ERoEIUF: Energy Returned on Energy Invested Up Front
Dave Kimble [mailto:Dave.Kimble@lizzy.com.au]
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2008 10:44 PM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: PO Media Guide
You can't properly deal with Peak Oil without framing it in the context of
Global Warming, Global Equality and Global Population.
Colin Campbell's "Oil & Gas Production Profiles" chart shows
Peak Oil being responsible for decreasing oil production by 62.5% on 2008 levels by 2050
and Peak Gas being responsible for decreasing gas production by 20%.
However in the same timeframe, Global Warming requires that
levels of oil, gas and coal ALL need to be cut by 60% by 2050,
and very likely much more than that as new data on Climate Change becomes accepted.
Moreover the world's rich nations currently emit far more than their 'fair share' of ghg emissions
and if this is not addressed equitably, there will be widespread war.
The current method of allocation of oil is that it goes to the highest bidder.
This is widely recognised as being "the unacceptable face of capitalism" -
not by the US, of course, since they create their money out of thin air,
and thus are the main beneficiary of the system.
If the US is not prepared to dump this capitalist rip-off,
it will be the main focus of the world's anger -
it already is, but it will get MUCH WORSE.
The 'solutions' to Peak Oil that involve using other fossil fuels are NOT SOLUTIONS.
The 'solutions' that involve building alternative energy infrastructure
need to be seen in the context of how much energy it takes
(and of what kind) to build the new infrastructure,
and how much alternative energy it produces over its lifetime.
If the ERoEIUF (Energy Returned on Energy Invested Up Front) is too low,
then it is impossible to scale up the technology
because of the up front energy required in a fossil energy-constrained world.
see "The Energy Dynamics of Energy Production"
It is easy to begin such a scale-up, but it becomes impossible when
the new technology becomes a major part of the energy mix.
Existing solar photovoltaics, nuclear, ethanol and cellulosic alcohols all fail this critical test,
as does wind and hydro in poor locations.
Without our planners understanding these fundamental parameters,
there is no possibility for ANY solution to Peak Oil.
And given that the awareness of this is still practically nil,
(for example, it is not mentioned in your primer)
there is no possibility of the world's human population avoiding a major collapse
as civilisation stalls in an 'energy deadly embrace'
and we discover we are over-populated way beyond the planet's natural carrying capacity.
Celente Predicts Revolution, Food Riots, Tax Rebellions By 2012
navigating the collapse
Posted by: "Mike Stasse" firstname.lastname@example.org mstasse
Date: Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:35 am ((PST))
Paul Joseph Watson
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The man who predicted the 1987 stock market crash and the fall of the
Soviet Union is now forecasting revolution in America , food riots and
tax rebellions – all within four years, while cautioning that putting
food on the table will be a more pressing concern than buying
Christmas gifts by 2012.
Gerald Celente, the CEO of Trends Research Institute, is renowned for
his accuracy in predicting future world and economic events, which
will send a chill down your spine considering what he told Fox News
Celente says that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation,
that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter
rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be
more about obtaining food, not gifts.
"We're going to see the end of the retail Christmas….we're going to
see a fundamental shift take place….putting food on the table is going
to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree,"
said Celente, adding that the situation would be "worse than the great
" America 's going to go through a transition the likes of which no
one is prepared for," said Celente, noting that people's refusal to
acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a
problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.
Celente, who successfully predicted the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis,
the subprime mortgage collapse and the massive devaluation of the U.S.
dollar, told UPI in November last year that the following year would
be known as "The Panic of 2008," adding that "giants (would) tumble to
their deaths," which is exactly what we have witnessed with the
collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and others. He also said
that the dollar would eventually be devalued by as much as 90 per cent.
The consequence of what we have seen unfold this year would lead to a
lowering in living standards, Celente predicted a year ago, which is
also being borne out by plummeting retail sales figures.
The prospect of revolution was a concept echoed by a British Ministry
of Defence report last year, which predicted that within 30 years, the
growing gap between the super rich and the middle class, along with an
urban underclass threatening social order would mean, "The world's
middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and
skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest,"
and that, "The middle classes could become a revolutionary class."
In a separate recent interview, Celente went further on the subject of
revolution in America .
"There will be a revolution in this country," he said. "It's not going
to come yet, but it's going to come down the line and we're going to
see a third party and this was the catalyst for it: the takeover of
Washington, D. C., in broad daylight by Wall Street in this bloodless
coup. And it will happen as conditions continue to worsen."
"The first thing to do is organize with tax revolts. That's going to
be the big one because people can't afford to pay more school tax,
property tax, any kind of tax. You're going to start seeing those
kinds of protests start to develop."
"It's going to be very bleak. Very sad. And there is going to be a lot
of homeless, the likes of which we have never seen before. Tent cities
are already sprouting up around the country and we're going to see
"We're going to start seeing huge areas of vacant real estate and
squatters living in them as well. It's going to be a picture the likes
of which Americans are not going to be used to. It's going to come as
a shock and with it, there's going to be a lot of crime. And the crime
is going to be a lot worse than it was before because in the last
(1929) Depression, [there were many factors that mitigated the impact
of the financial collapse, and those factors do not exist now]."
Following is a compiled a list of quotes attesting to Celente's
accuracy as a trend forecaster.
"When CNN wants to know about the Top Trends, we ask Gerald Celente."
— CNN Headline News
"A network of 25 experts whose range of specialties would rival many
— The Economist
"Gerald Celente has a knack for getting the zeitgeist right."
— USA Today
"There's not a better trend forecaster than Gerald Celente. The man
knows what he's talking about."
"Those who take their predictions seriously … consider the Trends
— The Wall Street Journal
"Gerald Celente is always ahead of the curve on trends and uncannily
on the mark … he's one of the most accurate forecasters around."
— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Mr. Celente tracks the world's social, economic and business trends
for corporate clients."
— The New York Times
"Mr. Celente is a very intelligent guy. We are able to learn about
trends from an authority."
— 48 Hours, CBS News
"Gerald Celente has a solid track record. He has predicted everything
from the 1987 stock market crash and the demise of the Soviet Union to
green marketing and corporate downsizing."
— The Detroit News
"Gerald Celente forecast the 1987 stock market crash, `green
marketing,' and the boom in gourmet coffees."
— Chicago Tribune
"The Trends Research Institute is the Standard and Poors of Popular
— The Los Angeles Times
"If Nostradamus were alive today, he'd have a hard time keeping up
with Gerald Celente."
— New York Post
So there you have it – hardly a nutjob conspiracy theorist blowhard
now is he? The price of not heeding his warnings will be far greater
than the cost of preparing for the future now. Storable food and gold
are two good places to make a start.
The Golden Horde and the Thin Veneer
Posted by: "Dave Kimble" email@example.com mbemg
Date: Wed Aug 13, 2008 5:19 pm ((PDT))
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2008 8:09 AM
Subject: [the_dieoff_QA] The Golden Horde and the Thin Veneer
You got a plan for the ruthless "rover-packs"? -Hamlet
The Golden Horde and the Thin Veneer
Because of the urbanization of the U.S. population, if the entire
eastern or western power grid goes down for more than a week, the
cities will rapidly become unlivable. I foresee that there will be an
almost unstoppable chain of events: Power -> water -> food
distribution -> law and order -> arson fires -> full scale looting
As the comfort level in the cities rapidly drops to nil, there will be
a massive involuntary outpouring from the big cities and suburbs into
the hinterboonies. This is the phenomenon that my late father, Donald
Robert Rawles--a career particle physics research administrator at
Lawrence Livermore Laboratories--half-jokingly called "The Golden
Horde." He was of course referring to the Mongol Horde of the 13th
Century, but in a modern context. (The Mongol rulers were chosen from
the 'Golden Family' of Temujin. Hence the term "The Golden Horde.") I
can remember as a child, my father pointing to the hills at the west
end of the Livermore Valley, where we then lived. He opined: "If The
Bomb ever drops, we'll see a Golden Horde come swarming over those
hills [from Oakland and beyond] of the like that the world has never
seen. And they'll be very unpleasant, believe you me!"
In my lectures on survival topics I often mention that there is just a
thin veneer of civilization on our society. What is underneath is not
pretty, and it does take much to peel away that veneer. You take your
average urbanite or suburbanite and get him excessively cold, wet,
tired, hungry and/or thirsty and take away his television, beer,
drugs, and other pacifiers, and you will soon seen the savage within.
It is like peeling the skin of an onion-remove a couple of layers and
it gets very smelly. As a Christian, I attribute this to man's
inherently sinful nature.
Here is a mental exercise: Put yourself in the mind set of Mr. Joe
Sixpack, Suburbanite. (Visualize him in or near a big city near where
you live.) He is unprepared. He has less than one week's food on hand,
he has a 12 gauge pump action shotgun that he hasn't fired in years,
and just half a tank of gas in his minivan and maybe a gallon or two
in a can that he keeps on hand for his lawn mower. Then TEOTWAWKI
hits. The power grid is down, his job is history, the toilet doesn't
flush, and water no longer magically comes cascading from the tap.
There are riots beginning in his city. The local service stations have
run out of gas. The banks have closed. Now he is suddenly desperate.
Where will he go? What will he do?
Odds are, Joe will think: "I've gotta go find a vacation cabin
somewhere, up in the mountains, where some rich dude only goes a few
weeks out of each year." So vacation destinations like Lake Tahoe,
Lake Arrowhead, and Squaw Valley, California; Prescott and Sedona,
Arizona; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colorado;
and the other various rural ski, spa, Great Lakes, and coastal resort
areas will get swarmed. Or, he will think: "I've got to go to where
they grow food." So places like the Imperial Valley, the Willamette
Valley, and the Red River Valley will similarly get overrun. There
will be so many desperate Joe Sixpacks arriving all at once that these
areas will degenerate into free-fire zones. It will be an intensely
ugly situation and will not be safe for anyone. In some places the
locals may be so vastly outnumbered that they won't survive. But some
of the Joe Sixpacks will survive, and then the more ruthless among
them will begin to fight amongst themselves for the few remaining
resources. They will form ad hoc gangs of perhaps 6 to 30 people.
Once the Golden Horde has been thinned (and honed to ferocity) and
they've cleaned out an area, the thugs at the pinnacle of ruthlessness
will comprise the most formidable rover packs imaginable. They will
move on to an adjoining region, and then another. But the inverse
square law will work in your favor: Imagine that you take a jar of
marbles turn it upside down on a wooden floor and then lift the jar
suddenly upward. The marbles will spread out semi-randomly. But the
farther from the mouth of the jar, the lighter the density of marbles.
Hence, the rover packs will attenuate themselves into a huge rural
expanse that is peopled with well-armed country folks. By the time the
looters work their way out 150 miles from the big cities, they will be
thinned out considerably. The rover pack is your primary threat in a
total collapse, no matter how remote your retreat. Here are your
potential adversaries: A squad to company size force (12 to 60
individuals), highly mobile, moderately well armed with a motley
assortment of weapons and vehicles, and imbued with absolute
ruthlessness. Be prepared.
Lies-to-Children, or the Truth of Overshoot?
PeakToil Blues, or Preparing and Sharing?
By Geoff Moxham.
My son, Chimie, and I share the same compulsion of reading the world’s funniest magical fantasy writer, Terry Pratchett, so I have more than 30 of Pratchett’s books, from The Colour of Magic to Wintersmith, distorting time and space under my desk, all of them masterpieces. Pratchett collaborated recently with a mathematician and a scientist, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, to write the three Science of Discworld books. Like licorice allsorts, alternate chapters change authors. They are half “narrativium” on the magic of Discworld, by Pratchett, and half the utter googleplex of ideas of our modern science of roundworld. The two have almost converged. Apart from being alternately hilarious and then utterly challenging, a common theme they developed was the idea of lies-to-children, those short answers to stop the questions…. “It’s a rabbit-proof fence.”
The Plan A world, especially TV, runs on lies-to-children. They are as obvious as politicians and popes, as crafted and savage as the mainstream hidden curriculum, and as subtle as stowaways oft overlooked, like: “heat rises” (it radiates omni directionally). And the Plan A world is in overshoot.
An avalanche of stressors is pouring down on the planet. The truth of overshoot is everywhere. Globally, humans have finally sat up and taken notice of what's been happening, but as Kunstler says they’re still just sleepwalking into the Long Emergency. A Wile E Coyote nation, wheel spinning on thin air.
No one wants reality checks. Oprah style wish-fulfilling fantasyland and jiminy cricket last minute techno-saves rule. Business as usual. Science will save us, but don’t mention our waistlines.
Kubler-Ross would say that’s the bargaining stage of the grief process, because probably for the first time, en masse, in history, humanity is aware of what it has done. Many extinct species have already noted these limits to growth, long before this awakening in the so-called sapient ape.
The deeply nasty truths have been religiously avoided by the media as bad for business but now, after decades of vomitous media celebrity distractions, and sport, the opiate of the masses, as well as countless greenwashes and downright dedicated deception, Rupert has his epiphany, and with the scent of money attached, the idea spreads and we are treated to a world media reality check, now an evolving world meme.
But what is the new meme’s title? Gawd, the choice of catchy labels is endless, led for years by the informed Internet, and the real-time conversations that keep happening as a result. Robert Theobold would be smiling.
I have included in my title the ironic PeakToil, because that's what I believe we're in for. We eat oil. Pfeiffer’s “Eating Fossil Fuels” states an American’s food for a day would take 3 weeks human labour to produce. Australia’s just a clone. Alan Roberts calculates 300 fossil servants behind the scene, per person, are what the oil feast gives us. Gave us.
It took a while for the “American Tapeworm” (Catherine Fitts) to realise the mid-east fields would have to be sucked dry, and to arrange to do that…but now they've peaked, on cue with the Hubbert linearisation for the world's fields. So the tapeworm is dying. There's no one left to invade for Murrika's oil, maybe… and all of Alaska’s oil, if it could be got, in time, is just 3 year’s supply, Peakcoal looks like being in just 15 years now, peakphosphate in 3 years, peakwater is here now, peakwheat is in the past.
Peak chaos might get us first. The brilliant Richard Heinberg, once an outlier, now called by Kerry O’Brien a world expert on peakoil, has a new book with the unsurprising title: Peak Everything.
Yes, it’s all too much. Dmitri Orlov’s brilliant “Collapse and it’s Discontents”, Runningonemptyoz, theoildrum, energybulletin (!), worldchanging, informationclearinghouse, Kunstler’s stunning weekly humour at his own culture’s "train wreck”, Jevon’s paradox, Chefurka’s amazing “Where the Oil Went”, clathrate extinction, cultural anosognosia. Who can you share all this with? It’s a conversation killer.
And those baby boomers having their second Saturn return... have you noticed the similarity of this cycle to the late 70's oil shocks? Your first Saturn return. When the US oilfields peaked just as Hubbert predicted? And are you having trouble with the subject being a conversation stopper? Been labeled a doomer? The wife asked you not to mention it again? Even she can’t stand it: Yes. Give me lies-to-children.
Where do you go then?
Why, peakoilblues.com, where psychologist Kathy McMahon, Psy.D, an adjunct professor, a clinical psychologist, certified sex therapist, trainer, and a newbie chicken farmer in Massachusetts, gives really quite enlightened advice on keeping on dancing. Kathy’s had her peakmoment, and her advice includes simply not talking about it except to the 10% who want to. Otherwise make “I” statements about your feelings… “I’m terrified that 9 out 10 people choose blissful ignorance”? No?
But with the10% who grok it, share everything you can. Preparing and Sharing. This keeps you sane. This is the only future currency.
So what about money? Kohler and Gottliebsen agree. “The pin has been pulled”: it’s Apocalypse Bank. So get rid of it steadily, sensibly... convert it to quality REAL items you love and can use for decades… in your Plan B. Cookers, grinders, stills, tools, orchards, seeds, horses, bikes, books, instruments, medical equipment, lots of forever stainless, and why not a carbon fibre axe, good for 200 years…for the 7th generation?? Have fun. And don’t be in debt. Ha. Easy.
According to Bloomberg News: "Investors worldwide are betting more than $1 trillion on a collapse in stock prices". And they wont even admit the tapeworm is out of fat. Commentators like UK Telegraph’s Evans-Pritchard think that while "the Global Economy is at the point of maximum danger… a dollar crash will be averted as it becomes clearer that the contagion has spread worldwide.” Great. So small pockets of non-fossilised sanity might prevail, preparing and sharing?
Perhaps occasionally contemplating a plan C is wise then, considering less conservative views, like Mike Whitney’s July 26 2008 commentary: "Maximum danger, indeed. Stock market mayhem is just around the corner. Visualize the Dow at 6,000 and then hang on for dear life. The indexes will tumble and Wall Street will be reduced to Dresden-type rubble, nothing left but toxic fumes and twisted iron. By the end of 2009, the last few bulls will be driven out of the exchanges and onto the streets, where they'll be slaughtered one by one. It won't be pretty… The lines from the shelters, pawn shops and soup kitchens may stretch from the Golden Gate to the Statue of Liberty…America's financial media is an never-ending source of baseless optimism and hogwash…but now… live-footage is already appearing on other media of fully-armed LA policemen being dispatched to the various Indy Mac locations. Their task was to remind the gathering of elderly "blue-hair" women and middle-aged white guys in Tommy Bahama T-shirts that any public display of outrage would be swiftly met with Rodney King-style justice.“
Or maybe Al Gore will be Vice president and we’ll all get to live like him and President Oprah… sustainably of course… like them. Would you like lies with that?
Everything mentioned is current. Google what you like. Cheers.
Mining by hand: a Million kilowatt hours
. Re: Australian "4 Corners" Renewable Energy TV program.
Posted by: "Brian A Bucktin" firstname.lastname@example.org bbucktin
Date: Tue Apr 17, 2007 2:05 pm ((PDT))
Yep, if you are referring to an “alternative energy” source; I assume you
are but you didn’t write that. And I am not trying to be a smart arse, just
thought I clarify that. But it must be more than 1:1, because as we all know
1:1 will only generate enough energy to reproduce its self and not provide
enough energy for other uses.
The following is only an opinion but I think it is worth consideration……
When I see an actual demonstration of a wind turbine, a solar device a
geothermal energy source, a wave or tidal power device or a combination of
them all, “actually”, not “theoretically”, supplying “all” of the energy to
recreate its/them selves from the bottom up (including the other stuff Dave
K has pointed out previously). I can’t recall them all but they do include
stuff like the mining of the materials needed to create the plant that
produces it plus the advertising, marketing, accounting, etc. etc. then I’ll
be convinced. Of course the rehab of all of the eco-disruption caused during
and at the end of the life of any activity associated with the device
construction, maintenance and dismantling must also be included if we are
talking about sustainability. I am. Have any alternative energy projects and
their down/up stream facilities (mines, etc.) been dismantled and
rehabilitated yet? Nukes haven’t AFAIK.
I have little faith in the SBBM and it’s ability to present a concept
(especially if it has a vested fiscal or egotistical interest) with complete
honesty. Of course my most recent experience with some effing “so called”
plumbers may help reinforce my poor opinion of my fellow SBBMs honesty. It
is deteriorating IMO.
And as I have said in earlier posts that have been ignored; if there was a
“demonstrative” not “theoretical” positive EROEI for any of the alternative
energy sources, I am sure the ad men would grasp this opportunity to make
EROEI a very loud benchmark, an acronym on every ones lips, when comparing
various alternative energy sources. These blokes wouldn’t miss such an
opportunity. Don’t the alternative energy suppliers/proponents have ad men?
Is there no money to be made in being able to demonstrate that one
particular technology has it over another; being the top of the wozza in
alternative energy so to speak?
And I agree that scalability is something that certainly needs some
discussion, as does the extra infrastructure to distribute the new
“electrical only” energy as Mike wrote. Alternative energy on a large (grid)
scale will be needed if the devices/plants are to be able to have the
slightest chance at reproducing themselves sustainably (unlikely, as I said,
IMO). Little “back yard” jobbies will be beaut but they won’t be able to
reproduce themselves for obvious reasons.
In another post Mike mentioned the exercise he went through in demonstrating
the enormity of cost of solar/hydrogen power to substitute for distillate at
the Rio Tinto, Paraburdoo iron ore operation. Me mate used to be a foreman
up there. It is below. Dunno if the same figures still apply. It was a
couple of years back. I thought it would be worth re presenting here.
Bucko (the super skeptic)
The Rio calculations:
Me mate’s data:
* 2 Letourneau 1850 Loaders that use around 5000 litres of diesel per day at
* 2 O&K 200 shovels that use 7000 litres per day.
* 2 Hitachi excavators that use around 7000 litres per day.
* 1 Letourneau 1350 loader that uses 3600 litres per day.
These are the dig units let alone the 17 trucks that use on average 2800
litres per day plus the 3 D11 dozers, 3 wheelie dozers, 3 graders and 3
water trucks which I didn't ask about.
As you say Bucko it's a fair amount of fuel to replace.
Hmmmmm..... adds up to 100,000L/day. Bloody hell! That's a shitload of fuel!
OK, there's about 10kWhrs in a L of fuel, so 100,000L = 1,000,000 kWhrs.
To generate that in 6 hrs of daylight, 1,000,000kWhrs/6hrs = 167,000kW
Now, because the H2 making system + fuel cell efficiency is only about 55%,
you actually need 260,000kW
At 12% efficiency (120W/m2, or 0.12kW/m2) such an array would cover
260,000/0.12 = 2,170,000m2 or slightly more than 2 km2. I'm sure they could
find that land at the mine site.
Solar cells cost about $8/W (rising we were told recently), so 260,000kW
would cost about $2,000,000,000. Peanuts!
That doesn't include the cost of the H2 facility, balance of system
installation, fuel cells, etc etc.
What I want to know is, in a post peak oil short era, how do you make all
the panels, and how do you replace the machines when they eventually wear
out, and at what cost?
1,000,000 kWhrs, BTW, were it to be replaced by human power looks like this:
Assuming 'round the clock shifts, 1,000,000 kWhrs/24hrs = 42,000kW (that's
Assuming the standard 'fit man' 100W (0.1kW) slavery deal, then to produce
that amount of human energy would require 42,000kW/0.1kW = 420,000 people
working non stop!
Now, if you pay them $20/hr, then that cost is
42,000 x 24 x $20 = $20,000,000+ !!!!!!!!!! PER DAY!
Now, doesn't THAT put into perspective just how cheap FFs are. If the
current 100,000L of fuel they currently use costs $1.30/L, then their energy
cost is a mere $130,000/day.
300 “fossil-servants” per person
In the not so distant past, when real aristocrats had real servants, every task had a ‘one-person-power’ behind it. Let's say a lord and lady have 300 servants and 40 horses*, running the castle quietly behind the scenes, keeping up appearances…
Nowadays every man and woman is a star, and wants to live like an aristocrat. They have their own brick-venereal-equivalent castle, and 40 horses, under their very personal bonnet. Not only that, the whole office staff sleeps on their desktop every night!
Today more than 300 fossil-slaves behind the scenes do the hidden work.
All of our fossil-fuelled world consumes a staggering 430 Exajoules (10^18J) of energy a year. (BP statistical review). This 430 EJ/y is made up from all the coal, gas and liquid fuels used in power stations, industrial production, agriculture and transport.
If we take an Australian’s share (appropriation) of the world’s 430EJ/y, we are each continuously using 7.7 kW of energy, supplied as the background support fuels for the entire infrastructure of life, everything we create and power-up, as our share of a world culture.
For human-equivalent ‘slaves’ to be this productive, at 75 watts continuously, we would need 103 slaves. However, this would be 309 human-equivalent ‘servants’, with 8-hour shifts, working continuously at 75 watts. (obviously on AWAs),
To get some idea of the work in 75 watts, this is like lifting a 15Kg weight 1 metre, let’s say a child onto a bench, every 2 seconds. Continuously for 8 hours, this is very hard work indeed.
As oil and gas declines, which one of these hidden servants are we going to give up? If the moat was filled, and the drawbridge raised very quickly, like in Cuba’s oil embargo, how many of the jobs are you going to be able to do? And do you have a horse yet?
(* A horse can put out 600watts continuous, and requires 1hectare of fodder /year)
Concept and calculations by Alan Roberts.
Words by Geoff Moxham ver3 Aug 2007
Powerdown Revisited, as the world burns
Posted by: "Dave Kimble" email@example.com mbemg
Date: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:16 pm ((PDT))
That's a pretty thorough summary.
The only things I could add are that
the sub-prime meltdown still has a long way to go,
the credit card bubble is based on unsecured loans - which are all technically sub-prime,
the share market bubble is founded on loans secured by the value of the shares themselves
at leverage levels that cannot sustain a shock like 1987.
The US Federal Reserve's recent interest rate cut has shown that
rather than letting the market take its unpleasant medicine,
it is prepared to bail them out, despite this being certain to ignite hyperinflation
and a collapsing US Dollar.
The unwinding of this is going to be truly monumental.
----- Original Message -----
From: Rob Windt
Sent: Sunday, October 14, 2007 9:49 PM
Subject: [roeoz] Powerdown Revisited
by Richard Heinberg
In my book Powerdown: Options and actions for a Post Carbon World, I
outlined four scenarios for the oil-constrained future:
Last One Standing (a fascistic battle for the world's remaining
Powerdown (government-led radical proactive conversion to energy
Waiting for the Magic Elixir (denial of the problem until it's too
late for proactive responses), and
Building Lifeboats (small communities coming together to build a
survivable, sustainable future for themselves and, ultimately, for the
rest of humanity).
I closed the book by suggesting that, while the current trajectory is
toward the first and third options, we should work on the second and
fourth because these offer the greatest hope.
After a few years of further thought, it seems to me that my
description of these options could stand some modification. I would
now say that our future options consist of three broad scenarios.
Before outlining these, it seems important to review the circumstances
that will shape them. Because of the impending peaks in the global
extraction rates for oil, gas, and coal, the future almost certainly
holds less available energy, in total and especially per capita. That
in turn means that society will be less mobile. Coal and gas declines
will produce widespread and enduring electrical grid outages. Energy
constraints coupled with water scarcity and topsoil depletion also
ensure higher food prices and likely widespread food shortages.
Because powered machines will lack fuel, there will be substantially
more need for human labor in agricultural production, as well as in
the energy-efficient retrofitting of existing buildings and urban
infrastructure. At the same time, there will be need for massive
relocation of people away from areas where temporarily increased
carrying capacity, established by cheap fuels, has vanished (think Los
Angeles or Phoenix, or the massive squatter settlements on the
outskirts of any number of huge cities in the global South): somehow,
many of these people must move, or be moved, to where they can be near
soil and water. As if all of that weren't enough, we also face
environmental catastrophe from climate chaos and loss of biodiversity.
All of these necessities and trends will pose enormous challenges to
every organized society. How to deal with them?
Here are the three scenarios that I see as most likely.
1. Feudal fascism. This is basically similar to the Last One Standing
option in Powerdown, though now I would frame it somewhat differently.
A strong central government will organize work - though not in a way
that many people will enjoy. Think agricultural work camps and
slave-labor factories. The main selling point for the Fascist option
(sorry for the word fascism, but while it's loaded with historical
baggage it's also handy, familiar, and probably fairly accurate) would
be the maintenance of order in a time of increasing social
disintegration. If you were a member of an upper middle- class family
clinging to its home, with a bit of gold or cash put aside and a few
cans of food in the larder, wouldn't you fear marauding gangs going
door-to-door stealing food and money? Wouldn't you welcome police
patrols - even if they had a shoot-to-kill policy and about as much
self-restraint as a Blackwater contractor in Baghdad? For the truly
wealthy as well, protection of property would provide a powerful
motive to support the repressive apparatus of state power - which, to
be efficacious, would need to be both brutal and omnipresent: troops
on street corners; total surveillance; torture and summary executions
for dissidents. Forget freedoms of expression or assembly. Naomi
Klein's book Shock Doctrine describes how the groundwork for feudal
fascism is already being laid via disasters like Katrina, which open
the way for massive privatization and the shredding of civil
liberties. The disaster ahead will be on a far greater scale, offering
the ultimate opportunity for that doctrine's fullscale implementation.
However, several decades down the line, energy shortages will grow so
severe that it may become impossible to sustain centralized fascistic
governmental authority over a continent-scale geographic area. At that
point, fascistic national governments might break down into feudal
regionalism featuring local warlords presiding over post-industrial
I won't bother to point out the drawbacks of pursuing this scenario; I
trust these speak for themselves.
2. The Eco Deal. Economist Susan George calls this option
"Environmental Keynesianism" (see her essay at
http://www.globalnetwork4justice.org/story.php?c_id=313). For a
snapshot image, think of the 1930s New Deal revisited in the context
of global ecological crisis.
Like Feudal Fascism, this scenario assumes a strong central
government. But in this case, government applies itself to the
transformation of societal infrastructure using an inclusive strategy
that entails economic re-distribution and the fostering of a culture
of democracy. In the New Deal, government created work programs and
rebuilt infrastructure; there were even some interesting experiments
(on the part of Arthur Morgan, when he worked for Roosevelt as head of
the Tennessee Valley Authority) in the creation of self-sufficient
small communities. Similarly, governments implement ing an Eco-Deal
might create the financial capital with which to build electric
streetcar systems in every city of 100,000 or more; super-insulate
millions of homes and commercial buildings and provide them with
geothermal heating; and reorganize agriculture on small-scale, organic
model - creating millions of jobs along the way.
This dramatic change in national priorities will require the provision
of public information. Currently, the commercial media promote
consumerism; instead, a conserver message will be needed, motivating
one and all to work together for the common good. There is a historic
precedent here as well: in the New Deal and World War II, Hollywood
and the advertisers pitched in (to some degree anyway) in the national
effort, galvanizing the masses for collective effort.
In this case as well, when shortages deepen the maintenance of a
central national authority will become more difficult; but here - if
authorities have attempted to seed a culture of democracy (again as in
the 1930s) - the nation organized around a centralized state might
break down into some form of decentralized bioregionalism.
3. Bottoms Up. There is a strong likelihood that, at least in some
nations or regions, strong central government will not survive the end
of cheap energy - especially if electrical grids fail. In that case,
neither the Feudal Fascist nor the Eco-Deal strategy would play out;
instead, localities would be on their own. Local governments and
citizen groups would have the task of maintaining order and flows of
basic necessities. When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in
2005, locals had a foretaste of this: it was mostly up to ad-hoc
citizen groups and what was left of city government to rescue stranded
families and deal with thousands of emergencies throughout the area.
Yet that disaster occurred in the world's wealthiest nation, which
maintained elaborately equipped disaster-relief agencies. Imagine a
hundred Katrina-scale local disasters occurring intermittently in the
context of an international economic crisis and protracted regional
grid failures. What chance would there be, then, of a successful
large-scale response effort?
There are those who will find the bottoms-up strategy appealing even
in the absence of necessity - anarchists, libertarians, and other
advocates of localism and opponents of state power. Here would be an
opportunity to escape the oppressive, corrupt domination of the many
by the few that has characterized every state, indeed every
civilization, since the Pyramid Age. As societies come to have less
energy available for transportation and communication, they are bound
to decentralize anyway eventually; why not proceed directly to
localism and bypass both of the big-government solutions outlined
above, which are destined to fail eventually in any case?
The central challenge of the bottoms-up approach is that communities
are ill equipped to provide even the most basic services (food, water,
power, security) to their citizens absent a working nexus of complexly
interconnected regional or national support systems. Even a century
ago, communities were much more self-sufficient. Today, few cities in
the industrialized world produce much in the way of food, clothing, or
other necessities: hospitals depend on the constant delivery of
medicines and a wide range of other supplies; grocery stores are
continually restocked with food from hundreds or thousands of miles
away; even water and electrical power may arrive by aqueducts and
long-distance transmission lines. A temporary interruption of these
services would certainly be survivable, but a town or city cut
permanently adrift would quickly devolve into chaos. In that case,
reorganization of society from the grassroots up would take time;
meanwhile, an immense human tragedy would ensue.
Thus it would be unwise to give up prematurely on efforts at the
national and international levels, even if the long-term goal is a
society organized according to bioregional principles. Every nation
has its own likely trajectory with regard to these scenario-options.
Some countries may initially respond to scarcity with a law-and-order
clampdown that seeks to preserve existing power relations at all
costs; then, as it becomes clear that there isn't enough social
support or resource availability to maintain a massive machine of
repression, the latter could give way to a Bottoms-up scenario or
perhaps even a brief episode of Let's Make an Eco-Deal. Other
countries may start with all the best Keynesian intentions, only to
see the unfolding of scarcity so dire that it leads to social unrest
that can seemingly only be quelled by heavy-handed authoritarianism.
In the US, China, and Russia, authoritarian solutions appear to be the
default responses for the moment. This makes international conflict
more likely in the years immediately ahead.
So: Where shall we focus our efforts? As I suggested in Powerdown,
there is important work to be done at all levels of social organization.
Individuals and families should take to heart the advice given prior
to every commercial airline flight: "Secure your oxygen mask before
helping others." In other words, see to your own survival prospects
first. This is not necessarily selfish behavior: communities and
nations in which individual members are prepared and relatively
self-sufficient will fare much better than those in which everyone is
dependent and unequipped. If no one is prepared, who can teach others
what to do? Learn the life-skills of the pre-fossil-fuel era; know how
to use and repair hand tools; know where your water comes from and how
to compost wastes; grow food.
Communities must begin now to redevelop their local support
infrastructure - especially local food systems. City officers should
be thinking about how to sustain emergency services, water delivery
and wastewater treatment, and communications, given a prolonged
scarcity or absence of fuel and electricity. Plans should be under way
for the dramatic expansion of public transit services. Individuals can
help jump-start all such efforts by speaking to elected and appointed
officials, by volunteering for relevant community service work, and
also simply by getting to know their neighbors.
National leaders must begin to take seriously the enormous challenges
ahead, and to think through the options available. They must quickly
come to realize that any effort to follow economic plans based on
projecting into the future past rates of growth in energy consumption
will lead to systemic failure. Only a dramatic, rapid, systematic
reorganization of the economy to function with declining rates of
energy flow can avert breakdown. Careful thought must be given to the
dire implications of fascistic solutions to the emerging energy
crisis, so that those solutions are not implemented as a knee-jerk
response to societal stress. Nations must initiate efforts to forge
cooperative strategies toward sustainable interdependence (such as the
Oil Depletion Protocol) rather than geopolitical resource competition.
Individuals can help foster these developments by educating elected
officials and by actively opposing militaristic and fascistic measures.
Is there realistic hope for a broad-scale, peaceful Eco-Deal? While
many current world trends bode ill, there is no justification for
giving up and assuming the worst outcome. Even if some nations such as
the US endure overtly fascistic regimes, the enormous societal
pressures brought on by energy scarcity may fairly quickly undermine
those regimes and open the way for more inclusive solution, which in
the case of the US will draw on a deep historic resonance with the
nation's experience during the 1930s.
In any case, two things are absolutely clear: business as usual is not
one of the options; and the more we do now to prepare at every level,
the better off we all will be.
As the World Burns
September is an equinoctial month - a time of momentary balance,
instability, and change. Day and night are of equal length; however,
the rate of change in the relative lengths of day and night is at its
It's been an unusually busy and stressful month for me personally.
Leonardo Dicaprio's enviro-doc "11th Hour" hit the theaters, featuring
yours truly on-screen for a few seconds (though the producer and
director decided against including a mention of Peak Oil). Early in
September I gave a presentation at the UN at the behest of two organic
agriculture organizations (the Soil Association of Britain and the
Shumei Foundation of Japan). On Thursday the 13th, a CNN Money
reporter called wanting information about Peak Oil; his story appeared
the next day. The very first copies of my new book, Peak Everything,
shipped during the last week of the month. A few days ago a Korean TV
crew stopped by and filmed me at home for a three-part documentary to
air in November. And a family emergency (aging parent) sent me off to
the Midwest for a week. As the saying goes, there's no rest for the
The month was no less eventful for the rest of the world - though of
course the scale of significance of the following items is
approximately 6.7 billion times greater than for the preceding ones.
Maybe the best place to start is with a general comment. It's getting
pretty damn obvious that the world is sliding head-first into the
abyss at an accelerating rate, with most Americans as oblivious as
ever. The latest indication of impending doom is a festering credit
crunch brought on by the inevitable puncturing of a bubble puffed up
over the past few years through the issuance of thousands of patently
idiotic subprime, adjustable-rate, and interest-only mortgage loans.
The deeper story is that this is just the last of a series of bubbles
that the US Federal Reserve has inflated in order to sustain for as
long as was humanly possible a fundamentally unsound national
As I explained in Chapter 2 of The Party's Over, the US got rich
exploiting its own resources and labor. Its most valuable resource -
oil - went into decline forty years ago; since then, we Americans have
tried to stay rich by exploiting other nations' labor and resources,
using leveraged trade rules, dollar hegemony, and military threats.
All this time, we congratulated ourselves: we were living in a
post-industrial information economy; they were doing the dreary,
obsolete work of actually making things. They sweated and saved; it
was up to us to spend and borrow. We served an indispensable function
in the global economy as the consumer of last resort, as the engine of
new debt creation (more debt equals more money in circulation - i.e.,
more GDP growth), and as the global cop keeping order in an unruly
world (while also sneaking donuts and taking bribes). The Chinese
burned their coal and poisoned their workers and environment to make
our stuff, enabling us to enjoy a cleaner environment by keeping our
coal in the ground, while they loaned us the money to buy cheap
Chinese stuff with. Such a deal!
Life in bubble world was grand while it lasted. First there was the
Third World debt bubble of the '80s; then came the tech bubbles of the
'90s; and finally the real estate bubble of the '00s. Along the way,
Wall Street hoped for a little extra hot air from the privatization of
Social Security, but even Americans weren't stupid enough to sign onto
that particular leveraged buyout. All during this time, suburbanites
got used to having more gadgets and bigger cars and houses, even if
they couldn't actually afford them.
But now we're at the end of the line. At last the rest of the world is
coming to realize that it doesn't really need Americans: the Chinese
can consume, too, after all. And the Asians can't really justify
loaning us more money; we're not going to pay it back - or if we do,
it will be in devalued dollars. But those loans can also be looked at
as investments: other nations have in effect bought US assets, which
means that the wealth created from those assets will flow to the new
overseas owners, not to Americans. What's left to buy - other than a
lot of soon-to-be-foreclosed real estate? And how much wealth will
those assets produce once the bubble deflates?
It's also clear now that there are alternatives to the dollar,
including the euro, the yen, and the yuan. Not that the dollar won't
be missed; when it tanks, there will be as many financial casualties
in Mumbai as Manhattan. But currency traders are clearly heading for
the exits, and the last one out gets the booby prize - a bag of wooden
Yes, the rest of the world still must fear America's awesome weapons
of mass destruction: this mighty nation can certainly create an unholy
mess when it means to, as it is demonstrating in Mesopotamia. But that
doesn't mean that other nations actually have to obey it any more. The
US can bomb to smithereens any country it chooses, but it can't always
count on forcing that country to hand over its resources at gunpoint.
The dollar is hitting record lows. Gold and silver are hot commodities
- always a bad sign for the reigning paper currency. There are rumors
of possible bank failures (following a run on one British bank). If
the Federal Reserve tries to solve the liquidity crisis by lowering
interest rates, that just worsens inflation and exacerbates the
dollar's problems. If the Fed raises rates to prop up the dollar, that
forces the banks and hedge funds to confront their mountains of
worthless paper and leads ultimately to defaults, bank runs, and bank
failures. Clearly the Fed fears the latter scenario more than the
former, so by lowering interest rates this month it effectively pulled
the plug on the dollar. The Saudis are now preparing to de-link their
economy from the US currency, while China is quietly selling off
dollar-denominated assets. One way or another, Americans are going to
soon see a rapid decline in their real standard of living.
Of course, another big event this month was oil's nose-bleed ascent to
record-high prices, over $82US per barrel. Part of the price hike
resulted from the dollar's weakness, but - as Goldman Sachs has
pointed out - the main reason was simply that demand is up while
supply is down. The May 2005 peak for the rate of production of
regular crude and the July 2006 peak for all liquids are still
holding. It may be that the technical maximum global rate of flow for
liquid fuels is still a couple of years away, but in effect the peak
is here now.
As for Iran, "all options" are still on the table, and the pretext for
a broad-scale air attack is apparently being patiently laid. Bush has
vowed that he will not leave office with the Iran question unresolved,
and France's new neocon leaders are running defense for Bush/Cheney,
calling for "the most severe sanctions possible" and for war if those
"don't work." Meanwhile, when Tehran actually complies with the
International Atomic Energy Agency's requests, this is viewed as a
provocation. This month, Newsweek revealed that Vice President Dick
Cheney at one point considered asking Israel to launch air strikes on
an Iranian nuclear site, so as to provoke Iran to lash out, thus
giving Washington a pretext for more extensive attacks (a scenario I
discussed in MuseLetter for April 2007, "Iran: We Will Know Soon").
Iranian President Ahmedinejad's appearances in New York (at the UN and
Columbia University) seemed only to give the US media an opportunity
to whip up further anti-Iranian public sentiment, while the Senate's
passage of the Lieberman-Kyl amendment (which Hilary Clinton
supported) provided a stamp of approval for any future military
actions by the current administration.
But surely the single most important event of the month was the
revelation that arctic sea ice is melting faster than even the most
dire forecasts had predicted. This is significant because it shows the
power of reinforcing feedback loops: as sunlight-reflecting ice melts,
it leaves dark water in its place - which absorbs more heat, causing
more ice to melt, and so on. This year's minimum extent of ice was
about one million square miles (as of September 16); the previous
record low was 1.5 million in 2005. The rate of melting this year was
10 times the recent annual average. This month the Northwest Passage
was ice-free for the first time in untold millennia. At this rate, the
north polar region could be ice-free in summer by 2015.
Altogether, it was an extraordinary 30 days. Yet so far there's been
no instantaneous economic implosion, and there's not much blood in the
streets (except perhaps in Myanmar), and so the mainstream media can
safely focus on the truly vital issues like O.J. Simpson's current
legal scrapes and Britney Spears's performance at the MTV awards.
Many writers who discuss the sort of stuff that interests me
("reality" I think it's called) wrap the unutterable sadness of it all
in a crisp cellophane of cynicism. I'm guilty of that, too, from time
to time - certainly in this little monthly summary. How else to make
it somehow bearable?
Addendum: The latter brief essay is gloomier than my usual writing,
and one early reader inquired whether I am personally okay. I suspect
that the tone of the piece results partly from the stresses of recent
travels and from an intense period spent caring for a declining
parent. While clearly I was in a venting mood when I wrote these
words, it was not my intention to communicate hopelessness. On the
other hand, I refuse to be required always to play the role of
cheerleader: it is important to identify solutions, but it is also
occasionally essential to point out where we are collectively in our
species journey, even when the facts call forth uncomfortable emotions.
In Britain, where bee diversity has fallen and hoverflies have held steady, wildflowers that require insects for pollination have declined by 70 percent. Wind-pollinated and self-pollinated plants, on the other hand, have held constant or increased.
In the Netherlands, where bee diversity has fallen but hoverfly diversity has increased, there has been a decline in plants that specifically require bees for pollination but not in plants that make use of other insect pollinators.
The findings, according to Biesmeijer, suggest that the decline in bee and plant diversity is linked.
"We don't know whether it's from the plants declining first and then the bees, or whether the bees [decline], then the plants, or whether it's all part of a vicious cycle of extinction," he said.
The scientists hope further studies will determine the ultimate cause of the declines.
Researchers suspect a combination of habitat loss, pesticide use, and over-enrichment of water bodies with nutrients, often from fertilizers and sewage.
"Whatever the cause, the study provides a worrying suggestion that declines in some species may trigger a cascade of local extinctions amongst other associated species," Biesmeijer said in a media statement.
Paul Cherfurka's: Where The Oil Went
3. Iraq war motive: to mask Saudi production decline with Iraqi oil?
Posted by: "Alex Pollard" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:03 am ((PDT))
A very interesting theory.
Peak Oil, Missing Oil Meters and an Inactive Pipeline:
The Real Reason for the Invasion of Iraq?
In this article I will present research that supports a rather startling
hypothesis: that the USA invaded Iraq primarily to enable the secret
diversion of a portion of Iraq’s oil production to Saudi Arabia. This was
done in order to disguise the fact that Saudi Arabia’s oil output has
peaked, and may be in permanent decline. The evidence for this conclusion
is circumstantial, but it does knit up many of the loose threads in the
mystery of the American administration’s motivation for invasion.
To lay the groundwork we need to set out a couple of assumptions.
The primary assumption is that the world’s oil production has been on a
plateau for the last two years, and in fact we may be teetering on the brink
of the production decline predicted by the Peak Oil theory. Such a decline
could be dangerous to the world economy, both directly through the loss of
economic capacity and indirectly (and perhaps more importantly) through the
loss of investor confidence in the global economic structure.
The second assumption is that the oil production of Saudi Arabia is key to
maintaining the global oil supply. Saudi Arabia supplies over 10% of the
world’s crude oil, with over half of that coming from one enormous field
named Ghawar. There is a large and well-informed body of opinion that
believes that if Saudi oil production goes into decline the world will
follow because there is not the spare capacity anywhere else to make up for
such a decline. Saudi Arabia is notoriously tight-lipped about the state of
their oil fields, and in fact oil production information is considered to be
a state secret. The only trustworthy information the world really has about
Saudi Arabia’s oil are their aggregated production figures.
The conclusion that can be drawn from these two assumptions is that if Saudi
Arabia’s production began to decline and the world found out about it, there
would be a significant risk of a world-wide economic panic that would
destabilize markets and throw nations like the USA into a recession or
depression that would be worse than the actual damage done by the loss of
the oil. We can assume that the prevention or postponement of such a crisis
would be an extremely high priority for the administrations of both the USA
and Saudi Arabia.
Cheney’s Energy Task Force Meetings
These meetings have long been a bone of contention with the Bush
administration. They have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the subject
of the meetings absolutely secret. These efforts are documented by such
sources as http://www.projectcensored.org/publications/2005/8.html and
We do know the following:
* The task force was created in the second week of the Bush
administration to develop national energy policies. They met early in 2001
(well before September 11) to draft policy and develop plans.
* Task force meetings were attended by executives of Exxon-Mobil Corp.,
Conoco, Royal Dutch Shell Oil Corp., and the American subsidiary of British
* Among the meager product that has been made public are maps of Iraqi
and Saudi Arabian oil fields and pipelines. On both these maps there is a
pipeline called IPSA (the Iraq Petroleum Saudi Arabia pipeline) that is
marked “closed”. The maps are available at
The Iraqi Oil Ministry
It is well known that the Iraqi Oil Ministry was the only major government
installation guarded by American troops following the fall of Baghdad.
Indeed it was guarded extremely well: according to an April, 2003 news story
Since US forces rolled into central Baghdad a week ago, one of the sole
public buildings untouched by looters has been Iraq's massive oil ministry,
which is under round-the-clock surveillance by troops.
The imposing building in the Al-Mustarisiya quarter is guarded by around 50
US tanks which block every entrance, while sharpshooters are positioned on
the roof and in the windows.
The curious onlooker is clearly unwelcome. Any motorist who drifts within a
few metres of the main entrance is told to leave immediately.
Baghdad residents have complained that US troops should do more to protect
against the looters, most of them Shi'ite Muslims repressed by Saddam
Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime who live in the vast slum known as Saddam
City on the northern outskirts.
But while museums, banks, hotels and libraries have been ransacked, the oil
ministry remains secure.
The ostensible reason for this extraordinary focus was to protect Iraq’s
primary asset. Indeed an American captain is quoted in the article as
saying, "Anyone who says we're protecting this ministry to steal Iraqi oil
doesn't know what's really going on in this country."
The Mystery of the Oil Meters
On March 22, 2007, CorpWatch published an article entitled “Mystery of the
Missing Meters: Accounting for Iraq's Oil Revenue”
(http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=14427). In it they make the
* At the oil terminals of Al Basra (ABOT) and Khawr al Amaya (KAAOT),
“smugglers are suspected to be diverting an estimated billions of dollars
worth of crude onto tankers because the oil metering system that is supposed
monitor how much crude flows into and out of ABOT and KAAOT - has not worked
since the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.”
* Officials blame the four-year delay in repairing the relatively simple
system on "security problems." Others point to the failed efforts of the two
U.S. companies hired to repair the southern oil fields, fix the two
terminals, and the meters: Halliburton of Houston, Texas, and Parsons of
* Rumors are rife among suspicious Iraqis about the failure to measure
the oil flow. "Iraq is the victim of the biggest robbery of its oil
production in modern history," blazed a March 2006 headline in Azzaman,
Iraq's most widely read newspaper. A May 2006 study of oil production and
export figures by Platt's Oilgram News, an industry magazine, showed that up
to $3 billion a year is unaccounted for.
* The kinds of meters they were supposed to repair or replace at ABOT
are commonly found at hundreds of similar sites around the world. Because
they are custom-built, shipped, then assembled and calibrated on site, the
process can take up to a year. But the probelm has persisted for four years.
* After the 2003 invasion, the meters appear to have been turned off and
there have since been no reliable estimates of how much crude has been
shipped from the southern oil fields.
* "I would say probably between 200,000 and 500,000 barrels a day is
probably unaccounted for in Iraq," Mikel Morris, who worked for the Iraq
Reconstruction Management Organization (IRMO) at the U.S. embassy in
Baghdad, told KTVT, a Texas television station.
Now we’ll look at that pipeline on those Energy Task force maps.
The Iraq Petroleum Saudi Arabia (IPSA) pipeline was built during the
Iran-Iraq war to circumvent attacks by Iran on Iraqi tankers in the Gulf. It
has a capacity of 1.7 million barrels per day and runs from Iraq's southern
oil fields to the Saudi port of Yanbu, north of Jeddah. It later served
both Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but has been closed by the Saudis since Iraq’s
invasion of Kuwait. The Saudis claim ownership of the pipeline, though Iraq
The pipeline was reported ready to resume operation in September, 2003
(http://www.ameinfo.com/28059.html ). One month later in October however, we
heard this (from http://www.gasandoil.com/goc/news/ntm34663.htm ):
20-10-03 The 1.7 mm bpd crude pipeline which runs from Iraq across Saudi
Arabia to the Red Sea is in no condition to be utilised for Iraqi exports.
When asked about reports that Iraq was in discussions with Riyadh to re-open
the line, a Saudi Aramco official said that the Iraqis "don't know what they
are talking about. The pipeline is not in a state to be utilised."
So is it usable or isn’t it? I can’t find anything except this denial to
indicate that it’s unserviceable, though a State Department presentation
(http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/60011.pdf ) indicates that it’s
closed with no plans to re-open. I can find no evidence of insurgent
attacks against it, so there is at least some possibility that it is running.
Saudi Arabia’s Oil Production History
Saudi Arabia’s oil production has been deliberately increased and decreased
over the years in like with their role as the world’s “swing producer” – a
country with enough capacity to open the taps to keep prices from rising too
high and the political discipline to restrict production if prices fell. In
the period from 2001 to the end of 2003, this “price band” was set by OPEC
at $22 to $28 per barrel. At the beginning of 2004 oil prices moved above
this band, and have never returned to it. This seems to indicate that OPEC
members, and particularly Saudi Arabia, don’t have the excess capacity that
would be required to bring the prices back within the traditional band. The
suspension of the price band in 2005 seems to be in recognition of this new
Saudi Arabian Oil Production
This graph of Saudi oil production is very interesting. It clearly shows the
fluctuations in supply during 2002 and 2003, presumably attributable to
their role as a swing producer. At the beginning of 2004, however,
something very curious happens. There is a very rapid rise in production of
1.3 million barrels per day over the course of two months. This production
level is maintained with only one small dip (which may indicate the
temporary influence of production from the new Haradh III oil field) until
the beginning of 2006. At that point a decline sets in that has not yet
been arrested, resulting in a fall of 8% over the last year. This decline
has been validated by four independent sets of data, as described here:
Pulling it All Together
I have never been entirely satisfied with the unofficial explanations for
the Iraq war. I do accept (as does this article) the idea that the war was
somehow “about oil,” yet none of the existing explanations for why that
should be so are terribly convincing. The United States could have achieved
significant influence over the disposition of Iraqi oil through standard
diplomatic and commercial means, without the expenditure of so many lives
and so much money.
One hypothesis advanced by Canadian journalist, Linda McQuaig, in her book
“It’s the Crude, Dude” argues that the US invaded to acquire the “carrot and
stick” of oil ownership and sales rights in order to be better able to
reward friends and punish its enemies, thereby shaping regional and global
power structures. To me this seems a costly, indirect and ineffective
mechanism, especially if the global oil supply is unconstrained and nations
can buy from whomever they wish.
Then there is the hypothesis that invasion was staged to permit western oil
companies (particularly those with close ties to the Bush administration) to
take control of the fields and reap windfall profits. This speculation also
comes up short in my opinion. Those oil companies were already doing very
well. An invasion and occupation are very risky ventures, and are
intrinsically unlikely to provide the stable environment required for a
simple transfer of commercial control (neo-con dreams of flowers, candy and
regime change notwithstanding). The costs seem entirely out of proportion
to the potential rewards.
The “Purloined Letter” Hypothesis
The speculation of this article is that the real background of the Iraq war
goes something like this:
* The Bush administration is composed primarily of oilmen. They are
well aware of the Peak Oil theory.
* They are also aware of the risks that a decline in global oil
production could pose to the world’s political and economic stability,
especially if it is generally perceived to be the result of irreversible
geological conditions (i.e. we start to realize that the world is running
out of oil and there’s nothing we can do about it).
* The Bush administration and the Saudis are also well aware of the role
Saudi Arabia plays as the linchpin of world oil production.
* The Bush administration and the Saudis are very good friends, and
share intimate secrets like the actual state of Saudi oil production.
* In early 2001 the Saudis tell George and Dick that Ghawar has started
to “water out”: the oil they are pumping up contains more and more of the
water that they are using to force oil into the wells. This is a sure sign
that the field is nearing the end of its useful life.
* This news triggers very loud alarm bells in Washington and Riyadh,
because if Ghawar and overall Saudi production are about to decline this
brings the risk of global instability that much closer.
* The two administrations decide they need to keep the imminence of
Saudi oil decline out of the public consciousness for as long as possible.
To do this they need to accomplish two things: mask the decline of Saudi
Arabia, and make it appear as though any decline in Middle East production
is due to above-ground factors.
* Fortunately, they have a ready target in Iraq. Saddam is vulnerable,
he has lots of oil, and Iraqi oil production has been in chaos since Gulf
War 1. And he controls the input end of the IPSA pipeline.
* At Cheney’s Energy Task Force meetings the plan is developed and
western oil companies are brought into the picture. This ensures they will
be onside and will not start asking awkward questions later about the
provenance of Saudi oil.
* As a parallel effort, the Saudis agree to sponsor an attack on US soil
to provide the Bush administration with the required “casus belli”. The
Saudis recruit 15 of their own citizens to form the core of the September 11
* Once the attack has taken place the march to war begins. It doesn’t
matter how flimsy the excuses are, all that matters is that the progress of
the plan cannot be derailed under any circumstances. No penetration of the
ruse, however small, will be permitted. This determination results in the
Wilson/Plame reprisal, the killing of Dr. David Kelly and possibly other
killings like that of State Department WMD analyst John Kokal
(http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/112003_kokal.html ). The real
reason for the invasion must never be discovered.
* Iraq is duly invaded and Baghdad is captured. The Oil Ministry is the
only facility to be secured because it’s the only one that matters to the plan.
* The meters in the southern oil fields are immediately shut off and
sabotaged so nobody can tell how much oil is missing.
* The un-metered oil is redirected into the perfectly functional IPSA
pipeline and enters Saudi Arabia.
* There are now two possibilities for what happens to the purloined oil:
1. It arrives at the Saudi port of Yanbu where it is loaded onto tankers
as legitimate Saudi oil, and shipped to international customers. There is a
problem with this scenario, because the oil coming in from Iraq has a
slightly different chemical signature from Saudi oil. This small difference
would be noticed by customers, because the refineries need to know the
characteristics of their feedstock very precisely.
2. A more reasonable solution is that this oil is piped to refineries in
Saudi Arabia and is used to satisfy domestic demand. The Saudi oil spared
by this substitution is shipped out to customers, and no one is the wiser.
This is both safer and easier than the first suggestion, because the stolen
oil never leaves Saudi Arabia, and its disposition falls under the obscuring
veil of Saudi secrecy. This also makes the case harder to prove, of course.
* The 1.7 million barrel per day volume of the IPSA pipeline and the
timing of the rise seen in Saudi oil production in early 2004 fit the
* Any decline in overall Middle Eastern oil production can now be blamed
on the civil war in Iraq, which has been either a blessing in disguise or a
calculated part of the plan. The attacks on oil installations have also
made it easy to disguise the disappearance of a full tanker-load-equivalent
of oil every day.
* It was all going well, except that the decline in Saudi oil production
exceeded everyone’s expectations. Even with the Iraqi subterfuge in place
the decline of 800,000 barrels per day over the last year could not be masked.
There is as yet no smoking gun to support this hypothesis. This remains a
work of pure speculation, based on a suggestive convergence of events and
incidents. The one feature of this hypothesis that makes it attractive is
the extent to which it can accommodate all the odd and otherwise
inexplicable events of the last six years. On the other hand, it can be
accused of suffering from the common failing of conspiracy theories: it
would take too many people to implement. The argument against that is that
these events have demonstrably occurred and the binding element of the
hypothesis, the peaking of Saudi oil production, would not require that many
people to be aware of it in order for it to provide sufficient motivation
for such a devious scheme.
I would welcome any additional thoughts or suggestions of evidence on this
scenario. I would especially like to hear of any evidence that would
falsify the hypothesis – particularly evidence of the (in)operability of the
© Copyright 2007, Paul Chefurka
This article may be reproduced in whole or in part for the purpose of
research, education or other fair use, provided the nature and character of
the work is maintained and credit is given to the author by the inclusion in
the reproduction of his name and/or an electronic link to the article on the
author's web site. The right of commercial reproduction is reserved.
The CIA is a state-sponsored terrorists association
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 12:26 PM
Subject: [roeoz] The CIA is a state-sponsored terrorists association
Please share this around.
"The CIA is a state-sponsored terrorists association. You don't look
at people as human beings. They are nothing but pieces on the
-- Verne Lyon, former CIA agent in revealing documentary Secrets
of the CIA
Secrets of the CIA is a fascinating 45-minute Turner Home
Entertainment documentary made available for free viewing by Google
at the link below. Five former CIA agents describe how their initial
pride and enthusiasm at serving their nation turned to anguish and
remorse, as they realized that they were actually subverting
democracy and killing innocent civilians all in the name "national
security" and promoting foreign policy agendas.
A Notre Dame football star, an aerospace engineering senior at Iowa
State, an attractive high school graduate, an Olympic shooting
champion, and a young patriot all were recruited by the CIA at a
young age. These five brave individuals risk retaliation in
revealing the story of their gradual disillusionment and finally
defection from the CIA, as they eventually became convinced beyond a
shadow of a doubt that they were serving neither democracy, nor the
people of their country.
The shooting champion describes being put in charge of overthrowing
the democratically elected government of Guatemala. The patriot
relates his deep remorse for his direct responsibility in the deaths
of numerous innocent people for which he can never make amends. The
pretty high school graduate describes how her initial addiction to
power and intrigue turned to disgust and horror. This powerful
documentary is a rare and remarkable look at the results of
unbridled secrecy and the lengths to which government will go to
achieve questionable foreign policy goals.
Secrets of the CIA is available for free viewing at:
You can also order the documentary Secrets of the CIA at amazon.com.
Final Note: WantToKnow.info believes it is important to balance
disturbing cover-up information with inspirational writings which
call us to be all that we can be and to work together for positive
change. Please visit our Inspiration Center at
http://www.WantToKnow.info/inspirational for an abundance of
See our archive of revealing news articles at
This message is available online at
Never underestimate the power of delusion;
Abundant evidence suggests industrial civilization must be "downsized" to curb damage to the ecosphere by the "technosphere." Trends behind this prospect include prodigious population growth, urbanization, cultural dependence upon ravenous use of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources, consequent air pollution, and global climate change. Despite prolonged Cold War distraction and entrenched faith that technology could always enlarge carrying capacity, these trends were well publicized. But there remain eminent writers who persist in denying that human carrying capacity (Earth's maximum sustainable human load) has now been or ever will be exceeded.
Denials of ecological limits resemble anosognosia (inability of stroke patients to recognize their paralysis). Some denial literature resembles their confabulations (elaborately unreal stories concocted as rationalizations). Denial by opponents of human ecology seems to be a way of coping with an insufferable contradiction between past convictions and present circumstances, a defense against intolerable anomalous information.
Dont tell me technology will save us
Don't Tell me Technology Will Save Us, Please!
Oil be seeing You
...Peak oil is upon us, or just around the corner. Global warming will continue to worsen, as there are no foreseeable energy options that will allow us to replace our profligate use of fossil fuels. Global dimming, which has been weakening the impact of global warming over the past several decades, is now on the wane as we have declared war on the visible air pollutants responsible for it, clearly achieving a hollow victory in the process.
This will allow the full impact of anthropogenic global warming to become very apparent over the coming decade.
But please, please, please don't tell me that technology holds the solutions to these or other global problems, that technology will save us.
Don't tell me about hybrid vehicles, EVs, carbon sequestration, bio-fuels, bio-diesel, tidal power generation, thin film solar, the hydrogen economy, nuclear pebble bed reactors, clean coal, GTL, CTL, LNG, space mirrors, genetically modified GW-resistant plant species, scattering particulate matter in the upper atmosphere to neutralize global warming.
Don't tell me that Monsanto or Dupont or Cargill will genetically engineer some new grain seed that will double global grain production and save billions from starvation. They've done enough damage with their GMO monstrosities to last forcountless generations. It is our pursuit of and overuse of technology, including our flagrant abuse of genetic technology, that has driven us to this cliff in the first place.
A problem cannot be its own solution.
Tell me, instead, that people are learning that we must reduce our energy consumption. Tell me that politicians are ready to negotiate our lifestyle, with our blessing and support. Tell me that the global bullies will not invade or economically destroy more poor, weak nations that just happen to have fossil fuel resources. Tell me that multinational corporations are ready to put the health of the earth and the survivability of our future generations ahead of their greed for short-term profit.
Tell me that we are embarking on a cooperative global effort to reverse the trend of the past century and steadily reduce the global energy consumption per capita to pre-industrial levels.
Tell me that governments throughout the planet are cooperating to dismantle the personhood of corporations and the easily abused economic and political power that grants them. Tell me that all air conditioners and furnaces are going to be sold with governors on them to restrict the temperature range in which they can be set. Tell me that the electric can opener has been banned.
(24 May 2007)
Richard Embleton is Author of "Oilephant Down". Owner Yahoo Group "RunningOnEmptyCA". Thirty years experience in computer systems, much of it in the oil and petrochemical industry. Lifetime member of Mensa Canada. Ten years experience in health food industry, including my own store.
Ecosocialism or barbarism: There is No 3rd way
Confronting the Climate Change Crisis
Politicians and oil companies are jumping on the green bandwagon, but they have no solutions to a crisis that is rooted in capitalism
By Ian Angus
This month, we’ve been treated to the bizarre spectacle of George Bush and Stephen Harper each declaring their deep concern about "the serious challenge of global climate change." The U.S. president and Canada’s prime minister, both long-time opponents of any action to limit greenhouse gases, now want us to believe that saving the environment has become a top priority of their governments.
Truly, the hypocrisy of capitalist politicians knows no bounds!
They and their corporate masters want to avoid action on climate change, and they have been doing just that for years. Their eagerness to clothe themselves in inappropriate green has everything to do with public relations — and nothing to do with saving the earth.
Knowledgeable scientists agree that climate change is real, and that the main cause is the use of fossil fuels, especially oil, gas, and coal. The earth today is significantly hotter than it was a few decades ago, and the rate of increase is accelerating. If we don’t stop it, by the end of this century the planet will be hotter than it has ever been since humans began walking the earth.
Left unchecked, this will have catastrophic impacts on human, animal, and plant life. Crop yields will drop drastically, leading to famine on a broad scale. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced by droughts in some areas and by rising ocean levels in others. Malaria and cholera epidemics are likely. The impact will be greatest in Asia, Africa, and Latin America — on the peoples whose lives have already been ravaged by imperialism many times over.
But that hasn’t stopped corporations and politicians from claiming that they don’t have enough information to decide whether the problem exists, let alone what can to be done about it. Their denials have been supported by a bevy of climate change deniers who are frequently quoted in media reports on the subject.
A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that the apparently large network of deniers is in fact a handful of people who make themselves seem more numerous by working through more than 30 front-groups. ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded company, has been financial backer of all these groups — it paid them millions to "manufacture uncertainty" about climate change.
By no coincidence, ExxonMobil is the largest single corporate producer of greenhouse gases. If ExxonMobil was a country, it would be the sixth-largest source of emissions.
Meanwhile, other corporate and government agencies have been working hard to divert attention away from corporate polluters and onto individuals. They blame individuals for not cutting back, not driving less, not insulating their homes and not using low-power light bulbs. The Canadian government’s "One-Tonne Challenge" campaign, and the imposition of a "Congestion Charge" on automobile commuters in London, England, are cases in point: they both say individuals are to blame and should pay the cost of cleaning up the atmosphere.
Obviously conservation is important. But so long as the fossil fuel giants continue business as usual, individual efforts will have very little impact.
The Age of Greenwash
Denying climate change and blaming it on individuals have worked well until now, but such tactics are now losing effectiveness.
The scientific evidence for global warning gets more overpowering every day. On February 2, the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release a major report on its causes. Journalists who have seen drafts of the report say that it confirms that most global warming since 1950 has been caused by man-made greenhouse gases, and warns that warming in the next 25 years will be twice as great as in the past century.
More generally, despite the confusion and misinformation, public concern about climate change is growing. Voters and customers want action: polls show that the environment has now passed heath care as the number one concern of Canadian voters.
That’s why George Bush and Stephen Harper are now demonstratively jumping on the green bandwagon and trying to grab the reins. That's why Bush felt compelled to mention global warming in his State of the Union message.
Even ExxonMobil is on side: the company says it has stopped funding climate-change-denial front groups, and its executives are meeting with environmental groups to discuss proposals for regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Stephane Dion, recently chosen to lead Canada’s Liberal Party, is setting the pace for politicians. While he was Environment Minister, Dion did nothing to stop Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from rising 30%. Now that he is leader of the Official Opposition, he says that he’ll make the environment his top priority if he wins the next federal election.
Dion’s real position on stopping greenhouse gas emissions was revealed in his response to expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands project. Extracting oil from tar sands generates two-and-a-half times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil production. The Alberta Tar Sands project is the largest single reason why Canada’s emissions have risen drastically since this country signed the Kyoto Accord. But when asked what he would do about it in May 2005, Dion shrugged: "There is no minister of the environment on earth who can stop this from going forward, because there is too much money in it."
That’s the way it is in the age of greenwash — lots of talk about climate change, but no action that would interfere with the inalienable right of corporations to make money. Profits always come first, no matter how green the capitalist politicians claim to be.
Pollution Rights for Sale
In fact, there are major efforts under way to convince those who are concerned about climate that the solution is to increase the polluters’ profits.
Last year, the British government appointed leading economist Nicholas Stern to study the problem of climate change. His report identified the source of the problem:
"GHG emissions are an externality; in other words, our emissions affect the lives of others. When people do not pay for the consequences of their actions we have market failure. This is the greatest market failure the world has seen."
"Externality" is a term capitalist economists use when capitalist corporations don’t pay for the damage they cause. Pollution is the perfect example — individual corporations pollute, but society as a whole bears the cost. Adam Smith’s invisible hand, which supposedly ensures the best of all possible worlds, doesn’t work on externalities.
A naïve observer might conclude that this means we should stop relying on markets, but not Nicolas Stern, and not most policy makers. Their solution to market failure is — create more markets!
The most widely proposed "market solution" to climate change — the one that is enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol — is to set goals for emission reduction, and then put a monetary value on the right to pollute.
If a corporation decides it is too expensive to cut emissions, it can buy pollution credits from some other company, or it can fund green projects in the Third World. Ontario Hydro, for example, might keep using coal-fired power plants if it plants enough trees in India or Brazil.
George Monbiot has compared this to the medieval practice of selling indulgences. If you were rich and you committed murder or incest or whatever, the Church would sell you forgiveness for a fixed price per sin. You didn’t have to stop sinning — so long as you paid the price, the Church would guarantee your admission to heaven.
The emissions trading schemes are actually worse than that. It’s as though the Church just gave every sinner a stack of Get Out Of Hell Free cards — and those who don’t sin enough to use them all could then sell them to others who want to sin more.
Carbon Trading, a report published by Sweden’s Dag Hammerskold Foundation, shows not only that emissions trading doesn’t work, but that it actually makes things worse, by delaying practical action to reduce emissions by the biggest corporate offenders. What’s more, since there is no practical method of measuring the results of emissions trading, the entire process is subject to massive fraud. Emissions trading has produced huge windfalls for the polluters — it instantly increases their assets, and does little to reduce emissions.
Another "market-driven" approach proposes levying taxes levied on corporate greenhouse gas emissions. But if the "carbon taxes" are too low, they won’t stop emissions — and if they are high enough, corporations will shift their operations to countries that don’t interfere with business-as-usual. In any event, it is very unlikely that capitalist politicians will actually impose taxes that would force their corporate backers to make real changes.
As Australian writer Dick Nichols has pointed out, anyone who argues that markets change overcome climate change has to answer difficult questions:
"Embracing capitalism — no matter how green the vision put forward — saddles pro-market environmentalists with a difficult case for the defence. They have to explain exactly how a system that has consumed more resources and energy in the last 50 years than all previous human civilization can be made to stabilize and then reduce its rate of resource depletion and pollution emission. How can this monstrously wasteful, poisonous, and unequal economic system actually be made to introduce the technologies, consumption patterns and radical income redistribution, without which all talk of sustainability is a sick joke?" (Environment, Capitalism and Socialism)
No Capitalist Solution
Any reasonable person must eventually ask why capitalists and their governments seek to avoid effective action on climate change. Everyone, including capitalists and politicians, will be affected. Nicholas Stern estimates that the world economy will shrink by 20% if we don’t act. So why don’t the people in power do something?
The answer is that the problem is rooted in the very nature of capitalist society, which is made up of thousands of corporations, all competing for investment and for profits. There is no "social interest" in capitalism — only thousands of separate interests that compete with each other.
If a company decides to invest heavily in cutting emissions, its profits will go down. Investors will move their capital into more profitable investments. Eventually the green company will go out of business.
The fundamental law of capitalism is "Grow or Die." Anarchic, unplanned growth isn’t an accident, or an externality, or a market failure. It is the nature of the beast.
Experts believe that stabilizing climate change will require a 70% or greater reduction in CO2 emissions in the next 20 to 30 years – and that will require a radical reduction in the use of fossil fuels. At least three major barriers militate against capitalism achieving that goal.
0. Changing from fossil fuels to other energy sources will require massive spending. In the near-term this will be non-profitable investment, in an economy that cannot function without profit.
0. The CO2 reductions must be global. Air and water don’t stop at borders. So long as capitalism remains the world’s dominant economic system, positive changes in individual countries will be undermined by countermoves in other countries seeking competitive advantage.
0. The change must be all-encompassing. Unlike previous anti-pollution campaigns that focused on single industries, or specific chemicals such as DDT, stopping greenhouse gases will require wrenching change to every part of the economy. Restructuring on such an enormous scale is almost certainly impossible in a capitalist framework — and any attempt to make it happen will meet intense resistance.
Only an economy that is organized for human needs, not profit, has any chance of slowing climate change and reversing the damage that’s already been done. Only democratic socialist planning can overcome the problems caused by capitalist anarchy.
Fighting for Change
But that doesn’t mean we should wait for socialism to challenge the polluters. On the contrary, we can and must fight for change today — it’s possible to win important gains, and building a movement to stop climate change can be an important part of building a movement for socialism.
A radical movement against climate change can be built around demands such as these:
0. Establish and enforce rapid mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions: real reductions, not phony trading plans.
0. Make the corporations that produce greenhouse gases pay the full cost of cutting emissions.
0. End all subsidies to fossil fuel producers.
0. Redirect the billions now being spent on wars and debt into public transit, into retrofitting homes and offices for energy efficiency, and into renewable energy projects.
Corporations and conservative union leaders (including one-time radical Buzz Hargrove of the Canadian Auto Workers union) play on the fear of job losses to convince workers to oppose action to protect the environment. All calls for restructuring industry must be coupled with opposition to layoffs. Workers must have access to retraining and relocation at the corporation’s expense, at full union pay.
The movement must pay particular attention on the needs of the Third World. As ecology activist Tom Athanasiou has written, we must "spare the South from any compulsion to make an impossible choice between climate protection on the one hand and ‘development’ on the other." The people of the Third World have suffered centuries of poverty while their countries were plundered to enrich the imperialist powers. Now they are the hardest hit victims of climate change. They are angered, and rightly so, by any suggestion that they should now be forced to forego economic growth in order to solve a problem that was created by their exploiters in the North.
An effective climate change program will support the battles in the Third World against imperialist domination and distortion of their economies. It will oppose the export of polluting industries to the global south, support campaigns for land reform and to redirect agriculture to meet local needs, not export to the north. We must demand that our governments offer every possible form of practical assistance to assist Third World countries to find and implement developmental programs that are consistent with world environmental requirements.
The example of Cuba, a poor country with limited resources, shows what can be done. The World Wildlife Fund recently identified Cuba as the only country in the world that meets the requirements of sustainable development. Cuba achieved that while its economy was growing more than twice as fast as the Latin American average, so the problem isn’t growth — it is capitalist growth.
In 1918, in the midst of the most horrible war that the world had ever seen, the great German socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg wrote that the choice facing the world was "Socialism or Barbarism."
As we know, socialism did not triumph in the 20th Century. Instead we had a century of wars and genocide — the very barbarism that Rosa Luxemburg feared.
Today we face that choice in a new and even more horrible form. Prominent U.S. environmentalist Ross Gelbspan poses the issue in stark terms:
"A major discontinuity is inevitable. The collective life we have lived as a species for thousands of years will not continue long into the future. We will either see the fabric of civilization unravel under the onslaught of an increasingly unstable climate — or else we will use the construction of a new global energy infrastructure to begin to forge a new set of global relationships." (Boiling Point, p. 17)
Gelbspan, like many environmentalists, pins his hopes on persuading capitalism’s decision makers that ending climate change is a "moral imperative." Past experience, and an understanding of the imperatives of capitalism, show that to be a vain hope.
Instead, echoing Marx and Engels and Luxemburg, we must say that humanity’s choice in the 21st Century is EcoSocialism or Barbarism.
There is no third way.
From Socialist Voice, January 29, 2007
Arguments from Ignorance
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2008
Arguments from Ignorance
For some time now I’ve been wondering how to bring up a certain habit of thought that, as I see it, forms one of the taproots feeding the contemporary crisis of industrial civilization. That it had to be discussed here on The Archdruid Report I never doubted, but in the midst of a cascade of dramatic current events, that discussion can seem very nearly beside the point. When the system of hallucinatory finance that propped up the illusion of American prosperity for a quarter century may be going to pieces around us, panic selling in commodity markets by speculators hit with margin calls is sending fossil fuel prices to lows just as unsustainable as their recent highs, and the wheels are coming off America’s global empire, I find myself wondering, is it really a good time to go wandering off in pursuit of intangibles?
Then perspective returns, and I remember that it’s precisely the intangibles, the states of mind and attitudes toward the world that form a culture’s collective discourse, that define what it can and cannot accomplish as the age of oil comes to an end. As I’ve commented before, it’s not technical issues that make our present predicament so difficult; it’s the failure of collective will that keeps even the most grudging acknowledgment of our predicament, and even the most modest response to it, completely off the radar screens of mainstream politics in every nation in the industrial world. Until the “mind-forg’d manacles” of dysfunctional thinking are unlocked and tossed aside, constructive plans for the world after peak oil on anything past an individual level are wasted effort, since they will not be implemented by societies that cannot grasp the need for them.
I had a cogent reminder of this over the past week, when three efforts of mine to spark collective discussion about these issues – my book The Long Descent, a reading and booksigning at a local bookstore here in southern Oregon, and the most recent post here – fielded three responses that used very different arguments to make a common claim. A reader of my book emailed me to tell me he thought I was refusing to give proper weight to the possibility that new technology would save our civilization from the impact of peak oil; a serious young man who attended the reading came up afterwards to ask me what I thought about the possibility that the current crisis would drive humanity to achieve a new stage of spiritual evolution, after which we will easily replace fossil fuels with currently unimaginable resources; a new reader of this blog sent in a comment insisting that peak oil was an illusion manufactured by sinister elites who were suppressing inventions that would allow everyone to have all the energy they wanted.
Mind you, I’d encountered every one of these assertions before. Ever since this blog first started suggesting that the end of the age of cheap abundant energy was the natural and inevitable result of a human ecology hopelessly out of step with the realities of life on a finite planet, I’ve fielded a great many emails and comments insisting, basically, that it just ain’t so – that one way or another, for one reason or another, humanity could have its abundant energy resources and burn them too, and can reasonably expect more of the same forever. The three responses I’ve just cited by no means exhaust the full spectrum of arguments advanced to back this curious claim, but they’re good representative samples of the type.
Now it’s possible to dispute each of these claims on their own terms, and I’ve done that more than once on this blog and elsewhere, but there’s a very real extent to which this is a waste of breath. Each of them is what the old logicians used to call argumentia ad ignorantem, arguments from ignorance. They insist on the presence of a factor that isn't actually present for examination and can’t be proved or disproved – a technological advance that hasn’t happened yet, an imminent spiritual transformation that has to be taken on blind faith, or a conspiracy so secret and pervasive that it can manipulate everything we think we know about the world – to insist that we don’t actually have to do anything about peak oil.
Such arguments prove nothing, of course; they're the precise equivalent of using the phrase "then a miracle happens" to get from one step of a cookbook recipe or a mathematical equation to the next. Their only virtue is that they’re impossible to disprove. I’ve come to think that this last detail is why they’re so popular. It’s a very charming social habit, dating back to the 18th century Enlightenment, to profess the belief that people come to decisions about the world by sitting down with the relevant facts, assessing them calmly, and then making a decision on that basis. I think most of us are aware, though, that few decisions are actually made this way; much more often, people start from the conclusion that appeals to their emotions and intuition, and then go looking for logical reasons to support the belief they’ve already chosen.
Most of the time, this is actually a good thing. Left to itself, the reasoning mind tends to run to extremes; it’s because most human decisions obey the nonrational promptings of emotional patterns laid down in childhood that our lives have any continuity at all. This same process, averaged out over the millions who inhabit a nation, provides a sense of stability and identity essential to our collective life. Still, the emotions’ habit of projecting the past onto the blank screen of the future can become a ghastly liability when the future no longer resembles the past in some crucial sense.
That’s the situation we’re facing now. Between 1980 and 2005, political gimmickry and the reckless overproduction of the North Slope and North Sea oil fields crashed the price of oil to right around US$10 a barrel – corrected for inflation, the cheapest price in history. During that quarter century of unsustainable excess, energy was so cheap that the cost no longer mattered; it seemed to make perfect sense to live in rural Oregon and commute daily by jet to San Francisco or Seattle, or to arbitrage wage costs by manufacturing consumer goods for the American market in Third World sweatshops and shipping them halfway around the world to their customers, or to build internet server farms, thousands of them, each one drawing as much electricity from the grid as a medium-sized town.
That world of unlimited free energy is the world in which nearly all of us in the industrial world lived until very recently, and it’s the only world people who are under the age of 35 or so can remember at all. Thus it’s not surprising that when people are faced with the claim that the future will be very, very different, they tend to reject the notion out of hand, and if the only reasons they can find to justify that rejection are arguments from ignorance like the ones I cited above, then arguments from ignorance are what they’ll cite.
The problem is that at this point we don’t have time to wait for hypothetical solutions to show up and save us. The Hirsch Report pointed out in 2005 that, to avoid severe economic disruption, any effective response to peak oil had to get started at least twenty years before the beginning of petroleum production declines. Any less than that, and the result is damage to the economy; the shorter the lead time, the worse the damage, and waiting until production declines actually begin is a recipe for crippling economic impacts that could make it impossible to respond to the crisis effectively at all.
This is dire news, because we no longer have the twenty years Hirsch specified; we most likely have only two years left. By most calculations, in fact, conventional petroleum production actually peaked the same year the Hirsch Report was published; apparent increases since then have happened because biofuels, tar sand extractives, and other alternative fuels that require high energy inputs have been lumped together with conventional oil; and the best estimates suggest that even with the alternatives factored in, production will face serious declines beginning around 2010. That gives us desperately little time to respond, and no time to spare for arguments that insist some unknown phenomenon will pop out of the woodwork just in time.
There are times late at night when I find myself wondering if similar reasonings could have been heard in the Yucatan lowlands as the Terminal Classic period of Mayan history arrived. and the paired jaws of declining soil fertility and catastrophic drought clamped around the throat of Lowland Maya civilization. There were plenty of potential responses as the corn harvests began to fail, centering on a transition from corn culture to less valued foods such as ramon nuts, but ideological factors made such a transition difficult for the ahauob, “divine lords” of the Maya city-states, to contemplate; abundant corn harvests filled the same role in their culture as abundant fossil fuel supplies have in ours.
Thus, instead of facing the crisis, the ahauob responded by hoping that something would provide them with a way out of it. Some of them, anticipating America’s recent neoconservative movement, went to war with other city-states to seize their corn supplies, while others offered up human sacrifices and built ever more grandiose temples in the hopes that the gods would take the crisis away. None of this helped, and much of it probably made the situation worse; one way or another, the result was a “rolling collapse” that, over a century and a half, turned the thriving Maya cities of the lowlands to crumbling, overgrown ruins inhabited by a scattering of survivors.
The idea that the cities of contemporary North America could meet the same fate is quite literally unthinkable to most people today, but then the Maya, the Romans, and the people of other collapsed civilizations all probably found their historical destiny just as unthinkable before it happened. There may be little reason to hope that anything like a majority can be helped to think the unthinkable in time to make a difference, but the effort seems worth making, and challenging the sort of arguments from ignorance I’ve described above might be a good first step.
Posted by John Michael Greer
at 5:12 PM
33 comments Links to this post
Submitted by Richard Heinberg on October 29, 2008 - 10:55am.
The Financial Times has leaked the results of the International Energy Agency's long-awaited study of the depletion profiles of the world's 400 largest oilfields, indicating that, "Without extra investment to raise production, the natural annual rate of output decline is 9.1 per cent."
This is a stunning figure.
Considering regular crude oil only, this means that 6.825 million barrels a day of new production capacity must come on line each year just to keep up with the aggregate natural decline rate in existing oilfields. That's a new Saudi Arabia every 18 months.
The Financial Times story goes on:
The findings suggest the world will struggle to produce enough oil to make up for steep declines in existing fields, such as those in the North Sea, Russia and Alaska, and meet long-term demand. The effort will become even more acute as [oil] prices fall and investment decisions are delayed.
This is putting it mildly. Investment capital is being vaporized almost daily in a global deflationary bonfire of unprecedented ferocity. Oil production projects are being mothballed left and right.
Inter alia, the IEA takes the requisite swat at "peak oil theorists," who, the agency somehow still believes, are saying that the world is "running out of oil." Of course that's NOT what peak oil theorists say, but a correct summation of their position would have to be followed with a statement to the effect that, "Our research supports their position," which would be just too embarrassing.
Sadly, the IEA feels it must pull its punch even further. With adequate investment in new small oilfields and unconventional sources like tarsands, it insists, the world can still achieve higher levels of production. In other words, if the $12 trillion that vanished from the world stock markets last week were invested in new tarsands projects, then theoretically a few more years of total oil production growth could be eked out (not growth in net energy production, mind you, but in the gross—and I do mean gross—production of exotic, very expensive stuff that it's physically possible to run your car on, assuming you could afford to do so).
Of course, any realistic assessment either of the likelihood of that level of investment appearing, or of the ability of new projects to really produce a sufficient rate of flow regardless of the size of the cash infusion, would end merely in a hearty belly-laugh.
Evidently peeved about being scooped on its planned November 12 press conference roll-out of the study, the IEA has disavowed the Financial Times story. But if nine percent is even close to being the final figure, then it's absolutely clear: July 2008 was the all-time peak in world oil production. Don't expect anyone at the IEA to officially admit that fact until 2025 or so. But among those who pay attention to the evidence and the terms of the debate, further ink need not be spilled in speculation.
Peak oil is history.
image source: The Sietch Blog
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This IEA report is scary
It is a beautiful day here in Otaki, New Zealand and the spring growth is very exciting. After hours in the garden I came in to read this scary information and it is hard to take it in. Yes we have a meeting of the core group of our Transition Towns group tonight and yes we have more plans for actions. But nine percent! How will the new US president cope? We have an election here on Nov 8th as well and of course peak oil isn't on the agenda. People at bridge last night didn't talk about peak oil or the financial tsunami. Every now and then one gets overwhelmed with the horrible reality of peak oil and this time it has hit me again. HARD. I am 70 and I don't think I have the physical capacity to double my efforts so I will send this url to my children and loved ones this time.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 29, 2008 - 4:00pm.
Fear of the unknown, terror of the known
Folks familiar with projections on theoildrum will know that 2% declines mean reasonably painful adaptation, 5% declines spell very painful adjustments, while 10% declines mean societal breakdown on the larger levels.
The fix is in. We need to get our contingency plans in place. Ill bring this info to my Transition Town group in Queensland, Australia. I am lucky I am young and healthy and convinced my parents to flee suburbia two years ago so we have two acres of debt free land. Time to put the last half acre under crops asap. Clearing weeds from the soil and improving fertility takes a couple of years. Prepare to look after yourself people! Time is running out...
Submitted by ShaneS (not verified) on October 29, 2008 - 6:38pm.
It is time to blitz the airwaves with the direst of warnings in the light of the I.E.A.'s findings, though the official news has yet to be handed down.
Those of us who have curtailed our own personal efforts to warn the unenlightened, due to distractions such as the related world financial meltdown or surrender in the face of widespread apathy, need to fire up the debate again and thrust this down the world's collective throat! No matter how it is done attention must be drawn to the greatest threat to civilisation since the dawn of civilisation.
I'm not suggesting that some heinous terrorist act be used to garner attention, but, bless the one who would go that far. Time is running short and pussy-footing around about the single most important issue in all of history is not what is necessary right now. Those of us who haven't been distracted or given up need to redouble our efforts to bring this EMERGENCY to everyone's IMMEDIATE ATTENTION!!!
Submitted by icurhuman2 (not verified) on October 30, 2008 - 12:21pm.
For the love of gawd....
Oh come on folks! At a 9.1% decline rate we're well past the worst case scenario delineated in the Hirsch Report. Society as we know it is over. Deal with it. Co-dependent behaviors like attempting to "thrust this down the world's collective throat" won't do a bit of good. The obviousness to the general public of the coming Collapse may not happen for a for months or a few years but the time for warning them is long past. The company that just left the plane without parachutes cannot benefit from the warning that they may need them before they go "Splat". All the preaching we do now is for our own benefit... to make us feel good... like we've tried right up to the bitter end. This takes a lot of personal energy that may be better spent helping a select few in our lives like family and other loved ones. I believe that it's time to let it go. We've done all that we can do collectively. The only thing left now is for individuals to stay awake, calm and grounded.
Submitted by Potato farmer HG pilot (not verified) on October 30, 2008 - 9:03pm.
Now is the time to educate the public on a massive scale
We need to educate the public ASAP. We need to get the news media to focus on DEPLETION instead of "the price of oil". I think we need to tell people that their days of driving everywhere are going to be over fast, and that there may be little growth in the economy from now on (and maybe even negative growth to be the norm) and to save for retirement in CASH instead of stocks. We should put pressure on congress to buy up the foreclosed homes, bulldoze them, and plant community gardens on them to at least offset a shortness in agriculture if the trucks go down. Next, we should implement a tax of $5.00 per gallon on gas to preserve what is left and reduce excess driving. Additionally, we should start a "Manhattan squared" project for new energy sources that scale with good EROEI and challenge each and every chemical company, oil company, university, researcher, to take part in this.
Submitted by StephenHinkle (not verified) on October 31, 2008 - 10:00am.
The economic down spiral during the last three months evidently had slowed the growth worldwide and thus energy consumption by 10-30% (anyone guess taking into consideration that the real production of industry, agriculture and transportation constitute the least percentage of world total GDP, the rest is in assets of financial markets, swaps and derivatives and currency speculations). Deflation of everything including Commodities prices plunged to at least 2003-2005 price levels and oil is more than 50% its all time peak price. If we listen to economists predictions, we probably still didn't reach the trough of the economic spiral or in best guesstimates it would last till the fall of 2009 until the business cycle reverse course and the new inflationary path kick off again. The decline in world oil output would be compensated and probably be overcome by the slow economic growth and thus, it might take to at least end of 2010-2012 until shortages of oil market appear again even if the decline of world oil output capacity is 9%.
Submitted by Saint (not verified) on October 31, 2008 - 11:06pm.
Saint - Thanks for your wisdom, lets hope the economy slows enough to match the decline in oil production. This would be the free-market approach to heinbergs oil depletion protocol. The hope is that when industry starts back up (or trys to), they choose cradle to cradle and other types of sustianable design in their products and we move away from the disposable lifestyle.
For those who still wish to wake people up, telling them about oil production doesn't put it into context. Try showing them "the story of stuff" or "the end of suburbia". Organize neighborhood / town film showings. Pass out fliers, get on the radio, call and email friends about the event. make it fun. make it a pot luck. and when it comes to solutions, I suggest everyone check out permaculture. If its possible to turn the desert into a food forest like geoff lawton, we can save ourselves.
I have those videos linked on my blog - infopatriots.org
Submitted by Zachary Stowasser (not verified) on November 11, 2008 - 4:57pm.
It will work...
but it will never work
. Re: Work begins on Queensland clean coal plant
Posted by: "Dave Kimble" email@example.com mbemg
Date: Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:07 pm ((PST))
They haven't done it yet, of course.
Collecting 90% of the emissions has got to be
more difficult and expensive and energy-intensive than collecting say 75%.
So there has to be an entrepreneurial tendency towards
wanting to only do a cheap and nasty job.
We need an energy budget to be published from this pilot program,
both the CO2 extraction phase, and the compression to liquid phase,
since we are subsidising it with taxpayers' money.
We then need the energy budget of getting the liquefied CO2 to the storage site.
The pilot will use trucks to move the CO2 in cylinders to the storage site - what a joke.
[ The real thing will require a giant pipeline and storage tanks.
Would you want one near you ?
You would only need a pipe to burst,
and thousands of tonnes of CO2 per hour would be released into the landscape,
suffocating maybe millions of people and wildlife. ]
We then need to know the energy budget for the storage project.
Finally we can then add all that lot together
for a scenario of a complete lifetime of the power station (35 years),
and see how much it is really costing energywise.
It may save 90% of the emissions,
but it will likely take 70% of the energy created to complete the CCS process,
thus coal-fired power stations would be only making
a net 30% of electricity compared to now,
so we would need three times as many power stations
and three times as much fuel,
and three times as much CO2 to be dealt with ....
It will work, but it will never work.
You seem to have a very positive outlook on life after Peak Oil.
I am afraid it is going to be MUCH WORSE than what you are expecting.
As soon as Australia's oil supplies fall 7% below normal,
the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act will be triggered,
which will determine whether you are "essential services" or "discretionary use"
and bring rationing to the latter category.
Your ration will be anything between 20 litres per fill and zero.
Police (and potentially troops) will guard petrol stations,
and prevent queuing on main roads.
That is only the start.
The list of "essential services" is long,
because our society is dependent on fuel for almost every aspect.
When I asked the Federal Government what percentage of current use was "essential",
they said they hadn't finished working that out. (Yeah, sure)
It is my guess that essential use might be 80% of current use,
which means a 20% cut in supply will see a zero ration for discretionary use,
and a 30% cut would mean cutting fuel to hospitals, farms,
electricity grid maintenance activities, telephone line maintenance, etc.
It won't be long before there is not enough fuel to keep the grid running 24 hours per day -
think about running coal mines, power stations, transmission grid management, local grid maintenance.
In the times when the power is off, phones, computers, ATMs, EFTPOSs won't work.
Banks will have to shut.
Shops will quickly soak up all the available cash as people panic-buy tinned food.
Water won't come out of the taps, and the sewage won't flush.
The pub will have no cold beer, then no beer at all.
There will obviously be a recession, but we probably won't be able to find that out
because the Government can't collate the figures as many businesses will be closed
and their staff will have fled.
Baghdad shows that people can survive with only a few hours of services each day,
but is Sydney ready to copy Baghdad ?
The system can only be kept going if the workers are prepared to get themselves to work without cars -
as soon as the workers find it all too hard, they will quit the city,
making it even harder to keep essential services going.
All of this could be easily fixed if only we could get more energy,
but this is not the time to start building a nuclear power station,
or even a solar power station,
nor even drilling another oil well.
To grow bio-diesel, you first need diesel for the tractor,
then fertilisers and pesticides and lots of land ...
Amazingly, you are not the first person to have thought about buying a block of good dirt with plenty of water.
There are not many places like that in Australia, and they have ALL been taken already,
and no, you are not invited to join them.
In the country, cattle in the paddock will be killed and eaten by the hungry city-deserters,
commercial fruit and veggie farms will be ransacked,
the farmers either shot or overwhelmed,
then the guns will turn on the local wildlife.
Within a couple of weeks there will probably be no food left.
If the world was a sane place, the UN would already have put the Oil Depletion Protocol into place.
You only have to look at the way Global Warming has been dealt with (or not) to see what chance the ODP has got.
Fairness and equity will not be part of the response.
There will be wars over access to oil that make the current mess in Iraq look like a picnic.
Oil tankers will need naval escort to protect them to their destination,
which will probably belong to the country with the biggest navy.
Australia would be robbed of its coal, oil and gas by foreign forces.
And you will be sat in your brand new Polo thinking :
"I need a car ..."
"I am of the belief that diesel and petrol will still be available for some time ..."
"It could eventually run on bio-diesel ..."
"VW Polo is very efficient ... "
"... powerful enough to tow a small trailer and enable me to transport needed materials to my property."
I'm afraid your vision of lifeboatting and driving back and forth taking excess produce to the markets is a fantasy.
It could happen theoretically, but it won't turn out like that in practice.
This is the thing that people "don't get".
Man the life boats
The whole of Norman's article is really valuable reading http://www.countercurrents.org/po-church170706.htm
I've excerpted an example of the kind of analysis that I think would be valuable for us to do
So would it be possible to rebuild Civilisation after a collapse? Jason Godesky wrote in 'It will be Impossible to Rebuild Civilisation',
"The current state of civilization is dependent on resources that are now so depleted, that they require an industrial infrastructure already in place to gather those resources. We can fetch this fossil fuel only because we have fossil fuels to put to the task."
He goes on to comment on metals.
* That to maintain civilization, only some metals are useful.
* They must be strong enough for agriculture or war.
* They must keep an edge.
* They must occur in economically feasible quantities.
* They must have a melting point low enough to be worked.
Gold, silver, etc. immediately fail as the quantities are insufficient, and they are far too soft.
There are many other metals which are basically all alloys and would be all but unworkable in a post collapse society. The metal that probably deserves the most attention is iron.
He says that iron although problematic is not impossible and may well be the only metal that survivors will have access to.
Most near-surface iron deposits were exploited long ago. What remains is deep in the ground and is unlikely to be accessible without fossil fuels, except in rare exceptions.
(2) Scavenged iron.
Scavenged iron is, especially in the immediate aftermath of collapse likely to be the most abundant source although most of the sophisticated alloys we use now rely on the kind of high temperatures attainable only with fossil fuels.
This shouldn't matter too much as there's still enough that can be done with heated and reworked scavenged metals.
After a few decades the scavenged metals will become more and more rusted and even worn out and the metalworking will begin to diminish as it becomes harder and harder to make poorer and poorer metal weapons and tools.
(3) Bog Iron.
The final source is bog iron which is actually a renewable resource. About once each generation the same bog can be re-harvested but it may be up to a century before today's bog iron deposits are refilled; after that, it may enter the cycle of once-a-generation per bog.
We should be aware of this factor because of one other necessary resource that we have so far only touched on briefly: knowledge.
The knowledge of how to work iron and many other processes was accrued over centuries.
Those who know, no longer do; those who do, no longer know. This may well end applying to a lot of knowledge.
How much knowledge will manage to survive the post collapse period, for the time that comes after when it may become useful again?
If it is insufficient, we will be starting from scratch again. This will apply to all knowledge and knowledge is a powerful thing, difficult to relearn from seed, and easily lost.
The topic of Peak Oil is at present enveloped by a great silence and the public seems unprepared for rational discussion
This reminds me of a comment made by Sherlock Holmes in A. Conan Doyle's story "Silver Blaze."
Inspector Gregory had asked, "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
To this Holmes responded:
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night time."
"The dog did nothing in the night time," said the Inspector.
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
By asking himself what would repress the normal barking instinct of a watchdog, Holmes realized that it must be the dog's recognition of his master as the criminal trespasser.
In a similar way we should ask ourselves what repression keeps us from discussing something as important as survival long term after Peak Oil.
Curious, but understandable - for the foreseeable future I think that our survival demands that we govern our actions by the ethics of a lifeboat. Posterity will be ill served if we do not.
Those who attended Peak Speak 1 in London last year may remember the lifeboat analogy I mentioned.
Greer uses a similar point in his 'The Coming of Deindustrial Society'.
'Imagine that you're on an ocean liner that's headed straight for a well marked shoal of rocks. Half the crew is dead drunk, and the other half has already responded to your attempts to alert them by telling you that you obviously don't know the first thing about navigation, and everything will be all right. At a certain point, you know, the ship will be so close to the rocks that its momentum will carry it onto them no matter what evasive actions the helmsman tries to make. You're not sure, but it looks as though that point is already well past.
What do you do? You can keep on pounding on the door to the bridge, trying to convince the crew of the approaching danger. You can join the prayer group down in the galley; they're convinced that if they pray fervently enough, God will save them from shipwreck. You can decide that everyone's doomed and go get roaring drunk. Or you can go around quietly to the other passengers, and encourage those people who have noticed the situation (or are willing to notice it) to break out the life jackets, assemble near the lifeboats, take care of people who need help, and otherwise deal with the approaching wreck in a way that will salvage as much as possible.
Although there is growing awareness of the problem, there is also widespread ignorance and denial, even by people who should know better.
Mankind has, it seems, an infinite capacity for denial. The evidence is overwhelming that we are in the "overshoot" phase of the industrial life cycle, yet most people and most organizations refuse even to discuss this matter, let alone acknowledge it. The world after the industrial age will be very different from the world of today. For most people on Earth (if mankind escapes extinction), it will be similar to the world of the past millions of years - a primitive, natural environment (although perhaps less bountiful and beautiful than before).
Although most people will not survive the collapse of the industrial age, it will belong, in concept and structure, to those who prepare for the great change that is about to happen
The arrays of skills necessary for people to 'thrive' and not just 'survive' in a non-oil economy are many. Most people do not have the essential skills to reproduce (or even repair) the technology on which we depend today.
We seem to be in a state of delusional thinking and the only thing we're debating is how we're going to keep the cars running without oil.
What I have said above is not, as some one said after my talk last year, to get you all to wear brown underwear. It is to try to show you that, even at this late stage, if we all do not think seriously, realistically and logically about the consequences of our inaction then what I have suggested may well become fact.
We will be faced with the necessity to downscale, rescale and reorganize all the fundamental activities of our daily lives; the way we grow food, the way we conduct commerce, the way we manufacture things and school our children. We must learn to do this tomorrow....at the crack of dawn.
We should seriously think of breaking out the "Life Jackets" and "Manning" the lifeboats which is as I said last year at least one step before "deploying" the lifeboats.
Methane now bubbling from Beaufort Sea
Posted by: "Geoff Capper" firstname.lastname@example.org cudalgeoff
Date: Mon Feb 5, 2007 2:50 pm ((PST))
Methane now bubbling from Beaufort Sea
Full article is available for money...
Remotely Operated Vehicle observations revealed streams of methane-rich
gas bubbles coming from the crests of pingo-like-features (PLFs) – due
to warm water influx. We offer a scenario of how PLFs may be growing
offshore as a result of gas pressure associated with gas hydrate
The Arctic shelf is currently undergoing dramatic thermal changes caused
by the continued warming associated with Holocene sea level rise. During
this transgression, comparatively warm waters have flooded over cold
permafrost areas of the Arctic Shelf. A thermal pulse of more than 10°C
is still propagating down into the submerged sediment and may be
decomposing gas hydrate as well as permafrost. A search for gas venting
on the Arctic seafloor focused on pingo-like-features (PLFs) on the
Beaufort Sea Shelf because they may be a direct consequence of gas
hydrate decomposition at depth. Vibracores collected from eight PLFs had
systematically elevated methane concentrations. ROV observations
revealed streams of methane-rich gas bubbles coming from the crests of
PLFs. We offer a scenario of how PLFs may be growing offshore as a
result of gas pressure associated with gas hydrate decomposition.
THE PARADIGM IS THE ENEMY: The State of the Peak Oil Movement at the Cusp of Collapse
A Speech by Michael C. Ruppert for the Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference
April 27-29, New York City, at Cooper Union
[This is the most important speech of my life. If you read anything I’ve written this year, read this – MCR]
April 28, 2006 1630 PST – (FTW) – NEW YORK - As a matter of necessity, in the course of a turbulent and often very difficult life, I have developed a pretty warped sense of humor. As most police officers, nurses, ER doctors, paramedics, and military combat veterans know, the best time to find humor is when things are at their worst. Sometimes the humor that emerges from these situations is strange, to say the least. And yet sometimes it remains the most memorable humor of a lifetime—humor that can actually sustain you in tough times. Humor is energy.
Too often Peak Oil activism reminds me of a statement that I found a long time ago in a book of famous quotations. In the section containing the last recorded words of famous people I found a quote that has stayed with me ever since.
The quote was simply, “We’ve got them now.”
The person who wrote those last “recorded” words on a dispatch to his commanding officer, General George Crook, was George Armstrong Custer.
During the course of this conference I have heard precious little attention paid to events in the world around us indicating that Peak Oil is about to have its global “coming out party” and what that might mean. In almost every nook, cranny and corner of the planet, stress points are beginning to fracture. For the past five years I have argued, emphasized, and repeated endlessly that perhaps the biggest mistake of all time was made on September 11th 2001, when the only real global operational plan to deal with Peak Oil was put into effect. On September 11th we began a war, now infamously known as “the war which will not end in our lifetimes,” to decide who will control the last remaining oil and gas reserves on the planet.
In Crossing the Rubicon I wrote, “Events in the five-year period that began on September 11th, 2001 will determine the course of human history for several centuries to come.” We are just months away from the end of that five-year period. What has been accomplished?
The painful answer is: not enough.
Where are we in the real world and how do we judge our current activities in light of real-world events? To sum it up in the words of one of the most senior members of the Peak Oil movement I know, Jay Hanson, “I see my worst fears unfolding right in front of my face.” Jay wrote those words just about a week ago.
Jay started the first Peak Oil website in the 1980s, almost even before there was a web. We should listen to Jay, and I could not agree more with his assessment; my worst fears are unfolding right in front of my face.
Perhaps the greatest flaw in the Peak Oil movement’s current operating paradigm is that, a part of the movement at least, instead of building lifeboats in the face of an immediate disaster, is delusionally focused on trying to build alternative-powered luxury liners that operate just like the paradigm we as a species need to be abandoning. Not only is this a futile effort, it may well be responsible for killing or destroying the lives of people who at least partially understand Peak Oil and who are trying to find the best courses of immediate action for themselves and their families.
Some parts of this movement however—and tonight I intend to honor two men who are leading the way—have seen the writing on the wall and are independently taking appropriate courses of action that demonstrate both the kind of incisive thinking and leadership that will be needed in very short order.
Before I tell you about these men I think it’s a good idea to stop for a minute and take an inventory of the world in which we live today—right now.
THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S ENERGY
I have observed that almost every Peak Oil conference, whether this one, or the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, or ASPO-USA, makes only the most superficial attempt to evaluate geopolitical and economic conditions. These conditions, more than the rate at which supplies are depleted, will determine how Peak Oil and collapse manifest in our lives.
• The Times of London on April 8th ran a story that should have pre-empted every other major story that day. Headlined “World ‘cannot meet oil demand’”. The story’s first sentence read, “The world lacks the means to produce enough oil to meet rising projections for demand for fuel, according to Cristophe de Margerie, head of exploration for Total.” Later the story quoted Margerie as saying, “’Numbers like 120 million barrels per day will never be reached, never’ he said.”
• In the last year we have seen the collapse of Kuwait ’s super-giant field Burgan; accelerated decline in the world’s second-largest field, Mexico ’s Cantarell; and an overall global decline rate approaching 8%. We have seen Saudi Arabia fail to increase production while at the same time finding it more difficult to hide deteriorating reservoir conditions in all of its mature fields, including Ghawar. As of tonight, more than 30 of the world’s largest producing nations have entered steep decline.
• Discoveries continue to fall off a cliff. Over the last four years the world has been consuming 6 barrels of oil for every new one found. Publicity stunts, such as the recent attempt to reclassify Venezuelan tar as oil – even when applauded by dilettantes like Gregg Palast – are having no impact on markets, prices or public policy. I think we can safely say at this point that we will soon see an end to the influence of charlatans and schemers like Daniel Yergin of Cambridge Energy. (Now there’s at least one bright note.) At this point, the Peak Oil movement should avoid expending needless energy on any arguments about whether Peak Oil is real or not. That precious energy is needed elsewhere. We have won that debate.
• Soaring commodity prices for everything from copper, to uranium, to cement and steel are not only hampering needed infrastructure investment, they are also making it almost impossible to build new drilling rigs, especially deep water rigs. Commodity scarcities are the result of overpopulation, hoarding, over consumption and nothing else. Drilling rigs themselves are in extremely short supply around the world and I believe we should also stay away from any debates about whether new oil supply will even make a difference. It will not and we need only continue to breathe in and out to see this position vindicated also.
• The US government continues an unwinnable war in Iraq while building massive permanent bases and the largest embassy compound ever built. Not only does the US have no intention of leaving Iraq , it has committed—whether under Republican or Democratic leadership—to staying forever—whatever that means. The Empire’s position is clear, not as a result of what it says, but as a result of what it has done. America ’s primary plan to deal with Peak Oil is to fight or intimidate for energy supplies wherever it deems necessary. That, of course, has forced the rest of the world—with a few notable exceptions like Norway and Brazil —to dance to the same sheet music. As a result, I would estimate that of every ten units of energy (or money) expended preparing for Peak Oil today, nine are spent preparing for war while only one is spent building lifeboats and teaching people how to survive. This is sheer insanity.
• The US government is playing a bluff hand over an attack against Iran , which in spite of being both unlikely and risking a global nuclear holocaust, has resulted in massive increases in military spending all around the planet. A global arms race is now using up energy and commodities that should be used rebuilding railroads, enhancing mass transportation, and building renewable infrastructure to soften the coming blows.
• In the face of this, the entire world, and especially China , Russia , India , Germany and Japan are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars of investment into Iran . This is one of many sure signs that the American Empire’s weaknesses are becoming visible. There is blood in the water and blood in the water usually leads to a fight. The world, at least as far as its pocketbook is concerned, is betting on Iran .
• Russia is selling Iran lots of Tor M1 anti-aircraft missile systems and cruise missile and high-speed torpedo technologies. China also is flooding Iran with advanced military systems.
• The US has stepped up deliveries of weapons systems and military advisors to oil-producing regions around the world. This has been matched by similar deliveries to the same regions by Russia , China , Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , Venezuela , France , Britain , India and many other countries. A best-selling novel inChina , The Battle in Protecting Key Oil Routes, has the Chinese navy destroying a US carrier battle group. The popular book documents a bloody contest over control of the Straits of Malacca, that narrow channel through which most of China ’s, Japan ’s, and Korea ’s energy passes.
• China ’s Hu Jintao, clearly one of the world’s only major leaders with both plans and choices, is making direct calls on Saudi Arabia and Nigeria as George W. Bush haplessly points to hydrogen fuel cell cars as a solution. Don’t worry about how many American people will buy into such Bush nonsense. Worry about how many world leaders are watching these same clips and asking, “Is that the best he can do? America is in deep shit.”
• In Nigeria—the US’s fifth largest oil supplier and the world’s eighth—groups of well-organized and supplied rebels are using high-tech email, bombs, bullets and kidnapping to terrorize major oil companies. Production is threatened on a daily basis. In a world where there is no place else to go to replace even 50,000 barrels a day—out of the 84 million needed—the totally corrupt regime of Olusegun Obasanjo is besieged by rebel and dissident groups on many fronts. I have no doubt that several of these groups are being financed, trained, led and supplied through covert arms of the US, Chinese, Russian, British, Saudi, Pakistani and/or Indian governments.
• In nearby Chad—which is the source-country for the Chad-Cameroon pipeline delivering 160,000 barrels a day into the global mouth—as he attempts to ward off an aggressively hungry World Bank, President Idriss Deby is literally holding oil hostage. Knowing full well that to shut down the pipeline would cause an estimated $10 jump in the price of oil, he is literally telling the west, “Come any closer and I’ll shoot the oil.”
• At the same time, Chad is beset by rebel insurgents from neighboring Sudan , which is China ’s fifth-largest oil supplier. Both the US and China are hip-deep in covert operations in Sudan.
• On April 18, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with one of Africa’s most brutal dictators, Teodoro Nguema of Equatorial Guinea —Africa’s third-largest oil exporter, calling him a good friend of the US . With institutional memories as short as they are, few remember that Sir Mark Thatcher, son of Britain ’s Margaret Thatcher, was nabbed last year in the middle of a coup intended to oust Nguema.
• All of Africa, especially West Africa—exactly as I predicted in 2003,in Crossing the Rubicon and in last year’s lecture series which became our newest DVD Denial Stops Here—is exploding with armed insurrections from the Western Sahara region to Angola . It is West Africa where I believe we will see proxy wars likely intensifying this year, which could trigger a global nuclear exchange in very short order.
• But murder, far more callous, is about to be perpetrated by the Democratic Party as it enters the 2006 midterm campaigns with what is surely—barring a miracle—going to be one of its major planks in 2008: “Don’t worry,” they will promise, “the Democrats will restore cheap gasoline for all and find a no-pain answer to all of our energy woes. High prices are the fault of greedy oil companies and price gougers, not a lack of supply.” I can promise you now, Hillary Clinton, that if the Democratic Party adopts this approach it will find in me an enemy that will make FTW’s editorial posture towards the Bush administration over the last five years look like abject friendship.
• American mainstream media has become absolutely and certifiably schizophrenic on the issue of Peak Oil. Within the space of an hour, one can watch segments acknowledging Peak Oil and Gas and the insoluble problems they bring, and segments assuring us that there is no problem at all if we just fix a few little things.
• On April 11th The Financial Times reported that Russian production is falling and expected to decrease—rather than increase—rapidly over the next four years.
• On April 21, Russia ’s giant, Gazprom—for the second time in less than a year—threatened to shut off Europe’s only major source of natural gas. Just a month previously, a desperate and hobbled Britain surrendered its energy sovereignty to the European Union in the hopes of getting better energy prices at the end of Russia ’s long natural gas supply line.
• On April 24th, just a few days ago, during his state visit to Saudi Arabia , Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a series of accords in which China , in exchange for a larger portion of Saudi oil exports, agreed to transfer high-tech weapons and other technologies to the Saudi monarchy in exchange.
• At the same moment that George W. Bush has announced that he will stop refilling the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an ill-conceived attempt to lower pump prices—a completely shortsighted and self-serving gesture—China is in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to begin filling a new one.
• Climate Change and hurricanes not only continue apace but have accelerated. Now that we are just weeks away from a new hurricane season, fully 23% of Gulf of Mexico production remains shut-in after last year’s hurricanes. Recently the Department of Energy acknowledged that most of that would never be rebuilt due to high investment costs at mature and post-mature reservoirs. Aside from the fact that it’s not cost effective, this is also because of rig shortages. This is what FTW warned you about almost a year ago. When and if we ever have a chance to look back we will historically mark Katrina and Rita as the singular moment in time when a true US economic and military resurgence became impossible; the moment when the Empire began it’s collapse. In other words, that was the moment when the Empire passed from decline to terminal status.
• On April 4th, Dow Jones’ MarketWatch reported that $6 to $7 gasoline might be coming this summer. Is there anyone in this room tonight who does not believe that $6-$7 gasoline would be an unmistakable sign of collapse?
• And let me add an observation here. I think a good part of this unseasonable spike in American oil prices is both caused by the switch out from MTBE to ethanol and a classic political strategy which is to create a bad problem and then appear to solve it so that people will accept an otherwise unacceptable solution. This is an election year. The elections are not for seven months. I for one do NOT think we will see $6 or $7 gasoline this summer. I think gas prices may reach $4 or even $5 for a short period, after which the Bush administration (say sometime between July and September) will again tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and his oil industry base will—they hope—be able to find a few million barrels to temporarily drive prices down, give Republicans a desperately-needed electoral boost, and feed another dose of valium to the increasingly worn out American consumer.
• But to assume that the current high prices are solely caused by the MTBE/Ethanol switchover is to miss the fact that Britain is now experiencing it’s highest-ever gasoline prices averaging more than $8 per gallon or that Japan—according to the news agency Chugoku—has now reached it’s highest-ever price for diesel fuel at almost $4.00 per gallon. These countries do not have MTBE rules to be concerned with. Peak Oil is here.
There is an enormous risk lurking in all this. I mean a potentially deadly risk.
As the effects of Peak Oil intensify there is less and less wiggle room on the planet for any miscalculation. Worse, there is less and less room to recover from or adjust to any “surprises” that might come along.
What are some of these possible surprises?
• Just one more major hurricane
• A major earthquake in any oil producing region or pipeline corridor from Russia ’s far east, to Iran , to Alberta
• Any one of a dozen possible side effects from global warming, whether from melting tundra that might sink pipelines, to rising sea levels that might endanger offshore production
• Civil unrest in any oil-producing region that gets out of control and damages more infrastructure than can be quickly repaired
• A decision by Venezuela ’s Hugo Chavez to redirect just 10 or 15% of his US exports to other customers
• A successful attack on Saudi Arabia ’s Abqaiq terminal
• Political unrest in our second-largest oil supplier, Mexico
• Major unrest in the Caspian basin – another region where covert operations are now probably the second- or third-largest GDP component for several nations.
As I speak tonight, India is moving to supply MiG 29s to Tajikistan at the same time that Kyrgyzstan is threatening to revoke permission for US bases. This is a building vacuum that China , India , Russia and Pakistan (all nuclear powers) are eager to fill. Add Iran to the list of nations seeking increased influence in the Caspian Basin.
Another one of many reasons why the US cannot and will not attack Iran is that—unreported by the major media—the US military has undertaken quiet but significant military build ups in both West Africa and in the Caspian. US military personnel have been dispatched to Nigeria and NATO and the US Navy have begun moving into to the Gulf of Guinea. This is pulling ever tighter on the already over-stretched rubber band holding the US military together as it experiences a continuing, unmitigated and unprecedented defeat in Iraq .
There are many more possible precipitating events that could push the first dominoes in the chain of collapse. Any one of them could trigger a massive and sudden descent into chaos that would catch all of us by surprise. My position is that we cannot afford to be unprepared for surprises. And it’s probably an event we haven’t thought of that will ultimately do it. These are only a few possibilities.
THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN AND WORLD ECONOMIES
• General Motors, as it stands on the brink of bankruptcy, has announced that it lost $106 billion last year.
• Ford and Daimler Chrysler are teetering not far behind GM as Toyota is poised to become the largest auto maker in the world, bigger in terms of sales than America ’s Big Three combined.
• As US News told us last December 19th, 800,000 jobs were going to be cut last winter. The final numbers aren’t in yet, but it looks like that happened.
• According to an MS-NBC story dated April 24, “The Housing Bubble Has Popped” as inventories swell, sales decline, prices soften, lenders are raising rates and the first signs of panic start to appear. For those who have followed the housing bubble closely, you know that this is a global housing bubble and that these trends have become apparent from the UK, to Australia, to Japan. Along with falling house prices and a drying up of credit, over-stretched consumers now face very difficult choices as they are forced to decide between driving, eating, paying their bills, or having a place to live. This particular collapse is just beginning and the world economy must follow its lead.
• New stories are reporting that some Americans are pawning precious objects for gas money.
• Consumer debt continues to skyrocket as the US trade deficit continues to explode.
• Bankruptcies are at an all-time high.
• As Reuters told us on April 22, the Finance Ministers of the G7 nations have just announced after their recent meeting in Washington that the dollar is going into decline.
• On April 24th, Qatar announced that it will begin diversifying out of dollars and into Euros.
• On April 4th, according to Reuters, the Vice Chair of the Chinese parliament urged that China reduce its holdings of US debt.
• On February 22, the director of Norway ’s stock exchange recommended that Norway drop out of the London Petroleum Exchange (priced in dollars) and open an oil trading bourse priced in Euros.
• On January 12, Britain ’s Independent announced that Norway had begun preparations for a global environmental and economic collapse. The story reported that “ Norway has revealed a plan to build a ‘doomsday vault’ hewn out of an Arctic mountain to store two million crop seeds in the event of a global disaster. The store is designed to hold all the seeds representing the world's crops and is being built to safeguard future food supplies in the event of widespread environmental collapse.
• In a sign of pending inflation, the Federal Reserve last month stopped telling us what the M3 money supply was in a surefire indication that inflation is on the way. This came conveniently after further inflationary indicators were hidden by removing the cost of gasoline and food from the Consumer Price Index.
• On March 28, Al Jazeera warned that Asia must be prepared for an imminent dollar collapse.
• On March 26, India moved to relax all currency controls for the Rupee. This suggests that India knows a dollar crash is coming and hopes that the Rupee will enjoy the bounce.
• China has made another adjustment re-evaluating the Yuan, accelerating the dollar’s decline.
• The Asian Development Bank has announced plans to develop a regional currency index as a preliminary step in the creation of a Euro-like currency for Asia.
• The dollar has lost six cents against the Euro in the last six weeks.
• Gold, which I have and still devotedly endorse as a safe haven for either rich or poor, has broken through to highs not seen in 18 years. I had not expected gold to break $600 an ounce until at least this fall. It happened weeks ago. Notwithstanding the predictable price corrections that we will see, as a failed and broken system of gold price suppression loses control, I think the path is now fairly clear to $800 gold within two years or less. When Peak Oil becomes aggressive, within the next five years, I think $1,000 gold is a certainty. As always, I encourage FTW subscribers and anyone who will pay attention to continue to invest in gold. To be precise, I encourage them to invest in physical, tangible, gold bullion or bullion coins like the Maple Leaf or Krugerand that can be kept close to home and hearth. Small gold purchases can be made for as little as a few hundred dollars. All of the struggling FTW subscribers who have made even tiny purchases have benefited by seeing even their meager investments double in four years and increase by 50% in value in just the last 18 months.
• Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Roach – who last year warned of an economic Armageddon is now warning, “I continue to believe that the American consumer is the weak link in the global daisy chain. The combination of rising long-term interest rates and higher oil prices puts an unmistakable squeeze on discretionary income – the last thing overly indebted, savings-short US consumers need…”
So why then has the Dow recently reached six-year highs? It’s simple, and I know that my good friend and colleague, Catherine Austin Fitts will agree, that the DOW Jones Industrial Average has absolutely nothing to do with measuring the quality of American life. I am reminded of one of the most important quotes I have ever obtained for a story, that of Dutch economist Martin Van Mourik who told the Paris ASPO Conference in 2003, “It may not be profitable to slow decline.”
Indeed ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the point where every increase in the Dow will mean that life has actually gotten worse for Americans and riskier for the world as a whole. I described the endgame of this irony in one of my favorite essays of all time Globalcorp. As M. King Hubbert wrote, and as Catherine Austin Fitts teaches, and as I have said for so long, “Until you change the way money works, you change nothing.”
It is a shame that much of the Peak Oil movement that understands this problem is foolishly trying to change the way money works systemically, instead of trying to change it in the only way that time and circumstance now permit—individually, locally and regionally. The first and primary requirement for that to occur is for people to disengage from the global paradigm.
TWO LEADERS POINTING THE WAY
During my eight-month hiatus from public speaking, I have watched the Peak Oil movement morph from its general status as a “lunatic fringe” group to acceptance and even recognition and honor as an “influential special interest group.” (That’s what they call groups like us on Capitol Hill and in the mainstream press). Many members of congress, business leaders, and even the major media listen to us now. To the organizers of this conference and to all of us who have labored on the Peak Oil field for years—like Jay Hanson, Richard Duncan, Walter Youngquist, Ken Deffeyes and Colin Campbell, for decades—there is some relief in seeing growing public (and even governmental) acknowledgment of Peak Oil. Of course, most of us have known that all we had to do was keep breathing in and out for a while and we would be vindicated on the issue.
But now what?
Before I continue, let me stop and acknowledge that the backbone of this section of my speech tonight was derived from a series of original From The Wilderness articles published almost a year ago. Our then Science Editor, Dale Allen Pfeiffer, brought to my attention a brilliant Russian writer named Dmitry Orlov who—having experienced the collapse of the Soviet Empire—thought that there might be some lessons to learn if rational minds compared what looked to be the ever-more-certain coming collapse of the American Empire. After listening to Dale and corresponding with Dmitry—who presented here yesterday with my good friend, and a great Peak Oil leader, Matt Savinar—I instantly commissioned a three-part series for FTW titled Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century.
That series is probably the single most eloquent and cogent piece of writing FTW has published in its eight-plus years. And if you are familiar with FTW writers like Stan Goff, Jamey Hecht, Carolyn Baker, and Michael Kane you know that’s a heck of a compliment. You can still read Dmitry’s stories on our site and if you have not, I beg that you do.
So let me acknowledge right now, that our next important lesson tonight was first articulated by Dmitry—Dmitry, if you’re here, please stand up. I’m going to quote Dmitry quite a bit as I add my own observations and updates about the biggest challenges lying in front of us and how we might deal with them.
At the start of his series, Dmitry observed that when he started looking for stories connecting economic collapse to Peak Oil in October 2004 there were 16,300 such documents listed on search engines. Less than a year later, by April 2005 there were 4,220,000. He pointed out correctly that the reason why such stories had not been discussed in the media was attributable to only one cause: denial.
Let’s take a look at just a few of the most important quotes from Dmitry’s essays. You really need to read the entire set. And even though these quotes are clipped from disparate sections, when strung together they speak for themselves admirably and paint a deeply-moving picture.
• “Instead, there is much discussion of policy: what ‘we’ should do. The ‘we’ in question is presumably some embodiment of the great American Can-Do Spirit: a brilliantly organized consortium of government agencies, leading universities, research centers, and major corporations, all working together toward the goal of providing plentiful, clean, environmentally safe energy, to fuel another century of economic expansion. Welcome to the sideshow at the end of the universe!”
• “The next circle of denial revolves around what must inevitably come to pass if the Goddess of Technology were to fail us: a series of wars over ever-more scarce resources. Paul Roberts, who is very well informed on the subject of peak oil, has this to say: ‘what desperate states have always done when resources turn scarce… [is] fight for them.’ Let us not argue that this has never happened, but did it ever amount to anything more than a futile gesture of desperation? Wars take resources, and, when resources are already scarce, fighting wars over resources becomes a lethal exercise in futility. Those with more resources would be expected to win. I am not arguing that wars over resources will not occur. I am suggesting that they will be futile, and that victory in these conflicts will be barely distinguishable from defeat. I would also like to suggest that these conflicts would be self-limiting: modern warfare uses up prodigious amounts of energy, and if the conflicts are over oil and gas installations, then those installations will get blown up, as has happened repeatedly in Iraq . This will result in less energy being available and, consequently, less warfare.”
• “While the United States used to have far more goodwill around the world than the Soviet Union, the ‘evil empire’ gap has narrowed since the Soviet Union disappeared from the scene. Now, in many countries around the world, including Western countries like Sweden , the United States ranks as a bigger threat to peace than Iran or North Korea . In the hated-empire race, the United States is now beginning to look like the champion. Nobody likes a loser, but especially if the loser is a failed superpower. Nobody had any pity for the poor defunct Soviet Union; and nobody will have any pity for poor defunct America either.”
• “The United States is now facing a current account deficit that cannot be sustained, a falling currency, and an energy crisis, all at once. It is now the world's largest debtor nation, and most people do not see how it can avoid defaulting on its debt. According to a lot of analysts, it is technically bankrupt, and is being propped up by foreign reserve banks, which hold a lot of dollar-denominated assets, and, for the time being, want to protect the value of their reserves. This game can only go on for so long. Thus, while the Soviet Union deserves honorable mention for going bankrupt first, the gold in this category (pun intended) will undoubtedly go to the United States , for the largest default ever.”
• “Both countries replaced family farms with unsustainable, ecologically disastrous industrial agribusiness, addicted to fossil fuels. The American ones work better, as long as energy is cheap, and, after that, probably not at all.”
• I’ll have to paraphrase Dmitry on race and violence. But in that section he noted that not only was race not an important stress line in the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were also virtually no firearms in private hands. His advice for minorities in America was to find either an ethnically homogeneous community “while the rest would be well-advised to look for the few communities where inter-ethnic relations have been cemented through integrated living and intermarriage, and where the strange and fragile entity that is multi-ethnic society might have a chance of holding together.”
• “Another key difference between the US and the USSR : in the Soviet Union, nobody owned their place of residence. What this meant is that the economy could collapse without causing homelessness: just about everyone went on living in the same place as before. There were no evictions or foreclosures. Everyone stayed put, and this prevented society from disintegrating.”
• “One more difference: the place where they stayed put was generally accessible by public transportation, which continued to run during the worst of times. Most of the Soviet-era developments were centrally planned, and central planners do not like sprawl: it is too difficult and expensive to service. Few people owned cars, and even fewer depended on cars for getting around. Even the worst gasoline shortages resulted in only minor inconveniences for most people…”
• “Most people in the U.S. cannot survive very long without an income. This may sound curious to some people—how can anyone, anywhere survive without an income? Well, in post-collapse Russia, if you didn't pay rent or utilities—because no-one else was paying them either—and if you grew or gathered a bit of your own food, and you had some friends and relatives to help you out, then an income was not a prerequisite for survival. Most people got by, somehow.”
• “A collapsing economy is especially hard on those who are accustomed to prompt, courteous service. In the Soviet Union, most official service was rude and slow, and involved standing in long lines. Many of the products that were in short supply could not be obtained even in this manner, and required something called blat: special, unofficial access or favor. The exchange of personal favors was far more important to the actual functioning of the economy than the exchange of money. To Russians, blat is almost a sacred thing: a vital part of culture that holds society together. It is also the only part of the economy that is collapse-proof, and, as such, a valuable cultural adaptation.”
• And finally, Dmitry wrote, “In all, I expect drugs and alcohol to become one of the largest short-term post-collapse entrepreneurial opportunities in the United States , along with asset stripping, and security.”
As Dmitry wrote in his series, the collapse of Empires, as with Rome, has in the past sometimes taken centuries. In the case of the Mayans it happened in a much shorter period. But Dmitry was quick to observe that the first stages of collapse are often the most dislocative, painful, and demanding because that’s when the first psychological and physical shocks hit hardest. And I would argue—along with the likes of Joseph Tainter—that the collapse of modern, highly-complex empires is both accelerated and far more aggravated than what happened 1600 years ago in Rome.
The Soviet Empire collapsed and disappeared in less than four years and the devastation for the Russian people was both profound and deadly. I have been to Russia and I will never forget a little piece of Russian humor left over from the siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the Second World War. I told my Russian hosts that I wanted to get a little outside of the cosmopolitan center of Moscow and see some “real Russia ”.
The first thing they said was, “If you go into a restaurant, don’t order chicken.”
I hesitated and then asked, “Why?”
“Because”, they said, “ever since the Germans laid siege to Leningrad, chicken is what we have called it when we had to eat our comrades to stay alive and in the fight. In some parts of Russia one is still never sure.”
Do we dare assume that Americans are special and somehow exempt from all the vicissitudes that have befallen every other collapse of empire in history?
For those of you who chided me last year for predicting an American economic collapse this last winter, which some argue—in spite of this evidence—failed to materialize, let me point out that—and we will talk about it tonight—there are strong signs that collapse has already begun. I never said the collapse would be over last winter, I only said that it would begin. That collapse will most certainly be here—in emerging bloom and for all to see—this summer. No one will remain unaffected by it. Whenever it ends, it is not going to end prettily.
When one is preoccupied with survival, anything beyond survival becomes an imponderable luxury. And to mistakenly label a luxury a necessity makes it impossible to survive. The Peak Oil movement needs to ask itself now: what are its necessities and what are its luxuries? There is precious little room for error now. These decisions will be hard but they must be made.
If some Latin scholar had predicted the day that the barbarians would sack, loot, and occupy Rome and missed it by only four months, he or she today would be regarded as a prophet. I am content tonight, to just be the same asshole many of you have come to know and love—or hate—over the years. I’m just doing my job as I see it needs to be done. That is all I have ever done.
And now we come to the second man I would like to honor tonight, Julian Darley of Global Public Media and the Post Carbon Institute.
Put simply, the Post Carbon Institute’s mission is to save lives. Put a little more succinctly, the Post Carbon Institute’s mission is to work with local groups around North America and the world to facilitate their construction of their own lifeboats, specifically tailored to the strengths and weaknesses faced by each unique locale that presents itself for help.
To facilitate this, the Post Carbon Institute has adopted a unique approach. Rather than dictate top-down policies or provide cookie-cutter solutions which may or may not prove helpful as collapse accelerates, the Institute facilitates relocalization by insisting that each Post-Carbon “outpost,” as it calls them, operate autonomously while receiving only guidance, support, and updated information and news from the Institute itself. Each outpost then has only one mission, to focus on immediate improvements to its community such as, but certainly not limited to: local farming, car sharing, local currencies and event organization. As Julian puts it, “the stakes are the survival of this project we call civilization.”
Since beginning its work in the second half of 2003, the Post Carbon Institute has fostered the creation of more than 90 local groups all over the US and Canada, as well as in the UK, Australia, Sweden and even Yemen. It has grown explosively as small, aware groups of citizens have seen the wisdom of Julian’s approach which begins with one of the first rules in any survival situation: Let the people on the ground make the decisions according to their own judgment, in their own place.
Instead of 90 Post Carbon groups around the world there should be 9,000. These are the kinds of numbers we need to see if we are to really make a difference in helping to decide who eats and stays warm, who lives and who dies.
If you have not yet visited the Post Carbon web site, you must.
If this conference has motivated you to start preparing for the challenges that lie ahead, you need to begin by accepting the head start that the Post Carbon Institute has given you. Richard Heinberg—another great hero of this movement—has said, “The Post Carbon Institute is clearly the first medic on the scene—the first organized response to Peak Oil.”
About a year and a half ago, seeing what was coming, I looked around and saw a crying need for someone to take the lead on this challenge. Before that, my expertise and that of From the Wilderness had been geopolitical and economic analysis. I had precious little experience or training on issues of sustainability, agriculture, water, alternative construction, and all the other things we need to learn.
Nevertheless I was willing to take FTW and my writings in that direction even though I knew that there had to be others far more capable than I was. I am happy to report to you tonight that I and FTW no longer need to go in that direction. An expert—and I know Julian will protest that label—has arrived and this has made a huge difference for us. It is now vastly more effective for me and FTW to say that on the key issues of relocalization, downsizing and sustainability, we encourage everyone to look to the Post Carbon Institute for guidance and leadership. Julian has invented that wheel for us. We only need a few more and we can make a wagon to take us down survival’s path.
As a result, I and FTW are free to return to what we do best: geopolitical and macro-economic analysis. Since our recent move to Ashland, Oregon, we have hired three new staff. We have increased our production of original stories by more than 50% and we plan on doubling our output within the next four months. In this way FTW can work as a strategic partner with the Post Carbon Institute and all of the other great groups that have come here to New York to provide what no one else can: an early warning system and the kind of analysis that will identify hot spots, key issues, trends, and pending crises far enough ahead so that each locality can prioritize its own efforts according to its own needs in light of a rapidly changing global map.
This is the way in which those who see Peak Oil for what it is can plan, prepare, and respond as needs dictate. This is the way in which true leadership, whether it be visionary and analytical as is the case with Dimity Orlov, or organizational and educational as with Julian Darley, can make a difference. This is the living embodiment of Catherine Austin Fitts’ maxim that “No one is as smart as all of us.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you my good friend, a man who I respect and admire, Mr. Julian Darley.
A well-known Peak Oil activist has already moved into a post-oil paradigm. He has no car. He has no cell phone. He travels only by train to avoid leaving a large energy footprint. Yet at the same time he tries to organize conferences around the country, leaving people who depend on quick responses and decision making to operate at levels not seen since the 1940s or 50s.
Does anyone here believe that Dick Cheney or Hillary Clinton or Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke or any of the world’s business leaders are making such self-sabotaging choices now? They may have to, someday. But for now they are taking every possible advantage, using whatever energy is needed, to prepare and position themselves to stay ahead of what are now certain coming events.
I hate to say it, but perhaps we should take a lesson from our enemies here.
Let us not forget that in order to get to the Post-carbon world that is inevitable we must first survive the collapse and the die off that is inevitable. The challenges of the transition period will be completely different from the challenges of living in a world without cheap energy.
It is the almost complete failure of the Peak Oil movement in the United States—and around the world—to grasp, ponder or even acknowledge these transitions that are pointing to a needed evolution in our approach to education, research, networking, and organizing. Psychologically it is always easier to plan along the lines of a single challenge rather than to try to prepare for chaos on a fluid, multi-dimensional field where serious challenges may be completely different from one day to the next. But the easiest path is not always the best choice.
The maxim that I live by is that what we need today, right now, is not a plan, but options. Plans do not bend well. They tend to break. And with breaks in plans come break downs in function. The only plan that I live by today—the only plan that I recommend to our subscribers—is to increase one’s options as much as possible and to selectively choose those options based upon what is happening in the world now and what those developments might mean for the future.
I would submit to you tonight that perhaps a more important question that needs to be answered first is: “How do we get from a civilization where collapse and dislocation is just beginning to a place where we can prepare to transition away from oil and gas when the time is appropriate”?
John Lennon once wrote that “Life is what happens to you while you were busy making other plans.” This movement needs to reflect on that.
A dear friend of mine, Dr. Faiz Khan, once said that a paradigm is what you think about something before you think about it.
If the global economic paradigm that we live under dictates infinite growth, then we must disengage individually and by community from that paradigm.
If the activist paradigm that we live under says that we must slow down the process of reform and planning to make room for all and offend no one, no matter how much they may slow down or confuse the process, then we must disengage from that paradigm. This is no longer about protracted—and almost always ineffective—social change. This is about survival. I refuse to die, and I refuse to encourage anyone else to risk death or to slow down for or argue with people who are either incapable of understanding, too lazy to do the necessary homework, or too tightly wedded to old ideas.
Are these old ideas and cherished values and principles now luxuries or necessities? We will each make our own decisions, and in a world that will give us near instantaneous feedback. We will suffer or prosper, we will stop or continue, we will live and die accordingly.
Buddhist philosophy teaches us that life is suffering. It is amazing how much joy and liberation can be achieved from that viewpoint. It has to do with lowering expectations so that little pieces of joy and cause for celebration are more accessible to our hearts and minds.
Judeo-Christianity, as practiced in America, tends to make us all believe that if we are spiritually and morally correct, we will be rewarded with abundance. As Dmitry Orlov observed, Christianity in other parts of the world teaches that the path to salvation and redemption lies through suffering and denial. Which is it then?
If the spiritual or religious paradigm that you live under influences your thinking in either direction, then that paradigm is your enemy and my enemy. What is it that you think about before you think? Find it, identify it, and discard anything that is not a survival necessity.
The only thing that the universe is offering the human species now is the opportunity to change—to evolve…or to perish.
Perhaps there is a new understanding of God awaiting those who survive. I have long held the personal belief that religion is for people who are afraid of going to Hell and that true spirituality is for those who have already been there.
What I do know, because I have faced many survival challenges in my life, is that the less baggage one takes into any survival situation, the more likely one is to survive.
Perhaps this philosophy is best summed up by one of my favorite quotes of all time. In his classic science fiction novel Dune, Frank Herbert wrote:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
When the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
May 11, 2005
HUFFINGTON POST EXCLUSIVE: EMBARGOED BOOK CLAIMS SAUDI OIL INFRASTRUCTURE RIGGED FOR CATASTROPHIC SELF-DESTRUCTION
Huffington Post | EXCLUSIVE | permalink
According to a new book exclusively obtained by the Huffington Post, Saudi Arabia has crafted a plan to protect itself from a possible invasion or internal attack. It includes the use of a series of explosives, including radioactive “dirty bombs,” that would cripple Saudi Arabian oil production and distribution systems for decades.
Bestselling author Gerald Posner lays out this “doomsday scenario” in his forthcoming “Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-US Connection” (Random House).
According to the book, which will be released to the public on May 17, based on National Security Agency electronic intercepts, the Saudi Arabian government has in place a nationwide, self-destruction explosive system composed of conventional explosives and dirty bombs strategically placed at the Kingdom’s key oil ports, pipelines, pumping stations, storage tanks, offshore platforms, and backup facilities. If activated, the bombs would destroy the infrastructure of the world’s largest oil supplier, and leave the country a contaminated nuclear wasteland ensuring that the Kingdom’s oil would be unusable to anyone. The NSA file is dubbed internally Petro SE, for petroleum scorched earth.
To make certain that the damaged facilities cannot be rebuilt, the Saudis have deployed crude Radioactive Dispersal Devices (RDDs) throughout the Kingdom. Built covertly over several years, these dirty bombs are in place at -- among other locations -- all eight of the Kingdom’s refineries, sections of the world’s largest oil field at Ghawar, and at three of the ten indispensable processing towers at the largest-ever processing complex at Abqaiq.
According to the NSA intercepts, Petro SE was devised by the Saudis because of their overriding fear that if an internal revolt or external attack threatened the survival of the House of Saud, the U.S. and other Western powers might abandon them as the Shah of Iran was abandoned in 1979. Only by having in place a system that threatened to create crippling oil price increases, political instability and economic recessions did the royal family believe it could coerce Western military powers to keep them in power.
Some American and Israeli officials privately believe that Saudi officials have been aware for more than a decade that their conversations were monitored, and that as a result they greatly exaggerated Petro SE in order to blackmail the West into protecting them at all costs. For the Saudis, the threat to the U.S. and other powers works so long as those countries cannot be certain of the extent of the “self-destruction grid.”
Posner chronicles an over twenty-five year multinational intelligence gathering operation that exposes Petro SE -- the House of Saud’s “nuclear” insurance policy to escape the fate of Saddam Hussein and the Shah of Iran.
“Although the NSA is not certain of the radioactive elements finally used by the Saudis, they believe Petro SE successfully developed dozens of radiation dispersal devices,” Posner writes.
“These RDDs that the Saudis have integrated into their oil infrastructure are far less lethal than traditional nuclear weapons. The risk is not mass fatal casualties as with a nuclear explosive, but rather increased cancer rates over many years. In the short run, the psychological fear that an area is contaminated by radiation might be so great as to make it commercially unproductive.”
Posner is an award-winning author of nine books, including "Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11" and "Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK", and has written for such publications as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and U.S. News & World Report.
Posted May 9, 2005 06:15 AM
Wow...great grab Arianna ...so far I love this site!!
Posted by: Roxy66 at May 9, 2005 06:53 AM
Alas, from Gerald's "Secrets of the Kingdom," we now know why many Saudi royals have properties in Spain, Switzerland, France, England, the Cayman Islands, the Netherlands, the U.S. -- and "anywhere but Arabia" for their major investments. Perhaps this is also why the Saudis have had such difficulty attracting venture partners for development of Arabia's natural gas fields. With such a scheme afoot, it is little wonder many Saudi royals have remained "liquid" with vast deposits in Swiss Banks and investments in the stocks of U.S. corporations, including our largest banks.
Posted by: Lois Ann Battuello at May 9, 2005 07:15 AM
Congratulations and Best Wishes on this new effort of yours. I bet it becomes a watering hole for all sorts of good people, and the bad folk who show up... well, we won't be able to say we didn't know what was out-there.
Sincerely, Jack Mauro
Posted by: Jack Mauro at May 9, 2005 07:26 AM
Congrats on your new web project, Arianna! However, where are Diane Keaton, Warren Beatty, and the other celebs? I thought they were supposed to be blogging here?
Posted by: DUmmie FUnnies at May 9, 2005 07:42 AM
I just saw Arianna talking about this news on CNN and came over to look at it. WOW! I can't believe that Soledad O'Brien just passed over Arianna's disclosure that the Saudis have their oil fields rigged with nuclear bombs!!!! This story scares the hell out of me, and I can't believe it is not on top of CNN's news. But when Arianna told Soledad about it, Soledad just continued asking her prepared questions about celebrities and the blog. This is a prime example of what is wrong with the standard news outlets nowadays. There are no real journalists out there and they can't follow up on a queston on their own unless some producer has prepared it for them. Soledad, READ this story and tell us you didn't miss your own scoop?
Now seriously, what are we going to do about the Saudis? This is a major problem. Very worrisome.
Posted by: janice decosimo at May 9, 2005 07:45 AM
Congrats on the site Ms. H. But special "props" to Gerald Posner - a brave and terrific writer ("Case Closed" & "Why America Slept" etc) and this one sounds fantastic - can't wait for the release!
Posted by: Mike Opelka at May 9, 2005 07:51 AM
Superb site, now bookmarked.
But to say that I am stunned by this book is an understatement. Doesn't that mean that the Saudis are a nuclear power now?
Where's the UN and US outrage at this illegal proliferation?
With a paranoid Israel and a more paranoid Saudia Arabia, all nuked up, why worry about Iran and North Korea?
What a bloody mess!
Posted by: Matt Newell at May 9, 2005 07:52 AM
Great site Arianna, and fascinating book. I'll have to pick up a copy as soon as it comes out. The posts are very interesting, but what I would really love is if the authors had some sort of way to post to each other's comments. That way a real discussion could begin to take place among the members of the HP....HP...sounds almost like AP. Hmmm...
Posted by: Roey at May 9, 2005 08:02 AM
Best of luck Arianna
Posted by: Wayne at May 9, 2005 08:03 AM
Readers of Fresh Start, a start page for progressives, have been counting the days until the Huffington Post launch.
Wow!!!!!!!!!!! This is better than anything we could have imagined. Thank you - and yes this first major exclusive is very freightening.
Fresh Start proudly links to the Huffington Post @ http://www.clarkstart.de
Posted by: Alan at May 9, 2005 08:15 AM
I am so glad to see this blog up and running. While I wish you the best of luck I have one initial criticism. In the "Breaking News" section you list news sources from around the world. Your listing for Canadian media lists the "CBS" -- call me nationalistic or picky but our national broadcaster is the CBC and not CBS. Please make the correction. Sandy
Posted by: Sandy Malasky at May 9, 2005 08:15 AM
Gerald Posner's new book is something I have been waiting for since the last one. I am thrilled now to get this and I can tell it should be a blockbuster. I will read and tell everyone about it. That you to Gerald Posner and I hope to meet him and talk with him one time as I am writing my first novel. It will be a winner!!
Posted by: Michael Thompson at May 9, 2005 08:17 AM
Posner's revelation about the Saudi rulers' plan to destroy their own country in case their regime is threatened (in his new book "Secrets of the Kingdom")is shocking. Only a regime that cared nothing about its own people would even contemplate such an act. It makes me wonder for the thousandth time why the U.S. is allied with some of the worst people in the Middle East: the Saudis. The real answer is that we "need" their oil. But we wouldn't need their oil, nor any other imported oil, if everyone drove small cars. (This is true; check it out.) Those people driving around in SUV's with patriotic stickers and magnets plastered on them ought to be real proud of themselves for forcing the U.S. to support such a regime and quite possibly eventually sending our sons and daughters to defend it.
Posted by: Peter Benjaminson at May 9, 2005 08:55 AM
Gerald and Trisha Posner are among the all too few journalists who meticulously, objectively and steadfastly research any subject they address. While I appreciate your desire to "scoop" your competitors, it infuriates me that you remove the opportunity for journalists like the Posners to present work that they have spent hours, if not years compiling, in the manner that they have earned. I can only hope that in this site you make efforts to maintain a modicum of the integrity that the Posners possess.
Posted by: Ann Froelich at May 9, 2005 09:23 AM
Just wanted to say go get them,we need you and keep up the good work you are doing!
Posted by: john harris at May 9, 2005 09:48 AM
Hi, EXPLOSIVE EXPOSE on The House of Saud's very own GREAT DETERRENT! The Saudi's don't need a "real" NUCLEAR weapon[A-Bomb] they already have the viritual equivalent. They have rigged their OIL KINGDOM with one of Herman Kahn's DOOMSDAY Weapons. If the House of Saud's control is threatened, they will detonate their DETERRENT, blow up their OIL Fields & also destroy the World's Economy. Thus their "VIRITUAL DETERRENT" is effective vs. the US ,Israel or any other power that threatens the survival of the House of Saud. Are they now a candidate for the AXIS OF EVIL too? Did the Saudi Crown Prince tell his hand- holding buddy that Deterrent Truth, last week in Crawford? Curious in Stuart, FL, GEL
Posted by: George E. Lowe at May 9, 2005 10:13 AM
Uh, thanks? Now that the Russians and Chinese know this, uh, does that not present a problem?
Pretend you know how to play chess. For the next five years the Russians and/or Chinese ramp up both drilling and refinery construction. Then they construct an internal overthrow of the House of Saud. Under the cover of an Islamic Civil War the Untied States declines to intervene. As suicide bombers, robotic car bombs, and remote controlled anthrax drones (available at WU’s House of Terror.com) terrorize the House of Saud the decision is made to set off the bombs.
Dr. Evil looking characters in Russia and/or China hold their pinky to their mouth and say, “We now control the world. Pay us one million trillion billion dollars for the oil.”
Note to the House of Saud, read any of Ian Fleming’s books. Now go and take apart your doomsday devices before you destroy your Kingdom. The only way you can preserve your Kingdom is to become the Walmart of oil. Provide it at the lowest cost and make every nation dependent on that unique service. Next, pretend to have a democracy. Read the cliff notes on how the US and Great Britain fake it.
You will still be large and in charge. You will also be alive. Your plan guarantees your destruction. Read some Shakespeare.
Posted by: Ian Fleming at May 9, 2005 01:48 PM
"The first well-documented modern example of environmental warfare occurred
earlier in the beginning of the twentieth century, in 1938, during the
Sino-Japanese War when the Chinese dynamited the Hua Yuankuan dike of the
Hwang He (Yellow) River in an attempt to halt the marching Japanese forces.
This military tactic succeeded in drowning several thousand Japanese soldiers
and halting their advance into China along this front. In addition, the
resulting flooding ecologically ravaged three provinces and inundated several
million hectares of farmland. The human costs were staggering: eleven cities
and 4,000 villages were flooded, killing several hundred thousand civilians
and leaving millions homeless. This little known act of environmental
warfare, performed by a defending army, is perhaps the single most
devastating act of environmental warfare in history in terms of the number of
human lives claimed."
From "Ecocide" by Franz Broswimmer, 2002, p 75
The Oil Industry has plans for you
by Jan Lundberg
More drilling, spills, opening up public lands for private profit, base consumerism, road building, Wal-Marts and other parking-lot developments, climate destabilization, cancer, birth defects, manipulation of science for PR, maximizing imports of liquefied natural gas, oil wars, and more guerilla warfare in Iraq...
None of this "progress" is a surprise to the White House or to society's other top sectors, nor to the conscious intelligentsia. But, news-reporting on all of these developments--although a bit scanty--makes it appear we are a people innocently discovering only now that war can have "unintended" consequences.
Blow-back is the U.S. "intelligence community's" term for delayed reactions to its interventions and covert activity. Sept. 11, 2001 may have been purely blow-back, or something more extensive. Anyway, we need a term for oil policy blow-back. Flow-back? Gas-back? Oil-company weather?
Some oil watchers call the oil blow-back to come "the historic discontinuity," flowing from the passing of the peak in world oil extraction. The big eye-opener for the somnolent consumer is that "they" (scientists, leaders) will not be able to "think of something" to replace oil, as is assumed.
We have to have plans for the oil industry, if we are to exercise awareness of the oil industry's plans for us. Boycotting petroleum is doubtful, if not impossible these days. However, creating Citizen Petroleum Councils, for example, will allow the public to find out what the industry and government know about petroleum dependence, and will give communities a chance to start planning around the petroleros' agenda. [See the link at the end of this article for information on Citizen Petroleum Councils and non-petroleum transport and agriculture.]
News keeps coming in that shows the U.S. will continue to play the role of dangerous giant on the world scene, at any cost. But it's interesting to note the world's vulnerability to maintaining petroleum gluttony enabling the global economy of waste.
Prices of natural gas have risen greatly and are going nowhere but up. This threatens economic growth. There is no sign of conservation--or, more impressive--a transition to doing without nearly so much energy consumption. The pointlessness and greed of continuing present energy usage, when basic needs can be provided for on a fraction of today's energy use, is never accounted for. That's why alternative press and websites exist. The U.S. uses twice the energy of Western Europe, which takes better care of its people and the environment.
However, it would be a losing game to cling to the popular fantasy of fueling the present economy--with billions of consumers--with substitutes for petroleum. What the Sustainable Energy Institute has learned and tried to get across since its founding in 1988, is that there will be no continuation of this nation's energy-intensive industrial, agricultural and consumer diet once the peak of global oil production passes.
The peak is about now, and no new discoveries or oil wars can alter the overall trend. Therefore, it's vital for our survival to visualize an alternative lifestyle and social structure. People are so enamored with massive energy consumption and gee-whiz techno-gadgets that any departure from that way of thinking is deemed to be insane and Luddite. Yet, hiding our head in the sand is no solution.
If it hurts to say that the only model for sustainability that we have is the American Indian, so be it. As the arrows fly at us from the techno-geeks and hopeless consumers--flag wavers and non-flag wavers alike--we hasten to say we know very well we cannot go back in time; Yes there are too many people now and nature's pristine bounty has been trashed and depleted; Yes, much has been learned that can help us to develop a sustainable society. Appropriate technology must be applied for our short-term and long-term survival, especially for ecological restoration and providing food and water with renewable energy.
The fact that this is not underway except by some fanatical visionaries and hippies does not bode well. The energy future that is being pursued by mainstream society and government policy is going to make the transition to sustainability iffy. Unfortunately, the funded environmental movement is hardly helping, when it does not understand or tackle petroleum issues and does not admit to overpopulation as already achieved.
Who's your daddy? Alan Greenspan
Low natural gas prices— now vital to economic growth—are not expected to return unless "something is done." So Alan Greenspan was before Congress's House Energy and Commerce Committee June 10. In a responsible-sounding economist voice, he was reiterating the direction of energy policy: make more cheap energy. While it was the same old story, we could discern the latest approach. Congressmen were blatantly representing industry (in the guise of "jobs"), wanting more manufacturing and less regulation. A revival in nuclear was also voiced by Greenspan and industry lackeys on the Committee.
One Congressman pointed out that a policy of conservation still pops up here and there in contradiction to incentives to use more energy at a discount. Another Congressmen had Greenspan comment on the peak in global oil production, which Greenspan claimed was perhaps many years off. It was clear he is not interested in evidence that the peak could have just occurred, although this would have massive implications for status-quo economics.
The official topic for Greenspan's testimony was on the "need" for more natural gas. Because of lack of reserves the focus was on liquefied natural gas (LNG) that would be imported. This means more port facilities and the facilitating of dangerous spills and terrorism, as pointed out by Congresswoman Lois Capps of Santa Barbara.
Unmentioned was that more gas and LNG means more greenhouse gas emissions. The LNG would not be replacing coal; it would be for extending economic growth. More everything. Short term profits is what Greenspan's bottom line has to be, or he'd be outta there.
That's U.S. energy policy, and it's given a greenwash, such as when natural gas and LNG are called "clean fuels" even though they're just petroleum. However, if substitution of coal (three times dirtier than gas) were the goal, one should accept on a temporary basis domestic natural gas as a replacement fuel, but not as a way to increase consumption for the sake of "economic growth".
White House cover up
In mid June a scandal hit the White House and Environmental Protection Agency: "EPA report omits climate section." The most fun part of this story was learning how it was the American Petroleum Institute who had questioned a well known study showing that global temperatures had spiked sharply in the past decade compared with levels over the past 1,000 years. So, that fact was deleted from the draft of the EPA report.
The EPA report is on the state of the environment, but the White House was heavily involved in editing the climate section: The New York Times reported, "risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs."
The result of today's energy policy, the same policy that this country has always had, means disastrous breakdowns of the transportation, agricultural and electric utility systems in the U.S. and elsewhere. That is what your country is doing for you. We already know what it is doing to the rest of the world: burning it up for profit.
The above does not take into account that the drones and clones slaving away in the work place may be unhappy with their lot: cancer, lack of time with family and community, and being divorced from nature. The workaday existence in consumer boxes called homes, despite the amazing technology that our ancestors did not have, is a dead end. Although many revel in it, the plans that Big Oil and government have for all of us is more of the same, and who voted for this? Global warming, no thanks. No more oil wars.
It's time to individually chart our own destiny, and that might mean working closer to home or moving closer to the job. For more ideas that the powers that be do NOT have in mind to explore or encourage, see our website at www.culturechange.org, and talk to your family and neighbors about options--unless Alan Greenspan is your daddy.
There Are Life Altering Changes Coming
Oddly “the life altering change” is to a life lived without fossil fuels, something we’ve been doing for most of our evolution. Whenever the change comes it will be tumultuous, times will be very tight because there’s more of us but it won’t be too soon for any natural systems that are still functioning.
Fossil free communities will grow food Organically, harvest their own solar and wind energy, manufacture goods, work, socialise and organise locally, preferably all within walking distance. For most people in the developed world this requires a rapprochement with the natural environment, an entirely different view of their responsibility to the reciprocity involved in maintaining ecological health and a new way of viewing all of life and themselves.
We’ll ponder the ramifications of this change shortly but first let’s briefly contemplate our current dilemma and the necessity for change.
Our civilisation is built on exploiting the detritus deposited sparsely over eons in sandstone then slowly squeezed out into folded pockets in the rock. Oil energy has allowed us to reduce the proportion of the population directly producing food on the land from 70% to 2 to 3%. As is now clear we are running out of oil faster than anticipated (1). But what is far more critical for survival is that the fossil fuel we are now burning is adding to an already dangerous, human green house gas induced, climate change (2). A climate change that will severely cut biodiversity, make farming impossible in once arable areas but farming maybe possible, if we’re able to limit our fossil habit, in places like the Kimberlys and Siberia. That’s the optimistic scenario.
Let’s take stock of our civilisation’s dilemma.
The remaining oil supply is being utilised in three ways:
As we’ve virtually been conditioned to expect, almost the sole official effort is directed into the first 2 points that will see ecological devastation as life ebbs from our biosphere at an ever greater rate. Developing our only positive and sustainable system, the solar economy, is left up to us entirely.
Making Our Own Arrangements
Electing oil hustlers wasn’t a smart move when what we want is a no fossil fuel economy. Instead, the job of trying to sustain the ecology through a changing climate, feeding ourselves without fossil fuel and localising industry, commerce and money (3), falls to us. Survival may require ignoring detrimental regulations.
Cuba suddenly and involuntarily switched to a very low oil economy in 1990. Cuba’s economy was based on sugar. It exported shiploads of sugar to the soviet block. The ships came back with grain, fruit, vegies, beef, oil and Russian tractors until in 1990 Yeltsin removed monetary controls on the rouble. Foreign traders drove the rouble down in value until there wasn’t a breath of life left in the Russian economy. Overnight Cuba lost its oil supply, pesticides, fertiliser etc. In the hard times while converting sugar plantations to food production Cubans lost 30% of their body weight. Even today meat is scarce. But today Cuba has an impressive Organic pest and disease control system and a healthy supply of Organic fruit & vegies.
For transport the Cubans imported more than 100,000 heavy Chinese bicycles, converted trucks to carry passengers and harnessed up horses and donkeys to carts. Public transport was very cheap. Any car not full, including those of government ministers, was stopped by officials in a yellow uniform until the cars were full (4). So that’s good news for us. We’re in a better starting position not having a monocrop and if we switch over to whatever NW shelf gas isn’t consigned for export then it won’t be an overnight shock. But if you watch the market for your warning signs, be warned, you’ll get as much notice as the Cubans. As Lou Grinzo says, “Relying solely on the marketplace to solve our energy problems is an enormous mistake; the market won't begin to react in a meaningful way until oil prices rise significantly, and by then it will be too late.” (5)
Remember though that our descendants will cop the worst effect of us using this gas, so our best use for it is in establishing renewable energy infrastructure – a benefit to us, as well as our descendants. Because we’re starting too late this switch to renewable energy will take longer. For the best risk management, as a guess, I’d say plan on 20 years of disruption before we can again confidently anticipate reliable renewable energy supplies for, say, grain harvesting and such like.
1 (a) Arrangements for Food.
Assume, as could happen, that the supermarket is empty or certain essential foods are missing, can you produce a balanced diet on your farm or in your backyard? Some points to ponder (6):
Energy and Nutritional Requirements of Man
• The majority of energy in the human diet is ingested as organic plant material
• The average human being consumes 8,790 kJ/day
• In Central America, average daily consumption is 500g corn and 100g black beans giving 68g protein/day, almost no protein from meat or dairy products
• In the USA, average protein intake is 101g/day, 69g of daily protein consumption (68%) comes from meat and dairy products
Protein Content and Food Quality
• 85 g of hamburger contains the same amount of protein as 190g of beans
• However, the protein in beans is quite different from that of animal protein
• Animal protein provides the best balance of the eight ‘essential amino acids’ which man cannot synthesise
• Plant protein may contain less than adequate amounts of essential amino acids - can result in protein starvation (protein deficiency) even if protein consumption requirements are met
• Cereal grain protein is low in the amino acid, lysine
• Legumes are low in methionine
• Thus, mixed vegetable diets can provide high quality protein in terms of amino acid balance
• But when dietary protein is all black beans for instance, specific amino acid deficiencies occur (methionine)
• These deficiencies prevent adequate protein synthesis - leads to development of the symptoms of protein starvation
• Especially prevalent in young, growing children who have higher protein demands than adults
• Plant material also low in Ca+, Fe, has no vitamin B12 at all and has a lower energy content per gram
• Poorer quality food with a higher proportion of nonassimilatable carbohydrates (cellulose and lignins)
• The low essential amino acid contents of high protein plant food requires much greater amounts of plant material to be consumed than meat or dairy products for adequate ingestion of amino acids at levels supporting maintenance protein production
• Must consume enough food to meet requirements for the a limiting essential amino acid
• Meat and dairy products have high concentrations of essential amino acids
• Allows a lower consumption rate to meet all essential amino acid requirements
Energetics of Grain Production
• Plants directly provide 70% of the protein consumed by human beings
• Grazing animals used for meat and dairy products provide most of the rest of human protein consumption
• Grazing animals are directly supported by grazed plant material (plant protein)
• The vast majority of plant protein is provided by 15 food crops
• Cereal grains are the most important
And cereal grains are probably the most difficult to produce in the traditionally wet Northern Rivers summer. If there’s a way around this I’d like to know.
Perhaps we could anticipate supply disruptions, buy food in bulk put it in rat proof containers and store it in a cool dry cellar. That is look around for sealed containers now and build a cellar. A refrigerator is a major energy user.
I also think, because of the vagaries that climate change is bringing, that it would be handy to get our food preserving skills up to speed and have the preserving hardware ready. As a community event preserving is fun.
Permaculture’s co-founder David Holmgren is optimistic that the suburbs can be retrofitted to be fairly self sufficient (3). But the suburbs with 800m2 garden area on average can’t provide the necessary daily energy requirements. For instance wheat – a fairly efficient converter of solar energy to food (0.21%) requires 550m2 for 7 months to feed one person for 7 months. At an average photosynthetic efficiency, which is 0.14%, the whole garden area is required for one person’s diet.
1 (b) Farming Arrangements
Changes to farming will come both from the scarcity of oil and from climate change. Be ready to produce bigger and more diverse crops as transport and refrigeration begins to make imported food prohibitive in cost. Growing diverse crops will give us some chance against climate uncertainty. Higher temperatures will lead to a general decrease in yield. Organic farmers will most likely have to try and fill supply deficits as conventional farmers lose yield to insects and fertiliser shortages. The conversion to Organic farming could be incremental or sudden depending on how scarce oil is prioritised.
Bigger Organic crops and scarcity of fossil fuel means more manual labour on farms. Unless you’ve got 6 kids working before and after school you’ll most likely need on farm worker accommodation, water and food. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) could be another suitable way of farming. CSA schemes can be designed to suit the individuals. Usually the money from members is paid up front in return for a weekly box of produce, the size of which varies with farm productivity. In some CSA schemes members spend time working on the farm, delivering the food, etc. (7).
Meanwhile before fossil fuel becomes scarce farmers could invest in water control and harvesting earthworks along Permaculture lines. Earthworks are relatively cheap, energy wise, and properly designed are permanent. Also consider reducing labour with tree crops. (8)
2. Arranging Shelter
On most farms before we think about worker’s cottages (or returning family) we have to think about water supply for extra people as well as for the farm. The long drys and lower rainfall due to El Ninio mean more and bigger dams for farms to be viable. If you’ve solved the water storage problem then you need a cottage with a big roof area (well tied down for storms) and large rainwater tanks. You could perhaps use big solid pieces of your own timber so as to sequester some carbon, build a passive solar design to save energy and composting dunnies to save water and trouble.
3. Harvesting Your Own Energy
Escape the insanity that is driving the battle for the last drops of oil – collect the energy that’s delivered free to your place. Hugely expensive pipelines are built, being built, or planned to get oil and gas through and from previously impossible places. Once the Caspian sea area was reverently touted as an “infinite” oil resource. Now the 1700km pipeline, 10 years in the making, connecting the Caspian to the Mediterranean will be dry after 32 billion barrels of oil – a year & 1 or 2 months of world supply.
Hitler recommended that liars avoid the little lies because you’ll be found out, instead big lies are the go - advice firmly grasped by piddling resource pushers denigrating solar energy.
Ponder the scale of the resource:
You’ll need materials to build solar or wind energy harvesting systems – materials that will become expensive (recycled follow new prices) as fossil fades. You’ll need fewer materials for your energy if you get materials for solar parabolic, wind turbine or hot water flat plate. Don’t get caught, gather materials and make your arrangements now. Keep your sump oil because lubricating oil for bearings will be expensive and scarce. Stub axle bearings from defunct cars are useful for wind turbine and solar parabolic systems.
4. Arranging Transport
All sorts of arrangements could be made for the run down to zero fossil use while the solar/wind hydrogen fuel transport system develops. Such as rewarding or paying drivers who pick up hitch hikers, sharing the fuel in a truck load of people with goods and naturally more bicycles and walking.
5. Socialising will arrange itself
People will need emotional support through what could well be turmoil, especially the misinformed who will feel gypped. Because so much of this change is variable, by planning as a group, people will do better. We’ll be depending on cooperative arrangements a lot more for sharing transport, food, labour and so on.
6. Economy – will crash as it depends intimately on cheap fossil. General advice is to get rid of loans (10).
Logic or planning so far at a hierarchical level is non-existent at least for the required scale of change. The big unknown is how much fossil fuel we’ll end up burning before changing our ways. From that we could determine how hot the climate will get. The amount of oil left is reasonably well estimated – it won’t last long at the current rate nor will coal. Nuclear reactors are expensive, take 10 years to build, would run out of uranium in 3 or 4 years (if supplying total non-solar world energy), take 70 years for thermal cool down, then years of dismantling and keeping the radioactive products from scattering about for 250,000 years. Should we ask the grandkids first or just spring it on them – a little something to remember us by?
It’ll be less painful if we alter our lives before our lives are altered for us.
PS You’re welcome at the Tropo AGM in Aug 2005 where we’ll further explore issues of fossil free living.
Peak oil is already here
Published on 4 May 2005 by The Republic. Archived on 4 May 2005.
by Kevin Potvin
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Now that the phenomenon of peak oil has been universally explained and understood in leading media in Canada like The Globe and Mail and National Post, and its arrival has been widely acknowledged (even by the US President), it is now time to consider the unfolding consequences of this new global reality. What the cresting of the peak of global oil production signals is the start of the long-anticipated and worldwide War of Resources. We have just entered a whole new era in world history and all political and economic reporting must be adjusted accordingly.
The War of Resources may remain a “cold” war for some time (if not forever) in terms of military confrontations between the major combatants. But it will certainly be a “hot” war in terms of real bombs and bullets flying around where minor players become entangled in the global positioning by two or more of the major world forces.
Hot or cold on any scale, the War of Resources is now the overriding economic, military, and political priority in the capitals of all countries involved, major and minor. It is from now on safe to assume that major combatants have switched over their economies, foreign policies, and militaries to a total war footing as all-encompassing as major combatants did during World War II. It is equally safe to assume all minor players are busily maneuvering and negotiating their positions in between the major combatants, looking for their safest harbours in the coming storms. All political and economic news coming from all players big and small from now on must be interpreted through the lens of the War of Resources. It is “game on” as of this moment.
There are six powerful nations that, with the passing of peak oil and the dawning of the War of Resources, now comprise the six major powers in that war: they are the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, and India. These six may from time to time form temporary alliances among each other in all possible configurations, as their own calculations dictate. But they are each in the game for themselves, and hostilities in any configuration are also possible—a point that cannot be emphasized enough.
There are many minor players in this war also whose national economies produce significant amounts of oil, but there are six among them whose control is both crucial to the major powers, and whose allegiances may also be in play: they are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Iraq. These nations comprise the six major battlefields in the War of Resources (located on three different continents), but of course there are dozens of minor battlefields besides those located throughout all seven continents.
There are as well six major private oil companies powerful enough to be considered instrumental in the political, economic, and military decisions made in any and all of these capitals as the War of Resources unfolds. These companies are BP-Amoco, RoyalDutch/Shell, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, TotalFinaElf and ConocoPhillips. These companies will play the role of regulating the relative heat of this war in each of its big and small battlefields with an eye toward maximizing their profits.
The main set-up on the game board of the War of Resources at its start is this: the six major economic powers will be vying to take and maintain control of any or all of the six major battlefields through economic warfare (combined, the six powers’ 2004 GNPs were about $50 trillion, or nearly 75% of the world total) and by military deployments (the six major powers’ military spending combined is presently about $1 trillion, representing about 92% of total world military spending).
The War of Resources will proceed against the backdrop of an ever-widening gap between global demand for oil and global supply. Oil is not only critical to industrial energy and transportation, but is also integral to food supply, all chemical industries, and most manufacturing. To the advanced technological civilizations of today, oil supply is a matter of national life and death, literally. For all of the major powers, a serious cut of oil supplies will mean collapse of their economies, widespread starvation, and massive social upheaval in all cases leading to overthrow of current leaderships. Eventually, all measures, including total war between the major powers, will become possible, and with time, increasingly likely.
Therefore, from now on, all six major economic powers will be under severe pressure to maximize the flow of oil from the oil producing countries into their own economies, and to cut the flow of oil into each other’s economies. As pressure builds, they will each become more encouraged to open up war on the minor players to force their allegiances, and increasingly on each other to remove competition from the field.
The six large oil companies, meanwhile, will attempt to manage the global conflict so as to maximize their profits. A massive world war directly between any or all of the six major players would mark a failure by the oil companies who, in such a scenario, would see oil demand (and prices) collapse in widespread industrial destruction following the likely brief (nuclear) war. Their job is to maximize the competition for oil to the point of war in the oil-producing battlefields, but to keep the War of Resources from boiling over into an all-out and total military conflict between the major powers.
This is the point we are at now: The major combatants are deploying economic and military forces to positions in and around all the oil producers, those producers—the minor powers—are playing their cards as best they can to generate their own best outcome, and the oil companies have deployed executives to all capitals major and minor to offer information, advice, and encouragements, as well as to make strategic investments or disinvestments, in order to regulate the rising heat of the war and to try keeping it from boiling over.
In future issues of The Republic, we will run a series of articles chronicling the political and economic maneuvering among the major powers, the oil producing countries, and the major companies whenever those events can be understood through the lens of the War of Resources. We will be keeping a close eye out for, and reporting on, evidence of major economic and military power deployments, minor power maneuverings among those deployments, and oil company interventions to regulate both.
Our aim is to provide the best explanatory framework inside which future events in the War of Resources and their causes can best be understood. Only when we know what is happening and why will we be able to dream up and implement the best policies for Canada to minimize the panic, chaos, death and destruction that are sure to be features of this war around the world.
The key issue now for all the people of the world no less than for Canadians is to see the major powers make the transition from an oil-based global economy to whatever kind of economy that replaces it in the future without recourse to their stockpiles of nuclear weapons—by no means a sure thing, as such a transition entails massive shifts in balances of relative power. All but Japan are nuclear powers; between the remaining five, there are over 33,000 operational and deployed warheads the firing of any one of which could well trigger a sufficient number of retaliatory firings of warheads so as to jeopardize the survivability of the human race.
Secondarily, we need to anticipate the foundations of a new, post-oil global economy, and begin construction of it now, so that there is a future to which the world might make such a transition, should it survive the War of Resources.
Original article available here.
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Published on 3 Jan 2006 by Dale Allen Pfeiffer's Blog. Archived on 6 Jan 2006.
The Myth of the Hydrogen Economy
by Dale Allen Pfeiffer
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There is a lot of talk about the hydrogen economy. It is at best naïve, and at worst it is dishonest. A hydrogen economy would be a pitiful, impoverished thing indeed.
There are a number of problems with hydrogen fuel cells. Many of these are engineering problems which could probably be worked out in time. But there is one basic flaw which will never be overcome. Free hydrogen is not an energy source; it is rather an energy carrier. Free hydrogen does not exist on this planet, so to derive free hydrogen we must break the hydrogen bond in molecules. Basic chemistry tells us that it requires more energy to break a hydrogen bond than to form one. This is due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and there is no getting around it. We are working on catalysts which will help to lower the energy necessary to generate free hydrogen, but there will always be an energy loss, and the catalysts themselves will become terribly expensive if manufactured on a scale to match current transportation energy requirements.
All free hydrogen generated today is derived from natural gas. So right off the bat we have not managed to escape our dependency on nonrenewable hydrocarbons. This feedstock is steam-treated to strip the hydrogen from the methane molecules. And the steam is produced by boiling water with natural gas. Overall, there is about a 60% energy loss in this process. And, as it is dependent on the availability of natural gas, the price of hydrogen generated in this method will always be a multiple of the price of natural gas.
Ah, but there is an inexhaustible supply of water from which we could derive our hydrogen. However, splitting hydrogen from water requires an even higher energy investment per unit of water (286kJ per mole). All processes of splitting water molecules, including foremost electrolysis and thermal decomposition, require major energy investments, rendering them unprofitable.
Hydrogen advocates like to point out that the development of solar cells or wind farms would provide renewable energy that could be used to derive hydrogen. The energy required to produce 1 billion kWh (kilowatt hours) of hydrogen is 1.3 billion kWh of electricity. Even with recent advances in photovoltaic technology, the solar cell arrays would be enormous, and would have to be placed in areas with adequate sunlight.
We must also consider the water from which we derive this hydrogen. To meet our present transportation needs, we would have to divert 5% of the flow of the Mississippi River. This would require yet more energy, further reducing the profits of hydrogen. This water would then have to be delivered to a photovoltaic array the size of the Great Plains. So much for agriculture.
The only way that hydrogen production even approaches practicality is through the use of nuclear plants. To generate the amount of energy used presently by the United States, we would require an additional 900 nuclear reactors, at a cost of roughly $1 billion per reactor. Currently, there are only 440 nuclear reactors operating worldwide. Unless we perfect fast breeder reactors very quickly, we will have a shortage of uranium long before we have finished our reactor building program.
Even hydrogen fuel derived from nuclear power would be expensive. To fill a car up with enough hydrogen to be equivalent to a 15 gallon gas tank could cost as much as $400. If the hydrogen was in gaseous form, this tank would have to be big enough to accommodate 178,500 liters. Compressed hydrogen would reduce the storage tank to one tenth of this size. And liquefied hydrogen would require a fuel tank of only four times the size of a gasoline tank. In other words, a 15 gallon tank of gasoline would be equivalent to a 60 gallon tank of hydrogen. And, oh yes, to transport an equivalent energy amount of hydrogen to the fueling station would require 21 times more trucks than for gasoline.
Compressed and liquefied hydrogen present problems of their own. Both techniques require energy and so further reduce the net energy ratio of the hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen is cold enough to freeze air, leading to problems with pressure build-ups due to clogged valves. Both forms of hydrogen storage are prone to leaks. In fact, all forms of pure hydrogen are difficult to store.
Hydrogen is the smallest element and, as such, it can leak from any container, no matter how well sealed it is. Hydrogen in storage will evaporate at a rate of at least 1.7% per day. We will not be able to store hydrogen vehicles in buildings. Nor can we allow them to sit in the sun. And as hydrogen passes through metal, it causes a chemical reaction that makes the metal brittle. Leaking hydrogen could also have an adverse effect on both global warming and the ozone layer.
Free hydrogen is extremely reactive. It is ten times more flammable than gasoline, and twenty times more explosive. And the flame of a hydrogen fire is invisible. This makes it very dangerous to work with, particularly in fueling stations and transportation vehicles. Traffic accidents would have a tendency to be catastrophic. And there is the possibility that aging vehicles could explode even without a collision.
On top of this, we must consider the terrific expense of converting from gasoline to hydrogen. The infrastructure would have to be built virtually from scratch, at a cost of billions. Our oil and natural gas based infrastructure evolved over the course of the past century, but this transition must be pulled off in twenty years or less.
Automobile engineers and others within the industry do not believe we will ever have a hydrogen economy. Daimler-Chrysler has admitted as much. Rather than developing a hydrogen economy, it makes more sense—and will always make more sense—to buy a more efficient car, ride public transport, bicycle or walk.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For juxtaposition see the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative: A Clean and Secure Energy Future on the hydrogen.energy.gov website -AF
Original article available here.