free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 248. ROB MCMILLIN ON THE SLIMY UNDERBELLY OF PEAK OIL

Friday, February 24, 2006

248. ROB MCMILLIN ON THE SLIMY UNDERBELLY OF PEAK OIL

Recently I had the good fortune of being contacted by Rob McMillin, author of the Peak Oil Optimist blog. Rob is an excellent writer, with common sense values and the guts to stand up for them, and from time to time he takes on the "die-off" vermin who infest the peak oil community.

In an article last year, he exposed some of the unsavory thinking behind the "science" over at ASPO:
ASPO's Smirking, Malign Fascists
I have already recorded my contempt for those who would stand by and condemn the world to a fate of mass death. It's one thing to hear such shrill pronouncements from peak oil's homicidal wing, but quite another to hear it from those attempting to pass themselves off as academics. This week, ASPO published the most inhuman comment I've yet read from them in their Newsletter 52 (PDF). Regarding their opinion of the fate of a post-industrial India:
How India will fare during the Second Half of the Oil Age is hard to predict, but disintegration is a possible outcome, as people revert to their old communal and religious identities, a process which will probably be accompanied by much bloodshed and suffering. Clearly, the present population far exceeds the carrying capacity of the land, but the Indian is blessed by a smiling, benign spirituality that helps.
(Emphasis mine.) I stroke my beard; I bite my tongue. The vileness swimming in that last sentence recalls the twentieth century at its worst moments. I haven't the black depths of pen to heap upon the authors of this sewage the kind of scorn they so justly deserve.
Of course, this no surprise to the informed reader, considering that ASPO (an ostensibly scientific organization) has also published a fascist screed suggesting that the elderly and handicapped should be exterminated as a means of coping with peak oil.

More great articles from Rob in the same vein:
Tempting Godwin: The Primitivist Green SS
If We Open The Seacocks, Is The Ship Unseaworthy?

The comments are half the fun. Jason Godesky from Anthropik will light up your life, with choice quotes like this: "My own journey down that dark road of relinquishing the hubris that I know good and evil began with Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, and realizing that feeding starving people in the third world was far more cruel than watching them die."

Jason's got lots more zingers where that came from. A recent post begins:
The Stone Age is making a comeback. It doesn't matter if we want it or not. Collapse is inevitable; civilization is unsustainable, and it must end soon, one way or another. The key to survival is to separate ourselves from our doomed civilization, to ensure that when it dies, we are no longer dependent on it. Critics of primitivism like to point out that the Stone Age way of life is only viable if some 99% of the world's population dies off. They are right; but we face precisely that in the near future. There is nothing that can change that, but we can change how we react to that fact. As we saw in thesis #20, thesis #27, and thesis #30, collapse is not necessarily such a bad thing. It is far preferable to the alternative. Every human being will be faced with a choice: to die as civilized people, or to thrive in a new Stone Age.
Kind of makes you wonder why allegedly moderate peak oil sites like the Oil Drum are linking to these neanderthals. Oh yeah... I forgot... Their hero, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, retired Professor of Geology at Princeton, says "By 2025, we're going to be back in the Stone Age." Maybe Ken should get in touch with Jason and they can trade loincloths.
-- by JD

32 Comments:

At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 7:05:00 AM PST, Blogger Thomas said...

Concerning Deffeyes' comments about Stone Age in 25 years.

It seems to me that Deffeyes and Campbell, both retired geologists who made excellent careers in the oil business, suffer from the old saying: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" They can't envision an industrialised world without oil.

Personally, I feel the complete opposite. My whole reason for becoming an engineer in the first place, was that I can't envision a future with oil as the all-dominating fuel of our society).

I hate the phrase: "The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, neither will the oil age end for lack of oil"

But I might paraphrase it to: "The wheel was invented using Stone Age tools, but it did not require stones to keep spinning"

There is absolutely no data, facts, whatever to verify the ludicrous statements of a return to the Stone Age. There are, however, plenty of wild extrapolations of some trends while keeping other parameters fixed, half-baked theories and opinions expressed as facts.

Heinberg said at ASPO 2005 that there are more cars than licensed drivers in USA. That leads me to believe that no all cars are running at the same time... Maybe some cars, long overdue for scrapping, could be spared, using mainly the most efficient cars in case of a liquid fuel crisis.

AFS Trinity and Ricardo are planning to build a plug-in-hybrid drivetrain that will achieve gas mileage in the range of 250 mpg under normal driving patterns. Surely, such cars will be able to make a dent in gasoline consumption, especially if they displace 40 year old Chevys...

A little life-style-makeover never killed anyone either.

The underlying notion of may doom theories is that Americans would rather starve to death, because they used up all the fuel for agriculture, than cut back on frivolous driving. I guess if you believe that, you can believe anything!..

-Thomas

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 10:40:00 AM PST, Blogger Nick said...

Thomas, absolutely right.

A simple search of books by Deffeyes, Heinberg and Kunstler (and others) make it clear that they haven't seriously examined the alternatives to oil. They just dismiss them out of hand, with no (or highly superficial) analysis.

Raising the alarm without pointing towards the solutions is not very productive.

I agree that you can replace 40% of the car fleet and get at 80% of the gas consumption. Another good example of coming solutions is the Hymotion battery and plug-in upgrade for hybrids. It's too expensive at the moment, but when batteries get much cheaper, and gas gets suddenly much more expensive, this kind of thing would allow us to upgrade the hybrid portion of the fleet very quickly instead of waiting for inventory to turn over.

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 11:36:00 AM PST, Blogger Rob said...

Thanks for the links. Those were some of my most provocative posts, and I finally got to the point where I closed commenting on some of those threads out of exasperation with the primitivists.

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 12:50:00 PM PST, Blogger EnergySpin said...

Thank you guys for verbalizing what I have felt for a long time.
@thomas:
I agree with your evaluation of the Campbell/Deffeyes situation but I think that an additional psychological factor has to invoked: the word "retired". Both of them face a rather peculiar situation: not only are they at the end of their professional careers but they also face the end of the profession as they knew it, practiced it and teached it for more than 3 decades.
It is not just the end of oil: it is the end of a tradition, a profession and a whole sector/industry. This is too much for any person to bear ...

@nick:
It is obvious that no one has examined the alternatives carefully, or at least they have not bothered to update their late 70s, early 80s data. If we can plan 2-3 decades in advance biofuels could meet 30% of our current liquid needs (which could correspond to >30% of the amount of services with efficiency). After that ... who knows?
Thermochemical H2 production from nuclear reactors ...

@rob:
Nice blog ... I share your views regarding the primitivists :-D

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 3:26:00 PM PST, Blogger Omnitir said...

The die-off attitude is infuriating, and also depressing. Infinitely more depressing then the notion of a more expensive future, is knowing that there are these vile people out there with these fascist attitudes. It’s astonishing that anyone would argue for the abandonment of basic human rights, rights that we have fought so long and hard to create and protect. These pigs don’t deserve to live in the civilised world.

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 4:38:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Someone should fence in some of the african savannah, round up all these people and leave them there. See how much they enjoy "thriving" in the stone age.

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 5:01:00 PM PST, Blogger Rob said...

Roland -- I completely agree. A lot of them seem to like Cuba; that's fine, too.

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 5:48:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

If we had started two decades ago to actively work for a mitigation of the peak oil crisis, and if all national government work in a co-operative way to ration the remaining world oil, we might be able to manage to mitigate the crisis without destroying the civilization. However, now a more likely scenary is there will be massive resource war, hastening the exhaustion of resources, and it might even leads to a massive nuclear exchange. And so it is not totally unthinable that by 2025 we return to stone age, as one of the worst possible outcome.

I would rather see a massive die-off, and see that the population is reduced to a level that can be supported by the remaining resource of the earth, and civilization itself can continue. This is a rather much more optimistic outcome than the alternative, which is a civilization destroying massive resource war, world war III. Albert Einstein already said that after WW III, we return to the stone age. So Dr. Deffeyes is definitely NOT alone and he is accompanied by Einstein.

The depletion of natural resources is un-predecent. Copper is not in a better position than oil. When all known copper reserves are divided by the world population, each person gets no more than 75 kilogram of copper. If you drive a Prius hybrid car, you already used up more than your fair share of the copper, by manufacturing your Prius. So you can't even talk about replacing a considerable portion of all vehicles with the gas saving hybrid, in a world wide scale.

Quantoken

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 6:25:00 PM PST, Blogger Omnitir said...

Someone should fence in some of the african savannah, round up all these people and leave them there. See how much they enjoy "thriving" in the stone age.

I agree. They need technology as much as the rest of us. How long do you think these primitivists, survivalist nuts would last in, say, the Amazon jungle, naked and without any equipment or supplies? No more then a couple of days?

Alternatively, I wonder what these people’s attitudes would be if they were members of the third world. Would they still endorse mass die-off?

Hell, if these people are so adamant of the need for large-scale die-off, why don’t they just go and top themselves already?


Quantoken:
I would rather see a massive die-off, and see that the population is reduced to a level that can be supported by the remaining resource of the earth, and civilization itself can continue. This is a rather much more optimistic outcome than the alternative, which is a civilization destroying massive resource war, world war III.

So you think that the only possible future is either powerdown and massive die-off, or massive resource war and destruction?

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 6:56:00 PM PST, Blogger dc said...

Stone age fascism is the worst sort of fallacious contrivance that the doomer faction has to offer. Not only is it incredibly naive, but it drips with an undue level of pretention as it usually originates with dilettantes who claim to know the destiny of mankind with unequivocal certainty. Just because I can't stare into a crystal ball and figure out how all of the cards will fall doesn't mean that the future is hopeless. Nobody foresaw such a rapid uptake in domestic ethanol demand in Brazil. Nobody foresaw the global economy absorbing sustained $60+ oil with little impact on growth. Nobody foresaw the airline industry retool and march back into profitability. Yet these things happened.

This world is comprised of vastly complex systems, characterized by a vast number of feeedbacks and interactions. Therefore, I hope the doomer forest rangers, ex-cops and trial lawyers will excuse me for my deference to real expert opinion. I will excuse them in their continued attempts to woo the uninitiated with their misapplications of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, Jevon's Paradox, Statistical Inference, etc.

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 9:33:00 PM PST, Blogger Freak said...

Quantoken,

Copper??

You can reclaim copper and recycle it, but peak copper?? you could use aluminum, or iron, or any number of materials are interchangeable with other materials in that manner, what has copper got to do with anything?

How is copper anything like oil?

however since many things can be substituted for copper, then maybe you are making a case for how renewable energy, nuclear, non-conventional oil, coal, tar sands oil shale, and so on and so forth can be substituted for the energy we derive from light sweet crude. If that is you position and copper is your example then I think you unintentionally made a very good point and credit for the non-doom, optimism camp..so, thanks :)

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 11:03:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Freak:

Copper has very good electric conductivity, which makes it a virtually irreplaceable material in any thing related to electricity. Surely you can make electric wires using silver or even gold. They have even better conductivity. But they will be so expensive they are not affordable.

Iron? Forget about it. It's conductivity is pretty poor. You can't make a electric power generator using iron, for example. Aluminum? It consumes lots of electricity energy to extract and refine. Plus the aluminum reserve is just as scarce as copper.

Copper is important because when you are looking for alternative energy source away from fossil fuels, it inevitably involves lots of things relating to electricity: Wind mill power generator, solar panels, nuclear power station. Hybrid cars. An average hybrid car uses 4 times as much copper as a none-hybrid one. Should we replace all vehicles with hybrid ones, that alone will exhaust existing annual copper productions.

Taking about hybrid cars, you have to talk about Lithium batteries. Unfortunately Lithium is an even much more scarce resource on the earth. Massive application of big blocks of lithium batteries on hybrid cars is just impossible because we simply do not have that much lithium.

Quantoken

 
At Friday, February 24, 2006 at 11:45:00 PM PST, Blogger Omnitir said...

Quantoken, you think sooo 20th century… :D
Copper has very good electric conductivity, which makes it a virtually irreplaceable material in any thing related to electricity.

Two words: structured carbon.

Carbon structured on the atomic level conducts electricity far better then anything yet seen. In the coming decades carbon nano tubes/sheets/balls will likely replace copper as the ideal choice for conducting electricity. It is not subject to finite resource deposits, it will become cost effective as the industry evolves, and it can offer substantial efficiency increases to many (virtually every) applications. Transmitting electricity through CNT cables would also see significant reductions in the energy lost through copper lines.

Welcome to the real carbon age.

 
At Saturday, February 25, 2006 at 4:12:00 AM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Can I put my doomer hat on for a second? If anything's going to do us in it'll be nano and bioweapons like this. They mention a gene sequencer ("a laser printer for DNA) which will soon be able to make all sorts of viruses whose genomes can be found here. This is just what improperly regulated nanofactories would be like, and these two things are the greatest threat our civilization, and in fact our entire species, has ever faced. Not high petrol prices.

Technology can solve our resources problems, but it's also dangerous, and while these idiots are going on about the stone age we're walking blindly into those dangers. Technological regulation is where global warming was 15 years ago, but unlike global warming we don't have 15 years to deal with it. it's solvable, but I hope it doesn't take a bioterrorist attack to make us all wake up to it.

 
At Saturday, February 25, 2006 at 10:10:00 AM PST, Blogger half said...

How come noones talking about the coming peak in Fullers Earth? This is the death nell of modern coated paper. With the loss of coated paper People Magazine will collapse like a cheap bowl of limp readi-whip. The end of Time will also occur causing a NewWeek boom then bust. A war for coated stock is a certainty.

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 12:58:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Omnitir:

No, it's not that I am so 20th century, but instead you are so out of touch with reality.

The CNT, currently selling for $700 per gram! You can buy gold at just $19 per gram. Or, if you prefer, buy copper at half a penny per gram. Even if their goal of massive cheap production is realized, it is still $100 per kilogram, or a dime per gram, still way too expensive than copper.

Quantoken

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 8:59:00 AM PST, Blogger merper said...

The CNT, currently selling for $700 per gram! You can buy gold at just $19 per gram. Or, if you prefer, buy copper at half a penny per gram. Even if their goal of massive cheap production is realized, it is still $100 per kilogram, or a dime per gram, still way too expensive than copper.

I love how you make numbers up and act as if you are proving a point on every technology thread. Stop acting like you know exactly what prices will be or exactly how much scientific advancement can be made. I get a good laugh whenever you make a "scientific calculation" to prove that some idea or other will fail. You fare much better opposing JD's oil depletion claims than you do opposing technological claims.

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 11:10:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

The prem:
I never made up any number. I quoted them straight from Roland's source about CNT. Do your due diligence to find out where the $700 per gram price is meantioned. And do your due diligence to find out how much gold is priced at.

Quantoken

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 7:18:00 PM PST, Blogger merper said...

I never made up any number. I quoted them straight from Roland's source about CNT. Do your due diligence to find out where the $700 per gram price is meantioned. And do your due diligence to find out how much gold is priced at.

So you want to use the price of infant technology as a gauge on how much it's going to cost in the future? Well that would explain why I'm writing this on my $7million UNIVAC.

You can't predict the future like that. And that goes for both sides, whether you are a doomer who wants to say all the new material coming out will always remain that expensive, or you want to say that we will have space elevators by 2025.

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 8:53:00 PM PST, Blogger Omnitir said...

Quantoken,
Did you know that in the 19th century aluminium cost around $1200/kg? Yet the price came down. Likewise, CNT’s won’t always be worth more then gold.

But regardless, the point being made is that copper is most defiantly not irreplaceable. In fact copper is inferior and could possibly soon become obsolete to carbon.


You can't predict the future like that. And that goes for both sides

Theprem,
Why can’t we look at expected developments to predict the future? What’s wrong with extrapolating future costs given the data available to us, and estimating the likelihood of a new technology being scaled up in the future? This is the exact same technique that accurately estimated today’s affordable personal computing, as opposed to Quantoken’s method that would predict $7 million UNIVAC’s as the cheapest option.

The future affordability of CNT’s is not something merely predicted by those desperately wanting space elevators. It’s predicted by those whose professions are analysing the data and predicting likely outcomes.

 
At Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 10:17:00 PM PST, Blogger merper said...

For every new technology you read that actually makes it big, there's a dozen other ones that you read about once, then never hear about again. I agree that CNTs do seem to have a lot of potential, however predicting their applications is something that is very tricky. Especially something that is so different such as a space elevator.

The professor that teaches my Nano class, who actually works with nanoscale tech(and other people doing Nano research), albeit more for the transistor type research, considers the whole concept of a space elevator a joke. I haven't gotten a chance to ask her why just yet, but even if you don't want to flat out accept her disclaimer, which I don't, you have to at least doubt that it is as straightforward as these people claim.

 
At Monday, February 27, 2006 at 7:44:00 AM PST, Blogger Rebecca Necker said...

quantoken accuses others of being out of touch with reality. I find that ironic, since I think quantoken is out of touch with reality.

What quantoken and other doomers fail to appreciate is that alternative energy sources are extremely abundant. The only reason we haven't switched to using them is that they're more expensive than fossil fuel (at the moment). The unexciting truth is that when the oil runs out, the likely consequence will be nothing worse than a period of higher-than-usual inflation as we switch to those alternative sources.

 
At Monday, February 27, 2006 at 11:50:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Rebecca:

There are no less than 3 dozen different source of alternative energy sources if you list them. But all of them either 1. are not technically feasible in short term (one or two decades), or 2. simply can not provide energy in enough quantity, or, worse, 3. they cost more energy in the first place than the energy they generate.

Not a single alternative source can beat all three above. You really need to do some calculation to be able to appreciate how much fossil energy we use today. The world consumes 85 million barrel oil a day, each barrel is 42 gallons, each gallon is 3.785 liter. So that's nearly 5 trillion liters a year, that's a 5 followed by ONE DOZEN 0s. And that's only 40% of all energy we use. The total energy used annually is equivalent to 12 trillion liters, averaging 2000 liter per person, rich or poor.

Each gallon of gasoline contains 38000 kilocalories of energy, or 1.59x10^8 Joules. So the total energy consumed by humanity is 2x10^20 Joules. That's a 2 followed by 20 of 0s. If that amount of energy is utilized in 100% efficiency, that equivalent to enough energy to lift each person on earth and all of his belongings, totaling 500 kg, out of the gravity field of the earth into outer space.

That's a huge amount of energy. There is nothing on earth other than fossil fuel which can provide that kind of quantity of energy cheaply. NOTHING. You need to see the Order of Magnitude Morality

 
At Monday, February 27, 2006 at 11:59:00 AM PST, Blogger Freak said...

Quantoken,

What is wrong with you?

How much of that energy actually goes to human survival?

The Custom Cell Phone Ringer industry is a $100000000 per year industry and what does that mean?

did it ever occur to you that most oil is wasted on things as equally stupid as custom ringtones?

but why do you want to be doomed so bad?? why do you want everything to be destroyed?

Why, Quantoken?

 
At Monday, February 27, 2006 at 5:56:00 PM PST, Blogger Rebecca Necker said...

Quantoken, what you are saying is nonsense, and here's why: Solar thermal concentrators are fairly simple technology (not requiring exotic materials or manufacuring processes) that exists right now (not ten or twenty years in the future), and conventional thermal power stations can be converted to solar thermal if there's adequate land nearby where the concentrators can be installed.

It's a well-known fact, that a field of solar concentrators 100 by 100 miles in area would be more than big enough to supply all the US's electrical needs. Thermal storage would ensure 24 hour supply, and spare heat could be used for desalination, area heating, etc. Double the area, and you can charge enough batteries to keep everyone mobile in electric vehicles.

The only practical reason for the US not to have a large installed base of solar thermal power plants already is that with their high capital costs, they are not currently competitive with cheap natural gas and coal. If the natural gas and coal started to run out, solar thermal could replace them completely.

That's not the only option, of course. It's just one example to show that fossil fuels can be replaced using technology that exists now. The fact that viable alternatives exist already shows that quantoken is wrong.

 
At Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 1:38:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Rebecca:

100 miles times 100 miles is a pretty big surface area. You know that? It's 25 billion square meters. Human have never created any structure any where near that size. You need to build many reflective panels each about 1 square meter in size, and each needs to be rotated by a computer controled motor so that they can track the rotation of the sun and always reflect the light to the correct direction. So that's a lot of computer chips and motion parts. Manufacturing all these things, and maintain them and repair and replace damaged parts would actually cost more energy than the energy they create at the end of day.

The world may not even have enough aluminum or silver metal stock to manufacture reflective surfaces that big.

 
At Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 3:17:00 AM PST, Blogger Rebecca Necker said...

Quantoken, again you are talking nonsense. There is no reason why the solar farm(s) to supply the US's electricity supply would need to be built as a single structure (or even at a single location), nor does every square meter of the farm need to be separately steered by its own controller. If troughs were used, for instance, each trough would cover a couple of hundred square meters, and numerous troughs could be controlled by the same system.

Supposing we used troughs that were 200 sq m in size, and each trough had its own controller, you'd need 130 million controllers, which is a feasible number in a world where 400 million cellphones and 75 million mp3 players were made last year alone. If every ten troughs shared one controller, you'd need 13 million, which would be almost trivial to achieve, using modern production techniques.

You seem desperate to hold on to the idea that replacement is impossible,

 
At Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 3:18:00 AM PST, Blogger Rebecca Necker said...

...why? What do you gain by believing in apocalypse, even when the evidence is against you?

 
At Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 3:40:00 AM PST, Blogger Rebecca Necker said...

Manufacturing all these things, and maintain them and repair and replace damaged parts would actually cost more energy than the energy they create at the end of day.

This is not true, unless you want to say the amount of sheet metal manufacturing and chip manufacturing that goes on various countries already exceeds the amount of energy the those countries generate.

 
At Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 11:10:00 AM PST, Blogger Nick said...

"Manufacturing all these things, and maintain them and repair and replace damaged parts would actually cost more energy than the energy they create at the end of day."

Quantoken, do you have a source for this? Most analyses of such systems give a energy payback in months.

 
At Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 11:14:00 AM PST, Blogger Nick said...

Quantoken, are you open to new ideas?

A quick review the "Order of Magnitude Morality" link you provided finds a number of basic errors, which makes the analysis completely unrealistic. I can provide details, if your interested in my making the effort.

Are you interested in hearing about these errors?

 
At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 9:52:00 AM PDT, Blogger Caseygrl said...

Who says we have to use just one alternative fuel to replace oil, quantoken? I understand that there isn't one fuel that can have the same eroei but if we combine all alternative fuels, we can replace oil, easy. Plus, the majority of oil's used for transportation. If we just found other means of transportation, we'd have oil left to use for the things we can't substitute oil for until we find a viable solution. The US consumes about 25% of the oil consumed and 70% of that is for transportation. As for solar, BP's built a big solar power plant in California thats going to power around 1 mil-2 mil homes. Canada's electricty comes mainly from hydro. So don't underestimate alternative fuels

 

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