Special Report: Peak Oil

The Oil Depletion Protocol: An Interview with Richard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg discusses the challenges, threats, and opportunities of a world on the brink of irreversible declines in oil production.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 26, 2007

Interview with Richard Heinberg

These days, Richard Heinberg is an amazingly busy man. In addition to his teaching duties at the New College of California and his ongoing essays and lectures on peak oil, he has been promoting an idea he first heard from Colin Campbell about a simple protocol that he believes will help countries to prepare for, and adjust to, the coming declines in global oil production.

The Oil Depletion Protocol is deceptively simple: oil importing countries reduce their annual imports by the global depletion rate; and oil exporting countries reduce their annual exports by their national depletion rate. That's also the title of his latest book, an in-depth examination of the protocol and its ramifications.

It depends on honest field-by-field oil reserve analysis and open, transparent administration, and it works best if every major oil-producing and -consuming country adopts it, but Heinberg believes it will give every country the best opportunity for making sound decisions based on accurate information and predictable (albeit steadily declining) supplies of oil.

The book itself is a marvel of clarity and economy, packing a detailed analysis of a complex situation into a very readable 151 pages (plus appendices and notes). His calm, lucid style and cant-free delivery take the reader from a grand overview of the framework right down to the methods by which individual communities can plan for the end of cheap, abundant oil.

In his previous books, The Party's Over and Powerdown, Heinberg described the concept of peak oil and explained why you should be concerned about it. In The Oil Depletion Protocol, he offers the closest thing I've seen to a way out. It may well be the most important book you read this year.

Heinberg agreed to an email interview with Raise the Hammer (we first interviewed him back in January 2005) in which he confronted some of the challenges such a Protocol will encounter as its advocates seek to implement it worldwide.

The Interview

Ryan McGreal, Raise the Hammer: Coal is cheap and abundant. Other than the fact that it would increase CO2 production, can countries resist ramping up coal-to-liquids programs to replace declines in conventional oil?

Richard Heinberg: Actually, future global coal production is routinely overestimated. That, at least, is the conclusion of an as yet unpublished study by the Energy Watch Group of Germany.

That team has found that in the countries where coal reserves are well reported, the size of resources has been downgraded dramatically in recent years. There are other countries that have not changed reserves reports for decades, and it appears that those numbers are probably even more inflated than oil reserves numbers for OPEC.

The study concludes that global coal production will peak in 10 to 20 years. I'm tracking a Dutch study-in-progress where the researchers are using different criteria, and their preliminary results confirm the German study.

All of this has enormous implications for the climate debate (which is mostly about coal) as well as discussions about substituting coal-to-liquids for diminishing oil. Ultimately we are facing not just a liquid fuels crisis, but a general energy crisis.

Oil, coal, and natural gas together supply over 85 percent of the world's energy. All will peak in production within the next 20 years. The world had better start thinking about how to get along with less energy.

RTH: In the 1980s, when OPEC changed its rules to limit oil production based on reserves, most of its members suddenly increased their stated reserves so they could produce more under the new rules. What is to stop countries from similarly 'cooking the books' under an ODP? Alternately, how can we prevent the ODP executive itself from being susceptible to politicking and corruption?

RH: There's always the likelihood that an agreement like this could be undermined by plain old-fashioned corruption. I think a lot would depend on how the secretariat was set up. That body would have the responsibility of monitoring oil reserves, production, exports, and imports.

Obviously, if it were made up only of oil industry representatives, or representatives of the importing nations, that would skew its operations. It would need representation from producers and the environmental community as well.

But it would work best if its operations were de-politicized as much as possible. The objective should be good science and responsible accounting. The more transparency, the better.

RTH. Why will developing countries accept an ODP? They stand to lose the most, watching rich countries continue to import the same proportion of total oil while they make do with less, as in the past.

RH: The less-industrialized countries will have to come to understand (if they don't already) that the whole "development" game has been a ruse almost from the beginning.

The promise that ultimately all countries would be industrialized, with everyone living like middle-class Americans, was always an unrealizable goal. There just aren't enough resources on the planet; we'd need a couple of extra Earths to supply the raw materials. So with or without the ODP, the goal of "development" in the classical sense is unrealizable.

But the question remains, how should the remaining fossil fuels be allocated? At first thought, it might seem that the fairest answer would be - equally, so that nations that have not had the opportunity to benefit from the energy bonanza can do so at least to a certain extent. But that actually may not be the best answer.

First, is that even possible? It's one thing to ask the industrial nations to share the wealth while they are enjoying prosperity and relative stability. They haven't done very much sharing over the past few decades while their economies have continued to grow.

Now those nations are headed into a historic period of contraction. They will have less energy to do everything they need to do, and the result will be an endless and bottomless recession, high unemployment, the bursting of several persistent financial bubbles, and worse.

Energy is like oxygen to the economy. What are the chances of wealthy nations suddenly deciding to share some of their air (i.e., offer less-industrialized nations a larger share of the world's fossil fuels at discount prices) just as they realize that the supply is being choked off?

We can piously sit and declare that this is what they should do, but the fact is that they won't. It's just not going to happen.

Even if it were possible, that may not be the best thing for the less-industrialized nations anyway.

Until now, increased fossil fuel consumption has meant increased wealth. Simply having fossil fuels doesn't equate to wealth (just look at Nigeria), but consuming them does.

However, we are entering a new era. Using fossil fuels has led to structural economic dependency on those fuels. Industrialized nations can't live without them - for transportation, agriculture, chemicals, plastics, and so on. And that dependency becomes an enormous problem as the supply starts to dry up.

Suddenly new rules apply. Now the biggest fossil fuels users are the ones who are most vulnerable to economic, social, and political collapse. So at this moment in history would it really be a favor to less-industrialized countries to offer them proportionally greater access to fossil fuels? That would just lead to more dependency and therefore vulnerability.

If the industrialized countries wish to help the less-industrialized countries, one way to do so is to transfer all renewable-energy technologies free of intellectual property rights for domestic implementation.

Meanwhile, the poorer countries will probably be abiding by the terms of the Protocol whether they try to do so or not, simply because oil prices will be rising, forcing them to cut back on imports. This is already happening.

Why not make a virtue out of necessity by formally adopting the Protocol, thereby putting political pressure on the major petroleum consumers - who are the ones the Protocol is really aimed at anyway?

RTH: Could an ODP still work if key nations - like Saudi Arabia or the USA - refuse to participate?

RH: It certainly would not work as well. In order for the world to benefit optimally, the Protocol would have to be adopted by the foremost oil producers and especially the largest consumers.

Nevertheless, any country that abides by the Protocol will benefit from it. That country will be able to plan its transition away from oil, rather than being subject to the vagaries of the market. Until a nation deliberately reduces its oil consumption, that transition cannot really get the transition underway.

Merely investing a bit here and there in energy alternatives is like trying to kick the heroin habit by lining the kitchen shelves with beer, coffee, cigarettes, and other mildly addictive substances. The only action that will break heroin addiction is a deliberate reduction or cut-off in the use of the stuff. The same is true with oil, and that's what the Protocol is aimed to do.

RTH: Is it possible to convince the USA that it cannot prevail by going alone and extracting the energy it demands by force? I have in mind George H. W. Bush's infamous pronouncement, "The American way of life is not up for negotiation."

RH: I think the USA is learning a very painful lesson in that regard in Iraq. If America's thirst for oil is an irresistible force, Iraq is an immovable object. Something's got to give, and ultimately it will be the American way of life. It is unsupportable.

The only question is, will Americans let it go proactively and in a coordinated way, or will they press the limits of debt and militarism until their system simply collapses chaotically and brings the rest of the world down with it?

Only a few years ago most Americans would have found that framing of the alternatives to be far too dire. Today, my sense is that a substantial majority would agree. But the political and financial systems that control policy have a tremendous momentum behind them.

Americans desperately need leaders who will tell them the truth. I wish I could say I see someone on the horizon. Maybe Bill Richardson of New Mexico; certainly not Hillary or Obama or Rudy. In any case, the failure of the Iraq project is plain and absolute, and it will have enormous repercussions on America's future and the world's.

RTH: Hamilton, Ontario hired energy consultant Richard Gilbert to prepare a Peak Oil report for the city. One of his recommendations is to invest in tethered, or grid-connected, vehicles, since it is more energy efficient than fuel cells. What do you think of this idea?

RH: The best strategy for transportation is to electrify it. There are two reasons for that.

First, electric motors are extremely efficient. That's why electric cars are less polluting than regular cars even if you factor in the emissions from the coal power plants that are producing the electricity.

Second, there are many ways of generating electricity, but not many sources for liquid fuels to power internal combustion engines. Solar, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal, and microhydro all produce electricity.

For liquid fuel sources we have oil, natural gas, coal, tar sands, and biofuels. All of those are limited in quantity and have environmental consequences - in most cases severe ones.

Just about everyone who looks at the data comes to the same conclusion: electrify transport!

As for fuel cells, they're just not ready for widespread use. Several technological breakthroughs are needed. But one good breakthrough in electricity-storage technology will make fuel cells redundant anyway. And it appears as though we may see some new battery or super-capacitor technologies in the next few years.

RTH: It looks like a higher proportion of North Americans will be working to produce food in the future. Do you have any ideas on how to prevent a reversion to feudal organization - narrow ownership of land and wealth accompanied by widespread sharecropping, indentured servitude, and so on?

RH: The only way to do that is through deliberate, proactive policies to enable people to farm on a small scale profitably. That means land reform, education, and low-interest loans. It certainly can be done, but it will take some imagination and political will.

The result, in the best instance, could be a realization of Jefferson's ideal agrarian democracy. This is why I have been talking to organizations like the Ecological Farming Association, the Soil Association, and the National Farmers Union of Canada - to get them to start working together to advocate such policies.

This is not just a matter of increasing the market share for organic produce (which is the level of discourse where these sorts of organizations sometimes tend to get stuck), it is a matter of social and economic survival.

Without post-petroleum agricultural policy, we will see not only a new feudalism, but a return to the historic norm of recurrent famines.

RTH: I just read The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook by Albert Bates [you wrote the foreword]. The author advocates local, small-scale, individual- and community-based responses to energy depletion, stating that he doesn't believe governments are capable of doing the right thing. To what extent do you think such an organic, decentralized mode of adaptation can be successful? What structural challenges would local responses face?

RH: It is very likely that governments won't respond to the challenges before us, and so the task of adaptation will fall to individuals, families, and small communities. But I'm not giving up on governments, because if they do act responsibly they can avert an enormous amount of suffering.

If they don't, we will be facing societal collapse on a scale never seen in human history. It is within that context that communities and families would have to pursue their decentralized efforts. It's not a pretty picture, and it could well include the emergence of local gangs and warlords, resource raids, and so on - the stuff of dystopian literature.

Humans certainly are capable of cooperation and sharing, and small, decentralized communities seem to support that kind of behavior. So I'll all in favour of what Albert Bates advocates. I would simply add that those communities will have a much easier time of it if our existing governments and economic institutions let go of power gracefully, and support local adaptive efforts.

It may be unrealistic to think that all of them will do this, but it is not impossible in principle. Even a few successes here and there will justify efforts invested in lobbying and politicking. But not everyone needs to be involved in that sort of work.

Most folks will probably be better off honing their gardening skills, lowering their fossil fuel dependency, and getting to know their neighbors.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.


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By grog (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2007 at 09:18:01

this heinberg character has turned into one of the biggest self promoting bullshit artists the world has ever witnessed. he runs all over the world sucking up more energy (and getting rich in the process) than any exxon executive that ever lived. oh yeah, he will say he could make more money teaching full time. horse manure ! his mcmansion would never have existed without the moolah he has pulled in selling books and movies. anyone out there who wants to save money and energy might consider not purchasing ANY new books for the rest of your lives. stop buying all of this garbage out there. use your public library. give up these damn computers. stop watching television. most of you would last one week. or go on prozac. so i guess these comments are also bullshit. it will NEVER happen. you cannot slop pigs and expect them to stand in line. happy days.

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By driving me crazy (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2007 at 09:51:42

Nice ad hominem attack grog. When you can't touch someone's arguments you have to resort to slagging (grogging?) their character. Your offensive mean spirited assault only confirms you've got nothing.

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By troll food (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2007 at 17:02:44

Place in an 8 oz. mug:

1 tsp syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 jigger dark rum

fill mug with very hot tea or water, garnish with a twist of lemon peel and a dusting of nutmeg or cinnamon.

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By Guyincognito (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2007 at 18:54:23

Ignoring the troll, I find that Mr Heinberg paints a rather grim view of our future, where small comunities must fight off bands of resource raiders to survive.

I think a far more likely goverment inaction scenario is that the government will do nothign, energy resources will begin to tap out; resulting in large scale brown and black outs. At that point the government will impove massive restructing and restriction plans, cycle power, construct new powerplants (atomic, wind, solar, etc; mostly atomic) and in less then two years we'll be basically where we are now- save that we'll be paying more then $3/l on biodisel to fill up our disel engine vehicles and $.50/kw/h to make up for the cost of building all those powerplants and biodisel processing plants in a hurry.

Maby I'm an optimist....

In any case I do agree with the underlying scope of the article; we should start preparing for there being no gas NOW, not when it happens.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2007 at 21:20:30


There are a few problems with your scenario.

  1. Nuclear power simply can't scale, no matter how much its boosters insist otherwise:


  1. Solar, wind, etc. depend on fossil fuel energy for their manufacture. Waiting until we're already way behind the eight ball will be far too late to afford a shift. We need to make those investments now, assuming there's still time. It appears we're already in peak oil today.


  1. Biodiesel really, really can't scale. George Monbiot has an excellent essay on what's wrong:


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By Jay Draiman (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2007 at 07:26:02


In order to insure energy and economic independence as well as better economic growth without being blackmailed by foreign countries, our country, the United States of America’s Utilization of Energy Sources must change.
"Energy drives our entire economy.” We must protect it. "Let's face it, without energy the whole economy and economic society we have set up would come to a halt. So you want to have control over such an important resource that you need for your society and your economy." The American way of life is not negotiable.
Our continued dependence on fossil fuels could and will lead to catastrophic consequences.

The federal, state and local government should implement a mandatory renewable energy installation program for residential and commercial property on new construction and remodeling projects with the use of energy efficient material, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, retrofits etc. The source of energy must be by renewable energy such as Solar-Photovoltaic, Geothermal, Wind, Biofuels, Ocean-Tidal, Hydrogen-Fuel Cell etc. This includes the utilizing of water from lakes, rivers and oceans to circulate in cooling towers to produce air conditioning and the utilization of proper landscaping to reduce energy consumption. (Sales tax on renewable energy products and energy efficiency should be reduced or eliminated)

The implementation of mandatory renewable energy could be done on a gradual scale over the next 10 years. At the end of the 10 year period all construction and energy use in the structures throughout the United States must be 100% powered by renewable energy. (This can be done by amending building code)

In addition, the governments must impose laws, rules and regulations whereby the utility companies must comply with a fair “NET METERING” (the buying of excess generation from the consumer at market price), including the promotion of research and production of “renewable energy technology” with various long term incentives and grants. The various foundations in existence should be used to contribute to this cause.

A mandatory time table should also be established for the automobile industry to gradually produce an automobile powered by renewable energy. The American automobile industry is surely capable of accomplishing this task. As an inducement to buy hybrid automobiles (sales tax should be reduced or eliminated on American manufactured automobiles).

This is a way to expedite our energy independence and economic growth. (This will also create a substantial amount of new jobs). It will take maximum effort and a relentless pursuit of the private, commercial and industrial government sectors’ commitment to renewable energy – energy generation (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, geothermal, energy storage (fuel cells, advance batteries), energy infrastructure (management, transmission) and energy efficiency (lighting, sensors, automation, conservation) (rainwater harvesting, water conservation) (energy and natural resources conservation) in order to achieve our energy independence.

"To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality."

Jay Draiman, Energy Consultant
Northridge, CA. 91325
Feb. 28, 2007

P.S. I have a very deep belief in America's capabilities. Within the next 10 years we can accomplish our energy independence, if we as a nation truly set our goals to accomplish this.
I happen to believe that we can do it. In another crisis--the one in 1942--President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this country would build 60,000 [50,000] military aircraft. By 1943, production in that program had reached 125,000 aircraft annually. They did it then. We can do it now.
"the way we produce and use energy must fundamentally change."
The American people resilience and determination to retain the way of life is unconquerable and we as a nation will succeed in this endeavor of Energy Independence.

The Oil Companies should be required to invest a substantial percentage of their profit in renewable energy R&D and implementation. Those who do not will be panelized by the public at large by boy cutting their products.

Solar energy is the source of all energy on the earth (excepting volcanic geothermal). Wind, wave and fossil fuels all get their energy from the sun. Fossil fuels are only a battery which will eventually run out. The sooner we can exploit all forms of Solar energy (cost effectively or not against dubiously cheap FFs) the better off we will all be. If the battery runs out first, the survivors will all be living like in the 18th century again.

Every new home built should come with a solar package. A 1.5 kW per bedroom is a good rule of thumb. The formula 1.5 X's 5 hrs per day X's 30 days will produce about 225 kWh per bedroom monthly. This peak production period will offset 17 to 2

4 cents per kWh with a potential of $160 per month or about $60,000 over the 30-year mortgage period for a three-bedroom home. It is economically feasible at the current energy price and the interest portion of the loan is deductible. Why not?

Title 24 has been mandated forcing developers to build energy efficient homes. Their bull-headedness put them in that position and now they see that Title 24 works with little added cost. Solar should also be mandated and if the developer designs a home that solar is impossible to do then they should pay an equivalent mitigation fee allowing others to put solar on in place of their negligence. (Installation should be paid “performance based”).

Installation of renewable energy and its performance should be paid to the installer and manufacturer based on "performance based" (that means they are held accountable for the performance of the product - that includes the automobile industry). This will gain the trust and confidence of the end-user to proceed with such a project; it will also prove to the public that it is a viable avenue of energy conservation.

Installing a renewable energy system on your home or business increases the value of the property and provides a marketing advantage. It also decreases our trade deficit.

Nations of the world should unite and join together in a cohesive effort to develop and implement MANDATORY RENEWABLE ENERGY for the sake of humankind and future generations.
The head of the U.S. government's renewable energy lab said Monday (Feb. 5) that the federal government is doing "embarrassingly few things" to foster renewable energy, leaving leadership to the states at a time of opportunity to change the nation's energy future. "I see little happening at the federal level. Much more needs to happen." What's needed, he said, is a change of our national mind set. Instead of viewing the hurdles that still face renewable sources and setting national energy goals with those hurdles in mind, we should set ambitious national renewable energy goals and set about overcoming the hurdles to meet them. We have an opportunity, an opportunity we can take advantage of or an opportunity we can squander and let go,"
solar energy - the direct conversion of sunlight with solar cells, either into electricity or hydrogen, faces cost hurdles independent of their intrinsic efficiency. Ways must be found to lower production costs and design better conversion and storage systems.
All government buildings, Federal, State, County, City etc. should be mandated to be energy efficient and must use renewable energy on all new structures and structures that are been remodeled/upgraded.
"The goverment should serve as an example to its citizens"
Jay Draiman

Northridge, CA 91325
Email: renewableenergy2@msn.com

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By Guyincognito (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2007 at 22:08:19


1-I think you need to read my whole post before responding; I am defiantly a proponent of doing things now, I just don't think that inaction will cost us anything save billions of dollars of debt and a few shaky years (Not good things by any definition, but also not 'society crumbles and small communities have to defend themselves from resource raiders')

2- We can easily use Thorium for nuclear power (Linked in that article); when we run out of thorium we can backpedal all our atomic waste into breeder reactors. Then we can use the newly created uranium and thorium again, we can continue this until either we run out of non-radioactive limiters, or we actually convert all of the available fissionable matter into pure energy (By which point our sun will likely be dying)

3- You can convert basically any bio-matter into bio-diesel and the whole host of plastics that we use today; it's just not always a positive energy curve on doing so (the process itself is rathe energy intensive); when we run out of fossil fuels- we won't really care that it's a net energy loss, we'll just make up for it with more atomic/wind/solar reactors/power plants.

4- Related to 3; any plastics used in the manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, tidal generators can be produced even in lieu of there being fossil fuels; and the energy for manufacturing this equipment can be provided by existing atomic energy (in a crunch situation power could be regulated to more energy production first)

Now once again; I am not an advocate of doing nothing until we actually run out, I think it would be a very bad idea. I think that if we do nothing it will have a horrific decade or so of near-perpetual rolling blackouts and it will drive the countries involved into a stupid amount of debt. I do not think it will mean the end of society and a massive step backwards in technological development

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 01, 2007 at 10:01:21

Hi Guyincognito:

Thanks for your detailed response. I did read your whole post. I was responding to your assertion that we can afford to wait, even though we're better off not waiting.

I've responded to your points in turn.

  1. Thorium reactor designs have to get around thorium's essential subcriticality (it's not radioactive enough to keep the reaction going), using either a mix of plutonium and uranium or some other method of bombarding it with neutrons. In other words, thorium is a lot more abundant but it's also a lot more difficult to get a net energy return out of it or to scale up to mass production (which is why it was abandoned in favour of uranium in the first place).

Today, 439 nuclear reactors operate worldwide. To replace them with thorium-based reactors would take decades and cost brain-hurting sums of money; and again, this ignores the fact that the fossil fuels necessary to manufacture the reactors, extract, refine, and transport the fuel, etc. will be increasingly scarce and expensive.

  1. Don't forget that nearly all agriculture is highly dependent on fossil fuels. Right now, growing biofuels via conventional farming produces a net energy return at or below zero, which means amounts to a net energy loss. (Under ideal test conditions, one scientist can produce a net return of 1.3 units of energy for each unit invested. Even if this were practical, compare it to the 30:1 net energy return for Middle Eastern petroleum).

Growing biofuels/bio-plastics on a large scale is basically out of the question, even if we had enough spare farmland to grow both food and biofuels, which we don't.

There's no way renewable energy - wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, etc. - can produce electricity as plentifully or reliably as today's coal-, oil-, and nuclear-powered plants, let alone produce that much plus the additional power required to grow biofuels and produce bio-plastics.

  1. See my responses to #1 and #3.

For a more comprehensive review of the situation, I highly recommend that you read the February 2005 report that Robert Hirsch et al. prepared for the US Department of Defense, titled "Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management".


The report argues that the difference between planning ahead for, and reacting to, peak oil is the difference between a serious challenge and "a long period of significant economic hardship worldwide".

Here's an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

  • Waiting until world conventional oil production peaks before initiating crash program mitigation leaves the world with a significant liquid fuel deficit for two decades or longer.

  • Initiating a crash program 10 years before world oil peaking would help considerably but would still result in a worldwide liquid fuels shortfall, starting roughly a decade after the time that oil would have otherwise peaked.

  • Initiating crash program mitigation 20 years before peaking offers the possibility of avoiding a world liquid fuels shortfall for the forecast period.

Without timely mitigation, world supply/demand balance will be achieved through massive demand destruction (shortages), accompanied by huge oil price increases, both of which would create a long period of significant economic hardship worldwide.

It looks very much like we're already in peak oil today, which puts us squarely behind the eight-ball.


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By adrian (registered) | Posted March 05, 2007 at 08:33:30

From the New York Times:

The Kern River oil field, discovered in 1899, was revived when Chevron engineers here started injecting high-pressured steam to pump out more oil. The field, whose production had slumped to 10,000 barrels a day in the 1960s, now has a daily output of 85,000 barrels.

In Indonesia, Chevron has applied the same technology to the giant Duri oil field, discovered in 1941, boosting production there to more than 200,000 barrels a day, up from 65,000 barrels in the mid-1980s.


There is still a minority view, held largely by a small band of retired petroleum geologists and some members of Congress, that oil production has peaked, but the theory has been fading.


I'm not suggesting that the NYT is always a trustworthy news source, nor do I think that pumping more and more oil out of the ground is a good thing. However, I still retain a great deal of skepticism about peak oil claims.

I'm inclined to think transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a move we must make for environmental reasons, not one we must make because of resource depletion.

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By David (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2007 at 02:01:35

Heinberg is one of the most refined torch carriers for this problem today, along with Matt Simmons. They perhaps dilute slightly from apparently doing well with book sales, although the quality of the writing and research returns most of that loss.

I believe it has been made very clear there is no alternative to oil which can maintain lifestyles and consumption at the present levels. With the US dollar so utterly dependant on maintaining the consumption, it is painfully obvious that either scaling back oil consumption or utilizing other feeble attempts to replace it will have to result in massive changes of lifestyle, massive depreciation of dollar hegemony, and massive economic reductions, with the latter two feeding on each other. I anticipate an elasticity due to the need of people to cope with the price with any other form of sacrifice in order to still make it to work - and we are probably building in that mode right now, considering the recent drop in household balance sheets below the zero line. Then at some point, maximum coping power will be exceeded by a large enough percentage of the lower income that business for the higher income will collapse, rendering the whole country to the same level of economic poverty virtually overnight. Energy and present levels of economic participation are way too interwoven into the success of every business for any to succeed without it, especially once the dollar becomes worthless. All the incentive for anyone to go to work will be gone, including the people who keep the power plants running.

But ahead of that I believe we are presently seeing the US attempt to support it's debt through control of the oil prices at the highest level affordable, allowing the Petrodollar recycling to take over support where other countries and our own economy are failing. The lack of civility in their worldwide approach is indicative of the desperation to prop the dollar. Going into Iraq to steal the oil for the US may have at least been noble, even if criminal. But it is clear that the objective was to turn off the flow to raise the price to save the dollar, then use that oil tap to help balance the world needs at that high price as their actions in other dollar-support efforts such as attacking Iran destabilize the world supply - basically the Iraqi oil becomes their tool to allow other attacks without totally losing the economy back home. But that attack will certainly raise oil prices initially, which again will flow right back to the US with Petrodollar recycling - further helping the dollar's position, along with the hegemony of gunfire.

If I am correct, support of the US dollar is far and away the #1 objective of the warlords, for if that fails, the price and availability of oil no longer matters much. And by supporting the dollar this way, it is clear that the govt is saying the debt has gotten too far out of control for anyone to support it through regular means. They have given-up on their own country, and quickly alienating past avenues of support worldwide. I can't see how war can be sustained forever, yet that seems to be the position the US has gotten themselves into. Is there a way out of this?

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By grannysaga (registered) | Posted March 17, 2007 at 04:33:33

I am noticing a trend for individuals, whether in the city or country, to set up their own solar, wind, geo-thermal and other systems to reduce their use of the grid. It seems to me this self sufficiency concept could be encouraged for industries too, for reduction and for alternative supply during the periods of 'brown out' that are likely inevitable before the public and politicians will act.

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By jay draiman (anonymous) | Posted June 08, 2008 at 14:19:42

Our war for energy independence and economic sustainability

The US government and other governments are not serious about energy efficiency and renewable energy development and implementation – they are too busy playing politics and capitulating to the Oil Companies.
IT is time to get series to avert an economic catastrophe – I hope it is not too late
The world needs to invest $50 trillion in energy in coming decades, building some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expanding wind power, solar power, geothermal energy in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to an energy study released Friday.
The report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency envisions an "energy revolution" that would greatly reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels while maintaining steady economic growth.
"Meeting this target of 50 percent cut in emissions and replacing fossil fuel represents a formidable challenge, and we would require immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale," IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said.
The scenario for deeper cuts would require massive investment in energy technology development and deployment, a wide-ranging campaign to dramatically increase energy efficiency, and a wholesale shift to renewable sources of energy.
Assuming an average 3.4 percent global economic growth over the 2010-2050 period, governments and the private sector would have to make additional investments of $50 trillion in energy, or 1.2 percent of the world's gross domestic product, the report said.
That would be an investment more than three times the current size of the entire U.S. economy.
In addition, the world would have to construct 38 new nuclear power plants each year, and wind-power turbines would have to be increased by 18,000 units annually, solar energy output would have to be increased 20 fold every year.
Let us not forget as we are increasing the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency – the world population is increasing – the demand for energy by advancement in technology worldwide is also increasing. We have to take these factors into account.
Oil is going to hit at least $200 per barrel, gasoline at the pump will hit $6 or more per gallon, in some countries it is already $10 per gallon.
Most of the money would be in the commercialization of energy technologies developed by governments and the private sector.
"If industry is convinced there will be policy for serious, actions for accelerated development of renewable energy and efficiency, then these investments will be made by the private sector."
People are hurting financially and economically, this must end, we should strive for a thriving economy with new technology for renewable energy and efficiency.
We have the technology and knowhow let us stop playing politics – unite our people and our nation in a common goal to avert an economic disaster and maintain our quality of life for generations to come.
Let us serve as an example to the rest of the world.
Jay Draiman, Energy Analyst – June 8, 2008

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By jay draiman (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 02:55:28

Renewable Energy Manufactures/suppliers should use their own product to manufacture.

The manufacturers’ of Solar Panels and other forms of renewable energy with related support products manufactures/suppliers - should have at least the decency to practice what they preach what they market to the public.
That would be the best marketing approach I can think off.
If they believe in the product they manufacture/sell, they should utilize it to its fullest potential.
It will give the manufacturer the actual experience of utilizing the product on a daily basis, view and experience any shortcoming or improvements that are needed, implement the improvements and capitalize on that revision to improve the product and its performance.
This will instill confidence in the public to purchase the product.

Jay Draiman, Energy Analyst

As with any new technology, PV will become more efficient, cheaper and cleaner to produce. In order for this to happen we (Governments / NGOs / Individuals) need to invest more time and money into making PV viable, e.g. through increased incentives, regulations, technical standards, R&D, manufacturing processes and generating consumer demand.
Just like the automobile industry, the manufacture used its own product.
Over the years the automobile industry and technology has evolved from the early 1900 to what it is today the year 2008.
I predict that in 10 years the automobile we know today will change drastically for the better, with new fuel technology and other modification that will improve its scales of economy and features.

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