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USA 2034: A Look Back at the 25th Anniversary Year

Alan S. Drake, The Oil Drum
After an extended period of bewildering, painful and rewarding transition, the people of the USA finally feel that they have found their feet underneath them, with a clear and hopeful path to the future. Oil consumption is down to 6.6 million barrels/day, 30% of our 2007 peak oil use, and CO2 emissions are 26% of their 2011 peak, a matter of pride for most Americans.

Rapid reductions in world carbon emissions (almost as great as US reductions), plus some negative feedback loops, have kept Global Warming effects manageable. Persistent and prolonged droughts in the American Southwest have been the largest effect so far in the USA.

At long last the goal of “Not One Drop” of oil is being burned to transport people and freight over the nations railroads. All of the main and secondary lines are electrified with battery locomotives for some short spurs.

A nationwide system of grade separated main lines are complete with new extensions being added every year. Two tracks for heavy freight moving at 50 to 70 mph and one or two tracks (three in California and the Northeast) for passengers and light & medium density freight moving at maximum speeds of 110 to 125 mph.

…Electric assisted tricycles have become the icon of aging baby boomers, and the constant butt of jokes on late night TV talk shows. They are the ULTIMATE un-cool means of transportation and NO self-respecting teenager would EVER be caught on one !

The “in ride” is a recumbent bicycle with an oversized rear tire and fairings painted in iridescent (or black) paint, preferably with a matching single wheel trailer for “stuff”.

Early in the Post-Peak Oil Era, many turned to gasoline powered scooters and small motorcycles, but first public policy and then economics turned against them when it was realized that 100 mpg was not good enough (and accidents mounted).

…As we all know, the first decade post-Peak Oil was quite difficult. History calls it the “Bad Tens” for good reason. Suicides peaked at 8 times pre-Peak levels for a decade post-Peak and are now down to just twice pre-Peak levels. Demographics shifted significantly, as they did when the Soviet Union collapsed. Life expectancy declined almost a decade in the USA, but it was more gender balanced that in Russia.

Overall mortality increased dramatically in the Bad Tens, just as it did a few years earlier in post-Katrina New Orleans. The long term effects of obesity and diabetes combined with chaotic healthcare for most citizens and simple despair and disorientation resulted in a 50% increase in the death rate for those ten years. Healthcare reforms and a radical change in lifestyle and diet have turned this downward slide around and life expectancy today is now just 1.7 years less than it was in 2007

…Best Hopes for the Future,
Alan Drake

The above was not written as a work of fiction, but as an aid to the modelers at the Millennium Institute. A “word picture” to supplement the dry statistics.

The results of “Alan Drake’s Vision” are much more positive than any other scenario that they have run on their T21 model. Ever.

This work was also presented at the Houston ASPO-USA conference.
(26 October 2007)

UK Energy Security

Euan Mearns, The Oil Drum: Europe
In 2006, 92% of the primary energy consumed in the UK was derived from fossil solar fuels – oil, natural gas and coal.

Not so long ago the UK was self sufficient in these energy resources but now we are importing increasing amounts of all three.

Dependency upon imported energy undermines UK national security and will have potentially dire consequences for the balance of trade.

…The whole energy debate is shrouded in a carbon dioxide mist whilst the main thrust of policy has been to encourage the expansion of fossil fuel based transportation and to penalise the energy producers. The measures supported by the government are in my opinion the exact opposite of what are required to provide greater energy security for the UK.
What needs to be done?

The answer here is very simple. Domestic energy production should be maximised whilst energy consumption should be minimised. The strategy needs to be set within the context of national interest and energy security instead of being obscured by the fog of climate change.

1. The primary energy policy goal should be for the UK to remain in balance with respect to primary energy production and consumption.

2. To achieve this, domestic energy production should be expanded and in the near term this will inevitably mean expanding domestic coal production, nuclear energy and renewables with proven high ERoEI which for the UK means hydro electric and wind power.

2b. Construct a network of combined heat and power generators running on combustible domestic, industrial and agricultural waste.

Expanding these energy sources will unlikely replace the decline in domestic oil and gas supplies and the other side of the equation is conservation.

3. Meaningful energy conservation measures requires a clear and detailed understanding of where most energy is consumed by our society and a first step to conservation should be to audit our energy consumption patterns. Where is most energy being wasted and where can the easiest and least painful conservation measures be made? I suspect that government buildings (schools, hospitals, government housing and offices) and industry are profligate wasters of energy.

4. Set staged targets for per capita energy use reduction and identify stategies to achieve them. This must be linked to the primary objective of achieving energy balance which will likely require large incisions to be made in energy consumption.

5. Cars / automobiles are an obvious target and I would advocate aggressive legislation on motor efficiency that will inevitably mean reduced engine size, power and weight.

6. The strategy for cars should combine with a strategy for phased electrification of the automobile fleet and a proper evaluation / feasibility study of implementing V2G (vehicle to grid) technology combined with expansion of renewable energy sources.

7. Electrified mass transit systems should be built where possible.

8. Encourage pan-European taxation of jet fuel.

9. Legislate to discourage single occupancy dwellings and to encourage multi-occupancy. This has the added benefit of solving the apparent shortage of housing and will save the enormous energy cost of building millions of new homes.

10. Legislate to upgrade building standards for homes, industry and public buildings including the incorporation of micro renewables. Enable the upgarding of the existing building stock to improve energy efficiency – ensuring all the while that measures introduced do actually result in significant energy savings.

11. Audit our food production and distribution systems. Legislate in favour of energy efficiency which will inevitably limit choice. Ensure the energy infrastructure exists to guarantee our future food supplies.

12. Mount a public awareness exercise aimed at informing the public about decisions about energy use that are to be made on their behalf and their best interests.

These may seem draconian measures but they are in fact intended to provide a “business as usual model” for the UK based on using significantly less energy. There will inevitably be certain business casualties. But many new business opportunities will also be created.

The alternative may be to face real energy shortages in 2 to 8 years time when the anticipated supplies of imported natural gas and oil do not appear. Energy shortages combined with spiralling energy costs and energy import bills may paralyse our economy.
(25 October 2007)

Talks by Holmgren, Skeffington and Hall now online

You can now download the lecture Peak Oil: The End of Economic Growth by Charles Hall. Charles Hall has developed the concept of EROI, or energy return on investment, and this lecture focuses on the past, present and future energy cost of energy itself, and how that is likely to effect investments, economic growth and discretionary spending.

Two additional presentations from the 2005 Food Conference are available for viewing. The presentations by David Holmgren and Micheline Sheehy Skeffington were prepared last year but we failed to provide links to them (apologies from Bruce).
(12 October 2007)
Much material from the 2005 Food Conference is available online.

Resource Depletion, Persuasion, and the Ongoing World Meme

Prof. Goose, The Oil Drum
Many themes pervade the day-to-day attention span of the world’s citizenry right now: terrorism, fear of religious systems not your own, Asian growth, crime, immigration, poverty, war, global warming/climate change–so many are called “important.”

All of these sets of attitude objects vary in importance, salience, and validity depending on who you talk to; but all are definitely a part of the din of noise we subject ourselves to every day.

It still remains my concern, however, that the pillars to the myriad houses of problems I list above are those of world energy depletion–namely oil and its peak.

This leads me to my main question, which I will address in this post: how and when are human beings able to cut through all of that noise? How can they be persuaded? Is there a difference between “elites” (defined as the people who read The Oil Drum, of course) and the “masses”?

Surely persuasion and attitude change takes place; people change their minds every day on issues. What insights can we claim from psychology to get those we care about, and even those we don’t, to dig deeper to get to an understanding of the pillars of the problems we face, instead of trying to buy aluminum siding for a house slowly falling in on itself?
(originally posted June 2006; reposted 26 October 2007)

ODAC News – Thursday 25 Oct

Douglas Low, The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre
New Peak Oil Report from the Energy Watch Group
1a/ Crude Oil – The Supply Outlook (Energy Watch Group, October 2007)
1b/ Chris Skrebowski on alarming new peak oil report (Global Public Media, Tue 23 Oct)
1c/ Report: ‘World at peak oil output’ (CNN, Wed 24 Oct)
1d/ Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest, says new study (The Guardian, Mon 22 Oct)

Peak Oil Newsletter – Australia
2/ Australian Peak Oil newsletter

Economy – USA
3a/ Merrill Lynch stuns with an $8bn subprime hit (The Times, Wed 24 Oct)
3b/ Merrill Lynch forced to lift provision for sub-prime debt to $7.9bn (The Times, Thu 25 Oct)

Speeches From Big Oil
4a/ Chevron CTO [Chief Technology Officer] Says Peak Oil Won’t Be a Disaster (GreenTechMedia, Wed 24 Oct)
4b/ Peak Oil: GVP, Exploration & LTR (BP, Mon 10 Sep – posted this week)

Platts Reports on ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference
5a/ Peak oil meeting mostly discouraging [podcast] (Platts, Tue 23 Oct)
5b/ Report from ASPO: Dark clouds, no silver linings (Platts, Tue 23 Oct)

Oil Prices
6a/ U.S. oil above $88 on supply concern (Reuters, Thu 25 Oct)
6b/ PETROLEUM ($US/bbl) (Bloomberg, Wed 12 Sep)

Economy – UK
7a/ Sharp drop in mortgages increases housing gloom (The Times, Thu 25 Oct)
7b/ UK financial system at risk from new shocks, says Bank [of England] (The Times, Thu 25 Oct)

Iraq and Oil
8/ Endgame for Iraqi Oil? (TomDispatch, Wed 24 Oct)

Peak Food
9a/ Bread and butter issue: Rising prices may herald the first global food shortage since the 1970s (Financial Times, Tue 23 Oct)
9b/ Supermarkets ‘raise food bill by £750 a year’ (The Telegraph, Wed 24 Oct)

UK – North Sea
10/ BP to cut 350 North Sea oil jobs (BBC News, Wed 24 Oct)

11/ Global over-population is the real issue (The Telegraph, Thu 25 Oct)
(25 October 2007)