free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: September 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I've often thought that moving to the country is one of dumber things you could do in response to peak oil.

My reasoning for this is simple: people in the country have a massive dependence on cars and gasoline. For example, my brother used to live on a ranch in the extreme boondocks of Idaho (the area was only electrified in the 1980s) and he and his wife had to drive about 100 miles to go to the supermarket. That's an extreme case, but the general principle is very true. The country has incredible sprawl, and you have to drive really long distances to take care of your daily business. Urban dwellers like myself, on the other hand, don't have to drive at all. My supermarket is a 3 minute walk from my front door. It seems obvious to me that country people -- at least those who aren't making good money from serious agriculture or some other business -- are the ones who will get it in the neck first from peak oil.

If you think about it, it's just a straightforward extension of Kunstler's logic. If the suburbs/exurbs are going to die because they're too oil dependent, then surely the rural areas will die even quicker because they are even more oil dependent.

Of course, savvy people/companies who are already making money on farm operations will continue to profit from food production, and will have the earning power to remain in the country. They belong there. Likewise, if you don't have to work or you're wealthy, then moving to a rural area may be a great response to peak oil. I'm not talking about such people. Or, if you can be an extremely self-sufficient subsistence farmer, and perhaps squat on some land, then my critique doesn't apply.

But if you're a working person who needs income to live, support a family, or build up a doomstead, it seems to me that going rural is jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Here's some articles from summer 2008 that spell it out in painful detail:
Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average
Rural drivers feeling rise in gas prices more than their urban counterparts
High Gas Prices Hit Rural Poor Hardest
Rural Residents Struggle with High Gas Tab
Fuel prices rocket in rural areas

Pops is a rural doomsteader from, and he and I had a little exchange which is relevant this topic:
We'll further diversify our meager income by planting some U-Pick berries on a couple acres and going as whole-hog into market gardening as time allows next year, direct selling grass fed beef and eggs and some value added (jams, jellies) and homemade stuff at the farmers markets and roadside.

Just curious, but how much driving is involved in these businesses? For example, how far would people generally drive for your U-Pick berries? And how far do you and your customers generally drive to a farmers market? Do you keep your beef chilled or frozen? Do you use a generator at the market?


I talked to neighbors who have blueberries they are about to retire from and they said people mainly come from the small town about 5 miles away but some come 40 miles from Springfield or Joplin. They bring their kids and grandkids and a picnic lunch and have a "Farm Experience". With the farmers market people show up with their straw hats and organic cotton shopping bags to be seen by their Green peers. I could make a little money today at the little market on our square but to do any good we'll need to drive to one of the bigger towns — our roadside stand can only make $50 or $100 a week and that's only a few weeks per year.
Smallpoxgirl -- another doomer -- talks in a similar vein about driving from Seattle to Olympia (60 miles) for a farmer's market.

But these long drives totally negate the purpose of local food:
We have found that if a customer drives a round trip distance of more than four miles in order to purchase their organic vegetables, their carbon emissions are likely to be greater than the emissions from the system of cold storage, packing, transport to a regional hub and final transport to customer's doorstep used by large-scale vegetable box suppliers.Source
Another study gets the same results:
In the worst scenario, a UK consumer driving six miles to buy Kenyan green beans emits more carbon per bean than flying them from Kenya to the United Kingdom.Source
The same point can be seen another way. Suppose a family buzzes out to Pops' farm and picks 10 pounds of berries. Driving an average US vehicle, they'll burn 4 gallons of gasoline for a round trip of 80 miles. (Incidentally, that gasoline will weigh about 2.5 times more than the berries purchased.) Now, a commercial aircraft gets roughly 70 miles per gallon per passenger, and a passenger would be roughly equivalent to 20 boxes of berries (each containing 10 pounds). So for 4 gallons, you could send a passenger 280 miles, and a passenger is 20 boxes of berries, so you could send a box of berries about 5600 miles by air. In other words, driving 80 miles by car to buy 10 pounds of berries uses the same amount of fuel as shipping them 5600+ miles by air. And it just gets worse the less you buy. With a 5 pound box, you're talking 11,200 miles -- about half the circumference of the earth. In other words, the only thing more fuel intensive than the 3000 mile salad is the 25 mile farmer's market salad.


Doomers really can't help but grant my point...

I totally agree with you though about the degree to which rural America is dependent on petroleum. People in Montana think nothing of a 100 mile round trip commute or of driving 8 hours round trip to go to the mall. It always impressed me how independent the people where I lived were WRT snow cleanup. It could dump a foot and the next morning everybody would be out with a loader or a snow plow cleaning it all up. In one sense they're very self sufficient, but all that equipment runs off petroleum. Take away the gasoline, and that area would be totally uninhabitable in the winter. To a large extent it's this sort of fake independence. They're more self sufficient in terms of being able to use different technologies and manufactured materials without the aid of a specialist, but they're just as dependent if not more so on the extractive and manufacturing industries in far away places keeping them supplied.
Toby Hemenway, a doomer who went rural and then realized after 10 years that it wasn't such a great idea after all:
Our isolation also meant we were burning a lot of gas. A simple drive for groceries was a 40-minute round trip. Fortunately we both worked at home and had no children, so we could go for days without using the car. But the odometer was whirling to higher numbers than it ever had in the city. A couple of families had moved off our hill because they were exhausted by two to four round trips each day down our steep, potholed gravel road to work, school, soccer practice, music lessons, and shopping.

We cherished our decade-plus in the country, but eventually the realities began to pile up. There wasn’t a local market for the work we did. Community events left us saddened by the gulf between our way of life and theirs. And we were still tethered to the fossil-fuel beast, just by a much longer lifeline of wire, pipe, and pavement. That the beast looked smaller by being farther away no longer fooled us.Source
More real-world info on how rural areas get mauled by high gas prices:
Soaring gas prices are a double-whammy for many rural residents: They often pay more than people who live in cities and suburbs because of the expense of hauling fuel to their communities, and they must drive greater distances for life's necessities: work, groceries, medical care and, of course, gas.

Meanwhile, incomes typically are lower in rural areas, making increasingly high gas prices an especially urgent concern. Rural households also are more likely to have older, less fuel-efficient vehicles such as pickups, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says. The average age of a vehicle in a rural household: 8.7 years, compared with 7.9 years for an urban vehicle.

Rural residents do more driving, too — an average of 3,100 miles a year more than urban dwellers, the FHWA says.

A May survey by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), a fuel analysis company, and Wright Express, a company that collects data on credit card transactions, found that people in rural areas spend as much as 16.02% of their monthly family income on gas, while people in urban areas of New York and New Jersey spend as little as 2.05%.Source
During the last bout of high oil prices, there was some reporting about gas stations closing in rural regions (Fears for rural filling stations, Rural motorists running on empty as pumps close) forcing people to drive long distances for gas. As you would expect, this can turn into a nasty EROEI situation. Here's another report in the same vein...
When the only gas station in Allen, Neb., closed last summer, a gallon of gas cost $2.56, according to prices posted on two abandoned pumps. Since then, Allen's 411 residents have been driving 11 miles to Wakefield or 28 miles to South Sioux City to fill up.

Allen's grocery store went out of business last August, forcing people to shop in South Sioux City or 21 miles away in Wayne. Doctors, dentists and other essentials also require a road trip. The nearest movie theater is in Wayne.

"You have to leave town for about everything," says Jerry Schroeder, an insurance agent who has lived in Allen for all of his 57 years.Source
Still more on people getting savaged by high oil prices in the country (from High Gas Prices Threaten to Drain Small Towns' Populations):
These days, they're also cussing and shaking their heads about the price of that gasoline. People are doing that everywhere, but in small towns such as Leeton, population 619, it's even more of a gut punch because nearly every working adult commutes to jobs elsewhere.

These days, there had better be a really good job on the other end of that trip.

Don Campbell's daily commute to Kansas City - about 100 miles each way - costs him roughly $866 a month at $3.90 per gallon. But he's a union iron worker and says he can make the math work.

Most of his neighbors can't. For them and thousands of other small-town residents across the country who drive long distances to jobs that pay little more than minimum wage, the high cost of gas is making that daily commute cost-prohibitive.

So much so that economists predict that over the next few years, the country could see a migration that would greatly reduce the population of Small Town America - resulting in a painful shift away from lifestyle, family roots, traditions and school ties.
Perhaps the worst threat of all is a vicious cycle of depopulation. High gas prices cause commuting to work/the doctor/school/shopping to be too expensive, so people leave the rural towns/counties and move to larger cities. Govt. revenues decline (people fleeing) while govt. costs rise (gas for the cops, school buses, ambulances, inspectors, garbage collection etc.) Then merchants pull out and gas stations pull out, because there isn't enough population to support them. Govt. services get erratic. More people get fed up and leave etc. etc. Next thing you know, your rural "community" isn't there anymore.
by JD

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Lately, I've been fooling around with the figures from the 2009 BP Statistical Review (BSR) -- in particular the data for "Consumption by Fuel". I've made some surprising discoveries which I'd like to share with you. First, a note of caution: The BSR has some problems with completeness. For example, we know from EIA power generation stats that the Philippines produced 8.5 TWh from hydro, and 9.7 TWh from geothermal in 2007. This closes matches the BSR figure for hydro in 2007 (1.9 million tons of oil equivalent (mtoe) = 8.4 TWh). However the BSR only lists power consumption in 5 categories: Oil, Coal, Gas, Nuclear and Hydro. It neglects non-hydro renewables, and this distorts the data for nations which generate considerable power from non-hydro renewables (e.g., the Philippines, Iceland, Sweden, Brazil, Denmark, Canada and Finland). Another issue is that the BSR is not comprehensive, and only provides data for larger nations. In the future, I'll try to calculate a more accurate picture from EIA data, but for now, let's look at the results from the BSR.

First are the Top Twenty nations in terms of low oil dependence. I define oil dependence as the percentage of total energy consumption deriving from oil. For reference the oil dependence of the world as a whole in 2008 was 35%. Percentage of energy from other sources is also given so you can see how these nations achieved such low oil dependence. The winners are:

Now, the Bottom Twenty in oil dependence:

The next category is where we separate the stallions of the future from the nags of the past. The following are the Top Ten countries in terms of low *fossil fuel* dependence. That is, the countries are ranked by the percentage of their total energy which comes from fossils fuels, lowest first. Note, however, that these figures may be considerably skewed because the BSR does not include non-hydro renewables, as noted above. For reference, the fossil fuel dependence of the world as a whole in 2008 was 88%. That said, the winners are:

There are numerous losers in FF dependence. Countries with a FF dependence of 97% or higher are: Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Turkmenistan, Qatar, Denmark, Belarus, Algeria, Poland, Iran, Netherlands, Bangladesh, Ireland, Thailand, Indonesia, Greece, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Australia.
by JD

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Just when you thought he'd checked himself into a good psychiatric facility....

Mike Ruppert roars back as the star of a new feature film "Collapse".

Owen Gleiberman posts a rave review from the Toronto Film Festival:
I said in my first post from Toronto that you could feel the anxiety of the economic crisis in any number of the films here. Yet even as I wrote that, I could never have guessed I’d end up seeing a movie that would tap into those anxieties with the power and terror of Collapse. It’s one of the few true buzz films of the festival (by the time I got to it, I’d heard a dozen people talking it up), yet the movie, which is 82 minutes long, consists of nothing more than an on-camera interview with Michael Ruppert, a former Los Angeles police officer who became a rogue investigative reporter and author.

A bluntly unassuming and rather plain-looking man in his late fifties, Ruppert sits in what looks like a brick bunker and talks about where he thinks the United States is now headed. It is not a pretty picture, but it’s not a naive one, either. Ruppert has more than a perception — he has a welter of facts, a restless and skeptical intelligence, a grasp of history that is professorial in the best sense, and an ability to slice and dice the platitudes of mainstream media. He’s like Noam Chomsky as a gripping pundit of doom. The drama of the movie, and it’s intense, is that even if you want to argue with him (and you will, since he’s predicting very bad things), you can’t dismiss what he’s saying.

He starts out with a trump card of credibility. In 2006, Ruppert predicted the economic crisis — I mean, he really saw it coming. We’re shown clips of him from that year, and there’s nothing vague or abstract about his statements. He glimpsed the whole house of cards in prophetic detail: the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the inevitable breakdown of a system built, like a gold-leaf castle in the air, on leverage. His astonishingly acute foresight seizes your attention, and so you’d better believe that you’re sitting up and listening as he starts to talk about “peak oil,” the term that’s used to describe the fact that the majority of oil reserves on the planet have, in all likelihood, already been depleted, and that the remaining supply will now perpetually be in decline. (He cites reports that the Saudis have resorted to off-shore drilling — infinitely more costly than on-shore — as evidence that they’ve begun to see the bottom of their wells.)
Now for the reality check...

Mike Ruppert, September 21, 2005:
While I had serious doubts about America's ability to recover from Katrina, I am certain that - barring divine intervention - the United States is finished; not only as a superpower, but possibly even as a single, unified nation with the arrival of Hurricane Rita.Link
Mike Ruppert Jan. 9, 2009:
*I can pretty much bet that as many as 50-75 new Executive Orders will be announced within 72 hours of the inauguration.

*I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a couple of days with 700+ point losses in the Dow over the next ten days to two weeks.

*Reports have suggested that China may dump half of its $1.4 trillion dollar holdings within the next two months.

*As I correspond with a number of key friends and researchers around the world we have all concluded that it may be just a matter of weeks (yikes!) before we start seeing major disruptions in everyday life.

*Soon it will be necessary for me to look at topics which we've mentioned in passing. These include civil unrest, camps, emergency communications and preparedness as the threat of societal breakdown becomes imminent. It's time to start doing that.Link
Mike Ruppert, Nov. 25, 2008:
-"The end" of the U.S. economy by March or April.
-Gold $2000 an oz. by March
-People starving and screaming for food by August
-Conditions 10x worse than The Great Depression by August
-Oil above $100, gas above $3.00 by Summer.Link
Mike Ruppert, Sept. 13, 2005:
"I predict we will soon see a national draft, and Canada will not harbor U.S. deserters as it did during Vietnam, as it is now a virtual U.S. colony." Link
Mike Ruppert, April 25, 2009:
"Now, with the swine flu outbreak just developing, it is clear that the dieoff has begun..." Link
Astonishingly acute foresight... LOL. Ruppert is a complete wingnut "truther" with a long history of BS predictions, extreme paranoia and mental health issues.

Update 9/28/09:
Mike Ruppert found guilty of sexual harassment, hit with $125,000 fine.
The state labor board has ordered author and conspiracy theorist Michael C. Ruppert, to pay more than $125,000 to a former female employee he was accused of sexually harassing.

State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, ordered the former Ashland businessman to pay Lindsay Gerken $2,713 in lost wages. Avakian then tagged on $125,000 in damages for the woman's mental and emotional suffering for an award of $127,713.


Avakian said Gerken was fired a week after Ruppert asked her to have a sexual relationship with him and she refused.

The most startling incident occurred when Ruppert came to Gerken's office door "wearing only his underwear and a smile," according to a BOLI release.


In an interview Thursday, Ruppert did not deny he presented himself to Gerken in his underwear.


"At the trial it was evident that one person was telling the truth, and another was not," he said. "All of (Ruppert's) businesses have failed and creditors a mile long are after him."Source
It's also worth mentioning that Delmart "Mike" Vreeland -- a primary source for Ruppert's conspiracy theory screed Crossing the Rubicon -- has been sentenced to 336 years in prison for pedophilia:
A Douglas County man has been sentenced to 336 years to life in prison after he was convicted of luring two boys into performing sex acts and making child pornography by giving them drugs and money and promising them a drum set.

Forty-two-year-old Delmart Vreeland was convicted in 2006 of 13 felony charges, including inducement of child prostitution, sexual assault, sexual exploitation of children and distribution of cocaine. Earlier this year, he was convicted of six habitual criminal counts.Source
by JD
Major hat tip to Andrew Ryan for keeping tabs on Mike and compiling most of this material. Hopefully he'll check in soon with more material for this article.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


REN21 has released its Renewables Global Status Report 2009. This table shows the scorecard, as of the end of 2008:
The wind build is amazing if you think of it in terms of EV fuel.

A typical EV efficiency value is 5 miles/kwH, while ICE cars run about 20 miles/gallon. That gives us an equivalency of about 1 kwh = .25 gallons of gasoline. The world is adding about 30 GWe of wind capacity per year, and wind has a capacity factor of about 30%. So the wind installed last year should produce roughly 87.6 Twh/year (roughly equal to the total annual electricity production of the Czech Republic). Converting that to gasoline, we get 1.4 million barrels /day. In a few years, the wind increment will double to the equivalent of 3 million barrels/day, so that windmills worldwide will be adding EV fuel equivalent to Canada's total oil production every year (or Saudi Arabia's oil production every 3 years). And windmills don't deplete!

EVs really can really be a game changer if you think about. Windmills are a very efficient and clean source of vehicle fuel, and they can definitely come on a lot faster than oil is depleting. No wonder the Saudi's are getting worried.

Here's a sampler of other interesting graphs from the report...
A phenomenal surge in wind in the last 10 years:

Solar PV growth:
Renewable power capacity:
China excels in yet another area:
Did someone say "The End of Growth"? LOL:
Here's a figure that will knock your socks off: The US alone invested $24 billion in wind in 2008.
by JD

Sunday, September 06, 2009


It seems this article by Lionel Badal was too hot for the Oil Drum to handle. I have to admit it's a little bizarre to see the Oil Drum suddenly so eager to paint the IEA in a good light. Is Gail a traitor to the cause of PO? Has TOD has been co-opted by moles from BAU and Team Yergin? The whispering has begun: "TOD has a hopelessly rose-colored view of OOIP and Alt resources..." Stay tuned...

This article was originally submitted to The Oil Drum[27] (one of the leading Peak Oil news webpage). While the editors initially accepted to publish the article, at the very last moment they changed their mind. In other words, an article on Peak Oil was censored by… The Oil Drum (TOD). The reasons why?

“I know there are at least a few people who think we should be putting the IEA in as favorable light as we can. So I have decided not to run it…” (Gail the Actuary, Editor, 2 September 2009).

However, to be fair with TOD, some of their members did not support this action:

“Sorry to hear about what's going on regarding your article and TOD… 1) this is something that TOD should publish, and 2) this kind of censorship, as you point out, isn't something that we should take any part in.” (Jeff Vail, 2 September 2009).

At the end, they wouldn’t accept it. If even TOD starts to censor information on Peak Oil…

To put it in the words of Steve Connor, Science Editor of The Independent, “What an odd thing for Oil Drum to be worried about -- so much for the independent journalism of the internet.”
As you can see, the article was accepted by The Oil Drum, but then (at the very last moment) cancelled…

From: Gail Tverberg [GailTverberg@comcast....
Sent: 01 September 2009 15:52
To: Badal, Lionel
Subject: Re: article on Peak Oil and the IEA

My current plans are to put it up tomorrow. Since it involves a
European issue, I may put it up late tonight, so it is up for your
morning tomorrow.


From: Gail Tverberg
Date: September 2, 2009 9:04:27 AM EDT
To: "Badal, Lionel"
Subject: Re: article on Peak Oil and the IEA


I have your post ready, but after thinking about it, I started worrying. The IEA folks are in a terrible position. I worry that we will make things even worse for them. The result could be people losing their jobs, or even suicide.

I know there are at least a few people who think we should be putting the IEA in as favorable light as we can.

So I have decided not to run it, at least not for now. Nate pointed out to me that it is well documented, so from that point of view it is not a problem.

I should have thought this through better before.


Update 9/8/2009:
The above text criticizing the Oil Drum has now been deleted from Badal's article. A thread on TOD's handling of this article (at TOD) is here.

by JD

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Man, this is some funny stuff... our old buddy Matt Simmons is pulling the fire alarm again. Seems there's some crackpots out there making unfounded predictions about natural gas production!!!
"In the 40 years I've followed the industry I've been continuously amazed at the tangent people are willing to go off on without any data, or by getting the data wrong," Simmons said. Link
Oh, the irony...

Matt seems to have forgotten that in 2003 he himself predicted* that a natural gas cliff -- a veritable natural gas armageddon -- was a certainty in the US by 2005. And yet here we are, 6 years later, swimming in a glut of natural gas, with production at a historic high last reached in 1974.

Simmons' credibility is shot, but he just keeps blustering on, oblivious.

The disappointing part is the guy who interviewed Simmons. Doesn't anybody do any research? I could name you five Simmons predictions that have imploded off the top of my head. And soon, we've got the much-ballyhooed Simmons-Tierney bet where he's fixing to lose $5,000 to a cornucopian disciple of Julian Simon, and be exposed in the New York Times as a laughing stock.

It's becoming ever clearer that Simmons is a buffoon who really can't get anything right. His instincts are bad. He has an intemperate personality. He tends to get over-excited and let his mouth get away from him. He's sort of like the "Joe Biden" of the peak oil community.

You wanna see what I mean? Listen to Simmons in this interview. He talks like someone who's been up all night smoking crack -- and I'm not exaggerating.


*)For your reading enjoyment, vintage Simmons from the summer of 2003:
Simmons: As you know, I have been talking for some time about the natural gas cliff we are experiencing.


Well, I know you understand it, but people need to understand the concept of peaking and irreversible decline. It's a sharper issue with gas, which doesn't follow a bell curve but tends to fall off a cliff.

Someone's going to be left holding the bag big time. If natural gas consumption surges in ten days of excessive heat then it would require almost a complete shutdown of industrial consumption to compensate and protect the grid. As I have been reporting for years now, there isn't going to be enough gas to run those plants, let alone new ones.


Pray for no hurricanes and to stop the erosion of natural gas supplies. Under the best of circumstances, if all prayers are answered there will be no crisis for maybe two years. After that it's a certainty. Source
by JD

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Some readers noticed that I was briefly branded as a malware site by Google yesterday. The site is back to normal now, but let me explain. It seems I had a hot linked jpg of a Cadillac on a page from 4 years ago, and that jpg was being hosted by a malware site. I deleted the link, and was certified A-OK by Google this morning.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope you'll stay tuned. I've got some good new posts in the oven which I'll start posting later today.

As always, thanks for reading and supporting Peak Oil Debunked!