Pragmatism vs. Ideology
June 8, 2004 6:24 AM   Subscribe

"End of Oil" rebuts Reagan hagiography ? Amidst the din that is the lengthy US media coverage on Ronald Reagan's demise, the BBC reports on the growing acceptance (with oil industry attendance at a recent ASPO conference in Berlin) of the Hubbert Curve Theory which predicts we are now close to or at the peak of World Oil production. (also see Metafilter,October 2002).

Now, the wayback machine : the year is 1980 and the new President, Ronald Reagan, has ordered a solar hot water system, installed by President Carter, torn off the White House roof. Reagan will preceed to gut federal alternative energy subsidies and federal R&D spending on alternative energy technologies to, instead, spend many billions subsidizing oil, coal, and gas production.... Over the next 23 years, the US lost it's role as the World leader in efficiency and alternative energy technologies.
posted by troutfishing (79 comments total)
The din of the American media - ongoing for days now - is deafening - a thousand cracked, off-key casio notes screaming praise. When did NPR and FOX merge into one seemless whole ? Did I miss something ?

Meanwhile - away from the (apparently) drug-addled media reaganaether I'm thinking : Winter's coming - Wood hot water heater....Gee, sure wish I could afford a hybrid car....
posted by troutfishing at 6:39 AM on June 8, 2004

But he was so fucking cheerful all the time!
posted by jpoulos at 6:47 AM on June 8, 2004

Pres. Carter had a job making electrial power from the splitting of atoms and knew what it took to make energy for consumption.

The set up of energy conservation and tax credits to help move off of OPEC energy done by the Carter administrator was dismantled by Ronald Reagan. Meanwhile, Pres. Reagan also spent money and effort building the fighters of the russians in Afganistan.

So two big issues today - Middle East Oil dependancy and Ex-Afgan rebels have direct ties back to actions of Ronald Reagan's administration.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:05 AM on June 8, 2004

Reagan? I heard he died.
posted by Outlawyr at 7:17 AM on June 8, 2004

Have you taken your meds today, troutfishing? That was pretty incoherent even for you.
posted by darukaru at 7:17 AM on June 8, 2004

Does using the word "hagiography" feel smart?
posted by jammer at 7:30 AM on June 8, 2004

I understand what trout is getting at. The adulation is a bit much...jebuz, it's not like the guy was a deity...he was just a cheerful old coot who happened to hide a heart of pure unadulterated evil behind a shiny teflon surface.

So much was wrong with the Reagan years, and the fallout from those years has been significant and long lasting...and yet, the country is expected to act like it's some tragedy that an old guy in California kicked the bucket. And Trout's right...even NPR is bending over to fuck themselves with the "I Love Ronnie" dildo. (Of course, NPR hasn't been liberal in about 15 years...but that's a whole 'nother issue.)

I mean, 5 days of state morning? W.T. F.? It's just too Lenin-esque for my libertarian tastes.

He's dead. Stick him in the ground. Quit parading his corpse around like a trophy of good times past. It's creepy as all get-out. The king didn't die. It's not the passing of a regime. The world continues to revolve around the sun, the rich continue to get richer, the poor continue to get screwed. Things are as they ever were.
posted by dejah420 at 7:36 AM on June 8, 2004

Yes, trout, please use small words - preferably not in their proper context - so we see you as someone we'd want to have a beer with. Haven't you heard? That's how we choose preznits and pundits alike. People who use big words might be faggoty liberals.

darukaru and jammer - why don't you go off into a corner and argue about whether troutfishing is too erudite or too incoherent?
posted by stonerose at 7:36 AM on June 8, 2004

People who use big words might be faggoty liberals.

That is the all-time lamest & laziest straw man in the history of Metafilter (and the first time I've ever uttered "straw man").
posted by dhoyt at 7:38 AM on June 8, 2004

Does using the word "hagiography" feel smart?

oh, SNAP!
posted by mcsweetie at 7:53 AM on June 8, 2004

What Dejah said.

Geez, all the sycophantic slobbering is getting tiresome. The man was the Great Taxer and the Great Liar and the Great B Actor, not a Great Communicator! Great Communicators don't need index cards and rehearsals but can speak extemporaneously! (Oops, were any of those words too big?)
posted by nofundy at 7:57 AM on June 8, 2004

straw man (2): "An argument or opponent set up so as to be easily refuted or defeated."
posted by stonerose at 8:00 AM on June 8, 2004

I've been very concerned about the PeakOil (tm) for some time now.

I found this lecture very alarming (also on rm-video.)

There is no excuse that we can give our grandchildren for fucking up this last opportunity to smoothen the change. I am truly afraid.

On the other hand could the rise of transport costs reduce the effect that globalisation is forcing on manufacturing? Could it be that in 20 years it could again be more profitable to produce most consumer goods near the place of purchase?

My bet is that imported low-price goods, such as food (lamb is flown New Zealand to Europe!, oranges from Israel) would be dramatically more expensive. "High-tech" products, such as computers and mobilephones would still be profitable to import. Better weight/price -ratio.

As a European, I have been amazed by the amount of praise Ronald Reagan has received posthumously. Reading Fox"news" it would seem that he single-handedly won the Cold War. I do not care whether he was a good person or not, but distorting history and facts, oversimplifying complex political and historical trends to deeds of just a few icons is very troubling indeed. Analytical historical context seems to be missing from the american daily discourse.

And thanks for the links once again, Trout.
posted by hoskala at 8:05 AM on June 8, 2004

jammer - Not really. I don't feel smart - but if I hadn't known the word "hagiography" before Reagan's death, I sure would have known it by now. I ran across the word about 5 times on prominent blogs within 24 hours of Reagan's death.

I thought it was applied correctly too.

Anyway, Exxon/Mobil, BP, and other big players are now attending "Peak Oil" conferences to listen to Colin Campbell.

A year or two ago - around when I made that first Metafilter post on Peak Oil - they were quite dismissive. The progression of this theory - towards acknowledged fact - is clear.

And why not - it proved uncannily accurate at forecasting the peak of US domestic oil production.

"[ ASPO ] includes a diverse range of oil industry insiders.

People like Ali Bakhtiari, head of strategic planning at Iran's National Oil Company (NOIC), Dr Colin Campbell, a former executive vice president of Total-Fina, and Matthew Simmons, an energy investment banker and adviser to the controversial Bush-Cheney energy plan.

They are united by one idea, that global oil production is about to peak, which in turn will signal the permanent end of cheap oil.

And they warn that this is the foundation of the current rise in oil prices. "

Get that last name - Mathew Simmons, adviser to the Bush-Cheney energy plan. I hate to have to spell this out (I've done it before on Mefi), but this suggests that the
Bush Administration was well aware of the "Peak Oil" problem prior to going into Iraq and was also aware that - given the tight margins now between production and demand - any disruption of productive capacity (through terrorism, by Saddam, through a destabilization in an increasingly unstable Saudi Arabia....) would trigger a worldwide economic downturn or an all-out disaster.

Invading Iraq - in part with the idea of "stabilizing" the Mideast and so securing access to Mideast oil - might have been a rational (though questionable) project provided the circumstances were dire enough, but.......

: if Peak Oil was so close and the overall situation so tenuous, why not also address the problem through a crash federal investment in renewables ? Why not secure access to oil AND begin a crash program of investing in alternative energy technology and implementation ? Instead, the GW Bush Administration has - like Reagan - plumped up already fat subsidies to the oil and coal industries.
posted by troutfishing at 8:06 AM on June 8, 2004

hagiography is a cool word and one that fits in exactly the sense that troutfishing is using it. The complaint about the word is really quite puerile.
posted by rks404 at 8:07 AM on June 8, 2004

The complaint about the word is really quite puerile.

It's positively pusillanimous.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:20 AM on June 8, 2004

Does using the word "hagiography" feel smart?

It is a perfectly cromulent word, and really how often do you get to use it? The time and place are right.
posted by thirteen at 8:29 AM on June 8, 2004

I have come to the same conclusion, Trout.

Simply crying out "It's about oil!" is stupid. Oil can be purchased by the highest bidder for a long time come. More important is at what price and from whom/how reliably.

The Bush Administration didn't want to give that lever to Saddam. Oil is a real "good'ole" Machiavellian casus belli, but is one that the american public (or the world) might not have agreed on, although it is a very reasonable one given your dependacy on exported oil. (Any bets when you are going to invade Venezuela? 9 years?)

The stupid thing about this policy is that it gives a blind eye to the obvious truth: this planet is going to run out of oil sooner or later. The more prepared we are to confront that change the smaller will the consequenses be.

Current policies around the world are trying to keep this machine working as long as they can. Crash seems inevitable.

With the Kyoto protocol EU (and some other countries) are taking an inadequate first step. Pretty soon it will become obvious that even more drastic reduces in CO emissions/fossil fuel dependency will be needed.

There is reason for gloom optimism though, the rising prices of gas will reduce consumption, thus reducing CO-emissions... That maybe the ultimate free-market solution to global warming. It just would be so much wiser to confront these problems before they turn into global crises.
posted by hoskala at 8:32 AM on June 8, 2004

I already plugged it the other day, but Peak Oil is again a chief concern in Thom Harmann's The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, a book I can't recommend highly enough. It's the most clear-eyed, comprehensive overview of the problems we're facing that I've ever seen. The first half outlines everything from climate change, species extinction ("the death of birth"), overpopulation, and (this is what the title refers to) the imminent exhaustion of fossil fuel resources. The second half is guardedly hopeful about possible solutions. If you're even vaguely interested in any of this, you ought to check it out. In fact, I believe it's crucial that you do.

As for Reagan, there's always Greg Palast's take.
posted by muckster at 8:36 AM on June 8, 2004

We were going to free ourselves from Middle Eastern Oil with solar hot water heaters? Are you kidding? Most people heat their water with electricity they get off the grid, and most of that electricity comes from AMERICAN COAL. You're "accusing" Reagan of ending the wasteful subsidation of dead-end or, if technically possible, unimaginably expensive "alternative" energy sources, and instead promoting the use of CHEAP, PLENTIFUL fossil fuels we already had the infrastructure for? The sad part is I'm pretty sure you're not joking.

The article in troutfishing's second link states:

Yet even as America rediscovered fossil fuels [under Reagan], quite another strategy was unfolding elsewhere: Both Germany and Japan began aggressively pushing research in solar, wind and other alternatives. Just as important, both countries have moved to build new markets for alternative technologies — for instance, by subsidizing homeowner purchases of solar panels or helping farmers who want to install wind turbines. By creating more demand, these programs have increased the number of solar cells or wind turbines being manufactured, which is driving down the unit costs — ideally, to the point where alternatives can compete directly with conventional energy.

HAHAHAHAHA, yes, "ideally."

Lets see how this brilliant alternative energy strategy has worked for Japan in the past 20 years. (Hint: the same author in the same article points out that today we're importing technology from Japan for GASOLINE-hybrid automobiles):

From the DOE: Japan lacks significant domestic sources of energy and must import substantial amounts of crude oil, natural gas, and other energy resources, including uranium for its nuclear power plants. [Gee, the really could use some alternatives, couldn't they?] In 2001, the country's dependence on imports for primary energy stood at more than 79%. Oil provided Japan with 50% of its total energy needs, coal 17%, nuclear power 14%, natural gas 14%, hydroelectric power 4%, and renewable sources 1.1%. About half of Japan's energy is used by industry and about one-fourth by transportation, with nearly all the rest used by the residential, agricultural, and service sectors. Japan's energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) is among the lowest in the developed world.

So Japan, the world's second-largest national economy, has aggressively pursued alternatives for 20+ years, and the result provides only 1.1% of their energy needs?

But Germany, how have they done? Surely they've done better?

Well: Germany has limited domestic fossil-fuel resources and therefore relies on imports to meet its energy needs. In 2001, gross imports accounted for 64% of Germany's total primary energy consumption of 14.35 quadrillion British thermal units (Btus). Oil accounted for 41% of domestic German energy consumption in 2001, followed by natural gas (23%), coal (23%), and nuclear power (11%).
In 2001, Germany generated 544.8 billion kilowatt hours (bkwh) of electricity, two-thirds of which came from fossil fuels (mostly coal), with the other third coming mostly from nuclear power along with small amounts of hydropower and other renewable sources

Well how much, dammit?

Germany's consumption of renewable energy (including geothermal, solar, wind, wood and waste electric power) has increased dramatically since 1991. The consumption of renewable electricity, particularly wind power, has more than quadrupled since 1991, [Wow, that sound great!] to 22.6 billion kilowatt hours in 2001, [Wait, 22.6 Billion kwh? That doesn't sound like so much] representing approximately 4% of the country's total electricity consumption. [Ouch.]

Nothing Reagan could've done 20 years ago short of killing off most of the world's population with nuclear missiles could have substantially changed how much energy the world consumes today, or where it comes from. Well, maybe he could've pushed for nuclear energy. Oh.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:36 AM on June 8, 2004

> It just would be so much wiser to confront these problems before they turn
> into global crises.

When in the history of the human race did that ever happen? A bumpy ride is the only ride available.
posted by jfuller at 9:01 AM on June 8, 2004

It took a huge investment of time and money to get our current petroleum based economy to it's current state - why presume that it should be any different with alternative fuels? At some point, mankind will run out of oil and we might as well bite the bullet. Too bad that the process is probably going to take a while. What happened to that whole stick-to-it-itivness (sorry for using such a big word!) and Yankee ingenuity that we pride ourselves on?
posted by rks404 at 9:02 AM on June 8, 2004

Techgnollic, check out Denmark for wind power.

They already create 18% of their energy with wind. (And yes, you can tell that from their landscape -there is always at least one mill present.)

I just can't follow your reasoning. Are you suggesting that you should "stay on course", although there are clear signs of warning ahead?

New technologies always take time to implement, and yes at least for now fossil fuels are much too cheap to overcome. In my view the links Trout provided proved that the status quo might change radically in the next decade.

And it would be wiser to prepare for that change. It would be unpopular, it demands huge amounts of "real leadership". The problem (not the only one) with our democratic system is that it tends to span only for 4 years at a time. Decisions like these would need at least a 25 or 50 year span. (Bush Reign for 50 years... Noooooooooo...)
posted by hoskala at 9:09 AM on June 8, 2004

Rich countries have been constantly reducing their dependence on oil, increasing efficiency, and reducing pollution across the board, for the last 3 decades. Auto efficiency, for instance, is at its highest level ever: 42.5 ton-mpg, up from 26.9 ton-mpg in 1975. We are getting more bang for our buck:

It's not like anyone deliberately halted development of renewable energy sources just to be evil. Today they are not economically viable. They certainly were not in the 70's. Carter may as well have installed a water heater powered by homeless people on stationary bikes. Wouldn't that have sent a message to the world that we were committed to ending poverty AND oil dependence?

I liked the ExxonMobil report linked from the Peak Oil site. It calmly explains how there are huge proven reserves (over 4 trillion bbl, compared to a total of 1 trillion bbl extracted since the early-1800's) and that oil companies intend to sensibly and rationally manage those resources, based on the economics.

A high oil price is probably what this country needs, as it will help make the business case for alternative energy sources which previously would have looked rediculously expensive compared to currently-available sources. I would bet that the transition will be smooth, as people face the music and stop buying SUV's and capital markets pour trillions into developing solar/hydrogen/nuclear (hah!) energy. As you can see, I am an optimist, and I'm hoping that the Saudi Royal family manages to keep a hold on their country, which is a at best a wish.
posted by MarkO at 9:12 AM on June 8, 2004

So techgnolloic, is your premise that the Regan administration was sufficiently far-sighted to know that persuing alternative energy was a fool's errand? How exactly will such alternatives come about, or at least have the possibility of being discovered, without the type of basic research that such funding would have supported? Germany and Japan certainly have good research sectors, but who knows what might have been developed had the additional, sizable population of researchers in the US been motivated?

I'm not saying that renewable energy sources are or ever will be practical, but I do know that you generally don't make important discoveries if you don't bother to look for them in the first place.
posted by bhorling at 9:13 AM on June 8, 2004

btw, if that Economist graph goes away (it was btu's per dollar gdp), you can make your own from this excel file.
posted by MarkO at 9:18 AM on June 8, 2004

Well, maybe he could've pushed for nuclear energy. Oh.

What a great idea! Create waste that remains toxic for 10,000 years! How do you plan on keeping a society together the 9,996 years to watch over the waste pile?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:25 AM on June 8, 2004

techgnollogic - 'Nothing Reagan could've done 20 years ago short of killing off most of the world's population with nuclear missiles could have substantially changed how much energy the world consumes today, or where it comes from. Well, maybe he could've pushed for nuclear energy.'

I disagree, Reagan could have promoted energy efficiency. As the US is the largest single comsumer of energy an increase in efficiency in the US would have global implications. It would also put pressure on other countries.

All new builds and conversions could be given insentives to be energy efficient as well as new energy production plants.

It is more efficient to derive your electricity from a local incinerator or PVs than it is to get it from the grid.

It would make the US a more pleasant place to live for all people, if pollution were cut down.

Do you not think that the oil companies spend alot of money buying politicians in all countries where there is consumption of oil? Maybe Reagan could have done something about this abuse of democracy?
posted by asok at 9:31 AM on June 8, 2004

hoskala - thanks. I remember, when Reagan moved into the White House and proceeded to gut the renewables subsidies, thinking : "This is really dumb!"

23 years later it doesn't look any better. But - on the upside - the market can adapt very, very fast to new realities. Between the years of about 1979 to 1987 (a little less than a decade) US oil consumption barely increased at all, though the economy grew at a healthy enough pace.

If the Bush Administration - or their successor administration - eliminated the US federal oil and coal subsidies, to merely level the playing field, I suspect alternative energy would take off.

Already, solar power is growing by 20% per year, and windpower probably even faster......and that's on a skewed playing field.

In fact, I don't think oil scarcity is the real problem here.... I think that's a red herring. I think the REAL project at hand is largely one borne from raw greed - the Bush Administration is doing a bang-up job of keeping the public focused on oil, oil, and oil.

That serves the purposes of those Bush Administration friends in the oil industry and Bush family friends among the Saudis - all of whom profit enormously from high oil prices.

As oil goes up and up and up, the oil industry can reap windfall profits by merely taking the same relative percentage middleman's cut.

The growth of the alternative energy industry threatens that profitability. I think the Bush crowd merely wants to wring the last sweet drops of profit from the declining oil biz, public be damned.


"Nothing Reagan could've done 20 years ago short of killing off most of the world's population with nuclear missiles could have substantially changed how much energy the world consumes today" - techgnollogic, that's flatly incorrect, and for many reasons.

As I stated above, "Between the years of about 1979 to 1987 (a little less than a decade) US oil consumption barely increased at all, though the economy grew at a healthy enough pace. "

During the Reagan years - with no credit to Reagan but through both simple market pressures, and also from CAFE fuel efficiency standards, the US economy learned to produce nearly twice as much "product" for only slightly more oil.

The relationship of oil to economic production is not fixed. -

About alternative energies : the cost electricity from windpower is now about the same, and promising to drop below, new coal or gas fired electric plants : "Over the last 20 years, the cost of electricity from utility-scale wind systems has dropped by more than 80%. In the early 1980s, when the first utility-scale turbines were installed, wind-generated electricity cost as much as 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. Now, state-of-the-art wind power plants can generate electricity for less than 5 cents/kWh in many parts of the U.S., a price that is competitive with new coal- or gas-fired power plants.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working with the wind industry to develop a next generation of wind turbine technology. The products from this program are expected to generate electricity at prices that will be lower still."

All the the countries you cite have long relied on oil for the same reason as has the US - because it has been cheap and because, until very recently, was believed to be considerably more abundant than it apparently is.

But Japan - for example - has enjoyed a major manufacturing and overall economic advantage compared to this US : it could produce economic "product" (GDP units) for far less energy than in the US ( see chart )

That is one part of the equation - energy efficiency - which has barely BEGUN to be fully tapped. Many energy efficiency gains are achieved through intelligent design and not through technology per se. Meaning - dramatic energy efficiency gains could have been achieved in the US in past decades with relatively little cost or bother.

But no one did bother - oil was cheap - and the issue, in the US at least, was perceived - bizarrely, to my mind - as some sort of ideological "contest" rather than a simply practical matter.

Further, the development of mature technologies takes time. Did the modern auto appear overnight ?

No, indeed.

These technologies do not appear

So, it stands to reason that, had the Reagan Adminstration not gutted the funding of alternative energy and energy efficiency technology, we would likely have had viable, mature technologies many years sooner.

One more point - It was known, even in the 1970's, that

1) Oil and coal were not limitless resources

2) Most of the World's oil reserves were in the Middle East

3) Oil and coal burning produced pollution that was detrimental to human health.

Oh and - my parents had an auxiliary solar system on their roof. It was, essentially, a clear plastic air bag with one interior face colored black. An electric fan circulated air through it when the interior bag air temp became high enough. It worked fine.

Overall, your argument amounts to this :

We MUST burn fossil fuels. Alternatives were - and are - IMPOSSIBLE. That's simply silly.

By the way, the UK is on a crash program to derive 10% of it's energy needs from windpower by the end of the decade.

But - moving on past blame - the time for the removal of absurd subsidies to fossil fuel industry, to level the competitive playing field for alternative energy technologies is NOW.
posted by troutfishing at 9:32 AM on June 8, 2004

Oh man! I missed a big words fight?!?! Oh well.

I thought was a perfectly fine post - both in form (hagiography is *exactly* the right word, or at least one of them, and people need to not be threatened by new words) and content (the story of approaches to energy and public transport both remind me that specific policy choices have real effects, and maybe history isn't just this massive current we no more affect than driftwood does a river).

Oh, and eschew obfuscation.
posted by freebird at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2004

The Exxon Mobil report states that "scientific evidence" on green house effect "remain inconclusive". I coudn't disagree more. Even if we had unlimited supply of coal, oil and gas, we should be working hard to reduce emissions.

That would of course be against the will of several corporations, but that's why we have elected governments, no?

The report, although optimistic on fuel reserves states quite clearly that a large part of remaining reserves are very expensive to drill, thus hiking the price of fuel even more.
posted by hoskala at 9:41 AM on June 8, 2004

"When BBC News Online followed up by asking if this giant increase in production was actually possible rather than simply a desire he refused to answer. "You are from the press? This is not for you. This is not for the press."

Asking other delegates - admittedly supporters of the peak oil theory - whether such a steep increase was feasible, the answers were unambiguous: "absolutely out of the question," "completely impossible," and "3 million barrels - never, not even 300,000."

One delegate laughed so hard he had to support himself on a table. Some recent figures tend to back up ASPO's outlook. .....North Sea production is declining at an increasing rate, having peaked in 1999. ....Not at the predicted flat rate of decline of 7%, but gradually accelerating from 7% to 8.5% to 11%.

And the number of major new oil fields discovered around the world fell to zero for the first time in 2003, despite an obvious increase in technological expertise." (from the BBC article)

bhorling - windpower is now as cheap as coal (see my link, above)


hoskala - ah yes, Exxon/Mobil a trustworthy corporation, no? - Like a crocodile.

"The report, although optimistic on fuel reserves states quite clearly that a large part of remaining reserves are very expensive to drill, thus hiking the price of fuel even more."

- and that's exactly the point of the Peak Oil folks :

The size of the reserves, overall, is less important than the size of the easily recoverable reserves.

What the Hubbert theory proposes is exactly in line with observed human nature : that humans would extract all the most easily extractable oil first.

Well, we've done that, they say. Now - on the downslope - we've got "reserves" which would have been classified, earlier on, as "crap".

Yes, we can extract oil from those reserve fields, but more slowly and at a much higher price.
posted by troutfishing at 9:51 AM on June 8, 2004

What are the implications for the "developing world", i.e. countries that do nasty backward things like farming and walking and bicycling; as opposed to advanced things like importing energy, sitting in traffic and buying things from chains?

Seems like they might have an easier time moving into the first world if it involved a low-energy-use paradigm rather than a high one.

I've been coming around to the opinion that some of what's wrong with the world is a consequence of cheap energy. To take one example: gigantic corporate farms that monocrop vast areas are only economic because they can distribute produce cheaply over a wide area. Expensive energy helps tilt the economic balance towards diversified regional farms that serve nearby commmunities. You never know: more expensive energy may help slow or even reverse the extinction of the family farm.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2004

hagiography is *exactly* the right word, or at least one of them, and people need to not be threatened by new words

I pretty much agree with you. I love new, unusual, and interesting words. I'm even a regular reader of our own languagehat's blog.

I was mostly commenting because as soon as I saw "hagiography", I thought to myself, "Aha. This must be a troutfishing post," and I was right.

Driving your latest hobby-horse word into the ground is not erudition. The truly erudite find forms of expression that are less redundant. Banal repetition of 25 cent words smacks of someone attempting to conceal a base argument in a flourish of rote prose.

Man, this has gotten far afield. I'll go off to that corner now. This whole Reagan thing is getting tiresome.
posted by jammer at 10:08 AM on June 8, 2004

I've been coming around to the opinion that some of what's wrong with the world is a consequence of cheap energy. To take one example: gigantic corporate farms that monocrop vast areas are only economic because they can distribute produce cheaply over a wide area. Expensive energy helps tilt the economic balance towards diversified regional farms that serve nearby commmunities. You never know: more expensive energy may help slow or even reverse the extinction of the family farm.

My thoughts exactly. An economist friend of mine disagreed with me though. He said that in most exported goods the cost of transport is only a fraction of the price the customer pays. I don't know this for certain, though. Can anyone enlighten us?

I think the weight/price -ratio is one thing to consider. Nowadays even rawmaterials like wood and crude oil are exported. Maybe exporting refined products (instead of wood, export chairs etc...) stays profitable longer.
posted by hoskala at 10:13 AM on June 8, 2004

You know - when will everyone figure out that America is run on the crisis system? The populace likes to leave everything 'hands off' until these is a major crisis, at which point the Federal Government is expected to rush in to the rescue to save everyone.

I meant that only to be partially sarcastic. Most government programs and initiatives are products of crisis in this country, and it takes a major crisis to bring about change in the United States. Is this a bad thing? Sometimes it is - but I think in many ways it also keeps the idea of an encroaching mommy state off of our backs.

Americans, on the aggregate, have historically tended to 'go with the flow' until their feathers are really ruffled about something, and then we go gang busters to correct it. The Revolution took many decades to foment into the breakaway, the Civil War was about a century in the making. Government reform in the 1880s and 1890s as well as Teddy Roosevelt's social reforms in the early 20th century all came about only after massive upheaval and crisis. Hell, it took the Great Depression and World War II to give us the current governmental structure we have today. NASA only came into existence when the "threat" of Soviet superiority in space became an issue and Civil Rights were never really dealt with until there was massive upheaval in the streets during the 1960s.

The list goes on - but the point being is that Regan's overarching policy of being 'hands off' toward most domestic policy merely continued a long standing American tradition of waiting until the ship is about to capsize before taking action. The general policy is very much "American" in spirit - but the question is whether or not it is *prudent* given the complexity of the world today.

Regan, I doubt, had much care of whether or not the Afghans that we armed in the 1980s would become the terrorists we are fighting today. His vision and problem at the time was far different: Communism and the Soviet Union. Short sighted policy? You bet. But many conservatives would say the same of Franklin Roosevelt's massive expansion of federal social programs in the 1930s and 1940s. The argument there would be that Roosevelt's programs have led to such an expansion of the federal government that we are all now 'tied' to it in one form or another.

As to the specifics of energy policy in the last 20 years - I think this has continued that tradition, but, along with environmental policy, is horribly short sighted. The problem has been that since the 1970s whenever a scientist has proclaimed "the end is nigh! the end is nigh!", fate would have it that a few months/years later a new large oil reserve or technology was found that negated the argument.

Now, we all know why this wasn't done with the current Bush administration, but my feeling is this: Immediately after September 11, Bush should have proclaimed a national "Marshal Plan" for energy. To develop alternative resources and to do what the federal government does best: marshal and throw massive resources toward solving a problem. Bush and Co. should have thrown down the gauntlet to America and challenge the country to ween itself from foreign oil within 10 years.

(because we all know we can't do it immediately, otherwise the Petrodollar market would collapse and our Treasury would go bankrupt instantly...but that's another variable to an already hyper-complex system).
posted by tgrundke at 10:16 AM on June 8, 2004

The controversy over the Hubbert Peak oil production isn't about whether or not it will happen; it's a given. The question is when. The optimists argue that global peak oil production will occur in about 40 years. The pessimists believe that the peak is immanent.

It should also be noted that there are experts at both ends of the spectrum: Daniel Yergin seems fairly sanguine about it. Others, notably Colin Campbell, are more alarmed.

My own feeling is to believe that the peak will occur sooner than later. However, I'm not too worried about catastrophic economic effects since there is plenty of energy to be derived from coal, tar sands and other sources, and I won't mind seeing giant SUVs priced off the road. What worries me more is the environmental impact burning off all of the world's fossil fuels during the next half-century. That would be catastrophic.

Eventually, we (ie. humankind) will need to move to renewable energy resources. Installing a solar-powered hot water heater on the roof of the White House is obviously negligable from a purely practical standpoint. The importance of the act was symbolic: "We're all in this together." Tearing down the water heater also carries it's own symbolism: "Don't worry, these problems will all be taken care of." In a way, they may both be correct.
posted by Loudmax at 10:22 AM on June 8, 2004

jammer - hagiography! hagiography!........hagiography !

Also, you're sure making some assumptions, no? Think of what I wrote again "but if I hadn't known the word "hagiography" before Reagan's death, I sure would have known it by now" There exist 2 logical possibilities here......

george_spiggot - I couldn't agree more.

Well, cheap energy may go away for a while.
posted by troutfishing at 10:26 AM on June 8, 2004

“Every ten or fifteen years since the late 1800’s, ‘experts’ have predicted that oil reserves would last only ten more years. These experts have predicted nine out of the last zero oil-reserve exhaustions.”
C. Maurice and C. Smithson, Doomsday Mythology: 10,000 Years of Economic Crisis, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, 1984.
posted by David Dark at 10:33 AM on June 8, 2004

That's right, the longer oil reserves keep not running out, the less likely they are to ever run out. That's why we call them 'reserves.'
posted by Loudmax at 10:48 AM on June 8, 2004

Ray Anderson, the reformed CEO of Interface sums it up nicely in "The Corporation" when he compares our culture to early experiments in flight: a guy straps on some wings and jumps of a cliff. He flaps his arms and he feels like he's flying....but eventually, he's going to hit the ground.

Ours was a very high cliff.
posted by muckster at 10:48 AM on June 8, 2004

Umm David, that is correct, but:

We are going to run out of fossil fuel sooner or later. That is a fact nobody can claim to be "junk-science". Of course the methods of searching for new fields have evolved during the last century, and so have the predictions. They are based on our best knowledge.

New major oil fields haven't been found since 1960's. The discovery rate of new fields accurately predicts the rate those fields are used up. That's what this discussion is about.

Soon producing will peak, and then what? Doomsday? I don't think so. Radical changes compared to the way we run the world today, yes. The change will be profound and it will be gradual. This graph here shows what we mean.

Production will not stop overnight, it's a slow process. And during that time oil prices will go up.

Those are the facts. What should we do about it then?

*Tadaa - enter politics*

My take is very very green.

Unfortunately market-based solution (burning up all there is as long as possible) is too slow to tackle the green house effect and global warming. Those are IMO real problems too.

And it would be wise to make the slope downwards as gentle as possible.
posted by hoskala at 10:50 AM on June 8, 2004

So techgnollogic, is your premise that the Reagan administration was sufficiently far-sighted to know that persuing alternative energy was a fool's errand?

No, I'm countering the premise that the state of the energy situation today would be fundamentally different had Reagan just promoted a little wind and solar power. Germany and Japan did it, and they're nowhere near being free from reliance on oil.

I disagree, Reagan could have promoted energy efficiency. As the US is the largest single comsumer of energy an increase in efficiency in the US would have global implications. It would also put pressure on other countries.

You cannot drastically change the energy needs of this country by simply "improving efficiency." We've been hard at work improving efficiency in all manner of products throughout history, and as troutfishing pointed out: During the Reagan years - with no credit to Reagan but through both simple market pressures, and also from CAFE fuel efficiency standards, the US economy learned to produce nearly twice as much "product" for only slightly more oil.

Did you read what that says? Improvements in efficiency increased productivity - the OUTPUT- it did not decrease how much oil was consumed. Troutfishing states that we used only "slightly" more oil. So vast improvements in productivity and efficiency produced an economic boom, but still consumed even more oil. If you somehow double the goodie you get out of X amount of energy, chances are you'll just produce twice as much goodie for the same cost. The only way increased efficiency reduces the rate of consumption is if you're already consuming as much as you're capable of or willing to consume.

check out Denmark for wind power.

Denmark's economy is 1/14th the size of Germany's, but Denmark's land area is 1/8th Germany's. 1/9th of Denmark is irrigated farmland. 1/73 of Germany is. They're very different environments, and still Denmark is dependant on fossil fuels. From my link about Germany above, you see: Germany is currently the leader in wind power, with 39% of the world’s installed wind capacity. Germany has over 14,280 wind turbines. They could triple their wind capacity - which would mean their installed capacity would equal 63% of the installed wind capacity in that hypothetical world, or 117% of what exists in the world today, there would be 1 wind turbine every 8.1 sq km - there would be no where in the German countryside where you could not see over 30 wind turbines, and they still wouldn't even be getting 10% of their power from wind.
posted by techgnollogic at 10:56 AM on June 8, 2004

You want hydrocarbons? We got hydrocarbons. Just look at Jupiter's atmosphere, hundreds of times the Earth's volume of Methane, and for that matter, hydrogen. 'Course we'd need a source of a proportionate amount of oxygen to burn it with. And what's that? How are we going to get it? Geez, you expect me to figure everything out for you? Ramscoops, Von Neumann Machines, Stable Friggin' Wormholes, Matter Transmission. Get busy. Buncha whiners want everything handed to you.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:02 AM on June 8, 2004

These experts have predicted nine out of the last zero oil-reserve exhaustions.

ha. logic follows, of course, with "since all of those old experts were wrong (or even perhaps slightly off), no one can ever be right." stupid.

try to open your mind a little. i won't rehash the old peak-oil arguments and rebuttals, but it's a valid concern. with the importance of energy to our society, you'd think we'd have a backup plan, instead of increasingly putting more and more eggs in one basket.

on preview: i'll add to troutfishing's clarion call to stop subsidies for fossil fuels: we should stop producing and eating so much. immediately. everyone. (unless you're starving. then eat more.)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:05 AM on June 8, 2004

By the late '80s, the platform's production had slipped to less than 4,000 barrels per day, and was considered pumped out. Done. Suddenly, in 1990, production soared back to 15,000 barrels a day, and the reserves which had been estimated at 60 million barrels in the '70s, were recalculated at 400 million barrels. Interestingly, the measured geological age of the new oil was quantifiably different than the oil pumped in the '70s.

Analysis of seismic recordings revealed the presence of a "deep fault" at the base of the Eugene Island reservoir which was gushing up a river of oil from some deeper and previously unknown source.

Similar results were seen at other Gulf of Mexico oil wells. Similar results were found in the Cook Inlet oil fields in Alaska. Similar results were found in oil fields in Uzbekistan. Similarly in the Middle East, where oil exploration and extraction have been underway for at least the last 20 years, known reserves have doubled.
In spite of the fact that they have been pumping oil for decades in Saudi Arabia, there has not been any sign of a reduction in pressure.
posted by David Dark at 11:31 AM on June 8, 2004

Techno: All our energy needs won't be fulfilled with wind. I agree on that. But to say that we shouldn't create more energy with wind and support wind power production and R&D is just short sighted.

Wind power output per unit has grown substantially and "Production cost per kWh has been reduced by more than 80% within the last 20 years and this trend is expected to continue resulting in a fully competitive technology in 7-10 years." (Source: Danish wind industry)
posted by hoskala at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2004

David:From Wired on the hot biosphere theory:

In his nineties, Gold is championing the idea that the creatures living on or near the surface of the Earth - plants, people, possums, porpoises, pneumonia bacilli - are just part of the biological story. In the depths of the Earth's crust, he believes, is a second realm, a bacterial "deep hot biosphere" that is greater in mass than all the creatures living on land and swimming in the seas. Most biologists will tell you that life is something that happens on the Earth's surface, powered by sunlight. Gold counters that most living beings reside deep in the Earth's crust at temperatures well above 100 degrees Celsius, living off methane and other hydrocarbons.


As Steve Drury, who reviewed Gold's book for Geological Magazine, puts it, "Any Earth scientist will take a perverse delight in reading the book, because it is entertaining stuff, but even a beginner will see the gaping holes where Gold has deftly avoided the vast bulk of mundane evidence regarding our planet's hydrocarbons."

Everything you would like to believe ain't necessarily true.
posted by hoskala at 11:55 AM on June 8, 2004

“Every ten or fifteen years since the late 1800’s, ‘experts’ have predicted that oil reserves would last only ten more years. These experts have predicted nine out of the last zero oil-reserve exhaustions.”
C. Maurice and C. Smithson, Doomsday Mythology: 10,000 Years of Economic Crisis, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, 1984.

"In 1956, M. King Hubbert predicted that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970's. Although Hubbert was widely criticized by some oil experts and economists, in 1971 Hubbert's prediction came true."

-- Professor Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2001.
posted by moonbiter at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2004

"I'm countering the premise that the state of the energy situation today would be fundamentally different had Reagan just promoted a little wind and solar power." - A little ? How about by the same amount the fossil fuel industry was subsidized each year during that period - 5 billion ? (see link below)

An aggressive federal policy of energy efficiency WOULD have led to a reduced current US demand for oil. There's no question. With simply a price incentive and auto mileage standards US oil consumption per GDP unit declined by almost 1/2 in the late 1970's through the mid 1980's.

Much more could have been done during that period, especially with those substantial 5+ billion dollar yearly federal subsidies which went instead to the fossil fuel industry. Public transit withered, sprawl continued, energy inefficient home and business buildings went up, alternative energy technologies went out of business or moved out of the US, for more nurturing environments in Europe.....

A lot of this is absurdly simple - home heating and cooling costs can be cut quite substantially through the space age technology of geographically positioned microclimate modification devices called "trees" and "shrubs".

A bit more insulation, the positioning of houses to receive maximal winter sunlight.....

Energy efficient appliances that use roller bearing rather than friction bearings ( most dryer drums scrap along on plastic and teflon bits ) .....

I could go on and on. There's no magic here. It takes little to achieve these goals - just a slight incentive here and there, a slight amount of thought, a slightly more expensive manufactured part.

Basic building and transportation designs that rely not on high technology but on smart design were possible 20 years ago. They were not invested in. So, we don't have an energy efficient infrastructure now. We will now have to build one, but we could have started in the early 1980's.

Further - basic planning decisions, to counter sprawl or invest in public transit were not encouraged. This is not all Reagan's fault but partly so.

He led the movement - and hence the ideological charge - against energy efficiency and alternative energy development.....against any considerations of energy limitations or a national switch to non-fossil fuel sources. These considerations were not summarily dismissed under Nixon or Ford. But, under Reagan, they were sneered at as emblematic of Jimmy Carter and, bizarrely, as "weak" or "silly" rather than being practical.

Reagan - even had he been a fanatic proponent of alternative energy and energy efficiency - would not have been able to completely wean the US from reliance on fossil fuels in his eight year tenure, but he could have started the US well along on the path.

The path of prudence, the smart path. No one energy source - save for a fusion breakthrough - will do this. But through a combined approach, it is quite possible.

Take solar, for example. Solar energy can be collected without the need for expensive solar panels. Electricity can be generated by hot-air driven turbines. Solar Towers have promise, as well. You can heat your hot water easily with solar and cook with it as well. Tested passive solar home heating designs are numerous and not terribly expensive.

There's a world of sunlight out there. Yeah, it's diffuse, but oil must be mined, stored, refined, shipped, stored, refined some, it pollutes. Is it really such a bargain ?


Energy subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, How about on the scale of the subsidies to the oil and coal industry, roughly 5 billion a year (or more) ?

"The fossil fuel industry is no longer an infant enterprise that can argue for government nurturing, but a mature industry that does not deserve government handouts. The sixteen subsidies highlighted in this fact sheet give coal, oil, and natural gas over $5 billion per year. The industry has already received more than its fair share, collecting $150 billion in subsidies from the federal government between 1918 and 1978, according to the U.S. Department of Energy"

Those are direct subsidies. There are many, larger indirect subsidies which could be included in that figure as well.


David Dark - I'll look at those links, but a simple observation also : the Hubbert Curve predicted the US oil production peak to the year.

Here is a picture of the emerging oil discovery consumption gap. I'll replace it if I can find one which is indexed. This profile goes from about the 1940's to the present. The left side of the graph shows a growing gap between yearly consumption and yearly discovery. :
posted by troutfishing at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2004

That's not what I said either, hoskala. I'm not arguing that other sources of energy should be ignored. I'm arguing that our oil needs would not be fundamentally, drastically different had Reagan applied great pressure and resources to developing the alternatives mentioned. If we're going to run out of oil all of a sudden in the next couple of decades, a few percent difference in our renewable energy usage over the past 25 years (which is all we could've hoped for) still would not have made any real difference. Worldwide consumption of oil is accelerating. It doesn't matter if 1 or 4 or 10 percent of power comes from renewable sources today or 10 years from now if 80% still comes from fossil fuels that are going to dry up all of a sudden.

Either there's a catastrophe brewing, and nothing Reagan could've done would've made any difference, or there's no catastrophe brewing, and so Reagan didn't do anything to bring one about.
posted by techgnollogic at 12:04 PM on June 8, 2004

techgnollogic - the development of a modest 10% renewable base (with the $100 billion that went to subsidize the fossil fuel industry - see link above) combined with those substantial, and rather cheap efficiency improvements that are fairly easy (some of which I detail above, there are many) - the "cherry-picked" efficiencies, the easiest gains - could have likely brought US energy consumption per GDP in line with that of Japan - we likely could have cut our net oil use in half. That would have been a wise start.

posted by troutfishing at 12:14 PM on June 8, 2004

Might be so techno, but with subsidies to renewable r&d we would have some of the technology that will be invented in the coming years already with us. The catastrohe we are brewing might be easier to confront.

Reagan's (and Bush's) take on the environment is more importantly an attitude question. They are trying to shrug it off. Wishing away the problems. Denouncing every green proposition absurd is not a solution to the green house effect, or the Hubbert's peak.

Something has to be done.
posted by hoskala at 12:25 PM on June 8, 2004

Oh - an explanation : in the case of US oil production, the oil discovery peak came about 20 years before the production peak.

So by that, we'd be right on schedule.

This graph of mine also shows an underlying irony - Reagan came into office as World oil discovery was peaking. One might cut his administration some slack then, but what were Reagan's people.....or George Bush Sr's..........or Bill Clinton's.......or now George W. Bush's thinking ?

I'd suspect few in these administrations every looked at any such graphs.

"'s not just an affliction, it's a delusion too!
posted by troutfishing at 12:25 PM on June 8, 2004

Another black mark on the Raygun presidency was the elimination of the program for energy independence. Imagine how many of today's problems would hve been avoided had Raygun not been such good friends with the oil industry. Here are the ultimately sensible words of the brave and courageous leader who initiated the program:

Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the "moral equivalent of war" -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.

I know that some of you may doubt that we face real energy shortages. The 1973 gasoline lines are gone, and our homes are warm again. But our energy problem is worse tonight than it was in 1973 or a few weeks ago in the dead of winter. It is worse because more waste has occurred, and more time has passed by without our planning for the future. And it will get worse every day until we act.

The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation's independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained. Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce.

The world now uses about 60 million barrels of oil a day and demand increases each year about 5 percent. This means that just to stay even we need the production of a new Texas every year, an Alaskan North Slope every nine months, or a new Saudi Arabia every three years. Obviously, this cannot continue.

posted by nofundy at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2004

Oh, and - once more, with emphasis :

Wind power, from advanced wind turbines now made outside the US, is now about the same cost (and still dropping too) as new gas or coal fired electric plants.

But wind power doesn't release CO2 or rain poisonous Mercury down on our heads.

I guess I'll just have to do a post on it.
posted by troutfishing at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2004

That link can't tell the difference between a subsidy and a write off. If I write off $100,000 in expenses, that is not a "$100,000 subsidy." It also included loans as "subsidies". What the fuck? The federal and state governments TAX gasoline. They do not subsidize it to the tune of $5 Billion per year, and if it did "subsidize" it then you're talking about taking a portion of the public's money, and spending it on reducing the price of something the public buys, thus moving the money through different channels, but if there were $5 Billion per year in fossil fuel subsidies, and you spent that money on renewable alternative R&D, instead of giving it to the fossil fuel industry, then the price paid for the same amount of fossil fuels would go up by that much. What that link is talking about is tax breaks and assistance programs that simultaneously help fossil fuel industries lower prices and help fossil fuel consumers save money.

With simply a price incentive and auto mileage standards US oil consumption per GDP unit declined by almost 1/2 in the late 1970's through the mid 1980's.

And the rate in 2002 of energy consumption per dollar of GDP was 46% of the rate in 1970. Massive increases in efficiency saw NO decreases in the use of fossil fuels. BOTH efficiency and demand for fossil fuels have INCREASED. We're even consuming less energy per person today than we were in 1978-79, 22 million BTUs per person less, but there are millions more of us. You cannot make our growing energy needs go away by increasing efficiency. We will continue to need more energy.
posted by techgnollogic at 12:45 PM on June 8, 2004

You cannot make our growing energy needs go away by increasing efficiency. We will continue to need more energy.

Yes, and that is exactly why "we", "western societies", have to re-think our current model of consumption in the coming decades.

This is one of the main reasons why I think nuclear (fission) power should be used and expanded - it might be the only way we actually can cope with these problems. It won't solve them (we are going to run out of uranium in a couple of hundred years), but it could postpone them across the critical gap that the "end of the fuel-era" creates.

And it would reduce CO emissions until better energy sources are invented.
posted by hoskala at 2:28 PM on June 8, 2004

All of these peal oil people just ignore synthetic fuels. We can make gasoline from coal for about $50/bbl equivalent with current technology. The excess carbon can be sequestered. Oil is not going to go to $183 a barrel because as soon as it goes above $50, we will just start using coal.
posted by cameldrv at 2:49 PM on June 8, 2004

I went to the Berlin conferences. I spoke with Campbell, Laherrère, Bakhtiari, Simmons. This year’s big surprise was people from the EIA, BP and ExxonMobil coming to the conferences. They had to defense themselves hard during the Q&A. My conclusions from the conferences are really simple (hell, you don't need to go to Berlin to know that!): expensive oil is here to stay, even if we aren't near the peak as the ASPO people says. But obviously, there’s more.

Some thoughts on the oil peak issue:

Reserves, reserves, they can't even agree on what are reserves (proved, provable, undiscovered, P5, P90, P50???)

Production, and production rate IS WHAT IS ALL ABOUT. A petroleum geologist in a list said that he doesn't care about reserves, he cares about production: "if I put a trillion dollars in your bank account (which are monetary RESERVES), but only allowed to get it out at 10$/week (which are monetary PRODUCTION), are you rich?

Reserve growth in fields to discover will be negligible, as those would be already drilled using the best technology money can buy. And we peaked on discovery in the 60s, so we are not finding more giant or supergiant fields.

Simmons, Campbell, even the Iranian Bakhtiari agreed that the real situation of Saudi reserves is very bad. Aramco claims to have 260GB, which is doubtful, because all OPEC raised (in fact, doubled) their reserves overnight during the 80s because they wanted to pump more (and production quotas were officially dependant on reserves). Even ARAMCO is admitting that they are in secondary and tertiary recovery (that's when water injection are needed to keep pressure up). At Ghawar (largest oil field ever) water cut is 30% (in every 100 barrels, 30 are water and 70 oil)

Once the peak happens, a 2% - 3% year decline will surprise us, even if we take the nuclear route (the newest model of nuclear plant GIF, that operates a higher temperatures and produces electricity AND hydrogen, with melt lead as coolant is shown as a solution, but -quoting a Nature article here, "...generating enough hydrogen to completely replace gasoline for the United States' transport needs would mean building more than 400 nuclear plants, each generating a gigawatt. There are only 441 nuclear plants in the world today)

Yes, if prices go up, and up, demand will be destroyed and economy will have to slow down. some opportunities would open, specially trying to be less dependant on long haul transport. Efficiency would help, and renewables, also, but an economy that needs to growth 3% a year will eat any improvement we make to our energy system.

China, what will be do with them? they energy use went up 15% from 1st quarter 2003 to 1st quarter 2004 (although there are already signs of much needed slow down for the economy of China).

And yes, we have 65% of the world’s oil right in there, the Middle East...

Not a rosy picture, even for optimists.

And remember, it is not how expensive oil must be to make non conventional oil and renewables affordable, it is the energy you use to obtain more energy, if you lost that game, classic economy has no importance whatsoever.

IMHO, we should switch to a thermodinamic economy as soon as possible.
posted by samelborp at 3:06 PM on June 8, 2004

Well, there's an expert opinion for the thread. Thanks, samelborp.
posted by troutfishing at 3:37 PM on June 8, 2004

Good comment, samelborp.
posted by hoskala at 3:38 PM on June 8, 2004

yeah. that was a slam dunk. thanks for the insight.

move along, folks. nothing to see here.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:50 PM on June 8, 2004

What's really scary is the dependence of agriculture on fossil fuels. It's not just the gas in your tank, it's the food you eat that's going to get expensive...
posted by dpkm at 4:18 PM on June 8, 2004

How dare you interrupt partisan bickering with an expert opinion. This is MetaFilter!

Renewable energy or not, from a pragmatic standpoint it looks like our energy interests (or, more accurately, casus belli) upon the Middle East isn't going away anytime soon. Darn. Still, better sooner than later though.
posted by DaShiv at 4:35 PM on June 8, 2004

Now if we could just hear from a philologist, psychologist, and/or epistomologist who will tell us once and for all whether using the word "hagiography" makes a person feel smart, we can consider this thread settled.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:41 PM on June 8, 2004

"whether using the word "hagiography" makes a person feel smart, we can consider this thread settled."

nah. try using 'ennead'.
_that_ will make you feel smart
posted by matteo at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2004

Way up top thread hoskala posted this very alarming link a lecture by Campbell dated December 2000. In it Campbell makes some predictions that have come to pass.

In the year 2000 Campbell said the following:

1. Middle East share of production is set to rise.

2. There is a strong danger of some ill-considered military intervention to try to secure oil. (part 61)

He also predicted oil would be at $40 a barrel in 2002 but he's off 2 years. He predicts the peaked will occur in 2005 (this was his 2000 predication).. not sure what he's saying today. I think people are paying more attention to him now.
posted by stbalbach at 8:36 PM on June 8, 2004

DaShiv - Better sooner. That was true back in the early 1980's, and it's still true today.

matteo - "ennead" ? - Ah, Ennead -

"Ennead : The group of the nine chief deities of the Osirian cycle in ancient Egyptian myth. They are Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Seb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys.

The term is also frequently used in Egyptian texts to denote the divine council of gods and goddesses in general.
" Somehow, your reference doesn't make me feel all warm and cozy.

stbalbach - the ASPO website was heavily reworked - It's a lot fancier now. Something's paying for that - probably speaking engagements. Campbell's mostly on the money lately.

It's rare that cassandras get recognition in their time - warms my heart.

Now, that solar hot water heater - winter's coming...
posted by troutfishing at 9:08 PM on June 8, 2004

It is interesting how Peak Oil & Global Warming are interconnected. Both are based on known events that happened in the past, using models of highly complex and uncertain data to predict the future, global scale with doomsday consequences. Both will happen but we wont know it untill after the fact. Both could happen any day, or 40 or 100 years from now, or happening right now. And both are related in causality so that if one happens (or doesnt happen) it will affect the other. What we need now is a new Hollywood movie that incorporates both.. theres also my recent favorite the Overpopulation vs Underpopulation doomsday debate,.

So, what happens when we run out of oil around the same time the new Ice Age kicks in and the world population is at the height of its age curve. The Perfect Storm.
posted by stbalbach at 11:08 PM on June 8, 2004

stbalbach - grimly fascinating, eh?

: A five hundred mile long traffic jam of 70-somethings, attempting to flee in their Winnebagos to Florida - to escape the encroaching cold - runs out of gas and is frozen solid.

Speculation - by future scientists who excavate the icy spectacle - holds that the mass migration, interrupted by fuel shortage and entombed by ice, was spurred on by an unknown sort of brain dysfunction referred to in recently discovered material predating the great freeze as "Alzheimer's", believed to be related to something called "Television".

A minority opinion holds that "Alzheimer's" was in fact a type of cult led by a charismatic leader (referred to alternately as "Reagan", "Bonzo", and "The Gipper") who ordered his followers to commit mass suicide.

The real truth may never be known - in the Great Thaw which finally revealed the great aborted migration, hungry polar bears came out of the North to eat the bulk of the evidence and leave behind only thousands of those mysteriously, improbably lavish and now rapidly rusting vehicles which seem to have been known widely in their time as "RVs"
posted by troutfishing at 9:14 AM on June 9, 2004

Oil Supply Shortages Likely After 2007, New Report Shows

"There are not enough large-scale projects in the development pipeline right now to offset declining production in mature areas and meet global demand growth beyond 2007," said Chris Skrebowski, author of the report, editor of Petroleum Review and a recently appointed Board member of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre (ODAC) in London.

The International Energy Agency forecasts annual average growth in oil demand over the medium term of around one and a half percent. That alone would require increases in production on the order of one to one and a half million barrels a day each year. In 2002, total worldwide oil production was about 74 million barrels a day, but over 21 million barrels a day came from countries where production is already in decline.

"The results of this analysis suggest that with a shrinking pool of major new oil–recovery projects available, the world may be entering an era of permanently declining oil supplies in the coming decade," Mr Skrebowski said.

Sounds like the editor of Petroleum Review, and virtually all other petroleum geologists think you're wrong, David Dark. And what was that you were saying about "oil pressure"?

David Dark: In spite of the fact that they have been pumping oil for decades in Saudi Arabia, there has not been any sign of a reduction in pressure.


More than half of Saudi Arabia's oil comes from one giant field, Ghawar, the largest ever discovered, and the health of this field is now in serious doubt, after decades of water injection to maintain pressure.

Oh. Imagine that. No sign of pressure decrease, because they've been injecting water to keep the pressure up. Guess your assertion was more than just a little misleading, eh David?

Simmons' case rests on the painstaking analysis of two hundred SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) reports written over four decades by Saudi petroleum reservoir engineers, as well as a fact-finding mission in 2003, and ten years of other detailed studies of oil and gas depletion. He has been publicly hinting for more than a year that assumptions about Saudi Arabia's seemingly limitless capacity may be misplaced, but now, ahead of the publication of his forthcoming book on Saudi oil, the hints have been replaced by copious data and a dire warning....The ‘Big Five' (Ghawar, Safaniyah, Hanifa, Khafji and Shuaiba) giant oil fields, all found by the mid 1960s, produced 90% of all Saudi oil in the last half century, but now, Simmons said, they were only being kept going by massive water injection, so that the “sweep of easy conventional oil flow is ending.”

As noted above by hoskala, most geochemists think your Thomas Gold oil savior is wrong. Others aren't too impressed with J.F. Kenney either:

Skeptical Inquirer: Inorganic oil: much ado about nothing? - News and Comment
Geoscientists are cringing as news reports dredge up what they have long considered a preposterous assertion about the origin of oil: That none of the fossil fuels found on this planet come from fossils. The idea, heavily debated in Russia during the 1950s and 1960s, holds that the world's oil is not made of decomposed biological organisms; rather, it forms inorganically at near-mantle depths then migrates up to the crust.

The newest incarnation comes from J.F. Kenney, a self-proclaimed oil and gas driller from Houston, Texas, who worked with three Russian scientists, including Vladimir Kutcherov of the Russian State University of Oil and Gas.... While geologists agree that crude oil can come from inorganic means, the majority of commercially recovered petroleum, they say, is organic. And they are frustrated with advocates of this alternative theory who dismiss evidence of a biological origin or interpret organics in crude oil as contaminants. Such an idea is anathema to the well-established understanding that biomarkers in petroleum are a result of living organisms transforming the complex molecules, dying, and then being subjected to burial processes that turn the biomarkets into petroleum products.

The idea of finding an abundance of crude oil ready for the tap at depths currently unreachable is tantalizing. But, says geochemist Alexei Milkov of the Deep Ocean Exploration Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a graduate of Saint-Petersburg State University in Russia, "I've never met an industry geologist that uses abiogenic theory to find oil and gas fields, and that includes Russian industry geologists. These guys pay money for mistakes and can't afford using wrong theories to continue exploration."

But as others have noted, regardless of the source of oil, there are enormous problems with the continued reliance on petroleum. Reagan contributed mightily to the problem, and we're all worse off because of it.

So much for his "legacy", which consists of mostly pretense and outright lies.

darukaru: Have you taken your meds today, troutfishing? That was pretty incoherent even for you.

Ah yes, darukaru chimes in with his usual gutless, childish, insulting, noncontribution to the thread. Talk about incoherence....
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:59 PM on June 9, 2004

if oil's getting more expensive and running out anyway, why not use alternate means (which are more expensive now, but not in the long run)? wind, solar, etc?
posted by amberglow at 6:19 PM on June 9, 2004

amberglow - yes. I agree - although, windpower has become as cheap as coal. Subsidies are propping up some fossil fuels even now.

fold_and_mutilate - true to your name, there's not much left in that argument you just pulverized. Thanks.
posted by troutfishing at 7:44 PM on June 9, 2004

Coming from the king of Troll Hill, fold, that's almost a compliment. How much lower do I have to sink to get to your level?
posted by darukaru at 11:51 AM on June 10, 2004

darukaru - perhaps you could descend to the level of facts.
posted by troutfishing at 6:05 AM on June 14, 2004

posted by David Dark at 1:03 AM on June 15, 2004

Ha. Ha. I was happy to give you a little lesson in "facts", David Dark. Any time.

And oh, darukaru, you're obviously quite far below my level when you imply someone is "on meds" if they don't share your views. You're obviously far below all the other posters above when your sole contribution to the thread is your infantile comment to trout.

As usual with you, it's just more completely gutless name-calling, which you immediately drop when confronted more personally. Funny, that. Predictable.

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:56 AM on June 16, 2004

f n' m: My guiding wish in life is that you will refrain from being so ~pompous~. You make so many points, all of them for me, heeded. Not to mention your quasi Skinny Puppy moniker. You're a winner in my book. But, you, me, all of us, need to start taking the helpful route. Not lash out and be reactionarily hateful.

This entire thread is filled with sense and expertise. Including yours. But we have to admit, finally, don't you think, that we're all, for the time being, in this together? Is there any difference between the, "what kind of an idiot uses the word hagiography anyways"? argument and the:

As usual with you, it's just more completely gutless name-calling, which you immediately drop when confronted more personally. Funny, that. Predictable.


We have fun alienating one another. I think it's time to stop.

(Fuck I'm a pussy these days)
posted by crasspastor at 4:02 AM on June 16, 2004

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