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Guest Post: The Scientific Challenges To Replacing Oil With Renewables

Tyler Durden's picture



So, assuming the Peak Oil camp is on to something, what's the likelihood for a disruption-free transition to another energy source that can replace the energy output we currently enjoy from oil? There's no shortage of promising claims from new laboratory experiments, and there is a lot of optimism in political and entrepreneurial circles that renewable, alternative forms of energy (wind, solar, biofuels, etc) may be able to fill the "energy gap" in time. How realistic are these hopes?

Not very, says Robert Rapier, energy specialist and Chief Technology Officer of Merica International.

The problem is one of return on invested energy. It is extremely difficult to create fuels with the same energy-density Nature has concocted over thousands of millennia without using up as much (or more) energy in the process.

When you think about what oil is then you understand why these biofuels companies have a tough time of making it work. I mean, oil is accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated. Nature has applied the pressure, it’s applied the heat and it has cooked these into very energy-dense hydrocarbons. Now, what we are trying to do in real time is speed all this up. Somebody has to plant the biomass, somebody has to grow the biomass where nature did it in the first place. We have to transport it, we have to bring it into a factory, we have to get it in that form, we have to convert it from biomass into some fuel. We are adding energy and labor inputs all along and then finally we get a fuel out of the back end.


A lot of the time, a lot of these so-called biofuels are very heavily dependent on fossil fuels to begin with. So for some of them it is not even clear that they would be viable if you took the fossil fuels out of the process. When you think about all the labor and energy that goes into making a biofuel from an annual crop it becomes apparent why oil has been the dominant fuel for the last 150 years. It is much easier to go poke a hole in the ground and get that oil out of the ground than it is to go through all the labor of actually producing the fuel. So companies are competing against that.     

On top of this, false hope and confusion is frequently created in the marketplace by new companies announcing "breakthroughs" that may indeed work in optimal laboratory environments, but just simply don't under real-world conditions, at scale:

The scale-up issue is the most important issue because in my experience, most technologies get wiped out as they go up in scale. So something you may be able to do in a lab, 90% of those lab ideas don’t work and only 10% will go on to make a pilot plan. And for lab experiments there are going to be all kinds of things: your catalyst didn’t work; your actual process didn’t work....


Let’s say your process did work in a lab. In the lab you are doing all kinds of things that are different than what you would do at a larger scale. Your waste products may not be a problem, you may have a small amount of bi-product that can be thrown away. Lab equipment is smaller and so the heat transfer in that lab equipment is very different than it is as you scale up. The example I give a lot is: think of a turkey. We are coming up on Thanksgiving. If you are cooking one turkey and you imagine an oven with the heating elements on the sides, that is simply one factor and not everybody gets that right: the turkey is too dry, it’s overdone, it’s not cooked enough.


Now imagine taking that turkey and scaling it up to cook, say 1,000 turkeys an hour. You can imagine that the issues there are very, very different than they would be in a smaller oven. You maybe have turkeys in the middle that would still be cold while the turkeys on the outside are burnt to a crisp. So you are trying to get an even heating distribution across this larger oven and it is the same as a reactor. As the reactor goes from lab scale up to larger scale, as you get heat differences and temperature differences inside that reactor you can make different products, different byproducts, more things that you didn’t want to make or not as much of the thing that you did want to make.


And some companies will skip those steps. As you skip the steps, if you think about it – most technologies get knocked out at each step. So normally a company would go from lab scale to pilot scale to demonstration scale to a commercial scale. If somebody is jumping over steps they are greatly reducing the risk or their chance of success...

That will be the case with most of the biofuel companies out there making promises. They get out there; they will build their pilot plant. They will discover that things don’t work as they thought they would and then they will close down.     

While it is critical we invest our current resources to finding solutions to the approaching energy gap, it's also essential we approach the situation realistically and with as little magical thinking as possible. Currently, the US is consuming 10 million barrels per day more than it produces domestically. For perspective, our best ethanol refineries can produce around 4,000 barrels per day (at a much lower EROEI). And if we decided tomorrow to begin converting our transportation fleet to full-electric vehicles (i.e. away from liquid fuels), it would realistically take somewhere between 30-50 years to fully build out the infrastructure and retire the combustion-engine vehicles. The short of it is there is going to be no single fuel source that replaces oil, and the transition to a post-Peak Oil future is going to involve a period of "less energy" for society for an undetermined period of time.

I think that we hope and we believe that our energy predicament can be solved by technology. We have seen technological advancement in so many different fields and we expect this is what we are going to see in the energy field. If you look at where computers have come over the last 30 years we expect that to happen with our energy production that the whole society is going to be running off of solar and wind power going forward. I sometimes say there is not always a neat solution to every problem.


We have still got the common cold. It is still with us. That has not been cured despite it being around forever. So not all problems can be solved easily. And the energy problem is one that is not going to be solved easily in my opinion. Our society has grown up on something that was rich, abundant, and pretty easy to get to. We are trying to replace that with something that the energy required to get it and process it and produce it is a lot higher than the energy required to process oil.


There is not going to be one thing that replaces oil. I think there are going to be a lot of different things and, more importantly, I think it is going to take a lot less oil than we are using now. The good news is we have dropped a million and a half barrels a day over the last five years. The bad news is a lot of that is because of the recession; it shows we do have some capacity to reduce our oil consumption. There is still a lot of low hanging fruit in my view. It is going to be painful as we scale down and some of the alternatives are going to have to meet somewhere -- at some level higher than they are today and at some level of oil consumption lower than we are today -- those will have to meet. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Robert Rapier (runtime 52m:46s): 


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Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:15 | 1915470 jcaz
jcaz's picture

Yep, technology eventually solves everything, eventually.....  Oil won't go out of favor until it's economically unfeasable, but until then,  there are plenty of gains to be had in general efficiencies......  For example, it's absurd that we still use heating oil- talk about 1932- but there ya go.....

Problem is, no one can extrapolate technology, so all the flat-earth people freak out at the prospect of counting on stuff that has to be yet invented.....

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:39 | 1915524 Max Fischer
Max Fischer's picture



...oil is the accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated....

Well, first of all, that's not a very friendly manner in which to start a debate, as you're going to piss off all the Palin-style Christians who think the Earth is ~6000 years old.  Please be more respectful in the future. 

Secondly, no one can refute the dire oil claims made by oil doomers better than Daniel Yergin.  Rather than trying to paraphrase his words, I'll just lead you to his own.  Yergin's article in the WSJ, What's Wrong with Peak Oil:

If you get a chance, take a look at his newest book, The Quest: Energy, Security and the remaking of the Modern World.

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:45 | 1915546 Rusty.Shackleford
Rusty.Shackleford's picture

Yergin is a PR whore, and does not live on planet earth.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:53 | 1915558 Max Fischer
Max Fischer's picture



That's a very convincing rebuttal, Rusty. Given the depth of his research against your rebuttal, I'll go with his position. 

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:18 | 1915633 vast-dom
vast-dom's picture

Rushmore is facile. Oil is essential.  

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:36 | 1915674 rosex229
rosex229's picture

Daniel Yergin has also predicted on many occassions over the last 6 years that oil is going back down to $10-$20 per barrel... instead its over $100.


He argues (correctly i might add) that higher prices make previously uneconomical oil producable making the total reserves we have access to higher. His arguement is thus that if oil stagnantes in production (like it has since 2005) higher pirces will bring on new production resulting in lower prices once economies of scale kick in. Unfortunately, oil prices are (and have been) over 500% higher than the historical average for some time now, new production has come online from unconventional sources, but its only making up for declining production elsewhere not raising total production.


What Daniel Yergin ultimately fails to comprehend (besides EROEI) is that advanced economies have an oil price limit which when hit throws economies into recession, which reduces investments. In other words, higher oil prices are needed to bring new production online, but those higher prices cause global recessions. At some point the higher prices erode the balance sheets of sovereign nations (and thus bank balance sheets) that complete financial collapse becomes a certainty. Once we tip past that point into financial collapse the advanced systems of credit and exchange will contract severely. These systems are needed to maintain our stubbornly stagnant world production.


Daniel Yergin doesn't see the interconnections between the mortgage crisis, european debt crisis, U.S. debt crisis, failing banks, and record high oil prices. This is odd because no body denies that oil prices (that on an inflation adjusted basis were lower than the prices in 2008 and 2011) caused severe econmic contractions twice in the 1970s.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:11 | 1915753 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

"oil is accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated"


And it is the word "biomass" that causes the failure, not "millions"

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:44 | 1916119 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture


So you are saying that the mass of oil (pure hydrocarbon molecules) being burnt every day is being replaced by other biomass? Got news for you retard, biomass begins with plants and photosynthetic algae (the bottleneck of the carbon cycle) and they are NOT pure hydrocarbon molecules (basically fats).  In fact, these organisms are more sugar (mostly cellulose) and proteins than anything else.  Converting those sugars and protein to fat and then to fuel takes energy.

But hey, at least you are in the right profession, gonna need lots of bike repair guys in the future.  Thanks for the chuckle, troll.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 19:33 | 1916234 defender
defender's picture

Sigh...You are so ready to beat that dead horse that you don't even take the time to read the comment.  He was saying that it is abiogenic oil, ie if the oil is that deep, it ain't made from no shark fin soup. 

But hey, at least you are in the right profession, gonna need lots of physics law guys in the future when people cant even afford to fix their bicycle.  Thanks for the chuckle, troll.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:00 | 1916375 smiler03
smiler03's picture

Sigh, You are so ready to read what you want but he actually said "FAIL. And it is the word "biomass" that causes the failure, not "millions"

There is no mention of "abiogenic".

But hey, you can be a defender of the deluded if you so wish.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 22:48 | 1916600 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

No fucktard, I did mean "abiogenic".

There are hydrocarbons on Saturn's moon Titan, but there has never been biomass on Titan.

Got it, fucktard?

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:16 | 1916779 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

What's the energy density of crystallized methane trapped in a ring, dinglefucker?


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:58 | 1916877 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Don't change the subject.  This isn't 20 questions, pinhead.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 02:16 | 1916962 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

How do the peak oil chicken littles explain oil at the bottom of the arctic ocean, and miles underground? Seepage? I've never seen a good answer to this. I'll wait for one now.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 07:41 | 1917141 Popo
Popo's picture

Because the entire Permian Antarctic plate was once warm, covered in biomass and significantly less submerged when it was part of Pangea.  

('hope you didn't have to wait too long.)

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 16:48 | 1918574 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

So the bakkan fields and the trillion barrels under Illinois are seepage. Lot of seepage. Swiss cheese earth?

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 17:47 | 1918748 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Just for shits and giggles, could you describe where the trillion barrels of oil are found under Illinois and their geological form?? 



Mon, 11/28/2011 - 00:03 | 1919965 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

I must have pulled that out of my ass, it had to be natural gas. But just for more grins, here's an article from five years ago, talking about how sad it is that the US can't use it's 2 trillion+ barrels in shale oil reserves. It's oil, but it's utterly and completely useless. Same with all the tar sands oil. And the heavy crude just found in VZ which puts their reserves ahead of the Saudis - one find changes the world oil distribution equation significantly, but it's shit oil that no one wants. Give us the light sweet crude or civilization is doomed. All of that other oil sucks baboon ass, and the only way we can produce it is if oil becomes so expensive that it ends civilization first.

You were right to call me out on the Illinois botch, but peak oilers are still globalist tools, just pumping the next crisis that will be used to expand government power. If we're sitting in the dark in 20 years, it will be because someone wants us to be sitting in the dark, not because it's inevitable.


Mon, 11/28/2011 - 09:10 | 1920460 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

As I suspected... you are talking about Kerogen or Marl.... that is not oil and never will be at least not for a few million years, if ever....

Educate yourself, the Bakken is real oil trapped in shales (the source rock). The crap you are referring to is basically the source rock that has not been heated and subject to the requisite pressure to make oil.... It has been known about for 50 years and the oil cos. have no idea what to do with it....It has the energy density of a baked potato....

You are a victim of your own hope and denial...

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 03:22 | 1917015 Jumbotron
Jumbotron's picture

Hey pricklicker (Bikey Boy)....remember me?

I blew your ass out of the water the last time we had a discussion.  Not surprised by your inability to answer a couple of questions in a row much less 20.

First of all...have you been to Titan.  No you silly fucktard, you haven't.  You haven't the faintest notion of how it got there.  We still, after all these years of having the Cassini-Huygens Probe discovered if it was even accreted from Saturn itself.  As we have found pieces of Mars on our own planet, Titan could have been a piece of ancient earth flung away when hit by the planetoid which eventually formed into our moon.  As this piece of our planet with the building blocks of life went hurtling away it was captured by Saturn's gravity and over time the bacteria on this piece of rock produced the methane and ethan we see now. 

It's a hypothesis with little to no evidence but so is abiogenic oil formation.

He's not changing the subject dumbfuck.  It is a VERY pertinent quesiton concerning the existence of abiogenic hydrocarbons.  Of course bacteria and heat such as that found close to magma near the mantle of the earth or a distant moon/planet such as Titan or even Saturn or Neptune can produce hydrocarbons such as methane.  But how much, at what cost to extract, what is its nature in the sense of its energy density and and what kind of derivatives can we make from it at scale and once again at what cost?  In other words, if Titan has enough methane and ethan to power Earth for 10,000 years would it still be cost effective to try and build a huge fleet of spacecraft such as the Nostromo from the movie Alien with its attendant refinery to go there and back which would take between 14 to 15 years not including the time it would take to extract the hydrocarbons from the atmosphere?

Of course not....we're fucking broke now and relying on our one time enemy the Russians to cart our sorry asses up to the International Space Station.

Now I know you were not really talking about doing this, just making a VERY weak point about Titan.  But where oh where is this magical cornucopia of abiogenic methane and ethane...much less REAL HONEST TO GOD PETROLEUM.

I's found in your ass, because that's where you and all the other abiogenic nut burgers pull it from. 

And even if there were untold numbers of reservoirs of abiogenic petrolium, just how much would it cost to drill down to the fucking mantle and get it.  And how much refining would it take to massage it back to a form that was usable much less have derivatives such as lubricants, synthetics, plastics, even gasoline?

About as expensive as sending a fleet of interstellar refineries to Titan, you fucking moron.


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 09:43 | 1917211 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

No, I don't remember you.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 11:00 | 1917309 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

But you remember me....

Look, I understand why you need to believe that oil is abiotic... You are a creationist and believe that the divine being endowed Adam and Eve with boundless hydrocarbons...

I ain't going to question your religious beliefs but you really should be go somewhere else and just be quiet...

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 05:33 | 1917072 Element
Element's picture

"oil is accumulation of millions of years of biomass that has accumulated"


And it is the word "biomass" that causes the failure, not "millions"


That general statement has never been shown to be false.

You can not get around that via rank denials.

Indeed, there is a staggeringly VAST body of structural and stratigraphic field-relation data, observations, petrology, palaeontology, and detailed geochemistry and lab experimentation, that shows that statement most certainly is valid and factually correct.

This isn't about choosing personal preferrences, it is about the evidence.

If it is a choice between that scientific observational actuality, and a mere thesis that abiotic oil is gurgling up from the centre of the earth ... well, sorry, but the Principle of Occam's Razor leaves that thesis of abiotic-oil as surplus to requirement.

Geoscientists simply don't need another explanation to adequately explain the observations.

I they did, I would be the first to say so.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 08:07 | 1917147 Popo
Popo's picture

Ultimately, proponents of abiogenic oil are number-challenged.   They have a hard time understanding 250 million years.  

Their argument is basically the same argument that anti-evolutionists make when they proclaim "I ain't never seen a monkey give birth to a human".

Geologic time is beyond their capacity for understanding.





Sun, 11/27/2011 - 09:46 | 1917215 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Equating abiogenic oil with anti-evolutionists is a nice debating trick and also meaningless.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:28 | 1915781 john39
john39's picture

the oil system is totally corrupt... a huge percentage of the oil price is skimmed off... like a hidden globalist tax.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 19:54 | 1916269 Sizzurp
Sizzurp's picture

Exactly....... EROI is steadily degrading.  At some point it isn't even feasible to produce oil. Obviously, this is all going to have horrific consequences on our standard of living.  We are just getting started on this decline curve and very few even recognize what is happening.  Barring an absolute miracle, the chances for effective mitigation have long ago passed us by.  Then again, even if someone discovered economically viable fusion energy right now, the years it would take to implement it would likely be beyond the point where the necessary investment and infrastructure building could be achieved. Sorry to be so pessimistic.  I have 3 young boys and I don't want it or like it either.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 23:52 | 1916730 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

peak debt is the main reason I taught myself food production. Peak oil is the second. We are living at one of the most challenging transitions in human history

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 05:45 | 1917086 BigDuke6
BigDuke6's picture

As has been noted here before,

the ability to produce your own food will become one of the main forms of 'resistance' to the oligarchy machine.

Keep up the good work Davy.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 01:56 | 1916944 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

"What Daniel Yergin ultimately fails to comprehend (besides EROEI) is that advanced economies have an oil price limit which when hit throws economies into recession, which reduces investments."

Where? When? It's PURELY theoretical. We waste more oil than we use efficiently. And the US has had a deliberate policy for decades of leaving it's endowment untouched in many places, so that we could use Arab oil paid for with fiat. Do you think the environmental lobby is any match for the oil lobby?

If 'peak oil' makes things more expensive, the wasteful uses of oil will be the first to go. There's another end of the equation besided EROI: How much can you reduce non-essential uses through market price rationing? It's already happening to some degree, and the crunch hasn't come yet. All of the peak oil arguments revolve around maintaining the consumerist status quo - which is a rotten foundation for an economy anyway.

Just watch: if they are ever forced to abandon the climate change shakedown, the globalists will use your peak oil against you, working hand in hand with the oil companies to milk you. Every tanker in the world was full of oil during the 2008 spike. Let's have an open market first, then they can fear-monger. If things get bad enough, we can always go after the 1 trillion barrels in shale oil under Illiinois. What's that? Too expensive to produce? Tell that to North Dakota. The world is swimming with the stuff and you're being scammed into thinking it's scarce so that you can be milked. They milk you with the fiat money system, why should other resources be different? And what is the essence of the scam? That we have to go to certain people to have our needs met, and only they can 'run the system' effectively. Same thing with food, oil, water, birth, death, health - wake up and smell the fraud. Or is every other control freak scare mongering tactic of theirs BS, but this one is spot on?

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 12:20 | 1917331 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Sorry. but your understanding is misguided not to mention your lack of knowledge about basic hydrocarbon geology...

Daniel Yergin seems to be a nice enough guy, he wrote an awesome book called "The Prize", and then became a shill for CERA... If you compare his commentary on the oil markets since 2002 with any of the reputable peak oil anaylysts you will see that he has had his lunch eaten...

Please enumerate the untouched endowments of oil... Do you understand the geologic difference between the Bakken and Green River? Do you understand the difference between permeability and porosity? Look at the flow rates in the Permian Basin compared to the Bakken... You are aware of the latest news on NPR-A?

The American economy is built on the discretionary use of cheap oil.... Suburbia requires cheap oil. The oil we have left has to be put to productive uses not fueling SUVs to go to the mall to buy imported trinkets...

I have made the following observation: There are no people that understand peak oil that deny global warming and vice-versa, whereas almost all peak oil deniers also deny climate change. Also none of the deniers can point to anything besides ideologically driven junk-science and factoids to refute the accepted science of AGW and PO...

Mon, 11/28/2011 - 02:55 | 1920233 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

If oil is not abiotic, then we will run out, first of the best and most easily accessible and processed, then the rest. But the doomer scenarios are unfounded. The assumption is that declining production will crash the system, but all of those ideas are about sustaining something like the status quo. It's not an overnight change.

If you believe in AGW, you should be promoting maximum use of all carbon fuels ASAP in Japan, Europe, and the US. Do you want the Chinese and Indians with zero pollution controls to burn more of it? If AGW is true, the AGW people should be all about Western use of the fuels, so that what is inevitably burned will be done relatively cleanly.

Mon, 11/28/2011 - 09:52 | 1920578 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Your logic is flawed on so many levels....

We will never "run out" of oil, there may not be a whole lot of production, but there will be some form of oil available for a long long time and we sure as hell won't be burning it...

If you do not like the doomer scenarios, take it up with them....

Please explain the logic about burning fossil fuels and AGW... that one escapes me... I am real interested based on the nuggets of rational thought and the disinformation you have posted up to now. I need a good laugh....

Mon, 11/28/2011 - 14:23 | 1921618 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

I'll humor you.

If AGW is happening, won't it happen faster and worse if more carbons are burned in dirty factories and smokestacks than if they are burned in western autos, factories, and power plants? It's like being trapped in a pool with another guy. One of you is going to take a shit. Do you want the guy with diarrhea to be doing the crapping?

Mon, 11/28/2011 - 15:38 | 1922118 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

If that is truly what you think and reflects the depth of your logic and understanding of the physics of global warming, I am very very sorry for you and your kin....

It is a damn good thing that you had no say in the resolution of the Cuban missle crisis otherwise the human species would now be a fossil relic of the plant Earth.... on second thought, you would have been the guy cheering when they cut down the last tree on Easter Island....

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:48 | 1916349 thomas pain
thomas pain's picture

not sure if this is because your avatar looks like every yale student on campus or the general fact that your logic failed to compound off the last rebuttal...but fuck you. ill kick your pop collar sweater wearing bitch pant MBA logic any day

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 17:19 | 1915916 Kayman
Kayman's picture

Best marketing concept Exxon ever dreamt up- Peak Oil.

You're getting a bargain at the pump, lemmings, follow me....

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:45 | 1916120 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Yes, cause oil is infinite.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 01:14 | 1916903 Max Fischer
Max Fischer's picture



Who the fuck is claiming that oil is infinite?

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 02:09 | 1916955 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

Get off the infinite kick. It's irrelevant. The sun is finite. That's not the issue.

This is the peak oil mantra: You can't have infinite growth with finite resources.

This thinking is shackled to something akin to the status quo. Ask yourself: If humanity is still around in a million years with enough genetic variation to continue the species, how important will the idea of growth be? It won't matter much; we'll have found a sustainable way of living. Long-term survival is what's important, not maintaining the status quo. And in that light and for our purposes, all resources might as well be infinite because we're in a self-correcting system. If we ruin all the soil, we have to dig down to find dirt that will grow food, or set up hydroponic systems, and in the meantime we'll be eating the corpses. Life goes on. Humanity will be around for a long, long time; assuming we aren't hunted to extinction by a superior intellect, we will probably live to flee the expanding sun. Someday we'll be arguing about peak uranium, then peak thorium, then peak hydrogen. Eventually our uploads will be arguing about peak matter. 

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 11:26 | 1917339 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

The species does not need growth but the political economy of western civilization sure as hell does.... Not to mention that the carrying capacity of the planet without hydrocarbons being used in agriculture is roughly 1-2 billion...

So Houston, we do indeed have a problem....

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 01:57 | 1916946 MrPalladium
MrPalladium's picture

Exxon believes in energy corucopia. They dispute the notion of peak oil and claim that there are virtually infinite hydrocarbons in the earth's crust. Exxon likes to skirt the real issue though, which is how much it will cost to get at those hydrocarbons. But then rising costs of extraction is how their earn their living.

The economic illiteracy and magical thinking among commenters on this board is staggering.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 09:51 | 1917216 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

At the same time peak oil nuts can pose as being against Exxon.  Peak oil is a scam the oil companies have been working for a century.  Since Americans have no sense of history the scam works over and over.

Mon, 11/28/2011 - 13:21 | 1921358 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

The only scam that has been repeatedly pulled on the American people is that eternal salvation awaits if they only check their rationality at the door....

That and the idea that having more useless stuff provides fulfillment... the irony is that the population that buys this mantra is bascially the same  (by and large). What is sad is the complete disconnect between the teachings of the Saviour and the actions of those who have pledged themsevles (or claim to have) to him....


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:53 | 1915669 SWCroaker
SWCroaker's picture

I read your linked article.  I don't see what impresses you about his writing.  Lots of attack the messenger, a bunch of numbers pulled from nebulous "recent research" (who? where?  paid for by whom?), and a mindset that would seem to ignore the long term issues of skydiving without a parachute, right up to the moment of impact.  His arguments seem to be built on a foundation of someone else getting a prediction wrong, therefore everyone with aligned views are completely discredited as well.  Bad logic there.

I suggest that you throw out ALL claims of reserves/production/new tech etc.  Focus on a few simple facts: 

  1. How are/were conventional deposits created in the first place?  My own answer: would be from vast accumulation of bio-mass (algae) sinking lots & lots of carbon via free solar energy, then slow cook under pressure for a very very long time.
  2. How long did it take for those deposits to come into being?  My answer: on the order of millions of years.
  3. Divide #1 by #2 and you get a sustainable barrels per period number.  My answer: All the world's reserves, every 100 or so million years.
  4. Our use of oil didn't start until about 150 years ago, and didn't even really take off until the age of the automobile.  Try and pin down an order of magnitude number for how long before humans will burn through the worlds known reserves at current burn rate; don't sweat the small stuff, all we need here is an order of magnitude.  My answer: It isn't uncommon to see ratios of reserves vs production rates on the order of 64:1.  That's 64 years.  I said don't sweat the small stuff, so in my mind 64 years equates to well less than a million years.

If the number you arrive at is anything near the number of barrels we're actually using, then we're cool, and all the noise about this or that specific micro situation doesn't matter in the long run.  If your number isn't anywhere close to what the world regularly uses, then we've got problems, (again regardless of any particular technology or new reserve discovery or the accuracy of someone's attempt to apply a predictive theory).

Unless aliens are secretly pumping oil from a black hole refinery into our Earth's crust, then the simple equation of Increase_Decrease = New_oil_made - (Oil_extracted_and_used + Oil_lost_to_natural_processes) holds and rules all discussions of adequate supply. 

We're worried about blowing through a natural resource that took millions of years to create, after essentially less than 100 years of utilization.  Unless you think we've only discovered a millionth of the oil reserves in the ground, then the problem is real.  Period.  End of discussion.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:35 | 1916094 d_senti
d_senti's picture

Beautiful reply, +100. I love ZH and love its comments section, but this is the only topic that really irks me when I check how people have replied. Smart people on ZH see through BS in so many areas, yet when we cone to peak oil, we find all the same tired cliches believed by the mainstream yokel: it's a hundred years off, technology will save us, it's a myth from oil companies, it's abiotic, and on and on.
It's all very simple, just as you explained it. We've got a cup of water that refills by a drop every day and we drank half the glass in five minutes. How hard is it to understand that you're going to run out of water at that rate?
I know that it's more complex in certain ways (flow rates, EROI, etc.) but in the final analysis two things are absolutely undeniable. 1. We're using oil far, far faster than it can ever be replaced, and 2. We've done nothing to prepare for that.
I personally think we are at or near peak now (2005-2015), but if it's actually in ten years, twenty, what does it matter? Demand and population already outstrips supply and will continue to get worse every year. Growth as we knew it is dead. Anyone who can agree with that much shouldn't worry about arguing the details of which year it exactly peaks; anyone who can't agree with that much isn't thinking rationally and not worth fighting.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 22:47 | 1916601 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

The oil shock is as much a creation of TPTB as it is a natural consequence of over-consumption.

The answers are really, really, really simple. But our technological compass is turned to more tech, more tech....



Sun, 11/27/2011 - 01:02 | 1916887 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

People, begging for change, some relief, a new way.... clearly this way is not working hmmm?

Totally shat upon by oil, but please, show me the new way through this oil-drenched paradigm, will you?

And yet we want it all packaoged. Nice. Give me a presentation. Show me a prototype. Slap me with it baby, because I'm just too numb to try and dig again.

You don't have to have faith or belief, but to you've got to wield your own hammer. or shovel or chisel as the case may by.



Sun, 11/27/2011 - 01:31 | 1916920 Max Fischer
Max Fischer's picture



We're using oil far, far faster than it can ever be replaced...

Oh really?  The facts suggest otherwise. 

From 2007 through 2009, for every barrel of oil produced, 1.6 barrels were added to reserves.  

Since hyperinflation didn't happen, since the Hindenberg Omen never crashed and burned, since a new stock market crash never happened, since the bond market didn't disintegrate, since the COMEX and JP Morgue never imploded, since the US $$ never collapsed, it appears that Peak Oil is the new topic du jour for the doomer crowd.  


If the doomers think that modern civilization is nearing a collapse due to an implosion of fiat currencies and those with gold, silver and canned hams will supposedly be the only survivors, then you can't simultaneously think that we're going to have an oil supply problem, as well.  That's contradictory.  

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 02:04 | 1916952 MrPalladium
MrPalladium's picture

Economic illiterate!! Rising price increases reserves!!

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 02:37 | 1916984 Max Fischer
Max Fischer's picture



The oil market is not as black and white as you want it to be.  Reserves can increase due to a variety of circumstances, some intentional and some not. 

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 06:02 | 1917094 BigDuke6
BigDuke6's picture

I have to confess

that as I theatrically rev up my V8 in the mornings

- blasting those hydrocarbons out of liquid form forever -

just so my little man can look in wonderment and giggle happily...

i quietly think - yeah get rid of it all...

so we can leave the shithole middle east to its own fucked up devices

so max fischer can fuck right off....

and danu the earth goddess can recover from the ravages of oil production...

and get ready for some serious nuclear action.

Just  sayin'



Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:20 | 1916302 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

Yergin has a reputation built on winning a Pulitzer Prize.

This is a prize awarded for TALENT, not SKILL.  He's not a researcher.  He has no credentials at all in petroleum geology or petroleum engineering.  He is an ECONOMIST.  He is an economist who writes in a manner that the Pulitzer award committee likes.  

This is insigificant.

Writing well is insignificant to geology.  It is insignificant to porosity and permeability.  His is a voice that is safely ignored.  

He brings no geology or engineering research to the table.  He brings biased compilation of whatever his consulting clientelle wants to hear.

A petroleum consultant will not become "foremost in his field" if he tells clients their business has no future.  He is a shill, persuaded that he is correct only by virtue of income generated by doing simply that -- telling people what they want to hear.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:57 | 1916369 trav7777
trav7777's picture

Yergin is an idiot.

His thesis can be reduced to "if we raise the price to infinity per barrel, we will have infinite supply."

Supply cannot grow forever.  It simply cannot.  It is impossible.  Eventually, oil supply WILL PEAK.  there is NO ARGUMENT to be had about this and anyone who tries to make one is a fucking moron.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 01:05 | 1916882 Max Fischer
Max Fischer's picture




I leave for the day, and you guys spent the entire time totally misrepresenting Yergin's research.  Whether it's Keynes or Yergin or anyone else who is a famous proponent of some ideology you don't like, you guys misrepresent their arguments, argue against these fictitious positions and then conclude that they must be idiots. One of you assclowns even suggested that Yergin doesn't understand EROI - RIDICULOUS!  Do you actually think a guy who won the Pulitzer prize for his 800 page history on the global oil industry doesn't understand EROI?  You guys aren't arguing against facts; you're arguing against your own manufactured nonsense.  Same goes for this forum's consistent attack on Keynes.    

Yergin NEVER suggests that oil supply can grow forever - of fucking course not!  Nor does he suggest that if oil costs rise to infinity, we'll have infinite oil. It's ludicrous for you to imply that.  He is merely referencing the 1970's when oil skyrocketed over $90 (inflation adjusted) and everyone began a frantic (and successful) search for more energy. By the 1980's and 90's we had a glut of oil and prices didn't return to those levels for 30 years, despite the fact that world GDP grew year after year after year.  When he says that an increase in oil prices reroutes capital allocations, THAT'S what he's referencing.    

All he suggests is that the moment of Peak Oil - the point of maximum oil output - is NOT NOW, nor anytime close to now, and he provides indisputable production figures to back it up.  If you actually read his book, you'd see that he thinks PO is several decades away, and that when it does occur, it won't be the drastic off-a-cliff drop on the other side of the bell curve that all the doomers hyperventilate about.  It'll plateau and slowly burn down.   

YOUR claim that peak oil caused this current financial crisis is RIDICULOUS!  Pure nonsensical garbage which is infinitely more absurd than the fictitious arguments you construct against Yergin.  This is a point you made two months ago which I forwarded to a colleague of mine, and we both laughed.  

Max Fischer, Civis Mundi 


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 07:18 | 1917133 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

Don't know who you're responding to, but Yergin's numbers are all liquids.  Not oil

He has them wrong.  He's an economist with no background in physics, and the Pulitzer is given for writing talent, not research skill.

For example, this year's winner in the same "general nonfiction" category Yergin was in was The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

That is not a peer reviewed work on cancer cellular structure or treatment methodology or anything else scientific.  It's merely an entertaining read because its writing is something the Pulitzer award committee likes.  It is not research.  It is not an expansion of mankind's body of knowledge.  It is an overview presented in a literary form.

Yergin has no credentials in Petroleum, be it geology, physics or engineering.  He is safely ignored.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:26 | 1916314 Jumbotron
Jumbotron's picture

Yergin is not a whore....he is, in the words of Dan Aykroyd, "an ignorant slut".

Yergin is simply a cornucopian who deep down understands that if he is worng then his precious world built up by fellow boomers and cornucopians comes to an end and we all end up living lives as we did back in the 40's or before.

Besides....even Yergin is backtracking all the while he is spewing forth more cornucopian fantasies.  Don't believe me....well try this own for size. 

Here is Yergin's prediction in a 2005 Washington Post column for the rate of increase in total liquids capacity.

20% in 6 years.  This equates to 3% increase per year for 6 years.

Now here is his latest prediction as he wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 2011.

20% in 20 years.  This equates to just 0.9% increase per year for 20 years !

The percentage decrease in his predictions is a staggering 70%

The problem with both sides of the Peak Oil argument is that they focus too much on how much oil is left and/or how much CHEAP oil is left.

We have plenty of oil.  What we are running into is an EXPECTATION problem.  That is to expectation that we can grow exponentially forever.  For which we need an exponentially growing supply of cheap energy. 

And there is no such thing as an exponentially growing supply of cheap energy.  One will not be discovered simply because it does not exist.  Oil was the magical elixur that millions of years and quadrillions of tons of plant and animal material made.  It has the highest energy return for energy input needed for extraction and refining of any energy source available.  This is what makes oil simply magic.  This is what has allowed humankind to basically move from an existance that has barely changed for 25,000 years to one where we went from the Civil War period to quite literally becoming pioneers of the cosmos, (manned moon mission, space station, extra-solar exploration...Pioneers and Voygers).

We literally have, since the discovery of oil...become gods.  And now with China and India and soon enough, Africa coming on line with 3 billion people who are tired of riding their bikes and walking to the rice paddies to work, that magic elixer is getting harder to find, and what we are finding is full of sand, water, or is cooked to such a degree that we have to add additional refinery processes to make it marketable.  Not to mention the energy and water it takes for frakking shale.

The age of cheap oil is over.  And with it the ability to cheaply make ourselves gods...not just simply feudal dirt farmers or hunter gatherers as we all were a short eye blink ago...geologically speaking.

And that scares the shit out of Yergin and his fellow cornucopians.

For they love their god-hood.....and the black magic elixir that allows them...and be gods.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:04 | 1916378 trav7777
trav7777's picture

you are not correct on a point here.

Oil is LOWER EROI than human-powered coal extraction.  Far lower.

What oil is about is not EROI, it is about power.  Rate of use of energy.  Even if Coal dug by hand delivers a higher EROI (and a water wheel is even higher by many orders of magnitude), it is not about that.  The world of growth runs on power, the rate at which energy can be used.

This is why machines, even if they waste 70% of the energy input (eroi/efficiency low) compared to a waterwheel, can do vastly more.  Because they can do work at a higher rate.

This is the pure physics of the issue.  Most people cannot grasp the issue with energy because they think in 1st order, instead of in the first derivative

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:55 | 1916872 Jumbotron
Jumbotron's picture

I'll concede your point if you concede that your point is pointless.

The modern, industrial....and yes, magical world, that we live in today was not and could never be built on human powered coal extraction.

And to your points of rate of use of energy and first derivatives, oil is still higher in EROI than coal, even hand dug coal, for coal can not be made into as many derivative products as cheaply and at relatively lower energy levels as oil, particularly light sweet crude oil.

Why?  Simply put, coal is the retarded sibling of oil.  It simply is not and was not "refined" by mother nature...(time and pressure and organic input) as much and as well as oil.

Could you make deisel from coal...gasoline....keorsene....vaseline....WD-40....plastics....Rayon, Nylon...etc.etc. from coal.  Sure you can.

But if it were as cheap and easy as oil, with high enough quality, we would be doing it by now.  The fact is not and never will be simply because coal as a source material is not up to snuff as its more refined cousin oil.

Because of oil's higher EROI than coal, the derivatives made from oil can increase the rate of use of not only the energy inherit in oil but in it's derivatives as well.  And where derivatives such as plastics and lubricants don't necessarily apply to the rate of energy use directly they can have an effect on the increase in energy usage by simply decreasing an energy producer's ( say a motor or some machine) friction allowing that device to do more work at a lower input energy level.

Once again, you could do this with coal.  But at a much higher cost of refining.  Which then passes that cost on to the machine in usage.  Which puts a burden on the business or person operating the machine for whatever economic reason.  And if that burden becomes too great at the scale needed to keep that business going then the business collapses, the machine stops working and now the rate of use of energy goes to zero.

Whereas if oil was used, particularly light sweet crude, even for the derivatives, then that business could continue to operate.

So you IS about EROI.  That's what makes your point about rate of use of energy possible.  The rate of use of energy is not simply only about physics.  If the economics are not right, then the rate of use of energy goes off the cliff, particularly when talking about the amount of cheap energy it takes to not only maintain the modern world as we know it but to propel it to further heights.  But when you are forced to pass on the higher costs of extracting energy (heavy crude, shale oil, tar sands,) much less the costs of refining these more primitive sources for their derivatives which in some ways are even more important in maintaining our modern world, the modern world simply becomes to expensive to maintain.....and in the end....will not be maintained.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 10:49 | 1917296 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

well said. EROI is definitely critical to a debt based economy 

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:50 | 1915565 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

Yep, technology eventually solves everything, eventually.....


It is quite easy to debunk the technologists because they are US citizens.

Just take a look at the dates of invention of:

-the steam engine
-the electrical engine
-the combustion engine

compute how many years are from one invention to another.

Take a step back and scratch your head finding another type of engines invented since then.

Engines convert energy into work.

New sources of energy, new engines... It tells all.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:59 | 1916134 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

"Yep, technology eventually solves everything, eventually..... "

Unfortunately there are thousands of civilizations that died out who might have a contrarian response for you.

It takes TIME and ENERGY to develop new technology.  By the way it is impossible to "discover new energy sources"  All the energy that is in our universe and will ever be in our universe has already been discovered, harnessing things like the sun's fusion reaction or the magnetic fields of jupiter are tens of years away.  In the mean time take a look at the population versus time over the last couple hundred years fucknut.  Not sustainable, we have been using oil and fossil fuels to drive the Haber Bosch process in order to fix nitrogen for fertilizer along with commerial (oil-intensive) has supported this growth and current population.  Sure, new technology may get here eventually, but...

...there is strong evidence the the folks on Easter Island were really good at recycling all their waste and sustainable agriculture, now how did that turn out for them again?

Best on the best hard numbers I have seen, the population goes back under a billion without the Haber Bosch process.  One guy on ZH talks about using fish waste (ammonia) for fertilizer but then never addresses where the nitrogen for the fish comes from to begin with or the fish food.  Can't be the plants, because that is what he eats.  Sounds interesting, but no hard numbers on the cost in terms of energy input, land use, or how many people he can really feed.  Lots of really smart people working on this, well, at least until the government shuts down the funding agencies.  Too risky and not profitable enough for the private sector.  We do some work on it, but use STTR and SBIR funding through NSF.  My guess is, as soon as the GOP takes the White house, that funding will be gone.  Need to fund more wars don't cha know.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 19:11 | 1916193 centerline
centerline's picture

Green bump from me (no pun intended - but I will take it out of pure luck).  Too tired lately to invest in attempting to explain concepts like "finite" or "parabolic" - let along combining these terms into something truly frightening (i.e. population growth relative to petroleum).  Just had to say thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts out here.  Keep 'em coming.


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 19:51 | 1916265 John_Coltrane
John_Coltrane's picture

Good comment but let me add that the Haber process is hardly optimized in terms of rather high temperature and pressure demands (its energy inputs) since it uses iron, Fe, catalysts developed many decades ago.  These Fe catalysts are very low surface area and not very efficient.  Nanosize Fe catalysts currently under development with hundreds of square meters/gm of surface area could operate at ambient temperatures, T, much as do nitrogen fixing bacteria in the roots of plants like soybeans which require no nitrogen fertilizers.   So, I don't think the fertilizer issue is the rate limiting step for human population.  Mass consumption of meat is more significant, for example.  This will price many out of the food chain.

The key thing to realize about energy is that nuclear bonds have thousands of times the energy content of chemical bonds (e.g. fossil fuels).  Thus, if we simply build enough fission power plants, the excess energy can easily by used for electrochemical synthesis of hydrocarbons using simple (free) molecules like CO2, H2O, or N2.  The entire chemical industry, including fuels could easily be replaced with nuclear fission as the energy source.  Unfortunately, this transition process should have been implemented 30 years ago, so we, like, France, could have well over 80% of our power from nuclear fuel.  The nuclear fuel can be chosen to be reprocessed, so the supply is basically endless, as only a small portion of its mass is converted to energy.  And you've got to love the size of that mass to energy conversion factor, c^2!

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:27 | 1916316 Schmuck Raker
Schmuck Raker's picture

You sound like you know what you're talking about JC.

Do you have any thoughts to share about Thorium reactors?

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:08 | 1916389 trav7777
trav7777's picture

and then what?

We still have to grow.  We'd need 10,000 nuclear plants worldwide and that gets us where?  To now?  Then what?

You guys just don't seem to grasp geometric growth at any kind of level.  We NEED ANOTHER 10,000 in a period of time that depends upon the rate we expect to grow!

If that's 3%, it's 24 years to ANOTHER TEN THOUSAND PLANTS.  Then, 24 after that, we need TWENTY THOUSAND MORE.

Please, just fucking STOP.  Learn how to do math or STFU

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 02:31 | 1916975 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

Your argument boils down to growth being impossible. Hard to say otherwise when 10,000 nuke plants later your britches are still bunched.

Think about the actual needs of the average person. X calories. A place to sleep out of the elements. Some diversion. Some order.

Are all of those things really impossible unless we build enough energy capacity to have the whole world live a western lifestyle?
Life will be simpler in many ways with less energy usage, but people don't have to starve - at least not in the US. And less energy use will promote more local connections, a key to long-term survival, and more electronic connections, already being forged. ZHers lament that our excessive consumption is unsustainable for many reasons; maybe this is one more thing that will bring things into balance.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:24 | 1916313 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

The correct war will buy a lot of time for the people intended.

Depopulate the east coast of China via nuclear weapons and oil lasts longer for the US.

Choose the moral route and do not use force, and 6 Billion of the 7 Billion world population will be gone within about 40 yrs.

Mon, 11/28/2011 - 13:06 | 1921318 BigJim
BigJim's picture

And exactly how do you "Depopulate the east coast of China via nuclear weapons" without them in turn depopulating the entire US using the same method? And killing another 95% of the world's population through nuclear winter?

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 19:19 | 1916206 centerline
centerline's picture

Its all about EROEI.  Lots of new techology - yes.  Lots of new high EROEI energy sources - no.

Running out of time fast.  And the current socio-economic system places no incentives in such development.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:09 | 1916390 trav7777
trav7777's picture

it is NOT about EROI, it is about power.

EROI matters when it hits 1.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 23:54 | 1916733 TerraHertz
TerraHertz's picture

No, it's about both EROI and total available power.

To run an industrial civilization you need energy sources that are both high enough EROI to be feasible AND not require too high a proportion of total social effort to run, AND can be run at energy flow rates sufficient to power all the processes required by the civilization. EROI matters when it gets below around 20, because then you have to dedicate too much of total social effort to obtaining power to keep society going. The industrial age kicked off with human & horse powered coal extraction, which had an EROI around 20 (I gather.) And the resulting social structure wasn't exactly pleasant for most.

At the moment we've got oil and coal. See above comments re rate of renewal vs rate of consumption. Regardless of whether oil reserves are fossil or abiotic, the renewal rate is *obviously* many orders of magnitude less than human consumption, otherwise after so many millions of years the planet's surface would be hundreds of meters deep in hydrocarbons. (Personally I think it's mostly fossil, with some abiotic generation. But very slow rate in both cases. Also think we're past peak, and on the way down now, even though current oil prices are about as 'free market controlled' as bullion prices.)

We *don't* have any workable large scale, low EROI alternative. Fission isn't viable, for two reasons.
1) because the long term EROI of nuke plants AND THEIR DECOMMISSIONING and safe waste storage is negative, ie fission is being subsidized by oil + Elite stupidity.
2) Because accidents are so disasterous. Globally it's like trying to live your entire life while holding a loaded, cocked, hair-triggered revolver to your own head. One unexpected bump and you're dead. One average size asteroid hit in an ocean, and we've got a hundred Fukushimas along all the surrounding coasts, end of life on Earth.

Fusion - we wish. But it's not going to work in currently envisaged lare-scale forms using tritium/deuterium fuels. Because there isn't sufficient fuel avalability, even if the extreme geometry/physics problems can be solved.

Now, here's the killer. The punchline to the entire energy crisis and collapse scenario, that almost no one gets.

To date, humans have manufactured in fission nuclear plants vast tonnages of high level, long and medium half life radioactives, all of which are still sitting in high-maintenance storage, cores, warheads, etc. There is far more than enough of this material to completely sterilize all life on Earth, possibly down to microbes deep in the bedrock, if it was all spread out across the Earth's surface.

Now, if there's a collapse of technological civilization, all maintenance on nuclear installations will cease, on a timescale of a few decades. Then over the next few thousand years, ALL nuclear waste repositories, reactor cores, nuclear weapons, etc WILL corrode, eroded, and generally fail, leaking the contents to the environment. Long half-life radioactives will spread by wind and water. The global background radiation level will rise, gradually on average but with spreading hot-spots. Eventually, it is very likely to rise high enough to wipe out all higher forms of life. No, complex organisms CAN'T evolve to survive high background radiation. Do some reading on epigenetics.

This concept induces instant brick-wall normalcy bias denial in most people who encounter it. Because the implications are too terrible - we, human beings, have created a situation in which if we drop the 'civilization balls' now, we have doomed Earth's entire biosphere to extinction, possibly of ALL life, and for hundreds of millions of years. Until the radioactive mess we caused decays away to life-compatible levels again.

I consider it likely that the original evolution of life on Earth took so long to get started after the planet formed from stellar dust, because that's how long it took for the original radioactive isotopes in that dust to decay away to the point where large organic molecules could survive without being constantly smashed up by radioactive decay. Now we're about to set that clock way, way back.

So, summary. We've painted the entire planet into a corner, in which:
* High EROI energy sources are depleting fast.
* When that depletion progresses far enough, industrial civilization will crash in social chaos and the inevitable massive dieoff, taking science/knowledge down too.
* Without science, civilization can't restart since we consumed all the easy energy sources and mineral resources.
* Without science, industry and organised social structure, nuclear containments fail over timescales much shorter than the half-lives of the radioactives inside them.
* Failure of all nuclear containments wipes out life on Earth, over short geological timescales.

Conclusion: it is an absolute moral imperative, over-riding all other concerns, to get ALL dangerous radioactives into long-term safe, deep no-maintenance repositories asap. Trying to build *more* nuclear plants to stave off collapse is the exact opposite of what we should be doing, if we are not *certain* the collapse can actually be prevented. Which is a certainty we cannot have.

But realistically, there is no way this is going to happen. Current human social/political structures are too self-serving and scientifically ignorant to perceive this problem as real, and take the necessary, extremely painfull steps. And so without some revolutionary new energy technology, we and all life on Earth are doomed, due to human stupidity. This is so shamefull.... infinitely worse than any other evil humankind has ever committed, and that list is long. For precisely this reason, most people are mentally incapable of considering this issue.

Personally, I think the only hope, faint as it is, is to come up with a conceptual breakthrough in the area of small scale, Hydrogen-fueled nuclear fusion. I also think it's possible, and may even have already been achieved. But the exiting Elites will never, ever stop suppressing it, because such a technology would be fatal to their own grip on political power.

You cannot enslave a people who have independent, individual, high power rate, clean energy generation capability. That is the thinking behind this sort of mentality:

"Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it." - Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute

"The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet." - Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

"Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun." - Prof Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 03:44 | 1917025 buyingsterling
buyingsterling's picture

"* When that depletion progresses far enough, industrial civilization will crash in social chaos and the inevitable massive dieoff, taking science/knowledge down too."

This is thrown out constantly on this site, with little thought. Let's say every well that can be drilled has been drilled at some point (never bloody going to happen, IMO, there will always be deeper oceans, etc.). This is decades down the road, if not a century or more, and people are already freaking out about it - will our descendents not be more and more concerned, as the supplies dwindle further? As they dwindle price controls/rationing is likely, and black markets. Either way it gets more expensive. So do we reach a tipping point where one year we're pulling out X barrels, the next we're pulling out 90%x, and that 10% brings down the whole system? I'd like to hear how that happens (and 10% yoy is unlikely).


Forget the idea of endless economic growth. That's the ponzi pattern. We don't have to choose between starvation and relentless, often meaningless growth. Dwindling energy reserves are a much better impetus to action than environmental hypoerbole (since they involve everyone, intimately and immediately), and look how much action that cause has kicked up. It's a good sign that people are talking about this now, and it's definitely a problem that has to be dealt with, but the equation is wrong. The answer is not relentless growth, the answer is sustainability, which balances the equation. Sustainability is impossible only in a fiat world.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 05:55 | 1917083 Element
Element's picture

And so without some revolutionary new energy technology, we and all life on Earth are doomed, due to human stupidity.

On a long enough timeline the entire biota ends up dead ... holding hundreds of 500 million year old criters in my hands made me feel a lot better about that. The Earth is not alive, the critters are not alive, but infinity is alive, so you can't kill life off, as it's actually a property of the infinity we are in, and of.

So when some dopey greenie feral moron says, "let's stop der high-tension cables to protect der bewdyful twittering blue-breasted southern sparow farts", ... well, all I can think is, why? ... do you really think life can't make something far more impressive than those smelly feral damn things?

BTW, have you seen those new xboxs? ... eye-watering!

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:04 | 1915597 catch edge ghost
catch edge ghost's picture

 For example, it's absurd that we still use heating oil- talk about 1932- but there ya go.....

Heating oil is diesel fuel - with red dye in it. The dye allows revenuers to make sure truckers are paying fuel tax.

You'll have to ask George Orwell why it is still called heating oil by modern market commentators.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:21 | 1915645 Bruin4
Bruin4's picture

With our current thinking and lifestyles: Renewables will never work, solar will never work and certainly biofuels are an absolute joke. 

One word CONSERVATION. We need to reduce our consumption, reduce our heating and cooling loads on our buildings - start air sealing and start insulating properly its cheap, relatively easy and costs nothing to run or maintain - right here right now we can build or renovate buildings - at no extra cost - that use 80% less fuel - its being done.

Reduce our demand by reducing the air loss, heat loss and infiltration and exfiltration of our buildings THEN and only then can we look to solar, wind, solar hot water to make any financial sense at all.

This country has ignored and denied the physics of buildings - no surprise there, we are phobic of all math and science. We are easily 200 years behind the Germans when it comes to efficient buildings.

There is no gadget, no app, no I-product that will get us out of the mess we are in so we have to start using common sense proven and measurable techniques now. 

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:14 | 1915758 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Conservation will solve the problem even given "peak oil" constraints.

So who is the largest user of oil?

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:16 | 1915764 flattrader
flattrader's picture

Yes.  No reason why every new commercial building shouldn't be required to put geothermal under the parking lot, use sky lights to offset day time lighting needs, solar hot water heaters, solar panels etc...

Even the first two rewquirements would cut heating, cooling and lighting energy consumption dramatically.

Traditionally build commercial property is crap.  It could be much more energy efficient.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 17:58 | 1916004 Ron Real
Ron Real's picture

What rot.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:21 | 1916060 flattrader
flattrader's picture

So energy efficiency and conservation is rot?  I guess you have FRNs to burn.

Soon, that's all they'll be good for anyway.

You're an idiot if you can't recognize what savings something as simple as in ground geothermal, good insulation wall/windows and natural light can produce.

These very things give some friends of mine in WI a $32 a month electric bill...running AC in the summertime.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:41 | 1916840 GMadScientist
GMadScientist's picture

Does a geothermal plant take "FRNs to burn"? Does your suggestion ramp the price of commercial property by 15-20%?

Savings and initial cost break-even at?


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 08:43 | 1917159 flattrader
flattrader's picture

Geothermal under the parking lot takes the ground temp and uses it to cool/heat, madscientist..and not a very smart one at that.

Increase the cost of property, yes.  The landlord can demand higher rent and the leasee will save on energy needs.

The tenants will pay on one end or the other.  I would rather pay a landlord who had the foresight and good sense to build an energy efficient building than some utility corporation that will hike my rates and doesn't care about conservation.

Break even at whatever point the increased infrastructure costs and the increased rent/lease meet.  No different than making any high end infrastructure improvement to a builing and charging the tenants accordingly.

It's about saving energy.  You missed that.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:46 | 1916346 Bruin4
Bruin4's picture

SO so sorry flattrader, but Geo thermal is a fucking lie. You are trading fossil fuels for ELECTRIC heat which of course is powered by fossil fuels - get it?

Its all about air sealing and insulation - costs less and costs NOTHING to run or maintain. Yes the low hanging fruit like LED light bulbs does work, but right here right now we can build buildings that need no central heat source to maintain 68 degrees on the coldest day all done with NO govt subsidies, regulations or geo thermal

looking to the govt to pass regulation to make us build better buildings is like looking to the oil companies to support stricter CAFE standards.

Dick Cheney was fucking wrong, conservation ( and hence common sense) is the answer.




Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:13 | 1916395 trav7777
trav7777's picture

Jevon's Paradox?

really it would benefit the discussion if people like you would STFU.  I don't say that to be rude it's just that you simply don't fucking get it.  Your thesis has been taken apart on so many levels so many other places (some of them by me) and yet you are here spouting it as if it's NEVER been fucking thought of by anyone.

The problem is growth in economics requires growth in the rate of consumption of energy or power in the aggregate.  Reductions in use in one place spawn more consumption elsewhere.  Tragedy of the Commons.

Please, all of you people, educate yourselves.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 22:22 | 1916551 Matt
Matt's picture

The energy saved would be used elsewhere, true; the point is to make it through the next few decades until new reactors can come online. Besides, there are overall benefits to increased efficiency, even if the saved energy is simply consumed by someone else.

There could be a time in the near future when there is no extra energy; if you don't conserve, you won't have enough.

Zero Growth should be the target, as opposed to having massive collapse. I don't forsee 20th century-like growth returning in the near future.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:29 | 1916811 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

well said. What's coming has been so ill prepared that we must now do everything to conserve and prepare. It will take decades to build a system and it will be a less energy productive system. 

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 09:01 | 1917171 flattrader
flattrader's picture


>>>Besides, there are overall benefits to increased efficiency, even if the saved energy is simply consumed by someone else.<<<

You just hit on the problem most people have with conservation.  It costs someone something to implement conservation...usually the consumer pays in the end, so that consumer doesn't want to see anyone else get the benefit of what they conserved.

It is this kind of shortsightedness and selfishness that will do us in.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 09:00 | 1917163 flattrader
flattrader's picture

So sorry Bruin

Yes, insulation is crtical, but you have to open the doors to the place sometime and can't stay sealed up in a house like a coffin.

Geothermal is a fucking lie? must work for a utility.

Tell my friends who spend squat to AC their home in the summertime with cool air right out of the ground.  Running the blower to cool costs nothing compared to a traditional unit.

Their winter heating costs are lower too.  They don't have a good handle yet on the change in those costs, but their propane furnace runs far less than neighbors without geothermal.

And since the own the home and it has been financed at a fixed rate, they know that those costs will never increase unlike the costs of the additional energy...electric and propane...that they have to buy...which are small by comparison to a traditionally built home.

In fact they're paying back the home loan which financed the geo-thermal with FRNs that are becoming more worhless by the day...just brilliant.

If they got an energy efficient wood stove with a cat converter, they could reduce the propane consumtion dramatically in the wintertime.  A Woodstock Soapstone would be an excellent choice.

Get it?


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 12:28 | 1917575 memyselfiu
memyselfiu's picture

geothermal is a lie?


let me give you a basic lecture on geothermal. when I provide 52 degree (including all losses) fluids from the ground 365 days of the year I get the following 1) in the winter, the delta t is reduced from say, 90 degrees to 20, which means an energy savings of over 80% (constant) meaning that 100% efficient (electric) energy is used to bring the delta t to room temperature. whether or not this is powered via coal or ng is irrelevant, the energy use savings is significant.

2) In the summer, I can provide air conditioning literally with a heatpump which provides 600% efficiencies over a conventional system.

ROI on the additional costs is approx 7 years, meaning that you have a cost savings (and subsequent energy savings) as long as the system lasts (25 years or more). Further to that, in 25 years, if the well system has been designed and built properly, you can literally swap out a few heat pumps and have a brand new system to last another 25.

We've had municipalities that have gone geothermal on infrastructure 20 years ago and now insist that ALL building in the future shall be geothermal (and high insulative values) because of the realized savings of Operations/Maintenance.

geothermal is a lie? the on the ground numbers say otherwise. combined with energy savings as you state above it could, and will, change the world

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:35 | 1915798 AGuy
AGuy's picture

That would help for a short while but it won't stop the crisis. Even if every american home and building was retro fitted to be very energy efficient, the US is still only 22-25% of Oil consumption. Fat chance on getting China, India and other developing nations to adopt high energy efficiency standards, or curb consumption growth.

Retro fitting, or building new energy efficient homes is best for individuals to prepare for a future with energy rationing. Once we skip off the Oil production plateu, Oil prices will begin whipsawing again as higher prices cause demand destruction, causing demand to fall and prices to fall. This will repeat several times, until the global economy breaks, or WW3 happens.



Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:59 | 1916372 Bruin4
Bruin4's picture

Its all about our buildings they consume the majority of our fossil fuels, check the DOE website

49% is consumed by buildings, 28% by all transport ( including our auto's and planes) and 23% by industry - ask yourself where is the most consumption and hence where can we make the most improvements.

If every building in America was made to conform to s set standard of air changes per hour, TRUE insulation values and fuel consumption, we would put 100% of the unemployed back to work and stave off peak oil for the next 200 years and be back on top of the food chain of nations inside of three years, instead we have chosen to support the banks and the fucking ECB instead.

Like I said in my first post here, its just one math equation.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:14 | 1916399 trav7777
trav7777's picture

you simply don't understand math, dude.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:58 | 1916491 Bruin4
Bruin4's picture

Right, whats the problem with living in a comfortable building with next to zero energy to heat or cool it, clearly you have spent your entire life behind a desk ,,,probably playing video games.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:10 | 1916292 pasttense
pasttense's picture

The immediate energy problem the world has is transportation energy, since 90% of that is provided by oil.

Building use energy is provided by natural gas and electricity overwhelmingly, with the electricity from coal, natural gas, nuclear.... These sources won't run out for several decades--unlike oil which is already at peak production.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:15 | 1916404 trav7777
trav7777's picture

huh?  Nuclear power production in the US has already peaked.  HOW CAN DIS BEEZ?

Because we're not building more plants.  We've shut them down.  Do you NOW GET the difference between peak and "running out"?  The words "running out" have no business in a discussion on oil production, ok?  Don't use them again.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 23:22 | 1916671 CTG_Sweden
CTG_Sweden's picture




"[- - -] and certainly biofuels are an absolute joke.[- - -]"






In Brazil, they have replaced almost all gasoline consumption with domestically produced ethanol. Brazilian ethanol produced from sugar canes is not more expensive to produce than the current world market price for gasoline.


Ethanol made from sugarcanes is certainly a realistic option for countries which are not too densely populated and have climate which makes ethanol from sugar canes a realistic option.


In Brazil, they are now also planning to cut the price for ethanol even further by making cellulosic ethanol from the cellulosic parts of sugarcanes which is called bagass.


Cellulosic ethanol is a feasible option in countries which are not too densely populated and not located to far north or too far south on the globe. If the United States would have had 200 instead 300 million inhabitants, cellulosic ethanol made from poplar, for instance, would have been a more realistic alternative. I have seen calculations saying that almost 10 % of the United States must be covered with poplar in order to replace all gasoline and diesel consumed in your country. So my assessment is that cellulosic ethanol and perhaps methanol can replace parts of the oil consumption in the United States and Europe, but not all. But if it is possible to produce fuel from algea at a reasonable cost it would might be possible to replace more oil with biofuels.


The problem with electric motors is range and recharging. Furthermore, it seems especially difficult to extend range enough and to improve the electric grid enough in order to make electric motors a suitable option for trucks.


It is also fishy that governments which are subsidizing electric vehicles and plugin hybrids do not improve the electric grid. Higher voltage and stronger currents enable faster recharging and make electric vehicles more attractive and more practical to use.


If somebody comes up with a new method to store electricity that would improve the range of electric vehicles significantly at a reasonable cost that would, combined with a radically improved electric grid, probably mean a very rapid transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. As regards new methods to store energy, there doesn´t even seem to be theories on how this could be done. But improving the electric grid should be possible to accomplish shortly. A better electric grid would make plugin hybrids a more realistic option.


Another way to make plugin hybrids a more realistic option could be to cut the cost for the internal combustion engine by not requiring any emission reducing devices for the internal combustion engine. If they do that, the cost of a 3-cylinder recharging internal combustion engine could probably be reduced to about $1000. That´s not an insurmountable extra cost for the consumer, especially if you consider how much less expensive electricity is compared to gasoline and diesel and if you consider the fact that the power efficiency of an electric motor is much better than for an internal combustion engine. And if the electricity is produced by thorium reactors rather than uranium reactors it would might be possible to produce more electricity in a safer way. I would also like to point to the fact that electricity from wind power is a far cheaper alternative for the consumer than gasoline at current prices, as regards the variable cost. The problem with wind power, which is slightly more expensive than electricity produced by nuclear reactors, is that you got to have something connected to the electric grid which can compensate for the shortfall of electricity on days when there is no wind.


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 23:59 | 1916749 Matt
Matt's picture

if 10% popular coverage is enough for 200 million people, 15% would be enough for 300 million. Or some people will have to use another method of transportation.

The main problem, as far as I can tell, with the power grid in the USA is Federal vs State jurisdiction. That, and nearly universal political deadlock.

Rather than going with more electricity storage, you could go with faster recharge rates, using ultracapacitors and just recharge frequently by coming in contact with a charging plate - they have buses working that way in China already.

You can reduce the cost of the whole car if you just abolish all regulations altogether. I mean, if we are taking off emmision controls, lets get rid of seat belts, air bags, crumple zones, ABS, etc. We can drive Tatas: They could probably make an electric car for under $5000.



Sun, 11/27/2011 - 11:35 | 1917364 CTG_Sweden
CTG_Sweden's picture





“if 10% popular coverage is enough for 200 million people, 15% would be enough for 300 million. Or some people will have to use another method of transportation.”



My comments:


No, 10 % of the total US land area would be sufficient for 300 million people. Thus 6.7 % would be sufficient for 200 million people.


But 10 % is too much. I am not talking about 10 % of the farmland in your country but 10 % of the entire country. And that´s just too much even if you don´t need typical farmland to grow poplar.







“The main problem, as far as I can tell, with the power grid in the USA is Federal vs State jurisdiction. That, and nearly universal political deadlock.


Rather than going with more electricity storage, you could go with faster recharge rates, using ultracapacitors and just recharge frequently by coming in contact with a charging plate - they have buses working that way in China already.”



My comments:


The principal problem, as far as I can see is that normal American homes just have 120 volt outlets and a 220 volt high voltage outlet. In Europe, a standard home has 230 volt outlets and a 400 volt high voltage outlet. I think that especially American residential areas need upgraded electric grids.


Furthermore, you can not compensate the lack of high voltage outlets with stronger electric currents very much. If you do that, the cables will burn in the ground. That has actually happened a few times in Sweden in residential areas where most houses have had electric heating. Therefore, you got to replace the cables if you want to increase the electric currents.


Furthermore, it will be more difficult to recharge electric vehicles if the current insufficient ranges in 50 miles bracket are increased. If you want to recharge an electric vehicle with a 400 mile range you need an electric current which is 8 times stronger or an 8 times higher voltage if you don´t want the recharging to take more time.








“You can reduce the cost of the whole car if you just abolish all regulations altogether. I mean, if we are taking off emmision controls, lets get rid of seat belts, air bags, crumple zones, ABS, etc. We can drive Tatas: They could probably make an electric car for under $5000.”



My comments:


Sure, but it is important to reduce the extra cost for having two different sources of power in a vehicle. This is the principal problem with plugin hybrids. And if people almost never use the internal combustion engine, air pollution won´t be a big problem. It would not be expensive install a measuring device that would count how much the internal combustion has been running and let people pay heavy taxes for using the internal combustion engine rather than electricity.


Sun, 11/27/2011 - 14:43 | 1918106 Matt
Matt's picture

CTG_Sweden : "Furthermore, it will be more difficult to recharge electric vehicles if the current insufficient ranges in 50 miles bracket are increased. If you want to recharge an electric vehicle with a 400 mile range you need an electric current which is 8 times stronger or an 8 times higher voltage if you don´t want the recharging to take more time. "

That is the opposite of my point. What I mean is, you can make a cheap electric car that only goes 10 miles, then charge it in 30 seconds or less; alternatively, sure, you could combine ultracapacitors and batteries and use 10 times the power to charge ten times faster.

six minute demo video of ultracapacitor / battery bus in China: 

BTW; how is a 50 mile range insufficient? why do people need to drive 400 miles in one stretch without stopping, on a regular basis? Trains and boats are more efficient then a car or tractor-trailer for moving goods and people long distances:

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:32 | 1916765 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

straw bale + passive solar and architecture to fit the environment. local production, local food, local economies. Oil has replaced the human labor. Human labor will replace the oil - at least in the transition, probably for a long time.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 10:39 | 1917289 WVO Biker
WVO Biker's picture

Transportation: cars would need to be 80 to 200 mpg, say consume 1/10 to 1/5 of a typical SUV. It can be done. Fly lesss and drive less.  Travel 1/10 to 1/5. Disclaimer: I am using waste veg oil at 120 mpg and I have a 80 mpg car but sometimes I enjoy my 4 mpg Pro Street car.

Housing: Yes, a well built house uses a small fraction of energy of a conventional house and cooling is not really needed in many instances. Use of photovoltaic and collecting firewood means producing one's own energy.




Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:47 | 1915826 masterinchancery
masterinchancery's picture

With at least 90% of the US's oil resource off limits for development due to our idiot government(s),and with technology continuing to advance, it is quite a bit early to be talking about peak oil, especially in North America.  The shale oil fracturing, for example, was unforeseen by most experts, as were some large finds below 20,000 feet in the Gulf of Mexico.


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 19:02 | 1916171 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

My brother has worked in the oil an gas business for 20+ years, What bullshit are you spewing?  The shit you are refering too is hard to get at and energy intensive.  Read the article fucknut, its simple, when the energy and capital cost are greater than the energy released in the recovered fuel and the capital return, game fucking over.  The easy oil and gas has been tapped dude.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:14 | 1916400 Bruin4
Bruin4's picture

Get your facts straight masterinchancery - fracking and natural gas reserves are way overstated  - it will all be a distant memory by 2013

Even if they were not -Why would we want to be slave to any fossil fuel? Air seal your building, insulate your building and then laugh when your neighbor gets oil ( or natural gas ) delivered at a rate 7 to 10 times more than you do.

Its not high tech but it fucking works, I have spent years of my life proving it. We have oversized our heating and cooling plants in our buildings and have paid dearly for that because NO ONE actually does the math on how big they should be.  Air seal, insulate and ventilate your building right and you too shall see.

look up PassivHaus...proven tested materials and methods to liberate us from the man....I know its German but get past that will you.


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 17:00 | 1915868 DCFusor
DCFusor's picture

I am a physicist working in the field(s) discussed, and others.  I put in a rather long informative post well below, with links.  I agree with jcaz here, sadly, but of course there's a lot more to it all.  No, we won't make a glitch free transition, half the stuff talked about is stupid (hydrogen power is not possible due to not enough Pt and Pd on the planet, and nothing in sight to replace it in fuel cells, or storage, for just one stupid example).  There are signs of hope, sure - I've been off the grid myself for over 30 years, on mostly 30 year old tech - but it takes ROOM, and there's too many stupid fucking morons alive for there to be enough room for them all to do as I have with any tech even on the drawing boards now.

A little more here, too.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 17:00 | 1915870 Last_2_Sense
Last_2_Sense's picture

I find it really hard to take any of this very seriously. Especially when one considers the fact that a man by the name of Charles Pogue developed, successfully tested and patented a carburetor in the 1930's and made that old gas hog V8 get 200+ miles to the gallon. Of course the panic that ensued in the oil markets at the time demanded swift and decisive action. So the heads of the major oil companies cornered Mr. Pogue and forced him to sell his invention which they then immediately shelved, while at the same time, they started adding lead to the fuel to prevent future similar innovations.  And the supposed "best" we can do now is around 50mpg and your car has to be half battery and all sissy. One should never under estimate the impact of progress, even if it is in the wrong direction.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:19 | 1916406 trav7777
trav7777's picture

complete and utter horseshit

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 06:08 | 1917093 Last_2_Sense
Last_2_Sense's picture

Screw you

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 17:11 | 1915899 therealmonty
therealmonty's picture

Infinite Growth is impossible on a finite planet and no matter how much technology you put into it, unless we can figure out a way live outside the planet, things will change, economies will collapse, and sadly, many, many people will die.


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:02 | 1916005 RECISION
RECISION's picture

We can't even live on the planet we have - how could we possible live outside it...?

Here is 100x better than There - and it still isn't enough...

The problem isn't the available resources, the problem is people.

Like the quote(sort of) goes - "I see stupid people".

or if you prefer - "I see walking-dead people".

Also, there is no problem with alternative energy.  It is dead-easy, and we have it all already.  The problem is "cheap" energy.

We can have all the energy we want - it is just going to cost much much more...

(...and, there are diminishing return-EROEI issues)

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:22 | 1916308 therealmonty
therealmonty's picture

All money is is a representation of energy, be it oil, gas, or labor.  We are reaching a tipping point were the available resources are not enough to maintain the standard of living some of us, not most of the people on the planet, have been accustomed to.  Lets ask the people in Central Africa, Egypt, or Southeast Asia if there is enough to go around.  A rising tide serves only to sink the Titanic even faster.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:22 | 1916785 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

Right on. Money is energy or work in one form or another. Debt is a temporal and spatial realignment of that energy. The insane debt based economy is premised on low cost energy and rapid growth that has long passed reality. The exploding debt is a pathetic and destructive reaction to the growth decline enhanced by corruption and greed that will not accept the growth decline or is stealing to prepare for it. Whatever transition is coming will be ugly       

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 20:59 | 1916371 trav7777
trav7777's picture

why do you cretins still figure we USE oil if there are so many better things out there?

In your minds, everything is some backroom conspiracy by Potent Directors.  In reality there IS NOTHING BETTER than oil.

If a new magic substance were discovered tomorow its inventors could not be stopped.  They would have profitability wildly beyond that of oil companies and they could use that to FIGHT WARS if it came down to it, against the oil interests, and THEY WOULD WIN because they had access to MORE POWER.

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:35 | 1916826 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

well said

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:21 | 1916789 CapitalistRock
CapitalistRock's picture

Past predictions of future technology have been overwhelming wrong. 40 years ago most people thought we'd be living in space or traveling in personal helicopters by now.

There will be new technology but it always evolves in directions that even Dick Tracy clould not have imagined. To assume that the future will include technology to free us from oil is terribly naive and as shorted sighted as The Jetsons.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:16 | 1915473 Ted K
Ted K's picture

"One of these days" Chris Martenson will quit whoring his oil and gold holdings????


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:58 | 1915723 rosex229
rosex229's picture

Chris Martenson isn't "whoring" anything. He genuinely believes (after much methodical research) that global oil production is peaking soon, and that the effects this will have on our economic, credit, and debt systems will necessitate a reversion from fiat to gold backed currency making gold a better investment than other asset classes. He also specifies that gold isn't a get rich quick scheme, but merely a way of preserving wealth through the coming turbulent times. If you expect to get rich off of gold you will likely be disappointed (depending on if you can time the market PERFECTLY you may "get rich", but I don't have any illusions about timing it perfectly).

Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:40 | 1916837 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

yes and if Chris was the only one talking about the subject of oil, gold and our economic future, you might have a point 

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:18 | 1915479 nickels
nickels's picture

I'm rootin' for Rossi!

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:37 | 1915800 AGuy
AGuy's picture

Great! He needs Suckers^H^H^H^H^H investors to support his scam!


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 22:28 | 1916567 Matt
Matt's picture

Got your pre-order in?

Next up: Peak Nickel, bitchez!

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:19 | 1915482 GenX Investor
GenX Investor's picture

Production Possibilities Frontier does not move out on the chart as there is a fixed amount of labor and capital, without technology, therefore we need to conjure a new technology or our standard of living will go down.  That is a fact.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:19 | 1915637 FeralSerf
FeralSerf's picture

What do you mean, "will go down"?  It is going down.  Only technology is slowing the rate of the fall in our standard of living.

Maybe if all the money were taken away from te bankers and used to find more oil or build alternative energy generating infrastructure, there would be more available?  Waddaya think?

Or maybe we could just burn fat cat bankers and pols?

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:20 | 1915484 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

The problem is not insufficient this or that, the problem is too many people. This or that will come along and knock the population down to size for awhile. boom-bust species bitchez.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:31 | 1915513 DeweyLeon
DeweyLeon's picture

Yep any alt. energy will work if the population is small enough, but only oil can support a pop. of 7 billion (and that for only a short time).

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:39 | 1915535 bbq on whitehou...
bbq on whitehouse lawn's picture

You may be right.

But i dont believe that. People are not the problem, they may even be the solution.

If you take out war, heating, and transportation. There is plenty of oil.  So there are solutions without reduceing the population.

Its about how oil consumption is reduced.  People are smart enough to slove this how without extermination.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:46 | 1915548 SystemsGuy
SystemsGuy's picture

People are definitely the solution - why the average American is practically a tallow candle all by himself! Get enough people burning over a controlled flame, and we simultaneously solve the population and energy crises. Bankers first.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 17:30 | 1915942 Kayman
Kayman's picture

Hell yeah !  Looking at the average lardass at Wallymart and the Beluga whales on Dr. Phil, there is hope for America yet.

You, sir, are a positive thinker, second only to HamyWanker (nee Leo)

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 22:11 | 1916519 Savvy
Savvy's picture

LOL! Reminded me about this news item from a couple years back. What a solution.


Probe into cosmetic surgeon who 'powered his 4x4 with his patients' excess flab'

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:48 | 1915557 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

People are smart enough to slove this how without extermination.


Are you from the same planet (Earth) that I am?

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:06 | 1916019 RECISION
RECISION's picture


Good call.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:00 | 1915586 derek_vineyard
derek_vineyard's picture

bbq you better hope so, because you don't appear capable of avoiding the extermination......when the fiddler plays to lead the sheep to slaughter, you will be near the head of the line


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:18 | 1915632 Worker Bee
Worker Bee's picture

Your solution would decrease population. Take heating and transportation away and see the chos that ensues. You cant back out of a complex system without disrupting the whole system

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:20 | 1915768 Abitdodgie
Abitdodgie's picture

There is plenty of alt power out there, ion , electromagnetic , microwave, propultion, these are to name a few ,BUT if you do not control energy you loose control over the population so why would the powers thst be let anything go mainstream. The guy who mastered the hydrogen dune buggy=dead because he would not sell the idea to the oil companys .The SEG technology he was put in jail in the 60s  and anyone with free energy tec is arrested on terrorist charges so having this debate is pointless . there is lots of energy, you are just not allowed it, so get back to work and pay your masters there tax, you slaves are all the same , but the ones who think they are free are the worst  FYI I have a working SEG so please dont tell me they dont work .

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:43 | 1915819 Worker Bee
Worker Bee's picture

Please back up any of your claims with evidence. Apprently TPTB have full control of exponential function and thermodynamics.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 21:22 | 1916411 trav7777
trav7777's picture

and every country on the planet.  Nobody involved in the inventions or the PUBLIC PATENTS fled the country.

JFC if you were the patent examiner, or the lawyer, or the accountant, you'd take that shit to Iran or Brazil or ANYWHERE and they would use the free energy to make a GIGANTIC ARMY to take over the world.  BECAUSE THEY COULD.

Nobody using oil would be able to stand up to the free energy juggernaut and its infinite power laser beams and shit

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 16:56 | 1915854 AGuy
AGuy's picture

" People are not the problem, they may even be the solution."

<sarcasm>Indeed. Especially all those wonderful people driving extra large SUVs to go buy starbux, go cruzing on weekends on powerboats, and fly frequently to go on vacation. We need more of these people to solve our resource problems for us!</sarcasm>

More power to you BBQ! Ignorance is pure Bliss! Go on living the dream until the bitter end!



Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:50 | 1916858 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

venti lattes are the solution

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:41 | 1915542 jmc8888
jmc8888's picture

Pure propaganda.  There is no such thing as overpopulation.  The Earth is not the Universe.

You could fit every human being, comfortably, inside of Texas.

Anybody that believes in overpopulation, is a sheep, believing nonsensical propaganda.  It's a fascist bankster propaganda.  Way to hate them on one end, and accept their bs on another. 


Sat, 11/26/2011 - 14:45 | 1915545 midgetrannyporn
midgetrannyporn's picture



no such thing as overfishing the oceans

or pollution

or resource depletion

we can all live comfortably in Texas



Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:12 | 1915620 bank guy in Brussels
bank guy in Brussels's picture

When I visited Texas for a while in the 1980s, it was still legal to drink and drive there. I quite enjoyed the feeling of punching in the car's turbo-charger, while holding up a beer and waving it to the friendly local police.

So you could be drinking a Corona ... smoking a Corona ... and driving a (Toyota) Corona, all at the same time. And have a loaded gun in your car, too. You could get open beer at drive-in stands. In the morning even, with a 'breakfast taco'. Ha!

Texans told me a story that former US President Lyndon Johnson said, If a man can't have a beer while driving home from work, he shouldn't be obligated to go to work.

American-style 'freedom' in the old days.

A lot of friendly people in Texas. Too bad the reputation of the state is so soiled by the death penalty, mass imprisonment, the corrupt judges, the Bush family there, and so on.

Nice original idea of the independent country of Texas, that it was to be a bi-lingual nation, officially speaking both Spanish and English. Maybe there will be a free and independent bi-lingual nation of Texas once again after the US crumbles apart. Hopefully without mass prison gulags and without the death penalty.

But in my weeks in Texas back then, I saw no problem with 'responsible' drinking and driving.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:04 | 1915596 Piranhanoia
Piranhanoia's picture

Education should not be optional.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:05 | 1915601 SystemsGuy
SystemsGuy's picture

You could fit every human being, comfortably, inside of Texas.

Yeah, but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable inside of Texas.

Global oil production has already peaked, and we are now in the overshoot zone - Wiley Coyote suspended 1000 feet above the canyon floor, suddenly realizing that gravity is not your friend. The Saudi's have several times promised to support oil prices during oil crises in the last four to five years, and the PTB go along with it, yet after the fact analysis reveals that in fact NO NEW OIL ever made it to market. There is no excess production capacity in the market, and most of the new wells slated to come online between now and 2020 are in fact not even close to meeting the capacity of those wells now going dry elsewhere, let alone provide vast new amounts that would be needed assuming an anticipated global growth rate of even 3%.

Natural gas may provide a buffer of 10-20 years, there is some growth still there, but if everyone starts filling their car with LNG INSTEAD of gasoline, that buffer may be closer to 3-4 years. Coal gassification may give the US another 20-30 years, but the UK has used up most of its coal reservese (ditto Germany), China is rapidly going through its reserves, and there is some evidence that the US and Canada may both be overestimating their actual coal reserves by 50% or more.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 18:14 | 1916041 RECISION
RECISION's picture

You could fit every human being, comfortably, inside of Texas.

Yeah, but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable inside of Texas.


Nonsense - you and all the rest would comfortably fit into six-foot wooden boxes.

Plant trees over the top of them - Viola.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:11 | 1915619 Spastica Rex
Spastica Rex's picture

Wow - time for the breeders to get going! We should be able to comfortably acommodate 100s of billions of humans if we use the entire surface of the Earth.

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:16 | 1915628 JustObserving
JustObserving's picture

Yes, enough water in Texas to support 7 billion people and 1.3 billion cattle.  All hat and no facts. 

Sat, 11/26/2011 - 15:21 | 1915640 Worker Bee
Worker Bee's picture

Very rarely do I run across such ignorant bullshit as this..even on the interwebs. You win the "omg what a fucking idiot" award for the day..congrats.

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