are relatively plentiful but I don't think that they provide a good substitute for oil if indeed we are going to face supply issues.

There is really only one sticky area when it comes to oil, which is transportation. We will not, however, face any immediate supply issues.

I know Pickens is all about natural gas as an alternative vehicle fuel, but what will that additional demand do to the price if TPTB take that route? I like nuclear as a long term component to energy needs, but as Boone would say, it ain't gonna move an 18 wheeler.

Why not? JD already showed a heavy-duty semi that is powered by electricity. Besides, why do we need to keep focusing on trucks? We'll just more toward trains powered by grid-based electricity for long- and mid-distance transport, and go with electric lorries for local transport. Or something like that.

Besides, since when was Pickens an expert on logistics as well?

And yes, the price of natural gas may rise in some time frame. But then we'll finally start going after the stranded gas. There is more natural gas than we know what to do with. We just haven't developed most of it.

As an input in the economy, oil is not easily replaced - if for no other reason than the fact that our infrastructure is based on it.

No input is "easily" replaced. But we keep managing.

I am a doomer, but I don't think that doom is going to be a dramatic upheaval. I think that the doom we face will be incremental and will take place without a whole lot of drama. That has been my opinion ever since I had a good grasp on what is happening.

What does this even mean? That we'll all die off slowly, or that society will "Rome" itself, or what?

I don't even get how it's "doom" if we all live out our days in relative peace and comfort anyway...

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 9:50:00 AM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

TheDoomLetter,
You said:
Technology should be able to increase the daily limit, but it is becoming increasingly technology-intensive to do so. And at some point, it will be impossible and consumption will need to correct accordingly.

It seems to me that is what happened in the second half of last year. Even with high prices during the first half of the year, production was not able to compensate and stocks stayed low. Now stocks are really high not because the high price released additional capacity, but because consumption has been curtailed by the bad global economy.


I think you are confused about what actually happened with global supply and demand during this time and your timeline is off.
This is an excerpt from the 60 minutes piece on the recent oil spike.
"A recent report out of MIT, analyzing world oil production and consumption, also concluded that the basic fundamentals of supply and demand could not have been responsible for last year's run-up in oil prices. And Michael Masters says the U.S. Department of Energy's own statistics show that if the markets had been working properly, the price of oil should have been going down, not up.

'From quarter four of '07 until the second quarter of '08 the EIA, the Energy Information Administration, said that supply went up, worldwide supply went up. And worldwide demand went down. So you have supply going up and demand going down, which generally means the price is going down,' Masters told Kroft.

'And this was the period of the spike,' Kroft noted.

'This was the period of the spike,' Masters agreed. 'So you had the largest price increase in history during a time when actual demand was going down and actual supply was going up during the same period. However, the only thing that makes sense that lifted the price was investor demand.'"

DoctorJJ

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 10:06:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peak Oil, bbd's, The Middle East, Sqeezing oil fron sand. I think we're all getting tired of being jerked off by all oil the experts. It's time to try a new form of energy to get us around and keep us warm. GO OBAMA! J.C. Sr.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 10:38:00 AM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Ari-
Yes, a few months back, some of the commentors traded language on visiting Mills and harming him. Harmless banter? Maybe, but when people suggest targeting book authors.....
I complained to TOD editors, but the comments were not deleted. I remain very suspect about the funding and motives of TOD.
Meanwhile, my completely innocuous comments, to the effect that a huge oil glut is underway, are routinely deleted, and I am banned from TOD.
Go figure.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 1:40:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Dr JJ-

Right, right, right. The spike of 2008 ha to be either a speculative bubble, or a manipulated one.
The CFTC is toothless, and oil interests can trade under cloaked identities.
One of the greatest transfers of wealth in history happened in 2007-2008, at a time when oil prices were obviously being gamed.
I hope the Obama tream puts some effort into a creating an real CFTC.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 2:11:00 PM PST, Anonymous Steven J. said...

"Benny," with your history of exaggeration and lying, we must insist on proof or links, or it didn't happen as far as many here are concerned.

Also, I have to say as someone trying to learn both sides of this debate, that this site's continued attempts to impugn TOD and its motives really take away from what is otherwise an important set of discussions that need to occur about this topic.

Perhaps the owners of the site should start deleting comments that do not represent the views of the site's founders, otherwise it seems that they are tacitly endorsing these views.

As for the Mills review itself, nice work. It makes sense.

It's a shame the discussion cannot stay on point.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 2:33:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephen,
I'd like to see Benny's proof but by the same token I'd also like to see yours. Please give us some proof and links to support your claim that Benny is a liar. Dave L.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 3:51:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Steven J:

I don't know if this serves as "proof" but here is an e-mail I sent to Nate Hagens on Novemebr 4, 2008.

Nate Hagens:
Is it the policy of The Oil Drum to tolerate posts such as this:

“Won't someone please debunk this book on Amazon (The Myth of the Oil Crisis: Overcoming the Challenges of Depletion, Geopolitics, and Global Warming)? I'd forgive someone who hunted this author down and fixed him up good. Paid jackals like this are leading us into a hurricane.”



The above is the first post on today’s Drumbeat. A bit chillingly, it was answered by another poster, named “Snuffy,” who responded, “Done.” Oh, that it so funny. Your website makes a joke out of snuffing out an author with a different point of view than that espoused by TOD.

You have a policy of banning posters who do not subscribe to TOD nostrums. Yet you tolerate a poster who advocates violence against the author of a book.

I cannot imagine what sort of depraved standards TOD editors adhere to, if any. Fear-mongering and hate-peddling seem the order of the day.

It is not a wonder to me that many TOD editors cloak their identities. I do wonder why you associate with a site that promotes violence against book authors.

Nate's answer was as follows:

"i never read that drumbeat
we aren't perfect. leanan has editorial privileges on DB and I trust her. just too busy to micromanage...

cheers
nate

p.s. we are clearly not a hatemongering site - give us a little credit, eh?"

Here is the original comment from Nov. 4:

"Won't someone please debunk this book on Amazon (The Myth of the Oil Crisis: Overcoming the Challenges of Depletion, Geopolitics, and Global Warming)? I'd forgive someone who hunted this author down and fixed him up good. Paid jackals like this are leading us into a hurricane."

It was the very first comment of the day.

You can verify yourself, at this address: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4726

The comment has been left in place.

So, Steven J, I would say that is close to "proof."

What lying is involved here? The hate-mongering post is still there. I have lied about nothing.

As for my opinions on the future of the oil market, they are opinions, not lies or exaggerations.

As fpr the greatest transfer of wealth in history, I think that is generally agreed.

However, I do not think your comment should be deleted, or that you should be banned from this site. I do ask you to substantiate what you have said.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 4:57:00 PM PST, Anonymous Steven J. said...

MOAG,

The first comment in that TOD link reads "Neighbors at odds over noise from wind turbines..."

Did you put in the right link?

SKJ

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 5:42:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Steven J.

Since I posted, somebody at TOD must have cleaned it up. Possibly you were involved?

Benjamin

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 6:03:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Whatever. Not really that important, guys. I, for one, think TOD is intellectually narrow and subscribes to a rather asinine point of view when it comes to economics (most of what I read on there borders on labor theory of value, which is silly.)

However, I don't think we really have any reason to care. TOD can moderate how they see fit, and they can ban whomever they see fit for whatever reason they see fit. That's one of the joys of running a forum. Do I think it's a better place for it? Nope. I think it's unfortunate that it's become a sort of "clearinghouse" of energy information, because some of the editors and lead writers there have a palpable "doom" bent.

Whatever. It doesn't mean much to me, because I've long since realized that it's all a merry-go-round of silly posturing about issues that most of the posters simply lack the necessary academic framework to deal with. I'll continue to simply do my thing here, answering whatever questions I can and trying to provide good information.

Am I biased? Yes. Absolutely. I am biased in favor of optimism and objective analysis (and yes, they can go together.) I've read enough of "both sides" to realize that I believe the "optimists" to be correct.

Like I said, I don't do what I do here for money, book deals, notoriety, or anything else. I do it because I see people get REALLY scared and REALLY emotionally hurt by the likes of LATOC, PO.com, and to a lesser extent TOD. I want to offer another point of view, because I tend to believe that most people end their "peak oil studies" at TOD and think that it's the end word.

Bah, whatever. I'm done explaining my motives (not like anyone asked for them this time, anyway!)


-------
So something else interesting that I forgot to mention about Mills: he is a strong proponent of PHEVs and HEVs. As he says, oil has continued to lose its dominance over energy over the past few decades, and he believes that HEVs and PHEVs, combined with a move toward greater diesel use, can reduce oil consumption even in transportation.

The last one really strikes me as interesting, to be honest. Imagine the oil savings possible with increased diesel use in the US, where most cars are petrol powered. He also makes a good point that while hydrogen/EV is a relatively poor alternative for autos now, it will probably start to take root in "early adopter" areas like taxis and buses. We're seeing that now in Europe-- I wonder if we'll see more of that in the US soon? China is running some freaky EV bus experiment with overhead caternary stations at lights, so who knows?

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 7:15:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Ari-
Generally, I agree. Still. something nags at me about TOD. Who funds them? What if they are part of a spin effort to drive up oil futures, and thus prices?
The spike to $147 appears to have happened in a time of declining oil demand but rising production.
Even now, the NYMEX rises suddenly near key trading dates.
As I have stated, if I were a Russia or Saudi Arabia, I would do everything in my power to assure higher oil prices. That would include manipulation of the NYMEX, and planting scare stories, and financing a TOD (in addtion to the obvious collusion to reduce production). Of course I would, and you would too.
We are talking about hundreds of billion of dollars a year in wealth being transferred.
In any event, it would make a worthy POD topic.
And we will still $10 a barrel in 2010 anyway.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 7:44:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I posted, somebody at TOD must have cleaned it up. Possibly you were involved?

Benny "MOAG" Cole: your claim checks out in Google's cache

http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:nlNjCUZ4RfEJ:www.theoildrum.com/node/4726+Paid+jackals+like+this+are+leading+us+into+a+hurricane.&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8

The message you cite, as well as the response, was served by TOD to Google on 2009 Jan 24. As of right now, the entire thread has been deleted at TOD.

The "record" (so to speak) also shows you noticed it on another forum the day it was made too.

You may wish to snarf a copy of the page you cite from Google's cache before it is refreshed (at TOD's option, if Google's spider doesn't get around to it first).

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 8:20:00 PM PST, Anonymous Dave said...

I saw it at TOD today, right after benny posted the link.

Steve J, benny came up with his proof, and you didn't. You're the one looking like a liar.

 
At Monday, January 26, 2009 at 8:58:00 PM PST, Blogger OptimisticDoomer said...

huh, I guess I know where the two 1 star reviews left on the 4th of november came from as well, since webhubbletelescope said..

I'd recommend to go to Amazon.com and leave your comments in the book's web page. You don't even need to have read the book. Funny how that works :)

I wonder if there is a way to ask amazon to remove those 2 reviews based on that. Their bias obvious runs very deep & they will not even consider anything that is not on their agenda. That should speak loudly to those on the fence of what to believe.

Anyhoo, thanks for the review. This book is going on my long wish list :)

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 7:00:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty shoddy review from both a mechanical and content perspective.

One issue: there is no agreed upon definition of "neo-Luddite," and Richard Heinberg does not claim that vague title for himself.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:26:00 AM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Thank you to anonymous and Dave for your comments and observations.
Hey, I may be wrong in my opinions, and viewpoints. But at least I play fair. And, that seems to be the rule here at POD.
I remain very dubious about the motives and funding of TOD. It would make a great column topic, Ari.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:28:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Anon,

I'm definitely open for criticism, and would appreciate any ideas you can offer as to how I might improve the review. Simply saying "shoddy," however, doesn't make it so. Offer up some reasons why, please. I do like to get my work analyzed (positively and negatively, mind you), because it allows me to improve. However, what you said is little more than "big dickery."

However, I'm not quite sure that I agree with you that using the title "neo-Luddite" is as much of an issue as you seem to believe. While it's true that the term is not typically applied by those who might be considered "Luddites" in the classical sense, it is not so inaccurate in the case of Heinberg that I would consider it an issue that matters that much.

Besides, it's nit picking, and doesn't really take away from the broader areas in which the author is absolutely correct.

Still, I am more than happy to receive analysis of my work. Please feel free to e-mail me a bullet list of issues, and I WILL read them.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 12:36:00 PM PST, Anonymous Phil said...

One issue: there is no agreed upon definition of "neo-Luddite," and Richard Heinberg does not claim that vague title for himself.

Heinberg doesn't claim the title of "kook" for himself either. But his believe in 911 nuttery exposes him as exactly that.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 1:25:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Heinberg doesn't claim the title of 'kook' for himself either. But his believe in 911 nuttery exposes him as exactly that."

I wasn't aware of Heinberg's "believe" in "911 nuttery." What is "911 nuttery?"

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 1:28:00 PM PST, Blogger bc said...

The funding and motives of TOD are quite clear, they are a group of individuals who sincerely believe in something, and are willing to spend time and effort on it. It really does no favors to suggest they have some dark motives. It makes you look like one of stupid paranoid kooks that inhabit places like TOD.

Indeed doomers use the same argument, if anyone doubts PO they are labelled as "paid trolls" of the oil industry or the stupid "Iron Triangle" concept.

Anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about TOD, it used to be a half-decent site before they turned it over to the general rabble and guest writers with wacky ideas. The original editors have largely taken a back seat and turn a blind eye to the rabble rousing. Pages hits are always good. More intriguely, some of the editors seem less convinced of impending doom than they were, and keep rather quiet about it.


I think people get too hung up on Hubbert and predictions in general. Yes, he was wrong on details, but so is everyone else. Hubbert's model is a rule of thumb that will be generally right, but that's as far as it goes. Hubbert did in fact state that the oil production curve can be any shape.

On turning points: don't worry, that is a perfectly normal intuition in a continually changing society, every generation has the same feeling.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 1:34:00 PM PST, Blogger bc said...

What is "911 nuttery?"

It usually starts with people asking "innocent questions" ;)

But maybe you are new to the internet and have not encountered the vast numbers of conspiracy theories circulating on the web. Maybe.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 1:37:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am worried though bc. today michael C. ruppert said that unemployment will go over 25%, and gold will reach $10,000 an oz and the dow around 4,000. He also said that this is the beginning of a controlled die-off. ruppert is a really smart and says that we are reaaaallly fucked.

then he went and played with his dog.

http://www.mikeruppert.blogspot.com/

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 1:50:00 PM PST, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Bennie,

Yes, right now the world is drowning in an oil glut: a day's worth of oil is sitting on oil tankers; Cushing, OK, is ready to burst. The run-up in oil prices, as pointed out by 60 Minutes, JD and others, was the result of greedy speculation as opposed to "supply and demand" fundamentals.

In spite of near dead prices, consumption continues to decline (thanks to the economic hemorrhaging). Miles driven continues to decline in the U.S. Even OPEC is powerless to stop the descent; and now rumor has that some members, strapped for cash, are even talking about increasing production!

Many peakers have been moaning for months that oil's decline will cancel out expensive oil projects (and this has been true - to an extent). However - and JD pointed this out - the skyward death march of production costs was due to out-of-control commodity and labor costs; and since commodities are down, the economy is in the tank, production costs will again reach a more human level.

Petrobras recently announced they will invest $174.4 billion over the next five years. This is despite low oil prices, despite the shitty real, and in spite that this is the "difficult to reach" oil. Oh... plus they recently found another offshore goodie with Exxon: possible 10 billion barrels.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 1:56:00 PM PST, Blogger DB said...

This site is better in many ways than any other peak oil themed site.
The reason is that many of us are fence sitters (another way of saying "scientists").

Reason being we all think doom COULD happen if conditions x, y, z are met but we are very capable of asking the question: Will they be met and not throwing the answer out if it turns out to be "no".

Personally I consider Peak Oil to be three things:
1. An Overpopulated Country Problem. (Sadly and unfortunately for them)
2. An automotive transportation problem
and
3. An aviation problem.

I do not buy the whole peak oil die off religion thing that says we are absolutely constrained to die off because the MODEL says so.
I do not buy that there are no substitutes to oil because if you look you can find them.

I do not buy the idea that renewables will make no difference. Wind alone puts the lie to that.

I think that IF we get a sudden depletion then there is a big problem for mass ownership of oil powered automobiles.

I suspect, however, that we have enough time to shift over to PHEVs and I think that this, combined with greater use of electrified mass transit will make any transition less painful, since each new electric vehicle is the equivalent of removing FOUR oil based vehicles off the road.
I'm not even worried about long distance trucking. Sure we cannot power six ton 18 wheelers but we sure CAN power three ton eight wheelers. So it's the case of using 16 foot containers instead of 40 foot containers. So they can only go 150 miles per trip (as per Smith Electric Vehicles).
The solution is battery swap stations along the interstate.
Israel, Denmark and Ontario are signed up for project better place. What about project better truck??? It's simply an engineering problem.

Aviation is the biggest problem.
But looked at another way (moving people hundreds of miles QUICKLY) it's already been solved. At least across continents (if not oceans).
High Speed Trains.

So we don't have them in North America. But we DO have them in Europe and Asia. Again, it's an engineering problem.

Long term I expect some form of biofuel or even sunlight + chemicals + catalyst to make synthetic fuel instead of biofuel.
I doubt that we could get up to the volume of jet fuel that we currently have but there is a plateau somewhere above us.
So the price will rise for jet travel. How far? 2x, 3x, 4x???

I'm willing to bet that 30 years down the line most people will use high speed trains for fast continental journeys and otherwise drive their cars and recharge at way-stations or battery swap stations on the way.
Fast Trans-Oceanic trips will really be the only time it's unavoidable.

No, my biggest concern is some idiots in high places pushing the button because their religion dictates that the club of rome is right.

Otherwise I think realistically we're looking at more of the same:
boom and bust, boom and bust, empires rise and empires fall.

Post: DB

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 2:03:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

BC-
You state:

"The funding and motives of TOD are quite clear, they are a group of individuals who sincerely believe in something, and are willing to spend time and effort on it."

Really? What is their source of funding? How do you know? How could you know (if payment were relayed through a public relations shop to a TOD editor)?

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 2:20:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

BC
On second thought, I disagree with other parts of your post. For one, the editors of TOD never reach to to someone like a Mills, and add him to the site, for balance.
A secondly, the editors routinely censor comments they do not like, and banish some commenters, such as myself, aomeone named Hutter, and another fellow named datamunger, to name three.
So, I would say it is the editors who contrive to deliver a message or tone. To what end?

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 2:21:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DB:

I do not buy the whole peak oil die off religion thing that says we are absolutely constrained to die off because the MODEL says so.

Richard "Dick" Duncan, said that we are headed back to the stone age...literally...we will be going from space suits to stone tools (check his graph). I'm worried about my chances of surviving his die off scenario.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 2:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But maybe you are new to the internet and have not encountered the vast numbers of conspiracy theories circulating on the web. Maybe."

Maybe I was just curious about which - from that vast number of theories - that Heinberg believed in, and what was deemed "nutty" about that particular theory. I understand there are major schisms within the 911 conspiracy theorists.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 3:03:00 PM PST, Anonymous mdf said...

DB: I do not buy the idea that renewables will make no difference. Wind alone puts the lie to that.

As the people who disagree with this say: not one coal plant has been removed due to wind turbines being installed.

It depends on how renewables are used.

Hooking them straight to the grid, and its fickle tendencies, would be a big mistake, given they can't supply power on-demand all by themselves.

But hooking them to things that convert energy or matter from one form to another, and can tolerate the up-and-down production cycle, and you are willing to wait, and it makes economic sense, well, why not? The farmer needs his fertilizer next March (or whenever), not today at the end of January. Let the wind work it's magic over the weeks or months, and reliability is much more certain.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 3:12:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the people who disagree with this say: not one coal plant has been removed due to wind turbines being installed.

that's because coal is cheap an abundant, and isn't running out in this century.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 3:20:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

that's because coal is cheap an abundant, and isn't running out in this century.

And who says oil will? Well, unless you believe the reserves figures of Campbell (which have been demonstrated as being very very inaccurate the last twenty years).

I sincerely doubt that oil will run out. More likely is that it will play itself out as carbon taxes "deadweight loss" the beejezus out of it, and we see a move to NG/nuclear/renewables.

Running out, however, seems unlikely.

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 3:30:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

DB,

Actually, I believe that there is enough shale out there to power planes long into the distant future. If not, who knows, maybe we'll see some H2 powered scramjets or something in the future. One of the fuels that were considered for the SR-77 was coal slurry. I'm sure if that could power something like the SR-77 then we could see it used for something more mundane like an Airbus or Boeing.

I wasn't aware of Heinberg's "believe" in "911 nuttery." What is "911 nuttery?"

The belief (I'm sure it was a typo, BTW) that 9/11 was a controlled inside job.

By the way, anyone who has worked with the federal government in any capacity (I have, for better or for worse) knows that anything on the scale of 9/11 is pretty much impossible.

I mean that. There's no way that the federal government could ever be that competent.


bc,

More intriguely, some of the editors seem less convinced of impending doom than they were, and keep rather quiet about it.

They should speak up, if you ask me. But then again, maybe they figure it's too much work at this point.

BTW, with Hubbert, I think the point that Mills is making is that Hubbert's models are taken as an inviolable fact. I don't think he meant to impugn Hubbert personally, but points out-- as should be pointed out, mind you-- that Hubbert's models are imperfect and should be treated as such. I think that's perfectly fair. All models are imperfect and should be treated as such.

In any case, I find it funny that the Hubbertians (Hubbertese?) are now running around applying the curve to everything they can find. PEAK CHUCK NORRIS JOKES!

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 6:57:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benny –

Please stop the TOD conspiracy stuff. It’s a non-issue. I know who you are and your history with the site. I also know just about everybody that has ever beened banned from the place. I personally have had no less than 6 usernames banned, they eventually catch one of my static IPs and that’s the end of it. Who cares. I just use dynamic ones and don’t give out clues anymore.

But there are no Dark Motives. They are basically just a bunch of nobodies and faith-based idiots (that faith being Peak-Oil Armageddon). Robert Rapier is the only one who knows anything about oil and he rarely contributes anymore. Heading Out stays in the background and probably doesn’t do much.

Professor Goose is a nobody and it is his site. He is a professor named Kyle, knows nothing about oil and little about anything else.

The site is basically run by:

Leanan – a jabbering twit who knows nothing about oil.
Nate Hagens – a pretentious schmuck who knows nothing about oil
Gail the Actuary – who writes ponderous pieces about irrelevant subject matter and constantly tries to relate everything to Peak oil. And also knows nothing about oil.

The person who originally may haved played a hand in making the site popular was Stuart Staniford whose sole contribution was to make graphs and use statistics to try to prove that rising oil production was actually going down. He has been gone for over a year. I saw him quoted recently in the New York Times regarding a computer-virus issue. He never knew anything about oil.

Dave Cohen left, joined ASPO and then left ASPO.

TOD:Europe has some decent contributors who may actually know a thing about oil.

But basically if you don’t want to kiss Deffeyes’ and Simmons’ asses then you can consider yourself persona non-grata. I know people who were or are editors and no matter what Nate Hagens and the rest of those clowns say publicly they all hate each other and don’t really communicate on any substantive level.

Funding? If they were getting funding, I don’t think they would be running all the ads which google or whatever chooses for them and which frequently broadcast the opposite of what they may be trying to say or achieve.

The site’s traffic dropped from about 30,000 visits a day to 15,000 when the price of oil dropped. Nobody cares anymore. When the price goes up, so will their traffic – maybe. And Westexas will still be there trying to convince the world that 4th grade math is some theory he developed.

Sincerely,
King Abdullah

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 7:37:00 PM PST, Anonymous mdf said...

From Mills' book: "gloomy predictions do not resemble the real world and take no account of human ingenuity."

It must drive hard-core doomers nuts reading stuff like that. Or this:

http://www.eetimes.com/rss/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=212902652&cid=RSSfeed_eetimes_newsRSS

30%(!) fuel efficiency improvement.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/01/real-vaporware-for-cars-would-enable.html

"A complete rollout would reduce US gas use for cars and trucks (which use 50% of the 20 million barrels per day) by 3 million barrels per day."

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:00:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has to be asked -

is this one of those books that is printed on demand?

Has anybody actually seen it or bought it in a bookstore.

Ari?

Who has read it?

The harcover was $45/ paperback $25for 336 pages, probably 200 pages text the other 136 graphs and index and reference (just guessing)

WTF?

I will definitely buy it and read it, it's my thing, but I want to see it first.

Something tells me this is the equivalent of a trade-mag in books. There have been many like this on the doomer side, Most notably Matt Savinar's (complete tool). So I'm not getting my hopes up.

It's anti-doomer porn. Big deal.

"A Thousand Barrels A Second" is actually a fair and balanced view.

-King Abdullah

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 9:28:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

King,

Actually, it's published by a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin. The publisher is one I saw printing some of the international security texts I read in grad school.

I paid something like $20 for it on half.com. I don't really go to brick 'n mortar bookstores anymore, so I can't tell you if they carry it. I did, however, see it on B&N's website. If you are in California, I know the University of California has copies in stock, notably UCB, UCLA, and UCI (I just searched for it.)

 
At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at 10:28:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Ari -

I saw it on B&N as well, but every location in my area (all 30 of them ) are "sold out." Good to know.

How many "real" pages?

Your review is really good, btw, and JD should think about making this a regular feature - reviewing every book about oil that comes out. It's pretty obvious you actually read the book.

The Oil Drum should have started doing it long ago.

-King

P.S. Lemme know the next time you're gonna be in the "Kingdom." I'll hook you up.

 
At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 12:00:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

POD/JD is what is called "quality."

Check out non-quality. This is TOD's best recent attempt at filling space by saying nothing.


When two retards collaborate
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5022

JD doesn't sell ads. Keep on rockin' Brutha.

-YoU fRiEnD

 
At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 7:05:00 AM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

Amazon has it in stock, $35. That and B&N online are really the only places I buy books. Hardly ever go to an actual store.

DoctorJJ

 
At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 10:45:00 AM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

King Abdullah-
I enjoyed your post. Perhaps you are right, and TOD is nothing more than a crew of self-appointed experts and misfits.
On the other hand, they have a relatively impressive site that even gets quoted by the The Wall Street Journal from time to time (not lately). Even rump groups can cause harm, if front-running for a serious player.
And your post does not answer some basics: Why the censorship? If they are a "forum," why are some commenters banned?
If I wanted to hype an oil scare, I would would find the TOD editors to be useful idiots. Hire them to write a few "white papers" etc. Hey, sustaining a scare for even a month or two is worth tens of billions of dollars to a Russia. Why not throw some money towards a TOD?
I do concur with you that TOD will look more and more like a sad farce in the next two years. When oil hits $10 a barrel, in the inevitable tsunami of oil that is glutting storage facilities universally, TOD predictions of doom will seem increasingly shrill and hysterical.
Yes, oil will have another rally someday. But it could be a long, long, long, long wait.

 
At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 11:17:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well they finally did it. The jerks at The Oil Drum banned me for no particular reason. All I ever did there was a post a interestnig article from time to time and challenge some folks conventional wisdom. Robert, if you have any professional dignity you will start to seperate yourself from those people who do not tolerate opposing points of view. Cheers.

TheAntiDoomer

 
At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 11:18:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant to post that on the Rsquared page. But yeah those AHOLES banned me too JD. F em.

 
At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 8:55:00 PM PST, Anonymous wchfilms said...

>Hmm, I'm not convinced attacking Hubberts predictions directly is a good idea. To say he was merely "accurate" about the date of the US peak is an understatement, the fact that he got the volume wrong largely irrelevant - nobody else was predicting what he predicted, and he got it right.

There's a big "survivor bias" problem with using Hubbert's projections... the end of the oil era has been predicted for a long time before that guy came on the scene, and he sort of loosely was correct and so he is deified? See, those that made the terribly wrong predictions are quietly ignored (or if they are still around, they simply constantly change them). It's not like all those that were wrong are going to be quoted.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 4:09:00 AM PST, Anonymous Robin Mills said...

Thanks for the very thorough review, Ari, and to all other posters for your follow-up comments. As the author, it's encouraging to see my book inspiring a lively and generally constructive and well-thought-out debate. In general, I find there's always a lot of good ideas on peakoildebunked, and a refreshing open-mindedness.

Anyone who's read the book, do feel free to review it on Amazon. Whether people give it 5 stars or 1 star, that's fine, as long as they've genuinely read the book and given it a fair chance.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 8:11:00 AM PST, Blogger Barba Rija said...

King Abdullah,

I found your POD-banned-me story quite intriguing. It's not the first one I saw, but I am curious, for I've been quite vocal in my contempt for their pet theories and dismissive in their conclusions, and apart from that idiotic voting machine they had there and the mob zombies that would make the expected "stfu oil-salesman n00b" theatre, I've never been banned.

Well, except once, where they suspended me for two days, but I admit I was being a jerk.

So, tell me, what exactly did you say that got you banned?

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 8:12:00 AM PST, Blogger Barba Rija said...

Sorry, I meant TOD-banned-me story, obviously.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 8:12:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey everyone, i just wanted to let you know that this book might be good, but ruppert has already proven that a die off will happen, so what difference does it make. He just made a post about it today and sings (no really)...I don't know how you can argue with this:


Mike Ruppert proves die off

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 8:42:00 AM PST, Anonymous Olivier said...

For thedoomletter, who was asking for the online catalogue of superprojects:

You probably mean oil megaprojects on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_megaprojects

Bye, Olivier

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 9:53:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ari -

You open with "While the book is flawed,"

Then

"Robin Mills is, according to his biographical blurb, “an oil industry professional with a background in both geology and economics. Currently (as of 2008), he is Petroleum Economics Manager for the Emirates National Oil Company in Dubai."

JD

Why jeopardize such a quality blog by giving a positive review of a book which Ari himself terms flawed and which is written by an OPEC executive with an obvious pro OPEC agenda?

You question the quality and validity of your other excellent posts by endorsing such rubbish.

HJS

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:03:00 AM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Anon,

Surprisingly, Ruppert has seemed pretty up-beat (well, comparatively) recently. At the bare minimum, he seems fairly impressed by the way the new Obama administration has approached the subject of energy. In his second most recent column, he's talking about a "controlled fast collapse," which while it's still more alarmist than I'm inclined to believe, but it's a far cry from the "Lord of the Flies" (Ruppert's own comparison) slow-burn die-off scenarios.

And, with absolutely no irony or sarcasm intended, that was an absolutely beautiful rendition of "Rosie." Really quite touching, and his voice was well suited to it.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:05:00 AM PST, Anonymous mdf said...

Why jeopardize such a quality blog by giving a positive review of a book which Ari himself terms flawed and which is written by an OPEC executive with an obvious pro OPEC agenda?

It's clear you haven't read the book.

More curiously, it's also clear you haven't even read the review.

Recall the proverb: "ignorance is curable; stupidity is terminal."

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:05:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ari'

"Running out, however, seems unlikely."

You of all people should know that PO is not about running out [of oil].

Your credibility ratchets down, again.

HJS

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:29:00 AM PST, Anonymous mdf said...

HJS: You of all people should know that PO is not about running out [of oil].

But that's not what he said, was it?

Maybe TOD (or wherever you come from) tolerates this kind of dishonest argument, but I suggest you un-learn the tendency.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:40:00 AM PST, Blogger Yogi said...

Good review Ari.

“Heading Out” has also posted a 2 part review of the book on his new blog.

http://bittooth.blogspot.com/

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 12:10:00 PM PST, Anonymous Phil said...

hey everyone, i just wanted to let you know that this book might be good, but ruppert has already proven that a die off will happen, so what difference does it make. He just made a post about it today and sings (no really)...I don't know how you can argue with this:How about this argument: Rupert is a kook. A fruitloop. Nuts.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 12:18:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ari:

Please post a review of Ruppert's song linked earlier in this thread.

Thanks.

-Anon

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 12:24:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

HJS,

OK, you got me: I misspoke. I'm man enough to admit it.

What I should have said, instead, was that "shortages seem unlikely, even in the medium-term." You're right that it's not about "running out," though I didn't really mean that literally. But anyway, as far as the flaws of Mills' book are concerned, I don't think that it matters, since the two flaws I mentioned (verbosity and adherence to the Stern Report) don't really take away from the rest of the book.

Anyway, your criticisms of his OPEC ties amount to little, since it's just ad hominem.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 12:27:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Yogi,

I read Heading Out's review. I don't agree with much of what he says, but it's interesting to see how he focuses on different issues with the book than I did.


Anon,

No, but thank you.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 1:20:00 PM PST, Blogger bc said...

So, I would say it is the editors who contrive to deliver a message or tone. To what end?

They are BELIEVERS.

I get the same problem every Saturday when a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses come round, no amount of discussion, rational or otherwise will dissuade them from their mistaken beliefs. But there is no need to ask who is "behind" them. Unless you are a paranoid who believes there is a conspiracy to drive up oil prices... dude, you are as bad as the 9/11 people!

Nate Hagens at TOD, among others, like to post pop-psychology articles on why the PO guys are so smart and everyone else is too dumb to understand the "truth". The only problem is, the reason they give can be equally applied to the "believers" at TOD. The TOD people do it cos they believe in it and it makes them feel good trying to persuade others, at the same time getting self-justification.

Mike Ruppert is a lunatic.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 1:22:00 PM PST, Blogger bc said...

For legal reasons, I should say that in my opinion, Mike Ruppert is a lunatic. ;)

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 1:41:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

bc,

Good point.

I don't really expect to change the opinions of the various anons who come here and find all sorts of silly things to call me. They're true believers (in something or other), and I will never convince them otherwise.

In a sense, this blog is somewhat like Pharyngula (PZ Meyers' blog). I sincerely doubt that PZ has ever convinced a true creationist that evolution is true. Even if he has, then it's exceedingly rare.

I don't expect Matt Savinar to come in here one day and say, "OMG YOU GUYS WERE RIGHT!" Hell, it'll be 2070, and we'll all be on our deathbeds, and he'll still probably believe the end is nigh. Belief is that powerful of a thing.

Now, I don't consider myself PZ Meyers (I'm not nearly that devoted to being angry), but there's one thing that I think guys like him have/should have learned by now: you do this to keep people from falling into traps. The converted are converted.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 2:58:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

BC-
As I said, the TOD may be useful idiots, as far as oil exporters, or their financial quislings are concerned.
Is there a conspiracy to raise oil prices? In fact, there is: OPEC. They conpire to make prices higher. They are right now (they claim) cutting production to that end. I do not have to be paranoid to believe OPEC wants higher prices, and does what it can to obtain that end.
So, the step 2: Would OPEC, or a Russia, try to goose NYMEX trading ranges? To me, this is a "duh." Of course they would.
So, the step 3) Would OPEC, or a Russia, bother with PR spin, and websites? We know Russia has hired PR shops in the past. To spin the news. OPEC has skilled PR people on retainer at all times.
Would they finance scare-mongering websites?
I don't know. But one does not have to be paranoid to wonder about it.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 3:10:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara,

Leanan was making the repeated moronic argument that if building stuff was useful for the economy we might as well be building bombs and dropping them at the bottom of the ocean. I repeatedly asked her if she was indeed saying that a stimulus that included building renewable energy infrastructure was indeed equivalent to this. She deleted my reponse 3 times, refused to answer it, then banned me. I guess she couldn't find an answer for my question that fitted her agenda.
the anti doomer

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 4:40:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BC, you're exactly right. They're BELIEVERS. As a former Mormon, I'm amazed by how much the peak oil doom movement and its adherents fit all the billings of a religious cult.

If you think TOD is bad, head over to peakoil.com and read some of the garbage written by some of the clowns like Cashmere. This guy Cashmere (who apparently has retreated to his bunker) had this as his signature at the end of every post: "Massive Human Dieoff must occur as a result of Peak Oil. Many more than half will die. It will occur everywhere, including where you live. If you fail to recognize this, then your odds of living move toward the 'going to die' group."

Gotta love it.

~Kingston

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 6:00:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ari,

Thanks for the optimistic point of view. You make some good points. I'll keep visiting. Keep up the good work.

Michael Pinilla
AlienWorld

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 6:09:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Michael,

Thank you, but I believe that JD is the one you should thank. He's really the one who has done the real work to make it possible for me to even post this review.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 7:28:00 PM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

Dave,
Why do you keep linking these catchy, tantalizing headlines to your flickr page? What am I missing here?

DoctorJJ

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 7:45:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

David,

Your shots are nice. You using an dSLR, or an all-in-one? Canon, Nikon, or what?

Seriously, some nice shots there. Not sure I get what the HMS Bounty has to do with the transcendence of life, but I do like the shots.

Also, are you using a macro lens/setting for those flowers and insects, or just a standard telephoto lens/setting? I'm curious how you get those flower shots.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 7:45:00 PM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

Dave,
Okay, teach me.
I click on your link and I see some pics of big boats. What does that have to do with anything?

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 7:52:00 PM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

I agree with Ari, I do like the shots. Looks like quality work. I would have to think that it's the work of a dSLR, maybe like a Nikon D80? Anyway, if there is some deeper meaning behind a picture of a yacht, I guess I'm just not getting it. If it's something that I would understand by flipping through your 500+ pages of pics, well, I don't have the time, regardless of how nice I think your pics are.

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 8:33:00 PM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

Well, I actually looked at a couple of pages of your pictures and I think I finally got it. Let's see, the human race is just a parasite on earth, sucking our host to the brink of death. Fortunately, our ultimate demise will come soon enough and the world, and especially all of nature's beautiful creatures will be better off once we're gone. The monstrous yachts are just the most obvious sign of humankind's excessive lifestyle that is out of balance with nature.

No wait a minute. I took a closer look at some of those pics. I think maybe I had it all wrong. It looks like some of those birds were struggling to fly, probably as a result of the exhaust off that yacht, or maybe some oil on their feathers from a spill. Wait, what is that. Over there. I think maybe I can even see a dead bloated manatee floating in one of those shots of the big yacht. He must have gotten clipped by a propeller. Well, looks like humankind is actually doing quite well with no signs of demise and nature is the one suffering. LMAO!!!

DoctorJJ

 
At Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 9:56:00 PM PST, Blogger Heading Out said...

Ari:
Thanks for reading my review - as you say I came at it from a different angle than you did. I can't see how you can realistically discuss the topic if you don't discuss decline and field depletion in more detail than Robin did, nor consider its impacts.

And the time and money that it takes to develop new resources is also somewhat glossed over, when it is critical to determining whether new resources combine to meet a need or sequentially follow a decline.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:34:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

Sorry for the dave infestation everyone. I'll be deleting subsequent posts from dave when I get up in the morning, so if you do respond to him, please try to goad him into being as verbose as possible.

dave: it's time to go back to your cage now. See the nice man in the white suit, waving the banana?

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:41:00 AM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

Dave,
You are more idiotic than I first thought. You are so stupid you didn't even realize that I've been mocking you, your stupid posts, and your underlying cult of hyper-ecocentrism and anti-anthropocentrism. If your not already a member, why don't you go ahead and join VHEMT as I can tell your philosophy falls in line with people like Les U. Knight and Michael Meacher.

It was obvious from your first post, where you said "civilization won't survive but nature will", what your intentions were. I was simply trying to get you to admit it openly and not hide behind some stupid, albeit high quality, pictures of big boats, which you obviously think are symbolic of man's excessive nature that you think will lead to his ultimate demise.
Instead of continuing to pimp your flickr page, which, again, doesn't prove anything and doesn't have any deeper meaning unless you start off with some preconceived notions in line with your nutty religion.
Oh, look at me. I'm so cerebral and so intellectual. I post pictures of human excesses and that proves we're all doomed. The economy is crumbling and people are still enjoying their extreme wealth right in front of me. They don't even realize how F'd they are. Everyone besides me is so stupid!

Hahahahahaha!!!!!!!!! You're such a douche nozzle.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 7:41:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm amazed by how much the peak oil doom movement and its adherents fit all the billings of a religious cult."

There is a strong resemblance between the evangelical Christianity and PO doom: unless you repent from your profligate consumption of oil, you're doomed to a hell of misery and deprivation.

Looking a PO that way, the self-appointed 'debunkers' become the sinners, the fallen, the proud and boastful who recognize no limits to mankind's consumption of resources. They sneer at those who adopt modest lifestyles. They revile ecological orthodoxy, invoking the name of mechanical efficiency. They worship the graven images of technology, and justify their lust for possessions by its effect on the GDP.

Yes, PO really brings out the saints and sinners in all of us.

Which side are YOU on?

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 7:53:00 AM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

"Which side are YOU on?"

I guess I'll be the one driving the gas-guzzling bus straight to oil Hell. All Aboard!!!

DoctorJJ

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 8:01:00 AM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Anon, I think you're barking up the wrong tree. JD's proposed solution to PO is linked fairly prominently on the main page, after all, and emphasizes conservation. I can only speak definitively for myself, but but I get the distinct impression that most of the regular posters here aren't the sort of people who go around idling their H2's while they go grocery shopping. Personally, I don't even have a driver's license, and I know for a fact that I live more modestly than a number of icons of the doom movement.

No, the real similarity between evangelicalism and PO doomsaying is the insistence of both on a unwaveringly dualistic view of the world. It's all or nothing: either TEOTWAWKI or BAU. I consider myself a PO doom debunker, but only because I believe in a nuance that is nigh heretical to the true believers. I readily accept our way of life will change and evolve as our current energy supplies dwindle. I don't accept that "change" is the same thing as "collapse," however. I don't think that total collapse is a likely outcome of peak oil, and even if I did, I don't buy that adopting an attitude of overt defeatism is a useful tactic.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 8:31:00 AM PST, Blogger Barba Rija said...

Sean, great comment. Agree 100%.

With respect to the doom-religious connection, this has been discussed on and on and on.

Peak Oil is directly related to environmentalism. (All PO doomers are environmengelicals) A good overview of this is the speech environmentalism as a religion by the late Micheal Chricton.

Good read:

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Go there. All of you. Now.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 10:02:00 AM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Barba,

As I mentioned in a previous thread, I'm a little bit ambivalent about Crichton's non-fiction work. To be fair, though, I think this has more to do with the way his words have been co-opted and misused by certain types of people who have a kneejerk, anti-scientific tendency to deny the possibility of climate change. I also think that Crichton's response to his critics tended to harden his perception as a reactionary (which is, IMO, an unfair representation, but one he, perhaps accidentally, helped to fuel).

His Commonwealth Club speech itself, though, is excellent on its own merits. What's often lost in discussion of Crichton's opinions is that he wasn't denying anything, per se, merely calling for the proper degree of scientific scrutiny in addressing anything. He rather bravely championed environmentalism-as-science, and pointed out the ways that environmentalism-as-faith often serve entirely different purposes.

At the heart of the matter, though, I can only speak for myself. And the evidence inclines me to accept that we, as a civilization, have made various bad choices as we've developed. I don't believe that every choice we've made is bad, by any means (I rely on modern medicine to stay alive, after all, so I'm hardly nostalgia for some pre-historical Garden of Eden). I also believe that we can address our mistakes. That's not the same thing as saying that we will address our mistakes, but I agree with Ari in that I'd rather work towards the best than accept the worst as an inevitability.

I think our collective chances are a lot better than the doomers make them out to be. I'd like to see petroleum usage decline, and I do everything I realistically can to live my life in a way to minimize my usage of fossil fuels. I have no interest nor desire to pollute the world that I call home, and I'm active in various environmental movements. Already I fail to fit within the embrace-the-rapture/murder-the-earth dichotomy that has been falsely been set up.

And if it's all futile, and God/Gaia decides to flush the human virus from her system? Well, que sera sera, I guess. If that's already an inevitability, then it hardly matters what I do now. If it's not, then I have no interest in making it so through defeatism and inactivity.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 10:09:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Heading Out,

You're right that Mr. Mills doesn't go into much detail about decline rates, and I may consider that in an updated review. Food for thought indeed.

What I found most interesting, however, is the fact that he basically (in my opinion) demolishes the idea that we're not finding any oil (and reserves are therefore not enough.) That was one of the core tenets of the LATOC-type of doomerism, and it's pretty pernicious if you ask me.

And yes, you are right that time and money are glossed over. I don't see that as being the serious issue you do. Here's why: we can never know.

Predicting how much time it takes to develop a resource is nearly impossible. So many variables come into the model:

Regulatory environment
Physical challenges
Technology to meet those challenges
Human capital
Physical capital
Cash on hand
"Social urgency"
Etc.

One of my biggest issues with the armchair oil community is that they like to quantify everything using what are essentially OLS regressions. "Let's slap a POLS on this and see what it says!" is something of a pastime of a lot of people. Hell, I'm probably guilty of the same reasoning. The point, however, is that any of the variables can change so quickly that it's pretty much a moot exercise the second you do it. I mean, I suppose you could do a fancy Bayesian model and come up with estimates of time ranges, but in the end, it's still an estimate.

The book is useful because it's competent at what it does. Like I said to one of the anons, NO text is perfect.

In any case, I've said a million times that I don't believe that oil supplies are going to be a total non-issue, now and forevermore. I just don't buy into the whole "famine, pestilence, etc." argument. I admit, freely, that I'm biased in favor of optimism about the long run-- I don't think that's a bad thing. Every generation faces some kind of challenge, and oil may be it.

Then again, so may the recently re-discovered volatility of financial markets.

Or it may be water.

Or it could be that the French finally go berserk.

Who knows? I just know that I'm not waiting for Godot.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 10:43:00 AM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

dave: Get a gun, and blow your fucking brains out. Right now.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:00:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

So, David, what's your point? We're going to live to see the end of civilization. According to you, we can't mitigate that.

Even if we accepted your prophecy, what does it change? In the end, we're all just so many insects destined to be fumigated off the planet by Mother Nature, sooner rather than later. So why not party like it's the millennium, then? Go out in one last big, planet-damaging orgy of mass consumption and environmental destruction. It wouldn't matter one bit to me, since, after all, I'll be extinct.

I don't believe that, and your faith-based babbling isn't going to convince me any more than I will be able to convince you. If it'd make you happy, sure, why not: we're all doomed. Civilization will end in chaos and destruction within the next, oh, fifty years. In the meantime, I'm going to continue doing what I was doing beforehand: working towards a more sustainable culture powered by more ecofriendly and less transient forms of energy. Maybe you're right, and it's just a wasted effort. But I'd rather operate on the possibility that you're as much of a raving loony as you sound, and that the only way to guarantee with 100% certainty that we're all doomed is to sit back and assume that there's nothing we can do to avert it, so why even bother?

In short, you might want to hone your message there, buddy. I mean, assuming you actually have a reason to be here other than preemptive gloating.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:02:00 PM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

dave: you are posting as if you are some outsider, non-human alien making observations about our planet, thus making you a stupid douche.

* You are destroying your own future.

* You are destroying humankind's future.

* You are driving humankind extinct.


If that's your view, then so are YOU, since you too are a human on this earth, just like the rest of us. This makes you a stupid fucking hypocrite. This begs the question - why are you still around instead of blowing your brains out and doing us all a favor? If mankind is going extinct, why are you waiting around, still alive, taking dramatic pictures of boats, and bitching on a blog about it?

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If that's your view, then are YOU, since you too are a human on this earth, just like the rest of us."

It was only a matter of time before JD or one of his knuckle-dragging sycophants invoked the "Nanny Boo-Boo" Defense. What's next, Andy,"I know you are but what am I?"

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

anon scum:
It was only a matter of time before JD or one of his knuckle-dragging sycophants invoked the "Nanny Boo-Boo" Defense. What's next, Andy,"I know you are but what am I?"

Nope, what's next is that you're a hyprocritical douchebag. Most doomers are. I'm waiting for you or Dave to argue otherwise.

Dave specifically said "You are destorying humankind's future". Since Dave is also (unfortunatly) part of humankind, then that means that he is criticizing us for something that he is also taking part of. This is why he should do himself a favor and blow his brains out. You should too, while we're at it.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:37:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Everyone,

Let's all end this by asking Mr. Mathews a simple question: that he sources his claims.

If he does, we argue the sources. If he doesn't we ignore him. Trolls are easy like that.

David,

Please give us sources for your claims. Preferably in peer-reviewed journals, or at least something close.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

David, you're skirting my basic question. Let me put it more directly: what would you suggest I do that would not constitute suicidal behavior?

That's an utterly serious question, mind you. Because all you've done so far is to describe how what I'm presently doing is going to result in the extinction of my species. That's great fine. Assume, for the moment, that I accept your postulate. What's the alternative?

You seem to be suggesting that there is no alternative. That nothing I can do would prevent the inevitable extinction of humanity. In that case, whether or not I'm personally suicidal doesn't enter into the equation. A terminal cancer patient isn't suicidal, but s/he's going to die regardless. Believe it or not, I can't provide any excuses or answers for what other people do.

If there is something I can do that will prevent humanity from extinguishing itself, let me know. If not, I'll continue tilting at my windmills. In the end, it may not change a blessed thing, but at least it'll give me something to do until I die.

But, as a point of order, I am most certainly not trying to turn something mortal into something immortal. I'm doing what every animal and plant has done throughout the history of his planet: struggle to survive in the only ways I know how.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:52:00 PM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

Needless to say: Your efforts will fail. Civilization will die. Humankind will go extinct.


And you're calling for the death over 6+ billion people, which makes you a sick fuck.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:57:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No, the real similarity between evangelicalism and PO doomsaying is the insistence of both on a unwaveringly dualistic view of the world. It's all or nothing: either TEOTWAWKI or BAU."

And because you think these doomsayers are insisting on TEOTWAWKI or BAU, you reflexively insist on a Tom Swift techno-utopia or BAU. Your world view exists only as the polar opposite of some imaginary doom scenario.

Capitalism as we've known it is dying. Wall Street execs thumb their noses at taxpayers who seethe in resentment. Unemployment shoots up by the thousands every day. Africa is in shambles. There are riots in Europe. The Middle East could explode anywhere at any minute. Energy prices are volatile. Somali Pirates are holding takers.

With this backdrop, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to forsee some major difficulties ahead. TEOTWAWKI? Not necessarily. A major shit-storm is not that far-fetched. And observing these things makes one a doomsayer?

The debunker side of this false dichotomy shares another striking similarity with evangelical Christianity; eternal life and eternal growth, a self-indulgent ideology lifted straight from the old-time religion of growth capitalism, based on printing and loaning ever-increasing amounts of heavily leveraged money into existence, a practice that is essentially the same thing as believing in eternal growth.

Wash yourself in the blood of free-market growth capitalism and thou shalt grow forever, walk streets of gold, live in time-shares on Mars, have iPods imbedded in your skull as jewelry. All economic activity that promotes growth is sacred. Abortion of any free enterprise is a sin against God.

Really, you debunkers are the ones who come across as old-fashioned missionaries out to school the great unwashed.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 1:33:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"6+ billion humans will die. The species will go extinct."

Try the de-caff, Dave. You're going to give pessimism a bad name.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 1:36:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

And because you think these doomsayers are insisting on TEOTWAWKI or BAU, you reflexively insist on a Tom Swift techno-utopia or BAU. Your world view exists only as the polar opposite of some imaginary doom scenario.

Er, where?

I'm as loud an advocate for change as anyone. I've changed the way I live my life to that end, and I'm always looking for ways to do better. As I mentioned before, I don't drive. I walk whenever possible, and rely on public transportation in all other circumstances. I closely monitor my use of electricity, and do whatever is in my admittedly minimal power to encourage conservation to others.

I do admittedly think that certain technologies show promise for the future. But even limited to what we have now, I don't believe that peak oil spells certain TEOTWAWKI. My reflexive reaction to PO doomsayers is to point out that I'm most certainly not advocating BAU.

Capitalism as we've known it is dying. Wall Street execs thumb their noses at taxpayers who seethe in resentment. Unemployment shoots up by the thousands every day. Africa is in shambles. There are riots in Europe. The Middle East could explode anywhere at any minute. Energy prices are volatile. Somali Pirates are holding takers.

Indeed. It's dark and dangerous times in which we live. I'm not, as it happens, a capitalist, and I feared the current financial mess years ago. I don't wear rose-tinted glasses, and I'm fully cognizant of the hurdles we face.

With this backdrop, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to forsee some major difficulties ahead. TEOTWAWKI? Not necessarily. A major shit-storm is not that far-fetched. And observing these things makes one a doomsayer?

Absolutely not. But as I've said before, I choose optimism. I believe that we have the ability to overcome the difficulties you and I both perceive. I realize that none of this is going to be served up on a silver plate, of course, and that it will require hard work and sacrifice with no sure guarantee of success.

I don't really have any problem with pessimists, even if I find, objectively speaking, pessimism to be an unproductive attitude. I respect that you may not be able to share my cautious optimism.

The doomsayers I have no patience with are those who (deliberately or not) misinterpret and misrepresent facts and data to justify their dire predictions. And, before you ask, I feel the same way about cornucopians who refuse to acknowledge that problems exist in the first place. Based on how you've described yourself, I might call you a pessimist, but you're not what I would qualify as a doomer, and not the sort of individual that I'm particularly interested in debunking.

Really, you debunkers are the ones who come across as old-fashioned missionaries out to school the great unwashed.

But this is precisely what I'm talking about. I don't subscribe to the vast majority of what you've just attributed to me. I'm not interested in eternal life, merely a reasonably comfortable, limited life. I worry about negative economic growth because of how it would negatively impact the most vulnerable portions of our society, but I'm more than receptive to realistic plans to mitigate this through either a controlled contraction or steady-state economy. I know, from a previous thread here, that Ari acknowledges that a steady-state economy is feasible, so it's not like I'm alone in this, either.

I first arrived at JD's blog after I went through a profound, and (quite frankly) life-threatening doomer period of my own, fueled by sites like LATOC and PO.com. It reminded me that TEOTWAWKI isn't a foregone conclusion. In my opinion (and, let's be clear, that's all it is), it's not even the most likely conclusion. But yes, of course it is a possible conclusion. I choose not to dwell on it because I don't see the point. I know, from my own experience, that rampant pessimism only serves to fulfill its own prophecies. And so I value this blog very much for providing a realistic counterpoint: it's not cornucopian, as neither JD nor myself are any more proponents of "happy motoring" than Kunstler, and sees conservation as a vital component to solving the challenges of peak oil. I routinely follow the Oil Drum, even if I have a number of philosophical differences from many of its editors and contributors, to keep abreast of relevant news and developments, and I follow a number of other "expert blogs" (like Robert Rapier's) for that same reason.

But you're making the assumption that because I don't believe that our civilization/species/world is without hope, that I believe that the future is all roses and puppy dogs. I see the same basic obstacles as people like Matt Savinar, I just feel that if we roll up our sleeves and get to work, we have a reasonable chance of overcoming them.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 1:45:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

David,

I'm glad to offer sources for anything exceptional that I state. Feel free to ask for sources.

Anon,

And because you think these doomsayers are insisting on TEOTWAWKI or BAU, you reflexively insist on a Tom Swift techno-utopia or BAU. Your world view exists only as the polar opposite of some imaginary doom scenario.

I don't know that that's necessarily true. I think that there's room to change a lot of things about how we conduct business that involve neither a techno-utopia or BAU. But I do think that there is a strange sort of distrust of technology amongst a lot of the "environmentalists" (or what would be a better term?) Technology is seen as a multiplier of bad behavior after a certain point. The wheel is okay. The powered wheel is bad. Etc.

Capitalism as we've known it is dying. Wall Street execs thumb their noses at taxpayers who seethe in resentment. Unemployment shoots up by the thousands every day. Africa is in shambles. There are riots in Europe. The Middle East could explode anywhere at any minute. Energy prices are volatile. Somali Pirates are holding takers.

With this backdrop, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to forsee some major difficulties ahead. TEOTWAWKI? Not necessarily. A major shit-storm is not that far-fetched. And observing these things makes one a doomsayer?


I agree that this is definitely a severe situation-- and there have been what has been dubbed "riots" (a riot in Paris is usually different from a riot in Latvia, though...)-- but let's apply a historical lens.

Africa has always been in shambles. I'm not saying that to be trite. I'm saying it because it's not a shift in the status quo. Saying that Africa is in shambles is like saying that Japan is full of Japanese people. It's one of those facts of life that we have yet to figure out how to properly deal with (oddly enough, the same is applying to aging Japan.)

And no, you are not a "doomsdayer." Perhaps you're a bit more pessimistic than some, but by no means are you a raving TEOTWAWKIist. You, like most other people, are merely interpreting events in a rational fashion with what little information you have available to you. Look, we're all overloaded with information every day, and we can only filter and parse some of it. I had the good fortune of being "paid" for a couple of years to study these events, so I happen to have a lot of (otherwise) useless info bouncing around in my melon that applies to a lot of this. I don't, however, blame people for not having that advantage.

In any case, I think you're right that there are definitely severe challenges ahead of us. I suspect that this may be one of those events that we teach our grandchildren about with a sort of bittersweet tone-- kind of like our grandparents talking about the Great Depression and WW2. I think most of us, for better or for worse, are smart enough that we'll all come out better for it. If anything, we'll come out of it without the sense of entitlement that the Gen Xers all have, which irritates me to the core.

The debunker side of this false dichotomy shares another striking similarity with evangelical Christianity; eternal life and eternal growth, a self-indulgent ideology lifted straight from the old-time religion of growth capitalism, based on printing and loaning ever-increasing amounts of heavily leveraged money into existence, a practice that is essentially the same thing as believing in eternal growth.

Well, I think there's something to be said about moderation. One thing that strikes me as rather interesting is the number of people online who really freak out about the idea of modern finance and economics but really don't have a lot of context and training necessary to understand it. I am, at best, nominally trained to understand these issues, but I know how to spot the charlatans. There are a lot of those-- even in "mainstream media!"

I do think that the debt machine of the 80s and 90s and naughties needs to be put out to pasture. I also think that a lot of people reflexively see debt as nothing but a net negative, which is unfortunate. Like I've said many times: debt is a tool that, like any other tool, can be used well or badly.

Japan: my eternal example. Japan used debt in the 1950s-1980s very very well. It led to the development of a modern, vibrant economy with a high standard of living. And yes, debt was part of that. A large part of it, actually. It was the handling of debt by the Ministry of Finance and MITI that allowed funds to reach a lot of the companies that we define as being "those Japanese companies" today. It was as recently as the early 1990s that we saw Japan's debt makers as genius.

So yeah, debt can be good or bad. But one thing that's bad is the almost reflexive aversion that many people have toward it. Without a little debt, I may have never gone to the universities I attended, and I can say that, despite my current financial challenges, I'm better for my education than I would have been without it. Pluses and minuses.

Wash yourself in the blood of free-market growth capitalism and thou shalt grow forever, walk streets of gold, live in time-shares on Mars, have iPods imbedded in your skull as jewelry. All economic activity that promotes growth is sacred. Abortion of any free enterprise is a sin against God.

Really, you debunkers are the ones who come across as old-fashioned missionaries out to school the great unwashed.


Not all growth is good. Not all is bad. Superlative statements, however, tend to be irritatingly empty-- you're right about that. I believe that we should have some willingness to accept a degree of moderation in how growth happens and where, but I also know that-- again, based on Japan-- having that filter in place is tricky and at times downright more damaging to humans and the environment than the alternative.

It's tough to find that mix, but it's up to us, the future leaders of this world, to find it. But bitching about it and saying that we're all going to die in fire and brimstone and blah blah won't get us anywhere.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 1:54:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

The problem is bigger than you, Sean. Trying to reform the individual actions of humans fails to result in any salvation for humankind:

Oh, I'm perfectly aware of that, David. But I can only do what one person can do. I can reform myself, and encourage as many others as possible to make the larger changes necessary. Maybe, if I'm lucky, that will have an impact. Maybe it won't. But at least I'll die knowing that I did what little I could. In the end, maybe that only makes a difference to me. So be it.

I suggest that you do nothing, Sean. Stop working. Stop spending. Allow the global economy to collapse. Learn to live with nothing.

That's the problem. I can't. Because of a bad draw, genetically speaking, I rely on modern medicine to live. I cannot survive in the kind of isolation you're suggesting. Whether I like it or not, I'm stuck on this boat until the bitter end (either mine or its).

The animals aren't encumbered by a resouce-exhausting planet-destroying technological civilization, so their survival is, essentially, effortless. Hence their ability to survive for millions of years.

That depends very much on the species. The language of population overshoot and resource depletion which is employed in discussions of human die-off derives from demographic studies of animal and plant populations, after all. True, no previous species has had the sort of global impact that humanity has had, but animals most certainly do impact their own ecological niches. They can and have been the architects of their own extinction under the right circumstances, such as overgrazing/predation.

The scale is clearly different, but the effect is largely the same. Sometimes, those species are able to adapt and reach equilibrium. Sometimes they aren't, and they are driven extinct. But no species knowingly and willingly marches themselves to death. Not even lemmings, lying 1950s Disney documentaries notwithstanding.

It's clear we have a basic philosophical difference. That being said, I do appreciate that you took the time to explain your views.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 2:34:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Thanks for dropping by, david.
There's just one thing I don't understand. If we are all going to be extinct shortly, why is it so important for you to spam websites with links to your page? It seems to me that you're no different from any other spammer. They talk about viagra and rolex, and you talk about human extinction. But the bottom line is the same. Repetitive, mechanical posting to drive hits to your website.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 4:36:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

My reflexive reaction to PO doomsayers is to point out that I'm most certainly not advocating BAU.

Nicely put. Doomers frequently try to stamp you with the BAU label if you disagree with them. People constantly claim -- despite my explicit statements to the contrary -- that I believe in/advocate BAU, or that I believe oil is infinite. In fact, I advocate FAU (functionality as usual), and claim that peak oil is a real but manageable problem which can be solved through a combination of conservation and switching to other energy sources.

Anyway, good stuff Sean. We all appreciate your thoughtful comments.

 
At Friday, January 30, 2009 at 8:33:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benny MOAG said...
rump groups....,... front-running for a serious player.

THAT is the best quote of the year so far!

And this sort of noise is happening all the time. For a good lesson on how it is done in real time, check out the various message boards, Investorvillage's MDVX board inparticular. And then go read the real facts on Yahoo's MDVX board.

Rump runners!

Anon- Robert Dobb.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 6:38:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Nicely put. Doomers frequently try to stamp you with the BAU label if you disagree with them."

And the debunker dittoheads stamp you with "TEOTWAWKI or BAU" if you disagree with them, which isn't hard to do, given the constant stream of vague equivocations that passes for argumentation in blogs like this one.

Have we now established that no one on either side of this faux argument is advocating BAU?

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 9:46:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Anon,

I've been accused of "equivocating" simply because I don't always have a firm answer to questions about the future. Let's just say that what most of the people in the armchair oil community call "equivocating" I call "being scientifically honest."

While I'll agree that the "debunker dittoheads" tend to have fewer answers, I don't know that that's necessarily a bad thing.

Ultimately, however, I do think that it's good to avoid the whole "BAU" "TEOTWAWKI" "WTSHTF" etc. crap.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 9:51:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ultimately, however, I do think that it's good to avoid the whole "BAU" "TEOTWAWKI" "WTSHTF" etc. crap."

And you, Sean D., can you avoid this as well, since you were the one last one to inject this false dichotomy into the discussion?

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 9:54:00 AM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Anon,

I'm a bit confused. Where have I or Sean injected the "false dichotomy" you speak of? Just curious, as it's a lot of comments to comb through.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 10:18:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean wrote:

"No, the real similarity between evangelicalism and PO doomsaying is the insistence of both on a unwaveringly dualistic view of the world. It's all or nothing: either TEOTWAWKI or BAU."

That's one false dichotomy, Ari. Now, I suppose there are some, like the hyperbolic Dave who's posted to this thread, who could be shoe-horned into the dualism, "TEOTWAWKI or BAU." But for every Dave, there's at least a couple of,well, armchair optimists predicting the Dow to hit 30,000 this year, or that the imminent implementation of some energy technology that will release us from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.

And let me say again, that predicting some chain of events is not the same thing as reveling in that prediction, regardless of whether one's prediction is overtly dire or sunny.

All that said, it's becoming increasingly clear that the functionality of our growth-based economic system, "as we know it now" is nearing an end.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 1:20:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Anon (please, please, please just use a name?),

That's not a false dichotomy (dilemma), because Sean is not himself saying that those are the only two options, but that others seem to present that as being the only two options.

A false dichotomy/dilemma is when you say, "you can either have BAU or you can have TEOTWAWKI," which seems to be the rallying cry of many in the "doomer" movement. By pointing that out, one is not presenting a false dichotomy, but simply pointing out another's argument.

And let me say again, that predicting some chain of events is not the same thing as reveling in that prediction, regardless of whether one's prediction is overtly dire or sunny.

This is true, I suppose, but no more intellectually honest. Prediction is, as we all know, a thorny business. Hell, so-called expert prognosticators were caught with their pants down in 2008-- and they had some fancy pants models to give them "authority," even!

I don't think the Dow 30000 people are any more honest, though, before I get shoved into that box. I believe that the most honest thing a scientifically-minded person can say is, "I don't know." Unfortunately, those three words cause tizzies of the worst kind in policymakers, armchair analysts, and internet tough guys.

All that said, it's becoming increasingly clear that the functionality of our growth-based economic system, "as we know it now" is nearing an end.

How so? I'm interested in seeing why you think this is so. I mean, what makes it different this time from, say, The Great Depression or the collapse of the Vienna Stock Market in the 19th century?

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 2:16:00 PM PST, Anonymous greenneck said...

Ari,
First I thank you for the book review. I'll definitely check it out.

With that said, I remain a doomer, for lack of a better term. I don't believe humanity is doomed, but we're headed for some serious trouble. That we could have a bit more oil will not change that. Like you said, we'll 'Rome' ourselves, and it's already started.

Peak Oil, or in general non-renewable resource exhaustion, is just one problem. Our very growth-focused economy, coupled with population growth, is slowly but surely stressing and damaging the very ecosystems we need for our survival. As I write this more land is being paved over, more forests clear-cut, more arable soil irrevocably lost to erosion, more pollutants accumulating, more species go extinct, more ocean areas fished out, of course more fossil fuels burned, more carbon added to our atmosphere, which amounts to an uncontrolled experiment we do on our own planet. Add to that the 'financial' crisis provoked by our very greed, and different rogue states and terror groups hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Cornucopians think we can keep doing all this and it's not a problem - literally (just read Lomborg - a more dishonest writer is hard to find, but I digress).

And yet I would remain optimist that we could address these issues except for the case that our western civilization is, for all intents, morally bankrupt.

Civilisations have declined and collapsed before. Just a few years back the USSR collapsed (and yet they had tons of oil) and literally experienced a die-off, which still continues to this day, albeit not so dramatically. What makes you think this can't happen in North America? (I can't speak for other places).

I have seen this coming long before the phrase 'peak oil' was commonly known, and have prepared for it. I concluded our 'consumer economy' is the cause of all the mayhem and basically checked out of it, except for some very tenuous links, like this internet connection I am using. Otherwise I live off the land, just like my grandparents did during the Great Depression (and they came out of it unscathed, despite being poor).

The problem I have with doomers is that they think in terms of some 'TSHTF' event, when this decline I've foreseen will play itself over decades, if not centuries. Storing Nitro-Pak and ammunition, and holing up to 'wait it out' won't do.

To JD and all of you guys who, in spite of subscribing to a more 'cornucopian' view, have also changed your lives to promote resource conservation, I salute you. You are part of the solution. I think we're almost on the same page; and I sincerely hope that you will be proven right.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 4:02:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Greenneck,

Thank you for your response. Let me address your issues, as I am wont to do, one by one.

With that said, I remain a doomer, for lack of a better term. I don't believe humanity is doomed, but we're headed for some serious trouble. That we could have a bit more oil will not change that. Like you said, we'll 'Rome' ourselves, and it's already started.

Well, I don't think that we will. I also don't think that we won't. I think that it's a possibility amongst infinite possibilities, and that we simply don't know what will happen. As for what's "started," I can't say what the next decade will bring. I can say that it's certainly a possible that the economy will come out radically different from what we had prior, but it's also possible that this will be like the 1940s, producing a post-crisis economy of relatively similar character. It's hard to say.

Peak Oil, or in general non-renewable resource exhaustion, is just one problem. Our very growth-focused economy, coupled with population growth, is slowly but surely stressing and damaging the very ecosystems we need for our survival.

As someone who remains interested in environmental issues, I tend to look at a variety of sources for my information. I'm strange in the sense that I'm sanguine on issues that some are rather pessimistic about, but I'm pessimistic about issues that others seem less interested in. I'll show how this is so:

As I write this more land is being paved over, more forests clear-cut, more arable soil irrevocably lost to erosion, more pollutants accumulating, more species go extinct, more ocean areas fished out, of course more fossil fuels burned, more carbon added to our atmosphere, which amounts to an uncontrolled experiment we do on our own planet.

Forestry is, IMO, a relative non-issue in the developed world. Say what you want about the state of "old growth" in NA and Europe, but it's pretty much established that forests are relatively well managed in the developed world. Japan, for example, has more forest per square kilometer today than it did in the early Tokugawa era.

On the other hand, soil erosion is a serious issue that I believe is rather poorly studied and tends to be obfuscated by eco-tards (I can't think of a better word, sorry) who are practicing poor science.

I do, however, think you are right about fishing. Overfishing is, actually, one of my greatest "eco-concerns." I find it under-examined to an unfortunate degree.

Finally, as for global warming, I am actually growing less interested in it as an issue simply because:

1. I think it's not going to be dealt with as radically as I'd like
2. I think it's been overdone by media whores
3. I think the biosphere is more capable of dealing with it than we give credit

Oh, and as for Lomborg's "dishonesty," which book did you read? Here's an interesting article (and response) by the publisher of "Skeptical Enviro" and his discussion of the experience that may interest you:

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/special/harrison_peer_review_politics_and_pluralism.pdf

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/special/comment_peer_review_politics_and_pluralism.pdf

My problem with the "Lomborg is a liar" bent is that I don't necessarily ever hear what he's lying about. I mean, I see him say:

“There is no doubt that global warming is happening or that it is important. Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels will increase Earth’s temperature. That is likely to have an overall negative effect.” (actual Lomborg quote)

..and I wonder, "OK... so why is this a lie?" Then I remember that it's not crouched in the language of certainty. Like I've said before, I'm accused of being dishonest because I sometimes don't use words like "definitely" or "surely" or "absolutely." That's because I don't know. Unless I'm missing something with Lomborg, I have yet to see him say anything that's absolutely positively a lie.

Feel free to show me, though. Debate is fun when people engage in it (hear that, anons?)

Add to that the 'financial' crisis provoked by our very greed, and different rogue states and terror groups hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Cornucopians think we can keep doing all this and it's not a problem - literally (just read Lomborg - a more dishonest writer is hard to find, but I digress).

Sure, many rogue states and terror groups would probably like having a nuke... but so what? North Korea has a nuke. And? The logistics of using that weapon are nearly impossible for a state like North Korea. I also hear people say that we should worry about the so-called "suitcase nukes," or even a nuke being detonated in a harbor or in a semi. Yes, that's a concern, but let's be realistic here:

1. Obtaining a nuclear weapon isn't as simple as running down the Army surplus and buying a "nuke-at-home!" kit.
2. Detonating a nuclear weapon on the ground does not, thanks to certain physical properties, lead to the destruction of an entire city in the same way that dropping one on a city from a plane does. For maximum boom, you still need to drop an ICBM with a MIRV on a city.

Nukes are scary, yes. But they are also not likely to lead to the loss of lives that the unfortunately "mundane" things like militia groups with rifles do. Let's face it: the single largest mass killing of the past two decades was largely done with machetes and small arms (Rwanda).

And yet I would remain optimist that we could address these issues except for the case that our western civilization is, for all intents, morally bankrupt.

How so? Those are strong words, and I have to admit that I cringe at them. If that is the case, then what civilization is not bankrupt? The Asians certainly do the same things, Africa... well, we know that's up over there, I suppose we could romanticize the ancients, but then we get into human sacrifice and all sorts of nasty other activities (slavery!)

Define morally bankrupt, and tell use why the West deserves that title.

Civilisations have declined and collapsed before. Just a few years back the USSR collapsed (and yet they had tons of oil) and literally experienced a die-off, which still continues to this day, albeit not so dramatically. What makes you think this can't happen in North America? (I can't speak for other places).

Well, see, here's where I get picky with terminology: the USSR didn't so much experience a "die-off" (God, I hate that phrase) as they did a population decline. To me, a "die-off" is a quick and violent event, like a genocide or an epidemic. Population decline is just what happens when you don't have people having babies out of sheer depression.

As for North America, I think we have a few distinct advantages:

- North America is, by and large, much richer in other resources besides oil (yes, they do matter!)
- North America has stronger institutions than the USSR did.
- North America is not run by its mafia.

Institutions, despite the strange insistence by internet analysts, matter a great deal. One of the key differences between post-WWI France and Germany, other than the victor-loser disparity, was institutions. France had stronger civil and political institutions than Germany, and was less susceptible to demagoguery. Say what you want about the US and its reelection of Bush II, but he sure ain't president anymore.

In (post-)Soviet Russia, party find you!

I have seen this coming long before the phrase 'peak oil' was commonly known, and have prepared for it. I concluded our 'consumer economy' is the cause of all the mayhem and basically checked out of it, except for some very tenuous links, like this internet connection I am using. Otherwise I live off the land, just like my grandparents did during the Great Depression (and they came out of it unscathed, despite being poor).

I totally respect that, but what about a guy like Sean, who happens to have lost the DNA lottery and needs a hospital? I don't think everyone should have to play in the consumer rat race, but let's be fair and recognize that the modern world, despite its glaring negatives, also has brought us vaccines, longer and healthier lives, THE INTERWEBS (for better or for worse, huh?), medicines, the opportunity to eat foods that our great grandparents would have called "strange," and the opportunity to see a robot zoom around Mars and find water.

It's not all bad.

The problem I have with doomers is that they think in terms of some 'TSHTF' event, when this decline I've foreseen will play itself over decades, if not centuries. Storing Nitro-Pak and ammunition, and holing up to 'wait it out' won't do.

No, but it does make the Nitro-Pak and ammo sellers a bit richer. Help keep the system going by predicting its downfall? Weird, huh?

To JD and all of you guys who, in spite of subscribing to a more 'cornucopian' view, have also changed your lives to promote resource conservation, I salute you. You are part of the solution. I think we're almost on the same page; and I sincerely hope that you will be proven right.

I think I am right, but I also believe that you have the right to believe otherwise. As much as I disagree with the nutters, I think they have a right to say what they want. I just also have a right to say they're nuts!

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 6:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous greenneck said...

Ari,
Thanks for your response, that was very thorough! I will now take the time to elaborate on some of the points I made.

First, about Lomborg, I did read the book 'the Skeptical Environmentalist' a few years ago. As someone formally trained in the sciences I could not help but notice a lot of flaws. Lomborg is not out-and-out 'lying'; just like his predecessor, Julian Simon, he misrepresents what others (especially 'greens') have said and cherry-picks the facts that match his view while disregarding the rest. In any event, others have done a much better job of pinpointing the errors, derogations and misrepresentations of Lomborg's work. You can check it out at

http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

Now, about 'moral banckruptcy', I agree this is a strong statement, but I can fully back it up. Moral bankruptcy, in my mind, is a failure of character, widely generalized to a society. And no, AFAIK, Asians are not there yet, and I could the difference every day when I was still living in a big city (Toronto, Canada). The 'credit crunch' is a good example of it. Not long ago, if you wanted something, you worked and saved for it. Now you just borrow, and to hell with the consequences! This is how we got into this credit crunch. What happened to the sense of responsibility? Another example, most kids 50 years ago were literate after grade 8. How is it that now you have college graduates who can barely write? Lower standards. Why? Because we've become lazy.

The main thing is, we are failing our children (there are exceptions of course). I'll leave it to this quote for now:

"So long as the young generation is, and continues to be, well brought up, our ship of state will have a fair voyage; otherwise the consequences are better left unspoken."—Plato, Laws

About the USA being better prepared to face collapse than the USSR, I'll invite you to check this:

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/23259

I agree Orlov is a 'doomer' but at least he has a keen, dry sense of humor, which makes reading this article quite entertaining, and if you take the time to understand his points, you'll see he makes sense.

Finally, I do not reject the modern world, only one aspect of it, which is the pointless, ego-driven material consumption. I am glad to live with modern medicine, electricity, the internet, and yes, the occasional delicacy (like oysters :) that I did not grow. I'll be the last to say that trying to live off the land is for everyone. It is very hard, except for a brief respite in winter (which allows me to be here). But I wouldn't go back to the 'normal life' for anything.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 7:15:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

First, about Lomborg, I did read the book 'the Skeptical Environmentalist' a few years ago. As someone formally trained in the sciences I could not help but notice a lot of flaws. Lomborg is not out-and-out 'lying'; just like his predecessor, Julian Simon, he misrepresents what others (especially 'greens') have said and cherry-picks the facts that match his view while disregarding the rest. In any event, others have done a much better job of pinpointing the errors, derogations and misrepresentations of Lomborg's work. You can check it out at

http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/


I've been to Lomborg errors, and I don't necessarily disagree that there are problems with the book (I admit to not having read it in as much detail as I have most of the competing works, like Worldwatch)-- though I note that Lomborg also addresses many (most?) of Fog's criticisms in a seemingly fairly clear and well-sourced manner. Ultimately, I think that the publisher of the book (Chris Harrison through Cambridge), and Pielke Jr. do a good job of discussing how much of the Lomborg "controversy" is simply political. Not all of it is, but a good deal of it has to do with how people approach issues. I don't agree with much of what Lomborg says, but I find it kind of funny that he's been made into the anti-Christ because he disagrees with this thing that EO Wilson says or that thing that Greenpeace says. It's demonstrative, if only a little bit, of the rigidness that characterizes much of the modern Western environmental movement.

Like I've said before, I do believe that there are problems and serious environmental issues, but I also think that much of the problem has been, time and time again, an overwhelmingly silly focus on the part of the greens on "white whales" like nuclear power. Or, inter alia, cute fuzzy animals. The slaying of Canadian fur seals, while pretty bloody and gross, is not a serious environmental issue. Fishery collapse is. Unfortunately, codfish don't make good t-shirt mascots. C'est la vie?

Now, about 'moral banckruptcy', I agree this is a strong statement, but I can fully back it up. Moral bankruptcy, in my mind, is a failure of character, widely generalized to a society. And no, AFAIK, Asians are not there yet, and I could the difference every day when I was still living in a big city (Toronto, Canada). The 'credit crunch' is a good example of it. Not long ago, if you wanted something, you worked and saved for it. Now you just borrow, and to hell with the consequences! This is how we got into this credit crunch. What happened to the sense of responsibility? Another example, most kids 50 years ago were literate after grade 8. How is it that now you have college graduates who can barely write? Lower standards. Why? Because we've become lazy.

Well, yes and no. Let me address this. I don't agree with you that this is "moral bankruptcy." To me, "moral bankruptcy" is slavery, genocide, and the like. Laziness, and poor economic decision making, is not "moral bankruptcy" in my mind. Nazi Germany, despite its somewhat tight economic ship and fairly decent educational standards, was morally bankrupt. North Korea, despite having no real credit system, is morally bankrupt (for obvious reasons.)

Like I've said many times before, credit is a tool. The fact that it's available and used is not a bad thing. The fact that it was too cheap and was overused was. The US is no more morally bankrupt today than it was prior to 1929 (which was another period of overextended credit.) If anything, we can argue that, compared to those halcyon days:

- Minorities are treated with a much greater degree of respect
- The average American affords a greater standard of living (meaning quality of housing, work, medicine, diet, access to clean water, etc.)
- The poor are, on average comparatively less impoverished
- Education is more widely dispersed, and most people are better educated

As for your belief about education, it's a mixed bag. Compared to the average Japanese, it's probably true that the average American lags in science and math. However, I am cautious about saying that the average American college graduate today can "barely write," and we are therefore failing. Here's why: we send a far greater number of people to college today, and have a much greater "university-industrial complex" than we did in the past. Today, about 27 or so percent attend college, compared to a much smaller number in the past. In the past, college was the realm of the well-heeled and generally WASPish (and Jewish, to a lesser extent) communities. I mean, it was as recently as the first half of the twentieth century that the Ivies had “Jew quotas!” Clearly, the riffraff were kept out of the universities. That and them damn overperforming Jews.

But I digress. The point is that while the “university-industrial complex” is failing some, it is giving many many more the opportunity to attend a university when there would not have been such an opportunity just 60 years ago! The occasional degreed doofus is the price we pay for wanting to bring college to more people.

I am also VERY cautious about saying that “x group in year yyyy” was literate, but “y group in year xxxx” is not if we do not take care to define literacy (which is NOT static), and without knowing the actual figures.

The main thing is, we are failing our children (there are exceptions of course). I'll leave it to this quote for now:

"So long as the young generation is, and continues to be, well brought up, our ship of state will have a fair voyage; otherwise the consequences are better left unspoken."—Plato, Lawsm


I do agree with Plato, but then I counter that:

Our children today are generally far more aware of the world around them than their grandparents or even grandparents likely were.
Despite your belief that education is declining, we are giving a broader group of people far greater access to educational opportunities than ever before
Our children today grow up far less steeped in a culture of institutionalized bigotry than before

My beliefs stem from two things: a brief overview of the educational literature (I've taught), and experience in university and primary and secondary classrooms. I'm glad to talk more about this.

About the USA being better prepared to face collapse than the USSR, I'll invite you to check this:

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/23259

I agree Orlov is a 'doomer' but at least he has a keen, dry sense of humor, which makes reading this article quite entertaining, and if you take the time to understand his points, you'll see he makes sense.


Orlov is cute, but he makes some strange arguments based on very faulty arguments. There's an odd belief amongst Americans that former Soviets somehow get the USSR right, when many, especially those who came at a young age, get it completely wrong.

For example, Orlov makes the strange argument that because money was of little use during the Soviet era, then it's all hunky dory to be without money in the “collapse!” Rubbish! Money has clearly become a powerful factor in the post-Soviet era, and this is especially clear in the power that the mafia wields through money. Money doesn't matter until the mafia comes knocking for protection money. Same thing goes for his strange belief that things are “free” (like rent) thanks to the Soviet era. Nothing is free. If you aren't paying in money, you're paying in blood.

Just because serfs didn't pay in cash didn't mean that their small farms were “free.”

But he also makes tons of statements that he makes NO effort to justify.

“Economic collapse tends to shut down both local production and imports, and so it is vitally important that anything you own wears out slowly, and that you can fix it yourself if it breaks.”

Tends to? What does that even mean? Sources? Bah!

Sorry, but I cannot stand broad statements that lack any sort of sourcing. Basically all of his presentation is rife with this kind of behavior. Later, he says:

Primary and secondary education fails to achieve in 12 years what Soviet schools generally achieved in 8.

And he doesn't even cite a single thing! Worse yet, he doesn't even say what they're “achieving!”

Then he says that “illiteracy” is a problem in the United States. Source? Proof?

Sorry man, but that presentation was a load of crap. He says a lot of things that are sometimes commonly believed by the anti-American disaffected “20 to 30-somethings,” but backs up so little with any sort of real sources that I see no reason to believe anything he argues. Even if he is right about some of what he claims, he only uses ONE other case (USSR) and doesn't bother with comparing the US with post-war Japan, civil war China, post-WWI Germany, etc. It's just a furthering of the Soviet-US contrast that the Cold Warriors are all so fond of.

Besides, he doesn't even bother dealing with the economic hardships of the Great Depression, which followed one of the most “materialistic” eras of American history. But hey, why deal with endogenous factors, when you can ignore them?

Ultimately, because pretty much none of this can really be verified, it's all “cargo cult science,” which I'm going to deal with a bit more in the future. Suffice it to say that more people should be less sure of their conclusions.

Finally, I do not reject the modern world, only one aspect of it, which is the pointless, ego-driven material consumption. I am glad to live with modern medicine, electricity, the internet, and yes, the occasional delicacy (like oysters :) that I did not grow. I'll be the last to say that trying to live off the land is for everyone. It is very hard, except for a brief respite in winter (which allows me to be here). But I wouldn't go back to the 'normal life' for anything.

So you want your cake and want to eat it too. Don't we all...

(I do, however, respect your willingness to walk the walk. Most of the “doomers” are fat American slobs like the rest of us.)

(P.S. I'm not fat. :-))

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 7:30:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

By the way, I find it funny that Orlov mistakes "American" with "First World" so often.

He states that Americans are fat and blah blah. Yeah? So are Brits, Slovaks, Mexicans, Australians, Greeks, New Zealanders...etc.

Basically, anyone with access to the bounty of food that the modern world affords most people. Pluses and minuses, pluses and minuses.

Again, it seemed more like a wistful pro-anything but Merikkuh indictment of the US. Many, if not all of the things that he wags his finger about are problems around the world, including in Russia.

By the way, his argument about transit has pretty much flopped. Americans have flocked to transit, and apparently transit systems exist! Surprise surprise.

The thing that Orlov also misses, is that OIL IS FUNGIBLE. Even if the US were a net oil exporter, it would buy oil from abroad. Furthermore, in a "ALL OF OPEC IS VAPORIZED" scenario, the US still possesses a great deal of oil that it's politically not allowed to develop. How long would that last in the "AOOISV" scenario? Furthermore, the US possesses incredible stores of uranium and thorium that it could use to power itself with nuclear. Not to mention a whole lot of NG.

So we'd be on some sort of crash "Pickens Plan?" Who knows. I do know that we'd likely see rationing or a rapid shift toward electrics long before we'd see Orlov's joyous collapse of the big bad Merrikuh. Most Americans would probably rather take a smelly minority-filled bus to work than starve, I bet.

I guess my problem with his argument is that it's overwhelmingly narrow in scope, poorly sourced, and somewhat unrealistic. It's almost like he WISHES for this to happen, so he follows a path where everything happens the way he wants it to. I mean, sure, we're all guilty of this, but let's get some perspective here and maybe compare to other societies before we conclude that the USSR-US comparison is the best one...

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 9:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous Greenneck said...

I've been to Lomborg errors, and I don't necessarily disagree that there are problems with the book (I admit to not having read it in as much detail as I have most of the competing works, like Worldwatch)-- though I note that Lomborg also addresses many (most?) of Fog's criticisms in a seemingly fairly clear and well-sourced manner. Ultimately, I think that the publisher of the book (Chris Harrison through Cambridge), and Pielke Jr. do a good job of discussing how much of the Lomborg "controversy" is simply political. Not all of it is, but a good deal of it has to do with how people approach issues. I don't agree with much of what Lomborg says, but I find it kind of funny that he's been made into the anti-Christ because he disagrees with this thing that EO Wilson says or that thing that Greenpeace says. It's demonstrative, if only a little bit, of the rigidness that characterizes much of the modern Western environmental movement.

This whole debate, just like what we do here, is political. Lomborg defends the cornucopian (or BAU) view, his opponents the Malthusan view. I don't expect Lomborg, or Greenpeace, to be objective, no more than you and I are; none of us are trying to publish in a peer-reviewed science magazine. We take sides, and some of our views are based on facts, some on intuition, at least for me.

Like I've said before, I do believe that there are problems and serious environmental issues, but I also think that much of the problem has been, time and time again, an overwhelmingly silly focus on the part of the greens on "white whales" like nuclear power. Or, inter alia, cute fuzzy animals. The slaying of Canadian fur seals, while pretty bloody and gross, is not a serious environmental issue. Fishery collapse is. Unfortunately, codfish don't make good t-shirt mascots. C'est la vie?

Agreed. I don't have time for hardcore greens. They seem to focus on the wrong things. But much of that, IMO, has to do with the need to raise funds from the general public.

Well, yes and no. Let me address this. I don't agree with you that this is "moral bankruptcy." To me, "moral bankruptcy" is slavery, genocide, and the like. Laziness, and poor economic decision making, is not "moral bankruptcy" in my mind. Nazi Germany, despite its somewhat tight economic ship and fairly decent educational standards, was morally bankrupt. North Korea, despite having no real credit system, is morally bankrupt (for obvious reasons.)

You're talking about political systems, I talk about people. Hitlers and King-Jonq-Il are a consequence of bankruptcy. Imagine America in 2020, broken and destitute after the dollar collpase and peak oil (OK, I make a favourite doomer prediction here). Some poltician will come along and promise to 'make USA great again'. That's how Hitler got elected.

Like I've said many times before, credit is a tool. The fact that it's available and used is not a bad thing. The fact that it was too cheap and was overused was. The US is no more morally bankrupt today than it was prior to 1929 (which was another period of overextended credit.) If anything, we can argue that, compared to those halcyon days:
Credit is just one example, I could give you tons more. How about all the frivolous lawsuits?

- Minorities are treated with a much greater degree of respect
- The average American affords a greater standard of living (meaning quality of housing, work, medicine, diet, access to clean water, etc.)
- The poor are, on average comparatively less impoverished
- Education is more widely dispersed, and most people are better educated
Agreed. We can thank cheap fossil fuels for most of this.

As for your belief about education, it's a mixed bag. Compared to the average Japanese, it's probably true that the average American lags in science and math. However, I am cautious about saying that the average American college graduate today can "barely write," and we are therefore failing.
That's not what I said. The failure occurs at the primary and secondary levels. Agreed with what you say about the kids being more opened to the world around them. But again, my view is colored by my personal experience. You mentioned you taught, so you have first-hand experience, so I'll defer to that.

For example, Orlov makes the strange argument that because money was of little use during the Soviet era, then it's all hunky dory to be without money in the “collapse!” Rubbish! Money has clearly become a powerful factor in the post-Soviet era, and this is especially clear in the power that the mafia wields through money. Money doesn't matter until the mafia comes knocking for protection money. Same thing goes for his strange belief that things are “free” (like rent) thanks to the Soviet era. Nothing is free. If you aren't paying in money, you're paying in blood.

Probably very few Russians had to deal with the mafia. Most were too poor. As to 'free' of course it's not free. All Orlov meant is that you didn't have to fork money over for rent. There were lots of 'free' things in the old USSR but no freedom!

But he also makes tons of statements that he makes NO effort to justify.

“Economic collapse tends to shut down both local production and imports, and so it is vitally important that anything you own wears out slowly, and that you can fix it yourself if it breaks.”

Tends to? What does that even mean? Sources? Bah!

Agreed 'tends' is poorly worded. Otherwise, it is a truism. What is economic collapse? That production and trade have slowed significantly or stopped. You don't need to back that up.

Primary and secondary education fails to achieve in 12 years what Soviet schools generally achieved in 8.

And he doesn't even cite a single thing! Worse yet, he doesn't even say what they're “achieving!”

That jibes with what I said earlier. I recall what I learned in school, and what my now adult children learned 25 years later, there was a 2-3 years lag on most subjects. To be fair though, the kids had to learn more stuff than I did, so it makes sense it was spread over a longer time.

Sorry man, but that presentation was a load of crap. He says a lot of things that are sometimes commonly believed by the anti-American disaffected “20 to 30-somethings,” but backs up so little with any sort of real sources that I see no reason to believe anything he argues. Even if he is right about some of what he claims, he only uses ONE other case (USSR) and doesn't bother with comparing the US with post-war Japan, civil war China, post-WWI Germany, etc. It's just a furthering of the Soviet-US contrast that the Cold Warriors are all so fond of.

This presentation was what it was, an opinion. Just like what you and I write here. Of course he uses the USSR, as this where he comes from. I know several Russians, now emigrated in Canada, and much of what they say at least approximates what Orlov said. In particular the uselessness of money (influence was needed more than money to get things), the cheap cost of everything (when you could get it), home & dacha gardens, foraging for berries and mushrooms, etc. To me his central point remains correct, that is, as the Russians were already used to shortages and a difficult life, plus the fact the bank would not foreclose on their homes, the collapse of their economy did not affect them as badly as a similar collapse will do in America.

So you want your cake and want to eat it too. Don't we all...

I don't see it like that. I am just ahead of my time. To me the future world will be a cross between Little House on the Prairie and Star Trek. You can reduce your 'ecological footprint' a lot and still use low-energy modern amenities like the Web.

(I do, however, respect your willingness to walk the walk. Most of the “doomers” are fat American slobs like the rest of us.)

Cheap oil (i.e. driving everywhere) and the garbage that passes as food now produced by big-Ag has a lot to do with this.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 9:26:00 PM PST, Anonymous greenneck said...

Ari,
Re. previous poll. I tried to italicize your comments & answer them. I didn't work...

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 11:18:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

In order to italicize, use the (i) (/i) tags and just replace the parentheses with < and >.

Anyway...

This whole debate, just like what we do here, is political. Lomborg defends the cornucopian (or BAU) view, his opponents the Malthusan view. I don't expect Lomborg, or Greenpeace, to be objective, no more than you and I are; none of us are trying to publish in a peer-reviewed science magazine. We take sides, and some of our views are based on facts, some on intuition, at least for me.

Well, I think the thing that becomes clear if you read the links I sent your way is that it's much more than just intuition. It comes down to fairly rigid notions of what is “right” and what is “wrong” in terms of interpretation of facts.

The thing about a lot of what we are treated to every day as being a “fact” is that a lot of it is actually extrapolation based on data. Now, let me be the first to say that I have no problem with extrapolation in and of itself-- it's a necessary tool for conducting a lot of the work in modern science.

However, it's not “fact.” The crux of the Lomborg brouhaha came down to differences in extrapolation of trends, as well as the ultimate views on how policy should react to those trends. By and large, Lomborg appears to agree with the majority of the “big” issues as being true: AGW is real and an issue, etc. He, however, arrives at different policy views and extrapolates the trends differently. Unfortunately, in our current intellectual environment, if you don't think that Kyoto is the one true solution to AGW, then you are a bad, bad man and should feel bad, too.

Etc.

It also, unfortunately, is kind of the same thing in the peak oil debates. If you don't buy into peak oil doomsday, then you are “blind” or “a oil lackey” (funny how much overlap there is between AGW doom and peak oil doom there, huh?)

Agreed. I don't have time for hardcore greens. They seem to focus on the wrong things. But much of that, IMO, has to do with the need to raise funds from the general public.

Well, here's the problem: the green movement is NOT poor. By and large, they are flush with funds. The real problem, in my mind, is that money is not going to who needs it: researchers. How much bloody money does Greenpeace really need to tell us that coal plants are bad? How much money does Sierra need to tell us that nuclear is bad? Etc.

Really, the problem is not that there isn't money going into environmental issues. The problem is that it's going to policy-minded, rather than research-minded, organizations.

You're talking about political systems, I talk about people. Hitlers and King-Jonq-Il are a consequence of bankruptcy. Imagine America in 2020, broken and destitute after the dollar collpase and peak oil (OK, I make a favourite doomer prediction here). Some poltician will come along and promise to 'make USA great again'. That's how Hitler got elected.

You're assuming that societies and political systems are necessarily independent of one another. This is a strange belief, in my opinion, especially when one considers the history of demogoguery. What, other than perhaps degrees of impoverishment, separated the Germans and the Americans, who were both hit quite hard by the Great Depression? Why did Japan accept a near total reversal of the gains of the Taisho democratic movement, while England extended suffrage further?

Part of it undoubtedly had to do with culture, but I think a lot had to do with entrenchment of systems. Why is it that, time and time again, the US has not allowed even the most powerful executive authority to stand? Why did the US rather quickly revert to a less powerful executive after Lincoln essentially snuffed many basic rights? Well, partly it's due to the federal system giving states a great deal of quasi-sovereign power, but a lot has to do with the fact that the Congress exerts considerable control over the executive.

Americans have a strange love affair with the idea of the imperial executive, when in reality the US President is actually one of the LEAST powerful executives among democracies. Don't believe me? Look at how much power British PMs wield. Or, for that matter, the ruling coalition.

The US couldn't muster a demagogue if it wanted to, simply because there are too many other ready and able crooks in the Senate and House that will block the crook-in-chief from going too far! Look at how quickly the GOP managed to muster some cajones when they thought that FDR had gone too far. And people LIKED FDR.

Probably very few Russians had to deal with the mafia. Most were too poor. As to 'free' of course it's not free. All Orlov meant is that you didn't have to fork money over for rent. There were lots of 'free' things in the old USSR but no freedom!

Not forking over money doesn't mean it's “free,” though. Money is simply a simple, fungible way of denoting value. In the case of the post-Soviet Russian experience, I'm sure it was fairly complicated for most, but I sincerely doubt that most of the people living in state-built housing were there for “free.”

Orlov also fails to explain why that's necessarily “better.”

Agreed 'tends' is poorly worded. Otherwise, it is a truism. What is economic collapse? That production and trade have slowed significantly or stopped. You don't need to back that up.

Sure you do. Trade practically stopped after the ratification of Smoot-Hawley, and economic growth plummeted after 1929. Was that a “collapse?”

Japan had little to no economic “growth,” and even less trade during the Tokugawa era, but was that “collapse?”

That term is awfully silly if you apply a historical lens, IMO.

That jibes with what I said earlier. I recall what I learned in school, and what my now adult children learned 25 years later, there was a 2-3 years lag on most subjects. To be fair though, the kids had to learn more stuff than I did, so it makes sense it was spread over a longer time.

Again, a lag isn't necessarily bad. But I don't think we're arguing much here. Having lived in Japan and Korea and discussed the educational systems (and worked as a teacher of sorts in Japan), I can say that there are definitely serious advantages to education in the United States over those two countries. It's not popular to believe that here, but I can certainly corroborate my opinion with that of others who taught in Japan with me.

The problem with the American education system is not that it's all bad. It's that it's highly bimodal in its output. It produces a lot of superstars, a moderate number of “normies,” and a great deal too many “left behinds.” Japan, in my experience, produces very very few superstars, many “normies,” and relatively few “left behinds.” It is good at indoctrinating and force feeding kids rote subjects like math and science, but college produces few “exceptional minds,” and many of the best scientific minds come to American universities to do their undergraduate and post-graduate education.

I think it's safe to say, having studied at a so-called “top” Japanese university, that even the lower-ranked of the top-tier universities in the US (UCLA, Michigan, Rochester, etc.) are light years ahead of all but maybe one or two Japanese universities. So where we lag in secondary education, our tertiary and beyond are still leading the way.

Too many superstars, too many “left behinds.” But this is, in part, due to a different philosophy of education, and is not altogether wrong. We also have far fewer kids offing themselves because of a bad test score than the Japanese and Koreans have, so that's a definite plus... and I'm not being glib.

This presentation was what it was, an opinion. Just like what you and I write here. Of course he uses the USSR, as this where he comes from. I know several Russians, now emigrated in Canada, and much of what they say at least approximates what Orlov said. In particular the uselessness of money (influence was needed more than money to get things), the cheap cost of everything (when you could get it), home & dacha gardens, foraging for berries and mushrooms, etc. To me his central point remains correct, that is, as the Russians were already used to shortages and a difficult life, plus the fact the bank would not foreclose on their homes, the collapse of their economy did not affect them as badly as a similar collapse will do in America.

I'd much rather have a system based on money than influence. Money can be saved and earned with hard work and a degree of luck. Influence can as well, but a lot of times it becomes a hereditary factor.

Nonetheless, I think what his central thesis is is that if you happen to have the misfortune of living in a shitty state, then hey, it's not so bad to have more shit dumped on your head! Newsflash? Not really. That's like telling a sub-Saharan African that life's hard. It's understood.

Yes, Americans have further to fall than Soviets did. So what? That's a GOOD THING. But it's not a uniquely American thing: this includes the entire First World. The whole First World would have a long way to fall compared to a former Soviet. But, the First World also has more deeply entrenched institutions and a stronger rule of law. These two things are probably what kept the US, UK, etc. from accepting demagogues during the Great Depression. They will also serve the US well during hardships.

I don't see it like that. I am just ahead of my time. To me the future world will be a cross between Little House on the Prairie and Star Trek. You can reduce your 'ecological footprint' a lot and still use low-energy modern amenities like the Web.

LOW ENERGY? I dunno. While I'm sure that the biggest figures I've seen thrown out there for the Interweb's energy use are exaggerations, the Internet is a pretty “high energy” affair. On the other hand, it's good because it can be powered by pretty much anything.

Cheap oil (i.e. driving everywhere) and the garbage that passes as food now produced by big-Ag has a lot to do with this.

And what happens when those cars are all plug-in hybrids or whatnot? Then we'll be freaking out about peak something else. Personally, I'm waiting for peak sun. Unfortunately, by the time that happens the oceans will have boiled away, so that's probably the most “peaky” of all the peaks!

Again, Big Ag is both good and bad. Big Ag means that I can buy my organic tofu for super cheap, but it also means that I get salty snacks for super cheap.

Pluses and minuses. Just gotta follow what ol' Ben Franklin said (not what he did, hehe):

“Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”

Alas that most people don't recognize that virtue, quite possibly the most incredibly important one of all. Everything in moderation.

 
At Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 11:25:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Agh, one thing I forgot to mention:

Money and prices are generally GOOD. Here's why: prices act as a signal. They are a good method of correcting problems when they are implemented properly.

One of the big issues with a non-cash based economy is that it doesn't allow for price signals to sink in. It's basically "all or nothing." You either have a coat or no coat. It's not like the US where you can buy a Wal*Mart coat (which will probably stink, but still keep you alive), but also go and buy a Ferragamo if you want. It's freedom of choice, but also allows people to scale down if the price increases.

This is what has happened with transit to a degree. People in the US have stuck with transit despite prices of gas going down because of other factors. Price is a powerful, and very useful thing.

Freer, price-based economies seem to weather storms better because people can make CHOICES. Non-price-based economies forfeit choice, and create "all or nothing" situations that don't leave most people better off.

 
At Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 7:45:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How so? I'm interested in seeing why you think this is so. I mean, what makes it different this time from, say, The Great Depression or the collapse of the Vienna Stock Market in the 19th century?"

What makes it different this time stems from several factors, none of which, if occurring by itself, would necessarily be catastrophic.

One huge difference is that during the Great Depression, the US economy did not depend upon imports for 2/3 of its oil. Now, US foreign policy is horribly distorted by our need to mollify our various oil "dealers," who have their own unique sets of problems to deal with. The resulting wars have been enormously costly and distracted attention and scarce resources from other serious problems.

And the US oil dependence is just another example of the weaknesses of a highly complex, tightly interconnected global economy. As banks and financial institutions consolidate, and essential commodity supply lines get longer and more expensive to maintain, a single failure has greater consequences.

Basically, as the smaller, local, regional, and national economies have dissolved into the interconnected, interdependent global economy, the consequences of a single point of failure have been greatly amplified.

Combine this energy-intensive, interconnected global economy with complex risk management strategies that even the financial experts don't understand, throw in a recent history of governmental incompetence, moral laxity, greed, hyperindividualism and entrenched hatred for regulation, and you've set the stage for an unprecedented economic meltdown.

 
At Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 9:20:00 AM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

Combine this energy-intensive, interconnected global economy with complex risk management strategies that even the financial experts don't understand, throw in a recent history of governmental incompetence, moral laxity, greed, hyperindividualism and entrenched hatred for regulation, and you've set the stage for an unprecedented economic meltdown.

Wow, now wasn't that dramatic. I almost took my glasses off and said "oh my god".

 
At Monday, February 2, 2009 at 11:01:00 AM PST, Blogger bc said...

Combine this energy-intensive, interconnected global economy with complex risk management strategies that even the financial experts don't understand, throw in a recent history of governmental incompetence, moral laxity, greed, hyperindividualism and entrenched hatred for regulation, and you've set the stage for an unprecedented economic meltdown.

If the system is impossible for the experts to fathom, what makes you so sure you know what is going to happen? If the system is truly too complex to understand, it is quite possible that we have unwittingly created a resilient system capable of prolonged existence. Nobody knows.

Time will tell, but some people are happy to jump to conclusions.

 
At Monday, February 2, 2009 at 3:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If the system is truly too complex to understand, it is quite possible that we have unwittingly created a resilient system capable of prolonged existence. Nobody knows."

Nonsense. A serious debunker would never make such a ridiculous statement.

"Nobody knows" is no way to design and market workable economic policies. If "nobody knows" is true, then a backyard garden will solve the world's problems. After all, nobody knows.

The real, "I know and I can" experts, the ones with the real power to enact global-scale economic policies, work from the assumption that they do indeed at least think they KNOW what they are doing.

To wit, here's Alan Greenspan, one such expert, as the testified to congress last October about the nascent economic crisis, that had just caught most of us by complete surprise:

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

ALAN GREENSPAN: That is -- precisely. No, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

In a matter of months in 2008, the outlook for the US economy took a most dramatic and unforeseen (by most) turn for the worse. This is not resilience, this is trillion dollar deficits, high unemployment for a decade and crushing tax burdens for future generations under the best of scenarios.

Those economists who avoided the "who knows?" cop-out (Rubini/Dr. Doom Taleb, et al) DID know that a loosely regulated, growth-oriented global economy could spin out of control in this way.

Sure, "nobody knows" with great precision how every economic detail will emerge, but the current crisis was indeed foreseen by some who had a better working model of the economic universe than Greenspan and most of Wall Street and Main Street.

The fact that we've already nationalized so many major private corporations in such a short time speaks volumes about the resilience of modern capitalism.

Capitalism 2.0 is already on the drawing board, and not a minute too soon.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 5:02:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

anon,
You're talking about issues that have nothing to do with peak oil, i.e.:

"governmental incompetence, moral laxity, greed, hyperindividualism, entrenched hatred for regulation, drinking water fluoridation, nose piercing etc. etc."

This blog is focused on the impact of peak oil. At the moment oil is posing no problem whatsoever. It currently costs about $40/barrel, and there's a massive glut of the stuff, despite huge cuts by OPEC.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 6:14:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This blog is focused on the impact of peak oil."

No, this blog is only about peak oil in a vague, tangential sense. Your mean-spirited attack on the EROEI of gardening has nothing to do with "the impact of peak oil."

This blog is just a thinly-veiled defense of pro-growth capitalism, aimed at those "idiots" who have seen its future and decided to make other plans.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 6:30:00 AM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

Haha, that post on EROEI of gardening is still striking nerves, even though the post was made over 3 weeks ago. I love it.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 7:22:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...that post on EROEI of gardening is still striking nerves..."

Thanks, Andy. It's somewhat comforting to see that even JD's developmentally challenged readers have figured out that the "focus" of this blog is not the "impact of peak oil."

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 10:03:00 AM PST, Anonymous AndrewRyan said...

Thank you for making my point, anon.

Are you trying to tell me that peak oil doomer sites don't fawn over backyard gardening?

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 10:45:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Are you trying to tell me that peak oil doomer sites don't fawn over backyard gardening?"

No, I'm trying to tell you that backyard gardening, whether it's mentioned in "doomer sites" or HGTV is just a pasttime that can produce something to eat for those who care to try it.

No one - I repeat - NO ONE, ever held up gardening as a one-size-fits-all, universal panacea for the world's problems, despite JD's attempts to paint it that way.

And to carp and whine about gardening is NOT focusing on the "impact of peak oil."

Nor is bloviating about "growth = jobs."

And for all the whining about doomers, even the most hard-core doomers don't believe peak oil, whenever it might occur, is the end of the world as we know it. As I, and others have tried to inject here, peak oil, combined with other serious problems like wars, droughts, terrorist attacks, economic depressions, etc, will be more serious than any of these events if they were to happen in isolation.

But then, you probably understand that, despite your juvenile rhetoric to the contrary.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 11:53:00 AM PST, Blogger bc said...

Just for the record, I am not responding to Anons, personally I would delete their posts but there you go.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 12:59:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

And for all the whining about doomers, even the most hard-core doomers don't believe peak oil, whenever it might occur, is the end of the world as we know it.

Oh, come now. How is predicting a massive, rapid "die-off" of up to 5/6ths of the world's population supposed to not represent the end of the world as we know it? For that matter, how is Ken Deffeyes prediction that "by 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age" not TEOTWAWKI? Whether or not you personally give the man any credence, he's still highly respected in places like the Oil Drum.

For that matter, I can distinctly recall when I was going through my own doomer phase, when I was concerned about supplies of supplies of insulin in a post-crash world. A Google search led to a "helpful" posting on PO.com insisting that "the only ones who will have [insulin] will be the ones who stockpiled it and can store it. If there is no cure by the time of a collapse I would shoot my own daughter in the head right then and there."

In short, you're either sorely mistaken or lying if you're seriously suggesting that no one is predicting TEOTWAWKI as a direct result of peak oil. And it's that fear-mongering that nearly drove me to suicide, and I continue to read and participate here precisely to save other people from that kind of horror.

As I, and others have tried to inject here, peak oil, combined with other serious problems like wars, droughts, terrorist attacks, economic depressions, etc, will be more serious than any of these events if they were to happen in isolation.

Yes, so? That's nothing but a truism, and a rather patently obvious one, at that. Leaving aside questionable value judgments regarding the decadence of modern society (since every age since the dawn of recorded history has bemoaned how social morals have eroded), no one here has disputed that problems exist. As almost everyone has said until they've turned blue in the face, no one here has called for, supported, or suggested business as usual. JD's entire premise has been that peak oil won't be TEOTWAWKI precisely because people won't continue doing what they've done in the past when it no longer becomes practical. My own cultural and economic beliefs are too idiosyncratic to summarize here in brief, but I tend much more towards socialism/communism than contemporary capitalism.

Given that, think what you will of me or anyone else. But you're trying to pigeonhole many of us as something we're not. You persist in seeing the entire debate in terms of stark dualisms, where the "peak oil" side is devoid of extremism, and the "debunker" side is full of rabid reactionaries. If you disagree on specific points, so be it. If you interpret events differently, feel free to explain. But try to assume a certain degree of good faith and competence on the part of those with whom you're arguing.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 1:56:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"n short, you're either sorely mistaken or lying if you're seriously suggesting that no one is predicting TEOTWAWKI as a direct result of peak oil."

You know, you could be right. I haven't read that for myself. If you would be so kind, could you cite the author who predicted TEOTWAWKI as a direct result of peak oil?

You could be right, there could be any number of people who've predicted that, but I find that hard to believe. I suppose a lot of that prediction depends on how you define both "TEOTWAWKI " and "peak oil." The die-offs you describe sound like POST-peak oil scenarios, not peak oil.

As for the truism, you're using that truism to your own advantage when you stipulate "as a direct result of peak oil." And talk about bad faith! The first words any visitor to this site reads are, in bold caps, "DISCLAIMER FOR IDIOTS..." Yes, good faith discussion would be nice, but JD sets the distinctly belligerent tone here.

If you will cite that for me, we can continue the discussion. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't believe that anyone would seriously, definitively state that global peak oil production in and of itself will cause 5/6 of the population to die. It's a little easier to comprehend such a die off in some post-peak future, but not concurrent with the incidence of peak as observed and agreed upon with some degree of scientific consensus.

And if that is indeed what Deffeyes, et al are saying, I can't believe you'd waste so much breath on the opinion of a few obscure internet personalities.

How many times have we heard that no one will even notice the actual time of peak oil? If Deffeyes and company actually believe that the incidence of peak oil by itself will cause 5/6 of the population to die, then Sean, I think you might have reason to ridicule him.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 3:22:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

You know, you could be right. I haven't read that for myself. If you would be so kind, could you cite the author who predicted TEOTWAWKI as a direct result of peak oil?

The very first sentence of Matt Savinar's Life After the Oil Crash (LATOC) site reads "civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon." He acknowledges various economic and related troubles, but portrays them as a direct result of peak oil. If nothing else convinces you, the choice of terminology (the "oil crash") is a bit of a giveaway.

I suppose a lot of that prediction depends on how you define both "TEOTWAWKI " and "peak oil."

Well, yes, in that I suppose you're right. For me, the scenarios being trumpeted by the armchair experts at PO.com, or Savinar over at LATOC, would qualify as "TEOTWAWKI." The large number of people who rely on medical treatments, or even food shipments, that would not be available in the post-peak world predicted by these individuals would probably agree.

The die-offs you describe sound like POST-peak oil scenarios, not peak oil.

I'm afraid I'm not quite grasping the distinction. Surely whether or not a die-off occurs as a direct result of the geological peaking of petroleum production or as a result of the collapse of society caused by the geological peaking of petroleum production is little more than a game of semantics?

The first words any visitor to this site reads are, in bold caps, "DISCLAIMER FOR IDIOTS..." Yes, good faith discussion would be nice, but JD sets the distinctly belligerent tone here.

I'm not JD, and I can't explain or apologize on his behalf, but given the large number of anonymous posters who show up following almost every single post he makes berating him for denying the geological reality of limited resources, despite the fact that he's explained at length the rationale for his blog's title, I sort of understand it. It's a more aggressive tone than I would adopt, if this were my blog, but it's not, so I don't have any say in the matter.

How many times have we heard that no one will even notice the actual time of peak oil?

Er,,, never? I mean, it's probably true, given that a final peak will only be identifiable in hindsight, but I assume that's not what you're talking about. People who actually recognize peak oil as a phenomenon at all almost universally acknowledge that it will have some degree of impact. Certainly, the recognized experts on the subject, like Kunstler, Deffeyes, Simmons, et al., don't argue that. And looking at the admittedly unrepresentative sample that is the WWW, I can name three or four doom-oriented websites (LATOC, PO.com, TOD, etc.) for every site (like this one) that dares to suggest that just maybe peak oil won't result in the total collapse of society as we know it.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 4:11:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Nice try Carl. For your next sock puppet, you might try posting from a location other than Lower Buttfuck, Vermont.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 6:24:00 PM PST, Anonymous greenneck said...

"This blog is focused on the impact of peak oil. At the moment oil is posing no problem whatsoever. It currently costs about $40/barrel, and there's a massive glut of the stuff, despite huge cuts by OPEC."

Well JD, you're the one who goes off on tangents, attacking gardening, equating jobs to growth, and the like.

As to the $40 price, yeah right, it came at the price of a massive economic downturn, of which we only have seen the very beginning. I for one am glad I have prepared for it, for I knew it was coming, peak oil or not. That's why you need to take the big view, and just not focus on a single resource. The western civilization is morally, financially and physically bankrupt. You either accept it, and try to survive it, or keep your head in the sand and pretend all is great and will be worked out by the 'market'.

I wish you good luck in the coming years. I asked you what you would do if your job disappeared, and you could not find another, and you answered you'd mooch, in other words, depend on others. This guy has decided to look after himself, and a few others along the way. Be thankful there are enough guys like us to keep you fed!

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 6:47:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm afraid I'm not quite grasping the distinction. Surely whether or not a die-off occurs as a direct result of the geological peaking of petroleum production or as a result of the collapse of society caused by the geological peaking of petroleum production is little more than a game of semantics?"

If it's a semantic game, it's a game that you and JD are playing with gusto whether you realize it or not. The big "die-off" will not be some instantaneous Rapture that occurs at the stroke of Peak Oil, taking 5/6 of the population in an instant. If such a die-off should occur at all, I would expect it would be more of an accelerated attrition brought on by multiple calamities happening concurrently over a period of time.

"It's a more aggressive tone than I would adopt, if this were my blog, but it's not, so I don't have any say in the matter."

JD's tone, (including the recent, bizarre "Buttfuck, Vermont" eruption) just goes to show that both he and the doomers he's so obsessed with are engaging in a lot of vague, sloppy hyperbole.

If JD is so concerned about "IDIOTS" misconstruing his message, he should at the least avoid the insults and hyperbole, define his terms, and avoid the temptation to create and destroy strawmen in the name of "debunking." Otherwise, his credibility is no better than Savinar's, Deffeye's, et al.

"...it's probably true, given that a final peak will only be identifiable in hindsight, but I assume that's not what you're talking about."

That's exactly what I'm talking about. The precise moment of peak global oil production in insignificant in and of itself; it's the POST-peak competition for resources that is worrisome, not the peak itself.

"I can name three or four doom-oriented websites (LATOC, PO.com, TOD, etc.) for every site (like this one) that dares to suggest that just maybe peak oil won't result in the total collapse of society as we know it."

I suggest that if you were to take to the time to filter the hyperbole from both sides, you'd find that no one is suggesting that the peak by itself, independent of post-peak resource wars, economic depressions and terrorism, will cause the end of the world, or the end of civilization.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 7:42:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

greenneck,

Your definition of "moral bankruptcy" is so fast and loose that it's essentially meaningless. You have yet to even define what it means to be morally bankrupt. Now you've added fiscally and physically. You use broad, meaningless terms without taking care to define what you mean and assume that we'll take your arguments on faith.

You also did NOT "know" that this downturn would happen. Nobody knows the future with absolute certainty. You made an educated guess, but how much statistical skill did your guess have? If I were to say, "There will be another economic recession after this one," then I'm not saying anything interesting. OF COURSE there will be a recession. It's part of the package.

It's predicting when, how severe, and what the causes are. Quite frankly, most of the people who come and say things like "I KNEWWWW IT!" demonstrate so little understanding of basic economics, finance, and accounting that I'm almost embarrassed for them.

When I last challenged you to define moral bankruptcy, you talked about educational systems.

As for fiscal bankruptcy, I daresay that most people don't realize how much debt a government can bear if the long-run plan is sound. One of the most irritating "doomer" traits is to think that debt is ALWAYS a bad thing, no matter what. I suggest that these people take a basic finance course and perhaps know a bit more about what they're talking about.

anon,

You're tilting at windmills. Savinar, at the very least, has said that peak oil will be the root cause of the calamity. I think you are just doing this to be a PITA.

 
At Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 8:02:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

BTW, someone earlier said that "capitalism 2.0" is coming. I think it was Fifi (anon).

I'm sick and I'm cranky, so I'm going to really press you people: WTF does that even mean? You all run around with these catch phrases that are just as bad as the bile that Tom Friedman spouts. The US will be more like France?

Or is Japan capitalism 2.0?

Is it socialism, but with a focus on monetary policy?

Or is it something as of yet unseen.

As usually, Fifi et al. demonstrate that that they think that "the system" is all like the US. That everyone had the joy of having a neo-con regime for 8 years.

Oh wait, I forget, I AM a neo-con! Hurr hurr.

And herein lies the problem: I get called "narrow-minded" all the time, but I'm the only one bothering to do comparative analyses to benefit the conversation.

Them windmills be mighty ferocious tonight...

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 12:51:00 AM PST, Anonymous Brother Cadfan said...

On the subject of long term debt as relates to individual countries, it might be of note that the United Kingdom, along with a few other western European countries, have only quite recently finished paying off debts from World War II to the United States!

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 4:30:00 AM PST, Blogger JD said...

greenneck,
I don't buy into your survivalist sureties, but I'm not going to argue about it. It's more enlightening to just wait and see. Time will tell us who was right.

I believe the current economic crisis will blow over, and when it does I expect peak oil to be handled fairly smoothly through conservation, technology and substitution. I'm very busy with work at the moment, thank you, and I fully expect to spend the rest of my life doing the same urban work routine I'm doing now. There will never come a time when I lose my job and can't find another. And there will never come a time when I need or want to retreat to a survivalist doomstead like yours.

My faith is in technology. We aren't technologically bankrupt, and in fact, technology and knowledge are surging now at a mind-boggling pace. That's the central axis of the future, IMO, and my head is definitely not in the sand. My head is working all day, every day, to help advance the ongoing technical development of mankind.

I simply don't foresee technology pooping out or collapsing or losing its utility/vigor. I fully expect that I, my children, and my grandchildren, will continue to live in a profoundly technical society, dependent on transport, trade and industrial agriculture. There won't be any need to follow the path you've taken.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 12:34:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon,

WTF?

If you expect a die-off then you're a doomer.
If you don't expect a die-off then you're not a doomer.

By definition, a die-off is the End Of the World Mad Max etc.

And FYI get thee to po.com and read some of the threads about how to survive hordes of hungry ex-accountants.

For some doomer end of the world caused by (artificial) peak oil check out: Alex Scarrow's Last Light. Very, very scary and that is that I am now a recovering doomer. I have not visited peakoil.com for several years now.

DB

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 1:00:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD -

Actually Marshfield is Upper Butt Fuck Vermont.

Plainfield is Lower Butt Fuck.

We have a spot in Felcher reserved for you though.

Carl

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 1:02:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you expect a die-off then you're a doomer. If you don't expect a die-off then you're not a doomer."

So, by this shallow logic, if you're not a doomer, you expect population to grow forever? If people don't die-off faster than they're 'born-in', then the population continues to grow, ostensibly forever.

"By definition, a die-off is the End Of the World Mad Max etc."

So that's the only a die-off can play out? Gee, I wish it were that simple. And I suppose I wish I could be the Mel Gibson character.

No, if the population doesn't grow in size, then there must be die off going on. The only real difference between "doomers" and "debunkers" is how fast the die-off occurs and how low the population goes before it hits something resembling stasis.

And for Ari, sick and cranky:

Capitalism 2.0 is the end of risk capitalism as we know it now. Cap. 2.0 is Big Central Government, much more like socialism. Nationalized banks functioning as monetary utilities. Some will call it fascism. No tax-payer safety nets for hedge-fund operators and derivative traders.

I'm sure Cap. 2.0 will be a crushing disappointment for the old-school growth capitalists.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 1:52:00 PM PST, Anonymous Hynek said...

JD: whare did you get the 73 mbd figure for 2000 crude production? EIA table says 68.49, it was 73 mbd last March..

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 1:58:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So, by this shallow logic, if you're not a doomer, you expect population to grow forever? If people don't die-off faster than they're 'born-in', then the population continues to grow, ostensibly forever. "

Duh. You fail logic 101.
There are FOUR possibilities that are alternatives to the die-off hypothesis, not just one.
1. Population will grow forever
2. Population will flatten and remain constant
3. Population will undulate around a stable plateau
4. Population will gracefully decline (ala western europe)

I personally think that #3 is the most likely, followed by #4 and #2.
#1 is not possible in a strictly pedantic sense in that the amount of entropy in the universe puts a physical (if somewhat science-fictionish) limit on the size of the maximum population.
Suffice to say, however, that maximum population is much, much bigger than that supported by this planet.

Also consider this:
say we SOLVE the energy crisis and go to a stage II civilization (or is it stage I?). We will have so much energy available that we will be able to mine deeper and deeper into the earth's crust and use it to create artificial habitats (skyscraper food farms etc)
In that scenario I surmise that the maximum sustainable population is again much, much higher than today and from our perspective (though not quite scientifically correct), the population will continue growing forever.

But then again: you are a doomer and sermonize from the holy text of "the limits to growth" and "dieoff.com"

db

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 2:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"#1 is not possible in a strictly pedantic sense in that the amount of entropy in the universe puts a physical (if somewhat science-fictionish) limit on the size of the maximum population."

Thank you! My point exactly, although there's nothing pedantic or "science-fistionish" about it, it's just the laws of thermodynamics at work.

Don't know quite what to tell you about the underground farms, what with photosynthesis and all. Good luck with that.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 2:31:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Suffice to say, however, that maximum population is much, much bigger than that supported by this planet."

And what kind of double-speak is that?? If the planet and its resources don't determine how large the population grows, what pray tell does? Is population size hard-coded into DNA? Or are you just fantasizing about how many humans you could cram into every cubic unit of space on earth given enough time and energy?

And talk about sermons! Your diatribe sounds like something Jesus himself would have said about eternal life, as interpreted by Bart Simpson. You guys crack me up with your science-fitionish "optimism!"

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 2:46:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon: "Don't know quite what to tell you about the underground farms, what with photosynthesis and all. Good luck with that."

Hmmm. Can't read either.
Are skyscrapers underground?

DB

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 2:47:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon:

"You guys crack me up with your science-fitionish "optimism!"

Touche.
You doomers crack me up with your science-fictionish doomer porn.

DB

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 4:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benny, the global recession is unrelated? Are you high or something, this is exactly what the 'peakniks' have been predicting, a huge spike followed by a recession.

BTW we'll talk to you in 2010 when we are 'trying' to climb out of the recession and we hit
$140 oil, and guess what, there will be another recession, this time deeper. Every high from now on will be lower than the last followed by a low, lower than the last. Welcome to peak oil! With your IQ you should be able to figure out the pattern by 2030! Good luck.

New Guy

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 4:13:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Fifi,

I have no problem with greater regulation of banking, but I dare say that you might not get what you want with your "anti-growth" dream.

Furthermore, what's the difference between "risk capitalism" and "non-risk capitalism?" Risk is inherent in any system-- even centrally planned and controlled ones. A supposed difference between a free market and socialist system is that risk is distributed differently. In free markets, risk is supposedly borne largely by the shareholders and the company itself. In a socialized system, risk is shared by society.

You also call for "nationalized banks functioning as monetary utilities." This is odd, considering that the Federal Reserve already exists and is largely in charge of monetary policy. Unless you mean to nationalize all banking? Or are you more interested in something more Hamiltonian, like the First Bank of the US? Or are you largely concerned with the fact that private banks charge individual debtors interest?

Another problem, by the way, is the "impossible trinity." You cannot have the following three at the same time:

1. A fixed exchange rate
2. Free capital movement
3. An independent monetary policy.

So, even assuming you do nationalize all banks, which one do you give up to allow the new central bank the dominance needed to be effective? This is not that easy, and look at how China grapples with this problem all the time.

Furthermore, my experience studying highly centralized banking systems (Gosbank, Japan, China) suggests a history of non-performing loan (NPL) buildup as a result of extreme centralization.

Granted, that's what we got this time around, but I also think we have far too centralized and large banking right now anyway. I suppose I'm Jeffersonian in that regard.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 4:15:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

New Guy,

What evidence do you have to suggest that oil will hit $140/bbl in 2010 when OPEC is actually making production cuts to get the prices back up?

Or are the OPEC production cuts another conspiracy?

I'm really curious how the price of oil will spike again as demand remains depressed and supply is being cut to raise the prices.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 4:28:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ari,

Well put, no evidence Oil will hit $140. Argue $140 if you will; however the point is with depressed prices I can see the effects on oil projects (I live in Alberta). Many massive project cuts. The point is, when the economy does recover (say 2010 or 2011 the date is irrelevant assuming your rosy future) oil will no longer 'remain depressed' as you are suggesting. And secondly many of the projects that were on the books to allow greater production in 2011- onwards are now being scaled down. With many of the large fields’ outputs diminishing (even before the economic crisis) we will not be able to reach our 85 Bb/day output we were recently at when oil hit $150. That's a recipe for another huge oil spike in price, followed by another economic downturn, with less power to address production issues, and another downward spiral.

New Guy

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 4:42:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

New Guy,

First off, let me retroactively thank you for taking a handle. Fifi could learn a lesson or two from you.

However, let's step back for a second and remember that Canada is not the only oil producing country in the world. KSA is stepping up to the plate with some very very massive megaprojects. Yes, Alberta is cooling, but you're assuming that prices will shoot back up again to $xxx/bbl. That's doubtful.

It may take years, if not decades, for demand to recover. We actually have evidence of this in previous oil shocks. Extremely depressed year-on-year auto/truck sales also suggest that we may not see a return to previous years' demand any time soon.

That's plenty of time for projects to rev up again in the long-run. It's also time for people to "trade down" their SUVs for sedans, or their sedans for hybrids, or their hybrids for PHEVs, or their PHEVs for transit, etc.

Yes, your scenario is technically possible. It's just also technically improbable.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 5:08:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ari,

Again, I was using Alberta as an example (one I can see first hand) of the many oil projects that are being delayed and/or cancelled throughout worldwide.

I find ‘technically improbable’ to be a real stretch on your part as part of your solution implies economic growth..

"It's also time for people to "trade down" their SUVs for sedans, or their sedans for hybrids, or their hybrids for PHEVs, or their PHEVs for transit, etc."

Where do these sedans, hybrids, PHEVs get manufactured? And which consumers are purchasing these in large enough numbers to affect future oil demand significantly downward? China's growth, although significantly stalled, is still growth none the less and will soon chew up our excess oil supplies.

YOUR solution although technically possible is HIGHLY improbable. You’re talking about all sorts of solutions that are currently not mainstream. To get them mainstream will require more energy and a stable financial system which would imply a healthy economy which equals more oil consumption, which means higher oil prices.

I don't get how your solution will provide answers; your solution is based on a world where a healthy economy exists with cheap abundant fuel.

My point is you will no longer see the two together (cheap oil & healthy economy) for any significant amount of time to alter our circumstances... Peak Oil... not so far fetched.

New Guy

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 5:21:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

New Guy,

Wait a second.

Hybrids and transit are not "mainstream?"

And where do they get produced? Well, last I checked, there are still automakers like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc. You can even throw in Ford if you want.

The point is that the hybrids don't have to affect oil consumption "downward" in the short run, but that it will probably take years to get consumption back up to the levels of 2007 and 2008. 1+ mbd cut is no small amount, and you honestly believe that if demand rises again, OPEC won't bring that 1+ mbd back?

Look at how long it took for oil demand to recover after the 1970s oil shock. This is going to be much, much more protracted.

Also, cut the crap about China. China does not, and never will consume oil on the per capita basis that North America does. A dollar GDP growth in China is not the terrifying oil sucking machine that the online armchair experts seem to think it is. And yes, growth does mean growth. Congrats on that tautological realization. However, growth doesn't necessarily mean MOAR OIL CONSUMEDZORZ! If only life were that simple.

By the way, the last time I checked Toyota still sells the Prius, and Honda is going to be selling the Insight.

Let's take a looksee...


http://www.toyota.com/prius-hybrid/

http://automobiles.honda.com/insight-hybrid/

Yep.

BTW, transit is pretty crazy, huh? Did you know that the New York Subway first debuted around 1904?

CRAZY FUTURE TECHNOLOGY!!!!

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 5:24:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

By the way, New Guy, I'm cranky enough to be a dick and ask:


Again, I was using Alberta as an example (one I can see first hand) of the many oil projects that are being delayed and/or cancelled throughout worldwide.


Name some of these projects. Tell us why we should be pissing ourselves with worry over them.

Also:
China's growth, although significantly stalled, is still growth none the less and will soon chew up our excess oil supplies.

Show, with numbers, that China's growth is going to chew through 1 mbd of oil supplies that OPEC is cutting. Or, better yet, show that it's growing so quickly that it's impossible to imagine keeping up with its demand.

Also, tell us how China will subsidize the price of oil indefinitely when even at $100/bbl it was growing prohibitively expensive for China's legendary surplus to afford.

Homework projects are fun.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 7:24:00 PM PST, Anonymous greenneck said...

Ari,

Your definition of "moral bankruptcy" is so fast and loose that it's essentially meaningless. You have yet to even define what it means to be morally bankrupt. Now you've added fiscally and physically. You use broad, meaningless terms without taking care to define what you mean and assume that we'll take your arguments on faith.

I am amazed I still have to explain you this, when the symptoms are totally in your face. Again, I speak for North America only, and to a certain extent the rest of the first world.

Case in point, the response to the current economic troubles. So far things aren't that bad, we haven't reached the unemployment levels of the 1982 or even 1991 recessions (we will, but that's another story), and yet governments are throwing trillions just to keep the party going. Strength of character (morals) dictates that your act responsibly, with the sake of future generations in mind. The baby-boom 'me' generation totally sacrifices their children with those 'bailout' plans, which will just make things worse. We either saddled our children with unbearable debt loads, or the money will be blown away just like it did in 1920's Germany. This is a complete abdication of responsibility - a moral failure. The fact that almost nobody raised a voice against this confirms what I say.

Also, how about US prison population quintupling between 1980 and now. Did you ever ask yourself why are so many people turning to crime?

You also did NOT "know" that this downturn would happen. Nobody knows the future with absolute certainty. You made an educated guess, but how much statistical skill did your guess have? If I were to say, "There will be another economic recession after this one," then I'm not saying anything interesting. OF COURSE there will be a recession. It's part of the package. It's predicting when, how severe, and what the causes are. Quite frankly, most of the people who come and say things like "I KNEWWWW IT!" demonstrate so little understanding of basic economics, finance, and accounting that I'm almost embarrassed for them.

Sorry, but I knew, and I have been saying it for many long years. I bought gold and land long before LATOC and ToD even existed. I cashed whatever RRSP (Canada's equiavlent to 401k) and convert it into land long ago. The causes were there for all to see. People can know things, you know. Knowing is one thing, acting on that knowledge is another.

As for fiscal bankruptcy, I daresay that most people don't realize how much debt a government can bear if the long-run plan is sound. One of the most irritating "doomer" traits is to think that debt is ALWAYS a bad thing, no matter what. I suggest that these people take a basic finance course and perhaps know a bit more about what they're talking about.

There is debt, and there is debt. Perhaps you want to tell Arnold in California that all is hunky-dory. There is a limit to the amount of debt you can carry, even as a government. Economics 101 aside, the trouble in the US is that just about everybody is buried in debt: governments, municipalities, corporations and individuals. Much of that will never be repaid.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 7:55:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...


Case in point, the response to the current economic troubles. So far things aren't that bad, we haven't reached the unemployment levels of the 1982 or even 1991 recessions (we will, but that's another story), and yet governments are throwing trillions just to keep the party going. Strength of character (morals) dictates that your act responsibly, with the sake of future generations in mind. The baby-boom 'me' generation totally sacrifices their children with those 'bailout' plans, which will just make things worse. We either saddled our children with unbearable debt loads, or the money will be blown away just like it did in 1920's Germany. This is a complete abdication of responsibility - a moral failure. The fact that almost nobody raised a voice against this confirms what I say.


No, it just confirms that you don't understand how debt and finance work.


Also, how about US prison population quintupling between 1980 and now. Did you ever ask yourself why are so many people turning to crime?


Right! Because it has to be that crime has gone up per capita. That's the only explanation!

Oh wait:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ncsucr2.gif

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Property_Crime_Rate.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/06/US_Violent_Crime_Rate.jpg

WHOOPS. In fact, here's the kicker: crime has come down significantly since the benchmark year of 1980. So I guess it's not that people are turning to crime.

What else could it be, then?

Perhaps sentencing is more severe?

Perhaps the jailable offenses are greater in number?

Hmm... nah. It has to be "moral corruption" or "bankruptcy" or whatever else.

Sorry, but I knew, and I have been saying it for many long years. I bought gold and land long before LATOC and ToD even existed. I cashed whatever RRSP (Canada's equiavlent to 401k) and convert it into land long ago. The causes were there for all to see. People can know things, you know. Knowing is one thing, acting on that knowledge is another.

Wow, you knew?

Why didn't you sell short, then? You could've been a rich guy!

Also, what good is gold in a post-apocalyptic society anyway? You should trade it in for a good rifle. Or maybe some 'nades. I mean, gold didn't do the gentry any good in the Chinese Great Leap Forward or the other horrible periods of social unrest. I doubt it'll matter much in your 28 Days Later future, since trade will be decimated anyway. Besides, silver's just as likely to be used as a fungible currency.


There is debt, and there is debt. Perhaps you want to tell Arnold in California that all is hunky-dory. There is a limit to the amount of debt you can carry, even as a government. Economics 101 aside, the trouble in the US is that just about everybody is buried in debt: governments, municipalities, corporations and individuals. Much of that will never be repaid.

Really?

What's the limit?

I mean, the US had twice as much debt (measured as debt-to-GDP) in 1946 as it does now.

There's debt. Then there's debt. But there's also debt. And debt.

And debt!

Also debt.

Or debt?

Yeah, I'm being an ass, but if you can't even be bothered to TRY to formulate definitions and bases for your arguments, I'm going to stop playing nice. Start studying, and start giving real answers.

You seem to have a belief that all debt, no matter what, no matter what it's used for, is bad. Or at least that seems to be what you're saying. If that's not the case, when is debt okay?

Was it okay for the US to take debt on the magnitude of $1.20 for every $1.00 of GDP to fight WW2? I mean, that sacrificed the Boomer's generations income to a degree!

Hell, I guess along these lines, the Europeans were totally morally bankrupt for their WW2 debts! Hell, the French have debt quite similar to ours (about 65% of GDP), and the Japanese-- oh man are they morally bankrupt-- have debt on the magnitude of 170% of GDP!

Norway and Germany also have more as a percent of GDP. Canada is more or tied.

Norway... morally bankrupt? But I thought they had good schools and shit like that! Austria even comes in at around 60% of GDP.

Huh.

OK, so you still need to tell us. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE "MORALLY BANKRUPT."

Ball is still in your hands even though you faked the pass. Don't worry, I'm sure there's still time for that layup if you can just figure out how to dribble the damn thing.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 8:06:00 PM PST, Anonymous greenneck said...

JD,
I don't buy into your survivalist sureties, but I'm not going to argue about it. It's more enlightening to just wait and see. Time will tell us who was right.

Fair enough.

I believe the current economic crisis will blow over, and when it does I expect peak oil to be handled fairly smoothly through conservation, technology and substitution. I'm very busy with work at the moment, thank you, and I fully expect to spend the rest of my life doing the same urban work routine I'm doing now. There will never come a time when I lose my job and can't find another. And there will never come a time when I need or want to retreat to a survivalist doomstead like yours.

This crisis is far from over. As to Peak Oil, yes, demand destruction has done wonders. But even with flat production we'll need to bring 7-8 mbpd of new production this year, according to IEA, as they forecast a 9% decline in current fields. IEA is not exactly a doomer den, last time I checked. Since none of the much-ballyhood EV/PHEV infrastructure is yet coming that means it's going to be drill, baby, drill.

I don't know what you do for a living, so I can't comment on your confidence about keeping your employment. Good for you if it works; millions are losing their jobs now, and millions more will lose them soon. Perhaps they would have been better off buying into a doomstead when they could, instead of blowing their cash on a McMansion. It's too late now for them. The whole concept of 'doomerism' is about getting ready before things go bad. You know, just like buying fire insurance for your home before it burns down.

My faith is in technology. We aren't technologically bankrupt, and in fact, technology and knowledge are surging now at a mind-boggling pace. That's the central axis of the future, IMO, and my head is definitely not in the sand. My head is working all day, every day, to help advance the ongoing technical development of mankind.

I have worked for 25 years in technology, and I know first hand how great it is. I have been active developing electro-optics, radio & satellites systems, process control software, among others. I too have faith in technology. With that said, technology will not save humans from their own vices. The strength of a society, or a civilization, first depend on the citizens values, ethics and morals. When those go wanting, no amount of technology will save you from decline. This happened before to other societies, we are no exception.

I simply don't foresee technology pooping out or collapsing or losing its utility/vigor. I fully expect that I, my children, and my grandchildren, will continue to live in a profoundly technical society, dependent on transport, trade and industrial agriculture. There won't be any need to follow the path you've taken.

I for one am convinced the growth-at-all-costs capitalist system we've been accustomed to will not be around for more than another generation. We will have to reach a sustainable equilibrium with our world. Whatever follows doesn't have to be 'doomerish' but will be different. And I'm not saying anyone has to take the path I've taken. There will be several paths, many we haven't even conceived yet.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 8:19:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Greenneck,

You shouldn't fib, you naughty boy you. You're not giving the whole picture about decline rates:

The IEA calculates that the Natural Underlying Decline Rate is 5% in post-peak Regular Conventional Crude fields & as much as 15% in non-conventional post-peak Deep Sea fields, for an average of 9%. After EOR activity, they calculate global UDRO to be 6.7% for Conventional & Deep Sea fields representing 75% of global production. It is these subsets that are oft identified by the lunatic fringe. What they don't mention is that IEA projects that Underlying Decline Rate Observed (UDRO) for all global fields over the next 23 years will average only 2.0% per annum.

Tsk tsk.

Big difference, 9% and 2%.

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 8:52:00 PM PST, Anonymous greenneck said...

Ari,
I'm afraid you're right, you're acting like an ass.

Re. the trillions thrown away at the crisis. That was NEVER done in peacetime! Talking about war debts is apples-and-oranges.

Also, after WW2 the US and European economy grew much faster than today. You have to compare the same eras.

Wow, you knew?

Why didn't you sell short, then? You could've been a rich guy!

Also, what good is gold in a post-apocalyptic society anyway? You should trade it in for a good rifle. Or maybe some 'nades. I mean, gold didn't do the gentry any good in the Chinese Great Leap Forward or the other horrible periods of social unrest. I doubt it'll matter much in your 28 Days Later future, since trade will be decimated anyway. Besides, silver's just as likely to be used as a fungible currency.


Short-selling is not for the faint of heart, you have to know which stocks will go bad. I am not that prescient.

What makes you think I still have gold? I never said that. Bought it for 260$ in the late 90's, sold it all last spring when it hit 1,000$. My survival currency now is firewood. People may not need gold or silver, but they always need to keep warm, especially in Canada, I even pay my dentist with it.

And don't worry, I have all the rifles & shotguns you can dream of. As to grenades, are you serious? Maybe it's a fantasy of yours? Never been mine.

In closing, since you quoted Ben Franklin on moderation, you should perhaps consider moderating your smugness.

Other than that, good luck. I won't be posting here for a while. Lumberjacking season begins tomorrow :)

 
At Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 10:16:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok cranky Ari here it comes,

For those of you who are to stubborn to believe in peak oil and to stupid to do 'homework' (as Ari puts it) and connect the dots, this is why you 'should tremble'.

Production problems in Russia:

“Russian oil production, which was boosted to new heights in 2007, has now fallen 1.0% in calendar year 2008. More relevant now to the world, however, is the ability of Russia to export oil…2008 saw Russian oil exports fall by over 5.00% and the outlook is not pretty from here. Russia simply does not have the kind of dirt-cheap labor or materials advantage that it enjoyed just 10 years ago. Oil at $45.00 continues to set the stage for a supply collapse. Russia is vulnerable to a huge drop in production.”
-- Gregor Macdonald, from “Russian Oil Production Appears To Have Peaked”

This type of production problem exist in Mexico and many of the non-opec nations. The reasons Alberta's tar sands and other hard to reach oil project cut backs should scare you is that these are the few sources that can and should grow their output to offset other non-opec production declines; but instead these project are being cut back when we need them the most.

With regards to your comment:

"Hybrids and transit are not "mainstream?"...

You talk of transit and hybrids like we all can go out and buy these or jump on the bus tomorrow and there whoopa problem solved. Yes people can get around in New York in a subway, god that one stung me I completely forgot about that one.

You ask for facts from me, please send me a link that shows that Toyota and Honda are only producing Hybrids, and another link on who is building and deploying our magical transit system that everyone has the option to switch to tomorrow.

Very disappointed as usual in the peak oil debunker community. if you want endless statistics, please visit www.energybulletin.net. I've been following these two sites in parallel for two years. I can pretty much summarize the debunker site with this "Nah-unh, it isn’t so.."

The arguments presented by debunkers such as yourself are pathetic in comparison to the mounds of data and calculations performed the 'peakniks'. I guess that is too much homework for a youngster such as yourself.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 5:08:00 AM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Anon,

Ah, here we go again. No one is denying that oil will reach a production peak. The question is whether or not it will mean certain doom when it does. Change and adaptation are not, in and of themselves, TEOTWAWKI. It's a question of perspective.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 6:48:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ah, here we go again. No one is denying that oil will reach a production peak. The question is whether or not it will mean certain doom when it does. Change and adaptation are not, in and of themselves, TEOTWAWKI. It's a question of perspective."

Yes, here we go again. AGAIN, given this "debunker" habit of stubbornly avoiding clear definitions and consistency, let me try once again.

NO ONE, at least no one you're willing to cite in earnest, has declared that the instantaneous stroke of global peak oil production, IN AND OF ITSELF, will cause either certain doom, the end of the world, or the end of civilization as "we" know it, or as I know it, or as you know it.

The "debunkers" fascination with this strawman reminds me of my dog tearing up a old shoe and beaming with delight when the shoe is destroyed. "Look! My vigorous destruction of this strawman has proved that that the world as I know it will not end the instant global peak oil production is reached! Therefore everything my mortal enemies The Doomers have said is complete garbage! What a smart boy I am!Can I have a treat?"

You have to be smarter than my dog. What possible gratification could you possibly get from destroying the same strawman over and over? Why is so hard to admit that a confluence of events exacerbated by POST-peak shortages could bring hardships to those who aren't preparing for it? Particularly since the US imports 2/3 of its oil RIGHT NOW and we're tens of trillions of dollars in debt just to maintain a sagging status quo?

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 7:45:00 AM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

NO ONE, at least no one you're willing to cite in earnest, has declared that the instantaneous stroke of global peak oil production, IN AND OF ITSELF, will cause either certain doom, the end of the world, or the end of civilization as "we" know it, or as I know it, or as you know it.

Yes, very good. Neither I, nor JD, nor Ari, nor anyone else you've mentioned here, has said that anyone has declared any such thing. What has been argued by countless peakniks, however, is that peak oil will be the primary (which, please note, is a different word than "exclusive") cause, or major contributing factor, to TEOTWAWKI. That's why Savinar's site is called "Life After the Oil Crash," and not, say, "Life After the Social Apocalypse Precipitated by a Confluence of Moral, Financial, and Energy Related Issues." That's why the Oil Drum is so named. That's why the very site named Peak Oil is so obsessed with survivalism and "doomsteading."

Problems never come in isolation. The crash of 1929 was followed, in short order, by the Dust Bowl and the rise of political instability around the globe. The oil crisis of the 1970s coincided with a fairly significant cyclical economic downturn. Your obsession with this idea is noted, but largely irrelevant. Everyone, both on the peaknik and debunker side, take this truism for granted. The supposed problem is so clearly and self-evidently with the issues that emerge once a peak has been reached. That's why JD has written countless times about topics as varied as electric farm machinery, alternative modes of transportation, lifestyle changes, and various other mechanisms by which society can cope with "POST-peak shortages." So, yes, congratulations on belaboring the patently obvious.

The point is, has been, and will remain whether or not the challenges posed by peak oil, alone or in conjunction with other factors, are too difficult to surmount. Asserting that there will be problems, and repeating, time and again, that they will need to be addressed in light of a variety of other pressing concerns, should go without saying.

Ultimately, even acknowledging all of the above, the question is the same. Can the effects of peak oil be mitigated with minimal pain and social chaos? My contention is that it can, and, in all probability, that it will, since mechanisms for doing just that exist already. Will it be more difficult to mitigate in light of economic troubles than it would be in a perfect world where the only significant problem anyone faced was the aftermath of peak oil? Well, duh. Is "more difficult" synonymous with "impossible" (or even "improbable")? No.

People have been predicting the end of the world as we know it for as long as there's been a world with people in it. These people have latched onto peak oil as their cause du jour, in the same way that people of prior generation latched on to nuclear war, or Y2K. Does this mean that peak oil isn't an issue? Of course not. Nuclear war was a legitimate threat, and the Y2K bug wasn't resolved by wishing it away. But, once again, it's a question of perspective. Peaknik doomers distort and interpret facts through a bias that predisposes them to see the glass as half empty at all times. JD and Ari have a bias towards techno-optimism. As it happens, while I don't necessarily share JD's boundless faith in technology, I find his analysis more convincing than Savinar's, or Kunstler's. The argument that just because we're facing multiple problems at once makes the doomer case any more compelling falls as flat as it has throughout history.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 8:43:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So, yes, congratulations on belaboring the patently obvious."

Thank you, I'm glad you've at least noticed that problems don't happen in isolation. I wish there was some way I could help you, JD, Arid and the rest of the little echo chamber here with your obsession with those websites with "oil" in their title. It's really rather amazing how unhinged JD in particular has become over the predictions of a handful because of their choice of monicker. I think Kunstler's choice of Clusterfuck Nation and Long Emergency show that he has a much better grip on the seriousness of our predicament than those who use oil as their point of reference.

Yes, events don't happen in isolation. But try not to let your rage at Savinar and a handful of followers blind you to the fact that our current set of events are unprecedented in scale. The US has committed more money to our recent "bailout" than it spent on WWII and Viet Nam combined, and when those events occurred, the US was not dependent upon foreign oil.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 9:22:00 AM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Umm. Ari and JD: We need a new post. The comments start to get self-involved without fresh meat. Lots of stuff to write about: Worsening oil glut, chances for surge in Iraqi output, declines in oil demand that may be permanent...we may be on the cusp of a collapse or slow but prolonged descent in oil prices. A fascinating time.
Obama's infrastucture spending and energy programs (which I give a "B" to at best.)

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 9:39:00 AM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Thank you, I'm glad you've at least noticed that problems don't happen in isolation. I wish there was some way I could help you, JD, Arid and the rest of the little echo chamber here with your obsession with those websites with "oil" in their title.

That's just it: I don't believe that we're going to see either a fast- or slow-crash leading to TEOTWAWKI. But JD established his blog with the express intention of addressing and challenging "those websites with 'oil' in their title." It's only a piece of the puzzle, sure, but it's a pernicious and influential one, and, IMO, it deserves direct refutation. The related issues you're talking about fall outside of the remit of this blog, in the same way that talk of the financial collapse going beyond its impact on oil exploration and production falls outside of the Oil Drum's mission statement.

In other words, I think JD makes an effective case that peak oil isn't going to be the catastrophe certain people insist it will be. I don't think he's refuted, per se, that other factors, or a confluence of factors of which peak oil is a comparatively minor part, will be a catastrophe. I think he's made abundantly clear that he doesn't buy into that line of thinking, but the editorial focus of his blog is more focused than that.

I think Kunstler's choice of Clusterfuck Nation and Long Emergency show that he has a much better grip on the seriousness of our predicament than those who use oil as their point of reference.

He doesn't have the overriding focus of individuals like Savinar or Simmons, sure. But Kunstler has other problems, as evidenced by his history latching on to whatever imminent catastrophe happens to be popular at the moment, and letting his personal likes and dislikes drive his analysis. I don't like contemporary suburbia any more than he does, but I think you need to torture the data to read as rapid and as total a collapse as he tends to. If he'd refrain from his typically extremist and off-base predictions, the only real complaint I'd have with him is stylistic.

Really, there's a fundamental similarity between myself (and I suspect JD, though I shouldn't speak for him) and doomsters like the usual subjects mentioned above. We all acknowledge that things will need to change, one way or the other. What's at issue is both the timeframe, and the capability of both individuals and societies to adapt. The people most obsessed with BAU are the ones most likely to conclude that the only possible outcome is chaos, doom, and die-off, because they are unable to imagine change.

Yes, events don't happen in isolation. But try not to let your rage at Savinar and a handful of followers blind you to the fact that our current set of events are unprecedented in scale.

Oh, bull. I'm a historian, and I'm at least as aware as you of the problems faced by previous generations. The problems are different, but try telling a fourth century Roman than his or her problems were small potatoes compared to today. Or even someone living through the worst days of the Great Depression.

True, lasting collapse is fleetingly rare in history. Even some of the most frequently cited examples are typically overblown (the collapse of the Roman Empire, for instance, had far less impact on the average European/Middle Eastern/North African individual than you'd think). It can happen, sure, but societies have faced down problems that, adjusting for the scales and people involved, have been just as threatening as our current mess.

When I say this, I've found I need to constantly remind people that I'm not calling for complacency or inaction, just a realistic approach. We face new problems, and they require new approaches, absolutely. But I see plenty of reason for cautious optimism that we actually can adopt and adapt. Sitting about and constantly tossing off near-concrete predictions like "I am 99 per cent confident that 2004 will be the top of the mathematically smoothed curve of oil production" (Deffeyes), or that "we will see cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas virtually depopulated in the next fifty years" (Kunstler) suggest far more about their authors' innate pessimism than anything useful about both the problems we face, and realistic steps, at both the personal and societal level, towards mitigation.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 9:40:00 AM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Also, we are seeing a glut of natural gas in North America. Talk of a natural gas price collapse coming.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 1:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benny,

Also, we are seeing a glut of natural gas in North America. Talk of a natural gas price collapse coming.

Hmmm glut = price collapse therefore high prices = shortage. The 'glut' is a by-product of a recent spike. What caused this spike, and please stay away from the idiotic "greedy traders" answer?

Unless you intend on living in a depressed economy forever the 'glut' will not last. Which will bring us back to another price spike followed by another recession. And the kicker is... wait for it... worldwide production will soon start dropping regardless if the economy is good or bad...

I'd love the opposite to be true, please provide me with evidence that USA, the UK, Mexico, now Russia (the list goes on) have been able to maintain their peak production.

Some people call this Peak Oil, others prefer to bury their heads in the sand and pray aka 'debunkers'. What you debunkers don't get, is that all of us want this lifestyle and wish it could last for generations to come. It's simply not possible. I like the quote in Titanic where the ship engineer states "... this ship will sink, it's a mathematical certainty!"

New Guy

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 1:50:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

New Guy,

I don't share Benny's conviction that we're in a long-term glut, and I would agree with you that, sooner or later, oil prices will rise to the $100+ range again.

That being said, the question is when it will happen, and what other circumstances will surround it. As the site disclaimer says, we all accept that oil will reach a peak level of production and, at some point thereafter, production will begin to decline. What is being disputed here is how soon total production will begin to decline, how fast that decline will be, and how effectively society will be able to adapt to that downslope.

Respectively, I would suggest that the answers are "soon, but not as soon as certain peakniks would have you believe," "likely around 2-5% per annum, unless demand drops even further" and "better than you probably think."

What you debunkers don't get, is that all of us want this lifestyle and wish it could last for generations to come. It's simply not possible.

Which puts you in a somewhat different position than myself. There are plenty of things about "this lifestyle" I'd love to change. That being said, I don't think external factors are going to force the kind of change I want.

More to the point, there are various mitigation strategies and alternatives to oil already available, the most notable being the two that JD chooses to emphasize: electrification and conservation. When the production decline of oil really kicks in within the next five to ten years, those options will begin to be exercised much more aggressively than they are now.

Now, where the opinions really come in are whether or not you qualify these changes are a significant change to "this lifestyle." I would generally qualify them more along the lines of a superficial change. For my money, I think the sooner we shift to a less oil-intensive economy, the better. If we wait until the last minute, figuratively speaking, the economic difficulty is going to be greater. But even in a (realistic) worst case scenario, I see a fairly bad recession/depression, not the obliteration of western civilization predicted by the people this blog typically rails against.

Which, honestly, is the message I'd pass along to most people. If you're concerned about peak oil, do what you can to reduce your own oil usage, and do what you can to influence the rest of society to do likewise. I don't drive, I try to avoid unnecessary plastic products, and, whenever practical, to encourage local farmers with my business. But too many people fear-monger about some sort of Mad Max, post-apocalyptic scenario that is both unlikely, and counterproductive.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 2:02:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Hmmm glut = price collapse therefore high prices = shortage. The 'glut' is a by-product of a recent spike. What caused this spike, and please stay away from the idiotic "greedy traders" answer?

Oh, and that's too simplistic by half.

A price collapse can be the result of a glut, just as high prices can be brought about by shortages. But the relationships aren't exclusive ones.

Even the folks who were trumpeting fundamentals supporting last summer's high oil prices have subsequently backed off from that claim, since the precipitous fall since then suggests that there was a fair bit of speculation driving the run up in prices.

All that being said, the long-term increase in oil prices from, say, 2000 through 2007, seem to have been essentially grounded in supply/demand fundamentals (as I understand them). The relatively sudden jump from ~$80/barrel to ~$150/barrel appears not to have been. While I don't know if Benny would agree, it looks to me like the current ~$40/barrel price is a market correction caused by the economic downturn.

That said, I think a glut is fairly likely: world leaders spent the first half of 2008 urging petroleum-producing countries to open up the spigots, and now that it looks like the extra oil isn't as badly needed as we thought, we've seen groups like OPEC struggling to scale output back down substantially.

Which, coincidentally, seems to jibe with what OPEC leaders were telling us all spring: that there wasn't an urgent need for greater production. They relented (to an extent) thanks to the protests of various world leaders, but subsequent events seem to have validated their initial argument.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 2:37:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...but try telling a fourth century Roman than his or her problems were small potatoes compared to today."

Tell you what, you find me a fourth century Roman and I'll do just that. I have questions for him too. I do know at least one person who lived through the worst parts of the Great Depression, and I'm sure she would be surprised to know that the US government has just spent (borrowed) in a few weeks time, far, far more than the amount her generation spent on the Great War and New Deal COMBINED? And the bailouts are just getting started.

The principles of free-market capitalism have been trashed in the US, and strangely enough, a conservative administration was in charge while the real trashing began. Risk and reward should be the engine that fuels the free-market economy, but we just scrapped all that when we bailed out the biggest, most careless risk takers of all time. The amount of deceit and corruption fostered by a poorly regulated is staggering. The trashing appears as if it will continue into the Obama years, and it appears as if we will emerge in a decade or so with all US banks nationalized into one big Post Office-like utility. NO, we're not to Great Depression-like symptoms just yet. Give it time. HOw many 100s of thousands of jobs were lost last week? How many blue-collar workers are unemployed, really pissed off and thinking about saying "fuck it!" next time taxes come due? How many of them would shoot Bernard Madoff if given the chance?

So yes, let's get that 4th century Roman on the phone and ask him if his country had to import 2/3 of its transportation fuel, with some of that coming from hostile territory. Better yet, ask him if he has any tips for those US retirees whose savings just got cut in half in a few months time. Ask him what to do about over 50 trillion in unfunded mandates like Social Security while the holy GDP begins to sink ever lower?

Yon Cassius has that lean and hungry look. Let's ask him.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 2:41:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean,

This doesn't sit well with me; I realize I'm likely oversimplifying the argument; however what I hear being posted is... "We believe oil will peak, we just don't believe the timing and effects will be as bad".

Personally, I could not care less about the accuracy of the date the predictions come true, whether in the past (Hubbert) or the present (take your pick). Therefore that puts me, at least to some extent, of the same opinion as some in the 'debunked' camp. In my opinion a few years one way or another does not discredit the overall theory.

Where I differ is in the belief we can execute the transition to 'many alternatives at once' successfully. Many of the alternatives discussed here produce orders of magnitude less energy than oil per $ invested. Just as importantly many of these alternatives are currently dependent upon cheap oil to produce at reasonable prices. I've been reading that wind installation in the US is projected to fall this year in large part to a decrease in investments.

Where I don't share your optimism is in the ability to produce and implement these alternatives at times when people and business are the most reticent to invest. And to top it all off, we are asking investors to expect less return on their investment, that might be the new reality (agreed) however this is not a motivation to invest into alternatives.

Please show me (honestly I'm curious) where any combination of alternatives will provide the amount of energy returned per dollar invested that oil does (I'll be happy to settle for anything that returns nearly as much as oil). Here's the catch however; whatever alternative you propose must be economically feasible. In other words, I don't want to here, build 10,000 nuclear power plants, I would not even believe 100 nuclear power plants is economically feasible nor reasonable to construct in a recession.

New Guy

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 3:18:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

New Guy,

Japan did massive public works projects during its "mother of all recessions" during the 1990s.

But, I do suppose that the US has a magic force field around it that stops it from doing the same thing.

Benny,

I have something I'm writing, but I prefer to leave the stuff you suggested to JD. Also, I'm sick. :-)

greenneck,

I noticed that you didn't bother to really respond to my criticisms. You also still haven't defined "moral bankruptcy."

Everyone,

My point, generally, is not that I have the answers for what will happen. But rather that I, and everyone else, do not have all the answers.

The big problem with the doomers is that they like to crouch everything in certain terms.

"X WILL happen."

I'll be addressing this in a later post, but suffice it to say that anyone who says he knows the future with absolute certainty is either working in a lab or is lying.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 4:07:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ari,

Your very cocky “magic force fields”, try thinking a little instead of insulting anyone that makes sense. Japan’s “mother of all recessions” occurred within a healthy world economy where oil prices, indexed to inflation, were the cheapest in history! They were able to build out while leaning on a healthy world economy and subsidised by dirt cheap oil!

Please do not confuse anyone that believes peak oil will cause extreme hardships with doomers. Nice generalization, you yourself believe in peak oil; however you still do not provide evidence of how we’ll successfully curtail demand at the same rate as depletion. Provide specific examples of how the energy no longer available will be replaced… Your smoking something good if you assume depletion will simply cause lowered demand with and a shift to alternatives… As I asked earlier, and you never supplied an answer, where does the capital come from during these recessions to apply technology that can slightly realive pressure on demand???? Supply slowed down last year and caused a spike up to $150 / barrel, look at the economic hardship caused by that one spike. What would happen in a time when, even after the economic constriction, the supply of oil is still to small? Please tell me…

The big problem with the doomers is that they like to crouch everything in certain terms.

Hmmm, you might want to restate that to:

The big problem with some doomers is that they like to crouch everything in certain terms, much like myself (Ari).

New Guy

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 4:23:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

New Guy-
We have a glut of natural gas and oil, and it will get worse for as long as this recession lasts, probably.
Oh, someday there might be a rally in oil prices. Maybe in five years, but maybe in 15. Hard to tell. After the 1979-80 price spike, oil was soft for 20 years.
Remember, oil fields were depleting back then too. The then-current book "Limits to Growth" convinced me that my future was very dark.

Instead, oil got cheaper for 20 years (1980-2000). Then we had a brief window of higher prices (2004-2008), and now a honking glut to the moon. We are drowning in oil. I thought 2010 was supposed to be the year of doom. Instead, OPEC is desperately fighting a rear-guard action, to prop up prices. Oil might be $10 a barrel in 2010. Many doomers were calling for $200. Only off by a factor of 20.
Sure, oil may become more scarce someday. But, PHEVs are nearing market, and palm oil is very promising. Sheesh, scooters get 75 mpg. Oil demand in Europe and Japan has been falling for decades, and probably the USA hit Peak Demand in 2007-8.
The amount of room for conservation in the US staggers the imagination. We could cut our oil use in half while obtaining higher living standards. I hope we do.
The current financial calamity had little, if anything, to do with oil. Do not conflate the two.
OPEC may be selling a commodity the world wants less of every year.
You are right, many thug states vastly underproduce oil compared to potential. Oil seems make for decadent governments. But now, the screw has turned. Oil exporters can only make more money by selling more -- putting even more pressure on prices.
You could wait a long, long, long time to see oil at $100 again.
And, if you are driving a car that gets 65 mpg, will it hurt you or your economy that much?
Frankly, I look forward to a city n which most cars are PHEVs (less smog, and quieter). I don't see the downside in this.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 5:03:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

benny,

Your argument amounts to "let's consume more, to reduce our dependence on oil" There's a plan, sign me up! More consumption eventually has to be the answer.

oil got cheaper for 20 years (1980-2000).

Why? Because many nations had not been exploited to there full potential at that point. After America peeked in ‘73, they no longer controlled the price of oil, OPEC was and will be. Higher prices (from pre-American peek of $2/brl to a post peak of $10/brl) allowed more nations to come on-line.... thus twenty years of price decreases and minor fluctuations.

Here's the problem, (also the difference from 1980) it should be as clear as a giant oil sands crane from 10ft away, America no longer has the rest of the world to lean on to produce cheaper oil. The world's cheap oil has been tapped.

As for your 'awash in oil' statement, I do not think a 1 ml/bpd is a comfortable cushion. The difference in production between 1980 and 2000 was 10 million bpd! At that rate of increase, your 1 million bpd cushion is gone in 2 years, pretty consistent with most economists forecast for economic recovery....

"The current financial calamity had little, if anything, to do with oil."

Your kidding right??? Nothing to support this? It's just coincidence that 4 out of the last 5 economic recessions occurred on the heals of a spike in oil prices. The source of the 4 out of 5 stat is from the CEO of CIBC, one of the leading Canadian banks.

I’m no longer referring to you as a debunker, you’re a dreamer!

New Guy

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 5:38:00 PM PST, Anonymous benny "MOAG" cole said...

Ari-
I hope you feel better, and put up more ports.

New Guy- A one mbd cushion? I think right now we are st 5-6 mbd cushion, going to 10 mbd. This recession is ugly.

And this recession was caused by runaway lending, not oil prices. Our banks lost a couple trillion in bad loans. There was a global capital glut (which will happen again too). If you wanted to borrow money, you could. Now, if you look out the window, you will see houses for sale everywhere and no buyers. What oil prices had to do with this....?????

I do not know any serious thinker who suggest oil prices did this.

But the way, the list of nations who let their oilfields crumble in the 1980-2004 period is remarkable. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Mexico, Nigeria. KSA suppressed new development. There would have been a glut from 1980 to the current day hasd these nations developed their fields.

There is gobs and gobs of oil -- thug states control it. That's a problem. But one we can handle.

Stop sniveling, and start working!

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 6:04:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

New Guy,

You seem to miss my point: by "certain terms" I mean "certainty." One of the important things we have to deal with when it comes to social science-- and let's be honest, this is social science of a sort-- is uncertainty.

It's comments like "I know" and "will" that are the problem. We cannot say, for certain, what will happen. We can predict, within degrees of uncertainty, what may, or likely will, happen.

Also, if you don't like my 1990s Japan example, how about the New Deal? Lots of public works happened thanks to Roosevelt.

Or was the world economy in good shape during the 1930s?

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 6:11:00 PM PST, Blogger Ari said...

Your kidding right??? Nothing to support this? It's just coincidence that 4 out of the last 5 economic recessions occurred on the heals of a spike in oil prices. The source of the 4 out of 5 stat is from the CEO of CIBC, one of the leading Canadian banks.

New Guy, please link to this.

Also, it's very very possible that this is a spurious correlation.

Here's the problem, (also the difference from 1980) it should be as clear as a giant oil sands crane from 10ft away, America no longer has the rest of the world to lean on to produce cheaper oil. The world's cheap oil has been tapped.

Mills addresses this in his book:

http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h198/uclari/Picture5-2.png

I suggest you read the book, as it addresses most of your concerns.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 6:14:00 PM PST, Blogger Sean Daugherty said...

Please show me (honestly I'm curious) where any combination of alternatives will provide the amount of energy returned per dollar invested that oil does (I'll be happy to settle for anything that returns nearly as much as oil). Here's the catch however; whatever alternative you propose must be economically feasible.

A reasonable question, certainly. Plenty of sources can provide energy equivalent to oil (nuclear, geothermal, possibly wind and solar in a few years), although oil admittedly has advantages, as a liquid fuel, that many others do not.

But "economically feasible" is a bit misleading. If the choice ultimately comes down to building out alternatives or not having power at all, what was previously considered economically unreasonable may no longer be considered so. Of course, this is why I advocate staying ahead of the curve, and not waiting until the proverbial shi*t hits the fan to start transitioning. That being said, even if we do collectively sit on our thumbs and let events overtake us (which I'm not convinced we're doing even now), I see a damaging economic downturn, but one that we will eventually pull out of. It complicates the question, but it doesn't make in insoluble, IMO.

Really, in the short-term, I think conservation is the most important element. For people living in major urban centers, simply making greater use of existing public transportation options would save a lot of oil. Greater fuel efficiency for automobiles would likewise help, albeit over a slightly longer period of time. It won't be easy for everyone, obviously, but I think there's a fairly significant gap between "difficult" and "catastrophic." And "difficult" is pretty much what I view as the worst case scenario.

Your kidding right??? Nothing to support this? It's just coincidence that 4 out of the last 5 economic recessions occurred on the heals of a spike in oil prices.

I tend to agree with Benny on this point, though. The oil price spike isn't a coincidence, but it's not a causal factor, either. The recession was already in its beginning stages before prices really started going out of control, and they did so in conjunction with other commodities pricing. Which suggest, to me, at least, that the recent increase was as more a result of the economic downturn as a cause of it. As the real estate bubble popped, traders flocked to commodities, including oil, as a safe haven, which drove up the prices. The actual dynamics of supply and demand couldn't justify such elevated prices, and when this reality set in, the market collapsed.

The elevated prices themselves certainly didn't help matters, to be sure, but it looks to me like the recession would have occurred, and been of similar severity, even without it's influence.

This is an interesting discussion, and you ask some very good questions. As I've said before, I can appreciate a realistic argument, even if it's more pessimistic than one I would make. That said, when I really let myself get taken in by doomer extremism a year ago, I would have welcomed the "extreme economic hardship" you're predicting over some of the more over-the-top "world made by hand" or "back to the stone age" claims made by some of the most outspoken proponents of the peak oil community. :-)

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 7:16:00 PM PST, Anonymous DoctorJJ said...

I'm still trying to figure out how all these mega-projects being purposely delayed or canceled is a bad thing??? I mean, it's not because they found out there wasn't any oil down there. It's because they figured out the world doesn't want or need all that extra oil. That means two things. First off, demand is actively dying, and not just because of a recession/depression. Second, it will be that much easier to ramp up production later, if it's ever needed. They wouldn't be canceling those projects if the oil was needed now. WTF?

DoctorJJ

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 8:00:00 PM PST, Anonymous Oilfinder said...

This is quite off-topic but I just gotta say it *somewhere* . . .

The PO.com forum has practically died. I swear I am just about the only person left who regularly posts in the Current Events section, which used to be the busiest section by far. Maybe 3 or 4 others, tops, post in that section regularly - and that includes Rockman and pup55, who, due to their expertise, are kinda *expected* to hang out in there a lot anyway. Otherwise I practically feel like I'm having conversations with myself. It's simultaneously funny but also almost frustrating, like having a blog that nobody reads.

The only section that has much life left is the Economics and Finance section . . . but even that's died down a fair amount lately.

It's just dead in there.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 10:18:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

Where I differ is in the belief we can execute the transition to 'many alternatives at once' successfully.

New Guy, the essence of the debunker solution to peak oil is a two-step process: extreme conservation/efficiency, followed by switching/substitution. There is no need to substitute oil 1-for-1 in all the applications where it is currently used. Vast amounts of oil are being wasted today, precisely because it is so cheap. For example, the Hirsch report explicitly states that "67 percent of personal automobile travel, and 50 percent of airplane travel are discretionary". That alone constitutes 30% of US oil consumption and 50% of US oil imports. There's plenty more shaving besides that which can be done, but that should give you a basic idea.

So the real question at issue is this: Can alternatives gradually take over for oil within a regime of deep efficiency/conservation? The debunkers say "yes", and if you want to argue the crux of it, you would have to say "no".

We've argued that point many times in the past here at POD, and the doomer position is always some variant of: We can't conserve or become more efficient.

I find that very unconvincing. It's the weakest link in the PO doomer argument.

I also think you're making an unnecessarily restrictive assumption about alternatives. Yes, "alternatives" includes the renewable sources, like hydro, concentrating solar, PV solar, wind, geothermal, thermal solar etc., but it also incudes the dirty alternatives like: natural gas, nuclear, heavy oil, tar sands, coal and oil shale. The ultimate goal, of course, is pure clean energy, but the dirty alternatives will still be available for quite some time to smooth the switching process (and provide feedstock for essential plastics etc.)

Obviously there are a lot of nuances and moving parts when you get into the details, but the debunker thesis is that peak oil will be manageable, without a collapse of society or industrial civilization, by a process of conservation+alternatives (in the broad sense defined above).

I would be interested in a calm, reasoned explanation why that approach will fail.

 
At Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 11:27:00 PM PST, Blogger JD said...

I would not even believe 100 nuclear power plants is economically feasible nor reasonable to construct in a recession.

There are 43 reactors under construction in the world right now. Leading countries: China (11), Russia (8), India (6).

China recently completed a plant to mass-produce components for AP1000 reactors. It took them 11 months.

The main problem for nuclear in the US isn't lack of money or economics, it's lack of vision and NIMBYism.

 
At Friday, February 6, 2009 at 7:59:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main problem for nuclear in the US isn't lack of money or economics, it's lack of vision and NIMBYism."

I'm curious, is there a nuclear reactor in your backyard?

I didn't think so.

 

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