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Peak Oil? Consider it solved!

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"Peak Oil? Consider it solved!"

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I have a new article in Salon on perhaps the most misunderstood subject in energy — peak oil.

peak_oil2.jpg

Here is the short version:

  1. We are at or near the peak of cheap conventional oil production.
  2. There is no realistic prospect that the conventional oil supply can keep up with current projected demand for much longer — if the industrialized countries don’t take strong action to sharply reduce consumption, and if China and India don’t take strong action to sharply reduce consumption growth.
  3. Many people are expecting unconventional oil — such as the tar sands and liquid coal — to make up the supply shortage. That would be a climate catastrophe, and I (optimistically) believe humanity is wise enough not to let that happen. More supply is not the answer to either our oil or climate problem.
  4. Nonetheless, contrary to popular belief, the peak oil problem will not “destroy suburbia” or the American way of life. Only unrestrained emissions of greenhouse gases can do that.
  5. We have the two primary solutions to peak oil at hand: fuel efficiency and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles run on zero-carbon electricity. The only question is whether conservatives will let progressives accelerate those solutions into the marketplace before it is too late to prevent a devastating oil shock or, for that matter, devastating climate change.

That last sentence has been a major focus of this blog. I discuss it briefly in the article, but let me elaborate on it here. For more than two decades, conservatives have put up almost every conceivable roadblock to a sane energy policy. They have essentially said to peak oil — and catastrophic global warming, for that matter — “Bring it on!

No one should be surprised we are now mired in a tar pit of growing dependence on oil imported from unstable or undemocratic regions, oil prices over $100 a barrel, a trade deficit in oil alone approaching $500 billion a year, and, of course, the very serious threat of catastrophic climate change from burning an ever-increasing amount of fossil fuels.

Many of us have predicted for a very long time that a quarter century of ignoring or underfunding the key solutions to our addiction to oil would have consequences. For instance, an April 1996 article I coauthored warned about what the Gingrich Congress was trying to do:

Congressional budget-cutters threaten to end America’s leadership in new energy technologies that could generate hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs, reduce damage to the environment, and limit our costly, dangerous dependency on oil from the unstable Persian Gulf region.

Now, absent an aggressive set of government-led policies, the oil situation will only get worse, with oil and gasoline prices doubling (or worse) in the next quarter century. Crucially, we must solve our oil addiction and carbon addiction together. And soon. Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, said in November:

These two things put together, the short term security, medium term security of our oil markets, plus the climate change, consequences of this energy use, my message is that, if we don’t do anything very quickly, and in a bold manner, the wheels may fall off. Our energy system’s wheels may fall off. This is the message that we want to give.

The problem is urgent. And the solutions are known.

Clearly we now have only two realistic strategies — indeed, we have had only two realistic strategies for decades. We must greatly increase the fuel economy of our vehicles and we must find one or more alternative fuel sources that are abundant, low carbon, and affordable. Both of these are strategies that conservatives have strongly fought for a long time.

Just to be clear, let’s just say we adopted the favorite strategy of conservatives — more supply — and we opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and found enough to provide one million barrels a day for 30 years. That would delay the peak in oil one whole year! Catastrophe not averted. And of course, it would only make global warming harder to fight. More domestic supply is not the solution.

Significantly, both Senators Clinton and Obama have announced plans to sharply increase fuel economy standards. As for McCain, one of his top economic advisors recently said that if his cap and trade system worked well enough, he might take the new standards off the books. That shows the McCain campaign does not understand what it will take to solve either the global warming or the peak oil problem.

Let’s optimistically assume we can get fuel economy standards for cars and SUVs of 60 miles per gallon by 2030. We would still need half their fuel to be zero carbon. And that’s just the time-line for dealing with global warming. If you want a motor fuel to deal with peak oil, then you need something that can provide a substantial and rapidly growing resource starting by 2020 at the latest (optimistically assuming we have a decade before peak).

Only one alternative fuel is even remotely plausible — carbon-free electricity.

Hydrogen is a “multi-miracle” nonstarter that became stake-through-the-heart dead this month when GM and Toyota told everyone the obvious — we won’t have “hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term” but “electric cars will prove to be a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale.” [Note to GM and Toyota: Duh!]

Corn ethanol is, as we’ve seen over and over again, a total loser from an energy and climate — and every other conceivable — perspective.

Biomass-based cellulosic biofuels hold a lot of promise, maybe even more promise than they held more than a decade ago when my office at DOE was pushing hard to develop them in the face of opposition from the Gingrich Congress. But we still don’t have a single commercial cellulosic biofuels plant in operation in this country. So it will require massive government support for biofuels to be a major player by 2030, let alone 2020. Moreover, electricity is not a fuel that can be used for air travel and probably not for long-distance travel, especially by big trucks. So, again optimistically, we should probably assume every last drop of cellulosic biofuels will be set aside to cut non-automotive transportation fuel sharply in the coming decades.

I have previously explained why I believe plug in hybrids and electric cars are the cars of the future, especially as a climate solution. The Salon article, “Peak oil? Consider it solved” talks about how they are the ideal peak oil solution, too.

The bottom line is that if we solve the climate problem, we will solve the peak oil problem. If we don’t solve the climate problem, peak oil will be a somewhat painful, but relatively short blip on the history of humanity compared to the extremely painful, multi-century tragedy our children and the next 50 generations after them will face.

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67 Responses to Peak Oil? Consider it solved!

  1. Andrew W says:

    While I agree with the thrust of what you’re saying, I’m a little less enthusiastic about an early and sudden arrival of peak oil. Firstly the worst effects of peak oil won’t hit everyone equally, poorer countries will be affected most immediately because of their inability to compete in the market for more expensive oil; and secondly, the last thing we want is a loss of confidence leading to a depression of the scale of the 1930′s. While such an event would sharply reduce oil consumption, it would also lead to countries adopting isolationist economic policies, which would exacerbate the economic problems, and in turn strengthen the hand of nationalistically minded politicans, as it did in the 30′s.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good article. Only quibble:

    “Of course, that assumes people don’t drive greater distances, even though they will be wealthier, and a nation’s per capita wealth has historically correlated with vehicle miles traveled.”

    I really need convincing that people will be truly wealthier, given:

    Hall, et al:
    http://www.ker.co.nz/pdf/Need_to_reintegrate.pdf

    Ayres and Warr
    http://www.iea.org/Textbase/work/2004/eewp/Ayres-paper1.pdf

    Put another way, if wealth ~ work = efficiency * energy-used, as in Ayres & Warr, as they say (last paragraph):

    “From a long-term sustainability viewpoint, this conclusion carries a powerful implication. If economic growth is to continue without proportional increases in fossil fuel consumption, it is vitally important to exploit new ways of generating value added without doing more work. But it is also essential to develop ways of reducing fossil fuel exergy inputs per unit of physical work output (i.e., increasing conversion efficiency). In other words, energy (exergy) conservation is probably the main key to long term environmental sustainability.”

    I’d speculate that Joe would concur with that :-)

    But, in Charlie Hall’s Ballon Graph, http://scitizen.com/screens/blogPage/viewBlog/sw_viewBlog.php?idTheme=14&idContribution=1305

    it is clear that we have a *long* way to go in 50 years to build enough solar, wind and (nuclear?)) to match the downdraft in oil & gas.

    Put starkly, I think we have a serious race to:
    - increase efficiency fast enough to compensate for less oil+gas
    - keep coal, tar sands, shale under control

    I haven’t yet been able to find economics studies of climate change that assume anything by GDP growth rates akin to what we’ve seen in the last 50-100 years, i.e., during a period of:

    - increasing efficiency
    - increasing total Exajoules from fossil fuels

    As the latter starts to wind down, I just don’t understand how:
    - we maintain the world GDP growth rates
    - and especially, the GDP/person growth rates

    especially given the “steep” part of Hubbert-style depletion curves.

    I would be happy to find some economic studies of climate change that incorporated the Hall or Ayres/Warr worldview, which actually makes sense to me. Not being an economist, I just do not understand happy assumptions of decades and decades of growth continued at the same old rates, even given the efficiency actions that we can and must do. [I mean, I work with companies that do that, and there are certainly lots of things to do, but I think, when we start to get to the steep part of the downcurve, we're going to be going all-out building just to stay even.]

    Finally, of course correlation is not causation, and I speculate that both wealth & VMT are derived from cheap energy.

    cheap energy ==> more work ==> more wealth
    cheap energy ==> more work ==> more VMT

    As Michael Tobis pointed out over in http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2008/03/energy-is-unbelievably-cheap.html, energy is still incredibly cheap, and one can (now) truck tomatoes from California to Maine at very low cost, so why not?

    The fairly weird thing is that with PHEV & BEV, local transport should be fine, includiing delivery trucks & such, but even the work truck vendors are doing to make Class 8 trucks (big ones) into real hybrids doesn’t make big diesel tanks go away, although recapturing braking energy and eliminating city idling are well worth it.

    Finally: any opinion on Range Fuels’ first (cellulosic) plant? I.e., have you heard anything about the actual status?

  3. ScruffyDan says:

    “The only question is whether conservatives will let progressives accelerate those solutions”

    I think it is a mistake to make this a left vs right issue. There are plenty of conservatives who fully accept the realities of climate change and know that we need to act in order to solve. In fact in Canada it was Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney who first realized the threat of climate change. That was in the 80s.

    While todays conservatives have become anti-environment, I think the best way to get the ball rolling is to show conservatives that they don’t have to sacrifice their values in order to care about the environment.

  4. John Mashey says:

    To add to my last post, I found a nice presentation by Robert Ayres:

    http://www.bren.ucsb.edu/news/documents/robert_ayres.PPT

    There are plenty of good charts. The last page shows projections of US GDP, 2000-2050AD depending on various assumptions of *efficiency*, and it;’s not pretty.

    and a a related earlier paper:
    http://www.cge.uevora.pt/aspo2005/abscom/ASPO2005_Ayres.pdf

    Google: ayres warr meet-rexs
    gets a few hits I haven’t had a chance to look at.

  5. Robert says:

    As a UK citizen I have long predicted the US will be in deep trouble as oil gets scarce and expensive. You import 13mbopd which, at $100 a barrel, accounts for your entire trade deficit, and is directly linked to most of the other economic problems that are hitting the US today.

    We haven’t even reached peak yet (recent production figures show global production is still rising). If the current price trend continues oil will be $150 by Q4 2009 and the whole thing about oil being traded in (worthless) dollars will fall apart big time.

    Traditional high tax on fuel in Europe and the UK is suddenly starting to look like it was a really good idea, even if no-one understood why a few decades ago. From a free trade point of view the US could argue that it is unfair – a form of free-market distorting import tariff – but it has really helped Europe to use fuel efficiently.

  6. Robert says:

    This log-lin graph of oil prices over the last 10 years illustrates the trend. The straight line indicated constant oil price inflation of over 30%. If it continues unchecked for another 2 or 3 years how will the US cope?

    http://www.freecharts.com/Commodities.aspx?page=chart&sym=CLY0&data=G&date=032708&den=MED&evnt=ADV&grid=Y&jav=ADV&size=B&sky=N&sly=L&vol=Y&late=Y&ch1=011&arga=&argb=&argc=&ov1=&argd=&arge=&argf=&ch2=&argg=&argh=&argi=&ov2=&argj=&argk=&argl=&code=IC&org=stk

  7. elbarto says:

    Roads are made from oil. Not only the raw material, asphalt, but the heavy machinery required to quarry the aggregate and lay the tarmac must run on oil. Without a steady flow of cheap oil, roads are prohibitively expensive to build and maintain. This is beginning to happen now. The car (electric or not) dies and suburbia dies with it when peak oil hits hard. Cars wont be a solution to anything except maybe a source of scrap iron.

    It need not be doomsday, a contracted society with most transport by foot or cycling will be happier and healthier.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    And don’t forget Peak Coal to follow.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    “Estimates of Bio-energy Potential around the World”

    http://jcwinnie.biz/wordpress/?p=2815

    Since it is possible to make biodiesel via hydrothermal liquidification and biocoal via hydrothermal carbonization, I suppose it is also possible to make bio-asphalt for road work…

  10. John Gideon says:

    My only quarrel with your Salon article, Joe, is with your premise:

    “Clearly we now have only two realistic strategies: increase our vehicle fuel economy and develop affordable alternative fuel sources that are low in carbon.”

    This appears to presume that non-motorized transportation — i.e. bicycling and walking — is not a major part of the solution.

    The 2001 National Household Travel Survey by USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that 50% of all urban trips of 3 miles or less are by car; and over 63% of all urban trips of 5 miles or less are by car. And in urban areas Americans use their cars for 66% of trips of up to a mile and 89% of trips of between one and two miles.

    The vast majority of us could replace most of these trips by bicycling and/or walking if our communities were made bike/ped friendly.

    Thus, I would contend that there is a third realistic strategy, one already employed in a number of European and Asian countries and in a few “Bicycle Friendly Communities” here in the U.S.: get young and old to make a substantial percentage of their trips by bicycling and walking.

  11. Peter Foley says:

    At 670 Dollars a ton Fossil oil can and will be replaced on a scale never seen before in peace-time, CTL plants will be the gold rush of the next decade. Even 5.00$/bushel corn can be distilled profitably into ethanol without subsidies @ 2.60$ gallon fossil gasoline prices. Recall that fossil oil is just old plant matter with a little heat+pressure+time, More heat & pressure= less time. Synthetic crude isn’t rocket science.
    The ride a bike cranks place no value on the bike rider’s time- thus all their analyses are defective. What kind of idiot wants or will permit a future with ever rising energy costs?
    At some time in the past a few doom and gloomers(proto-Malthus/Club of Rome) sat around the burning carbon and told the tribe they were running out of nickel iron meteorites(Peak oil) for spear points and the tribe would have to revert to stone points and starve all the old people and kill half the kid’s.(And give the last spear points to the Cassandra Club). Then some wise ass invented mining/smelting(technology)and the welfare state(taxes).
    Remember Joe when I asked you for one commodity that actually ‘ran’ out?- Here is a partial list, Whale Oil ~1850, wild animals for food~4,000 BCE, wild animals for clothing~3000BCE, Firewood ~1700s in G Britain, about 200BCE in Israel, caves for houses~15000BCE, toilet paper in the USSR,1917 They’ve all been replaced with superior products through innovation not taxes. Your world view is suffering cognitive dissonance-come back to the light of human progress, If needed we’ll fix our environment if required.

  12. Joe says:

    “we’ll fix our environment if required.”

    We are “fixing” our environment right now. Unfortunately, it wasn’t broken….

    Yes, we’ll pull a Jurassic Park on the extinct species; we’ll do cloud seeding to save the Southwest permanent drought; and we’ll all live in houseboats.
    Oops. I meant future generations will do that.

  13. I agree with Joe’s article above.

    I’m not sure I understand to what end I’m quoted in a comment above. I do maintain that energy is cheap enough that the disruption in moving to a sustainable source at even triple the price is grossly overstated. I think Joe agrees on this point.

    My main point in writing is to suggest that we can solve the trucking problem by reinventing rail. I’m surprised to see so little discussion of this option. We can leap a whole century in rail technology!

    Our problems are technically solvable. If we have the disaster we seem to be heading for, we will have only laziness and fear to blame.

  14. David B. Benson says:

    Economistsz would surely say we have not established the right price signals.

    Fossil carbon tax anyone?

  15. Robert says:

    Peter Foley – Population and economic growth cannot grow indefinitely on a finite planet. Just because we have found substitute products in the past does not mean we will in the future. There is no clear substitute for fossil fuel and it is very hard to see how our society can continue without it.

    Malthus/Club of Rome will be correct just once. Not yet I admit, but almost certainly at some point this century.

    p.s. where the hell can I buy $5/bushell corn. Lst week on the news they said it had risen from $77 to $180 in the last 2 years, due to (a) use as biofuel and (b) droughts.

  16. Pangolin says:

    Funny you should mention an “oil shock.”

    At least here in California all our asphalt roadways are deteriorating fast and there is limited money to repair them as the real-estate bubble collapsed our tax base. You can tell how rich the county you’re in my the state of the road as you cross the county line. Poor countys have poor roads.

    We can feel that oil shock in the seat of our pants. Should it get bad enough “the wheels will come off” your car as well as the economy. It will also get much harder to get all of that meat, milk and produce to market.

    Of coarse this problem is entirely solvable but like all the other problems connected to peak oil and climate change the solution involves major restructuring of local, state and national economies.

    The contracters with yards full of asphalt laying equipment are not going to take lightly the suggestion that we put them largely out of business and instead engage on a crash program of building (rebuilding actually) a network of rural light rail that serves outlying communities. They’re going to bribe the pants off the officials in charge until the bitter end.

    The problem with technofixes is that the existing technology owns the existing politicians and isnt’ going to let them look for new brides in the form of unfunded high-speed rail or local light rail.

    We might as well wish for a monorail for christmas because we aren’t going to get it.

  17. John Mashey says:

    Michael:
    I quoted you because:

    1) And the the particular point was that if energy is cheap, people use it, and VMTs go up, and the tomato thing was a fine example.
    2) I commonly try to quote blogs I like that I think deserve more traffic.

    Rail has been discussed lots of places, and I strongly believe more rail and more electrified rail, is really important … but it takes a while, especially to get it electrified, and there are certainly plenty of places where reinserting trains will be very expensive due the amount of dense infrastructure that would have to be replaced.

    On the other extreme, it is hard to run a railroad near every farm, especially electrified railroad, which is why a lot of shortlines get abandoned in favor of class 8 grain trucks. They just don’t get enough usage.

    Here’s Kansas:
    http://www.ksdot.org/BurTransPlan/maps/SpecialInterestStateMaps/rrmap120706.pdf
    grain gets to the elevators, and from there via rail, but it gets to them via grain trucks. I have no idea of the distribution of ton-miles of grain trucks.

    Right now, as your own analysis showed:
    a) It is relatively cheap to ship things via Class 8 trucks.
    b) The energy cost is ~linear in the distance.
    ===
    c) At some point, trains are cheaper than trucks. They aren’t at short distances, since you have to transport to/from the train.

    So, we’re heading into a period when:
    a) Class 8 trucks still need lots of fuel, which will be expensive.

    b) But smaller local trucks can actually be BEV or PHEV, i.e., for a given amount of cargo, there will a battery range, and then after that, it gets expensive, so it’s no longer linear.

    c) The tradeoff between trains and trucks will increasingly favor trains in more places, but given the time and especially expense of building infrastructure, trucks will have to be around for a while.

    I haven’t looked at the relative economics in any detail, but even in Europe, there’s still a lot of trucking, because they go where you want to. Also, one must be careful to understand the traffic limits of any given railroad. Finally, all this is affected by the geography of distribution centers, which may well have to change a bit under the new constraints.

    Here’s a GE hybrid locomotive (not just diesel-electric).
    http://ge.ecomagination.com/site/products/hybr.html

    Also, for some places, it may well be that you use light fuel-based locomotives for spur lines, and electrify the mainline, or maybe you have an electrified locomotive that can go modest distances on batteries or with a small fuel supply.

  18. Robert says:

    Maybe you just need to think about living closer together…

  19. John, I really mean to skip a century on the railroad thing.

    Think packet switching, but with actual packets with real mass as contents…

  20. Publius2012 says:

    “We have the two primary solutions to peak oil at hand: fuel efficiency and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles run on zero-carbon electricity.”

    No offense, but this is the first statement of delusion I have read from this website.

    There are a number of problems with this solution: manufacturing the cars, and the implied solar and wind materials with “zero-carbon” is just not feasible. I might agree if you specified these vehicles are only for public transit…but it’s still only a very temporary solution on the scale of decades, not centuries.

    The only convincing solution I have seen is a drastic reduction in population, a much more agrarian lifestyle (considering our food to fossil fuel ratio is 1:45), and a reduction in complexity, i.e. technology.

    Unlike what we are being told, our solution is not more research and technology, but embracing our Saithood/Buddhahood, making sacrifices, a change in culture (probably involving veganism), significantly reduced consumption, and a reconnection with our local community.

    The pendulum is about to take a hard swing from Empire to Local, and it’s hard for me to imagine cars playing a large part in our society more than 100 years from now.

  21. Peter Foley says:

    Joe, nearly anyone can make sausage, but who can make a pig from sausage? Entropy increases, get over it. Oil prices have over quadrupled in the last fifteen years without the wheels falling off-another doubling over 25 years doesn’t even keep up with GNP growth. Just what is bad? high oil prices or the running out of fossil oil? Your post butters both sides of the logic toast. If there is actual significant human caused CO2 forced AGW why not just continue with the present carbon based economy and abate the CO2 with what worked previously geologically–coral reefs to limestone and peat ponds to coal/oil? One heck of lot cheaper then shooting ourselves in the gonads of Western civilization, carbon based transportation/power. I am I going to have to pay a carbon tax when the leaves fall off of my trees?
    Robert, I can see the Earth easily supporting 4x the present pop with current level of US technology, Are you going to start taxing energy production or something equally stupid to damage the worlds future?
    If you’re serious about ZPG get sterilized now, I’ll loan you the money for the surgery. My grandkids will read about you and the Shakers. You might have to move closer together to stay warm in a carbon free world with climate change like they had in Hong Kong last winter.
    I still love to play with toy trains, but passenger rail, heavy and light are money pits for low density areas. Amtrak has 35 years of failure to prove it. The only new rails that cash flow in North America are the one that ship global freight containers and the ones that haul coal from Rockey Mountain states to the power plants that supply our economy.
    Rail fuel costs published in a WSJ ad, ~400 ton miles / gallon of Diesel, A fully loaded class 8 Semi-articulated truck is ~140 ton miles / gallon of sulfur free diesel. A fully loaded coal train hauls over 120 X 100ton coal cars = 2.4 million lbs of product. How many things need to be shipped in increments of Mega pounds? Look at maps of WWII US towns and see how much real estate the rail roads consumed– if rails were actually cheaper we’d still use them. The cheapest solution is also the one that impacts the environment the least.
    Run an Einsteinian thought experiment about the infrastructure costs of just the bridges required for replacing the just the interstate component portion of the trucking. Just one local main line bridge to replace the 109 year old one took 4,000,000 lbs of steel.
    Are you willing to give up fresh produce and the UPS man to keep the average temps a 1/4 degree lower?
    Locally we have public bid lettings for highways, you ought to try it in California Pangolin.
    Michael Tobias, call the Union Pacific RR with your idea, I sure they’ll get right on it. Go watch a local truck freight hub for a couple hours then compare and contrast with a railyard. Think topology of the rail lines compared to the degrees of freedom a truck has in a warehouse parking lot.

  22. Robert says:

    Peter Foley – why waste all the time explaining that we should just continue with business as usual? BAU is taking us down an unsustainable path. The further we go down it the more painful the consequences at the end.

    I love the references to “US technology” and “Western civilization”. Haven’t you noticed that the US, with its 13mbopd import habit and 1/2 trillion $ trade deficit is rapidly disappearing down the pan, while India and China (population 2.4 billion) is in double digit growth and eating your lunch?

    4x population is 27 billion. The world can hardly feed itself with 6.8 billion. Your post is a joke.

  23. Peter Foley says:

    Robert, BAU, isn’t business as usual it is the constant improvement in the economy driven by innovation and use of tech. Just as we have as a culture since the Middle Ages. You’re welcome to go Amish, but not to force all others down that “NO OUTLET’ road.
    We, the USA can run a deficit forever as long as we create wealth faster than we spend it/ if we weren’t we’d been broke decades ago. BTW, a large fraction of the ‘trade’ deficit is bookkeeping encouraged/forced by the double taxation of US onshore corporate income. If you are truly worried, allow drilling any where in the US and the wealth created that stayed in the US = an extra dollar a day for every citizen forever. Some of it could even be ‘wasted’ on tree-hugging, poor people poop on the pavement, wealth is needed to have a ‘clean’ world.
    Every ‘shortage’ of X is an opportunity for growth and new tech.
    Your meme that we have run out of stuff is in the long run species suicide–It will always end in “Game Over” with no quarters in your pocket. Its similar in effect to Liberals in the US wanting to steer the future of the society but are so self centered they won’t have children–Plan B take over public schools and ‘make’ liberals out of the rational parents offspring.
    Chinda isn’t eating our lunch, we’re swapping extra sandwiches for a desert–both parties have a greater GNP after trade. The PRC is trying to game currency exchange rates–But I’d put my poker money on the currency traders with 500 years of experience over the product of the cultural revolution.

  24. David B. Benson says:

    Peter Foley — It is possible to do all that and still reduce CO2 to 350 ppm in about 70 years: bury biocoal. The cost to do so might come from a world-wide VAT of 1%. (Any means to generate around $670 billion per year.)

    THere may be less expensive means to accomplish the same goal. THe point is it is not expensive. Just needs the will to do so.

  25. Mike says:

    Joe,
    It’s a major strategic error you make again and again:
    Making the issue progressives vs. conservatives.

    There are now conservatives like Woolsey who are recognizing some of the issues. Maybe its denialists vs. everybody else.

    I think you are making more enemies than you need to to get the job done.

  26. Earl Killian says:

    I consider the attempt to simplify an N-dimensional space into 1 dimension to be rather silly. Politics is N-dimensional. The fictional “political spectrum”, right to left, is a single dimension. The purpose of the simplification attempt is to aggrandize power. The idea is to make people believe there are only a few legitimate combinations of opinions, so if you agree with me on X, you should agree on Y, Z, W, etc.

    Even worse: in the U.S. there is an attempt to simplify the “political spectrum” into just two points: Republican and Democrat.

    Even worse still: the political term “conservative” is no longer aligned with the English definition, which David Benson conveniently has already posted under “The adaptation trap”. The Republicans today are the radical party of the U.S. (that is they seek to venture into uncharted territory, e.g. in climate, economics, religion, etc.) and the Democrats are the conservative party (that is, they primarily seek to maintain the changes of the 1930s to the 1960s). The entrenched nature of the two-party system in the U.S. is such that most people have never even noticed this reversal in conservative vs. radical.

  27. Paul says:

    Elbarto appears to be one of the few that gets it. More efficient or zero emissions vehicles are definitely not the answer. Its not just about pollution, but about how we live our lives, design our cities and relate to each other. Mass tranport, pedestrian and cycling movement are all critical.

    …..And Peter Foley – Just another individual deluded by our own propaganda that we have progressed?! Numbers, roads, bridges – engineering fantasies, urban delusions. Build more, move more, consume more – a never ending vacuum

  28. Earl Killian says:

    Paul, zero GHG emission vehicles can solve the problem. So can zero emission mass transport and cycling. The question is what fraction of each will be viable with the public. Obviously in a catastrophe 100% walking and cycling will be acceptable, but we’re trying to change our ways without suffering a catastrophe. California’s regulatory agencies are looking for ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled with “smart growth” initiatives. How much this helps is anyone’s guess.

    And by the way, mass transit needs to be electrified to be viable. It is already less GHG emissions to drive solo in my RAV4-EV (110-150g/mi) from Silicon Valley to Sacramento to testify at CARB hearings than it is to take Amtrack (180g/mi). Even two people in a Prius (242g/vehicle-mile, so 121g/passenger-mile) is better than Amtrack. Unlike Europe, our mass transit is too GHG intensive. Basically if it isn’t electric, it isn’t good enough. Even BART, which is electric (at 136 passenger miles electrical energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline), is better than two people in a Prius, but not better than two people in an EV (the 2002 RAV4-EV gets 112 MPG, so two people is 224). (At rush hour BART’s efficiency increases to 250 MPG.)

  29. Peter Foley says:

    Paul, I’d ask who ever indoctrinated you for a refund. You’re proof that it is possible to have negative knowledge. How are my 80 and 90 year-old neighbors going to bike into town for groceries this week? I am supposed to ride a bike 60 miles to a new neighborhood to work on the as yet unbuilt infrastructure? The last clean sheet town that I know about in the USA was D.C. that was designed so the artillery could blow the rioters away before they got to the Capitol building. Mass transport doesn’t equal efficient movement of people from thousands of differing homes to hundreds of differing workplaces that change every five years. Just how many jobs that you can earn a living at are within walking distance of your house? Actual freedom of movement is one the pillars of the earning power of working class Americans, One of the few example of mass transit that served the residents of Watts, that when withdrawn trapped the older workers who were unable to drive/purchase a car and partially caused through the induced poverty the riots latter that decade.
    Speak for yourself, even if I am a self centered creature of Madison avenue, I think not, you have NO right to destroy the culture that creates the wealth that feeds the useless fringe lunatics that want to devolve into some sort of low tech communism. If killing a few million members of a tribe is unspeakably evil–we’ll have invent several orders of magnitude greater terms to describe the numbers of dead caused by the return to eighteen century tech base you postulate if the survivors can still read and write.
    I think Ted Kaczynski’s cabin in the woods is for sale, don’t forget to bring a plastic bucket for a commode.
    As part of your plan to save us, when do you plan to quit using the Internet– it surely isn’t affordable in the post modern low tech scheme envisioned. I intend to use as much material and energy as needed to provided for me and mine, and I won’t permit some quarter-wits to destroy their future–The greens are a much greater threat to the Western culture then a few Muslim terrorists.

  30. Most of what is said in Joe’s article is already said in Richard Heinberg’s books, The Party’s Over and ‘Powerdown’. Except for a regrettable political tirade in one of the middle chapters, his books have enough good information to point us in the right direction. No need to read books by other people unless you enjoy reading bad news. Reading more such ‘Peak Oil’ books or listening to lectures by speakers of a similar mind won’t get us anywhere at all.

    One last comment is that electric cars require electricity (surprise), roughly 80% of which is generated by fossil fuels. The real solution to this quandary is to simply not drive a car 50 miles a day. The folks in Europe have a standard of living equal or better than ours, and use about half the energy as us.

  31. Jade says:

    Paul Foley,
    2 things i don’t see you addressing: the only way we’ve been able to keep at our current rates of growth to present are through mining the earth of it’s resources. once we’ve mined them, they’re gone and then what do we use? we’ve gotten to the point where we’re so good at mining them that we’re depleting them at faster and faster rates pushing us over the edge even sooner. as an example, check out worldwide fisheries. most are depleted to the point where the reality is, we’re not going to be able to find many fish to eat soon. this in turn detroys that portion of the economy. what are the fisherman supposed to do at that point? same with oil, timber, etc. not to mention those that rely on fishing to feed themselves and their families. what’ve you got to say to them “so sorry, but personally i’m happy with the way things are and see no need to change them since it’s not affecting me in a dramatic way.”?

    second, if you look at any of the reputable polling organizations’ research lately you’ll see that the majority of people in the U.S. and the world are not happy with the way things are heading under the current operating models, and want new, creative, socially equitable, environmentally responsible solutions to the current mess we’re in. all the info is out there about the increasing instability in our world and the decreasing health of most of the components of the earth system we’re a part of. it has been for decades and with more human focus and research and dramatic impacts being seen, most people are waking up to reality. i know i can’t change you’re views on this stuff, and that you’ll choose to resist change and deny the obvious, but at least have the courtesy to get out of the way of those of us who are up to the challenge of trying to create new models and ways of thinking in order to pull us out of this rut of environmental abuse and selfishness.

    personally, i don’t think we need to completely revert to an agrarian lifestyle. i think some elements of that are necessary e.g. more people growing some of their own vegetables. technology can help us too, and i’m all for tech solutions when they make sense.

    imo, one of the biggest problems we face is letting the idea that everything has to make good economic sense based on the current economic framework, or else it’s a non-starter. tell that to the solar companies who are currently making money hand over fist in all areas of the business, while the price of solar electricity is still not quite as low as that produced from fossil fuels. people see the change that’s necessary and are hard at work steering us in the right direction.

    luckily we don’t need everyone to agree in order to do this. social movements in the past (and a social movement is really what is needed here to correct our models) have made huge changes and improvements throughout the world with a concerned committed 5-10% of the population in question. hopefully we can move forward in the same way now.

  32. Robert says:

    I’m hoping that $120 oil will make more people think about working remotely. I don’t understand this obsession with driving/flying vast distances to work on a PC / meet people etc. when most of it could be done without ever leaving home.

  33. Patrick M says:

    “One last comment is that electric cars require electricity (surprise), roughly 80% of which is generated by fossil fuels. The real solution to this quandary is to simply not drive a car 50 miles a day. ”

    I am sorry but if the choice is saving the polar bears by walking to work and screwing them by driving, too many will say – screw it, I’m driving.

    Yet … plug-in hybrids fueled by electricity from nuclear power plants could cut fossil fuel use by 2/3rds. biofuels can get you another 1/2.
    bingo. 85% reduction and we are still driving.

    That’s the answer, not sackcloth-and-ashes economic policy. (Sorry for for labelling it such, I know you mean well, but people will take it that way.)

    … “imo, one of the biggest problems we face is letting the idea that everything has to make good economic sense based on the current economic framework, or else it’s a non-starter.”
    … yeah, its a constraint called – REALITY.

    “i think some elements of that are necessary e.g. more people growing some of their own vegetables.” a waste of time. If someone is providing it for you, why do you have to do it?

    “second, if you look at any of the reputable polling organizations’ research lately you’ll see that the majority of people in the U.S. and the world are not happy with the way things are heading under the current operating models, and want new, creative, socially equitable, environmentally responsible solutions to the current mess we’re in.” one word for that – capitalism. Everyone wants the shiny toy, but how to pay for it. only capitalism / free market can allocate things appropriately.

  34. Patrick M says:

    “While todays conservatives have become anti-environment,”

    Strawman/ false dischotomy. This seems to be a zone with a lot of conservative-bashing, but conservatives going back to Teddy Roosevelt were the original conservationists.

    ” I think the best way to get the ball rolling is to show conservatives that they don’t have to sacrifice their values in order to care about the environment.”

    That’s right. Conservatives have gone ‘awol’ over environmentalist law that attacks property rights; against regulations that are part of attacks on business and free enterprise; and are against an ‘orthodoxy’ about global warming (it didnt help that Al Gore become a front man for it and preaches it like old timey religion – not v. credible). Nobody really is against helping the environment, its what has to get sacrificed to do it.

    A way to solve the AGW without regulating people to death, taking their property or massively raising their taxes will win conservatives. This is why Bush talks about technology, because it doesnt undermine our freedom and taxes us like the regulation-minded want. It’s a ‘freebie’ way to solve the problem.

    Is that enough? If not, you’ve got a fight on your hands. On the other hand, if you have technology and not tax/regulation-based ideas, you can get environmentally-minded conservatives to sign up quickly.

    McCain is as much in the camp of “AGW is real and we have to do something” so there is a middle ground that will get staked out should he win the White House. In the end, conservatives are not against the environment, they are simply against the issue trumping their concerns for property rights and low taxes.

  35. Patrick M says:

    “The only convincing solution I have seen is a drastic reduction in population,”

    Er, well, … you go first.

  36. Patrick49 says:

    Joe,
    The gods must be smiling or smirking at your Peak Oil analysis as they did when Al Gore delivered one of his ‘global warming’ doom and gloom lectures on a record breaking cold day in New York city. The death of oil and coal, accompanied by a childlike representation of a distribution curve, came just as Brazil’s Petrobras announced a new major oil field discovery and Saudi Aramco started production in their Khursaniyah field. The United States has billions of barrels of oil reserves, untappped due to legislation or inaction by scientifically challenged lawyers in Congress. While the rest of the world explores, drills and produces oil, the US energy industry sits idle and the masses complains about high priced oil. At today’s prices every million barrel per day increase in our production is worth approximately $110,000,000 per day savings in imported crude oil. Multiply that by 365 days and you are talking about real money. Exploration for and production of US oil is a revenue enhancer for the government and costs the taxpayers nothing as energy companies do not need subsidies.

  37. Joe says:

    Patrick — ANWR, if it were a big success, would delay the peak one year. I’m afraid you miss the whole point of my analysis — the supply side options solve nothing, and barely pushed off the day of reckoning (or, more accurately, the decades of reckoning).

  38. Patrick49 says:

    Joe,
    Thank you for responding, however, obviously it is you who missed the point as ANWR is only one of the many no exploration/drilling areas mandated by Congress, there is no drilling offshore, no drilling on government owned lands even though there will come a time when China, Russia or others begin drilling in waters only 90 miles from our coastal areas perhaps even off ANWR. With the drilling techniques available today our reserves will be drained and then our own oil will be sold to us. The sheer stupidity and incoherence of this no action policy is absurd.
    Further your simple little distribution curve with no coordinates neglects the new oil fields and reserves that are being or will be brought into service now or discovered in the future.
    The basis for your position on tar sands and coal “That would be a climate catastrophe,” must be a quasi-religious belief in the demonization of CO2 as described by Professor Lindzen and other noted scientists. Without CO2 the earth would not exist as it is today and any effects of higher CO2 levels are based on questionable IPCC reviews, interpretations and doom and gloom filled summaries of computer generated models by a majority of nonscientific government appointed bureaucrats.
    The IPCC’s computer simulation apparently do not include atmospheric H2O content as clouds are too difficult to model, or solar activity(sunspots) or the earth’s tilt and distance from the sun. All of these factors have a much greater effect on the earth’s climate than the rather insignificant but necessary CO2 content, 0.030 to 0.035 percent.
    Government intervention into and interference in business and economic matters are often based on ‘listening to the loudest, ‘finger in the wind’ or polling results and there have been more failures than success. In the energy field in addition to the exploration, drilling and production restrictions there were, MTBE, mandated gasoline formulations and now ethanol all of which illustrate the ‘law of unintended consequences”.
    It is said that President Reagan once said the most frightening words are “I am from the government and I am here to help you.” The industrial might of the United States did not result from government leadership but from the government getting out of the way of inventors and entrepreneurs. The industrial might of the United States is slowly but surely being tied down by ill-conceived and unnecessary rules, regulations and mandates as surely as Gulliver was tied-up by the Lilliputins.

  39. Patrick49 says:

    Joe,
    One point that appears to dominate is the almost total concern with replacing gasoline as a transportation fuel with something else, ethanol from any source, hydrogen and now “carbon-free electricity”. This is supposed to insure energy independence from importing ‘foreign’ crude oil. Since less than 50% of a barrel of crude oil is turned into gasoline,44 to 48 percent, the remaining 50+percent provides refinery gas, propane, butane,aviation gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, diesel fuel, home heating oil, lubricating oils /greases for both transportation and industrial applications, feed stocks for petrochemical, plastics and rubber industries, fuels for marine shipping, asphalts and last but not least military specification petroleum products. A carbon based petroleum free world appears bleak indeed as humanity imay be forced to learn new skills, such as, starting fires with two sticks and hunting whales from sailing ships for sperm oil to light the reading lamps.

  40. G.O.G says:

    Peter Folage, your a knob mate.

  41. Segwaydude says:

    Peak Oil solves global warming. At this point we have burned about half of the fossil fuels and the other half will go pretty quick. Either there are alternative fuels developed for transportation NOW (note: CNG works and we pay ourselves) or the economic impact will change everything about our consumption society. When threatened in WWII, we came up with the “Manhattan Project” and rapidly discovered how to make great bombs. We need to put EVERYTHING into this (new energy sources) , come up with the solution and lead the world again, otherwise . . . not good.

    We should all by now know that Cheap oil is over, the Earth has peaked. Listen, learn, adapt, solve, prosper. We are way behind, lets get to work.

  42. John Johnson says:

    This is all hog wash. Wind, Geothermal, Hydro Thermal are all viable sources of energy especially at the current prices of oil. However this is all about exaggeration, and fraud. Global warming is not being caused by cars, or trucks. Volcanoes spew out more carbon dioxide that all the cars in the world combined. The sun is in a solar cycle, and is heating up. All the planets in the solar system have increases in temperature. The surface is heating not the atmosphere. This is all about money. How can we fool the people into accepting a new tax, and governance. The IEA (i.e. UN is pushing Global Warming along with a number of environmental groups on “computer models” that model whatever data you put in. This data is highly subjective – meaning you have to guess what you think the number should be, not what they actually are.

    What science does this article refer to? Is the science UN report of non-scientist? Is it the report of a “scientist with a skewed objective – i.e. funding. I am sorry, but “scientist” are not necessarily the smartest group of people. They are supposed to be concentrated in a specific field, but offered suffer the same corruption of their work as in any industry. The mighty dollar skews result of many reports. If you remember scientist used to be railing about sea level rise. Funny it has not happened yet. I guess that theory waned after a number of geologists (real scientist – what is a climate scientist – who gives that degree away?) reported that tectonic plate movement was the cause of sea level rise not polar melt.

    This discussion on Global Warming is crazy. It seems that you are offering “scientific data”, but in reality it is not accurate. The Earth is always changing there have been cycles of warmth, and cold throughout this planets history. Everything is not centered on the earth. The biggest generator of heat is the sun. The oceans if you can believe compromise 75% of the earth’s surface. It takes a significant amount of energy to raise, or lower the temperature of the earth’s oceans. Can you imagine heating water at a depth of 4000 feet or greater. This all has an impact on the atmosphere. The current “global warming movement” is really a political movement to control people. Look at the price of gas, food, and energy. For years the powers that be have been trying to convince people to move closer to the cities, and develop public transportation. Humm – looks like the mew tactic is working. The theme seems to center it self around live in an agrarian society, but let me keep my 30,000 sq ft mansion with all the amenities.

  43. Kevin says:

    Check out this article: 12 Steps to better fuel economy I followed its advice and am not getting over 40 MPG!

  44. Peter Foley says:

    GOG, Thanks, I must be headed in the right direction if it upsets you.

  45. he Earth is always changing there have been cycles of warmth, and cold throughout this planets history. thanks.. http://alaminos.net

  46. Earl Killian says:

    The Earth is always changing there have been cycles of warmth, and cold throughout this planets history.

    Yes, the record of temperature variation and CO2 is one way scientists confirmed that CO2 causes warming (and also that temperature causes CO2 release in a feedback system), and why they are so certain that our addition of more CO2 to the atmosphere than we’ve seen in a million years will cause more warming than we’ve seen in a million years.

    It is amusing to see deniers attempting to use evidence for global warming as evidence to the contrary. It shows how hopelessly confused they are.

  47. RepugsRthugs says:

    The ‘scientists’ whose results are skewed by money poster up there…. all scientists get funding from other sources, its the only way they can do their jobs and buy the equipment and take the research trips and fact finding missions they go on. The fact is most scientists are funded by independant educational and charitable societies and organizations or when funded by private money normally they request to not know the source or receive any ‘agenda’ along with the money. However there are a number of scientists who are definitely mercenary and even find it a fun challenge to try to come up with set of data that opposes others especially a quorum of scientists with a conclusion.
    (everyone wants to be the ONE)
    But in fact, the majority of those recently have been exposed to be on the side of the “Anti-Global Warming” campaign and directly funded by energy companies and corporate giants who might stand to face considerable costs due to changes in policy.

    As for the theory that this is all natural change, the fact is that almost all scientists from both sides are literally DISMAYED at the speed of acceleration that our world is heating up.
    The largest single process to absorb CO2 and keep our world from hot gases that trap the heat is our forests. The Amazon jungle is known as the “lungs” of our planet. This amazing resource has been being burned and clearcut for a century at staggering rates. So have its neighbors and many other countries worldwide including our own.

    It stands to reason that if humanity has been destroying and using without proper environmental management our single most powerful resource that would remove the CO2 from our atmosphere and therefore take out the greenhouse gas factor, it also stands to reason that we are experiencing a Man-made confluence of events that is leading to accelerated warming effects. In other words, the Equivalent of many volcanoes erupting over a short period of time.
    This of course also creates a snowballing effect of higher chances for more wildfires in drying wilderness and plains, which do both Taking away more CO2 filtration, as well as add more CO2 to the atmosphere.

    Add increases in carbon output by emerging economies like China/India etc., and occasional natural emissions of pollutants en masse such as those volcanoes, and you have the perfect storm of potentially uncorrectable path of destruction for the Human race.

    As for the comment that the Seas havent been rising, I guess you havent been reading the news worldwide for years.
    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the sea level has risen 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in the last 100 years.

    If all of the Antarctic ice melted, sea levels around the world would rise about 61 meters (200 feet).

    There is a significant amount of ice covering Greenland, which would add another 7 meters (20 feet) to the oceans if it melted. Because Greenland is closer to the equator than Antarctica, the temperatures there are higher, so the ice is more likely to melt.

    In 1995 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report which contained various projections of the sea level change by the year 2100. They estimate that the sea will rise 50 centimeters (20 inches) with the lowest estimates at 15 centimeters (6 inches) and the highest at 95 centimeters (37 inches). The rise will come from thermal expansion of the ocean and from melting glaciers and ice sheets. Twenty inches is no small amount — it could have a big effect on coastal cities, especially during storms.

    And last.
    Calling scientists not the smartest group of people, sounds like a challenge from someone who obviously isnt a scientist. One should not throw stones from outside a rock quarry.
    Generally speaking Scientists have Masters or PHDs in various disciplines of sciences such as Astrophysics, organic chemistry, geologic study, thermodynamics, electromagnetic wave theory.
    And to get there, you must complete study in highly difficult math and science curricula that then must display the high intelligence and ability to be admitted to graduate and internship studies to then even be Noticed or accepted into institutes with some of the worlds greatest minds, nobel winners, theorists, and practitioners in the world from world class instruction at world class universities.

    I’d dare say there are far more professions with lesser individuals, but if you can come up with a group thats generally smarter than that, i’d like to know who they are, because they should be running the world.
    And its pretty obvious that those that are, sure arent part of any group near or above scientists.

  48. RepugsRthugs says:

    Oh and that 1995 report, has since been concluded to be in need of revision due to the highly accelerating rate over that which was initially used to come up with those figures. The rise would now take far less time. In fact, likely in our lifetimes now.

  49. Charlie says:

    We can grow the economy 70%, cut CO2 emissions 70%, reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 70%, reduce our trade imbalance by 70%, reduce the national debt to GDP ratio by 70%, and have 70% more resources to devote to education and health care in this country without any new technology. We can do it in ten years.

    We can do this with an interstate electric transit system similar in scope to the interstate highway system. It would move people, goods. containers, cars, eighteen wheelers, and whatever on small 25 car electric trains powered by zero CO2 emission clean power (solar, wind, and nuclear…actually fewer nuclear plants than Republicans want already).

    We can move two people and their hybrid plug-in car from the East Coast to the West Coast in two days at a fuel cost of $25 while they surf the internet, play games, watch whatever television they want, dine and sleep in luxury, and arrive well rested and ready to party. Try that in a traditional automobile and you will wind up in a morgue. They won’t let you check your PHEV on a plane or a bus and the rental will be a two day hassle anyway.

    It could be built for less than what we have spent in Iraq. It would eliminate 7 million barrels of oil consumption a day which is twice the total oil production of Iraq. It would drive a new American oil independent economy in much the same way that the interstate highway system has driven our economy for nearly fifty years. It would grow the economy 70% eliminating much of our current economic misery.

    Coupled with the eventual impact of plug-in electric vehicles, it would eliminate more than 70% of our dependence on foreign oil and stop the shift of our wealth to the Middle East. PHEV’s are an answer for urban and suburban travel but only an electric interstate rail system can move big loads economically without hydrocarbon fuel (diesel). PHEV’s can cut our oil consumption only about 25% but electric rail can increase that number to 70%.

    Our domestic petroleum, gas, and coal industry will have to ramp up to eliminate the remaining 30% dependence. They must drill and develop domestic supply instead of relying on Middle East oil. If they won’t do this, we need to cancel their leases and allow new companies to take their places.

    Freed from the tyranny of foreign oil, America can reclaim its economic supremacy without having to invade foreign lands and it can become a model for other nations to reduce their dependence on foreign oil and preserve the global environment.

    If you didn’t want to freight your PHEV, you and your friend could freight your bicycles and yourselves coast to coast in two days for about $10 fuel cost if we had an interstate electric rail transit system.

    My estimates are based on a rail advertisement of being able to move a 2000 pound car about 450 miles on a gallon of diesel, doubling the KWHR cost ( 2 cents) of nuclear power from the STNP, 20 million dollars per mile to construct electric rail transit, and about 45,000 miles for an interstate system. There seems to be a lot of room for a lot of profit here and a very reasonable ticket price.

    Lets get America rolling again. Where is Eisenhower when you really need him? Biden, are you listening…you are a rail man aren’t you?.

  50. Shem says:

    I think most of the people on here are SERIOUSLY underestimating the economic effects of peak oil.

    The comment that peak oil cannot destroy suburbia or the American way of life is unbelievably naive and incorrect.

    Consider these facts:

    1. Every oil price shock since the 1950′s has resulted in a resession in the US economy. All of these were short-term relatively modest price increases compared to what peak oil will bring.

    2. The average car in the US is on the road for more than 17 years, meaning that it takes 9 years to replace half of America’s cars. Thus even if you double the fuel efficiency of ALL new cars (rediculously optimistic), it would still take 9 years just to improve overall fuel efficiency by just 25%.

    3. When you consider that hybrid cars costs thousands of dollars more than non-hybrid versions, it’s unrealistic to assume that even a majority of new cars will be hybrids. Furthermore, the rise in fuel efficiency is still not growing nearly as fast as the cost of gasoline is rising (it has doubled in the last two years) and therefore, the overall cost of driving will still go up even for those people who are fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy a new car, let alone a hybrid or hybrid plug-in.

    Bottom line, if you think greater fuel efficiency can save America from higher overall economic losses due to rising fuel costs, you simply don’t understand the big picture.

    4. There are no alternative fuel sources ready to fill the shortfall in oil production. A wonderful treatice on this topic is the 2005 Hirsch report done at the request of the US Department of Energy (and promptly ignored by the Bush administration and media). The report concludes that it would take 15 to 20 years of crash course development of alternative liquid fuels and drastically higher fuel efficiencies BEFORE THE WORLD OIL PEAK to avoid massive fuel shortages world-wide. Since the world HAS ALREADY peaked (sometime between 2006 and 2008) and no crash course steps have even come close to being taken yet, the world is facing catastophic oil shortages that will take 20-30 years to recover from.

    The bottom line is that there simply will not be enough liquid fuel in the world and bio-fuels and plug-in hybrids will not be able to even come close to making up for the shortfall.

    Fuel prices are going to skyrocket much higher than the $147/barrell we saw in July.

    The airline industry will callapse.
    World food prices are going to triple.
    Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.
    World War III is very likely, if not enevitable.

    And yes, America’s suburbs and the American way of life (as we now know it)…are going to come to sudden, very painful endings.

  51. Charlie says:

    The misconception that many contributors have here is that we run out of oil altogether one weekend. It will be a slow drawn out affair that lasts a century with the price of petroleum, coal. and natural gas rising gradually. For those countries that don’t prepare now, there will eventually be a crisis. The crisis wont peak until everyone on this blog is already dead from old age or whatever.

    There is plenty of alternative energy. There is more wind energy available in America than we consume altogether by a factor of several times. There is more solar energy available striking the roofs of homes than is consummed by the homes. When the price of uranium hits 1and1/2 cents per kwh of electric energy produced, the breeder reactor becomes economically feasible and the supply of energy becomes infinite. What are you paying now…10 cents a kwh?

    There is no need for widespread panic as suggested by many of the bloggers here. what is needed is the political will to move away gradually from petroleum and natural gas and coal. These fuels are all based on the methane molecule and its CH2 variations. They all will eventually destroy the earth when burned because of the inevitable CO2 emisssion that occurs when hydrocarbon fuels burn. The only possible mitigation for a hydrocarbon fuel future is CO2 sequestration. If the earth eventually burps it back, the remedy will have failed. Do we want to risk the earth on that gamble?

    If we continue the hydrocarbon fuel economy, eventually we must turn to coal and the heavy oils in tar sands and shale rocks. We have centuries of potential reserves of these hydrocarbons. The ecological destruction to water resources and environment that will occur with that effort may dwarf the CO2 problem.

    It would take only ten years to reduce our dependence on hydrocarbon fuels by 70%. If the world followed suit, we may buy enough time to slow the effects of global warming caused by hydrocarbon fuels. Interestingly enough, America may be the last major country to face this reality, not the first. This is because our politicians always promise less dependence on foreign oil but then inevitably bow to the wishes of the hydrocarbon industries. The wishes are always the same…short term profit.

    We must learn to use electric energy for individual transportation and for mass transportation of heavy goods over long distances. That is the only way to avoid the pain of peak oil and the environmental damage of hydrocarbon fuels. We need an interstate electric transit system based on clean renewable fuel (solar, wind, and nuclear power).

    If we don’t take steps to make this transition, we may indeed face world war as as nations seek to grab the last remaining drops of oil. The potential devastation of international war should encourage smart people and smart countries to make the transition. The leadership of both political parties in America does not seem to have any grasp of the problem at all. Pickens, an oil man, has pointed out the problem clearly. Even he recognizes that natural gas is only a temporary solution and while it is the cleanest of the hydrocarbons (by only about 30%), it too pollutes the atmosphere with CO2.

    Good morning America how are you? Don’t you know me I’m your native son. I ‘m the high speed electric train they call the City of New Orleans. I’ll be gone 2000 miles before the day is done.

  52. Elbarto says “It need not be doomsday, a contracted society with most transport by foot or cycling will be happier and healthier.”

    Hey Elbarto, you know what people did before the days of oil? They rode horses. You aren’t going to get around very far on foot, and even cycling has a lot of limitations (considering hauling stuff). So you better plan on getting a mule.

    Living out in the Western US where I do, I see the notion of a contracted society as very sad. I’m all for electric vehicles, but I prefer the freedom of getting around which is not restricted by how far I could cycle or walk. You may see it as happier but the fact is you would be missing out on a lot.

  53. Cheering the arrival of peak oil is naive. You know who is going to get hurt by high oil prices? All of us-including the author of this blog and the people who post here. Until alternative methods of powering vehicles are put into place, we are all going to fall victim to high oil prices. For one, high oil prices translate directly into high food prices. Like it or not, food has to be hauled to a place to be sold-even if the food is produced locally. The price of gasoline is incorporated into the price paid for food. Instead of cheering the high price of oil what needs to be done is finding alternatives to traditional gasoline powered vehicles.

    [JR: I don't cheer the arrival. Try reading the post and its links.]

  54. Rick says:

    spirited comment thread. Enjoyed reading P Foley’s comments. Don’t know if he’s on track but nicely written.

  55. josh says:

    last time i checked oil was 40 bucks

  56. cet says:

    There are plenty of good charts. The last page shows projections of US GDP, 2000-2050AD depending on various assumptions of *efficiency*, and it;’s not pretty.

  57. kiwichick says:

    the #1 problem we all face is too many humans on this planet

    @ 1% pop. growth we hit 13.4 billion in 70 years …..2079!!!!!!!

    marine catch/head is dropping and the oceans are warming and acidifying

    arable land /head is dropping due to erosion and urban sprawl

    fossil fuels are finite

  58. kiwichick says:

    there are solutions but can they be scaled up in time
    the latest IEA report for the first time measured actual depletion rates of the largest 800 oilfields globally and they now pepredict 6.7% decline in production ASSUMING massive ( close to$ 1 trillion/year for the next 20 years) investment BUT without that investment the decline rises to over 9%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    AT 6.7% CRUDE OIL PRODUCTION WILL DROP BY 50% IN 10.447 YEARS!!!!

  59. kiwichick says:

    We need to discourage population growth by every means possible and of course the most important part is to present the facts of our crisis to the world
    Our survival as a species fundamently depends on reducing population growth to zero as quickly as possible

  60. great you simply tagged your great content

  61. Great content.Thanks a lot.

  62. Barackoli says:

    Let’s save our earth.

  63. toner says:

    ı have followed your writing for a long time.really you have given very successful information.

  64. “We have the two primary solutions to peak oil at hand: fuel efficiency and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles run on zero-carbon electricity.”

    Add a third solution: smart growth, so Americans don’t have to drive as much.

    The average American today drives twice as much as in the 1960s, because of sprawl development. Are we any better off because we spend all this time on the freeways?

    Current proposals in congress for this year’s TEA reauthorization call for reducing VMT, and California’s SB 375 mandates smart growth as a response to global warming. Smart Growth clearly is a practical political possibility.

  65. Usdating says:

    There’s some great tips there, just blogged about it too!