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Dr Doom?
Adam Fenderson, Signature

One of the first websites devoted to Peak Oil was Jay Hanson’s and as the name suggests, it anticipates the collapse of industrial civilisation — taking much of the human population with it. Accepting the Peak Oil thesis can produce a kind of survivalist mindset, or a bleak acceptance.

Colin Campbell, in his gentle and genial way, stresses that this isn’t necessarily a doomsday scenario, but even he takes for granted that the world’s population will likely drop dramatically.

So how then, can one explain a conference devoted to Peak Oil, where the mood was positive, and offered a sense of opportunity?

First half of this article will be pretty old hat to peakniks but the second half is a quick report on the Fuelling the Future conference which should be of interest.

Excluded was the following sidebar about the excellent document, the ‘Kinsale 2021: Energy Descent Action Plan’

The Fueling the Future conference took place at the Kinsale Further Education College, which hosts the world’s first two year permaculture course. Rob Hopkins, conference organiser and course co-ordinator has produced, along with students of the college, the 50 page booklet Kinsale 2021: An Energy Descent Action Plan.

The booklet represents Ireland’s first, possibly the world’s first, local action plan for dealing with Peak Oil. Divided into sections dealing with food, education, transport, housing, youth & community, waste, and energy – the plan outlines hundreds of proposals which not only deal with Peak Oil, but develop a positive and plausible vision of the town over the next 15 years in its transition to a post-carbon economy.

What is remarkable about this document is that these are not regressive, depressing proposals, nor are they idealistic or utopian – they are visionary, innovative, but grounded in a local knowledge and a desperation to be practical, to inspire and to succeed.

To obtain a copy or find out more about the Kinsale 2021 document check out this article by Rob Hopkins. -AF

Peak Oil and Community Solutions Conference (Saturday)

Stuart Staniford, The Oil Drum
Reports and critical commentary on the speakers on the second day of the conference:

  • Steve Andrews, a longtime green-builder, sustainability expert, and peak-oil worrier. He’s a founder of the new ASPO-USA, and is helping to organize their first conference (November 10th-11th in Denver)… Essentially, it was the conventional peak-oil wisdom; yes alternatives help, but no we can’t ramp them up fast enough to make a dramatic difference and we are still going to have to make enormous changes. He sees oil sands and biofuels as the nearest term help, and oil shale only making a very small contribution by 2015.

  • John Ikerd…is a retired agricultural economist. The first half of his career he was a mainstream professional doing projections of hog prices etc. In the second half, he began to get the sustainability bug and he’s increasingly worked on sustainable agriculture since. He’s from Southern Missouri, and gave a tent-revival, rabble-rousing speech, interrupted by frequent bursts of applause and followed by a wild, clapping, cheering, foot-stomping standing ovation. It wasn’t your typical economics presentation…
  • Pat Murphy, the executive director of Community Solutions (the conference hosts) who gave a presentation on “Armageddon or Eden?”. He gave a left-leaning review of the history of European colonialism, and subsequent more subtle domination of the planet by American and European interests, covered the various nationalist and revolutionary responses to that, and suggested that one possible outcome of the peak oil situation was nuclear conflict between the US and China, Islamic countries, or others. Alternatively, he argued that humanity has the option to powerdown gracefully into a sustainable world where we’ll all be much happier.
  • Jan Lundberg, of Alliance for a Paving Moratorium fame. Jan holds an extreme peak-oil position which he refers to as petro-collapse. The idea as he espoused it today is that, the first time there is a significant oil-shock post peak, people will begin to fill their normally half-full tanks and otherwise hoard gas. This will cause widespread unavailability of fuel and lead to failure of food deliveries, panic, loss of law-and-order, and immediate total collapse of civilization. As he put it “the next oil shock will be the last”….Much more interesting was a short documentary he spent part of his time showing on the effects of plastic in the oceans.
  • A video put together (but not quite finished) by Faith Morgan on the results of two trips to Cuba to explore the experience following that country’s 50% oil shock after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • Michael Shuman, author of Going Local. Shuman is an economic development expert who advises his local government clients how to improve their economies. …the gist of his argument is that in a post-peak world, economics will get more local of necessity. This is a good thing in his view as local economies are more robust – it’s very dangerous to have your economy dependent on one or two big exporting corporations which can always pull up stakes and leave you in the lurch.

(27 September 2005)
See the original for complete text, photos and comments. Also see Staniford’s report on the first day of the conference (now with 147! comments). -BA

Five percent and Twenty Five percent

Roland Watson, New Era Investor
I am sure people concerned about the up and coming peak in global oil production are aware of the statistics concerning energy consumption in the USA. It goes something like “The United States has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 25% of its oil.”

The other less well known statistic I would like to throw into the pot is that the USA produces 25% of the world’s GDP. Out of a total of about $50 trillion worldwide, the US GDP is about $12 trillion.

This first came to my attention when Matt Simmons was answering a question from Mike Ruppert on gross American oil consumption at a Peak Oil conference earlier this year. Matt’s answer stuck in my mind: “America consumes 25% of the world’s energy but produces 25% of its GDP.”

That seems like a good correlation, 25% of the world’s economy for 25% of its energy. Moreover, to do this with only 5% of the world’s people looked like good productivity. Then again, I thought to myself and wondered about energy efficiency as a proportion of GDP. After all, weren’t we all meant to be producing one dollar of GDP for increasingly less energy these past 30 years?

…So, two things that make America the mightiest but also makes it the most energy voracious – its wealth and its unrestricted size.
Peak Oil is unlikely to address the size of America, but we can be sure it is going to address the total wealth that will circulate in these decades to come.
(27 September 2005)

Denver World Oil Conference Nov 10-11

A high-level conference to discuss the impacts of a peak in world oil production will be held in Denver, Colorado on November 10-11, 2005. The two-day forum is sponsored by the City and County of Denver and ASPO-USA.

Keynote speakers include Matt Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, a study of Saudi Arabia’s petroleum resources, and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, (R-Md.). Other speakers will include Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper; The Honorable Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), The Honorable Tim Wirth, President, U.N. Foundation; Michael Ashar, Suncor-USA; Peter Dea, Western Gas Resources; Jeremy Gilbert, Chief Petroleum Engineer (ret.) with British Petroleum; oil industry analyst Henry Groppe; Chris Skrebowski, ed. Petroleum Review; and Tom Petrie of Petrie/Parkman.

…Key Messages:
1. A peak in world oil production is imminent, likely within 10 years. We’re not “running out.” Oil will continue to be produced for many decades to come, albeit in smaller quantities. But since oil provides nearly 40% of world energy, peak oil will be a significant turning point in human history, with far-reaching consequences.

2. Growth in world energy demand will continue to escalate. The demand for energy in countries like China and India is growing rapidly. This is likely to continue, even in the face of higher petroleum prices.

3. The end of cheap oil. As we approach the peak, oil prices will trend higher. The transportation of people, food, and manufactured goods relies on inexpensive oil. What will peak oil mean for the nation’s $575 billion travel and tourist industries? To land use and development patterns? To world trade?

4. Reducing the impacts. Citizens, corporations, cities, and states can take intelligent actions now to prepare for more expensive petroleum and to mitigate the negative impacts of peak oil. Public-private leadership and energy education are essential.
(September 2005)

The Courage to be right and alone

Stephen Leeb,
These days, everyone wants to be a contrarian, meaning they want to bet against whatever investment the crowd favors. We’re not exactly sure why this is. Maybe they think it makes them look smart, or cool. But the idea is self-contradictory. …

Of course, it is interesting to look at what people were saying back when energy peaked in the early 1980s.

Daniel Yergin, as quoted in the Toqueville article, in 1979 said that the energy problem would become “an energy emergency that will persist throughout the entire 1980s.” You may recall we mentioned Yergin a couple of weeks back. These days he is predicting there will be no energy crisis – that 60 million barrels a day of new oil production will soon magically spring into being from a source he declines to mention. What can we say? He was clearly wrong then, and he’s clearly wrong now.

The same list includes a 1981 quote from the International Energy Agency: “in moving towards 1990, the industrialized countries will be walking an oil tightrope.” Today, the IEA’s position is that the world is awash in oil, and we just need money to develop it. So you can hardly say the IEA has once again become too bullish on oil prices.

Another quote by the Department of Energy, 1979, says, “Any surplus production capacity that individual OPEC countries may have developed in recent years will almost certainly vanish by the mid-1980s, perhaps sooner.” Today, the DOE assures us that OPEC will be able to increase production indefinitely. Again, that doesn’t sound like they expect an oil crisis. …
(27 September 2005)

Richard Russell on Oil

Richard Russell,
I want to start with the chart below on oil. After its recent rise, oil has formed the potential “head-and-shoulders top” that you see on this chart. The odds are fairly good that oil will break support at around 62, and if it does break support I have no idea how low it may correct. I’m guessing that there should be some good support at the July 21 closing low (Oct. futures) at 58. …

But that’s not the point. The point is much bigger than a potential oil correction here. …

Question [from reader] — Russell, you keep saying that the US public isn’t taking the oil situation seriously. Why do you say that?

Answer — I say it because US auto dealers are still selling SUVs, trucks and gas-easters by the tens of thousands. Wife Faye subscribes to five auto magazines. All the mags write about is performance cars, luxury cars, cars that do zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds Check their cover pictures. C’mon, what I see and hear tells me that the US public believes this is “just another oil scare.” But it isn”t.
(27 September 2005)

Future Fuels for Commercial Vehicles

Volvo [press release/brochure]
Most stakeholders – vehicle manufacturers, fuel producers, politicians and researchers – agree about the problems.

Our current use of fossil energy types is not sustainable in the longer term. In overall terms, almost three billion tonnes of crude oil are consumed every year and 60% of it is used by the transport sector. Most people also agree that time is a critical factor.

The measures that are being suggested differ, however. The time has therefore come for us to join forces and produce a picture and a vision of the possible routes and the action we should take.

Transforming an energy system comprising vehicles, fuel and infrastructures takes a long time and requires extensive resources from everyone involved – from producers to consumers. There is no question that the need to transport food, people and goods is going to increase. For many years now, Volvo has been working to fi nd the best solutions for the future. Our starting point is that every decision and action should be based on scientifi c data and have a holistic perspective that includes all energy-using sectors. This provides a platform for sustainable long-term decisions.

Global oil production will probably peak within a decade and the time of cheap and abundant crude oil will be over. [pg3] (September 2005)