Peak Oil- what it is and how it will impact your life

Discussion in 'Peak Oil' started by Minuteman, Aug 4, 2005.

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  1. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    I posted quite a bit of information about this subject on another board. There was a lot of interest in it and I was asked to continue it here. I didn’t want to repeat already posted material so everything here will be new, unposted (by me), material.
    Who am I? I have been in the Oil Industry for nearly thirty years. I started when I was 16 years old and have never really done anything else. I currently work in management and am party to many board room discussions about anything that impacts the oil business. The most discussed and debated issue in recent years has been “Peak Oil”.

    What is it and why should you care? The “Peak” of world oil is NOT Y2K. It is not a theory, it is a fact. The only debate has been the timing. That debate is very nearly settled. The optimistic predictions have been proven to be based on flawed data. The majority opinion, formed by solid and apparent evidence, is that it has already occurred. And it will affect the lives of every person on this planet. To what degree is yet to be seen but affect you it will. It is not something that will happen in 100 years or so, we are talking decades not centurys.If you are a middle aged person reading this you will witness the end of the oil age, and the last half of your life will be much different than the first half. A child born at the dawn of this century will see, in their lifetime, the complete depletion of fossil fuels.
    I have arranged these articles in an incremental way. To expose you to the problem and to take you through all the ramifications, to examine how this will affect you and what you can do to prepare for it. Please read each of these articles in order, and through to the end. With an open mind, reserving judgment till the end. This is not a wild conspiracy theory, this is science, and it is real, and it is coming, or, more likely, already here.
    The famed psychologist Carl Jung is quoted as saying “People can not handle too much reality.” I prefer the words of Patrick Henry “We are apt to shut our eyes to a painful truth.For my part, I am willing to know the whole truth.To know the worst;and to prepare for it.” And the words of a man leading the effort to waken the sleeping masses to the wolf at our door, Matt Savinar “Deal with reality or reality will deal with you.”
    Knowledge is power. This is knowledge that has been confined to the few in the industry, and elsewhere, who were willing to take an unbiased look at it. But now it is making its way slowly, out to the general public. My prayer is that by reading this and becoming aware of this problem now that you will be better prepared and equipped to deal with it than those who choose not to know the worst. MM

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  2. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    Bottom of the Barrel

    Bottom of the barrel

    The world is running out of oil - so why do politicians refuse to talk about it?

    Tuesday December 2, 2003
    The Guardian

    The oil industry is buzzing. On Thursday, the government approved the development of the biggest deposit discovered in British territory for at least 10 years. Everywhere we are told that this is a "huge" find, which dispels the idea that North Sea oil is in terminal decline. You begin to recognize how serious the human predicament has become when you discover that this "huge" new field will supply the world with oil for five and a quarter days.

    Every generation has its taboo, and ours is this: that the resource upon which our lives have been built is running out. We don't talk about it because we cannot imagine it. This is a civilization in denial.
    Oil itself won't disappear, but extracting what remains is becoming ever more difficult and expensive. The discovery of new reserves peaked in the 1960s. Every year we use four times as much oil as we find. All the big strikes appear to have been made long ago: the 400m barrels in the new North Sea field would have been considered piffling in the 1970s. Our future supplies depend on the discovery of small new deposits and the better exploitation of big old ones. No one with expertise in the field is in any doubt that the global production of oil will peak before long.
    The only question is how long. The most optimistic projections are the ones produced by the US department of energy, which claims that this will not take place until 2037. But the US energy information agency has admitted that the government's figures have been fudged: it has based its projections for oil supply on the projections for oil demand, perhaps in order not to sow panic in the financial markets.
    Other analysts are less sanguine. The petroleum geologist Colin Campbell calculates that global extraction will peak before 2010. In August, the geophysicist Kenneth Deffeyes told New Scientist that he was "99% confident" that the date of maximum global production will be 2004. Even if the optimists are correct, we will be scraping the oil barrel within the lifetimes of most of those who are middle-aged today.
    The supply of oil will decline, but global demand will not. Today we will burn 76m barrels; by 2020 we will be using 112m barrels a day, after which projected demand accelerates. If supply declines and demand grows, we soon encounter something with which the people of the advanced industrial economies are unfamiliar: shortage. The price of oil will go through the roof.
    As the price rises, the sectors which are now almost wholly dependent on crude oil - principally transport and farming - will be forced to contract. Given that climate change caused by burning oil is cooking the planet, this might appear to be a good thing. The problem is that our lives have become hard-wired to the oil economy. Our sprawling suburbs are impossible to service without cars. High oil prices mean high food prices: much of the world's growing population will go hungry. These problems will be exacerbated by the direct connection between the price of oil and the rate of unemployment. The last five recessions in the US were all preceded by a rise in the oil price.
    Oil, of course, is not the only fuel on which vehicles can run. There are plenty of possible substitutes, but none of them is likely to be anywhere near as cheap as crude is today. Petroleum can be extracted from tar sands and oil shale, but in most cases the process uses almost as much energy as it liberates, while creating great mountains and lakes of toxic waste. Natural gas is a better option, but switching from oil to gas propulsion would require a vast and staggeringly expensive new fuel infrastructure. Gas, of course, is subject to the same constraints as oil: at current rates of use, the world has about 50 years' supply, but if gas were to take the place of oil its life would be much shorter.
    Vehicles could be run from fuel cells powered by hydrogen, which is produced by the electrolysis of water. But the electricity which produces the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. To fill all the cars in the US would require four times the current capacity of the national grid. Coal burning is filthy, nuclear energy is expensive and lethal. Running the world's cars from wind or solar power would require a greater investment than any civilization has ever made before. New studies suggest that leaking hydrogen could damage the ozone layer and exacerbate global warming.
    Turning crops into diesel or methanol is just about viable in terms of recoverable energy, but it means using the land on which food is now grown for fuel. My rough calculations suggest that running the United Kingdom's cars on rapeseed oil would require an area of arable fields the size of England.
    There is one possible solution which no one writing about the impending oil crisis seems to have noticed: a technique with which the British and Australian governments are currently experimenting, called underground coal gasification. This is a fancy term for setting light to coal seams which are too deep or too expensive to mine, and catching the gas which emerges. It's a hideous prospect, as it means that several trillion tonnes of carbon which was otherwise impossible to exploit becomes available, with the likely result that global warming will eliminate life on Earth.
    We seem, in other words, to be in trouble. Either we lay hands on every available source of fossil fuel, in which case we fry the planet and civilization collapses, or we run out, and civilization collapses.
    The only rational response to both the impending end of the oil age and the menace of global warming is to redesign our cities, our farming and our lives. But this cannot happen without massive political pressure, and our problem is that no one ever rioted for austerity. People tend to take to the streets because they want to consume more, not less. Given a choice between a new set of matching tableware and the survival of humanity, I suspect that most people would choose the tableware.
    In view of all this, the notion that the war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq (which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is actively developing a nuclear weapons program and boasting of its intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had something it wanted. In one respect alone, Bush and Blair have been making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to secure the reserves of other nations.
    I refuse to believe that there is not a better means of averting disaster than this. I refuse to believe that human beings are collectively incapable of making rational decisions. But I am beginning to wonder what the basis of my belief might be.
    • The sources for this and all George Monbiot's recent articles can be found at

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  3. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    The Long Emergency

    The Long Emergency
    What's going to happen as we start running out of cheap gas to guzzle?

    by James Howard Kunstler

    A few weeks ago, the price of oil ratcheted above fifty-five dollars a barrel, which is about twenty dollars a barrel more than a year ago. The next day, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently, the price of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five bucks a barrel in the span of ten days. That same day, the stock market shot up more than a hundred points because, CNN said, government data showed no signs of inflation. Note to clueless nation: Call planet Earth.
    Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality." What you're about to read may challenge your assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and especially the kind of world into which events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory.
    It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming time the Long Emergency.
    Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing, recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery, national defense -- you name it.
    The few Americans who are even aware that there is a gathering global-energy predicament usually misunderstand the core of the argument. That argument states that we don't have to run out of oil to start having severe problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems. We only have to slip over the all-time production peak and begin a slide down the arc of steady depletion.
    The term "global oil-production peak" means that a turning point will come when the world produces the most oil it will ever produce in a given year and, after that, yearly production will inexorably decline. It is usually represented graphically in a bell curve. The peak is the top of the curve, the halfway point of the world's all-time total endowment, meaning half the world's oil will be left. That seems like a lot of oil, and it is, but there's a big catch: It's the half that is much more difficult to extract, far more costly to get, of much poorer quality and located mostly in places where the people hate us. A substantial amount of it will never be extracted.
    The United States passed its own oil peak -- about 11 million barrels a day -- in 1970, and since then production has dropped steadily. In 2004 it ran just above 5 million barrels a day (we get a tad more from natural-gas condensates). Yet we consume roughly 20 million barrels a day now. That means we have to import about two-thirds of our oil, and the ratio will continue to worsen.
    The U.S. peak in 1970 brought on a portentous change in geoeconomic power. Within a few years, foreign producers, chiefly OPEC, were setting the price of oil, and this in turn led to the oil crises of the 1970s. In response, frantic development of non-OPEC oil, especially the North Sea fields of England and Norway, essentially saved the West's ass for about two decades. Since 1999, these fields have entered depletion. Meanwhile, worldwide discovery of new oil has steadily declined to insignificant levels in 2003 and 2004.
    Some "cornucopians" claim that the Earth has something like a creamy nougat center of "abiotic" oil that will naturally replenish the great oil fields of the world. The facts speak differently. There has been no replacement whatsoever of oil already extracted from the fields of America or any other place.
    Now we are faced with the global oil-production peak. The best estimates of when this will actually happen have been somewhere between now and 2010. In 2004, however, after demand from burgeoning China and India shot up, and revelations that Shell Oil wildly misstated its reserves, and Saudi Arabia proved incapable of goosing up its production despite promises to do so, the most knowledgeable experts revised their predictions and now concur that 2005 is apt to be the year of all-time global peak production.
    It will change everything about how we live.
    To aggravate matters, American natural-gas production is also declining, at five percent a year, despite frenetic new drilling, and with the potential of much steeper declines ahead. Because of the oil crises of the 1970s, the nuclear-plant disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and the acid-rain problem, the U.S. chose to make gas its first choice for electric-power generation. The result was that just about every power plant built after 1980 has to run on gas. Half the homes in America are heated with gas. To further complicate matters, gas isn't easy to import. Here in North America, it is distributed through a vast pipeline network. Gas imported from overseas would have to be compressed at minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit in pressurized tanker ships and unloaded (re-gasified) at special terminals, of which few exist in America. Moreover, the first attempts to site new terminals have met furious opposition because they are such ripe targets for terrorism.
    Some other things about the global energy predicament are poorly understood by the public and even our leaders. This is going to be a permanent energy crisis, and these energy problems will synergize with the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease and population overshoot to produce higher orders of trouble.
    We will have to accommodate ourselves to fundamentally changed conditions.
    No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders of steady technological progress achieved through the reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome, leading many Americans to believe that anything we wish for hard enough will come true. These days, even people who ought to know better are wishing ardently for a seamless transition from fossil fuels to their putative replacements.
    The widely touted "hydrogen economy" is a particularly cruel hoax. We are not going to replace the U.S. automobile and truck fleet with vehicles run on fuel cells. For one thing, the current generation of fuel cells is largely designed to run on hydrogen obtained from natural gas. The other way to get hydrogen in the quantities wished for would be electrolysis of water using power from hundreds of nuclear plants. Apart from the dim prospect of our building that many nuclear plants soon enough, there are also numerous severe problems with hydrogen's nature as an element that present forbidding obstacles to its use as a replacement for oil and gas, especially in storage and transport.
    Wishful notions about rescuing our way of life with "renewables" are also unrealistic. Solar-electric systems and wind turbines face not only the enormous problem of scale but the fact that the components require substantial amounts of energy to manufacture and the probability that they can't be manufactured at all without the underlying support platform of a fossil-fuel economy. We will surely use solar and wind technology to generate some electricity for a period ahead but probably at a very local and small scale.
    Virtually all "biomass" schemes for using plants to create liquid fuels cannot be scaled up to even a fraction of the level at which things are currently run. What's more, these schemes are predicated on using oil and gas "inputs" (fertilizers, weed-killers) to grow the biomass crops that would be converted into ethanol or bio-diesel fuels. This is a net energy loser -- you might as well just burn the inputs and not bother with the biomass products. Proposals to distill trash and waste into oil by means of thermal depolymerization depend on the huge waste stream produced by a cheap oil and gas economy in the first place.
    Coal is far less versatile than oil and gas, extant in less abundant supplies than many people assume and fraught with huge ecological drawbacks -- as a contributor to greenhouse "global warming" gases and many health and toxicity issues ranging from widespread mercury poisoning to acid rain. You can make synthetic oil from coal, but the only time this was tried on a large scale was by the Nazis under wartime conditions, using impressive amounts of slave labor.
    If we wish to keep the lights on in America after 2020, we may indeed have to resort to nuclear power, with all its practical problems and eco-conundrums. Under optimal conditions, it could take ten years to get a new generation of nuclear power plants into operation, and the price may be beyond our means. Uranium is also a resource in finite supply. We are no closer to the more difficult project of atomic fusion, by the way, than we were in the 1970s.
    The upshot of all this is that we are entering a historical period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship. Obviously, geopolitical maneuvering around the world's richest energy regions has already led to war and promises more international military conflict. Since the Middle East contains two-thirds of the world's remaining oil supplies, the U.S. has attempted desperately to stabilize the region by, in effect, opening a big police station in Iraq. The intent was not just to secure Iraq's oil but to modify and influence the behavior of neighboring states around the Persian Gulf, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. The results have been far from entirely positive, and our future prospects in that part of the world are not something we can feel altogether confident about.
    And then there is the issue of China, which, in 2004, became the world's second-greatest consumer of oil, surpassing Japan. China's surging industrial growth has made it increasingly dependent on the imports we are counting on. If China wanted to, it could easily walk into some of these places -- the Middle East, former Soviet republics in central Asia -- and extend its hegemony by force. Is America prepared to contest for this oil in an Asian land war with the Chinese army? I doubt it. Nor can the U.S. military occupy regions of the Eastern Hemisphere indefinitely, or hope to secure either the terrain or the oil infrastructure of one distant, unfriendly country after another. A likely scenario is that the U.S. could exhaust and bankrupt itself trying to do this, and be forced to withdraw back into our own hemisphere, having lost access to most of the world's remaining oil in the process.
    We know that our national leaders are hardly uninformed about this predicament. President George W. Bush has been briefed on the dangers of the oil-peak situation as long ago as before the 2000 election and repeatedly since then. In March, the Department of Energy released a report that officially acknowledges for the first time that peak oil is for real and states plainly that "the world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary."
    Most of all, the Long Emergency will require us to make other arrangements for the way we live in the United States. America is in a special predicament due to a set of unfortunate choices we made as a society in the twentieth century. Perhaps the worst was to let our towns and cities rot away and to replace them with suburbia, which had the additional side effect of trashing a lot of the best farmland in America. Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It has a tragic destiny. The psychology of previous investment suggests that we will defend our drive-in utopia long after it has become a terrible liability.
    Before long, the suburbs will fail us in practical terms. We made the ongoing development of housing subdivisions, highway strips, fried-food shacks and shopping malls the basis of our economy, and when we have to stop making more of those things, the bottom will fall out.
    The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class.
    Food production is going to be an enormous problem in the Long Emergency. As industrial agriculture fails due to a scarcity of oil- and gas-based inputs, we will certainly have to grow more of our food closer to where we live, and do it on a smaller scale. The American economy of the mid-twenty-first century may actually center on agriculture, not information, not high tech, not "services" like real estate sales or hawking cheeseburgers to tourists. Farming. This is no doubt a startling, radical idea, and it raises extremely difficult questions about the reallocation of land and the nature of work. The relentless subdividing of land in the late twentieth century has destroyed the contiguity and integrity of the rural landscape in most places. The process of readjustment is apt to be disorderly and improvisational. Food production will necessarily be much more labor-intensive than it has been for decades. We can anticipate the re-formation of a native-born American farm-laboring class. It will be composed largely of the aforementioned economic losers who had to relinquish their grip on the American dream. These masses of disentitled people may enter into quasi-feudal social relations with those who own land in exchange for food and physical security. But their sense of grievance will remain fresh, and if mistreated they may simply seize that land.
    The way that commerce is currently organized in America will not survive far into the Long Emergency. Wal-Mart's "warehouse on wheels" won't be such a bargain in a non-cheap-oil economy. The national chain stores' 12,000-mile manufacturing supply lines could easily be interrupted by military contests over oil and by internal conflict in the nations that have been supplying us with ultra-cheap manufactured goods, because they, too, will be struggling with similar issues of energy famine and all the disorders that go with it.
    As these things occur, America will have to make other arrangements for the manufacture, distribution and sale of ordinary goods. They will probably be made on a "cottage industry" basis rather than the factory system we once had, since the scale of available energy will be much lower -- and we are not going to replay the twentieth century. Tens of thousands of the common products we enjoy today, from paints to pharmaceuticals, are made out of oil. They will become increasingly scarce or unavailable. The selling of things will have to be reorganized at the local scale. It will have to be based on moving merchandise shorter distances. It is almost certain to result in higher costs for the things we buy and far fewer choices.
    The automobile will be a diminished presence in our lives, to say the least. With gasoline in short supply, not to mention tax revenue, our roads will surely suffer. The interstate highway system is more delicate than the public realizes. If the "level of service" (as traffic engineers call it) is not maintained to the highest degree, problems multiply and escalate quickly. The system does not tolerate partial failure. The interstates are either in excellent condition, or they quickly fall apart.
    America today has a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. Neither of the two major presidential candidates in 2004 mentioned railroads, but if we don't refurbish our rail system, then there may be no long-range travel or transport of goods at all a few decades from now. The commercial aviation industry, already on its knees financially, is likely to vanish. The sheer cost of maintaining gigantic airports may not justify the operation of a much-reduced air-travel fleet. Railroads are far more energy efficient than cars, trucks or airplanes, and they can be run on anything from wood to electricity. The rail-bed infrastructure is also far more economical to maintain than our highway network.
    The successful regions in the twenty-first century will be the ones surrounded by viable farming hinterlands that can reconstitute locally sustainable economies on an armature of civic cohesion. Small towns and smaller cities have better prospects than the big cities, which will probably have to contract substantially. The process will be painful and tumultuous. In many American cities, such as Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis, that process is already well advanced. Others have further to fall. New York and Chicago face extraordinary difficulties, being oversupplied with gigantic buildings out of scale with the reality of declining energy supplies. Their former agricultural hinterlands have long been paved over. They will be encysted in a surrounding fabric of necrotic suburbia that will only amplify and reinforce the cities' problems. Still, our cities occupy important sites. Some kind of urban entities will exist where they are in the future, but probably not the colossi of twentieth-century industrialism.
    Some regions of the country will do better than others in the Long Emergency. The Southwest will suffer in proportion to the degree that it prospered during the cheap-oil blowout of the late twentieth century. I predict that Sunbelt states like Arizona and Nevada will become significantly depopulated, since the region will be short of water as well as gasoline and natural gas. Imagine Phoenix without cheap air conditioning.
    I'm not optimistic about the Southeast, either, for different reasons. I think it will be subject to substantial levels of violence as the grievances of the formerly middle class boil over and collide with the delusions of Pentecostal Christian extremism. The latent encoded behavior of Southern culture includes an outsized notion of individualism and the belief that firearms ought to be used in the defense of it. This is a poor recipe for civic cohesion.
    The Mountain States and Great Plains will face an array of problems, from poor farming potential to water shortages to population loss. The Pacific Northwest, New England and the Upper Midwest have somewhat better prospects. I regard them as less likely to fall into lawlessness, anarchy or despotism and more likely to salvage the bits and pieces of our best social traditions and keep them in operation at some level.
    These are daunting and even dreadful prospects. The Long Emergency is going to be a tremendous trauma for the human race. We will not believe that this is happening to us, that 200 years of modernity can be brought to its knees by a world-wide power shortage. The survivors will have to cultivate a religion of hope -- that is, a deep and comprehensive belief that humanity is worth carrying on. If there is any positive side to stark changes coming our way, it may be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically) with our neighbors, to be part of an enterprise that really matters and to be fully engaged in meaningful social enactments instead of being merely entertained to avoid boredom. Years from now, when we hear singing at all, we will hear ourselves, and we will sing with our whole hearts.

  4. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    When the Wells Run Dry

    When the wells run dry

    We use more oil than we find, and if producers are
    fixing their figures
    the end could be closer than thought

    Adam Porter
    Wednesday May 25, 2005
    <> The Guardian

    Predicting the end of the age of oil can be a
    sticky business. The
    Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas
    (Aspo), a collection of
    industry figures, politicians and academics, this
    week held its annual
    meeting at the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.

    >From quiet beginnings three years ago, Aspo is no
    longer just "bubbling
    under" in being taken seriously. Delegates had to
    squeeze past no fewer
    than 10 documentary crews, a nest of television
    cameras and a phalanx of
    reporters just to grab their seat in the packed

    Rather than talking about when oil could "run
    out", Aspo prefers to
    predict that global production may be at, or
    approaching, its height.
    The world is using more oil than it finds, and
    discoveries of oil fields
    peaked in the 1960s. Despite technological
    advances since then, new
    field discoveries are at an all-time low. This,
    said delegates, has led
    to the current lack of any "cushion" between
    supply and demand, and to
    the consequent high prices. The outcome for the
    world, if Aspo is
    correct, is catastrophic.

    Central to the organization is the work of Colin
    Campbell, a geologist
    and former executive vice-president of oil giant
    Total. Making the
    meeting's keynote speech, Campbell talked about
    the "dawn of the end of
    the age of oil" and the "end of economics".

    Underpinning all of Campbell's, and Aspo's, work
    is the lack of
    transparency in the world's oil data. Campbell
    drew attention to the way
    in which members of the Organization of Petroleum
    Exporting Countries
    (Opec) "revised" their reserve figures in the
    1980s, and said that it is
    incredible that this "flawed data" is still being
    used today. He
    highlighted the example of Kuwait, which scrubbed
    its previous figures
    in 1985. Overnight, its reserves went from 64bn
    barrels to 92bn barrels.
    As OPEC allows production quotas tied to stated
    reserves, this allowed
    Kuwait to pump more oil and immediately make a lot
    more money.
    Campbell showed how, two years later, the other
    countries in OPEC,
    outflanked by Kuwait's sudden action, followed
    suit. The United Arab
    Emirates went from 31bn barrels to 92bn barrels.
    "Then came Iran," said
    Campbell. It declared its reserves had increased,
    but went one better,
    going from 47bn barrels to 93bn. "And what of
    Iraq?" added Campbell.
    "Saddam, as we all know, had some pretty strong
    views on things, so he
    decided to come in at a round 100." Its previously
    stated reserves were
    47bn barrels.

    Some 18 to 20 years later, these numbers remain
    unchanged. This despite
    the United Arab Emirates, for instance, pumping
    millions of barrels
    every week since the day it flipped its figures.

    Campbell asserts that OPEC members, and others
    such as Russia, are
    stating the total amount ever found, not the
    amount left for us to use.
    But such claims are not the preserve only of Aspo.
    This year, the
    International Energy Agency, the International
    Monetary Fund and G7
    members all demanded that OPEC, and other producer
    nations, open their
    fields to audit. Without knowing how much oil is
    left to pump, decisions
    about any energy transitions - the move away from
    oil as a predominant
    fuel - remain impossible.

    Saudi Arabia, a major player in global oil
    production, in 1988 also
    increased its stated reserves - from 170bn barrels
    to 258bn barrels

    Just days before the Aspo meeting, Ali al-Naimi,
    Saudi Arabia's oil
    minister, claimed the desert kingdom could move
    from producing around 9m
    barrels a day, to 12m or even 15m. This has been
    consistently stated
    but, so far, unfulfilled by the kingdom and its
    state oil company Saudi
    Aramco. What is more worrying is that Naimi for
    the first time put a
    limit on that level of production: around 15
    years. Previously, the
    Saudis had said they could pump at this level for
    50 or even 100 years.
    Matthew Simmons, Aspo delegate, adviser on George
    Bush's energy plan,
    and investment banker, is a leading expert on
    Saudi oil production. He
    is skeptical about all the Saudi figures and his
    book on the subject,
    Twilight in the Desert, is causing waves in the
    industry, despite not
    hitting the shelves for another fortnight.

    "No one can know how much oil Saudi Arabia has
    left underground,"
    Simmons says. "A handful of people at Saudi Aramco
    think they know, but
    no one really does. Why? Because Saudi Aramco has
    a kind of omerta, a
    code of silence that runs through it.

    "I met a guy a few years back, at a conference
    where I was the keynote
    speaker. He was a senior engineer working for
    Aramco, senior enough to
    be flown to Houston to hear me speak. Afterwards,
    I asked him the size
    of Saudi Arabia's biggest field, Gharwar. Not in
    terms of reserves, just
    its physical size. It was something I could have
    looked up on a map, but
    I thought I would just ask him. He said: 'It's
    about 130 miles long and
    15 to 20 miles across, but don't ever tell anyone
    at Aramco I said that
    or I'll lose my job.'"

    This revelation set Simmons thinking. "How could
    this senior figure be
    so scared?" he asks. "After all, he wasn't telling
    me anything I
    couldn't have found out myself. It amazed me and
    set me looking at Saudi
    production in a whole new light."

    Now Simmons believes that Gharwar, the biggest
    oilfield on the planet,
    is definitely in decline. "It's got to be," he
    says. If he is right,
    there is little left to replace it and the
    beginning of the end of oil
    could be upon us sooner than we think.
  5. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    The Long Fingers of Oil

    Published on 16 Mar 2005 by Independence Journal / EB.n. Archived on 16 Mar 2005.
    The Long Fingers of Petroleum
    by Oilman
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    Peak Oil Planning - A Graphic Essay...
    Oil: Caveat empty...

    If you are like most of the world, you believe that oil and gas are in neat little caves buried deep in the earth, just like the drawing in your 6th grade science textbook. Being rather sensible, you guess that oil companies drill and sink a pipe into the cave to suck out the black gold. It’s quite probable in your mind that when each well “comes in”, it spews oil all across the countryside; like James Dean in ‘Giant” or Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.

    The average oil or gas well is drilled so deep that if we did not use thick drilling fluid to hold back the earth’s pressure, it would easily collapse and crush our drilling pipe. The typical well today has between 2,500 and 15,000 pounds of pressure in it, and is drilled with 3-4000psi fluid pressure. Did you know that 2,500psi of fluid pressure can cut through a piece of steel 1” thick in a few seconds? Did you know that the petroleum industry builds the worlds largest movable structures regularly? That these structures are so big they can routinely be seen from orbit on the ISS?

    The technological achievements of the oil and gas industry have been tremendous. But as yet we cannot manufacture oil from raw materials to replace what is in the earth. We can extract it, but we cannot make it as economically as Mother Nature. Thus it is a NON-RENEWABLE resource; once gone, it cannot be replaced at similar cost and volume. It is literally like gold or diamonds; there is only so much of it available on our planet.

    Now, assuming you have grasped this, let’s try and see if you can fathom the world situation. Currently, the big debate is whether the world is at the halfway point in oil and gas consumption, or “Peak Oil Production” as it has come to be termed. Everyone agrees that in the early 1970’s, the United States hit national “Peak Oil”, and we have been importing oil ever since. The debate now raging is whether the entire world has hit “Peak Oil” already, or if it will hit in the next 2 to 5 years.

    In the scheme of things, this debate is pointless. By the time we agree on the date, it will be upon us or have passed. What that means is that it will forever cost more and more for oil and gas. It will become scarcer and more valuable with every gallon or barrel we burn or use. To give you an idea of what this truly means, let’s build an example and have a look at the true reach of petroleum into someone’s life.

    John D. is a lawyer in a large firm in Boston. He owns 3 cars; his wife drives a nice Lexus SUV, he owns a snappy Porsche and his baby girl drives a BMW to Brown University. John is conscientious – he takes public transportation and uses the firms’ limousine service whenever possible. But when in doubt, he motors into town in the Porsche. His wife drives to and from her aerobics and tennis classes, does the shopping, picks up and drops off the maid, the laundry and whatever else she needs to do in the Lexus. Baby girl basically uses her BMW to scoot home on weekends to see Mom, Dad and the boyfriend. All in all, this is the basic all-American family in 2005. You may be a bit below this economic model, but bear with me, as it will all equalize very rapidly.

    To truly grasp how much petroleum impacts our lives, let’s put John D. in his driveway, dressed for work and standing next to his dear Porsche 911 Turbo.

    John is wearing a nice suit and tie. Unfortunately, the suit is wool and polyester, the buttons are plastic as well as the zipper in the pants. Remove 25% of the material from his suit, all elastic and plastic stays, the buttons and the zipper. Why? Polyester, dacron, rayon, orlon – these are all petroleum based, man made fibers. All plastic is petroleum based, as is elastic. Better get rid of the waistband on his under shorts too while we are at it. Abruptly, our friend John is rather chilly, as what is left of his suit, pants, shirt and under shorts have fallen around his ankles.

    John wears glasses with polycarbonate lenses when he reads, and plastic contacts when he is doing anything active. These also require petroleum for manufacture, and will have to be replaced with real glasses made from glass. Oops – the frames are unbreakable plastic – those will need to go as well. While we are subtracting, let’s toss out his credit cards (plastic), the heels from his shoes (polyethylene-based rubber), and his all-weather watchband (faux-leather that is actually plastic). And we better get rid of that driver’s license too – the lamination is made from petroleum, as is the ink. And let’s not forget the ink that his money is printed with – yes, the ink which most currency is printed with is also a petroleum based product. As John stands with what used to be a suit around his ankles, the only thing he has left that hasn’t disappeared or fallen to the ground is his cotton undershirt, and he is completely broke.

    Embarrassed, John spins his nakedness around and reaches for the door of his car…..and now we can do an even more rapid deconstruction. Empty the gas tank of gas, remove all the oil from the crankcase of the engine, remove all the transmission fluid, dump the heavy weight gear oil from the differential, and bleed all the fluid from the brake system. Each of these fluids and lubricants is derived 100% from oil.

    Oh! Let’s not forget to remove every smidgeon of grease from every wheel bearing, every U-joint and any other petroleum lubricant from the vehicle. Now we can move forward a bit more, and peel the paint off. Automotive paint uses petroleum (tolulene, xylene, etc.) as base material. We can remove the tires, the rubber bushings from underneath every piece of the car, the steering wheel cover, the dash cover, the seat covers, the carpet, the seat padding and any foam insulation, the dashboard and all the A/C vents, and each and every rubber gasket. The jute-based carpet padding can remain – it is all natural. The safety glass (remember that layer of plastic in safety glass?), the seat padding, all the undercoating, all the CD’s, and the radio can go too. But the radio too, you might ask?

    Every single wire in every single electronic device relies on petroleum-based coating as insulation around the wiring. Remove this insulation, and all you have is a mass of silicon and copper wires shorting out in a pile……so not only the radio, but every single wire in the car is coated by a petroleum product!

    We are left with a pile of iron and copper, resting on a bed of jute padding. But if we just think a little more, we can reduce these as well. How is steel made? Iron ore is mined in Australia or other countries using massive vehicles BUILT and FUELED by petroleum products. The raw iron ore is then shipped by trains or trucks (BUILT and FUELED by petroleum products) to a ship (BUILT and FUELED by petroleum), which transports them to another country to be made into steel.

    Once it arrives, the ore is unloaded by a bulk belt conveyer (BUILT and FUELED by petroleum), shipped from the dock to the ore processing mill by trucks (BUILT and FUELED by petroleum) where it is placed into a very hot furnace (which is fired by natural gas, a petroleum product) and smelted into pig iron. This pig iron is then shipped again by train or truck (BUILT and FUELED by petroleum) to a steel plant. Here, it is again melted in a special electric furnace, (electricity, generated by clean natural gas, a petroleum product) and made into various steel products which are then shipped to various destinations (using petroleum as FUEL).

    If we truly want to account for the petroleum factor, steel cannot be made the way it is today. Aluminum is even more energy intensive, and that leaves us with a wad of copper wire sitting in the driveway, resting on our jute ‘rug’. John, now completely discombobulated, runs for the door of his home.

    Unfortunately, the steel hinges and doorknobs are missing. When he touches the door it falls inward; his carpeting has disappeared, and the house is really hot and dark. It seems air conditioners are made from aluminum and steel, as are most appliances. Johns’ local Power Company uses clean, non-polluting natural gas to generate their electricity, so let’s kill all the power to the house. He is relieved to see his toilet still sitting there, but everything electronic and electrical has become a tangled mass of copper wires and circuit boards.

    Water is spraying out of the ground, because John’s house was plumbed with POLY VINYL CHLORIDE (PVC) pipe, which is a 100% petroleum product. His furniture has turned into skeleton-like wooden frames, as the materials and padding used to make couches and chairs are long lasting, man-made fibers derived from petroleum. Rancid goop is oozing out of every cabinet in the kitchen, and everything that was in his refrigerator is slumped into a pile only a garbologist could be proud of. It seems that 90% of the packaging materials we use today are made from (you guessed it) petroleum.

    His fresh vegetables and many of his canned goods are gone. John suddenly remembers reading an article about fertilizer and pesticide shortages. It seems these are also made almost exclusively from petroleum, and without them, modern mass-farming techniques are not viable. Crop yields are down, and the cost of trucking lettuce from California and Washington to other places is just too high.

    And if you think this hurts, imagine everything you ever bought from a department store vanishing – because they were ALL IMPORTED from cheap-labor “elsewheres” using petroleum as fuel.

    Forget all plastic – it is 100% petroleum.

    Toss out computers and electronics as we know them today – we don’t have the insulating materials to build them without petroleum. We don’t have the massive electrical capacity to build anything really high tech – the cost of oil or natural gas to fuel the power grid has become too high.

    Space travel? Forget it – the hydrogen used to power the shuttle is derived from petroleum, and it will not fly without the electronics and guidance system. And all the aluminum and titanium and other special alloys each require extremely energy intensive manufacturing processes, which use too much electricity that comes from gas and oil fired power plants.

    I hope this makes you think just a little about the true effects of declining petroleum.

    I am not telling you that this will suddenly happen overnight. It might take 50 years, or it might take a century. I doubt it takes longer, because it only took North America, Europe and Australia a century to use the first half of the world’s oil and gas.

    When you finally realize how pervasive it is in our everyday lives, you will begin to understand exactly how much the human race must change in order to do without it. The Mad Max scenario is not going to happen overnight, but if we do not begin to think about and actually plan our future, it may suddenly become a possible yet unwanted reality.

    Hopefully, you have now removed your head from the sand and begun to think for yourself about the real magnitude of the crisis our children are facing.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    This is an updated version on an article first published at George Ure's Indepence Journal, The lifestyle companion site to :

    Oilman works currently for a multi-national oil company, and wishes to remain anonymous.

  6. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    Oil and Medicine

    Caryl Johnston, M.Ed., M.L.S., Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care, Jefferson Medical College
    The electrical blackout of August, 2003, that left 50 million people without power in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, ought to have been a wake-up call for all Americans regarding the energy basis of industrial civilization. It was the largest blackout in U.S. history, with costs estimated at 6 billion dollars. Anecdotal reports from problems reported in New York hospitals included the following: significant trouble with back-up generators in three hospitals, numerous donor organs lost, many operations terminated or completed under flashlights, air conditioning suspended in order to reduce the load on backups, and emergency evacuations of patients.
    The progress of medical knowledge and practice in the modern era has depended on the steady rise in fossil-fuel usage.[1] At the beginning of the 20th century, oil made up less than 4% of world energy usage. By the 1970’s 2,500 million tons of oil were being consumed annually – a 200-fold increase in 70 years.[2] Yet medical educators have yet to make themselves and their students aware of how much medical practice and supplies depend upon the energy released in hydrocarbon fuels, specifically oil and natural gas. (Table 1: Petrochemicals in Medicine) If higher energy costs and even energy scarcity are to be in our future – and I will detail some of the researches of petroleum geologists later in this paper, researches which strongly suggest that they will --- an "energy literacy" component in the medical school curriculum may become necessary.
    Following the oil shortages of 1973-74 and 1979, there was a brief moment in the United States in which attention was devoted to energy issues in the medical field. Not surprisingly, many of those who contributed to the medical and scientific journals on energy issues were Texans. One author wrote in 1973 that, "The medical profession must eventually be forced to consider whether in an age of fuel scarcity it will be possible to maintain at their present level hospital procedures consuming large quantities of energy." [3] But it is not only hospital procedures that are of concern. Petroleum is the key ingredient in the wide variety of plastic medical supplies used in medical and surgical life-support systems, such as airways, anesthesia, bags, catheters, dishes, drains, gloves, heart valves, needles, syringes, tubes, etc. Petroleum impacts on medical care at every level. As Burt Kline, a former director of the Division of Energy Policy of the Health Resources Administration put it back in 1981 --- "Advanced technology is worthless without the energy to run it." [4]
    Remarkably, the estimates of the world’s ultimately recoverable oil endowment have changed little in fifty years. The figure quoted by John Loraine in 1973 – roughly 2000 billion barrels, or 2 trillion barrels, is the figure most often cited by oil geologists today.[5]
    Industry and government figures for total petroleum reserves have not always proved to be reliable, since such figures are sometimes inflated for political reasons or to increase export quotas.[6] For instance, historical figures about the rates of consumption and extraction of resources published by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey are generally accurate, but future projections published by these government agencies can be clouded by political considerations or even what can only be called wishful thinking. The track record of these agencies in reporting bad news has not always been stellar. In 1975 an irate Congress demanded an investigation because of the USGS failure to report that oil production in the United States had peaked.
    As for industry, it is in the business to make money, not to educate the public about the facts of oil depletion. Shell Oil’s recent announcement that it had downgraded its reserves by 20% caused considerable shockwaves in the financial world. [7]
    In their groundbreaking article, "The End of Cheap Oil, "Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrère write that the oil crunch of the future will not be like the shortages of the 1970’s, which were caused by price spikes of the Arab oil embargo. [8] They stress that geological constraints, rather than political events, will cause the shortages of the future. This is because production can only follow discovery, and about 80% of the oil being produced today comes from wells that were discovered before 1973. Also closely monitored by oil geologists are the declining production rates of older, larger basins and to what extent reliable oil production may be expected from newer and usually smaller deposits. Figures for declining production rates are dramatically illustrated in the historic comparison of average number of barrels of oil recovered per foot of drilling. In the 1930’s, oil was abundant, and just gushed out of American wells on average at 250 barrels per foot. By 1981, the work to recover harder-to-get oil had increased enormously and on average only 6.9 barrels were recovered per foot of drilling. [9]
    The total daily world consumption of oil currently stands at about 77 million barrels. Americans consume about 19.7 million barrels of oil per day. Of this amount, about 13 million barrels per day are consumed in the transportation sector alone. Considering the many indispensable uses for petroleum in the medical field, there is a real need for medical personnel and educators to become aware of how oil resources are to be allocated, and possibly even to become active on behalf of more responsible stewardship. For even back in 1976, Dr. David Glenn mildly offered the suggestion that he hoped that "future government decisions will preserve a portion of our available oil and gas for their somewhat hidden, but essential raw material role as raw petrochemical products for medical use." [10]
    Energy scarcity presents all of us with major challenges, but perhaps no sector of society will be more challenged than the medical field. Declining fossil-fuel resources present medical educators with a rare opportunity to take hold of the stewardship issue. Future generations will blame us for allowing so much of a valuable resource to be squandered in personal transportation. There are alternatives to cars; it is harder to find alternative for many other uses of petroleum.
    There have been false alarms before concerning resource depletion. The story of oil in the 20th century has been accompanied at times by a version of the story of the boy who cried wolf. Yet wasn’t the point of that story that, finally, the wolf did come? With escalating levels of consumption, and given the fact that the world consumes four barrels of oil for every barrel that is discovered, we now foresee a time in which supply will not be able to keep up with demand. Walter Youngquist bluntly states that "Reaching and passing the peak of world oil production will be the most important happening in human history to date, affecting more people in more ways than any other event. It will happen, and during the lives of most people now living." [11]
    The reports from oil geologists like Campbell, Laherrère, Korpela, Youngquist, et al, follow upon the work of M. King Hubbert, a remarkable American geophysicist who in 1956 correctly predicted that American oil production would peak in 1970. Hubbert used a number of different methods in order to make this prediction. One of them was a technique adapted from population growth studies. Once the rate of increase in known reserves begins to decline, it is possible to extrapolate the declining rate to find the point where growth will cease altogether. As David Goodstein explains, "…we pump oil out of the ground at about the same rate that we discover it, but a few decades later. Thus the rate of discovery predicts the rate of extraction." [12]
    Hubbert’s insight, that the discovery and extraction of the petroleum resource over time would follow a symmetric bell-shaped curve, and that the production would begin to decline when half the resource had been used up, has been known ever since as "Hubbert’s peak."
    One of the most important conversations going on in the world today is predicting the date of the peak of world oil production. Very little of this vital conversation has penetrated the American media, nor are most Americans aware of the gravity of our national situation with respect to energy – although this is beginning to change. While there is some optimism among oil producers concerning deep water and other "unconventional" sources of oil, no one pretends that obtaining oil from such sources will be cheap. Nor does anyone deny that there will still be oil in the ground in 100 years. But the issue is the question of when, and to what degree, the quantities of oil that the world is in the habit of consuming will no longer be available. "The world is not about to run out of hydrocarbons, and perhaps it is not going to run out of oil from unconventional sources any time soon. What will be difficult to obtain is cheap petroleum, because what is left is an enormous amount of low-grade hydrocarbons, which are likely to be much more expensive financially, energetically, politically and especially environmentally." [13]
    Embracing the notion of stewardship of the petroleum resource could represent a decisive turn for modern medicine. The cheap energy furnished by fossil fuels enabled great strides to be made in medical practice. But increasing scarcity and expense of fossil fuels will present medicine with great challenges, especially at its high-tech end. But petroleum-based products are used all throughout the medical sector. For this reason the medical sector needs to become alert to the energy issue now unfolding. First it would send a strong message to our political leaders, who seem unable to articulate realistic truths about energy. And secondly, the stature of the modern medical profession would be enhanced through a demonstrated concern not just for human life for all of life – for better stewardship and conservation of resources would help ease the strain on many biological systems. It would help to put medicine back in touch with its own natural sources and underscore the truth of the fact that the health of human beings cannot be considered apart from the question of the health of the Earth.
    [1]Compare: "At any time since 1650, a map of significant events in the history of medicine and public health would have been a map of high-energy society, that in which per capita energy use was substantially above the world average and drawing away from it." Earl Cook, "Some Health Aspects of High Energy Society," Texas Reports on Biology and Medicine, 33(1); 1975.
    [2] Jeremy Rifkin, The Hydrogen Economy, New York, Tarcher; 2002; p. 66
    [3] Loraine JA. Medicine and the energy crisis. The Lancet (September 8, 1973).
    [4] Kuntz, E. "Special Section on Energy Management," Modern Healthcare, March, 1981.
    [5] "In fact, 64 studies carried out since 1950 gives this as an average value." Seppo A. Korpela, "Oil Depletion in the United States and the World," article can be found on The author is a professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
    [6] In the 1980’s there were dramatic increases in the reported reserves of several countries in the Middle East. These increases did not represent new discoveries but were a response to changes in OPEC rules. Higher reported figures enabled the countries to increase their export quotas.
    [7] "A dramatic cut in Shell’s reserves has the oil world buzzing." The Economist, Jan 15, 2004.
    [8] Campbell, C.J and Laherrère,J. "The End of Cheap Oil," Scientific American, March 1998.
    [9] Walter Youngquist, Geodestinies, The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations and Individuals. Portland, OR, 1997. p. 183-84.
    [10] Glenn, D.H. The hidden energy crisis: oil and gas raw materials in medicine. Texas Medicine (72): Dec. 1976.
    [11] Youngquist, W. "The post-petroleum paradigm – and population." Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 26(4): March, 1999.
    [12] David Goodstein. "Energy, Technology and Climate: Running Out of Gas." Chapter in forthcoming book, in my article copy cited as New Dimensions in Bioethics. I note, however, that David Goodstein’s book Out of Gas: All You Need to Know About the End of the Age of Oil, has been published by W.W. Norton in February, 2004.
    [13] Hall C, Tharakan P, Hallock J, Cleveland C, Jefferson M. Hydrocarbons and the evolution of human culture. Nature, 426: Nov. 20, 2003.
    I. Phenol, acids and anhydrides, alkanolamines and aldehydes:
    Used for: analgesics, antihistamines, antibiotics, antibacterials, sedatives, tranquillizers
    II. Esters and alcohols:
    Utilized in process of fermentation to manufacture antibiotics.
    III. Polyethylene glycols, hydroxyethyl celluloses and water-soluble ethylene oxide polymers:
    Used as tablet binders and pill coatings.
    IV. Other
    Essential uses in pharmaceutical products, from aspirin to penicillin molds. Common medications may require ethanol as a solvent to extract the antibiotic agent; polyethylene glycol is used in rectal suppositories; and phenylpropanolamine is used in cough syrups.
    Petrochemicals Used in Instruments and Supplies
    Use of plastics in all disposables used for maintaining sterile conditions; specialized plastics used in heart valves; common items such as isopropanol (rubbing alcohol); polyethylene and poly-vinyl acetate used in tubing, sheeting, splints, prostheses, blood bags, disposable syringes and catheters.
    Sterilization of equipment uses ethylene oxide; ammonium nitrate is a basic ingredient in "quick cold" applications.
    Nitrogen mustards have provided a long-standing part of chemotherapy treatment for cancer; propylene glycol is used for obtaining specimens for sputum cytology.
    Petrochemicals Used in All Specialties
    Petrochemicals are used in radiological dyes and films, dermatological creams, sigmoidoscopes, speculum probes – in endotracheal tubes, intravenous tubing, syringes, and oxygen masks.
    Courtesy: Glenn D. The hidden energy crisis. Texas Medicine (72) December, 1976.
  7. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    The Oil we Eat

    [ Note: The most frightening article FTW has ever published is now a free story for all to read. Our paid subscribers read it last October. As Peak Oil and its effects become a raging national controversy it's time everyone reads the story that puts the most serious implications of Peak Oil and Gas into perspective. Your biggest problem is not that your SUV might go hungry, it's that you and your children might go hungry. What has been documented here is no secret to US and foreign policy makers as China experiences grain shortages this year and, as CNN's Lou Dobbs recently reported, the US and Canada will soon no longer be the world's breadbasket. - MCR ]

    Eating Fossil Fuels

    by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

    © Copyright 2004, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.

    [Some months ago, concerned by a Paris statement made by Professor Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton regarding his concern about the impact of Peak Oil and Gas on fertilizer production, I tasked FTW's Contributing Editor for Energy, Dale Allen Pfeiffer to start looking into what natural gas shortages would do to fertilizer production costs. His investigation led him to look at the totality of food production in the US. Because the US and Canada feed much of the world, the answers have global implications.

    What follows is most certainly the single most frightening article I have ever read and certainly the most alarming piece that FTW has ever published. Even as we have seen CNN, Britain's Independent and Jane's Defence Weekly acknowledge the reality of Peak Oil and Gas within the last week, acknowledging that world oil and gas reserves are as much as 80% less than predicted, we are also seeing how little real thinking has been devoted to the host of crises certain to follow; at least in terms of publicly accessible thinking.

    The following article is so serious in its implications that I have taken the unusual step of underlining some of its key findings. I did that with the intent that the reader treat each underlined passage as a separate and incredibly important fact. Each one of these facts should be read and digested separately to assimilate its importance. I found myself reading one fact and then getting up and walking away until I could come back and (un)comfortably read to the next.

    All told, Dale Allen Pfeiffer's research and reporting confirms the worst of FTW's suspicions about the consequences of Peak Oil, and it poses serious questions about what to do next. Not the least of these is why, in a presidential election year, none of the candidates has even acknowledged the problem. Thus far, it is clear that solutions for these questions, perhaps the most important ones facing mankind, will by necessity be found by private individuals and communities, independently of outside or governmental help. Whether the real search for answers comes now, or as the crisis becomes unavoidable, depends solely on us. – MCR]

    October 3 , 2003, 1200 PDT, (FTW) -- Human beings (like all other animals) draw their energy from the food they eat. Until the last century, all of the food energy available on this planet was derived from the sun through photosynthesis. Either you ate plants or you ate animals that fed on plants, but the energy in your food was ultimately derived from the sun.

    It would have been absurd to think that we would one day run out of sunshine. No, sunshine was an abundant, renewable resource, and the process of photosynthesis fed all life on this planet. It also set a limit on the amount of food that could be generated at any one time, and therefore placed a limit upon population growth. Solar energy has a limited rate of flow into this planet. To increase your food production, you had to increase the acreage under cultivation, and displace your competitors. There was no other way to increase the amount of energy available for food production. Human population grew by displacing everything else and appropriating more and more of the available solar energy.

    The need to expand agricultural production was one of the motive causes behind most of the wars in recorded history, along with expansion of the energy base (and agricultural production is truly an essential portion of the energy base). And when Europeans could no longer expand cultivation, they began the task of conquering the world. Explorers were followed by conquistadors and traders and settlers. The declared reasons for expansion may have been trade, avarice, empire or simply curiosity, but at its base, it was all about the expansion of agricultural productivity. Wherever explorers and conquistadors traveled, they may have carried off loot, but they left plantations. And settlers toiled to clear land and establish their own homestead. This conquest and expansion went on until there was no place left for further expansion. Certainly, to this day, landowners and farmers fight to claim still more land for agricultural productivity, but they are fighting over crumbs. Today, virtually all of the productive land on this planet is being exploited by agriculture. What remains unused is too steep, too wet, too dry or lacking in soil nutrients.[1]

    Just when agricultural output could expand no more by increasing acreage, new innovations made possible a more thorough exploitation of the acreage already available. The process of “pest” displacement and appropriation for agriculture accelerated with the industrial revolution as the mechanization of agriculture hastened the clearing and tilling of land and augmented the amount of farmland which could be tended by one person. With every increase in food production, the human population grew apace.

    At present, nearly 40% of all land-based photosynthetic capability has been appropriated by human beings.[2] In the United States we divert more than half of the energy captured by photosynthesis.[3 ]We have taken over all the prime real estate on this planet. The rest of nature is forced to make due with what is left. Plainly, this is one of the major factors in species extinctions and in ecosystem stress.

    The Green Revolution

    In the 1950s and 1960s, agriculture underwent a drastic transformation commonly referred to as the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution resulted in the industrialization of agriculture. Part of the advance resulted from new hybrid food plants, leading to more productive food crops. Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%.[4] That is a tremendous increase in the amount of food energy available for human consumption. This additional energy did not come from an increase in incipient sunlight, nor did it result from introducing agriculture to new vistas of land. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation.

    The Green Revolution increased the energy flow to agriculture by an average of 50 times the energy input of traditional agriculture.[5] In the most extreme cases, energy consumption by agriculture has increased 100 fold or more.[6]

    In the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American (as of data provided in 1994).[7] Agricultural energy consumption is broken down as follows:

    · 31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer

    · 19% for the operation of field machinery

    · 16% for transportation

    · 13% for irrigation

    · 08% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed)

    · 05% for crop drying

    · 05% for pesticide production

    · 08% miscellaneous[8]

    Energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retail outlets, and household cooking are not considered in these figures.

    To give the reader an idea of the energy intensiveness of modern agriculture, production of one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer requires the energy equivalent of from 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel fuel. This is not considering the natural gas feedstock.[9] According to The Fertilizer Institute (, in the year from June 30 2001 until June 30 2002 the United States used 12,009,300 short tons of nitrogen fertilizer.[10] Using the low figure of 1.4 liters diesel equivalent per kilogram of nitrogen, this equates to the energy content of 15.3 billion liters of diesel fuel, or 96.2 million barrels.

    Of course, this is only a rough comparison to aid comprehension of the energy requirements for modern agriculture.

    In a very real sense, we are literally eating fossil fuels. However, due to the laws of thermodynamics, there is not a direct correspondence between energy inflow and outflow in agriculture. Along the way, there is a marked energy loss. Between 1945 and 1994, energy input to agriculture increased 4-fold while crop yields only increased 3-fold.[11] Since then, energy input has continued to increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield. We have reached the point of marginal returns. Yet, due to soil degradation, increased demands of pest management and increasing energy costs for irrigation (all of which is examined below), modern agriculture must continue increasing its energy expenditures simply to maintain current crop yields. The Green Revolution is becoming bankrupt.

    Fossil Fuel Costs

    Solar energy is a renewable resource limited only by the inflow rate from the sun to the earth. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are a stock-type resource that can be exploited at a nearly limitless rate. However, on a human timescale, fossil fuels are nonrenewable. They represent a planetary energy deposit which we can draw from at any rate we wish, but which will eventually be exhausted without renewal. The Green Revolution tapped into this energy deposit and used it to increase agricultural production.

    Total fossil fuel use in the United States has increased 20-fold in the last 4 decades. In the US, we consume 20 to 30 times more fossil fuel energy per capita than people in developing nations. Agriculture directly accounts for 17% of all the energy used in this country.[12] As of 1990, we were using approximately 1,000 liters (6.41 barrels) of oil to produce food of one hectare of land.[13]

    In 1994, David Pimentel and Mario Giampietro estimated the output/input ratio of agriculture to be around 1.4.[14] For 0.7 Kilogram-Calories (kcal) of fossil energy consumed, U.S. agriculture produced 1 kcal of food. The input figure for this ratio was based on FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) statistics, which consider only fertilizers (without including fertilizer feedstock), irrigation, pesticides (without including pesticide feedstock), and machinery and fuel for field operations. Other agricultural energy inputs not considered were energy and machinery for drying crops, transportation for inputs and outputs to and from the farm, electricity, and construction and maintenance of farm buildings and infrastructures. Adding in estimates for these energy costs brought the input/output energy ratio down to 1.[15] Yet this does not include the energy expense of packaging, delivery to retail outlets, refrigeration or household cooking.

    In a subsequent study completed later that same year (1994), Giampietro and Pimentel managed to derive a more accurate ratio of the net fossil fuel energy ratio of agriculture.[16] In this study, the authors defined two separate forms of energy input: Endosomatic energy and Exosomatic energy. Endosomatic energy is generated through the metabolic transformation of food energy into muscle energy in the human body. Exosomatic energy is generated by transforming energy outside of the human body, such as burning gasoline in a tractor. This assessment allowed the authors to look at fossil fuel input alone and in ratio to other inputs.

    Prior to the industrial revolution, virtually 100% of both endosomatic and exosomatic energy was solar driven. Fossil fuels now represent 90% of the exosomatic energy used in the United States and other developed countries.[17] The typical exo/endo ratio of pre-industrial, solar powered societies is about 4 to 1. The ratio has changed tenfold in developed countries, climbing to 40 to 1. And in the United States it is more than 90 to 1.[18] The nature of the way we use endosomatic energy has changed as well.

    The vast majority of endosomatic energy is no longer expended to deliver power for direct economic processes. Now the majority of endosomatic energy is utilized to generate the flow of information directing the flow of exosomatic energy driving machines. Considering the 90/1 exo/endo ratio in the United States, each endosomatic kcal of energy expended in the US induces the circulation of 90 kcal of exosomatic energy. As an example, a small gasoline engine can convert the 38,000 kcal in one gallon of gasoline into 8.8 KWh (Kilowatt hours), which equates to about 3 weeks of work for one human being.[19]

    In their refined study, Giampietro and Pimentel found that 10 kcal of exosomatic energy are required to produce 1 kcal of food delivered to the consumer in the U.S. food system. This includes packaging and all delivery expenses, but excludes household cooking).[20] The U.S. food system consumes ten times more energy than it produces in food energy. This disparity is made possible by nonrenewable fossil fuel stocks.

    Assuming a figure of 2,500 kcal per capita for the daily diet in the United States, the 10/1 ratio translates into a cost of 35,000 kcal of exosomatic energy per capita each day. However, considering that the average return on one hour of endosomatic labor in the U.S. is about 100,000 kcal of exosomatic energy, the flow of exosomatic energy required to supply the daily diet is achieved in only 20 minutes of labor in our current system. Unfortunately, if you remove fossil fuels from the equation, the daily diet will require 111 hours of endosomatic labor per capita; that is, the current U.S. daily diet would require nearly three weeks of labor per capita to produce.

    Quite plainly, as fossil fuel production begins to decline within the next decade, there will be less energy available for the production of food.

    Soil, Cropland and Water

    Modern intensive agriculture is unsustainable. Technologically-enhanced agriculture has augmented soil erosion, polluted and overdrawn groundwater and surface water, and even (largely due to increased pesticide use) caused serious public health and environmental problems. Soil erosion, overtaxed cropland and water resource overdraft in turn lead to even greater use of fossil fuels and hydrocarbon products. More hydrocarbon-based fertilizers must be applied, along with more pesticides; irrigation water requires more energy to pump; and fossil fuels are used to process polluted water.

    It takes 500 years to replace 1 inch of topsoil.[21] In a natural environment, topsoil is built up by decaying plant matter and weathering rock, and it is protected from erosion by growing plants. In soil made susceptible by agriculture, erosion is reducing productivity up to 65% each year.[22] Former prairie lands, which constitute the bread basket of the United States, have lost one half of their topsoil after farming for about 100 years. This soil is eroding 30 times faster than the natural formation rate.[23] Food crops are much hungrier than the natural grasses that once covered the Great Plains. As a result, the remaining topsoil is increasingly depleted of nutrients. Soil erosion and mineral depletion removes about $20 billion worth of plant nutrients from U.S. agricultural soils every year. Much of the soil in the Great Plains is little more than a sponge into which we must pour hydrocarbon-based fertilizers in order to produce crops.

    Every year in the U.S., more than 2 million acres of cropland are lost to erosion, salinization and water logging. On top of this, urbanization, road building, and industry claim another 1 million acres annually from farmland.[24] Approximately three-quarters of the land area in the United States is devoted to agriculture and commercial forestry.[25] The expanding human population is putting increasing pressure on land availability. Incidentally, only a small portion of U.S. land area remains available for the solar energy technologies necessary to support a solar energy-based economy. The land area for harvesting biomass is likewise limited. For this reason, the development of solar energy or biomass must be at the expense of agriculture.

    Modern agriculture also places a strain on our water resources. Agriculture consumes fully 85% of all U.S. freshwater resources.[26] Overdraft is occurring from many surface water resources, especially in the west and south. The typical example is the Colorado River, which is diverted to a trickle by the time it reaches the Pacific. Yet surface water only supplies 60% of the water used in irrigation. The remainder, and in some places the majority of water for irrigation, comes from ground water aquifers. Ground water is recharged slowly by the percolation of rainwater through the earth's crust. Less than 0.1% of the stored ground water mined annually is replaced by rainfall.[27] The great Ogallala aquifer that supplies agriculture, industry and home use in much of the southern and central plains states has an annual overdraft up to 160% above its recharge rate. The Ogallala aquifer will become unproductive in a matter of decades.[28]

    We can illustrate the demand that modern agriculture places on water resources by looking at a farmland producing corn. A corn crop that produces 118 bushels/acre/year requires more than 500,000 gallons/acre of water during the growing season. The production of 1 pound of maize requires 1,400 pounds (or 175 gallons) of water.[29] Unless something is done to lower these consumption rates, modern agriculture will help to propel the United States into a water crisis.

    In the last two decades, the use of hydrocarbon-based pesticides in the U.S. has increased 33-fold, yet each year we lose more crops to pests.[30] This is the result of the abandonment of traditional crop rotation practices. Nearly 50% of U.S. corn land is grown continuously as a monoculture.[31] This results in an increase in corn pests, which in turn requires the use of more pesticides. Pesticide use on corn crops had increased 1,000-fold even before the introduction of genetically engineered, pesticide resistant corn. However, corn losses have still risen 4-fold.[32]

    Modern intensive agriculture is unsustainable. It is damaging the land, draining water supplies and polluting the environment. And all of this requires more and more fossil fuel input to pump irrigation water, to replace nutrients, to provide pest protection, to remediate the environment and simply to hold crop production at a constant. Yet this necessary fossil fuel input is going to crash headlong into declining fossil fuel production.

    US Consumption

    In the United States, each person consumes an average of 2,175 pounds of food per person per year. This provides the U.S. consumer with an average daily energy intake of 3,600 Calories. The world average is 2,700 Calories per day.[33] Fully 19% of the U.S. caloric intake comes from fast food. Fast food accounts for 34% of the total food consumption for the average U.S. citizen. The average citizen dines out for one meal out of four.[34]

    One third of the caloric intake of the average American comes from animal sources (including dairy products), totaling 800 pounds per person per year. This diet means that U.S. citizens derive 40% of their calories from fat-nearly half of their diet. [35]

    Americans are also grand consumers of water. As of one decade ago, Americans were consuming 1,450 gallons/day/capita (g/d/c), with the largest amount expended on agriculture. Allowing for projected population increase, consumption by 2050 is projected at 700 g/d/c, which hydrologists consider to be minimal for human needs.[36] This is without taking into consideration declining fossil fuel production.

    To provide all of this food requires the application of 0.6 million metric tons of pesticides in North America per year. This is over one fifth of the total annual world pesticide use, estimated at 2.5 million tons.[37] Worldwide, more nitrogen fertilizer is used per year than can be supplied through natural sources. Likewise, water is pumped out of underground aquifers at a much higher rate than it is recharged. And stocks of important minerals, such as phosphorus and potassium, are quickly approaching exhaustion.[38]

    Total U.S. energy consumption is more than three times the amount of solar energy harvested as crop and forest products. The United States consumes 40% more energy annually than the total amount of solar energy captured yearly by all U.S. plant biomass. Per capita use of fossil energy in North America is five times the world average.[39]

    Our prosperity is built on the principal of exhausting the world's resources as quickly as possible, without any thought to our neighbors, all the other life on this planet, or our children.

    Population & Sustainability

    Considering a growth rate of 1.1% per year, the U.S. population is projected to double by 2050. As the population expands, an estimated one acre of land will be lost for every person added to the U.S. population. Currently, there are 1.8 acres of farmland available to grow food for each U.S. citizen. By 2050, this will decrease to 0.6 acres. 1.2 acres per person is required in order to maintain current dietary standards.[40]

    Presently, only two nations on the planet are major exporters of grain: the United States and Canada.[41] By 2025, it is expected that the U.S. will cease to be a food exporter due to domestic demand. The impact on the U.S. economy could be devastating, as food exports earn $40 billion for the U.S. annually. More importantly, millions of people around the world could starve to death without U.S. food exports.[42]
    Domestically, 34.6 million people are living in poverty as of 2002 census data.[43] And this number is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. Too many of these people do not have a sufficient diet. As the situation worsens, this number will increase and the United States will witness growing numbers of starvation fatalities.

    There are some things that we can do to at least alleviate this tragedy. It is suggested that streamlining agriculture to get rid of losses, waste and mismanagement might cut the energy inputs for food production by up to one-half.[35] In place of fossil fuel-based fertilizers, we could utilize livestock manures that are now wasted. It is estimated that livestock manures contain 5 times the amount of fertilizer currently used each year.[36] Perhaps most effective would be to eliminate meat from our diet altogether.[37]

    Mario Giampietro and David Pimentel postulate that a sustainable food system is possible only if four conditions are met:

    1. Environmentally sound agricultural technologies must be implemented.

    2. Renewable energy technologies must be put into place.

    3. Major increases in energy efficiency must reduce exosomatic energy consumption per capita.

    4. Population size and consumption must be compatible with maintaining the stability of environmental processes.[38]

    Providing that the first three conditions are met, with a reduction to less than half of the exosomatic energy consumption per capita, the authors place the maximum population for a sustainable economy at 200 million.[39] Several other studies have produced figures within this ballpark (Energy and Population, Werbos, Paul J.; Impact of Population Growth on Food Supplies and Environment, Pimentel, David, et al.

    Given that the current U.S. population is in excess of 292 million, [40] that would mean a reduction of 92 million. To achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster, the United States must reduce its population by at least one-third. The black plague during the 14th Century claimed approximately one-third of the European population (and more than half of the Asian and Indian populations), plunging the continent into a darkness from which it took them nearly two centuries to emerge.[41]

    None of this research considers the impact of declining fossil fuel production. The authors of all of these studies believe that the mentioned agricultural crisis will only begin to impact us after 2020, and will not become critical until 2050. The current peaking of global oil production (and subsequent decline of production), along with the peak of North American natural gas production will very likely precipitate this agricultural crisis much sooner than expected. Quite possibly, a U.S. population reduction of one-third will not be effective for sustainability; the necessary reduction might be in excess of one-half. And, for sustainability, global population will have to be reduced from the current 6.32 billion people[42] to 2 billion-a reduction of 68% or over two-thirds. The end of this decade could see spiraling food prices without relief. And the coming decade could see massive starvation on a global level such as never experienced before by the human race.
    Three Choices

    Considering the utter necessity of population reduction, there are three obvious choices awaiting us.

    We can-as a society-become aware of our dilemma and consciously make the choice not to add more people to our population. This would be the most welcome of our three options, to choose consciously and with free will to responsibly lower our population. However, this flies in the face of our biological imperative to procreate. It is further complicated by the ability of modern medicine to extend our longevity, and by the refusal of the Religious Right to consider issues of population management. And then, there is a strong business lobby to maintain a high immigration rate in order to hold down the cost of labor. Though this is probably our best choice, it is the option least likely to be chosen.

    Failing to responsibly lower our population, we can force population cuts through government regulations. Is there any need to mention how distasteful this option would be? How many of us would choose to live in a world of forced sterilization and population quotas enforced under penalty of law? How easily might this lead to a culling of the population utilizing principles of eugenics?

    This leaves the third choice, which itself presents an unspeakable picture of suffering and death. Should we fail to acknowledge this coming crisis and determine to deal with it, we will be faced with a die-off from which civilization may very possibly never revive. We will very likely lose more than the numbers necessary for sustainability. Under a die-off scenario, conditions will deteriorate so badly that the surviving human population would be a negligible fraction of the present population. And those survivors would suffer from the trauma of living through the death of their civilization, their neighbors, their friends and their families. Those survivors will have seen their world crushed into nothing.

    The questions we must ask ourselves now are, how can we allow this to happen, and what can we do to prevent it? Does our present lifestyle mean so much to us that we would subject ourselves and our children to this fast approaching tragedy simply for a few more years of conspicuous consumption?

    Author's Note

    This is possibly the most important article I have written to date. It is certainly the most frightening, and the conclusion is the bleakest I have ever penned. This article is likely to greatly disturb the reader; it has certainly disturbed me. However, it is important for our future that this paper should be read, acknowledged and discussed.

    I am by nature positive and optimistic. In spite of this article, I continue to believe that we can find a positive solution to the multiple crises bearing down upon us. Though this article may provoke a flood of hate mail, it is simply a factual report of data and the obvious conclusions that follow from it.

    The [ ] bracketed numbers refer to reference material which I will include at the end of this in the links section.Bold highlights are mine. MM
  8. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    The Breakdown

    The Four Stages of the Breakdown
    When considering what to do about the upcoming collapse of modern society, we have to be aware of what will happen. There are four different stages to come which can be defined by the difference in the three factors of energy source, interdependence and security.
    1. Awareness
    This is the stage we are at now. We are using hydrocarbons as our principle energy source and we are at a high sense of interdependence – that is, everybody has a specific job and we all rely on others to do their own jobs. As an example, the farmer grows corn, the driver takes it to the factories, the factory workers convert it to bread, other drivers take it to shops, shopkeepers sell the bread. If any one group of people fails to do their job, the process fails. The farmer, for instance, cannot turn his corn into bread and the shopkeeper is unable to grow his own corn to sell.
    We also have a high security level meaning that the government, authorities, police and military generally maintain organization and the rule of law so that individuals do not need to worry too much about these things themselves.
    Awareness is low at the moment and this Stage will not end until just about all of the world's educated population knows of this problem (there will always be some who do not learn of oil depletion in the same way as there are many now, especially in the developing world, who are unaware of climate change.) But as awareness will tend to rely on signs of oil depletion, this stage overlaps with the next

    2. Transition

    This is the actual long period when we switch from our modern, hydrocarbon-based society to whatever comes afterwards. It begins with price rises, recessions and blackouts, and ends with riots, wars and famines. Transition can be subdivided into two further phases: Ordered and Anarchic.
    2a. Ordered Transition
    Initially, the three factors still remain similar to our present situation, especially security. The deprivations of oil shortages can be mollified somewhat by welfare, and the health and emergency services. Governments still retain control so blackouts do not collapse into looting and food shortages do not lead to riots.
    2b. Anarchic Transition
    As the Transition continues and oil becomes more scarce, order breaks down. The threatened lootings and riots of the Ordered Transition become fact. Our interdependence becomes a danger as certain stages of processes become weakened or unavailable (what happens with our corn-to-bread line when the lorries cannot obtain the diesel to transport the goods?) The authorities find it harder and harder to keep control so that we are increasingly forced to look after ourselves, growing our own food and protecting our homes against the poor and starving.

    3. Scavengery
    Transition ends when just about all hydrocarbons are unavailable. National security has disappeared, interdependence is unsustainable. We are forced to live in small groups of village or tribal size, growing our own food, maintaining our own buildings and providing our own security. Those who are not in village groups will be forced to steal from others.
    This period is called Scavengery because we will be forced to rely on the remains of our present industrial society. There will be little wood for fuel or building until the trees have had a chance to grow, and it will take many years to learn the skills of self-sufficiency and prepare the farmland. Our societies will have to change dramatically, with practices such as monogamy maybe giving way to polygamy, and interdependence becoming multi-skilling.

    4. Self-Sufficiency
    The final, permanent stage will be Self-Sufficiency. By now, everybody who is unable to convert to a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle would have died off, leaving only those in organized, independent groups to remain. With no oil or gas, and little accessible coal, industrial society will never return although we might eventually 'progress' to something like a Medieval level of civilization.

    Public Actions
    The politicians already know of oil depletion – at least, they have been told. Whether they believe it or not is another matter. Colin Campbell made a presentation to a House of Commons All-Party Committee on 7th July. 1999. Unfortunately so did the oil companies and government actions since then suggest that the danger was not recognized.
    That does not mean though that we should stop telling them. At some point, everyone will be forced to recognize oil depletion. If you have never been told of the problem, you probably won't see it until the television news comes on after a four-hour-long power cut and informs you that the world is facing a crisis. If you have already heard about it but don't believe it, a bell might go off in your head when you hear that world oil production has fallen for the fifth year in a row. It is important therefore to keep badgering politicians, religious leaders, media heads, etc, even if they initially ridicule your pleas.
    Be cautious with your initial statements. Terms such as "the end of civilization" can mean instant rejection as a fanatical doomsayer. Convince them of the problem first, and then introduce the consequences. Technical terms such as "proved reserves" and "The Hubbert Curve" can be useful with some to show that you have done your research and are not just responding to a casual suggestion. Above all, give them something to follow up – a link to a website with more information, such as this one or those on the Further Information page.
    Generally, younger people are more open to ideas that older people (and I speak as someone in my 40s). The older person is less likely to want to change, less likely to accept the need for change, and has distant memories of the 1970s and how "everybody was predicting disaster then". There is also the feeling that, even if this does happen, they'll be long gone by then.
    Discussing oil depletion with a class of schoolchildren or students can be worthwhile. They are often interested in environmental subjects anyway and oil depletion is more immediate than climate change. In the same way that one of the most effective ways to get an adult to stop smoking is to get their kids to nag them, getting young people conscious of and interested in oil depletion is a vital step to w awareness.

    Personal Actions
    Personal actions will clearly depend on your own circumstances. If you are a single person with ample funds and no ties, your choices are different from somebody with a spouse, 2.2 children, a mortgage and a bank account in permanent overdraft. The most important thing to bear in mind is that our present society will not continue for much longer. Ideas of finding a job at 18, marrying, acquiring a house and a family, then retiring at 60 or 70, belong to history.
    The stock market, for instance, will be a volatile place once the world is aware, although some shares such as renewable energy might do well. If you have shares, you can always sell them once you see the signs of collapse, but things such as pensions which rely on the stock market are less helpful. If I was under 30, I would not bother with a pension – you could not claim it for another 30 years or so and who knows what the financial institutions would be like then, if they still exist. A better option would be to put money away regularly in a savings account. If you are planning a family, be cautious about the number of children you have. At the moment, you might have regular income and child welfare to supplement it or fall back on. State support will not always be there.
    During the Awareness and Transition periods, adaptability will be the most useful trait. Recession and the rise of unemployment may mean changing jobs – multiple skills and ample savings will help you through. Having at least some method of generating power and heat – solar panels and water heaters – will ease the effects of blackouts. Growing your own vegetables in the garden will reduce food costs. As the oil shortages grow worse, so does society. Unemployment and the cost of living will rise, governments will find it more difficult to pay welfare. People may well turn to crime to obtain what they need. Ordered Transition becomes Anarchic Transition. Riots may break out. Life in the towns and cities will become harsh and uncomfortable.
    Thoughts of retreating to a piece of farmland in the wilderness may seem attractive but should be treated with caution. An independent community needs a certain minimum size to be self-sufficient so it will be difficult to remain isolated and away from envious eyes. The only certainty about the the Transition will be that it is unpredictable. Wars and plagues may spread your way. The government may requisition your land for agricultural use. Those fleeing the towns and cities may stumble across you. You may need to be prepared to flee your hard-worked homestead. An ability to be flexible and access to usable transport may be the survivor's most important qualities.
    In the final term, the Self-sufficiency period, we may well end up in isolated villages, living a medieval lifestyle. It does not necessarily mean the end of civilization since the Egyptians and Aztecs managed perfectly well without oil and coal. But that is a difficult situation to forecast, so much depending on what wars are fought in the upcoming decades and how they affect you. It may be beyond the years of anyone reading this.
  9. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member


    Fuel : Power : Economy : Omens : How Will You Know?

    2000 Fuel Protests
    The European fuel protests of 2000 were an excellent example of what will happen when we are deprived of our petrol and a salutary warning.

    The price of oil had been low for some time and when OPEC decided to reduce their quotas, the costs of oil shot up. Fishermen in France began to protest about the rises and the bug spread across the Channel. Farmers (who use low-tax fuel so were more aware of the rises) and hauliers (who saw their Continental rivals using lower taxed diesel) started their own opposition. The government was in a pit as it had gradually raised fuel taxes when oil was cheaper and did not reduce them as the price per barrel rose. The result was blockades of refineries for about two and a half weeks.

    The implications of just this minor shortage was tremendous. Naturally there were huge queues at petrol stations to refuel, but there was also panic buying at the shops. Some ran out of bread and milk. Postal collections were suspended on Sundays to conserve fuel. Farm animals were threatened with starvation because the feed was unable to be delivered. Schools closed down and hospitals cancelled all but emergency operations. And all this from two and a half weeks.

    For the richer countries, initially, the oil will probably still be available although the consumer will pay through the pocket. Governments (in Europe at least), could soften the blow by reducing the tax on fuel but they would have to find the money from somewhere else, especially if recession is biting). For the poorer countries (and the others eventually), there will simply not be enough oil to cover consumption. The results, coming in over a longer period, will probably not be as dramatic as the 2000 Fuel Protests, but we will have to find ways of reducing our fuel usage. The costs of air travel will rise and foreign holidays will decline, exotic foods will become rare and there will be less choice in supermarkets, commuting long distances to work will be less acceptable, driving children to school will be frowned upon. The consequences are enormous – and it will all happen within a decade or two.


    The blackouts that hit the eastern USA and Canada in August 2003, and the lesser failure that hit London’s Underground system shortly afterwards shows the how totally dependent we are on electricity power and the dramatic effects that its absence causes. Standard and underground trains came to a halt, trapping people within; lifts stopped between floors; street lamps failed, people poured from the buildings, all increasing the risk of accidents. People were unable to communicate because they had switched from land phones to mobiles. The pressure on the emergency services was immense. Imagine the effects when it was the whole country, not just a few cities that is hit. And if that blackout lasts for days, with more occurring in following weeks.

    When oil begins to decline, the blackouts (and brownouts when power is reduced) will be constant and hit throughout the year. No light, no heating, no cooking (unless you have gas and imagine how the cost of that will rise!) The number of deaths will soar and so will the pressure on the authorities. The emergency services, the hospitals and GPs, welfare – costs will rise as efficiency suffers.

    In time, the number of blackouts will increase and their time lengthen. This is when the very substance of civilisation will be put at risk. Our modern society cannot exist without electricity. It is even more essential to us than oil. Blackouts will take us back to the dark ages – in more respects than one. And that is where the Olduvai Theory comes in (see Olduvai Theory).

    If you're wondering why you never hear of oil depletion from the oil companies and government, remember what happened in January 2004. Here is the report from the BBC website:

    Shell shares dive as reserves cut

    Despite rising profits, investors have turned their back on Shell Giant oil group Royal Dutch Shell has said it is trimming its figures for proven oil and gas reserves by 20%. Stunned investors promptly began a sell-off that knocked more than 7% off the Anglo-Dutch firm's share price in both London and Amsterdam. Shell said it does not expect the reassessment to have any impact on its financial results, as 90% of the reserves involved remain undeveloped. But analysts were unconvinced. Shares in fellow oil firm BP also fell 2%.

    Investors and oil analysts were startled, and puzzled, by the move.

    "It was shocking, to say the least," the Agence France Presse news agency quoted one oil analyst who did not wish to be named as saying. "They gave no detailed explanation why this has happened."

    "This reduces the value of the company by 10% using discounted cash flows," said Richard Brackenhoff, an oil analyst for Kempen & Co.

    Eventually, the chairman was forced to resign. The effects on the Company's share price is clearly shown in the chart below. Barely had the shares begun to rise than another reserve cut in March knocked them down again.

    You can imagine the effects on the stock market if the oil companies admitted that oil was going to decline every year from now on and never recover. One day they will have to admit it but no company (or chairman) wants to be the first.

    How will we know when the oil decline bites. People have made various predictions. The first is from the ASPO Newsletter of March 2002 (the ‘Nemesis Report’).

    Initially it will be denied. There will be much lying and obfuscation. Then prices will rise and demand will fall. The rich will outbid the poor for available supplies. The system will initially appear to rebalance. The dash for gas will become more frenzied. People will realise nuclear power stations take up to ten years to build. People will also realise wind, waves, solar and other renewables are all pretty marginal and take a lot of energy to construct. There will be a dash for more fuel-efficient vehicles and equipment. The poor will not be able to afford the investment or the fuel.

    Exploration and exploitation of oil and gas will become completely frenzied. More and more countries will decide to reserve oil and later gas supplies for their own people. Air quality will be ignored as coal production and consumption expand once more. Once the decline really gets under way, liquids production will fall relentlessly by 5%/year. Energy prices will rise remorselessly. Inflation will become endemic. Resource conflicts will break out.

    Glenn Morton on his website is equally bleak

    This spreading of rolling blackouts will ultimately cause severe recession, especially as oil prices go higher, which will happen later this decade. Oil powers aeroplanes, electricity, jobs. Bartlett is quoted as noting that modern agriculture is merely a way of converting petroleum into food! Without energy, food supplies decrease.

    Another implication concerns the ability of governments with socialistic tendencies to maintain their socialism…this is the last generation of Brits and Scots who will have the social programs like National Health Care. Governments all over the world will not be able to finance plentiful services in the face of high oil prices.

    Political instability will ensue. I am sure that a few leaders will be headless after the masses get to them. It is in such times that Lenin, Hitler and other dangerous individuals take the reigns of power. Life will be a bowl of cherries then.

    After the world Hubbert peak, when energy costs go way through the roof, there will be a period in which an emphasis on conservation will occur. This will be like the early 1980s when the price of oil caused the world to become more energy efficient. Smaller cars were purchased, insulation put into houses and lighting changed to efficient bulbs. That will occur again putting off some of the worst problems. But this time, unlike the 80s, there will not be increasing oil production. Every year unrelentingly we will require further efficiencies in our energy use. Every year inflation will add to the price of goods because oil gets scarcer and scarcer…My grandfather told me about the Great Depression, indeed he raised his family during that time. His job was easy by comparison with what is about to hit.

    People in Third World countries, like Mexico, will do the only human thing, the thing we all would do in their circumstances – try to get into countries they perceive have wealth and jobs. The army, without oil will be unable to defend the borders. The sight of poor desperate people being shot in order to keep them out will not be pretty.

    How will you know?
    If you are reading this, you have one big advantage over 99% of the rest of the world – you are aware of the problem. Almost everyone else believes that oil is plentiful or at least a minor problem. They worry about global warming, or poverty, or wars. They will not know of oil depletion or believe it until it hits them in the face, until the prices at the pump go up every day and unemployment begins to soar. But you do. Watch the newspapers and television, searching for the statistics that are usually given little emphasis – in particular, oil production. Download the ASPO newsletters every month, and the BP Statistical Review every year.

    As for alerting the politicians, the experts have already tried that but our leaders either ignore them or don't believe them. Nevertheless it is worthwhile contacting them as well as newspapers, the broadcast media and schools. The awareness of oil depletion will be a gradual thing and the more that the doubters have heard of it, the quicker they will recognise it.

    A1. Last 8 Years' Oil Production

    According to both BP and ASPO figures, oil production has been fairly flat for the last eight years. The slight rise last year is mainly explained by oil coming on from the former Soviet union"" after years of under-production. This is only a short-term benefit and evidence suggests that we are at the plateau rather than a peak, and that there is little more to come.

    As the years go by, the plateau will begin to drop and a permanent decline will become clear. Oil companies and governments will pass it off as a short term ‘blip’, assuring everyone that there is plenty of oil and production will begin to rise soon. This is your advantage for, while the unenlightened will be placated, you will read between the lines and act. Do not miss your chance.
  10. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    Resource Wars

    Future Oil Wars
    It is not unusual for countries to go to war to secure something that they need and do not have. It looks now as if we have had two modern oil wars (can anybody doubt that the USA and Europe would have bothered to liberate Kuwait, or Iraq invade it, if did not have the sixth (depending on statistics) largest oil reserves?) It is probable that there will be many more in the decades to comes.

    There are four countries which will decide future wars: Europe, Russia, China and the USA (for the sake of convenience and brevity, Europe is considered a country here). Europe has high energy use but its federal structure may not be strong enough to use its armed forces to secure supplies. Russia has the advantage of having its own large reserves of oil and gas, and its military will probably be concerned with stopping others getting access to it, rather than obtaining other countries' resources. China does not, as yet, require large amounts of energy and its future attitude could depend on how it could restrict the growth in energy needs. The USA is the kingpin. It is not only the highest energy consumer in the world, it has the strongest military forces and is not reluctant to use them. But it is the third factor which is vital. Unlike the other three, it has no land access to the two largest oil and gas sources – the Middle East and the Caspian. Transporting oil and gas by sea is a very vulnerable method of supply. It is much easier to replace a length of pipeline than an oil tanker. It is easier to bury a pipeline underground than to design a submersible tanker. If the USA continues to create enemies around the world, its vulnerability will make it likely to be centre stage in future wars.

    W3. Comparison of the Four Countries

    Oil wars seem inevitable. Even if the OPEC countries wanted to be ‘fair’ and allocate the oil evenly when production declines, it would mean that major users would face shortages and high prices. Will an American or Chinese leader stand back in the face of rising prices and domestic unrest or will they resort to military pressure, maybe on the pretence of terrorist threats or instability? We have grown used in the latter half of the Twentieth Century to major countries fighting economically or by proxy, forgetting the thousands of years of near-perpetual conflict that occurred before. The wars of the Twenty First Century could be the first sign of a return to a historical way of life, a regression in civilisation.

    Note: There is some argument that the Afghan war was about oil. Bin Laden and most of the 11 September hijackers came from Saudi Arabia yet the USA attacked Afghanistan, not that country. Also, Afghanistan sits neatly between the two main oil producing areas – the Middle East and the Caspian Sea. A very convenient place to base troops.

    * In context this quote does not refer to what you think but to the reasons why the US government could not impose sanctions on Iraq. (So what were those 10 years of sanctions that caused so much suffering in Iraq?) But I like it as it neatly encapsulates the real reasons why the USA and UK invaded and occupied that country.

    ** Actually there are two reasons why the USA would want to invade Iraq. One is the fear of oil depletion per se, the other is the fear of the increasing OPEC/non-OPEC production ratio. As chart W1 shows, it will not be long before most of the world's oil is coming from the Middle East and that could be what the US fears – a dependence on Arab governments rather than a disastrous loss of oil in general.
  11. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    What to Do?

    What to do:

    As Oil is depleted
    Expected Problems:
    • Cessation of all fossil fuelled activities.
    • Cessation of all use of fossil fuels as "raw materials", such as fertilizers, insecticides, and medicines.
    • Massive population dieoffs, as only a fraction of the present population can be sustained without the present infrastructure, particularly that of the food industry.
    • Economic collapse, as businesses become obsolete.
    • Ecological disasters, as remaining natural resources are plundered in attempts to maintain the failing infrastructure.
    • Governmental oppression, as governments face internal and external challenges, and lack the resources to cope.
    • Civil disturbances as people realize what they have considered normal falls away.
    • Severe food and water shortages, leading to riots, thefts, and worse.
    • Demands for "sharing", anyone who prepared labelled as "hording".
    • War, as those who are "better off" are seen as unjust, unfair, or evil, or someone with weapons feels they have nothing to lose.
    When to act:
    • Immediately. When the oil supply dwindles, the shortages, climbing prices and disruptions of shipping and industry may effectively preclude any personal preparations.
    • At the present, you can "click" on the web, or make a phone call, and have unique goods delivered, or labour performed.

    Personal preparations

    • You must select your home site away from expected air contaminants, as it is probably outside of the reach of most people to live in an area large enough for comfort, crops, etc., wherein the air is sustainably filtered or purified.

    • The running city water in your home, even if the (fuel-driven) pumping continues, may not continue to be properly treated. Whether you get your water from the city, a well, stream, or collect rainwater, you may want to treat the water yourself.
    • Filters can be purchased many places, including a pre-plumbed "Water Organizing Module" available from the "Earth ship" people at
    • A homemade filter of essentially sand can remove larger particles.
    • Water in contact with silver tends to kill microorganisms. Running a small DC current (i.e. from a cheap solar battery charger) through two silver electrodes submerged in the water will distribute silver ions and kill bacteria.
    • You can fabricate (or purchase) a still, to use the heat of the sun to evaporate water, and then condense the vapor for human consumption. It can be as simple as a sealed bottle setting in the sun, with a hose leading out of it to another bottle that is buried in shaded soil.
    • Expect that you will need to drastically alter your use of water. Washing water can be used to water plants. Eliminate wasting water in the toilet by setting up a composting, or solar dehydrating toilet.

    • Humanity's industrialized food production depends heavily on fertilizers and chemicals made from oil.
    • Expect you less and less be able to shop for groceries, and that you may increasingly need to subsist solely on what you grow yourself.
    • Research by organizations such as Ecology Action, which is available in books authored by John Jeavons, demonstrate techniques that may let you grow a healthy diet of crops in an area as small as 1,000 sq.ft. Per person. These techniques take effort, and time though, if you're not starting with soil that is healthy and productive.
    • The present commercial food system has focused on only a few varieties of the thousands of different food plants, and within those few in use, entire crops may be essentially identical clones. A good resource for plants suited for your location is the online database maintained by Plants for a Future,
    • Your food program must contemplate the situation where, despite your best efforts, you lose an entire crop. You therefore need a food storage program that can "tide you over" until your garden is again able to sustain you. While your program must meet your personal taste and resources, good guidelines are available at
    • Not everyone will have success with everything they attempt to grow, or with gardening program overall. You should consider appropriate crop "surpluses" for barter materials. Such exchanges may help rebuild interdependence and cooperation within your immediate community, assisting in development and security.

    • "Earthships", the sustainable housing proposed by Michael Reynolds in his books, and at his website appear to be the most practical shelter for a sustainable resource use future. The "Earthship" materials cover many aspects of sustainable living.
    • Earth sheltering, and technical aspects of why you should insulate and waterproof the soil for 20' out from your home are explained in the book "Passive Annual Heat Storage", by John Hait, of the Rocky Mountain Research Center

    • At this point in man's history, electricity is a key form of energy. Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels generates most of our electricity. When fossil fueled centralized power generation fails, the remaining nuclear, hydro, wind, etc. systems cannot possibly supply anywhere near the present demand.
    • Unless you are quite wealthy, you will soon find yourself "downsizing" your electrical use. If you wait until it is forced upon you, it will probably be uncomfortable, and too late to implement personal alternatives. There are indeed some functions that can only be done, or best be done, by electricity. (I.e. electronics, and to an extent lighting at night) but there remains much that we can do without the need to resort to electricity.
    • Approach the coming power shortages with a two-prong attack. Progressively reduce you use, and add home power generating capability.
    • Solar p/v panels continue to be improved in efficiency, and for the moment, reduce in price. However, the power fluctuates with weather conditions, and some type of power storage system is usually required.
    • Solar thermal can generate electricity directly by thermocouples, or by generators essentially driven versions of "steam engines". Some systems under development can use materials heated by sunlight (i.e. a large insulated tank of water) as the heat source for continued generation at night.
    • Windmills have been used to generate electricity for a long time, and can be bought (now) or built. But being driven by the wind, they only generate power when it is blowing, and need storage.
    • Micro-Hydro, using a suitcase sized turbine, driven by a pipe of high pressure water, can provide a constant source of modest power (if you happen to have access to a properly located source of water). In areas where large containers of water can be placed at significant differences in height, water pumped to the high tank can somewhat serve as a "battery" when allowed to flow to the lower tank thru the turbine.
    • Internal/external combustion engines, burning "renewable" fuels (i.e. wood, crop scraps, alcohol, biodiesel, hydrogen, etc.) can power generators "on demand". While they are a low-efficiency approach to converting sunlight into useable electricity, production of fuel, i.e. alcohol, can be a low-tech program, entirely solar powered.
    • Fuel cells can directly generate electricity from a variety of fuels, but require higher technology to produce and maintain.
    • Batteries can (now) be purchased to meet specific needs, or made under low-tech conditions. See "How to Recycle Scrap Metal into Electricity", by John Hait.
    • Electricity can be stored in batteries, or by performing work (compressing air, pumping water, splitting water for hydrogen, etc.) converted into potential power that can later be used to re-generate electricity.


    • The end of fossil fuels does not mean the end of all fuels for machines. It means that fuels for machines will have to come from renewable resources.
    • At this time, there are NO prospects for a renewable fuel or power source that can be used on an annual basis anywhere NEAR humanity's consumption of oil, gas, and coal.
    • Most renewable, biological based fuels entail a tradeoff in the use of cropland.
    • The world is no longer the forest and grassland covered wilderness that it was. We dare not burn the remaining forests merely to heat our homes, or fuel an engine.
    • The greater part of humanity will probably need to return to reliance on their own muscles, or the labor of animals, for "motivation".
    • Heat for homes, cooking, etc., will probably need to be solar.
    • Away from air, water, and soil contamination as much as possible.
    • Away from large concentrations of people.
    • Adequate soil, water, and growing season.
    • Adequate rainfall for sustenance, supplemental by such other sources as are found safe.
    • Similarly concerned neighbors.
    • Laws, and local government which does not now interfere with preparations.

    • The time of transition to a post-oil paradigm world may be a distinctly unpleasant period. Those whose lives are overturned, or threatened, may lash out in bitterness, or desperation. Decide in advance how you respond.
    • Will you welcome, or feed, strangers? How many?
    • Whom of your present associates will you welcome?
    • How will you respond to squatters, or raiders, or worse?
    • Concealment is a security option. But once concealment is lost, are you prepared, mentally, physically, and materially, to use (perhaps deadly) force to defend yourself, your family, and friends?
    • Laws about your rights of self defense differ from place to place as to how you may defend yourself, and what you may use. Know your local laws, and work within them.
    • If you are satisfied with your physical condition, start an appropriate exercise program.
    • If you are interested in any martial art, begin training.
    • If you select weapons that require advanced technology for parts or ammunition, "stock up" appropriately.

    Appropriate technology:
    • The crash and recovery could be swift, or take lifetimes. You should anticipate little organized society for a long period.
    • There is significant on technology for primitive situations at and
    • Maintaining contact with others, in the wake of a disaster, will help hold at bay despair. "Ham" radio may be your most likely means of maintaining contact when phone lines and the web fall into disrepair.
    • With a modest collection of quality hand tools, even a neophyte can make modest repairs, disassemble obsolete equipment, or fashion vital devices. Imagine trying to "double dig" a garden bed (see JEAVON's books) without a shovel, or taking any device apart without basic hand tools.
    • Stainless steel and cast iron cookware have a much longer and varied useable life than aluminum, teflon, and plastic.
    • There are many items widely available and cheap today, that could reasonably be stored, and that may soon become unavailable for some time. (Nails & other fasteners, insulation, pipe and fittings, even bricks)
    • A good bow, and perhaps surprisingly, an air rifle, represent weapons that can be maintained operable with primitive tools and materials.

    • Use of fuel for personal transportation may be restricted, or priced out of reach, as dwindling supplies are reserved for farming, emergency services, or in war.
    • In calories of food/fuel consumed per mile, the human powered bicycle is the most efficient vehicle. In its early development, it was intended as a serious means of transportation, which became overshadowed by fossil fuel engines.
    • Variations on bicycle designs are used worldwide to meet many transportation needs.
    • With an athlete as the "poweplant", an enclosed recumbent bicycle has exceeded 65 mph.
    • While we would consider them toys today, a bicycle, "assisted" by a small fuel or electric motor, can provide individual transportation for significant distances.
    • For the near future, plan your "neighborhood" around modest walking, or bicycling distances.
    • Heavier vehicles will remain, but due to limited fuel, might only be available for be the purview of the wealthy, or governments.

    • Mankind's accumulated knowledge is recorded in many places, in many mediums. Despite the present day volumes, much of this information might perish in the disasters of the crash. Information that you do not personally have, may never again be available to you.
    • Books, or other printed means, are the simplest means of accessing knowledge in a crashed society.
    • Microfiche, once a popular means to store large volumes of information, has become "old fashioned". But in microfiche, one person can carry hundreds, indeed thousands of books. Microfiche can be adequately read using even a child's toy microscope.
    • Electronic media, whether CD's, tapes, disks, etc., all require a functioning appropriate player. A quandary when you looking for the instructions to fix the device.
    • At the present, tremendous knowledge is just a "click" away on the web. As a minimum, download all that appears appropriate to you, and printout that which you feel could be vital.
    • It will be left to those who prepare, and make it through the crash intact, to reset the foundations of human society. What do you think you, and the future, needs to know?
    • The authors mentioned earlier, Jeavons for agriculture, and Reynolds for housing, are good examples of places to begin.
    • Visit your local library regularly, and keep organized notes. Ask about interlibrary loans of books you need to see, but are not held locally.
    • Used bookstores, and web sales, can yield out of print priceless "gems". Try ABE at, or Powell's at, or of course, Amazon at
    • Recommendations of specific books from Running on Empty members are posted at the egroups webpage.

    How long will the crash last:
    • If there is widespread or high level conflict, especially involving nuclear or biological warfare, populations could vanish within days or weeks.
    • As supplies dwindle, and the situations slowly worsen, it may take years before many realize the crash is already taking place, and decades before we "bottom out".

    Leadership roles:
    • Members of the Running on Empty discussion group have repeatedly contacted the prominent media, and the national and local governments of their widespread residences.
    • Nations might cooperate, and impose the tough measures to deal with dwindling fuel, food, water, and clean air, as well as force limits on procreation, and "encourage" early deaths. But our 18 months of investigating suggest it is unlikely that the global infrastructure will be adjusted in the time remaining. Unfortunately you cannot assume the government will have the resources to take care of you.
    • If you are in a position of public exposure, or influence, you can begin to guide those who will listen to you toward their own revelation of the nature of the problem.
    • Inventory the assets of your organization, or your community, and identify the shortfalls which could challenge continued viability.
    • Steer new development toward sustainable projects.

    After the crash
    Paradigm shifts:
    • Every definable area, the globe, a continent, a nation, an island, or a valley, has a limited number of humans that can be provided for by the sustainable resources.
    • Unfortunately, it is clear that every individual who has a child beyond their personal "replacement” is now overburdening the Earth and placing that child into a world of great scarcity and danger.
    • We have stripped much of the natural life from the Earth, and must act to restore it.
    • The remaining natural resources must not be used faster than they are renewed.
    • Non-renewable resources must only be used in a manner that contemplates and accounts for their eventual recycling.
    • We must no longer release into the world toxins that damage life systems that support us, and are not harmlessly broken down by nature.
    • We must realize that "new and improved" does not necessarily mean "better and necessary".
    • In the absence of cheap, easy shipping, the focus for production of food and products will return to local people making a variety of products, rather than large factories making a generic product to ship long distance.
    • We must truly "Think globally, and act locally."

    More information
    Documented evidence
    This sheet, and all references and authorities for this information are available for download by temporarily joining the RunningOnEmpty2 internet forum mentioned below. In MyGroups page, click the Files section. It is among the first files.
    Web sites
    This leaflet is also displayed in full on the Web at
    The oil crash is explained in up-to-date detail at, and both sites are keyword-searchable, with scientific and oil industry literature about this topic. It is heavily annotated with authoritative references.
    Discussion forum - Technical/scientific:
    Discussion forum-Implications, action:
    Author of this sheet: Ronald Greek, one of the moderators of RunningOnEmpty2 forum at and helped by members of those groups.

    This particular copy of this document was provided to you through the personal resources of:

  12. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member


    Well I think that pretty much covers it.If you have any questions I will be glad to share any knowledge I have,or to look it up.Here are some good links to study this issue further.This is the single greatest threat to civilization that we have ever faced.And to ignore the issue,or to put your faith in some miracle technology,is a recipe for disaster.There are alternatives to fossil fuels.But they are diverse and undeveloped and will never be able to replace the cheap energy that we have built our entire society on.There will be isolated places where things are run on wind power,or methanol,cow manure,ocean waves etc.,etc.,etc.But none of these methods can replace any significant amount of the energy that we use today.The way we live today is about to change.Are you ready?


    The Long Emergency-James Howard Kunstler

    The Oil Age is Over- Matthew David Savinar

    Twighlight in the Desert- Matthew R. Simmons

    Crossing the Rubicon- Michael C. Ruppert

    Power Down - Richard Heinberg

    The Partys Over - Richard Hienberg


    The End of Suburbia

    A Crude Awakening

    (both available from

    References from "Eating Fossil Fuels"


    1 Availability of agricultural land for crop and livestock production, Buringh, P. Food and Natural Resources, Pimentel. D. and Hall. C.W. (eds), Academic Press, 1989.

    2 Human appropriation of the products of photosynthesis, Vitousek, P.M. et al. Bioscience 36, 1986.

    3 Land, Energy and Water: the constraints governing Ideal US Population Size, Pimental, David and Pimentel, Marcia. Focus, Spring 1991. NPG Forum, 1990.

    4 Constraints on the Expansion of Global Food Supply, Kindell, Henry H. and Pimentel, David. Ambio Vol. 23 No. 3, May 1994. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

    5 The Tightening Conflict: Population, Energy Use, and the Ecology of Agriculture, Giampietro, Mario and Pimentel, David, 1994.

    6 Op. Cit. See note 4.

    7 Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy, Pimentel, David and Giampietro, Mario. Carrying Capacity Network, 11/21/1994.

    8 Comparison of energy inputs for inorganic fertilizer and manure based corn production, McLaughlin, N.B., et al. Canadian Agricultural Engineering, Vol. 42, No. 1, 2000.

    9 Ibid.

    10 US Fertilizer Use Statistics.

    11 Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy, Executive Summary, Pimentel, David and Giampietro, Mario. Carrying Capacity Network, 11/21/1994.

    12 Ibid.

    13 Op. Cit. See note 3.

    14 Op. Cit. See note 7.

    15 Ibid.

    16 Op. Cit. See note 5.

    17 Ibid.

    18 Ibid.

    19 Ibid.

    20 Ibid.

    21 Op. Cit. See note 11.

    22 Ibid.

    23 Ibid.

    24 Ibid.

    24 Ibid.

    25 Op Cit. See note 3.

    26 Op Cit. See note 11.

    27 Ibid.

    28 Ibid.

    29 Ibid.

    30 Op. Cit. See note 3.

    31 Op. Cit. See note 5.

    32 Op. Cit. See note 3.

    33 Op. Cit. See note 11.

    34 Food Consumption and Access, Lynn Brantley, et al. Capital Area Food Bank, 6/1/2001.

    35 Op. Cit. See note 11.

    36 Ibid.

    37 Op. Cit. See note 5.

    38 Ibid.

    39 Ibid.

    40 Op. Cit. See note 11.

    41 Op. Cit. See note 4.

    42 Op. Cit. See note 11.

    43 Poverty 2002. The U.S. Census Bureau.

    35 Op. Cit. See note 3.

    36 Ibid.

    37 Diet for a Small Planet, Lappé, Frances Moore. Ballantine Books, 1971-revised 1991.

    38 Op. Cit. See note 5.

    39 Ibid.

    40 U.S. and World Population Clocks. U.S. Census Bureau.

    41 A Distant Mirror, Tuckman Barbara. Ballantine Books, 1978.

    42 Op. Cit. See note 40.

    I spent most of the day working on this, editing and polishing it up.But it felt like it was missing something.So I feel like I have to add this last reference.Disregard it if you wish.

    "And except those days should be shortened, there would no flesh be saved." Matthew 24:22

    Can anyone read these articles and not here the hoofbeats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.War, famine, exhorbitant prices for food, rampant disease.
    Revelation 6:1-8
    So I include the Holy Bible as a final reference source.If you are not a believer,that's fine.But consider this, one third of the book is predictions of things to come, and in 6000 years not one single prediction has failed to come to pass.Some even to the very day,and in the very manner, predicted centuries before. Everything in the final chapter of this book could be the direct result of oil depletion.Something to consider. MM
  13. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    Monday 8-August-2005 Oil once again hits an all time high.Has anyone noticed that these "All time highs" are coming closer and closer together.

    Now Chevron, one of the largest oil companies in the world has created a web site to introduce to the public the problem of oil depletion.Something they have denied for decades,now they are forced to admit. Albiet tempered with rosy "if we work together we can overcome this" rhetoric. The cat is out of the bag and this, to me, smacks of damage control. Or at least of trying to soften the blow that this news will have to those totally unaware of it. One thing that most of the rosy outlooks tend to overlook is human nature. Once the poulation of the world realizes the danger we are in they will clamor for thier governments to do something. And with that kind of political pressure and human nature being what it is, I just can't put much faith in the "Let's all work together" scenario.
    This is the introduction to thier new web site.These words would have been considered blasphemy in the industry just a few years ago.No CEO would have approved of this type of revelation for fear of driving down stock prices.But as oil prices continue to break each new "record high" there is no denying the facts any longer.

    Now more than ever we need to work together.
    Energy will be one of the defining issues of this century, and one thing is clear: the era of easy oil is over. What we all do next will determine how well we meet the energy needs of the entire world in this century and beyond.

    The trends are in motion.
    Energy demand is soaring as never before and driving economic growth. And improved standards of living are requiring increasing amounts of energy. In fact, some say that in 20 years the world will consume 40% more oil than it does today.1

    The facts are compelling.
    Many of the world’s oil and gas fields are maturing (read that as declining.MM).2 And new energy discoveries are mainly occurring in places where resources are difficult to extract—physically, technically, economically, and politically.3 When growing demand meets tighter supplies, the result is more competition for the same resources.
    The only energy we have in abundance: Human energyTM.
    We can wait until a crisis forces us to do something. Or we can commit to working together, and start by asking the tough questions: How do we meet the energy needs of the developing world and those of industrialized nations? What role will renewables and alternative energies play? What is the best way to protect our environment? How do we accelerate our conservation efforts? Whatever actions we take, we must look not just to next year, but to the next 50 years.

    We need your help.
    At Chevron, we believe that innovation, collaboration and conservation are the cornerstones on which to build this new world. But we can’t do it alone. Corporations, governments and every citizen of this planet must be part of the solution as surely as they are part of the problem.

    And so, we ask you to join us.
    Let this website be the vehicle that helps to close the gaps between our diverse philosophies and opens the minds of us all. There are many factors in the new energy equation, and we encourage you to consider all of them. We call upon scientists and educators, politicians and policymakers, environmentalists, leaders of industry and each one of you to be part of reshaping the next era of energy.
    Thank you for joining us.

    All underlining is mine. After reading the above articles you should be able to read between the lines here.This is the awareness stage and as word gets out and becomes undeniable, the oil companies, governments,and the media will begin to gently break the news to the masses.This is where you and I have an advantage.We know "The Rest of the Story".
  14. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    article about the Chevron ad

    The Oil Industry's Bid for Leadership:
    a commentary upon a recent ad from Chevron Chairman & CEO, David J. O'Reilly
    Dale Allen Pfeiffer
    © Copyright 2005, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.
    On July 15th, 2005, the following paid, two-page ad appeared in The New York Times, The Sacramento Bee, The San Francisco Chronicle, and who knows how many other newspapers.
    (The above ad quoted in the post above. Can be read in full at the link MM)
    Without a doubt, this is the boldest public admission of Peak Oil to date by a sitting oil executive. Oil company CEO's have not been known for their candor, particularly where the availability of oil resources is concerned. And so it is very momentous that Chevron Chairman and CEO David O'Reilly has made such a public statement. This is a warning light flashing in the face of the public. Mr. O'Reilly must really be concerned.
    The cynic in me wonders if perhaps Mr. O'Reilly is just covering his butt. Animosity towards the oil industry is climbing, and will continue to do so with each rise in gasoline prices. Does Mr. O'Reilly foresee a day when angry mobs will roam the countryside looking for oilmen to lynch? Perhaps that is a little too paranoid, but I'm sure Mr. O'Reilly can see a day coming when he will have to address a Congressional investigation into the energy crisis. Undoubtedly, without efforts such as this advertisement, the investigating committee would want to know why Mr. O'Reilly gave no warning. Now the Chevron chairman has a way out. He can say that he did give warning once he was aware of the problem. And, when asked why he did not sound a warning sooner, he can say that he was truly unaware of the seriousness of this problem. He can point to the US Geological Survey, the EIA and the IEA and say, "How could I know that such a problem was on the horizon, when the scientists and the agencies who were supposed to be monitoring the situation painted such a rosy picture?" He can even say that, with this ad, he gave the public its warning of the problem in advance of those agencies.
    This could be just the beginning of an oil industry ad campaign to make us aware of Peak Oil. Perhaps we will soon see television ads from Exxon and BP warning us that we must cut our consumption, and promising to lead us into a new energy future. Such an ad campaign would help prepare the public for shortages and rationing, and might even help to take the edge off any ensuing economic panic. Such statements might help to keep the public pacified until such a time as martial law is instituted.
  15. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    Rationing Coming?

    Michael C. Ruppert
    © Copyright 2005, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.
    July 18, 2005 1000 PST (FTW) -- In previous stories, reprinted from the Financial Times, (April 16, 2005, IEA Calls For Emergency Plan), and Al Jazeera, (March 24, 2005, IEA Wants Brakes on Fuel Consumption) we commented on how the International Energy Agency had apparently dusted off plans for rationing to be imposed (with the full authority of government and the UN) in nations which had signed the original UN treaty in 1974 or joined later.
    The IEA plan is here. As of today, IEA Member countries include: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. (Source:
    Now we see the Falls Church News-Press (a very influential local newspaper from an affluent Washington, DC suburb) do some very hard-edged reporting on Peak Oil issues. This is the second time FTW has reprinted a News-Press story in a month. This is a local paper for the spot where the senior policy makers, intelligence officials and many high-ranking military personnel live and raise their families. They want a local paper that prepares them and that's what they've got. They get "authentic journalism" of sorts.
    Contrary to this story's spin however, this plan has more loopholes for black market profiteering, arbitrage and manipulation than a colander has for draining spaghetti. The profit potential here is far greater than it would be with, for example, tax credits and subsidies for renewables. Once again, we're back to the infamous quotation: "It may not be profitable to slow decline." Or, as Catherine Austin Fitts says, "They make money on the way up and they make money on the way down."
    On the other hand, mandatory and enforced rationing might be the only way to penetrate a very thick American skull. We do reveal a bovine nature on occasion.

    So I think it's time we all put rationing (serious rationing) on our schedule of upcoming events.
    When? (Sigh). It could be as soon as this winter. I would say, of a certainty, no later than January or February 2007.
    Here's the key quotation: -- "A couple of weeks ago, the British press reported that Her Majesty's cabinet is considering a plan to ration energy consumption. The immediate reason for implementing such a system is to reduce the UK 's emission of greenhouse gases as required by the Kyoto Treaty. The plan's authors, however, claim that if the proposal works, it will deal equally well with equitably allocating dwindling energy supplies caused by peak oil."
    What the News-Press tells us is that we should just as well expect rationing here. The British might get there first. That would be a great psychological prep. (We must emulate the Brits as they endured "The Blitz" in 1940-41.) But it is also a certainty that the first and most important wild beast which must be tamed in terms of consumption is the United States of America.
    The Peak Oil Crisis: Rationing
    By Tom Whipple
    Falls Church News-Press
    July 14 - July 20, 2005 VOL. XV NO. 19
    In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.
    It has to come sooner or later. As oil becomes scarcer and scarcer and price rises higher and higher, pressures will grow for a formal allocation system. Rationing will come, if only to calm the havoc at the gas lines and the social upheavals that are bound to occur as long as rationing is only by price.
    America 's most recent experience with rationing goes back to World War II. You have to be nearly 70 to remember the little square "A", "B", and "C" stickers affixed to the windshields of ever car. These stickers, when accompanied by a sheet of rationing stamps, allowed one to buy gas. Everybody got an "A" sticker (a whole 4 gallons a month just for the asking). To get a "B" or "C" sticker, one had to appear before a rationing board and make the case their mobility was vital to the war effort or at least the well-being of their fellow citizens.
    If one ponders for a few minutes on how a modern rationing system might be structured, it is soon apparent nearly any scheme is full of inequities and would be subject to massive and, no doubt, ingenious fraud- especially when an American's ability to drive his beloved car is at stake. Do you allocate fuel by vehicle? Buy a yard full of clunkers and drive to your heart's content or until you run out of money. Or allocate gasoline by person, by licensed driver, by commute distance, by adjusted gross income? Problems abound everywhere.
    Once again our friends in Europe , this time in Britain , appear to be out in front in thinking about this problem. The ostensible British concern, of course, is global warming and the contribution made to this phenomenon by the combustion of fossil fuels. While we Americans, and particularly our government, seem little bothered by the idea that Florida might one day be under water, the British seem much more upset by the notion the melting artic ice cap will set the Gulf Stream to warming someplace other than Northern Europe.
    A couple of weeks ago, the British press reported that Her Majesty's cabinet is considering a plan to ration energy consumption. The immediate reason for implementing such a system is to reduce the UK 's emission of greenhouse gases as required by the Kyoto Treaty. The plans authors, however, claim that if the proposal works, it will deal equally well with equitably allocating dwindling energy supplies caused by peak oil.
    Given the seriousness with which the British are taking global warming, it is natural that they should put their finest minds to work on the problem. In this case, the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a consortium of ten other British Universities. The current proposal has been in development for ten years and, given the organizations involved in its preparation, has obviously been subject to much intellectual rigor. While the details, pros, and cons of the plan fill many pages, the general concept is simple enough to outline here.
    The major feature of the allocation system is that it covers all fossil fuels, not just gasoline; and it makes a real effort to be fair to all, by giving consideration to the needs of the poorer folks.
    Under the plan, every adult in the country would be given (for free) an annual "Personal Carbon Allowance" (PCA). This allowance would be measured in "carbon units." One carbon unit would be equal to one kilogram of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere when the fuel is burned. Carbon units can be equated easily to gallons of gasoline, heating oil, diesel, or jet fuel, or to pounds of coal, BTUs of natural gas, or KWh of electricity. For example, one gallon of gas would be the equivalent of about nine carbon units. Thus, for every gallon of gas purchased, nine carbon units would be subtracted from your account.
    The annual allowance would be the same for all adults, with possibly a smaller allowance for dependent children, and would be tracked on a central electronic system similar to a credit card account. The size of the annual individual allowance would be based on what a government panel believed would be the total amount of fuel available for consumption in a country during the coming year, divided by the number of energy consumers. Whenever one purchased or consumed fuel, such as on an airplane trip, an appropriate deduction would be made from one's PCA account. With oil depletion, of course, the annual carbon allowance would shrink with each successive year.
    The next most interesting feature of the plan is the government would also establish an electronic free market to buy and sell carbon units. Thus, those who have no need for their complete annual carbon allowance would be free to sell their excess units for cash at the market price. Those individuals who want and can afford more than their allocated share can buy as much as they want at the going price. Note that above-allocation consumers would not only have to pay for the energy, they would also have to pay for the right to buy the above-allocation energy. Non-residents visiting a country would not be given an annual allowance, but would have to buy the carbon units they use on the open market as they consume energy. Businesses that consume energy would buy their carbon units on the open market and would pass the cost on to the final consumer either money or in cases such as airplane rides as a PCA debit.
    The object of all this, of course, is to force people to cut back on their energy use in a systematic way. With full knowledge of the projected costs and allocations of energy, people could make choices between SUVs or bicycles, McMansions or efficiencies, and train or plane rides.
    Way below average energy users could make some money under the plan. While the very rich would not be bothered in the slightest, most people would start making energy saving choices in their lifestyles -- smaller cars, better-insulated homes, less air travel. As demand for energy drops in response to conservation measures, then the costs of energy would drop even in an era of oil depletion.
    The plan's developers claim that declining amounts of energy will be allocated equitably and with minimum government interference. For, aside from setting up the system and determining the annual carbon ration, the free market would be left to work out the details of oil depletion.
  16. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    A Parable for the 21st Century

    [Originally posted on long-emergency at ]

    It was during the first few decades of the 21st century and oil was
    running out. Nevertheless Grasshopper made rude noises and catcalls
    as he watched Ant preparing for a life in the post-industrial era.

    "You are such a negative creature," scoffed Grasshopper. "There is
    plenty of oil. If not in the oil fields of the Middle East, then in
    the Arctic or under the sea. They are only saying it's running out
    to scare you so you won't mind paying more at the pump." And with
    that Grasshopper went off to play his electric guitar and dance in
    the sun.

    Then one day the oil did run out. Grasshopper found that he could no
    longer play his electric guitar and that he became very hungry
    dancing in the sun. He went to Ant's house and begged to be let in.

    Ant refused, saying, "You knew all about this, Grasshopper. I gave
    you a copy of Kunstler's book, I sent you a copy of the Simmons
    interview, I did everything I could to convince you. But you suffer
    from cognitive dissonance. While I was learning to live in a new era,
    you were playing your guitar and playing in the sun."

    Grasshopper thought about what Ant had said, and he replied, "You're
    right." Then he knocked Ant over the head with his electric guitar
    and killed him, then broke into his house and and stole all his

    The moral: "Get ready for the end of oil, but don't let anyone see
    you doing it."

    Nan Hawthorne
  17. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Excellent point. The key is surviving.
  18. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

  19. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Founding Member

    Good article.Thanks for posting it.
    A few comments. It is a long article but well worth the time to read.

    Always bear in mind that oil companies have investors that are always thier primary concern.They do not admit to anything that will negatively impact them.
    Reference the recent Shell Oil debacle, they were caught misstating reserves to keep thier stock prices from falling.

    Another point.When analysts talk about all this reserve capacity that "Technology" will allow us to recover,what they are saying is, what oil is left is going to be much harder to extract.Ergo much more expensive.

    Peak oil is not about running out of oil.There is a lot of recoverable oil left.It is about running out of "Cheap Oil".We will be producing oil for the rest of our lifetimes,but how much will it cost?

    On a personal note.I have been to the Ras Tanura oil terminal many times.You can talk about reserve capacity all you want.But I know for a personal fact that when I was drilling wells there in the 90s that the oil flowed out of the ground under its' own pressure.Today the fields are having to be stimulated by injecting nitrogen and water into the resevoir to make it flow.That is a clear indication of depletion.

    People are starting to become aware of this and to take it seriously.Finally!
    That is where we here have an edge.We are aware of it and can make preparations and not be caught unawares like a lot of people are going to be.
  20. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    minuteman, I remember just 8 months ago whe the peak oilk guys got laughed out of another suvival forum... Now the threads are 'stickied' So many thought we were just quacks for talking about this. Now it's on the front page.

    Keep it coming from the 'insider' prospective
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