Thursday, June 30, 2005

peak oil saves the day

Unintended Consequences The Stinkin' Desert Post

Cleaner air, air that has fewer particulates and aerosols sounds like an unalloyed good. But climate researchers modeling the effect of particulates and aerosols on sunlight absorption have found a serious side effect of cleaner air: warmer temperatures a-coming. From New Scientist:

Global warming looks set to be much worse than previously forecast, according to new research. Ironically, the crucial evidence is how little warming there has been so far.

Three top climate researchers claim that the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere should have warmed the world more than they have. The reason they have not, they say, is that the warming is being masked by sun-blocking smoke, dust and other polluting particles put into the air by human activity.

But they warn that in future this protection will lessen due to controls on pollution. Their best guess is that, as the mask is removed, temperatures will warm by at least 6°C by 2100. That is substantially above the current predictions of 1.5 to 4.5°C.

So, 6°C warming is not good. I realize this is somewhat speculative.

It is also absurd, in that we are running a big, uncontrolled carbon experiment on our planet.

Thank goodness for peak oil. Maybe the decline in available fuel will save us from REALLY messing things up.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

the revenge of chicken little

Prophets of doom have been pushing disaster snake oil for millennia. It’s terrible, I tell you. These shameless hucksters of terriblisma! The only thing worse would be an actual disaster.

At present, the baseline scenario for peak oil is a negative one. The smoothest transition we can hope for given current global inaction is one where conservation and renewables make up the depletion gap, if we are lucky enough to have a nice, gradual down slope.

The idea that during the decline of oil and natural gas we will continue business and progress as usual is highly questionable. Entertain optimistic scenarios, but necessarily hold them to a higher burden of proof than the negative ones.

This is opposite the experience of all of us living in western culture, where every year has brought energy fueled progress. Our gut tricks us, tells us it ain’t so – that IRA will be there for us when we retire, and if we’re real lucky Janet Jackson will flash her other boob during the 2015 Super Bowl.

Peak Energy will flip progress on its head.

Is this a fair contention? I think so. There are numerous positive and promising ideas out there for alternative modes of living, but they are not actually reflected in current culture. There is a large gap between the idea of something –- and even a working a prototype -- and the ability to start producing it on a large scale.

Would you know how to grow and produce algae based bio-diesel in a pinch? Or build a vertical garden that gets enough sun and water? What happens to our manufacturing base in general when electricity and liquid fuels become sporadic? Will western nations suffer a malaise, or will strong leadership carry us through?

These are open questions, and they are endless.

Cheney, a fair and balanced portrait

Since I posted on a Che Guevara t-shirt, partly in jest, it is only fair that I balance out his leftyness with one from the right... (Thanks Terry M. for the tip.)

Note the sigil on the cap. I think it stands for taliburton.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

two decade bull run

Shell predicts two decades of rising energy prices
Worldwide energy prices are set to rise over the next two decades as individual countries become more concerned about ensuring security of supply and governments take a more pro-active role in dictating energy policy and regulating markets, according to the latest global outlook from the oil giant Shell.

Not that I am one to seriously argue the contrary. However, there is a whiff of unreality to any scenario that doesn't take into account demand destruction. I don't think energy will go up infinitely, it will hit a cap at some point, reflecting the true cost of the most feasible renewables.

Or, I'm just whistling in the dark...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

stick 'em up, unocal

energy bulletin \ China throws down gauntlet to USA Inc
If you want to understand the global economy and feel the pulse of capitalism in the early 21st century, look no further than the $19 billion bid by the China National Oil Operating Company - Cnooc - for Unocal of California. Add a large measure of geopolitical tension, and you have probably the single most important corporate event of the young millennium.

I agree. And if Chevron or some other `white hat' should scrape together a competitive bid -- watch China bump the cash up -- 25 billion, 30 Billion, higher.

Too much? I don't think so, Kemo-Sabe.

What is a dollar really worth? Compared to something real, like oil. Clue: Nothing. The value of the U.S. dollar is an anachronism, shortly to evaporate. China has multi-billions of U.S.A. dollars to burn. They know who is propping up the American economy. And they are making their play at the same time. No surprise.

China has Uncle Sam over a barrel, and George Bush is goofing around in Iraq. It brings to mind Rick Moranis playing with action figures of his enemies in Spaceballs. Oh and Congress wants to sue the pushers. Might just as well sue the knife that butters our bread. These clowns will all be in the history books, and not in a good way.

Time grows short. Seriously. I mean it.

Here is the best recent oil update: Sprott-Oil Painting by Numbers.

And then check this, from George Ure's Urban Survival:

2) Pull up Type in $indu:$xoi. Be sure to put the colon in. This shows a ratio of the market divided by oil stocks. It's in a big downtrend!!! This means that the market strength is almost entirely in oil/gas/service stocks. Remember, there are a large number of energy stocks many with big shares outstanding. It also means that the broad market has been in a downtrend for many months. Similar to early 1981.

3)Now look at the weekly chart of $XOI. Also $XNG.The long term uptrends are powerful and even "IF" the peak were be soon it would require 9 to 18 months to put in place a real "distribution top". T Boone Pickens could be right!!!

4)Ten years ago there were about 800 to 900 drilling rigs looking for oil/gas. Now, according to what I read yesterday, there are ONLY about 1250 rigs operating. This does not appear to be enough to replace CONSUMPTION. Conclusion---The natural gas bull market has a lot more time to go.

5)Richard Russell now says that a point and figure chart of gold metal has a price objective of 492. "IF" this were to occur, then the gold stocks could have a run.

Put it all together. Peak oil is survivable on any level you want to talk about. Except one. As a threshhold for a global depression and credit collapse, Peak Oil is a killer, a stone cold killer.

In five years, we'll be using $100 bills for wallpaper.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Go read this - Let's Sue the Bastards!

Words cannot describe. I mean, this is a horse laugh.

I will hire ninjas to take care of our little leadership gap forthwith.

Right after I sue my pharmicist for jacking up the price of Aspirin. OW! My head hurts!

Friday, June 24, 2005

and you thought I was joking about the monorail

explains a lot, really

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Postcards from the Pétrole Epoque III

Deadly Immunity By ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.

According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines -- thimerosal -- appeared to be responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and a host of other neurological disorders among children.
The CDC paid the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to whitewash the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to "rule out" the chemical's link to autism. It withheld Verstraeten's findings, even though they had been slated for immediate publication, and told other scientists that his original data had been "lost" and could not be replicated. And to thwart the Freedom of Information Act, it handed its giant database of vaccine records over to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, has been working to immunize vaccine makers from liability in 4,200 lawsuits that have been filed by the parents of injured children. (...) In 2002, the day after Frist quietly slipped a rider known as the "Eli Lilly Protection Act" into a homeland security bill, the company contributed $10,000 to his campaign and bought 5,000 copies of his book on bioterrorism.
For Merck and other drug companies, however, the obstacle was money. Thimerosal enables the pharmaceutical industry to package vaccines in vials that contain multiple doses, which require additional protection because they are more easily contaminated by multiple needle entries. The larger vials cost half as much to produce as smaller, single-dose vials, making it cheaper for international agencies to distribute them to impoverished regions at risk of epidemics.
The scientists and researchers -- many of them sincere, even idealistic -- who are participating in efforts to hide the science on thimerosal claim that they are trying to advance the lofty goal of protecting children in developing nations from disease pandemics. They are badly misguided. Their failure to come clean on thimerosal will come back horribly to haunt our country and the world's poorest populations.

I've posted on mercury in vaccines before; looking back, now, after the damage is done, it is a tale of greed mongered excess so shocking that even Republicans are disgusted.

And Bill Frist. I say to you, do no harm. But you're a surgeon, a hotshot, capable of diagnosing Terri Schiavo via videotape on Fox News.

Vaccinations save lives. Neurotoxins destroy lives. The math is easy, unless you are a mercenary scientist or bean counting industrialist. I know several people who have children on the autism spectrum. It is not a disease which lends itself to misdiagnosis, even for an uneducated rube of a layman such as myself.

1989-2003 - thimerosal generation.

NY Times weighs in:
"It's really terrifying, the scientific illiteracy that supports these suspicions," said Dr. Marie McCormick, chairwoman of an Institute of Medicine panel that examined the controversy in February 2004.
In July 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service released a joint statement urging vaccine makers to remove thimerosal as quickly as possible. By 2001, no vaccine routinely administered to children in the United States had more than half of a microgram of mercury - about what is found in an infant's daily supply of breast milk.

This article is a meandering defense of conventional wisdom. (Pies thrown at scientists! Hide the children!) Nowhere did I see a defense of mercury, which is good, because mercury is a neurotoxin. It shouldn't be in vaccines OR breastmilk. Good enough, or should I get a fucking doctorate and say it again?

Is the link of mercury to autism rock solid? Well, sadly, in spite of much hand waving and skeptic baiting in the Times article, the CDC database identified by Tom Verstraeten was not mentioned. This database was sold off to a private a company to prevent the contents from being subject to freedom of information requests, and probably would make a good starting point for further research.

Too bad no one can look at it. Makes one wonder what it contains.

Meanwhile, removing mercury from vaccines likely won't be enough to stem the tide of autism if in fact there is a link; this is the coal age in America. And China. And many such like places. Mercury - it's what's for supper.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

sockeye in a coal mine

Trying to solve the mystery of the 200,000 missing salmon
Salmon carcasses floated belly-up when water rose in the Locks, which separate Lake Washington from Puget Sound. Dying salmon lay gasping on rocks along the brackish water between the Locks and the Sound.

"In my 15 years there was nothing as bad as last year, as far as just seeing dead bodies of sockeye," said Mahovlich, a fish biologist for the Muckleshoot Tribe, which helps manage the sockeye run.

But he was even more startled by the final picture that emerged late in the year: As many as 200,000 sockeye, roughly half the run, had disappeared somewhere between the Locks and their spawning grounds in streams beyond the lake.

The mystery of the missing sockeye has scientists puzzled and worried, as they try to decipher the fate of a cherished run that passes through the heart of Seattle. So far, scientists are focusing their suspicion on abnormal water temperature. And they worry that climate change could make it more than a freak occurrence.

Great. Climate Change strikes again. So let's put some fish farms out to sea, and dye the flesh of the resultant runty mono-salmon pink, to make up for the shrimp they'll never eat.

No one will know the difference. Will they?

don't panic but...

Via mobjectivist ( and The Oil Drum and everyone else):
Another Pulitzer?
Daniel Yergin won a Pulitzer for his book "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power" in 1991. The Oil Drum gang has a discussion going on Yergin's energy consultancy CERA, which provided background information for a Yahoo AP story on Peak Oil. Now, this would not normally raise any eyebrows but for the fact that CERA predicts a later peak and significant excess global oil supply for the near term. And because of the "fair and balanced" media, we see this point of view getting press.

These are weird times. How will people respond? Oh Lord but the SUV is powerful thirsty!

With a little nudging from the observably silly CERA report, which likely was cribbed from the 2004 IEA World Energy Outlook, an anti-paradox device will likely spring to life, perceptible for a short time:

an instanced Somebody Else's Problem field.

Don't worry! Your lifestyle needn't ever change! Also, the USA is planning a merger with the continent of Africa, at which time due to some bookkeeping magic, USA carbon emissions will be cut down by 25% on a per capita basis!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

light summer reading

In the midst of the last "easy motoring" summer, all warm breezy days and skittering thunderclouds, I found time to read the following article, spotted on FTD.

The coming trade war and global depression
US President George W Bush defends his free-trade agenda in moralistic terms. "Open trade is not just an economic opportunity, it is a moral imperative," he declared in a May 7, 2001, speech. "Trade creates jobs for the unemployed. When we negotiate for open markets, we're providing new hope for the world's poor. And when we promote open trade, we are promoting political freedom." Such claims remain highly controversial when tested by actual data.

Look; this article is long. Might even seem dull at first blush, but is to the contrary lucid and interesting. It slices right through self-aggrandizing American mythology and doubletalk that gets served up at every Wal-Mart and Burger shack, and manages to do so in a politically neutral way, in the sense that neither Democrats or Republicans are absolved of stupidty by the author.

Further, it paints a clear and independantly verifiable picture of how much trouble the global economy is in right now.

It is a great backgrounder.

After assimilating it, as a thought experiment, the curious might add peak oil into the mix -- just to see if the scales of justice have a breaking point.

rolling out a new war

Via Peak Energy (downunder) All Quiet on the Iranian Front?
I've been pondering the (lack of a) invasion of Iran lately, as it now seems very unlikely that this is going to occur in June as predicted. Obviously I'm not the only one, with Matt at Code 3 also posting on this fading mirage
I have been assuming the trigger for the invasion will be an Iranian refusal to halt their nuclear program (the negotiations over which are proceeding very slowly), but there are a few unreliable reports appearing that Osama bin Laden is now in Iran, which would be an even less credible reason.

Every day without another war is a good day.

I don't know if it will last. Where is Waldo? There were hints on Fox News the other day that Osama has moved - to Iran. OH NO! THE BEARDED LORD OF EVIL IS IN IRAN!

So says Fox News. The Bush Adminstration can't be far behind. Takes them a little longer to fabricate evidence than Fox, for whatever that is worth.

Friday, June 17, 2005

a complex web of interdependancy

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Demand for Natural Gas Brings Big Import Plans, and Objections
President Bush, trying to maneuver past the objectors, has endorsed legislation, which is currently being debated in the Senate, that would allow the federal government to overrule the states.
"Congress should make it clear to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission its authority to choose sites for new terminals, so we can expand our use of liquefied natural gas," Mr. Bush said in April.

So much for states rights. Let's build them terminals! YeeHaw!

Energy companies want to construct more than 40 such terminals at a cost of $500 million to $1 billion each. The emerging conflict is taking place as some scientists and environmentalists say that the nation is once again placing too little emphasis on improving energy efficiency and making investments in other methods for producing power and heat, including wind, biomass and nuclear energy.

Well, we're gonna need those alternatives, and meanwhile, we have a huge, hungry infrastructure which relies specifically on the burning of natural gas. Our energy situation is a zero sum game until we build an infrastructure not reliant on fossil fuels. What will we build this hypothetical new infrastructure with? Fossil fuels. Horns, meet dilemna.

But skepticism persists. "If you jump-start an industry this way and bring in an abundance of natural gas, you're creating an addiction to something that wasn't there," said Susan Jordan, director of the California Coastal Protection Network, an environmental group in Santa Barbara campaigning against L.N.G. terminals.

Unfortunately, the energy addiction is already there, as is peaking North American natural gas. If the terminals aren't built, the patient will go into withdrawals.

A recent report by Sandia National Laboratories concluded that terrorists blowing a hole in an L.N.G. tanker could produce a spill of liquefied natural gas that could reheat and set off a fire that would cause second-degree burns on people nearly a mile away.

Mr. New York Times reporter, not to tell you your job, but a "fire" is an odd way to describe a cinematic mushroom shaped fiery explosion burning the skin off of mammals in a mile radius. We had a pipeline explosion in Washington State a few years back. Luckily, it occurred in an out of the way stretch; it could have been worse, that particular pipeline goes right up the gut of the State, through the suburbs. Nonetheless, two children died, one fishin' in a creek.

Others view the growing reliance on imported natural gas in the United States more ominously.

"We accept having L.N.G. as part of the energy solution, but we're very concerned about making the same mistakes we made with imported oil," said David Schryver, vice president for Congressional affairs at the American Public Gas Association, which represents municipal gas utilities that would consume much of the imported L.N.G. "Facing the prospect of another OPEC for natural gas is alarming."

Amen. Guess what though -- you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

curmudgeon prophet

I was invited to give a talk at Google headquarters down in Mountain View last Tuesday. They sent somebody to fetch me (in a hybrid car, zowee!) from my hotel in San Francisco -- as if I had any choice about catching a train down, right? Google HQ was a glass office park pod tucked into an inscrutable tangle of off-ramps, berms, manzanita clumps, and curb-cuts. But inside, it was all tricked out like a kindergarten. They had pool tables, and inflatable yoga balls, and $6000 electronic vibrating massage lounge chairs, and snack stations deployed at twenty-five step intervals, with lucite bins filled with chocolate raisins and granola. The employees dressed like children. There were two motifs: "skateboard rat" and "10th grade nerd." I suppose quite a few of them were millionaires. Many of the work cubicles were literally modular children's playhouses. I gave my spiel about the global oil problem and the unlikelihood that "alternative energy" would even fractionally replace it, and quite a few of the Googlers became incensed.

"Yo, Dude, you're so, like, wrong! We've got, like, technology!"

Yeah, well, they weren't interested in making a distinction between energy and technology...

It is hardly necessary for me to link to Kunstler at this point, but I couldn't resist. Judging from the book flap in The Long Emergency, he's grown a beard and thus lacks only a sign and a corner to stand on. After a recent book tour, he became filled with a furious apocalyptic anger, and the dark side of the force flowed. And that means good writin'! Go check it out.

For those of you who don't work in software, his description of Google is spot on. Whoever invited Kunstler to Google is likely to find their classic Stars Wars action figures hanging by the neck from the coffee maker tomorrow. I would add that that particular workplace motif is in general decline, as the ebullience of the roaring nineties fades. Google must prop up the kindergarden lifestyle (juice and naps for employees, which we grownups call "massages") because they have a mythology to uphold, just like Microsoft will never stop giving out free soda and popcorn to its employees.

But further, I think one of the key realizations that Kunstler astutely makes here, and in his books, is that those of us who grew up in a technology saturated environment have great difficulty separating energy from same. The day is coming when everyone will be able to discern the difference between technology that is powered by energy, and technology which produces energy. Meanwhile, energy has actually been quite invisible in polite society; who among us would start talking light sweet crude at a party?

Not I, not yet. Now excuse me, I need to throw my Atari t-shirt in the wash and go find my yoga ball.

Monday, June 13, 2005

democracy inaction

Via the hard working crew at WorldChanging:
The Week in Sustainable Vehicles (06/12/05)
A new Yale University research survey reveals that Americans overwhelmingly believe that the United States is too dependent on imported oil. The survey of 1,000 adults nationwide shows a vast majority of the public also wants to see government action to develop new "clean" energy sources, including solar and wind power as well as hydrogen cars.
Conducted on behalf of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the survey found that fully 92% say dependence on imported oil is a serious problem, with 68 percent saying it is a very serious problem.

So then, 68 Percent of Americans believe imported oil is a very serious problem. Meanwhile, 65% of the country is dissatisfied with Bush on his handling of the economy. What an extraordinarily odd coincidence! Perhaps it is merely a statistical flutter, like that business with the “vote” in Ohio.

What will Americans get next, from Republican leadership presently nailing down a massive highway bill, as well as disbursing cash money payouts to the oil and gas industry -- an industry not known to be lacking in cash money of late?

How about a genuine, Bona fide, Electrified, Six-car Monorail! (mp3)

baseless opinions waxing

Peak oil will be a non-event
Personally, I don't think anything will happen. I look at "peak oil" in the very same way I looked at the "Year 2000 crisis" in 1999. "Peak oil" will be a non-event. We will see prices for gasoline go up, yes, and there may be some short term spikes that are a little disruptive, but overall I believe we will work this out in a natural way.

The very simple explanation for why this will happen can be summarized in about 15 words: As oil gets more expensive, other technologies will compete on price and replace oil.

Here is the simplest example. Right now, in 2005, we are about to reach the point where you can buy a tanker car full of soybean oil for about the same price as a tanker car full of diesel fuel. With a very simple reactor you can turn the vegetable oil into biodiesel. That puts a cap on the price of diesel fuel. Petroleum diesel prices cannot increase much above the price of biodiesel, or people will stop buying petroleum diesel.

Marshall Brain and his market driven opinions have been making the rounds. Not much content in his post, a lot of bowing and scraping to soybeans. Marshall: It is all about the energy returned on energy invested. If we want it positive, we're going to do it Brazilian style - that is - poor farmers farming by hand. I can see the boomers lining up to be serfs now. Sounds like honest work to me. Maybe the Indians will do it cheaper.

Then there is that useless Y2K analogy, one I've seen pop up before.

Y2K was a serious software meta-bug that was for the most part fixed by financial institutions at great expense. It had the potential to wreak havoc and melt down financial markets for a few months, which was why, many years before the year 2000, the investment was made to fix it. The Y2K scenario also happened to raise hysteria levels here and there due to a byteless conjunction with the western calendar.

"Peak Oil" -- or as I call it, Peak Oil, has no software fix. A bevy of aging cobol hackers will not fix our dependance on liquid fuels.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

our lucky number is below one

Dropped balls
I dug through some old files recently and found that I've been talking about the merits of plug-in hybrids for thirteen years.
That's a fairly long time. It's three design cycles in the auto industry, maybe four. It's I don't know how many rounds at various boards and bureaus. Six and a half Congresses.

Federal and state policy makers and auto companies have known - have to have known - about the feasibility of partial grid power for vehicles and the substantial if not complete freedom from petroleum that they would allow. The auto companies had to know it, because their own engineers were talking about it. I was one of them.

Yet every time the opportunity came to them, they dropped the ball.

A course of inaction is being carefully charted by our energy dependant civilization.

Though I have ranted about some of the proposed alternatives, I am not trying to stall progress. I mean progress in an uninflected sense. I do think it is fair to ask that technology optimists such as Amory Lovins apply the same skepticism to their bright ideas that they apply to thinkers such as James Kunstler.

Consider the personal versus civic life and duty.

On a personal level, I would tell all my readers out there in blogistan, and thus remind myself, to prepare for bad times. If Kunstler says it is going to rain frogs, damn it, don’t scapegoat him because he is a bearer of bad tidings or angry frogs.

Post depletion, one could visualize our energy driven civilization as a pit, dug by ourselves, requiring human cooperation and ingenuity to climb out of.

Which leads me to the civic level.

There are many interesting and driven people working on the problem of energy in a post petroleum future. I applaud them and their efforts. This could include everything from New Urbanism, (a blueprint for conservation) to the Hypercar concept (speaking of Amory Lovins).

The reason I give ink to the negative is because all the momentum in our culture is negative right now. Those who fail to see that – and there are many - live in an idealized world. Mythology takes many forms. A handful of years ago I would happily extol the virtues of a hydrogen economy to anyone who would listen. Now I know better: X, Y, and Z need to happen before this hydrogen scenario is even a possibility. A big string of maybes topped by unbuilt nuclear power plants and natural gas terminals.

I don’t wish to live and write in a sea of negativity.

For now, I call it as I see it.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

nude versus no clothes

Cyclists bare all in oil protest
Protesters on The World Naked Bike Ride cycled past Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, Covent Garden, Oxford Street and the US Embassy on the 10km route.

Riders in 54 cities were protesting at the "destructive effects of car culture" and celebrating "the power and individuality of their bodies".

Rider Melissa Evans, 32, said: "This shows how serious we are in opposing oil dependency.

Meanwhile, "Augustus" Greenspan recently appeared before a group of bankers, and they all pretended to notice, or simply could not discern, that he was naked as a skunk sans fur.

Greenspan: Long-Term Rate Drop a Mystery
"We've never run into anything like this before," Greenspan said at an American Bankers Association conference in Beijing Tuesday. In his remarks, Greenspan dismissed the four leading Wall Street theories of why global long-term interest rates are so low.

"The economic and financial world is changing in ways that we still do not fully comprehend," Greenspan said.

Friday, June 10, 2005

social realism "prairie dogs" in Baltimore

Thursday, June 09, 2005

elbow room versus breathing room

Population. I don't want to overdo this post; much ink has been spilled on the topic. People project their politics and economic beliefs into the discussion and confusion ensues.

I don't have a horse in this race. Die-off may come, or `we' may die of old age. Oh, and when I say we, I am excluding the Sudan, where the Die-off proceeds apace.

It is not necessary for population to rise:
(the better to increase property value).

It is not necessary for population to fall:
(the better to hunt wild goats in Old Suburbia).

More interesting is the sense I get from a wide range of people that perhaps we have overdone things a bit. That we are heedlessly growing in population, not due to some grand overarching plan, but rather because nature wired us to fuck like bunnies.

I asked my readers to weigh in, most (all) were negative, given the basically open-ended (200 year!) timeline. Some of you lurkers might cite numbers such as 9 billion as being ideal; the earth being a bounded sphere means at some level beyond that we'd be shoulder to shoulder, ecologically and spiritually if not physically.

Point being, if one believes there should be an upper limit, any limit at all to population, logically, there is minimal basis to hoot and holler at people who want slightly less.

You say 20 billion people, I say 3 billion, we're saying the same thing. Just a matter of degree.

Earth is always one generation away from the possibility of no humans existing at all. This could happen spontaneously, although the odds are about that same that I will quantum tunnel into my driveway.

Lesser, localized Die-Off events happened all throught the twentieth century. Die-off in the future could certainly happen as result from overshoot. It could happen due to genocide. It could happen due to comet strike.

So, with something like peak oil coming along, I gently suggest that for a generation or so we try and draw down our global population by making free contraception widely available on every continent. Not that anyone will listen. Somewhere, Ol' Scratch is laughing; HE KNOWS what I am proposing is impossible.

I propose draw down because peak oil is not the end of the world, and a draw down could just be a short term step. Stop, take stock, consume less as a race and figure a few things out: like what comes next, really next, after oil. Cause right now, I don't know if world is going to feed itself in 2030. I hear plenty of ideas. Some are quite plausible, like my suggestion that we share oil and put agriculture first, ahead of say, war.

Our population levels will always be transitory, shifting. No big.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

stan goff

You'll never find Stan Goff, ex Delta Force, in the back of a Kung-Fu magazine with a knife between his teeth selling the ability to punch thirty times a second. In avoiding this fate, probably having something to do with his time in Haiti, he has become one of the more pointed commentators on the American Empire. His books are invaluable, he speaks fluent peak oil.

And lately, instead of battling enemies of the state, he debates apologists for the state, amusing and insipid mush bags that they are when not on-set at Fox News.

Via Peak Energy (down under)
Debating A Neocon
In every case, I agreed with him that Democrats wanted to attack Iraq, too, and that they had attacked it as often as possible throughout the eight-year administration of Bill Clinton ­ who by the way had killed more Iraqis than George W. Bush. I also pointed out that Democrats, not Republicans, were the most vocal in calling for a return of military conscription, and that Kerry not only said he wouldn't withdraw from Iraq, but that he would expand the troop numbers ­ making him the Lyndon Baines Johnson of Southwest Asia. Not only that but any smart Democrat right now would be whooping for joy that they won't get the next four years hung around their necks, because the forces in motion ­ including maybe stagflation and the deepening defeat in Iraq ­ are bigger than either party of the rich.

It is truly remarkable how easily KO'ed these neocons are once you step outside the tight little ring of the Republicrats. They've got maybe three combinations, and they are slow as a cow. Everything inside has been ritual combat, so they do very badly when someone actually intends to hit them.

getting down to brass tacks

Peak Oil: Not Sustainable But Insatiable Part 3
Mathew Simmons
It's interesting the steps we can take that really aren't exactly as draconian as they sound on the surface. You got to fix the transportation market. 70% of every barrel of oil used in the world today is used to transportation. But there are some really interesting fixes. If you put all of the goods we now move by long haul trucks and get them off the highways and put them on the rails that has an energy efficiency of between five and ten fold, as opposed to five or ten percent. And that is not an impossible mission from a five to seven year time if we had to do it. There is a huge side benefit to that. By eliminating the trucks on the road we actually make a bug dent on traffic congestion. Traffic congestion is public enemy numbers 1 through 8 on passenger car fuel efficiency. And so we can have all of these Priuses and hybrids, don't get me wrong they are great. I drive a fabulous new Diesel Mercedes and I get, on the open road, as long as there is no traffic, I can get almost 50 miles to the gallon. But when I am in stop-and-go traffic I get between 5-11 miles to the gallon. You have to address traffic congestion and you have to address some of these areas where there are magnitudes of savings and then we have to learn to do things like distributed work. The miracle of the internet and working online. It took three months to get my firm online. Rather than have people drive for two hours in the afternoon and two hours in the evening we will actually adjust to people working in their neighborhood for their company.

And we need to learn how to make things closer to home.

Then there is agriculture. Food models. Apples sold in the summer in the UK 85-90% of them comes from New Zealand. That's a 22,000 mile journey for an apple! If we went back to growing our food closer to home which is easily done, we could help our economy, get better apples because they are local, and we save enormous amounts on money on energy/transport costs. We can make those changes in a 5-10 year period of time without going into an energy war.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

drumming for oil

In part five of his semi-mainstream series, Kevin Drum posts the ASPO depletion charts and makes a few cogent observations:

...Instead, take a look at oil consumption from 1979 to 1982, after the Iranian revolution caused crude oil prices to double. As you can see, world oil consumption dropped by about 15%.

There are two ways you can interpret this 15% decline:
  • Market forces work! Prices went up, consumption went down, and the world didn't end. It is possible to reduce oil consumption after all.

  • Holy cow! Sure, oil consumption went down, but it took the longest and deepest recession since World War II to accomplish it.

Drum's analysis is good, although he seems to not fully come to grips with the whole point of peak oil; that is; we won't be drilling or producing our way out of this one. (He knocks the chart as pessimistic. Yes it is. So what?)

But mainly, I am not panicking about peak oil these days, I am more concerned about the end of credit, a year or two after the peak. Now that will be ugly.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Short takes

Part I: A Micro Peak Oil Model
Given that (1) I don't much like that Lynch uses depletion analysts as romper room punching bags, and (2) that we can do better on an understandability level than the logistics curve, I propose my own model which uses a minimal set of assumptions.

Looks like this article should be a candidate for inclusion in the next ASPO newsletter.

shipping security
It has often been noted that international trade will become more costly as the price of shipping fuel increases. I believe another factor will also increase shipping costs: security.

Things get complicated as oil becomes pricier than bottled water. Complexity is a weakness without cheap energy. NeonTetra just started blogging and has a unique take on energy issues, worth checking out.

NRC Unanimously Rejects Atomic Waste Deregulation
Environmentalists cautiously praised the decision. “The NRC clearly backed down from this crazy idea because it recognized the firestorm of public concern that would be triggered,” said Daniel Hirsch, President of the Los Angeles-based Committee to Bridge the Gap (CBG) that has fought such radioactive deregulation proposals for years. “The public doesn’t want radioactive waste in their local garbage dump, children’s braces, or tools.”

A little context, before we cut the cake and toot the horns: NRC needs to keep the profile of nuclear issues low; the Bush administration is trying to get fifty new reactors licensed and the operating lease extended on almost every nuclear plant in America. So – this is a short term tactical move by the NRC. In 2020, so sorry, you will get radioactive frying pans. American ingenuity.

Rumsfeld warns Asia officials of China's military advances
"China appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities here in the region," Rumsfeld said. "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment?"

One boggles at what Rumsfeld hopes to achieve by taking China to task on military spending. It isn’t like his rhetorical question is hard to answer.

New UN atlas reveals environmental devastation
The huge growth of greenhouses in southern Spain, the rapid rise of shrimp farming in Asia and Latin America and the emergence of a giant, shadow puppet-shaped peninsula at the mouth of the Yellow River are among a string of curious and surprising changes seen from space.

Environmental devastation? Not in my back yard. I don’t see what all the fuss is about:

- Are bananas still yellow when ripe? Yes.
- Is the sky still blue? Check.
- Do frogs still have penises? Uh oh.

bush taken for a ride

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Philaelaethes has tagged me, and I happily respond. If anyone else rings me up, I’ll either relink this post – or come up with all new books. Depends on my mood.

Number of Books I own
Between 500 and 1000. Actually, rather strange now that I think about it, how much I have spent on books over the years. Most of them aren’t even printed on acid free paper. Perishable, like me.

Last Book I Bought
Code Complete 2nd edition. (Kind of geeky, easy to recommend.)

Last Book I read
Maps -- Nuruddin Farah

Five books that meant a lot to me
Mencken Chrestomathy -- H.L. Mencken
Look here; if you haven’t at least read The Green Hills of Zion, give it a go. If that whets your appetite for more on the Scopes trial, check out Summer for the Gods.

The Book of J -- Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg
Opened my eyes to a few things, among them being, the only the thing the bible ever needed was a good editor. Undecided if I agree with Bloom’s thesis regarding J; enjoyed the translation and arguments all the same.

The Demon Haunted World -- Carl Sagan
The clarity of this book in defending rationality is special. Also, far less patronizing than most of the freethinker and skeptical tomes out there; I could give this book to anyone who reads at least 800 pages a year.

Courtesans & Fishcakes -- James Davidson
I’ve got a ton of books on archaeology and history. This particular one is a favorite: detailed, aware of limitations of A & H, lucid, fascinating, and provides a window on the lives of people from another age.

Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage -- Deffeyes
Short, to the point. Packed with information. Great summer reading. Caused me to go on a peak oil kick back in 2004.

Bonus Books
So, where is the fiction, I ask myself?

Tom Sawyer -– Mark Twain.
Luckily, the edition I read had pictures - it was the summer before second grade, and couldn’t have picked a better “real” book to start my career as a reader with. Twain is a truthful writer. I next picked up Huckleberry Finn, and dropped it after 3 or 4 pages, deeply confused. Where were the hijinks? The spelunking? Had to save that one for later.

Dune –- Frank Herbert
Hey, I like fiction that puts in everything. Politics, religion, swashbuckling adventure, sandworms – you know, the whole enchilada. That’s why I couldn’t put James Joyce’s Ulysses in this spot: no sandworms.

Now, to pass it on:
A year of bad luck for each blogger not named, minus time served.

your new hobby

As a commentator on our shared peak oil consensus reality, I spend a lot of time spinning nouns and verbs on issues that I am not personally involved in, say for example, nuclear power.

This is well and good -- talkin' politics and chatting about the weather.

At last months peak oil awareness meeting in Seattle, organizer Wes suggested our group start think about some group goals including and possibly going beyond awareness.

Continuing that thread, I am thinking that on a personal level everyone needs a "post peak" hobby, something that prepares for contingencies, and is otherwise a satisfying endeavor.

Obviously, if the cornucopian optimists are correct, and a happy confluence of deux-ex-machina and market forces saves our bacon, well, then the hobby stays a hobby, and we can all argue about Social Security in 2020, or whatever.

If things go badly for the global economy, what skills will you need in a future, more localized, community?

Here are some hobbies I am thinking about:
Buying the farm, or, small scale vegetable gardening.
Practical low technology medicine. Pencillin production.
Energy efficient building techniques.

Please put your thoughts in the comments!

If you don't prepare, you'll likely end up as the night soil dipper.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Thomas Friedman, perfumed fop.

Sir Thomas Friedman just wrote an article on globalization which has been gnawing at me like a neglected toothache.

A Race To The Top

I think Friedman is sincere in his opinions, and believes that the grand swoops of action that he lays out in his editorials are correct. He is all Big Ideas, macgyver’d together with whatever is at hand. He is one of the prime torch bearers for globalization mythology, and he’ll believe anything in service of same.

Friedman is as dumb as a bag of rocks.

I had meant to more specifically criticize the column I link to above, but Greg Palast beat me to the punch with a salty denouement of the New York Times “liberal media” prince.

French-Fried Friedman, Nouvelle Globalizer
Most irksome (is) his ghastly glee that "a world of benefits they [Western Europeans] have known for 50 years is coming apart," because the French and other Europeans "are trying to preserve a 35 hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day."
He forgot to add, "and where Indian families are ready to sell their children into sexual slavery to survive." Now, THERE'S a standard to reach for.

Friedman praises the New India, freed of the shackles of Old India's socialist welfare state. I've seen the New India: half a billion people in dirt huts supporting a tiny minority's right to shop in air-conditioned malls. It is a Fritz Lang film in Hindi.

Mr. Friedman, please note these brains for hire are found in Karnataka and Kerala, states whose cussed adherence to social welfare makes them more French than France and nothing like Thatcherized dog-eat-dog Britain or Reaganized America. The computer wizards of Bangalore (in Karnataka) and Kerala are the products of fully funded state education systems where, unlike the USA, no child is left behind.

I am not at all opposed to international trade. I’m all for fair trade. Free trade, now – that is newspeak for taking it where the sun don’t shine. Friedman drivels out a headline “The Race to the Top,” in a limp attempt to invert a common criticism of globalization, which is to say,

It is a race to the bottom, which French and Dutch voters have rejected.

I guess having 6 weeks of vacation gives a sentient time to think. This is what the cult of “efficiency” is all about; keeping people from thinking. From extended free time comes the gumption to reject spastically genetically modified crops and boy bands.

Peak Energy will rip modern globalization to shreds. None too soon

Thursday, June 02, 2005

ooooh snap

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

this is not your beautiful die-off

I would like my readers to take part in an informal poll on what the population of the earth will end up at in the near term. This is not specifically a peak oil question, I am just curious. Just vote in the comments section. And add any comments to describe your thinking, and whether you think this is a good or a bad thing.

You can vote as many times as you like. It won't affect a thing. Votes for a lower population than we presently have will not be construed by the management of this blog as being a vote for genocide.

Timescale, next 200 years.

a) The population of Earth will grow exponentially.
b) Population will top out between 9 and 20 billion.
c) Population will top out between 6 and 9 billion.
d) Population will fall to between 3 and 6 billion.
e) Population will fall to between 500 million and 3 billion
f) Population less than 500 million.

Thanks for all the votes; feel free to keep going. Some time next week I have some thoughts I'll wrap up. In general, most people I talk to are pessimistic even if they are completely seperated from the concept of peak oil or overshoot. Kind of a gut thing.

the path not taken

Mobjectivist reminded me of good old Buckminister Fuller, who among other things had a prototype for a fuel efficient car running while Amory Lovins was still playing with tinker toys.

The Dymaxion Car
The Dymaxion car was a concept car built in 1933 and designed by Buckminster Fuller. The car was a high efficiency vehicle with a then-unheard of fuel efficiency of 30 miles per gallon and it could move 11 passengers along at 120 miles per hour.