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The Fallacy of Reversibility:
Why Peak Oil Actually Helps Industrial Agriculture

Stuart Staniford, The Oil Drum
A sizeable faction of the people who think peak oil is important, and happening soon enough to care about, think it has big implications for agriculture. And most of them agree on what those implications are: as a society, we are going to have to give up the big combine harvesters, the thunderous power of 275 horsepower tractors, and instead we will have to return to small-scale, hand-labor organic production. Rather than having 2-5% of the working population involved in agriculture, as in most western societies at present, most people will need to be involved in growing food. This is part of the agenda of the relocalization movement, which itself is a recent reincarnation of a long-standing movement for localism.

This argument has never really made sense to me, but my recent explorations of food prices and biofuels have sharpened up my conviction that the thinking behind this position is mistaken. In this piece, I’m going to first document that some influential peak-oilers do in fact believe this, then try to discuss what I think the reasoning is — it’s not usually made very explicit but it depends on something I’m calling the Fallacy of Reversibility. Finally, I’m going to lay out why I don’t think things are going to go the way the proponents of relocalization expect, at least not any time soon.
(21 January 2008)
Stimulating post. The discussion that follows it is outstanding – one of the best that’s appeared on The Oil Drum. FWIW, I suspect Stuart may be right in the short-term for industrialized countries, but very wrong in the long term. -BA

OPEC Secretary-General : ‘International oil companies are the real dinosaurs’

Der Spiegel via petroleumworld
In an exclusive SPIEGEL interview, OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla Salem el-Badri discusses the dangers of a further dramatic rise in the oil price, the failures of multinational oil companies and considerations within the cartel of oil-exporting nations to trade in euros rather than dollars.

…SPIEGEL: Some experts doubt that OPEC can even expand production volume to a significant degree anymore. These specialists say that Saudi Arabia, for example — the world’s only oil superpower — is already putting too much pressure on its oil fields today, and that the reserves are generally smaller than was previously assumed.

El-Badri : Don’t worry, we still have capacity. We are currently able to increase production by 3.5 million barrels. And we have also invested up to 2012 in new projects at a total cost of $150 billion, which will give us additional capacity of 6 million barrels in four years. However, we have to know how high the demand for oil will be in the future, so that we can plan our investments accordingly.

DER SPIEGEL/Graphic: Oil Price

SPIEGEL: You cannot deny that the reserves are finite. Have we already seen “peak oil” — the maximum level of petroleum production that can be reached before reserves will inevitably begin to shrink?

El-Badri : No, I don’t think so. I also don’t believe that we will reach this point in the near future.

SPIEGEL: Experts outside of OPEC have a less optimistic view of our energy future.

El-Badri : Perhaps. But I believe that even your grandchildren will still have enough fossil fuel. There will be an end to the oil, for sure. But I’m convinced it will not be in the next 100 years.
(21 January 2008)

Is Peak Oil the Best Way of Looking At This… Might ‘Trough Oil’ Be More Useful?

Rob Hopkins, Transition Totnes
In a conversation at the weekend with climate change expert David Wasdell of the Meridian Group, we mused upon the appropriateness of the term ‘peak oil’. I thought you might be interested to hear, in advance, what I wrote for The Transition Handbook when I got home from talking with him. When we look at the standard Hubbert curve, we see a mountain, a rise followed by a fall, an ascent followed by a descent. There is a sense that we have reached the peak and that now we have to grit our teeth for the long journey home, akin to an over-excited child at a birthday party being told it is time to go home. Perhaps the sense that we need to instill, Wasdell suggested, could come from turning this much viewed graphic upside down. We might more usefully use the term ‘trough oil’.

Rather than a mountain, we could view the fossil fuel age a fetid lagoon into which we have dived. We had been told that great fortunes lay buried at the bottom of the lagoon if only we were able to dive deeply enough to find them. As time has passed we have dived deeper and deeper, into thicker, blacker, stickier liquid, and now we find ourselves hitting against the bottom, pushing our endurance to the extreme, surrounded by revolting tar sands sticky oils, the scrapings of the fossil fuel barrel. We can just about see distant sunlight still glinting through the water above us, and our desperate urge to fill our lungs begins to propel us back upwards, striving for oxygen.

Rather than being dragged every step of the way, we propel ourselves with focused urgency towards sunlight and fresh air. Viewed like this, the race for a decarbonised, fossil fuel-free world becomes an instinctive rush to mass self-preservation…
(21 January 2008)

Review: Shell Game by Steve Alten

Carolyn Baker, Speaking Truth to Power
… After a long chain of science fiction thrillers, Alten has taken a decidedly political turn, and tomorrow, January 22, 2008, will release his new futuristic page-turner, The Shell Game (Sweetwater Books), subtitled: The End of Oil, The Next 9/11, and The End Of Civilization

When Steve sent me a review copy of Shell Game, despite glowing reviews of it from people I know and respect, I sighed and squirmed in my chair. … Peeking into the pages with immense caution and aloofness, something completely astounding happened: I found myself inexplicably riveted. That someone like me could not put the book down speaks volumes, and no one was more surprised than I was.

As reviewer Bill Douglas points out, Shell Game opens from the perspective of the neocons “THEN, the novel proceeds to dis-assemble that ‘reality’ taking the reader on a journey that shows the ugly underbelly of false flag terrorism, diminishing civil and human rights, and the lies that led into past wars, and portend to lead us all into future wars.”

Early on in the book, we hear protagonist Ace Futrell, a petroleum geologist and former college football star, testifying before Congress regarding the precariousness of world oil supplies, his grim report engulfed and lost in a morass of political posturing by both parties. Futrell is married to Kelli Doyle, who had worked undercover for the CIA and the neocons, but is now gravely ill with terminal cancer. In her final days, Doyle is penning an expose entitled “To The Brink Of Hell: An Apology To The Survivors” in which she is disclosing the machinations of empire which are driving humanity to the collapse of civilization. The first sentence reads: “Frankly, I hope this scares the hell out of you.” In another portion of Doyle’s tell-all memoir she unleashes a litany of the lies of empire, noting that “All presidents lie.”

… Doyle’s subsequent revelations then echo the exhaustive research of Mike Ruppert in Crossing The Rubicon and the work of countless other 9/11 truth researchers, which explains the posting of the Bill Douglas review on 9/11 Blogger. In fact, Alten’s mesmerizing novel is already being embraced by many in the 9/11 Truth movement…

.. What will it take to wake us up? What will it take for us to learn? Shell Game demonstrates some horrifying possible answers to those questions. It will not offer solutions, but it will take you on a spellbinding adventure that even a fiction-phobe like me could not resist.
(22 January 2008)
I read a review edition of the novel and agree with Carolyn – it’s a suspenseful page-turner. In spite of my skepticism about 9-11 and other conspiracy theories, I found myself hooked. The tone and subject matter are grim indeed. As author Alten said in a personal message at the beginning of the book: “Some of the things [I was told during my research] have given me nightmares, and, in fact, this project has taxed my nerves to the point of permanent damage.”

The corruption of U.S. politics is the theme; peak oil is really only a side issue. Alten would like readers to take his nightmares seriously and become politically active. Unfortunately, it is hard to know which of the nightmares to believe. A section at the end of the book lists more than two dozen of them. It would be helpful if they were labeled “Pure fiction”, “Speculation”, “Some evidence”, “Much evidence”, “Generally accepted.”

As it is, fans of conspiracy theories will embrace the book. The rest of us will experience some momentary shivers but will probably defer the difficult task of sifting truth from speculation. That’s too bad, because something is definitely afoot.

“How to Boil a Frog” on Peak Oil

Jon Cooksey, How to Boil a Frog
Based on research and a number of interviews at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO, not ASPOG) convention in Houston a few months ago, we’ve put up a web page that’s meant to be a one-stop resource for those who want to learn about the subject. Includes 4 mini-documentaries, several mini-interviews with people like Matt Simmons (“Twilight in the Desert”), David Strahan (“The Last Oil Shock), and others, links to books, articles, websites and so on. Meant to be an entertaining overview of a problem about which many are still skeptical, but which is arguably already driving a lot of the economic and political problems engulfing us.

From homepage:
Welcome to How to Boil a Frog! An online funhouse of video, info & opportunities to make friends, fun and trouble while saving civilization! Scroll down (and down and down) to find our always-changing collection of 5’s – 5 movies, 5 articles, 5 books and so on. Only what you need to know in the time you’ve got to know it!
(21 January 2008)
A non-linear approach to learning about peak oil – the material is displayed as a colorful game board. -BA