free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: August 2005

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


From Alexander's Gas and Oil Connection (original source: The Denver Post):
Laser beams soon may be drilling oil and gas wells
14-01-04 A revolutionary method for using laser beams to drill oil and gas wells moved a step closer to reality in the laboratories of the Colorado School of Mines.
The university announced it has acquired six laser technology patents from Boeing in a major step forward in the transfer of military laser uses to civilian applications. If the adaptation of technology borrowed from Reagan-era "Star Wars" military programs is successful, it will mark the first fundamental change to rotary drilling techniques since the concept was invented in Britain in 1845.


Laser drilling, Graves said, would have several advantages over conventional drilling:
-- Costs could be at least 10 times lower and up to several hundred times less than wells drilled with rotary rigs. For example, a typical, 10,000-foot gas well in Wyoming's Wind River Basin costs about $ 350,000 to drill. Laser drilling would drop that cost to $ 35,000 or lower, Graves said.
-- A laser drill's "footprint" -- the amount of surface space it occupies -- could be as little as 100 square feet, or even less with some models.
-- The laser rigs could be transported to drilling sites in one semi-trailer load. Conventional rigs take up several thousand square feet of space and require numerous truck trips to haul equipment.
-- Lasers could drill a typical natural-gas well in about 10 days, compared with 100 days for some conventional wells.
"You're looking at three months of disruption versus a week or so of disruption with a laser drill," Graves said.
-- Lasers could be programmed for precise well diameters and depths. In addition, they could alternately drill coarsely to deliver mineral samples, finely to vaporize rock and leave no waste materials, or with intense heat to melt the walls of well bores, thus eliminating the need to place steel casing in wells.Source

Compare this with the peak oiler theory:
So, as we slide down the Hubbert's Curve, not only will the rate of production decrease, but the cost of that production will increase.

Laser drilling may actually make production of the "hard to get" oil and gas easier than production of the stuff which was "easy to get". This would cause a lot of havoc with reserve numbers because commercially unfeasible small/deep deposits would suddenly become "proven" (i.e. exploitable with current technology).
FAQ by Ramona Graves on her research:
Laser Drilling FAQ

Ms. Graves in the lab:

The direct diode laser (DDL) she is currently using is 4000 watts. She doesn't provide a specific energy for the DDL, but the figure for an Nd:YAG laser is about 6kJ/cm3. So if we were to use a 4000watt Nd:YAG laser, and drill a hole with a diameter of 1.12cm into rock, we could cut down 1cm in 1.5sec. So a 300,000cm (10,000 foot) hole could be drilled in 450,000sec =125hours.

That's definitely fast drilling. The main problem, as Ms. Graves notes in her FAQ, is getting the laser down the hole. The earliest lasers for testing were huge:

The size of lasers varies from the US Army's MIRACL which is the size of a small refinery to the Direct Diode laser which is about of the size of a shoe box (shown below). The US Air Force COIL has been miniaturized, as part of the airborne laser defense system, to operate inside a Boeing 747.

Clearly you can't put the MIRACL or COIL down a hole. You would have to use some kind of fiber optic arrangement, but there are some hard technical issues:

Determining if optical fibers are the most advantageous method to transfer the tremendous energy of the infrared lasers down hole. This is a new area of research for the fiber industry, which has been more concerned with data speed and quantity than power levels. The record to date is 10kW into a fiber less than 1 millimeter in diameter, but only for 10 meters. This is encouraging, but scaling this up to 2,000 meters, or more, may prove to be very difficult. The 10kW test showed that the laser energy has to be precisely injected into the fiber, or the fiber is quickly destroyed. The engineering required to reliably handle this much energy in the field will be substantial.Source (pdf)

You could probably put the whole DDL into a hole (you can see it in the picture of Ms. Graves), but then you're only getting 4000W down the hole, and cutting a 12inch diameter hole to accomodate the laser would slow down the cutting too much. Somehow, you've got to get 10 or 20 DDLs down the hole to work in parallel. Or, get one DDL down there which can put out a lot more watts. In short, miniaturization appears to be a problem.

This also appears to be why the first use of these systems is likely to be in well completion or stimulation, i.e. specific finishing tasks down an already completed hole. The low wattage isn't such a problem if the main goal is precision or control, rather than speed.

The EROEI is an interesting question. As the Table shows, conventional drilling requires a lot fewer joules per cubic cm of rock than laser drilling. On the other hand, if the rig is more compact and the drilling period is substantially shortened, a lot of energy, labor and materials are going to be saved. There's not enough information to answer the question.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


The following Table and graph come from the DOE's Annual Energy Review 2004 (P. 298, 299). (It's probably best to open each of these images in a separate window to follow the explanation below. The data in the Table can also be accessed in HTML here).

Point 1
First, refer to the Table and notice the figures (given in quadrillion btu, or "quads") in the crude oil column for the years 1979 to 1983 (indicated by the blue box drawn on the Table). World crude oil production dropped for 4 consecutive years:

1979: 133.87
1980: 128.12 (4.3% drop)
1981: 120.16 (6.2% drop)
1982: 114.51 (4.7% drop)
1983: 113.97 (0.4% drop)

Total drop over 5 years: -14.8%.

Now, look at the figures for coal during that same period. Coal figures did drop by 3.5% in 1980, but afterwards they resumed growth. Total growth for coal over 5 years: +0.6%.

Natural gas grew steadily throughout the period (except for a slight drop in 1982 of about 0.1%), achieving a total increase of +4% over 5 years.

NGPL grew steadily, rising +10% over 5 years.

Nuclear power boomed, rising +60% over 5 years.

Hydroelectric grew steadily, rising +11% over 5 years.

Geothermal and other boomed, rising +42% over 5 years.

Total energy did, indeed drop over 5 years, by -3%.

1. A severe drop in world oil production does indeed cause a drop in total energy, although the drop is greatly attenuated due to growth in other energy sources.

2. The doomers claim that growth of alternatives (like gas and coal production, or construction of nuclear plants) will be impossible in the post-peak period due to their dependence on oil. This clearly does not accord with the data. World nuclear power, for example, grew +60% as oil fell by -15%.

Point 2
World oil production was 133.87 quads in 1979, and that figure was never reached again until 1996 when production reached 136.64. This is illustrated in the above graph by the bright green line (at the top, which I added), and in the table by the red box. Net growth of oil production from 1979 to 1995 was -0.4%. Net growth of total energy, on the other hand, was 27%. Growth in total energy does not require growth in oil production.

Also, if economic growth requires growth in oil production, how is it that the world economy grew during the 1979-1995 period, despite no net growth in oil production?

In fact, if you look at the graph, the bright green line can be taken as indicating flat-lining oil production for 16 consecutive years. The doomer "economists" inform us that flat-lining oil production would crash the global financial system because the financial system needs growth to survive, and that growth can only be achieved through growth in oil production. Notice, however, that in the 16 years from 1979 to 1995 the world produced less total oil than the flat-line. So why would a flat-line over 16 years crash the financial system, if producing less oil than the flat-line over 16 years did not?

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Outside of platforms provided by sympathetic enablers like Colin Campbell(#29), peak oil fascists tend to keep their mouths shut, and disguise their true views. Here we get an inside look into the mind of one of these cockroaches:
Lee said...

The idea that Peak Oil can be solved through liberal fantasising that we all hold hands and sing ' all you need is love 'whilst wearing daisy chains around our necks is the last resort of the liberal nostaligic.

The New Dark Age that we are entering is an age of Nationalism not internationalism. The idea that Britain can solve the Peak Oil crash through more internationalisation is like saying you can prevent heroin addiction by injecting the addict with more and more heroin.

The time comes when Bio-Regionalism, Closed Borders, Steady State Eco-Economics and a Directed Economy aimd at preventing the collapse of social complexity has to be adopted. The Middle Class Leftists, the capitalist lackeys , the Marxist enviornmentalists, the international socialists and liberals and the bogus reactionary rightists will all be swept away by Peak Oil. And thank the Gods for that.

If any leftist on this site can put forard a vaild idea how sixty seventy million people in Britain grow enough food without oil based pesticides and intensive agricultural techniques based on oil - and still argue for open borders and more mass immigration into Britain - then lets hear it. [Note from JD: See #48, #28,#55,#22 and #15]

The fact is you havent got a clue. Your day , and the ideology that you held, is dead. The New Age of Eco-Nationalism has begun.

Here is our warning to you now. Those criminals, traitors, fools and fantasists that delay our rise to power will be treated as criminals when we take power. This Peak Oil situation will destroy our entire Nation and Western Civilisation unless the BNP are allowed to take power. The left and the liberals, the socialists and the environmentalists and the capitalists are all guilty of the same crime - of opposing the one part that can solve tis crisis , the one party that has the Wil and Vision to fight for our future.

The Steady State Eco-Economics Model of the BNP based on Bio-Regionalism and national environmental autarchy under the control of a Ministry of Finance and a central British National Bank that will direct and control the scial evolutionary changes that are requred in order for our nationa and people to survive this nightmare are the sole solution.

We will no longer listen to the mouse squeaks of the left and the liberals as they try and prevent our national revolution - they along with the capitalists led us to this Gehenna.

You now have a clear choice - either join us or get out of our way. Our path to power is now clear before us ,and you laid the foundations to our victory with our complicity , duplicity, criminality , corruption, arrogance and greed.

When Judgement Day begins then the guilty will pay for their crimes against our people. Capitalist wil stand bsie communist, liberal and maxis green in the Peoples Courts.

You have one cance and one chance only.

If you join us now we can forgive yo.

Fight us and you will pay the price in the future.

When the lights begin to flicker and the electricity begins to fail [Note from JD: Apparently this pinhead has been reading "Olduvai" Duncan. LOL. See #31] our power will grow.

Further debate is not required. You know we are right and that you have no answers other than ours.

The left , the reactionary right, and the liberals and the socialists hav neither the vision or the stength to evole this nation to the point where it can survive.

The old left/right political model is dead - now we are united in pursuit of a new higher national goal , to survive this crisis.

Identity politics is the future of British politics - the programme of the BNP is the future.

We will not let ieological dinosaurs using their faile and asinine langage of ' Hitler this and that ' divert us from our mission.

The era of laxity and apathy is over - the Eraof Eco-Nationalism has begun.

Repent your past and join with us or suffer punishment when the time comes for yor crimes.Source


Report by New Era Investor:
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Though attended by a large number, the "Peak Oil UK" conference organised by Depletion Scotland on the 25th April had a familiar look to it. On view were representatives from the media, environmental groups and oil-related academia as well as concerned individuals such as myself. Also, the sight of Colin Campbell and Matt Simmons as speakers and even Mike Ruppert in the audience gave it all a kind of kindred feel to it all.

However, one individual stood out a mile and in complete contrast to these groups and that was Nick Griffin, chairman of the British National Party. For non-British readers, a description of the BNP is in order. Being a far right wing party, they are somewhat similar to Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front party of France which has enjoyed recent electoral successes.


Their distinctive theme is "Britishness" with the emphasis on "whiteness". Source*

The racist credentials of this political party are evident in their membership requirements.

From the BNP Constitution:


1) The British National Party represents the collective National, Environmental, Political, Racial, Folkish, Social, Cultural, Religious and Economic interests of the indigenous Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Norse folk communities of Britain and those we regard as closely related and ethnically assimilated or assimilable aboriginal members of the European race also resident in Britain. Membership of the BNP is strictly defined within the terms of, and our members also self define themselves within, the legal ambit of a defined ‘racial group’ this being ‘Indigenous Caucasian’ and defined ‘ethnic groups’ emanating from that Race as specified in law in the House of Lords case of Mandla V Dowell Lee (1983) 1 ALL ER 1062, HL.

2) The indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of ‘Indigenous Caucasian’ consist of members of: i) The Anglo-Saxon Folk Community; ii) The Celtic Scottish Folk Community; iii) The Scots-Northern Irish Folk Community; iv) The Celtic Welsh Folk Community; v) The Celtic Irish Folk Community; vi) The Celtic Cornish Folk Community; vii) The Anglo-Saxon-Celtic Folk Community; viii) The Celtic-Norse Folk Community; ix) The Anglo-Saxon-Norse Folk Community; x) The Anglo-Saxon-Indigenous European Folk Community; xi) Members of these ethnic groups who reside either within or outside Europe but ethnically derive from them.

3) Membership of the party shall be open only to those who are 16 years of age or over and whose ethnic origin is listed within Sub-section 2 Source (pdf)

*) Thanks to EnergySpin for finding this link.


Unfortunately, the transcripts have not been published yet, but this report is from Starvid, who attended a Peak Oil seminar on May 23, 2005 in Uppsala, Sweden Link:

Hello everyone, I just got a close look at Matthew Simmons, Kjell Aleklett and Robert Hirsch with my own eyes! :)

They were at the Industry Contact Day - Global Oil Reserves - Hopes and Reality, a Peak Oil seminar in Uppsala.

They did say some interesting things, for example:

* They all think Peak Oil is a very grave issue, but they also think the doomers are wrong. On a specific question they said Richard Heinberg was very much to pessimistic.


Doomer issue: They meant Heinberg was to pessimistic on technology and uh, society. They didn't believe that the end of the world was near, but that we would, and I quote, "muddle through".

Friday, August 26, 2005


The peak oil doomers are backpedaling. Their original position was that oil was the be all and end all, with no possible substitutes. However, the facts have shown that natural gas is a good substitute for oil. In fact, almost 10% of current world "oil" production is provided by NGL (Natural Gas Liquids, which aren't even oil at all). Colin Campbell is beginning to see the writing on the wall, and recently (without any explanation whatsoever) revised his Hubbert oil curve to include natural gas (and even "NON-CON GAS", whatever that is):

August 2005 ASPO forecast(click to enlarge, Source (pdf)):

July 2005 ASPO forecast (click to enlarge, Source (pdf)):

Similarly, Savinar has been forced to admit (contrary to his claims) that oil plays almost no role in manufacturing automobiles (see #64). Manufacturing is done almost entirely with natural gas, electricity and coal (#54). This takes a lot of steam out of the doom argument, so the doomers are trying to salvage the situation by hyping an impending natural gas crisis, even though there are plentiful natural gas reserves in the world, and a global peak in natural gas is not imminent. Hence the hype about U.S. natural gas "going over a cliff". Depletion of North American gas reserves is certainly a reason for concern, but not hysteria. The reasons for this are:

1) U.S. gas production is still growing
With continuing high rates of drilling for natural gas, U.S. dry natural gas production is expected to increase by about 1.8% in 2005, to 19.1 Tcf, from an estimated 18.7 Tcf in 2004. Source

2) LNG facilities are being constructed to import natural gas. The U.S. will handle its natural gas peak in much the same manner that it handled its crude oil peak in 1971. It will import natural gas. Also, we should note that South Korea and Japan, both industrial powerhouses, function perfectly well despite having ZERO natural gas reserves. They already fell off the cliff and are on the ground, but it's not causing them any problems.

Of course, the doomers are going to say: When are we going to start doing all this stuff? The cliff is imminent! If we don't get those gas imports, we're all going to die!!

Well, first of all, we're not all going to die. Just the Americans. The so-called natural gas "cliff" is an American problem, and I'm not worried about it in the slightest because I live in Japan.

Secondly, yes, there may be delays in investment, which will cause the price of natural gas in the U.S. to skyrocket. What should be done about that? My suggestion to the doomers is to get a clue, and cut down their usage. Of course, they can't do that because their doctrine states that conservation will collapse the economy, and is not a viable option due to Jevons Paradox. So I guess they'll just have to live with those big natural gas bills.

*) Thanks to khebab for the sharp eye in noticing the change in ASPO's forecast.


In response to my criticisms in #54 (Manufacturers Don't Use Much Oil)...

Matt Savinar (author of "Life After the Oil Crash") wrote:
JD fails to note that I use the term "energy equivalent." This is common throughout the energy industry. You've probably heard people say things like "Barrels of oil equivalent" when referring to our combined consumption of natural gas and coal.

Actually, it's funny that you should say that, Matt. When I was researching #54, I thought I could tag you with saying "cars are made with oil", but when I looked in your site, I only found one quote where you did indeed say boe (barrels of oil equivalent).

But when jkl posted his debunking of you, I noticed that you do in fact say cars are made with oil:

"What About Hybrids and Super Fuel Efficient Cars?"

Hybrids or so called "hyper-cars" aren't the answer either because the construction of an average car consumes approximately 27-54 barrels (1,110-2,200 gallons) of OIL. Thus, a crash program to replace the 700 million internal combustion vehicles currently on the road with super fuel-efficient or alternative fuel-powered vehicles would consume approximately 18-36 billion barrels of OIL, which is the amount of OIL the world currently consumes in six-to-twelve months. Consequently, such a program (while well-intentioned) would actually bring the collapse upon us even sooner. Source

I think you need to correct that error on your site, as well as revise the whole flawed argument which depends on it.

You may wish to say that we are still in big trouble because the US is allegedly facing a natural gas crisis, and therefore we won't have the natural gas needed to make hybrids. But let me remind you of something: American car companies don't make hybrids. Japanese companies do. Also note that Japan already fell off its natural gas cliff in the Jurassic Period because Japan doesn't have any natural gas at all. Nevertheless, I can assure you the country, and Japanese industry, are functioning just fine.

If gas supplies in the U.S. are inadequate for car manufacturing, Toyota will move its operations to one of the many places in the world with adequate gas supplies. That's the beauty of global capitalism.


In response to this post, Matt Savinar wrote: " I'll add in "barrels of oil equivalent . . ." Whoopdee-fucking-doo. The same argument still applies."

He has still not corrected this error. (10/6/05)


Personally, I'm sick of all this "oil war" and "resource war" hype. A bona fide oil war is one where you go in, wage war on the people who currently possess the oil and take physical possession of the oil. The U.S. is not currently involved in any oil wars. In fact, I'm laughing my butt off about Uzbekistan asking the U.S. to leave. I guess the shock and awe U.S. "oil offensive" in Central Asia got turned back by a brutal Uzbek counteroffensive, in the form of a letter to the U.S. embassy. Quite a genteel war we've got going on here people.

Of course, as a dutiful member of the hype patrol, Savinar responds to the above comments with a typical non sequitor:

Matt Savinar wrote:
I guess you haven't seee these:

This too is just another diaper load of hype. Here's a simple question: How many Iraqi oil fields, and how many barrels of Iraqi reserves, does the U.S. now own as a result of the Iraq war? I'll tell you: zero and zero. "Iraqi oil belongs to the people of Iraq."

It's not a real pirate raid if you don't come back with the BOOTY.

In response to the above, Savinar writes:
Matt Savinar wrote:
What was Iraqi oil being sold in prior to the US invasion? What is it sold in now?
Are you too unsophisticated to understand modern economics?

To which, I reply: Who cares? The Americans are still purchasing it like a bunch of wimps, not taking it like warriors. At worst, the Iraq War was a war for financial arrangements, not a war for oil. In a real war for oil, they wouldn't devote a second of thought to financial arrangements. They would just kill everybody and take the oil. When that happens, I'll call it a war for oil. Iraq is no war for oil.

EIA stats (pdf) show: in the 4 years prior to the start of the Iraq War, the US imported roughly 600,000 barrels/day from Iraq. In the last 12 months, the US has imported roughly 600,000 barrels/day from Iraq, and they paid for it. Oil-wise, they are in exactly the same position after the war as they were before the war. They didn't get any oil out of it, so how could it be a war for oil?

One more point: The U.S. is desperate to get out of Iraq. It is hemorhaging money, and the war is becoming increasingly unpopular. U.S. forces will be leaving shortly, so what are Savinar, Ruppert and the rest of the hype patrol going to say then? If the intent of the operation was to seize oil, why didn't they seize any oil, and why are they desperate to pull out? What are they going to do? Retire all their forces and then go back in again, spend another $200 billion and do it right the second time around?

No troops died for oil in Iraq, due to the simple plain fact that the U.S. obtained no oil as a result of the Iraq war. The U.S. has spent about $200 billion dollars on the Iraq War since it began in March 2003. Since then, it has purchased about 470 million barrels of oil from Iraq. The value of that oil (estimating with a price per barrel of $50) is about $24 billion.

EROEI of the Iraq War = ($24 billion)/($200 billion) = 0.12


ANSWER: No. High oil prices don't conclusively prove anything. In real terms, oil prices spiked higher than now in the late 1970s, but that didn't mean that oil peaked. Oil production continued to grow after the period of high prices, as can be seen from the following charts:

Inflation-adjusted oil prices (click on the image for a clearer picture, source):

World oil production (source: EIA, Annual Energy Review 2004, P. 306):


The doomers inform us that America has been strapped into position and the guillotine blade has been raised. Peak oil, the consumer debt crisis, fiat money, the weakening petro dollar, bird flu, global warming, the assault on the bill of rights, resource wars, topsoil degradation, depleted aquifiers, people who would rather cannibalize each other than take the bus etc. etc. Any day now, the whole house of cards is going to collapse into anarchy.

Personally, I'm a little more optimistic, but (just for fun) let's assume that America does crash and burn. This is going to be a source of great amusement and mirth in the peasant agriculture zones of the world. All the locals are going to turn up and watch it on the solar powered TV at the co-op. They'll be getting daily feeds as a running news series called "America Collapses..." with a nifty graphic in the corner of the U.S. map sagging like one of Salvador Dali's clocks. It'll be like an old silent era slapstick comedy, with American fatties out trying to grow food in their yards, and failing pathetically -- hoeing with the wrong end of the hoe, dying of a heart attack after digging one hole etc. etc. The peasants will parade around the TV, laughing hysterically, mocking the Americans in their jabbering languages, making razz noises with their lips. Yes, even in its death throes, America will be entertainer to the world.


Aaron from writes:
Oil traditionally comes gushing out of the ground from miles around in liquid form. In fact, we have to cap it off, so it stops flowing.
No matter what we decide to smash into liquid fuel, it won't be in the same ballpark as oil. Or on the same team... Or even the same sport...

Right now, I believe the #1 contender among synthetic oils is gas-to-liquids(GTL).

Mike Lynch has an interesting presentation(pdf) talking about GTL and other unconventional oils.

Unlike thermal depolymerization and coal liquefaction, people are putting down serious money for large-scale projects:
Shell signed a contract with Qatar Petroleum in October 2003 for a 140,000-bbl/d GTL facility to be built at Ras Laffan. The first 70,000 bbl/d of capacity is expected to commence operation by 2009, with the rest in 2010 or 2011. If completed, it will be the world's largest GTL plant.Source

This plant will be producing finished diesel, not crude oil, and diesel only accounts for about 20% of a barrel of crude oil Source. Which means the plant will be providing as much diesel as an ordinary crude source producing 700,000bbl/day. That's big. 140,000bbl/day of diesel constitutes about 3% of current diesel usage in the U.S. (4.2 million barrels/day -- source (pdf))

Qatar seems to be the center of GTL activity:
"We plan to spend six billion dollars on a major GTL plant in Qatar," Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer told a Business Week conference in Paris, but gave no timeframe.
Shell signed a $5 billion deal in October last year with Qatar Petroleum to build a 140,000 barrels per day gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant, due to start in two stages with the first onstream in 2008-2009 and the second two years later.
Van der Veer added that by 2015 GTLs could meet three percent of world diesel demand.
GTL plants process natural gas into products such as diesel. Europe is short of diesel as oil refiners lack sufficient production capacity and demand is rising.
Qatar has racked up over $20 billion in GTL deals, as it seeks to cash in on its huge gas reserves. Source

The following is a revealing quote which shows you why GTL is going to happen before coal-to-liquids. Sasol, the world's leading coal-liquefier, prefers natural gas:
Under the belief that partially replacing coal with natural gas as the synthetic-fuel feedstock would reduce investment expenditures in coal mining operations, Sasol began importing gas from Mozambique in 2004.Source

As for Aaron's objection: Natural gas traditionally comes gushing out of the ground from miles around in gaseous form. In fact, we have to cap it off, so it stops flowing.

Of course, Aaron will point out the tremendously complex refinery apparatus which is necessary to turn natural gas into diesel. I will rebut by pointing out the tremendously complex refinery apparatus which is necessary to turn crude oil into diesel.

Also, natural gas is no more expensive per btu than oil (see #37). In fact, in many places (like Nigeria) it is worth nothing, and is simply flared.


Peak oil will affect different countries and regions in very different ways. In a way, it will be like delivering a mild toxin to a petri dish full of bacteria. It will hinder certain colonies and regions within the dish, but other colonies will have resistance to it. Resistance is conferred by cultural practices which run on less oil. Therefore, the high population and cultural diversity of the earth is a positive because it provides greater flexibility to respond to the selection pressure of peak oil. The more bacteria there are in a dish, the more likely that the dish contains a favorable mutation. Some culture, somewhere, is going to be impervious to peak oil, or flourish because of it. That information will be beamed by satellite to all people on the earth, and they will learn from it. That's where humans have the edge over bacteria. If some colony has the favorables "genes" (i.e. culture), the genes can be diffused out to other colonies because they are just information.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


WW writes in with an interesting link on the externalities of car use. From the report:

The external costs of transport are large (estimated at about 8 % of EU GDP (INFRAS, 2000)) but the estimates are uncertain. The most important categories of external cost are climate change, air pollution and accidents. Congestion is one of the highest components only in urban areas.Source (pdf)

These externalities are listed as:

Additional costs of
- medical care
- opportunity costs of society
- suffer and grief. "A value of human life of 1.5 million Euro is considered."

Damages (opportunity costs of land value) and human health.

Air pollution:
Damages (opportunity costs) of
-human health

Climate change:
Damages (opportunity costs) of global warming
Brown smog cloud over Denver, November 2002

Nature and landscape:
Additional costs to repair damages, compensation claims

Separation in urban areas:
Time losses of pedestrians

Space scarcity in urban areas:

Additional costs from up- and downstream processes:
Additional environmental costs (air pollution, climate change and risks)

External additional time and operating costs

Car culture sucks, and is the very root of the peak oil problem. Yet, oddly enough, many peak oilers are dead set on defending the car. They say "conserving will just make the problem worse" or simply "you can't live without a car". These are all just junky excuses and hypocrisy. If you're driving over to a meeting on peak oil, YOU are the problem, not peak oil.

You can't blame Bush, Cheney or the oil companies if they decide to drill ANWR or nuke the tarsands. They are simply responding to the "needs" of their first world customers. If the public didn't want the oil, they wouldn't have to go to such extremes to produce it.

Why not boycott gasoline? "Oh, please... that's preposterous. We need our cars." Okay, but if you need your car, and your car needs gasoline, then Bush and Cheney need to get the oil. They're blameless, lily white. They're just following orders from the public. They don't want to pull a Jimmy Carter and piss off the electorate.

Cars aren't necessary to live, or even necessary to live a first world lifestyle, and anybody who tells you different might as well be on the payroll of Exxon. "You can't live without a car" is nothing but brainwashing that has been pounded into you since you were born by multinational corporations.


Matt Savinar, who runs the peak oil doom site Life After the Oil Crash was debunked yesterday by jkl from the NYC Peak Oil Meetup Group: Savinar Debunked.

Rather than address jkl's substantive points, Savinar posted a rambling attack on his critics:

While people love to pontificate on the internet about all the wondorous virtures of market mechanisms, hypercars, biodiesel-from-algae, super-duper windmills, space-based solar arrays, etc. these saviors are doing absolutely jack-shit out here in the real world either by themselves or in conjunction with each other.

I am doing something, Matt. I do not drive a car. I paid a total $0 for gasoline last year, and have paid $0 for gasoline this year. My personal petroleum demand is zero. I live entirely on electricity, LNG, electric trains, bicycle and walking. I have done everything I can possibly do as an individual to eliminate my dependence on oil. I am also arguing the substantive issues of peak oil, and improving peak oil awareness, on this website. I am doing the very best I can as a human being to address this issue in a rational way.

I would like to think that is the case, but the tone of these sites and articles lead me to believe something else is afoot. Why resort to personal attacks and insults if one is only "seeking the truth?

Insults and personal attacks are the proper response to material of this nature:
To those sentimentalists who cannot understand the need to reduce UK population from 60 million to about 2 million over 150 years, and who are outraged at the proposed replacement of human rights by cold logic, I would say “You have had your day, in which your woolly thinking has messed up not just the Western world but the whole planet, which could, if Homo sapiens had been truly intelligent, have supported a small population enjoying a wonderful quality of life almost for ever. You have thrown away that opportunity.”

The Darwinian approach, in this planned population reduction scenario, is to maximise the well-being of the UK as a nation-state. Individual citizens, and aliens, must expect to be seriously inconvenienced by the single-minded drive to reduce population ahead of resource shortage. The consolation is that the alternative, letting Nature take its course, would be so much worse.

The scenario is: Immigration is banned. Unauthorised arrives are treated as criminals. Every woman is entitled to raise one healthy child. No religious or cultural exceptions can be made, but entitlements can be traded. Abortion or infanticide is compulsory if the fetus or baby proves to be handicapped (Darwinian selection weeds out the unfit). When, through old age, accident or disease, an individual becomes more of a burden than a benefit to society, his or her life is humanely ended. Voluntary euthanasia is legal and made easy. Imprisonment is rare, replaced by corporal punishment for lesser offences and painless capital punishment for greater.#29

Fascism is fascism, Matt. I'll address the peak oilers in more respectful tones when they renounce this Pol Pot garbage.


There was an interesting cover story in Newsweek (Aug. 8, 2005) about sugar cane ethanol from Brazil. After reading it, I am convinced that ethanol (like gas-to-liquids) is a serious contender for replacing crude oil in motor fuels.

1) Brazilian sugar cane ethanol is much cheaper than oil. From the article: "Super-efficient Brazil now sells ethanol at the equivalent of $25 dollars a barrel, less than half the cost of crude." So I think we can dispense with the incorrect notion that no other form of energy is as cheap and convenient as oil (see #37). Brazilian sugar cane ethanol is cheaper than oil, just as convenient, and environmentally superior because it does not increase CO2 levels. ("In terms of price, the average cost of fuel ethanol production in the country (Brazil) is around 50 cents per gallon" Source)

2) Serious money is being invested: "To keep up with demand, local sugar barons and giant multinationals will invest some $6 billion in new plantations and distilleries over the next five years." This is on a par with Shell's $6 billion GTL (Gas-to-Liquids) facility in Qatar.

3) Ethanol production is booming. The growth rate is about 9% per year (click for a clearer picture, source):

4) World production of ethanol in 2004 was 10.77 billion gallons (=40.8 billion liters), which comes out to roughly 700,000 barrels/day. The heat content of ethanol is 3.5MMbtu/barrel (source), so energy production from ethanol is 2,450,000 MMbtus/day. Gasoline, on the other hand, has a heat content of 5.3MMbtu/barrel (same as previous source), and thus ethanol production is equivalent to gasoline production of about 460,000barrels/day.
On the average there are 19.5 gallons of gasoline in a barrel of crude oil (Source), so ethanol is providing the gasoline equivalent of 1 million barrels/day of conventionally refined crude oil. For comparison, Indonesia produced 1.2mbd of crude oil in 2003(source). Ethanol is as big a factor in the world gasoline market as Indonesia.

5) There's weird goings-on in the global sugar market:
9 August, 2005
Sugar prices 'to rise'

LONDON: Sugar prices, the highest for nearly five years, are entering unchartered territory as investment funds show a record interest in the commodity which traders see as increasingly tied to energy markets.Source

6) This is my favorite part:
A global biofuel economy, with a division of labor favoring the most efficient producers, is key to developing biofuels as a viable alternative to oil. For many developing countries, year-round growing seasons and cheap farm labor are a valuable competitive advantage over cold, high-cost northern countries. Super-efficient Brazil now sells ethanol at the equivalent of $25 a barrel, less than half the cost of crude. (Source: Newsweek, cited above)

The beauty of this plan is that it transfers money to tropical and sub-tropical developing nations, who can use the money to develop, and pass through the demographic transition. It's a good way to crack first world agricultural subsidies and tariffs which keep the developing world poor.

7) Interesting fact: The EIA classifies ethanol as "oil".
Total oil production (including crude, natural gas liquids, ethanol and refinery gain) has been rising steadily since the early 1990s... Source

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


MYTH: The rise in fuel prices occasioned by peak oil will make it too costly to transport food over long distances. Food production will have to be relocalized. As the peak oilers say: "The 3000-mile salad will be a thing of the past".

REALITY: A kilogram of rice (in Japan, where I live) costs about $3.64. The fuel cost of transporting this rice by container ship, at current fuel costs, over a distance of one-half the circumference of the earth, is about $0.015 (one and a half cents). Ship fuel accounts for 0.4% of the cost of the retail product.

So let's look at how fuel costs for long-distance shipping will affect the price of this bag of rice as oil prices skyrocket:

If crude=$65/barrel, rice=$3.64/kg
If crude=$130/barrel, rice=$3.655/kg
If crude=$260/barrel, rice=$3.685/kg
If crude=$2600/barrel, rice=$3.775/kg

Clearly, demand destruction is going to occur long before crude costs make long-distance shipping too expensive. Fuel costs for long-distance shipping are a minute fraction of the retail price of food.


Shipping is by far the most energy efficient method of moving goods around. Careful analysis has found that a long-haul truck uses between 0.7 to 1.2 megajoules per tonne-kilometre , while a train hauling a load of freight wagons consumes around 0.6 megajoules per tonne-kilometre. A fairly fast ship carrying around 25,000 tonnes of cargo at 18.5 knots uses only 0.12 megajoules per tonne-kilometre.Source

Using the above figure, we need 0.12 million joules (= 120,000 joules) to move 1 tonne (= 1000kg) a distance of 1km by cargo ship. This means it takes 120 joules to move 1kg over 1km.

The circumference of the earth is roughly 40,000km, and half of that (20,000km) is a good upper limit on transport distances. (If you were going to travel further, it would be shorter to go the other way around.)

To move a 1kg bag of rice 20,000km will, therefore, take (120)(20,000)=2.4 million joules.

Converting this to btus (using the nifty conversion calculator listed in the "Links" section on this page), we get: 2275 btus.

One barrel of residual fuel oil contains 6,287,000 btus. (Source)

A barrel contains 42 gallons, so one gallon of residual fuel oil contains about 150,000 btus.

The price of residual fuel oil (New York Harbor, July 2005) is $1.01 per gallon.Source (pdf)

So the cost of residual fuel oil, per btu is: $0.0000067.
Transporting the rice will therefore cost: (2275 btu) ($0.0000067/btu)= $0.015.


Thanks to nero for the hints on this calculation.


The EIA has lots of data on fuel consumption, classified by type of fuel and industry:
EIA Stats on Oil Use by Industry

Look at this Table of fuel consumption by fuel and industry.
As you can see from the Table, oil products play a very small role as an energy input for manufacturing.

For example, consider "Transport Machinery" (NAICS code no.: 336). This category includes motor vehicle and truck manufacturing etc.

If you're curious about all the diverse types of vehicle manufacturing which fall under NAICS 336, go here and scroll down.

Energy consumption for transport machinery manufacturing breaks down as follows for 1998 (figures are in trillion BTUs):

Total energy consumption: 488
Net electricity: 195
Residual fuel oil: 5
Distillate fuel oil: 15
Natural gas: 211
LPG and NGL: 4
Coal: 29
Coke and breeze: 1
Other: 29

As you can see, the primary energy inputs to transport machinery manufacturing are electricity and natural gas. Oil accounts for only about 4% of energy use in this sector.


Matt Savinar, another peak oil fearmonger, says this on his website "Life After the Oil Crash":
Hybrids or so called "hyper-cars" aren't the answer either because the construction of an average car consumes approximately 27-54 barrels (1,110-2,200 gallons) of oil. (Source)

He bases this statement on the following data:
The average car will consume during its construction 10% of the energy used during its lifetime. (Source)

Note that the data says "car manufacturing requires energy", and Savinar duplicitously changes this halfway through the calculation to "car manufacturing requires oil". I call this fraudulent tactic the "switcheroo" and I've seen it a hundred times talking to peak oilers. Watch out for it.

Conclusion: it doesn't take hardly any oil to manufacture a car.


But, JD, what about the glass and steel?

The glass industry doesn't use much oil:

Energy Consumptiond by Fuel – 1998
(NAICS 3272 Glass and Glass Product Manufacturing)
(Trillion Btu)

Neither does the steel industry:

Energy Consumption by Fuel – 1998
(NAICS 331111 Iron and Steel Mills & 3312 Steel Product Manufacturing from Purchased Steel)
(trillion Btu)

Neither does the metalcasting industry:

Energy Consumption by Fuel – 1998
(NAICS 3315 Foundries)
(Trillion Btu)

(The above pie charts and a wealth of other information on oil and manufacturing can be found here.)


I'm being facetious, but this is the basic message of the early peakers. Peak already happened or is going to happen very soon. How credible are these people?

Deffeyes: Predicts peak on Thanksgiving Day 2005 (i.e. a few months from now), but is now saying his prediction was "tongue in cheek".

Boone Pickens: See #12.

"Olduvai" Duncan: See #31.

Kunstler: Novelist. No technical background. Knows nothing about oil.

Ruppert: Ex-cop. Conspiracy theorist author. No technical background. Knows nothing about oil.

Savinar: Unemployed lawyer. No technical background. Flogging peak oil merchandise from his website.

Simmons: Has zero first hand knowledge of his primary topic, the Saudi oil fields.

Colin Campbell: Colin's past forecast can speak for itself (click for a clearer picture, source):

Note that world oil production right now is about 84mbd. Campbell predicted a figure of about 50mbd.

Look at the chart again. What if Lynch turns out to be right, as he has been so far? I know this is hard to imagine if you're a doomer, but what if? It's not going to be any big surprise if the early peakers turn out to be wrong, once again. They're a totally rag-tag bunch. The only one among them who really cares about the numbers is Boone. That's why his "predictions" move up with the actual production numbers: 82, then 84, then 84 or 85, then 85 (see #12). He knows them and follows them closely. Campbell, on the other hand, is asleep at the switch, still predicting 82 for this year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


In the August 2005 ASPO newsletter(pdf), Colin Campbell (see #29) went on the record stating that conventional oil peaked in 2004. You can see it in the chart on page 2:

There are a few interesting angles on this one:

1) Isn't this the most damning evidence possible that peak oil is a bunch of hype? It already happened, and nobody noticed. Conventional oil production peaked, but "oil" production is soaring, and the world economy is booming.
The doomer position has always been that oil is special, and alternatives like gas and unconventional oil can't take up the slack when conventional oil declines. And yet that's exactly what's happening. According to Campbell himself, heavy and NGL (Natural Gas Liquids, which aren't even oil at all) accounted for 11% of world "oil" production 5 years ago. So when are we going to start switching to alternatives? The answer is: we already started a long time ago.

2) Campbell's forecast value of 82mbd for world production in 2005 is clearly wrong. Look at the actual stats from the EIA (world oil production in thousands of barrels per day):
Jan: 82,308
Mar: 82,162
Apr: 81,901
May: 81,564
Jun: 83,489
Jul: 83,990
Aug: 82,988
Sep: 83,471
Oct: 84,271
Nov: 84,102
Dec: 83,699
2004 average: 83,024

Jan: 83,695
Feb: 84,200
Mar: 84,463
Apr: 84,589
May: 84,506
2005 5-month average: 84,277Source

3) Since ASPO is on the record stating that peak oil has already occurred, we can calculate the decline rate.

These are the ASPO production figures for conventional oil:
2000: 64mbd
2004: ? mbd (peak production)
2005: 66mbd

So what was conventional production in 2004? Well, if all the doomer hysteria about "damaged fields" and "bottle-brush drilling" and "falling off a cliff" is right, then we should have fallen about 17% from 2004 to 2005. That would give us a figure of 79.5mbd for 2004 which (interpolating the table) would give a total figure (including non-conventional) of about 95mbd of total production in 2004, which then dropped to 82mbd in 2005. That obviously didn't happen, so the evidence is clear. We're one year into the post-peak period, and conventional oil is not falling off a cliff.

4) Moving the conventional peak date into the past was a big change. The date in the previous July newsletter (pdf) was 2006. So why didn't Colin Campbell say a thing about it?


Space mirrors are a simple, fascinating technology which can give humans access to massive, base load power flows. In the long-run, they can provide virtually endless, clean power to mankind -- all the advantages of nuclear, without the mine tailings and radioactive waste. Space energy will allow us to overcome the exhaustion of terrestrial resources and grow beyond the "petri dish".

Some near-term possibilities:

-Focus sunlight onto a small spot on the earth, and use the heat to drive solar furnaces.
-Focus sunlight on the tar sands and soften them up.
-Gather wasted light (which would never strike the earth anyway) using mirrors, and focus it on a point near the earth for power generation.
-Focus light on the ocean to generate storms and rain for dry regions
-Use screens/mirrors to control temperatures for a lunar base

The concept is very simple -- similar to the Solar Death Ray only on a large scale.

Mirrors in space may seems like an "out there" idea, but they aren't really. There already are many mirrors in space, in spy satellites and the Hubble telescope, for instance.

The Russians have already launched film-based mirrors into space, and illumined the dark part of the earth (i.e. the part where it is night), much as you would light up a spot on the wall with the reflection of your watch. The idea looks like this:

The Znamya 2 was successfully deployed 15 years ago, in 1993:
The first illumination from space took place in the early hours before sunrise over Western Europe. A reflected spot of light of about 5 km in diameter traveled at a speed of 8 km/hour from southern France through Switzerland, Germany, Chec. Republic, Poland and disappeared in early sunlight in Byelorussia. Unfortunately, the weather was not favorable in Western Europe that morning due to heavy cloud coverage. Still, many people reported seeing a flash of light, such as a report from a weather station in the German Alps.Source

In 1999, the Zanmya 2.5 became tangled during deployment and failed, but it did stir up a lot of controversy:

Headlines like: "Russians will attempt to banish night with artificial 'moon'"

And criticisms:
But the horror that most people must surely feel at any scheme to abolish the night, even in selected areas of the planet, is a much deeper, more basic one. It is not based on practical, scientific or material objections, but is rather a reaction deep down in that ancient part of ourselves that is still tied to nature; to the ancient cycles of the seasons, the rise and fall of the birdsong and the grasses, the primal rhythm of night and day."Source

Clearly, any technology which already has the environmentalists horrified is not just some "out there" scheme on the drawing board. It's the ease with which it can be done which makes it so threatening. Furthermore, the genie is out of the bottle because this technology (space mirrors) has such obvious utility in so many fields. The military is interested in big mirrors, because they can use them to build higher resolution spy satellites and "Star Wars" style missile defence systems. Astronomers are interested, because they want big mirrors to improve on the Hubble. Even commercial enterprises are interested -- they want to put advertising up there. Yet another idea is to flip the mirrors over, and use them to reflect sunlight away from the planet, thus enabling precise, reversible control of global temperatures.

Now, you may think that Znamya 2.5 failed and the Russians don't have it together, so we've heard the end of all this. But read this. The Space Shuttle is dead, and the Russians are dominating the space industry. It's their most succesful export industry, and one of the main reasons is that they are running it as a business. Quick, dirty, reliable and cheap -- they're in it for the money, not the useless snob "science".

Personally, I could care less about the aesthetics. A big MickeyD's moon in the sky would be a small price to pay for a reliable, high-power, sustainable, clean energy source. And the big cities? Why not light them up all night with mirrors? They're already lit-up anyway. Nobody is even outside in the first place in cities like Las Vegas. They're all inside gambling and drinking and watching TV. So what if it's daytime all the time? Just imagine all the energy you could save by turning out all those lights. It would probably have a powerful anti-crime effect as well. And nocturnal animals... Who cares? I hope we disturb their rhythms because the only nocturnal animals I see in the city (and I live in a big one) is huge rats infesting the garbage bags around 3AM in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Of course, you might be opposed to the crass commercialization of space, but the process is clearly gaining momentum. Today, launching is a business which people engage in for the money. Space is now where the internet was in the late 80s -- a cloistered academic environment, originally developed for defense purposes, which will shortly be invaded by a circus of obnoxious profit-seeking interests. SpaceshipOne is one example. Selling trips around the moon is another. Undoubtedly, the purists are going to gripe a lot about the commercialism, just like they did with the internet, but I don't think that will stop anything.


The peak oiler theory seems to be this: Powerdown (whether intentional or unintentional) will have positive effects on the health of the environment, and thus is something environmentalists should welcome.

While this is certainly true in some cases, I would also argue for the opposite effect: Powerdown will make everyone increasingly poor, and they will assault the environment to compensate. For example, fuel shortages (or expensive fuel) will lead people to poach trees for fuel, and food shortages (or increasing poverty) will lead people to clear new land, poach wildlife, overfish, fish over the limit etc.

Cuba is often cited as an example of successful powerdown, but the evidence shows that Cuba has the same environmental problems as other countries:

Sufficiently is known from these and other sources to assume the presence of severe environmental problems in Cuba. One of the most significant and recent of these sources is Cuba's own "National Environmental Strategy," an official document presented in 1997 at the United Nations Earth Summit in New York (Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, 1997). It acknowledged an impressive list of severe and chronic environmental problems:
*Soil degradation, including erosion, acidification, salinity, compacting and poor draining, all of them directly caused or induced by long-term mismanagement.
*The deterioration of sanitation and the environment of human settlements, including water treatment standards and supply, decaying sewage systems, deficient garbage collection and disposal, increased atmospheric pollution, and unsafe treatment and disposal of hazardous wastes.
*Inland and marine water pollution, aggravated in the last few years by the poor treatment of waste waters (almost half of the contaminated outflow load in coastal environments comes from the sugar industry and one quarter from domestic wastes).
*Deforestation, an old problem for the Cuban environment (the Cuban government claims 19.8 percent of the territory covered by forests, versus 14 percent in 1959. This is most probably an overstatement (Portela, CubaNews, July 1998).
*The loss of biological diversity, such as the extinction of many valuable species of plants and animals, one of the most important assets of the island.Source(pdf)

North Korea, another country which has experienced a form of powerdown, also has severe ongoing environmental problems.


The U.S. Economic Census is a gold mine of data relating to EROEI. Here I use it to calculate the energy intensity of the oil and gas extraction industry as a whole -- e.g. "How much fuel does the industry use to find and extract oil and gas?" This is an important EROEI-related measure because peak oilers often say that oil production will stop "when it takes one barrel of oil to get one barrel of oil." Clearly the oil companies would be quick to notice if their fuel inputs were larger than their fuel outputs. So what is their fuel output/input ratio today?

The calculation gives the following results:

1) In 1997, the fuel intensity of oil and gas extraction (i.e. the ratio of oil-gas outputs to oil-gas inputs, in dollar values) was about 27 to 1. Extraction companies spent about 3.7% of their total revenues on fuel inputs. Clearly they are in no immediate danger of needing one barrel of oil to extract one barrel of oil.

2) 84% of the expenditures for input fuel went to natural gas. On a price per MMbtu (million btu) basis, gas was less expensive than oil products in 1997 (source), so it is clear that, as of 1997, natural gas (not oil) was the primary source of energy for the oil-gas extraction industry.

3) The direct EROEI of the oil and gas industry (only counting direct -- not indirect -- inputs) is at least 22. In other words, the industry uses one boe (barrel of oil equivalent) of energy to produce 22 boe of output energy. This is the case, even though the U.S. is 35 years past its Hubbert peak, so the idea that passing the peak will cause EROEI to drop below 1 (i.e. that it will take one barrel of oil to get one barrel of oil) is highly suspect.

4) Natural gas is the primary fuel of the oil and gas extraction industry, accounting for 88.5% of all input fuel energy. The lion's share of that is accounted for by gas produced on site and used as fuel.

I use two references:
The first is the 1997 Economic Census, Product Summary: Mining (pdf)
The second is the 1997 Economic Census, Materials Summary: Mining (pdf)

These two resources give detailed statistics on production and fuel consumption (by fuel) for each industry falling under the NAICS 21 (Mining) classification.

For example, on page 7 of the Product Summary, we find the total product shipments for NAICS 211111 (Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas).

Total value of all oil and natural gas shipped in 1997 (in 1997 $) = $77,300,748,000

Turning to page 7 of the Materials Summary, we find a complete breakdown of fuel consumed, by type, for NAICS 211111 (Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction):

The dollar figures for 1997 are:
Light fuel oil, light diesel used as fuel: $61,219,000
Heavy fuel oil, heavy diesel used as fuel: $20,259,000
Natural gas used as fuel: $459,812,000
Gasoline used as fuel: $105,255,000
On-site crude used as fuel: 600,000 barrels @ $30/barrel
= $18,000,000
On-site natural gas used as fuel: 715.9 bil cubic feet @ $2,709,558 per bil cubic foot = $1,939,800,000
Other fuels: $38,537,000
Undistributed (i.e. not classified): $217,520,000

Totaling these up, we get a grand total of $2,860,402,000 spent on fuel inputs to produce $77,300,748,000 worth of fuel outputs.

Dividing, we find that, in 1997, the fuel intensity for oil-gas (i.e. the ratio of oil-gas outputs to oil-gas inputs, measured in dollars) was about 27 to 1. Extraction companies spent about 3.7% of their total revenues on fuel inputs. Clearly they are in no immediate danger of needing one barrel of oil to extract one barrel of oil.

Another interesting fact: 84% of the expenditures for input fuel went to natural gas. On a price per MMbtu basis, gas was less expensive than oil products in 1997 (source), so it is clear that, as of 1997, natural gas was the primary source of energy for the crude/gas extraction industry.


To humor the EROEI people, I also calculated the energy inputs and outputs of NAICS 211111 (Crude and Natural Gas Extraction) for 1997, using census statistics:

In 1997, the industry used 1031.8 trillion btu (TTbtu) of input fuel. The breakdown is as follows:

Distillate, light oil: 11.5 TTbtu (1.1%)
Residual, heavy oil: 4.1 TTbtu (0.4%)
Purchased natural gas as fuel: 175.0 TTbtu (17.0%)
Gasoline: 12.2 TTbtu (1.2%)
On-site crude used as fuel: 3.5 TTbtu (0.3%)
On-site natural gas used as fuel: 738.1 TTbtu (71.5%)
Other fuels: At most 13.1 TTbtu (1.3%)
Undistributed fuels: At most 74.3 TTbtu (7.2%)

Total: 1031.8 TTbtu

Purchased amount of electricity for NAICS 211: 80,149,784,000kwh
(Note: This is an overestimate because it also includes electricity consumption by another NAICS category 211112 "Natural Gas Liquid Extraction")

Purchased amount of electricity = 274 TTbtu

Total energy input to NAICS 211111(Crude and Natural Gas Extraction): 1305.8 TTbtu


Now, let's look at the output side. Total product in 1997:
1990.7 million barrels crude oil and lease condensate
108.1 million barrels from stripper wells
14,606.2 billion cubic feet of gas
$7,788,301,000 in crude and gas not specified by kind (I assume this to be all crude in order to make the estimate of the output conservative. Gas gives more btus per unit price.)

Converting the above to btus we get: 29,348 TTbtu. Thus, the direct EROEI for oil and gas in the U.S. is at least 29,348 TTbtu/1305.8 TTbtu = 22.

Now, let's compare this to the value calculated financially:
Fuel costs = $1,780,528,000
Electricity costs = $1,067,804,000
Total value of oil and gas produced = $77,300,748,000

(Value of energy produced)/(Cost of energy inputs) =
$77,300,748,000/$2,848,332,000 = 27

The financial value is only off by 5 percentage points, and thus gives a decent approximation of actual direct EROEI.

Monday, August 22, 2005


We've seen in #28 that fertilizers have zero dependence on crude oil. But what about pesticides? Undoubtedly many pesticides are derived from petrochemicals, but this poses no danger for two reasons:

1) Petrochemicals can be synthesized from coal and gas (i.e. from synthetic oil -- see #43).

2) World production of pesticides is a minute fraction of total oil consumption, and thus can be substituted. Consider the following graph (source: US EPA -- click on the image for a clearer picture):
Figure 3.1
World and U.S. Pesticide
Amounts of Active Ingredient at User Level
By Pesticide Type, 2001 Estimates

Total worldwide consumption of pesticide in 2001 was about 5 billion pounds. That's equal to 2.5 million tons.
One ton of crude oil, on the other hand, contains about 7.3 barrels. Source
So even if we assume (very liberally) that all of the pesticides used in the world in 2001 were nothing but 100% crude oil, oil consumption for pesticides would be: (2.5 million tons)x(7.3 barrels) = about 18 million barrels of oil. According to BP (British Petroleum), total world oil production in 2001 was about 74 mbd (million barrels per day), and thus total production for 2001 was (365 days)(74 mbd) = about 27 billion barrels.
Therefore, at the very most, pesticide accounted for 0.06% (18/27000) of total world oil consumption. This fraction is so small, it wouldn't even show up on a pie chart.


Another misconception which needs to be cleared up is that coal, natural gas and nuclear are not suitable transport fuels.

Coal is an excellent transport fuel. In fact, it was the ONLY transport fuel for many decades. Locomotives and ships can run on coal, no problem.

Natural gas is also a good transport fuel. Taxi fleets and buses run on natural gas throughout the world.

Nuclear too is transport fuel. Nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and the French train system show how nuclear can be used to move people/things around.

Clearly, there is going to be some serious retooling involved, particularly in backwaters like the U.S. which are behind the times. But the main point stands: we're not running out of transport fuel any time soon.


No. It will first strike countries in the mid-range between rich and poor. All of the countries currently suffering from severe oil problems (Nicaragua, the Philippines, Indonesia, Zimbabwe) seem to fit a similar profile. They have one foot in traditional agriculture, and one foot in modern petroleum culture (source for nation statistics: New York Times Almanac, 2004):

GDP per capita: $2,500
Labor force: 43% services, 42% agriculture, 15% industry

GDP per capita: $4,200
Labor force: 39.8% agriculture, 19.4% government services, 17.7% services, 10.2% unemployment

GDP per capita: $3,100
Labor force: 45% agriculture, 16% energy, 39% services, 10.6% unemployment

GDP per capita: $2,400
Labor force: 66% agriculture, 10% industry, 24% services

There are about 188 countries in the world, and the above countries rank as follows in terms of GDP/capita:

Nicaragua: 128
Philippines: 104
Indonesia: 116
Zimbabwe: About 127 Source

As you can see, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Indonesia and Zimbabwe all fall roughly in the middle (to lower middle) in terms of wealth ranking. If the nations were collapsing in order of poverty, we would expect the most serious problems to arise in countries like:

Afghanistan (ranking 171)
GDP per capita: $700
Labor force: 80% agriculture and animal husbandry. 10% services and other, 10% industry

Malawi (ranking 177)
GDP per capita: $670
Labor force: 86% agriculture

Mali (ranking 163)
GDP per capita: $860
Labor force: 80% agriculture, 19% services

The countries at the bottom (like the three given above) are already living in post-petroleum culture, and thus are largely immune to peak oil. Toward the bottom of the middle range you have countries which are only half committed to petroleum culture. They're still close enough to their agricultural roots to "drop out" and fall back on them.

For reference, compare with the labor pattern typical of a rich developed country like the UK:

United Kingdom (ranking 19):
GDP per capita: $25,300
Labor force: 74% services, 25% industry, 1% agriculture, 5.2% unemployment


A few years ago, I read a Richard Dawkins book called "The Extended Phenotype". There was a section where Dawkins said we could regard cars as a virus, which exploits human behavior and production machinery to replicate itself.

I remembered this, and it got me thinking...

The virus ("the car") infects the "cells" (cities) of its host ("the earth") and packs the cells with copies of itself. This is similar to the phenomenon seen in Ebola, called "bricking" where everything in the cell is converted to virus, until it ruptures with bricks of crystal-like virus:

Virus bricks

Ebola and Marburg multiply extremely rapidly and powerfully that within no time the infected cell becomes packed with crystal like blocks of virus particles (Ref fig 2). These virus particles are themselves getting ready to replicate.

The crystal like blocks, or bricks, form at the centre of the cell and begin to grow outwards, migrating to the cell wall. On reaching the cell wall, the brick dissolves into hundreds of individual virus particles (Ref. fig 1)

The Ebola virus particles then infiltrate the bloodstream of the host and keep attaching themselves to cells everywhere. Here the procedure of replication is repeated until the tissue becomes saturated with virus crystal bricks.Source

Here are the Figures from the above article. Notice the parking lot like structures inside the red boxes. Those are the "bricks" of ebola:

Fig. 1: Particles bursting the cell wall

Fig. 2: Ebola brick particles in the cell wall

In the terminal state, the entire body has been converted to bleeding bricks of virus. This would be the equivalent of using all our resources and productive machinery to pack the surface of the earth with cars:

Fig. 3: More viral bricking

In the end, the host dies because it wastes all its resources replicating the virus.

Cars are a Trojan horse, not unlike the "ILOVEYOU" computer virus. They appeal to people's vanities and ego, so people "click" on them. Like "ILOVEYOU", the car is designed to press a very specific emotional button which turns the human into a robot. That is how a dumb object with no nervous system can manipulate an intelligent organism. People can't stop "clicking on it" and thereby furthering its replication and consumption of critical resources.

Ironically, the car production statistics are the equivalent of the "viral count" readings AIDS patients get. We should be trying to get them down, not up.


I was out naked in the sweat lodge today, and had another vision on this topic. I realized that, indeed, cars are a virus, and that the poor machinery (us) of our cell (the earth) has been totally bamboozled by the car virus, and that we are going to spend the next 50 years frantically liquefying all of the resources of our cell to fuel replication of the virus.

Future extra-terrestrials visiting the solar system will observe the surface of the earth bricked over with viral particles, and note the presence of the suspiciously car-like lunar rovers on the moon's surface. All the classic symptoms of a virus burning through its host and making aborted attempts to infect new hosts:

But JD, aren't cars useful?
Look at it in retrospect, from a point in time where all the liquid fossil fuel is gone. You're standing on top of a sea of cars, a gridlocked worldwide traffic jam of car carcasses, the endpoint of the exponential replication of cars. Other than the cars themselves (and their infrastructure like roads, parking lots, filling stations, tire stores, car washes etc.), what can you point to and say: "Thank god we spent all those resources making cars. Otherwise we wouldn't have THAT (where THAT is something that benefits mankind). What would you point to? The emission-choked atmosphere? Global warming? The empty oil/coal/gas reserves? The pile of cars themselves? Nothing positive and useful is left over. It's very suspicious -- almost as though the car is using us, not the other way around. As dub_scratch so eloquently put it, "Cars are to American civilization what Moai were to Easter Islanders."


As fuel supplies get tight, OPEC looks at the per capita consumption numbers (see #25), and realizes that the U.S. is the problem. They decide to do an intervention on the Big Junky. They reduce output to 50% of its current level, and tell the Americans they need to get their house in order and start conserving. And sign the Kyoto Treaty.

As usual, the Americans go INSANE. It's an act of war. Blood! That's the solution. The American way of life is not negotiable! Rev your monster trucks! Kill OPEC!

These threats are pretty scary for the drug dealer (OPEC), so he decides to defuse the Big Junky by cutting off all supplies. Now the game is on. Can the U.S. subdue OPEC with its army, and secure the oil before it goes into severe withdrawal symptoms? I'm thinking: probably not. Can the U.S. win four or five Iraq's at the same time using only its own production and the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve)? I think they're going to run out of gas before they get enough oil to recover their strength. And if the U.S. even gets close to seizing an OPEC country, the locals can just demolish the oil infrastructure, like the irrational primitives they are. Blow it into little tiny pieces. The Big Junky's going to be mighty dope sick while he tries to pacify that country. He'll probably pass out, still without a good fix, and be set upon by flies.


The U.S. has got this glaring Achilles heel, a big soft underbelly. In fact, at this point, the U.S. is in a position not that different from Japan in WWII -- a country without any oil or gas. They'd have to fight with a handicap, like Nazi Germany, fueling their machines with liquefied coal and alcohol.

When the U.S. first started mucking around in the Middle East after 9-11, I felt so sorry for the muslims. It was like a bunch of skinny, malnourished, dirty kids in a street fight with a huge Gundam robot. The poor bastards didn't stand a chance. Then I noticed that the robot, fearsome as it was, had a power cord, and was plugged into the wall. All you needed was one skinny kid to slip through and pull the plug...

The strategy to make the U.S. cave in is simple: lure them into a fight that takes lots and lots of gasoline. They can't fuel a war and suburbia at the same time, and they can't get rid of suburbia because, well, they just can't.


Coal liquefaction is going to play a big role on the downslope, so let's note a few things about it:

1) The sound bite that "oil is a feedstock with no substitutes" is a myth (see #30). All petrochemicals can be made from liquefied coal, and coal gas (syn gas). There is no significant difference in chemistry between natural crude oil and synthetic crude produced from coal (except that synthetic crude is a lot cleaner). Detergents, pesticides, fertilizer, plastics, synthetic fibers and synthetic rubber can all be made from coal. Also, coal can be profitably liquefied in the U.S. today, provided that the price of crude oil stays above $35/bbl.

2) Clearly, these new synthetic liquids are going to be called "oil". They are chemically identical to oil products, and they do the same jobs as oil products. They will also be mixed together with oil products in the refining step. It's really pointless to separate the two.
This means that coal reserves are in fact oil reserves. Total recoverable coal reserves in the U.S. are estimated at about 250 billion short tons. At 20,754,000 btus/short ton, the U.S. has 5.2 x 10^18 btus of recoverable coal reserves. The thermal efficiency of coal liquefaction is about 65%. So if we liquefy the coal reserves of the U.S., we get 3.4 x 10^18 btus of synthetic oil. There are about 5.8 x 10^6 btus in a barrel of oil, so total reserves of oil located in coal reserves in the U.S. is roughly 5.9 x 10^11 barrels = 590 giga barrels. That's about 80 years of oil at current U.S. consumption rates of 20 mbd.
The point is not that all of that coal will be liquefied. However, a substantial portion of it will be, and that portion needs to be reclassified as "new oil". ASPO prints the following graph in its newsletter every month as proof that we must peak soon because discoveries are not keeping up with production (click on the images for a clearer picture):

Note that the "discoveries" do not include include new oil from coal (or from heavy, tar sands, deep water, polar, shale, gas-to-liquids, sugar cane ethanol or any other unconventional source). This is a major error which undermines ASPO's argument. The discoveries of unconventional oil must also be factored in.

3) We have way more coal than we had oil.
Crude oil URR (ultimate recoverable reserves) for the U.S. appears to be in the neighborhood of about 205 Gbarrels.

On the other hand, if we liquefy all recoverable coal reserves in the U.S., we have a total of about 590 Gbarrels (as calculated in 2) above). The U.S. has about 3 times as much potential oil available in the form of coal as all the oil it has ever pumped (or will pump).

Since U.S. oil maxed out at a rate of 10mbd on a reserve basis of 205 Gbarrels, an intensive effort to produce coal liquids might potentially max out a rate 3 times that (about 30mbd) because the resource base is 3 times larger.


The electricity stats from France in 2002 (figures in billion kilowatt-hours):

Net generation: 528.6
Hydro: 60.5
Nuclear: 414.9
Geo/Solar/Wind/Biomass: 4.1
Conventional thermal: 49.0

Net consumption: 414.7
Imports: 3.0
Exports: 79.9Source

This is extraordinary. As you can see, France can already meet 100% of its electricity needs with nuclear power. Fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal) have no relevance whatsoever to the electrical grid in France.

Coal use in France is very low, and has been mostly replaced by nuclear. Any remaining coal usage for fuel can be easily eliminated, as the stats show, so France only needs a small amount of coal for industrial uses like coke.

The French do use a great deal of oil, but undoubtedly most of that is for fueling private automobiles which are not strictly necessary. Transport within France can be shifted to the nuclear powered rail system. The only remaining uses which cannot immediately be phased out would be industrial feedstocks, local trucking, and agricultural machinery.

Finally, France uses a large amount of gas, but that too can be shifted to nuclear. Heat can be supplied electrically, or through direct nuclear process heat for industry.

Let's face it. France is not going to collapse due to energy problems. So how is civilization going to collapse if France doesn't collapse? Are we supposed to believe that the Americans will be eating each other, and the British will be implementing Pol Pot style depopulation pogroms, while the French go their merry way, gloating and watching the whole thing on TV??? I don't think that's possible. The Anglos will cheerfully march through hell to avoid collapse, simply because France isn't collapsing, and they hate the French.


Peak oilers often point to Easter Island as proof that our civilization is doomed to collapse due to its rapacious consumption. The classic statement was written by Jared Diamond:
In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism. Are we about to follow their lead?Source

But consider this: if collapse is such a pre-ordained, mechanical process, why didn't all the islands in the pacific go the route of Easter Island?

French Polynesia, the Tuamotus, the Marquesas, the Cook Islands, the Southern Group (Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro, and Mauke), Hawaii, Saipan, Western Samoa, Truk, Guam, Tonga, Vavau, Efate Island, the Solomon Islands, Micronesia...

Why aren't they all an environmental horror story of overshoot and collapse? Why, out of all those islands, can the doomers only point to Easter Island?


The doomers like to blow future demand way out of proportion to make the problem look impossible. Here's a classic example:

Richard Smalley has estimated that the world will need approximately 10 TerraWatts of energy by 2050 due to population growth and hydrocarbon energy depletion. That means we need to complete an energy project the size of the Yangtse Dam in China (the largest power plant in the world) at 18.2 GigaWatts once EVERY MONTH from now until 2050... and we will still come up just shy of the mark.

I did the conversion*, and Smalley is claiming we will need 7.5 times more energy in 2050 than we used in 2001. What will we use all that energy for?

The U.S. population is projected to rise from about 300 million in 2003 to about 400 million in 2050, and that's a rise of only 33%. Why would we need to boost energy production by 650% to service population growth of 33%?

Furthermore, world population in 2003 was 6.3 billion, and the United Nations Population Fund estimates it will be 8.9 billion in 2050. That's a 41% increase, worldwide. So why do we need to boost energy production by 650% to service population growth of 41%?

One thing's for sure: No developed country will need to build a Yangste dam every month to meet its energy needs for 2050.

The answer to all these riddles is that Smalley is putting forth the figure we'll need to electrify the entire world up to U.S. standards of living AND fuel all our cars with electricity. We may not be able to do these things, but that does not mean we are doomed. Rural people in undeveloped countries may continue to live without electricity, and first-worlders may not be driving so much. So what? That's not a catastrophe.


*) Total world energy consumption in 2001 = 400 quadrillion btu = 4 x 10^17 btu (EIA stats)

10 terawatts x 1 year = 10^13 watt-years = 10^10 kilowatt-years = (10^10)(365)(24) kilowatt-hours = 8.8 x 10^14 kilowatt-hours

1 kilowatt-hour = 3412 btu, so 8.8x10^14 kilowatt-hours = 3x10^18 btu

(3x10^18 btu)/(4x10^17 btu) = 7.5