Reader Request Week 2005: Peak Oil

A number of readers (beginning with mad) are interested in my take on Peak Oil and what it will mean to the American Way of Life(tm). “Peak Oil,” in case you don’t know, is a theory about petroleum production and depletion. Basically, there’s a finite amount of oil out there under the rocks. Whenever oils is found, there’s a fairly rapid rise in production in that area, followed by an equally rapid fall as the area depletes. Since this is basically the case for oil production and depletion worldwide, this suggests that once we hit a global peak of oil production, the slide toward depletion (and the attendant economic consequences) will be swift and no doubt wrenching. The bad news here is that some oil experts believe that “Peak Oil” will be reached in 2007, leaving just enough time to store those 55-gallon barrels of beans and rice and to get good with the crossbow. (For a rather more detailed explanation of “peak oil,” go here.)

First, I have no doubt that the peak oil moment is coming. There are some geologist who believe that oil is constantly being produced in the very bowels of the earth and so depletion may not ultimately be a real issue, but there are in an extreme minority and even if they are ultimately proved correct, our current ability to extract extremely deep hydrocarbon deposits is nil, so, really, the point is moot. Oil that we can’t reach is oil we can’t use. No matter what, things are going to get tight with oil, if not in or by 2007, then still sometime relatively soon.

Two, yes, it’s going to mess with us pretty seriously. People have a tendency to think of oil purely in terms of gasoline, but that’s just the most obvious thing. Plastics are petroleum products; right now on my desk nearly everything on it is made of or uses plastics, from the keyboard I’m using to type this to the thin lining of the inside of the aluminum can I’m drinking my Coke out of. I live in the country: oil is used extensively in agriculture worldwide, in pesticides, in foodstock and in fertilizers. You know that when oil gets depleted you’re going to get the shaft at the gas pump. But it’s the stuff that you’re not aware of about oil that’s going to get you. Those perfect vegetables at the local grocery store could become a lot harder to come by — and not just because of shipping costs, but because how much their production relies on petroleum.

How badly will it mess with us? Got me. But however bad it messes with us, it’ll be a patch on how badly it messes with the third world and places that have a thin veneer of first world with a swirly third world center, like, say, China or even Russia (which at one point was technically the second world, but guess what? Them days is over!). Even in extremis, the US will have the native resources, physical, intellectual and otherwise, to weather a major economic disruption and keep its people from devolving into chaos or (worse case scenario) starving; this is when it’s genuinely nice to have a continent-spanning political state, a stable tradition of government and a national ethos of plucky survivorship to work with. Other countries will not be so lucky. Will other places starve? Could be. I don’t know.

But here’s the third thing: As bad as it may get, I don’t think it will get as bad as many people might fear — or at the very least, won’t be bad for long. To begin, America and Americans are happy to put off until tomorrow what ought to be done today, and this emphatically includes dealing with energy issues. However, when Americans are finally at a point where something has to be done, it gets done. The most famous cases of this, of course, involve war; I don’t think most people truly realize how remarkable the American war effort was during World War II, but in fact it was absolutely nothing short of a singular phenomenon. No country in the history of the world has ever engaged its economy and domestic output as quickly and effectively as America did in those few short years. Likewise, the advance of American practical knowledge — in everything from production techniques to creating a fission bomb — was unprecedented in world history. And so with something like an oil peak; if America is looking down the barrel of ruin, it will suck it up and do what is necessary to persevere. It’s done so before within the last 100 years with WWI, the Depression and WWII. We are admittedly out of practice (a happy side effect of having dealt with the issue so well before), but we can and will do it again.

But for another thing, many of the practical, non oil-based solutions to energy are already here in one form or another, some mature and some immature but immature mostly due to lack of will to fund and expand them. It will cause environmentalists to spontaneously combust, but we already have nuclear energy technology which we could roll out and employ and developing nuclear technologies (such as modular pebble bed reactors) could make nuclear energy somewhat more socially acceptable, especially if there few other immediate choices. In the slightly longer run, solar and wind power solutions are both at a point where they are not egregiously expensive relative to oil-production, and there seem to have been recent breakthroughs in the efficiency of solar; I don’t doubt that highly motivated engineers could do more with that.

(Now, all this just relates to energy, but I don’t doubt that we can also find ways to wean our dependence on petroleum in other areas, too; I can imagine the keyboard I use several years from now being made of some sort of ceramic, for example, rather than plastic, or computer monitors being replaced with eyeframe-held imagers that require substantially less plastic. And so on.)

You’ll notice that I’m speaking of this in terms very much like a national effort, and indeed I think that’s probably what will need to happen — including an active role by our government to both manage the short-term issues of an energy crunch and a long-term commitment to creating the infrastructure that allows renewable energies to take root; planning comparable to, say, the creation of the Interstate system, or the planning needed to get a man on the moon.

This will obviously have broad implications. For one thing, I hope all of you rich people have enjoyed your era of low taxes. For another thing, the idle and not-so-idle distaste people now have for the government will likely become a thing of the past. I am certainly not a person who believes the government is the answer to everything, but neither am I someone who believe the government is the answer to nothing, as so many who are in power in government would have us believe they believe. Government is at its heart an organizing principle for the betterment of life for its citizens. We will need government when all this happens — and people will remember once again that government has its uses.

One final thing to note is that I think people are already preparing for the peak oil moment, whether they realize it or not. I’m not one of the people who thinks we went into Iraq because of oil — but I do think that even people who unreservedly supported the war cannot fail to see that despite our control of one of the most oil-rich areas in the world, we’re spending $2.30 a gallon for gas. Really, you can’t miss that. I also think people are (finally) beginning to think of our energy dependence on outside sources not only as a problem but also as vaguely unpatriotic; the person who doesn’t care about his energy consumption is someone who is not looking out for us.

I’m eco-minded but most of the people where I live are not — and yet the red-state people around me are talking about getting hybrids the next car they buy (this isn’t even a question for me, incidentally; the next car I buy will get 50 miles to the gallon at least, end of story). They’re also talking about what we need to do to get ourselves out of the situation we’re in. This isn’t the “libruls” vs “the real people” any more, or at the very least becoming far less so. People know something’s coming, and they’re adjusting to prepare, whether or not they know that’s they’re doing. I find this encouraging; when you’re in a Speedway in small rural town and the old guy in the NRA cap is talking to the other guy in line about wanting a hybrid, we’re getting to a point where we’re going to be willing as a nation to suck it up and do what needs to be done.

So yes, it’ll be bad. But no, it won’t be as bad as it could be. And in 30 years, when all of this energy stuff is behind us, I think Americans will be able to look back and realize that they did a good job — a little late, possibly, but having made up for the late start.

31 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2005: Peak Oil

  1. Good post and I find I agree with much of it. I live in the heartland and I am amazed at the amount of windfarm turbines heading down the interstates daily. Also amazing is the number of ethanol plants under construction. All this gives hope that solutions to a oil-rare future will be there when the time comes.

    Oil is easy. It sprays out of the ground in the middle east without even having to pump it. Until this sources slow to a trickle, there won’t be motivation enough to change completely. I think the slow changes we are making are about as good as we could expect for not having the faucets shut off all at ones. Hopefully, we can ramp up safe nuclear and find a solution to the fusion moneypit and develope an energy future that doesn’t rely on the burning of hydrocarbons. A cheap and easy way to refix carbon into the ground or water would be good too. Our air is getting a bit too thick and hot unless we do.

  2. My understanding is that as people have predicted the demise of oil production in the past (not just according to the Peak Oil theory, if I remember right) but technology has continued to advance to maintain oil production. We don’t drill the same wells as our grandaddies did. We now have deep-sea drilling, slant drilling and a ton of other advances.

    I’m not saying that we won’t, in fact, run out of oil – just that rumors of its demise, in the past, have been overstated. Non-conventional oil extraction, like that from tar sands and shale, continue to advance. 50 years ago, oil from those sources was inconcievable. Now they are just economically inefficient. 50 years from now, my son may be reading about wells far deeper than we have now, discovered using autonomous robots that are nuclear powered and drill though rock miles and miles down. Or not – I don’t have a crystal ball, and using less oil is definately a good thing.

    BTW – I am excited about all the new hybrid SUVs coming out – my next car will be one of those. Anyone know when Honda’s is due out?

  3. Then there are the people looking into converting waste to oil through TCP technology–they’re converting ConAgra’s turkey waste into oil in Missouri even as we speak, and believe the process can convert to other carbon-based wastes, like municipal solid waste streams, manure from large-scale livestock raising, and the solid residue from sewage treatment:

    http://www.changingworldtech.com/

    It’s not the only answer, of course, but it’s one that gets more and more attractive, especially to cities trying to deal with their waste issues.

  4. Oh, the era of cheap oil is nearly over, there is no doubt about that. In the 70’s the US hit its own peak production and OPEC took us for a little ride. The US cut back on its consumption and bought us some time, which we pissed away. Now the world is hitting its own peak. There will always be oil, of course, just not cheap oil. Millions of years to make, a hundred years to burn it all up.

    Word around MN is that the hybrids suck. Drive them on the highway with either AC or defrost and you don’t save squat, which really is a shame. They’ve got their niche in temperate city driving of course.

    How bad will it be? It will suck, but less so if you are rich, and less so if you are in America.

    I won’t miss the throw-away society but I will miss being warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I don’t think we’ll have the lowered speed limit this time around. I think this time around our attitude will be more ‘screw the poor’ and less “we’re all in this together.”

    I don’t think we will have any silver bullet. Instead we’ll have a plethora of little bullets, some stupid (like no more Christmas decorations) and some less stupid (like smaller cars).

    Either way it was damn fun while it lasted and it will hurt to give it up but we were getting kinda fat and lazy anyway.

    It is a shame about the poor though, but that’s the way it has always been. It has always been a shame about the poor.

  5. I agree with Tor on this one – we tend to look at these problems assuming that everythign else remains constant. 50 years from now, we might have better ways to drill for oil, or better ways to use oil (John – if your next car gets 50 mpg and runs on gasoline, is that OK?). We also may have energy sources we haven’t invented yet, or more efficient ways to use the energy we already have.

    More to the point, though, I think the concept of “we’re all in this together” is overblown. People are buying hybrid cars now because it’s just now starting to make sense financially. The fact that this incentive correlates with environmental concerns is not entirely coincidence – it basically means the environmentalists were right, just ahead of their time. But to suggest that people are suddenly becoming environmentally conscience is pushing it, I think.

  6. Yes, the era of cheap oil is definitely nearing an end. In just a short while, we’ll look back on $2 per gallon gas with fond memories.

    Yes, Tor, we are drilling in ways we’ve never drilled before. We’re trying to get as much of that black gold out of the ground as we can. We might find another major oil field, but it’s highly doubtful. Most of the new finds are on the order of ANWR – small reserves that won’t do to much to satisfy the overall global demand. And global demand is still increasing as China, India and other countries move toward industrialization and we keep driving the big SUVs, while our ability to get it out of the ground is not keeping pace.

  7. Brian:

    “But to suggest that people are suddenly becoming environmentally conscious is pushing it, I think.”

    Who says they’re becoming environmentally conscious? I’m saying they’re beginning to realize that living off oil alone is becoming unsustainable. This isn’t about the environment, it’s about energy. I also think you’re wrong that people won’t pull together — they certainly will if they see dependence on oil as a threat to our national well-being. The operative phrase there is “threat to national well-being.”

    “John – if your next car gets 50 mpg and runs on gasoline, is that OK?”

    Well, inasmuch as that is how hybrids are powered, yes, that’s quite obviously fine. If you’re asking if I would buy a internal combustion-only engine car, then no, probably not, since coupling an internal combustion engine with an electric engine is (assuming competent design) almost always going to be a more fuel efficient engine than internal combustion alone.

    I’m rather skeptical that strides in oil extraction will allow us to sanguinely continue petroleum use as we have before. We are still extracting oil, but we’re not extracting it as easily or efficiently as people did years ago; as the Wikipedia article I referenced notes, it costs us significantly more to extract a barrel of oil (in terms of energy expended in the extraction) than it did previously — even factoring in all the innovations we’ve incorporated to suck oil out of the nicks and crannies. Meanwhile oil consumption worldwide has significantly increased. So no, things don’t remain constant, but the implication that we’ll find yet some other way to squeeze oil from a stone and that we’ll be all right is not one I’d be happy to stake my future on.

  8. More than just financial costs, the energy efficiency of propudction must be factored in. Presently, solar energy cells pay out in roughly 5-7 years iirc. While that would likely improve given the resources liable to be thrown at alternate energy sources once the crunch really starts to hit, it ignores the chance for decay outside of natural aging, such as natural disasters, sabotage, or simple design flaws. Likewise, even if alternate energy sources are developed, it’s not as simple as merely converting to electrically-powered machinery as that would require an entirely new outlay of capital in all sorts of businesses, not to mention shipping. (Incidentally, shipping has the potential to be the most significant victim of any oil crises. Pricier gas sucks, but if cargo ships are no longer profitable – not an issue anytime soon – there’ll be hell to pay)

    I hope that made sense

  9. First of all, as one of the folks who requested this topic, I want to say thank you. It was interesting to read your take on the subject. I sincerely hope that you are correct that the USA will come together and work out a livable solution. It is easy to read the articles about Peak oil and start thinking about future dystopias.

    For those that are interested, here are some of my own blog entries on the subject with links to relative articles.

    Geo-greening and Peak oil

    Gas guzzlers national security concern

    Salon’s interview with Thomas Friedman

  10. Yes, we are producing more oil, and yes, many of us are buying more efficient cars. I just hope it’s enough for when 25-50% of those two billion Indians and Chinese get cars. But most of the time, I just hope the oil bubble crashes before we’ve completely screwed the atmosphere. The global dimming guys have me very scared, and even the World Bank is crapping itself:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1447863,00.html

    So I am not seeing a soft landing thanks to ceramic soft drink cans and hybrids. Will America fix all this like we did in World War II? Well, leadership does matter, and GWB ain’t no FDR.

    (I am enthusiastic about safe nuclear, however. I mean, I’m glad the 1970s version got shut down, because it sucked. But John’s right, the new stuff rocks. But again, is that what the Chinese will build?)

  11. Regarding the hybrids and milage. One word, TDI. All the mileage of a hybrid, and the power of a real engine.

  12. I had been reading a lot of pessimistic views on Peak Oil (Kunstler for example). It was nice to read your realistic but optimistic post. Thanks to everyone who supported my request

  13. J Mathew,

    Do you think they call it TDI for the same reason they call it KFC: the middle word turns people off?

    I was thinking about a hot air balloon ride last night and about what happens when you land. One way to ensure a smoother landing is to reduce your bouyancy but to also hang a big heavy rope over the side of the basket.

    As the basket descends and the rope touches the ground some of the weight of the rope is taken up by the earth and the basket becomes lighter. If this is done perfectly then you hardly notice when the basket finally touches the ground.

    The “cheap oil” basket is going down, there is no doubt about that. Will we be able to throw out enough rope so that we have a gentle landing?

  14. My point was not so much that we could close our eyes and hope that the philanthopists at TexicoExxonMobile will save us before it is too late, but rather that we should pursue all avenues available to us. Unfortunately, and I don’t really understand the mechinism behind this, my understanding is that US consumers pay significantly less for gas than the rest of the world. Until that changes, I don’t know that we will have the impetus to really change how we get our energy. Gas is now at $2.30 a gallon, and my non-environmental in-laws are looking at hybrids. Not because they are concerned about the future of humanity, but because they hate paying high gas prices.

    When gas gets really expensive – to match the prices in europe and the rest of the world – we will see true investment in other options. The solar tower in australia. The company testing an aerostat-like device that hovers miles above the earth and sends down electricity (which can’t find funding right now). Nuclear power will be attractive again. And oil extraction from tar sands and shale will see investment like it hasn’t seen before. Will any of those things, at the end of the day, be economically feasible? I have no idea. But I see our choices as ‘use less’ and ‘produce more.’

    My criticism of the peak oil theory is that it ignores the fact that there are other ways, some unknown to us now, to produce more oil besides exploiting known reserves.

    If our government was taking this seriously, it would phase out whatever price supports there are, use that money to fund research into non-conventional sources of oil and power, and eliminate tax deductions for light trucks like the 11 mpg Hummer – while increasing them for hybrid-type vehicles. But they don’t take this seriously – they’d rather drill in ANWR, where they don’t even know the quantity of the reserves.

    So I gues my point is that we shouldn’t trust the oil industry to solve our problems out of blind faith, but I don’t see any other option.

  15. Anonymous: re the rope thing.

    Yes, I think the rope will be let out. There are significant oil resources (in Alberta, for example) that are more expensive to extract. As the price rises, those resources will become economically viable. It’ll mean that there’s still oil around, but it will be expensive as hell.

    That will be the impetus for things to change. It won’t be a sudden catastrophic shortage, it’ll be price.

  16. Tor: microwave energy (the sattelite thing) is both fun to consider and vastly impactical at the present. Again, running into the energy cost to produce vs the energy gained. In the case of microwave evergy, transmission efficiency destroys the utility of the system at the present. That said, it is one of the most promising routes of development should large-scale capital investment begin before it becomes prohibitively expensive to produce the required components.

  17. This is definitely all true. Better late then never but let’s hurry. Oil is the most inefficient substance. When you use it you have to burn it thereby destroying the largest resource a planet produces. On top of this, Oil is not recycle-bio friendly. The most officiant way to capture a matter’s resources is it’s exhaust from a large heavenly body, like radiation, air and water. Also man made radiation like mini-blackholes which might have been produced in one of Americas colleges recently and Anti-Matter. I want a mini Black powered car. We have to stop looking at the ground and start looking toward the stars.

  18. Let me point out that while the “easy” sources for oil are potentially subject to a sudden depletion, there’s incredibly vast oil reserves in Canada and Russia in the oil sands. Right now they’re just becoming economically viable to process, but even with a geometrically-increasing oil demand they’ll last for several decades. Which sucks for the environment, but also means that plastics aren’t going away any time soon.

  19. Actually, it wasn’t satellite/microwave thing which was something that I had forgotten about. What I was referring to (and it isn’t really an aerostat either) was:

    http://wired.com/news/planet/0,2782,67121,00.html

    And if black-hole powered cars become common, I am definately leaving NYC before the cabbies get them. We have enough potholes without accidents causing mini-black holes to bounce on down the street.

  20. Tor: Will any of those things, at the end of the day, be economically feasible? I have no idea. But I see our choices as ‘use less’ and ‘produce more.’

    Yes, they’ll be economically feasible when the price of the resource rises high enough.

    I’m actually pretty optimistic. I think there is a large enough base of alternative technologies that the cost of oil will make viable, and that will thus get the kind of development that the fossil fuel engine has had.

    I can buy a two-seat car (non-hybrid) that gets 80 miles per Imperial gallon. That sort of fuel efficiency was considered impossible only twenty-five years ago. Hell, twenty-five years ago, only tiny mopeds got that sort of fuel economy.

  21. One thing to note about hybrids is that their gas mileage plunges if you turn on the air conditioning. Air conditioning is very energy intensive. Admittedly, the other (kinetic) energy-intensive activity that the vehicle performs is much more efficient with a hybrid, but that just means that the added load due to AC is more noticeable.

    Turning on the heater impacts the mileage significantly too, but not to the extent that AC does.

    Therefore, if you live in an area that warrants heating or AC a significant portion of the year, you either will have much poorer mileage, or you will be quite an uncomfortable driver.

  22. John,

    Yes about the hybrids. Also, the defroster uses the AC as well, so at least here in Minnesota the hybrids have been disappointing. You pay extra for, at most, a tiny fuel savings. They sound better than what they are.

    All the talk about vast untapped resources is pointless without knowing what the price will be. I’d like to hear something like “we’ll have as much gas as we want at $10.00 a gallon (or whatever the amount will be).”

    The government could be throwing out the rope by increasing the gas tax today and putting that money into research into alternatives – that is what other countries are doing. But the US is not doing that. We’ve twice elected an oil man for president who is focused on getting the most out of oil on the way down. We are crashing and figuring when we get to Earth we’ll have the resources to pick ourselves up again.

  23. I’ve read that instead of hybrids the big thing in Europe is diesel cars that get 100 miles/gallon and aren’t smokey and hard to start like the ones you might remember from 20-25 years ago.

    Seems to me the easiest stopgap measure is a crash nuclear power plant building program. There are hints that environmentalists might not be as paranoid about it as they used to be. Maybe some savvy marketer needs to come up with a new name for it, like rapeseed oil became canola oil.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/05/issue/feature_earth.asp

    Anyway, I see our giant SUVs and our wars in the Middle East and I’m reminded of the scandanavian settlers in Greenland who tried to grow wheat and cows there, because that’s what they were used to. They went extinct. Either you adapt to the resources available to you or go extinct. Wish we had some reality-based leaders.

  24. Thanks for the very good post, John. I had already been feeling much better, having done some further research similar to yours, and I feel better still having read your take. The dystopians do have an annoying tendency to assume that no technological progress will occur past the date on which they wrote their latest scaremongering essay. I’ve already seen evidence of recent advances that give the lie to some of the supposed certainties on which their dire prophesies rely. And they can’t have it both ways–if the impending oil crunch causes a catastrophic decline in elastic demand (even some demand that seems inelastic now), that will leave sufficient resources to meet truly inelastic demand like food production. We may have a global recession–even a depression, at worst and in some places–but that will buy, though at a high price, time for developing workable solutions. We have a challenging period ahead, but not, I’m confident, a world-ending one.

  25. John Edwards,

    Are there people actually predicting the end of the world (or at least the human race) because of Hubbert’s peak?

    Yes, that is silly.

    But I’m not completely comfortable with simply dismissing the amount of suffering that will result. The US is the biggest user of fossil fuels and we could have been doing a lot more to soften the blow. It is quite callous and selfish to wave our hands and say “tut tut, depression and death in Africa, but what can one do?”

    I’m not saying this is what you are saying.

    The attitude of the US in general towards the rest of the world these days seems to be “I’ve got mine, to hell with you.”

  26. Tripp, I’m not callous at all about the degree of suffering that the world’s poorest would endure in such a crash. If there was a slightly relieved or even cavalier tone in my comment, that’s only because I’m still getting over having fallen down the obsessives’ end-of-the-world rabbit hole. It’s been 70 years since the last depression, and we’ve never seen the effect of one on a more broadly industrialized and interconnected world of 6 billion people, 5 billion of whom have substandard living conditions. If it does indeed come to pass, it will be wrenching, agonizing, horrifying. For far too many people, it will be just as if the TEOTWAWKI crowd’s predictions were realized. But I don’t believe we’ll see the 70%-90% die-off and Stone Age reversion that they’re talking about.

  27. Eternal optimists

    A lot of people are making doom and gloom predictions about what will happen in the next few years of decreasing availability of oil. On the other side are the optimists like John Scalzi: As bad as it may get,…

  28. If our government was taking this seriously, it would phase out whatever price supports there are, use that money to fund research into non-conventional sources of oil and power

    If by “our government” you mean the one in the USA, I don’t think we have price supports on oil, at least not the oil you see at the gas pumps. I use to live in VA, and about 85% of the gas prices there were government tax, since then I have moved to CA where prices are about $0.50/gal higher. My guess is even more of the pump price is tax. My wife is from the UK where they per gallon price is around $10 (I may be off by a bit since I have to convert pence to cents, and leaters to gallons). It isn’t 4 times our price here because the UK doesn’t have price supports while the USA does. It is 4 times the price because the UK has even higher taxes. Or maybe it is 2x the price due to taxes, and another 2x because our currency has tanked.

    You can argue that increasing gas prices would result in more research on non-oil energy sources, and in more fuel efficient gas-burners. I expect you would even be right (or partly right, if you bumped the gas prices up by enough, but left oil for heating purposes alone, the heating oil would get used to fire small generators which would charge up electric cars, and be cheaper then gas, but actually burn more oil doing it… — I’m not kidding, there is a reason it use to be illegal to feed bread to horses in the USSR!)

    Unfortunately bumping up the gas prices now as opposed to whenever supply actually forces them up has some negative effects too. Like we get the economic drag now not later. Our poor get crushed now not later. And those things are worse now because we don’t have the extra years (however many or few they may be) of finding things to replace oil, even at the lower pace research is currently going at.

    Think about it, if the US government had taxed gas prices up to $10 in the 1970s we would surely have better electric cars by 2005 then we ended up with without that level of gas tax. On the other hand we also would have used 1970s technology nuke plants to power them, and that may very well have caused some really serious damage to things that we have avoided.

  29. This is a nice fuzzy thread for “business as usual”- with some inconvenience along the way, but what people fail to grasp is the effect of RATES of change. It’s taken 60 or more yrs to develop an oil infrastructure/society and it now needs to be rebuilt in a fraction of that. If you look at the real numbers you’ll see how difficult that is. Nothing less than a marshall plan would do it so that sectors and resources are prioritised. Even then it’s 50/50 success. Consider that the oil demand/supply curves are widening by 2% each per yr (i.e. 4% pa). That mean in 10 yrs there is a 40% shortfall if demand continues (who’s going to tell India and China not to develop?) and productivity continues to fall. Do you really think we can put in place enough reactors, renewables etc for THAT amount of energy sources and the infrastructure to use it? Someone will be busy with a welder and there are only some many welders/engineers to asked to rebuild the planet in a decade.

    Also, why place blind faith in some miracle technology that will somehow deep drill a new field the size of Saudi (and that’s the scale we’ll need. Do you run your families and businesses on a pipe dream? Do you hand over the cash before taking the product? Jeez. The FACTS are that 40 ys of exploration reveals a trend of limited gains in new fields- all of them laughably small compared to the mid east. Exploration has just about stopped- not because oil is cheap but because ROI is pathetic.

    Contrary to the view that the 3rd world will bear the pain- phew you guys with 1st world infrastructure have a lot longer to fall. Your homes need a/c or heat. Trucks bring food. Hospitals don’t like power cuts even with backup gennies. No streetlights make life interesting.
    Marshall law is impossible with the guard in Iraq. An urban jungle is worse than the real kind.

    Maybe it would be prudent to do some concrete
    planning. After all, you insure your house
    ans just about wverything else. Maybe you need
    to insure your way of life right now.

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